Friday, August 31, 2007
What's All the Fuss About?
Have you ever seen that episode of Sex and the City when Kim Catrall goes to have an HIV test and she faints when they call her name because she is convinced, after sleeping with half of NYC, that she might have contracted the disease? And all they wanted to tell her was that she is healthy but she should use condoms?

Just say you have an we can move on.

So I get up today and steel myself for this mammogram, wondering what it'll be like, if the machine is as cold as they say it is, if it is brutally uncomfortable (like they say it is). Then I realize that this test won't be done in seclusion, there will be other women there and some of them will bear the mark of being a cancer victim. That made me a little nervous.

I arrive at 10:07 and everyone looks healthy. I see nothing to make me nervous about the remote possibility of a potential problem.

I sign in and they tell me "Gee, we didn't know you were even coming!" Fan-frigging-tastic.

I sign a waiver stating that I understand the wait could be hours (or as little as 30 minutes). But they aren't that busy and so I am called pretty quickly. They bring me to a little changing room and give me a spa robe. Then I join all the other women in another room.

There we are, all waiting to have our tests done. Me, for my baby-step baseline and other women there for their 40 year or annual photo op all dressed in a pretty ridiculous uniform: spa robe, pants and shoes with our purses at our sides.

One woman is older, and after she goes to have her mammogram done, she comes back and waits. Two more women go in and have their mammograms done. Then the first woman is called back out. "We need to take more views," I overheard the clinician tell her. She agrees and comes back to the waiting room. Then I am called and I have the friendliest technician in the world. We chat about Brooklyn, kids, etc. She puts me so at ease I feel I will miss talking to her when the test ends.

I go back to the waiting room. While I am waiting, a second woman is called back for more views.

Then I get nervous. It isn't the test, it's everything after the test to be nervous about. It's the "more views" comment, something could be amiss. The what-if's and waiting for answers, any hint of the unknown a 1,000 pound weight to carry around.

And then they call my name and as I am walking to the door expecting them to want to take more views because there is something suspicious on the films, I don't faint like Kim Catrall, but I don't see the door either and I end up walking right into it.

Then the lady in the pink shirt smiles and asks if I am OK. I tell her I'm fine, waiting for the dreaded words when says "Everything is fine. See you in five years!"

I'm off for a pedicure to celebrate. I will get pink, natch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
It Comes with the Territory
Back in March, I turned 35. I mentioned that day that doctors will start using the words "baseline testing" a lot in my presence. That time has come.

Tomorrow I go for my baseline mammogram compliments of The Job. The company covers testing like this every so often and I thought it best to take advantage of it.

This is the test against which all my other mammograms will be compared. People, I don't need to tell you how important stuff like this is. My own mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor thanks to a routine mammogram. They found a tiny, tiny spot on the film which could have easily been overlooked. But it wasn't and she is now enjoying her grandchildren, her retirement and traveling the country in her RV. Thank god.

I think the test might have weighing on John's mind because this morning he asked me "Will you be OK afterward? Will you be in pain?"

"No, I'll be fine. They're just going to take my breast and squeeze it flat between two metal plates."

Then he made a face, as if to say "how gross!" Maybe, but it beats the alternative.

Here's a link to a breast cancer foundation site with a clever t-shirt design. Their goal is to eradicate the disease in young women: Save 2nd Base

Monday, August 27, 2007
I'm Not the Only One Who Thinks the Clothes for Little Girls are Trampy
I'm too foggy in the head from this cold to write. Click on the link below and read about another mother's back to school shopping experience.

Lolita's Closet

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Back to School Shopping
Yesterday I headed to the mall with the kids for some back to school shopping for Sophie. I realized not long into the trip why I don't bring my kids to the mall like, ever. We lost one toy, broke one mannequin, shed countless tears, and Harry tried to pick up a waitress by nicknaming her "sexy." (At least that's what it sounded like to me.)

Lots of the clothes in Penny's and Macy's were over the top ugly just plain slutty looking (feel free to add your own adjective to the end of that last line). If they aren't slutty looking, they have GIANT LOGOS plastered across the front. (Or the back. Or both.) The skirts are too short, the tops too revealing. Is it too hard to ask the manufacturers to not make clothes for my six year old that make her look like she is off to her first job as a receptionist at a brothel? OHMYGOD I have become my father.

