Thursday, March 03, 2011


Birdy turned 8 today. "My baby!" I keep crying, and wrapping my arms around her. But seriously. My baby! She is so dear to me, that girl.

Spunky and kind, fierce and fair, loyal and loving and silly. Ben's been home sick, and when it was time to take Birdy to karate--our plan was just to leave him alone for a few hours--his fever was creeping up and up. "How bummed would you be to miss Power Girls?" I finally asked, and Birdy said, "Oh, Mama, I know. I was about to say the same thing--I really don't feel comfortable leaving him." That little brow furrowed with concern. I could bite her. I did bite her. Sigh.

Meanwhile, a lovely ginger-vinaigrette chicken recipe is here, and a less intuitively appealing but nonetheless delicious smoky chickpea recipe here.

Can we talk a little more about books and games?

Malena Watrous, a new friend I've never met, very kindly sent me her novel and I loved it.

If You Follow Me. It's about a young woman's year teaching English in Japan--but really it's mostly about trash, and I laughed out loud every few pages. When I offered her my incisive analysis--that it's about trash--she said that, in fact, she was going to call it the Japanese word for trash, but her editor dissuaded her, so there you go.

I have also recently read and loved Twin by Allen Shaw, and  The Saskiad by Brian Hall. You guys? Any books you think we should all know about?

Furthermore, I am recommending two new games, not because Rio Grande sent them to me to review, but because Rio Grande sent them to me to review and they are awesome.

Dominion boasts "massive replay value" and this is more true than I know how to describe. We opened it two days before Christmas, and I'm not sure that a day has passed since during which we haven't played at least once. It takes around a half an hour, and there are many variations, and we all seem to win sometimes. When you read the description, it's all weird second-person dungeons-and-dragons "You are a monarch, a ruler of the peasants, an eater of the mutton, blah blah," and that's not at all what it's like to play. You're trying to amass resources, and it's more like an algorithm of logic and strategy than a narrative. I'm just saying. Gosh, I am really turning into a gamer. Do I smell like a gamer yet? Maybe.

Now, if you already have Carcassonne, any Carcassonne, you really don't need this one too. But if you don't, then I completely recommend it as it is our new favorite Carcassonne game. Wheel of Fortune is a tile-laying game that is quick, lovely, and wickedly competive, with an element of luck that adds to both the fun and frustration. Again, that distraught woman on the box? I have no idea what she's all about, and whether the featureless gingerbread-man-shaped wooden play pieces ("meeples" they're called, I don't know why) are intended in some way to represent her plight. We are not so much about the story as we are about fitting the tiles together and sneaking into each other's high-scoring situations. It is so much fun.

I am going to do another games give-away next week, but I haven't figured out the method yet. Stay tuned.

And thank you for your responses to the paint chip. I really enjoyed reading them, and, as you know, am always up for a little lively debate. Just for the record, we do, of course, force Ben to wear pink. And we make Birdy wear blue lederhosen and a strap-on.



  1. I love your Birdy posts. She's special to me because you and I were one month apart in our pregnancies and I followed your column regularly -- particularly when I was on full bedrest for several weeks, depressed and frightened, trying to hold my own daughter inside until she was ready for the world. (We succeeded.) She and Birdy are alike in so many ways. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

  2. MY heart lurched when I read that Birdy is is that possible?? That means my Luke will be eight this month, too! I feel like Luke and Birdy are kindred spirits, the goodness in them that they give of so freely is truly one of the best gifts in life. Thanks so much for letting us all know your Birdy, and for giving a voice to how it feels to be a mother to such amazing little people. I feel like I've been with you every step of the way and love you all like family. Happy Birthday, Birdy!

  3. So exciting - I can't believe I never figured out Birdy has the awesome birthday of 3/3/03 - and so great for filling out forms. Best wishes for a happy birthday with no forms to fill out!

  4. Happy Birthday Birdy girl! I can't think of cooler name for a karate class than Power Girls. Honestly. That's incredible. Does she wear her strap-on to Power Girls? Because I'm not sure I can stand that level of badassery...

  5. Happy Birthday to Birdy! I hope Ben feels better soon :)

  6. Laura7:44 PM

    Happy Birthday Birdy! It's my birthday today too! And I'm just 37 years older than you! We had a clear, cold but sunny day here in MA. Hope yor day was fun!

