Monday, March 29, 2010

What the Hell IS Chick-Lit?

I took the kids to see Alice in Wonderland yesterday. I figured that, since it has Johnny Depp in it, it must be pretty good. Uh-uh. I'm not a huge Alice fan anyway. I enjoyed the books in a superficial sort of way (more relaxing than Moby Dick, after all), despite the overwhelming whiff of opium that wafts out from between the pages of its plotless Victoriana. So why take a really weird story and make it even weirder? Sorry, Johnny. I slept through most of it. The kids woke me up in time for the final battle.

I was sleepy because I had barely been to bed all weekend. If you value your rest and think highly of your own self-discipline, do not start reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Simon was in Houston on business, so there was no one to stop me from staying up until 3:00 AM on Friday and 1:00 AM on Saturday, reading like a maniac. No wonder I was feeling a little bit dozy.

I know, I know, the whole country is reading The Help, so my raving will just be a tiny peep lost in the greater roar of admiration. I really enjoyed this book. I would like Simon to read it, so I can talk to someone about it in detail. He was hesitant.

" it chick-lit?"
I have to think a little. "I don't know... Women sometimes get a little confused about the chick-lit phenomenon. How do I know if something is chick-lit?"
"Is it mainly about relationships between women?"
"I guess, although there's more to it than that. So, why do guys have a problem reading about relationships between women?"
(Watch this excellent save.) "Women are so complex! We could never hope to understand their relationships. We're simple creatures."

What constitutes chick-lit? Do chicks recognize it? Or to us, is it just lit?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Puberty Pack

That's what Sara got as a gift for attending the girls' Fifth Grade Maturation Program today. A little brown paper package tied up with string. Too bad it didn't contain any of my favorite things. I took a peek in there and it was full of maxi pad samples and a stick of deodorant. I thought about sneaking a few other goodies in there: acne cream; a razor; definitely some chocolate, a monthly necessity. Problem is, if Sara is the late bloomer that I was, the Hershey's will be white and powdery by the time she opens it. By the way, the boys got one too. It contained only a brochure. What a rip! They have to register for the draft, and they get a lame puberty pack.

I remember this same talk when I was a kid, although I was in seventh grade. Things have changed a lot. Almost all the moms (and one lonely father) were there. The school nurse had a Puberty PowerPoint. The girls giggled. A lot. There was nothing in this talk that Sara didn't already know, but she spent a lot of the time with her eyes wide and her hand pressed to her mouth to suppress her embarrassed mirth. I guess it was because the other girls were there. She's way more matter of fact at home.

That is another big difference. The whole event reminded me that my own mom was LOUSY at talking about boys, periods, bras, etc... And she was a registered nurse! You would think she could manage better than to surreptitiously leave a 10-year-old pamphlet with a coffee ring on my pillow, entitled "How do I Talk to my Daughter About Menstruation?" Pfft. That's the thing, Mom. You actually do have to talk to her at some point. Mine never did-the maturation class and the pamphlet had to suffice.

There was also a lot of matter-of-fact discussion of how supporting the school office is to girls who get their periods at school. No worries, just come to the office and we'll get you fixed up. Sara is worried, though. Will she get her period in school? Next week? I laughed. If family history had any part in this, kiddo, you have YEARS on unencumbered freedom still ahead. I didn't start until just before my 14th birthday.

This is an uncomfortable memory for me. I try not to think about the episode, because it was rough. I was in Shell Lake in northern Wisconsin, attending Swing Choir Camp on my own. I was just out of eighth grade, and every other one of the 100 or so participants had at least one year of high school. Lots of them were Seniors. I was in a room with three loud-mouthed, wise-cracking girls who were 15 and 16. They loved to talk about their exploits with boys, beer, staying out all night...I had no stories of that sort to tell. When they talked about me, they would draw a "square" in the air with their fingers. So you see where this is headed. It was unfortunate: that first period was a really heavy one, we were not that close to a drug store. I had to go to my roommates, tell them the difficulty and ask for help. Which they gave freely. One girl had a huge box of pads and just gave the whole package to me. [C'mon! What were you expecting? Carrie?] It didn't make me any cooler, though, I can tell you that.

I was expecting something controversial - after all, this was sex-ed in the most conservative state in the country. You wouldn't believe the amount of hot air that gets blown over maturation programs in Utah. I kept hoping that some mom would leap to her feet and express shock SHOCK! that the nurse said the word "sperm" in front of her daughter. Nope. Bummer.

