Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday. Who am I?

I don't know what came over me. In 36 years of life, I have never gone Black Friday shopping, and I have never wanted to. In fact, I used to rail against the commercialism of it all. I was better than that, right? 

And then, I decided, out of the blue, to hit up Target on Black Friday and buy myself a TV. That's right. I didn't even buy something altruistic like presents for the poor, or even presents for my kids. I bought a TV for my laundry room. Who am I? It's like I don't even know myself anymore. (I also bought some yarn, but I feel much less guilty about that.) 

In my defense, I've been cooped up in the house for two weeks with sick kids and I was feeling pretty restless. Also, ever since the old laundry room tv broke, the laundry has been a ridiculous mess. My husband used to go down there for his introvert alone time and watch Chuck Norris movies and fold laundry. Come to think of it, he has been crabbier since that TV broke too. 

Mostly, though, I think I am rebelling. I still like reading better than TV. I still like quiet, simple holidays. I still like long, laborious, home cooked meals. I still think that, overall, we have some cultural bad habits that we would do well to change.  But you know what? Sometimes I also like to watch Netflix and fold some laundry. 

I think it is possible to take things that are  good ideas and try to turn them into virtues. For me, at least, shopping at Target on Black Friday is generally not a good idea, but I have friends who carefully plan their purchases and have a fantastic time with their sisters getting ready for Christmas. Their holiday doesn't center around gifts, but gifts are a part of it, and, for them, it is a bonding experience and an exercise in prudent spending. We do this about many things. Eating. Exercise. Spending. 

I think the complimentary temptation to the temptation to be imprudent and excessive is the temptation to pride. If I am sitting home on Black Friday, pleased with myself that I am not "that sort of person" I have successfully turned virtue into vice. So this year, I am grateful, not just for the TV that will probably bring my laundry back into some semblance of order, but for the opportunity to be humbled. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Things I shouldn't have to say

-Glue is not a cracker dip. 
-Do you seriously expect me to believe that you just fell asleep on the floor right now before I could discipline you? I'm not as dumb as I look, kid. 
-Can you get me a popcorn-free glass of water? 
-When I said you could collect money from around the house, I meant change from the laundry. Not my purse. 
-That sounds like a great dinner suggestion, honey, but just an FYI, it's "chicken pot pie," not "chicken butt pie."
-And that is why we don't use dinosaurs as spoons. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Midlife Crisis

About a month ago I decided to have myself a midlife crisis. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is something like 78, so I suppose, at 36 I am a hair on the young side, but a few years early won't hurt anything. I've never been the sort of person who was bothered by aging. That is really almost a silly thing to say in your mid thirties, but I didn't panic when I hit 30 and five years I was thrilled to finally be old enough to be president (not that I would actually want the job). When I feel stuck in the 30-something doldrums I don't usually daydream about my lost youth, I daydream about getting older. Your 20s are confusing and filled with all this pressure to become somebody. No thank you. 

I look at my parents, my aunts and my friend's moms and I think, "that's where it's at." I want to take up beading and photography, volunteer large amounts of my time for good causes, spoil my grand kids, have extended happy hours with my friends (or kids!) and travel to Italy. I look forward to the day that I can be my kids friends and not The Meanest Mom Ever. Oh sure, you can do some of those things when you are young, but then they come with pressure. "This is the best time of your life. Enjoy it now before the real world gets to you." "Find out who you are." That is for the birds. Those things sound like so much more fun when you already know who you are. 

Because of that, I kind of thought that the fabled midlife crisis would pass me by. Lately, though, I think some shaking up might be helpful. I'm finding myself feeling a little get-off-my-lawn, a little cynical even. My patience is a little stretched, and I can see, that if I don't take steps to change, I may not like who I grow into. 

I already have a younger man (my husband) and a tattoo, so this is the plan I have come up with. 

1. Stop dressing like I just got out of bed. Even though, many days, I still feel like I just got out of bed at 3:00 in the afternoon, there is no reason I need to look like it. 10 years of baby making has meant a lot of shift in sizes, and I have completely fallen into the yoga-pants and t-shirts, or on a good day, jeans and t-shirts trap. 

"Mom, is black your favourite colour?" "No." "Then why is it all you wear?" "Because not having to change my shirt by noon is my favourite colour." I have had that conversation with my colour-conscious eldest daughter many times. She is right, though, it's a cheap excuse. I have solved the dirt on the clothes problem by wearing an apron. Yes, it makes me look like a '50s housewife, but better a '50's housewife than a depressed, overgrown college student. Body image issues used to contribute to my lack of dress sense, but, happily, my newfound cynicism is manifesting itself in a lack of concern about what anyone might think of my body and how I dress it. I've made six people. My body is just fine. Besides, when I was a kid and imagined what I wanted to look like as an adult, the image in my head was always more funky-librarian than Disney Princess. 

