Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mercredi Gras

Ah, Halloween. Weight Watchers be darned. I've used up all my discretionary calories for the entire week in one evening.

Here's Abby, our little ballerina, striking a pose in character before she went trick-or-treating. I've never seen her so excited. She was wired for sound and ready to go before school this morning, when the first words out of her mouth were "Happy Halloween!"

Here we have Brian, our leopard. This photo caught him as his mighty roar was winding down. He loved going out tonight, but was ready for bed as soon as he got home. I don't know too many three-year-olds who essentially beg to go to bed every night.

And here is little Timmy, our bumblebee, who was flying all around the house, buzzy noises and all, but couldn't do any of that when the camera came out. He tried to go into nearly every house he went to.

Hope everyone out there had a safe and happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weight update

I didn't post on Monday, my weigh-in day, because I was still thinking in iambic septameter (heptameter?) I think my four baseball poems were more Dr. Seuss than Ernest Thayer. Would that make me Sam Iamb?

Anyway -- last week wasn't a great weight loss week. I ended up losing a half-pound, which actually was reasonable since I started eating on Friday and never really stopped the madness until Sunday night. I'm back on the straight and narrow, now, and even passed up dessert at my writer's group tonight. Slow and steady wins the race, I'm telling myself.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Game four began with highest hopes from every Red Sox fan.
Then right away Jacoby hit and onto second ran.
Pedroia grounded out at third, Ellsbury took that base,
Then scored on Papi’s single hit, a smile upon his face.

Three up, three down, three up, three down, amid a walk or two;
The fans swung towels ‘round, but there was nothing they could do
To prevent Varitek from scoring Lowell in the fifth.
The score was two-to-none and stayed that way throughout the sixth.

The seventh, our third baseman homered; Red Sox now had three.
The Rockies put one on the board. The next one brought Kielty
In his first Series appearance. He homered on a pinch,
The Rockies got another two; we couldn’t give an inch.

The score stood, four-to-three, through the beginning of the last,
Ellsbury caught a deep left fly; thank goodness that he’s fast.
Then Papelbon took a deep breath and struck the batter out.
The Red Sox were the champions; and all the fans did shout:

Hooray for our dear Red Sox, who have won it all this year!
We kept the faith. You proved us right. The Nation, full of cheer,
Now celebrates our baseball team, who’ve proved that they are great.
Two-thousand-seven’s over. Let’s bring on two-thousand-eight!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Part the third

A chilly night it was again, this time in Denver’s park.
The Rockies thought their Fogg would leave the Red Sox in the dark.
The first and second had no score; the fans their towels waved.
But by the bottom of the third, the fans in Boston raved.

For Ortiz doubled into right; Ellsbury scored a run,
The pitcher walked Ramirez, thinking him a loaded gun.
Pedroia was at third when Lowell hit a single blast;
Our Dustin and Big Papi scored, though Ortiz isn’t fast.

Then Manny was called out at home, but Lowell ran to third,
On a single from Varitek. Then Lugo walked, my word.
With bases loaded, Dice-K hit to left – who knew he could
Make contact, bat-to-ball; the leather hard on solid wood?

Two RBIs for Matsuzaka, then another hit,
From Ellsbury again. Fans watching liked this not one bit.
Before the third was over, the game’s score was six to naught,
The fourth and fifth brought little change; the fans in Boston thought

The Sox would win. It took a lot for them to think that way.
The curse had been gone but three years; that night ‘twas to the day.
The mem’ry of two-thousand-four was sweet, their hearts were light;
The Fenway faithful drank a coffee, their third for the night.

The score changed not until the Rockies in the sixth got two.
The seventh brought three more for them; the Nation simply knew
A lead of one was much too close. ‘Twas Red Sox, six to five.
But our dear Olde Towne Team just then began to come alive.

They got three more runs in the eighth, another in the last.
The worry and anxiety was a thing of the past.
The Red Sox won. ‘Tis three to none. So let the fourth begin.
What need of caution now? There’s only one game left to win.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Apology, part 2

The second game at Fenway 'twixt the Sox and mountain men,
Had fans asking each other if their team would win again.
The Rockies took an early lead. The Schill had hit a man,
Then Helton grounded into first. Taveras homeward ran.

The Olde Towne Team went one-two-three; The Rockies did the same.
The bottom of the second brought no changes to the game.
When Drew was hit, then hope sprang up; but luck had come too late;
The third good pitch our Varitek watched sail over the plate.

