Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Small thoughts, and big ones

Napoleona has had completely dry and clean big girl underwear for the last two days. Today for the first time her hair was long enough for braids. How did all this happen right under my nose?


Anthropapa finally convinced me to move to Gmail. I've had a vanity email address for many years through NetIdentity, but their recent merger with Tucows has certainly not brought any added benefits, and in fact basic services like adequate spam filtering, and being able to access the server at, for example 10:30 this morning, have decreased.

Funny how we tend to hate moving to a new platform, be it a new email service, a new computer OS, or even a new cordless phone. It's not like most of these things are outside our capabilities, but these transitions can be almost crippling for a while.

Added to that, I'm running a freelance business that depends primarily on email. This last week I had a long-time client get a bit tiffy because he couldn't get in touch with me. Turns out I never got some of his recent emails. Not OK.

So, if you want to hire me to copy edit for you,
If you want to complain about rambling blog posts,


Today it was about 90F out with thunderstorms. The air was so moist you could literally see it. Lots of cloudbursts and booming thunder. I'm only just starting to comprehend just how dry most of California is. But somehow I am loving this weather (with the understanding that I'm spending most of the time in reach of an air conditioner, not working construction or anything), much more than I ever liked summer out west. There the temperatures were higher, and the sun seemed to beat down on me for months. Here the sun doesn't seem so powerful, perhaps because it's offset by the moisture in the air and the masses of greenery all around.


Disgusting world economic fact:

"While the UN lists 34 countries as needing food aid, 30% of next year's grain harvest in the U.S. will be converted to ethanol to fuel cars."
-Organic Consumers Association Organic Bytes newsletter.


I had a small dinner triumph the other night. Seems like I'm always rushing to get something made for dinner lately, and cooking has been a bit unappetizing with the hot weather. But once in a while, the cooking stars all align.

Anthropapa brought home a new ingredient from the grocery store recently: arepas. These are like thick yellow corn tortillas or flat corn cakes, originally from the northern Andes. We tried them fried but they were too dry. One of Papa's comments about them needing sauce led me to this dinner inspiration: arepa torte! I made a quick cheese sauce and heated some frozen vegetables, then layered arepas with sauce, the veggies, and shredded cheese. It was somehow incredibly yummy!


We've received several mailings recently from a local man running for County Legislator. His entire platform seems to revolve around halting high-density development that "increases our property taxes, weakens home values and damages our quality of life."

If you look at these words, you might think, sure, high-density housing would lead to increased traffic, water and sewer usage, etc. And in a primarily suburban area like this, multi-family dwellings are rare.

But if you actually live around here, you know what the real target of this is: the Hasidic community. Because of RLUIPA, a federal law protecting, among other things, religious freedom in land use, local Hasidic groups have been able to build many developments that are tax exempt.

Perhaps some of these developments have been unfairly zoned for religious use. However, because orthodox Jews cannot drive to temple on the sabbath, their homes must be within walking distance of their synagogue. Ergo, locally high-density housing.

I'm not so sure that housing should be tax exempt. But I resent the thinly-veiled discrimination in Meyers' political platform. And I resent the presumption that "our" way of life, meaning suburbia, is somehow a right that supersedes the needs of others for affordable housing (another kind of high-density development). The rest of the community should not have to pick up the tab to support additional infrastructure while religious groups build tax-free. But...this is all somehow icky in its dancing around naming the real target of its ire.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Moomintroll Mania

We are on a Moomintroll kick. I had never heard of these books, but a tip from (un)relaxeddad sent me searching the library.

We have now read Finn Family Moomintroll several times, and I plan to swing by the library again tomorrow to get more books.

If you don't know already, the Moomins are Scandinavian trolls, but not the hairy, dirty, nocturnal kind. Moomins love the sun and hibernate all winter. They are round, fat, and white with big noses, almost like hippos. They love pancakes, and parties, and excursions on the sea. The Moominhouse is open to any new friends who happen to come by:

"Moomintroll's mother and father always welcomed all their friends in the same quiet way, just adding another bed and putting another leaf in the dining-room table."
Doesn't that sound lovely! Of course, there are odd bits too, like the Hattifatteners, who are strange creatures that reminded me of the kodama in Princess Mononoke, except the Hattifatteners sting like nettles, and become electrified during thunderstorms. They are ominous little creatures. The Hobgoblin, with his glowing red eyes and flying panther, was a bit scary for us too, but he turned out to be a bit different than we expected. And the Groke, who freezes everything she touches and speaks in monosyllables, was a bit creepy as well.

