Monday, December 8, 2014

Heart of Darkness

I don't consider myself an especially emotional person, unless you count experiencing near-constant cravings for Panera's Greek salad as emotional (Kalamata olives are my Prozac). Being pregnant, however, makes me weepy sometimes--especially when it comes to anything involving the pain (hypothetical or real) of my husband or kids ... or anyone who is or was ever a child. Maybe this is how God tries to prepare me for having kids--by having hormonal empathy crammed down my throat so hard it leaks out my tear ducts.

Disney documentary on flamingos featuring chicks getting left behind by the flock to die because salt-deposit manacles have slowed them down? Stories of toddlers with cancer? Anything on the news, ever? Tears. Ok, I didn't cry during the flamingo movie, but I only because I forced myself not to imagine my children as the flamingo chicks, walking innocent and alone across the deserted, salty lakebed, wandering until they starve or are eaten by storks.

From the film "The Crimson Wing"--so depressing. Note the salt-shackled legs.

One day last week I set myself up for failure by following a Facebook link to a blog detailing the end of a beloved husband's battle against brain cancer. I knew it would make me cry, but I kept reading anyway because I'm human and I was putting off getting off the couch and out of my bathrobe (I'm so over maternity clothes). So I cried and cried while Graham and Ruby did who knows what in the kitchen. I finally pulled myself away, tried to shower away my puffy eyes, and took the kids to our new ward's playgroup.

Graham is at a hard age. He's too old to be interested by the toddlers (although he and Ruby crack each other up at home), but too young to keep up socially/physically with "the big kids," despite his best efforts.

One day he won't hold the brush like a caveman. If my child development professor is to be believed.

He was the only boy his age at the playground, so he was very interested in hanging out with a couple boys a year older than him. Developmentally, "almost four" is very different than "almost five." For the most part, Graham was oblivious to his position at the bottom of the totem pole, happy to trail after the boys, under the impression that he was fully involved in their games, whether or not he actually was. Then eventually he came to me, explaining through his tears that one of the boys had told him he couldn't play with them.

I don't want to demonize the boys--it was only an hour earlier that Graham had growled at a two-and-a-half-year-old who wanted to play with his ball. I think children are the worst ageists there are. It's normal. It's still sad when it happens to your kid, but it's normal for kids to find extra security in their own age-defined identities by excluding others. I remember the most important factor in determining who my third-grade best friend would be: after looking at the birthday board on the first day of school, Megan and I discovered we shared a birthday. Instant best friends, no questions asked.

Ordinarily, I would give him a hug, offer some sympathy, and suggest he find somewhere else to play on the playground. But I'm pregnant, so my heart broke even more than it usually does when this happens, and I found myself fighting back tears, hoping my incessant blinking would keep the other moms from noticing my ocular distress.

I distracted Graham with a ride on the swings while a fellow mom went to talk to the boy, who then came over and very nicely told Graham that he had been kidding and invited him to play. Graham was all too happy to forgive and forget and hopped out of the swing to return to a game of monsters/rock-throwing/running-around-screaming/whatever-boys-do. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. The sweet mom who had talked with the older boy echoed an apology and I lost it. The lump in my throat refused to be swallowed and I just burst into tears. I started blubbering about feeling bad for Graham, being pregnant and emotional, and then added something incoherent about the man who I've never met who died of cancer.

Gah.

She gave me a hug and I kind of pulled myself together ... but I'd revealed my most vulnerable (pregnancy-augmented) soft spot: my kids' feelings.

I'd also revealed myself to be a crier. But I'm not a crier. I'm a pregnant crier. Not that there's anything wrong with being a crier, pregnant or not-pregnant. Cry on me whenever you want! Just don't think I will return the favor, unless I'm pregnant and someone was just mean to my kid. Or if I'm on the phone with an insurance company and getting mad. I also cry then.

It was just embarrassing, okay? It's one thing to care about your kids, but it's quite another to have a proxy cry long after your kid has gotten over the initial offense, and especially in front of people who don't know you very well yet.

When was your worst awkward cry? I remember an especially ugly cry in front of my high school English teacher ... the one who had a rule specifically forbidding crying. But how could I not cry when she gave me a B on my Heart of Darkness project after I'd spent hours analyzing the themes of greed and colonialism and cutting out coordinating photos of Africans and gold from my dad's beloved National Geographic collection? She was so cold about it ... that's what made me mad, which in turn made me cry. She's the one who obliterated my desire to be a high school English teacher, but I guess I should be grateful because instead I married an oil baron (cough*analyst at Exxon*cough) and now live a cushy life full of Amazon Prime shipping, and completely devoid of novels by Joseph Conrad.
   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poodle Reviews: Walking with the Women of the New Testament

One of my favorite bloggers, Heather Farrell, has a new book out: Walking with the Women of the New Testament, and I was sent a copy to review. It is a beautiful book, and it looks much better on my Ikea coffee table than the newsprint Harbor Freight Tools ads that pollute my mailbox ceaselessly and somehow never make their way to the recycling bin.


