Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nights of 1000 Soups

When the snow starts flying, whether you live in the wilds of Northern Ontario or halfway between the beach and the mountains in sunny North Carolina, it’s time to bunker down. For the Southerners this means freaking out and racing to the store with a false sense of safety in their SUVs, buying stores out of water and milk and bread and sausage biscuits. For those of us raised miles from the closest Piggly Wiggly or equivalent, taught to keep a fully-stocked pantry of dry goods and at least 7 or 8 different freezers chock-a-block full of assorted meats and vegetables, it means time to make soup. Because nothing keeps the howling winds at bay like, well, some nice bay. Leaf, that is.

First understand that it’s just me and Jellybean living in the house. There are no hungry woodsmen or field hands or hockey teams. Plus, Jelly is a toddler. This means she doesn’t like any vegetable, even the simple unassuming potato. If she were ever to deign to eat a vegetable, such as a perfectly cooked tiny carrot, if it happened to have ANY part of it even TOUCHING another vegetable, like the lonely tasty potato, the carrot would be immediately ostracized for the association. Poor, bad influence potato. This means that Jenny will eat no soup. None at all. Not Mulligatawny, with crunchy apple bits and a hint of curry. Not White Bean, slow-simmered with a smoky ham bone. Not Minestrone, with fun-shaped pastas, nor Avgolemeno, simple and salty and just a bit tart. I love to make soup in winter. I love a cheesy Cream of Potato, started with a basic white sauce and sometimes jazzed up with a bit of roasted garlic. I like Roasted Squash, swirled with a hint of exotic truffle oil and served with toasty brioches.

I give you - The World's Best Veg Beef. Why the best? Because if you poured a spoonful in a bowl and added a can of water it would taste exactly like Campbell's, and it would taste like childhood, and that rocks. Also, check out how thick it is with all that nice barley. Some onions and garlic were sauteed in a touch of butter and olive oil, and made nice with celery and carrots. There's plenty of happy potatoes, and even a turnip just to mix things up. I slow-roasted a chuck roast then diced it in little chunks - they melt in your mouth. Some frozen mixed veggies, because that's just what you're suppose to do when you make soup. And that broth! It's practically gravy. The only thing missing that other people might like is some nice meaty mushrooms. Because mushrooms are the devil.
Then there was was a decent enough Italian Meatball. Too heavy and red for my taste though. I thought Jellybean might like it. I thought wrong. Let's go back and eat some more of that other one.

The closest Jelly will come to touching soup is chili. And that’s only if it’s spooned onto rice and wrapped in a fried corn tortilla, in which case it’s not really part of the soup family any more but a freaking taco, which she adores almost as much as McDonald’s French Fries. Alas, poor Jenny was forced to endure not one but TWO meals of soup, slow-simmered while we played in the snow and watched movies and explored Christmas gifts. I think she’ll pull through.

Luckily she's got a Canadian Nana who sent her an inflatable sled. And her resourceful mama fashioned a handle (because of course I don't have rope or clothesline or anything stronger than cooking twine laying around the house) out of - wait for it - this crazy stuff that is meant for wrapping plants on posts. It was bendy, and sturdy, and didn't hurt my hand, and stayed on the sled handles. And could haul 40+ lbs of Beans.

Her reward for not screaming and sobbing too much during the Soup Trials was to make Maple Syrup Candy. This is something Laura Ingalls Wilder taught me how to make, and made sound crazy delicious. I guess for kids who never get candy or sugar this would be a pretty big deal. Jenny didn't really think so, but still enjoyed the idea of eating snow. I used up all of the little souvenir bottle of real syrup I brought back from my last Canada trip - Aunt Jemima just wouldn't give you the same results.

Melt a little butter with some real syrup.
Make sure you have a helper and taste-tester, preferably one who is going to sneeze without warning in everything you are cooking.
Get things rocking with a nice rolling boil.
Keep it rocking for about 5 minutes. Test occasionally by spooning over the snow.

See, this isn't quite done

But this - this is the money. The candy cools instantly in the snow and hardens to make either a toffee-like chewy candy (my favorite stage), or a harder suck-on-it candy.

Make sure you eat your fill before the snow melts, because then all you'll have is a bowl of goo.

