Posts tagged ‘family life’

Doggie’s Wedding

As I have written before, Eli cares for his stuffed animals quite devotedly. Like any good parent, he tucks them into bed at night and makes sure they’re cozy, he throws birthday parties for them, and worries about their eating habits.

Big Doggie, the biggest of the stuffies, is also the oldest of the stuffies and recently we learned that he has a job. Every night at bedtime, Big Doggie eats a snack from his new bowl and heads off to his job, typing on the computer and talking on the phone (happily he doesn’t leave the bed, and the work seems not to interfere with Eli’s repose). So I shouldn’t have been surprised the other day when Eli announced that Big Doggie was getting married. “Who is he marrying?” I asked. It was a stumper. Eli glanced around his bed, then ran to the basket of other stuffies and started pawing through the pile. He pulled out the stuffed snowman Ben made at a friend’s house a couple years ago and held it up, laughing. “Big Doggie can’t marry the snowman; he would melt!” He rejected the kangaroo, the otter, the two frogs, duck and many others before finally coming to a dachshund about half Big Doggie’s size. Right behind that one there was a smaller dachshund. “Perfect!” Eli crowed, “A bride and a baby!”

So, we had the players, but then Eli realized we needed a wedding feast. “Cookies! Chocolate chip cookies!” Easy enough, and more fun when I remembered that we have lots of cookie cutters to make the wedding dessert more special. We picked out three dogs (a lab like Big Doggie and two different dachshunds), a bone and a heart. We picked flowers from the garden.

We dressed the happy couple in special outfits, including collars for their wedding rings, and we deptutized the mooses as ring bearers:

The preparations wound up taking a couple days, as we kept getting interrupted by little details like school and bedtime, but when you figure how long engagements tend to be these days, and how expensive weddings can be, I think we did pretty well. And afterward, the happy couple jetted off to Hawaii (under a living room chair) for their honeymoon, while the rest of us finished off the wedding feast.

Eight Things About Eight

It looks the same upside down and right side up.

On its side, it’s the symbol for infinity.

It’s a power of 2.

It’s a homophone (remember the old joke, Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine.)

It’s a Fibonacci number.

It’s the number of notes in an octave.

It’s the number of planets in the solar system (sorry, Pluto, we still miss you).

It’s the age of my firstborn son. Happy birthday, Ben!

image credit

Double Feature

One of the most memorable post-kid dates for Tony and me came sometime around Ben’s first birthday. We went out to a movie (American Splendor) and then, realizing the night was still young and Ben wouldn’t need to nurse again for a while, we went to another (The Secret Lives of Dentists, which I wrote about much later). They are both good movies, but it didn’t even matter; what mattered was that we were free enough to do something extra, something spontaneous. It felt great.

Since then, of course, we’ve been getting out a little bit more regularly. I don’t feel so movie-deprived (the list over there in the sidebar is growing nicely), but the double feature is still a very rare treat. I wasn’t expecting one this weekend, after the 6 PM show of Avatar, but leaving the movie theater at 9 and knowing, since the kids were on a sleepover, that we wouldn’t have to get up early in the morning, we circled back to the ticket counter and checked the listings. 10 PM, Sherlock Holmes. Perfect.

Usually I have a lot to say (or write) about movies, but this pair took it all out of me! They are equally gorgeous; the watery blues and greens of Avatar‘s Pandora are getting all the press, but that actually felt more familiar to me (maybe because I am a frequent aquarium visitor?) than the foggy steampunk world of Sherlock Holmes’ London, and I thought both were innovative and beautiful (the closing credits of Sherlock Holmes are the best credit sequence I’ve seen in years). They are equally, unnecessarily long; I took a little nap during Avatar because I was bored, and another little nap during Sherlock because I was up past my bedtime, and I found myself editing each in my head.

