Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What We Learned Tonight About Glow Sticks

We learned that when one BITES a glow stick, especially a cheap skinny glow stick, one can puncture the glow stick and drippy, ghostly, glowing fluid can flow out and make glowing splotches on the floor and on one's tongue, AND when one has glowing splotches on one's tongue, one screams and cries in a panic because glow fluid apparently feels like liquid fire.

Tonight Silas got liquid fire on his tongue and cheek -- bright glowing green splotches. After flushing his mouth with water, which made the green go away but not the burn, I called poison control (very calmly, I may add, especially considering I had to call 1-800 directory to get the number first while Silas was wailing in the background).

It turns out I love poison control. Never hesitate to call. In fact, memorize the number right now (why hadn't I already done that?) 1-800-222-1222. They were calm. They knew all about glow stick burn -- that it would burn intensely but not for long, that eating something coating like yogurt or ice cream would help the pain subside, and that all symptoms would vanish in minutes. Then a bit later they called to follow up.

Everyone is now asleep and hopefully will not chew glow sticks again for quite some time...

Seeing Nana

I am in Washington at my parents' house. It's late summer: the woods buzz, the pool is warm, the cousins have come to town, the humidity sticks to our skin. It's DC in August. Today is my niece's 10th birthday, and we made a cheesecake together. Last night I watched Stardust with my mom and played a game called Querkel. Today my sister-in-law and I ate lunch at Booeymonger's (a sandwich place). We are easing into the routine of togetherness, catching up on each other and missed places.

There is one stark change, though. One thing is different about this house I return to again and again with the same dogwood out the window and blue and white tile on the kitchen floor: there is much Nana in this house now. Her presence has seeped in, filled corners, spots on walls and shelves, settled into spaces where I've never seen her before.

When my grandmother Millie died, our house changed, too. What I remember is consulting with my parents about where to hang the tiny-flowered light fixtures, my interest in their repainting the wicker chairs from Millie's den, their giving me a white twin bed and nightstand from her house, and the tall white lamp with the switch like a key. I welcomed her into our space. I was 14.

Nana's entrance is different. I am 32, and I watched her go. I have thought about her leaving a lot, that week, that moment, about where she is now. But though I think about all of this, now that I'm here, I realize my processing is very cerebral; I don't see her as I busy about my days. But now I am here. Here pictures of Nana are tacked in the kitchen, framed on the shelf, on the dining room table, in the living room. Her lamps from her Minnesota living room are tucked here and there, a sketch from her wall is framed in the dining room, her paintings, a note from her sister, their childhood pictures... I face her all day long here, and face her absence.

I didn't expect this. I feel kind of raw, tender.

From the Mouth of Babes

I have a lot of questions. Questions about death. Questions about heaven. Questions about God.
I am raw. Tender. Angry.

It turns out that Silas has a lot of questions too.

Tonight when I was tucking in Silas, we began to talk about angels, how if we could see them, we'd see that they are fiercely bright, winged light. That they are light because God is light. That God is pure light. About how when we are kind and loving, we bring light because Love is light. And how cruelty and meanness brings darkness because they are not a part of Love. About how as we move through life, we want to move in the light and bring light. About how there is light inside of us.
He listened.
He nodded.
Then asked, "how does the light inside us die?"
"Oh. The light inside of us doesn't die. It will never die. God made the light inside of us to live forever."
"Because the light is our spirit."
"Where is it?"
"It's tucked deep inside you."
"What will happen when my mouth dies?" he asks, with his fingers touching his lips.
I can feel my pupils shrink and my body tense for a minute, a flash-picture of his mouth being dead, his face being dead -- and he is asking as matter-of-fact-ly as if we were talking about pulling up weeds in the yard.
But there is nothing I can do but swallow and answer with my voice warm and even:
"When your mouth dies, long from now, your spirit will stay alive."
"But how will I jump?"
"You'll get a new body in heaven, a spirit body."
"Oh yeah, because I'll need to jump really high." (in heaven on the moon bounce).
"But what will happen when my mouth dies. Why will it die?"
Swallow. "Remember your body will die because your brain will stop" (we have talked about this before), "but your spirit will be in heaven."
"And will I be able to jump as high as the ceiling?"
"Yeah. I bet you you'll even jump as high as the house. ... I bet you will even be able to fly."
"Will I be really really big in heaven?"
"Do you want to be really big?"
"Yes. So big. As big as the solar system. Can I be?"
"Yeah, you probably can be. You'll have to ask Jesus that, but I bet he'll say yes."

The thing about these conversations, which make me hold my breath a little and feel like I'm wearing three soaking wet heavy winter coats is that they make me sit with my sadness, they push me to the teetering edge of solidity and force me to lean into vast mystery, they boil me down. Today I moved in a dust storm of angry questions. Why, why why?? And then Silas came. And he wanted to know about light. And he wanted to know about his body being dead. And he wanted to know if the light inside him would die. And I had to sift, quickly, through that chalky wind to find the pieces of rock that I know are solid, even if they're small in my hands right now: that yes, there is God; that yes, God is Light; that yes, he gives us Light even in utter darkness; that he made the very core of us hunger for more than this life because there is more than this; that that more is more than we can imagine.

