My Weekend with Erma

A few weeks ago, I went to my first Bruce Springsteen concert.  For almost four hours, the Boss delivered his hits plus some and never slowed down once. Impressive for anyone, let alone a 65 year old, right? There’s a reason he’s nicknamed The Boss. As a matter of fact, some would call him the biggest rock star in the world.

I jumped right in to “the pit”, dragging my daughter with me as we shoved our way to the front of the stage. My word for the year is “adventure”, and I wasn’t about to waste a minute.

Erma Bombeck

Cut to a couple of days after the Springsteen concert, when I left for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, held every two years in Dayton Ohio.  Put on in honor of Erma, my writing idol since childhood, attendees and faculty are humor and human interest writers from around the country; these are the people who
leave me tongue tied and intimidated by their sheer level of talent. People that have spent their lives dedicated to stringing together words to make you nod in recognition, to make you chuckle, to make you full-on belly laugh.

In other words? These people are my rock stars.

Yes, I fangirl over humor writers.  Get positively stupid around them. If there was a Tiger Beat for humor writers, I’d totally be the first subscriber.

Because I’m in such awe of them, before I arrived at the hotel I worried about what I would do if I ran into someone I admired in the elevator or the lobby.  An awkward encounter with a well-known humorist years ago taught me that I cannot be trusted to open my mouth in front of anyone of that caliber; I can’t remember what I said to Dave Barry that made him look at me funny; probably something along the lines of, “Gwaaahhfuuusneeblesnrrrkrk! Muhhh!”

Yep, as soon as I opened my mouth I apparently suffered some sort of mini-stroke. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And the trauma has stayed with me for life, my friends.

Yet when I got there, the atmosphere at this workshop put me immediately at ease.  The famous humor writers in attendance didn’t set themselves apart like cossetted celebrities. As a matter of fact, they weren’t even the least bit intimidating. Hanging out, talking, and drinking wine with us mere mortals, without fail each and every person I encountered was warm and down to earth. I was comfortable, able to be myself. No weird looks.

I was home.

So when, after waiting a lifetime, or at least the long two years after you discovered the conference’s existence, you finally get there, what do you do?  You jump right in, and you don’t waste a minute.

Case in point: When you are at the coffee bar in the morning, and standing next to you is a mega famous author who just happens to have written the book currently on your nightstand, you strike up a conversation.  And then you walk with her because she happens to be running your first session. And she doesn’t even call for security.

Lisa Packer and Gina Barreca EBWW2014

Me and Gina Barreca. At EBWW, stalking is totally acceptable.

And when the winner of the Thurber Prize gives you an opportunity to read some of your work out loud, with a pounding heart you do it.  Then you float for the rest of the day on his positive feedback.

And when a well-known comedian and writer asks if she can sit with you at breakfast, you say yes. You try to play it cool but in your head you’re like a twelve year old girl who just got invited backstage to meet One Direction and all you can think is, “Holy crap I can’t believe this is really happening and please God don’t let there be anything in my teeth!”

And when a famous columnist calls you over, introduces herself, and wants to know what’s in the bag of stuff you just bought at CVS, you introduce yourself right back and let her paw through your bag. And are grateful you didn’t just buy hemorrhoid cream or anything that involves the words “Summer Breeze”.

So I spent three days in the company of the most fabulous, talented, and supportive group of people I have ever met. People who get it. People who get me. We laughed until our sides hurt, we teared up, we learned from the best.  Not once did I have to tell someone I write humor and get that awkward silence in return. (Why is it that no one ever knows what to say? It’s humor, people. Not competitive macramé or the Occult.)   I want to thank each and every one of the organizers, faculty, and attendees, including the Bombeck family, for the got-your back, supportive, inspiring atmosphere.

And by the time I left?  I had 350 new rock stars.

‘Cause Springsteen’s got nothing on the Bombeckians.

Never Let ‘Em See You Goop

Despite their jaunty neckerchiefs, the group faded into obscurity after years of failed efforts to work "Consciously Uncoupling" into a country song.

Despite their jaunty neckerchiefs, the group faded into obscurity after years of failed efforts to work “Consciously Uncoupling” into a country song.

Turn out the lights when you leave, folks. The party’s over, and all that’s left are a couple of unfortunately named children and a smattering of organic red pepper hummus on an exquisite china plate.

