Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fears Assuaged

One of the hardest cumpulsions to combat in parenthood is that of comparing your child, favorably or unfavorably, to others of the same age. For the most part we are not talking about babies who can recite Shakespeare at 15 months or who are playing Mozart at 2, but parents are always so proud of their kids' accomplishments and they never hesitate to share them. I try not to fall prey... I try not to brag, even when warranted, and I generally don't feel insecure about my children's development.

Fact: very few children are real bonafide geniuses

Fact: all children develop different skills at a different pace

Fact: regardless of the previous two facts, your child will look like a late bloomer in relation to some other child, at some skill, at some time.

For G, this is drawing. She has fabulous large motor skills: running, skipping, climbing, balance, jumping on two feet, jumping on one foot. Her fine motor skills, however, could use a little refining. It is not that I am worried, I know these things come with time and practice and interest (which she has little). I asked her pediatrician what kind of artistic abilities she should have at 4 and she said not much... a circle for a head and two lines for arms. Yet, I have long noticed that other girls her age, and even younger, can draw. They are not little Monet's or anything, but their scribblings vaguely, abstractly resemble objects from daily life: mom, dad, the dog, a tree.

G's scribblings look like scribblings... I mean squirrly-whirly scribblings. I have tried to encourage her to draw a stick-person explaining how to do it. She gets up close to the paper, concentrating fiercely, holding her crayon tight, and scratches intently for a few seconds. Then she sits back, looks at her work, laughs histerically and says: "look at his head." I could worry, but come on people, she is 4. And by the way, it looked nothing like a head.

Truth be told, I don't have an artistic bone in my body. I struggle with stick-people, and anything more complex or realistic is way beyond my skill level. My husband can draw quite well: his bananas look like bananas and his elephants like elephants. His mom was an artist and art teacher so perhaps there is a gene. G didn't get it, I am pretty sure.

But I was relieved a while back to see something person-ish on her paper.

Take a look:

Is that anthropomorphic or what?

I think my fears can be safely laid to rest.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Do or to Have

I was inspired by Margaret who wrote a very moving post, inspired by another post titled: “Are you a stuff junkie or an experience junkie?” I loved her take on the importance of catching experience in photos.

So I have been thinking all afternoon about my desires for tangibles and intangibles and whether I am a “stuff” or “experience” person at my core.

It is actually a fairly complicated question, not really as far as where I fall, but in general. I love how Margaret describes the “stuff” people as nesters, because I don’t think “stuff” is always about consumerism and greed, which is semi-implied, I think, in the question. I would also add that “experience” is more than traveling. For me “experience” as a counterpoint to “stuff” has included marrying the man I married, completing my Ph.D. and having kids—all decisions that are more about how I want to experience life than they are about stuff.

“Stuff” is also about the experience of beauty. I am not talking about consumer crazes like constantly upgrading cars or phones or purchasing a Gucci bag for your purse collection. I am thinking more along the lines of Pablo Neruda, who had such beautiful collections of things, some as quotidian as bottles and shells, others exotic. I think there is beauty in the experience of some objects that makes us want to be surrounded by them.

I grew up with very little in the “stuff” department, so as an adult, it could have gone either way. (I have at least one sister who tries to fill those childhood voids with stuff now.) When I went away to college, an experience I wanted to have (and for which I am still paying now), I had nothing. I had a picnic blanket I borrowed from my mom to put on my bed in the dorm and 20 bucks. I had to borrow money for books. After I paid that debt off and bought books for the next semester, I took my next unfettered work-study check, and blew it all ($150) on a pair of hiking boots, an unthinkable luxury, which I still have and love, and strangely bring tears to my eyes now as I think about them. So I don’t look down on stuff; stuff can be powerful.

But I think my path was chosen when I studied abroad in Ecuador (or maybe it was chosen long before because of the person I was, who knows). Just as important as where I went, what I saw, and what it meant, the notion that even coming from where I came from, I could find a way to go anywhere… do anything, was so empowering.

Of course, there are tangibles, many of the same ones that Margaret mentions that I don’t want to do without:

A computer, for example, which more than being an object itself, is a portal for experiencing family at a distance and for experiencing an online community which has come to fill a special place in my life.

