Monday, December 18, 2006

Chapter Four - Unwrapped

So I've finally finished a ... challenging, I suppose would be a good word... month or so. It's about 10:00 on Monday night, and I just walked back in the door after my final party until January 5th. Its odd how this blog thing works... I know I don't write as often as others, but often think to myself how I should write about this or that, and over the last few weeks I thought off and on about what I should write after the month's work was over.
Funny part is, I can't remember a spot of it at the moment. I learned this afternoon that one of my server's brother in law committed suicide last night - but she came tonight anyway just to keep her mind off things... and for the woe is me part, I am crispy with burns, have used up all of my band aids, and between the methylprednisolone for my foot, the silver sulfadiazine for my arm, and everything else I feel like I need a pill fob to get through the day. Aside from that, I am completely spent. Tired of keeping track of things, tired of standing all day, tired of answering questions, fixing everyone's problems, smiling and being introduced, and tired of waking up in the middle of every night thinking about tomorrow. At the moment, I have nothing funny to say, I'm just gonna take my dishpan hands and go to bed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chapter Three - Artwork, and The Top Ten Reasons My Mother Will Never Talk To Me Again

In the midst of my week from hell, there were a few saving graces. First of all, kids and wife - adorable. Second, the parties I catered, even though they were somewhere in the middle of a chaotic mess, went remarkably well. Walmart executives, a financial consulting firm, a random collection of Woodlynde alumni, and a birthday boy were singing our praises as we skulked in and out of each function as quickly as possible. Third, I was the lucky recipient of two pieces of artwork as the week dragged on. The first (pictured on the top of this blog) I found on the inside of a case of red peppers packaged by a company named Vantaggio all the way out in sunny California. I was so tickled by it, that I actually brought it home to take a picture of it... not because it was such a marvelous piece of work, or I was so intrigued by the O'Keeffe-esque sexuality of the piece, but more that it was such an unexpected surprise. I wondered all day how I was fortunate enough to get this particular box, or if some mad scribbler had spent the whole day drawing on the inside of cardboard pepper boxes before he/she sealed them up. Was it the outburst of a struggling artist just longing to create? An ill-conceived anatomy lesson in the middle of an otherwise uneventful pepper-packing-plant day? Perhaps it was created by a young man named Steve, trapped in an endless sea of red peppers only hoping that his girlfriend Monique would still be there waiting for him when he got home to soothe his aching feet and gently wash his produce stained hands before serving him a delicious pepper-free meal and letting him have the last Miller Light while they watched CSI Miami together.... or will Monique have gotten tired of his endless talk of peppers and box folding, and left to go north with Anthony, who shucks oysters all day, smells of the sea, and prefers CSI New York.... or maybe it was a twelve year old with a sharpie... either way, in the middle of a shitty day it cracked me up, which is almost as valuable as finding a copy of the Declaration of Independence taped to the back of a painting of dogs playing poker that you get at a garage sale.

The acquisition of the next piece was a bit more complicated. As simple as it seems, I had two different artists involved and 75 minutes of time... and at 3000 injections a minute, somewhere in the neighborhood of 225,000 wee little holes. Not to sound too much like Peter Trachtenberg, but it was a journey of sorts. For one simple little thing, I put in years of thought... not about the final piece, but the idea of it. The journey, I understand, is what's important - and at the moment I'm left with a marker of the trip.... four, actually. One to remember what I felt slipping away, one for being saved, one for luck, and one for my children. Anyway, after a little anxiety and some last minute modifications we got started... at first it's like a flu shot, and after about five minutes it's a burn that won't stop. For the next half an hour or so it's excruciating, and then, out of the blue, euphoria.

Unfortunately, for about a week or so it feels a bit like, oh, I dunno, someone just poked 225,000 holes in your arm. Plus for some odd reason, you're left with this nagging feeling that your mother will never go swimming with you again, and will look at you like you're an idiot next time she sees you. If for some odd reason this is the case, two things - 1. Just in case she doesn't know, I adore my mother more than the air I breathe. 2. Her grandchildren are too adorable, and I am holding them hostage.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chapter Two - Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Ok, back to the worst week ever...
Aside from the pneumonia thing our week continued... Sara stayed home from work last Monday because she was under the weather, which was fine with me since it let me stay at work a little longer without having to worry about the kids. When I got home I was starting to feel it too though, as if the air in our house was a blanket of germs that enveloped everyone who entered. By Tuesday afternoon I was feverish even with the Advil schedule I was on, and all I could think about was a full week of work ahead. Wednesday the fun started, and I was full into the swing of things... 293 lunches in the morning, off to Valley Forge to set up for Thursday's Walmart exec. dinner party, then back into the kitchen.... and Thursday the countdown began, out of the house by 7:30, cooking until set-up at 3:30 (I wanted to get there by 3:15, but I had to pull over in the park for a minute - afraid that I was going to throw up in the car) and home in bed by midnight.... up again by 6:30, yadda, yadda, home at 1:15AM... and in between all of that, a surprise inspection from the Health Department, my bartender went into the hospital for a check-up and stayed for heart surgery, and Kate's mother fell down the attic steps and layed on the floor for three hours. Good times.

Ok, I started writing this post three days ago, and just came back to it right now... and things have changed a bit. My idea from the get-go was pulled from 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek'... if you've ever read it, there is an amazing description in there of someone watching a frog at the edge of a pond being sucked dry by a giant water bug - innards liquefied by something that snuck up under water, and drained the inside of the frog out leaving just the hollow skin behind. Tragic, terrifying and beautiful all at the same time... that was the point of my post in a nutshell, to say how sucked dry I was, but since its been a few days, I have to change focus. Anyway, my bartender, Dwight, who went into the hospital on Friday was picked up from the hospital by Kate on Sunday... and he was on top of the world. They gave him the all-clear, and she took him out for a beer to celebrate. Dwight, for everyone who hasn't met him, is a mountain of a man. Six foot ten-ish, 300 pounds if he's an ounce, and I once saw him pick up a couch as if it were a Twix bar, and carry it about a block into Kate's apartment. In the past six months or so, Dwight has changed from an occasional hire to our go-to guy. Always available on a moments notice, and works harder than anyone else around. He's been in the business for a while, knows what to do, and just dives in. Outside of work, he's a trip... back to the seventies that is... from talking to him you wouldn't guess, but he actually has a custom van with a carpet in the back, and a front license plate that says "Dr. Love". Hysterical. The last few times I saw him I couldn't help but call him Dr. Love when he showed up - and luckily since he has a sense of humor, but could eat me in one bite if he really wanted to - simply responded by cutting my apron strings, and used the pieces to fashion an apron that would actually fit around him.
Anyway, I got a call this morning that Dwight died last night from an aneurysm... out of the blue, like someone just snuffed out a candle. I've often heard people say someone was 'a good man' after they've died, but Dwight really was one. He was someone I didn't know nearly as well as Kate, but someone I actually trusted, someone I could count on. Since I lead a double life - family, regular job, kids and dogs during the day... chaotic, obsessive, occasionally perfectionist caterer at night - Sara never really knew him, or even heard most of the ridiculous Dwight stories that Kate and I retold each other all day today... but he was a good man, a good father to his 11 year old son, and a good friend.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chapter One - Green Bean

