Monday, August 30, 2010

a few notes about these people

One of these people is still sick, phlegmy and coughing. Laughing even as she loses her voice.

One of these people brought dinner home on Friday night, a saving grace for a tired Whimsy.
One of these people is currently stacking boxes of pudding and jello end-to-end across the living room floor.

One of these people spent a brief 36-hours at home before heading back out to the business salt mines.


One of these people has learned to kick a ball. She follows the bright red vinyl sphere down the hall, karate-chopping the air high, like a drum major.
One of these people has been waking in the midnight hours, coughing and sputtering in her sleep as I lie awake and listen, hoping and praying that her body will quiet, that the vigil I keep can allow us both to sleep through the night.
One of these people has been known to sneak up behind me and wipe her runny nose on the back of my shirt. Or pants. Or arm. Or neck. (Nice to be of service, there.)

One of these people was missed as soon as he kissed me goodbye, his car still rumbling in the driveway.
One of these people has the msot delectable cheeks. Wait, that could be both of these people.

Friday, August 27, 2010

bobby flay: grim reaper of dreams


I give full and complete credit to Chip for this observation. He noticed it first and then totally ruined my bland disinterest by making a casual remark about Bobby Flay, darling of the Food Network and (apparently) Chef Extraordinaire.

About this: Bobby Flay, Iron Chef and quite possibly the only person that works at Food Network (because otherwise wouldn't they, like, restrain themselves from giving ALL the shows to Bobby Flay - at last count he has FOUR count 'em FOUR different shows in rotation on that network)... and I believe he also sold his soul to Wishbone Salad Dressing because he occupied an entire TV CHANNEL 24-7 for several weeks leading up to the Fourth of July. With recipes for SALAD DRESSING.

Anyway. My rant is about one particular show in the Bobby Flay empire: Showdown with Bobby Flay. If you haven't seen it, the basic concept is that Bobby Flay, renowned chef and television personality of the galaxy, "surprises" unsuspecting amateur foodies and small-time chefs by showing up and challenging them to a showdown featuring their signature dish (from chocolate chip cookies to coconut cake to fried chicken). Both Bobby Flay and the chef being showdowned then proceed to each make the dish while a few judges (arranged beforehand) eat the offerings and declare a winner.

Sounds innocuous, right? Well. That's what I used to think.

And then Chip comes along and points out the following:

1. First the obvious: Bobby Flay is a PROFESSIONAL CHEF. With a veritable SEA OF MINIONS (not the lovely creamy kind that I have, either). These are Minions of Cookdom - two are shown on-screen each episode, but I bet that there is a whole slew of scurrying Minions researching the dishes and cooking up various test options and doing their dastardly Minion behind-the-scenes work all the while Bobby Flay just lords it over everyone with his supposed charm and good behavior and VAST KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THINGS RELATED TO FOOD.

2. Whereas the cook being challenged is, like, USUALLY A HOME-TOWN, HOME-TAUGHT COOK. No Minions to speak of. Maybe a hapless kitchen helper or friend standing by wringing their hands and trying to appear competent as the army of Food Network cameras descend on them, (have I mentioned) TOTALLY BY SURPRISE.

3. In some cases, maybe even in MANY cases, the dish that Bobby Flay is trying to copycat and beat is the home-town cook's CLAIM TO FAME. Their one and only SPARK OF FAMEDOM. The thing that other people KNOW THEM FOR. Who the heck is Bobby Flay to TAKE THAT AWAY FROM THEM? He's all, I know that you've been making your great great grandmother's recipe for three generations and everyone from the surrounding five counties comes to your kitchen door to sample it, but dude. I got me some Minions, and they baked up a pie that will KICK YOUR PIE'S TRASH. Take that, hometown cook! May you forever be shamed into telling everyone that your pie is SECOND BEST to Bobby Flay! (mighty fist pump!) ---In my imaginings, Bobby Flay refers to himself in the second person, much like Elmo but with a tiny bit less fur and with, you know, THE MINIONS.

4. I further have a problem with the time Bobby Flay is able to research and prepare for the showdown. The hometown cook is told that they are being featured on a Food Network special about their particular dish. They do a little cooking segment with the cameras, and then have some kind of public celebration with their nearest and dearest friends to eat their creation. It's at the shindig that Bobby Flay busts in and dashes their dreams of starring in a Food Network special and announces BOBBY FLAY IN THE HOUSE! YOU WILL EAT BOBBY FLAY'S DUST AND BREAD CRUMBS (MIXED WITH A COMBINATION OF RED PEPPERS AND CILANTRO)! Prior to this interruption, though, Bobby Flay is given acres of time to prepare and practice and perfect his challenging dish. Also, though they don't necessarily show it on screen, I suspect the Minions are dispatched to the hometown cook's kitchen and root cellar to spy out any and all secrets.

Doesn't it all just seem... UNFAIR? And sort of STACKED AGAINST THE HOMETOWN HERO? Now that I have all these thoughts about how Bobby Flay will only be content when any and all left on the face of the earth worship him as the Best Chef of All Time Forever and Ever Amen--- I watch for little signs of cracks in the facade--- in Bobby Flay and the hometown chefs.

There's an episode where he's doing a challenge for clam chowder and the hometown chef is mad. You can just tell. It's all over his face, and the cameras can't skip past it quick enough. I don't blame him. I'd be mad too. Here's this dude who lives and breathes to make awesome clam chowder. And he's excited to be telling Food Network about it. It's a huge deal, right? And then here's our favorite freaking Iron Chef, Bobby Flay--- waltzing in at the back and suddenly it isn't a show about this guy's chowder, it's Bobby I'm Going to Make Better Chowder Than You Flay. Doing his level best to steal poor chowder guy's thunder Or there's the sweet little grandma who bakes pineapple upside down cake. It's like the one and only bright spot of goodness in her unassuming life, the one thing she offers to friends and family as her GIFT, something she can give them of her hands and heart and her veritable SOUL and then here's Bobby Flay, "Bobby Flay is going to CUT YOU, Grandma--- take THAT old woman! I can beat your pineapple upside down cake and then I'm going to go eat some spicy peppers! Bobby Flay is the destroyer of your SOUL!"

