Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Blog

OK, kids, I've started my new blog, the Los Angeles Chapter II to Fish-Outta-Water's Binghamton Chapter I. It's called Through A Fish Eye Lens. Not sure where it will take us, but please come along!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So long, Fish Outta Water!

This will be my last blog entry, and it is, coincidentally, the 300th since I started this blog 3 1/2 years ago, in February 2006. The blog started as a way to A) relate my experiences living in upstate NY, mostly to my family and friends in Los Angeles/California, B) stay sane in the absence of having an actual life, with friends and family and sunshine and stuff, C) give me something to do while my husband worked on his PhD.

Since that first post, I've developed a bit of a following and it has been so much fun to see who the blog resonated with. I definitely never thought anyone in Binghamton would ever read it, and was surprised that people I saw every day read it, but never mentioned that fact to me- why so shy? It is so much fun to think of all the things I did, just so I'd be able to blog about them later.

I thought I'd end it with "Stuff I'll miss about living in Binghamton":

Chicken Parm
The 5 Minute Commute
Ethnic Festivals
New York City
Snow, since it "covers the ugly"
Turning leaves
Lawyers treating each other with civility
The fact that my "banker" came to my garage sale
Everyone reading the same local newspaper and knowing exactly what is in it, every day
The Binghamton Club
Our front porch
Knowing our neighbors

I'm sure there are lots more, but these come to mind. What would YOU miss?

I'm not finished blogging, of course. I started a new blog project today, which is of limited interest and to a different audience, but here you go. I will likely start up a new blog, the Los Angeles analog to this one, after The Yearbook Project peters out. I'll post a link when/if I do.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Since we are moving to LA next week, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic and also like I need to document things that we'll miss. One thing we will decidedly not miss, but that is document-worthy, is the most heinous carpet imaginable, that graces the 2nd floor of our otherwise-fairly-nice Binghamton rental.

This is obviously very embarrassing for me, to publicly post the disgusting state of our flooring, but it's not mine, right? I just had to suffer with it for 3 1/2 years. In fact, when we first rented the place, I approached the landlord and offered to split the cost of new carpet. Pretty generous for a short-term renter, right? She was having none of it. The old carpet was perfectly serviceable, she assured me.

Not only is it horrifically ugly to look at, it's even worn out, beaten down and not the cleanest. There are three flavors of awfulness to sample, variously in the master bedroom (yellow), the hallway (the brown marbleized stuff) and the two additional bedrooms (the dark blue/aqua/light blue stuff).

The yellow carpet, which I alternately refer to as "the rice-a-roni carpet" or "the surface of the sun" because it is blindingly bright yellow, is in our bedroom. When we first moved in, I was at a loss as to how to minimize its nastiness, so I painted the walls a light yellow. But I was only fooling myself to think that that would distract from the heinousity that was the carpet. Really, I think the surface-of-the-sun burned a hole into my retina so that I no longer saw it.

But maybe the best part is that, when we move out, the landlady's first order of business is not to have a housekeeper come in or have the place painted. No sirree, the day after we move out, she's having the carpets cleaned!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tales from the Moving Sale

Today is Sunday and we are taking the day off. Yesterday's Moving Sale was a smashing success. I would have been happy if all I got out of it was the experience; some good stories and something to blog about. We got that, 95% of our unwanted stuff was taken away by willing participants, and we made a wad of cash, to boot. Win/win/win/win! I am a convert to the whole notion. Here are some highlights:

The Early Birds

The ads (CraigsList, the newspaper, and an angelic friend/neighbor who made beautifully eye-catching signs and even got pink helium balloons to draw people in) indicated that we'd be starting at 8 am, as local custom prescribed. We got started hauling stuff outside a bit after 6 am and we expected "early birds" but I didn't really expect how aggressive they'd be, nor that we'd have a gaggle of them (all men, for some reason) lined up by 7:30 am. Some people would pull up and ask questions to assess our offerings: "You got any archery or hunting?" asked one man. "Any vintage Christmas?" asked another. "Jewelry?" "Buttons?" "Fragrances?" (that last one sort of grossed me out- who sells used perfume? or old perfume? more to the point, who buys it?)

Shoo! Bird, Shoo!
We tried to tell people politely, but firmly, that we were not open for business until 8 am. One lady came a bit after 7 am, was shooed off, and came back with some old-lady friends a few minutes later. Her unwanted return coincided with John and me trying to lug out a heavy piece of furniture and she and her buddies were totally in our way. My super-nice husband surprised with a stern, "Ladies, please, move aside!" The response? "Come on, mom, let's go." Hilarious. Game on.

We had a friend of John's on-hand starting at 7 am and thank God we did because we needed the help. We must have had 20 people there by 8:30 am. At one point, baby strapped to me, I looked at my watch, convinced it was 10:30 am. Ugh. Only 9:05!

I didn't do much of the money-transacting, actually. It seemed like they sought out the men for this activity. Or maybe I wasn't making myself available. I have to admit, I got confused, and it probably showed, every time someone handed me money to take my unwanted stuff away. I realized that, although I'm in "sales" as a lawyer, people don't buy my services of their own volition. It's a necessity. So it just felt so odd for people to be excited about handing me cash for what I had to offer. A lawyer's lesson in capitalism, to be sure.

(Please note, in the above photo, the two men who appear to be racing each other up the steps to check out our "electronics section." I recognized the guy in the jeans shorts on the left: he is a neighbor from whom I acquired my most-prized garage sale haul: a stack of about 20 vintage Playboy Magazines!)

John's First "Art Show"
John's photography is quite good, and I had about 30 of his photos, mostly from our travels to Europe, that I had framed and up in my office at one point or another. They were in cheap frames, and it's easy to re-order the photos, so I decided to see if we could sell any of them at the sale, at the same time fulfilling John's long-standing goal of organizing a show of his work. A two-fer! We laid them out on the sloped, grassy front lawn and sold 2/3 of them ($9 each, 2 for $16, 3 for $20!) People loved them. Not the Early Birds, though. Interestingly, all the art photos sold to the afternoon crowd, the people not so on-a-mission that their radar was not up for the really good stuff, like this.

