Category Archives: Thinking Thoughts

A do over

Today I put my face to the sun and heard the waves crash. The tide was coming in, so there were actually waves. They came  in a diagonal flow, each one crashing a second after the other. I do this every day. Even yesterday when the winds from the remnants of the tropical storm sandblasted my legs. I walked leaning into the wind so it wouldn’t blow me over. The return walk — with a strong wind at my back — was much easier than the walk at to the point.

There is a marina in the distance that I haven’t reached yet — still being a little too fearful to go that far on a beach that is generally empty with the exception of a few swimmers still enjoying the water for daily exercise. The runners and walkers generally stick to the neighboring nature trail, a much easier walk than the rocky shore line. I stick to that rocky shore, watching my every step to avoid the large rocks and driftwood, which I took a nice trip on last week. Is it a public fall if only seagulls are there to watch?

I notice the differences every day. One day there is a weird kind of seaweed everywhere. One day, there is a weird sea vegetable that looks like romaine lettuce. One day there is some sort of pink algae. The shells that are there are battered, seemingly from trying to compete in a body of water full of rocks. Some days I notice a sock or a bottle cap mixed in the rocks and sand. We are, obviously, only an hour or so from New York City. On clear days, you can easily see Connecticut or big ships in the distance. In the last few weeks of warm sunshine, the waters were equally filled with sailboats and fishing boats — some ignoring their work and some doing it.

One day the tide was completely out and I could walk out on huge sand bars further than most would swim. Just me and the seagulls. Several days have been downright warm. Warm enough for me to consider getting in the water. Several days have been brisk. There will be many more of those to come.

But the sea air makes you do one thing: breathe. The gusts force you to inhale. Which is logically followed by an exhale. The constant focus on watching the rocks beneath you is separated by the moment you look up at the open water and are forced to pause, partly because you don’t want to trip and partly because the vastness and beauty of the world makes you stop. It makes you stop. And breathe.

And the things that are circling through your brain — silly things, dumb things, inconsequential things, they slip away. I find myself thinking a lot about my kids. How grown up they are getting. How the younger mothers on the beach playground — desperately trying to wrangle a toddler and a newborn — don’t know how wonderful those moments are even when you feel like you might just lose it then and there. Hell, I never realized it. What I wouldn’t give to have a moment to play with my toddler son or daughter on that beach. If only for a day. What I wouldn’t give to bring them home all sandy and feed them lunch and put them down for a nap. If only for a day.

I think about how I get a chance to have a do over. We moved. Elementary school here goes to 6th grade. I get the chance to see my son and daughter walk hand in hand into their school for one bonus year. I think about how much I miss our friends. I think about how it is no easier to make friends at 41 than it was at 12 — mothers at school pick up are just as intimidating to me as middle school mean girls.

I think about the moments occurring right in front of me now. The seagull standing on one leg in the face of winds I am having difficulty walking in. The two women walking the other direction complaining about a former spouse.  The old woman showering off after swimming in the Sound — her skin hanging in folds on her skinny frame, but not covering up the way I would.

I embrace the present, yet still worry at every turn about losing it. Both in big, quick kinds of ways and small, seconds ticking on a clock, living life kinds of ways.

I think about standing proudly in my bathing suit at 80 years old, shaking my head at the 41 year old me attempting to cover up her soft, smooth skin.

On the eve

This screen is empty, but my head is not. It is filled with thoughts of growth and change and transition. And somewhere in the mumbo jumbo of to do lists, laundry, cooking, packing, and anxiety attacks, I am trying to make sense of it all. Tomorrow is the last day of elementary school for my now very grown up 11 year old daughter. Tomorrow is the last day of kindergarten for my sweet little man who just yesterday was my baby.

To say this year with them has been a joy would be an understatement. Being able to watch them walk up the hill into the same school door every morning (her always panicking that she was going to be late [she never was] and him searching for his boys — and lately, his girls) has made me feel like the luckiest mother in the world. They have been Book Buddies and had the comforting feeling of knowing that someone they love is by their side (even if down the hallway) all day long. They’ve had moments of growth and sadness and fear — him telling her he didn’t think she should keep hugging him at school in front of his boys. Her saying after Newtown that if that ever happened at her school the first thing she would do is run out of her classroom and go make sure her brother was safe.

My little girl, who sings now more than ever, is no longer in the days of dance recitals and soccer games. This morning, I dropped off clothes that she forgot for a kickball tournament and I was struck by her suddenly more mature beauty as she turned the corner, smiled, and flipped her long hair a bit as she saw me. She has braces. We talk openly and honestly about friends and boys and all of the obvious things that 11 year olds wonder about. Last night she cried when talking about all of the injustice in the world. She has started to argue politics at the dinner table. And on social media. (Oy.) She feels. Intensely.

My girl makes me a better person.

My little boy, who runs, climbs like a monkey, and builds Lego sets like a teenager, is still in the days of soccer and weekly birthday parties. Last night he ended up sleeping with me and the big metal “throw up bowl” after puking all over the car earlier in the day. His limbs entangled with mine all night and his head was firmly planted on my chest — creating a dull pain that only a mother knows. I hardly slept a wink between the random punches and kicks and turns. But this morning he said, “Thank you for letting me sleep with you, Mommy. My tummy really hurt.”  He likes to point out that he and I both like to rub our feet together in circles while getting settled into bed at night.

My boy completes me.

So I sob a little. I rejoice in them. I thank the powers that be that they light up my life every day. I read somewhere that having a child is like putting a nail in your heart. Initially, it fills up a void you never knew existed. But slowly, you know that nail is being withdrawn and that you will be left with the hole that they filled for so many years. So many sleepless nights. So many birthday parties. So many throw up bowls and antibiotics and fevers. So much laughter. And so many tears.

The joy of motherhood almost always feels one whisker away from pain. And today, I guess I feel the pain a little as that nail comes out just a wee bit more. I already long for it to be pushed back in and relive every little moment of them walking up the hill together again.

If It Weren’t for the Internet, I’d Be Wearing Mom Jeans

I read this article today from Paul Miller, who you may recall was the dude who went off the Internet for a year and got paid to tell the story of his experience. I remember reading (on the Internet) that he was going to do it, so I was somewhat interested in how it went. I didn’t follow along with his weekly essays, because well, I have a short attention span, I guess.

The basic idea is that it was great in the beginning — he had energy to go do things, lost 15 pounds, read, and actually listened when people talked. Those are all good things. But as he reflected upon the experience, he realized that those were novelty effects of living in a different world. Physical letters were exciting to get in the mailbox until responding to them became just as much of a chore as responding to email. Time wasted playing video games replaced time reading TMZ or Buzzfeed. And then there were the effects that were worse — he ended up socializing less, he talked to his friends much less frequently and sometimes not at all, and his niece who used to Skype with him thought he didn’t want to talk to her anymore.

And that reminds me of a quote by Alan Kay that my husband uses all the time:

“Technology is only technology to those who were born before it.”

To his niece, without the Internet in his life, her uncle just simply didn’t want to talk to her. To her, the Internet was no different than talking on the phone. To choose not to participate was shunning social interaction in general. (And my bet would be that if I told the children I were going to undertake a similar year off, they would look at me with confused glances and ask why. Did anyone ever say that the telephone was too much of a distraction and decide they were going to live without it? Perhaps. With some historical reflection, would that be dumb? Yes.)

I have to admit that I thought he would end the experiment with grand pronouncements about how the Internet is great for some things, but detracts from our real, “meat space” lives in countless other ways. I thought he’d say those people who announce they are going off Facebook have the right idea. I thought he’d say we were all wasting our time. He didn’t. And he didn’t because the Internet is social interaction. It is us. And while it has disrupted the way we do nearly everything, the problems it creates aren’t necessarily new ones. It used to be when I got bored during a dinner conversation, my only choice was to daydream. With my iPhone, that’s not true anymore, but  it doesn’t mean I’m paying any more or less attention.

And the whole thing got me thinking as I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband and we both easily admitted that the Internet has really given us everything. For my husband, it’s a career. For me, it has allowed me to write and read multiple newspapers every day (not just my one hometown view on the world) and pretend I’m a photographer and involve myself in politics in a way I, as a social introvert, probably would never have done without it. If I were writing this essay and sending it off to Women’s Day or some such other literary POS (sorry), they’d kindly send me a letter and say no thanks. And I’d be sad and after a while I would give up and turn my attention elsewhere. Or nowhere.

(And I realize I am not a professional writer. I don’t pretend to be, nor do I expect to write the next great novel. But does that make my words any less worthy of being written? In the end, everything I post on Facebook or Twitter or write here is for me. Have we forgotten that the term blog originated as “web log?” This web log is the journal of my life. If what I post here makes someone happy, or laugh, or cook, or feel supported, that is fantastic. But in the end it is a way to chronicle *my* life. And just like my real life, if you don’t like what I have to say, move the fuck on.)

Do I waste time here and elsewhere on the web? Yep. Did I used to waste time playing Solitaire on the computer (or with actual cards!)? Yep. Do Pinterest or Facebook make me feel bad sometimes that I am not crafty, or too fat, or don’t run enough, or not pretty enough, or don’t do enough fun vacations with my kids? Yep. Would I feel that way without Pinterest and Facebook? Yep.

When I was chatting (on the Internet) with my husband, I said that without it, I’d probably be sitting around in mom jeans. At first, he said “No way.” After a few minutes of reflection, he changed his mind and said “But actually without e-commerce you wouldn’t be able to shop for anything outside of our little town, so maybe you would be wearing mom jeans.”

So, Internet, thank you for saving me from mom jeans and letting me think I can be anything or know anything or talk to anyone. I, for one, am not going to think bad thoughts about you anymore. Or IM them, or text them, or blog them, or tweet them, or tumble them. I promise.

Carry On

I used to be a big fan of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” saying until it became the fodder of every meme maker or person on Pinterest who tried to tweak the saying for their own pleasure. (“Keep Calm and Grow a Mustache seems to be the depths of the meme world.) It has become polluted and cliché and has lost most of its meaning — which obviously goes back to British propaganda during World War II. From Wikipedia:

The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information,[1] at the beginning of the Second World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster, such as mass bombing of major cities using high explosives and poison gas, which was widely expected within hours of an outbreak of war. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers, and never saw public display.[5]

When the Germans actually did start bombing Great Britain during the Blitz, the posters had been put in storage or trashed, due to pubic opinion that felt the messages were “patronizing.”

About ten years ago, I found a notebook with the saying on it and stuck it in my purse. It was a good reminder to not let the details of life get overwhelming — which I often do. But the threat of poison gas and bombing of neighborhoods? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t help me manage that at all. So, yes, good people of Britain, you were right. It was patronizing.

Stop the damn war and I’ll carry on just fine.

And I couldn’t help but think about that yesterday after the news in Boston broke. The shell shock that is carried inside of us from 9/11 and now from Newtown gurgles back up the surface quickly. I go from watching a movie with my 6 year old who was home sick to furiously searching the Internet for information. I go from crying at the end of Toy Story 3 to panic thinking about all of our marathon runner friends who might have been there. And I get word that most of them didn’t run Boston this year and our other friends and acquaintances who were there were fine.

Stop making me look at pictures of children — this time an 8 year old — who are dead or maimed. Stop making me think about a father who was running who now has a dead son and a wife and daughter with grievous injuries. And stop making me look at it in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or India. Stop making me see it in Israel or the West Bank. Stop making me see it on the campus of Virginia Tech or in a daycare in Oklahoma or in an elementary school in Connecticut.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

We know they never win. We know we will carry on. Right? We know we will never forget those faces. We know this time will be different. We know we will struggle to pass even freaking background checks for military assault weapons capable of murdering hundreds of people in the matter of minutes. We know the terrorists will never change our way of life. Right?

Tell it to the families of the victims. Tell it to the people who are scared to go back into their city. And tell it to the people (like me) who approach any crowded situation with fear. Mr. Rogers also made the rounds yesterday with his quote to look for the helpers. And I agree. The outpouring of help and love is astonishing. It is who we are.  But I sure would prefer to not have to endanger other innocent people when they run to the scene of a bomb to help triage war-like wounds on a sunny Boston Marathon day — with “real” war nowhere near them.

So one side of me says they never, ever win. And the other side of me says the sides of evil and hate and plain craziness can win whenever they want. They win, in their warped minds, by causing pain and terror. They win, when I have to have yet another conversation (this time mostly with the 11 year old) that starts with phrases like “Something bad has happened, but the odds of it happening are so low. You shouldn’t worry about it. We will catch these people.”

And she weeps. And says, “But Mommy, those people that died or were hurt woke up yesterday excited and didn’t even think that they would die. How do I know that it’s not going to be me?” Maternal sucker punch. Yet another seed of fear is planted in her heart. While someone else down the street plants a seed of hate in their child’s heart by saying “It was probably one of those damn Muslims” or “God is punishing us because of these gay people.”

Keep calm and carry on? Maybe it’s time to freak the fuck out and carry on. I desperately want us to rise up against the violence and the hatred and the insanity and whatever else it is that causes us to keep ending up here. But the seeds of fear and doubt have been planted in my heart too. March on Washington? Large crowds and lobbies that are more powerful than millions of people. Take on the NRA? They are armed and like to intimidate the people who disagree with them. Try to end the trillions of dollars spent bombing a world away with no real goals? Good luck.

Stop the damn wars and I’ll carry on just fine.

 

 

 

 

The Avalanche of Mundane Shit

I can’t find my reading glasses. I am pretty sure this is not a unique phenomenon just for me, especially considering the clerk at the drugstore commented that she has at least 10 pairs because she constantly loses them. I think they call that foreshadowing in the biz.

After one day of glorious use — I can see my iPhone! Look how much clearer my computer screen is! — they are gone. Nowhere to be found. The last thing I remember is my husband asking me to try them on the other night — because men have a thing when you wear your glasses, don’t they? Does it go back to the librarian fantasy? I don’t know. So I tried them on and we laughed because reading glasses magnify your eyes to the people looking at you and the bug eyes just aren’t as sexy as one would think.

So, if 40 is the year when your eyes go bad, 41 is the year when they are even worse and your brain is diminished enough that you can’t keep track of a pair of damn glasses. God help me if I need to buy the string to keep them around my neck.

For some reason, this made me cry. I think it was the combination of too many things piling up around the house — laundry folded, but not put away, toys taking over every single room of the house, bedrooms that are a disaster, closets that need to be switched for the seasons (and because of the fact that the kids are outgrowing everything — quickly), sheets that need to be changed (um, when was the last time?), school papers (Oh my, the school papers. Times two for two kids. I can’t keep up.), checks that need to be written for the taxes, for track t-shirts, for random bills, reading logs that need to be filled out, snow clothes and boots that need to be put into storage. You know the drill.

An avalanche of mundane shit. One that makes you cry because you can’t find your glasses in an avalanche of mundane shit. An avalanche that makes you feel like a failure because why, at almost 41 years old, can’t I keep this all together? Why, if I am old enough to need reading glasses, can’t I manage a household? Why don’t toys get picked up and put away at the end of the evening? Why am I more apt to look past them and tell the kids to go to bed? Why don’t I spend every Saturday morning like my mom did — stripping beds, cleaning bathrooms, and returning the house to a clean state? Why can’t I be that good? Why, even though I like to cook, does evening meal preparation feel like a chore I can’t conquer?

As a professional, I managed large, complicated projects and kept track of details and remembered everything. As a doctoral student, I dove so deep into analyzing research, I sometimes couldn’t come out. As a child, I had a memory that was tack sharp. As a mother, I can’t do any of it.

And the question that is nagging me is whether it is aging, or boredom, or just a general hatred of cleaning? And the other question is where are my glasses? And should I bother continuing to look for them or just go get a second pair?

Parenting Purity Test

There are lots of debates as to when life begins. I suggest a debate about when parenting begins.

I think you are a parent if:

  • You have brought a new baby home and had to take a panic attack-fueled walk (alone) in the brisk air because the idea of having this baby IN YOUR HOUSE is overwhelming.
  • You have bought your fourth stroller, which is the one that is going to solve all of the difficulties of the previous three.
  • You have cleaned the nasty concoction of sour milk, cheerios, noodles, and pieces of dried up fruit from underneath the seat pad of the high chair.
  • You have half of a completed baby book for your first child and a 50% reduction of that for each subsequent child.
  • You have wiped away “neck cheese.”
  • You have scraped ear wax out of a child’s ear (usually with your finger) on his/her way into school.
  • You have had a baby roll off the photography platform at the Sears Portrait Studio.
  • You have gone to the emergency room.
  • You have forgotten at least two consecutive doses of Amoxicillin.
  • You have thrown away a pair of children’s underwear instead of attempting to wash them.
  • You have bought some sort of liquid yogurt drink.
  • You have cooked breakfast for dinner.
  • You have taken a forgotten lunch bag or musical instrument to school.
  • You have lied to them about a toy store being closed.
  • You have gone to a pumpkin patch or to Target for “something to do.”
  • You have sat through a play, a concert, a sports tournament, AND a parent teacher conference in the same month.
  • You have accidentally missed a play, a concert, a sports tournament, or a parent teacher conference.
  • You have actually spent time and money on the items that go into a three year old’s birthday party favor bags.
  • You have thrown away your three year old’s birthday party favor bag — the one that the other parents actually spent time and money on.
  • You have thrown away a piece of your child’s artwork in a complicated, folded, origami pattern so they didn’t see it in the trash.
  • You have told your child (after they found the artwork in the trash) that you clearly made a mistake.
  • You have thrown away bags of school Valentines, Halloween Candy, and Easter Basket leftovers.
  • You have stolen candy from their Halloween or Easter stashes.
  • You have attempted to organize a Lego collection.
  • You have given up attempting to organize a Lego collection.
  • You have dug around on the floor of the car desperately trying to find something for show and tell.
  • You have awoken with a hangover and a young child climbing on you, wondering how, on Earth, you are going to get through this day.
  • You have been awoken by a child in the middle of the night and had no idea who they were and if you were having a heart attack.
  • You have changed sheets in the middle of the night.
  • You have given baths in the middle of the night.
  • You have scooped poop out of a bathtub.
  • You have no matching socks, no matching gloves, and no matching mittens in your house.
  • You have let a child go to school in any outfit of their choosing, with high water pants and mixed patterns.
  • You have said, “Wow. You really need a haircut.”
  • You have attempted to cut your child’s hair.
  • You have stopped attempting to cut your child’s hair.
  • You have packed up bins of too small clothes.
  • You have gone back to those bins of too small clothes years later … and put your face to them and smelled, longing for any recollection of a baby or toddler who you can barely imagine in your arms.

 

Married Folk

It occurred to me as I was reading (and laughing and nodding along with) this Onion piece, “Mom Calmly Emptying Dishwasher As If Shrieking Argument Didn’t Happen 10 Minutes Ago,” that many people (even married ones) don’t really understand how much married people fight. That’s bad because I think sometimes people think their marriages are in grave danger as soon as the fighting begins — which generally coincides with having children (To my kids reading my blog eventually: This is because it’s hard work, not because it’s your fault. Your parents love you with all of their heart).

I try to explain the fighting to my kids this way: “You know how you guys, as brother and sister, fight? And how you usually get along really well, and love each other more than anything, but that sometimes the other one irritates you, and does stuff to annoy you on purpose, and that sometimes you are having a bad day and are upset and take it out on each other? And that you have certain toys or things that you just seem to fight about all the time? Well, that’s how daddy and I are.”