How much do you want to bet that Bobby Flay sits in his apartment on the weekends, trolling local newspapers for budding chefs and local food celebrities. Anyone who is eeking by with a small slice of notoriety. And BOBBY FLAY WILL NOT STAND FOR THAT, NO HE WON'T. So he calls up some of his Minions and his lackeys at Food Network to get on it. Clearly someone (a grandma? a 70-year-old hairy dude who lives to smoke meat? a woman from San Antonio, Texas who makes awesome tacos?) needs to be schooled. No one is better than Bobby Flay. NO ONE.

I make a pretty decent cupcake, and I'm starting to worry that Bobby Flay is going to burn through every chef's heart and soul, and start to run through the common masses. All I'm saying is that if Bobby Flay shows up at our next backyard barbecue and is all BOBBY FLAY CHALLENGES YOU TO A SHOWDOWN, I'm going to have to punch him in the throat.

So before that happens, I've decided that the Food Network folks need to take this in another direction altogether. Stop all the cooking. It's just pointless. Instead, I want to see Bobby Flay and Hometown Chef/Grandma/Angry Chowder Guy just wrastling it up in some mud or jello. Or how about we consider a demolition derby: last car still running is the winner? Sounds like a much better deal to me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



There is a brown vinyl looks-like-woodgrain photo album propped on the bottom shelf of Bean's bookcase. It is filled with small squares of photos, the kind no one makes anymore, pictures of my childhood. There are images of me eating cake and picking kittens up by their tails and my grandparents - all four of them, now gone. There are little snaps of Life With Whimsy: funny sleeping poses and too-big ballerina tutus and standing naked as a jaybird in the kitchen sink. These pictures represent every bit of documentation from my childhood, notes from my mother in the margins, a few bits of ephemera floating free at the back of the book. The love and tenderness is palpable in each snapshot. When you sit down with this book, the love escapes the book binding and rises in a cloud of comfort. Occasionally I will sift through the book, and in doing so I live my childhood in fast forward. I watch myself grow from scrunchy-faced newborn to pixie-haired schoolgirl in just a few turns of vinyl page. My first few months on the planet represented in a handful of pictures and nothing more. Time and camera film as editor for my life experience.

I've asked my mom a few times about offhand memories not living in the photo book--- things I said or my first steps or my favorite game to play when I was two. I don't blame her for it, but she doesn't remember these things. Time and four children do that to a person, and besides, there's a book--- myself living on in perpetuity as a chubby-cheeked toddler and the one-year-old with the long brown curls. I satisfy my curiosity by looking at Bean, knowing that she and I have so many similarities. I wonder how much of myself is mirrored back at me when I look in her sweet face.

The same sweet face that is cataloged and categorized and documented with painstaking detail in these virtual pages on the internet. Where I have a single book, a small smattering of photographs dedicated to telling the Story of Whimsy, Bean has this diary of her life represented at The Creamery. Her smiles and laughs, her foibles and funnies. The times she has driven me crazy and the times she has singlehandedly caused my heart to explode beyond my ribcage for the joyous love that I feel for her. There is such a dramatic difference in the two biographies. Not just in sheer volume, either, but the raw things I say here of inadequacy or worry or bald-faced irritation... I can't imagine coming across something like that scrawled in the margins of my photo album.

And then there's this: the tedious bits of daily life caught here in full digital beauty. I turn the pages of my brown book and am whisked from zero to eight in a few short seconds, but here---- here where I agonize over feedings and sleep issues and doctor visits in painstaking detail, the sheer volume of a child's life is here on these pages and I can feel their weight piling up as she reaches milestone after milestone, birthday atop birthday atop birthday and so on.

Late Monday night I was thinking about all of this, thinking about my experience of motherhood and Bean's simultaneous experience of childhood. It was dark in the bedroom when I burst in on Bean, her face red and her breathing ragged. She was standing over the edge of her crib, doing her level best to throw up in a single spot on the carpet (bless her heart). Damage was done, of course, with bits of it collected in her hair, on her sheets, her blanket, her stuffed buddies. I helped her through the worst of it with towels and blankets I snatched quickly from her closet, then we headed to the bathroom for a warm tub and a hair wash.

As I threw bedding and buddies and any hope of sleep for myself in the washer, I considered that brown photo album and all the things that aren't caught on those pages. The nights my mother spent doing this exact chore, the moments of time for herself that she blew away with a single sigh as I climbed into bed between her and Winston. I thought about the quiet words of comfort she would whisper when I was feeling terrible and sick, how she was able to convey perfect confidence and I never worried that things wouldn't just magically feel better in the morning. She said it was so, and so it was. Every time.

Because it's not in the book, I have no reference to my mother's daily life with me or her reaction to me when I was, um, less than picture perfect. I have no proof of her worries or frustrations or the times she might have wanted to chuck me out the window. I have no idea how it was for her in a house with four children--- each of them so different, each of them with demands of their own, each of them needing the whole of her attention and love and nurturing influence. Without the ability to read these stories in a book or see their photographic evidence, I can only imagine and try to recall my dusty experiences from memory. The things I do imagine, and the memories I am able to resurrect tell me she was (and is) a wonderful mother. Attentive and kind and comforting and so very soft--- her voice, her skin, the way she would rock me on that orange floral chair in the living room.

There is so much here at The Creamery for Bean to visit one day. When she is old enough to read these archives, she will visit those precious few days when she was very much brand new. When I wondered over her milky breath and her perfect skin. When I could get drunk on her paper thin eyelids and listen to her small grunts and snorffles with delight. When Bean is old enough to read these pages, she will visit herself from my perspective. She will see and hear and feel the wonder and beauty of Alice---- and hopefully she will come to know, and be reminded of, how much I adore her. The archives will be hers one day to know what was and what is, and I can only hope that she will feel the love here, palpable and knowing.

