Don't leave your pants in a pumpkin patch

One thing I loved about holidays growing up were the corresponding Charlie Brown TV specials.  I mean, who doesn't love "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown?" (I think that's what it's called).  In case you never watched this - in which case I think you can make a persuasive argument of abuse and/or neglect - Linus sits in the punkin patch (that's the folksy spelling that I just made up) all through Halloween waiting for the Great Punkin to bring presents to all the girls and boys.  He manages to talk Sally into sitting with him (or maybe she volunteers because she is not so secretly in love with this big headed, punkin obsessed kid), and they wait all night for the Great Punkin, who - shocker - is a no show.  In the end she gets pretty hacked off because she realizes that she missed all the good parts of Halloween while she was waiting around on the dreams of some stupid boy (there's a lesson in that girls).

Well Linus, do not despair - I have found your people and they have got your back.  Maybe you did not know this (and neither did I until I watched a public television special called "Lord of the Gourd" - because we get 4 channels on our TV), but there are people in this great land of ours that are just as passionate about punkins as you are Linus.  These produce engineers dedicate their lives to growing and weighing off giant punkins.  I'm talking about punkins that weigh 1044 lbs. , 1225 lbs., 1091 lbs.  (Apparently this last weight was a disappointment because they interviewed a bunch of people that seemed really upset about it.  I'm talking tears people.  No joke.)

If you think you've seen commitment, think again.  These punkin growers make Navy Seals look like a bunch of lay-about slackers.  The punkin competition circuit is apparently similar to a cage fight to the death and is wrought with hidden perils.  Among these - rodents, water, no water, bugs (all kinds), and sabotage from jealous competitors.  (Yes, sabotage - one family actually has surveillance cameras all around their punkin patch to catch the perps.  Which, they let us know, should serve hard time for their crimes against giant gourds.  It's vegicide is what it is really and we can't punish that severely enough I say.)

All other endeavors take a back seat to nurturing the punkins.  One of the growers actually said "sometimes I can't go to family stuff, like my daughter's soccer games, because I have to feed the punkins".  I pictured him sitting next to a huge punkin holding a spoon and yelling, (much like Brando in "Street Car..." or "On the Waterfront"), "Puuunnkiiinnn.  We could have been a contender".  (It was all very dramatic in my mind).

I was all impressed with these people until one of them said that taking care of his punkin was harder than taking care of an infant.  This was followed up by comments like :  "when you cut the punkin from its stem it's like cutting the umbilical cord from your baby", and "taking your punkin to the competition is like taking your child to college".  There was actually one lady (who ps. did not have actual human children)- that named her punkin Shasta (apparently her punkin was a stripper) and says it takes her days of solitude to mourn the loss of her punkins.  (By the way - Shasta weighed in at 700 lbs., that's a lot of stripper).

Okay.  Punkin Crazies answer me this, did you make dietary decisions based on what you could throw up with ease everyday of your punkin's growing season?  Exactly how many stretch marks will you carry for the rest of your life due to rapid weight gain because your punkin insisted on taking up every inch of space inside your body that it could get it's greedy little punkiny hands on?  Did someone tell you that your punkin would be ready to go to competition on a certain day, but then the punkin decided that it wouldn't be ready until 12 days later?  How much sleep do you average per night when your punkin is cutting its teeth? Is it hard to find a punkin sitter on short notice?  How do you get away with leaving your punkin out in the field all night because I'm pretty sure the state would frown on that if I did it to one of my kids - even if I did cover them with a handmade patchwork quilt like you do.  I'd imagine that "this is how the giant punkin growers do it and those things get huge" might not be an acceptable defense when children's services came a knockin'.  And finally, what is the going rate for punkin tuition these days, because I'm checking into selling my organs on the black market to pay for my three kids to go to college and if you've got a better plan I'd love to hear it.

Punkin Growers of the world hear my voice - unless you can answer these questions to the satisfaction of every mother that has grown, birthed/adopted, cleaned the amazing variety of bodily fluids from, and dried the tears of another human being - enough with the infant references.  (This goes for all you animal lovers out there too - although I know I'm gonna take a hit for it.)  Nothing that you take care of will ever be like taking care of a child.  I don't care how cute it is, or how much time it took to do it, it's not taking care of a child.  It may be a noble pursuit, or a passionate hobby, but it is not taking care of a child.

