Friday, January 29, 2010

Don't Have A Cow


What do I dream of most?

What do I crave?

What illusory scents and textures wake me in the middle of the night, wafting, beckoning? Begging to be savored, to be consumed?

Carbonara. Oh, sweet pagan gods of grease and pork flesh, do I crave carbonara.

And. . .let's see. . .


But that's about it.

What I crave the most is something less tangible. I think sometimes I'm craving 'hearty'.

Or maybe, 'familiar'.

Maybe this: 'comfort'.

I can't name it, exactly. It's a little demon faerie, armed with both pitchfork and halo, hovering about my shoulder, jabbing me and calling:

Fulfillment! Grease! Iron! (yes! maybe Iron).

Or, possibly: tradition. Stuffed. Sated.

I have been truly loving my crispy tacos with feta and slaw (Mr Vesuvius and I eat ours with avocado and fried jalepeno chips). Eating chili with lots of beans and no beef makes me happy because you don't really need the meat in chili--you've got all those beans! And I feel healthier for that. Stir-fry is good because you feel so downright saintly consuming all those heaps of vegetables in one sitting.

Noah is supportive but not a vegetarian himself. He's been dreaming of rotisserie chicken.

I tell you, after what I've read, I don't think I will ever crave chicken again. Chick-fil'a? No thanks. KFC? Definite pass. Fried chicken in summer, well. That might be a little harder.

After two meatless weeks I bought Noah a steak to say thanks for the support. It wasn't hard for me not to eat it, and I wonder if I'm losing my taste for these things already.

I read a book (don't worry, nothing gory, just an amazon page). I was horrified. I was shocked, enraged. Enlightened. I cried at the accounts of cruelty and sadism. I considered the ripple effect. The environmental angle. I thought, 'there is no way I can eat meat after reading this'.

I wondered how this happened to me.

Me! Meat-eater extraordinaire.

Tonight I'm making vegetable soup with sweet basil. I'm going to buy some nice hearty bread and maybe make these little gruyere toasts. I won't be processing my fresh basil and chopping my carrots and onions and leeks while dreaming about ground beef tacos or turkey burgers or steak with blue cheese. Truly.

But I will be haunted, later, by that thing, that ghost. That unnameable yearning. Maybe it's called: habit.

Or: memory.

. . . burgers and steak on the weekends, tacos with beef and melted cheese, harvest soup, beef stroganoff, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, ancho pork, corned beef hash. . .

Or: ancestry. Some things run in the blood.

Comfort, tradition, habit. I think I'm hedging closer.

Or maybe it really is the carbonara.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


"Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm"

Apparently Neruda and I agree on January.
I forgot to share one other than that tickles me red.


Pippi! She has adventures. She lives alone at Ville Villakulla while sailor papa is off at sea. She has a monkey named Mr. Neilsen. Annika and Tommy are shocked and delighted by her hinjinks! Oh how I loved Pippi when I was little.

Ayla's just a little too young for the book. But I approve of the movies:


The girls are watching one right now.

Pippi reminds me of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

And Anne of Green Gables. And Ramona Quimby. And Beezus, of course. And Matilda. And Sophie from the BFG. And Laura and Mary and baby Carrie. And Sally J. Freedman (she stars as herself).

And I haven't met them myself, but I've heard Junie B. Jones and Cam Jansen are pretty great too. And there's the new girl from Inkheart. And Harriet the Spy has been around for ages, I just never ran into her.

But does anyone remember: Peanut Butter and Jilly? Girlish duo of my Scholastic book order obsession in about 4th grade? Amazon has all but forgotten them.

I love all those other gals. But the redheads steal my heart.

Anyway. It's cold here. There is snow on the ground. I am looking forward to the end of January. I can't wait to say it: "Goodbye, January". I think someone should write a song called that. I am looking forward to trying Cjane's heart and arrow shaped sugar cookies for Valentines day. Early on I told Mr. Vesuvius I wanted to see Avatar, but the reviews have changed my mind. Nine, meh. Sherlock, meh. January feels like a giant gaping space. How does one appreciate January? I sure don't know.

By watching Pippi and browsing through early reader favorites online, I suppose.

And by watching Beckett twirl her hair when she took Castle's arm. That was delightful. Did you see it?

Well. Now the natives grow restless and my shower window is all but vanished.

