Archive for July, 2011

Taking off

My older son was invited to meet a few friends at a place called Jump Street, an indoor trampoline park. He really wanted to go, so I said OK. His excitement stemmed from being invited to hang out with the “cool kids” from school. These kids were not the friends he normally hangs out with, but he has known them since Kindergarten.

I have to admit there was a little part of me that was scared they invited him as a joke. But that was my baggage and I folded it back up and tucked into a tiny corner.

I asked him which parent was staying. Jump Street is about 20-25 minutes away and they are only 11. They are going into sixth grade. I did not receive a definitive answer so I told him I was going to stay – I also didn’t want to make the drive all the way other there twice. He seemed OK with me staying but gave me the “Mom, don’t embarrass me” speech.

I could hear thup thup thup thup over head. Was I being a helicopter mom?

from daytodaywoman.com

My husband and I encourage responsibility in our boys – with homework, chores, etc. We will help with homework and projects, but we will not do for them what they can do for themselves. For example, I will show my sons how to type and edit a report on the computer, but I will not type or edit for them. I will make minor corrections and suggestions on a printed copy because those are teachable moments.

I want my boys to spread their wings and fly, but I also want them to be safe. This was the first summer I allowed the boys to swim at the pool up the street while I stayed home. According to the posted sign, they are technically old enough to be there without a parent. We’ve been going to this pool since they were babies. The lifeguards are great. The boys have their own cell phone. I am five minutes away. To me that is completely different than dropping my 11 year old off at a place all the way across town that I do not know. Yet these other parents, parents I’ve known for years, let their children go to this place unsupervised. Why did I insist upon staying?

I know why. Because the world scares me. There are too many stories in the news about kids being abducted or abused. There are bad people out there who prey on kids. And my son is still a kid. He’s 11.  And I love him to pieces.

I try to strike up a good balance – a not too hands on and not too hands off  – approach to parenting. But this is a whole new world of parenting for me. We don’t allow him to stay home alone yet, so why would I let him go to Jump Street without an adult? What do you think – am I being a helicopter mom? What would you have done in my situation?


So I stayed out in the lobby on a comfy couch with free wifi. I popped my head into the big room once or twice and saw my baby having the time of his life. And for the record, I didn’t embarrass him. Not even one little bit.


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Cow Creamer Secrets

A few months ago my boys and I were shopping in Target when I saw the cutest little cow creamers. I never wanted or needed a cow creamer before (you actually have to entertain to need a creamer), but I really liked this cow creamer. For the next few weeks whenever we were in Target we’d walk by the display noticing the ever dwindling herd.

My younger son (YS) began: Mom just buy it.

Me: But I am really trying to not buy things I don’t need. Our house is cluttered enough we don’t need to add a cow creamer.

YS: Just buy it. You like it. There’s only two left!

Me: Nope. We don’t need it.

YS: Mom you really like it… I know, I’ll buy it for you! Can I buy it for you?  It can be for Valentine’s Day.

Me: Baby, that’s really sweet, but I really don’t need a cow creamer no matter how much I like it.

He was truly crushed that I wouldn’t let him buy me the cow creamer. I felt so horrible for disappointing him, I almost let him buy it for me. But I didn’t. I was trying to set an example – we shouldn’t buy everything we like. It’s not just a matter of money.

I kept thinking about my disappointed little boy, who just wanted to do something nice for me.

The next day I went back to Target by myself and bought the very last cow creamer. I stashed it in the back of my closet figuring I could give it to my husband to give to my son to give to me for Mother’s Day. Did you follow that?

Well, I stashed the little cow so well I completely forgot about her until the other day.

We were driving to Barnes & Noble and my younger son was with me. NPR was on the radio and the announcer mentioned that the date was July 26th.

YS: Oh no! I didn’t get you a birthday present yet. Can I buy you a book?

Me: No. It’s OK. You don’t have to buy me a book.

YS: No, mom I really want to buy you a book.

Me: No. I’s OK baby. You don’t have to buy me a book.

Sound familiar? Well, it did for me too! When we got home I looked in the back of my closet and found the cow creamer jumbled in a mess of wool sweaters I never wear. But before I tell you what happened with the cow creamer let me share this dialogue from inside Barnes & Noble.

YS: Mom, do we have any bananas?

Me: No. We didn’t buy any the other day.

YS: Do we have any frozen bananas?

Me: Yes.

YS: Do we have what we need to make banana muffins?

Me: I think so.

He stops to think for a minute. I know exactly where he is going with this. YS loves to make homemade banana muffins by himself. He uses the muffin recipe in my Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook.

YS: Do you think I could make coffee?

Me (smiling inside): I guess, why?

YS: Oh nothing.

