Sunday, December 31, 2006


My mom and stepfather live in an area of the U.S. where brief snowshowers are common. Night and day temperatures are often vastly different, though, and the humidity generally hovers at around 30 percent, so when snow happens, it's generally gone within hours, sublimating or melting into the clear blue skies.

But when we came to visit, instead of bringing a nice hostess gift, we brought record-breaking snow. The neighborhood we're in is at the foot of a mountain, often enshrouded in cloud during bad weather. It started snowing on Thursday afternoon here, but down in the valley the sun was shining. Thursday night, however, the snow continued, as it did on Friday. As my mom and I took AM to lay in some Shabbat supplies, I asked if she had snow tires. "It didn't snow once last winter!" was her reply.

The driving between grocery stores was slow and slushy, with frighteningly low visibility. On the way home, my mom's Passat got stuck in the neighborhood. Twice. A kindly neighbor delivered me and a screaming, hungry AM to our door. Perishables were rescued from the trunk and arrived on foot. The snow continued all night Friday and ceased on Saturday in time for a gorgeous sunset.

But. In this city of few snowshovels and fewer snowplows (21 of them, a newscaster announced, to the hysterical laughter of Taxman and myself; for a city of about half a million people, it doesn't seem quite sufficient), snow totals ranging from 15 to 24 inches--my parents are at the upper extreme of that--has made for quite a mess. The airport was closed yesterday; sections of the major interstates that cross through the city were iced over and closed; even large portions of some city thoroughfares were deemed hazardous last night and closed to traffic.

The sun has returned today, affording a spectacular view of the white-capped mountains nearby and warming the air to a balmy 38 degrees. After an hour and a half of several family members shoveling snow (on top of what had been done on Friday), my mom was able to stop stressing herself into a tizzy and get out to shop for her New Year's Day bash (this year with a Show Off Your Grandkids Even Though The Party Is Smack In The Middle Of Their Naptimes Bonus!).

Miss M has been having the time of her life, clomping around outside in boots and borrowed snowpants, taking pratfalls in the snow and using a gardening spade to "help" shovel.

The snow has been everything that snow should be: pristine, pretty, white, wet. I got to watch the storm from a warm house. I saw bird, rabbit, and deer tracks in the snow when I took a walk with AM (can't do that at home!).

And while it's messy now, the driveway is clear, the streets are plowed, and we should be able to get home on Wednesday, as planned.*

Definitely better than a February Nor'Easter at home.

* I've got a blogger coffee meetup on Thursday that I am very excited about; if we get cancelled on the way home I'm going to go Miranda Priestly on someone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Poker night

Every December 24th for the past four or five years, Taxman and I have an unusually good time playing penny-stakes poker. With his parents.

Odd, right? It gets weirder. December 24th is my in-laws' anniversary. So they celebrate their union (34 years now) by playing (and usually losing) poker with their family.

It used to be a larger gathering, but Taxman's grandfather passed away the summer before AM was born, and his elderly grandmother is a bit too crotchety to stay up so late and to leave her hearing aid in. And now, of course, we've got the kids, so last year the festivities moved from my in-laws' place to ours.

But the spirit is the same. Lots of jokes, lots of pennies. It sounds crazy, but I love poker night. It's the one night a year when I get a glimpse of what my father-in-law was like years ago. Ordinarily, he has a pretty serious mien. He's smart and studious; if he doesn't have a child on his lap, it's occupied by a volume of Talmud. Which isn't to say that he doesn't make funny comments from time to time, but it's almost impossible for me to believe that in high school he and Taxman's boisterous Uncle M were best friends.

On poker night, however, all the books are tucked away. It probably started because of "nittel nacht," a leftover custom from Europe, where pogroms and such were popular on Christmas eve. Of course, the origins of the day no longer apply, particularly in the United States, but sometimes even the most casual of customs are rooted deep. So on the night before Christmas, my father-in-law doesn't learn Torah. He plays cards.

We deal; they pick the most random wild cards for each round, relishing the hands as they are dealt: "Oh, oh, oh! Possible flush! Straightening! A wild nine!" My father-in-law, the most scrupulously honest person I think I know, insists that his deck is cut when it's his turn to deal. My mother-in-law rarely folds, telling Taxman that she has to stay in "to keep him honest." I lose a lot, but Taxman wins.

