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the truck effect

Tom got an F-150 around Christmas, and it’s been a topic of considerable amusement for our friends and family. Myself, I’ve moved through various emotional stages with the truck.

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1. Magnanimousness: Tom works hard. He’s driven my POS 2003 Ford Escape for a long time. He can’t even fully extend his legs in the POS 2003 Ford Escape. He needs this truck. And so he shall have it.

2. Annoyance: Why won’t Tom stop talking about the truck? Why does he spend our evenings in the driveway, alone inside the truck? Isn’t that kind of strange? How can his truck console already be filled to the brim with stuff like mouthwash and Clif bars, when he’s only had the truck for a week? How come I can’t eat in his truck, when he eats his food in my car, and then leaves the wrappers on the floor? When I return to the house after being away, why does Tom rush to the door and ask me if I saw his truck in the driveway, and doesn’t it look good? What is a bed cover? Why does Tom’s truck need a bed cover? Why does Tom need to tell me about a bed cover while I’m at work? Why would I care that because his new bed cover folds in three, I will never have to take it off? Why would I ever need to take a bed cover off of a truck? What am I, a fucking cowboy?   

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3. Jealousy: Ok, that didn’t feel good when my kids called my car the “Old Car.” It also didn’t feel good when they asked why it feels so small. In fact, it kind of stung. My car is not small. I can’t even park it by myself in my parking garage! And once I hit a post with my far mirror because I didn’t realize how big my car was. It is that big. And by the way, it’s only a year old. And it has stuff that the truck doesn’t have, like this chrome trim here on the gear shift. As anyone will tell you, chrome = luxury. And the truck doesn’t have this ambient lighting around the cupholders that I can change to turquoise or purple. And this push button start! Never mind that I can only tell 50% of the time when my car is turned off and that I’ve accidentally left it running for two hours at the mall. It can come in handy, that push button start. Like if I’m ever being chased by a criminal, I can run to my car and start it just by pushing a button. I don’t even have to find any keys. Tom’s truck doesn’t have a push button start. It also doesn’t have these cool sunglasses that I keep in my handy sunglasses keeper.

Ok, the truck has a sunglasses keeper, but it doesn’t have these cool sunglasses.

4. Resignation: Well, this truck is here to stay, apparently. And sometimes it’s blocking my car in the driveway and I have to drive it. So I better figure out how to park it. Let’s take it to the gym, where there are big parking spaces.

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5. Acceptance: Wait a second, I LIKE this truck. Hot guys do double takes when I jump out of this truck. They never do that when I jump out of my Explorer. On the road, cars move out of my way when I merge. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for years! I like that when I open the door, I have to hold on to the steering wheel just to hoist myself into the driver’s seat. That’s burly. And speaking of burly, I like that this truck goes with my distressed jeans. Think I’ll turn up the Willie’s Roadhouse and go haul something.

dad soccer

I really look forward to Wednesdays. Wednesdays are when Tom goes to play futsal with his team, which is made up of dads from my kids’ school. And I submit that hearing the recaps of those games is better than any entertainment you might pay to experience.

But let’s back up. If you don’t live in Portland or some other hipster town (or South America), you might not even know what futsal is. Futsal is indoor soccer, but with different rules, none of which I know. My only real knowledge about futsal is that every adult I’ve met who has suffered bodily injury during adulthood has done it playing futsal. There’s Keil, who broke his toe. There’s Matt, who tore his ACL. There’s Eden, who broke her elbow PRACTICING futsal in her driveway. Tom is not particularly prone to injury, but neither would I describe him as particularly body-aware. So I had real anxiety about Tom playing on a futsal team.

My anxiety ratcheted up to a fever pitch when I found out that Tom’s first game would be played at 10:20 PM. I mean, by 10:20 PM I’ve been in bed for an hour and twenty minutes, if I’ve played my evening right. As for Tom, the only thing I can envision him doing well and with intention at 10:20 PM is watching HBO. Maybe brushing his teeth. MAYBE folding laundry, but only if it’s all towels. But that’s it. Futsal at 10:20 PM!! No wonder people dropped like flies playing the sport.