Ok... worst week ever.
Well, that's not really true, but it did suck quite a bit. We started last Sunday with a trip to the Urgent Care Center for Lily, who was complaining of an earache. (For those of you who haven't been, an urgent care center is a doctor's office that you don't need an appointment for & is open when your doctor isn't... instead of going to the emergency room for something minor) We've been to a few before, and they're all pretty much the same - except for this one... If any of you have an abandoned drive-in theater in your neighborhood, imagine that without the enormous screen. We were driving down Main St. in Pottstown looking for the address, when Sara spotted a peeling pink ranch-style building with an "Urgent Care Center" sign leaning defiantly forward out of the weed and gravel parking lot... a sign that could have easily been replaced with a "Pottstown Meth Lab" or "Slippery Buddha's Asian Massage Parlor for the Hopelessly Single or Morally Bankrupt" sign and fit right in. With some trepidation, we pull in and wait a few minutes for them to open, finally are admitted, and shown into the back room. The doctor, who is wearing what looks suspiciously like a butcher's coat, does a quick once-over of Lily and determines that she has a sinus infection. In order to precisely determine her weight so that he can prescribe her the precise dose of antibiotic required - he plopps her onto a bathroom scale with two palm trees and some sort of yak painted on it, and then walks INTO THE BATHROOM attached to the examination room and comes out with a bottle of amoxicillin. Now, we're assuming that there was some sort of medicine cabinet or storage room back there, but were sort of afraid to ask. I was a bit tempted to ask him to check me out too though, just to see what else he had back there... "Feeling a bit under the weather? Let me just dash into the pooper and see what I can get you"... "Gout, you say? Let me get you some allopurinol from the ol' sock drawer here... and a foot brace out of my glove compartment, and we're all set. That'll be $10."

After a quick call to Poison Control to make sure the dose was correct, we assumed she was on the mend, and were on our way. She seemed pretty good for a couple of days, started coughing on Tuesday night, by Wednesday we got a call from Denise at her daycare, and found out later that night from an actual doctor that she had pneumonia, a disease that I always spell incorrectly on the first try. If you haven't seen a baby with pneumonia before, let me tell you, it's pretty impressive. Most people (with the possible exception of my wife) try to keep up appearances to a certain extent when they're sick, but kids just let it all hang out. By the time I got home on Wednesday night her skin was the color of a canned water chestnut, and looked like it was about to melt off. Unfortunately, because every part of this week sucked, I was stuck at work for a couple of days and only really saw her in the wee hours of the morning while she was asleep, but by this morning she was almost back to her turkey gravy colored self.

In the upcoming chapters - New and exciting diseases, seventeen hour days, and newly acquired art for the masses.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Little Thanksgiving Perspective

This morning, as I was dropping the kids off, I stopped to talk to one of Sam's teachers for a second. Random conversation, actually, she was asking about the school where I work, catering and whatnot... and I was so surprised by her next comment I can't even remember how it came up... at one point she said (referring to the kids at daycare) "oh, we all refer to them as 'the rich kids'"...
Granted, most of the families that go there have a good deal of money - and some of them have obscene amounts of money - but I never really gave it much thought. A rich kid though, I had no idea... cool... where he is getting all of his money, I have no clue. Since he picks up spare change and puts it in his piggy bank, he might actually be worth more than me. Anyway, two things that I was chuckling to myself about on the way to work - 1. If I need to rub two dimes together I'd have to run to the ATM and get another dime.. and 2. I am very thankful for what I have, and as Jimmy Stewart as it sounds, some days I feel like the richest guy in town.
One last thought, since at the moment I'm not really sure where I'll be during the Thanksgiving weekend, and I don't know when I'll write again or talk to anyone, I'll leave you all with a poem by Peter LaForge we stumbled across in our travels. Cheesy, but it gets the job done.

Perhaps I should have said it just between
The wine and grace, the wishing and the blessing.
That was a time for words, when the scene
Had just begun, before we passed the dressing.
Before the knife cut deep into the breast,
I might have paused, looked up and all around
Into the eyes of each of them. A jest
Came easier, wit tossed into the sound
And lost. Between the stuffing and the pie,
Was yet another quiet moment when
I could have told them all. Instead I sighed
And let it pass. Just once before the end
I should have cried, "Listen, before you go.
I love you. I just wanted you to know."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"allow me introduce my wife, Brisket"

Here's a little Sunday afternoon snippet of a blog for ya, a little story that I've been holding in since yesterday without telling anyone because it was so stinking funny...
After a somewhat uneventful trip to the zoo yesterday, we decided to stay out of the house a little longer and go to IKEA, since we were driving in that direction anyway. Oh yeah, before I even begin that part - it would have been an uneventful drive from the zoo to IKEA too, had Sara not decided to recreate the 'liquid oxygen' scene from the movie "The Abyss" using hot coffee instead of a breathable fluid... which resulted in a remarkably dramatic hurl/cough of steaming coffee and lung tissue onto my passenger side floormat. Luckily, about two months ago I thought to myself "gee if anyone ever spews hot coffee and lung in my car, it'll be quite a mess" and cautiously replaced my original floormats with custom fitted diamond-plate aluminum mats, so the cleanup was pretty easy.
After a quick mop we arrived, and were soon wandering through a maze of modular furniture, tiny eraserless pencil in hand. As usual when we leave the house with both kids, we split up into two groups about ten feet apart, me with Sam and Sara with Lily. We've never really discussed it, but it must be some sort of innate parenting thing - close enough to talk to each other, but far enough apart to prevent any sort of group injury that might result from Sam pulling over a Beech Bernhuuult bookcase or Lily flinging a handful of overheated lingonberry. Anyway, Sara split off to look for something and I let Sam stop in the ballpit for a minute or two. As soon as he seemed sufficiently coated with whatever-substance-I'd-care-not-to-think-about-that-might-be-in-the-ball-pit, I started gradually coaxing him out of the balls.
...little sidebar, Lily has a nickname (Bean), but Sam seems to prefer to be called whatever pops into my head. Fun for both of us, really. I usually go with the old standby, crabcake, but try to mix it up a little with picklejar, llama, shoebox, Peter Jennings... you get the idea...
So after a little trying, "C'mon lets go.... OK, out of the balls, we have to find mom... Seriously, lets roll..." I got tired of waiting and said, "ok, that's enough, Gravy, lets go" and started to walk away.
you ready for the good part?
I turned around to make sure he was following me just in time to hear an old grandmother-y type shake her head and say to the woman she was with, "I think that little boy's name is Gravy!"

(postscript to Jeanne - "and that's when the healing began...")

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On Being A Man

Let me start by saying we had a remarkable Halloween. Aside from the two parades that the kids were in, the spooky-room party at their daycare, and the costume contest - we ended up with an astounding 11 pounds of candy on Wednesday morning (yes, I actually weighed it on my handy dandy kitchen scale). Granted , Twix bars are pretty heavy, but still, since the kids don't really eat that much candy that means I'll be about 10 pounds heavier as I enter the Thanksgiving holiday. Put some braces on your chairs people, cause I'm fixin to break em.
On a completely different note, the boy is getting bigger. Not just in size, but lately he has his own little stockpile of ideas on how the world works - and some of them are set in stone. After our reaction to his eating duck-feces-covered corn, he has very definite opinions on what will get him sick, and often asks us if something will make him sick or tells us that eating dog food (for example) will make people sick. At the moment, he is a bit overboard with the sick thing, but in general he has specific opinions on how life works. Manners, ownership, and even rules of friendship are set, and he follows his own rules and applies them to others. Some of these rules he has are a mystery to me, formed it seems from daycare or conversations with his friends, and some I know he has gotten from us. For the most part he knows what he can, and cannot get away with at home and at school - and occasionally tells me (in amazement or disappointment) stories about things that his friends do.
So lately I've been thinking a bit about growing up, and how I became who I am, for better or worse. I don't remember a heck of a lot about being three, just snippets from our time in Hungary, but nothing really life changing. Lessons were learned like most people, I expect, not picked up at a particular moment but grown into. Morals and ethics worn in over time like a comfortable shoe - there isn't really moment when the leather breaks, but over time everything fits well enough that you don't even notice it's there...
There was a day, though, when I was ten (give or take a few years) and standing on our front porch I heard a spectacular noise... and the next 15 minutes or so are crystal clear in my mind. I hopped down to the sidewalk and saw at the corner a small blue hatchback rolled over onto it's roof, tires still spinning. Inside, a man about 30ish or so was slowly starting to wriggle out of the seatbelt that held him upside down. Across the street, a white-haired woman in a beige clunky Buick was sitting still, holding tightly onto the steering wheel. I remember thinking "wow, an accident... crazy..." and starting to walk toward the cars. I had taken about two steps when my father came out of the house and asked what happened, and I yelled up to the porch that there was an accident and a car had turned over.
Before I knew it he ran past me - and in an instant I was ashamed of myself. By the time I reached the corner he was already helping the man out of the overturned car, and I was already asking myself why I hadn't.
I've thought of it often since then, but recently it has taken on new meaning. These days I wonder when those moments will come for Sam or Lily, and if I'll run when I should, reach my hand out when they haven't learned how to yet. I suppose I'll never know what they'll remember years from now, or what I'll look like in their eyes... what I do know, at the moment, is only what I whisper to them when they go to bed, "Want to hear a secret?" I say every day, "Guess who my favorite Sam (or Lily) is?" and wait till they answer. Hopefully, everything after that will fall into place, and watching them move in the right direction will seem as natural as those perfectly worn in shoes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Watch Out The Bean

