Yes, I will eat outdated crackers on Mother’s Day

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Today is Mother’s Day and while many moms are spoiled with boxes of chocolates, lattes, brunch and what have you, I prefer a different indulgence. Ryvita fruit and seed rye crispbread with cheese spread. In a tube. Cheese in a tube. It’s a Scandinavian thing, ok? I love it.

So I go to a local market in my sweet Scandinavian influenced town of Poulsbo. I walk in, familiar with the location of everything I crave. Jars of lingonberries, real black licorice, milk chocolate bars from Germany, fruit and seed rye crispbread, and cheese in a tube. I grab the cheese in a tube and head to the cracker aisle.

There is a variety of crispbread all looking insanely healthy and full of fiber, but none with the fruit and nuts. I don’t see the magenta package anywhere! This is what I must have with the cheese. No substitute will do. Especially not on MY day. I ask the clerk if it has been misplaced. He responds that it is likely they are out. “Are you SURE?”

“Maybe it has been moved to the clearance section.” I am doubtful, because why would something so awesome wind up in clearance? We look together. None there. Disappointed I turn to head back to the aisle to settle for a lesser cracker and I spot a package!

Frozen, I evaluate the scene. A single box of my favorite imported crackers sits on top of two books that appear to be a clerk’s personal possession. They are kind of behind the counter, clearly not on display or intended for sale.

I blurt out to the clerk that has wandered toward the back of the store, “I’ve found a package sir! The right ones! But they may be set aside for someone else!” He comes up and is aware I’m obsessed. He looks at the package and sees that they’ve been pulled from the shelf for being past the ‘Best Before’ date. By a month…. or 5. The clerk and I share some banter about how relevant ‘Best Before’ dates are when dealing with a cracker that is nearly cardboard anyway. By banter, I mean I persuaded him to give me the crackers.

They were delicious!

I hope your Mother’s Day is everything you want it to be, accept no substitutes!

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9/11

Today I woke up, did my usual FB check on my phone… making my plans to skype later with Bojana, and I saw the news stream. Everyone remembering the 9/11 attacks. I was instantly depressed. It’s not like it took me by surprise. I was not… “oh yeah, today is the 11th,” but more like the darkness I knew was coming a few days ago had arrived.

My chest hurt. Lump in my throat, but I had my 3 kids and 3 more that slept over to make pancakes for so I pushed through it and remained normalish.

It’s my PMS week though. I don’t care if that is too much information for you. It’s what it is. So I knew I would not have a chance to make it through the day without crying.

But I’m not a masochist, so I did not seek out 9/11 stuff on TV, or the web. I would limit to scanning status updates on the FB. I did catch the news tonight. I figured I should, out of respect. Dammit. They showed THAT footage.

It’s so hard to watch isn’t it? Seeing the second plane hit… being all confused still….and then the tower crumbles. Then the next one. I was squirming in my chair, covering my eyes, holding my throat and reliving it.

I had been 30 years old with a 1 year old daughter and pregnant with #2. The phone rang just before 7 am, but I didn’t get to it in time. I thought it was my husband on his morning commute and called him but he said it wasn’t him. We didn’t have caller ID. I have no idea who called and woke me up that morning. Then my husband asked if I was ok, and if I was watching the news. So I turned it on with him still on the phone piecing together what I was seeing. Before it made sense I watched the South tower collapse. By the time the second one came down I was on my knees sobbing. I could not believe this was happening.

Some people are more emotional then others. I’m definitely of the MORE emotional types and the sadness I felt in those days was the deepest I have ever felt. I was scared, hopeless, helpless, in a pit of absolute despair. And pregnant. I started to worry that my sadness would affect my pregnancy. I bet a lot of pregnant women felt that way. What kind of a world would he be born into? Everything was different now.

And River IS a different kind of kid. I do think my sadness affected him. I truly do. He is very sensitive and very empathetic. His poor little heart. He asked me what 9/11 was tonight as the news was on. He knew some of what happened because I would always lose it at Fire Station field trips when they would demonstrate their locator beeper. Tonight I got out our magazines that we had saved from September 2001. We talked about the pictures, the bad men, and all the heroes. Tears running down that boys face.

I really don’t know what else to say.

