Friday, June 04, 2010

edge of your seat

In Coco's class, the feature of this month's Family Friday was "Edge of Your Seat" stories, stories written and illustrated by the first graders. Madge's (four years ago) was, I think, about the time Coco was briefly lost in Las Vegas. (More like misplaced at a buffet, but still.)
Many of the kids' stories feature adventures involving swimming and, with retroactive memory being what it is, near-drowning experiences.
Coco's was about the time he "Almost got hit by a car." I had the privilege of typing it up, so I already knew the contents. And I didn't agree with some of the facts as they are reported to have transpired, but oh well. I didn't bring it up.
Among the things I didn't agree with was that I apparently said to him, after he was in safety (the danger was never really that great because the car was fairly distant, but the point was there and I admit I harped on it for effect - I figured it was a learning experience), anyway, I was supposed to have said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
I said no such thing, nor would I. Ninja, please.
When Julie asked him about it, Coco freely admitted making that part up to make the story better.
Tell that to all the parents who read his piece and now won't talk to me anymore.*

*I embellished that bit, too, for effect. So I can't really blame him now, can I?

new post, oh my

I know, I know. I'm so busy trying to get my little observations down to a 140 character size that I'm totally neglecting the bloggy blog.
Sorry about that.
New things that are piling up around here, well...
Kids get bigger and outgrow shoes and clothes and all of a sudden look like little adults. Or even not so little adults.
And yet, the end of the school year approaches, which for some reason means half-days are popping up all over the place, as well as end-of-year celebrations and the odd day off. No way really to wrap up the year.
Now I'm even behind on vacation planning. Can that be right?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

you from here?

I was out last night, in a neighborhood I don't usually frequent, waiting for a show to start.
Some tourists approached me and said, "Are you from around here?"
Guessing that they'd want local insight from me, I said, "No, not really."
Because, really, I live about 100,000 people away from where I was and I don't know that neighborhood. Or, more specifically, not those blocks of that neighborhood, and in New York (and other cities) that can make all the difference (these people, I think, were not from a city).
Their spokeswoman, a blonde with a southern-ish accent (maybe Missouri) said, "Oh, because you look like you live in New York."
Foolishly (given her intoxication level as indicated by her lack of personal-space-respect and slurred speech), I tried to clarify. "Well, I live in New York, but I don't know this neighborhood."
"Too bad," she said, and then added in a condescending tone "we were hoping you could tell us where we can hear some music without a fifteen dollar cover charge."
I'm New York-y enough to boldly answer something like that. So I did. "Try the subway; the music's pretty good and the cover charge is only $2.25 a person."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

culture clash

When the grandparents were here we went to Ellis Island.
Just before we were to board, the kids, as is their wont, got hungry, so I made a quick dash to a nearby hot dog stand. At the stand were some British tourists, discussing what to put on their weenie in a bun.

Wife [to husband]: Do you want mustard or sauce?
Husband: Sauce.
Wife [to vendor]: Two hot dogs, please. One with mustard and one with timahtoe.

See what happened there? Among(st) themselves, they speak of "sauce." Then, to translate the term to American English, they use "timahtoe," their variant of tomato.

Never in the whole exchange did "ketchup" or "catsup" enter the discussion. The vendor was obviously seasoned and took it in stride, giving them both "sauce."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mary Poppins

I didn't mean to get tipsy during the musical we saw on Broadway, it just kind of turned out that way.
I'm a lightweight drinker, that needs to be stated up front. Then, the details:
We went to see Mary Poppins on Saturday at the New Amsterdam, the matinee at 2 pm. We got inside and saw a snack stand and got some Twizzlers and whatnot.
Then we got upstairs to our balcony area and saw a snack and drink bar. And of course I marveled at the fact that they had real drinks. I say "they," but I should be saying "she," since that may have something to do with the tipsiness.
We found our seats and Madge realized she was thirsty, so I went out to get her some juice and me a Twix bar. And of course I marveled at the fact that they had real drinks.
Then I got back and Coco discovered what happened and got thirsty, too. So I went back again and once more marveled at the fact that they had real drinks. This time she pointed out that if I got a drink now I'd get three bucks off a refill.
I never needed the refill because, I think, all my marveling - which included smiling, cracking jokes, and being as charming as my limited capacity allows me to be - made her pour me a rather strong Scotch and Soda.
Julie said it tasted like lighter fluid. I say it was good. And I'm sure it made the show even more enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I told the kids, "Give me a good word."
Coco came up with: "Thank you."
Madge came up with: "Perpendicular."
I wanted the word for rhyming purposes, so we'll see what happens.

