Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas morning was supposed to be a Hallmark moment. My kids are with their dad and his family, so the hubby and I slept in this morning. My plan was to make a fabulous breakfast- waffles, eggs, bacon, and juice. Hubby would make the coffee, and we would cadoodle on the couch in our matching fluffy robes and slippers. We don't really have matching fluffy robes, but in my mind, that is what a Hallmark Christmas morning looks like. However, even without children, life happens. I descended the stairs to make breakfast, and I smelled it before I saw it- dog poop. Great! Only it was epic. Tango, my favorite member of the household had what appeared to be uncontrollable diarrhea and had run through the house. Hours later after scrubbing the rugs and wood floors, I sat down with the hubby and snuggled. I smelled like lysol and desparately needed a bath. He put his arms around me and I said, "Not the Christmas morning I planned." His response, "It never is." And then I leaned into him and rested. So even when things don't go as planned this season, try to find a moment of rest if your soul is weary. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I received a very thoughtful Christmas gift- my own emails. At the risk of sounding very self-absorbed, I really enjoyed reading my emails. They were sent by a dear friend from college who is my champion and encourages me to write. She sent them to me for those times when I experience writer's block. One email was written 2 years ago, and in it, I complain about experiencing exhaustion/early Alzheimers/Christmas crazies. Obviously, not much has changed in two years. The emails were full of stories about my family. Sadly, some stories I did not remember [see the above comment about the Alzheimers]. In all seriousness, it made me realize what a gift I can give myself by writing about my family's day to day activities and blogging more often. So Merry Christmas to me!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When my children were born, I promised myself that I would read everything that they read. It was easy at first. 'Brown Bear' and 'Pat the Bunny' were a piece of cake. Then the ante upped when they went to school. They were exposed to teachers and friends with ideas and more books than I can possibly keep up with, and both developed a voracious appetite for literature. Books are devoured at our house. We take trips to the library and come home with stacks of books. I cried "Uncle" and had one more item to add to my "Things Mom feels guilty about" list. So to appease my guilt, I modified my promise to read books that they think are important. Those books are left on the ledge of the bathroom window. As my daughters aged, the storylines of the books became more adult; I noticed a trend, teens faced with serious issues- suicides, rape, relationships, cliques, fitting in, partner abuse, drug use. The list of tragedies felt endless.


But the unintended benefit to this is that I have a way to talk to N &Em about important things. Talking about characters rather than real people keeps the conversation from becoming personally threatening, yet allows me an opportunity to share my values and adult perspective about serious issues. So I knew as the 'Twilight' craze began sweeping the country last year that it would be on my short list of books to read.

"Mom, you have to read 'Twilight.' It's amazing," said N, my oldest who was 15 at the time. I had illusions of fabulous prose and a gripping storyline. Those illusions were quickly shattered. In the story, the main character Edward the vampire is filled with angst. It drips from every page. As a mother of 2 teenagers, I do my best to stomp out angst at every turn. Oh, and he sparkles, and sparkles, and then we get to hear how he sparkles again. The young woman Bella destined to be his girlfriend/future vampire is certain that she is not good enough for a guy that sparkles. Her lack of self-confidence is both boring and alarming. She isn't pretty enough, interesting enough, or graceful enough to hang out with the cool kids (vampires). So 100 pages into it, the book began to gather dust on my nightstand. Normally, I am able to read books in a day or two....... until 'Twilight'. For over a year it remained undisturbed and became a silent reminder of how I let down my children.

Then something inspirational happened. I bought halloween candy. More importantly, 'New Moon' chocolates, individual pieces of chocolates of various flavors with images of Edward on the wrapper. I had visions of young tweens going home after trick-or-treating with pillowcases full of candy, pulling out the 'New Moon' chocolates and swooning. So I bought two bags. Luckily, we had lots of candy leftovers from Halloween, so I spent November eating chocolates and feeling double the guilt. Guilt for eating too much candy and more guilt because every time I looked at Edward the vampire, it reminded me that I had not kept my promise. So I started reading 10 pages every night. I am now at page 352. The prose has not improved. Edward still sparkles, but I that much closer to being able to really talk to my teenage daughters about the book. I am close to finishing, and everyone I talk to about this (30+ in age) is very sympathetic and swears that the last 100 pages go by quickly.

