Wednesday, December 31

Ten... Nine... Eight...

The problem with keeping a blog is there's this feeling of obligation to post something significant on the last day of the year. To do some sort of witty, or at the least, poignant, wrap up of the previous year. To ponder on what the coming year will bring.

You know that's not going to happen, right? Even if I wasn't still wrapping presents and getting dressed and trying to wrangle children to get to our New Year's Eve party, I still wouldn't have anything to say. Because 2008, as lovely as it was, was just another year in a long line of years (I hope).

The most and the least I can say is that 2008 was the year of Facebook and Twitter for me. Hockey and kindergarten for Doodles. Ballet and potty training for Pie. And Adam--well, he's still here, so that's something. We had marathons and house tear downs and a week in Vermont. We had trips to New York and lots of martinis. We turned 40 and 36 and 5 and 3. It was a year. Different from the others. But not so much.

And 2009, well, it'll be 2009. I'm looking forward to more marathons and a trip to Israel. Moving back to our house. And who knows what else it'll bring.

Happy New Year everyone. I'll see you in 2009.

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Sunday, December 28

Miami Beach 'Til Now

I ask this every year, and here I am asking it again. Last night, coming home from a grown-up's evening out, I was exhausted. And what walking down Lincoln Road after midnight, there are tons of little kids out. Who are these kids and why are they out partying at these ungodly hours!

We've made our annual family pilgrimage to the homeland. Florida. I look forward to this trip all year. I come to Miami Beach for my parents, for my friends, for our annual New Year's eve party at my cousins' house. I come because my kids love swimming in the pool and hanging out with their California friends who come to visit (T Rex and Pad). I come because Nana paints Pie's toenails and builds the kids forts. I come for the spa day at the Standard and the stone crabs and ice cream from the Frieze. I come for the sushi boat from Maiko. I come because my kids love Jungle Island and the Seaquarium and being able to run around naked without freezing their tushes off. I come because it's home.

And Adam? Adam comes to Miami Beach for the cafe con leches. Not just any cafe con leche, but David's cafe con leche. And that's pretty much it. No, really. You think I'm exaggerating? The man is a caffeine addict. And his poison of choice is the cafe con leche. He dreams of the cafe con leche during the long Boston winters. He longs for it on the rare occasions he's forced to resort to Dunkin Donuts coffee. Cafe con leche is his reason for flying 1500 miles, for putting up with Miami allergies and for putting up with the demand for "just five more minutes in the pool, Daddy!"

So you can imagine his absolute utter and total anguish when we passed David's on Christmas Day and he saw a sign in the window that said the restaurant was closed until January 5. The moaning! The complaints! The frantic search for comparable (no such thing!) cafe con leche! He said the trip was ruined. He thought my father had let him down by not letting him know about this. He felt betrayed by David's. Adam saw ten days stretched in front of him with no cafe con leches, no Cuban toast, no perico eggs.

Needless to say, as he discovered this morning, it turns out that my "always certain, often wrong" husband, merely can't read Spanish. Because the cafe is open, alive, and kicking. It's just the buffet that's been closed. A buffet none of us have ever eating at. I figure he's gotten his divine retribution in the form of three cafe con lecheless days.

Other than the near-miss David's disaster, it's been a successful trip so far, except for one aborted run for me. It's the first time in my life I've ever stopped a run in the middle, but I wisely decided that I had the choice of finishing my run or finishing my trip, and I opted for the trip. Every year on 12/24, our synagogue hosts a blood drive. I was determined to donate blood this year. I wasn't going to forget. Absolutely not. And of course I forgot. So I was happy to see on Friday a bloodmobile at the end of Lincoln Road. I popped in, donated blood, and walked back to the apartment.

The next morning I suited up for my 14 miler. Fuel belt. Check. iPod. Check. Cash for coffee after. Check. However, a couple of miles in--halfway across the MacArthur causeway--I realized all was not right with the world. I'd pretty much finished my Gatorade and I was sweating bullets and it wasn't till that moment that I realized running--especially in Miami heat--when my blood levels were literally low was probably not the brightest thing I ever did. I managed to make my way back to the apartment, completing 7 miles running and a whole bunch walking.

