mom moments

On Cleaning Up My Potty Mouth in Salt Lake City

My sister and her husband moved from Portland, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah about six years ago. To be honest, I still haven’t forgiven them.

(Sadly, this was Brock’s only visit to Portland to see his Aunt Mel, before they up and abandoned all hope of living anywhere nearly this cool again.)

Utah seems to be the only state somehow untouched by U.S. law. Like, how is it the only state where there are legal loopholes for polygamous marriages? And how is it legal to have students attending public schools granted released time during school hours to get LDS education on the LDS seminary campuses that seem to be conveniently located on all the public school campuses (when every other state is fighting to the death for separation of church and state)? And how is it illegal to order alcohol without having food already on the table? There’s no, “Can I start you off with a glass of wine?” No beer on tap that’s over 3.2% alcohol content? Obviously I could go on and on.

So I will.

Because, as if these things aren’t bad enough, I came across this list of Dumb Ass Laws in Utah. (Yes, I added the ass for emphasis. And fortunately I’m not in Utah right now, because if I was, I would likely be arrested. According to this list, it is illegal for women to swear! HOW IS THAT LEGISLATABLE?!)

But.

As I said, my sister lives there. And for those of you who don’t know me, I’m kind of close to my sister. (Okay, really close. Like, we’re pretty much the same person, just living in different states–and it will remain that way for as long as she lives in Utah.)

I recently went out to watch my sister’s kids while she and her husband were in Ethiopia. These little faces that the two of them made together are my favorite excuses to visit to this nonsensical place.

After many visits to Salt Lake City without ever actually going to the Great Salt Lake, I finally decided it was time to explore the place where the city got its name from. In the middle of the Great Salt Lake is a lovely little place called Antelope Island.  The kids and I headed to Antelope Island in search of antelope. Seemed reasonable. Many hours (and wrong turns) later, we had no antelope sightings to report. We did, however, sight buffalo, tens of thousands of birds, tens of thousands of dead birds (literally), cattle, and this crazy beautiful (salty) scenery.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that we didn’t find antelope on Antelope Island. That would’ve made too much sense for Salt Lake City. But, as I’ve learned before, a place doesn’t need to make sense to be thoroughly enjoyed. Being with my sister and her family is enough to keep my heart and face happy.

So I suppose it’s a lot of bit because of my sister…

SLC

…and a little bit because of this view, that I am drawn back to Utah again and again.

According to Utah law, a husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence. Looks like I either need to clean up my potty mouth, or marry a man (or many!) before visiting my sister again.

Hey there, Polar Vortex! You don’t scare us.

I recently got distracted with The Phobia List.  It’s amazing what kinds of things people are legitimately afraid of.

Say, for example, consecotaleophobia–the fear of chopsticks. That’s a real thing, guys. Like, a clinically diagnosable fear.

A few other phobias I’m really glad I don’t have:

  • Alliumphobia (fear of garlic)
  • Amaxophobia (fear of riding in a car)
  • Atelophobia (fear of imperfection)
  • Autophobia (fear of being in love)

And that’s just touching the A’s of the list! If you think you can avoid contracting phobophobia (fear of phobias), I recommend the Phobia List distraction.

One of the phobias I would not fare too well with, living in Chicago, is cheimatophobia (fear of intense cold). This week, we have had our second Polar Vortex of the year. Brock has now officially missed three days of school due to the intensely cold weather this year. We decided yesterday that instead of cowering inside, we would conquer the -35° wind chills with donuts and coffee downtown.

Because my sister knows us well, our Christmas cash was coupled with a list of new places for us to discover in the city. We took our list and cash, and started at The Doughnut Vault.

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The Doughnut Vault is one of Chicago’s most popular destinations for a good donut fix, but it is hard to catch the place open.  I have eagerly made the trip many times, only to be greeted at the window with a closed sign, reminding me that the place is only open as long as there are still donuts on the shelves. Fortunately for B and me, there seem to be a lot of people suffering from cheimatophobia in Chicago, so we were greeted with a friendly face offering us plenty of donuts to choose from.

There’s no seating in the place–it’s literally a counter and a door that has a slot for Love Letters and Hate Mail. After finally getting to taste what we had only heard rumors of, we had nothing but love.

