Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Far Cry From Spumoni

I hate it when my husband celebrates his ethnic heritage. Melted chocolate bars mixed with Cool Whip become “truffles”; a jar of cheese whiz and cream cheese becomes a festive cheese ball; bread, butter and sprinkles transforms into an afternoon snack. The doozy, though, is the White Trash Birthday Cake. It involves Cool Whip, Jello and a white cake from a mix. You're smart. You can put it all together in your head.
If he were from Beijing, I'd make him red bean ice cream. If he were from Tibet, I'd make him yak stew. If he were from Scotland, I'd make him haggis. Okay, no I wouldn't, but I'd make him a nice vegetarian version of haggis, which he would love and which would make me feel accomplished and clever. But my husband is from Idaho and he comfort eats from a box, which makes me feel like I ought to have my hair in curlers and my dress should come from Lilian Vernon.
One year I tried to bribe my way out of making this particular cake. I offered any cake in the book (literally). I anticipated a multi-step, ganache-coated mousse concoction that would require a lot of egg beating and delicate sifting of cake flour. Nuthin’ doin’. I think tears actually welled up in the poor guy’s eyes, and since he rarely gets any food he’d recognize from his childhood, I gracefully (Ha!) gave in. Normally, I suck up a small piece and then I remember that I A) don’t like Cool Whip B) don’t like soggy cake C) resent food that does not resemble my childhood in any way. After all, White Trash Birthday Cake is a far cry from my mother’s Heart Attack Grilled Cheese (which involves mayonnaise, American cheese and prodigious amounts of butter).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thin Refers to the Cookie, Honey

The nine year old sits in the front yard. She yells, “I want ten thousand Girl Scouts to come to my house! Is anyone a Girl Scout? Come to my house!”
Go back in time with me 10 minutes. We’re in the kitchen, where she expresses concern over a social conundrum. 3 of her dear friends, it turns out, belong to Girl Scouts. Who will we buy from when cookie season hits us?
“I’ll buy at least one box from each Girl Scout who comes to our door,” I promise, feeling expansive.
If my daughter’s advertising works, I’ll have to put up barriers to prevent the G.S.’s from getting to our door. I’m thinking foaming dogs and smelly skunks ought to do the trick. I might also threaten my daughter—no more friends from the Green Brigade or she’ll have to pay her own medical bills. And mine, since I’ve never passed up a frozen Thin Mint. Or an unfrozen Thin Mint. Or a melted, squashed, under-the-baby’s-carseat Thin Mint. Dang, it was hard to wrestle that one out of her fingers!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I missed it. I thought she had some quirks, some behavioral issues. I thought the parents didn’t monitor her as well as I thought they ought to. I thought… but I missed it. And now, looking back, I say, “Oh. I see now.”
Gratefully, my friend saw. She spent the summer investigating, asking questions. She paid attention to the bruises, the hunger, the parents who never, ever, ever wondered where Katherine had spent the past 14 hours. And she called Social Services, she called the police, the school and then she called Social Services again. And they’ve opened an investigation, so maybe Katherine will be able to talk to someone about what happens when her parents get so mad. Maybe her sister will get a cast on her hand, her fingers, her wrist. Maybe Katherine will eat breakfast and lunch and dinner on the same day. Maybe she’ll find a safe place to land.
And maybe idiots like me will pay better attention so that no one else has to be hit with a pipe across her side more than once. Maybe I’ll open my eyes wider, doubt parents more, so that no other classmate has to go to a friend’s house asking for ice for her privates. Because I do believe that it is my problem. And I believe that turning a parent in is far better than sending a child home to be locked in her room for, literally, weeks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What is it Good For

I know why men go to war. Sit down and take notes because this may come in handy when you become President of NATO. I have a story to illustrate my point.
Last weekend, Hal and I tore up the nasty deck in the back yard. Horrible death trap that should have come out last year, but considering the list of things that had to happen to make this home safe and livable, it fell low on the list. “Watch out for the loose boards and don’t step on nails,” became a theme. So, we got hammers, a crowbar and sliver-preventing gloves and ripped it apart. Now we have a mud pit, which has provided hours of entertainment for my children and their friends. (Word of warning if you plan to have me babysit—I let kids play in mud.)
Then, this Saturday, Hal put on his loin clothe and ripped out the faux (read: ‘70’s) beams and “wood” paneling in the den. Wow. Some couples go to therapy, some go on retreats. Give my man a couple of tools and let him destroy something in our house and suddenly he becomes Apollo on his chariot.
So, women, we are to blame for war. Helen wasn’t kidnapped—she wanted to spice up her life with a bit o’ blood and pillaging and found an easy go at it with Paris. Aristophones had it wrong when he wrote about women refusing their spouses in order to stop war. Uh-uh, honey. I’m telling you, they wore their diaphanous best once they saw their men folk pushing back the tide with only a sword and shield. Like Circe in her lair, I found my Odysseus most becoming with filthy hair and wood chips flying. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary reason for the increase in love I’m feelin’. Guys with glasses and computers didn’t get the girls a million years ago, either. All I’m sayin’ is that I may love my man for his mind, but gee, it sure is nice to watch him sweat.