Saturday, January 28, 2006

I'm ethnic, you're ethnic, he/she/it is ethnic...

The Ethnic Float:

Note Danish nisse sticker, doled out by RW from her special stash, and the moose, strategically parked at the corner of Denmark and Wyoming. (We had to wedge him in the corner because otherwise he flopped right over, despite the cork stuffed into his empty little finger-puppet body.)

Er, not that there are any moose in Denmark. Except possibly at the zoo. RW thinks there might be some in Norway, where we have no relatives.

The Statue of Liberty, creating a 3-D effect in front of an old postcard of mine. That orange blob taped in front of it is a plastic camel. It's supposed to represent Israel, as is the silver Chanukah gelt to the left.

Vancouver, of course, is for Uncle Skaterboy. It's also where MG was, uh, started. We didn't actually go into that with her. Too busy teaching her how to make masking-tape loops to hold everything down.

So, it turns out, all it takes is one little kink in our schedule and everything falls apart. In this case, that was the Ethnic Potluck, which was a sweet and valiant attempt to make the most of what little ethnic diversity there is at Mermaid Girl's blindingly monochromatic elementary school (about which I should just cease taking potshots, since--as dawned on me about this time last year--if living in racial/ethnic diversity were really truly our priority, we'd be living on the other side of town. Or, Seattle being what it is, in a different town entirely. So I'll shut up about it now and just report).

Tuesday was devoted to tracking down pastrami and rye bread for the pastrami sandwiches with pickles with which I was representing my ethnic heritage. I listed their origin as "New York Jewish," since I have no idea whether they really ate pastrami sandwiches back in Mother Russia. Somehow, I doubt it. But what do I know?).

Wednesday was the Potluck Itself, which was, like most events at MG's school, a cacophany of noisy kids and adults all barrelling around (and occasionally into) each other in the cafeteria, which was decorated for the occasion with the sayings of many nations, a quilt of Martin Luther King-related factoids (by the third graders, maybe? or fourth?), and the kindergarteners' Ethnic Floats.

There was a lot of food. RW counted at least four kugels on the "International Noodles" table. Everyone had a little form whereupon they were supposed to identify their food's name and country of origin. There was shepherd's pie and rice and beans and several Asian noodle dishes and sushi, and chips and salsa, and some borscht that looked delicious but was unfortunately unaccompanied by a serving ladle or any spoons or bowls. One beleagured parent filled out his/her form as follows: “Name of dish: Something fast with pork in it. Nationality: American??”

Someone stood up and mouthed some heartfelt platitudes about people celebrating differences and how it makes the world a better place and might save us all. A (white) librarian told an Anansi story. Some first-graders sang a Chinese New Year song that sounded suspiciously like “My Darling Clementine.” MG ate some Norwegian Getost, the inside of her pastrami sandwich, an orange, an Indonesian doughnut-like dessert, and the inside of a Pennsylvania Dutch whoopee-pie. And two fortune cookies.

Then the sound system screeched and blasted our ears off, and we decided it was time to go home and recover.

I veer between thinking that the whole event was laudable, embarrassing, or both. It was certainly American, for what that's worth.

And the food was excellent. Though I didn't get in line fast enough to grab any sushi.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

One-Woman Whining Carnival

Written yesterday when I got to work; updated in italics today.

1. My wallet was stolen last Sunday at the pool, and has not been found.

2. It was my fault; I was an idiot.

3. I rented "Morvern Callar" last weekend, but didn't get a chance to watch it till Thursday night. I racked up three days of overdue fees. And then I didn't like it!

4. Our heater is broken and the house was cold this morning. [Update: it's fixed! Thanks to RW and Ed the Heater Guy.]

5. Our DVD player broke last weekend, which means MG can only watch videos, or watch DVDs on RW's computer downstairs. This throws our whole household routine off-kilter.

6. I forgot to call the mechanic to make an appointment about the car and its squeaky brakes.

7. My librarian's group has no March vendor, and I have to find one.

9. I had a parent complaint about a book. I hate when that happens.

10. I didn't get all this together in time to submit it for Wednesday Whining at Phantom's.

11. I made a mixed bootleg tape for RW of all the Wailin' Jennys songs off the two Prairie Home Companion shows in which they performed in the last couple months. We'd taped the whole show both times, and I went through the tapes last weekend, found the songs, and tape-to-taped them onto another cassette as a special welcome-home present. But I put Noise Reduction on, and it turns out Noise Reduction flattens out the sound. So now I have to do it all over if I want it to sound decent.

12. I wrote offline every night for a couple of weeks, then stopped. Now I can't seem to get started again.

13. MG has to do this Ethnic Float for the Multicultural Potluck next week. It's due on Monday, which means we--all of us--have weekend homework.

