Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treating - It's Halloween

Hurray, it's Halloween! It was dark and 30 degrees outside, but we had a blast walking around with Grandpa and Grandma and asking our neighbors for candy. Elliot spent his 5th day in a row in his skeleton costume (no mask and no coat of course) and Asher went as a dog (although some people called him a bear).

Asher still wasn't clear on the concept of Halloween. He was thrilled by the prospect of owning so many lollipops but couldn't bear to part with the candy, "No, it's mine," he said when I asked him if he wanted to put his candy in his pumpkin bag. So he walked around gripping mounds of loose candy in his hands. He also felt compelled to dart inside any house that opened their doors to us; I had to fish him out of a few houses before he got the hang of it.

We visited the elaborate "house of horrors" but didn't go inside (too spooky). Everyone went to bed on time. We were all tired. We'll deal with the candy tomorrow.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kitchen Dearest

We chose not to remodel our 1920s kitchen with the permanently scraped and smudged black and white check vinyl floor that lacks counterspace AND storage space when we remodeled the rest of our house. Why? Because it's a 30k job minimum probably have taken up half of our budget. We'll get around to it one of these days. Probably.

Kitchens are the most expensive room in the house. They also go out of style the fastest. Burnt orange formica. White laminate cupboards. Tuscan yellow and red brick floors. Marble countertops that are now cut and stained black and yellow rotten.

A small 2 bedroom recently remodeled house up the street from us is on the market so we peeked in to check out the design. Two small bedrooms and a very small living room, but it had a huge best in show kitchen with poured concrete countertops, sub zero, bosch dishwasher, viking range. The works. It also had amazing cupboards with unique metal grating on the cabinet face. I fell in love with it. Can we do that in our space? Think of how productive and happy we would be with a kitchen like that. Do it right.

How would it take to do this kitchen job cost? 50K? 60k? According to the realtor, at least 80k. Kitchens go out of style so fast, this martha-stewart-celadon-green-retro-20s-stainless- steel-poured-concrete-thing will be so passe in a few years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Personalized Rock Posters for Kids

I found this portland company Rattle -N- Roll that does rock poster baby announcements and birthday invitations. $175 for two posters, great idea. I'm thinking about getting the kids their own posters. Darn cute.

Riding the Dragon

Dr. McCurry talks about being in a "riding the dragon" mindset when parenting kids. Instead of head butting and crashing into rocks, dive into the madness, paddle into the current fast, hang on to the tail of the dragon and go with the energy. Elliot lately has been begging me in the most desperate whiny voice to buy him this grotesque baby skeleton in a cage that we saw in Target. Tonight he started in again, "whyyyy wouldn't you buy me the skeleton in the cage that I wanted. I waaaaanted it." I said, "It was disturbing and gross. I didn't want to buy it." He said, "It wasn't a baby, it was a person." More whining.

With my new dragon mind, I said, "You really like skeletons, you really like bones don't you." "I do because they're the inside of a person." he said. It worked like a charm, perfect verbal redirection. We then talked about how next semester he'll take the after school science class. Totally into it. Maybe I don't need to slay any dragons elsewhere in my life.

We'll see if it works with Asher. Ok, wear your spiderman pajamas to school. Ok, cry into your ice cream that's too sweet. too cold. too rich. too much. Too many choices and no limits isn't good either. We'll see.

He's still in the dreamscape of babyhood. When I read him "Brown Bear" he pretends to eat a little piece of each animal's tongue. "Yum" he says. He asks for cod liver oil. He asks his parents to "look at the poop" on the sidewalk. In the Halloween costume book he points to the picture of the boy dressed as an alien and says, "Asher."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

We decided to go to the all organic South 47 Farm in Redmond this year to pick a pumpkin (got a little bit lost, but what's a trip to the pumpkin patch without a little argument about how to get there?). The trip was worth it. The pumpkin selection was slim, but it wasn't as crowded as Craven Farm either. South 47 has a huge corn maze, apple cider, bales of hay for the kids to jump on, kettle corn and a farmer's market. Just perfect for us. The sun was out, Buzzy Bee came with us and we had a great time.