Then, when you're done screaming at your kid for refusing to eat dinner, get the leftover snow and pick out some of the veggies from the untouched soup and build yourself a nice little snowman. Check out his saucy biscuit hat - so debonair.
Well, you have to play with your food SOMETIMES.
Yes, this is what being snow-bound does to me. It's not a pretty thing.

I got a night out for New Year's, which was nice, but then Jelly refused to allow me to go anywhere today so used the time wisely, for once. I got every last speck of Christmas, including the glow-in-the-dark window snowflake stick-ons, packed away. Jealous much? Yes, it is a little early, but hey, Christmas is over. Let's move on. Plus, I leave for Canada in a week and don't want it to be March and there I am all white trash with a tree still in my single wide.

Happy 2011 Jellybean Mama fans and stalkers! Love you, mean it. Also - I turn 40 this year. Gulp.

Moving Right Along

When Jellybean was a baby and I tried to sing her lullabies, she wept. I figured it was because she didn’t want to go to sleep, but as she got older I realized no, she just really, really did NOT like lullabies. She thinks they are too sad, and she’s got a pretty fair point. They’re slow, and quiet, and sometimes a baby falls out of a tree. As a result, I sound like a mental patient when I sing her to sleep. She frequently requests ‘Down By The Bay’, or something with a train in it, like ‘She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain’. ‘On Top of Spaghetti’ is a big hit. I was extremely grateful for Christmas because it meant I could sneak in carols like ‘O Little Town’, ‘Silent Night’, and ‘Away in a Manger’.

Last night I figured Christmas was over and it was time to go back to the Top 100 FUN! Songs for Toddlers That Make Me Insane, and I made one more go of that old classic, ‘Nighty Night’. There was silence for a moment after I finished, then heart-breaking sobs. “Jenny!” I was frantic with apologies, “I’m sorry! Mama did not mean to make you cry!”

“Mama,” Jelly wailed reproachfully as tears streamed down her face, “Now I gots sad cheeks!”

Since I’d committed the unpardonable sin of attempting to sing something other than a very white girl rendition of “Zippity Doo Da”, Jelly lay in bed for a whole 10 seconds before appearing at the top of the stairs. “MAMA!”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Mama, I sleep in your bed?” “Yeah, I guess so” (there goes my freakin’ back again). I trudged up the steps dutifully and helped her into my mile-high pillow-top that may very well be part of the cause of the back pain. Is 10 years about when you should replace a mattress? Jelly scampered up happily.

“Oh, thank you mama! You such a nice lady!”

Well, you're most welcome, ma’am, glad I could help after making you bawl your eyes out.

- - - - - - - - -

If you hadn't heard, Raleigh got dumped on with snow. Not like, New York amounts of snow, but there was almost a foot of the fluffy white stuff on our piece of the cul-de-sac pie. I panicked and made 476 gallons of soup, because I'm Canadian and that's what I do. Jelly was thrilled to be able to finally make a real snow angel, but then was disgusted by the fact that she had snow on her mitts that then got on her face.

Jelly's favorite Christmas gifts were definitely the 'Wonder Pets' fly boat, her Puppy Playdough set ('from Nana!'), and the MobiGo handheld video game system. Dear VTech people - I heart you so freaking much. You are the Sony for Toddlers. The Dora TwinsDay game is brilliant. Jenny has learned more letter recognition in the past 48 hours than in the past 6 months.

It's cute, she calls it her 'dideos', which sounds kind of like a breakfast cereal that aspiring young rap artists would eat. 'Hey mom, can I have some more great-tasting Diddy-O's?' 'No, son, you should have some fruit instead, you're looking a little puffy'. The best thing about the system is that she can CHANGE THE GAME CARTRIDGES HERSELF. Yes. You read that correctly. And each cartridge has a bunch of different game options. AND you can download free games online and save them to a special cartridge! So it's not like you're shelling out constantly for new games. This, combined with the fact that she received a Trunki from my sister N, means we had no choice but to immediately book a flight somewhere. Since my parents would murder me if we took off on a cruise after not going home for Christmas, we are going to Canada. Like, next week.

So what did we do this holly holiday season? Let's not talk about it. Flu and family. 'Nuff said. But girlfriend LOVED the train...

