Yes we can!

I'm such a sucker for good speeches.

B and I watched Obama's acceptance speech last night. He spoke for 45 minutes, and we listened, entranced, to the entire thing without getting bored, despite our limited tolerance for political speeches. I know there are lots of Obama's specific policy proposals that I disagree with. But the America he is working for - the one that he wants to make - is the one I want to live in. We might disagree some on the details, but we definitely agree on the desired outcome.

At the beginning of the speech, after his acceptance, the crowd was going wild clapping and waving tens of thousands of signs that simply read CHANGE. I was completely caught up in the emotion of it, but then B brought me down, as always, by remarking "it's like a giant crowd of panhandlers." For the rest of the speech, I had to giggle every time the camera panned across the crowd and I saw those CHANGE signs.

One of my favorite excerpts:
The record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.
Oh, and this one, which almost made me cry again until I saw the CHANGE signs:
These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America, they have served the United States of America.
Phenomenal. He is taking the offensive, which is what needs to happen, but being fair about it. I think he is another FDR or another JFK. What we need isn't specific policy proposals, but a renewing of spirit, a rebirth, a new beginning. We need ideals and inspiration again. That is what I will be voting for.


Poetry Thursday

On Being Twenty-six

I feared these present years,
The middle twenties,
When deftness disappears,
And each event is
Freighted with a source-encrusting doubt,
And turned to drought.

I thought: this pristine drive
Is sure to flag
At twenty-four or -five;
And now the slag
Of burnt-out childhood proves that I was right.
What caught alight

Quickly consumed in me,
As I foresaw.
Talent, felicity—
These things withdraw,
And are succeeded by a dingier crop
That come to stop;

Or else, certainty gone,
Perhaps the rest,
Tarnishing, linger on
As second-best.
Fabric of fallen minarets is trash.
And in the ash

Of what has pleased and passed
Is now no more
Than struts of greed, a last
Charred smile, a clawed
Crustacean hatred, blackened pride—of such
I once made much.

And so, if I were sure
I have no chance
To catch again that pure
Unnoticed stance,
I would calcine the outworn properties,
Live on what is.

But it dies hard, that world;
Or, being dead,
Putrescently is pearled,
For I, misled,
Make on my mind the deepest wound of all:
Think to recall

At any moment, states
Long since dispersed;
That if chance dissipates
The best, the worst
May scatter equally upon a touch.
I kiss, I clutch,

Like a daft mother, putrid
That can and will forbid
All grist to me
Except devaluing dichotomies:
Nothing, and paradise.

-Philip Larkin


May I present

The entire text of one of Saul's board books:

¡Hola! Jalapeño - I said Hello! my chile friend.
Señorita Quesadilla, cheese is melting out your end.
Here's la cocina en mi casa (that's the kitchen in my house),
where I eat a big burrito, almost wider than my mouth.
Corn tortillas make my tacos, my tostada, and my chips.
Tomato salsa, por favor, and guacamole dip!
Gracias, tamales, for your masa dough surprise
wrapped up tight in leaves of corn - a present in disguise.
Dance, frijoles negros, with rice we call arroz.
Roll on, enchiladas in your bed of cheese and sauce!
Chicken in a mole bath is my special dinner treat.
Then flan! A caramel custard that's silky smooth and sweet.
Stir a cup of cold horchata with a stick of cinnamon spice.
¡Adiós! my green amigo - I can't eat another bite.

Because in Texas, knowing your Tex-Mex is just as important as knowing your numbers and your alphabet.


Nothing much

We took Saul to the library last night, where he behaved like a little beast and yelled and made noise and would not suck his pacifier quietly. There is a very nice story area, which Saul will of course not be enjoying, because story time is at 10:30 in the morning. Everyone knows that working mothers don't care enough about their kids to want to take them to story time. Am I sounding bitter? Good. I am bitter.

There is a great statue of Mark Twain in front of the library. I wanted to get Saul's picture with it, but for some reason he was terrified of the statue. The only way he would get near it is if I was holding him, and then he would only clutch my arm with one hand, and bang on Mr. Twain's head with the other. I have to admit, it did make a very satisfying bang.

I made a chicken hotchpotch last night, which was quite yummy and kind of neat looking. This has got to be the easiest, most satisfying recipe on earth. You simply layer sliced potatoes, chicken, bacon, onions, carrots, and more potatoes in a dutch oven with some thyme and rosemary and salt and pepper. Pour on some stout, brush the top with butter, and bake the crap out of it for a few hours. An extra bonus is that the stout makes it smell like you are baking bread. You gotta love British cookbooks.

I feel like I should have a picture, but I don't. So here is Saul again. As usual.


Monday Morning Saul

New foods were introduced over the weekend.

String cheese? Big hit.

