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A few years ago, I had a grand plan to build a database of recipes that cross-referenced a ton of food allergies and dietary restrictions – so you’d know exactly what you could make for that dinner party to which you invited a vegan, someone with celiac disease, and someone who was allergic to nuts and legumes (for example). Although I’m pretty good at handling those situations in my actual life, the site turned out to be way more than I could handle, so that fell by the wayside (although as some of you know, I’m working on a scaled-down version that’s about being vegan without consuming soy).
[MUSIC TANGENT! I must go here when the word "wayside" occurs.]
Anyway, because of our current financial situation, I haven’t been entertaining guests lately – so when a friend of my son’s who was allergic to nuts and chocolate visited yesterday, I was WAY out of practice and all the treats I’d made contained one or the other – usually just a little almond milk, but THAT’S ENOUGH.
The kids were hungry and I had to act fast – plus it was the last day before our weekly grocery shop and I was out of a lot of stuff. So naturally, I turned to Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. This hefty tome by two of my favorite cookbook authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, seems to have the answer to every question you might ever need to ask. I’ve had it for seven years and I’m still running across brilliant-sounding recipes I swear I’ve never seen before. It may actually be magic.
Plus, doesn’t that title make you feel firmly supported by a powerful yet cruelty-free force?
It came through in a big way; the book opened right to Jelly Donut Cupcakes (recipe online here). I used the rice milk option and made six with cherry preserves and six with apricot, since that was what I had on hand, and they came out AMAZINGLY GOOD – the cherry ones in particular were magical.
Happy children! No trips to the emergency room! That’s really all I can expect out of a Saturday afternoon.
Since I was very young, I’ve been terrified of snakes.
I remember an instance when I was standing very still, playing hide-and-seek I think, and a small garter snake wrapped itself around my ankle. I think this was the trigger. If you don’t have any phobias, you may be thinking, “But that’s not even scary.” No, it’s really not. Also when I was very small, I fell off a balcony or something and broke my arm, but I’m not afraid of heights or balconies or anything related to that.
You can’t make sense out of a phobia.
There are two different things people tend to say to you when you mention that you suffer from ophidiophobia (or snake-phobia, which is not a real word but is easier to spell).
The first: “They’re not slimy!” True. They’re not. It’s interesting to me that people across the board so quickly arrive at the conclusion that the only potentially upsetting thing about snakes is a misconception about their texture. I’ll happily let frogs and newts, despite sliminess, crawl on me. The difference? THEY’RE NOT SNAKES.
The second thing: “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” I dispute this assertion. If you hook a snake up to a heart rate monitor and show it a not-terribly-realistic drawing of me, does that snake have clearly measurable arrhythmia? I have never actually done this study, but I feel pretty confident about the outcome.
As an adult, I didn’t find this phobia that limiting to my existence. I chose to live in urban areas without much in the way of nature around (there are many reasons, but the snakelessness of city sidewalks is right up there on the list) (also I am allergic to grass and trees). The biggest risk was TV shows and movies. Or clicking through on nonspecific “Wow, this is amazing!” links online (I feel so validated in my cautiousness on the rare occasions in which the comments make it clear that it actually was a snake).
But then I had a kid. And not just any kid – a boy one. This opened up whole new worlds of grass and dirt and terrifying picture books. I thought surely people who knew me well would check books they were considering as gifts for potential freakout-inducing images. I soon found out that people don’t necessarily check books they’re buying for small children for anything; a picture book about Dizzy Gillespie stands out in my memory – got it as a gift and was reading it to my then-preschooler until I got to the part about how badly his father used to beat him. (If I ever buy your kid a book, I promise I will have read it first.)
So I made a resolution. I couldn’t prevent the uncomfortable physical effects that happened when I saw a picture of a snake, but I could damn sure keep them to myself. My kid wasn’t going to grow up with irrational fears like mine – at least not ones I could prevent. For several years, mostly through the use of deep breathing, I successfully stuck with this plan.
He was just four when, after he’d spent some time with a relative, he came home with many hilarious stories about times Mommy, who was absolutely terrified of snakes, had encountered one – or a drawing of one, or whatever – and wigged out.
