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Posts from the ‘health’ Category

downers: sweaty pits

Finn is on the cusp of something. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of manhood, or the end of babyhood, but I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t smell right.

As usual, Cuz voiced it first. “Finn smells,” she said. I had noticed it myself, usually after one of his soccer games, but had been in denial, for months. Normally, Finn smells like warm, active boy—a very good smell. Possibly, the best smell. More and more often, however, that boy smell comes with a dash of Gouda.

I can’t even tell where the smell is coming from. At bathtime, I stuck my nose under his armpit as he grumbled about privacy. It didn’t smell good, but neither did it smell like cheese. I think it’s his feet. I almost keeled over this week when he sat down next to me and pulled his feet, sockless, from a pair of Nikes.

finn pits

How did this happen? Finn is half Asian, and Asians don’t have B.O. I know, because I know a lot of Asians. And in general, none of them smell as bad as white people. It’s not a scientific sample, but take the Asian and white guys I know. The Asians might smell like a shit ton of Polo Sport, but they aren’t going to smell like rotting vegetable matter, like Tom does after a summer day in a suit. I’m just saying. Sidle up to an Asian after your gym class. Maybe not exactly roses. But not so bad, either. I can’t explain it. Might be the lack of body hair.

It sure as hell isn’t the lack of sweat. I am 100% Asian and I sweat profusely in situations requiring even the most minimal amount of physical exertion. Once, after a Zumba class, I passed by a nice old lady in the locker room. “I hope you enjoyed your swim!,” she chirped. Listen, friendly people: sometimes, it’s better not to make assumptions. Sometimes, in fact, it’s best not to say anything at all.

At least my sweat doesn’t smell. I know, because, duh, I’ve touched my sweat and smelled it.

Sweating really creates issues when it comes to clothes. I remember when I wore a pair of tight pants to go dancing, way back in college. They call it vegan leather now, but back then it was called plastic. Imagine dancing in a hot room in skintight plastic pants. I’d dance for a few minutes and then go to the restroom to roll down my pants and sop up the sweat with toilet paper. For the record, it’s really hard to look sexy in your tight plastic pants if people think you have a weak bladder or uncontrolled diarrhea.

Sweat is also really bad with silk. I wear a lot of silk, because it drapes nicely over my A cups and skims over my love handles just so. But for me, even thinking about sweat while wearing silk results in immediate pit stains of man-sized proportions. I’ve spent many a wedding with something wedged under my arm, to hide the evidence. Try hugging someone with a wedding program tucked under one arm, and an evening clutch tucked under the other. Or don’t. Best to wait to be hugged in such scenarios. You can participate in the hug by leaning in. I’m a great leaner.

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linds and me, leaning

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time googling stuff like “extreme sweatiness” and “excessive sweatiness” and “does Certain Dry cause cancer.” Linds turned me onto Certain Dry, which she says keeps your armpits sweat free. I’m sure Linds wouldn’t mind me sharing that as a white person, she worries about sweaty pits even more than I do. If there’s someone with B.O. in a room, she immediately assumes it’s her. Even I don’t do that. Anyway, the Certain Dry. It works, Linds says. Of course, she had to stop using it when it started causing her to scratch at her armpits uncontrollably in public. There’s always a catch. Why does there always have to be a catch?

Why can’t they invent a silk that makes sweat invisible? Can you put deodorant on a six-year old’s feet? That Asian you know who smells really bad? I’m all ears.

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the swimmer

About a year ago, I started experiencing knee pain in Zumba. After a few weeks, the knee tenderness would go away. But then it started happening more frequently. I started yoga around this time, in an effort to find a less weight-bearing form of exercise. But yoga, with its one-leg standing poses, isn’t that easy on the knees.

So I started thinking about incorporating swimming into the mix. Swimming is pretty compelling as a form of exercise, given that you aren’t bearing weight and your sweat washes right off of you. Unfortunately, swimming laps also requires that you wear a racing swimsuit. To be frank, there are a lot of hobbies I’d try if it wasn’t for the clothes. Like ballroom dancing (mid-heel t-straps), or soccer (shin guards), or surfing (wetsuits with mock turtlenecks). But I’m 35. It’s getting real real. Time to put the vanity away and focus on preserving my remaining cartilage.

When I tried to put my vanity away, however, it resisted, mightily. I looked at all the one-piece Speedo and Tyr swimsuits on Zappos and Amazon. In terms of style and sex appeal, the suits ranked one step above the mom suits in the Lands End catalog. Every time I get the Lands End catalog I flip to the swimsuits and force myself to stare at them hard. Then I make a pact with myself that I will give up swimming altogether before I wear a swimsuit with a skirt attached to it.

