Monday, August 31, 2009

Finding Out


She's getting bolder. She still lets us hold her any which way but "prefurred," and she's more likely to run away from the children when they lunge for her now (although I'm not entirely ruling out a desire to be chased by "teacup" humans), but she's explored every square inch of the house and she seems much more interested in the door to the big, big world.

And she's fast. Speed of sound fast.

Sigh. It's just a matter of time before she'll disappear out the door.

For her sake, I just hope she's smart enough to stay away from the road.

For our sake, I hope she doesn't find greener pastures.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spike that


Well summer almost gone. I know this because the two local fairs I’ve attended over the years are in a neck-and-neck race to usher it out.

I’m thinking I’ll just take this whole weekend off so I can rest up for the dueling fairs' arrival next week. It's for the best. It'll give me a chance to practice my aim with pointy projectiles and to stretch my stomach so’s I can eat my weight in fried dough.

The Schaghticoke Fair, Routes 67 and 40 - Schaghticoke, starts Wednesday and runs through Labor Day. It’s the only fair I ever attended that boasted an amazing, ferocious, robot-secretary on the midway. I half expected her to geek a chicken. Ah … memories. Attractions include agriculture exhibits, music, entertainment, animals, rides, food, grandstand and stage shows. Motor coach parking available. Admission is $10, children 13 and under free. Week-long pass for admission is $30. Advance sale tickets at Price Chopper are $8 with advantage card. Visit for schedules and events.

The Columbia Couty Fair, Routes 66 and 203 - Chatham, kicks off Wednesday and continues through Labor Day. I’ll never forget the year I entered my dog in a 4-H obedience show (I was 11) and some jokester from the livestock barns sicked his goat on my dog. Alls I’m saying is it was a good thing my dog was so well behaved. Fun, fun, fun. Attractions include Painted Rodeo, demolition derbies, monster truck pull. There’s plenty of rides and attractions for the kids including talent competitions and various food eating contests. If your kid has a thing for watermelon, this is the place to be at the tail’s end of summer. Tickets are $10 at the fair gate except on Sunday when tickets are $12. Advance sale tickets are available at local Price Chopper stores and will save you $2 for daily admissions and $4 on Sunday. Visit for a complete listing of schedules and events.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Question Thursday

salvation on a string, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Remember these? Well, it's happy hour at Random Question Thursday.

Name you're poison.

Ordinarily, mine's Guinness Stout. On special occasions, when there's nothing to do, no place to go and no kids around ...

I'll take a margarita.

On the rocks.

With salt.

So, what'll it be?"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I know about kittens (will probably do me no good when she's a cat in 20 to 30 weeks)

So …

We now live with a cat.

Strike that. KITTEN.

Ittybit is emphatic I call it a “K-I-T-T-E-U-S-J-I-N, or however you spell it.”

And because I know some of you (especially those lovely and articulate readers, who took the time to send their amazingly helpful advice about cat kitten husbandry) are interested to know how we’re all making out with the new resident, I’ve compiled an annotated list of my new understanding of the “Felion” persuasion:

As directed by the shelter, we positioned Ariel’s food bowls and litter box in a “safe room,” which was explained as a room that the kitten could roam and leave at will but that the dog couldn’t access.

Now this may be a little indelicate, but I really don’t know how the kitten managed to get her pee and poo into the litter box seeing as how her privacy was limited to inner thought while Ittybit carried her around the room the whole time using creative holds that contorted the poor animal into uncomfortable looking positions. The fact that she never once tried to wriggle away or scratch the three-and-a-half-foot tormentor is a testament to her temperament and key to my first observation: Kittens are weird.

Now this temperament thing may or may not be related to my second observation: This kitten seems to be a little dog-like. Not only did she come when called, she also tends to roll on her recently spayed belly to have it rubbed. The weirdest part was when she did this to the dog. As Maddy chased her around the house once she’d ventured out of her safe zone, instead of booking it to the Switzerland that is my office, she flopped on her back and surrendered.

My third observation has to be related to her age – 16 weeks – or her walnut-sized brain: Kittens are unable to stop forward momentum. All I’m saying about this finding is “Thank heavens for widow screens.”