Kiwi? Not so much.

Better sleep on it.

Still like string cheese?

I think so.



This guy has been hanging out under my stairs all summer. I'm pretty sure it's a he, since he's not very plump. He's moved his web several times, but never more than a few feet away. It's one of the prettiest argiope webs I've seen - very nice squiggles!


I am morally opposed to circuses. Does that mean Saul's childhood will suck? I am also resisting any zoos that aren't of the rescue variety (luckily, the Austin Zoo is). Am I just a stick in the mud?

I am thinking of this right now because Ringling Brothers are in town and my friend Sandra was telling me how much fun she had with her daughter there.


Poetry Thursday

O my pa-pa

Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn't read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they've read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
"My Yellow Sheet Lad" and "Given Your Mother's Taste
for Vodka, I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Mine."
They're not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don't know why it's so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they're the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that'll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers' poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn't fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we'd turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love.

-Bob Hicok


Here I am!

I'm still feeling crappy from my stomach flu, but I did indeed lose 5 pounds! I'm always looking on the bright side, you know.

A few days ago, I rediscovered the library. The downtown Austin library is huge and fantastic, but it's downtown and requires metered parking and navigating flashers and panhandlers to get inside. So it's been a very long time since I've been there. Plus, Amazon? I love Amazon with an intensity that is not entirely natural. So libraries have not been necessary for me for a long time.

But anyway, our house is right next to a little tiny incorporated area called Westlake Hills, so we are close enough to be considered in-district for their library. I finally went to get my library card on Monday. The library is a beautiful, two-story stone building that is about a half-mile from our house. They have story time for kids, and lots of book clubs and knitting clubs, and comfy chairs everywhere. The book selection isn't really comparable to the Austin public library, but it feels all small town and homey so I'm quite pleased. I can't wait until Saul is old enough to start all the summer reading programs and stuff like that. My only issue is that all of their clubs meet on weekdays during the day. HELLO? Can't career women take a break from their ball busting to read some chick-lit too? I'm especially annoyed because one of their book clubs is discussing The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which I just happened to have finished, but I can't go because I HAVE A JOB.

While I'm on the subject, my neighborhood's Mom's Club and Gardening Club also meet only on weekdays.


In other news, I have a SPECTACULAR bruise on my leg. It's about the size of a silver dollar, and it's all purple and green and yellow. I haven't the slightest idea where it came from, although it seems like I ought to remember something like that. I've been trying to take a picture of it all morning, but nothing is coming out.

And finally, I've decided to scrap Recipe Friday because it's a pain in my buttocks, and I'm bored of it. So you will just have to miss out on the Coca-Cola glazed baby back ribs and homemade baked beans I made over the weekend out of one of my new cookbooks. I will probably still put up pictures of food, just because I like to.

Oh wait, one last very random thing. Here is something that happened to me also right after I gave birth. No one warned me about it and it FREAKED. ME. OUT.

Ok, back to work!


Monday Morning Saul

I didn't really get any good pictures of Saul over the weekend. Had I been snapping away, you might get to see many types and colors of vomit, raging tantrums, and a sad, listless baby laying on the carpet playing with a block, instead of bouncing off the walls like normal.

So instead, here are a couple of pictures from our visit to the fountain at Butler Park last week. Saul had a wonderful time, and attracted lots of attention by scampering around like a monkey with his red-clad butt up in the air.


Recipe Friday

Cold Soba Noodles with Vietnamese Pork

3 tablespoons chopped green onions, divided
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
4 teaspoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound boneless pork cutlets, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
8 ounces uncooked organic soba noodles
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
3 cups chopped napa (Chinese) cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
Cooking spray

1. Combine 1 tablespoon onions, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, and next 4 ingredients (through pork) in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce, vinegar, and chile paste in a large bowl, stirring well. Add noodles, cabbage, and bell pepper; toss to coat.

4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove pork from marinade. Add pork to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until done. Arrange pork over noodle mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons onions.

Verdict: Yum. This is perfect for summer. It's easy to prepare, and you can make almost all of it beforehand. I had the bowl of noodles and vegetables in the fridge and the pork marinating long before B got home from work. When he showed up, all I had to do was throw a salad together and saute the pork for a few minutes. The crunchy raw vegetables go well with the soft noodles, and the dressing is wonderful. Of course I doubled the amount of meat to keep B happy, so I doubled the marinade also. I thought it could have used perhaps a little more sambal oelek, but when I had leftovers for lunch the next day, I definitely tasted it. So maybe that's the right amount after all. WIN!

Poetry Thursday

I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusky snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage-silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

-Edward Hirsch

A good sign

Saul is developing into an extremely active child. He is rarely happy sitting still and seems to have an endless reserve of energy.

