Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts at the End of the Week

While walking the dog:

Which is worse: Having a dog poop in your yard on occasion or having "Please Scoop Your Dog's Poop" signs posted every twenty feet of your property 24/7?

I watched the old lady scoop her dog's poop into a plastic bag. I watched her deposit the bag into a neighbor's trashcan by the side of the road. The trash had already been picked up by the garbage truck earlier that morning, so I knew it would be a week before that poop would be hauled away. Would the neighbor wonder why her empty trashcan smelled so foul? Did the old lady stop to ponder the ethics of scooping poop and then popping it in an innocent stranger's waste receptacle?

No. No, she probably didn't. You get to a certain age, you think the rules don't apply to you anymore.


At Kindergarten Open House, Thursday night:

When the teacher says, "I want to get through this as quickly as possible, because I know we're all ready to get home," you know you're in for a long night.

Once, for Show and Tell, a kid brought in a goat in a cat carrier. That's when Mrs. B., Will's teacher, started making rules about what you could bring in for Show and Tell. It has to fit in a paper bag, she informed us last night. I don't know, though. I can think of a lot of trouble that's small enough to fit in a paper bag.


On the First Two Weeks of School:

The dream of the first day of school is the dream of order and routine. Except there really is no order or routine for two to three weeks. The first few weeks of school are a chaotic mess of permission slips and enrichment program sign-ups and teacher-parent mini-conferences and Open House nights. Throw in a three-day weekend and weather that feels like mid-July, and you ensure that everyone will spend the first three weeks of school walking around in a state of mild panic. The parents, that is. The kids are fine. They roll with the punches. But we adults are like small, wounded animals. Please help me, we cry out in weak, pitiful voices. I don't think I can hold on to the edge of this cliff much longer ...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Valley of the Room Parents

Yesterday we had our first Gathering of the Room Parents. Thirty-six women--because room parents are always women, it is the law of the land, men need not apply--sat in a circle and displayed an impressive range of pedicures and strappy sandals as we discussed budgets for Valentine's Day parties and strategies for encouraging working parents to make the time to volunteer in their children's classrooms.

Our Fine School is all about parental involvement. It is also apparently all about really great footware. You should have seen some of these sandals! And the toes on these women! Fuscia! Lilac! Fire Engine Red! A foot fetishist would have gone mad, I tell you, mad.

Have I mentioned Our Fine School is a private school? Sometimes being around so many rich people leaves you gasping for breath. Every year at the beginning of the fall semester, I look around for my tribe, those women whose strappy sandals came from Kohls, whose capris are Issac Mizrahi for Target. We are the parents who can only afford the tuition if we squint at our bank accounts while standing on our heads. But there are people who could afford to pay tuition for the entire student body. You better believe they have great shoes.

Anyway, I'm sitting in this circle of women, and I'm trying not to be wildly self-conscious about the fact that the right side of my face is swollen up like the Elephant Man's after a trip to the dentist on Monday (long story; not fun; you don't want to hear it; involved stitches; etc.). I mean, my face is seriously distorted. And I don't even have a pedicure to distract people from noticing it.

I sat next to my fellow room parent, Mrs. L. After the ruckus and fuss of the first week of school (I still haven't recovered), she has stopped talking about a class party. It was good of her to think it would be a nice thing for the children, and it was an even better thing for her to drop the whole idea when it became clearly untenable.

But you know how I really knew I was going to like Mrs. L.? When she pointed out I had several bagel crumbs plastered to the corner of my mouth with cream cheese. She said, "I figure you'd rather know now than realize it when you got home." As someone who feels morally obligated to point out open flies and undone buttons on the same grounds--a tiny bit of private embarrassment beats a whole boatload of public mortification--I appreciated her frankness. And that she wore a jean jacket and kept whispering, "Wow, I can't believe they expect us to do all this!"

Of course, I could explain to her about my dental work, and she was appropriately sympathetic. But when it was time to go around the circle and introduce ourselves (like anyone was going to remember that the woman with the Chanel sandals and the really great highlights is the mother of third grader Josh and first grader Stasia and is a room parent for Mrs. J's class), I resisted the temptation to say, "I don't always look like this." It was too pathetic. I just let them stare.