I realize that most of my posts have been about the boy, so I'll take a different tack and write about the bean. She's been changing by leaps and bounds these days, and most of our conversations have a surprise new word or two in them. Yesterday she repeated things, followed Sam around, and was frustrated by things she couldn't seem to communicate - today, she has opinions and ideas... directions and demands.. and her own ideas of how we should spend our day. For example, our new game, "watch out for the Bean". I don't really know how it began, but at some point she was standing up against the kitchen island, then ran over to the couch at full toddler speed and jumped on me - and when I saw her coming I shouted to Sam (who was sitting next to me) "watch out for the Bean!".
Since then, every time she is bored and sees me sitting on the couch she'll say "watch out the Bean?" and line up at the starting point against the island, waiting for me to recoil in mock terror and scream "aaaah! Watch out for the Bean!". It's easy to get her started too... no matter what she is doing, all I have to do is whisper "watch out for the Bean" and she is off and running. Unfortunately, the game often ends in an "america's funniest home videos" type of moment, either with her splayed out on the floor with Stella standing on her back, or me doubled over in pain from her accidentally kicking me in the testicles.
This is a stupid example I know, but the point is, she is suddenly turning into a little person, and it's amazing to watch. Sam is still the leader of the pack, and she'll gladly follow him into anywhere, but chances are she is following him to say "no Sammy, stop...." There are moments when I am stunned by the things she does, and amazed by the pieces of us I see in her. There are certainly days that I am overwhelmed by work, kids and dogs... but I have discovered that I am hopelessly in love, would give her my only cracker, carry her until my arms give out, and live only on the breath she is finished with... although, if she continues to play "Watch out for the Bean", I might need to buy a cup if I ever plan to have another child...
Above, a picture of my Bean with a mouth full of potato chips, which incidentally, she stole from me...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Children of the Corn

So much has happened since the last blog I'm not going to even attempt to write about it all in detail, but I'll have to give some cliff's notes, and try my best to get on here more often. Since last time I was here, Sam put a shiny black bead up his nose - so far up, as a matter of fact, that we had to go to two different doctors before we could get it removed... I had so many catering gigs crammed into one month that I racked up a pretty decent $4482.00 food bill (wholesale, mind you) and actually lost a wheel of brie somewhere (seriously, no idea where it is... a whole wheel), plus, I wore Kate down to a little nub, and she actually crashed and left work today because she felt so beat up - haven't heard from her since, getting a little concerned ... Lily learned to sing "Bad Day" along with Sam, and asks me to play it every time we get into the car... and to finish up a seemingly endless stream of work, Sam (who must have sensed my stress level) decided that eating duck feces might be a good idea.
Should I elaborate? Sure, why not. I had Saturday morning off, and we decided to go to a craft fair at a farm in Media. We crafted, bought a couple of goofy things, then decided to have some lunch and sat down at a picnic table conveniently located next to the duck cages at the petting zoo. After a surprisingly bee-free lunch, I decided to be Elvis and buy a deep fried oreo... little sidebar, by the way, if you ever get the chance you absolutely must have a deep fried oreo. They'll shorten your life by a bit, but are well worth it... Anyway, I walked over to the fryin' vat, and as I'm waiting for my little bit of heaven to come out of the oil, I see Sara freaking out by the picnic tables. Apparently, while I was gone, Sam walked up to the duck cages, saw some corn on the ground, and even though he refuses to eat anything I make for him, decided to pick it up and eat it.
Yeah. Good job, buddy. The only thing I could really even think to say was just that too - "you won't eat anything we give you, but you eat corn out of a duck cage?" So after a call to poison control and a looooong not soon to be forgotten discussion about what things go in your mouth, all is well. On the plus side, there are only a limited number or orifices left for him to stick something in, so we should only have a few of these discussions left...
The creepy thing is (speaking of corn) since I've been ignoring the yard while I've been working, we actually started to grow corn in our lawn. Real honest to god corn, with ears and everything. No idea where it came from, but it does make the house look pretty halloween-y, so I'm letting it go. As long as Sam doesn't stick it somewhere, that is.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Soul Nugget

So Sara has been bothering me lately about blogging (other people have been too, but I talk to her a bit more often than, say, my sister in California) but to be honest, I don't really feel like writing every day. Some days I'm lazy, others exhausted or busy... but I've decided to try a bit harder, so here is my second post in as many days.
Oh yeah, I also have nothing new to say... so I decided to let you all in a little bit... show you a little slice of Joe.
I have this weird memory of helping my father build the fireplace/chimney in their house (not really helping, since I was 5 or 6 at the time) and hearing 'Rhinestone Cowboy' on the radio. Hate the song these days, but I can never seem to shake the memory of that tune. I have a Fine Young Cannibals song from my Julie Rohmer days, Siouxsie from high school and Concrete Blond from College - not to mention Marlaina's version of 'Walking in Memphis' - and a handful of others. Lots of songs take me back to a time, but a handful of them like these take me back to a single moment, and define a chunk of my life. There is one though, that has more of an impact on me that any other. For me, the perfect tune to round out any day, and to make me appreciate what I have and where I came from. Plus, the lyrics are timeless. So, without further ado, click the link below....

Monday, September 04, 2006

I Am Harry Chapin

Well, it wouldn't be a holiday weekend without the catastrophic failure of something in the household. We tried to stay away from the house as much as possible so that it wouldn't know it was a holiday - went to the zoo, a baseball game, the Winterthur gardens - but we stayed at home a bit too long on Monday morning. Apparently, sensing we were a little too relaxed, the house mustered up some bad karma and broke the kitchen faucet. Did a pretty good job too - it wasn't just leaking from a little broken part, but the whole thing seemed to at once become porous, and leaked from every exposed surface. It was fine while just sitting there, but as soon as we rinsed out a coffee cup the cabinet underneath filled up to the brim. Luckily the mouse who occasionally makes an appearance completed his WSI certification, and was safely treading water between the dog food and the borax.
After an hour or so of spewing remarkably colorful obscenities (I even surprised myself with a few of them) I managed to wrestle off the old faucet... took the boy to home depot.... and $139 later I have a new kitchen faucet, and a mouse without any recreation center.
On the plus side, the kids are still funny. The other day I scratched Sam with my whiskers when I gave him a kiss, and he asked me what they were. "Whiskers" I said, "when you get big, you'll have whiskers too."
"Yeah," he said, "when I get big I'm going to have whiskers, a big belly and a hairy butt."