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Tom wasn’t having any of my doubt. Dressing for the first game, he pulled on his shin guards, which seemed to cover alarmingly small acreage on his long white shins, and a pair of striped knee socks. Then he pulled out a pair of sports glasses. I didn’t realize he HAD sports glasses, and told him so. “Remember,” he told me, rolling his eyes. “I got them for squash.” Tom has played squash exactly twice. Which puts the use-per-wear on his sports glasses, I’m guessing, at approximately $150. More critically, he hasn’t played squash in about three years, so we were working with an old prescription and impaired vision. Jesus! Why didn’t he just stay home and let me break his legs with a hammer? It would be faster and I wouldn’t have to wait up.

Tom left for the game, and I waited at home, anxiously. I looked back at the text I’d gotten from our friend Ethan, who plays in a Monday night league, and had lost his first game only two days before. The text was a photo of his skinned arm, and a message: “They made me bleed my own blood.” I kept waiting for Tom, until about 9:30, when I fell asleep. Around midnight, I was woken up by Tom, who was scarily alert and high off adrenaline. “We won,” he crowed. I dug deeper, and learned that the other team, ManChestHair United—while comprised of younger, more able-bodied men—had had no subs during the game. Meawhile, Tom’s team, with a deep, enthusiastic bench, had subbed players every 90 seconds. No matter. Tom was SO HAPPY. So I was happy.

This week’s game was a different story. The excitement of the first game having worn off, Jeremy, the team leader, was having difficulty fielding a full five-man team for the game. Tom showed me the potential line-up. Tom was listed as a “Yes (but likely drunk),” because he was going to the game straight from a dinner out. Patrick was listed as “Yes (with weird fluid).” Most of the other players were listed as “No” or “???”

“Look at this!,” Tom complained, thrusting his phone in my face. “Just look at it! I mean, I have ass stitches and I’m playing.” Tom had gotten stitches on his ass while skiing the weekend prior, and now he apparently intended to lord those ass stitches over achier, more exhausted teammates. I asked him about Patrick’s weird fluids–what kind of fluids? Were they from last week’s game? And how could fluids last seven days? I mean, I practiced yoga with Patrick. How could a dude that bendy have been wrecked by a single futsal game? Another teammate, Todd, could apparently barely walk. My old doubts started to come back. Maybe these guys WERE too old to play futsal.

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patrick. warmups.

But they’d won their first game, hadn’t they? I watched Tom leave for his second game (start time, 11:00 PM), and tried to put my fears to rest.

Well, they lost. Recapping the second game, Tom focused less on his team’s performance than the fact that two of the players on the other team were full-time soccer coaches. “Division 5! It’s total bullshit that those guys signed up for Division 5! I mean, I’m a lawyer!” Tom told Finn the score was 7-1 and mentioned that the other team had cheered when Tom’s team scored, so it didn’t sound TOO bad. I mean, the cheering from the other team sounded fun, if a little pathetic. But Patrick told me afterwards that they have to stop keeping score after a certain point and that the score was more like 20-1. Which makes me want to cry.

But it’s ok. Tom’s not injured (so far) and he’s having fun, and really, that’s all you can ask for when it comes to dad soccer.

pants on fire

On the list of undesirable behaviors, lying has never seemed that bad to me. I mean, I’m a mom. Honesty may be the best policy, but sometimes, lying is just easier on everyone. Like when my seven-year old croons “I put your faith to the test, when I tore off your dress” along with Jason Isbell in the car and then asks me what the song is about. There’s only one answer to a kid’s question about the meaning of a country song. “America,” I always answer, looking off into the distance, imagining I’m in a Chevy commercial. Seems appropriate.

Anyway, it’s January. And January means resolutions. This year, I’d settled on “chew slower” when I overheard Finn and Cuz talking about lying. “I never lie,” Cuz said. And boy wasn’t that the truth. Three weeks ago, I’d passed by her on the stairs in a new backless top, late for a party. “How does it look?,” I asked, twirling.

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cuz and me, new year’s eve

Cuz made a face and looked pained. “You aren’t tan enough,” she offered, apologetically. Changing in my closet, I cursed her under my breath while pulling on a mechanic’s suit that covered every inch of my mid-winter skin. But Cuz was right. And if she’d lied, I’d have inflicted my pasty back on a whole room full of party-goers. So maybe there was something to this honesty thing.

Over the next few days, I thought more about resolving not to lie. Maybe it was time to go back to the basics. After all, I’d lied recently to a total stranger and it had gone very badly for me.

My car was in the shop and the dealership had shuttled me to a rental agency. There, I met Kevin, the most falsely chipper employee I have had the misfortune to meet. You know the type. Sunshine on the outside, but inside is a black, rotten core, and it’s cursing your mother. I endured about three dozen of Kevin’s questions at check-in with a stoic calm. Right up until Kevin asked for the name of my employer.