Please don't ruin the ending for me. Yes, I know they get together, but what I want to know is does the angst end and will Bella ever get the boost of confidence that she needs to make her relationship with Edward work? I may judge the book lousy by my literary standards, but we are going to have a great conversation when I finish reading it. And I'll have one more item crossed off the "Things Mom feels guilty about " list.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Mom, what do you want for Christmas?" asked my two beautiful daughters N & Em in unison.

I gave them my stock answer to the 'What do you want?' question. "I want peace on earth; good will to mom."

Both girls rolled their eyes in unison and responded, "Seriously Mom. What do you want for Christmas?"

"Seriously, I want peace on earth; good will to mom."

"You never get that!"

We have this conversation often. I would like to be able to speak like a Hallmark greeting card and tell the world that I have everything that I want. I don't. But I do have everything that I need. I share this with my children every year, as well. By now, you get an accurate picture of my children being lectured on a continual basis. But this year was different. I had my answer- the Snuggie. I am fascinated by the family sitting on bleachers looking like happy druids, warm and cheering in their bright blue Snuggies. Then I saw the dog snuggie, and it all came together. The dog and I in matching snuggies sitting on the couch, when in walks one of my daughters with their unsuspecting friends, and the next thing you know, I stand up and cheer with a dog in my arms because my children are home. The embarrassment factor is through the roof. The look of horror on my children's faces was priceless when I announced I wanted matching snuggies for me and the dog (a Maltese).

"You're not getting a snuggie!"

"But you asked me what I wanted?"

"You're not getting a snuggie!"

Keeping in mind that I will ultimately pay for my own Christmas gift, I decided that the snuggie was not going to happen. It is neither practical nor beautiful. The Snuggie has no back; it is literally a blanket with arms and is only useful for lounging. I seldom get to lounge on the couch and do nothing. In fact, It's hard for me to do nothing because there is always something that needs to be done. My children make doing nothing look easy, but that is because they practice whenever they get the chance. But it is Christmas, and N & Em really want to do something - something nice for me.

I honestly couldn't think of anything that I needed, until I crossed the parking lot at the grocery store on a very cold night and saw one lonely leather glove on the ground. Leather gloves! I have 3 single gloves which I keep just on the off chance I will find the missing glove. But I have no gloves to wear while I am driving. Perfect! N & Em are off shopping, and we can all be happy when we open presents. I wonder if they realize that I will get what I want- leather gloves to wear when I drive and good will to Mom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am in fashionista mode. After reading the preceeding sentence, my good friends have fallen off their chairs and hit the ground laughing. I have been devoid of any interest in fashion for decades. Once I had children, if it wasn't capable of surviving the washing machine, it didn't go into my closet. My dog gets more hair cuts than I do. And my children realized in kindergarten that I was not like the other moms; I had no fashion shame.

By the time they were in junior high, I had figured out how to use this to my advantage- not ready to go to school on time? Mom might take you in her pajamas and fuzzy slippers, get out of the car, and wave at your friends. Did I ever do it? No. But my children knew that I would.

Then something changed. I don't know if it is my children growing up and giving me a premature empty nest syndrome or the realization that they no longer wear things that are pink and sparkly and actually have stuff that I want to wear. Either way, I was ready for fashion insight when I found this amazing web site with 4 million followers. Run by Tavi Gevinson, a 13 year old fashionista, it is inspiring. I am looking at fashion in a whole new way, as self-expression. Although this seems obvious to anyone into fashion, I had always assumed that my fashion future would continue to be one of avoidance, trying hard not to dress like the stereotypical cat lady in floral prints, cardigan sweaters with holes, mismatched socks, and house slippers.


In my attempt to become somewhat 'fashionable' I purchased a beautiful scarf to go with Grandma's broaches.

Instead, I find myself inspired by Tavi's site. I am now paying attention to what others are wearing, watching Project Runway with more interest, and even occasionally accessorizing. I spent my teens and twenties feeling awkward in my own skin, always asking myself if I could carry off a new or trendy look. By my mid thirties, I had two small children and spent most of my time in baggy t-shirts and sweatpants. But now I have the right fashion mix- no fashion shame with a desire for self-expression.


In fact, I find myself enjoying shiny shoes!

It has taken me more than 4 decades to learn this. This is why I am so fascinated by this young woman who has such clear vision of who she is at such a young age. Something tells me that she never looks at herself and asks if she can carry a look off. She is willing to be herself without letting the world edit who she is. I am learning a lot from this young woman.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It is fall, and the end of the 1st quarter of school for both my children. I go to parent teacher conferences to hear how wonderful my children are and what they can do to improve and be better students. I also go to size up the teacher. I tend to catagorize their personalities along the lines of the original American Idol judges. I don't want my children to have teachers like Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. Although I usually agree with Simon, I know my delicate mom psyche wants gentle criticism, and so do my children. I have found that the Paula Abdul teachers are too kind. They are good teachers, but they are happy with the way things are. They expect nothing more from me and will not demand that my daughters be better students or people. Give me Randy Jackson- insightful, helpful, and encouraging with a push to be better when its needed. I get 5-10 minutes with each teacher. There are lots of Randy Jacksons in the room. I am predicting that it will be a great teacher year. I wouldn't have said that when the school year started.

Our first teacher crisis came in August when N's voice teacher announced she would not be giving private lessons this year. Mrs. R is everything that a teacher should be- kind, encouraging, teaching and inspiring N to give her best- the Randy Jackson of vocal instruction. My children have been fortunate; they have had several great teachers like Mrs. R, so I know they are out there. I just need to find one. After several frantic phone calls, I found Miss J. Miss J smiles a lot, tells my daughter she is wonderful when she is wonderful, and has constructive suggestions to help her improve. Once again, we have won the teacher lottery.

Em, my youngest, also likes to sing. She auditioned and was accepted into honor choir at her middle school. This is wonderful, except that she needs to be at school 45 minutes earlier on Wednesday for practice. Unlike N, the high strung oldest daughter, Em takes a 'living la vida loca' approach to life. For some reason, neither of us remembers practice until its Wednesday morning, and she needs to be at practice in 10 minutes. Luckily, school is only a 5 minute drive away, and I look stunning when I get out of bed in the morning. So if you ever see a woman on the side of the road standing next to a blue-gray Saturn with bed-head in flannel pajamas and flip flops with a cup of coffee in her hand just keep driving. She might me a little embarrassed if she thought anyone recognized her.

So last Wednesday, we were late, 5 minutes late. The teacher has a written policy; 3 times late for practice, and you are out of honor choir. I signed the contract. Em signed the contract. There is accountability. I gave Em the obligatory 'you are almost 13 years old and need to be more responsible for yourself if you want to stay in honor choir' lecture, then kicked her out of the car to meet her fate. I sounded like a mommy version of Simon Cowell.

Later that evening, I asked Em if she had apologized to the teacher, and she said yes. I asked what the teacher said. The response surprised me. The teacher said, "It's okay. It is a gray, rainy, be 5 minutes late kind of day."

"She likes you, doesn't she?" I said to Em.

"Yes, she does," Em responded.

I gave Em a hug. "I like you, too." Sometimes, it's nice to get a little Paula Abdul.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am amused by people who think because I watch Top Chef religiously, have stacks of cookbooks, and cooked my way through college that I actually cook. I am what is known as a 'big talker.' Fortunately, I married a man with low standards. He is amazed and grateful when I stir a can of chili into his blue box mac'n'cheese and announce that dinner is ready. Obviously, he is also a little gullible. When my daughters got me the Top Chef Cookbook for Christmas, he asked which recipe I was going to make first. There was a moment of silence, then my children started laughing....uncontrollably. I have tried to explain to him that I like to read cookbooks, but he doesn't get it.

However, I will admit that I have been in a cooking rut- making the same things over and over. So I went to the grocery store sans recipes and cruised up and down the aisles looking for inspiration. Then I saw it- Kitchens of India's Mild Chili Pepper Curry, a ready-made sauce. I read the list of ingredients- no artificial ingredients or preservatives. There was even an element of danger; the disclaimer said, "Don't use the inner pack if leaking or bloated." Heat and serve. I could serve the sauce over rice and grilled chicken breasts with a side salad. I was inspired. And the family loved it. Other than the fact that the color and texture reminded me of baby poo, it was fabulous.

Then I made a huge mistake. I told my co-worker about the sauce. My Indian co-worker.... from India. He is everything that the ideal co-worker should be- smart, capable, and helpful. So I know that that he was sincerely trying to help. Instead, he shamed me, but in the nicest possible way by saying, "If you like Indian food, I have an authentic Indian recipe for Tandoori Chicken that you would love."

"Sure, I would love the recipe. I'm always looking for new recipes," I replied brightly. I can't explain that I collect recipes and don't cook. So now I must make the chicken and come into work and tell him how wonderful his recipe is. Great!

The next day, I get a YouTube link which features 2 young Indian women from the website demonstrating how to make Tandoori Chicken. They are speaking in English but have charming Indian accents and give very good instructions. I am dutifully writing down the recipe feeling superior because I have all the spices that they list until they say "tandoori masala" and casually mention that it can be purchased at any Indian grocery store. Curses, the special ingredient that I have to google just to figure out what it is, then make a special trip to a specialty store to buy it, knowing that I will use this once, love the chicken, vow to make it again, and 6 years from now when cleaning out my pantry, I will throw it away.

So finally, my oldest N and I go to Global Foods, a specialty supermarket only 20 minutes from our house. This is my first trip to Global Foods, and I am in cooking Nirvana- the smells and sights are so stimulating. Fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world, squid and other unattractive fish, and even a Norwegian section that would have made my hard to please grandmother happy. [sidebar: They had this dense, black brick-like Norwegian bread that my grandma made once. In a bid for survival, this is what you want to have in the knapsack. It would never go bad, take you weeks to eat, and could also double as a weapon. No, I don't have grandma's recipe.]

As I stood in the Indian aisle, the smell of spices overwhelmed me. I called my co-worker on the phone and chose the tandoori masala with his help. As I hung up the phone, I vowed to learn how to cook Indian food. I also made the mistake of sharing this revelation with my daughter.

"How long is this going to last?" she asked with a hint of sarcasm.

"I can get about 24 hours of happiness out of this."

"Sounds about right," she said. We left the store with several things from the Indian aisle and a few impulse buys- a coconut, lingonberry sauce, shrimp chips, and plantains.

That night, I make the marinade and throw in the chicken. Our Sunday was crazy with multiple activities. Finally, I grilled the chicken. It was just the right amount of spicy, flavorful and with a kick that made you notice but didn't overwhelm you. There was only one problem- it wasn't red. Part of the appeal of Tandoori chicken is this beautiful red color. My chicken was white with specks of spices. It tasted great, but did not look like Tandoori chicken. I drowned my sorrows with a glass of wine and watched 'The Next Iron Chef' where 6 panic-stricken chefs made 5 Indian entries in 2 hours for a panel of judges.

Monday morning, the first thing discussed at work was the chicken. I confessed that something had gone wrong and promised to bring in the spice mix. Whether or not I solve the mystery of the un-red marinade and make the Tandoori chicken again is still up in the air, but I got my 24 hours of happiness. I also got a packet of spice paste to make Indian Vinaloo Curry at the grocery store. The instructions say to add a can of tomato puree, heat and serve. Color me there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

We have the flu. The house has that nasty smell of lysol-masked illness. Wads of kleenex and empty sprite cans litter the coffee table. The Disney channel blares all day long. My normally independent daughters want to cling to me like the baby monkeys do with their mothers at the zoo- only while coughing in my face when I'm trying to cook dinner. I have no patience for the flu or the whininess that comes with it. But it does give me (in my mind) yet another valid reason for not doing what I promised my husband- installing the floor.

We have been walking on plywood flooring in the family room for weeks. When we bought the house, the carpet was nearly new and a shade of off-white, an instant problem for any regular person with children. I made the problem worse by spilling a full cup of coffee in the middle of the room; the stain never completely came out. Then I actually walked on the carpet which is what people who have carpet and can keep it clean don't do. They only reason I kept it for 4 years was I had too many other projects on the front burner and a finite amount of cash to spend on my house that was in 'move in condition.'

