Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Doing Our Share for the U.S. Economy: Roxy's Got a Brand New Car....well, SUV

I'd like to give a tentative shout-out to Jim Salerno Automotive in Randolph, New Jersey, where Rex and I just drove off the lot with a shiny 2009 Red Jewel GMC Acadia. The shout-out is tentative because we love our new ride but we don't have such a great track record with the good old boys at Jim Salerno's service and sales team.

For the last two years of our 2001 GMC Yukon XL's life, every oil change at Jim Salerno's service department turned into a thousand dollar repair. Then, two and a half years ago, my blonde investment banker self made a solo trip to Jim Salerno to test drive and find out about leasing a GMC Yukon Denali. The good old boys on the porch came in from their smoke break long enough to tell me I should come back with my husband to make such an important financial decision, and that surely I wanted to own, not lease. So we bought a Chevrolet Suburban in Morristown and leased our current Jeep Grand Cherokee from Fullerton Jeep in Bridgewater.

Since that time, when we drive by Jim Salerno Automotive, London and Maddie have shouted out "Good Day, Sir!" in the style of Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka, indicating that we have nothing more to say to each other.

This behavior lasted until we discovered that the last employee-priced red jewel 2009 Acadia was on Jim Salerno's lot. One far away GMC dealer suggested that she could order one for us for about five grand more. A return to Jim Salerno Automotive was therefore in order. We worked with the female Internet sales manager to avoid making contact with the good old boys, who were and are still out on the porch enjoying an all-day smoke break, since no one is buying cars (and certainly not SUVs) in this economy. There was an exciting moment yesterday when we met Jim Salerno himself, a mild-mannered Mister Rogers type in a blue sweater.

At least for now, the story has a happy ending. By 5:45pm, the Red Jewel was ours... Good Day, Sir!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whadja All Think of the Desperate Housewives Season Premiere?

I'm not sure when all of you will have the chance to watch the Desperate Housewives season premiere, so I'm not going to give any obvious spoilers here, but I'd like to hear from everyone in the comments section...whadja all think?

I'm intrigued by the "five years later" approach, and think it works for many of the characters. However, I don't think Lynette and Tom's twins were anywhere near 11 years old when we left them last season, and now they are sixteen. I realize that 16 is a more interesting age, but...

I'm also confused about Gaby's children...the chubby chica featured in tonight's show (and in the photo above) was four years old, but what about her sister? Where was she? For the "five years later" approach to work, the sister has to be younger unless she was adopted, but Gaby spent a fair amount of time arguing with Carlos about their respective genes.

That's all for now...I'm off to bed, but I'll leave you with a laugh. Throughout the show, ABC kept flashing promos for "Stay at Home Week"...implying that we should all stay at home with our families all week to watch each and every season premiere. After spending the rainy weekend indoors with the Wizards of Waverly Place marathon on the Disney Channel, I'm ready for a sunny day!

Monday night update:  I was just thinking...one of my favorite shows from the late 80s/early 90s was thirtysomething...any other fans out there?  So Susan's having a fling thing with the guy she hired to paint her house, who appears to be a much younger guy.  On thirtysomething, Melissa had a fling thing (and eventually a relationship) with the guy she hired to paint her apartment, who was a much younger guy.  Hmm....

Roxy's Law: All Electronic Devices will Break Down As Soon As Their Extended Warranties Expire

As you may know by now, I have bad luck with technology. Everything I buy breaks down, and today's bummer was our four-years-and-a-few-days-old Xerox Phaser 8400, not long out of its extended warranty. So now we have to get a new one, and Xerox is tricky. Of course, Xerox no longer makes the Phaser 8400, so all of our existing expensive ink crayons for that machine are useless....I'll be lucky if I can re-sell them at a loss on eBay. Let me tell you, the ink is not cheap. Even Amazon wants $90 for 6 sticks of black ink for the Xerox 8560DN. The best replacement for our office is the Xerox Phaser 8560DN with a 3-Year Extended On-Site Service Plan. Our local certified Xerox retailer is asking $877 for the printer itself, plus $359 for a three-year extended on-site service plan, while I found the printer on Amazon for $800 (with free super saver shipping) and the three-year extended on-site service plan for $80...over $35o in savings.

I've never made such a large purchase from Amazon, though...has anyone had any experience with their extended service plans for electronics? Please comment as soon as possible...I think the price break ends tomorrow. Thanks!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not Enough of Ya Think I'm Sexy...Someone Else Is Going to Win the Blogger's Choice Award for Hottest Mommy Blogger

My site was nominated for Hottest Mommy Blogger!

Back in June, I posted my shameless self-promotion as the Hottest Mommy Blogger in the Great Wide Blogosphere and asked you to vote for me in the Blogger's Choice Awards. First, I'd like to thank the 14 of you who did, and to let you know that not enough of you think I'm sexy, so it looks like the award is going to go to one of the following:

  • The Pioneer Woman, who has 365 votes as of tonight at 8:30pm EDT; or
  • Dooce, neck and neck and trying to wrestle the Pioneer Woman to the ground with 362 votes.

The current runners-up, while not as far behind as Roxy, include:

  • Mom2My6Pack (she has 6 kids rather than an incredible relationship with beer) with 283 votes;
  • YouLookNiceToday (an audio-based Journal of Emotional Hygiene, staffed by lonelysandwich, scottsimpson, and hotdogsladies) with 233 votes;
  • Karen Cheng's Snippets of Life (about food, fashion, parenting, art & design, online shopping and finding inspiration in the beautiful quirks of life) with 199 votes;
  • Crissy's Page (Sometimes absurd, sometimes funny, always entertaining blog written by a gorgeous thirty-something mother/writer/librarian) with 176 votes;
  • Ashley's Closet (Confessions of an attention loving, weiner gobbling mom who is perpetually in pajamas & who enjoys shopping, gossip, and telling it like it is) with 158 votes; and
  • Sarcastic Mom (Wonderful pictures and creator of the best weekly meme out there) with 139 votes;

On the plus side, I've discovered some interesting new bloggers who don't promote themselves on BlogExplosion or EntreCard. And I made it to page 7 out of at least 187 pages (9 blogs per page) of competing hot mommy bloggers. As I tell London and Maddie, it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Giving credit (and linky love) where credit is due, I'd like to thank:

She sits alone, waiting for suggestions
He's so nervous, avoiding all her questions
His lips are dry, her heart is gently pounding
Don't you just know exactly what they're thinking?

