Friday, November 30, 2007

Word Association

Last night Madge was playing MadLibs.
Her first prompt was "plural noun." She said, "boys."
Oooooooh, I thought, my baby is growing up.
Then she said, "Or toilets."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ConEd Overload

They illuminated the tree at Rockefeller Center the other night.
Our lights flickered the same night.

everyone's striking

But not anymore, I guess. It's hard to hear, on the late night talkshows, that the Broadway strike is over, since the late night talkshows aren't current anymore.
Oh, well.
Too bad for the rest of New York, though. Julie was in a SoHo store, I think, helping some customers who were simply amazed that New York had so much more to offer than Broadway shows.
Without the flashy lights to distract the deer, I guess they do start wandering about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Fairly quiet day today.
But independence is striking early, it seems, and he didn't want to accompany me when I had to pee. We were at the library at the time and the bathrooms aren't the most appetizing, but I'm not asking him to eat a sandwich there. Just stand and wait.
Of course he pumped lovely foamy soap all over his hands and shouted at me to turn on the water.
When that didn't happen quickly enough, we had a pouting session on the steps, followed by a defiant stomp away from me, followed by an accusatory howl that he couldn't find me.
Remind me to download the song, "Every Time I Move I Lose" (a favorite with the Harper Court speed chess players).

Madge Monday

The weekend is one big blur to me, especially because both kids stayed home yesterday with a cough. They shared the cough, but hardly anything else other than a cranky attitude. It was a pleasure serving them, obviously. Today I prepped them with some Motrin and sent them off to school. The wave of crankiness will hit the moment I pick them up, I presume.
The "gingerbread" houses were made on Friday, I think. They were Graham cracker houses held up by milk cartons as learned in some preschool along the way. It was fun and sugary and I presume contributed to a weakened immune system. Yesterday afternoon we made actual gingerbread dough which will be converted into men today. As Coco says, "For gingerbread men you need ginger, bread, and men." Sounds more like a bachelorette party.
Forgive me it Madge Monday is light on Madge, but she's been especially confrontational so I'm hard-pressed finding lighthearted moments with her.
Or, conversely, I'm quite tired, so all potentially humorous holiday related drollery just strikes me as greedy lately.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Today we went to Macy's Herald Square and visited SantaLand. Coco and I visited SantaLand last year, so I had certain expectations, but the most memorable part of last year's visit - the two hours of snaking through the cafeteria and HR department - was missing this year. Apparently you get to walk right in when you show up on a Sunday morning at 10 am. Who knew?
When elf spoke to another, calling her Sweetie Sweetums, Julie and I remembered David Sedaris' "SantaLand Diaries" and the fact that all elves are given elf names (his was Crumpet, but he wanted to change it to Blister, if I remember correctly).
Many of the elves were female and African-American. This in itself isn't that spectacular, but one particular elf near the end of the proceedings - right before we went to see and pay for some pictures and a snow globe - didn't have chandelier-size holiday earrings, but instead sported oversized gold caps on her front teeth. I couldn't resist asking her elf name, figuring she had a good one.
And she told me, without a hint of irony: Country.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Museum fallout

Armed with three brand new sketchbooks, we went to the museum yesterday.
These are our results. Mine is an attempt to capture the composition of "Freiburg in the Snow" by Hugues de Beaumont. I've noticed lately that I really love drawings and paintings of architecture, and this cityscape is especially well done. Not my copy, but the original - come to Brooklyn and I'll show you. The city is floating over a blanket of snow in a gray morning setting. Nice.
Madge chose to focus on a detail of Rippl-Ronai's "Woman With Three Girls." I think she wins the prize. Also, I think she's ready for more sketching of art.
Coco did his own thing. Remarkably patient for a four-year-old, I must say. He lay on the ground on his tummy, legs in the air, facing the central atrium of that hall, and drew the alien and spaceship you see in the picture. I'm surprised they held still long enough for him to get all the details so accurately.

Friday, November 23, 2007


If we hadn't gotten TV recently, I wouldn't have known that I'm missing out by not being outside of JCPenney's at midnight. Darn.
At least we got our letters to Santa written.
And we saw "Enchanted" yesterday. Fun movie, especially since all the kids in the audience were really into it. I was quite reluctant because I'm tired of movies that are cashing in on children's need for bombastic kitsch and then are supposedly ironic about it themselves. If they really felt so bad about regurgitating past kids' movies, why don't they just not do it?
Also, a Barbie movie came in the mail. So I'm a little tired of the industry and now I'm no longer sure how I feel about the WGA strike in Hollywood. There is quite a lot of stuff I could do without. But I know it's up to me to have a viewer's strike. Let the struggling writers keep struggling and compromising their struggle.
Does anyone working on a Barbie movie use his or her real name?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Something to say

I'm too tired to come up with anything clever, so:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Coco Tuesday

An awww moment. Madge is reading to Coco, and he is absent-mindedly stroking her hair. They didn't even stop for the flash photography.

