Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slug Bug Blue

When I was a child - three, maybe 4 years old - my mother drove a baby blue Volkswagen Beetle. A blue bug. I have vague memories of riding around in the back seat of the bug, strapped into a blue vinyl and steel bar car seat that had as much chance of ripping the skin off the back of my thighs as it did of saving my life in the event of an accident.

My clearer memories of the bug - when I was, oh about 12 years old - are of pieces of the car scattered in various corners of our garage. Apparently the motor needed to be fixed. My father owned a gas station and was a mechanic, but like the proverbial shoeless children of the cobbler, our car was neglected in favor of more important things. Finally my dad pulled out the pieces and sold them off just to erase that project from his to-do list.

My mom is in town, and we've introduced her to the family obsession with playing "Slug Bug". One day on the road we saw a baby blue bug, which brought up our ill-fated beetle. And Mom told us a story.

When I was a baby, my mom had two Great Danes, a brother and a sister named Hercules and Sari. My mother's cousin, G Elaine, was a foster mother to 4 children with Down Syndrome. For some reason, these large dogs always charmed and calmed the kids when they were having a bad day. On such a day, G Elaine called my mom and asked her to bring the dogs over to help with the kids. Mom agreed, and not having the family sedan at her disposal, took me and the dogs in the bug.

After a successful day with the kids, we headed home - 25 miles away by freeway in rush hour traffic. When Mom was almost home, she saw lights in the rear view mirror; a cop was pulling her over! She checked her speed, her lane - anything she could think of, but everything was normal. When she got pulled over, she asked the officer what was the matter.

"Oh, nothing", replied the officer. "But when I saw this tiny car with these two big dog heads sticking out of the sun roof, I just had to see it for myself!" Slug Bug blue, indeed!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting my (satilite) signals crossed

So yesterday my husband found this pretty yellow glass ball on a ribbon hanging from a stand. He found it on CraigsList for free and asked me if I would like it. I said sure. Today he got a message saying that we weren't first to ask, but no one had come for it, so whoever got there first could have it. Classic CraigsList, right?

I grabbed the address and hopped into my car. The TomTom needed a few moments to warm up and I knew the first half of the trip, so I started on my way. About the time my TomTom was ready to go my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, Princsiss - only she sounded really confused. I sounded really confused. Her reason was that she thought she was calling our Mother-in-law. My reason was that I had reached the point where I needed to get the directions from the TomTom before I could go any further. At this point, the conversation kinda... faltered.

Me: Yeah, so I'm, ah well, I getting this glass ball. Yeah, mom is here fine. Dang, I need to go to, um, I don't know. Wait. I gotta pull into this parking lot. OK. I need to get onto Church but I don't.. darn! It says it's waiting for a valid signal! Hmmm. I guess you're probably thinking how blond I am right now, huh? Oh wait. I got it. Oh, I see. I have to turn on your dad's street. Not the street he lived on; the one named after him.."

Princsiss: So you're mom is in then? What are you doing? What? hahahahahahahahaha. Maybe I should go and let you figure this out.

And like that. I guess it's a good thing I pulled over, because I could barely carry on a conversation, let alone find my way to the apartment with the glass ball. All that for a 6 minute trip!

Editor's Note: Yes, I did get glass ball. It is quite pretty.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My time line is wavy

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. ~Faith Baldwin

My parents were married in 1955 and the kids followed quickly; 1956, 1958, and 1959 each saw a new child. By the time the third one rolled around, the doctor pulled my father into the office and explained to him that he had to stop getting Mom pregnant; after three so quickly, another one would likely kill her.

I'm sure Mom didn't mind the break, either, what with three in diapers at once.

But medical science and young motherhood being what they are, eventually my mother forgot to take the pill one December morning. And, nearly six years after everyone else, I came along. And with my birth came my struggle with time, wondering where and how I fit into the continuum.

By now, my brothers were 6 and 7 years old, and my sister was 9. Growing up, I remember crying in my mother's arms that I was born too late - I didn't fit in. Everyone was so much older than me. My sister, Techno-Goddess, thought of me as a living doll. She mothered me, played school and taught me to read, and taught me every song on Elton John's album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. My brothers basically just beat me up a lot and made me miserable.

When it was time for Kindergarten, my mom had me tested and was told that while I was ready to go academically (I could already read at a second grade level or better), I was tiny and would probably get beaten up. Wanting to spare me, Mom and Dad held me back a year and I started when I was five - and turned six just a month later. School was always a bit hard; I was older than the other kids and I already lived with 5 people who were much older than me. It alienated me from the other kids; they felt I talked "too big" and I got along better with the teachers than I did with most kids my age.

Fast forward about 20 years. After I graduated from high school I went through a very long, painful period in my life that I pretty much just prefer to ignore; except for specific cherished memories those years do not exist. It's as though I erased 7 years from my life, restarting the clock again when I hit 25 years old and went to college for 2 years. When I graduated and moved back to my hometown, I started attending a local church and made friends with a group that were all 6 years younger than me. I didn't try to make it happen, it just did.

When I was 32, I met Champs quite by accident. At the time, he was 25 - 7 years my junior. Love being what it is, the age difference didn't matter and we got married. Got a great job, had a baby, bought a house. When I turned 40, my life was chronologically equivalent to a 34 year-old. It has stayed right there. By the calendar, I am 44, but when I look at my life, I feel like I am 38. I am vain enough to hope I look 38 and not 44, but that's not too big of a deal.

To add to the age-oddness I feel, my Mother-in-law is only one year older than my sister, and my brother-in-law was born the year I graduated from high school.

The older I get, the more I realize that time is fluid and we're all just riding the waves. The higher the numbers go, the more irrelevant they become.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day, 4 Ways

Today is, of course, Mother's Day (or as Sweet Girl says, our cat Jack's third birthday). While I've had a wonderful day so far, this day has me thinking of three other women as well, and thinking about how this day impacts them. Let me introduce you:

My Mom
My mom is turning 75 this July and is celebrating her 53rd Mother's Day. She has lived the gamut of Mother's Days; the first celebration, childish cards drawn with smudgy hands, bouquets of dandelions, teenage mumblings of thanks, grown adult children's thanks and now, "Happy Mother's Day, Grandma" and even "Happy Mother's Day, Great Grandma" cards. While I'm sure she can sit back and enjoy a job well done, I also wonder if she doesn't feel a certain sense of melancholy at the reversal of roles. Now we make sure she's taking her medicine, getting where she needs to be, and generally parenting her. Does she miss the old days, I wonder?

My Friend:
Perhaps my dearest friend in the world, C is married but does not have any children. I know she wishes that she did. When Sweet Girl was born, we asked C and her husband to be her Godparents, a role they've taken very seriously. She will call Sweet Girl just to talk, she's been there for every birthday and milestone. Now that we live out of town, she's not there as often, but I know this child of mine is the child of her heart. I don't mind sharing. C may not have a little girl at home, but she has one here - and she can celebrate Mother's Day with me as far as I am concerned.

Little B
Little B is a friend of mine in Tennessee. She is single and not a mom - in the strictest sense. However, she is a teacher and Assistant Principal at a Christian elementary and middle school. She is loved for her history teaching and her fair, wise discipline. She is also a Douala, helping bring new people into the world with love, prayers, and backrubs. I know she's not a mother, but she, too, has a mother's heart. I wonder how many moms, on this day, think of Little B and her contribution and send a blessing her way? I know I do.

And then there is me. When Champs and I got married, we planned on having three kids. God and medical issues gave us one - Little Miss Sweet Girl. She is nine now. She greeted me this morning with a song she wrote herself. It wasn't a Billboard topper, but it was beautiful. Every note. Then she and her father went to the store to get the makings for my favorite breakfast, even though they hate it (I can't figure that out, actually. Who doesn't like corned beef hash and fried eggs?). Then Champs gave me a wonderful present of a digital frame. Well, first he gave me the wonderful present of Sweet Girl. She fills my heart and I'm glad I get to be her mom.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ramen Revolution

So last night was Girl Scouts, and I had to get Sweet Girl to her meeting in 30 minutes - and she needed to eat dinner first. Now, my daughter doesn't eat fast, so that meant I needed to cook fast. I had no time, and not a lot of ingredients laying around, what to do for dinner? Inspiration struck. We had leftover rotisserie chicken from the night before, a head of broccoli and some ramen noodles, so I came up with pan fried ramen noodles. If I do say so myself, it was pretty darn yummy - and fast! Because this is a basic process, you can change it up in anyway that works for you. No rotisserie chicken? Saute a frozen boneless chicken breast. No broccoli? Use green pepper, and so on.