Last year we took them for a dollar and sixty-six cents. (More, incidentally, than Taxman spent on me on our first date.)

This year we played despite our early wakeup to get to the airport.

And we made eleven cents.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Poop at 29,000 feet

That's right. That's my son and his airplane debut.

Up the back, through the clothes. Didn't even wait until cruising altitude.

The 1:1 child:adult ratio was ok for on the plane, but in the airport it was bad, bad, bad. Two kids, two adults, two huge pieces of carry-on baggage (mostly their stuff, of course!), and two Britax Roundabouts. Holy cow.

I didn't sleep last night. Didn't sleep on the plane. Didn't catch a rest because Miss M and AM alternated naps when we got here. AM is suffering major stranger anxiety and refuses to let me out of his sight unless Taxman is holding him.

Vacation is going to get better, right? ZZZZZZZ.

Happy purple pajamas to all who are celebrating.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

If you've got it, flaunt it

Everyone knows that two-year-olds are sponges, right?

So when Miss M kept pointing out her "New shoes!" to everyone and people responded with, "Yes! They're green!" eventually it morphed to "Green shoes!"

Obviously, the most striking thing about Miss M is her hair. It gets a lot of comments (and comparisons to Little Orphan Annie). Recently she had been saying "Orange hair!" to people because a friend of ours told her that.

But yesterday she struck up a conversation with a woman in the elevator. She started by telling her our names ("Ema! Miss M! AM!").

Then she tapped her head--just where a tiara would go, incidentally--and said, "Beautiful hair!"

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pissed beyond words

(Side note: does anyone know how to make NY Times articles available without logging in?)

Justifiably? You be the judge.

Reason for Postcards from Buster's delayed return

Hey, you, rabid evangelical asshats: Just because you refuse to see gay parenting doesn't mean it's not happening. Why don't you go pick on TLC shows and leave fun, educational, apolitical kids' programming alone!

Separation of Church and State...Not just for breakfast anymore! (Except in New Jersey)

The kid who stood up to the preacher, uh, teacher received a death threat.* Seriously! Does this situation make anyone else want to throw up? Don't teachers get evaluated? Where was his supervisor?

* I was one of five Jews in my high school graduating class in a very churchgoing town. A girl in my Latin class told me point-blank that I was bound for Hell. But if a teacher tried that crap on me? Uh uh, no sir.

Chocolate glazed heart disease

Well, you can knock me over with a feather.

The rumor is true and my destiny has come calling.

Dunkin' Donuts, all gussied up kosher, has settled down just one ZIP code away.

Be still, my heart.

Literally, probably. Heart disease runs rampant on my dad's side of the family. My dad has been beating it with a stick lo these 20 years; he eats well, exercises obsessively, takes his beta blockers and cholesterol-lowering drugs. My cholesterol at age 26 was 215, but I was busy trying to get pregnant, so I couldn't take any drugs. I wanted to try to beat it without those anyway, so I got a bit obsessive about exercise myself. One January I joined a brand-new, fancy-pants gym, paying a ton of money upfront for one year. Taxman thought I would crap out, but I didn't--because that would have been an immense waste of money. I lowered my cholesterol to the 140s. It was amazing.

The next January I joined a less expensive gym that was closer to home and kept going. By the end of that year, I was pregnant and paranoid. I nixed all the jogging and weights in favor of prenatal yoga.

After Miss M was born, I kept intending to get back to exercising. But she proved to have a delicate stomach and fussy sleep patterns. By the time I felt like I could carve out some time to myself in the morning, AM was on the way.

And now, well, it's been a long time since I've done anything physical. I am beyond exhausted because nobody is sleeping. My eating patterns are crappy at best. (But eggs for dinner are easy, you know? Grilled cheese sandwiches are easy. And Taxman is in charge of both of those dinners.) Trans fats are everywhere. I am tired. I am weak-willed.

