Thursday, July 31, 2003


Now that our neighborhood has become depopulated of 4 year olds, I have to arrange playdates instead of just running into people at the playground. I have some great friends with great kids, but there have been some problems:

Problem #1. I like the parents, and Jonah hates the kid. The parents are hip and interesting. But the kid is one of those mean girls who is constanting pointing a finger at him. "Jonah is touching me." "Jonah is splashing." "Jonah is eating the cookies." It's only a matter of time until someone gets slugged.

Problem #2. Jonah likes the kids. I hate the parents. Cute kid. The boys do some nice train building and pretending. The parents are annoying or braggarts ("I'm so lucky that Junior sits quietly all the time.") or boring ("Let me tell you about mold.") or racist.

Problem #3. Commitment. I can't stick to a regular playdate. What if something better comes along? What if I wake up with a sudden urge to take the kids to the museum? What if there is a Trading Spaces marathon on TV?

Problem #4. No Multi-tasking. When I am home with the kids, I'm usually doing about five things at once. While Jonah plays trains and Ian trashes the bookshelves, I'm checking e-mail, adding to the blog, talking on the phone, making the bed, putting clothes away, reshelving the bookcase, steaming broccolli, adding to the blog, and editing the blog. When guests come over, I'm forced to pretend that I'm an attentive mother who does nothing but play educational games with my kids and quiz them about their knowledge of state capitals. "We don't watch television around here."

So, where have all the children gone? Parents freaked about low test scores have already moved to the suburbs or the wealthier parents, who plan to send junior to Dalton, have him in summer camp.

But after talking to my suburban friends, it sounds like playdates are the main social activity there, too. Where have all the children gone? We never had playdates as kids. My mom never arranged for our activities. "Go. Get out of the house. It's a beautiful day." We would be kicked out from breakfast to dinner everyday. We would play kickball in the street and tromp around the block with the neighborhood kids. Mom would be inside doing mom stuff. No supervision. No structure.

Now when I drive up Newcomb Road to my parent's house, I never see kids outside playing. In fact, I never see anybody. The place is empty. No human beings for miles. Where is everybody? Inside blogging?

The World's Strongest Mother

I am incredibly strong. I have a six pack and enormous pecs. I am stronger than I have ever been in my life. At 37, I could beat the crap out of 21-year-old me.

Why so strong? Because my 15 month baby is probably the largest child in the city. Not fat, but large. And he's very good at hoisting himself up on the things. This morning, I found him on top of the kitchen table. At the library last week, he pulled himself up on a bookshelf. When I'm not lugging him and his stroller up stairs, then I'm pulling him off of high places.

Hubby's Two Cents

Sweet Steve has left two articles on the table for me to read related to posts on TV shows. We have no time to talk anymore. He reads my blog at lunch, and then I read the articles he's left for me the next morning.

Cocks, Jocks, and Peacocks defends stereotypes in Queer Eye.

In the New York Sun, Charlotte's Turn: The Case for the Overlooked Optimist champions the uptight Charlotte from Sex and the City.

Thanks, hun.


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Commentary on the Times

A quick skim of the paper on-line. First chance to check headlines all day.

According to Where Rebellion is a Pose, tattoos are big amongst those crazy young people at the Lollapalooza concert. Boy, the Times is really the paper of the geriatric. A good number of the women on the playground around here have butterflies on their ankles and barbed wire around their arms. I'm weird because my arms are just freckled.

Defing Labels Right or Left... discusses the politics of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. This article is the number one most e-mailed articles of the day at the Times. I also got an e-mail from a friend who thought he was a cutie (he is). Worth keeping an eye on this guy.

I'm getting kicked off the computer, so I'm guess I'm done for the night. Bush Looking for Ways to Block Gay Marriages is a must read. This fight is going to be great.

Dazed and Confused

The kids slept like crap last night. I'm walking around in a fog. Dull buzzing in the ears. I've had no in-person adult conversations. After Ian's morning nap, I wandered around the neighborhood with the kids -- pizza parlor and playground, but failed to hook up with anyone we know. 4 hours until Steve comes home.

Call me Mommy, Damnit

Yesterday, I took the kids to my friend's private co-op playground. As the kids happily played, I talked to the parents -- all women who put off kids until their late 30s and had another identity before junior came around. I told them that I had been scouting about at militant feminist mommy websites. These sites are pissed that society doesn't value the work of mothers.

None of the playground women liked to call themselves a mommy even though that is what they were doing 98% of the time. One said she freaked out when she had to write down her occupation as mother on on official document.

I can relate. I usually tell people I am an adjunct professor, which is just one notch up on the respect scale. I think the bottom would be homeless-insane man, then mommy, and then adjunct professor. But that little notch is very important to me.

TV Guide

After getting the kids to sleep and fiddling with html code to change the colors of my website, Steve and I finally chilled out at around 9:00. On Insomniac (premise-- guy goes to a new city and drinks all night), Dave goes to Atlanta and hits several watering holes and topless joints. At 5:00 am, after a full night of boobs and shots, he goes to the local supermarket. Walking up and down the aisles carrying a basket, he says, "I love shopping when you're loaded. It's like your own secret Santa. You're drunk. You're shopping. You don't know what the hell you're buying."

Then, we should have just turned the TV off. It's 10:00. You know you're going to be up at 6:00, just go to sleep now, idiot. No. Must watch the funny gay show. Bravo has a new show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Premise- five gay guys remake a hopelessly hetero so that women will like him more. They make fun of him and his clueless ways. "What? You use a shampoo/conditioner combo. Oh, my God. Call me old fashioned, but I think you should use shampoo and then a conditioner." "No, No. It's not Ralph Laur- ren. It's Ralph Lor-en. Practice with me. Lor-en. Lor-en."