The assistant manager of the farm gave us a hay ride tour and educated us about their organic crops: 1) they keep honey bees to pollinate the flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs 2) their blueberries aren't doing well for the second year in a row and 3)they have a small flock of goats. Asher was thrilled by the bumpy hay ride. Whoopee!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Danny and I watched the whole first season of Weeds in one weekend a few weeks ago. Each night in bed we gobbled up the episodes on our laptop three or four at a time (1/2 hour episodes are particularly addictive - this happened to us when we watched each season of Sex in the City on dvd as well).

The writing is sharp, the characters are complex and compelling, the satire is fresh. Poking fun at suburban family values hypocrisy is nothing new, but Weeds works as straight drama as well as a brutal black comedy (not campy or broad at all). Mary Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin sips her iced lattes like a chain smoker. Her intense drive to become a weed kingpin feels believable. Her hubris and greed are transparent. Andy the slacker brother in-law and Celia the bitchy PTA / city council president get the most laughs. Shane, Nancy's youngest son is also fun to watch. Silas the oldest son is the show's weakest character. Not sure where they're going with him.

We ended up watching most of season two last weekend. There are two episodes left in the season. I'm already going through withdrawal. I like how the producers are spicing up the show with indie bands singing the little boxes theme song, but I still love the Melvina Reynolds version the best. The kids and I sing it all the time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Autumn Top 10 List

1. Green Tea Mochi Ball Ice Cream
2. Weeds on Showtime
3. Melted gruyere cheese
4. Crazy shaped pumpkins
5. Flourescent orange leaves
6. Radiant heat floors
7. The Twits by Roald Dahl (dreadful, dreary, another very dark but humorous story, bird pie!)
8. Sufjan Stevens
9. Stories for Children by Isaac Bashev Singer (death, treachery, brutal but beautiful)
10. Cashmere sweaters

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Sepultura

Just to give you an idea about what's going on in our house. Elliot no longer watches tv, he watches YouTube. Two of his current favorites (he has very eclectic taste):

Sepultura Resist cover from child prodigy heavy metal band from Argentina - the guitarist looks like he's 8.

Captain Jack Sparrow Disco Song, "pirates are cool because they find treasure and get to dress up."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Autumn in Seattle

Each morning the car is wrapped in dew. A cold fog sticks around until 11, but the sky is blue and it's mildly warm by noon (or 1 or 2). I packed away Elliot's shorts to avoid having another argument with him about why we don't wear shorts in cold weather (it did the trick, but he still manages to throw a fit every few weeks about something absurd like why he really needs a pet monkey or why can't he have chocolate cupcakes for breakfast). Leaves are turning orange and yellow. Our Halloween decorations are out: day of the dead skeleton, plastic spiders and ceramic pumpkins, a string of purple bat lights. Some of our more ambitious neighbors have spider webs and ghosts in their trees, gravestones in their front lawns.

Rats + Scabies
A few weeks ago I developed a twitch in my eye and a rash on the palms of my hands. I thought I had scabies and obsessed over the CDC site and any dermatological photo sites cataloging the most grotesque cases of parasitic skin diseases and other skin conditions. It turns out I'm a stress case (not a surprise) and have atopic eczema. I'm always under stress. Not sure why it happened now. Nothing new except that while insulating under the house we discovered RATS. We installed a fan in the bathroom and discovered we had no vent. Our skylight is leaking. Asher is teething and acting like a maniac. But Elliot started kindergarten last month and it's been one of the smoothest transitions I've ever seen him make.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Baby Einstein vs Barbie

Po Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?), who pokes holes in conventional wisdom and examines social trends with refreshing clarity in his down to earth blog Social Studies, had an article in Time Magazine this week on the media hype that surrounds the spate of books and articles written about family issues that only affect 10% of the wealthiest U.S. population. The side effect of this anxiety is that it causes widespread panic where it need not and contributes to (for example) lower rates of college enrollment for Latinos (media tells them college is too expensive and competitive). Claude Fisher, a Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley said, "A social trend is whatever is happening to a newspaper editor and the editor's friends." Bronson's point is well taken, but isn't the media targeting this affluent audience? Isn't it all about advertising dollars and marketing to the most desirable demographic?

