Saturday, November 27, 2010

I think I can...I think I can...I think I can...

We're in the home stretch now, folks. There are only 3 days left of this gong show and then I will be a novelist! Will I do it? It sure looks that way. I haven't hit 50k yet, but I just cracked 46k and I'm feeling better than I have since the Week 1 adrenaline rush wore off. My story is starting to tell itself now, after days of what seemed like pulling teeth for each paragraph. If it wasn't for the obligatory childcare inherent in parenthood I would be long past the finish line, but as it is I'm almost there, my daughter is still alive and well and I'm happy with that. Stay tuned for the big finish on Tuesday at midnight. My jubilation will likely be audible from wherever you are, or maybe that will be the collective jubilation of the thousands of writers everywhere as we realize that a good night's sleep can be ours once more!

To GrammaPapa's house we go!

Yesterday the girl and I said to heck with this nonsense - let's go to GrammaPapa's house! It was a last minute decision, fueled by leftover guilt from not visiting for First Thanksgiving and the fact that J was going to be either at the hospital, sleeping or on a plane flying across the country for the next five days. Well, that, and the fact that the mere mention of a visit to GrammaPapa's house sent E into a fit of excitement that simply would not be quelled. The added benefit of a subway ride, a train ride and a ride in her brand new car seat made it something akin to the best day ever for E, and the most exhausting day ever for her mom.

The subway ride went smoothly, once J had run back to the house to retrieve the missing suitcase. He saw us on our way and went home to sleep as our 12-hour journey began. The subsequent train ride was also a success, except for the half-hour post-nap crankfest. And the car ride was surprisingly enjoyable, given the fact that it was the last leg of a long journey and someone in the car had a poop blowout that necessitated a full wardrobe change. Fortunately, the blowout came mere minutes before a stop at Cracker Barrel, so the absorbency of the new car seat was not tested to its limits.

When we finally rolled in to Kingston right around bedtime, E's second wind kicked in and she ran around the apartment like a wind-up toy let loose on a freshly waxed floor. She was smiling, she was laughing, she was showing GrammaPapa all of her tricks, and I thought she would never go to bed. But eventually we convinced her to show GrammaPapa how she can take a bath and how cute she looks in her jammies, and by the time we got through story time and on to song time the gig was up. She had nothing left and was out in record time.

I hummed and hawed over the decision to go or not to go. Extra work? Yes. Possibly disastrous results traveling alone with toddler? Yes. Worth the effort to see my daughter with GrammaPapa, smothering them with running hugs and kisses and hearing her tell me to go back to New York City because she's staying at GrammaPapa's house? Yes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ball Fan

E loves to sing songs, and one of her current faves is the "Take Me Out" song (Take Me Out to the Ball Game). She sings it all the time, or demands that mama sing it to her. And she loves the big finish, when mama sings "At the old ball..." and she yells "GAME!!!"

To accompany her music preferences, she has also taken up a new sport. E loves baseball, mostly because her neighbour/boyfriend Joe is always out playing baseball with his dad. But she has a rather unorthodox swing, as you will see...

P.S. Happy Second Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Please prepare for take-off. Or just take off already.

My husband has five interviews in the next ten days. Are they nice and close to home, say in Queens or Jersey?


Tennessee, New York, Texas, Utah, Mississippi. In that order. None in Oklahoma though, so E is not interested. Man, I wish we had been more diligent about collecting air miles in the past.

When he leaves for Tennessee on Sunday morning, he'll be coming off of his 8th 12-hour overnight shift in a row. I don't envy that guy. But then again, being me right now is no picnic either. I'm just sayin', I don't dig the single mom gig. There's not much relief these days for either of us. At least the girl and the dog seem to be bearing up okay.

Why aren't I sleeping, you ask? Because some idiot decided to pick November for National Novel Writing Month instead of oh, say, any other month of the year.

37,364 words and counting.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toddler brains are weird.