Besides the gorgeous cover and beautiful photographs inside, this book is filled with amazing stories and insights into the lives of women of the New Testament. I'm sometimes frustrated by how the scriptures are dominated by the stories and reflections of men, but this book offered a wonderful collection of scriptures, ideas, and historical contexts that all shed light on the immense value Christ placed on women throughout His ministry, as well as the important roles those women played in their Savior's work.

The book is divided into sections profiling nearly all the women mentioned in the New Testament. In each section, Heather Farrell provides scriptural references to the woman's story, offers clarifying historical context and insights into how the translation of the text can increase our understanding, and includes her well-constructed thoughts on what we as modern women can learn from our ancient sisters in the gospel. Her reflections often go much deeper than the Sunday-school interpretations we hear over and over--you can tell that she has pondered the lives of these women as real people rather than mere characters in a morality play.

This book has been especially moving to me as I prepare for the upcoming birth of my third child (I feel especially thankful for insight into Mary's story--I'm due the day after Christmas!). While this collection of stories makes it clear that Christ also values women for their contributions beyond the sphere of motherhood, there is a prominent theme of women being central both physically and symbolically to doctrines and events surrounding birth, nurturing, and resurrection. I've felt a greater connection to my Savior as I've read about the respect and compassion He had toward mothers.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how the provided historical and cultural contexts add significance to the Savior's interactions with women. A small section dedicated to menstruation and the concept of being ritually "unclean" added a lot to my understanding of the story of the woman with an issue of blood, as well as to the symbolic meaning behind that part of the Mosaic law. Sections on marriage, death, divorce, and other topics were interesting and informative. Understanding the low social position of women at the time helped me appreciate how radical Christ's interactions with women must have been at the time as He taught them, treated them as equals, and invited them to contribute to His ministry.

The stylized photographs in the book are stunning and helped me imagine the women as real people. I felt better able to relate to their stories when I could picture them as women similar to myself. One critique, though: nearly all the women who modeled for the pictures are Caucasian. Personally, I felt like all the models should have been either historically accurate (Middle Eastern, Greek, black, etc.), or else should have represented the entire spectrum of races. I wonder if the latter option would have enhanced the book's ability to present these stories as relevant and relatable to the New Testament's diverse, modern, global audience. Otherwise, I did appreciate the variety in the models' ages, shapes, and physical features. The posing and costumes were also lovely.

I love this book, and I'm excited to add it to the "women and the gospel" section of my library. This would make an excellent addition to your own library, a great "welcome to Young Women" gift, or a wonderful Christmas present for anyone (men should learn about women in the scriptures, too!).

Amazon has a 30% deal on books going on right now, with the code HOLIDAY30. Use it to get a copy of Walking with the Women of the New Testament!

*I know this glowing review isn't written in my usual dorky, satirical style, but I didn't want there to be any confusion about how I really feel about this book--it's beautiful and inspiring and I legitimately recommend it.
  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jogging Stroller Craigslist Ad

Besides this blog and my eternally-unfinished novel manuscript, I don't have many opportunities to write anything but boring "I'll be at playgroup, too" emails. So when I finally decided to let go of my first jogging stroller, I decided to take the chance to have a little fun. I'm reposting it here because I've sold the stroller, and I'm tired of getting texts asking about it so I'm taking the ad down.

Baby Jogger Jogging Stroller--$25


If you're looking for a bare-bones, threadbare, seasoned jogging stroller, then look no further. This jogging stroller will not teach your baby how to speak Korean, it won't play music to motivate you as you push through the sleep deprivation, but it will keep your baby snug in a lovely sling-like cocoon as you jog (or "jog"--I'm not judging). It even has a hand brake and safety tether if you are worried you'll lose control of your precious cargo while running down one of Houston's legendarily steep hills. A simple foldaway canopy will provide your wee babe the protection from the sun that your pediatrician has totally stressed you out over, and a handy pouch is available behind the seat for stowing your water bottle, grody sweat towel, and fitspirational photos of a postpartum Gwyneth Paltrow.



This stroller would be perfect for someone who has lofty ambitions about running off the baby weight, but would like to prove their commitment before investing in something with more bells and whistles.

Buy this stroller for little more than the cost of three Chick-fil-a runs. It will eventually feel great to run again, you will eventually stop leaking through your sports bra, and when you can finally run three miles like you're the Beyoncé of 5ks, you will get pregnant again and upgrade to a double BOB. Until then, here's the perfect set of wheels for you.



