Thursday, December 31, 2009

Only One More Wakeup

Tomorrow morning we depart for the Land of Sunshine. As you know, my plans include a ton of sushi. But I've also made:
  • a date for dim sum (possibly two dates, if Professor C gets his act together)
  • a date to take Iain to the Children's Museum
  • a date for a 3-year-old birthday party, a date to see a 3-week-old bundle of deliciousness
  • a date to catch up with an old friend
  • a date to let Iain meet one of the contenders for The One (Maddie!), and
  • a date to take a cooking class with an accomplished cook whom Charles knows
Still to be arranged:
  • dinner with friends from Charles' old workplace
  • visits to "dives" with my old friend Dr. G
  • and some kind of meeting with my advisor
Whew! I think I might need to make a date to get a beer and go sit in the hot tub. No problem - I packed my bathing suit.

Did I mention that my spring is a little nuts this year? Yeah. Looks like our little vacation is going to be a sign of things to come.

But the good news is that we're packed (I even stole Iain's favorite book, the one with the duct tape, and put it in the carry-on), the house is almost ready for us to leave, the dogs are at the spa, and our tickets are printed. Now if we can just get to Cali with a happy toddler all will be well.

Oh, and don't worry - we'll be blogging from the road.

[EDIT! Turns out we're not taking the cooking class, only enjoying the resulting meal. So...none of the work, all of the pleasure. Things are looking up!]

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


So let's say you're looking at your city on Just for kicks. They list your ranking on various Top-100 lists. Let's take a look:

  • #28 on the list of "Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of people in federal prisons and detention centers"
  • #37 on the list of "Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of people in mental (psychiatric) hospitals or wards (population 50,000+)"
  • #39 on the list of "Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of people in state prisons (population 50,000+)"
  • #46 on the list of "Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of people in college dormitories (includes college quarters off campus) (population 50,000+)"
  • #53 on the list of "Top 101 cities with the largest percentage of people in hospitals or wards for drug/alcohol abuse (population 50,000+)"
  • #67 on the list of "Top 101 counties with the highest Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Annual air pollution readings in 2005 (µg/m3)"
  • #100 on the list of "Top 101 counties with the highest Sulfur Oxides Annual air pollution readings in 2005 (µg/m3)"
This really affirms my students' complaints about their dorms. Clearly, their comparisons to jail are apt.

But this is what happens when you start playing with statistics. Bad times. I'd much rather think of us as #1 in the Top 101 cities with beautiful horse farms. Or #3 in the Top 100 counties with really good chicken-fried steak (suck it, Texas!).


New word this week. Or, at least, new to me. "Candy!!"

When Charles sniffed Iain's Motrin and said, "It smells like cotton candy..." I took it and confirmed that yes, it smells like the Best Snack At The Fair, Bar None. Yum. And then Iain said: "Candy!"

Wow. We don't really keep candy for him (there's chocolate in the freezer but that's for US!). So where did he learn that word? I think I know.

In other news, he's on day 3 of his antibiotic. Tomorrow, then Friday morning, then he's done. So far, his symptoms have expanded to include a wet, swollen eye (Normal! Says the nurse. And besides, we'd treat it with the same thing he's already taking.), a runny nose and a hacking cough. Joy. Poor little man could hardly eat his chicken nuggets, apple sauce, pear chunks and juice tonight. And all he had for brekkie was a large bowl of cereal, a cup of milk (in addition to what was in the bowl), and one whole orange. He's going to waste away, I tell you.

We're packing for our trip, trying to anticipate what we'll need and what we can buy. I can hardly wait, but at the same time (as with all travel these days) in some ways I'd rather just stay home.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oh, Rlly?

Iain's in the bath. He's splashing happily, saying "yumyumyumyum"

Me: "Iain, are you getting sick on purpose so you can have cherry yum yum every night?"
Iain: "Uh huh!"
[Laughter from The Mom and The Dad]

ABC Cookie Monster!

Iain loves this part from his box set. Just don't try this in first grade.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh, Hai!

Guess what's the MOST fun? Guess! No, Guess!!!

A late-afternoon visit to the pediatrician on the first business day after Christmas!! Yay!!!!!!! (running out of exclamation points).

So at 3:35 the phone rang. Iain had a fever. Off I went, fetched him, and we headed to the Doctor's office. The office warned Charles that the wait would be "long," because Dr. W. was alone and it was busy.

Yowza. They were not kidding. Three families with three kids (one or both parent present), two families with two kids each, plus us plus a couple of ladies with one daughter. That's 15 children and about 9 adults (some parents went in and out in an effort to control the chaos). Madness, folks. Iain was a little weirded out by it.

And the wait? An hour in the lobby, then another 45 minutes total in the exam room. And I'm amazed/impressed that we got in at all. We were the last people to leave, after dark into the lonely, 25 degree parking lot. Boo.