Today E and I were at the park, playing on the jungle gym with a big wheel that we pretend is a ship. I asked her where she wanted to go, and gave her some options off of the top of my head: Tahiti, Fiji, Oklahoma...

"Mama! Oklahoma! Go Oklahoma!"

Thinking that she thought it sounded like "home", I said "Do you want to go home now?"

"No, Mama! Go Oklahoma! Go Oklahoma NOW PLEASE!!!"

Hmm. Sooo...disappoint the kid or lie to her? Lie it is.

"Okay babe. Now I'm not sure where Oklahoma is, so we'll have to walk around a bit and look for it."

I had to go to the grocery store anyway, and we had about five blocks for me to figure out what to do about our Oklahoma-lemma. She walked better than she ever has before, hardly getting distracted at all from her "Where Oklahoma go, mama?" mantra. Finally, when we were a block away and I was considering the implications of telling her that a) we lost Oklahoma or b) Oklahoma is where we buy our produce, she stopped dead in front of the children's shoe store.

"Mama! Oklahoma in there!" Sweet. In we went. We strolled around and she picked up the odd shoe, snuggled the toy Pooh bear that is there to distract fidgety toddlers, and when I asked "Did you have fun in Oklahoma? Are you ready to say goodbye?", she waved at the store and said "Bye Oklahoma! See you next time!" and followed me out the door.

The whole thing was right out of the twilight zone. But it made an impression on her. When I was getting her pj's on tonight I asked her what her favourite part of the day guessed it:


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Potty Mouth

Today E was sitting in her high chair, eating lunch, when I thought I heard some air escaping from her seat. I was prepared to ignore it, but she looked at me with her eyes wide and innocent and declared "Dada farted!" Well, dada was asleep in the bedroom, and as skilled as he is at letting the air out, even he can't throw them. I couldn't believe it. First she frames Ralph for barking, and now this?

I looked at her with suspicion and asked "Are you sure that was dada?" And do you know what she said, the little stinker? She looked at me with a smile and replied "Blame it on dada!"

Smart cookie, that one.

Speaking of all things cute and potty-related, we tried to get E to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for Grandma and Papa earlier this evening, but she clammed up on us. We should have stuck her on the can - she does some of her best work there...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I should be sleeping...

...because I know that E will wake me up at some point and J is working overnight and won't be able to take over when I reach my boiling point...

...but we had the most awesome day today and I just have to share.

J's aunt called us this morning to see if we would be interested in going to the New York Aquarium with her and her two boys, whom my girl loves beyond comprehension. She loves them so much that she has morphed them in her mind into one amazing entity: WillieJohn. Sometimes she can tell them apart, sometimes she can't. But it doesn't matter because she only ever sees them together and she loves the pants off of them.

After watching the kids oooh and aaah over fish of all shapes and sizes for an hour or two, we raced over to the cinema just in time for a 4-D showing of a 15 minute short of The Polar Express with Tom Hanks. E has never seen a movie. And this was 4-D. I didn't even know what that meant. She was MESMERIZED from the moment she donned the glasses. And by the way, multi-D glasses have made great strides since the cardboard red/blue lens days. These were proper shades. Geeky shades, mind you, but I almost needed to steal a pair. Oh, relax, I returned them. E's too. She sat on my lap transfixed, so much so that J and I repeatedly checked that her eyes were open. She loved it. We went twice. The 4th D, in case you're as out of touch as I was, involves being sprayed lightly with mist and having air blown on your neck and bubbles fall from the ceiling. It's pretty freakin' cool. It reminded me of the Indiana Jones show at Universal Studios circa 20 years ago...ouch. I think that is still my favourite ride ever. Anyway, as first movie experiences go, this one was pretty sweet. And a great kick-off to the Christmas extravaganza blowout we intend to expose E to this year, now that she's old enough to appreciate it. This evening while walking Ralph she asked "Where's Hallowe'en decorations?" My response was "Oh, just wait, love. Just you wait." I can't wait for Christmas.

