A.D.D. Mom

There are some days when it’s best that I just stay out of the kitchen. Today was one of those. Cooking and baking are like hobbies to me that I get to do every day. Sometimes it’s a problem, though, that my family depends on edible results for their sustenance. When my brain is in malfunction mode, my inability to carry a single thought from the recipe book to the the mixing bowl can destroy my otherwise good cooking.

When we hear about A.D.D. we hear how it affects children in school, especially boys. What we rarely hear is how it affects mothers like me.

Even on days when my thoughts are clear and orderly I have to double or triple check the ingredients before I commit to the irreversible…

1) To see what the next ingredient is.

2) To see what the amount of the ingredient is, because I forgot to pay attention the first time I looked.

And sometimes…

3) To see if that amount was supposed to be in teaspoons or tablespoons. Or to make sure I didn’t jumble two ingredients at the second look, because I am good at mixing things up. And not just in a bowl.

Today’s Baking Catastrophe

Today I was baking ginger muffins. Unfortunately, I cooked the lemon zest into the sugar, instead of the ginger Izzy minced for me. No worries. I had another lemon and could grate more zest for when it was supposed to go in, so I trashed the unhappy concoction and started over with ginger and sugar. Too bad I forgot to perform Recipe Triple Check Steps #2 and #3 because I failed to actually measure out the portion of ginger I needed. Izzy had minced three different meal’s worth in the food processor and in my happy state I just put it all into the pan with the new, un-lemonized sugar. Ginger falls into the Less Is More category of life’s little luxuries.

My spirits were high, though. An area in which I excel is that I can always tell when I’ve done something wrong within minutes. My ineptitude rarely surprises at the moment of no-return when we actually sit down to eat my mistakes. So when I realized I had way too much ginger in my saucepan, I fished out what I actually needed from the melting sugar, threw the rest of the ginger away (oops, there goes two of the dinners on our menu for the week), and decided that the bit of sugar that was already mixed into my portion wouldn’t make a huge difference to the recipe. Through much experience, I’ve gotten good at figuring out when it’s okay to work with what I’ve got and when I should just start all over.

I continued with my baking, but by now I knew to send my two adorable helpers out of the kitchen. And they understood. They already know that seemingly insignificant distractions— like my handing a cup of flour to one of them — can really throw me off.

When My Usual Coping Strategies Fail Me

So here I was, alone in my kitchen with only my own wandering mind to distract me from my purpose, and I thought I was in the clear. But A.D.D. — at least my version of it — loves to twist the most basic information that I happen to be using at a given moment. It’s like April Fool’s Day every day of my life, but I’m the joker and the jokee.

Today the basic information that became my brain’s target was the amount of butter (or in my case, Earth Balance) in a stick. How long have I been baking with butter or butter substitutes? Let’s round to twenty years.

So, fast-forward to the moment of mixing where I’m looking at this crazy butter concoction, waiting for my beater to beat it into a recognizable form, and it just does not look normal. It was yellow puffs of clouds separated by narrow streams of brown sugar and ginger. One and a half hours after entering the kitchen to make muffins, I remembered (too late) that a stick of butter equals a half cup. Not a quarter cup.

I was out of ginger. I was out of lemon. I was out of the desire to do any more baking. Izzy took over the kitchen and we sipped smoothies instead of butter-muffins.

Some days are just worse than others. So why did I think my brain lapses would go away by dinner-time of the same day when I began the chili and cornbread for tonight’s dinner?

Two Nights In Tuscon

The kids might not think this was such a great spring break anymore if they knew that Izzy and I thought we would take them to Disneyland for about a day before we remembered the ticket prices and decided on Tuscon instead.
In Tuscon we can entertain the kids for free by having them walk long distances.
A retired salesman, Izzy decided to incorporate an advertising tactic when we told the kids our plans for spring break: give it a catchy name/slogan. . .

Two Nights In Tuscon

Our spring break announcement was a success. All week Aiden asked us, “When are we going to Two Nights In Tuscon?”
We bought each child a disposable camera for our hike up Sabino Canyon…
While they all three claimed the hike and the cameras were a favorite part of our vacation, it was Aiden that really got serious about the photography. We realized we might be raising a future brilliant photographer as we watched him frame shot after shot, remembering how he begged for a digital camera for Christmas a few years ago. And how he asked for another one this year since he left his first one in the backyard for many days.

