Thursday, January 31, 2008

mmm, food

There was a healthy eating activity / fun-filled fest at the school this evening.
I don't know why, but among all the healthful, wholesome things, I was wondering if there might not be display of what not to eat. Just as I was thinking it, Coco spied a bag of Cheetos on a table and said, "oooh, chips!" (There were chips nearby, too.)

I ought to end this post there, but I got to thinking later that it's strange how our tongue gets thrilled by things that harm our body. Right? Fat, salt, sugar: those are the things our tongue craves. The higher powers (evolution or intrusive divinities) are cruel.

book club

I'm not in one (though I might try again soon), but Madge is, in her class.
She and some friends are reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. She's got a bunch of post-its in her copy with notes on them. My favorite is the one that has the creative misspelling "soulition."
A word like that ought to exist.
Anyway, I found out about the book club because I remarked that I know and like the book, but I was surprised that they are reading it at such a relatively young age. To which she replied that one of her book club friends had nightmares after the first chapter. (Is a SPOILER ALERT necessary for something that happens in the first chapter? If so, you are forewarned.) See, the whole book is basically a Robinson Crusoe story set in northern woods, starring a boy who (my perforated memory tells me) is about thirteen. He gets stranded because the pilot of the little plane he's in has a heart attack, and this heart attack is so vividly told that it gives eight-year-old girls nightmares, which is quite a compliment to the author.
I may not have helped Madge's sleep by telling her that now she knows about it and if she's ever around her grandparents and they start talking in a slurred way and complaining about a lack of feeling in their limbs, especially the left ones, she'll be a step ahead of the game.
"You mean MY grandparents?"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coco Tuesday

As much fun as flying Jet Blue can be, it sure makes a difference what time of day you fly. Coming back was more difficult all around. See, the benefit of Jet Blue for kids is that they have their own TV screen to control. And for the little brother, Coco, having "my own remote!" was indeed a big deal - though Madge still had to help him work it and choose channels.
On the flight back, though, there was no Direct TV signal to be had for the first few hours. And by the time they got the signal back, all the Coco-friendly networks were no longer so. The nearest program to something appropriate was Nick at Night, which was airing a Goosebumps episode. One that, of course, featured a creepy green blob on an airplane. Halfway through the episode, Coco said, "I'm scared." And it was dark outside and the next most appropriate thing, after Godfather 2, was Project Runway.
But they were working in denim, and what, I ask you, is more scary than that?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Madge Monday

Apparently, parents are really annoying when they worry about somebody throwing up on an airplane or in a car even though this somebody has a track record of doing so and even though this same somebody admitted to feeling like she had to throw up on the plane and going to the bathroom but not being able to and then lying down and falling asleep because she was feeling ill.
But I guess if she's with it enough, now, to go to the bathroom to try to throw up, then we really don't need to bug her about it.

And now that we're back, she's doing creative jet-lag math. At night, she figures she can stay up later because "it's only 5:30 in California," but in the morning, she feels she can be grumpy and sleep in "because it's only 4:30 in California."
Live in the here and now, sister!

Friday, January 25, 2008

marvels of vacation

We were having Mexican food in Petaluma when a short, old, hispanic guy with a straw hat came in. Coco gasped.
"Mommy, look! A real cowboy!"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

happy happy happy meals

We went through a BK drive-thru with Coco - a new experience for the young man.
On the way back he had his mouth full of hamburger and saw a pedestrian, which made him say, "Walking is really stupid; and boing shoulders. But cars, they're the best."
I guess suburbanites get born and raised in the city.


Little dude is still excited about the minivan. They find new stuff in it all the time.
Drink holders. What will people think of next. Even the windshield wipers amaze him.