If manipulative or polite,
there's one thing that boychild gets right.
He thinks, "Words, if I'd have to rank you,
then top of the list would be 'thank you.'"

In mishaps you should be particular.
Avoid crashes quite fast and vehicular.
Best of the batch
is a wee little scratch.
Worst is driver's side, hard, perpendicular.


movies, again

Oh, finally some sun.
Unfortunately, I already promised another trip to the movies.
But at least we won't have to take a car service today, but take a nice walk.
Well, "nice" is yet to be determined.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time to learn

Often the kids leave plates and cups out with uneaten food and undrunk drinks. I know I shouldn't take a quick bite or sip before I toss them out, but I can't help myself. You know, I'm not really eating sweets or drinking milk if I'm just sampling a bit of theirs.
the other night Coco had just flossed his teeth and I was clearing a cup from the table and the milk in it seemed a little watery when the couch (peopled by Julie and Coco and Madge) erupted with giggles and I heard,
"Daddy just drank my spit!"
And then there was a half-hour of guffawing. If only I could translate something like that into a stage act, I'd have it made.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

sorry, daddy

Last week's Economist has a cover story of a strong Germany in Europe, perhaps implying that this might be a bad thing. Hm. Wonder why?
In unrelated news, Madge is reading historical fiction in her class and every once in a while they talk about the persecution of the Jews.
It's cute in the sense that every time she talks about it she pauses and shrugs before she says, "Nazis" or "Germans." It's cute because she's essentially apologizing to me for bringing up what she fears might be a shameful event in my personal past.
Whereas when they were talking about slavery, she was mostly indignant when talking about it.
Am I to feel more guilty for Germany's history than the U.S.'s? Or is it because it's more recent?
But I'm just being flip. I know she feels bad that it's all anyone over here ever thinks of when the words "Germany" or "Nazis" arise.
Velkomm to ze Klabb.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Old Man L.

That's what I called him, a sort of shorthand for the kids.
He was a ninety-plus gentleman from Vienna whom I read to when his eyesight had gone too far. Until he couldn't concentrate on listening anymore, that is.
The first thing we read was a scene from Goethe's Faust. Then we found some Gottfried Keller, which turned out to be too long for us. Then some Karl Kraus. Then some poetry. Then some music theory by Kauder. But again and again we came back to Goethe.
One day he called me up and recited a poem by Goethe, one that I believe my Oma really liked near the end of her, life, too.

Wanderers Nachtlied

Ueber allen Gipfeln
ist Ruh.
In allen Wipfeln
spuerest du
kaum einen Hauch.
Die Voegelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
ruhest du auch.

(Traveler's Night Song

Above all peaks
is rest.
In all treetops
you feel
hardly a breath.
The little birds hush in the woods.
Just wait, soon
you, too, shall rest.)

What do you say to something like that? I prompted him along as he was reciting it (because I had memorized it after I found out Oma liked it), and then I applauded his memory.

Occasionally when we'd read he'd remember a line or two and anticipate my reading. Always very choice lines: he was an astute person.
Yes, was. You may have already guessed where this was headed. He passed away over the weekend.
One such anticipation was (again Goethe):
Ja! diesem Sinne bin ich ganz ergeben,
Das ist der Wahrheit letzter Schluss:
Nur der verdient sich Freiheit wie das Leben,
Der taeglich sie erobern muss.

(To this meaning I am devoted,
this is Truth's final conclusion:
Only he earns Freedom and Life
Who daily must conquer them.)

Go out and conquer.