From Dearest Brother

Dear Laura,

You mustn't go. One of my aides placed your letter on my desk this morning--and I have been in a fog ever since. I have instructed my staff to clear their calendars and hang up on all those whining 9/11 families and union money grubbers. Our energies are now totally focused, like a precision bomb, upon your difficulties. One abiding question is foremost in all of our fevered little minds, and I mean even the janitors: How can we stop Laura from decamping to the suburbs?

An obvious solution is to immediately arrest and deport the drug dealers outside your window. But I realize your difficulties are more complex and varied. Our Keep Laura in New York Task Force will not rest until we have drafted a forceful solution.

We will keep you posted.

Stay, Laura. I love New York. And so do you.

Mike Bloomberg


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Good name for an 80s metal band. "Hey man, did you see Weapons on tour?" "Yeah, I saw WMD at Giant Stadium, dude. It was awesome." "Cool."

Dear Mayor Bloomberg

Dear Mayor-

I am sorry to inform you that I am forced to leave your lovely city. I am giving you six months notice.

My seventeen years here have been wonderful. I have had amazing meals in four star restaurants and from Indian street vendors. I have met people from all over the world. I have seen the view from the world's highest building and cried when it fell. I have taken a nap in Central Park. For 15 years, I never needed a car. I saw Picasso at the Met and Haring in the subway. I heard the Pogues at the Beacon and Mozart at Lincoln Center. It is with deep regret that I leave, but this arrangement is no longer working for me. This weekend I am going to drive across the George Washington bridge and meet with a shifty real estate agent.

There are many reasons for my departure:
1. "Da Boyz" have camped outside my apartment selling drugs, and your police force seems unwilling to dislodge them.

2. Water is seeping in through the walls of my apartment rippling the paint, and my landlord won't repair them because he wants us to leave. If we move, he can raise the rent by a $1000.

3. We can't afford to move to another apartment in our neighborhood. 5 years ago a 1-1/2 bedroom apartment sold for $60,000. Now it costs $350,000.

4. I can't work at home with my kids and your local library doesn't have tables to write on, so I worked today in Starbucks for 2 hours.

5. It takes me 1-1/2 hours every day to get my kid home from pre-school.

6. It costs $5,000 a year (Sept. to June) for two hours at a mediocre pre-school.

7. I can't wake up my baby from his nap and move my car every day. I must pay $300 a month to put it in a lot several blocks away.

There are many more reasons for going, Mr. Mayor. I wish that your city had changed with me. I wish that it had been more accomodating of our children and our middle class income. Sadly, it has not. Therefore, I am terminating our relationship as of the end of the year.


Monday, July 28, 2003

Salad with a Side of Guilt

Last night, Steve and I watched Sex and the City, one of the few shows that we watch these days. Miranda, the single mother/lawyer, was feeling guilty about leaving her son so much. Her unsympathetic bosses gave her a hard time about leaving early from work too often; they implied that the kid was interfering with her job performance. She ends up telling her boss that she had to cut down her office hours to 50 hours a week.

It was great to see a show that dealt with the guilt involved with the kids/career dilemna and how unbending the workplace can be. The show has taken some hits because it is written and directed by gay men who really don't have a clue about women. For most part, I agree with those criticisms (no woman walks around her apartment in three inch heels when there is no one to see her), but I still love the show anyway. There are so many great inside NYC jokes (going to Century 21 on jury duty, fleet week "Hell-o Sailors").

My criticism about last night's subplot about Miranda is that they didn't go far enough. Not enough guilt. She and all her trampy friends meet every week for lunch to discuss their daliances. In reality, Miranda would have to stop going. She would feel too guilty to take two hours for lunch. She would wolf down a burrito at her desk, so that she would get home earlier to her kid. Then she would feel sorry for herself and eat ice cream, because her friends were having fun without her.

Time takes on a whole new meaning when you have kids and a job. Every minutes counts. Babysitters cost money. And if she could get home two hours earlier, then she might even be able to see the kid for a half an hour before bed. There is absolutely no guilt-free, girlfriend bitch sessions anymore. Gay men don't get it.

Culture Vulture

Reading for research -- Naomi Wolf Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected Journey to Motherhood. She's incredibly self involved. She starts off the book by talking about finding out she was pregnant while she was at a wedding in Italy "attended by the glitterati". Who cares, Naomi?!! I skipped 3/4 of the book. The last couple of chapters aren't bad though. Some good stuff about how she felt abandoned by the women's movement.

Reading for fun - The New Yorker. Still waiting for the Harry Potter book from Susan.

Watching on Tube - TV sucks. A few exceptions: Insomniac on Comedy Central -- a guy walks around a new city every episode getting tanked all night in local joints. Sex and the City.

The High School Reunion

I survived the high school reunion. I wore the right clothes -- pants and heels. I didn't get loaded and tell people how much I hated them 20 years ago. And I even made plans to get together with an old friend from Girl Scouts. Not bad.

Lots of lawyers and accountants. There was even some business networking on. I got three business cards and a fridge magnet advertising laser surgery for eyes.

One guy was a doctor who just came back from Iraq where he was fixing up Iraqi children hurt by the war. Yes, that's cool, but he sort of knew it. The most amusing character was a guy who is now an artist in San Francisco. Amidst all the GAP shirts and ties, he stood out with an old Hawiian shirt. He sulked about carrying an unlit, unfiltered Camel. He had a kind of weather-beaten, Keith Richards look.

Almost everyone had kids except for the weather beaten burner and the self-conscious doctor. Maybe that's why the rest of us had less interesting lives. Got to do boring things to support the kiddies. Someone has to take the job doing contracts at the Top Secret Wall Street Firm. Someone else has to sacrifice their plans to take care of the kiddies at home.

All of the women with kids were trying to figure out how to work part time. Three days a week seems to be the magic amount of time that everyone wanted to work. Some had figured it out. Some had given up.

Later in the week, I will discuss who's done it and who hasn't.

