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wisdom from cuz

Well, it’s happening. Cuz, who has lived with us for about a year, is leaving. Off to architecture school. We will miss her. Cuz is hard to describe, but imagine a 5’5″ ball of sass rolled in black eyeliner, leather, and Haribo wrappers.

Tom will miss his TV and sugar buddy. Cuz’s appetite for television is almost equal to Tom’s. He complains that since she moved in, all the TVs in the house are always set to Bravo. I don’t watch, but I can’t imagine the actual episodes of Married to Medicine being any more entertaining than her verbal recaps.

I will miss watching Cuz and Tom’s epic sugar battles. Like when Cuz brought home a half-gallon of Cake Batter ice cream, which she doesn’t even like, just because she knew it was the one flavor Tom wouldn’t eat. I witnessed the shitstorm that ensued when Cuz discovered that Tom had eaten the entire container anyway, after a late-night Game of Thrones bender.

I will miss Tom’s confusion over Cuz’s grooming habits. “What is she DOING in there??,” he will hiss at me, when Cuz has been in the bathroom for a long while. As if I would know. I assume it’s her skincare regimen.

I’ll miss Tom and Cuz’s ragtag laundry assembly line, in which Cuz will wash ten consecutive loads of laundry, Tom will fold all of it, and then neither of them will put any of it away, resulting in this log jam in my bedroom, which stresses me out not at all.

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Tate will miss Cuz’s skills at inserting tiny little weapons into the hands of tiny little lego figures. He will miss her shrimp fried rice.

But of all of us, I suspect it’s Finn who will miss her the most. They’ve had some epic battles, Finn and Cuz. From the start, Finn has been confused by Cuz’s status in the hierarchy of our household, a confusion that has been aided by the fact that Cuz has a baby face and is not that much taller than Finn.

But Finn and Cuz—they talk. They talk about stuff that Finn doesn’t talk about with me, or his dad. I usually only hear about it secondhand, after the fact. Like on our way to the dentist, when Finn sat in the back of the car wringing his hands like Lady Macbeth and muttering to himself about cavities. “How does he even KNOW about cavities?,” I whispered to Cuz, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. “Oh, because of me,” she answered, blithely. “I told him I had cavities when I was a kid and that they hurt really, really bad.”

I wouldn’t have delivered the message in quite that way. But Finn now wants to brush his teeth. Like, all the time. Such is the power of Cuz.

Best of all are Cuz’s lessons on more abstract topics. Like the rigors of fame.

Finn: “I want to be a good soccer player so I can be famous like Lionel Messi.”

Cuz: “You know, Finn, fame isn’t all that great.”

Finn: “What do you mean?”

Cuz: “Well, when you’re famous, people hate you. Like Robin Van Persie. Remember when he played for Arsenal and everyone loved him? Well now he plays for Manchester United and everyone in London hates him. You wouldn’t want everyone to hate you, right?”

Finn: (confused stare).

I couldn’t have eviscerated the glamour of fame any more efficiently. And she did it using terms Finn understands.

It will be hard to replace that kind of wisdom.

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zucchini bread for liars

I suspect that vegetables are a relatively boring topic for anyone who 1) doesn’t have kids, or 2) has kids who eat vegetables (I hate you), and for that I apologize. For me, the only time I stop thinking about how to get my kids to eat more vegetables is every couple months when my brain shorts out and forgets to think about the topic out of sheer exhaustion.

We all know an adult who will only eat hamburger meat and chicken nuggets. My older kid, Finn, is like three Happy Meals away from becoming that societal freak. If he turns into that guy, I will kill myself. I really will.

Last week I asked Finn, as I do every few weeks, if he was enjoying the carrots in his lunch. Yes Mommy, he nodded, as usual. But that day, I don’t know—maybe he looked away a beat too long—something made me ask again. Finn squirmed in his seat and began staring at the far wall. Then things went all to hell.

“You have been eating your carrots, right?,” I said, thinking of the 500 or so baby carrots I’d packed in his lunch over the past six months.