Even Linus could figure this one out, because at the end of the day when his punkin disappointed him, he went home to the one whose work was raising actual children.  His mommy.  And if she believed, as I do, that the best way to deal with disappointment in life is to eat something that tastes good, she would've served him up a big old piece of punkin pie (with whipped cream) and smiled at the irony of it all.

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Bring Your Pants to the Table

I have always believed there are two kinds of people in the world.  Cooks and Bakers.  
Bakers are meticulous people.  They level off cups of flour with the back of a butter knife, they use unsalted butter, they pay attention to whether or not their baking soda is out of date.  Cooks are, well... not bakers.  These are people that see recipes as friendly suggestions, to be disregarded, changed and adapted.  Cooks add stuff until it "looks right" or "feels right" or "tastes right".  Cooks are constatly trying to substitute stuff and are surprised when it doesn't turn out quite like they thought it would (for example... tonight's beef stew - dehydrated carrots, not as good as real carrots is all I'm saying.)  But some of the time, the changing and fiddling is the birth of a new favorite. Cooks do not like baking because it is rigid and ruley.  Bakers do not like to cook because it is uncertain and prone to failure.

I am not a baker, but I do like to cook and am pretty good at it, (I think.)  Over the years I have established a few rules that govern my time in the kitchen.  I play music when I cook.  My favorite is the soundtrack from Chocolat.  You should try it.  You may or may not want to imagine Johnny Depp sitting at your kitchen table watching you, I do not - when people watch you cook they're bound to have something to say about it, and I already have enough voices in my head.  Sorry Johnny.  Also, I only cook for people that I like.  If I don't like the people that I'm feeding I get a little bitter.  I am convinced that my moods are in my food.  As you might well imagine,  pan seared anger doesn't win the James Beard.  (They have a website in case you want to vote for me.  2009, my hands are washed and my fingers are crossed.)

I do not want to give the impression that everything I've ever made has been ... edible.  Unfortunately for my husband my culinary journey has been riddled with a few head on collisions with bad judgement.  With one word I can induce flashbacks in him that a Vietnam Vet would run from.  Just one word - meatloaf.  We had not been married very long when I decided that I would impress my husband with my hitherto undiscovered domestic skills.  Dinner seemed like a good place to start.  I'd helped my dad make meatloaf when I was a girl and I remember that others in my family liked it.  (I have always been turned off by the idea of a loaf made from meat, but I did like to mix all the messy ingredients together with my hands, so -)  Plus, I knew that I should serve it with a baked potato and some kind of vegetable or fruit.  I think I went with Jell-o mixed with fruit cocktail.

I found the recipe that my dad used which was conveniently printed on the side of the Quaker Oats box, and embarked on my meatloaf adventure.  Pound of ground beef - check, eggs - check, oats - check, other stuff that presumably belongs in meatloaf- check.   I added the stuff and started to mix.  Here I need to remind you that "cooks" add stuff until it "looks right" - and what I remember distinctly is that it did not look right.  It looked a little runny, in fact, and so to remedy the runnyishness, I thought - "a little more oatmeal".  A little more oatmeal turned into a lot more oatmeal and like a science fair project gone terribly awry- the meatloaf (referred to from here on out as the oatloaf) began to grow.  Hoping that it would stiffen up in the oven, I scraped it into a pan and put it in at 350 to bake.  Meatloaf should bake for and hour, hour and a half tops - my oatloaf? Like 3 hours and still it was... jiggley.  Let me tell you people, jiggley is not a word you want associated with many things about you, including your meatloaf.

I eventually gave up on the meatloaf looking any better, pulled it out of the oven, and plated it up. I still remember the look on my poor husband's face when it started to spread across his plate like the title character from a 50s horror flick.  If the over-baked potato and identity-conflicted Jell-o could've made a run for it, they would have.  And quite frankly my husband should have.  In an act of supreme self-sacrifice he picked up the ketchup bottle, emptied it on top of his oatloaf and ate the entire thing without one complaint. (If you're gagging a little right now, I understand).

