free hit counter Snacks, please!: June 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Aw, shit.

For the second time today, I've heard my dear sweet Lucylu struggle to do something and then exclaim, "Dammit!" As in, this stupid Play-Doh container won't open! Or, I can't get my strawberry sandal on!

I'm not saying anything.

Lil JoS is in the House!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Who you calling fruitcake??

I've decided to enter a fruitcake in this year's county fair competition. I have never made one before... but I've looked at the different entry categories and I think this is my best bet. Or not. (Auntie Pamela argues that my competitors will have tested heirloom recipes. But I think that particular demographic is dying off and so, the competition won't be that stiff. Or it will be! haha.)

Anyhoo, here's my dilemma. Should I go with a traditional fruitcake recipe like this one, and buy super-good glaceed fruits from a fancy Internet seller? Or should I try to do something a little more contemporary -- for example, Gourmet's coffee fruitcake, or this dried cherry-almond fruitcake, or this one with marzipan and dried fruit? Marzipan!

Chocolate-orange fruitcake?
Too crazy??

Apricot-pistachio fruitcake??

Auntie Pamela (who will be multitasking with chocolate-zucchini quick bread plus her fabulous needlecraft) dug up this Southern Living recipe for a celebratory Kwanza Black Cake. Somehow I doubt it was ever served at her Mawmaw's table.

I want a ribbon! And I think it's not out of the realm of possibility. (What is??) So please advise. (I'm counting on you, Jane from Florida!) It's too late for me to get creative with the "rock people." Yes, that's really a category!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Margaret? It's Rummie on the phone again.

I took the babies for blood tests yesterday. Oh, how I dreaded it! More than three months ago, their conscientious doctor wrote scrips for anemia/lead screens, and somehow I managed to lose them under a mountain of chocolate wrappers and CA Pizza Kitchen coupons... My friend Meg told me she evaded the needle for her daughter's first three years. Inspiration!! But I got cornered by the ped a couple of weeks ago -- "Uh...lead? Um...oh, I dunno."

Lucy told me, "I don't want to go to the blood doctor with the babies! I can't stand to hear them cry!" Oh, tell me about it, big girl!

First up, Margaret. She has bigger arms. Should be easier, I witlessly decide. She smiles up at the young technician, who groans, "I feel like a monster." Yeah, well... The needle is tiny and has a pretty blue butterfly on it. Margaret is delighted! The alcohol swab is cold and soft. Margaret is mystified! And then, bango! There's a hole in her arm. And Margaret is annoyed.

"Eh!" she says, as the tech moves the needle (in her arm!) from the left to the right, searching for a vein. Margaret tries to pull her arm away and says it again, this time with a little more tone, "EH!" (You are incompetent!) And then she says NOTHING ELSE. She even gives over her second arm for a second poke.

Surely Josephine will cry. But no. She doesn't. She looks suspiciously at the tech and rightly refuses to smile. (You don't fool me!!) But she doesn't blink.

"They didn't even cry!" Lucy marvels.


In other news, the babies are leading another anti-terrorism seminar in McLean this weekend, and their work in Guantanamo was apparently very well-received. I do worry that they're up to no good, I mean, come on, why has VP DICK suddenly appeared in our speed dial list?? But they don't tell me anything.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Wench with a Wrench

It's with great trepidation that David lets me go away on little trips, and vice versa. Because, like Auntie Pamela says, we have a Horde of Children -- and it's a bit much for one person to manage. So I was a little wistful when I bid adieu to my Easy Rider on Friday. He was off for 48 hours of motorcycle-riding and cow-tipping and I was waiting for Pamela to get OVER HERE ALREADY!!

No, no, no, it's all under control. Totally. I made Sloppy Joe's for dinner. Sang the Eensy-Weensy Spider...oh, about a hundred time. Everybody ate. Everybody's hands got washed. My! Things are going so well, I think I might just clean out the fridge! This fancy fusilli needs to go... right down the disposal.

Hm. That's interesting.

The water. is. not. moving.

Girls! Let's go to the park!

Back from the park, and still. The water. is. not. moving. It appears to be... what's that word? It's some technical plumbing word... Oh yes, it appears to be clogged like a kid who eats nothing but macaroni and cheese. We have a message on the phone. Is it from David? Saying he misses us too much to carry on? No. It's from Auntie Pamela. Should she bring anything over on Saturday?

I call back. Yes. Drano.

By Saturday morning, the water in the sink has decreased a few inches, but the saint for single parents and spontaneous flushing did not come to our house. No miracles here. We pour some Drano in. And we go to the park again.

