Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, December 31, 2007

No resolutions, only hopes

Happy New Year

I don't do resolutions for New Years. I would never follow through, making me feel bad about myself, so what's the point of resolutions for someone like me? Exactly!

But I do have hopes for the new year. Some are simple, some are profound, and some are actually plausible.

The war will end, the troops will come home safe and healthy, and peace will come to Iraq.

Democrats will take the White House, remain in control in Congress, and several of the more conservative Supreme Court Judges will either croak or resign for reasons of health or family commitments, leaving places for more liberal judges to rule the laws of the land.

Universal health care will come to the United States at last.

The Federal Poverty Rate will be a congressional concern and they will vote to overhaul the system, allowing for cost of living increases and cost of living credits for geographical areas.

People will become more green and will stop trying to refute global warming.

Health care research will be restructured so that mega corporations don't control all of the research studies.

The government will overturn NCLB and actually work towards education all children appropriately, including both GATE and SpED kids, by restructuring mainstreaming.

Government subsidies for corporate agriculture will cease, allowing more foodstuffs to be grown and donated to food banks, thus allowing the poor to eat healthier and combat childhood obesity.

My children will stop bickering and learn to get along.

I'll continue losing weight without very much effort on my part.

My cardiac rehab program will prove valuable and will help with my stress level.

To be a better and more pleasant mother.

To be less fiscally insecure and to begin to save some money for the future and emergencies.

To continue freelancing but more more money at it, and perhaps finding more interesting jobs.

To FINALLY get into subsidized housing with will enable me to afford an automobile.

To live a greener life this year, especially with regard to our issues with garbage and recycling (don't ask... it's a rant and a half.)

More volunteer work for the whole family.

A new computer will magically enter my life.

Finish all my knitting projects.

Less town bickering, please!

So what about you? What are your hopes for the new year?

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Field Trip to Historic Concord

The Boy and I took a ride today to Concord. We didn't really need anything there, we just needed to go for a walk and visit someplace outside our fair city. Someplace pretty and not too far away. Someplace we haven't been in a while. Someplace historic and rural and different than our usual suburban travels.

Battlefield and the Sudbury River

Concord, for those who aren't American and don't know much about American history, is the birthplace of the American Revolution. It's where Paul Revere rode his horse to, shouting "The British are coming, the British are coming." It's where Paul Revere was also caught. It has the battlefield where the first victory in the American Revolution was fought at the Old North Bridge. Concord is right next to Lexington, which is the site of the battlefields where the first shots of the Revolution were fired.

The North Bridge, where the battle begun. This is the location of "the shot heard round the world".

Concord is also the town that housed such American literary luminaries as Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Sidney, and Louisa May Alcott. Evidentally it was recommended to have three names in order to reside in Concord.

We drove around, stopped at various sites and walked the battlefield until the Boy slipped on the ice and hurt his butt, thus complaining of both being cold AND having a sore tush. Poor child.

This is a lovely house decorated in typical New England fashion for Christmas. Isn't it pretty?

This house just spoke to me. I love teeny little houses that look like dolls might live there. This is just the kind of house I'd love to have, intimate but friendly and welcoming. And the pink... you just have to love the pink!

Do you recognize this brown house? You've probably seen it in a movie. It's Louisa May Alcott's house, and it was in the movie Little Women, or as the Girl called it when she was small, Little Ladies.
Orchard House

This is the The Wayside, home of many literary superstars. The Wayside was the home of Samuel Whitney, muster master of the Concord Minute Men. During the literary renaissance of the 19th century, it was home to three families of authors. The young Louisa May Alcott wrote her first published work here. Extensive renovations to the house were made by Nathaniel Hawthorne, including the vaulted tower study. Harriett Lothrop, using the pen name “Margaret Sidney” wrote the “Five Little Peppers” stories at this “Home of Authors."

The Wayside

In the summer, Concord is filled with tourists from all over the world. But in the winter it's a nice quiet place to take a walk and to look at beautiful American architecture from the Colonial period. Hard to believe this is only a few miles outside of Boston!

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Tales from the laundry room

My daughter loves the underwear. I don't know why, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in underwear other than putting it on in the morning and taking it off at night. When it fits correctly, I'm happy as a pig in shit. I don't buy fancy stuff, I don't believe in spending large sums of money on bras or panties. But my kid...she's an underwear fiend. I told you how she went to H&M the other day and brought two new bras with her gift card money. BORING. But she was so psyched to find polka dotted bras with cute little trim, etc. I roll my eyes, but it is her money and she's happy about it, so who am I to say anything.

Last night she did a load of laundry and she was hanging out her underwear after the washer. I looked, and then looked again, and I almost plotzed. That child has more underpants than Victoria's Secret.

That is 58 pairs of underpants. FIFTY EIGHT. I knew she had a fetish, but I had no clue it was so serious. How can one even wear 58 pairs of underpants? And what's even scarier? This is only one load of her laundry. She said that there were more still laying on her floor. Oh my gawd, I must put a stop to her conspicuous underwear consumption right now. I admit I'm partly to blame. Every time we go to Marshalls she'll show me a pair and they're so cheap I'll toss them into the cart. But no more. We're on an underwear moratorium for the Girl. And she wants to know why. I dunno! Why do you think, Girl?

The second I saw these she said, "You're gonna blog this, aren't you." Um, yes. Of course. This is priceless stuff. She doesn't mind at all.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Manning Schmanning

Eli, Peyton.... you just can't cut it. You're good, but you ain't a Boston caliber football player. You don't have the gorgeous straight white teeth of Tom Brady, the brute force of Randy Moss, or the delightful personality of Teddy Bruschi. You're good, you're just not GREAT.

I am not a football fan. I can barely watch a game without napping somewhere in the second inning quarter. I just don't like the game and don't get the whole behemoth players smashing into each other. But I appreciate a team, any time, that ends it's season undefeated. It rarely happens. In fact, in football it hasn't happened since 1972. But it happened tonight to the New England Patriots.

Say what you will about Boston, we have frigging great sports teams, and we have an even better fan base. First the Red Sox win the World Series, now the Patiots play an undefeated season and are on to the Superbowl, and the Celtics have finally gotten out of their generational doldrums and are playing great ball. We're just waiting on the Bruins to revive and we'll take over the entire field of professional sports. Heh.

It's been crazy in Boston the past few days. The reporters on TV could barely contain themselves about the game. It was shown on FOUR channels tonight. Both CBS and ABC carried the entire game. Let us just hope that MLB gets the hint and stops requiring payment in order to enjoy a baseball game, the moneygrubbing asshats. Everyone is talking about 'the game' and the grocery stores had a run on Doritos and Popcorn. I'm betting the pizza delivery guys made a small fortune tonight in tips. They certainly were busy.

I'm happy that the Patriots won this last game of the season, but of course that means even more football to endure. Oh well, it's only another 6 weeks or so until SPRING TRAINING! I can't wait!

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Thinking about blogging and popularity...again!

The past few nights have been particularly sleepless, so things start passing by my mind, things I usually don't ponder about at all. But last night one of the myriad of unconnected thoughts was how 'mommy blogging' changes from year to year. A couple of years ago, the super-d-dooper (to quote Barney) mommy bloggers were totally different than who they are now. Oh, except for Dooce. She doesn't count. She's above all this.

A couple of years ago there were some self-appointed queen bee bloggers. They all blogged for a time at Parent Dish, nee Blogging Baby, and they all had very large egos. Some were so busy anointing themselves as the cream of the crop that they started believing their own self-importance. They spent much of their blogging time either plugging their friend's blogs, or self-promoting like crazy. You remember the "I'm here today" controversy. Thankfully, it's pretty much confined to a few bloggers.

Those self-appointed queen bees are mostly not queen bees anymore. I don't know why. I think it some cases they just lost audiences because they wrote the same old same old for years. Blogs get boring without the occasional post that's not about either yourself or your family. In some cases, their audiences changed. In some cases, Google Reader and BlogLines made it easier to just ignore posts that didn't look interesting in the first 3 lines. There's a lot of reasons why they're not such big MommyBlogging stars any more, and far be it from me to analyze why.