The meeting was run at a good clip by Mrs. B., one of the richest women in town, who is irritatingly nice and down to earth. Her kids are polite, her husband is friendly. Not to mention she has the best sandals of all. Really, it's too much to bear. At the end, as I was filing out behind all the other room parents, she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Thanks so much for coming!" When I turned the right side of my face to her, the chipmunk side, the temporary freak of nature side, she didn't even flinch.

Today my face is still swollen, but not quite so badly. I have several public appearances to make (pick up Will from school, meet with Jack's teacher after school on room parent business, take Jack to tae kwon do), and am trying to get in a spiritual frame of mind about it. Millions of people walk around every day of their lives without looking the least bit cute. If they can do it, so can I. And the next time I see someone who looks like the Elephant Man on a bad day, I will not flinch. I will put my hand on their shoulder and smile and say, Thanks for being here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Later that Same Day

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

I yelled at Adolph, the horrible carpool boy, twice today.

Well, "yelled" isn't exactly right. Let's say I reprimanded him.

The first time was this morning, when he screamed at his brother to shut up. I said, "Adolph, it's inappropriate to scream in the car. If your brother or anyone else is bothering you, just ignore them."

The second time was this afternoon, mere moments ago, when I was driving the boys home. Adolph had been going on for some time about how he and his friend were going to build ballistics in his friend's backyard. They were going to build a cannon and also make hand grenades with which to attack the neighbor's house. First, of course, they were going to build a fire wall (fortunately, his friend's mother has some expertise in this area), to protect themselves in case anything blew up prematurely.

When Jack wondered aloud if his friend's mother would really approve of her son and Adolph building ballistics in her backyard and then launching them at the neighbors, Adolph assured him that she was completely cool with their plan. When Jack began another line of questioning, Adolph himself went ballistic, yelling, "Mind your own business, Jack! I don't want to talk about it!"

I have been listening Adolph being rude to me and my children for over a year now, and I just can't take it anymore. I said, "Adolph, you are not to yell at other people in this car or use that rude tone of voice. I just can't tolerate it. In this car, we speak to each other politely or we say nothing at all."

Weirdly, he didn't seem to take great offense at this, and a moment later was talking again, in much gentler tone, about how fun it was going to be to build this stuff in his friend's yard. I managed to change the topic to baseball.

I don't know if I can do this. I actually talked to Adolph's mom (a very nice woman, by the way--how she spawned such a child, I don't know) this afternoon before pick-up and mentioned the incident this morning. I tried to be nice about it--"I'm not a morning person, either," I said, "so I understand how each it is to lose your temper first thing," and she assured me that it was okay to reprimand Adolph, and that she'd been having some problems with him as well and would talk to him about it.

Maybe she will, and maybe it will have some good effect. I sort of doubt it. I suppose if Adolph's rudeness continues, we will all have to sit down together and have a big showdown and come up with rules for communication, etc.

He's moving next year. That's the only thing that's keeping me going right now.

Class Notes

Yesterday I was convinced that Will went to school without his underwear on. This would be typical, as Will hates wearing underwear. He is a sensitive boy who likes the tags cut out of his tee shirts and his socks pulled up just so. Underwear rubs him the wrong way, so to speak.

I came to the conclusion that my boy was sans undies when I took some laundry up to his room after I'd dropped the boys off at school. There, on his bed, where I'd laid out his clothes first thing in the morning, was a lone pair of navy blue, knit boxers. Curses! I cursed through clenched teeth, foiled again!

When I picked him up from school, I waited til we were out of earshot of the other kindergarteners and their moms to chastise him. "What did Dr. Wilks say about wearing underwear? Remember what happens if you get hit by a ball in a sensitive area?"

He claimed innocence, swore he was appropriately clad. And sure enough, when we got home, I did the underwear check and there were a pair of navy blue, knit boxers (he has several pairs). "I got them out of my drawer," he explained. "I didn't see any underwear on my bed."

The funny thing is, I was sort of disappointed by his underwear righteousness. I had been robbed of a funny story--The Day Will Went to School Without His Underwear. But I was also proud. My son actually sought his underwear out when he couldn't find any with the rest of his clothes. What a fine young man he's turning into!


Carpool. Sigh.