That’s right; Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are divorcing.  Er, separating. No wait. “Consciously uncoupling”, to use Dear Gwyneth’s language.  So, apparently, if you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, the words that mere mortals use are too common for her. Divorce? Separation? Eeeewwwww! So middle class. So… flyover country. I am the mighty Gwyneth, and I have a golden halo that surrounds me and all that I do. Do not approach the halo. Security!  A common person is breathing the same air as me! I demand my own air!

It got me curious. I’d never been to the Goop website, the paean to All Things Great and Paltrow.  So against my better judgment I decided to check it out. Unfortunately, it turns out one cannot access the valuable information without a subscription. I considered subscribing, for research purposes. I really did. But as it turns out I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one than have Gwyneth Paltrow show up in my in-box once a week.  So instead I just spent a few minutes surveying one of the only pages available to the wretched non-subscribed.  I got a distinct vibe of Glinda in the bubble, descending from heavens to bestow her wisdom on the poor unfortunates below.  After a couple of paragraphs of  Gwynnie explaining her altruistic motives for allowing the unwashed masses to attempt to be just as fabulous as her, well, my eyes glazed over. Probably with Goop. I’m not sure.

But, back to the “consciously uncoupling” curiosity. Apparently in Gwyneth-speak, even the most unpleasant words or routine daily tasks need to be fancied up so they have a certain cache. Like tarnished silver, they can be polished to a high shine that will make unappealing stink-bombs suddenly a trendy part of the lexicon.

I know, I know, you’re looking at your Target t-shirt and possibly can’t remember if you brushed your teeth this morning, thinking, “But how can I ever achieve the heights of The Great Gwyneth? Lo, I fear it to be an impossible task.” Fear not, I’m here to help.  Will it give you the flaxen hair that looks like it was shat out by a thousand angels? No. Nor will it give you the ice cold, thousand-yard stare or the look on your face that says “Your utter lack of fabulousness bores me.”  But it will give you a certain Goop- inspired panache that is sure to be a hit at pre-school drop-off.

Try these phrases to give some sparkle to your humdrum life, and you too, can feel like you’re married to consciously uncoupling with a rock star.

For example, you’re not eating;  You’re “Ethically Masticating”. Ooohhh, fancy!

How about instead of showering, you try “Organically Purifying”? I’ll bet you’re starting to feel a bit more Gwyneth-like as we speak.

Whatcha doing? “Cleaning the house.”  No you’re not; you’re “Domestically Clarifying”.

Need to go grocery shopping? Try “Resourcefully Foraging” instead.

Feel like exercising?  Good for you, but “Energetically Fortifying your Essence” is a sure fire way to feel like an Oscar winner!

Are you getting the idea? Napping becomes “Responsibly Re-energizing your Aura”.

Sucking back three cups of expensive coffee becomes “Conscientiously Supporting Fair-Trade Workers”.

Sitting becomes “Assertively Co-mingling with the Furniture”.

Eating all of the Girl Scout cookies in the pantry becomes “Creating more Space through Consumption”.

Even licking Cheetos dust off of your fingers can sound fancy if you call it “Eco-friendly Cleansing”.

With these handy phrases, I hope I’ve given you a good start on your shiny new Gwyneth-inspired life. In no time, I’m sure you will have perfected the lingo, as well as the frosty look that threatens to turn lesser beings to stone.

But first you should probably brush your teeth.

 

Never Let 'Em See You Goop

 

 

 

An Erma Smack-Down

Any time you submit a piece of your writing for a contest or to be considered for publication, you’re leaving your most tender parts exposed and vulnerable. Picture a hermit crab without a shell; that’s a writer waiting for someone else to hand down judgement.  You’re all nervous and pink and quivery, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.  And it’s even scarier when you submit a piece to a contest that bears your writing idol’s name.

Back in February, I submitted a piece to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Competition. And then I waited. As the time for the winners to be announced drew near, I imagined various scenarios that were taking place behind the scenes regarding my contest entry. Either  A) the judges were immediately declaring me the hands down winner, or B) the judges were scanning my entry, tossing around words like “crap-tastic”, and then balling it up for a three point shot into the trash can. After spitting on it.

