Friday, June 21, 2013

Cardboard is Rad

Today is a good day. It's the first day of summer AND my dear friend Bindy is coming for a visit tonight, the night before our other friends will join us for an overdue communion of the sisterhood. I've arranged to have my ex cover the kids on Saturday to free us up for all the communing.

Of course, I already feel guilty to be missing a precious night with the kids and have thought about how I will make it up to them on Sunday, but that's the motherhood curse - if you're not feeling guilty on a daily basis, you're clearly not a mother.

Wait, reset. This post isn't about the constant mother guilt. This post is about cardboard.

I am happy to announce that I have realized a decade-long dream to make something out of cardboard, full on repurpose style. It all just came together so beautifully.

It started with the couch bed I ordered from Overstock for the last time Bindy and our friends came to town, way back in February. After using the thing for less than a week, one of the legs fell off. My ex tried redrilling the holes. The leg fell off again.

I requested to return the couch but Overstock had the convenient excuse that the couch needed to be shipped back in an actual box so they could see just how crappy it was firsthand. Huh. I did have a lot of freaking boxes in my garage, but I did not have the right box. My 7-year-old Violet had moved into the original box for a few days, installing windows and a door. It was not in any shape to ship a whole couch anymore.

Then it hit me. This was what I had been waiting for all along. I certainly had a lot of boxes, and even though I initially planned to replace the couch leg with something made from pallets, once I remembered I didn't know anything about working with wood, it had to be cardboard.

I asked my 9-year-old Daisy to help me because this project is totally her. I had her try out the exacto knife on a pizza box. She cut out a picture of a pizza oven and disappeared. Two hours later, Daisy emerged from her room with a pizza joint she had made, with bar, several pizza options, and snazzy lighting.

So yeah, my project isn't even as cool as that.

It took me a week to figure out what to use for a stencil. I learned you need a sturdy stencil to trace the shape for the layers from one of the many amazing cardboard blogs out there. You'd be surprised how fascinating cardboard can be once you dive in.

My project was simple because I'm craft-challenged and lacking in spatial intelligence. But what I can do is trace, so for a few days, I traced the shape from the top of my kitchen stool over and over, cutting each piece out with a large exacto knife, until I had enough layers to hold up one end of my couch. After giving up on a worthless glue gun, I used your standard white school glue between the layers.

And there you go. I'm already working on other cardboard legs to replace the ones that came with the couch. But you can sit on the thing without it tipping wildly to the side for the first time in weeks.

It isn't even about offering Bindy a seat on my couch: it's about offering her a seat on my journey of repurposing. I canNOT wait.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Progress is My Co-pilot

I’ve turned the corner on the Zoloft withdrawal. Ten days in, the symptoms are occasional and lapping instead of furious and crashing. Before the symptoms subsided, I figured out a bizarre combo through frantic googling to help me function normally on work days: I reduced my caffeine intake from my daily pot of coffee to 1-2 cups and ate fast food for lunch. Somehow, not only did that soothe my raw nerves and reduce the dizziness, I lost 5 pounds without exercise.  
It’s time to return to my proud CSA-shareholding, over caffeinated self. And guess what?  I think I’m finally starting to get cooking. Or, let me put it this way – I can cook a meal without having to run cool water over a burn, find a band-aid while applying pressure, or throw away the equivalent of a half bag of groceries destroyed by another kitchen failure.
My new life as a marginally tolerable cook started with breakfast. I read somewhere that Dr. Oz eats the same breakfast every morning. Something about reducing the hundreds of decisions we are faced with daily to overcome inaction in the face of overwhelm, and overwhelm is pretty much why I went on Zoloft last spring.  I feel no shame in turning to the pharmaceutical industry when I needed a little extra help, but thankfully, my stress has returned to a level that can be managed with sleep, exercise, meditation, and diet.
I certainly haven’t mastered the perfect sleep schedule or even a respectable level of fitness. At most, I meditate for about 12 minutes daily. However, progress is my co-pilot.
Breakfast is now an organic egg cracked over cooked brown rice or quinoa, nuked for a minute then stirred with hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Maybe a dab of vegan butter. I started by using precooked rice before learning to make a small pot of rice or quinoa like a big girl at the beginning of my work week. Give me two minutes in the morning, which isn’t always a gimme, and I can eat something that costs less than a dollar and keeps me full for hours. And yes, punching numbers in a microwave counts as cooking, so shut up.
My weight has been steadily ballooning in the last year, which I blame on Zoloft, lack of sleep, and long work hours in front of a laptop. I haven’t been in the mood for another restrictive diet like South Beach to get back into shape. At the mercy of my kids and job, I tend to rebel against anything that really isn’t the boss of me. The answer to my self-defeating food rebellion was to sign up for a weekly box of organic fruits and veggies, straight from a local farm collective.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat or figuring out what to cook, the organic veggies already in my fridge are now my default lunch and dinner. If nothing else, I would hate to waste the $25 a week I’m spending on the produce. Not that I never eat restaurant food, especially when working or jamming through a busy day with kids.
And not that I handle stress perfectly without the Zoloft. I will admit I have used the F word with my two rather surprised daughters in the last week, yet hope endures with incremental progress.
For example, last night I realized it was time to do something with the yellow squash from last week’s veggie box. So I gutted them with a spoon, sautéing the guts with quinoa, spaghetti sauce, fresh basil, garlic, and fresh smoked mozzarella. Baking the stuffed squash, sprinkled with parmesan, I had dinner ready in about a half hour. Violet might have refused it and Daisy might have only eaten the stuffing but that meant she ate quinoa and squash guts so who’s complaining. Not me. No effing way.