So I guess what I’m sort of saying is that longtime married spouses start to become like siblings or roommates who also have sex. And I fully understand that that is a very weird concept and way of explaining it (I don’t add in that part for the kids. So they are cringing right now.) At your core (hopefully), you have a deep friendship, love, and history that connects you to one another. And (hopefully), you still enjoy spending time together when you have the chance. But yes, you also can fight and bicker like a brother and sister. Because essentially, you are like roommates sharing household responsibilities and banking accounts, while adding in that having sex part. Daily bullshit, money, and sex. That leaves a lot of stuff to fight about.

I also realize that this gets even weirder as you get older. My parents and my husband’s parents had their share of normal fights while we were growing up. (We’ve dated since we were 12 years old. So I can attest to that.) Yet they are all still happily married to the same people. But now? When they get annoyed at each other, they sort of just tell each other to shut the fuck up. Right in front of us kids! And I noticed when I was younger and would go out to dinner with my grandparents that they didn’t really fight much anymore, they just talked right over one another all through dinner.

So my theory is this: fights are traumatic in your early years as a couple, they become as regular as bickering siblings when you are middle aged, you start to tell the other one to fuck off at retirement age, and you pretend the other one isn’t even there when you are old.

Yet you still love each other. Isn’t that weird?

The Mysteries of Women Explained to Men

We’ve been over the shopping related things, but it left me thinking that there is so much more to explain. So here goes. (I should add a similar disclaimer that these points are not written in my husband’s likeness or anti-likeness. Girlfriends talk. So do sisters. And mothers and daughters. This is a combination of many people and issues. Beyond, I don’t even have a cleaning lady.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaning Lady

This one is simple. Cleaning ladies (or cleaning people, more accurately) don’t pick up your dirty socks and old mail. They clean. There are two different phases of cleaning: picking up the stuff and then the actual cleaning of surfaces. For example, when you are done eating dinner, you don’t just spray and clean the counters with all of the dirty dishes still there. OK, so maybe you do. But you should actually remove and deal with the dirty dishes, then clean the counters. Same goes here. The cleaning people are paid to clean bathrooms, mop floors, dust, vacuum, etc. If there is stuff in their way, they will simply go around it and you will not get your money’s worth. And this is what we tell everyone. And it’s mostly true, except there is one other thing. We really don’t want that cleaning person to judge the normal level of filth and disorder we live with.

Dish Towels vs. Hand Towels

Everyone has their own process, but dish towels and hand towels are two different things. Dish towels are fresh and clean from the drawer and are used to dry clean dishes. Clean towel to clean surface. Stuff stays clean. Get it? Hand towels are used to dry and wipe your hands either after washing, or while cooking. These get dirty fast and should not be used to dry dishes. If you wouldn’t want to eat from a plate that had someone’s chicken juice-covered hands wiped all over it, then I would suggest learning the difference.

Sponges vs. Dish Rags and those Dish Wand Things

Everyone has their own process and tools here too, but there is a distinct difference between what you wipe counters and spills with and what you wash dishes with. Sponges or dish rags can be used to wipe up messes or clean counters, so you wouldn’t want to use them to also wash dishes. Make sense? There is no real way you can claim to “clean” a pan if what you are using to clean it with has also been used to clean up a pile of spilled cereal.

Old Towels (i.e. rags) vs. New Towels

When you are working on a project or a plumbing leak and need a towel for either cleaning up or protecting a surface, you don’t take a towel from the linen closet. There are whole piles of old towels somewhere in your house. Ask where they are.

Snuggling

Women don’t really love snuggling. They just don’t always want to do something else. Yet, they still enjoy an expression of physical love once in a while. So, give her a night off and give her a hug that doesn’t include some sort of groping.

Massages

Women love massages. We pay for professionals to give them to us frequently. The problem with your “massages” is that they are just a code word for something else. If you truly want to give us a massage and have some sort of skill, go for it. If all you want is that something else, don’t bother with the promise of a massage. Your massages aren’t that great. Sorry.

The Next Morning vs. Late Night and Inebriated 

I’m getting into territory that is making my mother cringe, so I’ll keep it brief. And this isn’t directed toward you single or childless people. You can decide when and where without my help. Here’s the deal: the next morning is way better. This is why parents send children to watch cartoons and eat donuts on Saturday mornings. I think I might have just ruined many childless people’s views of their parents and thus, their entire lives. Sorry.