The fourth observation, which should be filed away in the "Be Careful of What You Wish For" category: Kittens are the most vampire-like of all household pets. Nocturnal schmockturnal. We know this because Ittybit was insistent on letting the cat sleep in her room, and, after giving the kitty the grand tour of toys, expected the little fuzz butt to settle down and sleep. She did not, however, expect to be attacked under the covers by a tiny fur ball hunting imaginary vermin in the great snowy plain of an oversized summer duvet cover. The little miss was somewhat dismayed by the fact that once invited her little monster wouldn’t leave until banished behind a closed door.

I can honestly say, at that point, I worried about the honeymoon being over.

All was forgiven though when Ittybit woke up in the morning and was met at the top of the stairs by her kitten of the undead, still wide awake and ready for action but now looking a little worse for wear as her entire head had been slobbered in dog-drool love.

Which lead me to another realization about the so-called cat and dog relationship.

In just 24-hours Maddy has gone from being a dog’s dog to a cat’s dog. Not only did she drool copious amounts of slimy, sloppy love onto the feline’s head, but she also herded off a visiting dog whose intentions toward her new kitten were unclear.

Of course when Ariel sat still so ittybit could dry her off with a towel, the only thing I really need to know about cats I learned on day one: Kittens are weird.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Breakfast of ex-champions

yogurt moustache, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

MAMA: What do you want for breakfast?

CHAMP: Beckfas?

MAMA: Would you like eggs?


MAMA: Cereal?


MAMA Toast and peanut butter?


MAMA: Well, you have to eat something for breakfast. What will you eat?

CHAMP: Wan eyespeam sameeech. Wan eyes PEEM sameeech!

DADDY: What does he want?

ITTYBIT He wants an ice cream sandwich.

DADDY: I want one, too.

MAMA: Well, we're all out. How about one of these yogurts in a tube? That's the closest thing I have to ice cream.


MAMA: *after snipping the edge and handing it over, the boy takes the tiniest of all licks and hands it back.

CHAMP: Wan shup. Wan shup.

MAMA: What?

ITTYBIT: He wants it in a cup. He likes drinking it out of a cup.

DADDY: Yeah. He doesn't like to get his hands all sticky.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vermont charm, in some instances, could actually be a curse

Isn’t it strange how RARELY we ask questions of situations that start out as "something-seems-fishy" and later turn into a "should-have-known-better" tale?

Like, when you call the motel to book reservations the day before your arrival to a family reunion – knowing ALL OTHER AREA HOTELS are mostly filled up – you NEVER question why they have rooms and why those rooms are $79. You just thank your good fortune and remember your dad laughing about how the prices had gone up.

Oh sure, some red-flags may wave around a bit when the reservations clerk just repeats what you say -- adding a “yes, yes” over and over -- without really confirming anything. But you wave them off.

There was that weirdness with the Web site saying all rooms were booked when you checked it to get directions. But you write that off as just a technical glitch. You’re old enough to reason computers are fallible and Web sites aren’t always updated by the squirrel you imagine is spinning the wheel that powers Internets.

Why would you think there’s anything amiss, really?

It’s not as if anyone even remotely suggested we should “pardon our appearance while we undergo construction.”

So when we roll up after dark on that Saturday night to find a small cement mixer still churning as a few workers huddle near a hibachi at the end of the line of rooms, the exteriors of which where all exposed to the studs, and dirt piles parked in all the prime slots – you might say we were all a little surprised.

But we laughed. It’s not that bad. It's only for one night and we only get to hang out with family and folks once a year.

Of course, as the night wears on, we each reported our rooms’ individual quirks: card locks that don’t work, toilets that didn’t flush, water that never got warm let alone hot.

We laughed some more.

Aside from a few stains here and there, and the popcorn with which the kids seeded the floor, the place seems clean enough. The kids didn't care: they reported the place to be AWESOME.

And it was kind of awesome if you are referring to its lack of amenities: It has no tiny refrigerators, no working ice machine -- there isn’t even a pot of over warmed coffee let alone a continental breakfast. It had people living there who were hand-digging a foundation simultaneously as we popped the tops of our second Trout River Red.

In the morning we’re still laughing, although it is softer now that we’re sporting check-out-time hangovers, throbbing even more deeply from lack of caffeine and lingering a smell we never could put our fingers on.

As we toss the last of our bags in the trunks of our cars, we looked up at the place we’d enjoyed watching the kissing cousins, and the whirling dervish cousins vow to stay up all night as we imbibed and chatted, and noticed that the balcony to its nearest end really didn’t … end, that is. No wall. No railing. It just stopped.

The laughing stopped.

