Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo! (Scared you.)

Happy Halloween from all of us! May you follow the yellow brick road to the land of tricks or treats.

As my wife astutely pointed out to me, our updating of the Wizard of Oz theme in many ways (unintentionally) embodies the message of the original story:
  • the brainless scarecrow (that's me, by the way) has a PhD in philosophy and works at an Ivy League school;
  • the heartless tin man (or robot, in our version) probably has the biggest heart of us all;
  • the cowardly lion is likely the most confident of us all;
  • the homesick rural Dorothy was actually born in a very urban Asian city—very far indeed from Kansas; and
  • the original Toto (at least from the movies) was both dark haired and, well, alive.

Here's to finding that what you seek has been right there inside you all along.
Or, barring that, may you fill the empty void with fun-sized sweets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On the train

Above the 7:53 NJ Transit express train to Trenton, the rest of the night seems to lift up and off like a silver dome pulled off a meal, but the moon hangs around until it's a jewel in blue.  Once as the train creeps along the rails, I see that a track switch has made a ditch that has become a pond full of lolling ducks.  A few moments later, we're still going slow enough for me to watch a deer (no kidding) maneuver the brush along a parking lot.

It is enough today to be on the train.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sights & Sounds for the Week

Q has a new favorite book these days—namely, There’s a Monster at the End of this Book—a Sesame Street classic starring your lovable, furry pal Grover. I won’t ruin the nice surprise for you (who could the monster be?), but at one salient point in the story Grover confesses that he’s so embarrassed. Q has picked up on that word, and she now points out when others are embarrassed, usually characters in other books. And she gets it right most of the time. Exercise for the reader: Define the word “embarrassed” without looking it up. Extra Credit: Now explain the concept first to a four-year old and then a 2.5-year old. I’d love to hear your attempts.

The Boy has been back at school for a little over a month now, and my wife and I were worried that he would be bored, mainly because the school is the same and now he’s the oldest in his class. No need to worry, it turns out: Because he only has nine kids in his class, he receives age-specific attention from the two (yes, two) teachers. The Boy recently informed us, for example, that he is “an author” because he has “a book full of letters.” Each day at school he has been practicing writing, dedicating an entire page to each letter of the alphabet. He’s now on ‘h’. After a recent class visit, my wife remarked that he writes in a book that looks alarmingly like the Blue Books she filled during her law school exams. (Next they’ll probably have him learning Denelian.)

The Boy so liked a robot book (itself a recent purchase) that my wife bought another in the series, along with several other books, via the Internet. And what happened was what sometimes happens with on-line orders: We discovered that this latest one was in fact a coloring book, and a rather long one at that—23 pages, in fact. The Boy really wanted to read it, but quickly flagged with boredom because, well, uncolored the story doesn’t really hold your attention. So my wife decides to color the whole thing, and when she decides to do something, she rather does it. Each night for several days, after the kids finally gave in to sleep, she would sit hunched at the table or in the bed neatly enlivening the story. During the day, The Boy would offer criticism—“Couldn’t you use a cooler color than yellow for that?” or “Next time the robot rabbit should be blue.” One particular, recent night, my wife had to join a conference call during the usual bath and book time, so she retreated into our bedroom to avoid distractions and distracting. After finally working Q and The Boy into bed (and after my wife briefly left the phone alone face up in our bedroom to deliver kisses), I came into her still on her call with lawyers and bankers, coloring carefully away on the final few pages of The Boy’s book.

Now, who, exactly, are the adults and who are the children?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

So this is why we live here

We spent both Saturday and Sunday at wonderful festivals. On Saturday, we hit nearly every tent at CultureFest in Battery Park. On Sunday we left our part of the island for the Upper West Side and Columbia University who were hosting The New York Times Great Children's Read. We took around a kajillion photos (as usual), but I've collected just 12 here to experiment with the embedded slide show feature.