****
I sold the stroller the day after posting the ad, and have since gotten at least ten other inquiries. I'm kind of kicking mysef for pricing it so low, but at least it's out of my garage and some other parent is enjoying the constant guilt of having an unused jogging stroller.
 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Pinky Beige Nightmare

There are only a few things I don't like about our new house:

1. The toilets.

2. The street name. Phonetically, I love it. Unfortunately, it's spelled like a Utah baby name. I won't tell you the whole street name (because creepy internet), but it includes the word "Peper." That's right--pepper without the double p. According to neighbors, the pronunciation is still that of "pepper," though.

The first time I saw it I thought the listing realtor had made a typo. What else could explain such an awful spelling of a perfectly good spice? It's not even a well-known European spelling, which would at least lend some posh snobbery along with any confusion. Apparently it could be "pepper" in Dutch, but I don't think the neighborhood development company employee in charge of picking street names had this in mind. I think they were smoking the pepper, if you know what I mean. Now I will be doomed to spelling it out and explaining that it's "pepper with one p" (even though there are still two p's). On top of my rare first name (wait, Timber?) and problematically-spelled surname (Albrechtsen), I estimate I spend 30 percent more time on the phone with customer service people. Crisis.

3. The interior paint color. Like any self-respecting young, modern, super-hip homeowner of the 21st century, I would have preferred exposed brick, or at least whitewashed reclaimed wood paneling upcycled from the local organic rhubarb farm. I got pinky beige instead.

Your computer screen probably doesn't capture the pinky beigeness properly ... mine sure doesn't.

Obviously, it was not a deal-breaker. We bought the house, and in the morning light the living room actually has a nice glow, reminiscent of a Band-Aid before it collects gunk around the edges and finally falls off at the park where a toddler will find it and try to eat it.

It is not intrinsically an awful color. The problem is that pinky beige does not play well with other colors. Apparently the red undertones (quoting my google-acquired knowledge here) make it unexpectedly clash with a lot of other colors. I found this out when I put my yellow beige sofa in the living room. Who knew beige could clash with beige? Now I know. In my pinky beige living area, my sofa takes on the hue of dijon mustard mixed with cement.

Oh, wonderful Craigslist couch, how you've failed me!

If all the interior design blogs I perused yesterday are to be believed, pinky beige is the leper of the color wheel and the scourge of homeowners across the world. But we don't want to pay to have almost the entire house repainted, and goodness knows I'm not hauling my prego self up a 20-ft ladder to do it, so I must find a way to cope with my "Sensational Sand" walls. The problem is my complete lack of interior decorating knowledge. I have no weapons to employ against this beige beast. I'm paranoid that even the most innocuous throw pillow will take on a vengeful hue when placed against this background. It seems my walls are about as neutral as Nancy Grace.

If pinky beige were a human, this is what its face would look like.

Help me! What color rug should I get? What about the dirty mustard sofa? Does black clash with pinky beige? I have no idea what I'm doing.

When my inability to make intelligent interior design decisions proves lethal, please drape my casket in a pinky beige pall in my final display of surrender, and ask Design Mom to speak at my funeral.
 
***
This post will be included in the Urban Compass Starter Stories project, a collection of tales about first homes, fresh starts, and housing adventures. Visit urbancompass.com to drool over real estate listings for New York City apartments way more hip than my house (though probably smaller---point for suburbia!).
 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Cookies and Chiropractors

"A nice wolf."

You know what the worst first-world problem in the world is? Getting a cold and losing your sense of taste the day after making a huge batch of pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin cookies were invented to be eaten in a near-constant stream of room-temperature deliciousness until all are gone. They aren't too rich, the flavor is mellow and pleasant, and the USDA would for sure let me count three cookies as a complete serving of vegetables. So eating an entire batch (~40 cookies) over two days is basically the same as having a green smoothie for every meal for the same time period. EXCEPT I CAN'T TASTE THEM. Instead they languish in a plastic bag on my counter as I pathetically eat one every so often, just to check to see if my sense of taste has returned. It hasn't.

I caught the cold from this little heathen.

Over the past few years I've experienced an increased vulnerability to losing my sense of taste. It used to be only the worst cold that could deny me the most enjoyable fruits of my culinary labors. Now almost any minor case of the sniffles will result in losing my ability to taste for several days. I once read a horribly depressing article about people who had lost their sense of taste permanently. One of the victims featured had lost his sense of taste during a bad cold, and it simply never returned. I worry the same will happen to me, and I will only be able to find solace in my new ability to win kimchi-eating contests. Is their an essential oil that will cure me instantly?