Then we learned his true goal. He found a video on YouTube that shows how you can turn an empty disposable camera into a taser gun. You can even see him fantasizing the possibilities of that plastic black box with buttons in this picture here. . .
You can also see in the above picture one of the many reasons I will never move away from Arizona. My heart got stuck on the thorns of a saguaro cactus a number of years ago.

In that same picture you can also see why our oldest child, the one far off in the lower right corner, is in few of the pictures. You know it’s not because of camera shyness. It’s that he’s Mr. Independent now and doesn’t want to hang back with the slow folks bothering with cameras.

He can slow himself down, though, to spend a little time with his baby brother. . .
But he’s not afraid to climb all over people, even family, to get what he wants.
It’s during these precious moments when I wonder if Trinity is missing out. She doesn’t have a sister to climb all over. She seems to be okay, though. She has me to trade clothes with.

And she has her daddy.
And he’s a dad that shows her every day how a real man treats his girls. And his family.

I Gave My Son His Most Embarrassing Moment

My oldest is in 6th grade, ruling the school as only 6th graders in elementary school know how. They’ve had a section on the medieval time period (yes, I successfully spelled medieval without the spellcheck!) which culminated in a great Medieval Feast this week. Every year I’ve seen the 6th graders come to school for their feast in actual medieval costuming. I’m talking serious costuming, not the homemade or Walmart kind.

Self-Revelry Time

My mom raised me in homemade costumes, and most of my kids’ costumes have been homemade as well. I’d like to say I’m creative that way, but really I’m just kinda cheap. I didn’t want to take the homemade route for Blake’s medieval feast, though. I mean seriously, my oldest will be in junior high next year! This feast will be one of his best memories from elementary school. So I surprised him and rented a really beautiful knight’s costume (from a wonderful shop owner who gave me a good discount since it was a school event).
Blake was also supposed to bring in a non-paper and non-plastic plate and cup. I was so excited to provide him with a metal Armatale platter and a stainless steel adult beverage shaker goblet. I packed it in a brown cloth bag that I never use and sent him to the feast.

And I flirted with, but refrained from, giddiness all day, resisting unusual urges to pop in at the school and check things out.

Confession Time

When we picked Blake up from school, I was surprised at his less-than-enthusiastic response when I asked him how his day was. He handed me the bag of dinnerware as he said, “There was something weird in the bag, Mom.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to say,” he said.

Israel and I exchanged the typical parental glances you have all exchanged yourselves if you have children who know how to speak. I opened the bag up and saw the platter. I saw the goblet. It all looked fine so far. And then I moved them out of the way to dig deeper and found something rather strappy and made of fabric. I pulled it out, shook it a bit to untangle it, and then shoved it right back in again when I recognized the Victoria’s Secret logo etched into the thong waistband.

Israel and I started cracking up. I think it’s better for Blake’s recovery that way — you know, to laugh about it.

“I’m so sorry, Blake!” I told him. I swear I don’t remember ever using that bag before.

I encouraged Blake to talk about it. For therapy.

So here’s how it went down. He pulled his platter and goblet out of the bag, and out slipped the above-mentioned accompanying item.

“What’s this?” he said out loud and began to untangle said strappy item while his friends watched on, curious, until the nature of the formerly unrecognizable item became apparent. And then he shoved it back into the bag.

At least it wasn’t in any sort of showy pattern or color. And I think it’s better for him that there was less of it, rather than . . . more.

I think. . . ?

* * *

Note: Today’s blog post is a response to the Carpool Queen’s Confession post and her question: “Because I’m all about laughing ministering to the needs of others, what can you confess to and make everyone else feel better?”

Tammany Hall: A Band You Should Know But Probably Don’t

Israel and I discovered this indie band, Tammany Hall NYC, eight years ago in 2002 when HBO used Wait For You (a remix of their song, Wait For Jane) as a promotion piece. Since then THNYC has continued to score movie soundtracks and spots on popular television, like on the t.v. series, Scrubs. Why the band has not crawl its way out of music indie-land is a mystery to me.

Maybe the band hasn’t found the right producer. Maybe they just don’t have what it takes to get out in the front. Maybe they experimented with style too much in the beginning for people to get a handle on who they are. Whatever the reason, they are a hardly known band for all of their success. Pandora Radio doesn’t have a clue of their existence and you can only find a few of their songs on YouTube.