Lesson learned: If you plan to fake anything about your personality for the benefit of a small child, you might want to send out a memo to the people who actually know you.
Anyway, I’m slowly making progress. I can look at cartoon snakes without any measurable reaction (well, as long as they’re not moving). The last time I encountered a real snake went less well; we were at a presentation about my kid’s afterschool program and some guy way at the other end of the auditorium had a massive snake wrapped around him and – well, I spent the entire event with my face buried in my mother-in-law’s bosom. Making tiny whimpering sounds. Not real big on dignity. But I used to be pretty sure that if I saw a real live snake I’d have a massive heart attack and die, so I’m still counting that as progress.
W: “Mommy, you look like Courtney.”
E: “Courtney? Who’s… wait, you mean Courtney in the book we’re reading?”
W: “Yes, you look just like her.”
E: “There aren’t any pictures of her…”
W. “But you look exactly like the way they describe her.”
E: “Courtney’s African-American, though.”
W: “I know! I mean EXCEPT for that.”
E: “So if I were black, I’d look like Courtney.”
E: [Thinking of Courtney descriptors] “But I’d have to have curly hair, right?”
W: “Right. And short hair.”
E: “And brown eyes.”
E: “And be 12 years old and not a grown-up woman.”
E: “So other than those things you can hardly tell us apart.”
W. “Exactly. That’s what I’ve been TRYING to SAY.”
Since his 6th birthday, W. has been increasingly interested in being cool. The first time it really leapt out at me, he was working hard on developing cool handwriting – I can remember doing that so clearly, although I think I was a good bit older.
One day recently he accidentally put together a fashion statement that had other kids following him around like he was a rock star; it took a week before I noticed he had been swapping it for the clothes that were laid out for him and wearing it every day. A shopping trip for a few more acceptably iconic t-shirts headed off a major hygiene dilemma. (This outfit consisted of – in case your child could use more adulation – black jeans with gray pinstripes, a white long-sleeved shirt with a black skull print, a black t-shirt with a white image of lightning, and – I think this is the key – a gold Mardi Gras necklace he got from his grandma.)
And then there’s the pop culture – in books, he’s fully a creature of his peers, tearing through Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket. With music, he’s so totally my baby; we got him his own stereo and I’ve been burning him a bunch of mix CDs, and if I have an album on I haven’t listened to in ten years, the tracks he requests copies of are invariably the same tracks I put on my own mix CDs back in the day.
I see several possible explanations for this:
- As I’ve suspected for years, my musical taste is objectively correct.
- I have extremely immature taste.
- I should be an A&R person for music for children.
- W. should be an A&R person for music for middle-aged women.
- W. is extremely mature for his age.
This mix-CD thing is fantastic, as he’ll say stuff like, “Can I invite A. over to listen to the new Kinks album in my room?” like he was from the ’70s.
As far as TV goes, he can tell you every detail of every episode of my favorite show, Pushing Daisies. After all these mind-melds, I started to get a little overconfident.
This weekend, I decided he was ready for Mystery Science Theater 3000. This did not go as smoothly as expected – as my collection is confined to elderly VHS cassettes, I was trying to find something on Netflix streaming that would be appropriate – and sufficiently high-energy to hold a 6-year-old’s interest. The lack of episode numbers, along with my lack of a functional brain, made this a bumpy ride, and after starting and stopping a few Season 1 offerings, he got bored. I told him the secret was to find a Joel episode from one of the middle seasons, but we never made it that far.
The next day he brought it up in passing, and I said maybe we’d try again some other time – I knew people with 8-year-olds who liked it but maybe 6 was a little young.
WELL. Suddenly this all became VERY interesting to him.
His best friend was due for a playdate at 4. Around 3, he disappeared into his room with the iPad and closed the door.
Ten minutes later, he poked his head around the door. “When A. comes, can you tell him I’m in my room watching Mystery Science Theater?”
Ten more minutes. “Is A. here yet?”
“Not until 4, honey.”
“When he gets here, will you tell him I’m in my room watching Mystery Science Theater?”
“I will, but – don’t you want to go meet him at the door?”