But Iain passed yet another strep test, and received yet another antibiotic prescription to go with a nice cup of Motrin (his fever went upupup while we waited). His ear is still a little off and he has yucky stuff in his throat. Apparently this is going around. So he's back on the cherry yumyum for this week, trying to clear that ear before we fly on Friday. Fingers crossed.

Christmas, Part 3: Christmas Morning with Thomas

On Christmas morning, Iain awoke to find a new train set in the living room. It's small - just a figure-8 with some accessories. But it's not just a plain train set. It's a Thomas the Tank Engine train set.

I have no idea why putting a face on a train and making up an island paradise where trains fall victim to all the usual human foibles delights so many children. But Iain is firmly in the Totally Obsessed camp.

The set comes, along with a bridge and a flatbed car for Thomas to pull (complete with a piece of "cargo" that fits into the flatbed), with a water tower. The water dispenser flips down and the whole thing connects via magnets to the track.

As you can see, we've positioned Sir Topham Hat (or, in Iain-speak "HAT!") at the tower so he can give Thomas orders. He likes to compliment the trains by telling them that they "have been really useful."

Iain found that his older trains (Iain-speak: "BUS!") from the IKEA set work fine with this new bunch. Also, you can set up the IKEA tracks next to the Thomas ones and have a huge train yard complete with derailments and obstacles.

Below, Sir Topham Hat has keeled over in a stupor while the water tower has to compete with the Sippy Cup Tower. But Iain doesn't care, because he's busy pushing a long train across the double bridge The Dad built.

This was a huge success. Iain played with it all weekend, and this morning come to breakfast saying "Thomas? Thomas? Thomas?" Too bad The Mom already put everything away. Bad Mommie!


A little jazz for Iain's grandfather, known as 899.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Psst!! Iain, Save Me!

Dude, I had to sneak into the back to call you. "They" think I talk too much on my cell. As if. Anyway, can you come get me? We could go out for milk cocktails and shake our tail feathers to this new CD my parents got. It's about the alphabet - you'll love it.


Stealthy Mommy

Iain drives me a little nuts. He'll be playing quietly, and reading, and so I'll get my book and start to read.

This, naturally, triggers a crisis. Iain starts coming up with books, demanding "readit!" They're always the books we read most often, so I feel like they're concepts are drilled into my head. Concrete mixer. Dump truck. En espanol!

Today I solved this problem. Every time Iain came up I said, "You look like you need to be grabbed, squeezed, and kissed!" And I did. He giggled, then squirmed away. I kept this up every time he got near me. Eventually, when he was tired of being hugged and kissed, he stayed away, playing trains and reading to himself.

Victory is sweet, especially when it comes with kisses.

P.S. Did I mention that Iain's carnivorous instincts finally kicked in? Last night he ate roasted pork loin wrapped in bacon ("bacon!") and tonight he ate teriyaki-glazed beef tips. I personify double-extra-happiness.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Delicious, Fun, and Educational

"Hi, Iain? It's Isla. Hey, I'm just calling to say: sorry I missed you in October. I heard you're going to be hanging out with Maddie while you're in LA, and I just want to be sure I've still got a chance. I mean, I could be The One, dude. Think about it."

"Oh, and any chance I can get some of that apple pie your mom made? Just Fedex it, dude."

Iain got a lot of books for Christmas. Check it out above. Wow. You'd be amazed how many of those are about trucks, tractors, airplanes and other construction/conveyance vehicles. He is now capable of identifying a tanker truck, cement mixer, dump truck, back "ho," bulldozer, roller, airplane, car, digger, and logging truck. Oh, and he can count the cars on a car carrier, up to 9. When you ask him what comes after 9 he says "3."

As for Mommy, I'm luxuriating in the glow of my new toy. It's a mixer paddle for my Kitchen-Aid standing mixer. As you can see, it has spatulated (I made that word up) sides so it scrapes the bowl while it mixes.

I need Charles and Iain to eat a bunch of pie today and tomorrow so I can make something new in my mixer. Hurry up, gents!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas, Part 2 (with a soupcon of Hannukah, rather late)

About a week ago, I noticed a bunch of Hannukah paintings drying at daycare. I was all excited, and kept waiting for Iain to bring one home. Bupkus. Finally, this Wednesday, I asked about it. "Oh, that was Donna's class. We didn't do those," said Meghan. But she offered to ensure that Iain would do one on Christmas Eve. Excellent.

I guess they didn't have the other sheets (which were just photocopies on white paper of a menorah. They had the kids finger-paint them with blue paint.). Instead, Donna and Meghan helped Iain make the masterpiece above. It's construction paper, with cutouts of his fingers for candles, plus glitter paint plus glued-on glitter. Thatsa lotta glitter, peeps.

It's wonderful. And I'm particularly happy that when they realized I was interested they made sure he did it, then made it much, much better than the original activity. Love those ladies.