Speaking of oil salesmen, I want to talk about chiropractors. What's the deal with them? I saw one today to see if anything could be done about my usual pregnancy-related back and hip pain. He explained all the cold fusion mumbo jumbo about ligaments, my sacrum, and how my pain-free neck was "a little misaligned." He popped and prodded, and I left feeling a little sore. We'll see if I'm back to my usual effervescent, somersaulting, pregnant self.


Little Ruby Riding Hood

My midwives recommended I see a chiropractor before Ruby's birth to make sure I was optimally aligned for a smooth labor, and so I did, and my labor was super fast (4 intense hours). I also ate Moroccan tagine for dinner at the start of labor, so it could have been that, too (never underestimate the power of coriander and chickpeas!). Then after Ruby was born I had pretty bad back pain from nursing, so I went to another chiropractor who said one of my ribs "was popping out of place" which didn't make a lot of sense to me, and his back-popping, while pleasant in the moment, never provided lasting relief. I'm pretty sure I just needed to sit in a better chair and stop slouching like I was a beanbag.

Fat babies = back pain.

I have several wonderfully credible, non-weirdo friends who have had a lot of success with chiropractors, and for a wide range of ailments that seemingly have nothing to do with whether your spine is on the straight and narrow. But I also think some of it must be a load of yellow Starbursts. If a little poke is all it takes to "realign" everything, then how have the thousands of toddler pokes I've endured not sent me into a death spiral of misaligned cancer/ebola/loss-of-taste ailments? Educate me, non-biased internet!

When I've gone too long without an adjustment. Or else this was my Halloween costume.
In other news, I bought paint for our front room/library/office (I shan't tell you the color yet, because how else can I entice you to read my blog ever again?). I am ridiculously excited for the end result. The process will be a pain in my freshly-adjusted sacrum, but it will be worth it, I think. Stay tuned.

Okay, okay, it's Martha Stewart Plumage. Shake your tail feathers!

****
Update: It worked! I have been pain-free the past two days. Previously, I would wake up 3-5 times, either due to discomfort or ... pregnancy-related bladder limitations. My back and hips would hurt like crazy as I got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. The past two nights I've woken up less (~2x), and I can get out of bed with the spryness of a child on Christmas morning. Huzzah for the witch doctors!
 
 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Growing Up is Hard to Do, and Different Toilets

Maybe this topic is better suited to a Judy Blume book than the blog of a 26-year-old, but it's true: growing up is hard to do.

Our new house! Photo by Victoria Rice.

Sometimes being an adult is fun, like when I get to buy a new washer and dryer for my new house, when I remember that I haven't done homework for three years, or when I eat ice cream without asking my mother (most nights). But sometimes it's super lame, like when I angry-cry while on the phone with the mortgage company because our agent told me I could save some major $$$ ... but turns out she didn't know what she was talking about and her manager brick-walled all my indignation with talk of regulations and profitability. Psh! I hate dealing with that kind of thing. I hate talking on the phone. I hate rules about rate locking and floating and whatever else you can do to a rate (beat it up?). I had to reread this post to feel better about myself. I also had some Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream (without asking), but my allergies are pretty awful right now so I could hardly taste it. Then I remembered that the perfect eye roll emoji doesn't exist and I spiraled even deeper into my first-world problem-fueled afternoon depression vortex.

On the happier topic of our new house: I love it. The major characteristics of the house are wonderful (full of natural light, way more space, great neighborhood), but I'm also delighted by a bunch of small things. Like how our new fridge has an ice dispenser (hallmark of the super rich, according to my six-year-old mind), the blinds aren't the cheapy-cheapy kind that my kids can easily leave bite marks on (because aluminum mini blinds are so tasty), and my closet has a chandelier that makes me feel like a Kardashian ... in a good way, if such a way exists.

So dazzling my phone camera couldn't even focus.

As with moving to any new home, however, there are things to get used to. I don't have the muscle memory for the location of the light switches established yet, so there's been a lot of groping in the dark and fretting about scuffing the flat paint next to the switch plates with my massive fake diamond ring. Graham loves his new room during the day, but at night the unfamiliar house noises freak him out and he insists there's a "big man" in the house (which then creeps me out when I consider the remote possibility that he might actually be seeing some ghostly apparition--perhaps the disturbed soul of a would-be homeowner who died from complications related to the mortgage process?).

Then there are the toilets. They aren't bad toilets ... they're just different toilets. It's like when you went over to your best friend's house and had chicken divan for dinner. He mom's version had all the same ingredients, but it just wasn't the same as your mom's. This is exactly the same kind of thing, but with toilets bowls instead of broccoli.

I started to wonder how people choose which toilets to buy. Sure, you can probably measure your legs to optimize toilet height, but what about the feel of the commode (what our realtor calls toilets)? Is there a private showroom down a secluded aisle of Home Depot where you can try out different models (pants on, of course)? Do you need to make an appointment? If you really wanted an accurate test drive before purchasing, maybe the restroom of the store could have a different option in each stall.

Did you know that Amazon sells toilets? Check out this great video about the American Standard Champion-4 Right Height One-Piece Elongated model.


Will you ever think of miso the same way again? The disembodied doll heads were my favorite.

Come visit me in my new house. Try out my toilet and tell me what you think. Also, I'm thinking of this rug in the powder room (I love/hate calling the guest bathroom this).


I know bison are really popular with hipsters right now, but I want you to know that my love for bison is not just a sign that my animal preferences are so on trend. I have legitimately loved bison for decades, probably dating back to my first family camping trip to Yellowstone (mid 90s). I could write a whole post about why bison are the best, and I probably will one day. I also liked Sia way before everyone was fangirling over Chandelier. These are the only two things I can claim to have liked before everyone else. I am otherwise the complete opposite of a trendsetter (a tacky-spiker?), except for that time in third grade that the new girl decided to copy me and also do her animal report on opossums (which really irritated me and killed our budding friendship. I'm okay if you like bison, too, though!).

I'm really excited to decorate the powder room. I want to paint it a funky color (right now it's beige--bo-ring) and put a cute little sign next to the sink that says "Wash your hands or die." I'll leave the cause of death up to the reader's imagination. Am I talking about ebola or my own germophobia-fueled homicidal tendencies? They won't know. I like to keep it interesting when people come over. So come over.
 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spoons

Graham has recently graduated from plastic toddler spoons to "big boy spoons." He's been really excited to use metal spoons from the legit silverware drawer (his plastic spoons are stored in his play kitchen). One day, though, he noticed our "special" set of red-handled silverware tucked in the drawer. Let me explain: Nathan's family has this tradition of using a special red place setting (red-handled silverware, red fancy napkin with ring, and a red plate that says "You are special today" around the edge, and a place mat) whenever someone in the family had a "special" day (birthdays, giving a talk in church, gallbladder removal, etc.). When Nathan and I got married, his mom gave us our own special place setting to continue the tradition.

Apparently this is a widespread tradition. See here for more info, and here for the "original" manufacturer site.

I made the mistake of letting Graham use the special spoon one time about a week ago, on a completely non-special day ... meaning Graham came to expect to use the spoon every single day.

But anyone born before 1990 knows that if every day is special, then no day is special.


I get where Graham is coming from. There's something irresistible about an interesting spoon. My siblings and I fought bitterly as children over a plastic spoon with a space shuttle for a handle (though we were dummies and called it "the airplane spoon"). We would hide it from each other, whine about whose turn it was to use it, etc. In the end my mother got so tired of the fighting that she threw it away. So we failed our King Solomon baby test, but whatever, we still turned out pretty well except for my lingering obsession with the spoon ... which manifested itself just now when I stopped writing this post to check ebay for the space shuttle spoon of my childhood. I found two, and bought them both immediately. I plan on keeping an eye out for a third, so my sisters and I can all have one for our greedy little selves. Nice try, Mom, but you can't keep us from our airplane spoons!

This spoon was probably used at the Last Supper.

Back to the present: Nathan, caretaker of the special place setting tradition, put his foot down, and explained to Graham the concept of saving the spoon for a "special day." So now Graham kind of gets it ... except that every morning now, Graham chirps at me in his still adorably high-pitched voice, "Is today a special day, Mom?" And I have to be the Grinch mother who answers, "No, Graham, today is a mediocre, absolutely ordinary and boring day when nothing special will happen. Go get a plain metal spoon and eat your undercooked oatmeal in silence while I plan out the most un-special day in the history of days."

From left to right: Toddler spoon, a spoon from the Oneida Icarus collection, the red spoon of desire, and finally a thrift store spoon that is my absolute favorite: perfect weight and balance, optimal bowl depth and shape, vintage etching (also available with a longer handle, which is optimal for eating ice cream straight from the carton).

You might think that this is where I wax poetic about how then I realized that every day really is a special day full of potential and lyrical joy unicorns and Godiva chocolate cheesecake, but you would be wrong (though I do have Godiva chocolate cheesecake in the fridge right now because WE ARE BUYING A HOUSE! Updates in my next post ...).

A great quote from past prophet Gordon B. Hinckley: "Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

At least you don't have to eat that tough beef with a spoon, red-handled or otherwise! #soblessed
 

Monday, August 18, 2014

My $20 French Wedding Ring

Sometime near the end of my pregnancy with Ruby, my fingers got a little puffy. I could put my wedding ring on just fine, but it grew increasingly difficult to take off. I have this fear of my ring getting stuck on my finger, similar to my fear of drowning in a dark pipe. Same thing. So I haven't worn my ring for a little over a year (having the baby didn't un-puffify my fingers as much as I'd hoped) ... bringing on two very different, irrational fears:

1) I worry that some judgy woman will fake-whisper something like this to her daughter behind me in the grocery store checkout line: "That's what happens when you get pregnant out of wedlock! You get prematurely frumpy and poor (I kind of dress like an urchin), and you'll spend all your money on diapers and fruit snacks instead of those Beyoncé discs your father and I think are Jezebel's trash!"

