Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Morning at Breakfast...

Yes, that's a book next to her cereal bowl.

Caught, red handed! Whatcha doin'?

Cute and Smart

My greatest dream as a mother is coming true - little girls who read at the table! I love it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


When I was maybe kindergarten age, my parents got a hand-me-down piece of furniture from some friends or family. It was a buffet or sideboard kind of a thing for the dining room, and when you lifted the top, it had a turntable and 8-track player inside it. Swanky!

I inherited my dad's old hi/fi stereo from his college days on which I played my little books on 45s: "when you hear Tinkerbell make this sound, *CHIME*, turn the page." I think I also had a little album of nursery rhyme songs and one of music from The Jungle Book. After a while of sticking strictly to my kiddie albums, it occurred to me that my parents had a bunch of BIGGER, surely BETTER albums in the secret compartment behind the sliding door on the front of the buffet. Hidden treasure, I figured.

So I snuck into the dining room one afternoon and picked through their collections looking for albums whose covers spoke to me. I picked out:

Mele Kalikimaka!

Oh, so pretty!
Probably the greatest musical influence of my life. I slept with these records in my bed. I literally loved them to death, scratched and broken.

It seems like there was a picture inside that showed him in the woods in the mountains, and I liked the feel of it.

These albums, chosen somewhat at random by a five or six-year-old, had a profound effect on me. Besides listening to my parents' classic rock radio in the car, they were my first deep experience of adult music, REAL music. I listened and listened and listened to them, danced to them, hula-hooped to them, sat in between the two satellite speakers of the hi/fi and marveled at the sound zooming back and forth on the Beatles' "Revolution 9" (and got totally freaked out). Add to this, Chipmunk Punk, which was a gift from my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Everett - perhaps a joke on their part, but it got me jumping on my bed and rocking out to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Blondie - and you have the foundation for a lot of my taste in music. (PS - please go to that Chipmunk Punk link; you can stream the whole album online. So terribly awesome-awesomely terrible! PSS - it's really New Wave, not Punk.)

So when Old Crow Medicine Show posted a link on Twitter about the upcoming release of a tribute album to John Denver on which they appear, I had to check it out. You might not think that you like John Denver, but I assure you that, secretly, you do. I highly, highly encourage you to go to NPR's First Listen web page and listen to My Morning Jacket's redo of "Leaving on a Jet Plane." A bunch of the songs are really great, including OCMS's cover of "Back Home Again," but MMJ's is really stunning. Beautiful!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our Scooter Gang - The Pink Ladies

It's tough to be a kid in New England, especially one born in the winter. Maggie and Kate both got scooters for their birthdays but it's been too cold and too snowy for them to ride outside. As you know, they've been riding them around the small circular race track that is our downstairs, but that brand of fun is starting to wear thin. This past weekend Mike's parents were visiting, and they took the girls out on their first real scooter run of the season. It was COLD, but the sidewalks were clear. They were zooming around like pros in no time!

Unfortunately, we're covered in snow again and expecting a bit more today and more on Monday, so the scooters are parked in the garage for now. As Katie sez (while shouting at the sky), "Come on, Spring! You come on over here right now!"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Something Serious on a Silly Snow Day

We're having a snow day here, so while we are having a blast eating chocolate ice cream in our jammies and playing under-sea explorers, I've lost my usual Tuesday morning writing day. Hard it is to sentence words and stuff when interrupts keep childrening you.


In the wake of this (the whole incident, not just this article, I assume):

The Steubenville Rapists Are Not Tragic Heroes

one of my favorite bloggers wrote this:

A Letter To My Sons About Stopping Rape

As the mother of only girls, I beg my dear friends, the mothers and fathers of boys, to read this and speak to their sons about rape (and for all younger children, body boundaries). There is only so much I can teach my girls about being brave and careful and making smart decisions. I can't keep them safe forever. But you can explicitly teach your sons not to rape - and to put a stop to assaults and misogynistic talk and behavior if they are witnesses - and that might make all the difference in the world.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Notes from the Nightstand: Wild

If I were a different kind of person entirely, I might have been able to enjoy this book more. But honestly I kind of knew that already going into it, having read a bunch of reviews first. From the descriptions alone, it seemed that the author was kind of a basket case, but I guess I just wanted to judge that for myself after reading the whole story. Your mileage may vary.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a memoir recounting the summer 20 years ago when Cheryl Strayed hiked the PCT from California to Oregon. I have read A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson's humorous account of walking the Appalachian Trail (the PCT's East Coast counterpart), and loved it even though I'm not much of an outdoorswoman - as you all know. He blatantly outs himself (as Strayed also does) as being terribly underprepared and out of shape for his journey, but his self-deprecating humor lets you identify and commiserate with him rather than spending the whole book thinking, "What the hell is wrong with you?" Which is exactly what continually popped into my mind while reading Wild.