2. Devote more time to my own hobbies, learning and other pursuits. This one has been a little harder, and not for the reasons you might think, namely, six reasons that are, as I type this, sleeping in their beds. It's more that I am suspicious of the sort of Oprah-ish idea that what I want is the most important thing in the world. Wants are a fickle master. While I do think that mindset is hogwash, the opposite idea, that using and developing my gifts and talents and cultivating my own joy is somehow injurious to the world, is, at best, silly and unhelpful. Studying at the Catechetical Institute and blogging are the first steps in this effort, but I mean them to be only the beginning. There is nothing wrong with being well-rounded. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Things I Shouldn't Have to Say

I've been writing these on Facebook for years, but I think it's time to add to the blog as a Friday theme. Daily, as a mom, I find myself saying things that I could never in a million years anticipated having to say. These people are cute, but they're also crazy. 

 This week's edition. 

-Cheese is not a writing utensil. That's why your pen is not working.
-When I said to put the baby down, I didn't mean on your sister's head. 
-You can come out of your room when you are ready to stop mooning people. 
-What do you mean, you "lost Wisconsin?"
-Why was there a car in your pants? 
-Snowpants are meant to be outerwear. They are not a replacement for actual pants. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Griffith Family Christmas List 2014

The first Christmas gift of the season has been purchased. This beauty will soon be the property of our own intrepid girl reporter, Isabella. It's even her favourite colour. This is the same girl who, for her last birthday, wanted a skateboard and a walkman. Not an iPod. A walkman. We breed hipsters in Nordeast without even trying. 

I was pleased that this years selections have been, thus far, much more attainable than last years, which consisted of a live orphan (Cheyenne), a dead dinosaur (James) and drink coasters (Bella). The drink coasters, at least, were both actually possible to purchase and reasonably priced. 

Without further ado. This year's list. 

A typewriter (See above)
A wheel of Gouda
A hammock
A hammock chair
A nightlight
Star Wars Cookies
A lightsaber
A coat with a built-in heater
Hair and nail stuff
Crochet hooks
A fencing mask
A hedgehog
And a shark 

The last two may or may not have been me. 

Some of that is going to happen, people. It really is. 

Thanksgiving simplified. Sort of.

 I love to cook. Love it. As my Father-in-law astutely pointed out to me this past summer, the kitchen is where I retreat when life is overwhelming me. No one questions your alone time if you emerge from it with cupcakes or a pot roast for them to eat. 

I do not, however, like holiday cooking. I find it boring and laden with expectation, and Thanksgiving is the worst of it for me. The only real room for creativity is in the pies. 

For a variety of reasons we spend most holidays with just our immediate family (which includes my dad, who lives here). Zach doesn't cook and my dad, though once a fantastic chef, has hung up his apron for good. That leaves me to do everything. Thanksgiving dinner is a full week's work for me. Last year I went a little crazy. OK, maybe a lot crazy. I lost sight of the point and by the time the turkey hit the table I was feeling cranky, resentful and anything but grateful. Before dinner was over, it was suggested that next year we might be better off eating out. 

This year dad decided that we needed to simplify. "I don't care if all we have is tuna casserole and pie. I don't even care if all we have is pie."

 I considered that. An all pie Thanksgiving has potential, but I'm not quite ready to give up all pretense of a real holiday just yet. I can find a way to make it special without stressing myself out to the point that my turkey is served with a side of crab. 

It turns out, turkey isn't really anyone in this house's favourite food. It's good, but so are grilled cheese sandwiches, and that's not on the holiday menu. I polled the troops and it was decided that prime rib would be greatly preferred. Once we threw out the traditional turkey, no one cared if we have our 5 traditional side dishes plus mashed potatoes and gravy. "Whatever you want to make will be fine mom, as long as there is pie."  So I've decided that we will have roasted potatoes (easy), Yorkshire pudding (easy) and a salad made from a kit from Costco.

The downside of this menu change-up is that it makes the turkey crafts I had planned for the week seem a little ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as prime rib crafts would be, however, so I think we'll stick with the original plan for activities. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love and Lutefisk

In an exciting turn of events, this fall my maternal grandmother, known to one and all as GGB (Great-Grandma Barb), after years of snowbirding in Arizona, Las Vegas and Mexico, moved back to the Twin Cities to be closer to her family. 

