Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Lily and I gave Dave a 1,000 piece puzzle of birds of the backyard for his birthday. The next day I set up the card table next to the fireplace in the living room and the three of us have spent two lovely evenings putting this puzzle together. Lily has a knack for finding just the right piece! It feels very collaborative.

Dave said, Lily, the reason we moved to this house is because your mother wanted to do puzzles. It's pretty much true. My sister Bondi and my mom always have a puzzle going, well, I don't know if Bondi does still, but she used to like doing them. This one is hard enough but not impossible--and yes I have to refer to the picture on the box as I don't know my bird types, but this is helping me learn them, somewhat.

Last night I started humming something from Caroline, or Change, and Lily said, put that on (she's heard it a lot because I played it all the time a couple of years ago), and Dave said, I wouldn't mind hearing that--and I couldn't believe my luck! So I hooked up my iPod and we listened to the first act, and chatted, and worked the puzzle together, until Lily's bedtime. It was really really fun. We turned the music down after she went to bed and Dave and I worked another hour on the puzzle, and then I practiced my flute--did I mention I'm taking lessons again?--while the soaking tub filled with really hot water, and then I had a great soak and got really warm and slept solidly all night. He's right, this is why I moved here.

Next time, I told Lily, we'll listen to Wicked, and then The Producers.

"For there's no place else on earth I'd rather be..."

Halloween and the Red Sox and Dumbledore and...

So happy Halloween -- so not my holiday, but Lily had a great time. Work had party yesterday, the two parenting/family magazines getting together and and decorating and dressing up and all. It was so sweet to see how everyone, every single person who works there, is really into kids. They all love kids. I mean, sure, they should, but they really do! They walk to talk. Gotta love that.

Then tonight Dave and Lily went a party in Amherst, hosted by Peggy, Ren's mom, the Party Queen, and co-host of the weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. This was good old fashioned musical chairs, duck duck goose, and all that, and all the kids had a great time, I hear. Then they went trick or treating. I got home by about 6:30 and had one group of kids (more probably came by earlier but I gather the street usually just gets a few). Dave and Lily had made a couple of great jack o' lanterns and I lit them up. If his pics came out I'll post them.

It's struck me lately that Lily, who will be nine on Nov. 10 (!!!), is really growing up. She wants to be alone while she's in the bathroom brushing her teeth and all in the morning and night, and (while Dave and I are both suspicious that she might not be actually brushing her teeth, we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. So far her teeth aren't black) she just seems older.Like, I'm happy she still sits on my lap and hugs me and jumps into my arms when I come home, but I keep wondering when it will stop.

School is great, I hear from Lily, and we are very happy parents. Sunday night we went to the headmistress's house for a buffet supper for new parents. It's a great way to meet other parents (there are four new kids in Lily's grade, three of them in her class), as well as the powers that be. I told the head that it was very kind of her to host a party for Dave on his 45th birthday and later, when we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, he said, I'm Dave and she said, and it's your birthday! and we all sang a rousing round of Happy Birthday. It was a nice touch.

More and more it's clear that Mrs. Mullens is the greatest gift for Lily this year. I can see Lily struggling to stay loyal to Brooklyn, but it's increasingly hard, and Mrs. Mullens is a big reason for her comfort. Over the weekend Lily was very excited about the Red Sox, well, very excited is pushing it, but she talked a lot about it and was glad when they won the Series on Sunday. But yesterday she told me she wasn't a Red Sox fan, she's a Mets or a Yankees fan, whichever, she's not really a baseball fan.

So, I asked her, as I do every now and then, what she's thinking about Brooklyn these days, and she said she will always be a New Yorker and she would move back there now if she could. I said, Really? And what about Mrs. Mullens? And Bement? And all the kids who are coming to your birthday party (at Build-A-Bear in the Holyoke Mall! Kill me now!), what about them? You wouldn't see them. She paused. And didn't answer. And I shut up.

I am going to lay off, but I am desperate to hear her say she's glad we moved here. Of course, this is Lily we are talking about, so the more I want it the less likely it will happen. She is very headstrong, asserts her independence. I wonder where she gets that! And it doesn't really matter, because she is here, and she does like it, although she still does miss her hometown. It's hard to switch loyalties, especially because we all adored Brooklyn and cheered it frequently. "Brooklyn, rah!"