Now we've got a new crop of absolute stars. The difference between the new stars and the older ones is that the new stars don't take themselves so seriously. They have humor, they have self-deprecating posts, and they're interesting without self-promotion. Some of the stars are very different than the 'I'm too cool for you' stars of the recent past. Look at three that I think stand out:

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. This is an incredibly popular blog, one of the most successful personal blogs on the 'net. Ree, the author, is a fabulous photographer, a really great story teller, is hilariously funny, and she's so damn real. Everyone loves her, no matter where you're from. I haven't ever heard one disparaging word about her or her site. She's universally adored. She also raises large sums of money for Special Olympics, takes care of a passel of "punks" and gives us insight onto what's it like to live on a working cattle ranch. Her blog is unique. Even her cooking blog is unique. She uses the most mundane of ingredients bought in a local market she claims carries nothing remotely gourmet, and yet she makes food you just want to gobble right down.

Rocks in My Dryer. Shannon has taken it upon herself to create a really interesting blog filled with a sense of community. While Shannon and I are about as politically and religiously apart as two people can be, I love her blog. I love that she's worked really hard to be very inclusive, to encourage other bloggers to take part in her various weekly blogging events, and I mostly love that she really likes her friends on the 'net. She has created some of the most successful blogging 'events' ever, including her two "Giveaways" where hundreds of people offer items in their own personal contests, and of course, Works for Me Wednesdays. I've taken part in both giveaways, and you wouldn't believe what this did to my stats. I got thousands and thousands of hits during the giveaways. You would have thought I was giving away gold or something. While she does blog about her family, that's not her central theme. Community is her theme, and she's built up the most successful community I've seen on the 'net.

Because I Said So. The title of this blog gives you a hint to Dawn's method of parenting. She's a hoot and a half, and she rarely isn't hilariously funny when she talks about the daily grind of parenting 6 kids. Dawn's new to blogging, starting this blog last June. Dawn was the woman that wrote the hilariously funny Ebay ad selling an old, dirty baseball for over $1100. From there, she has continued to write a fabulously funny entry almost daily, chronicling her kids antics, how she got the book deal she's currently procrastinating writing, her trip to NYC to be on TV, and about how all this success came down to one funny ad on Ebay. Since Dawn first started blogging, she's been able to increase her family's financial intake from her ads, and she's been equally generous in giving to charity and helping to support a family with a dying child. Dawn keeps her audience hopping because you never know what she's going to come out with next. You can always count on it to be funny, though.

Why do these stand out as excellent examples (in my not-so-humble opinion) of mommy-blogging? Because they're all different blogs, they all have a vast following of non-sycophants who aren't telling them how pretty they are and how beautiful their clothing is because they don't freaking NEED to be constantly stroked, they all promote community or charity or good works on the blogs, and they are women who don't need to tell you how 'cool' they are. And most of all, they don't post about American Idol or Dancing with the Stars! That alone gives them huge points on my Best of Blogs list!

To tell you how much I like the direction that the popular blogs are heading would be obvious. I'm thrilled that we finally seem to have gotten beyond the 'I'm so cool you MUST come and shower me with adulation' blogs of the past. I'm loving that the new popular bloggers are getting recognition for being talented writers and photographers, and not for being cool. I like that these are thinking women who aren't stuck on the same story week after week after week. I like that they bring a sense of community to their blogs. I like that they have open comments and yet rarely if ever get even one nasty troll commenter. I like that their commenters talk about the content and not feel the need to tell the poster how pretty they are and how cool their shoes are. I love that these bloggers aren't solely baby-oriented and that these particular bloggers have older kids. Honestly, I just like these blogs a lot because they seem like their written by women who are secure in who they are and don't need their commenters to stroke them continually.

So what about you? What blogs that aren't old time "cool blogs" are you digging these days?

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Thinking outside the box

When I was in high school, the uniform was flannel shirts, 501-button fly Levis, and Clarks Wallabees. Man, those were comfy shoes.

In college the uniform was flannel shirts, 501-button fly Levis, and Earth Shoes. Shoes not quite as comfy, but otherwise, the same damn clothing.

I understand the need for conformity. I dressed just like everyone else in high school in college. Except, I didn't. I've always been pretty much my own person. In LA, back in the paleolithic era when I was in high school and dinosaurs still roamed the LaBrea Tar Pits, there were distinct groups. The "surfs" wore a lot of plaid shirts and wheat colored cords with Jack Purcell sneakers. The "grease" wore leather jackets and pegged jeans and white t-shirts ala the Fonz. The "burn-outs" wore the flannel shirts, 501s, and Wallabees. So I identified heavily with one particular set of kids, but I really wasn't a burnout, I was kinda artsy-fartsy. I majored in photography in high school. I went to a music and art school where you could pick a major and spend a lot of time doing that particular interest.

But in my senior year my parents, in their infinite ignorance of what it meant to be 16, decided to uproot me and move to Baltimore Maryland. Oh yeah, they did. I wasn't even given the choice of staying, I just had to go and do my senior year in a place I didn't know with kids I didn't know and it was hotter than hell there and they had 17-year locusts. You can imagine the thrills I was feeling. Fucking asshats.

I arrived in our fancy Jewish 'burb in Baltimore, and it was like 1958. The girls were wearing peter pan collars and frigging circle pins, for God's sake. They wore skirts to school! With knee socks. And little Capezio flats! It was frightening. Of course, I had no interest in ever copying these people, so I went with the...wait for it... flannel shirts, 501s, and Wallabees. This caused a huge commotion because there was a freaking dress code. A WHAT? I'd never even heard of this before. So I ignored it, which made me incredibly popular with the vice-principal and the school staff. But they couldn't break me. I just would not wear anything else, and they eventually dropped the dress code. This endeared me to the other rebellious students and made me plenty of friends, all of whom were, of course, the school's artists and burnouts. I knew my place! I found my social group.

In my high school year book from this school in Baltimore, the senior portraits were taken in the city by some goofy photographer that insisted that the girls wear this stupid black drape and pearls. Um, no. That wasn't going over with me. So I'm the ONLY girl in the entire book that wore a grey sweater instead of a drape. Even though I was a conformist of sorts, I was really a rebel and stood up for myself even way back then.

Which brings us to today. As you know, I'm still a rebel and I've got quite the wild side when it comes to clothing and general appearance. There are very few women in their mid-50's that have shocking pink hair like mine. My rebellious nature has definitely been passed on to the Boy, who has a crazy fashion sense. This past weekend he picked out, and has been wearing, a pair of plaid Etne skate shoes. Even I balked at them, but he liked them and we bought them and he's totally into them. OK now. He tried to talk me into a pair of orange wide-wale cords but I absolutely refused. They were peachy orange and I just thought they might be a little TOO overboard for high school in our suburban town, but he would have worn them no problem.

However, and this is the real reason for this long-winded saga, the Girl has not been blessed with the rebellious gene when it comes to attire. She is a sheep. She wears the uniform of our town. Layering tees topped with a Juicy velour hoodie, flared jeans tucked into Ugg boots, and all topped off with her North Face Denali jacket. Every kid in school has the same outfit. EVERY kid. It's like they were pushed off an assembly line. I surely don't deny her the right to feel like a part of the crowd, but I wish she were just the slightest bit adventurous when it comes to clothing. She isn't.

I took the Girl and her friend Squid to H&M on Newbury Street today. If you're not familiar with Boston, Newbury Street is the equivalent of Rodeo Drive, same designer shops, same high fashion mavens with a lot of shopping bags, same crowded streets, same celeb sightings. We miraculous, and I do say so with great glee, found a parking space a block from the store! This is unheard of. When we got into the store, I told the Girl to "think outside the box" because the vast majority of clothes you can see at H&M are trendy, high fashion, cheap prices, choices. She looked and looked all over the store. She had a gift card with a pretty penny on it, and she could have bought some really outstanding pieces for her wardrobe. Several times she was looking at stuff she already had at home, like layering t's and camis, and I would say "Think outside the box." But she's just not an outside the box kinda kid. Sigh.

