Life with Teenagers

Posts Tagged ‘dinner

wrap me in a blanket

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hot-soup-bowl-md

It’s the end of another weeknight train commute home and J and I perform the same ritual as always. Both of us stand at the open hallway closet, only moments since entering the front door through the garage, and we take off shoes. Mine are complicated tonight. They are new and stiff and have a zipper on the back of the heel that only seems to be working on the left one. I stand balanced on my right foot with my right hand yanking at the zipper and with my free arm I simultaneously haul my orange leather handbag onto the kitchen counter. J has managed to stretch over me to slide the brown paper Hang Tai bag onto the counter at the same time. It sits at eye level with my contorted body- a neat compact square with the top folded over and stapled shut. I can smell the contents and I’m ready to rip it open right now, only the house is cold and we haven’t changed out of work clothes. I pry free both shoes and whip them into the closet and immediately open kitchen cabinets to find our yellow oval plates and place them side by side near the microwave.

“It’s here,” says J still standing in the doorway.

I see the Amazon box on the floor. It’s our third coffee maker in a matter of months. The recent Mr Coffee sits like a sentinel watching over the kitchen table. One of the teens seems to be using it, even though the addicted adults in the house have long since given up in disgust. I sometimes check the filter compartment in the morning and I find drying coffee grounds from the day before and a half full pot of cold coffee.

“Do you have high hopes?” J asks me as she starts tearing at the top of the box.

I don’t answer because I’m busy looking for our deep bowls, the ones specifically made for ice cream or cereal that are adorned with ornate Turkish or Indian designs on the outside. We don’t have any Chinese dish ware, but I want something to make this meal feel more important than one that is hastily dumped out of plastic containers.

I pour the silky contents into each bowl. Sliced mushrooms bob around in the shiny brown liquid next to tough fibrous matchsticks of chinese root vegetable. A heady, fragrant steam rises from each plate. There is just enough room for me to add a squat brown tube glistening with fryolater grease next to each bowl. I fight the urge to take the meal into the bedroom on a tray and plop it down on top of the comforter while I burrow like a mole beneath layers of sheets and cotton blankets. Instead, I heat up the plates in the microwave and set them on our glass-topped kitchen table that has a view to the garden. I arrange three wire candle holders with tea lights in the center of the table, grab cloth napkins from the basket and dim the overhead lights.

I sit at the table and wait for J to return from changing to join me. The heat has since kicked on in the house and the Native American dream catcher with the long eagle feathers that J has hung from the ceiling begins to undulate in and out. I stare dismally out the window. It’s late May, post Memorial Day weekend, and it’s cold, gray and freezing outside. A raw rainy mist hovers over the perennials which have started to burst forth from the ground but keep to themselves in contained bundles, not yet daring to stretch and collapse over each other in their usual tangled and languorous mess of color. The plants look as skeptical as I feel, like they just can’t bring themselves to trust the air and instead recoil tightly, stretching only upward toward the fickle sun, exposing bare circles of earth around themselves in a protective ring.

The teens are both home. I can see their cars in the driveway just beyond the garden, and if I listen intently, I can make out some muffled voices and the low rumble of a bass guitar. Both are already well into their summer lifestyle that consists of sleeping until the outer edges of the afternoon and driving away to places unknown after their work shifts. If they bring friends home, they all stay below and I usually regret later my awkward pajama-clad mom greeting at the basement entrance to a roomful of strange large male bodies and an occasional lithe female one in a very small shirt, lounging on the couch surrounded by amps and guitars and various open bags of fast food purchases. Better to stay in my sphere tonight, I think.

When J returns to the table, we slurp our hot and sour soup in silence, sniffles being the only sound as the steam and spices fill our nostrils.

After a while, J asks again, “So, do you have high hopes? We can’t keep buying our coffee at Panera every morning and just barely making the train. This is nuts.”

“Why don’t we try making a cup tonight?” I say, eyeing the hulking mass of coffeemaker number three looking imposing next to the sink and hanging over the silverware drawer.