We had two nice visits last week, from our friend David, who introduced us, for a couple of days (hi, Dave!) and from Grandma Judy. We tried a restaurant, Butternuts, in Hadley, for the first time. It wasn't bad. David was here during the week so I didn't see him as much as Dave did, but the three of us did stay up late one night knocking around Harry Potter, and Dumbledore the poof, and Snape, and the ending, and all. I have reread parts of book seven many times and was able to expound on it gloriously. It was fun.

About Dumbledore, I think the reaction to Jo's announcement is hilarious. I love all the self-righteous comments, especially along the times of, "She can't do that! The books are over!" and endless discussions about why she would do this, and if she really wanted to support diversity and show a positive character she'd have made a major character gay (I think Neville, no?), and what were the clues, anyway (a good half dozen in book seven which one queer critic says he and his friends caught and debated all summer) (I picked up on a couple but decided I was reading into things and quickly dismissed it). Rebecca Traister on Salon had a great essay; read some of the comments following it.

My feeling is, she's J.K. Rowling, the most successful author ever, and she can do whatever the hell she likes. Thank god she let Harry defeat Voldemort; thank god she's all about love, and not hate. That must bode well for our world, no?

I find it extraordinary how we Harry fans seem to feel that these people are real, at least some part of us does. We feel a sense of ownership and a clear idea of what happens to them all post-Voldemort; I think it's Traister who says Jo's wrong, Harry would never go work at the Ministry, clearly he becomes a teacher at Hogwarts and eventually headmaster. I could see it, but I think he would prefer being an auror. He would never want to be stuck behind a desk--and an authority figure, to boot. But hey, I feel like she does know them best, and it's her book, she gets to say whatever she likes.

Grandma was our weekend guest, following David, and she helped me cook an Indian feast for Dave's birthday celebration on Saturday. His friends/college roommates Lonnie and Jay came, with their families. It was a lot of fun. Here's the list (I started at about 8 am): Curry chicken, potatoes and cauliflower, chickpeas, spicy rice, lemon rice, cilantro chutney, walnut chutney, raita, I feel like I'm missing something. Didn't have time to make the cabbage. Oh, and Lily and I made a yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, too. All from scratch. Oh, yeah, I made the batter for veggie pakoras and fried cauliflower and fried paneer, and Dave fried that up. And I heated up some breads, paratha and so forth, that I had purchased. It was great!

On Sunday we took Grandma up to Bement, and Lily's classroom was unexpectedly open, so Grandma got a tour. Cool beans! Later we walked around Northampton looking at all the little shops. There's great gifty stuff for the upcoming holidays, some great stores. Watch your stockings!

Grandma was snug in the family room with the pellet stove fired up all night, the glow of the flames and the soft ping of the drop of pellets lulling her to sleep. Trust me, it was cozy. No, don't trust me, come see for yourself!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It helps to understand I am not alone in my Global Warming depression. Oops, the link is gone. It was about British kids being depressed about the environment. You can look around for it on that site.

Yesterday we made up the houses of our house: Dave is in Arborpuff, I am in Edidor, and Lily is in Lilypad. We get points when we do something clever or helpful--make a good joke, clean the bathroom, get to the bus on time. No one is keeping track. It's just a nice way to appreciate each other: "Twenty points to Edidor for cleaning the soaking tub!" (That was hard!)

Newsflash: Dumbledore is gay, and was in love with Grindelwald. Gotta love that Jo; she really understands the British public school environment, doesn't she.

We stood in our first long lines Saturday night. We drove with some friends up to Goshen to go to their annual haunted village/fundraiser for town recreation. It's a big deal, like 1,000 go through, I think. It was only open Friday and Saturday only from 7 to 10 and it rained Friday. We got there around 7:30 on Saturday and finally got on the tour at 9. Not a pretty sight, with several exhausted, cold, bored 8 and 9 year olds. Set in a summer camp, the haunted house is eight haunted cabins. You could go on a scary tour or not so scary. The actors knew by the color of the guide's glowing necklace. Not so scary was red. Lily lasted one house and called it quits; her friend Leandre lasted two. It was fine by me. I don't do scary, or even not so scary. It was all really well done, though. My favorite part was the roaring fire that Lily and I stood near until we met up with Dave and Leandre.

