free hit counter Snacks, please!: November 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

First bell

So now Lucy wants to be a teacher. And this is the way her lessons go:

"Josephine. Josephine. Say duck."


"Good job!! Say headband."


"Say headband. Headband. Head. Band. Headband. Headband. HEADBAND!"


"Okay. You don't want to say headband? Okay. Say blueberry."

Josephine does love a K word. Book. Duck. Cookie.

What else is going on with my Lucylu?

I told her about how I took a spill on my run this morning. "Oh no!" she said. "Did you cry?" "Noooo, I didn't cry." "What did you think?" "I thought, 'Oh no! My hands hurt now! Ow! Ow! Ow!'" "Um-hm," she said. "When I fall down I think, 'Oh no! Where's Mommy and Daddy?' Because that's what children think."

More about what I think...I've been searching and searching the house, which is not that big, for a Haitian sequin tapestry that David and I bought in Key West a long time ago. It's a voodoo mermaid. (A good one, I hope?) I've decided to have a Christmas cookie party for my neighbors and I'm pretty sure I won't have to clean or anything, if I could just find and frame my sequin mermaid. Who would notice the dirt on the windowsill?? But I couldn't find it anywhere! Eventually I decided that maybe I had already brought it to the framing shop and just forgot about it. I sort of vaguely remembered standing there at the counter, talking about black wood. But then my sister and I had just had a conversation about real and imagined memories, and I wasn't sure which this was. The only option was to call:

"Um, hi. This is Mary Ellen...Uh, is it possible that I left a Haitian voodoo mermaid at your shop?" "What?" "Yes, it's a Haitian voodoo mermaid, made out of sequins. It's, uh, a rather unique piece. I can't find it and think that maybe I already brought it to you? But it's also possible this is an imagined memory." "We don't have anything like that." "Are you sure? Do you want to look?" "No ma'am, I'm sure."

In a box, people!! In a flowered box marked "Grandma's china," which I can assure you none of my grandmothers ever were called or owned, I found it yesterday -- wrapped in a plastic grocery store bag. So I brought it to the frame shop today and the guy said, "Ohhhh, you're the one who called..."

Hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Oh! Oh! One more Lucy story, speaking of Thanksgiving. I made a turkey last weekend, well... just 50 cents a pound! And we had it twice, or thrice, and then Thursday, of course, and then Friday... "We just ate this," she wailed last night. "Mommy! We just ate this! You do this ev-er-y time! We had this yesterday!" (Isn't she ungrateful? I slaved over those leftovers...) "Well, when you grow up, you can make dinner and it can be different every night. I, for one, can't wait! Won't that be nice?" Silence. "Yes. But it doesn't help me now."

Monday, November 24, 2008

The check's in the mail...

I had to do a little business on the Aetna website tonight... (David has lost some of his receipts for medical expenses and needs them to get reimbursed from his flex spending account.) Anyhoo, just for fun, I added up Margaret and Josephine's medical bills to date...


Three hundred and fifteen thousand, four hundred and thirty-three dollars.

On the whole, little Josephine has not been such a big bargain.

Can you imagine if we didn't have health insurance??? Like more than 45 million Americans??

Totally unrelated, Lucy just picked up a random photo of her and her friend Anya and said, "I just got married in this picture... (pause) I am such a grown up."

Repeal Prop 8!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The day I moved to Ireland, bags packed and ready for the trip to JFK, my mother stood in the driveway with a new roll of silver duct tape in her hand. "Just take this!" she said. "You might need it."

With that in mind, I certainly wasn't surprised when Homeland Security recommended a few years back that Americans prepare for biological terrorist attacks with a stash of duct tape and plastic sheeting. Duct tape could probably stop climate change, if we could just figure out how to stick it to the sun.

But, a more pressing question: How can I keep it stuck to Josephinie??

My teeny-weeny Josephinie has a plantar wart on her foot. I took her to our lovely pediatrician this week, who referred us to a dermatologist who will almost certainly freeze it off with liquid nitrogen. Aaieee! Since I still have a gigantic scar on my foot from that same procedure, I'm thinking... NO.