Signing off

--Vesuvius at Home

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

These Is My Happy Thoughts

Things I love right now:


The taste is so strange and earthy. To me it tastes of minerals, of rivers, of the rocks at the bottom of rivers. But sweet and vaguely melon-y.


Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake. It's vegan! (I'm not vegan. Not yet. More on that later this week.) It's delicious! Kashi describes it thus: "Plantains with roasted sweet potato, black beans and kale. Spicy ancho sauce with pumpkin seed garnish served over Kashi seven whole grain polenta, plus amaranth". I don't know what amaranth is, but I know I buy these whenever they're on sale. It really does look like the picture.


Castle. I find this show comforting. All the characters get along, they enjoy one another, and other than the weekly dead body, their lives are refreshingly free of drama. Castle lives with two redheads, so credit for that--his adorable daughter Alexis and his aspiring Broadway baby mother. Well. I guess I should say she lives with him. Add the humor to some good old fashioned UST (unresolved sexual tension) and you have a happy me on Monday nights.


Kate Rusby. The above album and also this one:


Kind of like Alison Krauss only a little more Irish and a little less country.

Lastly this amazing book:

Other happy things:

Indy refusing to answer any questions for the screener at her preschool application.
Screener, very kindly:"Indy, can you say: four?"

Indy, gentle but firm:"No."

"Can you say: ball?"


"Can you tell me what this shape is?"


"Would you like to play a jumping game with me?"


Ok, she didn't actually say 'nein'. This should not be a happy thought because we couldn't complete the screening and have to return another time. But it is a happy thought because it is just so essentially Indy. She is tenacious and stubborn and she does things on her own terms. And I love her.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Princess Culture


Just now, Ayla said to me, "Mom, princesses don't fight. They have the princes to do that for them."

And maybe you have heard, and maybe you haven't, how around Christmas my five-year-old daughter said to me, "Mom, when I put my legs down like this they're big, but when I lift them up they're small like a pretty girl's."

The problem is. Well. The problem is everything and everywhere. I let Ayla and Indy watch Disney movies. I watched Disney movies growing up. I somehow never absorbed from them the ideas that Ayla is absorbing. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and Robin Hood. Now I see how sad it is that there weren't any kick-ass women for me to aspire to be. But I was spared real damage because I just assumed that I could be like those adventuring men, despite all media evidence to the contrary.

I also assumed Ayla and Indy would be like me. Natural born feminists. But now I see, maybe they're not. Ayla is very uncomfortable with the idea of a princess who does anything other than wear dresses, sing, and 'be nice'. She wouldn't even let the princess drive the pretend carriage--the prince had to do that. When a big piece of the plastic toy castle fell off, the princess couldn't lift it. She called the prince.

It maybe sounds a little funny, at first. It's like Ayla somehow knows exactly what will drive me the craziest and is determined to act that out. But the thing is, she has absorbed these ideas from our culture. From our tv and movies and even our books. Do you know how many 'princess' books are out now? No girl is spared. They even make little princess Bibles for girls. The Bibles say things on the back like "Little girls long to. . . give their heard to their true hero". Boys, on the other hand, get to be "God's Mighty Warrior". Boys get to learn how to be "Strong, honorable, courageous, and true".

Great. But aren't those traits important for girls too?

Browse the toy aisles at Target. Boys get Nerf guns and warrior shields and firefighter hats. Girls get pink vacuums and purple washing machines and flowered janitor sets and ironing boards.

Here, NPR's Linda Holmes writes a letter to Pixar about the lack of girls who aren't princesses in their movies. The title of the letter is called "Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Band-Aids On Their Knees".

The title makes me sad. Because the bruised-kneed, muddy, tree-climbing, frog-catching, adventure-seeking little girl is an image I grew up with. But they're being smothered out. Ayla wouldn't recognize that character as a normal little girl, but as something of an aberration.

All my Ayla wants to be is a princess or a fairy.

Which would be fine, as long as I was confident she knew there were other options. I don't think she does.

Indy's a little different. Indy likes to fight karate-style when we play Barbies together. But maybe all that means is the media monster hasn't gotten to her yet.

I'm frustrated. I'm tired of hearing parents tell me about how dainty and 'girly' and fussy and diva-ish their little girls are, while glowing that their little boys are "all boy". Parents: why are you reveling in gender stereotypes?? They are harmful to girls and boys. The differences you see in your two children--one male and one female--are more likely due to the fact that your children are two different people, not that they're two different genders.