If you want my body and you think I'm sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so

He's acting shy, looking for an answer
Come on, honey, let's spend the night together
Now hold on a minute before we go much further
Give me a dime so I can phone my mother
They catch a cab to his high rise apartment
At last he can tell her exactly what his heart meant

If you want my body and you think I'm sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so

His heart's beating like a drum
'Cause at last he's got this girl home
Relax, baby, now we are alone


They wake at dawn 'cause all the birds are singing
Two total strangers but that ain't what they're thinking
Outside it's cold, misty and it's raining
They got each other, neither one's complaining
He say's I'm sorry but I'm out of milk and coffee
Never mind, sugar, we can watch the early movie

If you want my body and you think I'm sexy
Come on, sugar, let me know
If you really need me just reach out and touch me
Come on, honey, tell me so
Tell me so, baby

-- Rod Stewart, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

My loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives readers know that I sign up for everything IZEA: PayPerPost, SocialSpark, Zookoda...now I'm thinking about signing up for the Blogger's Choice Awards, but I couldn't find a category that seemed to fit this blog. The award categories include Best Animal Blogger (oldest daughter allergic to pets), Best Blog of All Time (my ego's not quite that big), Most Obnoxious Blogger (hey, my mom taught me, "if you don't have anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all"), Best Humor Blog (I'm not that funny all the time)...

Then I came across "Hottest Mommy Blogger" and wondered if enough of ya think I'm sexy. I'm afraid I may be a bit late to the game, and Dooce may be running away with the prize, but I also know I can count on my loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives readers...come on, sugar let me know.

You Won't Believe What We've Been Up To All Day... Wizards of Waverly Place Marathon on the Disney Channel!

It's a lazy rainy Saturday in the Roxiticus Valley, and when the girls woke up this morning I asked, "Do you know what we've got to do today?" London and Maddie responded with our family's magic words: "Absolutely nothing!"

We shot a few hoops and hit a few tennis balls against the backboard in our driveway, went out to Redwoods for lunch, painted pumpkins and checked out the scary Halloween maze at the Country Nursery in Chester, and picked up some vegetables for dinner at Parks Farm.

Since we got home, the girls and I have turned into couch potatoes....I took a nap on the couch while the girls watched one episode of Wizards of Waverly Place after another. Since we missed over a month of TV while we were at the beach in Bay Head this summer, all of the episodes are like brand new!

Although we've recovered from the Comcastic nightmare that greeted us upon our return from the beach after Labor Day, last night we discovered that our Comcastic imitation Tivo DVR is broken, so I'll have to watch the Grey's Anatomy season premiere online and stay glued to the TV for all the new Fall shows, including those other Desperate Housewives tomorrow night on ABC.

Don't Forget the Beer! Rex and Roxy Stock Up at Gary's Wine & Marketplace in Bernardsville, New Jersey

Back in August, Rex and I organized a table full of Roxiticus Desperate Housewives and Husbands and headed out to the 14th Annual Seafood Dinner at Pierre's Restaurant. Just as I'm only getting around to posting about that evening over a month later, we recently headed over to Gary's Wine & Marketplace in Bernardsville, NJ, to see if we could find two of the wines we enjoyed: the Marco Felluga Molamatta 2006 (artistically pictured at left, if I do say so myself) and the Inama Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico 2005 (served with the braised striped bass with cucumbers, under which Chef Michael tried to hide a taste of satanic mushrooms).

Although we ended up with a cartload of pinot noir and several six-packs of pumpkin ale and Oktoberfest, Gary's didn't have either of the two selections on our earlier visit, but they promised to see if they could get us a case (6 bottles) of each. We got a voice mail earlier this week letting us know that both of our wines were in, so we planned a rainy Friday of errands and lunch at Grill 73 in Bernardsville.

Our afternoon was a huge success. In addition to picking up the Inama Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico ($14.99/bottle on sale) and Marco Felluga Molamatta ($15.99/bottle after Gary's 20% case discount), I was able to procure two cases of Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. At $60 per case, the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin ale is, hands down, the best, most expensive, highest alcohol content (8%) beer I've ever had. As they say on the Weyerbacher web site, their Imperial Pumpkin Ale is heartier, spicier, and more "caramelly" and "pumpkiny" than its faint brethren! It is a perfect finisher (or 4 o'clock beer) on a cool autumn night, or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream. Yum.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Desperate for the Weekend: Those Other Desperate Housewives Return to TV on Sunday, September 28th

Those other Desperate Housewives (the ones on Wisteria Lane) have gone retro for the cover of the new TV Guide, getting dolled up like pin-up models of the past to promote the season premiere of Desperate Housewives. On Sunday night's show, the cast will be doing the opposite, moving forward in time. Five years have passed since Katherine shot her ex-husband as Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gaby stood together in solidarity to protect her.

While I was a bit stunned last night at 9pm when the DVR on our TV popped on to start taping the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy (I haven't even caught up on the last two or three episodes from last season), I am ready to see my TV double and her friends from Wisteria Lane back in action. For those of you who do need to catch up, the Desperate Housewives Complete Fourth Season is available from Amazon for $38.99 with free super saver shipping. I'm going to order it for my souvenir Desperate Housewives collection (to go along with the printed, leather-bound edition of my Roxiticus Desperate Housewives blog that Matt sent along for my third blogiversary back in August).

I'll also get the Grey's Anatomy Complete Fourth Season ($36.99 with free super saver shipping) and try to catch up during my commute on the train to NYC next week. I'm even further behind on what's been going on with Calista Flockhart and Rob Lowe, so I'll throw in the Brothers and Sisters Complete Second Season for another $36.99 and I'll be all caught up. Last year, there was a deal for a $10 or $15 rebate for buying multiple ABC program boxed sets...anyone know if there's a similar deal going on?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

London and Maddie Recommend...Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald and Anne MacDonald Canham

Do you remember Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? I vividly recall sitting on the rug in the library at Old York School in Branchburg, New Jersey, listening to the librarian, Mrs. Hagan, as she read to our class from the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. Now, 50 years later (OK, not fifty years since I was in elementary school, but fifty years since the original books were published), Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is back!

