Saturday, January 27, 2007


Reduced to laying on the couch yesterday looking at the pictures in W magazine, I kept wondering, "Is it me?" These pictures, taken with my cell phone because I couldn't even get up to get my camera, are from the First Ten PAGES of that magazine.

excuse this hair?
Scarlett Johansson looks kind of like Bozo here.

buy this dress so everyone can see your misshapen pelvis

This model is I think named Natalia Vodianova and as we can see, her pelvis places her somewhere on the evolutionary spectrum closer to birds than people. Someone thought this might be a good picture to advertise this dress.

I think her head is on backwards, that's all I can guess

I like the haircut though.

poor Dakota Fanning, now she's Blair Witch fodder

Raped in her new movie, bullied into a corner by Juergen Teller. At least she gets to wear Marc Jacobs.

ok well at least this is SUPPOSED to be f'ed up

If you're going to have your pap smear filmed for posterity... uh, I can't even complete that thought.

This cold is just killing me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Animal Speaks

I went out last night - the Baltimore Bloggers Happy Hour at the Wharf Rat, where I met Anger Hangover and confirmed my suspicion that we had a lot in common. Now it's just a hangover, no anger involved. A little self-disgust though, holy crap I smoke a lot when I am unsure of a situation. What, do I still think it makes me look cool?

With Bob taking some time off between jobs, I am lucky to have the luxury of sleeping in on a day like this, when my lungs are rumbling and my eyes burning. And after the Old Man took the Big Man to school, Mr. Three came to keep me company and pet my face with his soft hands and sing me songs. I know some people don't believe me, but a three-year-old does beat hell out of a cat any day.

While I was drinking exactly one too many beers last night, Bob was hosting a meeting here at the house. He's been doing a lot with Big Man's school, and they were reviewing the applicants for some job. He quit his job about a week ago and it's been a bit strange. We've all had colds, and I picked up yet another part-time job (that makes 4 if you're counting), and we're gearing up to tear the house apart for a renovation, and he has all these meetings and stuff.

All the same, I found myself sitting on the couch reading a magazine yesterday afternoon. And Mr. Three, who usually is pretty self-entertaining, now will not accept any grownup doing something that doesn't involve paying attention to him. Like for instance sitting at the computer. Get off my arm, little boy.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

More news from the john

"Dad, in case you're wondering where I am, I'm in the bathroom pooping!" calls out the Big Man.

"Thanks, son. Good to know."

"Have a good smell of your poop!" chimes in Three. He is always so encouraging.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Things that have come into our house recently that I like

You know, I'm not super-materialistic, but it's true sometimes a thing can really make me happy.

1. Guy with a blond pompadour and a club beating the hell out of a giant stinking oyster

Ok we've had this since 1998 but
it cracks me up every time I come across it. It's a petit point hand towel from a set we bought in Kodaikanal, India.

2. His new scarf

The first scarf I knitted took 4 months. The second took 3 nights. I multitasked - I knit while watching #10 until the wee hours.

3. the colors on this can of jackfruit

4. New York Architecture Game

Big thanks to A & J for this: it has been a real source of fascination in our house.

5. The Way Things Go. Basically a 30-minute video of a 100-foot chain reaction created by two Swiss installation artists. Fun for all ages and you'll have to either take my word for it or I'll put the kids on the phone. I tell you you've never heard children under 6 enthuse about ephemeral sculpture until you've heard the Big Man and Mr. Three clamor to watch this DVD.


A gift from The Talented Cousin Rachel right after we moved to Baltimore from NYC. Not only do these mugs have the tromp l'oeil thing going for them, they also fit in a cupholder. Just bought a set for our friends up the block, who miss New York too.

7. adders

Hokay, this I bought for 10 bucks on eBay mostly b/c me and the Big Man were born in the Year of the Snake - but I did have an idea that it was pretty old. The seller knew nothing about it. Turns out to be an illustration of horned adders from
Historia Naturalis de Insectis. Libri III. [bound with] de Serpentibus et Draconibus Libri II, by Iohannes Ionstonus (1603-1675). It was published in 1653, making it the oldest printed thing I have.

8. Ta-dah! by the Scissor Sisters. This week I need to hear "I don't feel like dancin'" like about 5 times a day.

9. The purple
weighted hula hoop I got as a hand-me-down from Juliet's marvelous mom. I try to use it on days I don't get to the gym. Roll out the disco playlist on the iPod and 5 or 6 songs later you can really work up a sweat. Supposed to be good for the abdominal obliques, which is apparently the part that craps out on us formerly pregant people. Photo by Big Man.

