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Teach your children well

Teach your children well

Dear school. I realize that a presidential election year affords unique opportunities for tying coursework to current events.

When my child opens his mouth and advocates for marriage equality, not basing policy or laws on religious views, and raising taxes on the rich, please make sure he doesn’t get shunned like Hester Prynne. Thanks.

Where did the baby go?

Where did the baby go?

Because there’s this creature wandering around, whose feet are almost as big as mine (and bigger than his Auntie A’s), having extraordinarily mature conversations, getting himself up half the time, voluntarily practicing his TKD and multiplication, doing his own laundry, throwing himself in the shower, and generally being a remarkably independent creature.

What the everloving eff is this?!

What could possibly go wrong

What could possibly go wrong

5 weeks of camp out of approx. 13 weeks of summer vacation.
Selected camps: Lego Mindstorms I II III, VEX Robotics I II III, Rocketry, CO2 Dragsters, and Fencing.

If he didn’t play guitar and have rock star hair and dress like a hipster, you’d swear he should be rocking high waisted pants and tape on his glasses with a schedule like that.

Why hast thou forsaken me, Lego?

Why hast thou forsaken me, Lego?

When I was a young kid, by far, the best toy I had was dented and dinged and in craptastic shape. It was a popcorn can- one of those giant holiday ones that my dad had received as bakshish from a vendor- sans popcorn and filled with legos. It was the great equalizer. It was the toy my dad and I could play without quibbling (the man would not, for love or money, wedge onto a tiny chair and play tea party). It was the toy my guy friends- and I had plenty of little boys as friends- and I could agree on, when the weather was too lousy to be in the pool and we had driven my mother insane with fort building. It was the toy that could let me pretend I was anywhere, could do anything, be any one.

Lego has changed quite a bit since I was a kid- themes and special pieces and licensing and whatnot. For all of my original grumbling, though, that the themed sets didn’t give as much scope for imagination, Sean has pretty much disabused me of that notion (see: General Grievous and his 6-not-4 arms, his unmet need for tea and crumpets, and that being the true cause of his fall to the dark side. I swear to you, I could not make this stuff up if I tried). And so yes, I’m sure a kid could use next year’s new line to pretend to be whatever they want. Sure maybe Kai from Ninjago has a huge backstory too, and surely some kids go off plan.

But.

But but but.

I cannot help but feel shivved in the back by Lego. Seriously, guys? You think that little-girl-wench would have played with Legos more if only they had breasts, hips, stories about how they dream of being a singer in Hollywood while they mop floors at a diner, and have special brick colors in pastels? You think it needs to be a safely named line- Lego Friends- instead of the more adventurous Pirates, Kingdoms, or Ninjago, to compare to similar non-licensed IP lines? Do you really think so little of me as a female?

Maybe. Maybe I was over reacting to this new line. So when the catalog arrived today, I casually walked into Sean’s room and showed him. Absolute confusion washed across his face.
“Those don’t even look like legos. Who would want to play with them?”
“Well, read what it says. Who do you think they’re trying to get to buy them?”
After a minute, utter disgust registered. “Girls. And that’s lame. Because if a girl got that as a set instead of something cool, she’d not like Lego any more. And it’s not fair they treat girls like they’re stupid and can’t play with pirates and Star Wars.”

Dear Lego Company: when an 8 year old boy, who hates all things pink, tells you you’re screwing up your marketing to girls and your core business mission and message, you’re screwing up big time.

Dear John

Dear John

We moved here 9 years ago, bereft at leaving our fair city. Within months we were welcomed into the foodie community. It kind of went beyond embracing and took on a borg-like quality. 40 Sardines was our home-away-from-home, due in no small part not only to Debbie Gold and Michael Smith’s cooking and hospitality, but also the good natured, hard working guy in the kitchen who towered over everyone else. One time, when I had to get the baby out of the house due to the exterminator being there, I swung by 40 for lunch. Everything went swimmingly until Jamie kicked on the cappuccino maker near us, and the sound freaked out Sean. Every server took a turn at trying to calm him, but it wasn’t until ‘Big Country’ John himself swaggered out from the kitchen, swooped up Sean, and started getting downright silly with him that the wailing stopped.

We were sad when he left 40, but thrilled he took over at Starker’s Reserve- a venerable grand dame on the dining scene here. And we were even more thrilled when he bought out the place. Barely 30, the chef-owner of a great place. Active in charity, always a spine-cracking hug, always asking how things were and meaning it sincerely. Now at 35, opening a second place, well ensconced in the young leadership of the KC culinary scene. We did dorky dances in the rain at Brookside and compared tomato growing tricks. He cajoled Sean into eating raw veggies other than sugar snaps straight from my market basket. We commiserated over the cost of sheep’s milk yogurt. John didn’t bat an eye when we started bringing Sean in for lunches to teach him white-tablecloth restaurant manners, instead loudly greeting us and making it clear to the disapproving lunchtime businessmen that oh no, he wanted us there. He got misty-eyed when he found out Sean’s name for him was ‘Little John’, because that, it turns out, was a pet family name for him. When we had the opportunity to swipe tickets to Green Dirt Farms dinners this summer, there was no question: we were going to John’s, period. My last conversation with him, we talked about carnitas and cocktails, about kids’ books and table manners, about new year’s and biscuit bars and infusions and melt-your-eyeballs vodka and the plaza art fair and how mmmmm girl, fuck the traffic, live a little and c’mon down, I’ll take care of you.