I love books; I am drawn to them; they are irresistible. I didn’t grow up with a TV, so I was an avid reader as a kid. The past few years I have been immersed in academia, but I am finally getting back into reading for the sheer joy of it again. I have many books and I used to have more. I am limited by space and periodically purge and prune my collection. It is painful, even if it is a book I won’t read again. I would love to have a huge library with those ladders that slide. I also experience other people through books… what I mean is that by looking at what books people have you get a sense about them. If I visit you house, I will look at your books. If you have no books, it will be a little disconcerting.

I love kitchen stuff. I don’t need a lot of stuff and I can make do with whatever I have. I won’t buy a rolling pin because the empty wine bottle I use does just fine, but I adore my $200 Le Creuset dutch oven. I don’t have my dream kitchen yet, but when I do, it will be filled with lots of kitchen stuff, because I like the experience of making and sharing good food with good friends and family in a cozy, well-stocked kitchen.

I love my camera, though it is not always in front of my face—I do a fair bit of observation, but I do love the idea, as Margaret more poignantly expresses, of capturing experiences to relive at a future date.

So you see, even with stuff, it is all about the experience of things.

One might also argue that in order to experience one must have the right stuff, so it may come down to what stuff you are buying or what experiences you are after.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is it just me...

Every time my father-in-law comes to visit he fills his suitcases, round-trip, with objects for other people. On his way here, they are filled with gifts that people send us. On his way back they are filled with gifts he buys for others and gifts that we send back. He barely has room for his clothes.

In addition, there are always a few random requests to carry various electronics: ipods, iphones, cameras, and the occasional laptop. For close family, I think that is fine. If you are not immediate family, such a request just seems rude to me... Personally, I would rather pay $100 extra than burden my friend's dad or my brother's wife's dad, but that is just me and yes, I do realize that social acceptability for requests has a big cultural component.

Now that we are planning our return to Chile, I know that these issues will come up. I have already made it perfectly clear to my hubs that we will be rejecting any requests to bring back a laptop for anybody. I may even say no to an iphone... We are making a transnational move here people, We will be carrying 2 kids and all the luggage we are alotted and possibly car seats. I will not be carrying anything for anybody. Our very stressful move is not anyone's opportunity of a lifetime to get their dream-anything. I am a mean, nasty witch and I am not sorry about it.

I was totally unprepared for the latest implied request though...

A friend of my husband, who he has grown up with has called a few times recently. The other day he left a message saying he'd like to chat by messenger. He said he had heard we were coming back... expressed his excitement... and started asking about the process and if we were sending our car and such. We started talking about whether ornot it was worth it to ship the car (we had decided that after paying shipping and taxes that it wasn't). He starts talking about a car he is eyeing on ebay (bad sign, my hands start sweating). The only problem of course, is that he has not resided in the US so under some import/export law he cannot buy himself a used car abroad and have it sent to himself. So he is frantically trying to find a way to finagle it before the auction ends and he loses it. Do you see where this is heading?

That is where I hand the computer to my hubs and tell him I am not dealing with it. He hasn't come out and asked, directly, but it is oh so implied. The conversation trailed off and ended and I hoped he would come to his senses...

But it seems he hasn't. I got another message (and I think he just called on the phone) that he wants to chat tonight (I will not be getting on). I looked at the car auction on ebay and it has been sold. All I can say is that he had better not be the buyer. I will FREAK! ...and it will not end well. I am getting all worked up just thinking that he bought it and is going to expect us to help him ship it. I don't even want to go through the work, coordination, and hassle to send my own very-loved car, not to mention all the other stresses and work we have facing us.

Is it just me, or is this just absurdly, preposterously rude? Am I getting too prematurely worked up?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Food: the results

I posted last week about some recipes I wanted to try, namely pizza and French Onion Soup (though not together).

