Friday, December 19, 2014

The Great Latke Incident of 2014

recipe and image:

My son had to do a big project for his cultural party. First, he had to pick a country. I slightly manipulated him into picking Israel, because we are half-Jewish and it's the only foreign country where he has real cousins residing.  I told him that we would make latkes. He had never eaten a latke, and to be honest, I haven't eaten a latke since I was around nine, and I've never cooked them. Still, I enthusiastically filled out the form and sent it back to his teacher.

Then the world came crashing down around our ears. A beloved classmate died unexpectedly. The whole family got the flu. Big Pants missed school for a week. Suddenly, the project was due and we had one night to do it, plus make the latkes. This entailed creating a banner, a flag, and ornament all of which had to contain researched facts. It wasn't that much work, really, but it was a pile of stuff to do. I knew I wasn't going to have time or energy to make latkes for twenty. 

I asked two "real" Jewish friends (not half, like me) if there was some sort of cheat I could use. Like perhaps frozen hash browns or something. They both denied all knowledge of any such half-assed latke making technique. 

I got potatoes, which Big Pants happily peeled.  I went out and bought a grater. I held the potato and slid it across the grater, and realized this was more work, time, effort, energy, than I was capable of. This was going to take FOREVER. 

My S.O. wandered into the kitchen, innocently thinking he could refill his coffee cup and escape again, but when he saw my slumped shoulders he stepped up to the plate. He taught Big Pants to grate, and that boy grated all the potatoes and chopped all the onions -- the two of them laughing over the grunt work. All I had to do was fry 'em up in a pan. 

I fried, and was unsure if I was creating something at all successful. Big Pants held up the recipe with glee, "Mama, it looks just like the picture!"  Success!

It turned out that this latke cooking event that I had dreaded for days saved us.  It was the first time that laughter and smiles were sustained for a long period of time. It was like we were all normal again.  We even succeeded at making an edible product that every one liked except Tiny Pants, who refused to try them. 

I always understood the idea of "food is love" to mean, "since I love you, I will cook for you."  I never really understood that making food together can be love.  That everyone chopping and slicing and laughing together in a hot kitchen is an experience we all really needed, much more than we needed latkes.

Turns out, they sell Latkes frozen at  Trader Joe's, but I'm glad I didn't know that at the time.  I wouldn't trade last night for all the perfect easily reheated latkes in the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Watching Your Child Greive

This week my nine-year-old lost a classmate. A boy that he really liked, even though he lived too far away for many play dates.  A boy I really liked, and liked his parents.  I always wished he lived closer.   This week I watched a classroom of kids hear of the death of their friend.  I saw children weep, and others turn their bodies hard and curl inwards, folding a paper over and over and not looking at anyone.  I saw two boys squeeze into a small chair together and just sit there, not speaking.   

I saw teachers crying in the halls and carefully watching their students for clues as to how they could help – a hug, a tissue, a chance to run around or sit by themselves.  I realized teachers spend more time with these kids than practically anyone else, certainly more than most relatives.  I saw the whole school’s staff try their hardest to pull themselves together for their classes.

This week I saw my son consumed by grief. Mama, I don’t know how to close my eyes to go to sleep. Every time I try I just cry and cry.  Oh, Honey, Mama cries and cries, too.  The whole world lost a sweet and beautiful child.

I still took my kids on our annual trip to see Santa. We make a production of it. We take the Unnecessary Train – we could drive there faster, but trains are fun – we see the Christmas show and do our holiday shopping.  The Santa bit is a twenty-minute experience in a magical workshop filled with colorful elves.   

My child cried driving to the train. He cried during the slow part of the Christmas  show.  He cried waiting to see Santa.  I picked up my child who is now too big for my lap and held him as he cried. I held him on the floor when there wasn’t a chair.   I started to tell him, don’t cry, it’s OK, but I corrected myself. You can cry. Nothing about this is OK, I told him instead.

I’m sure the other parents waiting to see Santa wondered if my child was autistic, had an emotional disorder or cancer. Thankfully, no one asked. I could not have answered without crying myself, and I was not going to cry in Santa’s Workshop.

I thought about the Christmas presents our friend’s parents must have already bought and will never be opened. It was really hard not to cry in Santa’s Workshop.