Three up, three down again they went at the top of the next.
The bottom passed, then top of fourth. The fans all said, perplexed,
"Where are those bats our favorites swung when they won yesterday?"
Then Varitek scored Lowell, which just might have saved the day,

For there was only one more run scored on that chilly night.
Big Papi came home in the fifth to set the score aright.
'Twas two to one through all the rest of World Series game two.
Okajima and Papelbon made sure that it was true.

So now the Red Sox go out west, to face the mountain men
on their home turf. We'll cheer for them to do their best again.
Around the Hub, our steps are light, our faces in a grin,
and there's cautious optimism, with but two games left to win.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

With Apologies to Ernest Thayer

Anticipation was the rule in Boston yesterday;
With Beckett on the mound and at least four games left to play.
The mountain boys were hot. They hadn't lost a game in weeks;
Francona rocked and paced and watched, tobacco in his cheeks.

The Rockies failed to get on base when they first came to bat.
Then catcher Torrealba looked at Francis 'neath his hat;
The pitcher read the signs and mentally prepared to throw;
The two of them were certain that the ball in glove would go.

Pedroia stood behind the plate and gave a swing or two;
He waited for his pitch as finer batters often do.
And one flew by, but on the next, he knew that he could pounce;
That baseball sailed left to the wall, and off the top did bounce.

"Home run," the umpire said, and Dustin jogged 'round to the plate.
The fans at Fenway and at home, who knew that he was great,
Went crazy for the rookie, who's so good at second base.
It looked to be a soggy night for Colorado's ace.

From then, the Red Sox never stopped. 'Twas three-zip in the first,
No doubt the Rockies were concerned the second would be worse.
Then Tulowitzki doubled off the wall to score a run,
Big Papi answered with the same; the rout had just begun.

The third one passed without a score; it was a boring inning,
But by the fourth the Fenway crowd was thinking about winning.
For Varitek scored Papi and Ramirez with a hit,
The scoreboard bellowed, "Six to one!" The Rockies had a fit.

Then Youkilis doubled to left; Ellsbury came to score.
The fifth inning was was underway. Surpassing inning four,
The Sox scored seven runs in all. The score stood at thirteen
to one lone run. The mountain men were turning shades of green.

And that was it. The final score when nine innings had passed,
Was thirteen-one. 'Twas so much fun. The game was done at last.
The way they were defeated, Colorado thinks a sin.
And there's cautious hope in Mudville, with but three games left to win.

Feature story

Here's my piece in today's Patriot Ledger about Ali's Place, a new store that sells cancer awareness items and gifts in Plymouth. My first newspaper feature!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Less would be more

I lost a pound plus change this week, so that brings me to a total loss of 7.2 pounds in two weeks. Not bad, considering I wasn't very vigilant while my mother was visiting this past weekend. I'm being very faithful about getting to the gym or doing my step aerobics tape (fondly known as the kick tape) 5 times a week. I'd like to do six, but so far it hasn't happened, and I like the days off, too.

In other news -- last Tuesday I was disengaging myself emotionally from the Red Sox. It looked like the pennant was all but lost, and with the long, cold winter standing between October and April, I had to turn my energies in another direction. But now, with the world series looming, I'm lost in the Sox drawer again, and it started with the win last week in Cleveland. It escalated to the point that I saved all my weekend laundry-folding for the evening, when the games were on. I even went to bed last night when the Sox were ahead 5-2, and then proceeded to watch the rest of the game from under the covers.

This is not typical behavior. I can see a few late nights coming my way, starting on Wednesday.

Two new published pieces

These are printed in the October 24 issue of the Tinytown Gazette:

Twice-Fallen Heroes, page 5
The Parade of Unrealized Boyfriends (I Love a Parade), page 8

Also check out pieces by two friends from my writers' group:

Suzette Martinez Standring, page 3
Ruth Baltopoulos, page 7

Happy reading!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ten blessings

In no particular order:
  1. Work I enjoy: teaching, singing, writing
  2. Mom, an easy houseguest
  3. Having enough to eat, and I don't mean just while I'm doing Weight Watchers. It really bothers me that so many people in the world go hungry. I think it's time to start contributing to Oxfam again.
  4. Peace and quiet first thing in the morning
  5. Three beautiful (sleeping) children (see #4)
  6. The "starship" minivan, which lets me go where I need to go
  7. Knowing that whatever it is, Earl and I can work through it as a couple
  8. The vast network that supports us: family, friends, kids' therapists and teachers, understanding employers, other parents
  9. Fitting it all in, most days
  10. Realizing that a list of ten blessings doesn't even begin to cover it

The missing links

Here are links to my published columns thus far:

The Patriot Ledger, religion column, May 2007

The Milton Times, Mother's Day column, May 2007

Tinytown Gazette: This is a bi-weekly paper covering five towns on the South Shore of Massachusetts. The paper loads as a .pdf and my columns have run in the following issues:

October 10: Shop Vac'ing the Starship, page 13
September 26: Too Old at Three, page 3
September 12: A Day of Firsts, page 8
August 29: Gone Country, page 13
August 15: Fat Elephant, page 1

I should be able to add more links in the near future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mr. Sunshine

Timmy and I took Abby to school this morning, like we do most days. A John Denver Greatest Hits CD was in the car, left there from Earl's outing to his parents' house on Saturday. Apparently it made quite an impression on Timmy, who started singing "Sunshine on My Shoulders" as soon as we got out of the van and continued until Abby was standing in line with her class.

It went something like this:

Sunshine...ona showdow...make ee happeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...
Sunshine...ina ahhhhhes...can make ee cwyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...

Over and over, with the sun on our shoulders all the way to school.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An outlaw no more

I finally got the van inspected this morning. Of course there was a police car right in front of the inspection station, but fortunately I guided the nose of the van into the parking lot without any further interaction with law enforcement. And now my new orange sticker will shine as the emblem of this law-abiding driver for another twelve months. Or nineteen.

Timmy and I went to the gym, and then picked up a few groceries. Crescent-rolls-in-a-tube were on sale, and the kids love them so I picked some up to have with dinner tonight. Then we were on our way to pick up Brian from preschool. Suddenly, I heard a loud pop, and my first thought was that the U.S. marshals were shooting at me because they found out I only got my inspection sticker today and they don't like my kind. Then I thought I might have blown a tire, but the on-board computer didn't say anything about the tire pressure. Finally, I decided it must have been a falling acorn that pinged the roof with extra volume and probably left a dent.

When we got home, I didn't see any evidence on the van of an attack by U.S. marshals or acorns. So carried the groceries inside and put Timmy down for his nap. It was then that the mystery was revealed: one of the cans of crescent rolls couldn't take the pressure any more and had exploded in the bag. Guess we're having that one tonight.

Good news and bad news

The good news: I lost 6 pounds last week.

The bad news: The good folks at Weight Watchers took away approximately 180 calories a day, based on my new weight, so I have to eat even less this week. Celery, anyone?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Alphabet soup

A is for Abby, who went to her second CCD class this morning but didn't want to go to church with me after she got home.

B is for Brian, who is helping his father build a stone wall in the back yard.

C is for car, where I spent way too much time yesterday.

D is for dishwasher, which I need to empty and refill.

E is for Earl, who took all three kids to visit his parents yesterday, leaving me with some much-needed work time and relaxing time.

F is for football, which will be responsible if there aren't very many people at the mass I'm going to sing at 5:00 today.

G is for a Greek Orthodox wedding, which I sang a couple of preludes for yesterday, one even in Greek. Brian's former ABA therapist was getting married and asked me to sing, and I stayed for the ceremony, which was unlike any wedding I had ever witnessed.

H is for Halloween costumes, which I now have figured out for all three kids.

I is for iPod, which refuses to charge for some reason.

J is for Jimbo's, where my sister and I went for dinner last night. Mmmmmm.

K is for my brother Keith, who is coming to visit next week.

L is for laptop, which I really want, to make the whole information-gathering process for freelancing much more streamlined.

M is for Map-O-Spread, which is a yummy maple-flavored toast and bagel topper. It's only available in Canada, and my in-laws brought back four containers for us last week. We're stocked for the winter.

N is for nap, which is what Timmy is taking right now.

O is for outside, where I need to go today to soak up some sunshine.

P is for Plymouth, where I went yesterday to interview some people for a freelance assignment.

Q is for quiet, which is how my house is right now. This is why I'm not outside.

R is for Red Sox, who need to play better than they did last night if we're going to get to the World Series.

S is for stock -- chicken stock -- which I made this morning out of the bones left over from Earl's yummy roasted chicken from Friday.

T is for Timmy, who greeted Abby after her CCD class with such enthusiasm, and a big hug to go with it.

U is for uh-oh, I have to think of something for the letter X.

V is for voice, which is feeling good these days.

W is for Weight Watchers, which I've been faithful to all week.

X is one of those little football symbols coaches put on their diagrams of plays. Hopefully Belichick has some good ones today.

Y is for yell, which I did at Brian this morning and made him cry. He and Timmy were beating each other up, and Timmy was crying from that. A few minutes of hugs made it all better for them, but not for me.

Z is for zzzzzz, which I hope no one is doing after slogging through this bowl of alphabet soup.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sorry, wrong color

Yesterday I was in the car with the boys, talking to Earl on the phone, when I got a back windowful of flashing blue lights. "Uh-oh, honey, gotta go. I'm getting pulled over."