“Just tell him I’m in my room watch-”
“OK, I’ve got it.”
(Note: THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I’m not proud.)
Ten minutes pass. He comes out. “Mommy? I think the Mike episodes are better.”
“I like the Mike episodes better.”
“What do you mean, BETTER?”
“The robots are funnier and the movies are more colored.”
“That’s not even true! You’ve hardly seen – how many have you seen?”
“I’ve seen a couple.”
“You’ve seen like half an hour! You don’t have the information to make that kind of judgment!”
(Aaaaand then I heard myself talking and gained the perspective needed not to get into a Joel vs. Mike debate with a first-grader.) (Which, yes, I recognize I already did.)
I think our relationship will recover from this. I don’t have any strong opinions about Star Trek or about which Darren was better on Bewitched.
As some of you will have read, my official nickname, bestowed by my young son, is “Mommy of the Future.”
Or rather – it was.
We were at a park in Beverly Hills, perhaps fittingly, when he informed me that I was no longer the Mommy of the Future.
Because I have a new nickname.
You may have to steel yourself for this one.
Do you have a snack? A stiff drink?
At least take a few deep breaths.
“King of Heaven.”
I was going to stress that I did not make this up, but I think you probably know I am not capable of making this up.
The only explanation I can get is that I’m taller than him, even when he stands on things. That’s not really sufficient, is it?
Anyway, if you have anything you need or want, let me know. I might consider it.
There is wailing. There is screaming. There are time outs. And then, there is the explaining.
“You know, Daddy, Mommy was being really nice to me, and we were just talking about this nicely, then you came in here and started this big argument!”
“But it was mostly Mommy’s fault, because she was being mean and not listening to me!”
The sobbing ramps up dramatically.
“It was all my fault! I’m so sorry!”
[It's OK, sweetie, I forgive you.]
“Well, try not to! Because I did it all on purpose!”
[Hugs and temporary calming down.]
“Mommy, I really did do it all on purpose. It was all my fault, and I’m so very sorry!”
[It's OK, honey.]
“But it was you and Daddy’s fault, too.”
It must kinda suck to be five.
It always comes around at this time of year; my determination to get this blog going by posting short, off-the-cuff entries instead of starting on mammoth essays that get edited and edited and never published. I’m beginning to think I suffer from a strangely specific version of seasonal affective disorder. Other than the Januariness of it all, I sort of get my dilemma; short, off-the-cuff things make outstanding Facebook status updates.
That notwithstanding, it is January, and so I am determined. This year will be the year I get back to posting regularly and making jewelry out of all those sparkly and stringy things I acquired before I had a baby and the tremors took my hands (unrelated but complementary obstacles).
Maybe I’ll figure out why you can’t post links in my comments. And why I only get notified about comments from first-time posters. This is sounding like “uninstall all your plugins” territory, isn’t it?
I don’t know if this will turn out as well as I think it might, but I might have the kid live-blog (I mean, through me) American Idol once it gets past Hollywood week. His commentary was astonishing last year, but of course he’s now 5 and possibly too mature and/or jaded to have the same effect. We’ll see.
I am going to post this now without even proofing it. Such is my dedication. You’re welcome.
If you have small children, I fervently hope you are already familiar with Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book. It’s a very funny board book about hippopotamuses and their deep love of belly buttons, and it’s been in our bedtime rotation since before W. could walk.
And when I say “our,” I mean that specifically, as I have recently learned that nobody else gets to read this one to him because nobody does it as well as I do. YES! I RULE!
Naturally, upon learning this, my first instinct was to create a YouTube video of myself reading it so other parents could try to learn to be as awesome as I am. Because I am always selfless. Sadly, I was distracted from this shiny object when my actual son asked me to read him the actual book.
This would be the first time I’d read it with the knowledge that I was the preeminent Belly Button Book reader in the household and possibly – PROBABLY – the world. Naturally, half of me was all, “YES! I’m gonna nail this!” and the other “But what if I choke?”
But as so often happens in parenthood, this turned out not to be a story about me at all. I did perfectly fine, but the show will now be stolen by the little dude.