That's not totally true. We did sell one of John's artsy photos to a woman in the 8 am hour. It was a dramatic, black and white photo that I had not intended to even put out for sale. She had her pick of any of the 30 photos at that point, but she said she really liked this one because of the movie star in it. Guess what the photo was of? ME. Better yet, me in Berlin, standing in the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. As I stood there, sweaty and draped in a baby, wearing maternity-capris from Target, I confessed that the "movie star" in the photo was me. Sensing I was queering the sale, I did not mention the "murdered Jews" part.

Moving the Product

The above photo was taken at the end of the day, after we consolidated all the tables and the porch. We were left with about 5% of what we started out with. I was shocked. I thought we'd have half of it left. Instead, people would practically have bought the paint off the house. Recession-busters, we are!

My favorite customer was the Mayor. He and his fiance apparently just moved in a block down our street. In addition to one of John's ski jackets and a stereo system (for his campaign headquarters, he said), he bought an air mattress. I don't know why I find this so funny, but I do. He also tried to pay with a check, which so confused me that I actually accepted it. Clearly he does not understand the "buy now, pay now" nature of these things. When he returned to pick up his substantial purchases, I gave him a hard enough time ("I'm good for it," he protested. I know, I don't care. I don't want another errand to have to do next week!) that he handed me 3 twenties. Thank you!

At the end of the day, the experience exceeded our wildest expectations. We moved 95% of our unwanted stuff, made tons of people happy with their found-treasures, and made a wad of cash (probably 4 times more money than either of us estimated, in fact), a happy bonus.

We'd do it again, but it would take years to accumulate that much stuff again. As I sit here typing this, someone just wrapped on our door. NO LATE BIRDS!!!

Friday, July 17, 2009


When I first moved here and did a lot of garage-saleing, we thought it was hysterical that the newspaper ads would often say "No Early Birds!" What, pray tell, was this rare breed? Well, we found out. First, a bit of background . . .

We live at 51 1/2 ____ Street. Our landlords live at 51 ___ Street. When I went to place the ad for the Moving Sale, the space was so narrow that the "1/2" really threw off the lines. It just looked sooo much better when it read "51 ___ Street." I called John, "Would it be terrible if I listed the address for the Moving Sale at 51?" His response, "You've got to be an idiot if you show up at our side-by-side two-family house and can't figure out where the sale is." OK, I thought, I'll do it. I ordered the ad with the landlord's address (technically). But still, it didn't feel right to put someone else's address in the newspaper, no matter how tiny the ad is. But John said it was OK, right?

The same night I ordered the ad, my friend came over to help me price stuff. She told me of her experience in having a garage sale nearby, on a prestigious street where people really get psyched about attending these things. She told me she had people banging on her door the day before the sale.

My eyes almost popped out of my head. It had never occurred to me that people would arrive outside of the prescribed Saturday, 8am-4pm hours! It was too late in the day to call the newspaper and get the ad corrected. I vowed to call first thing in the morning to Stop The Presses!

And thank God I did. Friday morning, as I went to the door to leave for work, I thought I heard a faint knocking. As I opened the door, I found a woman standing on my porch, looking sheepish. She smiled, "Are you the ones having a garage sale?" MOVING sale, lady. And you and I both know that it starts tomorrow at 8 am. NO EARLY BIRDS! I get it now.

I am told that, even though we are starting the sale at what I consider to be the crack of dawn on a Saturday (8 am), people are going to arrive at like 6 am to try and beat the cherry-picking masses. We have a friend coming over at 7 am, ostensibly to help with the babies, but we are thinking that his primary duty might be "greeter." Or, more accurately, "deflector." Someone to firmly tell all the early-birds, while John and I are hustling to get everything set out, that the party don't start 'till 8!

There will surely be good blog-fodder emanating from tomorrow's sale. Stay tuned . . .

The Beauty of the Garage Sale. No, MOVING Sale.

Today was my last day of work and we are moving in only 10(!!) days. Yesterday, a PODS (a beautiful invention) showed up at our house. This week, we've been barreling toward our long-awaited Garage Sale. I've been mentally wrestling with the idea for, literally, years. Is it too tacky to put your crap out on the lawn for the neighbors to pick through? Well, yes, of course it is. But that's neither here nor there. It's all about framing it for yourself. Me? I like to think that my possessions are having a party in the sun. And maybe someone will pay me to take them out for a spin. And keep them. Win/win, right?

But the real genius of the garage, er, Moving Sale, is that it makes it OK for you to part with stuff that you wouldn't otherwise part with. It's like you're finding a good home for an old friend. We haven't actually talked about how much money we'd make until a couple days ago. If we made $200, I'd probably be happy, because that's just gravy. The beauty is that it gives you an end-game for cleaning your house, like when you have a party and it makes you fluff up the inside. Anyway, I'm pretty tired after this long week, and also out-of-practice with writing, so this isn't my best work. Just trust me on this one: the Moving Sale is a thing of beauty, for many reasons.

p.s. Not only is the POD a genius idea for moving (it shows up at your house, you pack it at your leisure, you lock it, then they take it away and it shows up at your new house in a week or so), but we are using it as a staging area for the garage, I mean Moving Sale. We don't actually have a garage.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


One question we seem to get over and over is whether our boys are identical twins. We have varying answers to this seemingly straightforward question, depending on how much we like the asker. Just kidding. But the answer definitely does vary with the context. If you are reading this, you are getting "the long answer." The short answer is "yes."

