Friday, November 30, 2007
Christmas Spirit
Despite a previous post lamenting the fact that holidays are over before they even arrive, I would just like to tell you this story, which has got my Christmas going and can I just say, I'm really excited?

Last weekend we went to the storage unit, the Murphy family annex where we keep the stuff that won't fit in our apartment, and retrieved a few decorations for Christmas. I thought it would be helpful to do the decorating little by little, instead of standing around trying to put the tree up, the lights in the windows and the other knick-knacks around the house at the same time. If all goes according to plan, this will prevent me yelling at anyone in December, namely my husband, who is not permitted to decorate but must tell me if things are level that the house looks pretty. Also, he is responsible for carrying heavy items for me. Like the ladder, which is necessary for hanging a lighted garland over a doorway.

So there I was standing on the ladder, making sure all the little doo-dads are stuck on properly and the lights are all lighting and asking John if the thing is even on both sides when I hear a piece of plastic fall to the floor. When I looked down, I found Sophie holding these artificial grapes which hang on the garland next to other fake fruit.
Thinking it was mistletoe, she held it over her little brother's head and gave him the sweetest little kiss. And Harry, who for the first time in his short life seems to know that Christmas is coming and he may not know what it's all about but he sure is into it, he stood stock still, full of wonder over this odd Christmas tradition of kissing under plastic fruit in lieu of mistletoe.

And it was so cute, so amazingly sweet, that I was suddenly filled with Christmas cheer. The kids are thrilled and their excitement is infectious. It's going to be great.

Thursday, November 29, 2007
One of the Reasons I Have a Tic in my Eye
Insurance company: "Hi, may I please have your ID number."

Me: "AI2323451X0"

Insurance company: "That's not correct, ma'am."

Me: "That's what it says on the statement."

Insurance company: "But it isn't correct."

Me: "If it isn't correct, then why did you put it on my statement?"

Insurance company: ...

Me: "Your whole system of ID numbers doesn't make sense. You randomly assign it, don't tell anyone what it is, print on my dental statement and THEN you tell me it's wrong. Do you see what the problem is here?"

Insurance company: "But your number isn't correct. The second character is a 1, not an 'I' "

Me: "Well, your machine printed an "I". I know this because it looks nothing like the one that comes later in my randomly assigned top-secret number you don't want me to know about."

Insurance company: "Really?"

Me: "Yes!, It is printed as an 'I' "

Insurance company: "But that is incorrect."

Me: "Can you please tell me when you will process my claim from October?"

Insurance company: "First I need to know your correct ID number."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Another Day in New York
If I had a nickel for every time I've been delayed during my commute because of a "police investigation," I wouldn't need the job I commute to. But they don't give you a nickel every time that happens, and so here I am, still commuting on the subway to work every morning.

This morning's commute was quite exciting. There was a "police investigation," but this time, it was unfolding right before my eyes. I got to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street and found that I couldn't board the A train, because it was half in and half out of the station. There was a uniformed police officer talking to the driver of the train and I overheard him say to pull the train in a little more but "DO NOT open the doors." He then instructed other police in the station where to position themselves on the platform. There were other plain clothes cops upstairs at the landings and near the exits. People, including me, were standing around more or less useless but we listened when were were all told to "back up, back up."

One woman was standing there, looking very annoyed. Finally, she piped up, with all the bitchiness she could muster. "Excuse me. What's going on?
I'm late for work."

The cop interrupted his instructions to the train driver to answer her. "Ma'am, there was a robbery. The suspect is still on the train."

That was all the reason I needed. Suspect? On the train? Take your time! But was that good enough for Little Miss Fancy Pants in High-Heels? Of course not.

"Well, I'm LATE. I appreciate the update but like, how long is this going to take?"

If the cop had been less busy no one could blame him if he'd told that little snot off. But he was actually very nice about it, considering he was, you know, trying to track down a robbery suspect on a crowded train. Instead he told her to walk back to Jay Street, which really pissed off Little Miss Fancy Pants in High-Heels. She turned on her heel, pushed her way through the crowd and stormed off.

When all was said and done, the police arrested the suspect. I saw them lead him away in handcuffs and he was quite cooperative about it. After that, it was all very boring. There was no dusting for fingerprints or taking the train out of service for evidence. There were no witness interviews or statements taken that I could see. In fact, apart from the train in the station being locked down, almost all business went on as usual, with other trains entering and leaving the station, dropping off and picking up passengers, most people oblivious to the whole incident.