After the dog mysteriously injured his tail and bled everywhere and several rainy days in a row had everyone tracking in mud, I was in crisis mode. The carpet had to go. Luckily, I found the perfect solution. Cheap, easy to clean, and no professional installation required, trafficMASTER laminate flooring was on sale at Home Depot. Each "wood" strip has an adhesive strip on each side. You just lay down the strips, and they stick together. Score the strip and snap to cut. Perfect! I brought home a box for the husband to okay. Then it was back to the store to pick up enough flooring for a 20x20' room. Only they didn't have enough of the same lot. No problem! We went to the next home depot 15 (city traffic) miles away. After a whole day pulling up carpet and tacks, the floor was finally going in. It was a breeze for the first 3 feet, then I saw the gouge in the plywood. It was a big gouge. Back to Home Depot for floor patch with 4 hours of minimum dry time. But somewhere on the highway between my house and Home Depot for the umpteenth time, I lost my will to floor.

"When are you going to put in the floor?" is the first thing that my husband asks everyday. He has apparently forgotten that I called dibs on nagging in this relationship. Dishes, laundry, work, classes, Project Runway, reading 'The Hunger Games,' the occasional shower, and a solid 6 hours of sleep every night distract me from the task at hand. This morning as we snuggled in bed, the husband and I planned to spend the afternoon putting in the floor...... until he got sick. He is now officially the last person in the house to get the flu. As he sleeps upstairs, I am disappointed that we will not be working together, but I am determined to finish this floor and live out what I have learned about nagging: it is better to give than receive.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"You should write a blog," said my friends from college when we met for our annual weekend getaway this summer. I agreed with the same kind of enthusiasm that my kids show when they agree to clean their rooms. Its the 'say "yes" and hope they go away' strategy. Soon articles on how to sign up for a blog started appearing in my email box, followed by links to other bloggers, then encouraging but less than subtle emails asking when I was going to start my blog. I have always had the luck and good fortune of having good friends- loyal, honest, smart and funny. So I knew that I needed to follow through. Since I am not known for my computer prowess, I naturally turned to an expert, my 12 year old daughter. Fearless on the computer, she quickly helped me set up at blog. So this morning, I sat down with a strong cup of coffee to come up with a clever little blog name, something short, pithy, descriptive. Mom angst- taken. Mommy angst- taken. Dork Mom- taken. Dorky Mom- really taken. Geek Mom, Geeky Mom, Geekier Mom, Geekiest Mom- all taken. Add Capitols, dashes and dots? It might work, but it would be too confusing for the 3 friends I have who might actually try to find the blog. Maybe a phrase- 'just a minute mom' - taken- along with all the dashes and dot permutations. I am momentarily sidetracked by a really cool T-shirt & chochky site called zazzle. They are selling a shirt that says 'I LOVE DORKS.' Tempting. They also have a shirt with a grizzly bear head that says 'Goddess killing machine.' I am interested until I realize that I misread it, and it really says 'Godless killing machine.' I obviously need more coffee. Still no name. "All the good names are taken," I thought to myself. nice phrase, long but clever.... and taken. Seriously! How many people are out there drinking coffee and running amok on the internet. Apparently, 25,840,209 people before me have established unique URL names and over 10,000,000 people blog every day. Okay, so I'm a little slow to get on the bandwagon. I have one more piece of useless information and no blog name. But it does explain why I wanted Dork Mom for my blog site. How about raised in a barn mom? I grew up on a farm (I've gots the creds), and I ask my children this all the time. I hold my breath and google. No hits. No bloggers called 'raised in a barn mom.' I google all the various permutations with dots and dashes- no hits. The 12 year old tries to convince me that tacking mom on the end is redundant. Unfortunately the web site disagrees, so I will stick with 'Were you raised in a barn mom' for my official blog site. I'm done and so is the coffee. If only the rest of my day would be this productive. I've written a letter that appropriately used some of my favorite words (pithy and amok) and my daughter Em used the word redundant in a very grown up conversation. Life is good. Now I have a blog name that I might be able to remember, unless of course mom #25,840,210 beats me to it.


N & Em's mom

PS Goddess killing Machine would be a great name for an all girl band.