Lessons from Louisa May Alcott

My daughter and I selected Little Women by Louisa May Alcott as her ‘Summer Read’ for school. The idea was that we could get through the lengthy book together and have nice mother-daughter bonding time.

Time. Time is the issue here. I do not have 777 pages worth of time to read. I have about 250 to read, 300 for laundry, 150 for dishes and 77 for picking up after everyone else. Or something like that.

Tonight we took turns reading. Rhianna (sweet teen staying with us for the summer) read one chapter, Ruby the next, and then it was my turn. I didn’t listen to their reading because I was doing dishes, prepping dinner for tomorrow and shuffling loads of laundry. Serves me right. I got chapter eight. Jo Meets Apollyon.

Apollyon? Who is that? I don’t remember any characters by that name in this book! Oy, people. Apollyon is: the destroyer; the angel of the bottomless pit. Revelation 9:11. Yes. 9:11, that alone makes my bones cold.

If I had a clue that I was reading THAT chapter where Jo faces her inner demon I might have just yawned and said.. oh tomorrow.. everyone off to bed now. But I read. It was my turn.

I can really relate to Jo. She has a hot temper, a wicked tongue, can stay angry for an eternity, and knows she’s an ass. Me and Jo. So much. Especially lately. I’ve been fuming all summer about a certain situation in my community AND I’ve been pissed as hell at all the idiots around here acting like it is nothing. This is one angry story I will post at another time when I can link to a news article about the eventual arrest. I am hopeful. And without any compassion. Can you tell?

The point being…. I have anger issues. And a hate that wells up in me something fierce. A demon. Apollyon. Just like Jo.

In chapter 8, Jo blows off her little sister Amy for an outing. Amy gets her revenge by burning Jo’s manuscript of fairy tales she’s been working on for years. Un-freaking-forgivable. I could feel my face get red hot as I sympathized with the 18th century me. Jo loses her shit on Amy, naturally, and swears never to forgive. Few days later, Amy tags along on an ice skating date. Jo knows the danger, but out of spite says nada. Crack, splash, little sister goes through the ice and Jo and Laurie manage to save her.

If you are married, have children, have siblings, shoot people, unless you are a full on hermit you have heard this quote:

“My dear, don’t let the sun go down upon your anger; forgive each other, help each other, and begin again tomorrow.”

So says Jo’s mom. And Jo and I both know that we can be an ass. So we ask for help. Jo’s mom tells her that she too has had to struggle to control her temper for 40 years. Jo is begging to know the secret… and as her mom tells it, I am floored. I can’t swallow. Ruby can see my face change, my voice break as I am completely humbled.

“…..I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. It was easier to try for your sakes than for my own; a startled or surprised look from one of you, when I spoke sharply, rebuked me more than any words could have done; and the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could ever receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy.”

BAM! I flash through all the ugly, hateful words, dirty looks and angry energy I have been carrying around lately, in front of my sweet children. What a horrible example I have been. Horrible. So every time I feel that anger start to take over because of this community issue, or ANY issue.. I will squelch it if I’m around my kids. It is going to take a lot of work. Tons.

But don’t think for one minute that I will show an ounce of compassion for the dirty creeps around. My kids will NOT see that from their mother. I want them to have good virtues, but not be fools.

Pretending to be my dog….

It has been quite crazy these last two weeks. I needed it to be so much less crazy. My coping skills are nearly broken… and my patience left mid week.  It has been a roller coaster ride, that spat me out finally in my front yard, on my back, staring into the sky next to my dog.  But to just review this recent ride:

Week before last was the end of the school year for  West Sound Academy. Students taking final exams, international students saying good bye, and then graduation for the class of 2011.  I’m so proud of those wonderful young people.

And then I start to plummet down. My own kids had their last week of school. When I wanted to celebrate with them I couldn’t. I wanted to just relax, and couldn’t. I was racing to get report cards edited, complete the final transcripts, so much work to do! My two international students were packing to go back to their families. I wanted to hang out with them, and couldn’t. Philipp’s mom even came to stay with us for a few days. What little time I could squeeze in to be with her left us both wishing we had MORE TIME. And then yesterday they were gone. Fred left for China this morning. I’ve been cheated out of the moments that were supposed to be filled with joy and reflection of the last year.

I’ve hit the bottom and I’m exhausted.

I noticed my old dog lying in the front yard.  There are tufts of her fur everywhere because she is constantly shedding. I start to walk around her, and pick up the fur.

