Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Lovely Brew

Life is brewing.

I moved my seedlings into the garden yesterday. They look so small in their little squares, like the children looked when they stood in the First-Day-of-Kindergarten line with too-big backpacks. But now that the little plants have room to grow, I pray that they do. And the seeds too. I planted seeds. Peas, parsley, cilantro, lettuce, Swiss chard, and others. They really looked cozy being tucked into that deep, dark earth.

My teenagers are growing, as I suppose they all do. Suddenly they tower over me. Suddenly he shaves and has a booming voice. Suddenly there are several college solicitations coming every single day in the mail for her. They want her almost as desperately as I do. (Boy are they on to something!) Then again, so do the boys. One after another calls, IM's, emails. (But no texting, because that isn't allowed.) She is always laughing, smiling, red-faced. (And totally in denial. "They are just my friends, Mom." Yeah, right, I tell her. Because friends always call every morning at 7:06am just to see if you slept okay last night. She's so sweet, that one. And she lets us tease her.)

Today I began another semester at school. Two classes, 7 credits. Three days a week, 5 hours each of those days. Plus study time. It's no small commitment, for me, or for my family. After sending off the kids to school, I battled the morning traffic out to Pasadena with just enough time. But boy, did it feel good to walk onto campus today with all those other people swarming around in search of parking spots and buildings and floors and rooms and seats. Awesome. And today I learned the medical reason why bodybuilders who use steroids really do have smaller testicles and higher voices (and sometimes breasts). It's not a myth! Just as an interesting aside. I like interesting asides from the Anatomy teacher.

So, then I came home, buzzed and tired at the same time, with just enough time to water my seedlings, feed my teenagers (and the others who are growing too!), and begin teaching afternoon piano lessons. Tomorrow? My brother and sister-in-law and their children are coming for the afternoon and evening! I'm so excited to see them and have them here. So, now I've got to brew up some dinner plans for them. Can't wait.

Growing children, growing families, growing plants, growing minds, growing me. . .some of my very favorite things to do.

It's a lovely brew.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Revisiting Dork

A while back, Lyndsay insisted on taking me on a shopping spree. Maybe it was because she just loves me so much, and maybe it was because she just wanted to spend time with me. Maybe it was because she has realized in her beyond-her-years wisdom that I have sacrificed whatever I can to be her mom, and she wanted to give me something back as a token of her gratitude.
Quite possibly it could have been that lately I look like a frump-a-dump and she felt the need to intervene.
Whatever the impetus, once I got over my embarrassment at her insistence to treat me to some new clothes, we had a great time together. Of course, being with her is always a good time, but you know how it can be more comfortable to be on the giving end, rather than on the receiving end of the deal.

Being a mother to teenagers has upset the balance of my security in a lot of ways. When I had little ones, I used to feel just fine about myself. What I wore, what I said, what I did--all of it was just me in my groove. I walked with a bounce in my step, tossed my hair with a flip of my head, and took pride in the little duckling children following behind me dutifully. Maybe even admirably. Now? I feel like a dork all over again.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to Dylan that every day on my walk, I walk right past his school and I think about him and wonder what he's doing. He responded, "Well, first period I'm in the library doing service. You should walk down to see me." (He asked for it!)

So, that day I did.
I debated, really I did. I thought back and forth in my mind as I walked, "No, I don't want to embarrass him."

"But then again, if I do stop in, it might really mean something to him."

Trying to be a good mother, I swung left and headed down the stairs of his school to sign in on the visitor sheet and get my yellow sticker. In the library, the librarian told me he had gone to run an errand and would be back shortly.

I read books. And waited. Like a good mom, who wants her kid to know that she thinks about him.

When he did finally arrive, he wasn't so elated to see me. He didn't rush over to me, pick up his short little mother and swing her around with glee. He didn't pull me around by the arm to introduce me to his friends and show me around the library.

Instead, he stood in the doorway dumbfounded, and he called me 'Jenna'.

And when I bounded over to him with a happy face, he was way too busy for the likes of me. He wasn't rude, per se, but he was definitely busy. So, deflated and humiliated, I scooted out the door. And maybe I cried the rest of the walk home. Oh well, I consoled myself. He can deal with how he was embarrassed by me. But he can't say that I didn't make the effort to be interested in his life.

A few days later, Lyndsay asked me to come to school to pick her up, as well as several kids from her Spanish II class, and bring them to our house to film a fake earthquake newscast they had to do for a final project. I had never met any of the other kids, but they piled into the van and I took them home. Every now and then I told a funny story or cracked a joke, trying to get something--anything--out of those kids. Nothing. Just silence.