First, the pizza dough: I usually make a whole wheat or half-half recipe, which is more healthy (I even put ground flax seeds in it, because I am a freak). It is really good, I can't complain... and yet there is something about regular white flour dough that is pretty tasty. There is a little pizza joint I love that makes awesome pizza and has really good crust so I was kind of looking for something similar (though it is hard to tell from a recipe or even the descriptions how it is going to turn out). I had found a recipe from the book American Pie by Peter Reinhart and decided to try it.

The interesting thing is that it goes against everything you thought you knew about yeast breads. There is no sugar, it is totally cold (chilled flour, ice water, and cold rise). I have seen cold rise recipes before, but always dissolving yeast in warm water/sugar first. It is pretty easy to mix together and then you just plop it in the fridge for 1-3 days. You let it sit on the counter for 2 hours before using it.

Let me tell you... I was very skeptical. It didn't rise at all, really, in the fridge and on the counter it just sat all lumpish. I thought for sure it was a no-go. I was thinking about plan B for dinner and hesitated to even prepare the pizza toppings. I kept looking at it thinking it wasn't going to work.

Well it did. You are supposed to stretch it over your fists to shape it, and toss it if you can, which I can't... but it just falls over the sides of your fists and stretches like silk. It was so cool!! It can go super thin, which was a problem with the kids pizza (traditional sauce, mozzerella, zuchini, corn, and black olives) the crust was too thin in the middle.

I worked it out better for the next one and the two the next day turned out good too (I divided the dough into 4).

So the first day I copied the pizza I love from the joint I mentioned above (cilantro pesto--which was easy to make, mozzerella, buffalo chicken, red onion, banana peppers and a sprinkle of blue cheese) It turned out really good.

Here it is:

It tasted really similar, but I think their crust is better... so I am still on the prowl for the perfect crust. It might be an equipment issue too. I don't have a pizza stone or anything fancy... maybe that is my next cooking purchase.... or not, I'm already thinking of something else to make... My new plan is to go beg them for their recipe.

The next day I made the pizza from P-dub's new cookbook (PW= Pioneer Woman). You rub the crust with olive oil and cover it with a layer of potatoes cut paper-thin. Then you cover the potatoes with a layer of fresh mozzerella, also sliced. You cook some bacon and then saute several leeks in the bacon grease and throw all that on, then you top it off with some crumbled goat cheese (Feta) some grated parmesan and some black pepper. It. is. to. DIE. for! Seriously, I would never lead you astray when it comes to food... either would P-dub. I have a friend who said it sounded gross... I was so elated to inform her that she was grossly mistaken and have promised to make it for her so that I have an excuse to make it again. Anyone else want some?

We decided it is that potatoes are so good with a good unhealthy animal fat. If you are vegetarian, it would probably be just as good with a little more olive oil and a a sprinkling of my tears of sorrow that there would be no bacon...

Here is that one:

So my last adventure was French Onion Soup. It turned out really good. I made it and a salad as a light supper, but I think it is better served in a smaller portion as a first course. Toward the end I was all onion-ed out...

My favorite part is the Gruyere covered croutons... so good... and it always makes me so proud that I have come such a long way from my "only cheddar" days.

I am not very good at food photography... I'll have to look up some tips.

Next on my want-to-make list... homemade fettucine and maybe ravioli... if only I can get my hands on a pasta maker (to roll it).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

G: a series of faces

Funny, sweet, and surprisingly stubborn (we have no idea where that comes from).

She is at this stage (is it a stage?) where she talks incessantly... I mean nonstop chatter. It is mostly entertaining, but it does get in the way of everything else she needs to do, because apparently this isn't an age of multi-tasking. I can't even count how many times a day I say:

G, stop talking and eat
G, stop talking and get dressed
G, stop talking and climb into your carseat
G, stop talking and get out of the car
G, stop talking and finish your lunch
G, stop talking and lie down
G, stop talking and go potty
G, stop talking and put your shoes on
G, stop talking and eat your dinner (like 10 times)

Her talking incessantly makes me talk incessantly.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We had a BBQ tonight, to end our weekend.

My husband is very Chilean about his "asado" (BBQ) and he is something of a non-criminal pyromaniac, hence there is a lot of smoke and flames involved. Our friends with gas grills think we are either crazy or primitive or both. But at the end we have this...

