Too few of us look at all.
Too few of us look at all.
The fortunes inside take-out Chinese food’s fortune cookies seem to get worse with every passing year. In fact, most of them aren’t even fortunes anymore. Usually, they’re statements about the eater’s character more than they are predictions for the future (Recently, I bit into “You are friendly and liked by most who know you.” It seemed a bit generous, even to me.)
Every once in a while, though, the right eater gets the right fortune. Evidence? See below, discovered by my cookie-munching toddler two days ago:
This morning, a producer from Chicago’s CBS affiliate came to our kitchen for help with a piece on Keurig (and other one-cup) coffee makers. With the help of Loyola University Medical Center, she’s hoping to find out what sort of unwelcome flora might be growing in these handy little brewers. I’ve owned my Keurig since 2006 or 2007 (it was a gift from my parents), and, in that time, I’ve probably cleaned (I think the technical term is “descaled”) it…five times? We use it daily, both to brew coffee and to warm Zoe’s bottles. (We did the same with Henry; it’s an excellent bottle warmer.) For all my fastidiousness, I’m forever refilling the water reservoir without so much as a second thought given to scrubbing it out. It’s only water, right?
Carol (the producer), took a sample of the water in the reservoir and swabbed the inside of the pod compartment and the outside of the drip mechanism. In a couple of weeks, we’ll know whether ours is a clean machine or…not so much. Stay tuned, faithful readers! I’ll link the segment when it airs. In the meantime, maybe clean your coffee maker?
While talking with my mom on the phone the other day, I told her I’d given up on Zoe’s monthly photos. Even since I’d made a mess of the chalkboard I used for her 1-month photos, I’d kind of allowed myself to fall off the bandwagon. My mother informed me, from a second child’s perspective, that this was most definitely not acceptable parent behavior. I pointed out that I still take photos of her constantly, but this, apparently, is not enough.
“Someday,” I was warned, “she’s going to wonder why you took special photos of Henry every month but not of her.”
At the risk of giving my second child an inferiority complex, here’s Zoe’s 4-month update. She weighs about 14 pounds. She smiles, laughs, sits (with a little bit of help), and is right on the brink of rolling over. (She may actually have done it once already and righted herself before I saw, but I prefer to think not.) She naps like a champion during the day, and at night she’s about half-and-half sleeping through or waking up once in the early morning. Like her brother was, she is a happy, wonderful baby.
Here she is in all her 4-month glory, complete with tutu and headband (because I know you love a good tutu and headband, Mom)!
When I was in elementary school, the fifth graders were awe-inspiring. They were such big kids, they were all so smart, and the girls were beautiful. I mean, they had all their front teeth; they were practically women. Once I became a fifth grader, though, I didn’t feel like the person I’d seen when I gazed up at her from the lower grades. I was uncoordinated, I hated my hair, I never felt like my clothes looked like everyone else’s, and my teeth, while present, were far from perfect. As a sixth grader, eighth graders became my new fifth graders. As a freshman, it was the seniors I idolized. Each time, when I finally ascended to the peak I’d admired, I found that it wasn’t what I thought it would be; I wasn’t what I thought I’d be. Either I hadn’t seen those who went before me clearly, or I simply didn’t measure up. As a young person, I wasn’t sure which was true.
Once I made my way through my twenties (not having had my life “all figured out” by 25 was another buzz kill), the disconnect between my preconceived notions of age and my real-life experiences continued, but it began to turn on its head. I suppose, in my mind, I’d always categorized age into two columns: <30=young and active, achieving >30=old and stagnant, arrived. Each time I hit one of those sub-30 milestones and didn’t feel completely thrilled with who and where I was, I saw myself as underachieving. I wasn’t everything that I could or should be, or I wasn’t getting there in time. (In time for what, I’m not really sure.)
Since turning 30, I’m still at odds with the expectations I’d had for each age-related milestone. Now, though, this no longer disappoints me. You see, I thought that yesterday, when I turned 36, I’d feel old. Somehow, I’d gotten to thinking that one’s twenties were the decade for living— the one we’d all been allotted to make money, travel, achieve, and live fully before 30 arrived—that watershed age at which we’d be shackled to home, children, and the small circle and quiet routines associated with them. Once I hit thirty, I reasoned, I’d better have lots of good living to look back on, because things would be pretty boring from that point on. It’s not that way, though.
Here I am, really looking at 40 for the first time without having to squint, and to my great surprise—I like what I see. When I look back on my twenties, the parts I remember most fondly are those parts that helped my thirties become what they are: finding my true vocation in teaching, meeting the man who would become my husband and the father of my children, and every little snapshot in time that makes up those particular albums. I don’t long for any of the other stuff or mourn its status as past—even the good bits. Mostly, as I near 40, I’ve realized that the best part of life is—or should be—the living one is doing right now.
