Friday, November 21, 2014


On Thursday morning, JT and I left the house a little later than I would have liked and we were rushing.  Needing to rush in New Jersey is never a good idea and, naturally, things went poorly.  By the time we got to the traffic circle in South Bound Brook, I was not amused.  I was in that circle when a large garbage truck entered in front of me, forcing me to stop quickly to avoid being hit and crushed.  In that second, I shouted and immediately flipped off the driver, who was looking right at me as he cut me off.

I was wearing mittens.

A few seconds later, out of the traffic circle and now crossing the bridge over the Raritan River, my headphone-clad offspring looked at me and said, “that was fucked up.”


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All Grown Up

In the eleven years that I taught in the Upper School, I coached the Model Congress team at my school.  Each November, the team made a trip to Washington D.C., site of the real Congress, and participated in a contest to see if a Congress made up of high school students could do a better job than the actual Congress (hint: Yes, they could).

For most of the years that I made that trip with my team, JT joined us as the team mascot.  Here’s a picture of his first Model Congress trip, in 2006, when he was 6.  That year, I brought some babysitters to watch over the boy while I wrangled teenagers into bed at 1 am.  That’s the amazing J and C pictured with us at the Washington Zoo.

Over the years, we developed traditions during the trip.  Here we are in 2007, the year we started watching an IMAX movie on our annual visit.

When he was 8, he tried his hand at ordering room service.

And we visited the Jefferson Monument.

In 2009, we staged a Viking invasion of the Congress.

The year he was 10, we brought a friend and sought to avoid the scary beasts in the Museum of Natural History.

In 2011, we took a walk to the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Franklin D. Roosevelt monuments.

Our last trip was two years ago, when JT was in the 7th grade.  We messed around in Union Station and took a trip to the Zoo, as if things had come full circle.

Last year, I moved to the Middle School and a new coach took over the team and accompanied the students to the capitol.  This year, as a 9th grader, JT wrote a bill and he's joined the Model Congress team as a member.  His team mascot days are over.  Tomorrow, he heads south to D.C. with his teammates and plans to explore the city with his friends.  He has a good bill to propose and he’s practice debated.   He’s leaving his Mama at home, as befits a 14 year old learning to make his way in the world.  At home, I'll mark the quick passage of time and wonder just how fast the next few years will fly by.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Your Moment of Floral Zen

For my birthday, the principal and assistant with whom I share the office gave me these lovely flowers.

They sat on the table in my dining room last week and provided much-needed beauty and a reminder that even when the job is hard, I have some great colleagues, the kind that know how to laugh off the rough edges of middle school life.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Subtle Asides edition

The backstory:  JT was at the mall with me, a trip he made voluntarily because he had something he wanted to buy himself at the Apple Store.  After the errand at Apple, he found himself at Talbots with me. I had stopped in to purchase a scarf that was on sale.  I treated the mission as a strategic strike and was in the store less than a minute before I located the scarf and stepped up to the counter to make the purchase.  Talbots has a shopper’s reward card that offers occasional discounts.  This fact matters to the conversation that ensued. 

Clerk:  It’s your birthday month.  Would you like to use the 10% off on this purchase?

Me: (knowing that the 10% off can’t be combined with the 25% off I was already using):  No thanks.

Clerk:  Are you sure?

Me (wanting to get out of the store as soon as possible):  Yes, I’m sure.   I’ll come back later this month.

JT:  You’ll come back WITHOUT ME, right?

Apparently, when I return, it will be without the boy. The clerk was distinctly unamused by our  mother-son communication, a fact the boy noted when we left the store, as if it's a character flaw to not get (or enjoy) sarcasm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Child at a Time

Some weeks bring more difficult than I would like and this week seems determined to be that sort of week.  But I’m the kind who fights back against rough weeks and last night I did it by baking and wrapping up homemade cookies for a bake sale at school this morning.

The bake sale benefits Pardada Pardadi School in India, a place where rural girls receive an education.  The Middle School sponsors a student at the school and I can’t think of anything better than ensuring that at least one more girl has a chance at the freedom of education.  

Also: homemade cookies.  That’s happy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Real Life Conversations with T: Organic Ingredients edition

The backstory:  T enjoys Annie’s organic bunny fruit snacks and as I looked the the box and its claim to be both organic and vegan, I had questions.

Me:  How do they make fruity snacks without gelatin?

T:  Weasel earwax?

Me:  Weasel earwax?  

T:  Yes.  No weasels are harmed in the harvest of their earwax.