My older sister, who is not a doctor, but is sort of bossy, says, "Duct tape!!" (Lucy, by the way, says "Duck tape!!") And, in fact, a 2002 Harrrrvard study found that duct tape -- stuck to your foot for six whole days -- actually works better than freezing! yay!

The problem is, first Josephine takes off her shoe. Then she yanks off her socks. And then, after giggling in delight at the sight of her silvered heel, she picks at the edges of the tape with a tiny little finger, until she can peel it off and stick it to her knee.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lucy is 4.

Like Lucy says (to her father, never to me...sniff): "Where have you been? I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for you? It was so, so, so, so, SO LONG!"

Ah. You didn't even notice...

Well. Lucy is 4. And between all of that excitement, plus lots and lots of work, work, work, I've been like a bee. Busy. Not stinging anyone. Or dying with half of my butt in some kiddo's calf. But just busy all the same.

Lucy is 4!! The other day, she picked up a Maxfli golf ball and slowly turned it over in her hands, reading the letters very carefully: "This...ball...can be 4-year-olds!"

For weeks before her birthday, she'd stand in front of me, posture perfect, and ask, "Do I look four now?" And I'd say, "Almost!" Now she balances on her tippiest-toes and asks, "Do I look five now??"

It's hard to believe she's 4. That's pretty old. I remember 4, which makes me think: 1) That it's almost the beginning of real life. and 2) I better watch what I say and do around her...

Today, with a little help, she read a word: MAP. Then MAD. And then, she ran into the bathroom, surprising David in the shower, "Where's my Clifford book? I need to see the letters in DOG."

You see what I'm saying here?? She's brilliant!!

She still says she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. But, at the same time, she refuses to accompany the babies to any appointments where they might suffer a shot. She can't stand the crying.

Her favorite book: "I Want to Be an Astronaut."
Her favorite song: "Baby Beluga."
Her favorite, most annoying thing to say: "I tole you!!"

At school, we hear, she is quiet and watchful. She likes to draw big-headed people and put together animal puzzles. But at home, she climbs on the dining room table and leads her crazy little sisters in a stomping tarantella.

Mostly, she is a kind, diligent sister. "Josephinie! If you don't eat your dinner, you'll never get big and fat like Poppa!" or "Margaret!! No taking! You are a very naughty girl!" She wags her finger at her babies and they wag right back, chattering in excited tones, "Nenennenee!" (I swear they're exactly like the monkeys in Caps For Sale.)

Everything that Lucy does, the babies want to do. Exactly. Especially Margaret. Lucy convinces Margaret, at least once a week, to collapse perfectly still on the floor so that Lucy can undress her. The idea is to redress her in some crazy costume, but that part is much harder.

At the same time, of course, my Lulu-love is still likely to fall to pieces when some injustice is committed against her, which happens all too often in this Congo-like state of ours. At those times, she needs her... wait a second! The nipple is gone! Oh, sweet nipple...

"I tole you I needed it!!"

Oh, how Lucy loved her dying Dr. Brown's nipples. One was bad. It had a hole. One was good. More than good, it was like strawberry milk and cuddles and Dol-fin and chicken nuggets with ranch dressing and everything perfect in this world. Back when she was 3, she gave up the bottle. But she clung to the nipple. Squeak! Squeak! It was kind of convenient to be able to hear her, all through the house. But bad for her bite. And we had been telling her for months -- as did her pediatrician and dentist -- that it would have to go at 4.

So we boxed it up and sent it to Santa Claus, who it turns out went to high school with Lucy's Poppa! What a coincidence. Lucy figured it out -- two white-haired heads and two big jolly bellies. They must be friends, right?

Anyway, we celebrated Lucy's birthday a big moon bounce party. Except... through bureaucratic incompetence (what kind of nincompoops work for Arlington County???) the moon bounce never showed up! I wrote a letter, sent it to the county board chair, county manager, etc. Me, at my meanest: "In tight economic times, perhaps the county should focus its resources on services that it actually can deliver to county residents."