Madge Monday

Too cute. Since we've been here, she's had two playdates with kids she knew in kindergarten here. It was all her idea. She wrote to them and got their phone numbers and we went and hung out with them. Of course the playdates were a little awkward at first, and Madge was a bit tired, but still, I'm amazed since I'm quite bad at keeping in touch - which is why do this bloggie-thingie.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

California Post

Whoa. This internet thingie is magic.
Here I am in California and it all looks the same, virtually. Though, man, the Bay Area sure is a beautiful place. Now I know, again, why we lived here and moved back at one point.
I guess what we need is several homes. One on each coast and one in Europe, I guess.
The trip itself went smoothly, mostly thanks to the Direct TV available in the seatbacks of Jet Blue.
And then the rental minivan. No TV, but the kids have been without a car for two years now, and the mere fact that we were in a car that's not a cab and that, gulp, Daddy was driving - "Daddy can drive?" - was miraculous.
But then I was exhausted and crashed. Not the car (context, context), but the metaphorical one of exhaustion in the chair at the Grandparents' house.
Ahhh, vacation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

getting ready to travel

The hardest part about the whole affair is trying to get the ones who can't wait to actually go to sleep.

"But what if we don't wake up in time?"

fear: patriotic, color-coded

Has this man gotten a genius grant yet?
Where do I send my nomination.
Randy Newman, that is:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

neurological fun

We went to the neurologist with Coco today.
And while we were all sharing a laugh about the fact that they get heaps of calls right after Christmas when parents read the warning labels about video games and epilepsy, she told us this anecdote.
Apparently she was at an epilepsy fundraiser which included doctors and patients and prospective donors, I presume. After the food was cleared, the lights were dimmed, the d.j. started the music and, yes, the strobe lights. At which point, apparently, all the patients dove under tables as if it were a WWII air raid.
Obviously, the doctors intervened and had the lights turned to normal before there was any involuntary breakdancing.
Among the books I found through Dwight Garner’s blog is this one: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard. The French title is “Comment parler des livres qu l’on n’a pas lus?” which is slightly more subtle because of the question mark. Anyway, the book basically demands to be skimmed, not read, because it is just what you guessed and what everyone who passed a language or literature or any class at all, I think, knows how to do anyway. I found the most “useful” bit in the beginning of the book, where the author presents a set of symbols for citing and discussing books.
UB book unknown to me
SB book I have skimmed
HB book I have heard about
FB book I have forgotten
And then a set of opinions from - - through – and + to ++, regardless of whether the book has been read or not.
In general I don’t disagree, especially because all books are more or less forgotten after reading – or even during, if the bookmark stays in too long.
Therefore I’d think that the FB is just a facetious way of saying RB – read book, and should be listed as such.
I’d also amend the symbols to include, as a subcategory of HB: SM – seen the movie, and HM – heard about the movie.
Also, UB makes no sense, otherwise how could the book even be mentioned?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Coco keeps seeing things on TV and at friends' houses and in stores that he wants. And his birthday is coming up, so telling him that things are out of the question doesn't really work right now. I'm steeling myself for another greed-fest.
And yet. Today I got the kids new toothbrushes and some toothpaste. Coco's toothbrush has the Power Rangers on it. He loves it. Thanked me three times, if not more.
Then, the new toothpaste: Bubble Fun Flavor.
I believe his words were "awesome" and "fantastic."
He should be in commercials for the stuff.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Madge Monday

Sometimes she talks funny for the sake of talking funny (and imitating some TV influence), sometimes it's inadvertent.
Tonight, for example, she was reading The Subtle Knife. At one point she held the book to her chest and said, "Wilbokuhtabijou."
We played the game where I say "What?" and says the exact same thing when I broke through the fun we were having by talking in circles and said, "Say it more slowly, please."
"Will broke the tabijou."
And then, when it turned out that Daddy indeed knows that the word is spelled t-a-b-o-o, we were able to speak again.
Then the problem switched to the fact that, while I read the book, I read the book long ago and don't really remember details, especially not the details for which she wants answers (and when I do, I don't tell her).
Must be tough to have me as a father.