But just as my photo album has holes, bits of time and experience missing, there are things that I live in my days with Bean that will never fully be represented here in these pages. Like bringing Bean back to bed in the early morning hours, and my simultaneous delight and irritation at having her get pretzel crumbs in our bedsheets. Like the simplicity of our days together and the fun we have running errands or being in the car or saying hello to the balloon man. And the darkness of a sick little girl, her body limp and exhausted, brought back to sleep in bed next to me.

There is a universal truth about the mother's vigil: no matter how it is captured or conveyed. She worries silently in the dark over the restless body of her child. She runs through the possible solutions, the potions she might provide for relief, the things she needs to gather for her arsenal. She stands tired at her child's door, listening for coughing. She presses a cold cloth to a fevered forehead. She prays for comfort. She watches for morning. And the night is never so long as the night she's living through in that singular moment.

It's the vigil of motherhood that will never be fully represented in words or pictures or any medium you can name excepting one--- deep inside a mother's heart. I could devote a thousand pages to telling you what it's like and never get it right. I know why there aren't any pictures of my mother caring for me when I was sick, or notes about how long it took her to make my Halloween costumes: because these things are part and parcel of that vigil of motherhood. And there are no words for such things, no picture to tell that story.

Just the love that remains, the cloud of it rising above our heads and hearts, circling the planet.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the kindness of...

Every once in a while, when I'm feeling shaky or sad or particularly vulnerable, I replay this instance in my head: me and Bean at the Phoenix airport on a layover, standing in line at Wendy's and cowering while a hard-to-believe-considering-the-way-he-was-acting fully grown adult male of the species taunted me and made me cry. My favorite part of reliving the memory is two minutes later, when I was standing over to the side of the Wendy's line, doing my best to not dribble a river of snot onto Bean's head while I waited for our order and hoped that the ground would open wide and SWALLOW ME WHOLE. Enter my favorite part: when two women, strangers to me and strangers to each other, laid into the mean green-shirted man, yelling at him and putting him in his place in front of a good sized crowd of on-lookers. HOW DARE YOU MAKE HER CRY? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID? YOU MADE HER CRY! YOU ARE A POOR EXCUSE FOR A MAN. --I actually thrill with the feeling of rescue, these two unknown women, these brave souls who said what I couldn't say in that moment, the women who just a minute before stood in front of me and offered tissue and support and a hug.) I still feel bad that I didn't go back and thank them. (I was too busy crying.)--

I think I cry harder when my misfortune is met with kindness. You know what I mean: how you are holding it all together until some person wiggles out of the background to offer you some sweetness, some gift of a tender mercy that is as close to a ray of sunshine on a dark night as you can get.

Yesterday we were at a large church meeting. Normally we attend church at a smallish building with a smallish congregation of people we know pretty well. But twice a year we meet together in a larger group to gain insight and instruction and edification. Yesterday was such a meeting, held in a different building and a little bit farther away. We arrived early, parking in a quickly-reaching-capacity parking lot and found seats next to the fantastic Wandering Nana and the stupendous Michelle. Bean ate the remains of her breakfast (pancakes) and we waited for the meeting to start. It was a few minutes in that I felt the first twinges of Neck Trouble. I tried shifting my posture, hoping to focus on Bean (finger puppets to keep her quiet) so the neck would just calm down and behave.

But it wouldn't behave. It wanted to MISbehave, in fact. Twinge, twinge, twinge.

I shifted. I stretched. I excused myself and walked around the building.

Twinge, twinge, twinge.


And then I felt the telltale ache and rumble of the muscle spasms begin.

By this time I was sitting next to Chip again and told him what was going on. My biggest concern wasn't so much the pain I was in right that second, but the fact that over the next two weeks Chip is going to be home a total of two-and-a-half days. It's the kind of thing that has me thinking Hmmm - I need to be mobile. Above all else, I need to be mobile. So when he asked me if we should leave, I took a deep breath and said yes. Get me home to ice my neck and lie down and I'll be fine for Two Weeks of Single Parent Duty.

We quietly gathered our things and tucked Bean under Chip's arm and exited, hoping we could get to our car and head for home just as quietly.

Which of course isn't what happened.

What happened instead was this: our car was inextricably barred and trapped by other cars, a little automobile quagmire right there in the parking lot. Chip dispatched me and Bean back to the foyer of the building to wait it out while he tried to move the surrounding cars with his incredible Mind Power and/or figure out a way through the bushes. While he was doing that, Bean and I stood in the foyer and spoke to the Effervescent Michelle and her adorable bud, Benjamin. He monkey-manned around the foyer and she asked if I was okay. I smiled and did something of a shoulder raise like, "Eh--- I will be fine in the long run but right now I just need to lie down." When I filled her in on our Trapped Car she was concerned, offered a ride home. By this time Chip was back inside, and barring a major bit of landscaping renovating done by our Jeep, there was no way we were getting out of the parking lot until the meeting was over.

We smiled at Michelle and quietly walked our way down the hallway, hoping we could find an empty classroom and a door Chip could stand guard over while I helped myself to some floor real estate. It seemed like the reasonable solution.

Let it be known it is never a good idea to underestimate the resources of a friend named Michelle and a cohort named Wandering Nana and their respective husbands.

While I reclined delicately in church clothes and stockings on the floor of a large classroom, and while Chip stood judiciously over me lest someone come in and disturb my delicate reclining, and while Bean raced in circles around the room shouting JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!, there was a small marshalling of forces in the outer vicinity.

A few minutes later my view of the ceiling was interrupted with Michelle's husband's head. (In my mind - Hey, there's Dave. Hello Dave. There's the ceiling and Dave and Chip.) Dave offered a ride home. This is the point when The Kindness overtook my better judgement and I started to cry.

The formula:
Whimsy Lying Down in a Weird Public Location x Compromising Position + Extreme Kindness = Water Works

I can't help it.

My tears were just the social lubricant needed to get both Chip and Dave moving in a very quick and efficient manner (I lovingly call it Husband Panic in the Face of Wife Tears).

It was agreed that we would use the Family Michelle/Dave vehicle to get ourselves home, and then Chip would turn around and bring the car back to the church and retrieve our imprisoned Jeep.

As we left the building there were a few Knowing Looks from other conspirators of kindness (I know who you are).