The School's Report Card

Last year we got to participate in the all-important grading of the school. And today I was reminded why it was so difficult.
One of the categories of grading involved how welcome the school makes us feel, and I wasn't sure how to answer it. Madge's teachers have all been wonderful and welcoming - but, man, those pre-retirees in the office are another matter altogether. Any parent in the office is obviously an idiot and interfering with their journey to moving their car on alternate-side parking or whatever.
Today I took Madge out of her class to hang out at Coco's Harvest Festival. I'd sent a note with her to give to her teacher. When I got to the office, my special bleached-blond, badly tanned friend glared at me. I said it's for an hour for a party in her brother's class. Her teacher knows about it.
My friend said, "She'll be missing out on a lot of important academic stuff."
I, trying to be friendly and encouraging (most secretaries of a certain age can be buttered up easily with a little flirting), laughed at her joke.
She only glared harder. Turns out, she wasn't joking.
So I said, "It's an h-o-u-r. And part of that she has gym anyway."
And then I turned my back to keep from really confronting her.

Tomorrow I'm coming back with some Gorgonzola to put in the mail slots. Heh, heh.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let them talk

Today was a good day for letting people talk too much.
Instance 1:
I was talking with a kid in the school's hallways when another kid came by, returning from the bathroom. The first kid couldn't help bringing up the word "butt" - snicker, snicker. And, because I didn't object to the use of such a risque word, the other kid told me that his dad's butt exploded. "Really, my dad said his butt exploded."
Now all I have to do is figure out the kid's last name and I'm onto something. Class lists come out soon.
Instance 2:
Playdate at our house. Talkative nanny, divulging things about the parents' marital situation. I should have been taking notes.

Madge Monday

We had our first major clash in which TV-removal played a part in the punishment. Coco hasn't quite figured it out yet, but he's been indirectly punished, too, since our apartment is too small to let him watch and not her.
Her attitude has skyrocketed recently and we're trying to take it down a few notches. But, man, it's not easy, since I'm essentially hearing my own smartassiness out of a younger, female mouth. Oops.
Recently, for example, Coco apologized to her.
Coco: I'm sorry.
Madge: Sorry for what?
Daddy: Aw, c'mon. He's apologizing. Now you're just being mean.
Madge: Well, that's what you say to me.
Daddy: Well, that's when I'm being mean.
Daddy: Sorry.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TV Thursday

Sorry I'm behind on this. Thursdays approach all too suddenly after limerick night.

This week, it was obvious that having cable paid off. On Tuesday, the night after the Premiere -WHOOOOO! - of SpongeBob's Atlantis Squarepantis, Madge ran into a friend on the way to school. Here's the conversation in its entirety (remember, she cried about not having cable because that's all kids talk about after the weekend):

"Did you see SpongeBob last night?"
"Me, too."

First I was going to make fun of this, but maybe they are hardcore in their criticism and don't waste words on things that don't deserve them. Bloggers could learn from this. Newspapers, too, as a matter of fact.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My op-ed that I probably won't send anywhere

Is Our Schools Learning?

Apparently, New York City schools are getting grades, and parent groups are upset about this. They asked me and all the parents they could talk to during parent-teacher conferences to send letters to the mayor and others.
Luckily, I no longer try to impress random women by letting them dictate my opinions, so I asked the lady who tried to recruit my voice what difference it would make if the school got a B or a D, she wasn’t quite sure, but thought it might reflect in funding that goes to the school. I didn’t ask the follow-up, namely whether the B or the D gets more money. Oh, well.
The letter I’m supposed to sign has a list of grievances, all of which pertain to the flaws of a grading system. Ironic, given the context of parent-teacher conferences. Obviously, a major one is that the grading system tries to take into consideration both “achievement” and “progress,” which means that the only way to really get a good grade is to screw up initially.
The letter doesn’t address two flaws I can think of off the top of my head, namely (A) that, unlike a grade for a student which – as the name report card implies – is a report from the school to the parent, here the grader and the recipient of the report card is one and the same; and (B) that the grades aren’t an age-appropriate reflection. What I’m trying to say is that a third grader and a first grader can’t do the same work; neither can schools with differing histories and problems.

But none of this is what really gets my goat. What riled me is that the school that is complaining here got a B and wants an A. This is reflected in the final point on the letter: “the report card demoralizes whole school communities that have worked hard for the success of their schools.”