I was able to board that A train and it went its usual route. By the time we reached 14th Street in Manhattan, the train was overcrowded, I was knocked into with a tennis racket, someone was offering the homeless sandwiches and someone else was preaching about how Jesus saved him from the crack vial and he will save you too (if only you would trust in him!).

This is the part when I tell you that it is just another day in New York.

What's not to love?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Island of Misfit Toys

In case you ever wondered why the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys was there, here's a possible explanation.

It's also probably an explanation for the misfits found on the island of Manhattan...

Monday, November 26, 2007
If Looks Could Kill
One of the grandmothers gave the kids the new boxed set of Christmas classics on DVD.

We let the kids watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer after dinner last night. It was a nice way to end the long holiday weekend. While we were watching it, I realized that it was probably the original un-cut version because I never remembered during the "We're a Couple of Misfits" duet that Hermey builds a snowman that looks like his boss. Upon completing his sculpture, Hermey punches the snow effigy of the head elf in the face.

John and I love to make snarky comments when we watch TV together. It's not that we're snarky by nature. It's just that TV is so bad. Anyway, we got to the point in the show when Rudolph returns to the North Pole and discovers that his parents have been gone for months looking for him. Santa tells him he's worried because Christmas is only two days away and he has no one to lead his sleigh if Rudolph's parents don't come back soon.

"That Santa," I said to John. "It's all about him and his schedule. He's so selfish."

Sophie glared angrily at me. "SHHHHHH! Don't say that! HE CAN HEAR YOU!"

Thursday, November 22, 2007
Giving Thanks
Too many blessings to count, but the list starts with the family, especially the kids, who laughed together a lot last night while I baked a pumpkin pie. That was a nice pick-me-up after a bad day at the office. I'm thankful for my husband, who is wonderful and caring, and brought me a glass of wine last night because he could tell I needed it. Then he gave me a foot rub. He is totally getting extra Cool-Whip on his pie today.

Our parents, who worry about us, and love us, and help us whenever we ask, which isn't often, but that help is freely given and we couldn't be the parents we are if we hadn't learned from you. All of you. We are still learning from you. Thank you.

We are thankful for our friends, both near and far, who we don't get to see often because this crazy life we lead keeps us busy "doing." I'm most grateful that when we do get together with them it is like a day hasn't gone by. Grateful, too, for readers of this blog, which is now over a year old.

I am thankful there is so very little for me to worry and complain about (although it hasn't stopped me). I truly lead a charming life.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
And It's Not Like Nothing's Been Happening, Either
I have managed to really fail at the post-a-day thing. I just haven't thought anything going on has been all that interesting and so I have spared you the details on how we all banded together and cleaned the microwave cart. See, I told you it wasn't that interesting.

Let me make it up to you...

Are you been wondering about the upcoming holiday season and what to get your friends or family who seemingly have everything, including a love of bacon? Wonder no more!

Friday, November 16, 2007
D Grading
Last week, the New York City Department of Education announced a new grading system for all schools under their domain. It's got everyone's panties in a twist. Well, not everyone's. If your school got an A you're probably pretty happy. But our school, our beloved school, the one that has a really wonderful student population and a fantastic leadership in it's principal and vice-principal received a D. (And yes, I fully realize that a wonderful student body and great principal don't automatically make a school worth an A grade).

There have been meetings. Notices sent h
ome explaining the harebrained way they figured out this grade. Reassurances. More notices. A packet from the DOE that we picked up at Parent-Teacher conference this week explaining this whole thing in further detail.

And the thing about these explanations is that I still can't figure out how they arrived at their D grade. I have a basic understanding of it but not a real working knowledge. And the explanations are so d
ry they make my open-enrollment material from work seem like a real page turner.

The one thing I've learned from this is that schools earning three C's in a row or a D will "face consequences." Is this what they mean?

"Remember when we had a warm classroom and running water?"

Classes held in a cave in China (via Reuters).

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Beets - A Post A Day Has Left Me With Little To Talk About
Me: "Do you like beets? I'm thinking of making roasted beets for Thanksgiving next week."

John: "Eh. They're alright."

Me: "I read somewhere today that they can have aphrodisiac properties."

John: "We should eat more beets."