Turns out it’s just organic tapioca, which likely tastes better but isn’t nearly as amusing to consider.  Also, who has “weasel earwax” at the ready as an answer to questions of any kind?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Food Friday: All Mexican, All the Time

It’s my birthday week and I decided to treat myself by cooking Mexican food for suppers this week.  Here’s a road map to the feasting:

Sunday supper: chicken tacos

This is a go-to celebration supper at Sassafras House, the original comfort food in our world.  A recipe for my chicken can be found here.

Monday supper: burrito bowl

This bowl came together incredibly quickly and was perfectly awesome.  I used red cabbage and leftover guacamole from the day before.  I also used canned black beans that I warmed and spiced up.  I don’t like plain rice, so I used saffron rice from Sunday’s taco supper supper.  I served the bowl with some warmed corn tortillas.  Tasty, easy, delicious and likely to become a staple in this house, the recipe can be found here.

Tuesday: 8 layer dip

Strictly speaking, this dish is Tex Mex but it fit the theme and it’s my birthday, so it qualified.  Plus, JT loves it.  My 8 layer dip features refritos, sour cream, guacamole, chopped tomatoes (the last ones from my garden), grated cheese, green onions, cilantro, and black olives… that order.  There are zillions of recipes for layered Tex Mex dip and if you’ve never made it, try this one.

Wednesday:  shrimp quesadilla

As should be clear by now, Simply Recipes is my go-to website for food basics.  The writer is from Sacramento, California, a place near enough my hometown to ensure that her definition of Mexican food meets mine.  I saw this recipe on the website and give it a try.  Tasty and easy to pull together on a weeknight.  Try it!

This week is proof-positive that I could eat Mexican food every day of the week.  Plus, having a theme for the week sure makes the planning part of cooking easier.  Happy Birthday week to me!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Life Evaluation edition

The backstory:  Yesterday, JT asked me how I felt about my upcoming birthday, when I will turn 47.

Me:  Well, when I was your age, I don’t think I imagined this is where I would be at 47.

JT:  You have a steady paycheck, a nice girlfriend, a place to live, and you've been to Europe. Plus, you have a bad-ass, amazing 14 year old son.  You have a good life.

Put that way, I guess I’m in good shape.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood: November 5

As predicted, one windy storm wiped out the rest of the leaves on the dogwood tree.  The last of them fell off the tree during the Nor’easter last weekend.

Winter will bring snow and ice on the branches of this tree and then, as sure as the sun rises and sets each day, spring’s daylight and warmth will bring blooms.  I'll be here to see it all.  Marking the seasons with my dogwood tree reminds me of the value of patience.

That’s happy!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Government We Deserve

I have to confess that I am absolutely enraged at the response of Governors Cuomo and Christie to America’s full-blown case of ebola panic.  The disease is clearly dreadful and I acknowledge that the anxiety is real but let’s make note that our anxieties are not REALISTIC.  I haven’t been impressed by the CDC in this crisis, but the WHO and Doctors without Borders do have a strong sense of how the disease spreads and how it can be contained.  President Obama has been measured and careful in his rhetoric.  Congress, busily campaigning for re-election after two years of doing nothing, has been virtually silent.  In the meanwhile, the nation has panicked.  In a way, this is a case study of the nation we have become, a group of citizens ignorantly lurching from one media event crisis to the next, with no sense that this is our government and therefore our responsibility.

At the same time, my daily inbox has been clogged with hyperbolic requests that I donate money to various Democratic political causes and candidates.  Many of them are political causes and candidates that I passionately believe in but this year I just couldn’t donate.  Even $5 seemed like a quiet endorsement of the ridiculous behavior of Congress.  I certainly don’t want Republicans to take control of the Senate so that they can run that institution are poorly as they have run the House, but I can’t fathom actually spending a dime to support the nonsense that has become Congress, no matter who is in charge.

I thought about voting against all incumbents, but my Representative (Rush Holt) has resigned and both of the candidates for the House in my my district are newcomers.  My senator, Cory Booker, has only been in office for a year.  He’s up for election to a full term in this seat.  I like and respect him and he has made efforts to reach across the aisle.  I will be casting an enthusiastic ballot in his favor this morning.

As for the rest of it, I feel like the nation is trapped in a cycle of irresponsible behavior as we wait for the bloodsport that will be the 2016 presidential election.  Harry Truman's famous do-nothing Congress has nothing on us.  I expect that Republicans will gain a narrow victory in the Senate and that the Democratic opposition will then take up the obstructionist tactics Republicans have used for the past two years.  The national interest will suffer, of course.  The list of serious issues we've failed to address (global warming, immigration, student loan debt, and more) will grow longer and more serious.  And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.