Fall Fun

The new playground in our neighborhood is worth its weight in gold – or in the sweat of the volunteers who assembled it. I think we’ve visited it every day since it opened last week, and never been disappointed. While, amazingly, pretty much every part of the play structure is suitable for both girls, they are currently enamored of the double slide:

Top of the Slide
Top of the Slide
Bottom of the Slide
Bottom of the Slide

On the way home from the park, the girls are now asking to call Mama to tell her about what they did there. Julia actually holds a conversation, while Vivi pretty much just says, adorably, “Iiiii, Mama!” and then “uh-huh” or “no” until I hear Shannon ask her to give the phone back to me. It’s still cute.

Julia Talking
Julia Talking
Vivi Talking
Vivi Talking

Car vs. Bike

After getting nearly hit twice in ten seconds by the same woman in a white Sequoia SUV this morning, I was in the mood for some bike propaganda today. The guy (?) who writes the Bike Snob NYC blog helped out with a couple of great posts and a video of his race against a SmartCar through New York City. It was a point-to-point competition; I’ll give you one guess as to the winner.

(What’s more, I’ll bet I reached my destination this morning before Sequoia Driver reached hers – and without endangering anyone else.)

Gut-Level Math

A truly fascinating article in the Times‘ science section the other day described how researchers are beginning to identify the genetic or neurological underpinnings of mathematical capacity – the instinctual ability to compare two quantities, for instance:

Humans use two distinct number systems, one learned and one intuitive. Computation, such as taking a square root, is an abstract process that is uniquely human. But the nonverbal process of approximating numbers is a system we share with infants and many other animals.

Well worth reading on its own, the article also links to an interesting online game which asks the player to briefly view a screen of blue and yellow dots, then state whether there were more yellow or blue dots. The average is about 75%. Fun and challenging, the game also might surprise you with evidence of an innate ability (or lack of ability) to recognize quantities.


Inspired by the nativity video, the girls spend an awful lot of time playing “Nativity,” which entails Julia serving as Mary, me acting either as Joseph or as the angel Gabriel, Shannon stepping in and out of a role as innkeeper, and Genevieve, of course, being Jesus. This set of roles reads to at least two kinds of hilarity.

First, we have Julia continuing to say unintentionally crazed stuff like, “Jesus, you have to put your pajamas on!” or “Jesus, you have to lay down on the blanket” or “Jesus, I can’t nurse you right now; the angel is here!” 

Second, we have the sight and sound of Vivi, walking and running throughout the house, pointing at her round toddler tummy and shouting, “Jiza! Jiza!” – as close as she can get right now to “Jesus.” Ask for her name, and she yells, “Jiza!” I haven’t seen her perform any miracles – turning her surliness into cheer? – and she happily violates the Golden Rule,  but on the other hand, you’re probably only allowed to consider yourself Jesus when you’re two or a CEO.


Walking up to my office this morning, I saw a squirrel pause at the bottom of the concrete steps into my building and then, bizarrely, nibble on the stone, inching sideways and taking little bites.

I think someone might have fallen headfirst out of one too many oak trees.

Sarah Palin: Not Like Me

My Northfield blogging colleague Mnmom (who not only writes a great blog, but has perfect the hilarious tag) just posted an excellent list of reasons why Sarah Palin is NOT like me. Click through for the full list.

I don’t force teenagers to get married
I don’t parade my kids around for political gain
I don’t believe the Iraq war is a mission from God
I actually think the separation of church and state is a PRETTY GOOD IDEA! To quote Mrs. Palin “If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers, it’s good enough for me!”
I know the Founding Fathers did NOT write the Pledge of Alligiance and they sure as hell did enter the phrase “under God”.

Dog Is My Copilot

Vivi and Julia’s nightly viewing of the Sacred YouTube Nativity Video is leading to a number of interesting situations, including the girls’ evolving ability to “play nativity” by reciting the whole goddamn thing. (Is that blasphemous? Can I blaspheme against Google?)

Vivi, of course, can’t say more than a few key phrases, such as “I need a room!” but tonight she took a stab at trying to say, “Son of God.” It came out as “Mun of Dog.”

Crash Helmet

Proving once again the utter bullshit of the claim that baths will calm kids down, the girls held a wet, crazy riot in the bathtub tonight. All was fine until I needed to get them out of the tub, which forced me to interrupt Julia’s insanely fast and intensive chatter and then caution her against jumping up and down in the tub. “Honey, you might slip and pull the shower curtain down on your head and get hurt.”

She crossed her arms, frowned, and looked down, clearly insulted. “But Daddy, that can’t happen.” Just as I opened my mouth to tell her that, yes, in fact it could happen, she brightened up and shouted in a delirious, silly way, “I won’t get hurt because I’m wearing a crash helmet!” I could only laugh. You can’t chasten someone who’s naked as a jaybird but pretending to be wearing a crash helmet.

High Fall

Between the unbelievably beautiful weather – the first of what looks like a week’s worth of sunny, warm days – and the opening (finally!) of a new playground at the park a block away, it was a banner day. Some visual proof…

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers and someone on whom I’ve been waiting for another big book for years now, killed himself over the weekend. He had been severely depressed for a long time, and in fact wrote quite a bit about mitigating the pain of life with the use of legal and illegal pharmaceuticals. His writing is, to an extent, an acquired taste, full of long sentences, digressions that whip back to the main narrative, self-conscious wordplay, hilarity and pathos in equal measure, and out-and-out crazy ideas. If you don’t have the time or interest to try his magnum opus, Infinite Jest (1996), try his hilarious account of a cruise-ship voyage, “Shipping Out: On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise,” from Harpers in 1996. (Harpers released all of their DFW pieces today as a memorial to him.)


As I huffed and puffed in the gym a while ago, watching the close-captioned MSNBC news on the TV in front of me and half-listening to the music on the speakers, I hit a freaky little juxtaposition. Just as the news switched to a “story” on the carnage on Wall Street, the opening lines of Bruce Springsteen’s “Cover Me” came on: “The times are tough now, just getting tougher/This old world is rough, its just getting rougher.” The talking heads yapped at each other for a few seconds, and then the Boss sang, “Well I’m looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me” over a picture of Sarah Palin and the GOP’s economic plans. Blah blah blah, and then, as the images switched to the damage of Hurricane Ike, Springsteen again: “Outsides the rain, the driving snow/I can hear the wild wind blowing.”

I’ll have to listen to the rest of Born in the USA to see what else the Boss can tell us about Decision 2008.

Palin’s Day

An excerpt from “Sarah Palin’s schedule,” as imagined on the mysterious Northfield blog, The Occasional Blog of Sunbeam & Lack of Sleep:

8:30 – 11:30 a.m. Pro-life rally. Life begins at conception! Embryos are children!
Lunch. Veal and foie gras. Spilled gravy on my purse made from fetal calfskin. 🙁
1 – 2 p.m.
Gave a speech promoting abstinence-only sex education. Whole family was there, except Gristle, who said she had other plans.


It’s All Doog

For the past several months, VIvi has been answering state-of-things questions (“How are you? How was your night? Is your diaper okay?” by saying “mine,” her version of fine. Just this week she switched to saying “doog” for “good.” Even cuter.