I don’t think I ever outright said how vital he was to KC becoming our home, and now I never can. I cannot bring myself to say ‘be at peace’ to you, John, because peace is not how I picture you. You laughed too big and lived too loud for that. You are likely dumping out vats of red crawfish on newspaper strewn tables in heaven. You are drinking like a mofo and singing along to your favorite band. I picture you happy, surrounded by an eternal harvest of heirlooms and rarities.

I miss you so hard, and it’s only been a few hours.

Dipping my toe back in. Again. Oh shut up.

Dipping my toe back in. Again. Oh shut up.

Maybe a meme will kickstart me. Courtesy of R. Comment and I’ll hit you with 5 questions of your own.

1. What’s your favorite thing about parenting a third-grader?
The fact that he can get himself up, get dressed and ready, and snag himself breakfast if need be. Also, actually being able to hold an intelligent conversation with the kid is pretty awesome too. It sounds trite, but parenting has taken a decisive veer out of ‘reactive physical caretaking’ and that is so much less exhausting.

2. If you could host a dinner party with any five people — real or fictional — as guests, who would you invite?

Jane Austen. Terry Tempest Williams. Charles Darwin. Murasaki Shikibu. Graham Elliott Bowles.

3. …and what would the menu be?

I know GE, and I would beg and plead with him to bring two things: his truffle-buttered popcorn and his foielipops. The concept of Darwin and Austen snacking on foie gras rolled in pop rocks amuses me greatly.

Other than that, it kind of depends on the season. How’s that for a dodge? But if it’s cold, dark winter, carmelized onion blue cheese and sage free form tarts, wine and port braised short ribs over mashed potatoes with rainbow chard, a big ballsy red wine, plenty of crunchy bread, and bittersweet chocolate pudding for dessert.

4. What do you hope you will have done or experienced by the time you’re sixty?
Gone to Hawaii as a family and have NOTHING BAD HAPPEN, OH MY GOD (the last two trips were business and separate and all hell broke loose each time), run a marathon, set foot on the Galapagos, cruised the Viking path, finally worked a theme park project from concept to opening, witnessed a sane and rational woman become president of the united states, raised a healthy and reasonably successful kid.

5. What are your favorite scents, and what do they evoke for you?
Cofffffeeeeeee. It’s the stuff of life. Burt’s Bees baby wash is still the only body wash and shampoo Sean can still reliably use without rashing out, so that smell will always equal kid to me. Lilacs=that dead week at Williams in late spring/early summer. Gin and Tonics with loads of lime equal hot nights on a rickety balcony in Chicago with friends.

Dipping my toe back in

Dipping my toe back in

Today at Old Navy, kid started singing along to Dynamite. When I asked where the heck he’d learned that, he said school. When I said then I’d failed as a parent, he asked how. “Because my job is to protect you from things, like bad people, horrible pop music, and the lousy writing in Twilight.”

The cashier high fived me.

Shallow

Shallow

It seems really shallow to be foot stompy about little details at the kid’s school (all is well: rough transition when his teacher had her baby early, and they abruptly had a very experienced but very stylistically different sub) when New Zealand and Japan are, to use the technical term, fucked.

Downside of technology infiltration: kid does not realize ‘tsunami warning for US’ does not mean ‘Alien invasion movie-like walls of water moving halfway across the country’ and instead means ‘Hawaii, CA, OR, WA, watch out.

For fun and profit, expose an AARP member to Eminem

For fun and profit, expose an AARP member to Eminem

I would really like to know what genius at Hall’s feels a DJ during the lunch hour was an awesome idea. Because let me tell you, explaining to my *mumblemumble* year old mother that no, no he’s not mashing up a nice girl singing with that yelly rap star, it’s Eminem featuring Rihanna in ‘Love the Way You Lie’ and yes, yes they are blasting a song about domestic violence while ladies who lunch are attempting to browse for ridonkulously expensive and ugly shoes (peep toe booties: not okay in any universe) was oceans of fun.

Shout out to the DJ: nice touch then spinning the Everly Brothers in an effort to reach out to the older shoppers and impeccably dressed salespeople. Please note my mom and I did actually locate the breaker boxes that your gear ran from. Persist in your volume issues and we won’t be afraid to use this knowledge.

When last we left our intrepid heroine

When last we left our intrepid heroine

So yeah.
It’s been a while.
Sorry, all of the three people who I think are still plaintively following this.
To be brutally honest, it was hard to write. Work has been stressful as we push towards a mega deadline. The holidays, while fun, are always a whole lot of work.

And then there was my mom. The saga that began 15 months ago, when she woke up and couldn’t breathe, and that wended through a hospitalization for a possible heart attack; a rondeau of big name specialists in Chicago who treated her like this was her own damn fault for smoking even though she quit 20 years ago; conflicting diagnoses of emphysema, copd, allergies, fungal infections, and panic attacks; took a jolly detour right about the time of my last update. A very clever doctor here, with an open mind and a nose for puzzles, figured out she had something wickedly rare and weird and, while still a sort of ‘really? holy shit!’ diagnosis, was fixable. We just had to put up with her increasingly severe breathing problems and oh yes, the possibility that she’d stroke out while they were trying to verify what the underlying cause was.

Modern medicine is an incredible thing. 5 years ago, my mom would be recovering in an cicu right about now from massive open heart surgery. Instead, thanks to a catheter wielding robot, she was out on Friday and loudly cheering for the Packers on Sunday.

So yeah.
Not funny.
Not snarky.
Not sarcastic.
But I held my breath and my words for 3 months.
And now I don’t have to any more.