Sunday, April 29, 2012

Teeny Little Memory -- Inappropriate Stickers

When my daughter was just a mere sprout, I was given a calendar or book or something to record Major Events in her life.  You know the type, right?

"I filled my first diaper!"

"First roll from tummy to back!"

"First smile"

and so on.

There were cute little stickers that had all these "firsts" on them, so you could simply stick them onto the dates.  Easy Peasy.

Except that I never did it.  By the time she'd done all the "firsts" on the pages of stickers, I found them.  Whoops.  But recycler that I am, I thought "what shall I do with these?"

I came upon an answer.  I taught flute sectionals to a group of 5th graders each week, and I thought, "Hey.  This will make an excellent randomly weird kind of prize!  Like a gold star but BETTER."

That Friday, I was getting them to play a scale or something.  When they successfully completed it, I'd randomly stick a sticker onto their heads or shirts or something.  One girl giggled when she got, "First tooth!" The next laughed at "Says Ma-Ma!"

The next kid asked, "What's a 'bris'?"


Nobody Told Me What Stupid Looked Like

I've been weeding.  Weeding is SO not something I do.  Mostly because I really don't have a good grasp on what are weeds and what are not.  I mean, some of them are obvious.  Clover, dandelions, and those stupid fake strawberry things.  I also know a few others, but only after carefully cultivating and watering them for an entire damned summer only to find that the tall stringy-leaved plants were NEVER gonna bloom into anything.  At all. 

Several (many, many) years ago, I dated a fellow who I shall call :"Pat." He had one of those nice, androgynous names. 

Not this Pat, but close.
(Not really, but I'm harboring a grudge. Apparently.)

One of his grandparents had been a president or owner or something of a now-defunct railroad company, and had (by my standards) a lot of money.  I heard a LOT about his "lots of money" but in a "we don't talk about how MUCH money our family has" kind of way.  Anyway, his grandfather wrote and (I imagine, self-) published a book called (I'm going to change the plant, since I don't want his rich-but-we-don't-talk-about-it family to sue me) "Nobody Told Me What Tomatoes Looked Like."  This darling little tome was the story of his life, from rags to riches-that-we-don't-ever-ever-discuss.  But the source of the title was something about which this man was very proud.

In a nutshell, his first job was weeding someone's garden.  They told him to go to the tomato patch and pull all of the weeds.  Well, go he did, and pull he did.  Thing is, he weeded out all of the tomato seedlings. All. Of. Them.

His response, when they were telling him why he got fired, was, "But, nobody told me what tomatoes looked like!"
I'll bet that's a WEED, right, Cletus?

He, somehow, used this as a way to describe how he rose from poverty to unspoken-of (frequently unspoken-of) wealth.

Now, at the time, I laughed along with all the rest, but it rankled.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was a little family in-joke, and I was glad to be in on it.

Now?  Ugh.  I know why it bugs.  It's galling when someone uses their own ignorance as something of which they are proud.  WHY didn't he think to ask what the tomato sprouts looked like?  Why didn't he ASK? Didn't it occur to him that if there were eleventy-thousand of the same exact little plants in the plot, that maybe just maybe they might be the tomatoes?

The implication was that since he was not TOLD -- specifically told -- that he could not be held responsible.

This makes me think of all the people in college (yes, in COLLEGE) who pepper the professor with "Will this be on the test?" You know, if you're there to learn or do a job, that IS the test.  Life is the test.  Willful ignorance is not something about which one should be proud. It is something to never do, unless you're trying to convince your parents that you DO believe in Santa.  I'll give you that one.

My little son tries to pull this on me sometimes.  "But, Mama, you didn't TELL me to put on pants!"
I remind him that our heads all contain the remarkable thing called BRAINS, and that one should first try to use one's own brain.  Not mine, not your sister's.  Yours. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What If...

What if you could cross a Polar Bear with a Poodle?
A Poodlar Bear.
And how cute would THAT be?

