Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pancake Day! (In Which I Blog About How I Didn't Totally Suck at Making Pancakes)

I was all set to panic. Why? Because it's Pancake Day, and our resident Brit (aka Master Pancake-Maker) is out of town.

I love Pancake Day. I really, truly do. I was introduced to it back in my study abroad days, when I lived with my host family in Bath. My host mom's BFF, Dawn, was an amazing cook. She was also the host mom of my friend Ryan, so we sat around eating really good food a lot of the time, being entertained by Ryan's little host brother - who LOVED Pancake Day (if his clapping and cheering, "Oh, I LOVE Pancake Day! I just love it!" was any indication).

Let me just tell you, the exuberance of this scrappy little 5-year-old was infectious, and I was more than ready to join in the clapping and cheering for the wonder that is Pancake Day.

And then I got my pancake. A crepe-like thing stuffed with ice cream and cherry sauce and honey, topped with powdered sugar....

Man, oh man, it was AMAZING. It even made my official list of: Food I Like Here in the UK

(which, okay, is a pretty long list because I like food, and I like the UK, and they go surprisingly well together)

Well, I was bit by the Pancake Day bug, and was naturally thrilled to have a husband that makes Pancake Day pancakes (lemon and sugar, or Nutella and banana).

But there I was. Alone with the kids on Pancake Day. Not a single pancake-making hubs in sight.


You see, I am probably the worst pancake-maker that has ever existed. Cooking in general is not an area in which I excel. This area includes making coffee (coffee grinds, anyone?) and boiling water (who's a kitchen disaster? THIS GIRL). Usually I don't mind sucking in the kitchen, but to fail at pancakes on Pancake Day? Sounds pathetic.

To go without pancakes on Pancake Day? Sounds like a TRAGEDY.

But guess what, folks? I got out the frying pan, eggs, flour, and milk, and didn't totally suck at making pancakes!

Not a single burn mark blackened the outside. They weren't raw inside, as my pancakes usually are.


And they got me a thumbs up!

Yay, you guys!! *pats self on back*

And naturally, because I'm not one for overexerting myself in the kitchen, these were totally our dinner.

Happy Pancake Day, folks!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Creative (s)Mothering

My happy mom dreams include making ridiculously cute Valentine's Day projects with my kids for their class card exchanges. It's easy to imagine - Gracie and I sit at the table together, smiling. At one point, the magenta glitter spills and I toss a pinch of it in Gracie's hair, which starts a mini glitter war, and we laugh and laugh. And then, as Coldplay's Paradise swells in the background, she says, "Making valentines with you is so awesome, Mom," and cartoon hearts fill the air...

Yeah, those kind of dreams NEVER HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE.

Instead, after informing Gracie of all my brilliant crafty valentine ideas, she said, "Those are cute, but I just want to draw pictures for everyone, just like last year."

"But... but... what about....?" I mean, really. What does a mother say to news such as this? There are so many cute project ideas! "Well, that's really sweet," I said. "Your friends will love that."

And okay, I won't lie - as bummed as I was that she didn't want to get crafty with me, I did find it admirable that she would take it upon herself to draw super sweet valentines for everyone in her class, like she did last year.

Except that last year, if I recall correctly, her super sweet valentine drawing idea turned into me reminding her one million times to get to work on her valentines, and then us arguing whilst hurrying to get them finished late the night before her class exchange.

She must have seen my skeptical look because she added, "And this time I'll finish them early so you won't yell at me. Please, Mom, please can I draw cards for my class? Everyone says I'm the best artist."

I said yes, and Gracie got right to work. Cheerfully, she informed me that she'd draw her standing with each of her classmates, with hearts and peace signs all around.

She did her best work, and carefully wrote "To Sarah. Love, Gracie" in her neatest writing.

And then she promptly got bored and wandered off.

I'm pretty sure I hovered over her every minute of every day last week, reminding her to work on her cards, and wishing we'd done one of my quick and easy ideas.

"Mom, I know! I'll finish them right now!" I heard at least a hundred times. (Why people call it nagging, I have no idea. Clearly we mothers are reminding FOR A REASON!)

And then last night, when it was a half hour past bedtime, I said, "How are those valentines coming along?"

"Done!" she exclaimed, and showed me her work.

Okay, so I've read The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, which means that every time my kids draw a picture, or write a poem or story, I wonder if the response I give them will help them bloom, or creatively block them for life.

It worries me, folks. I want to be a nurturing mother - especially when it comes to my children and their creativity.

So maybe I should have said, "These are great, honey. Good for you for drawing a picture for each of your friends."

But I didn't. I sifted through her cards and raised my brows. "Did you try to do your best work on all of these?" I asked.

"Um.... yes?" she said. "Here, look at Katie's - this one is really good."

She smiled, quite chuffed with her artwork, and was happy to show me the adorable cards she made for her four or five best friends.

The were impressive. Then I said, "What about this card?"

Gracie bit her lip. "Ummmmm.... That's for Charlie, and I don't really like him, so I didn't do my best work on that one," she said.

About 80% of her cards looked the same. I held up another one. "Who is this one for? I can't even read what it says on the back."

"It's for..." She studied the back of the card, specifically the name she wrote. "Um.... Gabriel? No wait, his is a different one. Um, it's for... Hailey? No, wait. Wrong hair. Um..."

Here's where I wonder if I should have just packed the cards up in their card envelopes and stuck them in her backpack, and let her deliver her valentines just as she made them. She is, after all, six-years-old. And hey, art is subjective - perhaps what I know is just Gracie's scribble is considered a masterpiece to someone else (you know, like Grandma).

BUT I COULDN'T. I just couldn't.

"And if Hailey saw the cards you made for Sarah and Katie - the ones you spent a lot of time on, would she feel bad that her picture is scribbled and she can't even read the writing on the back because it is so sloppy?"

Well, let me just say, Gracie started to cry. And I wondered, would anyone in her class even care if the cards are half-arsed and impossible to read? Isn't Valentine's Day more about the candy than the card?

But what does a parent do when even the kid knows she did a wonderful job on a select few, and hurried through the rest?

When I suggested we type up a quick and simple valentine note and print them - making them all the same - she went for it. Maybe I'm more of a creative smotherer than a nurturing mother, I don't know. But I made her promise to do a different Valentine project next year.

There's no moral to this story. Heck, there isn't even an ending other than BEING A PARENT IS HARD.

And I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breaking Up is Hard To Do (In Which I Talk About the Comma)

I'm just going to go ahead and talk about the comma. Or more importantly, HOW MUCH I HATE THE COMMA. (riveting stuff, I know)

Here's something to know about me: I am a comma user, and abuser. In fact, I don't even know if my previous sentence should have a comma or not. Should it? I don't know. I think I use Google for punctuation and spell checks more than anything else.

I was agonizing over my punctuation incompetence with my good pal Jonny a long while ago, and he recommended:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss.

Which I bought, and began to read, and my eyes glazed over, and.... well, I flashbacked to my school days, when I ignored all lectures on punctuation in order to read the book I was hiding under my desk. Then promptly set Eats, Shoots, and Leaves down, and grabbed a different book.

Gracie ignores punctuation of every sort - which makes following along as she's reading aloud nearly impossible. And it's funny to me that I work with her on it (and by funny, I mean crazy) because when I get critiques from my awkward-sentence polishing crit partners, it's obvious I'm the last person who should be showing my 6-year-old where to place a comma.

Commas are hard, yo.

When I was in college I volunteered in a 6th grade Core class (language, literature, social studies) a few hours a week. I loved it. The kids were awesome, the teacher was awesome, and I can barely go a single day without remembering Mrs. T's lesson on the dreaded COMMA.

"Breaking up words is hard to do," she told her students. "There's even a song about it."

The kids looked at her like she was insane, so she put a tape in the tape player, and the music began.

Mrs. T sang along, all the way though, emphasizing the comma comma down doobie doo down down part in the background, and the chorus. The kids giggled, and the braver ones joined in. And I have had this song stuck in my head every day that I have corrected a misplaced comma in one of my manuscripts since.

Which means this song is constantly stuck in my head.

I've decided I need to add a new goal on Marisa's Great List of Goals for 2012. Make it all the way through Eat, Shoots & Leaves, and actually apply the information.

Because my comma woes are bad... but don't even get me started on the apostrophe...

Also, I might need to begin with the illustrated kid's version first - maybe I'll be less likely to set it down.
How about you, folks? Are you a punctuation lover, or hater?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Outta the Mouths of Babes: The S-H Word Edition

Setting: 6-year-old Gracie in the car with Will, coming home from school.

GRACIE: My friend said a swear word today.

WILL [brows high]: Really? What swear word did she say?

GRACIE: The S word. [pauses seriously] The S-H word.

WILL: Oh, wow. Have you ever heard me say that word?

GRACIE [Scandalized and defensive]: “No, Dad! You would never tell anyone to shut up!”


Oh, these kids. So innocent. So entertaining.

Hope you're having a great week so far, folks!


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