As for the writing, well, there’s really nothing much to say about Avatar‘s script, is there? Though I do find myself wanting to make the distinction here between the story — fine, as far as it goes, though we’ve seen it before (“Dances with Smurfs,” scoffs a friend); I have no problem with new contexts for old stories — and the actual script, which is so full of tired lines it’s a wonder the actors could say them without laughing (“Bring the pain,” indeed). Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes doesn‘t rely on any one story for its script, in favor of the more sequel-friendly overview, which felt like a bit of a loss, even for someone like me who hasn’t absorbed all the stories. But watching Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law banter and flirt is so pleasurable, I’m ok with the filmmakers setting this one up for a franchise.

Finally, Sigourney Weaver, welcome back from your roles in Baby Mama (meh) and Infamous (loved); to me, you belong in space, and seeing you channel Ellen Ripley and Dian Fossey was one of my favorite aspects of Avatar.

image source

Fantastic Mr. Fox: The Sequel

At lunch today, Eli started talking about the differences between Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Wes Anderson’s film version. We’ve only seen the movie once, but Ben has been reading the book to Eli in the car, and the conversation about the two different versions of the story shows no sign of abating. So Eli announced he wanted to write a sequel to the book, one that would come to a more exciting conclusion than Roald Dahl’s. I offered to type it up for him, not knowing that I have been harboring a budding Gertrude Stein, someone who will write the same sentence over and over and just when you think you know how the paragraph is going to end — bam! — surprises you with a new detail.

Or maybe it’s just that while I was typing, he was running circles around the living room. Anyway, here it is:

Once upon a time, there were three farmers. Their names were Bunce, Boggis and Bean. They were trying to catch a fox, but he was too clever. So they were waiting at the fox’s hole so when the fox came out, they could shoot him. But the fox was too clever. Bunce was a geese and duck man. Boggis was a chicken man. Bean was a turkey and apple man. Let’s go back to the story. So, each night Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, “What should it be now, dear? chickens from Boggis, ducks and geese from Bunce, turkey or apple from Bean?” And then she would say, “A turkey from Bean, or, a chicken from Boggis, or, a geese from Bunce.” So after she said what she wanted, Mr. Fox would go out of his hole, sniff the air, and go to fetch what she wanted. The farmers did not like things getting stealed from them, so each night, they’d go down to the hole with their shotgun and wait. But the fox was too clever for that! So each night he would look around or sniff around and then he would go to whatever Mrs. Fox wanted and help himself. Then he would come back and get dinner ready and then they would eat dinner. Then they would go to sleep, wake up, Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, “What should it be now, dear? A chicken from Boggis, a geese or duck from Bunce, or some cider or turkey from Bean?” Then Mrs. Fox would say whatever she wanted and then Fantastic Mr. Fox would go out of his hole and help himself. The farmers had a bad idea. They would go in front of their farms, waiting for the fox. But then the fox went into the back door and they saw the fox go into the back door and they hid their gun in the back door and then Fantastic Mr. Fox would go into the front door and help himself. The farmers did not like that so they tried going back to his hole with their shotguns. And then it turned dark and Fantastic Mr. Fox said, “What would you like, dear?” And Mrs Fox would tell whatever she would like. And Mr Fox would dig a tunnel to solve the problem, a pretty big tunnel and then come out, do you know why? because if he came out the regular way he might get shot, so he dug a little tunnel where the farmers aren’t. So he would come up, and help himself. And the farmers saw his tunnel so they moved to that tunnel. He would come back out the regular tunnel and then fix up dinner and after dinner they would go to sleep. Then after they went to sleep, morning would come, so they would wake up. Fantastic Mr. Fox would say, “What should it be now, darling?” So Mrs. Fox would say whatever she wanted and then Mr. Fox would help himself. Then he would come back, fix up breakfast, eat it, have a little rest, then go get lunch. After lunch, the one fox would have a little play, then dinner arrived. Mr. Fox would say, “What should I get? A chicken from Boggis, a duck or geese from Bunce, or a turkey or jar of cider from Bean?” Mrs Fox would say what she wanted and then they would fix up dinner, go to sleep, do another day, next day they would wake up, get breakfast, eat breakfast. The little fox would have a play, get lunch, the little fox would have some play, then dinner arrived. They would eat dinner, another day passed, they would wake up, have breakfast. The little fox would have some play, eat lunch, the little fox would have some play, eat dinner, another day. [“It’s a long chapter,” noted Eli, “to get you into the story. You might not keep reading if it was just, “Once upon a time there were 3 farmers. Next chapter.” Fair enough.]