Well, goddamnit. This Drano stuff isn't worth the money that I didn't pay for it. So, I could call a plumber... (On a Saturday?! I'd have to tap the 401K.) No, I can do this myself. I have changed tires. And I used to drink with a plumber. No problem. Pamela is very helpful. She points out that the pipes are full of acid now. You need goggles, she says. Hm. Probably. We march into the cellar and find all sorts of wrenches and whatnot in David's big red toolbox. Did this come with the house, Pamela asks. No! David fixes things, I say.

Where the hell is he, again??

Dressed for chemical warfare:

You might think it was overkill... But, as soon as I got one pipe loosened, I got hit by a spray of Poisonwood acid and I swear it ate through my favorite Georgetown sweatshirt. Aiieee! The pipe wrench is killing me. How the hell does this goddamn thing work? My back hurts. My back hurts, Pamela!! Plumbers lay on their backs, she advises me. Like hell, I'm going to lay prone under a half-gallon of acid-filled pipes. Aieee! It's off! The big pipe is off! Oh look! There's some fusilli!!

I put it all back together again. Wowee! I am a plumber! Turn on the water. And. Oh. My. God. It is. still. not. moving. Jesus Christ. I have to take it apart again! And now I'm in the mines. There's some black stuff in the pipe that goes into the wall that reminds me of digging for clams in Cape Cod Bay. It's disgusting. You know what? I need a snake.

First I need to play Scrabulous.

Okay, now I need to go to the hardware store and get a snake. And a little watermelon plant to cheer me up. At this point, it's 3 p.m. and our au pair appears for breakfast. What is going on? I can not begin to explain. The snake pulls out all sorts of crap. Hopefully not literally.

That's it!! I'm done. If there's more stuff in there, it's going to have to wait for that husband of mine, who is blithely tooling around the hills of West Virginia, eating pan-seared tuna and sharing a smoking room with his "riding partner."


But I don't care because it works! Our sink drains! Woohoo! And I can just put this handy gallon-sized Tupperware under the new leak that I've created and wait for David to come home...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nononono! Josephinie!

I know some of you all have been worried about Eenie-Weenie Josephinie. She's almost 16 months old -- but still slides those 9-month-old pants right over her teeny tushie. At 18 lbs. 10 oz., she's clinging to the 3rd percentile on the weight chart for obsessive parents. So small!

Anyhoo, you might think, Poor Josephine! Big Margaret has four-plus pounds on her, plus such a dramatic war-cry... And Dr. Lucy, Esq., not only has the benefit of much greater size (compared to a baby), but a superior intellect. (Lucy's favorite three words these days: "I knooow that!")

Well. You be the judge.

Poor Lucylu! Attacked by a pigeon-toed devil with an aluminum sugar spoon -- and where's her neglectful mother?? (Every time Josephine pauses, it's because I am yelling, "Josephine! Nonononono!!!") Meanwhile, away from the camera's eye, Margaret is flipping open my new cell phone (replaced after Josephine drowned the last one in spit) and yelling, "Hi-yo? Hi-yo?"

Yes, Margaret talks! She says, "Hi-yo!" And she says, "Uh-oh." Josephine says a lot of mamamama, which encourages me to drop everything and shout, "Mama! Yay! That's me! I'm Mama!!!" and then cover her in kisses. But until Josephine actually pats my knee with a Cheerio-dusted palm and -- at the same time -- says, "Mama!" you might as well call me Thomas, because I certainly have my doubts about her vocabulary. (I think it's more likely that she's saying something like "Kitty" in a meaningful way.)

So, there you go. She doesn't talk and she trips around the house like a cross between the wild-haired Gypsies and Ralphie Cifaretto. But she's my cutie-patootie and I am sure that someday she'll use that spoon for eating...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Margaret has learned to kiss! She surprised me yesterday with a big smackeroo on the lips (slightly parted, of course) while we were sitting on the couch, flipping through a baby faces book.


Photo credit: Lucylu.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Did somebody clean my desk??

Work is all kinds of crazy these days -- except the good kind, which usually involves Miller Lite and Midnight Oil. But, since I fear that I'll be sent to Siberia (which is somewhere north of the Beltway, right?) if I whine too much... I must be mum. Mummm. Let me just say this: People here speak in acronyms. And I never know what they mean.

(I should just be grateful to have a paycheck. Really. I am grateful. (Could it be just a wee bit bigger??) While I sit here whining, my former colleagues in newspapers are dropping like flies. Buyouts here. Layoffs there. Oh! So depressing. )

Anyway, I'm reading this book, "Then We Came to the End," which is supposedly about life in an advertising office, but I'm beginning to secretly suspect that C., the woman who works across the hall from me, wrote it during a staff meeting last week. (They're very long staff meetings.)

To wit, an excerpt, about their boss:

"She usually didn't respond, but when she did, her communiques were brief, inconclusive, and often bewildering. She might leave us a voice mail that said, 'Forget about it,' or drop an e-mail that said only, 'Don't worry so much -- Lynn.' We spent hours trying to decode these simple messages. We went into other people's offices, demanded they stop what they were doing, and conscripted them into the ceaseless political labors of puzzling out her woefully inadequate responses. 'Don't worry so much?' we asked each other. 'Why not at all?'"

