Monday, July 31, 2006

The Miraculous Journey

Ha! I bet you think I'm going to tell you all about my miraculous journeys, don't you?

You're sitting there thinking...

...ooh, yippee, I get to read all about the miraculous journey of how Ver made it out of the grocery store without having to buy Skittles for her offspring


...ooh, big whoop-dee-doo, now we get to hear all about Ver's miraculous car ride where for once in her life Red, Red Wine didn't play on whatever radio station she happened to be listening to


...ooh, what now? The miraculous story of how Ver accidently poked her eyeball while plucking her eyebrows!

Well, let me put you out of your misery, kind and gentle folk, for I am not referring to any of my own miraculous (*cough* mundane *cough*) journeys, but those of the china rabbit, Edward Tulane. Witness:

This is one of our summer read-alouds, and by far the favorite. You can read a few chapters a day and be done in a week or so. We finished it this afternoon, and by the time I read the last word I was weeping like someone had set fire to favorite shoes in the whole world (bonus points if you comment and link to the correct flickr picture).

Yes, it's sentimental. Yes, you will feel as if your emotions have been toyed with, that someone has punched you in the gut, that you can no longer live in a world full of such common and unending cruelty. But in the end you'll read it to the kids in your life because, really, you have to love a children's book that not only uses phrases like "full of ennui," but in which a china rabbit named Edward Tulane says to another doll, "Don't talk to me about love. I have known love."

Here's Chapter One for you:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china. He had china arms and china legs, china paws and a china head, a china torso and a china nose. His arms and legs were jointed and joined by wire so that his china elbows and china knees could be bent, giving him much freedom of movement.

His ears were made of real rabbit fur, and beneath the fur, there were strong, bendable wires, which allowed the ears to be arranged into poses that reflected the rabbit’s mood — jaunty, tired, full of ennui. His tail, too, was made of real rabbit fur and was fluffy and soft and well shaped.

The rabbit’s name was Edward Tulane, and he was tall. He measured almost three feet from the tip of his ears to the tip of his feet; his eyes were painted a penetrating and intelligent blue.

In all, Edward Tulane felt himself to be an exceptional specimen. Only his whiskers gave him pause. They were long and elegant (as they should be), but they were of uncertain origin. Edward felt quite strongly that they were not the whiskers of a rabbit. Whom the whiskers had belonged to initially — what unsavory animal — was a question that Edward could not bear to consider for too long. And so he did not. He preferred, as a rule, not to think unpleasant thoughts.

Edward’s mistress was a ten-year-old, dark-haired girl named Abilene Tulane, who thought almost as highly of Edward as Edward thought of himself. Each morning after she dressed herself for school, Abilene dressed Edward.

The china rabbit was in possession of an extraordinary wardrobe composed of handmade silk suits, custom shoes fashioned from the finest leather and designed specifically for his rabbit feet, and a wide array of hats equipped with holes so that they could easily fit over Edward’s large and expressive ears. Each pair of well-cut pants had a small pocket for Edward’s gold pocket watch. Abilene wound this watch for him each morning.

“Now, Edward,” she said to him after she was done winding the watch, “when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the three, I will come home to you.”

She placed Edward on a chair in the dining room and positioned the chair so that Edward was looking out the window and could see the path that led up to the Tulane front door. Abilene balanced the watch on his left leg. She kissed the tips of his ears, and then she left and Edward spent the day staring out at Egypt Street, listening to the tick of his watch and waiting.

Of all the seasons of the year, the rabbit most preferred winter, for the sun set early then and the dining-room windows became dark and Edward could see his own reflection in the glass. And what a reflection it was! What an elegant figure he cut! Edward never ceased to be amazed at his own fineness.

In the evening, Edward sat at the dining-room table with the other members of the Tulane family: Abilene; her mother and father; and Abilene’s grandmother, who was called Pellegrina. True, Edward’s ears barely cleared the tabletop, and true also, he spent the duration of the meal staring straight ahead at nothing but the bright and blinding white of the tablecloth. But he was there, a rabbit at the table.