Why Taking the Trash Out Made Her Mad

She is pissy that you took the trash out because you failed to put a new trash can liner in the trash can. And then she opened up the trash can or cabinet quickly and threw something messy in there and now has to scrub out the whole trash can. Taking out the trash (whoever does it) is a two step process: first take the bag out and take it somewhere, and second replace the liner.

Why Sweeping the Kitchen Floor Made Her Mad

Because you swept it all into a little pile and then didn’t do anything with the pile — instead, waiting for praise on a job well done (that she does like 10 times a day, crazily without any praise at all). Sweeping is also a two step process: first sweep, second clean up the stuff you swept.

Why You Dust Before You Vacuum

Because when you dust, you stir up a lot of dirt and  … dust! It falls to the floor and makes the floor dirtier. So, dust then vacuum. Didn’t your mother teach you that one?

Why Women Don”t Want You to Vacuum

Here’s the thing. We like when you help, but after she has just cleaned the entire house, don’t offer to vacuum. It’s the easiest and most instantly gratifying part of the job. Where were you when she was picking up legos? Or when she was scrubbing the toilet? Or lifting up every little knick knack and dusting around them? If I clean the house, you can be sure as shit I am running the vacuum too, so I can get any satisfaction from a job that will be ruined in about 15 minutes when everyone starts to live in the house again.

Words

Fine is NEVER fine in any way, shape, or form. “You should go” never means that. “Have fun” is usually sarcastic.

How Much Is Acceptable in a Given Week

Not sure, but guess what? She thinks the number is A LOT lower than you do.

 

On Fear and Beignets

The kitchen is the one place where I have no fear. Nothing intimidates me and I am fully confident. When people act like I am doing something crazy, I rarely give myself any credit, because how could you be scared of things like oil or yeast? I reserve my fear for things that can kill me. You don’t want to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving yet you get on airplanes and enjoy riding through the Lincoln Tunnel? I’ll handle gizzards over the Lincoln Tunnel any day.

And as I was rolling beignet dough this morning, I happened to think that during a time of my life when I am the ultra-stable force in my kids’ lives — the one putting them to bed, washing their clothes, cooking the meals, helping with the homework — cooking is also my travel. My husband has the demanding job, does the travel, meets the cool people, and finds professional inspiration all over the place. I go to the grocery store and search for inspiration (because the part of you that needs that never goes away) in places and times that make bleeding a stone look easy. Child rearing can be mind-numbingly boring, but it’s in your personal boredom that your kids find stability and security.

I don’t look at either my husband’s job or mine and think one is more important. Sure, we’d be really hungry and cold without his, but it is so incredibly difficult to have both parents intently focused on career at all moments and travel the country and change the world. Someone has got to wipe the asses and provide lessons on multiplying fractions. It is a choice we make when we decide to have kids — even if we don’t realize we are making it at the time.

So today I went to New Orleans with my kids. And we ate beignets and sipped on coffee and hot chocolate. The yeast was fresh and rose the dough into puffy little pillows, the oil was at a steady 350 degrees and browned the beignets perfectly, and we laughed at clips of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd as the Two Wild and Crazy Guys. It’s often easy to feel bitter about being the one watching “Kindergarten Cop” on a Friday night while your husband is on 6th Street in Austin. And trust me, I have plenty of those moments. But, when I get to be the one hearing my kids laugh at Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “It’s not a tumor!” and having a picnic lunch on my boy’s 6 1/2 birthday on our first spring-like day, I try to step back and live in the now and in the positive.

I try to remember that there will be days in my future when I will be sitting in New Orleans eating beignets and sipping chicory coffee. And I am fully aware that, when that time comes, I will be wishing I were at my kitchen counter watching YouTube clips with powdered sugar covered babies.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Beignets (Epicurious)

Grocery List for Honest Parents

I cook a lot. But I really believe we parents need to be more honest with each other. Inside the front door, it gets ugly. And if we were all just a bit more honest, well, I think we all may be just a bit less crazy. I should add that in most grocery stores in the state of PA, we cannot buy beer, wine, or booze. That will need to be a separate list, I guess.

