Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Write

For those of you who aren't regular readers of Michael Ruhlman's blog, I recommend checking out his latest post. Usually he writes about food and cooking, but this one is about writing, or, more accurately, his stance that the term "writer's block" is really just an excuse for laziness. 

I think he's probably right - and I say that knowing that I am among the laziest of writers - although I don't know that I agree with his implication that choosing to write "The Making of a Chef" in the four months before his wife warned they would be completely broke (they had an infant and he had just graduated from chef school), was an act of superior self-discipline that should be commended. It sounds more like self-centered stubbornness to me and I don't think there are many mothers who would make the same choice in that situation. But, I digress...this wasn't meant to be a criticism of Michael Ruhlman - I actually like the piece. (Plus, obviously the whole thing worked out well for him and his family.)

It's not the first time I've heard the recommendation to set a daily word limit and make yourself meet it, even if what you write is crap. Perhaps it's the combination of hearing it again paired with him hitting the nerve of still being able to do it even with other pressures and responsibilities upon you, but this time I feel like it's something I could actually do. What will I write? Well, let's hope that reveals itself somewhere in those hundreds of words that I promise myself to produce, starting...soon. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

It's been dark and stormy since last night (when my little Owen came crawling into bed with me because he hates lightning) and I have been sick with this chest cold/fever/crap since Wednesday, so this morning I took the kids to Edinborough Park, our local, gigantic, indoor playground. 

When the boys were two and a half, I took them to this same playground and ended up having a panic attack, as I was sure that I had lost Owen somewhere in the maze of nets and slides for eternity. (Note: The playground is enclosed to prevent escape, but this did not comfort me.) I don't know whether I was more scared that I really wasn't going to find him or that he would realize he was lost and end up crying, alone, traumatized for life by playground equipment, but it was gut-wrenching enough that I didn't take them back for a year. 

A year later it was only slightly better, as I grappled with either having to climb through the 37-foot-high monstrosity with the kids (not as fun as you might imagine), or hover at the bottom, biting my nails and hoping they would eventually emerge from one of the six million slides and tunnels. If the boys hadn't loved it so much (and if winter wasn't so long and depressing), I would have just sworn the whole thing off, but instead I kept going back for more, hoping I would get braver right along with the boys. 

During all of these visits, I silently cursed (and envied) the moms who were lounging around the perimeter, leisurely sipping coffee and reading books, seemingly unconcerned with the black hole-like qualities of this play structure.

Well, today, I got to be one of those moms! After remembering to stop at Starbucks on the way (there is nothing but overpriced vending machines in the play area) we arrived at the park. I told the boys to stay together, and they were off! And there I sat, sipping my carmel macchiato and reading my book, trying not to notice the throngs of parents anxiously searching for their children or, worse, yelling up at them, trying to get their attention from 30 feet away. 

I had to stop myself from snickering when the mother next to me turned and asked, "Excuse me, but where is the Starbucks?" as if there was a beacon of hope in this chaos. "I stopped on the way," I shrugged, as she dejectedly sipped her $2 bottle of diet cherry cola. 

And so, the park that I once feared and loathed has become my ally...a peaceful place...a solution to the conundrum of how to entertain children on a rainy day, without TV, while simultaneously being able to read several chapters of a book of my choosing.  

There are days when I miss when my boys were babies. And then there are days like these.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Panic at the nerd camp

The boys started science nerd camp today! To see all these little brainiacs arrive, carrying armloads of broken electronics, which they had lovingly stockpiled over the past year so that they would have more parts from which to realize the inventions of their little imaginations, filled my heart with joy. 

Plus, I knew my socially awkward children wouldn't have to worry about bullies. 

But, as with every new camp or class or lesson, came the dreaded question of "Do I tell them or not tell them?" about Owen's diagnosis. I've mentioned this question before, but it still remains an area of uncertainty for me. Take today...

We arrived at said nerd camp and met the boys' group leader, a maybe 18-year-old named Eddie. In this case, I'd already disclosed Owen's diagnosis on the many forms we were required to fill out in order to register him for camp, so I said to Eddie, "Maybe you already know this, but Owen has high-functioning autism." Honestly, I figured that in a science camp for gifted and talented kids, autism (or at least Asperger's) would be a familiar concept. 

The look of panic on Eddie's face suggested otherwise. Shit, I thought. Shouldn't have said anything. 

"He'll be fine," I continued. "All it means is that he gets spacey and might need some extra reminders - especially during lunch...I don't want him to run out of time and not eat." (This actually happened at a different camp last summer.) 

The color seemed to be draining out of Eddie's face. "He'll be fine," I repeated. "If he's not fine, you can call me," I offered, trying to make him feel better.

Well, apparently as I kissed the boys goodbye, Eddie had time to gather his thoughts, because on my way out, he came up to say, "I'll make sure he eats." Ok, good. Maybe next time I will just say he gets distracted during meal time and keep the autism out of it. 

It's not that I don't want people to know or that I'm trying to "pass him off" as typical, it's that I don't want people to freak out. Nothing about Owen requires any freaking out. 

And so I'm still left unsure about whether it's really worth it to tell people. Could a scenario arise in which knowing Owen has autism would help a person who clearly knows nothing about autism, help Owen? Or am I just setting him up to be treated differently unnecessarily? 

I don't know the answer to those questions. What I do know that both boys had a fabulous time at camp. I did, however, find a barely-eaten sandwich in the lunch box this afternoon...only this sandwich belonged to Aidan. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One down, 39 to go

I mailed my Be the Match registration kit back today, which means that I can officially cross #40 off my 40 by 40 list! (Coincidentally, our friend's daughter came home from the hospital today, as she is thankfully responding well to chemo.) If you're interested in joining too, remember you still have until June 22 to join for FREE!

What to do next? Well, obviously there's Hawaii (#4), which I fully intend to book this summer for travel this winter, although we won't be there over Christmas (#32)...I think we'll have to spend the following Christmas in Key West, eating key lime pie (#25). I was thinking that if I sent everyone a postcard from Key West, that could count as the year that I gave everyone homemade gifts (#24), but my husband informed me that unless I make the postcards, it won't count. So much for killing three birds with one stone. 

Perhaps I should start planning my Thanksgiving trip to Las Vegas (#3 and #16), where I'm pretty sure I could also accomplish #17...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Morimoto, we're expecting your call

First I pleaded for your votes, then I bitched about the management of the contest, and now I'm here to tell you that we finally have some closure on Welch's Ultimate PB&J Challenge.

Today (4 months after entering), we got a letter informing us that we didn't win. It told us that the winning video had been posted at, along with "some of Welch's favorite video submissions." Turns out that includes us!

So, you know, next time you're browsing the Welch's site for the latest jelly news, check out our video (again). You have to scroll three over from the winner to see ours, so the boys have dubbed us the 4th place winners. (I adore their positive spin.)

Please note: The Welch's team chose the shot of my awesome plating as the thumbnail. I might have gone with the adorable children but, you know, the way I smeared that jelly on the plate was pretty artistic.

Thanks again to everyone who voted! Better luck next time. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Be the Match

Our friend's daughter was diagnosed with leukemia last weekend. She is seven. 

In addition to the flood of emotion it brought, the news of her diagnosis reminded me that I had once vowed to join the bone marrow registry. That was probably the last time I heard about a child with leukemia. And then I forgot and didn't do it. 

But I won't forget again because I added it to my 40 by 40 list. It replaced "Take the boys to the Galapagos Islands." (Have you ever priced such a trip? It's $20k, easy. I don't like nature that much.) 

Then I went to the Be the Match site and requested the kit to join. But I'm not telling you this to pat myself on the back, I'm telling you because when I went to the site, I found out that although it usually costs money to join, right now through June 22, it's FREE

That, my friends, is a sign.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Death and Dining

Is it in bad taste to tell you that my grandma died in the same post that I go on to tell you about the fancy dinners I had in celebration of my birthday? (For some reason, I really wish I could make "my grandma died" into a link to something, only I feel fairly confident that there is no web page about my grandma.) Ah, well...

My grandma - my mom's mom - died. It was time. She was unhappy...probably for the last 56 years or so. And sick, apparently. I feel like we got just enough extra time with her for her to meet my boys and husband...and to confirm that she was, in fact, ready to die. So although I'm sad in that vague, death-is-sad kind of way, I don't consider this a tragedy. (File that under "emotionally closed.")

So anyway, my birthday...better known as "the day before our birthday" by my boys...was good. I think I will like 32. And I got to have two fancy dinners (on separate nights), which leads me to believe that I should have as many fancy dinners as I am years over 30, every year! 

The first one was at Heidi's Restaurant, which I consider to be Minneapolis' little slice of Manhattan foodiness. And heaven. I had to show you my entree: steamed Scottish salmon with blue crab stuffing, passion fruit and sage.

Shoddy camera work aside, isn't that pretty? Pink salmon on purple potatoes! Naturally, I was in love before I even took a bite, but man, oh, man, the taste was even better. I will dream about that dish until we can be reunited. Delicious. 

Then, over the weekend, my husband took me to La Belle Vie, which you may remember from my birthday last year. While Heidi's has fancy food in a more casual atmosphere, La Belle Vie is fancy, fancy. 

Normally I would indulge in the tasting menu (I love tiny bits of lots of deliciousness), but both the warm goat cheese tart and the sautéed sea scallops with caramelized eggplant, asparagus and prosciutto were calling out my name, and they were over on the a la carte menu. They were divine, to be sure, but next time (as in, next year) I will return to the tasting menu because it's just more fun. 

Sorry, I have no pictures from La Belle Vie. I guess I got into the spirit of acting like a sophisticated lady who doesn't photograph her food...dumb. Next year, there will be pictures. 

And now that my binge of fancy dinners and cupcakes (so many cupcakes) has passed, it's back to trying to eat healthier...and exercising. And crossing things off my list

Monday, June 8, 2009

There are days

...when the glass seems very much half-empty. When the bad things, which I know are always happening, seem so much more pronounced. When you wonder what you're doing and whether any of it's worth anything. When it seems like it's raining on purpose. 

And on a day like that...for today...I'm focusing on the horizon...the warm, Hawaiian one. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Defense of That Mom

Yesterday at this time I was about to post a blog mid-freakout over my boys' sixth birthday party. I had both over and under planned it - as in, I had come up with lots of components (too many, really) and then never really got around to the logistics. 

This left me running around yesterday gathering all the food and supplies, with a break in there to attend the boys' kindergarten graduation. (Side note: Aidan spontaneously fell off the riser mid-"Skidamarink." He was fine. I laughed. It was just so...him.) 

When five o'clock rolled around and the minivans began arriving, I was just hoping to pull the whole thing off with as little judgement from the other moms as possible. (I know, my goal should have been that all the kids have fun, but I figured that was the easy part.)

In the end (and in spite of my lack of preparation) the party was an unequivocal success. The bouncy house elicited much screaming and laughter. The magic show boggled the kids' little minds. Pizza was eaten and cupcakes were decorated. Everyone had fun and everyone left happy. 

But in a Kate Gosselin-like turn, I've now become that mom. The one who throws over-the-top parties that garner scorn from all other moms because their children now expect such things at their own parties. (And lest you think I'm being paranoid, let me assure you that I had the opportunity to confirm this fact at the birthday party my boys attended today.)

The idea of me being that mom is both alarming and hilarious. And so, even though I don't think any of my boys' friends' moms read my blog, please allow me to defend myself:

We got the bouncy house because it's what we've done for the past 3 years. I can't think of any better way to both contain and exhaust a large group of children. 

My husband suggested that we invite his magician friend as a surprise because the boys (Owen in particular) fell in love with his tricks when they saw him perform at the Renaissance Festival last summer. I didn't know that he actually did a show, I just thought he would mingle with the kids, doing street magic. 

As for the decorate-your-own was a fun and cost-effective alternative to buying two cakes (and figuring out what each boy wanted on his cake). I actually recommend it to anyone. 

So, sorry other moms. I didn't mean to screw your more modest plans for your kid's party. But please remember, I only get to throw one party a year...for two kids. And, well, I think if my boys have to share their birthdays with someone forever, their parties should be awesome. And believe me, I'm trying not to mention the fact that the day, six years ago, when my boys arrived in this world wasn't a fairy tale birthing experience, so I really do think we have a lot to celebrate.

Plus, it's not really about you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

40 by 40

Tomorrow is my birthday. In honor of this occasion (and to distract myself from the fact that my babies are turning SIX in less than 48 hours), I've compiled a "40 by 40" list. 

As the name implies, it's a list of 40 things I want to do by the time I turn 40. I tried to focus on concrete things vs. philosophical things (like, "love more"), although #7 crept in anyway. 

At first, eight years seemed like a long time to do just 40 things, but given the magnitude of (and savings required for) many of these items, I think accomplishing five per year will prove to be challenging. 

Making the list was a fun exercise, as it made me realize that I've actually done a lot of stuff in my 32 years. Here's to the next eight:

1. Run a 5k
2. Bake a pie from scratch
3. Eat Joel Robuchon’s 16-course tasting menu in Las Vegas
4. Visit Hawaii
5. Have a personal essay or short story published
6. Learn to play guitar
7. Stop second-guessing myself
8. Tour the coasts of Ireland
9. Do Pastry Boot Camp at the CIA
10. Visit Italy
11. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to LA
12. Learn to decorate a cake
13. See the glaciers in Alaska
14. Go to Paris with my husband
15. Sing karaoke
16. Eat Thanksgiving dinner in a fancy restaurant
17. Get another tattoo
18. Find a form of exercise I like
19. Make exercise part of my life
20. Take a cruise
21. Find a job that I love
22. Learn to make and appreciate a good martini
23. Finish scrapbooking my boys’ childhoods (at least through age 5)
24. Give only homemade gifts for Christmas one year
25. Eat key lime pie in Key West
26. Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum
27. Wear a ball gown
28. Learn to do “smoky eyes”
29. Participate in a treasure/scavenger hunt in another state or country
30. Plan another treasure/scavenger hunt
31. Go on a two-week (or longer) vacation
32. Spend Christmas somewhere warm
33. Give up dairy for a week
34. Read “Ulysses”
35. Write each one of my friends a letter saying what they mean to me
36. Eat at Per Se
37. Do my own taxes
38. Learn to change a tire
39. Go back and read all of my journals
40. Take the boys to the Galapagos Islands Join the Bone Marrow Registry

Perhaps I should have put "win the lottery" or "find a corporate sponsor" on the list. Wait, I'm #7ing again...

Authors Among Us

I love my friends. I try to collect the best ones. So it is with great pride that I tell you that my Published Author/Supermom friend, Erin, is celebrating the release of not one, but two new books this week! (I am so living vicariously right now…)

Check out this fun synopsis of her career that was just published on the Reviewer X blog.

In case you didn’t click that link just now, I should tell you that Erin writes teen novels…for teenagers (and lovers of things teenagers like). One of her new books, though, is for the middle school set (a branching out, if you will).

So if you’ve got kids age 10 and up – or simply want to support a woman who writes novels in addition to raising a toddler and twin infants while working full-time – please run out and buy her books.