You can't snuggle up by a gas grill.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Confession # 6--I dream of pizza

Tonight I am in the mood to cleanse my soul so it is time for another confession.

This is it: I like to cook and I love to bake. And by cooking and baking, I mean from scratch…. like from scratch scratch.

I know this seems like an odd confession, not something you would hide in the closet with your Snuggie and your dog-eared copy of Kama Sutra. It is something that has taken me a long time to come to terms with, and something I struggle with now. It is silly, I know, but cooking is, at times, one of those chores that makes me feel too much like a “wife.” I hate doing things that feel like gender duties, it is something I struggle with on a daily basis. The feeling that I end up doing something because I am the woman is not something I embrace, it rubs my inner feminist the wrong way (and trust me, you don’t want to irritate her).

The internal conflict is compounded, of course, by the fact that my husband, though he does grill, like a lot of men, doesn’t cook much. I mean, he CAN cook (though it takes him forever) and he has made some very good meals… and he WILL cook, if I ask him to, but his schedule doesn’t really allow it much during the week and he doesn’t get excited over finding (or even looking for) a recipe for French Onion Soup or the perfect pizza dough like I do. So I do most of the cooking.

I do not like the daily grind cooking—the what-do-I-make-for-dinner pressure. That is exhausting, and I’ll admit that we have easy, quick, or sometimes overly- processed foods several times a week. We also have leftovers a lot… and by leftovers, I mean exactly what we had last night: it is not dressed up or changed up or altered at all. When I cook, I make a lot so I don’t have to cook the next day.

I love finding new recipes and trying them out. I love cooking for other people. I love making something that makes people have to ask: “How did you make it?” I love knowing that my cupcakes have brought tears to peoples’ eyes (slight exaggeration), that my chicken braised in white wine or the smell of my homemade bread will make your mouth water, and that my husband will never leave me because he is addicted to my flan.

I love cooking shows on PBS. I love cookbooks. I rarely subscribe to magazines… except cooking or wine ones. At night I dream of All-Clad, Le Creuset, and KitchenAid.

Since I have come clean, I will share my latest acquisitions with you…

The first, thanks to a blogger friend who received more than one and wanted to share (thanks again Mosey!)

The second, thanks to a birthday bookstore gift card… and because I love America’s Test Kitchen.

So I am getting ready to make pizza, with a long (1-3 days), cold-rise pizza-dough recipe I found, supposedly the closest thing to pizzeria crust. One pizza I have been dying to make from PW’s book is a potato leek pizza (it has bacon and goat cheese too, if that makes it sound more interesting—I think it sounds fabulous) and then I will attempt to imitate the most delectable pizza in the entire world which has a cilantro pesto sauce, topped with buffalo chicken, red onions, banana peppers, and blue cheese (which, strangely enough, I do not like, but on this pizza it is divine!)

Then I am going to make French Onion Soup, I think I’ll try the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, though it is not the one in the book above, I saw in a recent episode that they have perfected it since then… now I just have to find it…

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Consulate trip 1

We drove to the Chilean Consulate in Houston this week to complete the first steps in the process of moving to Chile.

We registered the kids--this is strangely the lengthy part, as it can take up to 6-7 months. As with all things in Chile, though, a "pituto" (someone you know on the inside) can speed things along. The woman at the consulate said that she knows someone in "extranjeria" (immigration) that she can ask to speed things up.

We registered our marriage. We were technically supposed to do it in San Francisco, but they allowed us to sign here and then they will send the papers there (where they will presumably be accepted--we hope). Registering our marriage involved deciding what kind of economic contract we wanted--this determines how assets acquired during the marriage are divided should the marriage end (in both death or divorce, I think). I read up on it a little before going... then totally forgot which one I had decided on. We ended up deciding on "separacion de bienes" (separation of assets--which means that what I acquire is mine and what he acquires is his) Jokingly I said that I wanted the kind of contract where what is mine is mine and what is his is mine, kind of like the system he and I currently operate under. Who knows if we have made a colossal blunder...