  7. Happy Birthday, Birdy! Her not wanting to leave sick Ben is so touching. Good job, Mama. Those are some sweet babes, even if you let them like their preferred colors. ;)

    The strap-on comment made me rediscover how good I am at snorting coffee through my nose. Thank you! It's been a few weeks of illnesses and never ending school carnival fund raising around here, so violent laughing is very much appreciated.

    Oooh, what kind of cake did she want this year?

  8. See, the thing I love about reading your blog is that you actually say words like fuck and strap-on.

    Happy birthday to Birdy!

  9. Happy Birthday Birdy! I have always felt like our kids (well, now I have an extra one so the OLDER kids) are kindred spirits too since we had our babies at the same time pretty much - twice. Hope Ben is on the mend and I am so jealous of your gaming. We are lucky to play a few games a week!

    What is your secret to finding the time? Oh, I got my 5 year journal for my b-day and love it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. Ah... how could I not even recall that dear Birdy was born only one year minus six days after my Kelvin? At the same hospital. Sigh. I think I was reading faithfully at the time (and wondering what I'd say if I ever bumped into you somewhere and stood there starstruck ;). How could I not remember? Well, I'm sure next year I'll remember. I still can't believe that Kelvin is turning nine. :(

    In any case, a Very Happy Birthday to Birdy, the dear sister who gave up her fun karate lesson to stay with her big brother!

    P.S. the last post was HILARIOUS! As usual. and... YAY, another game give-away! I hope I get lucky this time so we can get our train game (to lazy to look it up now, but you know which one I mean).

    P.S.2 and thinking about our children's births made me miss Western MA a lot. We have to go back to visit this summer. Kelvin often says that he misses the tall campus library -- he loved to take the elevator to the top ever since he was a baby. Sigh...

  11. You requested some good reads - and I'll admit I just reread "Waiting for Birdie" and decided it's the perfect gift for anyone expecting their 2nd child since they don't need another 30 onesies. It again made me laugh out loud (and cry every so often). I also started "No Opportunity Wasted" which is a get off your butt and live your life book. Echos to the lovely birthday wishes.

  12. Happy Birthday Birdy! But we must have added wrong. We just barely finished waiting for you. How can you be EIGHT?
    My 8 yr old has much of Birdy's spunk, so I have so enjoyed reading as they grow up together. Sigh.

  13. Happy birthday to Birdie! I read your column back when you were having her and I was pregnant with my daughter. I can't believe they're both turning 8. As for good reads, I'd recommend _A Discovery of Witches_, written by my friend and former professor Deb Harkness. It came out last month and is a very fun read.

  14. Oh, happy birthday to your girl!

  15. Anonymous8:16 AM

    I'm so with you on the eight-year-old thing. You and I were pregnant "together" with our second kids, and I still haven't absorbed the shock of Jake turning 8. It's such a "big-kid" age!

    I never got around to commenting on your last post (I'm sure you were waiting with baited breath), but I found it absolutely hilarious. I've been following your defense of Ben's color choices since his favorite "raspberry stripey-o" shirt in the Baby Center days. The dissenting commenters on that board were a lot less civil than the ones here, as I recall. Also, leiderhosen and a strap-on? It takes a very special girl to rock a look like that. Don't forget the shaved head and facial tattoos, ok?

    Love, Al, et al.

  16. Jennifer LB9:45 AM

    Saskiad!!!!! The book about my hometown, and my mom's name is one of the characters. My mom was the midwife for the author and his wife. They live down the street!

    Now you MUST come visit Ithaca. We can introduce you and you can do a reading of Waiting for Ben and Birdy and we can all laugh together, instead of alone in front of our computers.

  17. Happy birthday Birdy! Your family is so beautiful.

  18. Happy Birthday, Birdy!

  19. I love how you love Birdy. And how she loves Ben. Sigh. So sweet.

  20. Anonymous5:29 PM

    Happy Birthday to Birdy!! Love your beautiful writing, Catherine!

  21. Happy birthday, Birdy . . . you are a lovely person to share my birthday with! :) I know it's a day late but I was busy celebrating. My own guy will turn 8 in just 9 days, and I get the whole "how is this *possible*??" thing. I swear they were just born.

