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Month: January 2016

Care for a drink?

It appears we have a drinking problem.

I was cleaning out the fridge this week, trying to scrounge some meals from the various left-overs we store in there with the best of intentions, when I realized something. We have a drinking problem. As evidenced by how many drinks we have in our fridge. We have way more drinks than food. Right now, in my fridge, you could help yourself to:

  • Skim milk
  • 2% organic milk
  • Chocolate milk
  • Sweet tea
  • Lemonade
  • Ginger beer
  • Summer Shandy beer
  • Oculto beer
  • Rhinegeist beer
  • Wine
  • Bloody Mary mix
  • Mocha coffee drink
  • Caramel coffee drink
  • Apple juice
  • Mango tangerine juice
  • Peach & mango juice
  • Pomegranate and blueberry juice
  • Gatorade
  • Bottled water
  • Fitz’s root beer
  • 2 Diet Cokes

It’s a wonder we have room for any food.

I don’t think the average family needs this variety of drinks. Nearly every single night for dinner we drink milk or water. That’s it. Where in the heck did all these other drinks come from?

Okay, I’ll take credit for the sweet tea. I love sweet tea. I only drink it on the weekends, because it has caffeine and I’d never be able to sleep at night if I had it past 1 p.m. It is the elixir of the gods. On Saturday and Sunday. Same, actually, with the cold coffee drinks. Clearly I place a high priority on weekend beverages, which just sit around and sigh about being ignored during the work week.

The juice is all M and Zoe. They love juice. I don’t know if they realize they have four different kinds of juice in there at one time, though. It seems excessive. I really, really love sweet tea and I don’t have four different kinds of tea in there. And consider this: their juices have five different fruits. It’s like Chiquita Banana is throwing a party in there.

The beer, wine and bloody Mary mix really ought to be downstairs with the other booze in the Beer Fridge, with its own ilk. It’s bringing down the overall classiness of our fridge, cavorting with the non-alcoholics like that. The alcohol is clearly trying to stealthily infiltrate. I found the two cans of Rhinegeist in the crisper, cozying up to some broccoli and using bad pick-up lines like, “Nice stems.”

Upon further inspection, the Gatorade and chocolate milk are all opened and in states of half-drunkenness. Clearly these are remnants of Zoe’s semi-consumption and should be disposed of. This is not surprising, for I have never seen the child actually finish a drink, no matter how much she was given to begin with. It’s like she is averse to seeing the bottom of a glass or bottle. If we give her a glass with a cup of milk at dinner, she has a half-inch left in the bottom at the end. If we give her a glass with a half-inch of milk, she’ll take one small sip and leave the rest. It’s her special gift.

I just checked. Looks like the lemonade and wine are past their prime, too. Yeesh.

Apparently I will need to don a hazmat suit and wade in.

Let me just make a nice glass of sweet tea first.

Saturn’s parenting lesson

I’ve read countless articles about how important it is to let your child do projects on her own. It’s also a hot topic among the mothers in my daughter’s class. At the beginning of the school year, her new 4th grade teacher told us parents that it was time to let go, let our children grow and develop on their own, and suffer (or enjoy the rewards of) the consequences of their own actions (or inactions). We’ve been really good with this so far this year. We check her homework only when she asks, or quiz her on spelling words upon request. We’ve been very hands-off, which has given us a lot more free time in the early evening and has made her more responsible. She gets good grades, so there’s little room for worry.

This past weekend, though, I fell off the wagon. I traded my haughty, “I let my child do her own projects,” mother-of-the-year award in for the worst of kind of helicoptering parenting. I blame Saturn.

Right before Christmas Zoe told us about an upcoming science/English project. Each child chose a planet (maximum of three children per planet, which meant someone was getting stuck with Mercury, which is so not a cool planet) and had to do research, write a report, and then draw a picture or make a model of their planet. Zoe, of course, chose the most popular planet among 10-year-olds: Saturn. And my first thought was, “Oh God, the rings. The rings! How in the heck are we going to attach rings to a sphere?!” And so the worrying began, along with my steep decline into control-freak over-helping. And by over-helping I mean pretty much doing a huge chunk of the project myself.

The kids have been doing research in school, and Zoe had been showing us her notes along the way. I wasn’t worried at all about the report part of the project, but the model kept me up at night. I searched the interwebs for help, and found an adorable (and easy) little Saturn model made from a small foam ball and an old CD. I showed Zoe, and of course she wrinkled up her nose and deemed it “too small.” Of course.

As most people who dread something do, I put off the project until this past weekend, even though it’s due Friday. I just couldn’t tackle it during the holidays. Zoe and I had Monday off for MLK Day, and I figured three good days would be plenty of time to wrap this up. Then M scheduled a family eagle-watching trip on Saturday, so that left us two days. Cool. No worries. We can do this. Then he left for Shanghai, and I crumbled under Saturn’s weight, even though it’s a gaseous planet and therefore very light.

We hit Michael’s on Sunday to pick up a foam ball. Foam balls, it turns out, are in the floral department, not the planet model department, and are not cheap. I once again wondered if grade-school teachers get a kick-back from Michael’s for creating all these projects. I felt lucky to find two half-spheres that fit together, which meant that I wouldn’t be worried about sawing one giant foam ball in half, which I was fairly sure would look as though a drunk in detox had handled. By this point, I was sweating and willing to pay whatever amount of money it took to make this easier. Then we found a piece of sparkly card stock that was large enough to cut a circle for Saturn’s rings. I considered myself genius for finding an easy way to do this: sandwich the ring-circle between the two hemispheres and glue together. Viola! Easy-peasy.

Turns out, the whole thing is not easy-peasy. It’s stupid hard. It’s exasperatingly excruciatingly difficult. But let me not get ahead of myself.

We headed over to the spray paint aisle and Zoe chose her colors: a rusty red for the base and a sheer blue, for the ice that swirls around Saturn’s gaseous atmosphere. We dropped $45 on Saturn ingredients and headed home, and I felt confident and relaxed for the last time in 48 hours. (The money rankles me, but it was worth every penny if the project was fairly easy.)

That afternoon, we I started The Project from Hell.

Turns out that spray paint needs 40+ degrees. I checked the weather. It wasn’t forecast to be above 20 until well past when Saturn is due. Okay, Plan B. We I would have to paint inside. The only place I felt comfortable doing that was in our fairly-packed unfinished storage room in the basement. I wheeled the giant chair racks out and cleared a space in the middle, then set up a few large cardboard boxes as a paint hood. A dark, unventilated paint hood. Brilliant. Zoe sat next to me, shaking the first can of paint. I pried off the lid and told her, “I’ll get this started so you can see how to do it, then you can take over.” I pressed the nozzle on the can, sprayed a few swipes, and took my finger off. The paint kept spraying. And spraying and dripping and spraying. I could see this was gonna be a one-take shot. I waved her out of the room as the mist engulfed us, and then turned my fingers rust red with sparkles as I turned the hemispheres and tried to get an even coating while gasping for air and cursing. We were off to a great start.

Once the base coat was on, I brought her back in to do the “ice” streaks. She could barely push the button on the spray can, so I ended up doing most of those, too. This was definitely turning out to be more of my project than hers, and I wasn’t happy about it. We let the paint dry and turned our attention to other things.

The next day, Saturn’s two halves came upstairs and Zoe chose a large plate to trace the ring. She cut it out, and we super-glued one hemisphere to the bottom. It worked beautifully, and I saw the end in sight. After it set, we went to super-glue the top, on the shiny side of the posterboard. Turns out that Saturn’s rings are impervious to super glue. I didn’t know anything was impervious to super glue. That’s what makes it so super. It sticks everything together. I started sweating again, and the expletives made another appearance. I ended up stuffing a bunch of Elmer’s Glue into the crevasse on one side of the top hemisphere, between the foam and the ring, and then held everything together, still sweating, and prayed to whomever the god of foam planets is that it would stick. After a few moments, I realized that it was going to take a lot longer to set than I wanted to sit there. I had Zoe bring two of her book box sets over and we braced Saturn between them. The books, heavy as they are, weren’t enough. We ended up using the two book boxes, book shelves, and a heavy chair.

Then I left Saturn there, stuck between “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “The Dork Diaries,” for three days. I was afraid to take it out. I reviewed the directions for the project and saw that the planet model was supposed to be the student’s interpretation of it. So I shrugged and decided that if all else failed, I’d place the Saturn pieces in a box and instruct Zoe to tell her teacher that her interpretation is “Saturn Deconstructed.” This is what happens when your mother is full of blarney in public relations. I removed Saturn this morning and it seems to hold. A friend, whose child created Mars, texted a photo of the finished Mars, which is displayed on a labeled base and has the two moons of Phobos and Deimos sticking off it. Impressive. Saturn has 53 known moons and 9 awaiting confirmation. (I know this because of my Saturn project I just completed for 4th grade). So, yeah. No moons. We have rings, though!


Zoe has another project due. It’s a “how to” book report. After I lectured her on thinking ahead and choosing a project that is reasonable, she found a simple recipe for blondies in one of my cookbooks. She wanted to make them Monday night. Coming on the heels of Saturn, I agreed on the condition that I wouldn’t do a darn thing. I sat at the kitchen island with my head on the counter, rising only to snap photos for her presentation. She did it all herself, and did a great job.

If only I had taken that route with Saturn. Clearly I learned more from this project than my child.

St. Louis > Rams

I’ve thought about this Rams debacle for awhile now, going through all seven stages of grief. I’m pretty sure the rest of St. Louis has gone through these as well.

Oh my God. We’re the greatest sports city in the world. He would be crazy to move the Rams! Crazy!

Nope. He won’t do it. He can’t. St. Louis is awesome. He should know it’s awesome. How can he not know how awesome we are? We are toasted ravioli awesome and provel cheese awesome and frozen custard awesome and where did you go to high school awesome. We are like a giant, unbelievably-flat pizza of awesome.

Are you freaking kidding me? Why the freak is he even talking about leaving? And what did he just say about St. Louis? Okay, dammit. The gloves are coming off. We can take him and his stupid mustache and his really bad rug. You suck, Kroenke.

Okay, no, we’re kidding. Totally. Don’t go, dude. Here, let us give you this big ol’ stadium, even though you have a trillion dollars in the cushions of your couch. Please stay. Pleeeeeease. We love you, and we can’t live without you.

He’s going to go. We know it. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing. We are doomed. The NFL hates us. Kroenke hates us. The people in LA are still mad that the Rams came here in the first place. Everyone hates us.

Okay, maybe there’s a better way. Maybe we can commit to building a stadium anyway and he’ll see how great it is and he’ll stay. Maybe we’ll get another NFL team. Maybe we can re-purpose the Edward Jones dome into something usable, like the world’s biggest ball pit or a disco roller skating rink.

Go away, Kroenke. Don’t let the door hit you in the Arch on the way out of town. We don’t need you. We don’t want you. Bah. Hey, anybody know when Spring Training starts?*

At this point, for me, it’s a matter of civic pride. Nobody talks smack about my beloved hometown. St. Louis is a great city, despite a few jacked-up statistics that are easily misconstrued. This is one of the best places in the U.S. to raise a family. Our world-class zoo is free, and so is our world-class art museum. We have Forest Park and the Loop and beautiful suburbs and a downtown that is well on the path to revitalization. The South Siders are just as proud of their community as the North Siders. It’s easy to get around, and there are a few gigantic companies, some really fun start-ups, and very special mom-and-pop institutions like Crown Candy Kitchen. We have the best baseball team, a heartbreakingly good hockey team, and a freaking 630’ tall stainless steel arch. We have the best-tasting water. It’s a good city.

Gateway to the West

If Kroenke had just owned his greed and said, “Yeah, I think I’ll make more money in Inglewood,” then I wouldn’t be so upset. I’m a firm believe that business owners can do whatever they want with their companies (as long as they don’t hurt people). But he trash-talked St. Louis, which has bent over backwards to be good to him and his team. That makes me angry. Not Incredible Hulk angry where I turn green and my arms shred my t-shirt and I have the strength to start throwing cars around, but, you know, regular person angry. An average rage, I’d say. Although it would be pretty cool if I could pull off the Hulk thing.

When I was in high school, I dated a boy. I thought he was the bee’s knees and I thought that I was in love with him and that he was in love with me. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. He decided to start liking some other girl who better fit his idea of perfection. I tried so hard to get him back. I changed who I was, what I liked, and even what I wore. I embarrassed myself. When I came out the other side, finally, heartbroken but still whole, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I would never, ever debase myself like that again. If a boy was going to love me, he was going to love the real me. All of me. Even the parts he didn’t like. And in return, I would offer the same. I wanted a man who would love me for me and still maintain his own dignity, his own person. In college, I broke up with a boy who didn’t care if his identity disappeared; he was all about what I wanted. He became who I was in the high school relationship: the doormat. I couldn’t stand it. And then I met M, who has never asked me to change who I am, and who for darn sure knows who he is. This is why I fell in love with him (and in the process learned what true love really feels like) and married him (and in the process learned that when a man says he has “hobbies” you should ask him to quantify his hobbies in American dollars and amps).