Great-Grandma Barb is awesome. She has never really been your stereotypical, cookie-baking Grandma (although she actually does bake a mean batch of cookies). Growing up, she was my Vegas Grandma, with her sequined tennis shoes. The kind who goes hula dancing, gambling and deep sea fishing in Mexico. She has taken me RVing through the Canadian Rockies, helicoptering over Mount Rushmore and flying over glaciers in Alaska in a bush plane. She has played practical jokes on me in an outhouse in the Alaskan wilderness. She has had her domestic moments, to be sure. She once refused to go on safari with her world-traveler sister because she wanted to spend the money on drapes (which, if you call them curtains and buy them at Target, don't cost the same as a plane ticket to Africa), but overall, it's not been a quiet, elderly sort of life for my grandma. 

But, the reality is, at 89 years old, that it was getting hard to keep up her house. It was getting harder to drive at night. A lot of their friends, who were young retirees when they moved into their Las Vegas house, have now passed on. The only family member in Vegas is my cousin, who is awesome, but 20 years old, and has her own life. In, what I think was an epic, heroic move, Grandma decided to put her house up for sale and move into a much smaller senior condo here in the Twin Cities. In an even more stunning move, this woman who once encouraged my mother to try and outrun the cops when we were being pulled over, decided to give up her drivers license. 

And you know what? It's been a little hard. She is handling it, but it's a big change. After 24 years, the silverware is in a different spot. The oven has buttons she doesn't quite understand, and her neighbours are "old ladies." She is not sure she will fit in. She is at the mercy of other people's schedules whe she wants to go out. No more getting in the car and running to the store. To say nothing of moving to Minneapolis in winter, which is, in and of itself, an act of courage. Even with the help of her family, who have been awesome and supportive, it's going to take a little getting used to. 

The one thing, in addition to her family, that she was really looking forward to about being home was finally being able to eat lutefisk again. I do understand the desire for familiar foods when you live out of state. I used to live in L.A. I know the joys of asking a grocer where you might find the sauerkraut and not having them look at you like you invented a word. But Lutefisk? That, I am not so sure of. I have always felt that our ancestors moved here from Sweden precicely to give their descendents the sort of life where we didn't have to eat that sort of thing. 

For those of you who are not familiar, lutefisk is codfish that is soaked in lye until it is the consistency of snot, soaked again in salt water to draw out the caustic poison, and served boiled with butter or white sauce. The only reason I can come up with for its popularity is that Minnesotans like a challenge. We are hearty enough to hack -60F windchills and dangit, we are hearty enough to eat poison soaked snot-fish and like it. 

But what is a girl to do? This woman once waited with me in the Small World line at Disneyland, not once, but five times, and all she is asking for is lutefisk. It's my duty to provide. Luckily, I have connections. My neighbourhood has it's very own Lutefisk Support Group. Several times a year lutefisk lovers, and the people who love them, gather at Lutheran Church lutefisk suppers all over the city sampling the finest poison snot-fish in town. Thankfully, for those of us who aren't fans, there are also meatballs. I think it's time to join. My grandmother needs me. 

As we are heading towards Thanksgiving and advent, and I am reflecting often on love, I feel like there is some kind of lesson in all this. Something about love being about the other, about setting aside your own desires (or aversions) to bring joy to someone else. You know, that kind of thing. Or maybe I'm just overthinking this. Either way, I am grateful to God for the gift of my grandma, and grateful to God for the gift of Swedish meatballs. 

This and That

As we approach the holidays (yes, I am Catholic and I call it the holidays. Thanksgiving, St Nicholas Day, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St Lucia Day, 12 Days of Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, New Years. Holidays. Also I am ethnically Jewish and my in-laws celebrate Jewish holidays.) I have been thinking of tackling my kitchen. I love my kitchen, but it really was not designed with the needs of a large family in mind. Over the years I have done a few things to mitigate the profound lack of storage. We jettisoned the coat closet in favour of an auxiliary pantry, which is now largely filled with homeschool supplies and, other than storing some less frequently used small appliances, is no longer much help to the kitchen. For my Christmas present this year, I decided that I wanted Zach to help me address my many storage issues. Thanks to last year's Christmas present, an indoor play area for the kids...

I do occasionally get a chance to work on projects of my own. 

Step one was to reclaim my desk from the 12 slice toaster that invaded it two years ago. The toaster, while useful, is big and ugly and will be better off in the pantry when the pantry counters are put in. I am temporarily storing my restuarant size pans and bowls on the window shelf, but eventually I am hoping to replace that with more attractive jars of food, or something prettier. For the moment, though, it works. 

The shelves are simple, but that is what I was looking for. Simple. Easy. Inexpensive. I like a kitchen to get it's beauty from its function.