Next Chapter
They would get breakfast. The little fox would have some play, then lunch arrived. After lunch, the little fox would have some more play, dinner arrived. Eat dinner, go to sleep, another day passes.

Another Chapter, Chapter 3
They would wake up, get breakfast, the little fox would have some play, then lunch arrived. They would eat lunch, the little fox would have some playtime, then dinner arrived. They would eat dinner, another day passes. Wake up, eat breakfast, the little fox would have some play, then lunch arrived. They would eat lunch, the little fox would have some more play while Fantastic Mr. Fox would read the newspaper while Mrs. Fox would clean dishes.

Chapter 4
Dinner arrived! They would eat dinner, go to sleep, another day would pass. They would wake up, they would get breakfast, eat breakfast, the little fox would have some play, then lunch arrived. They would eat lunch, the little fox would have some play, then dinner arrived.

Chapter 5
They would wake up, get breakfast, eat breakfast, the little fox would have some playtime, then lunch arrived. They would eat lunch, the little fox would play while Fantastic Mr. Fox would read the newspaper and Mrs. Fox cleaned dishes. Then Fantastic Mr. Fox would fetch dinner, then they ate dinner, the little fox would have ten minutes of playtime and go to sleep. Another day passes.

Chapter 6
So they would wake up, get breakfast, the little fox would have some playtime, Fantastic Mr. Fox would get lunch, the little fox would have some playtime.

Chapter 7

To be continued…

9 for ’09

I didn’t manage 9 categories, but here are my top 9’s in 6 (9 upside-down) categories for 2009:

Memorable Meals

Eli’s first meat, a meatball at the Pasta Pomodoro in San Rafael, of all places: “Mama, I know it’s meat, and I want it.”
Jewish Quarter falafel with Lilya
Tony’s 40th birthday party at Beretta – burrata on pizza, mmmm…
Dinner with Libby and her family at Jamie’s Italian in Oxford
One lukewarm bottle of water at Legoland in England (where it does get hot but they still don’t have ice): the difference between surviving the day and passing out from heat stroke
Picnics by the pool
Cocktails & dessert at Aziza, any Monday night we had babysitting
Birthday parties for stuffies, with bowls of unsalted peanuts and eucalyptus leaves, hosted by Eli
Dinner and Christmas carol mash-up/singalong, with my parents, led by the boys

Best books

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
My Life in France by Julia Child
The King (poems) by Rebecca Wolff
Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir by Karl Taro Greenfield
This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Lit by Mary Karr


Where the Wild Things Are – a terrific adaptation
Ponyo – Eli’s first movie theater movie since he graduated from the sling
Fantastic Mr. Fox – our first movie outing as a family
The Class (Entre Les Murs) – best new teaching movie
Who Does She Think She Is? – my favorite documentary of the year
Inglourious Basterds – actors, director, everyone at the top of their game
The Hurt Locker – the best war movie
(500) Days of Summer – best dance sequence of the year (and probably decade)
Sweet Land – my favorite love story of the year

2009 Memories and milestones

Eli and Mariah asleep, leaning their heads on each other, in the back of the car on the drive home from Pt. Reyes
Ben learning to ride his bike without training wheels
AWP in Chicago, meeting so many literary mamas, spending 4 days without the boys
Tony’s and my night away at Indian Springs Resort
Wine and snacks with Rob, Lilya, Liz and Ross while our boys played soccer in the courtyard of our Paris rental with one of the boys who lived in the building
An amazingly relaxing two night Big Basin camp-out (8 adults and 7 boys)
Eli learning to read
Ben playing soccer at school recess
Mama, PhD readings at Duke and the University of Richmond