Okay, the secret reason I gave in and got cable TV is that I wanted to watch The Wire.
I'm generally full of qualms, but so far the only thing that really bugged me about the show was in earlier seasons, when Avon was in jail, talking to Stringer Bell about their territory and what to do about it. See, they weren't in a room across a table with a partition, they were talking to each other from one side of heavy glass to the other, over a phone. Over a phone.
Apparently, they can have a whole season's worth of wiretapping woes and excitement and then, frustrated about not catching Stringer Bell, they can't seem to put up some surveillance in a prison when the two are talking openly.
Oh, well.
And yet, the rest of the show is so well done that I just flinched a little and kept watching.
Who knows, maybe there's some weird legal thing about not being able to use conversations of convicted criminals with suspected ones that transpire on government property - but I doubt it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The rooms where my Sunday thing meets are at Adelphi University.
I found an examination book there (blank), which has the school's motto - actually two mottos because one is in Latin, the other in English.
The English one is fairly clicheed, seemingly taken from the X Files: The Truth Shall Make Us Free.
The Latin one is: Vita sine litteris mors est.
Which I guess means "life is dead without litter."
So don't recycle.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chuck E Cheese again

I've found the secret to surviving it. Just watch "What Not To Wear" the night before and then have a field day.
Just make sure you occasionally look out for your kid.

Friday, January 11, 2008


They abound, now, which is great, because otherwise the time between Coco's end of school and Madgie's is near interminable. A friend of Coco's has an au pair from Kiev, a little more than half (HALF!! is that possible?) my age, who taught me to play durak. Those playdates just whizz by now.
Since it's a card game, idle conversation follows, and now I feel that I "must to" (a phrase Coco's friend picked up from his au pair) ask my oldest sister about her au pair time. From the outside it seems such a harmless agreement. But, man, even in the better families (and she got a great one), it's got to be difficult.
A year away from one's country, yet not free because pseudo-employed as a nanny, doing domestic and childrearing duties one is most likely not equipped for, yet, because inexperienced unless one had little siblings.
I say "one," but how likely is it to hire on a young man if one were even to apply.

old lady, me

I had a date yesterday with a friend to go shopping at a grocery store, and it was great!
Well-stocked, spaceous, with friendly people and good products ...
Do I need a steroid injection or something?
Groceries: one of my week's highlights.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Year's Resolution

Julie just told me the best one I've ever heard. It's from a colleague of hers who is from Arkansas, so it helps to imagine the accent.

"I'm gonna learn to say 'shit' in ten different languages."

reading too closely?

Okay, I don’t mean to bore you, but sometimes I’m not sure if an editor slipped up or if I’m just stubbornly seeking something that’s not there. I ran across two such examples in two short days.
The first example I read today, in John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things, which, judging from the first chapter, promises to be a wonderful book. The sentence reads:

Newspaper stories were as insubstantial as smoke, as long-lived as mayflies.

Wouldn’t it be more consistently tongue-in-cheek if the smoke were “substantial?” Or did they (author and editor) not trust the reader enough? Just wondering. I, for one, would have enjoyed my version better (surprise, surprise).

The second example is the poem “Weltende,” by Jakob van Hoddis.

Dem Bürger fliegt vom spitzen Kopf der Hut,
in allen Lüften hallt es wie Geschrei.
Dachdecker stürzen ab und gehn entzwei
und an den Küsten - liest man - steigt die Flut.

Der Sturm ist da, die wilden Meere hupfen
an Land, um dicke Dämme zu zerdrücken.
Die meisten Menschen haben einen Schnupfen.
Die Eisenbahnen fallen von den Brücken.

World’s End (my shoddy translation)

The citizen’s hat flies off his pointy head,
All airs echo like screams.
Roofers fall and break in two
An at the coasts – one reads – the flood rises.

The storm is there, the wild oceans hop
On land, to crush thick dams.
Most people have a cold.
The trains fall from the bridges.