First, here's some background on twins . . . fraternal twins are essentially siblings born on the same day. They are the result of two separate eggs that happen to be released at the same time, which are then fertilized by two separate sperm (sorry for the biology lesson, but it will get worse from here on out). Fraternal twins tend to run in families, since it is related to the tendency of the woman to drop multiple eggs. Fraternals are more common in certain races (blacks are more likely, Asians less likely to have twins), older women, and those who use IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction. As a result, fraternals used to occur in about 1 in every 90 births. In the past 20 years, that number has doubled to about 1 in every 40 births. If you live in L.A. or NYC, where affluent, older women are increasingly tending to undergo assisted reproduction, you might think that there was a sale at Penney's on (fraternal) twins.

By contrast, identical twins are a completely random phenomenon in which one egg is fertilized by one sperm and then the egg splits within a few days after fertilization. Therefore, identical twins are carbon copies of each other. Identical twinning is a spontaneous thing that occurs at a rate of about 1 out of every 300 births, the world over.

When we had our very first ultrasound, at which we were told there were two babies brewing in there, the doctor assessed the placental biology and told us we were likely having identical twins. This was because it looked like we had two amniotic sacs sharing a single placenta (again, sorry for the biology lesson). This is the biology in about 70% of identical twins. However, what looks like a single placenta can actually be two placentas "fused" into one. Therefore, a pathologist looks at the placenta post-partum.

All of this is very boring, I know, so I'll cut to my point: three doctors told us we had identical twins, but we dug a little deeper and determined that it's really only a "best guess." The only way to know, with certainty, that they are identical is to a DNA test, something that insurance doesn't pay for and most people never do.

I know if I asked my (doctor) dad about identicality, he would say, "Look at them." I don't know. You tell me- identical or not?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spaghetti Eating Contest

This weekend we went to Feast Days at Saint Anthony's of Padua Catholic Church in Endicott, NY. Around here, this is Big Stuff. The 2-day affair includes not only food and desserts and lots of live music, but also beer and gambling. This year, they added a first: 1st Annual Spaghetti Eating Contest. Two words: Pure Genius.

Contestants had to pre-register to participate. You know, to keep the riff-raff out. I mean, 1st prize was $300, so you want to get good quality contestants. Ultimately, twelve of them were deemed worthy. (And yes, that is a chick in the foreground of the 3rd photo posted.)

Contestants were presented with a big plastic bowl containing 6 pounds of spaghetti and sauce, and had 10 minutes to suck it down. I still don't understand why there was a ziploc baggie full of spaghetti in front of each contestant's bowl. Maybe it was just for decoration/atmosphere? I do understand the water bottles. Not pictured but referenced several times: the barf buckets positioned behind each contestant. Soooo awesome.

Guess what? It is really, really gross to watch a spaghetti eating contest. In order to get photos, I jammed myself into the crowd of sweaty, beer-fueled men who made up the inner circle of the audience. The "splash zone," if you will. I lasted there for exactly 3 minutes. Wow, I suck.

The last place contestant ate just over a pound of the slimy stuff. The first place contestant apparently consumed over 3 pounds. Of spaghetti. For $300. Oh, and don't forget the plaque.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Love your parents? or is it Stockholm Syndrome?

Now that the boys are 10 weeks old, we are starting to get substantially more feedback from them. They seem to orient toward our voices and recognize our faces. We have even been getting smiles for the past couple of weeks. All very reinforcing after so many weeks of nothing but dirty diapers and closed eyes.

But I started to think . . . I would smile, too, if I thought it would ingratiate me to the person who was solely responsible for not only my day-to-day comforts, but my very survival. "Yeah, you better smile at me buddy, or no milk for you!"

Then I remembered a psychological condition in which you identify with your captors: Stockholm Syndrome. Made famous by Patty Hearst when she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and ended up joining forces with her abductors.

Apparently I'm not so far off-base, as Wikipedia explains the psychology of the condition as follows: "According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, the tendency might well be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable — at the very least — the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure."

Note: People often ask us if they are aware of each other yet, and we don't think so. However, when I put them in the bassinet this morning, they ended up touching hands, as shown in the photo. It is amazing to think that we used to lie them down cross-wise in that same bassinet- now it's crowded even when we lie them down the long way!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Baby Clothes

Why are baby clothes so ridiculous? When we were pregnant and did not know the gender of the babies, people expressed their frustration with trying to buy us clothing, because everything seems to be gender-specific. Sure, there are a few items available in rubber ducky print (I think we own all of them, and I love them), and alligators and giraffes seem to be gender neutral. Good luck finding one-color items, much less white ones, or things with clean, geometric prints.

Thank God we didn't have girls, since pink starts to make me nauseous and the very thought of cheap lace makes me itch. Besides, the girl stuff tends to say things like "Mommy's Diva" or "Gold Digga" or even to have built-in bling.

Instead, we own lots and lots of things that have other kinds of ridiculous things printed on them. Why does a onesie have to say something like "Snugglesaurus" on it (with obligatory cartoon dinosaur)? or "Squeeze Me" (trust me, you don't want to squeeze a baby. Not unless you have a burp-cloth handy, at the very least).

The boy stuff tends to fall into a few categories: sports (see photo of hysterical matching outfits given to us by our 70-something landlords, and do not overlook the built-in track shoes), transportation, and police/fire.

What are the messages we are sending our children? Girls need to be self-absorbed divas and boys need to enlist in the fire/life safety professions?

p.s. Gratuitous baby photo: They are 10 thousand times cuter in real life than in these grainy, two-dimensional pics I've been uploading. You will note that they are wearing plain old white onesies, of which we have an entire drawer, since we go through several for each baby every day!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who needs a birth announcment, when you have nosey neighbors?

Emerging from a post partum fog, 8 weeks out, some memories are starting to emerge as particularly funny. For example, the way some of my "public" came to find out that we had given birth.