Aha! That was mean, right? But I still haven't gotten a response.

In the meantime, life goes on. We bounce around just fine without it.

(Did you see the cake?? Eight turrets!!)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mission Impossible

From: M
To: Agents

Re: Trouble on Spy Hill

It is with great regret that I must inform you that Agent 009 has been compromised. On 14:00, 2 Nov 2008, The Woman made a positive visual confirmation of our comrade in arms. Just nose and whiskers, it must be said...but, of course, Agent 009 must be reassigned to another battleground, as soon as his hearing is restored.

This is an unfortunate development for several reasons. One, The Woman had begun to doubt our very existence. Psych ops by The Man, our secret Double Agent in The House, had been so effective that The Woman had nearly been convinced that our extensive tunnel system belonged to chipmunks. (As if! Our idiot cousins couldn't dig a grave!) Consider this: On the day of Agent 009's unfortunate exposure, The Woman was wearing her running shoes without socks -- just inches away from headquarters. Two months ago, she insisted on those ridiculous knee-high rubber boots.

Now, it's likely that The Humans will strike with renewed vigor. I heard The Child ask, "Can Daddy hit them on their backs with Poison Ivy? Then they will die?" (I got chills! What are they developing in their labs??) The Woman is talking about Poison Cookies. Be vigilant, comrades! Do not eat anything that smells good! I am talking to you, Agent 006! Put down the Golden Oreo!

We must expect that The Man will go along with her plans. He is no Philby. But, to date, there appears to be little suspicion around our other secret Double Agent, The Cat. She has effectively tamped down any talk of "Rat Terriers," (good god! doesn't the very name give you the shakes??!) and she should be rewarded with the bodies of chipmunks. Send out cousin Alvin. I am tired of his singing.

Take heart, comrades! We will prevail!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At the polling place

4:30 a.m. -- Alarm goes off. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and pack my breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus two tea bags and three Advil into a shoulder bag and walk into the night.

5 a.m. -- What?! There's already voters here?? And, oh dear... the precinct captain left half of our machines in her living room. Quick! Give the oath! Get back in your car! Hm. I am not the youngest poll worker. There's a girl here with funky glasses and green suede shoes. She screams Democrat!! Mr. Robinson is 81 and he just took a class in computers. I like him the best. James also is retired and has a fake Irish accent. I like him okay too.

The captain is back: Quick! She needs six volunteers to set up the machines. I hide. Machines? Really? Probably not my strength. I hang the signs (very competently!!) and try to figure out who is a Republican. The polling place must have at least one. You, church lady in the red sweater and ugly shoes. It's you, I know it.

6 a.m. -- The line is down the block, past the playground, around the corner. My new job, since I did so well with the signs, is making sure people aren't supposed to be voting in the Lutheran Church a half-mile away. "Hello! Have you voted here before? No? Mind if I look you up?" Some people are insulted. "I've voted here for 36 years!" I see some neighbors. They tell me they have a motion-sensor camera in their backyard and they have a fox and a deer! I have a rat, I tell them. What? Did I just say that? I think I did not sleep enough.

I meet the Republican Party rep. He has long hair and a North Face rain jacket. Even with more sleep, I wouldn't have guessed it. Is this what Northern Virginia Republicans look like? There is a whole bunch of people here from "Protect the Vote" and the Civil Rights division of the American Bar Association. I think they are watching me. I might try to intimidate voters! Stop talking about rat, I think to myself.

After a couple of hours, I come back in.

Aw shit. It's 7 a.m.

8 a.m. -- Lucy is having a moon bounce party, I tell the guy from across the street. Y'all want to come? It's a princess moonbounce party. No need to bring a present. The captain is giving me nasty looks. You can work a machine, she tells me. Machine?? Aie.