Published in 2008, Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a brand-new bundle of wonderfully magical cures for any bad habit. Tonight at bedtime, I finished reading the last chapter to London and Maddie, and I have to confess that I have two favorite cures that I wish Mrs. Piggle-WIggle could apply to our household: The Messy Stuff-and-Cram Cure for my untidy daughters, and The Never-Finish Cure for their procrastinating mom. Right now I'm blogging instead of finishing my taxes.

Roxy's Been Reading Again: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and highly recommend it. I don't think I'd even put it in my usual category of "shameful page turners" with Jodi Picoult, James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks.

From the book jacket:

Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was 6 and Henry was 36, and were married when Clare was 23 and Henry 31. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals -- steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

I picked this book up at the beach this summer for only 50 cents at the Anchor & Palette art gallery on Mount Street in Bay Head, NJ, where the proceeds go to a local charity. I apologize for not being able to use my own words to describe it, but time travel is hard to describe, and I think Niffenegger does a great job keeping the technicality to a minimum while emphasizing the storyline and characters' emotions.

In my comments section, Henson mentioned the Journeyman TV Series with a similar concept. It's doesn't appear to be available on DVD yet, but I'm going to add it to my Amazon wish list of TV show boxed sets for my train commute. I better plan on heading in to our NYC office more often!

I Wanna Be Sedated: iTunes Genius Gives Roxy a Rockin' Eighties Workout, Two Days in a Row

Have you tried iTunes Genius yet? While I have an iPod Classic, I believe it works on any MP3 player that you can sync with Apple's iTunes software. Anyway, I read about it about a week ago and decided to give it a try. I picked four songs and used Genius to create four playlists. I selected Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" and tried that for my workout last Friday, but it really didn't work very well. Genius chose 23 songs (including Mariah Carey's "Hero," and "Everybody Hurts " by R.E.M.) from the over 8,000 songs on my iPod that may or may not go well with Shakira in general, but weren't upbeat enough for a serious workout. The only perfect match there was "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" by Dead Or Alive.

Yesterday and today, however, I used my Genius Billy Idol playlist, based on "Rebel Yell," and the results were awesome. Both Rex and I worked out to hard-driving five star 80's favorites like "Cum On Feel the Noize" (Quiet Riot), "I Ran (So Far Away)" by A Flock of Seagulls, Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," Twisted Sister screamin' "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones. Yesterday, I worked out on the elliptical trainer for 32 minutes (12.5, rest, 10, rest, 10), traveling 4.5 miles, burning 475 calories and wrapping up with "My Sharona" by The Knack. Today, I lasted a little more than 30 minutes (10, rest, 10, rest, 10), went 4.35 miles, burned 450 calories, and Billy Squier finished me off with "The Stroke."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pavan’s Tennis Academy in Chester, NJ: Round Robin Clinic Just Right for Your Kids!

London, Maddie and I just got home after tennis lessons with Pavan Patel at Fox Chase Tennis in Chester, New Jersey. This is their third year of tennis lessons with Pavan. As always, the girls had fun with their friends, and they really seem to be making great progress. This week’s class was fun for me, as four other families I know had their children participating, so I had the chance to catch up with my friends while the girls played.

I received the following e-mail from Pavan on Monday, and thought I would share it with you:

Dear Parents:

I am organizing a four week clinic of Serve, Rally & Score for ages 9 & up (Low Intermediate & Intermediate) It is a fun program that will help them become acclimated to a competitive environment in a low stress atmosphere. There will be staff pros to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Cost of this program is $240. We appreciate your support! Space is limited, so to reserve your child's spot sign up at the front desk or call Fox Chase front desk 908-879-5231.

Starting Date: October 3rd on Saturday (Four Weeks)

Time: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Cost: $240

P.S. This is round robin format. The scores will be recorded and prizes will be given out. But fun will be had by all.

Thank You

Pavan Patel
Director of Tennis

While London and Maddie will be spending their October weekends at the beach in Bay Head, we're excited about participating in January. Pavan's Tennis Academy is the first club in this area to offer such a program. Click the link for further information on Quick Start Tennis. If you want to sign up, please call Fox Chase Tennis in Chester, NJ, at 908-879-5231 or log on to http://www.pavantennis.com/.

Rex and Roxy Attended Our First Mendham Township School Board Meeting Last Night to Welcome New Superintendent of Schools Kristopher Harrison

Last week, London and Maddie came home with a memo in their "backpack mail" announcing the good news that the Mendham Township Board of Education has hired a new Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Kristopher Harrison will join us on November 16th, directly from the South Orange/Maplewood School District, a district with over 5, 000 students, where he served in a number of capacities, most recently as Principal of Maplewood Middle School for five years.

Rex and I succeeded in getting one of our favorite teenage babysitters to keep an eye on London and Maddie last night, and we attended our first ever Mendham Township School Board meeting. The evening was uplifting. While the formal meeting lasted less than 30 minutes, Rex and I were both pleased and impressed with our new Superintendent of Schools, Kristopher Harrison, who greeted the two of us with a friendly smile and a firm handshake before taking the seat in front of us as the meeting started.

As he spoke, we learned that Kris Harrison is a charismatic leader who has a track record of getting and keeping teachers and kids excited about school, creating a collaborative environment that empowers teachers and gives them the tools they need to enrich the minds of their students. He spoke about his experience in bringing a school to life, and making it a place people want to be. Turns out he shares my concern that there are tremendous obstacles, economic and otherwise, that could cause our children to be the first generation that has not "done better" than their parents. Instead of accepting the obstacles as insurmountable, Kris Harrison appears to be up for the challenge of preparing our children to succeed, encouraging them to "make people's heads spin" (in admiration) as they leave our Middle School to enter Mendham High School and later the "real world."

