Saturday, February 26, 2011

The eff word

Oliver came home from school one day last year, practically giddy with the news.

"Guess what L said to me at lunch?"

"Your sandwich smells?" I guessed.

O leaned in close to me, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "He said, 'What the eff.' But he didn't say 'eff.' He said the real word."

I tried to look blasé. "And what did you say?"

"I told him it was a bad word and not appropriate for school."

"That's right," I said, inwardly giving myself a smug pat on the back for my most excellent parenting.

"It's only appropriate when you're driving or when you're talking to Linda," he continued along pedantically, as if he were reciting Latin declensions. "Or when you're in the kitchen and something goes wrong with a recipe ..."

He continued with his list of appropriate what the eff moments as I thought, Wait, I'm in the kitchen all the time. I'm always screwing up recipes. WTF?

And I thought I was doing well up to this point. My younger brother Matt had told me on his first day of kindergarten, the older kids on his bus had taught him some rudimentary Anglo-Saxon and how to give drivers the middle finger. It gave me the idea that when I had children, it might be a good idea to teach them dirty words myself, explain what they mean, and when it's appropriate -- if ever -- to use them. I figured my rational approach to dirty words would disarm any power they might have over my child's tongue. And it seemed to work because I've never heard O say anything worse than 'fart' -- and for the record, whenever he says it, I tell him the correct word is flatulence or 'gas' and please don't say that eff word at school, either.

We've been reading Katherine Lasky's wonderful series, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole, where the owl characters have a very, very dirty word in their vocabulary: racdrops. Racdrops is short for 'raccoon droppings,' and since the owls of the books loathe raccoons and dislike animals with messy bowel habits, it's one of the worst words they can utter in anger. So I came  up with the brilliant idea one day that O should adopt this word as his own personal eff word. He loved the idea. Soon he was playing with his Legos and exclaiming "Racdrops!" when he couldn't find the right block. Or "Racdrops!" when I said no to takeout pizza. It was Racdrops this and Racdrops that. Even I started saying it in the kitchen when I'd get some egg shell in my pancake batter, or cut my finger on a can's edge. Then O told me some of the kids in his class were saying "Racdrops!" too.

"Cool," I said. "They must like Guardians of Ga'Hoole."

Oliver gave me a funny look. "No, I taught it to them."


Friday, February 25, 2011

Two scoops, please

One of my Facebook friends just posted a link to an NPR story about a London restaurant that's offering something new in ice cream. You ready for this? Ice cream made with human breast milk, which they've named "Baby Gaga" in honor of Lady Gaga.

Everyone's up in arms about the breast milk base, but it's not the source of creamy goodness that grosses me out ... it's its association with Lady Gaga. She always looks a little ripe and dirty to me; wrapping herself in sirloin and hatching from eggs doesn't help my brain association with "skank = Lady Gaga." To top it all off, she actually has a song called "Dirty Ice Cream." I'd be much more willing to get my licks with, say, Angelina's Crema or even a more generic Mamanilla.

That is, if I had to. These are scoops I can do without during my next trip to London.

Josh Groban sings Kanye West

Because I have a tiny crush on Josh Groban and needed a laugh today, this hit the spot. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

That Woo-Woo Thing

On Monday, I drove out to Northampton with my son and a new friend and her daughter. A and I had recently discovered a shared enjoyment of knitting, and since Noho has one of the biggest yarn stores around, I figured we could take a road trip with our kids during school vacation week.  Despite it being a tough trip attention-wise for two 9-year-olds who aren't crazy about sticks and string, we had a fun day.

But was a long day, and there was a  two-hour return trip to push through on the Mass Pike. Even though we were both wiped out, conversation rambled easily from subject to subject. We somehow got on the subject of astrology -- we call b.s. -- and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which we've found to be very useful throughout our lives. I'm an INFP -- introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving -- or "The Healer." It seems to me that INFPs are the most, shall we say, "woo-woo" of the 16 personality types, somewhat spiritual and otherworldly. Throughout my life, friends and strangers have claimed I'm an old soul; my English/Irish relatives say I'm fey and remind me that one of my Irish great-grandmothers had The Gift of Sight.

