Monday, November 23, 2009

Don't call her Handsome

Last night the kids took a their weekly shower. Si got dibs on the first shower, which meant that I was busy with shampooing Miss Helen, giving her dry rags, complimenting her on her rinsing abilities, etc., while Si was naked and at loose ends. Never a good combination. Before I knew it, this:
Had become this:Also, the kid bathroom was kind of a mess. Also, the haircut actually didn't look as neat as it does here--I first clued in as I was ushering Helen, shivering and wet-haired, into her room, and Silas called out, "Mom? Can you come help me get this even?"

And then when I came in and gasped, etc., he added, "Because I can get the front even but I just can't get the back."

So Hubs had to make a late-night Target run for buzz clippers.

Meanwhile, while we covering a just-cleaned bathroom in hair, I decided to do Helen as well, since her bangs were starting to get into her eyes. The bangs were fine but she was unhappy about the rest of it:
"I look hansome," she sulked, "And I don't want to look hansome!"

"You look absolutely cute," I argued. "It's a perfect little bob."

"But I want LONG hair," she said. "Like yours."

"I hate my hair," I pointed out. "Also, you don't really like barrettes or pony tails."

"I don't want to look handsome."

Well. So we have fuzzhead, who cheerfully says, "I really look terrible!" And Miss Handsome.

Changing standards

In the past (pre-kid), I would have described the weekend just ended as "insanely busy." Broncos game! All-day chess tournament! Birthday party (attended, not hosted)! Playdate! Visits to the library and the playground! Dinner party (again, attended, not hosted)! All this in addition to regular weekend activities of cleaning, laundry, getting groceries, going running (10 miles! woot! in related news I am PLASTERED to my CHAIR), cooking dinner, getting the kids bathed, and, you know, remembering to pee.

However, all things considered, it wasn't so bad. I wasn't involved in every single activity--no sitting in the cold watching teeny tiny men do something with an invisible speck in the misty distance; also, no all-day chess tournament (score). We even got to watch a DVD (Talk to Her) and I finished a novel (Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina--shivvvver). I did a lot of sitting in the sun watching an intensely pink person against an intensely blue sky ("Mom! You're not watching! Watch me, Mom!")

Still: obviously my standards for "busy" have changed. I don't even know what I used to do on weekends--and they seemed so miserably short, too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Favorites

(Sort of).

The only thing I like about my commute is getting to listen to books on tape. I imagined I would listen to all the same books I read, and that I could get back some of my precious reading time that has been lost to taking a job.

Well, that was wrong. There are certain things a book on tape needs in order for me to listen to it and not just tune out while some windbag drones on out of the speaker.

Here's what I need from a book on tape:

1. It has to sound like someone telling a story, not someone reading a story. UGH. I listened to When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris first and it was wonderful and I giggled to myself all along the highway. Then I checked out Barrel Fever, which is an older book, in which David Sedaris hadn't perfected his reading style. I didn't finish that one. Although I see on Amazon that there's a newer edition--maybe I'll try that one instead.

2. Pretty much, it has to be funny. I'm sure there are some exceptions to this rule, but I haven't found them yet. Plus, it's harder to be conversational about, say, the apocalypse (A Brief History of the Dead--unfinished).

Okay, that's it. I'm also in need of some recommendations. How about you? Heard a good audiobook lately? Or have any ideas about a book that might make a good audiobook?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I want her life

On my commute this week I've been listening to Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck and I have come to the conclusion that if I could change places with someone in the world, it would be Nora Ephron. Oh really, you might say, especially those of you who know me in person. What is it about her, exactly? The perkiness? The obsession with things of the surface? Or, no--her enthusiastic acceptance of hair dyeing, manicures, and plastic surgery.

And, okay, I rolled my eyes a lot during the "On Maintenance" parts. When she asks, "When did a manicure become something you Have to Do?" I answer into the cab of the truck: "Uh, when you became super-rich and famous, I'd guess."

But! We all have different grooming routines, and I'm sure what she has works for her. What I love, besides her voice, which is awesome, and about as far from my wispy Midwestern mumble as it's possible to get and still be within the English language (see how I'm exaggerating, just like Nora?)--what I love is the way she throws herself into life. She buys a cookbook--and becomes a disciple of the author. She moves into a nice apartment, and adopts the neighborhood as a religion. I buy a cookbook, make a couple recipes, note glumly that the kids hated them, and go back to my regular cooking routine. I move into a new neighborhood, complain about its prevailing house style, and try to change my habits as little as possible.

If I were Nora, when I moved last year I would have immediately signed up for the school board, attended all PTA functions, and also done things like get a haircut and a manicure in order to match the basic Elementary School Mom Type of my area (which is WAAAAY higher maintenance than my "biology grad student" style). I would have thrown catered parties and become a devotee of the fancy-pants restaurants near my house (the wine list! so imaginative! and the seared watermelon [!] is to die for!). When I bought Flatbreads & Flavors (a great cookbook that combines stories of the married authors' backpacking trips through central and eastern Asia with authentic ethnic recipes), I would have a) actually read it, instead of just skimming it hopefully at dinnertime, looking for recipes that I could make with on-hand ingredients in less than an hour; b) run out and bought earthenware tiles for the oven, so my flatbreads could have the proper baked-on-clay taste; c) perhaps tried to build a wood-fired tandoor oven in my backyard. Eventually--a true devotee like Nora would invest years in a worthy project--I would myself backpack through Pakistan, Thailand, and Mongolia, waiting for hours by the famed naan bread stand near Khyber Pass, cooking with nomadic peasant women in the desert, trying to make naan bread myself in a community oven.

What I'm saying here is that part of me wishes these are things I did. I want to be someone who throws herself into projects with the energy and abandon of a fresh convert. Why haven't I built a tandoor oven, made all 58 of the recipes in this book that I love, and planned a two-month backpacking trip to Thailand?

Well, money, for one. It would be a lot easier to throw myself into things with abandon if I were making over $250K as a freelance script writer, OBV. Also, there's the family aspect: Nora Ephron has been married three times. I see making a stable, predictable, boring life for my kids as one of my basic duties as a mom, and I'm very sensitive to projects that will disrupt this life.

But: I also possess a certain tendency toward inertia. God, building a tandoor oven would involve so much work. I'd have to actually change my habits in order to do something like that. What a pain! Especially since I can't even muster the get-up-and-go to find an unglazed earthenware tile.

This inertia is what I'd like to change about myself. You know, someday. When I get around to it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Foul-Weather Runner

So, I've been trying to stick to the following running schedule: Tuesday through Friday I wake up at 5:30 and run for two or three miles. On Saturday I "rest" by dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing porcelain fixtures, and going to the store. On Sunday I go for my long run, which currently means about seven or eight miles, which I'm trying to push up to nine or ten. I seem to have settled into this pattern pretty solidly, and even when the week's evening activities force me to tweak it a bit (last week I went to Wicked with my MIL and SIL and it was unexpectedly AWESOME, but I didn't get into bed until midnight. So I gave myself a pass for Friday and ran on Saturday instead). However, the first real challenge came yesterday, when it snowed half a foot (for the THIRD TIME THIS SEASON I AM DYING HERE). I was determined--determined--to run nine miles, even though there were six inches of wet, sloppy snow on the ground.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I did it. Even though the bike path was unplowed, meaning that I ran nine miles in ankle-deep snow, with slippery chunks of snow ice trapped in my socks. Even though it was like trying to run on sand, slop-slop-slop. There were benefits, of course: I had to pee at one point, and since I had seen exactly one person during my entire run I decided to risk it and pee on the trail (the risk paid off, BTW, and I was not slapped with an indecent exposure citation). The world was beautiful, in a cold kind of way. The virtue--or something--poured off me in visible waves, which was helpful, as once I got home I was basically useless and lay about on the couch shivering and drinking hot chocolate while other people (= my spouse) did the child-wrangling. I was protected by my Virtue Force Field from feeling the need to help in any way. I'm sure Hubs appreciated it.

As I loafed about on the couch I was reminded of my pre-kid self--back when I had excessive free time, didn't know many people, and was frequently housed in a small apartment. I used to go out in all kinds of weather for hours--tromping through snow, through mud, through rain, through withering heat. It wasn't really exercise so much as restlessness; also, once I got past the discomfort, I kind of loved the bad weather. Snow is exhilarating, and fantastically quiet; rain has mystery and promotes encounters with unusual animals. It got to be that traipsing about in storms become sort of a personal trademark. I may have had a lackluster personality but boy, I could outhike the best of them, especially if precipitation was heavy.

I miss that life. My life now has so much more going for it, really--but still. I was so free.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There's hope for me yet

A partial list of things that mystify*/intimidate me:

1. Fabric softener
2. Haircut places
3. Febreeze
4. Manicures/ pedicures
5. Carpet shampoo

A partial list of things which used to mystify me but which I'm now comfortable with:

1. Juice boxes
2. Mapquest
3. Massages
4. Ziplock bags

* I don't mean mystify as in "it mystifies me why anyone would buy styrofoam-wrapped chicken pieces from the store when they could just raise, feed, butcher, clean, and pluck their own chickens in the backyard."** I mean, these things confuse me. Like--how do you do them? How do they work? How do you...ask for what you need?

** "Butcher, clean and pluck" are three words which will intimidate me IN PERPETUITY.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Taste test

As I was saying, on Thursday I made two yummy fall recipes featured on Milk and Cookies: the pumpkin-cauliflower soup and the pumpkin pie ice cream.

Behold, the original cauliflower soup:

And mine:
Please ignore the heating-up stain.

The original pumpkin pie ice cream:

Aaaaand mine:

Although the original (here) obviously cheated. He used props. Perhaps otherwise his ice cream would also have looked like chunks of frozen slush chipped off the bottom of the car.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Favorites

So far, I've made three of the Halloween recipes posted by Sundry on Milk and Cookies and mm-mm, are they good (note: I did *not* make the hand), although I'll come right out and say that so far none of them quite delivered on my expectations. I.e., they didn't taste quite as good as they looked in the pictures. I wasn't organized enough to get a photo of my creations before I left the house, but I will try to post one later, because also? my creations don't look as good as they looked in the pictures on Milk and Cookies.

Anyhow, what I wanted to post today is my favorite things about cooking:

1. I can explore without leaving my kitchen.
2. It's crafty, yet doesn't lead to crap accumulation, unlike actual craftiness.
3. It offers immediate gratification (or, occasionally, immediate feedback on The Wrongitude).
4. It allows me to incorporate my love of lists and projects with my love of eating.
5. It involves FOOD. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Better Late Than Never

A fairy and the hideous ghoul she loves. Not, perhaps, as cute as a bat and a ballerina would have been, but still cute. Also, easy.

You know what was cute, though? The kids we trick-or-treated with. Si's 3rd-grade friend from up the street went as a gangster, complete with machine gun and cigar, and his little sister was his little gangster moll (so cute you could DIE, with a little flapper hairpiece, shiny black shoes, and a pink feather boa as big as she was). The two of them were unbearably cute and the whole evening was enjoyable--if a leetle awkward. We went with Si's friend, as I mentioned, and his dad, who was nice enough but I'd only just met him, which made it that much more awkward when other parents assumed we were together and that the adorable gangster moll was mine.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Picture Yourself in a Mercury Now

I hate cars. HATE them. Hatey-hate-hate. I hate their smell, their look, their gas needs, their space needs, the way they dominate the whole world. I correspondingly hate roads, highways, parking lots, garages, car dealerships, "car toy" stores--if it was built for a car, I hate it (except bridges. I still have a toddler's love of things that go over water). I didn't get my driver's license until I turned 17, which in the town I grew up in was like saying I didn't learn how to drive until I was thirty. I didn't own a vehicle until I was 22, and then it was a gift for helping a graduate student watch sparrows (a surprisingly difficult job). I didn't BUY a vehicle until well after I was married (although I'm enhancing my carless status here by omitting the detail that I used Hubs's truck as a primary vehicle for several years). We didn't join the ranks of most American couples and buy a second car until Silas was three and Helen was well on her way--and even then we only bought it because the truck's extended cab could hold one car seat but not two.

So. That was then. Now our family has four people, two cars (a Toyota pickup and a Jetta), two jobs, two schools, and four sets of mutually incompatible activities. In other words, we drive. A lot. On a typical day I drive almost forty miles. ICK. Every so often I make a big flurried show of trying to get us to drive less, and whenever I can walk or bike to an activity, I do, and the weeping of the small ones be damned (my children regard being forced to use their legs as something akin to child abuse, and I only wish I were kidding). However, most of the time, not-driving is not an option, and in fact to even contemplate either biking or taking public transportation would be a huge indulgence on my part, one that would inconvenience pretty much everyone else in the family.

For example: I could bike to work. I figure it would take me about an hour and a half, so I'd have to leave the house six thirty in order to get to work by eight. This would mean that Hubs would have to do all of the kid prep, plus drive Helen to school. It would be, frankly, selfish of me to do this more than once or twice a month. Alternately, I could make EVERYONE get up at five thirty, and make my kids both ride their own bikes AND get dropped off at school an hour to an hour and a half early. And as much as I believe in this, as much as I believe in teaching my kids the importance of not relying solely on carbon-powered conveyances, the bike-centered lifestyle does start to sound a little like child abuse. Or at least like something Balloon Boy's dad might do. You know?

Yes, we could be the weird and slightly overauthoritarian family who makes the kids rise at five, eat a sugar-free breakfast and hop on their bikes, come rain, sleet, snow, or ice. And to tell you the truth, we HAVE been that family. Last year at this time I was still "encouraging" Hubs to bike Si to school on the way to the train station. Si was often the only one whose bike was parked in the school bike rack--a distinction he did not really appreciate. As recently as this summer (before I got the job) I was still biking Helen to school. But as they get older, and social pressures start to crystallize, I get hesitant about forcing them to be so obviously Different.

Getting to work using current public transportation options is not much better. So I'm stuck: on the one hand, this is something I really, really think is important. On the other hand, I don't even know how to make it work in my own life--so I REALLY can't expect anyone else to make it work. And it's more than just an abstract problem--these sorts of dilemmas are at the HEART of why we don't have better public transportation and a more bike-accustomed world.

I mean, it sucks. And it's not all about improving public transportation options--although shuttles passing every major intersection north & south every ten minutes would be helpful (RTD take note). It's about changing our attitude. Dropping the kids off by bike would be a hella easier if OTHER KIDS were doing it, too. The inevitable delays and waits built into a day based in public transportation are also easier when everyone's feeling the wait. Starting the day at nine and leaving by four--a schedule that makes slow transportation options a lot more feasible--only works if it's part of the office culture (and OH BOY is it not).