That night as my husband and I went to bed I told him that YS was planning to make me breakfast in the morning for my birthday.

Husband: Great.

Me: Can you please help him?

Husband: As long as it’s early.

Me: Oh and can you give him this cow creamer to give to me. He really wanted to get me a present and was sad he didn’t have anything.

Husband: OK. I guess.

On the morning of my birthday I awoke to the most wonderful smell of banana muffins baking. I wish I could make this a scratch & sniff post. Not wanting to ruin the surprise, I stayed in bed reading.

YS poked his head in to see if I was awake. He saw me reading and said, “OK. Stay there I have breakfast ready for you and I have to start the coffee (my husband actually measured out the coffee and YS turned the coffee machine ON). Do you want a regular mug or your big huge mug?” I giggled. He’s so darn cute. “The big mug please,” I said.

He brought me a dinner plate with three small muffins.

YS: The coffee is ready.  Do you want cream in it?

Me: Yes, please. I just bought some yesterday.

When he came back upstairs he was grinning from ear to ear. He was carefully carrying my coffee mug in one hand and in the other hand he was holding the cow creamer with cream.

Beaming. Excited. Proud.

My sweet little boy made me breakfast in bed served with the cow creamer I admired five months before and he had wanted to buy for me. It was the best breakfast I ever had.

Over dinner that night I mentioned how much I loved my cow creamer and how I couldn’t believe YS remembered that I had liked it. He looked straight at my husband with a knowing smile – he and dad had their own little secret. And unless my sweet little boy ever reads this blog, I’ll never tell him mine.

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Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion weblog where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.  If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

All of my words this week comes from The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine.

1. gesso – “She had discovered the mantel with its towering mirror and decorative gesso detail at a salvage yard decades ago.”

Gesso is gypsum or plaster of Paris spread on a surface to make it suitable for painting or gilding.


2. jalousie – “The steps, two cracked concrete squares of faded gray, led up to the sunporch, several missing louvers of its jalousie windows gaping darkly.”

A jalousie is a window with glass louvers or a shutter made of angled slats.


3. cabochon – in reference to a gold-and-emerald bracelet “They’re cabochon, that tones it down.”

A cabochon is a highly polished gem that is cut convexly without facets.


4. tautological – “Everywhere Miranda looked, she saw the world she insisted upon. This was her great tautological strength.”

Tautological is the repetition of same sense in different words – ‘a beginner who has just started.’


Have you discovered any new words lately?

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Books and 2 videos acquired this summer

This year I only packed three books with me for our trip – the book I was reading when we left, Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and two back-ups just in case I didn’t find something else to read. That makes me laugh. I always seem to acquire quite a collection of books every summer. This year we designated one bag just for the books we knew we’d bring home!

The bag of books weighed 25 pounds!

Once we are on Nantucket I have a variety of sources for good reads. My in-laws’ house has quite a number of bookshelves filled with classics and contemporary novels alike. Family members will leave behind books finished and stacks and stacks are found by all of us at the dump.  The dump!? Yes, the dump. Well, the politically correct name is the Nantucket Environmental Park. A small island, recycling is mandatory – paper, plastic, tin, glass, etc. The whole set-up is a sight to behold.

Recycling paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, etc.

Items still in good shape (good is a relative term here) are taken to the Take It or Leave It shack. You can find books, clothing, toys, bicycles, kayaks, electronics, and anything else people no longer want or need.

Take It or Leave It

There are rules!

This is just one bookshelf

My mother-in-law collects all her winter reading at the dump. Yes, I am serious. The best find this year was a first edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard which we think was signed by J.K. Rowling – well, it was exciting for the boys.

We also love to visit the Nantucket Atheneum to check out books. Of course we do have to return these books when we’re done reading them. One summer I was deep into an Anne Rivers Siddons novel when it was time for us to leave the island. I really wanted to finish the book (I’d invested over 200 pages already), so I brought the book home with me.  When I was done I mailed it back to the Atheneum and included a few dollars for late fees.

During the first weekend in July the Atheneum sets up a huge tent in their lovely garden for a booksale. I always find a nice collection of titles. I’ve learned to not go overboard since more books will be purchased throughout the summer. I picked up two books for myself, one book for my sister-in-law, and two videos for my classroom (yes, we still have a VHS player).

I also love to spend time visiting my all time favorite bookstore Nantucket Bookworks. Their selection is small but great. You won’t find bargain books, but you will find a phenomenal selection. They also sell lots of lovely trinkets, journals, and bags by Bungalow 360. Over the course of my many visits I added seven books to my collection.