Maybe Bryson's book was also more palatable because at the time of his trip, he was a middle-aged man who took a buddy along with him on the trail, while Strayed was a young, twenty-something woman who insisted on hiking alone. I don't know ANYTHING about wilderness survival, but I know that you should never go out alone, even if you're a 300 lb. linebacker for the the LA Raiders who's carrying a gun. You can still break a leg and be totally screwed... or have to cut your own arm off like that guy from 127 Hours. A young woman alone, especially a very trusting and impulsive woman like Strayed, is just asking for trouble. The fact that she never actually gets into a situation she can't get out of is chalked up to the kindness of strangers, but I think she just got really lucky.

Aside from her impulsiveness and foolhardiness, Strayed is also in mourning. Her mother died when she was in her early twenties (a few years before her PCT trip) and her despair and self-destructiveness were so great that she divorced her first husband, whom she claimed to still be in love with, in the wake of losing her only parent. She cheated, she did heroin, she couldn't keep a job. She decided to hike the PCT to be alone and sort her life out. It's a little Eat, Pray, Love, although admittedly with less self-delusion and self-congratulation. Strayed is pretty honest about being screwed up and about how the trail doesn't really fix her life, but a stoic like me still can't help but want to reach out and shake her.

A person like me also feels exasperation with the girly girls who say things like:

By necessity, out here on the trail, I felt I had to sexually neutralize the men I met by being, to the extent that was possible, one of them. I'd never been that way in my life, interacting with men in the even-keeled indifference that being one of the guys entails. It didn't feel like an easy thing to endure, as I sat in my tent while the men played cards. I'd been a girl forever, after all, familiar with and reliant upon the powers my very girlness granted me.  Suppressing those powers gave me a gloomy twinge in the gut. Being one of the guys meant I could not go on being the woman I'd become expert at being among men. It was a version of myself I'd first tasted way back when I was a child of eleven and I'd felt that prickly rush of power when grown men would turn their heads to look at me or whistle or say Hey pretty baby just loudly enough that I could hear. The one I'd banked on all through high school, starving myself thin, playing cute and dumb so I'd be popular and loved. The one I'd fostered all through my young adult years while trying on different costumes - earth girl, punk girl, cowgirl, riot girl, ballsy girl. The one for whom behind every hot pair of boots or sexy little skirt or flourish of the hair there was a trapdoor that led to the least true version of me.

Yet she can barely give up the need to please and attract men long enough to make her own journey in safety, despite the fact that she acknowledges it's in her own best interest to not be too appealing. She carries a large pack of condoms with her on the trail even though she only has one change of clothes and the barest essentials of food and water, hauled in an overweight, burdensome backpack. She picks up guys all along the trail and assesses all the men she meets based on their sexual appeal. At one point she even has a friend mail her a resupply box containing lacy black underwear so she could feel like her "real world" self again in a town where she planned to make a stopover for a couple of days. Then she actually seems more upset about the underwear than about the $20 she desperately needs for food when the box fails to show up on time.

She makes her "girlness" sound pitiful, but she never really acknowledges that it doesn't serve her in any way, that it isn't helping her achieve her goals, and that what she wants and what she needs are not in alignment. She touches on her issues with her deadbeat father and the foolishness of her choices, but I so wanted to her to just come right out and say that looking for love in all the wrong places makes you a victim. And your beauty it isn't a form of power you have over men; it's your neediness to be desired at all times that still gives men the power over you. She never can bring herself to fully go there.

I love memoirs, but they are tough to get right. They sometimes seem a bit too opportunistic. To fight through suffering that you can't avoid makes you brave. To create a world of suffering for yourself and then write a book about it is... what? Masochistic? Self-exploitative? Ridiculous? I guess you could describe me with the same words for reading the whole thing. I guess I just wanted to see if she changed at all, but I don't really think she did. She talks about maturing and finding an end to some of her grief, but I think a lot of this is just her core personality: she's the kind of person who walks across half of California with only twenty cents in her pocket because she didn't realize she'd need to save up more money for her trip. I'm just not like her. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


New Black Rebel Motorcycle Club! The new album, Specter at the Feast, comes out next week. "Let the Day Begin" is actually a cover of a song by The Call.

Robert Levon Been, bassist for BRMC, is the son of Michael Been of The Call, who died of a heart attack in 2010 at a concert where he was working as a sound engineer for BRMC. Micheal Been and The Call's drummer, Scott Musick, were originally from Oklahoma.

Here's a link to a short film series about the making of the new record. Robert speaks, heart-breakingly, about continuing to make music after the death of his father.

Keep it Stupid, Simple.