I found these books very entertaining for me as an adult. It's like there are little bonus jokes for adults hidden inside the otherwise whimsical stories. During a party, Moominpappa makes a speech, thanking people, exhorting all the guests to be happy, "and then he began to talk about his youth. This was the signal for Moominmamma to push in a whole trolleyful of pancakes, and everybody clapped."

I'm waiting to learn more about Snufkin, who loves traveling, plays the harmonica, and sleeps in a tent; the Hemulen, who is not very brave, loves collecting things, and wears a dress; Sniff, who looks kind of like a kangaroo and acts like a little brother; and the Snork and Snork Maiden, who look pretty much like Moomintrolls but somehow are different.

We've moved from picture books to chapter books with SillyBilly. Even though he's only 4 1/2, and typically Waldorf families don't read such long books to children that young, SillyBilly just eats them up. During quiet time when his sister is napping, or when we have to give him his asthma medicine in the nebulizer, we can sit and read these books forever. "Read more, Mama!!"

Other recent chapter book hits:
Stuart Little
Little House in the Big Woods
Farmer Boy
Happy Times in Noisy Village
The Cricket in Times Square

Monday, June 25, 2007

Major Milestone

You'll all have to excuse me for a moment, I'm feeling a little farklempt.

This morning I dropped off the boy at his first day of summer camp. I packed a little lunchbox, made sure the backpack had spare clothes, and made sure all of him was covered with sunscreen.

He's pretty excited, though at the moment when it was time to give me a kiss and go with the camp counselor, he looked a little worried. But he waved jauntily a moment later, going off into the world.

He'll start learning to swim, see wild animals, go on hikes, and make new friends. What more could a boy want?

Update: here's what SillyBilly looked like after his first day at camp:

Just what I like to see...a tired little boy. Good tired, of course. Not bad, not-enough-sleep, sick tired, but good, did-a-lot-outside tired. Despite getting to bed a bit late and being tired again this morning, once he arrived at camp he was off like a shot, completely forgetting to say goodbye to his Papa. Early bedtime tonight, woo hoo!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Things have been busy. Summer has come, and all the activity of the season.

Anthropapa spent Father's Day weekend at the Omega Institute, taking a seminar about organizational development and Theory U and camping out. He took the bus and train up to Rhinecliff, but the kids and I drove up on Sunday to get him. The campus there is quite beautiful, with a large lake and many green and wooded acres. We had a yummy vegetarian lunch there and a peaceful drive home.

On Monday, SillyBilly will start summer day camp through The Nature Place. He is so incredibly excited that he asks me how many more days until camp, at least 40 times a day. We just got the information about the special activities (Hike to the top of Black Rock Mountain! Learning about wildlife! Learning to swim! Dirt Week!) so the kid is at a fever pitch of anticipation. And he has his first lunchbox.

We've continued our explorations of our local wildlife and weather. We've been noticing that at least one of the chipmunks in our yard can easily climb trees. The other evening I watched a bat swoop up and down the road in front of our house, busily relieving us of a portion of our insect population. And right after that I saw the first fireflies of the season, though they are getting a little ahead of themselves with the hot weather lately. Tonight we had a wonderful thunderstorm, though SillyBilly doesn't seem convinced when I tell him that the thunderbolts won't hit our little house since they have all those tall trees (not to mention the dorm next door) to hit first.

I've steadily been finding editing work, though some of it at a discounted rate that I would dearly love to discontinue. I guess I get to look forward to some future negotiations on that front. Just finished a memoir of a man who was a cultural officer with the State Department during the Cold War in Germany, Laos, and Russia. Looking forward to doing more translated Rudolf Steiner lectures next week, and possibly a book on working on a spiritual level with a difficult spouse!

So, why did I name this post "Gratitude"?