The not-so-secret solution to my clothing dilemma was found at Sears, the retail store that sells Land's End clothing. Cute skorts! Nice dresses, versatile cardigan sweaters, rain slickers with matching hats and boots. They didn't have all our choices in Sophie's size but we can order it online. The saleswoman told me that if I order the clothing I want at the terminal in the store it is FREE to ship to your home. I would have done it except Harry was walking around in a mismatched pair of girls shoes and banging on an overturned metal basin which was part of the store display.

Thursday, August 23, 2007
This is NOT the Information Age
My husband and I have noticed, with increasing frequency, people doing things that seem to take no one but themselves into consideration. From the neighbor who thinks nothing of banging on your door and interrupting your dinner (thank God she moved to Shanghai), to the guy who takes up two parking spaces with his SUV, to the person in the supermarket who abandons his or her cart in the middle of the aisle to go back and get a bag of Fritos, to the guy on the train who screams into his cell phone, it seems to us that most people live their lives in their own person bubble and as long as their actions inconvenience everyone else, great!

Last Friday, as we walked Sophie to her last day of camp, we were forced to move aside so a woman could ride past us on her bike. On the sidewalk. Despite the presence of a street 5 feet to her right. It wasn't just a kind "on your right!" warning. This was an "Excuse ME!" request, said with a great deal of exasperation, as if we had SOME NERVE to walk on the sidewalk.

Then there are the dog owners in our neighborhood, who, regardless of the $450 fine, refuse to curb their dog and clean up afterwards. These are probably the same people who wouldn't dream of eating anything unhealthy lest they ingest something artificial and use eco-cleansers so they don't pollute Mother Earth. But leaving dog shit in front of their neighbors house is perfectly OK.

This morning on the subway, a woman spilled coffee on herself but also all over the floor and on a guy sitting behind her as the train lurched out of a station. Eating and drinking on the subway isn't really permitted, but it's one of those NY laws that isn't enforced, since we're too busy looking out for bombs and being panhandled (which is also illegal, by the way). So there she was, huge purse, large shopping bag and the hot coffee which then found its way everywhere. I didn't hear so much as a "Sorry" from her to the man, whose pants will need to be dry cleaned but she was awfully miffed at having to wipe the coffee from her foot and Old Navy flip flops.

We have dubbed this time, where people do anything they please, wherever they please however they please The Age of Entitlement.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Bounty! (Sort of.)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

It's been raining for four days straight, I haven't so much as glimpsed out back. Today I did and lo and behold, 'maters!

Monday, August 20, 2007
Dear New Jersey Turnpike, I Hate You. Love, Me
After visiting family this weekend in the Philadelphia area, we headed home and made our way up I-95 toward New Jersey. 95 was eerily quiet, the emptiest I've ever seen.

The turnpike was another story. Bumper to bumper, the entire way home. Then more traffic at the bridge crossing into Staten Island.

What ticked me off the most about this trip was not the traffic itself. It was the signs posted along the turnpike, warning me to reduce my speed because there was Congestion Ahead.

Now, I know this is New Jersey I'm talking about but when I'm crawling at a snail's pace in the rain on a Sunday night with two restless kids in the back the last thing I need is a sign alerting me every 5 miles to reduce my speed because of upcoming congestion. I'm IN the congestion which would lead rational and logical thought to deduce that there is traffic ahead of me. Duh.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
One. Just One Left.
Just having a bad day. Nothing specific, just an amalgam of things that make me mad, sad, irritated, annoyed and just plain pissy. So, here you go, the list of things that are gettin’ on my last nerve today:

1. My love/hate relationship with work
2. My love/hate relationship with our apartment
3. I’ve never been to Montana
4. Hannah Montana and the grip she has on my daughter
5. The radio that’s still broken in our car
6. Rachel Ray
7. Rachel Ray brand EVOO
8. Inky, the amazing shitting cat
9. Paying over $2.49 for a gallon of gas (you could fill that in with any price, most days)
10. My husband never took that job at Cosmair. We might be living in Paris today if he had.
11. Identity theft.
12. The dreary stationhouse the detective on my identity theft case works in (seriously, I almost called Extreme Makeover, Precinct Edition)
13. Global warming (also see item #9)
14. Mosquito bites
15. The subway
16. The smell on the subway
17. The people on the subway
18. Toy recalls
19. The cold I’m fighting
20. Back to school shopping
21. My glasses
22. My contacts
23. The fact that my daughter thinks I grew up in the 50’s
24. Partially hydrogenated oil
25. My carbon footprint
26. No more Gilmore Girls
27. No Lost until February
28. Pre-season football
29. The pile of stuffed animals in our home
30. Not having DVR
31. High Fructose Corn Syrup
32. Squirrels
33. Sinus pressure
34. Flossing
35. Starbucks
36. Paperwork
37. Being a “team player”
38. Catchy business phrases like “wrap my head around it” and “managing expectations”
39. My cell phone
40. Luxury Condos
41. The word “luxury”

My kids also woke up in a bad mood. Did you? Tell me what's bugging you today.

Monday, August 13, 2007
Vacation Roundup
All six of you are probably wondering what happened to me after Tuesday on our vacation.

Wednesday was The Hot Day and so we made it a pool day. All day. For six straight hours we swam and soaked and waded. Usually, the weather in the Poconos is cooler than our native NYC but not Wednesday. It was too hot to take a lot of pictures but here’s one of Sophie’s feet. Proof that she can now do an underwater handstand.

We woke on Thursday to a glorious morning. We went out for breakfast, then met up with my Dad back at the homestead. From there we headed out to the Wayne County Fair.

Women with mullets! Fried Twinkies! 12 pound zucchinis! Tractor pulls! Pig racing! Blue ribbons! Beef Jerky stands!

And this kid, who was all too happy to pose for a picture. He also serenaded the women at the concession stands and made one of them blush, without being suggestive or using foul language. The kid is gifted.

The Great Pumpkin!

This cow could care less about Harry's car, but that didn't stop him from showing it to her.

One of the attractions in the fair is fawn petting. There's a large pen where for $3 a head, you can go inside, step on all the deer shit you ever thought imaginable and pet baby deer. You can feed the deer a bottle for an additional $1.

This year they also had two piglets and a basket of beagle puppies.

The woman who runs the stand is a drill sargent. Every child must be looked after. Every person must wash their hands after the petting session, whether you touched an animal or not. You must leave with your child (apparently, this has been a problem in the past). Photos are not allowed unless you pay her $5 to use your own camera. I was too cheap to pony up the cash and instead will describe to you the scene inside the pen:

Sophie found a beagle which promptly fell asleep in her lap. She let it lie there while her brother ran around chasing the deer and the piglets, trying to kiss them. Sophie put the puppy down and tried to hold another but Sleeping Puppy kept tugging at her heartstrings, and she kept going back to her, holding her, petting her, kissing her. Crying great, big fat tears of sorrow when I told her we could not have a puppy. "But pleeeeeeeaaaaassseee! She loves me! I'll take care of her! I promise! Why don't you ever give me what I want? But I looooovvvve her!" (Note to the grandparents: DO NOT, under any circumstance offer to buy her a puppy!)

Friday, it rained poured. We watched a lot of movies and the kids got on each other’s nerves (which means they got on my nerves). I said the following with alarming frequency: “If you two don’t knock it off, we’re going home RIGHT NOW!”

Saturday, I wondered if we’d get any more sun an then it BAM, the sun started shining. While standing on the tiny porch, I noticed three deer bedded down across the road, just laying around, enjoying the morning. We were able to get pretty close to them for a photo op:

Next we headed out to Highpoint State Park, which boasts being the highest point in the state of NJ. $10 a car gets you in the park ($5 weekdays). We thought the only thing to do there was see the monument at the top and so we thought $2.50 a person was pretty reasonable.

But that's the great thing about Highpoint State Park. There's much more to do than just see the monument. There's hiking, picnic areas, lake swimming, fishing. Part of the Appalachian Trail runs through here. We knew none of this before we went there so next time we are making a day of it: morning hike, picnic lunch, view from the top, a little swimming and time at the playgrounds (but Sophie keeps telling us SHE DOES NOT LIKE HIKING and wants everyone to know that).

The monument at the top.

View of New Jersey from the top.

Looking towards Port Jervis.

We decided that we would climb to the top of the monument in the park. Here's Harry, resting on the way up:

Here's a view looking down from about 1/3 of the way up. The concrete you see is not ground level.