But I've slid off-track. After the Aquarium we took a stroll on the boardwalk, being in Coney Island, and spent a few minutes on the beach at the insistence of the under-7 crowd, building sandcastles and trying to avoid the broken glass. Once we convinced Willie to put his shoes back on we went in search of food and landed in Brooklyn's Chinatown, where we had an outstanding meal of dim sum at Pacificana.

By the time we got home we were giddy and exhausted. J napped for about 45 minutes before heading out for his overnight shift, and E and I did a little playing and reading before she dropped off to sleep right on time. And in the midst of all this fun, I wrote just over 3000 words today.

Quite a nice little Saturday indeed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Daddy's Girl

E went through a long, painfully long phase of being a Mommy's girl. While part of me loved it, it got a bit tough at times when she only wanted me for everything. And I felt pretty bad for J, who kept trying, through the screams and the tears and the tantrums. He had to fight for his hugs and his kisses, and often just go without them. He wasn't allowed to read stories, he wasn't allowed to give baths or feed her dinner. He tried giving her space, he tried bribes, he tried pretending to be mama, but in the end it was just a waiting game. He has a thicker skin than I do, I'll say that for him.

Now, finally, the tide is turning. Dada gets to read stories at bedtime. Dada gets to have her all to himself while Mama cooks dinner with not a single complaint. She has games that she plays with Dada that she won't play with Mama. When we read books about mamas and babies, she changes the mamas to dadas. When she plays with her stethoscope or her pens she says "Like Dada!" When she gets dressed in the morning she runs out to "Show Dada!" And if he wants a hug or a kiss, he never has to ask twice. She even has a special hug for Dada called the "squeeze hug". They go on dates. They do "running high fives", and I'm sure as she gets older there will be more things that they share, just the two of them. This is what J has been waiting for after all those months of playing second fiddle or, more accurately, no fiddle at all.

Oh, and he lets her play with computer way more than mom does. That helps.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back on top

Just a quick one to announce with pride that I'm back in black, baby. For the first time in a week or so I am ahead of schedule. By, get this - 41 whole words. Whew. What a relief. I'm going to bed now.

Hahaha. It's like J and I, only his response to "What did you do all day?" is "Uh, I saved a couple of lives." And he's a bit more supportive. So really it's not at all like us. But funny nonetheless.

Almost halfway at the halfway mark

I tried, I really did. And I came close. But in the end the lack of sleep and the fear of yet another 3am wake up call from she-who-will-not-sleep-alone sent me to bed before I had reached my goal.

I didn't make it to 25,000 words by midnight, which would put me smack dab in the middle of my novel, smack dab in the middle of the month. But I did make it to 24,262, which means a couple of things to me. It means that I did some serious catching up in the last few days, after being more than 3,000 words behind at one point. It also means that I'm actually doing this thing. This is the longest body of work that I have ever written, by about 20 pages or so. I tend to write shorter things, and have often wondered if I'm more of a short story writer. So this is exciting territory for me. I'm still not anywhere close to novel length, but, at 50 pages, I think I've surpassed the short story mark, and now it just remains to be seen whether I've got enough in me to sustain the story for another 50 pages, and then another 50...until we have a nice big fat book on our hands. I've come to realize that 50,000 words is only going to be about a hundred pages, which doesn't sound like much of a read. So while I will hit 50K in 30 days, I may just have to continue on from there to produce something that I can be satisfied with. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. It has certainly been a challenge thus far, and the next fifteen days won't be easy. Carving out time to write amidst an already hectic life, a computer-hoarding husband who forces me to write on paper and transcribe during quick breaks while he takes a shower or walks the dog, a daughter whose naps are getting shorter and shorter and who thinks that cuddling with mom in the middle of the night is the greatest thing ever, is tricky to say the least. Trying to master "creativity on demand" in order to maximize my productivity in the little chunks of time I have is perhaps not the best way to produce a literary work of art, but it gets words on the page and besides, I have always enjoyed the editing process. And boy will there be an editing process when all of this is through. I can't even remember how this thing started, and I don't have the time to go back and check.