Well, the winners were announced this week. And no, I wasn’t one of them. (Insert pathetic, sad trombone here.)  But I will hold my head high, because I’m proud of what I wrote. All 853 people who entered should be proud, for that matter. So while I lick my wounds and self-medicate with pie, I invite you to read my contest entry, which, because I lost, is now available for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to the Tree Farm

Tragically, the festivities took a dark turn when the children took the phrase “tree lighting” a bit too literally.

 

The brisk air and the appearance of twinkling lights tell me it’s time. Time to shake off the confines of our suburban cocoon and venture forth to the wilds, as our ancestors did before us.

“We’ll go today,” I tell my husband. He’s apprehensive, but knows nothing can deter me. I feel like Quint hunting the Great White, except…less grizzled. Yes, today we’re off to find the Christmas tree.

Lesser mortals have been felled by the Christmas tree farm’s porta-potties, hot cocoa the temperature of molten lava, $50 wreaths, and rusty saws. But not I. I will claim my prize, threat of tetanus or no.

Over the trilling of Jingle Bells coming from the parking lot loudspeakers, I sidle up to the white-haired farmer and deliver my edict. “Direct me to your most hearty trees, good sir,” I say grandly, as my kids try to pretend they’re with a different family.

“Well, we have some nice Scotch Pines… or maybe a Norway Spruce?” He offers. But I know what I came for and I’m not leaving without it.

“Ha!” I scoff.  “Not good enough. I want the toughest tree you’ve got,” I say, grabbing my children as I notice them trying to sneak off with a group of Mennonites.

He hesitates, then looks around before leaning in and whispering, “Well, there’s the Blue Spruce, but…” He shakes his head. “Are you sure you want that? Tough branches, but them needles are as sharp as… well, needles.”

Not to be dissuaded, I set my jaw and push up my sleeve. “See this scar? The Great Decorating Debacle, 2006. And this one? 2009. I was putting the star on top. Tree fell over. Lost seventeen ornaments that day…let’s just say I’ll never use a stepladder again.”

I see fear in his craggy blue eyes… and something else. Respect, perhaps? A few seconds later, he relents.

“Across the creek. At the second row of trees turn left. And…good luck out there,” he murmurs.

“Onward, family! The trees be yonder! Prepare to come about!” I shout, adding an “Arrrggghh!” and a  squint for good measure.

“Um, since when are you Scottish? And a pirate?” My husband asks. Ignoring him, I grab the proffered saw and sled and we plunge into the wilderness.

After an hour, we locate the Holy Grail: A tree we all like.  “That’s a twelve footer!” my husband says in awe. “Twelve and a half,” I say with authority. Sawing commences, and we load our trophy onto the sled to drag it back. It takes twenty minutes to lash the enormous tree to the roof of the car.

But as the leviathan on top of the car creaks and strains all the way home, I realize it might be time to face the inevitable truth.

I think we’re gonna need a bigger minivan.

Craftsman Makes WHAT Possible?

 

Craftsman makes what possible?

The following is an actual conversation I had recently with my sister, who for the purposes of this blog I’ll call Kiki. For no particular reason than this will make her happy because she’s been trying to make a nickname for herself happen since 1982.

Kiki: So, because you’re my sister, I can tell you this. You’ll understand.

Me: Okay, what?

Kiki: So, you know how I’ve been having trouble with my feet? Like, these really big, painful callouses. Huge. I’ve tried all of this different stuff and nothing has worked. I was going to go get a pedicure but then a friend of mine said she got this really awful toe infection from a really good salon, so I decided not to do that.

Me: (wondering where this is leading):  Okaaaaayy….

Kiki: So the other morning, I had an idea.  (Husband) was still asleep, so I woke him up and asked him to get his electric sander out of the garage.

Me: Oh God. You didn’t.

Kiki: I did. He didn’t think it was a good idea, obviously. But you know how when I get an idea in my head I just won’t let it go? And I get really really mad if anyone tries to argue with me?

Me: Yes. Yes I do.

Note: Do not ever try to argue with my sister. It’s like trying to fight a large angry bear with a cotton swab; in the end you’ll lose and probably get eaten.

Kiki:   So he kept trying to say things like “Maybe you shouldn’t do that…” and “I’m not so sure this is a good idea!” But I just kept raising my voice over him until finally I was yelling  “WOULD YOU JUST GET THE SANDER OUT OF THE GARAGE FOR GOD’S SAKE!” You know how I get.

Me: Uh, yeah. So then what happened?

Note: see above

Kiki: So he finally brought it to me. And I sanded my feet. But the funniest part was that he was trying to film me with his iPhone while I was doing it, and I was screaming at him and trying to swat him away because I didn’t want him filming me, and the kids were upstairs and all they can hear is this really loud power tool start up and me yelling, “OH MY GOD STOP THAT! GET AWAY FROM ME!”  So they came running downstairs because they were convinced he was trying to kill me with an electric drill or something.

Note: My brother in law would never attempt to kill anyone with a power tool of any sort. In addition to the fact that he’s very nice and mild-mannered, he’s way too fastidious about his tools and I’m sure getting blood out of a drill bit would be a nightmare, amiright?

Me: Why am I not surprised you used an electric sander on your feet?  Wait… did it work?

Kiki: Worked like a charm. You wouldn’t believe how smooth my feet are now!

Me: Hmmmm… Interesting. So, um, what exactly was the grit of the sandpaper you used?

And this is why God made us sisters. Because she can call me to tell me that she just used an ill-advised power tool on her feet and then we can have an entire conversation about the proper grit of the sandpaper one should use for optimum foot-softness.

In non-hardware related news, I am honored to be this week’s victim/interviewee for  Getting Possessed with Kathy and the Dishwasher over at My Dishwasher is Possessed.  Click here to read the interview, and stay to peruse Kathy’s’s gaw-geous new site.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

Anti-Valentines: My Latest Million Dollar Idea

While I am taking an unwilling  break from blogging, please enjoy this festive Valentine’s post that originally ran last year.  

 

Sadly, after the kids left preschool, these adorable anthropomorphic plums were never able to find work again.

Sadly, after the kids left preschool, these adorable anthropomorphic plums were never able to find work again.

 

Apparently, sixth grade is the cut-off for school Valentines. Lucy told me, in no uncertain terms, “Bleccchh. No way am I bringing Valentine cards to school.” No ambiguity there. She wanted to bring candy, though. Apparently that is still within the realm of social acceptability for kids her age. So we trotted out yesterday in search of lollipops. She selected a box from the conveniently located Valentines display at the front of the store, we paid, and headed for home. We were halfway home when she ripped  open the box and was horrified to find out that the lollipops all had messages on them.

And not just any messages. These were emblazoned with gems such as “I Love You” Kiss me” Be mine” You’re Hot” You’re Cute” “Date me” “Totally Yours”, among others.

“Gaaahhh! What am I gonna do? I can’t hand these out, I’ll never live it down!”  she yelled, fully aware of the social devastation that would most certainly occur. Serious business, apparently, to send the wrong message.

I, of course, was laughing too hard to be of any help.

Industrious girl that she is, when we got home she grabbed a Sharpie and blacked out all unacceptable messages. Y’all, she was as efficient as CBS blacking out Katy Perry’s cleavage at the Grammys. Problem solved.

Note to the Valentines Candy People: You are leaving money on the table! Because unless you’re making expensive, exquisite artisan chocolates, most of your market is elementary school children. And children of this age? Mostly think the opposite sex is “meh”, if not downright yucky.

In that light, might I suggest a different marketing strategy, geared specifically for the 2nd through 6th grade buyer?We’ll call them Anti-Valentines.

Here are my ideas for alternative messages:

“You’re not totally gross.”

“You’re okay, I guess.”

“I’ll sit next to you because I have to. Just don’t talk.”

“Best Friends Forever. Or at least until next week.”

“I like you, but I don’t “like you” like you.”

“You could be worse.”

“You have Cheetos stuck in your braces.”

“Kiss me and I’ll slug you and then tell the teacher.”

“I guess you’d be cute if you weren’t so short.”

“Dad says I’m not allowed to date until I’m 30.” “

“You have nice handwriting.”

“Sometimes you can be kinda funny I guess.”

“You are okay at square dancing. Just try not to touch me.”

 

These will fly off the shelves, I guarantee it. You’re welcome, Candy Manufacturers. You get working on this right away, and I’ll see you next year.

 

Don’t Drink and Style

Don't Drink and Style

 

Dear Klips -n- Kuts  Hair Stylist,

Last Saturday, when I asked my husband to take my son to get a haircut at your establishment, I envisioned a neatly shorn, well-groomed boy returning home. Unfortunately, that was not the sight that greeted me upon his return.

Allow me to explain. My son’s hair is complicated. More complicated than you’d expect a boy’s hair to be, really. His hair is quite thick, and tends to grow forward on the top. What this means, in a nutshell, is that if it isn’t cut exactly right he ends up with… bangs. Perhaps this is my issue, but bangs are simply not a good look for my son. My husband knows the drill, and knows to ask for the Boy’s hair to be cut exactly like his. Thinned out on the top, short in the front, and most importantly, off of his forehead.  Instructions given, my husband committed the cardinal error of going to the waiting area to read a magazine. You, my dear, were left to your own devices. And then? Very bad things happened.

When my husband slunk in the door, followed closely by my very unhappy looking son, I was dismayed, nay horrified, to see my that my son  now looked like this:

 

CC Image courtesy of Insomnia Cured Here  on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Insomnia Cured Here on Flickr

 

Yep. The only thing missing was the chipped tooth.

“Was the stylist drunk?” I hissed as I surveyed the damage. My poor, sweet  husband just shook his head in stunned silence. My son looked glum.

In addition to the ridiculous straight across bangs, tufts of hair stuck out everywhere all over the back and sides of his head, making his hair look not “cut” so much as “caught in machinery”. And in certain hacked-off places, scissor marks were still visible. Seriously, if I wanted his hair to look this way I would have just handed him  scissors and told him to do it himself.

I wracked my brain to think how this could have happened, and came up with a few possible explanations.

  1. Inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can”, you decided to wander in off of the street and pretend to be a hair stylist for the day, with no actual training or skill.
  2. All of the scissors were stolen in a bizarre heist  so you were forced to use hedge trimmers.
  3. You attempted to cut my son’s hair while he rode a mechanical bull.

Now, lest you think that since he is only six  a lousy haircut isn’t really that big of a deal, may I remind you that he does have peers. Peers who, although they may not have the vocabulary to articulate the fact that my son now looks like  a cast extra from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, will make fun of him nonetheless.

So against my better judgement I will be bringing him back in, at which time a different stylist, preferably one who hasn’t been doing tequila shots, will fix the mess on his head. For free.

I think we all learned lessons today. I learned that you get what you pay for, so I will be taking my son to a better quality salon in the future. Because two weeks of training at  the Degrees In an Instant Online Beauty Academy really shouldn’t qualify anyone for a career as a stylist. To that end,  might I recommend that you seek a different line of work? Preferably one that doesn’t involve sharp instruments? Because I’m serious when I say that you shouldn’t  be trusted to cut anything ever again. Not even parade confetti.

Sincerely,

A Loving Mother

 

 

 

Compliment Yourself Friday

Compliment Yourself Friday

 

I’m back. Hold your applause, please, it’s really quite deafening.

I won’t go into the litany of things that have kept me from blogging in the past couple of months. Suffice it to say there were  things going on that not only prevented me from writing time wise, but that also contributed to a writers’ block that  could give the Great Wall of China a run for its money. Let’s call it the Great Wall of Suck.

Also there was Christmas, which came way too shortly on the heels of Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving was all, “Dude, back off, would ya?” and Christmas was all “It’s a free country! Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.” And they were uncomfortably crunched up together like three kids in the back of a Honda on the way to Grandma’s for Christmas. By the way, that song about Over the River and Through the Woods certainly missed the mark by not adding the line, “Moooommmm, tell her to stop touching me!” But you probably knew that.

But today the sun is shining, the house is relatively quiet, and the chaos of Christmas Day is behind us. The only way to tackle writers’ block, I suppose, is to blast through it. So I called up the Acme  Company, got myself a big load o’ TNT a la Wile E. Coyote, and I’m lighting the fuse. BOOM!

In honor of my return, today I’m proud to announce a new feature on the blog, Compliment Yourself Friday! Yep, it’s a new year, and I’m finally fulfilling a promise I made a couple of months ago after the Blogger Idol competition.  It might not be every single Friday, because, you know, life, but I can promise you this: Compliment Yourself Friday will never be on Tuesday. What? It’s the small victories, really. Try to focus.

Compliment Yourself Friday is based on a simple premise: That  Those Who Blog and Parent are fabulous, fearless, masters of multi-tasking.  We are not wine-swilling, yoga pants wearing, spit up laden screw-ups whose kids are all going to need therapy. Sure, it may be funnier to portray ourselves that way, but it’s usually not true. Maybe it all goes back to that little junior high voice in our heads that says it’s not okay to give yourself a pat on the back. We feel like we’ll fit in better if we put ourselves down.

Well, today it’s time to tell that little voice to shut it. Kick that voice to the curb. From now on, no matter what happens during the week, no matter how many times we have to order takeout or how many times our kids missed the bus, we will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and go into each and every weekend feeling fantastic. Confident.

It’s time to stop being so hard on ourselves. As women, as moms. As wives. As human beings.  It’s time to embrace the positive. I am talking about finding something about ourselves that we can comfortably say, “I am awesome at _______. Go me!”

So. In the comments, I challenge you to tell me something you like about yourself. Do you have awesome hair? Say it. Does your hair usually look a mess, but today happens to be a good hair day?  Are you particularly proud of your ankles? I want to know. Let’s turn this cycle of negative bloggery (it is so a word) around.

Or, take a different direction, and tell me something you’re really good at, or that you did well these past few weeks. Did you finish all of your shopping early? Did you fix your hot water heater by yourselves, and not have to call a plumber?  Did you draw something? (share it, please!).  What were your victories this past month?

I’ll start. I finally cleared off the very junky workbench in the basement and created a sort of gift wrapping station. That way I didn’t have to make a mess by wrapping presents on my bedroom floor like I usually do.  No more children stealing my tape and scissors! I confined the mess to the basement so after wrapping I could just walk out and shut the door on the whole thing, thus creating the illusion of neatness in the rest of the house. I felt all Martha Stewart-ey, except without rising at 4:00 AM to hand-butcher my own heirloom cattle.

Oh, and guess who  registered for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in April? This gal.  So for three days I get to hang out with MY rock stars, the most talented humor writers in the flippin’ country. Not intimidating at all.

So go on. Brag about yourself. You deserve  it. Oh, and by the way, your hair looks fabulous today.

Guest Post: Eli at Coach Daddy

Today I’m proud to announce that Notes from the Shallow End is hosting its first guest post! And the honor goes to Eli at Coach Daddy, one of the blogs I’ve been following since I started down this crazy path. Eli is a soccer dad, a coach,father of three daughters, and a fantastic writer; also it turns out he is as food obsessed as I am, which makes him the perfect guest poster!  Trust me, you’ll be inspired to hit the fridge after you read this.  Take it away, Eli.

 

Cooking is a highlight of my existence – right up there with coaching soccer and tickling my girls.

By Miia Ranta from Finland (Curing salmon  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Miia Ranta

Seriously, I probably spend considerably more hours per week thinking about food than actually preparing it.

I realize this makes me sound a bit obsessed and perhaps unhealthily attached. Someone will probably retweet this column with the hashtag #dadswitheatingdisorders. They’d be completely justified, as I recognize I’m a bit dreamy when it comes to preparing food.

I actively seek nourishment in any way that especially involves me, a kitchen, kids, tortillas and cheese. I’ve made pancakes for no special occasion; planned my study time around pizza specials on campus, and would undoubtedly attend parties hosted by friends I might not like very much due to their propensity to serve delicious fare.

I used to love walking down Tryon Street on my dinner break when I worked uptown, for exercise, sure, but mostly to smell all the incredible aromas from the restaurants along the way.

Just nose shopping, I suppose, and trying not to look too hungry.

My kids have heard the phrase, “What do you want for breakfast?” to start almost every day of their lives, because breakfast is the most important meal. I’ve taught them that a well-balanced meal consists of at least two waffles, an egg, milk, juice if we can afford it that week, and should always lead right into thoughts about what we should have for lunch.

We’ve spun through the mall’s food court in hopes we’ll get to sample everyone’s chicken specialties.

“I’d love some!” I say as I consider wearing fake glasses or taking off my jacket or using a fake accent to give the appearance of being someone else for another run through the free food.