When we went in to see Santa (and we are all still Believers) my boy could not speak to Santa at all – he was too near tears.  He was only a millimeter more not-crying than crying, just enough to keep the tears from spilling down his cheeks.  When Santa asked him what he wanted, he couldn’t come up with a single word and just shrugged.  I reminded him of his list: a hat with a pompom, slippers to leave at school. He just shook his head. None of it mattered to him anymore.

 God Bless that Santa for understanding. Do you like surprises?  elicited a nod.  Than you’ll be excited to come downstairs and see a mountain of socks and underwear under the tree?  My son laughed a real laugh, and the photographer caught it just inside the frame, but barely. 

I ordered the one picture that had a smile from the Santa-Picture-Pushers because I was so happy to see my boy smile, even though it was off-center and made no sense to the photo-pusher who preferred pictures with their subjects neatly arranged on Santa’s lap, not half-falling off.  That picture was my miracle.

When I got home, though, I didn’t bother taking the picture out of the envelope.   The picture I bought was a lie – a souvenir of a happy day that never existed.  It was one of those moments you can look back on in years to come and remember only the happy times, but that’s not who we were that day.  We were so sad we ran out of our house an hour early because we couldn’t stand the feel of motionless time moving backward.

We watched Charlie Brown Christmas and that seemed to help. I’m sad, too, Mama, even though it’s Christmas. It helped him to feel not so alone.  Tiny Pants created a new language and there was a horse named Buttocks and I heard real laughter for a moment.  I know he will alternate being okay with not being okay for a long time. Perhaps I should take that Santa picture out after all, to remind me when I lose hope that there’s a smile waiting just around the corner.  Maybe that’s Santa’s gift to me this Christmas. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Child Has Been Eaten by Aliens

My kid  has obviously been eaten by an alien and replaced with a really convincing replica. 

Nothing else makes sense. I didn't notice anything unusual until Friday. The new boy looked just like Big Pants.  He sounded like Big Pants.  He even fought with his brother and pouted just like Big Pants. 

He was so cute and normal once.

But the Aliens got one or two things wrong. 

Last week Big Pants made a startling comment as we drove to school.

BIG PANTS:  Mama, I want to talk about my allowance.

MAMA:  OK. (Thinking, great, he's gonna shake me down for more $$.)

BIG PANTS:  Well, we used to do chores for our allowance.  Now we don't do chores and we still get allowance.  I don't think that's fair. I think we need to do more chores. 

DING! DING! DING!  This is not a human child.  This child has obviously been switched by a higher race that believes in equity and compassion towards Mamas.

But it got worse, much worse. 

He used to be a regular child. He cried when he didn't get all of my attention every minute of every day. He refused to eat vegetables. He said he would rather smell the dog's breath than do just one math problem. 

I'm not sure when the switch happened. Perhaps it was when he got the free hot towel at SportsClips

Aliens may use hot towels to
lure their victims.

Perhaps it was when he had an MRI this past September and stayed in that tube for 45 minutes.

I didn't notice anything peculiar.

But it happened, believe me.  On Friday I picked the boys up from school. Here's what happened. 

TINY PANTS: Do we have school tomorrow?
MAMA: No, tomorrow is Saturday.
BIG PANTS: Yay! But, also not yay. Because we don't get to go school tomorrow.

Dee dee dee deee….. I should have been suspicious when he started loving math. 

I know this is what is going on under his skin.
I'm taking no chances with his brother. One alien replicated boy is enough.

Bubble wrapped for his own protection.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Which is More Important - Diversity or Ideology?

I am a solid Democrat and I generally vote a straight party ticket, but this year's election results made me think a little harder about diversity and ideology. 

Republicans put forth candidates that included women, minorities and even (gasp) gays. 

Just let that sink in a little before you go off on how female Republicans are just like men that will set back the woman's movement 100 years.  Take a moment to realize that the party I've grown to associate (some say unfairly) with racism, sexism and homophobia presented us with a whole bunch of non-male, non-white, non-male candidates. They even ran some openly gay men, though they lost.  


I don't think I would vote for a Republican woman over a Democratic man. I'm not saying that x and y chromosomes, skin color, or sexual orientation are more important factors than political ideology in my elected officials. But I have to admit that my heart rejoiced a little bit to see diversity in the other party.

Susan B. Anthony wanted all women to vote, not just women that shared her beliefs. I would think that she would want women in Congress, even if they did not share her political beliefs as well. I'm not saying good ole Susan B. would vote for any woman that ran for office, but she would fight like hell for their right to run, of that I'm sure of, and she would probably think more women in office was a good thing for America. 

