Friday, February 22, 2008


Edie's family went skiing.

So did we! On MLK weekend, we went up to Killington and on the one day it wasn't absolutely freezing (about 30 degrees), we put the kids in ski lessons and Julie and I went to hit the slopes. Julie's a great skier and also nice enough to hang out with me as I swooped and tumbled down the mountain on a snowboard. I really enjoyed snowboarding although the next day my core was aching from twisting back and forth all day and my shoulders also hurt--Julie says I had my arms out for balance, but I suspect it may have been just from wiping out onto my sides. We hadn't skied or boarded since the kids were born, and it was a lot of fun.

The kids reportedly did well, although we only saw a bit of Austin's lesson. Sharon, who taught the five kids in his group, said he was very strong to be able to march up the little slope by himself. He learned to hold a tray of cookies (keeping his arms out and eyes up) and to make pizza (what we used to call snowplow). And he turned by offering cookies over to one side or another. He loved it!

Killington is great but WAY expensive. Especially if you're just paying for a bunny slope.

Okay, so this week is school vacation week and on Sunday Julie took him to Nashoba, about 45 minutes from here. A small hill, but all that we need. She said he did great, using the "magic carpet" and the rope tow to get up the hill and carrying his cookies down.

I took him again on Tuesday. Nashoba is nice, and reasonably priced, and a quick drive. Austin didn't want to take a lesson -- he'd rather be with me. (Or so he thought.) Skiing with him was a little frustrating in part because it's been years since I've thought about skiing and so trying to explain to him what he needed to do was very hard for me. Plus, he doesn't always remember his left from his right and he seemed to have only a general notion about "downhill." It took a while to even remember how to explain to him how to get up from a fall. "Point your skis perpendicular to the downslope" -- he knows five words in that sentence but not the most important ones.

Anyway, after he came down the bunny slope without falling and demanded a snack, I told him we could have a Reese's PB cup if we took a lift and went down a big hill. He was a bit scared but he's generally a really brave kid and agreed.

So we took a chair lift. He did great for his first time -- got on all right, and skied off without falling (I gave him a bit of a shove to get him going at the end). It was tough going coming down (it was a bit icy) but then I put him between my legs and held him under his arms and we skied down together. He liked it so much he wanted to do it again.

The second time on the chairlift...

Well, first, let me point out that he has a tendency to fall out of chairs. At dinner, it is not unusual for him to suddenly just collapse onto the floor. Once this led to a visit to the E.R. Most of the time he says something like "An invisible bunny pushed me!" and bounces back up. The point is, he sits at the very edge of his seat. Not good.

Okay, so the second time on the chairlift, as it comes around, we're waiting, it arrives, he gets on the edge of the chair... and we start lifting up. He's not on. I'm hanging on to his left armpit with my right hand. Only there are about four layers of synthetic fabric between my fingers and his shoulder. "Stop! He's not on!" I shout. Nashoba is definitely a family and beginner mountain, so the operator was not unprepared. He stopped the lift and ran over. At this point, Austin was dangling from the chair. The operator reached up and grabbed him by the waist until I could get two hands around him and pull him up. The operator suggested I put the bar down before he starts the lift again. Good idea.

We skied down together the whole way and it was fun, but that was about it for the day. My shoulder was REALLY sore the day after that and I knew exactly why.

Annual meals: Christmas linguini

We visited John's mother Sally in December and she and John talked about traditions they used to have. Christmas dinner, and then midnight mass, and then around 2am, they would have a seafood pasta before going to bed. John had made a version of that meal for us last Christmas Eve (2006) and it was really good! Talking about it made me hungry.

And, it made me think about traditions, for the kids and for our family in general. Now is the time to start them. And so for Christmas lunch (we had other plans the night before) I made the following dish, and I think I'll try to do it every year. The kids loved it and it will make Christmas that much more special and memorable. Plus it was easy.

Christmas Eve Linguini with Seafood

For our family of four, one pound of seafood (1/2 medium shrimp, 1/2 scallops). Boil and salt water for pasta. After dropping in the linguini, you have about 12 minutes of cooking time. If you have the ingredients ready, that should be plenty.