Almost at the top! (Notice the boys lagging behind?)

Happy to have made it to the top, where it was hot as hell:

The park was decorated with all these pretty red signs. They really made the place look festive!

After the visit to the park, we stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant we alway pass in the area. We were nicely surpised. Small menu but they prepare as much food as they can on the premises, including their bread.

We headed back and spent the rest of the day at the pool, and then had one more round of s'mores by the campfire and once the kiddos went to bed, we opened a bottle of wine and talked till the fire went out.

Back to work, camp and our lives now....

Thursday, August 9, 2007
Day 5 - Hot
Spent the day at the pool because it was so fripping hot. Here’s a sound bite:

“MOM, watch me! Watch me! Didja see me? Want to see what I can do? Watch THIS! Mom! MOM! Did you see my trick? Want me to do it again? Mommy! Want to see me jump in? Can you time me underwater, mom? Want to see me do a somersault? MOM, watch me! Watch me! Didja see me? Want to see what I can do? Watch THIS! Mom! MOM! Did you see my trick? Want me to do it again? Want to see me swim underwater? Want to watch me do a handstand underwater? MOM, watch me! Watch me! Didja see me? Want to see what I can do? Watch THIS! Mom! MOM! Did you see my trick? Want me to do it again? Mommy! Want to see me jump in? Can you time me underwater, mom? Want to see me do a somersault? MOM, watch me! Watch me! Didja see me? Want to see what I can do? Watch THIS! Mom! MOM! Did you see my trick? Want me to do it again? Want to see me swim underwater? Want to watch me do a handstand underwater?”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Day 4 - I Found My Thrill
At the Paupack Blueberry Farm:

It is apparent that my children do not have a future as hired farm hands. Twenty minutes into blueberry picking yesterday morning proved that to me. The presence of bees and working in the sun was just too much to bear for their delicate city-bred personalities. They were much happier eating ice cream in the air conditioned gift shop on the grounds of the blueberry farm then picking the actual berries. Go figure.

This picture does not do their complaining justice. Trust me, there was a lot of whining.

I had a good time, though. And since neither of my kids like blueberries (what is wrong with them anyway?) I have a whole pound of berries to myself. They are fresh off the bush, grown with minimal pesticides because the farm uses more natural methods, including keeping bird and bat houses on the land to control insects.

Pollination of the berries used to be done by the bees kept in an apiary on the grounds. I bought some raw honey and asked about the birds and the bees (oh, get your mind out of the gutter) and found out their bees have been wiped out by a parasite. You may have read about the decimation of the honeybees, recently? (NY Times article here.) Well, most bees in Pennsylvania have been victims and a lot of the farms in the area haven’t had any berries this year. So I guess the fact that I got any berries is a minor miracle.

After making my kids pretend they were migrant workers for a morning, we drove home and ate lunch, then headed out to the pool where the kids swam and swam and told me a more times than I can count “Mom! Watch this!” We stayed until dinnertime, which coincided with a thunder clap, making dragging the kids out the pool that much easier.

Once we got back to the house, we found we couldn’t get in the driveway. A dozen wild turkeys were feeding at the gate and could care less that we needed to get by. Eventually they went to terrorize someone else and we were able to enjoy a round of s’mores by the campfire.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Day 3 - Morning Rain, Cloudy Afternoon
Lots of movies. A little back-to-school shopping. A drive up Hawk's Nest. Once it cleared up, the playground in the evening. A little boring but plenty relaxing.

Monday, August 6, 2007
Day 2 - Nature
I learned today that maps can be wrong. Or outdated. Or both. We went in a giant circle looking for a place we could hike and view waterfalls based on an outdated map. Finally, we found it. This is the visitor's center:

It had great exhibits for kids. One case showed a picture of living animals which are native to the area (black bears, coyote, red fox, raccoon). It also showed a pelt for each which creeped the kids out a little bit. Next to that there was a cast showing what their footprints look like and what their poop looks like. Yes, their poop.

Then we were off to see the falls.

Here's the first waterfall in the park. It's called Silver Thread Falls.

Here's the second waterfall, called Dingman's Falls. You could not only view it from the trail on the ground but you could also view it from above. If you climb a bajillion steps. With a two year old attached to you, carrying two sets of binoculars, one camera and the trail map.

