Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Lucky Man

The husband is one lucky man. He knows this because I point it out to him when I get the chance.

When the TV promos for “Hoarders” or “Kate Plus 8” or “The Real Housewives of (anywhere)” blare into our living room, I say to the husband, “See? It could be worse.”

The husband mumbles back in agreement, “Why, yes it could.”

And when the TV promos for “Pimp My Ride”, “Monster Garage” and “Overhaulin'” blare into our living room, the husband is kind enough to remind me as well. “See? It could be worse.”

I always wholeheartedly agree, “Why, yes it certainly could.”

I approached Valentine’s Day this year with that same tolerant, observant practicality that the husband and I have mastered. While never one to be extravagant in my gift giving, I do find it important that the husband not go empty handed on Valentine’s Day. I found a card for him at the grocery store that wasn’t too corny and didn’t make me gag and roll my eyeballs. And because it was such a special day, I forced myself not to look at the price. I put the card in a bag with a very special car magazine and a few other items I had purchased for the husband.

When the husband was brushing his teeth on Valentine’s Eve, I secretly took the bag with the card and other items down to the dining room. The husband went to bed. I stayed up very late learning about AP European History with the teenager.

The husband’s alarm went off at 4am on Valentine’s morning. He took his shower and went downstairs to eat breakfast. I was sound asleep. He was greeted at the seat where he sits by a grocery store bag. Perplexed, the husband opened the bag and pulled out a few random goodies, a very special car magazine and a few receipts. He reached in toward the bottom of the bag and pulled out a pink envelope. And then he pulled out a Valentine’s card that wasn’t too corny. The card was not in the envelope. The card wasn’t even signed.

When the husband went to leave for work awhile later, he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day. And thanks for the car magazine.”

The shame shot through me and I sat bolt upright in bed. I was immediately awake. “OH NO!” I cried out to the husband. “I forgot your stuff! I took it downstairs and just left it on the table! I got too tired……”

I rambled in embarrassment to the husband about the wrapping paper I was going to use and the nice ribbon I was going to tie the magazine up with and the witty and loving repartee I had planned to write inside the card.

The tolerant husband assured me that we would somehow survive this difficult hardship. He also said, “I did find it a bit odd that the card wasn’t even signed…”

Yes, that husband sure is one lucky man.

Check This Out!

The teenager was given an amazing opportunity to play a few basketball games this past weekend with a local Special Olympics Unified basketball team. Special Olympics Unified Sports is a program that combines Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) on sports teams for training and competition. The teenager went in a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. She came out having loved every minute of it.

Both the teenager and I found the entire day inspiring. Every person we encountered, from the Special Olympics athletes and parents to the coaches and volunteers, was positive and supportive. The basketball was good and the competition was fierce. The parents cheered. The athletes played their hearts out. But mostly, it was a whole lot of fun. It was how kids’ sports should be.

If you ever get the chance to watch or be part of any Special Olympics event, I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should most definitely check it out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You. Are. My. Son.

We were separated by the blue curtain. Two mothers, two sons.

I sat on the right side, next to the boy who was lying on a gurney with a swollen, purple and very painful knee. She sat on the left side, next to her son who was lying on a gurney with his head covered in blood.

I was not doing well. My mouth assured the boy that it would all be ok. My brain screamed at me, “Urgent Care, AGAIN! What is wrong with you? What is wrong with that boy? Do you know what too many x-rays can do to a person?” My heart tightened up, my stomach churned. I took a deep breath and wondered how many visits one could make to Urgent Care before Child Protective Services was called. I wished I was in pain instead of the boy. I kept shaking my head in resigned disbelief and brushing the boy’s hair off his 11 year old forehead.

The mother on the other side was not doing well. The curtain, of course, could not contain her crying. It could not contain the whimpering of her son. The curtain could not contain grief.

“You are my boy………my son……..… Look at you!”

Her son tried to answer. “Mama…”

“NO!” she shouted. “It is MY turn!”