Abilene’s parents found it charming that Abilene considered Edward real, and that she sometimes requested that a phrase or story be repeated because Edward had not heard it.

“Papa,” Abilene would say, “I’m afraid that Edward didn’t catch that last bit.”

Abilene’s father would then turn in the direction of Edward’s ears and speak slowly, repeating what he had just said for the benefit of the china rabbit. Edward pretended, out of courtesy to Abilene, to listen. But, in truth, he was not very interested in what people had to say. And also, he did not care for Abilene’s parents and their condescending manner toward him. All adults, in fact, condescended to him.

Only Abilene’s grandmother spoke to him as Abilene did, as one equal to another. Pellegrina was very old. She had a large, sharp nose and bright, black eyes that shone like dark stars. It was Pellegrina who was responsible for Edward’s existence. It was she who had commissioned his making, she who had ordered his silk suits and his pocket watch, his jaunty hats and his bendable ears, his fine leather shoes and his jointed arms and legs, all from a master craftsman in her native France. It was Pellegrina who had given him as a gift to Abilene on her seventh birthday.

And it was Pellegrina who came each night to tuck Abilene into her bed and Edward into his.

“Will you tell us a story, Pellegrina?” Abilene asked her grandmother each night.

“Not tonight, lady,” said Pellegrina.

“When?” asked Abilene. “What night?”

“Soon,” said Pellegrina. “Soon there will be a story.”

And then she turned off the light, and Edward and Abilene lay in the dark of the bedroom.

“I love you, Edward,” Abilene said each night after Pellegrina had left. She said those words and then she waited, almost as if she expected Edward to say something in return.

Edward said nothing. He said nothing because, of course, he could not speak. He lay in his small bed next to Abilene’s large one. He stared up at the ceiling and listened to the sound of her breath entering and leaving her body, knowing that soon she would be asleep. Because Edward’s eyes were painted on and he could not close them, he was always awake.

Sometimes, if Abilene put him into his bed on his side instead of on his back, he could see through the cracks in the curtains and out into the dark night. On clear nights, the stars shone, and their pinprick light comforted Edward in a way that he could not quite understand. Often, he stared at the stars all night until the dark finally gave way to dawn.

Friday, July 28, 2006

She Has a List

The other day while Lea and I were discussing whom she would like to have over for a playdate, I discovered a curious thing.

Me: How about so-and-so or so-and-so or so-and-so?

Lea: Well, but you know what?

Me: What?

Lea: But you know what?

Me: Lea! What?

Lea: Well, it's just that...they're kind of crazy.

Me: And?

Lea: And, well, crazy is not on my list.

Hmm. Didn't know about the list.

And since I am revealing her secrets, I may as well tell you that the following pictures display the thing that makes her laugh so hard she cannot breathe. Some of you may recognize this plush toy as half of Sanrio's Little Twin Stars, Kiki and Lala. Some of you may simply think I'm crazy. But anyways. For some reason, this particular Kiki was made with semi-removable hair:

I wonder if any other children know about this, or if she is alone in her discovery. Because, seriously. She needs a support group.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Turning, Turning Update

Look! They just finished turning it! See, they used those white tubes and made a lot of grunting noises. You can see one of the guys squatting down in the back:

So, for now this will be a playhouse. But in time, my friends, maybe it will become...dare I dream? writing studio.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An Open Letter

Dear Searchers,

I must formally apologize if you are one of the four hundred billion people who have googled "sideswept bangs," only to end up at the blog of a woman who is trying—with varying degrees of success—to avoid them (and by "them" I mean, um, sideswept bangs) at all costs.


Veronica "Unfettered Forehead" Montes
Veronica "Ponytail" Montes
Veronica "Wavy Hair" Montes

Where Is the Lub?

