Monday, July 09, 2007

The Dress I'm Not Wearing to the Party

The most recent wondertime column is here, though another one should go up later today.

I also wanted to let you know that I was reading online reviews of local alteration places, and I decided against Julius the Tailor. Why did the reviewer give him only two out of a possible five stars? She explains: "I called and the person who answered said he passed away in march."

Now if somebody is actually just plain not alive, I'm feeling like two stars is kind of an odd rating. I'm feeling like zero stars would make more sense. Or maybe five, just out of respect. But two? "Eh. He's kind of a mediocre tailor. On account of being dead."

I was hoping to put a zipper in my dress with the long, busted zipper. (Marked down at Marshall's! Ten bucks is a great deal for a dress with a busted zipper, but only if you ever put a zipper in it. Currently all ten bucks has purchased me is a wad of unwearable fabric that sits accusingly on my bedroom chair, hogging up the air space.) But forget about the dress, I'll wear something else. Because we're leaving today to join my family in New York, where we'll celebrate my mother's 70th birthday. This mother, who is, believe me, more heart-stoppingly gorgeous now than she even was then. (I also can't help noticing that I am actually descended from a long line of baby-hair sniffers.)


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Oh sweet, sweet baby hair smell. It's about the best smell I can ever think of. So delicious, too (as your wonderful mom has illustrated) on the back of the neck. After playing outside. On a hot summer's day. Best. Smell. Ever. Have a very safe and happy trip to NY! Happy birthday, Catherine's Mom!!!!

  2. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Happy 70th Birthday to your Mom!!!!! Catherine, have a wonderful time and a safe trip. You know, I even like the sweaty-needs-to-get-washed-4 yr old-hair smell. I do that too with bargains from Marshalls- I think-"Oh, I'll just have my mom hem these ridiculously long jeans that fit me PERFECTLY otherwise." And then she tells me she doesn't like to hem pants like that because the seam will not look normal. Oh well. Many happy returns of he day to your mama.

  3. Happy 70th to your mom!

  4. Anonymous1:01 PM

    Why did I choose today to catch up on my Wondertime reading? Today, the day I had to leave my six week old baby and go back to my soul sucking job, to read about Ben and Birdy getting bunk beds? I'm a mess. But glad to read they are still sharing the old bed, too.

    I totally forgot, in my own world that develops at the end of pregnancy and into the first few weeks to read the blogs and I missed you!

    I also forgot to savor the last few days of being huge pregnant and I'll never be again and yes, it *is* very sad.

  5. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Happy Birthday to your Mom! She IS very beautiful.

  6. Happy 70th to your Mom! She looks lovely and so serene, nothing like any photos of me with the girls.

    Smelling baby heads is a guilty habit of mine still...just need me a baby head.

    Hope you have a fun trip to NY, pack lots of snacks those rest stops get old fast. Except the ones with Starbucks. ;)

    Enjoy your trip.

  7. I always think that little boy hair smells like birds' nests. But in a GOOD way.
    Happy birthday to your mom! Have a safe trip.

  8. Happy B-day to mom.

    Is it weird that I'm jealous that she's looking down at her baby in that photo and there is no sign of a 2nd (or 3rd) chin?

    Gorgeous is right!

  9. Happy birthday, Catherine's Mama! How can you NOT sniff baby hair?

  10. Your mom is lovely! Hope she eats lots of cake (or pie or whatever dessert she likes) and gets to hug all of you!

  11. mmm... baby heads have their own special smell, don't they? I think Yankee Candle should market their own version... don't you think every mother would buy one? Ok, maybe not.

  12. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Your mom is gorgeous.

    And is it weird that I think my boys (who smell like fish food and maple syrup) have the most scrumptious smell in all the land? Because they do. It's a nice kind of fish-food/maple-syrup smell, not the bad kind....

  13. Anonymous8:29 PM

    What beautiful pictures. I really wish I had photos like that of me and my mom. Happy birthday, Mom!

    Baby Hair is the most wonderful scent. I love it when it smells like sunscreen . . . or cookies . . . or well, really anything.

  14. Anonymous1:02 AM

    Happy Birthday Catherine-Mom!

    I guess I'm not so much of a hair-sniffer - more of a hair-stroker, especially when my son has just had his hair cut. Just can't resist petting that golden buzz cut on that much-loved head.

    I enjoyed the Wondertime Column this week (though I always do - and never post over there since I've had so many problems with the site). It got me to thinking what my kids would draw with a magic pencil - my daughter would definitely draw a puppy, my son a giant robot or construction vehicle (or better yet, a giant robot that could transform into a construction vehicle). As for me - maybe someone to brush my hair. Because I love to have my hair brushed and my daughter won't brush it for me - she'd rather brush her dad's hair and give him a new 'do complete with barettes and bows. Life is so unfair.