It's very funny stuff. I can't quite get my head around the narrative voice -- which is some kind of multiple first-person, i.e, it's WE, which is a little strange. And, in parts, it does tend to go on and on... But it's uncomfortably spot on. Aiee! (Girlfriend, why are you still working here, when you've got a bestseller on your hands??)

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Open Letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

You keep calling me, "Mary," not "Mary Ellen."

It's annoying the heck out of me and I believe indicates a persistent anti-Catholic bias in your software applications. Please do something about this! I do not want to call in Rome!

Thank you,


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oh, and my name is Mary Ellen

What good fortune! A work trip to CT earlier this week just happened to coincide with the occasion of my eldest niece's high school graduation. Serendipity! Thank you gods of fate! (And, to my old friend who shakes his head like St. Francis and says, "You're always conniving..." I say, "Pah!")

Anyhoo, Sarah looked beautiful, as always. The valedictorian speech was amusing -- "I am a nerd," he said. "But we all bring something different to the table, even within these assigned labels. The football players, for example, have... different names, I think." The principal was deadly boring. The graduate who just had a baby was enviably thin. The Panera veggie sandwiches were excellent!

Aaandd...we met Sarah's new "friend," named Fabian.

"Damien, nice to meet you!" booms my father. "It's Fabian," I say. "Fabian? Faaaa-bian?" "Christ! Yes! Fabian!" "I thought it was Famien," Mollie says. "You know, like Damien? But with an F?" "I have never even heard of that name. It's Fabian." "I think he's gay," Sharon whispers, "his name is Fabian and he has two earrings." "Sharon!" my mother hisses. "Famien is not gay," Mollie says outraged. Meanwhile, my sister Kathy calls him Fabio and says, "I'm sure they're just friends anyway." "Ha!" I say.

But we agree on this: He is nice. He saved us seats! And his father owns a chocolate factory in New Hampshire. We love chocolate! On the stroll back from the ceremony, we practice again: It's Fabian, Dad. "Like the singer," he nods. "Fabian," he repeats. "Fabian," Mollie agrees. Okay. Bye Sarah! Bye Fabian! Hugs, hugs. My father shakes his hand warmly. "Damien! Great to meet you!"


Later, David calls. We met Sarah's boyfriend, I tell him. He's Swiss and his name is Fabian. "Oh," he says. "That's actually 'Fah-bien.'"

The hair

The babies get a lot of, "Oh, look at those curls!" while we're strolling around town. And then, with a suspicious nod toward my own not-so-curly hair, they ask, "Where does it come from??"

Well, my sister Sharon does have curly hair, although you wouldn't have known it if you met her anytime between 1983 and 2006, during which time she entrapped a small Asian man-servant in her guest bathroom, for the singular purpose of blowing out her curls with a high-power dryer and a round brush. (Now she pleads, "Whatever you do, don't cut it short and send them to school with little Afros and plaid pants.")

Anyway... Behold.

Josephinie's hair, at the end of a long day:

And Margaret...

Aaah! The humidity!

Monday, June 9, 2008

From the desk of...

Dear Lucy's Mother,

I am writing to express my deep disapproval of your conduct this weekend and to formally ask you to desist in any future contact or "conversation" with my son, E. You should know that we have consulted an attorney and, while we do not believe it would be in E.'s best interests to pursue litigation at this point, we do believe we have the grounds to seek compensation for damage caused to E.'s self-esteem by your tirade at Sean's birthday party.

First, let me make this clear: E.'s behavior should be none of your concern. Whether or not he wrests toys from other children's hands, refuses to take turns or share, and pushes and shoves his friends -- and we would dispute the veracity of any of these accusations, or at least point to developmental issues that may make him irresponsible re: decision-making, etc., this is none of your business. You acted inappropriately when you raised your voice and said such things as, "E.! What are you doing?!"

Furthermore, we believe that your instructions to E.: "You need to share" and/or "You need to take turns," are patently misleading. I am a financial adviser and my husband works for the U.S. Department of State -- in other words, we are a typical Arlington couple -- and it is our experience that "taking turns" and "sharing" are not very profitable skills, nor do they bring much reward in the 21st century global community.

It is our hope that this letter should serve, not only as a stop-gap measure until we can get judicial approval of a restraining order, but as a wake-up call to you. Please reflect upon your behavior.

Thank you,
E.'s mother

P.S. It is completely appropriate to drop-off a high-spirited 3-year-old at a birthday party without parental supervision. Your whispered comments about Social Services were overheard -- and not appreciated!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thank God my student loans are paid off...

blog readability test

First Ms. Card makes me feel smart. Look! I read a big book too! But now... I check out her blog and find this handy "reading level" tool and then I find out I'm an idiot! (Where did I go wrong? Is it my endemic use of the exclamation point? Oh! Now that I've used endemic (again and again, I say, it's endemic) will my level go up??