(Long pause). “Wellll. Sometimes I don’t eat my carrots,” Finn said.

(Longer pause). “Sometimes?,” I asked, nibbling a nail. “Or all the time?”

Finn looked like he was going to cry. “All the time, mommy,” he said.

Man. Secretly I think I always knew he wasn’t eating those damn carrots. There were signs that I chose to ignore. Like the one morning I casually handed him a baby carrot at breakfast while I was packing more carrots in his lunch and he took ten minutes to choke the carrot down, which he then promptly regurgitated. “But you eat these all the time at lunch!,” I said. Like an idiot.

Looking back, I clearly chose to turn a blind eye. Lying is no good, but my grown-up behavior was arguably worse. Finn probably felt that he needed to lie about eating the carrots in order to protect my emotional well-being. When I asked Finn’s lovely teacher for advice, as I always do when the going gets tough, she suggested, gently, that I stop packing the carrots for the time being. So no more carrots.

Anyway. A part of me is glad that’s all worked out and the sham is over and now I can go back to hiding vegetables in Finn’s food.

Zucchini bread is a passion of mine. I like mine moist, zucchini-heavy, and not too sweet. After many dozen loaves, I’ve worked out my standby recipe. It’s low on sugar, part whole wheat, yadda yadda, but here’s the best part–you can mix all the contents by hand. My stand mixer is a beast that weighs approximately 75 pounds. Increasingly I find myself looking for ways to avoid using it.

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If you have a food processor with a shredder blade, you can get this whole thing in the oven in 15 minutes. As part of his ongoing campaign to do harm in the kitchen in order to avoid being asked to cook, Tom accidentally lit my food processor on fire about a year ago and it still manages to get the job done with the zucchini, even though I have to stick my hand in the feed tube to get the motor to work. Just think how easy it will be with your fully operational Cuisinart.

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Zucchini Bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour (spooned in to the measuring cup, not packed in)

1/2 cup + 3.5 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 large eggs

1/2 liquid cup vegetable, safflower, or canola oil

1/2 cup sugar (add more for sweeter bread–Beranbaum’s original recipe calls for 1 cup)

3 cups shredded or grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts (or omit)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move rack to rung below middle of oven.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

4. Whisk together eggs, oil, and sugar until incorporated in large bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Batter will be a little stiff.

5. Add zucchini, mix to incorporate with wooden spoon. The batter will begin to loosen as the moisture from the zucchini incorporates into the batter. Fold in walnuts, if using.

6. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 5 loaf pan. Or cheat and spray the pan with Baker’s Joy like I do.

7. Bake in oven for 55 minutes. Check with toothpick, if batter still moist, bake for another five minutes. Do not overbake.

8. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Run knife along outside edges to loosen, remove from pan and set on cooling rack.

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shot through the ear

I recently turned 36. I’m a fatalist. Anything above 35 and I’m 40. If you’re older than 40, don’t be offended. I’m looking forward to (the jewels I will hopefully receive from Tom at) 40. But I feel like I’ve barely settled into my 30s, and now I’m being forced along, and I really don’t want to go.

The signs are there that change is happening. I was at the mall and picked up a cute pair of flats from a display only to realize they were Borns. Fucking BORNS. Either Born no longer makes old lady shoes, or I’m developing old lady taste. At the gym, I flipped through an issue of More magazine and found every article to be highly resonant and relevant to my life. In fact, the magazine could have been called “Yoona: The Magazine for You.”

Once I noticed these small indicators that I was aging, I was resolved. I wouldn’t go gently into that good night. I would fight like a wild and untamed she-cougar. But how?

Good thing I have a 20-something in the house. Cuz showed me articles on Vogue and Into the Gloss about piercings, and said she was getting some. YES. I could pierce myself! My new piercings would reaffirm that I was young. That I had LIFE.