Driving home, we talked about these brands of kindness--- the fact that there wasn't even a small beat of a moment when Chip felt like he couldn't ask Dave and Michelle to use their car, the fact that they said yes without a second thought, the knowing looks of help and commiseration as we failed epically in our attempt at a Quick and Silent Exit (oh the failure). This is the kindness that is evidenced in our lives--- people looking out for the welfare of others.

Nearing the house, we acknowledged that we need to be so much better at offering this kind of help, because it wasn't that things were so blatantly obvious. It's about looking for opportunities to be kind, and then doing it.

Sometimes it's about handing your car keys over to a friend.
Sometimes it's about being someone's voice at a Phoenix airport.
Sometimes it's about making a very readily-accepted plate of brownies.
Sometimes it's about being a listening ear.
Sometimes it's a thousand other things, in a thousand other venues.
But it's always, always, always about being kind.

This is a small offering of thanks to yesterday's co-conspirators and a long belated thanks to the anonymous ladies of the Phoenix Airport. May your days be blessed with kindness in equal measure.

Friday, August 20, 2010

things I will tell my daughter: of teenage boys and a girl's heart

Beware of the boys who are traps, their faces sun-bronze and beautiful, their hands reaching for your hand. These are the boys who will spin the planet madly until you are wobbling free and flying off the earth's crust into the deepest velvet of space. They aren't bad boys necessarily, but they hunger for the frenzy of love spun free in the void.

These are the sensitive boys. The misunderstood boys. The boys who want nothing more than to whisper quietly in the dark until their words find your waiting ear, your hair in a chaos of tangles. These are the boys wearing torn jeans; disaffected, unaffected, a sneer on the lip and a scribbled pocket of poetry.

Beware of the boys who are traps. Their black sneakers and flannel shirts are deeply scented with leaves and the vinyl of their car. They know how to sit still and watch you in the dark.

These are the Lost Boys who took the bus back from Neverland, the ones who refused to learn how to fly. But they talk a good game. They will tell you about spanning the midnight sky and touching the stars. They will breathe on your cheeks until you burn.

The boys who are traps know how to use the knife's edge of a qualifier. They say never and always and only to snip your life's attachments from you like balloon strings until you stand bare and alone in a universe of two.

These are the boys who come along once in a million, once in a lifetime, once upon a time in a twisted fairytale choked with gnarled tree roots. These boys want to keep you for your brightness, for your innocence, for the light you shine in the dark.

If you meet a boy who is a trap, he will carry his own gravity. He will seem dense and inescapable. He has a sticky center, dark as molasses and just as heavy and sweet. It will hold you there as you kick and struggle for the freedom to move.

In his company, this boy who is a trap, you will hope for peace but find none. You will look for safety but find none. You will seek for his salvation but find none. This is when you will want to change him, want to help him, want to heal him. But the boy who is a trap is a desert. He drinks your intentions in deep greedy gulps. He asks for more and offers nothing in return.

The boy who is a trap will sing a siren's song and leave you shipwrecked and broken on a foreign shore. He will catalog your face with the others who gather in his atmosphere as he sails the sea.

The boys who are traps--- they change us, they scar us, they can suck us dry and leave us gasping for air and light and water. They will take something from us if we don't kick free and come back to our senses. Beware the boys who are traps, from one who broke free and didn't look back.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

customer service

If I wrote a letter it would go like this:

Dear Firestone,

This is not the kind of letter you normally get. It isn't about your tires or anything related to them. It isn't about an accident that was averted thanks to great traction or even the friendliness of the technicians in one of your stores.

This is a letter about a marketing display. Or, as he's come to be known in our house, The Balloon Man.

It started a few months ago. See, you have a service center that's located really close to our house. It's right next to our neighborhood Home Depot, and also adjacent to a major intersection that we cross to get just about anywhere. For a while I would idly talk to my two-year-old Bean about the large red balloon dude affixed to a fan so he would be doing a herk-a-jerk wiggle and dance in front of your store as we passed. I'd wave and tell Bean to say hello. That was it.

Everything changed two weeks ago when I needed to pick up some WD40 at Home Depot. It was a nice day outside and I suggested to Bean that we walk. She wanted none of it. She wanted to stay home and watch Elmo. Or color with her crayons. Or snack on toast. Or watch paint dry. Anything except accompany me on an errand to Home Depot. I am an industrious and creative sort, so I dug deep into my repertoire for something to entice Bean to come with me free of hysterics. Here's what I came up with:

The Balloon Man.

"Bean. If you come with me to Home Depot we'll get to SEE THE BALLOON MAN." (Said in the most booming and pee-your-pants-for-the-excitement voice I could muster. And I was very musterful at that particular moment.) I raised my eyebrows. I clapped my hands. I did everything just short of a JIG to convey my extreme pleasure at visiting the Red Dancey Vinyl Giant IN PERSON.

She took the bait.

She was very excited.

She was clap-her-hands and squeal and do an ACTUAL JIG for the excitement at seeing the Tried-and-True, Accept-No-Substitutes BALLOON MAN... IN THE FLESH.

So off we went. We walked to Home Depot, all the while Bean peppering me with her anticipation of seeing this vinyl celebrity in person. "Balloon man? We see the balloon man? Bean see the Balloon Man?"

"Yes honey. We're going to see him."

And then we did. We stood in your parking lot and gazed up at the magnificence of In-Person Balloon Man. He did not disappoint.

He continues to be Bean's favorite neighborhood superhero. I do believe she loves him. Loves to see him. Loves to wave to him as we pass by. Loves to talk to me about the fact that HE'S WAVING TO ME, MOMMY. HE'S WAVING TO ME!

There are days, though, that he's missing. And we get very sad. WE get very sad. WE are sad because Bean gets sad. WHERE IS HE, MOMMY? WHERE IS HIM????

When this happened a few days ago I told her that he must be taking a nap. Luckily this was the perfect answer, grasped desperately from the dusty bottom of my Parental Grab Bag of Magical Excuses. Bean supplied the rest of the trappings. She told me that the Balloon Man was in his crib. With his pacifier (paci). He was taking a NAP, she told me, with a serious nod.