I've been feeling thankful lately, that's why. Thankful that I can do work I love, thankful that I live in a beautiful place, thankful that my son gets to go to summer camp for free, thankful that the bats are eating some of the bugs, thankful that Anthropapa got to get some time away to study.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Simplicity of 3-year-old Fun

I realized I had a few pictures to post that I thought were interesting, and only a slightly interesting way to link them together with any cohesion, thereby avoiding one of those "random crap" post titles. Or maybe I just need to take some random-crap-post-titling lessons from Papa Bradstein. (No offense meant, Papa B. Luvya!)

First we have the latest local attraction, baby robins:

(They're already full-fledged, but I just didn't have time to upload this while the news was breaking.) These birds were kind enough to nest only about 4 feet off the ground in our neighbor's cherry tree, allowing us a close-up view of how freakish nestlings are. Word must have gotten around, because when I excitedly asked a local kid if they'd seen the baby birds, this 7-year-old gave me a "yeah" worthy of the grungiest teen. I am so yesterday's news.

Then we have this rather odd installation piece by Napoleona:

She advised me that this was her "nightstand" next to her bed. I thought the sacrificial pose of the farm animals combined with the wooden-play-carrot-piece lingam and cup-full-of-rocks yoni and with the sparkly Indian box were worthy of the next highbrow Asian fusion gallery opening. Also note the oh-so-trendy homemade crochet doll blanket serving as part of the display surface -- didn't you know all the hip chicks crochet now?

And then, the first hot day worthy of playing directly in the water:

Napoleona spent about half and hour sitting directly in the brook, happily scooping up sand and piling it on the rock to her left. She said something about it being a gnome's sandbox. I tell you: who really needs toys!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

The mother of all vacation blog posts, part 2

Our next big outing was to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Brentwood. As a girl I went many times to the beautiful, original Getty museum in Malibu, which was built as a replica of Villa dei Papyri in Herculaneum. Evidently with the massive Getty endowment (see the last few pages of this for mind-boggling figures like $5 billion, $8 billion, and many stunning photos of the two sites) allowing an ever-expanding collection, the museum needed a bit more space. Make that A LOT more space. The villa now houses only the Greek, Roman and Etrurian art. All of the rest is at the Getty Center.

The Getty Center is awe-inspiring. Somehow when I'm there I always feel like I'm in ancient Greece, surrounded by cool marble and fountains on a hot, bright day. The entire complex is clad in Italian travertine marble, many panels including natural fossilized leaves and feathers. The site is on a hilltop overlooking the West Side of Los Angeles, with ocean and mountain views on clear days.

Here's Napoleona, begging to go see the art, with some of the travertine behind her:

Now, with two small children (albeit ones who love museums) we didn't plan to spend much time closely perusing the masterpieces. Luckily the Getty Center has a few tricks up their sleeves just for kids. The first thing we saw upon entering the main building was a monumental sculpture playing music! Überorgan by Tim Hawkinson was truly awe-inspiring, and we were lucky enough to walk in during its 5-minute, hourly performance. This huge sculpture was made from greenhouse polyethylene plastic, nylon netting, plastic bottles, and other recycled materials, and the electronic controller is essentially a huge player piano.

Then we saw the exhibit Oudry's Painted Menagerie, a series of life-size animal paintings from the 18th century menagerie at Versailles. This showing was geared toward kids, with an emphasis on the painting of Clara, a rhinoceros that toured throughout Europe for 17 years. Then we checked out the Family Room, where the kids could color their own paper masks, draw with dry-erase markers on a wall-sized medieval illuminated manuscript, and build a tube sculpture. Anthropapa and the kids also decided they wanted to be part of Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 by James Ensor:

After lunch, the kids wanted to see some paintings. Yes, the preschoolers specifically requested paintings. And to our delight, the Getty had just last month opened a fun new thing: a sketching gallery. So we got set up with easels, paper and pencils, and the kids made some art. We didn't want to try to pack the big rolls of paper, so you'll all have to wait for Nana to mail them to us before you get to see their inspired creations. Then we high-tailed it to the Van Goghs and Monets.

Napoleona and I were in a small gallery looking at A Centennial of Independence by Henri Rousseau. We talked about how the people in it were dancing around a tree, and there were flags flying and general merriment. Napoleona said quite loudly, "It's a nice day. Do they have cake?" Amusement among nearby patrons ensued. Then we all hit maximum sensory input--back to the car and Nana's house!