Here’s the popular Scrubs version of Cindy, along with some of the lyrics:

you loved me with your eyes
you help me with your voice
You listen when my voice was void of sound
You touch me with your laugh
You show me to my smile, and you
You save me with your kiss before I drown

I love their acoustic sound, which is both soft and hard at the same time. Unlike many of the California bands I’ve talked about here, THNYC has cool-toned New England urban sound with the more introspective, intelligent, and symbolic lyrics you might expect from a group that comes from the well-educated northeast coast.

Brilliant Lyrics

Here’s what I’m talking about…below are lyrics from the last part of Back In the Bottle. This is a serious take-your-breath-away song for me, with the climax and the following lyrics all crashing together at the same time. Go ahead and play the video just underneath them…

back in the bottle again.
what the f**k’s out there? like i care. what am i needing?
why am i leading myself on this game of stalemate solitaire?
can’t start again. can’t land a 10.
must be “spade” cause my heart is beaten, captain,
but you play the cards you’re played.
years have passed. with each year, i’m wearing down the glass.
if my ship sails, let the breezes blow me back to better jails.
there must be another sea, but that’s a mental mutiny.

and that’s not me. that’s not me,
but the glass is cracked and i think i’m going down.
it’s not me. it’s not me
to wash away the world that’s whirling round.
i can’t breathe anymore.

I can’t stop sharing their songs. If there were more of my favorites available I’d post them, too. Instead I’ll stop at three. The next song, Someone, is one Israel Israel likes to play for me on the guitar while I attempt at singing it. (Note: one explicit lyric is slightly obvious in this one. Just wanted to let you know ahead of time if you don’t want it reaching the ears of your little kiddies).

and some may run. and some know fear.
and some wade in a while and let the murky waters clear.
and some just smile.

someone makes love. love makes someone.
someone gives love. someone takes none.
and some may pass. and some may hold.
and some grow ageless while their body’s growing old.
and they just smile. they just smile.

Revisiting My Self

Uprooted from my childhood home in California in 1985 at twelve years old, I have been a visitor in every other town I’ve lived in until I found Arizona, California’s next door neighbor. Michigan, Kansas, Utah, and Missouri are places I experienced and observed while I lived there, but they were never my home.

Twenty-five years after I left L.A., Israel and I arrived a couple hours early to a business trade show in Anaheim last January. Looking at Google Maps on Israel’s phone as we located our hotel, I saw how close my old neighborhood sat, just to the north. In twenty-five years I never once found time to revisit, though I longed to.

“Let’s go over there!” I said to Israel. Since I’m currently writing a short story that combines many of the experiences I had living in that tough area, he was curious, so we drove the fifteen minutes to the congested city and the not-so-nice neighborhood that assisted my parents in raising me.

We entered Whittier and as we drove down Imperial Highway I scanned the cinder block wall to our left, knowing my tiny old house sat somewhere on the other side. Finally, when I recognized the Hand Car Wash and the Carriage Family Restaurant, still standing twenty-five years after I last saw them, we turned onto the street that led to my neighborhood. Memories dislodged themselves as we drove down the sloped road that many times propelled four friends, plus myself, piled on one bike with a banana seat.

I saw homes I had played in with friends I sometimes liked and sometimes fought with. I remembered areas we avoided on days when the bullies were spewing their threats. We drove by the place where I first experienced the wind getting knocked out of me —by a boy’s foot— plus the couple of victorious spots where I got to be the one to punch some threatening boys.

We turned left onto my surprisingly narrow street, Lucinda Drive, and it made a sharp immediate curve to the right. At first I thought someone altered the road. That sharp curve used to be wide and expansive and veered only gradually. At least, that’s how I remember it. And my own house number popped up on the road before it was supposed to. In fact, Israel is the one who identified my house and he had to show me the address on the curb before I accepted it as mine, not just because everything looked so much smaller and tighter from my adult perspective, but also because my house and yard, as well as the neighboring ones, looked totally different.
I guess that makes sense. They weren’t the most attractive houses when I lived there. In twenty-five years, someone is sure to change them, especially since it’s hard to upgrade in L.A. where the only option for many residents is to renovate instead of to abandon and buy something new.