Tate Modern + London Transit Museum
Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire in the Presidio
Musee de l’orangerie
Amish Abstrations quilt show at the De Young
Eli counting down to his weekly preschool art days
Seeing Maya Lin and Andy Goldsworthy installations at Storm King Art Center
Bidding on one of Tony’s dad‘s paintings in an online auction – and winning!
Ben learning how to weave


Eli: “I just want one more hug of you.”
Ben: “How is it that I am I?”
Eli: “I want some food.” Tony: “I’m making dinner.” Eli: “I want something more fastly.”
Ben imitating Yogi Bear: “Hey, Boo Boo!”
Eli rejecting a band-aid for his sore throat, “And anyway, the inside of my throat isn’t stickable!”
Ben: “I’m going to try something new!”
Eli: “Mama? Since you are two years older than Tony, why don’t you know more about LEGO?”
Ben to Eli, referring to us, “Ask one of the grown-ups.”
Eli to me: ” I love you cozier than my bed, curlier than your hair, and gooder than my oatmeal.”

May your 2010 be gooder than oatmeal, too.

Dear Santa

Santa Claus has been responsive to us in the past (remember the year of the pogo stick?), so the boys are optimistic about their letters this year. And I have to say, with such reasonable (and relatively old-school!) requests, I think Santa will respond favorably:

First, Eli’s. We do not have a dog, but he takes good care of all his stuffies, and feels the dogs need their own bowls:

two dog bowls
back scratchers
Love eli Grant

Then Ben’s letter, using his new paper-engineering and cursive-writing skills:

Dear Santa, Could I please have a very large tub of dominoes, a digital wristwatch, and a scientific calculator? From Ben Grant

We’ll set out our plate of cookies & carrots tomorrow night and hope for the best! Merry Christmast to you and yours.

Young Playwrights

Depending on the company, Ben and Eli play lego, or rocket ships, or build forts, or draw, or do puppet shows. On Saturday, their puppet show friends came to play and, as usual, Ben and his fellow second grader took the lead, assigning smaller roles to the younger siblings. The boys wanted to perform a play by Shakespeare, but then realized that they don’t really know the plots of any of Shakespeare’s plays. So they went to Plan B, starting with an announcement from the MC:

Welcome to our show! Thank you for coming today! Please carefully read the list of rules. Smoking is strictly prohibited. Now we can get to the important part. Today we will be showing a puppet show. Please welcome: Shakespeare writing a famous play: Romeo and Juliet!!!

Next, they produced a script:

Shakespeare: I think I shall write a play.

Shakespeare: None of my other plays are very common. (sigh)
Shakespeare: This one shall be called, Romeo and Juliet!
Shakespeare: Servant, please get my pen?
Servant: Yes Sir William!
Shakespeare: And now I will begen.
Shakespeare: Thar are two villages separated by a big hill.
Shakespeare: and they are worst eminies.
Shakespeare: But two people – one from each village – fell in love with each other.
Shakespeare: And they got married.
Romeo/Juliet: La la la la la la!!

At this point, Eli apparently became disgruntled about his role, and expressed his dissatisfaction:


That seemed like a good time to pause for dinner. The quartet of kids gets together again next weekend, and it’ll be interesting to see how the scripts — on stage and off — develop.

One Busy Afternoon

I didn’t photograph the Monopoly, but can report that my son manages to win the majority of our games with one simple strategy: you spend money to make money. In one recent game, which he likes to recall quite fondly, he cleaned me out in less than ten minutes and had made $50 (and this is Monopoly Jr, where the highest currency is a five.)

Food Is Stories

It has been, by most objective measures, a lousy week. It announced itself with a dog bite on my Monday morning run, developed with Eli’s fever, peaked the night Tony and I spent at Eli’s bedside, putting cold washcloths on his head and wondering whether to take him into Urgent Care, and has now moved into the quiet dull rhythm of boredom and cabin fever that settles on a house when a family member has been sick a while. I did finally make the ultimately ill-advised decision to leave the house, only to back our garage-parked car into our driveway-parked car (another reason I want to sell one of our cars; it might be a bit harder now, though). But I have to say that if my child was going to choose any week to be sick and keep me anchored on the couch, stroking his head while he watched endless episodes of Oswald and Peep in the Big World, at least he chose the week that the New York Times Magazine published the food issue.