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From The Doughnut Vault, we headed for Artopolis. Let me tell you, my sister had done her research. The place was this amazing Euro cafe nestled in the heart of Greektown. I couldn’t think of anything more Euro-cafeish than bread and cheese, so we ordered breaded cheese. (Brock is obsessed with feta, which often works out in my benefit.)

Obviously we couldn’t walk away from this counter without ordering a treat.

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We went with the Dark Chocolate Mousse Cup.

I think if there was such thing as the fear of sharing food, B would be diagnosed with it. I realized that the kid always reminds me to take pics right when he is about to start eating, and by the time I get a non-blurry pic that includes both his face and the food (and not squished together into some disastrous mishmash), he’s nearly done with the treat. Smart little rascal.

After polishing off the remainder of the chocolate cup that Brock had missed, we decided to find a more comfortable place to settle down for the afternoon. I had been to Uncommon Ground before, and knew it would be just what we were looking for. I gave Brock our options, and he said, “…okay, but let’s go to the other [Uncommon Grounds] since we haven’t been to that one before.”

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We nestled in by the fireplace at the Rogers Park Uncommon Grounds, and spent our afternoon playing board games, reading books, writing in our journals, and daydreaming together.

My heart was full as I realized how blessed I am to have a sister who knows me as well as Mel does, and a son who craves adventure as much as Brock does. I can’t imagine navigating my way through life with a family who struggled with neophobia (fear of anything new).

2013, You Were Kind

As you know, I spent about half of 2013 on a coffee break. Now that I’ve finally put my mug down and picked my laptop back up, I thought I’d give you a synopsis of how just kind 2013 was to us.

Brock learned to read.
I learned to write (in HTML).

*Side note: Comparatively speaking, I’m only about as proficient in writing HTML as Brock is in reading English, though.

Brock hosted his first sleep over.
I hosted my first Flag Day party.

Brock got a new sled.
I got a new car.

Brock lost his first tooth.
I had a first date (for the first time in nearly a decade and a half).

One of Brock’s goals for 2013 was to meet his cousin, Ainsley.
It happened.
One of my goals for 2013 was to pay off my credit card debt.
It happened.
(On a single mom’s part-time salary, guys–it’s possible!)

A few other things that happened during my coffee break:

  • I went to 7 festivals, and 7 shows.
  • Brock tuned 7.
  • We adventured in 7 different states (one of which was a new state, as promised in last year’s recap).
  • I discovered 17 new coffee shops. (Did you honestly think I would’ve stopped at just 7?)

My Mom Defied the American Dream

Thanks, Mom

Along with most movie-going Americans, I recently reread The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald opens the book with a philosophy that has had me pondering life and its luxuries this week: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

A girl sitting next to me at Starbucks today, Emily, confirmed my Fitzgeraldesque philosophy. She was elatedly describing to her friend the new Audi her parents just gave her for a high school graduation gift. My first reaction was, gently put, critical; and then I remembered Fitzgerald’s statement.

People don’t typically look at my life (or my 1996 Honda) and covet the advantages I’ve had. I’m here to tell you though, that I am, above all, to be envied.

As is the case with many of the advantaged (such as Emily), the life I enjoy is largely because of the hard work my parents did to provide for me. Those provisions don’t look like the ones that the American Dream implores parents to pass on to their kids. Fortunately for me, my dad was raised in South Africa, and was therefore oblivious to the American Dream. Equally as fortunate for me, my mom is a rebel. She was raised in America (welllllll….Wisconsin), but she was (is) defiant.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I get a little sentimental about Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day will mark the one year anniversary of this blog. This adventure. This creative outlet that really began as a result of my mom‘s incessantly annoying encouragement. Exhibit A: Here’s a quote she sent me a while back.

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” –Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country

That’s right. My mom sent me this. Instructions on how to hurt her. She is the (craziest) most consistent cheerleader and challenger I’ve had. She gets me.

My mom is largely to credit (and blame) for the following:

  • My love of reading and writing

  • My adventurous spirit

  • My love for God and people

  • My love for music

  • My appreciation for a perfectly roasted coffee bean

  • My stubborn will

  • My understanding of grace (coupled with how to fall gracefully)

  • My scatterbrainedness (and ability to make up words)

  • My resolve to never settle

  • My bravery

  • My desire to change the world with a pen and paper

I may not drive an Audi, but as you see from this list, I’ve had life served to me on a (dented/tarnished/stainless steel…read: perfect) platter.

