Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to scare the peas and carrots out of an overprotective mother

“A cute thing happened when I was at the grocery store with the boys. An old man started talking to Paolo and told him he’d been waiting all day to give a little boy a cookie. So Paolo went with him over to the bakery, and the guy let him pick out any cookie he wanted.”

“Um, Sam. Are you saying that you let Paolo go off with some random old guy who promised him sweets? Because that’s like Lesson One of Stranger Danger.”

“Oh, right, no, NO. The guy works there, and I told Paolo it was okay. He never left my sight! It was totally harmless. I guess I left out some parts of the story, huh?


They don't call it rocket for nothing

Sam made a new dish a few nights ago, involving grilled portabella mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, and arugula stacked on ciabatta bread. The recipe called for the arugula to be dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sam presented the bowl of arugula to me and asked me to check it for salt/pepper deficiencies. I popped a leaf in my mouth and told him not to add a thing to the mixture. Arugula is a BYOB green: it brings its own bam. Sam looked at me doubtfully, so I told him to partake. He chewed thoughtfully for a few seconds, and then his eyes popped out of his head. "Aaaaaagh! This is like eating poison ivy," he exclaimed while sucking air. "Don't be silly. You're just getting that peppery finish," I said. "No, dude. I'm here trying to have a nice meal, and someone came along and sprayed mace in the back of my throat."

Tell me he couldn't have his own cooking show.

Friday, June 20, 2008

But what about the children?

We have the same child, at two different ages. I thought Luca might be a different sort of kid, but then his hair turned blonde, and I knew. Luca has joined his brother in the 25th weight percentile, having decided that eating is overrated. At mealtimes, Luca's high chair sits next to Paolo's chair. I suspect this is a mistake. Do I really want Luca to model his table manners after Paolo, licking ketchup off his plate, agonizing over every tiny bite, begging to be finished, fake-gagging on his mashed potatoes? This is the same boy who has to be told repeatedly to stop taking the baby's food off the high chair tray. They both do that: they'll eat anything that isn't theirs. You know what else they do simultaneously? The dinnertime bowel movement. I'll be right in the middle of yelling at them to eat when one hotfoots it to the bathroom and the other one bears down.

Luca learned to crawl about three weeks ago. Not to be outdone, Paolo learned to crawl down the stairs headfirst. It's very Spiderman. To be honest, I'm a little disappointed at the baby's crawling. I had an all-too-brief spell of freedom between the sitting up and the crawling. I could plant the baby in the living room with bright, fun toys in arms' reach, and he was cool. Now, I sit the baby down, and he crawls after me. This is cute for about five minutes. When he does not crawl after me, he crawls over to pull the fan down on himself or choke on his brother's Legos.

Sam and I have lost the ability to baby-proof. When Paolo was a baby, we owned a chair, a TV, maybe a lamp. All the toys were Paolo's and, thus, baby-friendly. Now we have furniture, electronics with tasty, chewable cords, sharp Power Ranger spinners, microscopic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle daggers. When I look around at all the things in our house endangering a curious baby, I am ashamed and overwhelmed. We're not completely irresponsible, however. We've got Paolo acting as our baby-getting-into-trouble alert system. Is that wrong? He's really good at letting me know when Luca has pulled the vent cover out of the floor, and he is especially indignant when Luca has a superhero in his mouth. They are brothers, after all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nobody told me there'd be a trophy

T-ball season is behind us, and we kicked it out the door with a party at Steak n Shake Monday night. Hooray for our awesome team sponsor! (Give me a free chocolate shake, and I’ll cheer for you, too.) It was a really nice gesture by some really nice people, so I had no business being there. However, I have children now, and I keep the snark to myself even if I have to choke on it. The game face stays on, people, the face that says I put in real effort to get the grass/clay stains out of T-ball pants and I love to watch Oprah, too, yes I do.

I had the good fortune to sit across from a lady who made her two boys pray over their meal before digging in. Oh Lord, bless these thy chicken fingers, which we are about to baptize in ranch sauce in thy holy name. Amen. Further chatting revealed she home-schools them both, which would explain the bizarre quizzing of the older boy about the origin of the hamburger. I’m not sure what would explain her younger son’s name, Gunner. We had the inevitable conversation about my boys’ names and mispronunciation, wherein she complained that she has trouble with people not getting Gunner’s name right. Even her relatives want to call him Hunter, and she doesn’t understand why. That is really odd, I agreed. Maybe it’s because his name is Gunner, and “Gunner” belongs in the Future Felons of America, along with Shooter Wayne, Cash, Wesson, and Remington.* I did not say that but, oh boy, I thought it.

I cleared the Jesus-freak-home-schooler hurdle intact and turned my attention to the coaches for the trophy presentation. The assistant coach began his speech, but then sort of hunched over and covered his face. At first I thought he was having a heart attack, but it turned out he was weeping…from the emotion…of T-ball. To fill the uncomfortable silence while he composed himself, his wife whispered, “He’s very emotional. He really wears his heart on his sleeve.” That’s fine, I can handle a man who cries, but did YOUR team just suffer a historic loss in the European championship today? Did YOUR team go from World Champions to laughingstocks in the space of 90 minutes? No. Get a grip on yourself, man. If I can hold back the tears, SO CAN YOU.

On to the important part – Paolo got a trophy! With his name on it! And I can burn the white T-ball pants that tortured me so and marked Paolo as having a mom who doesn’t love him. We’ll also be hanging up the T-ball hat, since, as my father-in-law pointed out, anyone named VeryGermanLastName shouldn’t be walking around in a hat emblazoned with SS. That man cracks me up. We have the same sense of humor, and I never have to pretend with him. Although I guarantee he would have gotten those damn pants clean. Probably a closet Oprah watcher.

*I searched a couple baby name websites before it occurred to me to check my own hometown newspaper for birth announcements. In a single issue I found the above, along with some candidates for Future Pole-Dancers of America: Jazmyn, Jorja, Au’Bri, Swiston Shea, and Brooklyn Rain.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Storing some junk in the trunk

"This is what I tell the younger guys at the bike shop: women are like elephants."

"Go on."

"They forgive, but they never forget. So, watch what you say."

"Like maybe don't call them elephants?"

What I'm Reading: Haven Kimmel

If you don't know Haven Kimmel, you should meet her. Start at the beginning with her first work, A Girl Name Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. In these autobiographical snapshots, Kimmel manages something every writer struggles with: to write honestly about her family without hurting them or making them hate you. The stories are hilarious, touching, and identifiable. You know these people; you remember these childhood feelings of joy, embarrassment, frustration, and silliness. The Kimmels' story continues in She Got up Off the Couch: and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana. These bittersweet tales focus mainly on Kimmel's mother, a woman who put her life on hold for her family and then takes it back. Know anyone like that? Thought so.

The great thing about Haven Kimmel is that her fiction is amazing, too. The Solace of Leaving Early is stunning. Kimmel attended seminary, and faith and religion are major themes in this novel. Kimmel's contemplations are intellectual and inconclusive, which I appreciate because you cannot get to the bottom of religion, any religion. Reason will take you only so far, and then you have to take a leap of faith...or not, because you have better ways to spend your time. As little as I care for spirituality, I enjoyed these meditations immensely. The Used World, her latest, is another exercise in awesome and features the reappearance of several of her Solace characters. To round out her list of works is Something Rising (Light and Swift), which I'm reading now.

Italy lose captain Cannavaro