We carpool with another family on the next block. Two boys, the same age as my boys. The problem is with the older child, whom we shall call Adolph, for no particular reason. He is as unpleasant of a child as I've ever met. Gets in the car without so much as a hello, even after I say in my most cheerful voice (which scares my own children, who wonder who this strange woman in the front seat is and what she did with their real mother), "Good morning, Adolph! How nice to see you! How are you this morning?!"

No response. I say it again. I repeat myself several times until I get the barest of responses. When I drop the kids off at school, I chirp, "Have a great day, Adolph!" No reply whatsoever.

When he does talk in the car, it is to reprimand my sons or to tell his brother to shut up. He's incredibly bossy, a know-it-all. He's really quite horrible.

My only defense is this forced, over the top cheerfulness.I know it is torture to him, the fingernails scraping down the chalkboard of his life, and I can get away with it because I'm a mom and I'm supposed to be disgustingly cheerful in the morning.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about Adolph, as I'm driving most mornings and sooner or later I will break and end up swerving off the road, leaping out of the car, and choking him within an inch of his life. I promise to give you all the grisly details.


This is the boys' third day of school. I've been trying to tidy up the house before they get home so that it seems a warm and comforting place to them upon their arrival, a sanctuary, a safe and healing place. Do you think kids--boys especially--register that their house is neat and orderly when they come home? At least subconsciously? Or should I quit cleaning up and spend more time reading novels and doing my nails? I hate to think all the cleaning and tidying is for naught--and of course am always looking for an excuse to stop doing it.


The joy of Will: he tells me what he does all day. Dropping off Jack at school is like dropping him into a black hole where apparently nothing ever happens. Will's day is full of events and he's happy to share. After two days of school, there's clearly a character in his class, a boy named Sam who drew a picture of a secret agent in science class the first day of school instead of drawing something from nature. Yesterday, Sam walked in PE instead of running. He was playing Secret Agent Man again, according to Will. Will just shakes his head when telling me about Sam. Is this kid crazy or what, he wants to know. And why does he wear a Superman cape to school? Doesn't he know he's not supposed to do that?

I love the Sams of the world, but I have to say that at this point in my life it's nice to have a Will, who will draw a picture of a tree, some birds and a mountain when asked to come up with a nature scene, who runs really, really fast in PE, and who wears a baseball shirt to school, not a superman cape. I worried so much about Jack when he started kindergarten, because he was an odd bird who wouldn't talk to the other kids but instead sat in the reading corner and read to his heart's delight. I don't worry so much about Will, who is odd in his own right, but who talks, plays, draws and generally behaves like a typical kindergartener. Quite frankly, it's a relief.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Desperate E-Mail

Dear Fellow Room Parent:

Thank you so much for calling on Sunday to introduce yourself. Although during our conversation it became clear we will be competing for the title of Least Organized Room Parent at Our Fine School, I think we will have fun working together, forgetting things, losing lists, and scrambling at the very last minute to get one more parent chaperone for the field trip to the Waste Management Plant because it turns out we need five drivers instead of four.

I am so interested in this notion of yours that we should have a class party sometime in the next couple of weeks, perhaps at a swim club or in somebody's backyard. I have casually mentioned the idea of having a party to several friends, both OFS parents and regular joes off the street. The general consensus seems to be that there may be worse ideas floating around--say, sending some of our cuter preschool kids on a peacekeeping mission to Georgian territory--but the idea of having a class party is quite impressively bad.

Let's be honest with one another: the only reason you want to plan a party is because you have friends in other classes who have planned parties, and they started planning these little parties in mid-June. You are feeling the pressure one often feels in the face of unparalleled insanity masking itself as hypercompetence. Please don't do this to yourself--or, more to the point, to me.

Rest assured, having a class party will not win us any points with the other parents in Room 204. In fact, it will start the year off on a sour note as we are booed and hissed at Back to School Night when we announce each and every Room 204 family will have to sacrifice yet another freaking weekend afternoon to School Unity and unbelievably tedious small talk.

So let's not do this, shall we? Instead, let's be rebels, iconoclasts, trend setters. "Our class doesn't party," we'll tell all the Martha Stewart wannabes around OFS. "Our class kicks academic butt." Let's make a reputation as the hardass room parents, the no nonsense gals. We will be remembered for it--and, yes, loved.