She ended up purchasing two bras and a pair of jeans. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. There were such cute things there, and yet she couldn't find ANYTHING that she would feel comfortable wearing. OMG! If I were her size and her age, I could easily have spent hundreds and hundreds on stuff there. Cute coats, dresses, pants... such cool clothes and totally different than everyone else in town.

She doesn't want to be different. She wants to be just like everyone else. But, in her defense, she also had a gift card to Old Navy and we went there and she could not find one thing she liked. We left empty handed. She HATES Old Navy clothes except for... hold on... camis, layering t's, beaters, and flip flops. So she'll spend her card on summer stuff later on in the year.

It's so hard defining who you are when you're a teenager. I feel for her because she just hasn't found her both a comfort zone and her individual style yet. She will. I know she will. It's just going to come later on.

But at least she's not wearing plaid shoes!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

What might happen next in Pakistan

With the assassination of Benizar Bhutto so fresh in our minds, it's hard to move beyond the horror of her untimely murder to what might happen next in Pakistan and how it could affect the rest of the world. But I believe that it's one of those terrible things we do have to face head on. When things of this nature usually happen in the middle east, my first thought is how will this affect Israel. Like most Jews, I have a terrible angst in the back of my mind that eventually the tiny country, the only democracy in the entire middle east, will be wiped out by it's militarisic neighbors. They have sworn to do so, and it's only a matter of time before one Israel's enemies takes aim at her with nuclear weapons.

However, if al-Qaida was really responsible for Bhutto's murder and the subsequent suicide bombing that killed 20 other Pakistanis, then we in the USA have more to worry about than Israel's existance. "Death to America" has been Bin Ladin's war cry for years, and I think that it would be blindly ridiculous to assume he wouldn't use the nuclear weapons that might become a part of his arsenal if he gains power within Pakistan. The only question as Americans that we have is 'Which City will he aim the weapons at first?' My bet is Washington DC, but then again he's already shown a deep hatred for NYC, so who really knows. If he bombed NYC, the world's financial markets would be in total chaos. If he bombed DC, the world's governments would be in chaos. What about both cities at the same time? He's gone that route before.

By now you know what a worrier I am. This is the kind of scenario that keeps me from my bed at night. I start pondering just where would be safe. In the film "I am Legend" (which I haven't seen, but both my kids have) Vermont looks pretty damn good. I like Vermont. Yes, it's cold, but if you go far enough north, you can settle for very little money on a gorgeous Lake Champlain. And you're so close to Canada! Close enough to sneak over the border if need be. You see, I think about this stuff. I'm petrified of nuclear war. I'm not alone, and I think we all need to realize that if Bin Ladin and his band of merry terrorists come to grab the power in Pakistan, we're going to be seriously burnt toast here on the eastern seaboard. Maybe we can move into the Pioneer Woman's guest barracks. They're huge and could hold a lot of people! Oklahoma is OK by me.

I'm not trying to be glib. We are in deep doo-doo with al-Qaida gaining a stronghold in Pakistan, which they've been doing for the past 5 years. These aren't rational folks. You can't reason with fanatics. They believe that the Koran tells then to kill all the infidels, and as Americans, we're at the top of the list. By killing their former friend Bhutto (and yes, she was a strong supporter of al-Qaida during her second term as Prime Minister of Pakistan), they have made it even more plausable that Musharraf will maintain his leadership of Pakistan. Let's face it, this guy is a weasel and a puppet of Bin Ladin's. He is not good news for the Western world. Not at all. But who else is there to lead this Godforsaken country? Sharif, who government Musharraf ousted in order to bring himself to power, announced that he was boycotting the upcoming elections, which doesn't bode well for anyone other than Musharraf.

The next few days and weeks are critical for the country of Pakistan. If Mushsrraf declares the constitution null and void, and brings back curfews, civil unrest is going to burst forth and will be almost impossible to control. This is a country that is seething with misery. The people are either poor, or just begging to be allowed to don western ways like their neighbors in India have done. They are tired of remaining underdogs because of faulty governments and a band of terrorists that have taken root and thrived in their country. As Pakistani society becomes more and more intolerant of anyone other than Muslim extremists, it's urgent to find and support moderate candidates that can tone down the civil unrest. That's what Bhutto was supposed to do, but she knew she was a marked woman even before she came back from her exile in Dubai.

If you haven't yet read her obituary, you might be amazed to find out that she was a working mother who saw her 2 brothers and her father murdered by extremists. You'll learn about her exile after being ousted twice as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the first woman leader in the entire middle east. She was a student at Radcliffe/Harvard, and then at Oxford in England. She was imprisoned and spend 5 years in solitary confinement. Although corruption accusations dogged both her terms as PM, and her husband's continued involvement with 'curious' financial dealings led to prison time, Bhutto remained as a stalwart supporter of Pakistan. Her death marks a terrible period of unrest in the Middle East, and could be the beginning of civil war within her country.

Whatever you think of Bhutto, as Americans we need to start thinking of the future with Bin Ladin and al-Quada featured as prominent world leaders. It's a frightening though, especially knowing that these extremists have no compunction against killing thousands of innocent civilians in order to get their message across.

So, where are you thinking of moving to?

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Evidentally I have lost my mind

I'm a glutton for punishment. I've just done the most bizarre thing. I signed up for Blog 365. Yes, I did. I will be posting every day for a full year. NaBloPoMo wasn't enough of a challenge for me, and besides, I didn't win anything for the second year in a row, so I'm sulking. I'm going to post every frigging day from January 1, 2008 until I either die or January 1,2009, whichever comes first. We get a one day holiday on February 29 because it's leap year. Yippee-do.

I post pretty much every day anyhow, so this isn't going to be a big problem. But I expect comments, people. I'm committing to this, so I'm asking you to commit to writing at least a comment a week. That's 52 freaking comments in a full year. There has to be at least that much commentary buried inside your bloglines and googlereader personas. I'm counting on you. I really am!

I'll be restarting Lost Discussion Thursday as soon as Lost comes back on the air in mid-January, so you can count on a pithy recap of each episode, complete with my questions about all the hanging plotlines. I'll probably also do Works for Me Wednesdays, as I like the crowd that posts their hints, and I've gotten a bunch of great tips there. Otherwise, it's freeform blogging about the kids, the schools (and boy, do I have one to post about, but can't quite do it yet), the crazy town politics, and of course, food glorious food. So stay tuned!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Security Camera Brouhaha Upgraded to High Alert

Last night I wrote about the 5 'hidden' security cameras that have been installed in a high school in our small city. The cameras have yet to be turned on, and are placed in areas with a high rate of vandalism and theft. Unfortunately, our somewhat unpopular school superintendent made yet another poor judgement call and decided not to inform the teachers and students about the installation of the security equipment last summer. In fact, some of the information did leak out, and one of the school's newspapers broke the story last week that the cameras did exist, causing a big brouhaha within our community.

The best way to explain the upset is that there are two very distinct groups of people in our town. The vast majority are like me, liberal, interested in good works, not afraid of taxes or government, and willing to give up a little in order to ensure the safety of our children. The other group, a much smaller faction, are very conservative, pro war, anti government, anti taxes, and anti change. Although they are smaller, they are also much more vocal and are filled with a constant outrage against the Mayor, the Aldermen, and the town government. Every single proposed change brings out their vitriol. They freak out over garbage collection just as much as they have freaked out about the security cameras in the school. They see conspiracy behind every door. You know these folks, they have them in every city and town all over the world. Constantly pissed off, dissatisfied with anything, they scream "Big Brother" and "Impeach" at anything they disagree with.

This small minority are again the people leading the outrage against the security cameras in schools. They cry that kid's civil rights are being abused, but kids don't have civil rights as minors. That's just a fact of the American constitution, where kids are considered belongings until they are 18 and no longer minors. They scream for the superintendent to resign, they scream that the cameras must be removed, they just scream out of frustration for anything that is different, new, and challenging. The town blog is filled with posts about this, there for anyone to see. No matter what the issue, it's the same folks that post this vituperative speech. The "concerned citizen" who won't even use his own name, the guy who ran for Mayor and lost, the guy who ran for Alderman and lost, the woman who spends the vast majority of her time writing inane letters to the newspaper making bizarre accusations about anyone who disagrees with her. We know who they are because they are so vocal. They're usually dead wrong, but that doesn't matter to them. They just keep on screaming ad nauseum.