When I told Tom I was going to get a double helix piercing, he grimaced and went off in search of his jug of Advil. When I mentioned it again the next day, he turned mean. “Were you serious? Because Kathryn thinks you’re having a mid-life crisis.” Damn right I was having a mid-life crisis. Tom was lucky I liked my skin too much to tattoo “T&Y4 EVER” on my knuckles. I’d text Linds about the piercing, only to get supportive responses like “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Cuz herself was no help. She wanted to wait to do it in NYC at NY Adorned, and kept putting me off when I tried to set a piercing date.

Well. Game on, losers. Like a 13-year old, nothing makes me want to do something more than a passel of doubters. There’s a piercing parlor a block from my office, and it looked spacious and clean. On Yelp, it had almost all 5-star ratings. Done. I dragged Cuz in on a Thursday night.

The thing about piercing parlors is that they are intimidating for naturally non-subversive people like me. At Straight to the Point, they had a bunch of art on the walls showing piercings so crazy that I started to rethink the whole thing. It was like walking into a hair salon and noticing that all the photos on the wall are of Carrot Top. That might scare you. You might think, this place is not for people like me.

The jewelry on display made things worse. It’s not that the pieces were so large, it was that they were so foreign. They had a whole case with items that looked like wooden salad plates. No idea what they were for. See? That would be intimidating, right?

The parlor didn’t have the right equipment that first night so we left. Even if they’d had the equipment I’m sure we would have left. We needed time to get comfortable with this world we were entering.

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On Saturday outside the piercing place, I circled the block in vain, looking for a parking spot. After 15 minutes, I began to take the lack of parking as a sign that God didn’t want me to pierce myself. From there on out, I took everything as a sign of God’s disapproval. Once we got inside, a guy named Evan gave us our paperwork while I fought not to stare at the huge ring in his nose and the studs embedded into his skin near his eye. I asked him how piercings like those didn’t fall out.

“Oh, you just make a cut and then pop the stud in like the skin is a buttonhole,” Evan explained, cheerily. I gave a nonchalant laugh and promptly turned white as a ghost. I looked down and concentrated on my intake form. Had I had alcohol, it asked. Hell yes I’d had alcohol. Who went to a piercing place without having alcohol? “You’re ok if you had it with food,” Evan explained, when I looked up at him in hope. “Oh phew,” I chuckled, weakly. I filled out the rest of the form in a daze. I’m sure that Emily, my piercer, found it really helpful to learn that I’m allergic to cats.

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There were people ahead of us, so we waited outside the piercing room and chatted with Evan. “People don’t cry, right?,” I asked. “Oh, all the time,” he answered. I tried again. “But not, like, SOBBING, right?,” I clarified. “Sometimes,” Evan said, amiably. I began to wonder if Evan and the wall art were the parlor’s way of weeding out people who weren’t fit to pierce. Emily called us in to the piercing room just as the last of the wine from dinner wore off.

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Cuz got in the chair first. I watched her to assess how much pain she appeared to be experiencing. Her eyes got big for the first piercing, but no tears. She winced at the second piercing, but still no tears. I felt comforted. And her piercings looked amazing. After Emily sanitized the chair and pulled out new instruments, I sat in the chair and babbled incoherently about my grandpa and the time he accidentally ate my contact lenses while we were on vacation. Emily laughed, warmly. She marked in pen the spots in my ear where the holes would go, and then laid me back. As my chair reclined, I asked Cuz if it had hurt. “No,” she said. I relaxed. “Well, not the first. The second was really painful.” But by that point I was fully reclined and it was too late to run. “Take a deep breath,” Emily said. And then she stuck a needle into the outside of my ear. Twice.

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Anyway, it’s done. It hurt, but not as badly as contractions. Plus, I once heard that when you’re old, you feel pain less keenly. So there you have it. I’m not old.

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talking sh*t about my kids

A couple weeks ago, my friend Mandy sent me a video of her kid doing something funny, and then immediately expressed remorse because she’d invaded his privacy. I felt respect for Mandy in that moment. But it was the kind of respect I have for people who go on hunger strikes. Whenever I hear about someone on a hunger strike I try really hard to think of an issue I feel strongly enough to starve for, and always come up short. An end to man sandals, maybe.