Yesterday, while Lily had a playdate in Deerfield, Dave and I drove over to nearby Mt. Toby and hiked up and back. Those last 500 vertical meters were hard--I am very out of shape--but the trees and ferns and the light were all amazing. I love the different microclimates as we pass out of one kind of forest into another. And at the top was a fire tower. I don't do heights well but got almost to the top and had a 360 of the horizon, ringed with mountains. We could see the Holyokes to the south, of course; they are nearby. But also Monadnock in New Hampshire and I guess the lower Greens in Vermont.

I had no appreciation for how much I walked in Brooklyn. It's very hard to find time to exercise here. We are thinking about joining the Y but haven't, yet. I have ridden my bike to work a few times, but that's not a lot of fun for me. Really, I like walking. I am bucking for a dog so I will be forced to walk it (I know I will live to regret those words on rainy cold mornings). And I will feel safer in the woods if I have a dog. Otherwise, I don't particularly want to walk alone, especially at 6 am. I like bears from my kitchen window, not up close.

Speaking of windows, we are having ours replaced in the next couple of weeks. The big projects are a more interesting kitchen window with a shelf and three larger windows in our bedroom, not two smaller ones. We've turned our bed to look out and soon we will be able to see the trees even better.

We are also hiring a guy to finish the laundry room and build us a coat closet. He''ll start Wednesday. Once that's up we'll buy some heavy duty shelves to store old files and Lily clothes and whatever else needs to come out of the den and garage. And if there's still room, maybe we can set up a table of sorts that I can use to fold laundry and Lily can use for art projects, making paper, etc. We'll see.

Finally, we are probably having an open house/holiday party the first or second weekend in December. Watch your email for an invite.

Oh, PS -- Dave just told me the Red Sox won and are off to another World Series. I'm very happy for all you Boston fans. I could care less, as you know, although we did watch for about five minutes last night. If I root for any team, it's the Sox, of course, so this is good news.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coupla things

1) My bank's ATM gave me $150 today, an amount I withdrew because I was dying to see how it would appear. Turned out to be a bunch of twenties and then two fives. What ATM gives you FIVES? Gotta love this place.

2) This is the site I should have been looking for: an interview with JK Rowling after book seven came out. Lots of backstory and what happened in the missing 19 years.

3) A moment of apology. This blog is too redundant and too long. I owe you, my faithful reader, better than that. This is the first of my shorter entries.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Global Warming Grief

I want to know if the corporations and our foolish government who are fighting any significant--or even insignificant--changes to our basic lifestyle, even as simple as requiring higher fuel economy, are willing to pay for therapy for the millions of us who are depressed at the loss of our environment and life as we knew it.

I gather it's just a question, now, of how bad. Within 30 years we in the Pioneer Valley will either live in Washington DC, weatherwise, or North Carolina. The maple syrup industry is on its way out--the warm days and cool nights of late February typical in New England just won't be happening as much any more. This past spring they had half the sap they typically get. Skiing, cross-country and downhill, is taking a heavy hit. Berkshire East, where Lily took skiing last January, had to close the slopes on several occasions because there just wasn't enough snow and their snow machines couldn't make it, not in 70 degree weather.

I never understand when I hear people say they could never live in New England because it's too cold. I don't get it. I moved here for the cold. New York City was getting too hot. I moved here for the snow and the strikingly different seasons, the deep fall colors and the bleak winter landscapes, the excuses to layer and wear heavy sweaters, the newly-green spring and the lush and abundant summers. I moved here for snow storms and snow days and fires in the fireplace and swimming in the local rivers and chilly days picking apples. I really like the variety.

Those days are going fast. The summer was fine, mostly, as far as I can remember. The fall has been not so great for my morale. In a word, it's been hot. It was 73 when I came in tonight at 10pm and it's been like that for days. It's been very dry, which means the leaves are all falling prematurely; when it rains it downpours like a monsoon, like a tropical rainforest downpour. It's pretty sudden, quite intense, and it doesn't last long. Did I mention it was warm? When it was seasonably cold last week people in the office were relishing wearing sweaters. Now it's muggy and warm--did I mention warm?--and it just feels so wrong to wear shorts in early October (never mind January).

Dave is sick of me moping about this so I am dumping on you, my loyal readers. Hear this: I am suffering from weather orientation dissonance (it'll be in the DSM V) and I need a trained professional to help me work through my feelings and accept the reality--and my overwhelming sense of utter helplessness. Does anyone really think that if we all rode our bikes to work and chose paper over plastic it would help stop global warming?

