Monday, June 29, 2009

Bubble-icious

My dad has been trying for years now to perfect his recipe for bubbles. We think he's finally got it down:


If you look closely, you can see reflections of people and trees in the bubbles. It's a little tough to see, but it's there, I promise. We're considering using a hula hoop dipped in a kiddie pool full of bubble solution to encase our children in individual bubbles. Wow, do the kids ever love it. My mom calls herself the "PopPop indicator" because as soon as the grandchildren (except for Lucy, who LOVES Grandma) see her, they get excited because they know PopPop won't be far. The bubbles are one of the many reasons why.

My Mom and I serve together in the Stake Relief Society presidency here in our corner of the world. We are in the midst of planning a huge 12-stake women's conference that we will host here in our area. We're talking 1200 sisters (I know, Utah people -- that doesn't seem like much, but many of those 1200 will have to drive 4 or 5 hours to get here!), plus a cadre of men who have also been invited to a training session for Relief Society leadership and stewardship. We've been mulling over what to do with the men after the training session is over. It is, after all, a women's conference, and we don't have enough room to accomodate the extra bodies.

"Don't worry," my dad said, just passing through on his way to the refrigerator. "I'll just take them all out to the parking lot and do bubbles."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why I Love My New Tweezers, Except When I Hate Them

A few weeks ago, right after we found out our little pooper is a girl, I went to Target -- ostensibly to pick up some things on my non-grocery list, but really and truly, so I could buy some little dresses. CPod called me and as I meandered through the small female section of the store, I rattled off my list to him and asked if he could think of anything else he needed. Shaving cream? Batteries? Root beer? No, he said, but don't buy tweezers. I can get you some really good ones. Apparently, in the medical field, they have fancy and expensive tools for ordinary jobs. And the job of plucking small hairs is reserved for $40 "cilia forceps" engraved with a name other than "Revlon" or "Sally Hansen", with manufacturing information printed in German on the handy carrying case.

So I didn't buy tweezers. And I REALLY needed by buy tweezers. I am, thankfully, not one of those unlucky ladies who have to pluck whiskers from places women should not have hair. Instead, I have to deforest the Amazonian jungle of my eyebrows periodically in order to not be mistaken for Cro-Magnon man, Groucho Marx, Anoop Desai, Victor Krum, or, I don't know, Frankenstein (who's bride even had well-groomed eyebrows). I lost my other good tweezers (which I bought at Target for $7), and I'm so lazy about walking from my bathroom to my kitchen to write the need down on my list, and so incapable of remembering to buy things that aren't on said list, that I haven't plucked my eyebrows since . . . um, my brother's wedding reception last August. (See my profile picture.)

For nearly two weeks, every day we had this conversation:

Me: CPod, did you order my tweezers?
CPod: You mean the cilia forceps? Yep, and they came in, I just forgot to bring them home.

EVERY DAY! I'm trying to recreate all of equatorial Africa in 3-D on my forehead, man! Just bring home the tweezers!

So he did. And they're fantastic. In fact, they're the best tweezers I've ever used. I have pruned the rain forest to an acceptable perimeter. But in the process of staring at myself in the mirror for an extended period of time, I discovered some gray hairs.

If you have ever seen me in person, you know that I have A LOT of hair. It's dark, it's thick, it's curly (not like corkscrew curly, but still . . . curly), it kind of looks a little cavewomanish because it's so unruly sometimes, but it's me and I love it. In fact, my lovely mother said to me just the other day, "Wow, InkMom, it wouldn't take you very long to have dreadlocks, would it?" Um, thanks, Mom.

I have a few gray hairs right in the front that I usually pluck because they don't deserve to live if they have the audacity to poke up front and center and stare at me every time I put on make-up. So I yanked them out and then looked a little closer.

I was absolutely appalled by the gray hair that I saw . . . and saw again, over and over and over. I was compelled to pull them out. There were really long ones that must have been growing since I was 6 years old and really short ones that are brand new. There were ones that were dark brown on the bottom and white at the root, and there were wiry, curly ones, and wispy, thin ones. And I just kept plucking, urged on by some perverse curiosity to see how many I could find. By the time I was finished, I had counted 51 hairs and my sink looked like some old woman had shaved her head into it. At this rate, I'll be plucking white hairs from my eyebrows before I'm 33!

It seems I have aged a lot in the past year. And for some reason that I cannot identify, this bothers me. I wouldn't consider myself vain. I'm not overly concerned about my appearance (as is evidenced by the awesome outfit and leftover hair I'm currently sporting) and I certainly don't think I'm supermodel material (although if this baby ends up with CPod's legs and my curves, she's got a pretty good shot no matter what her face looks like). So what's the big deal?

My mom has black hair -- or did, until she went mostly gray and quit dyeing it. Her silver hair, though premature, is beautiful. My curls come from her, too. She started to go gray in high school, and by the time she had children, she had a striking silver streak down her part that was very distinctive and, somehow, didn't age her. My brother, two years younger than me, has hair the most like my mom's, and accordingly, has some gray -- more than me, I'd thought, but I'm beginning to think you can just see it more in his short hair. MommyJ claims she has NONE. I'll be sneaking soon into her house (or her tent later this summer when we're all camping together) in the middle of the night with a flashlight and my fantastic tweezers to prove her wrong. And baby brother is so far from gray hair I don't think he would even admit that it's in his future. But I come by this naturally. I should not be surprised, but I am.

I think I am bothered by looking older than I feel, almost as though it's proof that no matter how well I take care of myself, regardless of how hard I work to stay healthy, there are some things that are just going to quit working. I don't really want that proof. I just want to keep feeling good and then kick the bucket one day from over-exertion when I'm about 95.

Oh, well. I guess there are some things you just can't fight. CPod and I have come to an agreement, though. You see, he's red-headed and fair and already has a few more wrinkles than he should. That harsh Australian sun really did him in on his mission. I always tell him he'll age like Robert Redford: the wrinkles will just keep on coming, but that fair hair will never go anywhere. Too bad he can't carry a lighting crew around with him every where he goes to capitalize on the "natural" light a la The Horse Whisperer.

Well, if he's going to get all of the wrinkles, I guess it's the least I can do to get all of the gray hair.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Memory Lane: Lament of the Non-Superhero Crime Fighters

This was originally posted on November 11, 2008 when I had, I think, three readers who weren't related to me. My apologies to both of you who read it back then, but it is a Father's Day tribute, of a sort. Enjoy!

CPod has Tuesday mornings off, sometimes. Let me rephrase. CPod almost always has no patients scheduled on Tuesday mornings. He does not, however, almost always have nothing else to do on Tuesday mornings. Week before last, he filled in for his sick father (who's profession is the same as CPod's). Last week, he chopped wood for my dad. This week, he chopped wood for a man in our ward who injured his neck trying to get it done himself. (I suspect he likes what chopping wood does for his biceps.)

Now, I'm not complaining. Really, I'm not. I love my husband dearly. He is remarkably selfless, as evidenced by his recent Tuesday activities. He is a giant among husbands (and not just because he's 6'5") and goes out of his way to make my job easier. His love and respect for me are apparent in his every action, and he is the only daddy I know who even approaches the greatness of my own father. He is really fantastic. I love having him home. I also (to a certain degree) love not having him home. And here is why.

He is Superman. Or Batman. Maybe it's more like Mr. Incredible.

And if he is Mr. Incredible, then I am the inept cops who can't seem to get anything done until he swoops in at the last minute to save the day.

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be an ordinary cop in Metropolis? Just as you think (operative word: think) you're about to get things under control, this tall, good looking guy in a cape shows up, finishes your job and then takes all the credit: newspaper stories, adoring children, swooning women, and, to add insult to injury, abs of steel, because he just decided to cut soda from his diet and lost 27 pounds as a result. (I exaggerate. It's really more like 10 pounds.)

Today, while he was splitting wood, I stayed home with the the Munchkins. I fed them breakfast, and then spent a full hour (no exaggeration) crawling around our house on my hands and knees searching for Lil' Maa-Maa's missing monster truck. When I couldn't find it in the house, I went outside in my jammies, braless, with booger-woman frizzy hair for all the neighbors to see, and searched for it in our yard, all to no avail.

When I tried to get everyone dressed, all civilized behavior deteriorated into fits and tantrums on the floor for three entirely different reasons. And at the precise top of the bell curve of noise, CPod walked in the door, produced granola bars for all the little ones, and then sat down to watch cartoons with them. They piled on top of him happily and called me mean, and said that daddy was the best, and continued to sing his praises ad nauseum, until I finally went back to take a shower and let their demi-god father finish the dressing ritual. I used all the hot water.

Part of me sees him as my savior, too -- I mean, I like to think I would have gotten things under control if he hadn't shown up when he did, but the reality is, it probably would have gotten worse before it got better. And I am truly grateful that my children at least respond to one of us in a satisfactory manner. But I sure wish that, occasionally, it could be me!

Sigh. Maybe one day my children will also look at me agog, eyes wide at the wonder of my mere presence in their lives. (Please don't tell me any different -- it's kind of that thought that keeps me going!) Maybe not. Or maybe I just need to have a little girl who will appreciate really fantastic black suede wedges and hair products that work, and find value in things other than monster trucks. It's not hero worship, but, hey, I'll take what I can get.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll have to be satisfied with G-Dog who said this morning as I helped him get his shoes on, "Thank you for making me feel better, Mommy." I don't even remember what I did, but I know he gave me a big, unsolicited hug.

And Lil' Maa-Maa, who goes with me to the fabric store when the twins are in preschool, and lovingly runs his hands over beautiful prints and says, "Pretty, mommy." And stands behind me as I piece a quilt on the sewing machine, playing with my hair while he watches the creation of something extraordinary.

And ConMan, who, every time someone new comes to our house, takes them to my bridal portrait hanging in the dining room and says, "My mommy is a princess."

And CPod, who never fails to express his love and appreciation for my efforts on behalf of our family; who is the one who told ConMan I am a princess; who reads books I recommend just so we have something intellectual to talk about; who spends so much time thinking of other people and allowing me the time to have a brain outside of motherhood that he rarely has opportunity for his own pursuits.

I think it just might be enough.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Joys

Today, G-Dog almost burned down our house. I blame it all on CPod. He was, after all, the only person older than 4 years old on the same floor as G-Dog when our little angel decided to pop his own bag of microwave popcorn. I was in the basement, herding our other two munchkins up from the garage after a morning outing, and CPod was so thoroughly engrossed in a very engaging phone conversation with his brother that he didn't notice when the popcorn smell went from warm and buttery to scorched and OMIGOSH! CPOD WHY IS THERE SMOKE COMING OUT OF THE MICROWAVE!!!!!!!!!!

Men. Multitasking. Not compatible.

Our house was so infused by burnt popcorn stench that I packed up the boys with some reliable sources of entertainment and headed over to my mom's house for the rest of the day. We opened all the windows and turned on all the ceiling fans and turned off the air conditioner, so when we came back home for bed tonight, we were happy to find a significantly less stinky house. Of course, it was 80 degrees, and terribly humid. But at least I don't have to wash every article of clothing in our closets.

In other news, I have begun experiencing more fully the joys of pregnancy. And by joys, I mean little annoyances. And by little annoyances, I mean a whole bunch of small things that add up to PURE HELL.

When I was pregnant with the twins, and again with MayDay, I endured about one bad symptom per trimester. Not so bad, right? First trimester, nausea. Second trimester, acne. Third trimester, heartburn.

This time around, I have had the distinct pleasure of experiencing all three symptoms since day one. Throw in a little restless leg and extreme exhaustion and you begin to understand why, when I told my husband that this pregnancy seemed to be flying by, he said, "Um, not so much."

I have the skin of a 15 year old boy. I never (I'm serious!) had zits when I was in high school, but I am more than making up for that now. I get heartburn from folding laundry. I could sleep 14 hours every day (although that's better than it was at the beginning). From about 8PM on I have comically uncontrollable restless leg.

Poor CPod. I guess I'll have to let the housefire go.

We've also been thinking a lot about names for the baby, now that we know what we're having. I tend to go for more old fashioned names, but what do you think about Satan? I know, not exactly a very feminine name for our one and only little girl, but it's the one suggestion that my boys keep coming back to.