The subject of one-piece swimsuits is a touchy one in our family, ever since Tom insisted that I wear a one-piece swimsuit to Tate’s baby-and-me swim lesson. I had mentioned to Tom that I hoped other moms would wear two-pieces because that’s all I owned. And that’s when I learned that I had married William Bennett.

“Yoona!! You can’t wear a bikini to Tate’s swim lesson. You just CAN’T. PLEASE. Think of Tate.” Think of Tate?? All I DID was think of Tate. I was getting my hair wet, wasn’t I? I looked at Tom as if seeing him for the first time. I was both offended by the implication that my bikini days were over, and annoyed by my husband’s conventionalism. I was so angry about the whole thing that I considered showing up in a monokini with cutouts and a ruched butt seam in the back. But in the end I just skipped the lesson.

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On my laptop, I came back to the ugly racing suits every couple days. For two whole months. Finally I broke down and bought a two-piece Tyr. When I tried my suit on, I was pleasantly surprised. From a distance it looked like I was wearing a black sports bra and black men’s briefs, but that was preferable to the one-piece suits, which appeared to be cut solely to emphasize back fat. The bottoms of my two-piece did not cut into my sides and the top had a sporty appeal, even if it made it apparent that my chest is as flat as a board. For a second, I wondered if I should shove some cutlets into the top. But I shook it off. I was an athlete! (Fake) boobs would just create drag and slow me down. In any event, I had bigger problems to worry about, like my swim cap.

The first time I wrestled my swim cap onto my head, I pulled it right off and fished the packaging out of the garbage can to check the size. Clearly I had inadvertently bought a child’s cap. But no. Adult swim caps only come in one size, and that size is entirely too small for my head. My cap is so tight that when I put it on I swear I can feel my eyes bug out. Generally speaking, the ugliness of my head inside the swim cap was shocking. When I looked in the mirror, I inhaled a sharp breath. The swim cap, with all my hair tucked inside of it, confirmed something I had long suspected. And that is, that if I ever lose my hair, I am totally fucked.

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The swimming. Right. The first time I got in the pool, I looked at the geezers in the lanes around me and felt bad that I was about to smoke them. Then I made the mistake of taking a breath every four crawl strokes, right out of the gate. Why would I do that? No idea. I may have thought that’s how everyone did it, since the only time I’ve really seen swimming is during the Olympics. By the end of the first 50 meters I was clutching the side of the pool as if it was a raft in shark-infested waters, and sucking wind so hard that my wheezing was audible over the lapping of the water. The lifeguard sitting in the chair above me alternated between carefully monitoring my situation to determine whether I needed CPR, and looking away, to save me further embarrassment. As I struggled to compose myself, the geezer in the next lane splashed me while doing a flip turn.

Since freestyle was so hard, I tried a few laps of breaststroke, and 100 meters of backstroke. When I went to pull myself out of the pool at the end of my swim, my arms gave out from under me and I was forced to paddle weakly over to the ladder. My lats were on fire, and my shoulders felt like someone had pulled my arms out of their sockets. This wasn’t the kind of soreness that settled in after a few hours. I felt it as I GOT OUT OF THE POOL. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think exercise is supposed to create that kind of immediate physical pain. I’ll have to write Michael Phelps to confirm.

I was so traumatized after my first lap swim that I considered quitting, but I’d invested a lot of time and mental angst in procuring the swimsuit and accessories, and I felt I owed it to myself to give it another go. It took me another week to get back in the pool. This time, I put on my swim cap, avoided all mirrors, and walked straight to the pool.

And once in the water, I started to get it. I was gliding through the water with more ease, and began to zone out to the rhythm of the water sluicing through my fingers. The voice in my brain, which sounds like a neurotic and chatty 7-year old girl, started to quiet. I stopped worrying that I’d eaten a one-pound bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs by myself over three days. I stopped worrying that Finn had recently started laughing like Beavis. I stopped worrying that Tate sang the alphabet song using only the letter K. In fact, I stopped thinking about anything but the satisfying feel of the wall when I touched it at the end of each lap.

It felt sublime. Who knows. Maybe there’s a swimmer in me after all.

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a good cry

There’s a lot to cry about these days.  The headlines are lurid, devastating.  Bad news after more bad news.  And it’s increasingly hard to be shocked by it, or to feel something real.

I don’t cry often.  When I do, it’s not pretty.  I watch movies where the heroine is crying and her face is all soft and sympathetic and lovely in its vulnerability, and I think, I want to cry like that.  But I don’t.  When I cry, I look like a monster whose face is melting off.