Here's what I did:

In a 2 qt sauce pan, I put water, 1 head of broccoli cut into florets, and 2 packages of ramen noodles (without the flavor packets). I broke the block into quarters. Let them cook together; the water doesn't need to be boiling.

Then, in a large non-stick fry pan, I put a teaspoon of sesame noodles and dry-toasted them a bit. Then I added sesame oil, a couple turns of the pan. I then added about 2 teaspoons of garlic paste (you could use chopped garlic from a jar or fresh sliced or minced garlic - whatever you like). I took one package of the ramen soup spice (oriental flavor, in this case), and put half in the fry pan and half in the noodles and broccoli.

Next I added about 5 chopped green onions and a cup of shredded chicken and let that saute for a moment. By then, the noodles and broccoli were cooked, so I just grabbed a strainer spoon and spooned the noodles and broccoli in with the chicken and onions, keeping the pan on high and stir frying them together. I added a bit of the broth from the soup pan and fried to evaporate the broth and coat the noodles.

After a couple of minutes, I turned this out on to a plate and topped it all with a bit more sesame seeds, some Asian spice (red pepper flakes, ginger, etc.) and I would have thrown some cilantro on there if I'd had any.

Truly, this was about a 7 minute process from beginning to end. It took me longer to write this than it did to make it. It was so yummy, really inexpensive, and a big step up from simple ramen soup!

The family enjoyed it - and Sweet Girl was only 5 minutes late for Girl Scouts.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It is NOT a whole new game, is it?

Did you play "Slug Bug" when you were a kid? You know, see a Volkswagen beetle, hit your brother and yell out, "Slug Bug blue!"? I grew up doing that - and then forgot about it when I became an adult. Mature. Responsible.

But thanks to the new, amazingly annoying Volkswagen commercials, "Red one!", featuring hits for any model, they claim that game is back, but it's "a whole new game". But for me, Champs, and Sweet Girl, it's still the same game and it only counts for the BUG.

Now when we are out driving around, there is a thrumming underlying current in the car. Who will see the first one? What color will it be? And will we find a true gem - an old Bug from the 60s? We've gotten to know that a high school student parks a red Bug on Crescent. A credit union employee parks their white Bug on John. Over at the bank on County Fair, another person parks a green one in the lot. There's so many running around; one trip may yield two or five - and the fun is not knowing when or where the next one will be, but hoping to be the first one to call out "Slug Bug yellow!" Or to be the one to hit back when we realize that it's actually a Cooper Mini or PT Cruiser, instead. Maybe that should be a different game - "Cruiser bruiser gold!"

Sweet Girl doesn't have any siblings; a fact that often saddens me. She doesn't have someone to compete against in the back seat. But Slug Bug? Well, we can give her that. And leave all this maturity behind for awhile.

Maybe it is a whole new game, after all.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Secret is the Sesame Oil... or Maybe Just the Sweet Girl

So I love to cook. And I love teaching my daughter how to cook. This week's lesson was homemade pork fried rice. Oooo, I love this dish! As fun as it is to make, it was so much fun explaining to Sweet Girl what I was doing with each step and why.

"OK, honey", said I, "I cooked this rice yesterday. Nice jasime rice - it is so yummy. But you need to cook it the day before, or at least the morning before." To which she asked, "well, why not the half-hour before?" - and then we discussed the merits of cool, dry rice in oriental cooking.

Then we moved on to the scrambled eggs. Four eggs scrambled in vegetable oil and then set in a bowl on top of the frozen peas to begin to thaw and cook them. Now, normally, she complains about the eggs in the rice, but because she got to scramble them up for me, she loved every bite (take note moms - this trick works wonders. Let them help you make it; it will suddenly become their favorite food).