From the mouth of babes -- my own questions, my deepest fears, hope.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

to simplify

This is one of those afternoons when I would LIKE to do many many things: go to the market nearby to get my favorite tortilla chips (I made salsa); buy whole milk, mailing envelopes, and fill a prescription; walk across the street to return the huge back of chicken breasts that I just opened that smell rotten (disgusting); finish making Emma's birthday present; go to the post office to mail things to Emma, Madison and Kirsten' take my laptop to the loft to print several things and compile a submission to mail tomorrow; make a helicopter project that Silas wants to make; work on a poem I have that's due tomorrow; call and old friend who left me a message days ago; work out travel details for this coming week; finish baking the pistachio honeyed apricot cake I'm making but cannot finish until I get back with whole milk; marinade the fresh new chicken the store will hopefully give me for free ETC ETC.

However, I have two small children who are now up from nap. And we really only have an hour and a half til we have to pick up Ben whose car battery died. And so, this becomes one of those afternoons when I have to release my multi-faceted agenda, shake off the nagging sense of urgency, and allow the day to be simple.

Probably what we will do is walk across the street, return the chicken, buy milk, and eat chicken. Period.

(and that's what we did)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Identity Crisis (or at least Question)

After seeing Mama Mia for the first time, a friend laughed about the identity crisis it sparked: she wasn't attracted to Dominic Cooper, who though adorable seemed 16, but to Collin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, who were clearly cast as the middle-aged, rigid (Firth), fathers of the people our age -- or were they our age? how old are we?

This week I bumped into a similar question. We have a 9 year old neighbor girl whom Silas adores. Even Eden says her name. Silas holds her hand, calls to her window to come play, races out of the house to see if she's home. She's a new neighbor, and chances are that even after school starts we'll be seeing a lot of her.

I find myself reaching out to her in a befriending kind of way. But yesterday it hit me all of the sudden that though friendly is fine, my role here is parent. Parent. Because I am a parent. Because I am a parent of a child who is playing with another child. Because the other child is older and may need some guidelines in relating to a 3 year old fan. Because I am thirty-two and she is nine. This is all quite new. Not so much the not being nine part, but the part of being parent of a child who is moving through the world as a child with his own interactions, not simply a baby. This shifts everything. We are shifting.

Phone and Quiet

Well... my phone is gone. If you know me well or call me often, you most likely know that my phone is often gone. But in wonderfully short spurts that resolve after I've retraced my steps in my head a few times.

This time, though, on day 3, I'm pretty sure my phone is gone for good. Could this be? This has never happened to me before. And lots of things have happened to me with phones, like my phone has flown off the roof of my car while I was driving, smashed onto the pavement, broken into pieces and then lived to tell about it without a hitch. My phone has fallen into the ocean and has come back to life with a little blow-dryer love. My phone has been dipped into a cup of water and -- well, it actually died that time, but at least Verizon replaced it. There just is no saving a phone that has vanished...

The worst part is that I can trace the disappearance to Saturday between 2PM, when I was making peach jam, and 4PM when I went out for a drink with Ben. What happened in that window? The mystery.

I've concluded that Eden, who will hold my phone between her ear and shoulder like a multi-tasking adult and carry it around for long periods of time, stashed is somewhere that my brain has thus far been unable to imagine. At least makes me feel better to imagine that she is responsible. However, I do have a nagging sense that it was I who put it somewhere... But that's where the hunch stops.

This morning, I (obviously) had no cell phone. My house phone (a piece of crap from Woot! whose battery literally dies after 2 1/2 minutes of use) died. All 3 handsets. And my Internet was down. Down in the worst way where it worked perfectly until I pressed send, at which point it was irreparably down.

Technology is not for me (as in not cheering for me). This is a good thing to remember. Because though I'm often devoted to it, technology has no loyalties and no love.

Though I've had to coordinate plans in advance and wait in parking lots wondering if the plans would materialize without last minute changes, resist shooting off texts, or calling people the second I think of something I want to ask, there has been a little more room for quiet the last few days.

Remember quiet? I don't. But I'd like for it to be a part of my life again. Which is perhaps why all my technological addictions collapsed at once, to make a little room, since on my own, I seem scarcely to stop. So we'll see. We'll see...

A poem by Pablo Neruda to read when you pause:

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let's not speak any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn't be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren't unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I'll go.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


In 9th grade, my teacher taught me never to read without a pen in my hand, a lesson that stuck for life. In college, a boyfriend taught me to write my name, the date, and the city where I live inside the front cover. I always do.

So rereading old books is often like visiting a past time: there is my 16 year-old handwriting in the margin, a note to a friend in the back cover, threads of a motif, scribbling reflections, notes for teaching, assignment ideas etc. And then, of course, there is the text, itself.

