Bits and pieces

Friday, February 6, 2015

Some favorites from the week:

This hand lotion, which has changed my life (or at least made my horribly dry hands more comfortable.) It's not perfect - it's pricey and the scent is a little strong - but after many winters of searching, I've finally found something that's not greasy and really works. (And I don't have a humidifier, but if I were to buy one, it would be this little one.)

This quote, which I try to keep in mind whenever I listen to the news.

This lesson from a 10-year-old. Livvy stayed after school to help make Valentine bags for a group of homeless children. When she got home, I asked how it was. "Guess where they live?" she said. I couldn't guess. "At the hotel where there was a fire!" (Once, when we drove to a store in a nearby town, the parking lot of an adjoining motel was filled with fire trucks.) "The children live in the motel?" I asked, with what must have sounded like concern in my voice. "But, Mom, they're lucky," she said. "They've got someplace good to stay."

Have a happy weekend.

Hello and goodbye

Monday, February 2, 2015

When Kate and Holt and Livvy were little, no matter what they were doing, they would jump up and shout with happiness when Web walked in the door. It was as though they hadn't seen their dad in weeks and he had finally come back to them. It was the reaction rock stars get when they walk on stage, and all he had to do was walk through the door.

Web (and even I) still get a pretty good greeting from Livvy, but the older two are more subdued now, as you might imagine. Which has made me think quite a lot about the act of saying hello. I make sure to say hello to each of them first thing when I (or they) come in the door, and I make sure they say it back. To be honest, I'm not sure they always would, without a little prodding.

But now I'm also thinking more about goodbye, thanks to a lovely photo essay I came across on the blog Sho & Tell. I say goodbye when Kate, Holt, or Livvy leave, but it's sometimes from another room, or called down the stairs. Sometimes it's just a wave if I'm on the phone. I love how photographer Angelo Merendino says, "There was never an 'I'll just let myself out,' it was always, 'We'll walk you to the door.' " Since his father died, he says, his mother stands alone by the door and waves. You can see the photos here, if you'd like. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to do better with goodbye.

Just a quick shout-out to the New England Patriots from a fan who tunes in only on Superbowl Sunday. It was an exciting game, to be sure, with some good commercials. My favorites, unsurprisingly, were Dove's #realstrength ad and Proctor & Gamble's "Like a Girl." Here's a full-length version, which makes me cry every time I watch.

(Photo by Angelo Merendino.)

Bits and pieces

Friday, January 30, 2015

Some favorites from the week:

This book. I couldn't put it down, and I now I can't stop thinking about it.

I skipped the final season (and season finale) of Parenthood so I'd be able to watch it in one fell swoop. It ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite series, and I will miss the Bravermans terribly.

Remember Felicity? As I waited for the end of Parenthood, I began to spend a few late nights re-watching this other favorite, which ran from 1998 to 2002. Back then, it reminded me of my own time in college. Now, it makes me think of my children, and what's just around the corner. Eek.

Hometown pride.

So it's been a little snowy around here. There were two days off from school, much shoveling and blowing, and a dog in snow heaven, but now we're getting back to normal. As I was driving Holt, who's 12, to school yesterday for his first day back, he reminisced about his unexpected vacation. "I needed that," he said. I had to agree.

(Photo: My 24/7 Media).

Bundle up

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Until this past weekend, when a storm blew through, and tomorrow, when a blizzard (!) is expected, it's been a winter of almost no snow, and that's been a beautiful thing. I like snow, I really do, but I also love the ease of no-snow (with apologies to the ski resorts). Even the cold hasn't been too bad, with just a few stretches of bone-chilling temperatures.

It was during one of these stretches recently that my daughter Livvy had an early-morning hockey game in a rink I'd never been to before. There were large gaps in the siding of the barn-like structure, with birds flying in and out, to say nothing of the howling wind. We saw little of the game because the plexiglass surrounding the rink was iced over. The only thing left to do was to try not to freeze.

Which leads me to blankets. The smartest hockey parents come bundled up in down coats, mittens, and hats, of course, but they also bring armfuls of blankets, which they wrap around themselves or cover the benches with, or both. They carry all kinds of blankets, but the ones I love best (and look at most longingly) are the wool camp blankets - the kind that used to be in my attic. There was a blue one, a pink one, and an olive-drab one, all a little scratchy but dense and very warm. My sister and I brought these blankets to camp, but my own children protested when it was their turn to go and begged for softer, fluffier fleece. And then, in a moment of needing to clear out, I got rid of them (the old blankets, not the fleece and not the children). I'm horrified and wish I could take it back.

I also wish I knew what happened to another childhood blanket - plaid, the wool not as scratchy, with fringe on either end. On days I stayed home from school not feeling well, I would lie on the couch under that blanket and braid the fringe. Hour after hour of braiding between naps, reading, and whatever was on television. That blanket is gone, too.

So the other day I went on ebay and found a blanket to keep in my car and take to the rinks. The wool isn't as thick as the ones from the attic, but I think it will do the trick. I bought another one to cover the bench or throw over the couch at home. It has fringe on either end like the one I remember, just in case anyone needs practice braiding.

(Ebay is a good source for wool blankets at low prices. For more of a splurge, I like this, and this, and this. And now Target has gotten on the warm-wool-blanket bandwagon with its collaboration with Faribault.)

Photo from

Bits and pieces

Monday, November 24, 2014

I'm going to just jump right in and pretend my last blog post was yesterday - not June 3. Good lord. My early New Year's resolution is to do much, much better.

In my long time away, I kept a list of thing I could - and wanted to - write about, i.e. books read, products found, articles loved. So here are a couple of those thing to kick off the start of a new commitment to blogging.