Here's my story:

I spent my twenties and early thirties in graduate school and working part-time at research center to pay for tuition and rent and beer. The last year of disseration writing was difficult because Jonah joined us. I wrote during his naps. I dropped him off with Juana the babysitter for a few hours. And my husband also watched Jonah for part of the day, because he was also home writing his dissertation. It was a very tough year because we were so poor, but we did it. Both Steve and I got our PhDs and jointly raised our new baby.

But with our savings dried up, we had to become employed. Steve turned a temp job into a permanent one at the Top Secret Wall Street Firm. He had a real job with health insurance and benefits, but we missed having him around. He leaves for work every day at 7:30, and we don't see him again until about 7:00. Those hours seem pretty typical these days. 9 to 5 jobs don't exist any longer. If his responsibilities increase at work, we may see him even less.

For reasons that I'll discuss later, we were uncomfortable putting the kids in child care full time. But I also didn't want to completely stop working. I had put so many years into getting my degree that I wanted to do something with it. I wanted to earn some money. I wanted to put on a nice skirt every day and use my brain. For just a few hours a week, I wanted to turn off the world of diapers and tantrums, and hang out with grown ups. This would turn out to be very difficult.


Friday, July 25, 2003

Stay Tuned

Starting Monday, I'm going to write for a week about a new topic -- women with children and part-time work. So many women I've spoken to have said that they want to work less (full timers) or more (at homers), but they can't figure out how to do it. Anyway I'm going relate what I've found out from these informal interviews, from other writers, and from the blogs.

This blog is about kids, career, and the city. So sometimes I am going to write about raising kids, raising kids in the city, the city itself, juggling kids and career, my career (academia), my career in the city (I teach at CUN* and Columbia), and politics (also my career). Pretty much I'm going to write about whatever the hell I want. I'm the queen of my own blog!


Thursday, July 24, 2003

Fun with Poo

After dinner tonight, Jonah announced that he spelled something bad coming from Ian's behind. Sure enough, he needed a pit stop. After changing the baby, I gave him two minutes of naked time while I ran the bath. No need to put on a new diaper that is just going to come off again, right?

When I returned to the kids' room 2 minutes later, I found a surprise. Yes, he was not quite done with his activity, which was now all over the room.

It didn't take a CSI investigator to see what had happened. There was small pile of poo in the center of the rug. He must have stepped in it, because there were clearly foot steps around the Lego box. After that he jumped onto Jonah's bed and rolled around. Evidence was found on the top sheet, the bottom sheet, Jonah's PJs, and the pillow case. No need for DNA samples. But a overhead diagram would be very cool.

There is one last cold beer in the fridge right now, and it's mine, because I'm going to scrubbing sheets this evening. Wahoo!! Put that PhD to work, baby.

Thursday in the Park with Boys

After Ian woke up from his morning nap at around 11:00, the kids and I hit the park. It was an ickie hot day requiring a black tank top and a pony tail. I felt very G.I. Jane.

The kids and I ate peanut butter sandwiches and pringles and roamed around Fort Tryon Park. We loudly sang songs together. I love coffee. I love tea. I love the java and the java loves me. Having kids makes being eccentric okay. Holds back the guys dressed in white with the butterfly nets.

The kids shreaked and tumbled through the long grass in the area of the park that the Russians hang out in. Steve calls it Red Square. A car of strangers stopped to watch my blond boys play. Proud mama.

On the way home, we walked through the sprinklers in the playground. It was almost cool with the breeze off the Hudson River.

Today, life is good.

Thursday through Saturday

I'm not going to be able to write much for the next few days. My dreaded high school reunion is coming up on Saturday and there's lots to do. My friend, Robin, needs to be picked up at the airport. Cynthia is also in from Seattle wants to get our kids together. I need a haircut and my eyebrows groomed. I wanted to get contacts instead of my brainy glasses, but there was no time. I going to be running back and forth from NJ to NYC for days.

And then I need to attack the laundry and clean up. Robin keeps a tidy home, and I don't want her shocked by bathroom, aka The Black Hole of Calcutta.

I'm a little worried about Robin's reaction to the city and our apartment. She lives in a nice home in Seattle with matching furniture, an SUV, and straight walls.

People either love NYC or hate it. It is so much fun to show people about who are awed by the beauty of Central Park and the magesty of the Chrystler Building. Others don't see it. Their shock and horror is obvious, and it is just depressing to show those types about. Some don't even pretend to like it. "How can you live here?" "I could never live here!" "How do you do your shopping?" "What is going on there? Are those two guys kissing? I am going to vomit."


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Juggling Acts

Juggling work and kids is not as easy as it looks.

For me, part-time work is the only way I can do it all, but there are so few options open to me in my field. Having an advanced degree has not helped at all. I don't have time to write more, because I have night-time rituals to attend to, but there is a good discussion of this issue on the blog, this woman's work.

Four Alarm Laundry Crisis

We're waist deep in old underwear, grass stained overalls, and juicy t-shirts. It's a major laundry crisis brought about by a camping trip and weeks of failed potty training. Just do the laundry all day, you say, and stop complaining? Well that's not so easy. Here's how you do laundry around here:

1. The laundrymat is around the corner. But one person can't carry Ian down the stairs and around the corner with a large bag of laundry, so that can only happen on weekends when there are two adults.

2. You can't go to the laundrymat with any of the kids because they would never be able to sit still for the whole time. Jonah tries to climb up into the wheelie carts and push himself around like a gondolier. The kids have to be occupied elsewhere.

3. The laundry bag is now enormous. When it was just one person, laundry could be put off for weeks. With the four of us, it requires Steve to carry two enormous bags to the laundry mat every weekend.

3. During the weekends, the laundrymat tends to become insanely crowded, so unless you're there at 8:00 on Saturday morning, it's best to forget the whole proposition.

4. So that's why, in the dead of night and dressed in black, we snuck an illegal washer/dryer up the stairs donated by the dearly departed Grandma Brockmeier. However, these units are almost as old as Grandma Brockmeier, so there are a lot of rules here too.