What if, occasionally, your hair just randomly stopped growing?  Wouldn't that just be a crapperoo?  Like, "Not to worry, that haircut with the too-short bangs will grow out."  And then "OH NOES!  It's like this for a YEAR!!!"

What if one could control one's fertility through sheer force of will and thought?  Wow.  Wouldn't THAT change things up?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Martini Post

This is a disclaimer.  I have had what I like to call a Cactini.  Meaning, a martini all shaken up with the fruit of a prickly pear cactus.  Or something.  They are these oval things.  They have many seeds.  And the fruit is a delicious red.  More fuchsia.  And I CAN NEVER spell fuchsia right.  Ever.  Who put the S where the C should be?  WHO? (who, who whowho who?)

Anyway.  CacTini.  Yum.  And I like to think, nutritious.  I'm betting cactus pears are Super Foods.  If not, they should be.  Like Pluto should be a planet.  It's morally right. And peanuts.  Can we just agree that they are NUTS? If just for consistency's sake.

Anyway.  Again.  Wouldn't you love to live on the Prime Meridian?  You could just put that as your address.

Sandra Dee
Prime Meridian

Get your letters that way.

Or possibly the Equator.

Erica Sthalllhshire
Equator.  7th parallel.

Journey From Sloth and Despair: The Seafood Edition

A few days ago, I went shopping all by myself.  Bliss. 

I decided that I was going to be brave and buy some things I've never tried.  Some of which I've never even CONSIDERED trying.  But if doing Indonesian cooking lessons has taught me anything, it's that the weird-looking stuff sometimes tastes awesome.


I bought a can of salmon.  Yes, I know.  Not too adventurous.  But, I'd never bought any before (canned) and I had just heard a thing on NPR about eating sustainable foods, and canned salmon is high on the list!  So BAM, into the cart.

Then I bought kale.  I have had kale before, but this time I was going to try to get the rest of the family to eat some.  BAM.  Into the cart. 

My final excitement was swordfish!  I do love fish, but never seem to get it since my family is not a fish family (that one was for you, Steven).  PLOP.  Into the cart.

Now that I"m home with all my sea-related bounty, what to do?  Well, I decided to throw a 'seafood-tasting' dinner.  Here's how it all went down:

Reheated mashed potatoes from yesterday's dinner.  CHECK.

Small shrimp, thawed in cold water, then dunked in egg, and then dropped into cornmeal that had about a teaspoon of "grill seasoning" added into it. Fried them in shallow oil.

Took the canned salmon and drained it (like canned tuna), mixed it with crushed Saltines, some dried dill, and some finely chopped parsley (plus salt and pepper).  Formed into little patties, dunked in the egg, then into the cornmeal.  Fried in shallow oil.

Took the piece (only .6 of a pound) of swordfish and coated it in some Teriyaki marinade.  Heated some oil in a small pan until very hot, and seared each side for a few minutes.  Then put it on an oiled baking sheet and finished in the oven while I finished making the salmon cakes.

I like kale chips but hadn't foisted them on the family before.  I washed the kale in the sink, ripping into pieces and removing the tough stems.  Put kale onto a kitchen towel and mostly dried it.  Divided it onto two baking sheets.  Poured a bit of olive oil over the leaves and tossed.  In the first sheet, I sprinkled the kale with garlic powder, cumin, and some kosher salt (too much salt, as it turned out).
The other kale got about 1-2 tsp. of sugar and some cinnamon.  (I know!  I was experimenting).
Baked them at about 450F for a few minutes, tossed the leaves about a bit, and added a few more minutes. 

Served all with whole tiny bell peppers (raw), some homemade shrimp cocktail sauce (horseradish and ketchup). 

Kids liked the salmon cakes! WoW!  So did I.
Everybody liked the shrimp.
Daughter liked the kale, son tolerated it. (Cinnamon ones were surprisingly good)
Potatoes went over fine.
All liked the Swordfish.  Actually, I prefer tuna steaks, but this was fine.
All liked the teeny bell peppers.
I was the only one who tried the spicy sauce.