Please. I'm begging you.

Your Fellow Room Parent

Friday, August 15, 2008

This is Just to Say

I would like to announce that for the second year in a row I have failed to fill out the proper paperwork for After School Car Pool Pick up at Our Fine School. That means that when I go to Jack's classroom's open house on Tuesday, I will not be handed a marigold yellow sign that has Jack's name and classroom printed on it along with the members of our car pool. The teacher's assistant will take this opportunity to raise an eyebrow at me or sigh a small sigh of exasperation. Didn't I know I was to have handed in the paperwork weeks ago?

Well, yeah, sort of. But here's the problem. Instead of sending me a form in the mail to be filled out and sent back to Our Fine School's lovely administrative assistant, they sent me an e-mail. "For important information about the 2008-09 school year, please go to"

I am not capable of taking that step, largely because I know that it isn't a single step, it is a multitude of steps. I must take the steps downstairs to my husband's study and dig around in his morass of papers and gas receipts to find the letter from Our Fine School instructing us how to log on to Then I will have to take the steps back upstairs, attempt to log on, and then attempt to track down the forms where you write down your kid's name and the names of all the other kids you'll be picking up after school.

Finding these forms can not be done logically or intuitively on It only happens magically, under a full moon, with Mercury rising.

Back when Jack was in second grade, the folks at Our Fine School simply mailed the forms with the 300 other pages of material they send you at the beginning of August. Why they stopped this practice, other than to thwart my attempts to car pool, I have no idea. But it was a mistake. Send me a form in the mail to fill out and send back to you, I'll do it, and I'll do it on time, for one simple reason: I buy very cool stamps and I like to use them. I am like a five-year-old girl in a new party dress when it comes to stamps. I believe everyone looks at my stamped mail and thinks, 'The person who used these stamps is interesting and creative, and I wish I knew her.'

There is no love to be had from going to Nobody's grandmother is waiting for me there, smiling and murmuring, "Oh, look at those shoes she has on and that pretty dress--why, she looks so grown up!" There is only heartbreak as you wander around the Web site wondering where those stupid forms are hiding.

So on Tuesday, I will have to admit to the unsmiling teacher's assistant that I had no luck finding the forms and laugh nervously, saying, "I guess you're hearing that from all the parents, huh?" And she'll look at me disapprovingly and say, "No, everyone else's parents got their forms in on time."

You know what's going to make her really unhappy? When she finds out that I'm the room parent this year.

That maniacal laughing you hear is mine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Neighborhood Post

Just today (or was it yesterday--I don't know the time difference between the States and Australia), Tracy gave me this lovely award. I'm very pleased and touched. There are rules involved--I'm supposed to pass the award on; the only problem being almost everyone I would pass it on to already has it!--which I will post below.

But first, I want to ponder. I'm so intrigued by this online neighborhood I find myself in. I haven't quite figured out what it all means yet, but it does seem meaningful to me. There appears to be a battalion of women--domestic types, homemaker types, crafty types--who get up in the morning, get the kids off to school or settled in with some sort of project, then grab their cup of coffee and go visiting.

At least that's what I do, and I know a lot of people reading this do it too. I drink my coffee and check in with my online friends. How are Kate's kids doing in their new school down in Adelaide? What sort of art has Victoria made this week? Will Heather be knitting or ruminating today (she does both so beautifully)? Whatever happened with the tree that fell down in Tracy's yard? Did the neighbors pay to have it removed? I need to know!

The crazy thing is, I feel like I know these women. Do I? Not the way I know Amy, Danielle and Kathryn, no. But in some way, some important way, I feel the answer is yes. You can know someone by what they have to say about their lives and the way they say it, and you can care about them. Perhaps you can't know them as fully as the people who are physically present in your life, but you can feel connected to them in a way that feels real to me.

I guess I don't have any great insights about my online neighborhood, other than I'm glad to be here, and that I feel like the people whose blogs I visit are friends--and overwhelmingly Australian, an added treat! So thanks for coming by to visit. You're always welcome here.

Oh: the rules:

- Only 5 people are allowed to receive this award.
- 4 of them followers of your blog.
- One has to be new to your blog and live in another part of the world.
- You must link back to whoever gave you the award.