For that smelly sparkle you've always wanted.

I'm glad this has never happened because my response would be half-baked and equally judgy. I should probably think of something really zen or cryptic to say back. Maybe something like, "As the fertile moon is dim without the light of her sun, so am I supported by my baby-daddy-husband who works in the energy industry and makes sufficient fruit snack lucre pillaging the earth of her energy-rich gases. But were I not, remember that fear is a lesser teacher than reward. Sat nam, judgmental she-snake." Then I would wave my technicolor kaftan and disappear with my babies in a puff of incense smoke (along with my frozen California Pizza Kitchen BBQ chicken personal pizzas, of course).

2) I'm afraid I'll get hit on. Except this has only happened to me 1) while living in Spain (because Spaniards), and 2) in 6th and 9th grades, both times by really popular "bad boys" (one had an earring, the other wore boxers with lobsters on them--both hallmarks of juvenile delinquency, I know) who were just trying to humiliate me.

At my prime.

But I don't even have Spaniards or disingenuous 14-year-olds expressing any interest. Apparently being a haggard-looking, pregnant, seemingly-single mother of 2.5 is less attractive than the next Nicholas Sparks book-to-film project would have me believe.

I grew tired of entertaining these irrational fears, but I was unwilling to resize my ring and concede to the permanence of my fingers' fatness. I made a decision. There was a solution. A $20 solution.

Enter the Target engagement ring. Have you ever seen such a paradoxical token of opulence and frugality? I love it. And Target is a French company, so tralala.


Buying the ring was pretty embarrassing. Despite the low prices, the rings were kept in a locked display, so I couldn't clandestinely pick out my fake diamond fake wedding ring set. I had to confess to a teenaged Target employee that my finger was too fat for my real ring. Because I really AM married, you know. To a real man. Who can buy me a real diamond. Just letting you know ... in case you thought I was buying a fake diamond to pretend I got it from a fake man ... yeah.

Me (rifling through the rings, awkwardly trying them on while they're still attached to their square pieces of card stock): It's funny that you have these locked up. They're only $20 ...

Target girl (standing there, watching me): Silence

Me (does she think I'm an unmarried/unengaged fraud? Why the heck is she just standing there? Let me buy my embarrassing merchandise in peace! This is worse than buying tampons as a teenager at the Target where most of the cashiers went to high school with me): I just wanted to buy a placeholder ring to wear while I'm pregnant ... because my real one doesn't fit right now ...

Target girl: Silence

Me (she probably thinks I have some lame fiance who is making me buy my own engagement ring. At Target. For $20. Or else she knows my fingers are fat.): Ok, I'm done.

Target girl: Are you ready to check out?

Me: .... yes?

Target girl (walks to nearest checkout line, hands ring to the cashier, who is in the middle of ringing someone else up): THIS (holds ring up ... everyone can see what a big fake diamond I picked out. Why did I get such a big fake diamond? It's blinding everyone with its lies.) is for HER (points at me at the back of the line).

Apparently my $20 circle of shame is too valuable for me to give it to the cashier myself. So now everyone in line in front of me knows I'm buying myself a fake wedding ring set. Gah.

You know how hard it is to take an in-focus, not fat-looking picture of your hand? Where is the button for "de-puff" fingers in Photoshop?

Am I tacky to wear a $20 placeholder ring? Especially one with such a big CZ? Be honest and don't worry about telling me you think it's tacky, because 49% of me thinks it's tacky.

The 1% that made me buy it:

1) I don't care what people think (mostly). I think the kind of people who will judge me in a meaningful way (meaning they'll treat me differently or talk badly about me behind my back) for the authenticity of the shiny rock in my jewelry are the kind of people whose opinions I don't value anyway. Except teenaged Target employees. Apparently their opinions matter a lot to me (writing that in my Future Fodder for Therapy journal).

2) I knew I wasn't buying a big fake diamond to impress people. The presence of a ring addressed my two social phobias, but I only got such a big sparkly one because I legitimately think it looks pretty. I didn't realize how much I'd missed seeing a symbol of fancy femininity on my finger. I didn't buy it to look wealthy.

My original ring on the left with fakey on the right ... and the requisite unrelated prop.