Really gross food pics, but I'm so stoked I could put them on a t-shirt.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Morning

This morning, on Day 6 of accidentally going off Zoloft cold turkey, which I don't recommend but I had started to taper anyway, and once you feel dizzy and nauseous and get this weird zapping sensation in your brain for a few days, it doesn't make you want to ingest more to taper down again . . .


And even though I told my mother off recently when she suggested it was time to get off the anti-anxiety med, and now I'm strapped in for what could be days, if not weeks, of feeling crappy yet knowing I can handle it because I've been pregnant before . . .


After I made the kids their custom breakfast sandwiches - overcooked nitrate-free bacon for Daisy and reheated poison-of-the-masses Jimmy Dean frozen sausage patty for Violet . . .


After Violet asked me to give her a ponytail that apparently wasn't tight enough, judging by her screams and insistence to pull the elastic out over and over, making her hair a frizzy mess, until I thought I was going to scream my head off, and I did . . .


After I scooped my head off the floor and shoved it back on again, apologizing to Violet for screaming and reminding her that she needs to help her mother, not fight her. And Violet cried about it being the transition day to Dad's house, and I asked her, do you ever take transition day out on Dad? And she shook her head no and I told her she wasn't fair . . .


After I told the kids to get themselves and the dogs into the car then found my kids fighting around the car with dogs in the kids' seats and no clue where the car keys were. And Violet couldn't get her seatbelt on and Daisy was trying to help her sister by moving Sadie-dog so Violet could reach her buckle and, in the process, Daisy splashed her fruit and protein drink all over the inside of the car multiple times and Scout-dog snaked the breakfast sandwich from Violet's hand when she wasn't looking . . .


After I started yelling again, making rules that will never be enforced, like no more eating in the car. And by the way, does anyone remember that you're supposed to HELP your mama? Violet, if you pull out your pony tail again, I will leave your hair crazy and drop you off AT THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE. And Daisy, PLEASE stop spilling something for a minute of your life and THERE WILL BE NO MORE FOOD OR DRINKS IN THE CAR . . .


And after Daisy announced she would be living exclusively with her dad from now on. She would not be setting foot in my house or car ever again. And I tried to make a quick peace by holding Daisy's hand while at the front of a line of cars waiting to drop kids off and Daisy ignored me and wouldn't look at me and Violet became extra sweet in comparison but then it took her forever to get out of the car, much to the pleasure of the people in the cars trying to get around me.


And I got a call on the way home from a crying Daisy at school, who said she felt guilty for ignoring me when she got out of the car, and I reassured her we just had a rough morning . . .there is nothing to feel guilty about . . . take some breaths and know that everything is OK and I love you . . .

After all that, when clearly, there was something for me to feel guilty about as I wasn't handling my mama's responsibilities as calmly as I should . . .


I remembered something that made me laugh the other day, so I thought I'd better look at it again. This person gets it.


You know the Beginning of School Enthusiasm? When the pencils are fresh and the notebooks are new and the kids' backpacks don't look like they lined the den of a pack of filthy hyenas? Moms, remember how you packed innovative and nutritional lunches and laid clothes out the night before and labeled shelves for each child's work and school correspondence and completed homework in a timely manner?

I am exactly still like that at the end of school, except the opposite.

We are limping, limping across the finish line, folks. I tapped out somewhere in April and at this point, it is a miracle my kids are still even going to school. I haven't checked homework folders in three weeks, because, well, I just can't. Cannot. Can. Not. I can't look at the homework in the folder. Is there homework in the folder? I don't even know. Are other moms still looking in the homework folder? I don't even care.

This is the part that made me laugh until I cried.

Then Ben tells me Tuesday that he needs a Ben Franklin costume for the Living History Museum today, and I'm like, What fresh hell is this?? I have no idea how I missed the correspondence on this (because I'm not checking backpacks is just a theory), but Brandon is the Costume and Project Parent and I am the Daily Grinder, which is a division of labor we agreed on to ensure our kids actually graduate one day and move out, but he is out of town on a mancation, so this is on me. I cannot even handle signing a folder in late May; a colonial costume is cause for full, unrestrained despair.

So, Ben went to school like this today, and there is no way this will ever not be a part of his childhood. Please note my scarf hanging out the bottom of his vest, as well as the soccer socks stretched over his Adidas pants. Just whatever, man.


My shame was somewhat mitigated when I saw a kid wearing a random t-shirt and jeans with a pair of swim goggles around his neck (Michael Phelps) and another girl with a piece of paper taped to her shirt with her character's name written in marker. I caught the eyes of their moms and was all solidarity, you guys.

--from Worst End of School Year Mom Ever

I've totally been the mom of the kid with the character's name taped to her shirt.