A free festival on the campus of Columbia University in which Julie Andrews talks about which children's books she loved the most and where They Might Be Giants jazz up the strollered crowd—these kinds of things remind us why we put up with New York.

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's way past time that I admit this

The ladies

So I've crossed the 100 post mark (a little while ago), and my wife deserves a lot of credit for that. She encouraged me to start this little record in the first place and then keep it going when I start to flag. She's given me ideas for posts.

And she's been a great editor. I'm a tinkerer and supposedly an expert on writing, but she quite often has a sharper eye and a keener ear. In even the last little post on pumpkin summer, for example, I originally wrote "pumkin" all over the place. Embarrassing.

As with most things, she makes me better.

(Cute picture, too.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

86° + October = Pumpkins & Sundresses

The weather these days can only be described as freakish. It makes for odd pairings like the one in this photo taken amid the Union Square farmer's market this weekend.

If this keeps up, I'll have to go as a lifeguard or a UPS driver for Halloween.

Monday, October 01, 2007

This is all actually pretty ridiculous if you think about it

You didn't have to look too closely at the photograph in my last, brief post to see that The Boy is sporting a cast on his left elbow and arm. It's actually purple (his choice).

He suffered a broken bone near his elbow late last week, after an inadvertent push by a kid in the park sent him down from the top of a plushy building-block toy.

As my wife put it: "I knew it was bad when he said that he didn't want to go swimming that night and maybe not even this weekend."

We knew it was bad alright, but not how bad. And finding out became the first of many ridiculous parts of this little story. He fell late afternoon Thursday. I had to work past 10:30 p.m. Thursday, so I didn't get to see him before he went to bed. My wife was concerned but, like me, wasn't quite sure how worried to be. The next day I left for work without getting to see him, but when he did pad out of bed, his elbow was swollen and tender and he could move his arm. A sprain? My wife, being more on the ball than I, called our pediatrician's office just to be sure. Our doctor doesn't usually work on Fridays, and last Friday was usual, which meant that she talked with the unkind and unknowledgeable people answering the phones. She was told to take him directly to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and eventually she was given a list of such surgeons to contact, all of whom were outside of our health insurance network. And she was told that our doctor's office does not give referrals.

I then used our insurers friendly website to locate all the pediatric orthopedic specialists in network and within a ten-mile radius of our apartment. My wife called all of them. Not one could see him before mid-October; a few said they didn't even treat children. Ridiculous.

Back to our general practitioner. Luckily, we know our pediatrician fairly well, and my wife used to work with her husband, whom she proceeded to call. Through him my wife eventually did manage to talk directly with The Boy's doctor, who firmly encouraged us to have him looked at that day. My indefatigable wife then made another series of calls to the recommended out-of-network doctors until she found one who would see The Boy immediately. After a ginger examination and X-rays (that The Boy found super cool), the break was revealed and contained by a purple cast. My wife paid the entire bill for the visit before leaving and received a receipt that read "THANK YOU COME AGAIN." We will have to come again, at least twice, at our own expense.

It goes without saying that we would pay and do anything we needed to to set The Boy and Q right, to keep them from pain. Luckily, we can afford to go out of network if we have to, even for reasonably expensive treatment like this. But we shouldn't have to, especially given how much per month we pay for family health coverage. And dealing with bureaucracies like the desk sitters at our pediatrician's office or those who summarily deny benefits on the first few rounds (another long story) is a menace. The doctor who saw our son didn't take insurance; that's presumably why he could see him so quickly.

American health care is a mess. In myriad ways. Perhaps now that the next president will likely be a Democrat and that all the serious Democrats have serious health care policies, we will see profound changes come about in how our country deals with health. The ridiculous may yet be replaced by the sensible (or at least the more sensible). I hope so: Q and The Boy have a lot of bones and a lot of years ahead of them.

Though you can't see my talented wife here, you can know she's there

[Please do click for the larger view of this photo; bigger is, um, beautifuler.]