In this book, there is a baby hippo. The baby’s role is mostly repeating one phrase again and again, so it’s an excellent role to assign to a child. It goes something like this:
Usually Wes is an excellent Bee-Bo deliverer, but today when we got to his first line, instead he sang:
While a Sandra Boynton/early Kinks collaboration has long been a dream of many, the time travel involved has put lesser mortals off trying. Not my boy, though. He continued to sing that line every time “Bee Bo” came up.
Then the one different piece of baby-hippo dialogue came around. (“Boon” for balloon, for the record.) I delivered his cue and game him an “OK, smart guy, let’s hear it” look.
“Waterloo sunset’s fi-i-ine…”
Having a child who mostly likes to listen to the Kinks, David Bowie, Richard Thompson, the Old 97′s and the Divine Comedy is not, I have to say, the heaviest burden in the world.
Wes doesn’t usually watch prime time TV because it’s right at his bedtime. The past few weeks, though, I’ve let him watch American Idol. Regulars will not be surprised to hear that he instantly had an understanding of the goings-on that, I believe, would qualify him to replace almost any of the judges. To “pitchy,” “artistry,” “magical,” and “indulgent,” add Wesley’s judging criterion: Rock Star.
We started out with the fabulous Adam Lambert’s Whole Lotta Love. Wes refused to give an assessment of Adam’s standing in the competition, as he was positive Adam was not a contestant but had just come in with his bandmate Slash [that night's mentor]. Rock star +++.
Next was whiskey-voiced teen Allison Iraheta wailing on some Janis Joplin. “Mommy, she’s a rock star too!”
Third, we have mellow laid-back cute boy Kris Allen singing Revolution. Wes watched this one much longer before opining. “I think he’s just pretending to be a rock star.”
This is when I began to suspect he was a genius.
(We missed the smarmy and unmusical Danny Gokey’s evisceration of Aerosmith somehow, but did see Adam & Allison duet on “Slow Ride,” an event that has caused Wes to take up writing preschool fan fiction. He calls them Adison. Just like crazy internet people with the smushing together of names. Don’t go feeling all justified, crazy internet people, he’s FOUR.)
This week, he finally got the Gokey experience. During “You Are So Beautiful,” he turned to me and said, “I think he could be a rock star.”
What? Could my kid not be a genius after all? Doesn’t he have any comprehension of pitch or phrasing or breath control? (By “he” I meant Wes, but one might ask the same about Gokey.) How can he like this? You’re almost in kindergarten, dude, step it up!
But out loud I said:
Wes nodded sagely. Did that eye-roll/head-loll he does when about to state the obvious.
“Yes. He just has to learn to sing like a rock star.”
Oh, is that it? Just the singing that’s the problem? Genius status regranted.
Also, I’m totally letting him watch all my shows with me from now on.
This weekend was one for (theoretically) tough questions from the small child. My Facebook peeps may have read one of these already, but not the second one.
“Mommy, marriage is one girl & one guy, right?”
(Why does my 4-year-old know Republican talking points?) “Well… most of the time.”
“Right, or it can be two guys.”
“Or two girls, right. You marry the person you love the most and want as your partner for life.”
“Oh! OK!” (Leaves room to blow bubbles.)
Memo to Prop 8 people: It’s really not that freaking complicated.
The other conversation that began yesterday started out being pretty predictable.
“Mommy, what does ‘black person’ mean?”
“You know [list some people he knows]? They’re black people.”
“What? They’re brown!”
“I know, that’s just a word people use for some reason. Like, they call people who look like us white, and we’re not actually the color white, are we?”
“No, we’re kind of pink.”
Today, we were watching Wow Wow Wubbzy and the Wubb Girls made an appearance.
“Mommy, what kind of people are they?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they’re blue. So they’re blue… no wait. I can’t think of the word, but it’s a color that’s close to blue.”
“Green? Turquoise? Aqua?”
“Yes! You got it, Mommy – aquamarine. They’re aquamarine folks. Because they’re blue.”
My first thought: “‘Aquamarine folks’? That rules!”
Second thought: Can’t wait to hear about how he’s assigning slightly inaccurate skin colors to all his friends at school.