We went from Nantucket to Connecticut to visit my brother-in-law’s family. They are in the process of selling their house and insisted that my older son take home the entire Horatio Hornblower collection. Eleven books. Eleven books of which we already have multiple copies because they were my husband’s favorite books growing up. Eleven books I think we bought our nephews many years ago. Anyway, eleven books take up quite a bit of room.

Our final stop landed the boys and me at my parents’ house in New York. I completely inherited my bookishness from my mother. The only book my father ever read was The Godfather in 1969. What’s even better is that my mother and I share similar tastes in books AND she prefers to buy books rather than borrow them from the library. Normally I bring home a number of her books to read. But I was quickly running out of room in the red bag thanks to my son’s acquisition and a visit to Borders. This year I only borrowed one book and typed up a list of suggestions – about 25 titles. Five more books added to the bag.

Twenty-five pounds of books are pretty heavy. Believe it or not, this pile did not include all of the books my husband collected or the books I bought for the boys at Borders. Oh! And I bought the Harry Potter Film Wizardry book at the Harry Potter Exhibition in NYC.

So I am sending a big, huge, THANK YOU to the lady who checked in our luggage at La Guardia. She designated my bag of books as excess baggage rather than charge us another $20 for a small (but heavy) bag.

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An awkward pose

I took this picture of Maddie right before we left for the airport on June 20th. This is the last picture we have of her at home. She’s lying on her special pillow pet. We didn’t buy it for her, but she made it hers. She looks awkward because she didn’t really know where she was. I placed her there for the picture. From here we went to Boston and…

Well, you can read the whole story in my earlier post.

Tomorrow the boys and I fly home. We have had fun this summer despite the sorrow. We’ve visited with friends and lots of family. We’ve gone sailing, swimming, seen movies and been tourists in New York City.

We make this trip every summer and after five weeks away I’m usually anxious to go home. Not this year. I want to go home, I do – sleep in my own bed, take a shower in my own shower and see my husband, who flew home last Tuesday.

But tomorrow we will leave this bittersweet vacation that began with our dog, yet did not end with her. Tomorrow I will walk in the door of our home and Maddie will not be lying on her pillow pet. And I will be as sad as I was on the afternoon of June 21st. The reality of our dogless home will wash over me. And it will suck.

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One tiny section of my bookshelves

I found the poem below on quite a few different blogs and thought I would repost because I loved it (although I don’t think it’s nice to lie or fail someone). It truly describes me as a reader (and quite a number of other women from the numbers who have also posted it). But I wanted to add my “I’ve been married for 14 years” advice to those single young bookish women out there. I included my advice after the poem.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or if she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”

“Date A Girl Who Reads” by Rosemarie Urquico

Marry a man who loves to read! You’ll curl up in bed next to one another every night, snuggled under the covers, noses in books. You’ll make trips to the bookstore and library together. You’ll share books you’ve enjoyed – Honey, I just finished this and you need to read it. Your home will feel cozier with the bookshelves filled to the brim (and piles next to the bed).  And if your husband truly understands your book obsession he might include a two day visit to Prince Edward Island during your honeymoon in order to visit L.M. Montgomery’s Green Gables and other sights found in the Anne books (well, at least that’s what my book loving husband did).

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It is hot.

Oppressively hot.

A hot so heavy and thick you can cut with a knife.

An I can barely breathe outside hot.

 Too hot to even go to the pool.

Let’s go to the bookstore!

Fortunately or unfortunately the only bookstore in town is a Borders. Apparently going out of business means they can no longer afford air conditioning. It was almost as hot in the store as the 100 degrees outside. We didn’t last very long in the over-crowded stuffy store, but we did manage to find some good books.

I started reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand last weekend. I haven’t gotten very far. It’s a lovely read and I am enjoying it, but the pace seems slow.

I rarely stop reading a book once I have started unless I truly hate it. There are just too many books out there to read a book I do not enjoy. I don’t have a certain number of pages I will read before deciding. Usually by the third or fourth chapter I am either completely hooked or I will continue even if I don’t love it. On that rare occasion that I really truly can’t stand the book, I will just stop. Sometimes I will, however, pause a book. I want to read the book, I’m just not in the mood for it at that moment. I’ll come back to it in a week or two, maybe even a few months. I’ll read Major Pettigrew sometime in the future. I’m just not ready for it right now.

Summer reading should be quick and easy. Books that draw you in and you’re half way done before you finish your iced coffee. So I found a little light reading for these crazy hot days. I think I’ll start with Return to Sullivans Island since it’s a summertime story. Plus, I’m feeling a little homesick for Nantucket. I know it’s a different island in the Atlantic and that’s what makes the selection even better.



I’m still at my parents house on Bittersweet Lane. So tonight I’ll curl up in the air conditioned bedroom of my childhood and lose myself in books bought at Borders.

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