If you're reading this, consider yourself awarded. Mazel Tov!

Stupid Cake Day

It was a rookie mistake. I pulled the cake out of the oven, set it on the rack, and two minutes later decided it was time to take it out of the pan.

Now, anyone who's ever baked a cake knows the score: you leave the cake to cool in its pan for ten minutes. You give it a chance to settle down, chill out, get used to its new environment. Under no circumstances do you disturb it while it's in that fragile, right-out-of-oven state of mind.

Only I did. I was having a Stupid Cake Day. I seem to have these frequently. Stupid Cake Days are different from Forgot to Grease the Pan days. Not greasing the pan is just momentary forgetfulness. Dumping a hot cake out of its pan is just, well, stupid. You know better. It seems almost willful, like you're just daring the laws of gravity to do their thing.

Well, gravity always does its thing, and a hot cake taken out of its pan prematurely will always wilt, then fall apart into a Rorschach test of chocolate crumbs. All you can do is stand there and yell, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" The kids run downstairs, wondering what the dog did this time.

The good news is: kids will eat chocolate cake no matter what state of disarray they find it in. So, as it turns out, will husbands. The dog would also be happy to oblige, but that's the last thing you need in this situation: stupid cake and a dog throwing up all over your freshly cleaned carpet.

In case you're wondering, the cake tasted good. All 500 pieces of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Post Deleted

I just deleted a post. It's one that took a long time to write, not that it was particularly earth-shattering. It was about how some people irritate you and it's a drag, while other people irritate you and it's kind of fun. But it went on and on, and after I'd finished it, I thought to myself, 'You're starting to sound like a crank. People at the farmers' market irritate you and now people who e-mail you with requests to sponsor them on their Walks to Save Everything and Everyone in the World irritate you. Who doesn't irritate you?'

Well, I am highly irritable, it's true. I am judgmental and irritable and not that much fun to be around until I've had my morning coffee. But a lot of people delight me. I just wanted to make that clear. I find many people delightful. I am a crank, but I am a soft-hearted, sentimental crank who is delighted by all sorts of people and any number of dogs. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Zucchini stuffed with Pistou, served with a quasi-ratatouille (pasta with a sauce of diced tomato and sauted onion and garlic), and homemade rustic bread

Tuesday: Tuna Pasta Salad, with broccoli, artichoke hearts, snow peas and red pepper

Wednesday: Leftover Tuna Pasta Salad

Thursday: Scallops with mushrooms and spinach, served with homemade rustic bread

Friday: Tomatoes stuffed with pasta and mozzarella

Saturday: Pizza for the kids, out to dinner for me and the man (!)


The stuffed zucchini and stuffed tomato dishes are from recipes I found last week in the New York Times food section. Mark Bittmann (author of How to Cook Everything) had an article about a vegetarian restaurant in France. Apparently, the French have not warmed up to vegetarianism in general, but this restaurant is supposed to change their minds about going meatless. Both recipes sounded great. I'm going to do a side of pasta just in case the zucchini doesn't quite work out--if it comes out of the oven looking a bit underwhelming, I can just chop it up and mix it in with the pasta.


This week's easy recipe is the Tuna Pasta Salad. It does involve a fair bit of chopping, but it's a cold salad so you can make it early in the day. I often make this if I have an early evening meeting or need a two-night meal. For instance, this week on Tuesday, Jack has tae kwon do at 5:45, so I'll make the salad sometime Tuesday morning and be happy in the knowledge that I don't have to rush in the door at 6:45 to get cooking. On Wednesday, my book group is meeting at my house, so it will be nice to have dinner already made, saving a big kitchen clean-up right before everyone's supposed to come over.

Tuna Pasta Salad


1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 TBS mayonnaise
1/2 TBS Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar


12 oz. rotini
one can tuna, drained
one bunch of broccoli crowns, cut into florets (and steamed for a few minutes, if you don't like raw broccoli)
one 14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts
one red pepper chopped
2-3 cups snow peas

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool, then transfer to a large bowl. Prepare dressing, then pour over pasta and mix well. Stir in tuna and vegetables. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Farmers' Market: Theory and Practice

It has taken awhile, but I think I have finally admitted something to myself that I've been trying to repress for several years now: I don't much enjoy shopping at the farmers' market.

In theory, I should. I'm a would-be locavore, into the homegrown, the homemade, the handcrafted. I want all of my food to come from within a five-mile radius of my house. I want to be friends with the grass-raised, free range cows that eventually will become the T-bones smoking on my grill.

And it's not that I don't like what I buy at the farmers' market. It's almost always very good, though every once in awhile you are reminded that a locally grown tomato can taste just as lousy as one shipped in from California. I love the way farmers' market stuff smells, I love how sometimes bits of dirt--local dirt! organic dirt!--are still stuck to the beets and the freshly dug new potatoes. The vegetables really do taste fresher and more flavorful than what I buy at the grocery store. The eggs have rich yellow yolks. You can just tell they came from happier chickens than the eggs you get at the Harris Teeter.

No, it's not what I buy at the farmers' market that's the problem. It's the actual experience of going to the farmers market and buying things that gets on my nerves.

Some of it may have to do with my city's particular farmers' market. For one thing, while it's great to see so many farmers making a living, everybody seems to be selling the same stuff. Right now the market is a big pile of tomatoes and peppers and summer squash, one table after another, table after table after table.

Now, if you're a competitive shopper, someone who loves to get a bargain, then there's plenty of fun to be had. But I'm one of those people who freezes up when there are too many choices. I make bad choices. I suffer from chronic buyer's remorse. So it would be better for me personally if there were one farmer selling tomatoes, and one selling peppers, and one selling organic honey, and so on and so on and so on. Instead, there are approximately a hundred farmers selling approximately the same goods, and they all vary their prices just enough to give me a stress headache.

Okay, now I'm going to be brutally honest: My fellow farmers' market shoppers bug me. You can get a picture of the crowd by walking around the parking lot and reading the bumperstickers--there are no McCain supporters; everybody's voting for Obama come November. You are urged to Eat Local, Co-Exist, Impeach Bush, and Kill Your Television.

I am not a Bush supporter, will be voting for Obama come fall, try to eat local and have a "Make Cornbread, Not War" bumpersticker on my minivan. Which is to say, I'm on the same page as most of these folks, but they still bug me. Maybe it's a kind of self-loathing, I don't know. Maybe because I still feel like my usual outsider self at the farmers' market even when surrounded by folks who think a lot like I do (except that pesky orthodox Christianity thing I've got going on), it's even more painful than being an outsider when I'm around people I clearly have nothing in common with.

Another strange thing about my city's farmers' market is that the shoppers are such a homogeneous crowd that it feels a little unreal (particularly since 98% of the shoppers are white, whereas the farmers' market is in the heart of a city that's pretty black and increasingly hispanic). It's too self-conscious, if you know what I mean. Everyone's a little too aware that we're having this experience of going to the farmer's market. It becomes a meta-experience. Since I'm painfully self-conscious anyway, one of the most uncomfortable experiences I can have is being self-conscious of how self-conscious everyone is.

So that's part of why I'm not crazy about the farmers' market. Add to that the fact that shy people who fumble with their wallets while other impatient customers pant behind them (the hot breath on their necks making the fumbling all the worse) and antisocial types who hyperventilate in crowds and have a hard time paying $3 a pound for tomatoes in August when Mr. Eddie next door is giving them away for free, probably should steer away from farmers' markets and other open air venues. Maybe they should plan on planting an even bigger garden next year and reduce their five-mile radius to a fifty-foot radius.

That's my plan anyway. I can grow vegetables more cheaply at home and miss the crowds entirely. Except, of course, I won't miss them at all.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pajama-Making Mama

My first ever sewn garment. I've sewn a patchwork throw and curtains, but never something that was actually supposed to be worn by a human being. These pajama bottoms were the easiest thing in the world to make, taking about an hour from beginning to end. I'm actually contemplating making myself a pair of capris now. I think I might could do it.

Don't you think "Pajama-Making Mama" would make a great name for a blog?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Housewife Exam


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

This is what I did for my blog anniversary. I admit I fudged a couple of answers. For instance, I was asked if I smoked, drank or doped. Well, I don't smoke, and I don't dope, and I don't think the occasional glass of Cabernet should get me lumped in with the smokers and dopers. So I committed a sin of omission by not checking that particular box. My great-grandmother would have understood.

