Friday, June 29, 2012

Bad words

OK, people, let’s talk about the potty mouth.  I am a Jersey girl, born in Philadelphia, but bred in good ol’ peach orchard, corn farm South Jersey.  We use the F-bomb like other people use… um, all other adjectives and adverbs.  And verbs.  And exclamations.  And nouns.  Am I missing any parts of speech?  We use it gleefully, angrily, creatively.  My current favorite exclamation is “Holy f***-weasels.”  I remember when I moved to California, I had to learn that other people did not use the F-word as casually as I did.  It had more power for them, more intensity.  For me, it’s just a word.  A fun word, a useful word.  Yeah, a bad word, but not like BAD bad.  Not like the C-word.  Other than racial slurs, which have no acceptable role in my life at all, the C-word was the only word that managed to retain its taboo power.  I don’t use that one.  (Unless I am really, really, really mad, and even then, my politically correct feminist side judges me harshly for deeming a word for the female anatomy the dirtiest word I know.  It still is though.  Can’t help it.  Intellectually, I could try to reclaim it, but emotionally, c*** is the dirtiest, most viscerally loaded word I can think of.)

So that’s me.  I swear.  I swear kind of a lot.  Pretty casually.  I swear in front of my kids.  I tried not to for about 5 minutes, but it was a lost cause.  So I have just taught them that those are words that only grown-ups are allowed to say.  I still recall my then three-year-old son saying “I can’t find the fruckin’ remote.”  (Fruckin’, his amalgam of f***in’ and friggin’, which I tried as a substitute for a while, until I realized that kids aren’t allowed to say friggin’ either, so I might as well not bother.)  We corrected him.  “Honey, don’t say ‘fruckin.’”  “But yes,” he explained calmly, “I say it when I can’t find something.  When you can’t find something, you say, ‘where’s that fruckin’ thing?’”

Hilarity.  Yes.  Yes, love, we do say that.  You’re totally right.  Excellent inductive reasoning.  We reminded him that kids are not allowed to say that word, didn’t make a big deal about it, just said it was a grown-up word.  Maybe that will bite us on that ass when they’re 13 (or, you know, 8), and start swearing to seem grown-up.  But you know what?  I really don’t care.  I don’t.  If they don’t swear in front of their teachers and don’t swear in front of anyone who will judge me, whatever.  I just don’t care that much. My kids tell me that when they are grown-up, they will drink coffee and wine and they will be allowed to say “fruckin.’”  Yeah, kids, pretty much.  Those are the perks.  (Both the saying it and the doing it.)  On the down side, you have to do laundry and pay taxes and grocery shop and make a budget and have a job and stuff.  But yeah, you get coffee, wine, and f***in'.

I remember before I had children, I would be around school age kids and say something like “crap,” or “shut up,” or “stupid,” and the kids would squeal about how I had said a bad word.  I mildly and silently judged their parents.  Come on, people, I thought to myself.  Stupid is a bad word?  Seriously?  Lame.

You all see where this is going, don’t you?

Yeah, this week, I designated “stupid” as a bad word in our house.  Sigh.  I am that mom.  I am just so bloody fruckin’ sick of hearing them call each other, each other’s drawings, each other’s TV shows, each other’s outfits “stupid.”  It clearly has some kind of power for them, like bad word power, and I have just had enough.  The nasty tone with which they use the word, the whining that follows from the wronged party.  I’d honestly rather they just F-bomb.  F-bombs are a victimless crime.

Shut up has also been banned.  I remember the first time I heard one of them say it, and I asked, “Where did you hear that?”  From me.  They had heard it from me.  I would have sworn that I had never said “shut up” to my kids, but I had.  I paid attention, and yes, when I asked them to “Ssssh” three or four times, either when I was on the phone or trying to have an important conversation with my husband for five seconds, and they continued to badger me, I would say “Shut up.”  Guilt.  So I told the kids that no one should ever say “shut up,” not even Mommy, and that they are allowed to remind me if I ever say it.

It hasn’t come up much since, maybe once or twice since they brought it to my attention, but oh, the glee on their faces when Mommy gets angry enough to bust out a “shut up,” and they are allowed to scold me.  It’s like Christmas and their birthday rolled into one.  They are so happy that they get to correct me for a change.  Their righteously indignant joy usually defuses whatever situation got me impatient enough to use the S-U on them in the first place, so that’s a bonus.

I am not ashamed of my F-bombs.  But I am ashamed of every single time I have said “shut up” to my kids, and I would never dream of calling them “stupid.”  Those are the bad words.  Those school age kids and their parents were right all along.  Words have power, and shut up, stupid, ugly (also banned in our house)… those words are far more harmful than me busting out a “Holy f***-weasels” when something crazy happens.  So I’m gonna continue to let my potty-mouth flag fly.  My kids will probably F-bomb early and often.  I’m good with that.  I care much more about words designed to hurt.  Those are the bad words, and they’re not welcome in my house.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It gets better

I just came from grocery shopping with the kiddos.  Pretty uneventful.  The usual shenanigans.  Kids begging for cookies and cake and donuts and toys, whining that they're thirsty.  No major fighting.  We've had better, but we've certainly had worse.  I wasn't hungry.  It was early in the day and I wasn't exhausted yet.  My husband isn't traveling. Basically, a regular day in the life.

At one point, my daughter ran over to the donuts and went out of my sight for a second.  I called her back over.  She didn't come.  I wasn't afraid.  I knew where she was at all times.  I went over and got her, knelt down to her level, and gave her a calm but firm "talking to" about listening to me, and about staying with me in public.  I warned her that if she couldn't stay with me, she would have to ride in the cart.  A+ parenting.  All good.  Nothing to see here.

A nice old lady gave me a sympathetic look and said, "It gets better."

Um, lady, seriously?  It gets better?  This is NOTHING.  This is me calmly correcting a kid who got overly excited about donuts.  It was kindly meant, and I took it as it was meant.  I'd rather hear "It gets better," than "Hey, keep your kids on a shorter leash, would you?" or "Whoa, you should totally be on Supernanny!"  But, lady, if you think that little non-event warranted an "It gets better," you have no earthly idea what my life is like.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

From takeout to truffle oil

Lately, I have been feeling that my cooking efforts have become a little bit crazy.  In some ways, I am extremely proud of the fact that I cook.  When we moved to Maryland from the San Francisco bay area, I had no clue how dinner was supposed to happen.  In California, meal planning looked like this: 

“Thai?  Sushi?  Indian?  The kebab place?”
“We’ve been getting takeout a lot.  Maybe we should cook tonight.”
“OK, frozen pizza or omelets?”

And, scene.

We moved to Maryland, where takeout was less abundant, less delicious, farther away, and cost an arm and a leg, and I was taken completely by surprise by the reality that we had to cook.  Like, cook food.  Every single day.  How was that supposed to happen?  It was a complete mystery.

Pre-kids, every few months, hubs and I would take a cursory look at our expenses, and have the “Wow, we really spend too much on takeout” conversation.  We would make lists of meals that we knew how to cook, and promise each other that we would cook twice a week.  Just twice a week!  Every few months we had that talk, because that twice a week vow generally lasted approximately… yeah, about a week.

We were both working full time then, so I cut myself a lot of slack. But when the kids arrived and I became a stay-at-home mom, I transformed magically into Susie Homemaker. 


If anything, it was worse.  The convenience store at the gas station around the corner sold us an awful lot of fried chicken.  The pizza guy accurately predicted our order in a bored tone when he heard my husband’s voice over the phone.  Thank goodness for breastfeeding twins is all I can say, or I would have gained 50 pounds in that first year.

But our income had been cut substantially, and those pesky child-people are expensive, so (horrific lack of nutrition aside) takeout really wasn't a viable option in the long term.  Once the kids hit a year old, things started to change.  They went from two naps to one, and that one nap was 2-3 hours long.  I had time to cook if I could do it in advance.  I would chop and prep things for fast meals like stir fry.  I got a casserole cookbook, and did turn a little bit into the scary version of Susie Homemaker for a while there.  See, here’s the awesome thing about casseroles.  You can make three of them, cook one and freeze two so that some other night when you’re feeling lazy, you have an instant meal.  We got a big freezer in the garage that I still count among one of the best investment purchases I have ever made.  I also used my crock pot A LOT.  Put stuff in as soon as the kids go down to nap, and by 5:30, you have dinner.

But casseroles and crock pot food… I mean, it’s OK.  I still make a few recipes from that time, especially in the winter when stews and braises taste so good.  But remember the girl who liked Indian and Thai and actual food?  Yeah, I missed that stuff.  I really, really missed delicious food, and we couldn’t afford to go out and have that very often.  So I started getting fancy.

Shaved asparagus flatbread.  Beef Wellington with mushrooms and gorgonzola.  I started exploring making my own Indian food, buying stuff like garam masala and green cardamom pods, and making naan from scratch.  I read food blogs and the food magazines I get from my mother-in-law.  And then came Pinterest, a treasure trove of food inspiration.  I resumed my fabulous dinner parties with my foodie friend Cheryl, for which the two of us would cook like fiends and then present a feast to friends and family lucky enough to get a “golden ticket.” I reverse engineered the crème brulee with ganache I had had at an upscale restaurant (and mine is better, just for the record).  I discovered the magic of things like vanilla beans and truffle oil.  

I started thinking like a cook, not wanting to waste food.  I froze veggie ends and chicken bones to make my own broth.  I used leftover chicken to make chicken pot pie with pie crust made from scratch.  Prompted by my son, I bought the most fabulous apron.

Me in my fabulous apron, with my silicone
rolling pin, even though I use the non-stick
one more often.  But the red looked cuter.

Now I meal plan every week, like a real live grown up.  I write down what we’ll have each week and shop accordingly.  But if awesome ingredients like fresh shiitake mushrooms are on sale, I can mix it up on the fly.  I buy meat on sale, freeze it, and work it into the plan for the upcoming weeks.  I am kicking ass at this cooking every night thing.  Kicking total ass.

So back to the initial sentence of this blog.  Why do I think this is crazy? 

Well, here’s why.  The other day I made a chicken pot pie because I had some leftover chicken that I had pulled into pieces and put in the freezer for later use.  Because I am a frugal non-food-wasting MACHINE!  Sometimes I do a fun curry-spiced chicken pot pie with cauliflower, but it was rainy and icky out, so I went with comfort food classic.  Carrots.  Peas.  Corn.  Crust from scratch.  Thick delicious sauce made with the frozen broth I made from scratch the week before.  Fresh organic herbs from my garden, which I braved the rain in my PJs to cut. 

And then I realized.  I simmered chicken bones and veggie ends all day long, strained the resulting broth, poured it into one-cup servings and froze it that way.  I used a food processor and a rolling pin to make crust, starting hours before dinner so the butter in the crust would have time to get cold again in the fridge, which is what makes the flaky goodness.  I generated a sink full of dishes and spent a lot of time cooking, and you know what this is going to taste like?  It’s going to taste like pot pie.  Not for nothing, but Marie Callender makes a pretty darn good frozen chicken pot pie.  Mine is healthier, and yes, mine does taste better.  But… better enough?  I mean, come on.  A rolling pin?  Broth from scratch?  For chicken pot pie?  It’s all starting to feel a little ridiculous.  At what point would I have been better served using that time for something else and just throwing a frozen pot pie in the oven?

I think this same thing every time I make my foodie version of tuna noodle casserole, for which I make my own mushroom soup with an assortment of wild mushrooms.  As I dirty dish after dish just on the soup phase, I start thinking, “Is Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup really that bad?”  (But then when I eat this casserole, I remember why I go to the trouble.  It makes my mouth so very, very happy.)