Click on over to the other blog to read the rest…

Losing Gourmet

cross-posted from the other blog

It’s not like I grew up with it. My mom learned to cook mostly from her own mom (though luckily got an excellent pie crust education from her mother-in-law). When we moved to the US in the early 70s, I remember seeing The Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef occasionally on our black & white kitchen television, but I think they were on more for entertainment than education. Mom subscribed to the Time-Life series of international cookbooks (the hardcovers now live in my house; the paperbacks, with more recipes, continue to get a workout in her kitchen) but never a cooking magazine, that I recall.

It was after college that I started to pick up Gourmet occasionally. It was a glimpse into another world. It was like a travel magazine to me, so glossy and beautiful. I tore out the occasional recipe – and if it looked good on the page, it always turned out well– but at the time mostly just dreamed over the beautiful pictures. And that’s one small reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet; for someone who doesn’t subscribe to fashion magazines or anything else with beautiful photography, and whose nightly dinner table can get a little dull with plates of pasta, every month Gourmet showed me lovely tables I could aspire to, and reminded me to set out a vase of flowers or put the vegetables in a pretty bowl.

When I moved to California, I had more time for cooking, and although I didn’t have much money, I saved a few dollars every month to pick up Gourmet. It was always fun reading, a perfect escape from my dense graduate school reading lists. When I broke up with my boyfriend and moved into a place without a kitchen, I would amuse myself trying to make some of Gourmet’s recipes with just a toaster oven, hot pot, rice cooker and electric skillet. I made great stir fries, a fabulous (small) lasagne, and baked cookies by the half dozen. When I moved in with a roommate (partly, to be sure, because of the kitchen) we shared a subscription to Gourmet, and celebrated when she passed her oral exams with a cocktail party fueled by the magazine’s recipes. Whether for a single woman without a kitchen, or two budget-conscious grad students who wanted to eat well, those recipes always worked. And that’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

And then just as I was finishing graduate school, I met Tony, and we bonded over food. I discovered, at his mom Nancy’s house, a veritable library of cooking magazines, refreshed with new issues every month: Fine Cooking, Food and Wine, Saveur, Cooks Illustrated, Gourmet. Ruth Reichl was the editor of Gourmet by then and it was becoming a home for writers, terrific writers like Laura Shapiro and Michael Lewis and Anthony Bourdain and Jane and Michael Stern. We would hang out at Nancy’s house leafing through all the magazines and tearing out the recipes, but Gourmet was the one to read and we would talk about the essays over dinner and long Scrabble games. I remember in particular an essay by Michael Lewis that came out the month Ben was born, in which Lewis describes a trip to Masa’s for dinner with his wife and toddler. For ages afterward, I paraphrased a line from the piece (which sadly I can’t find online), “If you won’t [fill in the blank with whatever I wanted Ben to do] we’ll just have to stay at home and eat broccoli.”

The magazine was always smart, relevant, and delicious, and I routinely incorporated its recipes into our life, from cookies or savory biscotti for our annual New Year’s Day party to banana muffins for preschool bake sales. Gourmet’s vodka-spiked tomatoes came camping with us this summer, and the magazine’s roasted potato and kale salad is now one of my favorite ways to eat those two favorite vegetables. Flipping through my messy binder of saved recipes tonight, I see that over half of them come from Gourmet. Without their monthly infusion of fresh recipes, the binders will stop bursting from their seams, which is probably a good thing, but it’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

After Nancy passed away, we had her mail forwarded to our house and that meant two copies of Gourmet each month. I called the customer service people, who were happy to consolidate her subscription and mine, but there was a little confusion over the name and so it has come to me each month with her name on it. If Nancy liked something, she put her money on it, so the subscription was supposed to go deep into 2012. It was a monthly reminder of the meals and conversations we shared, and that’s the last, biggest, reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.