Saturday, October 30, 2010

Good vs. Evil

We recently had a guest speaker at church who, as a professional peace mediator, had witnessed unspeakable crimes and suffering in such places as Kashmir and Sarajevo. But she could still speak of goodness and respect and hope.

She credited much of her ability to do her job to her Unitarian Universalist upbringing which encouraged her "to embrace the whole world with long and wide arms": to seek justice, respect differences, believe everyone had a voice. She said, however, that the UU church had not explained or prepared her for evil, since UUs don't believe in hell or the devil or original sin. But she has found that evil can exist where suffering, hardship, and inequality exist for generations so that people can no longer see or reach out in the kind of goodness elsewhere. Violence, degradation, oppression, are too overwhelming, too ingrained, and they answer in the same. This doesn't mean that people have no goodness, only that they believe their own survival requires what we would term evil. Her job is to try to acknowledge the suffering and search for common ground between adversaries: love of family, fear for children, need for food and shelter.

Sis said to me, when we were discussing how we should not ever make fun of the little girl on the spectrum at school, "No one would do that, Mom. It's not respect."

And I realized we were heading down the same UU path that the guest speaker had trod. With so much focus on respect, inherent worth and dignity, and being kind, we have neglected to prepare the kids for the fact that those are not everyone's core principles. Or that even in trying to follow those, that good people can otherwise do unacceptable things. Much less real evil. And so I said just that. That not everyone will treat them and others fairly or kindly or with respect. That they had to do their best to stand up for themselves and others when that happened. (And then tell an adult!) And, while I was glad that they couldn't really fathom that yet ("Mom, why did Anakin turn to the dark side?" over and over and over), I was nervous, too, that they were going to be completely unprepared.

I think we all will be. But like the guest speaker, I hope we can keep walking with our UU principles and find in them hope.

Fair vs. Equal

"Mom," Sis said, trying to understand "equator" during our discussion of the seasons last night on the ride home, "equal means fair."

Except when it doesn't.

The concepts of fair and equal, as well as the terms themselves, have popped up a lot in our house this week. And I heard, I believe for the first time, "It's not fair!"

Bud came home from school with a favor bag in celebration of a classmate's birthday. Sis is in another class.

Sis's class went out for recess. Bud's didn't.

Bud's class was one letter ahead in the alphabet and got homework first. Sis wanted homework, too.

And the biggest one of all: Sis is in a Daisy Scout troop. Bud isn't.

It's. Not. Fair.

And, heaven help me, I found myself saying, at least once, "Life isn't fair."

Except we try extremely hard to be fair. For us, fair means "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice." It means not favoring one child over the other. Equal is "the same as." It's just hard to explain the difference to them. Fair means that we treat each child as an individual. Equal would mean we would treat them the same. Fair means that sometimes Bud or Sis get something the other one doesn't, especially out in the world. Equal would mean we would have to make up for how friends and school and others treat them differently. Fair means we try to keep it balanced over all. Equal would mean two of everything, even if they didn't really want or need it, except on principle

But that's not how they see it. As twins, they are very used to being together, doing the same things, and being treated identically (even though they are obviously fraternal); they are not used to any differences. And now, in school, in separate classes, they are having different experiences. And they don't recognize that this is because they are different people, with different interests, skills, and needs. Which is exactly why we separated them in school. But it is a steep and bumpy learning curve. And we as parents tread very carefully so that the competition, jealousy, sense of unfairness, etc. don't overwhelm them. Some sibling rivalry is natural and necessary to identity formation; too much is destructive, corrosive, exhausting to the relationship.

And so, in an attempt to be fair, we're trying to figure out how to balance Sis's Daisy Scout experience for Bud. Does he want mom-time? Friend time? Another activity? He can't even say, beyond "I'm angry and sad and I feel left out." Should we arrange for a one-on-one activity with one of us? Have playdates with school friends? Join a soccer or baseball or something team? No, none of that seems to suffice. "I want to be a Girl Scout." Or a Boy Scout, depending on the day. (To which we have to say, he can't be a Boy Scout because they are not nice to everyone. Definitely not fair or equal, that group.) And so, I am considering starting a new troop, a church club, with outings and activities and even badges. He's not completely jazzed yet--especially because Sis would come too, and it's church not school friends--but it's the best we can come up with right now. I know it's going to be a work-in-progress, both this particular incident, and the overall balance.

Because we do try, after all, to make life fair when it's not equal.

Halloween Fun 2010: The Haul

Mama's office always throws a nice party. Last night's annual "tricker treat" was no exception. Especially because, after four years of attending, the kids have the swing of things: they can spot bowls of candy on desks from 5 cubicles away! Thankfully, they've also mastered the actual "tricker treat" and even the thank you, plus only taking one piece of candy from each bowl proffered. Which might make us sound strict, but they probably stopped at 75 bowls and came home with large pumpkin-fulls of candy. Even so, most co-workers pressed handfuls of candy on them. Sis got good at finding the Tootsie Rolls and at avoiding peanut candies. They would even both stand still while we talked to the other adults instead of sprinting to the next bowl! And, for the first year, they weren't scared of anything, "Mom, decorations can't scare us!"

Sis was a firefighter, eschewing her oxygen mask and fire extinguisher this go-round but carrying her ax. Bud was a Jedi. Yes, I know, that wasn't his original plan. But he latched onto the idea so strongly that I went looking for and found an Obi-Wan Kenobi costume yesterday (and, to be fair, we offered Sis the option of adding to her costume, but she was happy). He was thrilled to wear the brown cloak and belt to hold his lightsaber. And everyone could easily identify him (and you should've heard the men--yes, mostly men--reliving their own childhood Star Wars fantasies!). And liked how they were both strong rescuer-types.

After almost 2 hours of trolling for candy, the kids were wiped and . . . so we thought it was a good idea to go for dinner! Barbecue at a crowded, loud restaurant. Perfect for overstimulated and exhausted kiddos. (And mommies who didn't want to cook!) Who nonetheless revived with brisket and ribs and were able to enjoy walking around outside in the dark, admiring stars and the river. And going for huge cupcakes for dessert.

On the way home, I regaled them with stories of my elementary-school carnival and trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. And, while I'd like to say they fell into a candy coma, they did not fall peacefully into slumber on the drive but did get to bed pretty much right when we got home.

So they can be ready for another party tonight!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Separation Anxiety

No, not the kids.

Me.

And not about the kids.

See, recently, it has become very clear to me that the kids have moved on from their toddler/preschool friends to their new kindergarten friends. When they were thinking of friends to invite to Applepalooza, they named kindergarten friends; same when they chose who to visit as the Phantom the other night. And when we were thinking about whom to BOO after being BOOed last night.

I think it must be the first time they've chosen their own friends and actually engaged with them independently. As toddlers and preschoolers, when we would have a playgroup, they would mostly play alongside, in parallel play, with the other kids, though mostly they played alone or together. Only recently have they really begun to interact with the playgroup friends . . . just when we see them less and less. But, until now, if asked to name a friend, they'd pretty much name each other.

Now they're naming friends I don't even know. Friends I'm not sure I want to be friends with. Because of course, up to now, their friendships have been dictated by my friendships, out of convenience. And I'm not ready to move on from my friends of the last five years. We have been through a lot together, know each other, like each other. And so it's strange that my kids don't think of my friends' children as friends anymore. I almost want to apologize. Because I know the separation will only increase and more preschool friends will be left behind: this year, it's Halloween treats; next year, it will be their birthday party.

Except I know I can remain friends with my "old" friends even as my kids move on, that I don't have to abandon them to make friends with these "new" moms just because my kids do (though, that said, I like some of these "new" moms, too). I've been trying to think about what concerns me the most: losing my cohesive and comfortable support group? finding out we only had the kids in common and weren't actually as close as I thought? missing my friends because we see them less? hurting my friends because we see them less? being rejected by the "new" moms at school? But who the kids play with is not about me anymore. I have less control and more uncertainty. And there is just more independence and separation.

Just one more way the kids are growing up, I guess.

And me too.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pretty in Pink

There have been two days recently when the kids didn't have to follow the dress code: for picture day and for a dress-down fundraiser for Breast Cancer awareness.

And on both days, the schoolyard was a sea of pink!

Given the chance, everything Sis has on is pink. Just like almost all the girls in her school, it seems. And she was in rare form today, practically a-glow in pinkness. The teacher at drop-off even giggled to see the pink shirt, pink jeans, pink socks, and pink shoes.

All that was missing was a bow. Or a crown. But she doesn't do that. She likes her pink plain.

We tried to go the green-yellow-purple route for the kids, not locking them into gender-specific colors, but it doesn't seem to have mattered. At least it's her choice and makes her so happy. And I'm good with that. (Especially because it is only a favorite color, not an attitude or a lifestyle.)

In fact, I'm sorry she can't wear her favorite color to school everyday.

Though, neither one of us might like it as much then.

Halloween Fun 2010: Painting Pumpkins

Let the fun continue! We're in the heart of it now, with more preparations and activities than we ever see for Christmas, all crammed into a much smaller time frame, but without any of the stress, guilt, and pressure. Maybe that's why kids and adults seem to be crazier about Halloween than when I was a child (all supported, of course, by a variety of industries eager to encourage our holiday spending)--it's pretty much fun, pure and simple.

And there's more candy and costumes.

This week, the fun into flowed into the schools, where Halloween is generally verboten, because, you know, it's Satanic. Don't get me started on how silly that is. Strictly speaking, this was a pumpkin/harvest-type thing, free from all the usual devil-worshiping and witchcraft-laden activities of the traditional, Charlie Brown-type Halloween. I guess it's not Satanic if the pumpkins don't have eyes or a mouth. Sigh. Anyway, the kids painted pumpkins on t-shirts in school, with parents helping out with the stencils and outlining. No mouths or eyes, of course. I was in charge of the curling green vines. For both classes. I'm now a vine-curling expert! It was fun to watch the kids paint the shirts, even more fun to see them wear them tomorrow.

You know, for that generic, non-Halloween, pumpkin celebration that always coincidentally occurs at the end of October.

Do we really think we're fooling the evangelical Christians with that? Is their faith that susceptible? Or their reasoning that shallow?

Isn't it even more pagan to idolize a squash?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In the Mood





Okay, with 70F temps and a mosquito that bit me today, I'm not feeling fall much. But these pictures help.

Nerves of Kryptonite

Sis's, not mine.

She sat calmly as I ran to get the little scissors.

And she sat just as calmly as I cut the dead skin flaps from her big toe injury.

EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I told her she got a ticket for being so brave.

I want one, too!

The Other White Meat: It's What's For Dinner*

(*Yes, yes, I'm mixing up my meat council commercials.)

I'm making dinner, a new recipe for me, though Mama tried it out on the kids during my . . . convalescence? injury? month from hell? Anyway, it's pork and sweet potatoes and they loved it. I hope they do again. Hmmmm, should've thrown in some apples, too. Maybe I'll bake a few for dessert.

-=-=-=-=-=-=

Roast Pork with Bert's Sweet Potato Stripes

1 1/4 lb lean pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled

Preheat oven to 450. Place pork on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and sage. Rub the garlic mixture all over the meat and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cut each potato into 8 spears.

In a large bowl, toss potato spears in remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange potatoes in single layer on baking sheet.

Roast pork and potatoes for 15 minutes or until pork is 145F (cooking times will vary based on size of tenderloin). Remove pork and let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Use a spatula to turn over potatoes. Reduce oven to 400F and roast potatoes 5 more minutes or until tender.

Sesame Street's C is for Cooking

Halloween Fun 2010: The Phantom

You’ve Been BOOed!
The air is cool, it’s time for fall,
Soon Halloween will come to all
Ghosts and goblins, spooks galore,
Tricky witches at your door.
The spooks are after things to do,
In fact a spook brought this to you !!!
The treats that came with this short note,
Are yours to keep, enjoy them both.
The excitement comes when friends like you,
Will copy it & make it two,
We’ll all have smiles upon our faces,
No one will know who BOOed our places!
Just be sure that you don’t tell,
Keep it secret ,hide it well.
Please join the fun, the seasons here.
Just spread these “BOO’s” & Halloween cheer.

A few years ago, we were "BOOed" with a bag of treats left on the door step by a secret ghost, along with a sign saying "We've been BOOed" to hang on the door and the above poem explaining it all. Though they loved the stuff, the kids were pretty much too young to realize exactly what happened.

This year, the Phantom came to our door:

The Phantom is Back!
He travels from house to house and scares some you know.
But treats are his specialty, which in this bag it will show.
He stalks houses at night when it is very dark.
Then he leaves his special mark.
The names below are those who've received.
It's 3 new victim families whose treats you must leave.
24 hours is all you've got.
HURRY, HURRY, but don't get caught!!!

There was candy, a book, fake teeth, rubber balls, gliders, etc for two, over which they exclaimed all through dinner and bedtime and wake-up time, having me re-read the poem over and over. Though, they are still a bit confused about whether there is a real Phantom lurking in the neighborhood or if our friends brought us treats. But they're definitely excited by the visitor(s) last night. Especially because I was able to report that I thought I heard the Phantom(s) on the sidewalk giggling when I went outside to greet Mama. Only a few minutes later, the doorbell rang--but no one was there! They've talked of nothing else since, even at school where other kids apparently have been reporting being visited by the Phantom all week. And now it's our turn . . . . though, I suppose I shouldn't be publishing the whereabouts of the Phantom . . . .

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Fun 2010: The Great Pumpkin

Can you name that vegetable?

I'll give you a hint: there's a nursery rhyme.

Yep, a Hubbard Squash.

Wanna know how to cut into one? See my friend at Bloodroot.

Yep, that's just what I'm going to do: drop a giant Hubbard squash on the ground and then use the insides to make something "pumpkin." Apparently, the orange flesh of these squash makes better pumpkin than any pumpkin.