The cruiser had been sitting at the end of my street, and came after me as soon as I turned the corner. What had I done? And why had I been so careless as to do it in front of a cop?

Mind racing, I dug through my purse for my license. Amid the old grocery receipts and new toothbrushes from the kids' recent trip to the dentist, I finally found my wallet. I pulled out the least flattering photo ever taken in the history of the Registry, and waited for the moment of reckoning.

Madame Officer approached and said, "Do you know your registration sticker is expired?"

I turn and see that there's a very clear number 3 with a blue border adorning the lower right corner of my windshield. That means that somehow it slipped our minds in March that it was time to get the van inspected. I don't even know what color the sticker is supposed to be this year.

I said the only thing that popped into my mind: "I'm going to kill my husband!"

Madame Officer smiled and said, "I would, too." Then she handed me a written warning, and told me to get it inspected as soon as I could. And I very gingerly continued on my way.

A new home

I moved my old blog, and transferred the posts here from the old address. Welcome to my new home!

A return to my roots

I got a call this morning to sing a funeral tomorrow at a Methodist church in Quincy. I'm pleased, not only for the extra income, but also because I get to sing "The Lord's Prayer," by Malotte, an oldie but a goodie.

I found the music and sang through it a couple of times, and it felt good. Timmy was laughing and saying "Mommy LOUD! Mommy singing!" I don't do much singing around the house, and none that ventures into the higher part of my range, because Abby and Brian both get very upset at the volume and intensity. But Timmy thought it was great. Good boy.

Back to the music. The Malotte was a real standard in the mainline Protestant churches of my youth, but I haven't heard it much since I became a Catholic more than 15 years ago. It was nice to revisit, and see how it's changed, or rather, how the way I sing it has changed. It felt very free and easy, and the middle-voice stuff (read: most of the song) is no big deal now. For that, I am sure I have to thank being older; being a better singer; singing almost exclusively in middle voice for my cantoring jobs since 1996; and having three children in four years. (The power and effect of hormonal changes during pregnancy cannot be overstated. During one pregnancy, this soprano once sang a credible B-flat an octave below middle C while teaching a piano lesson. I don't think anyone would have hired me to sing Rigoletto, but still.)

I think I'm a better singer now due to my teaching, too. Of course, I hand down words of wisdom from my past teachers to my current students. But trying to articulate the particulars of vocal technique forces me to be very specific and clear, and that rubs off on my singing. At the very least, thinking like a voice teacher helps me be a problem-solver in both the studio and the practice room.

So tomorrow during the funeral, I'll keep my ribs expanded and my soft palate high, and sing this chestnut of a solo as beautifully as I can. And hope that it brings comfort to the mourners, and maybe even a little (more) joy to the departed.

Boy wonder

My sweet son, my little one....
From Auntie Chris's song-gift to Brian at his birth

Brian, Brian, Brian. You are three years of blue-eyed smiles and sunshine hair. A big boy most of the time but still little enough to need Mommy when the going gets tough. I am full of you today.

You amaze me with your intellect and eagerness to learn. You color like a champion; you write your name legibly. Your idea of fun is to do "table work" alongside Abby when she has her first-grade homework to do.

You read. (At 40 months old!) Like last week, when we were stopped at an intersection in the car and you shouted from the back, "I see the word PIZZA!" You quickly learned that reading doesn't always equal getting, but it didn't diminish your enthusiasm.
You love to "play Starfall" on the Starfall website with your sister. I honestly think you read nearly as well as she does. And you have mastered the mouse.

Your delight when you play the piano is contagious. You're playing the first "Twinkle" variation now with your right hand, and you're nearly ready to tackle the left. It makes me so happy to see how much you love music and how you want to learn. It's too early to tell, but I am hoping (!) you will play alongside my other students on the recital in May.

And dance class! Today I had the chance to watch your class warmup, and was proud nearly to bursting at how well you followed directions and participated.

My sweet, sweet son. I am humbled by the responsibility your father and I have been given.


I joined Weight Watchers online yesterday. There's something about making a commitment, and paying money to do it, that is motivating to me somehow. I've been hungry, but not overly so, and I'm pretty excited to be taking this concrete step to do something about my weight. My goal is to lose 18 pounds, and to not find them again.

While at the gym yesterday, I caught some of the Today show. From what I could tell by the captions, one guest had lost more than 100 pounds, with another 20 to go. She said she did it not by following a diet, but by deciding to "live-it" -- thinking of her commitment to healthy living as a way of life, not a temporary fix. I like that idea very much.

