Lenten

I am not at work today. I took a vacation day to work on my lenten thing.  I did a few things for lent this year–

1) I took facebook off of my phone, which has been pretty effective (I use facebook at work and can’t get rid of it altogether, but not having instant access has been a good thing)

2) i gave up cheese. Now giving up cheese has been much harder than I anticipated, with a negative side effect that most of my go-to recipes involve cheese. Consequently, we haven’t been eating very well. So this morning as part of my vacation day for lent, I did some kid-free grocery shopping and got ingredients for a few things that I can make that are cheese-free or cheese-optional–where Selam can add without me. 

3) I decided to do the 40 bags in 40 days thing.  So I’m ridding my apartment of 40 bags worth of stuff.  This is something that needed to happen anyway. I still hope to move and need to pare down, but being forced to do it within a time constraint and being forced to give it all away has been a decent challenge.  I’m not storing things for later. I’m not taking things to the kids resale shop (although I have set aside some things for that–but those don’t count in the 40 bags).  I am at 17, and hope to hit 25 by day’s end. This Saturday, Selam and I will go through her books, and that will add more to the group.  Next weekend, I hope to go through my storage unit, if I can. This project is less Lenten than some others but it’s good to own less. 

For Selam’s part, she gave up nutella. 

For one day. 

pieces

This morning I attended a training program for Free to Be Me, which is a Girl Scout/Dove collaboration focusing on real beauty, media literacy, body-positive, self-esteem–the whole enchilada.  I’m impressed by much of the program (I always have my quibbles) and commend it to those of you with Girl Scouts or Girl Guides in your life.

After the training, I took Selam to ice skating.  Does one ever get used to watching one’s children from a distance? I see her gliding and turning, lifting a single leg behind her, and I’m just amazed at the passing of time, at the brain’s ability to piece together so many discrete steps into a whole.

After skating it was big bath day for Selam.  Once a week, she takes a long bath, and I wash and detangle her hair.  I remember when she was little, I’d bend over the tub with soap and washcloth, scrubbing the day away from her skin.  Now she does this herself, and I am summoned only when it’s time for hair.  There are times when the hair routine vexes me. All the steps, all the time–all the frustration.  Tangles are inevitable, and it’s so hard to get them out without hurting her.

But there’s something about the drowsy Saturday early evening in a warm tub, tired skating muscles loosening in the steam, that opens up conversation.  I sit cross-legged  beside the tub, and she leans her back to the edge so  that her hair drapes over and  I can comb through the curls slowly, running first my fingers and then the green wide-toothed comb  through the thick pasty conditioner.  Tonight she told me that sometimes she wishes she had straight hair, easy hair.  She could wash it herself, she thought, and nobody would ever call her puffy head.  There’d be no tangles, and it would get longer.  She’s clearly thought this through.  “But, ” she finishes, “I don’t think I’d know my name if I wasn’t a curly girl. Would you know me without curls?” I think for a second and say, “If I could see your eyes, I’d recognize you, for sure, but I would miss your curls. They’re part of you.” “I think they are. Like my name. They make me different.” She goes quiet.

Remembering the training I’d attended earlier, I said, “Which part of your body do you think is the prettiest?”

“My feet,” she replied quickly, poking her long slender feet out of the water for a minute.  There are slivers of pink polish still hanging onto a few nails, remnants of Christmas with her cousins.

“Why your feet?” I respond.

“They make me strong. I can skate and swim and dance and ride my bike. They take me places.”

“That’s a really good reason,” I responded.

“I think I know what YOU think is my prettiest part,” she said.

“You do?”

“Yep. My heart, because it is brave and full of love.”

“I love your beautiful heart.”

“And I love my beautiful feet.”

The corkscrews hung limply down her back, the tangles smoothed away. It was finally time to rinse.  But I kept combing with my fingers, resting my hands on her beautiful head just a little bit longer. She crossed her legs and kicked the one foot into the air, pressing it against the white tile of the wall.  Hours later, a perfect footprint still remains there.

digital grief

When my friend Karen’s mother died, we somehow ended up in her apartment.  I have no memory of how I found out or how I knew to go to her apartment, but I did. We did. There was a small crowd of us there–friends from church, friends from her graduate program. Someone made popcorn. We watched 16 candles.  We were just there. 

In the days after, we went to the funeral–I even sang at it–”Morning is Broken,” I believe. We checked in. But we were there. Present. We lived there.  Other people came in for the funeral, but we were just  there.  

About a year ago, a classmate died. Six months later, another one.  And strewn about the country, we mourned, mostly on facebook. Their facebook pages instantly became memorial pages. People posted stories and photos. The one classmate was single, but her brothers responded to the posts after a few days. The other classmate was mother to two teenagers who replied to every single post nearly immediately.  Although I hesitated to view facebook as an appropriate memorial page, it became quickly obvious that this was appreciated by these young adults. In fact, they kept posting pictures on her facebook page months after her funeral, each time engendering more responses. I think it helped them to be able to entice others into sharing memories about her.  