Now I know that I can safely make shrimp or salmon to rave reviews, and I can serve swordfish as long as there's something else to fill them up, since they were more lukewarm on that. And hopefully, son will come around to liking kale chips as much as daughter.  Bell peppers will now go into lunchboxes!

I give today a B+.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Beauty -- When Is Too Much Enough?

I've been teaching a lot lately. 

Oddly, I've been using "Dancing With the Stars" as a metaphor.  When you watch the pro, you see each motion extended to its fullest.  Each step is precise; exaggerated, even. The legs are long, the toes are pointed, the necks are arched just so. 

With the amateur, there's a degree of uncertainty.  Incomplete fulfillment.  The envelope is not pushed.

I had a young lady playing some tango duets with me, and it was adequate.  Accurate, possibly.  But exciting? Not hardly.  Then I tossed out the phrase "self-destructively beautiful."  You know those people, right?  The ones you just KNOW will go up in flames.  They can't keep up that level of intensity. 

When she played the piece again, it was ravishing.  Her heart was on her sleeve, and she went so far beyond what was on the page, she was shredding the paper (metaphorically).  I felt like I heard her heart beat in her sound.  I did not tell her quite how I felt (I almost teared up) for fear of freaking her out and making her feel weird.  But wow. 

Later the same week, I tried the same description with an adult student of mine.  There is this point in Debussy's Syrinx, where the story goes off the rails.  Madness.  Ecstasy.  Dangerous, self-immolating beauty.  After that point, the music is just like ashes and smoke.  It burnt itself up, and now it's just ... dying.  It's the beautiful afterimage etched into your eyes from glancing directly at the sun. 

You can only see it when you close your eyes.

The (Sometimes Unwanted) Gift Of Siblings

No, Steven, I'm not talking about you. 
This is an approximation of the speech I gave not 20 minutes ago out on  my deck, to my children.

When I had my first child, I was delighted.  I was a MAMA!  Then, a few years later, I was getting ready for my second.  I was so happy that I'd be able to give a fantastic gift to my oldest:  a sibling.

Siblings -- not too far apart in age -- can be the best friend you need when you're growing up.  Nobody else will have grown up with the same parents, the same dogs, the same house with the funny noises at night.  Nobody on the planet except your sibling.  Nobody on the face of this big old planet will know you and love you quite like the person who saw you go through puberty, or learn to swim, or go to the hospital when the grill fell over and pierced your thigh.

And right now, it's a gift that's being wasted.  You are wasting it.  I spent an hour weeding the garden. The chorus of "you can't make me" and "you're lying!" and "don't touch me!" was in the background nearly the entire time.  Then, when I came in to wash the kitchen floor, I asked that you work together to gather the weeds and toss them in the compost.  I was met with stomping and whining and mewling and then? You started on each other.  Tattling.  Irritating.  Pestering.

I am here to tell you that enough is enough. I had the two of you not only so I could have children, but so you two could be friends.  So you would know what I knew growing up:  that there's someone out there on your side all the time.  Ok -- not ALL the time, but mostly.  Someone who you can roll your eyes at when mom and dad do something irrational (to your pubescent minds).  Someone who -- eventually -- can tell you whether or not the guy you're dating is a jerk.  Or if maybe the mustache isn't the best idea.

So, go.  Go work it out. Together. Look long and hard at yourself before you blame the other.  I'm not going to be around either of you until I can be around BOTH of you. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

How To Know?

How do you know when a life story is actually happening?

You know those blogs or books, where it is someone documenting their journey through, say, a divorce.  Or through a change in career or through some medical situation?  How did they know to start?  Don't most stories emerge only once you've been in them for a long while? 

Obviously, some things are more "beginning, middle, end," like pregnancy or starting school or whatnot.  But most of the big things creep up slowly. 