Netflix sent Network with Peter Finch last week--remember the famous "corporate cosmology" speech by Ned Beatty as the head of the company that owns the network that airs Howard Beale's show?

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it, is that clear? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT and T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon--those are the nations of the world today!"

Change a few names and this is what I believe and I don't think there's anything I can do about it.

We need a complete about-face, internationally, a values-transplant, and I just don't believe that's going to happen in the big arena. I do believe in spreading love and acceptance person by person, and that's pretty much what I've devoted myself to these past few years. Trying to be a better person so I can help everyone I know, or interact with, or simply momentarily encounter, have a better day. We are all one, says Buddhism, so what hurts me hurts them, and vice versa.

Maybe I just need help getting unstuck from the grief stage. Maybe I gotta reread 1984. I'm sure George Orwell has some wisdom for me. Sorry to be so depressing. Now you need therapy, too! Can't we get all those corporations to pay for it?

Parents Day

Ed. note: The November issue of Wondertime is out and I encourage you to pick up a copy. There's some great stuff, as usual. If you still see September/October still on your newsstand, get that and then go back for November. It's a great magazine, no I'm not biased; one childless friend in her forties says she found it interesting and useful and she doesn't even have young nieces and nephews.

Last week we were closing an issue and Friday I was to be at Bement all morning for a parents open house thingy. Thursday night I was late at work, and I said to my editor, resignedly but with acceptance, I was supposed to come in late tomorrow because of this school thing, but I can skip that and come in to work on time, to get this story through. She said, of course not! Go to school! This is just work. That's your daughter. We can move this story without you.

This is the great thing about working for a parenting magazine that actually walks the parenting talk. And because many of us have young children, we all have the same sort of schedules--open houses, pre-school events, parent-teacher conferences--that all occur around the same time of the year, public or private. It helps that most folks are in the same boat.

So Friday Dave, Lily, and I went to Bement and hung out and met parents and sipped tea and talked to teachers and listened to the kids sing and watched them in class. It was a gorgeous blue-sky day and we all, parents and kids, spent most of the time outside. Bement has several buildings on its campus, so we went from one to the next, as needed. Lily's building was recently constructed but it's post and beam so it looks like fancy barn and it feels old, which is cool, given that she goes to school in Old Deerfield. It's kind of like going to school in a museum town, and in fact the fourth graders are studying the colonial era this year, touring seven of the original buildings and culminating in a colonial ball.

Lily really likes her teacher, who we agree reminds us of Nan O'Shea, her extraordinary second grade teacher at PS 261. In fact, Lily says the first time she heard Mrs. Mullens' voice she thought, "What's Nan doing here?" She's been at Bement for nearly 20 years and has taught before that, too, so she's got lots of experience. Many people have told us that she and maybe one other are the best teachers in the entire school. That says a lot, and yes, I can feel it when I hear Lily talk about her, and when I myself talk to her. I'm a sucker for elementary school teachers, anyway, having been raised by one. And Mrs. Mullens is smart and kind and in charge and confident and really understands and enjoys kids, and those are all lovely qualities to have in your kid's teacher.

It's been harder for Lily recently. The honeymoon is over. The homework is about 45 minutes a night. Last year in Amherst she had about 10 minutes a night, less than she had at PS 261 in the second grade, and that particular teacher, herAmherst third grade one, was known to give a lot of homework!. Now she gets more both because it's a private school and because of fourth grade, which is a pivotal year: two years before middle school so they have to start ratcheting up the expectations. That's true in every fourth grade, public and private, from what I understand.

Here, if Lily doesn't get it done at night she stays in at recess to finish it. That sucks and it happened a few times in the last couple of weeks. So now Dave has to focus on bringing her home right after school, giving her a snack, and sending her up to her room, or to the dining room table, to do her homework right away. We decided to skip starting up the individual flute lessons again for now, so that she can get her feet under her. She'll continue to take chess on Tuesdays after school--she took it at PS 261 but dropped out because she was the only girl; not an issue here, thankfully-- but we are keeping an eye on that, because it means she doesn't get started on homework until 5:30 or 6, rather than, say, 4:30.

She's also not eating, really, until she gets home at like 4:15. My kid. Sigh. I know 7 am is awfully early for breakfast (we have to leave to get her to the bus at 7:30) and she doesn't want to even try the morning snacks (usually graham crackers or fruit, etc) or lunch (typical but tasty school lunch). So so she often just has bread and butter for lunch and by the time she gets home she's ravenous.