14. The teacher gave no homework this week so people could work on the float, but in that time we barely got started. We are passing on our procrastinatory flaws to the next generation.

15. MG has declared that because several her grandparents live in places with snow, the Ethnic Float must have snow on it. And that this requires, not a single sheet of white felt laid across the bottom of the shoebox lid as I suggested, but hundreds of tiny bits of felt cut up and scattered about the living room.

16. She has only cut out a couple dozen pieces so far. [Update on #13-16: It's done! And thanks be to all that is holy, she ditched the snow idea in favor of my idea: line the bottom with red (for Denmark) and blue (for Judaism) felt. Photos coming soon.]

17. And I have to come up with something to bring to the Ethnic Potluck on Wednesday. I'm thinking of going with that traditional Jewish delicacy, cold cuts from the deli.

18. I signed up to do Snack for Hebrew school tomorrow, and have no idea what I'm going to bring. Also, I'm the Parent On Duty, which means I don't get to go to the upstairs study before services. [Update: I got up extra early this morning to run to the supermarket for apples and grape juice, so we were covered for snack. BUT when we got there it emerged that I was supposed to bring cups and plates as well. MG immediately insisted that she had tried to tell me about this (see #19 below). I was reduced to ripping up bits of paper towel for the snack, and borrowing cups from the preschool co-op that usually uses the space, which apparently we are not supposed to do. Darnit.]

19. MG has been lying on a daily basis, to the extent that I no longer believe her when she says anything.

20. You've heard about the rain, right?

21. There is no end to laundry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cookies are always in season

The problem with Martin Luther King Day is, it's in the middle of freakin' January and is generally observed with some kind of political rally. And much as I'd like the Mermaid Girl to get a taste of mass activism at an early age, dragging her out to a rally in the pouring rain takes more dedication than I can muster.

Fortunately, Ginger's mom took pity on my temporarily single state this weekend and offered to have MG over on Saturday to join her and Ginger in making...Martin Luther King Day cookies! Which I thought skirted perfectly that thin line between child-friendly adaption and uncool trivialization.

So: The hammer is the Hammer of Justice. The bell is the Bell of Freedom. Ginger's mom couldn't find a musical-note cookie cutter, but she did have a heart for the Song of Love Between my Brothers and my Sisters. The hand is for people walking hand in hand, or joining hands. The star is, who knows why, stars are just nice. And if I have to explain the significance of the bus, you should probably just read this.

There were also some fish in there (not pictured because they, er, got eaten). Ginger's mom said she couldn't think of a good reason for the fish, she just liked them. But then we remembered this radical tract about the power of collective action.

RedHeadDread also commemorated the great Civil Rights leader's life with baked goods this year. What with the coldness and dampness of the season, baking for MLK Day might not be the worst tradition to start, no? And while the stuff's in the oven, everyone can sit on the couch and read books like this (MG's current Favorite Book Ever) and this.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

It Explains a Lot

Conversations with Mermaid Girl, Part I:

MG: What were you before you were a human?

Me: Before I was a human?

MG: Yes. Before you were a human. What were you?

Me: Well, I was…I was…I guess I was a speck in my mom’s tummy.

MG: *sigh * No, not like that, BEFORE that. I mean, like…some people believe that when you die, you get born again into another body, and then another one, and then another one…what were you before? Don’t you remember?

Me: Oh, right…well…I don’t know what I was. Maybe I was another person, or an animal, I guess, or maybe a plant. But no, I don’t remember.

MG: I remember what I was.

Me: Oh? What were you?

MG: [points to a fancy sparkly white horse-like creature on a birthday card she’s been saving] That. I was one of those.

Me: A unicorn?

MG: Yes. Only, I was one with wings. I flew around in the sky.

Me: Wow. No kidding. I’m surprised you weren’t a mermaid, though.

MG: Well, I wasn’t. But that kind of animal is good friends with mermaids.

Me: Oh. That makes sense. Do you remember what it was like, being a flying unicorn? What were you like?

MG [after taking a minute to think about it]: WILD.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Future prom dates, beware

Last night RW kissed me goodnight and drove off for the airport to take a redeye to New England, where her best friend just had a baby. She’ll be back Monday night.

Which means that me! I! elswhere! Second-string parent to the stars! will be single-momming it for the next five days.

To put this in proper perspective: generally I am…how to say this?…Well, usually my status among the under-six set around here is roughly equivalent to chopped liver. And that’s going by MG’s opinion of chopped liver, not mine. Mama is who she wants when she suffers a grevious injury like, say, a bumped toe. Mama is the preferred bedtime tucker-in. Mama gets the most prized drawings, the biggest hugs, the sweetest endearments. I am often chided for being “too strict, too mean, not like Mama.” You get the picture.

