Friday, January 30, 2009

Ranchero Venezuela

I try not to pigeonhole my children. Certainly, I imagine that they will be doctors, lawyers, engineers, perhaps the President of the United States. I am their mother. I can tell you with certainty that they rank far above average, show uncanny brilliance, and will be successful in anything they attempt. That is my job.

My first born, particularly, might as well be Mozart as far as I am concerned. Just ask me. Much to my surprise, he received a guitar from his loving grandparents for Christmas. Yes, he has asked for a guitar in the past, but I have not passed this information on to anyone. I have made it clear to him that he must master the piano before taking on another musical instrument. (I know, what a mean parent).

So, when my young musical prodigy received a guitar, he immediately recalled that his piano teacher also gives instruction in guitar. He plays his guitar all the time. He walks around the house strumming it, sometimes picking out parts of a tune. He insisted on bringing his guitar to piano lesson.

“But Mom, he teaches guitar, he can teach me how to play this. Right now it sounds beautiful, but I can barely play a song on it.”

Heavy sigh.

He ran into the family room to grab the guitar on his way out the door. He keeps it very carefully in the box it came in. It is a very special item. He carried it carefully out the door.

In a similar manner, my first-born son convinced me to enroll him in Spanish lessons just last week. How do you say no to a child who desperately wants to learn a foreign language?

So, my first-born son, walking quickly-but-carefully into the Arts Center for his guitar/piano lesson, confessed his plan.

“Mom, just think, we can go to Mexico and I’ll get a job playing guitar in a restaurant!”

Oh, and why is his name Ranchero Venezuela?

For the same reason that Sally, I mean Gladys, is Fonsero Venezuela.

I am sure it is all in the plan. Sometimes, they even tell their mother.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finding Myself in the Rain

I leaned against the spitting rain, the biting wind, forcing the double stroller ahead of me. George, six weeks old, and Gladys, almost 2 yrs snuggled beneath cozy blankets. Andrew, 4 yrs, held firmly to the side of the stroller, half running, feeling his mother’s tension veiled in her words.

“You’re doing great, Honey! Hold on tight . . . we’re just a few minutes late . . . I’m SO excited you are finally going to meet Mommy’s friends!”

My mind wandered from the details of the next hour, and back to how that particularly unlikely hour came to be.

In June 2002, seven months pregnant with my first-born, I decided to join the NE Ohio Chapter of MIT Alumni. I still knew fewer than a half dozen souls in the Cleveland area. The past year had changed me, as other years had I suppose, but in a much more personal way.

Only one year earlier, I had quit everything I had built up since graduating college. My last day of work in May 2001, I was confirmed pregnant. That was the plan – I had decided to take on the adventure of a lifetime (most people just call it motherhood, I suppose, but for me it was a very big decision). I decided to stay home: full-time. I would do it at least until the children were “old enough,” whatever that meant. I didn’t know. I felt blind, but excited, even adventurous.

At 11 weeks we lost the baby.

The event, dramatic as it unfolded, paled in comparison to the emotional turmoil. I recall the two days of recovery in a cheaply paneled motel room near Whitefish, Montana. But, I digress.

The following months were spent on relocation, fertility treatments, and various applications (Would I ever be a mom?). And, of course, rebuilding myself, reminding myself daily that even the most valid decisions, the best plans . . . some things, I learned, were just out of my control.

I wasn’t sure exactly who I was. Was I an ex-engineer? A mommy wanna-be? I settled on the term “lady of leisure,” which I would say with a half-smile, and a wink of confidence, followed by tears after I returned to my car.

So, in June 2002, seven months pregnant with my first-born, I attended my first meeting of the NE Ohio Chapter of MIT Alumni. I spent three days deciding what to wear, three hours brushing my hair, and 30 minutes looking in my mirror practicing how to say “I’m a stay at home mom” in the most convincingly proud manner.

I wasn’t even sure I was considered a ‘mom’ yet. The word stuck to me uncomfortably, like the sticky syrup in my hair would a few years later. I walked in, belly first, full of confidence. I fully expected no one would understand my decision to stay home. I steeled myself against the anticipated sideways looks. But, if I met only one person that day, I would consider it a success. If I found some way to contribute, to be part of the community, then I would celebrate all the way home.

The meeting was just a meeting, uneventful in a normal sort of way. I went home vaguely proud of myself; sheepishly realizing that my harshest critic looked back at me in the mirror every single morning.

(That “critical old lady” in the grocery store reflected the evil witch of my own conscience.)

Those successful men and women at the MIT meeting, comfortable in their own skin, never questioned the validity of my decisions. They accepted my successful life in MY definition of success.

Eventually, I met more than a few great people, and I had the honor of participating on a terrific committee.

At one particular meeting, I walked out of the restaurant with a gentleman with a cane. I felt honored to meet him, even more honored to know him as a fellow alumni. On our way out, we enjoyed a few minutes of private conversation. He leaned towards me.

“You know,” he said, “you are very sharp and ambitious. I am sure when you feel like it, you will have no problem enjoying any career you choose. But,” he continued, “you are doing the most important work right now. You are the most successful person.”

So, with the spitting rain drenching my hastily brushed hair, my three children and I entered one of the nicer restaurants in the Cleveland area. Still panting more than I prefer to admit, I answered the hostess.

“I’m with the MIT Alumni Club.”

She looked at me. She looked down at her list quizzically. Just then, I saw one of my friends waving me over from the table in the corner.

“You brought them! You finally brought them all. Oh, we are so delighted to see your new baby.”

A chair was pulled up, and I joined the group with honor, leaving my harshest critic back in the car, at least for now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gladys' 4th Birthday

We celebrated Gladys’ birthday with friends yesterday. My burning desire to record this event leaves me befuddled at how to start. The party was a typical, traditional party at home.

The fabulous smoked ham menu we had planned changed at the last minute. The budget to which I restrict myself begged for ham – you know, something that works well for leftovers. The menu became freshly smoked salmon (with dill/chive cream cheese, red onion, boiled eggs & bagels), mushroom strata, stuffed French toast with marscapone and orange marmalade, homemade waffles, assorted bacon and sausage, shired eggs (ramekins of ham, eggs & cheese), fresh banana bread, and homemade scones. Phew.

Fortunately, I didn't cook.

The man who lovingly read between my words and catered this elegant spread declines to be mentioned. However, I share with you a photo of the piece de resistance; the work of a man preparing for his little girl’s fourth birthday.

I should mention, too, that my very classy friend also read between the lines and realized that the smoked ham smelled, well, fishy, considering every birthday I have thrown for Gladys has (yes, every time) included smoked salmon (oh, and also included my very classy friend). I believe we also served it at her baptism (not my friend, the salmon, although she was there too). She appeared at my door with a beautiful tray of smoked salmon. The gesture threw a classy flourish on a sisterly ‘Do I have to think of Everything for you?’ which she wouldn’t dare admit to have thought. Anyway, fish has become a currency of our friendship, though no one keeps the books.

I try to be practical – but they know me a little too well.

Which brings me to the champagne punch. Feeling, well, practical, I decided to thrift the punch. (I know. I know.) By some twist of destiny, in searching out my special tulip bowl I received as a wedding gift so many years ago, (to fill with goldfish crackers, of course), I stumbled upon a bottle of champagne.

Fate required mimosas.

I made Gladys’ cake Saturday with the children. The bottom layer MUST be carrot cake, the top two layers chocolate. I found this both amusing and frightening. Gladys doesn’t like carrot cake: Andrew’s favorite. She tortures him and reels him back like a woman well beyond her tender years. While they slumbered, I decorated the triple layer heart cake to Gladys’ specifications. She loved it. Sunday morning, George tested to make sure it met his taste specifications. (Oh, yes, quite to specification.)

I finished Gladys’ bright green tulip jumper Saturday night. While we were sewing together Saturday afternoon (and I was dutifully changing thread color for every new seam) Gladys declared her plan to NOT wear the dress at her birthday party. I kept my cool.

“Well, Honey, if you don’t really want it, I guess we could sell it on the Internet.”

Here dashes a green streak of corduroy on her birthday, proving that she did in fact wear it until it spontaneously became sticky with syrup. She then became a streak of pink corduroy (with wings, of course). No, she doesn’t play me like a fiddle, more like a cello really.

Then, there was the entertainment. I admit that I generally rely on an incredible mix of fascinating individuals to provide their own amusement, but this time I even planned a craft. The children “beaded” their scarves. This, in fact, went precisely as planned. (Except for a few moments when I couldn’t find George. He sat sweetly listening to a story read by a five-year-old girl.) What I did not realize was that the actual entertainment would come later, in the form of a box.

Here is a picture of a man of great prominence in his company, dragging children, shrieking with laughter, through my home on an in impromptu sled.

Simply put, nothing about this party looked, smelled, or even sounded as I had planned it. Everyone who surrounds me with love added something unexpected.

And that, simply put, is a perfect party.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thorough Party Preparations (Gladys turning 4)

Gladys’ birthday party will be this Sunday, a brunch. I have thought of every detail. We have a fabulous menu: smoked ham, mushroom & swiss egg strata (casserole), homemade waffles, champagne punch . . . yummmmm.

This morning, Gladys and I made special paper flowers to decorate our home. She lovingly picked special colors and dedicated each flower to a different guest.

I have a fun, easy, and really cool craft planned (which will double as the goodie bag – I’m feeling so clever about that). We will bead scarves. Here is a picture of the “example.”

I am even making a special jumper for Gladys to wear, which she designed all by herself. She picked the color, drew the flowers (which I transferred to her choice of fabrics), and picked their ultimate locations on the jumper. I used the same simple pattern as her heart jumper from the first day of school.

So cute!!

As I was feeling rather posh and clever and generally rather full of myself, I noticed something in the corner. It was, you see, a very elegant and festive decorative item that I had spent a lot of time on in December.

But, unfortunately, even the most festive and elegant holiday decoration loses its luster come January. In fact, it even loses many of its pine needles. The words ‘fire hazard’ come to mind.

So, yesterday morning, January 22nd, I dragged our pitiful, dried out, tree out to the curb.

For the record, this is what a Hoover vacuum canister looks like after cleaning up from a tree that has witnessed two presidential administrations.

Go Hoover!

Okay, now we are ready for the party.

Well, another bottle of champagne wouldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Wrinkled Truth

About a year ago, in weeks preceding my birthday, I discovered something. Perhaps it was the time passing, wobbly but swift like a child newly freed of his training wheels. Perhaps it was the arctic temperatures, the air dry from a thermostat set higher than my otherwise green conscience should have allowed. Perhaps it was that extra cup of coffee, (grabbed in haste by a woman deprived of sleep, devoted to family), persistently and insidiously squeezing every last molecule of moisture from a soul who nearly worshipped her water in days gone by. In the end, it was that old lady smiling, squinting from the bright snow, gazing back at me through the salt encrusted windows of my own minivan who told me the truth.

I discovered a skin care emergency: wrinkles, carved by joy, but beyond my years.

I did what any logical woman would do: research. I considered my options. Since I have two very good friends in the skin care industry, I consulted them each at length. I heard about chemistry, derm layers, pores, moisture barriers and moisture absorption and departed my friends with samples of each of their products (bless their hearts). Both friends ensured me that in just three or four weeks, I would certainly be pleased with the improvements.

Since both of those friends have integrity beyond question, I had to assume both made excellent recommendations. Both products would certainly work. One was more expensive than the other, and that was certainly a consideration. But, I wanted to know which one was right for ME. After all, everyone’s skin is certainly different. How would I know? Which do I use first? Would using the first one make my skin so nice that the effect of the second one would not be noticed?

I had a plan.

On the left side of my countertop, I placed Jane's cream. On the right side I kept a sample of Jill's. Every morning and evening for four weeks I put Jane’s cream on the left side of my face and Jill’s on the right. Yes, I really did that.

After about a week, I noticed a difference on both sides of my face. I happened to run into Jane at preschool and mentioned my experiment.

“You aren’t really doing that.”

“Of course I am really doing it. How else will I know for sure? If they are both the same, then the less expensive one wins.”

“That’s, well, unique. Let me know how that works out. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” she hurried off, seeking shelter both from the snow and her crazy friend.

Right. Well, as it turned out, Jane's won. I could really tell a difference. And, in the end, I was willing to pay a little extra for the product I preferred.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should buy something simply because of my test, but if you have been wondering, try your own experiment.

Just try it. Really.

Oh, but don’t tell anyone in the preschool parking lot. They will think you are as nutty as their friend MIT Mommy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Colorful Character

Vote for Miss Sunshine for President! I did.

(Although she wasn’t on the ballot literally, as parents, we always vote for our children, for their future. In the picture, she is showing off her pretty stars.)

My children and I watched Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech today.” The media brimmed with links between Dr. King and President-elect Obama, two unmistakably charismatic black men. I understand the historical significance of a man of color reaching the White House. Perhaps we have all been holding our breath all these years and can now give a collective sigh. After tomorrow, that symbolic event will be part of the tapestry of American history like so many other events that have shaped the great nation we have become.

I listened closely to Dr. King. He spoke of non-violence, unity, the fact that our destinies are woven together, some specific grievances (many of which serve as a vivid reminder of what life was like in the 1960s), and, of course, the dream that we will all one day be judged by “the content of our character, rather than the color of our skin.” Today, those ideas are so unarguable, that in itself should be considered a great success.

(Trust me, I don’t brush aside the fact that there is still prejudice of all stripes. We may never stamp it out entirely, but our objection to it is an important first step.)

The phrase that speaks to me, however, is the concept of being judged by the ‘content of character,’ not race, not religion, not the Prada bag on your shoulder, not the fancy title on your business card, not even the teeth missing in your head.

This ideal clings to us as Americans.

What does that mean, really? Are we ever judged by the content of our character? Would I be ready for such scrutiny?

In context, I believe he wanted to tell us that jobs should be given to those who best fill the position, people should go to jail only if they have beyond-a-doubt broken the laws to justify such a punishment: people are responsible for their successes AND their failures. Government does not give or take away, but simply arranges the structure within which we succeed or fail on our own.

I hope that the historical significance of President-elect Obama’s inauguration does bring a sense of blue skies to those who have for so long felt unable to succeed within the framework of America. I also hope that the government continues to create a framework within which the people of America can succeed, fail, and pursue happiness to their heart’s content.

It is within that framework that Dr. King’s dream finally becomes true that “we should be judged by the content of our character.” That doesn’t mean everything will be easy. That means you have a chance, and whether or not you take it is your responsibility: tough love, directly from Dr. King himself.

Mr. Obama will be judged by the content of his character every single day for the next four years. I hope he has the strength of character to vote for little Miss Sunshine, too.

As for my character? I plead the Fifth.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

'No' means 'no'

I try to be a “good” parent. You know, the kind of parent that commands some respect. ‘No’ means ‘no.’ I do not allow my children to “talk back” to me. (Well, at least, so my personal dogma states). They must use proper manners. I try. They perform quite well when the need arises, so I have to assume they have figured out the difference between what I do and what I actually mean.

Which is probably how children become good negotiators.

On Saturday morning I attended a very watered down version of a “boot camp” class. A friend convinced me to go. Since the instructor talked most of the time, I knew I wouldn’t be sore. I realized Sunday that if I sat down I would never get up. Fortunately, I don’t sit down much, but I did a lot of pained limping. (My husband is still injured.)

At 7pm, I could no longer avoid shoveling the driveway. I limped into my boots.

“Mommy! I’ll go out with you!”

“No, Gladys, its dark.”

“Please! I’ll stay right where you are.”

“No, Gladys, its really, really cold Sweetie, and dark. Stay in.”


I went out. See, I thought: ‘no’ means ‘no’.

I saw Gladys jumping up and down in the window of our front door. “Thump. Thump.” She kept hitting the door.

I waved. “Thump. Thump.”

A moment passed and then I saw her head pop up above the window and stay there.

Okay, she got a stool. She can watch. Perfect.

She waved. I waved. She tried to get my attention. Then, again she disappeared. (I would find out later that she took her case to her father. She was busy negotiating.)

I saw her head pop out again. Once more it disappeared, and then the door opened.

“Mommy! It will go MUCH faster if you let me help.”

Those are my words. “Honey, it will go much faster if you just let me help.” Those are Mommy’s very frustrated words that come tumbling out when I just don’t have the patience to watch my small children struggle with what ought to be simple tasks. They aren’t simple to them, of course, but to watch them learn can occasionally cause my reserves of patience to empty and my eyes begin to cross.

That is exactly what I say. That is exactly my tone of voice. She knew the right button.

“Alright, Gladys.” I lean my shovel against the garage, and go in to see if she needs help getting ready.

She shoveled a lot of snow for someone who weighs barely 40lbs. We talked most of the time. I thanked her. Towards the end of the driveway, she paused.

“You know, Mommy, I really came out here because you shouldn’t be out here all by yourself.”

Cunning. Empathetic. Caring. Girls shouldn’t be too obedient anyhow.

Wasn’t this about ‘no’ meaning ‘no’?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

School's out, Mommy's IN

School has been cancelled Friday due to arctic temperatures. Having grown up further South, my recollection is that school should be cancelled because it “might snow some.” But, since we already have over a foot or so of snow (who’s counting?) on the ground, I guess nothing short of arctic temperatures slows down the people of Cleveland.

We rock even in subarctic temperatures.

And so I bring you my top 10 reasons why it is fun to raise kids in Cleveland in the winter:

1. If there is a hill, you have sledding.

2. The snow banks along the sidewalk keep your toddler from running into the street on the way to the bus stop. (Are you wondering if I defrosted that pancake before I gave it to him?)

3. After losing his gloves once before outdoor recess, my son no longer loses his gloves. Brrrrrrr.

4. Boots are much easier to pull on quickly than most regular children’s shoes.

5. If you are wearing boots, finding four pairs of matching socks is no longer necessary. (Shhh!!!)

6. After the soda pop can explodes in the back of your van, you have a ‘teachable moment’ in which to explain the expansion of ice and pressure formation. And, after the lesson, you can quickly clean the soda from the back of your van with a whisk broom. (I’m not kidding. It didn’t melt even after 40 minutes of running errands).

7. You can make ice cubes, quickly and efficiently, on your front porch. (This makes a great science experiment, is free, and takes less than an hour!) Try it with salt water too.

8. On days that are too cold to make a snowman (snow won’t stick into balls), you can fill a squeeze bottle with water and food coloring for snow painting fun!

9. Inspired by the marks left by our wheeled trash can, Gladys began making designs with her scooter. More winter fun!

10. And, after enjoying that wholesome winter wonderland, you can enjoy a dainty cup of hot chocolate.

Of course, when your toddler forgets the word "leaf" and doesn't believe green is a color of nature, you can take them all downtown to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to refresh your senses. I can breathe that moist, humid air just thinking about it . . . .

Dress warmly. Enjoy the weather!

The Lucky Pencil

"Mo-om!" Andrew called. "Could you get down the pencil box so I can find my lucky pencil?"

We were getting ready to do homework.

"Andrew, which one is your lucky pencil??" Gladys asked, excited to hear this tantalizing information.

I felt my stomach tighten. "Great," I thought. "It is late afternoon and my kids will be fighting over a rediculous pencil. This is all I need. Think quick."

And then, Andrew answered.

"My lucky pencil is whichever pencil is lucky enough to be chosen by ME."

"Great! I'm going to choose MY lucky pencil too!" Gladys chimed in cheerfully.

Have yourself a very, very lucky day everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ambitious. Tenacious. Energetic. Exhausting?

About a week ago I met someone new, a mother. Very early in our meeting she asked me about my background. Before I finished she said:

“Oh. I’m exhausted just listening.”

For the past week, I have been in denial of the comment, looking for ways to bend it into the neat bow of a compliment.

Ambitious. Tenacious. Energetic. . . . Exhausting? Really?

Then Saturday came.

I woke up happy: ambitious, tenacious, energetic. My husband lay injured on the couch. (As much as I am quick to tease, he really was injured.)

I made a full breakfast, ate a pancake before cleaning up, and began making homemade Slovenian dumplings with Andrew and Gladys: ambitious.

After a lunch of dumplings (I ate two), we took a break to shovel the driveway. The 12 inches of heavy snow resisted even the most tenacious of mothers, but we finished half of the driveway (enough to release my van) before we set off for the sled hill.

The deep snow required that I carry Gladys on my back for the 100 yards or more through the trees and up to the top of the sled hill. We sledded. I carried her home: energetic.

Between 4:30 and 5:30pm, I warmed Gladys’ p.j.s in the dryer and brought her back to room temperature, made hot chocolate, showered, dressed, and made a quick dinner that my husband was feeding the children as I ran out the door.

I called ahead to apologize . . . 10 minutes late . . . my friends greeted me with a glass of wine at the bar. (I LOVE my friends). Together we walked over to the funeral home to comfort our friend who lost her mother. I feel I should say something here, but there is nothing to say.

After the visitation, a few of us returned to the bar. We ordered wine and appetizers. The conversation followed the expected thread for post-visitation chatter. At that natural lull in conversation, Cate lifted her glass:

“To Casey!”

“To Casey!” Anna and I lifted ours in humble respect – but with a cheer that could have been interpreted as celebration. Cate and I had met through Casey. Due to her own loss in the Fall, we had never shared our respects together. (The visitation was not Casey's, it was my friend's mother).

“From what I know of Casey,” Anna said, “this is very appropriate.”

“No,” I laughed, “we should be drinking shots to Casey!”

“True. This is far too tame,” Cate agreed with a smile.

“Yes, too conventional, too expected, she’d have a laugh at us.”

We all laughed and followed with our accolades for our lost friend: ambitious, tenacious, energetic - the echo of a eulogy that never was.

We were all surprised when shots appeared at our table. In retrospect, someone must have had heard us. None of us would have actually considered ordering them. (Well, maybe Casey would have.)

I would soon find myself pickled in a way I had not experienced in many, many years. In the next few hours we outlined a multi-million-dollar corporation, reviewed metaphysics, and redefined religion.

The evening ended at an hour more appropriately called morning with that inevitable conversation that ensures safe passage home.

There was no bill.

So, Casey, if you are reading this, thank you for taking us out Saturday night. You are always welcome to stop by. We all had a really nice time. And, we would greatly appreciate it if you would pull up a chair for our friend’s mother who is heading your way. Yes, I know you’ll welcome her. Thank you.

As for the rest of us down here, don’t wait up.

We are too busy being ambitious, tenacious, energetic . . . .

. . . . and, perhaps, a little exhausting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Line Up

It is true. I never was a cheerleader.

Sometime in junior high I decided I would try out. My sister dropped me off, shaking her head. My parents probably thought it was a little unusual, but kept their hands in their pockets. The others had probably encouraged my brother to keep his mouth shut. I don’t recall the details.

What I do remember is that the routines were not particularly difficult. The ladies in charge did not seem particularly nice. And, after one full day of being told to smile more, I had simply had enough. My cheeks hurt from smiling. Who smiles THAT much?

Well, a lot of the other girls seemed to manage it.

(I guess I don’t find standing on the sidelines something to smile about.)

The fact that I am not grinning from ear to ear on a minute-by-minute basis should not give the reader the idea that I am not happy. On the contrary, I am deliciously happy.

Just ask my daughter.

Andrew asked her the other day about her paper dolls. “Gladys, why do you always just put a straight line for their mouths?”

I could post hundreds of pictures of faces like these. This is how Gladys always draws faces.

About a year or more ago I noticed it myself. Not wanting to criticize her work, I asked her to draw a ‘happy face’ for me. Honestly, as a parent you start to wonder if there is something wrong. You know, some social worker is going to see her pictures and think she comes from a terribly depressing home.

She drew a circle with two eyes.

“See, Mommy! Doesn’t she have a beautiful smile?!”

“What do you use to smile, Gladys?”

“My eyes,” she said, squinting and sticking her fingers in her eyes.

Our Irish eyes are smiling.
Where do you keep your smile?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I give you a rediculous lymric

Alright my friends, there really is no excuse for this bad poetry, but please let me explain anyway. You see, a mutual friend is collecting "prescriptions of love" for another friend whose cancer is now in remission.

It is a wonderful thing.

It deserves better than this.

I wrote a lovely poem for him and his family in November. In December, I dedicated a thoughtful Haiku to accompany nearly 1000 cranes. Now, in January, this group of friends is dedicating a final, personal prescription book. Each person or family should complete a page for this book.

Like I said, there is no excuse for bad poetry (oh, its not even a poem, its a lymric, even worse). Here it is anyway.

There Once was a Man from Ohio

There once was a man from Ohio,
Who was handsome bald – me oh my Oh!
Although he was sick,
Smiles did the trick
I can’t make that rhyme if I try - no.

I will have to try something new now,
To keep you from feeling too blue now.
This IS what I know. I’ll give it a go.
What is this poor poet to do now?

I’m not even writing this poem,
Not sure what it will even show him.
What I want to say,
Won’t come my way.
I’ll have to leave this one at ho-em.

Well, Cancer just isn’t that funny.
If it was then I’d make some money.
It turns out it sucks,
So forget big bucks.
I write poems like moths make their honey.

I am glad these poems are over,
(If your dear wife reads this I’ll owe her.)
‘Cause Valentine hearts,
Just rhymes with farts.
And in March – What fool rhymes with clover?

I forgot that ‘prescription of love.’
That’s what I am supposed to think of.
For what you should do? I haven’t a clue.
Did you read that fool poem above?

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Years' Resolutions

We cut our New Years’ cake and went around the table.

“I’m going to get better at making things from wood. You know, like the picnic table in the backyard. And, I want to get better at cooking dishes from all over the world,” Andrew said.

I have to admit that his resolution was not entirely expected by me. But, we do try to allow them to set their own goals. Knowing that my childrens’ resolutions generally require my assistance on some level, I kept mine pretty simple.

“I’m going to find a new vegetable dish that this whole family likes every month.”

My children did not seem very excited. I reassured them.

“Yes, I know. You don’t love vegetables. But, we don’t try new things with vegetables very much. You LOVE smoked pork. If I bought a frozen pork chop and microwaved it, you wouldn’t like pork either. You’ve never tried really GOOD vegetables. You’ll see.”

That’s what I said. I hoped I said it convincingly. It is true. We always have vegetables around, but they are rarely very inspired. I went on to say that we could cook vegetables from all over the world, so we could do both our resolutions at the same time. We talked about options.

Jump a few hours. I’m making a grocery list.

“Andrew, what do you want in your school lunch this week, Honey?”

“Spinach tortellini and pumpkin bread, from scratch.”

“Spinach tortellini from scratch?”

“Yes, that is one way that I like vegetables. That’s the plan, right? You know, to cook vegetables that we all like? Remember, I tried a free sample at the store.”

Sigh. Spinach tortellini? Really?

On Saturday, Andrew and I made spinach tortellini from scratch. I could have said ‘no’ but somewhere deep inside I felt that I was setting a precedent for the year. And, that somehow a failure in this realm was better than giving up entirely. It wouldn’t hurt to fail once. So we waste a few eggs and a few cups of flour. It would be a funny memory. We went to the grocery store. We started cooking.

The filling was easy: chop, dump, stir. No cooking. I played ‘sous chef’ and chopped the spinach, but the kids did the rest. (Even Emeril has a ‘sous chef.’)

The first batch of pasta was in the mixer looking like a bunch of rough pebbles. All of the ingredients had been added, but it needed more moisture. So, we added more egg and oil and mixed some more. We kneaded it and put it in the bowl to rest. Skeptical, I thought we should make one more batch. Disaster waited. We would need several tries.

This time, I gave Andrew all of the ingredients and set off to find a diet Coke.

“You can do it,” I encouraged. “Just add the eggs and oil until it looks right,” I said not really sure what it meant to ‘look right.’

When I returned, Andrew was using his entire strength to knead the dough. When the first batch was fully rested, I cut it in half and gave it to him, along with the pasta machine. We talked briefly about how to use it. I told him to run it through three times on the first setting, folding it each time. We looked again at the recipe and decided that setting 5 or 6 would work just fine.

“I can do it, Mom. Okay?”

When my husband walked through, Andrew was cranking the machine and easing out the dough all by himself. My husband offered to help. He began to make a suggestion. But, quickly saw that Andrew had it under control, probably more than we could ever imagine.

With each strip of dough, Andrew cut out circles and gave them to me.

I filled and wrapped the best tortellini I have ever had. The kids gobbled them up.

Today, Andrew has spinach tortellini and pumpkin bread (we made that Sunday) in his lunchbox.

Once again, I have a newfound respect for my son and the additional resolution to remember to ‘let them fail’ just a little more often.

So, what was Gladys’ resolution? She wants to learn how to clean better.

I’m hoping she figures it out.

Maybe she’ll teach me someday.