Now I have just the right thing to tell her on those unfortunate days when we miss seeing The Balloon Man. It eases the disappointment. Let me just say, though, that you have never witnessed the sheer and unadulterated JOY of a Bean in the company of her beloved Balloon Man.

Thanks for providing such a useful and necessary service to our community. I thank you. And so does my daughter.

Sincerely yours,

Please don't get rid of him anytime soon.

....but I didn't write a letter.
We stopped by the service center instead. And we told the manager. All three of us. We thanked him for The Balloon Man. His response, "Well, um. Thanks. That will certainly make it easier for me to do the chore of setting it up every day. If I know that someone is looking forward to seeing it......him. To seeing him."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

deep thinking

Last night, while watching The Three Musketeers, a movie (and a story, I might add) it will become abundantly clear in a short moment that I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT.

Whimsy: (noticing that everyone has a French accent, even a BAD French accent, excepting Chris O'Donnel) What's the deal with Chris O'Donnel's d'Artagnan and his entire lack of an accent?

Chip: Oh, he traveled to France from America just to be a Musketeer.

Whimsy: I guess that makes sense then.

...several minutes later when the bed is literally shaking from Chip's laughter

Whimsy: WAIT A SECOND. This is set in, like, the 1600's. If d'Artagnan was coming from America he would be A PILGRIM. You are an evil man.

Chip: Also, you might have noticed that neither Keifer Sutherland or Charlie Sheen have accents either. More American immigrants.

(sometimes I hurt my head with my lack of thinking)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a post script about sunday night

This is what you get when you suggest to Chip that you'd like to lay on a blanket in the backyard and watch a movie after your toddler has gone to sleep.

Yes, that would be an actual futon frame complete with foam mattress and blankets. The chairs were for our respective snacks.

I provided the all-important snacks (popcorn and a small glass of chocolate chips to balance the buttery salt).

One of my favorite parts of the evening was walking out there to view Chip's creation of our backyard movie extravaganza.

It really was extraordinary.

As were the stars.

The bugs? Another story. When one actually took a chunk of flesh out of my leg, I begged for pause and went looking for our decrepit citronella candles (the ones that are at least 7 years old--- is there an expiration for citronella?).

Once the candles were (sort of) lit, we amused ourselves with attempts to keep them lit. I won by balancing mine on a precarious angle and periodically emptying trickling pools of melted citronella wax onto a small circle of dirt. Have you ever noticed that doing precisely this thing with a candle is the Slippery Slope of Candle Demise? If you don't stop at just the right ratio of candle wick to standing melted candle wax, you're faced with a wick that keeps getting overrun by melted wax (and consequently snuffs out into Wick Oblivion). Unfortunately I crossed the Magic Wax Ratio and was forced to just keep getting up to empty wax onto the sad circle of dirt (and wax).

I still feel a little itchy just thinking about those bugs. (scratch scratch, especially my ankles and ears--- is that weird?)

We toughed it out and chatted companionably about a citronella ion cannon (Star Wars reference).

By the time the popcorn was gone, the chocolate chips had been eaten, and the whole sky was dark and sprinkled with a scattering of stars, the movie was over and the candles were nearing their life's purpose end. The temperature of the surrounding air had also dipped down considerably and we walked into a house cooled down and quiet.

Even if you aren't blessed with a MacGuyver husband who refuses to lay directly on the grass for avoiding the night-roaming Spiders of Unusual Size (S.O.U.S.), I would heartily recommend the Backyard Movie Viewing.

In spite of the bugs.

Monday, August 16, 2010

reflections on a sunday evening

Everyone in the household is limp and lifeless, excepting yours truly and that's only under extreme duress (and insistence from the 2-year-old). What's that they say about Mother's Work and never being done?

It's only the second heatwave of the summer, so I am limiting my comments to just that, seeing as how we've been beyond lucky compared to the rest of the country vis a vis HEAT.

No one has air conditioning here in the northwest, it's just not practical (August and only the second week of temps above 85-degrees). Our methods for dealing with it have us as sun-fearing mole people for the few short days when the temperature soars into the upper 80's and 90's (and dare I say 100's?). We keep the house dark. We don't open the doors and windows. We lay around on the couch and the floor and the landing of the staircase and just wallow.

When we walked in the house after church this afternoon I made Chip and Bean promise with a level stare and my index finger pointed at their noses, "Repeat after me: no opening the doors and no cooking, just the microwave and anything you can harvest from the refrigerator." There were pinky swears and oaths of promise.

So here I sit for a moment, bound from the stove but still fetching bits of chicken nuggets and ice cold grapes fresh from the 'fridge. I am dreaming again of food.

homemade ice cream with just-warm-from-the-stove caramel
sweet lemon curd on fresh baked bread
these pancakes with a dusting of powdered sugar

I will be dreaming until the inside temperature creeps below 75.

Say it with me: summer is so short, we need to enjoy every sticky sweaty second. After we tuck Bean in bed tonight, Chip and I will retire to the backyard to watch a movie on my laptop. Enjoy the blue summer sky and the crisp white stars. There is magic in those moments when I feel the earth's tilt-a-whirl slow just enough to allow me to take a deep breath and sigh. Life, whether we count the days as limp cave people or run ferocious out into the savage sun, is good. It's just so good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

truth #3 and the reveal of my lie

First off, a quick notice to ALL MINIONS! The Golden Minion Box of Awesomenss is ready to be out in circulation again! Jayme over at Tater Twins has a contest up and running for it . Follow the link and enter. The GMBOA needs a new home!

Finishing up our game of three truths and one lie.