I don't have to explain the appeal of donuts, do I? Sugar and fat and gooey toppings in a cute little round package? (And how it is difficult to eat just one?) Plus they go well with coffee; I will, of course, not be drinking real coffee for a while yet, but I can fake it with decaf.

I am afraid to take a cholesterol test, because I am pretty sure that I'd lose all my desserts, snacks, and half my meals in a single blow. Plus I'd have to find the time and strength of will to exercise. (And get these damn leeches off me for more than 30 minutes.) Did I mention it's dark (really dark!) by 5:00 pm?

Maybe I'll be brave in the spring. Maybe by the spring I will remember what three straight hours of sleep feels like. And what the afternoon sun looks like.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


One of our friends/upstairs neighbors had a baby boy early today. It was a "perfect, easy VBAC."

I am so thrilled for her.

(Cue violins)

At the same time, I am incredibly jealous that she had the birth that I planned for and wanted so desperately that I labored for three days before I gave up the chance to ever have it that way again.

How much do I suck?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Miracle Grow

Whoa. I am confused dumbstruck.

At 5 feet 1 inch, I am the shortest person in my immediate family.

At 5 feet 7 inches (so he claims, overestimating by about a half-inch), Taxman is the tallest person in his immediate family.

Miss M, at age two-and-a-half, is already 3 feet 1 inch. Over the past five months, she's grown 2.5 (!) inches. (Yes, that's an average of a half-inch every month. Is it any wonder that her clothes and shoes seem to fit for only three weeks?)

All the children's height calculators that ask for parental height predict that she will be 5'5" at most. But they don't know about her tall grandfather, great-grandfather, or other random relatives. And they don't know about the red, curly hair, which doesn't seem to really fit anywhere either.

Now eight months, AM is falling off the growth curves, as breastfed babies are often expected to. But Miss M never did. She's spent her entire life hovering between the 75th and 90th percentiles, in a way that seemed to defy her parental genetics.

I'd love a little flip-flap in the space-time continuum to find out where this is going. Is Miss M going to spend her adult life looking down at both her parents? Will she be taller than her brother? Will the WNBA recruit a nice Jewish girl?

Or will genetic trends win over time?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Deep thoughts from the bowling alley

Our blitzkrieg through the 781 area code included a stop at the Children's Museum of Boston, where Miss M and my college roommate's* son, J, would have gladly stayed on the floor with the bubbles and the running water for, I don't know, EVER.

Miss M got completely soaked, despite the smock, and then we had to take her out in the 20 degree chill. A fine parenting moment; thank goodness we were only parked about a block away.

Shabbat ended at 5 Saturday evening, and I was itching to run away to Paris with Taxman do something besides watching our hosts, the Zs, wash dishes and check their email. Because Miss M had taken a late nap, I suggested candlepin bowling, with bumpers in her lane. (I lived in Boston when I was a little kid, so this was my only bowling experience until I was about 14. I was never good at the grownup kind. Well, either kind, to be truthful.)

Miss M grooved on the bowling shoes, but could only be coaxed to roll toss a few balls down the lane. Even though she refused to participate in the Mommies (& toddler) vs. Daddies showdown after the first frame, we kept the bumpers up.

I am sure the bumpers improved my game, but somehow it didn't feel like cheating. I never managed to knock down all 10 pins, despite the three chances per round, and had a lot of trouble getting the four pins smack in the middle of the lane, but never had a gutter ball, naturally. It was fun, although I tended to forget the bumpers were there.

I got to thinking that this is how I want my parenting to be as the kids grow. I want to be the bumpers. To buffer Miss M and AM from the big stuff and the absolutely wasted chances. They will have the opportunity to make mistakes, to experiment, and to find their own holes, but I want to give them just a little boost. I want them to forget that I am helping unless they look back for a reminder. Then I'll be right there.

* My roommate is a true carrot-top, and at the museum had the following exchange with a stranger:

"Oh! Where did she get those curls?"
"I don't know; she's not mine. I can see how you'd think that, though."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Co-Sleeping Adventures, Part 224: Not for Amateurs

We spent a lovely weekend in the Bay State, visiting two sets of friends and trying to keep Miss M amused. (We succeeded, except for the car ride home.)