“Why do you need that info?,” I asked, incredulous. “For the computer, Ma’am,” Kevin answered, his fake smile slipping just a hair.

I don’t know why, but I did not want to tell Kevin where I worked. For what possible reason would Enterprise Car Rental need to know where I worked? They had my name, my address, my telephone number, my credit card on imprint–why?? WHY?? And now he was calling me MA’AM?

Something inside of me snapped.

“I don’t have a job,” I said to Kevin. Once told, the lie felt bold and bracing, as if someone had splashed a bucket of ice water on my face. It felt wild and crazy and amazing. Until, that is, Kevin gave me a fake look of sympathy and said, in a stage voice three times as loud as the one he’d been using up until then: “I’m sorry, Ma’am. It’s a tough time out there.”

What the hell. Why would he assume I was looking for a job, and not happily unemployed, like a good portion of the populace? Was Kevin fucking with me? Was he purposely trying to embarrass me? I turned around and noticed, for the first time, four other people in the line behind me, who had observed my testy exchange with Kevin and were now leaning in for more. Did these people think I was jobless? I wasn’t jobless. I had a job. I had a job!!!!!

I turned back to Kevin and leaned over the counter. “Actually,” I said, “I have a job.” Kevin raised a skeptical eyebrow that I visualized wiping off his face via shovel. “Yes,” I said, loudly. “In fact, I’m a lawyer.” I heard a snicker behind me, followed by a loud throat clearing and some shuffling. The four eavesdroppers were standing so close behind me that I could feel all four of them breathing on the back of my neck. “No really, I am,” I said, to Kevin, but mostly to the room. At this point, I was fully aware that I sounded like an ass hat, but there was no turning back. “I’m a lawyer. I really am.”

“Uh huh. Ok, ma’am,” said Kevin, not even bothering to ask me for the name of my fake employer. “Would you sign here for the rental protection?”

Back to my resolutions. I’d lied at Enterprise Car Rental, and the result had been ignominy. But that grown-up lie was certainly different from the little white lies I told my kids. Wasn’t it? I’m thinking now about the twenty or so little lies I told my kids TODAY, starting with “Bummer, the person in line in front of me bought all the cake pops” and ending with “All toy stores are closed on Mondays.” What will I do when my kids are older? They won’t buy these lies forever.

So. I am resolved. Slower chewing. Less lying to the kids. Bring it, 2014.

the tattooed baby

When I was pregnant with Finn, the time would come at the end of my OB appointments where my doctor would ask if I had any questions about the pregnancy. I had lots of questions, but they were mostly about food. Not food for the baby. Food for me. Like, “The French drink wine while pregnant, so why can’t I,” “Can I eat oysters, and if so, how many;” and “What, exactly, is a ‘soft’ cheese?”

My OB is one of the more attractive older men I’ve met, and I’m already predisposed to developing crushes on men who are responsible for my physical well-being. This is why I developed a crush on the dentist who removed my wisdom teeth, and why I currently have a crush on my spinning instructor even though I hate his class. Anyway, with my OB, I developed a crush that was disturbing (to Tom) in its intensity. I liked my OB so much that I needed him to like me. This all seems irrelevant, but it’s not, so stay with me. This background explains why I couldn’t ask my OB the only question about my baby that I really wanted to ask, which was “Can you tell from an ultrasound whether the baby has a large birthmark on his face?”

Finn came out with no discernable birthmarks although he was so pale that he glowed. But Tate. I should have known from day 1 what I was getting into with Tate, because he came out with all sorts of marks. A lightning-bolt shaped mark on his forearm, a dark thumpbrint on his wrist, and best of all, huge Mongolian spots on his rear end that made his butt look blue. Most of the marks have since faded, but he must have been born with a taste for skin art. Because now he wants tats. And he wants ‘em bad.

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I am sympathetic. Every few weeks I see a cool tattoo on some nubile 20-something in my yoga class and I’ll ask Tom if I should get a tattoo, and he answers as he always does, by staring stonily out the car window in long-suffering silence. If he’s in a lighthearted mood he might say something fun, like “I will divorce you if you get a tattoo. I really will.” But mostly he just stares out his window.