Thanksgiving for our family doesn't usually vary much. Sure, we may have apple pie instead of pumpkin, or start the meal with a salad instead of pigs in a blanket but the main course is almost always the same: turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, green bean casserole, sausage stuffing, dinner rolls. Oh, and cranberry sauce. From a can. We can't help it. We like it this way.

This year, with picky children who won't eat half of what I'm going to make anyway, I'm going to adjust to the liking of the adults, some of whom should be watching their sugar intake, all of whom need to eat healthier.

So, I'll halve the amount of starchy sides. Just stuffing and a small amount of mashed potatoes. Up the vegetable offerings to roasted beets, roasted cauliflower, green bean almondine and broccoli because my kids, who won't eat fruit will scarf down the broccoli. Maybe homemade rolls instead of store-bought crescent. For appetizers, I might go crazy and stuff dates with almonds, then wrap 'em in bacon (this is a really good appetizer if you like sweet/salty and chewy/crunchy combinations) and a little goes a long way. Maybe a salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese.

Still a decadent meal, but healthier because of better-for-you ingredients and more vegetables even if I have to tell my husband there might be something else in it for him for a healthier heart.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
OMG! Thanksgiving's Next Week
Last night I read an email from work mentioning "the short holiday week" being next week. I asked John "Is Thanksgiving next week already?"

"No, it's the week after next."

I went on my merry way thinking I had an extra week to prepare but my wandering mind couldn't help but count out the weeks in my mental calendar and indeed it is NEXT WEEK.

How did that happen?

I thought I was bad but I just spoke with someone in California. "Ha! We all thought it was next week, too. Our internal calendars were printed wrong."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Beginner's Luck
Yesterday John brought both kids to the Museum of Natural History. Alone.

John and outings with the kids alone is not a frequent occurrence in our house although he is quite adept at the park with two kids. But there haven't been real extended outings that much and I was worried about it if I can be honest. He was venturing into the city with both kids, one of whom has not behaved all that well in a museum setting in the past. I was fully prepared for mayhem, multiple phone calls, perhaps the filing of a missing persons report or detainment in the security office of the museum.

Before leaving for work I entertained the thought of leaving a perfectly packed snack bag for the kids, along with instructions on how, when and where to dole out said snacks and an extra Metro-Card for the subway just in case.

Somewhere around 8:20am I said "screw it" and went to work. My husband, afterall, is an adult. One who's been a parent for several years now. If he hasn't figured it out by now...well, he probably won't.

Apparently, when left to his own devices, the man can improvise and improvise well. He is not helpless, even if he has in the past asked me upon returning from the grocery store where we keep the ice cream.

He picked up the kids, dropped off their bags and backpacks at home and then ventured out to museum with one diaper, a couple of baby wipes, two juice boxes and a snack bag of pretzels for each kid. He didn't even bring a stroller. He just hoofed it over to the subway and went. Just like that.

The museum trip was a success. The kids rooked him into buying toys at the gift shop and had a blast. I heard all about the "giant squid!" and the "big whale!" John said it was exhausting and that he was tired and worn out but I could tell he had fun, too. Then we shared a bottle of wine because this elixir, it is not only a cure-all for when the kids have been difficult but it is also a great way to celebrate the small victories, too.

Monday, November 12, 2007
Weekend Recap
A picture may tell a thousand words, but it won't show the amount of crying, nagging and overall frustration it took to get the four of us out the door on Saturday morning in order to have a family photo taken. No, my children, who were The Most Uncooperative Children prior to 9:50am were absolute angels when they were in front of the camera, giving beautiful photogenic smiles and posing together as if they had not just fought tooth and nail over a Bee Movie toy.


Only we could return 21 books to the Brooklyn Public Library, check out 24 more and leave one behind in the library. This ought to be a fun one to explain to the librarian.


Homemade Rice Krispy Treats rock. I'd love them even more if the marshmallows weren't made with high-fructose corn syrup.


Yesterday afternoon, while the kids were in Sunday school, I took my retainers out to eat a piece of cake, wrapped them in a napkin and placed them off to the side of my plate only to discover they'd been thrown away accidentally. While we searched for them John said "I told you you'd end up looking for these in the trash at least once." And we were instantly transported back to middle school all over again as we thought about friends who also had to do the same, except they were maybe worse off because they had parents to answer to and lunch ladies looking over their shoulders.