Those of you who know me personally or who have heard me share my thoughts at various public "principal chats" at Mendham Township Elementary School know that my "agenda" focuses on the high end of academics, energizing a gifted and talented program before students reach the middle school. For too long, our schools' answer to "no child left behind" had been to slow down so everyone could keep up. Before Dr. Christine Johnson announced her resignation last Spring, she appeared to be on track to "raise the bar" of academic excellence in the Mendham Township Schools. Last night, Kris Harrison gave us every indication that he's the right guy to take over where Dr. Christine Johnson left off in her quest for academic excellence in the Mendham Township Schools.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Invitation from London and Maddie to Dance with Them at Garden State Ballet in Randolph, New Jersey

Now that we're back to school, London and Maddie are happy to be back to ballet lessons with Miss Katie at Garden State Ballet in Randolph, New Jersey. This year will be their third year with Miss Katie at GSB, and Rex and I are quite proud and pleased with their progress…from "Baby Blue" to "White" to "Pink." Many of their friends are back for another year, and I received the following e-mail from Jody Jaron, Director of Garden State Ballet, and thought I would share it with you and issue an open invitation from London and Maddie to join the fun (as well as serious dance training and technique) at Garden State Ballet.

Dear Parents,

Welcome to a new year at the School of the Garden State Ballet! I hope you and your child have a wonderful year of dance. We are all working hard to make it the best year ever.

The reason why most parents come to us is because their children have a desire to dance. From there, parents want a school that will teach their children "how to dance." Many parents have found that a majority of the dance schools have one goal in mind: the recital at the end of the year, which leads to a huge investment in tickets, costumes and whatever. At the School of the Garden State Ballet, we strive to teach your child the proper technique, something we build on year after year. Your child learns about ballet and technique as she or he develops a true understanding of ballet and dance right from the beginning. At our concert, the children will demonstrate what they have learned and if you are new to our school, you will be impressed by the progress your child has made. Ballet is a discipline that will help your child throughout life. AND they will enjoy their classes and have fun. Many people think that ballet is too serious for their youngsters but if you watch your child light up when he or she goes off to class and comes out afterwards, you know she or he had a great learning experience.

With this is mind, I am reaching out to you to invite friends with children to come join our GSB family. The majority of our students and their parents come to us because someone had told them about our school - someone like you. We still have space available in several of our classes. If you know someone who has a child that would enjoy our program, please tell them to come in and watch part of a class.

We also welcome your child to "bring a friend to class." The friend can stay for the whole class and watch or participate, whichever he or she chooses. Hopefully he or she will enjoy the class and want to be part of this great experience as well.

Have a great year. Please always feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Jody Jaron
Director, Garden State Ballet

So, here's your invitation….call Garden State Ballet and make plans for your child to attend her (or his) first class, and be sure to tell them London and Maddie sent you!

While London and Maddie attend dance classes in Randolph, NJ, Garden State Ballet has three New Jersey locations: Randolph, Rutherford, and Newark. You'll also find classes for all ages and abilities. For pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, the 45-minute "Baby Blue" class provides a fun, musical introduction to ballet. In first or second grade, children move up to (or start with) a 60-minute "White" beginners' class. London and Maddie advanced this year to a 90-minute "Pink" class, more challenging but not yet "intermediate." As the dancers get older (middle school and high school), they tend to get more involved with Garden State Ballet, dancing several days each week and adding pointe classes and/or modern dance workshops to their intermediate schedule. Garden State Ballet's end of year recital showcases the talents of every age group. At the intermission, London and Maddie and the younger dancers come down to sit with us in the audience, and together we admire (and aspire to) the impressive performances of the strongest dancers in nine or ten professionally choreographed modern dance numbers. I hope we'll see you there in June 2009!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rex's Recipes: Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb, with a Little Help from Perrotti's Butcher in Far Hills, New Jersey

Way back when Rex and I were first living together in NYC's West Village, we would occasionally attend a "celebrity chef" cooking class at Macy's DeGustibus program. Rex paid close attention to the recipes and preparation, while I enjoyed one delicious meal after the next. On one such occasion, we had the good fortune of cooking with Patrick O'Connell, the chef and proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia, and taking home one of my all-time favorite recipes: Pistachio Crusted Grilled Baby Lamb Chop with Carrot Ginger Essence.

This past Saturday, as part of our weekend-long celebration of our tenth anniversary, Rex decided to prepare a rack of lamb for our Bay Head neighbors, Jango and Dorothy Parker, who provided the wine (including an amazing 30 year old cabernet) for our festive evening. After a perfect anniversary dinner at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, NJ on Friday night, we started our Saturday in the Roxiticus Valley. Rex usually gets his racks of lamb from Louie at the Chester Meat Market, but since we were travelling through Far Hills to get to the beach, I reminded him to give Perrotti's a try.

So I'm going to start with Patrick O'Connell's "incredibly sophisticated" recipe (Rex's notes on the recipe from 1996), and take you through step-by-step, along with lots of photos, how Rex applied it to a beautiful rack of lamb from Perrotti's Butcher Shop in Far Hills, New Jersey.

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Hips Still Don't Lie: The Latest on Roxy's Back-to-School Fitness Program

It's been a bit more than two weeks since I decided to get "back-to-school" with a brand new body and I have to say, the results have been better than I expected. I've stuck with my plan to work out every day that I don't go in to our New York City office. My goal was to lose a pound per week until I get down from a starting point of 160 to my fighting weight of 135. In the first two weeks, I lost five pounds, so right now I'm weighing in around 155. I know the weight is easiest to lose in the early going, so I'm going to try to continue to lose a pound per week from the "new base" of 155.

So far, I've been using only the elliptical trainer in our basement gym, progressing quickly from 6 minutes X 4 on the first days to 10 minutes X 3 last Friday, though still at the lowest levels (1 and 3 on a scale of 20) of exertion. While I'm not bored yet, it may be time to add some fun to my everyday routine with a video-based program like XFLOWSION.

With a revolutionary TRIPLE TRAINING™ approach, XFLOWSION™ is the only exercise program that efficiently and effectively provides three workouts in one convenient program, combining the proven best moves from martial arts, power yoga, and dance. For someone like me, with very little time to spend in the gym, XFLOWSION™ promises to deliver jaw-dropping results in one-third time. As Shakira reminds me every time I work out, hips don't lie, and neither will my abs!