Friday, March 05, 2010

family friday shocker

That's the day of the month when parents get to go into the kids' classrooms to see what they're up to.
Coco had writing samples for me to read. Great stuff, really. He seems to be excited about writing because on almost every page he continues past the given lines and writes on the back of the pages. Highly enjoyable.
He still writes things phonetically, so sumtims its a littul hard to figyur owt whut his ritting.
One of his pieces was about "sludding" in the park. The hill needed a bump to be more "iksiting." To his surprise, luckily, "I saw a rape!"
Holy sh*t, I thought, choking and laughing at the same time, what am I introducing him to?
Where was I in all this?
Then I realized that it was his way of writing "ramp."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

the star of the show

I had a lovely talk with Madge while walking to and from the library last week. Getting her away from distractions like books, screens, and little brothers is the best way to hang out with her. She was fun and silly and open and all those lovely things.
We got to talking about how everyone is the star of the show of their life and other people only have walk-on parts and that we're a walk-on part in the life of almost everyone we see. And not even credited.
Because for me, my life, apparently, is either a movie or a sitcom, not sure which.
Then she said, "Yeah, or my life's a video game and I get to choose everything."
And I said to myself, hang on, your life is a video game?
But of course it is, and for the next generation their life is going to be an iPhone app.
What does this mean for previous generations? Were their lives radio dramas, novels? And earlier than that, my life: the epic poem? My life: the sermon?
But now that it's tax season, it's more like My life: the line item on Schedule F.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

movie quotes

Not the newest, I know, but I can't resist. Serafinowicz is great.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

lung infection and strep fallout

I don't recommend it, but at least it's an enforced weight-loss program.
And I think I passed some sort of threshold in that respect because some random person on the street yesterday asked me if I was on TV. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I truthfully said "No."
And he apologized. Why would you apologize after an indirect compliment like that.
Maybe the lack of food is just making me optimistically light-headed. You see all sorts of characters on TV, don't you?

Friday, February 19, 2010


I'm not saying you should feed your cat pop-rocks on purpose, though you may want to just in the name of science.
My sister and nephew sent Coco some German Spongebob lollipop-to-be-dipped-in-sour-pop-rocks treat. (Thanks, Tina and Jannik!) Unfortunately, the lollipop broke during shipping, so I poured everything out on a plate so Coco could still enjoy the sweetness and the head rush.
The cat, of course, bode (really? not bided, spell-check? hm.) his time and sneaked a little taste later in the day. I missed the initial face he made because I was out of the apartment, but I came home to the cat racing around with a puffed tail, and the kids and Julie suppressing laughter.
Who's keeping track? Was that life number three for our cat?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I'm not saying it's parents vs. kids, mind you, but sometimes...
Parenting, like the last two minutes of a basketball game, has a lot of set plays ready, depending on what the score is. And, in general, the whole day is structured to get into a good position for those crucial last moments.
I'm talking about getting the kids into bed. Daily activities, meals, school work, treats, baths, etc. all line up for that crucial final struggle to bed. On regular days I have things in place for the following exchanges:
Can I still...?
But I just...
But I have to...
Well, you had plenty time earlier. Lesson learned, right?
But I'm still hungry.
You didn't seem hungry at dinner.
And so on.
But when the parents are sick, all of our answers tend to be a mix of "unh" "ack" and "okay, whatever," making bedtime more and more prolonged and the kids less and less rational.
"I wanna sleep in my swimsuit on the dining table."
"Can I have some brownies now? And then use the rest of the brownies as my pillow?"
"I'm cold. Do you have some fives I can set on fire?"
"Okay, whatever"

In other words, don't ask about last night.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

dang me, dang me, they ought to take a rope...

I'm as sorry about Alexander McQueen's death as anyone who has never met the guy and doesn't really know much about him.
But something like that does set you thinking: why is there a difference between hanged and hung.
Both refer to a similar physical act of suspension, right?
Hanged, I looked it up just to make sure, refers to the execution of a death sentence. Then, I don't know when, suicides got tacked on. At least that's how it appears in the dictionaries I've seen. Is it because so many suicidal hangings occurred in jail cells? Or because it is a death sentence to oneself?
Either way, saying "hung" instead of "hanged" seems - nowadays - to be a victimless grammatical crime. I mean, the person whom it most affects is not around to complain. It's like those people who tell me not to call a spider an insect, "It's an arachnid!"
I'll bet spiders don't give a flying filament either way. They probably call themselves a collection of clicks that means "the tribe" or "winners" or some such.
Back to hanging. Sure, it could offend those who passed the death sentence by suspension, but those days are gone, we have more sophisticated methods now.
It makes me wonder, though, having kids, how that word came about.
I'm guessing in the days of the Wild West the lynch-mob justices were as grammatically savvy as Coco when he was three, and when they came home after a hard day of justice-dispensing and were asked what they did, they answered,
"Oh, we hangded a cattle thief."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Latinists Help Out, Please