I don’t cry when I’m happy.  I didn’t cry when my kids were born.  I still feel badly about it.  I felt love for the little goobers, but mostly I was shell-shocked, as I’d been throughout both pregnancies.  I barely knew where I was.  Added to the fact that I had an unplanned c-section with ten-pound Finn, and then another c-section with Tate, it all leaves me feeling like I should have a third kid to have a childbirth do-over, with the pushing and the tears of joy, and all the rest of it.

Tom’s dialed into his emotions and secure in his manhood and what that means is he’s not scared of a good cry.  Sometimes I’ll come downstairs and find him sitting alone in front of the TV, crying.  It might be Notting Hill.  Or a Red Wings win.  My Dog Skip.  The ESPN special about the Fab Five.  The Biggest Loser.  Love Actually.  I’ve seen Tom cry in front of Love Actually every December for the last twelve years.  A particularly devastating episode of CSI: Special Victims Unit.  The Olympics.  GOD, the Olympics.  He cries nonstop during the Olympics.

I envy Tom.  I wish I was more in touch with my emotions.  I guess it’s not crying that I crave, but the depth of feeling that leads to crying.

I once stepped into a small, dark church in Florence, put a coin into the light box, and was wrapped in the otherworldly glow of this.

deposition-from-the-cross

As far as art goes, this painting is really uncool. It’s by Pontormo, and he is a Mannerist, and one thing you learn very quickly as an Art History major is that you can’t ever admit to liking Mannerist art. Caravaggio made the Baroque ok.  But not Mannerism.  I mean, you can’t even like it ironically. It’s like saying you like Nickelback or Juicy Couture. I’m no scholar, but what I learned in my High Renaissance classes is this: Mannerism took the beauty and refinement of the Renaissance and forced it into grotesque places, by elongating proportions and using lots of pastel.

But man, you can’t control what speaks to you. Standing there in that cold, dark church, and seeing this thing as people must have seen it in the 16th century when people died young and often, I felt a rustle in the cold air around me. I felt religious. I felt MOVED. I sobbed my eyes out.  Who knows why.  But it felt amazing.

I cried for an ugly painting.  Why can’t I cry for something real?  I must be pent up, overdue.

I eagerly await the deluge.

the lentil soup project

I really like lentil soup. I’ve liked it since I had my first bowl of it in Istanbul, which is a d-baggy thing to say, like when people come back from Italy and say they won’t eat pizza anymore because it wouldn’t be as good as the pie they had in Naples. Go back to Naples then! Who’s stopping you? But anyway, it’s true: they have spices in Turkey that people don’t use much here, like Aleppo pepper, and I’ve searched for years for a recipe to recreate the magic of my first lentil soup experience, and never gotten even close.

But that’s all in my past. I’m a mom now, and don’t have time to waste on perfecting my own culinary experiences. I just want to cook things that my kids will eat. After pick-up last week, Finn and I stopped in at a coffee shop across the street from his school, for a snack. He ordered a pumpernickel bagel and I ordered a cup of lentil soup. “What’s that?,” Finn asked, as I tucked into my bowl. “Lentil soup. Want a bite?,” I asked, hopefully. After three bites, Finn hooked his hand around the bowl and pulled it in front of his face. After a few more bites, he told me that the soup was “incredibly delicious,” a phrase he has used only once before, in relation to Twizzlers. I looked down at the bowl full of protein-rich lentils and vegetables, and tried hard not to wig out. Then I politely approached the owner of the coffee shop for her recipe.

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I either didn’t telegraph my desperation loudly enough, or the woman had never known the misery of having kids who were picky eaters. Either way, the owner didn’t give two shits about my malnourished kids and she wasn’t about to share her recipe. She told me, dismissively, that it was “just lentil soup with vegetables.” But I can be insistent when the situation calls for it, and I decided that my kids, and this soup, called for it. So I kept pushing her for details, and finally got one: roasted tomatoes. I bought another bowl for Finn’s lunch the next day and said “thanks” while adding the “for nothing” silently in my head.

A couple days later on a day off, I got to work. I researched lentil soups online, and broke out my cookbooks. The good news was that there were lots of recipes for lentil soup. The bad news was that none of them included roasted tomatoes. I rejected the recipes with cumin and other extraneous spices, and focused on the ones that included bacon. I settled on the recipe from “The Best Recipe: Soups and Stews,” and modified it to include some roasted tomatoes.

I gave the soup a taste. It wasn’t Istanbul, but it was pretty great. Rich, buttery, warming. Still, I was nervous when dinner time rolled around. Getting a kid to eat something once is one thing–getting a kid to eat something twice is a freaking miracle. I couldn’t be certain that Finn would eat my lentil soup, even though he’d loved the one he’d had before. I placed a bowl in front of both my kids. Tate ate his up along with four pieces of baguette with butter. Finn finished one big bowl and asked for another. Cuz and I gave each other silent high-fives across the table, while maintaining outward calm.

