Dandelion: 2010 Year In Review

Ho00-boy, this is going to hurt. I really don’t want to go crawling through my archives on this year– but like  pulling off a band-aid, it must be done. It’s an avalanche of pain and emotion- Without further ado, a look back at what turns out to be the sorting-through year…

January: Dawns with me feeling tiny, trepidatious flickering of hope. The divorce was not yet final, and I continually found myself flattened, but kept picking myself up and dusting off, and feeling more than a little like Rocky. I may have even started to have an attitude- “oh yeah? knock me down again… I’ll just keep getting back up.” I found out I was losing my home and wrote some of the most stirring, painful things I’ve ever written. Even now, a year later, it makes me cry to go there. I started going to the Y in an effort to not self-destruct, I taught y’all how to make a weighted blanket, and Jeffrey discovered Calvin & Hobbes. I closed the month out by writing Thoughts on Moving and Goodbye House. Get some tissue before you read January, if you’re so inclined.

February: My divorce finalized and we settled into and began to piece life back together in our new Little House. Wonder opened my heart to the possibilities that might lie ahead as I suddenly felt… free… for the first time in years, and hope gained a foothold instead of a flicker. My ward held us up in 100 different ways, and I stood on wobbly new legs and decided to apply to the University instead of the junior college in a burst of self-confidence and bravado. Hope becomes a recurring flame. Random Crap makes its first appearance in months, and is a harbinger of a new normal.

March: The carwash teaches me about the return to life, and Bean gets creative with his bad self. I get lost in bad movies from my teen years, and meet my new neighbors- turns out they rock. Lifting weights and Yoga become my new therapy, and I beat the crap out of the heavy bag instead of X. Jeffrey’s sex-ed began with a trip to the mailbox and finding a Cosmopolitan magazine. Random Crap makes several appearances and life seems to be almost inhabitable.

April: We all freak out on sugar over the early Easter weekend, and have a blast with the toilet plungers at Ace Hardware. Swimming lessons started, and the men from my ward showed up and graded my yard, put in sprinklers, and added a fence to boot. I have a few moments of what feel like insurmountable pain, but the good days start to slowly outnumber the difficult, and I get my letter from the University congratulating me on my acceptance. I have fun at the Social Security office, and Abby takes up writing in earnest. I wax on about my love for Henry, and Abby turns four. Life is quiet. And my son broke my heart wide open- in the best way- this might be single favorite moment of the whole year.

May: Chris Cornell socks me in the gut at the gym and I have to have a good cry. I walk onto my college campus for the first time, and challenge the world, in writing, to bring it on. An essay of mine is published in an anthology, and you can order it on Amazon. I’m a real writer, babies! I hate on Zumba, and take the kids to Comicon, where Abby is the absolute hit of the place. And I share the best freaking lemon bars on earth with y’all. If you haven’t made them yet, do yourself a favor and do it!

June: Jeffrey makes a strange grocery list, and Bean waxes on the glory of chartreuse. Mo moves and I cry a little bit, but then distract myself by writing a really looong and boring primer on and IEP. We all get caught in the deep end of the pool once in a while, but we are surviving better and better. Little House stiffles me with summer heat, and I (gulp!) start back to school. Ready or not!

July: School school school school school. Sumer. Kids. Homework. Hot. Struggling with balancing full-time motherhood, solo parenting, and full-time school- and failing some days badly and some days actually doing okay. Bean ate a bowl of Cheerios. July is my least favorite month.

August: I took my finals and got a perfect 4.0 for my first venture back to college, flew to Salt Lake for a banzai trip, then immediately packed up the kids and flew down to California to hang with family for the rest of the month. We had Yosemite, In-n-Out, the California Academy of Sciences and a huge blow-up birthday party at grandma and grandpa’s house. It was a low word-count month on account of all the vacationing and finals.

September:  I finally come to terms with the Celiac when my body rebels, and Ava cracks my heart wide open with her love for my dear Bean. We pick blackberries and make jam and I really start writing again when Steven King kicks my butt with his little book On Writing. Bean turns seven and starts dropping his teeth all over the place, and the tooth fairy bombs. Repeatedly. And I become a fly-swatting lunatic over some really scary tubers.