But we spent our first night away sleeping on a blowup mattress, the camping kind. So I was petrified that AM would sleep on his stomach, as usual, and not be able to breathe so well. Taxman and I took turns staying up most of the night to make sure he slept on his back. Then at about 5, Miss M crawled in with us too.

Did I mention the mattress was a double? Four people. One small, squishy bed. And a tension headache THIS BIG.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Parenting rite of passage

I just called Poison Control.

They are just lovely to deal with. I wasn't petrified, just mildly concerned, which could have colored my perspective. But still, the woman I spoke to is now high on my list of people I'd want holding my hand in an emergency.

Too bad I didn't get her name.

(Everyone is fine, I promise.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lucky Seven

Seven years ago today, Taxman and I got married.

We were young and insane and hopeful.

Our wedding was joyous and beautiful.

Now we are older. We've learned a lot on this journey. We've made sacrifices for each other, grown together, and cemented our commitment. We have laughed and cried and laughed again. We have poured energy and time into our spirited, red-haired children.

Through everything, we have been a team. From vacation planning to inadvertently sharing our bed with angelically nursing leeches, we try to come to a consensus on everything.

You know how starry-eyed newlyweds answer questions in unison? We still do that.

I am not the easiest person to live with. But somehow he makes it seem effortless.

Late last night, as we whispered in the dark, we just couldn't get over our good fortune. Seven years seems so long and so short, all at once. Looking down the road to multiples of seven, we can only hope that our luck keeps steering us like a gentle wind.

My only regret is that "I love you" is such an insufficient expression of gratitude and thanksgiving for what I have.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

That is BRAND NEW information! (Or not)

Last week we had our first of about 60 parent-teacher conferences. You wouldn't think that a child two weeks shy of two-and-a-half would need a 20-minute tete-a-tete,* but we’re paying a lot for this experience, so we'll just roll with it.

Believe me, I have nothing against parents getting an inside track on their children’s schooling.** The thing that got me was the way the information was presented—like we were probably not aware of facts “a, b, and c” about Miss M. It would be one thing if this were a boarding preschool, or even a full day, but honestly, she is there for 10.5 hours a week. That's it. So when her teacher leaned in and said, sotte voce, “You know, she really doesn't play with the stuffed animals and won't take the doll that we pass around at circle time. It's fine, though,” all I could say was, “Oh, just like at home.” Duh!

Another brilliant observation: “She loves the art projects and the sand table and the playdough. Tactile things.” Really? Is that why she pesters me to “Play playdough!” seven days a week? And wants to dig in the sand every time we go to the park?

Taxman was with me at the meeting and ran to work afterwards, but that night he turned to me and said, “You know what the most surprising thing was? That at school she only eats bread and pasta.”*** I agreed, but added, “Plus that they'd love more just like her.” I know she is a “smart young lady,” to quote, but she's willful and a bit of a whippersnapper, so I wasn't sure how that was going over in a classroom setting with a dozen other two-year-olds. I suppose everyone is fine with it.

What I wanted to know—if Miss M has any particular friends playmates—was dismissed with, “Oh, at this age it's only parallel play.” (Although playdates outside of school are strongly encouraged. Why, if it's “only parallel play”?)

The two other families we are friendliest with have their conferences next week. I am dying to find out if they have any revelations from preschool. I'm betting...not.

* I have no idea how to make the accent marks. Sue me.

**Geek alert: One of my absolute favorite parts of the school year when I was in junior high and high school was Back-to-School Night. I sent my mom and stepdad to school with a super-secret packet of information, with my snarky observations of each class and instructor. They always filled in their own comments, and my stepdad usually included a crude teacher caricature or two. Other parents could never believe that I spent time acknowledging that my home and school worlds were colliding for a night, but it was a lot more fun than math homework! Plus, I was a total dork.

***And dessert, it should go without saying. She's not a great eater at home; I'd classify her as "good."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Help! I'm alone with my thoughts!

We are having major connection capital-I Issues over here. Not sure if it is the router (probably) or the wireless card (evil spawn), but I am holding my breath that this 90-second post will make it.

I haven't been able to really read any blogs--or anything else online (news? hello?)--since Monday. It's making me tense and cranky.

I miss you people!