The burbs, revisited

October 17, 2011 at 4:41 am | Posted in Massholes, Starbucks, the 'burbs, weekend | 1 Comment
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There were approximately 20 children at my house today. There were pigs in blankets, cupcakes, cookies and juice boxes, footballs flying around the house, balloons being popped by rowdy boys, my son grabbing sugar cookies off the counter and eating them in one bite.

For this I blame my friend Melissa. Her daughter is about a month younger than mine; her son about a month younger than Little O. Like me, she moved from the city to the suburbs not long ago. When I saw her at our college reunion this spring, we caught up on our respective suburban lives. I confided that I wasn’t yet sure I loved the ‘burbs. I missed the city and my friends there and that I could stroll to the playground or Starbucks and inevitably run into someone I knew. In the ‘burbs I felt somewhat lonely and, as an extrovert, somewhat adrift in a car-dependent world seemingly dominated by stay-at-home moms.

She was having the opposite experience. “I have never been so busy in my life,” she said. What are you talking about? I said. “I am more social than I ever was in the city,” she replied. Surely, I suggested, this is because you moved back to your hometown; you must know tons of people.

“Nope,” she said. “I hardly knew anyone. But I’m aggressive. Listen, if you meet someone nice at Starbucks or at preschool, get her number and then text her the next day. Get coffee. Or better yet, wine.”

Really? I said. You’re truly that forward?

“I go on dates,” she said. “Basically: You’ve got to stalk.”

We’ve now lived here for two years, and I’m finally feeling like every time I go to the grocery store I run into someone I know. But when I saw my friend again a few weeks ago she asked me about my social progress. “Eh,” I admitted. “I’m a working mom. It’s hard to grab coffee.” She raised an eyebrow, clearly insinuating that I was being lame. So when I got home that night, I bit the bullet: we were going to have a Sunday afternoon Patriots party. I invited some neighbors and some friends we had gotten to know poolside at our little swim/golf club over the summer.

Everyone one could attend, it turns out. So some Barefoot Contessa chicken chili, a seven-layer dip, and Costco artichoke spread later, there were some 12 families, with on average two children each, at our house. I think my kids are going to wake up puking at 2 a.m. from all the sugar, but hopefully they’re too tired to do so.

Oh yes we did. Patriots balloons.

Little Bug impatiently waits for our guests.

Channeling Tom Brady

October 11, 2011 at 8:33 am | Posted in Little O, Massholes, weekend | 3 Comments

It was time to cut off the baby curls. Surprisingly, Tim resisted as much as I did, but finally the hints from our parents and especially our nanny (who kept telling us that people at the playground thought he was a girl. I mean, who really cares, but still…) sunk in. After I took about a million pictures, we hit SuperCuts on Saturday morning. Just like Tom Brady, he went from shaggy to chic. And oh my god he looks like a LITTLE BOY.

Before

A little scared…

Half-way done…

Voila! My little guy, at 20 months.

We’re, like, in the future

January 19, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in Massholes, read this, Starbucks | 1 Comment
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Oh my goodness the weather is depressing. During last week’s blizzard, all the snowplows in our town converged to push all the snow from our street — yes, all of it — into our yard. (Our Christmas tree was on the curb — I do not think we will see it again until April.)  Yesterday at work, I was startled at my desk several times as huge chunks of ice fell off the skyscraper office building and hurtled into my window. Today as I drove into the city, it was just wet and gray, the skyline covered in clouds. I’m sick, Tim’s sick, the kids don’t sleep through the night (if one does, the other does not). I mean, I could go on with the boring complaints, but everyone in the Northeast is singing the same tune. And we don’t even have playoff football to look forward to on the weekends.

But guess what? Guess what happens today? Read here for a more technical explanation, but, in short, I can now buy Starbucks with my iPhone. My two most coveted modern luxuries have joined forces, and so it’s like I’m getting my coffee for free. Or, at least I’m not forking over a debit card, which makes it seem free. Remember when we were younger and movies depicting “the future” would have people looking at each other as they conversed over television screens? We were like, Whoa, no way.  Now I can do that over my phone — my phone that is not attached to a cord and that I carry around with my everywhere and with which I buy Starbucks. How did the future get here? Sometimes it still gives me a little thrill. And right now I’ll take them where I can.

Baby boy

December 2, 2010 at 5:01 am | Posted in Little O, Massholes | 3 Comments

All boy…

My baby boy is 10 months old today. Here is what he likes to do:

Crawl up stairs and try to crawl down them, backwards
Eat rice crackers (Baby Mum Mums)
Steal his sister’s ellie
Pull his sister’s hair
Talk and coo
Yell in his highchair
Take things in and out of containers, such as baskets
In the middle of playing, crawl up to you and try to climb up your leg for a snuggle
Then, immediately after a quick hug, dive for the floor so he is free again
Wake up at 10:30 p.m. for one final feed (we seemed to have solved the sleeplessness!)
Wake up WIDE AWAKE at 5:30 a.m.
Stick his hand in the toilet
Pull all the toilet paper off the roll
Stick his fingers in sockets
Open bureau drawers and then shut his fingers in them
Dance in his mother’s arms
Put small things in his mouth
Bang his favorite toy, the remote control, on his sister’s head or other nearby surface