  15. Happy birthday to your mother--of course she's gorgeous. Do you get a little choked up looking at pictures of your mother when she's the same age or younger than we are now? Do you get that whole circle of life thing going and then feel an urgent need to grab onto something and make it stop for a minute, just a minute, for Pete's sake?
    I hope your trip is lovely and safe.
    P.S. Isn't 2 stars sort of the pergatory of reviews, neither loved nor hated but only tolerated? The deceased tailor, trapped in 2-star limbo.

  16. Have a wonderful trip!

    I just read your new story. God, Ben is such a fantastic kid. A golden toilet! That's awesomely brilliant. Give him an extra hug from one of his fans.

    Your decision to let him stop taking swim lessons might be something he remembers for the rest of his life.

    There are those childhood moments where you realize you are part of a team, and that your parents are your biggest cheer-leaders (not just bossy coaches).

    He might come back around to swimming lessons on his own, or maybe he'll just love swimming with you and Michael, or maybe he'll be an adult who just doesn't care much for swimming any particular way. What does it matter?

    I think what you did for Ben is so much more important than forcing it. Good job! If you start a homeschooling blog, I'll read that too ;-)

  17. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Just read your Wondertime blog and as always, it's so beautiful I'm sitting here choked up. You are fine in what you did!! Kids *MUST* know how to be safe in water, but that is different from torturing them with lessons. Ben will never forget that moment of relief -- never. Follow up on the practice-with-parents and everything is great.

    You are great :)

    -Nancy H.

  18. Happy Birthday to Catherine's Mom!!

    Have a great trip, and yes, I too am a baby hair sniffer....yum!

    Take care.

  19. I love the pictures of your mom in her younger years. What a treasure that you have them.
    Take more pictures of her! You will never regret it.
    I personally am a fan of baby hair that has been in the sun, like a clean set of sheets from the line.
    However, the more children you have the more you realize that babies' hair can get funky spit up smell from not bathing them every day like you did the first two.

  20. My son is 8 and I still bury my face in his hair...causing him to run away with an exasperated,"Mooo-ooooM!! STOP!"

  21. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Happy 70th to your beautiful mom that looks so much like Birdy.....or is it Ben?

    Anyway, I'm letting Rachel teach herself how to swim this summer, too. I may break down and do lessons in August since she's more relaxed now. We'll see.

  22. The golden toilet ... I love it. I love how his mind works. He so reminds me of my own son who is just a bit younger. Just the other day he was talking about a particularly expensive Playmobil piece he wants to add to his collection. I asked him how he thought he might aquire enough money for such an item. "Easy mom, CHANGE! You just have to go out and buy things." He still thinks the money we get back from the cashier is found money, doesn't quite understand we are getting back less than we give. And actually, the change does end up in his bank - so in a way he is right. I just love the way they think.

    If Ben should request no school - go for it. We homeschool/unschool our two children and are loving this life together.

  23. Anonymous1:18 PM

    Hey Catherine-
    I am in Western MA also. I know this is a little hike for you but we have always used Sweet Peas tailors in South Hadley.
    They have altered my husband's suits, my dresses, my wedding dress and even some jeans.
    They are right near South Hadley High. Good luck, I too am always like, "Oh yeah, this dress would be perfect if only it fit over my hips!"

  24. Anonymous2:20 PM

    The thing is, not all kids hate swim lessons. My daughters (3 and 6) love them. But last summer, my daughter was not ready. She refused to go in and at first I tried everything I could and then I just dropped it. She just watched and didn't go in once. This summer she is happy to go in. So I feel like I made the right decision not pushing her. You have to think to yourself: do you simply want the goal accomplished or do you want the goal accomplished with joy? I really wanted her to learn to swim but not if she was miserable the whole time. Ben's time will come. Whenever these things come up, I'm always like but if I don't push it then she'll never learn to-- but then they always do eventually, whatever that thing was. This has probably been the biggest lesson of ever.

  25. OK, first of all, happy belated birthday to your mom! Dang, she was pretty darned good looking back in the day too!
    Second, and here I hesitate because I so strongly disagree with your comment that "'re supposed to make your kids do the things that kids are supposed to do." Oh hell no!
    OK, well, my son was supposed to have some fillings put in (his teeth) last week while I was away at work, clear on the other side of the country! Over the phone, I tried to cajole him into agreeing that fillings were a far better fate than oh, say, having your teeth just rot away right there in your head. But he was having NONE of it. Finally I said "OK, then just tell the dentist that you're too scared today, and they will reschedule you for another day when you feel better about it." I knew that once he was there, they would talk him down off his no-filling ledge - which they did - and get the job done, which they pretty much did. But it was just this: giving him the power to say "No, I'm not comfortable with that..." that is sooo important. Eventually our kids will grow up into adults that really need that skill, to be able to say "no." Forcing them to do something that they really don't want to do - just becuase that's what (we feel) "kids are supposed to do" can backfire badly and leave them not trusting you, their parent who they really need to be able to place their trust in.
    Oh, Catherine, I still love you. I love all these Mom's whose parenting styles differ from mine. It's like 31 flavors. Only 31 million flavors! OOOOO! Imagine the possibilities.