Lately the girls have this obnoxious thing they do at bedtime: they race each other to the bathroom (screaming, "It's not a race, it's not a raaaace!!!"), narrowly avoid knocking the other down the stairs, gloat/weep over who beat whom, and then get into a fist fight over whose turn it is to stand on the stool to brush their teeth.

Cat fight!!

Ah, siblings. They build character. They'll thank us later for inflicting them with a sister. In the meantime, though, it's getting pretty screechy around here. One minute they'll be playing so beautifully together it brings a tear to your eye. The next minute they're pulling hair and scratching each other's eyes out over a tiny Strawberry Shortcake hair barrette. At least they aren't fighting over boys yet. Mike is secretly planning to move out when that happens, I just know it.

So last night they were pulling their women's prison riot routine in the bathroom, and Mike had just had enough of it. He called them back into their bedroom to read them the riot act. Then he made them hold hands and walk back into the bathroom together. I couldn't believe they actually did it! However, once they got there, they immediately started a round of Roshambo to see who got the step stool. So Mike called them back into the bedroom, and this time he made them hug each other all the way back to the bathroom! It was like watching a three-legged race. We were all cracking up by the time they made it to the sink.

And then, of course, they stayed up for about 45 minutes giggling and talking in their beds like best girlfriends after we turned the lights out. Typical.


Mike also kept talking and talking last night after the lights went out. As usual, he was fretting over the hundred things that churn around in his worried mind, so he decided to torture me with them as I was falling asleep.

Me: You're a pessimist. Go to sleep.

Mike: Well you married a pessimist. Anyway, you're a pessimist, too.

Me: No, you're a pessimist. I'm a cynic.

Mike: HA! True. How is it then that we're probably some of the happiest people we know? It doesn't make any sense.

Me: Nope, it doesn't make any sense.

Mike: It doesn't make any sense that we have two kids. It doesn't make any sense that you're a stay at home mom.

Me: Not making sense is really working out for us. Let's keep not making sense.

Mike: OK. Sounds good. Sounds like a plan.

Me: Good. Now leave me alone and go to sleep.


So there you go, hugging it out and senseless pessimism: the secrets to our success. In case you were wondering.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

10 Things I Learned From My Mom

1. Kids need boundaries. It's OK to be kind of a hard ass when you're a mom because kids really are craving limits. They hate that they have no control over anything, and on the surface they think they want you to give them control, but deep down inside they know they can't handle it and they're dying for someone to make things safe and reliable. Give them a safe place to grow. They'll thank you for it later. Thanks, Mom!

2. What works for you doesn't work for other people. Some people just don't like what you like, and they have the right to just be left alone to do their own thing if they aren't hurting anyone. And some people unfortunately just aren't as stable and sane as you are. It's nice to have ideals and to work to make the world better, but all people are flawed and some people are damaged. It would be an amazing world if everyone was able to do the right thing all the time and be super-human and moral, but that's never going to happen. Everyone needs help or limits or a kick in the pants (or just to be left alone) sometimes. None of this makes humanity a lost cause.

3. Having manners is really more about making other people feel comfortable and welcome than it is about following the "Rules." And I hate following the Rules!! But making other people feel comfortable and welcome sounds doable.

4. I don't know everything I think I do!

5. Your mother doesn't know everything she thinks she does, either! Or your father for that matter, or anyone else really. Everyone is just trying to figure it all out for themselves, even people you think are your heroes. Cut everyone some slack.

6. You should have an opinion. You have a right to your own mind and your own voice, and you should believe in your opinions and be able to defend them - without crying or attacking others. You have to argue logically and be able to back yourself up with facts. Be fair, but don't back down.

7. People are really interesting. Ask them lots of questions about themselves and listen to what they have to say.

8. You don't have to win everything. Sometimes you just have to get over the hurdle and finish the race. Nobody else cares whether you crushed it or not; they just want to know that it's done. Cross it off your list and move on with your life. (Actually I learned this from my Dad. He's pretty great, too.)

9. It's good to try things even if you're pretty sure you'll be terrible at it or hate it. I agree with this in theory, but it's something I'm almost pathologically incapable of doing. My parents pushed me to try anyway, and it's something I needed to hear from them.

10. How to pull homemade taffy! (Seriously. I don't know WHAT she was thinking! But it was fun.)

More Maggie Sez...

... Oh, I do love seasonal place mats!

(I bought the girls some plastic place mats - that happen to be Easter themed - yesterday because they keep getting stains all over my cloth ones. I wasn't expecting them to be quite so well received.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maggie Sez...

... We were playing bathing suit beach picnic upstairs in our room!

Me: Great! You guys were playing so nicely while I made dinner. Thanks! But, did you make a big mess up there?

... Uh, yeah. That's what playing is.



Brendan Benson - "Happy All The Time" from stereogum on Vimeo.

Cute video, Brendan Benson.

Here's another song from his new album, What Kind of World: