¶Notable among my several July Goal failures was “Lose five pounds,” and it is not hard to see how I went astray, there. All month, I was uncommonly virtuous and healthful during the day, and methodically undid all that good work at night. You know that saying, “a lady on the streets, a freak in the sheets?” It is kind of like that, but with gluttony instead of uninhibited sexuality. Do you know what you will find in my sheets? Crumbs.
The good bit is that I have been cooking a lot. I love to cook, and because Scott can’t cook at all, he treats me like some French chef-y genius no matter how simple the meal I prepare, which is gratifying. My favorite things to make are recipes that are easy but SEEM fancy, and a good example of this would be Sole en Papillote, seen here before being all en Papillote-d:
In this particular instance we (Simone and I) put down some baby bok choy and some mushrooms (crimini? I can’t remember) and then salt and pepper, and then some sole (with long spindly fillets like sole I usually fold them in half so they fit and cook evenly) and then some thin slices of butter, a thin slice of lemon, and more salt and pepper. Then we crimped up the sides of the parchment paper and baked the packages at 425 for 10 minutes.
Now, the reason I like this sort of thing is that you can do exactly what I outlined above, or you can whisk together a little soy sauce, garlic, and ginger and drizzle that over and suddenly you have a sort of Asian version (switching out salmon for the sole and cooking a bit longer, if you like) or you can throw in some Dijon and a sprig of tarragon and put a little white wine, even, for a Burgundian version (maybe with asparagus instead of the bok choy), or you can mash up the butter with tandoori spice or curry powder before reforming/slicing it, and have an Indian version, or, or, or…you get the idea. Infinitely customizable, requiring no effort beyond “put things in stack on parchment, wrap up,” fun for children because of the “wee packages” element. Serve with rice or couscous or potatoes, voila!
The problem, alas, is that while my meals became much healthier in July, my snacking was unaffected. I go through snacking phases, you see. Some months I am fine, less dedicated to evening snacking, able to have a thimble-sized square or two of chocolate and call it a day, but what with finishing school and all, I’d been having a Stressful Time, and nothing soothes a person (assuming that person is me) during a Stressful Time like a snack. I don’t snack during the day (or if I do it is healthy and planned, usually cheese or almonds or something), but we eat dinner early, and I am up for a long time after that, and sometimes, once the children are finally asleep and I am able to relax for the first time all day I…go mad. I go mad, is what happens, and I want to eat everything that ever was—and I do, or at least everything that ever was in my cupboards. All the eating virtue I’d so easily practiced by day vaporizes in a cloud of, I don’t know, salt and cocoa powder. I know prevailing wisdom says to simply not keep unhealthy snacks in the house, but this underestimates my evening snack madness. If there is nothing in the house I will SEND SCOTT OUT at 8pm to buy me a bag of Spicy Thai potato chips, which I then proceed to consume in its entirety. I’m not proud of this, but there it is.
I tried having cheese and crackers, under the theory that, while not exactly low cal, it was better than an entire bushel basket of chips, and I ended up putting away a shocking amount of expensive bleu d’Affinois and about half a box of sea salt pita crisps (putting them away in my stomach, to be clear). I am not sure that a toddler’s-thigh-sized wedge of the sort of cheese that is juuust this side of butter was an improvement, frankly.
Now, snacking is mysteriously less appealing again, and I am not tempted by chips even when Scott texts me from the grocery store to see whether I want anything, which is really painting the devil on the wall. But this will not last forever, I know, and July made it clear that I need other ways to cope with stress/relax/reward myself. Or maybe I need some alternate snack plan, because it isn’t unreasonable that I might need to eat a little something post dinner, given what time we eat and how long after that I am awake. I like everyone eating all together, so I don’t really want to do the “kids eat first” thing, and Simone gets too hungry for dinner at
eight six-thirty, and Twyla should really be in bed by seven anyway, and I usually end up sitting in bed WITH her while she falls asleep and after (a whole other story), so for now the early dinner/lots of sedentary evening leisure time situation is here to stay. Partly I really am hungry, and partly I am just idle handed and need something mindless to do while I sit with the sleeping baby and watch television/read, and partly the sudden relaxation has a sinister unmooring effect upon my brain. My neocortex slumps over, drooling with exhaustion, and the reptilian portion eagerly takes the reins, just drooling.
Any suggestions you have in this area much appreciated, unless they are of the “stop eating after a certain time!” or “snack on Healthful Fruit!” variety, in which case I will politely say Hello! Have we met?
(So far, all I have come up with is “popcorn.” Maybe that will work?)
¶ We were listening to some oldies station the other day, and I would just like to ask: shouldn’t the fact that a girl is known as “Runaround Sue” be a red flag all on its own? Do you really NEED to be told to “keep away,” and that hey, guess what, she “goes out with other guys?” HER NAME IS RUNAROUND SUE. I’ll bet I can guess what the problem with Syphilis Sally is, as well.
¶ Another of my Stress Relief Techniques is to watch Lifetime Movies, which I Tivo and save for my housework days—days when I have no help with Twyla and cannot do any writing work, and so instead focus on beating back the tides of household entropy. While I am folding laundry, or taking a break from some odious sorting task (culling/organizing Simone’s toys has been a particularly thankless job), I like to indulge in tales of stolen babies or teen prostitutes, tales I dole out in delicious 20-minute installments. Most recently, I watched Sexting in Suburbia, an especially fine example of the genre, the genre being “Lifetime Movies” but also, really, what I think of as “Maternal Consequence Cinema,” because let’s face it, the Lifetime Movie Network could just as easily be called DAUGHTERS IN PERIL! Surely no more complete cataloguing exists of the ways in which daughters might be imperiled: they become co-ed call girls! They get pregnant at fifteen! They sleep with danger!
Sexting in Suburbia opens with a despondent teen walking down a school hallway, despondent-like, cutting to shots of her working (obvs) single (obvs) mother dealing with a work emergency (taping up a leaking pipe before showing a house, as she is a spunky real estate agent). She is so busy, dealing with these work emergencies, that little does she realize there is another emergency afoot! Namely her daughter’s feet, dangling in the top of the shot when Mom returns home and opens the bedroom door.
After this chilling parable, we get backstory. It all started because of Cell Phones and the Internet (which is FOREVER! we are warned repeatedly). The now-dead girl sent a sext to her boyfriend and someone forwarded it to everyone else everywhere. Probably, we are shown, it was the Blonde Frenemy, who was overshadowed in all things by the dead girl, and who now suddenly is getting the dead girl’s field hockey scholarship.
But! It turns out that while the dead girl’s mom was too busy with her career (and too eager to be a cool, casual “friend” to her kid) to know that her daughter was suicidal, the Blonde Frenemy’s stay-at-home mom was so overinvested in her daughter’s life that, determined to thwart the girl overshadowing her daughter, SHE is the one who forwarded the “sext.” Of course as punishment, the fates take her daughter from her as well: after finding out what her mother did, the Blonde Frenemy storms off in the middle of a storm, and is sending an angry text to mom while driving when CRASH, coma, etc.
So be careful! Don’t be so selfish and work-y that you miss the Warning Signs and your daughter dies a horrible death, but also don’t be TOO wrapped up in your child, because then you’re basically deranged and something else horrible will surely happen. And all anyone will get out of any of it is some lame school-wide pledge to give up cell phones for the rest of the year. This message brought to you by DAUGHTERS IN PERIL! television for overwrought middle-class mothers.
¶ You will remember that one of the July list items I did manage to check off was registering Simone for an activity: every morning for a week, my daughter attended Sports Camp at our local park. Simone loves Sports–she’d been clamoring for a “ball stand-upper” so we could play T-ball, and she and I frequently pass Sunday mornings at the park, when it is still cool and too early for other children to be out, giving us the place to ourselves. We play with our new ball stand-upper and shoot baskets and I hit whiffle balls over the fence for her to fetch and it is…fun. Really, really fun. When I was a child, “sports” and “camp” were probably the two things I hated most in the world, and the idea of combining them would have seemed diabolical, but as I get older I realize the thing I hated about sports was other people, and actually, I LIKE physical activity, even the sort that involves balls (oh HA HA) as long as there are no balls whizzing in my direction (For god’s sake, people) and no one is yelling at me, or watching me at all, or expecting me to be part of a team. I like solitary exercises of skill, basically, is what I am saying.
Simone, to my everlasting shock, takes things one step further and doesn’t seem to mind other people when it comes to Sports, and she did great at Sports Camp. We’d had only one other attempt at an organized activity for her, The 2011 Soccer Disaster, and in the day or two before Sports Camp was due to start she DID freak out and decide she didn’t want to go, and I–in a move that was very difficult for me–told her she had to, at least for the first day or so. A large part of me wanted to let her stay home, because SPORTS + CAMP, my god! Of course she didn’t want to go! Only a monster would make her! But I reminded myself that Simone isn’t me, she wasn’t nervous about the Sports part, she’d asked to sign up for this, and just because I have many terrible memories of mandatory anxiety-producing activities doesn’t mean that she will. And anyway, I wanted her to have the experience of being nervous about something and having it turn out to be fine, which I was 99% sure it would. So yes, I made her go. And sure enough, she ADORED it. Simone, I should mention, is basically the friendliest kid on earth, greeting any new group of people she runs across–on the street, say–with a cheerful “Hi, guys!”
So. Sports. Camp. My kid, who has my DNA in her. Will wonders never cease.