It is always a concern when a new writer takes on a known (and beloved) series. Although I didn’t read all of the Robert B. Parker Jesse Stone novels, I was a huge fan of the Spenser series. I was therefore happy that Michael Brandman’s take on Jesse Stone was quite a smooth transition. In some ways, it seemed too simplistic — I feel like I zipped through two entirely different story lines. And yet that was part of Parker’s gift, wasn’t it? So even though it wasn’t the weightiest of novels, it was more than enough to hold my attention. And I didn’t feel that I was shortchanged in any way. The characters were intriguing, there were complex emotions involved, and the dialogue was, I would say, trademark Parker, humor and all.

There was one false note for me — I couldn’t entirely see Jesse Stone turning a blind eye entirely to something that happened at the very end of the book, but it didn’t detract enough from my enjoyment of the book.

I’ve been reading a ton of books lately, partly due to this whole stupid gall bladder surgery that I had to have. The reviews I’ve posted have been on LibraryThing and Goodreads, but I’m going to start posting them here, too. Just because. 

This is surreal. I’m sitting here in my kitchen, hearing helicopters flying overhead and listening to the police scanner as they talk about a manhunt that is about four blocks from my home. As Kelley keeps reminding me, there is a river between there and us, and there’s no way this guy can get across that river. Of course, then he tells me, there’s no way they were acting alone, which isn’t exactly helpful.

Will is in the living room watching Netflix and occasionally complaining that he wasn’t asked if he’d like to go to CT (as if we’re anywhere near that happening right now), and he’s pretty much refusing to get dressed anyway. At this point, I feel like if I get a chance to get in the car and leave, he can go in his pajamas, no shoes, and deal with it. James is watching Youtube videos, which is great, except when they’re of fire trucks and police cars and I can’t tell if the sirens are on the iPad or outside. And Lucy, mercifully, is asleep, otherwise she’d be glued to the scanner just like I am. And I don’t think that would be good.

The cats are freaking out, which makes me wonder if they know something, or if it’s just because they can sense how jittery we — or, rather, I am. (The river, Kelley keeps telling me. There’s a river.) I keep expecting to look up and see someone with a gray (or black, or white, depending on what thread I happen to be listening to at the time) hoodie run by my window. Or appear at my front door.

I realize that I am being entirely useless. Although I am sitting in the middle of the chaos, I can’t quite bring myself to get James some cinnamon toast. What if there’s an urgent update between when I walk to the toaster and back? But it is reassuring to be watching the helicopters circle — yes, I’m close enough to be watching them circle, Holy good Lord — on that side of the river and not this one. But I am listening to the talk of getting a bus in to evacuate residents and realize that they are talking about my friend and her husband and baby, Lucy’s cello teacher and family, James’ daycare.


‘Tis the season for Christmas lists galore, and as I am asked what I want for Christmas, this year I find that it’s not stuff. As anyone who has stepped foot into our house in the last, oh, 18 years, knows, we are drowning in stuff. And although I really, really like (and am quite grateful for!) the stuff I have, I think the number one item on my list this year is that I would like some time to actually just deal with the stuff so that I could then enjoy it.

That thought alone made me think about what else I would like that isn’t stuff-driven. So, with the caveat that the true first item is for my kids and family and loved ones to be happy and healthy and all that, here is my 2011 Christmas wish list:

  • Someone to come into my house and clean my bathrooms with no judgement (either about the bathrooms, the house, or the desire itself for someone else to do it)
  • A limo equipped with wireless and a driver who doesn’t talk to me
  • The ability to tell people off with a Southerner’s charm
  • A deck that is a) designed in a way that is actually usable, and, b) not falling apart in the white-trashiest of ways
  • Three additional hours per day during which time for everyone else freezes so that I can get things done without being distracted or tempted by things that are much more fun than what I’d be doing during those three hours
  • The ability to write the above sentence in a much more concise way
  • Someone to put Christmas lights on our house and decorations on the mantle in an almost-but-not-quite gaudy way
  • Patience
  • Someone who will gauge the daily family temper and cook healthy, well-balanced, and yet yummy meals that appeal to everyone and do not include either peanut butter or jelly
  • A week in a not-too-isolated beach cottage so that I can write
  • For Marc Blucas to star in the movie of the best-selling book that I will write there
  • The ability to gain weight during pregnancy and lose weight AFTER having the baby rather than the other way around
  • In the absence of the above (and since there aren’t any more babies coming), the ability to take those extra 50 pounds and give them to an Ethiopian child who really needs them
  • For the world not to end in 2012 (or at any other point, for that matter)
  • A family compound on Cape Cod so that we never have to have the discussion of who gets what room again
  • Enough money to create a trust fund that pays for everybody to come
  • Transporter technology (of the Star Trek kind, not Galaxy Quest)
  • Earrings

Several weeks ago, there was a 12-year-old girl who was home sick, alone in the house, when a burglar came through. Actually, she might have been 11, or maybe even 10. I’m not entirely sure given that I heard the story secondhand. What I do specifically remember, however, was that the story wasn’t really about the burglar or even so much about the girl: the main thrust of the story was about the mom. Really: what kind of mother leaves heryouthhome alone during the day? What kind of mother leaves her *sick* kid home alone?

