Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Reading Post!

I have some wonderful news. I have been diagnosed with hypotension, which is a fancy way of saying I have ridiculously low blood pressure. Today I told my friend I was “hypoglycemic.” I became confused as to why she kept bringing up sugar levels, and then I fainted. Such is the life of a hypotensive. The doctor told me to increase salt intake, and practically wrote me a prescription for all the pistachios I can consume in a single sitting. Pistachios might be my all-time favorite food, right after frosting and butter.

Dizziness is the enemy of standing, so I’ve been getting started on my summer reading. Right now, I’m in the middle of three books, and am slowly compiling a list I want to tackle over the next couple of months. They include:

Paris in Love by Eloisa James: James is a Shakespeare professor and a writer of romance novels. She and her family left their U.S. home to spend a year in Paris. This book mainly comprises the Facebook status updates she wrote over the course of the year, along with some essays. I’m halfway through the book and find it charming, and also I am thoroughly jealous. (How annoying would that be, by the way, to get a daily reminder of your friend’s glorious life in the city of light, eating cheese and crème de fraiche and visiting art museums and sipping hot chocolate under the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know what crème de fraiche is, but it sounds delightful. )

Faith by Jennifer Haigh: I’m about 30 pages into this and, from what I gather, it’s about a sister whose brother, a priest, behaved badly. We’ll leave it at that.

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian: This is supposed to be creepy- a good old fashioned ghost story? I wish I knew how to pronounce Bohjalian.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I’ve never read it. I have, however, often sung the song by The Police that refers to this book. I’m always surprised they play that song on the radio. It’s quite subversive.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker: Ms. Hatmaker simplifies her life seven different ways. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s severed head does not make an appearance in this book.) I am looking to simplify MY life! Maybe Ms. Hatmaker, who has an even cooler last name than Nabokov and Bohjalian, can help!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Everyone is talking about this book, written by popular suspense novelist Ms. Flynn. I’m trying to expand into some genre fiction for fun, after a disastrous attempt at reading a David Foster Wallace novel, and this has been described as “addictive.” (Infinite jest, my foot.)

Middlemarch by George Eliot: An old favorite that needs to be revisited.

I am open to suggestions! My book choices as of late have been uninspiring. Ho-hum. Blasé. What book(s) have grabbed your fancy as of late? (I’ve read The Hunger Games, The Help, and 50 Shades of Grey.)

Yes, the nice Christian girl read (most) of 50 Shades of Grey. (Did she skip ahead to the sex parts? Why yes, yes she did.)

In case you are totally out of touch with popular culture, 50 Shades of Grey is about a super-rich guy who meets a bland virgin who bites her lip a lot. Guess what drives the rich guy absolutely CRAZY with desire? When our virginal protagonist bites her lip. Like, so crazy that he wants to spank her. And she’s left with this decision- do I let super rich guy spank me every time I bite my lip, or do I hold on to my self-respect? And that, essentially, is the plot of the story. I’m not even joking.

I tried out the biting my lip thing on John and it didn’t go over well. He wanted to know what was wrong with me.

“This is supposed to drive you mad with desire!” I exclaimed.

“You’re weird. Are you fainting again?”

Why yes, yes I am.

I do not recommend this book. Why did I read it? Because I am curious, naturally, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
I submit that if the book had been about a gas attendant with a secret sex room in his basement, it would have probably been a suspense novel by James Patterson. Alas, what 50 Shades of Grey shows us is that lots of money makes anything seem… sexy. (Imagine a dramatic step off of a very tall soapbox now.)

And this concludes my summer reading post!

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Bullying or A Humble Defense of the Town of Greece

I’ve been religiously following the story of Karen Klein, the bus monitor who was verbally abused and humiliated by a bunch of middle-schoolers from my hometown, Greece, NY. I have spent the last 15 years defending my hometown to those who live on the east side of the city. This story hasn’t helped my cause, much.

Why Greece should be cast in such a negative limelight is beyond me; it’s not as if bullying is limited to the boundaries of western New York, though it sometimes feels like it. Caleb was recently excommunicated from his lunch table by a bunch of bullies, who suddenly and inexplicably turned on him at the end of the year. He came home at the end of each day, eyes brimming with tears, with a story of a new name he was called. “Midget, little girl, midget lady…” And I was filled with righteous anger. Spankings were in order! We should line up these kids and berate them like drill sergeants! Their parents should be fined hundreds of dollars!

These kids are nine.

Instead of throwing a hissy fit and marching into Caleb’s school with purpose, I quietly reminded Caleb he was better than the way he was being treated, that kindness is always the best policy, and that summer was right around the corner. That he can’t control the way he is treated, but that he can control the way he responds. I read from the bible:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

“Burning coals on his head?”

Maybe that wasn’t the best verse to read.