Now, anyone who knows me really well knows that I'm hardly the one to sit around gazing into crystal balls, and indeed, my husband would roll his eyes were he to read this and remind me that I'm nowhere close to figuring him out after 15 years together. But I do often sense things that most other people don't notice, and in my routine life, it comes in pretty handy -- from avoiding bad work situations to making new friends. When I started dating my husband-then-boyfriend, he showed me around his apartment where there was this one room downstairs that felt like it was cloaked in grief. I avoided that room while he lived there because the feeling was so oppressive. I simply mumbled something about the decor not being to my taste; "I sense dead people" isn't a phrase that bodes well for a budding romance. Months later when we decided to move in together, he mentioned that his landlady might have a tough time renting the place out because the tenant before him had committed suicide.

"In that room downstairs," I said.

Yup, that Woo-Woo Thing.

Another weird thing that happens to me, which I'd also mentioned to A during our drive, is that people like to tell me their secrets. I often feel like the village priest, which amuses me because I'm also a professional writer, and you know writers ... they'll sell out their grandmothers for a couple lines of copy. Sometimes I get very inappropriate confessions, like the one from a new neighbor who told me within five minutes of meeting that she was battling a very itchy yeast infection. Most times, though, people tell me wild and amazing things, usually unprompted.

This trip was no exception. We're about ten minutes away from her house, and A says, "We have a ghost."

"You're kidding," I reply. I'm not sure where this came from or why it came up, because we're not on the subject of paranormal phenomena. I glance in the rear view mirror at O, who looks back at me a little saucer-eyed. O won't read Harry Potter and refuses to walk past those moaning skeletons in store aisles during Halloween season. Anything remotely spooky or mysterious scares him, ergo the wide eyes.

"We really do!" her daughter pipes up from behind me in the darkened backseat. Their television turns off and on by itself. They hear footsteps coming up the stairs at night. Pots and pans bang around and they've seen a glowing orb in the kitchen. I glance in the mirror again. O's pale face reflects back at me. Crap.

"Oh, I don't believe in ghosts," I say authoritatively. But I'm lying. I do (sorta, kinda) believe in them. And I don't believe in lying, either, except when it comes to preserving my son's mental health. Do I really want to spend the next couple years checking closets for ghouls and assuring him that the creaks he hears at 2:30 a.m. aren't from restless spirits? He just doesn't want to Go There, and that's okay with me, even if I have to fudge around with my true feelings on the matter.

Somehow, though, I furtively convey to my friend that I'm not exactly doubting her. So even though we're all beat, she invites me inside to check things out and although I'm exhausted and asking myself, "Do I really want to chase ghosts tonight? I've got a bag full of new yarn in my trunk, a kid who needs his PlayStation, and a glass of wine with my name on it at home," I'm out of that car like a shot, with assurances to O that I'll be back in a few minutes.

A leads me all around the house, a late-model Colonial, and dear reader, I don't feel a thing. Maybe it's a little chilly, but it was also pretty cold on Monday night. Later on at home, I kept thinking about ghosts and pots and pans that move by themselves, and I idly wondered if a loud creak in our cozy Cape heralded the visit of an annoyed and restless spirit. Still, that part of myself that feels things remained unmoved.

Then it struck me last night. I used to be terrified and hyper-aware of things that couldn't be explained by rational thought or science. Now I feel like, eh -- big deal. You know what keeps me up at night? Events that can be explained away by cold facts: a world where a soldier can be walking on patrol with a buddy one minute, then bleed out from a sniper shot the next. Or your child is playing with a friend in the livingroom, runs into the bedroom to get a toy, and cracks his head so hard on the corner of a wall, he loses his vision for a few minutes. How can a ghost or poltergeist compare? I think they've lost their hold over me.

I realize this post is over the place, but I'm curious: do you have That Woo-Woo Thing? How do you use it? And what do you think of paranormal phenomena? Crazy stuff or a possibility?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fetching fingerless gloves

I've been knitting a lot lately -- not much else to do when the windchill is below zero and you're snowbound in front of The Bachelor. I've decided to post more here about my knitting and other craft ventures because a. my husband and, to a lesser degree, my son, don't really get my obsession with strings and sticks and I like feedback; b. it'll mean I post more often and c. knitting is sorta/kinda Anglo isn't it? ;-) So if you find crafty/knitty posts boring, sorry -- just skip over them. If you like crafty posts, I promise I'll try to take better pictures in the future. That one above it craptacular, I know.

My son has been admiring the fingerless gloves I made for myself last month, so now I'm knitting him his own pair. Only now I'm having serious ownership issues. As in, I want these gloves for myself, dang it!

The pattern is called Fetching and it's from Knitty's Summer 2006 issue. My only complaint with the pattern is that the thumb gusset turns out kind of holey, so this time around, I'm doing the gusset with some modifications. The rest of the pattern is lovely -- I like the 4x1 ribbing and the delicate cables around the wrists.