Today, one of our second career students passed away. It was not unexpected. She had been ill for a very, very long time. But she was a single mother to a teenage boy. I watched as her facebook page began to fill up with comments and tributes. And then her son wrote his tribute to his mother.  He included a photo of him towering over her. He tagged her. I bawled.  But this tribute on his page opened up the ability for people to offer condolences directly to her next of kin–a teenager.  And people have done so. In spades.  

I’m not how I feel. In some ways, such a very public grief, splayed out amongst candy crush updates and rants about snow removal, seems awkward, too raw. In others, I’m not sure that most of us would have felt comfortable reaching out so directly to this young man without the medium.  And I imagine–though I don’t know–I haven’t had a conversation with this child since he was 9 or so–that there might be some comfort in being able to read these, in his own time and own space. 

 

 

 

More

Selam is in her third go-’round of ice skating lessons. She’s still in the pre-alpha group, though she’s absolutely on the verge of moving up to Alpha.  I feel it. Today, her teacher told her, too. There are just two skills that she hasn’t mastered: the snowplow, which is a stopping thing that she’s a little afraid of, I think, and skating on one leg.  She’ll skate on one leg, but just not for long.  

I listened to two parents talking about her. One was impressed by her. Another was annoyed because she was the most advanced member of her class and they felt she was throwing things off.

 

During practice time, I reminded her that she could practice her one leg skating and her snowplows.  I reminded her that the teacher said she is so close. She smiled and shook her head and took off skating backwards around the rink. Backward skating is her favorite, and probably her best skill, too. She smiles so widely, too–mugging and waving as she glides away from me.  She gets lots of attention for her smooth backward moves, too, and clearly enjoys shouting “Thank you” to her many admirers. 

Afterward I asked her why she didn’t practice her two weaker skills during practice time.  I’m not really a tiger mom–I swear–but it seems like she’s getting a little bored in the beginner class, and it’s time to move up to new challenges. 

“I already know how to fall down, Mommy.  I like practicing being good at skating backward.” 

Fair enough, kid. Fair enough. Me, too.

snow

People take snow days seriously around here. We aren’t wimpy, necessarily, (though some are, of course), but there are a few things that people know to do. You have to fill your car with gas, for one, and be sure you have cash.  There aren’t many places in town where you couldn’t walk to buy food if you needed it, so you don’t have to go stock up on TP and milk unless that’s just your nature, but if the power goes, you want to be able to get out of town if you need it. And that means gas and cash.  

The line at the gas station was about 15 deep.  I waited for over 30 minutes.  Were there not a storm on the horizon, I would have given up.  I was half full, as it was, but just in case, I wanted to top it off. My daughter was at after-school program, happily twirling in her ballet class. I listened to music, and held out.  

In front of me, a car idled.  I could see two kids in the back seat. One faced forward, but the other, a curly mop topped girl stared out of the back window.  I waved and smiled at her, before I realized that she couldn’t be turned around unless she was out of her carseat.  She looked to be three or four.  She waved back, grinning widely.  

Their car limped to the pump. One tire was completely flat.  The mother got out and filled her tank.  She leaned her head against the car as she waited for the gas.  Inside, the little girl waved and smiled, trying to catch her mother’s eye.  I turned my car off and got out.  I hadn’t gone more than two steps before a man approached her. He got her to pull over to the side, and was replacing her flat with his own spare while I filled my own tank.  The kids stayed in the car, though, and the little girl was still waving and smiling at me, as I drove away into the frosty night. 

packing

I’m pretty committed to moving out of my current apartment this summer. The only thing that would stop me is money at this point. While my apartment is fine, the landlord is fine and everything, I’m just tired of being trapped.  I’m trapped by the fact that my kid can’t play outside, and can’t ride her bike to someplace else to play, and I’m trapped in the winter months.  Snow removal is terrible and parking becomes this huge hassle. Basically, we don’t go anywhere at night during the snowy months. Last night Selam wanted to go ice skating, but we couldn’t because coming back at 7:30, there wouldn’t be parking. 

So I’m checking out Craigslist every day.  I visited one apartment but it just wouldn’t work out–they wanted someone to move in immediately, and I can’t afford to pay double rent for 2 months. They weren’t willing to budge on that.  It’s also much more money than I’m paying now.  I’m expecting to pay some more more money than now (I have a really sweet deal right now), but not that much more. The realtor assures me that lots of things will be announced in March and April for June, July, and August leases, as visiting faculty and graduate students move out.  So I am waiting.

In the meantime, I have a question—some of the places that look like they could work are complexes. I’ve never lived in a complex, and admit to having a bit of a bad attitude toward them.  But maybe I need to let that go.  Has anyone lived in an apartment complex–especially with kids? How is it? REally loud? not so bad? 

 

snowy

I do love snow. But I’m done with snow days.  I’m tired of having my life put on hold at the whim of the school district and city’s street parking rules.  

