Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Menus as Memories

I will admit to you, my friends, that I occasionally purchase O, The Oprah Magazine. Especially when she has summer reading lists, as she did this month. I am also a huge fan of her columnist Lisa Kogan. I think she and I are living parallel lives, she living in the more successful universe, apparently. This months, Kogan's column was all about her life through memories of food. It got me thinking that a lot of my memories are tied to food as well, and that I might like to share them.

My Grandma Fleming will always be peach Hi-C (out of a circular aluminum can) and Archway oatmeal cookies. She made a phenomenal apple pie, that certain women in my family can replicate, but for me, this juice and cookies snack will always be my memory of my maternal grandmother. We'd have a cookie or two and a glass of Hi-C and then she would play a game of checkers with me. Or let me trace pictures through onion paper. Or let me sort through the extremely cool glass squares she had collected. Good times.

From first through fourth grade, I attended Catholic school in an Italian parish. This meant that several times a year there would be spaghetti dinners. REAL spaghetti dinners. Not this crap the Irish parishes are trying to pull off over at St. Bridget of Kildaire. The pasta sauce and meatballs from St. Anthony's spaghetti dinners will remind me of my youth both at school and at my paternal grandparents' house. My dad's parents were heavily involved with the church and, thus, the dinners. Both grandparents had a heavy hand in the making of both the sauce and meatballs for the dinners - both at the parish dinners at at their home every Sunday - where we were expected to be at noon every Sunday. In Columbus, Carfanga's sauce comes about the closest (but you have to add red wine when you cook it).

When I converted in May, I gave up pork. To be honest, I am weaning myself from it. We don't have it in the house at all, but I cannot resist now - nor have I ever been able to resist - a good BLT sandwich. When I was pregnant, Osi and I went to Rooster's restaurant before almost every doctor's appt. and there I ordered what I believed to be the perfect BLT. Lots of crispy (but not burnt) bacon that is not the fancy stuff, either; two thick slices of tomato and a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce topped with a healthy (ahem) slathering of mayo. On a toasted white bun. It is so simple and so yummy. Too many places try too hard and end up screwing this up. So, thank you, Rooster's, for providing me my pregnancy food memory - your perfect BLT.

And what is food without drink? Thanks to the Wandering Jews, and the friendships I have developed with them over dinners, drinks, wings and beer over the last year or so, Corona Light will always taste like friendship to me. It's my drink of choice during the summer, and we have had so many laughs over cookouts, fire pits, fireworks and hot wings, all accompanies with a Corona Light with a lime. It would be nice if this were the last thing I taste before I die.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Boy Wants to Potty All the Time...

BIG NEWS at Chez Zimmer: We have finally had some success in persuading The Boy to use The Potty.

Ah, when Boy and Potty meet, in a non-hands-in-the-water kinda way, it is a loverly thing, indeed. A thing for which Mommy has prayed, ney, bargained with the deity of your choice, would happen before all hairs on her once nicely-coiffed head turned gray and fell out. So I hope you will forgive me if I have not updated with any fresh material in a few days. We have been very, very busy here.

People, we have pee peed on the potty.

Now, my mother, with almost 40 years of child-rearing under her belt, begun arriving in my home with Pull-Ups shortly after J's second birthday...TWENTY, count them, 2-0 months ago. In her infinite wisdom, she thought it was time to get on with business, so to speak. J thought otherwise. And we all know, when a three-year-old decides something is NOT going to happen, well, if they have any control over it whatsoever, then, friends, it is just not going to happen. J had the ultimate control on if and when (oh, God, tell me it will be "when and not "if" I pleaded silently into the black night) potty training would commence.

Well, it commenced, with very little fanfare, on Thursday. The Boy announced, in the tub, no less, (in all his squishy boy nakedness): "Mommy, I want to wear underwear."

"Well, J," says I, " Underwear are for boys and girls who put their pee pee and poops in the potty, not in their pants."

"OK." Says Boy. "I have to go potty." And he did.

The little shit had it in him (literally) the entire time and no amount of pressure from Grammy or Mom was going to coax that pee into the potty before its time. Go, Diego, Go underpants, though? Well those are pantaloons of a different color! Why didn't you mention that before, Moms? (Actually, son, I did. At ages 2 years, 2 years 4 months, 2 years 6 months, etc., etc. ad nauseum.)

Now, I am completely aware that this all comes down to peer pressure. About a month ago, we were at the park with friends. Boy's friend Jake (a year older) had to use the potty. Of course, as soon as he emerged victorious, Boy felt the urge To Go. In Public. At a Park Restroom. (Have I not mentioned my horrific phobia of public restrooms before? No? Well, mommy is about to get over that real quick, methinks.) Boy Wonder pulled down the pants, the Pull-Up (thanks for the 3 year supply, Grammy) and was all up on that potty. I do believe not a part of him left that park without touching said toilet. ewwwwwwwwwww. We go to wash our hand and of course - of COURSE - there is no soap. Strike that. Not even a soap dispenser. Not even the illusion that they might expect some sort of basic human hygiene. That was it. Mommy collected Boy Wonder, made a quick goodbye to her friend and children (potty instigators!) and proceeded to damn near strip the Boy down and disinfect him within an inch of his life in the back seat of the CR-V.

That was out first experience with Potty Peer Pressure.

This underwear thing I am down with, though. Kids in J's class are, one by one, slowly catching on and graduating to big kid pants, leaving "baby diapers" as J calls them, and Pull-Ups behind. The Boy does not like to be left behind.

We have a full arsenal (arse-enal...heh heh) of Diego training pants and Diego and Thomas big boy pants. Some Lightening McQueen may be thrown in to balance things out. If this is all it took, I am all in. Somehow, I think he may be bluffing. Weekends are a little iffy and we have to ask every 10 minutes if he has to go. After almost four years, a diaper free existence is like a mirage to me. I think he's making it up just to mess with me.

So far, so good. More from the trenches, er, latrines, later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If We're Rubbing Salt in the Wound, We Might as Well Make a Margarita...

Since "retiring" from my career in association management, I have developed a crazy sensitivity to all things "Stay-at-Home-Mom" related.

Like the word "homemaker." Our CPA insisted on using that as my occupation on our tax forms. I lobbied hard for Chief of Operations because, let's face it, this place would not run without me (sorry, honey). I am in charge of
  • procurement (everyone has food to eat, clothes to wear and birthday cards/presents to give to recipients through no effort of their own),
  • event planning (I scout both play dates and date nights, arrange for all babysitters and likely have picked the restaurant),
  • development (the three-and-a-half year old has not yet lost limbs or digits, he has play dates and attends temple as often as we are comfortable taking him) and
  • about half of the finances (admittedly, not my strong suit, which is why we have a CFO here at Chez Zimmer).

So tell me how the title Chief of Operations does NOT apply here?

Now, I know a lot of working moms would kill or maim to be in my position. Truth be told, I would maim (although maybe not yet kill) to be in their positions, too. I have been trying to get back to work for about a year. I am the closest I have been, having had a great interview with COSI last week. But this SAHM gig was not ever intended to last forever. The fact that it has lasted this long has added mounting frustration to the gig.

So, you can imagine that when people assume I have loads of time to either just hang out or to dedicate to them and their pet projects because I do not "work outside of the home", I go a little, well, apeshit.

When a retired friend assumed I would be available to help with her latest pet project, it was fresh salt in the unemployed-mom wound. She did not ask if I would be willing to volunteer, it was implied that I would be there. This particular friend has chutzpah for days anyway, so usually i just roll my eyes and move on. This one, though, poured enough salt in the wound for a grande margarita.

I will be elated to return to work for many reasons. For one, I think I'll be one of those women who is a better Mommy when I spend time "outside the home." When my non-mommy brain is being stimulated, I believe I'll be grateful to come home to my family, the ones who really matter. For another, I spent way too much on an education to be making the world's best pot roast and failing miserably at potty training.

Everyone says that being a mom is the world's toughest job. I'm not here to agree or disagree. After watching "Deadliest Catch," I think crab boat guy has a pretty good shot at that claim as well. However, I think we do start to stop assuming that just because women are at home (and may or may not arrange for pre-school for their kids on some days) they have unlimited time to do your bidding. I, for one, am way too busy extracting all that salt and lime juice from my wounds and making margaritas.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maybe You Can Go Home Again

This past weekend, I attended what one friend lovingly (I'm sure) called "Geek-a-palooza": A reunion of some of the members of my high school marching band, in Marietta, Ohio. That is how big of a band geek I was - I helped orchestrate a reunion. And it was fabulous.

My planning cohort and I had planned a family get-together for families as a local playground and arranged for lunch - for those who wanted it - to be delivered. For three hours, we caught up, reminisced and gave our former directors a hard time. It was fantastic to see people who shared the same experience many years over come together. Band was a saving grace for a lot of us and, for me, it was where I made my strongest high school friendships.
Marietta is a lovely place to visit - lots of historical stuff, if you're into that. It was a mind-numbingly boring place to spend your adolescence, though. We has to travel 30 minutes to Parkersburg, W.VA. for a mall, a movie or a decent restaurant.

Lots of things have changed since I graduated in the, ahem, 90s. When we rolled back into town Friday night, I was impressed to see that they had built an Applebee's in the last decade. To the town's credit, they now have a movie theatre (and a Wal-Mart, although I don't believe that is entirely to their credit). Wandering around town Friday evening, there was live music by the river and several festivals and events promoted for the weekend.