J immediately gets into action grinding beans and I turn to the laptop I’ve left on the chair, grab it open, and start mindlessly liking posts on facebook, changing my profile picture for the millionth time and checking my gmail account. I anxiously resist the pull of the bed.

I’ve largely spent the last three months of late winter into spring under covers. I’m happiest in the safe realm of our large kingsize bed, surrounded by pillows, my computer and cellphone nearby, and with a book on the nightstand. J has been non judgmental in her cheerful delivery of oversized paper cups of Panera coffee to me on a tray on weekend mornings. I manage to stand up eventually, close to noon, just long enough to scramble us eggs and slice avocados and bring the plates back to bed. The robins dive-bombing at the window screen and the spring sunlight dancing on the newly unfurled vine leaves are no deterrent to my slothful non agenda.

“Remember this day,” I said to J last weekend as she was gathering up the Sunday paper, dishes, used napkins and coffee cups strewn about on our large expanse of mattress. “This is the day I never get out of bed again, the first day it happens.”

“Cut that out,” she said.

It has become a running joke with us. It started from my habit of watching too many late night reality TV shows over the winter when I couldn’t sleep. I watched alone in rapt attention as morbidly obese people were airlifted from their bedrooms and transported to a hospital for their miracle surgery, suddenly hopeful for life after years of eating themselves numb and comforted under debilitating fat.

Now as J starts brewing us a cup of coffee, I flip through my text messages to see if my ex has answered the ones I sent him on the train.

Have you seen the kids? I typed.

Nope. Not in a while, You? he typed back.

We are getting hot and sour soup and an eggroll tonight. screw the gym. too cold out. I texted back.

sm. veg. delight. sm white rice. jumbo fried shrimp. harry potter dvd. Under quilt. WTF? isn’t it almost June? he texted back.

J interrupts my cellphone perusal and hands me a coffee cup.

“What do you think? she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say after taking a small sip. “Seems a bit thin. Might be ok. Let me try it again.”

But I’m distracted and taking too long. I’m thinking about the yoga class I’m planning to attend the next day, where I will once again make an effort to listen to the little voice inside that I have squashed down to barely a whisper. Lately, just as the plants have no real choice but to tentatively emerge from the ground, my inner voice of unrest and suppressed action is starting to speak a little louder. I can almost hear it. I might even be ready to pay attention to it finally. But not tonight.

J takes a another sip and dumps the coffee into the sink.

“It’s going back,” she says.

“I’m going back too,” I say. “To the bed. I’m cold. Come wrap me in a blanket.”

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Written by kmguay

May 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

a little love

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“You sure you like the tree?” I ask nobody in particular as I set down my plate at the table. The new Christmas tree is adorned with a multitude of white lights and a few ornaments I stole from my ex’s stash. “Come over with your ornament box,” I pleaded to him in my cellphone the day before as I was snapping the three prelit pieces of plastic splendor together in my new living room. “Hey, I watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas with the boys this year and I really enjoyed it,” my ex replied with enthusiasm. I was focused on bending my tree’s wire branches into position. “Uh huh… so I think there are some I want and you’re not using them, right? And come over now if you can, I want your opinion,” I said. I clipped the cellphone shut, plugged in the cord, and stood back to get a better view.

The glow of the tree’s millionth mini light bulb gave it an overall neon look, less like the “faintly-reminiscent-of-snow covered” look it had in the Big Lots store. It was now looking even more fake than I thought.

“Mom, the tree is fine. At least you got a tree. I can’t believe you were thinking of skipping it. You can’t have Christmas without a tree,” says the younger teen walking past me with his plate of food in his hand. Across the table, the tea light candles shimmer in the new mercury glass holders and cast a glow on my partners face as she nods in agreement. It’s dusk outside on a mild December day and the horizon glows pink in the spaces between the pine trees in the far back yard. Two boxwood wreaths in each window, designed to match the ones from the page I tore out of the Olive and Cocoa catalog, hang from a red grosgrain ribbon. A green blinking triangle starts to form in the very corner of my eye, and I try to pretend I don’t really see the artificialness of the tree.