Our next door neighbors/landlords are a couple in their 70s. They are very sweet and were quite excited about our pregnancy. When they noticed our car gone all day, one day in early April, they decided we were at the hospital (we were) and they called in (there are only 2 hospitals in town) to confirm that I was in labor/delivery. How the hospital is legally allowed to confirm that over the phone to a random caller, I do not know.

Once they figured out we were at the hospital, on April 1st, they were barely able to wait to come see us. And I do mean barely. Declan & Finn were born at 12:11 and 12:12 am on April 2nd. At 10:05 am that same day, I was groggy and still waking up in the hospital, when the nurse escorted our landlords in to my room. I know it was 10:05 am because visiting hours started at 10 am and they had to wait. Apparently they wanted to come see us at 7:30 am, when they woke up, but were barred.

When they walked in, I was certainly surprised to see them, but could not have been distracted from the fact that I had two healthy babies. I even had a joke for them: "I know, I know, we owe you the rent as of April 1st. But we're a little distracted, as you can see. You know we're good for it." They didn't even hear me, too busy cooing over the babies.

It gets even better, though. One day, a few weeks post partum, we were walking down the street and encountered one of our neighbors, who we know only from walking her dog. I know her first name and her dog's name, and that she's friendly and nice, but that's about it. She told us that she was so excited when her phone rang and the caller ID came up with that of our landlords. She told herself, "We have babies!" Apparently our landlords had started a phone tree to announce the birth, and Mimi was the neighborhood contact. Mimi told us that she then called "Susie, Mitzy, Meredith, Rick, . . . " Who are these people? I asked. Apparently, they are all the neighbors who we do not know, and who I cannot believe would be that interested in getting a phone call to announce the birth of our children.

Apparently our next door neighbor did not get the memo about the birth, because she came over to our front porch one day, a few weeks after the babies were born, to see if we had gotten a cat (or two). She heard the babies through the window, and they certainly make a feline cacophony sometimes. I guess my winter coats, coupled with the fact that I went to work and wore high heels up until the end, had fooled her.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Women=Interested in babies; Men=not so much

Despite being mostly-housebound, blogging has not been on my radar lately. Also, I'm even more boring than usual, so there's not a bunch to write about. That said, the few times I do get out with the boys, I tend to hear the same things. The funny thing is that now I'm able to predict what people are going to say, depending on their gender. It goes like this:

"Do you have a baby in there?" (we use these cool, stealthy slings to carry them sometimes)
"How old are they?"
"Are they identical?"
"Do twins run in your family?"
"How is the breastfeeding going?"
"You look fabulous."
"What are their names?"
"Did you have a c-section?"
"Which hospital were you at?"
"Who was your doctor?"
"How much did they weigh?"
"What do they weigh now?"
"When are you going back to work?"
"Do you have family around to help?"
"Can you tell them apart?"
"How do you tell them apart?"
"They are beautiful."

"Wow. Uhm, congratulations(?)"

How to make your ride look REALLY stoopid

I couldn't help but notice this faux bullet hole in a car the other day. Now, what kind of moron thinks it's cool to have a bullet hole in his SUV? The scary thing was that this was a relatively nice car.

I wanted to tell the driver that, if he wants a bullet-riddled car, he should just move to LA, since this happened to a friend of mine last year (yes, she was quite upset about it, especially as it happened right outside her condo).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cruel jokes to play on new mothers

If these photos look overwhelming to you, think of how they looked to me, a new mother of twins, sleep deprived after weeks of feeding every 3 hours (or at least trying to), when I ventured out to Target a couple days ago to buy some baby necessities. Adding to the fun, each and every item I had to buy was something I'd never before purchased, therefore requiring a lot of product comparisons and label-readings. For example, who knew that pacifiers came in "sizes"? Cruel, cruel, cruel.


The City of Binghamton's (population 45,000) racial composition is about 80% White, 17% Black, and a little bit "Other." Which is why I love the fact that, even with this tiny "other" population, I was still able to find a totally Vietnamese owned/operated nail salon (called "Diamond Nails," of course.)

I did make it to the nail salon yesterday, which went a long way toward making me feel more human, post-baby. The thing that strikes me about the Binghamton Vietnamese nail salon is that the people who work there speak waaaaaay better English than any salon I've ever been to. Not sure why this would be the case. Maybe it takes longer for the immigrants to trickle up to Binghamton from their original port-of-entry into the U.S? Sitting atop a stack of outdated "People" and "Marie Claire" magazines, this Vietnamese-English dictionary was a real find. I taught myself how to say, "Damn, I already ruined my toenail polish when I was putting on my flip flops- can you please, please fix it before I leave?" A life-saving sentence, to be sure.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Declan & Finn have arrived!

Declan & Finn were born April 2nd at 12:10 am and 12:11 am, weighing in at 4 lbs, 8 oz and 5 lbs, 6 oz. Small (although typical for twins) and perfectly healthy. We have been on a quite a steep learning curve for the past week but there has been no shortage of entertainment. A few disjointed thoughts, since my sleep deprivation is kicking in at this point and I'm not very good at long-range holding on to thoughts.

First of all, it's tough to tell the boys apart. Most of the time, we end up calling them "This One" and "The Other One," which aren't exactly catchy nicknames. In a pinch, they are still wearing their plastic hospital wristbands, so we better figure it out soon because those things are really going to be digging into their arms by the time they get to high school. Finn's hair is a little lighter than Declan's, which is lucky since "Finn" means "fair" in Gaelic (Note: approximately 90% of Irish names mean "fair," similar to the way 90% of Norwegian names mean "warrior" or "bride of warrior.")

Finn is skinnier (4 lbs, 4 oz. as of yesterday) so he looks a bit like a baby chimpanzee, with big eyes and flat cheeks. Or maybe he looks like Benjamin Button? Sometimes I call him Old Man Finn.

They are good boys, overall, but still so tiny that they probably require a bit of extra attention at night when they are fussy. We learned some tricks to activate their "calming reflex," such as swaddling (to mimic the feeling of being in the womb), rocking, white noise, etc. One night when This One (or was The Other One?) was acting up, I heard John say, in all seriousness, "I'm going to swaddle you like you've never been swaddled before!"