When we pulled into our driveway, I turned around to look at them and I said, with a very serious face (although I was kidding), "Okay, so if anything turns up missing in the next week, I'm gonna know it was one of you kids, got it?"

More silence. But only for a millisecond until Lyndsay swung around in her seat with the widest eyes I've ever seen and butted in, "She's just kidding! That's just what she does. She's just joking!" And then she glared at me and got out of the car.

When the filming was done and they'd all gone home, she cornered me. "Mom! How could you say that to them?"

"What?" I said. "I was just kidding around! It was funny!"

"Mom, they were all Mexican and black! They thought you were saying that because they're Mexican and black they were gonna steal stuff from the white people!"

Oh boy. "What?" Clearly I am clueless about the seriousness of the race and class distinctions in Los Angeles, even though I went to a multi-racial high school. "No! I meant because they are teenagers! I don't care what race they are!"

"Well, that's not what they are going to think you meant! But don't worry, I think I fixed it when I told them you were just joking."

I apologized profusely. Mentally I slapped myself upside the head repeatedly at my idiotic attempts to be cool or funny. Usually I do okay. But lately it seems that I can't hit anything but a foul ball.

It's as though suddenly my world has shifted. I am no longer cool. After all my hard work to dig my way out, I am a dork again, just like I started out. I am now filled with the same insecurities that I had in junior high. I second guess everything I wear or say. If I bust out in song or dance, I look around in shame to make sure I am truly alone and not about to ruin someone's life or reputation. They mean well, I think. And in time, I am told, it will pass.

In the meantime, I will tread carefully. And occasionally, break out in song. Just to spite them.
And one day, someday, I will be cool again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where are the Dresses?

Lately, I'm miffed about a lot of things. I'm miffed that it's such an inconvenience to find raw milk, butter, and cheese, and once I do find it, it's outrageously expensive. I'm miffed that the government makes such a mess out of the health of this nation, and rather than come clean, it would rather just keep slapping one ridiculous, trendy band-aid after another on the situation, while meanwhile most other nations just keep peddling along traditionally, enjoying health. I'm miffed that it's hard to get to the truth of things, and miffed that most people never even try to.

And I'm miffed about the mall and girls.
Lyndsay was invited to a birthday party. A dressy party. Actually, "semi-formal" was on the invitation. I told her she should just wear one of her nicer Sunday dresses, but she wanted something new. As reports started to trickle in about what her friends would be wearing, I was confused. Words like "halter top", "jeans with a really nice shirt", and "leggings" were getting back to me. "Those are not semi-formal!" I protested. And I made my case to Lyns that no matter what so-and-so was wearing, what if she had planned a party and really wanted it to be dressy and elegant and everyone came wearing just a bumped-up version of what they wear to Algebra?
Fortunately, it didn't take much to keep her focused. I've raised a girl. A lovely, feminine, proud-to-be a confident girl. Dressing up is something to look forward to. So, on short notice, we hit the mall.
(The mall used to carry such charm--when I was a young mother, living in the sweltering heat of Mesa, AZ, it was to the mall I'd escape, pushing my double stroller through the exorbitant air conditioning, ignoring the high-priced stores, but instead just walking and people watching, only stopping for Chick-fil-A or Cinnabon. Now, the mall is pretty much just a dreaded nightmare, only endured for Chick-fil-A or Cinnabon. And our mall doesn't even have Chick-fil-A. Another thing to be miffed about. But I digress.)
We searched for three hours. Through the crowds, into one store, and into another. Lyndsay tried on dresses, all of which were scavenged and excavated from racks of immodest, cheaply made, too-casual, and boyishly ugly clothing. Everything was too short, too icky, too tight, too old-ladyish, too low-cut, missing sleeves, or otherwise in need of amendment that I simply didn't have time to tend to. I knew she was getting irritated. So was I. So was Aiden. And Conor? Please. I was miffed. Why was it so hard to find a dress? Isn't half the population female? Shouldn't females be wearing dresses? Can't girls look like girls? What has happened to femininity?

Finally, FINALLY! we stumbled into a store and found not only a few cute, modest dresses, but they were 50% off! (Not a big market, I guess, when you can have boy-next-door or slut instead.) We found four that she liked, but decisions, especially decisions under pressure, are not Lyndsay's forte. I pulled out my favorite tactical maneuver.

"I know. Ask the clerk to hold them all. Let's get out of here and go eat a Cinnabon and think about it for a bit." She bit. (She is my daughter after all.) And that's what we did.