The younger teen plops himself down at the head of the long rectangular table and puts his plate down on the mat just as I’m sliding it into place. This is the room where my partner has traditionally hosted large dinner parties and holidays and the three of us now look slightly lost. We are crowded over at one end of the table, a large plate of italian sausage and white beans before us, the place settings flanked by cloth napkins, and the table center studded with three small flickering candles.

“Do you think you added enough olives to this, mom?” asks the younger teen creating a brown cone-shaped pile on the edge of his plate.

This recipe has olives and capers to give it that salty taste,” I say to him. “You like the rest of it though, right? You are eating the escarole right now.”

“Hey! what about me?” asks the older teen now emerging from the basement and sniffing out the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen stove.

“Go get yourself a plate,” I say to him. “But I”m not sure you will like it.”

“Mom, can we order the IPad now? I can show you the one I want,” says the younger teen.

“Hey, I left my Christmas list on the table too, did you see it, Mom?” asks the older teen.

“Do you like the tree?” I ask him as he sits at the table beside me.

Without looking up from his plate he says, “It’s great. Nice tree.”

“Should I put it in an envelope and send it to Santa?” ribs my partner directing her fork toward the older teen across the table.”

“Yah? you think you’re funny, huh J dog? And you over there, son, don’t say anything or I’ll hurt you,” he says, looking at his younger brother.

I tune out the flurry of Christmas list conversation and remember my mom’s text message to me as I walked the aisles of the Big Lots store days before. “I can’t believe you are shopping at Big Lots, you have changed.”

And she is right, in a way. A lot has changed this year. It’s been five months since my teens and I moved in to my partner’s house down the street from my old apartment. The house is different, the tree is artificial, and we are ordering high-tech toys from my laptop computer at the dinner table with a credit card and calling it Christmas cheer. But what’s really new is that I don’t know when I’m going to muster up some holiday spirit this year. And maybe it’s ok if I don’t try to fake it. Maybe it will arrive magically over dinner on Christmas day, when we all sit together sharing a meal like this one, and the sun sets in the backyard, the candles start glowing, and we are all suddenly and brilliantly reminded of how grateful we are to have each other. The same as always.

“Yeah that’s better,” I think to myself and look directly at the bright spectacle in the corner. I conjure up images of Charlie Brown and his unadorned real tree in contrast to my spanking new, pre-lit fake one.

It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

Written by kmguay

December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm

individualityism

with 3 comments


“Hey mom, how was your weekend?” asks my younger teen as he enters the kitchen. I’m standing at the stove sauteeing spinach in a pan with olive oil and tossing cumin and curry powder simultaneously into a pot of yellow squash soup. The refrigerator is empty. The dishwasher is full. My girlfriend, and the dog still on his leash, are pacing around the kitchen.

“Hi babe,” I say, leaning over to push his headphones back to give him a kiss on the forehead. “It was good. How was your weekend with dad?” I ask.

“Fine,” he replies and makes his way through the kitchen headed in the direction of the TV room just as his older brother turns the corner.

“Hello Mutha, what are we eating?” he peers over my shoulder into the pot. “Ugh not that squash soup again is it?”

“I’m making grilled cheese, too. We have to eat what’s left in the house. I didn’t do groceries yet,” I say to him.

Actually, I haven’t done anything yet. My overnight bag is still plopped on a chair. The laundry basket is overflowing with towels again. We’re out of shampoo in the bathroom and all of us are forced to use the dove heat infusion stuff my mom left behind in November. The container is bright orange and shaped like something I might order from the good vibrations catalog. None of us want to use this shampoo because of the container, and it only reappears in the shower during neglected housekeeping moments like this one.

My girlfriend stands in the middle of the kitchen with the dog.

“Anything I can do?” she asks.

I point to the pot and suggest stirring in more seasoning “How about nutmeg,” I say. She only has one arm free and the other is still wrapped around the dog’s leash. My head throbs with a headache I have had all afternoon.