We took them to the pediatrician for their 1-week appointment this week, and the doctor made 2 comments that cracked me up:

"Their penises are looking great!" (why, of course they are!)- they got circumcised and she was commenting on how they are healing; and

"They are going to be big boys- they have big hands!"
OK, their hands are like 1-square inch, not kidding. I had to laugh.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How I know I live in a very Catholic region

In case there was any question, we live in a very Catholic part of the country. It's possible I just never noticed these things before, but I noticed they were selling something at the grocery store that I don't think I've seen before: a "fresh palm cross."

Terrible Catholic that I am, I had to do a little research to remember that the Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday, so I guess these are to be used in connection with that. I think, though, that the fresh palm cross must be used in cultures that I haven't been around much. For example, wikipedia seems to imply that these crosses are more Eastern European, and not, say, Mexican, which would explain why I don't remember ever seeing them in L.A.

Note: in doing my research for this entry, I stumbled upon USC's motto, which is: "Palmam qui meruit ferat." This means in Latin, "Let him bear the palm who has deserved it." Apparently the palm branch is a symbol of triumph. Good to know!

Inappropriate stuff people have said to me while I've been pregnant

Now that I'm on full-time bed rest and about a week away from my April 4th due date, I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect back on some of the . . . interesting things people have said to me in the past six months or so.
  • "My son kicked so hard when I was pregnant, he broke my rib." I have spent months worried about this, of course.
  • Random woman in line at the check-out of the cafeteria in my office, upon seeing I was pregnant. "My first baby lived for 2 days. Then she died. Heart problem." Thanks for planting that seed, random lady I've never seen before . . .
  • At dinner with my 3 best girlfriends here, who - as though I were not present at the dinner table- were debating whether I'd gained enough weight at about 5 months along. Two thought I had not, but the third added, "She's totally gained weight. You can see it in her boobs and her face and her butt. Stand up, Anne, and turn around." WHAT? Good thing I love those girls . . .
  • Very nice lawyer in my office, who certainly meant well, but described labor as, "The pain isn't that bad. You know, it's not like getting a stick in the eye." Note to self: labor is not as horrible as having a stick jabbed into my eyeball. Good to know. Encouraging, even.
  • [As I walked into a historical society board meeting, I was greeted by a nearing-60-year-old man, with no children] "Hello, FATSO!" He apparently lived with his mother for most of his life, and married for the first time just a few years ago. Shocker.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

P.M.P. Deli

For the past three years on St. Patrick's Day, we've been fortunate enough to be in Europe. You know how we always know it's St. Patrick's Day, even though we barely know what day of the week it is? Because there is always, always, always a parade. OK, maybe not always a parade. Sometimes just a bunch of drunk people wearing silly green clothing, hanging out of a bar. London, Rome, Paris- the whole world is stupid on St. Patrick's Day, it seems.

So this year, with little ones due in just 2 1/2 weeks, John was a little glum about not being in Europe this year, nor for the foreseeable future. So we decided to celebrate St. Pat's day with a virtual Europe trip: we'd find the best euro-deli in the area, get some exotic food and drinks we'd only eat abroad, sit on the front porch (now that the weather is getting downright lovely), look at our Europe photos and re-live the good ol' days.

Binghamton is full of (European) ethnic pride, as evidenced by all the summer festivals, and it actually has a lot of delis. But P.M.P. Deli is consistently mentioned as a favorite. When we pulled up outside, I could see why: who doesn't love a mural of a cornucopia of . . . meat products? That's a horn o'plenty you can really sink your teeth into. Clearly, we were in the right place.

Inside did not disappoint, either. The place was full of meats, cheeses, beers, and sweets from every country. And I mean every country. P.M.P. (Pimp?) Deli does not discriminate. Turns out the owner is Italian, and his wife was Polish, so they pretty much specialize in foods from the country of . . . Europea. Awesome- we can relive our time in London, Paris, Berlin, Ireland, Budapest, Italy . . . all in one-stop.

The result was great- a smorgasbord of treats from around the world. We just closed our eyes and it was like it was . . . St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Children's Books

Just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Wegmans Twins

We are expecting in less than 4 weeks, and I gotta admit, identical twins freak me out a bit. While I went to high school with several pairs of perfectly normal, nice identicals, living in Binghamton has somehow spooked me on them, and I think I know why . . .

There is a pair of ethereal identical twins who seem to inhabit Wegmans like the mythological unicorn. We had a sighting this evening, and I was able to give chase and capture these beasts for blog purposes, as I had been hoping for months!

First, a bit of background about our beloved Wegmans: Wegmans is the mother of all grocery stores in the area. Not only is it huge and clean and open 24 hours, it has everything one's stomach could possibly want (except pomegranates, out of season, but that's another story). It is so vastly superior to the other stores in the area that pretty much anyone who has a car (and therefore does not rely on public transportation or walking) goes there. As a result, about 99% of people I encounter on a regular basis shops there. Wegmans is a shared experience around here, much like driving in snow.

A couple of years ago, John said that some of his classmates had been talking and had referenced "the Wegmans Twins." Huh? What was he talking about. "You know, those identical twins who are always at Wegmans." I laughed. Surely there couldn't be two nameless young women who had gained widespread recognition simply from going to the grocery store! Oh yes, my friends, they had. Here's why . . .

The Wegmans Twins probably go there every day, and they are never apart. They walk in, briskly, never getting a cart or even a basket. They pick up some small amount of food (see photo), from which department I know not. There is no conversation between them. There doesn't need to be.

The best part? They are dressed exactly the same, 100% of the time. Keep in mind, these women are probably 30 years old, possibly older. Not only do they always dress exactly alike, they are always wearing some form of modified break-dancing outfit (again, see photo, especially black tracksuit pants). It always looks like they got dressed circa 1989, permed hair, scrunchy and all.

