Archive for October, 2010

20 Oct 2010

Mother. In. Law.

5 Comments Cooking/Baking, Family

Oh shit. My mother-in-law reads this blog. All the personal stuff, all the complaining, all the stories about her beloved grandson, all the evil things I plan to share about her son, she reads. She told me. She was very complimentary and said she enjoyed my writing but that’s beside the point. She reads this blog.

I’ll tell you why it makes me a bit jumpy. It’s the recipes. Yup. Not the personal crap or the other crap, or the other crap. It’s the recipes. Know why? Because when I first met my mother-in-law I didn’t know how to do a gosh darn thing in the kitchen. (Well, I knew how to do SOME things, but I can’t print them here because my mother-in-law reads this blog. Let’s just say I got an engagement ring out of it.) One time on a trip to Oregon, when Russ and I were still dating, I asked if I could help with dinner and she gave me the toddler-sized job of cutting celery. A test, perhaps. I failed. I cut the celery slowly and poorly, one stalk at a time. My mother-in-law stepped over to me, having just plucked and cleaned three chickens in the time I cut half a stalk and said, “You know Lisa, you can cut them three at a time, like this.” She then took the knife and showed me. And we laughed. We laughed a lot. My laugh was saying, “Oh my god. I feel like such an inept asshole. This woman thinks I’m a bimbo.” Her laugh was saying, “Oh my god. My poor son is going to starve to death in that apartment in California. This girl is a bimbo.”

Since then a lot has changed. Now when we visit the in-laws, she trusts me to make three quarters of a meal, if not a whole meal all by myself sometimes! She’ll even ask me cooking advice every once in a while, which I personally think is just to make up for how I still feel about the celery incident. She seems to feel less like her son is being held prisoner and only being fed stale bread and cloudy water through a slot in his metal door. And I think she likes the way her grandson is fattening up.

She and my step-father-in-law are coming to visit for a few days at the end of the month. They usually like to go out to dinner when they’re here, (which I find suspicious), but this time I think I’ll surprise them with a gourmet meal of celery soup, celery stew, and roasted celery. I think she’ll laugh. And her laugh will say, “This girl is a bimbo. But I like her.”

20 Oct 2010

It can’t all be bagels and cream cheese

5 Comments Family, Personal Crap

Growing up, my Grandma used to have us over frequently for Sunday brunch. It was a long drive from Woodland Hills to Fullerton, but just the thought of the bagels and lox, and blintzes and goodies that Grandma would make was totally worth the drive. She and my Grandpa (these are my dad’s folks) lived in a delightfully cozy little house that was immaculately kept and always smelled like something baking and my grandpa’s cologne. Oh, and pipe tobacco.

We always ate at the dining room table in front of the dry sink with the big, wooden salad bowl on it that now sits in my dining room, beneath a picture my dad painted when he was in his twenties. There was always a ton of laughter at the table and a lot of eating. Grandma always made the best coffee, too. A teaspoon for each cup of water plus one for the pot. I still do that today. My grandpa would sit at the head of the table and cut all of our bagels with a giant, serrated knife. I would watch his hands, tanned from golfing with long fingers and thin knuckles. There was something incredibly deliberate and delicate about the way he cut a bagel. I can see it so vividly now.

Grandma would have everything prepared and get up constantly to make sure we all had what we needed. She’d always make sure our elbows were off the table, our napkins were on our laps, and we weren’t talking with our mouths full. Grandpa would usually tell some brilliantly hilarious story, complete with 9 different accents. He was one of the last great story tellers. After we ate, she’d bring out homemade cookies or rice pudding or chocolate cake. Then we’d all go into the family room where there would be a newspaper opened to the bridge section on the table and a book that someone was in the middle of reading. My parents and grandparents would talk about life and politics and my brother and I would play with their metal tic tac toe set or watch TV, or go into the office and look at Grandpa’s things.

I swear I look back at these times as “Rockwellian”. I feel like you could paint a picture of any of these brunch Sundays and hang it in a store that sells Americana. And it would sell. My grandpa passed away when I was 14 and I was devastated. For weeks I felt like I was walking through fog. The next ten years, my grandma and I became very good friends. As soon as I got my driver’s license, I would drive to Fullerton for lunches or dinners just to hang out and talk. She was still cooking and baking, but we’d eat at the kitchen table now; the dining room saved for only very special occasions. She loved to know everything that was going on with me, with boys, and with friends. We’d shop for clothes together. I still have a skirt I bought the last time I shopped with her. I can’t throw it out. That was 15 or 16 years ago.

After my grandpa passed away, my grandma was still very social, very active. She dressed beautifully and exercised daily. But there was a tiny bit of her that had clearly changed. A part of her that was lost. I wonder what my niece and nephew see in my mom now. Is she different to them? She isn’t to me. She’s just in mourning. Grandma passed away when I was 24. She did it gracefully, just like she lived her life. One day I’ll tell you the story.

Tonight Garrett was walking around using his baseball bat as a cane. He put on a different voice and came into the kitchen saying, “Hello!” I said hi and asked him who he was. “I’m Grandpa! The one with Grandma Joan!” I asked if he meant Grandpa Art. “Yes! Grandpa Art! Do you want to come with me?” I said, “Sure! Where are we going?” “Just to my room”, he said. I bent down and hugged him a little too hard. “I miss you, Grandpa Art”, I said. “It’s good to see you.”

Garrett won’t remember much about his Grandpa. Heck, he only knows him walking with a cane or a walker, and that didn’t happen until the last year or so. I hate that he won’t have a memory of him like I do of my grandfather. I hate that he won’t know what my mom was like when she was around my dad. But I sure as hell hope he knows her until he’s well into his teens. I’m so lucky I was able to know my grandparents as long as I did. I had my mom’s mom around until I was 21, too. She was sweet and beautiful and could cook anything better than I’ll ever be able to. I can’t stand that Garrett won’t have stories about my dad. But I’ll tell him as many as I can, and I hope he can see him in those stories the way I see my grandpa still today. At least he’s thinking about him. And he let me see him for a minute tonight, too. That’s a start.

I’ll tell you what I just realized reading this post back. Garrett will have all of these people in his life forever. The way I make my coffee, and will teach him to make it. The way we laugh at meal time (and ALL the time), the traditions we have that will be passed down. The storytelling and the discipline. The foods that we love, the games that we play. All of this is a part of me because of Them. And all of it will be a part of Garrett. That is a very comforting thought. As comforting as a bagel with cream cheese on a Sunday morning in Fullerton.

18 Oct 2010

Becoming a Man

4 Comments Family, Personal Crap, Toddler

This weekend my family celebrated my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish ceremony marking a boy’s (or girl’s) 13th birthday and the fact that he is becoming a man. It represents the change from a boy with little social responsibility to a man with the onus to do good in the world and to affect positive change. It’s a lovely service at temple where the young man reads from the Torah, surrounded by all of his friends and family.

A Bar Mitzvah is also a big, fat party with music, food, dancing and pure chaos. It was an absolute blast, and I saw my kid do some stuff that blew my mind. First of all, he was in a suit. Garrett, my adorable little man, looked like a lady killer in his pin-stripe jacket and tie. When we got into the tent that held the festivities, incredibly loud music poured out of the speakers… And Garrett promptly covered his ears and scrunched up his nose. “It’s too loud!”, he screamed. And I thought we were in for a very long, frustrating night. But then a song came on that must have been “his jam”, because all of a sudden he ran to the dance floor and started rocking out. I mean, he wasn’t merely dancing, he was feeling the music and busting a freakin’ move! This dance fest lasted for about an hour, and I’m still sore. I danced with him (well, NEAR him) the entire time and I had the sweat pouring down my face to prove it.

I finally pried him away from the dance floor long enough to say hi to some folks and have a little drink. Then the DJ started playing a song I requested at the beginning of the night: “The Final Countdown”. If you haven’t read my post on this little ditty, now might be a good time to do it. Suffice it to say, it’s Garrett’s favorite song. And as soon as he heard it, he ran full speed onto the dance floor and started going nuts! Within seconds, he was surrounded by every one of the 80 tweens attending the party. Outside of them were the rest of us, staring in wide-eyed awe at the three-year-old in the middle of the floor. At the chorus Garrett started to jump up and down, and so did all the kids around him. It was like he was their short, blond czar and they all had to do exactly what he was doing. Then they all started chanting, “Go Garrett, Go Garrett, Go Garrett!” and he kept dancing. Read more

16 Oct 2010

Flawless Saturday Question

19 Comments Flawless Saturday Question

What is something (or what are some things) you do now that you never thought you’d do?

For example, do you skydive and you used to be afraid of heights? Are you a vegetarian now after years of eating meat?

Here are some things I never thought I’d do:

*Bake. I always had a huge aversion to it because it’s such a precise medium. Know what? It’s not that precise.

*Wipe pee off of the toilet and floor every day, several times a day, without blinking an eye.

*Wake up at 6:30 AM all the time.

*Clean the kitchen every night before bed. I used to not care at all. Now I can’t sleep with dishes in the sink.

*Tell a toddler I’m going to count to three and he better do (whatever it is) or he’s in big trouble.

*Write a blog.

I’m dying to hear what you have to say! Hope you’re having a great weekend!

16 Oct 2010

Toddler Senility Update

No Comments Uncategorized

Sara, one of my very gracious readers, posted this article in her comment. It’s interesting and helpful. I also find it FASCINATING that I jokingly made up “Toddler Senility”, but there really is something called “Childhood Amnesia”. Anyone else find that funny? Anyone?

And it’s absolutely insane that tonight in the car, OUT OF THE FRIGGIN BLUE, Garrett said, “Remember I had a Blue’s Clues birthday party?” That was his 2nd birthday party, over a year ago. And I know we’ve talked about it since then many times, but it’s been so long since anyone has brought it up. I just thought that was a wild coincidence. Of course, a toddler remembering things from his toddler-hood is not the same as him remembering it when he’s 10 or 20.

One last thing. You know how there’s always an amnesia story-line on soap operas? Well, I’d totally watch All My Children if it was actually about children who had amnesia and cheated on each other and did dirty business deals. Wouldn’t you?

What just happened?

15 Oct 2010

Chili Recipe

2 Comments Cooking/Baking

Okay, so I made this chili recipe and it was super good. So I made a double portion of it last night, and it was super good again. It’s basically two recipes I found that I put together and it’s super easy and delicious and I wanted to share it with you. Aren’t I super generous? Here it is:

Saute’ a chopped yellow bell pepper, half of a chopped onion and tbsp garlic in olive oil until soft. I actually add crushed garlic when there’s only about 5 minutes of saute’ing left to do.

add a splash of chicken stock to get up all the yummy stuff
put 1lb ground white turkey in with some season salt and garlic powder and brown.
add two cups chicken stock and stir.
add one can drained, rinsed kidney beans,
about 2 cups crushed tomatoes,
tbsp chili powder,
tsp basil
tsp oregano
tsp cumin
tsp or so hot suace
pinch of sea salt
stir.
add more stock and crushed tomatos if it looks too thick
simmer, uncovered at least 35 minutes or until it starts getting thicker.
add 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, a little more stock and a little more crushed tomatoes
simmer 20 more minutes

The first time I made this, I simmered for a total of about one hour.  Last night, it was closer to 2 1/2 hours. I don’t think you can simmer it too long.

Russ grilled some turkey dogs, put them on whole wheat buns and topped them with the chili. I baked a box of corn bread (adding a tbsp of flax meal), and ate it in a damn bowl! Delish. Today we ate leftovers. It’s even better day two! Let me know if you try it!

15 Oct 2010

Toddler Senility

2 Comments Personal Crap, Toddler

You know what gets me? Garrett won’t remember any of this time in his life. I guess he’ll remember a feeling, a general sense of well-being and security (hopefully). But he won’t remember all the cool stuff we do together or all the amazing things he does on a daily basis. He won’t remember how much he loves dinosaurs or how he wakes me up in the morning by saying, “Mom! Ma! Mommy? Mama! Mom. Mom. Mommy?” He won’t remember how proud we were of him when he got potty trained or how much we laugh when he does his “crazy run” in the living room. I hate that he won’t remember the first time he actually liked his broccoli or how we try to get him to tell us about his day at the dinner table.

He won’t remember how excited he was when he saw a Blue’s Clues bouncy in our backyard on the day of his second birthday, or how much fun he had spraying his friends with water on his third. He won’t remember how it felt to feed a cow an apple for the first time or how hot it was the day we went to the Oregon State Fair.

It seems so odd to me that he’s living so much life every day and he won’t remember a damn thing about it. I mean, at three you’re learning new words, new sensations, new tastes and smells. You’re meeting new people and seeing things daily for the very first time. Garrett’s excited to see airplanes and the moon and he loves to pet dogs and ask people their name. How do you take in so much information and not remember later on in life how it all got there?

I think part of it makes me sad because I love the moments we share, and I wish he’d know years from now how great they were. But he won’t. And that’s just odd to me. I wonder why it’s set up that way? Are we not meant to remember this time because it’s too precious? Is it because everything else that comes after this part is so dull that remembering the majesty of the beginning would destroy our souls? Or maybe there’s just not room in our brains to hold all the new stuff we’re learning AND bank it all in our memories.

I try to write as much as possible in his baby book and make some albums of photos. But I wish he was going to remember how perfect he is right now. I wish he’d be able to look back and see how much he makes us laugh and how lucky I feel to be with him, even at 6:30 in the morning when all I really want is a cup of coffee or to go back to sleep… Even in those times, maybe especially in those times, I wish he was going to remember.

But the years will go on and, God willing, we will create new memories as a family. And I will do my damndest to make those times memorable for us and for Garrett.

14 Oct 2010

Eating My Feelings and Feeling Like Crap

5 Comments Personal Crap

I really can not stop eating since my father passed away.  I never thought I’d be the kind of person who eats when depressed or anxious. But OH MY GOD AM I THAT KIND OF PERSON!!  I just sat down to write this because I polished off a huge bag of kettle corn without even knowing I was doing it, and I don’t do those things. I don’t. I never have. But now I do. I always do.

I recently lost about 9 pounds and felt thinner than I ever had in my whole life. I’ve never been fat, but I’ve always felt fat. That’s one of those truly American neuroses to have. It’s stupid and a waste of time, but I do feel fat about 90% of the time. The other 10% I’m just too busy to think about it.  But in this small window of time after I lost the 9 pounds, I felt thin.  I really, actually felt thin for the first time ever. Even when I was 5’5” and 98 pounds in high school I didn’t feel anywhere near this thin.  I was liking the way I looked in clothes, and I was strutting around the house naked. Okay, strutting might be an overstatement.  Naked might be an overstatement, too.  But I was walking around the house in boy shorts and tank tops feeling pretty MILF-like.  I think I might have even told my husband he was a lucky guy at one point.  Yup.  I was feeling thin.

But then my father died and I haven’t stopped eating since. Really, anything that’s been put in front of me, I’ve eaten.  I put a lot of the weight back on, and now I’m feeling fat again and afraid I don’t know how to get back to where I was before. If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they would tell you that any time I say I’m fat they want to slap me in my face. And I understand that.  I’m not fat. But I do feel like a stranger in my own body sometimes, and when my jeans get tight and my stomach seems to be hanging over my pants a little, and I have love handles and my arms aren’t tight… Well, I just kind of hate myself. So, what do I do? Do I figure out how to love myself with a few extra pounds on me? Or do I go back to being strict and take the weight off again?

In the past there wouldn’t have been any debate her, so maybe I’m making some progress. I’m grateful for the comfort that food gave me when I needed it, but now I want to find something comforting that isn’t as damaging to my body or self esteem. I thought it might be a good idea to start taking walks, doing some deep breathing, and trying to drink a glass of water when I think I need a snack.  These would be good starts.

But more than that, I think I need to learn to be more forgiving of myself, and more understanding. Why can’t I love me no matter what my jeans feel like?  My husband does. My son does. My family and friends sure do.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think one of them would give a rip if I was to put on 100 pounds. Well, they might worry about my health, but it wouldn’t make them love me any less.  How can I give myself the same consideration? I honestly can’t think of a way. Isn’t that stupid? I certainly don’t want to pass on these self-hating feelings to my son. So how does one begin to stop feeling this way?

I have no answers but I think I might be starting a journey that began at the bottom of a bag of kettle corn. Really good kettle corn. It was delicious… Salty, sweet, crunchy… Where’s that water?

14 Oct 2010

Spinning

13 Comments Family

This morning, Garrett spun around too long in the bathroom and, when he stopped, fell on the tile floor with his cheek against the toilet. I only saw it the second after it happened and thought, “Why is he lying on the floor?” He started crying and, as I picked him up, he said, “Everything is spinning!”

His cheek was red and we iced it. I checked his mouth. No bleeding. He didn’t even bruise. He only needed a few more minutes of ice and several kisses. I felt like we dodged a bullet, I felt lucky, and I felt guilty all at the same time. “Why wasn’t I watching him? What was I doing? Brushing my hair? Yeah, brushing my stupid hair. I heard him but I thought he was just stomping, not spinning. That could have been really bad. Thank God it wasn’t.”

Clearly I can’t watch what my son is doing every second of the day. I can’t even do it every second we’re in the same room together. Sometimes a lady’s gotta brush her stupid hair. But all of my little fears come to the surface when something like this happens. Who’s watching him on the playground at school? Is he careful when he rides that bike on the bike path they have there? Is anyone paying attention to him when he’s eating the grapes I packed in his lunch? (They’re cut in half, of course.) I mean clearly, even when I’m the one in charge, shit happens. Shit is going to happen.

The thing is, I think about this kid all day. All the time. I sometimes struggle to find something to talk about besides the little, brilliant, funny, blond three-year-old that lives in my house. One of my big fears when I was pregnant was that there was going to be someone else living with Russ and I.  I remember saying to him, “Do you realize someone else is moving in? And he’s NOT leaving! How can three of us live here?” And now I don’t even blink an eye when that guy follows me into the bathroom to pee (or worse)! I never knew. I didn’t know.

And I want this kid to know no pain. I want him to make all the right choices and choose all the right people and follow all the right dreams. I want him to know more laughter than tears, and to live a beautiful, blessed life. But I know that shit happens. And our desire to protect every moment is an impossible one.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this except to say that as moms,  every little hurt that happens to our children creates a personal pain for us. The bigger the hurt for them, the greater our pain. On the other hand, their joys are ours too! When you have a kid, it’s like a piece of you is out there living a separate life, but one that you feel insanely connected to, and fiercely protective of. I never imagined having these feelings. Every mom should be connected by them.  Funny how Garrett NOT hurting himself today made me think all these things.  He’s incredible. I’m so grateful. I’m spinning.

13 Oct 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

9 Comments Cooking/Baking

Okay, I don’t know if you ladies are asking for recipes to mock me, but you’re getting them either way!  Here’s a bread I used to make all the time to pretty great reviews.  It’s been a couple years since I’ve made it, so I’d love someone to try it and let me know what you think!  The following recipe is for one bread. Just double it for two! And if you like it super banana-ish, add a little more banana!

Sift Together:
1 1/2 C. Flour
1 TSP Baking Powder
1 TSP Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt

In a separate bowl, mix together:
1 C. Sugar
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C. Peanut Butter
2 eggs

Add dry ingredients to wet and combine
Stir in 1 Cup Mashed Bananas and 1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Bake at 350 for about 45 to 50 minutes.
If middle seems undercooked, cover with foil and bake an additional 4 minutes. Then turn off oven and leave an additional 4 minutes if needed.

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