The way to get a soon-to-be three year old to eat to tell the internet "Forget eating. He is no longer interested." Yesterday the kid ate like a horse, had seconds, then thirds at dinner. Then ice cream. After his bath he curled up on my lap and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the first 45 minutes of the Wizard of Oz while Sophie snuggled up right next to me.


Our sitter needs the afternoon off today so John was nominated to do early pick up. Since school is closed, John wanted to do something that resembled repeatedly hitting his head on a blunt object educational so he is taking both kids to the Museum of Natural History. The last time I drank from the "let's do something educational" well, it was a near disaster. Good luck, John. What kind of wine would you like me to bring home?

Sunday, November 11, 2007
So Much for a Post a Day
Oh, well. And not like I haven't had an opportunity to post. We've been up before 5:30 most mornings lately with the kids, whose internal clocks have not adjusted to the blasted time change.

A few weeks ago, we visited a museum with some friends of ours. Harry was carried our screaming because we wouldn't buy him a toy OR let him run around unattended in the gift shop. Our friends said they remembered well the few months leading up to their son's third birthday and how it had been difficult. It hit me right then and there that Harry is also going through an end-of-two difficult time. His third birthday is two months away. Whatever gland regulates whining and tantrums is working overtime. At any given time he can drop to the floor and cry if he does not agree with what is happening be it a bath, leaving the library or being called to the dinner table. And forget eating. He is longer interested.

When you do a search on Google for advice on how to deal with these phases in a child's life, I love how the experts "congratulate" you on having a child who is developing normally, testing boundaries and exploring his or her emotional landscape. To you, psychologists, I say that's all fine but we need practical advice on dealing and we would not be opposed to hearing "it sucks! Drink wine when they go to bed. You'll feel instantly better." We self-medicate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007
One of the More Bizarre Recalls
An expected "hot" toy of the season is being recalled after kids ingesting Aquadots beads fell ill. The beads are coated in a chemical which makes the beads stick when moistened with water, and when swallowed, it mimics the effects of the date-rape drug GHB. How weird is that? You can read the WSJ article here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Oh, Hey. I Almost Forgot to Post
Whoopsy. Almost broke the rules of this NaBloPoMo thing and forgot to post. I have nothing funny to tell you. I have no "out of the mouthes of babes" anecdotes, or posts on recipes I try to foist on my kids. Today I have nothing. So here's a link to a strange, strange vintage advertisement. And here's a link to a slew of vintage advertising at its worst. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007
As Good A Day As Any
We're trying to get Harry interested in potty training. He'll be three in a couple of months and, while I won't rush him, I sure am getting tired of diapers and wrestling him to the floor to change him. Harry, on the other hand, finds diapers most useful since he can play trains for HOURS on end without those pesky trips to the bathroom or having to talk to anyone about maybe getting help for said trips to bathroom. Instead all his communication can center around...trains! And collapsed bridges! Shunting freight cars and being a "really useful engine!".

In an effort to steer him towards all things potty, we've started asking him to tell us when he's gone in his diaper. Seems logical. If you can begin recognizing that you've gone, the next logical step is to recognize when you have to go. Right? Right!

One evening earlier this week, Harry needed a change and I reminded him of what he was supposed to do. Then I said "Harry, when will you start going on the potty?"

He thought for a moment, then said "Thursday?"

Monday, November 5, 2007
The Desk - Weekend One
Here's the progress we made on the desk this weekend:

John ended up sanding it while I was out with the kids on Sunday afternoon. I slightly panicked when I realized he'd sanded most of the paint off the top, which we were advised not to do in case the original paint was lead-based. But he'd done it outside so in case the paint did have lead, we left his clothes outside and wiped it down with damp cloths. The wood, besides minor gouges that some people would pay good money for in order to call it distressed, is in pretty good condition.

Next weekend we need to get the rest of the drawer pulls off and fill the holes where the hardware was, finish sanding and buy the paint. Oh, and a chair, so the kid can actually sit at the thing when all is said and done. I've changed my mind about a dozen times on the color already but as of this posting, I'm leaning toward a darker pink now, with a color called "diamond white" and no green. I might do a lighter/darker pink stripe combination in the inset panels on the sides but I want to see which chair we end up with first. Oh, and did you know drawer pulls can be very expensive?

We need to try to figure out how to fix this part. This little scroll is loose but screwing it in place might split the wood. Luckily, a carpenter lives on our block and he's always chock full of free advice.