Because of these people, the local news picked up the story today. I first saw it covered by Gail Huff on the 6 am news (I know!). Boy, did she do a crappy job. She took information from the story in the student newspaper and didn't do a bit of reportage on her own. At 7 her report improved a bit, having more information, but still relying heavily on the student newspaper. The Boston Globe also picked up the story and ran with it. There was a poll on the WCVB asking whether or not cameras belonged in school. 86% of the respondents said "yes". Again proving the point that the naysayers in our city are in the vast minority, but they don't care. They keep on shouting invectives against the city leaders.

City government is a funny thing. Our small city of ~90K people is led by an unpopular Mayor and a board of Aldermen, several of whom are newly elected pushing out long time incumbents. The Mayor is unpopular for a variety of reasons, most of which I agree with. He's calling for another tax override, he's tasked with building the most outrageously expensive high school in Commonwealth history, he's caused a historic rift with the fire department, and he has a real problem with communication. He, in my opinion, deserves the reputation he's earned. The Aldermen have historically been total 'yes men' and did what the Mayor told them to. This hasn't made people happy either.

Due to the economy downturn, an increase of taxes on top of the cost of heating oil and food rising well beyond what many people can afford has taken an economic toll on the city. The infrastructure is in ruins, the streets filled with bad paving, the city owned buildings are falling apart, and there is no money to expand the schools which are bursting at the seams. Like too many towns, when the population declined after the baby boomers finished schooling, the city sold several of it's elementary schools which are now used in other capacities, including subsidized housing. Now we're experiencing a smaller, but equally challenging baby boom and the kids have no place to attend school. Building modulars brought out the screamie-meemies, who cried that modular buildings weren't good enough for the pampered kids of our city. But modulars are coming, regardless. We have no other choice.

So once again, the city is divided, albeit unequally, over a small issue blown totally out of proportion. We've got security cameras in the school. Big frigging deal. It's legal, it's not the least bit unusual, and it's going to provide a level of safety that most parents welcome. Why this made the news is beyond me. Let's face it, this isn't a huge issue on the grand schema of things. I wish the naysayers would just stop being such blowhards and calm down. But they won't. They never do.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Peekaboo, we see you!

This week, the student newspaper at one of the two high schools in our city broke a story about installing 5 security cameras in the hallways. The hope of the school officials was to keep an eye on the traffic in areas with vandalism and theft problems. Several of the boy's bathrooms at the very large and meandering school campus have had bad vandalism problems, with sinks being pulled out of the walls, toilets purposely stopped up, and of course the inevitable writing on the walls. At one point, several of the bathrooms were locked up in order to keep the vandalism to a minimum.

In addition, theft is rampant within the student population. The popular items are cell phones, IPods, and calculators, but clothing, shoes, and other items left in backpacks and in lockers in the boy's gym have also been stolen. There isn't a week that goes by without a report of some theft within the school, and reliable sources tell me that there are kids who steal and then resell Ipods as a business. Ahem.

With that kind of student problem, the school officials deemed it necessary to have several hidden cameras installed. Five of them, to be exact. All of the cameras are in high traffic areas outside in the hallways. They are not located in locker rooms or bathrooms. They are there to protect the students.

But as usual, the fear mongers are out and breathing fire on the local newspaper's blog about Civil Rights and illegalities that don't exist. It's always the same cast of characters, the loser architect whose design wasn't chosen for the new high school, the loser that ran for Mayor and lost, the losers who support the most rabid Republican right wing thought and cry for the School Superinendent to resign every time he takes a breath. Every week they write the letters and post their rants about the lastest news in town, and guess what? They're always up in arms! They can't believe how bad it is to live in our fair city.

This latest transgression, the installation of security cameras, cameras that have not even been turned on yet, has got these folks frothing at the mouth. They just can't believe the injustice! Horrors. Yet as a parent with kids in this school, I don't have a problem with it at all. What these rabid complainers have forgotten is that the school is filled with minor children. Children who have very little ability to control their impulses at this age. Anyone who has parented a teen knows how impulsive they are. They forget that they know stealing is wrong. If they see something they can grab, many of them will.

One person posted on the town newspaper's blog that parents in our city can just buy their kids new items if something was stolen. Well, no, they can't. I sure can't, and most of my kid's friends parents can't either. Sure we live in a rich fancy suburb. But that doesn't mean that everyone is rich enough to keep replacing IPhones or IPods that have been stolen. And that attitude of entitlement just floors me. What a freaking jerk!

My kids know about the cameras. Now everyone at the school does, too. Although the way the cameras were installed, secretly, in the middle of the summer, leaves a lot to be desired, the deal is, we live in a world where security cameras are a fact of life. Every retail establishment, every bank, every supermarket has them. They're covering street corners looking for errant drivers. They're in universities, and unsurprisingly they're in high schools all over the country. They're not being used to spy on kids in bathrooms or locker rooms, they're being used to keep a record of who is in the halls at a given time for security purposes.

It's a shame that schools need to be made more secure. But I'd much rather security cameras than metal detectors and police presence all over the school. Honestly, it seems to me that the people who are the most upset are those desperately trying to make their mark on the city, but have such unpopular stances that they just keep failing. I believe the best thing is for them to look inward and try to see why they are rejected over and over again. I've tried to tell at least one of them, but he can't listen.

What say you about this topic? Would you be upset if security cameras were installed in your kid's school?

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Time for the Jews

We went to see National Treasure 2 today. Meh. I thought it was really disappointing, but I wasn't a big fan of the first one, either. My kids both like #1, especially the Girl, so they lobbied long and hard for this as our Christmas movie. I had several other choices, but all of mine were negated by the simple statement from the Boy, "We have to see a BLOCKBUSTER for our Christmas movie." Well, that has been our family tradition and all.

National Treasure 2 has totally stale banter between the characters, they relied on some of the same jokes as #1, the quest for the city of gold led to some really improbable situation like breaking into Buckingham Palace and getting into the Queen's study to examine her desk, and then repeating the action with a second breaking at the White House to check out the President's matching desk in the Oval Office. Like that's gonna happen. Even more improbable is the plot to kidnap the President temporarily so that Nicholas Cage can ask him a sensitive question.

The first one at least relied on probable history. This one? Not so much. It defied belief right from the get-go, and that really ticked me off. But what really got me riled was the ending, which was so similar to the first movie as to be a complete ripoff.

The ONLY high spot in the whole movie was Helen Mirren, who has to be my favorite actress. Her accent was not good, but otherwise she was her delightful self and brought some decent comedy to an otherwise beige plot.

We got home and decided to order in Chinese rather than to go out again. We ordered from the 'usual' place and they took our order, told us the standard "30 minute" and then didn't show up. They called an hour later and said that they couldn't deliver because their delivery guy's car broke down. Bummer. So we called another place we've never tried before and again, meh. Not great, not horrible. I don't think I'd use them again but we so seldom have Chinese delivered that it's not really an issue.

So that's what our Christmas day was like. Both kids have been squabbling on and off all day, as usual, and I'm just plain tired. I didn't get enough sleep last night and it's Emily's fault because I've been reading cookbooks all night long. Honestly, I read them like novels, then mark the pages of recipes I'd like to try. It's hard work being an imaginary baker!

Merry Holiday of your choice!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Let's talk holiday weight gain, shall we?

So yesterday I baked and baked. I didn't even eat that much, just a bit of dough here and there and oh, a few cookies to sample them. But I didn't pig out or anything. Unfortunately, I got on the scale this morning, and my ass has evidentally grown in size overnight, for I gained 1.5 lbs. Honest, I didn't even eat that much. A nice lean chicken breast, and cookies. A totally balanced meal.

Of course this means that not only can I not touch anything that remotely resembles something good, I have to be good. Good, I tell you. How unfair is that? In the spirit of goodness, I've not put a single piece of peppermint bark between my fatty fat lips. Actually, I have tiny lips and could probably use a collagen injection if I gave a rat's ass about how small my lips are. I don't, so never mind. But the bark, the bark. It sits all alone on my countertop screaming 'eat me' and I can only give it the cold shoulder. This is just wrong.

