Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

The Santa Claus Conspiracy

In Family, friends, On My Mind on November 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I’m kind of a Grinch when it comes to all this Santa Claus business. I have never brought my children to take pictures on Santa’s lap because I think it is mostly cruel — all those toddlers crying on the laps of men in red faux-velvet. I mean, I’m surprised that any of my friends would even bother asking me if I want to bring my kids to a breakfast with Santa, which is exactly what happened today.

Barf. Kill me now. (Sorry Ana, I love you anyway.)

Here’s the thing. I HATE lying to kids. I hated when I was lied to as a kid, and I guess that stuck. Whenever a kid asks me a question, I want to give an honest answer. This is proving less and less comfortable a position as my daughter draws ever closer to puberty and has already asked quite pointed questions about how her baby brother got in my belly, but still.

Santa Claus? Really? It’s not even one little lie. Cuz once you get started, you just get more and more entrenched in falsehoods. Kids are curious. They want to know things like: Does Santa take a vacation? How did Santa get so fat? Does Santa bring gifts to Jewish kids? But we don’t have a fireplace. How is Santa going to get in the house?

This last question is the one I’m waiting to come up. Last year, we lived in a house with a fireplace. The house we moved into this year? Nope. No fireplace. Not even a decorative one with resin logs and little blue propane flames. I suppose we could tell them he’ll get in through the furnace chimney, but I don’t really want to hang stockings on the oil tank in our basement.

When I was little I had a book about Silver Spurs, the tiniest elf, who could fit into key holes of homes with no chimneys. It even came with a little 45 (that’s a disc-shaped musical recording that was played on something called a turntable for any of  you out there who don’t recognize such an anachronistic term) with Silver Spurs’ theme song.

Lies. All lies. No wonder my life is so wretched.

Now we’ve got The Polar Express and the cult logic of “you only hear the bell ringing if you really believe in Santa Claus”. Right.

I try to tell my kids that Santa Claus is about magic. That Santa Claus is about being generous. That Santa Claus is a legend to remind us that even in the bleakest darkest night there is still hope to be found. And that part is the truth. That is a lesson I want my kids to learn. So if I have to pretend that there’s some guy in the Arctic circle making toys to be delivered in a manic rush on Christmas Eve to teach that lesson, I guess I’m okay with that.



let’s see if this will work

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind, Writing on November 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

I love how my friends can ask me these simple little questions and suddenly I can think more clearly.

“Well, what do you want?” says friend.

“Hunh,” says I.

I write a list, because I’m a list maker. What do I want? What do I want to do? What do I actually want to accomplish in any given week? See, I hadn’t actually given that question much thought in the last year or so. Here’s the list.

-1-2 blog entries

-3 hours writing fiction/poetry

-8-12 hours working (for money!)

-workout 3-4 times

Not a huge list, but I have not been protecting my time to do these things I want to do. It seems doable, even with all the stuff I don’t really want to do but must do (mountains and mountains and mountains of laundry come to mind), and all the stuff I want to do and must do (cooking, loving on the babies). Ok, let’s give this a go.

a walk with my Dax

In Family, On My Mind on November 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I walked in the woods the other day with my boy. I’d planned to go alone, but he invited himself along. He showed me the spot where he and my girl were scared by a snake. He scraped lichens off a fallen tree trunk with the sole of his shoe. He pulled me through briars and moved branches aside for me. He climbed up a hill of leaves dumped there by the neighbors, then rolled back down. We left the woods and walked to the beach. It was low tide and we walked through the marsh grasses where the crabs live, he told me. On the way home I saw a dead snake on the road, all black and white stripes. “That’s like the one that scared us,” he said. “But that one’s smaller.” The sun was setting and its rays were dim and thin, and the lively wind made orange and yellow leaves fall around us like fat colorful snow. I was happy that I didn’t take that walk by myself. My boy helped me see so much more than I would have alone.

only for a short time

In Family, On My Mind on October 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

My five-year-old walked up to a playground.

I saw him, the older version of him, who is not so far away

who is too old for the playground

too cool

too tough.

I could say that I want him to stop growing up,

but that’s not quite it.

I want to hold that moment, when I see him

when I see his sister

when I see his brother.

For they are only mine for a short time.

girlie food for one or more

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, On My Mind on October 10, 2010 at 9:11 am

Last weekend my friend made a lovely potato florentine soup with cheddar thyme biscotti. Both of our hubbies were out of town, and we were having a moms-and-kids weekend. We decided we deserved some girlie food*. Friday night there was more girlie food and girlfriends, smoked salmon with chive cream cheese on crackers, and apple cinnamon cheddar quiche.

Ever since the temperatures have dropped and I picked up an early crop butternut squash, I’ve been wanting to make another dish on the girlie side. It’s great for a side for roasted pork or poultry, but I like it as an entree, preferably served on top of quinoa or brown rice and next to sauteed greens. I made it last night while I had the oven going for cornbread. I gave everyone a taste (and told the big kids they couldn’t watch a movie unless they tried it), but the rest will be mine all mine for my solo girlie lunch later in the week.

*If hard-pressed to define, I’d say girlie food is less meat-centric and more on the snacky-appetizery side of what our hubbies prefer to eat, even though they’d certainly agree the girlie victuals were delish.


Lentils with Butternut Squash and Walnuts

(from Gourmet January 1999 via epicurious.com)

1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1 large shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 cup lentils
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
fresh lime juice to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°F.Halve, peel, and seed squash and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Finely chop shallot and in a shallow baking pan toss with squash, oil, curry powder, and salt and pepper to taste until combined well. Bake squash mixture in middle of oven until almost tender, about 15 minutes.Chop walnuts and sprinkle over squash. Bake squash mixture 10 minutes more, or until walnuts are lightly toasted and squash is tender.While squash is baking, in a saucepan of boiling water cook lentils until just tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Drain lentils in a sieve and transfer to a bowl.To lentils add squash mixture, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste and toss until combined well.
Note: I think I’ve followed this recipe faithfully only once. I’ve subbed sweet potato for the squash, pecans for the walnuts, and chives for the cilantro. I’m sure another bean instead of the lentils would be good too.

In Family, friends, On My Mind on September 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Outside it’s dreary and wet, and I’m glad to stay in, alone with my baby and his propensity for show-stopping diaper changes.

Staying home in the rain is good for soul searching. Staying home in the rain is good for pondering this mixed bag that is life.

And a mixed bag it’s certainly been this year. I keep repeating to myself and anyone who will listen, “I had a baby. We moved. My dad died,” as if this mantra will help me make sense of emotional upheaval. Such simple little words with so much wrapped up into them. “I had a baby. We moved. My dad died.”

It’s bittersweet, this mixed bag. And I keep thinking there must be some lesson it. There’s got to be a lesson it, right?

This I know is true. I keep going. Slowly, perhaps. In a haze, often. Some days it’s treacherous and heartbreaking. Others it’s golden and euphoric. And most days it just is.

goofy dance

In Family, friends, On My Mind on September 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Lately I’ve had this feeling. It’s a good kind of feeling to be sure. I suppose it’s coming because I’m getting more rest now than I have for the better part of a year, or because I’m feeling more like an interesting person and less like a food source, or because I feel my post-partum bod getting stronger, or because cooler weather means I get to hang out on my fabulous deck, or because there are so many awesome people in my life I want to spend time with that I’m having trouble fitting them all on my calendar, or because it was a rough summer and I’m ready to plan some fun.

This feeling that I get when Madeleine lunges after a soccer ball protecting her team’s goal, or when Dax sits with a paper and pen intent on writing letters correctly, or when Richard gets a picture hung on the wall without me asking him to get it done, or when Jean-Paul shoots me a slobbery grin, or when I think about making gumbo soon — it’s like I need to do a happy dance.

I really do feel like dancing sometimes. Just because it feels good. Just because I’m happy.

I haven’t actually started dancing when this feeling comes on, but next time I think I will. I know, I’m goofy. But if you’re one of those awesome people I’m getting onto the calendar, you know I’m a goof. And I think you love me anyway. Or maybe you love me because I’m a goof.

So if you see me dancing around like the goof that I am, you’ll know why. And maybe you’ll even join me.


In In Other Words, On My Mind on September 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis, like all those affluent 40ish family men buying high-end racing bikes.

Maybe I’m ready to move on from all the indignities of pregnancy and post-partumdom.

Maybe I’m mourning my dad.

Either way I’ve been feeling the need to be audacious. I suppose it might seem silly, or even mundane, to someone else, anyone who’s already tackled the challenges I want to take on.

But mainly I want to prove to myself that I can set myself to a task and accomplish it without hiding behind any kind of “I can’t”.  I won’t be asking permission, and I won’t be worried about what anyone else thinks I should be or do.

Life is short, and fear is only going to waste my time.

big girl

In Family, On My Mind, Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I felt like a big girl today, went to the local lumber yard all by myself to get wood for a garden frame. Pulled up in my mom-mobile next to the big trucks of general contractors and handymen. Told the guy at the desk I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew what I wanted. He was nice and took care of me in a jiffy, loaded my 2x8s and sent me on my way.

The last time I was in a lumber yard since I was about seven, tagging along with my dad on one of his many woodworking projects. The visual memory is hazy, but I remember the scent of sawdust, so fresh and sharp I could taste it.

I want to finish building the frame by myself too, though it’s the kind of thing I’d usually ask Richard to do for me. But it’s the kind of thing I’m perfectly capable of doing myself, and it’s a project that I’m much more interested in than he is anyway.

Nothing stands between me and that finished frame but a saw and a drill. I can handle power tools. I’m a big girl now.


In Family, On My Mind, Uncategorized on August 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Some big news arrived in the mailbox. My little Daxie will start kindergarten soon, and a letter arrived telling us his teacher’s name. We’ll be meeting Mrs. Davis soon for a conference. What should I tell her about my middle child? I’ve tried to pay closer attention to my middle child lately. He’s been dealt quite a hand lately, what with becoming the middle child and all. How can I sum up in a few minutes’ discussion everything this woman should know about my sweet boy?

Dax is a force of nature, afraid of nothing, save spiders and zombies. He’s a snuggly bug, but less so since his baby brother was born. He’s been known to suck his thumb, pick his nose, and hold onto a swing chain all with one pudgy hand. He has lots of girl friends whom he adores. He’s happy to chase behind them in the woods or have a tea party, and lately he’s begged me everyday to play tennis or baseball with him. He would eat grilled cheese sandwiches and nothing else if I let him. He’ll never tell me he’s excited about starting school, but he dons his backpack any time we go anwhere near the place and asks when he can go in and meet his teacher. He’ll be 4 still, when school starts, for just a few days. And I’m worried that he’ll have a hard time, have trouble sitting still, have trouble learning, or liking school. Before I had him I was petrified of having a boy. I didn’t have a brother, and boys just — confuse me. I had no idea how much I could love and connect with a son.

He was just born, my little Daxie-roo. And off he’s going to school.