Sunday, February 28, 2010

trying to be an advocate for my kiddo

I got all heated and kicked the cart today in the “health food” aisle of the grocery store. People probably thought I was nuts, but grocery shopping for my family, which includes a child with some pretty serious food allergies, can be infuriating to say the least.  My almost three-year-old daughter Zoe is allergic to just about anything you can name: ALL dairy or milk proteins (and YES, this means cheese, yogurt, whey, casein…including Cheez-its and Goldfish crackers, people. I would just like to reiterate that if there is cheese in the name, there is a 100% chance that she can’t have it.), soy proteins (not soybean oil or soy lecithin, but including hydrolyzed soy protein, soy flour and the mysterious modified food starch which is in EVERY single processed food imaginable), we also avoid, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts and shellfish.  Oh, and just in case you were wondering? The ONE thing that people are really concerned about now and making plenty of accommodations for are wheat allergies – or gluten free foods. My child actually CAN eat wheat gluten – she is not a celiac.  So, while I think it is fantastic that there are so many options for those people, I just wish someone would spread the love to the rest of us.
In the past, I have been able to buy rice-based cheeses.  I’m not sure now if Zoe would even eat them – she is hyperaware of her allergy and SO concerned about what she can and cannot have that she gets easily confused.  I made a pizza from scratch for her the other day – one that had a fresh tomato sauce, lots of veggies, ground turkey – and NO cheese. You would have thought I had poisoned her for all the screaming and crying she did. “I DON’T EAT CHEESE!!!!” she screamed until I finally gave up and gave her the same GD chicken nuggets she eats at every other meal. She’s mystified. What three-year-old wouldn’t be? We tell her all the time she can’t have pizza and then I make a “safe” pizza for her.  Why would she understand that she won’t get sick? Back to rice-based cheese…who is eating this stuff? Not the vegans, as it has casein in it – a milk derivative.  Why do companies even produce these things? They are clearly not allergen or even just dairy free.  And “Rice Dream” ice cream? I checked it out today, thinking it might be a nice option to go with birthday cupcakes. While it is processed on machinery that is supposedly not cross-contaminated, the carob chips might contain milk. WHAAAT?? Seriously, people. Can you see why this is frustrating?
I don’t ask for much. I have learned SO much throughout the past three years that I’m actually excited to make Zoe’s birthday cake this year – store bought frosting and all. And recently, I found out she can eat Oreos. Oreos!! Who knew? Yes, they are an entire week’s worth of processed crap, but the point is, it’s something she can have. One less thing to be singled out for…and that makes it ok in my book.


I’m probably going to offend someone with this. Probably someone in my very close family – maybe someone who is upstairs right now. As human beings, we are constantly striving to find companionship and relationships and we are wired to be social creatures.  But what happens when that social part of our lives takes over and there is no longer any time for being alone?  What happened to quiet? I struggle with this and lately it’s really been something that has consumed me.  I wouldn’t change my family life for anything.  Really and truly. I love my husband and adore my children AND the time we spend together, but I miss being alone sometimes. It occurred to me this morning that I couldn’t remember the last time I was alone in my home. I’ve been married for seven years and for nearly five of those years there have been children here, too.  When I’m in a bad mood or need alone time, I feel guilty about it because now it affects other people. It used to be that my bad moods were just that, and I could wallow in them for a while and move on – but now I feel like I have to apologize for them.  Yesterday I got out to run some errands and left the kids home with Steve and the entire time I felt guilty because it’s the weekend and aren’t weekends for family time? These are the things that people don’t tell you when you get married and have kids – I know it sounds ungrateful and crass, but I also know I can’t be alone in my thinking here – other people must share this feeling sometimes, right?  Recently, my credit card’s magnetic strip has stopped working at our local gas station’s pumps – the one that is well lit and safe – and so I have to either wait until I’m alone to get gas (which, as you might guess is a rarity) or unbuckle both kids and go inside to have them process my payment manually.  These are the little things that you don’t think about until you are faced with making the decision in 12-degree weather – do I wait with the gas light on, or do I just drag the kids in and out of the car in the freezing cold?
I know. I sound like an asshole. My kids are almost three and almost five and it has gotten easier over the past year to sit down or to get things done, but they are still really needy.  When you spend nearly 30 years of your life doing things for YOU before kids come along, it’s a hard transition to constantly have two (sometimes three) people looking to you for everything they need or want.  I wouldn’t change it – I am fully aware that there are people out there who can’t have children or who long to be in a relationship like mine. I know people like that might gladly trade places with me in a heartbeat.  And I am fully aware that one day my house will be quiet again and I will long for the screaming fights between my kids, the getting up at 6am with one after being up half the night with the other, the “I want a snack!”, “Moooooommmm!!! She hit me!!!”, the hugs and snuggles and laughs and stories. The good definitely, without a doubt or a second thought, outweighs the bad, but some days I have to step back and reflect in order to see that clearly. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

free willy

Ok, people. I’m going to just say this – they are called KILLER whales for a reason. Seriously. Why does a story like this surprise people so much? I don’t consider myself a champion of animal rights, but, maybe I should. I would just like to say that when you keep a wild animal (a huge whale who belongs in the ocean, perhaps) in captivity – problems WILL ensue.  I have been to Sea World, it’s really expensive interesting and I’m sure it’s a great experience for children who aren’t witness to a whale trainer getting eaten by her muse.  I’ve never understood people who can get all chummy with animals – whales, dolphins, elephants…tigers (can you say Sigfried and Roy?) and then are shocked when something tragic happens like this. Also? This is the THIRD time this particular whale has killed a human…when do people think enough is enough? Maybe I should just consider myself a champion of Darwinism instead.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

trying to make sense of some madness

I don’t know what it’s like to be a victim of sexual abuse. I hope I can always say those words with such conviction, but lately my confidence and security has been shaken to the core.  There is a serial rapist on the loose in my neighborhood. He has attacked five women now and seems to be flaunting that he’s still out there – FIVE attacks – and his face is plastered on nearly every street corner. This monster has targeted women living alone and he is coming into their homes by way of unlocked windows or doors. Once, he forced himself inside a woman’s home when she let her dogs out late at night.  It occurs to me that there is nothing scarier than not feeling safe in what is supposed to be your safest place.  I have always been watchful of my surroundings, keeping and eye on things and being careful when I am alone, but now I’ve taken to constantly watching over my shoulder when I’m out.  We have started setting the house alarm even when we’re home – just to be safe.  I hate this.  Rape is the most heinous of crimes in my opinion – all the more disturbing and disgusting because of the planning and details that have gone into what this man is doing.  I can only hope that the police catch this beast before the neighbors do, because I have a feeling they will string him up and tear him limb from limb – as they should.
People, especially women, living in the Waldo/Brookside neighborhoods, here are some good links for information on this case – please be safe and look out for one another: kcmo police chief blog, kcmo police twitter, nbc news story

Thursday, February 18, 2010

out of the mouths of babes...

Tonight as she was getting ready for bed, Lucy asked me about my t-shirt. It says “New York” on it and she asked if that is where the Madagascar guys lived. I told her that it was, but it was also the place where her great grandparents used to live. She asked me if they still lived there and I told her they didn’t. She asks, “Did they die?” and I replied that, yes, they had both died some years ago.  We talked about missing them and then she says, “Will that happen to me?” Death. What a hard question to have to answer from your four-year-old.  “Yes,” I told her, “but I hope you will live many, many, many years. Maybe even 100.” Her eyes got big considering this, and then she said to me, “yeah, but when someone dies, you worry about YOU and not them anymore.” And I asked her what she meant. “People in heaven are looking for energy…” she answered, and then turned over and told me she was going to sleep to get energy for dancing tomorrow.
A little boy who was a former student of my preschool is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia at a nearby children’s hospital. Today the children in our preschool classes took pictures with big posters that said, “We love you!” and other inspirational messages that will be sent to the child. Because I know him and because he isn't much older than my own children, I think often about what his parents must be going through.  I wonder how his mother would have answered Lucy’s question.
I try to do well by my children by being honest to them and not making up stuff that isn’t true just to sugarcoat an ugly subject.  Lucy has started asking some hard questions, ones that I don’t really know how to begin to answer all of the time.  I just think it’s a good lesson for me that I’m sure I learned more from my daughter in that conversation tonight than she learned from me. I’m also sure she has plenty of angels up there looking out for her who appreciate her energy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

thinkin' about inkin'

I’m pretty sure I have a sick obsession.  I love tattoos. I am obsessed with them – looking at pictures of them, watching TV shows about them, getting a few of my own.  I remember as a child meeting an older gentleman at my grandfather’s church who had an old, faded anchor on his forearm and I was so intrigued by it.  Even at a young age I knew that that piece of art meant something to that man.  When I was 17, I spent a few weeks in Spain dancing at the World’s Fair, and there was a young woman who was staying at the same air base with my dance group who had the most amazing fairy tattoos across her back. They were so beautiful and I said right there that one day I would have my own ink. 
As I sit here tonight watching a marathon of LA Ink, it occurs to me that the reason I love tattoos so much is that they are very much like a living, breathing autobiography.  Most people – the ones who aren’t sporting Daffy Duck on their asses (ok, and even some of those people too) – have amazing personal stories about each one of their tattoos. One of the things that I love about my own tattoos is that each one reminds me of a particular time in my life.  My first, now ruined by two pregnancies, is a funny reminder for me of my rebellious late teen years.  Another, the word “bloom” on my right wrist, is not only my maternal grandparents’ last name and my eldest daughter’s middle name, it reminds me that it’s important to keep growing and changing.  I won’t describe all of my five tattoos – or my hope that I can add to my collection someday soon, but each of them is meaningful to me for reasons that will be important to me even when the butterfly on my shoulder is now wandering around down by my wrinkled old butt.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a birthday wish

On September 11, 2001, when the first plane careened into the World Trade Center, many, many families lost loved ones. My family lost a tall, funny, handsome, smart young husband and father.  My cousin Karleton was on that plane and even though he’s been gone a long time now, I still think of him often and miss his incredible sense of humor.  Today, Karleton would have celebrated his 40th birthday.  And so, in remembrance of him, I thought I would share just a few memories.  When Karleton was probably 14 or 15, he used to come to Kansas City during the summer and stay with my family.  One summer, he brought an LP of Steve Martin standup. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Karleton (and Steve Martin) for teaching me the proper way to drop an F bomb – it’s something I still do on a daily basis and I’ve gotten really good at it.  Also, during one of his summer visits, we took a trip to Hannibal, Missouri to do the Mark Twain touristy thing.  We stayed in a hotel with the nerdiest family you’ve ever seen – sort of like the Griswalds times four.  So, Karleton aptly named them the Hillfikers.  To this day, my sister and I see a family like that one, and we call them the Hillfikers.  In the summer after my senior year of high school, I flew by myself to North Carolina to see Karleton’s sister, my cousin Erin, graduate and to spend a week after graduation with her in Myrtle Beach.  I spent an hour or more stuck in the plane on the runway during the connection in Atlanta because we had to wait for a tornado to cross the runway ahead of the plane. By the time I got to Durham I was a nervous wreck and running so late for Erin’s graduation that I nearly missed it.  I just remember Karleton picking me up from the airport and making me laugh so much that I quickly forgot how crazy that flight was. He had the ability to do that. Like the time he and I flew back to Kansas City and were seated in the very back seats on the plane – you know, the ones right next to the engine? On that trip, we arrived in KC and couldn’t hear because of the engine noise – we just kept yelling at each other and laughing. WHAT??? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!
I don’t want to go into all the sappy stuff I could say. I just wanted to remember and share some funny stories about a man who is missed very much. Happy Birthday, KDBF.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

my sisty ugler

My drive home last night was sort of bittersweet.  I had a great time with my big sister – we went out to make up for the night last week when we tried to get out and I had a barfing kid at home.  It was bittersweet because about halfway through the night I started looking at my sister and thinking about how the two of us have done really well without our mom.  Oh, don’t get all sad for us, our mom is still alive – she just sucks. I don’t want to go in to all of the stupid details, but it occurred to me as we were talking that I was sitting across from the closest thing I have to a biological mother who is a willing participant in my life.
I adore my sister – sometimes she points out all the stuff about me that I would prefer people didn’t notice and it makes me want to stab her, but I know she only means the best for me.  I was reminded today watching my own girls play their bizarre game of “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, about how my sister and I used to play “Happy Days” and I always had to be Potsy.  I pretended to hate it, but secretly I thought it was fantastic.  She also made me be Nelly when we played Little House and I never got to be the teacher when we played school. Well, my, my…look at how the tables have turned!  My sister and I went through phases where we detested each other…probably those phases also included most of the years before she left for college. But then some stuff happened and we bonded over it and now I can’t imagine not talking to her or sharing stuff with her.  Wow. I could have told you so much more really juicy stuff about that time in our lives...look at me being an adult. Wheeee!!!
My sister is three years older than I am and most people meet us and think we are nothing alike. In fact, when I am asked about her, I usually tell people we are like “night and day”.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the things that are so different about us are not the things you might imagine – and really, not all that important in the end.  I happen to be a bit of a shoe whore.  I also happen to be a bit materialistic and shallow when it comes to clothes and hair.  My sister isn’t that interested in those things at all.  I pay a lot of attention to celebrity gossip and tend to be up on passing trends.  She finds that stuff ridiculous and boring.  I prefer red, she drinks white.  See? The things that come to mind as “night and day” are not of great magnitude, and when I look closer, I find that it is the important, meaningful stuff that really bonds us.  We might appreciate different things, but at our core, we both take deep pride in our marriages, our children and our faith.
Anyway, I just want to say that there are days when I’m certain my big sister wants to slap me around a bit. And so, I would just like to take this moment to say how glad I am that I have her in my life. Some things in my life that revolve around having a good female role model have not gone so well.  Ahem…so I would like to thank my stars that even though she is somewhat obligated as my blood relative (…it obligates some but not others, I suppose) to be there for me, she has managed to stick by me even when I’m a dufus. Thanks, Bis.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"you can't have your cake and eat it, too in life..."