Sunday, November 4, 2007
Cloudy Chicken a Success
I got Sophie to drop in the biscuit mix. I showed her the carrots, the chicken, the celery. She loved it, Harry wouldn't touch it. At one point, Sophie asked "So, really, this is soup, right? It's great!"

The only glitch was the pancake mix I used was not Bisquick and they didn't stay together all that well. Next time I'll either make them with flour and leavening or just use the Bisquick.

I'd write more but DST ended today and the kids have been up since 5:30.

Saturday, November 3, 2007
The Expedition Continues. Forecast: Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Tears
We are continuing the Culinary Expedition of Fall 2007 this evening with a unit focused on kids doing the cooking. We will make chicken and dumplings and call the dumplings clouds. If you make 'em right they puff up beautifully like the ones in the sky. I was inspired to call them clouds by an email I received from Barbara recommending that I call vegetables other things so kids will eat them.

Here's the recipe we'll use (it's not precise, but if you do everything to taste, you can't go wrong).

Cloudy Chicken (Chicken and Dumplings)
Six chicken thighs (or another cut of chicken, preferably on the bone, deskinned)
Bay Leaves

Biscuit Mix

Place chicken and vegetables in
a large pot. Cover with cold water, enough so that the chicken is submerged by at least an inch. Add salt and pepper. Turn on the heat. You could also make this the classic soup way: saute the vegetables, then add the water and chicken. But hey, it's up to you.

Keep the heat low and let the chicken and vegetables cook at barely a simmer.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove the pieces to a plate to cool. Once cool enough to handle, shred the meat off the bones and return to the pot. Discard bones.

Mix up the milk and egg with some biscuit mix according to box directions or use this recipe for the dumplings. Bring the pot to a boil. Drop in the biscuit mix by rounded spoonfuls (sometimes I use a small ice cream scoop). Boil 10 minutes uncovered, then 10 minutes covered. When all is said and done, you should have a nice, thick, stew-y dish. Ladle it into a bowl, serve with a salad.

I'm hoping that by getting the kids into the kitchen they will see this dish is comprised of all the things they like. Here's to hoping.

Friday, November 2, 2007
How My Next Few Weekends Will Be Spent
Before I show you the picture, let me just start by saying that this week I proved to myself how much one can learn through osmosis when your husband watches This Old House and New Yankee Workshop.

So there I was, minding my own business on Wednesday afternoon when I happened to walk past this desk out on the sidewalk in front of a store called George's Potpourri. Basically, it's an antique shop without the charm. Unless you find the old, cantankerous proprietor charming, then it really is everything you could ask for in an antiques shop.

$10. That's it. $10. Sophie's been needing a place to do her school work and art projects for a long time now and this desk is the most perfect size.

I start by asking John if I can use the electric sander we have on the piece. "No, it's got a veneer."

"No, it doesn't."

"Yes it does, and you can't sand something like that."

"But it doesn't have a veneer. It's all wood."

After careful inspection, John said, "gee, you might be right."

Then he said "You'll have to be careful with the handles, you'll need a tool for that."

"I'm replacing the handles."

"Well, you can't if the handles are glued on."

"They're not. They're screwed on."

After careful inspection, John said, "gee, you're right."

John just isn't as excited about this project as I am.

So I went to work and asked a friend who refinishes furniture when he isn't busy making his own beer. Basically I have two options: lightly sand and repaint or strip and repaint. But I should not sand all the paint off because of the potential lead hazard.

I thought about stripping it. Even though it might be a fairly easy but very messy job, I don't have a garage to do it in. So, a light sanding, filling in some gouges and a paint job it is!

This is my favorite part of the desk:

It's a phone number in the old format for someone living in Lynnbrook, NY. Sophie has told me this must go.

As for the paint: we'll be using a color combination similar to the palette below, just less ice-creamy, since it is for a girl who wants it all pink. I think this is a good combination. We'll see if it passes muster with HRH Sophie.

Spring Fling Paint

A Post A Day....
And I'm already behind!

I joined NaBloPoMo. National Blog Posting Month. I have solemnly sworn to post ever day. And I didn't quite get around to it yesterday. It would be worse, I think, to be catching up over Thanksgiving. So hey, I guess I'm not doing too badly.

My next post later today will be about a project I'm going to start working on this weekend, with pictures.