But in the last few weeks, he has discovered books. We have long had in place our ritual reading of Where the Wild Things Are every night before bed, but now, if I set him in my lap, he will sit quietly while we read a few board books. And when he is playing on the floor, he frequently goes over to where the books are and looks at some pictures.

I know that looking at picture books doesn't really translate into reading Tolstoy, but I hope he will discover the same magical ability I did as a kid - to fall completely and totally into another universe. There are so many books that I look forward to reading with him - I can't wait until he's old enough to read James and the Giant Peach and Little House on the Prairie and Huckleberry Finn and all the other wonderful kids books.

I remember visiting my Granny (an antique dealer) one summer and being vaguely bored. I was wandering around the house, poking around on shelves where there were always interesting old things to look at, when I came across a stash of books printed in the thirties and forties. Among them was Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, some original Nancy Drew books, and a book of unedited Grimm's fairy tales, which was so gruesome that I hid it under my mattress, convinced that if a grown-up saw it they would take it away from me.

I remember being stretched out on my stomach in my bedroom reading Anne of Green Gables. I remember the first time I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and how I secretly checked out all the antique wardrobes at my Granny's house just to make sure. I remember sitting in the branches of a tree in our front yard, reading Encyclopedia Brown and feeling like a genius when I figured out the mystery before the end.

Some of my favorite memories of childhood are from the summers when my Mom worked part time as secretary for our church. My sister and I had to go with her and we would spend the morning running around the dusty sanctuary and goofing around on the piano. If we behaved ourselves, we would go afterward to the library. I was allowed to get as many books as I could carry in my two hands, and I remember stacking books up to my chin. We would go home and my Mom would make us a pot of Rice-A-Roni and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then all three of us would sprawl out in the den and read in the cool darkness - my Mom with an Agatha Christie novel, me with something by Madeleine L'Engle or Orson Scott Card, and my sister with a stack of Berenstain Bears.

To me, not being able to read seems like one of the most horrible handicaps imaginable. I hope Saul loves to read as much as I do. As soon as he's old enough, I am quite prepared to take a week off of work every summer and spend the day exploring the library and eating grilled cheeses.


Doing without

Our microwave died yesterday morning. So I am living like a pioneer woman, making do with only my gas range and my electric oven and a toaster and an electric kettle. You know, just like in Little House on the Prairie.

I thought it wouldn't matter that much, since I cook quite a bit and we don't eat many frozen prepared foods, but I was wrong. I was going to make some mashed sweet potatoes to go with our supper last night, but then I realized that a sweet potato takes a VERY LONG TIME to cook in the oven. And this morning? I had to make oatmeal on the stove. And it took FOREVER. Like 20 minutes or something.

It's an intolerable situation.

In other news, Saul is driving. me. nuts. He has started having mini tantrums, where his body just crumples to the ground and he writhes and screams for approximately 15 seconds. It was kind of cute the first couple of times, but now he's doing it EVERY TEN MINUTES. He has also discovered that yanking my laptop cord out of the wall is a very quick way to get my attention.

I'm considering taking up gin.


Just how my mind works

Honest to god, everything I think is usually numbered. I split everything into lists. Sometimes very intricate lists. I think B was astonished once when I was making our grocery list and I started telling him how it had to be done, with categories and sub-categories that must be considered in order.


1. Here is a website that you should go read. I found it through Dooce, who I read religiously, as all bloggers must.

2. I think I'm just about sick of Obama. I'll still vote for him because I think he's a little bit better than McCain, but I don't like him anymore. Too many of his policy platforms are making me angry. Why can't we just elect me as Dictator of the World? Huh?

3. The first thing I would do as Dictator of the World is to decree that if one more person cuts me off on Mopac, they lose all driving privileges for the rest of their lives.

4. I have lost 7 pounds in the last couple of weeks with absolutely no effort. I am pretty sure it has to do with weaning Saul. I still regret that I couldn't nurse him longer, but thank god this weight is finally coming off. Everyone tells you that nursing will help you lose baby weight, but that's a huge load of bull. For every extra calorie you burn, you stuff 5 calories in your face and are still hungry. (Stinky Dog, don't listen to me. Breast is best, blah, blah)

5. This is so creepy it's not even funny. I don't know about you, but if someone approached me wearing these, I would think that the Disney Industrial Complex has finally set loose it's master plan to take over the world by sending Disney themed zombies to eat my brains.

6. I so want to go to Maker Faire this fall. If someone would like to buy me tickets for my birthday, that would be excellent.

7. Saul now says Da (Daddy), Duh (Doggie) and kih-kah (kitty cat). He still won't say mama. He also finally waves, although it looks more like he's trying to punch you.

8. Time to work.


Bonus Video

Saul L-O-V-E-S light switches.

