Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some advice please

Master Cb started his new school yesterday and so far he seems calm and happy with his choice. It's a smaller, more intimate school than his previous one, and he came home excited to report that during his year meeting NOT ONE STUDENT spoke while the teacher was talking. The fact that this is important to my son makes me so happy I could bust a gut, really. Oh, and that reminds me, I meant to tell you about something else I have discovered about mothering a teenaged boy:

When you are walking along the street on your way from the dentist's office to the parked car, and he suddenly places an arm around your shoulder and turns his face to you and gently kisses your cheek and whispers "Love you Mum," well.......that's one of the happiest moments you will ever experience. It's pure joy.

Another interesting detail. This new school is a laptop school, meaning that the kids use laptops for taking notes in every single class except for maths. The school allocates you a laptop which already has your email account set up on it, and the email addresses of all of your teachers and fellow students. Master Cb told us about his first English class in which the teacher assigned them a quick writing exercise. He said it was the strangest experience to suddenly hear the taptaptapping of the class as each student started to type.

Although we knew it was a laptop school, Master Cb and I were still bemused at how little stationery was listed on his booklist. We laughed hysterically yesterday afternoon as he said to me, "Hey Mum, you know how I didn't need to buy any folders? Well...ummm...'s because my FOLDERS are on my COMPUTER." He has VIRTUAL stationery. That just cracks me up.

Oh, yes, almost forgot.

Master Cb's English class (14-15 year olds) has been asked to bring in a book they are reading. The teacher told them that she will be able to learn about them by seeing what they are reading. Master Cb has spent most of the past year NOT reading for pleasure (sigh, sob) and now he has turned to me accusingly and demanded that I recommend "a good book" for him to read.

Help! Anyone??


Friday, January 29, 2010

Ah. Yes.

I had expected to find it difficult to blog while away on holiday, and yet the opposite has been the case. I was compelled to share many of my New York and Boston experiences with you, and since my return home (a week ago) I have been unable to write even one sentence.

Holidays are not what people say they are. They are not simple experiences of relaxation, but rather complex changes in the way you view yourself and your everyday life. Returning to that well-worn, dependable, familiar, difficult, all-consuming life of home I am struck dumb with wonder. Ah yes, so this is what I have been doing for so long, and ah, yes, here I am again, doing it. Only yesterday I was walking along the frozen streets of a skyscraping parallel universe, and today I need only walk down the block, turn left, then right past the bowling green and the tennis courts, and look, an ocean shimmering in the heat of a summer sun. How remarkable.

Three weeks ago, finding it necessary to escape (lovingly, discreetly) the overwhelming chemical reactions of my Boston family reunion, I spent an hour browsing in the Harvard Coop. I bought several books of poetry and mailed them to myself. I received my package of books today and opened Mary Oliver's book "Red Bird" only to discover this poem entitled "Ocean" -

I am in love with Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is

always grief more than enough,
a heart-load for each one of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all the blast and welcome
of her sorrowless, salt self.

I adore the gap between "there is" and "always grief." I also love the thousand white hats and the loveliest bed and the dusty road.

But I think "the blast and welcome" is my favourite bit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brighton Beach babushkas and a hundred happy hippies

Mr. Cb and I decided to hop on the subway yesterday and visit Brighton Beach, but we weren't sure exactly how to get there.

So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do...I asked bb! Actually, I had woken up early that morning and was sitting in the Starbucks on the corner reading the New York Times when it occurred to me that I could, should I so desire, text bb and invite her to join me for a coffee. So I did, and 20 minutes later, as God is my witness, bb sat down beside me. We enjoyed a wonderful chat while staring out of the window at the passing schoolchildren, when I casually mentioned Mr. Cb's overwhelming yearning to see the Russian-Jewish New York community. Bb immediately assured me that she had the information I needed, she took a pen out of her stylish bag and wrote a name on the palm of her hand. "J, my colleague, knows ALL about that, I'll ask her for details and email you." We parted at the corner and sure enough, within 10 minutes, I had both the subway directions and a restaurant recommendation.

Thankyou J! Thankyou bb! This post is dedicated to you both, with a special hug from Mr. Cb too.

