Dec 25 2010

Happy Birthday, Supergirl!

loubdayI imagine most parents hope their kids will turn out to be better people than they are – that any weakness or shortfalls we see in ourselves will be smoothed over and overcome by our progeny. I never really thought about it until I had a kid who consistently blows me away with an optimism, a kindness, an energy, a fearlessness and an ease that I don’t recognize in myself. Many days, I am awestruck by my Supergirl. I think, how can this girl be mine? How can I take a page out of her book? I don’t know anyone who spends any amount of time with her, who doesn’t kinda sorta fall in love with her. She’s just a cool little chick – as cool as they come, but as sweet as the day is long which is why she’s so damn irresistible.

To my intrepid little tomboy, wise and confident and brimming with joy: Happy Eighth Birthday, my love. You will always and forever be my best Christmas present ever. I love you more than words can say.

Dec 24 2010

Merry Christmas

snowBy some miracle, I have found a few minutes to myself. And by a few minutes, I really do mean a few minutes. Soon Doctor Dash and the kids will stomp through the back door and I’ll jump up to find out how Dash fared on his first ski outing in 25 years. Devil Baby will inevitably yell I’m doooo oooone! from the toilet in her melodious husky voice. I don’t have time for this. I have presents to wrap and chimichuri to make. I could be setting the table for tonight or even folding the heaping basket of clean laundry lurking in the basement. But I’ve just got this glowy peaceful feeling in my chest and I want to catch it.

A few days ago a dear friend of mine handed me three knitted washcloths tied up with a ribbon when they came over for dinner. I clutched them to my chest because I knew exactly what they were. Her mother, suffering from severe memory loss, knits and knits, cranking out five washcloths every day. If my friend’s mom is anything like my friend, I know she must find much peace and comfort in the doing – allowing her fingers to be active and completing something tangible when every thing else might seem confusing or muted. They are so very beautiful and I’m touched and honored to have them since I know it’s not easy for my friend to give them up. The next morning I laid them out on the dining room table while the kids were having breakfast and I my coffee. I couldn’t help touching them, admiring the neat stitches and rereading the stunning Maya Angelou quote attached to the ribbon: . . . people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel . . .

My kids were very curious, wanting to know the story, if she could recognize anyone, who got her the yarn etc. and took turns checking out the washcloths, each handling them exactly as I might have expected them to. Saint James tossed it in the air and caught it a few times, like a pizza, Supergirl bent her head to study the stitching, Devil Baby rubbed it on her face and then put one on her head like a beret. Handmade objects have a special magic anyway, but so much more when they are an actual physical embodiment of a mind that has been plunged into mystery. They are little pieces of my friend’s mom and I can’t help thinking she is continuing her narrative, in her way, stitch by stitch, row by row, and sending it out into the world.

We all know sometimes things are so beautiful it hurts: a sunset, the face of a lover or a child in a certain light, snow coated branches, a song. I wonder if the opposite is true? That sometimes things hurt so much they become beautiful. I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps that would be too convenient. But it is what I wonder as I look at my three perfect washcloths.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Hold your loved ones close and enjoy this beautiful holiday weekend.

Dec 17 2010

Destiny Cafe

santidestinySo, as I type, Saint James is down in the basement playing a game of FIFA 11 Wii soccer with Doctor Dash. I saw this coming over a year back, but they really are two peas in a pod. Depending on which of them has been working, sleeping, or at school they will spring sports scores, news of injuries and awesome header goals on each other. I can see each of them savoring the piece of news, waiting to tell the other. They speak in code, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not that I couldn’t understand, it’s just that I don’t have room in my brain for the ups and downs of the fortunes of the Patriots, Barcelona and the Celtics. Every morning, Saint James sits at the laptop groggily walking in Doctor Dash’s internet footsteps from a couple hours earlier. Does that much happen in the sports world during the night, I wonder? Why is the ESPN NFL power rankings the last page opened every morning when I sit down at the laptop after the kids have gone to school?

On Tuesday, I ended up with a few hours alone with Saint James, and I wasn’t about to fritter it away on errands. Months ago, I had heard tantalizing rumors of some mythical Hmong barbequed pork belly somewhere or other – essentially, bacon to the nth degree – and my salivary curiosity was peaked to say the least. I knew I had to track it down and there was no better sidekick than my newly ravenous, bacon-obsessed boy. A swift google search yielded the name of one of the only Hmong restaurants in the Twin Cities and it sounded intriguing, so we set off. I may not be able to talk who’s getting traded by which team, but an intrepid drive deep into St. Paul in search of a hole in the wall Hmong restaurant to sample their pork belly for lunch? I’m your man.

We forded giant snow banks to get in the front door of a nondescript strip mall on University Ave and felt like we had stomped our boots out of snowy Minnesota into Southeast Asia. The tinny sound of a radio, a little boy running around with a stick and a mouth stained blue from a candy filched from his parents’ store, a cluster of older Asian folks drinking tea in what appeared to be a video store, and more kids chasing each other all greeted us as we shuffled through the hallways in search of Destiny Cafe. The restaurant is bright, airy, full of plants and packed with Hmong families at lunch time. Saint James surveyed the scene, took one look at the glass case of glistening meats at the front and whispered this is awesome!