“Boys! one of you get in here and set the table please,” I yell out in the air. The younger teen walks in and the blur of setting the table begins. Plates are doled out. Spoons are thrown in a pile. My girlfriend ladles soup into bowls. I flip sandwiches out of the grill pan and onto the table.

“So your weekend was ok? What did you guys do?” I ask while dipping my spoon into my bowl.

“We just chilled, mom,” says the younger teen.

“Hey that’s right,” says the older teen. “How was your weekend in Vermont?”

“It was great,” I say. “But cold. We didn’t snowshoe. We mostly stayed in the room. We read books.”

“You read books? Now even I know a euphemism when I hear one,” he says.

He winks at me and dips half of his sandwich sideways into his bowl of soup. My girlfriend across the table has her head down. She is chewing. After a minute she says, “Very good use of that word, dude. I’m proud of you.” She smiles at me and to the dog she says, “Treat, go place!”

“So you didn’t go visit Beth, huh? I say to both of the teens. “Oh! that reminds me, Beth tells me that Jared’s parents have had a very hard year with him. I guess he is a skinhead.”

“Mom, you shouldn’t use that term lightly,” says my younger teen. “Is he a real skinhead?”

“I don’t know, that’s what I thought I heard Beth say. We should ask her,” I say.

“He better never come near the little kids if he thinks like that. I’ll mess him up,” says the older teen.

“Can you imagine how hard that must be for his parents?” I ask.

“He is my age right? asks the younger teen.

“Yes, and he is trying to assert his own ideas like every teen. I just think It would be very hard for me as a parent to be ok with that,” I say.

Treat, go place!” says my girlfriend motioning to the dog to stay where he is on his blanket.

“Hey, would one of you feed Treat tonight? she asks.

“Its your turn,” says the younger, teen.

“Treat, go place!”she says.

“I think it’s not, it’s your turn,” says the older teen.

‘”Treat, go place!” she says.

“Dude, I did it last, your turn,”says the younger ten.

“Treat, go place!” Good boy,” she says and sits back down.

I look up at my older teen’s backside as he gets up from the table.

“God, where is your butt? I ask him with a sigh.

“Mom, I like it this way. This is my look. It’s my individualityism

“Dude, the word is individuality.”

“Shut it,” says the older teen giving his brother a swat as he grabs for the baggie of dry dog food on the counter.

“Treat, go place!”says my girlfriend again.

“Mom, what’s wrong with my headlight?” says the older teen stirring the wet and the dry food together in the stainless steel bowl on the counter.

“Your headlight?” I smile at my girlfriend across the table.

“Treat, go place!” Good boy,” she says.

“You know, my light in the fan thing,” he says looking at all of us at the table.

“Dude,” says his brother, “you mean your overhead light in your room?

“Yeah that,” he says.

We all snicker at the table a little.

“Kid has his own language,” says the younger teen scooping from his bowl of ice cream now with the crushed oreo pieces.

“You know it,” says the older teen holding the dog food bowl high in the air.

“Ok, Treat,” says my girlfriend as she releases the dog to the other side of the room.

But I’m still thinking about the word individualityism. Kind of a cross between individuality and individualism. And the mixed up, jumbled way they are thrown together by my teen reminds me of the scene in this kitchen tonight. And something isn’t quite right. Even a much needed weekend away to “step out of my life” doesn’t really take me away at all. I realize tonight how much I missed the kids. I’m always a mother. These days, I’m always a girfriend too. I’m always an ex-wife. What does individualityism even look like for me anymore?

The younger teen snaps one of the elastic bands in his mouth and it sails across the table.

“Let me look at your ears” I say. He bends toward me and pulls his long shiny brown hair away from one ear.

“That gauge looks bigger,” I say.

“It is, and you know I want to go up another size too, Mom. It’s my individualityism.

Right.

I look around the room with its dirty dishes piled in the sink, the pans still hanging out on the stove. My headache still throbs. I’ll let this one go. Another battle for another night.

Treat, go place!