We moved on to make sure the cilantro was chopped, the mushroom (just for her) cut into little chunks, the shredded carrots ready to go, and all the sundry bottles and jars lined up. With the misenplace in place, we were finally ready to begin putting it all together. After dry-toasting the sesame seeds, I let her saute the onions and garlic in the sesame oil. As she stirred, she commented on how good the scent was. I explained that the oil came from the pressed sesame seeds. Something that was so simple and matter of fact to me was a revelation to my 9 year-old! Then ginger, asian spice mix, a touch of red pepper flake, pork, veggies, rice... soy sauce. With each new spice addition, Sweet Girl wanted to taste test - well, not the red pepper flake! She even tried the sesame oil - just a drop - to see how the individual flavor became a part of the dish.

We got it all fried and served it up for ourselves and Daddy (along with mini chicken eggrolls from Sam's Club - Yummy!). You know, I've made this dish so many times, but I have to say that after making it with Sweet Girl, it tasted the best it ever has!

Sweet Girlisms?

So here in blog land, we call our daughter Sweet Girl. However, at home, she has a few nicknames - most of which she really doesn't like much anymore.

When she was a baby and diaper changing was a scheduled part of our existence, she got the handle "Stinkybutt"... it stuck, of course. From there, her father came up with "Pooperdoop" - another winner that has stood the test of time.

Along the way we also got "Super Girl" from the neighbor, the aforementioned "Sweet Girl" for the blog, and also Tiglet, Punkerpoo, and (a throwback from my mama), "Snickelfritz".

But the two that she hears the most are, of course, Stinkybutt and Pooperdoop - to which she replies, "I am NOT a Stinkybutt!". Just this morning I told her not to worry, we'll keep Sweet Girl around. I mean, I can't label posts about her as "Pooperdoopisms", can I?

Um, no.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Peddling cookies at the dentist's office....

My dentist and his assistant - well, the whole office it seems, love my cooking. It started by accident, really. First I let them know I was a Pampered Chef rep and offered a few recipes. Then one day I brought a couple of cookies from a recipe I was tweaking and testing so that I could get their opinions. Before long (and it didn't take long - I've had 3 or 4 crowns this year so I've been in the office a LOT in just a short time) I became their favorite patient. I mean, why not? I bring them cookies and I have so much work done on my mouth that I'm also assuring them all of a wonderful vacation!

But I digress... Last time I was in the office, 2 weeks ago for a crown prep, I was unable to make cookies for the dentist. It may have been the fact that I was in pain from injuring my back, or that I didn't have time to get them made as I was attending physical therapy in a pool - who knows. In any case, I promised them cookies today. I delivered. I took my "chewy chocolate chip" cookie recipe that I've been perfecting for the last few months and made "chewy oatmeal chocolate chip" cookies. I ground the oatmeal to give it a lighter tooth texture, but with the wonderfully oat flavor. I added just the right extracts to bring out the best in the chocolate. I pulled them out of the oven, packed them in a container, got in the car and went straight to the dentist's office.

I got my wonderful new crown - but not until everyone in the place had grabbed one - or two - of my new cookie creations. One person even went to remove their Invisaline braces tray just so he could have a cookie right then and there.

I got the fun of knowing my recipe works, but I had to laugh at the irony of bringing my sweet treats to the dentist's office and not getting chewed out for it!

I wonder how many cookies I would need to make to get my next crown for free?

Your Actions Speak Louder Than Your Words

Sweet Girl missed the bus this morning and it was completely my fault. I took ownership of that and I took her to school. The reason she was late is because I felt it was more important to have a conversation with her than to get her up and eating a bowl of marshmallow mateys.

You see, when the alarm first went off, I ignored it, hoping Champs would get up with the girl. No luck there; he was dead to the world. However, as I lay there fending off the alarm with the snooze button, my mind drifted to yesterday. I realized that, in spite of 4 separate requests, Sweet Girl had managed to avoid practicing her piano pieces yesterday and she has her lesson today. I got up, walked to her room, woke her up and informed her of this fact.