I come by my food snobbery honestly.  My mom didn’t believe in cakes from a box.  Only from scratch.  Usually with egg whites folded gently into something at some point.  In fact, she wouldn't even EAT cake from a box.  I grew up having what I now think of as real brownies.  Box brownies still taste weird to me.  I do sometimes make cakes from a box, and I’ll make box brownies for the kids (or for my husband, who prefers them over my amazing from-scratch brownies, because he is a weirdo), but it always feels a bit like cheating and not like actual food.  So whether it’s nature or nurture, I got the food thing from my mom.  But at some point, I think I may have crossed over into Bree Van De Kamp crazy land.

Crazy land, exhibit A: That day of the chicken pot pie, I had used a rolling pin and pastry board the last two days in a row. (For the pot pie crust and for Indian vegetarian samosas from scratch the day before.)  Who does that?  Most of my friends don’t even own a rolling pin and pastry board.  This was the girl who couldn’t manage to cook twice a week a few years ago.  I’m proud of the transition that I’ve made, but I’m starting to think I have gone too far. 

Maybe twice a week, hubs and I should commit to eating takeout or a frozen pizza, or at the very least having breakfast for dinner.  OK, that’s it, I’m writing pancakes and bacon on the meal plan list for next week.  And spaghetti.  Ordinary spaghetti with Prego sauce from a jar, because my kids requested it. 

I won’t even doctor the Prego with fresh basil from my garden.

OK… yes, I probably will. Shut up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pay the toll

My son just asked me to open a bag of cookies, and I told him he had to "pay the toll," which means a hug or a kiss.  We jokingly make the kids trade affection for favors.  It’s a silly fun game we like to play.  He gave me a kiss, but then said, "Mom, I don't have to, right?" 

He knows he doesn't have to, that it's just a silly thing.  He knows that his body is his own.   We never insist on hugs or kisses if they don't want to.  We ask.  We encourage.  But in the end, their bodies are theirs to control when it comes to affection. 

"No, you don't have to.  But you like to kiss me, right?" I asked him. 

"Right, mom, but you just ask for hugs and kisses too much." 


We’ve reached that point already.  The point at which I want their affection more than they want mine.  I can’t believe we’re there already. 

I shrugged it off.  They’re getting older.  They’re busy and have places to be and things to do and snuggling mom is not at the top of the list anymore.  They’re secure and they know I will always be here and it means I am doing my job.

It’s OK, even though, waaah, it totally sucks. 

A few minutes later, he came back in.  I was enjoying a glass of wine while reading on my Kindle. 

“Mom, if you want to drink any wine, you have to pay the toll."


Not gone yet.  I paid my toll, one kiss, and he ran off to do all of the extremely important things in the life of an almost-five-year-old boy.  Gratitude.  These days are not gone yet.

Monday, June 11, 2012

One size

One size fits all.  Yeah, not so much.  The Halloween costume and lingerie manufacturers eventually figured that out, and now they use the phrase “one size fits most.”  An improvement, but nope, still not true.  See, about half of the women in the U.S. are a size 14 and up, and in my experience, size 14 is approximately when those “one size” things stop fitting.  So no.  One size fits half.  Oh wait, some women are probably thin enough, but too tall or short to fit in those sparkly novelty stockings or whatever.  Actually, then, one size probably only fits a minority of women. 

So imagine my skepticism when a size 0 friend told me that I should buy her favorite panties, because they were one size fits all. 

Hanky pankies.  A cotton thong with uber-stretchy lace on the sides.  Do you guys know how hard it is to find cotton thongs in plus sizes?  Let me tell you.  It’s hard.  You can get them at Lane Bryant, but not always.  You used to be able to get them at Macy’s, but not recently.  Microfiber or nylon thongs?  Sure, you can find those anywhere.  But not cotton.  I feel pretty strongly about cotton, or rather, a certain part of my anatomy feels strongly about it.  (Note to self:  Stop writing about hoo-hah on blog.)  If you have a secret source of plus size cotton thongs, please let me know!