We bought our squash, and a few pumpkins, this weekend at a local farm. Sis got a squat, round, deep orange one, while Bud's is more oblong and lighter in color. They'll each get to carve their pumpkins this coming weekend in advance of Halloween. We even have kids' carving kits, though no doubt Mama will be doing most of the work.

At least there will be some pepitas to eat as a reward afterwards.

And "pumpkin" for lunch.

Halloween Fun 2010: The First "Tricker Treat"

You know, it really does sound like "tricker treat." (At least the way I say it.)

Especially because in its current incarnation, there are no tricks, really, so Sis and Bud didn't realize they were offering door-openers an option. They understood the treat part but only recently inquired about "tricker." Now they're kinda interested in doing some tricks but aren't sure what those would be, thinking "magic" not cruel prank.

Anyway, the kids had their first of four opportunities to gather candy at a school function. When I was a kid, we had a Saturday school carnival, with games and a bake sale, which was my favorite elementary activity ever, even more than field day, and the kindergarteners would parade around in their costumes, which we were still allowed to wear to school then. Is it a coincidence that there is an increase in anti-Halloween fervor as Halloween itself has become increasingly focused on the gross, violent, and extremely dark nature of the human condition? There were decorations at the school party (which it should be said for the record was after school, optional, and organized by parents) that were definitely not G-rated. But the kids were thankfully oblivious to the rats-eating-fingers and lifelike decaying corpses in the presence of all that candy and the games with the plastic prizes.

The very cold wind sent us home earlier than expected, despite coats over costumes, Sis's as a firefighter in pink tights and skirt and Bud's as a "medieval jedi" in chain mail with a lightsaber. The kids didn't really care, though, because they had accomplished their mission. They got home with their loot, swapped candy (she loves Tootsie Rolls, he likes anything fruity, like Skittles), and then traded us the extra for tickets.

And they're thrilled that they have 3 more chances to get more candy . . . and I'm happy to get another chance to get the layering of the costumes right!!

Do The Baked Potato

I'm behind in posts by a few days and am working my ways backwards and forwards simultaneously. Which brings us to Thursday evening.

When Sis stubbed her toe.

It sounds innocuous enough, but it ripped open part of her nail bed and burst the surrounding tissue. Her big toe looks just like an overbaked potato. Yep, even down to the flap of white flesh. Gross, huh?

And we didn't even know she'd hurt herself in the first place. She was running down the sidewalk and her shoe went flying off. She was upset but got the shoe back on and basically proceeded home without hesitation. It was only when she got home that she apparently took off her shoe and started to scream. Bloody mess. Literally.

Mama Teacher was here and distracted Bud while I tried to clean up and figure out what was going on. And because it was after 5, Mama headed home and we decided to send Sis to the walk-in just in case . . . .

At home, Bud fretted about "what they were doing to Sis right now" as we played dress up ("Mom, you need to be fancy," he said. So I put on an old bridesmaid's gown) and danced around a homemade "harvest pole." He also drew a picture of the ordeal, with Sis's striped stocking feet splayed on the paper like the Wicked Witch of the West, her big toe colored in bright red.

Meanwhile, Sis was apparently a still and serious patient, sitting quietly while the doctor examined and very carefully cleaned the toe, which did not require stitches. Thankfully.

Mama and Sis were home around 7:30, with dinner in hand. Bud was very concerned about Sis and latched onto the new toe rules: no jumping, no running, no getting wet. He apparently spent the whole next day at school and on the bus telling people about her toe and trying to make her follow the rules, which she was quite capable of doing herself. It drove her mad. Especially because he gets upset if you mention his own experience of injuries. And she really didn't like his drawing.

Of course, I'd warned everyone via email, from the teacher to the nurse all the way up to the principal, because she would be breaking dress code in her sandal-y shoes. And then, I even checked in on her when I volunteered at the library on Friday morning.

I guess we've all been traumatized by previous injuries, though, obviously least of all, Sis, who ignored us all in stride and has been healing just fine, thank you very much.

Tiles

Someone in Bud's class had a birthday today and brought favor bags in honor of the occasion. And there was one of those tile games in the mix. Bud, who loves the game Rush Hour, where you move all the cars around to get one off the block, was immediately intrigued. And better than I ever was. He had 1-2-3 lined up while I was making lunch. Soon the 4-7 string. In fact, he got all the way to 10 before it was intractable. And then all the tiles burst out. I put them back, first in numerical order--because Mama told me there are orders that are unsolvable--and then mixed them up. He had the full run done in no time. And I can't even do the first line. Or Rubix's cubes, which are no doubt down the line . . . .

I'm a Nut for Applepalooza!

"I don't think we'll be having Applepalooza this year," I said to Mama Teacher about a week ago.

I should've known not to talk with the kids in the house. They have huge ears.

"Mom, we have to have Applepalooza!" Sis cried.

And Mama Teacher agreed.

So, it was a last-minute decision as far as parties go, with invitations only going out a week ago. Despite the lateness of it all, and then the little spitting showers throughout the day, we had a great time, with guests coming in three different waves so that the feel of the party changed throughout the day from boisterous to chatty to intimate. Mama Hungry and Mama Teacher did the lion's share of the work (thank you so much!), with the kids enthusiastically trying to help. And it all came together beautifully, with lots of apple foods and drinks and the traditional "Pin the Stem on the Apple" game. Our kids surprisingly played with the neighborhood kids, a first for one of our parties, where Sis and Bud usually hover around either a parent or the food table. Though, there was a lot of that too--Bud had two whole caramel apples and Sis downed at least two pieces of apple pie plus other treats! One of the best parts was when showers forced us all to duck into our little kitchen, carrying plates and platters of food with us, and we all stayed eating and chatting, crammed into the warm room where Mama was roasting nuts. The heavenly smell of roasted nuts and all those baked goods, plus the good cheer of friends, was perfect. As our friend Miss Mary remarked, when I commented after the rain passed that it was now a beautiful day, "It was beautiful before, too." And it was.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-
More recipes to follow . . . .

Sweet ‘n Spice Glazed Nuts

3 cups pecan or walnut halves
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix together sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Put nuts and sugar mixture
in Nut Roaster Pan (I just know you can do this in a skillet); stir to mix. Combine orange juice and vanilla in measuring cup.
Add liquid to glaze/nut mixture in pan. See detailed instructions below.