Here we are on our way into the subway station:

The minute we got off the train, we knew THIS was the place we had been looking for (the sign alerted us to the presence of a dental clinic):

Look, a Life Extension Centre as well:

Might as well be in Russia, not an English sign to be found:

We strolled along the beach:

A buxom mermaid watched over us as we returned to the main street:
Enamel pots for sale. My mother-in-law is constantly bemoaning the lack of affordable enamel pots in Sydney.

Home cooking next door to the Internet Salon:

The trains kept rumbling loudly overhead:

Appetizers at Cafe Glechik (herring, boiled potatoes with dill, smoked salmon and assorted pickles, yes that IS pickled watermelon at the back!). We drank kvass.

Vareniki (boiled dumplings with a pototo and onion filling, fried lightly in butter with crispy onions on top):

It was a wonderful morning.

Because we are flying back home tomorrow I'll quickly get this into the post as well...........

This afternoon the 4 of us saw Hair on Broadway and we are all still humming and dancing. We sat in the fourth row and I was on the aisle. As you can see from the video below there's a lot of audience participation. I danced in the aisle with 2 of the male stars of the show, and at one point they both hugged me at the same time, they smelled really good and I could feel the tickle of their wigs and I touched their glowing, muscled arms. Ahem...sorry. Where was I? Oh. Yes. And at the end of the show they invite the audience to come on stage and dance with them, so I did, with Miss Cb, while Mr. and Master Cb stood and clapped for us. Mr. Cb put the flower a hippie-girl had given him behind his ear.

I'm addicted to New York and have no idea how I will be able to adapt to real life again. See you all in the southern hemisphere xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This and Here

I watched this here.

Of course the well-known Hollywood stars added to the attraction, but the fabulous acting and fascinating play took over as soon as the curtain went up.

So a couple of days later Mr. Cb and I hopped on the subway and got off at Brooklyn, I especially love this audio (soon we'll be able to listen to bb's audio of Manhattan!!!). We walked and walked until it was time for brunch. Our table stood between the tables of two "regulars" - a single man and a couple of women who greeted each other with surprise. Apparently they both usually come to Siggy's much earlier on Saturday morning but the man explained to the women that he's teaching a new class at 9 now (his sweater had a musical emblem on it), the women explained to the man that they had to go to Ikea, and that means getting there early to beat the crowds. He wanted to know why they hadn't stayed there for meatballs, but they explained that the smell of the cinnamon buns put them off. He said he loves the smell of cinnamon buns, they agreed but felt that it wasn't quite right to smell that while eating meatballs. Then all 3 turned their attention to us and showered us with information about Brooklyn and exclaimed with delight upon hearing that we had wandered into their regular "place" ("we think of Siggy's as an extension of our apartment," said the two women in unison) all the way from Australia.

We then walked for several more hours, until I finally insisted we stop here. You saw that 3-layer chocolate cake? That's what we ate. Then we continued walking.

Then I watched this here.

It was very lucky that I had bought a large can of Energy earlier that day from here. I had originally wanted to buy a can of this, but they were all out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shuffle it right

I saw this here last night, and there was a special Q&A session with the director/choreographer following the performance.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I thought I might not blog while in New York, but I have great connection in the apartment and everything I see makes me think of blogging and sharing my experiences with you.

I walked up to a Starbucks earlier this morning and sat by the window with my camera as a number of yellow school buses passed by. So here are some quick snaps of Manhattan kids as they go to school on a Tuesday morning in -4 degrees Celsius (25F).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A night and a day

Last night we ate dinner here, and we all slept really well last night. Best comfort food in the world, and especially good when it's very cold outside.

Today we ate lunch here. It was very hard to choose from the menu, everything sounded so wonderful, and our sandwiches were served with carrot sticks and tiny packets of potato chips. There was a group of NYU students sitting at the table next to us, discussing their mothers, "Dude, your mother sounds like she'd TOTALLY get on with my mom. Although that's a scary thought...both of them...together." I'm not sure if I like the idea of my children talking with their friends about me.....I'm terribly naive, I suppose.

After lunch, Miss Cb and I passed this shop. These shoes were on sale, and when I tried them on I felt like Mary Poppins, so I bought them, and wore them home. Miss Cb purchased these. It was a great day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mary Poppins

I bought two parrot head handle umbrellas yesterday, one for me and one as a gift for the nanny next door. I've been dancing around the apartment with my new umbrella for much of the day, but deep down I know that only ONE BLOGGER could ever truly BE Mary Poppins. She's certainly brave enough to tap dance upside-down (fast forward to around 5:50!), and the final confirmation came towards the end of the show when Mary Poppins flew over the audience in a long purple velvet coat.