If a person looks around her world and sees only what is wrong with it, it’s not a problem of age, it’s a problem of perception. Whether using the long or short lens, if looking around at the world yields only pictures of what’s wrong (the jerk politician ruining our state, the unfulfilling job, the crappy service at restaurants, the wood trim you hate but can’t afford to paint, the toddler who just can’t seem to get on the potty training bandwagon, the bum shoulder that doesn’t allow you to swim), then life has truly become old. It’s easy for a person to settle into a life with which she’s constantly dissatisfied. Nothing is right, everyone disappoints, everything is going to hell, and everyone needs to know about it. That just not the view I choose to take. If I were to take that view, then by 40 I’d feel every bit as old and curmudgeonly as I always thought I would in my twenties.
At 36, the stuff of my life is more than some, less than others, but the substance of it? The meat? That I’ve got in spades. I have a husband who knows that little things make a birthday great. I have a son who asks me to lie with him in bed after I read him bedtime stories and scolds me when I doze because he wants to talk. I have three parents—three—who all took time out to call me on my birthday, telling me they love me and that they’re proud of me. I have a baby girl for whom I’m the whole world and whose smile makes sure I know it.
Are there some things I wish were different in my world? Sure, but most are either very small or very far from me and mine. I’ve decided that unless I’m willing to put some sweat equity into changing the few things with which I’m unhappy—to do something more than idly criticize or pass along an ill-conceived, cynical tweet—it’s really best to just to refocus the lens on what’s right rather than what’s wrong. Add a filter. Screen out anything that obscures my view of the good stuff.
I understand that there are new and different problems that mount with each consecutive year. I don’t have the burden of declining health and an aging body that I likely will someday, but I really do believe that no matter what or how many the successes and disappointments in one’s life, how satisfied a person is with the life she’s living is less about what is present or missing and more about that on which she chooses to dwell.
While on the cape, we spent one of our first evenings taking in the sights (oh, so many sights) at the Barnstable County Fair. All of Cape Cod is in Barnstable County, and the fair itself attracts locals and visitors alike. While there, we were treated to all the usually fair fare: fried dough, candy apples, cotton candy and other delicacies prepared on carts, carnival rides on the midway, and–our favorite–the 4-H animal shows. My mom and I agreed that we remembered this fair being bigger in our memory; even so, it was just the right size for Henry, and he was elated to be there.
The first order of business was checking out all the animals. Henry loves animals, and sings Old MacDonald like a champ. He was over the moon to see the rabbits– lops, dwarves, and big Rex rabbits– he was fascinated by them all.
After the rabbit show came the poultry. We moved from cage to cage, holding Henry up so he could see each hen clearly. They puttered peacefully around their cages, waiting patiently, I suppose, to return home to their owners and a more free-range way of life.
Did you notice a change in Henry’s expression? A sudden glimmer of concern, perhaps? It’s not that he has a thing for fur over feathers (though I would totally understand if he did). It’s that while we were enjoying the chickens, something happened. Something that shook our two-and-a-half-year-Old MacDonald to his core. A rooster crowed.
It seems that all of the humanoid animal impersonations in the world cannot adequately prepare a suburban subdivision kid for the horror of actual animals actually talking to each other. He could barely even stomach the sweet little chick that this 4-H-er offered him to pat.
“He’s from the suburbs,” I explained weakly. The 4-H boy just sniffed and shook his head.
Henry spent the rest of our trip around the barns (cattle, goats, sheep, and the rest) doing his best impersonation of a terrified koala, clinging to any adult who could protect him from the horror of a mooing cow.
As much as Mark and I loved being wrapped in his tiny arms, I was a little devastated. I love all animals, fear none of them, and was growing more and more concerned that Henry’s impending first pony ride wasn’t going to be the joyful prelude to eventual pony ownership that I’d envisioned.
Please. Don’t. Neigh.
As it turned out, no one neighed. After a few times around the hot walker on a small pony mare (who barely had enough energy to move, never mind chat), things loosened up a bit. I tried to sell that pony ride as hard as I could.
We even got a sort-of smile.
You know what, though? To Henry, animals who talk<animals who aren’t inclined to talk<animals who can’t ever talk. Case in point:
I’m trying to do a better job of planning our meals each week. We’ve historically had a tough time deciding what to eat until late in the evening when we’re starving and invariably make choices both expensive and unhealthy. This week, I’ve decided to plan our meal for the week using a combination of found internet recipes (from Pinterest and other sources) and family favorites.
Generally, Wednesday and Sunday nights will alternate between leftovers and take-out, leaving the other five nights of the week for cooking. It’s worth noting that while I love to cook, I’m by no means an expert. I like preparing meals that are varied, tasty, and, above all, simple. There’s not much you won’t see in our rotation; ours is an omnivorous house, sometimes healthy, and sometimes indulgent. I’ll try to let readers know what we think of each meal here on the blog and will post our weekly menus to a single Pinterest board, HERE. You can also visit all my Pinterest boards by clicking the button in the blog’s sidebar.
Follow along for the food, both flops and faves!
(T) Slow cooker chicken lo mein
(Th) Balsamic roast beef sandwiches
(F) Chicken enchiladas and green salad
(Sa) Chicken and chorizo paella