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letter to linds

I met my friend Lindsay on the first day of law school, and she’s been a big part of my life for the better part of a decade. I didn’t know her when I was a child, but that’s not to say that I haven’t grown up with her. In the last eight years, we’ve taken bar exams together, been through three pregnancies together, gotten married (her), started our careers, and settled into our 30s. I started this blog after she sent an email, detailing the reasons why I should do it.

She has seen me through difficult times, like when I was pregnant with Finn as a 3L and had to carry my books in a wheeled backpack around campus to keep weight off my back. She only made fun of me 50% of the time, which was 100% less than my other wretched friends. For those who haven’t been to grad school in recent years, the wheelie bag is a surer road to social ostracization than having B.O. or facial hair as a woman. If Linds had gotten a wheelie bag in law school, I’m sure I would have been as supportive, just not from any closer than ten feet behind her.

She took Finn when he was three months old so that Tom and I could get away, and didn’t call us screaming when he vomited milk all over her in the middle of the night. When she babysat, she would carefully chart Finn’s naps in pink or yellow highlighter on his nap chart as instructed, although she did roll her eyes a bit. She has sucked boogers from my kids’ noses with bulb syringes, whilst gagging. When I showed up on her doorstep at 6:00 AM during a power outage with two gallons of frozen breastmilk in my arms, she made me coffee and cleared out her freezer.

I may have had post-partum depression after my second, Tate, was born, and the situation was made worse by the fact that Tom took a demanding new case the day that Tate was delivered. The paternity leave I’d been promised never materialized, and I went through a rough patch during the time when I was supposed to be happiest. Linds was there with me, checking in every day and talking me through the darkest and loneliest hours. She has seen me at my most vulnerable. I trust her as I trust few others.

So today, on the day that she is leaving her cherubic four-month old son behind and returning to work, I am writing her this post. To tell her that she will be ok, that her baby will not forget about her, and that he will be greatly entertained by all the new faces at daycare. That in sharing him with others, she is introducing Ford to all the love and care that will come to him in this world. That in the four months that she’s been a mom, it’s become obvious to everyone around her that she is a natural; that she makes motherhood look like a state of grace.

But mostly, I’m writing this post to tell her that my heart breaks for her, that I understand, and that it gets better.

photo, Grant Us the Luxury

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ways to wear: cheap dresses

In Portland, March ushers in the auction season.  Auctions happen in the evening like lots of other parties, but they bring a set of challenges that don’t come along with other types of parties.  First, an auction is essentially a quasi-work event.  I usually end up chatting with work contacts and potential referral sources.  For me, this means that strapless, backless, micro-mini, and plunging v-neck are all out.  Second, I need something that I can sit in comfortably for a couple hours, that will also allow me the freedom of movement to wrestle my husband’s arm down to the ground when he has a couple scotches and tries to bid on something like a rafting trip for two.  Third, whatever I wear has to be cheap.  Cheap cheap cheap.  I don’t believe in spending wads of cash on an outfit I am likely to wear twice.

This year I need outfits for four auctions, and Tom has me on a budget that indicates that he expects me to make my own clothing from kitchen towels.  So I turned to ASOS.  I’ve written about ASOS before.  It’s a UK company that recently launched a US site.  The clothes are not super cheap, but the thing is, everything on the website goes on sale eventually.  The site sells clothes from other designers, but do what I do, and narrow your search to the house label.

For parties and weddings, you can do no better than ASOS.  Their clothes are well constructed and do not look cheap.  I mean it.  I wear a lot of Forever 21 but I don’t like people to stand too close to me when I do, because the stuff doesn’t exactly scream quality from close range.  Quality-wise, I’d say ASOS is on par with BCBG, and it’s a lot cheaper.  Let me digress for a moment to express how much I hate BCBG clothing.  No matter what the item is, there is always some extraneous design detail that makes absolutely no sense, and nothing ever fits right.  There is a reason they don’t let you return stuff at BCBG.  They don’t want that sh*t back.

Other important details about ASOS: free shipping, both ways.  No minimum purchase.  I have returned so much stuff to ASOS that I’m getting concerned they will cut me off.  Also, their selection is completely overwhelming.  To find the three dresses in this post, I had to click through more than 2000 ASOS dresses.  But if you know what you are looking for (e.g. “maxi dress”), their search engine actually works, so use it.  Lastly, you may be alarmed that some of the clothes look like party wear for strippers.  Do not be discouraged.  There are gems to be found, and strippers need party clothes too.