I’ve spent the past few nights with the lovely Beale ladies from Grey Gardens. Holy wow, you guys.  These two put a whole new spin on crazy, at least that was my first impression.  Initially, I became interested because of Drew Barrymore winning a Golden Globe for her portrayal of “Little Edie” Beale in the HBO remake of Grey Gardens.  I’m not a huge fan of Barrymore, but after watching both the HBO version and the original 1975 documentary, I will say she truly captured young Edie.  Both movies made me want to cry out, it was so disturbing, and yet, like a train wreck, I couldn’t seem to turn away or get enough of these two.  I hope that you take some time to watch one or both of these fascinating pieces.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these two women and their story and I wanted to explain why.
Edith Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) was considered a bohemian and was very much a part of the 1930s social scene in both East Hampton and New York City.  Her daughter “Little Edie” was at one time a New York City debutante who was eccentric and full of life. Eccentric is the key word, I guess, as in the end eccentricity was all that survived of their once lavish lifestyle.  After Big Edie’s husband (Phelan Beale) left her, she and Little Edie moved full time to the “country” home they kept in the Hamptons.  Grey Gardens is the name of the Beale’s home on East Hampton, and it was the only remaining piece of Big Edie’s Bouvier fortune, which is the reason she refused to sell it – even though it’s sale would have allowed her to live quite comfortably in her old age.  Instead, the two Edies took refuge in the mansion as it crumbled around them. It was not winterized, and at one point had no running water.  The women were also host to more than 75 cats, raccoons and other animals who lived with them and in the attic space.  To put it mildly, Grey Gardens had gone from a beautiful, sprawling 28-room mansion to a gigantic flea infested shack in just a matter of years.  In 1972, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (the niece of the Big and cousin of the Little Edies’) put up the money to save Grey Gardens from being condemned and torn down.  The two women continued to live there until Big Edie died in 1977 and Little Edie finally sold it in 1979.
Having watched both movies and gotten a glimpse of the Beale’s lifestyle, I had to know more about these two women.  I know that people live in this kind of filth, I know that there are people out there like these two, but seeing it, witnessing it on screen was at once so disturbing and fascinating, I had to know more.  Possibly also as disturbing to me was the “riches to rags” story, the story of aristocracy gone awry, it was as if the two Edies had no idea that they were no longer socialites.  Perhaps also unnerving for me was that neither of the Edies seemed to be suffering any sort of mental illness in their younger years. Yes, they were perhaps extravagant and eccentric, but not crazy.  Did living alone, with little contact with the outside world bring each of them to the brink of insanity?
I was driving down Ward Parkway Blvd. the other day, which is a stretch of beautiful homes in Kansas City, and I began to wonder as I looked at these homes, what exactly do we really know about anyone? I have driven down that road hundreds, maybe thousands of times during my life and many times I’ve thought about what it would be like to live in one of those sprawling mansions.  I never stopped to consider that those people might be just as ludicrous or absurd as the Beales’, or that all the money in the world won’t pay for sanity.  After watching what happened to those two, I started questioning my beliefs about the affluent families who lived in those homes I have so often coveted. It seems silly to most people, I’m sure, but I think the reason these films struck such a nerve with me is that I think we so often inexplicably tie money and happiness together, and both of the films so quickly struck down that idea in my head.  Those women, in the end, had nothing but each other – even the cats seemed to shake their heads at the Edies’ in disbelief – and while at least they had company, watching their relationship certainly made me wonder what weaves the human mind and spirit so intricately together.