I saw her worn shoes begin to pace the edge of the curtain. Then her shoes turned and stopped. “I TOLD you not to leave the house. I TOLD you. Do you know what it’s like to worry about someone every single minute of the day? Do you? I worry about you with every cell in my body. You are my son…..in the name of Jesus....... YOU. ARE. MY. SON.”

I turned to my boy with the swollen knee and grabbed his hand. He held tight. His eyes had grown large.

The mother on the other side lowered her voice a bit. “Why do you think I work two jobs? It is for you. You are 16 years old. I want you to be happy. I want you to always be safe. I want you to be better than you ever thought you could be. But here I see you…..no, no….I can’t even see you….your head is covered in blood. I don’t see you at all. My God…….you are my son and I can’t even see you.

Oh why would you leave the house when I told you not to……?”

I could hear her start to cry again. The boy and I stared at each other, silently.

The curtain was pulled back on the other side and I saw many feet. A doctor told the whimpering, bloodied boy that he was in bad shape. His hand was probably broken. His nose was probably broken. He most likely had some broken ribs. His jaw was no longer aligned properly. And his head was in really bad shape. There was so much blood, the doctor said, that he couldn’t yet tell how many wounds he had.

At least two nurses began to clean up the bloodied boy. I heard things like “matted hair”, “too many to count”, “I can’t get this one to stop bleeding”, “wow, I finally got one eye open” and “we’re going to need a lot of staples”.

I heard the doctor ask, “Do you want to tell me how this happened?”

The bloodied boy tried to speak. “This dude jumped me on the trail. He had brass knuckles on. He lit into me. Pretty bad, I guess.”

The doctor asked, “Did you know him? Why would he beat you up like this…..I mean…I gotta be honest. You ARE in pretty bad shape here, buddy.”

“He said he beat me up because I beat up his brother yesterday.”

The crying mother spoke up. “Oh Jesus, help me. Seriously? Why would you beat his brother up? Why would you beat anyone up? Haven’t I taught you better?”

The bloodied boy paused and then finally answered.

“...........because he was talking trash about you Mama.”

The mother groaned loudly. “Oh for goodness sake, son. You are better than that! We are better than that! Why do you care what people say, what people think?”

“Because, Mama. He was going to kill you. He said so. I couldn’t let him do that, because, I mean, you are my Mama……….You. Are. My. Mama.”

And all the curtain rooms at Urgent Care went silent.

For a long moment.

Finally I heard the doctor say, “Legally, I may need to call in the police, ok?”

The bloodied boy tried to yell out, “No!” The mother on the other side of the curtain cried. And a new voice, a deep voice, suddenly spoke up and pointedly asked, “I want you to tell me exactly what kind of car they were driving. And tell me their names. I need names.”

My boy with the swollen knee and I looked at each other in disbelief and with raised eyebrows. We were still holding hands when we heard the bloodied boy speak.

“It was a tan Buick, Uncle Matt. And I can tell you exactly who they were.”

When the doctor pulled back the curtain on our side the boy and I instinctively dropped our hands.

“So, how are we doing?” the doctor cheerfully asked.

“Oh, the boy here has banged up his knee a bit.” I replied. “But other than that, we are doing fine, just.. fine…”

Check This Out!

Listen to this great song, Rolling in the Deep, from the always amazing Adele when you make this Chili-Lime Chicken.

This is how the recipe came to me.

3 TBL olive oil
1 ½ TBL red wine vinegar
1 lime juiced
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 pound chicken breast halves

Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in a bowl and whisk until the oil and vinegar are emulsified. Add chicken to bowl, cover chicken with mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours. Grill chicken over medium high heat until the juices run clear.

This is how I made it.

I tripled the marinade ingredients and added a bunch of chopped garlic (at least 8 smallish/medium cloves) and 2 chopped Anaheim chiles (use hotter if you wish). I used a whole cut up chicken and a boneless breast (for the teenager). I only marinated for an hour or so in a big plastic freezer baggie. (I would have done much longer had I planned ahead.) Then I dumped the whole lot into a large roasting pan and cooked at 375 degrees for 45 minutes….or so.