Friday, December 24, 2010

One More Sleep Til Christmas

We are moving forward with Christmas plans, despite the weather forecast calling for a white Christmas for the first time since 1947 or thereabouts. Really, how awesome will that be to be on a train with the snow falling? It will be less awesome if we get trapped at the train station and I have to give sexual favors to hobos for Christmas dinner for Jelly, and still less awesome if we are stranded in Charlotte and Cousin J and I end up cage fighting for the bed. However, I am adventurous if not a little bit thickheaded, and have decided on this plan for the holiday so therefore, it MUST BE SO. And I do think it will snow, just because I have willed it to, and because it will make Jelly so happy. But I need to send thoughts of 4-5pm, because I would prefer to be safe and snug and warm either at home or at Ta's, where there are several crockpot meals and no urine-soaked homeless people.

I hope you have all enjoyed your special Jellybean Mama gift of several days in a row of posting. As my Grandma said about my enormous check this year, 'don't expect it to happen again'. We Jellybean family members are generous but like for you to know where you stand.

I hope you have an enjoyable holiday, whatever you celebrate. The days are going to start getting longer again, and those of us who have a touch of seasonal depression should start to see the light, literally and mentally. Hopefully this means at some point I'll feel motivated to both tear down decorations AND put them away, as well as steam mop whatever sticky stuff is on my kitchen floor that keeps snagging my socks. I hope Santa or Black Peter bring you and yours what is deserved, be that iPads or the Puppy Playdough set or time outs on the steps, and that family doesn't make you too crazy, but just crazy enough so that you are reminded where you came from and that it all makes the world go 'round.

Happy Holidays from Jellybean and Mama!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hurry, Christmas, Hurry Fast

Seriously, is it Christmas YET?!!! I am dying here. Not in a super sad, the-holidays-will-forever-be-ruined way, but in an OMG I AM SO IMPATIENT!!! way. I am ready to have a few days off work, I am ready to not have to worry about meetings with my boss, I am ready for some extra peanut butter and JELLY time, I am ready to eat too much and laugh too much and watch junk TV and delight in watching people open presents.

I've been reading people's status updates and blog posts about their favorite Christmas memories and favorite gifts. It's made me want to play with a Lite Brite really, really bad. My mum made the best lite brite peg holder for me one year - she covered all kinds of little boxes in shelf paper, and they all fit securely in a little hinged case. For someone just a teensy bit compulsive it was fantastic. And very smart of her. I can't imagine letting loose anything like that in my house any time soon. Although Jellybean is really good about not putting toys or anything stupid in her mouth, those little peg thingies would be EVERYWHERE, and I don't particularly want to roll over in bed onto a fistful of them.

I don't know what my favorite memory or favorite gift would be. I know I was really stoked when I got my tape recorder; my sister N and I would read stories out loud ('Little Orphan Annie') and sing songs, and I'd tape stuff off the radio ('Tainted Love'). My favorite memories are of Christmas mornings in Cincinnati at my grandmother's farmhouse, waking up when it was still dark because I'd rolled over in bed and the bell on my stocking had jingled, and I would lay in delicious torture trying to go back to sleep or wait til a more decent hour to bound out of bed and join my cousins at the tree.

It's crazy to think that I'm helping Jenny build her memories.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Unto Me a Child

I was working as an Application Consultant at a small software company when I first met Loud. He was brought in by our Engineering VP, who also happens to be buddies with Loud and was an awesome mentor to me until he started hitting on me too frequently. Right from the start I adored him (Loud, not the pervy VP). He was funny, self-deprecating, smart as a whip, well-dressed, and liked to drink scotch at lunch time. It took me a while to catch on that he was gay because I’m just really kind of oblivious sometimes, and it took even longer for him to admit that he had a long-term partner sitting at home while we were out partying and passing out in Mexican restaurant bathrooms.

The first few years of our friendship were a blur of crazy roadtrips, video games, and fast food. I hit it off with his Quiet, funny, smart, well-dressed partner almost immediately, despite the fact he was not the outgoing party monster that Loud was. We went to New York, Ottawa, Myrtle Beach. We attended weddings and funerals and Rocky Horror events (not all at the same time), devoted weekends to City of Heroes and Final Fantasy Online, drew straws for who had to run to Wings to Go. It was a fun time. We had money to burn, crazy stressful jobs, and annoyed pretty much everyone who knew us.

I’m not sure what came up first, the idea of asking one of them to be a donor or us slowly starting to live together. We lived in neighboring cities bordered by massive snarls of commuter traffic, and I was spending over three hours a day just getting to and from work. It simply made sense for me to stay over at their place once in a while to save the almost 2-hr drive, as their place was just a few miles from our office. It was easier for them to stay over at my place on the weekends, where the food was better and the house was cleaner (I know, can you believe someone could be dirtier than me?!). We settled into a comfortable routine, but my Baby Plan, first considered in my 30’s then laughably tossed into a drawer when I looked at diapers and daycare, was always at the back of my mind.

I knew that while Loud would be more than willing, he was not the ideal candidate. Too much like me in all the bad ways (stubborn, crazy, Type A, covered head to toe in furry black Italian hair) and too erratic, I had my eye on Quiet. Rational, artistic, sensitive, and with totally awesome hair, Quiet seemed like the perfect baby daddy. However, he immediately said no when asked. As you know from the second sentence in this paragraph, I am nothing if not stubborn. I mounted a ‘Make Me a Baby’ campaign that eventually wore him down. I promised no strings, no involvement, no commitment, no financial or emotional responsibilities of any kind.

If I knew then what I knew now, would I have done things differently? I don’t think so. I still wouldn’t have listened to all the good advice I ignored. I wouldn’t want to give up the great times the three of us had together. I think a lot about what I’m going to tell Jellybean about her biological father, and how she’ll feel about him. I wonder if, years from now, enough time will have passed that Quiet can be in a place where he can take her calls or write her letters or send holograms to see her, or whatever the heck it is we’re doing in the future. I still have dreams where we’re friends. I still have nightmares that we’re trying to sell the The House. This is only my third Christmas since moving out, but it feels like much, much longer. There’s still a lot of hurt, and anger, and bitterness, but three years ago right around this time I learned that I was expecting a girl, and I have never once stopped being grateful for that. You know I’m not religious, and certainly don’t believe in miracles. But I am a woman who did not lay with a man nor did I give birth, yet I have a child of my flesh and blood dancing around my house at all hours STILL singing Frosty the Snowman. And that is a Christmas blessing, plain and simple.

Top News - Most Recent

Let me start off by saying that Facebook is a great invention. Brilliant, even. I love that I can check in on all my ex-boyfriends and delight in their miseries, snicker at the mean girls from high school getting divorced, and tsk at the questionable behaviors of some of my distant family members. Yes, I use Facebook mainly for evil. I have been very honest with you all that I love hearing tales of unhappiness, because nothing makes me happier faster than realizing someone else has it worse off than me. Especially now, when I have a filthy Hoarders-style house and zero motivation and bought even MORE, dinosaur-shaped, nuggets to feed the Bean instead of a wonderful balanced and nutritious made-from-scratch brilliant hot meal. When I’m working the week of Christmas. Isn’t there a law against this?! Living so far from my family has always meant I’ve taken at least this week off to go up North. Except for this year, when it would have cost me $1400, which is prohibitive and mean.

So yes, I am the voyeur on Facebook, peeking into everyone’s little day-to-day musings and pictures and declarations. There's nothing better than Failbook, a blog dedicated to sharing all the idiotic things people do and say. And there are plenty. But sometimes it's not the crazy things that make me, well, crazy. It's the everyday things. So here for your child/work/in-law-avoidance pleasure is a list of...

My Facebook Pet Peeves

1. People who constantly bitch about it. Yes, it is far from perfect. There are security holes you could fly a sleigh through. Stuff keeps changing. Other stuff is slow to load. But you know what? IT IS FREE. And if that changed tomorrow? You would have a choice – pay a subscription fee, or don’t use it. We wouldn’t all die if it went away. Once upon a time, there was no Facebook. It’s nice to have, but it’s not oxygen or Pepsi.