We spent the next hour feasting, and I mean FEASTING, on a savory meal of vibrant purple sticky rice, a seafood stir fry with the most amazing greens and salty delicious sauce, and the mother of all pork dishes, the barbequed pork belly. I’ve had pork belly before and I thought it was just really thick bacon, but this had more actual pork on it, a layer of crispy fat and then a crackly caramel colored crust. Seriously, you guys, Saint James and I were in hog heaven and in between happy mouthfuls we managed to agree that snow days are good, that Asian kids are super cute and that we have to take the rest of our family to Destiny Cafe, like, PRONTO! I must go back and try the steaming bowls of pho that everyone seemed to be favoring on that cold day. And more of the pork belly of course. And those greens. Sweet mother, those greens! But most delicious of all was my stolen time with Saint James and the knowledge that as long as I’m willing to take him somewhere tasty and he’s willing to follow, all will be well in our world.

Destiny Cafe is located at 995 University Avenue, Saint Paul, MN  (651) 649-0394

Dec 14 2010

Duly impressed.

Screen-shot-2010-11-04-at-9.30.57-AMRemember Saturday morning when I was all kinds of foul weather swagger? Well, Mama Nature brought it. And I, for one, was impressed. I don’t even know what we totaled in the end, but it was a lot. There were snow drifts the size of glaciers, kids getting swallowed up whole in the middle of the lawn. I spent all day watching cars get stuck in the street. Doctor Dash was out snow blowing for three hours. It was tremendous. And tremendously fun. When I set off with Lady Tabouli to go to Lady DK and Doctor Mister Lady DK’s holiday party on foot, we looked like Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s hos, so beswaddled and begoggled were we. We either had to tightrope walk in the few existing tire tracks, or post hole up to our thighs in the snow, and we did both, for about an hour, laughing in white puffs of air the whole way. Yes, this storm was a doozy. A good one. The best in a while. But then after a lovely, cozy, relatively snowbound weekend, we got two (count ‘em TWO) more snow days – as in, days off of school.

As my friend Lady DK says, My kids are lovely people, but . . .

Dec 11 2010

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it SNOW!


From Illustration Rally via Malark

We’re in the middle of a monster storm here in the Little Apple, although I must admit when I woke up this morning, that familiar childish impulse to rush to the window pulling me out of my warm bed at 6:45, I was unimpressed.

But here it is, an hour later, and it’s coming down hard. I think – I hope – that in the end, when the last flake has fallen and settled with an angel’s hush, I will indeed be impressed. Needing a little wonder, a little awe, a little knock-your-socks-off-weather drama.

Come on Mother Nature! Work it, sister!

Dec 10 2010

Empanadas, baby!

empanadaI posted an article over at Simple Good and Tasty which contains my super secret recipe for empanadas and a bit of insight into the Argentine psyche. Hope everyone is staying warm and dry – and most importantly, SANE!

Dec 2 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole.

sIt has begun. Saint James has jumped down the rabbit hole once and for all. He will emerge fully grown, taller and bigger than I ever imagined, utterly transformed from the scrunchy baby with the face of a boxer I held just yesterday. It has begun. When a child is growing up under your nose, you cannot possibly see the daily change, but there are certain points when the growth is palpable, obvious and crushingly bittersweet. The transition from tiny, tenuous newborn into unbeatable smiling buddha. The jump from toddler to big kid, seemingly overnight some time in the fourth year, when the baby fat melts away to be replaced by long legs, pointy scapula and verbose swagger. And now this. This.

It seems like forever he was the same. Maybe taller, in need of bigger shoes from time to time, but essentially the same. Always hovering around the 60th percentile, Saint James wore the same swim trunks from the age of 5 to the age of 9. Any time I tried to buy a new pair, I’d have to sew a little gather to make them smaller at the waist. My first clue that the winds of change were stirring the trees outside our house was when he ate five pieces of barbecued chicken one night earlier this fall. I could practically hear the latches of his stomach unbuckle to reveal a cavernous secret compartment. All of a sudden he was foraging for cereal after dinner, grabbing a banana on the way out the door, tucking into heaping bowls of pasta and then asking for more. All while I held my breath, giving him searching looks, bracing myself for what was coming.

And then he started to grow. Up and out. His hands are bigger, his face is bigger. His voice isn’t changing but he seems to be pulling it out of a lower spot in his chest. He still tries to climb in my lap when I’m on the computer but he’s really, truly getting too big. I can barely see over his shoulder. My legs start to fall asleep. He pokes me with his knobby elbows. Not that I would shoo him – no way. I will be the scrawny mouse with the giraffe in her lap as long as he’ll let me. I could be gasping for breath under his hulking boy mass, and I would still welcome him with open arms.

I can feel myself doing that thing that mothers do, staring at my kid just a moment too long, searching for the end point, the future, my heart thumping in fear, in joy, thinking: impossible, but true.

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