About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sea Glass and Love

Anthony and me, in New Orleans, January 2010. The last time we took a trip just the two of us!

It’s the last day of July, that firework, watermelon, sparkler-infused month that marks the true beginning of summer, and I am thinking about sea glass and love. Love because July is the month of anniversaries in my family. Anthony and I celebrated nine years of marriage on July 20th, and my parents celebrated 40 years together just four days later, on the 24th. Sea glass because I’ve been at the beach a fair amount this summer, and on my last trip I saw a basket of sea glass in Andy’s, the Barnegat Light store that sells sea shells, tourist trinkets, and old-school glass Coca-cola bottles. I take the girls there after every time we climb the Barnegat lighthouse. The sea glass intrigued me. I remember looking for sea glass on the beach as a child, but you don’t see it much anymore.

This year on my anniversary I watched my wedding video, something I haven’t done in several years.  So much has changed. People we loved, dancing and smiling on the video, are no longer here. My grandmother. Anthony’s mom. Everyone is younger, some noticeably so.  And, I think, we had no idea what we were doing, getting married. Or little idea. We were young. We were in love (and had been since we were sixteen), and we just wanted to be together. We hadn’t even begun to imagine what losing someone we loved would look like, or what it would feel like to hear a child call us “Mom” or “Dad” as she stretched her chubby little arms up, wanting to be held (and then, much later, to have that same child tell us, “Mom, Dad, stop fighting!”). Even more so, we had no idea about how the mundane could wear away at love.  That things like leaving wet towels on the bedroom floor (me) or dirty dishes on the kitchen counter (Anthony) could matter.  That love was not impervious to the bills, the car payments, the old and new jealousies, the anxieties about the future, private and shared. We had no idea that, yes, of course, these things would shape our love. But here we are.  We know now. So how does it feel?

Some sea glass, I’ve read, comes from the champagne bottles broken to christen a boat, and I like this idea. First, the celebration. Then, the broken chards. Finally, years later, the sea glass. Softened and smoothed by decades underwater, sea glass is beautiful precisely because it has been tumbled in the deep, led by currents to far-off beaches (or close, perhaps). In a lovely little article I found in the Washington Post archives--Look What the Tide Brought In, by Jura Koncius, Thursday, August 11, 2005—I read that authentic sea glass is now quite a treasure. Lots of boaters use plastic now instead of glass, and even those who do use glass aren’t so quick to throw it overboard (a good thing, I suppose!). And once glass is on the ocean? It takes 10 years for a sliver of glass to show significant etching, and 20-30 years for it to be completely polished and rounded. The process cannot be faked.

This is how it feels. Sea glass and love. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Being nice

There're finally not bickering. Asleep, and snuggling, as they do every night, the injustices and insults of the day come to rest. They can be sisters in the best sense, taking comfort in the simple presence of the other. Today was a bit worse for bickering than other days because we were suffering the aftermath of Grace's amazing day yesterday. Yesterday, my sister took Grace, for a late birthday present, to Sahara Sam's, an indoor water park that, in Grace's words, was "AWESOME!" Genevieve stayed home with me and the baby. She was quiet as Grace described the park. And though I thought our game of Zingo (squeezed in between feeding the baby and putting in a load of laundry) was pretty fun, I'm aware that it was no Sahara Sam's. Still, there was no bickering yesterday because Grace was so, so nice to her sister, and to all of us. Yesterday, Grace was practically glowing with how awesome her life was. She shared, she complimented, and she didn't tattle, not even once. Today, not so. But I forgive her, not because she is my child, but because she is a child, and that's what children do. That's what I do, too, for that matter. How easy it is to be pleasant and loving when everything is going our way. How very, very hard when it's not.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


 So, I’ve been reading Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food recently. I imagine I read it the way some people read romance novels, for escape and novelty. The cookbook was a Christmas gift for my husband, Anthony, a few years ago, but as he is an excellent cook, he has little need for it. His cooking is both a blessing and a curse—mostly a blessing, but a curse in the sense that it has blunted the development of my own culinary skills to the point that I consider heating up some Bell&Evans chicken nuggets and McCains smiley fries an accomplishment. Ah, but Alice Waters! As a former literature major, I appreciate the poetry of her writing. Even the lists are lovely. Consider the list “Other Butters,” in the chapter on ”Four Essential Sauces”: parley butter, anchovy butter, black pepper butter, sage butter, basil butter, chipotle butter, nastorium butter. Or perhaps the list of spring and summer lettuces (in “Salads”) reads better: Rocket (arugula), Green oak Leaf, Red oak leaf, mache, red salad bowl, lollo rosso, buttercrunch, tom thumb, little gem, romaine. Reading this gives me such pleasure, though I can’t even begin to imagine what lollo rosso lettuce is—nor nastorium butter, for that matter! Still, I like to imagine a life in which I make chocolate tartlets from organic chocolate and braised anything. It could happen! Tonight, actually, inspired by the fact that Joseph, at 7 months, is supposed to start sampling real food, I decided to make Alice Waters’ recipe for Italian meatballs. My sister was coming over with her three kids and cooking for her was less intimidating than cooking for my husband or any one of his very talented siblings. I used the grass fed beef and the day old country-style bread, as well as milk from a local farm that Whole Foods sells in glass containers, just like the old days. I grated the onion and chopped the garlic, added cheese and parley and egg and oregano. I baked the meatballs in the oven and then added them to the sauce (tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil) for extra flavor. I served everything over fresh linguine. And guess what? It was good! I enjoyed myself too. So I’m not sure what happens now.  Cooking: it could be just a crush, it could be true love, but only time will tell.  As Alice Waters suggests: “Taste as you go. Keep tasting and keep practicing and discovering.” Okay!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Cure for Grouchy Kids (and Me)