In grad school, I did an internship at a women’s shelter.  My job was to do psychological assessments of the children living in shelter. I also co-led a children’s therapy group.  Over the course of that year, I got pretty attached to the quirky shelter,and helped out with other shifts, too. One shift was on a snowy Friday.It was snowing but not too badly when I got there.  By the time my volunteer shift was over at midnight, the streets were loaded with snow. We hadn’t been plowed and my grad school car had something like one and half wheel drive.  

I turned around and went back in.  

Luckily,they were happy to let me spend the night.  If you’re going to be trapped somewhere, a 32 bed facility is a good place to be stuck. There were no beds left, but they found me a sleeping bag and a cot and I set up shop in the children’s playroom.  In the morning, I let the kids make french toast for their moms, and then we went out and played on the swings in the snow.  It’s the best way to learn how to jump off of a swing–when there’s lots of snow for a good landing.  The kids didn’t have snow pants, and some didn’t have good winter coats,  so we just tripled up on clothes from the store room. By the third layer, the kids were big enough for adult clothes.  I still remember a particular boy flying off the swingset wearing adult clothes as his top layer….they’d come unrolled in the flight, and flapped over his boots.  For a quick minute, he looked like a party inflatable–flapping limbs and tiny face.  He landed, and I quickly helped him detangle the extra lengths of fabric. 

His toothless grin emerged. 

“Again,” he said, “again.”

Cupcake

I think I’m going to give away all kitchen tools save for the crock pot and cupcake tray.  For some reason, Selam will eat nearly anything that comes in a cupcake tray.  

Here are our favorites (apologies to vegans–these would never work, though I think vegetarians could alter them to make it.) 

Taco Cupcakes–at least once every two weeks–sometimes more often. We usually use turkey but have done it with the vegetarian fake ground meat, too. I use black beans instead of refried beans.  Often I just throw cooked and seasoned ground turkey, salsa, beans and even corn if I have some in the same pot and make the cupcakes with that sort of a chili mixture then cheese, then wonton, repeat.

Meatloaf Cupcakes–No recipe–just put your favorite meatloaf recipe in cupcake tins–some people top with mashed potatoes. I use turkey. 

Lasagna Cupcakes —I love these. Selam is less of a fan, but will eat them. I do spinach, so they’re vegetarian. I don’t cut the won tons to perfectly fit the tray–I just fold let them overlap. 

and our newest—

bacon and eggs cupcakes–this one we used turkey bacon and half egg beaters/half real eggs and hers had real cheese but mine had the fat free, and it still tasted really good!  I think next time, I might throw in some veggies, as well. 

Got any more cupcakey dinners for me?  

sliver

This morning, I put together a playlist  for Selam.  During lunch I burned it to CD so we could play it in the car.  We’ve been listening to the same few CDs for over a year now, and it’s time for a change. The CD contains a mishmash of songs–most of them songs that she has already heard–a few from Frozen, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray, a few camp favorites like “Bulletproof” and “Wakawaka (This Time for Africa).”  There’s some new ones that I think she’ll like, “So Much Grace” (Allison Slattinger)“So Glad I’m Here” (Elizabeth Mitchell) and a few that are just family favorites, like “Brown Eyed Girl” (with a few loudly mis-sung lyrics).  

We stopped for burritos on the way home at one of her favorite places.  Normally she can’t wait to go inside, but tonight we had to hear just one more song.  After burritos, we pushed on home, in heavier than normal traffic.  It took forever, but we were singing the whole way.  

When we got home, we sat in our little grey car in front of the building.  “Just one more,” she’d beg, and then another and another. We listened to the last of the songs in the dark, belting out the choruses where we could. 

When the last tinny sound melted away, I quickly shut off the ignition, before the CD started to repeat.  We sat there for just a second longer. 

“That was like having all of my friends over to play at the same time,” she said. 

I gathered the parcels and bags and opened her door for her.

We walked inside, where the cat’s meow could be heard from behind the apartment door. 

 

Where the Wild Things Are

So, a mere two years later, Selam and I are blessed with another trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.  I have a conference in Orlando (free airfare for me), and we will stay after for 5 days with a friend who is blessed with a family time share on property.  This is a huge deal, of course. I know how very, very, very lucky we are.  Only one ticket and free housing?  We are so lucky.

I know most people go to Disney once and see everything, do everything. Apparently, the women of the House of Glitter are spreading the Disney magic out in dollops.  

So, last time, we went to Magic Kingdom, which we both loved.  We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool, and 3 great days exploring the park. I discovered that my girl has a need for speed. She loves fast rides.  And parades. And shows. And characters. And fireworks.  She doesn’t really like wasting time eating, and high rides are not her thing. (She’s not afraid of heights in particular, but they aren’t her favorite. She particularly loved the teapots and bumper cars.) 

This time, we are staying at Animal Kingdom, so we’ll go to Animal Kingdom.  It looks like we will only be going one day this time, but since we’re staying close to it, I hope we’ll be able to be there from opening to closing. If the tax returns are kind, we might have a second day–possibly Animal Kingdom or else back to Magic Kingdom. 

So, ye experienced ones, what are the can’t miss moments of Animal Kingdom? Which rides are the best?