Being good also means no Chinese food tomorrow night. I know, it's sacreligious not to eat Chinese food on Christmas. But I can't deal with the salt content when I'm trying to drop down to my last lowest weight, which, btw, is only 3 lbs from my second pre-pregnancy weight (after I lost the 35 lbs in order to GET pregnant in the first place). I'm so close and I swore I would hit that weight by the new year, so moo goo gai pan, you are no longer a part of my plans. The kids are OK with that only because I'm making a BBQ brisket instead. We like the brisket a lot. I'm compensating. We like Chinese food more.

Fabulous black tree curtosy of RockStarMommy, which I shamelessly stole from her site because it is the most awesome tree ever!

Weight loss is hard to deal with in the best of times, so when there are a million things sitting on tables calling your name, it's almost impossible to be a paragon of restraint. Most of us tend to just say "fuck it" and eat to excess. I've done it for years. I didn't get to buy my clothes in the Plus Size stores on my self control. Really. But this year is different. I'm looking at weight loss as a health thing instead of an appearance thing. I know, it's just too freaking angelic to deal with. I can't stand myself either. But I'm doing that Cardiac Rehab program and I feel like I need to at least make an attempt to do the exercise and weight loss part of it. The stress stuff I need, for sure. But I also need to build up my heart and one of the ways to do that is to make my body smaller.

Having a chronic illness is hard enough, but when your body is overworked due to weight, then you're just plain unfair to yourself. I'm trying to look at this as a new life style, being healthier and just getting smaller by default. So far, I'm down around 70 lbs, which is exciting and I can't say I'm not proud of myself but... but... but... so much more to go. It's as if I'm so overwhelmed with the big number, the real goal, the goal where health will change and I'll be able to do so much more. I'm scared of that number. I'm afraid that I won't get there. I mean, eventually I'll get down to a weight that will make me feel alive again. But can I get to that weight where I look like a real skinny minny? And will I want to be at that point?

The thing about being heavy is, it's a wonderful way to keep people away from you. The weight keeps you from getting too close to people. It's easy to be fat because you're always wrapped in that cocoon where people are too scared to tred. It's a wall. It's a barrier. The more it goes away, the more you become acceptable to society and the more people will want to penetrate my life. That scares the crap out of me. I am used to being solitary. I like my plain quiet life. I'm afraid of changing it.

Every pound I lose makes me wonder if it's really important. People lose weight for a variety of reasons. For me, it's totally about health. I don't give a shit about my appearance. I'm happy with who I am and what I'm all about. I'm one of those creepy comfortable fat people that doesn't cry about my weight. I honestly don't. I'm OK with me. I'm not fat phobic, I'm not so concentrated on my appearance that I won't put on shorts or wear a bathing suit. If I'm hot, I'll wear shorts. To me, it's not much of a conundrum. I know it is for so many other women, but I'm not of that ilk at all.

I wear smaller sizes now, and my taste hasn't changed on iota. I will always be a t-shirt and jeans person. I can't see myself changing once I get down to single numbered sizes. As if. I've never been smaller than a 12. Even when I was bone thin. Which I once was, many moons ago.

Anyhow, the point of this ramble is to wish you all a Happy Christmas and hope that you keep the weight gain down to a bare minimum while still enjoying yourself. Eat, really. Just don't overdo it!

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Those Celtic Women are CREEPY!

I am not a fan of the Celtic Women. That's putting it mildly. They creep the hell out of me. I have no clue who put them together as a PBS begging special that you cannot get rid of, but honestly, how do those women make money for PBS? They are just, ew. Their creepy faces that look like they've imbibed a bit too much of the Irish Whiskey before they went on stage. And the botox! How do they sing when they can barely move their faces?

Plus, who the hell designed their costumes. It's like prom gone wrong! The pastel colors, the poor fits, the horrid designs. And their hair. Have they no salons in Ireland? Could they not find a stylist to help them find a better look than parted down the middle and straight down your back?

What about the leaping fiddler woman? Is she just downright bizarre or what? Can she not just play the damn fiddle without playing Bambi's mom on steroids? Watch her leap around the stage prancing like a new foal! Watch her toss her head while she fiddles and jumps. She's just the epitome of creepy.

The Boy particularly loathes the drummer, the guy that plays the huge gong-type drum. The Boy goes absolutely apeshit whenever he sees that drummer guy, especially since he likes to wear a leather vest with no shirt under it. According to the Boy, that's actually obscene. I kinda agree.

Now, I live in about an Irish a city as you can outside of Ireland. We're the land of the O'Mally, O'Reilly, O'Toole and O'possum (ok, I made that one up). Every other kid is a Sean, a Padraig, or a Molly. You've never seen more Catholic churches outside of Ireland. We've even got one church that we call Our Lady of the Quanset Hut because it's made like a half an easter egg with a green metal roof. It's delightfully hideous. Every freaking politician in Boston is Irish. Oh, the Governor is our token non-Irish politician, but everyone else.... from the oulde sod.

So I can understand that when our PBS stations need to beg for money, they're gonna use what they think the population wants. Bring on the Irish music! But honestly, I think most of Boston is a bit more culturally mature than that. We like Irish punk music here. But those creepy Celtic women? Not so much.

I say "Enough" of the creepy Celtic women. If we need to watch begging specials, lets try something new and different. Like decent programming.

Oh, and get rid of the Dutch guy, too. He's almost as annoying.

What does your PBS station beg with?

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Now get up and bake!"

The Boy, who is perpetually hungry, just admonished me to "Get up and bake!" because I haven't done anything all day. Heh! He's a laugh riot, that one.

Actually, he's right. I've spent much of the day reading cookie cookbooks. I wish I wish I wish the baking fairies would come over and bake all these cookies for me. I'd so much rather just eat them without doing so much work. I'm freaking lazy. I want cookies now. Instant gratification. And I'm always wondering why the Boy is so demanding. Hello Mirror, I'm Margalit the Lazy.

So I'm getting up to bake. We have 11 sticks of butter, a full gallon of milk, 2 dozen eggs, about 5 lbs of flour, plenty of every kind of sugar, dark chocolate, white chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, raisins, oatmeal and peanut butter. We've got many different flavorings, lemons and oranges for zest. We're prepared. We're ready. We're so not into actually DOING it.

Today, when I was catching up on my blog reading, which is taking about 1/10th the time as normal since nobody is posting except the Joos, I read everything in about 25 minutes. Thank God for the Joos or I would be totally out of reading material and would absolutely HAVE to make the cookies. One of the blogs I read, A Mother in Israel, asked a question that had me frothing at the mouth. She asked Do your Kids Care if Your House is Dirty?

As if! My kids MAKE my house a seething cesspool of filth and disorder. Do they want to have a clean house? They're totally blind to the mess they make. When I tell them to put things away, they're mystified as to my wrath. They would live and total squalor and be perfectly happy. I just want to know what kind of kid doesn't like a dirty house? What kid ever notices? Maybe it's only my kids, but I highly doubt it, that are such pigs. Their rooms are disgusting. They leave stuff everywhere. If there is something eaten, the packaging sits exactly where they left it until I go ballistic.

I hate that my house is a mess. I hate it with every fibre of my being. I cannot stand the clutter, the mess, the filth. I hate it. But I can't keep up with it, and I can't get reliable help. My cleaning lady didn't show this past week. No phone call, she just didn't show. I like her. She's fairly good. But it would take a team from Merry Maids a week to get this house in order, and the minute they left, it would be a mess again. When my cleaning lady leaves and the house is in order, it doesn't take more than a half hour of both kids being home before it's in disarray again. They're THAT bad.

So how about it, faithful readers? Do your kids like having a clean house? Do they even notice? Are they embarassed by your mess? Heh heh.

OK. OK, I'm getting up. It's baking time in the suburbs.