As for me, well. I'm cutting out the Disney movies. I'm not going to buy any more Disney princess dolls because their legs are skinny as toothpicks. (Totally not an exaggeration). Going into the whole raising girls thing, well. I was certain I was the woman for the job. I was sure that I would raise daughters who were strong, informed, liberated. Girls who didn't think twice about diets. Girls who knew they could be whatever they wanted--even a president, or an academy award winning director, or an Olympic competitive ski-jumper (yeah, all things women haven't done). Girls who knew, beyond a doubt, that even though silly stereotypes about their gender were out there, they didn't apply to them. Girls who would be confident, courageous, sure-footed and strong.

Now, I'm not so sure.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good Medicine

“Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearnings.
You have to love.
You have to feel.
It is the reason you are here on earth.
You are here to risk your heart.
You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt,
or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree
and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”

- Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

I want to tell you how beautifully Louise Erdrich writes, but I've made the decision not to try and follow Louise Erdrich.

Just go read Louise Erdrich. The Painted Drum or Love Medicine are where I recommend beginning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

C'est la vie

Blogger's Block has struck.

I don't think I'm really a blogger, so don't ask me how I caught it. But I did.

(Maybe from hanging out with real bloggers).

I am sending my blogging self to a cafe in Paris. I told her I expect her to have something interesting to say by next week.

My writing self is happily unblocked and will, with some luck, be able to find an empty table by an outlet at a Starbucks in Fort Collins.

This isn't as easy as it may sound.

My blogging self is hoping to run into Hemingway, maybe at Le Deux Magots, but my writing self sure isn't. Blogging self knows it would make a good entry.

Writing self knows he was a great writer, but also a bit of an arrogant misogynist.

Writing self also just learned that a man is blond, but a woman is blonde.

Au revoir.


Monday, January 4, 2010


Something just rubs me the wrong way.

Well, many things.

But something rubs me the wrong way in particular about those blogs.

You know the ones.

They show you the pictures of moonlight on falling snow but they leave out the rest.

The ice. The mud. The mess. The cold. The cracked knuckles. The dirty watery footprints tracked into the house. The cars stuck and sliding. The accidents. The slush. The blackened dirty snow. The rambunctious excitable children and the broken vase and stained carpet.

They're not telling you lies, exactly, but they are leading you to believe that:

Their house is either always clean or vaguely, lovingly messy.

They never forget to marvel at the simple thrills of a well-iced cookie.

They sit down and savor their coffee (served in mugs brought home from Europe and brewed in some faddish way. Brewed by little elves hatched from leaves, the sweat of whom aids the environment and calms all religious tyrants) instead of gulping it down while checking email/calling doctors/paying bills/showering/driving/peeing.

Their children always look like that.

Except for when they fight, and then mom is first just a teensy-eensy bit tickied off, only for a moment, and then she is amused and smiling and benevolent.

They make their homes look like catalogs without actually spending any money. (Their fancy pillows are spun by the sweet inklings of the leaf-hatched elves). (The elves would come to your home if only you yelled at your children less and savored goat cheese more).(Also if you used more birds in your general decor).

They are totally and completely fulfilled, as passionate, intelligent, creative women, by child-rearing, cookie baking, decoupage making, and photograph-taking.

Except when they're not. They may doubt it, in a bad moment. Doubt their happiness, as stay-at-home parents. Only in a very bad moment. But then the words, that holy refrain, sweep in on the wings of sugar-dipped, Le Creuset wielding and high-heel wearing angels: It's all worth it.

(Which is not to say it's NOT worth it--see, even I can't write a blog about mothering without repeating the magic words--but is just to say, it's much more complicated than that).

Is some of my annoyance brought on by jealousy? Oh. Sure.

But consider this.

A little phrase from my college days that kept ringing in my head until, while viewing a picture of Martha Stewart with two modestly dressed, sunshiny, photograph taking and macaroon baking mothers, I went oh yeah.

Behold. The Cult of Domesticity. Instilling feelings of guilt and inadequacy into women since 1820.

Since at least 1820.

Just think about it: Nobody's going to take away your mother card if you say you don't like the snow. Not even if you say: I HATE THE SNOW.

Go on, Vesuviuses at home. You don't have to explode. I'd just like to see you. . . I don't know.

Fire up.

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