5. Only two small loads of laundry can be done a day. The washer is very small compared to mom's suburban model. And the dryer can only handle about that amount during a whole day. The dryer tends to overheat, so it goes for a half an hour and then needs a break, goes for fifteen mintues, and then needs a break, five minutes and its done for an hour or so.

6. If you try to do 3 loads of laundry, the third load will have to sit in the washer over night and smell oh-so lovely by the next day. You can try to bake off the smell by just keeping it in the dryer for a long time, but that doesn't work so well.

7. You must do the dishes before you do laundry, because the washer is hooked up to the sink. Since we don't have a dish washer, you must first spend 20 minutes at this task.

8. Since there is no chance to do dishes before Steve comes home, it is unrealistic to expect that any laundry can be done before 8:00.

9. Large items like blankets and beach towels must be done at mom's house. Steve must put the large items in the car before he leaves for work, because of rule #1. The car has to be parked in the street and not in the lot.

10. The washer during the spin cycle jumps up and down. The downstairs neighbors haven't complained yet, so we haven't done anything about it. We might have to build some sort of shock absorber for the machine or only wash things when they are out. So this isn't officially a rule, yet, but it might become one.

(I'm trying really, really hard not to make any shake and bake jokes.)

So that's why, smartie-pants, we have our laundry situation.

City v. Suburb Part 1

Today we went out to Long Island to visit my friend, Margie. She has two kids about the same age as my kids and a house full of toys. It should have been a perfect day, but Ian's fingers got squashed in the bathroom door after breakfast, and then there have been tears all day.

After working our way through the Long Island highway/parking lot, we drove up their new driveway and my kids pulled out every toy from every shelf. Margie and I did our best to ignore them and talk with each other.

One of things we discussed was moving to the suburbs. We are almost certainly going to move this year. The kids need good schools and a backyard. We've put it off as long as we can, but we are almost the last ones left in the neighborhood. Two years ago, the neighborhood was full of like-minded people w/kids. The playground was an amazing social scene. Sometimes one of the parents would bring beer. But they are gone. It's very hard to raise kids in the city.

So we are going to join the exedus to the suburbs. It will mean a lot of convienences, like a washing machine, but it also looks so boring. Nobody walks about in Long Island, just the air conditioning repair man who showed up to Margie's as we left. There is always someone to talk to around here. No playdates have to be arranged, just walk outside. Yes, a lot of our friends have left, but the city is still packed with 8 million other people who are outside roaming about. There's Mr. Ahn, the Korean vegetable guy, who throws Jonah up in the air when we come in to buy bananas. There are the Dominican guys who work at the supermarket across the street. "Rubio, Rubio" they call out to Jonah. There are cookies to be scored at the kosher bakery and iguanas to pet at the vet. Jokes to be exchanged with Tony the Super and Big Tony. And that's all 50 feet from the front door.

Life in the suburbs will be easier, but it will also be less interesting.


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Two New Yorks

New York 1, our local news station, has devoted a lot of time to the death of Celia Cruz, the salsa queen. Their reporters are following around the crowds of people who are following the body from NJ to the NYC funeral home to Florida to St. Patrick's to grave. They are interviewing her fans who never knew her personally, but still weap for her. They sing her songs in the rain outside Campbell's funeral home, and shout "azucar" or sugar which was Cruz's favorite expression.

Most non-hispanic New Yorkers have never heard of her. I saw Cruz belt out numbers, like a latin Ethel Merman, in the movie, Mambo Kings, which doesn't have much going for it except Antonio Banderas and great music.
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
was much better.

Whitey might not know Cruz, but Angela doesn't know Stewart. I was stunned to learn last week that Angela, my babysitter, didn't know who Martha Stewart was. Not only was she unaware of the stock deal, but she had never seen her show or her magazine. She didn't know about her striped bath curtains from K-Mart. She had never heard the name before. I guess there hasn't been much on her on Telemundo.

So there are clearly two New Yorks. Two circles that never intersect.

Sometimes I feel that we are in the Latin circle. We live in a Dominican neighborhood. We drink El Presidente. We get rice and beans from el Malecon. But then again, we aren't. We drive down 181st Street and curse at the liberal interpretation of driving rules. Why are they triple parking? Why is it necessary to blast music out of speakers built into the car trunk and then drive down the block? Why aren't the kids in bed by 9:00?

And I don't get following the body around. But I guess all the gringoes followed Princess Di's body around, too. I didn't get that either.

I'm So Tired, So Very Tired
Jonah has suddenly become afraid of the dark and monsters. He begs to sleep in our room, but we put our foot down. Tears and tears. Must read up on this today. More later.

Sometimes Socks Happen
Yesterday, I had a very firm vision of the day. Take it easy. Recover from the weekend. Go to the library at 3:00 for reading hour. Get the kids to sleep early.

But then at noon, Jonah came weeping into the bedroom. He had been flinging a pair of socks around and one fell out the window, down four flights, and was perched on a bush below. We had to quickly get dressed and run out to get it. He said he was very worried about the sock. Since we were dressed, shoes on, and down the stairs, there was no way I was going to go back up and then come out again in a few hours. So we went to Angela's diner for lunch -- silver dollar pancakes and grilled cheese and then to the sultry playground for a couple hours.

That's just how life is these days. You have a plan, but then a white tube sock from Target wafts below.


Monday, July 21, 2003

More on Camping in the Catskills

Being nerds, any new activity requires new books and maps:

Best Hikes With Children in the Catskills & Hudson River Valley

Camping and Backpacking With Children

These books were a little hardcore hippie, but still useful. Lots of pictures of hairy people. They advise packing a hacky sack. We took the advice of p.206 of the Best Hikes book and went on their hike of Long Pond.