Food, while greatly appreciated when prepared by others, is a huge source of joy for me if I prepare it myself. I’m so food oriented; I know what I wore when I had a great steak four years ago, can’t wait to hear about the seafood specials, and although, I don’t know much about the term “fair market value,” I’m all about restaurant.com gift certificates.

I’ve been told that I’m an ideal dinner companion, as I have no particular restaurant preference, and I can get sauced on half a glass of wine. I am also likely to help you finish your entrée, and I’ll never forget to bring the leftovers out to the car.

Seriously, put some food in front of me so I can savor it, talk about it, and think about my next meal.

My girls, ages 8, 13 and 15, are similar to me in this way. In their world, food is a carnival, and they can go long periods of time just thinking about what to stuff in their crepes or who will get the first tortilla off the skillet.

And because breakfast is the most important meal of the day for pediatricians, clergy and President Obama, I can
celebrate our enthusiasm when it comes to nourishment. I’ve trained myself to embrace my affinity for it, and set aside each Saturday morning during the soccer offseason to prepare a breakfast chock full of yumminess, visual appeal, enticing aromas, and double whatever our favorite ingredient might be.

By [cipher] (http://www.flickr.com/photos/h4ck/2301135433/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cipher

I realize that my dedication, as is true for all parents who like serving as the occasional family chef, will be appreciated. The sugar cookies I made from scratch? Dipped in hot cocoa, and scarfed in unreasonable numbers. The omelets I prepared with “too much” cheese (as requested by Elise) and whipped up fluffy and delicious? Devoured with reckless abandon when they realized the inside tasted a bit like the county fair, Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one.

But rather than leaping from the couch to hug me and kiss my face after providing this culinary circus, or even just bring their dirty plates to the sink, they’ll simply prop their feet, conjure up H2O or the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix, and leave me to enjoy my own omelet in peace.

There’s a considerable portion of me that wishes to simply shrug internally and think, “Meh, they’ll cook for themselves when I’m not around. They’re not some entitled divas in a mansion in South Charlotte; there’s no way they’ll actually be helpless when it comes to making their own breakfast.”

I know this is true. The Wii fit all but admits this. That little animated circuit board sizes my girls up standing barefoot on it, in their form-fitting Aeropostale gear and soccer shirts, their strong leg muscles and taut bellies lean enough to give them enough power to overcome both parents if they wanted to; but it once murmured to me about one, “Maybe you could feed her a carrot once in a while. I mean, will she eat a carrot?”

I’m like, “Sure. I mean, I would imagine so. I think we have some in the refrigerator.”

By Whitney from Chicago, IL (Ranch Dressing  Uploaded by Diádoco) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Whitney from Chicago

(Grace, the child who can go long bouts eating like starving artist, wriggles with joy at hearing carrots, because
it means copious amounts of ranch dressing, too).

Marie’s interest in food and ability to demolish a plate of nachos like a category 4 hurricane compels me to kick it up a notch. I mean, I have wheat flour; I’ve heard it’s healthy. I also realize that if I really succumbed to my inner foodie, I’d splurge the meager grocery budget on things such as cream of tartar, heavy cream, and fennel seeds.

With all those resources, it would seem the odds would be in my favor to produce something legendary.

But, with the newfound realization I’ve earned like a jester – not a king, I resolved to visit allrecipes.com, type in the not-so-exotic ingredients we actually have in the kitchen, and simply cook/bake/prepare. This is what evolved:

Two Saturdays Ago: I discovered a new recipe for crepes – thinner, yummier.

Verdict: They flew off the grill like hotcakes. Well, better than hotcakes. Elise would have loved to roll six or seven of them up in a row; she didn’t say the words, but I could see it in her love-drenched eyes. (I hope crepes are the only thing she gets dreamy about rolling up. Every time I think of her going to Appalachian State or UNC Wilmington.… ).

Last Saturday: I made pancakes from a recipe that called for mixing milk and vinegar, allowing the mixture to “sour,” but promising a glorious result of the fluffiest, tastiest proportions.

Verdict: An instant classic. Marie sheepishly finished a conservative serving of three silver-dollar sized pancakes, and then returned to the kitchen several times before lunch to steal more pancakes. “They’re like cookies,” she said, and I swear her eyes googled a bit like Cookie Monster’s.