Written by kmguay

February 4, 2010 at 2:09 am

Posted in dinner, teenagers

Tagged with ,

who wants a roll?

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From my family to yours. Happy Thanksgiving

Written by kmguay

November 23, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Posted in family, holiday

Tagged with , ,

mixed medley

with 5 comments


Custom_Frozen_Veggies

2014familyday403

“Is this done mom?” asks my youngest teen standing bent over in front of the oven with his finger poking into the tops of two small chicken pot pies. I look at the clock and notice it’s getting close to 8pm.

“Yes, they’re done. Take them out,” I answer.

“They don’t look done,” he says.

“They’re done,” I say, as I empty boiling water from a pan into the sink and a block of bloated pasta falls into the colander with a thwap.

“What do I do with them?” he asks.

I’m engrossed in the act of trying to pry apart individual raviolis and arrange the white swollen packets on a white plate and present them to the older teen sitting at the table and texting into the cellphone on his lap. On the table are three placemats, a jar of tomato sauce, and a plastic container of grated parmesan cheese.

“Umm, just turn them upside down over the mixed vegetables on those two plates,” I say, motioning to the counter.

“Mom, they already had vegetables in them,” he says, carrying over a plate at a time of mounded broken crust and gelatinous chicken gravy jiggling over a layer of tiny multicolor squares, circles, and triangles.

“I thought we needed more,” I say.

“I’m not eating mine,” says the older teen. He grabs the jar from the table and empties a large amount of blood red sauce onto his plate with a splat.

The table laid out before us is gruesome.

“So your brother says he is quitting the leaders group,” I say to both teens.

“Yeah it’s not his thing, dog,” says the older teen.

“Well then, why don’t you suggest some other clubs he can join as a freshman, dog,” I say back. I look at the younger teen. “Or maybe you are going to need a job. You can’t just skateboard all the time.” The younger teen doesn’t look up and continues stretching the uncooked taffy-like center of his chicken pie crust with his fork.

“He can’t get a job at 15 mom. He’s not old enough,” says the older one between mouthfuls of ravioli.

“But you worked at the Y at 15, remember?” I ask.

Now the younger teen chimes in.

“That’s because he is the best one there, mom,” he says.

“Dude, I’m not that good. I wouldn’t leave my own kid alone with me. I mean, I would, I know what I’m doing, I’m not going to lie, but I still have a lot more to learn from the older counselors,” says the older teen. “And when I get married,” he looks at his brother across the table,”to a woman,” he says, and gives him a long exaggerated stare. “But you can do whatever you want…”

“Hey, why do you always look at me and say stuff like that?” says the younger teen.

“Guys, I think you mean when you get married to whoever you want” I say interrupting.

The older teen has lost his train of thought now and looks at me.

“Mom, you knew you were gay in high school right?” he asks.

“I’m not gay,” I answer.

“Come on mom, you were just holding it back,” he says.

“It’s not that simple, dog,” I say. “I like men. I had you guys with your dad didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but that just makes you bisexual,” he replies.

“Some people know right away, others don’t until they are older. Some people just change their minds. All I’m trying to say is that you have options,” I reply.

“Not if I want to have a family I don’t,” he says while pouring water from the jug into his glass.

The younger teen looks at my plate and motions to his massacred crust on his plate.

“This isn’t done, mom,” he says.

I cut around the gooey center of my own crust and hand him the cooked portions from my plate.

“What do you mean? I say back to the older teen. “Of course you can have a family! Most of the same-sex couples I know are having their own kids.”

“Well adoption,” he says.

“Yes, and lots of other things too. One of my friends had all three of his little girls by using his husband’s sperm, one of his sisters’ eggs, and a surrogate mother who lives in another state to carry the babies to term.” I say.

“So wait,” says the younger teen who stops eating to join in the conversation. “So that means their mother is also their aunt?! That’s weird, mom.”

“Or it’s pretty great,” I say. “Think about it. How lucky for those kids to have so many family members that love them.”