The worst is when Tom plays along and asks what kind of tattoo I’d get. That always gives me pause. The only thing I’ve ever considered is a tattoo for my dad, who is gone. And then I take an even longer pause while I consider that while we never talked about tattoos, I’m pretty sure my dad hated them. And what kind of homage would that be? It would be as if my kids decided to honor me after I’m gone by engraving my name on a pair of man sandals and wearing the sandals everywhere with tube socks. That would be terrible. I can’t do that to my dad.

So maybe a tattoo is not in my future. But something tells me we will be visiting this issue again, when Tate is old enough to beg. Last week he padded up the stairs and stood next to my bed, in the dark. Tate’s voice is at approximately the same pitch/frequency as a dog whistle, and sounds particularly shrill at 5:45 AM. “Grandma says we can go to the tattoo store and get real tattoos.” I poked Tom, who played dead.

When I asked Grandma about the tattoo date, she said that she felt really bad for Tate when she caught him soaking stickers in a plastic bag full of water, trying to make them into tattoos. I tabled the discussion, and Grandma, in turn, brought home some fake tattoos to tide Tate over. He flipped through the tattoo book and landed on the one he wanted. I placed it square in the middle his chest, as directed.

In the mornings, Tate picks out v-neck shirts that will show his tattoo off best. In the evenings, when I try to wash it off, he pushes my hand away, or screams.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s 18.

Have a tattoo? Even better, have a kid who wants a tattoo and is coming of age? I’m all ears.

lying to your kids about santa

Tate asked me this morning if today was Christmas. It’s November 26th. It’s going to be a long month. Especially since my kids won’t stop grilling me about Santa. Below, actual questions I’ve fielded about Santa in the last two weeks, and my actual responses.

Q: “Is Santa real?” A: “What do you mean by ‘real’?”

Q: “Is the Santa I saw last year for pictures real?” A: “He was kind of real.”

Q: “If that Santa is not real, who is he?” A: “He’s the real Santa’s brother.”

Q: “What about the Santa we saw at Lloyd Center, was he also Santa’s brother?” A: “Yes.”

Q: “Can Santa fit down a chimney?” A: “Yes he’s very flexible and squishy. Like playdough.”

Q: “Can Santa fit down a chimney that has a wood stove, like ours?” A: “Usually. But sometimes he needs to use the front door.”

Q: “How does he open the door to the wood stove from the inside?” A: “There’s a handle on the inside.”

Q: “How does Santa get to every house in the world in one night?” A: “He flies super fast. Plus, the concept of time is malleable.”

Q: “What is a malleable?” A: “It’s something that’s very bendy.”

Q: “How does Rindy (my kids’ elf on a shelf) fly back to Santa every night if he can’t move?” A: “He can move. He just can’t move while you are looking. And he gets picked up by Rudolph.”

Q: “We left 8 carrots on the plate last year for the reindeer but there were three left. Why didn’t the other reindeer eat the carrots?” A: “What the hell? I don’t know. But carrots give you night vision so you guys should try eating one sometime.”

Q: “How powerful is Rudolph’s nose?” A: “Powerful enough, buddy. Powerful enough.”

Q: “How does Santa eat all the cookies that all the kids leave for him?” A: “Santa doesn’t eat for days beforehand.”

Q: “How can he do all that work on Christmas eve just by eating cookies when you say cookies have no protein?” A: “Well he has to stay awake all night and there’s a lot of sugar in the cookies and sugar can be good in situations like that.”

Q: “Well maybe he would like meatballs instead. Do you think he would like meatballs?” A: “I’m pretty sure ‘Santa’ would love meatballs.”

Q: “Where do all the elves live?” A: “In apartments.”

Q: “The North Pole has apartments?” A: “Yes.”

Q: “If I wake up on Christmas Eve and come downstairs, will I see Santa and be scared?” A: “Maybe. That’s why you should never wake up in the middle of the night.”

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spinning to nowhere

Used to be, you couldn’t mention the word “bike” without prompting Tom to launch into his standard tirade about bike commuters. But listen. Tom’s white. He’s an attorney. And nearing middle age. You put those three things together in a Venn diagram and the overlappy bit in the middle will say “soccer” and “bikes.” So the bike thing was inevitable.

Tom started getting into bikes last summer, when he began riding his giraffe bike to and from Timbers games. We call Tom’s silver Globe the giraffe bike because if a normal-sized person stands next to it, it looks freakishly tall. It also weighs approximately what a giraffe weighs. I’ve seen people try to hold it up only to have it topple onto them.