I served with rice made with chopped fresh garlic and chicken broth and a bit of salt and pepper. The boy ate this version. The husband and the teenager and I then mixed in black beans, lime juice and more chopped up Anaheim peppers. I then added TONS of cilantro. Sadly, I am the only cilantro fan in the family. On top of it all I spooned the juices from the chicken. It was super fantastic. Next time I might quadruple the marinade ingredients….

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We Wii

I watched the boy launch himself toward the teenager. He attacked her with an aggressive combativeness I didn’t know he possessed. I watched helplessly as he struck her over the head and across the face. He pounded her ribs and her stomach and her back, over and over, until she could no longer stand up straight.

The teenager was not one to be taken down that quickly, however. She gathered what little strength she still had and focused it all on the boy’s neck. She narrowed her eyes, drew back her arm and swung at the boy’s neck like a capricious lunatic.

And in one fell swoop, the boy went down. Perhaps, without his head.

I was speechless, appalled and in a state of shock. I blamed myself. Only the worst kind of mother could raise children who could summon such violence at a moment’s notice. Our family needed help.

I looked over to the husband for guidance. I wondered if he blamed himself as well.

The husband was grinning from ear to ear. He leapt off the couch and ran over to the boy and the teenager. “That was the most AWESOME thing I’ve ever seen! Can I play next?”

We used to be such a nice family. Before we got a Wii, that is.

I watched as the husband began to play his game. I waited for him to show the children a more civilized way of playing. Within seconds however, the husband, still grinning, had begun taunting the boy as he swung his Wii Remote violently and expertly through the air. The husband cheered when the boy fell off the tower into the water.

It was obvious I would have to be the one to model for the family proper manners, genteel graciousness, and behavior more becoming a nice family like ours.

At least that was my intention. Before I put that Wii Remote in my hand.

I don’t know how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember was screaming like a madwoman at the teenager, “Oh yeah baby! Bring it! Bring it! Hot Mama ain’t going down!”

Our nice family spent our entire first Wii day bashing each other in the head. The teenager punched the boy’s lights out when she boxed. A sword wielding boy would force the teenager off a cliff to her death. A simple pickup game of basketball would cause the teenager to yell out, “Oh yeah! You got schooled baby!” A scenic bike ride would find the children “pedaling” so fast and furiously they would knock each other down. Even a simple game of bowling caused the cats to run upstairs and hide under the beds. Before long, the husband began to consider himself a true archery expert. I began to consider canoeing the worst sport ever invented. And this was all before the teenager even discovered the pink stroller in the Mario Kart game.

I woke up the next morning with my first Wii hangover. I was a bit ashamed of my behavior the day before. I vowed to myself that it would never happen again. And then I giggled to myself as I remembered the good times our nice family experienced. It didn’t take long to justify the unfortunate Wii behavior to myself. In fact, I decided to get out of bed and play a round of Wii tennis before the rest of the family got up.

15 minutes later my nice family was all lined up, sitting perfectly still on the couch. Not one of us could lift our aching arms above our heads without wincing. The teenager complained about the sore muscles she didn’t know she had. The husband complained about feeling old. The boy wondered out loud who was going to pour him a bowl of cereal because he knew he couldn’t lift the box. I gingerly leaned over and grabbed the Wii Remote. “Um…guys,” I said to my nice family. “Do you think it’s possible to play Wii Frisbee golf from the couch?”

Check This Out!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a Holocaust movie. And yes, it has some sad and depressing moments. But it’s a good movie, a beautiful movie, told from a perspective not often seen in Holocaust movies. The two boys in the movie-one on the outside of the fence, one on the inside of the fence-will draw you in and make you think. I haven't read the book the movie is based on, written by John Boyne, but the movie is certainly recommended.