We were both worried that MG would freak out when she heard about the trip. But instead, she’s been kissing up to me like crazy for the past few days. She cuddles up to me, telling me how wonderful I am, all in this endearingly hoarse voice that’s come on in the last week or so, that probably just means she has a cold but somehow makes her sound very old and solemn, sort of like Yoda. Or E.T.

“I love you so much, Mommy,” she croaked the other night as we headed into the bathroom to brush her teeth. “ You’re my very favorite. I can’t wait till she’s gone. Then I’ll have you all to myself!”

This stance lasted until roughly an hour after MG pushed Mama out the door last night. Then the chopped liver hit the fan.

It wasn’t so much worse than other nights—the sassing, stalling, threatening, and ignoring were actually not quite as bad as I’d expect on a more-hectic-than-usual evening, when bedtime went late enough to collide with short-fused exhaustion. It was just the contrast that took me by surprise. I'd been lulled into a false sense of security, and the backlash just about did me in.

Finally, when I’d all but dragged her by her hair into bed and turned out the light, she worked up to full-on hysterics, ostensibly about some reading form that I’d filled out wrong for school. “I want Maaammmaaaaa!” she sobbed. “Mama is the best in the world!”

“Huh,” I couldn’t resist commenting, after some comforting and back-patting and tear-drying, “How come yesterday I was the best in the world, then?”

She gave a little sniff and looked me straight in the eye.

Things change,” she croaked portentiously.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Attack of the Meme of Sevens

Guusje tagged me and I Am It, so here we go then:

Seven Books (Or Series) That I Love:
(always so hard to pick, and I've done a few of these before and they often ask for favorite books and I don't like to be repetitive, so this time around I am limiting the list to Obscure Books that I Love but that You Might Not have Heard Of):

Father's Arcane Daughter, by E. L. Konigsburg (Kids/YA)
Taash and the Jesters, by Ellen McKenzie (Kids fantasy)
A Long Way from Verona, by Jane Gardam (Kids/YA)
Little Miss Strange, by Joanna Rose (Adult)
Vinyl Cafe series, by Stuart Maclean (Adult, short stories, Canadian)
The Greengage Summer, by Rumer Godden (Sort of YA, or at least about a teenage girl)
The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer (YA, fantasy, actually not obscure at all but it was my very favorite book out of the 25 or so I read this summer and I just couldn't leave it off the list)

Favorite Movies

"When Night is Falling"
"Cria Cuervos"
"Lone Star"
"Brokeback Mountain," or maybe that's just because I just saw it and it sticks in my mind
"Shadow of a Doubt" it was Alfred Hitchcock's favorite of his movies, and it's mine, too.

I Just Can’t (Or Don’t Wanna)Stop

Reading (yeah, right, surprise)
Surfing blogs
Recommending books to people
Staying up late (though I guess that is a form of procrastination)
Agonizing about how boring I've become in middle-age
Writing, in one form or another

Things to Do Before I Die

See Venice
Write a book
Spend some extended time in New York again (but when? After MG's grown up, maybe)
Clean my room and sort and organize all my stuff (hah! MG will have to deal with it all, honestly)
Travel around in Twinkie (or one of its successors) for at least 6 months to a year
Find Kirsten Jennings, my best friend from preschool
Learn some Latin, finally, after not getting to take Latin in 7th grade because I went to the crappy junior high school and the school board wouldn't let me transfer to the other one, and then by high school I was too busy with other stuff, and there you go, it's been almost 30 years.

Things That Attracted Me to Blogging:

Another way to procrastinate!
Friends! At any time of day or night!
Endless text! At any time of day or night!
A chance to write and get instant reinforcement. I was hooked.
I can talk about my kid and no one can stop me, hahahahahah!
Finally, I get got to be on the cutting edge of a social trend!
And, well, now I'm addicted so it's too late for me.

Seven Things I Say Most Often

At home:
Okay, here's what's going to happen.
I can't hear you when you use that voice. Please use a big-girl voice.
Tonight, I'm really going to get to sleep early.
I dunno, what do you want to watch?

At work:
1, 2, 3, eyes on me!
Why don't you try this book? Just read a page or two. Give it five minutes of your life.
No games on the computers!

Seven Impractical Things I Think Would Be Really Cool Anyway

No work days, only home days. Free time forever!
A major political party that actually stands for all the stuff I believe in.
Becoming a night person again.
A whole bathtub full of chocolate pudding.
Getting to see my closest friends on a regular basis, like the characters in "Sex and the City".
A pied a terre on the Upper West Side, land of my earliest memories. (Except I hear it's not what it once was. Well, Brooklyn, then.)
Taking public transportation to work. It would take 2 hours each way. But hey, I'd get to read. And I'd feel so green!