I’m not making any promises. But my kids ate it. And even if yours don’t, you’ll have a pot full of delicious soup that you can have all to yourself.

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Lentil Soup with Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from The Best Recipe: Soups and Stews, serves 12 (you can halve the recipe)

4T vegetable or olive oil

8 oz. bacon, diced

8 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

2 large onions, diced or chopped fine (my kids are likelier not to pick vegetables out of their food if the pieces are tiny, but maybe yours don’t care)

4 large carrots, chopped fine

2 T minced garlic

2 cups dried green or brown (not red) lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones

2 cups roasted tomatoes, chopped into rough chunks (recipe follows), or 2 cups canned, diced tomatoes with juice (fire roasted work great)

2 t chopped fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1-2 T red wine vinegar, or to taste

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or cast iron casserole over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until fat has rendered and pieces are browned and crisp.

2. Throw in the carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened.

3. Throw in the lentils and tomatoes, and “sweat” the lentils by sauteing for 5-7 minutes.

4. Stir in the wine, stir until dissolved.

5. Pour in the broth along with two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are softened.

6. If you like a creamier soup, you can blitz 3-4 cups of the soup in a blender and then pour it back into the pot. Or you can leave as is. Stir in the vinegar at end. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Enjoy with a crusty baguette and a salad! Leftovers are great for lunch.

*Roasted tomatoes: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve five roma tomatoes and put them, cut sides up, on a cookie sheet. Melt some butter and brush the tops with butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a little pepper, if you like. Roast them on the top rack until they turn brown and bubbly–took 25 minutes in my oven.

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juiced

What I love about the idea of a cleanse is the promise of rebirth. What I hate about a cleanse is that I seem constitutionally incapable of completing one. After watching Tom go on a food-based cleanse in early January, I felt bitter. Did he think he was better than me? He isn’t better than me, I muttered to myself. But how to know for sure, unless I completed my own cleanse?

I’d done a cleanse twice before, and failed. How to guarantee success this time around?  I looked inward, hard. I don’t fail at things often, but that is only because I don’t do things that I think I might fail at. My yoga teachers might tell you that’s why I fail to progress. What was getting in the way of my cleansing success? I could think of two hurdles right off the bat. The first was the sheer duration of a cleanse. I felt that I could not help but succeed, if I could somehow cut down on the length of time to completion. The second hurdle was my utter lack of willpower when it comes to food. Forced to make my own liquid meals in a house full of food, there was no chance I’d make it. I’d need to avoid my kitchen altogether.

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So that’s how I chose a three-day juice cleanse. I remembered that long ago, my friend Kim had extolled the virtues of the juices at Portland Juice Press—in particular, a milkshake-like drink that came at the end of each day’s ration of juices. I researched the company online. Six juices a day, for three days? With daily delivery to my house? How hard could that be?

A three day juice cleanse, it turns out, can be very hard. In my baseless optimism and stupidity, I got so excited that I found eight friends to do it with me, including Tom, and scored a group discount. I’m pretty sure it was Gandhi that said, “Why fail alone when you can fail with a bunch of other people?”

The first day’s juices arrived on Tuesday morning at 7:30. I’m a sucker for good packaging and my six bottles of juices were adorable, colorful, and delicious. They felt like collectibles. The first drink of the day, the Shauca, was a grapefruit/ginger/mint combo that woke me up and kept me buzzing until juice number two, the Guru, a magenta beet-based concoction. So far, I wasn’t hungry. In fact, I was very full, from all the liquid. I’m not a good water drinker, and I could see straight off that the biggest issue with the juice cleanse would be the sheer volume of liquid. I peed probably 18 times that first day. I felt light. I felt energetic. I felt purified.

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Juice at work was a cinch. When I got home, though, I had to cook for my kids. I heated up a pan to cook their flank steak, and felt an alarming quantity of drool begin to pool in my mouth. I looked around the kitchen in a panic. I spotted a jar of raw almonds and ate eight. I felt like a cheater, but better the eight almonds than a raw flank steak eaten with my hands, I told myself. While my kids ate their dinner, I sipped on hot water, and thought about the Om sitting in my refrigerator.

The Om is Portland Juice Press’s raison d’etre. It’s hazelnut milk with a healthy dose of cinnamon and dates, and on a normal diet you’d probably reject it as hippie food, but what an Om tastes like after a day of fruit juice is a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. I sipped on it to make it last longer, and then went straight to bed after a hunger-induced argument with Tom that went like this:

Tom: “You ate almonds?  Ha, you lose.”