I'm trying to come up with a truthful family motto, and I think it should be
abbas poena est umquam ridiculus.
But my knowledge of Latin is limited to Asterix comics, so I'm not sure if that works. It's supposed to mean: It's always funny when daddy gets hurt. I tried to make it sound more Latin-y by making it "father's pain is ever laughable" and typing that phrase into an internet translator. Any of you remember Latin from school, those of you who took it and didn't skip too often?
Anyway, yesterday I was listening to my iPod while the kids were watching Star Wars (the one with the Ewoks, III or VI or whatever you want to call it) because Madge was home, sick, and deserved a treat. (Why she chose Star Wars remains a mystery.) I was feeling chilly, so I got a fleece blanket and pulled it over me and
the freaking blanket generated static that shot through the wires into my left ear with a KAPATKAPOWPATANG and a stream of expletives from my mouth and guffaws from the kids.
I'm also taking suggestions for the family crest under which the motto shall appear.
I'm thinking of a silhouette of a man hopping on one foot while holding the other that got injured by a stray toy or table leg. Simpler is better, so I think the crest will avoid children and spouse convulsing in laughter.

(Seriously, do any of you know Latin enough to help out? Should it be semper ridiculus? Is there a way to leave out the inelegant-looking "est"?)

Friday, February 05, 2010

sorry to do this, but:

take a deep breath and listen to this

you're welcome

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

skating party

I'm going to get my skates today so I can go on the fifth grade field trip to the skating rink in the park. I like having my own skates because only my feet have been in them.
But carrying them around all over the place just to save $5 is a pain.
Also, it gives the impression that I can skate when, clearly, my performance on the ice says everything but. (Actually, it says all butt, because that's what has the most contact with the ice.)
The kids, I think, get to bring in their music to be played. This being Park Slope, I'm looking forward to ice dancing to Isolde's Love Death, followed by the Chipettes cover of Single Ladies.

Monday, February 01, 2010

wildlife photography

Our fun with pre-production photo-shopping. That's why we have digital toys around, so we can make random air-collages.
(I'm especially proud of the one with the cat, even though that stinker turned his head and is still partially in the photo - blows your mind, right?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hairdresser and Me

I don't seem to be physically appealing to too many people.
Wait. Stop. Let me rephrase that.
I am totally clueless about how physically appealing I might or might not be to most people. I'm not fishing for compliments, though it really sounds like it right now.
Occasionally it's glaringly obvious, though. For instance when I got my haircut and my "stylist" was sweeping up, he said, "What should I do with all this hair? Maybe I should sell it. Maybe I should make a Philipp doll."
And I said, "Yeah, like a voodoo doll. I'll be walking along and, OW! Who did that?"
He laughed and then he stopped laughing and then he gave me a once over and laughed in a different way.
Let me just say it made me miss living in San Francisco.


I didn't often feel sorry for cops, only having experienced them as the people who hand out speeding and parking tickets. But there's one who is patrolling the playground across the street and, man, I was freezing my toesies and fingersies (and, yes, gonads) while watching the kids play.
The cop had been there a while and was bound to be there longer. He was of substantial girth, so I can only imagine how huge is when fully thawed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Granny Fleece Nose Shock

That's the note on my desk reminding me to write something about the gift that keeps on giving.
Julie got a fleece jacket from my mom for Xmas and likes to wear it around the house to keep warm.
This is well and good, except when I try to kiss her: invariably it results in a quick zap between the tips of our noses.
Interpretation A: My mom has hatched an evil long-distance plan to interfere with our kissing.
Interpretation B: It's not the fleece. We've still got the spark, baby!
(I prefer B)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The holiday

Julie reported that Conrad thought MLK was actually a king. And, when she told him MLK wasn't, Coco said that he acted liked one because he wanted things to be better for his people.
Just shows that he hasn't learned about the American Revolution yet. Or French or Russian or ...
But still, sweet.

