Sunday, October 29, 2006

Word Of the Day: Mabinogion

I was able to extricate myself from the house for a few hours of solitude on Sunday, and headed first to one of the two used bookstores in town. If you're into paperback mysteries or romances, this would be the place for you, but since I'm not a fan of either, I found myself, after spending fifteen minutes in the children's section (because as soon as I'm away from the kids, the first thing I tend to do is shop for them), looking through the non-fiction historical section. I picked up an old book, something to do with Celtic history or lore and felt something rumble deep, deep within a forgotten passageway of my brain: "Oh right....yeah...that's like the...what's it called? what's that word? I used to know that word, that big word, that book...Rhiannon....Stevie Nicks....M...M-something....?"

After I left and was driving to my next retail destination, I remembered the word, and it flashed across my brain it its original, Welsh spelling with all those extra "y"s, which would read something like, "Mabynogwyian," because that's just how my brain likes to file things: the more arcane and hard to spell, the better. I used to know this word well, and was proud of knowing it. I remember once, perhaps in a college class, or in a crowd of other English majors, rolling it off my tongue and making reference to it in context with some other old book and giving myself a little pat on the back for my ability to flash my academic wit on cue.

But the truth is, I didn't come to know this word through any academic research, discovered while hunkered down late one night in a library study carrel, poring over forgotten texts from the basement. Instead, all the credit for knowing about the Mabinogion has to go to the White Witch herself -- Stevie Nicks. A long, long time ago, back when the world was full of unicorns and rainbows and crystals and white lace, there was me, in a bedroom, alone with my copy of Stevie's Belladonna album. I could probably write another post detailing my love for Stevie, and how I admired her billowing gowns and her rings and just her whole darn tambourine-shakin', girl singer-songwriter gig. For a while there, before I caved in to the pressure to be dark and ironic, and way before I got seriously down and gritty with my rock and roll, Stevie was my It Girl, and I devoured every bit of information about her that I could get my hands on.
Ah, Stevie. For a while, it was just you and me, girl.

So anyway. With my desire to inhale every bit of Stevie lore and trivia, I'm sure this is how I first learned of the Mabinogion. Maybe it was in some old copy of Rolling Stone from the 70s. Maybe it was in one of her late-night radio interviews with Jim Ladd on KMET (Whoo-Ya!), that I recorded by holding my tape recorder up next to the radio. Somehow, I learned that her Fleetwood Mac song "Rhiannon" was based on a character from Welsh mythology. I'm about 98% sure that Stevie didn't reference the word "Mabinogion" herself, but that little tidbit about the Welsh myth would have been enough to send my nerdy, obsessed little self scurrying to the library or bookstore to look it up and learn more. Basically, the Mabinogion is a collection of some very, very old Welsh legends, some based in historical fact, and some supposedly pre-dating the King Arthur legends, and if you want to know a little more, you can click here.

All of this led to a pleasant little stream-of-conciousness moment, just thinking about Stevie, and the Mabinogion, and the novel The Mists of Avalon, which, for some forgotten reason, prompted me to ink a blue crescent moon on Stevie's forehead on the very large poster which took up a wall in my bedroom. And all of that led me to think of all those gothic-y British things, of druids and castles and wuthering heights and Kate Bush singing "Heathcliff! It's me, Cathy, let me in at your window!" And I remembered all my passions, how large they were back then, all of that adolescent stuff that filled the room, the emotions that buffetted me about helplessly like a little sailboat. God, it was intense to be sixteen. And then I thought of how it will be November soon, and for me, November has always been the season for listening to Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore," in all of it's Tolkien references-mandolin-strumming glory. And then I remembered that if it's November, and it's Zeppelin-medieval-gypsy influences and mandolin strumming that I want, then it's obviously time for Heart's Little Queen. Another album cover that I spent many an hour gazing upon:
I miss having all of that time on my hands, hours and days and weeks of crushing boredom that I filled by staring at album covers and memorizing the lyrics to sweeping ballads and posing in front of the mirror and reading novels about Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake. I miss the time, but I certainly don't miss the age. And thank goodness I finally did grow out of my Stevie obsession, otherwise, if I'd held true to the vow I made back then, my daughter would be named Rhiannon Jade, and I'd still have my ribbon-bedecked tambourine hanging on a nail above my bed. (It really was lovely though, the way the low winter sunlight would hit the big round crystal hanging in my window just so, sending shards of rainbows scattering about the bedroom walls.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Push It