Celebrity trainer Eric Paskel, who has shaped up some of the hottest bodies in Hollywood, combines his leading-edge fitness and psychology background to give us the plateau blast, that combats the frustration of working out and seeing early results that somehow just stop while the last pounds refuse to budge. XFLOWSION™'s fresh, constantly shifting moves are specifically designed to promote continuous fat burning and muscle toning. While my body keeps improving, I'm much less likely to get bored.

The price seems right... for three payments of $19.95 (use promotional code FREESH for free shipping and handling), XFLOWSION™ offers four DVD workouts:

  • Live in Hollywood, filmed in high definition, with 5 cameras, 5:1 surround sound and a live band;
  • Calm Down Dog, a restorative and gentle yoga-centric workout to reduce stress (did someone say stock market?);
  • Body Blast, a total body workout focused on toning, strenth, and flexibility; and
  • Amazing Abs, a high-intensity core workout.

Roxy's ready to sweat, sculpt and stretch my body to total transformation, from head to toe, inside and out with XFLOWSION... how about you?


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rex and Roxy's Perfect Tenth Anniversary Dinner at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey

I'm sitting out on our porch in Bay Head, New Jersey, finishing up the weekend-long celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary, and reflecting on our perfect Friday evening at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

London and Maddie were giggling about our plans all day, excitedly insisting that I must wear my "poufy black dress" with the feathers at the bottom. All three girls wore fancy black dresses, and we headed out for our 7pm reservation, arriving at about 7:15pm. We started the evening with a minor disappointment...Rex had asked for a table for four near the piano, overlooking the bar, but we could see that someone else's wine had already been set up there. Later, after the other party arrived and the silver-haired ladies covered their ears and abandoned "our" table in favor of a quieter spot in the back, the Maître d' came over and asked if we'd like to move, explaining that the gentleman reserves that table every Friday night, but that his guests wanted to sit elsewhere. At that point, the girls were settled into their coloring (brand new abstract art coloring books that Rex and I picked up at the Jewish Museum in New York City earlier in the week), so we stayed where we were.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Rex and Roxy Celebrate Our Tenth Anniversary Tonight at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey

Wow. I can't believe it's been ten years since Rex and I were married on the beach in Bay Head, New Jersey, but it's true: Rex and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary tonight. We're taking the girls with us for dinner at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey, one of our favorite restaurants for a real celebration. I'm a bit busy at work today, tying up loose ends before the weekend, but I'll take some pictures tonight and try to share the experience with you from the beach on Saturday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Say It's Not So....Summer Can't Be Ending This Weekend!

You've heard me say it before, but I find it incredibly hard to get off the beach and into the "back to school" frame of mind. Tonight, Rex and I are headed out to meet London and Maddie's teachers on Back to School Night at Mendham Township Elementary School, but I'm still dreaming about our family beach vacation in Bay Head, New Jersey....

The whole month of August meant relaxing days when London and Maddie slept late (now their alarm goes off at 7:30am), strolled to Mueller's on Bridge Avenue to pick up crumb buns for breakfast, and came back to paint and sell seashells until lunchtime. Rex and I worked all morning in our comfy beach house office, then joined the girls for a late lunch and headed out to the beach for sand, surf, sun and fun.

The folks who run Morey's Piers -- the largest amusement piers in the world, located on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey -- seem to agree that the summer's not over until it's over. If you're lucky enough to have a free weekend to get to the beach, or better yet the ability to take a spontaneous Monday off, Morey's Piers offers over 100 exciting amusement park rides and Wildwood attractions, including two large beachfront waterparks, kiddie rides and roller coasters. September is a great time to avoid the long theme park lines and enjoy a classic seaside amusement park with your family. Rex and the girls and I are headed to the beach in Bay Head for the next bunch of weekends, but you can visit the Morey's Piers web site for weekly specials and to find hotels and motels and plan your visit to Wildwood.

Mendham Township School District Welcomes New Superintendent Kristopher Harrison

Last night, London and Maddie came home with the following exciting memo from the Mendham Township Board of Education in their "backpack mail":

In the Spring of 2008, the [Mendham Township] Board of Education embarked on a mission to hire a new superintendent. At that time, we solicited input from the community, faculty and staff to determine the qualities each desired in a new leader. After considering that input and undergoing a thorough screening process, we are pleased to announce that Mr. Kristopher Harrison has been appointed to th position of Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Harrison joins us directly from the South Orange/Maplewood School District, a district with over 5, 000students, where he served in a number of capacities, most recently as Principal of Maplewood Middle School for five years. Prior to that , Mr. Harrison served for two years as principal in an elementary school and was a middle school assistant principal for one year in the same district. When in the classroom, Mr. Harrison served as an elementary and middle school teacher in Clinton Township.

Mr. Harrison is noted as a highly regarded administrator who seeks to work in an engaging and collaborative manner with students, faculty, and the community -- key qualities you noted in your feedback. He has also demonstrated that he is a dynamic leader who will bring energy, passion and a sense of commitment to our school system so we can continue to build upon the excellent educational experience we as a community expect and our children deserve. Mr. Harrison has been recognized nationally for his educational leadership abilities by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), by being named an Emerging Leader. In this capacity, Mr. Harrison will collaborate with an international group of leaders to influence education-related legislation.

Mr. Harrison's first day with the district will be November 16, 2008. Through that time, Interim Superintendent Catherine Mozak will continue her great work. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Mozak for her leadership, experience and valuable judgment as Interim Superintendent. Thanks in large part to her, our schools got off to a great start this year and are in excellent position for a seamless leadership transition. Ms. Mozak has been a joy to work with and we will miss her.

Thank you for your Support.
Mendham Township Board of Education

Please join us in welcoming our new Superintendent at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 23, 2008 in the Elementary School Media Center.

I hope I can get a babysitter that evening, as I look forward to meeting our new Superintendent of Schools, Kristopher Harrison. Here's hoping he picks up right where Dr. Christine Johnson left off in her quest for academic excellence in the Mendham Township Schools.
9/19/08 update: Anonymous was kind enough to stop by and leave a link to a Maplewood site where the community is lamenting their loss and praising Kris Harrison's work as a principal there:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roxy Due for a Roxio Digital Makeover?

