Thursday, June 17, 2010


My youngest daughter is a vegetarian. The rest of the residents of our happy home are not. It's a very amicable live and let live environment. We respect her right to choose not to eat meat and she respects our right to choose to eat it. All three of us have, at some point or another, attempted the vegetarian lifestyle ourselves. It never took. We loves us some beef. Because I swore I would not be one of those mothers who cooks multiple meals every night, I have taken to cooking predominately vegetarian at home. Every now and then I'll make a meal that includes meat and make a little meatless alternative for my little veg, but for the most part we only get meat when we go out to eat. It's respectful to her, it's better for us, and it's pretty darn cost-effective.

She is out of town this week, visiting my parents.

We are having a meat-orgy of unprecedented proportions. We eased in with Chicken Cordon Bleu. Meat and cheese wrapped in meat. Then we had BLT's - heavy on the B, moderate on the T, L was offered as an option but I'm not sure any of us took it. We indulged in a simple ground beef recipe that we all enjoy but that doesn't taste good at all with meat substitute. Ask me how I know. But last night... Oh, last night our meat-a-palooza got serious.

It was steak night.

Because we so rarely indulge, I gave Tom $20 and told him to pick up steaks on the way home from work. He passes a Whole Foods on the way home and I only have quick local access to Kroger. We never have steak; we should have the good stuff.

I'm not kidding, we talked about this meal for, like, three days. We were seriously psyched about these steaks.

He called from his cell. "I'm going in to pick up the steaks. What should I get?"

"The best you can get for $20 for 3 people. Quality over quantity. Ask the folks at the counter for advice. They'll be happy to help. They'll feel important."

The phone rang again in about ten minutes. "Three T-bones, baby!"

"Three T-bones for $20? That must've been one helluva sale!"

"I kinda supplemented your $20."

"By what?"

"By doubling it."

There was a tone of giddy anticipation in his voice that is usually reserved for those evenings when both girls have sleepovers.

I hummed while I prepared the baked potatoes and the corn. I hummed a little steaky song I made up myself. "Steak, steak, I'm gonna have steak. Steak on the grill, gonna grill some steak." I guess you really need the melody to get the full effect. It was totally a good song though. I could tell, 'cause it made me feel all tingly inside.

"When is Daddy getting home with the steaks?"

"Soon! Set the table - cause he's only gonna throw 'em on the grill long enough to warm 'em up a little bit."

"ouagh" (that's my daughter making a sound no mother should ever hear her daughter make)

Once those steaks were on our plates, there was no room for anything else. Our entire plates were eclipsed by meat. Grill marks on the outside, dark pink on the inside. Steaks as big as a dinner plate. Times three. We couldn't speak, we just consumed. Lea had no desire to supplement her meal with potatoes or corn on the cob, but both were on the table. No one had any room for any on their plate. Tom and I put a little dent in our meat then put a potato on our plate. Tom still didn't have enough room, so he cut off a huge piece of steak and stacked it on top of what was already on his plate, using the bottom steak as a surface upon which to cut his top steak into bite sized pieces.

At this point Lea was squatting on her chair gnawing on a bone. When I told her to please sit on her bottom she growled at me and turned away from the table, hunched protectively around her meat, throwing furtive glances over her shoulder from time to time to make sure we knew that that piece of carnage was HERS.

We finished it, folks.

I'm not proud of that, but we did.

When I got on Facebook the next morning, I noticed that all three of us had updated our statuses to mention our steak.



This is a lesson in moderation. If we hadn't been so completely deprived for so very long, I doubt that any one of us would've behaved like animals. I think I need to send the veg to a friend's house at least once a month so that the rest of us can meet our base needs. A nice little steak - the size of the palm of our hands - served with a baked potato and a nice green salad. Maybe even a little wine for the grown ups. We'll use cutlery and everything.

But the story won't be nearly as fun.

I know, I know, No One Cares What You Had For Lunch. But come on. It was steak. And besides - it was dinner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Learned Weakness

In my past life as an Early Interventionist, learned weakness was a concept I spoke to parents about all the time. Parents of a child with a disability tend to have an urge to do things for their child because they don't want them to have to struggle. Heck, most parents have that urge - but it is often more pronounced among parents of children with special needs because just the day to day existence stuff is so often a struggle for them. They don't want to add to it if they can help it. It was my job to remind them that the struggle would make the child stronger and that the feeling of success they would achieve after working hard to meet a goal would be worth far more than achieving the goal itself.