No, it's not going to be a masterpiece, at least not before some major re-working, but I can't wait to see what it does turn out to be, and I can't wait to print out all 100+ pages and feel the weight of them in my hands.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall photo shoot 2010

J and E spent some time together in the park today and, at my request, brought the camera for her annual nature shoot. We have this adorable shot of J and his twin brother from when they were babies...

...and it is my hope to take similar pictures of E each year. 2 years down, 16 or so to go. Last year I took them in Prospect Park, and this year we stuck to our regular hangout, Carroll Park. Imagine, nature in Brooklyn! Don't look too closely or the cars and fences will spoil the illusion.

Back to our regular programming...

Okay, I'm over it. Thanks for listening.

And I'm ready to discuss this NaNoWriMo business. After a wonderfully productive morning during which my husband and daughter amused themselves in the park, I banged out about 2600 words, bringing my word count up to 21,928 and leaving me only about 1400 left until I'm caught up. I really want to be at 25,000 by the halfway point, which is tomorrow at midnight. I think I can do it. I'm hoping for a long nap tomorrow. I had read that Week 2 was the most difficult one and, though I only have two weeks to go on, I would have to agree. After some minor hiccups this week with traveling and a mild case of writer's block as I tried to figure out where the heck my story was going, we're back on track and the words are tumbling forth once more.

On to cuter things, here are a few shots of E following in her father's footsteps...although if he heard me say that a veterinarian is a real doctor he might die of shame...

Cute, right? Even cuter is hearing her say Stess-O-Soap! in person.

You know what else is cute, but only because it comes from a toddler? Hearing her pick up on what mama and dada say and accidentally use it in the perfect context. An example...preparing her oatmeal and hearing "Alright, woman! Giddyup!" And here I was worried about the swear words.

Incidentally, we got dad back later at the park when he was too tired to chase her duckies around. "Man up, dada!" That's my girl.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ranty McRanterson

For those of you hoping for a cheery post about my daughter's cuteness or something similar, you may not get what you're looking for here. But if you're looking for a good old fashioned I'm-fed-up-and-want-to-complain rant, then tune in Tokyo, because this girl's about to go off.

I'm torn. I can't seem to find a happy medium. Here are the things I hate:

1/ I hate the tendency of people these days to feel no obligation to fulfill promises and be reliable, to show an utter lack of consideration and common decency, and to just be generally and unabashedly selfish. It drives me absolutely up the wall when someone says "Sorry!", when they have the opportunity to fix whatever it is that they are "Sorry!" for, but choose not to because, quite frankly, they suck.

How do I get to the point where that doesn't bother me? Every time I am flummoxed by someone's crappy behaviour, I try to tell myself to lower my standards. I can't tell you how many times I've said it. If I just don't expect anything from anyone, I can't be disappointed. It sounds good on paper, but in reality it just leads to the other thing I hate...

2/ I HATE it when people absolve themselves and others of responsibility, and refuse to hold themselves accountable to anything. I'm so tired of hearing people blame everyone and everything except themselves. I want to take the phrase "doesn't know any better" and wring someone's neck with it. If you're over the age of 10, you know better.

So I'm left to either stew in my own frustration, or to do something about it. But here's the thing: people aren't going to change. So I can make a big deal and rant and rave and force them to say "Sorry!" when that won't change a thing, or I can let people be who they're going to be and accept them. It's that accepting part that I'm having trouble with. I'm not good at accepting that people are going to treat me, or anyone for that matter, poorly. It's a fact of life, yes. I don't have to like it.

Just to case you were wondering...I'm not actually perfect. I've bailed on people, I've scapegoated myself out of taking the blame and I've treated people like crap. But I guarantee that it doesn't happen without a boatload of guilt and remorse. I try not to be that person. Because who wants to be that person? And how have we gotten to that place where so many people out there don't mind being that person?

Also to clarify, my husband is not in the doghouse.