And new stuff:
This is the most amazing camping store in the universe. Steve got a SERIOUS pair of hiking boots there over the summer. Be prepared for petchulli, dreadlocks on white people, and more hacky sacks. Still its the hugest place for gear. 101 sleeping bags and tents and lots of cool things that fold up.

And research:
Livingston Manor
Campgrounds in Sullivan County

The camp site that we visited:
Willowemoc Campgrounds
Bob Reising, Owner
30 Willowemoc Road
Livingston Manor
New York 12758

After paying the $15 fee, Vern, the toothless assistant, took us on his golf cart to check out the site. I did like that his name was Vern, so I often threw it into sentences. "Thanks for the lift, Vern." "Yeah, this site is excellent, Vern. We'll take it." "Where are the bathrooms, Vern?"

He took us to a cozy little spot by the brook, past the trailer with the rock garden devoted to Betty Boop. In the trailer next to ours was Gary, the gregarious truck driver, and his wife, Carol. They told us that they got their spot for $10,000 in 2002 and since then he has put in a porch and done all sorts of improvements. He didn't seem to like the young metal heads across the stream who kept everyone up late the night before.

Ben and Jen

Last Thursday night, Susan stopped by to drop off my sleeping bag for our camping trip. We had a couple of beers, talked about our week, and surfed cable. She had to run back a few minutes before 10:00 because she had to watch the "Ben and Jen" special on dateline, an indepth interview with the superstars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. As a big shot editor, she was considering doing a book on their wedding, but was worried that the book would come out a week after their divorce. She had to watch this special to pick up clues about how long the marriage would last. Hopefully long enough after the publish date.

I couldn’t help myself. I watched it, too.

Like Ignatius Riley from "A Confederacy of Dunces," I sputtered profanities at the television, but watched it through their staged domestic bliss any way. "Here, honey, have some more of my home cooked rice and beans." "Delicious, sweetie."

Sunday Driving
Went to church with Jonah. Steve stayed home with Ian during his nap, and then he picked us up in our old Toyota to pick up a cake in Little Italy in the Bronx.

I’m proud of our faded red 1990 Toyota, my brother’s cast off. After we move to the suburbs, I want to stand out amongst all the shiny fancy cars and keep it. Even after Steve becomes Mr. Big at the Top Secret Wall Street Firm. Our family always had crappy dirty cars when we were growing up. By high school, my brother was so embarrassed by our 1972 Reliant that he would make my dad drop him off a block away from his destination. Old Betsy, as Dad called the car, would never know the inside of a car wash or the comfort of a garage. Dad would always say "The point of a car is to get you from point A to point B," which always failed to impress us at the time. Now I’m proud to carry on the tradition.

After a tasty and over priced brick oven pizza at Giovanni’s on Arthur Avenue, we picked up our cake at DeLillo’s. $10 for a chocolate mousse cake and $6 for a pound of biscotti. Arthur Avenue is still the real thing. Little Italy for Italians. Italians who grew up in the neighborhood still come in from Rockland County for a meal at Dominic’s. Only the tourists go downtown to Mulberry Street. Directions: Go east on Fordham road and make a right onto Arthur Avenue just past the Fordham College.

After picking up the treats, we headed to my folk’s place in New Jersey for a chaotic dinner. Children ran in circles in the backyard, and the parents attempted to mediate. The childless adults ignored it all and drank scotch on the porch. Had a few minutes to hear about cousin Jeff’s trip to Italy.

It was my first family gathering without Grandma. I wished she would hold Ian while he ate his cookie.


Sunday, July 20, 2003

Camping Trip Checklist
For the car:
paper towels
diaper bag

Cell phone
Toilet paper
Regular backpack
Ian’s stroller/backpack

For the Kids:
Plastic and rug for a play mat
A couple toys (trucks and books)

3 bottom pads
2 sleeping bags
2 sheets
several blankets
pillows or pillow cases
tarp (at mom’s)

Cooking Supplies:
Mess Kit and tongs
Ice/Water/wood at camp site
Sample Menu
Dinner – hot dogs, buns, condiments, instant rice, fruit cup, wine
Breakfast – tea, coffee, sugar, toasted buns, flat bread, cereal, Parmalat (6 small) ,
juice in box, jam
Snacks – peanuts, m&M, cheerios, juice box, fig neutons
Paper plates, plastic folks, knives, spoons, cups, hot drinks cup
Zip lock baggies
2 garbage bags
dishwashing soap/sponge
pot holder

Sweat shirt/pants
Long pair of jeans
short sleeve shirt
Long sleeve shirt
Hiking shoes/sandals
2 socks

eye glass box
Ian’s allergy medicine


We took the kids camping on Friday through Saturday up in the lower Catskills. I had no chance to pack until Friday morning. So, I woke up at 6:00 with Ian and quickly ran around and threw things in bags for an hour. I did okay considering. Only forgot the cellphone and a sweatshirt for Ian.

Steve and I love camping. Both us had done some camping as kids, but it has been a long time since we've been out there.

One of the reasons I love camping is the packing and organizing. So much opportunity to be anal. A mess kit for example is so nice and neat. Everything folds together. Zip lock baggies weren't around last time I went camping, but they are excellent for storing sugar bags and tea bags. Bags in bags make me happy.

I also like the pairing down of life's essentials. How few things can you take and still be comfortable? I like the idea that I can drop everything and take off. Just in case the CIA comes knocking on my door, I can diappear into the night and live off the land. This fantasy is a little more muddy now that I have kids but nevermind.

Here's my conversation with Chris about the trip:

LauraM1111: i just tried to call you. busy. busy.
cmck930: Hi, Wa Wa.

LauraM1111: we went camping.
cmck930: Hey, that's right! How did it go? Where did you go? When did you return?

LauraM1111: went up to the catskills. drove by your paper. Friday morning to Saturday evening. It went great. Kids loved it. come with us next time.
cmck930: Mr. Ian liked it? Big boy. Where in the Catskills were you? (Where did you drive by my paper?) How did your tent withstand the rain on Friday?

