Sunday, November 28, 2010

Red Ribbons

Ever since the Red Ribbon campaigns hit my kids in elementary school, I've had mixed emotions. Is it really appropriate to tell a kindergartner about the perils of drug use, only to have them rush home and label Mommy a druggie for having a glass of wine? Try giving Tylenol to a kid fresh off of Red Ribbon Week. "No," they'll scream. "I don't do drugs." So you chase them around the kitchen, trying to reassure them you're not a pusher, just a woman trying to keep her kids healthy.

This year's Red Ribbon Week brought about a sweet reprieve. My daughter's second grade class wrote letters to the high school students, asking them to stay off drugs and alcohol. Since she has a brother who's a junior, Mia was allowed to address hers to him. Then, in return, Ben wrote one back to her. Here's their correspondence:

Dear Benny:
Please stay drug and alcohol free. Don't smoke. If you do, we will wrestle over you drinking. So Ben, do not go drunk. Make healthy choices or Mom and Dad will be mad. At you. 


Dear Mia:

Thank you so much for sending me the letter. It made my day. You don't need to worry about me doing drugs or alcohol. First of all, I am way too smart to get into that sort of shenanigans. Second, look at me. Well, you can't, but when you get home, do. I'm super cute. Why would I throw that away by doing drugs or alcohol? You know who is also are!! So, I don't want you getting into that crap either or I'll have to wrestle you. And watch out, because I have been working on some moves and when I get my cast off, I can take you. Also, Mom and Dad would get super mad at you too. Also, it's hard to ride a horse drunk. Trust me. Just kidding. I have not and never will drink or smoke bad things and neither should you. Anyway, have a good day at school. LEARN!!


Benny ♥

Now I understand the value of Red Ribbons.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's eat!

Tell me I'm a good dancer and I know you're humoring me. Tell me I'm a good cook and I might agree with you. I think I'm good at it because I enjoy baking and feeding people--probably because my family tends to love what I cook.

That's pretty natural, I think. I remember loving my mother's cooking and, years ago in her honor, I assembled a cookbook with our family recipes. My maternal grandmother's family hailed from Holland and she was one of four sisters: Anna, Grace, Frieda and Jane (aka: Antje Jacoba, Greitje, Fredericka and Martha Jane). So, because I'm also quite creative when it comes it naming things (We have a goldfish named Goldie, if that tells you anything.), I titled it Four Sisters Cookbook. Every woman in my extended family submitted recipes, and I bound them together so we'd have a shared recipe cache.

Over the past 12 months I've probably purchased more cookbooks than I have in my lifetime. Through recommendations from friends, I've gotten to know The Pioneer Woman and The Cake Mix Doctor.

My daughter and I have played Hello, Cupcake! and my friend Tracy introduced me to A Passion for Baking. Girlfriend Jennifer bought me the Cook's Country Cookbook, which is a treasure trove of kitchen-tested recipes. This doesn't include the few recipes I've purloined from the Internet.

Recently my friend Joan had surgery, so I opened Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader and whipped up a batch of Puny's Chicken and Dumplings--good for anything that ails you and sometimes when you're just plain hungry. On my Need-to-Bake-for list are: my daughter's teacher, the crossing guard who has managed to keep hundreds of children and their parents from getting run over this year, and the paramedics who came to our rescue the other night when my husband lost consciousness.

For me, baking soothes the soul and feeds the belly of those I love. I learned at the elbow of my mother, and my six-year-old daughter is already adept with a rolling pin. (Somehow the boys lost interest in the process years ago.)

With a long weekend ahead, I think I hear the kitchen calling me. I'll probably dip into my recipe box for a few favorites I've received from friends--which I think ultimately taste better since you know the person who baked it first.

Here are two cookie recipes I absolutely love that were baked first by friends. (These are both twice their original measurements; my theory is you just can't have too many cookies in the house! Plus they freeze well.)

Pam Koenig's Soft Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 T. vanilla
5 cups flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
2 t. baking powder
2 t. salt

Mix together the first five ingredients. Stir in the dry ingredients. Chill overnight (or most of the day). Roll out on floured counter top (to desired thickness) and cut out. Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheets (or ungreased if you don't use parchment) at 400 degrees for about seven minutes. May bake longer if thicker but watch them--at 400 degrees, they go from underdone to overdone fairly quickly.

Cynthia Hester's Oatmeal Cookies

Cream together:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup butter-flavored Crisco
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar

Add in:
4 eggs
1 1/2 T. vanilla
2 T. milk

Stir together:
4 cups flour (all-purpose, unbleached)
2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
5 cups oatmeal (I measure mine and then run it through my food processor so it's not 'bulky.')

Add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture and then fold in about one pound of chocolate chips. I use a delicious choco-combo of mini chips, chips, chunks--basically whatever I have in the pantry. Refrigerate until chilled then scoop with a cookie scooper. Press in M&Ms if you want even more flavor. Either way, these are delicious. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 min. or so on parchment-lined (or ungreased) cookie sheets.

What are you baking this weekend?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


As a mom, I think I've done a pretty good job raising my kids to not be prejudiced or judgemental. In fact, there are times now, with two teenagers, when they'll correct me when something slips out that seems insensitive.

I'm also grateful that they've been exposed to professionals of both genders. When I was a kid, men were doctors/women were nurses. The same gender biases existed for pilots/flight attendants and other professions. My children have a female pediatrician and a female dentist and now even the dog has a female vet. (He doesn't seem to mind until she takes his temperature; then he's a little embarrassed.) Hopefully my children will approach their personal and professional lives with the attitude that people are people regardless of gender, race or orientation.

But I'll admit I was a little relieved when my daughter was born and the gender balance finally drifted a little back into my turf. At times it feels as though we're still outnumbered, but I try not to focus on boys v. girls around here.

But occasionally, I must take it to the opposite extreme and she's picked up on it. The other evening her dad was looking for something in the pantry and came up dry. She turned to me and said, "He looked like a man." I wasn't sure where she was going with this, so I asked for clarification. "He looked like a man," she repeated. "If he had looked like a woman, he would have found it." To prove her point, I crossed the room and looked for the missing item myself. Moments later I passed it off to him. Short of fist-bumping her when I returned, she said, "See? You looked like a woman."

Wonder where she got that attitude?

It's true that men and women are wired differently. Even when they're little, we girls have to be patient with boys and make sure we're understood. My daughter's two best friends and neighbors are boys (and they only have sisters, so it's a good match), so she gets plenty of practice. The other day one of her buddies was over and later his mother called him home. Before he left, I handed him a twenty dollar bill and said, "Give this to your mom. Tell her it's for the table she sold me." As I escorted him to the door, I said, "Don't forget." He turned to me and said, "Forget what?" I had to laugh. "The twenty dollars in your hand. Give it to Mommy."

He nodded and trailed down the driveway--looking like a man.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Jantsen's Gift" author Pam Cope

I recently read Jantsen's Gift and encourage you to read it and let it speak to your heart. I know it changed me

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What not to be when you grow up

Late this evening, while I was fixing dinner, my daughter came up to me and asked, "How do you spell 'id'?"

I said, "That's not a word."

"Yes," she whispered back. "I'm trying to spell idiot."

Apparently she was writing a note, tattling on her brother because he called his brother's friend an idiot for parking in the driveway, keeping me from getting in the garage.

Later, while watching The Biggest Loser weigh-in, her brother commented that one of the guys had lost ten pounds and that was pretty good. (The guys weigh in shirtless.)

"Yeah," little sister commented. "But he still looks like he could breastfeed."

I'm guessing her future career won't involve having to spell or being a life-coach. We'll take those options off the table.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Ghost by Glass Pear

This song never ceases to affect me--no matter how many times I hear it. So moving...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Someone should warn Willard Scott

This was a fill-in-the-blank "What I'll be like when I'm 100" assignment first-grade child had to do. She made sure to point out that, by that time, likely half of her teeth would be missing.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Am I losing it?

I'm blaming it on brain overload.

Lately I am mid-thought and I can't remember the name of someone--an author, a political figure, an actor. I watched an episode of Modern Family the other night and had to wait until the credits rolled to get Minnie Driver's name. I kept thinking Mimi, knowing that wasn't it but close. Then the other morning I couldn't think of John McCain's name. I did every trick I knew but couldn't pull it out of the frontal lobe. Finally I Googled: 'Republican presidential nominee John' and thankfully Mr. Google filled in the rest for me. Good thing he has a bigger memory chip.

Sadly, my mother has a few close friends who are deep in the throes of Alzheimer's. It's frightening for her to be around women who, once engaging and delightful, are now forgetting how to hold a spoon. "Promise me," Mom said. "If I get that way, you'll put me somewhere and not let anyone come to see me like that." Better yet, she proposed to come up with a cluster of pills she could take if she ever felt herself slipping away.

But when would you know? Is it when you can't find your keys? We'd all be reaching for that special stash. No, it's when you hold the keys in your hands and can't remember what they're used for.

It reminds me of the '70s public service announcement for The United Negro College Fund: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Indeed, a mind is even more tragic when lost.

I'm trying not to make my forgetfulness a bigger deal than it is and chalking it up to a lack of sleep and mind-overload. How many telephone numbers do I know by heart? Too many. Birthdays and upcoming events on my calendar? Perhaps I need to write more things down.

It just might be contagious. My daughter stood in the foyer the other day, trying to tell me about a song and said, "You know...that girl who sings it...she's married to JayZ..."


"Yes, that's it," she said.

And she's only six.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tech Support? It's all relative

My mom sent me an email the other day with a link to an item she was interested in on eBay. I thought she could find a better deal, so I started to email her back and then figured, calling her would be easier.

Over the phone we navigated her options: bid, wait and bid later, buy it now. I urged her to find a buy-it-now item and save the hassle of waiting to bid. It took about 10 minutes for her to find the item I was looking at since our pages were loading differently, but she finally found it and bought it. Now.

Then I walked her through the PayPal process. She has an account and even has her own store on Etsy, so she's not a computer newbie. But for some reason, helping her pay for her item caused me to do some deep breathing and to thank the Lord above that I don't work a job as tech support. That's wisely left for those who can fall back on the fact that English isn't usually their mother-tongue and therefore, even when they mutter an obscenity, we're likely to mistake it for computer-lingo.

She was about to check out and then hit a snag. "What?" she asked. "I'm not going to donate $18 to the Red Cross. I guess I just click off this, but I don't think I paid for it."

"No, don't click off!" I said. "The item you bought is $18. They just want to know if you want to give an extra dollar to Haiti relief. Just keep going through the checkout." Finally she clicked the right button and up popped a receipt for her payment. She apologized several times for wasting my time but I assured her it was fine. I'm always glad to help.

Then the ball landed in my court.

I have a bad habit of leaving multiple Word documents open. I know if a kid clicks one or more closed or if my computer restarts itself to update my system, Word will recover my last versions and I'm good to go. The other morning I discovered my computer had run an update overnight, and I recovered one document and began working, clicking on some command that, like my pile of dirty laundry, would allow me to get to it later. Then later came around and I couldn't find the file because I hadn't named it. It was still an orphan, unclaimed and floundering in cyber-city.

I called my sister.

"Help," I said. "Do you have Vista?"

"Yes," she said.

"What do you do when you can't find an unsaved document?" She told me to search my history. I'd already tried that and it wasn't there but I suck at history, so that was no surprise. Then she told me to search for it by a word that might have been in the document. That didn't work either because I couldn't figure out how to do the search. She proceeded to send me a text message with a photo attached of her computer screen, her helpful finger pointing to the window where you input the word you're searching for. Her screen was different than mine, so...not much help.

"Just close out Word and it should come back up as recovering your unsaved work when you restart Word," she said. Actually, I think she presented this option earlier. I just ignored her, thinking that was too easy. She was right; it worked.

And like my mother said to me, I apologized for her having to walk me through kindergarten keyboarding.

Then a few days later, I was uncharacteristically out shopping in a real store (not eBay or Amazon) and my phone buzzed. This time it wasn't my son asking if I'd seen any shoes for him (it's his vice) or his asking when was I coming home. It was my sister. The message read: How do you insert text over a photo and have the photo fade out? I'm trying to make an invitation.

Ah, this I knew how to do, so I called her back and walked her through it while I shopped for shoes.

We might not be the most tech-savvy family, but we know enough to help each other out of a bind once in a while. And I know how to hit 'mute' before I utter any profanities. I don't want to be mistaken for knowing more computer jargon than necessary. I'm not that supportive.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Randomness of School Drug Testing

Oldest child comes home from school on Friday and blasts into my office. “Guess what happened at school today,” he says. Oh, no. “I got drug tested.” As a senior, he’s been practically holding his breath for this moment.

Here’s his version of what transpired:

“They called me out of first period, so I go down there and sit next to this other kid who's a junior and he’s all weird about it and he’s like, ‘There are what, 300 kids in your class, right?’ and I say, more like 700, but he doesn’t say anything but to tell me that the whole senior class should walk out of school to protest drug testing, and then the school would stop doing them because the school wouldn’t want the publicity.

“And I think, whatever, but he goes on and on with his conspiracy theories until The Woman calls us up. So you know how they put blue water in the toilets so you don’t take your cup and scoop some up? I go up to the table to fill out my form, and I tell The Woman, ‘I think I should inform you that I have a rare medical condition that causes my urine to be blue.’”

I laugh at this and he says, “I know. Funny, right? And she doesn’t even crack a smile. So this other kid and I go into the bathroom, and The Woman follows us to make sure we don’t do anything weird, and she waits outside the stalls. And I just went to the bathroom and don’t even have to go, so I stand there for a minute. Then I hear the kid next to me start to fill his cup and I say, ‘Oh! You want a urine sample.’ And again, The Woman doesn’t even laugh.”

Against my better parenting judgment, I find this funny too.

He continues: “So finally I step out and there’s barely anything in my cup and I tell her that I didn’t have to go and she says it’s fine. But the guy next to me has filled his cup, and it’s like sloshing over the edge and onto his hands, spilling everywhere. You have to pour it into these separate vials and The Woman is trying to help him, and it’s getting all over her hands and it’s like totally disgusting.”

On the way home from soccer that night I’m telling his brother his story and younger brother recalls last year, as a freshman, when he got drug tested. “I’ve only had to pee in a cup twice: once at Dr. Aimee’s and once at school. I’m never sure if I should hold the cup really far away and aim for a three-pointer, hold it up to me for a slam dunk, or pee straight up in the air and go for a lay-up.”

I’m pretty sure urine testing was designed to be taken seriously. Not with my kids.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lunchbox notes

When the children were little, I used to draw on their white napkins before tucking them into their lunchboxes. Often I used the Letter of the Week for inspiration.

Ben rarely used his and so the napkins came home in his lunchbox just as neatly as they left. Sometimes I'd save them, especially those that took more than two colors to complete, as evidence of my devotion, should he ever question it. As a teenager, if not before.

This morning while I was packing his lunch, he said his friend pulled a napkin from his lunchbox last week to find his mother had written him a note on it. His friend held the napkin close so he could read it without his friends peering over his shoulder.

Then he smiled and said, "Oh, my mom loves me so much." Her message: Ride the bus home!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Was it really so bad? Yes, I remember it well.

Perhaps your childhood was much different than mine.

Maybe you loved going to see the pediatrician. You couldn't wait to breathe in those noxious fumes of rubbing alcohol, iodine and fear. Perhaps his nurse didn't lurk behind a half-closed door, feebly attempting to conceal a syringe filled with this year's vaccination. He probably didn't peer over his glasses and tell you the perils of a life spent in a wheelchair--where you were destined to be if you refused your polio vaccine. Again.
I'll bet you even loved your dentist. A deceptively handsome man who enjoyed torturing you with painful shots that presumably made the ensuing procedures only slightly less excruciating. You probably didn't attempt to grip his strong forearms with your comparatively weak, child sized-hands as he drilled into the lower half of your jaw, where nerves danced with blinding intensity.

Nope, you probably don't even mind going to the doctor as an adult. Or try to convince her that you don't need the tetanus shot she wants to give you after your foot needs stitches. Even though she admits to not ONCE seeing a case of lock jaw, she's determined you need the shot. You probably didn't mind in the first place.

And so, when you've run out of excuses for not seeing the dentist (yes, you do have insurance now--have for years), and finally make the call, I doubt you'd cringe when they have an appointment available in the same week, which leaves not enough time to stall or formulate an upcoming hair emergency that would take precedence.

Before you leave home, you wouldn't search the cabinet for something to self-medicate with--take the edge off but then decide to forgo the potential risk of increased blood flow or heightened sensations. It wouldn't matter that the kind woman you first met took your X-rays with gentle patience, seated you in a comfy chair and even gave you a blanket to cover your shaking legs. (She wouldn't mistake your nerves for low body temperature.) Nor would your blood pressure reading betray you and fall into the "not too bad" category while your heart raced to keep you conscious.

And when the dentist approached, not with dark glasses or menacing furry brows, you might not even have noticed her calm demeanor or care that she said your teeth look great, given the amount of time that has lapsed since you've seen a dental professional. Finally, after a friendly hygienist scraped away your daily tea habit, polished your pearlies and sent you on your way, you might not have even taken the shiny white bag they offered with a new toothbrush and sample sized toothpaste tucked inside.

But I'm not you. Someone not afraid of the dentist. Or the doctor. I took the white bag.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Every day for a year? Really?

Lately it seems en vogue to do something every day for a year and then share your findings with the world. I think it started with a group of people who decided to not buy anything new for a year. In an effort to cut down on expenses, save the planet, and determine where to draw the line (as in wearing someone else's underwear), these people set off to show us that you can scrounge around in a dump and find refrigerator parts instead of shelling out $9 for the same part NEW at Home Depot. Nevermind that said dumpisode had them at the emergency room getting a tetnus shot after stepping on a free used rusty nail.

I'm sure part of the rage is the lure of fame and fortune. When Julie Powell decided to cook from Julia Child's cookbook at the rate of one recipe a day for a year, I'm not sure if she knew that a book/movie deal was in her future. Perhaps she was just trying to prove to herself she could cook French food. But, alas, she proved to us all that blogs can make you famous. Or, perhaps she proved that her blog made her famous, but we can all dream.

Then I read the other day about a woman who went an entire year wearing the same dress every day. After watching about three minutes of the video, I lost interest. Maybe her armpit hair kept distracting me, but I kept thinking about the women in third world countries who do this year after year because they have no choice. They own one dress and therefore they wear it. It's not for self-awareness or an attempt to show others that less is more. It's a fact of life.

Yesterday a woman on the Today show explained how she spent an entire year following Oprah Winfrey's advice--from fashion tips to relationships, this woman was Oprahized. Honestly, I thought this had been done before by a woman named Gail.

So, this got me to thinking...all this slaving away trying to write the next bestseller when really, all I have to do is come up with something I can do for an entire year. I jotted down a list of possibilities.

1) Not shave my legs. Actually, I did this for a month during No Shave November a year ago and it didn't really bother me. But I can't see how this will prompt fame and fortune unless I get a product endorsement from NAIR.

2) Wear the same pajamas. I manage to wear them nearly every day until finally shedding them to take a shower and collect my daughter from school. But I'm pretty sure I can't get by with wearing them out shopping. Teenagers can, but not moi.

3) Read a book every day. I already do this. Not an entire book, but I read from a book every day. Still...not seeing the novelty here.

4) Talk to my mother and heed her advice. Nope. I talk to her several times a week, but if I talked to her every day and did what she wanted me to do, I'd have short hair and a perm, a clean house, a tidy laundry room, organized closets and all my clothes would be ironed. And my family would put me away because they'd realize: I'd finally lost it.

5) Eat at McDona--nope, been done, well, for 30 days, but that's almost a year in fast-food time. Eat at Subwa--nope, someone named Jared already beat me to it. Eat at Taco Be--nope, there's some woman on TV now, showing off her fast-food-waistline. Eat at Chick-fil-A? Can't. Closed on Sundays.

6) Knit a scarf/hat/pair of mittens. First, I'd have to learn to knit and then what would I do with all that cold weather gear in Texas?

Since I can't seem to come up with anything plausable/original that will make me rich/famous, I'm going to continue to brainstorm the possibilities. One problem: I'm not a big fan of making myself uncomfortable, working too hard, sweating, following other people's advice, cleaning or making a fool out of myself. I'll let you know a year from now if I latched on to something...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Out with the Old

If Daylight Saving Time provides a good reminder for changing batteries in smoke detectors, I'm going to suggest using the New Year as a catalyst for getting rid of expired stuff in the house.

Last night, after Middle Child decided he'd need something to help him sleep through his cough, I combed through the medicine cabinet in search for some Delsym. I found some and gave him enough to help him sleep plus plugged in the humidifier from his sister's room. (With explicit orders from her to return it.)

But while hunting for cough syrup, I realized the medicine cabinet could use a culling-through. I pulled out tubes of ointment way past their prime, expired prescriptions (that were supposed to be taken until gone) and nearly empty bottles of cough suppressants.

Now, when someone needs a little help getting through a period of congestion or some creme for a bug bite, I know everything in the cabinet is current--and what I need to buy next time I'm out shopping.

Next stop: The Pantry. Just how old is this can of Manwich?