I've been tempted to blog about My Road Through [insert some interesting topic here].  But I never quite know whether or not to bother.  What if My Journey Through Weight Loss is not gonna happen?  What about maybe, changing careers?  What if I don't end up doing that?  How does someone know "Hey! This is it. I Am Starting My Journey"?

I'm guessing it's really all in hindsight.  I just can't imagine any other way. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Green-Eyed Monster, Thy Name is Kate [Updated, Happily]

So yesterday, I was teaching.  This was a beginning flute student, 4th grade.  Still trying to remember how to finger A-flat sometimes. 

From down the hall, I hear a flutist playing.  Really, really well. So well, in fact, that it was distracting me.  Then the pieces started to filter through to my mind.

Daphnis and Chloe
Afternoon of a Faun
Ibert flute Concerto
Tchaikovsky 4
Beethoven Leonore #3

This person is preparing for an orchestra audition.

I know all these pieces too.  I have taken and won orchestra auditions.  But now, at this moment, I'm reminding a little blonde girl that A-flat is left hand, all keys. 

It took all my professionalism and self-control to NOT grab up my flute and play those excerpts by memory, flawlessly. 


Dear flutist down the hall;
Nice job.  But I'd have beaten you in that audition.  
The woman teaching the beginner lesson down the hall

[Addendum:  That very evening, I got asked by a local (volunteer, non-professional) symphony if I could come in and play Principal flute on Holst's "The Planets" because their regular flutists couldn't quite cover the parts. Since one of my adult students plays in it, I said yes.  So there.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Boneyfied: It's Getting to BE Too MucH

Don't know why I did it, but yesterday I read some article about the kid Trayvon in Florida.  That's a sad, sad story.

But that's not what's getting to me.  (I mean, yes.  That is very upsetting to me... But ....)
It's the comments.  Oh boy.

Did none of these adults (I presume they're adults) have a decent English teacher in 4th grade?  Where did they learn to write?  I don't even mean misspellings.  That can happen to the smartest of individuals.  But the CAPITALIZATION?  Why do people Randomly capitaLize things?  It's like they learned their capitalization and punctuation in Germany or something (They capitalize all proper nouns.).

Also, even though I said that misspellings are not a capital offense, just MAKING UP spellings is really not cool.  FASHESD.  ("Obama is a Fashesd.")  WALLAH.("I was getting ready to go, opened the door, and WALLAH, he was already standing there!").

My personal favorite yesterday was "boneyfied."  Try to figure it out in context:
"Shes a boneyfied model." At first, I thought they were accusing her of being anorexic.  Then, after a moment it came to me.  Bona fide.  

I really do get that there are words that challenge people.  OK.  They're, their, there.  I know.  Yuck.  But really.  Boneyfied?  Eccentera?  (As in, "I think he's a jerk, a butthead, eccentera.")

I think I'll try one of my own.
The dog was phanteng because he was hot.

I give up.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Where Has The Egg Salad Gone?

I have that stupid song, "Where have all the flowerrsssss.... gone??" running through my mind.

You see, earlier I discovered the BESTEST post-Easter-egg snack (not at all healthy, but yummy).  Egg salad (made w/light mayo, mustard,and just a scooch of horseradish, salt and pepper) as a dip for potato chips!  I know.  I'm sorry.


A few minutes ago, I was scooping, preparing to eat.  And a chunk of egg salad fell off.  Into ... apparently a rift in the time-space continuum, because it's GONE.  Not "gone because the dogs snarfed it" but really, truly gone.  I checked my pants.  I checked the couch.  I checked the top I'm wearing, my chin, the carpet, and my pants again.


I am afraid to leave the house because no doubt it's clinging to me somewhere.  And wouldn't THAT be glamorous?  "Oh, Kate! Good to see y......   what is THAT?"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Freedom To Be An Adult

I was reading the post of a darling fellow Derf, and she was talking about what you should give up in order to be happy. 
This got me thinking.

One of my students (Amanda, I'm looking at yoo) commented that she held me up as an example that adults don't have to be all boring and stuff (her words).  I was tickled.  Really!  This kid is in HIGH SCHOOL and doesn't think I'm boring! 

If you're a kid, please go to or something and don't read this.  But if you're an adult, pay attention. 

Think back to when you were a kid.  Any age of kid.  And you asked your parents for something, or to do something.  And they said, "We'll see!"  Didn't that just chap your hide?  You KNEW that was parent-speak for "um. No.  No way."  What if, sometimes, they said, "Heck yeah!  Let's dye your hair purple!  That'll be awesome!"

Would your jaw not hit the GROUND?  And imagine the "really? REALLY?" feeling -- that delicious freedom of "YES."  Imagine asking to go to the zoo one Saturday.  And then dad just stands up, grabs his wallet and keys and says, "Dude.  Excellent suggestion.  Meet you at the car."

Now realize that YOU have that power now.  You are the one who doles out the "we'll see" or the "HOLY CATS, LET'S GO!" 

And what, really, is so hard about saying yes?  If a kid wants purple streaks in their hair, why not?  It'll grow out or wash out.  If a kid wants to have a friend sleep over on a Thursday, would it kill them? What about eating ice cream BEFORE dinner?  What about building a massive snow fort, then covering it with water so it would freeze overnight?  What about painting the inside of their closet with glow-in-the-dark paint?  Or painting their closet door with chalkboard paint?  Or staking all the blackberry bushes into a tunnel to hide in?

What about -- for you -- saying YES sometimes?

How about driving through a parking lot full of Canada geese and honking your horn and chasing them?  (slowly, don't want Goosicide on your record)

What about complimenting that really pretty old woman in the grocery store?  Or maybe just paying somebody else's lunch tab -- someone you don't know -- just to make their day.  It'll cost you $12.  Imagine the mystification and happiness!  Leave a vase of cut flowers at a neighbor's front porch.  Try to bake the biggest loaf of bread your oven will hold.

Why. NOT?

Dye the kids' breakfast eggs blue.

CHOCOLATE MILK in the cereal sometime.

Throw your strong-but-silent husband a surprise party.

Sometimes, the "we'll see" response is just ingrained.  OUR parents never let us _______ , so why should we let our kids do that?"

Because.  It's fun.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Feeling Powerful (for a Peculiar Reason)

This is one of the dumbest realizations I've ever had.

Today, I was at the local Kroger grocery store, waiting for Kris the Pharmacist to fill my prescriptions (I am on a first-name-basis with her.  Wanna make something of it?  She's awesome.), and I ventured down a frozen-food aisle.  I was alone in the aisle.

I noticed that the refrigerated cases were dark.  "How odd," I mumbled internally.  THEN?

They turned on.  BALINNNK! ON!

"Even odder," sez myself.

I crept out of the aisle, and stood still and waited.  BLONK.  They turned back out.

No, really.  That's me.  

I edged back in verrrry slowly.   Past the frozen pizzas. Nothing.  Slllowlllly.  Past the frozen egg rolls.  Nothing.  I made it all the wayto the middle of the aisle (near the frozen tortellini). Then I leaped up and down, thrashing my arms around, and BALINNNK!  ON!

I out-ninjaed the freezer cases.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Confessions: One From High School, One Later

First, on the weekend of our college orientation (during our Senior year, I imagine), my dear longtime friend Mark J and I met.  He was my First College Friend.  Luckily for me, he was a complete sweetheart and funny and cute to boot!  The night between our auditions/entrance exams and our day of fun tours and such, he and I went out "for a walk."  My parents were staying on campus at a dorm/hotel for this kind of thing, and Mark and I walked ALL over campus.  We checked everything out.  Including climbing the 10-foot chainlink fence at the stadium.  We sat there on the bleachers long into the night (much to my parents' chagrin, later) and talked about ourselves, our pasts, our futures, our hopes and dreams.  It was one of the best nights I'd ever have.  It was certainly one that has remained fondly tucked into my memories.  But mom and dad?  Sorry.  Should have called.