Check me out on Pinterest for more ideas for inexpensive party wear.

Sometimes you want to dress to flatter your figure, and sometimes you just want to wear a fun dress.  I wore this to an auction two nights ago and it was perfect for a winter night.  The bodice is 100% wool and the skirt is fake fur.  I bought the shoes three years ago, but felt weird about wearing shoes that cost the equivalent of two Chipotle burritos, and gave them to my best friend.  And then I decided that I really liked them, and that like Stella McCartney, I could think of them as vegan shoes, not plastic ones.  And that helped.  So I took them back from her.  I still feel bad about it.  But she will survive.

People.  This dress was $31.  The tights almost cost the same as the dress.  And it is a good dress.  I love the egg shape, love the metallic, love the seaming, love love love it.  But most of all I love the racerback.  And it has pockets.  Squeal!  This dress might be my score of the year.

The nice thing about not paying a lot for a dress is that you can try cracked-out things you might not otherwise try, because you’re not investing a huge sum.  I am petrified of high-neck clothing.  I am always nervous my neck will look fat or that my head will look even bigger than it is.  But I like the idea of a high neck classing up a maxi, so I took a gander at this dress, and it’s interesting.  I did feel a bit vulnerable with the slinky fabric, so I threw on a belt to give the waistline some structure.

Look at my christmas cactus behind me!  Still kickin‘.

Happy hunting.  And I’d love to hear about your go-to purveyor of cheap party wear.

making out on facebook

Everyone has a Facebook pet peeve. I have many, and it still doesn’t stop me from making the same mistakes as everyone else. I’ve humble bragged about my kids on FB, I’ve promoted my blog on FB, I’ve had food remorse on FB, I’ve overshared on FB (classic example of oversharing below). The evil magic of FB is that the absolute lameness of your posts never becomes apparent until weeks, even months, after the fact. But make no mistake: that post you weren’t 100% sure about will eventually reveal itself to have been super lame.

There are a lot of ways to be annoying on FB, but let’s get real real: there is nothing worse than people who proclaim their love for their significant other on their wall. There’s a place for this kind of stomach-turning behavior, and it’s called, that’s right, your bedroom.  But I get that this is the internet age, and that things don’t really happen unless they happen publicly, so here’s an idea: maybe create a Pinterest board about your lover and then pin a bunch of mash notes and Godiva chocolates to it.

Like many others, I experience wild flashes of love/affection for my spouse, but I try not to post about Tom unless he says or does something ridiculous, or happens to be in a photograph with my kids. So no photos of date nights, no old photos of our wedding, and no status updates saying “I love my husband cuz he emptied the dishwasher for the first time EVER–LOL!!,” no matter how tempting. Because here’s the sad truth about romance: no one wants to hear about someone else’s romantic bliss. The odds are slim that you and your spouse are living a love affair for the ages. So why not go back to status updating about the really compelling parts of your relationship, like the petty crap you argue about? Now that’s the stuff, and we’re all ears.

best to nip this kind of FB behavior in the bud

Of course, it’s acceptable to complain about your spouse on FB, but if the complaining devolves into actual sparring with your spouse on FB, we’re back to square one. Because the only thing grosser than making out with your spouse on FB is making out with your spouse on FB after you’ve had a cute fight on FB. The cute fight usually happens when someone posts something funny about their spouse, and then the subject spouse feels the need to make an appearance on the post to defend themselves.  The thing the subject spouse never seems to understand is that nothing kills the funny like commenting on the funny. Tom has learned this lesson the hard way. He was killing all the potentially funny stuff on my wall until I told him point blank to knock it off.

And Tom, I protest you commenting on my post.

To give him credit, Tom now gets it–he knows that when I post something on my wall, it’s the Yoona Show. It’s not the Tom Show. For those who are interested, there is a Tom show, and it’s playing over on Tom’s wall.  A heads up: the Tom show mostly plays repeats of Michigan highlights and U of M promotional videos.  Tom’s use of Facebook is generally so terrible that I’m tempted to de-friend my own husband.  If you didn’t know Tom, you’d think the person manning his FB page was either 85 years old or the ghost of Bo Schembechler.

fascinating.

Here’s hoping that no one takes this post too personally, because if there is FB behavior that annoys you, I’ve surely done it, with one exception (of which I am inordinately proud): I’ve never status updated about the weather.  But there’s always tomorrow’s status update.

