Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thoughts While In the Car Rider Line: The Star Wars Edition

At River's school, they have what is known as the Car Rider Line, where you drop off and pick up your kids if they don't take the bus.  As a tree-hugging type of person, I would prefer for River to take the bus, but in order to get her to school via bus, I'd have to get two kids ready for school by seven o'clock, which is ridiculous if you consider that Jeffrey is like seventeen kids (none of which are old enough to help the younger ones put their socks on) and I have to get up at five if I want to make it out the door without tucking my robe into my sweatpants and pretending it's a shirt because they like for you to be dressed when you drop your kids off at the middle school.  Also, although our house is seriously less than a mile from the school, it takes an hour for it to get to our house after school and last year, a tornado warning happened right about the time the bus was NOT at our house and I almost lost my mind.

Walking her to school or sticking her in the WeeGo and riding her on the bike is an option only if I like to play chicken with the logging trucks that barrel down the major highway outside of our neighborhood.

We do the Car Rider Line.  Mkay?  Mkay.

Anyway, the Car Rider Line is usually where River and I talk about her day or her favorite books or something warm and family-friendly, but some days River is mad at me because she has to go to the variety show practice instead of Girl Scouts or I've made her wear a coat or told her that Tuesday comes after Monday and so I zone out instead of listening to her sob in the backseat.

And by "some days," I mean enough that "Thoughts While In the Car Rider Line" will probably be a semi-regular feature.  Enjoy.

"Huh, it's one of those car stick figure family stickers things."
"Is that zombies?"
"No, not zombies...ooooohhhh, Star Wars."
"Wait. Dude, no."
"Soooo, I know Darth Vader is the most recognizable male figure in terms of stick figureness, and probably Princess Leia is the most recognizable female--because let's be honest, there were...what...TWO of them in the whole thing--but THEY CANNOT BE THE MOM AND DAD STICK FIGURES."
Snicker.
"Intergalactic incest."
"But, I suppose that you could make the argument that, like, Dad ran off and Grandpa is the head of the family. Still, no. I'm gonna go with no."
"Are the kids two storm troopers?"
"Arrrrggggh! My kids are evil, mindless thugs of doom in masks that are hard to see in...."
"No, that's Boba Fett and a storm trooper. Which...I guess makes sense, really. In a cloney kind of way. Sort of."
"Is that Jango Fett, instead?"
"Does it matter? Let's be honest, the last three movies pretty much killed me dead with Jar Jar and Hayden, so I have no idea if I'm getting the canon right."
"I need a fricking Cliff Notes for the last three Star Wars before the new one."
"Ohmagawd, they better not kill the new one. The new one needs to be AWWWEEESOMMME." (Sung.)
"An ATAT as the family pet."
"Yeah, no. Those things are too big. Maybe...R2D2. Or, wait, wait...an EWOK."
"But then, you know, the Ewoks were an indigenous people who rebelled against imperial forces, so, I probably shouldn't go there."
"Gah, Heather, imperialist much?"
Cue Darth Vader masky breathing sound. "Come to the Dark Side, Heather. We squash indigenous people."
"Mmmmm...squash."
"I'm hungry."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trying Not to Poison the Kids

At breakfast, Jeffrey announced that his brown rice cereal had arsenic in it.

I think I just nodded and maybe said, "Oh, yeah?" as I surveyed the leftover boxes of crackers from New Year's and mentally calculated if I had enough to last the week for lunches.

"Yeah, the Consumer Reports said that all rice has arsenic in it and that you are basically poisoning yourself if you eat it."  And he took another ecstatic slurp of his cereal.

"Well, that's awful," I said as I rolled his roast beef slices up in a paper towel to dry them, because if I don't, muh GAWD at the juices and seriously, do I expect him to eat juices?  Then...

"Wait, what? Consumer Reports said what about rice?"

"It's full of arsenic.  You're POISONING ME!"  He grinned at me, then fell out of his chair making awful Walking Dead zombie gargling noises because he hadn't had his meds yet and also, because he's twelve.

"Get off the floor and bring me that magazine," I said, because really?  Reeeaaaallllyyyyy?

Now there's ANOTHER food to worry about?

When River was born almost eight years ago (pause to let y'all who've been with me a while soak THAT one in,) I went pretty crunchy.  I clean with vinegar, essential oils, and a few all-natural store-bought sprays, I stopped using paper towels in the kitchen (except for roast beef juice removal, obviously), I started buying more organic foods.  This was problematic for Jeffrey and Will, who were all about minty-fresh toilet bowls and neon-colored breakfast pastries filled with something that was part sugar, part food dye, and part...what?  Gummy "food product" that tastes like a strawberry's more lurid bedroom fantasies?  Anyway, the boys were not keen on the whole eating-real-food thing, but after Jeffrey read a few books and articles about the subject, he also embraced my loathing of high fructose corn syrup and processed foods and, with a few exceptions, was fine with the replacement foods.  (River, of course, had always had a crunchy mama and had grown up being able to say, in her piping little fairy voice, "High fruit syrup is baaaaaaaad."  Sniff.  I miss my little tree-hugging bitsy toddler.)