And while we're on the subject of what a good job they do, try this on for size: this morning I made waffles. I had to measure 6 tablespoons of oil into the batter, and Charles helped count it out. Iain sat on his lap. We counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...and Iain said "six." Clear as a bell. HOLY COW.

In other news, let's get the gift train rolling. From his Auntie Miriam, Iain received this:

It's part of a set. There's a spoon and a "buh-doh-r." That would be a bulldozer to you. And there's a plate, with slots for each utensil and rubberized bits to help the plate stay in place on the table. You use the pushing utensil to push food into the spoon or onto the fork. It's adorable and genius and Iain played with it right away:

In fact, last night he wasn't that interested in actually eating because he was so excited to pretend to eat with his "back ho!" and the bulldozer, and his "pork!" Tonight, he used them and ate, which was much better. Throughout, he likes to hold up the utensil of the moment and say, "Back ho!" which Charles finds delightfully silly.

To the right in the photo above, you will see another present. This one came from Iain's cousin Audrey. She's in upstate NY right now, but she remembered her boy cousin and his obsession with construction vehicles. Check it out:

Outstanding! And that black button, when pressed, lifts up the scooper. So it's a bulldozer that actually works. Also, it's wooden and from PLAN toys, which we love. Turns out that they now have an entire line of construction trucks for each age group. Uh...we're in trouble if Iain finds that little catalog.

More to come...stay tuned.

Christmas, Part 1

In Charles' family, tradition dictates opening presents on Christmas Eve after dinner. Iain doesn't have the best after-dinner track record, so we decided to alter the tradition a tiny bit. He came home from his last day with Miss Donna/Meghan at 3, and all the presents were laid out. About 45% are for him, the rest for me and Charles.

As you can see above, Iain was unimpressed. He was all, "Tuck!" and demanded that Charles read to him from his sad, half-torn, duct-taped Spanish book on trucks (bought for 25 cents at the Friends of the Library book sale).

Eventually, though, we convinced him to give presents a try:

After that, he was somewhat more enthusiastic. Below, a floor puzzle from Nana. He loved, loved, loved many of the other gifts (photos to follow - don't be greedy!) and spent a long time playing before his dinner. Then it was bathtime, more playing, and time for bed.

We saved one toy for this morning, and he's playing with it even now. I'll give you a hint what it is: T--mas the T--k E--ine.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Banana Bread

Last week, I made banana bread. Call it a cookie hangover (so many cookies, yet none for me to eat!). Call it jealousy, since Mrs. Cunningham made about 400 types of cookies (though not so many as her mother) and I got zero. Call it an ecologically-sound desire to avoid wasting those 2 overripe bananas on the counter. Whatever.

I made banana bread. And since I couldn't be bothered to walk all the way upstairs (!!) to get a recipe from Teh Interwebs, I cracked my Mark Bittman for the first time in a long time.

Bittman and I have a love-hate relationship. People love him, but mostly I hate him. I've made a number of recipes from How To Cook Everything that just plain did not work. Did. Not. Work. So I tend to use the book to answer questions rather than to cook.

Don't get me wrong: I know that this is some kind of curse. I know an accomplished cook in Cambridge (MA) who makes the most amazing things from Bittman's books. But when I make the same recipe, it's yucky. So clearly it is I who am the problemo.

Still, it was there, so I used it. Here's the recipe, because it was pretty good. Even though I mixed the coconut and nuts into the flour (after standing there for 2 or 3 minutes saying, "Mix dry ingredients. Well, pecans and coconut are dry...but surely not...but they're dry..."), and even though I totally forgot the vanilla (I wrote in the margin of the book, "Where's the vanilla, @#@##??" and then saw it in the instructions and had to cross it out. Oops.). So given that I screwed up the recipe and it was still good, I'll call it a winner.

Fill your butter bell now. You'll want it for slathering on the hot bread later.

Banana Bread from How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman (slightly altered)


8 tablespoons butter (I used salted. Don’t have a cow, man.)

[plus extra butter for greasing the pan]

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup grated dried unsweetened coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. I used a glass pan because I like to see how the outside is baking. Also, butter sticks to glass really well, so greasing the pan is easy.

Mix together the dry ingredients, not counting the nuts and coconut. Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the eggs and bananas. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients; do not mix more than necessary. Gently stir in the vanilla, nuts, and coconut.

Slop the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. Mine looked great at 45 minutes, but was not at all done. I’d say 55 minutes is probably a happy medium. Don’t be a freak about the knife or skewer coming out clean; banana bread is excessively moist compared to other breads. Do not overcook. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Or, let it cool 10 minutes, then cut a slice out, slather it with soft butter from your butter bell, and serve it ooey, gooey, buttery and delicious to your son, who will say: “Cake!”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maddie Says: To Make An Omelette You Gotta Break Some Eggs

From her father, and I quote:

"Our beautiful young lady looks at her new play kitchen, then runs to get her dolls -- and throws them on the stove. Her mother says, with dismay, 'Oh, honey, are you cooking babies?'

