Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fractured Lyrics

Here is Sebi, giving his GQ pose, complete with white poodle. One of his most recent favorite videos has been Ultimate Silly Songs with Larry, of Veggie Tale fame. In fact, all the kids liked it so much, that after it went back to the library, I bought the album on iTunes. It manages to put all the kids in a happy place at breakfast, and really, if it can do that, do I care if they're singing about manatees and cucumbers?

One of the songs is called "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" which has been spun-off into a feature-length film, as our capitalistic society is wont to do these days. In the song, the pirates sing about all of the things they've never done (like been to Greenland, or swabbed the deck, or what have you) and always end with " . . . and I've never been to Boston in the fall".

Our kids sing it plenty. But just today we learned that Sebastian has his own version, which is " . . . and I've never been to Costco in Nepal."
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Easter Morning

I realize that I'm an adult now. It comes to me when I reflect on the fact that my favorite part of Easter is seeing the kids all dressed up in their new Easter finery, and my least favorite part is that &*%$# grass in their baskets that I'm vacuuming and picking up for the next week. The kids' favorite part is at least the sugar high they're on all day, but it could also be the egg hunting (Will just loved the one yesterday -- sounds like he was one of the most adept hunters there), or the anticipation of looking in their baskets Easter morning.
This year, the kids got a larger than average haul, with regular toys and candy, and WebKinz (for those of you living under the same rock I am, these are stuffed animals with tags you use to register online so that you can pester your parents to play with the virtual pet on the computer instead of just playing with the toy itself). So now we have a cat, a hippo, and a white poodle named Quesadilla -- and three kids who wanted to play computer games on Easter Sunday. But Rob and I thrive on disappointing the children (it's our raison d'etre, right?), so they're already scheming about how fast they can get on tomorrow.
And don't they look dashing? I bought the boys' suits last year, so I'm really lucky that they fit so well. Maddie's dress rounded out their seersucker theme. She really wanted to go to church because her class was in charge of Sharing Time, so she told us she felt much better, even without Motrin. Then she sort of crashed again after church. Poor kid.
We got to have Opa and Betsy and Kiecoo over for dinner, and it turned out better than it should have. The ham and potatoes were good despite my starting on them too late, Betsy and Opa brought rolls and salad, and the table was beautifully arranged by As-Good-As-It-Gets-From-A-Strait-Guy Rob.
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Egg Hunt with Oma

On Saturday, Rob took the boys to an egg hunt at Oma's assisted living center. There were oodles of [well-heeled] children (it's pretty swank) and balloons and eggs and crafts and the Easter bunny himself. In Sebi's words: "I only got five eggs, but Will found thousands." Sebi also informed me that I should hug the Easter bunny sometime because he is soft and "lotsa cozy". Maddie stayed home because she's had a fever and a sore throat, and I ran to the store to buy her some juice and throat drops and Motrin. Sick kids at this age are so civilized! She says "I'm I ready for more medicine? How much? OK, I'll go get it." Wow.
After the kids finished in the front, Oma's group had their own egg hunt in the back. They let the residents go first. Oma was tickled to find four eggs, and then they let the kids out and they found even more. Rob told me that the boys each gave two eggs to a grandma who hadn't found any and she was glad to finally get some.
Here Sebastian shows off his haul. You can see that he definitely had more than five eggs. They had candy and toys inside and a few tattoos. After the great success the tattoos were at Christmas, I put my foot down early and told them they had to find someplace on their trunks or limbs to put them. Sebastian has a duck on his shin, which didn't interfere with his new Easter clothes.
Once home again, we made them do their Saturday chores because we are merciless. Then we let them dye eggs and they had a good time, though with the bazillion different colors you get in a Paas kit these days, the whole thing took about 30 minutes.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Making Ice Cream Sandwiches

C's mom gave our kids these darling ice cream sandwich makers from Williams Sonoma. They make a star, a cow, and a pig. On Saturday, I made the brownies and the blondies, and we used neapolitan ice cream to maximize our choices.

Here S demonstrates the proper smooshing technique. One of the fringe benefits they don't mention is that there are lots of brownie and blondie scraps to snitch from. Our friend E was particularly good at it.

