Archive | April, 2010

Are we in this together, or what?

So yesterday, you might have heard, thousands of kids in New Jersey schools staged a walk-out, as a protest against impending budget cuts. Now, okay, you know that among those thousands were probably two or three kids who just wanted to smoke dope in the park, but still, that’s a lot of kids getting together to make a statement.

The budget cuts proposed by Governor Christie call for millions of dollars to be trimmed from school budgets–all those “extras,” you know, like art and music and sports and librarians–not to mention after-school programs (aka the salvation of the working parent) and, of course, teacher jobs.

Apparently 58% of New Jerseyians decided that a tax increase for education was too much to ask in these belt-tightening times, so they voted down school budgets, in part because of anger at the teachers’ union, which refused a salary freeze. A salary freeze…maybe for the teacher in Bergen County with two years experience and a B.A. who makes a whopping $44,000 a year, before taxes. Yeah. I can see how she’s really sucking the life from the district budget–or perhaps it’s the person who makes barely $90,000 a year before taxes–with forty years of experience. Forty years teaching 8th grade math. What would they have to pay you to get you to spend ten months a year, five days a week, eight hours a day, with literally hundreds of 12 year olds? Have you met a twelve-year old lately? Monsters. Hormone-crazed monsters, even the “good” ones.

So here’s my question: does the New Jersey vote mean that the next time there’s a tax referendum on the ballot about, say, highway and road improvements, I can vote against it because I don’t have a car? For that matter, my apartment hasn’t ever burned down, so why should I pay taxes that are going to go to fire departments? And I’ve never been mugged or had to go to an emergency room, either, so I don’t want to pay taxes for those things…and I’m pretty much a pacifist, so I’d rather not pay taxes that go to the military.

Social contract, people, social contract. A well-educated population is as important as fire engines that work and armies with adequate body armor.

I’m just saying.

Read full story · Comments { 4 } on April 28, 2010 in Education, ranting

The creative process, in process

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Caleb and his friend A. wrote a book last week, a collaborative project featuring extensive illustrations and a comprehensive overview of the world of espionage.

A: It’s called all about spies.

C: That’s not how you spell spies. Spies has a Y in it, right mommy?

A: Told you.

C: Now write that spies steal lots of stuff.

A: Steal?

C (with authority):  Yes! S-T-E-E-L that’s how you write it.

A: Okay.

C: Mommy do you spell stuff s-t-u-p-h?

(Sounds of erasing)

C: Now we’re on page 4! Picture time.

A: I don’t want pictures.

C: Books about spies have to have pictures. Otherwise it’s all secrets and no one will know.

A: Okay. And we should make codes.

C: Great! Spies steal codes. Write that.

A: What else do they do?

C: They wear lots of black.

A: And they steal necklaces.

C: And airplanes.

A: Airplanes?

C: Yes. e-i-r-p-l-a-y-n-z. Airplanes.

A: I can’t draw an airplane.

C: Make it invisible.

A: Ok.

C: Now write The End.

Read full story · Comments { 0 } on April 21, 2010 in Children, writing

Signs of Hope in the Universe

We are the house of sneezing wheezers these days. The weeks of monsoon followed by the weird ten days of August-in-April have combined for a serious pollen whammy. Husband and I are popping Allegra like candy; and even though Liam gets allergy shots, he’s itchy-eyed too. Caleb seems to have avoided the worst of it thus far–but being as he’s only five, probably he too is doomed to springtime ambivalence: yeah, yeah, flowers and blooming trees, very pretty, but I CAN’T BREATHE.

Now that I’ve gotten that complaining out of my system, however, I’m going to move on to the glass-half-full part of the post: those same blooming trees that make me want to take off my head, scratch the inside of it, and then return it to my shoulders.

Every year, it seems, the gardeners in Stuyvesant Square seem to outdo themselves with plantings, and the flowering trees there this year are dazzling:

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And then there was a whole Their Eyes Were Watching God pear-tree type thing:

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And then these, which amuse me to no end:

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It’s a redbud tree, although not all redbuds seem to have these little barnacles of blossom along their trunks. Liam and I think it looks like something out of a Miyazaki movie.