One thing both kids loved was brown rice cereal.  This is basically smished up brown rice--think grits or cream of wheat --that you heat up with water so it makes a gruel.  It is CRAZY expensive (the one store that carries it around here only has the organic kind,) but it is the one thing they will both eat without groaning, so I pay up the $7 a bag every month with a smile on my face.  Turns out, I am poisoning the kids with their favorite food.

Jeffrey was straight up right about the Consumer Reports article.  You can read it here.  You also could have read a similar report in 2012, when the magazine did another study about rice.  Jeffrey didn't have a subscription then, so I missed out.  Dang it!  Three whole years when I could have been worrying just a little bit more about my children's diet.  All that time wasted...

As I tossed out the leftover bag of rice cereal (which has more arsenic in one serving that CR  recommends for a week--*edited to add:  rechecked the 2012 study and found that my specific brand, because it is organic, actually has less than that, but I would be over the limit just serving one more rice dish a week) and checked to see where my basmati rice was grown (TEXAS--where the highest concentration of arsenic was found--they go big or go home in Texas,) I started thinking about how obnoxious it was that we have to be told to worry about our food.

Think about it:  we have to be told that our salad will give us e coli, our chicken will give us salmonella, our tuna was processed in a listeria-laden factory.  We are warned about the dangers of processed-soy products and informed that the waffles we bought last Tuesday contain fillers that are likely sawdust and IT'S OKAY.  Did you know that most foods processed in America have an acceptable base level for insects and animal hair and feces?  IT'S TRUE.  (Trust me, this is not the grossest food news that is out there in this world.  Allow me not to tell you about the disturbing article I came across which detailed how Chinese food producers source human hair from barber shops to get the cysteine from it so they could make soy sauce.  I just...no.)

Now, obviously, it is occasionally hard not to get hair or other weird stuff into your food when you're cooking at home.  I have a beagle, which means that almost every meal is going to come with at least one of his hairs, because he has roughly 280 kajillion of them, which apparently fall out and regrow overnight, congregating every morning on the kitchen floor. And just last night, I fished a dead ant from the fall's invasion out of the last teaspoon of my kosher salt.  I just shrugged and went on making my pizza crust.  The difference is...this is MY hair and ant.  I know exactly how clean (or not clean) the surfaces of my kitchen, the blades of my knife, and the bottoms of my pots are.  So I don't wig out about the fur or ants.

But I AM wigging out about how dependent I am on an agency or magazine to tell me if my food is safe.  Or, if not wigging out, at least tossing out the stuff that I don't need (like rice cereal when I have perfectly safe grits or oatmeal that they can also eat) or researching ways to make the things that we enjoy.  I'm also re-committed to planting a garden this year, which is why I already have onions sprouting on my window sill and why I went out and got a bunch of lettuce, broccoli, and mustard seed to plant today.  It just seems silly to have the time, resources, and land available to produce more of our food and NOT do that, you know?

Maybe I can find a grain substitute that will work, like amaranth.  I'll have to get Jeffrey to check Consumer Reports about the best kind of seed to buy...one without, you know, arsenic.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Folded Fitted What Now?

The picture in my header and the title of my blog crack me up, for a variety of reasons.

  1. They imply that I have my mess together, which is generally not true.  Most of the time, my mess is, well, MESSY, and it sort of slodges along being messy and chaotic and occasionally hurling bits of goodness from its depths, which makes people think that I have my mess together.  Case in point is this blog, which I've had parked here for almost a year now, waiting til I get cookies baked or hats crocheted or a garden weeded or that last episode of Bones watched before I actually, you know, publish it.
  2. They imply that I do pretty things like tie rosemary bunches together with embroidery thread and use them to scent my sheets.  Which, actually, right after I took this picture, I did, but what I'm trying to say is that, in my day to day life, I don't spend a lot of time tying rosemary bunches together with embroidery thread.  Right now, as we speak, I've got an iced tea pitcher full of rosemary stems that need to be salad spun and dried in the oven so that I can cook with them later, but other than the ones that are currently nestled between two mismatched sheets in my linen closet, rosemary stems go bare here.  I will use a rubber band to keep the sprigs together, but never (unless I am staging a picture) do I do it with embroidery thread.
  3. They imply that my home is rustically and artistically decorated, as evidenced by the antique electrical insulator in the background arranged on a barn board.  In truth, although I am aiming at some point in time to decorate my home both rustically AND artistically, the best way to describe my decorating style would be "she has children who spill things on her carpet" and "wait, are she and her husband still in college?"
Here's the deal about the header image:  roughly 478 years ago, I dated a guy for whom I was totally unsuited.  I don't mean that he was awful, or I was awful, or even that our relationship was awful, but we came from entirely different worlds and our personalities did not line up very gracefully in the end, which came right about the time I met my husband.  In any case, this guy's mother and I were even more unsuited for each other and I think both of us were frankly baffled by the improbability of us having a human being in common.  She wasn't awful, either, and she taught me a few lessons that I continue to use today.  The first is that pork chops, creamed corn, and biscuits are a perfect meal.  That woman could cook a pork chop, for serious.   The rest center around laundry, particularly folding fitted sheets.  Prior to dating her son, my method for folding fitted sheets was to take them out of the dryer, make a pass at folding them lenthwiseish a couple of times, and then rolling them into a ball easily tossed into the linen closet.  She taught me the magic of matching and tucking in corners so that you can actually put the things in the closet so they'll stack prettily and not look like you took purposefully ironed wrinkles into them when you make your bed.