October: Start off the month with conference, which renews my love for the Uchtdorff, and have a birthday the same day. I make a TRX trainer much to the delight of the guys at Ace, and give you all a glimpse into the seamy underbelly of online LDS dating. Because I’m feeling particularly insane, I start posting recipes like a madwoman. You win! Really, I don’t post recipes unless they utterly rock, so take note. I delete my dating profile when I am asked what is wrong with my uterus by a man in Hurricane Utah. Made some super cool crafts at church and crashed and burned for a finale of the month.

November: Made a book page wreath, and the deacons loved us by taking care of our yard. Headed over to Seattle to see Mo and speak at a conference on the changing faces of LDS families. Mo took me out for my very first steak, and I loved it. Beyond loved it. I still stumble some days, but it’s getting fewer and farther. Mo makes the national news, and I deck the halls.

December: Little waves of happiness roll over me, and we have FHE at the lake one really freaking cold night. I ace my next set of finals despite distractions, children and holidays and make the Dean’s List for the second straight quarter. Kellie springs for hte most amazing shoes ever and delights me for days, and life is pretty sweet.

And here we are, New Year’s Eve- ten years ago tonight, standing in the tiny hallway of my little house in California, I found out I was expecting my first child. Now, I stand again on the precipice of a whole new future, and frankly, I am happier and more optimistic than I imagined I could possibly be. Here’s to a happy and lovely 2011 to all of us. Cheers!

Over the River and Through the Woods…

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

Mo’s living room is almost as comfortable and familiar to me as my own. It’s nearly the witching hour as I sit on her super-sleepable couch with my Mac warming my lap and letting my thoughts drift… Abby stirred sleepily from her couch in the front room a few minutes ago, but small, quiet shushing and her purple blanket calmed her back to dreamland. The boys are both asleep downstairs in the chaos of a playroom dominated for two solid days by four little boys with new toys and two small girls trying to keep up. Jeffrey has half slid off the air-mattress in his footed sleeper grandma gave him for Christmas, and Bean is curled up on the sofa, his bear tucked under his chin and his own footie jammies flopping loose around his slack, sleeping body.

The woodstove in the corner clicks and pops importantly to itself, not quite in-time with my clicking keyboard, but as a comforting harmony, and somewhere deep in the house I hear the heater click on and warm air whirrs quietly from the vents near the floor. Just like at my own house, there are baskets of clean laundry that function as dressers and the clutter of lives busy being lived rather than constantly straightened and organized. It’s not a stretch to say both Mo and I take a lot of latitude in what it looks like to have a house of order. It all depends on what order looks like to you…

Do you want to be surrounded by stacks of tidy, compact structure? Do you need people to fit in this box or that category so you know how to behave? Then my kind of friendship is not for you. This is one of the best lessons I’ve learned with Mo. She holds up a mirror so I can see not only her, but who I am by virtue of how she sees me. I’ve written about it before, but it’s my constant take-away from my love for her.

Last night we took off to see a show, leaving Mr. Mo with all six kids– and they weren’t even in bed yet. We got in the car and as longtime friends can feel in their bones, I knew there were things she had to say to me. “Well, shall we dance around, or just have at it?” Since neither of us inhabit stacks of defined order or live in fear of the borderlands, and my trust of her is beyond implicit, the space to open, unzip and spill is immediately made in an emotional clearing. .

Much like in love, depth comes to a friendship when you face the darkness as well as the light in each other and allow it to carve out holding places for the joy and sorrow as well. When you allow your friend their humanity, their frailty, their failings and treat their soft, white underbelly with tenderness and compassion… that is where your friendship finds its home- and becomes something greater than two people dancing in the light.

On the way to the show, we talked about deep, tender places– places where sometimes even the weight of a gaze makes one sharply intake breath. We felt around in the dark, knowing and trusting each other enough to be vulnerable and know the foundation that was laid down over the years. This act of carving-out may hurt, it may be scary, but it ultimately creates a deeper place within and lays down another layer of bedrock.

We walked simpatico in the Seattle drizzle through the hazy parking lot to the theater, coats pulled snug and messenger bags thumping quietly on our hips, sorting out the things to keep and what to release into the ether.