I recently told Brock that the two things in life that require the most bravery are loving and writing. Love demands our utmost bravery (both in tangible and intangible relationships). I believe that writing requires the second highest level of bravery, because it commits our intangible world to tangible words. There is something permanent in the translation process–something binding about letting our words permeate the void spaces on a blank page.

My mom gifted me with the greatest advantages (that are found nowhere in the American Dream)–writing and loving.

Happy Mother’s Day to the bravest, most tenaciously loving (and crazy) mom I know. Thank you for this privileged life of mine.

(Evidence of the life I wouldn’t trade.)

Plan B

(…is the new Plan A)

So, I have fantastic plans made for New Years Eve. The plans include dinner reservations at a swanky sushi restaurant, followed by a house party. (Just a little house party, thrown by friends who throw together a little website about what they’ll be serving at this little house party–I know. I have such cool friends that sometimes it makes me feel like I’m plagiarizing someone else’s life. Someone much cooler. Who am I? Where did you find me? HOW ARE WE EVEN FRIENDS??)

I’m all dressed and glittered up. Brock’s all excited and packed up. We jump in the car ready to go to the babysitters. As we head out, B gets violently ill. Poor B.

Plan B.

Turn the car around. Get home and put Brock to bed. Wash the glitter off my eyes and put the sweats on. Grab a glass of wine and cozy up on the couch to usher in the New Year in the company of my journal.

As I begin journalling about 2012, I start noticing a theme in my year. A pattern.

Plan B’s.

There were some Plan B’s that were life altering. Many were not. For example, Brock and I had planned an elaborate outing one day this fall. We had planned a trip up to Milwaukee to attend a play at a children’s theatre, have lunch at a new kid-friendly restaurant, and meet a rattlesnake. The plan was perfect.

On our way there, we hit a detour in the road. As is often the case, the detour led me somewhere near the border of Canada. Or Mexico. Couldn’t quite figure out what Siri was trying to say.

Oh, hey Plan B!

Oh, hey Plan B!

You know what, though? Plan B was perfect.

We spent the afternoon enjoying the town’s culture, art, history, and scenery. (And all that for free. I mean, when is free not the best plan?)

We also enjoyed the town’s treats. Naturally.

But what made Plan B perfect was enjoying each other’s company.

PlanB

The more I have processed 2012, the more I have realized how redemptive Plan B’s can be. Seems the Plan B’s have often turned out better than what I had anticipated the Plan A’s to be.

A (not-so-brief) history of the year the world didn’t end

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my grandma predicting the end of the world. I remember books around her house detailing the signs of the end times. Discussions of the anti-Christ (and how it was DEFINITELY not Princess Di, as some of her less informed church-going friends were stipulating).

I have to admit that I was really holding out hope in the Mayans this year, for the sake of my poor grandmother. But, just as grandma’s less informed church friends, the Mayans were clearly mistaken. As a result, I was able to celebrate the end of the year rather than the end of the world.

Cheers, 2012.

Cheers, 2012.

2012 was a fantastic year, yes? I thought, for the sake of a palatable review (as opposed to the pungent year end review that my journal had to endure), I’d list some of my top three’s.

Top 3 restaurant discoveries:

  1. Blue’s (Milwaukee, WI) You may recall that brunch is my favorite meal out. This summer, my favorite friend Jordan introduced me to Blue’s. Blue’s was remarkable for several reasons: their phenomenal food, their philosophy of community in regards to dining (including locally grown produce, of course), and their creativity. Look at the drink menu. I mean, when Arrested Development meets mimosas, this mama’s happy.
  2. Victory 44 (Minneapolis, MN) I could not possibly write a review that would do this place justice. You absolutely must visit it for yourself. In fact, book a flight now, because with it’s ever changing menu, you don’t want to miss January’s Apple Pie with Cheddar. (Follow the link to their website and check out the menus from the past year. After your flight is booked, that is.) My beautiful friend, Jessica, introduced me to this place on my most recent visit to Minneapolis.
    Jessica

    Jess ordered the chef’s special of the day, which was cheddar crusted hash browns, pickled pearl onions, blood sausage (we didn’t ask) and eggs topped with a maple brown sugar hollandaise sauce.

