Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloweeeeen

G requested a Bob the Tomato jack 'o lantern, which is a bit of an odd juxtaposition, but she doesn't know that. I think Bob came out pretty good, especially considering that I carved him freehand with a steak knife!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

All that and a broccoli-potato gratin

Along with a stack of bills, a party invitation for G and half a tree's worth of fliers and coupons, yesterday's mail contained my copy of Cooking Light magazine.

Cooking Light
has been a regular visitor to my mailbox ever since P and I moved into our first apartment together, nearly 11 years ago. When I first subscribed, it was because I wanted the recipes: I'd enjoyed cooking since I was a child, and we'd just spent more than a year living with relatives, where I'd never felt comfortable cooking more than a furtive pot of pasta to be quickly eaten and cleaned up before anyone came home. I was excited to have my own stove and refrigerator again and eager to use them, and I did. Some of the happiest memories of my life are of standing in that tiny apartment kitchen during the four seasons of that first year, making lasagna and grilled tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwiches (my favorite) and roast chicken with lemon slices (for P, the carnivore) and smoked cheese risotto (a disaster that came out like pink glue) and pumpkin gingerbread.

These days, with only myself and a finicky 8-year-old to feed, I rarely make anything more complicated than frozen dinners, the ubiquitous pasta, and maybe a burrito or quesadilla if I'm feeling ambitious. I still read Cooking Light every month, but it's become less a source of potential meals and more a sort of lifestyle p0rn. Those glossy pages are a glimpse into the fantasy life I've always secretly wanted to live, the alternate universe where, at daybreak1, I step out onto the wooden deck of my solar-powered home nestled in the lush, green forests of the Northwest, 2 dressed in a cozy wool sweater 3 and cords. There, I do a few tai chi moves 4 before settling down to sip my tea as my two Irish setters 5 lounge at my feet. When the sunrise has given way fully to morning, I go inside, where I bake some low-fat cranberry muffins 6, then meander up to my study and read the letters my agency has forwarded from fans of my writing. 7 This is about as far as you can get from my actual life as a harried suburbanite whose mornings consist of school drop-off followed by a commute to a corporate job, which is no doubt why I enjoy it so much.

Money is tight lately, and every time I see one of those "budget tips" lists exhorting me to get rid of my magazine subscriptions, I think of Cooking Light and remind myself that I ought to call and cancel. It's $22 I don't need to spend, and I often wonder if the escapism is worth the vague feeling of guilt that comes with knowing that I'll probably never do whatever it would take to have a life like that (if anyone even does). I haven't gotten around to it yet, though. Maybe next year.

1. I am not a morning person and only witness sunrises if I happen to have stayed awake that late.
2. I've never been north of San Francisco.
3. Wool makes me itch.
4. I bought a tai chi tape once and gave up after 10 minutes. That stuff is hard.
5. I do like dogs.
6. And muffins.
7. Usually a successful mystery series that is adored by readers and lauded by critics for transcending genre fiction. .

ETA: Okay, a month after posting this, I'm starting to feel guilty about all the poor people who Google "broccoli potato gratin" and end up here. Just for you guys, here's a link to an actual broccoli-potato gratin recipe from the November issue of Cooking Light. Enjoy!

Conversations with G, Halloween Edition

G: What am I going to wear to the Halloween party tonight?
Me: Um, you're going to wear your Cleopatra costume that we bought a month ago.
G: I want to save that for Halloween night. I need a different costume for today.
Me: What did you have in mind?
G: I could be a pimple.
Me: No.
G: A zit?
Me: No.
G: A cold sore?
Me: You cannot be any sort of skin eruption.
G: I know! How about a butt? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Ahhh, the joys of elementary-age kids ...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Something that really chaps my hide ...

... is the perception that the only way to "move on with your life" after losing a partner is to get into a new relationship, and that until and unless you do this, you're stuck in some sort of quagmire.

And beneath that, or possibly alongside it, the assumption that a new relationship is inevitable, and that if you haven't started one, it's because you're "not ready" yet.

Who says?

As far as moving on goes, I have moved on with my life. I've been doing it ever since the beginning. I didn't want to, but the morning after P died, the sun rose just like always, and I had to get up and face the day. Five hundred days later, I haven't stopped. I've done things. I've gotten G through an entire school year and then some, I've moved to a new place, I've dealt with a whole set of holidays, I've done projects at work and changed my hair color and gone on a cruise and updated my health insurance. And I resent the fuck out of the implication that none of it counts for anything because I haven't hooked up with some guy.

I am not going to hook up with some guy.

I'm not going to do it because I don't think it would be healthy for G. My own mother's dating and remarriage damaged our relationship for years, and I won't risk that with her. On top of that, I don't want anyone interfering in the decisions I make for her -- decisions that are in line with the way P and I agreed she should be raised, and the way in which I have a responsibility to raise her now that he's gone.

And I'm not going to do it because I have no desire to. I miss P -- I miss him more than I can say -- but I don't feel the generalized free-floating loneliness that sends people running to the online match sites in search of "someone." I'm sure there are lots of nice "someones" out there, but I don't want them. The idea of going on a date holds about the same level of interest for me as birdwatching or making my own yogurt: I know other people enjoy it, and more power to them, but it leaves me totally cold. I'd rather stay home and read a book than waste an hour of my life having an awkward cup of coffee with a semi-stranger, and frankly, I can see myself going on like that for years, if not decades. Check back when I'm 50 and I'll let you know if I've changed my mind.

Gahhhhh. I had no idea being a widow was going to make me so irritable!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire update

Last night: zero smoke and smell.

This morning: eerie red sun; thick, choking smoke, ash flying through the air like snow.

The wind has clearly changed. On the plus side, it's a cooler ocean breeze instead of a hot blast out of the canyons. On the minus side, I feel like an extra in The Last Days of Pompeii.

There's still no danger to us beyond headaches and coughing from the bad air, but it's very unpleasant. It could be so much worse, though. I'm concerned for my mother's friends and their grandchildren, who had to leave their house in Arrowhead and are staying with her for the duration, and also for a former co-worker who lives in the mountains and was prepared to evacuate the last time I heard.

While I was watching some of the news coverage yesterday, I realized that humans are misled. We fool ourselves and each other into thinking that we rule the planet -- that we're important and meaningful -- and to each other, we are. But to nature, we aren't one whit more significant than the cougars or the raccoons or the eagles or the ants. Nature doesn't discriminate. The ancient redwood forest and the shrubs in your front yard are both fodder for the fire. The giant wave sweeps away people and animals together. The same sky arches over great disasters and tiny triumphs.

We are so small.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Send rain plz, kthx

In some places, autumn means frosty mornings, pumpkins in the fields and a riot of color in the trees. In Southern California, it means the smell of a million barbecues as your house burns to the ground.

Remind me again why people move here?

With the closest fire about 15 miles away, G and I aren't in any danger (although you could probably make a case that everyone is in danger when the weather is like this, since all it takes is one wind-toppled power line to touch off an inferno), but some of my co-workers live close enough to see the flames from their homes. Even at this distance, the sky is full of a reddish haze that looks the way I imagine the air on Mars would look, and everything reeks of smoke. It makes your eyes sting and your lungs hurt if you're outside too long. All the kids at G's school had to stay in the cafeteria at lunchtime and watch movies because the air quality was too bad for them to go out and play. I haven't seen any ash-fall yet, but I think that's only because the wind is blowing it away from us right now; the air could be full of it by morning.

Poor G got frightened and cried in class when her teacher talked about the fires -- she thought they were closer to home than they were, and that our cats were going to be burnt up. She's worried for the animals at the San Diego Zoo, too. I told her that the zookeepers are moving the animals to safe places, and that I would follow the news reports and come to get her and Catherine and Malcolm immediately if it even looked like a fire was approaching our house. I don't think it made her feel much better, though.

Her worry did make me realize that I probably ought to get a second cat carrier -- we only have one, and if we ever had to evacuate for some reason, I wouldn't want to have to stuff two scared, struggling full-grown cats into it together. It's bad enough just getting one of them in there for a trip to the vet. Hopefully we'll never come to that, but it's too easy to read the news reports and imagine yourself in the evacuees' shoes. I don't think I'd even try to save anything in that situation -- just grab G and the pets and go. I'd hate to leave irreplaceable items like our photos and P's clothes, but even those aren't worth risking our lives for. Nothing is.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life's little questions

Why ...

... in this day and age, do the people who run the Webkinz site think it's acceptable to present kids with a game that features a bear called Poncho who wears a serape, bounces beans off his sombrero and speaks in a horrible Speedy Gonzalez "accent?"

... am I playing Webkinz games at all at my age?

... am I actually considering getting my own Webkinz so I won't have to play on G's account?

... does G, an extremely bright girl of almost 9, act as if she's incapable of pouring a bowl of cereal, getting a drink of water or drying herself off after a shower?

... do I still get frustrated that I can't call or e-mail P to tell him something I know would interest him?

... do we always end up eating dinner at 4:45 p.m. on weekends?

... have I only accomplished one of the many things I meant to do today?

... is one of the cats turning up her nose at the high-end, super-nutritious cat food I bought this afternoon? That stuff costs twice what your Purina One does -- now eat!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Meme time

I got tagged for a Conscious Consumer meme by my RL buddy Megan ...

Here’s how it works: post the directions on your blog, tell everyone who tagged you, answer the questions, and tag five or more people. That’s it!

The purpose of this meme is to inspire some reflection about how we shop and what we purchase. The idea isn’t that consumption itself is somehow bad, but that we all could probably stand to put a little bit more thought into what we buy. And, of course, it’s supposed to be fun.

So here goes! Pick a recent shopping trip — for clothes, shoes, groceries, doesn’t matter. The only guideline is that it will be easier to play if you purchased at least a few things.

Now tell us about your purchases:

I went to the drugstore, where I bought a toothbrush for G, disposable gloves to wear when scooping the cat box, Tylenol gel caps, and shampoo, shower gel and hand cream for myself.

1. What are you proud of?

Hmm, I guess G's toothbrush, because I had actually inspected hers that morning and realized that she needed a new one. I'm not always good at keeping up with that sort of thing, but this time I was on top of it. (A very P thing to say, by the way. On top of it and You really stepped up to the plate were two of his highest expressions of approval.)

2. What are you embarrassed by?

Nothing really. I needed it all, and the cosmetic stuff was cruelty-free.

3. What do think you couldn’t live without?

The gloves. I love my pets, but I don't want to get anywhere near their poop with my bare hands.

4. What did you most enjoy purchasing?

The hand cream and shower gel. I stood in the aisle uncapping bottles and sniffing different scents for a good 10 minutes before settling on Lemon Twist.

5. What were you most tempted by? (This last one may or may not be an actual purchase!)

Chips at the cash register, and I didn't buy any. Hah!

I don't think I'll officially tag anyone, but if you're reading and would like to do it, consider yourself tagged. :)

I think I've watched too much MST3K

It's Friday night, and the Wiggles, whom I thought were gone from our lives forever, are on TV.

Anthony: I'm going to hide this book ...
Me: ... in my pants!
G (scandalized): MOM!!

Well, it looked like he was going to. So there.

Also, it's probably heresy to say so, but I think I like Sam, the new yellow Wiggle, more than Greg, the old yellow Wiggle. Something about Greg's eyebrows always disturbed me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


As I was putting G to bed tonight, I said, "Guess what? I love you." And she said "I know that. Of course you love me. You're my mom!"

I wish every kid in the world could say that with such perfect confidence.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When the to-dos are done

Got self and child ready for school and work? Check.
Fed cats? Check.
Remembered photo money? Check.
Drove child to school? Check.
Went to work? Check.
Attended meetings, etc.? Check.
Put gas in car? Check.
Picked up child? Check.
Stopped at pharmacy to get prescription refilled? Check.
Cooked dinner? Check.
Fed cats again? Check.
Supervised homework? Check.
Got child ready for bed? Check.
Laid out school clothes? Check.
Read to child? Check.
Snuggled with child until asleep? Check.
Baked muffins for child's breakfast? Check.
Packed child's lunch for tomorrow? Check.
Cleaned up kitchen? Check.
Scooped cat box? Check.
Took out trash? Check.

Time for a nice big glass of wine? You'd better believe it!

Say cheese, dammit

Universal truths about school photos:

1. Your child will unearth the most outgrown, stained or otherwise inappropriate piece of clothing he or she owns, and insist on wearing that.

2. Attempts to convince the child that another outfit would be better will lead to crying, lying on the floor, and ridiculous statements such as "I want to wear both of the blue skirts!"

3. Pieces of clothing that are normally among the child's favorites will be rejected in a fit of pique.

4. The child will announce "I don't want to smile with my teeth showing. I'm going to smile like this," and display an expression that makes him or her look like a large trout*.

5. If at all possible, the school will schedule the photo-taking to happen after lunch, allowing your child to spill food all over his or her face and clothing first.** If the afternoon isn't available, they will at least postpone the photos until after morning recess to maximize opportunities for the child to get dirty, sweaty and windblown.

6. Luckily, you have the most beautiful child in the world and he or she will still look adorable when the photos come back six weeks later. But you'll be exhausted.

* P would never smile in pictures either. I have many shots of him looking ready to do serious bodily harm to the photographer. It was a shame, as he had perfect teeth and a really lovely smile.

**In G's first-grade picture, there's peanut butter all over her face from the sandwich she ate for lunch.