Myk likes to remind me sometimes that I am a big, walking red button just begging to be pushed, like the "Easy" button in the Staples ads. This is in reference to the fact that I'm ultra-sensitive and high strung and completely incapable of keeping my emotions, however fleeting, off my face. I hate this. Not only does it mean that I'm never going to beat Jennifer Tilly in a world poker tournament, it also means that, on the days when I least want to talk or explain myself or otherwise engage, I get people asking me what's wrong. And somehow, it's always the people who refuse to accept "ah, nothin'," as an answer, and keep prodding until I spill some beans and talk it out a little and invariably feel a wee bit better. God, I hate that too. Sometimes a girl just wants to wallow, y'know?

So, there's that element of my red-button self. But then there's also the other part, the high-strung, jumpy, nervous wreck part. As a passenger in a car, I've gasped and ducked when the wind whipped a stray leaf across the windshield. I sometimes gasp because I think I see some weird shadow in my peripheral vision. One would think that perhaps having one child, and then another, would cure a person of this sort of hair-trigger jumpiness. And yet.

On days like today, when it seems like the children have decided to pitch a tent and camp out on my Big Red Button of a psyche, I really start to wonder if maybe I shouldn't go running for the shelter of a mother's little helper and start poppin' those Valiums and seeking out my happy place. Then I decide instead that it's a perfectly natural response for any adult, especially any sensitive, intuitive, in-tune-with-the-emotional-barometer-of-the-room adult to get a little tense, and a teeny bit brittle in the face of a 22-month old screaming in displeasure and rage that no, he cannot have juice! juice! juice! or truck! truck! truck! right this very instant, at an average of eight times an hour. Never mind the four-year-old, matching her brother blow-by-blow in the Demand and Complain Loudly department.

The problem with writing about those moments is that they're so bloodless on the page, rather than bloodcurdling, as they are in real life. Which leaves me, whining and complaining much in the fashion of the younger citizens of the house. I don't want to be the kind of mother who frightens her children by hiding in the furthest corner of the deepest closet, but I so wanted to go there today. It would have been dark, and cool, and quiet, and maybe I could've taken a deep breath without hearing the terrible screams and shrieks that, any evening now, are going to make the neighbors call Animal Control on us. Is your house this loud at 6:30 every evening? Because from my perspective, I of the big red button sensitivity, it sounds like an insane asylum, like the one in The Snake Pit with Olivia de Haviland. Like there should be arms reaching desperately out the barred windows, and grim-faced men hurrying down the corridors with straight-jackets at the ready. And a humorless nurse, like at the end of Streetcar, who will examine my fingernails and declare, "these will have to be trimmed."
Accuse me of exaggeration, but I swear, that's exactly what our house sounds and feels like most nights after dinner.

Not every night, thank goodness. Some nights, Lily will go up to her room and play or read, and Tucker will happily work on making those grooves in my coffee table ever deeper, as he pushes his beloved trucks around and around, muttering away to himself. But we're not talking about those nights, those nights that make me feel so smug and blessed and blah blah blah. We're talking about tonight, and how mommy was standing at the open front door letting all the mosquitoes into the house while she anxiously looked up the street, waiting for those men in the white coats to come and take her away, because at this point, she could really use the change of scenery.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sing Us a Song, You're the Piano Pan...

Well we're all in the mood for a melody, and you've got us feelin' alright....

Okay, sorry. Yes, I'm a dork, but listen people, what you need to remember here is that I survived with my sense of humor (such as it is) intact after Wednesday's Halloween parade at the senior center. If it had actually been, in fact, a "parade," maybe I wouldn't have needed that infusion of alcohol or sedatives so badly, but it was so NOT a parade, but rather a....swarm. A mass. A miasma of preschoolers and toddlers sweating in their chicken suits and lion costumes, or, like Lily, bumping into doorways with her pixie wings, and all moving en masse toward the hapless old folks with their arthiritic hands curled around the Tootsie Rolls they would then very slowly, very purposefully, very carefully place into each child's bucket. And then there was a craft! And melting ice cream cones! And marching across the hot parking lot from the freewheelin' independent-livin' retiree section with their sweating pitcher of margaritas sitting on the sideboard that I eyed longingly (as did Edna and Marge, no doubt) to the locked-down Alzheimer's wing!