10. Last but so not least: It was a box set xmas. I'm up to Season 3 of the greatest show since Laugh-In and I am in heaven.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No sleep til Koco's

01 11 07 007

We went to the roadhouse around the corner the night we got back from vacation. The only way to get seated was to take 2 tall two-tops. The kids are comfortable enough at that place and know how to behave in restaurants, so we let them have their own table and Bob and I had a chance to talk to each other at dinner. Nice!

In fact, they were so well-behaved that Bob joked to me, "Hell, next time let's just give 'em a credit card and send 'em over here."

I look at this picture and I think: It's going to seem like no time has passed when we see them sitting here drinking from pint glasses instead of plastic juice cups. It will be amazing. I hope they get along well enough in 15 years to have a beer together.

Conversation with the prodigy

01 15 07 014

"I'm sinking of an animal and you have to guess."
"It lives in the sea and has SHARP teese and for many people it is their worst fear."
"Is it a shrimp?"
"Is it a squid?"
"Is it a halibut?"
"No, don't be silly, mommy."
"Ok. Is it a shark?"
"YES!! Your turn, you do an animal that lives on the land."
"Ok, I'm thinking of an animal that has stripes and sharp teeth."
"Is it a jaguar?"
"Um, no. A jaguar has spots."
"Is it an okapi?"
[Awww, he paid attention when we visited the Hall of African Mammals. Warms my heart.]
"No, an okapi doesn't have sharp teeth. An okapi eats leaves."
"Does that make an okapi a vegetarian?"
"Yes it does, little boy."
"I need another hint."
"Ok it's orange and black."
"What letter does it start with?"
"Tuh. Tuh. What letter makes that sound?"
"... tuh... tuh... 8!"

| View Show | Create Your Own

Friday, January 12, 2007

I'm goin back to New York City, I do believe that I've had enough


After only a 3-day trip to NYC, the big one insists that we move back. Not that he remembers living there - he was 10 months old when we moved to Baltimore. But something happened in those ten months to make him different from the rest of us.

We were walking up Amsterdam Ave. one morning, and as we passed an empty parked car, it did that beep-beep locking thing. Did it three times as we made our way up the block. After the third time, Big Man whips around and hollers, "Hey! Whaddaya honkin' at us for!"

I mean, I couldn't have imitated that attitude as precisely as it sprang full-blown from his little head. He didn't even know he was being funny - he was surprised when Bob and I burst out laughing.

They weren't as impressed by the Empire State Building as I would have thought. They also weren't scared even a little bit. I of course nearly fell to my knees in terror as soon as we went outside. I kept trying to get them to hold my hand, I kept clutching their jackets. God, heights make me crazy.

We went to the natural history museum three times, and they loved every minute of it.

Brooklyn Bridge from DUMBO

Our friends in Brooklyn have moved to DUMBO (Directly Underneath the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and we got to hang out at their place with their absolutely adorable little boy and their absolutely jaw-dropping view. If I had that view I would forget to eat.

I managed to get a little shopping in - new jeans, bath stuff, and perfume from the beautiful perfume store. The kids helped me there. They have good noses, probably as a result of not smoking for the last 24 years. We picked out something called Escentric 01, pretty damn pretentious name but the smell is like a drug. The guy who tirelessly sprayed perfume on little paper strips for us was also marvelous with Big Man and Mr. Three. Showed them the tiny dogs who live in the shop, and gave them cologne samples that smell like apple and have a picture of a horse on them.

The Cathedral of St John the Divine is one of my very favorite places/objects in New York City. I could spend ages drinking in all the detail and reading the stories that the images tell. Bob once took me on a vertical tour of the cathedral, scared the life out of me but I loved it. Unfortunately, the 2001 fire that destroyed the north transept has left the entirety of the vast nave off-limits. I still had the chance to sit on the floor with the boys and talk about symbols and stories - Big Man really got it, abstraction doesn't bother him at all.

Mr Three meets the Big Wheel

But the high point for these kids was probably definitely the indoor ferris wheel at Toys 'R' Us in Times Square. They were unspeakably impressed. I always feel a little sour when kids prove themselves susceptible to something engineered to stun them, especially when it makes more of an impression than, say, the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Well, hell, it's the same bummed feeling I get when I am enjoying a magazine and then notice that all the ads are for products we already own. Nobody likes to be a target demographic.