What’s your Facebook pet peeve?

the candy bowl

The top three things about my job:

1. Intellectual stimulation

2. My coworkers

3. The Law

The real top three things about my job:

1. My kids aren’t there

2. Free monthly firm lunch

3. Angie’s candy bowl

I’ve met some serious candy bowls in my day, but Angie’s takes the cake.  Angie is our payroll administrator/assistant bookkeeper, who, unfortunately for me, sits next to my secretary.  She is an all-around lovely person, but for my purposes, the most important thing to know about Angie is that she stocks a primo candy bowl.  None of that filler BS like Laffy Taffy, or the red and white mints you get for free at Chinese restaurants, or Necco wafers.  In desperate times I will choke down a Laffy Taffy–despite the oily film that is guaranteed to coat the inside of my mouth for the next two hours–and I’ve eaten my share of free mints.  But I consider people who will eat Necco wafers to be seriously flawed.

No Necco wafers for our Angie.  Just this: mini Almond Joy, Snickers, Three Musketeers; Dove chocolates; Hershey’s Kisses; the occasional bag of Whoppers.  Whole peanut butter cups, little bags of M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces, and finally, the king of all snack-size candy bars: the Funsize Twix.  Is there anything better than the Funsize Twix?  No, there is not.  There’s the chocolate, the caramel, the cookie.  All wrapped up in a dense little nugget of candy satisfaction that delivers supreme mouthfeel.  For the record, if you lay four Funsize Twix bars end to end, they are still technically smaller than a full-size Twix, not that I’ve ever checked.

I love Angie’s candy bowl, but I also hate it, because as may be evident, I am powerless to avoid its siren song.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I usually do pretty well from 8:30 to 10:00 AM–the day is still new and the memory of my breakfast of green smoothie is usually fresh.  And I’m fine between noon and 1:00, because I’m usually eating lunch somewhere during that hour.  But between 10:30 and noon, I have no hope of avoiding the candy bowl unless I physically stay inside my office.  As for 3:00 to 5:00 PM, I might as well just sit in Angie’s lap, because that’s how often I’m at her station.  It’s embarrassing to admit that a candy bowl has that kind of power over you.

There are about four or five of us in the office who are habitual users.  We all know who the others are, and we keep silent tabs on who’s taking what, and how often.  The worst is when I casually drop by the candy bowl and find one of the other hyenas already at the watering hole.  Then I either have to make some lame joke about my addiction to the candy bowl, or pretend like I was just passing by.  Either option is a sure road to debasement.  I don’t mind the partner on my floor who clearly has a candy problem on par with mine–mostly because I don’t think he’s a Twix man–but I DO object to the others, who don’t even sit on my floor and regularly leave Angie’s station with fistfuls of Kit-Kats.  To those leeches, I say: get your own damn candy bowl.

my favorite child

The upside to having more than one kid is that when you just can’t stand one of them, you can turn to the other. All you child worshipers: relax. I don’t tell my kids to their faces that their sibling is my preferred child of the week. I merely let my actions imply it.

Tom and I are just coming out of a three-month stretch with Finn that is best summed up by this image:

Munch must have had a five-year old

The figure in the front could be me, but it could also be Finn. Because for three months, he literally could not open his mouth without screaming. Everything I did or said pissed him off. He also started acting up in public, a new phenomenon for which I was wholly unprepared, because I was raised by a true Korean mom, and acting up in public just doesn’t happen with a true Korean mom (I’m apparently a fake Korean mom). The one time that my brother and I got loud in a restaurant, my Mom made us raise our arms straight up in the air and hold them there for ten minutes while she calmly finished her meal. A kid only needs to experience that kind of humiliation once for the lesson to take.

During the three-month stretch in the wilderness with Finn, my younger kid was in the background, doing his best imitation of the Baby Jesus. Born an easy baby, Tate was so low maintenance that I forgot he was there for long stretches of time. He would play with his toys by himself, flip through books in a sunny corner, and regularly update me on the status of his diapers.

easy tate with grandma on his first birthday

The harder Finn got, the more I unintentionally gravitated toward Tate. I’m a human first, a mom second. In retrospect, I imagine Finn picked up on some of it and that it only made him madder. In fact, Finn probably felt the way I feel when he says he wants Daddy to put him to bed, seventeen nights in a row.  Or when, at pick up, he greets me with a loving “WHERE’S DADDY??”