So I'm on a bit of a mission to find out what their deal is. Turns out, they grew up locally and work - yes, of course they work in the same place- at Pets Mart, doing dog grooming. That's about all I know, though. I've got my buddies in the Wegmans fish department working on getting some inside intel, gleaned from the employee lounge, but so far . . . nothing. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I'm glad we aren't using the Catholic hospital

Among the reasons we are glad we aren't using the local Catholic hospital is that, well, it just freaks me out. We are going there for our childbirth education classes, so we end up getting lost in the halls each week (why are all hospitals so impossible to navigate?)

The best part is that we know we are in the correct (clinical, white, seemingly endless) hallway when we see . . . Jesus at the end.

Yup, that is Jesus at the end of that photo, arms outstretched, beckoning us to walk toward him, for the entire length of that freaking windowless, door-less, artless, soulless hallway. I feel like I'm arriving at the Pearly Gates or something. It's just creepy.

New York State Halls of Fame

In exploring New York- all the bits and pieces and crevices, as I do- it seems I've run across a disproportionate number of Halls of Fame. Not just the famous Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but the Soccer and Boxing and Dance Halls of Fame? I'd thought maybe it was "just me" until someone sent me a list of all such institutions in New York (thanks, Lisa!) Here you go:


























Sunday, February 08, 2009

Child Birth 101

Instead of preaching abstinence, high schools should just make students attend the "Childbirth Education Series" we started attending this week at the local hospital. We've only attended 1 of the 4 sessions so far, but they are priceless. Let's begin . . .

The group: I was the oldest pregnant lady in the room (shocker, I know). There were 8 couples and almost all of them were married, which was a shocker. But I supposed this is a self-selecting group because it costs money and takes time.

We had to bring 2 pillows with us. I did not think this was going to be the source of entertainment, except that this is Binghamton, so of course one of the couples (a colorful couple at that: Him = in his 40s, weighed about 110 pounds, horrible teeth, absolutely covered in tattoos, works as a radiology technician at the hospital; Her = in her early 20s, very simple/sweet young thing, but had a look about her that was straight out of Deliverance) had . . . interesting cases. You guessed it! They were my favorite: hunting themed!

The class was actually very informative. The first hour was like 5th grade sex ed (with tons of anatomy and processes explained) except that this time we had to pay attention because all that completely gross stuff (mucous plug, anyone?) was actually happening to us.

The best part, by far, however, was the props. Below is a photo of what is supposed to represent a darling baby, resting comfortably inside an amniotic sac. Instead, however, it is the stuff of nightmares. Not only is the baby just creepy looking (please, no one give us any dolls, they are always creepy looking!), but it also had stigmata on its hands and feet. OK, not real stigmata, but there were metal snaps in those places and it did look odd. The best was the snap on the belly button, though, making the baby look like it was going to come out of the womb looking like Britney Spears.

And that plush, padded, maroon "seat" the baby is resting on? That would be . . . the placenta. It was even sewn such that it had ridges and stuff and looked a little like a brain. GROSS.

Not as graphic but equally hilarious was this gem of a prop. Think you are looking at a rasta cap? No, my friends, that would be a custom, hand-knit . . . uterus. Only, to me, it looked more like a uterus cozy. Seriously, why are we using a knitted (striped, no less!) representation? And who made this thing? And how did they go about choosing the colors? Questions abound.

The best part, though, was the zipper. At the break, I asked the instructor what the zipper was for. "That's to represent a Cesarean section, of course!" Silly me.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Fish-outta-water's Greatest Hits (2008)

It's time. In fact, I'm overdue with Fish-outta-water's Greatest Hits of 2008. Here you go:

10. The Lumberjack Festival
9. Pa's Woodshed = Papa Woody's?
8. Hobology 101
7. Mr. Chair
6. The Superfly Hassidim of South Williamsburg, Brooklyn
5. The 5 Phases of Facebook: A Love Story, and its companion piece, Do Facebook "status updates" count as "reading"?
4. Mr. Power Mullet
3. The Guy
2. What Would Jesus Hunt? and . . .
1. Andouillette AAAA: "not a party pleaser"!!

Towns in Upstate New York seem to have only 10 street names

I am extra-boring, and not feeling so bloggy, lately. I'm chalking this up to the fact that it is REALLY cold out and we are pretty much in hibernation-mode. No crazy festivals to attend and write about.

That said, we just came back from a little drive to a nearby town today, and every time we venture out of our own little Binghamton-bubble, I'm struck by the fact that each city (actually, we are usually technically talking about a "village") seems to have the same 10 street names prominently represented in their "downtown"/historic areas. They would be:

1. Court Street (guess where this one is located?)
2. State Street (usually near the city hall/courthouse area, too)
3. Front Street (always runs along the river, and every village here seems to have a river - or a canal- somewhere running through it)
4. Water Street (also near the river, usually near the site of an old Erie Canal-era canal, but there are inexplicably not many "Canal Street"s)
5. Clinton Street - DeWitt Clinton was a Senator and Governor of New York and is credited with building the Erie Canal in the early 19th century- a public work project that to this day is unrivaled in its significance to the growth of the country (Oh my god I sound like a 5th grader from NY, reading my book report, with that sentence!)
6. DeWitt Street - Gov. Clinton's first name was DeWitt, which is apparently where this street name comes from. It is an unusual name, so I do (because I'm obsessed with names) note that DeWitt is his mother's maiden name, a popular naming convention right now!
7. Liberty - guess they are just patriotic around here?
8. Broome - apparently after John Broome, a NY merchant and statesman. Boring, but we live in Broome County and there is a Broome Street in Manhattan, too, so he must have been important at some point, right?
9. ??? Huh, not sure of what the last 2 would be. If anyone has any ideas, please post them in a "comment" below- I know I'm forgetting some important common ones!
10. ???