    (And happy birthday to you, too, Laura!)

  22. Susannah10:38 PM

    Happy birthday, Birdy!
    And your new book recommendations couldn't have come at a better time. I was just lamenting the fact that I needed a new book to read,and voila! Here they are! I often enjoy your suggestions. Thanks so much!

  23. Happy birthday, beautiful Birdy. I hope Ben is feeling better now and I am jealous at all the games you guys have! We love board games (actually all kinds of games), too, but don't have the money to buy them right now.

  24. Happy birthday. She really is such a sweet girl!

  25. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Happy birthday to you and to Birdy! Birdy was born on my son's due date... he was nearly 3 weeks early, but he looks very much like Birdy. He's the son who insists on wearing his hair long (and has the curls to do it) and whose favorite outfit is an orange shirt with multicolored striped beach pants (none of the stripes are orange, however) together. Must be some of you "wore off" on me while I read your BabyCenter columns then....

  26. I'm another one who started reading your journal when your Birdy and my baby were both 'flapping on our cervixes like catfish'. I don't remember exactly how you said it but I've been hooked on you and your family ever since!

    IN FACT, I am home with two sick girls and decided to let you do the talking for me and posted a link to your ancient journal entry "The Great Barftastrophe" as a Facebook Status Update. I never forgot it and Googled it at 2AM between emptying buckets and washing towels. It made me smile in the middle of my misery.

    So thank you, happy birthday to your sweet Birdy, and love to sweet feverish Ben too (we had that one last month).

  27. I'm loving all the games and books! But what about puzzles? Check out for gorgeous, pricey, this-is-all-I-want-for-my-birthday, puzzles.
    A happy year for Birdy...

  28. I'm obsessing over books about keeping kids kid-like. I'm sure you've read NurtureShock and Einstein Never Used Flashcards. But I mention them to anyone and everyone because I can't stop thinking about the truth they carry. Now I'm reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv - how kids are missing out on outdoor play and what we can do about it(he calls is Nature Deficit Disorder). Very valid points!!

  29. Wow. I faithfully read your Ben columns before there was even a Birdy, and I remember when she was born; I had just found out I was expecting my second child. I am so excited to find your blog again, and thank you for writing for so many years. Happy Birthday big girl!

  30. Happy belated birthday, Birdie! I hope it was wonderful, just like you are!

    Catherine, you always make me laugh and cry. I love your last couple of posts, all of them actually, but especially the last two.

    Today, we were at a friend's house. She has 3 girls, and Joaquin, my son who's 6, was bored. The mom offered to put a movie on for him, and one of her girls suggested "Barbie and the Nutcracker."
    The mom said, "Let's choose one that everyone likes." She was very nice, worried that Joaquin, who talks and walks like a super macho, would die if he was submitted to the torture of Barbie.
    But his face lit up, and said, "I love Barbie and the Nutcracker." Which is totally true. We don't have boy or girl colors/movies/books or anything in my family.

    In fact, my 10 Y/O son just read Shannon Hale's "The Goose Girl," in one sitting, and when his sister teased him, he replied, "It's not only for girls, OK? It's a wonderful book."

    So there you go.

    I have great hope for the future. I think this next generation has so much confidence and respect for selves and others that the world will be a better place. Of course there will still be racism and gender-ism and every other kind of -ism, but I still think these kids were born knowing many things we adults are just figuring out.

    Sorry for the rant. But I haven't commented for a while. At least two posts :-)

  31. I just emailed this link to you, Catherine, but I'm going to capitalize on your request for book recommendations and share this here. Warning: Partly a self-serving recommendation since I'm a contributor (though I don't get royalties or anything, so there you go...)

    Barclay Press is releasing a book called Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World. It's a collection of honest essays about teaching kids about values such as justice, empathy, nonviolence, materialism, etc. Barclay is a Quaker press and it's geared toward values espoused by the so-called "peace" churches, such as Quakers and Mennonites. I haven't read all the pieces, but I don't think it's narrowly geared toward a specific type of Christian audience, but rather any mom who struggles to teach these sorts of values in a culture that often works against them. Here is the link if anyone is interested:

    Thanks for helping me spread the word!

