Friday, August 31, 2007


While we were on vacation, C and M asked to watch the Weather Channel.

I asked them why.

They said so they could see what the weather would be like.

I said, "The forecast is 'Sunny and very hot.' "

I was never wrong.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Summer is waning.

We arrived home late, late Monday night – or rather early, early Tuesday morning. Just today I was able to make some headway through the piles of dirty laundry and such that spilled out of our duffel bags. But we had to get to the beach. Had to. I made a quick dinner and we headed down.

The light is different. There are fewer cars out there, fewer families picnicking. The tides are bigger right now (I think that’s because we are approaching the full moon - and if I remember all this correctly, the tides at the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox next month should be even more dramatic) and there was a bit of sandbar visible that usually is not. It’s cooler earlier in the evening. We built a fire, put on our sweatshirts.

The kids went running out and started digging around to see what they could find amid the tidal pools around the sandbar. They found a wild looking sand worm (8 inches or so long) and some really big quahogs.

It’s odd to think that on Monday morning we were getting in a last bit of pool time in 100+ degree heat. Our trip was overall good. I’m still trying to process some of the more classic and/or painful family moments. It was hot. I’m glad to be home.

C has middle-school orientation tomorrow and he’s extremely nervous. S’s sleep routines are all disrupted from the trip and bedtime has been tough the last couple of nights. M, surprisingly, is the most even-keeled of the bunch right now.

My husband’s bad schedule at work starts Friday. School starts Tuesday. My office is approaching some big milestones and deadlines.

When everything is busy and intense - or tiring and dramatic as our trip was, I seem to need that beach time even more. The ebb and flow of the tides is reassuring and calming. It reminds me that there is an ebb and flow to life – and even if I don’t recognize which stage of the tide I am at, it is happening.

I breathe deeply, warm my feet by our small fire, sip some wine and watch my kids dig and discover, laugh and play. This is where I belong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

French Elvis Fan Club

Monday, August 20th

We pull in to a trading post and inn in a fly speck of a town in the northern part of the state. We’ll be staying there that evening as we make our way toward bigger sights. As I park the car, we see a man with rather poufy hair and sideburns. Were it not for the otherwise European aura about him, he could be an Elvis impersonator. My husband and I giggle a little as we collect ourselves and step out of the car.

I stretch and look around. I haven’t been to this part of the state in probably 30 years. As I take a drink from a water bottle, I look over to the tour buses in the parking lot – and almost spit out my water.

On the side of one of the tour buses is the sign, “French Elvis Fan Club.”

I look again. Yes, it really says that.

We go into the trading post to register for the evening and there are more of them – more would be Elvis impersonators. And of course, they are all speaking French.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let the Games Begin

Both for our impending visit west and for the home town team.

While it's just not appropriate to talk about the stuff happening with my family around the coming visit (exhausting stuff and we aren't even there yet), I can talk about baseball.

The boys haven't been playing with much spark. Sure, they are at the top of their division, but that something extra hasn't been there. Their archrivals are closing in.

Tonight was the return of a young hot shot pitcher to the local park. It was an emotional return, as the pitcher left the team about a year ago to be treated for cancer (a lymphoma), and this was his first local game since returning to the big show.

He pitched fabulously, giving up just one run on four hits. The opposing pitcher threw well, too, and we were behind 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. But the last play of the game may start the spark the team so desperately needs.

So it's two out in the bottom of the ninth, we have tied the game and it's 1-1. Our captain stands at 2nd. The batter is a very likeable player in his second year with the club. The count is 3-2. There are two outs.

Wouldn't you know it, the very likeable batter hits one into right field and brings the captain home. It's a walk-off win.

The crowd of, course, goes wild.

(And it doesn't hurt that the archrivals lost 12-0 tonight.)

Baseball is going to get a little more exciting over the next 6-7 weeks, I think.

If only this visit west could be a little less exciting. We'll see.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Summer Baseball

C’s summer baseball league is winding down. Not that it ever really wound up. Summer league is thankfully, enjoyably fun. No keeping score, no worries about homework or the school bus the next morning. No pressure, just playing late into summer evenings.

This week is especially relaxed as about half of all the players seem to have left town. Monday night only ten kids total showed up between the two teams, so the coaches improvised a little and played with the kids.

Last night only eight kids showed up, and again the coaches improvised. Then C asked his coach if M could play, too. Sure, the coach said, get him out here.

M is not technically old enough for summer league baseball. The kids are supposed to be at least eight and M is only seven. He was disappointed with this early in the summer, but found ways to entertain himself at the games. Still, last night, he was thrilled with the opportunity to get out and play with the big kids – and even though he was wearing only Crocs.