But things have a way of evening out, especially with kids. Now, Tate is solidly in his twos and feeling his oats. Last night he climbed on my lap, but instead of giving me the usual slobbery kiss, he curled both his fists in my hair and yanked with alarming vigor. When I said “ouch,” he cracked a feral smile and did it again. He has started announcing that he’s done with dinner by shoving his dishes off the table. And every night, he wears Finn’s ski helmet around the house, just butting his head into things. Last night, I found him helmeted, on top of a chair, banging his beloved plastic sword against my Cynthia Lahti.

not so easy anymore

So of course, it’s Finn’s turn to be awesome. Earlier this week, I left him in the car with a cookie while I ran inside the school to pick up his brother. As I got out of the car, I told Finn to finish the cookie before I returned with Tate, in case Tate got jealous. When Tate and I got to the car, as expected, the cookie was nowhere in sight–until, that is, Finn quietly pulled out a piece he’d saved in the car door, and handed it to Tate. I felt so much love for Finn in that moment that I stood in the car door for two minutes, nuzzling him with kisses and being rewarded with his laughter. I’ll gladly take three months of screaming for a few more moments like that.

February 2012 Park Johnson Child of the Month

Well, maybe like ten of those moments.  Anyway, it’s all good. It’s ok that Finn prefers his Dad sometimes, and that I prefer his brother when Finn’s pushing my buttons. Because it all evens out in the end, and there’s plenty of love to go around.

hot pot fever

If I can get the energy together to cook something worth eating, I’ll usually invite friends over on short notice, because there’s no way that rare burst of initiative is going to waste on my husband and kids, who generally take me for granted.  But not just any friends–just my low-maintenance ones.  The ones who don’t care that I’m cooking in sweats, who will navigate the minefield of Legos in my entryway to get to the dining table without batting an eyelash, and who know that I use paper towels for napkins because, let’s just get it out there–I believe napkins to be a marketing ploy.  It’s like eating with family, with better conversation and without the emotional baggage.

When it comes to food, I’m prone to eating so much of something I like that I eventually never want to eat it again.  This winter, it’s been a lot of shabu-shabu.  I like hot pot cooking because it’s convivial, healthy, and fun for kids.  You can throw almost anything into a hot pot, so you can pick ingredients that work for your family.  Just chop up the ingredients, warm up a bottle of sake, and settle in for some communal piggery.

all photos, monica spoelstra metz

My friend Monica and I met in a birthing class, and reconnected two years later when our boys ended up in the same class in the same daycare, purely by chance.  Only then did we figure out that we lived on the same street, four blocks apart.  Some things just feel like fate.  This last Friday she arrived with her men, armed with booze, a box of cupcakes, and her own cake stand.  And her camera, to take the awesome photos in this post, even though I never asked!  We had a swell time–the perfect antidote to a supremely crap week.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Shabu-Shabu

The ingredients for this are totally variable.  I assemble stuff based on color and visual appeal, but generally you might want some vegetables, a meat or seafood of some sort, and then a noodle to throw in at the end.  If you have an Asian grocer nearby, get creative.  For this dinner, I used:

6 bunches baby bok choy, rinsed and leaves left whole

1 bunch watercress

3 packages enoki mushrooms

8 fresh shitake mushrooms

3/4 pound large head-on prawns

2 pounds boneless ribeye, sliced paper thin

1 package firm tofu

2 cups assorted fish cake (oden)

2 cups Korean rice cakes

8 oz. potato vermicelli (rice noodles or soba noodles would also work well)

Condiments for the table: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, Sriracha, chili sauce, sesame dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Sesame dipping sauce

Recipe adapted from “Japanese Hot Pots” by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup water

3 T soy sauce

1 T rice vinegar

2 T sugar

1 T sake or mirin

1/2 t black pepper

Blitz all ingredients in a blender until processed.  Add more water if you want a thinner consistency.

1. Wash and arrange all ingredients on a couple platters.  You want everyone to be able to access the ingredients, so I usually assemble two platters, one for each side of the table.  Get creative.  Don’t worry about how small things should be cut, just keep in mind you want to keep things big enough so that they are easy to fish out of the pot once cooked.

2. Get your dashi going.  Fill your skillet or hot pot about 1/2 full, and bring to a boil with a couple pieces of kombu (dried seaweed) and a few dried anchovies.  Let simmer for 10 minutes, then fish out the solids. Swirl in some soy sauce.  Don’t worry if your dashi doesn’t taste like much, you are just creating a base.  By the time all the other ingredients are added in, you will end up with a beautiful hot pot full of amazing flavors.