So here for your viewing pleasure is my piano-playin' Peter Pan. He rocked the crowd with his inspired noodling of the ivories, only just slightly less than he jarred 'em earlier with his eardrum-piercing chimp shrieks when he saw me deliver our donated bag of candy to an aid and then had the nerve not to immediately give him some, per his request. (Yes, this is all our fault, because we thought it was so, so cute to teach him to sing "I Want Candy," and bop his curly little head to the tune.)

So, Happy Halloween to you. I can say it now, rather than waiting for the end of the month, because I was in the Macy's shoe department two weeks ago, and they'd already busted out with their huge, twinkling Christmas wreaths. Oh, and tomorrow? Tomorrow we're doing Disneyland. And no, we are not going in costume, and if there are any parades, we'll just be watching, not participating, if I have any say in the matter at all.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Setting Myself Up

Since I'm officially part of the blogging community now (and also, since I didn't end up participating in World Bread Day), at the very last minute I submitted a picture of our living room to Apartment Therapy's Fall Color Contest. I have absolutely no hope of winning, but it seemed like an interesting thing to do, even as I feel I'm just totally setting myself up to be crushed by all the hip, snarky comments from all those lily-livered loft livers with their apple green walls. Go over there and click randomly at the entries and you'll see what I'm talking about. (I actually have big plans to use that apple green myself when I re-imagine the guest bedroom into a kid's playroom.) It seems clear that apple green, orange and turquoise are big, big colors of the moment. It's too bad I didn't enter our family room with it's marigold wall and red rug, but it was a mess and I was in a hurry to just get something in to them. (Ah, fond memories of submitting short stories on the postmark deadline to lit journal contests....)

Anyway, like I said -- don't expect to win, but I'm looking forward to the comments whenever my entry gets posted. I'm not too terribly worried though, because while my house is certainly not going to be photographed for a magazine anytime soon (like some of the best entrants), I'm sure as heck not as downright awful a designer as some of the others. (That Bloody Mary bathroom, for one....Lord.)

Oh, and did you see...I got my first ever comment? Whoo-hoo! I'm in the game now, baby.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cream Puffs and Inspiration

Every once in a while I get lonely for some of my favorite books from childhood, and I stop by the children's section in the library and look them up and pay one or two a visit. I don't usually check them out, as I'm already too ambitious as it is, checking out three of four novels when it's clear I can usually only finish two in the two weeks our library allows. But a couple weeks ago, I checked out Ginnie and the Cooking Contest, by Catherine Wooley. My favorite book featuring Ginnie is Ginnie and the New Friend, which I could have sworn was titled "Ginnie and Geneva," but my memory was wrong. How I loved that book, and how I wanted to be friends with both Ginnie and Geneva! (This one wasn't at the library, though.) It made me happy to revisit the book for the first time in over twenty years, and Lily was quite intrigued by it too, and kept picking it up and leafing through for the illustrations. I think she was a little puzzled by her mom reading a book about a little eleven-year-old girl, a book that's written for eleven-year-old girls, and was therefore obviously a wrong choice for either one of us.

Ginnie and the Cooking Contest
has a pretty basic plot, in which our heroine is bored with the winter weather, plops down on the couch with the evening paper, and discovers a cooking contest for local girls, with the grand-prize being a trip to Washington D.C. Just to make things interesting, there's also a subplot about Ginnie and her friends trying to raise money so that the community center can build an indoor pool.

There must have been other factors that brought me to it, but I credit this book with a lot of my early inspiration for going into the kitchen and trying to learn how to bake. Throughout a good half of the book, Ginnie is fairly obsessive about thumbing through recipe cards and cookbooks trying to find the recipe that'll win her the grand prize. I can't help but figure that my eight or nine-year-old eyes must have glazed over a bit at all the talk of cheese souffles and almond pastes, because I know I wouldn't have had the slightest idea of how those things tasted, and probably no interest in finding out. Early on, Ginnie is convinced she can win the prize with her recipe for cream puffs, which are a big hit with the neighbor boy. I don't know just what it was about those cream puffs that caught my fancy, but I have a very vivid memory of sitting on my grandmother's couch and thumbing through one of her cookbooks and finding the recipe for cream puffs and thinking they sounded pretty easy to make. (Evidently they are pretty easy, which is why Ginnie doesn't choose them for the contest.) What I also remember pretty vividly, is that for a while after reading the book, I became fairly obsessed myself with the notion of learning how to bake. I remember asking permission to make those cream puffs, yet I never did (and haven't still to this day). I also remember going into the B. Dalton bookstore at the Stonewood Mall in Downey and heading toward the back, because that's where the kids section was, and finding a couple of children's cookbooks. I remember that they were on a bottom shelf, and I had to crouch down to get to reach them. I remember asking for one, and then asking for one again at Christmas, and not receving it after all. I don't remember what happened to that early interest in baking. I think I must have forgotten about it for awhile, and then in high school, I did start to bake a little here and there, until somewhere along on the line, I got good enough to tell people that I love to bake, which I do, but not that well, still, and not very often. (Though I'm working on changing this, recently.)