Picking raspberries at Mood's Farm, Mullica Hill

Go outside! Get some exercise! I used to hate it when my mom said this in response to my complaints of boredom, or anger, or tiredness, or any other ailment. Still, when I found myself with three grouchy kids yesterday morning, there were my mom's words, the only possible answer to a teething baby and pinching, whining big sisters. We went for a nature "scavenger hunt" first, walking down to the river and collecting acorns, bark, leaves, a rock. This helped some but as it lasted only 20 minutes we needed another adventure. Grace mentioned picking blueberries; Genevieve said that she didn't like blueberries ("They're disgusting"), and so we decided on raspberries at Mood's Farm in Mullica Hill. We hit unexpected traffic on the way, the baby cried, and the girls bickered to the point that I had to make the dreaded threat ("If I hear whining one more time, I am turning this car around"), but eventually we made it to our exit off Route 55. In the fields lining the road grew corn, lettuce, and blueberries, of course. As we got close to Mood's Farm and its trademark orange windmill, peach trees took over the fields. The baby was quiet--he had fallen asleep--and the girls excitedly commented on the landscape rather than poking and prodding one another. At Mood's, they weighed our containers, gave us a picking permit, and told us how to get to the raspberries. Though the market was crowded, we were the only ones in the  raspberry field, as most had opted for the easier to pick blueberries. The raspberries, we soon discovered, were difficult to find and needed to be just the right color and size so that they didn't fall apart at our touch. But there was something deeply satisfying about working to find just the right berry and hearing  the soft plunk it made when we dropped it in our container.

After about an hour, when Joseph seemed to tire of the Baby Bjorn and Genevieve certainly tired of the heat, we headed back to the market, where we bought nectarines, peaches, and freshly made apple cider donuts in addition to our raspberries. Everyone was feeling much better, myself included, showing me, once again, that my mom may not have been right about everything, but she was right about a whole lot of things. Go outside! Get some exercise! included.
Joseph in the car afterwards. He had napped and eaten and was a happy boy, finally. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Genevieve, normally not the ambitious (i.e. competitive) one

Is ambition good or bad? I used to discuss this with my freshmen English classes when talking about Homer's Odyssey. On the one hand, ambition is what set Odysseus out on his great voyage in the first place--without ambition, there would be no story--and on the other, ambition causes him to miss 20 years of his son's life, not to mention the pain and suffering of poor Penelope, his wife, who had to stay home and wait (and weave) while her husband was out having all these adventures (some people think Homer  must have been female because The Odyssey so well depicts the peculiar suffering of women). In any case, I used to be extremely ambitious, and competitive. Sports, school, family board games ... I liked to be first. Eventually, I mellowed (thank goodness), but Grace, my oldest, seems to have inherited the trait. We could be singing along with the radio in the car, having a fine old time, and suddenly she'll decide that we could all have much more fun if it were a competition. And she was upset when Joseph recently started crawling, at six months, because, well, she would like to hold the record for youngest to crawl in the family, thank you very much. Genevieve, on the other hand, was not born itching to compete. She takes things in her own time, whether walking (14 months), talking (only 7 words at age 2), potty training (I won't go into it, but it was a struggle), etc. She still has the training wheels on her bike, while Grace took hers off before her 4th birthday (a fact she likes to remind Genevieve of). It's not that Genevieve's not capable. She just likes to think things through before doing them. So I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed Genevieve up for swim lessons in our neighbor's pool across the street. Her teacher, Olivia, was wonderful,  but I know Genevieve. Indeed, despite being excited about the first lesson, she decided, right before the second lesson, that she didn't want to go. Going under water was too scary. But I talked her into walking across the street just to say hello, and Olivia talked her into staying for the lesson. They just had fun. I watched Genevieve afterwards, though, as Grace bragged about how she had done laps and jumped off the diving board during her lesson. She didn't like it one bit, this feeling of being "second." And it turns out Genevieve had some ambition of her own. This past week, when I came to pick her up from the lesson, she amazed me by jumping off the diving board and swimming, by herself, to the side of the pool. She was thrilled. "I wasn't scared at all, Mom," she told me. "I just talked to myself and told me I could do it." Then, she wanted to know if her cousin Eddie, also her age, already knew how to swim. I told her he was taking lessons, too. "Because if he doesn't know how, I could teach him, Mom," Genevieve offered. She was beaming, breathless with her pride. And then she jumped in one more time to show me what she could do. So for the moment, though I know ambition and its sister competitiveness cause heartache at times, I was so grateful they had taken root in Genevieve to push her to take this leap. Perhaps we all need a little rivalry and ambition at times in order to help us do what we didn't think was possible before.