She scoffed at my choice of Coke Zero over her always superior option of Cherry Coke, and I dumped extra salt on the popcorn on purpose so I wouldn’t have to pee during the movie. By the time the show started, we were back to marveling at Christina Aguilara’s (lack of) acting skills, the heinous comeback of the heavy bang, and making highly educated guesses as to which make-up lines were being showcased on the faces of the other actresses in the film.

*****

This morning, Mr. Mo cooked breakfast for all the kids before he headed off for some Army stuff, and Mo and I packed all the kids and ourselves into one car and headed off to the zoo and aquarium. Many hours later, we returned with a passel of damp, hungry, but pretty happy kids and a sureness that nope, my stultifying and irrational fear of sharks has not yet abated.

Camped around her dining room table, we sent the kids downstairs to play until it was time for Ikea dinner (aw yeah!) and then instant-messaged and facebooked each other from two feet way while high-fiving  over our giggling witty amusement. When she slipped a new MAC Villains lipglass in my hand and said it was for me, I knew all was right in the world again. If Mo gives you make-up? You are something special. If Mo gives you a special limited edition MAC lipglass? You, my friend, have made it. Turns out order really does come in many different colors… I happen to like mine with a dash of latitude, some shine and with a hint of sparkle.

*****

Down with Fakey Fakerson

Christmas barfed all over my house. Everywhere… bits of wrapping paper, torn toy containers, tape stuck to the carpet, glittery bows, tinsel, light bulbs, Lego bits and pieces, my little pony shoes (yes they have shoes now) Polly Pocket (because Lego aren’t enough fun to step on barefoot) and various pieces of candy scattered to kingdom come.

(Not to mention #$%& little metal ornament hooks that get caught in my socks or the brush on the vacuum and then click and drive me nuts until I sit down and hulk the vacuum over and eviscerate it to extract the metal hook- what? that never happens to you? I don’t believe you.) So anyway…

Tonight, I tore everything down. Everything. The Faker is boxed and back in the basement, the halls are undecked, the recycle is full of cardboard, the cards and wreaths are down, and most of the lights are boxed (My one indulgence was leaving up the bathroom lights. We all like how they make bath-time nice, and I have a side project I’m considering for them.) It felt so good to walk into the living room and have it be all clean and neat again… at least until tomorrow, when the kids wake up. I can dream…

Next year? Totally getting a real tree. I think I’m over the Faker.

Christmas Recipe: Mexican Caesar Salad

Everyone else is posting cookie and candy recipes, but for me, Christmas Eve means Mexican food- and has for the better part of the last decade. I make this salad once a year, and I make a bucketload- enough to feed 30-40 people each year on Christmas Eve. If I showed up with anything else, they might toss me out. The recipe is originally from El Torito Restaurant, and trust me when I say it’s the real deal. You can halve the recipe if you need less than a vat. Even feeding 40 people, I’ll only use half. (I dole the rest out to grateful friends)

Welcome to the kitchen of Little House… Now lets make some food!

El Torito’s Mexican Caesar Salad

The cast of characters:

  • 2 medium Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (or one can Hatch diced mild chiles)
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas (green raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 ounces light olive oil or other mild salad oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp grated Cotija cheese (crumbly Mexian cheese, cannot be substituted- becoming widely available)
  • 2 medium bunches of cilantro
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup water

The very first thing you have to do is roast your pepitas. This is a fun little thing, because they puff up and pop when you heat them- and their flavor is terrific. When you start, they will be flat and firm, and add them to a dry pan over medium heat:

Shake them and watch carefully- like all nuts/seeds, they’re likely to burn if you’re not careful. It only takes a couple of minutes- and they’ll start to pop and puff up, and look like this:

Place all of the above ingredients except cilantro, mayonnaise and water in a food processor. Thus:

Give it a whirl, pulsing until it’s well combined and uniform. Then, add the cilantro- yes, all of it- but only handfulls at a time, or you might have a mess. But keep adding and pulsing until it looks like this:

Then, in a large separate bowl, combine and whisk together the mayonnaise and the water until smooth, and then add the contents of the cilantro-ladden food processor:

Combine until it looks like this:

Then bottle in canning jars and refrigerate. It tastes best after its sat in the cold for a day or two, and will keep a week in the fridge. It never lasts that long at my house…

To make the salad, quantities are variable, depending on the crowd:

  • Romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • Extra grated Cotija cheese
  • Roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and diced
  • Extra roasted pepitas
  • Corn tortillas, julienned and pan-fried in vegetable oil until crisp

Et voila! Assemble to your liking, and enjoy!