I was in the audience, crying. It was just so beautiful.

The Commentbox family goes to Tuvalu

We arrived at the train-station 45 minutes early. I didn't want to miss the train and be late, and I know what it's like to get my family out of the house, only this time everybody was very excited and very organised. Visiting bb does that to a family.

Here is Miss Cb holding a little vase with a single rose, for bb. The florist spent a long time wrapping the rose in its own micro climate so that it would not freeze on the way to the station. Miss Cb cared for it as if it was a newborn baby.

What do bloggers do when they have time to kill at a train station? That's right - they photograph their feet. Look at that, not an Ugg in sight.

Here I am on the train, overexcited. I am wearing 2 blogging talismans which give me superpowers, allowing me to defeat my tendency towards debilitating shyness - the scarf Kmkat knitted for me, and the earrings Eurolush made for me.

Mr and Master CB ponder the beauty of blogging relationships:

The rose, in the micro climate, on my lap, in the train, waiting.

And then, before we could say "Hi, we're the Commentboxes, are you bb?" a tiny black-coated puffball of a blackbird hurled herself at us, shrieking and laughing and hugging us. Best train platform welcome I have EVER received!!

We then all piled into the Jeep ( I KNOW, it's true Suse, I did say "I can't believe I'm sitting in bb's car," I did) and bb cunningly took us on a tour of Tuvalu, ensuring complete disorientation just in case we turned out to be a crazy blog family who would stalk her and her family for the rest of their natural life.

We entered the bird nest and were greeted by a tall and gorgeous husband, followed by eldest, middle and youngest quietly smiling at us and completely stealing my heart. There was a perfectly prepared fire in the fireplace, which I think they started by rubbing two sticks together over some shavings and a high-beam lamp, as the blackbirds are known to do from time to time. There was also the smell of THE BEST DAMN FRIED CHICKEN WE HAVE EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF EATING.

Yes, we sat around and sipped wine and nibbled on lovely cheese and chatted (well, I mostly laughed and laughed), but it was really all about getting to the table and getting our hands on K's food. Here is ONE of the plates of chicken (sigh, drool) and the leftovers of the hotwingswhicharereallydrumsticks appetizers. The chicken is waiting for the other plate of chicken, and the potatoes, and the coleslaw. Sigh, drool. Oh, and look, there's the rose, happily witnessing the ensuing gluttony.

Here is dessert, moments before it disappeared.

Here are Master Cb and Youngest killing many people on screen. We are so proud! Master Cb claims that this moment was the highlight of his holiday, and praise does not come higher than that, I assure you.

Oh look, self-portrait with famous blackbird painting and a collection of stones from Paola's beach, hi Paola!!!

The hug. What can I say? I think my face says it all.

A commentbox IRL:

Vanna White Commentbox and her trusty assistant:


Commentbox with graffiti from a few Aussie bloggers who sneaked into my luggage:

It was a magical night. The blackbirds are an exceptional family, welcoming us into their home with such warm friendship that we immediately all felt at home. You know that feeling you get when bb comments on your blog, or answers your comment? Yes, that feeling of acceptance and understanding and humour and sparkly love-of-life? Well.. that's exactly what she's like IRL.

Eventually bb brought us back to the station, and we hugged one last time, and I got emotional. Almost as emotional as I was while writing my comment on the blackboard. You see, it's really thanks to bb that I have met all of YOU, dear bloggy friends of mine.

So thanks bb! And thanks to the entire bb family!
It was a wonderful evening.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I would love to update you on what I've been doing for the past week, but it makes my head spin. No really, I'm serious, my head literally HAS been SPINNING. I also feel like I'm coming down with the flu periodically (I don't think I am. But maybe I am. Or not), and I burst a blood vessel in my right eye. Literally BURST it, and the last time I did that was when I had a terrible cough, but I don't have a cough now.