After all that, we spent the next day closer to home. Nana lives at the end of a cul-de-sac, surrounded by nice families. One evening just as we finished dinner, the doorbell was rung urgently. A six-year-old neighbor wanted the kids to come out to play. Who could say no to that? SillyBilly was excited to learn that she had one of those battery-operated kid-sized cars, in this case a pink Barbie jeep. So, SillyBilly got to show off his awesome driving skills. 4 going on 14, I tell you.

As I was standing in the street talking to the girl's mother, we noticed that she was standing in her driveway with her back to us, seeming to be crying. Another neighborhood girl ran up and the mother asked her what was wrong. She said, and I quote, "It's fine, she's only bleeding." The mom ran right over, shrieked, and ran the crying girl into the house. A few minutes later they came out with the girl still sniffling and applying an ice cube to her mouth. The tetherball in the driveway had knocked out her front tooth!

We got the chance to visit with my aunt, and with her we took the kids to Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena. Generally a cool idea: take some land in Brookside park in the arroyo next to the Rose Bowl, turn it into an indoor-outdoor kid art/craft/play/learning extravaganza. They had legos, they had sprinklers, they had fossils, they had tricycles, they had collage-making, they had bugs. But, it was also crowded and overwhelming. Another vote for playing in the backyard!

The last big event for us was the pilgrimage to our old favorite Japanese restaurant, Cho Cho San. In the early years of our marriage, Anthropapa and I spent many hours and many, many dollars there. It's a sushi bar and teppan room, but who are we kidding: who needs teppan when you can get your sushi from a conveyor belt? And even though I'm sure it's not authentic Japanese cuisine, our favorite thing there is the "Rock and Roll" handroll: a temaki with avocado and scallops baked with mayonnaise. It's just buttery and melty and so, so good. Our kids snarfed up the kappamaki and crab salad like the culinary troopers they usually are.

We had a nice Memorial Day barbecue with my cousin and his family. Anthropapa and I made it out of the house a few times for another visit to Cho Cho San, several visits to the bookstore, and a movie, Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I would say that film lived up to my expectations, which were minimal. The main thing was, we were out of the house sans kids after dark.

We made it out of L.A. with little hassle. Traffic was relatively light, we returned the rental car and made it to our flight on time. The flight itself was pretty mellow, with a fairly good if inane movie, Music and Lyrics, and the kids handled things OK except for a half-meltdown from Napoleona.

Then we landed at Newark. And we sat on the tarmac at Newark, for OVER AN HOUR. Why, you ask? Ask George W. Bush. Yes, I can actually blame it on him. Apparently the POTUS was visiting the New York area, and evidently one of the Air Force One planes could be seen out of the other side of the plance. And when the POTUS comes to New York, all the planes get to sit and wait until he leaves the airport. Even the pilot sounded peeved over the intercom.

All I can say is, thank the Lord for our wonderful seatmate, a lovely Portuguese lady from Cerritos named Filomena. She was tolerant of Napoleonas wiggling, and even read a story to her and made real conversation with a three-year-old. Otherwise that last hour on the tarmac would have been hell on earth.

Now I'm just repeating to myself, there's no place like home, there's no place like home...and no silver slippers required.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The mother of all vacation blog posts, part 1

We had so many adventures on our vacation to California that I don't quite know how to start.

Our flight was uneventful, non-turbulent, and the kids handled everything quite well. We decided to drive up the coast route from LAX to Nana's house. I hadn't been that way in many years, and it immediately plunged me into a fit of nostalgia. I lived for my first 8 years not too far from LAX, in lovely Westchester. (Check out the cool art deco movie theater in that link: I remember it clearly from when it was still a theater. And the Hughes Airport mentioned there was at the bottom of the hill below our house.) The homes there are typically small, one-story, stucco bungalows, often sherbert shades of pink or lime green. As we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, I was assailed by memories and we immediately began lusting after Mexican food.

As we drove through Malibu, munching on our quesadillas and tacos, I began to notice the details that make So Cal distinctive for me. Gorgeous native trees like sycamores and evergreen oaks mix with tropical transplants like bouganvillea, oleander, and eucalyptus. Valleys, and hillsides facing the ocean, are green even through the rainless summers, but the rest of the terrain is almost desert -- we call winter the "green season" and the rest of the year the "brown season." There is a lively mix of architecture, from the ubiquitous, fake-Spanish stucco/tile roof mini-malls, to avant-garde modern (see the Getty Center later). And of course, 40 bazillion cars. Everything from beat-up old pickups, to classic T-birds, and then, where my parents live, monstrous Hummers and Escalades.