I feel like St. Louis, lately, has been like the high school me. The city has groveled and pleaded and changed its priorities to try to keep a man who didn’t want it. Who never wanted it. St. Louis debased itself. And that’s fine, so long as we learn from that and NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I hope we never again offer to buy dinner for a millionaire when we’re struggling to get off welfare. I hope we never again put on fancy clothes when we are most comfortable in jeans and ratty old Cardinals t-shirts from the ’82 World Series. We have a lot to be proud of, and we don’t need to change. Not for Kroenke, not for anyone.

*47 days. Go Birds.

Steinbeck and Bowie

I’ve been busy and it was the holidays and I had to shop and wrap presents and set up the tree and put out decorations and clean the house for a big party and guests and have fun with the big party and guests and then clean the house after the big party and guests and that’s why I haven’t written. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Now, do you want to know the real reason?

Steinbeck. John Freaking Steinbeck.

A friend and I had a discussion about books over the holidays; he had recently re-read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and found himself surprisingly unimpressed. We talked about how reading literature when you’re young is so different than reading it once you’ve got some life experience tallied up. Your insights are deeper, and it takes much more to impress, when you have the filter of age to look through. The conversation segued into a discussion of revisiting Hemingway and Faulkner, upon which I recommended The Old Man and the Sea, and my friend admitted that he had just started reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden and so it would be awhile before he could get to Hemingway.

Oh, hey, that sounds like fun, I exclaimed. And that night, before I could forget, I downloaded East of Eden to my Kindle. A few days later, I started reading.

It was shortly thereafter that I determined that Steinbeck is a penmonkey of the highest order, a word wrangler like no other, a story crafter and a plot twister and a scene setter almost beyond comprehension and that I, lowly I, would never be able to craft even one sentence half as beautiful as so many of his. So I didn’t start writing again, even after the holidays slowed to a manageable pace.

Freaking Steinbeck.

I now want to go back and re-read The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, because I know that I didn’t appreciate his talent when I read them all those years ago as a worldly, literate, brilliant egomaniac college student with a nanosecond of life experience to inform my reading. But I also know that if I keep reading Steinbeck (that jerk) I will never write again.

It’s intimidating right now, to think that I’m trying to write something worthy and worthwhile and that will make a difference to someone, knowing that Steinbeck did it over and over and over again. Distance, as with pain both emotional and physical, is the antidote. I need to finish the book and get a little distance. Unfortunately, it’s about a million pages long and is taking much longer than anticipated. And tonight I have to break off East of Eden to finish reading Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy as that is the book we are discussing at tomorrow night’s book club meeting and I’m all about being prepared, especially for this one as I’m a huge Jenny Lawson fan and I pushed her book on all my unsuspecting book club friends.

I had to write today, though, intimidated or not, because David Bowie died. I’m not the world’s biggest Bowie fan. I like some of his art, while other works (and looks) freak me out a bit. I remember being mesmerized, and slightly terrified, by his androgyny when I was younger. Under Pressure, on which he collaborated with Queen, is one of the best songs ever written/produced, despite Vanilla Ice’s attempt to desecrate it with his remake. (It saddens me today when younglings hear that first riff and say, “Oh, it’s Vanilla Ice!” instead of “Oh, it’s Queen and David Bowie!” Makes me want to rip their hearts still beating from their chests, hand the hearts over to their parents, and say, “You failed at raising knowledgeable members of society.”) (No offense, Vanilla.)

The death of David Bowie moves me not so much as a fan but as a fellow artist. No, I’m not comparing my art – photography and writing – to Mr. Bowie’s. We are clearly leagues apart. What I’m comparing is our shared interest in continually creating something. The man’s output is astounding, and he was creating and forming and making right up until he died, leaving behind a legacy for millions to appreciate, adore, pick apart, and ponder. He didn’t really care what his fans or the music industry expected based on what was popular at the time or even based on what he himself had already produced. He didn’t let the fear of perfection hold him back. He just created, for what appears to be the sheer joy of creating. No one ever defined David Bowie, because they couldn’t. He was indefinable. No one pinpointed with laser accuracy his style or even his motivations, other than that he was truly an artist. He wasn’t limited by expectations, which is amazing because that’s pretty much how all the rest of us mortals limit ourselves daily.

So today, I am determined to be a little more Bowie, a little less Steinbeck. I’ll stretch and reach and maybe defy expectations, even if it’s only my own expectations that are defied. I will write, and I will write for me. Not for someone else, not by someone else’s definition. I’ll create, just for the sheer joy of creating.

A little more Bowie.