  32. Anonymous10:53 PM

    Is it okay that it makes me simultaneously happy and sad to see Birdy so big? So 8? Oh, yes, it is the same way that it makes me simultaneously happy and sad to see my firstborn so big, so 8. I've read you since they were babies. ("read you"?) Catherine, it is so much heartbreak. I'm loving mine growing up, but it feels like it is completely outweighed by the flat out heartbreak of it all. ouch. that was my poor heart. Hugs to you, mama of big girl and giant boy. I will pay cash to see Ben's hair trailing 18 feet behind him, awesome goal. (yes, I should have posted on recipe, but this feels more cozy and homey and just us readers here. oh, and the entire internet planet, too, i guess.) from 2kidslife.

  33. Anonymous5:19 PM

    I'm hoing its just me, but I can't find Dalai Mama on the links to your most recent recipes just take me to a 'no longer here' message at the site....

    Say it aint so??!!!

  34. Christy6:23 PM

    I just finished Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingslover and I wanted to immediatly start it over. Sigh. Now I am aching for summer even more and wanting to grow something. (Or raise a goat) I also recently binge read the Hunger Games trilogy. Seriously, after I started the first book I couldn't stop. I am going to have to reread them to see what nuiance I missed.

  35. Happy Birthday to Birdy! I can't believe she is baby turns eight in a couple of months too. I have been reading your posts since you had Ben, and loved every page in your book.

    I laughed OUT LOUD at the strap on rock!

  36. On the subject of book recommendations, I've read a couple of memoirs lately (and, other than yours, I don't generally read memoirs, so it's something of a departure for me.) My brother gave me a copy of Claire Dederer's Poser for valentines day, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. Heather Havrileskys' Disaster Preparedness about growing up in the 70s and 80s: also worth checking out.

  37. Thanks so much for the game suggestions... We are still playing Zooloretto almost daily, and on the days we don't play Zooloretto, we are playing Ticket to Ride... we have introduced Zooloretto to all side of the family and everyone loves, loves, loves it! Going to get one of the new ones you suggested for my kiddos birthday next month!

  38. Oh, there you are! I found your original posts on "Bringing Up Ben and Birdy" many moons ago, and over time lost my bookmarks, my computer, and some other things (some important, some not so much) along the way.

    And then I read how you were not going to be posting there anymore, and I was so, so grateful for your life, the intricacies of your relationships with your kids and your man, and I felt less alone in this journey of being all that a woman entails.

    I'm glad to have found you again online, and I just wanted to say that you inspire me to be as best a mother, partner and friend as I can be; provided there is enough coffee and chocolate to keep me sane.

    Thanks, Catherine. Thanks for everything :)

  39. Oh no! Dear Birdy! How on earth has she turned 8 and here I am still ruminating in your pregnancy with her! Tell these children to stay put! thing you know she'll be making salads. Happy belated birthday dear girl!

  40. I LOVED The Saskiad when i read it years ago!! SO GOOD.
    I can't believe they dicthed you at Disney. So dumb. You will find something better. I read a lot online, and you are one of my most favorite writers ever. Seriously, you are the person who started me reading blogs, when I was reading you at baby center, back in the day. i can't tell you how much your writing has meant to me over the years. PLEASE, please, keep writing (were I can read you!). maybe you can turn yourself into dooce #2 and make a lovely living for your family. You're certainly good enough!

  41. We also love Dominion and Carcassonne. We have a friend who owns all these cool games and lets us borrow them for months at a time to try them out.

    Other ones I can recommend are Puerto Rico, San Juan, Agricola, and Pandemic.

  42. Overdue for posting. I purchased Dutch Blitz after reading your recommendation and we love it! And I meant to comment on your last column that it was a pleasure to read dissenters who were civil in thier disagreement! You so seldom see that nowadays online.

  43. dale in denver1:23 PM

    Last week was spring break for our 3 boys, my husband (teacher), so for me too - took the week off. And spent way too much time reading. Thoroughly enjoyed "If you follow me." I found "The Saskiad" challenging and an interesting coming of age book - some of which I could totally relate to and some of which I could not. I have the others on request.

    I also read "Sarah's Key" - devastatingly terrific.

  44. Anonymous11:27 PM

    Happy birthday Birdy!! My daughter was due 3/3/3 but of course was late - I can't believe she is eight either!!