I inquired about my visa and was pleasantly surprised to find out that once I fax my paperwork, it only takes about a week. I have to get an FBI background check and an HIV test/medical check-up but apart from that it will be fairly quick. Of course, it costs about $400. I think I remember reading that if I were to do it in Chile it would be free... but that it would take an eternity and lots more paperwork. Plus I want to land with the authorization to work.

For all of those who understand the complex system for buying the simplest of things in Chile--order at one counter, pay at the register, then hand over reciept and pick up goods at a third counter... you will be happy to know that the same process applies at the consulate in the US... I had to go downstairs and deposit the $10 it cost for the registrations in a their bank account, and then take the receipt back upstairs.

I have also started looking into schools for G for next year. The cost of some of them is enough to give you an anxiety attack.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Fantasy List

At the Christmas Day dinner with our friends, we were talking about “the list.” You know that list of hot celebrities that your significant other has graciously agreed to allow you to engage with in amorous diversion, should the occasion miraculously present itself.

They had been talking about the list when they went home to visit their families. They had asked a sister’s husband about his list. He said there was a girl who sat in front of him in Spanish class who was pretty hot.

I am guessing that he didn’t understand the rules. I am not sure exactly how it works, but I am pretty sure it has to be someone you would never really have a chance at convincing to play.

So, our friends… the wife, M, had gotten a little loopy earlier in the week muttering some obscene insults about Selma Hayek to her husband, J. Come to find out, Selma is on his list and M had just seen a photo of her on the computer, in her 40-something-year-old glory, looking all voluptuous and sexy.

So we talked for a minute how the list works and whether M would just let J run off with Selma, if Selma should be so inclined. M said, “Yeah, go for it J (encouraging him). I’d love the time to myself.” I wondered aloud if J would have to take the kids with him, of course, I am sure Selma has nannies.

So I asked my hubs who was on his list. He just shook his head and chuckled. So I said: “come on! what are you afraid of?… that you’d wake up with her name carved in your chest?

Nah, really…I am pretty sure there are people he thinks are good-looking, but I am also pretty sure he doesn’t have a “list”. I don’t have a list either, actually, or the desire to make a list. I really don’t care about celebrities.

So now I am curious…I am sure these lists are not really all that serious, but even that people have that fantasy is so interesting. So, how common are these lists? Do you and your other have a list? Who is on it? Or do you have a secret list? Or are you not into that kind of fantasy?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


It is almost a waste of money to buy toys for kids... at least for mine.

G, after playing with every play kitchen, everywhere we go, was given a little kitchen for Christmas. It has been played with very little, and without excesses of enthusiasm.

However, when papi came home with this foam tubing for insulating the pipes for our upcoming hard freeze, they played for hours and had a blast. We even had to cut it in half to end the bickering over who was going to hold it.

When we play outside they abandon all wagons, carts, push toys, trikes, balls, swings and throw little red berries down the driveway... ALL AFTERNOON. I was worried at first, that the little berries might be poisonous and Nico might eat some... but then I remembered he would never ingest anything we call "berry" since he doesn't do fruit.

Also entertaining this week: saying "coco" 500 billion times a day back and forth to each other. They say it to each other at the dinner table instead of eating: G--"coco" (hahahaha) Nico--"coco" (hahaha). It is mildy amusing up until "coco" number 150 million, anything after that is just repetitive.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The first two days of 2010 in retrospect--a sarcastic analysis

It is day 2 of 2010.

My quest for inner peace and happiness has already been thwarted.*

Was it Jean-Paul Sartre that said “Hell is other people”?

He was a wise wise man.

One of my good blogging friends said once in an email that (paraphrasing) “happiness has to come from inside; which is annoying.” Annoying indeed!... and ironic, since most major irritations tend to come from the outside.

I was all set to embrace happiness, but 2010 surprisingly started out much like 2009 ended… with excessive amounts of whining and messes. I guess it is to be expected with two little kids, but it has a way, nevertheless, of undermining and tossing aside all of my peaceful mantras.