I don't run into many Filipinos in my neck o' the burbs. I do see quite a few Filipinas in their 50s and 60s working as caretakers for senior citizens, but that's about it. R & V's school is just 4% Filipino; there were only five other Filipino kids out of about eighty Kindergarteners. But this summer, my local shopping avenue has been teeming with (oh, forgive me) Team Filipino!

Imagine my excitement! The wide open smiles I offered, the veritable kisses I blew! But that's before I remembered something that has been true, now, for most of my adult life.

And it's not my imagination.

I'm not being paranoid, delusional, or overly-sensitive.

The thing is...with the exception of my family and Filipina pals, many other Filipinas—meaning those I encounter on the street or while shopping or whatnot—appear to dislike me on sight.

How do I know this?

Because instead of smiling back at me with the hey-we're-all-in-this-together look that I inexplicably and naiively long for, they proffer the ancient Filipino sign for ewwwww: pursed lips and flared nostrils.

Why? Is it some sort of twisted defense mechanism? Are you mistaking me for a member of an ethnic group that you disdain? Do I smell? Is my lipstick shade not to your liking? What is it? I mean, if you don't mind me saying so, I am so nice.

Of course it could be that these women simply don't care that they've found another Filipina in their midst. I'm willing to accept that as an explanation. But why, then, the deadly lips/nostrils combo? Why not just ignore me rather than willfully dismiss me?

But I guess the most important question here is...why do I even care?

Monday, July 24, 2006

You Loathe Me! You Really Loathe Me!

No, not you. If you're reading this you either (presumably) like me at least a little or are a blog masochist. But the two guys in the backyard right now? They really, really hate me.

They have been here since about nine o'clock this morning building a little 8 ft. x 8 ft. playhouse for the girls. I met with their boss last week, and together we carefully discussed (and he drew out) the window and door specifications. It was not a complicated thing: windows on the left and right side, and the door and another window facing—naturally—into the garden. About three hours ago, I took a peek outside only to find that the door is facing...hold on to your feng shui...the garage. Now why, why, why, why didn't that seem odd to these two fellows?

I grabbed the drawing their boss had created and brought it outside. "Okay, so I'm freaking out a little," I said.

Guy #1 said nothing.

Guy #2 said nothing.

"Well, because see this? You have the door on the wrong side." I pointed to the drawing.

Guy #1 walked over to his stuff and pulled out a copy of the drawing. He didn't say anything.

"Right? See?"

The silence was, really, pretty amazing. Both guys started to circle the building, staring at the walls and mumbling faintly. This didn't make any sense to me, but I am no builder of small buildings, so what do I know?

"So...okay, then," I said. Guy #1 looked at me just long enough to show me that I'd basically ruined his day and, quite possibly, his month.

Then I ran back in the house.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

11:38 PM Hilarity

Stephen Colbert interviewing the stoic Julien Bond, Chairman of the NAACP. The topics? Bush's 5.5-years-late NAACP address and, far more amusingly, Colbert's ongoing search to replace his friend Alan, whom he had to downgrade to "acquaintantce" after Alan's appearance at an anti-war rally:

Colbert: Would you be my new black friend?

Bond: Surely, I would.

Colbert: Okay! Wait for your application!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Winging It

It is hot. It is put-the-back-of-your-hand-to-your-forehead-and-faint-on-the-divan-hot. But this is not news. I have no news. This, of course, has never prevented me from hittin' the old blog.

I'll come up with something. Just give me a minute, give me a minute...

The girls can't play outside for long before wilting; they are sweaty little things, all flushed cheeks and exasperation, dirty feet, and weird songs. You can't overlook your underwear! I guess it's the "over" & "under" that makes them laugh. They eat their lunch while lolling on the porch, make flower crowns while moving in slow motion, and then shriek to life when they hear the bells on the ice cream man's cart. He's making a decent wage off of us this week. They order those neon-colored Powerpuff Girls popsicles with the bubblegum eyes. Afterwards, their mouths are blue. If you're keeping track, that makes them: sweaty, flushed, dirty-footed, and blue-mouthed. Oh, and there's the matted hair.