Needless to say, books are something I tend to hold on to. There are two towering book cases in Silas and Eden's room (the room that, pre-children, housed the library/office and still has library lingerings because there simply is no other space for those shelves). The books are organized by color (except the bottom two shelves which are lucky to have any books on them at all -- Silas and Eden's bookshelves), and I love the small sense of order and aesthetic pleasure they offer.

The problem, however, now lies in the fact that Eden's crib is wedged between the light switch at the door frame and the bookshelves, so not only does she flick the light on and off at night, but she uses incredible go-go-gadget arms to reach novels that I've scooted to the far side of the shelf and rips them to bits when she wakes up from nap. Today, I walked in to find Ender's Game and Great Expectations in her crib with the covers ripped off and various pages torn to shreds, if not nibbled. She looked right up at my face as I walked in and with bright smiling eyes of satisfaction said, "book!"

So as of today, Great Expectations, Ender's Game, Pride and Prejudice, and Edith Hamilton's Mythology have all fallen prey -- she certainly has good taste...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


THE JAM WINNER is .... CARRIE PASCHALL (whose birthday is this week too!!)

And the OTHER WINNER (I couldn't help but draw twice) is .... MAX MOYER!!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Important things in Life: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

When I was 13, I babysat for the Peterson's up the street every Friday night (only now do I know how much they loved me) for $2.50 an hour and a pantry and freezer stocked with Mint Milanos and Bryer's Mint Chocolate Chip. I spent all of my hours delighting in minty sweets, talking on the phone, and watching TGIF. It was a 13-year-old heaven.

I have loved mint chocolate chip ice cream for years, the white mint in particular (the whiteness seems to sharpen the flavor, purify it). For decades I've thought Bryer's made the very best. And then, a year and a half ago, I discovered Hagen Daz Light Mint Chocolate Chip. OH the goodness. I may or may not have eaten a whole pint when I was pregnant with Eden. And I may or may not have done this a couple of times. Feast your eyes:

The tragic news is that they have STOPPED MAKING THIS ice cream. My friend Kim called the company to ask why (one of the many reasons we must be friends) and was told not enough people were buying it -- obviously because they hardly stold it ANYwhere.

The good news is that they began making this:

and five (really made up of only 5 ingredients) +
comes pretty close...

Friday, August 07, 2009


Eden's most frequent word -- as in the stroller I am dragging around the house is bumping into a chair leg and is "s-tuck," or I am trying to drink from my sippy cup but the handle is caught on my overalls and is "s-tuck," or my mom can't find me anywhere because I am fully under my crib hunting pacifiers and cannot get out and am muttering "s-tuck, s-tuck," or I am riding home from Malibu and for 20 solid minutes am tugging at my seat belt crying because I am "s-tuck! s-tuck!" Stuck.

it's actually more like "guck"

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Rosemary Biscuits

In case you want to bake something delicious:

Rosemary Biscuits
(not the same as the ones at Gulfstream restaurant, but 5 of us ate an entire batch at dinner)

2 c flour
1 1/2 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 c butter
3/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
olive oil
coarse salt

-Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
-Cut 1/2 cup butter into flour mixture with mixer or your fingers until just crumbly (don't want to integrate butter -- some globs still are ok)
-Combine buttermilk and egg in separate bowl
-Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened
-Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times
-Pat or roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter (or cut into squares with
a pizza slicer)
-Place on a baking sheet
-Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt
-Bake at 425 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes or until golden

-(They also happen to be delicious with fresh jam)


We are joined by this intangible connective tissue of my writing posts in my living room and your reading those posts in your living room. It's all a bit magical. Thank you for reading.

Since I kind of like it when blogs give away prizes -- because this suspended spell of connection gets broken through by a physical object -- I thought on this night of my 200th post, I'd do a little giveaway too.

Here are the prizes:
*starbucks dark chocolate covered graham crackers (from my most recent list of likes)
*lychee tea (also from that list)
*a jar of my jam (which we have begun to eat on EVERYthing -- try it on Stacy's pita chips)

To be in the drawing, please leave a comment saying which prize you'd most like to win (or you can just say hi, or comment on the smash room) by Sunday August 9th Wednesday August 12th (not the last day of the Orange County Fair -- more about that later).

Again, I'm so glad you read. Thanks.

More About Jam

Everyone has her own way of working through stress: going for a run, kick boxing, furiously scrubbing something, breathing deeply, going to a smash shack (please, please click on this link -- should I not take Ben there for a date?), or, as it turns out, making jam. I have found nothing more therapeutic this week than busily chopping peaches, peeling apples, smashing blueberries, stirring bubbling frothy pots of fruit, and ladling concoctions into jars.

There is some relief in working with my hands, in being in conversation but also on task. And also something wholly satisfying in a little sealed jam jar filled with what I've made.

After my burned batch, I rallied -- so much, in fact, that Ben's tried to ban all jam making from the kitchen-turned-factory numerous times -- and have now made batches of strawberry, raspberry-peach, and blueberry. I'm hoping to make one more batch: peach.


Clearly Silas's love for flowers tucked behind his ears is not lost.
(nor is his freedom with magic markers...)