And so now the child is gleefully poking at her dolls with a spatula, saying over and over again, 'Cooking babies! Cooking babies!'"

Prezzies! Pour moi!

My cousin Ruby makes jewels. For her birthday, she received a box full of raw material, and a little hint ("I have pierced ears, hint hint").

Ha! Observe the results. No, I have no shame. I fished for handmade earrings and I got 'em, 2 pair (the other pair could not be photographed because I'm wearing them, hellooo...). Lovelovelove having creative, thoughtful cousins.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bacon, Addendum

To piggy-back on Charles' post about bacon (BACON!!), let me just tell you what Iain had for dinner tonight:

1. Chicken nuggets, made by me.
2. Roasted potatoes.
3. a little salad of red butter lettuce and carrot sticks.

And when did he eat this delicious feast? At 6pm.

So, to review: he ate dinner with his parents (granted, we ate a little early to accommodate him), ate the same food as his parents, and seemed to enjoy said food. He ate three whole vegetables and NO: kiwi, banana, yogurt, cereal, eggs, toast, hummus or Club crackers.

I'm so happy I might have to go whack myself in the head a couple of times, just to take the edge off.

Also: BACON!


It may or may not be news, but this fact bears repeating: Iain likes bacon. He even sometimes asks for it (along with eggs, toast, mik [sic], kiwi, etc.). Maybe when he's a bit better about chewing and swallowing food we'll try this: bacon cups.
Thanks, Lifehacker.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cameras Are Fun

Yesterday, Iain took the camera off my table/bed (remember that I moved into the guest room? One has to improvise a place to lay out all of one's crapola) and brought it over. "Readit!" he said, which I took to mean, show me how this works.

So I pointed it and pressed the button and showed him the picture. Then I showed him how you squint into the viewfinder. He found that part confusing. He saw that my other eye was closed, so when I held it up to his face he closed both eyes and pressed against it. Then he was disappointed.

I tried to explain, but failed. Oh, well. He has plenty of time. And we have an old digital that's about his size, so pretty soon he can start playing with that to figure out the concept. I hope you're all ready for hundreds of lovingly-photographed shots of Bob and his truck.

Excuse me, sir. When did you get so grown up?

Early Presents!

Callie and I exchanged presents last weekend. I gave her a box set of Gossie books. She gave me a dump truck with its own garage and a driver and three things to put in the truck. You'll note the holes in the roof of the garage. You can back the dump truck in, then drop the stuff (a potato sack, a rectangular box, and a barrel) into the bed of the truck. Then you drive it out, see, and dump the stuff out again!


I play with it day and night. I play with it before "bekkie." I play with it during all meals. I threw a screaming fit yesterday to avoid having to go out to lunch without it. This morning, The Mom persuaded me to leave it at home only by explaining that if I took it to school the other kids might touch it.

I've christened the driver "Bob," after Bob the Builder and my Grandfather. I carry him around, saying things like "Bob? Tuck? House?" which means "Whither goest my man Bob, who drives the truck and parks it in yonder garage?"

Callie knows me in my heart and she sees what will please me. This morning, at second breakfast, I got to sit across from her at the Big Table. Could this week *be* more heavenly? I think not.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


After a rally last night, we're back to illness in this house. So Iain and I spent the day playing with fingerpaint and exchanging incomprehensible phrases ("Maba Donee?" "What?" "Mavo Doonbb!!" "What???")

But at least the weather was good. Oh, wait. It was 34 degrees and wetly snowish. Blech.

Tomorrow: Iain's Christmas gift from Callie (a super-duper hit!) and Banana bread a la Bittman (to whom I swear I'm allergic. His recipes are just not my speed.).

Until then...

One Fine Face

Iain likes this. And he plays along, which is unusual.

Also, if he ever says "Debbo" to you, he wants a clean diaper. FYI.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Busy Day

Whew! Baby in bed at last, me in my slippers and the lights out downstairs - time to relax.

Today was graduation. So despite the filthy weather (not dangerous, because Miriam stole all our snow and what we got instead was a long day of wet, cold slush) my colleague Tom and I sallied forth to do our duty.

As always, it was a pleasure. I did not know that one of my students was the first in his family to graduate from college. We ask all such students to stand and be recognized, and there he was. I also did not know that one of my advisees would be sworn in today as an officer in the Army. We stand to honor those students, and I popped right up, since he was "mine," so to speak.

Then there was the reception, where I met parents and siblings and girlfriends and grandmas. They all wanted to take a picture, which was fine except I forgot my lipstick and had hat-head from my silly pillow-hat. Then back to Lexington for a whirlwind unloading and re-loading so Iain could go have his Saturday night date with Callie. Charles and I had to content ourselves with an adult night out - dinner with a friend at a local institution we'd never tried. All I'll say about dinner is: mini cinnamon buns for dessert. Chew on that.