Melt about three tablespoons of butter into a pan and add a like amount of olive oil. When the fat is hot, add some three or four cloves of chopped garlic, maybe a shallot if you've got it. Once the herbs get aromatic but before they turn dark brown, add the seafood. Stir, until the scallops are opaque and the shrimp is pink. As they are finishing, add salt, pepper and a splash of white wine to taste.

Dish the linguini into plates and dole out the fish, being liberal with the flavored oil. You could sprinkle a little chopped parsley over the plates at this point.


Okay, this was just the lead in to the next in our series: Da Lu Mien (Birthday noodles).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First National Bank of Dad by David Owen

I think the first time I remembered David Owen's name was from an article from The Atlantic about M & Ms. I just searched their site, though, and couldn't find it so maybe it came from somewhere else. He also contributes a lot as a staff writer at The New Yorker.

He's a funny writer and explains things well, and I also read a book of his about buying a house, The Walls Around Us. I vividly remember how he found the longest lasting paint ever--this gray paint they use to paint nuclear reactors and which is basically one extra layer of protection against meltdown. He wanted to use this paint on his house but it cost hundreds of dollars a gallon or something.

His latest books have been about golf and I'm not that interested, although I do read the articles in the New Yorker about the game, and his most recent piece was about nicknames.

Okay, so I just finished reading his short book from 2003, First National Bank of Dad: The Best Way to Teach Kids About Money. Here's the review: the idea is interesting and worth trying, the book is not so great and maybe is a library check out.

The idea: Owen wanted to encourage his kids to save money but the traditional way: "Here's $10 allowance--let me just take $2 from it to put in your savings account (i.e. you'll never see it again)," makes "saving" seem like a tax that should be avoided. And a 3% per annum interest rate doesn't really thrill anyone either (maybe it will as the economy implodes. Anyway). So he set up a bank on his computer where his kids would earn 5% interest per month. Suddenly, the benefits from saving are clear.

A lot of the book is also about just giving financial responsibility to your kids. Rather than having emotional arguments about whether you're going to buy them a souvenir or a candy or cds or a video game, let them use their money however they like. The point of the bank is that they recognize that saving is a good way to "use" the money. Another good point he makes is that most of us learn about money by making mistakes. By giving kids a stake early, they can make those mistakes earlier and at less cost. There are lots of anecdotes about his kids's economic education told in Owen's usual clear and humorous manner.

So that's about 160 pages (wide margins). And then he tacks on an extra chapter all about reading to your kids. From the examples given, this book is directed at middle to upper middle class parents. Most of them appreciate the power of books. I certainly don't disagree. This chapter is totally unnecessary. I feel like he wrote a short book, realized he owed 200 pages, then realized he would never get a chance to write about parenting again and typed out some more pages about reading. Oh, also his wife writes books for kids. I don't know if that's related.

All in all, worth knowing about, maybe not worth owning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Austin's birthday

Five years ago, Julie and I became parents. This is how we celebrated on Saturday:


I only subscribe to a few hours of weekly podcasts (Radiolab, Wait Wait, This Life) but I've been enjoying them. The next step: audiobooks. I don't read as much as I want to, but I do spend and inordinate amount of time in the car, grocery shopping and walking the dog.

So, I'm diving into the world of audiobooks. First up, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. His memoir about his life up through the end of his stand up career (i.e. the only movies he discusses are The Jerk and Pennies From Heaven), is pretty good. I read a review somewhere that suggested listening to the audiobook rather than reading it so that you can hear him do his routines. It was great! And went by very quickly. And I feel like I read a book. Oh, that was just about the experience; the book itself: okay. Interesting for Steve Martin fans, and fun to hear some of the old routines (and the inspiration for some of them, like Happy Feet) but it's neither hilarious nor deeply moving. More like chucklesome and sweet.

I'm also getting some audiobooks from the library for the kids. At school, Austin likes the book listening station and these kids could listen to us read all night. Instead, we've now got an audiobook of The Wizard of Oz and I've requested Charlotte's Web next. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Julie's been pushing for more outdoor winter fun, and thanks to Pauline's suggestion that we visit the Frog Pond in Boston Common, our family has become a family of skaters! We all own our own skates, even.

Clearly, there is one "good skater" among us.