Is our school’s self-esteem so fragile that a grade makes all the difference? Eek.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Poetic Madge

Poor Madge.
This morning the kids were sleeping in past 7, so I went in to wake them at 7:20.
"Hey, how's my Madgie this morning?"
"I don't feel like Madgie today."
"No? Who do you feel like?"
(And she was not doing a Richard Roundtree imitation.)
Madge's poetry prize was a thermometer in her ear and a pass to stay home.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Parent-teacher or teacher-parent meetings today, I'm not sure which.
Either way, it appears that the teachers like Madge and Coco, and why shouldn't they.
Coco seems to be doing even better than anticipated - no balky transitions, no scratching, so I'm happy.
Right now, though, he's chewing on the coffee table while pretending to be scared of "What's New, Scooby-Doo?"
Next up: the turn-off-tv fight and bathtime.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Madge Monday

Madge asked today if veteran's day had anything to do with animals.
I should have just said "yes" because when I explained it, her eyes glazed over.
We used the opportunity to see "Fred Claus." Good enough movie.
I'm not sure how much Madge and Coco got out of it. These movies raise as many questions as answer them about you-know-who and neither of the kids really like it when I remind them that it's just a movie and no one has actually seen you-know-who and that all these movies are just "educated" guesses as to his whereabouts and activities.
But they'll paste together their own versions, I'm sure.

Hidden Causes?

In a book called Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art, I stumbled across this note to an image of Mordicai Gerstein's studio:

I like northern light because it casts fewer shadows.

Is that the secret to Southern goth? The light casts more shadows? Things are visually presented in greater relief?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ornament or Weapon?

One of Coco's teachers wears something like this around her neck.

The other day she pulled me aside and said that Coco asked her, very enthusiastically, "Are you a vampire hunter?"

Hee, hee. We're doing something right.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

TV Thursday

Since the addition of TV to our household, I figure I ought to make it a regular feature on the blog, like Madge Monday and Coco Tuesday. But the most alliterative possibility is TV Thursday and I’m usually too tired after Wednesday’s late-night limerick-write to put something cohesive together.
Still, TV is bringing up as many issues as either of the kids, so I think I’ll give it a go.
More than just: TV is crap. Because, sure, it is, but it is crap everyone can relate to and everyone seems to have to deal with.
The irony, of course, is that there’s the WGA strike going on now and the kids wouldn’t know the difference since, quite frankly, Disney Channel’s acting is so bad that the writing really doesn’t make a difference.
Only a strike by the fake studio audience would affect their production value , but then, how would the kids know when to react .
I still need to figure out how to get them to watch some TMC. If only that bleeping channel’s schedule would coincide better with the kids’ bedtime, we’d have something.

I’ve said this to Julie and I’ll write it here. I remember viscerally hating my parents for not letting me watch my favorite show, “Wickie,” or for turning it off so we could have dinner or something. Of course now I’m embarrassed by my behavior.
I see where they’re coming from. This just means that when I turn it off I show them my tough skin that can take the insults and attitude.
But I remember…

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hank James, again

Okay, learn along with me. Why aren’t “we” supposed to write with too many adjectives? Because adjectives “tell;” they don’t “show.” And mere telling is uninteresting. When characters are and act, readers feel involved. When characters are merely described they are little more than scenery.
So what is Henry James doing by using adjectives? He’s commenting on the characters he writes about. For example, the passage in “Brooksmith” that made me come up with my silly poetic exercise in “adjectives, adverbs” is this:
They required no depth of attention – they were all referable to usual irredeemable inevitable types. It was the world of cheerful commonplace and conscious gentility and prosperous density, a full-fed material insular world, a world of hideous florid plate and ponderous order and thin conversation.

And later on the same page there is mention of “an elderly dreary dingy person.” If stories let actions and characters unfold, then caricatures burdened with so many adjectives have no chance of becoming anything but stage props. And that is exactly what this “person” is.

Of course I wouldn’t have noticed any of this if Madge hadn’t pointed it out in the reading room of the New York Public Library.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco still has a witching hour between two and three o’clock, but now it comes as a surprise again because of the time change. Today we were in Manhattan, about to come home again when started balking and making adamant illogical demands. And, since Madge is usually in school during these fussy periods she wasn’t able to keep calm during the screaming and urged me to give in. We worked it out, though.
Today was an election here, voting for or against several judges and one proposition. Since the voting uses public schools, public schools close for an election and bake sale extravaganza. The voting was in the gym, so we were polite and got the crumbly goodies after voting.
I lured Coco to the voting by saying that it was going to be in the gym and that there might be basketballs around. This worked fine, until he started whining about the absence of sporting equipment. So he got the extra-sugary doughnut on the way out.
Doughnuts followed bus- and subway-ride. Lucky me.
We went to Grand Central Station, just to check it out and to see if the O & Co. store is somewhere I’d like to work. It’s affiliated with L’Occitane, started by the same founder, and does with olive oils what L’Occitane does with soaps. Looks good.
But to get them to go into an olive oil (and other yummy accompanimental foods) store, I plied them with Lifesavers and Dots. And then we got hungry. And Grand Central is a lovely place with lovely foods, but it’s crowded and fairly fast-paced, so the kids did not feel good about eating there.
Luckily, there was a Food Exchange nearby. I know, you’re thinking what I’m thinking: what, you get to bring in food you don’t like and trade it for something you do? No. Turns out you bring in money. So we went to Citibank first.
The irony, though, is that you can’t even exchange the food you put in for something you put out since the place doesn’t have bathrooms.
So we walked a bit to Starbucks. From there we saw the Central Library and forewent the ubiquitous coffee place for a lovely tinkle in a grand old stone building.
Madgie-cutie was enamored by the reading room and picked up, get this, the first volume of The Collected Works of Henry James. She wanted to read it there. I love that kid.
She and I will have to go back to argue in peace – since we all know that she’ll only want to stay and read for about ten minutes before she’ll beg to use the computer terminals.
Still, it was a moment to be cherished. Or would have been if Coco hadn’t whined about going home. Which turned into a whine about Old MacDonald’s and finally a tantrum about not being able to use the subway turnstile on his own.

