Friday, December 28, 2012

Blog On, Perfect Angel

No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly.
~ Miguel de Cervantes

I so often read blogs that are written by mothers, talking about their kids and how they view parenthood.  They run the gamut from funny to depressing to obnoxious and everywhere in between.  There are a lot of opinions, stories, pictures and notions out there in the blog world...and while I often smile and nod to myself, thinking "Yep.  Mmm hmmm. Been there.", I sometimes have to refrain from getting justifiably angry at a complete and total stranger for the ludicrous and downright dumbass shit people say and do.

Of course, everyone thinks that their child is the smartest/cutest/funniest/BEST.  That is one of the major rules of parenting, right up there with "don't let them chew on cords" and "keep them alive".  You have to stare adoringly at them, with a big dopey smile on your face, even when everyone else in the room is ready to climb the walls, smack you (or, let's be honest, your child) and get the hell away from both of you.  Blogs written by mothers are the electronic equivalent of that big dopey smile. 

If Merrill were to write a blog entry, it would probably look something like this:

"This morning, I woke up to a dark room, only illuminated by a night light.  Not caring that it was not yet light out, I yelled out for my mom to come rescue me from the dreaded shadows (shadows!!) softly hitting the walls from said night light.  She didn't come immediately.  In fact, she actually let me call her name three consecutive times - yes, THREE - before she entered my room to greet me.  She looked sleepy, and she was only half smiling when she hugged me good morning.  Not impressed.

I gave her the grand gesture of giving her 95 seconds before asking for cartoons and breakfast.  How amazing am I??  And when I requested cashews, ice cream and chips for would have thought I wanted her to whip up something ridiculous in the amount of time it took her to say "yeah right".  Seriously...what is this?

Some days I just don't understand her.  She acts like I'm so unreasonable sometimes.  Ok, sure...I am pretty demanding, and I don't really listen to anything she says, and I repeat myself a LOT.  But I'm cute.  I'm the cutest kid in the world, and the funniest, and definitely the smartest.  My dad said so.  So why can't that be enough? 

Just yesterday, for instance.  You won't believe this.  She was trying to play a game with me, and....oh, you know what sounds good?  Cheetos.  And oreos.  In a bowl.   No, not THAT bowl.  The OTHER blue bowl.  Wait.  Where was I?  Oh, right.  The game.  So we are playing the game, and I saw a commercial on, and it had the coolest most best thing on it.  I didn't know what it was, but I had to talk about it for 45 minutes.  And after about 30 minutes of talking about it, during which time I forgot what we were talking about 6 times and had to be reminded, she didn't seem nearly as interested as I thought she should be. 

But my mom is the best.   She is the best at cutting sandwiches, and at washing hair, and she is really really smart, smarter than ALL the other moms (although sometimes I secretly think she's making up answers when I ask questions that don't really make sense just to test her).  All the other kids at school think that they have the best mom, and they gaze adoringly at their moms when it's time to be picked up.  They have no idea that mine really is the best.  No clue.  Suckers."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Freeze Frame

I can't believe I'm eating a frozen dinner.  I'm such a cliche.
~ Miranda Hobbes, Sex and the City

As much as I'd like to pretend I'm the kind of mom that makes lunch from scratch every day, full of nutritional and organic ingredients, I would be lying if I said my freezer didn't contain a section dedicated to frozen dinners and snacks.  Obviously, with a three year old in the house, we consistently have chicken tenders and pizzas on hand.  But on the days when we don't have leftovers to eat for lunch, and the mere mention of a sandwich results in a meltdown (because of COURSE that means I'm a terrible mother and should be shot on sight), I tend to reach for a frozen dinner for us to share.  If I add something healthy like carrot sticks and fruit to her plate, I can give myself the illusion that I'm not damaging her forever, and I get a break from eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I certainly admit that while frozen dinners are not the peak of culinary genius, I have found a few that warrant freezer space on a regular basis.  The criteria for making the short list is pretty basic - appeal to a 34 year old woman AND a three year old.  Simple in theory, yet oddly elusive in reality.  Now, in no certain order, I present the winners:

Stouffer's Philly-Style Steak & Cheese Toasted Sub

This thing is goooood.  Criminally good.  The crisping tray gives the buttery bread a crunch just like a toasted sub, and it is a large sandwich, perfect for sharing.  I typically add a slice of provolone after it's done cooking, because more cheese makes everything better.  The grilled peppers and onions actually do taste grilled, the steak doesn't have that weird chewy texture so often found in frozen dinners, and it's just a damn yummy sandwich.  Enough said.

Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken

This is one of the first table foods Merrill ever ate.  I have been eating this for years, and one day she crawled to me with her mouth open like a baby bird as I sat shoveling it in as fast as I could, hoping to finish before she reached the potted plant just within her reach.  On a whim, I spooned some into her mouth, and she kept coming back for more...and more.  I'll often make one of these for her in the mornings she goes to school, chop the chicken and noodles into manageable pieces and put it in her thermos container for lunch.  Her teacher commented one day on the fancy lunch I'd prepared, and I didn't confess.  (Hey, I'll take it where I can get it.)  The chicken is tender while still having some crispness to the batter, the vegetables give me the illusion it's healthier than it probably is, and the noodles draped in the sweet sauce are light yet filling.  I usually have a salad with this, because Merrill inevitably eats 75% of it.

Lean Cuisine Enchiladas Suiza
When we make this, I usually eat the majority of the enchiladas while she commandeers the rice (this kid LOVES rice, and can put grown men to shame with how much she can consume in a sitting).  She finds the enchilada sauce a touch spicy for her taste, but it's pleasant for me to find it's not bland like some others I've tried.  She usually eats applesauce or yogurt with hers (it helps cut the spice), and we share chips and salsa.

These are not gourmet meals, but they are fast (a necessity when a toddler is in charge) and tasty (a necessity when a food-obsessed mom is in charge).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Angry Housewives Eating BonBons: A Review

She didn't realize how tense she usually held her body until it was relaxed, and the sensation always surprised her; she felt like a prison guard who had successfully completed her watch and, at least for the time being, no convict had escaped.
~ Lorna Landvik, Angry Housewives Eating BonBons

I never get rid of books.  I know many people who will only read a book once, and have no desire to maintain precious shelf space with a book never to be opened again.  I am not so discriminating.  I have read many books multiple times.  I have shelves crammed with books I've read and hated, books I've read so many times I have portions memorized, books I haven't gotten to yet. 

One of my guilty pleasures is perusing the book sections at thrift stores.  There is something that appeals to me about looking at all the books that people have decided to donate, to purge from their own shelves and remove from their homes.  I pile them up in my arms and cradle them, prepared to give them a permanent home.  Sometimes they are misses, and they go back to the shelf as a reminder that you can't win 'em all.  And sometimes, just sometimes, they are gems that draw me in and find favor in my heart.

This book.  This book, without a doubt, falls in the latter of those two categories.  It made me laugh and cry, made me experience twinges of fear, sadness, fury, hope, and the utmost joy.  I could associate so closely with the characters and with the story, a story that had elements I've never experienced, but truly and deeply felt like I have due to the way they were portrayed...a story so compelling that I want to force it upon everyone I know.

The most basic tenets of friendship, parenting, marriage, and the ties that bind us together in those relationships were brought forth so simply and yet so meaningfully in their delivery.  There is something so admirable in brilliant character composition that makes you feel like these are people you want to know, would be lucky to know, even as you may not agree with them or, more telling, always like them. 

This book will maintain space in the stack that I will reach for again and least, once it returns from being passed around to everyone I know.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All in a Day

If you observe a really happy man, you will find...that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours each day.
- W. Bernard Wolfe

It is relatively easy to go through the days with a mindless mentality, operating on autopilot (such as when I arrive at a destination with no memory of having driven there) and only remembering that which is monumental and of some considerable importance.  If I were to write down every tiny detail of a typical day, it would look something like this:

4:47am - Wake up desperately needing to pee.  Too lazy to get up.  Try to fall back to sleep.
5:32am - Fall back asleep.  Dream am being drugged by a stranger in a giraffe costume.
5:47am - Wake in cold sweat about said dream.
6:12am - Doze back off.
6:14am - Awaken to the sounds of Merrill calling, asking for breakfast/a cartoon/a drink/socks/a book
6:15am-8:35am - Make breakfast. Pack Merrill's lunch for school.  Shower. Watch news.  Refill Merrill's drink...four times. Make another breakfast for Merrill, as first breakfast was rejected.  Get dressed.  Chase Merrill around the house trying to get her teeth brushed/hair brushed/clothes on/shoes on.  Find the one stuffed animal out of eleventy MILLION that she just HAS to have.  Talk.  A lot. About nothing.
8:36am - Announce it's time to leave for school. 
8:37am - Again.
8:38am - And again.
8:39am - Bang head against wall.
8:41am - Wrangle Mer into her car seat. 
8:42am-8:50am - Answer 482 questions (ex: where do chickens pee? why is that car in front of us? what did the dogs dream about last night? who is the lady that is on the radio?), sing 11 songs.  Hear a story about how Mer goes to China every day to visit her friends and drive the yellow car to the big house with a pink couch and lots of sandwiches.
9:00am - Drop Merrill off at school.  Have to forcibly remove her from her freakishly strong monkey grip on my neck and waist. 
9:00am-10:00am - Gym.  Witness woman walking the track at the gym wearing stilettos, carrying a large purse....and a baby.
10:00am-2:00pm - Errands.  Errands.  Errands.  Stand next to wrong car in the grocery store parking lot, trying to figure out why it won't unlock...for 14 minutes. Lunch.  Almost run over man on bicycle.  Curse.
2:00pm - Pick up Merrill from school.  Find out that she ate both ends of another child's banana.
2:15pm - Enter library, where she proceeds to pick out 6 Spanish. 
2:40pm - Assure her that dad will be home soon.  She isn't convinced.
2:41pm-3:27pm - Assure her again.
3:30pm - Realize I've only been wearing one earring all day.
3:31pm-5:59pm - Puppet show. Coloring books. Walk to mailbox. Swing. Piggyback rides. Read the same book 6 times in a row.  Wonder why children's books are sometimes so utterly ridiculous. Consider whether cereal would be an appropriate dinner for a three year old.  Decide yes.
6:02pm - Dad enters, Mom is forgotten.
6:04pm-8:25pm - Dinner. Play. Bath. Books. Bedtime routine. 
8:26pm - Decide an earlier bedtime is warranted due to severe attitude and seemingly evil presence lurking within Mer.
8:28pm - Kiss, hug, kiss, hug, another kiss, another hug, BIG hug, BIG kiss, hug, hug, squeeze, kiss, kiss, squeeze.
8:40pm-10:30pm - Collapse on couch.  Add wine.  Stare mindlessly at tv.
10:31pm - Crawl into bed.  Realize I've forgotten to pee, and will likely wake up at an ungodly hour needing to go...decide it's more bearable than getting back out of bed right this second.
~ Fin ~

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The End of Days

Some days you're a bug, some days you're a windshield.
- Price Cobb

Every now and then, I have one of those days.   Lately, they've seemed to creep up on me more and more often, much like the knowledge that your gray hairs are multiplying at a rapid rate when it seems like you just spotted your first stray one.

"Those" days are the days when nothing feels right and everything feels wrong.  When I find myself pressing the heels of my trembling hands firmly into my eyes in an effort to....I don't know, keep the tears from falling?  Keep everything from falling?  When I'm scared to speak for fear if I start talking, I won't be able to stop and it will be a rambling diatribe that I'll never be able to take back.  When I'm trying desperately to flip the switch from the dark room in my mind that makes this feel like the most daunting, impossible, never-ending task (as if "task" is a strong enough word) and instead find the bright sunny room that I just know exists somewhere in this house I call my brain.

Those days make being a parent, more specifically a parent that doesn't work but instead focuses all time and energy to a person one-fourth your size, so monumentally trying and taxing.  Those days make bedtime seem like an imaginary friend you'll never see, a desert mirage when you're dying of thirst, a bitter barking laugh when there is nothing amusing in sight. 

Every now and then, when I'm in the midst of one of those days, when I think about the years and years ahead of me consisting of meals and questions and messes and tears (both hers and mine) and sleepless nights and anxiety and the pure constant presence of someone that relies on me for everything, I don't understand how anyone has ever done anyone continues to do it...much less with the lack of resources and support I am lucky enough to have at my disposal. 

But.  But.  Following the every now and thens, I take a look around, take a deep breath, and take stock...and that's when I realize it's so much more than that.   The questions are the precipice of growth, knowledge, and understanding.  The anxiety stems from a love so deep it can neither be rivaled nor questioned in its intensity and extremity.  The tears and messes remind me that even though it's not always tidy and neat, once you've cleaned it up, it can and will be bright and shiny and refreshed again. The constant presence is my purpose, an expansion of myself, and without it I would have no tether and no reason to strive for more.

At the end of one of those days, the deflated person I seem to find myself to be will be filled again. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.
B.B. King

In each day, I strive to teach Merrill a number of things.  It's a given that in the formative years of a baby's life, it is up to us as parents to help them learn the basics...such as walking, talking, using utensils instead of chubby fingers to shovel food into their mouths, etc.  We take great pride in our ability to help our tiny offspring master such tasks.  We brag about it to other parents during playdates or at the playground, discuss it with strangers in grocery lines and share such milestones among ourselves at the end of the day. 

Now that she is three, I am sensing a subtle shift in the roles of teacher and student.  Sure, I'm still explaining many many many things in response to the ever present questions.  We discuss everything under the sun in great detail, and it never ceases to amaze me when I stop to think about the vast world of things she has yet to learn.  However, I'm also increasingly aware that when it comes to toddlers, they are very often the teachers...and you better pay attention, take notes, and remember everything you learn from them.  Otherwise, when you get it wrong, there will be hell to pay.  Tantrum-laden, wail-heavy, limp-bodied hell.

Things I have recently learned about Merrill:

For breakfast, she will want toast.  And an english muffin.  Or eggs.  But not cereal.  Or toast and cereal.  Or neither.  But no matter what you make, it is wrong and you will need to start over.

She LOVES (insert object, person, stuffed animal, show, food, etc.) until she doesn't.  And when she doesn't, get it the hell AWAY from her.  Quickly.

She will point at something, then immediately ask you where it is.

She is a big girl.  Unless she's a baby.

If it is whole, she wants it cut up.  If it's cut into pieces, she wants it "big".  If you peeled it, didn't peel it, heated it up, cooled it off, added something extra, took something off, you're wrong.  Start over. 

She will remember everything you say, promise, or discuss.  But she will never remember where she put the one thing you really need (the remote, your shoe, her blanket at naptime).

If you're going to take her someplace special, best not to mention it until you are actually en route...otherwise, the incessant chant of "when are we going" may indeed kill you.

She is a walking, talking contradiction.  Except when she isn't.