My Honest Grocery List

Applesauce: For the times when all of the fruit has gone uneaten and is now overly ripe. Or when you haven’t been to the store in a while. You will put this in your child’s school lunch so his/her teachers don’t judge you based on the fact that there is nothing from the fruit and/or vegetable group.

Baby Carrots: See above. They last forever.

Bananas: You need to buy these so you have an excuse to make banana bread in a few days after everyone (who says they love bananas) doesn’t eat them.

Brussel Sprouts: Even though your kids actually like them most times you cook them, they are a tremendous threat to hold over their heads when they are misbehaving at 5:00. They can also be a very convincing way to have your husband suggest takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Panko Bread Crumbs: Because this is how you cook fish.

Orange Juice: Because all you ever do is buy it and then head to the sink and pour out cups of it that are wasted.

Sunflower Seed Butter, Peanut Butter, etc.: This will be your child’s only source of protein when you haven’t been to the grocery store in a while.

Brownie Mix: Because you need a birthday treat or a potluck dessert or a school party snack about every other day.

Barbecue Chips and Candy:  Because your daughter wrote this on your list and even attempted to mimic your handwriting. You may or may not realize this while you are under the bright lights of the grocery store listening to KC and the Sunshine Band.

Anything your toddler, preschooler, or early elementary child wants: This could range from a Cars-branded sippy cup to a coloring book to Cheeze Whiz to boxed pudding mix. Just put it in the cart. It will be a small price to pay for your sanity and you should not feel guilty if you throw it away in less than 3 days. You can also save it and donate it to the Boy Scouts when they come knocking.

Ketchup: Please only Heinz, however. They know the difference.

Ranch Dressing: Unless you are serving to grown ups, don’t bother making your own. The kids won’t like it any more, and might even hate it and forego the vegetable they were going to dip in it altogether. Buy a reasonably healthy brand and give it to them with the baby carrots. Your vegetable work for the day is done.

Croutons: Will make any child pretend to eat salad.

Amazing Quantities of Yogurt: If you have multiple kids, there will always be one who eats yogurt in disgusting quantities. Let’s call him “Probiotic Man.”

One Frozen Pizza: This will allow you and your husband to get Thai take out and drink too much wine one night this week.

One box of Mac and Cheese: See above. (Sushi and Champagne)

One jar of pasta sauce and some type of pasta: See above. (Indian and Beer)

Bread: This will be important for grilled cheese sandwiches and French Toast — which we all know is the tired, lazy, or hungover mother’s answer to pancakes or waffles.

Clementines: Because seed-fearing kids love these little fuckers.

Ingredients for Fruit Smoothies: Because this makes you feel like a good mother.

Edamame Hummus from Trader Joe’s: Because children can consume amazing quantities of this stuff in very short periods of time.

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans: For you and only you. Hide them.

Some sort of cracker/cookie shaped like a teddy bear or a bunny or a fish: Any of these will usually do.

Whatever fruit is shown in the suggested serving picture on the front of the cereal box: Certain young children will not be able to eat the Cheerios unless the strawberries that were shown in the picture are also in the bowl.

Pickles: For when they are in a strange pickle eating phase. Then they will hate them, so be sure to recognize when to stop buying them.

Whatever crappy lunch snack their friend packs: You sort of just have to take one for the team here and put the brownie bites in your cart once in a while. Turn your head and cough or something.

Pretzels: Because you think they are healthier than chips, yet you know they sort of suck.

Something to dip the pretzels in: Because they sort of suck, remember?

The largest rolls of toilet paper you can find that will fit on your toilet paper holders: Don’t do this if you enjoy changing the rolls every day.

Children’s Tylenol/Motrin/Benadryl and Pedialyte: This must be in the house when they get sick in the middle of the night. No exceptions.

AA Batteries: No exceptions. (You may personally need C’s or D’s. But why isn’t it rechargeable? It’s 2013!)