Instructions for Use:
1. Spread nuts evenly in bottom of pan. Use whole almonds, pecan halves,
walnut halves, whole hazelnuts or whole cashews. For best results, use
3 cups or less of nuts.
2. Sprinkle dry glaze evenly on top of nuts.
3. Mix nuts and glaze together by turning handle on top of Nut Roaster.
4. Place pan on burner; turn burner to medium high heat.
5. Add liquid according to recipe directions, pouring evenly over the nut/
glaze mixture. Stir.
6. Glaze will quickly turn into a thick liquid; boil gently during cooking
process.
7. Stir contents slowly and continuously to keep glaze coating nuts at all
times until liquid evaporates and nuts are glazed (5 to 10 minutes). When
the liquid is evaporated and the stir handle becomes harder to turn, the
nuts are done. Do Not Overcook.
8. Remove pan from burner. Quickly sprinkle a little water over nuts (about
1 tablespoon per 2 cups nuts). Mixture will steam - keep hands away until
steam dissipates to prevent burns. Stir nuts to coat evenly with glaze.
9. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, immediately spread hot nuts on a nonstick
or wax-paper covered cookie sheet to cool. Gently separate nuts
with a wooden spoon. Nuts will be very hot – do not eat until cooled (even
though they smell delicious and you will fi nd it very diffi cult to resist!).
10. To store, be sure nuts are thoroughly cooled and then put in airtight containers.
Refrigerate to retain freshness or freeze for future use.
11. To reheat for serving:
a. Microwave: Spread 1/4 pound of glazed nuts on a fl at plate and cover
with paper towel. Heat on lowest power setting for 2 1/2 minutes,
rotating plate half-way through heating. Increase time to 3 1/2
minutes for 1/2 pound.
b. Conventional Oven: Preheat Oven to 250°. Spread 1/4 pound of
glazed nuts on a non-stick cookie sheet and cover with aluminum foil.
Heat at 250° for approximately 7 minutes; increase time to 10 minutes
for 1/2 pound.

Back to Basics Nut Roaster

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Phantom" For a Friend

Playing Phantom of the Opera today in honor of a friend's cat, Phantom, who is ill with cancer.

The Eternal Question

When I told the kids that, despite the fact that they were playing so well, they would need to clean up before church, Bud wondered, "Why is it messy if we're playing beautifully?"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Uncle Soccer! May all your teams win . . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Electrifying!

With days getting shorter and light getting dimmer, but our activities not waning, the lack of outside lighting at our house has become an issue. Sure there are two street lamps on our property but that doesn't help the front porch and door, which can be very dark if we come home after sunset, which is more and more frequently.

So, we're finally putting in an outside sconce. And the bonus is we'll get a plug outside, too, Which means we can finally have Christmas lights!! We have the solar ones but they didn't work well on our shady property. It seems silly, but I'm so excited. But then, maybe that's because I won't be the one to hang them!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Can One Little Person Do?

"What can one little person do? What can one little me or you do?
What can one little person do to help this world go 'round?
One can help another one, and together we can get the job done.
What can one little person do to help this world?"


--Sally Rogers

The kids learned a new song at church on Sunday as part of their Sunday School program on service. It's a catchy song, which they all sang as the adults wandered into the big hall for snacks and coffee. And the kids were wrapped in blankets. Simple fleece blankets they had tied together themselves. And, while I think most of the ties will have to be re-done, Sis and Bud were so proud of the blankets and of learning how to tie and so excited to help kids in need.

So proud and excited that we're going to make our own tied fleece blankets and donate them to Project Linus,
which distributes new blankets in order "to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need."

If you're looking for something to do but crafts aren't your thing, check out Nicholas Kristof's timely post today on "How to Change the World."

A Tight Spot

Sis has new tights and long knee-highs, all in pink, to counterbalance the bland dress code of blues and browns at her school.

And Bud is green (and blue and purple and yellow) with envy because he just has regular, dull, short socks. He wants fancy socks. And he wants them long so he can still wear his shorts to school in the cool weather (which is what Sis can do now, wear her shorts and skirts).

But you know, I couldn't find boys' argyle socks at the store, even muted boring ones that he'd barely approve. Nor even plain solid-color knee-highs, like British public school boys always seem to be wearing in pictures. I gave in and bought navy girls' knee-highs and hope they'll work. Because I just can't put him in pink argyle tights. Internalized homophobia? Rigid gender-identity stereotypes? Fear for his happiness and safety? Maybe I should've gotten him a fun pair for home.

I'm hoping for snow and freezing temperatures, so they'll just both be happy in pants.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

9 1/2 Weeks

(Actually, it's 10 tomorrow, but that's not as good a title!)

I'm realizing how much of a mind-game pain can be. I hurt less if I know why or if I'm expecting it (like that time of month, which is actually twice because ovulation sucks, too). Or if I'm totally concentrating on it. Or if I'm not. (Hey, maybe that's one more thing I have in common with elite athletes! See here on disassociation vs association in championship marathon runners and cyclists.)

And recently, that last one has become more and more the norm as my lower back just hasn't been bothering me as much.

Is it the fish oil? the 45-minutes of walking? the slow-release magnesium on those PMS days? the knowledge of what's going on?

Or just the fact that Mama has walked through the door?

Yes, that last one is absolutely true. My back is tighter at the end of the day, even on good days, but seems to release once she gets home. It might be because she steps in and does so much and I can relax a bit, but it might also be that love relieves pain.


School Marm

I'm not a soccer mom, but I otherwise fit the suburban mom stereotype in many ways: minivan, "mommy bun" (that half-pulled through ponytail), ready supply of bandaids and snacks, lunch repertoire of Annie's macaroni and cheese, coffee addiction, even this mommy blog. Now you can add one more thing: involved school parent.

Yep, I'm jumping into the the whole school volunteer thing.

Though, I am not that uber-suburban creature, the room mom, being unable to choose which room between the two (and even I'm not crazy enough to try for both!).

But I've got a little job with the PTA--I'm in charge of thank-you notes!--and I'm a library volunteer and a classroom reading volunteer. I've even volunteered on art projects and mystery reading! Which means, this week alone, I'll be at school at least twice.

And that doesn't even include the Girl Scout troop I'm co-leading for Sis! (More some other time on Bud and those dastardly, homophobic, theocratic Boy Scouts. I can hear you objecting already, Lambeth.).

I'm trying not to be overzealous, but I know I am. Like a puppy with a new chew toy, a kid in a candy store, a convert to a new religion. I send too much email, show up too early for events, sign up for everything I can, volunteer when anyone asks (and now once, even when someone didn't!). I'm like a college freshmen at the club fair or first day of classes, trying it all, looking for a good fit, trying to figure out what I like.

I just hope it doesn't take as long for me to calm down and settle in (or that I'm not as . . . . annoying?) as all of the above . . . .

Azul

The kids were doing their colors in Spanish today and could immediately identify the color of Mama's new car!

Yep, new car.

Safe, partial zero-emissions, 4-wheel drive. Moonroof and cd player.

Subaru.

After driving her cute little Civic for longer than we've been together (!), now she looks like a suburban mom, too!

But the Civic, "Jo" a la Little Women, to which she is strongly attached, is going to a good home, that of her brother.

Be nice to her, Goo!

As for us, we all took a ride this evening.

Now all she needs is a new rainbow bumper sticker!

(And a name for it: I'm voting for "Chessie," after the manatee who swam up to Rhode Island!)

Bud is from Alderaan, Sis is from Tatooine

That, I suppose, explains the differences!

Sleep Tight*

We had a slumber party here on Friday night.