Before that conversation with Mandy, it had never really occurred to me that my kids had privacy rights that could be violated, least of all by me. Clearly not, because I blog about them. I share details about my kids that will likely anger them in the distant future when they are old enough to read blog posts, although Tom won’t let me write about the really interesting episodes. But I rationalize that I feed them and clothe them, and once this blog really starts making some serious coin, they can take pride of ownership in the family enterprise.

Not going to happen, my friend Courtney likes to tell me. She regularly reminds me that once my kids get older, I’ll have to stop blogging about them. She’s right, of course. Thank God I’ll still be able to write about Tom.

I’ve been feeling badly since noticing recently that I talk a lot of shit about my 3-year old. Tate is very cute. I’m his mom and, being a realist, I’m also prone to suspicions that my kids are less cute than I think they are, but I’m pretty sure he’s objectively cute. And it’s a good thing he’s cute. Because if he wasn’t so cute, I might have left him at Whole Foods months ago, bundled up in a basket with a rolled-up wad of cash and some Legos.

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Finn was 3 at some point. But Finn was never like Tate. There’s the first parenting no-no: comparing your kids. I can’t help it. If you go through an experience once, it’s human nature to expect a similar experience the next time around. Finn was energetic and Cuz remembers that he was mean at that age, but he has always hated getting in trouble. Tate could care less about doing the right thing. I blame this trait on Tom’s Caucasian genes, because Koreans are all about doing the right thing.

I might tell Tate not to kick a ball in the house. He will look at me, give a toothy grin, and then drill me in the face with the ball. I have no tools in my parenting toolkit to deal with stuff like that. I mean, I do, but Tom, being a liberal white person, frowns on spanking. Sometimes I have to pretend like I didn’t feel the ball hit my face, just to buy myself time to figure out what to do. FUCK!, my mind screams. WHAT DO I DO??? During moments like that I swear I can feel the weight of all my Korean ancestors looking down on me and shaking their heads in collective shame.

We worry so much as parents because we love our children more than cheap words can express. I know Tate will be ok. Even in my bleakest moments I have respect for his strong will, a quality I’m still hoping to develop at the age of 36, as related to food and portion control. Also, I try to remember that he’s 3.

This too shall pass. I know that because my friends say so. Friends like Mandy, who love and worry about their own children. And that’s why I talk shit about my kids, I guess. Being honest about how scary parenting can be makes me feel less helpless. It makes me feel less inadequate. It makes me feel less alone.

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mini las vegas

I got some funny looks when I told people that I was taking the kids to Vegas for Spring Break. Tom and I, despite our staid outward appearances, really enjoy Vegas. We don’t gamble, but we eat like pigs, and window shop, and walk around hand-in-hand gawking at how short everyone’s skirts are. Then we fall asleep at 10:00 PM after eating Doritos from the minibar and watching ESPN. It’s the best.

Our itinerary was so kid-friendly that it sounded completely lame when I’d tell friends about it. I started wondering why we were going to Vegas at all. We were booked at the Four Seasons, chosen primarily because it had no casino, and because it had a 18″-deep kiddie pool. Any parent who’s booked a relaxing vacation only to spend a nervous week worrying that their kid will drown, knows how important it is to have a kiddie pool.

The Four Seasons was predictably great but its kiddie pool is about as big as a hot tub. In fact, I suspect that it is a converted hot tub, because there’s a sign next to it about pregnant women hot tubbing at their own risk. The kids took one look at the kiddie pool, threw their shoes into it, and then asked to play with my iPhone. It worked out, though. We had access to the “beach” at Mandalay Bay, so we hung out there for the better part of three days. In general, everything was fine as long as we stayed near our hotel. Once we left the hotel, things got dicier.