I watched General Hospital when I was twelve. It was this thing that Stacie and I did, and we loved the show. Loved it. We watched it for Frisco (Jack Wagner) and Felicia (umm?). Okay, we watched it for Jack Wagner. We swooned when he sang All I Need. And you guys, I BOUGHT ALL OF HIS ALBUMS. All of them. I sat in my room in front of my silver boom box with the double tape deck (!!!) and listened to my Jack Wagner tapes and dreamed of the day I'd marry him (!!!). We cried when Frisco left the show. And we cheered when he came back--- several times. I spent a good chunk of my summers from twelve into some hazy future age (fourteen? fifteen? I don't know...) watching this show. I remember trying to figure out our VCR programming just so I could watch it after school. It's easy to say that I loved the show. It's easy to explain that it was a part of my squeee-stage of pre-teenagehood before I moved on to loving Johnny Depp and his chiseled cheekbones on 21 Jumpstreet (dude).

What isn't so easy is to tell you that I sometimes, ever-so-occasionally, um... check back in. To the show.


I don't have a defense exactly, because I myself don't understand WHY IN HEAVEN'S NAME I DO IT. But I do. I drop in from time to time to sort of check on the characters. (I don't know! I just told you that I don't understand it, so you're not going to get a lot of explanation here.) I am horribly embarassed that I check in with it because I know it's ridiculous. I know that the plotlines are stupid and contrived and that people have been married on average, like, SIXTEEN TIMES (and that's on average). I don't watch it for the sexiness or the drama or anything. I just... check in from time to time. And I don't tell anyone about it.

Well, except all of you. And the internet universe. But that's it. In fact, when Chip was officing out of the house last Monday I was taking a break on the couch during Bean's nap and it happened to be 2 o'clock and that's when General Hospital is on so I...checked in. But while I was doing my checking in, Chip burst out of the den (down the hall from the living room) and I quickly flipped back to the Food Network. As soon as I heard the den door click shut I flipped back to GH. Then a minute or two later the door opens again---and I clicked back to Food Network. I mean, I am an occasional viewer, doesn't mean I want ANYONE TO KNOW ABOUT IT. But at this point, Chip starts teasing me, "Sweetie, what was that you were watching, hmm? You can tell me..." I refused, of course. It was several hours later when he looked at me with this huge smile on his face and said, "How long have you been watching General Hospital?" And I was like, "WHAT?" He explained that he'd noticed the quick channel change the first time and had only pretended to go back into the den (closing the door) and watched me flip back to GH. He felt guilty about the subterfuge and opened the door again, to walk down the hall and see if I'd fess up. (Lesson learned: Chip doesn't mess around.)

So then I fessed. We laughed about it, and he insisted that this be a truth during this week, because it's just too funny that I not only WATCH IT (sometimes--- doth the lady protest too much?), but I actually HIDE IT FROM MY HUSBAND.

Before you lose all respect of me and never come back to The Creamery, at least read to the bottom of the post where I tell you about licorice.

Because that means that the one lie was about me being the only person in the house who will eat black licorice. A fact, I should say, I personally thought was 100% true until a very short time ago. Chip won't touch the stuff. Thinks it's horiffic. My friend Amanda (hi Amanda!) and I had a girl's night recently at my place. Chip was out of town on a Friday night and I needed some company. So Amanda left husband and child at home and came over to watch a movie and eat junk (homemade caramel popcorn and cookies...AND she brought boxes of Good & Plenty, the best black licorice candy to grace the planet). She left a whole box of the Good & Plenty with me for Saturday consumption. Well, let me just say that Bean has a SIXTH SENSE for anything sweet--- it's like she just knows that if it's in a colorful box than it MUST be good. Saturday afternoon Bean spied the box as I was trying to pry a couple pieces from it without her notice (amateur move). When she insisted that she have some too (CANDY? ALICE HAVE CANDY, MOMMY? CANDY???), I buckled. I figured that this is the child who doesn't like pasta. The child who doesn't eat hotdogs or any part of the pizza other than two inches of crust. The child who won't eat CHEESE, for pete's sake. Why on this green earth would she eat and like BLACK LICORICE? But of course (as you know, this being the lie and all), she DID like it. She ate up the one piece I gave her and asked for another. And another. And another. It turns out that she likes black licorice.

There you have it. My child likes black licorice and I like to watch General Hospital. OCCASIONALLY. AND IN PRIVATE.

Let us never speak of it again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

truth #2

Continuing on with three truths and one lie, here is truth #2.

Let's talk about something thrilling and sexy, shall we? Something that will rev your engine and give you shivers of anticipation. Let's talk

House cleaning, to be exact. I told you that the recent introduction of a revolutionary housekeeping technique has literally changed my life. And it's all true.

First an introduction. I have often felt that this whole mothering/stay-at-home/house wifery business should be approached like swimming in a pool of cold water. The key is to wade in. Slowly. Of course it doesn't work that way. Mothering/stay-at-home/house wifery is a dump-you-in / sink-or-swim venture. In most cases, I have done more sinking than swimming. And it's only now, after I've been doing it for two and a half years that I've started to find my stride.

But there's a reason that I've found my stride and it has to do with house cleaning specifically. See, my old protocol for house cleaning was still based on my former life, the life of someone working outside the home. Someone who stumbled into the house around 6pm and felt like she was never home. Someone who wasn't about to do any cleaning during the week. So we did all our cleaning on Saturdays. Chip and I, we woke up Saturday morning and divided the household tasks and then just plowed ahead. Which was... not a good method. We usually wound up only getting one third of the chores done, and those under extreme duress (nagging has usually been involved and it's not pretty).

What precipitated the change was a conversation that Chip and I had about this whole idea of stewardship---- but that topic is one for a whole blog post in and of itself. Let's just put a pin in it and come back to it another day, okay? What came about after the discussion of stewardship was some deep digging on my part, deep into my role in our family: my expectations for myself--- what I would like to (and what I feel I should) get done, and what I was actually doing. There was a sizeable discrepency. And let me just say that Chip's role in this soul searching was sideline only. He isn't some high-and-mighty dude who's all, "YOU ARE WOMAN - YOU DO CLEANING." But at the same time, we have a fairly traditional arrangement here, and I'm of the opinion that the one who is doing the stay-at-home-job should also be captain of the household and all it contains therein.