See, we had a spontaneous lesson about the plan of salvation a few weeks ago. G-Dog is obsessed with why Satan doesn't have a body. He bombards me constantly with questions along the lines of, "Does Satan have a brain? How about bones? Does he have bones? Does he have a skull to protect his brain? Will he ever get a body? Will he get to live with his family? Will he get to live with Heavenly Father? I feel bad for him, Mommy, because he doesn't get to do all the things we do with our bodies."

While I appreciate G-Dog's concern for, oh, you know, the author of all evil, and I am amazed at both his and ConMan's grasp of the concept of agency, their choice of names for our baby is just a little disturbing. Beezlebub? Or Voldemort? Sauron, or Lex Luthor, or Freddy Kruger? How about Swiper? After all, this sneaky baby will always try to steal their stuff.

Either way, I'm strangely comforted that my children have no real frame of reference for the existence of evil in the world. Satan doesn't sound so bad to them because they've never really seen anything terrible. The villains they see on Scooby-Doo are just misguided humans dressed up in scary costumes; on Dora, the bad guy is a lonely fox (Swiper, for the NickJr novices) who just wants to make friends. Eventually, they'll be faced with honest-to-goodness temptations with the power to affect their lives profoundly. Until then, I'm just fine using their innocent fascination as a tool to teach them a little about reality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hell hath frozen over . . .

Please press play. I'm serious. (And please don't give me grief about the misspelling of Handel's name in the title. It was the only embeddable Mo-Tab version I could find on YouTube. It's kind of driving me crazy, but I've had to just let it go and make peace with something less than perfection.)



Thank you. Now I can proceed with my news.

Many of you know that today I had my anatomy scan ultrasound. And we are having a healthy, long-legged, average-headed . . .










GIRL!

CPod is really proud of himself. To be honest, we weren't sure he was capable of fathering a female. Turns out, he can. And we are excited. Can you tell? I am thrilled to balance out the hormonal scale in this house. Or maybe I'm not so excited about that part, come to think of it. BUT. I can't wait to broaden my childrens' wear horizons, to allow my cart its obligatory detour past the baby girl section of Target, to give my boys a reason to learn what it means to be gentle.

Congratulations to us!

Monday, June 8, 2009

To Comment, or Not to Comment?

There's been a lot of stuff out there lately about this very topic, so here's my two cents worth. And this will be permanently posted on my sidebar (it's already there) in case anyone gets mad at me in the future for not commenting. Just so you're warned.

I write for personal enrichment. It forces me to use my brain, improve my vocabulary, focus my energies, and exercise my talents. Even if there is only one person out there besides my blood relatives who reads a word I've written, I want my writing to be as clean and polished as possible for that one person, and for myself -- because I am a bit of a perfectionist, and because I have found that it is a singular pleasure to go back to old posts and reminisce about what my kids were doing, or what I was thinking about. I am grateful that even though I can't remember what was happening in my life six months ago (precisely) I have recorded something of the thoughts and events I was experiencing then.

I also read for personal enrichment. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I don't. But I never (can I say it louder? NEVER) comment just because I want someone else to comment on my blog. I would call that insincere. I would call that fake. I would call that a bit too much like middle school for comfort.

I comment when I feel moved to comment; when I have some valid question, or an answer for someone else's; when I feel inspired by someone's post, be it hilarious or harrowing or heartfelt. But I don't not comment because I disliked something. Sometimes it's just the opposite, and I feel like anything I could say would seem trite next to the extremely wonderful post I've been reading.

I expect the same of you, dear readers! Don't comment on my blog just because you want my comments. You may or may not get them, and if you do, it will have nothing to do with reciprocity. The only thing that will get me to comment on your blog is content.

So. I write for me. I read for me. Sometimes I comment. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get comments. Sometimes I don't. But either way, I'll still be writing. And either way, I will have many happy days of reminiscing and remembering in the future because I had the wherewithal to write down some stuff about my life.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Confessions of a Food Snob

When I was in the eighth grade, we had a writing assignment in English class: describe, in detail, the MOST PERFECT MEAL. I still remember mine. While my classmates' menus included things like hotdogs and popcorn and food you buy at a ball park, mine included things like spanakopita and shrimp scampi. My mom, who has always been my best editor, read the essay and just shook her head. Where did this kid come from? When it comes to my food choices, she's still shaking her head.

Consider my culinary roots. My dad attends the ACC basketball tournament nearly every year. He doesn't miss a game, at least until his beloved UNC Tarheels are eliminated from the competition, at which point he sells the rest of his tickets and heads back home. Best case scenario: Carolina takes the whole thing and Dad gets to enjoy a solid four days of non-stop basketball. This past spring, I asked him in passing about his attendance at the event.

"So, Dad, do you just eat hot dogs all day long?"

"Oh, no, they have nachos, too."

He was serious. For four days (well, three . . . they didn't win) he ate nothing but Georgia Dome concession stand food. Willingly. Now. The man makes some mean cornbread, and my husband only aspires to make breakfast the way my dad does. But still. Nachos?

My mom dislikes cooking. She loves being in the kitchen, because that's where everyone usually congregates in her house, but for her, cooking is a little like cleaning the bathroom: sure, it's nice when it's done, but who enjoys the process?

Growing up, we ate well, and consumed lots of things fresh from our garden, but my most vivid gustatory memories take me back to the respective kitchens of my two extraordinary grandmothers. I hope to inherit from my mother THE POT that my Grandma Clare used to make a pot roast. I can nearly duplicate it in my Le Creuset dutch oven . . . but only nearly.

I wish I had inherited Grandma Stella's flour board. She made biscuits at least once a day, and never measured an ingredient. The board stayed on the counter, full of flour, covered by a dish towel. To make biscuits, she brought it to the table, scooped some lard with her fingers, poured in some buttermilk, and mixed it by hand. And by hand, I mean, without a spoon. Then she shaped the biscuits, pinching off just the right amount from the large ball of dough, and baked them in her wood stove. I can smell them right now.

We spent this past New Year's Eve at my sister MommyJ's house with most of the extended family. We all brought lots of delicious things to share, and my mom, at the request of Little Brother, brought pigs-in-a-blanket. If you're unfamiliar with this delicacy, they're pretty basic: wrap Lil' Smokie sausages in crescent roll dough. Bake. Eat.

Except I didn't eat. Because there were MUCH more delicious things to choose from: mushrooms stuffed with bacon, cheddar, parsley, and chives, anyone? Spinach dip? Boursin, and brie, and gouda, with gourmet crackers? My brother gave me grief for turning my nose up at ordinary food. I told him I simply chose to spend my calories in more delicious ways.

I do not deny it: I am an unapologetic food snob. I read Bon Appetit and Cook's Illustrated religiously and regularly try new recipes from both. I find myself wanting to take Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking and just work my way through the whole book from start to finish. I consult The Joy of Cooking more regularly than I check the dictionary.

When I have an extra dollar to spend, I head to our local gourmet grocery store -- not your ordinary earth-nuggetty hang-out specializing in all things organic or natural. This place only specializes in one thing: Food that Tastes Good. I push my cart and meander through the store, taking in the visual feast of the produce aisle, selecting some strawberries, endive, or Brussels sprouts still on the plant; I stop by the deli and window-shop, wishing I could justify spending $20/pound on prosciutto, but settle for their house brand honey roasted turkey; I linger at the cheese case and agonize over the choices of Gruyere and Brie, Tillamook cheddar and chevre and mascarpone.

The store is not large, but they stock an array of choices for the discerning palate. My brother served his mission in Germany, and he gets mustard and sauerkraut there. I buy salad dressing and arborio rice in bulk and vanilla almond granola and Martinelli's sparkling apple cider and sea-salted dark chocolate caramels. And I love every espresso-scented minute I spend there.

Yes, I love food. And while there are certain packaged staples that I rely on (Kraft Mac & Cheese, but please don't tell anyone), and a few treats I like to sneak when no one is looking (peanut M&Ms, Pepperidge Farm Chesapeake cookies, Minute Maid triangle popsicles, chocolate milk made with Quik powder), I hold myself to the ultimate standard: deliciousness. And, my, oh, my, how we are enjoying the culinary journey around our kitchen, across the farmstands, and through the restaurants of our little corner of the world.

(Another entry for the Scribbit Write-Away contest here, folks. You should try it, too!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get out the soapbox . . .

. . . 'cause I've got some venting to do. Feel free to skip this gripe session if you feel so inclined. My Sitemeter may suffer, but my feelings will be none the wiser.

Saturday night, while I lounged on the couch working on a NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle (one of my favorite short-term diversions), CPod watched one of his TiVoed truck shows. I don't know which one it was -- Truckz or Gearz or some other macho spectacle that ends in Z -- because they all sound the same to me: equally annoying. Anyway, after the show was over, CPod left the TV on and went to the kitchen to do the dishes. (While I was lounging on the couch. Yay, husband! Yay!)

Now, let me first say, that I know a lot of y'all are from Utah, and that's great. I don't have anything against people from Utah, except maybe the univowel. You know the one -- pan, pen, and pin can only be differentiated by context when pronounced by a native Utahn. Come visit me in the south, my friends. We've got five vowels for a reason, and I can broaden your language pronunciation horizons in ways you never imagined. But I digress.

I half-way listened to what happened to be on (because I was too lazy to get the remote), and what happened to be on was a new reality show about newlywed couples. Suddenly, I heard the univowel. I looked up, and saw this sweet little Utah couple talking about their marriage, and it became clear that they were LDS. Turns out, there are two Mormon couples on this show.

Now, of course, as a member of the LDS church myself, my ears perk up when I see a member of my faith in the media. I always hope they will conduct themselves in a manner that does not further the misconceptions and sterotypes that seem to be so widespread in the popular culture, and will not give my non-Mormon friends fodder for interesting questions. In defense of these couples, they didn't do or say anything that might cast the church in an unfavorable light. They were dressed modestly, and it was obvious that they were very committed to their marriages.

But. In what universe does blindfolding yourself and squishing another man's butt to determine whether or not he is your husband fall under the list of things it's okay to do in ANY marriage, much less one solemnized in the temple? Now. I can't be certain that they were married in the temple. But aren't all of these couples, Mormon or not, supposed to be in a commited relationship?

In their efforts to illustrate the strength of the Mormon marriage, these couples, probably misled by Hollywood producers, have done nothing but demonstrate that they are just like everyone else: willing to lower their standards in the right circumstances.

This is a producers dream -- a salacious window into the inner workings of that most enigmatic of animals, that statistic-defying, lasts-for-eternity institution -- the LDS marriage. I resent this capitalization of the media's tendencies to sensationalize anything that has to do with our church.

And the worst part? Other Mormons will watch it. Other members of the church will welcome filth into their homes that they would not ordinarily allow, because they will want to see how "the Mormons" fare. Instead of being a beacon of goodness, they have become the catalyst for debasing a significant portion of our demographic.

I was already pretty het up at that point. And then somebody trampled on the motherland by saying they thought they wouldn't like the couple from the south, because people from the south are stupid.

What?!? WHAT?!? People from the south are stupid? And all people from the northeast are rude, and all black people are good at sports, and all redheads have a bad temper. Fine. Underestimate my intelligence. That makes it so much more fun when you are utterly stunned, surprised, and shocked at my acerbic wit and incredibly sharp mind.

My dad grew up on a tobacco farm. He scholarshipped his way through college and professional school, and he could pass for Andy Griffith when you hear him speak. He talks a bit on the slow side, but that is in no way an indication of his nimble mind, extensive knowledge of almost everything, and a capacity to grasp any subject with extreme quickness.

When I went to BYU, some of my friends thought that my admission was some sort of Mormon affirmative action (someone actually used that phrase with me) -- you know, let in some of the less privileged/less educated/less intelligent ones so they can take notes about the way the church works in the promised land and spread the word back in the "mission field". They don't give an easier version of the ACT in the south, though, and there are plenty of smart people down here with me that will tell you the same.

Go ahead, Yankee snob on the annoying TV show. Try to beat my dad at Trivial Pursuit. Or any other thing in this world that requires a brain. Because I would put his southern brain -- or mine, my husbands, my mothers, or any of my siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins -- up against yours any day of the week. And you would have another song to sing about the south at the end of that day.

My husband says I should stop now. My soapbox has become a Rameumptom. But thanks for listening anyway. I feel so much better now.