Saturday, December 29, 2007

new year's resolutions

My son had a great New Year's Resolution last year: To do something he'd never done before. (He's 5, so it wasn't too difficult to keep, but still...) I've decided that's a good one for the rest of us, too. I'm one of those people who makes tons of resolutions, and so, in no particular order:
To do something I've never done before
To give a public performance of some kind
To yell less
To be kind
To notice something cool about my kids every day
To finish this writing project I've been wanting to finish. Make that two writing projects. Make that three.
To send out more queries
To be better about rejections
To make more $
To spend less $
To worry less about $
To get a physical
To run with Alison
To forgive without being asked for forgiveness
To have a social life that does not revolve around 5-year-old birthday parties
To send out a book proposal
To be on time
To refrain from freaking out when I'm not on time
To cook more
To pre-plan at least two meals a week (gotta start somewhere)
To go back and listen to more Buffalo Springfield and Patti Smith
To check email less
To write more
To FINALLY learn barre chords

More when I think of them. Suggestions welcome.

Friday, December 21, 2007

dreidels and moles poetry friday

I KNOW Chanukah's over and it would have made sense to do this for poetry Friday a couple of weeks ago, but
1. since Christmas hype lasts for three months and
2. "day late, dollar short" is my M.O.
I'm doing it TODAY.

When I talked to my son's class about Chanukah, we made up new verses of the dreidel song. Why? Consider this oft-ignored, actual second verse:

It has a lovely body
With legs so short and thin
And when it is all tired
It drops and then I win.

Do dreidels have legs? I think not.
You can find alternate verses all over the net and I thought some new verses would be a great way to work with the kindergarteners on rhyming. My son's verse was:

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of slime
I put it on a tree
To see if it could climb!

On car trips, we do the same thing with the song "Mole in the Ground" by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Each person takes turns coming up with a new verse.

I wish I was a grape on a vine
I wish I was a grape on a vine
Grape on a vine
In time I'd turn to wine
Oh I wish I was a grape on a vine. (Okay, that was mine and not from a 5-year-old. I wrote down the best ones they came up with from various trips, but who knows where that paper ended up. Maybe the glove compartment.)

More new verses (to either song) welcome here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

If I had 15 million dollars

One of my old favorite conversations used to be about how I'd spend my lottery winnings if I ever actually won, which could happen only if I ever actually played. My husband has always had the theory that the first thing he'd do would be to give $1 million to each of his friends so they'd have money, too, and wouldn't be jealous of us. (We always knew when he was on the outs with somebody because they wouldn't be named as beneficiaries of our imaginary largess...)

And so, in this feeling broke time a year, I've been thinking again about what I'd do with money if I had it in excess. One thing I'd like to do is buy presents for people when I see something appropriate. A swatch of ridiculously expensive fabric, for instance, for my fabric-loving friends. Japanese craft books. Today the Washington Post today mentioned some saplings that are descended from a tree that supposedly shaded Gen. Robert E. Lee in Hanover, Va.. They're selling them for $60 a piece to help preserve some battlefield. I'm not a Civil War buff (thus the expression "some battlefield.") But I have friends who are and I'd love to be able to just say: Look, I got you this tree!" (That led me to a great site, by the way: These trees aren't descended from specific historic trees, but they do introduce you to important trees in America's history, they sell varieties of those trees, and they also break them down into categories like: author, president, environment, etc. There's the Ray Charles Live Oak, for instance, or the Clara Barton Redbud. The list could be a lot more extensive. (I'd love to know what kind of tree is in Mick Jagger's front yard, for instance. At the very least, the site gives me a nicer association for Clara Barton. The Redbud is one of my favorite trees, and it's nice to think of Clara's name as being associated with something other than a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


We've been reading the Frances Books by the Hobans again and I just had to throw out a quick encouragement to anyone with a kid between the ages of 2 and 7: YOU NEED THESE BOOKS. Russell Hoban has got the voice down so pat. From the way Frances spells (wrong) words, to the things she eats, to the responses from the parents. Bread and Jam for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances and Best Friends for Frances are pretty much as perfect as they come. The Best Friends book is especially good for kids who are starting to break their friendships down along gender lines. (Girls can play baseball, too, Albert.) They're also good for kids who are learning that their siblings can be best friends, too.

giving and getting

As a parent, it can be tricky negotiating the holiday season. Part of me wants to spoil my kids rotten and give them everything they want, including the $75 Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster (which, thank goodness, we found at a yard sale for $15.) Part of me wants to just go all Little House on the Prairie on them, and offer up an orange and a pair of mittens and maybe some molasses candy. I'll expect nothing but joy and thanks, of course.

I probably end up do more spoiling (sorry Pa) but I try to temper it some. One thing we do is divide the eight nights of Chanukah into different categories.
There's pajama night, for instance, where each kid gets pjs, which they need anyway. There's music night, where they get something music related. There's giving night, where we do something for other people outside of our family. There's Make-It night, where you have to make something for each other. And then there's Sock Night.