The only part of the program that gave me hope was when the nurse was telling the girls to lay off of makeup until they were at least 16. "You know the girls who are already wearing eyeliner and mascara and lipstick in fifth grade? The ones wearing the hootchie-cootchie clothes? Those are not the kind of girls the boys really like. They will not want to take those sorts of girls home to meet their families." Oh, boy! Now for the excitement! Surely a hootchie mama would leap to her feet in her platform heels and defend her little girl's lipstick choices? Alas, no drama to be found in maturation class. Sara tucked the Puberty Pack under my arm and sent me on my way.

Feeling brave? Want to share a menstrual tale of woe like the one above? Click on Comment and get it out of your system. I promise I won't throw a tampon at you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So Easily Embarrassed

Eleven-year-old Sara is beginning to think I am the most embarrassing person on Earth. This is going to be a fantastic developmental stage, in my opinion.

It was a busy weekend. On the list were:

1. Bake Brown Soda Bread;
2. Turn in Girl Scout Cookie money;
3. Watch Nathan's soccer match (while freezing to death);
4. Make a slow-simmering Guinness Beef Stew...
5. ...and a big pot of vanilla bean pudding;
6. Host a dinner party (why else would I be cooking like a maniac?);
7. Do the week's laundry;
8. Shop for the bits and pieces I need to make a "Pele" costume for Nathan, for a school project;
9. Clean out the window wells;
10. Play in a soccer match.

This last thing was a little (more like a LOT) out of my comfort zone, as I have never played soccer before. Watched WAAAAAYYYY too much of it, yeah. Played it myself, no.

Sara's friend, O. (He's my boyfriend, Mom! Why don't you just say it?) likes to do this sometimes. He will rustle up as many friends and neighbor kids as he can persuade, and issue a kids vs. parents challenge. I called his mom to make sure I understood correctly. I was expected to PLAY? Did she understand that I didn't really know how? "Neither do I," she said. "We just kick the ball toward the goal. No rules. We cheat like crazy."

OK; since we're not taking it too seriously, I told Sara, I might consider a costume of some sort. Her eyes widened. "What. What!?! What KIND of costume, Mom?"

"Well, I could wear a funny hat, but it will fall off right away." [ponder, ponder] "I know, I'll wear my sweats with my bikini over the top."

"No. You will not. You are not allowed to do that. That will embarrass me." Ooooh. I am mentally rubbing my hands together.

The next couple of days were very long for Sara. She tried baleful glares at me across the supper table. She tried begging and pleading. She cried. She tried hiding my swim suit. She insisted that she knew I was not really going to do it. So of course, on game day, I got myself all dressed up and she was beside herself. Simon played along nicely: "WHOOOOO-HOO! What a hottie!" I did my butt-jiggling dance around the kitchen.

Eight-year-old Nathan appeared and said to Sara, "I know how to handle this." He left and came back a moment later with a ten-dollar bill from his birthday money. "Mom, if you take off the bikini, I'll pay you ten bucks."

Oh! Deal.

Later, at the match (if you can call it that), I was relating this tale to O's mother. She was hugely disappointed that I had relented, and has committed to wearing her swimsuit over her sweats next time, if I do.

Do I have to give Nathan back his $10?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Both kids were still awake when I got home from work late tonight. It is past 10:00, and Sara has her light on?

"Hey! What are you still doing up!? Lights out!"
"I have a stomach ache."
"And keeping your light on makes it go away? Where does it hurt?"
"It's just gas."
"Well, have your gas in the dark."

Then I'm walking down the hall and I hear a little voice call out, "Mommy! Mommy!"
"Nate! You're awake, too?"
"Yeah. My knee hurts!" He pulls the covers down to show me the affected area. "Right here."
"Huh. You probably tweaked it a little playing soccer."
"Tweaked???" He looks intrigued. I can tell that he's hoping that "tweak" is something we can fuss over for another half-hour. "What do you do about a tweak?"
"You go to sleep."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lava Lamp

Simon, the tight-lipped Brit whose pants are securely belted high up his waist has just used the word "erotic". And to think I was sitting here wondering what to blog about.

"I think we should take Nathan's lava lamp away from him and put it in our room."
"Well, I always thought they were kind of lame. But just now I was standing there watching it and I realized it is quite erotic."

I stared at him blankly for a heatbeat...two..three..

"You know...there's this sense of building tension, then release as the bubble breaks free and rises to the surface....."