But even with a dehydration headache, I managed brunch at Van Dyke's, Starbucks (because, you know, David's is closed, or so I hear), and Lincoln Road playtime. And of course the night out with grown-ups (seriously! Who are those kids?). Dinner at Maiko. Sushi boat! A bellinitini at the rooftop lounge at the Tiffany hotel, with glowing ice cubes. Ice cream on the walk home. Babysitters that didn't charge $15 an hour. Playtime outside in mid-70 degree weather. Brunch with friends we haven't seen in ages.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow is nirvana. Tomorrow is spa day with the girls! Our house with no walls is a distant memory. Our tiny cramped bologna-smelling apartment is in another lifetime. Rain and sleet and snow don't exist.

Welcome to Miami. Now pass the martinis.


Sunday, December 21

Enter Winter

It's been a fun, crazy week, with time in Doodles' classroom, Adam's office party, which--surprisingly--was really fun, a Hanukkah singalong at Pie's school (preschool mosh pit! That girl loves to dance!), a night of cooking class, playdates, and all sorts of holiday prep goodness, including lots of baking, crafting (and I've become addicted to craft blogs lately--oh the ideas I have for next year!), and card writing. And then... then it all came to an end. Because...

...the snow has started. No quiet whispers into winter; it came in shouting its presence. Two days before the official beginning, we were pelted with snow. Fierce, fierce snow. Running on Friday morning, the sunrise was amazing, a fiery feast of reds in the sky, but then I remembered "Red skies at night, sailors delight; red skies at morning, sailor's warning." True enough in this case. I felt bad for Doodles who had a field trip canceled on Friday. Everyone had early releases in anticipation of the storm. I ran with my kids to the supermarket, along with the rest of the world and stocked up on supplies. Shabbat dinner for Friday. Snacks for Saturday. Milk for hot chocolate. Everything we needed. Everything. Oh, wait, except the toilet paper. I forgot the toilet paper. Oops!

That night the kids couldn't wait to get out in the snow, so I bundled them up Friday evening to get their snow groove on. Nothing like the first trying on of winter boots to realize that they no longer fit. Doodles is a good size larger than his boot, but we managed to sausage his foot in. That night, we got about eight inches of snow, which would have been fine if that had been it.

Saturday morning I stupidly decided not to do my run, to save it for Sunday. Which meant, obviously, that Sunday was much worse. However, not knowing that, I had a lovely walk with Pie on the bike path so we could walk to Walgreens for toilet paper and new Color Wonder books. I did a bit of snow shoveling to unbury our cars. I got my hair done. Doodles got a new hockey hair cut so his hair no longer hurts his face. And then we stupidly decided--on a snowy day, the last weekend before Christmas--to brave L.L. Bean to get Doodles some new boots. What a freakin' nightmare. And no boots in his size. So he's going to have to suffer a bit longer. But overall it was a relaxing day, with all of us watching A Christmas Story (well, not completely relaxing--the bully in the movie terrified the kids). A lovely snow day.

And then there was today. One snow day too many. The snow started up again. And again. And again. Religious school canceled. Sleep didn't happen last night as the toddler in the next apartment over is sick, and was up every hour from 3:15 till wake up time. I've got just over a month till I run Miami with my cousin, and I haven't gotten enough mileage in. So in the sleet/snow/freezing rain, in the sub-freezing temperatures, a savage wind upon me, on the snow that feels like sand, except where it feels like ice, I managed to run 18 miles (it wasn't quite uphill both ways, barefoot, but it was close). I'm cold. I'm beat. I'm tired. The kids want to go outside. I throw on a dry shirt. We head outside. Pie, in the hallway, sniffs her nose.

"Mommy, there's something stinky in here!"

"I don't smell anything, Pie."

Pie puts on her biggest grin. "Mommy!" she says. "I think it's you! You're stinky!" Way to win points, Pie.

Tonight, the first night of Hanukkah, we went to friends' for dinner. It was truly lovely, but I was so scared driving there and back. I was as tense as could be. Normally I'm the driver, but these days, it's all Adam, because I refuse to drive in the snow. Trying to get out of our friends' driveway at the end of the evening just about did me in, as our wheels spun and our car fishtailed. I just closed my eyes and Adam did a little digging and a little gunning and finally got us out. But, man, does that terrify me.

Part of me is really hoping school isn't canceled tomorrow as it's Pie's last day before the winter break and I'm supposed to go into Doodles's classroom to make latkes with them, but part of me is terrified to go out there--it's supposed to turn to rain soon, which means it'll be a sheet of ice out there--so part of me hopes it's canceled so we can stay inside the entire day. Hey, the kids got some presents tonight--they've got stuff to play with. And I'm not above a day of PBS Sprout, if that's what's called for.