Our bodies are amazing things.  They are a mixture of electrical systems, and hydrolic systems, and chemical systems.  Our bodies work even when we don't think about it (usually).  For example, our brains release a chemical called oxytocin that is a bonding and love hormone.  It is released during birth, and sex, and -when we eat. (You were wondering what the hormone thing had to do with the rest of this post huh?) I credit this hormone with blinding my husband to the perils of a poorly prepared dinner in order to maintain the relationship with his wife.  I don't care what Oprah or any of the rest of "them" say -  food is love.  Sometimes we cook it and sometimes we eat it, and sometimes we pretend to like it to spare the feelings of our skinny 2o year old bride.  But always we bring our pants to the table and become a little more a part of someone else's life because of it. 

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Why does my son have holey pants?

I am catching a lot of flack for the lack of pictures on this blog so... here are the men that wear the pants in our house. Mostly I wanted you to see how cute boys are in vests as per "Little Man Pants."
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Little Man Pants

My oldest son turned 6 on Thursday.  It's amazing to me that he can change so much, but my stretch marks, which are the same age as him, are essentially the same.  I think it's a bit of a cruel joke that a body can start out all smooth and lovely (if I do say so myself) without much effort at all, and then when that same body gets pregnant - hot dog in a microwave.  Stuff exploding all over and not a thing you can do about it.  Anyway...

I grew up in an all girl household (as most of you have heard) and it was a pretty liberated existence.  I didn't even know that most families usually wore clothes at home, because we figured - why bother?  It was a mad rush up the stairs to get decent every time the door bell rang.  I'm not sure if anyone ever saw the Running of the Girls, but if you did - please keep it to yourself - I might run for office one day and if it got out that I was a semi-nudist as a teen it might cause a lot of work for my campaign staff.

I always assumed I would have all girls like my mother.  My first child was, to my delight, a girl.   My first niece - was a girl (obviously, but there is no gender neutral term for your sister's kids).  Then I got pregnant again, and I assumed that baby #2 was a girl.  I had names and everything.  At the ultra-sound, when they showed me all my baby's business, I told the ultra sound interpreter lady that she needed to check again because "girls don't have those."  She assured me that girls don't, but my son did.  I was not pleased. (I know as a mother I was supposed to be thrilled with whatever I was getting, but motherhood and I don't always see belly to belly).  

Months passed and then (very long story short) I was holding a baby boy, that looked a little bit like Yoda, smelled that really good smell that only women can smell on newborn babies (sorry men - but you are totally missing out here) and was looking at me like he knew me from a long time ago and was so glad to see me again.  I was in love with that boy from the moment I saw/smelled/kissed him. I'm still in love with him. Before he goes to bed at night we take turn saying "You are the moon and I am the stars, and my love is all around you."  He made that up when he was 4 and it makes me want to cry when I think that one day he will probably say it to another girl.

So, here are the reasons I adore having sons and would take a hundred more (in theory only):

5.  Boys love their moms.  They give big hugs and big kisses and think you are the most beautiful girl in the world.  One day my son and I were driving in the car and we passed a woman running with her dog.  She had apparently been mugged by a shirt thief leaving her to run home in almost no clothes (poor thing) and she was also very...bouncy.  A few seconds after passing her my son said "Mom, did you see that?"  I thought "Yeah, I thought she was gonna lose an eye".  Then my son said "That was the biggest dog I've ever seen" - like she wasn't even part of his mental picture. Now that's a good man.

4.  Boys are simple.  Feed 'em something messy, clothe 'em (in anything), water 'em and they're happy as little clams.  (I'm not sure what clams are happy about.  I will not be happy if I come back as a clam.)

3.  Boys have an upgraded sound chip.  My sons can make noises with their mouths that I thought only came from sci-fi movies.  They can imitate rockets being launched, guns being fired, lasers being blasted.  Do you know what a light saber sounds like when it's activated by its Jedi - well I do, because my boys make that noise all the time.  It is also my signal to intervene because it means that there is an impending battle between - a. my sons, b. my sons and the dog, c. my sons and my pottery.  Eventually I'm sure I will grow weary of their noises, but right now, I'm still pretty impressed.  (ps - I've tried to make these noises myself - no good).