Late afternoon, when they are tired and snippy, is the most challenging part of the day. This is always true, but the heat makes it impossible for them to untangle their own emotional mess, which is something they routinely do themselves. In fact, today was the first day in I can't remember how long that I had to distract them with an activity in order to save them from themselves.

Here's a good way to keep kids interested: tell them that you're doing something, but don't tell them what it is. The not telling them part wasn't difficult today. Why? Because I had no idea what I was doing. I just grabbed some paper from my printer and started taping it together. This was enough to drive them nuts. "What are you doing? What are you doing? Can I tape it? Can I help?"

"Be right back!" I said, after we'd taped six pieces together. I ran into the den and grabbed the first thing(s) I saw lined up (well, really sort of squashed into the books) in front of the bookcase. These fancy Filipinas in doll-form:

I brought them back to the table. The girls looked at me, doubt clouding their little brows. I placed them down on the paper with dramatic force. I still wasn't clear about what to do. But I asked—again with dramatic force—for a crayon.

"What color, Mom?"

"Everybody close their eyes! Close your eyes! Tight!" Suckers! "Now pick a color."


"Oh. I don't know. Vida. Vida, pick a color."

To make a long and boring (I've faced it; so should you) story short, I ended up drawing a three-pronged path along which the fancy Filipinas might amble, take in a bit of scenery, and plot a way to ditch the ternos and shimmy into some shorts. The scenery aspect being the responsibility of the girls, of course. They quickly divided the paper into "Risaland," "Vidaland," and "Lealand," and went to town with their crayons and stickers and whatnot:

And what, exactly, did this buy me? Well, let's see. They busied themselves with the project for about 25 minutes, after which time they were fast friends again and disappeared for more than an hour.

That's right.

Give it up, ladies and caballeros. Give it up for Desperate Mom.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Pilates Chamber of Torture

I mean, look at this thing:

But working on it wasn't really torture. In fact, it felt pretty good.

Peddling backwards, now...I've been fretting for a few months about the inevitable changes to la body de Veronique wrought by age and hormones. None of the things I did at the tender age of, let's say, twenty-four have been having an effect. Though I'm sure my cardio work helps my heart, it certainly hasn't been doing one gursh thing for gracefully distributing my weight into the right spots. And, just as bad, weight training has made me—already naturally broad-shouldered—even more so. This does nothing to create the pleasant sensation of feeling pretty, oh-so-pretty, oh-so-pretty, and witty, and gay. In fact, it has created the decidely unpleasant sensation of feeling dowdy, oh-so-dowdy, oh-so-dowdy, and frumpy and lame.

Which is how I wound up enlisting right-hand gal pal A. to join me for an introductory session at our neighborhood Pilates studio. The postural assessment alone was worth my time. I like the precision of movement required and the fact that you have to think the whole time. It's a little different from turning on the iPod and flipping through People while sweating on the elliptical trainer thingy. And of course I love the claim that—nature be damned!—I will end up long and lean. For my body structure, that is. We shall see. Anyways, it's no surprise that the trainer advised me to stop weight training (which shortens the muscles) altogether for now. Um, no problem...

Friday, July 14, 2006

It Grows Like This

Sure, Gura's title question was rhetorical, but I thought I'd answer anyway. Our garden was re-designed a few months back, and everything is finally filling in. I'm surprised at how much pleasure I'm taking in it; every day new things pop open. A gifted photographer could make so much more of this than I'm able to, but I thought I'd share some of my fave flora anyways.