The yarn I'm using came from The Fiber Loft in Harvard, Ma., and O picked it out. It's Malabrigo Rios in Piedras , a variegated olive/tangerine/pumpkin/fuchsia/violet superwash merino that's oh-so-gorgeous and so my colors.  I'm thinking a pair of socks for myself with the next skein I buy ...?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bad Writing: The Movie

"There's no rule that says you get steadily better."

-- Margaret Atwood

Hat tip to Eric via The Atlantic.

Celebrity condolences in 140 characters

If something terrible happened to you or your family, would you mind if your friends and/or acquaintances Tweeted or Facebooked their condolences or sorrow? Jan Moir, a columnist at the UK's Daily Mail, is taking flack today for her opinion piece on celebrity condolences sent via Twitter. I've thought about it, and in the off chance I did check Twitter during a personal crisis, I think I'd be horrified by a digital "srry 4 ur loss."

What about you? Sign of the times or just more proof that celebrities have no class?

More on The Worst Novel in the World

I confess ... last night I'd had enough of Keith's drug use (good grief, this guy must be a cat with his nine lives) and needed something less potent to draw me into slumber. I opened up The Worst Novel in the World (hereby TWNitW) and gave it another try. I thought I'd do what one of my Facebook friends suggested and skip over the boring parts. It ended up there were so many boring parts, my hand started to ache rolling the trackball on my cellphone. Which was kind of good because it was tiring work and I soon drifted off to sleep.

My friend Linda (the one who bravely plowed through the whole of TWNitW) pointed me to a New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs piece written by Nora Ephron. If you loathed TWNitW as I did, you'll enjoy it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The worst novel in the world

Readers, I think I've finally picked up a novel that I can confidently call The Worst Novel in the World. Yes, the whole world, not just the English-speaking world, as this stinkfest wasn't originally written in English. Ah-ha, I hear you saying -- maybe a bad translation is the culprit. But I assure you, this novel was skit with a capital S before the translator got hold of the manuscript.

So, are you ready? The title of Worst Novel in the World goes to ...

This (I hesitate to call it a book because that would be too complimentary) long string of words has been on my Kindle for Android for about a month. I love reading mysteries and thrillers before bed; doesn't everyone like dreams filled with intrigue and homicidal maniacs? Instead, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had the opposite effect on me. I'd get through two Android pages (that's like 25 words) and my eyelids would droop. After a couple nights of this, I considered downloading The Book of Common Prayer, which not only is better written, but more gripping.

Seriously, I can't believe that an editor in Stockholm picked up this manuscript from the slush pile, read through it without having to prop her eyelids up with toothpicks, and decided to offer the author an advance. Even more shocking, I can't believe this book has been on every bestseller list under the sun, although awhile ago, I've come to accept that my standards for engaging literature stray wildly from hoi polloi standards. (Ah a snob, you're thinking -- not really. Hey, I still get a little thrill in my belly when I see the latest issue of British Hello! on the newsstands.)

If you haven't read The Worst Novel in the World, you probably want to know what's awful about it. My pithy response would be
everything, but specifically, it's filled with page after page of boring exposition -- long chapters that detail family history and descriptions of what the lead character ate during the day spent in his remote cabin in northern Sweden. When I complained to my friend Linda, who finished the book, she told me I could look forward to the author's turn-by-turn descriptions of the streets he walked in Stockholm, as well as lovingly detailed inventories of Ikea products in certain characters' apartments. When I finally did reach a description of a character's home, I decided that reading an actual Ikea catalogue would be more exciting for the simple fact that a. it has pictures and b. you can order stuff from it. It was at this point that I started reading all the 1-star reviews on, which complained about how horridly the women in this book were treated. The Swedish title for this novel translates into "Men Who Hate Women," but I suggest it should have been called, "Authors Who Need Editing" or "Editors Who Hate Blue Pencils."

I gave up on the Worst Novel in the World after a particularly long chapter detailing a family history, followed by the main character's walk up the road to his benefactor's mansion, where he announced, "I don't understand your family's history. Can you explain it again?" (I may have shrieked "OH NO!" at this point, awakening my husband next to me.) At any rate, I forgave myself for spending $5 on the Kindle edition of this book, and bravely watched the Swedish version of the film (English subtitles), which was actually pretty good and confirmed that I'd figured out the plot early on in the book.

Then I went to the library and checked this out:

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, baby. You know this book is going to keep me up at night.