My point is simply this: wouldn’t the rhyme-scheme, not to mention the humor that is indicated by the enjambedly hopping oceans, be better served by switching the last to lines and ending with the anti-climactic sniffles?
But maybe I read too much Ogden Nash.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Possibly too much information, but today was a slight breakthrough for Coco.
See, he had a lengthy playdate so I could have my wish-me-luck meeting (which ended well, yet inconclusively).
And during this playdate he went potty, the kind that usually needs my involvement at the, uh, tail end.
But today he did it himself - and, as he reported, he even washed his hands.
What a big boy.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Our friends got a new puppy, but they live in San Francisco, so we won't be able to see them in a while.
Cuuuuuute. (The puppy's not bad, either. Badump-zing!)


I've got something coming up for which I kind of want people to wish me luck
I don't want luck to be necessary.
On the other hand, I'm not even sure if I should say this much about it for fear of hexing it.
And yet
I don't want luck to be necessary.

Maybe I should just see what happens.

Madge Monday

We stayed home today. Madge was sick, a case of Monday, I believe. The only true corroboration I had was that she fell asleep an hour before she usually does on Sunday and still was tired and unable to get out of bed on Monday morning, but because I had other things on my plate I figured she could stay home.
Oddly enough, we didn't really have any fights.
Maybe I'm growing up.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Coco's special diet

This evening, it consisted of two fudgesicles, a candy cane, orange juice, some edamame, undon noodles, and avocado sushi.
The positive spin, I believe, is to note that it is varied.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

bye-bye, tree

We put out our tree today, to everyone's mild sadness. Then we packed up the unbroken ornaments (the cat really is nuts) and vacuumed some more needles (though this tree's needles were rather tenacious). None of this is terribly exciting.
when we came back a few hours after leaving the house and setting the tree on the sidewalk, our tree was gone. Other trees were still there and we didn't notice it anywhere else on the block.
What the?!
Admittedly, it was a beautiful tree and we loved it dearly, but who would take a four-week-old tree? And what would they do with it?
Wherever you are, rest well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

That darned cat

I was affixing a button today and realized I need more hands because nothing is as enticing to the pesky feline as a flashy thing with a thread attached.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Screwy week

Let's just call this another CocoMadge entry.
They've both been having playdates going full bore this week, catching up for lost time. It's great to see them socializing again after turning into Handheld-Game-Zombies over the break.
Today we went to a friend who lives in the building next door. Ordinarily, I wouldn't come along there because the nanny has things totally under control - another West Indian Brooklyn Nanny.
But (unfortunately for me) I sometimes forget to try on the child's point of view. And while I find her entertaining - she's older, has a strong accent, a turban of dreadlocks, and a cane - the kids find her rather intimidating. She, after all, has to enforce the parents' rules.
The first time I went over I had expressed my surprise to Coco and asked him why he wanted me along this time when he was fine before, he pulled me down and whispered in my ear, "She make me eat all my food and I don't want to."
Then, later, I asked Madge if she found the nanny scary, she said, "Oh, yes. I'm always afraid she might hit me with her cane."
I told the nanny about the food thing and she's patched things up with Coco but he still doesn't trust her.
Madge's concerns I haven't voiced. I have told Madge that it wouldn't happen. But I've noticed lately that Madge doesn't really trust what I say. She always thinks I'm trying to rip her off somehow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Message of Thanks

We've made the cards, now all we need to do is make them more specific than the generic corner store grocery bag.

Saint CocoMadge

The patron saint of booger-eaters.

Madge whatever today is

Poor Madge. She didn't want to wear her glasses to school today. When we got to the drop-off area, she was holding them in her hands. She put them on again after I asked her to. Or told her to. Oh, well. I hope it was just first-day jitters.
They're a very cute red number with the name "Asterix" on them, since Uderzo (I guess) is branching out with his branding.