Then, just when you think you can’t really be surprised again, someone overhears the cleaning woman ask for an antibiotic as she had just stepped on a nail.

Everyone took a deep breath.

There's nothing really funny about the possibities we now seem to have narrowly escaped. Then someone mentions how great the place is going to be next year when it offers, walls, floors, a full breakfast and WiFi.

And we can't help it. We have to laugh.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Morning commute

humid morning, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I sat behind the wheel at the crossing, car in park, waiting for the train to pass. The boy in the back seat was happily eating his breakfast and watching the morning's entertainment: A freight train.

I couldn't believe how humid it's been. The windshield had a thick film, compounded by the riewview mirror fogging over.

Should have gone another way, I think momentarily. We'll be late again. There are so many other roads we could have taken.

On days like this it pains me to find the negative so easily. I am quick to fret and worry over every decision, every delay, every misstep.

I look up. And through a fogged lens into toddler eyes, I see things more clearly:

"Train. Passing. Mom? Train? Chooo-choooooooooo! YAY!!!"


Get crafty
Mabee Farm Historic Site, 1080 Main Street (Route 5S), Rotterdam Junction is the site of and arts and crafts festival Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event features local handmade crafts pottery, wood crafting, folk art, jams, handwoven items, floor cloths, candles, jewelry, fine arts, painted furniture, artisan demonstrations, music and more. Admission is free. Food and boat rides on the Wofford along the Mohawk River are also available for a fee.


Oh, go fly a kite!
Got wind? On Saturday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. build an indoor kite and learn what makes it fly at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium's FETCH! Lab. The FETCH Lab runs weekly, hands-on activities similar to the ones on the popular PBS television show. Free with museum admission. Visit for more information.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect!

Soooo ... Jed and the kids went to the shelter ...

filled out some forms ...

listed everyone we've ever known as character references ...

and released the veterinary records for our dear-departed Maggie as well as our still drinking from the toilet, sweet-old-incontient Maddy.

And today we got the call that we've been approved ...

to adopt a cat.

Well ... a kitten actually.

This black furry blur is Ariel

and she will be coming to live with us on Monday.

That is the name she was given at the shelter (probably why our cat person and appointed caretaker of said feline fell instantly in love) and Ittybit has no intention of changing it. I, of course, will be calling her 'Tempest,' as I'm sure she will be a tiny, whirling dervish only William Shakespeare could have conjured.

She's a playful one.

Now, friends, I am not a cat person. I like them well enough, but they seem to only tolerate my presence. (This could be a cat feature, I don't know.) I have owned ONE cat in my adult life and I believe it ran away to join the circus (or was shoplifted during a town-wide yard sale, whichever is a more plausable explanation for his wandering ways) about six weeks after I had him neutered and immunized). In fact my experience with cats is that they all seem to find a place that suits their needs -- say fish served nighthly at the neighbors' house.

So, aside from the fact that we've decided this shall be a house-bound cat with all her natural nails (because the proceedure to remove said implements of slicing torture seems cruel and with our luck she'll be wily enough to get out into the world whenever she wants to anyway) what else should we know that will make everyone's life easier? Especially the newest member.

Think: Geriatric, incontinent dog who's sweet but never lived with a cat before.

Think: Litterbox placement/maintenance.

Think: Training her to flush the toilet (I've seen Meet the Fockers) or make toast (after she washes her paws, of course).

We'll take any advice if it will make the house purr.

Think: Purrrrrrr.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Having reservations

summer girl

Dear Ittybit,

The summer is scooting by.

I hadn’t been paying attention as most mornings have been encased in a cold crust and me in the desire to stay under the winter covers. The down comforter on my bed has been employed for a fourth season instead of stowed, and there are days I think I could employ another part time.

You never seem to notice the weather. You seem impervious to its grasp. Only when the possibility of cooling ice cream or warming cocoa are in the offering do you pay it any mind.

But the heat arrived, finally, and with it the breathless realization of humidity and humility: School will start for you and with it comes a whole new life for all of us.

Not that we ever took off mid-week to go berry picking or to climb a hill and peer off into the distance from its apex, but now the potential to just get away is monitored by many someones else … principals and teachers and so forth. The eyes of the state are upon us now that you shall have to attend and be counted.

I'm not worried. Not really.

I know you will be brilliant. I know you will rise to any height should you want to reach it.

As any mother does, I worry that others won’t understand you or that they’ll hurt your feelings. I worry that you will lose the confidence and the fearlessness you’ve shown to my ever growing amazement.