3) Lack of regard for what other people think notwithstanding, I can hardly tell it's not real, and I don't think most other people will, either. How many people are going to grab my hand, compare my fake diamond to their own authentic rock, and cackle, "I knew it, you poser! The refraction pattern never lies!" Most people will see only a glimpse of small shininess as I walk by and think, "She's married, I guess I shouldn't ask her to get froyo after she's done buying cabbage with her kids, who she probably conceived within the bonds of matrimony."

4) I'm symbolically saying "poo-poo" to the diamond industry and the global evils (slavery, violence, cult of status) it promotes. Take that, DeBeers!

See the squeezage?

5) This ring is so cheap, I don't care if it gets lost, cracked, or dirty. Because, $20! Way less stress.

Some other thoughts: A small part of me wonders if we should have saved the $$$ we spent on my real wedding ring. For $20 a pop I could get a brand new, shiny, and on-trend ring every six months for our entire marriage and probably save money (especially if I would have put the money we spent on my real ring into a mutual fund).

But what about sentimentality? Don't you want THE ring you got married with to last forever until it gets buried with you even though your grandkids really wanted it? Yes, I do have a malleable heart that has succumbed to that part of the diamond industry's propaganda, so I have a solution for that: buy an affordable, but nice, durable, and pretty band (heck, put a little diamond on it if you must), and call that "your wedding ring." But then don't be afraid to put it in your jewelry box for a rest and change it up! (Also, the ring Nathan wore when we were married started to discolor a few months later, so his "ring" isn't even the "real" one, but do I care? Not really.)

Is THIS tacky? Maybe if I added a matching belly chain ...

What do you think? Would you ever wear a "fake" ring? Would you have been okay if your husband proposed with a cubic zirconia? If you had to choose between the ring design of your dreams and the authenticity/size of the stone, which would you choose? Would your husband care if you wore a "fake" ring?
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin the Cheetah Eats a Pita with Waffled Falafel (and Greek Vegetable Salad and Tzatziki, too)

Now that I have a fancy shmancy camera, I feel completely qualified to call myself a food blogger. Because I blog and I eat food (as opposed to Ruby, who does not blog and has recently taken to eating crayons).

Today I'll be featuring one of my favorite meals: Waffled Falafel in a Pita with Greek Salad and Tzatziki. I love this meal because it is full of flavor, healthy, Greek (yay democracy!), and it requires a cart full of produce, which helps me feel smug at the grocery store.

Let's start with the Greek Salad. This recipe is adapted from the Greek Diced Vegetable Salad from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Guys, I took this picture. It's not perfect, but I think it does my camera proud.


Greek Vegetable Salad

You'll need: 

1 1/2 cucumbers (or 1 large English cucumber), peeled, seeded, and sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, finely sliced (calling them scallions instead of green onions gets you foodie points)

8 Kalamata olives, pitted and diced (I used to buy these eight at a time from the olive bar until I grew a brain and realized I could buy them by the jar)

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced (or several dashes dried if you are like me and killed your herb garden)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, please, I'm Mormon)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove, pressed

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper

feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Instructions: Chop vegetables while listening to a Greek music station on Pandora. Combine in a locally-sourced peace of earthenware with the rest of the ingredients. Mix with the tenderness of Captain Jack Elliot, the romantic interest in my most recent favorite historical fiction, These Is My Words. Be sure to be dramatic and pensive as you squeeze the lemon.

Serving suggestion: Add chickpeas or hard boiled eggs and serve over a bed of romaine lettuce for a delish vegetarian main dish OR use in a kick-butt pita extravaganza ... as seen below.

Now for the ...

Tzatziki
(adapted from Design Mom--may I one day meet her blogging majesty at Alt Summit)

Creamy, cucumber-y goodness

You'll need:

1 large English cucumber, peeled and grated (these don't need to be seeded, huzzah!)

1 cup Greek yogurt (full fat, baby)

1 cup sour cream (Daisy brand, please)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, pressed

Instructions:

1. Peel and grate the cucumber, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. I forgot to do this the first time I made tzatziki (and I used regular yogurt) and it was too soupy.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a trendy bowl. Mix in cucumber, and chill until ready to serve.

3. Get bored taking a million pictures of tzatziki in a ramekin and bring in an exotic assistant.

Robin the cheetah storms the photo shoot!
Robin mistakes the tzatziki for a spa treatment.
Oh no! The viscosity! It's failing!
Glurp.

Don't worry. Robin remembered his African Scouting quicksand survival training and was able to free himself from the delicious tzatziki swamp, bathe, and help with the waffled falafel.