9 a.m. -- We are not supposed to push the vote button. If somebody walks away from their machine without pushing the last button, we are supposed to tell the chief and throw their vote away. I think this is mean. I resolve to break state law and help stupid people cast their ballots. I am waiting and waiting for somebody stupid!! But everybody figures it out.

10 a.m. -- Coffee cake. Pumpkin bread. James just got back from Ireland. He loves the Aran Islands. So do I! Phil just got back from China and Tibet. Fascinating. Mary is very sweet. But I think she might be a know-it-all. Her husband John -- sourpuss! (Is it him??) Hal works in the theater. He is offended when I say $80 is too much for the Lieutenant of Inishmore, even if it is great. Still, he can't possibly be the Republican. In theater?? Ed is 81. He used to do the lights in the Smithsonian American history museum. Bob was in the Peace Corps in Minnesota? What? No, North Africa. We figure out we went to the same college. He is amused. We didn't have girls when I went there, he says.

11 a.m. -- We are not supposed to look at people's screens while they are voting. But how can you figure out what they're doing wrong if you can't peek? They say, "It's not working! It's blinking!" and you say, "Um...what's wrong?" And they say, "It's not working!" I peek. Oh, it wants you to vote for two school board candidates, I say. And Obama. Oh no, I don't say that! Ha. "Do I want to vote for a new CRA?" one lady asks. "Well..." I say. (No!!) "If you're not sure, maybe you should just skip it."

noon -- Oh my God. I have been here seven hours.

1 p.m. -- I resolve not to take my three Advil until 5, at least.

2 p.m. -- Where are the voters?? I have a rat in my front yard, I tell somebody. Where exactly do you live, they ask.

3 p.m. -- There are quite a few first-time voters. We cheer for all of them. One lady comes to the polling place straight from her neurosurgeon's office. Something is wrong with her spine and Ed takes her arm, helping her to a voting machine. Another guy shows up and he has the hospital nursery bracelet around his wrist. He just had a baby, I whisper to James. An old man comes in. That poor guy has scoliosis, says Ed. He is bent practically in half and has to raise his head to meet our eyes. And we are sitting down.

4 p.m. -- Oatmeal cookies.

5 p.m. -- I would like the Advil, but I think I should wait. We think there's going to be a post-work rush, but who? This precinct has 2,400 voters -- 700 voted absentee, 700 voted before 8 a.m., and the day has been steady...

6 p.m. -- People come in, shocked that there's no line. One couple says they hired a babysitter for two hours so they could leave their kids at home. Go out to dinner, we say. One more hour!

7 p.m. -- Polls close!! We had nearly 90 percent turnout! The doors are locked. I am trapped inside with 16 old people, one girl in green suede shoes who takes out a book in Latin, and three poll-watchers. James tells me one is a Republican. The guys in the suit. Really? He looks so nice. But he is wearing a suit. I think the Italian kid in the sweaty golf shirt must be some kind of liberal. The old people get to work on tabulation. I am asked to take down the signs.

8 p.m. -- The old people are still tabulating the machines.

9 p.m. -- The old people are still tabulating the machines.

10 p.m. -- The old people are still tabulating the machines. Meanwhile, results are coming in on the suit's iPhone. Virginia is 50-50! Wait until they get our precinct, says James. They're going to call California before they call Arlington, I snip.

The gloves are off. James says that this part of the county is so Democratic because we are so well-educated. The guy in the suit says he's not a Republican, he's an Independent. But the Italian kid in the sweaty golf shirt is a Republican! I would never have figured that. Staten Island, I muse. I want James to straighten him out. Donna says she works for a labor union. But it's just a job. Goddamnit, she is the Republican! The guy in the suit shares more results. Green suede shoes stifles a shriek. You need to try, I whisper. Game face, she whispers back. At least until the sweaty Republican leaves.

10:30 p.m. -- We're done! James drives me home. He lives just one block away and says I must join the neighborhood's coffee club. He says my yard looks much better. I bite my tongue. At home, David is studying the NYTimes map. Virginia is blue! Virginia is blue! And they don't even have Arlington's results!!

Now I can rest.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Look! Three...animals!