Meanwhile, Iain and Callie were touring Christmas lights and then staring in wonderment at displays of toy trains. Yes, toy trains. Iain's personal obsession. He was so entranced he got a little confused. I say this because when offered a corn dog for dinner he refused, which is an act that can only be explained by his being a little off his head. So I think the Thomas the Tank Engine train display, along with the Christmas-themed one, must have monopolized his brain for a while.

We reunited at 7:30, whisked The Pasha home, and figured we'd toss him in the bed and collapse. But no. He was all, "Toast!" and "Play!" and "Baf!"

Thus it is only now, at 8:25, that we're peeling off our finery, sinking into our plush chairs, and taking a deep breath.

Friday, December 18, 2009


As you can see above, the cold finally drove me indoors. I love my sunroom office, but an uninsulated room can only be realistic up to a certain point. It's been weeks of 30-degree days, and I just couldn't manage the chills anymore. There's not enough tea in the world (not even in England, where tea is just...better).

So I'm now ensconced (messily) in the guest room, in the nifty little wall-desk you see. It's from IKEA, and I lovelovelove it, as Eloise would say. There's no place for a notebook, or my papers, but that's just too bad. I can't have frostbitten toes.

Charles is sick again. That's the oy. As in, Oy Vey. As in, Why Me? I mean, Why Him? I mean, Why Us?

And here's the kicker: we have a dinner date tomorrow. With the same friend who we've been trying to have dinner with all fall. Every single time, something intervenes. And this time, it's not just ill health but a winter weather advisory. So tomorrow is supposed to include the December graduation (yay for my students and for my colleague's wife!), then dinner with T.A. while Callie babysits Iain.

But we might end up at home, just like tonight. Again. Because we might be snowed in.

And before you ask: yes, I went out and bought bread and milk. Baa....

Pittsburgh = Genius

Apparently, weddings in Pittsburgh often feature a cookie table rather than cake. It's gorgeous - go read all about it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fun With Magnets

Refrigerator poetry. The last offering of this kind was "Max Puking Fest." Today I returned to find the above missive.

Cartoon Milton Keynes

We love Milton Keynes. This old cartoon reminds me of it.
Excellent 1948 British cartoon: Charley in New Town


I have teeth. Did you know that? The Mom says they have to be brushed twice daily. For my breath or something.

I guess it's ok. Tastes like berries. I like to brush for 2 seconds and then say "all done!" The Mom usually says no. Meanie.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Gonna Wash That Ear Infection Right Out of My Hair...

Back to the doctor! This time, he says it's an ear infection. Iain gets to drink that light-pink antibiotic liquid we all remember from childhood. I assure you that when I unscrewed the lid, that aroma brought back many, many memories.

After his pre-bed tipple, the Little Man went for a "baf." First, he likes to stand on the scale:

Then, he wants to climb right in with his diaper on. I always have to explain: "first we need to take off that yucky diaper." Not so far as Iain is concerned. He's happy to just splash away and diaper be damned.

Oh, hai. I'm in my baf. Today I confirmed that I know how to say "good mood," "happy," and "purple."

Please note the curled toes. Delish!

Last Week at the Library

Dude - they have puzzles at the library. It's awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Photo Blackout

You may have noticed fewer photos of Iain this week. Yeah. There are 2 reasons for this:

1. It's been overcast and yucky. Taking pictures in the overcast just makes me sad. Everything's so grey. Also, there's not really enough light inside our house to get the kind of pictures I prefer.

2. Iain and Charles are sick. Yes, Iain seems to be sick again. Tonight he spent a little time with Callie, and as a parting gift he threw up on her mom. Despite the fact that Callie's Mom tried to give me a wedgie last week, I think it's awful that Iain spewed on her. Sorry, Sarah.

Thus, hence, as a result, consequently, tomorrow we'll go see the doctor. Again.

Oh, Charles? Still sick. Perhaps a little better, but not recovered and still quite wary of things like...eating.

You'll forgive my impulse to hide in the coat closet.

Neighborly Advice

Last week we had a windstorm. It blew all kinds of stuff all over the place. For example:

  • the compost barrel (made from an old trash container that the city recycles into compost bins)
  • belonging to my neighbor (the one that I asked him about 1.5 years ago - "Are you discarding that? I'll take it if so." - and he said "No, I'm using it." and then it sat in his driveway, empty for more than a year, while I got bitterer and bittererer)
  • that blew across our yard and into the driveway and then into our other (nice) (normal) neighbor's yard. (do I need to point out that he's not "using" it???)
But the compost isn't the only thing that blew into our yard. Just now I went out with a little grocery bag and picked up the ten or twelve pieces of paper that also blew over. Things from his recycling? I dunno, but they were loose, drifting across the neighborhood.