And, in case you're wondering, the count is 18,811, I'm about 3000 words behind and I don't want to talk about it.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Edamame Puddlejumpers...and other Toddler-isms

We have never had much need to play the "airplane game" with E as a means to get her to eat. If anything, we need to slow her down sometimes. Which is a good problem to have, in my mind. Recently though, she has become a little more picky, and we have been known to butt heads a few times over dinner. One day last week, when she was refusing to eat the pasta that I knew she loved, I decided to try pulling out the old airplane spoon trick and yelling "Open the hangar!" so that it could "fly" into her mouth. Worked like a charm. And now we've created a monster. Now not only does she demand to "Play airplane game!" at dinner, but she's also insisting that we expand our fleet, with "Now helicopter!" The other night she was digging the edamame we were popping out of pods...not such a fan of the spicy tuna rolls...when I had the bright idea of introducing the "Puddlejumper" plane, "splashing" the spoon in for a landing. She loved it. The rest of the night was spent to the soundtrack of "EDAMAME PUDDLEJUMPER!!!" When this girl grabs on to something, she runs with it.

She really loves to say thank you. Every morning I let her stand on the toilet so I can put on my make-up and she can play with all of the fun things you find in mom's make-up drawer. This morning, after getting down safely she said "Thank you mama stand on toilet!" The other day we had to wait for the mall to open in Connecticut, and when we finally got inside she said "Thank you mall open!" When we're at the park and someone is playing with a toy she wants, she waits (usually patiently) until they're finished and then yells "Thank you!" as soon as they walk away from it. Or sometimes she just takes it from them, but at least she still says "Thank you!" as she's ripping it from their fingers. She's nothing if not polite.

She's always grinding Ralph's gears about barking, and now she's even started to frame the poor guy. She'll say "Ralph says, Woof! Woof!", and then goes over to Ralph and wags her finger at him, saying "No barking Ralph!" Sometimes she stands at the door of the laundromat yelling at him while he's tied up: "Ralph! No barking ever, ever, EVER!!!" He's developing a complex.

She has two chores - feeding Ralph and grinding coffee beans - that she performs with exuberance every day. When Ralph was recently on medication she even reminded us every day after putting food in his bowl: "Hey! Medicine! Ralph sick!" She loves to check the mail, she loves to dictate her mode of transportation ("Ergo! Not single stroller, not double stroller, not walking, not car. ERGO!") Or whichever one she's decided on that day. She has loads of sympathy, and says "poor guy" or "too bad" or "oh, mama" all the time for anything from seeing a baby crying at the park to missing a phone call.

And last night she made her first real joke. She was asking Dada what he was doing in the other room ("Doin' Dada?"), when she thought it would be funny to change his name to Baba. Hilarity ensued.

She is wonderful, and I can't get enough of her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coincidence? Or Kentucky???

So how's this for weird?

A few years ago I started writing a book. It was during J's first year of medical school when I had oodles of time and buckets of inspiration at my fingertips. The project got waylaid at some point, but it took place in Brooklyn. I had no way of knowing at the time that I would end up living in Brooklyn, let alone a 15 minute walk from where my main character lived. When I picked up the story again earlier this year, I was struck by the coincidence.

Fast forward to present day. I am currently writing another book. It takes place partly in New York, partly in Europe, but at one point it travels to Louisville, Kentucky. Why Kentucky? I'm not sure. I was going for a random city in the United States, one that I didn't know much about and that wasn't a major center. Louisville just kind of popped in to my head. And later that day...that day, people...J got an interview for a residency program at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky.

Pretty weird, right?

So...maybe Kentucky?

By the way, am I the only one who thought the Colonel was from the deep south? Kentucky is just down the road! Somehow fried chicken from the Midwest just doesn't seem like the real deal. Which kind of explains KFC, now that I think about it.

Friday, November 5, 2010


J's parents were in town this week, just in time for E to figure out her two sets of grandparents. Up until now she's just had two "Gramma's" and two "Papa's". But this week she spent some quality time with Gramma Leslie and Papa Mike here in Brooklyn, and had a lively Skype chat with Gramma Barby and Papa Ger too.