Here's one of the espaliered apple trees. It will bear many a fuji apple at some point. This is good, since the girls are more than capable of eating, collectively, a dozen apples a day. The next picture is one of the flowers in the butterfly garden. How much would Mariah like that? She's so jealous right now:

There are a bunch of these whateverbells (I made that name up. If that's not what they're called, it should be) in the front yard. The other picture doesn't do justice to this weird flowering plant. It's so interesting, what with the extra-glossy leaves, white blossoms and then the clusters of little blue ones, too:

Here's my favorite. My only formal request for the garden was a magnolia tree. And here's the first chunky ol' flower. Can't wait 'til it opens up:

My parsley and basil are out of control. The basil is almost waist-high at the moment, which means I need to make...bruschetta? Rosemary, two kinds of sage, thyme, and some other herbs are also a-growing:

I love this spiky, reddish plant. There are a couple of these; they look like they'd kill you if you fell on them. And, finally, one of the new tomato plants:

This concludes the Nesting Ground Garden Tour. Which, I'm fully aware, was just as exciting as my homemade paper wallet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All Wrote Out.

But that'll change soon. For now, the energy needs to go somewhere. Which probably explains my sudden turn to all things crafty. If I knew how to sew, there'd be big trouble right about now. As in: "Nesting Ground beach cover-ups for everyone!" Fortunately for those around me, my craftiness is far less agressive than that. Here, for example, is a paper wallet I made to house my niece's extremely belated high school graduation present. It has two—not just one, but two!—compartments inside:

Okay, yeah, I know.

Not that exciting.

I should maybe stick to the writing.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Next Question. Please.

During a car ride to my parents' house in the city:

Risa (delivered in "upspeak"): Mom, if you're a teenager around S—'s age and you're dating? Like that's all you're doing—you're dating and dating a lot? Will your tummy get big?

Me (treading carefully): Hmmm. Not sure what you mean.

Risa: You know—will your tummy get big with a baby?



Why does cooking a roast chicken make me feel like a good person?


Will you please get me some of these? They're sold out, but I believe in you.


The spousal unit has made a faboo career move, and his first official day is today. He just called from Manhattan to say that he left his wedding band on the bathroom sink on his way to the airport this morning and would I please fedex it to him. Wha?!! I said. What's the big deal? It's a big deal to me, he said.—It's my first day.

Which is very sweet, methinks.

But, I am a practical woman. And so I reminded him that he is in New York City and that he can just walk to any corner and buy a fake one. It's a simple gold band, after all. And, after all, his goal is simply to send an accurate visual message regarding his marital status.

The spousal unit was quiet for a few moments. Then he acknowledged my brilliance and ventured out to buy a counterfeit wedding band.

But...did I really give good advice? Or should I have fedexed it as he requested?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Not Sure What To Do Here

As I type, Risa and Vida are deep in discussion with their friend R., (also 6 years old) who is hanging from a tree on his side of the fence. I think he must just have come from Bible camp or something because he is sharing the story of Adam & Eve. R & V are countering with the theory of evolution, even going so far as to run inside the house to find one of those pictures that shows a primate morphing into a man.

I hope I don't receive a call tonight from his parents or anything.

I have read some Bible stories with the girls, and when they asked their inevitable Did that really happen? Is this true? questions, all I could tell them was that some people believe that, yes, these stories are true, and other people believe they are not. When they asked what I believed, I stumbled. Badly. I addressed only creation and evolution, and told them I believed the latter. Then I removed myself with the classic we'll-talk-later-I-need-to-make-dinner excuse. And I have been dancing around the whole thing ever since.


All of this has been on my mind lately as I try to figure out whether or not I will be sending R & V to catechism during the coming school year. Simply put, I'm having a much more difficult time than anticipated trying to reconcile my issues with the Catholic Church with my desire to expose the girls to spiritual teaching. I don't feel comfortable sending them anywhere at this point, and lately have been wishing there were some sort of place that just teaches them about all the different religions and—most importantly—that none is completely right, none completely wrong. Maybe this is something I could do myself? The idea of learning together appeals to me. But does that "count?" And what do I mean by "count"? Totally confused.

Insights welcome.