The kids had been planning it with their friends on the bus for a week: s'mores, sleeping bags, flashlights, games, snacks, staying up late.

And so that's just what we did.

Except by ourselves.

Yep, we practiced having a sleepover because the kids are still too young to have a real one. In fact, when they were talking about going to a slumber party, they thought we would go too! "But, Mom, I can't sleep without you there!"

The party started when they got home midday, making it the longest slumber party ever! We had their favorite lunch, played in the house and the yard, had an early bubble bath, watched Star Wars for rest time, and then played with the new lightsabers I'd gotten just for the occasion. They ran around the house playing Star Wars. Sis is always Luke. Bud is Han. I'm Princess Leia. Mama is, well, either R2-D2 or a Jawa. She makes a great beep.

We put the kids to bed early, at 6 pm, so that they had plenty of time to play before "lights out" at 8:15 pm. They took up coloring books, other books, flashlights, and who-knows-what-else to pass the time. And for awhile we only heard happy squeaks and squeals.

But about an hour later, Sis came out, disappointed, "I don't know what to do anymore. What are we supposed to do?" And so she invited Mama and I to join them.

We brought Candy Land and a snack. What could be more fun: staying up late, eating after brushing AND upstairs, telling stories and signing songs, and hanging out with moms? Okay, sure, not every slumber partier would think that last one was cool, but it is when you're 5.

And 40!

-=-=-=-=-=-

*"Sleep tight," I have only recently learned, has nothing to do with rope beds, probably originated at the end of the 19th century, and most likely meant "sleep snugly." Go figure. I've been passing around the false etymology for years.



Monday, October 18, 2010

That Kid

You know how there is always that kid, the one who reveals the truth about Santa et al, the one who spreads the word early about sex?

I've found our current equivalent: the one who tells Bud and Sis that Darth Vader is Luke's father!

Feeling Naked

Taking the kids to school today, I felt naked without my phone. Not so much from a safety issue but just habit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Playing Against Type

The neighbor child, pretending to be Darth Vader, turned to Sis, saying, "You're the Princess."

"No."

"Yeah."

"No."

And she's not. She's Luke. Lightsaber and all.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Night Kiss

Last night, after that uneasy visit to school, as I said good night to Sis, she said, "Mom, next time you're at school, I'll won't just wave and say hi. I'll even give you a kiss!"

It's a rollercoaster, this mother-daughter thing!

Order Out of Chaos

They are rolling around on the floor giving each other everything they've got.

Until Sis pauses, "Okay, here's a new rule: no sleeves. You'll stretch my shirt." Or, Bud says, "Remember, heads are a point."

Self-policing, they have devised a system of points. They begin with 10 and, for each infraction, lose one. The one with the most points wins.

I hope the practice is as good as the theory.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Artists List

Answering Ms. Sew-and-Sow's challenge to name my favorite artists in 15 minutes, with no research, here we go, for today, in no particular order:

  1. Johannes Vermeer
  2. Eva Watson-Schutze
  3. Maria Spartali Stillman
  4. Nicholas Maes
  5. Han Gan
  6. Fra Filippo Lippi
  7. John Everett Millais
  8. Alice Austen
  9. Clementina, Lady Hawarden
  10. Bernini
  11. Raphael
  12. Thomas Cole
  13. Camille Corot
  14. Praxiteles
  15. John Leech
(Bonus round, because I couldn't stop at 15:
  1. Fragonard
  2. Emma Stebbins
  3. Tiffany
  4. Mary Cassatt
  5. Berthe Morisot
  6. Kandinsky
  7. Norman Rockwell
  8. those quilters from Arkansas (?)
  9. Kara Walker
  10. Bill Viola
  11. Charles Worth
  12. Julia Margaret Cameron
  13. Thiebaud
  14. Frank Lloyd Wright
  15. Plus those unnamed masters of Greek vase paintings, Gothic stained glass windows (ah, heck, those whole cathedrals!), Celtic stone crosses, stone circles (and crop circles!), the Chinese terracotta warriors, weavers (from Navajo rugs to Chinese silks to those fuzzy batik things from Turkey? that start with an I??. . . . okay, I'm just going to stop. Can't include everyone that is crossing my mind!
Your turn . . . .

OMG, I forgot Constable and Ruisdael and Brueghel (elder and younger) and Steinlein and Holbein and Copley and Charles Rennie Macintosh and Alma-Tadema and Gerome and and and and and

(I might just keep adding . . . . :) )

Sweet Whispers

Sis leaned towards me, almost conspiratorially, quickly moving my hair away from my ear, her soft little cheek brushing mine, as she very quietly whispered "Mom, what can we play just the two of us?"

After a morning of rejections, when she first waved to me excitedly and then ignored me, choosing a favorite little friend over me during a special parent day at school, this was sweet music indeed.

It was the best game of Curious George at the Beach I've ever played!


Homework Hell

The kids get a little packet of worksheets each week, with handwriting, counting, patterning, categorizing, cutting and gluing and coloring. Easy stuff.

And they complain, complain, complain. "I hate homework. It's so boring! I never like to glue. Why do we always have homework?"

I sit there, encouraging and debating. "Homework is just part of your job as a student. You need to do what the teacher says. You can do it!

Epiphany: when I'm not in the room dedicating myself to the homework cause, they seem to do it with little frustration, which I only noticed today.

So, from now on, I'll go over the directions when they need it, though it's all getting self-explanatory, familiar, and repetitive now, and otherwise occupy myself with something else nearby.


Falling for Connecticut


Mind the Children

While I practice mindfulness myself, I've wondered how to encourage it in the kids, while recognizing that they are more expert in it than I am. So maybe I'm wondering how to encourage them not to lose it. And Karen Maezen Miller, writing for the Huffington Post, gives some suggestions (check out her photo montage for her explanations):

1. Handwrite
2. Read picture books.
3. Listen.
4. Sing.
5. Smile.
6. Walk (to school).
7. Brush teeth.
8. Give one hour.

While she says that "mindful children grow up in mindful homes," I would almost add that "children growing up can make homes mindful." If you pay attention.

No Comparison

Ecstatic about yesterday's inspiring Chilean miner rescue, I followed the story all day, internally cheering each time the number saved went up. And I think it read it on the NYTimes Lede blog, or maybe on the BBC's live coverage, that this event was a reverse of September 11. Then, the world watched in horror, scared and angry, coming together in sympathy and compassion and goodwill (at least for awhile), but the hopes that more survivors would be found--that the donated blood would be needed, that the people on "Lost" signs would be found--were dashed. Yesterday, the world watched in increasingly optimistic anticipation, coming together again in sympathy and compassion and goodwill, and all our hopes were rewarded as all 33 miners and the additional rescuers were pulled safely from the depths of the earth and despair. At least for a little while, we saw the possibilities of an inspired, overjoyed, connected world community.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Star Wars

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .

Namely in Texas about 35 years ago, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I saw the movie something like 22 times--and that was in the theater, before videos or even HBO (though, in my defense?, over years of releases)--not including Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi (which my amazing mom took me out of school to see on opening day!!!!). (By the way, as I understand it, Aunt Banana, it was your first film when you were about 2, we had to go all the way downtown to see it, and I think our folks spent most of the movie with you in the lobby!) I was Princess Leia for Halloween, with a meticulously-crafted foil necklace like the one in the last scene but also the trademark hairdo. I had figurines and trading cards, school supplies and t-shirts, stuffed animals and posters, albums (both symphonic and movie dialogue) and books (the making of, novelizations, Splinter in the Mind's Eye, etc etc etc), even the oversized barbie dolls (one of which got stuck in a tree and was forever after "Luke Treewalker."). Mom even took me to hear John Williams conduct the orchestral scores of the films! And I was always playing Star Wars by myself and with friends (my-very-most-favorite-babysitter-of-all-times, Julie Hunt, would play too and liked it as much as I did, even taking me to see it at least once. How old was she anyway, Mom?)

However, lots of time has passed since then, other obsessions and occupations have intervened, and I REALLY don't like the second set of movies (i.e. the first three, chronologically) or any of the odd digital changes and additions to the first three that interrupt my childhood memories--like Han talking to Jabba in the hanger bay of Mos Eisley!! (Forget the 3-D version!) See, it's all coming back to me now. Like a lost language. Because the children are obssessed (even if they are usually confused about plot points and characters and constantly have to ask who and why!). It's all Star Wars, all the time. They read books, draw pictures, act it out, play with the figurines. The unabashed merchandizing (and I believe those in the know say Star Wars kicked off that trend) continues. So familiar . . . and yet so different. First, those new figurines are "classics." Ouch. Except they aren't like the rather immobile Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker that I had--their joined arms and legs can pose (except they are cheaply made--limbs fall off and no hand will maintain its weapon)! Mercy, R2-D2 can beep and glow instead of just swiveling his head with a click if you turned it. They even come with little stands (and dice and cards for some game) so that you don't have to waste time trying to balance them--which never worked--though, the stands don't always work either, so maybe holding them by hand is the best, though in Bud's case, unacceptable solution. And yes, I still have mine for comparison's sake and will be bringing them out, along with my Ewok village this weekend--no sense letting it get moldy in the basement; I must have saved it for something. The kids are really excited.

Because they can't wait to set up a battle. Which interested me not a bit as a kid. I liked the story, the good-vs-evil, archetypal characters of absent/mysterious father, beautiful princess, young-hero-on-a-journey tale, you know, Jung and Joseph Campbell altogether. Not the actual fighting. While I can identify an X-Wing and a TIE fighter, I never even owned stormed troopers, Darth Vader, or any ships. And I never played battle. But the kids love that part. Sure, they are younger than I was, and still in that superhero-wins-all developmental stage . . . and they are in kung fu and like medieval knights too . . . and frankly like to chase and bash on each other.

And then there are other changes. So much of the current material is based around the "other" movies and the new cartoon. I saw the "first three" films. Simpering Amidala and stone-faced Anakin. Only redeeming quality was watching Yoda kick Sauron's butt. (Well, and I like Liam Neeson.) As for the Clone Wars cartoon, I just can't be bothered (not being a fan of cartoons much or video games). Much less, even, all the post-Star Wars novels, etc, with Leia and Han having twins and whatever . . . . It's just not part of my Star Wars mythology--it's sacred in its way (so much more than just a movie, it was an experience, a shared cultural and generational happening, perhaps in the way that people used to follow serialized Dickens stories) because I grew up with it, much like the Harry Potter generation or perhaps the Tolkien readers and "Star Trek" watchers before that (I wonder what will be the defining cultural experience of Sis and Bud's generation?). Except the kids ask everyday about Nute Gunray or Ahsoka Tano. And who is Anakin?

I'm not quite ready to explain that Anakin, the beloved hero of some of these early stories, becomes Darth Vader. Mainly because I think it ruins the arc of the original films if you know all of the origin tales in advance and I want my kids coming to it as Star Wars virgins, so to speak, in the "right" order. I can't wait for them to find out that Luke and Leia are twins! That, and I don't think any of those films, besides the first one, even ESB or ROTJ are child-friendly fare. Gutting a Tonton? Han Solo in carbonite? Leia-as-teen-porn? Dying Ewoks? Anyone? Anyone? (Granted, I fast forward the burning corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and the cremation of the dead Jawas). I was a tween by the time the last one rolled around, when my mom took me out of school (have I mentioned that this is one of my favorite childhood memories? one of the greatest things I think my mom did? Encouraging my interest. Having some fun. Letting me ignore school for a bit. Spending time with me. Standing in a long line while I was in algebra!!). I'm not showing it to my kindergarteners.

We are, though, having some great discussions about good and evil, how people can change and overcome poor choices (um, if that is what you would call turning to the Dark Side and back again), loyalty and disloyalty, the meaning of the Force in our world (what some people call God or nature or the divine or the universe), reality vs. fiction, if robots are alive, if it is real in the sense of "are there aliens in outer space." So, I'm still encouraging the love, enjoying the mutual interest, bonding over the action figures, even if it came a few years earlier than expected and has taken on its own life. Star Wars for the next generation, to mix my sci-fi references. And so Bud has changed his mind and wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween. And I'm going to be Princess Leia. Again.

May the Force be with us.

Welcome!

To the new baby boy in our playgroup who arrived safely into this world yesterday morning! We can't wait to meet him.

Booyah!

Nine weeks to the day, minus about 12 hours, I have driven my kiddos to school for the very first time! And it feels so good. Okay, so I made two wrong turns, one going and one coming, more out of excited nervousness than anything, but we were still there exactly on time and I'm home in one piece, with no aches. So, I'm going for my celebratory 45-minute walk around the block!

Joy

. . . . everytime the number of Chilean miners rescued goes up one!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frustration

As if Mama doesn't have enough to do with a 55+ hour a week job, all the household chores and shopping, and chauffeuring duties, I go and make it extra difficult by spilling an entire big bowl of red and black chili beans, my dinner, all over the kitchen. The bowl slipped out of the paper towel I was using as hot pad to take it out of the microwave, just slipped right out of my grasp . . . all over the microwave door, the drawer, both sides of the cabinet door (because it never shuts all the way), the side of the fridge, and about a 2' square section of the floor. And I can't clean it up. I can't squat or bend or kneel to scoop up the mess. And it won't be good for my broom or electric broom or steam mop. It's just going to have to stay there, my red stain of immobility, now covered in paper towels of shame, all over the floor that was meticulously mopped today, until Mama can come home and clean up the cold, staining, gloopy mess. She must love me. Because she said she'll come home tonight anyway.

My First Outing

No, no, not National Coming Out Day (though, thank you, Ms. Sew-and-Sow for calling attention to the day in such a beautiful way; I'd totally forgotten the date).