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On our first day in Vegas, we went to lunch at the Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand, because it has fake animals in it and I stupidly thought the kids would just love that. After waiting 30 minutes in line, we sat down at a table surrounded by a group of animatronic gorillas who would beat their chests amidst strobe lights at regular, five minute intervals. Both kids began crying the first time it happened. Tom helpfully chose this point in time to remind me that the last time Finn had been to the Rainforest Cafe, he had hated it. The kids calmed down eventually but seemed too nervous to eat. Tom complained that his clam chowder tasted microwaved. Tense from the strain of showing my kids a good time, I bit into the cold onion ring sitting inexplicably on top of my burger, and wondered aloud why anyone would order clam chowder at a Rainforest Cafe.

After a nap and more swimming, we made our way to dinner at the Bellagio. On the way, our salty cabbie began waxing poetic about the “old” Las Vegas. The one that didn’t have kids. The one that had the bikini mud wrestling. Finn’s head, which had been focused on staring at the scandalous billboards outside, immediately snapped around. “What’s bikini mud wrestling?” I reacted as I always do when I’m confronted by a kid with a difficult question. I redirected. “Finn,” I said, pointing to the credit card machine in the back of the cab, “Look! It’s a computer.” Tate piped up from his seat. “Can we go to Rainforest Cafe?” “No,” Tom said. “It’s closed.” “For how long?,” Tate asked. “Forever,” Tom said.

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waiting for the pirate show

After dinner, we took off on foot for Treasure Island, where Tom assured me there was a fun, kid-friendly pirate show. Even better, it was free. We showed up at 6:30 for the 7:00 show and staked out a front row spot right in front of the pirate ship. While we waited, I killed time by watching an electronic billboard overhead advertising a show called “Sirens of TI.” It featured a bevy of scantily clad women and I turned the boys away from the screen to prevent more awkward questions. I wondered, idly, what “TI” was. Ah! Treasure Island. I watched more of the video. The scantily clad women were gyrating on a stage that looked like…a ship. A pirate ship. I felt a warning bell go off in my head, and tugged on Tom’s sleeve. “Tom. TOM. Are you sure this is a kid show?” But it was 7:00, and Tom was already focused on the stage. “The show’s starting!,” he said.

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I don’t know. Maybe the show was kid-friendly back in the 70s when Tom was a kid. The 2013 iteration is pretty spicy, and features a main character/stripper named “Cinnamon” who says she’s called “Cin” by all the seamen who have entered her cove. That was an actual line from the show. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed that Finn wouldn’t ask me what a seaman was. When the rest of the sirens joined Cin on stage to start their number, I started panicking in earnest. But Finn and Tom seemed transfixed by the spectacle. Tate was less impressed. “There’s only one boy,” he complained to no one in particular, in the middle of another dance number/group striptease.

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The show only lasted about 15 minutes and involved several explosions, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. After Cin and the Pirate Captain made out and slunk off to have sex in their “hideaway,” we began walking back towards the Bellagio to check out the fountains. The traffic on the Strip was a bear, and we were walking the same speed as the cars were driving. The car that was moving in pace with my family was a moving billboard advertising naked girls delivered to your hotel room. I put my body between Finn and the billboard and did my best to keep his eyes to the hotel side of the sidewalk. We stopped at the Mirage to look at the Volcano. We finally got to the Bellagio, where we got ice cream cones and cheered the fountains.

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The third day, we made our way to Circus Circus, because Circus Circus sounds like a place that would have stuff for kids. I had never been to Circus Circus and Tom tried to warn me ahead of time, but he did a really inadequate job of describing what a complete shit hole it is. It was by far the scariest place I have ever been in my life. Unlike the rest of the Strip, Circus Circus feels like it was built a long time ago, before concepts like ventilation, fire codes, and emergency exits came on the scene. Predictably, my kids were delighted by the nasty chaos and ran through the hotel, running their hands along all available surfaces, ignoring my pleas “not to touch anything.” We waited around for the free trapeze show. It was like 13 minutes long and I swear I could do most of those catches and releases if I went to a week of trapeze school. But whatever. My kids dug it.

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And that was the beauty of this vacation. My kids dug it, from start to finish. And Tom and I had so much fun seeing all the insanity through the kids’ eyes. That’s what vacationing with kids is all about, right?

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