And what were they? Oh, nothing important. Only the W-2 forms for he and his wife. And their 2007 taxes. Just stuff like that. Laying in my yard.

People: bag your trash. Shred your papers when you discard them. Burn or eat your confidential information. Bribe the garbage collectors. Put a padlock on your trash cans. Do something. Honestly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Send in the Troops (in HAZMAT suits)

Urgh. Iain is better. Charles is sick.

Yup. Iain's back to semi-normal (cranky, not eating like himself, but not throwing up) but he has passed The Plague on to Charles. The poor man is upstairs, and not very happy.

The only positive about this is that is affirms our decision to keep Iain (and ourselves) home on Saturday night. We had a party to go to, a babysitter lined up, and dinner with a friend afterward. Iain would go to Callie's house, where the two of them would whisper sweet nothings to one another while the doting babysitter looked on and maybe taught them a little French.

But we didn't want to get Callie sick. So we all stayed home. Boo.

I feel good about that, now. Clearly, whatever Iain had is contagious. I hate it that Charles got sick, but I'm so, so glad Callie did not.

Tomorrow, my last papers come in. I can hardly wait. For one thing, that will mean that the semester is over. For another, this is a really good group. I can hardly wait to see what they think.

The More Things Change...

All my life, people in Charleston have been agitating on behalf of the horses who draw the tourist carriages. You can take a tour of the historic parts of Charleston (which is most of the peninsula) on a carriage, while a costumed guide tells you tall tales. Some companies tell better (and more accurate) stories, while others just fib.

For decades, the carriage trade has been controversial. In the summer - the height of tourist season - it's often 90 degrees or more in the city. And it's humid. Like Hu-Mid. So every year the paper prints letters decrying the cruelty of making horses drag tourists around in the heat.

Turns out that's not a new story. Above, from September, 1877, an appeal to riders of New York's commuter carriages. These pre-dated the subway and were basically streetcars. The horse appeals to riders to think of his comfort when, on hot days, they pile into the cars.

Everything old is new again, right?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thanks, Aunt M

Above, hanging on the 'rents bed, watching Rue de Sesame.

This is a belated thank-you note from Iain to his Auntie Miriam. [Psst! I left you a message - call me!]

Before Iain was even borned, M volunteered (ok, The Mom made her do it) to pick up Iain's crib from IKEA and drive it from DC to Kentucky. Look, she was coming through anyway. What?

Auntie M is a champion shopper. She also has superior skills in the Home Furnishings and Bedding departments. It's genetic. So when confronted with the wonderland of delight that is IKEA, she picked up a lot more than a crib and mattress. She got Iain a comforter, sheets, curtains, etc. etc.

For a long time, he couldn't use them. You know, babies under a certain age can't have a blankie, then it was summer, blah blah blah. But it is now:
1. Winter (and cold!)
2. Age-appropriate for him to have a blankie, pillow and sheets plus teddies in the bed
3. Winter.

So Iain is enjoying toasty warm flannel sheets courtesy of Aunt M. And he appreciates all that extra stuff very, very much. So he wants to thank Aunt M. for her generosity and thoughtfulness. He's in there drooling gratefully right now.


Certain people have gotten way out of hand. They seem to think that the world exists to serve them. Consider this example:

I vividly remember when my sister suddenly started to hold on. You'd pick her up and it didn't seem that heavy because she was clinging to you like a rhesus monkey. It was great. Given Iain's size, we've been hoping for the Monkey Effect to happen. Nothing. You say: "hold on like a monkey!" and pretend to drop him a little. Nothing. He just looks at you as if to say: "Dad, you're not going to drop me. Please. I'm The Pasha and I will be carried."

Does he help carry in the groceries? No!
Does he put away his dishes? No!
Does he make breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks? NO!!

And you have conversations with him that go like this:
Me: Here's your delicious supper, dear.
Iain: Kiwi! Kiwi!! KIWI!!!
Me: You can have kiwi later. Eat these noodles first, please.
Iain: Apple! Apple!! APPLE!!!

I asked him, the other day, what he's planning to do with his life. The answer: "Thomas? Bob? Barney?" Unless that's the proposed board of directors for his Fortune 500 company, I think we're in trouble.

You can see why I'm concerned.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On the Mend, At Last

Iain has been throw-up free since yesterday morning. Fingers crossed, he'll continue to be so. He is having a bit of a flirtation with diarrhea, but we can handle that.

As is always the case for me, he emerged from nausea ravenous. So it's been cereal (an absolute obsession of his, now), kiwi, water and toast all day. Then, at dinner, he demanded "buhcuhn." To the uninitiated, that's bacon.

Fine. Two slices of bacon and a bowl of jello later, plus a kiwi, of course, he was satisfied. Tomorrow the diet restrictions can be removed, so who knows what he'll eat. A side of beef, perhaps?

I continue to suffer from a generalized malaise, but I don't think I'm sick as in sick sick. Just kind of icky. Is that a medical term?