“YOONA!! You don’t even know how awesome a Timbers game is until you’ve ridden home with the Timbers masses,” he told me. “Mmmm,” I’d respond, having tuned out everything after the word “Timbers.” He started to treat his buddy Ethan like he was a loser for driving a car to the stadium. “ETHAN! You HAVE to ride your bike to the game. Stop being so lazy.” Ethan, who rode his bike to and from his house way back in law school and once had the nerve to show up at my house in a bike unitard, would become visibly annoyed in the way that you get when a friend becomes newly and loudly obsessed with something that you discovered ten years ago.

giraffe bike

Next, Tom started spinning. I don’t regularly work out with Tom, but I’ve worked out next to him in hotel gyms, so I know what that intense regimen looks like. 15 minutes of a loping, horse-like canter on an elliptical trainer while paging through the New Yorker, followed by a couple sets of half-hearted chest presses with eyes glued to ESPN. Rinse, and repeat. I’d observe from a distance and wonder how he didn’t gain weight during his workouts.

But once Tom got a taste of spinning, he became an animal. Not having broken a sweat during a workout in years, he viewed all the new-fangled wicking fabrics with the skepticism that the rest of us would reserve for, say, a muscle tank made of mesh. “Now, Dri-Fit–do you think that’s trying too hard??,” he’d ask. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the only other guys at the gym still wearing cotton t-shirts were all 80 years old.

Tom started making his own spinning playlists, which I only learned about when I received an email receipt for my Amazon account with a bunch of song purchases. I took a quick look at the email and concluded that my account had been hacked. I forwarded the email to Tom and Cuz, both of whom have access to my Prime account, before I called Amazon’s fraud alert line. I got an immediate response. “That’s for my spinning playlist,” emailed Tom. Spinning playlist? I took a closer look.

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Ah. This explained why he’d been turning up “Royals” whenever it came on in my car, eyes rolling back into his head. “I LOVE this song,” he’d moan. Tom habitually discovers a pop smash three to six months after it first becomes popular. A month ago he turned up “Get Lucky” and gave me a knowing look. “You’ve heard this, right? It’s awesome.” I expect he’ll discover “Blurred Lines” sometime in early December.

I looked again at his spinning playlist. Eminem, ok. As a white guy from the wrong side of Detroit (Ann Arbor), Tom has long identified with Eminem. Ke$ha is like, workout gold, so I respected that. But Bryan Ferry, for SPINNING? The Smiths? What kind of depressing workout was this? And what about Gordon Lightfoot? Who plays Gordon fucking Lightfoot during a workout?

Anyway. The bike thing’s not going away. On his trip to Ann Arbor last month, Tom mailed back to Portland his dad’s Schwinn Le Tour III. Once it arrived, he texted our friend Dieter, who gave him advice about how to (pay to) convert the bike into a single-speed. I observed it all with amusement. But when he brought it home from Velo Cult, I got it. It was orange, a very good color. For a 35-year old bike, it seemed rather elegant. Best of all, it was a connection to Tom’s dad, who I never got to meet. A man who was responsible for raising my irrepressible, inimitable Tom.

So welcome to the family, Mr. Schwinn. And do watch out for the giraffe bike in the garage.

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cholula, you ain’t no tabasco

Naomi Campbell once threw a phone at her assistant. But she can’t be all bad. After all, she once revealed in an interview that she carries Tabasco in her purse. Assuming she’s not carrying the Tabasco around to splash in her assistant’s eyes, that single fact makes Naomi Campbell bulletproof in my book. Because as far as I’m concerned, Tabasco is the stuff of life.

Unfortunately, around Portland, it’s getting harder and harder to find Tabasco in restaurants. I noticed it happening about a year ago. And now it happens all the time. My friend Patrick says it’s because Cholula reps are always hawking their wares to restaurateurs. Whatever the cause, it’s a real problem. Once, if you asked “Do you have Tabasco,” the response you’d get was “Green or Red?” Nowadays, if you ask “Do you have any Tabasco?” you’re likely to hear “No. [Insert sad hipster waiter face]. But I have Cholula!”