It's very very very cold outside, and we're the type of travellers who like to walk a lot, well... except for Master CB who hates to walk aimlessly. But then again, he finds most of the things we do to be "lame" and he often describes things I do as being "an epic fail." I couldn't walk any more yesterday afternoon, so I retired home for a nap, Master CB took up residence in front of the TV watching some sports, and Mister CB soldiered on through the streets of NYC with his ever-cheerful companion Miss CB who MIRACULOUSLY does not feel the cold as much as we do. Might have something to do with the new camera she bought 2 days ago from this shop. She even attended a night workshop on light-shots (or something like that) which allowed her to make a couple of new friends who ran around and moved torches so that she could photograph them.

One thing we did which we ALL (yes ALL 4 of us) agreed was superb was eating lunch at the Dogmatic. It was recommended by bb, who actually sent us a list of great list of ideas which we are slowly and ecstatically working our way through. Another bb recommendation may well have contributed to my eyeball spontaneously bursting!! I literally did not see anything in that shop which I didn't love (including the price), and it's the first shop in which we LOST Mister CB because he saw something he loved and just took off after it, returning to us with a bag of loot and a happy grin.

But before all of this happened we drove up to Boston in a blizzard, yes, a blizzard. The nav system which came with the rental car predicted the exact time we'd arrive, plus it notified us of traffic congestion ahead and took us on detours. Mister CB drove while I sat quietly, white-knuckled with fear and repeating to myself silently "Keep to the right, keep to the right." We then spent a lot of time with my brother and his beautiful family, which included tramping through the snow to the local hill where a lot of sledding was undertaken. An aside - sledding is actually scarier than I thought, and I found myself standing at the top of the hill suffering VERTIGO, even though a THREE year old was rushing up and down that MOUNTAIN over and over and over again. When I finally pushed off it was exhilarating, but it took me a good HALF HOUR to psych myself into doing it.

On the way back to NYC we stopped for the night at the Connecticut home of an old friend of mine. S and I first met in Providence RI (where Miss CB was born) at a "New Mothers' Group" at the local Jewish Community Centre. Meeting again was the easiest and happiest experience, and to our immense delight my 2 kids immediately clicked with her 3 kids. Oh the joy of seeing my Miss CB with S's son, both now 18, laughing and talking together. S's son attends Choate School and he invited Miss CB to come with him to have breakfast there (many of his friends are boarders) and then attend "the best English class ever." Meanwhile S and I wandered around a high-school the likes of which I have never before seen. Imagine the most magnificent setting in which to learn, then double it by, oh, I don't know, infinity. That's Choate. Sigh.

We did a lot of other stuff, but my head is spinning again. I promise to post more photos and details, but for now I'm off to have another lie-down. I need to rest up for our visit to bb's home this afternoon.

Did you hear that? I'm going to bb's house for dinner tonight!!!!!!

To quote Miss CB - "I can't believe we're going to Tuvalu today."

Monday, January 4, 2010


In the season of gingerbread
Walls of a house,
When the cold northern side
Of the world gallops fast,
That's when you'll find them
Those feelings you thought
Had been left in the hallway
With lost shoes and old coats.

You'll pick up those feelings
And pocket them quick,
Feeling their contours
In black midnight fits.
For when others do see them
They are eager to say
That they're not truly yours
And should be thrown away.

But these feelings have issued
And grown in the dark,
They have waited in silence
While noise travelled fast,
And now that you've found them
Again you must start
To remain brave and focused
And never lose heart.

So it's not how it seemed,
So the past's not quite right,
And the feelings remind you
Of all that you've lost.
So Hansel and Gretel
Never made it back home
And the witch is so real
And the forest so cold.

It's just snowdrift season,
A mistake of mere time,
To be cured with
Space travel,
Some sweet

Friday, January 1, 2010

This post is dedicated to the fabulous Little Miss Sunshine State.

A couple of days ago I received an email from blackbird which contained a forwarded email from Little Miss Sunshine State. LMSS had heard that I was going to be visiting Boston, and so she wanted to pass on a recommendation:

Would you tell her that she might like to see the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
while she is in Boston. It is really a little gem, tucked on a side street near the Museum of Fine Arts in the Longwood area.

Well. OH MY.

Thanks to the fabulous LMSS, I spent the first day of 2010 (my birthday) here:

Thank you dear new blog-friend, from the bottom of my heart.


HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM MR. AND MRS. COMMENTBOX, standing in front of Boston Library, lit up with giant snowflakes.