2. I think in status updates now. Like, when I’m driving Jelly to the caregiver’s in the morning, or watching something that I think is funny, or enjoying a good meal. Jellybean Mama quite often catches herself thinking in the third person, trying to sum up her current experience in a brief and witty format. Twitter is just a shorter (and, for most, more frequent) version of the status update. Same thing. What started with blogs now has more far-reaching powers; what I think and what I do is potentially observable by an audience, and I want that audience to be amused and entertained. Is this changing behaviors? I’d be willing to bet yes. I'm trying my best to do something really wacky right now, just for you.

3. This one time, a friend of mine didn’t repost that she supported dinosaurs, and all the dinosaurs died. True story. If only she’d changed her status update, there would be no more cancer or lost puppies or child abuse or socks lost in a dryer. I’m as guilty as the next person as riding a current wave of ‘change your _____ to _____ for ____’, but it’s mostly because I hate to be left out of anything. We can’t save the polar ice caps by getting a whole bunch of people to type it in that little box. Let’s come up with a more results-oriented solution instead of an electronic chain letter, shall we?

4. Because we don’t pay a fee and Mark has to be a bazillionaire SOMEHOW, there is some questionable targeted advertising. Which I can largely ignore, even though It thinks I live in Boston and keeps trying to tempt me with nice restaurants and nicer single people in that area. The other big revenue source is the games. Games aplenty on The Book. I am currently in the final phases of my detox program, having been hooked early on Farmville and Pet World and CafĂ© World. I weaned myself off them by focusing on Frontierville, the methadone of FB games, and by the new year should have kicked that. They’re fun time-suckers, but I don’t like the way they reward you for spamming your friends. Giving you heroin to hand out to other people is just not nice. I also hate that people are pumping so many hard-earned dollars (or more accurately, parents’ dollars) into the net.

5. I’d like to let you know I’m excited for you. I want to show you I support you and wish you the best. I love that your child/pet/parent/vehicle/garden is doing well, and I would comment to that effect. But. I don’t want to hear from your Aunt Ingrid, and I can do without your husband’s coworker’s terrible grammar, and that side conversation that’s happening is just kinda inappropriate for me to be included on. Is there an option somewhere that you don’t get notified every time someone else Comments after you, without disabling all email? I’m just going to Like what you said, to save myself some trouble. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy or didn’t even really read the whole thing. I just don’t care that 14 other people also wish you virtual hugs. With lots of smileys and exclamations points.

6. Look folks. It’s a public forum. Online. Everything, EVERYTHING you type is permanent and forever and seen by the entire world. So don’t be a jerk. Don’t be dirty. Don’t spill secrets or update while driving or in class or in bed with your sister’s husband. Be smart about your kids. You know, the ones who can’t read yet? One day they will be able to, and that posted custody battle you’re having is going to be a really nice treat for them to find. Do try to be polite. Research your facts first. Quit telling us when it’s damn Friday, or Monday, or Hump Day. And drop the @#$% passive-aggressive behavior. If something is wrong, deal with it or work it out, don’t make us guess or play the martyr. Don’t friend coworkers or strangers, and if you do, learn enough about your setup options to put them in a special little group so they can’t really see what you’re doing, or when. Which leads me to the final and most important one.

7. Facebook is not your friend. Facebook does not care about you. Many of the people you Invite or Accept probably feel the same. It’s great to catch up and stay connected with long-lost folks and far-away family, but don’t get lost in it. Try not to destroy lives or jobs, and try to keep a little focus.

End rant.

Also, we had a freaking awesome weekend. Swimming, a playdate at Aunt Jonesy’s with new friends, a Karate Birthday Party, and lunch with The Ta. AND IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

With Royal Beauty Bright

People who have children (I hear they are calling them ‘parents’ nowadays) often like to wax poetic about how their little monsters loved ones change their lives. Like, for the better. Constantly. They speak eloquently about beauty as seen through the eyes of a child, share agonizing hilarious little cute things that kids misinterpret or explain in their own precious little words, and swear that every day is enriched and filled to the brim with wonderfulness and sunshine and Christmas cookies that you bite into without fear of toddler saliva or boogers. In fairness I will admit that I do laugh out loud (that’s LOL for anyone younger than 20) a lot more than PJ (pre-Jelly), but I will also point two centrally located fingers at the reason I have more frustration and stress and general man-I-wish-I-could-sleep-in-ONE-DAMN-DAY-ness.