My little N-man is such a beastly brute. He will seriously be a lucky lil’ man to make it to the terrible two’s (I can’t wait!!) if he doesn’t stop throwing things.
1) He throws food. As soon as he is done, which may be when he is full, or bored, or afraid he is not getting enough attention, or at the very beginning of a meal if it is something he has decided not to eat, he starts chucking whatever is left in his bowl onto the floor. We probably committed some major parenting sin way back when it started by paying any attention to that behavior at all. Perhaps we should have ignored it all together. Because now, it doesn’t matter what we do, and we have tried everything, he does it anyway and finds it hilarious. Now he is adding bonus behaviors like spitting his food out to entertain his older sister, who finds it raucously funny. He has to clean up any food he throws and his meal ends, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.
2) He throws toys, blocks, magnets, books, trucks; he knocks things to the ground and pulls all the books off the bookshelf. He is required to pick up any messes he makes, but it involves at least one time-out because initially he refuses to clean up.

He has also started whining. If there is one thing that drives me bat-sh** it is whining. Most kids whine and I already know from experience that the battle from whining to non-whining is an arduous one.

G is actually at a really good age. She is pretty independent and has learned to “use her words” more than whine. She is having trouble, however, with a few things. One is eating in a timely fashion--she is the slowest eater of all time. She is also coming to grips with having to dress herself.

(I was talking with a friend the other day about all the things you never think about in regards to having kids—you think about all the cute cuddly stuff: all the baby-glory, learning to walk and talk, reading bed-time stories, going to piano recitals and soccer games, going trick-or one imagines all the ins and outs of daily existence—how long you will have to help wipe little bums and how getting oneself dressed is not an innate human instinct—it is painstakingly learned).

So, yeah, I tell G to dress put on her shoes and socks and she immediately shrieks in agony “I caaaaaaaaaan’t” and wilts to the floor in a sobbing heap. She has shoes mastered, but socks are tricky. I help her identify the heel section and help her position the sock just so, and she pulls it on a little and then get frustrated when her little toe becomes jammed or the toe-section doesn’t fit quite right. (of course, to be fair, the poor thing inherited my insanely low tolerance for frustration).

My sweet hubs is also trying to sabotage my inner-zen by annoying the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. (I am also blessed with lightning-fast irritation reflexes--that with my low tolerance for frustration--make for some fun relationship dynamics).

My hubs-- sweet, kind, and generous as he is-- seems to believe that once he has told me he needs to do something (that has nothing to do with me), it suddenly and miraculously passes into my realm of responsibility. Do all men do that, or just mine?

He calls me on Monday and tells me he needs to change the oil in his work-truck and can I please pick him up. I tell him it is not the best day for that and explain why. He agrees and says it needs to be done urgently this week and can I please remind him. (later for purposes of his argument, Monday becomes the "perfect" day to do it, and I said no, for no reason).

I remind him by writing a note and placing it by his “essentials drawer.” He remembers one evening mid-week, I tell him to go the next morning.

Friday he lets me know that he also needs to clean his truck.

It is Saturday, we are talking about our major TO-DO list during nap time. At some point, talking about some such thing or other he accuses me of not making sure he got an oil change and then he told me YESTERDAY that he needed to clean.the.truck. and he hasn’t been able to clean it yet and he doesn’t want to do it during the week and when is he going to be able to do it…….

So I am thinking (read: hissing out loud)… so go clean it!!! He doesn’t need me to schedule it into our day, does he? Then he complains that I didn’t remind him well enough about the oil change (as in: I didn’t put the keys in his hand and shove him out the door threatening not to let him back in until he changes the oil). It’s like once he has told me he needs to do it, I have to arrange it for him.

So he goes outside to clean the truck and immediately starts rearranging the garage. I was with the kids outside, and kindly suggested that he clean the gosh-darn cotton-pickin' truck if it was really so urgent... so I don’t have to hear about it ever again... for the love of Pete!

Ahh--good times! It was actually a funny little argument, with lots of laughing, which is why I can even tell you about it.

My husband’s grandfather used to tell him that the first 12 days of a new year basically dictate what the next 12 months will be like. Great, that gives me great hope!

* This post, while true, is greatly exaggerated and meant to be taken with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Don’t worry, I am not totally jaded on 2010 yet, I still have loads of naïve optimism.