An excellent example of a parent who chose this path presented itself when we were working with a child with multiple physical disabilities. Every night his mother made him climb the stairs for his bath. It was hard. It was a struggle. With every step he would beg her to carry him the rest of the way and she would say no. She watched him do the work. She helped him if he needed it, but she never did it for him. It was grueling for him, both physically and emotionally, but when he got to the top his pride radiated throughout the whole house. He would scream, "I did it! I did it!" announcing his nightly victory over the stairs, and his dad and his siblings would respond from wherever they were in the house, "Good job, buddy!" Mom? She would help him with his bath, help him into bed, and cry herself to sleep. Watching him struggle when she could have so easily carried him up the stairs was hell on her, but she knew that his rewards were twofold. He got the short term reward of pride in a job well done and he also got the long term reward of strengthening his body. Win/win.

Another parent on the other end of the spectrum referred to her child as her "cross to bear" and did everything - and I mean EVERYthing - for a child who was capable of actually doing quite a lot on her own - out of a sense of penance.

Twenty years later I don't have contact with either of those families, but if I had to hazard a guess as to which one was leading a more independent life, I'd put my money on that little guy who climbed the stairs every night. Although the extent of the little girl in the second scenario's disabilities was far less than his, his mother had taught him to be strong where hers had taught her to be weak. When presented with a task, his first answer would probably be a confident, "I can do that!" whereas hers is more likely to be a resigned, "I can't do that."

Her mother thought she was being kind. Her intentions were good. The result was a child who has learned only to ask for help.

Obviously one doesn't have to have a disability to be an "I can do anything" type or a "I can't do anything" type. I drew from what I know for those admittedly extreme examples.

Me? (come on - you KNEW we were gonna talk about me, right?) I was taught that I couldn't do anything. As a child I was rather obedient. I feared authority. If I was told not to do something, as a rule, I didn't do it. Case in point: In fourth grade, my Science teacher had to call my parents because I was so adamant about not lighting matches - which was something we had to do for many of our experiments. I remember being torn. I wanted to follow my teacher's instructions. I was - as we've established - a rule follower and a respecter of authority. But my parents were the ultimate authority and they'd said "never light a match". They'd been very clear on this. So, in an unprecedented move, I defied my teacher. My parents were quite embarrassed when he called and they changed the rule that night to "never light a match unless you are being closely supervised by an adult". That seemed to cover all the necessary bases.

I have never mowed a lawn. Growing up, I was told it was "too dangerous for you". I believed this without question. In the years when I might have been prone to a lawn mowing rebellion, I lived in apartments and it was not a necessity. When I got my first adult lawn, I was married and pregnant. That's no time to learn. Now it's too late. Tom has taught Lea to mow the lawn. I can't watch. There is still a little piece of me that thinks this is a very dangerous activity for a fourteen year old girl.

Even more dangerous than bumper cars.

That's right, bumper cars.

You can get whiplash, you know.

Just ask my parents.

(Avert your eyes from my arms for a second and look at the face of a 44 year old woman in her very first bumper car - 8-15-07)

So you get the idea. I was raised to believe that the world was scary and that I was ill-equipped to handle it. Somewhere along the line - not entirely by choice - I ended up alone in that big wide scary world. And I managed. I managed to drive without getting lost and pay my own bills and matriculate like a mofo and make my own mistakes. Managed? Hell, I thrived. Life was a bumper car ride and I was daring whiplash to catch up to me. I worked and played in the city and could parallel park in three swift moves. If I'd had a lawn, I would've mowed the hell out of it. I lit matches just to smell the sulfur.

That's right.

I was just that bad.

And now? Now I'm scared again. I'm scared of everything. My confidence is shot.

I hate feeling this way. I don't know what happened. I've lost my mojo. I decided to take action in what will sound like such a small way.

My sister had just cleared some ground and put down some pavers in her front yard. It looks great and it took her less than an afternoon to complete the job. I had something similar in mind in my own back yard on a much smaller scale. I asked if she'd help me do it and she agreed. But she's out of town for two and a half weeks. So I thought to myself, I thought: I can do this without her. I can do it without her and I can do it without Tom and I'll have time left over to run through the house with scissors. Pointed any damn way I please.

That was five days ago.

I don't even have the area excavated, much less the project completed. I spend a good bit of time just looking at the mess I've made and thinking, "what the hell have I done?" followed by "THIS is why I don't take on DIY projects".

Should I keep climbing the stairs? I sure would be proud of that little bit of landscaping... Or should I wait until my sister gets back and humbly turn the job over to her? She'll get it done and it will be nice. I can spend the next two weeks reading on the deck (with my chair turned so that I can't see the mess) and drinking summertime malt beverages. But then I'll have to put the scissors and the matches away and stay clear of the bumper cars.

And I kind of remember loving the bumper cars.

(hmmmm - there's got to be a nature vs nurture post in here somewhere, since my sister grew up with exactly the same parents but a completely different set of issues...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First Day on My Summer Vacation. I Got Up.

School's out.

Know how I could tell? The TV was on when I came down the stairs this morning.