In the interim, I have donated to Karen Klein’s “vacation” fund. I have cried. I cried for Caleb, and for kids who are too scared to speak up for what is right, and I cried for kids who are so weak that they spew evil things from their mouths in order to fit in. I cried because next year I have to put my babies on the bus, or rather, on the big yellow den of iniquities.

I threatened to homeschool.

I thanked God to be done with the public school experience, which wasn’t my favorite time of life.

I took courage in my faith, and in God’s word, which really has more wise words to say on the subject than the talking heads at Fox News, The Washington Post, and CNN.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Matthew 5:38-41

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Ephesians 4:29

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Mark 12:31

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Romans 12:18

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Power, love, self-control, strength, courage, generosity, tenderness, sympathy, humility, justice- peace. If my children can foster even half of these attributes, they will be blessed. 

Life is hard. And despite what those commercials say, it might not get better. But, if my kids live admirably and in accordance with the verses above, I believe God will bless them. If possible, so far as it depends on them, I will admonish my kids to live peaceably with all. And if they make the wrong choices anyway, then they will see the righteous anger. 

See? People from Greece aren’t all bad.  Also, we are a biodiverse community with many excellent Italian restaurants and lovely lakefront homes.  So there you have it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

An Examination of the Home Library

I’m working on a “summer reading” post. This is a pre-summer reading post examination of home libraries. It’s adapted from a post I wrote a while ago for No, it’s an interesting post. Please don’t go.

The Wonder Dog has ruined the carpet in the “library,” which means we will soon be tearing up the carpet and replacing it with something more dog-friendly. And child-friendly. And John-friendly. Packing up the books and the bookshelves is going to be a pain- I will have to choose what to put aside and what to stow away in the basement. Who knows what I might feel compelled to read? It’s summer! Time for reading in the sunshine and screaming at your kids not to splash you as they jump into the kiddie pool! (Which is just one of the reasons I don’t frequent the library that often.) I am a firm believer in the “whoever dies with the most books wins” mantra. Unfortunately my husband is, too. I think we’re “collectors.” Others call us “hoarders.”

As I was deciding what to pull from the shelf, I was astonished how many of the books I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. I wanted to read at least 50 books this year. I believe I am up to 13. If I don’t step up my game this summer, I’ll feel sheepish. In other words, my home library, as expansive as it is, is not an actual representation of all the books I’ve read.

A couple of years ago, we went with friends to the enormous book sale in Ithaca. While perusing the kids’ books, I overheard a college student say the following to his friends:

“Guys. You don’t know how important this is. We’re going to graduate soon. This is the time we need to really start thinking about our home libraries. Did you know you can walk into someone’s house and learn more about them by looking at their library than by talking with them?”

I bet he was a Cornell student.

While I suppose there’s some truth behind this statement, I would submit that it’s mostly malarkey. Here’s are some misconceptions and potential truths that hide behind a person’s library (or lack of a library):

1) This person has a lot of classic literature. He or she must be really smart. Very possibly. Or this person buys up classic literature and displays it on his bookshelf to appear smart or just because he’s an especially pretentious human being. He has, however, read the first two paragraphs of Decameron, Middlemarch, and The Art of War.

2) This person has a lot of romance novels. A person who reads such garbage must be really stupid. These women would beg to differ.

3) This person has no books in his house. He hates to read. Or he takes advantage of his local library. Or, he listens to books on tape in his car during his long commute to work. Or, he buys books and immediately gives them away. Not everyone believes that “whoever dies with the most books wins” mantra. Some believe that you can’t take them with you.

4) This person has so many books! She must read all the time! It is more than likely that this person has a book-buying compulsion that she has a hard time curbing, and that she buys a lot of books because she thinks “the covers are pretty!” This person is NOT me. Nope. Not me.

If I had the chance to take this kid aside, I might have suggested to him that perhaps he should keep trying to talk to people rather than just looking at their collection of books. And I mean really talking and not just gazing into the distance until the conversation drifts back to the subject that interests him the most- himself.

What does your library say (or not say) about you?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baseball and Toads

Last night I was privileged to watch my oldest child play baseball.  My dad came to watch the game as well.

Baseball is more confusing than I had originally thought.  Apparently, the first foul ball you hit is a strike, but only if it’s the first or maybe second strike.  I think.  Also, if a runner is on second and there’s a pop up, he (or she!) can not progress to third until the ball is caught.  And if the catcher drops the ball after the pitcher throws it to him, the ball is considered in play and the runner can advance bases, but it’s not stealing.  Stealing is when the pitcher is holding on to the ball. 

No one, not even God, knows what a balk is.

“I don’t know as much about baseball as I thought I did,” I admitted to my dad.

“Quite frankly, I’m alarmed at how little you know,” he said. 