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chili lime cholula sounds absolutely disgusting

Who wants your stinking Cholula??  Cholula is fine if you’re putting it on an enchilada or Huevos Rancheros. That’s because if you sprinkle Cholula on something, your food automatically turns into Mexican food. So if you’re trying to go in that direction, it helps to start with Mexican food. Cholula gives off a dull, smoky vibe that falls somewhere between the “Hot” and “Fire” sauces at Taco Bell. I’m not knocking that. There’s definitely a place for Fire sauce, I mean, Cholula, and that place is on a 99 cent bean and cheese burrito.

But you for damn sure can’t put Cholula on a bed of tender, soft-cooked eggs, or sprinkle it in little dots all the way down a slice of crisp bacon. You can’t put Cholula on the crunchy top layer of homemade macaroni and cheese. You can’t put Cholula on pizza, unless it’s taco pizza. Admittedly, that last one is a guess, because I’d never order a taco pizza. That shit is gross.

No, sometimes, Cholula just won’t do. Sometimes, the only thing that will do is that blast of acidic, vinegary heat. That fiery hit of Tabasco.

I told my friend Ethan I was writing this post, and he immediately started in on an irrelevant diatribe against Chipotle guacamole, Hunt’s ketchup, and tomatillo salsas. Which just goes to show that we all have our least favorite condiments. I can’t take Ethan seriously because he hates Tabasco. When I complained that Cholula makes everything taste like Mexican food, Ethan opined that “Mexican food is better than Tabasco food,” which just makes me feel sorry for him.

Anyway, I’m not saying restaurants should ONLY offer Tabasco. I just want them to keep Tabasco in the mix. In case you’re wondering, Tabasco is not paying me to write this post. No, this love is for free.

Until the restaurants awake from their cloudy Cholula haze, I’ll just have to carry my own hot sauce. Which is why, this Christmas, I’m asking for this.

please let my kids be nerds

At bedtime last night, Finn leaned in close and tenderly stroked my cheek, as he always does when he’s about to ask me to buy him something. “Mama. You know, I don’t have any cool stuff to share for sharing day.” Stroke, stroke, nuzzle, nuzzle. “So, I was thinking…I could buy some crystals. At the crystal store.”

Crystals!! Could thunder eggs and postage stamps be far behind?

Hot diggity. Now we were talking.

I have friends who don’t want their kids to be nerds, or to hang out with nerds. But these friends are going about it all wrong. In my experience, it’s hard to turn out interesting as an adult unless you were a nerd while young, or at least, had friendly, sustained contact with nerds. Don’t believe me? Think of the most outwardly-attractive-yet-inwardly-boring adult you know. I guarantee that person has never been a nerd.

finny bike

Of course, the inverse of that doesn’t work as well. Not all nerds flower into something cool. But look around at your nerdiest friends. Aren’t they often the people you want to hang out with the most? I mean, for short periods of time.

Not to brag, but I was a huge nerd for the majority of my youth. On my first day of kindergarten, I wore an itchy wool dress and a matching hat. A MATCHING HAT. As a new immigrant who barely spoke English, it’s amazing I wasn’t stoned by the other kids. Who cares though. I had no idea how inappropriately I was dressed. Because I was a nerd.

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In 7th grade, my plastic glasses broke and I fixed them with a band-aid, because band-aids are adhesive as shit. In 8th grade I walked down an entire hallway at Meadow Park Intermediate School with the back of my skirt tucked into my tights. I played cello. I wore a Guatemalan braided belt. I’m not Guatemalan. Some of my best friends were teachers. I was a nerd.

But it’s ok. Because nerds are tough. While the popular girls were collecting Esprit bags, I was learning how to develop stuff that would help me later in life, when it really mattered. Like a strong will, to cope with the teasing. Or a sense of humor, which helped me make friends with the other nerds. Somewhere along the way, probably in high school, I stopped wanting to fit in with everyone else, and started wanting to be different. That’s when I learned to embrace the nerd, to become one with it.

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Finn wears glasses and loves karaoke, but, crystals aside, he’s exhibited few other signs of classic nerd-dom. But Tate, he’s got some serious nerd potential. My youngest has an unnatural fascination with ninjas that only seems to be growing with time. All signs indicate that he’ll be the 14-year old with the Bruce Lee obsession who can quote every line from “Enter the Dragon.” When Tate gets dressed, he invariably tucks his t-shirt into his elastic-waist shorts before hiking the whole rig up to his armpits. I sure as hell didn’t teach him that. That’s strong instinctual nerdiness right there.

Tom, as a pale red-headed child with freakishly long limbs, was also a nerd. In fact, from the photos I’ve seen, he may have been a nerd until as recently as 1998. Given that my kids have nerd on both sides, I’m confident that blood will tell.