M played his heart out with the big kids. He loved every moment of it. He ran harder and with more determination than the big boys. Then the big boys started to notice this and started trying a little harder themselves. Then M poured it on just a little bit more - and some of those big boys were getting tired trying to keep up.

M held his own, and then some. He had some good hits, made some great plays. He had fun. He played with a grin on his face.

The coach noticed. The coach high-fived him several times and at the end of the game, asked him to join the team…officially join the team. There will be a uniform shirt waiting at the game tonight for M, and a hat.

It doesn’t matter that tonight is the last game of the season. M is so excited. He is one of the big kids now.

How Can it be Over When it Just Started?

Yesterday afternoon I was going over the calendar with C’s French Horn teacher when I realized with horror that today may be my last real beach day of the summer. The kids will have more, but possibly not me.

How do I figure that when it is only August 9?

  • Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy and yucky.
  • Saturday a friend is coming in from out of town.
  • Sunday is usually a chore day (maybe I could tweak that – though Sundays typically are exceptionally crowded days at the beach and less relaxing).
  • Monday I work.
  • Tuesday I work.
  • Wednesday I have to be in another town with C and a friend’s son for a sailing thing.
  • Thursday I work.
  • Friday we leave on our trip.

We get back late on the 27th and I work that Tuesday and Thursday. I can’t depend on that Wednesday and Friday being beach days, though I hope mightily they will be.

With that in mind, I packed a lunch and took the kids to the beach.

However, it wasn’t a great beach day. Sure, the sky is pure blue, the temperature isn’t overbearing (70s), and it’s not particularly humid – inland, that is. But at the beach it was 68 and very windy. Sweatshirt and sweatpants windy. I’m serious. Also the surf was really rough. I would not let the kids into the water.

So we stayed for half an hour, then came home and picnicked in the front yard.

And so, that possibly was my last beach day of the summer.

That's me you hear sighing. I'll get over the self-pity shortly, but if you could tolerate an hour or so of self-indulgence, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why Do I Bother?

Certain relatives have been asking me for a good long while to visit again.

But then I buy plane tickets to get the family out there and they say they're really busy and they don't know how much time, if any, they will be able to spend with us.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I noted with sadness this morning that Cardinal Lustiger of Paris has passed away.

I’ve been intrigued by Cardinal Lustiger’s story for many years. I knew one of his cousins out west. This cousin worked for my father in the early 80s and the cousin's wife and I went to the same college. The last time I saw the cousin was at my dad’s memorial four years ago.

It’s interesting how families evolve….one part is a conservative Catholic clergyman in France, another is a Jewish lawyer in the American west.

And yet they were still family.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The New York Times needs to hire back some editors - or just run a spell checker.

Saw this just a couple minutes ago. Might still be there.

It’s Not Burned, It’s Carmelized (Or, Adventures in Cooking for Children)

Like many women I know, I was a spectacular mother before I had children.

My children would be perfectly behaved at all times.

My children would be the smartest kids around from day one.

And my children would eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet. My children would love their veggies.

Okay, all you mothers out there, stop laughing. You thought it, too. I know you did.

I was anal about C’s diet once he started eating solids. I made most of his baby food. I figured that if wouldn’t want to eat the gray strained peas out of the jar, I wouldn’t expect him to eat it either. This really was not a hard thing to do. As my husband and I were cooking meals for ourselves, we’d steam and puree and freeze some of whatever basic ingredient we were using. Truly green peas, peaches without additives and stabilizers, and so on. As such, C ate some interesting and tasty and colorful foods in his first year of solids. (The book Mommy Made and Daddy, Too was our reference.)

Oh, I was smug. So smug.

But then, pretty much all of a sudden, he stopped eating the varied offerings, and narrowed his palate. I remember talking with a friend about it. She had read something about the developing taste buds of toddlers; that at a certain stage, veggies really do taste pretty awful to them (I’ve never been able to find said study or other documentation of that, unfortunately). Still, we were down to more macaroni and cheese than I care to admit, and a few other carbohydrate-based staples. Occasionally, I could sneak vegetable matter in (pureed peas mixed in to scrambled eggs), but mostly not. Thankfully, C always liked fruit. I could always get some kind of fruit into him – though he preferred the expensive stuff (mangoes).

(When C was 19 months old, we dressed him up as a bee for Halloween and took him to a few houses. He was really into the candy that he was given, although he had no idea what it was. At home, he put the candy in his dump truck and carted it around the house. He never quite understood why the load was lighter every morning. That pretty orange package was gone…then the brown one that felt like it had beans in it…)

After M was born, I had the chance to try again. Again I made the baby food, offered variety. M liked tofu. After a driving vacation to a cousin’s wedding, during which 9 month old M ate very poorly, the kid downed ¾ pound of tofu straight from the container in one sitting.