We did find that you had to soften the ice cream a bit to put into the shapes, and then refreeze the sandwiches so that they'd stay.

We made about 30 of them, and they were big sellers. We were out by the next night, and that was only with a lot of threatening. M is already thinking about new combinations involving sorbet and coconut cookies.

Some of our finjished products waiting in the freezer.

Six happy campers munching on ice cream sandwiches.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Violin Recital

I know that the pictures are deceiving, but this really was Maddie and Will's second violin performance. They have been working on a song called "Fire Engines" (with their first glissandos) and so their teacher thought they should come perform for the professionals.
We went into their training room, complete with a random fiberglass leg sitting on top of cabinets, and the kids played four pieces for the paramedics. They did a good job and didn't look nervous at all.

Then the fire fighters entertained the kids. They got to dress up in helmets and earphones and heavy fire coats, and sit in the driver's seat, and see the chainsaws and hoses and shut the doors and watch the stairs pull up automatically. We saw the ambulance that Will and I rode in when he had a seizure (both Will and the ambulance are doing fine) and we talked shop with the paramedics -- violin and emergencies. For a recital, it was very entertaining for the kids. Unfortunately, the rest of their pieces are called "The Linden Tree" and the like.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

So while I was flitting around seeing things and eating myself silly, R was at home, holding down the fort. He did an extraordinary job, which is unsurprising. He took the kids bowling, out to eat, got their chores and homework and art projects done. He visited his dad, his sister, his brother, and his oma. The boys both got sick and he had to stay with them and play Legos and Playmobil and blocks. He carpooled and shuttled kids to dance and preschool and went to church. Our friends, K, L, and M also did yeoman's duty by taking care of S on R's teaching days. But I came back to happy kids and a household that was humming and up to speed. He's a keeper!

Garden of Eden

So this is J & C's closest grocery store. They get a VIP 15% discount for being locals. I wish that I could have had R on the trip for so many reasons, but this store is chief among them. He would have been in ecstasies over the produce and deli and bakery, and would have been on the floor by the time he'd seen the olive bar. Aesthetically it is a beautiful place, but it isn't just that. It's also the amazing variety they have of everything! There are lady apples and artichokes and oodles of berries in the produce department, and a wall of jams, jellies, preserves and a dozen or so different kinds of honey.

This is the root cellar, which is its own little room. We laughed about it, because these are the only vegetables my other brother eats -- the roots and tubers, or 'humble vegetables' as he likes to call them. He'd never have to venture out into the larger produce area.
The cheese and deli counter was astounding, as was the meat counter -- large pieces of cow and pig are stowed in refrigerators behind them. And that was another thing -- it is all staffed with people to slice and dice and direct you so that you'll know that pork shoulder is also known as port butt.
I don't know what it is, but if I could have a store like this in walking distance here at home, I think I could be truly happy living in Utah. Hmmm. Go figure.

Manhattan in a Day

So after Boston, mom and I flew down to New York. We took a cab from JFK and we were uniformly impressed with the taxis. My brother J and his girlfriend C live in Morningside in exactly the sort of apartment you think of when you think about Manhattan -- high ceilings, wood floors, white hexagonal tiles, and a long narrow bathroom with a tub as big as a coffin. After dropping off luggage and seeing the apartment, C took us out around their neighborhood. Once J got home, we went out to dinner at a french restaurant named Alouette. J was concerned that in my wide-load state, I might not fit at a table in some of the smaller restaurants. I wish I could argue that convincingly, but he's right.
The next morning, we had a great breakfast at Good Enough to Eat, then went to the MOMA which had been completely rearranged since I was last there. I hadn't noticed Claes Oldenberg's Soft Fan before, and I enjoyed the Jasper Johns, Picasso, and Van Goghs. We also had a good time in the museum shop, where J&C had bought the kids the coolest superballs and 3-D drawing kit. Very fun. Then we met J for lunch in the food court under Grand Central Station. Even the basement is better than anything we can come up with at home. Marble and a cool ceiling and any kind of lunch you can think of.
We rode the subway for sentimental reasons (panhandlers and the stench, mostly) and met up with C again for the afternoon. We saw Jaques Torres' chocolate shop, Crumb (famous for cupcakes), the Croc shop, Riverside Park, Duke Ellington's house, Robert deNiro's building, 5th Ave. and St. Patrick's cathedral, the building featured in Enchanted, Grant's Tomb, Columbia, the Manhattan School of Music, Seinfeld's coffee shop, the Bank Street Bookstore, and Lennon's memorial in Central Park.