It feels like a million years ago now, but over the summer I read, among other things, Big Little Lies, The Arsonist, and, most recently, And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass. I hated for this last one to end, so I'm now rereading Three Junes and plan to go back to I See You Everywhere, two earlier Glass books I loved. Quick tip: And the Dark Sacred Night revisits characters from Three Junes, so if you read Three Junes first, it helps (but isn't necessary).

I was chatting with a friend on the playground not long ago about the death of Boston Mayor Tom Menino, which led us to how we keep up (or don't keep up) with the news, and she told me about the skimm. Have you heard of it? It's a daily email highlighting the news stories of the day (or, really, the previous day) and - more important - explaining those stories in simple terms. Whoever writes the skimm is funny and smart and keeps things brief, and I love it.

I'm also loving a new-to-me blog that has nothing to do with the daily news. It's called The Mom Edit, and it's a fashion blog, but a kind of everyday, mom-ish fashion (in the best sense of the word), with articles such as "Seven Ways to Style a Basic Grey Sweater Dress," "How to Tie Your Scarf Like the November J. Crew Model," and "That Time I Wore My Mom's Dress to New York Fashion Week." "The Mom Edit" is really for new mothers trying to get back to their more stylish selves, but Shana Draugelis writes in such a down-to-earth, fun way that it works even for those of us whose babies aren't babies but who still need help getting dressed each morning.

My youngest daughter, Livvy, who is nine, asked the other day if iPhones were invented when I was little, and she was shocked when I told her there were no iPhones when she was born. Imagine. It reminded me of this fabulous article in The New York Times Style Magazine about how - despite what we might tell our children - life wasn't really better in the old days, when we didn't carry our phones with us and there was no Internet to keep us connected 24/7. "We can't become hostages to the romantic notion that the past is always a better country," Andrew O'Hagan writes. "There's a few million girls with flatirons who will happily tell you the opposite."

Photo: Free People

Of birds and babies

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are having a little wild kingdom moment outside our tame, suburban home. Somewhere on our property - under the house? behind the garden shed? - lives a particularly smelly skunk. This skunk is not just visiting, we believe. It has set up permanent residence. We know we should call animal control, but have we? No, we have not. Instead, we live with a sense of daring (or dread) every time we open the door to let Clementine the dog outside. She's been sprayed before. We know the drill. And recently, when I was weeding in a particularly fragrant part of the yard, I expected each time I looked up to be staring into the beady eyes of a furry face. So far, thankfully, he (or she) has not made an appearance.

Meanwhile, in the front of the house, in a small tree by the side door, a soon-to-be-mama bird has carefully built a nest and spends most of her days tending her eggs. The egg part I can only surmise, because I haven't yet brought out a chair or step-ladder to look in. And that's because she's always there. The only time she flies away is when I walk out the door, and then she swoops down in front of me and swoops back up into a different tree nearby. Startled, I give a little yelp every time.

Some background: When I was small, we visited friends at a farm in Maine. They had several outbuildings, and we slept in one. One afternoon, I went back to the room, closed the door, and immediately realized there was a bird trapped inside that was frantic to get out. It flew back and forth across the room, flapping its wings. I was terrified. I don't remember who got out first - the bird or me - but I do remember that feeling of being trapped myself. As a result, I've never been the biggest bird fan. I'm more of a bird-avoider.

Which is why it's ironic how happy I am about this mother bird sitting in her nest outside our door. I could do without the swooping, but she's so patient to sit there each day, with her little beak pointing toward the sky. She's so motherly. And what skill to build that nest! I'm impressed with the whole operation. Sometimes, before I get in the car or do whatever it is I've come outside to do, I stand for a moment and watch her, and I think she might be looking at me, too. I suspect she won't stay long after those babies are born and learn to fly, but for now I'm glad she's here.

Update: She did it! The babies are here! They hatched soon after I wrote this post, and no step-ladders were used in the taking of this slightly blurry photo. Instead, a friend of Holt's climbed up on his shoulders and snapped away. Welcome to wild kingdom, baby birds.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

And so it begins - or ends, as the case may be. I have a niece graduating from high school (and moving from China to college in NYC) and a daughter moving the much shorter distance from middle school to high school.

So I'm thinking about graduation gifts and trying to channel the mind of an 18-year-old (the 14-year-old is easier, since I live with her). What I've come up with are all things a certain 40-something also wouldn't mind having. Isn't that the sign of a good gift - something you'd want for yourself?

Jewelry, of course. I love this navy brass bracelet and its straightforward name, 'Love This Navy Brass Bracelet' from Isabel Harvey.

In case my niece (or yours) is more of a necklace girl, there's this 'I Heart You' necklace, because I do love her, and I'm sure you love your graduate, too. Also from Isabel Harvey.

I'm a pushover for aviators. I particularly like these new top-bar shades from Madewell.

I haven't yet read Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts On Kindness, but I'm a George Saunders fan.

David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher at the high school my daughter will attend, gave a graduation speech in 2012 called "You Are Not Special," that was picked up by media outlets around the world. He turned that speech into a book of the same name, and I'd like to both read it and give it as a gift.

Both my daughters have these cameras (like the Polaroids of old), and they love them. My 8th grader often brings hers with her when she stays over at a friend's, and the photos she takes are very fun. I think a freshman in college might like one to help document the year, so I'm putting the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera on the list as well (and adding a box or two of film).

I got into the graduation spirit last night when I read a speech given this month to graduating seniors at the University of Texas at Austin, called '10 Life Lessons From a Navy Seal' about what we all can do to change the world. You can read it here, if you'd like.

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