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Collecting Recipes

For many years, I've been a recipe collector. It started out innocently enough, falling madly in love with Sheryl Julian's recipes in the Boston Sunday Globe. Every week I'd look forward to seeing what magnificent recipe Sheryl would come up with, a recipe I'd invariably cut out of the paper and save in a stack in amongst my cookbooks.

After a while it became apparent that I was never going to cook the vast majority of Sheryl's recipes because they were complicated, required obscure ingredients that tended towards outrageous expense, and who was going to eat them anyhow? Not Ms Picky Eater who will only eat plain pasta, no sauce. Probably not Mr Brave Eater who likes anything that starts out with Buffalo Chicken.... It was definitely a defining moment for me, finally breaking free of the Sheryl Julian habit. I still like her recipes, and will occasionally pull one off the online Globe site, but I no longer anticipate her entries every week. Lucky, because she no longer writes many of the Globe recipes, having moved on to bigger and better things. So it has worked out well for both of us, not that Ms Julian knows I exist, for she probably does not.

However, now I have even more of a recipe crush. I read a lot of food blogs. I like some for the writing, like Chocolate & Zucchini, Prepare to Meet your Bakerina, David Lebovitz, Amuse Bouche, and the Amateur Gourmet. All of those are fine reads with great recipes and powerful looks into the lives of people who just love food. But they're not my blog crush. I like them, I read them daily, I copy down their recipes that move me, but I'm not madly and passionately in love with almost everything they ever write or cook. They don't share my love of great cookies and the perfect pie crust. They rarely talk about the various failures they've encountered on their way to producing great recipes. But my blog crush does.

Deb, of Smitten Kitchen is my blog crush. Oh my God, that woman is the person I most want to be BFF with. She's funny, she's so freaking smart, she's adorable, she's a great cook who culls some of the most interesting and approachable recipes from the entire world of cooking, and her photography is so good she makes me want to just reach into the computer for a taste of whatever she's cooking. I like that Deb both cooks and bakes, and does so with equal excitement on her perusal of the best recipes ever. She isn't afraid to make changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes fairly drastic, to recipes she feels don't work well. She makes mistakes in the kitchen and she's not afraid to admit them. Her recipes aren't frou-frou with ingredients you have to import from Hawaii or Taipei. She appreciates a good cookie and makes things that aren't just chocolate. She likes brussel sprouts! She was a vegetarian for a long time, so her recipes are rarely heavy on the meat, and she's not pushing bacon and pork products like one can't live without them, although she does on occasion use them in recipes. Lastly, because Deb is Jewish, she includes many recipes that are culturally important to me and my family.

Since I've been reading Smitten Kitchen, about 18 months now, I've collected hundreds of her recipes. I now have an archive of so many recipes I've culled off various food blogs, but especially from Smitten Kitchen, that if I started cooking today and continued non-stop for the next year, I couldn't make all these recipes. I tend to collect more cookie recipes than any other type, and I have made so many of the recipes that it's a wonder I'm not dead of diabetic shock. I love to bake, and I'm a good baker. But I must admit that I get tired of the same old cookies really quickly, so this time of year, when people are baking 5 or 10 different cookies, is the cookie time of year I like best. I like to have a good variety of cookies. I'm more partial to shortbreads and ginger spice cookies than any other type. I love those Mexican Wedding Cookies, with their short dough wrapped in a luscious coating of powered sugar.

I'm hooked, people. I can't stop collecting recipes. My online recipe file has hundreds of recipes contained in little notepad files. I keep thinking I need to have a better way to file things because it's just getting ridiculous trying to keep it all contained in one file, especially with something like 12 babka recipes, all different, but all labeled babka1 through babka 12. OK, so I suck at naming files. Sue me.

What brought me to this post is tomorrow is a baking day. I'll be making peppermint bark and praline bark, but we'll also do several types of cookies. Of course there will be shortbread, that's a given. I'll also make my Three Ginger Cookies that are spicy and rich and so gingery that they make your mouth water just smelling them. The Girl always votes for a peanut butter cookie, although I can't abide peanut butter, but she'll make those and probably oatmeal cranberry cookies as well. We'll do a rolled sugar cookie so we can decorate with the piping bag. My daughter just loves to pipe frosting. I'll have to make the Mexican Wedding Cookies because they are so damn good. The Boy will want a bar bookie, so I'll probably try the Austrian Raspberry Shortbread on Smitten Kitchen's site.

The cookies will get wrapped in cellophane bags and distributed to the postman, the garbage men, and some other well deserving people. Some bark will go to my friend Iris, and to the Boy's program team.

It will be interesting to see how much we get done. Damn that Smitten Kitchen for posting all these fabulous recipes that I have to make. She's evil, that one.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Linky Loos

Because I took potentially mind altering medicine this morning to help with the pinched nerve in my neck and shoulder, I have nothing to write about other than drifting in and out of sleep for the past 12 or so hours. So I'm sending you other places to see what other people in the blogosphere are writing about:

You want a great and heartwarming Christmas story that will bring a tear or two to your eyes?

Christmas in Stockholm.

Prettiest decorations ever.

Relive your bat mitzvah, British style.

Jeff Jacoby's Hanukkah at the White House.

A nice reminder about blogging.

15 amazing women bloggers (including one from our city)

Decorate your own online gingerbread cottage.

No matter what you celebrate, this is just so pretty.

Knitting for the slightly off beat.

Have you met the Tip Junkie?

Slice and Bake cookies to die for. (And check out the Russian Tea Cookies...my personal favorite)

Food Porn. For those days when you know you're not cooking anything interesting, but need a slight pick me up, just look at the pictures.

That ought to keep you busy for a while.

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A Birth in the Old City

For most Americans, their only view of Israel is either the tourist shots of the Temple Mount and the Kotel (Western Wall) or photos of Israeli soldiers with guns slung over their shoulders in hot pursuit of a terrorist bomber.

Here's a much more reality based look at the Old City of Jerusalem. Although this video is in Hebrew, it's pretty easy to follow even if you don't know a word of Hebrew. The video follows a Mogen David Adom (equivalent of the Red Cross but without the cross) EMT as he's called to help a woman in active labor. Ride through the amazingly narrow and crowded streets of Jerusalem, up stairways and through ancient archways as he rushes to get to the woman's home deep inside the Old City. Once there, he picks up the mom-to-be, and half-way through their trip to the hospital, he delivers her baby.

This is a moving video on several levels. The birth of any baby is a joyous event, even when it's an emergency delivery. But what makes it particularly emotionally wrought is watching the people, Arabs, Israelis, tourists alike mingle through the Old City in a perfect peaceful summers day. This is what most of Jerusalem is like on a day-to-day basis.


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Frightful, not delightful

"Oh the weather outside sucks hairy donkey balls."

Oh, that's not how the song goes? Could have fooled me. Because it is not yet winter and since last Thursday, a full week ago, we have had three snow storms and must have at least two feet of snow on the ground. Maybe more. I don't know. I am refusing to go out of my house until spring. Or at least a January thaw.

I'd like to leave the house, but that's nigh on impossible. You can't walk anywhere around here because every freaking asshat in the entire city has refused to shovel their sidewalks. Oh, they shovel and snowblow their driveways so they can get to the malls for some last minute shopping, but those of us who rely on sidewalks for walking, we're screwed royally.

Unbelievable, but true, our fair city does not require private citizens to clear their own sidewalks. After all, we only live in freaking New England, where the average snowfall every winter is like 7 million inches. Why fool with Mother Nature, the Mayor evidentally believes, because not only do private citizens not have to plow, the freaking city doesn't have to plow either. Oh, yeah they are supposed to. But they don't, and nobody enforces it because our city is run by a Mayor with serious deficits in the brain category.

Because nobody feels any desire to clear their walks, if you walk anywhere, like say to SCHOOL, you get to walk in the street. Streets here aren't like in California, 6 or 8 lanes wide. Streets here are narrow, and with the extra snow on either side of the road, they are even narrower than normal. Kids can't traverse the huge snowbanks, the snow on the sidewalks is too deep to walk on without snowshoes, so what is left is the street. The same streets that cars with Masshole drivers use. That school buses and trucks use. Even the snowplows use the streets. If you think that this is a recipe for disaster, boy are you right on the money.