Now, here's the thing: Our daughter has some ADD issues. Issues that we have not had formally tested (because it isn't in network for our insurance and because the initial testing costs more than 2000.00 and that doesn't even go into the charges for the therapy), and which we have not named to her face (why stick the kid with labels and also give her a ready excuse?). But the reality is that both my mother and I have been tested for and diagnosed with ADD as well. When we were young those labels didn't exist. We both learned to make it work with what we had. Because of this, I'm determined that Sweet Girl, too, will need learn to make things work for herself. It is hard, though, because she's at a crucial point in her development. She's nearly 10 and needs to start becoming more independent, and not have Mom and Dad do everything for her. She needs to take responsibility to get her "stuff" done everyday without one of us standing over her. And yet she cannot seem to do even the basics of this. Tonight her father told her that from the time after school up until she went to bed, she was to take a shower and practice her piano without being told to do so - or there would be consequences. She did neither and now she's grounded for two weeks. In the end, I know she loves music and her piano, she just finds the regimen of practice boring so doesn't get it done.

I will need to plan a trip to the library to see if there are any home-based solutions we can try. I've asked over and over of her teachers if there are any school or district psychologists who can help us, but I've gotten nowhere with that. I can't afford the medical route, either. Yet she needs some help. Perhaps there is a good book out there than can teach me how to help teach my girl to help herself.

In the meantime, she's getting up at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow to practice her piano. Sigh.

The Intelligence Continuum

I believe there is a continuum of our own belief in our intelligence:

When we are children, we believe we know everything about a couple of things.
When we are teens, we believe we know more than our parents about everything.
When we are young adults, we believe we will know even more about everything.
When we are parents of children, they believe we know everything.
When we are parents of teenagers, they believe we know nothing.
When we are parents of young adults, we both believe that we know everything.
when we are older, we begin to realize that we really didn't know anything at all the whole way through the journey.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So here I am. Finally.

I've been The Blond Girl, well, for 44 years - and in the blogsphere for the last 5 years over at "Rants, Raves, and Revelations of the Blond Girl". Today I had to close that blog because our gmail account got hacked. One of my most oft-heard comments was, "It doesn't matter what color you dye your hair, you'll always be The Blond Girl". I think this is true. Blond. Pink. Tulips. Sweet Girl. Champs. Lilacs. Peonies. It's who and what I am.

My lighthearted approach to the observations of life has been sorely abused the last 4 years. I recently realized that I miss the woman I was in 2005; slim, working a job I loved, doing things that seemed important - like writing and beading, spending time with friends. I felt that I had somehow lost all of that. But I realized, only days ago, that I didn't lose that; I lost how I looked at it.

In 2005, when I was at the top of my game writing, life was HARD! I had my 3rd hernia after my gastric bypass and I was fighting the insurance company to pay for my surgery. We had gotten taken by an unscrupulous lender and we were in an ARM mortgage that was getting ready to reset - at the same time that we were still recovering from John having been out of work. I was fighting to keep our house from being foreclosed upon. We were becoming disillusioned with our church and wondering if it was time to move on. And yet, if you were to read my blog at that time, you didn't see that. It was because I chose to focus on the light in our lives, not the darkness.

However, after we moved to Champaign, life got to be so hard. The finances imploded because we weren't working. I missed my job. We didn't have insurance. Then I finally got a good job but had to leave Champs and Sweet Girl for 6.5 months of training. I forgot to focus on the lightness in our lives, and was only able to see the darkness. I was overwhelmed by it and wondered what I needed to do to get back to who I was in 2005.

I realize now that I will never again be the woman I was in 2005 - and frankly, I don't want to be. I've matured. I've gained wisdom (and weight, too, unfortunately!). But what I can get back from 2005 is looking at the lights in my life. So that's how I want to start to write again - from a place of light. The Bible tells us that light overcomes darkness. I'm ready to test that promise. Welcome to Highlights of The Blond Girl.

P.S. It doesn't look like much now, but Geekwif is working on a new template for me. I love that woman!