When we found out we were having a boy, I cried a little bit. Not because I didn’t want a boy. (Of course, I just wanted a healthy baby, of course.) I cried because I just didn’t know I wanted a boy because I didn’t know about boys. I am one of three girls. As my husband points out often when I can’t take his ribbing, I grew up without a great deal of male influence. (My childhood home was full of floral prints and art supplies and girls’ lacrosse sticks and was short on dirt and trucks and baseball bats.) Now I have a daughter. My entire frame of reference for loving a child was loving a girl — and, oh, how I loved her. How could I ever love another baby as much as Little Bug? What if I couldn’t? What if I had that little baby boy and I looked at him in the hospital and didn’t love him as much? At the time I told myself that, were this the case, it might be because he was a boy and not because this was probably a very common feeling before having a second child.  “As soon as this baby is born he is going to own you,” my husband promised me. My friend Rebecca, whose first child was a girl and second a boy, understood in a way to which I could relate a little more immediately. “If you’re bummed about the pink clothes and dresses,” she assured me, “just think: you can dress him like a cross between Prince William and John-John.”

My husband was right, of course.  The end of Little O’s birth was quick and slightly dramatic, and from the second I knew he was going to be fine, he did own me. I would like not to play to stereotypes of gender and birth order, but this kid is easy-going, rough-and-tumble, and unbearably sweet. He is trying to take his first steps and of course I am already nostalgic for his ever-too-quick babyhood. But I also cannot wait to see where he’ll take off running and what he’ll say when those coos and babbles turn to words.

Letter from a very recent ex-Catholic

December 18, 2009 at 11:30 am | Posted in Massholes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have not been to a Catholic Mass in years.  For almost a decade, I have been disillusioned with a church so trenchantly mired in some confused past where women are irrelevant.

Even so, and, despite my vehement disagreement with the church on so many moral/social issues, I do still have a sentimental attachment to the literal practice of the religion itself.  If you grow up going to Sunday Mass, to CCD, its rituals, the cadence of the Mass, become utterly ingrained in your personal history. Every Catholic, everywhere in the world, is standing or kneeling or making the sign of the cross or muttering responses at the same time. I used to think that faith was, in fact, this collective power — the power of so many people following these ancient rituals.  On September 12, 2001, heartbroken and shocked, 3,000 miles away from our home base of New York City, my friend Shaf (who happened to be visiting me at the time in Los Angeles) and I went to morning Mass. It was the only thing we could think to do.

It has proven even more difficult for me to shake off my Irish-Catholic social identity. My mother’s family were old-school, Kennedy Catholics: Catholic grammar school, daily Mass. While the rumor is that my grandmother refused to take communion for awhile, supposedly because she was using birth control, my earliest memories of her include the crucifix hanging over her bed and, when we spent the night at her house, joining her kneeling at the bed to say our morning and evening prayers. I am also now a part of a Dorchester, Mass./B.C. High/Notre Dame-St. Mary’s family of nine children born in a span of 10 years. Tim says he used to tell his mother, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a priest so I never have to get married and leave you.”

My mother remembers the day she got over any lingering sentimentality towards the church.  Pope John Paul II gave a speech in Mexico City (or somewhere in Latin America) in which he railed against birth control. My mother decided that to tell a poor, overpopulated region not to practice birth control was the sin, and that the Pope was a sinner. She never set foot in a Catholic church or identified herself as a Catholic again.

I just had my moment: while reading the transcripts of the lawsuits alleging abuse of children by its priests that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., recently was forced to make public. (The church had spent seven years fighting the release of these documents in court, and was ready to take its case to the Supreme Court, but the Court turned down their request.) In these transcripts, then-bishop Edward Egan, later a cardinal and archbishop of New York, stated “It’s marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.” (Read the NYTimes’ article and excellent editorial.)

That’s it. I’m done.

Politics and more

October 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes, politics | Leave a comment
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Ted Kennedy died, and Massachusetts needs a new senator. The special election takes place January 19, 2010. There are four candidates. In addition, the Boston mayoral election is on November 3.

I moved to Boston in June 2003, and this the longest I’ve stayed put since I went to college. I consider myself relatively well-informed, politically, but these races have hardly registered in my conscious. I don’t know whom I’m supporting, nor who stands for what. The current New Jersey gubernatorial and New York City mayoral races still seem more relevant, somehow. I care more that Christie might actually be the governor of New Jersey (a potential travesty) and find discussing the pros and cons of Bloomberg’s potential term-limit extension much more interesting than whether the Menino machine can be broken.

Maybe this is the problem: In Boston and Massachusetts, in adherence to all stereotypes, the “machine” still seems to means something. If you want to be a player, have a future, in Democratic politics, you support the incumbent mayor for a fifth term, even if you can understand one of every five words he mumbles.

Likewise, now that Martha Coakley seems to have been appointed “the” Democratic candidate, it is unlikely that her three challengers will have a chance. Which is too bad, despite the fact that I’m sure she’d be a good senator (and I’m always supportive of women who run for office). 