We've been talking to Mrs. Mullens, who says she's perfectly capable of doing the work and suggested things like going straight home and getting started right away, and skipping flute for now, and seeing if she can handle homework on chess Tuesdays. She will make sure Lily's adult at her lunch table (the lower school eats together at long tables, family style, and mix up the tables every two weeks, so she could eat with, say, the first grade teacher, and a couple of third graders and kindergarteners, as well as fourth graders) gets her to try different things.

Mrs. Mullens said to me, you know, we are asking a lot of her, what with a new school, higher expectations (cursive is required; she finally has to memorize her times tables; they are learning grammar, and French, etc.), and a whole new environment, from the city to the country. Yes, she's been here for a few months, but now with this school and this house it's much more real and grounded. Now she can relax--maybe test and push!--but also relax, as she realizes that things are now stationary and not changing so much any more.

I do think this is best for our family and we all settling down into it. I was chatting with a friend yesterday and mentioned something I'd heard here, "oh, years ago" that was actually last winter. So, okay, we have not been here a year and I am already thinking in terms of having been here for years. I have certainly acclimated-- but hey, it's my home state, so it's not as big a jump. Dave has too--it's similar to the environment he lived in when he was at SUNY-Stony Brook, I think--and while he could probably use some regular work and more people around, he seems to enjoy his homemaker/primary caretaker/house-fixer-upper status right now. I know he'd been wanting a break from work for several years and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford it. Barely, but so far, okay.

I always say this transition is the hardest for Lily, who had never known anything other than Brooklyn. And it is the hardest. But she likes it here. She has seven friends, four boys, four girls--four kids from Bement, two from Amherst, and two from Northampton-- who she wants to invite to her birthday party next month. Not bad for being here less than a year. She likes school (the campus includes a brook, and woods! she builds fairy houses at recess!); she likes hiking in the woods, despite herself; she likes the space in this funny, open house; she likes how much room she has to be here.

And I think she likes being the displaced New Yorker, in a way, the kid from The City. (That sense of uniqueness may change once the boarders start coming from Singapore and Taiwan and Seoul.) I know part of me does, although I think I'm more doing the, "I'm cool because I lived in New York for so long and then moved out because I could tell the city wasn't doing it for me any more." Or some weird thing like that. But that's another blog entry.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dogs and Holes

So Lily and I really want a dog. And Dave kinda doesn't. I mean, you move to the country, you get a station wagon, you buy a house that backs onto 650 acres, you get your wood delivery--isn't a dog the logical next step?

I want a black standard poodle so I can recreate my childhood. I'd be okay with a Moyen. (We had a fabulous Moyen at work called Cole, who had the run of the building and would come visit us from time to time, especially when they had ordered in bbq lunch for the staff. But his owner no longer works there so now he's not around any more.) Lily wants a cocker spaniel. We'd both settle for a mutt. But neither of us is home during the day, so it'd be Dave taking care of it, and as he's the least interested, that doesn't seem quite fair.

The hard part is knowing that really, Lily would like a little sister. We were thinking about adopting or foster parenting, but this house isn't quite set up right for another child. She'd settle for a pet, preferably a dog, but a cat would be okay. She's even willing to go with a snake or an iguana. But she's lonely. I know a dog is a great thing for a kid, especially an only kid. Maybe we can work something out.

On a different note, I know I'm behind, but has anyone out there read Holes by Louis Sacher? Dave was on Long Island this weekend and I picked up a copy at the Bement tag sale and couldn't put it down. Who knows if Lily will ever read it. But man, I finished it Saturday night and it was great. I recommend it, and I hear the movie is good, too. It's kind of Everything is Illuminated, but better; kind of Cool Hand Luke, and--well, not better, but still good. It's funny and understated and really smooth. I liked it a lot. No false notes.

Friday is Lily's school's open house and I am going to attend in the morning. It helps to work for a parenting magazine; they understand these things. Lily still likes school but has now hit a snag where the homework is lengthy and relentless and isn't going away. She's exhausted, I think emotionally as well as physically, and I suspect all the changes and increased expectations are taking their toll. It's kind of like she can finally relax, emotionally; she's landed. So lately she's been regressing a bit. At least that's my theory.

So we are cutting way back on stuff. No playdates after school--not like we had any, but still--just come home and have a snack and do homework. Practice the flute. We're all adjusting to this new school and new way of life. One day at a time.