Every parent of a toddler knows who’s really in charge, no matter how brave they act. You live and breathe for the happiness of the little dictator, watching what makes them happy and cooking what they’ll eat and reading the same damn Berenstein Bears ‘Go to School’ book every single damn night. You tell yourself you’re still the boss while you watch Wall-E for the 84th time and eat another chicken nugget meal, while struggling to maintain enough sanity and strength to fight the big battles when they come.

Christmas propaganda has been in full force in this house since December 1st. Books, movies, songs, and toys are filled with the jolly man in the red suit, the gameless glowy reindeer, and the cold dude with the magic hat. Jelly has learned the words to Jingle Bells, Mary’s Boy Child, Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. She studies the books like she’s cramming for Christmas finals, and has watched more than one seasonal favorite well, more than once. And there are lots of Christmas trees throughout the wilderness of the media maelstrom; small Charlie Brown trees, wacky Seussian trees, trees with lights and ornaments and balls and bows. You may be interested, or politely feign interest, in the fact that there are VERY FEW TREES WITH ANGELS. I don’t think it’s a PC trying-to-avoid-Reason-for-the-Season-controversy thing. Apparently, the general public feels that their Christmas tree is a starry one.

I am an angel girl. I have been for at least 15 years, if not longer. The earliest angel I had was a slightly creepy hand-me-down that my then-roommate and I nicknamed ‘Frieda of the Tree’. It was a very formal name for a mid-1970’s homemade-looking gal with a plastic head and a few cheap fire hazard lights. I loved Frieda, and still have her, although she has definitely seen better days. Over the years I upgraded to newer, bigger, brighter shinier models. Frieda 3.0 has fiber optic wings and holds a light and has a pretty sash on her dress, and I would have probably had to install some elaborate strut system to get her to stay on my lightweight artificial tree this year. That is, if a toddler wasn’t the boss of me.

It was a fight I was destined to lose from the beginning. Jellybean believes that Santa will bring her a choo-choo and new playdough on Christmas morning. She believes that Swiper shouldn’t be on the naughty list. And she believes, with absolute 2 1/2-year old certainty, that a Christmas tree has a star on the top. Absolutely and positively NOT an angel. So I dug out a cheap crappy white plastic silver-garland trimmed star and dutifully placed it on the tree. It lit up only sporadically, when I jiggled the crappy wires, and was a constant source of irritation for both of us. I finally gave up and unplugged it yesterday, fearful of coming home to flames and fireworks (I never used that whole bag of stuff I bought in Georgia last January, I wonder if they’re still good? And where I put them?). I dug out Frieda 3.0 and commenced trying to sell her to Jelly. I showed her the beauty of the fiber optic wings, the delicate china head and hands. I asked if she wanted to touch her pretty dress or look at the book the angel held. Jenny was immoveable. She refused to touch her or look at her. She shrieked at me to get that abomination off the tree. She brought me a yellow construction paper star she’d made at preschool, and ordered me to put that up instead.

So this morning we were at the Wal-Mart running errands on our hell-no-we-won’t-stay-inside-because-of-a-little-snow day, and I asked if she wanted to pick out a new star. Yes, I know it was a stupid thing to say, I was giddy with skipping work and the holiday music playing and the promise of McDonald’s for lunch. We hit the tree toppers aisle and Jenny saw her star. Was it the gorgeous silver star, or the cheap white plastic star exactly like the one in the trash at home? No, I'm not that lucky. It was a red star. I repeat. Red. It was probably the last thing in the entire aisle that I would have chosen. A promise is a promise, so I bought the damn thing begrudgingly and waited til she napped to put it on the tree. And oh my god (that’s OMG for those of you having to read this for a school assignment or something) the damn thing is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL, I say! I didn’t think it even lit up, but it does. I didn’t think a red star had any place on a Christmas tree, but let me tell you, when you apparently have a tree that is all white lights and 85% red ornaments, a red star is freaking STUNNING.