She’s awake, but has her eyes closed, just chilling out. I want THAT. So I lie on the ground next to her. She checks me out and gives me a few kisses. I try to imagine what she might be thinking, and it occurs to me that she is probably not thinking at all. She’s just blinking.

I think, “I’m gonna try this.”  On my back staring up through the branches of a tree and into the sky beyond.  It’s cloudy. Quiet. All I can hear is bird chatter and my son sweeping his hand through his bin of Legos in his room. I can hear an airplane. That’s all. Birds, Legos, and an airplane. I blink.. like my dog,  totally wishing I was really a dog and this was the extent of my existence.

My old girl Leica… she will be 15 in August. that is 105! I look over at her, blinking, shedding, chilling.  Shedding. That’s what I was doing…. picking up fur in the front yard.  So.. I give up the sweet fantasy and decide to finish the task, and resume peopleish type things.

But I can’t get off the ground. Seriously. My back seizes up as I try to just roll over. It’s awkward.. I’m wincing in pain, trying to get on all fours so I can somehow pull myself to my feet.  She’s blinking… still, at 105.  I’m 40, slowly trying to stand up and hoping none of my neighbors chose this moment for an evening stroll.

So… I totally enjoyed pretending to be her. But my body is not used to being still, and not on the ground.. so it looks like I’m stuck in peoplehood for now.  Here is a darling video my husband put together of our old girl last summer.. doing her doggy chill out thing.  What  a life.

dog dayz from gman on Vimeo.

Once upon a time, in 1981….

I was not really a girlie girl when I was little.  Tom boy really. When princesses were all the rage with friends I was all about Peter Pan.  But then along came this ONE princess:

And I was 10 years old.

She was the real deal.. well, once she married that Prince Charles guy, whom I thought was kind of icky. I was 10 remember, and boys were still fairly gross.  But yeah.. Charles? Not so much.  I watched the whole wedding on TV with my sister and it just was amazing.  That dress…merciful 1980’s puffy sleeve lacey wonderment dress! She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. We fell in love, along with the rest of the world.

As I grew up I always kept her in my sights and continued to be amazed by her. She wore jeans. She held HIV babies.  She hung out with Mother Teresa AND Michael Jackson.  Bryan Adams wrote a song about her. She was without a doubt  the coolest woman on the planet.

Then we saw her vulnerable side with the eating disorder, young motherhood, and that bloke she was married to. My gosh I was so glad when she was free of him.  I still liked to keep up on stories of her banning land mines and having a boyfriend or two.  She was still such an amazing woman, with the royals behind her.  She seemed unstoppable!

But then, that damn car crash. Crap, I have a lump in my throat right now.  I remember hearing about it on the way to a party at a friend’s in Seattle and I prayed and prayed that she would be fine. I really thought she WOULD BE FINE. Totally.  So Mark and I carried on with the party and wound up staying the night.

The next morning we left and got in line for the ferry back home. I caught the headline on a newspaper in the car in front of us.  I can’t even write the words. Can’t.  I will tell you I completely lost my shit. I wanted to call my mom and my sister. I can’t write about this part very well. Stuck on this paragraph for 15 minutes now.  It hurt to lose her, I’d loved her since I was 10. There.

My sister and I watched the funeral together, just as the wedding, only via the phone and across the country from each other. We cried and cried. She was gone.

So it makes sense that this year’s Royal Wedding means so much to me.

My daughter Ruby is 10. How about that?  Not a girlie girl either.  I’m looking forward to watching Prince William and Kate’s wedding with her. I will probably cry, and probably have my sister on the phone for part of it.  There is so much of Diana in William, so I’m hoping Ruby and I and my sister can carry whatever this crazy Diana love thing is forward and celebrate William and Kate.

White on Rice

One thing I need to warn tell you about my international family is that we are in NO WAY politically correct. We are a more like a cultural phenomenon:

One Korean born dude with a German last name who grew up in the midwest and speaks no Korean. Read: Twinkie

One white girl from the PNW in complete denial of her ancestral redneckedness who USED to say worsh, not wash, and often ended sentences in prepositions. Gasp. See: Where would you like to meet at?

Two little half and half spawn from Twinkie and Redneckdenialgirl that are incredibly beautiful, and no one believes they are from my womb.