We went on a family field trip on Saturday, our first since the weekend before my injury. And it was a doozie: the renaissance festival! Perfect for Bud and Sis, who are into all things knights and dragons these days. They even wore their medieval knight Halloween costumes for the occasion, complete with faux chain mail, capes, armor plate, shield, and sword.

Now, the faire had a major thing against it, mainly the long drive, but several things for it, including a focus on walking instead of sitting, a casual self-directed activity, and, most importantly, places to lie down, namely the ground or a bench. And so, with emergency meds in tow (because Percocet will fix anything in a pinch!), my brace, and an ice pack, we were in business.

The kids were really excited at the site of the castle gates and all the people in garb, but Bud needed some reassurance that the several pirates, hooded executioner, and armed men were all pretending, just like he was, and that the muskets' firing in the weapons demonstration were not dangerous and would stop shortly. They were both shy when people spoke to them "Elizabethanly" and addressed them as Dame Knight and Sir Knight. Otherwise, they had a blast. They loved the jousts, the games (and Sis was good and won at frog toss and whack-a-rat), shopping (yes, shopping: Bud was desperate for some real armor--and they did sell heavy chain mail and real swords!). There wasn't great food or much music, which was a disappointment, and we only sat through a few shows, namely the joust, the weapons demonstration, some one-on-one sparring. But those shows were exciting and so real, as was the reenactment village with historical cooking and costumed interpreters.

But for me, I think the best part was when the kids participated in the knighting ceremony, learning the code of chivalry, raising their swords to swear fealty, and then kneeling to be dubbed. So cute, especially in those Halloween costumes. Later, they danced around, wielding their swords and mock fighting, capes billowing behind them. Really, the perfect day.

And I only had to lie down three times in five hours!

Tidbits

Last night, we could hear Sis and Bud while they cleaned their room, part of their getting-ready-for-bed checklist. Sis said to him, "Zero talking, one hundred cleaning."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Calling her bluff: Sis often says to Bud, when he isn't cooperating, "If you don't do this, I'll never play with you again!" Today, he turned to her and retorted, "Sis, you say that a lot, but then you always play with me anyway."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

One of the twins' new favorite games is called, "Kid." As in Mommy, Daddy, and Kid. And I'm Kid. That's not "the kid." Nope, Kid is my name, as in "C'mon, Kid," or "Sit here, Kid." Not in some disrespectful, off-handed way, but as my name. (Note, while I refer to them as the kiddos here, I don't often do it in person. I think. Maybe more than I think). And I've been to the doctor's, flown on an airplane, had a birthday, gone to the first day of school, had kung fu class, and the like. It just tickles me to no end that practically every object in this house has a name, from Tango the penguin and Amy the bunny, to "Tick," which is what Sis calls bits of fuzz (he's a pet of hers sometimes), and I'm just Kid. I guess Shirt is "Shirt." It works for them . . .

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Apparently there is going to be a slumber party soon: the kids arranged it all on the bus. I understand that they arrange playdates on the bus everyday, with everyone participating. It's us parents who fall down on the job and don't see it through. So, I just called the mom whose daughter volunteered them for the sleepover and said I'd be glad to drop off the kiddos anytime!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

We made chocolate-chip blondies to give to Mrs. Director, who had three deaths in her family a few weeks ago. But upon seeing the finished dessert, Sis declared, "There isn't enough chocolate." And so we "iced" them by sprinkling them with chocolate chips when they came out of the oven and then smoothing over the melted chips. Voila!

Getting a Ticket

No, no, I'm a good driver! And, knock wood, I haven't gotten that kind of ticket in 20 years.

This is a different kind of ticket, part of a rewards system we've instituted, based upon an amalgam of plans that Mama Teacher implements at home and at school, with such arcane and Byzantine rules that only vested 5-year olds can keep track!

The kids get a ticket (a colored piece of index card with a stamp of a bunny or penguin):
  • if they complete their checklists and other tasks as assigned without any undue delay;
  • on a surprise basis based on their behavior, but--and here's the trick--they can't do things specifically to earn tickets; in other words, we "catch them out" in good deeds and reward them accordingly (like when Bud brought in both their backpacks from the car or Sis did the same with their lunch kits);
  • for positive behaviors above and beyond the call of duty, like following directions and holding it together during the hailstorm that sent us to the basement
  • and my favorite, for "trading in" old toys they no longer use, understanding completely that the toys go away to other kids; if the toy is used by both, they split the value and must agree.
Tickets are never taken away. However, "outs" are given if something egregious occurs--three "strikes" (warnings to stop), or violence--and if you get three outs, you don't get to shop that week. Tickets can be redeemed at the weekly "family store," held on Sunday afternoons. Objects are priced from 1 ticket to 20. The kiddos generally earn about 7-10 tickets a week and are encouraged to save tickets from week to week to get the, literally, "bigger ticket" items (which this week include a small Playmobil knight set and a Calico Critter furniture set; think about a dollar per ticket, on average, but not exactly). We are also working on having non-thing choices, such as an outing alone with a parent, a meal at a restaurant, some kind of activity. But no candy and no stuffed critters. Period.

My favorite part is when the kids are close but not quite to the number of tickets they need to trade in for something they want. So, they run around the house looking for old toys to offload, as I make suggestions based on what I know they don't use and what I'm keen to get rid of. I feel like an auctioneer, "I'll give you three tickets for the puzzle, three tickets, going, going, gone!"

Another caveat--see, I told you this was convoluted--kids can help us choose what goes in the store. For instance, we were at the Ren Faire on Saturday (more on that soon) and Bud wanted a siege tower but it was above our standard allowance of the equivalent of the admission fee for souvenirs, and so he bargained with Mama to have it purchased for the store so that he could trade in tickets for it on Sunday. And it worked. Brilliantly.

Okay, I've told you what and how, but not why. Which is as murky as the rules above and emerged for a variety of disparate reasons. First, we realize that we have too much stuff and are, perhaps as older parents who like to buy things (especially the parent who works!), always thinking of things to get the kids. But we want to discourage the "greedy gimmes," and have the kiddos understand that sometimes they need to earn their things and not just feel entitled to having everything they want. While still letting them have things. But without real money and an allowance involved, since they don't really understand the value of money yet. Call this a pre-allowance project. Secondly, we were keen to encourage them to let go of things they didn't use and to think about what they really wanted.

But I had real reservations about a). rewarding them for what I feel like they should be doing anyway as healthy, responsible individuals (like brushing their teeth) and as part of the family (like picking up their dirty clothes) and b). using tickets as a bribe for discipline and good behavior, which goes against all my NVC training on respecting the individual, establishing a connection, making requests, communicating, etc (instead of threatening punishment and offering rewards, which is really only short term). While Mrs. Director assuaged my concerns on the former, suggesting that because we all function as a family, we all get to share in some of the family reward and that it's not a one-to-one correlation between, say, unloading the dishwasher and getting the ticket exactly, I'm still hesitant about the latter, especially when they do things just to get the tickets, not because it's "right" or "good."

Sigh.