Yoona: “You think you’re better than me?  You drank COFFEE.”

The next day, I woke up feeling alert. I ran to the mirror and was bummed to find that I was not visibly thinner after 24 hours of liquid food. I shook off my disappointment and ran downstairs to rip open my next box of juices. I drank three more juices at work and even got through a kid’s birthday party in the afternoon without eating. It helped that two other parents at the party were cleansing. We stared at our kids’ pizzas and bonded over our shared hunger.

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On the second day, my friends and I were in various stages of falling apart. I was highly irritable. People kept asking me why I was doing a cleanse, and I couldn’t remember. Anytime anyone talked to me, I wanted to scream, “Get off my back, OK?!?” Whitney reported headaches and fatigue, and that she had to lay down between clients. Tom called me around 2:00 to yell “THIS IS BULLSHIT!!” and then hung up the phone. Ethan texted me angrily at 7:30 PM that Linds had the gall to make popcorn when he couldn’t have any. Too weak for his Insanity workout, Erskine went to bed at 9:00 PM bundled up in a down jacket. Kathryn also reported feeling cold. Now that they mentioned it, I realized that I was freezing too. I googled it while nursing my second Om. Lowered metabolism while cleansing can make you feel cold, and lead to flu-like symptoms. My teeth chattered in excitement. My cleanse was working!!

Day 3 dawned clear. I dutifully sucked down my day of juices until I got to 5:00 PM. On the calendar was a law firm party. As any lawyer knows, it is impossible to get through a law firm party without alcohol or snacks. I’d never done it before. I’d never even heard of it HAPPENING. Could I do it now? As I pulled on my fancy clothes in my office bathroom, I realized my pants fit looser. Hot diggity! I high-fived my reflection and told myself I could finish the cleanse. After all, I only had 12 more hours to go before I could have food.

Tom and I both got through the party without food or drink. We weren’t even hungry. But it was after the party that we realized that life without food just isn’t that much fun. We had a sitter but nowhere to go, since we weren’t eating. So we decided to own our failure and fall off the cleanse together. We went to a Japanese place and went nuts. When I took my first bite of seaweed salad, the right side of my jaw clicked and felt strange from disuse.

Afterward, of course, I felt remorseful. I couldn’t even complete a three-day juice cleanse! What a loser I was. But then I realized that even my partial juice cleanse had been beneficial. It had reminded me that in my everyday life, I am surrounded by bounty, by choice. And not having that for 2.75 days had reminded me how delicious food is, how fortunate I was to have it, and how lucky I was to be able to turn it down for the sake of a body experiment.

I think I’ll try the four-day cleanse next time.

so uncool

Trying to save money always leads me to bad places. Like my hair dryer, for example. About three years ago, my Conair died. The lady at Trade Secret showed me the options, which all cost over $100.

$100? My Conair had cost something like $14.99. Seeing my hesitation, the salesperson paused. “I have a really good dryer that’s been marked down to $25,” she said. “But it’s a weird color.” Who cares what my hair dryer looks like, I thought. And that’s how I ended up with my Ed Hardy hair dryer.

It’s a hell of a dryer. My mom tried to take it to Korea until I reminded her of the voltage issue. Still, it’s ugly and racially offensive and I have to hide it when guests use my bathroom, and all that leads me to wonder if the savings of $75 was worth it, in the long run.

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I thought of my hair dryer this week as I bought my new skis. The guy helping me at the ski shop, who I should probably refer to as “T,” was about 25 and totally adorable. He reminded me of my high school boyfriend, who skipped a lot of school to go snowboarding, and once wrote me a love letter in which he referred to me throughout as his “Angle.” He wasn’t an academic, but he knew his gear, and I felt similarly trusting of T.

When I told T my budget, he looked depressed. But then he lit up. “Actually, I have a ski that would be great.” He took me over to a pair of white Dynastars. “I’ve skied this twin-tip, it’s awesome and has great control,” he said. “It’s on closeout, because of the design on it.” I looked closer. Ah. No wonder. There was a pink kiss mark on the design. So cheesy. And worse, the kiss made the skis look even more like girl skis, which they clearly were, because they were white. The skis also had an unfortunate label that said “Trouble Maker.” I’m not a trouble maker. In fact, the thought of making trouble of any kind stresses me out.

But the skis had been marked down to $199, including bindings. Less than my last pair of jeans. Tom would be so proud that I’d saved money. “Pretty bad,” I said, smiling at T. “But I can live with it for the price.”

T shook his head. “No, that’s not the bad part.” He rotated the skis to show the bottoms, which look like this.