... little boy blue and the man on the moon...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wrath of God

What a strange summer it has been so far... first of all, we had a clogged sewer line. I know, whoopidedoo, no biggie. It sucks when it's you though, believe me. All of a sudden one Friday night, we didn't have any water leaving the house. Turn on the washing machine, it drains all over the floor. Turn on the kitchen sink, it fills up. As a single person, it would be an inconvenience, as a father... well, try explaining it to your three year old when he desperately want to flush for some reason. I think deep down, he feels a sense of accomplishment when he flushes. "Ahh, another successful trip to the bathroom. Nothing on my leg, nothing in the magazine rack, butt wiped, now to close the deal, a flush. Maybe two, just to be safe. Maybe I'll flush this dinosaur while I'm in here..." So for ten minutes, I explain in the simplest terms I can muster, and still, as if he is consumed by an OCD moment, he reaches for the handle. So as a closer, I say "Sam, the potty is broken" ... which is what I should have said in the beginning, because he says, "ok dad" and walks out. Anyway, four hours and $260 later our water is running again, but I continue to go to the bathroom at our neighbors house, because they have nicer toilet paper, and its funny.
Next, some main cable breaks - and we lose our phone service for 22 days. Believe it or not (because I have a cell) it takes me three days to even notice. Still, its a pain.
A week or so later, as if our utilities had had some secret meeting and decided that we suck, there is a wicked storm and our power goes out... for a loooooong time. I go to sleep, the power is out. I wake up, out. Go shopping, out. Go to work, out. You get my drift.
Finally, after lighting some bundles of sage to purify the wiring, saying a few prayers out loud (I made them up, but they sounded official - don't tell the utilities) then standing out in the street and threatening the house with a stick - everything started working again. All is Kosher for a few days until...
The ants. Wee little kitchen ants. A few at first, and then, after they decided there were 80,000 of them and I only had two good squashin' fingers, they moved in as if my kitchen counters were the beaches in Normandy. In the sink, on the walls, even in the dishwasher... and I couldn't get rid of them. Even after I'd do a load of dishes, there would be ants with the teeniest little white towels you've ever seen wrapped around their waists taking a steam in the drying cycle. Relentless. After shortening my lifespan applying three different poisons unsuccessfully, I finally found something that worked (some liquid bait called Terro) and within a few days they were gone. A little sad though. When the last few worker ants in the house were drunkenly staggering up the wall after feeding the whole nest poison for two days, they almost looked... I dunno... disappointed in me.
Anyway, at the moment everything is in working order. There were locusts covering my car this morning, and a small river of blood in the back yard, but nothing is actually wrong with the house, so I just let it go.
By the way - if you recognize this guy pictured above, I talked to him the other day via email very briefly, and you know what? Still sounds like Jason, still love him.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Truck Go Boom Stink Stink Boom

Since I occasionally have to agree with my lovely wife, I bought a new car. She was a bit embarrassed to be seen with me, which didn't present too much of a problem, because we never really drove anywhere together in my car. Plus, she was a bit concerned that catering clients would see me pull up in my "classic" 1989 Volvo with duct tape holding up the glove compartment, and wonder if I was going to serve or burgle them... which wasn't too much of a problem either since I usually used my friend Kate's SUV because of the storage space when there was a job of any consequence. In the end, when I noticed parents holding their children a little tighter when I pulled into the daycare parking lot (and occasionally finding some money on my front seat with "food for Sam and Lily" written on it) I decided she was right.
Long story short, I bought a Nissan Xterra, which is a truck based SUV which will get the kids around in style and carry enough food for a couple of hundred people or so. So far, I love it. Aside from the fact that it is a stick shift & fun to drive, Sam has been telling everyone in the daycare parking lot who'll listen to come and look at his new car which he thinks is 'cool'. Lily is unimpressed it seems, although she has found new and exciting places to spill milk out her sippie cup. Since the Volvo was pretty cramped in the back, she could only throw the milk forward, and I could reach back and retrieve it from the floor without even taking my eyes off the road. With the Xterra, I'll hear a thump, the cup is gone, and odds are I won't find it until I actually stop the car.... which is what she did on Tuesday.
Anyway, I've been gradually moving out of the Volvo. In my grand cleaning I found (are you ready?) stack of catering supplies (cups, plates - dinner and dessert, in several styles - napkins, silverware, two dozen disposable martini glasses, a set of olive bowls, etc, etc...) a pair of crutches, two road atlases, a full load of laundry, a "Wineopoly" game, a ream of paperwork and directions to gigs, and to top it all off, and Santa Suit and a cow costume. Always be prepared, that's my motto. Have you ever needed a drunken Santa bearing martinis at your party or a crippled cow with a board game to show up at the last minute? Friday Night Out Catering has got you covered... why, I can even plot you a course for the Cannonball Run and have you drop off my laundry at my sister's if need be... I also found a mighty web of wires that was my (impressive, I don't mind saying) stereo system, so part of my cleaning process was removing the rear speakers, disk changer & modulator, Fosgate amp and powered Bazooka subwoofer. How old am I, you might ask? Shut up.
Most of the stuff I'll sell because I don't need it in the Xterra, but I couldn't resist installing the Bazooka yesterday while I was waiting for our power to come back on (bad summer storm knocked out power to 350,000 of us in PA, in case you didn't know). It's a bit of a complicated process - running a power line from the battery to the trunk, removing the interior rear panels to tap into the rear speaker lines (scary), running a ground under the rear seats, and tapping into the fuse box to run a switch so that the amp comes on only when the car is running - lest my subwoofer runs down the battery while I'm sleeping. I finished it in record time, but didn't really drive around until today to test it out.
What I noticed when I first started up the car was a nice resounding 'thump' when the music called for it... mental note, disconnect it when Sara is in the car... What I noticed about a mile down the road was that the music had a certain smell to it.
You heard me, a smell.
It seems that my first experience with my improved stereo was paired with my first experience of Lily's rotting milk in the rear passenger cushion. Not that it was a particularly bad smell, mind you, but a disturbing one. It took me a couple of miles, but I think I nailed it - it's a combination of new car smell, the inside of a bag of circus peanuts, and a particularly ripe wheel of Mont D'Or. At first I thought Boucheron, but soon realized that the cheese was a little more complex, and not a goat's milk cheese, but cow. Not a Joux Vacherin, definitely Vacherin Mont D'or. All in all, it could be worse, but I really reeeeally hate circus peanuts.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mississippi Burning

It's a bit late to talk about it, but the 4th went pretty well... we had a few people, drank a few beers, blew some things up, just a typical happened-all-over-the-country type thing.
For the number of kids we had over for two days, a remarkably few amount of tears too. Just your average moments of freaking out. Just one strange moment to mention though - my friend Ken came a bit late, after some of the crowd had already disappeared, but was able to hang out for a few hours. Sam knows him a bit - we used to work together from time to time on some catering gigs, and a few times Ken caught an hour or two of sleep between gigs in our spare bedroom. Now that Ken took a full time job as head chef of a restaurant in Philly, we don't see him as much (and hardly ever work together) but he is still around every once in a while.
Anyway, Ken and I were outside cooking shrimp and watching Sam scout for insects, having a fine old time. Ken is one of those guys that Sam is totally cool with, and just slips right into conversations with him... "hey Kenny, what are you eating? Hey Kenny, I picked up a bee at school and it stung me right there (holds up ring finger). Hey Kenny, do you like yogurt? I could go inside and get everyone yogurts that have pictures from Disney's hit film Cars on them..." You get the idea. At some point though, Sam went inside to get some ketchup and said to Sara, "hey mom, that brown guy wants some ketchup".
Out of nowhere.
That brown guy.
She told me while we were packing everyone into the car to see the fireworks, and I was blown away. What do you say? He didn't mean anything by it, and obviously likes Ken. Plus, Ken is brown, so it wasn't like he was saying something completely nuts. Have to nip it in the bud though... While I was still mulling it over, Sara found just the thing to say.... "Sam, remember when you said 'that brown guy wants some ketchup'? Its not really nice to call people things that aren't their name. You know Ken's name, you should call him Ken. If you don't know someone's name, you can ask them, because sometimes when you call people something other than their name, you can hurt their feelings". I'm paraphrasing a bit, but not bad right? Sound like a good reason to call people by their name. I like the way this is going...
Without missing a beat, Sam says, "why?".
"Well, your name is Sam, but you wouldn't like it too much if people called you something else, like 'the white guy', would you?"
"Sure," says my bi-racial three year old, "I'd like that. I'm going to change my name to Sam The White Guy."
(moment of stunned silence in the car)
After a few blocks he agreed to call people by their names, but seemed to still like the "Sam the White Guy" moniker.
So it begins... a young mind yearning to be molded... in some mighty white suburbs... with me as a parent... something tells me we're in for a long rollercoaster ride....