My point isn't to sound pathetic because my mean old parents didn't take me seriously and indulge my early Betty Crocker tendencies. My point is that it's another piece in the puzzle that is parenting, and how I can't help but compare my childhood with Lily's. Because I know that if either Lily or Tucker, at eight or nine years old, or even a little earlier, were to have a sudden, overwhelming interest in baking, I'd hop us both into the car and down to the bookstore and we'd pick out a kid's cookbook together and come home and bake us some cookies, dammit. I'm just that kind of parent, all too eager and trigger happy to find out what my children's interests will be and encourage them with so much rah-rah enthusiasm that they'll probably lose their initial interest altogether. Damn, it's so hard to ride that fine line of encouragement vs. forcing-the-issue. With Tucker, it's still a little too early to tell, but one thing I am proud of learning about Lily's temperment so far is that I need to back off -- way, way off, all the way down there to the end zone, and just let her do things her way, in her own time. And for me, that's the hard part.

Anyway. In the end, Ginnie doesn't win the grand prize (sorry for the spoiler), but she does win a special prize created just for her, to honor the patience, care and effort it took to create the "down home goodness" of her homemade bread. Funny how twenty-plus years later, I'm still inspired my Ginnie, because while I don't have plans to make cream puffs anytime soon, I suddenly have a very, very strong urge to try and bake up some homemade bread -- like Ginnie's, it'll be the real kind, with yeast and everything. Maybe Monday will be the day? It's World Bread Day, I hear, and wouldn't I feel like such the blogger, taking part in this event.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Creepy Shoe

I did end up at least taking the Halloween stuff out of the garage yesterday. I just didn't really put it up or decorate like I'd hoped. It was all I could manage to unwrap a few things from the box and put them on a shelf until more time and inspiration were available. (It's always so jarring to me to take out the holiday decor and get that feeling of, "didn't I just see you, like, 2 months ago?" Amazing how fast the time flies.) Anyway. I unwrapped this faux-vintage red glitter devil head and his buddy, the orange glitter pumpkin head, and stuck 'em on the living room bookshelf. Later that night, Lily spied the devil head, and in a burst of her own interior design creativity, ran and got her red-glitter shoe, from last year's Dorothy costume. She put it right there next to the Mr. Devil, and asked, "is that a creepy shoe, mommy?" She was quite pleased with herself. Today I was able to get a little bit of decorating accomplished. I'm pretty happy with the way the entryway table turned out.

But back to those red glitter shoes: every time I trip over one of the damn things around the house, or see them in the aisles at Target, I think to myself that it's just not fair, and remember how for every birthday until I was oh, about 29, I'd blow out my candles and wish so hard for a pair of ruby slippers just like Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz. Even now, my heart sort of stops and flutters when I see those sequined shoes in all their Technicolor glory during one of my umpteenth viewings . Like the shark in Jaws, they're actually a pretty rare sight throughout the movie. You have to wait for those shoes. And it's not like I don't know that these mary-janes with their cheap, glued-on red glitter are a far cry from the stunning originals. Still. I'd have been happy, nay ecstatic, at four years old, if I would have had my very own pair of sparkly red Dorothy shoes to sport around the house and even decorate the bookshelf with, any damn time I pleased. Kids these days! They got it too easy.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wild One(s)

It's Sunday night, and another weekend is in the can. What a weekend; what a week. I feel lately like I'm biting off much more than I'm capable of chewing, but I'm not at all sure how to, er, spit it back out, once I've committed to the bite. Instead of scaling back and leading that more simple life that everyone seems to be talking about these days, I seem to keep raising the bar higher and higher in my expectations of what I should be able to acheive on any given day. Any stranger who walked into my house off the street and spent about, oh, fifteen minutes in the presence of my wild, feral children would likely just slap me and tell me to snap out of it, a la Cher in Moonstruck. (I watched it again this week -- I never mention it on my favorites lists, but it should be on there.)