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My God. I couldn’t believe you could put a picture like that on sporting equipment. I fought the urge to throw my coat over the skis. I couldn’t buy them. I would be ridiculous. But $199! Almost the same price as a season rental. “You aren’t just saying they’re good skis to get rid of them, right?”, I asked. T shook his head. I asked that question because I couldn’t ask the one I really wanted to ask, which was “You aren’t just saying they’re good skis because you’re high, right?” It seemed wrong given that he was at work and all.

I looked around at all the normal skis that didn’t have naked women on them, and nibbled nervously at my fingernails. It was so unfair. You shouldn’t feel like you have to sell your soul in order to save a little money.

In the end, I bought them. I told myself they could be ironic. But the buyer’s remorse started almost as soon as I left the store. I remembered that I’m 35, which makes me about five years too old to buy something uncool and pass it off as ironic. I am exactly old enough, however, that someone looking at me in those skis might think that I actually thought the skis were cool. After sleeping on it, I panicked afresh when I called T the next morning to ask him a question about my boots, and he didn’t even remember me at first, which leads me to the conclusion that he was in fact totally stoned when he sold me those skis.

Whatever. I saved money. I have that to cling to. Also, Tom really likes my skis, and keeps asking to look at them again. When Finn saw them, he stared at them wide-eyed and then laughed for a full minute, in a way that made me realize I would be the ridicule, not only of adults, but of children.

At least I saved some money.

master of the cleanse

It’s January and Tom’s cleansing, which means the whole family is suffering. The last time we did a cleanse, I participated but only made it six days, while Tom lost a ton of weight after three weeks of eating like a hamster. This year, I tried to cleanse but either my heart’s not in it or my willpower has declined even further than last year, because here’s how my first three days went:

Day 1: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, half of large pizza and twelve pieces of toffee for dinner

Day 2: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, Korean BBQ for second lunch (I’m conditioned to eat when my mom cooks), penne with vodka sauce for dinner

Day 3: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, Chipotle salad for dinner (Yes!! I had a salad for dinner!!), pot of rice and two fried eggs for second dinner

I don’t weigh myself anymore, but my pants aren’t fitting any looser, which tells me that my body prefers to have its calories spread more equitably over three meals, instead of in one huge gut bomb at dinner. The problem is that when I eat the one solid meal that I’m allowed at lunchtime, I become such a ravenous bitch in the evening that no one in my family wants to talk to me, or even look in my direction. That’s if I even make it home. Because when you’re that hungry and the only thing waiting for you at home is your kids and your manorexic husband and a cold, liquid dinner—honestly, why go home?

When you have a smoothie for dinner, you become keenly aware of how many hours there are between dinner and bedtime. Last time around, I’d have my dinner smoothie, watch a little TV and drool at all the Taco Bell commercials—for the record, I had the idea to make taco shells out of Doritos like 15 years ago—then go to bed at 7:50 to prevent myself from eating two packages of ramen noodles, raw.

Before you say that a cleanse isn’t about losing weight, here’s how I feel about that: anyone who says they aren’t doing a cleanse at least partly for weight loss is either an idiot or a liar. I mean, cleaning your digestive tract is nice and all, but you can’t see clean bowels from the outside. Why suffer that kind of deprivation if you aren’t going to see some discernable change? The reality is that no one wants to say they want to lose weight, because then people start thinking that you think you’re fat, which makes them start thinking that you might be fat. Anyway, I think it would be super refreshing if someone answered “because I want my belly spooge to stay tucked into my pants” when asked why they are cleansing.

Tom is a huge optimist, which means that it only takes about three days of cleanse before he starts feeling and acting like Deepak Chopra. Seven days of cleanse and he starts walking around the house without a shirt on. After a couple weeks, he ascends to a higher plane where he treats food as if it completely optional to his existence. He’ll sit at the table nursing a mug of hot lemon water and observe you eating your meal as if you are a giant pig rooting around in a trough of table scraps. If you’re cleansing, don’t do this to others, because it’s highly annoying and makes them feel like punching your smug, emaciated little face.

If you’re cleansing, good luck. I envy you your willpower and spotless intestines.

criss cross applesauce

People always act like it’s so great when one parent is at home with the kids. But listen, it depends on the parent. I have friends who stay home with their kids and are always posting pics of them doing fun crafty activities. If I stayed home with my kids, they’d end up watching TV like 12 hours a day and eating mountains of Hot Pockets.

But I still have to amuse them on weekends. And when it’s rainy outside, as it often is in Portland, it can get really ugly. That’s why I like to cook with them. They fight over who gets to stir and who gets to lick the spoon, but better that than them “playing ninja,” which as far as I can tell, involves Tate kicking Finn, and Finn putting Tate into a retaliatory headlock.