    The chef frequents the lobby, explaining the ingredients, concoctions, inspirations, and anything else you’re curious about. We were educated on the coffee beans, and even told to change our bean selection when we ordered cappuccinos. Hand-poured cappuccinos. Like, two baristas actually came and poured our cappuccinos tableside, in order to simultaneously serve both us the freshest, most perfectly frothed and swirled cappuccino. I was so captivated by the process that I forgot to capture the moment with my camera. (Jess is the photographer though, so I still hold that she should’ve been all over that one.)

    French toast, similar to the one I make at home for Brock.

    French toast, similar to the one I make at home for Brock. (A pear-glazed baguette with clotted creme, rosemary infused maple syrup, and pistachio brittle.)

    Side note: The entire bill for BOTH of us–tax and tip and all–was under $30! We almost ordered another round of meals upon discovery, but decided the taste of the second meal coming back up may sway us from choosing Victory 44 again in the future, so instead we agreed to just meet there again soon.

  3. Mindy’s Hot Chocolate  (Chicago, IL) I had been hearing tales of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate for so long, that I finally had to try it out for myself. Everything I had heard was accurate, and I have not been able to stay away from the place since discovering it earlier in the year. They serve brunch, lunch and dinner, but describe themselves as a dessert bar. DESSERT BAR!! Need I say more to convince you of their awesomeness?

Top 3 shows I attended in 2012:

    1. St. Vincent–You can read more about my experience at this show here, but this picture pretty much sums the night up:  St Vincent
    2. Tallest Man on Earth–I was taken aback by the nakedness of this musician’s soul. I haven’t experienced a musician’s generosity like I did at this show.  Tallest Man
    3. Purity Ring–I still physically respond with giddiness when I see the pictures from this show. I felt like I was being serenaded in Megan James’ living room.

 

Top 3 books I read:

  1. The Fault In Our Stars–John Green is a witty and honest author who skillfully tries to consolidate feelings about love and life and death into black and white words on pages.
  2. Wounded Healer–An intense book about Jesus’ identification in our suffering. This book was a marked part of my journey this year.
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy–I know, I know. Before you roll your eyes though, realize that I needed something lighthearted to intermittently add to the book line up I had for the year–and what is more lighthearted than plots about teenagers killing each other off? (I had actually read the series in 2011, but they were well written and fun enough that I decided to revisit them as the premier of the first movie approached.)

Top 3 “firsts” in 2012:

  1. First time homeowner–Kind of crazy, this responsibility of being a grown up. 🙂 Which leads me to my next point…
  2. First time grown up–I know it’s kind of synonymous with number one, but it recently hit me that up until this past year, I have never had sole responsibility for paying my own monthly bills. Not only am I responsible for my bills, but I am responsible for this kid:

    (Talk about a terrifying privilege.)

  3. First time to attend a house show–Jenny & Tyler’s house show this year was a significant evening in my year. Their music has been an instrumental part of my healing over the past couple of years, as music is a way my heart connects the tangible and intangible world. Having the opportunity to spend the evening with them was a gift.Jenny & Tyler

(Side note: I realized in my year end review journaling that this year none of my “firsts” included new cities I visited. That may actually be a first in itself. This realization made my spirit restless. Therefore, this will be different in next year’s review. It WILL be different.)

Top 3 celebrations:

  1. Earth Day Herb Garden–one of the fun projects we did on this, my favorite holiday (after Brock’s and Jesus’ birthdays, of course)

     

  2. Sufjan Steven’s Christmas sing-a-long–I’ve never experienced a show that so perfectly embodied the complete tackiness of the holidays, spirituality of Christmas, and celebration of the season.

     

3.  My birthday–not typically one I would make a big deal about, but this year, Brock did. And it was kind of adorable.

Top 3 mom adventures:

    1. Mother’s Day–I suppose I should have expected to be spoiled on my birthday after Brock’s thoughtfulness on Mother’s Day. If I had to choose the most meaningful day of the entire year, it would probably be Mother’s Day. You can read more about it here

      Mother's Day

      Mother’s Day

    2. Pennsylvania–I don’t know that a year has passed since Brock was born that I couldn’t throw a good camping trip into the top three mom adventures. This particular trip is well documented in two parts, here and here.
    3. Friday Night Date Nights (Collective)–Let me tell you, guys, one of the greatest things about hanging out with a kid is that you can act like one. (We’ve already established that I have the emotional maturity of a two year old sometimes.) Friday nights, I am five, and Brock and I turn the mundane into magic.