Can't weight any longer

I think I'm nearly ready to get serious about taking off the 15 pounds or so that I need to lose. This will likely involve joining Weight Watchers. I've always been a guerrilla-type, go-it-alone dieter, but I've been trying to go it alone for the better part of a year, and I've gone exactly nowhere.

I haven't made the commitment yet, but I keep remembering the thinner me, inside, and am realizing that she's been hiding so long she may take some somewhat rigorous coaxing to emerge again. It will take time and effort, and priorities will have to be shifted (the exercise and meal-planning pieces of my life pie will get bigger; something else will have to get smaller -- sleep? emailing? writing?) But once she joins me again, I think I'll be able to readjust and it won't take as much time and effort to keep her around as it did to dig her out.

I'll keep you posted.

A dose of normal

On Friday we took the kids apple-picking, and it was a great day. Very warm -- hot, really -- and sunny; more like summer than October. We went to Lookout Farm in Natick because it was relatively close and it had a lot of interesting things for the kids, like a petting zoo and play area.

I had read an article in the paper a few weeks ago about how many U-pick orchards and farms were charging admission in order to remain financially solvent. Lookout Farm is one of them, and it's a good thing we went on a weekday because it cost $27 for the five of us. If we had gone on a weekend or holiday, it would have been twice that much, not including any fruit.

Once we got over the sticker shock, we had a great time. There's a little train ride that takes you to various stops in the orchard, and naturally we went for the stop with the petting zoo and play area. The kids enjoyed seeing the goats, no doubt because they have chevres-amis in Canada over the summer. They also enjoyed seeing the new calf, the emu, and even a very shy (or very hot) pig, who was resting in the presumed coolness of its shed.

Then we played on the playground for a while. Timmy and Brian owned the slide, and Abby flitted from one structure to another. Timmy even clapped for another two-year-old who apparently impressed him with her sliding technique.

Then we filled five bags with enormous Jonagold and Golden Delicious apples, and a few Asian pears. The sweet smell of grapes on the vine wafted down from the arbor over the train path. Back at the main building, we paid for our apples and picked out a few pumpkins to brighten our fall doorstep.

We then took the kids to Friday's for dinner. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. We have been very hesitant to take the kids out in the past, given the eating and behavioral issues, and just the complexity of dealing with three young children at a public table. But we all had lunch at a Friendly's on vacation in August, and that inspired us to try the evening meal.

And it was just great. The kids all ordered burgers and fries, and ate as well or better than they do at home. Timmy and even Brian made small talk with the waitress; no one spilled anything; no one got sick.

It makes me so happy to think that we can actually do something normal as a family. For years it seemed as though having small children, and then having two of them on the autism spectrum, prohibited us from doing any normal family outings -- going apple-picking, eating in a restaurant, going to the beach or a children's museum. But we've done all those things within the last couple of months and have actually enjoyed them -- by which I mean that the pleasure of seeing the kids have fun, and having fun with them, outweighed the busy-ness of preparation and anxiety of making sure no one had a meltdown, or wandered away, or acted too autistic in public.

Little kids plus special needs still equals lots of work and worry, but I'm beginning to feel the proverbial glimmers of hope with more regularity lately. And that makes me very happy.

A piece of the pie

Life is a pie. We all have many pieces in the pie, and they make demands on our time, energy and psyche. When one piece gets bigger, adjustments have to be made, because that pie plate is only so big.

That reads like the opening narration of a Grey's Anatomy episode, but it's a theory I've had for a long time. I find when I'm feeling out of balance, it's because I'm resisting the adjustments. I tend to try and put more in the pie plate than it can possibly hold, and while it makes for a very full life, it can get messy.My main pie pieces are:
  1. Being a mother to my three children: Abby (6), Brian (3) and Timmy (2).
  2. Taking care of my marriage to my dear husband of 14 years, Earl.
  3. Being a musician: cantoring three masses most weekends and teaching my private voice and piano students. Oh yes -- and practicing.
  4. Being a writer: putting words on paper in such a way that people will find interesting, maybe even funny or helpful. Maybe all three.
  5. Being a published writer: querying editors, seeking new outlets, coming up with story ideas.
  6. Physical and spiritual self-care: going to the gym and trying to eat healthily; eking out time to remember why I'm here and how the pieces of my life are fitting in -- or not -- with God's larger plan.
  7. Mental self-care: keeping in touch with friends and family; knowing when not to keep in touch with friends and family; finding time to relax.
  8. Running a busy household.

I'll be writing here about all of these pieces, and new ones that get crammed into the pie plate. Bon appetit!