Thursday, July 31, 2008

getting ready to travel, again

Today the kids got haircuts to be presentable and to get out of the house. Otherwise we'd just be obsessing. We keep rehearsing timelines and possible activities. What I don't think the kids can wrap their heads around, though, is how much chillier Berlin is in relation to Brooklyn. Lower temperature and less humidity.
We'll see how much luck I'll have in convincing them to pack long sleeves and maybe even jackets. (I saw rain on Monday's forecast.)


"Susie Q" was playing on the sound system at Rite Aid. It's one of those songs where I don't even notice that I'm singing "I like the way you wawk, I like the way you tawk, Suseh Q" out loud.
I didn't notice, but the sales-girl-going-on-woman did and said, "It looks like someone likes the music."
Not completely snapping out of my trance, I said, "Well, yeah. It's Creedence. Everyone likes..."
Then I saw her smile, which was borderline condescending, the kind you have for the foibles of the elderly. So I switched to full-fogey mode and said, "Give them a listen. You might actually like them. You just need to turn it up louder."
Somehow I doubt I made a convert.
Maybe if it had been "Born on the Bayou" or "Green River."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coco Tuesday

I've realized today that his swimming is pretty good. It's mostly doggy-paddle, but occasionally his butt is near the surface and he has some real forward momentum. It also helps that he doesn't seem to care or worry about getting to the edge, he just keeps moving along. Which is, after all, the key: not to freak out and just gently glide along.
Too bad the pool keeps serving lunches the kids don't like. More tuna sandwiches for me.

On another note, he's working on making himself fart, so make a trifecta out of burping on command and cracking his knuckles. But the potential for accidents in his latest endeavor is what worries me.

Madge Monday

Time is such a distorted thing. Her actual birthday was last Tuesday; the party was on Sunday. (It was on Sunday because Kids 'N Action is, well, a jewish Chuck E. Cheese and therefore Saturday is off limits.) Anyway, it seemed like her birthday was long gone by the time the party came around. For me, that is. For the kids it was all still fresh.
But now I'm birthdayed out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

another idol passes

This time it's Johnny Griffin.
When I had lessons with a guy in Oakland, he asked me whose playing I liked, I told him, "Johnny Griffin." The choice was simple because I'd never heard bop played in such an understandable way until I heard Johnny Griffin (on some TV thingy in Germany). JG mixed speed and accuracy with an easy bluesy accessibility, and I loved it. Julie and I once saw him at the Showcase in Chicago, and even she, who considers most jazz to be pretentious "bwee-doo-bwee-daah" stuff - rightly so, I find - really liked him. (So much so that she's the one who pointed out his passing to me. Thanks, Julie.)
There were - and are - others I'd like to emulate, but I wanted to go with a not-too-obvious choice to impress my teacher.
He just wiped his forehead and said, "You'd better start eating a lot of grits."
I was twenty at the time, so of course I went to the grocery store and got me some grits.
I should get some today in honor of JG.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

and, since learning never ends

Here's why that Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is so fun (for me).
Looking for Danae, I stumbled across Chartreuse. Other than just a color, it's actually the named after the liquor made at La Grande Chartreuse by the Carthusians (which has that color). And in England the name of Carthusian Houses was bastardized to "charterhouse" because of this relation.
This information will be ever so useful in everyday life.

learn with me

We're doing a sort of book club with Madge and some friends. The book is Chasing Vermeer, and, honestly, it has too random a conclusion to it, if you ask me. Still a fun read, though, considering.

Anyway, I'm chasing Vermeer in my own way and one of the books from the library had Rembrandt as context with this painting in it, depicting Danae.

My Classical education is skimpier than her outfit, so I decided to look it up in one of my favorite reference works, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

It turns out she's the mother of Perseus, and got impregnated by Zeus when he took on the form of a gold shower. Or a shower of gold. Either way, it boggles the mind. I know myths can get bestially and symbolically kinky, but that's just weird.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coco Tuesday

A bit overshadowed by Madge's birthday.
He was a great sport about everything. Wished her a happy birthday right away and was excited about all the presents and not in the least bit jealous. How can this be my child?
We decided to go to the American Girl (trademark, blah, blah) Place to use up a gift certificate and tacked on a birthday lunch with dolls. Very worthwhile, especially because you can borrow a doll to sit at the table and eat with you, which Coco did - and, in restrospect, Julie and I should have done as well.
Good stuff, except for the 4am wakeup "I can't sleep. I'm too excited."
So we held her off until 6.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Madge Monday

We've got a birthday coming up tomorrow and when Madge is impatient about something, she goes into a hedgehog-like hibernation, rolled up in a ball with the prickles pointing outward.
In other words, it's near impossible to get out of the house and other than watching TV, there don't seem to many activities we can do that don't involve snipping.
But tomorrow it'll be good, I think.
We've been able to keep the blabbermouth five-year-old out of the loop sufficiently that she can't pry him to divulge secrets. And we're trying to get him to tell her that we got her boxes of crackers. Too bad he won't.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Oh, boy, I feel bad.
On our way back from the pool, a car stopped and asked us for directions. I had (and still have) no idea where the Day's Inn is, but when they said, "Carroll Street," I jumped into action. But here's the problem: although the actual street named Carroll Street was just a block away at the time, for some reason my citified mind was thinking of the Carroll Street subway stop and I send them about a mile away, which got extra complicated because some streets don't cross the canal, so you'll have go to the next light and then turn right and then after the canal you can turn right again and you'll see it soon.
After they drove off I realized what I had done and said to Madge, "They said Carroll Street, didn't they?"
And she said, "Yes. I was wondering why you sent them so far away."
But then the car turned left at the light, not right, and it all didn't matter anyway.