My old white house with dark brown trim is now a soft yellowy cream with white accents (better, in my opinion). Most of the planter off the garage is now grass. My dad’s white gravel landscaping at the very front of the yard, with its little wooden bridge and trees, is gone, and now the lawn stretches all the way to the curb (that part, not better, in my opinion).
First and second base for our kickball games — two trees on the side of my yard — are gone, too. We used to tie two long ropes from one of those trees to the other for a game we made to determine social status. My siblings, our neighborhood friends and I would stand on the lower rope, a couple of feet off the ground. We would grab the higher rope in our hands, and then we shook both ropes back and forth as hard as we could to knock each other off. Right away I figured out that those of us who shook the ropes with wild aggression had the control, while those who clung for stability always fell off.
(In the photo above I’m the fourth one over from the left, wearing pink overalls)
The houses that belonged to my crew of friends are even less recognizable than mine. They look newer now than they did when they were twenty-five years younger. But scattered around the neighborhood I found frozen remnants that have hardly changed. One thing that looks exactly as I remember, as if twenty-five years never happened at all, is The Ditch.

The Ditch

The Ditch is a canal. I don’t know why we didn’t just call it a canal, but we didn’t. We called it The Ditch — which is actually a more fitting term for its ragged ugliness, anyway. This ditch separates my own neighborhood from one that housed my elementary school. Its bridge led to the tree covered school banks which the teachers regularly reminded us not to climb, since it was a common site for drug transactions. Everyday we crossed the ditch and walked alongside the banks to get to school and everyday we ran at the top of the banks (ignoring the teachers) until we reached the ditch again to go home.

The ditch sits at a lower elevation than everything else and all of the neighborhood gutters and sewers feed into it. It is the concrete valley of my neighborhood, an exciting bicycle adventure for us as kids. We would stand our bikes at the top of the blackish gravelly asphalt hill on one side and jump onto our pedals as the downhill momentum pushed us onto and across the bridge and up the rocky asphalt hill on the other side.

We ignored the sign on the locked fence that threatened $500 fines for entering the ditch. We loved to climb that fence and play in the shallow water, catching polywogs. We hid under the bridge when police helicopters flew over (it was a neighborhood that required their regular patrol). They would see us and yell through a megaphone, “Get out of the ditch!” Knowing it was a forbidden play-place, I sometimes visualized the possibility that water might actually burst through the big holes that opened at our favorite polywog gathering spot while we were there.

My wild and gritty childhood in that neighborhood ended just as I was turning thirteen years old and starting puberty. Nothing in my new world resembled the old. Not the cushy, wealthier area we moved to in Michigan. Not the inside nor the outside of my own self. I’ve almost felt like two different people; the open-eyed wanderer me post my thirteenth birthday and that young ignorant girl running around that crazy neighborhood. Standing on my old yard for the first time in twenty-five years last month, seeing the homes of lost friends and neighbors, then looking down on the totally unchanged ditch, I validated a lot of fuzzy memories. I rediscovered others that had burrowed into my unconscious. I got to see and feel that the place of so many of my stories is real.

That visit mended a fissure in my life that divided the first twelve years from the rest. I didn’t expect to finally feel that the child-version of myself wasn’t just a character in a story of which I have so many memories. I didn’t know I would make such an emotional connection with my past. Those stories really were mine — thankfully. They’re on the rough side, but I like them. That was me, and I finally feel like I have roots.

Music Monday: Love Songs, The Non-Cheesy Kind

On Valentine’s Day my guy got all sweet on me and started a Love Songs station on Pandora for the drive to our Ethiopian vegan dinner at Cafe Lalibela. I swooned at the first song by Journey, until I accidentally hit the skip button — a fatal move for that station because the songs that followed were of the abhorrently cheesy Boyz II Men style. I couldn’t handle that.

Here are a handful of the non-cheesy and non-traditional love songs that I would want on my romantic play list:

I Will Follow You Into The Dark
by Death Cab For Cutie
Let’s start with a buck-the-system, non-traditional, but very sweet song with a beautiful acoustic beginning…

* * *

by Guster
What happens when love outrun its initial fascination phase? The reality — the reality of life and the reality of the imperfect partners — is digging its claws into the relationship that Guster sings about In Careful. The singer reaches for his imperfect, struggling lover with his stable, secure, and accepting love, hoping to bring her “Back where I can find you, to crawl inside you…”

* * *

by Regina Spektor
I know you know the next song, but how can I leave it off the list when it so successfully communicates the drama and the passion of every unacknowledged love that has to end before its time?

* * *

Hard To Concentrate
by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sweet tastes sweeter when you don’t expect it. Here’s a band of musicians who are reckless and wild but when one of them is ready to settle down and start a family with his girl, the Chili Peppers can be very, very sweet…

* * *

by Red Hot Chili Peppers
As far as I’ve read, Anthony Kiedis has never divulged the exact meaning for and the story behind this song, but I think sometimes the mystery behind the sorrow is better than knowing the story…