Friday, August 31, 2012

The Ward Volleyball Roster: A Moral Dilemma

Instead of watching Romney's convention speech last night, I went to ward volleyball. I slammed a few spoonfuls of chocolate pudding before I left, counting on the sugar to fill in the gaps of the super healthy homemade chicken noodle soup I had for dinner.


I am competitive. This isn't a new insight ... but I think I'd fooled myself into thinking that motherhood had mellowed me somewhat, making me immune to the seductive allure of being the best. Because how can I be the best when I'm wearing a cotton-poly t-shirt crusted in hummus? And motherhood isn't a competition blah blah blah mommy wars blah blah breastfeeding blah blah gifted child blah blah organic.

But do you know what is a competition? WARD VOLLEYBALL. And I'm not that great at it. I played a little in middle school, and my family always had a net up in the backyard in summer, but I'm untrained in the ninja arts of spiking, setting, and blocking. I'm a good bumper and I serve really well, but tactically I'm about as useful as a jar of peanut butter on the court. Despite my lack of legitimate skills, I still want to win. I'd like to think I'm scrappy and athletic. I don't want the weak sauce girls on my team. I grimace when someone swats at the ball with both hands like a deranged river otter. I mourn the neglectful parents who failed to provide an opportunity for their now-grown daughters to develop gross motor skills.

This may come as a surprise to you, but I cannot, in fact, play volleyball.

I started to wonder about the purpose of Relief Society volleyball. If it's about sisterhood and fellowshipping, then the game just got a lot less fun. But if it's about providing an outlet for all our latent stay at home mother rage, then sign me up.

(Sidenote: I hate when kids try to join adult volleyball games at parties/picnics/the like. It ruins the game. They can't serve, they can't bump, and they cry when the Amazon on the other team spikes the ball into their jello-covered face. I'm all for letting the kids squirrel around with the ball and net while everybody else is eating their burgers and potato salad, but come game time, they better be gone. Parents, take note, and get your spawn off the court.)

The stake tournament is in a week in a half. Word is that our rival, the Sugar Land ward, practices year-round and stacks one of their teams.

I was waiting to rotate in last night when the girl in charge of setting up our ward's team beckoned me over. Let's call her June, for confidentiality's sake.

"I've got a question ..." She takes a seat on an empty chair dolly.

Like this.

"Yeah?" I say.

She looks around clandestinely. "Sit down. Let's powwow."

"Ok." I'm excited to be invited to the inner circle ...

"So there's this thing with the Sugar Land ward ... they stack their teams."

"They put all their best players on one team?" I wonder. We have enough girls signed up to make two teams ... I'm watching the cogs turning in June's mind.

"Yeah! So I'm wondering if we should do the same ... but I don't know how we could do it ...."

I think of the potential for hurt feelings. "That could be tricky ..." I'm sure some of the girls on our team think they're better than they are and wouldn't like getting stuck on the crap team. What if I'm one of them?!?!

I cannot do this.

Fast forward an hour later into practice. We're scrimmaging the girls from the singles ward and we're floundering. My petty consolation feeling is that at least we have husbands --ha! Then I notice they're all svelte and childless and full of giggly energy because their Thursday night consists of flirting at institute while mine involved making crappy soup and wrangling my toddler into bed. So whatever, we're even. But our teams aren't ...

I catch June's eye. "Yeah, I definitely think we should have an A team and a B team."

June nods. "That's what I was thinking."

Then I wonder again if I'd be "A" or "B" material. Probably A- ... at least I hope so. Because being on the B team would most assuredly mean quick and embarrassing defeat at the stake tourney. And if that happened to me I'd be ticked because the stake center is over a 30-min drive away, and I don't want to road trip to Loserville.

Should we stack one of our teams to have a chance against Sugar Land? Or should we just "play for fun"? Katie, what do you think?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Freedom Chowder: Bacon, Potatoes, Corn

I have this theory that if I could get Fidel Castro,  Hugo Ch├ívez,and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over to my place for dinner, I could convert them to democracy by feeding them an awesome American meal. I've already decided on the side and dessert (red pretzel jello and cinnamon rolls, respectively, recipes forthcoming), and today I think I finally settled on the soup course.

It looks like this. I thought this photo was classier than one I would have taken of the leftovers in a Tupperware in my fridge.

This recipe comes from my good friend Rebecca Walsman. She had us over for dinner a little over a year ago, and she served us this. Then she gave me a bunch of baby stuff, including the bouncy chair that would allow me to shower for the following months.

This chowder is just danged good. It's best with bread of some kind.

Freedom Chowder
(or Potato Bacon Chowder if you're not hosting a peace summit at your Ikea dining table)

- 1/2 lb bacon, chopped (Ahmadinejad can pick out the bacon)
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 2 heaping cups cubed potatoes (I didn't peel my potatoes and it was still delish)
- 1+ cup water
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 and 3/4 cup of milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup of frozen corn

Fry bacon in large saucepan until crisp.  Add chopped onions.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.  Drain off excess fat.  Add potatoes and water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer 10-15 min, until potatoes are tender.  Stir in soup and sour cream.  Gradually add milk, salt, pepper and then corn.  Heat to serving temperature.  Makes about 8 cups.

I'm still searching for the perfect appetizer, salad, main course, and drinks for my Freedom Dinner Party.

Hey, Katie, what would you serve the axis of evil?

On San Pellegrino and Soybeans

I'm sorry, world, but there will never come a time when I can drink sparkling mineral water without feeling ironic in my poserism. Do you know when I drink sparkling water? When I accidentally push the soda lever instead of the water lever at Smashburger. It's disgusting.

I know I'm not posh, and my lack of taste for sparkling water reveals this. My version of classy water comes from my PUR filter pitcher, gently cooled by ice from my automatic maker (I was a tray cube girl until moving into this house--I'm moving up in the world).

Yes, please.

Forgive me if I don't want to pay $2 for 750 ml (too good for ounces, I see) of San Pellegrino. Those two bucks can get me so many other more-awesome things like 1) a week of Netflix, 2) a 2L of A&W--a beverage for real people, 3) 57% of a Sprinkles cupcake (ack! So expensive ... at least a Sprinkles cupcake is a delicious overpriced food item), or 4) a new song from iTunes. Or maybe I could gag down a glass of fizzy water and set my $2 bill on fire.

If I washed my hair with this would my curls come back?

Speaking of posh food ... I had edamame for the first time this weekend. I was at a get-together with some ladies from church, and there was a little buffet of food on the kitchen island. There were cookies, brownies, watermelon, and two bowls of what looked like withered, hairy green beans. I avoided the beans because they scared me.

Goo. (source)

I ate my cookies and brownies, eying the mutant beans with suspicion. Then I mustered enough courage to try them. I took a few from one of the bowls. First I tested one with my teeth, expecting the crisp snap like when you bite into a pea pod. Instead it was like biting a hairy piece of leather. I abandoned that idea, and then inspected the interior of the pod, wondering if I was just supposed to eat the peas or whatever they were from inside. It was empty. Awkward. Who serves defective beans? And in two bowls? ................ Then I realized I'd chosen my beans from the "discard bowl" where empty pods had been thrown. Edamame fail.

So I discretely took some non-empty pods from the other bowl, snapping them open to find green, plump little beans. They were delicious.

Kimber: What are these?

Other guest: Edamame.

Kimber: Ooooh, soybeans, right?

Other guest: Well, yeah, but not really. They're edamame.

Because soybeans are symbols of Frankenstein agriculture, emasculating phytoestrogens, and culinary weirdness, we call it edamame instead of what it is: boiled soybeans. It's pronounced Ed-uh-mom-ay, in case you're like me and thought it was Ed-uh-mame for a while ... ahem. Apparently it means "twig bean" in Japanese.

Say edamame. Doesn't it sound cool? Pretty much all Japanese words sound cool, because you're pretty much speaking ninja. Except guess what the Japanese word for chocolate cake is? Chokoreto cakey (listen to it here). They just Japanified the English word. Love it. Love edamame. Hate sparkling water.

When they start corking root beer, I'm buying this little "Hootch Owl." Cutest thing ever.
What yuppy food do you hate? What do you buy at Walmart instead?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bugs in Houston, Episode 1: Drug Mule Mosquitoes and the Spider that Eats Them

When we made the decision to move to Houston, I knew there would be some bugs involved. Mosquitoes outside, cockroaches inside (despite my most fervent housekeeping efforts ... ha!), and cute little jumping spiders on my window sills, the gargoyles of our seventy-year-old keep.

Woah (source)

Those jumping spiders are the border patrol. They kill anything that gets in and anything that tries to get out. This makes me feel better about the stupid mosquitoes that somehow get inside and then wait until nighttime to lurk into my bedroom and bite my legs while I sleep (I keep a tube of cortisone by my bed because this happens so often), because I know that, after harvesting my blood, those mosquitoes are going to want to get outside to lay their spawn in the rain-filled seat of the camp chair on my front porch.

Mosquito nursery.

I know those mosquitoes are going to encounter the enchanting mirage of my front window and spend the rest of the night buzzing over the windowpanes, looking for a way out. But the search will be futile, and come morning, their little wings will be weak, their beady little head will be sore from smashing against the window all night like the ball of a paddle toy, and the unsuspecting mosquito will settle onto the window sill to rest, racking it's little brain (yes, mosquitoes have brains! Thank you, Google) trying to figure out why it can see outside but not be outside (didn't say it was a big brain).

While the mosquito works through this existential dilemma, my little guard spider, the panther of the Arachnida, lurks across the window sill, watching, waiting. He sees the mosquito's tight, ruby-colored abdomen, proof this perp is trying to transport stolen goods across the border. He makes a note in his little spider detective notebook, deducing that the goods were probably acquired during an assault.

Here he is! He took some time off from his patrols for a little photo shoot.

Then our little hero lets some venom drip from his little fangs while he calculates the trajectory necessary to apprehend the smuggler. He hums Bob Marley's "Bad Boys" to psych himself up. Then he launches himself across the expanse, his heart filled with adrenaline and the glory of justice, and he lands as any raptor would, sinking his whetted fangs into the mosquito's thorax. The mosquito experiences enough pain for justice to be appeased, and then the border patrol spider injects a lethal dose of rapid-acting venom, mercifully ending the mosquito's sad life of violence, theft, and bootlegging. Mosquitoes cannot be rehabilitated.

Does it bother me that my border patrol agent spider acts as judge, jury, and executioner? That he's a bit of a vigilante? That even a ladybug in need of directions would merit his wrath? Not in the slightest. I let him live on my windowsill, and in return he destroys anything with an exoskeleton that passes his way. Maybe that ladybug should get a GPS.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Social Strategems

How to sound like ...

1 ... someone brilliant: Declare things "brilliant." Because to be able to identify brilliance, you must know what that is, and to know what brilliance is, you must possess it, right? Just try it. You'll even fool yourself. It's a brilliant idea.

2 ... someone artistically-minded: Declare things "stunning." Same reason as above. You'll feel hip and invested in culture. It's hard to contradict someone who calls  something "stunning" without feeling like a complete Philistine, even if that something is an empty light mayonnaise container glued to a piece of plywood. Dibs on that idea, btw. It's okay to sound deep even if you aren't.

This is what I imagine when I want to have stunning nightmares.

3 ... a good parent: In public, loudly ask your bratty-acting kid, "What is with you today?" By emphasizing the "today," you imply that on all other days, your sticky little likes-to-fart-on-girls cherub is usually reading Homer, meditating, or cultivating his hydroponic garden.

What is with you today, Graham? Oh wait, you're this flipping cute every day. This is just the day your mother failed at making homemade finger paint, instead concocting some sick clumpy gel for you to smear around. What a sport.

4 ... you care about the environment: Name-drop "organic" like it's your best friend's husband's famous cousin. While you'll be deliberately using the vocab in casual conversation, you're communicating that the organic vs. conventional choice is completely automatic for you. Of course you used organic heirloom (bonus granola points for this) tomatoes for your caprese salad.

I like how they say it's a "market." So earthy that way.

5 ... you're not judging: Use the phrase "just not my style" when you're actually thinking "omHeck, what a horrible mother/driver/Mormon/non-organic baker/Klingon you are!" Yes, this phrase condones a certain level of relativism, which in some cases is not okay. Ex: Oh, you water board your child when he raids your chocolate chip stash? Good for you, but that's just not my style! Child abuse aside, this phrase communicates disagreement without attacking another's right to be an idiot. There are a lot of things that don't matter, or shouldn't matter. Or they really do matter and tick us off but the circumstances aren't right to verbalize our judgments. This is also a great phrase to use when people give crap advice. Because choices are like caftans; more often than not, somebody else's is just not my style.

Good luck finding the organic cotton caftan of your dreams.