During the classes my husband and I took to prepare for the birth of our first child, the nurse in charge told us about the blissful smell of a newborn, and how we should enjoy it.  She said that there was no smell in the world quite like it, and that we should enjoy it since it doesn't last very long (once you bathe the baby, it's gone).  Well.  I had a sinus infection when I had my daughter.  No smell.  Whatsoever.  I pretended (to the nurse, when she visited) that I had been able to sniff my daughter's newborn head.  Not so much. I basically tried not to get boogers on her when I sneezed.

Bummer.  The odd things that surface sometimes.

Getting Old -- When Is It The Lamest Excuse Ever?

My darling, darling, crazy mom.

She's ... a mature adult now.  I WILL NOT say her age.  She may be .... mature, but she'd find a way to kick my sorry butt long-distance if I did.

But the funny thing. .... Ready for it?

She keeps saying, "Oh, now that we're old, your dad and I ... (fill in the blank)."

Some of the blanks are filled with:
"We're easily amused."
"We like to watch the birds in the birdbath."
"We eat pizza for dinner even if it's 4 p.m."
"Sometimes we think that dessert BEFORE dinner is a good thing."
"Your dad loses his reading glasses."
"I like to take a nap in the early afternoon."
"Your father just doesn't believe that rules apply to him."

And I keep saying OVER and OVER, "Mom?  Who are you KIDDING?  You've been doing all these things ALL ALONG.  Now you just have a convenient excuse."

She scoffs a bit, and pretends to be all old and cranky.

 It's totally a ruse. 

Ghosts With Blue-Green Eyes

Today, I had an extraordinary opportunity.  I got to see a woman who I first met when we were both 5 years old.  Kindergarten.

She was always slightly quicker on the draw in "find the word in the dictionary" games, and waaay ahead of me in multiplication tables.  One thing that helped take the edge off of my defeat was her friendly smile.  She had a lovely, un-selfconscious smile. Her eyes were this kind of sea green with sky blue around the edges.

I haven't looked into those eyes for ... a good long while.  Junior high graduation, I think.

Today, I saw her and her two youngest kiddos.  And WOW if I didn't see THREE pairs of those eyes!  It was weird, seeing her there.  I remember her as the skinny little tomboy who could ALWAYS beat me in math quizzes.  (Not that it's setting the bar too high, really.)  I saw her now, lovely, long blonde hair, nice smile.  But overlaid on top, I saw the other her.  The kid.  The gawky "elbows and knees" her.

And you know what? The present-day her is even better.  We're both moms.  She's got bigger pile of kids than I do (much bigger), and one more husband, but we're the same age.  I'm one month and 2 days older.

But it's awesome to be grown up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Low-Talkers and Why They Bug Me, you know .... low-talkers?  Mmmmbllbllllmmm talking... but reallyyy.... wish they could say.... mbbbllouder....


Doesn't it make you nuts?  You hear this drone, just below comfortable-listening level.  It drifts into your consciousness.  Then the person looks at you expectantly.
You end up saying, in growing exasperation,

"Pardon me?"

 "What was that?"
 .... mbbbllouder....

.... mbbbllouder....

Finally, you shriek, "WHAT?? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?"

They look at you, raise their eyebrows, and say, oh-so-distinctly, ".... I was saying tha....andmmmmblll over theremmmmbblll withoutll....mmmmmmbbbrlll?"

You might try again.  "So sorry.  There was a noise.  Could you say that a little louder?"

They sigh, roll their eyes, and raise their voices infinitesimally.  "".... I was SAYING tha....andmmmmblll over theremmmmbblll withoutll....mmmmmmbbbrlll?"

 "FINE. Whatever."

If a low-talker thinks I am going to do all the conversational work, THEY HAVE ANOTHER THING COMING.  DID YOU HEAR THAT?  DID YOU???

Thought so.