Monday, July 03, 2006

Intelligent Design

Lots of stuff to write about this week... a new car... a roto-rooter visit... Sam learning how to swim underwater... yadda, yadda, yadda. I have to tell you that the most amazing thing was Lily's new hair restraint system. She's been growing her hair out, and there doesn't seem to be a way to hold it back properly. One top-of-the-head pony tail and her bangs are in her eyes. Two pony tails at 11:00 and 1:00 o'clock and she pulls them out... Yesterday, Sara devised a whole new system with three bands and two clips that hold up pretty well. Unfortunately, we have to hire a team of no fewer than four day-laborers and one longshoreman (for the knots) to come and hold everything in place while we are preparing her head, but so far it seems pretty secure. I've signed up for a night school macrame class though, so we should be able to at least cut out the longshoreman by summer's end...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Smells Like Patchouli & Weed in Here...

At the moment, Sara is down in DC for a conference & I'm trying to buy a car, trying to convince people to give me some catering work, and hanging out with the chilluns - so things are a bit hectic around here, as usual. Had a productive past few days though, aside from all of that... finally had a minute to finish the garden out front, even though it's a more modest selection than in the past. We do have the basics though - San Marzano, Cherry and Rutgers-Hybrid tomatoes - some peppers - butternut squash - cilantro, rosemary, sage, thyme - and Thai, Minuette, Ruffled Purple, and Globe basil. mmmmmmm.... oh, and for the one person that might actually care, still have red & golden raspberries, concord & pinot noir, mission fig, pear, and a peach tree that is going through some sort of 'roid rage at the moment. Seriously, it's unbelievable... we have an Alberta Dwarf peach tree that is about 15 feet tall or so, and the thing has so much freakin fruit that the whole tree is bent over and the top branches are touching the ground. So far I've picked about twenty pounds, made two batches of jam, force fed them to the kids, and they're still coming. Every morning when I walk out the door I'm half expecting to see some musclebound high school wrestler injecting oxymetholone and horse tranquilizers into the trunk... "Yeah man, you look ripped! You're gonna kick that fig tree's ass! Those puny grapes have nothing on you man! Headbutt!"...
On the completely opposite end of the high school clique spectrum, Sam has learned his first protest song. For some odd reason (I think it was Sara's doing) he has latched on to Dan Zane's cover of "We Shall Not Be Moved"... Granted, it's a good song and pretty catchy, but if there was a Wikipedia entry for Really-Ass-Funny it would be a video clip of Sam sitting in the back seat singing "We shall, we shall not be moved. We shall, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree, planted by the water, we shall not be moved..." He's got the look down too - little bit of sorrow mixed with camaraderie and sheer determination. Seriously, drop him into the middle of a logging protest and he would fit right in.
Oh yeah, I'm also posting a picture of Stella and my father sleeping... just because I thought it was funny...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Stella Toast

Ever feel like that 6 hours of sleep you get is just too darn much? Too much work and a couple of lunatic children just not enough? This is the plan......
Actually, I take it back. I don't feel crazy at the moment. Ever since Thurman died, Satchmo has been a different dog. Lonely... Depressed... not sure which... I always liked the idea of two dogs though, they were fun together. It wasn't just all the dashing around - they slept next to each other, licked each other clean, wrestled over toys, you know the drill. A few weeks before Thurman died he started having seizures every once in a while - it was pretty creepy for me to watch, and Satchmo was genuinely disturbed by it. I didn't notice at first, but as the seizures increased Satchmo used to disappear when it happened. It occurred to me a while back that maybe Satchmo felt the same way I did when Thurman was gone. Thurman was a relentless pain in the ass... he stole our food, had accidents in the house, his breath smelled so bad that sometimes you could tell when he walked in the room before you even saw him - and sometimes I miss him so much it aches. Anyway, as much of a pain in the ass as it may be, I'm trying to make everything whole again in a twisted sort of way.
To be honest, Sara was saddled with it in the beginning. In keeping with my history of bad timing, we got the dog on Friday morning, and I worked from Friday night until Sunday night - putting Sara on full time two baby and un-housebroken puppy duty for three days. When I got home on Sunday though, things actually looked pretty good. I was expecting two kids covered in a crust of dried spit and graham crackers, and poo in every corner. What I came home to was a full refrigerator, dinner on the stove, well rested kids, and a remarkably poo-less house. Go figure... after three days I might have put myself in the dog crate...
So here we are, one larger. Amazingly wee (only about eight inches from front to back and four inches high) but she manages to take up every spare moment... For those of you who can't tell from the head shot, she is part Pug and part Jack Russell, about eight weeks old, and smaller than a cheesesteak.
If you need to get in touch with me for any reason, I only have eight seconds (usually from 9:26:04 pm to 9:26:12 pm) to talk, and I am booked until July 19th. At the moment I am in the process of hiring a second Joe who will be able to take over some of my personal affairs...

Monday, May 22, 2006


Just a couple quick notes from the beach.... First, I couldn't resist showing you Sam in his lifeguard hoodie... and second, we actually found a Donkey's (formerly known as Dunky's) in Ocean City! It was the real thing too, the only difference being the noticeable absence of weapons in the place. It was magically delicious...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Worries and Stripes