2.  Boys don't have girl friends (that is friends that are girls) and so escape the girl friend drama through which my almost 9 year old daughter is living right now.  I have suggested to her on more than one occasion that she play with boys instead, (this was my coping mechanism of choice) but she says that boys are "stupid and gross" so I guess that's a no.  All I'm saying is that my son and one of his friends played Legos together for like 2 hours the other day with no issues (that they didn't resolve on their own) and at the end of it announced that they were glad to be best friends (even though they have played together twice - total.)  Now, that's male bonding.

1.  Little man clothes.  If you think that only girls have cute clothes, you obviously have never purchased little tighty whiteys for your 3 year old.  FREAKING ADORABLE.  Even better - little tiny boxer-briefs for your 6 year old.  Seriously, I wish my boys could just show everyone what they look like in their unders because it is that cute.  (But that would be weird and the state might have something to say about it so, luckily for them, I do keep them clothed.)  I am also a fan of the little man white shirt and tie combo for church, and the sweatshirt layered with a vest for casual wear.  Plus, no stupid hair bows, or those head bands that look like some tribal torture device (have you seen the marks those things make on little bald heads)  like little girls have to wear.

If you have not discovered the genius of boys, I recommend that you get yourself one - if for no other reason than to raise them up right (eg - mine always put the seat down) and in female solidarity provide a really good husband for some little sister out there who will one day hear that she is the moon and he is the stars and his love is all around her.

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There's a Rock Star Living in my Pants

Last night I went to the Weezer concert with my husband. (It was a birthday present. I bought the tickets a really long time ago and I kept it a secret - which I cannot believe.  I was very proud that I kept my big mouth shut.  It's rare.)  Weezer was great, but the opening bands (there were two)... not so much.  However, the first group - who was clearly just thrilled to be there- did have passion.  We'll call the keyboardist - Crack Addict Schroeder.  I've never seen someone play the piano with every part of his body (figuratively, obviously) - and he played a mean tambourine as well.  If it had been a cow bell I would've asked for his autograph. Alas...

I've been to 3 other concerts in my life.  They were :

1.  The Jets in 1985ish at the Metro Arena in Billings MT.  If you do not remember The Jets I am sorry for you.  Essentially they were the Polynesian Osmonds, except there was more than one girl and none of them wore purple socks.  At their core though, they were a singin' Mormon family looking to make a buck.  My parents ushered at the Metro Arena along with other people from our church as a fundraiser and it was through this awesome connection that my sister and I actually got to meet the Jets.  (I know.)  We also got to be in the very front of the crowd... right in front of the barrier ...between the audience and the band.  This is great until a coven of screaming tweens begin a relentless march toward said barrier hoping that one of those beautiful Jet boys would pull them on stage and ask them to join the band, or maybe marry them, or both.  Totally reasonable. In, what I realize now was a Concert Rookie mistake, I stretched my ribcage, shoulders,neck (and finally), chin up to make it easier breathe.  The girls around me, who clearly saw me as a threat to their imminent proposals of marriage, (I was pretty hot in my turquiose stirrup pants) and also considered my 75 pound body an acceptable casualty, sucked up the 1/4 inch of space I gave up when I stretched out and I literally couldn't move even one muscle.  You try to breathe all stretched out like that.  Go ahead.  It's no good.  My sister (in a similar predicament) and I ended up getting hauled over the barrier by the security guards because "Jealous Mob Squishes Girls To Death at Polynesian Osmonds Concert" was not a headline they wanted to see in the Billings Gazette.