Happy Anniversary!

I can't seem to remember when my wedding anniversary is, but I know for a fact that today marks one year for this blog. It helps that all I had to do was check the archives (as opposed to digging around in my attic for a wedding announcement) to make sure when the exact date was. Maybe if my husband and I'd gotten married online (I'm sure people do that now), we'd do a better job of keeping our facts straight.

So here I am, with a year of blogging under my belt. I had all sorts of plans to write a moving, profound yet witty, perhaps profoundly witty entry about blogging and self-expression and community and sanity. However, I'm too whupped. Between chores and trying to keep Will entertained without actually having to entertain him, all followed by a trip to the pool, well, my well has run dry.

So this entry is being made just so I wouldn't miss the opportunity to note the day. If you're reading this, thanks for taking the time. If you're not reading this--well, I don't even get that. If you're reading this and we've never met, but still somehow it seems like we're friends, I say that's the beauty of this enterprise, isn't it? That's what I meant to write about today, about these online neighborhoods we're making. And how cool it is that so many women are writing about our everyday lives as if they mattered.

Which, of course, they do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Letter to Will's Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Mrs. B:

It is sweet that you would like to know a little bit about Will before kindergarten starts in two weeks. Your e-mails to that effect have been bubbly and cheerful, which makes me think you will be a fine kindergarten teacher indeed. It will be nice for Will to spend time with a bubbly, cheerful female, since his mother is not known for her effervescence (though much admired for her ability to bellow like a master drill sergeant).

Here are the main two things you need to know about Will: He does not eat and will not use public restrooms. You should not expend any energy trying to make him do either of these things. Given that you don't have the authority to award him extra Wii time for trying a bite of something he's sure he'll hate, there are really no incentives you can offer him to ingest anything other than a cup of water and maybe--maybe--a handful of goldfish.

I know this will be especially disappointing during those special lunches sprinkled throughout the school year at Our Fine School, the Mexican Fiesta, the Nigerian Feast, the Teddy Bear Tea Party. Come to think of it, though, none of the children eat during these lunches. For Jack's Nigerian Feast, I personally prepared an elegant dish of baked bananas in cream. Here's a hint to the next mom who tries this: slice the bananas into half-inch chunks. When left whole, the bananas, browned by baking, bear an unfortunate resemblance to--well, you can imagine.

But as no child touched any of the Nigerian food, nor the Mexican treats, nor the lovely scones prepared by that nice Amanda Parker later in the spring, I was not dismayed that my bananas went untouched. Really, some plan should be made to cart all those lunches down to the Food Bank after the kids go out for recess.

But I digress.

So Will won't eat, and he won't go. Once you accept these two seemingly carved in stone facts about him, you and he will get along fine.

You'll be glad to hear that he's not a problem child--at least not for adults other than his own loving parents. I've been continually shocked over the years to learn that in school, Will doesn't talk back, sass, naysay, resist, make rude and sometimes scatalogical remarks, ignore authority, or put his hands on his little hips and say, "Oh, yeah? Well, you can't make me, you stupid head!"

You might want to know that Will has already decided that kindergarten will be boring. Since he has no idea of what kindergarten will entail, this is a bogus assessment, but it's typical. He's a tough guy, jaded, hardened by years of suburban living and preschool.

Here's a secret: Will is a marshmallow that's been dipped in glue and rolled in gravel. It's all show, baby. You look at him wrong and it hurts his feelings, but he'd never in a million years admit it. He just kicks stuff, and then later you find him crying in his closet.

If you find yourself and Will at odds--say you've said something devastatingly cruel, like, "Will, you need to pick up that crayon you dropped under your desk,"--you can joke the bad feelings away. Bring up his baseball heroes, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and wonder if they ever accidentally wear their gloves on the wrong hand. This will make Will giggle. He'll say, "Yeah, and maybe sometimes they forget to wear their shoes!" And with that, the crisis is averted. You cannot go to this well too many times, trust me.

If you try to hug him, he'll squirm away. If you ask him a question about how he enjoyed his weekend or if he's looking forward to Thanksgiving, he'll say, "I don't even know how to answer that."

