Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Minutiae

It's Thanksgiving and I am grateful for so much: Good health, a wonderful family, marvelous friends. And the lingerie company Hanky Panky without which I could not do low-slung jeans at age 34.

This year, you see, I am aiming to be thankful for not just the big things
in my life, but also for all the little bits and pieces that make my
days brighter. Below is my list of Happy Minutiae not in any particular order. What's on your list?

1.The kid-sized grocery carts at Kroger, Store #673. My four-year-old
twins and I go to this Kroger specifically for this distraction. You
can't imagine how much we've learned about produce and the exchange of
money with these little carts, which really transform my children from bystanders
to participants in the process. We did our Thanksgiving shopping in 45
minutes today--that's right, 45 minutes. And we took home three carts
of food!

2. The New York Times--the paper edition. Call me old
media, but it is a true pleasure to sit down, unfold the crisp national
edition and delve into all the news that's fit to print. One airline
ride with the Times and I feel like I've earned aPh.d.

3. As long as I'm hailing the press, I have to list National Public Radio.
Entire days go by and the only adults I hear from are Nina Totenburg and Terry Gross. Without my daily NPR fix, I would know nothing about the world at large.

4. South Beach Peanut Butter bars. Most days, I'd rather pop a pill than deal with
eating but since that's not possible, I often rely on these little
goodies. They are portable and pack a protein punch.

5. My backyard trees. I never knew the impact of rustling leaves on my psyche
until I moved to a sun-drenched lot with only one tree that was
actually a stunted bush. Never again will I take that subtle "sss-sss" for granted.

6. Beautiful gift wrap. I get a huge kick out of swaddling hand-chosen
treats in brightly printed papers. I get punch drunk when it comes to
curling ribbon.

7. My husband's willingness to pack school lunches. I can't imagine most guys are up at 6 a.m. cutting crusts off of sandwiches for picky eaters, but mine does and every T/W/Th I thank my lucky stars for his generosity.

8. Nighttime Pull-Ups. I know they aren't environmentally friendly, but honestly, any invention that ensures I get more rest following nearly four years of sleep
deprivation is definitely on my list of Top Ten items to be thankful for.

9. My Dust Buster. I am by no means a cleanoholic, yet I find I feel more in control of my life so long as my steps are tidy.

10. Clever advertisements. A creative mind is a marvel to behold. I can
never get enough of thoughts conveyed in less than three words...


Thursday, November 20, 2008


I have not fallen off the face of the Earth, dear readers. I spent last week in North Carolina with my BFF (story to come) and leave for California today for the remainder of the week. I am climbing out of my pajamas to lecture at the Core Knowledge Foundation about the concepts outlined in my book... (You know the guy who crafted the term "Culturally Literate?" This is his foundation. I really, really, really hope I am not quizzed...) See you when I get back.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Quincenera

As the mother of two curious four-year-olds, I spend a lot of time explaining things.
Yesterday, for example, I laid out how the Earth spins on an axis, the chemistry behind food burning in a pan and the mechanics of that soft webbing lining the armpits of flying squirrels.
Today was no different.
While walking the paths of the Dallas Arboretum on a spectacular November day, I gave what I think was a respectable 15-minute lecture on the cultural meaning of the Mexican quincenera.
The conversation was sparked by two teenage girls done up in lacey hoop-skirted ball gowns the color of cotton candy. Posing amongst the mums, a gaggle of photographers clicked away as they moved this way and that, flicking long-lashed eyes at the cameras.
Four-year-old Elizabeth literally stopped in her tracks upon seeing the senoritas.
“Brides!” she breathed.
(You have no idea the power of brides to a four-year-old girl until you’ve raised one. With the exception of princesses, they are the bomb.)
“No, they’re not brides,” I explained. “They’re dressed up for their birthdays. People of Mexican heritage have big parties to celebrate their 15th year. They believe that girls of that age are officially adults.”
I am shooting from the hip here, pulling knowledge from my eight grade Spanish class and memories of conversations I had five years ago with my girlfriend Rocio who was quinceinered (if that’s a verb) sometime in the late 1980s.
We trail the girls until they exit the gardens, our little group peeling off to the right, the teens going to the left.
Twenty-five minutes later, we’re in the car and Elizabeth is still considering quinceneras. She is now at the point where she’s whining about wanting such a party.
I explain that it really isn’t our custom—that she’s of mixed Dutch heritage which instead means eating boiled meat and clogging in wooden shoes—but that she can have a big party with her friends next week, if she wants to.
“No,” she says carefully, “I am going to adopt a baby from Mexico.”
Of course, my little smarty pants is ensuring she can have her own quincenera—even if it won’t be for another 40 years.