And wow what a nerve-wracking experience that fucking Toys 'R' Us is. Our friend DW lives in NYC but won't go near the place - says it gives her an instant migraine. Luckily, Big Man and Mr. Three are a little young for the whole "I want that!" schtick. We wandered all around the store with nary a request for any of the crap on offer.

I wouldn't move back, not any time soon. I like having a garden and I like being able to get more than 2 errands done in any given day without having to plan a military campaign. It's getting about time I started getting out more though.

I put the best of our pictures on Flickr.

Any ideas?


I learned to knit. Well, I "learned" to "knit".

The above abomination of wool is what happened when I combined a beautiful ball of yarn with some random instructions off the Internet.

Oh My God you say. Put It Away you say. Hey but come on! I finished it, didn't I? I tried different combinations of the knitting and the purling; I bonded with my friends and relatives and neighbors; I even got a little better at counting there toward the end.

It's also a little timeline of interactions: I could show you the point at which Gretchen showed me I was holding the string too tightly; where Kate helped me to not do it backwards; you can see where my mom taught me how to purl; and a couple inches from the end Heidi showed me how to cast off!

So you see, it took half a dozen people and oh, at least 4 months for me to knit something that is too wide and short to be a scarf, and uh, too wide and short and irregular to be actually anything.

You know who it fits? Mr. Three. If Mr. Three were the shawl type, this thing would be the perfect shawl for him.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Literature to chew on

Our favorite board books:

Hug by Jez Alborough

Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton (gets a special endorsement from Big Friend's ma)

Big red barn by by Margaret Wise Brown

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Inside freight trains by Donald Crews

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Jamberry by Bruce Degen (the rhythm of this book is really jazzy and the illustrations keep even older children interested)

Touch and feel: Pets (or any Touch and Feel book) by Nicola Deschamps

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. This book presents the first joke that all kids "get": a puppy doesn't say 'Meow' - that's ridiculous!

Is your mama a llama? by Deborah Guarino. "You are right about that: I think your mama must be a bat!"

Counting kisses by Karen Katz

The snowy day by Ezra Jack Keats

Brown bear, brown bear what do you see? by Bill Martin Jr. You know, I have never liked this book, but I am a member of a miniscule minority in this regard.

Chicka chicka boom boom by Bill Martin Jr. This book, on the other hand, taught Mr. Three all his letters before he was two!

Guess how much I love you by Sam Mcbratney

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I think it was my friend Allison who pointed out that Big Man, at two, resembled Sal even more than he looked like Danny Torrance, so this book will always have a special place for me.

I Stink! by Kate McMullan

Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

Little Bear by Else Holmes Minarik

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli

We’re going on a bear hunt by Helen Oxenbury

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Ten Minutes til Bedtime by Peggy Rathman. These two books by Peggy Rathman are almost wordless but high on interwoven detail. They both work for a large age range.

Peekaboo Kisses by Barney Saltzberg

Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak

Mr. Brown can moo! Can you? by Dr. Seuss

Train Song by Diane Siebert and Michael Wimmer

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw. Very simple but funny and with a great rhythm plus terrific colored pencil illustrations.

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina. The monkeys say "chee chee chee!".

Dinosaur Roar! by Henrietta Stickland and Paul Stickland. The winner and all-time champion favorite little-kid book in our house.

Tails by Matthew Van Fleet. A new entry in the canon. Lots of touchy, wiggly, shiny features.

Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus! by Mo Willems

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I won't deny I'm gonna miss you when you're gone

I had back-to-back satisfying service transactions at the reference desk last week.

What defines a satisfying service transaction when you're a reference librarian? Well, first of all and obviously, you have to be able to answer the question. It's like every person who walks up to the desk is a little standardized test. Nothin' better than filling in that little circle.

Then there are circumstances that bump a transaction up over the simple "question answered" satisfaction level:
  • When you can get someone to read Rats by Robert Sullivan.
  • When you can put a cool novel in the hands of a 13 year old boy (tough customers).
  • And let's face it, when you can demonstrate unexpected erudition.
There are lots of times when I'm at a total loss when asked a question. I don't know anything about law. Investments. Fitness. Most wars.

BUT. When the lady and her boyfriend came looking for this one book? she didn't know the author? and the title was something like, "Confessions of..."? I knew right away she was looking for Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans, erstwhile mistress of Ice-T and girlfriend of Bill Maher of all people. Do you know this book? It is outrageous. I read a few pages last year when it came out. The lack of self-esteem demonstrated by this poor woman is unprecedented. However, she is not without a certain physical confidence. The cover photograph depicts her in almost all her glory, round globular boobs looking like they're tacked on with Velcro, and on the spine is another photo of her, wearing a clingy shirt which she is raising in the front to reveal her underpants.