“You have friends that picked how their kids were going to look from a book. That’s not right,” says the older teen again.

“Why not?” I say back. “If you had the option to choose some characteristics ahead of time, you wouldn’t?”

“Yeah, dude, wouldn’t you want your kids to have the best?” asks the younger teen. “Not your ugly face.”

“Hey, cut it out, now guys,” I say.

The room gets quiet for a few minutes.

“I know someone with tendencies towards asbergers,” the older teen says changing the subject.

“Yeah, and what do you have tendencies toward?” I ask back.

“I have tendencies toward ADD mom,” he laughs. “Remember all that testing you put me through?”

“And what do you have tendencies toward,” I say looking at the younger teen. He grows thoughtful and thinks about it a minute.

“I’d have to say I have tendencies toward an authority complex.”

“Ahh,” I say back.

And the room gets quiet again.

“This is a terrible dinner,” I say finally while reaching for some of the overcooked french fries the older teen has added next to his plate as a second course.

“It’s not so bad, mom. You’ve made worse,” he says with a smirk.

“You’re right, dog,” I reply.

But in moments like this one, I have to remind myself just why I bother to make a frantic dinner for all three of us several times a week after 7pm.

Sometimes, the best dinners yield no conversation at all. All of us preoccupied with our meal, silently taking in the smells and textures of expertly prepared food, savoring each bite, and listening only to our thoughts and the sounds of silverware clinking against plates.

And the worst dinners can offer up pure magic, when the bad food forces us all to engage in real conversation with each other at the table. Before we know it an hour has passed, we’ve asked some tough questions, and we’ve brought up a whole assortment of colorful topics that matter, some real food for thought.

A regular mixed medley.

Written by kmguay

October 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm

chuck norris

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chuck-norris-002-thumb-400x498 When I get home my ex is already in the teen room flopped on the couch. His keys are on the kitchen counter next to the half empty 3 for $10 bottle of wine and the package of eight portobellos in shrinkwrap. The sink is full of dirty dishes and the dryer is full of unfolded clothes. I look at the clock. It’s already after 7:00.

This is the critical moment of despair, when I just want to give up and call for take out or get into my sweats, grab a container of hummus and some pita bread, and type a facebook status line that says “Mom’s not cooking. Fend” while I dig into the container with my scrap of bread and pretend to do something useful like online Scrabble. OR, I can rally and honor my bright idea to invite my ex to join us at the kitchen table for a little full family face time while whipping up a fast weeknight dinner of… of… (I look over again at the prepackaged portobellos I asked him to buy) something with mushrooms.

I begin washing dishes while my youngest teen walks through the kitchen.
“Hold on there, I could use some help. Start setting the table,” I say to him as I dig through the pile and haul out the dirty grill pan from the bottom.
“What’s for dinner?” he asks with a frown.
“I don’t know yet. I’m going to make it up,” I say back, now scrubbing my cherished pan like a madwoman. I can hear my ex and oldest teen screaming at the TV and I walk a few steps to the refrigerator, reach a soapy wet hand to open the door and look inside.

Sesame bread. Baba ganoush. A red pepper, those mushrooms on the counter, jack cheese. Paninis it is. And there is a container of butternut squash soup in the cabinet. Good. Curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, mexican chile powder.

