Friday, May 30, 2008

No Singing At The Dinner Table

No Singing At The Dinner Table, that was the rule my dad imposed at our house growing up. This was the subject of much joking and laughter amongst my siblings and I, when we were in our 20s and 30s. “How ludicrous,” we remembered, laughing hysterically at the idea that one of us would break out in song at the dinner table. Now in my 40s (just, if I might say) I understand completely the rule and no longer see it as ludicrous at all. On just about a nightly basis one or both of my kids will sing at the dinner table. This is done much to my annoyance and definitely because of it. Not only is the noise grating on my frazzled, your-lucky-you-got-a-square-meal-on-the-table nerves, the singing necessarily also means no food can go into the mouth when musical notes (and believe me, I use that term extremely loosely here) or some remote facsimile thereof, is coming out. The whole meal experience is unnecessarily prolonged.

On a scale of unbearable experiences parents must endure, singing at the dinner table is second only to the noise from the back seat on any car trip longer than fifteen minutes. I really don’t understand why none of the car manufacturers has come out with some kind of see through, noise proof shield between the front and back seats of a car.

It shouldn’t be that hard, taxicabs already have a mini version of this. Of course, some engineer would have to figure out how to have a door on the thing or otherwise make the middle of it disappear so that you could go back to the backseats and manhandle the children where necessary. If I were the manufacturer though, I would make the door bit an option, because the necessity to manhandle really goes down dramatically when you can’t hear the kids. If I can dream it, can’t they make it? I for one would line up for such a feature. You could see through the plexiglass, so you could pullover if anyone in the back was bleeding for instance. Otherwise, they would be contained in their soundproof side of the car and you could ride in blissful peace, listening to NPR or Nirvana, pick your poison, without being subjected to whining, screaming, fighting or singing out of tune (because your own singing never counts).

From the children’s point of view of course, this would just be an invitation to break the sound barrier and invent some new medium for annoying parents on trips in the car. With my kids in mind, I can just envision how they would take turns trying to break the glass with their highpitched wailing. Ah well, it would give them something to occupy themselves with on the trip.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Freaking, Hideous Tree

I am learning the hard way that I really need to be careful what I say around my kids. I confess it is taking me a long time though. I should have learned my lesson when my daughter was two years old and I was driving her to tumbling class. A car stopped short right in front of me, and by some miracle, I actually thought about the impact of what I was about to say on the virgin ears of my daughter. I didn’t burst out with “you stupid jerk, or worse.” I didn’t burst out with anything in fact. Imagine my surprise then, when from the backseat came “Stupid!” out of my daughter’s mouth.

Well, I did clean up my act and toned down my language about other drivers (just cleaned up really, deleting swear words from my repertoire). But it wasn’t just bad language precisely that I needed to be aware. When my son was two and a half, he started calling anything he didn’t like “hideous.” People would look at him with astonishment that such a big word could come out of a little mouth. But I looked at him with an expression of uncomfortable recognition, because of course he borrowed the word from me.

Lately, the verbal pirate is my daughter, 11 going on 22. Unfortunately the word du jour from my vocabulary which has been borrowed is “freaking” or “freakin.” I admit I use it on occasion, but not too much. As in the expression, what a freakin jerk that guy is. I never really minded the word or gave it much thought until my daughter started using it, in every sentence. Now, I do believe that freakin is the most annoying, and if I must say, hideous word. She has breathed the freakin life out of the word.

When she uses the word, I can see very clearly by her use of it, that it was meant to be a substitute for another action verb describing reproduction. What I never gave a second thought to as being objectionable, I am now reminded of on a minute by minute basis.

So, I am going to make a greater effort to choose my words wisely in front of my kids. They say kids are sponges, but in fact, I think they are actually little tape recorders that seem to play back at inappropriate times. Unlike tape recorders, unfortunately, you can’t just remove the batteries and any effort to get a child to stop using the word is merely an invitation to the child to use it twice as many times and particularly around grandparents, strangers and authority figures.

Look out for the new edited me coming soon!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

I just made Amish Friendship Bread yesterday. Some of you may have also gotten a Ziploc baggy from a friend with a liquid which brings back memories of baby formula in it at some point, and if you too were also weak, agreed to follow the instructions and take 10 days and much work to make a pretty simple tasting cake.

I went along with it this time (my first experience with Amish bread was about 8 years ago) because I do like to bake and the lady who gave it to me once picked up my pocketbook for safekeeping after I had rushed out of choir practice in my haste to get to bed. So yes, there was some guilt involved as well.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to call my father-in-law and tell him that I had in my hands (mushing the bag as directed by the instructions) the starter for Amish Friendship Bread. As I recall, he became somewhat obsessed with the bread (really a cake) the first time it went around our family eight years ago.

Perhaps I am older and wiser now, but I am a bit more critical of the recipe upon closer inspection. The recipe calls for you to make four new starter portions by putting them in Ziploc bags. Ziploc bags? Doesn’t sound real Amish to me. And while we are on the topic, the recipe also calls for one box of vanilla pudding mix. Now, that is where I get really suspicious. Those folks are off without electricity and such, so if they wouldn’t spring for electricity, I don’t see them cutting corners and buying an instant pudding instead of making it the old fashioned way. So, yeah, I made the bread, but not sure about next time. I didn’t keep a starter for myself, but I did give it away.

I think I might google Amish Friendship Bread. The recipe claims that only the Amish know the recipe for the starter, but I bet somewhere out there there is an Amish person who is willing to spill the beans…or instant pudding mix.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Look Out for Flying Plastic

As my husband will tell anyone willing to listen, I am pretty paranoid when it comes to health issues. So, all I had to do was get a whiff of information that certain hard clear plastic caused stomach cancer in rats, and the plastic started flying out of my cabinets. All the Tupperware that I had purchased as part of fundraisers I had organized, ironically for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society or my kids’ daycare center were swiftly ejected from the storage container area.

I immediately went out and bought SIGG metal water bottles for myself and the kids (my husband and I could share I reasoned). I also went off to buy Pyrex glass storage dishes for food. I bought 8 new glass containers in various sizes. I felt proud and healthy. Everything was going fine until my husband started begging me what he was supposed to put all the massive quantities of food I had made, into. You see, eight glass storage containers don’t go too far when, on one of my cooking benders, I make a vat of soup, a food processor full of homemade hummus, homemade French toast, homemade pancakes and turkey and meatballs, not to mention extra homemade chicken stock.

Of course I snapped at him (all that cooking making me a little tired) and muttered something about “well, if I wasn’t the only one eating all this food…” to which my husband replied, “no one asked you to make it.”

Wrong answer. At which point he got the whole “you don’t know how lucky you have it, a gourmet meal every night…” lecture that I usually give him whenever he responds in anyway to my dramatic sighs after a day of cooking. He hasn’t figured out that he should just shut up and eat. Okay, well maybe not shut up precisely. Ideally, he should rave about the food before him.

Anyway, the plastic is pretty much gone ( I have loads of plastic pantry food containers which I had bought after a meal moth crisis in my pantry several years ago) though I am moving to glass storage containers from IKEA for the pantry too. I donated the plastic containers to social service clients in a neighboring town which had requested food storage containers to avoid roach infestations. I did feel kind of guilty giving anyone these potential carcinogen carriers, but reasoned, better for them to address an immediate health concern (roaches, ick!) than an uncertain, long-term one.

Of course, as far as the water bottle thing goes, I am conflicted. I can buy the $23 aluminum water bottle, but how about losing it? That is quite an investment and I am pretty forgetful. I have already left it at choir practice once and luckily someone else picked it up and held it for safekeeping. I thought about just walking around with a heavy, tall glass. But then I figure it would be just my luck and trip over something, break the glass, sever a major artery somewhere and die. That would be the irony in switching from plastic…

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Among my many weaknesses when it comes to eating, is See’s Candies. If you don’t know See’s Candies, which come from California, consider yourself lucky and probably lighter than you would be if you “knew” them. I myself am partial to the Nuts & Chews assortment. Friends and enemies alike send them to me from time to time. Friends send them because they think they are being nice and enemies send them because they know they are being mean. They know that one Nuts and Chews assortment can penetrate the fortress of my willpower with surgical precision.

Oh sure, I start off strong, telling myself I will only eat the ones I truly, madly, deeply love. The dark chocolate covered almond clusters, and then the caramel and almond two layered jobbie that is half dressed in chocolate. But my standards lower as fast as my favorite chocolates disappear from the box (and reappear on my thighs and butt). I know I have reached rock bottom when I find myself nibbling just the dark chocolate coating off of the marshmallows which I normally disdain. I kind of like the fact too that they don’t come with a diagram of what each chocolate is. That way I can rationalize having 5 or 6 because I didn’t know what was in each one and, turns out the first 5 weren’t the one I was looking for.

Luckily, most of my friends don’t live within range of See’s Candies so I don’t find myself a prisoner to the Nuts & Chews too often. My enemies too are few and frugal so that isn’t too much of a concern.

But what about my twin sister? Last Christmas she called from the mall to inform me there was a temporary See’s Candies kiosk set up and did I want some? I said yes but no and under no circumstances was she to get any for me. So she complied. However, last month she returned from San Diego and handed me a box of Nuts & Chews. E tu brute?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Everyone Knows It's Windy

No one told me it was going to be like this. I mean, when you are pregnant, you expected it. Of course, you only expected it because you read “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” religiously. But, not in perimenopause. Hot flashes, yeah, moodiness, okay, memory loss, I think I remember hearing about that, but flatulence? No one told me I would be a burping, farting, mess. You expect it in old people. Who doesn’t remember their grandfather letting lose? Or maybe for you it was grandma, but 40 years old? That is around when it started for me.

These days I think people see me coming and they could break out into that old song “Everyone Knows Its Windy.” My friend Rick and I had to joke about my belly bubbles when at a “Dirty Dancing” concert (a british dance concert based on the movie “Dirty Dancing”, don’t ask) Anyway, we redubbed the song “She’s Like the Wind” to “She Passes Wind” and that really could be my theme song these days.

The new lyrics go something like this:

She gets that look in her face, and gives her buns a squeeze, we try to escape but end up on our knees, she passes wind…

You get the idea, and it isn’t pretty. It’s also hard to feel sexy when you are so bloated. Some nights I feel that true love would involve handing my husband a respirator before bed. Of course, he is a good sport about the whole thing. He hasn’t pointed out that “in a fog of toxic fumes” was not actually in our wedding vows. Somehow, he managed to find me the most appropriate card ever last birthday. It said “Your farts have hospitalized small children.” I am not sure he can top that card ever again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now Where Did I Leave ...My Memory?

I don’t know about you, but lately, I feel like I am really losing it. I wander from one room to another and mutter to myself: “Now why did I come in here?” Asking out loud is of no use. Finally after a minute of racking my brain, I give up and return to the room I came from. Usually when I go back to Room number one, I suddenly remember what it is I went into Room number two for.

I am not too worried though. I figure I won’t have to get worried until I discover that I start going to a different room, not the room where the object I wanted to retrieve is housed. I call this my “warm theory” Adapting an analogy from the game of tag which I used to play with my school friends, back when I had a memory, I figure as long as I am “warm” as to where the object is, I am okay. So what if I don’t remember what the object is?

This brings up a good point. If I were to play tag these days, I would be pretty useless. I would forget who I was supposed to be tagging. I would have to go around to each player and mumble, “are you, by any chance, “it”?” That’s if I remembered to turn up for the game at all. Friends laugh at me because I routinely leave messages for myself on my answering machine at home so I won’t forget to do something. They get a particular kick out of the fact that I end every reminder with “okay?” It’s then that I have to point out that I am indeed that pathetic, when I hear the message, I will have only a vague recollection of leaving it.

The other things I have trouble remembering are things like my purse, my expensive water bottle (because I didn’t forget that the plastic kind might cause stomach cancer) and one time, that I was supposed to follow my friend Lynn in my car to our friend Lisa’ house. It was only halfway through lunch at the second friend’s house that I remembered that I had left Lynn waiting for me in the parking lot at the end of our hike (okay, if truth be told, I probably never would have remembered until someone said “Where’s Lynn?” during lunch and I remembered with horror precisely where Lynn was.)

My friends are used to my memory loss and they even have a term for it “pulling a Donna” or “a real serviette move” (Lynn and I had mocked a great singing group called The Surreyettes and proposed an alternative group that was the complete opposite in terms of talent and decorum, the Serviettes (british term for napkins)). I read recently that you can exercise your memory and there are even exercises you can follow. I am eager to get going on this and improve my memory, so I cut the article out. Now, if I can only remember where I put it…

Monday, May 19, 2008

Portion Control and THAT Week

After he developed a thyroid problem, I remember my dog Kramer looking at me, with a seemingly sad/pleading expression on his face, as I doled out his meager, diet portion of food. I tried to comfort him by saying “Don’t worry Kramer, sometimes I wish someone would ration my food.”

Careful what you wish for. So here I am self-policing. I eat off of a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. I eat my teeny portion of granola directly out of my ¼ cup plastic measuring cup (even if it would burn more calories to wash the cup and a small bowl, I can’t be bothered). Whenever I shop for bowls and plates these days, I am drawn to the diminutive. The smaller the bowl, the bigger the portion looks, and I am definitely fooled by that every time. Put that same microscopic portion on a big plate and I will adopt the same seemingly sad/pleading expression my dog wore.

The whole eating on dishes that look like a child’s first tea set thing works pretty well until the week before my period. Then of course, I am looking for the “big salad” like Elaine from “Seinfeld” and unfortunately the desire to supersize (or really to regularsize) unfortunately does not stop at salad. Especially dangerous at this time of the month are things that you don’t put in a dish or a bowl. Things like chocolates that come in an assorted box, which you forgot about until that week when they suddenly shout out to you from behind the Ryvita crackers where you hid them. Or a muffin. Who cares what size plate it goes on? Certainly not me, during that week. Any attempts to be pious then are extremely brief and end in swift failure. A muffin which is cut into proper portions, nevertheless gets eaten in one sitting (though getting back up to get the other half undoubtedly burns a few more calories than eating the whole thing in one go).

The other problem during that week is the constant struggle to satisfy the maddeningly alternating though nevertheless consistent cravings of the sweet then salty, then sweet, then salty, …well, you get the idea. You know, the ice cream, then pretzels, then chocolate, then popcorn… I am proud to say, I have found a way to handle this struggle once and for all: an ice cream sundae with peanut butter sauce and salted peanuts on top. Just don’t ask me for the portion size.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Upside Down You Turn Me

Now that I am over forty, I have to say that I am bothered by the southern migration of my face. Seems as though someone implanted a magnet into my chest and the skin around my mouth in particular was eager to get to the magnet first. I don’t believe in plastic surgery (aren’t we tortured enough already, to say nothing of the risk). Nor would I be eager to inject anything like Botox which is a combination of the terms “botulinum” and “toxic.” in my book.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the stuff in Botox: “Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world, and it is the most toxic protein. Even worse than what I had mistakenly thought the “Bo” stood for. I thought it stood for bovine.

I figured why would I want cow particles in me? I am already trying my best not to be confused with a cow from the outside. With my luck they would find out that botox actually ends up paralyzing your face “as is” then I would look like I had Sad Cow disease since my parentheses (you know those deep grooves between the nose and mouth, I think the technical term is “nasal labia”) always make me look as though I have just read something sad or that I am an understudy for Grumpy.

Anyway, short of the knives and the needles, I decided to take matters in my own hands. I figured if gravity was making my face drop down like a heavy bag of groceries, the antidote would be to either stand on my head or lie down with my head hanging over the bed.

I am proud to say I can still stand on my head and for a long time too. I noticed lately though that it hurts my head, where it never did when I was a kid. Probably because whatever layer of protective fat was on the top of my head is now firmly lodged on my thighs, also thanks to gravity. So, instead I tried the lying backwards over the bed bit.

Everything was going fine and I was imagining that my face would look plump, flush and parentheses-free when I came back up until I noticed in the mirror that with my head hung over like that, a giant vein in my forehead bulged out hideously. I immediately pulled myself up and ignored the head rush. I’d be damned if I was going to look like some sort of troll with a throbbing vein in my forehead, even if it did mean I wouldn’t have parentheses. So, I am back to square one. Maybe I will try putting masking tape those parentheses at night…Stay tuned.