Ladies, are we turned on yet?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I'm Too Old for This

I ran about nine miles today, getting ready for the Salt Lake City Half-Marathon in April. Got a blister on my INSTEP, of all things. It didn't start hurting until about Mile 6; I finally stopped and rotated my socks, hoping that moving the sweaty instep to the outside of my foot would help. Nope. I was limping by the time I left the track. I wonder if I can wear my fuzzy slippers to work tomorrow.

It's almost bedtime, and I can't wait to jump into a nice hot shower. I ache all over from the run. Including muscles that don't make any sense. Like the one that attaches my hip to my waist? Excuse me, but I didn't notice much action up there.

I have talked myself into believing that my results in this race are some sort of cancer indicator. As in, if I beat my pre-cancer time, that means that I'm cured. I really should not have let my head take me there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's All About the Cookies

Yes, it's Girl Scout Cookie time again! Sara and I were out delivering cookies until bedtime, and my car is full of boxes ordered my my colleagues at school.

Today, my coworker, Ray, bustled in to the office and emphatically placed $3.50 on my desk. "Kate! I'm ready to pick up my cookies." I checked his order, went out to my car and returned with a box of Trefoils.

"OK. I just need to trade these for a box of the Samoas."
"Oh, sorry, Ray. The cookies I have are all pre-ordered and I don't have extras right now. All the Samoas I have are spoken for."
[Crestfallen. Very crestfallen.] "Oh. You're kidding me."
"Well, Ray, if you wanted Samoas, why didn't you order them?"

Time for true confessions. He has a coworker at his other job who brought in a box of Samoas. "Haven't you ever had these?! Here! Try one!" He did. Then she set the box down and left the room. Big mistake: Ray polished off the whole box, "...before I knew what I was doing!" Gosh, I could have told this lady that Ray is NOT TO BE TRUSTED around sweets. Now he wants to get his hands on another box of Samoas before she realizes what he has done.

I looked down the order form and told him the names of the teachers who had ordered lots of Samoas. "You'll need to take your box of Trefoils around and see if anyone wants to trade." He had no success. First of all, it's not a fair trade. Everyone knows that Samoas are second best, surpassed only by Thin Mints. Trefoils are kind of the Pope's nose of Girl Scout Cookies. And anyway, I went to all these same people in advance and told them to give him maximum crap and play tough with the negotiations. When I left this afternoon, he was still trying to get someone to give him a box of Samoas. I heard one of the teachers say she'd sell him a box for $4.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Five Fine Moments

Here's my new collection: fine moments. You can add to my collection by thinking of five fine moments from your day today and posting them in the "Comments" section.

1. Hail beating on the carport roof at work today made me smile.

2. I did observation and feedback for one of the teachers on our staff today, and was impressed by the quality of her work.

3. One of my colleagues was selling scarves knitted by her mother. I bought one that matched my eyes.

4. There was a little square of dark chocolate mint waiting for me when I got home from work.

5. My son has declared that he plans to be either a professional soccer player or a teller at America First Credit Union when he grows up.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wife Repellant

You know, if I were aware that eating a huge goddams garlic burger would make me unbearable to be around for 36 hours, would I simply waggle my eyebrows at my partner and take a huge bite?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jack of All Trades....

My eleven-year-old daughter brought home a letter outlining the annual Fifth Grade Spring Fair. Big misnomer! This is in fact a time when the parents come in and teach a class on anything they choose. Sara is adamant. I can't even get out of it by pleading "conference" or "meeting". There are four different days to choose from. Booger.

The Spring Fair plays to one of my biggest insecurities: [whispered] I am not really good at anything. Well, Simon has a few ideas, but they would get me arrested. Shut up, Simon; I'm serious. I am passable at many things. I can get a tasty, healthy meal on the table. I'm a competent parent. But my real skills? Writing grants. Ooooh! Kids would love that. Teaching people to speak English. Keeping stuff organized. Coordinating volunteers. You see, nothing really translates well to 60 minutes in a fifth grade classroom. Sara is aware of my shortcoming. She has been known to say that, if forced to keep a group of kids entertained, I would probably resort to worksheets. I have dabbled in some things over the years. I was good at belly dancing, but both times I took a class, I got pregnant. Have fun speculating on that. That's a micro-example of the greater issue: having time for oneself after the job, the kids, the spouse, the house, the yard.

The school sent home a list of ideas, based on things other parents had done in the past.

Cooking. Well, shit. 15 people will sign up to do that. It's the creative outlet of last resort, since families have to eat.