I was reminded of this story this morning as I was dropping the kids off at school. We were later than usual, which meant that I had to drop Lucy off first since her school starts earlier. We were too late for me to be able to pull all the way up to the door since the street was already closed off for the busses. That meant I had to take the right turn that put the doors of the school out of my sight.

Call me overprotective, but I like to see her actually get into the school with my own two eyes. That’s being a ‘good’ mother, right? The problem, though, was that unless I chose to just stop the car in the middle of the street and let her out — as several of the cars in front of me did so apparently that’s a valid choice — I’d have to park the car, bring Will and James out into the cold rain, and walk her to the door. I decided to compromise: since I was able to park the car two cars in from the corner, I left James with Will in the car — completely within my sight, on totally flat ground and with the keys safely in my hands (i.e., not in the car and most certainly not anywhere close to the ignition) — walked Lucy to the corner, and with one eye on the car and one eye on her, watched as she walked to the school and up to the door, and then I turned and went back to the car.

So, well, what’s the verdict now? At 10 Lucy is old enough to walk up and across the crossing-guard-protected street. Hell, at least two of her classmates walk to school on their own, so what’s the problem? My guess is that in the (yes, unlikely) event that something had happened to her on that short little trip, I have no doubt that the story would be about the horrible mother who allowed her daughter to cross the street alone.

Another story, this one with a much sadder outcome: a year or so ago, a young father was killed on cambridge street when, while taking his baby’s carseat out of his car, a drunk driver hit him. That time, at least, the spotlight was on the drunk driver and not on the dad. I do distinctly remember, however, a comment made on one of the local listservs: how irresponsible of the father to not park so that the infant seat was on the sidewalk side of the car. By having to take the seat out of the car into traffic, he had not only put his own life at risk but that of his baby’s as well.

Um, ok, I guess. Except, well, have *you* ever tried to find a parking spot in Boston? Have you ever circled for hours trying to find a legal spot? Have you done it with a tired/hungry/diaper-change-needing screaming baby in the back of the car? And while doing so were you keeping in mind the possibility of a drunk driver coming by at that particular moment? No, probably not.

To be honest, when I left James (in his baby seat and on the traffic side of the street thanks to the one-way nature of that particular road) and Will in the car this morning I wasn’t thinking of all that either. I was, however, thinking that it was rainy and cold and there were way too many frustrated drivers of schoolbusses and SUVs for me to be comfortable, especially since they’d be safely enclosed only several feet away from me. But if something had happened to one of them, well, see above re what the story would be.

I’m not saying I made the right choice. And I’m not saying that there aren’t horrible parents out there putting their children at risk without a second thought. What I *am* saying is that most parents are trying — they’re trying *really* hard — to do right by their kids while also trying to fulfill the other societal roles they have to play.

Which brings me back to the beginning and the mom with the sick kid. I don’t know the family; I don’t know the details. But I can definitely see how a mom who doesn’t have a partner and/or doesn’t have help but who does have a job might just barely be getting through the day. She probably does so with her fingers crossed and her eyes squeezed shut as she prays to whatever god she believes in that there be no burglar or drunk driver or [insert your catastrophe here].

I’m not saying you have to be part of the village, but maybe when we hear that inevitable next ‘bad mother’ (or father) story we can try to see the anguish in her eyes as well. We can think about the choices she has to make every day and how she prays that she’s making the right ones. And maybe we could not roll our eyes when a co-worker has a sick child or parent or partner to attend to. After all, aren’t we all just trying to get by?

I’m sitting here with James sleeping in my lap and, as often is the case when I don’t have anything else to actively engage my mind, am wondering what it is that I really want to do with my life.

I’m 99% certain that I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s all well and good when I can sit here with a happily sleeping baby, a tv show in the background, and a book within reach. I don’t have the emotional energy, though, to keep up with little kids much less big ones. I know this about myself. I go a little crazy after a few hours of trying to keep everyone content. It never quite works the way I’d like. And, when it’s in the midst of not working out, well, not having the chance to have a moment of quiet thinking time to myself does no one any good. As Lucy likes to say, I “have hormones”.

And yet as the days count down to my going back to work, I am growing increasingly sad. I love this one-on-one time with baby james — I know sharing is good but it will be so much harder when I don’t see him all day. And it’s been really good to be able to be there for Lucy as we deal with these doctor appointments. Plus it’s been good to know that if something at school is going on I can go to it. Errands. It’s nice to be able to do errands and not be rushing around. Oh, and friends. To be able to have a leisurely lunch or meet for coffee or stroll around the neighborhood…

Hmmmm. Where’s the ‘but’? I’m not really sure. I love my job. I miss seeing my friends there. I like being able to help fix things. And I like to be able to think.

I don’t know. I’m really glad of the timing — it will help make the transition easier. But things do need to change. The pace I had pre-james is not one I want to keep up. The focus needs to be different. I’m not sure how we’re going to do it but we have to. I don’t want to do this any other way.

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