I don’t have a garden (although I may try tomatoes this summer, stay tuned), so Stuyvesant Square gives me a little sneezy pleasure in watching the season take hold.  It’s hard to be pessimistic walking through blooming apple and cherry trees.

And then, as if blooming trees and early flowers aren’t reason enough to be happy, the SEC announced today that it was charging Goldman Sachs with fraud.

My cup runneth over.

Read full story · Comments { 1 } on April 16, 2010 in urban nature

Fathers Playing Catch With Sons (with a nod to Donald Hall)

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A long time ago, maybe even before Liam was born, Husband asked me if I wanted a baseball mitt, so we could, you know, fulfill some fantasy he had about a baseball-loving wife who would gladly shag flies with him in the park of a springtime day.

Wrong wife. I don’t so much do baseball. I don’t so much do sports, basically. I like a lot of things, but I’m not a fan of anything, really. Other than perhaps going out to dinner. Is there a fan club for that? I’d join in a heartbeat.

Husband is a student of the sports he loves: baseball and hockey, for a long time (alas, the man likes the Mets and the Rangers and thus lives in a state of perpetual heartbreak); he’s added soccer to the roster of interests, in light of the upcoming World Cup. And after more than a decade with the man, I’ve learned to like (tolerate) the sounds of a ballgame on TV, and will even feign interest in the league standings as the Mets move up and down (and down, ever down) over the course of the season.  We even haul the boys to a few games during the summer, although they are mostly, at this point, more interested in the availability of cotton candy, hot dogs, and orange soda, than they are in the relative merits of pitchers and outfielders.

But hope springs eternal. Liam has foresaken baseball for soccer (mostly out of frustration at not being a “slugger”), but now Caleb has started t-ball, that wonderful invention whereby kids hit the ball off a T-stand, everyone on the team gets to hit, everyone gets on base, and everyone runs the bases in order to “score” at home-plate. The fact that everyone scores (and thus the teams always end in a tie) didn’t prevent at least four kids (from opposing teams) declare that their team won, however.

Caleb loved it. Assumed the “ready” pose in the field (then ran for the ball regardless of where it landed, as did everyone else on the team, in a kind of rugby-esque scrum); ran the bases with great vigor (as did the boy who went from second base diagonally across the field to home, and the other boy who got to third base and continued off the field into his mother’s lap); and swung at the stationary ball with huge enthusiasm (once knocking over the stand itself, but the second and third times hitting balls quite respectably into the outfield).

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I could almost hear Husband’s heart singing for joy. Not that he doesn’t love Liam’s success with soccer, but baseball…baseball is the sacred ritual, the measure of the seasons, the country’s game, rooted in the bucolic image of a open grassy field, that kind of stuff. Is more ink spilled about baseball than any other sport, or does it just seem that way to me? The title of this post comes from a book of essays by the poet Donald Hall, whose entire family (including his wife) loved baseball.  In our house, Husband has two out of three (unlike Donald Hall’s wife, I’m a holdout).

Of course, as you can see in the picture at the top of this post, the “bucolic” thing is a little hard to find in Manhattan – more prison-yard than country field, I think. 

And no,  I still don’t have a mitt, much to the chagrin of both my sons, who have told me, rather indignantly, that they can’t be expected to play catch with me if I don’t have a MITT. But I’m thinking they’re going to get me one for Mother’s Day. And as long as that mitt is holding a gift certificate for a hot-stone massage, I’ll be ready to play ball.

Read full story · Comments { 6 } on April 14, 2010 in family, Kids

Easter Bonnets

A beautiful Sunday in New York after weeks of monsoons. Everyone and their mother was outside, it seemed, exposing pallid winter flesh to the spring sun.

In honor of Easter, or maybe just spring, things seemed just a bit more gussied up than usual:

There were festooned hats: IMG_1185

And more hats (of particular interest for all you peep-eaters out there): IMG_1184

Seasonally appropriate bi(tri?) cycles:

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Even the lamp-posts are crowned with springtime glory: IMG_1182

Read full story · Comments { 0 } on April 4, 2010 in NYC, street notes