Case in point: Last night Tim and I attended a fund raiser for Alan Khazei, another senatorial candidate. Khazei founded the nonprofit City Year (a kind of Peace Corps for teenagers that focuses on inner cities in the U.S.). He’s running a decidedly grass-roots campaign and is embracing the “community organizer” label. (“We have a community organizer in the White House!” he exclaims during his speeches.) I attended not so much because I support Khazei (indeed, I didn’t know much about him before yesterday and even thought his name was spelled like it is pronounced – “Casey” – and he was yet another Irish guy running for office) but because I knew some of the people hosting the fundraiser and was curious about why they were supporting this relative underdog.  The crowd was decidedly young and idealistic, and I spied a few figures whom I knew coveted a future in politics publicly bucking the machine and throwing their support behind Khazei, not Coakley. That in itself was heartening. But I don’t think he has a chance – not because of his message or demeanor (he is a funny, likeable man), but because the fundraising momentum is already behind someone else.

Khazei didn’t necessarily win me over last night. But meeting an actual candidate kindled my overall interest in the race.  In fact, it was invigorating.  I have always thrived when feeling like I’m in the know and aware of the world (one of the reasons why I became a journalist). Though going to the fundraiser meant missing putting Little Bug to bed (and how I miss her when I don’t see her all day!), a night away from my child might be worth it to keep the currents of inspiration and commitment to and interest in the world around me buzzing. In other words, to keep me being me.

Duh, you say. Of course you have to have a life of your own, apart from your kids (isn’t this what all mommy-lit is about?)  In reality, though, we all know how strong the pull of home is after a long day, children or not.  After the event, Tim and I swung by Gaslight (our favorite go-to-French bistro, in large part because of the free parking and quick access to the Expressway) for a quick steak frite. An impromptu weeknight dinner with one’s husband in an actual restaurant – no TVs, no computers, no dirty dishes – discussing politics and our work days (I have a vague fantasy that people without kids or with grown kids do this regularly…) is indeed a rare treat. And further compounded the obvious:  it’s good – essential, important, necessary, fulfilling, sustaining… – to get out of the urban-suburban commuting bubble (home, work, home). There’s a senate race going on and it matters to my life. So do personal relationships. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have stoked both fires.

Shameless publicity stunt

October 23, 2009 at 9:29 am | Posted in Massholes, read this, the media | 1 Comment

Have you heard of Radio Ink magazine?

What, you haven’t? I’m shocked. Well, let me introduce you, here (scroll to p. 26).

Pirates in Boston Harbor

April 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Massholes | 1 Comment

pirates

Well, no, but I am a little obsessed with them at the moment, and with this view from my office window, I spend my days watching the huge container ships come in and out of the harbor. Today brought a particularly large one (I hope you get a sense of the scale — notice the Harbor Hotel in the very foreground — despite the non-iPhone photo), and I just imagined it coming into port from way out in the ocean, dodging pirates on its way.

Spring in Boston

April 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes | 2 Comments

What I will miss when we move to the suburbs: walking to work across the Public Garden and running into not one but two good friends.

spring1

And I will miss bringing Buggy to play on the ducks (dressed here in their Easter finest).

springducks

Real ducks (below).

spring2

Good Friday

April 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes, running, the firm, weekend | 3 Comments
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It’s Good Friday, and I am at work. I realized this morning that I have never worked on Good Friday before. The good lord knows that I am hardly an observant Catholic anymore; however, I feel strangely guilty for being here (even though it’s not like I would be in church or something otherwise).

Good Friday used to mean those three hours Masses where you weren’t allowed to sit down. Catholicism is still a central tenant of my identity, more cultural than religious, but to this day if I go to a church service that is not Catholic, it doesn’t quite feel like church (even an Episcopal service — the Lord’s Prayer is just ever so slightly different at the end…)

We’re not going to church this weekend.* And I hadn’t really thought about making an Easter basket for Little Buggy (to my mother’s horror — but don’t worry: we have been invited to some Easter egg hunts with friends and their children, so at least she can observe that pagan ritual). I do sometimes wonder if I’m doing the right thing by not introducing religion to my child. Tim would argue that we are absolutely doing the right thing, but I think his more traditional (think: lots of kids, Catholic school) religious upbringing has scarred him more than it has me. Still, a nice, liberal, welcoming church with lots of music and stories of love and goodness (such as the church in which we baptized Buggy — see my prior post on that lovely day, here) would be something I could get into — if it didn’t conflict with naptime.

I’m surprised that today is not a holiday at the Firm — it’s a market holiday, and we are in one of the most Catholic cities in the country. The halls seem somewhat quiet today, and I haven’t received many emails, so even though this is no longer a religious holiday for me, I think I shall mark it in my own way by sneaking out a bit early, taking a long run on the river in the spring sunshine, and taking my baby to the playground.

*In addition to this being Easter weekend, it is also Master’s Weekend, a holiday in its own right that borders on the religious in our house. You think I’m kidding.

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