So. I realized that I was doing the housekeeping/cleaning ALL WRONG. And wasn't taking advantage of all the days during the week. So I split up all the cleaning chores, room-by-room, and divided them up into ten groups. Each group is designated a day for cleaning once during a two-week period. For instance, every other Monday I clean the master bedroom. Every other Tuesday I clean stairwell and upstairs hallway (and also vacuum the upstairs). The kitchen gets done every week.

You guys, it has CHANGED MY LIFE. Instead of griping and complaining that we have SO MUCH TO DO on Saturday, and spending the entire day trying to get it all done, all I do on Saturday is the laundry and whatever random cleaning/yard related thing needs to be done. The rest of the days I'm spending like 30 minutes cleaning something. That's it. And over time I've found that as I keep up with the cleaning, I'm able to focus on some deep-level organizing when I'm taking care of that specific part of the house. I should add that I don't let the rooms that aren't on the cleaning schedule just fall into disaray and pit of filth. I tidy things up all the time, and try to leave a room better than I found it. I do the dishes every day and just clean as I go. Something that I've pretty much done all along. But this whole routine has opened up our schedule, it's made Saturdays SO MUCH BETTER, and the house--- it's CLEAN. Like, all the time.

Brilliant. And it has totally changed my life.

Tell me--- what's your cleaning routine? Do you have any lifesaving tips that are going to CHANGE OUR LIVES FOREVER? If so, do share.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

truth #1

I'm beautiful and I know it. And so do you. Move along.


In response to three truths and one lie, I present the first revealed truth, in story form.

Chip has a rocky relationship with the cats. When we were first dating there was this sort of foggy shield of love that did not allow me to see that he tolerated the cats, but didn't necessarily LOVE them. Actually, I take that back. Chip did a great job of telling me and showing me that he loved the cats even though he was, firstly, ALLERGIC to them; and was, secondly, MOSTLY TOLERATING them. They were amusing. And sweet. And he loved them for my sake.

In fact, when he called my parents to ask them if he could marry me (okay, it was really more of a conversation along the lines of, "Hey I'd really like to marry your daughter...")--- the story goes that my mom had only one question for him and it was this: Just tell me you like the cats.

As we snuggled into married life, life with each other and life with, yes, THE CATS; a few things became clear.

1. Chip is painfully allergic to the cats.

2. Chip does love the cats, in small measures of snuggling and lovefests.

3. Chip is not a fan of the messier side of cat ownership. Namely, anything involving cat bodily fluids. Like poop and pee and yes, VOMIT.

The first few times he stumbled on to the whole remarkable extravaganza known as THE HAIRBALL Chip was visibly shaken and horrified. There were questions on whether or not this was normal, and should we be sending the cats to a specialist because seriously WHAT THE FREAK WAS THAT THING ON THE FLOOR?

I became the Resident Cat Vomit Picker Upper by default. And still am. I don't think Chip can actually face a pile of cat sick without getting physically ill himself. He's just not made that way. This has gone to such extremes that Chip will actually leave a big ole pile of puke on the floor for HOURS until I come home to clean it up. Or when I was working he would actually be such a dear to call me on the phone to let me know that I had some nice vomitty presents waiting for me when I got home. Right.

This caused some problems when I was pregnant with Bean because suddenly the vomit made me vomit. The only sure thing that did, actually. During the pregnancy there were more than a few spirited discussions about who should clean up the cat sick.

As soon as Bean was in the world I returned to my throne of Cat Puke Picker Upper Extraordinaire. And that is the end of that story. And reduces the possibilities of lies to three.

Do you have any jobs in the house that no one else will do?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

three truths and one lie

So here we go. Of the four things I've listed, tell me which one is the lie.

I am the designated cat puke cleaner-upper in the house.

The recent introduction of a revolutionary housekeeping technique has literally changed my life.

I am a semi-regular viewer of the soap opera General Hospital.

I am the only person residing in the house that likes black licorice.

And seriously, there's a story for every single one of these even the ones that sound pretty benign. I'm kind of dying to tell you the stories, actually. But first you need to judge which one of these is a fib. Go!

Monday, August 9, 2010

return of three truths and one lie

I have decided that we are in desperate need to play a GAME. What do you say? Game playing this week?

I propose the following: I'm going to tell you four things--- three of them true and one of them most decidedly NOT. And you get to guess which one is the fib. But there's more. Each day I'll tell you the background of one of the true stories until it's obvious which one is the faker. If you're in the mood, you should play along on your blog too. Let's see which one of us is the better liar. If you're playing along - let me know and I'll link back here.

That's all I've got, this fine Monday morning. The announcement of playing a game, an invitation for you to do the same, and then nothing else.

Except this: I had one of those surreal string of days last week where I had several MAJOR things to accomplish and I was scared into a daze of doing none of it. Like I found myself actually floating aimlessly and fitfully around the house saying to myself SO MUCH TO DO and then resumed my fitful floating. During the fitful floating I started fixating on the fact that we have exactly three photos hung on our walls and we've lived here for five years. So what does any intelligent person do when they have SO MUCH TO DO? Clearly they clean out the garage and extract a large box of unused frames that they then become convinced must be hung on the walls of the house. Immediately. So then (still not doing anything that I actually REALLY REALLY REALLY NEEDED TO DO) I shopped around the house to find some walls that would take frames well. This took a large chunk of time. After the walls were chosen, there was a good amount of staring and thinking and imagining which frames to put where and exactly where those frames should be positioned. Enter stage left: Insane Planning Whimsy armed with paper cutouts of the frames to tape on the walls to more fully envision the final product of frames-on-walls. And even then, after all the flitting and the frame shuffling and garage cleaning-out, there was frame PAINTING in the driveway and a trip to Home Depot for a refill of black spray paint.

The end result: I am STILL not done with my SEVERAL ITEMS THAT MUST BE COMPLETED IMMEDIATELY but I have nearly two walls of frames hung. So... win? Win for me?

I guess the lesson we learn here is that even when you think you have all this junk that should be done RIGHT NOW, it turns out that maybe it can wait several days. And dude, right now is a great time to hang some frames.

(In case you were wondering: no pictures in the frames. At least not yet. That's going to wait until the next time I have too much to do.)