Sewing. I have a sewing machine. I used it once to make a bean bag. I have a sneaking feeling that I could be good at sewing, given a little guidance, instruction and TIME. I like to sew. I mean, I like to imagine myself sewing.

Painting, charcoals, cartooning...uh..I make stick figures...

Tole painting. Oh come on.

Hair styles, nails. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

First aid. I can apply a Bandaid. I can remain calm while soliciting help from others...

Hiking and canyon safety. OK, I'm good at that. But how do you teach it without a field trip? Same with other things I excel at, like camping, backpacking, canoeing.

Sports of any kind. I suck at everything except running. If it has a ball in it, I have no aptitude. Skiing, maybe, but in this part of the world, that skill is almost as ubiquitous as cooking.

Music. In a past life, I had a trained voice. Now I sing in the shower.

The list goes on for a while, including some suggestions like: dissection; decorating with fruits; bonsai trees; scrap booking. I have tried scrap booking. I am really, really bad at it. In fact, if my audience were adults, I could do a hilarious parody of scrap booking. This is partly because my scissors skills should have got me held back in Kindergarten, and partly 'cause I'm such a cheapskate. I look at a scrap book page and think, "This paper it so expensive; I should try to get 20 pictures on this page."

SO, I arrive at writing. According to my friend Robert, I am a tolerable writer. There is also drama. I think most teachers of English as a Second Language are frustrated drama queens. My siblings have been calling me one for years. I am toying with impromptu script writing and acting. It would beat the hell out of..., training guide dogs, ballroom dance or Dutch oven cookery. I made corn bread in my Dutch oven once. Simon called it the densest matter in the universe.

I wonder if I am exceptional in my mediocrity? What about the other working moms out there? How do you find time to practice and master anything? Is there some trick to this that I don't know? Weigh in with wisdom if you have it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pondering Infidelity

Maybe the time has finally come. We've been together for so many years. In the beginning, it was great; and my life has been changed for the better: really, it has. And I have weathered so many changes over time. But for the last six months or so, I find I just can't stomach the...lack of originality! The duck-and-cover attitude in response to the poor economy. No more dreams, no more playfulness, no more...well...fantasy. I need to feed my fire.

But, can I really bring myself to turn my back on the history that we share together? I mean, I have two entire card boxes filled with recipes from Cooking Light. Almost every meal I prepare for my family has come from that magazine.

There have, over the past 10 years, been various "face lifts"; but the latest version drives me crazy. I have spent a lot of time pondering the source this sudden hostility. I think the truth will hit very close to home for my fellow adventure-starved suburban working moms who used to have lives. I need a cooking magazine that plays to my imagination. I used to love the photos of beautiful dinner party tables. The "Travel" section, so I could visualize myself (wearing an outfit from Chico's) in that exotic locale. The "Fit House" section, with the Viking, SubZero, movie-star kitchens. The edgy recipes with wild combinations of ingredients! But now it's all about affordability, speed, simplicity. Because I am a suburban working mom, I appreciate those things...but I already have a bunch of practical, prosaic recipes.

At any rate, I was trying to learn to love the new "reflecting a new reality" version of Cooking Light, until I saw this in the restroom at work, and the seduction began.

Why read "25 Common Kitchen Mistakes" or "New Uses for Everyday Ingredients" when I can read this?

The question is, have I sinned? This is still in the "infatuation" stage. Technically, it isn't adultery until there is penetration. I haven't actually tried a recipe, yet. I know, this rationalization is ugly. Help. I need an intervention. Or a vacation to Turkey.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yes, I Am the Queen of Technology

'Cuz when I got home and that found Simon had been struggling with the new DVD player for two hours, I changed the batteries in the remote.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Sara's 11th birthday, make-your-own-pizza, chocolate-fondue, Pin-the-Fangs-on-Robert -Pattinson, seven-girls-spending-the-night blowout is OVER! They were pretty good (I only had to remonstrate with them 3 or 4 times), but most of them really were up all night. I am sure of it because the loud thumping of their not-so-little feet shook me out of bed at 5:10 AM.

This is exactly how they looked when I found them all standing stock still in her little brother's room, illuminated only by his night-light. Except the girls were all chewing gum. Imagine meerkats with tiny jaws all chomping in unison. Nathan was oblivious, snoozing away. "What [the hell] are you doing?" "Treasure hunt," said Sara.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Familia Arrias

I am getting pretty concerned about the fate of my Chilean host family, with whom I stayed when visiting Concepcion years ago. They live in Poblacion Pedro Zanartu. Does anyone know where one can search for information neighborhood by neighborhood?