I should have put out a hat. I’m sure our show would have made us some money.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bobby H.

Julie's out of town again and as so often happens I use my "spare" time pretending to be literary.

Take a good look at the face in the etching here. Now read the following lines.

Whenas is silks my Julia goes,

Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows

The liquefaction of her clothes.

See, if he had had a pretty face, he wouldn't have the need to come up with such smooth lines, even if he had the capacity, which, with a pretty face, he wouldn't have in the first place. Or would he and we wouldn't have known because the need had never arisen?

Madge Monday

Madge had a sleepover at our house this weekend.
Madge's friend is quite fun and has an amazingly infectious laugh. She's a middle child, so she knows how to deal with a little sibling and is good to Coco. And, apparently, they are very much at ease with one another, which is great to see.
For example, at one point Madge came out of the bathroom (after spending about ten seconds in it) and said,
"Don't you hate it when you have to go to the bathroom and you get there and then you don't have to?"
Which is funny enough on its own and sounds like an intro to a stand-uppy rant. But then her friends topped it off with,
"And then you tell people and they don't believe you that you didn't pee in your pants."

Happens to me every day.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


This is the kind of crazy idea I have and then get behind. Hear me out.

I'm nosing around in a book called 50 Great Short Stories, edited by Milton Crane. I said to Julie that if I ever got around to writing a collection of short stories, the collection would be entitled 12 Middling Short Stories, With One or Two Great Ones Lurking About.
But the weirdest thing has happened. The more stories I read in this book, the more I realize they're all great. Imagine.
Anyway, there's a story by Henry James in it, "Brooksmith." Henry James is an author I've never read much, mostly because of the kind of people who seem to be enamored by his works. My friend Flo is an exception, and because of him have I read "Brooksmith," which, of course, is great.
I noticed, though, that James embraces adjectives and adverbs and in general writes in the kind of way that "How To Get Your Book Out Of the Slushpile and Into Print" warn against.
So I had this idea of collecting his adjectives and adverbs and writing them up as a poem. The problem is that the story is a bit long and that readers might lose interest. An an exercise, it is endlessly fascinating, especially because the one short paragraphs without any adjectives or adverbs whatsoever is the one in which a decisive crisis occurs.
Here's a select snippet of the opening pages, condensed:

Jamesian, Henrily

Scattered late certain esoteric enough such most agreeable most attaching retired good deal confined delighted any most intimate prime foreign delightful signal horrid principal,
Not too grumpily simply

Overwhelmed particular happy Londonish grey opposite white high exact particular pruned tendered human,
Perpetually merely essentially vividly intensely well largely

Many famous finest social English smiling suggestive sinuous affectionate pious sallow smoked large last distinguished dear apt some physical many social slow only own pleasantest compact charmed casual fine old last-century remarkable best rich somewhat superannuated,
Doubtless usually insidiously slightly certainly peculiarly really finally notoriously

Some opposed present such good happy obvious feminine mere hidden occult other very natural fine,
Perfectly supremely singularly already

Many few right right wrong general single convenient all convenient happy ready willing foreordained unheard of fundamental,
Never never always really always never fast never quickly

Friday, November 02, 2007

Madge and Friend

Whoa. These girls are starting to be big kids, aren't they? Hamming it up for the camera.
And, yes, that's purple hair.

Trick or Treat

Sorry to inform you that our camera is getting old. Apparently, more than two years of service is too much to ask of digital equipment. It takes the darn thing forever to focus and get a picture taken, especially in dark situations, so I just stopped using it.
We had candy to get to, after all.
So this is pretty much it, picture-wise.

Halloween Pix winner

Our neighbors went as a themed family. But it would have been nothing without the dog.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Madge set it up. We call it
Careful: Spilled Cat.