As most mothers do, I look for comparisons. I measure my untrained observation of you against my untrained observation in others.

I look around at other girls your age and, still, you stand out to me. Your wit; your observations; your calm, measured approach to investigating new things strikes me as unique though I know all mothers must see this in their children. All mothers marvel. It’s what we do.

We also doubt and get defensive. We project our tepid experiences and lie in wait for their return. I am awake late at night wondering about all the things I will not be able to control; all the things I should not try to control.

I tell myself that my job is not to fix things for you, but to show you how to fix them for yourself. And to teaching how to accept and move on when what is broken seems beyond repair.

I was reminded of all of this as I tried to keep your brother from raiding the cake plates at a birthday party while you girls sat in a circle playing “pass the pressie.”

The object of the game was to pass a present among you until the music stopped. The girl holding the package would carefully unwrap it revealing another later of pretty paper. Three times the music played and stopped as the giggling became quiet and nervous. One girl was saying how she never won anything. Another agreed.

I found myself looking in any direction but where the laughter was keeping time with the tune. I just couldn’t watch.

I didn’t want you to lose. But I didn’t want you to win, either.

That is my dilemma.

What to do?

While in Maine, I had an opportunity to take a surfing lesson for mothers and instead of happily rushing into the water I stood back, angry and indignant. The only reason I felt compelled to do this, I raged, was to prove myself to you, who would be standing in the sand, cheering me on.

It wasn’t proving anything to me.

I have no interest in surfing. I have less interest in balancing on a wave or wearing the seal-like suit that would keep my somewhat warm in the chill of an Atlantic morning. But I said I would go through gritted teeth. I’d committed to looking like a fool and envisioned myself chasing a board through the waves.

As I stood by the surfshop counter, looking in any direction but the clerk's, I almost didn’t hear her ask for the reservation I didn’t have.

Face saved by the reservations I didn’t have, but ego bruised by the reservations I did have.

What to do?

I want to calm the waves of this growing storm; to remind you that life does seem unfair at times; that you will feel the sharp words of others digging into the soft flesh of your innocent chatter. But you will undoubtedly gouge your indignation into some poor soul’s inner core, and you will be the guilty party.

But what is life but a series of highs and lows? An exploration into the unknown.

And then I realize that my job isn’t really to calm the waves, it’s to help you learn to ride them.

Love and reservations,


Monday, August 17, 2009

Alone time

alone time

The homecoming was almost effortless despite having involved a seven-hour round-trip commute.

She threw herself into my arms and banged heads with her brother, who was already clinging in my embrace like a monkey. She didn't seem put out that she couldn't have a hug that was entirely her own.

She just wanted to go home. She wanted to see her house and her toys. She missed her good old friend The Moose Channel; and practically salivated at the memory of her father explaining TV ON DEMAND. Although she didn't believe me when I told her I didn't know how to get "Max and Ruby" at midnight, she accepted the fact that I wouldn't even try.

She was so tired she practically fell asleep in the single flight of stairs.

The boy was tired, too.

In the morning she asked to have "some alone time," which meant she wanted to play with her toys without having to protect them from her brother's grabby fists.

I told her I could only occupy him for about 20 minutes before he'd want to play with her.

I ran water into the BIG tub.

I only had to occupy him for three minutes ... long enough for the lure of boiling jets to call her back upstairs, where they pretended to be pirates setting sail in a wooden salad boat.

On this morning there is nothing more satisfying than a tiny salad bowl filled with imagination.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Simple pleasures

I’ve been in a shopping frenzy since mid July as I’ve run a thrice-weekly circuit between Home Depot and Target to procure items of questionable need as a response to the great Moving/Vacation/Going-to-Kindergarten Shop-o-rama Extravaganza!

I have bought a veritable dime store of ordinary things in the past six weeks: Storage containers, soap dishes, new caddies for a cluster of new cleaning products for under the kitchen sink; there were toothbrush holders and shower rods, curtains and hangers for bathrooms; and dish drainers, dish stackers and baskets for the kitchen cabinets.

Even in vacation the pesky purchasing persisted: I bought tubes and tubes of sun block, products for mosquito massacre and more toys and beach playthings than we had room in the car to return with.

Of course the school supplies put the non-dairy topping on the cake: Washable markers, Twistable crayons, hard-covered binders, oversized book bags and even a blanket for napping.

