Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Intermission with Bagels

I have a lot on my mind for some reason. I keep starting all these little essays, then petering out in the middle because I lose direction. I think maybe the ideas need to percolate a little longer. Or maybe I just need some more sleep. We'll just call this little post an intermission. I'm tired of the current act even if I'm not ready for another. So let's all run out to the lobby, stretch our legs, and make idle chitchat. Claire has a habit of making an entire conversation out of one or two words. She's only two, so she can be forgiven for that. This morning's breakfast conversation was five minutes of "my" and "mine" and "bagel" in various combinations. And with those three words, she managed to declare her undying love for all things bagelish, invite me to sit down and have a bagel with her, and assure me that I had chosen the perfect breakfast item for this midweek slump of a day. So to all my lovely friends, I say "Bagel." Interpret that however you wish. Topics that may be included in the near future, or may be abandoned in fit of pique: Catholic Schools Week Prayer Missing the Point Floating vs. Floundering

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Clarification: Insult and Invective

I want to clarify something for my own peace of mind. My blog is about me - about what I learn and how I'm trying to grow up already. I'm 35 years old and still growing up. Yesterday's blog was me learning about insults. And it was me learning about why I want to try very hard to stop my own stream of invective and hurtful behavior. Well, it's not really more of a stream. I'd like to think it's a small brook that floods seasonally. Regardless, I saw some things around that I didn't like very much. And then I saw those things in myself too and I didn't like that very much at all. I'm not a perfect person, although I like to pretend that I am sometimes. I am, however, trying to be a better person today than yesterday. And tomorrow, I would like to be an even better person. And then maybe when I'm 85, I'll be perfect. But probably not. ;)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Insult and Invective

I've been doing some unpleasant reading today. Evidently, some morning show aired some snippet about moms having cocktails during play dates. And then the judging began on both sides of the debate. "Moms who drink during play dates are putting their desires above their children's safety!" "Moms who don't drink during play dates are self-righteous prigs who need to loosen up." I also read a snide and unpleasant exchange about car seat choice. The worst of the lot was actually something that I didn't read. It was explicitly intended for only a handful of people, but breadcrumbs were left everywhere - the better for everyone else to know they were excluded. And on and on world without end. Anyway, I had not intended to blog about any of this. More than enough people have expressed variations of my opinion anyway, and my little seldom read blog is not going to change the world or the people in it. But then I happened across a gem of a statement at The Anchoress. "That sort of writing betrays one’s interior noise and adds nothing to one’s argument." She was actually referring to insults about others' appearance, yet it applies fantastically. Insults reveal more about the speaker than about the insulted. Drink at play dates, don't drink at play dates, buy expensive car seats, buy moderately priced car seats, whatever. But when you insult someone for making any of those choices, you betray your interior noise and reveal to all your weakness. Frankly, it's a lesson that I should have learned a long time ago.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Report Card Day

It's Report Card Day. I love report card day with ardor matched only by that of young boys for puppies. I loathe report card day with the heat of one thousand suns. Contradictory, but it is nonetheless true. When I was a little girl, I would wake up at 3am on Report Card Day to fret about my grades. Would I get a B? Quelle horror! If I got a B, the sun would burn up the sky, the earth would cease to turn, and God would stop loving me. If I got all A's, my report card would be praised unto the ends of the earth. My sisters would know, beyond a doubt, that I was the best. Of course, I'd get straight A's. Then I danced through the doorway to meet the glares, and occasionally fists, of my sisters. Who wouldn't want to thump a smug little diva like me? Then came college. I distinctly remember Christmas break that year. I was making chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen when my dad brought in the mail. It was my report card. I knew it was going to be ugly because I'd taken calculus from the worst teacher in the entire history of teacherdom. This teacher was so horrible that all but six students had dropped the class by midterms. Of course, I didn't drop the class because I was Christy, queen of everything, and I could overcome even the worst teacher with my impressive mental acuity. The rest of the semester proved more challenging than I'd imagined. I was unable to tease out the calculical (Like that word? I just made it up.) theories by myself. I was horribly, horribly lost. But still! I was Christy! So I was positive that I'd pass the class. But no, I got an F. I threw the cookie dough into the trash and went to bed. My father reassured me that the world had not come to an end, despite the tremendous rift in the natural order. As a parent, Report Card Day is still fraught with anxiety. Every single "Needs Improvement" is a mark against my parenting skills. Every "Meets Expectations" is proof that I am indeed Christy, queen of everything. On Report Card Day, I'm a smug and terrified nine year old. I know exactly what the report card is going to look like. There will be high marks in academics and social skills. There will be low marks in deportment and discipline. At 4:15 today, when I see the report card, I will be the best and the worst parent in the world. I'm giving myself until 4:16 for that nonsense. Then I'm putting the report card away.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oh my. He's a person.

Last night while I did the dinner dishes, Jacob worked on his homework. The assignment was to illustrate and write Q words. Jake was surprisingly eager. "Quail! Does a quail have a feather coming out of its head?" Why, yes! That is a quail! How on earth did he know that? I certainly haven't been discussing quail lately. He drew a passable quail and I spelled it out for him to write. Onward with "quick" and "quill." He drew tiny people running and a plumey feather. I spelled. "Mom, how do you draw a quilt?" I made some suggestions. After a few minutes, I started to spell it. Jake interrupted me and said that he'd figure it out himself. Figure it out himself? What? He's going to spell "quilt?" That's a hard word! There's a q in it! I stood by the sink with a dripping plate in my hand and stared at the child. Then he turned with a grin slashed across his face. "Q-U-I-L-T!" I pasted a corresponding grin on my face and let go with a "That's right, Buddy!" But oh my. He knows what a quail is. He knows how to spell quilt. And I did not teach him these things. He has his own life and his own knowledge that is separate from my life and my knowledge. This child that I bore and birthed and fed and burped and rocked to sleep so many nights will go on to have a life outside of my realm of control. He won't be my little buddy forever. One day, and it really won't be that long of a wait, he will be a man. Yes, I know. The fact that children are people is hardly a newsflash. It's the miracle of procreation, blah, blah, blah. But every once in a while, the knowledge hits me like a pie in the face. This, this child of mine, is a person. A PERSON! What a miracle!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Orange grove, grilled cheese, and my shower wall

I am about to get all catholic on you. On Saturday, I went to the library with Claire. I picked out some books for Jacob as well. By happenstance, I picked up a book called A Gift of Gracias about Our Lady of Altagracia. Her feast day happens to be January 21st. Pleased by the serendipitous timing, I checked out the book. Jacob and I read it together on Sunday. After we read it, I explained that sometimes Mary appears to people (note to get a children's book about Fatima). Last year, perhaps the year before, a woman in Miami made a grilled cheese sandwich. She believed that an image of the Virgin Mary could be seen in the sandwich. She had the sandwich tattooed on her breast and then sold it on eBay. I found the story absolutely ridiculous and embarrassing to catholics. What kind of kooky person finds revelation in a sandwich? And then sells the sandwich? I was surprisingly angry with this woman - stories like hers detract from the real miracle of visions at Lourdes, Fatima, Medugorge, Guadalupe, etc. - and wasted few opportunities to sneer at her. During the media hubbub, I noticed that a woman in profile is hidden in the pattern on my shower wall. I joke with myself when I see it that perhaps I should prostrate myself in prayer. And then I could cut out the wall and sell it on eBay. I twitter over that picture more often than I care to admit. Who wants to admit to naked twittering, after all? So, this topic has been rolling around in the back of my mind for a while now, and Our Lady of Altagracia has brought it to a head. While I do believe that Mary appears to people sometimes, I also feel an acute embarrassment about that belief. I'm a rational and logical person and such appearances are not in the realm of rationality and logic. I both believe and am eager to explain away my belief - which made for an awkward conversation with Jacob. And I realized that I believe the possibility of visions exists for me only in the past, or in some foreign locale. But here in my reality, I dismiss it. "The Virgin has appeared to many people, but she'll never appear to you," I told my son. And then I was horrified by my vanity. As if I have the right to dictate when and to whom the Virgin will appear. I still don't believe that my bathroom wall holds an image of the Madonna. But it does hold an image that reminds me of her. And maybe that's something that I should consider a little more carefully.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A few of my favorite things

It's Friday and I'm in a happy sort of mood. So here's a happy sort of list.

  • Sudoku
  • The crazy confidence that allows Jake to think he can read an advanced reader with twenty words per page.
  • Hand-knit socks (which I am wearing today)
  • My fuzzy fleeze pullover (which I am not wearing today)
  • My wedding ring
  • A cup of tea at the end of the day
  • The way that Claire pulls up her shirt to put stickers on her stomach

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The faucet almost works.

Nick arrived home with tools. New tools that he had purchased specifically for this project and perhaps more projects to come. He had read DIY sites, watched DIY videos, and was up to the job. 5:25 - Nick clad himself in stretchy clothes for the job. 5:30 - He unwrapped the purchases and took inventory. We both admired the basin wrench. 5:40 - He started removal of the old faucet. 5:55 - I ran upstairs to get The Book because the removal was not going smoothly. The Book said, "Removal is often the toughest part of a job." but it offered no hints or help with the removal. By this point, Nick had removed the faucet, the handles, the escutcheons, and a lot of nuts. Yet somehow, the pipe structure stayed in place. Plumbing has mysterious powers. 6:05 - Dinner break! 6:30 - Back to it. This time, Jake held the flashlight. Holding a flashlight is always helpful. 7:10 - I was dispatched upstairs to look for help on the internet. 7:12 - I hear a loud, ringing, repetitive thump. I investigate and discover that half of the plumbing structure is free. I hold it in place so Nick can bang on it some more. Then I see the washer! One little C shaped washer is all that stands between us and a new fixture. 7:15 - We open the plumbers putty and stare at it, wondering where and how to apply it. Nick decides to smear it on some black plastic piece. The new fixture gets bolted in. Crooked. Nick unbolts it and reattaches it. 7:50 - The water thingys don't reach the new faucet. Nick heads out to buy some more. 8:05 - I attempt with my weenie little arms to remove the old water thingys. 8:06 - I give up. 8:40 - Nick's back. He gets the old water thingys off, nearly shearing off the hot water shut off valve turny thing in the process. The hot water shut off valve turny thing is surprisingly flimsy. I suppress the urge to laugh hysterically. Everything gets connected, we turn on the water, we turn on the faucet and everything works. Hurrah! 9:00 - "Aren't we supposed to run it without the aerator?" I removed the aerator and the hot water tap stops working. 9:15 - We discover that the new water thingys have a flood protection device that sometimes kicks in when the aerator is removed. We need to remove the hot water thingy and reseat it. We decide to clean up and do that tomorrow. So, as of tonight, I will have a fully functioning faucet. I've discovered that our marriage works better when I make demands instead of suggestions. Nick's discovered that he's smart enough to figure out basic plumbing. And next time we replace a faucet, I suspect it will take us closer to the one hour project duration that seems to be the norm. We might not be efficient, but we do get the job done.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I did not marry my father.

The bathroom faucet really really broke last night. For the past couple of years (yes, I said years), it has been broken but usable. The cold water handle fell off. You could use the faucet by putting on the handle and turning it. As soon as you let go, the handle would fall off again. Nick tried to fix it a couple of times by gluing it back on, but the glue never cured or it was the wrong glue or he glued the wrong part or something. The point is that the freaking handle would not stay on the freaking faucet and I have been dealing with this for years. And as of 5:37 last night, I can no longer deal with even that. I put the handle on and turn. It spun around 360 degrees with nary a drop. I can only assume that we've finally worn off the threading. When we bought the house, Nick promised me that I would never have to deal with home repairs. I believed him, fool that I am. As a result, I am living in a house that is gradually falling into a state of disrepair. If I were renting, I would likely draft some nasty letters to my landlord. Unfortunately, I am not renting. There is no one to write, no one to whom I can direct my myriad complaints about the handyman. I have refused to address any of the problems myself because it is not my house. It's Nick's house and he promised me that I would never have to lift a wrench or call a plumber. The state of affairs has reached critical mass. Something has to give. And this time, it is going to be me. Sometime earlier this morning, I realized that I didn't marry my father. I deliberately chose a man who is very different than my father. Dad's a good man and I love him. But I cannot live with him. So, I chose someone who I thought I could live with. And really, it's not fair for me to be angry with Nick because he's not as handy as my dad. So this time, my promise to Nick wins. I promised to be with Nick as he is and not as I want him to be. And like it or not, that means I'm a homeowner who needs to make her own repairs. I called and left a message for him at work. I am going to ask that he borrow tools from a friend who has done plumbing work. Then he and I are going to fix that faucet tonight together if it takes all night long. Then we're going to make a list of everything else that does not work and we're going to fix that too. I might not have married my father, but he didn't marry his mother either. It is time for me to stop passively waiting. It is time for me to make things happen.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Meatball Transcript

C: Wash your hands and you can help me make some meatballs. No, you cannot stand on the floor. Get a chair. Get a chair. Get a chair. GET A CHAIR. Pull up your sleeves. J: Can I crack the eggs? C: Sure. Just be careful about the shells. Good. Now stick your hands in it and mix. J: It's too cold. C: Suck it up. Mix. Keep the meat in the bowl. Keep the meat in the bowl. PUT THE MEAT IN THE BOWL! LEAVE IT THERE! Now squish. Squish it IN THE BOWL. J: My sleeve fell down. C: Don't worry about it. Don't pull it up with your meaty hand. Don't pull it up with your meaty hand, you'll get meat on your shirt. Great - you got meat on your shirt. (big sigh) J: Tell me about the bugs in the meat again. C: If you eat raw turkey, there are bugs in it called bacteria. They will make you sick. You will throw up and throw up and throw up and have diarrhea, which is runny poop. You will poop and poop and poop. J laughs so hard that he grabs onto the counter. C: You are getting meat EVERYWHERE! AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH! OK, that's enough. Now make it into balls like this. They have to be about the same size. J: This one looks like a pig. C: Get it out of my face. I can't see it that close. Yeah, a pig. Don't scratch your nose. Don't scratch your nose. Hold on, I'm washing my hands. Don't scratch. DON'T SCRATCH! Great, you've got meat all over your face. OK, that's all of them. Let's wash our hands. Rinse off all the meat first. No, you are not ready for soap. There's still meat on your hands. There's still meat on your hands. Shit! LISTEN TO ME! The meatballs were delicious, but I think we'll wait a while before trying again. I'm too uptight to enjoy smearing my child and kitchen with raw poultry.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Balanced Parenting

My husband watches We Love the 80s on VH1 with my daughter. I've known about it for a while and I've made my peace with it. I expose her to Bach, he exposes her to Flock of Seagulls. I feed her chicken with leeks in wine sauce, he feeds her hotdogs. I take her to the children's musem, he teaches her to throw balls at people. We call this balanced parenting and pretend that it's healthy. Until the other night, that is. That's when I walked in on a We Love the 80s viewing session and discovered with abject horror that Claire was "dancing." I do not object to dancing. I absolutely object to the sort of spastic jumping and arm-waving that was masquearading as dancing in my living room. Can't he at least teach her some 80s dance moves to go along with the 80s music? The side to side step with arm sway and finger snap? The alternate jumpy toe-point with windmill arms? Or at the very, very least, he could teach her the Wham! leg wiggle with stationary feet.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Little Cheesemaker on the Prairie

I recently had a conversation with my son about cheese. He wanted to know how it was made, so I explained the process to him in as fine a detail as I could muster. I put together steps from the Little House on the Prairie books, scenes from The Sopranos, and some strange uncited memory from a cookbook. (I really wish my memories would keep their proper citations. It's such an inconvenience to have these uncited memories floating around.) Jacob's response, naturally, was to ask if we could make cheese. I stalled. "Maybe someday." Earlier today, I was (lovingly) accused of being very Little House on the Prairie. I find that hilarious because it's true. Then I realized, if I were truly very Little House on the Prairie, I would make cheese. I'm now thinking that maybe someday might be this weekend. This doesn't really look any harder than making bread. Now I just need to find my sun bonnet.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


I was treated to a conversation last night, a conversation that I've been waiting a few years to have. I had the pleasure of telling my son the meaning of his name, how that meaning is twined into and around the meaning that he is to me. He's only five (and a HALF, Mom), so I'm sure we'll be discussing it again. Still, it was a unique pleasure to reveal this little secret of mine. My name has little significance. It just means that I'm a Christian, which I am, and that's meaningful enough I suppose. But I always yearned for a name that meant something, that was a blessing from my parents to my infant self. Instead I got a name that my mother thought "sounded nice." So when I bought my niece a CD of lullabies so long ago and heard the song "Jacob's Dream," I immediately decided to name my future son Jacob. There's a line in the song, "Could you not be a man like he, so wily and beguiling?" that absolutely captured my wish for my children. I did want beguiling, charming children. I wanted crafty kids who were tricky and dreamy and curried favor among all. Then I found out that the literal meaning of Jacob is "One who supplants." How lame, I thought. But I shushed it aside and convinced myself that the character of Jacob was the meaning of the name. And that's what we named our son, with my secret hope that my Jacob would be like the Jacob - that I had so blessed him with this name. It was only after his birth that I discovered the literal meaning had been a secret blessing to me. Last night, I was brushing Jake's teeth and I mentioned how special he was to me. And I told him that the name meant "one who supplants." He replied with a look of utter confusion, naturally. I chuckled and explained what "supplant" means. I recounted how he had changed my life, changed my experience, stolen what I thought my life would be like and replaced it with something better. He stole who I thought I was and replaced my self-image with something better. Jacob is most definitely wily and beguiling. Thank God. And now, I'm just atwitter with anticipation about telling Claire what her name means. I cannot wait.