So to recap: tomorrow we're doing three truths and one lie. And you should play too. How was your weekend?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

an excellent way to start the morning

...or end the day, as it were, if you ever make pancakes for dinner.

It's possible that Bean and I imbibe in the occasional dinner pancake. I say possible meaning that we totally do eat pancakes for dinner from time-to-time. The beauty of mothering a two-year-old carbisaurus is that she has no problem eating pancakes at any time of the day.

These were my attempt at this recipe.

I made a few changes--- and I'm happy with the results. These are not your everyday up-and-at-em pancakes. More like special occasion sweets. Soft and fluffy and warmly comforting. Vanilla and brown sugar. They will make your whole house smell like a freshly baked cake.

The first time I made them, I chopped up the strawberries and put them in the batter. But they made the pancakes a little mushy. Second time around, fruit right on top and spot on yum.

I would suggest you do the same. With powdered sugar and the sweetest berries you can get your hands on.

Sweet Vanilla Pancakes (with fresh berries)

1 1/4 cup flour (I used 3/4 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and allowed to cool to room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla
fresh berries

Put your skillet on a medium burner while you're mixing up your batter so it will get hot. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. In smaller bowl, beat your egg with a whisk. Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into the dry and mix with a whisk. Allow the batter to sit for a few minutes and then you're ready to make some pancakes. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the skillet. It's ready to flip when the edges are dry and there are some bubbles forming on the surface.

Serve with powdered sugar and berries. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Think motorcycle gang and don't-mess-with-me headgear.
It's a street-rough fashion choice.

A look that isn't for everyone.

But she makes it work.

Tough girl.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

she was wearing pants earlier in the day, I promise

Not that any of you asked, but in case you wondered about yesterday's post and my stellar choice for her outdoor chalk drawing attire: earlier in the day, Bean had been wearing pants. A dress, actually. But then she spilled a whole cup of milk. On the floor, on her nearby standing Whimsy, and on herself. While I frantically stirred rice pudding to stop it from burning, Chip whisked a soggy Bean upstairs and "changed" her. And by "changed" I mean he took off her milky dress and leggies and brought her back downstairs in just her onesie. Eh, it was fine. Late in the day. And sort of heartbreakingly adorable.

Why is it that only children approximately 3 1/2 and younger can get away with wandering around the house in their underwear and still be cheek-pinchingly cute? Perhaps your significant other would disagree and would add that you look adorable trotting around the house in your skivvies, but I think that's a very personal choice. And a personal opinion. Because even though I adore my husband I'm not sure I'd want him standing in our driveway doing chalk drawings in his unders.

So there's that.

In other news, it is very handy to have the husband home for a few days because he has done the following things that I myself could not do:

- Fished a crayon out of the depths of our dishwasher innards (where Bean had kindly stored it, claiming she was MAILING THE CRAYON by sticking it into a small hole underneath the handle).

- Killed, removed, and excavated not one but TWO wasp nests that were coming along swimmingly above my studio window. I tried to get photographical evidence of his work but it's both disgusting and also not very telling. You will have to use your imagination, but in that dreamworld make sure you insert WASP LARVA and also WASPS ZOOMING FROM THE NESTS LIKE FIGHTER JETS LEAVING THE BATTLESHIP and you'll have a pretty accurate picture of what we did on Saturday.

- Cleaned the stop of our stove. Because he's a darling.

- Swept and mopped the floors like only Chip can.

- Performed various and sundry daddy-appropriate jobs including lifting, twirling, swinging, carrying, tickling, and kanoodling.

Oh, I love it when he's home.

Monday, August 2, 2010

summertime canning and preserves

There are moments I want to bottle up, to stamp them into a glass cylinder and hold them tighter than tight inside that small space. To put them up on my highest shelf and bring them down from time to time, to wipe the settled bits of dust from the shiny glass surface and peer inside to revisit the moments worth savoring over and over. To swirl them around, tip them over--- to the left--- to the right---- to see what remnants float lazily to the front.

The sound of the dishwasher busily chugging and sudsing, a plate of cookies sitting half-eaten on the kitchen counter in the early summer evening light. We know that light: it's marigold and lemon.

Chip and Alice clamouring in the backyard, their voices reaching octaves higher than whistles. Watching Chip swing Bean's small shape way over the grass as she squeals.

Toes puckered and pruned from a too-long bath while Chip serenades Bean on his guitar.

Naptimes that go long enough for me to lay prone and comatose on the couch. Reading a MAGAZINE. (Can you just imagine?)

The words that have been created in these last couple of ruffled years with Alice. Words ending in -ie and -eeee and -uppity. Words that are beyond the imagining of an adult human before they have children.

Conversations like this one, in a too-warm dining room with a too-tired little peanut:
Bean: Crayons, mommy? Pease have crayons, mommy?
Whimsy: No, honey. You can't have your crayons right now.
Whimsy: Sweetheart, no. You wrote on your FACE just a minute ago. No more crayons tonight.

What I come to realize, again and again, when I revisit these moments, is that they are sweet beyond imagining. But sweeter still because there seem to be so many of them. They pile on top of one another and sandwich out those that I haven't taken the time to catalog and save in bottles. It is memory on top of memory and the sweetness can make your teeth ache for its unbearable wonder. It is beauty found in every millisecond I spend with these people who are gracious enough to call me family. The everyday miracle of every day rediscovered with each new morning and each tired-ended day.

I know I don't say it enough, I don't clutch these memories tight enough in my hands to make them stay, but I love my life. I love it. I love it for its peacefulness and its chaos, for the gifts I've been given and those that are still to come. I love it for what it lacks and what I miss in it. I love the trouble, the heartaches, the neck aches. I love the full glasses of milk spilled on the clean kitchen floor. I love the worries, the messes, the monotony. I love the few gifts of graceful peace when I'm teaching something new to Bean or she is teaching me something so very old. I love Chip's scratchy chin kisses and his voice carrying down the hallway. I love every crevice of trouble and every bright moment of joy, because it's mine.

I'm going to excuse myself now. On this Sunday evening as I write this, my two favorite people in all the world are doing chalk drawings in the driveway.

I don't want to miss anything.