On a different note, I'd never given much thought to Juniors - in the sense of sons burdened by (or blessed with) the name of their father - until I read Roy Blount, (surprise, surprise) jr.
I think I remember him making a point about a higher percentage of Juniors becoming something (president, maybe?) than the percentage of the independently named population. Sounds fair. Bit of an Oedipal challenge going on in the naming process, I guess. One step short of calling a son "Sue" (like that Shel Silverstein - and Johnny Cash, yes - song).
But with today's holiday the whole thing flips the whole JFK / JFK jr. thing on the head, because we tend to celebrate the father whom we don't actually know by being too lazy to append the whatever-it's-called: suffix, postnymic, diminuator, take your pick (or look it up and tell me in the comments).
Happy MLK, jr. Day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fun with first grade dictation

Coco has dictation homework.
I've noticed lately that the sentences sound like some Cold War spy code, and we've started reading them like that.
It's my free parenting tip to you. Makes it more exciting, especially if you make your kid write it like it's a secret and you keep looking furtively over your shoulders as you're whispering the sentences.
For example (these are from his homework):

The kids will nap on the cot. I repeat: on the cot.
The shells are red. I repeat: The SHELLS are red.
The dogs have been fed. The DOGS have been FED.

And yesterday I added the flourish that, when I see him crossing out a word, I jump up and shout, "Abort! Abort!" and run away.
Ah, good times.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daddy's weird songs

I have so many soft spots for so many things, I feel like an old banana, ready to be mashed up and baked into Daddy-bread.
One of my many soft spots if for witty, yet maudlin country songs like "The Last Word in Lonesome is Me."
Another is this one:

I was playing it on the guitar tonight but was struggling to remember the second verse, so I went through the beginning a few times to see if I could get the hang of it, and after the second time, Madge started singing along. And believe me, it's strange to hear your daughter sing, "It was always to easy to find an unhappy woman till I started looking for mine."
I asked her if she knew what she was singing and I think she said something about there being a lot of unhappy women, but you can't find them or some such, it didn't make much sense to me. But, then again, the actual lyrics and the explanation I gave (which is clearer in the second verse) didn't make much sense to her. Luckily.

I drove to the park
Lord I searched all the bars
where I made out with love too many times
It was always to easy to find an unhappy woman
Till I started looking for mine.

Some beer-drinking devil
is holding my angel*
and I know what he'll do if he's my kind.
It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman
Till I started looking for mine.

Her note on the door
said, "I warned you before
"what I'd do if you cheated one more time."
It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman
till I started looking for mine.

Some beer-drinking devil
is holding my angel
and I know what he'll do if he's my kind.
It was always so easy to find an unhappy woman
till I started looking for mine.

*At this point Coco said, "Ha-ha. Get it? Devil - angel. Like the two figures on your shoulders." Works for me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Zing! White(r) Teeth!

This New York househusband has the secret.
Go to your dentist. When she asks if you have any concerns, tell her that you don't really, but you wouldn't mind having whiter teeth.
Then wait.
At some point she will say that their dental office is trying out different bleaches and you seem to be a good test subject.
(I forgot to mention that you might get indirectly insulted about your yellow teeth along the way.)
Say, "Okay," and forget about it.
At the next cleaning she'll tell you they're ready with the bleaches and you can come in the next day if that works for you.
(I also forgot to mention that it involves bleaching half your teeth with one brand and the other half with another, so there's a potential of coming out of it looking like you're wearing a mouth guard of some team whose colors are off-white and off-off-white.)
Bring your iPod, doze off in a chair with your mouth held open for two hours, and tadaaah!
(I also forgot to mention that she will say some things about potential temporary chemical burns on your gums in a very offhand way, making the initial sitting still period a little difficult.)
And you're done! Total cost: two subway rides and a handshake.
I went from an A3 to a B1. (Does that sound right? It's what I remember, anyway. Does that mean anything to anyone? Those were the colors of teeth that she thought matched mine.)

But if I'd been told beforehand that I'd have to sip my coffee or tea through a straw because they are sensitive to staining for a while, I'm not so sure I'd have agreed.
If I seem extra grumpy, it might be the *&%$!! caffeine withdrawal.

Monday, January 04, 2010

ripped off again

I don't know what to do now. We're not going to make another kid, but neither of our kids lost a first tooth in our presence.
Madge lost hers in first grade during class and so did Coco, today.
Lithp theathon hath commenthed.