I've made a lot of adjustments to my TV viewing habits in the past couple months. I used to have it on all the time. If I was home, it was on. It was my company. I didn't always veg in front of it (though it was nice to know that was an option), but it was on. I like to knit or crochet while I watch TV and that has been my excuse when I DO sit down to watch. "Hey! I'm being productive!" Lately I've only allowed myself to indulge in my hobby while MINDfully watching TV. That makes it sound almost Zen - which it is not. My definition of mindful TV watching is that I actually sit down to watch a show, not that I sit down to watch TV. It certainly doesn't mean that I only watch things that feed my mind. Hardly. It just means that I watch things by choice. Which reminds me: How can Glee be so predictable and still manage to make me cry? I hate myself when that happens. Stupid Glee.

We would love to be one of those families that doesn't even own a TV. And by we I mean Tom and I. And by Tom and I I mean the Tom and I that we picture ourselves being, not the Tom and I that we actually are. When we got married we didn't watch all of the same shows. On evenings where there was a conflict, either one of us had to 'give' or we ended up in separate rooms. Separate rooms are not good places for newlyweds to be. Compromises were negotiated. People were more important than TV shows. We're not newlyweds anymore, but we DO only have one TV. We watch together or we don't watch. We don't have a TV in our bedroom and we have been pretty adamant about not allowing the girls to have TVs in their bedrooms, either. Just the one. DVR and Netflix streaming have made it a lot easier for me to keep my casually made resolution to watch mindfully. I don't think I've seen a commercial in months. Stupid commercials.

But the girls? They made no such resolution. They are not as evolved as I am. Please read that with the appropriate level of sarcasm. So. So I think the next three months may be a steady stream of DeGrassi and Saved by the Bell and What I Like About You sprinkled liberally with Spongebob and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Penguins of Madagascar. I don't think I will survive. It's not that these shows are necessarily BAD (Oh my dear sweet loving God, they are SO bad) - different strokes and all that - it's just that they are rerun incessantly. Over and over and over. I think there may have only been five episodes MADE of some of these shows, because it seems like they're always watching the same one. It doesn't seem to bother them. I don't get it. Ok, maybe I get it a little bit. Once when I was on bed rest I watched reruns of Soap daily for hours on end. But that was Soap, not Saved by the Bell and I was on bed rest, not summer vacation. Stupid reruns.

When it's sunny, I can go on the deck and read. There is no where in the house for me to read comfortably EXCEPT the room where the TV is, and when it's on, well... That leaves the computer. I can play on the computer. I sat down to my new obsession - Wordtwist - and the first word I found was 'sagging'. Nice. So I'm hearing America's Funniest Home Videos from the TV behind me and being judged about the natural aging process by the computer in front of me. Stupid computer.

It looks like today will maybe sunny. That cuts my rant short. Maybe I'll get to spend the day reading a good book in the sunshine. Maybe I can even get the kids to bring me lemonade. Hey! Maybe I can even get them to do some chores! (During commercials, of course.) Maybe it's gonna be a good day after all.

Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Eat the Rich

In case you're new here and haven't figured it out based on the title of the blog, I love Aerosmith. My love is pure and true and undaunted by criticism, general or specific. The Bad Boys from Boston rock my world and the Toxic Twins have had featured roles in a dream or two (sometimes even when I was asleep). Love. Them.

When they shared the stage with Britney Spears and N'Sync during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, I cringed. I didn't approve - I knew it was a joke - I hated it and what it did to their reputation - but I still loved them.

(a long clip which, curiously, does not appall me nearly as much as it did when it originally aired)

When they sold their music and images to Guitar Hero, I knew it was kind of a sell-out, but I also figured it would get their music out there for a whole new fanbase. I got it.

(Yeah, I gave you Mama Kin. Like I had an option...)

Aerosmith's Rockin' Roller Coaster? Well. A band's gotta make a living somehow.

Commercial for Gap? Forgiven. (If only because of how smokin' JoePerry looks in the last couple seconds of the ad.)

Well-documented in-fighting and stints in rehab? They're only human.

I've forgiven my boys a lot.

But lottery tickets? I understand this has been going on up in their neck of the woods for a while now, but my introduction came yesterday when I heard an ad for them on the radio. Thank goodness Tom was driving, because I might have put us in a ditch.

Lottery tickets? With a Dream On second chance drawing because you don't want to miss a thing? (their words, not mine - I promise) Oh, this is a new low. We're heading fast into KISS territory.

Lottery tickets. Man. (Scroll down to the bottom of this link to see the band picture. Nobody is happy about or proud of this.)

I love you guys, but DAMN you make it hard sometimes.

I think the J. Geils band expressed my feelings best:

Love stinks.

Well - that, and:

Oh no, I can't deny it - Oh yeah, I guess I gotta buy it.

Wish me luck.