Still, Bronson could have chosen a better example than baby einstein (I understand the name says it all) I have a few Baby Einstein books and videos and they're extremely boring. Perhaps Baby Einstein isn't selling as many products because they don't understand kids. Elliot loves science and history and we have tons of books that really spark his intellectual curiosity (such as the Eyewitness series board books for babies to encyclopedias for older kids). Eyewitness gets kids.

As for Barbie, I haven't had to face that issue with my boys (although I did make the decision to let the boys play with small action figures who have weapons - a pirate without a sword??). I cut her legs off, tattooed her face and melted her hair, but I loved Barbie... Action figures (including barbies) are very important to imaginative play. It's developmentally appropriate and intellectually stimulating to play with dolls throughout childhood. Baby Einstein or Leap Frog or any other educational toy is not in direct opposition to action figures or dolls.

How media elitism misrepresents the American family - Po Bronson in Time MagazineWho would win in a fight, Baby Einstein or Barbie? Baby Einstein isn't a character. He's just a brand. So that imaginary fight wouldn't be a fistfight. It'd be a fight for mind share and market share. It'd be a fight for dollars. Every day, in Targets and Wal-Marts across the country, those two brands go at it. Which one do you give your kid? It depends on how old your child is, obviously, but as any good supermom will tell you, Baby Einstein is the choice of parents who want their daughter to speak Swahili by seventh grade and go to Harvard. They leave Barbies for people who, they imagine, just want their daughter to have a smile on her face and go to a great state college.

So who's winning? It's not close. Barbie crushes Baby Einstein. Last year the Baby Einstein brand sold $200 million worth of products. The Barbie brand's sales were 15 times as high. A giant $3 billion.

I bring that up because I sense the media are ignoring the true American family and instead are putting the dramas of affluent families on Page One. It would be O.K. if they delivered those portraits with a sardonic wink, so that we might laugh at the foibles of the well-off. But there is no wink. In the eyes of the media, we all buy Baby Einstein.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bagley Buzzzz

Elliot and I (his father) were messing around with Garage Band. Elliot had difficulty starting the song on a count(1-1-1-2-3-4.) He wanted to get the song down in his mind before--he started singing. I'm not a musician--but it seems like his mind was going over the song--before he sang it. Anyway here it is...


Monday, October 02, 2006

Godzilla the Good Dad

Elliot is into Godzilla these days. I was searching for less scary videos of Godzilla and found this public service announcement about how you don't need to be bigger than life to be a good dad. All it takes is spending time with your kid. It takes a man to be a good dad. Is the announcement saying that you don't have to be a big show off to have fun with your kids? Playing monster is a classic dad and kid game. Not sure it's effective. Cute though.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


When I was in second grade my mom bought me a pair of Kork-Ease shoes that were to die for. I loved them so much I refused to take them off for bed the first night I brought them home; there was no way you could pry those things off my feet. I remember sleeping with my Kork-Ease on, inhaling their musky leathery goodness, my heart fluttering with Kork-Ease dreams.

They squeaked when I walked and gave me hundreds of blisters, but they looked beautiful on my feet. Eventually they turned dark brown and loose, the straps probably uprooted. I think I owned a few more pair after that.

Yesterday I was shoe shopping and I was surprised to see Nordstrom was selling them for $200 bucks. Apparently, they're back and spendy. Not so sure about the metallic and velvet options, but the black Kork-Ease looked cute. Too late for sandals this year. Maybe I'll pick up a pair next summer.