That night we went to Sal and Carmine's pizzeria for dinner. In an odd twist, this is exactly the place that Rob was told to eat during his 14-hour marathon in NYC. It's a favorite of some friends of ours. J & C call Sal and Carmine the Bert and Ernie of pizza. Then we saw the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center, still enthusiastic from their tour of Asia and the moving reception at Pyongyang in North Korea. They did
the Maria Theresia symphony in C major by Haydn, and Beethoven's 4th

(second time I've heard it this season -- it must be enjoying a renaissance) and then they did folk songs by Berio, sung by Dawn Upshaw. The orchestra was great, and I really liked their new conductor Alan Gilbert, but back to Maria Theresia for a second. We were wondering last night, how could she have had 14 of 16 children survive to adulthood, when Albrecht Durer's mother had 15 of 18 children die? I guess Ma Theresia had an extra 150 years or so, and certainly the best nutrition available, but I still think someone knew something at her palace.
The folk songs were probably the most memorable of the three, and the audience was very engaged. They came from eastern and western Europe, with a pair from the US, and Dawn Upshaw did an expressive job of it. We had to go get famous Magnolia bakery cupcakes for dessert afterward. They were really good. I've found myself trying to figure out how to make them that big ever since.

Me and mom in Central Park. I am going to have to make another post just to show the pictures of J & C's incredible neighborhood grocery store. Coming up next!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Boston and the TomTom

So I flew back to Boston with my mom to get a change of scenery and watch my niece and nephew, C & H, so that their parents could get a change of scenery. The flights were so unnaturally easy, since I didn't have to be looking after anyone else, and there were people serving me drinks and snacks -- whoo! Weird! We arrived to an absolutely sparkling house with homemade bread and chili for dinner and got to see J & S until they left after lunch on Saturday.

They left us with the better of their two cars, and their GPS thingamajiggy, called the "TomTom" so we could find our way around. The kids were great -- rested and slept and ate and brushed teeth when you told them to. The TomTom wasn't so amenable.

First, he wasn't on speaking terms with us until Monday when we learned how to turn on the sound. So I would drive and Mom would say "Ummm, it's green until it's brown. Up ahead. Yeah, I can't tell how far you go until you turn left, but it's coming . . .". We actually made it to a pharmacy, Applebee's and church even without the TomTom talking (though C wouldn't get into the car with us until he had been reassured that we had TomTom with us -- we should have known then).

But Monday morning we were taking H to her dance class. It was a deceptively short distance. We had to wait for a minute by a church while a funeral procession went by, all the cars with purple flags on them. Then, somehow (I still don't know how) we ended up on a roundabout with choices like Newburyport, Boston, Anchorage, Tallahassee and so on. We got off at the wrong one. We pulled over as soon as we could and tried to talk to TomTom. Inputting a new address took a few tries, but we finally had it. We were a mere 1.6 miles away. We drove around, following the green and brown arrows. Then we looked up and saw the funeral procession coming at us from the opposite direction. We got closer, and finally pulled up to the address.

But it wasn't the right place -- it was supposed to be a brand new condo, and these were old clapboard houses. We asked H if this was where her dance class was, and she said 'no!' so I went back to inputting the address and it turned out I'd only put in half the street name.

Feeling less and less confident, we started out for the third time. Again, we were only a couple of miles away. I got the TomTom to talk to us, but I couldn't hear it over Alexander's Amazing Adventure going on in the back seat. At least we were finally recognizing something, but they were things we'd seen on our way home from the airport, like the Necco factory.

We got closer and closer, and then who was in our lane, but the very same funeral procession! We can't figure out how in the world it happened! The only answer is that they must have been lost too, and following their TomTom. We noticed that they had the limo version of an El Camino pickup truck in front of the Hearse to hold all of the floral arrangements. We passed them up, because obviously they were lost, and probably not going where we were.