LauraM1111: Ian liked it, too. Especially big family tent and snuggling with mommy, daddy, and bro. There was also a playground at the campground, so when he got tired of watching us set up the camp, Steve pushed him on the swings. We were in the lower catskills, past liberty. Drove up on 17 passing Goshen, etc... Even let the kids run around a bookstore in Middletown on the way back. Rained a bit on Friday afternoon. Nothing at night. Tent did fine. But it was very, very cold. 50 degrees. Hadn't packed enough warm stuff.
cmck930: Wow: 50 degrees. Durn cold up in the mountains. What'd you do Saturday? Tromp around in the woods? Were many other people at your campgrounds?

LauraM1111: yup. Did lots of tromping. And checking the area out for the future. As always, the other people in the campground were bikers and old people. Hardly any tents. Lots of semi-permanent RVs complete with porches, rock gardens, and x-mas lights.
cmck930: Sweet. Take pictures of these Arbus characters?

LauraM1111: no, but come with us next time. Our tent was right next to a brook.
cmck930: Aha! Just found on the internet the correct spelling of the Fermanagh townland where the McKenn*s lived before Enniskillen. Breagho. Funny name.
Sure I'll come with you next time.
LauraM1111: cool. got to shower for church, but we'll see you later.

Here's what I told Marybel about the trip:

We just got back from taking the kids on their first camping trip. We went up to the Catskills, half way to Binghamton. Actually it was very near Liberty. Wasn't that where Craig lived? The kids did great, especially Jonah. He loves manly activity. We let him poke the fire with a stick and he kept saying "I have to do my work here. Got to do the work." Cuddily Ian was just happy to sleep in a big family tent. The only mistake was that we weren't prepared for it to go down to 50 degrees at night and we hadn't packed enough blankets. The kids were okay, but Steve and I froze. We'll probably go again soon, so I'm making lists now of what we'll need next time.



Thursday, July 17, 2003

A Peer-Reviewed Article

It 10:05 am. I dropped the kids off at my mom's this morning. It sounds simple but there are so many steps involved -- dress the kids, pack the bag with bottle, diapers, bathing suit, and pacifier (10 minutes), get them into the car with Steve's help, drive there ( 20 minutes), make sure all is well (30 mintues), drive back (45 minutes with traffic over the bridge), parallel park badly (takes three times), nuke some old coffee, and fire up the computers. Now I'm home 2-1/2 hours later. I have to remember to go back downstairs in a half an hour to do the alternative side of the street dance. Still haven't had a shower or breakfast.

While I was waiting to make sure that the kids were going to be cooperative, I talked with my dad about this article I'm working on. I'm taking two chapter of my dissertation, 60 pages of genius, and whittlng it down to 20. The whittling is hard enough because it is difficult to hit the delete key on something that it took so long to write. But I'm also trying to get it to comform with main-stream political science. I can only do so much because my work is not statistical. One guy said that by doing interviews I was "on the fringes of the discipline". Without any regression analysis, I am not going to get published in the APSR, the main journal of political scientists and bedtime reading for the sleepless. A typical article might be on the effects of term limits in the Nevada state legislature from 1945-1946. Snore.

But I have to try to get something published in a peer-reviewed journal in order to get a job some day. The plan is to stay home for another year or two with the kids, and then find a position teaching in a college with very low standards. I want to teach in the morning, and then hit playground by 3:00.

To get this job with low expectations, I have to put something on the resume other than adjuncting. You don't get hired to be a college professor based on teaching experience, which seems totally insane. If you are a good plumber then you are hired as a plumber, not because you do something else well. If you have experience editing books, you get a job as an editor, not because you knit well.


Wednesday, July 16, 2003


Last night, I stayed up late to read the Hepburn article in the New Yorker. There was some damn good writing in there. A sample:

Variety crowned her the second most popular female star in the
country—right behind Mae West. Between them,
these two unprecedented creatures neatly divided the possibilities:
Brooklyn and Bryn Mawr, vaudeville
and the classics, flesh and bone or possibly flesh and the ravenous
Puritan spirit that consumed it.
Still, even if Hepburn looked like the hanger on which Mae West
hung her clothes, and seemed as
rigid as her own New England scruples, it was she who
outlasted every change in the rules of a country
that couldn’t quite decide whether such women should exist.

This morning, while Ian slept and Jonah played with trains, I read the review of the Harry Potter book in the New York
Times book review. Yes, some mild guilt was involved because shouldn't I be down on the floor with Jonah helping him assemble his train empire while at the same posing thought provoking questions to boost that IQ? "Now he'll never go to Harvard!!" But I read on. "Welcome to Bergen Community College, Jonah."

The Harry Potter review was a love letter to J.K. Rowlings who I think is amazing, although I'm a little concerned about her recent marriage. I hope she had a good pre-nup. I HAVE to get that book. If I wait for it to work its way through my friends (susan to chris to margie to me), it could take a while. Amazon.

Dreary Day

It was one of those days. During the morning, Jonah and I did chores while Ian slept. Called the parking lot to get the car ready. Packed the bags for the trip to my sister's swim club in New Jersey. Checked e-mail. When Ian woke up at 11:30, I quickly dressed him, walked down the stairs, put him in the stroller, and walked a few blocks to the lot. Then we had a nice time splashing at Maria's pool.

Not really hard, but I'm still tired. Not enough sleep last night. Both kids were in our bed at one point. And I'm so tired of saying everything ten times. "Jonah stop splashing in the pool. Jonah stop splashing in the pool. JONAH STOP SPLASHING IN THE POOL. OKAY SIT ON THAT CHAIR FOR FIVE MINUTES." Loud wails. Everyone in this pool is looking at me. Valium is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Cute things that Jonah said that helped stop the urge to self-medicate: "Mom, I'm have a cold because I have a BURGER in my nose." Also. I called some balding guy in a gold convertable a jerk because he was riding on the shoulder of the highway. I immediately heard from the back seat "butt crack!" Where did he get that from?