Meanwhile, as hard as it is to imagine, I'm supposed to go to our storage this week to pull out our summer clothes for our annual pilgrimage to Miami. I can't fathom being ready. I can't fathom getting our car out of here. I can't fathom ever being out of this tiny apartment and back in our house (although we're giving our 60 day notice on the apartment this week). I can't fathom a place that isn't buried in snow. I can't fathom that we've been here since it was shorts weather. I can't fathom. Period. I'm going to bury myself in bed. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up with a fresh dose of fathom.

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Wednesday, December 17

Hair Today

Doodles may not care about his clothes, but he very much cares about his hair. Currently, as you can see, his hair is "way too long." It's in his eyes. It hurts his head. We better get him a hair cut, stat!


Monday, December 15

Dressing a Diva and Other Stories

My son really, really loves Star Wars. Hasn't seen it yet, of course. However, I've authorized the gifting of Episode IV for Doodles for Hanukkah. However, I'm a little fearful. Last night we woke up from a bad dream. In his bad dream, someone was out to get him. Who? you might ask. Well of course. It was King Antiochus. If a Roman king can keep him up at night, just think what Jabba the Hut will do for him.


Getting Pie dressed in the morning is always something of an ordeal. She has very specific ideas about what she wants to wear, but sometimes they can't be formulated until she's stood in front of her clothes for five minutes. "Today I want to wear... pants! No! A long-sleeved dress! No! A skirt! That one. With... not that top. No, not that top. Not that one either. Um, okay, that one!"

Doodles, of course, gets himself dressed in the morning. His clothes don't always completely coordinate, but if he doesn't care, I don't care either. However, I noticed that he was wearing the same clothes week in, week out. The same five shirts. The same five pants. Which was surprising because he had so many other tops that I was pretty sure he liked.

And then, I realized something. Doodles wears five tops and five bottoms. On the weekend, Adam washes the clothes. He puts those five tops and five bottoms away. On the top. In the drawer. Of course. As an experiment, I went into the drawer, took the five tops and the five bottoms, and I placed them on the bottom of the clothes piles in the drawers. Choosing my five favorite shirts that he hadn't worn in a while, I put those on the top. I also put vaguely coordinating pants on the top in the bottom drawer.

And, voila! The next week, we had an entirely new wardrobe on the boy. He cares so little about his clothes that he simply grabs whatever is on the top of the pile. So now I do a weekly clothes rotation, and he never knows that I'm choosing what he wears.


My sister-in-law will out of town the coming weekend and we'll be in Miami Beach shortly after that, so we got together yesterday with everyone to celebrate Hanukkah early. My SIL gave to Pie a purse with a zipper that Pie loved. But what was even better is that in the purse was a bunch of foreign money, primarily Egyptian money, from a trip SIL took a couple of years ago.

Pie took the money out, put the money back in. She leafed through it. She held it close. Oh, money! But then when she got to the coins, she took one look at the Twenty Piastres piece, and declared, "Mommy, it's broken." She handed me the coin. "You keep it. I don't want it. It's missing a piece."

Don't you go trying to pass off any wooden nickels to my little girl!

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Friday, December 12

What I've Been Up To, Part Two

The apartment no longer smells of bologna, because the stink of burnt sugar has overridden it. And I don't mean the yummy smell of caramelized sugar; I mean the stench of sugar that smoked up and snuck into every nook and cranny. That smell of burnt sugar. Note to self: don't leave check Facebook while toffee syrup is cooking.

To continue with New York trip #1: A quick note about Thanksgiving: Everything, and I mean everything, was open, it seemed. Whole Foods? Open. Gristede's? Open. The bagel store? Open. The liquor store? Open. To me, half the fun of Thanksgiving is realizing you've forgotten some important ingredient and having to make some sort of odd substitution in a panic-stricken way. It loses some of the magic when you can pop down to the local market and pick up that bag of cranberries or the bottle of bourbon (neither of which I forgot--my bourbon-spiked sweet potatoes, by the way, were fabulous, if I do say so myself).

On both Friday and Saturday night, Adam and I were able to escape sans kids. One lovely dinner at AOC. Another lovely dinner at Le Zie. A movie. A real movie. With no cartoon characters or people singing in high-pitched voices (Slumdog Millionaire, which was amazing!).