When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. I haven’t become a better person or solved world peace, but today my daughter reminded me that beauty can be found where you don’t expect it, and not in a cheesy plastic bag blowing in the wind way. More importantly, I remembered she is not a baby but a person, unique and special (as previously discussed), with likes and dislikes and tastes all of her own, and this house is not just mine. It is ours. I thought being single meant not having to compromise, but this is now officially a 2-person home. I have to remember not to impose my own style on her anymore, and at some point am going to have to take her seriously when she wants to contribute to her living space. I won’t always like the decisions she makes or the things she chooses to dye/wear/pierce, but sometimes she’ll surprise me, and sometimes it will be totally awesome.

Uh, yeah, that's an Amidala ornament. There's no judging at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pretty Little Head

One of the many, many reasons I often daydream about a move back up North (although not on a day like today, when it’s 20 degrees out and I had to wear a coat, a COAT! The OUTRAGE! In December!) is the, uh, Southiness, of the Ol’ South. Yes, it’s nice to get a sweat-beaded glass of icy cold sweet tea on a hot summer’s day, and the biscuits are the best you can find. But there are still quiet, scary undercurrents of racism hidden in everyday polite conversations. And the men are suppose to be brave and strong and reckless (and heterosexual), and the women are suppose to be God-fearing and delicate and just a little bit helpless. And heterosexual.

I’ve never claimed to be a feminist. I’m one of the ones who constantly sets the Women’s Movement back a few paces with my fondness for cooking and knitting and baby-making. I’ve only voted once, and that was because I had a daughter who I realized needed to see her mother do it. I do appreciate the ‘hold property’ thing, though, because I despised apartment living (too light a sleeper).

However. Listening to my favorite holiday radio station this morning (the one that plays 24/7 Christmasy tunes, and had the damn Glee song on before it even aired), they had Part 1 in a ‘Point/Counterpoint’ cheesy little morning feature about Men Versus Women Drivers. Here are the three points the women said they liked about male drivers;

  1. They can parallel park better
  2. They can change a flat tire
  3. They can drop us off at the front door of the mall

I had to double-check my dashboard to make sure I wasn’t in a DeLorean and it was suddenly 1952. For the record, I am an EXCELLENT parallel parker. No, ladies of the morning show, there is not ‘something in the chromosomes’ that makes men better at it. And I can also change a flat tire, as long as the damn lug nuts aren’t cemented on. And that last one just made me really, really mad. Partially because I’m lazy and would love to be dropped off at the front door of the mall but don’t have a husband, but mostly because DAMNIT MY DAUGHTER IS IN THE CAR! Ok, she actually wasn’t, because I don’t get to listen to the radio when she’s in the car because I can’t hear it over the @#$% ‘Frosty the Snowman’ DVD on repeat. But still. I’m sure there were plenty of other little girls listening, thinking, ‘Why, yes, it IS handy to have a nice man help me shop, because I’m a girl and that’s what I do’. Obviously it made me mad enough to write in my damn blog, which I’ve ignored because the only other thing I could think of to write about were the constant migraines, and that just made me depressed.

It’s not that I am deluded enough to think that this kinda stuff doesn’t still happen in Canada, or other parts of the world. I am sure there are plenty of Australian men whose womenfolk are proud of their boomerang skills and koala gathering (see what I did there? Now I’m pretending to be small-minded about other countries and cultures. Everyone knows there’s much more to Australia. Like the criminals, and Crocodile Dundee.). It’s just that it is so natural here. So assumed. I know plenty of thought-to-be-emancipated women who won’t buy their sons dolls, or trucks for their daughters. People still laugh nervously about boys playing dress-up, or a girl with a Star Wars thermos. C’mon, people, really?

I read something last week that said the average age for eating disorders to begin has dropped again. When I was a kid it was 14. In the ‘90’s it was eight. Now it’s six. Also, I’m making those numbers up, so don’t quote me, but I’m in the ballpark; it’s something totally awful. Also, there are all kinds of special ‘thinspiration’ websites, and there’s a new term, ‘pro-ana’, as in, ‘how cool is it to be someone who starves themselves’. I hadn’t thought about it much, but the article was dead-on when it said that the new crop of tween and YA actresses gave much younger girls something to compare themselves to – when I was a teen I just had baby-fat Madonna, who was like a grown-up, and therefore a bazillion years old to me.