There is more – of everything – than any family of four could possibly need, so I’ll spare you the details. But as always, I just feel like an overdone chicken every time I spend money: Kind of crisp yet rubbery.

I find it strange how rarely things you are compelled to buy can give a person the satisfaction of simple pleasure: Things like dropping a couple of bucks into a machine at the do-it-yourself car wash and vacuuming a car floor you haven’t seen for the detritus in three years. You almost forget about the missing pocket change and the nine minutes of grunty-grubby work trying to snake that hose around to the backseat passanger side of your sedan until you slide into your car at the end of a workday and are reminded by a clean carpet. It's the best two bucks I’ve spent in a long, long time.

A weekend of simple pleasures
There are few triggers in life that bring a person back to their childhood as weird as a pig roast. But there you have it … a succulent, whole pig turning on a spit does it to me every time.

When I was a kid my parents were close friends with some Irish folks –- not unlike ourselves -- but who raised pigs. Whenever one died as a result of an accident (usually the runt) they’d call all their friends and have a pig roast. It was quite a spectacle: I remember “The Third Man,” showing in the living room, William Kennedy holding court in the den, and a belly dancer, in full regalia, gyrating on the porch. Those days may be gone but pig roasts are still with us.

On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Tsatsawassa Protective Fire Company, serving Brainard, East Nassau and surrounding areas, will host its 21st annual pig roast at the firehouse grounds located off Routes 20 and 66. Refreshments, including hotdogs and hamburgers, start as 1 p.m. as firehouse staff roast the pig, which is served at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 5 to 12, and include food throughout the day. The event is the company’s major fundraiser for the year. A raffle for gift certificates from area merchants will also be held.

Tickets for the roast are still available, however you better get there early. For more information, call 766-3815.

Farm to table
If you’ve spent the summer pushing a wonky-wheeled cart through a super(air-cooled)market, why not get out this weekend and meet some of the people who actually make the food you eat? Farmer’s markets are pulling in their best produce now and every community seems to have one.

Troy Farmer’s Market in Riverfront Park is one of the best in the area, featuring more than 50 local farmers, bakers and artisans sell the freshest local vegetables, fruits, meats, breads, cheeses, baked goods and handmade goods, such as soaps, pottery and crafts. The even is held every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Under the stars

Handy Boys Enterprise in Millerton has established “A Night Under The Stars,” an outdoor movie shown on a large, inflatable screen, at 8:45 p.m. every Saturday night at Eddie Collins Ball Field, between Millerton and Irondale along Route 22. Saturday’s feature film is Madagascar 2. It's an easy and cheap night out. Just bring yourselves, a picnic and a blanket and lawn chairs. The stars (both literal and figurative) will be provided free.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To each her own


My mother saw this photograph and said it look nothing like the Ittybit she knows.

To me it's her, heart and soul.

It's the spitting image of the child I see on a daily basis (or the child I had seen daily up until this past week, as she's been staying with her Maine grandmother for a few extra days of vay-cay-sh-a-mun.)

I miss her. I knew I would.

What I didn't realize was how quiet it would be without her around.

How different the reality is from the respite.

Now I find it strange how quiet can seem nice for a while before it just gets on a person's nerves.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'd like to thank Ralph Nader ...

sparklers, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Even though he had nothing to do with federal laws regulating the safety of children's sleepwear in the early part of the 1970s, particularly as it pertained to flamability. (Car safety was important, too.)

I'd also like to thank the state of Maine for keeping sparklers legal despite the fact that they are not always "safe."

Most of all, however, I'd like to thank Ama Linda who brought the two together. She not only saved her daughter's 70s-era night gown for the possibility that one of her grandchildren would someday get use of it again, but she also has the same love of flickering fireworks as her grandtots.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just TRY and get a kid to look 'neutral' as you point a camera at them

wanted to submit these with their passport applications

will submit these.

I dare you Passport agency rule makers.

No, I double dog dare you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

One, short

We returned from our week in Maine last night having left Annabel with her grandmother for another five days of fun in the sun.

Figures: Halfway home it started to rain.

The hugeness of leaving my baby for a week really crept up on me.

Even though we've talked to her no less than five times in the last eight hours, it just feels weird without her here.

Kinda like that how it feels when you loose a tooth and your tongue keeps finding the empty socket where your tooth had been.

Which Annabel told us all about this morning.

The tooth - a big, front one - fell out right before swim class.

Thanks to her uncle Dobbs for photo documentation!