Monday Morning Saul

Saul was trying to pull up on his walker last night when it went out from under him and he whacked his head against a corner. It scared me to death because it was so loud, and he cried so hard. But he's fine, of course. Although he has such a big lump on his head this morning that he looks lopsided.

I was a clumsy, accident-prone kid, and I liked to climb on things. The combination meant that until I hit puberty, I usually looked like I had just been in a fight. I always had scrapes and bruises and lumps on my head, and I had at least two confirmed concussions. I am worried that Saul might have inherited those traits from me. I'm not sure I'm ready for the trips to the emergency room that I fear are in our future.

Anyway, earlier in the evening, we went to the park and had a great time. Saul has decided that he likes the slides after all, and the resulting static-head amuses me to no end.

Wow, doesn't he look just like B's mini-me?


Recipe Friday

Onion-Smothered Italian Burgers

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons preshredded fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 pound ground beef, extra lean
Cooking spray
4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sugar, salt, and pepper to pan. Cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

2. Combine cheese and next 5 ingredients (through beef) in a medium bowl; shape meat mixture into 4 (3-inch) patties. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan. Cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each patty with 1/4 cup onion mixture and top half of each bun.

Verdict: well, I thought they were good. When I asked B about them later in the evening, he got that deer in the headlights look and said "The burgers? They were, um, good. Like burgers." "What about the onions," I prompted. "Um, onions are good. Were those special onions? That was a good hamburger with special onions." So not as memorable as I had hoped (or maybe I just need a new taster). But still, it was yummy. It's hard to go wrong with a hamburger. The patties were a little bit of trouble - I usually just keep it simple with an egg and some Italian dressing. But the onions? Easy and yummy. Definitely a good topping for almost anything.


Poetry Thursday

Much Madness is divinest Sense—
To a discerning Eye—
Much Sense—the starkest Madness—
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail—
Assent—and you are sane—
Demur—you’re straightway dangerous—
And handled with a Chain—

-Emily Dickinson

This is for a certain person who keeps referring to me as a nut. Yo mama's a nut



We had our first bloody incident last night. While Saul was "dancing" near a table, he banged his mouth and busted his gums open. There was lots of blood, but he only cried for about ten minutes. Then he was fascinated by the new substance on his hands and kept poking around in his mouth for more. Yuck.

Anyway, I finally got some video of him playing peekaboo. It's so adorable I can barely stand it.


Another list

Things Saul has started doing that make him the awesomest kid ever
  1. Putting his arms around my neck and attacking me with insistent, open-mouthed, slobbery kisses, all while cooing and giggling.
  2. Holding on to the opposite side of a small table, crouching down, popping his head up to surprise me, and then laughing hysterically and doing it again. And again. And again. And again. (I'm trying to get a video of this)
  3. Walking on his hands and feet like a monkey when he is on the wood or tile floors.
  4. Crawling away as fast as he can and then checking back over his shoulder to make sure I am following.
  5. Flipping the light switch on and off and being totally, completely delighted every single time.
I say this at every stage, but I wish he would stay like this forever.

What's the big deal?

According to Snopes, a Tyson Foods plant in Tennessee is giving workers a paid Muslim holiday off.

Apparently, a bunch of people are very upset about this, but I'm not sure why. Would anyone like to enlighten me? As far as I know, they didn't cancel Christmas or anything. So I don't understand.


Monday Morning Saul

Friends from Dallas visited over the weekend.

Saul enjoyed meeting baby Lola, but got a little bit jealous when I was holding her.

We went to go see the bats - I haven't seen them in a couple of years and it's always neat.


Recipe Friday

Cherry Crisp

6 cups (about 2 pounds) sweet cherries, pitted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. To prepare the filling, combine cherries, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, juice, almond extract, and salt in a large bowl; toss gently. Spoon cherry mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sliced almonds. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over cherry mixture. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is crisp. Let stand 5 minutes; serve warm.

Verdict: pitting cherries sucks. This seemed like such a quick and easy recipe until I was faced with two pounds of fruit and only a paring knife to help. At least it went quickly after that. I left out the almond extract because I didn't have any, and I increased the sliced almonds to 1/2 cup because that's how much I had.

I thought it was quite delicious. The cherries were tart and the topping was buttery, and I think it was an improvement over even cherry cobbler, especially with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. The only change I think I would make is to half the amount of cornstarch so the filling wouldn't be quite so thick. B wasn't very excited about this one. He said it was too sweet, but then again, he can't even stomach apple juice without watering it down. I need another opinion, but it's too messy of a dessert to take to work. Anyone want to come over and try it? I think I will make it again and take with me to my Mom's for Christmas, where there is inevitably a party of roughly 68,000 people in the living room looking for dessert.