Southern Tier Signage: the gift that keeps on giving

I try not to blog about it every time I see a really awful sign, but this one was just too good. The business is called "Just in Time Auto" because the owner's name is Justin. I know this because he is in his own commercials, which seem to play non-stop on TV.

So you'd think he'd be a little savvier about his signage, right? So what is that orphaned comma doing, hanging out there after "time," but all by its lonesome, on the last line? And where did the capitalization go? Come on, Justin, get with the game!

Friday, January 23, 2009

More on Names: Greatest Hits from Broome County Hospitals

Sorry, folks, I'm stuck here. Cannot stop thinking about names, so thought I'd share some fun with you. I discovered that all the local hospitals (OK, so there are only 2 of them) actually publish, and even archive, birth announcements. I have looked through zillions and zillions of them from years past, all the while developing a mental "DO NOT NAME" list.

These birth announcements, of course, become a treasure trove of actual name data. Not stuff you heard a rumor about- these are REAL names. I have done the favor of culling through them and finding the greatest hits. I have excluded ethnic names, since every culture has its own names that are appropriate for it. Below are names that are just . . . sweet. For various reasons. Have fun:

Aidan and friends
I knew that what had started as a nice Irish boy's name- Aidan- had spawned an unbelievable amount of offspring. I just wasn't quite prepared for A) people's, uhm, creativity(?) with the name or B) the huge percentage of names - both for boys and girls- represented by these. Let's visit with Aidan and some of his friends, shall we?

A: Aaiden Amari Andrew (guaranteed to be "first in his class" . . . at least, alphabetically that is!), Aadyn, Ayden, Aden, Adin, Adon, Aiden
B: Braden, Braedon, Braeden, Brayden, Breydon, Breyden
C: Caeden, Caiden, Cayden
D: Drayden
G: Grayden
H: Hayden, Haidyn, Haydn
J: Jaden, Jaedyn, Jaiden, Jaidan, Jaedan, Jayden, Jaydin, Jaidyn, Ja'Dyn, Jaydrien
K: Kadin (Mace), Kadan (Uriah), Kadin, Kaiden, Kaden
P: Payton, Peyton, Payden
R: Raydin

Where dad got involved in the naming process
Jack Nicholas
Nolan Ryan
Jonathan Zeus
Caleb Espn (yes! the Southern Tier has its very own ESPN child!)
Blaze (and there are three little fires running around this county!)

When you can't decide, hyphenate! Does each parent have a faaaabulous name and they can't compromise? Why use adult negotiating skills to narrow the field and arrive at a normal name, when the hyphen is your friend!!
Belinda-Verginya Rose
Etana Marisa-Ann
Malayah Dawn-Kathleen
Zaniyah Amoy-Mary
Jeramyah Nasir-Marceillo
Kaylee-Lynn Princess-Marie
Destini Jaylee-Cheri
Zezra-Anne Sue
Allayah Mahkenzi-Beyonce
Jayden Jazspher-Jousalynn
Lyrik Violet-Leilani

Names I had (past tense) thought were reasonably cool until reading this list
Cadence (which, it was clear, had crossed over into "unacceptable" when I noticed all the variant spellings: Kadence, Kaydence, Kadience, Kaidence, Caedynce, Caydence)

Names that paint a portrait
Savannah Skye, Jade Sky, Autumn Sky, (and the bummer) Shadow Skies
Serenity Midnight
Sincerity Storm (sounds like the flurry of words that results when a guy is trying to apologize to his girlfriend for cheating on her or something)
Dakota Stream
Autumn Rayne
Ariel Sage (something you tie to your car antenna for good luck?)
Violet Olive (guhROSS! Sounds like something you find in the back of the fridge in a frat house bar)

David & Gereudale (huh?)
Tanner and Cooper (not bad names, just really great tradesman names: a leather worker and a barrel maker!)
Mason & Sawyer (same as above, but this time it's a bricklayer and a saw-man)

Haveen Helwa (Heaven & Hell?)
Shamus Angelo (they are going for the phonetic of "Seamus" but it looks like "Shame Us," which is perhaps offset by the "Angel" reference in the second part?)
Lady Lian (Lady Lying? Lady Lion? it's all bad)

"I'd like to buy a vowel, please?"
Hunter Mckhi
Zoe Snn

Curve Balls
Neveah (yes, it's "heaven" spelled backward and it has become so popular in very recent years that it was the fourth most common name for girls in New Mexico in 2007. Don't ask . . . )
Precious (really? and no middle name)
Zavier Zidane
Michelangelo (No middle name, which seems acceptable since they maximized the first name. At least they spelled it correctly.)
Jah-Ken Stefon
Phallon Maire (the first name sounds like "phallus" to me, and the second . . . a horse?)
Jaeliegh Hope (As in, "I hope she stays out of jail"?)
Miley Euphrades (with such a fluffy first name - as in Miley Cyrus- who would have expected the oppressively heavy middle name? the only expected part is that . . . it's spelled wrong.)
Nastmixxa (that is a great hip-hop/DJ name!)
Da'Shine La'Fresh

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams . . .
Kysheem Gucci (the only "Gucci" within 150 miles of here is the knockoff purses that people bring home from NYC)
Chanel Diamond

Sorry, what was that name again?
Zicciah Clinton
Ke'aylah Lizandre Rosa
Jy-lijah Tito (mom is named Cassiopeia, so this one seems to be keeping with tradition, in a way)
Hosamulhaq (try googling that one!)

When in doubt, just misspell it. That's sure to make it "unique"!

All Stars
Amiah Precious (I don't know, are you?)
Amiah Angel (same question)
Michelangelo (luckily there is a LOT packed into the first name, since there's no middle name. But needs one, really, with a first name like that?)
Danny Supreme (sounds like a tasty deli sandwich!)
Heavenly Dreama-Mary
Jaquoia Hopes Blessing
Darker Selwyn
ZyMail (fascinating to think about what kind of "mail" that would be)

Best name EVER
Unique Leygh (really? Just like mom???)

