Saturday, February 20, 2016

Noah gets his first chess lesson

We discussed the names of the pieces and which he likes (he dislikes the knight and likes the "little tiny pawn," consistent with his love of small things). I explained that chess is a game and one of my favorite games, and that you play by moving the pieces around from one square to another. We practiced that. We agreed to take turns. I told him about taking pieces, how to do it, and that you get to keep the piece.

After the lesson, it was nap time, and he took a pawn to bed with him.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Have Respect for Mattresses, Citizens!

A mattress is insatiable.  It demands sacrifices. At night it makes the 
sound of a bouncing  ball. It needs a bookcase. It needs a table with 
thick stupid legs. Creaking its  springs,  it demands drapes, a door 
curtain, and pots and pans for the kitchen. It shoves people and says to them:
     "Goon! Buy a washboard and rolling-pin!"
     "I'm ashamed of you, man. You haven't yet got a carpet."
     "Work! I'll soon give  you children. You need  money for nappies and a pram."
     A mattress remembers and does everything in its own way.
     Not even a poet  can escape the common lot. Here he comes, 
carrying one from the market, hugging it to his soft belly with horror.
     "I'll break  down your resistance,  poet," says the mattress.  "You  no
longer need  to run to the post  office to  write poetry. And, anyway, is 
it worth writing? Work and the balance will always  be  in your  favour. 
Think about your wife and children!"
     "I haven't  a wife," cries the  poet, staggering back  from his sprung
     "You will have! But I don't guarantee she will be the loveliest girl on
earth. I don't even know whether she will be kind. Be prepared for 
anything. You will have children."
     "I don't like children."
     "You will."
     "You frighten me, citizen mattress."
     "Shut up, you fool.  You  don't know  everything.  You'll  also  obtain
credit from the Moscow woodworking factory."
     "I'll kill you, mattress!"
     "Puppy! If you dare to, the neighbours will denounce you to the 
housing authority."

That's an excerpt from a very funny comic Russian novel Twelve Chairs,
which you can read online.

Recently, Jonathan and I attempted to buy a mattress.

It's always been my dream to own a king sized bed. Plus Zoe sleeps with
us and Noah manages to as well sometimes. (i.e. we need it).

In 2001, I bought my sister a Tempurpedic mattress as an engagement
present. She's always loved good bedding. She didn't end up marrying
the guy, who was an inventor and invented the blue ink in American
Express Blue cards and made fake passports for the CIA, and she didn't
like the mattress either (too firm), so she gave it back to me and I'd
been sleeping on it ever since.

Jonathan loved it so we thought we'd buy another Tempurpedic. We 
did, the Contour Supreme (heavenly, firm), but it smelled terrible and 
we started reading frightening articles online about the neurotoxic 
chemicals it's made of. Zoe was just a few weeks old and we were 
afraid for her. We tried to air it out: removing the cover and standing 
it by the window every day for weeks, but when it hadn't stopped 
off-gassing after a month and a half, we returned it. 

After further research on the heath hazards of memory foam we 
decided to splurge and buy an Essentia, which is organic memory 
foam. They are crazy, crazy expensive, but we justified it with 
the idea that we would spend 8 hours a day on it for twenty years. 

Unfortunately, it was not very comfortable. Fortunately, it too was 

By now we are feeling defeated, tired of mattress shopping and unsure 
of what we wanted. So we headed to Sleepys. It's just very confusing, 
buying a mattress. You go to the showroom and lie down on ten or 
twenty of them and by the end you have no idea what you want 
anymore or how comfortable any of them really are. Do we really like 
"firm" mattresses, or have we simply always had one? The salesperson 
talks a lot of mumbo jumbo about coils and latex and alignment. She 
tried to convince me that firm mattresses are for fat people. Then 
later, after we'd bought the mattress, she starts telling me how her 
obstetrician kept harassing her about weight gain and gestational 
diabetes during her first pregnancy so she skipped prenatal care 
entirely for her subsequent children. I didn't even know you could do 

In the end we picked the first one we'd lain down on. And then we 
discovered that you can make an offer for a mattress. Sleepys prices 
are not fixed, you actually bargain with the regional manager via 
the salesperson. The mattress was $2900, on sale for $2600, we 
offered $2200 and that was fine. 
update: 4/2018: I went home that day and found the same mattress on Amazon for $1100. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

life choices

Hello out there!
I made a big decision recently that I'd like to tell you about. The last year and a half I've been staying home with my now two kids, Noah (2) and Zoe (5 months).

At first I was super-enthusiastic about this project, determined to raise the smartest, most verbal, best-fed, sweetest-natured children ever made. I talked to Noah incessantly, keeping up a running narration of everything I was doing in order to expose him to the absolute maximum language possible.  but after a while it gets very tedious. you get sick of talking, sick of mops and trucks and dinosaurs and garbage or whatever your kid is obsessed by 24 hours a day. also I spend a lot of time doing laundry and changing diapers and picking up toys and cleaning the house. and I don't mind housework per se, I actually have grown to kinda like it, especially the clean warm orderliness of laundry, but I'm SO BORED. I avoid my friends because I know I'm a conversational black hole.  I reread old blog posts and miss myself.

So I made plans to put them both in a local Montessori school next September and return to teaching at 318. I miss 318, at least parts of it: my advanced classes and the Saturday tournaments. Also I miss the long overnight trips. (I'm going to elementary nationals this year with another school and I can't wait-- 5 days of nonstop chess analysis without my children sounds like a dream.) I feel in some way that I belong at 318 and do a lot of good there.

And then Jonathan asked me to stay home another year with Zoe-- to put Noah in preschool 9-3 5 days a week and just take care of her, the house, and Noah after/ before school. He asked me like its a favor.

At first I thought no, I need for myself to be working outside our house for my own mental health. but then the next morning I was pushing the double stroller through the park on an unseasonably warm sunny winter day and we stopped and Noah got out to play chase with a puppy, and amidst the squeals of joy I thought "of course it's glorious to have another year off to spend with my children. How lucky I am." And so I cancelled Zoe's enrollment at the Montessori school, committing myself.

I'm still going back and forth in my mind. On the one hand I think we'd be stretched very thin as a family if we were both working. The house would never be clean and the dog would not get dewormed and no one would eat anything but takeout and toast.

Maybe with just one kid to watch I can blog and go running and maybe even play chess.
and if I was working, I'd be staring through my window, wishing I could be with my kids.

any thoughts, blog readers?