Blog Watching

I started this blog before I had really done much research to see what else was out there. Yes, I was a little hasty. Now in the spare minutes of the day, I've been poking about in a very unscientific manner. Click here and there. My initial observation is that most of the bloggers are nerdy, dateless guys. Twenty years ago they would all be playing Atari and Dungeons and Dragons. Many sites model themselves on Drudge or Andrew Sullivan and monitor the papers. Lots of Times bashing. I find these sites very difficult to read. They excerpt paragraphs and link willy nilly, but don't really write much themselves.

There are a whole lot of blog whores. Seems like lots of bloggers don't feel good about themselves without a certain number of hits. (Clearly I don't give a shit.) So they link up with other people who link them. "If you link me, I'll link you." If you are really hot shit, you can demand that the other guy mentions you twice, and then you'll mention them once.

So far, Lileks seems to be the only guy I really want to read. I guess that's enough.

Disney Land

Maria the sister said a lot of her friends are taking the kids to Disney Land. Maria had already thought about when it would be a good time to take her girls. Call me an evil parent but I won't go. Can you say vacation in hell? Long lines for rides, crazed and sticky kids, hot sun, cheerful people. I know that there has to be compromise involved with vacationing once you have the kids. They aren't going to last that long in the 18th century room at the Louvre. "Look honey, it's David's famous painting of Socrates' Death." But there has to be some compromise. They have to give in too. I'm not all about being Martyr Mom. "I have no identity of my own. I live for my kid's happiness." Think they'll like Montreal?


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Dog Shit

According to today's Times, the city is home to 1.5 million dogs and 1.8 million cats. Raising a cat in the city really sucks. Jefferson our cat is continually puking and spreading kitty litter all over the house. But today I'm not going to pick on old Jefferson. I am most annoyed at all the dog people in the city. 1.5 million. Almost 1 in 4 has a dog in the city. There should be a law. If we can't smoke in bars, then dogs shouldn't be allowed to crap all over the street. I don't care if people pick it up, which they often don't, there is still residue. And my kids are constantly sitting on the sidewalk, picking up sticks, walking through the area around the trees that seems to be considered a toilet for all dogs in the city.

One of my kid's first words was doggiepoop (that's one word). Now that shouldn't be happening. But on the walk to the playground, I would be constantly warning him, "Watch out for the doggiepoop. Don't step in the doggiepoop. Don't poke the doggiepoop with a stick." So naturally, my poor kid is obsessed with it now.

Because I'm so freaked out that our shoes have been walking through poop, poop residue, or pee, I make everyone take their shoes off when they come into our house. Now other New Yorkers are used to that. Almost all my other friends do the same thing. When someone comes over and they see the pile of shoes by the door, they pop theirs off. Except the out of towners miss that important cue. Last time my brother came over, I fixated on his shoes as he tracked poop residue from the front door to my kid's rug which they practically live on.

There are definitely two camps in the city. The doggie people and the kid people. And I'm toasting weenies with the kid people.

Dog shit is - Reason #1 for Why I Hate New York

Time is Money

This morning Angela came to help out again, and I went downtown to shop for a blouse for my high school reunion.

I had a very specific blouse in mind -- black and cool -- to go with black pants and heels. I decided to go underdressed for the reunion. I don't want to look like the reunion is the most important thing going on in my life. "Oh, a reunion. Well, okay, but I only get dressed up openings at the Met". Truthfully, I have been looking forward to an excuse to dress up in something other than Old Navy pants. It's even worth enduring the stress of trying to remember the names of ex-classmates.

My mother offered to watch the kids while I made a trip to the mall in New Jersey, but I resisted. Going down to 34th Street is great shopping fun. Macy's is huge. There are the cheapie stores, Zara, Daffy's, and H&M. There is much more selection than at the mall, and I just love having an excuse to go downtown without the kids. I miss the days when I could read the New Yorker on the train and just relax for 40 minutes. Even a subway can be a fortress of solitude. I was so nostalgic that I even loved the way the station smelled.

I got to Macy's a little before its opening at 10:00. The windows were an homage to Kathern Hepburn -- the mannequins were dressed in slacks and sweater sets. I waited with the other early shoppers in the lobby right before the revolving doors. Security guards kept pushing back shoppers who couldn't wait. At 10:00, a loud bell rang. "Charge!" I ran past the purses and the purfume spritzers to the old wooden escalators. I love Macy's.

No day is complete without a little guilt. Today's guilt was calculating how much this trip cost me. I got some shirts on sale, but there is the hidden cost -- babysitting time and the subway. Subway = $4. Babysitter = $40.

My freedom now has a cost. $10 an hour. More later.


Monday, July 14, 2003

Cost of Living in NYC

The frong page of the real estate section of the Times also had a piece on the cost of housing in NYC and how rediculous it is. The average home costs $300,000 in Bergen County. But that figure isn't quite accuate. That number is an average, so it includes areas of Englewood that are very poor and the schools are taught by the semi-literate. In towns with decent school like Tenafly or Ridgewood, there are no houses that cost $300,000. The sheds start at $300,000.

In the real estate section of AOL, they have a handy-dandy mortgage calculator. You plug in how much money you make and your life savings for a deposit, and the calculator tells you how much you can afford. We can't live in a shed in Bergen County.

And we are doing okay now that Steve is gainfully employed. Yes, we have enormous student loans and we have no savings because we squandered our twenties in graduate school, but we're doing better than most. The average salary for a family in our country is $40,000.