While I feel confident that I do an excellent job of documenting our family's special moments with my Canon digital SLRs as well as my Sony digital video camera, I'm not so strong when it comes to organizing all of the photos and getting my videos in a form that we can share, either online here on my blog or with Grammy and Grandmom on their own TV sets. So maybe it's time to turn to Roxio Extreme Digital Makeover, a fun spirited makeover show dedicated to helping the average Rex (or Roxy) get the most out of their digital lives. The experts, Zoey and Chris, shown in action in the video clip below, are ready to help put together a fun multimedia show for a special occasion or just for laughs.

So far, Zoey and Chris have done two Roxio Extreme Digital Makeovers that you can check out online: Wedding Day Crunch and A Walk in the Park. I like the one about the wedding, where Michael and his fiancée Monika put together a multimedia show that chronicles their lives, using their shoeboxes full of photos (I can totally relate!), and play it for guests during their wedding reception. Now I have the opportunity to become the star of the show (and you do, too) just by entering the contest. In addition to winning a makeover, there are prizes like an HDTV, cameras and more. I guess I'm up against the clock if I want to have my digital makeover in time to present it to Rex as a 10th wedding anniversary gift this Friday...wish me luck!


What Type of Blogger Are You?

I found this little test over on Mariuca's blog (she's a "Pundit Blogger" and thought I'd give it a try. Turns out I'm a Life Blogger...I think it fits.
You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary. If it happens, you blog it. And you make it as entertaining as possible. You may be guilty of over-sharing a bit on your blog, but you can't help it. Your life is truly an open book. Or in this case, an open blog!

Back to School (and Soccer) with the Sproutwells!

I've mentioned before that I take a bit of liberty with this blog's title, Roxiticus Desperate Housewives, as I'm neither desperate nor a housewife. I'm a hard-working investment banking mom, happily married to Rex (10 years on Friday!). And now, the opportunity to take that little white lie a step further by calling myself a "soccer mom" has presented itself. While London and Maddie played Kiddie Soccer and U.K. Elite Petite Soccer when they were in pre-school, thankfully soccer is one of the activities they dropped when London started kindergarten two years ago. I like a lot of action in my sports, and even professional soccer doesn't have enough action for me when compared with basketball or tennis, for example.

The lastest episode of The Sproutwells features a "legitimate" soccer mom in action while her lettuce daughter "uses her head." Click on the video below for a good laugh to start your week.

While Ruby Red, the lettuce daughter, got her pink soccer uniform by saving her points on FreshFunds.com, you don't have to be a soccer mom to start accumlating points towards prizes or charity donations with freshfunds. You'll gain points every time you buy Chiquita Fruit and Veggie Bites, Fresh Express Gourmet Café Salads, and Fresh Express Packaged Salads. Maybe London and Maddie can save enough points to get their pink tennis uniforms from FreshFunds.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Church Is Not A Summer Sport...Getting Back to Hilltop Presbyterian Church in Mendham, New Jersey

Some days I'm just not role model material for my two girls, London and Maddie. I was raised as a good Baptist and even won a Bible passage memorization contest to attend summer sleepaway church camp for a week during my middle school years (I was almost sent home from camp for using too many naughty words, regrettably not for fulfilling my fantasies of sneaking off with PeeJay, the swim instructor). However, since reaching adulthood, I don't make it to church as often as I'd like. Up until last year, Rex and I were pretty much "Christmas and Easter" members of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian in New York City, and later began attending the children's Christmas pageant at Hilltop Church after moving to the Roxiticus Valley, but we felt it was important that London and Maddie grow up with church as part of their lives. The girls started Sunday School at Hilltop Presbyterian Church in Mendham, New Jersey in September 2007, and Rex and I joined the church in January 2008. We made it to church pretty consistently from November through April, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I'm afraid I may have let it slip to my impressionable daughters that "church is not a summer sport." While I know there's a Religious Right that would insist that I need to follow their rules of worship, I do believe that we find God within us and wherever we go, and I feel His presence often when I'm spending time with my family on the beach in Bay Head, New Jersey.

Last Sunday, September 7th, marked our family's triumphant return to Hilltop Presbyterian Church after a summer of neglect. We had stayed in Mendham last weekend to attend an awesome Saturday night 40th birthday party ("it could lead to dancing") for a good friend, but still managed to get up in time for church and Sunday School at 9:30 the next morning. Turns out it was Rally Day at Hilltop Church... a celebratory way of launching the new "Sunday School Year" with brunch, fun and games after the church service. Our Director of Music Ministries, Tom Berdos, led the choir and congregation in raising a joyful noise unto the Lord with opening singing that included "Shine, Jesus, Shine" and "The Name of the Lord" and "Days of Elijah" and finally "Crown Him with Many Crowns."

"Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds! Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call. Lift your voice! It's the year of jubilee! And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!"

We were back again today, and Pastor Diane delivered an inspirational sermon "The First and the Last" that started with the concept of "Backwards Day," an event that London and Maddie enjoy when it comes to Mendham Township Elementary School. Today, London sang during youth choir practice after Sunday School (Maddie only went along "to watch"), so maybe she'll get to sing in church later in the year.

We'll be more consistent church members from November through April, so please join us at Hilltop Presbyterian Church, 14 Hilltop Road, Mendham, NJ. Phone: (908) 543-4012. Sunday 9:30am service in the Sanctuary, 11:00am informal service in Fellowship Hall at Hilltop House. Children can attend the 9:30am service and disperse to their Sunday School classes after Pastor Diane's "Time with the Children."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rex and Roxy Share a Delicious Lunch at Equus Restaurant in Bernardsville, New Jersey

The girls were busy at school and we didn't have any business conference calls scheduled on Friday afternoon, so Rex and I decided to slip away to drop off a donation at the Visiting Nurses Rummage Sale in Far Hills, pick up a case of wine at Gary's and to try out Equus, a new-ish restaurant in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Mysteriously, the Equus web site claims that they were "established 1848," but my recollection is Spring 2008. Before that, the building housed a not-very-good pizza and casual food establishment called the Stone Tavern where Rex and the girls and I had some of the worst steamed clams in our family history.