This made me wonder, which is more important to me as a feminist - that women are represented equally in Congress, or that people holding feminist values are represented in Congress?

The truth is, of course, that I want both. I want both feminist men and women to be elected to all elected positions.  I want my political party to win, and I want a government that is representative of all of America. I want our leaders to look like us, and Americans are a diverse group of people. 

My ex-husband and I used to argue decade ago over who was more electable, a white woman or a black man.  I always said a white Republican woman, because feminist women would cross party lines to vote for her. I assumed I would vote for any woman that ran for the oval office.  That was before I had heard of Sarah Palin.   

When Hillary was running against Obama in the primary a few years back, my lesbian parents nearly came to blows. (OK, not really, but it was a little tense.)  One parent wanted Hillary because she was a woman, the other wanted Obama because he wasn't business as usual.  I voted for Obama.  It helped my guilt that he was black.  Was I a traitor to my gender and feminist beliefs by doing so?

The fact that we have a choice between a woman and a Democrat is a good thing. I like that the Republicans are sloughing off their "bunch of old white guys" image.  I love that our society will elect women even if I don't care for them personally.  This is huge growth. 

My point is that were the suffragettes here today, they would be ecstatic that so many women were in office.  Hopefully we will see truly equal representation between both parties someday for all minorities.   I see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yes, I'm Talking About My Boobs Again

If you have followed my blog for awhile, you already know I occasionally talk about my boobs, my underwear, and encourage other people to talk about their underwear. I then talk about kids for awhile before returning to my boobs and underwear and my underwear.

I'm a big busted woman, and for all my other hard-to-fit sisters of any size, I had to write this unsolicited product review of my newly discovered favorite bra company, True&Co.

(I have not been paid for this review in money, discounts, or free stuff. Of course if they decide to give me any of these I wouldn't turn them down.)

Someone I know (but don't remember who) liked a Facebook ad for a bra company named True&Co. recently and on a whim I decided to try them out.  I've never been entirely happy with any bra purchase, so I figured I didn't have much to lose, particularly with their home try on program, where you get 3 bras and they charge a nominal fee on your credit card - I recall it being $45 - and you have five days to make up your mind. 

I'm sure every woman has some store bra fitting horror story.  Mine occurred when I was 18.  A new mall opened by my house and I went shopping.  I wound up in a store called Cacique, which may or may not still be in business. It was one of those stores that only sold unmentionables in pretty well lit displays. They had a large sign offering free bra fittings, so I asked for one.

An over weight, overly made-up middle aged woman came to help me.  

Mean Old Saleslady:  What size are you wearing?
Me:  34D
MOS:  You are NOT a 34D.
She viciously pulled the band of my bra out six inches and snapped it on my back, then fussed with a measuring tape around my torso. 
MOS: You are a 32C
She stormed off to find me an appropriate bra before i could answer, then thrust a pretty bra at me and glowered.

I tried on the bra, which barely covered my nipples. 

ME: (turning around to face MOS with boobs overflowing bra) Is this how it's supposed to fit?

MOS:  Says nothing, turns on her heel and walks off. 

I've had friendlier sales people, but no one has successfully found a bra that fit me properly, so I didn't have high hopes. 

True&Co. has this light-hearted quiz that you take to get their recommendations. I actually enjoyed the quiz. I took their recommendations with a grain of salt, though, because I have been wearing bras since I was 9 and I have a pretty good idea of what sizes work and which don't. 

Because of the whole 5 day try-on thing, I went ahead and ordered 3 bras in three different sizes. The bras appeared in less than a week in a pretty box, the bras not only bagged conveniently in one bag instead of 3 separate ones and wrapped in tissue paper like a present. 

(Really, if I shell out any amount of money on myself, I really appreciate nice gifty-feeling packaging. As a former graphic designer of apparel, I also appreciate nice tags on clothing.)

Here's my analysis:

1. The hooks look extra strong.
2. The fabric is soft and has a luxurious hand to it. Nothing itchy or cheap feeling. 
3. The underwire did not poke At ALL!  Normally a bra that fits in the cup pokes into my armpits as I have a high bust. 
4. The price is reasonable for the product.  I'd rather spend a little more for something that actually works, and I learned long ago that buying two ill fitting bras I throw away after a month is not a good budgeting strategy. I'd rather pay more and have something I can tolerate. I'd call their prices mid-tier in my size range.