The Girl walks to school. From our driveway, she immediately is poured onto the street because our plow guy barely plows our driveway and shovels the walks in front of our house, he certainly does NOT do the non-existant sidewalks that parallel the street. We don't have sidewalks in front of our property, they're not required by the city and so the cheaper landowners don't want to pay for them. While we live on a large tract of land in a suburban setting, we're only few blocks or so away from a very commercial area of town. The most commercial area of town. This is what the sidewalks look like.

What sidewalk? Um, yeah. And what's worse. This is a state road, meaning the Commonwealth is supposed to be clearing it.

So let's summarize. Private citizens do not clear their sidewalks. The City does not clear the commercial areas. The State does not clear the state roads. And the pedestrians? Well screw them! Oh, and winter hasn't started yet. Miami is starting to look good.

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LOST Discussion Thursday

Don't those three words in the title make your heart just sing with joy. Yes, it's almost time for LOST to start season 4. Mark your calendars now: Jan 31, 2008. There are 8 episodes already in the can, which will take us through March. If the writers aren't working by March, I'm personally going to go and poke them and make sure they know that I MUST have more LOST. Eight episodes does not a season make.

In the meantime, here's something to get your heart thumping.

That's the latest preview, just released this morning. The original teaser is this one:

The original trailer is filled with uberfast screenshots of certain events like:

  • Sawyer with a gun to Ben's head.
  • Some sort of freaky skeleton animal head with big honkin' teeth.
  • Some sort of cow-like animal standing in a field.
  • The number 6 - front and center - just like what flashed in earlier previews.
  • Clean-cut Charlie!
Need a better view? Check out the Lost spoilers here. They have screen shots of pretty much every frame in the promo.

If you haven't been following the little Mobisodes, check out Lost... and Gone Forever, a great blog that offers a nice explanation to each Mobisode.

You can also find the Official Season 4 press release and a statement from the producer on the Spoiler site.

Now Losties, I expect you all to start watching Season 3 over again so you're all caught up. If you want to learn how to download them from the 'net, contact The Boy. I have no clue how he does it, but he does. Shhhhh, don't tell!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What DO Jews do on Christmas Day

It's another Works for Me Wednesday, and this time Shannon is requesting Christmas related themes. Since we obviously don't celebrate Christmas, I'm happy to share with you what most Jewish American families do on Christmas Day when stores and most restaurants are closed, there's nothing on TV, and most people you know are, ahem, a bit busy for a drop in visit.

When I was growing up, I thought this was just my extended family's tradition, but since I've grown to adulthood, I realized that almost every single Jewish family does it to, which makes it an American Jewish tradition. Cool, huh?

So what is it that we do? Well, we tend to sleep late, get up and have a nice big brunchy-type breakfast. In our family it's bagels, cream cheese and lox. We lounge around and read the paper until it's time to go to the movies. Yes, WE are the people that go to the blockbuster movies on Christmas day. You've always wondered who those people are, huh? It's the Jews!

In my little family we spend weeks discussing what our Christmas movie is going to be. My kids are rallying hard this year for National Treasure 2, which we'll probably end up seeing despite my longing to see either Atonement or The Kite Runner. National Treasure is the perfect Christmas movie, with lots of action and adventure and you don't have to think too hard!

Then after the movie, we go to restaurant and eat copious amounts of Chinese food. Why? Because those are the only restaurants that are open, and we have no interest in cooking on Christmas, so tradition says, go out for Chinese.

In our city, where more than half of the population is Jewish (that would be about 40K Jewish people) the Chinese restaurants are packed to the gills. Without reservations in some restaurants, the wait can be up to 2 hours. Every table is packed with kids home from college, families back from the movies, and extended families of several generations. It's a jolly atmosphere, people waving across the restaurant at their friends and shouting hello to their neighbors. The Kosher Chinese restaurant, which is blocks from our house, is so packed that reservations have to be made days ahead of time.

Did you even know there were Kosher Chinese restaurants in Boston? There are!

So that's what we do. It's always a good day, one the kids look forward to all year. It totally works for us!

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My sentiments EXACTLY

I never thought I'd ever agree with anything Mariah Carey had to say, but oh, I was WRONG!

Be still my heart.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Most confusing game show ever: Duel

I like game shows. It's a dirty little secret I carry. I'm more on the intellectual game show level. I like Millionaire and Jeopardy. OK, I LOVE Jeopardy. I could watch it every freaking day, 8 hours a day, and never get tired of it. Alex Trebek is no Art Flemming, but no matter, it's a great show and I learn a lot from it. Plus, I'm freaking good. I mean, really impressively good. I have that kind of mind.

I'm not such a big fan of those game shows that require more luck than knowledge. I think Howie Mandel is creepy and those suitcase models don't do it for me. Deal or No Deal is all about greed, and I don't really relate. No talent is required. Just innate greed. And I've mentioned how creepy Howie Mandel has become since is groundbreaking role in St. Elsewhere, a show I believe was one of the best TV shows ever.

Last night a new game show was introduced to America. It's one of those week-long spectaculars, like Millionaire was when it first came on with Regis and his monochromatic suits, shirts and tie ensemble. Millionaire was easy to follow. You picked the correct multiple choice answer to a question, you won money and moved up a level. Even a moron could follow it, which is why it was so popular.

This new show, Duel, was not easy to follow. In fact, it was near impossible to get all the rules down. So much so that we as a family gave up and turned it off. And we LIKE game shows. I wish I could describe the gist of the show, but I'm not sure I'd be right. It seemed to be 24 people who could duel against each other in answering trivia questions. A person was picked, and that person had to choose between three other people introduced to her, as the one she wanted to duel. Then they would answer questions, but it wasn't the one that got the correct answer that one, they each had an answer and then they had to figure out if the other person was right or wrong. I think. I'm really not sure. Because there's something about poker chips and poker involved in the game. And I missed that part completely.

According to ABC, this how to play:

"In a cutting edge format - combining trivia challenges like those on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with the strategy played in the World Series of Poker -- 24 contestants are given the chance to duel against one another in a mental and intellectual showdown all leading to one of them taking home a jackpot of over one millions dollars.

Here's how to play:
  • Players begin each duel with 10 chips valued at $5,000 each.

  • A multiple choice question is asked. Players use their chips to cover one of more of the choices depending on how confident he/she is in his/her answer.

  • Chips placed on wrong answers are collected by the house and added to an escalating jackpot.

  • At any point in the game, if a player does not cover the correct answer OR loses all his/her chips, the duel is over.

  • After a player wins a duel, that player chooses the next contestant to play.

  • The top four players from the first five nights of DUEL (Monday, December 17th - Friday, December 21st 8/7c) qualify for the winner-take-all finals on Sunday, December 23rd 8/7c.
This intense, face-to-face showdown will require nerves of steel and a cunning strategy to win. In Duel, one person is guaranteed to become the final winner."

Poker and trivia combined? I guess so. Whatever. I always thought the point of the game show was to play along and to get all psyched when the contestant gets up into the higher levels. This game doesn't seem to play along those lines at all. Which, to me, says the game sucks.

I hated it. My kids hated it. We lost interest within 15 minutes. Did anyone else even try to watch it? Because if you were tempted, don't bother. It sucked really hairy donkey balls. According to the message boards on ABC regarding the show, I'm not alone in thinking this.

Please writers, solve your strike soon. I'm just sayin'.

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Another viewpoint

Today I was meeting with our FST family therapist and we talked a lot about trying to keep remembering the good stuff instead of just focusing on all the negative stuff we're going through right now. It's hard to do that. All the tsuris that keeps piling up, one ridiculous episode atop another, makes it almost impossible for me to back up and focus on the stuff that makes parenting such an awesome experience.

When you have toddlers, there's that balance between tantrums and the amazing learning leaps your child makes. The tantrums are all painful, but the cool stuff keeps it mostly in balance. In elementary school, you get to watch your kids mold and form into their own personalities at the same time you argue with them over each independent step they want to take before you're ready to let go. Even in middle school, when kids are, let's face it, horrible hormonal bags of nasty, you experience their unique humor forming, their personhood emerging.