Luckily, Equus is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. We looked over the menu and decided that, while I was ravenous from my morning workout and the descriptions were so good that we could eat almost anything on the lunch menu, we would stick with two appetizers each. I started with the Crispy Fried Calamari with sambol aioli & wasabi honey drizzle ($10)...it was quite good and the wasabi really had a nice kick to it. As my entree, I enjoyed the Tuna & Rice Paper Wrap appetizer with cucumber & green papaya slaw with nuok chem sauce ($14)...there were four pieces, enough for two people, so I shared half with Rex. Now, here comes trouble...our waiter didn't have any menus that we could take home, promising that the menus are all on the Equus web site, but so far I haven't found either of Rex's dishes online. His first appetizer was a "perfectly executed" pulled pork over cornbread pancake that disappointed Rex only because he remembered (too late) that he doesn't really enjoy cornmeal based items such as tortillas or corn muffins. Rex's second dish was his favorite -- charred tuna. I'm afraid I didn't take any pictures of the food, just the surroundings, which gave Equus just the right ambiance.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hips Don't Lie: Roxy's Workout Program Update

Today concludes the first week of Roxy's back-to-school workout program, and I have to say, so far, it's been a success. While I'm usually quite the procrastinator about getting down to our basement gym, I worked out 5 of 7 days on the elliptical trainer. It felt so good the last two days as I worked out to my hip-hop playlist that I could feel it in my hips....and as Shakira says, Hips Don't Lie!

Ladies up in here tonight
No fighting, no fighting
We got the refugees up in here
No fighting, no fighting

Shakira, Shakira

I never really knew that she could dance like this
She makes a man want to speak Spanish,
Como se llama, bonita, mi casa, su casa
Shakira, Shakira

Oh baby when you talk like that
You make a woman go mad
So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body

And I'm on tonight
You know my hips don't lie
And I'm starting to feel it's right
All the attraction, the tension
Don't you see baby, this is perfection

Hey Girl, I can see your body moving
And it's driving me crazy
And I didn't have the slightest idea
Until I saw you dancing

And when you walk up on the dance floor
Nobody cannot ignore the way you move
your body, girl
And everything so unexpected - the way
you right and left it
So you can keep on shaking it

I never really knew that she could dance like this
She makes a man want to speak Spanish
Como se llama, bonita, mi casa, su casa
Shakira, Shakira

Oh baby when you talk like that
You make a woman go mad
So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body

And I'm on tonight
You know my hips don't lie
And I am starting to feel you boy
Come on let's go, real slow
Don't you see baby asi es perfecto

Oh I know I am on tonight my hips don't lie
And I'm starting to feel it's right
All the attraction, the tension
Don't you see baby, this is perfection
Shakira, Shakira

Oh boy, I can see your body moving
Half animal, half man
I don't, don't really know what I'm doing
But you seem to have a plan
My will and self restraint
Have come to fail now, fail now
See, I am doing what I can, but I can't so
you know
That's a bit too hard to explain

Baila en la calle de noche
Baila en la calle de dia
Baila en la calle de noche
Baila en la calle de dia

I never really knew that she could dance like this
She makes a man want to speak Spanish
Como se llama, bonita, mi casa, su casa
Shakira, Shakira

Oh baby when you talk like that
You know you got me hypnotized
So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body

Señorita, feel the conga, let me see you
move like you come from Colombia

Mira en Barranquilla se baila asi, say it!
Mira en Barranquilla se baila asi

She's so sexy every man's fantasy
a refugee like me back with the Fugees
from a 3rd world country
I go back like when 'pac carried crates for
Humpty Humpty
I need a whole club dizzy
Why the CIA wanna watch us?
Colombians and Haitians
I ain't guilty, it's a musical transaction
No more we do snatch ropes
Refugees run the seas 'cause we own our
own boats

I'm on tonight, my hips don't lie
And I'm starting to feel you boy
Come on let's go, real slow
Baby, like this is perfecto

Oh, you know I'm on tonight and my
hips don't lie
And I'm starting to feel it's right
The attraction, the tension
Baby, like this is perfection

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Halloween Is On Its Way, but London and Maddie Have No Costumes!

Halloween, the masquerading time of the year, is almost here. Rex, London, Maddie and I all love Halloween and we take it very seriously with our family's participation in the Bay Head Halloween Parade, which happens every year on the Sunday before Halloween (even if Halloween falls on a Sunday). This year the parade is scheduled for Sunday, October 26th, which leaves us with about 45 days to plan our costumes.

Last year, London dressed up as Hannah Montana; Maddie was her little known sleeping beauty of a sister, Aurora (Montana); Rex was Maddie's handsome prince; and I was Maleficent, the wicked 13th fairy who was not invited to Aurora's christening. I threatened to re-use my costume at my niece Candy's black tie wedding.

The year before, London was the Little Mermaid, Ariel, as a bride; Maddie was Little Red Riding Hood; I was Little Red's Grandmom; and Rex was the Big Bad Wolf. You can see Maddie holding our family trophy in the photo on the left.

This year, Maddie had hoped to be Binah, one of Madonna's English Roses, but it proved too difficult to enlist four of her friends to be the rest of the English Roses, so we're back to square one. I thought it would be fun if they dressed up as London and Maddie from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but it turns out they don't make Suite Life costumes, only pillowcases! Now I'm sure my blogosphere buddy LadyJava would approve of the pillowcases over the girls' heads for blog photos, but I'm not sure about trick-or-treating! Even without the pre-packaged costumes, I still like the idea, so we'll have to check out the halloween costume stores to see if we can pull London and Maddie's outfits together.

The girls found grown-up Barbie and Ken costumes in one of the catalogs, and they're trying to talk Rex and me into it...believe it or not, it's not much of a stretch for either of us...Rex thinks he might even have some of his own clothes from the 70's that would work.

