Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I just hop.

My baby doll is running, skipping, and propelling herself in various ways across the kitchen to the living room and back. She just told me, "Mama, I just hop. Watch me!" Then she hops and says, "Is that fun, is that cool?" When I say yes, she says, "Oh." Then she sees the wet wipes on the table.

"Could I use a wipe?" She gets one without an answer from me (I'm typing) and proceeds to wipe her nose and then the glass slider door. Repeat. She's 2 1/2. Can I make her that age forever? Right here? I'll try.

A minute later, she asks, "cracker please?"

I say, "ok, with cheese." She stands on her tippy toes to grasp a tippy cracker box on the edge of my cluttered counter top. Then she comes over, holds one end of the package up to her eyes and directs the other at me and says, "Mama, say cheese!"

Then she examines the serving suggestions on the side of the box and notices an almond on a cracker nestled in with an apple slice and a sprig of parsley. "Oh, I can't have nuts," D says. So that settles that. I don't have to feed my daughter today, nor mess with any fancy presentation.

Except then she sees the aging gingerbread house on the table. I've been picking candy off of her masterpiece for days now. At first, my harvesting caused D some distress. "Mama, those candies are decoration!" After I shared my bounty with her, however, D's opinion changed. Now she asks, "Mama, could I have a ball of those candies?"

"Sure, I say, what color?" She requests green, and morning snack is accomplished, until my growing girly girl informs me that she also likes purple and pink. When I say no, she begins to chew on the laptop power cord and I must abort this post due to melt down. The days are long but the years are short, they tell me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Biblical Sense

In the Christmas spirit, this past weekend we went to a live reenactment exhibit. We brought the kids, sat through 45 minutes of concert and reflection in the church's sanctuary and then headed out with our color coded group for the "Journey to Bethlehem." We liked it and the walk felt as authentic as I might have imagined it, based on what I know from the book, "The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes." My 2 1/2 year old daughter said she was having fun when my husband asked her repeatedly about it, but really she was scared of the live goats and camels and the men playing Roman guards shouting at us and demonstrating the need for a Messiah. ASAP.

When we arrived at the suburban church to park, my daughter spied the canvas tents, wooden stalls, and open fires and asked whether we were going camping. Insensitive to the fact that D has no context for the story of Christ's birth or his significance, our family conversation went as follows:

ME: No, it's not a camp. We're not going camping.
HUB: No, it's the story of the birth of baby Jesus.
ME: He was a very important man, the son of God.
HUB: So we're going to see the story of when baby Jesus was born.
D: Is it a camping story?

With that, we unloaded and headed into the church to pick up our tickets. Later, after D had seen the sights, enjoyed some honey-butter Challah bread, and I was unbuckling her from her car seat, I asked again whether she had fun and what she saw. She said yes, and that she saw the "baby cheese."

This my friends, is where my useful role in my children's religious education ends. If not already painfully obvious, I was loosely raised Christian, but my family did not attend church. As a result, while I had access to abbreviated versions of the Bible, I believe I was a college graduate before I understood that some people actually read the whole Bible, cover-to-cover.

This left a hole. One that I was determined to fill - or at least speculated about filling - at an early age. When I was about nine, sitting in the back of my mother's brown station wagon, a/k/a "Brown Betty," on the way up the hill from town, I smugly informed my parents that, unlike them, "when I grew up, I was not going to smoke, and I was going to church!"

I handily accomplished the first goal, helped in no small part by the three deaths-by-lung-cancer in my mom's family. My commitment to church attendance has been much more sporadic. Mostly because of the time requirements and the fact that I know almost nothing about the Bible. Now that I am beyond adolescence and have experienced some of the cruel, cruel world, I try not to stockpile experiences that make me feel like an imbecile. As it turns out, this lack of knowledge - lack of connection - has become the deal breaker.

But I have tried. I actually hunger for the stories, the beautiful framework for solving moral dilemmas, the road map for living. I love attending two or three services at churches with smart, compassionate, and eloquent ministers. But then I fizzle out. My hub is no help. He was raised Presbyterian, his mother was the director of the church preschool, they attended church regularly (but without dad - he stayed home on Sundays). Hub was eventually confirmed, and then he graduated from high school. And that was that. Although it's more complicated than this, Hub stopped attending church like he quit the tennis his mother pushed on him.

So now we're two hopeless souls on the church front. We erroneously view faith as a hobby and as a way to meet people. The problem, of course, is that we're not willing to put in the time to get good at it, like the kid on the soccer team who played forward at age four, and then rode the rainbow of positive reinforcement to victory in the adult weekend league.

Instead, we stick to field trips and Christmas cookies, and leave the question of what (and how much) religion the kids will experience to another day. You know, the day when we will have the inclination to get up before 9 am on a weekend.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Zip it.

I just read Wendi Aarons' insightful post, "Why Austin," recently posted at the super funny blog, Motherhood in NYC. In "Why Austin," Wendi Aarons addresses her momentary loss of love for her transplant city after moving there three years prior from Los Angeles. I recently moved to a little city in the Inland Empire and am firmly stationed in the honeymoon period. We moved here from Denver about 18 months ago and I am still walking around with bluebirds over my head, singing "Zippity do da" about this little gem of a place that offers me an old fashioned county fair (complete with mutton bustin') and the hippest little jewelry store I've ever known to satisfy my addiction for cheap baubles.

The "Why Austin" post took my breath away for a second. It made me think that all may soon be lost. I may become disillusioned. My fears about my purpose in life (beyond motherhood) will seep to infect my impressions of home and this smart, smart decision we made to move away from all that we knew, all that we built (not much). I'll look for the negative stuff. Like the one that has burned me up since November 26th.

On the day before Thanksgiving, I casually pushed stereo Button #4 in my minivan to get to 96.9, the one remaining "FM1" station that serves up hip hop and R&B. I'll never be as edgy as I'd like to be, and I can't even lean on a colorful past. But I like Missy Elliot, Ciara, Rihanna, Kanye West, Chris Brown, Estelle, Mariah Carey, Nelly and others. In any event, this form of expression is apparently too colorful for my new home. A beautiful station - 105.something - or my Button #6, was a family truckster regular a summer ago as I tried with all my might to beat Amanda Perez' "Candy Kisses" into my head ("...like a kid in a candy store, always want to come back for more...")

Then one day last year, 105.something simply disappeared. Silence. Gone. Fortunately, my second favorite station, 96.9, was at the ready. Until the almost advent of this Christmas season. That day, Button #4 rudely transformed into an annoying, subdued, and ad-laden station that belts out Christmas music by white folks 24/7. Frank Sinatra now informs me of "Granny's pies," Burl Ives is hearing bells, and the nameless DJ's boast about the station's broad play list, from "Bing Crosby to the Beach Boys."

So I keep checking Button #4 to see if it's all a dream (it's not), I throw up a little, and I wonder who does this? The people who own the stations, I suppose. But anyway (humor me for a moment), who kills music diversity in my neighborhood? Is it the same folks who successfully pushed Prop8 in CA? And what will my kids be left with for "comfort" music when they're forced to hum a tune without accompaniment? Will they be whistling Dixie like me, to a Disney standard, or will they have the good fortune to rely on the broadest play list the world can provide?

(I know, I can intervene with ipods and the like, but I want some of this stuff for free - free for all - and without too much fumbling with technology and its darned cords and dropped wireless connections).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Yeast Ball for the Table

The waiter described the kale pizza appetizer as "earthy, like dirt." Moments later, he brought a warm yeast ball for the table. After tasting and describing the dough ball as both "warm" and "yeasty," the couple left their vegan hell for Philly cheese steaks. This, from the first date scene in the movie, "Baby Mama."

My hub made us watch the scene three times, laughing louder each time. I think he had tears in his eyes by the third viewing, and not because Tina Fey is so joyfully funny. No, those tears were droplets of pain, raining down on my hubby and his whole way of life.

A mere three weeks ago, I embarked on a journey home. Not home to my roots, roots (which have been dyed for many years now, hardy har), but to college and the few years following, when I was infatuated with a vegetarian and his worldview. For a solid four years, I was a strict vegetarian. Not vegan, mind you, because butter and the layers it creates in croissants have always been too precious to me.

Anyhoo, back then, I rejected my brother's offer to mail elk meat to me, and instead subsisted on a diet of apple slices and Colby cheese. Later, when I was raking in the cash on my public school teacher's salary, I was satiated by all of the logs of bread I produced from my newly purchased, and beloved, bread machine.

I was still going strong with acorn squash Thanksgivings and iceberg lettuce taco salads by the time I met my husband. Slowly, methodically, he brought me to the dark side (he also convinced me that a natural crystal is not effective at fighting body odor). I believe he views the process as an evolution that culminated in my consuming an entire petite steak at a fancy steak house last August, complete with sides.

Like an addiction one is trying to resist, I started slow. Shrimp on the barbie to please my future mother-in-law, snow crab on sale (crustaceans were always my weakness), and salmon, because the rows and rows of the pink stuff called to me from the Costco aisles. Later on, turkey sandwiches became a fave because they were just so darn efficient, and then eventually, poultry and pork chops every night because that's the only way my barely-on-the-growth-chart children could get their protein, right?

Hub was on cloud nine. Dinner was on the table when he got home from a hard day at work, and the food was worth eating. All that changed the day I came across my latest diet fad and the completely reasonable food consumption philosophies of those little ladies who wrote the lifestyle book, "Skinny Bitch" (SB). The SB authors advocate an organic vegan lifestyle for "savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!" Looking back, it's clear that I was an easy mark. I want to be a skinny minnie. I read and believed "Fast Food Nation." "Super Size Me" sufficiently grossed me out. SB's stories of lambs' feet frozen to the floor of their transport vehicle on the way to slaughter and other similar horrors, spoke to me. I don't want to consume grief and chemicals (it's terrible what they do to those poor Diet Coke cans).

Anyway, the moment I finished skimming the book, my decision was made. No more meat for me. Except for maybe the occasional crustacean. On my birthday, or when they're on sale. My decision extended to the meals I was to prepare in the home. I enjoy cooking. I spend hours doing it (and cleaning it up). I wasn't about to cook two separate meals, or go back to surviving on apples and cheese while the family enjoyed a rib eye that I had grilled and carved. No. Lentils, navy beans, fava beans, split peas, garbanzo beans - you get the picture - immediately became fixtures in our home.

Hub wasn't pleased. After a couple of days of hub brooding and pushing food around the plate, we had a throw-down. Lentils and brown rice were scattered everywhere. No, not really. We just yelled at each other. A lot. He said some honest, but somewhat brutal things that brought me back to questioning my housewife existence. I said I need him to support my choices. Ultimately, he said that he did. We decided that he is experiencing a mourning period over the meat. We also decided that he needs to make some more friends up here, so he doesn't have to vent to me about me.

So, now it's a week later, and we're joking about it. But I don't think I can ever serve him that yeast ball. Kale pizza, however - with a side of sausage - might make an appearance before the new diet book winds its way down to the bottom of my nightstand.