Caleb pitched for the first time last night, and during the second inning, he struck out three kids in a row.  I am proud as a peacock and a little hard to be around at the moment.  Caleb also hit a kid in the foot, but that kid never made it home, so it didn’t really matter.  I mean home in the baseball sense, not the physical embodiment of a dwelling place sense.  No harm, no foul. 

We came home, everyone had a popsicle, and went to bed.  I let Kiah out to go to the bathroom and then went out on the deck to escort her back in the house.  Kiah demands an escort.  She previously used her end-of-the-night bathroom break to play the “let’s chase me around the yard like a looney-bird” game, but although she can still gain speed when need be, the lack of her front leg has made sudden turns and playful bounds difficult for her.  She understands this and no longer waits for me to come within two feet of her before she laughs like a hyena and vanishes into the night.  Instead, she stands submissively and allows me to lead her back inside.  This new routine has honestly been a lot easier on my nerves.  My blood pressure has gone down and I swear a lot less. 

When it rains, all the toads come out, hopping around like they own the backyard.  In an effort not to step on one last night, I slipped on the deck and fell into a puddle as Kiah looked on and the toad hopped precariously close to the entrance of my house.  I blacked out for at least twenty minutes.

That’s not true.  I did not black out at all.  I added that for dramatic effect.  In fact, I was fine, although quite damp.  While I lay there, stretched out on the slick deck, Kiah galumphed over my legs, went into the house, and jumped with muddy feet onto the beige couch.

Sometimes I don’t like her. 

I don’t like toads lately, either. 

I do like baseball.  In the late hours of the evening, I changed into my comfy pajamas and climbed into bed.  I had just begun to read a book when I heard Caleb talking in his sleep.


I can only assume he was having baseball dreams and was blissfully unaware of his mother’s close encounter with a brazen toad.  If he had been awake, he would probably have pronounced me out and Kiah safe at home.  Because that’s the way you think when you’ve got nothing but baseball on your mind. 

Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. ~Pete Hamill

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Best Days

These are the best days: the daylight stretching beyond bedtime, cokes out of bottles, children shrieking as they dodge sprinklers, retirees fussing over their straw-like lawns. Sunburns and sweat and pony-tails and graduation parties. Hot dogs and jello salads and the solace of a soft breeze. Griping about the lack of air conditioning, griping about rainy days. Plans of hikes and visits with friends and vacations to places with clear lakes and winding creeks and raging rivers. Picnics in the park and Shakespeare in the park and fireworks and campfires with marshmallows. Sticky kisses from kids who have eaten said marshmallows. Late mornings and later nights and dim fireflies in jars because your kids don’t want to ever let the light go. The groan and whirr of the window air-conditioner; tank tops showing off bare shoulders and arms freckled from the sun. Bare feet and dirty floors and dandelions in cups. Dancing with your husband beneath starlight to Ryan Adams or The Righteous Brothers or Melody Gardot. The aromas of a day well done blending together in the bathtub like soup: a mélange of dirt and sweat and hard play. Boys dilly-dallying in the bathtub. Light snores mingling with the cacophony of crickets chirping, bullfrogs croaking, beagles howling, teenagers laughing, that retiree mowing his lawn at 8:30 because it’s cool enough to stand it.

A good book, cool sheets and nimble dreams.

The moon in the window like in a fairytale.

Two cats hissing and fighting and screaming like they’re dying at 2am in your backyard. And no, I really couldn’t get back to sleep after that.

And let me tell you what- if they do it again, summer be hanged, I will shoot them with John’s BB gun.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gratuitous Pics of My Kids Accomplishments: A Very Special Thursday Post

A blog provides a wonderful platform for bragging about how awesome one's kids are.  My kids are awesome.  And they're cute.  (Ben would be cuter, but he's determined to grow an afro.  I don't know.)  In the course of the past few days, Caleb and Ben performed at their annual studio piano recital, Ella had her first dance recital, and the twins graduated from preK.  I weeped as I wrote thank-you letters to their preK teachers, who have taught all four of my kids, and tried to be optimistic about a future with no... babies.  No more babies!  MY KIDS GREW!  They told me it would happen but I didn't really buy into it.  I thought I'd be up to my ears in diapers forever.  No one even wears pull-ups to bed any more.  


Ben examines his very first piano trophies.

I'm not saying I'd ever be a pageant mom, but I can see the allure.

I think little girls who cut their own hair are frowned upon in the pageant industry.

Then again, she has star quality, I think.

Ella is third from the left.

In a mad rush from the recital to the graduation, the audience doesn't know that Ella wears only a leotard beneath her gown.

She waits for us. 

***  The story of our wonder dog's return from the dead is currently down due to "technical difficulties" but will be back up shortly.

And finally, revel in the cuteness:  (I'm firing my camera person.  She is a disgrace to dance recital moms.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And they all lived happily ever after.