Still, even with Steve's healthy salary, we're not going to find a decent home in a town with a good school in Bergen County. We have several other choices: 1. Move to a town with bad schools, like Mount Vernon, and send the kids to Catholic school. 2. Move to a working-class town with mediocre schools, like Dumont, and move after a few years. 3. Move to Rockland or Orange county and never see Steve. 4. Continue living in the walk-up and permanently destroy all my back muscles.


Have exactly 10 minutes before my babysitting time expires and I have to run to Javits Playground to relieve Angela...

Last night I read the Times magazine article, "Why Famine Persists." The article itself was good, but the cover pictures were better. 1000 words.

As I was reading the article and skipping through the magazine to get to the rest of the story, I was continually disturbed by the horror and sadness in the article and the rest of the magazine's celebration of materialism. On one side of the page was a desciption of a woman who already lost three of her children, one of whom fell into a fire and died on her back on the way to the hospital. On the other side of the page was an real estate ad for a $1.79 million house that boasted 4,000 square feet of deck space. One page talked about children eating sawdust and two pages away were pictures of bullimic fashion models wearing an $18,000 coat. That coat could feed a village for five years. It brings out the inner commie.

The Roof Party

I have a few minutes to write as Jonah and Angela, the baby-sitter, make tracks in the living room and baby sleeps.

Yesterday, we went to a great kid's party. No Barney. No hippie with the guitar. It was just fine.

Beer and wine for the grown ups and excellent food. Bob had the party for Zoe in his friend's penthouse apartment which overlooks the Hudson. You can see from Alpine to Hoboken in New Jersey. And the Palisades looked like a painting. It is hard not to feel FABULOUS when having drinks in this setting. This is Reason #2 for Why I Love NYC -- Roof Parties.

Bob put on a great spread as always. Homemade crab cakes. Pork that had been cooking all day with a dry rub. Grilled veggies. Guacamole.

The topics of conversation -- camping with kids, Eliza/Andrew's upcoming trip to Seattle, Laura's operation, biking on 9W in New Jersey, biking accidents, swim clubs in New Jersey, housing prices, and how blue my baby's eyes are.


Sunday, July 13, 2003

Reason #1 Why I Love NYC -- Angela's Diner

Yesterday morning we woke up at 7:00, a little late for around here. We were very tired because for the past couple of weeks we've been working on getting Jonah, aged 4, potty trained at night. Mixed success. Quite often, he'll appear in our bedroom at 2:00 am rubbing his eyes and announcing "I'm wet. Moan." Clothes have to be changed, and a towel put over the wet spot on the bed until morning.

Anyhow, we were beat, beat, beat, so we all headed downstairs to Angela's Diner. I just pulled my hair back in a pony tail, and threw on some clothes. No shower or make up needed. The diner is right around the corner from our apartment on 187th Street. We're bed to booth in five minutes.

Our waiter has been there a long time. In the New York tradition, we don't know each others' names, but we always say hi. He's bald with a thick curvy mustache, a depressed Hercules Poirot. And he knows exactly what we're going to order -- "two-fried-eggs-on-a-roll-bacon-cheese-two-times-and-silver-dollar-pancakes-for-the-boy."

The kids did a good job in the diner. Jonah is finally able to sit and eat his meal without running around or crawling under the table. And Ian was too hungry to run about and just shoved little bits of Jonah's food in his mouth for 20 minutes. We were all able to eat our food and finish one cup of coffee. Didn't make it through the free refill, but that's okay.


Friday, July 11, 2003


Just did a quick google search for Apartment 11D and found all sorts of sites related to Mad About You -- Paul Reiser's show about the couple living in NYC. FYI, this site has nothing to do with that show. I'm not like a Helen Hunt junkie. Never saw that tornado movie. I though Paul Reiser was okay in Alien 2, but I am not a big fan.

We really do live in Apt. 11D, a crappy walk up in Washington Heights. We don't have a witty doorman. Our super barely speaks English. They have a spacious kitchen with enough room for an island. We have a galley kitchen that barely fits me and the cat. They have a living room with a sitting area and a tv area. There is enough room for two sofas. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a place like that in the city. My friends aren't rich enough. Their bathroom has new tile and fixtures. Ours has a gaping hole and black grout and a sagging wall.

I"m getting myself worked up. Now I am not only not a fan of Paul Reiser's, but I positively hate him. Oops smell something nasty in baby's jeans.

A Fortress of Solitude

I can't believe I have a whole day to myself. My beautiful and wonderful parents have taken the kids for a whole day, so I can write, write, write. And just be quiet. And not fetch a sippy cup.

Who knew how hard it would be to carve away a little time to yourself with the kiddies around? My dad, the professor, was always able to go into his office and close the door, because my mom was around to fetch the cup and wipe the butt and kiss the boo-boo. In order to work, I have to have some zen space, a citadel of silence. I need time to write a couple of paragraphs and then fiddle about and then write some more. In our little apartment, it's so hard to think with the Raffi CDs going on constant rotation, a meowing cat, trains being crashed, and babies that need kissing. When my husband comes home at night at around 7:00, I'm too beat to work. Physically and mentally drained. All I'm fit for is Access Hollywood and "I Love the 80s".

Ah, who the hell cares?

The parents have the kids for the morning, and I'm home working on my article. I can only work on it in chunks, because it is so damn boring. So I thought I would jump on the band wagon and start a blog. Why do this? Will anyone care about my crazy life? Is this really egotistical? Ah, who the hell cares? I just want to do it.

Who am I? Laura McK****, PhD. Got the degree a couple of years ago, but never really put myself out on the job market because we started a family. I have two beautiful active little boys ages 4 and 1. I am trying to raise them in New York City in a four floor walk up. My husband, Steve, got his PhD a couple of years ago, but quickly realized that his degree in German History would not lead to any job in the 48 contiguous states, so he switched careers. Now he writes up contracts for a top secret Wall Street firm. I would like to work, but I am unwilling to leave my kids full time, so I adjunct a course here and there, cart the kids around the city, and day dream about having a more glamorous life. That's enough for now.


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