I looked up the book in our catalog system. Of the 9 copies owned by our branch, all were checked out save one that had just been returned. I found it on the carts of books not yet shelved.

I brought it out to the lady, who was happy and surprised that I had found it. I explained that this particular book is actually quite easy to spot, and showed it to her spine-out. "Kind of an eye-catching picture, wouldn't you say?"

"My lord!" she agreed, and as she thanked me and left the desk I told her to get back to me and let me know whether or not Ms. Steffans locates her pants during the course of the book.

I told Bob about this exchange and he said, "You know, last year, when everyone was looking for this book all the time, I always wanted you to suggest that other Confessions book when this one was unavailable."

"Confessions by Saint Augustine, you mean?"
"Right, you could suggest them as companion volumes. Certain themes carry through, and all that."
"Although I don't think St. Augustine ever gives Jay-Z a blowjob."
"I'd have to read it again, but yeah probably no."


Next were a young pair, kids with dreadlocks and eye makeup, looking for the Biographies. I pointed the way and before they started walking asked if I could help them find a particular book.

"Um, it's about the Red Hot Chili Peppers."
"Oh, did Flea write a book?"
"Uh, no, it's the singer."
"Oh, ok, that'll be under Kiedis then." Tappity-tap. "Looks like we have two copies on the shelf, let's go get it."
I led them away from the desk and behind me the guy said, "You've heard of the Chili Peppers!"
I said, "Well sure, it's not like they're Dir En Gray or something."

I don't know if they had any response to that because, as I say, my back was turned. The fact is, all true satisfaction comes from within.

There was a downside to this particular transaction: I had "Party on Your Pussy" stuck in my head the rest of the night. Bad song to catch yourself singing in public.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Favorite books for kindergartners

Big Man and I came up with this list just before xmas and I thought I'd share. If you have a kid, select books for kids, or like to read picture books (they're totally underrated!) these are some good ones. I have a board book list too, I'll probably post that next week.
  • Chickerella by Mary Jane Auch and Herm Auch. Cool art, and at the end the heroine goes into business with the prince!
  • Maxwell’s Mountain by Shari Becker and Nicole E. Wong. Excellent for discussing projects and planning and reaching past your boundaries.
  • The great kapok tree: A tale of the Amazon rain forest by Lynne Cherry
  • Mixed Beasts by Kenyon Cox and Wallace Edwards. Beautiful, witty illustrations, full of little jokes.
  • Ruby Sings the Blues by Niki Daly. Gotta be ready to holler along with Ruby if you're gonna read this one aloud.
  • The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Desmatons. Fun for all ages. A bottomless source of story and detail, with no words at all!
  • Charlie Cook’s favorite book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Clever and fun celebration of reading.
  • Gakky Two-Feet by Micky Dolenz. The guy from the Monkees writes a book about pre-humans!
  • The Extinct Files: My Science Project by Wallace Edwards
  • Josias, hold the book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren and Nicole Tadgell. A little boy in Haiti learns the value of education. Sweet.
  • Ellsworth's Extraordinary Electric Ears and Other Amazing Alphabet Anecdotes by Valorie Fisher. Cool-looking and full of vocabulary-building detail.
  • Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow by Sarah Garland. A really nice gardening story, with good science mixed in.
  • In the woods: Who’s been here? by Lindsay Barrett George. All of the Lindsay Barrett George picture books are so amazing. This one shows you how to draw conclusions from details of your surroundings.
  • The Monster Show: Everything You Never Knew About Monsters by Charise Mericle Harper. Monsters in underpants, heh heh.
  • Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. The best use of Steve Jenkins' collage illustration style I've seen yet.
  • The Worm family by Tony Johnston and Stacy Innerst. Say it loud! We're worms and we're proud!
  • Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod. Faithful to old-style comic book illustration and concept.
  • If you decide to go to the moon by Faith Mcnulty and Steven Kellogg. Facts about space travel and the moon, with an environmental message.
  • Harvey Potter’s balloon farm by Jerdine Nolen. Trippy.
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser. Celebrating individuality and the concept of more is more.
  • Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery by Kevin O’Malley & Patrick O’Brien. Gorgeous paintings and a real page-turner to boot.
  • The world that loved books by Stephen Parlato. Kaleidescopic illustrations, easy-to-grasp concept.
  • Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Kid goes to MoMA.
  • Mommy? by Maurice Sendak. Totally indulgent pop-up book. Spin the mummy!
  • The Ravenous Beast by Niamh Sharkey. One of the first books a pre-reader can narrate himself, taking cues from the rhythm of the text and the pictures on the page.
  • Wild About Books by Judy Sierra. What's not to love about a ponytailed librarian in hot pink pants parking her bookmobile at the zoo? The insect haiku is a crackup.
  • Henny Penny by Jane Wattenberg. Shake, rattle, and roll! Use a whole lot of crazy hepcat voices to read this crack-a-lackin' version out loud.
  • Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Boston Weatherford. Did you know that the Sears, Roebuck founder funded hundreds of black schools across the South? I didn't.
  • Flotsam by David Wiesner. Another wordless, mind-expanding book from David Wiesner, maybe his best so far.
  • Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus! by Mo Willems. Great role-reversal for kids - they're the ones saying "No!" and you the reader get to have a tantrum in the middle of the book.
  • Leonardo, the terrible monster by Mo Willems. Leonardo is a terrible monster because he's bad at it. Sweet without being gross.
  • Nothing to do by Douglas Wood and Wendy Halperin. Celebrating the kind of things kids get up to when their minds are allowed to wander.
  • Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim and Sophie Blackall. Inspiring true story about a Chinese girl who wants more than her traditional role dictates.