The thing about cooking, of course, is that it always seems to take so long when you need it to go quickly, and to go so quickly when you need it to go slow. When I bake with the boys, I’m so desperate to prevent flour from flying all over my kitchen that I end up speeding through it. And then I’ve burned no time off the clock at all.

That’s why I’m so glad that Finn is old enough to cut with a knife. Cutting stuff takes a long time. Even better, Finn loves nothing more than cutting things with a knife, and would do it for hours if I let him. A block of tofu can eat up fifteen minutes, if you plan it right and make a math game out of it. A bowl of strawberries—maybe 30 minutes (you have to cut off the tops, and then halve the berries).

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But tofu and strawberries is kids’ stuff compared to cutting apples for homemade applesauce. First of all, apples have a nice, satisfying consistency for cutting. They aren’t too hard, like carrots, or too wet, like citrus. Secondly, you need a shitload of apples for applesauce. I cored and sliced the apples and passed them to Finn, who cut each slice into thirds and then tossed them into the slow cooker. It took him 45 minutes to fill the slow cooker.

He did eat enough apples during the cutting process that he blew chunks at a Blazers game later that night, but I don’t like to think about that. Instead, I choose to think about this: 45 minutes is two episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And at the end of it, we had jars of rich, sweet applesauce, made without an ounce of added sugar. Sometimes I have this parenting thing so dialed that I think that I should have had ten kids.

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Slow cooker applesauce

Apples (how many is going to depend on the size of your slow cooker). Mine’s a 7 quart and I used 8-10 large honeycrisps

Juice of one large lemon

1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches is good), optional

Ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger to taste

1. Core and divide each unpeeled apple into six or eight slices. An aside: is there any kitchen task worse than peeling apples?  No, there is not.  Have your kid lay each slice flat on his cutting board and cut it into thirds. Toss the apples into the slow cooker.

2. Add lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 hours, or until soft enough to mash.

3. Remove cinnamon stick. Mash the apples, or blitz them for smoother texture. Stir in ground spices to taste. I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

4. Store in fridge up to a week, or give it away in jars. Or pack for your kid’s lunch with a container of greek yogurt and another container of granola.

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ski hazard

I’m sitting in the lodge at Timberline, having dropped my kid off at ski school an hour ago. Now I’m waiting for him to actually leave the building so I can hit the buffet. I’ve already strolled by the ski school entrance 17 times to check on the ski schoolers, who are all corralled in front of a TV, which we have two of back at home. The check-in guy, who greeted me warmly at 8:45, told me he liked my Timbers zip-up at 8:55, and assured me that “we pee before we ski” at 9:15, now has his eyes trained on me as if I mean to steal a child that isn’t mine.

What the hell are they doing? This day is costing me like $40 an hour, if you factor in gas and the babysitter I’ve paid to sit at home with Tate. But breathe, I tell myself. This is a primo opportunity to work on my new year’s resolution of not rushing. I’m always rushing. I can’t finish one thing without being stressed about the next. I’m the kind of person who puts down her fork at lunch and asks what’s for dinner. So, less rushing in 2013. Less rushing for myself, less rushing of Tom, less rushing of (and on behalf of) my kids.

Then again, I can start on all that tomorrow. Why ask me to check my kid in at 8:45 if no one is intending to ski until 10:15? WHY? I left Portland at 7:15 to get here with 10 minutes to spare. As usual, my meticulous planning and perfect execution are being completely foiled by someone else’s low standards and rank incompetence. Whenever I complain about this type of thing to Linds, she says it’s because I’m so high-functioning. I brush her off, but I totally agree.

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I tell myself that it’s worth the aggravation to get Finn up on skis while he’s too young to know better. The older you get, the more you realize that the concept of skiing as a leisure activity is totally insane. When you’re young, you hear about people hitting trees and dying and you laugh with the brashness of youth and think, “no way is that happening to me.” When you get older, you start thinking about statistical odds and probabilities and realize that if Sonny Bono can die skiing, you are as likely a victim as any.

It’s important to learn early because when you’re young and you fall on skis, it’s not a big deal. You get all snowy and your skis fly off but they don’t weigh much, and it’s all very inconsequential. When you’re an adult and you fall on skis, things are totally different. The snow, which seemed so fluffy and happy when you were a kid, now seems hard, sharp, and cold. So hard, sharp, and cold, in fact, that you want to avoid falling so desperately that you ski tentatively and end up falling even more. Since you now create more velocity as an adult, when you fall, your skis snap off 30 feet up the hill from where you stop tumbling, so that you have to hike up in shame to retrieve your skis. This doesn’t happen to me often, of course. Only when I ski under a chair lift packed with cruel teenagers.