We'd like to thank Elmo, Big Bird, Bob the Builder, and Thomas the Tank Engine for making the last 2 days bearable. Iain loves you, so we do, too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oooo Lovely

I was out of some stuff. And here comes Penzey's to the rescue. Adobo, Herbes de Provence, Z'atar, a peppercorn mix, dried orange peel, and Vietnamese cinnamon. Joy!

Good timing, too. I am using the very last of the previous adobo on tonight's pork loin. I used up the herbes de provence last week. And I use my pepper grinder (also from Penzey's) on pretty much everything (Ice Cream? Would you like some ground pepper on that, madame?).

SICKIE UPDATE: Iain last tossed his cookies this morning. We visited Dr. Awesome, who prescribed a children's version of the miracle nausea drug I took while pregnant. Since taking it, Iain seems pretty much normal. He took a 2.5 hour nap and is now watching Thomas the Tank Engine on Netflix. So that's a big improvement.

Thank You, Herman Miller

Twice in the last 24 hours, our Eames lounge chair has been the recipient of Iain's effluvia. Twice.

And yet, one wipes it off, cleans it with a leather wipe, and all's well.

Thank you, Herman Miller. You make good stuff.

P.S. The doctor says it's not strep. It's a virus, and we might have a fun bout of diarhhea coming down the pike. So to speak. Yay!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dear L.L. Bean

I'm going to need a new pair of slippers.

Remember how, last week, I told Charles "Oh, no. I don't need new slippers. These are great! They'll last another year for sure."


Background: today I left for school at 7:20am. At 7:44, my phone rang. It was Charles. Iain had performed his patented Missile Intercept Vomit Cannon. We didn't talk long, because the Cannon wasn't quite finished.

After I taught my last class of the semester and put up a sign for my seniors (they had to turn in their final papers to my cold, hard, office door. It was sad.), I came back home to take over for the afternoon.

Everything seemed fine at first. We got an email bragging about Graham and Freddie's uncle David. Apparently he sold a bunch of his fabulous paintings (and maybe sculptures?) in Miami, including to some very big wigs. Like everyone who knows him, we exult in his success because he's such a lovely person.

Whatever, Iain replied. I can do art, too:

What's he working with? Oh, mixed media. A little finger paint. Two bowls of pasta and some black peppercorns (no, not my Sarawaks - as if). Elmer's glue, a couple of brushes, and some glossy paper. Nothing much.

He (I) signed his work with an "I" made out of peppercorns.

So ANYWAY, we watched some Thomas, Iain ate some fruit and crackers, and everything seemed ok. I started to feel silly for coming home.

Then Iain threw up all over me, the bedroom carpet, and himself. Charles flung towels on us, and then started laundry while I dunked Iain in his third bath of the day. Then we got out the big guns: the steam vacuum. Yes, Charles had to steam the carpet just before bed. Awesome.

And my slippers? Not washable. Covered in...stuff. So, L.L. Bean? I'll be needing a new pair. Thanks.

Oh Noes!

According to my favorite terrible-no-good-very-bad rag, Thomas the Tank Engine is sexist and classist! The horror!

(It's ok, Thomas. Iain still loves you. Of course, right now he's sick with something that's making him projectile vomit. So maybe you should come get some love tomorrow.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


So...last night around 9 I went upstairs. Charles and I have been watching our favorite TV show at 9 every night (we use Netflix to get interesting shows, then watch them on our DVD player. We got rid of the cable a few months ago and I really don't miss it).

Walking past Iain's door, I noticed that there was a quiet sort of chatting coming from within. Hmmm.

Ten minutes later, it was still going. So I opened the door to see if he was ok. Why yes. Yes he was.

"Mama!" he said, "Gossie!"

He was reading, in his crib. With the overhead light on. Oops.

Boy, was he ticked off when I turned off the light and said goodnight.

In other news, two new words: yeah, and overalls. As in [me in the parking lot of Kroger] "Isn't that a nice truck, Iain?" reply: "Yeah!"

Tomorrow is the last day of classes. After that, it's grading and paperwork and finally, finally, finally, the holiday. Good times.

Christmas is coming. I think I need this.

Shhh! No Talking in the Library

Miss Freddie seems to enjoy the new Cambridge library. And who wouldn't? It looks gorgeous. All that wood!

Do you think she's looking for books about being a big sister? If not, she should be...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sorry That I Haven't Written, By A Moose I Should be Bitten...

Whip me, beat me.
Make me pay.
For ignoring you this way.*

I didn't post all day because there have been a flurry of interesting events that demanded my attention.

However, tomorrow I will return with more to say and more pictures of The Pasha. That is, if we survive the 60 mph winds forecast for tonight.


*not written by me. Found on a greeting card 15 years ago and memorized out of sheer admiration for the silly fun of it.