Ben, doped up on Benadryl, lay next to me on the couch determined to keep his eyes open. He was suffering from, I think, an allergic reaction to strawberries. His ears were bright red, he had a fever, and he spoke in a raspy voice.

“Are you having trouble breathing?” I asked, loudly. When I get nervous, I say things loudly.

“No,” he whispered.

“Does your throat feel funny?”

“No. Except I can’t swallow and there’s a lump in it. Like a ball.”


I bundled him in a blanket and put him on the couch and commenced staring at him, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest.

“Do you know how my friend Adam got those two broken bones in his arm?” he asked, drowsily.

“No. How?” I answered.

“He was kicked by a Sith Lord,” Ben said, casually, as if getting kicked by a Sith Lord was a common everyday occurrence. Ben will believe just about anything anyone tells him. Eventually, convinced tonight was not the end for little Ben, I lugged my little guy upstairs and put him to bed. Downstairs, John, Caleb, and Kiah the Wonder Dog came in from the backyard.

Yes, THAT Kiah the Wonder Dog.

That awful Saturday, Kiah was severely injured after she tried to herd the riding lawn mower. In a prelude to a catastrophe, Kiah had broken out of her crate and slipped through the sliding glass door left open by some small person. After a difficult trip to the emergency vet, John was faced with some choices: he could have a) had Kiah put down b) gone thousands of dollars into debt trying to save her leg c) relinquished her to the local shelter, where she might have a chance.

He went with plan C. He came home without a dog and we understood we would never, ever see her again. We didn’t know if the shelter would give her the surgeries she needed to survive, or if they would choose to put her down.

To make a long story short, thanks to the kindness and generosity one incredible person, Kiah came home tonight. She is sleeping at my feet this very moment. She is happy, healthy, and has only three legs.

Which we think makes her even more of a wonder dog.

Life is never easy. Tonight was no exception. But we have our dog back.

We are blessed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

May: A Retrospective

May is my favorite month:  it's sunny and flowery and I get to watch my kids get hysterical if a bee comes within 10 yards of them.  Three of them have inherited my distinct screeching while flapping arms move.  Caleb remains stoic under almost any circumstance.  Two weeks ago, he sprained his finger in school and didn't tell me about it until five minutes before his evening baseball practice was over.  It was swollen and a lovely shade of aubergine.

In early May, John and I went to NYC for the sole purpose of checking out the progress of the Freedom Tower.  We had heard rumors a skyscraper was going up, but after ten years, one wants to see such a thing for oneself.  John told me that when it's completed, it will be 1,776 feet.  Two hours later, I got it.  And honestly, I think it's a little hokey. 

The real purpose for the trip was to attend a wedding reception at The Players Club in Gramercy Park, which is where I'm going to live after John dies and I land me a millionaire.  Gramercy Park, not the Players Club.

The Players Club is not as risque as it sounds.  I was disappointed, too.  Apparently, it's the place where Mark Twain went to play pool.  I know this because they had his pool cue on display above a fireplace.

The next day was Mother's Day.  John took me to a Yankee's Game.  On Father's Day, we're going to the NYC Ballet, because that's how a marriage works.  It's all about give and take. 

We hate the Yankees, but were well behaved and impressed with the beautiful stadium.  We were also surprised to find that the Yankee fans seemed like normal individuals; none of them wore pants made out of one hundred dollar bills.  We ate hot dogs and wrinkled our nose surreptitiously when A-Rod went up to bat.  The Mariners won, so that was nice.

This is the last picture I took of Kiah before her accident:  She's with her boyfriend, Charlie the Chow Chow. 

The twins and their spider hats!  (They won't go in the bathroom if there's even a remote possibility a spider is in there.  Shrieking and flapping if they see one.)

I accompanied Ben on his class trip to the zoo!  We had some important Ben and Mommy time.  And Ben and Mommy and sea lion time.  And Ben and Mommy and polar bear time. 

                                                 Hello, you.

The twins had their end-of-the-year school picnic! 

On Memorial Day weekend, we met friends in Olcott and rode the carousel and threw rocks in Lake Ontario.  My kids could throw rocks into Lake Ontario for the rest of their lives and feel they'd lived lives full of joy and purpose. 

The next day, we had a barbecue at our friends' house.  They have a pool. Ella and Dan floated for a long time.  This picture is taken after Daniel started to sink.  I was successfully fishing him out of the pool when my husband dashed across the patio and plunged into the water, soaking me and ruining his iPhone.  He dubbed himself a hero.  I dubbed him... something else.

Ella cut her own hair this month.  I bought some headbands to hide the problem areas.  This is how she likes to wear her headbands.  She also likes to wear socks in the summer.  Those are not bruises on her arm, but sticker residue.  Sticker residue is the worst.

And that was May.  Where are the pictures of Caleb?  This is a good question.  I'll ponder that over the course of June.