I know, it's been a while. Get off my back.
So before Sara started her new job, we went off to the shore for a few days... and for those of you who have been around the chillins, you know that four days and three nights in an apartment the size of a lobster trap could easily result in such a long blog that I could crash the network. So, I'll give you a few highlights to chew on.
The Beach -
The kids, surprise surprise, love the beach. Sam we already knew about, but Lily too... she had four molars coming in this weekend, but was pretty mellow on the beach. Actually, there isn't much more to say about her on the beach. For having all of her teeth come in, mellow is fantastic. Sara even taught her to say 'cool' which is hysterical, because every word at her age is accompanied by a huge sloppy grin. Sam on the other hand, is explosive... like a warm seltzer bottle that you're a little too anxious to open and you go a wee bit to far... pure energy. When we first get down to the beach he takes off his shoes, runs down to the water, and jumps straight up and down for eleven minutes. Not jumping around, mind you, but straight up and down like a jackhammer. Eleven minutes... I actually had to move him three feet to the left every minute or so out of fear that he would bore down to oil, which as you know, is a bear to clean up. We collected every shell in sight, and then moved on to rocks, throwing the unacceptable ones as far as we possibly could into the surf. All the while Sam's already light brown skin slowly turned a warm chestnut, and all of my exposed areas, which seem to have about as much melanin as a naked mole rat, crisped up to an angry pink. He gets it from Sara, of course, who could lie directly on the surface of the sun and get a nice even color.
The Room -
I have to say, perfect location. Right in the middle of the boardwalk, right on the beach, groovy. When we walked in on Thursday night it was pretty nice, but by the time Saturday rolled around, I felt like veal. We were in the house a bit too long in the morning, Sam started twitching; Lily paced from living room to kitchen, kitchen to living room mumbling 'cool' and 'moo' over and over again; and I lost the will to live. Turns out, the room was a little small.
The Food -
What is there to say really, we were at the jersey shore. Pizza, kettle corn, funnel cakes, a lobster, Stewart's dogs, soft pretzels, frozen custard, clams, cider doughnuts, and a crab cake that was actually as big as my face. The Rides -
The boy is fearless. Well, that's not completely true... occasionally he has a dream about witches or llamas that freaks him out, but in general, fearless. We started out slow, on the carousel, and quickly moved on to roller coasters, tilt-a-whirls, these weird spinning things that you lay down in - he was unstoppable. Since we were a bit off season we didn't have to wait in a single line, and on most of the rides the ride operator was just sitting around waiting for someone with tickets, so it was great. The kicker was the bumper cars, which he kept going towards and I kept distracting him from. Finally, since he was taller than the 'you must be at least this tall' sign, Sara kept bugging me to let him, and the 16 year old girl (Erin) who was manning the deserted bumper car area looked both responsible and bored, we let him go. Not to worry that it was deserted, Erin said that she would drive around and bump into him... so she put him in the car, securely fastened the safety strap underneath his arm, and showed him which pedal to push to drive forward. For the next 1.5 seconds, it was great. Big smile, he looked down at the pedal, jammed his foot down on it, sped forward about four feet and hit the guard rail, and slammed his face into the steering wheel. On the plus side, Erin seemed genuinely concerned/terrified/shocked and whisked him out of the car and into our arms in the blink of an eye. It must have reeeeeeeally hurt, because he cried for a good solid thirty seconds before saying anything, and another thirty seconds before he was able to blubber out that we should go on something safer, like Nascar ride which only whips you around at a timid 113 miles per hour. As we walked away, Erin still looked flustered, and I got the distinct impression that late into August she'll still be getting high under The Engourginator after hours with Josh (who has been wanting to hook up with her since Evan's thing under the boardwalk after Kate's party) and talking about the faceplant kid. All in all, it was great. I hate the driving, spending the money, living in a closet, and finding sand in every imaginable place, but it was great. Plus, any time I was feeling a little claustrophobic, Sam would sing me his version of the Jungle Book song and make it all better...
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your stripes
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life
yeah, man...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Carnivore on 9th Street

Imagine it's a few days before Easter (I'm a little behind on the blog)...
Sara (who, by the way, on days like this is my favorite person in the whole world, you'll see why in a second) decided to take the day off on Friday so we could all go to the Italian Market together (see? that's why). At the crack of 8:30 I roll out of bed with a smile on my face... imagining the glistening pastry counters, clattering baskets of crabs, rows of sopressata shimmering with sweat, freshly skinned goats staring blankly from butcher shop windows...
oh shit...
the goats...
Well, it's 8:31, and already I've hit a snag. How do I take Sam, who gets excited about seeing a squirrel and almost passes out at the mere mention of a farm, to my favorite place on earth, which just happens to be littered with meat... and not just meat, but meat still attached to the rest of the animal?
8:33 and I realize that Italian Market momentum cannot be stopped, and we'll just have to see what happens. So we're off, and in no time I'm parked in my favorite spot and we're strolling towards heaven. It's been a while, but everything comes flooding back in the first block. Brine and scales at the corner of Washington at Anastasi's Fish Market as they wash off fresh catch and toss packing ice onto the curb. Over-ripe tomatoes and bananas across the street in front of the gristled old man yelling HAMANNY at the top of his lungs over and over (took me about three years to realize he was saying "how many")... and best of all, rows of fiddleheads, mangos, onions and basil gently peppered by the year-round snowfall of ashes from produce boxes burning in oil drums. In a minute we're right in the heart of it, and Sam sees the first crab basket, the baby octopi, and stops to ask what the name of every fish is... Then it comes - the first window. Rows of sausages and four whole goats, hanging by their back legs waiting for Easter dinner.
"What are those?" he asks...
"Goats" I say.
"Hmm" he says, and we move on.
He is quiet, and seems to be considering it for a while, but after a block or so, starts up with his usual chatter. On we go, past Fante's and DiBruno's. Past the mortadella and provolone, olives and feta, whole rabbits and coiled rattlesnake meat, and tripe sandwiches wrapped in newspaper. Finally, right past Catherine street, we come to Sarcone's. For those of you who haven't been, I honestly feel sorry for you. Really. It's just sad. Sarcone's makes bread... but not just bread, some of the best bread in the universe. So good, in fact, that they have a system. Whenever you get there, they are out of bread, but there is a line out the door. Tourists and fools move on, but everyone in the know will wait, because every 10 minutes or so they come out with a fresh batch and 50 or so loaves are snatched up as the line lunges forward, and then the wait continues...
Bread in hand we're heading back up the street toward the butchers, and at the first one Sam says,"hey dad, a goat"... and that's it. Should I be happy? Sad? Hungry? Should my arms be completely numb? Wait a minute, what? Just in time, I'm saved from wrestling with any moral dilemma by the realization that my arms are completely numb. Thirty five pound Sam has been on my shoulders for about an hour, and along the way I've picked up nine pounds of tomatoes, four racks of lamb, four pounds of sausage, two bunches of cilantro & basil, and two pounds of octopus and one turnip - all of which are draped in plastic bags over my forearms as I'm holding on to Sam's feet. Luckily, his scissor grip around my neck has performed some Vulcan hand freeze on me, and although I lost all feeling and control over my hands, they seem to be locked around his ankles securely enough to make it the last two blocks to the car. With the application of some butter, we're able to slip his ankles out of my grip when we get to the car, and within ten minutes or so I'm able to move my pinky again.
Next stop, South Street for pizza, Famous Deli for cookies, window shopping at the tattoo parlors on 4th, and some cheap mexican toys from the Eyes Gallery that don't even last the whole ride home. Couldn't ask for a better day.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Mercury Rising