We did find the place at last, but when we got there we were half an hour late, and dance class was over! We went out to lunch to console H with some fruit and a cheeseburger.
The happy ending is that we didn't get lost again, and we'd had (apparently) a quintessential Boston experience. I was just assured tonight that everyone has been lost in Boston at some point (taking the 1A instead of the 1, for example), and we should have celebrated with gelato at Alexanderplatz like Team Taryl always did.

We made a lot of cookies, had two or three tea parties, went to the cemetery, and watched Hard Hat Harry's Fire-gingingins. My apologies to J & S for leaving that at your house, but I've really done my time with it, and I still have the Trains and Helicopters DVD. C & H were charming, energetic, and helped me to realize that it's been a long time since I was in the thick of sippy cups.

Movie Watch

OK, so per Lois, I'm going to comment on the movies I've seen in the last couple of weeks. And for those of you I've talked to, these are the ones I've been talking about. In order of viewing:

After the Wedding: Danish (R) about a man who runs an orphanage in India. He needs funding/donations so it won't close down, and a donor appears, but has strange strings attached. Explores interesting questions of ethics, and the nature of goodness. Language and brief nudity. I highly reccomend this one.

Nine Queens: Argentine (R) a heist movie (remade in America as The Criminal, but not as highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes) about small time crooks. Lots of language, but no sex, nudity, or even violence. Entertaining.

Paris Je T'aime: French (R) is a bunch of short films, each by a different director and set in a different part of Paris. Some are squeaky clean, and others are not. They tend to be set upper-downer-upper-downer in sequence. We loved some of them (Nick Nolte's comes to mind) and others were just so sad (Juliette Binoche's for example). But overall it was a good mix. R's favorite was about a muslim girl. I'm still partial to the mime short at the Eiffel Tower.

The Producers: (PG-13) This was the remake with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell. Loved the casting and the singing and chemistry. We could have done without some of the uber-crass humor. R still thinks he may show a couple of clips to German classes in the future.

The Chorus: French (PG-13) The story of a broken man who comes to a school for reprobate boys. Had essence of Dead Poets' Society and Shawshank Redemption in places. Touched very delicately on some really heavy themes, but ultimately about how imperfect people can change imperfect people, and how can you argue with that?

Dan in Real Life: (airline version) I'd been told I should see this, and I was tickled they were playing it on Delta. Widowed father of three girls returns to childhood home for pan-family reunion and is smitten with brother's girlfriend (because it's Juliette Binoche, and how could he not be?). Charming and well-cast and a great house and family reunion to boot. See it if you can.

Becoming Jane: (airline) Another one that I'd been wanting to see, and I caught this on the way back. Historical fiction about Jane Austen's love life. I'm a big Austen junkie, and I like Anne Hathaway as well, and R says that we need to support any movie with a role in it for Maggie Smith, whom he considers a national British treasure. The male lead looked vaguely familiar, and I finally placed him as Mr. Tumnus (other, more hip people will have seen him in King of Scotland and Starters for 10 and Atonement, but I don't get out much). I thought it was great, but a chick flick I'm not going to make my husband watch (but I am going to make him watch Dan in Real Life).

August Rush: (airline) blech. Delta was doing so well. To be perfectly honest, I only watched the first half of this one, and only put on the earphones for the second half. But truly, I didn't need to hear the dialogue, and I knew I couldn't keep watching it if I did. Child of musical parents given up without mother's knowledge runs away from his orphanage and runs into the bad, the good and the ugly in NYC. Ends up at Julliard and is convinced that if he just plays music, They (his parents) Will Come. Robin Williams is truly scary and the plot really strains credulity (cute white boy not getting adopted? come on). Not worth your two hours.

Enchanted: (PG) Spoof on a classic Disney fairy tale, with Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and Susan Sarandon (plus Corny Collins and Peter Pettigrew). The first half hour of the show is absolutely hilarious, with satires in both animated Andalasia and Manhattan. It is worth watching up until the number in Central Park. From there, the plot thickens and you can probably guess which way it's going. I took M and she spent a good portion of the movie hiding her head in either fear or embarrassment or both. Not necessarily a great kid flick -- watch it for yourself first.
Gee, it seems that I've seen more movies than I thought I had. I'm going to go check the Netflix queue and see what I'm in for next.