So there I was, in the waiting area of my kids’ dance studio, listening to the other moms go on about Hanky Pankies.  These thin, triathlon-racing women swore that the very panties they were wearing would fit me.  Apparently the saleslady at Nordstrom bonded with them about how comfortable Hanky Pankies were, and she was bigger than me.  In order to convince me of their superior comfort, they used the phrase, “They’re like butter for your butt.”  I refrained from replying that my butt had clearly already had more than enough butter.

But never one to turn down a possible new source of cotton thongs, I went to Nordstrom online and looked them up.  One size fits 4-14.  Sigh.  Well, I can’t complain about that.  That is precise and descriptive, much better than saying “most.”  Good politics, Hanky Panky, but sadly, I fall outside that size range.  B-b-but, the sales lady.  What about her?  Oh, they make a plus size line!  Awesome! 

But not in cotton.

Are you effing kidding me? 

I’m not that far outside the recommended range, so I bought a pair.  I tried them on.  They fit.  Kind of.  I mean, they fit around me.  And they also fit around a size 0 woman who once put her phone in her lap and had it slip through the crack between her thighs, because her knees touch before her thighs do even when she is sitting down.  They fit around her and they fit around me.  That’s a pretty impressive feat of underpants engineering right there.  But sadly, they will not be my new go-to thong. 

In my pre-twins body, which was actually one clothing size larger than the body I have now, I think they would have fit and looked cute.  But see, there’s this skin issue.  Y’all have seen me in a bikini, and you think you know, but you don’t know.  Hidden in those bikini bottoms, camouflaged by forgiving black or eye-tricked by a contrasting band, is the skin that was left after two babies lived in me at the same time.  Twin skin, it’s called.  Not everyone gets it.  But I did.  And regular-size Hanky Pankies don’t hide it.  The front triangle is too narrow.  I’m not all about hiding my body, or even necessarily hiding my flaws, but that twin skin is the thing I struggle with the most.  I can (almost) be OK with it when I’m naked, but I don’t need a pair of what should be sexy panties drawing attention to it.  So no butter for my size 16 butt, I guess.

Overall, I’m pretty at one with my body.  I think that unconditional body love is an important part of my message to the world.  I wear a bikini in public partly as my own little subversive act, pushing back against the predominant aesthetic we are fed about what is beautiful.  In putting this message out to other people, it has sunk in for me more deeply.  I do believe I am beautiful.


Just like anyone else, I struggle with body image.  Of course I do.  I don’t have some magic pill or potion that makes me immune to self-criticism and comparison and all of the other effed up things we do to ourselves.  I struggle with my weight, with aging, with the hanging skin left over from my pregnancy.   Self-love and self-acceptance are not a goal you reach one day, or at least that hasn’t been my journey.  They are, instead, values that I aim for.  Some days, I’m there.  Some days, not.  The messages of body hate are constant and plentiful in the world, so for me at least, loving my body requires mindfulness every day. 

And let me tell you, nothing makes me feel worse about my body than not being able to find stuff that fits.  A cotton thong.  It really shouldn’t be that difficult.  I am not that much larger than the average American woman.  I’m one clothing size larger than average.  That’s it.  I should be able to get some cute panties that show off my fabulous booty and don’t give me a yeast infection.  The fact that I can’t makes me angry. 

But it also feeds the tiny voice inside that tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be wearing a thong.  At my size.

I hate that voice.  Please excuse my language, but fuck that voice.

One size does not fit all.  True of panties, as it is of life.  Beauty comes in all sizes.  I wish that cotton thongs did too.

[Updated to add that Gap makes a cotton thong and I recently discovered that they carry some of their colors in up to XXL.  And the XXL is big.  If you're generally on the fence between XL and XXL, the XL will definitely fit.  I think the XXL would fit up to a 3X pants size at least.  So if you've come here looking for a secret source, try the Gap!  Boring colors only (black, white, nude), but if you're a size 16 or 18, the XL's will probably fit you, in which case you can get the cute stuff.]