Saturday was even better because while Adam and my father took Doodles to the Museum of Natural History and my mom to Pie to the Central Park Zoo, I had sushi and beer with the Tweedle Twirp. Happiness all around! Of course, Pie being Pie, my mother reported that they took the subway up to the zoo. The zoo is three blocks from the subway stop. But upon exiting the subway, Pie announced, "I can't walk. I'm too tired."

Now, any self-respecting parent--as my mother was at one time--knows that the proper response to this is, "Well, if you're that tired, we'll turn around and go back to the apartment." It is not, as my mother said, "Taxi!" Yes, my diva daughter got her Nana to spring for a taxi to go the entire three blocks from the subway to the zoo. And I wonder why she has such princess tendencies.

The trip was a success and the ride back was almost tolerable, except for Pie shouting for the last hour, "I want to get out of my seat RIGHT NOW!" and Adam's shortcut that took us an extra hour. The highlight was Pie taking her bag of carrots and her water bottle and chucking them across the car. That girl might have a future as a ball player... as long as it doesn't mess up her nails, of course (nails painted by Nana, colors chosen by Pie: black on the left foot, red on the right).

The following weekend I returned to New York with three girlfriends, Beetle; Jasmine's mother who needs a name of her own, but of course, like all princesses, Jasmine doesn't have a living mother (quick--name a Disney princess with a mother!); and a third friend who we met up there, A.

As enjoyable as the first trip was, this was a whole new experience. We weren't sure which subway to take. Doesn't matter! Just hop on! No one needs a snack or a bathroom or is whining, "When will we get there?" We'll figure it out as we go. At every meal--every meal!!!--no one insisted on eating off my plate. No one used an outdoor voice in the restaurant. No one said, "I'm tiiiired. Can we go home yet? How much longer?"

We had sushi at 11 p.m. Music and beer at National Underground. An incredible nine-mile run with Beetle around the tip of Manhattan (we saw Chelsea Piers, Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, South Street Seaport--really nice). Breakfast at noon at Markt. A bit of shopping. Some cookies. An amazing Broadway show. And a midnight dinner at Le Zie again for me. Breakfast on Sunday at City Bakery, and back and back again, lickety split. The ride back was fast, despite bad weather. Relaxation. Grown-up time. Fun. And then... home.

And now? Bye bye relaxation. Bye bye grown-up time. Bye bye fun. Now it's back to holiday shopping, baking, gift wrapping, child wrangling, house remodeling, tiny apartments, smelly bedrooms, bathrooms in need of cleaning, laundry machines that are always in use by the neighbors, yadda yadda yadda.

I'm going to make (read: reheat Whole Foods') dinner. I wish you all a happy yadda yadda yadda.

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Tuesday, December 9

What I've Been Up To, Part One

There are two main reasons I don't post: one, I have nothing to write about. Or two, I have so much to write about that I can't find the time to sit down and when I do sit down, I don't know where to begin. It's been more of the latter. At the moment, Doodles is in kindergarten (I started to write preschool--still can't wrap my head around having a kindergartener) and Pie is actually, kind of, sort of playing nicely behind me. If this post ends abruptly, you'll know it's because "playing nicely" turned into "complete meltdown," which is what happens every day. The question is the when.

I've had two trips to New York, a kindergarten conference, holiday shopping, and house building shenanigans. But that's not what's compelled me to blog today. Today I blog because my bedroom smells. Specifically, of bologna. Why does my bedroom smell of bologna? I have no idea. No one in the family eats bologna. Why does that compel me to blog? Again, no idea. But lying in bed last night, unable to get the smell of bologna out of my nose, I thought, "I should blog about this." So here I am.

Actually the whole apartment smells. I sort of think that this might be a reflection upon my cleaning skills. I'm pretty good about vacuuming almost daily (the kids eat over a rug), but the nice bottles of environmentally-friendly cleaners I bought in a fit of optimism when we first moved in have remained pretty much untouched. But they sure do look pretty! Our contractor feels pretty optimistic that we can move back into the house the first week of February. That's just about seven weeks. And we're spending a week and a half of that in Miami Beach for New Year's. So that's just five and a half weeks of smell. Clean? Or stink? For five and a half weeks, I can live with stink. I'm practical like that.