One Chinese son who goes by the name Fred because, he wanted an American name this year.

One German son who goes by Philipp, because that is the name his parents gave him.

One daughter, by international exchange, who is back in Serbia but still in our hearts. Every. Day.

And finally one and a half dogs.  Because my old dog has a goiter the size of a puppy on her neck.  We named the goiter/puppy Lance (the verb). I know, gross huh? So.. one and a half dogs.

The fact that we are all so different and under one roof is a test to our sanity every day.  So we laugh a lot. Have great dinner discussions, and embrace our diversity with racist humor.

One evening over a dinner of steamed veggies, baked chicken, and rice, our beloved Chinese Fred says:

“Mom, I’d like to take some rice and veggies for lunch sometime. Will you teach me how to make rice?”

You could have heard a pin drop. Even the 9 year old was shocked. Then my husband, the twinkie, turns to him, slugs him in the arm and says, “Dammit Fred! You can’t make rice?! You are a disgrace to our people!”

When I finally found my voice, I said, “Really Fred? You don’t know how to make rice? You never did… YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN CHINA? Ok, I’ll teach you how to use the rice cooker. It’s quite simple.”

Philipp, our German, God love him, perks up, “Fred, I would be happy to show you how to make rice. I know how!”

I wish you could hear the accents.. it adds so much to this story.

I sat back in my chair and said, “Well isn’t that something? I’ll have to shoot video of this and call it White on Rice.”

Twinkie laughed.

The Inevitable Ouch of Being a Parent

I just finished reading Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry with my daughter Ruby.  She is in an accelerated reading group and I knew we would run into this problem.  Her reading ability is more advanced than her emotional maturity.

She’s just nine.  She loves to play with her American Girl Dolls, ride her bike, draws fairies, BELIEVES in fairies for cryin’ out loud! So when she said the latest book selected for her reading group was too sad I asked what it was about?

The Holocaust.” she says.

WTF?!? She’s nine!  Ok.. almost ten, but I don’t think she is ready for this.  I remember recently we asked the kids if they knew what the Holocaust was.  I believe she said, “No, but I sure know what Hollandaise Sauce is!”  Now you can understand her frame of reference.

“Mama, it’s too sad. And scary.  I don’t want to read it on Valentine’s Day. IT’S TOO SAD! But I have to finish it by next Wednesday.”  I said I would read it with her.  I used to read to my kids all the time, but pathetically I don’t seem to find enough time for it anymore (blogging, tweeting, face-booking).  Priority adjustment!

It’s not that thick.  How sad could it be? She already read through chapter six.. so I did a speed read for me/review for her one night to get caught up.

Crap!  The main character’s older sister died, and the kids best friend is a sweetie-pie Jewish girl.  And there are damn Nazi’s all over Copenhagen. I choked up, like 3 times the first night. My kid is all, “See what I mean?”

We skipped reading on Valentines Day.  Because that day is only for JOYLOVEANDKISSES! And chocolate. Not Nazis emmer effers.

So after our love filled day off, we hit the book again. Curled up together. Sometimes she read. Sometimes I read.  She’s really good at reading aloud. I helped her with the Scandinavian sounding words. I’m an impatient reader and will speed ahead with my eyes while my mouth is on some far back sentence. I’m smart like that. Or just impatient.

Things got heavy. Things got scary.  Children were called on to be brave and this made my heart ache so much.  Poor little dears. I hated the soldiers.  Hate.  I would read something, and you all have no idea how hard it was to NOT use some of my choice obscenities.  But I had my girl all curled up at my side and all I could do was give a tearful stink-eye to the book.

I’m so glad I read with her.  What if I hadn’t ?  What if she had to come across these scenarios, these words, with her unprepared little heart?  She would come to me confused about the hatred and cruelty of that war. She’d be in tears, I know her.  And then I’d be fumbling trying to stop the hurt.  But it would be with no reference. Like trying to help a child that you didn’t see fall, and can’t tell you where they hurt, just that it hurts. But I read it with her, and I know why it hurts, and where. So much.

So.  Now… I’m not sure if I should talk to teachers about maybe giving a heads up on books subject matter prior to the kids reading it. I want to trust them, but this seemed too heavy.  But then, maybe they know what they are doing, and are calling on my child to be brave.