The biggest surprise? I found myself shocked- SHOCKED!- when I ran across a baby named . . . John. John, the top ten of boys names for a century, now made a single appearance as John William. Ahhhh, after all of that, how refreshing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Disclaimer: People have strong opinions- and emotions- associated with certain names. The following is not intended to offend the reader or judge the namer. I just report the facts! Now, on with the show . . .

If you've had any contact with me for the past couple of months, chance are good that I've bored you with talk about my favorite topic: BABY NAMES. I've been pretty obsessed with them as the pregnancy chugs along, probably because they are a far less stressful topic to read up on than things like breast feeding and diaper changing (guh-ROSS!) I have become something of an expert, not only on the specific top names, but on the latest trends in baby-naming (so they can be avoided, as necessary). Sadly, I even know the top names by country.

For example, in England, the name "Lettice" is climbing fast. It took me ages to figure out that this name is most likely pronounced "Letitia." Oops! Yes, friends, danger lurks in baby-naming-land. If you want to play it safe, name your son "Jack," since it has held the #1 (or close to it) position in the UK, Ireland, and Australia, and it is becoming ubiquitous in America.

Because our last name is the 3rd most common in the United States, it is particularly important to us to avoid the most common first names, but obviously not pick a name that is so unusual that it brands the kids as freaks, right? Hence our challenge. Since I've become such a repository of info, here is the baby name tutorial:

Some trends, historically speaking:

Boys' names, finally branching out: For most of the 20th century, boys names exhibited hardly any diversity. You know these "usual suspects": John, James, Michael, Thomas, Robert, Frank, etc. A hundred years ago, these names each controlled up to 5% of the baby name market, whereas now the top boy name controls just over 1%. This lack of diversity is explained by the tendency to pass on male names (i.e., junior) and the fact that men's names are seen as sources of family tradition and lineage. Starting about 30 years ago (and probably partly due to changing immigration trends), boys names started to diversify to the point that for-decades-top-5-John is now barely hanging on to the Top 20. Expanded By contrast, girls names are much more subject to ever-changing ideas of beauty, whether it be gem stones (Ruby, Pearl, Opal) or flowers (Violet, Daisy).

Girls names: Hot, then not: Girls names have tended to become wildly popular, shooting to the #1 or #2 spot, then dramatically falling out of favor, for no apparent reason. As a result, some names allow you to practically carbon-date the owner (sorry, ladies- we didn't name ourselves, right?) Some examples:

Minnie (1880s)
Dorothy (1920s)
Marilyn (1930s)
Judith, Carol (1940s)
Linda (1950s)
Lisa (1960s)
Jennifer (1970s, 1980s)

The 1970s/80s: Back to Nature: This era brought the earth-mother out, as people looked to nature for inspiration and came up with: Dawn, Heather, Crystal, Ginger.

Recent Trends:

Place Names: Starting in the 1980s, it's as though the country cashed in its frequent flyer miles. From exotic locales (London, Paris, India), to U.S. states (Dakota, Montana) to the downright familiar (Brooklyn- the 57th most common name, nationally, but, interestingly, not to be found on the NYC registry- they must have been there and known it is not a place you want to name your precious baby girl after!)

Cutting Edge Trends:
Nouns: Apple, Satchel, Story, Sonnet, River

Granny-cool: (Note: many of these overlap with the below-listed "Colors"): These are the names that were hot hot hot at the turn of the last century: Grace, Lily, Eve, Anna, Ivy.

Colors: Violet, Ruby, Scarlett and even Cerulean (I don't even know what color this is).

I am going to stop here because A) I could go on forever and B) I'm getting bored!
You might be wondering what the pizza-baby photo has to do with this entry. The answer? Absolutely nothing. However, if you want to play "name this baby," particularly using any of the tools above, that would be fun, too. How about "Crispin"? or "Swaddle"?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Eating My Way through Downtown L.A. . . .

If you are reading this blog, you are probably A) a blood relative and/or B) close enough to know that I'm pregnant (due in April, don't know the gender, thanks for asking). So it should not be surprising that I'm a bit food-obsessed lately. Not only because I'm hungry all the time, but also because, at this stage in the game, you can actually influence their palate.

I would prefer that my children have a broad world view, and this includes being open-minded about food. Unfortunately, Binghamton is not exactly the place to indulge the taste for global cuisine, so I was on a mission during my trip home to LA for Christmas. But I took it beyond having dim sum for breakfast at 7:30 am in Chinatown and doner kebabs in the Jewelry District for late lunch.

Above is a photo of sausages we tried at a brand-spanking-new sausage/fries/beer joint called Wurstkuche, in the Arts District (of course). To call it a "restaurant" is not really fair, because it is more of a teleportation device, transporting the customer to modern-day Berlin or something. Very euro and very cool.

But, in my current condition, I couldn't just order off the "Classics" or even the "Gourmet" section of the menu. No, I had to go for the "Exotics." And that descriptor is not an overstatement. During my trip home, I sampled the Alligator & Pork sausage (a tiny bit fishy) and the Duck & Bacon (it's so right, it can't be wrong). But the best one, and the thing that gave me happy dreams that night, was actually the Rattlesnake & Rabbit with Jalapeno Peppers sausage. There is something about rattlesnakes and rabbits that just goes together- possibly because they inhabit the same ecosystem. Anyway, strongly recommend that one, and the place in general. I went three times in four days!

Below is a photo of the famous Bacon Donut that I'd previously written about, but finally got to taste. The best part is that it's covered in maple syrup. So decadent. Not my speed, but I'm still glad it exists. Now that I'm thinking about it, I may regret my gustatory exploits at this stage of the pregnancy. The twins may emerge with a hankering for boneless chicken feet!