Today E, mama and Gramma Leslie went to the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History. She was thrilled. She kept asking to go back to the "Butterfly room!" to see "More butterflies!"

P.S. NaNoWriMo update: Day 6. 10,488 words. 486 words ahead of schedule. Not divorced yet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hallowe'en in Brooklyn

I never fail to be impressed by the enthusiasm with which Brooklyners tackle the decoration of their homes for all holidays, major and otherwise. See for yourself:

Now have a look at the unofficial winner of Cutest Baby on the Trick or Treating Scene 2010. And her parents.

Yes, we took E trick or treating and we had a great time.
Yes, I let her eat some candy.
Yes, I will probably eat most of her candy.
No, I don't feel guilty about it.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Eat your veggies

I roasted cauliflower for the first time last night. I suggest you try it. Especially if you have a toddler into whom you are always looking to cram more vegetables. What's that? You're not a fan of cauliflower? Well, guess what? You need to eat your veggies too, superstar. And just for you, I made a lovely creamy cheese sauce to go on top. You're welcome.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 small-ish head of cauliflower
a few glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice cauliflower vertically into 1/4" slices. Chunks will break off, that's fine. Put the slices (and chunks and random crumbs) into a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss lightly with your fingers. Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Cheese Sauce
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for about two minutes, stirring often. Add milk and heat to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and add cheese, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese is melted and mixture is creamy.

You can either drizzle the sauce over the cauliflower or, if you're more of a dunker, fill a ramekin with the sauce to serve on the side.

We had it with leftover Peter Luger steak, but I'm sure regular old chicken or pork chops would work too. Next time I will roast some garlic slices with the cauliflower. Garlic makes everything even better.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3, as promised

I remember two things that I read about NaNoWriMo before I started. The first is that I would find myself on Day 3 writing something completely different than what I had intended. The second is that NaNoWriMo is essentially a waste of time because the time spent editing the crap you write in that thirty days will likely take longer than taking the time to write well in the first place.

It is Day 3 and I am, in fact, writing something completely different than I had intended. Despite the great idea that came to me during a rare moment of peace in the shower. Despite the fairly detailed outline that I came up with as a result of my shower-time inspiration. Despite starting off exactly as I had planned, I am now off in another direction entirely. Which is just fine. The words are pouring out, and I'm happy.

Which also brings me to point number two. I am, no doubt, writing some crap. Hopefully a mix of good and crap, but I'm not kidding myself into thinking that it's all pure genius. But whatever it is, it's a heck of a lot more than I had written in the last...well, let's not quantify that time frame. And that's something I've been trying to do for years. To get myself to just sit down and write every single day. It has only been three days, but I have made time each of these three days to focus on writing, and I am proud of that. Even if I only make it through one week, I've improved as a writer. I don't mean that to sound defeatist. I will make it to 30 days and I will write 50,000 words. But my point is that this is in no way a waste of time. This is exactly what I need. It's a kick in the butt. Often kicks in the butt don't just come and find you. You need to stick your butt out a little and invite them in.

Oh, and if you're getting tired of hearing about this NaNoWriMo business, then maybe you should check back on December 1st. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bear with me...

I have big plans for this month. Not only am I still trying to keep up with this blog by writing more each month, but if you'll remember from a few posts back I started a huge challenge yesterday. I am writing a novel this month. Yep, a whole novel. The goal is 50,000 words, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day. I just hit 3,341 words, putting me an impressive 7 words ahead of schedule.

Now I have 20 minutes to eat lunch, prepare E's lunch and get ready to leave for yoga. That's assuming she wakes up. She's having a wonderfully long nap today, for which her glued-to-the-computer mom is ever so grateful. Then this evening it's back to our friend Mr. Luger's for dinner of "tasty steak and spinach too!" with Grandma Leslie and Papa Mike. Big day. And I've already met my writing goal. Who said this writing business is difficult?

Stay tuned for day three...