       

Top 3 people/groups of people I adventured with this year:

  1. Brock
  2. Jordan
  3. My Minnesotan loves

Top 3 proudest mom moments:

  1. Feed My Starving Children–Watching the effects of this world’s brokenness on Brock’s heart was definitely a significant moment in my year.
  2. Frog catching–Teaching my son the art of frog catching was another proud mom moment.
  3. Coffee–All the hard work my dad did in training Brock last year paid off. I woke up one morning I stepped out of the shower to find that Brock had snuck in the kitchen, made me coffee, and had delivered it with a love note. My heart melted.

Top 3 pics of Brock in 2012:

I think the combination of the three of these encapsulates his personality.

The year has been a significantly satisfying one. In retrospect, I am glad for my grandma’s (and the Mayan’s) mistaken predictions.

Sorry, Neighbors

(but the tree is staying up.)

If my post a couple weeks back wasn’t indicator enough of the festivity that happened in our home (hearts, really) this year, this little story will.

I told Brock before bed tonight that it was time to take the tree down and put away our Christmas cheer until next year. The kid actually teared up. Like, real life tears. (I am going to partially blame the over-exhaustion.) We talked through the excitement we’ll have pulling out the boxes again next year, and how it wouldn’t be that exciting if we just left it up all year. Kind of like how our coffee table isn’t exciting anymore. He started to get it, and after a long silence, finally said, “So should I say goodbye to the tree now, or will it still be here in the morning?” (Evidently we share that gene of needing proper closure on seasons/holidays/everything ever.)

Even beyond Brock’s exhaustion though, the tears made sense. Cutting down Christmas trees has been a family tradition since I was a little kid in a grass skirt on the hillside in Papua New Guinea. We’ve always made much of the event. This was the first time he was responsible for the tree cutting process. This tree was symbolic of his manhood.

I asked him what he was looking for in a perfect tree. “One I can cut down.” (Duh, Mom.)

“Found it!”

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“BROCKBROCKBROCK!! Let’s try a different method.”

“Here. Try this,” I said. He was annoyed. “Mom you’re not even cutting! You’re just looking at me and smiling!”

He got the idea.

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Lumberjack5

I’m fairly certain our neighbors could’ve used a peace offering after we dragged that tree up three flights of stairs, laughing all the way (ha ha ha…).

We celebrated our acquisition in the way we always do.

With dancing. And chocolate.

With dancing. And chocolate.

The trimming began...

The trimming began…

...which obviously called for more chocolate. With a hot chocolate chaser.

…which obviously called for more chocolate. Followed by a hot chocolate chaser.

And because I know you wouldn’t have proper closure on our tree trimming party without a picture of the final piece, I present to you, the angel topper:

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After the party’s sugar high (and inevitable crash), we soaked in the illuminating cheer over a bowl of tomato soup and Home Alone.

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A lot of memories were made around Brock’s tree this year.

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multiple gatherings with special friends

multiple parties

multiple parties…not to be confused with gatherings with special friends

(traditions)

multiple traditions

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also known as friendly competitions

(traditions where we kick my sibling's kids' asses every year)

in which we, for the sake of tradition, kick my sibling’s kids’ asses every year

We finally tried to get “real” pictures in front of the tree before church on Christmas Eve. Brock was cooperating, and then things went downhill. I blame the lack of success on the recent return of my remised Christmas spirit. I wanted to apologize (mostly for the sake of my very proper grandmother), but realized it’d be a lie anyway. Instead, I cropped the crotch shot so as to at least maintain some of my lady-like dignity.

Although we didn’t end up with a Christmas-card-worthy picture of the two of us this year, we enjoyed making the most of this tree. Of this season. Of this revived Christmas spirit.

So, neighbors, my apologies in advance for the glow you may still be fighting off of your living room television screens tomorrow evening (the benefits of big windows and shared spaces in condo living), but Brock and I are not ready to say goodbye to our tree tonight.