Upon returning to the store, one dress just seemed to sing to her more loudly than the others, and she made up her mind quickly. And bought a necklace to go with it. After hunting down shoes (of course) and a gift for the birthday girl, we high-tailed it out of there, a total of four hours later.

At home, Lyndsay curled her hair. She went to that party looking like a lady. When I picked her up and asked her about how everyone was dressed, she said she "stood out" in a sea of halter tops, leggings, and 'really nice jeans'.

She loved it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Accounting for January

I started out the new year with a main goal of Nourishing Me.

To break that down, I committed to nourishing my spiritual self by writing in my journal daily, which I did (I missed one day), and reading from my scriptures daily. (I missed that same one day--popped a movie in with Adam and forgot all about it!) I also pledged to do better about spending quality time in prayer. I am really proud of myself for doing so well.

To nourish my physical self (which is directly connected to my emotional, mental, and spiritual self for sure), I vowed to eat more vegetables (I did that, thanks largely to my Dr. Oz soup), go for a walk each day (well, I made it on 18 days), have at least 10,000 steps a day (I succeeded more than I failed) and get back on my vitamin regimen (check). I signed up on RealAge.com and took the test and set some goals for waist and weight and walking.

I also wanted to lose 3 pounds in January.

Instead, I gained one.

That was a bit disappointing to me, but I did not let it devastate me. Instead, I counted up all of my successes--including some other goals like starting my garden plans, having a personal interview with each of my children, celebrate more birthdays, and go to the temple (twice!), and figured I'm not going to let one--or even four, really--pounds get me down. I have made strides towards better health, and I have felt better, stronger. I still have a ways to go, but I'm sure some of those four pounds were gained muscle, and not just stubborn fat. And it's all a process.

I did decide to make one small change. Initially, my goal was to only step on the scale once a month, but I can see that that is not enough accountability for me. It's easy for me to procrastinate my goals for the sake of a (pan of) brownies if I know I don't have to weigh for two more weeks. If I had to weigh at the end of the week, I'd be more diligent. I don't want my weight loss to be a last-minute slam dunk, I want it to be slow and steady and because of small life changes. I will still be baking and eating treats, I just need to learn some self-love when I indulge.

So January, I would conclude, was a success. A step in the right direction. Actually, it was 292,386 steps in the right direction. But I'm probably the only one counting.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This Morning

After dropping the kids off at school, I hustled myself out the door for a brisk walk. When I came home and checked on my seedlings, I noticed that the cherry tomatoes, the green tomatoes, and the Romas are all up! Also the spinach. So cute!

With my endorphins flowing freely, I set up Conor's easel in the kitchen and let him have at it while I baked cookies and sang loudly along with the Wicked! soundtrack.

The cookies are Caramel Cashew Cookies--love it when we can make cookies with nuts that are not forbidden due to Conor's allergies. These will be yummy when the kids get home from school. And I only had three. They're small.

Conor played Legos. Actually, he just likes to unassemble "good guys" and reassemble "bad guys". He brings me bodies and asks for their heads off, or their "toes" off, because they would make perfect bad guy heads and toes. Then he brings me capes and shirts and bad guy hats. Why always the bad guy? Adam is convinced it's because the bad guys always have better costumes.

In between decapitating good guys and adding swords to bad guys, I paid some bills. One of my favorite things to do.

And then, with cookies cooling, we read some stories, and Conor sacked out for his nap. What a lucky kid.

Now I've got 45 minutes to either wash the dishes or finish a very good book before piano students arrive. Hmmmmm. . .let me think. . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Of Life and Light

On Wednesday night I gathered my speedling tray, seed starting soil, and organic seeds. I went through my Square Foot Gardening book, planning out what I needed to get started now, before I can set them out in the very beautiful, very ready soil in the beds out back. This is always an act of faith, settling those teensy, tiny seeds just under a blanket of rich, black soil. In some squares I planted two seeds just to be sure.

On Saturday morning, much earlier than I expected, I walked by my tray in the dining room and squealed on the brakes. What? What is that! Why, it's baby lettuce! And baby broccoli! I started shouting for joy and calling everyone to come see. I even went and told the neighbors.

This morning, the baby cauliflower emerged, all six plants. How do they know? How do they have such intricate synchronicity?

They are sitting in front of a sunny window, and I noticed yesterday how they reach for the light, in wondrous testimony of Christ. As soon as we have been born, we too should reach for the Light, our source of Life. The plants just seem to know. They remind me.

Gardens are the best teachers.