3. You’re ready to cook!  Get everyone a pair of long chopsticks and encourage them to drop in whatever they want.  Encourage your guests to experiment with the condiments to come up with their own sauce for dipping.  I usually suggest soy and sesame oil to start.  Pour some sake, and enjoy!

**Notes: You may need to add more water as you eat, if the dashi cooks down too far.  Save the noodles for the end, because they will soak up a lot of liquid. 

You do need a hot pot for this meal.  You can buy a ceramic one to use over a portable propane burner (this is how Asians do it at home), but I like an electric skillet, which is deep enough to hold the broth, and wider than the ceramic versions.  For me, wider is better so more people can access the pot.  You can use the skillet for pancakes on the weekend.  If you’re eating with young kids, keep an eye on them so they don’t accidentally burn themselves.  I can guarantee they’ll love throwing stuff in the pot and fishing it out.

how to tame your skinnies

We can all think of a fashion trend that we hope will die a quick death.  High on my current list are coated jeans, because unless you are literally a giraffe, your legs are going to look fat in jeans made of a shiny, reflective material.  Sorry.  It’s not really a trend, but I also hate concert t-shirts, because I don’t have any, due to my lifelong fear of public concert venues (so smelly! so loud! and why are my shoes stuck to the floor?).

If skinny jeans are, for you, the trend that refuses to die, I have some bad news: they’ve been going strong for a few years now, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon.  They may even become [gulp] a classic.  You may think you can’t wear them, but yoonanimous says you can.  You don’t have to be thin, or long-legged, or even a woman.  Herewith, tips on how to take some of the sting out of skinny jeans.

***I’m trying out Pinterest in conjunction with some of my fashion posts so I can share shopping leads.  Please follow me on Pinterest (see red button at right) to check out my tried-and-true skinny picks.  I’m a Pinterest newbie, so bear with me, and let me know what you think!

1. Length: a salesperson at TBD once remarked to me that her department referred to me as “the 26.5 inch girl.”  And here’s why: as soon as I buy skinny jeans, I have them hemmed to a 26.5 inch inseam.  I am very specific about the length.  I’ve flirted with 27″ and 25″, but 26.5 is my number.  That’s about an inch and a half above my ankle bone.  Hear me now, believe me later: showing the skinniest part of your leg in a pair of pants will automatically make your legs look skinnier.  For most of us, the skinniest part of our leg is our ankles.  If, on the other hand, your skinnies go all the way to your shoe, they will make your legs look bigger.  I cannot explain the scientific reason for this, but I guarantee it to be the case.  Go to your closet, pull out the skinnies you hate, and roll the hem under an inch or two.  Makes your legs look better, right?  Also probably makes your shoes look better.  Solid.  A word of caution: hem your jeans too short and you’ll lose the slimming effect–hem them too long and it’ll just look like you shrunk your jeans.  Send me a photo if you want a second opinion.

2. Ankle opening: you’re no novice.  You already know to check out the length of the rise when you’re buying jeans.  No offense to True Religion, but a 6-inch rise is not your friend, at least not if you’ve had children.  So let’s take it up a notch–a lot of websites that know their denim will include information about the circumference of the ankle opening.  With skinnies, the tighter that ankle opening is, the more they are going to look like a legging, and need I remind you how unflattering leggings are on most people?  No, I don’t.  I prefer a 10 or 11-inch ankle opening.  For reference, the ankle opening on the red pair above is 10 inches.  The blue pair above are 11 inches.

3. Stretch: the denim companies are starting to get with the program and are putting less stretch in their skinny jeans.  You want a fabric that will give, but that will hold you in.  I am convinced this is the sole reason the J Brand 811 twill skinny is so flattering on so many people.  The twill is a nice weight and keeps its shape beautifully.  I’ve talked about this jean and worn it so many times on this blog that I’m starting to bore myself.  Buy some, already.