Very few of those youthful female role models are self-saving princesses, and not a whole lot more real girls are being raised to be so. What is so bad about encouraging independence and fostering uniqueness? Why is it so hard to break from the Disney mold of sweet and pretty and seen-but-not-heard? People like to talk big about celebrating individuality but sure as hell don’t walk the walk. Look at the whole bullying thing that’s made big news lately. Our technological leaps have made it painfully easy for someone to terrorize a victim across a wide array of social media, and in much more public arenas.

I worry, like any mother. I look at a sunny, happy little girl who bounds out of bed to greet each new morning with a song, and I get a panicky feeling. She is smart, and she is a nice person, and she knows who she is. That means she is going to struggle, and be hurt, and have to fight, because the rest of the world doesn’t play by our rules. There are other little boys and girls getting out of bed who aren’t told that they are special and that someone is proud of them, who see and hear behaviors that just should not be. Somewhere out there is a little girl who someday will tell Jenny she can’t be her friend because her hair is too curly or she’s not wearing the right clothes, and somewhere out there is a boy who is going to knock her down simply because he can. All I can do is try to teach her to believe in herself, always try her best, and, damnit, do ANYTHING. Because she is a girl. In spite of being a girl. Because she is Jenny. And she is much more than just a pretty little head.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Put a Little Love in Your Heart. Or Sand.

I love Christmas.

Like, love. Despite having a father who was a bit of a grinch as December headed towards the inevitable, who would rather be outside working on an old Plymouth or Buick than dealing with his antagonistic brothers, my mom always made a big deal over ol' St. Nick. There was always a live tree, and cookies and eggnog, and if you rolled over in your cozy sugarplum bed in the middle of the night you'd hear a faint tinkling that was the bell on your stocking, and then you'd go crazy waiting til morning. Many, many nights my mum stayed up hand-sewing miniature buttons on homemade Barbie clothes, or putting the finishing touches on a Pajama Doll (will I be a dork if I make one for Jelly?! Don't answer that).

I love the magic of Christmas. I love that a child believes in the magic of flying sleighs and reindeer, and the all-seeing, all-knowing fat man in red. I like the lights, and the music, and the cackle of a fireplace, even if it is just a DVD (seriously, I own that). I hang stockings on the mantle with care, hurl LED and glow-in-the-dark snowflakes all over every possible window, and have been considering one of those inflatable monstrosities for the front yard. Maybe an 8-foot high snowglobe. That lights up. And plays music. And can unload the dishwasher for me. I like baking Christmas cookies, and making candy, and even the hours and hours of laboriously curling ribbon on gifts. I wrap in blue and silver, those are my signature Christmas colors.

On December 1st my shopping is done. I do 80%, if not more, online. Amazon ought to spend November sending me chocolates and flowers for what I pour into that site. But I also like to find the little odd-ball places, like and Romp. I order myself a big sampler from The Popcorn Factory, now that I sadly no longer have grandparents that do that, and damnit, I love getting that freaking stupid tin. I like to hang ornaments in a certain order that someday is going to make Jelly insane. I cannot, CANNOT decorate the tree until there are homemade cookies and eggnog, which is why mine is not up yet; this Saturday afternoon will be baking, and Sunday afternoon there shall be mayhem.

Tonight we will officially kick off the season with our first event - the local tree-lighting ceremony in the neighboring town. This weekend will be xmas card pics, and a parade, and a holiday party. Oh, and the baking and the tree, of course. Jelly will have a few more days to open on her Playmobil Advent Calendar (so darn cute), I will find more crap hidden that I bought for her a zillion years ago, and we'll meet up with my mommies group to hand over the clothes and toys we bought for a little girl who otherwise wouldn't get very much this Christmas. Yes, there is a PSA hidden in this post; if you haven't already, please consider sponsoring a child this holiday. Or, a senior citizen; I was shocked and horrified to see the wishlist of a 79-year old woman, who wanted nothing more than warm slippers, paper towels, and a few favorite treats. Yes, I know that Christmas has become overly commercialized and there's plenty of reasons to lose sight of the spirit of the season. But whether you are celebrating a religious event or not, it's still a time for togetherness; family, humanity, peace and goodwill. And that's why I like Christmas.

Although it's REALLY hard to get in the mood when I was doing this one week ago;

Oh yeah, Thanksgiving ROCKED. That right there, my friends, is why living in NC is sometimes really, really awesome.

Except now I want snow.