So the other day, Sam, Lily and I are just sitting around and as usual (without me even trying to make the day funnier) I'm caught up in how absurd and hilarious the whole parenting thing is. First of all, Lily learned this strange dance thing this week. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even sure it was dancing at first, and since Sara hasn't seen it yet (it seems that when she is home, Lily just wants to hang on to her and isn't really in the dancing mood) I couldn't get a second opinion. It starts with her doing a side step - and a pretty deliberate one, as if she is counting off "a one and a two, a one and a two" in her head - and moving around the living room in a big circle as if she is imagining herself as one small part of a large wedding dance around the bride and groom. The next step in her (remarkably well choreographed) routine is to fall down on to her butt and violently flair her arms and torso from side to side like she was doing some early street version of the twist that never really caught on until it was changed into the relatively mild dance that it is today that has very little chance of poking out an eye or sending anyone to the hospital with a lumbar fracture. I have to admit, the first time I saw the second half of the dance, I was a bit frightened. She laughs while she does it too, which might seem cute when you read about it, but actually, for the uninitiated, it's a little Children of the Corn. That first night after I saw it I even checked the back of her head for three sixes while she was sleeping... only found three nines though, so I slept like a baby. All is well, it turns out... last night I asked her to dance and she happily did the whole routine for me. As you might imagine, I was relieved, and even egged her on with a little song that went pretty much like "dancin, dancin, Lily dancin.." (you have to add a little tune to that in your head) which she thought was just hysterical enough to repeat the routine another 137 times until Sara got home... and then acted as if she had no idea what I was saying. Now that I think about it, our house is kind of like Footloose. I'm Kevin Bacon (encouraging the dance) Sara is John Lithgow (who Lily - Lori Singer - doesn't dare dance in front of) and Sam is more of a Chris Penn, the one who yearns to dance but can't seem to stop spinning into furniture.
Now the dancing alone wouldn't really make the day all that funny, but Sam's odd little brain occasionally bowls me over. Lily is dancing, and Sam is sitting around drawing in Turtle magazine ("crafts" is what he calls any art project, which he doesn't pronounce well when he is excited and often will jog up to me and say "daddy, do you want to make some craps with me?") when he sees a picture of a box of Trix cereal on the back of one of his cereal boxes. "Hey daddy!" he shouts, "we should get some of that!" So I reach deep down inside myself and struggle not to yell out "MY GOD YES! TRIX ARE DELICIOUS! I WAS NEVER ALLOWED TO HAVE THEM AND VOWED THAT ONE DAY MY CHILDREN WOULD BE RAISED SOLELY ON TRIX, COUNT CHOCULA, BOOBERRY, AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, EVEN THOUGH IT WILL RIP THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH TO SHREDS WITH ITS CRISPY GOODNESS THE GODFATHER AND UNDISPUTED CHAMPION OF ALL SWEET CEREALS, CAPTAIN CRUNCH. My son, open the box, and together we will go down the rabbit hole..." Instead I say, tears welling up in my eyes, "No, we can't get that, its not good for you." Really. Even though I felt a little piece of me die, I said it. As if he understood how hard it was for me to say like deer somehow know when it is going to rain, he was respectfully quiet for a moment.... and then said the only thing in the world that could have made me feel better at that moment. That is, precisely the last thing I ever expected my three year old to say...
"But dad, it's part of a nutritious breakfast."


Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of My Head

Ok, blog category #2 - successes and failures of last week.
Started out ok on Monday, until 6:48pm, when I suddenly got sick. Might have been 6:49, but the point is, all of a sudden I thought "holy crap, I feel terrible", and I went from well to sick in about thirty seconds. Stayed home on Tuesday, felt crappy. Went in to to work on Wednesday, felt crappy, and started to stress about the rest of the week. Thursday, still crappy and really behind I stayed after work to prep for friday, ran home to get ready for my wine class... paused a moment to reflect on how sick I was.... and ran off to class and talked for two and a half hours about California wine laws, Oregon LIVE, Albarino, and why if you don't like (or can't learn to like) Barolo you'll never be invited over to my house. At least that's what I think I talked about. I wrote it down before class, but by 10:00pm, things got a little fuzzy. A couple of students noted on their instructor evaluations that they disagreed with my position on the whole Dick York vs. Dick Sargent thing. I am a York man, of course. With his simple country charm and unflinching devotion to his wife despite all of the madcap scenarios she got them into (not to mention he was quite the tall drink of water) I can't possible imagine feeling any other way. How or when that might have come up on Thursday, I have no idea.
Anyway, I woke up in Sam's bed on Friday (because by the time I got home he was passed out in my bed and I was too tired to do the switch) and sat there for a minute deciding whether I should get up and shower, or pray that the seething mass of germs that were pulsing beneath my skin and making every pore on my body ache would finally win so I could die right there on the dinosaur sheets. I went with the shower - and thanks to Sara dressing the kids actually got to work early so I could make a soup before I prepped for the day. Work, then prep for Rosa's gig, and then the dinner - Shitake & crimini tarts with peppered apples and a red pepper & tomato reduction... carrot & cilantro soup... rare pepper encrusted bluefin tuna with curried crab salad & black pasta with garbanzo and garlic puree... greens with shaved parm and roasted pumpkin seed vinaigrette... and three tuilles layered with raspberries and chantilly...
and I was out...
home, sick...
and too wired to sleep. Go figure.
Oh yeah... little footnote to my last post... Do you realize how often you use your thumb? Like, all the time. Seriously, try this little experiment. Say "OW!", now count to three, say "OW!" again, and now repeat this process for two weeks. Go ahead. Try. It sucks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ode to a Thumb

Oh! chubby digit on the side
So handy when I need a ride
Oft ignored or used to suck
Without you I'd be out of luck

A change of pace, you thought would do
"Perhaps I will accent a stew,
some chutney or charcuterie,
perhaps a garnish I can be...
Not merely food when hope is dashed,
for soccer teams whose planes have crashed.
I'll sit on plates by men of honor,
no longer served for parties, Donner."
My flavor surely so unique,
they'll revise Larousse Gastronomique.
Some thumb in tart or etouffee,
would impress Auguste Escoffier."

So on I chopped still unaware
of Thumb's designs l'art culinaire
He waited, watched, and then reacted
When I was just a bit distracted.
My reaction time a touch belated,
I sliced him off with my serrated.
"Foiled!" I swear I heard him yell,
For my serrated did not cut so well.

Still attached, with wound agape,
I put the tip back on with tape.
Healing now, comfortably numb,
I often wonder why my thumb
Would go so far to get his wish
to be a part of my new dish.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

il mio terzo bambino, Nuova Simonelli

The first weekend at home with a new baby is always special. Sure, it's tiring... always a bit more effort than you anticipated... but once you're settled, and into a groove, it gets easier and you have time to enjoy everything that makes your family special.
This weekend, we finally had a chance to relax a bit, and had a somewhat kitchen-focused couple of days. Homemade ravioli on Saturday night, and Sam helped roll out the pasta... he is pretty good at it actually, went at a good speed, held up the sfoglia while it was fed between the rollers without ripping it... I was pretty impressed. It might just be something genetic. Maybe the wee bit of him that is Italian crept out on Saturday and just knew how to do it... He seemed to be a bit under the weather for the last few days, and didn't eat much, except for the linguini I cut for him out of the leftover dough, but Lily went at it with full force and gave her scraps to the dog - so everyone got in on the action.
Sunday morning was toasted millet muffins that everyone actually ate, including Satchmo once again, who now has to be let outside every six minutes or so. Leftover pasta for lunch, and red lentil & chicken curry with homemade naan for dinner. Satchmo & Lily went with the naan, but wisely decided to forego the curry. Actually, I think Satchmo would have given it a shot, but seemed a bit preoccupied with trying to open the back door. To be honest, it wasn't the best Indian I've ever made... curry was a bit bland, and for some reason which I can't figure out, the naan refused to puff up while it was baking. It was a bit like eating in a Bangalorian prison. All the while, Nuova sat by just observing, occasionally creaking with boiler pressure.
Weekends always have their ups and downs, kids get tired and cranky, I get tired and cranky... but the high points always make it worthwhile. Coming downstairs on a Saturday morning is perfect... well rested kids milling around, picking at bacon and pancakes... smiles and furious dashes to find new yogurt in the fridge... everyone starts fresh, and it seems like the family I always imagined having. Almost Norman Rockwell. As of last Sunday, thanks to the plumbing expertise of my wonderful father, we have a shimmering stainless steel 110 pound addition to the family, and weekend mornings are a bit sunnier. So here I am, on a Monday at home with the kids, still thinking about coming downstairs yesterday morning... two smiling kids, Sara with hair all akimbo, and the nuova bambino pulsing with excitement to start the day. If only Sara could share my (random & bizarre) obsession... why... it could be the third child we always wanted....
At least I'm not on drugs...