But as Mrs. Director points out, this works now--and it does, by "works" I mean curbs our propensity for stuff and encourages positive, responsible behaviors--but it won't work later so we'll try something new then. Frankly, I like the multifacetedness (I know, not a real world) of the plan.

Still, I try to do our jackal and giraffe talks (a la NVC) as the opportunity arises, encouraging talks about feelings and needs and how these are met and unmet as we interact.

Right before I give out the tickets!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eureka!

I've got it: homemade, almost-natural, Russian Spice Tea. Jumping off from a Cooking Light recipe I found, I have created my closest rendition yet to that childhood, Tang original.

Try this:

Mommy Hungry's Own Russian Spice Tea

1 cup boiling water
1 Lemon Zinger tea bag
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon (or less) sugar (I had raw)

I have a Keurig, so I just used the tea bag in the machine and had it drip into all the other ingredients mixed in a cup. WOW! Even Mama says it's pretty close. The right color, the right, well, grit, the right smell, almost the right taste sans all those chemicals and fake flavors.

And just in time for the cold/allergies that seem to have taken over my head (caused by my own hubris, as I was caught saying this weekend that the next time I am sick or injured, I don't want it to affect my mobility--head cold, broken arm, whatever--just so I can stand, sit, and walk. Well, here we go with that head cold. Hope these things don't come in threes).

Enjoy the tea!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sad Again, But Not Surprised

And when candidates for high public office, this time Carl Paladino, running for Governor of New York, can say this and be applauded:

“That’s not how God created us,” he said, reading from a prepared address. "I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t."
And then, to applause from the group at Congregation Shaarei Chaim, he said: “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year -the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did and that’s not the example we should be showing our children,”

. . . we wonder why kids are killing themselves and nine men in the Bronx tortured three gay men for hours.

And Paladino swears he's not "homophobic."

My goodness then, what is he?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank You: The Last Supper

While I am not done with the thank-you posts (mainly waiting on recipes), tonight was our last meal from a friend, fittingly prepared by Mama Teacher, who organized the whole thing. She came over for a playdate, bringing her delicious winter vegetable soup as well as waffle makings for the kids. And she was game to try a new quick bread recipe with me to go with the soup.
After chatting for a bit, we got to work. Or, she did. We assembled the Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, though under duress I switched baking powder for soda (no worries, really, it came out well enough when I doubled the powder). It smelled great while we reheated her delicious soup and she got to work on waffles.

And then we chowed down. The kids inhaled the waffles, with each of them putting chocolate chips in each square. Bud then lathered his with strawberries and syrup. Mama Teacher and I started with hearty soup (realizing pureeing half of it would be an interesting idea for thickening it) and bread, which was good with butter. Then we had dessert waffles, just like the kids, except with whipped cream too.

Did I mention the bacon? The kids ate an entire package of bacon, though Mama Hungry arrived home in time to help polish it off. And soup and waffles too.

All in all, it was a delightful way to finish off our run of free meals and to celebrate my continuing recovery with a friend.

Thank you, Mama Teacher.

And we'll get your waffle iron back to you soon!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread

Makes: 1 loaf

Time: About 1 1/4 hours, largely unattended

A super all-purpose bread that’s heartier and more flavorful than most, and relatively light for a 100 percent whole grain bread. It also makes excellent sandwiches, especially when toasted.

Oil or butter for the pan

1 2/3 cups buttermilk or yogurt or 1 1/2 cups milk and 2 tablespoons white vinegar (see Step 2) [I had buttermilk powder and water, which seemed to work just fine]

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup molasses

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8- × 4-inch or 9- × 5-inch loaf pan.

2. If you’re using buttermilk or yogurt, ignore this step. Otherwise, make soured milk: Warm the milk gently to take the chill off—1 minute in the microwave is sufficient—and add the vinegar. Let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir the molasses into the buttermilk. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients (just enough to combine), then pour into the loaf pan. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything

My New Guilty Pleasure

Alright, I really like our new big tv.

But that's not my main guilty pleasure: I am addicted to watching "Tudors" on it. When the kids are gone, I'm watching episode after episode. And no, it's not all that straight sex that interests me, or even the historical story (in the sense of history, because it is only loosely, very loosely, historical) but the historical trappings. Seriously. I love the dresses and the doublets, the heavy furniture and gilt furnishings, the castles and carriages, the music and the merriment.

Sure, for me now, it's Renaissance England, as in the past it has been ancient Greece and Rome, colonial America, or Georgian/Regency/Victorian London. Anything before the mid-20th century.

Call it "period porn." I can't get enough.

Hope

I haven't known what to write about the rash of suicides of gay youth, most notably that of the student at Rutgers. It saddens me, though it does not surprise me. Despite huge strides in GLBT acceptance, or probably because of them, there is also vocal and vehement oppositions to GLBT people. It is often difficult even as a secure, confident adult lesbian with a loving partner and supportive family living in a GLBT-friendly state with actual marriage and adoption rights to withstand and turn the tide on the torrents of hatred that frequently swirl around the greater society. Teens, who are only just forming their identities, especially those living in less-friendly locales, are vulnerable, overwhelmed, scared, even hopeless. Dan Savage, Ellen Degeneres, and other celebrities seek to reassure these kids that life can and does get better. And it does.

I grew up not far from Cypresswood, TX, where a 13 year-old gay boy killed himself recently. When I was a teen there, just the rumors of gay and lesbianism, whispered with sly glances in the hallways, were enough to ostracize classmates. My best friend, a lesbian, about whom much was said, found refuge in the girls' basketball and softball teams, with other lesbians, including the coaches. And I, who was not so much a questioning youth, as the saying goes, but a clueless one (with more girl crushes than I can count, only two platonic "boyfriends," and a kiss with that best friend!), more interested in schoolwork than in boys or girls, avoided trouble in that very asexuality, which took years to shed. I was one of the very lucky ones.

But there is hope. And I saw it down the street yesterday. The niece of a neighbor, a teenaged girl who had realized early that she was a lesbian, now out and proud and happy and embraced by all around her. She's our future. The little kids playing around and with her, and knowing me and Mama, accepting us all as little kids do, whether they become gay or straight, are our future. And so GLBT adults, and perhaps even those lucky teens with family and friendly support, and those who love us, must continue to model acceptance and to resist those who so loudly say otherwise so that those without hope will know that they are accepted too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mommy, Invisible: Making Matters Worse

While I was not actually all that offended by being ignored by my five-year old this morning because I recognize (and was repeatedly told that by the preschool teachers) that kids behave oddly when their parents come to school (even though I recall being thrilled and proud when my mom was there), I did think it was necessary to remind her that, according to all the beliefs we hold (UU: worth and dignity of all people; kung fu creed: respect; and, school pledge: take care of others), we acknowledge and greet people we know when we see them.

And she said, "But I didn't see you, Mom."

Uh-huh.

I tower above her, was less than a foot away, and she practically had to turn away her whole torso to avoid me.

Now we can add deception to disrespect.

So, what do the teen years hold for me if this is kindergarten?

I love that girl, I really do.

Sigh.