I was amazed to see how the town had changed to my senses as an adult and as a parent. Was it me, or did the whole town smell of honeysuckle? I noticed that we couldn't travel more than 7 minutes in any direction without coming across a different set of baseball fields. It seemed quieter. Perhaps it is the nostalgia seeping into my veins, travelling into my nose and eyes and ears, but all of sudden, this one-horse town seemed like the perfect place to raise kids.

Of course, with 48 hours hindsight to my advantage, I realize that the school system is likely not that vastly improved. During the weekend, Osi noted that the entire city seemed "anti-credit," since the restaurant we were eating at offered a 10% discount for cash payment and the ice cream stand had a "cash only window." My response is that they are "anti-a lot of things here." That is still very likely true and I have no idea how my more liberal friends breathe in a place where gun racks are sold in Kroger.

But it was nice to drive around town, noting that many of the landmarks from my childhood still stood. Many of my friends from high school were still the same people and home can still be a nice place to visit.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spoken To

Last Sunday, we spent a lovely afternoon at a piano recital. The recital was not for our child, but for one of our friends' child. If you have ever been to a children's piano recital, you may be chuckling, but we attended for several reasons. A) We love both of this couples' kids as if I had birthed them myself, B) We have supported the musical endeavors of the young pianist's older sister, and C) It was going to be a good time to go watch the, ahem, expansive range of talent out there.

Said young pianist was brilliant. She was third from last, which meant she was clearly one of the more advanced players. No kidding, the kid after her played "Dancing on the Berlin Wall" by David Lanz. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday.

Not on the program was the piano teacher's grandson, who made a surprise appearance (in a "Bite Me" t-shirt and a scowl, by the way). He sat down and began playing "100 years" by Five for Fighting. Now, as cliche as this seems, this song always and without fail makes me cry. During my pregnancy, a credit card company had a commercial set to the song and I damn near barfed every time it came on. (Seriously. Watch it. If you are hormonal - watch out!) It just sums up how little time we have here (I KNOW. I acknowledged it was cliche, OK?). Couple that commercial with pregnancy hormones and, well, it wasn't pretty.

Here's the thing. Those of you follow me know that I have been having some difficulties with The Boy lately. He is at an age where, quite frankly, I want to knock his ever-lovin' block off at least once a day (you know the phrase "and twice on Sundays"? It applies here.). I have been praying about this. A LOT. I have tried all manner of prayer requests, from "Lord, please grant me the strength and kindness to be a good Mommy to Jack" to "Lord God, please do not let me kill this boy right now. We will renegotiate after nap time."

Cliche or not, when the Young Disgruntled Boy started to play that song, it sounded like a message straight from God (maybe because the recital was held in a church, I dunno). I started thinking (with no offense to our friends or their daughter intended) why else would I be sitting in a church listening to this slacker with the inappropriate t-shirt play piano? I was supposed to be sitting here, thanks to our friends, getting this message.

I honestly felt as if I was being reminded of the emotion this song stirs in me - how little time we all have here - and being asked how I want to spend that. Do I want to spend it in a rage over the door closing for the millionth time today? Do I want to spend it trying to win inconsequential battles with a three-year-old? No, I do not.

This song has literally become my anthem. Every time I start to get frustrated with J., I turn on the tape in my head and Five for Fighting is telling me that's he's only going to be three for a moment. A musical version of "This too shall pass."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Doors

I am a fan of Poe. Short stories, poetry, whatever. I'm down with it.

My door-obsessed child recently reminded me of one of my favorite Poe poems: The Bells. I swear I have heard my own version of it in my head the last few weeks, as the door situation - once better - has progressed to the point of possible madness for both Jack and me. Here is my take on the poem, specifically the last stanza...

Hear the closing of the doors
Wooden Doors!
What a world of agitation their monotony compels!
Breaking the silence of my day,
How I quiver in dismay
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every slam that throbs
From the brass within their knobs
Is a groan.
And my boy - ah, the boy
He is my pride and joy
Flesh and bone,
And who, closing, closing, closing
In his room alone
Feels delight, I'm supposing
In MY throat, a groan
He is neither happy nor sad
He is neither good nor bad
He is obsessed
And his king is the door that crashes;
And he bashes, bashes, bashes
Bashes a cadence of the doors!
And his maniacal laughter pours
With the cadence of the doors!
And he dances, and he roars;
Keeping time, time time
In a sort of preschool rhyme,
To the cadence of the doors
Of the doors:
Keeping time, time, time
In a sort of preschool rhyme
To the bashing of the doors
Of the doors, doors, doors
To the crashing of the doors;
Keeping time, time, time
As he explores, explores, explores,
In a bizarre preschool rhyme,
To the thumping of the doors
Of the doors, doors doors:
To the pumping of the doors,
Of the doors, doors, doors, doors
Doors, doors, doors
To the slamming and the jamming of the doors.