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Says Lucy

When faced with a big pile of shoes on the floor of my room:

"All these shoes are making me try them on!"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer reading

Fellow twin-mama and blogger, What a Card, has reminded me of a post I've been wanting to write on good books, bad books. Like Mrs. Card, the Crock Pot Queen, I loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. (We're probably the last people in America to read it. But hey, it's difficult to maintain the life of avid reader and make dinner every night...)

Here's my question: Is Oscar successful in the end? He's a big mess of misery during most of the book, cursed and lonely, mired in a fantasy life of fictional quests and unrequited love. In the end, is the reality of his "relationship" any different? I'm an optimist, so shall say yes.

Anyway, Oscar Wao is successful, as a book, in my opinion, because there is narrative movement. Lots and lots of it. Your basic story has to move somewhere, I believe -- and do it in a fairly dramatic way -- to satisfy readers. Even in books like The Sea, where there's not much action-Jackson, Banville's characters are still moseying along this incredible internal journey.

I have illustrated this concept. See?
Below, the narrative arc of Little Red Riding Hood.
Critics call it "simple, yet compelling!"

Monday, June 2, 2008

Calling all hobos!

Look! Here's where we stayed this past weekend. Yes, it's a caboose! A real one. The owner bought a whole bunch at an auction and created this little train paradise near Lancaster, Penn., for the kiddos who say things like, "Mama! Get ready to buffer!"

Lucy isn't totally train-obsessed, but her friend Anya is. (The train fairy comes to her house and leaves engines under her pillow.) But Lucy does like them plenty -- no less than she likes horses, princesses and sailboats -- so it seemed like a good way to spend a weekend. (She really loves gorillas.) Plus, we got to get out of town with our old neighbors and friends -- Anya and Ella's parents.

(And hopefully Anya's won't mind if I share her photo with the can't really see Ella, unfortunately. That's Anya's brother -- the sole boy among the seven kiddos...)

Oh, how I miss our old neighborhood!! Why did we ever move?? Schools? Everybody else seems to be working out their school issues without leaving the District... (Quick: Think of something good about the damn suburbs!! Oh, yes. I can go running. And we all can stroll to dinner.)

Anyhoo, we all stayed at the Red Caboose Motel, which had both a playground and petting zoo! There was a Naughty Goat who hit his friends and stole their food. And there also was a Wild Goat who took mighty leaps outside of his pen. There also were two lambs and a Mommy, who gave little nibbly kisses, which was all fun and good, until the Mommy tried to eat Josephine's fingers.

This is Josephine, pre-nibble:

This is Margaret, post-nibble:

And, this is Lucy, checking out a clutch of eggs:

Anyhoo, a few observations:

The old train engines are scary looking! So big and black and scarred by rivets. You can imagine they must have been terrifying to first behold, snorting and billowing across the plains.

"Picture yourself Amish" is a sort of offensive concept, no? It requires people to dress like the Amish -- with fake beards, bare feet and pitchforks -- for souvenir photos. First of all, the real Amish don't want you take their picture. ("We'd rather you didn't, thank you" -- overheard at the National Zoo, Spring 2008.) Second, can you imagine "Picture Yourself Catholic" with black habits and plastic rosaries? Or "Picture Yourself Jewish" with yarmulkes and pocket protectors? hee. No, you can't.

We did like to see their buggies.

Out there in the wilderness, people are shockingly fat. And they smoke. And then they buy matching brown Hershey Chocolate t-shirts, which are not very flattering. Is it possible that we live in a health-obsessed part of the country? Or is it possible that the big eaters all like to go to Pennsylvania Dutch country? I'm leaning toward the latter. I'm thinking they're called there by the smorgasbord.

We went to one of those places for lunch yesterday and, although I passed on the whole smorga, I did get the salad, soup and bread bar -- which provided corn soup for Lucy, a pink pickled egg for Josephinie, and rice pudding for Margaret. David ordered the Pennsylvania Dutch Ham Balls. Woo-hoo, baby! There's just more of you to love...

We'll have to go back. Although we rode the scenic Strasbourg steam line and visited the toy train museum, there was plenty of stuff we didn't get to do. (The last we saw of Anya, her unfeeling mother was dragging her off to some stupid amusement park with carnival rides and spray water attractions and Anya was arguing, "But there are more trains to see!!") Also, I did not get to buy Amish vegetables or spend scads on a quilted wall hanging. I would like to get one with sequins, but I'm afraid I'll have to Picture Myself Wealthy to get that done.

One last photo, of the girls running to meet the train: