29 October 2008

She's The Best

This was taken in 1973. The old man is my dad's old man, my Grandpa Fred. The curly-headed toddler is my cousin Amy and the cute baby in the picture is my sister, Katy (I'm above her rocking my crooked haircut by mom). We're on the stairs of my grandparents' house in Cincinnati sharing a box of raisins but the back of the photo claims it's Christmas.

Looking at this picture reminds me of how much I adore my sister. We've been through the shit together and no body knows me better than she does. Of course we've had our disagreements over the years, what siblings don't? But I can't recall any argument of note past 1985 when she yelled at me not to stretch out her shoes.

My sister is an amazing mother, wife, teacher and friend. Katy is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She's beautiful and vivacious and bubbly and can talk to anybody about pretty much anything - something I'm not good at at all. I honestly don't know who I'd be without her presence in my life, but I can hazard a guess that I wouldn't be very much fun to be around.

I love her with all my heart.

And I wish her the happiest of birthdays today.

26 October 2008

Soup's On!

It's a bright, sunny, yet blustery day today. I love it. Fall is my favorite season and what's not to love? Mulled apple cider, that crisp fresh smell in the air, cooler weather necessitating the wearing of jackets and sweaters (though Flynn is still trying to convince me it's not too cold to wear sandals and halter dresses), piling blankets on beds and breaking out the down comforters in anticipation of even colder nights, hot filling meals.

Today was perfect for heading to our beloved, out-of-the-way pumpkin patch. Frank had ideas of making a Death Star pumpkin this year in addition to the traditional kitty cat and bat. It's a good thing I decided to call my sister to chat before we left because she told me, "Don't go. They're out of pumpkins. They had a lousy crop this year and were short something like 20 truckloads."

What? How could the pumpkin patch be out of pumpkins? So with spirits deflated we decided to get our pumpkins at our local grocery. Not exactly the fun I had envisioned today. But it did give me the opportunity to pick up the ingredients I needed for tonight's dinner: veggie soup.

So this afternoon while Frank took the kids out to hawk Boy Scout popcorn, I made my favorite veggie soup from a recipe out of my head involving carrots, white onions, crushed tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, lots of low sodium V-8 juice as the basis for the broth and canned chick peas thrown in at the last minute.I usually play around with the amount of ingredients until I get the consistency I like. Today I used a purple cabbage just because I thought it would be fun. I really like the way it colored the broth - making it a deeper, richer red than it is normally - and the onions, which turned a pretty lavender.

Of course when it was finished I could not wait to have a wee taste.So, so good! Especially with a dash of hot sauce.

Just the thing to hit the spot on this, or any, chilly day.

24 October 2008

The Great Compromiser

The ride home from school today was filled with discussion on who I had voted for and why.

That's right, I voted today to beat the rush. Mine was the 689th ballot cast in my ballot-holding-machine-thingy at the County Clerk's office.

Anyhoo, the school my children attend is holding a mock election on Nov. 4th. Evan says he's voting for "Barry O'Vama." Flynn immediately took a contrary position until she found out that I'd also voted for "Barry".

Trying to put my reasoning for voting for the person I voted for into words and concepts my 7- and 5-year-old could understand without sounding jaded, cynical and (more than) slightly bitter was a daunting task. I told them that most of the ideas that Senator McCain has are ideas and beliefs I don't share and I'm more in harmony with Senator Obama's ideas. And while my kids tried to paint McCain as a bad person, I tried to tell them that Sen. McCain is not actually bad, he's a good man but he's just not the right choice to be president.

I couldn't tell them how disgusted I am with our current president and that Sen. McCain's presidency would mean more of the same; that the United States is currently a corporate state thanks very much to Mr. Bush and his greedy cronies. I also didn't mention McCain's running mate.

I did tell them that Senator Obama would change things for the better; that the thought of his presidency makes me hopeful for a better future for them; that Sen. Obama is fired up and his energy is infectious.

After this, Evan was silent for a bit then said, "Why don't they just work together?"

I couldn't answer him. Who knows? Maybe they will. Maybe they'll think like a 7-year-old.

23 October 2008

Behold, The Brownie!

Last night and most of today I was in desperate need of a rich, fudge-y brownie. I perused my copy of Veganomicon and, sadly, did not find a brownie recipe (though I'll make that chocolate bundt cake someday soon).

This morning, I went online and found this recipe. After reading some reviews I made some adjustments: substituting raw sugar for white, chocolate soy milk for water (I was tempted to use almond milk or coffee), and halved the oil replacing the other 1/2 c. with cinnamon applesauce. The recipe came together very easily and the tempting smell of baking brownies filled the house well within 20 minutes.

The result is this:
And because I'm in a Mexican chocolate kind of mood, I dusted the top of the brownies with a mixture of cinnamon and confectioner's sugar.

The brownie itself is a little cakey in texture and that may be because of the applesauce and is very chocolaty, like a brownie should be, but in a healthier form and paired well with vanilla ice cream (no, I didn't make it) and a slice of orange.

Both Evan and Flynn declared the brownies a success with a full-mouthed "Yum!"

20 October 2008

Yes, Sir, That's My Boy

One of Evan's spelling words this week is "who."

Me: "Evan, spell the word 'who'."

Evan: "What, like Dr. Who?"

I'm so proud of my nerdy boy.

19 October 2008

12 Years Ago Today

Frank and I were married.

We recently remarked to each other that getting married was the easiest decision we've ever made.

The same goes for staying that way.

Twelve years is a drop in the bucket.

17 October 2008

Because I'm In An 80's Kind Of Mood

Whip out your peg-legged jeans, black loafers and white socks everybody. It's the lovely Housemartins with their classic, Happy Hour.


16 October 2008

Theology for Dinos

Tuesday one of our parish priests came to talk to Evan's class. I'm not sure what the topic of conversation was but my son asked Father the following question, "Do plant eaters go to heaven and meat eaters go to hell?"

Evan didn't specify dinosaurs, but I know how my son's mind works (most of the time).

Without missing a beat Father's responded, "I don't know. I'll have to think about it and get back to you."

It's slightly disturbing that my son is concerned for the souls of species long extinct yet has no qualms about torturing a 5-year-old boy.

15 October 2008

Now That I'm Off The Crack

SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to read the Twilight series and plan on doing so, don't read this post. Go read something else. Like the Twilight books. Then we'll talk.

I finished the Twilight series a couple of days ago and I've been thinking about them since. Those books are total junk food (or crack): no sustenance but fun a plenty. And while I did enjoy reading them, I'm not sorry to see them go back to Quigs, who was so kind as to lend me her copies.

The stories were a little problematic for me. And maybe that's because I'm a grown-up, haved lived a little, and I'm not the target audience for this series (I saw 8th graders carrying copies at school today). But I read a lot of young adult fiction and a lot of fantasy lit. My main difficulty is with the characterization, or lack thereof. Each character, including the narrator Bella Swann, does not evolve or grow in any way. They're all very one note, though each one note plays well with the others. The chords are few and far between. Bella's parents are an inconvenience and completely on the periphery, as are her human friends. It's the vampires and, later, the werewolves that take center stage in Bella's consciousness. And while I appreciate the author's originality in quashing all the vampire and werewolf myths out there, supernatural romance has been done before.

One reader review on Amazon summed up Twilight rather nicely: We spend the whole novel reading her [Bella's] thoughts and they basically consist of: "Forks sucks. I hate cold weather. Edward is beautiful and gorgeous and perfect. Forks sucks. People here actually have the nerve to be nice and try to include me in social activities. Obviously they're just using me. Edward is beautiful and perfect and gorgeous. What stupid thing can I do today to get myself nearly killed? Edward is beautiful and perfect and gorgeous. Edward is a vampire. His instinct is to rip me to shreds. But he's beautiful and perfect and gorgeous. I can't exist without him."

What I don't like about Bella is her severe martyr complex, which is never really explained. Bella repeatedly chastises herself. Apparently, everything bad that happens (has happened or will happen) is her fault. This bothers other characters as well annoying readers.

However, the author nailed a mother's almost feral desire to love and protect her child. This was not evidenced in Bella's own mother (who shows up a handful of times throughout the entire series), but in Bella (the new and improved vampire-enhanced model in Breaking Dawn). The author also perfectly recreated the break-up of a first love and the insecurities a teenage girl can/does feel. That being said, I did not feel any sympathy for Bella. I didn't care if she jumped off a cliff or if she did anything else. Bella resonates with the core base of the series's fans (tween and teen girls) but she doesn't with me. She did not touch my heart.

I did like the writing. The author has an ear for dialogue and language, though it was stilted at some points. Her vampire family was much more interesting than Anne Rice's and these books were certainly not as preachy as Rice's book tend to get (I hated Queen of The Damned. Ugh. There's not enough money in the world to make me read that book again.). I'd like to know more about them other than just their all too brief back story.

I give the Twilight series 3 stars out of 5.

After a palate cleanser of Alison Bechtel's totally amazing comic, Fun Home, I started in on Naomi Klein's downer The Shock Doctrine. I have a feeling this book will be slow going. It's fascinating, eye-opening, but not a page-turner and reading it makes my stomach hurt. As much as it hurts I will read this book to educate myself no matter how scary it gets.

Belle Noelle is reading this as well. Care to join us?

14 October 2008

Brotherly Advice

Every day after school I receive the "red light report" from my daughter about which kids had a hard time following the classroom rules. Invariably, one little boy's name comes up with a sigh of exasperation from Flynn. It's not my place to tell you this highly energetic boy's name, but if you've ever seen Pee Wee's Big Adventure, you'll be able to suss it out yourself.

Anyway, this boy vexes Flynn and her brother beyond their patience. He plays roughly with Flynn, Evan and Evan's friends no matter how many times they tell him to stop it and please go away (they've also told a teacher to no avail).

"This boy is always bothering me," stated Flynn on the ride home this afternoon.

Evan came up with this little gem of wisdom, "Here's what you do, Flynn. If he starts in on you during recess make sure you have a friend see what he does then have them tell a teacher. Then, you ask for a play date. When you're over at his house, put a spider in his bed. A big one. That'll teach him."

When did my son become so devious?

I guess I should take some small measure of comfort that Evan told Flynn to put a spider rather than a horse's head in this kid's bed a la The Godfather.

10 October 2008

The Creepiest Lovey

I was on my way downstairs this a.m., fully intending on going to the gym, when I took a gander at my daughter's room and decided I could torch the equivalent calories of my run in tidying up her room.

I came across this, the weirdest stuffed animal I've ever seen:
Freaky, no?

This may have been one of Frank's childhood companions, but I'm not sure. Who puts a red eye in a stuffed bunny? It's enough to give a person nightmares.

It's kinda glaring at me right now so maybe I'll just go put him back in Flynn's room.

And hope he stays there, all nice and quiet like.

08 October 2008

They Call Me Hell

Saturday on our way to lunch, Stacy asked, "Are we listening to the Ting Tings?"

"Yep," was my response.

Easing me out of my techno phase is the lovely Ting Tings and, more specifically, their song "That's Not My Name". This version is mixed in with Yo Gabba Gabba!'s "There's A Party In My Tummy". Love it.

Good Old/New Days

I know, long time no writing. I've been home from the "momcation" the better part of a week and I'm still decompressing.

I arrived in Charleston before 5 p.m., checked into the hotel then hot-footed it out of there to see what had changed since I'd last seen my college town well over a dozen years ago. Driving down the main strip (which is hard to do and ogle at the same time) I noticed that a couple of fast food joints are still the same (McD's, surprisingly McHugh's is still there, the Taco Hell where I worked is still around) and the old Hardee's is gone, replaced with a shiny new Jimmy John's (about time since Jimmy John's was founded in Charleston). My favorite Chinese place is gone, which made me sad since I was really looking forward to their cashew chicken. The old Wal-Mart is gone, relocated to the far east side of town, even further away from students. The Wilb Walker (yes, that's the actual name) grocery store is now County Market. The bar we all hung out in is not the same place. A campus store that sold candy, fraternity & sorority stuff, and other 'necessities' is gone. The owner once called my friend and I "little fillies", so I'm not sad to see that place vacant.

One of my favorite people from my college days is my friend Gwen. She and I shared the hotel room and stayed up late into the night chatting, marveling that "20 years ago at 10:00 on a Friday night we were usually getting ready to go out" instead of yawning and putting on pj's. Since we had no plans until early the next afternoon we'd definitely be sleeping in.

Apparently, 7:30 is sleeping in (at my house it is). Gwen and I were awake and cursing that fact Saturday morning. Unable to return to sleep, we went out for breakfast then on to campus to check out the old Union and the new fine arts building. There used to be a street that ran in front of the Union, health service building, fine arts and continued the length of campus. The new fine arts digs are now smack dab in the middle of the street. It's massive and amazing (it takes up the space where health service used to be). The Union is still pretty much the same except for a Java coffee bar, which would've come in handy when we were students, and the extinction of the Sugar Shack (a beloved candy counter) and McD's. Amazingly, it smells the same. Gwen and I met up with Paul and Stacy, who'd driven down from Chicago. It was so, so, so good to see them in person again. After hugs and "Oh, my God, you look great"s we went to snoop around the new theatre spaces before the official tour.

All I can say about the new fine arts building is wow. All that's left of our old digs is the back staircase that connected the main stage to the green room and the costume shop. It was freaky. As the four of us joined the tour for alumni, we were joined by our friends Gary (and his lovely wife Sheila) and John, who'd flown in from Portland, Oregon. We were flooded with memories: pulling all-nighters in the Scene Design room, not getting into a theatre for tech rehearsals until after 9:00 p.m., hanging lights in the studio theatre with a cherry picker and a prayer, Gary talking me down from the grid above the main stage (fear of heights, you know), sleeping in the lobby, doing laundry in the costume shop (or maybe that was just me since I had keys to the building).

After the tour we went to lunch and ate and drank and talked and laughed. A lot. Sheila, a nurse, told the most hilarious story about a remote control and a chicken leg. Gary regaled us with tales of being a police officer. We reminisced. In many ways it was like those intervening 17 years slipped away and we were all in our 20's again. It was like my friends and I were straddling a divide with one foot in the past, the other firmly planted in the here and now.

As for the play we saw that night, I'll just say we would've been better off staying at the bar, but the reception after was nice. We spent time with a couple of our former professors; our acting teacher and the play's director. Departing that night, I didn't want the night to end. I had missed my friends and didn't really realize how much until then. They knew me way back when I did really stupid stuff on a routine basis and are my friends still. I am endeavoring to be a better friend and keep in touch.

Sunday I woke early despite not falling asleep until after 1 a.m. I gathered my things, checked out, picked up a large skinny vanilla latte at the Starbucks and headed back to Chambana to be part of Leeanthro's Step Out For Diabetes team. Frank and the kids met me at the park for the event, welcoming me home with hugs and kisses.

This week I've been tired and lethargic but mulling over the weekend always brings a smile to my face and my friends and I have connected in an online community, exchanging notes and pictures, staying connected.

It's all good.

It'll have to be until the next time. And, guys, I'm buying the first round.

03 October 2008

The Momcation

In roughly 27 minutes I will be getting in my car and driving away from my husband and children.

For the first time ever I will be apart from Frank and the kids at the same time.

It's weird and strangely exhilarating.

I'm headed southwards to my old college stomping grounds for a reunion of sorts. The building that I spent 5 years of my life in is no longer around (I'm not kidding when I said I lived in that building; I attended classes there, worked there, rehearsed and performed there, slept there, and made and lost friends there). The old building was demolished in '02 and replaced by a shiny new fine arts center with a state 'o the art theatre. The first show in the new digs is Arsenic and Old Lace, an oldie but a goody, directed by one of my favorite professors. This is to be his last show ever at EIU and some friends of mine and I decided to pay a visit and get together, which it's high time we did because most of us haven't seen one another since we left college a long time ago.

I can't wait to see my old friends, but part of me is disturbed that I won't have any frame of reference for the new building; all the places where I worked, laughed and cried are gone.

So begins my Momcation. I will sleep undisturbed. I will not step on any Lego or Barbie shoes for at least 36 hours. I will laugh hard, reliving good times with dear friends. And I will miss my babies and my love.

But I won't be gone long, just a day and a half.

Later, taters.

01 October 2008

Breathe The Incongruity With Me

So, is it weird to be sitting in the church parking lot grooving to the prodigy? That's exactly what I was doing an hour ago: rocking out to Breathe, a song I had nearly forgotten I loved, while waiting for my kids' school day to end.

Before I got hooked on the crack that is the Twilight books, I was reading what amounted to a treatise on rave culture and music. It was surprisingly boring. The anecdotes the author related were interesting but all too brief and he discussed in depth the varied history of techno music. I found myself wishing for a CD of the music he was writing about, some of which I find really, really fun (Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, the prodigy, the Shamen) but much of it was unfamiliar to me. I wanted to hear it (I went through the exact same thing while reading Mark Hertsgaard's brilliant A Day In The Life).

But I'm content with my new prodigy disc and car dancing in my mini-van.