See my skinny picks on Pinterest…and happy weekend!

why i read trashy books

I’ve always found it stressful when someone asks what my favorite book is. My problem with the question is that it’s often asked so that the asker can tell you what their favorite book is, which, if the speaker is a man, is usually Liars Poker or Independence Day, depending on whether the guy is in his 20s or 30s, and if it’s a woman, is probably One Hundred Years of Solitude. It would be really refreshing if one day, someone was honest and just said Catcher in the Rye. I feel like that’s everyone’s favorite book but no one ever admits to it, because they’re scared they will sound like they haven’t read a book since the 7th grade. So anyway–the book question presents a no-win situation. Either the asker doesn’t care what your answer is, or if they do care, they are going to judge you harshly for your answer.

My brother, who is two years younger than me, is an undiscriminating womanizer by day and a closet academic by night. He has dissected Faulkner’s oeuvre and generally knows more about literature than most of the true academics I know. So the last time he asked me what my favorite book is, I think I panicked and lied. I probably said Wide Sargasso Sea. A semi-serious choice, although it is, at its core, a romance novel. Or maybe I said Dune, which I have probably read ten times, but my God, it feels like a real tragedy to admit that your favorite book is a work of science fiction. So I hope I didn’t say that.

Anyway, I like those books, but I don’t LOVE those books. Not like I love this book:

The thing about my life is, a lot of it’s drudgery. I mean, it’s not that bad, but I’m overworked and exhausted and tired of agonizing over burning questions like whether a glass of orange juice has too much sugar in it to feed to my kids. So in my downtime, when I’m reading, I don’t want to read about someone else’s hard life. No. I want to read about someone else’s glamorous life. And this book is perfect for that.

The heroine, Liberty Jones, is a poor orphan raising her little sister in some Texas trailer park. Yes, a trailer park. But she fights her way up, works her way through beauty school, and ends up working for an old Dallas tycoon who may or may not have some connection with her past. In the midst of all that, Liberty is being fought over by two hunks, both millionaires. I’m sorry that my plot summary does not do this book justice, because this book is AWESOME. I could say that I read this book lazily on a beach chair somewhere, but that would be a lie, because I think I inhaled it on my sofa on a Monday night in just under four hours.

tom’s sleep aids

About a year ago, my husband read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I didn’t read it, but from what I understand, the book involves an apocalypse, a mother’s suicide, cannibalism, and a young boy and his father struggling for survival in a world without sunlight. Tom told me that he finished the book in a coffee shop and started sobbing in public. And that makes me sad for him. Because why would he want to subject himself to such sadness, when life is already so hard? If I have to read about someone else’s troubles, I don’t want to read about cannibalism, I want to read about troubles like Liberty Jones’s–like whether to choose the scrappy cowboy-turned-millionaire (Hardy) or the sexy businessman-turned-millionaire (Gage). Now those are troubles I can get behind.

If you have a favorite trashy novel, I need leads. So spill.

superfans

I had kids for lots of reasons. Tom had kids for just one: to turn them into tiny fans of the sports teams that he roots for.

It’s a full time job. I observe it all as an outsider, but from where I sit, it looks like exhausting work, pumping a five-year old’s brains full of all the useless trivia, stats, rules, and lore associated with his dad’s favorite sports teams. Overhearing Tom’s explanation of offsides this morning was enough to fry my brain, and I’m 34. Inexplicably, Finn, who has little patience for anything, is like a dry sponge when it comes to this sort of knowledge. So Tom’s finally got what he’s wanted his entire life: a willing and captive audience.

The problem is, all that info is an awful lot for a five-year old to process. Besides Premier League and MLS soccer, Finn hears a lot about football (college and pro), the NBA, Tar Heels basketball, and the Detroit Red Wings and whoever they are playing that week. Understandably, Finn digests the info, and then regurgitates it later, half-baked. Which is why I expect that in about a week or so, I will overhear him explaining offsides authoritatively to a friend, and it will sound something like this: “Offsides is when you stand in front of the goalie, and you are first in line and no one is in front of you…and then…you can kick the goalie.”

just what every four-year old wants, a jersey from a team that plays in another country

I have objected to Tom about his unhealthy obsession, many times. So now he just waits until I’m out of the room to do the indoctrinating. So it was that this morning, I overheard him and Finn, in front of the computer, deep in conversation:

Tom: “See, Finn…look…this is a wolverine. It’s a small but highly ferocious animal. Watch this video! It’s taking away food from two WOLVES!! See how tough he is??”

Finn: “Yes, Daddy.”

Tom: “And this, Finn–this is a picture of a buckeye. It’s, well…it’s a nut. Like a peanut or a cashew. So a wolverine is much better than a buckeye, see?”