Again, toddler-hood hit, and the palate narrowed. And again, I could sneak vegetable matter in occasionally, but mostly not. And again, I was really thankful he would at least eat fruit.

I realized when M was about two that we were making two complete meals every night: one for the kids and one for the grown-ups. I was getting tired of that routine pretty quickly. Granted, the kids were still small and with my husband’s long hours it wasn’t always realistic on a nutritional need, mood and routine level to have the kids wait until Daddy was home to eat a meal. But two complete meals was one too many.

Slowly, I started cooking just one dinner a day. I chose carefully. I chose menus that had interest for both kids and adults, and were fairly well-balanced. Some were more kid focused and some were more adult focused. I scoured cookbooks for interesting meals (one, One Bite Won’t Kill You, gave us some good jumping off points) and surveyed friends. I committed to one dinner per night, and, after C was sick, to family dinner the majority of evenings each week (this sometimes required a lite snack about 5:30 to get the kids through to when Daddy would get home).

There were battles at the dinner table. There was whining and crying on the kid front. There were nights I wanted to give in. There were times it was logistically hard to make a meal (when S was tiny, for example-nursing and chopping ingredients don’t mix) I reminded the kids that 1) there was no “Mom’s Diner” sign and a menu at the table, 2) I didn’t choose meals to torture them; I chose meals with ingredients they like, and that I think they will like (and will not serve them anything I won’t eat myself), and 3) we are a family and we eat together. They had to have at least one bite of each “undesired” item, and each meal had to be followed by fruit. Also, dessert was not a given. They learned to ask, on weekends only, “Mom, will you be offering dessert this evening?”

Somewhere along the way, C started to eat salads. Then C and M started to ask to help make the salad dressing. Then C asked to go for Indian food for his last birthday. I didn't make a big deal out of this outwardly. On the inside I was jumping for joy.

This is not to say that everything is perfect and my kids eat that perfectly varied diet I dreamed of. They still prefer the macaroni and cheese and other kid fare. They would eat Nutella morning, noon and night if I would let them. S, still very much a toddler, is the most challenging in this. She picks at just about everything, but she’s clearly getting something. If I didn’t see her growing out of clothes and climbing the growth charts, I’d be worried.

When I make my weekly shopping list, as I am doing today, I enlist their help. I have written our standard meals on index cards. I ask each of the boys to go through and pick one meal, my husband picks two, and I pick three. That way everyone gets at least one thing they want, and I can balance the meat and carb heavy meals with my choices (I can also help balance the food bill as I review the local circulars for the sale items and apply those to my choices). There are still complaints, but they have gone down a bit. I can also say, when one asks why we are having something for dinner, "Talk to your brother. He chose it."

There are times I lament my kids’ limited diet and wish they ate more things, but then we’ll have one of their friends over who has an even more limited diet, and I feel blessed that they eat what they do. They are healthy and thriving – and most importantly, we have food on the table.

Mostly what I have learned from this is that it all balances out in the end. Really. I could have saved myself some grief if I had taken that to heart much sooner - but I think it's a lesson every mother has to learn for herself.

Someday (I hope) my kids will like the grilled asparagus I adore, but until then, more for me.


There’s a hawk I’ve been listening to for a week or so. It’s a very noisy hawk.

As I have sat at my desk, I’ve heard this hawk screaming at various points during the day. I assume it’s protecting a nest. I sent the boys outside to look for it, but no luck.

The morning I came down stairs early with S. I was trying to give my husband a morning to sleep in, as he so kindly did for me yesterday. I thought I might doze myself while S watched PBS. But then S said, “Mommy, there’s somebody in out back yard.”


Well, turns out she meant something, and that something was the hawk.

The hawk was hopping around the back planting bed, near where we recently put in that patio. It was maybe 10 feet from us, though through a glass door and a screen door. S hopped off the couch, and watched if for a moment through the door. The hawk hopped around some more before flying away.

I thought to myself, wow, that was cool.

A few minutes later, I went into the kitchen to try to make coffee. Turns out we have no coffee filters. But as I was standing at the sink contemplating what to do (I need my coffee in the morning), I noticed the hawk was still out there, sitting on a low branch of a white pine tree just on the other side of the fence bordering the back planting bed.

Very quickly I located my camera. I managed one (slightly fuzzy at full digital zoom) photo before the hawk flew off again.

It’s nearby. I can hear it. I just can’t see it yet.

I think we’ll be on high hawk alert today.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lifetimes Ago

Tonight as I was reading S a bedtime story, I was reminded of something that happened when C was just her age.

We were reading No, David! by David Shannon. Brilliant book. A few pages in is the illustration of the main character's bare bum running down the street. The words for that page are, "Come back here, David!"

About 8 years ago, while we were still living in the south and I was a few months pregnant with M, my sweet husband encouraged me to sleep in. He would wrangle our then 3-year-old C for the early morning. I appreciated the offer and fell right back asleep.