We spent Sunday quietly with Nana and Grandpa Dave, and then on Monday we went to what I consider one of the weirdest things in L.A.: the La Brea Tar Pits. Right in the middle of the West Side, there is a pit of tar, separated from a major thoroughfare by just a fence.

(Those are sculptures of mammoths.) During the last ice age, mammals, birds, and even one human became trapped in the tar--rain water floats on top of the tar making it appear like any other lake. Methane bubbles up through the tar, adding to the lovely odor. The kids loved the adjacent museum, with its mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and dire wolves. They pretended to be condors:

When we lived in the area, my parents both worked right next door to the tar pits. So the next stop down memory lane was the big fountain in front of the building. I remember playing in it many times as a girl.

We planned our trip so the big outings alternated days with staying home. On home days we went to the nearby park about....52 times. The kids loved it there. Aside from the usual slides, swings, etc. they also dug in the sand, flew a kite with Papa, and assaulted the airspace with bubbles.

Our next big outing was to the beach, with my dad. This was the same beach we went to last summer. This time we saw pelicans, seagulls, a sea lion, and this weird little creature:

Since the fiasco of last year's beach trip, the kids were afraid to get close to the water. It was too cold that morning to get very wet anyway, and it's not a safe swimming beach, but we wanted to work on overcoming that fear. Here's Papa and Grandpa Walt contemplating some glassy green rollers with SillyBilly:

Oh yeah, the sticky stuff: more tar! Courtesy offshore drilling platforms.

Next up: adventures in modern art, is the sushi the same after all these years?, and how the president made us get home so late.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I couldn't pass this up

Charlotte recently shared this very silly little game: Google "(your name) needs" and see what comes up. Evidently many of my requirements in life are urgent enough to demand exclamation points:

What's wrong with Kristine? Nothing! (hear, hear!)

Kristine needs a man too. (thanks, got one already)

Kristine needs her happy place. (see above)

Kristine needs to shake her bootie!!! (um, no)

Kristine needs to organize these files. (how did they get a look at my desk?)

Maybe Kristine needs to find out how Texas deals with child molesters. (um, no thanks)

Kristine needs a room mate! (got plenty already, thanks)

Kristine needs to come out to Long Island! (I have no response to that.)

Kristine needs to wear glasses (oh, definitely)

Kristine needs to be paid (on time please!)

and my favorite:

Kristine needs to two-way HotSync (sounds vaguely naughty, except for the Palm Pilots)

Friday, June 01, 2007

A fun-filled day

You thought you'd be reading about our vacation about now, right?


This morning, upon assisting with jammie removal, I discovered a large tick imbedded in Napoleona's back. I attempted to remove it, and merely squashed the thing. So, SillyBilly went to daycare, and the girlie and I went to the pediatrician. He informed us, after removing the remains of the creature, that while we should be on the lookout for Lyme Disease, most likely nothing will occur. And if it does, a round of amoxicillin will do the trick. Evidently it's just us lucky grownups that typically have problems.

$25 later (I'm not complaining that we have a free annual visit scheduled with the pediatrician on Tuesday, oh no. It's not like I could leave a blood-sucking parasite on my kid for 4 days. But why why why couldn't this have happened on, say, Tuesday?), I dropped off Napoleona to daycare and used the remaining hour to do some editing.

Lunch, naptime, then playing outside with the kids. Of course, by "playing outside with the kids" I mean supervising SillyBilly while he plays with the hose and Napoleona while she stuffs her face with trail mix, all the while reading a mystery novel. There's got to be some fun in this day somewhere, right?

While I was in the middle of doing some pre-dinner dishes, Napoleona declared in tones of woe that she had stuck a cat-litter crystal up her nose, and it was stuck there. Much nose-blowing later, the offending crystal shot to the floor.

Then I broke my beloved (and only) flower vase while washing it.

Now I'm sitting on the couch blogging while Anthropapa makes dinner. Aaaah, that's better.

**Coming soon**
The mother of all vacation blog posts, part I.