Or last week, while making toast in the kitchen:

Finn: “Daddy, I can root for whatever team I want, right?”

Tom: “Well, yes, Finn. Except for certain teams. Like Chelsea. You can’t root for Chelsea. Or Tottenham. Or the Lakers. Or Notre Dame. And you probably don’t want to root for the Yankees, or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Sounders. And we never want to root for the Buckeyes, because their fans are just bad people. (Pause). Well, except for Renner’s daddy, he’s probably not a bad person. (Pause). You shouldn’t tell Renner his daddy is a bad person.”

Finn: “Ok Daddy.”

tom says finn did this all by himself. let's just say i have my doubts

The time spent on this sort of education is especially galling because I feel that Tom’s time would be better spent instilling in his son the true virtues associated with sports, like, say, sportsmanship. Finn came home today from soccer practice, and said his team won 2-1. When I dug deeper, it turned out that his team had lost 2-1. When Tom asked him about the factual inconsistency, Finn blithely responded that the other team’s second goal didn’t count because he didn’t see it happen. Now, I’m all for teaching a kid why Tim Tebow sucks, but when your kid is saying the other team’s goals don’t count if the goals happen while his back is turned, it would appear that there are more urgent lessons to be taught.

So now it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and Tom’s beloved Patriots are playing (Tom Brady: Michigan alum). Who knows what lessons the day will bring?

below the belt

There are things I hate to buy.  Window coverings, for starters.  I hate curtains and I hate blinds, so my neighbors see a lot more of me than they probably should.  Bras: ugh.  Why aren’t they government subsidized?  I wear the same three bras I bought in 2008 and get panicky at the thought of having to buy new ones.  But most of all, I hate to buy belts.  They’re always more expensive than you think they should be (read: free), and there’s little upside–no one’s going to notice your belt, no matter how ugly or amazing it is.

So when I find a great belt, it really means something.  I bought a peacock blue belt at J. Crew about a year ago, and I loved it as I had never loved a belt before.  It was an interesting blue and matched with nothing but somehow added a certain je ne sais quoi to everything I wore it with.  You can see it, in better times, here.

About a week ago, I realized the belt was missing.  It wasn’t on the floor, it wasn’t stuck in a pair of pants, and it most definitely was not on my belt rack.  So I interrogated all three guys about it.  I suspected that my toddler may have hidden it somewhere, but when I put Tate under a heat lamp and grilled him, he stared at me stone-faced, probably wondering what “blue” is.  When I strapped Finn into his carseat and gave him the stink-eye through my rearview mirror, Finn copped to having seen the belt but swore he put it back on the belt rack after he’d last used it to lasso his brother.  As for Tom, he denied any knowledge of the belt’s whereabouts with a mien that suggested that I was a shallow wench for caring so much about something so inconsequential as a belt.

And then, two days ago, as I was putting away some laundry, there it was, on the back of the belt rack that I’d checked at least ten times.  Except, it looked different.  It looked like this.

Here’s the thing: I have eyes, and a brain.  So my brain recollects that the belt was not hanging from the rack the last ten times I checked.  And my eyes perceive that the belt was put through some serious trauma.  When I first saw the mangled belt, my blood pressure spiked so quickly that I actually felt my forehead get hot.  What was Tom thinking?  That I wouldn’t notice that my missing belt was suddenly in its rightful spot after apparently being put through a hot wash cycle and long tumble dry?  When I confronted him about it, Tom played dumb for about six sweaty, pathetic seconds before adding insult to injury by suggesting that if I hadn’t left the belt on the floor, he wouldn’t have accidentally put it in the wash with my clothes.  Duh!  Forget the fact that I don’t want him to wash my clothes, EVER, and that, despite that fact, he keeps doing so, and ruining everything I own.  Forget too that he managed to 1) put the belt in the wash, 2) remove it from the washer, and 3) transfer it to the dryer–a three-step process during which any normal human being might notice a blue leather belt, far away from home and lost in a rough part of town.

But forget the belt.  Because this post isn’t really about my stupid belt.  It’s about two truths regarding arguments.  First, it never goes well to blame the victim.  It doesn’t work in the courtroom, and it doesn’t work at home.  And two: sometimes you have to stand there, with your beloved, mangled belt hanging from your hand, and realize that no belt is worth the drama.

There will be other belts.  But for me, there’s only one Tom.  And he’s kind to do the laundry, no matter how terribly it turns out.  So it goes.