Yes. My boys have nerd in them, and I can’t wait to see it shine.

how to lie about your shopping problem

When it comes to material goods, Tom’s needs are aggravatingly few. He saves the energy he might spend on coveting things for himself, on me. And by that, I’m not talking about him buying stuff for me. He hasn’t bought me a real gift since I lost the Hermes watch I scored for giving birth to his precious firstborn. No, I refer instead to his constant vigilance in spotting and calling out my new purchases.

“Is that new?” I have grown to hate and fear these three words. Usually when you hear them, they are asked by a friend who is about to validate your purchase by complimenting you. When Tom says the words, they come laden with innuendo, and enough guilt to kill.

I have four methods of dealing with this most annoying of questions. I’m not suggesting that these methods will work for you, but then again, they have served me well in the 15 years I have known my husband. So you might give them a go.

Hypnosis

Your success with this method will vary, depending on your guy’s relative knowledge of fashion trends, and the strength of his memory. Also, your skill at lying. Basically what you have to do is convince the guy that he’s not really seeing what he’s actually seeing.

In this, you will be aided by the fact that most of what you buy looks a lot like something you already have sitting in your closet. So when Tom points to my new black sweater, made of the softest, loftiest merino wool and asks, “Is that new?,” I can look over his shoulder at the nasty old black merino sweater I bought last year, and say, “No, I’ve had this for a year.” The beauty of this method is that in that moment, the hypnosis is working its magic on both of us, because in my mind, the two sweaters really do become one. Then, when Tom’s gone, the one sweater magically separates into two sweaters again. So I’m not really even lying.

This method works especially well with jeans. I could be married to Tom Ford, not Tom Johnson, and he’d still have problems telling the difference between my three pairs of ink blue J Brand skinnies. I mean, sometimes have trouble telling the difference. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need all of them.

Bribery

You can buy your husband’s silence by throwing him a bone, which for me usually involves stopping at H&M on my way out of Nordstrom, to buy a t-shirt that costs $9.90. L’Occitane soaps are also great for this. They cost ten bucks and have the added advantage of being soap, a product your man probably actually uses. And they smell really strong, which seems to have a mildly debilitating effect on my husband that allows me the 8 seconds I need to cram my shopping bags behind the laundry hamper in my closet.

If you’re shopping in the evening, treats work well. Tom gets so happy when I walk in the front door with an Oreo McFlurry that I could be dragging a new Lexus behind me and he wouldn’t notice.

Diversion

Your success with this method will also vary, depending on your guy’s attention span and your proximity to a television. In my house, it works like this.

Tom: “Is that new?”

Yoona: “Is what new?”  (Reaching for remote).

Tom: “Is THAT new.”  (Pointing to new bag).

Yoona: “Is WHAT new?”  (Turns on TV, to Channel 735).

Tom: “Wait a second, is that the Pats game?”

Like taking candy from a baby.

Role Playing

Sometimes Tom actually gets angry about a purchase, and then I have to work extra hard to justify my decision. Last Friday he beat me home and opened a heavy Amazon box to find a new pair of Fryes. While generally clueless about the relative cost of women’s fashions, Tom knows enough about women’s clothes to know how much Frye boots cost. I mean, they cost as much as one pair of his dress shoes, but whenever I say that he lashes out that he buys one pair of shoes every year. Cruel words that always strike me as a non-sequitur.

Anyway, all he saw when he opened that box was a pair of boots. What he did not see was that the boots were the culmination of two years of me searching for the perfect flat black boot. TWO YEARS. He had no idea how many heavy boots I’d had to purchase, then return.

He also had no inkling of the pain and mental trauma I suffered each time that I tried on boots that were unflattering. If you’re a guy, you might think I’m exaggerating, but you can be damned sure that every woman reading this post knows how it feels to try on something that is so bad that it makes you re-evaluate your life and how you’ve been living it. There are certain things you have to be very careful about trying on. Bikinis, natch. Skinny jeans, of course. Crop tops. Puffy sweaters. FLAT BOOTS.

So anyway, I basically had to lay out this entire sob story for Tom until he felt what it was like to live the experience of my search for the perfect flat boot. By the end, I felt like he not only approved of my purchase, but that he wanted me to have them.  Needed me to have them.