How to get ahead in libraryland

Be wild! And enjoy Hubert Selby.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Take me to your backwoods now...

Not too sure this is funny removed from its context and with all identifying details expunged, but here goes: this is an email announcing the completion of renovations at a local library.
Hi all,
When we opened for business this morning, our new rear entrance made its debut! Our bookdrop has also returned to service.

If you haven't had the opportunity to see the new back door and entryway, please stop by when you're in the neighborhood.

We are planning for a formal ribbon-cutting; details will be forthcoming.

Your Hometown Library Branch

Seriously, like WTF you figure a "bookdrop" could be? (Please do NOT submit your ideas.) And the images conjured by the "ribbon-cutting" - oh! be careful with those scissors!

Now, I've looked at this carefully, and I think there's actually no way to write this message without creating a double entendre. The manager in question has done a fine job, and only I and a few of my less-mature friends (hi!) are going to get all Beavis & Butt-Head over it. Please don't fire me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Shimajiro Toilet Training

Follow the bouncing poo.

If you stick it out til the end you get an extra bonus: "Victory is mine!" sayeth the toddler.

Link courtesy James Nash. Rock on, Itoko-chan! Big girl underpants rule!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Not like Stephen Stills

12 30 06 055

I love it when my guys have shaggy, floppy hair. I picture them as these untamed-looking creatures streaking down the soccer field, hair streaming out behind. Big Man, in particular, has a very thick head of hair and when it gets long it's a real mane. There's kind of a resemblance to Danny Torrance in The Shining, but really only a few people besides me see it. (Andrew and Miguel, thanks a lot guys)

Unfortunately, my sons don't like their hair long. They'd gotten kind of unkempt over Christmas and both of 'em have been complaining about it being in their eyes.

So the other day, everyone's just kind of randomly messing around, I'm paying bills on the computer, and I hear that soft crick-crick scissors sound. I whirl around and there is the Big Man with a fistful of hair in one hand and his new scissors in the other.

Deep breath.
"Ok, first of all, I probably have never told you not to do that, but, um, don't do that. And really don't do that to your brother ever, ok?"
"Second? Saddle up, gentlemen. I have received your message loud and clear, and you will be please to hear that today is Haircut Day!"

His hair's so thick that a little later, when he was in the chair at the Hair Cuttery, the lady couldn't find where he'd taken the hunk out. They both insisted on getting "sideburns" though. They think sideburns are cool. I think it makes 'em look like Romulans.

I met an Irish guy in an Australian pub in Avignon one time. He was kind of a pain. He wore his hair buzzed so short it was just shy of shaved. In the course of winding me up, he told me that he was in the French Foreign Legion. I didn't realize that the French Foreign Legion still existed, but I wasn't about to mention that and open a whole 'nother avenue of derision (and why do some guys think that's flirtatious?), so I passed off his revelation with, "Well, that explains the haircut then." He reared back on his barstool and bellowed: "Haircut? HAIRcut!?! Me hair doesn't GROW any longer than this!"

Northern Irish Legionnaires. I could probably live without 'em.