But by high school, that balance is seriously off kilter. What you mostly get is a big dose of the nasty, surly kid who is mortified to admit he is a part of your family at the same time he's begging you for money to get the hell away from you. Teenagers earn their reputation of being gigantic zitty toddlers with less impulse control. When you're immersed in parenting two teenagers, regular normal everyday teenagers, you never know where you fall on their radar. You just know it's WAY down at the bottom of the barrel. You've been replaced by their friends, who are more important and who do not set rules. That's all normal.

When you add mental illness to the mix, you end up with a volatile bundle of mixed emotions, and I don't mean the kid. I mean you, the parent. All of a sudden your sanity starts to wither away and all you become is a reactor. You spend your time reacting to what your child has done now, what the people dealing with your child have to say about your parenting, and what the hell went wrong. It's rarely the parent's fault, although there are those parents that you know are going to be fighting a huge battle later on in life with their "never say no" parented kids. By the time that kid hits the teen years, the coddling and over protection is only going to work against his parents.

What happens to parents of teens is that there is so much going on every freaking day, that the good stuff gets overlooked. Your kid isn't saying cute things anymore. He's not discovering something new and exciting like beets or how to stick his finger into a wall socket. He's not rearranging all the Christmas tree ornaments onto the bottom branches of the tree. Nope, he's cheating on tests, having sex (hopefully protected) in your car, lying on an hourly basis, smoking dope and most likely cigarettes as well, and drinking any alcohol he can get his hands on. All of a sudden his rebellious behaviors become dangerous. All of a sudden his bright future becomes marred. All of a sudden the kid that brought you nothing but joy and pride is bringing you nothing but fear and fury.

That fear of your child's failure, that fury over his stupidity tends to overshadow anything else. You forget that this child, the child of your heart and loins, is anything other than a pain in the ass that is driving you over the edge with stress and misery.

I forgot how much promise my son has. I forgot how much I love him. I forgot that he's only 15 and that there is still a bright future if we can solve some serious issues. I only focused on the negative stuff, because honestly, that's all there has been in months and months.

But my Boy is essentially a great kid. He's funny and smart and clever as can be. Yes, he's annoying. Yes he's impulsive. Yes he has no good judgement right now. All of those facts are true. They overshadow who he is and what he can become. When I look at him right now, it is with angry and disappointed eyes. I haven't been able to get beyond my own emotions. I'm tired of the constant battling. I'm tired of the string of bad news reports. I want my old Boy back, the one that shines brightly.

It will happen. We don't remain teenagers forever, thank HaShem. Can you imagine how much that would suck?

Maybe he's a late bloomer. Maybe he's too young emotionally for his peers, who are all 2-3 years older than he is. Maybe he's just in the midst of a crisis mode and is asking for help. I don't know. What I do know is that he's not going to be in this mode forever, and I have to keep remembering who he is underneath this swirling mass of anger and stupidity.

So please remind me, OK?

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Monday, December 17, 2007

A new parenting milestone

I rarely take a day off from not only blogging, but the computer in general. But yesterday, I had to take a day off because had I not, today I would be in jail for murder. Yeah, it's THAT bad. So let's do a weekend roundup, shall we?

Friday night I find that a certain Boy has been searching hard core porn sites. He denies the evidence staring him in the face (thank you Google), has computer privileges rescinded indefinately.

Sat. morning he wakes up in a serious snit, but I make him do Christmas in the City and his behavior calms right down. He is actually helpful and pleasant. His sister, however, makes a very bad error of judgement and I'm pretty annoyed with her. But we solve that issue and go home and pass out with exhaustion. I later find evidence that he has been smoking pot in his bedroom. He left a roach just sitting out. Not a bright move.

Sat. evening Boy has his friend Em over. They have been very clearly told by both me and Em's mom that they ARE NOT to attend big high school party that we know is going to have both drugs and alcohol there. They promise not to go, and say they are going to another friend's house.

I call friend's house about 45 minutes after they left, friend tells me Boy is 'in the bathroom'. Yeah, and I have three heads. I call back a bit later and friend tells me Boy and Em have 'gone out' for a few minutes to pick something up at the store. Sure they have. That's so believable.

I call Em's mom and tell her that they went to party. She is NOT amused. I am NOT amused. I tell her to stand by while I gather more info. I wait till the Girl comes home from babysitting and I have her call a couple of friends who are also at said party. Sure enough, Boy and Em are at party, imbibing and out on front lawn making trouble. Nice! I call Em's mom back, she goes to pick them up. How embarassing. Boy comes home stumbling drunk. Not just tipsy, drunk as a skunk drunk. Disgustingly sloppy drunk. I am beyond pissed. I know that this is a "normal" teenage thing. I get that. But he can't drink with his meds. It is bad mojo. Very bad. Plus, he smelled like pot. Big surprise there, since I found a roach in his room earlier on that evening.

He shows no remorse and thinks it's hilarious that he's so drunk. It was so not funny. I sent him to bed to sleep it off and he went stumbling off upstairs. He was out like a light in a few minutes.

I decide that I can't even look at him on Sunday I am so disappointed and angry at him. I know that anything I say will just inflame him, he won't listen, he'll be more beligerent and I'll end up even more furious than I was Sat. night. So I stay in bed. All frigging day. He avoids me like the plague. The computer is barred (changed all passwords so he can't get on), he's not allowed to speak to his friends on the phone (I can control the phone usage from my bedroom), no going out, no having friends in. He is GROUNDED. He spent the entire day yesterday watching Buffy on DVD and eating everything in sight.

I told him several times to clean up after himself. Did he do anything? He did not. He left dirty dishes all over the house. He was too lazy to empty the dishwasher even though he was told to several times. So there were dishes piled up in the sink, on the counter, and the coffee table. There was food left on the floor, glasses tossed on the floor, etc. A complete pig sty. He will be doing all of this cleaning when he gets home.

There will be a bed opening for him soon at the residential program. He needs to be somewhere safe, and he needs 24 hour monitoring at this point. Mixing alcohol with his medications is extremely dangerous. Smoking pot in his room is also dangerous, especially since he is not allowed access to lighters or matches due to past behaviors.

The saddest part? He just isn't getting that he's treading on really dangerous territory. It's just beyond his comprehension. It breaks my heart, but you know what? I'm done. DONE DONE DONE. I can't take any more of this. I can't watch this kid self-destruct in my own home.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Guess what I forgot?

Updated: Boomama is hosting her "Christmas Tour of Homes" and I figured since I just posted this, I'd add it to the tour. Nothing like an alternate viewpoint to add a bit of sparkle to her Mr Linky! So welcome, new visitors. For those that haven't yet taken the "tour" there are more than 200 homes to peek into and see how they're decorated for the holidays. Check it out. Some of them are amazing. I think some folks spend more on Christmas decor than I do on a year of clothing for our entire family! There are some really pretty displays. Plus, you get a peek into how the other bloggers live. Can't go wrong with that!

I completely blanked out on Hanukkah photos. I don't know why. Maybe it's because it was such a stressful week with the plumbing issues (and guess who was plunging again this morning?). Or because the Boy is acting like such a PITA that I just didn't get into the 'holiday spirit' until the holiday was over. And then there's the whole new camera learning curve, especially with the software which is WAY too complicated. But whatever, here are the photos from the last day.

Before we lit the candles. Note that there is still gelt left. Now? No such luck. Isn't the tin foil so pretty on my sideboard? Believe me, it saves furniture regardless of how ugly it is.

Let me tell you about all the different hanukiyot. Starting at the right, because we're Jewish and we do things backwards, we have a ceramic one I made at one of those paint your own pottery places when the kids were little. In the back row, the next one is the Boy's hanukiyah, and in front of it, the little one is the Girls. In the middle back row is the one I bought in Toledo, Spain. In front of that, the long one was mine from my childhood. Moving along, the silver one is our travel hanukiyot, and on the very right is the ceramic one the Girl made when I was making mine. I think she was about 8 when she made it, as we still lived in California.

After we lit the candles. Quite the conflagration, eh? Did you notice our large collection of dreidls? We have all kinds, but my favorite are the big wooden ones. Those have a great spin on them.

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