And that’s why Tom, and my new boots, are awesome.

fryes

my boots, with the world’s cutest pregnant person

killer tofu

Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that something you’re feeding your kids is bad for them. Which is fine if your kids are good eaters and you have a host of food options from which to choose. My kids? Left to their own devices, they each eat like twelve foods. Maybe more like six, if you take away the fruit.

One of the things they will both eat, however, is tofu. They will eat every variety of tofu, from silken to pressed. They will eat it in soup, baked, pan fried, steamed, whatever. And that’s good because tofu has nutritious stuff in it, like vegetable protein.

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Anyway, about the tofu. The latest word on tofu is that if you have boy children and they eat too much of it, they will grow breasts. Or something like that. Feel free to Google it—I haven’t, because, okay, I admit it, I’m scared of where “tofu man breasts” will lead me on Google Images. I’ve been afraid of Google Images ever since I Googled “genital warts.” Not that you believe me, but I don’t have genital warts and neither does Tom. I was just curious.

Besides, I have my own thoughts on the latest fear-mongering over tofu, and those thoughts are similar to my thoughts on MSG. Let me just point out that the Chinese have been around for a really long time. And I don’t know any Chinese people who complain about MSG headaches. I also don’t know any Chinese men with breasts.

Well, wait a minute. I know a few Chinese men with breasts, but they’re fat all the way around, and I’m sorry, if you’re a fat man you’re likely to have breasts regardless of your race or how much tofu you ingest. If you need further scientific evidence that it’s ok to eat tofu, I ate a shit ton of tofu growing up and I’m flat as a goddamned board.

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I guess what I’m really railing against is food hysteria in general. We all want to eat healthy. I try to make good choices, and make good choices for my children. But for me, food is not just about sustenance. Food is about taste, memory, pleasure, warmth, happiness. I enjoy nothing more than this loaf of bread with a crock of good butter. Eating bread reminds me of when I was a kid, tucked into my window seat on a rainy day, reading about Heidi and her grandpa and their goats and their tasty milk and cheese.

Nowadays, I feel guilty when I eat bread. And that guilt drives me to eat my croissants in the car like I’m some perv, or worse, to forgo the croissant entirely in favor of “healthy” pap like gummy, reconstituted granola. I dunno. I’m going to die of something, and I sort of doubt it’ll be the bread.**

So about that tofu. I like stir-fries because your kid can help with the washing and chopping. This delicious little stir-fry (you can sub shrimp if tofu is not your thing) makes my family happy. It’s a little spicy but even Tate will eat it, and shamefully, he thinks black pepper is spicy. Also, you might as well prepare your kids’ palates for the global Chinese domination that is coming.

Thanks to the sauce in this stir-fry, my kids will (accidentally) eat the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green onions in the recipe. Shiitakes, not the benign kind of mushroom. Hot damn! I guess I’m ok risking two tiny sets of man boobs for that.

**I’m aware that certain people, like those with Celiac Disease, can actually die of bread consumption. I’m not making light of bread eating, except as it applies to me.

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MA PO TOFU

Adapted from “Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking”

Ingredients:

3 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if dried, soak in warm water for 20 minutes), de-stemmed and chopped

6 oz. ground pork

1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon hot bean paste, black bean sauce, bean chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce (one of these should be available in the “ethnic foods” aisle—we’re getting ethnic, people!—of your grocery store. If you have a choice, go for the bean chili sauce)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts

1 14-oz. package soft (or silken, or Japanese style) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2 teaspoons cornstarch (dry)

2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1. Marinate the pork: stir the ground pork, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce together, let stand 10 minutes.

2. Make the sauce: stir 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl with the sesame oil and one cup water. Set aside.

3. Chop the water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions, throw them all in bowl and set aside. Get your chopped garlic ready. Make sure your tofu is cut and drained. You want everything chopped before you start a stir-fry, because the actual cooking takes like 4 minutes.

4. Heat a wok, skillet, or cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and stir fry until fragrant, mybe 20 seconds. Add the pork, whatever bean/chili paste or sauce you are using, and stir fry until the pork is crumbly, 2-3 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce into the pan along with the cut vegetables (water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions). Slide in your tofu, stir gently or swirl the pan to get the tofu coated with the sauce. Let simmer until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Don’t freak out if your soft tofu starts to break apart. Just be as gentle as you can.

6. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook gently, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. If you don’t care if your sauce is runny, you can omit this step.

7. Take off heat. Serve over hot brown rice!

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