When I was growing up, we didn't have the money to be spoiled rotten. On Chanukah, friends thought I was lucky because I got eight presents. What they didn't know was that in my family and almost every other Jewish family that I knew, seven of those presents ended up being pairs of socks. (Well, mittens, too, but the socks really stand out.) As we grew older, it became a family joke. We still exchange socks, the flashier the better. But the first year my son opened up a pair of socks from his grandmother, he wasn't that psyched. Then I got smart and instituted Sock Night where that's all they get. My so knows exactly to expect. No looking at the package and imagining a rocket ship, only to find a pair of socks. This year I let him pick which night was which. He chose Sock Night as night no. 2. I don't know if he did that because he wanted Sock Night or because he just wanted to get it over with. Either way, he doesn't complain about anymore.

Last year at our preschool we started a sock drive for the homeless (working slogan: This year, EVERYBODY gets socks for Chanukah.) The preschool came through again this year, and on Monday we dropped 200 pairs of socks off at the Arlington-Alexandria Homeless Coalition. My daughter came with me to do the drop off. Here's hoping something sinks in.

I'm enclosing a picture of the puppet I made for Make-It Night.
My friend Annie does some craft blogging (though she's recently switched to book blogging with her kids.) Still, she inspired me to throw some crafting stuff here, too, as that's what I'd be doing with my spare time IF I HAD ANY SPARE TIME. Which I don't. Aside from the time I spend writing this stuff. Ahem. Anyway, did I mention that our family has a slight Muppet infatuation??? I think Jim Henson did some of his best work with pingpong balls.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

drug money

My late-night Sap Fest has turned into an informal study of commercials for new prescription medicines. Apparently, people who favor holiday shlock also

1. have osteoporosis
2. can't sleep
3. have or are married to someone with E.D.

The lists of side effects on these commercials go on and on -- every one seems like a Saturday Night Live skit. "May cause eating problems, aches, pain, bleeding, bumps, mood swings, certain types of cancer." I mean, these are LOADED WORDS HERE, and there's no statistical data, nothing saying that the cancer is found in 1 out of 2,000 laboratory rats, for instance. Nothing even saying that the cancer is treatable. In some cases, the list of side effects lasts longer than the list of benefits the drug can provide. So what does that say about our listening habits? Do we gloss over the word "cancer" and just focus on the word "sleep"? Are the images so overpowering that all we take away is a beautiful, well-rested woman and the name of the drug? They have to be, or the companies wouldn't bother with television; they'd stick to other mediums where the fine print is really fine. (On TV, fine print is spoken, though in a comforting, hypnotic monotone.) There are lots of studies on this stuff available on the web,though though none of them has the exact answer I'm looking for. I'll shout when I've got it. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, December 7, 2007

holiday movies ii

If there is a recipe for holiday movies, Steve Guttenberg is the equivalent of way, way too much sugar. I will not be watching "Single Santa" again next year. John Denver - yes. Steve - no.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


One of my favorite Hanukkah gifts when I was a kid was a doll named Chrissy. You pulled her hair and it grew. I loved that doll. I used to pull her around by the hair, dragging her wherever I went. This week we gave my daughter a mermaid with long, pink hair. It doesn't grow, but every time my daughter walks into the room, her little fist around that pink hair, the doll dangling below, fishlike, I have a flashback.


My in-laws gave us a new shovel this year known as The Wovel. It's supposed to be a big innovation in snow shoveling -- safe, won't harm your back, etc. I think it had been a gift to my father-in-law, who didn't want to put it together (it took awhile). My husband accepted said shovel after reading a rave review about it in the New York Times.

Our own review, after one snow:
Looks totally dorky (apologies for the 80s speak)
Moves a lot of snow without much effort
Doesn't get that thin bottom layer off the driveway, so you have to go back over it
(Just in case you wondered about snow shovel innovations)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

holiday movies, first snow

The fact that I don't celebrate Christmas doesn't keep me from enjoying Christmas movies -- the sappier the better. Does it star John Denver as an architect trying to find a new life for his daughter and his bad, widowed self? Does it star Dolly Parton as a platinum snow white with a bunch of orphans? Tori Spelling as self-absorbed TV star visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future? With William Shatner? And Gary Coleman? I am SO THERE. And even though I know they're bad (really bad) I cry every darn time.

Some better holiday movies:
The Bishop's Wife (the original -- with Loretta, not Whitney)
Elf (I might even let my kids watch it this year. Extra points because the grumpy dad is in children's publishing)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original -- Jim Carrey isn't fit to wipe Dr. Seuss's shoes)
Groundhog Day (It's not Christmas but ever since Rushmore I can watch Bill Murray in anything)
PeeWee's Christmas Special (extra points because the dinosaur family celebrates Chanukah)

Today was the first snow of the season. It was white and fluffy and beautiful and made me forget -- just for a bit -- about the threat of global warming.

We always make it a point to go out and play as soon as the snow's deep enough, even if it's dark, so that if it melts in the morning we won't hate ourselves. We were out there until 9.

1 successful snowball fight (no one got hurt)
1 shoveled driveway (more on that later or tomorrow)
1 ride on a sled (okay, it was a boogie board, but it worked)
3 bowls of snowcream (add a half a teaspoon of vanilla and a few teaspoons of sugar to milk. Stir into fresh snow. )