While I'm here, I might as well tell you about New York. The first trip with the family over Thanksgiving was actually a real success. The kids were engaged and had fun and basically left me alone. Perfect! On Thursday morning, after we all watched the parade, I cooked and my dad, well, I guess he kind of supervised, the Nana, the Tweedle Twirp, and the Adam took the kids ice skating at Bryant Park. A lovely (but ill timed--even with a pre-cooked turkey, I was off) dinner ensued. The next day, the foursome of my family headed to the Fire Museum, which was quite interesting, although I made the mistake of attempting to explain 9/11 to Doodles. I thought he'd think it was something removed, a long, long time ago, but when he realized it was only seven years ago, he said, "Mom, that's not long ago at all!" After the museum, Adam and Pie met up with my parents to go to MOMA. Pie loved the video exhibition and the "painting with the farmer. The green one."

Meantime, Doodles and I went shopping in SoHo. The boy is game, I'll tell you. I haven't really blogged much about it, but I've become quite crafty in my old age ("crafty" in a Martha Stewart way; not a Beastie Boys way). I haven't written much about it primarily because I plan on giving some of my handicrafts as gifts and I don't want any of the surprise given away here. I really wanted to make a pilgrimage to a fabric store I remembered from my days as a New Yorker, and Doodles was actually very well behaved. Of course, we stopped at Evolution and we picked up a pair of glittens for him, but he sat almost patiently while I went through button boxes. We then headed up for the East Village to Tweeds's apartment, which is better than any store for the toys in it. We had to tear Doodles away to head for lunch at Benny's.

And with my quesadilla grande, I'm going to leave you for the moment. No, no meltdowns (yet). Just time to run off to kindergarten pickup....

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Tuesday, December 2

That's Professor Tweedle Twirp, to You!

You might only know her as the Tweedle Twirp, my annoying, pesky, little sister with the feminist streak and the liberal bent. But apparently to some in the world she's a competent, intelligent, respected professor of political science. And last night, she was interviewed on New York news to give her thoughts on Hilary Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State. What's more surprising? That Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama are now BFFs? Or that my sister has an actual life? I know, I know. It can make your brain hurt.


To Sleep Perchance to Pee

Pie is a three year old. Pie has a head cold. So using the transitive property, you can correctly induce that Pie is the devil incarnate.

Last night Pie woke up with a lovely cough at about midnight. But instead of whining about her cough, she decided to go a less obvious route: "Moommmmmy! Moooommmmmy! I peed in my Pull-Up!"

As you may very well know, peeing in a Pull-Up, well, not a big deal. That's what they're there for. That's why Pie doesn't sleep in underwear. But being the kind parents we are, we offered to change her Pull-Up. So we got the footie pjs and the Pull-Up off. And that's where the fun began. Pie decided she didn't want to put a Pull-Up back on. But she sleeps in our bed. Pretty much on top of us. And we weren't going to risk a Pull-Up free night.

We beg. She screams her head off. We plead. She screams her head off. We negotiate. She screams her head off. It's now close to 1 a.m. Finally, I say, "Look, Pie, this Pull-Up has to go on. You can put it on nicely. We can put it on like it's a diaper. Or we can put it on by force. Your choice."

Obviously she picked the only sensible answer. "By fooooorrrrrce!! Put it on by force."

So we did. Which ensued in more screaming. I'm pretty sure our neighbors (yea, screaming child in an apartment building!) had the phone books opened to DSS and were poised to dial.

Adam tried to work his magic. "Pie, everyone is sleeping. You need to sleep, too."

But that Hah-vahd MBA taught Adam nothing. Because Pie outsmarted him. "But the people driving outside--I can see their headlights--they're not sleeping!"

"Pie," I told her, "they're not sleeping because you are keeping them awake. They're driving away to find some place quieter. If you'd just go to sleep, they could come back and go to sleep."

And damn if she didn't. And tonight? Tonight she was dosed with Triaminic Nighttime. If you can't beat them, drug them!

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Monday, December 1

Next Year In...

I liked this humorous guide to the traditional Thanksgiving seder.

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At a Newstand (Nowhere) Near You...

My latest piece, a creative nonfiction essay entitled "In Bulgaria," just came out in Sojourn, the literary journal of the University of Texas, Dallas.

See. You may not see me writing. But I'm still doing it. And yes, I did not complete Nanowrimo. But I'll have a finished first draft of my novel in, I think, two months. Actually, if I commit to you guys, then I pretty much have to have it done, don't I? So let's say by January 31. You can call me on it.