I switch from the sink to the stove to heat up some olive oil in the now clean and dry grill pan. Next, I furiously chop the portobellos and red pepper, dump them in the oil, and blast on the burner flame to high just as my ex wanders through the kitchen with his box of crackers in his hand. He’s still yelling at the TV, now more than ten steps away from it, and pouring himself a second glass from the already half empty bottle.
“Hey save me some and get out of here – it’s not ready, and you’re in my way” I say.
“Thanks for inviting me, chicken” he says. I glare at him to get out. The sink is still a mess, and the younger teen has set a haphazard table, missing flatware and glasses.
“Go grab the extra chair and the big glass with the candle in it,” I say to the teen, sidestepping my ex while yanking the little pull tab atop the box of butternut soup. The soup pours out in big splashy glubs, showering the top of the stove with pinprick dots of bright yellow. I brush the hair out of my eye that has just fallen from my headband and back up into my older teen, who is now also standing in the kitchen and hilariously laughing in a silent, open-mouthed laugh while trying to get his father’s attention.
“Dad…” he taps him on the back of the shoulder while my ex is moving chairs into position and arranging glasses above each white plate and beside a napkin.
“Dad.” Tap. Tap. “Dad, my friend just texted me another one. Dad, you gotta listen to this. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a condom,” he says. His father turns around now and looks at him with full intent and his trademark Sponge Bob grin.
“Yeah?” he asks back.
The teen tries to compose himself and repeats the joke. “Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a condom, because there is no protection from Chuck Norris.” The room erupts in laughter. Teen number one stops to hold onto the edge of the chair while bending over. Father and older teen pat each other on the back with hilarity. I flip over the paninis I have since assembled in the pan.
“What’s so funny about that?,” I ask.
“Oh my god, mom, you don’t know Chuck Norris jokes?” one of them says back.
“No, I don’t,” I say and start ladling the butternut soup that is bubbling at the edges of the pan into small white bowls. I hand one to my ex who places it on the first white plate. He sits, and both teens follow his lead, pulling back their chairs to sit as well.
“Kris, it was the funniest thing,” my ex says to me, already spooning into his soup. “We’re in the car, me and my boy up front, and this one – he motions to the younger teen beside him – this one is in the back seat, and you know how he is, he’s like you, he’s so funny. Out of nowhere, he just says “Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door,” and we nearly drove off the road, we were laughing so hard.”
“That’s nice, boys,” I say, carrying a panini balanced on a spatula over to each plate. I slide them off one at a time, near the bowl of soup.

“If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars, Chuck Norris has more than you.”

“When Chuck Norris falls out of a boat he dosn’t get wet the water gets Chuck Norrised.”

“Chuck Norris counted to infinity-twice.”

“Chuck Norris doesn’t mow his lawn, he stands outside and dares it to grow.”

“Chuck Norris can fry ants with a magnifying glass. At night.”

And with that one, I choke on a little bit of crust and start to laugh myself. That one was funny. The sheer absurdity of Chuck Norris jokes at the dinner table start to wipe away any care I still have lodged in my body. Any aching between my shoulders, any stiffness in my lower back.

Chuck Norris can fry an ant with a magnifying glass. At night.

What do I care about my long train commute, my dirty kitchen, the undone tasks waiting for me at work tomorrow? Tonight, I have Chuck Norris at my dinner table. I look around and all three of my boys are laughing. I get up and go to the freezer and grab four packaged ice cream sandwiches and hand them out. For another five minutes, all of us silently unwrap our ice cream man treats and eat them slowly as they melt, ripped white paper wrappers strewn about over dirty plates, each person happier than anyone has ever been before.

Even Chuck Norris.

Written by kmguay

October 14, 2009 at 2:46 am

Posted in family

Tagged with , , , ,

statistically speaking

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n541933000_820157_846My 16-yr-old and his girlfriend sit side by side at the computer desk. She holds a paperback book in front of her face and he leans in front of her to grab and click around with the mouse on the opposite side. “Facebook isn’t homework,” I say on my way by, passing through the dining room still dragging the vacuum cleaner by the handle behind me. He flips the screen off and opens up a word doc. In the top right hand corner he has typed his name, the date, and the words “statistics paper”.

“I see you have made great progress in the last hour,” I say, pausing to grab the pile of paperwork on the dining table with my free hand.
The screen flips off and on again showcasing the drivers ed website.
“We’ve finished the schedule you wanted me to make,” he says, motioning to the papers on the desk “Take a look, mom.”

“The schedule?” I try not to sound as amazed and tense as I feel. Only days earlier, my girlfriend put her hand on my knee under the table in one of her “easy now” gestures as mom and teen both started to raise their voices. “No drivers ed until I see a detailed schedule of all of your commitments!” was my decree to a scowling overwrought teen sitting in front of a half eaten plate of food.