This was a rare moment of cooperation yesterday. They posed for a picture, without fighting, whining or being pains in the asses. From the look on their faces, you'd never believe how much they protested going on a hike. Like it was a death march or something.

Walking a bajillion stairs tired the kids out enough that they fell asleep after the hike. So we drove around for awhile enjoying the non-whining silence and also stopped in the Neldon Roberts Stone House for a quick tour, in shifts, while the kids napped in the car.

This is a one-room school house built in 1920. The upper floor was where the school marm lived. The bedroom is still the same but sitting room is now a Native American exhibit (with a concentration on the Delaware Indians).

We finished off the rest of day at the pool.

Sunday, August 5, 2007
Our First Day on Vacation
After a late start and a mediocre lunch at a diner, we stopped and got take-out for dinner at a local farm.

Harry loved the little "general store" which was really just a room with shelves for jams and preserves. We bought pumpkin butter. It's like Thanksgiving in a jar.

Here's our local farm store booty...a fresh baked pie, Jersey tomatoes, white peaches, pumpkin butter and a camera shy bakers half dozen ears of corn.

For dinner we grilled the corn in their husks, and using fresh basil we brought from home....

the Jersey tomatoes and a store-bought fresh mozzarella ball, we made a caprese salad.

A little grilled chicken and steamed veggies rounded out our meal.

And for dessert:

strawberry rhubarb pie. D. Lish.

Campfire. S'mores. Bed. Great day.

Friday, August 3, 2007
Aaaaannnnnnnddd.......They're OFF!
The Family Murphy are off for a week in the woods....I might have internet access (here's hoping!) and I'm planning on photo blogging...a picture a day? Maybe more? At least twittering.

On the agenda:
County fair
Drive-In movie

All I know is I won't be at work or at home and the kids will be running around in fresh air. They will smell like sunshine, pool water, sweat, bug spray and sunscreen with a hint of campfire smoke and marshmallows and I will revel in them for seven whole days.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Suddenly, the whole Apple-Falling-from-the-Tree-Line has Taken on a Whole New Meaning
One day, a coworker walked into my office and dropped a bag on my desk. "Eat these," he said. "You'll love them."

I peered inside and found two little doughy blobs. "Chinese dumplings?"

Soup dumplings," he replied.

I was skeptical. How could they make soup stay inside a dumpling? It sounds like it shouldn't work-wet food on the the inside of a dough shell-but it does. And they're good.

I'd forgotten all about those soup dumplings until this week. I've seen two travel shows in as many days where pork soup dumplings were mentioned and it has ignited a miniature obsession. I. Must. Have. Soup. Dumplings. Suddenly I'm all about finding a place that serves these and the sooner the better. Rumor has it this is the best place to eat them.

I get this way sometimes. I find a food I like and it's all I want to eat. The obsession passes quickly and soon I'm back to my normal eating habits. There have been several episodes in my life where I can recall the time solely on what I'd been consuming: the Big Mac phase (Summer, 2000; in my defense it was pregnancy induced), the pear/blue cheese/walnut salad phase (Winter, 2002), the Waldorf chicken Salad phase (Summer, 2003), the Middle-Eastern cuisine phase (Fall, 2004). This summer is marked thus far by a white sangria phase and the burgeoning phase of pork soup dumplings.

And Harry, of late, has developed an obsession of his own. It goes beyond his train and car obsession (and that's saying something).

The other night he was standing in the kitchen and found a blue plastic fork, the handle of which is shaped like Rodney from Robots. "Mom! This is my favorite fork!" Just like that. He found it, decided he liked it and hasn't been apart from it since. If you think I'm kidding about the obsession, I'm not. Harry will not eat with any other fork. He considers the mere presence of another fork an insult to his fork-using skills, as if another utensil could ever compare to the Rodney fork. (For the record, the fork itself sucks. It's too dull to pierce food so it usually sits idle in his left hand while Harry eats with his right.)

He also sleeps with the fork and carries it with him wherever he goes. God forbid you should ask to wash it. Occasionally he uses it as a phone to call his sister to find out where her fork is (or as he calls it her "Lady Fork", which just sounds really weird, like it's a personal grooming device or something).