Seven People to Tag

Well, as usual, most people I know who'd want to do this meme have already done this meme by now. But I'd be interested to read what:

Ms Jane
Cousin Lucy's Spoon
Funny Pathetic
Between Stupid and Clever
Kate Rothwell
Peter's Cross Station
Puggy's Hill

have to say. And you, too, if you're reading this and want to be, consider thyself tagged!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Yesterday was my first day back at work. I felt calm and productive, and got lots done. By the time I got home, I was positively smug, congratulating myself on how well I'd made the transition from vacation to working life.

Then I took off my sweater, and discovered that I'd been wearing my shirt inside out all day.

Monday, January 02, 2006


You know, if every time I thought about posting, I just posted, instead of letting my thoughts drift onwards, I'd get a lot more written. Of course, RW might leave me, and then where would I be?

Here, for the record, are my resolutions for this year:

1) Write off-line for at least oh, say, 15 minutes per day. Or 500 words. Whichever is longer.

2) Learn to read Torah Trope. The New Groovy Shul has a class in it, this spring. Of course, it's the same day of the week as RW's singing rehearsals, but hey, I'm sure Mermaid Girl would love to tag along to singing. Or, hey, to Torah Trope class!

3) Make myself some Tallit. As soon as I left the Mainstream Conservative Shul, where a lot of people had them, and joined the Groovy Shul, where hardly anyone does, I suddenly wanted some. And I wanted to make them myself so they'd be more Meaningful (and, um, because nice ones for sale cost like $250.00). In the ancient words of my people: Go figure.

4) Get myself to California to meet some blog people, one way or another.

5) Um, try to get to work on time.

The Lonelys

This happened a few weeks ago, but RW reminded me last night that I'd never posted it. There's no essay shape to it; just a snippet of evening activity at our house that perhaps demonstrates that our girl has been to more than her share of children's performances.

First RW was playing this little waltz, “the Lost Waltz” MG with 8 skirts on and the bathing suit top did a dance back & forth in the living room—run, run, run, then at the B part, beckoning me over so she could do a handstand and a flip.

After she did this dance a couple of times, she bowed, we clapped, then she ran over to the attic steps, held an imaginary microphone up to her mouth, and said, “Okay, now we’ll answer some questions.”

So we raised our hands. But she wouldn’t call on us; she called on some imaginary kids in the back, and then repeated their questions: “How did we make our costumes? Well, we took some skirts, and we sewed them together, and for the bunny ears we just got some ears and we sewed silk and fur on them. It took us a long time to make all the costumes and practice.”

Then she called on me: “You, in the blue dress.” I asked how she’d decided what parts of the dance went with what music. She called to the pianist (RW) to play part of it again, and then ran back and forth for a while, explaining how the running went with one part of the music and the jumping went with another part, and how it was little birds running and flapping: “The girls run, and the boys lift them.” Then she broke character and said to us, as an aside, “You know that there are boys and girls in this performance.”

RW asked something without raising her hand, and MG gave her a withering look and asked pointedly, “Did I call on you?” And ignored RW’s raised hand for a long time, calling on invisible children behind her instead.

I asked if she’d been taking dance classes for a long time, and she said, “Since I was one. And then when I was two, and three, and four, and up to today. Today’s my birthday and I’m eighteen.”

I asked if everyone in the dance group made up their own parts or if someone told them what to do. “We all decided together,” she said. “So it would be fair.”

Finally she consented to call on RW again, who asked if the group only danced ballet. “We do all kinds of dances and things,” she explained, “Not just ballet. We do circus, and gymnastics, and jazz dance, and tap, and Spanish dance, and French dance, and Vancouver dance. All different kinds. We’re called the Lonelys.”

An imaginary kid asked, “How’d you get your name?”

MG, glad they asked, answered “We thought, like, what would be a good name for a dance group? Maybe the Beatles? But then we thought, no, beetles are just a little bug, ugh. And besides, there’s already a singing group called the Beatles! So then we thought, maybe the Barenaked Ladies. But there’s a band called that, too. So then we thought, hey, how about the Lonelys! Yeah, that’s a good name! The Lonelys!”

We said, “Wow, we’ll have to come see you perform again!”

“Oh, we’re not going to be back for a long time. We’re going to Vancouver now. And then we’ll be in…what’s that place near Vancouver? [Victoria?] Yeah, we’ll be in Victoria after that. And then we’re going to…what’s that place near Victoria? [Nanaimo?] Oh, yeah! Nanaimo! And, what’s that place near Nanaimo? “ [Campbell River? RW suggested. MG looked at her dubiously.]

“Molson?” I asked. “Yeah, Molson,” looking vaguely relieved, perhaps to be getting off Vancouver Island at last. “We’re going all the way around the world. And then we’ll come back here.”

Then it was getting close to bedtime, so we suggested that she close the Q&A. She said if anyone else had questions, they could come talk to her up front afterwards.