Sometime later, I awoke to a voice in the side yard. We lived in an end unit in a complex of townhouses, and voices actually were not common. I rose from the bed and tried to look out the window, but the angle wasn't right (there were no windows on the side of the townhouse, only front and back). The voice was not quite decipherable, but it was still out there.

I went downstairs and no husband and son. Huh.

Then I opened the back door near the side yard and heard very clearly, "Come back here, David!" in my husband's voice. I was very confused.

I stepped out onto the patio and looked around. There was C running around the side yard stark naked, and my husband calling after him.

They were playing, "No, David!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Don't Get It

Doesn't anyone believe in honesty anymore?

Some little things are swirling today. They all come down to dishonesty. And amid that I have decided that I am either incredibly naive or hopelessly optimistic. I don't know how else to describe it, and certainly wouldn't have used those terms to describe myself before.

C is in a series of sailing races yesterday and today. Yesterday he saw some cheating by other sailors but the organization running the races decided not to accept protests. He felt very frustrated by this when he arrived home, so we had a long talk about it - what he could and couldn't do, and why. It was tough. He's an aggressive, competitive sailor, but would never dream (I don't think, and he says he wouldn't) of doing such a thing. It really bothered him - and there's really nothing he can do. No recourse. I'm hopeful he can move beyond it and have a good day today.

C also has a situation with a boy from school. At the Harry Potter event at the local bookstore, this boy (who had tried to tease him through much of baseball season) stole his new summer league baseball hat off his head, threw it into some bushes, thus losing it. And since is refusing to take any responsibility for his actions. We went back in following days and looked for the hat ourselves with no luck.

If this boy had apologized and helped look for the hat, we would have cut him a ton of slack, and found a way to replace the hat ourselves. No luck. So C has asked him to replace it in some way, and the boy will not acknowledge he has any responsibility or tell his mother. (I just learned that, when asked by C to please have the boy return or replace the hat, the mother replied, "You must be mistaken. My son would never do that." Um, sure.)

C and I are talking a lot about dumb, kinda thoughtless things kids do, and how harm probably was not meant, but that taking responsibility is important. Also, we have talked about how, if the situations were reversed, he would be in more trouble for hiding the situation and/or lying about it than for losing a friend's hat in the first place. I don't yet know how or if this situation will resolve.

The final thing is a blog I've watched for a while. The writer (which I will NOT point you to - but it is three judicious clicks away from this site) admitted in a recent post that she cheated her way through high school, and was quite cruel to a teacher and a friend, lied to her parents to go on an unchaperoned trip, spilled red wine on a friend's wedding dress, among other less than savory things. She is most remorseful about the red wine incident and being cruel to a friend. She has only minimal remorse for the cruelty to the teacher, and none at all for the cheating ("Everyone was doing it."). The tone of the post was attempting to be humorous (inappropriately so), but it was more flippant. I am just floored.

I left a stern comment and deleted her from my bookmarks. I was on the edge of doing that anyway.

The first two issues can be explained away - somewhat - because it's mostly kids, and they are still learning. Heck, I'm still teaching this stuff to the kids! The last, well, as I said, I'm floored. How does someone make light of dishonesty and cruelty?

Is most of the world like this and I am obliviously cruising down a lovely river in Egypt?

(Wait. Don't answer that. I'm pretty sure I know the answer.)

I don't even know where to begin to address the issues!

I also started thinking about my dad again. Wakeupandsmellthecoffee is having some parent issues and it reminded me of issues we had with my father and the people around him.

When we went out for Dad's memorial service, my aunt asked my sister and me to put together an obituary for him. It was an honor to write it - even though it was later thrown in my face as the reason we would not be allowed to speak at his service. My favorite thing I wrote in this obituary was, "Through it all, he held fast to his belief that people are essentially good."

That trait was both one of my favorite things about my dad and possibly the most infuriating.

But maybe I am becoming more like him - because I am so shocked and upset when I see people not doing the right thing or not taking responsibility for their actions (and even when it's a person with a history of bad behavior). Do I so deeply believe that people are good and will do the right thing?

I don't know where to go with this. Just more to ponder, I suppose.


1. The second day of sailing was better. No obvious cheating this time. Overall better day.

2. The boy who lost the hat handed C $20 today to get a new hat and said sorry for the first time. Ironically, last night at baseball, C's coach said he really doesn't care if the team has the "correct" hat or not, just that they show up. Since we don't really need a new hat for the sake of a new hat and it would be wrong to spend it on anything else, C is considering what to do. It's come down to returning the money and saying thank you for the apology and that the apology and some help looking for the lost hat are what I really wanted in the first place or giving the money to charity and telling the boy and his family that we have done that. What do you think C should do?