  26. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Um, The Flying Mum, what are you talking about? Catherine did NOT make Ben keep doing the thing he hated. Did you not read that far? Catherine has the most balanced parenting style I've ever seen. On that note, you seem to be quite balanced with your son, too. I firmly believe in giving them an "out" so they feel they can say no and people will listen. So, if you really read what she wrote, you and Cath are on the same page.... and that's a good thing:-)

  27. oh, she's beautiful!

  28. Yes, I read that far down, and I know that Ben is out of swimming lessons. and I also realize that Catherine didn't know that Ben dreaded them as much as he did, and that the minute she found out, that was the end of Ben's hour of torment. And Cathetrine, I agree with Meg that you are one of the most balanced - as well as intuitive and sensitive parents I've come across. I do still take exception, though, to the statement I made reference to. And I'm inclined to wonder if you really do believe it as well...

  29. Anonymous11:43 AM

    The Flying Mum,
    What I came away with from that sentence that you take such offense from is: I think she means stuff like school and taking a bath and stuff like that. Also, I am SURE she absolutely desires her kids to be able to swim well because, as she wrote in her book, she witnessed someone drown right in front of her on a vacation once. So, I think that's why she thinks that's what kids are "supposed" to do and I don't think she meant to say "make". I think she just means she didn't want to start a snowball effect of him trying to get out of everything that's a little unpleasant. If you've been reading for a long time, I think you'd know her well enough to know that she never goes by what other people decree are "the parenting ways". Sorry if this is rambling. I think you understand my point. Don't focus on one sentence. Maybe it wasn't worded exactly right for what she was trying to say, just focus on the feeling of the column and that is of love and acceptence.

  30. First of all, my apologies to you, Catherine, I really don't know what made me lash out at you. When I stepped back and thought about it, and asked myself "would I have left a comment like that at any of the other mommyblogs I read regularly?" The answer was no. Absolutely not. And my comment came across more as self-righteous and bitchy, than sarcastic Eddie Murphy... my apologies.
    Meg I totally agree with you. I've been reading Catherine's parenting journals since her first entry over at I've read "Waiting for Birdy" and other short stories by Catherine. I am clearly a big fan of hers and have wished at times that my parenting skills were on a par with hers. I really don't think that Catherine will ever force her kids to do anything they don't want to do - maybe a better choice of words would have been to encourage your kids do the things that kids are supposed to do. Things like swimming lessons, bike riding etc. whatever we recall from our own childhoods. Yes, we are the front lines when it comes to our kids education and personal hygiene, with that you'll get no argument from me. I can't even plead PMS in my defense - just a sentence that jumped out at me and got stuck in my craw.

  31. Oh, really, no hard feelings! I totally understand.

    I was glad that Meg played psychic bodyguard for me, since I do agree with her sense of it--that I meant more like "supposed to make", with the quotes and everything. Not somthing I really mean myself. But it's fine to wonder aloud about it, to disagree, to feel provoked. Honestly. As long as nobody rags on Ben's clothing choices! ; )

    xo Catherine

  32. Hehe... you rock, Catherine!

  33. If you find a good tailor could you post it here? Where are you looking at reviews for local tailors? The tailor I was using is not so much dead, but she is gone and so I've been trying to find someone new. I've heard that the one on the corner of East Pleasant and Triangle is good but haven't tried them myself.

    Good for you for letting Ben out of the lessons, we've been doing a lot of realizing ourselves that the Pepper doesn't need to do everything just because his friend's do. We did do a couple of weeks of swim lessons but I think all they did was take a kid who was reasonably comfortable in the water for his age and turn him into a kid who thought pools were a device to turn him into a popsicle. Don't know where you are doing lessons but that pool at Mill River is freaking COLD!

    I hope you had fun in NY, your mom is beautiful. Your column was too (as usual).

  34. I only just today read your column about swim lessons. When I read what you did for Ben, I got a little choked. My parents were very good parents, but I wish they had occasionally let me out of something that made me miserable. If, for example, they had let me skip school on Field Day, I would have missed VERY LITTLE of benefit to me--but I would have remembered it forever. FOREVER.

  35. And now I've just read the column about summer bickering, and I know just what you mean about their beautiful little limbs. The first day of short sleeves in spring, I keep gnawing on their forearms. Later, the first day of shorts, I keep wanting to photograph their spindly pale legs. Our worst/best summer was a summer we didn't have air conditioning and it was madly hot, and on one hand I was just about to start walking for Alaska, and on the other hand the kids were hanging around in just shorts or just diapers, and they were so darling I couldn't stand it.

  36. Anonymous3:19 PM

    I've found you again!!! I just reread every single Bringing Up Ben & Birdy again and finally, finally, noticed the link to your blog and WonderTime on Wednesday and just finshed reading all of them. I feel like I've bumped into an old friend. Or just received a lovely unexpected gift! I love how you write and live, and see alot of my children's quirks (Spencer,6 and Izabel,3 1/2) mirrored in yours. Thank you for not dropping out of my life forever!:-D