Most of the people in my life reacted as if I was insane when I raved about folding fitted sheets, because who does that besides Martha Stewart and my exboyfriend's mother?  But I was proud of the fact that I folded those suckers, because the secret of me is that although I am an artist and a free spirit, I crave order like I crave Hershey Kisses.  (Which is a lot.)  I hide this fact well, beneath the mess of me.

And that's why this blog is entitled A Folded Fitted Sheet.  In 2005, I started writing a blog called I'm Not Hannah.  I wrote about being the mother of a toddler, being the mother of an Aspie, being the mother of a strong-willed daughter.  I wrote about being a Georgia Bulldog and a liberal in the South and a writer.   I wrote on topics ranging from the perfect sugar cookie to President Obama and I made a lovely circle of bloggy friends and enjoyed myself immensely for a good ten years.  Things changed as Facebook emerged as the go-to social media because instead of wanting to write a few paragraphs to make people laugh, think, cry, or bake cookies, I started wanting to write a few sentences to do the same thing.  I thought in blurbs as I went through my day, crafting a perfect phrase to describe my son's bedhead instead of speaking to the larger picture of what his bedhead represents.  But I still kept the blog and I still wrote an entry or two every once in a while that made me proud.

Then, almost at the same time, two things happened.  The first is that, for reasons I have grappled with and cried over, I had to stop writing I'm Not Hannah.  Eventually, in the words of the philosopher Elsa, I let it go, but it was weird to not be writing a blog any more.  Then a few weeks later, I turned forty-years-old.

Forty didn't hit me like a ton of bricks.  (I'm speaking of the psychological impact.  Physically, my knees and back and pretty much every other part of me except the fourth rib on the left collapsed panting in the living room and said, "Girl, you need to get in shape, because we are OLD and can't haul your soul around for much longer if you don't.")  (Yes, my body parts talk to me.  I understand yours probably don't.  Lucky you.)  I didn't feel old or worn out or discouraged, as apparently I was supposed to do.  I felt, you know, pretty dang relieved that I'd made it this far and that I had a lovely family and good friends and all in all, a nice life.

HOWEVER.  There was a niggling idea that maybe I wasn't as together as I needed to be and that it would be awesome to finish writing those novels, plant a garden that actually provided my family sustenance, and get the slipcover for the couch finished.  There was a thought that I still had time to become the exact Heather I needed to be, but, um, like, the time might be a bit more...CONCENTRATED than it used to be.

Around this time, I read a post from a blog friend I hadn't visited with in a billion years.  YES!!  I thought.   I, too, miss thinking in complete sentences.  I, too, am addicted to Facebook and need to make a change, yo.  I started thinking about writing another blog, but what to title it?  I had been Not Hannah for so long that I couldn't imagine not being Not Hannah anymore.  But I didn't want to title the blog I'm Not I'm Not Hannah or The Blogger Formerly Known as Not Hannah, because that's just awkward.  A friend threw a few ideas at me, included the one you see above, which obviously works for me.

It fits me, I think.  A folded fitted sheet, you know, will never be a perfect square.  There aren't enough real corners.  There are too many curves for everything to line up perfectly.  But it is trying, bless its heart.  It's trying to make order of itself, which is pretty much the story of my life, bless MY heart.

And I think that's what this blog will be for me:  a place of order where I can contain my mess.  Or maybe it will be the place I go to escape from the mess.  I'm not sure yet.  If you're here from I'm Not Hannah,  HEY!!!  I MISSED YOU!  COME AND GIVE US A SQUUNCH.  If you're here randomly from the interweb, HEY!!!  NICE TO MEET YOU!  COME AND GIVE US A SQUUNCH.

I'm nothing if not enthusiastic.