Friday, February 17, 2006


Hey, Lily's walking. Finally. She was taking a step or two off and on for a while, and the other day, she just decided to stay upright.
I forgot what it was like with a new walker, Sam has been upright for so long I completely forgot how cool the transition was... amazing... She was always the baby, and all of a sudden, with a few steps across the living room, she is a whole new person. Looks different when she is walking too.. really, amazing...
Anyway, I'll have more to say later... just needed to get that out...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gooey & the Chupacabra

"You'll never really know how much your parents love you until you have children of your own"... odd how that works out, and how true it seems sometimes. Even stranger that the person who said this was some guy at Saul Ewing that I never met, some random schlub that could be the reincarnation of Starkweather or Buddha for all I know.
Ok, I know that more than half of my posts are about the kids, but you'll have to suffer through... its little hard not to get caught up when it seems there isn't time for anything else. I'll start with the fun part though, to suck you in...
I'm home with Lily today because she has pink eye, and they won't let her into daycare again until she has been on meds for a while. Strange disease, pink eye. It doesn't seem to really ever do anything except make your eyes and everything they touch all gooey, but for some reason, daycare seems to treat it like the plague. As soon as she exhibited the first sign of goo, my cell phone was ringing, and I had to go and get her. She was pretty gooey, but in a good mood as always, and happily came crawling up to me with a small conjuctivitis infected stuffed rabbit stuck to the side of her face. As luck would have it, she also learned how to give kisses today. All afternoon she would play for a bit, then crawl over and want to be picked up... and all afternoon I gently peeled away Acme receipts and plastic dinosaurs from underneath her eyes and carried her around until she gave me one of her oddly-formed baby kisses on the cheek. Then, I would gently set her down again, boil some water, add a little rubbing alcohol in for good measure, and pour the mixture directly onto my face to ward off the onset of the goo...
Sam on the other hand, is unusually healthy at the moment... save one little problem... when Sam was younger, he was perfect. Well, not really, but he seemed like it. It was the little things in him that I was most amazed by... since everything was new - his smell, his eyes, his sounds, and the feel of his skin - he seemed perfect... and I dunno... fresh... unspoiled... A few months ago though, he ate something (we still don't know what) that he had a shockingly severe allergic reaction to. By the time we got in the car to go to the hospital, one eye was completely swollen shut, and the other not far behind. His tongue was swollen enough that he had trouble speaking, and his fingers were so big they would hardly bend. Needless to say, I drove really fucking fast.
I spent the day lying next to him in the hospital bed, and for some reason one of the things I remember most was how his skin had changed. He was passed out from all of the medication for most of the day, and I held on to him for a good six hours until he woke up. While he was swollen he was a little bumpy, like he was cold and stiff - but as the swelling went down his skin still felt different. Its hard to explain, but his skin didn't feel like a baby anymore, his arm felt like mine... weathered, tough... Over the next few days that went away a bit. It was a few days of some pretty hardcore drugs, and a handful more of Benedryl before the hives were gone... and it was weeks before I slept through the night. We still have to carry an epi-pen wherever we go, and I don't think there has been a day since that I haven't thought about it for at least a minute or two. For the most part, though, I'm over it. We've done all that we can do, seen a bunch of doctors, and are pretty prepared if it happens again. Just life, I suppose.. everyone has these things to deal with in one form or another, and I don't waste too much time playing out worst case scenarios in my head. Every once in a while it hits me though. On Tuesday I gave him a bath, and when I touched his arm I hit a rough goose-bumpy patch of skin, and it chilled me to the bone. It's sickening sometimes, how hard it hits me. Most days I have this amazing boy, and every once in a while, for a second or two, all I can see is this monster lurking inside of him waiting patiently to show itself again. Meanwhile, we wait, guardians of the Temple of Sam. Carefully watching the gates, syringes of epinephrine glinting valiantly in the sun, gooey pink eyes always watching... always watching...

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Not so long ago, weekends began as mysteries. Where I would end up, who I would be with... would I wake up on someone's lawn... good times... Always a bit of magic in there though.
These days are a bit of a mystery too, but a different sort. When will Sam fall on his head... will Lily eat that crayon...if I stand more than four feet away, will Lily still be able to hit me with some high velocity vomit (yes, by the way, she can, and did on Saturday). To amuse myself, I have developed a "Someone's Hurt!" Injury Timetable (SHIT) for the kids. Over the course of an average day, I estimated that Sam will hurt himself about fifteen times, and Lily about ten. Only a small percentage of these injuries result in tears that last more than 30 seconds, but there are a significant number of injuries that can be avoided by employing the SHIT system. Here's what I do, feel free to try it with your kids -
First of all, the early stages if the system require a bit of intuitive parenting... educated guesswork, you might say. Start with an easy one to get yourself into the groove - for example, I've noticed that Sam can only run for about 30 paces max before he trips and hits the deck like a flounder. With a well timed distraction after about 20 paces ("hey look, a squirrel!" or "I think there is some yogurt under the car!") he'll pause and regain his footing just long enough to continue for the next 30 paces. The same distractions apply if he is trying to fit his head through a gate, or put his sister in the toilet - "hey look, a squirrel!" or "I think there is some yogurt under the car!" - and I have just enough time to extract Lily from the bowl. Lily was a bit harder to figure out, because she isn't fooled by the imaginary squirrels or yogurt, but a little physical comedy goes a long way with her... a fake slip on a banana peel or slapping yourself on the head will distract her every time.
This is where it gets a bit tricky. When they are left unattended, you have to assume that trouble is always brewing, and the countdown begins. If I'm in the kitchen, and everything gets quiet in the living room, there's about 45 seconds before somebody gets hurt. Believe it or not, I'm getting pretty good at the timing - as soon as I notice a lull, I can quickly finish whatever I'm in the middle of, and dash into the other room just in time to stop Sam from jumping off of the top of the couch. Lily has a telltale shuffle too - if the sound of her crawling across the floor seems particularly determined, odds are she is after something, and you have to reach her before the shuffle subsides. For all of the crap in our house, we're remarkably childproof, but she can get pretty creative, like trying to ease her teething pains on the sleeping dog, or seeing if she can fit her whole arm in the vcr. The key is to have both parents involved, so that if I'm tied up or on the phone and I notice something is awry, I can yell "SHIT!" so that Sara knows the "Someone's Hurt!" Injury Timetable has been activated, and she can get there to nip impending trouble in the bud.
System in place, our daily injuries decreased this weekend, but Sam has started cursing for some reason. I was thinking of renaming the system "Beware! Activate Response! Nearby Endangered Youth!" or "Red Alert! Find Falling Infant!" or even "Seriously, Protect Our Newborn! Get Everyone's Butts Outta Bedlam!" but they just don't seem to carry the same weight...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hurling a budgiepeet

I know,long time,no blog. So much has happened since my last, as a matter of fact, that I don't know where to begin. I'll start with today and work backwards... sick, sick, sick. Called out sick from work - which I never do - because I coughed up what looked like a parakeet when I woke up. It didn't fly away, or have any rainforest-like wing colors, so I didn't go to the doctor, just went down to the couch for a while. Flipped from front to back, back to front for an hour or so... felt a bit better but got tired of the flipping, so I got up and made some pancakes, and then putzed around for the next seven hours. Loving the sick day though... wish I had more of them... oh yeah, I actually feel a bit better too, what are the odds.
Aside from that, nothing much to say about the last few weeks. There are some good stories, but I'm too crabby to tell them. Just one little thing, as long as I'm on line...I do seem to have these flashes of complete and utter heartache.
Hectic as December is for me, I step into January every year leaving behind a condensed version of what I wish life was like. Between all of the driving and childcare is an endless stream of family, college and childhood friends, and sleepless nights that are worth every second.
Too tired at the moment to drone on like Enya about lost love or time... but as hard as the holidays are sometimes, aches fade, and I have another year of memories to smooth things over. My parents overflowing dining room table, Luke or Jeremy picking up a guitar, waking up at Mar's and hearing all those old familiar voices, seeing Jeanne laugh (not just hearing it on the phone, but seeing it with my own eyes), Sam and Lily on Christmas, and waking up next to my wife without one of us rushing out the door.
So that's it, my month in a nutshell. Now I'm sick, tired, and missing every second of it.
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