Waffled Falafal
(adapted from Food and Whine)

You'll need:

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (don't try to get all the little skins off, because you want to eat this sometimes this year)

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic

1 egg

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 dash pepper

1 dash cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon lemon juice (use the half left over from the veggie salad!)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dry bread crumbs

Instructions:

1. Try and convince your toddler to smash the chickpeas in a large bowl. When he refuses (still ornery from adjusting back to Central Time from Pacific), do it yourself, using a cup as your pestle. Smash away your angst.

2. Combine onion, parsley, and garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth. If you use a Vitamix, it will blend the parsley so thoroughly that your mixture will be bright green ... don't worry, it will still be tasty even though it looks like yeti phlegm. Add to mashed chickpeas.

3. Mix together egg, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil. Stir into chickpea mixture.

Robin the cheetah is a little skeptical about the green ...
4. Mix in breadcrumbs. Form into balls and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Bon Appétit, contact me for rights to this photo.
5. Heat waffle iron to medium-high, and cook falafels (I did three at a time, but my balls were a little big) for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve in a pita with veggie salad and tzatziki.

This is what happens when you "lightly brown" something green.
Cheetah loves pita.

I love Greek food. This pita ensemble is like Odysseus--strong, complicated, and enduring, minus the infidelity. I will not call this pita epic, because although it is akin to Odysseus in many ways, this meal has nothing to do with an ancient poem recounting the the heroic feats of a legendary figure.

***
If you liked this post, consider sharing it with the generosity you wish your toddler had during your last play date.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I am the Automobile Exorcist

Last night we got back from California after a week full of family, fun, and sand in awkward places. Also, I barfed in the Pacific Ocean, so there's one less thing on my bucket list.

Beach bummin'

About an hour and a half into our 24-hour drive home, three warning lights lit up on the dash, included the potential omen of doom: the check engine light. We pulled off the highway and found the closest mechanic while I flipped through the owner's manual and Googled the symptoms (the vsc light, trac off indicator, and check engine light for those interested). We'd just filled up with gas, so I was hopeful that the forums proclaiming it a potential temporary glitch in the gas tank/oxygen sensor/toyota witchcraft mechanism/or whatever were correct. But Nathan wasn't as willing to continue driving 1500 miles on hope, so we had the mechanic plug in his diagnostic thingy into the car.

Six hours straight of movies on the iPad? Huzzah!

The dreaded Code P0025! Meaning some camshaft sensor was retarded (that's literally the term used). The mechanic said he couldn't work on it until Monday, and that it was bad. I Googled some more, and was inspired by more accounts of P0025 being a temporary clog in some teeny, overly-sensitive hipster filter. I'm an optimist!

Nate's a realist, so we set out to find another mechanic. There was one across the street, but a quick Yelp search revealed bad reviews, so we pulled out of their parking lot about five seconds after pulling in (I love smartphones).

This was later in the trip, when I turned into an orc after consuming Graham's weight in MSG in the form of Ranch-flavored Corn Nuts.

Meanwhile, in the car ...

Graham: What are we doing?

Nate: We're going to look for another mechanic. Mom's afraid this one will break our car.

We tried another place down the road, but it was closed for the weekend, so we turned back around to try Shady Mechanic, reviews notwithstanding.

Shady Mechanic wouldn't even plug his diagnostic thing into the car unless we paid $65. Sheesh, California, hadn't I just sunk enough money into your economy (cough Seaworld)? Stop being so greedy! Shady was pretty put out that we were put out about paying for him to do something the guy across the street had done for free ... maybe this was augmented by Graham emerging from their bathroom and declaring, "My mom said you are going to break our car!" Gah.

So we went in search of yet another mechanic ... found another one, also closed ... so we continued driving around aimlessly, getting frustrated, when I remembered the story of Mary Fielding Smith (Mormon pioneer whose oxen fell ill and were healed through a priesthood blessing). You might think this is when I suggested softly to Nathan that as a family we bow our heads in humble prayer to petition God to heal our minivan, but instead I decided to be a dork and placed my hand on the dash in a most solemn joke, and intoned with mock severity, "I command the evil spirits in this van to depart!"

Then I looked at the dashboard. The three warning lights were off.

:o

There are three explanations:
1. I am a mechanical exorcist
2. God has a sense of humor
3. The clogged hipster filter decided to get over itself

I'm thinking it's a combination of all three ... so maybe stop by if your car is acting up, and I'll see what I can do. I accept payment in dead chickens, garlic amulets, or good conversation.

My mom's a shaman mechanic? Say what?

***
Let's say this post were a huge bowl of guacamole, and you know some of your friends have some tortilla chips in need of some adornment. Share the guacamole, share the post.

Maybe that's a bad metaphor because everyone knows guacamole is best devoured alone in a dark corner of your kitchen while your children sleep and your husband works downtown, but don't feel too bad because he gets free food at work all the time so you deserve to be selfish with the avocado dip of the gods, even guacamole.