Sunday: I baked cookies for a church outreach mission to a women’s prison – Grace and I found a recipe for molasses cookies, and after I convinced her we wouldn’t have to kill any moles in the process, we dug in. (Don’t ask what part of the animal she thought we’d be using.)

Verdict: Grace sampled many cookies as they sat on the cooling rack, declared them fit, and we agreed they’d be an enormous hit in prison. (Of course, the girls’ concept of “prison” is restricted to describing school lunch and Elise’s recent social studies unit on Alcatraz).

Tonight? I have this hankering to make tortillas, and pots of beans and beef and bowls of cheese and lettuce and jars of salsa and sour cream, and just let the kidlets express themselves on their tortillas.

Predicted verdict: “This is what heaven must be like, Daddy.”

It really must.

I can’t wait. (For dinner; heaven can wait.)

 

When he isn’t cooking or coaching, Eli writes about fatherhood, food, and futbol on Coach Daddy. Follow him on Twitter.

They’re Coming to Take Me Away

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

I have to write this quick because I think they’re coming for me.

I’ll explain. See, I wrote a post for Blogger Idol his week, and the assignment was that we were supposed to reveal a secret. And since I have no secrets (come on, I’m a blogger for crap’s sake… it’s all out there, ya know?) I wrote a silly expose about myself and other mom bloggers. About how we are secretly more together than we portray ourselves to be, and how we tend to play up our ineptitude for laughs. Funny, right?

Except the judges didn’t get it. They thought it was funny, but didn’t see how it fit the criteria of the assignment. I think they were hoping that I’d reveal that I’m secretly a man, or sit around huffing Sharpie marker fumes when my kids are at school. Sorry, nothing to see here folks. Move along. And the most illicit thing I do when my kids are at school is watch The Chew. Anyway I’m pretty sure the judges are on their way to my house en masse to break my kneecaps or worse.

Sshhhh… did you hear something? Oh, okay, it was just the wind. Phew.

So here’s the thing. Given that I’m very very certain to have a judges score this week probably in the negatives if that’s even possible, simply for the crime of having no drama in my life, I’m going to need your help. The only thing that will save me is a decent number of votes. Seriously it only takes one minute. Click on this here fancy link, scroll down to the shaded voting box, check Notes from the Shallow End, and click “vote”.  I just… wait… what was that? Seriously. Outside. In the bushes. It was like a rustling. Ah. Never mind, just a bird.

It’s no secret that, as a smaller blogger, it’s harder to generate votes. I’ve been an underdog since day one in this competition. (And can I just say that without the help of my AOPi sisters, I wouldn’t have gotten through to this point. Thank you ladies. Mwah!)   But I want to be the one to show the world that you don’t have to be a mega-blogger to be considered successful. Can you imagine if a blog like mine, not even a year and a half old, could go the distance? Please vote for me. Or else the terrorists have won.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone’s at the door. (Whaaaa? Torches?! Aaaggghhhh! THUMP! KA-POW! OmmyGodsomebodyhelpmeeeee! (Sound of corpse being dragged)

Notes from the Shallow End

 

Week 6, and I’m Taking on Cyber Bullying

Blogger Idol

I’m still in it! It’s week 6 in the Blogger Idol competition, and in a surprise twist, no one was eliminated last week. I’m not going to lie to you; these past six weeks have been tough. But tough like writers’ boot camp… lots of hard work that toughens you up, and shapes you into something different. Something better.

I’ll give you an example. This week our assignment was “Hot Topics”. I’m a humor writer… I don’t do politics, and as ripe for ridicule as the Kardashians are, I won’t write about them either. (Eccchhh….they get enough exposure. Like the celebrity version of lice in a preschool.) But I stretched my blogger wings, so to speak, and I’m pretty proud of the post. It’s a pretty serious subject: cyber bullying.  Never mind that it took eating my weight in Reese’s Cups to write it. I learned a lot in researching it, and I hope you do too. Click here to check it out, and of course voting for me would be even better!

Seriously. Vote. You don’t want to be responsible for me ending up rocking in the corner, my face all covered in melted chocolate and tear stains, do you?  Didn’t think so.