Because no matter how I may try to nag, scold, threaten or otherwise take them in hand to civilize them, the kids really seem to be reverting more and more to their natural state of wild beasts these days. (Reverting, ha. That would imply that they had at some point progressed beyond that stage.) You may have gotten the impression from the previous post that Lily is some sort of ethereal fairy-child, when in fact, the above picture is really a much more typical state for her -- wildy jumping around, bounce house or no. She just flat-out refuses to listen to 98% of what we tell her lately, which is usually just 2 phrases, anyway: "calm down" and "stop running." Tucker, as he approaches his second birthday, is really feeling his oats with that willful-adorable-tyrant stage. I sort of cringe when I enter the kitchen to make a meal these days, as usually he'll take that as a sign that mommy has already worked her food-magic-mojo, and he comes running in, yelling "ready? is ready? ready ready ready? Milk! Want milk? I want juice! No milk! Juice! Ready ready ready?" This, before I've managed to re-heat, chop or otherwise come halfway close to producing anything edible.

So, yeah. The weekend is over, and I didn't accomplish anything I'd planned. Which was to decorate the house for Halloween, and do some laundry, and clean, and work on the Halloween craft stuff that arrived this week from Mailorder #4. I don't even want to tackle the subject of me and this crafty business right now -- I have a whole other post I plan to devote entirely to that new weird obsession that's bit me. Suffice it to say that those crafty-blogging women out there are probably half the cause of my feelings of inadequecy these days.

However, I did get to go to Bunco on Friday night -- didn't win any cash, but I looked damn cute in my new Steve Madden red peep-toe flats, and I also found out that if you put salted peanuts and candy corn in your mouth at the same time, it tastes exactly like a Baby Ruth candybar. So I guess the weekend wasn't a total wash after all.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Girls In White Dresses

"....with blue satin sashes..." That's the song that kept playing in my head on Saturday, each time I looked at Lily in her flower girl dress, along with her partner, Megan. How beautiful they were! Lily's blonde curls were amazing to behold, after being professionally tamed and perfected by the bridal hairdresser. Since she's only 4 (four and a half, mom), I wonder if she'll remember much of this day, when she was one of two flower girls at my cousin Michael's wedding? Perhaps it will come back to her as a series of moments, twirling around and around as she did all day in that cloud of white tulle.

My favorite moment was at the reception, right after the bride and groom sat down to eat at their head table, and the DJ put on "A Whole New World," from Disney's Aladdin. Lily jumped up, raced out to the dance floor in her bare feet, and twirled and danced, lost in her own world, blissfully unaware of all the eyes upon her, admiring this child alone under the soft lights. My girl! May she always be so eager to dance barefoot out in the center of the dance floor, partner or not.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Deliver The Money in Large, Unmarked Bills and Place in Nearest Dark Alley

Turns out that Tucker's fever was just a fever, or as his dr. called it, a "nonspecific virus." He did get a light, non-bumpy rash on his face and torso for a couple of days after the fever stopped -- and this too was deemed normal by the doc. All of this is very good news, as I'm quite fond of both my firstborn child and my right arm, either of which I may be required to fork over should Tucker need another hospital say.

I say this because of The Bill we got last week from the hospital. In the hospital's defense, it is really the fault of the bastards at the insurance company, who decided that, in their opinion, Tucker didn't really need to be in the hospital for the last 6 days that he was there back in June, and so, hey! Guess what?! We ain't gonna pay for it! And since every decision or payment from the insurance company seems to provoke a flurry of paperwork, the gears of bureaucracy really started grinding away, which resulted in us receiving The Bill amongst the junk mail and Pottery Barn catalogs.

I suppose unless your child has been kidnapped and you're anxiously awaiting the delivery of the ransom note, nothing can quite prepare you for the sight of a piece of paper with the words "Patient Responsibilty" and "Payable Upon Receipt" typed next to an amount that is just slightly less than $47,000. $47,000. Huh. And just as if it really was a ransom note, I burst into tears and panicked and then calmed down and thought, "we'll have to call a lawyer." (Why do the parents of kidnapped kids on TV always have a lawyer on retainer?)

Turns out we likely won't need to get a lawyer. Myk called the hospital, and they apologized and said we never should have gotten that bill, and they're still in negotiations with the insurance company. Meanwhile, we get to keep our healthy, happy, and precious little boy, and for that, I'll happily deliver all the ransom money I can scrape together, and I promise I won't even get the cops involved.