Heels with Jeans: What Say You?

In the comments on my terribly self-indulgent Costco post about my new jeans, it was suggested I pair them with my most awesome Kelly Christmas Shoes. It never dawned on me! I’m so lame- I always wear boots with my jeans- and it never occurred to me that hot shoes might belong with hot jeans. What do you think? Can you wear a snug pair of jeans with some really high, sexy heels? My sanity and burgeoning fashion-sense is counting on your opinions!

{Post Edited: Evidently, this is a very popular thing, a quick Google search even tells me there are flickr groups devoted to such things- but honestly, most of the chicks displaying don’t look very…ehem… mother-ish. ;) What say ye, mamas??}

Costco Four Days Before Christmas

While the small natives spent today at our Home Teacher’s house swimming in an indoor pool while it was subzero and snowy outside, mama had Christmas errands to run. That’s the life, eh? You know what I did? I went to Costco. Learn from me… Costco four days before Christmas is a very, very, very bad idea. It started in the parking lot, where, overcome with the Christmas spirit, I waved an elderly lady into the parking spot I had been waiting on- then I looked for another 30 minutes to make up for my good deed. It was like the Santa Monica freeway at rush hour, with an upended cart of bananas and a circus train that derailed.

No carts to be had outside, and oh look! My card is gone! I sneak in through the out-door, and get in line for a new card. The picture will forever remind me of my annoyance, but at least it was relatively quick. Making my way to the entrance with my spanking new card in my mitt, there were still no carts… and then I did a bad thing. There was a cart over by the electronics… it was empty, but I suspect it was someone’s anyway. I slipped my bag and my Sigg bottle in the child seat nonchalantly and sidled away. I figure it equaled out with the parking spot gods- at least I hope so.

To make it more fun, every single aisle had vendors and samples being given out, so amid the chaos and cart jams were people milling around waiting for the L’il Smokies in barbecue sauce to be toothpicked and set out. The $600 blender guy was screaming into his microphone about the vital need to consume cabbage three times a day (really dude?) to prevent prostate cancer, and the fish guy was camped out right next to him with his tentacles and crustaceans. The smell of the fish mingled with the burning smell of the coffee roaster across the sea of picked-over toys, and I felt suddenly ill. A quick detour into the cold room cleared my head, and I remembered that I’m responsible for my famous Mexican Caesar salad to feed 30 on Christmas eve… better grab a dozen heads of Romaine.

I always take a detour through the books at Costco, but the cart-jam was so horrendous that I didn’t make it any further than the historical paperbacks. Almost tossed the biography of John Adams in my cart, but then remembered how limited my recreational reading time is… and put it reluctantly back. I did however grab a pair of jeans… Low-rise Levis for under $20? Yes please! I was being optimistic with my new running thing, and picked a pair two sizes down from my current pair. A girl can dream, right? Come on, who doesn’t have jeans in their closet that don’t fit? That’s what I thought.

For about four aisles some weird guy seemed to be following me. I swear I wasn’t imaging it- I would stop, and he would. I’d move, and he would. I turned, and he turned. Dude was starting to creep me out, when I finally turned around, looked right at him, and pulled my phone from my pocket ands started to dial. I was fake dialing, but he didn’t know that. He spun around and got lost in the mess of cart madness. That was weird. Probably nothing, but weird. Maybe weird stuff happens all the time but I’m usually so hung up looking for Bean on the ceiling or something that I don’t notice.

All the check-outs were open, so the lines, while long, went mercifully quickly. I contemplated getting a Costco dinner, but the cart-jam at the food court was of epic proportions, so I skipped it and cracked the jar of almonds I had bought. Hello, dinner.

At home, still a few minutes before I had to retrieve the monkeys, I held up and admired my new jeans. Hmmm… maybe I should just try them on, see if I could pull them over my butt? OH heck yeah, what is this… they went right on! Not only did they go on, they buttoned!!! Easily!! Oh hells yeah. Merry Christmas to me!