And then again the next night, I wailed in the darkness of the bedroom “He is overextended, It’s going to be like last year, He won’t finish homework, He will fail out of high school.”
“Shhhhh okay, okay,” she said. “But Kris, you are going to have to help him with this schedule, you know that right? He is going to need your help.”

“Mom, can you look at the schedule?” he asks again and from across the room I start firing questions.
“Did you fit in the three nights I need you home for dinner?
“Yep.”
“How about your leaders meetings?”
“Thursday nights.”
“And your job?”
“Three afternoons from three to six.”
“And is there time for homework?”
“Yep.”
“And what about your girlfriend, did you save some time for her?” His girlfriend gives him a playful nudge on his arm and he smiles back at me.
“Yeah she’s in there too.”

I don’t have a comeback for all this forethought and organization.
“Just get that paper done and I’ll look closely at it later,” I call out from the kitchen now while starting to clear off the cutting board. The front door opens and closes and I hear my girlfriend adressing the teens in the other room. I lean over to search under the cabinet for the metal mixing bowl as she turns the corner ranting about her exasperating day.
“And I get all the way there and I realize that I forgot the cleaning so I have to turn back again. Oh and then!”
I pull out the container of olives from the fridge, the block of parmesan cheese, a lemon, and the container of mesclun greens and start piling them on the counter. She stands directly in front of me for a moment, catching my eyes. “Enough about me, how was your day?”
“My son did his schedule” I whisper.
“What!? Oh my god, that’s great!” she whispers back. “God damn!”
I dump the greens into the bowl and douse them with a squeeze of the lemon and juice runs down my hand and arm.
“Wow! I’m really proud of that boy. Kris, that is great,” she says again handing me a towel.
“I know I know, but…” I say and the “I know buts” start to pour out of my mouth as easily as the olive oil that slides out of the overturned bottle I shake onto the greens.
“Kris,” she says again, “Really, it is great.”

And it IS great. So why am I so skeptical? Why is my first reaction so often a critical doubting one? I’m not like this with his brother.
“That’s because you have no faith in me, mom!” These words have often assaulted me, spraying forth from my oldest son’s mouth in the kitchen while both of us yell back and forth at each other. And he is right. I have a very hard time having faith in him.

He is a lot like his father and not much like his brother. He has his father’s easy loving way, his fast-talking storytelling ease, his humor. They both can light up a room, shine in the spotlight at a party, go out of their way to help a stranger. But I didn’t have any faith in his father either. For reasons I couldn’t even explain at the time, I wanted more from my marriage and I was sure he couldn’t give it to me. I wanted out.

We carry the plates of salad through the dining room and over to the living room couch, passing by the teen who is now rapidly typing away at his paper.
“So why are you writing a paper on statistics anyway?” my girlfriend asks taking a stab at the lettuce on her plate with a fork, “I thought this class was more about numbers and word problems?”

“Mr Fahazad wants us to write about why statistics matter, how they make a difference in the world, how they relate to me, “he says. He rattles off talk of how they are important to coaches, how you rely on them when you check the weather, etc…. and my girlfriend listens and nods in approval back at him while eating her salad. And as they talk, my mind starts to wander. What do I know about statistics that I can add to the conversation except that I am one? A divorced woman who just left another long term relationship only a year ago. I have read the statistics that say that pretty much half of all marriages end in divorce. And if you are foolish enough to even attempt to test fate again and choose to get remarried, according to the statistics, almost 70% of us hopeless humans will file for divorce again.

But in love and parenting, should you follow the statistical evidence? Or should you just follow your heart? What do I really care about what the statistics say when I look over and see my girlfriend patting my slacker teen on the back for his great job of thinking through the assignment and doing the work? No, my odds are on my third and last attempt to find the right partner. And I’d put all my money on my teen’s ability to surprise me despite what appears to be an overwhelming mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Now, just don’t anybody tell Mr. Fahazad.

Written by kmguay

September 16, 2009 at 1:26 am