When you’re an adult, you stop making fun of ski helmets and start buying the ones with the most padding. You get muscle aches so distressing that you spend the next day worrying that you tore your ACL, wherever that is. The snow that seemed so fun when you were a child now creeps its way up your sleeves and down the back of your pants, melting down your crack and pooling in the crotch of your underwear.

When you’re older, in addition to the dangers faced by your own body, you also have the bodies of loved ones to worry about. Last year at Mt. Bachelor, Tom showed up 45 minutes late for a rendezvous at the bottom of the slope. After the first 25 minutes I hiked to Ski Patrol and had his name blaring from every PA system on the mountain. When he finally skied down to me, he had snowy formations hanging off his face and looked like he’d gotten down the mountain by rolling. And he was wild-eyed, like he’d been through something really traumatic. He basically looked exactly like this, except with ski clothes:

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Aware that he was 45 minutes late and in deep shit, Tom went for the nonchalant approach. “What’s up, babe?” I looked at him, said not a word, and erupted in tears. From anger, partly, but mostly from relief. Because for that last half hour or so, I truly thought he might be dead. And then I’d be stuck with the kids on vacation by myself.

So. Why ski at all? Because when it’s sunny and there’s fresh powder that isn’t too deep and you are carving turns and you can feel your toes and fingers and your underwear is dry, it’s lovely. Nothing better. Plus you can technically only get to apres-ski if you ski first. And apres-ski is my favorite thing in the world after Korean barbecue. The hot tub, the wine, the car heaters on full blast as you massage sensation back into your extremities. That feeling of warmth, of coziness, of feeling like you had a DAY–it’s worth whatever your miserable body paid to get there.

skiing

finn at three, with dad

the dark side

When my older kid Finn finds a topic of interest, he can cling to it like nobody’s business. So it has been with the idea of death. He asks about death a lot, which began, at first, as an innocuous obsession with people’s ages.

He asks me every single day how old I am. He knows how old I am. He also knows I hate to say the number, which feels like a cold slap in the face every time I say it. But he keeps asking, and I keep answering. It’s like a security blanket for him. Finn also correlates height with age, meaning that he was absolutely floored when Tom informed him, indignantly, that he was NOT the oldest person on our block. “What about Dennis? He has grandkids, for God’s sake. You think I’m older than DENNIS??” Finn squared his shoulders and gave a mulish expression. “You’re taller than Dennis, Daddy.”

The death thing would not bug me so much except that it was only recently that the thought really hit me that I will die one day. If that sounds strange to you, perhaps you’ve not had your moment. I had lunch with my friend Harry and he’s my age. He had his moment recently too, so maybe 35 is when shit gets real. People I love have died, but until that day that I drove my car on Burnside right past Powell’s, it never really sunk in that I would cease to exist one day, and that the earth would keep turning. I felt like my lungs were collapsing, and could not get air. So this was what it felt like, to be confronted with one’s mortality! I felt so intellectual, so French—like a baguette. Anyway, since that day, it’s been harder to hear Finn’s questions about death, especially this one: “When will you die, Mommy?” He doesn’t even have the decency to sound bummed when he asks.

Finn’s lovely teacher Stephanie tells us that an obsession with death can be common at this age. And I believe it. But I also believe Finn might be a little more obsessed than usual, because both of his grandfathers died before he was born. In an effort to make them real to him, we talk about them sometimes, which inevitably leads to the reality that they are not present, and that we cannot know them as we know our other family members.

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On our way to the laundromat last week, Finn peered at me through the rearview mirror, from behind his large glasses, which tend to make him look, in such moments, like a curious owl. “What day did your daddy die, Mommy?” “May 16th, buddy,” I answered. “No, Mommy. What day of the WEEK. You know, like Monday, Friday…” I stopped to think. I remembered that I’d been out late with friends the night I heard, at a Denny’s in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. I didn’t like to think about that night. It felt like poking at an open wound with a knife. I remembered dropping the phone and running down the dorm hallway to pound on my friend’s door. I remembered the kindness of the ex-boyfriend I’d recently broken up with, who appeared at the airport in Boston and held me tight. I remembered flying home in a trance, and being picked up in Portland, not by my dad—who was always there, waiting for me at the gate—but by my uncle, who had no words.

I looked at Finn. “Saturday, buddy. It was a Saturday.” Finn nodded, as if satisfied at sliding a puzzle piece into place. And I nodded back, unexpectedly grateful for that moment—to have been asked about that day, to have made that connection across time and space between my dad and my son, and to have remembered.