2.  Debbie Gibson in 1988ish at the California State Fair -  All I have to say about this one is that if you start off as Debbie, you finish up as Debbie.  I'm sorry, but you don't get to decide that if you change your name to "Deborah" then people will forget you sang "Electric Youth" and "Only in My Dreams" and hire you as a dramatic actress.  All things have their price and teenage fame's is this:  when your fans grow up, you get sent to the Goodwill with their Huffy 10 speed and their phone shaped like a pair of lips- (I got one of these for my 14th birthday and I still freakin' love that thing - wherever it is).  Like every other embarassing part of childhood, you and your smelly "Electric Youth" perfume (which I also owned and unfortunately wore) will be grown out of and not welcomed back... with one exception - Marky Mark, who lost the Funky Bunch, found his shirt,  and is now legitimately known as and gets work as  - Mark Walberg.  (Miley Cyrus - you've been warned.)

3.  Barry Manilow, last year with my mom and sister in Portland Oregon - I do own a shirt that says Barry Fanilow, and sometimes I wish that my name was Lola.  Nothing is better than dancing without shame to Barry with those you love.  By the way, Barry can still sing it up people, but I do wonder how he sings so loud without actually moving his mouth.  Not a plastic surgery success story is all I'm saying.

Which brings me back to Weezer 2008 Portland Oregon.  A couple of things I learned last night: Firstly, Don't show up to a concert on time unless you want to watch lame opening acts and sound checks.  

Secondly, I saw way too many women over 30 in pigtails.  All I can say about this is "STOP  IT." It does not make you look young and cool and edgey.  It makes you look... something else.

Thirdly, I like bass players.  They are the coolest.  They have really good rhythm and they look like they could care less about where they are as long as they can take a split stance and pound out a funky riff.

Fourth, I am too old to stand on the floor and jump up and down to "Undone - the Sweater Song".  (I knew this ahead of time actually and so purchased actual seats.  Sad).

One thing I know for sure though, in my next life - Rock Star.  As for this life - Rock Star in my mind, and of course, my pants.

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I told you not to wear those pants today

There are certain of life's experiences that are great equalizers.  Death, giving birth (I figured this one out really quickly), leaving a restroom with your skirt tucked into your unders.  There is also - elementary school picture day.  A day when all children, regardless of circumstance, have the opportunity to look equally bad.

Take my niece,  for example.  Anyone that has met my sister's children knows that they are (as she likes to say) really, really, ridiculously good looking.  This particular niece has curly hair.  Nice ringletty curly hair.  The kind of curly hair that I, throughout much of my adolescense tried to achieve with bad perms and lots of mousse (that's right- mousse... and hairspray.)  It wasn't good.  Anyway, she's got the curly hair and my sister, (who is meticulous about the grooming of her children ) had it all cute and hippy-chic looking when she walked out the door on picture day.  Unfortunately-before making it to the photographer, my niece met with an over zealous picture-helper-volunteer-mom armed with a black Goody comb who, (again unfortunately) was not acquainted with "hippy-chic" nor with what happens to curly hair when you comb it.  She must've realized her mistake, and as a remedy to the frizzy mess perching a top my niece's head, decided to tuck the whole mess behind her ears.  Pretty.

A similar experience happened with  my sister's son last year  (different sister). His picture- helper- volunteer -mom succeeded in combing his bangs straight down, flat against his forehead  into a style vaguely resembling a blonde swim cap.  My sister now writes on the picture order form - "DO NOT COMB MY CHILD'S HAIR" - in her own blood probably.  I don't know if she's asked them to refrain from giving her sons their own black Goody combs though.  (She has twins).  Personally, I would love to see a picture of one of those kids after 30 minutes standing in line, crammed up against 50 other 1st grade boys also armed with hard plastic combs- each comb with a degree of bendyness perfect for flicking your neighbor in the back of the head, and teeth close enough together, that when turned just right, gets good and stuck in the bangs.  That picture, my friends, would be a keeper.

Personally, I like the elementary school pictures that go a little awry.  Like when my sister (the one with the twins) accessorized her fancy picture dress with the handmade, multi-colored, wooden bead necklace that she snuck out of the house in her backpack.  It's one of my favorite images of her.  It tells a lot more about who she was when she was as a child than if that picture had turned out "perfect".  Hopefully, next week when picture day at our school roles around, my kids will come up with something that, even if it's not going to make it in the Holiday add for Gap Kids, will at least make me laugh.
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