I'm kind of a weird size, I really need a 35" band, but I loved both the 34E and the 36E, so I kept both of them. The 38DD fit in the cup, but the band was far too large, so I sent it back in the enclosed postage paid envelope.  They could not have made it any easier. I also sent them feedback on their online form, and I'm sure they will have even better recommendations for me next time. I have no idea who these people are, but they really made bra shopping a joy. I didn't have anything witty or interesting to say, but there are a few companies I think everyone should know about, and I try to send a shout-out when appropriate. I really cannot stop raving about these people.  If you have hard to fit boobs, or even regular sized boobs that fit perfectly into standard sizes, you owe it to yourself to check this company out. Comfy. Pretty. Didn't have to leave the house to try on in front of Mean Old Saleslady. What more could anyone want?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Post: Children Should Never See Their Mom in Her Underwear

I am always looking for new voices to guest post on Only-Mama. I strong-armed encouraged a friend who does not normally submit her writing to the Internet At Large to guest post  today.

I love her voice and her story. I give you Children Should Never See Their Mom in Her Underwear by AnonyMama.  I think you'll agree that she should keep writing!


I am a single mother of two children. My daughter, The Bug, is 9 years old and my son,The Boy, is 6. I feel we do well together, a healthy balance of ridiculousness and responsibility. I let my kids watch TV, YOUTUBE, listen to risque music and talk openly with me about whatever comes in their minds. I allow them to censor their own activities and rarely do I need to intervene. This works well for me because I like to shower during awake hours, and take long naps and spend more than 3 seconds in the bathroom at a time. I recently did have to censor a young female pop artist based only on her album cover. I told my daughter at the time that I am sure the female star is great, however wearing a G-String for the world to see did not sit well with me.

Nicki Min-no.

As we were driving home from an outing gone horribly wrong the other night, the kids were talking in the back seat about popular music. The Bug mentioned to me that she was on her internet radio station and saw the female artists’ album cover. I mentioned that as women we really should be mindful of how we present ourselves and not have our G-strings hanging out. The Boy asked from the back seat “what’s a G-string?’’ and the few sentences that followed in the dark car that night will haunt me forever. My head started giving me answers on how to help my son understand the G-String. I struggled to think of what to say because my very own dresser drawers hold (maybe) 3 pairs of full bottom underwear, the rest thongs.

Are you sure it's not
 a hammock for a hamster?

“What’s a G-string you ask? Well, you know what my underwear looks like?” I know the car is dark inside but I still refuse to look in the rear view mirror to see The Boy’s face. He mumbles something in response.  “A G-string is much smaller.” For some reason I kept on talking that uncomfortable mom talk to try to smooth things over, but I was making it worse. I blurted out, “children should never see their mom in her underwear.”

The Bug started to go into great detail about how one morning she was sick and sleeping in my bed. I had to get ready for work and while getting myself dressed I told her to close her eyes. She opened them and saw me getting dressed and, of course, my thong.

The Boy started to tell me how one time I was getting dressed in my room and he was there. I told him to turn around so I could change. When I was getting dressed he forgot and turned around and saw me without my bra on.

I laugh when I think about all of the things I try to do to protect my kids from the outside world. But it turns out I am sometimes the biggest threat! Will this make me change my behavior while getting dressed with them in the same room?  Probably not. Will I continue to censor them from Nicki Minaj? ABSOLUTELY!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

In Which We Take Dog to the Vet

If you read my post about Dog's allegedly fragile self esteem, you know Dog has been acting out lately.  He's particularly fond of grocery bags, both disposable and reusable. I was concerned about this sudden obsession, so we took him to the vet. 

Trader Joe's bags are delicious

I did some googling about suddenly destructive dogs, and I was worried about tooth aches and brain tumors, so I figured before I yelled at Dog excessively I should rule out any medical problems. 

ME:  Dog has never been destructive. Now every morning I wake up to a pile of shredded things. 

VET:  Well, he doesn't have a tumor. He's walking fine, there's no indication of neurological issues. His teeth are fine. No fever. He looks happy.

ME:  He's 11 now, and my ex has a dog that is also 11 and that can no longer go all night with out going to the  bathroom. Maybe he's frustrated that he has to hold it too long?

VET:  Wouldn't he just go on the floor instead of shredding things?
(Looks at me like I am a nut case who knows nothing about dogs.)

ME: Well, there's a lot of construction near our house. Could he be stressed out from all the noise?

VET:  Wouldn't he shred stuff during the day, then?  Why would he wait to shred stuff at night when it was quiet?
(I was starting to think he thought I was an idiot. I was starting to think he had a point.)

VET:  He could have developed obsessive-compulsive disorder.  We could give him Prozac.  Are you sure he has never been destructive before? It's rare for a dog to suddenly develop destructive tendencies. 

ME:  No, he's never shredded anything. (pause)  Well, he used to eat crayons, action figures, blocks and Thomas Trains. But nothing that was mine. 

Um, wait. Dog has always been destructive.  He just ate the kids' stuff. I never cared until it was my stuff.  Yes, I did just pay someone $47 to have the realization that I may be selfish and self-centered. Just a bit.   

VET:  And when did he stop eating all the plastic toys?

ME: When I made the kids clean the house regularly. 

VET:  So he's always been destructive and ate plastic. 

ME:  Well, yes. 

VET: Have you considered buying him a chew toy?

ME: Um, no.

VET:  They sell them at many stores. Dogs like them. 

Dog thinks the Vet is tons of fun

MORAL #1 = Keeping a clean house is stressful to Dog. 

MORAL #2 =  I am an asshat who only cares when the dog eats my stuff.

MORAL #3 = Dog is just an asshat. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Questionable Item Found in the Fun Mix Machine

I picked up Tiny Pants and Big Pants from school and went to the grocery store on the way home.  The kids are agreeable to grocery shopping - they get a free cookie in  the bakery and sometimes get a toy from the little machines on the way out.

Big Pants has pretty much outgrown the little machines, as his brother calls them. He realizes at the whopping age of nine that mostly they contain useless crap that breaks before you get home, but Tiny Pants is still enthralled with the promise of the unknown bounty they contain. His favorite is the one labeled Fun Mix, or perhaps Good Time Mix, I forget the exact name. Instead of having themed toys, say all tiny football helmets or sticky fruit on a string, it has a plethora of good and bad toys. He is always disappointed with his prize, but he keeps hoping. 

There was the gold bracelet that broke before we got home, the tiny molded plastic animals that are too small to play with, and a lot of large plastic dice that always end up on the same number no matter how hard you throw them.

Yesterday, he was bummed out in the dramatic way of six year olds when he opened his magical plastic bubble to reveal a wad of blue sticky stuff. 

BIG PANTS: That's what you get for choosing the Good Time Mix. 
TINY PANTS: It has a hole at both ends!  Wait, never mind, it's a bracelet. I like it Mama. 

Seeing as I was driving, I didn't bother to look over my shoulder for this conversation to verify what his toy was until I got home.  He took off his bracelet during a heated round of duck,duck,goose we were playing and asked me to put it on the table for him. That's when I saw this:

Um, not sure that's a bracelet kid. It looked suspiciously like something designed for adult pleasure, only of a cheaper material.  Perhaps the filler of the little machines got his stop wrong, and this was intended for a bathroom of a particular kind of bar. 

But maybe it really is a bracelet. Maybe I see things less innocently than most. All I know is he is not wearing it to school, in spite of what he thinks.  That's a conversation with his teacher I'd rather avoid. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Eye of the Artist

Tiny Pants loves art. He wants to be an artist some day. His artwork is not particularly exceptional for a six year old, but he spends a lot of time on it and it makes him happy. 

Not only is this a fine thing in and of itself, but it is much nicer for Mama to watch him draw in the kitchen than to watch him play sports outside in the cold, so it's really a win-win.

(He doesn't like art class at school. They are very restrictive in what he has to do and what colors he can use. I understand that they are trying to teach him theory, but he gets very sad and asks "Why won't they let me add a sunset to my picture? It needs a sunset.")

At home he can draw or paint whatever he wants.  The only problem is the mountain of drawings he piles on the table every night as gifts of love.  To solve this I asked him to make me bookmarks. I showed him the width of my roll of clear packing tape, and explained that I could easily laminate small pictures and use them everyday. 

He thought this was a grand idea, because he wants his art to be visible, useful, and valued. Even though he still mostly makes things on large pieces of paper, he occasionally brings me something small enough to use as a bookmark. 

I got this one this week:

It's a Yeti's legs, in case you couldn't tell.  Just his legs. That's all he needed. I think it's my favorite thing ever.