Maddie: Look and Weep (Plus Toes)

Maddie gamboling, adorably, above.

And below, Maddie's toes, liberated!

Madeline! Modesty!

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Poky Little Puppy

For some reason, Iain likes this book. It's a classic, but I find its storyline kind of confusing.

Here's what the back of the book says:

"In this beloved bestseller, a puppy loves to dig holes under the fence and go for a walk in the wide, wide world - despite what his mother says. But the poky little puppy digs one hole too many in this charming story, and ends up missing dessert!"

Now this is a total lie.

1. The poky puppy does not dig the holes. His siblings (there are four of them) dig the hole with him: "Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence."

2. The poky puppy doesn't seem like he wants to go for a walk at all. And he's profoundly disinterested in the "wide, wide world." He likes to focus his intellectual energy on the finite, the comprehensible. To wit, he gets distracted by a "fuzzy caterpillar" and a "brown hop-toad."

3. It is, in fact, his very poky-ness that causes his siblings to comment on him at all. For narrative purposes, he exists by being poky, not by being adventurous and full of mischief as the book's cover would have you believe.

4. The poky puppy only misses his dessert at the end, after his siblings double-cross him. The first time out, he smells rice pudding and the other four puppies run home. They are punished by their mother (for digging the hole) and get nothing. Poky gets it all! The second time, he "hears" mother making chocolate pudding. The other four run home, get there first (remember, they're not poky) and are punished. No pudding. Poky gets it all! (never mind that chocolate is poisonous to dogs) Time #3, is the kicker.

Poky "sees" strawberry shortcake at home. The other four run home, and the usual confrontation occurs. But then they sneak out and re-fill the hole under the fence. To reward them, their mother gives them the strawberry shortcake. It's only Poky, who is late and must squeeze between the fence slats, who gets nothing.

Are we clear on this? His siblings, as a group, break the rules. Twice, they get no dessert while Poky gets it all. On the third try, they deliberately exclude him and he gets nothing. This story is like Joseph and his coat. Or something.

Clearly, this is a tale that examines the power of temporality and perspective, elevating the status of the other while dramatizing the ultimate triumph of the majority.

A Little Golden Storybook, indeed.

New Tricks

1. Drinking out of a "papa pup," aka a proper cup. This morning, Iain asked me for milk. "You have milk right here," I said. He tried to take the lid off by pushing it up. I twisted it off, then offered it to him. He shook his head. "What do you want?" More head shaking. "Do you want a proper cup?" "Papa pup!" Triumph. I brought it, decanted the milk, and he drank it all without spilling.

2. Wearing "minutes." We bought Iain two pairs of awesome mittens at Target. And when I say "we" I mean Charles. After the very-very-cold Thanksgiving trip to the local park, a pair of mittens seemed like a good idea. And Target sells simple, knit mittens for $2 (that's $1 per pair!). At first, Iain was not enthused. But yesterday we took him to the Arboretum for a walk (we checked the football schedule ahead of time. Turns out football's over for the season!) and in the 37 degree weather he had a lightbulb moment with regard to the mittens. So now he wants to wear his "minutes" all the time.

New words: glasses, Barney (nooooooo!), belly button, jammies, click

First Snow in Maine

Check out Miss Gracie! She's truly the queen of her castle. Of course, if you live in Maine, you already know that snow is cold. So there's no need for Iain to call her and let her in on that secret.

I love the fact that the snow is belly-deep for Gracie, yet she's all "Come ON, Professor M!!"

It's snowing here again, too. But this time it's warmer, so the snow is sloppy and wet rather than pretty. I think we're in for quite a winter, folks.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

News Flash: Snow is Cold

When it snowed Saturday morning, Iain was eager to go check it out. I zipped him into his little fleece-lined hoodie and we went to see what we could see.

There was ice on the pond, but Iain skimmed some off to help out the fish. He found the skimmer handle extremely cold.

Then he noticed that there was snow on the back of the tin washtub (which we use to wash the dogs and whatnot). He slapped his hand right on it:

Ooo! Cold. After that, he wasn't so keen on the snow. But we managed to convince him that mittens have a purpose, and I think this experience contributed to that success.

In other news, last night Iain had his weekend date with Callie. I forgot to bring the camera, so you'll have to imagine them eating their ravioli and pineapple, playing amicably with Callie's toys, and engaging in lingering embraces (really).

At bedtime Iain revealed his love for Top Chef. He utterly, completely, inexorably, undoubtedly, without question refused to go to bed. He WOULD NOT sleep, thank you. Normally, we're implacable on things like that, but in this case I went up to see if I could calm him down.

(Bless his heart) he looked terrified. So we let him stay up with the staff and watch three DVR'd episodes of T.C., cheering the perfectly braised short ribs and shaking his tiny fist at the foolish idea of a peanut slushie in a plastic cup (eww!). He stayed up until we left. [And before you ask: 7:29am, about the same as any other day]