I wonder if that might be some broader (or deeper) allegory, right there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


We had a leaky drain and I called a plumber. It all went well, thanks for asking.
But while we were waiting, Coco was in continuous (and increasingly angry) disbelief about the whole thing.
See, in Ben 10 (the TV show), the group that fights aliens calls itself "Plumbers" and Coco kept trying to tell me that they are only on TV and not in real life.

Once I explained to him that it was a joke of sorts on groups like Shriners and Masons, he conceded the point. (Okay, maybe not.)


After the week in Florida, we basically stayed indoors all weekend, sleeping and recuperating.
Now we have rediscovered the Double D pool and have been going daily. But this year we don't have the running stroller, so the youthful ones are quite exhausted every day. Which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't lead to interminable bickering.
Child A whines and Child B whines about the whining, whereupon Child A chooses between anger and increased whining - usually a mixture of the two.
And yet we have fun.
Some of the pool workers have recognized us from last year and have wondered where we've been, to which I could only say, "The pool was closed for the winter and we hadn't made any dates, so..."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Coco Tuesday

While a (almost) nine-year old is big enough to go on rides on her own, a five-year old is still little enough to believe that all the characters are real - he even goes out of his way to explain the zippers he sees on their backs or to explain why some have really light arms and others have arms that feel like ours.
Luckily, adults never try to explain away the obvious.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Madge Monday

Disneyworld is as educational as any place, if you look for it. The one thing Madge really picked up on was time management. As in, "A 40-minute wait for the Peter Pan ride? No, thanks."

And the shocker for us, well, the picture will tell you: she really is big enough to do things on her own. Disney says so.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Diet

It's called the Disneyworld Diet and it's simple.
Just surround yourself with people who have about fifty pounds more on the same skeletal frame as yourself and you'll feel great.
It worked wonders for me!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

all packed up

We're off to Florida tomorrow, for five days of Disney-inspired insanity, whooooo!
We cleaned and packed today and we finally got the kids to go to sleep. They have instructions not to wake us before 6:30, but we'll see.
So no blog for about a week, unless I get some moments away and find a computer. But I am taking my old man pad - my new old man pad because my old old man pad got left in my shorts in the laundry, shorts that had to be tossed because I left the pen, too; oh, well - so I might be taking some notes.
Have a good week!

Friday, July 04, 2008

more reading aloud

By the beard of the prophet, this book choosing isn't going my way, I think.
We finished Tom Sawyer just in time to coax the kids to explore Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyworld. (See, contrary to popular opinion, I can plan ahead.)
So I picked Arabian Nights to read aloud. The Richard Burton translation - no, not that Richard Burton.
Anyway, if you've read it, your gasp is justified.
It starts out with concubines and fornication with blackamoors and subsequent betrayals and robbing of maidenheads followed by decapitation of the deflowered brides.
And then, finally, Sheherazade steps up to save the day - or night, rather. I couldn't wait to meet her.
Let's just say that I mumbled a lot during the opening chapter.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happiness Levels Checked

According to this BBC article, Denmark is the world's most happy nation, Zimbabwe the least.

Of course all this needs to be qualified. This information comes from the 97 nations that participated in the U.N.'s World Values Survey, which "asked people two simple questions about their happiness and their level of satisfaction with life."

What two simple questions could sum this up for a nation? At this level of abstraction, it could be any two questions, really.

1) If you could put together your perfect dinner party, whom would you invite (since this question is hypothetical, you are welcome to choose deceased personalities)?
2) Would you serve Gandhi chicken or beef?

But no, the questions were obviously such that a Dane would answer "happy" and a Zimbabwean (Zimbabois? Zimbamboodle?) "unhappy." How about

How do you celebrate a national election?
How do you feel about Greenland actually turning green, thanks to global warming?

It seems like the World Values Survey is just an excuse to make up discussion starters for sleepovers. (We'll see once I can actually get to the site.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

wasn't us

I saw this item in the NYTimes and can only say that
a) We weren't even near the Met yesterday.
b) We never touch artwork when we're in a museum.
c) It was already chipped when our racquetball whacked it.

upcoming dates

I don't know about you, but I tend to be a little behind on upcoming events. I know it sounds oxymoronic, but there's a feeling I get of not being ready in such a way that I know, when the event comes, I'm going to have to apologize for not having done it right.
And the thing that reminds me of upcoming stuff the most is when food I buy happens to have an expiration date that is the exact date of the upcoming event.
For example, I didn't realize that I'll be turning a year older pretty soon if some Denhay Farms cheddar cheese hadn't reminded me of it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Usually, reading a book that makes you laugh out loud is a good thing.
when you're around your kids all day...
"Daddy, what are you laughing at?"
"Hmm. Well, okay, this is sort of on your level. Listen to this: 'Nobody said anything, but T. J. Lambert, our big old defensive end from Tennessee, hiked his leg and made a noise like a watermelon being dropped on concrete out of a four-story building.'"
(It reads smoothly here, but once I got to "concrete," I was snickering and giggling and by "four-s-s-s-tory building" I had tears in my eyes.)
"Why is that so funny, Daddy?"
"It's a f-f-f-f-fart!"

And I was right. It is just on Coco's level and now I have to say "hiked up his leg and made a noise like a watermelon being dropped on concrete out of a four-story building" about three to seven times a day.
It still makes me laugh.

The book, by the way, is Semi-Tough, and it's by Dan Jenkins. Highly recommendable if you're not above potty humor. And yes, I am now laughing silently at the racial and sexual stuff in the book.