His love is not the obvious kind, but it is true. He is loyal to his friends. He loves to play, to run and roll around and swing from things. He doesn't hit or bite. Sometimes he remembers to say thank you. If he doesn't say it--well, he did, really. You just didn't hear him.

With best wishes for a wonderful year,

Will's mom

Monday, August 4, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I love reading other people's lists, and I've really been enjoying reading menus that people are posting through Menu Plan Monday, so I've decided to join in. Here's what's on the table this week:

Monday: Gemelli with white beans, artichoke hearts and spinach

Tuesday: Sausage, tomatoes and rice, served with cornbread (a great, easy meal)

Wednesday: Spaghetti pie

Thursday: Leftover spaghetti pie

Friday: Black bean quesadillas

Saturday: Pizza (homemade for me and the man; Domino's for the kids)

Because everyone needs a fast meal, I'll share the Sausage and Rice recipe. You'll need:

8 oz. kielbasa-style sausage, pre-cooked (I usually get turkey sausage to cut down on fat)
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked rice (brown rice if you've got the time)
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
olive oil

Because I prefer brown rice, a lot of times I'll cook it beforehand, say, in the morning while I'm puttering around, and then stir it in with the sausage and tomatoes to heat it up before serving. Otherwise, start cooking white rice as you're chopping everything up.

So: chop up your onion and garlic (whole onion if you're an onion lover; half if the kids and the man tend to pick out what they find to be excessive amounts of onion). Saute the onion until it's clear, then throw in the garlic and cook it for a minute or so. Next, slice your sausage ((I usually halve it lengthwise, then cut into 1/4" slices) and throw it in with the other stuff. Even though the sausage is cooked, I like to brown it a bit, just to get the skin a little bit crackly if at all possible.

Next, dump in the tomatoes, juice and all. Add a little salt, a little pepper to taste, and some oregano if you want to get fancy about it. Heat everything through. When the rice is done cooking, mix that in with the sausage and tomatoes. That's it! Dinner's done in fifteen minutes.

I usually serve this with broccoli. Cornbread is good, too (I get the Jiffy brand mix, which is now a startling fifty-nine cents, up from a quarter just a few years ago).

Back to School Shock

We've got two weeks til school starts.

I am in shock.

See, last week at this time, I had it in mind that there was a month until school started. This is because I am challenged by anything calling for a modicum of common sense and counting, which includes looking at a calendar and determining how many weeks left until it's time to send the boys packing.

Then on Thursday, I actually put my pointer finger on the page and jumped one week to the next, upon whence I realized I was off by a week. The fact is, summer is almost over.

Mind you, I'm not complaining.

And summer isn't really almost over. This is North Carolina. Summer will hang out for another two months, maybe two and a half. Heat-wise, we're entering the very heart of summer right now, with daily highs rarely dipping below ninety and often creeping up toward 99.

But psychologically speaking, summer is in its death throes. Two more weeks of lounging about (and not even that for Jack, who's in a camp this week and has to actually get up and dressed before 8:30). Two more weeks of the pool and long games of Wii baseball after dinner. Two more weeks of feeling guilty about not planning more educational, morally edifying, spiritually satisfying activities for my lovely children.

Two more weeks of boys arguing about who gets to push the inside elevator button.

Really, this summer hasn't been so bad. Oh, yeah, sure, being sick for ten days now (yep, still sick--now I'm thinking that I was sick with something else before I picked up the strep) hasn't been a picnic, and there've been a few patches where I put too much on my plate and felt pretty stressed, but here's the thing: no Big Summer Funk. Thought the Big Funk was happening two weeks ago, but turned out it was just prelude to the Long Virus. Major, major difference. I hate being sick, but I hate being funked out worse.

So I leave this summer with no hard feelings. And I head toward the fall with a pocket full of big plans. There's a book I have to revise, and that will be fun, having left off writing (other than this blog) since June 1st. There are Christmas presents and curtains to be made. There is a house to be attended to, a dog to take on long walks, a lunchtime knitting group I can attend once the boys are safely ensconced in the classroom.

Two weeks left. The marathon of summer days almost over.

If I can just make it through without having to buy another bottle of sunscreen, I'll consider this summer a complete success.