Roxy’s Reads -- Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent’s Guide by Lucy Calkins with Lydia Bellino

Yesterday, Rex and I headed in to our NYC office, and my current hardcover page turner, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, was too heavy to lug onto the train. So I picked up Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent's Guide by Lucy Calkins with Lydia Bellino, at the recommendation of our elementary school principal, Michael Craver. Way back in March, Principal Craver had given an impressive presentation to interested parents about the role parents play in educating their children. Inspired, I bought the book, but just never seemed to pick it up. Today's train ride gave me plenty of time to read, and plenty of time to develop my New Year's resolutions for the Back-to-School New Year. I was hooked by the first chapter, "Talk: The Foundation of Literacy."

I'm going to try to share the first passage that sparked my interest. Lucy Calkins writes:

When my son Miles was three, I visited all the preschools in our town in search of the perfect one. I was particularly intrigued by a place about which I'd heard both rave reviews and critical comments. I couldn't wait to see it for myself. I arrived at the school very early that autumn morning. The classroom was almost empty, save for a cluster of little girls who sat at one table rolling and pummeling clay. The director was nowhere in sight, so I pulled my chair near the girls and listened.

One girl was drumming her fingers on the surface of what appeared to be a pond. "The wind is whooshing the waves," she said. The next girl plopped three blobs of clay onto the now-dappled surface of the pond. "The baby ducks are looking for their mom," she added. Then, in a high-pitched baby duck voice, she called, "Mommy! Mommy!"

At this point, the director of the school arrived and motioned for me to join her. Together we stood, eavesdropping as the three girls spun their tale of the lost baby ducks. "They looked in the tall grass," one child said, moving her three blobs to the pond's edge. Then she shook her head despondently and sighed. "No mother."

The director of the school pointed to the girls and stage-whispered, "This is where it all starts, you know. This is essential for their writing."

My heart leapt. "Yes!" I thought. "She knows, she knows, she knows." I could have hugged her. But my heart leapt too soon.

The director held up her hand, and began to move her fingers in the air as if she were kneading bread. "Yep," she said, "It all starts here. We begin exercising their fingers with soft playdough, then move on to the stiffer beeswax clay, then to the really stiff clay… and by that time, their fingers are strong enough to work the pencil." I stared at her, aghast, silent. "Yep." She nodded with assurance. "It's all in the fingers, it's all in the fingers."

I didn't even stay the morning. And from that day on, as I traveled from one nursery school to another, I looked with a new sense of direction. Whether children were building towers with blocks, making masks with paper bags, or sculpting duck ponds with playdough, I listened to hear whether the adults who were there were celebrating the talk, the emerging stories…

In one school after another, I paid particular attention to the teachers' attitudes toward children's talk. I did this because, yes, indeed, that duck story was foundational to those girls' growth as writers, and as readers, thinkers, problem-solvers, and world builders. Had the director of that school meant what I initially thought she meant, had she truly understood that the story those girls created around their three blobs of clay was foundational to their later writing, reading and learning, I would probably have enrolled my son in her school….

Yes, Ms. Nursery School Director. It all starts here, with those girls playing with clay, and with the rhythms and sounds of language. It all starts with those girls re-enacting the age-old search for a place to call home; with them collaborating to make a story.

Rex and I have been fortunate to find terrific educators since we moved out to the Roxiticus Valley. London and Maddie started pre-school at Westmont Montessori in September 2004, where amazing teachers like Kim Koch encourage the children to explore their world, learn, and follow their imagination wherever it takes them. Once it came time for kindergarten, Mendham Township Elementary School picked up where Westmont Montessori left off. While there are some frustrating limitations to the public school system, London and Maddie have been fortunate to have terrific teachers who nurture their language development.

Lucy Calkins goes on to emphasize the importance of talk in the home, and the ways she has used talk in her own home as her two boys grew up from babies to toddlers to school kids with backpacks, when such "deliberate support for oral language development stops….We teach our children to talk quietly, to talk less, and to stay out of the way." Calkins shares some studies and statistics that indicate that American mothers spend less than 30 minutes a day talking with their children, while fathers may spend less than 30 minutes a week talking with their children. In contrast, the average adult in the U.S. spends 30 hours a week watching the television. I remember Rex taking note back in March when Principal Craver raised this point in his presentation, but I think both of us soon lost our focus on this important message. None of our family members spends much time watching television. In fact, we went without it for the month of August at the beach. However, I think of all the hours I spend outside of my 8:30am to 6:30pm investment banking day doing things that take me away from talking with my children… paying bills or shopping online, checking e-mail, and of course, "Mommy is always blogging!" When we had our good friends Lynette and Tom and their twins down to our beach house in Bay Head, NJ, their kids actually wrote anonymous notes to each parent: "Tom, your wife is nice but she spends too much time on the phone. Lynette, we like your husband but he spends too much time on his computer." While I didn't receive one of these anonymous missives, I am every bit as guilty of trying to multi-task at the expense of conversation.

Rex and I are fortunate that London and Maddie don't let our grown-up activities stop them from indulging in creative play. The girls spend hours acting out elaborate stories with their American Girl dolls, Barbies, and Polly Pockets dolls, calling out "act your people" when Mommy or Aunt Veg doesn't understand how to play the game. Although I get a little crazy when I find pricey doll-size outfits strewn about the house, and tomboy Roxy doesn't have a clue where they got the girly girl gene, I wouldn't trade their collaborative, imaginative play for anything in the world.

Lucy Calkins asks, "Why can't we find time to talk with our children?" and she goes on to answer:

Part of the reason is that by the time our toddlers are of school age, we take their talk for granted. We have turned all our attention to their reading and writing, not realizing that talk is still the motor that propels their intellectual development. It is through talk that children learn to follow and tell stories, understand logical sequences, recognize causes, anticipate consequences, explore options, and consider motives. It is through talk that our children learn about barometers, mortgages, civil rights, psychotherapy, and the Roman Empire. It is through talk that our children learn that their observations, hunches and insights are interesting and worth developing. It is through talk that our children learn about empathy, generosity, forgiveness – about walking a mile in another person's moccasins. Talk matters, and it's not happening enough in our homes…

And if we're not talking with our children, then no one is, because study after study has shown that schools do not support our children's oral language development. Researcher Gordon Wells monitored closely the talk 20 children from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds engaged in at home and school. He found that even children from the most "linguistically deprived" homes still got far more support at home for language development than in school.

To be continued....