Monthly Archives: June 2006

A Fishy Kind of Heaven

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I’ll write all about the wacky and wonderful adventures of our Las Vegas trip in my next post.

Right now, I am in love, and I must tell the world!

Sushi, how did I live without you for so long?

Up until Thursday, I had never set eyes on a plate of sushi except in a magazine, where its pretty colors and ornamental presentation made good eye candy for restaurant reviews. I always figured I’d try it one day, but I wasn’t really in a hurry to sample this seafood turned art form. I had no previous gustatory experience to which I could compare it.

In short, I didn’t know what I was missing. Egad, the wasted years!

The very first night of our Vegas vacation, Tracy suggested we try out Ra, a sushi bar situated handily right next door to our hotel. I placed myself in the experienced hands of my friends, and they ordered three of Ra’s signature sushi rolls: “Gojira”, a crab and shrimp mix with spicy tuna, cream cheese, and cucumber, rolled in spinach tempura; “Viva Las Vegas”, a rich combination of kani kama, crab, spicy tuna, and lotus root; and “Tootsy Maki”, crab, shrimp, and cucumber drizzled with a delicate sweet eel sauce and topped with crunchy tempura. That was my favorite. I’m thinking of naming our next child Tootsy Maki, actually.

After a brief lesson on soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi, I was ready to go. I fumbled a little with the chopsticks, but finally got a round and precious slice of Gojira up to my lips.

How can I describe the vivid and perfect union of sweet and tangy flavors in that first amazing bite? The richness of the crab meat, the crisp freshness of the cucumber, the zing of the tuna, all in harmony together, the flavors playing an unfamiliar but resplendent chord across my taste buds. I think I may have left my body for a brief moment. More bites followed, in different combinations, each a savory experience all its own.

And do you know we went back there every single day while we were in Vegas? Five times in all, and each time we ordered something new. California roll, Rainbow roll, sashimi, even something called Crazy Monkey that mingled smoked salmon with mango and cashews in a fruity sauce. We worked our way across nearly the entire menu, and there was nothing that I didn’t like.

On the fifth day, before we caught a taxi back to the airport, we ate at Ra for the last time. As we sat over our empty square plates with satisfied grins on our faces, I thanked Tracy and Regina for introducing me to sushi.

“Oh, you’re thanking us now,” Tracy said, “but wait until you go home and find yourself sitting up in bed at two in the morning with a sushi craving and nowhere to get a fix.” We laughed a little at that, finished our cokes and got up to leave.

I’m not laughing now. Coeur d’Alene, while delightful and full of natural beauty, is not exactly the culinary center of the universe. What if I never have good sushi again?

Fortunately, Paul has some sushi-loving coworkers. When he told them of my dilemma, they had one word to say: Takara. I haven’t tried it yet, but reviews are promising. Now I just have to figure out how to order Tootsy Maki from a new chef.

And We’re Off!

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Well, I’ve packed everything but shampoo (and that’s what those little bottles in the hotel bathroom are for!) My plane leaves in the morning for Las Vegas and a feast of laughing and relaxing and fine dining. I can’t wait to see Tracy and Regina and to make a good attempt at stuffing three years of conversation into five days.

Please pray for a safe and non-scary flight, and that we will be good representatives of Christ wherever we are. (Yes, I know. Why are we going to Las Vegas?) And please pray for our families. We like to think of ourselves as a little indispensable, but all the same, it would be nice to come back to find homes still standing and spouses and kids safe and sound.

God bless your week!

Wax Poetic

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*Warning: In accordance with self-imposed blogging protocols, I must alert you that the following post contains references to pregnancy, inner thighs, body wax, and violence in the form of savage and sudden hair removal. If you are pregnant, have a heart condition, or suffer acute squeamishness related to discussions of hygiene and grooming procedures, continue at your own risk.*

Ahhh, summer. Sunlight streams in warm rays across the mountains, the waters of Coeur d’Alene Lake lap gently against the sandy shore, and women everywhere pay strangers to rip out their body hair by the roots.

Actually, this summer’s been rather chilly here in Idaho, and thoughts of my bikini line have been distant, preempted by decisions about which jacket to wear and whether or not to stow my collection of winter sweaters for the season. Then, about a week ago, I realized that June was half over, and my long-anticipated girls-only trip to Las Vegas was near at hand.

Suddenly, the need to not look like a yeti in a two-piece was critical.

I’ll never forget my first hot wax adventure. Eight months pregnant and swollen with moodiness, I felt gross, uncomfortable, and less-than-attractive. Most mommies-to-be, caught up in the maelstrom of mutating self-image and determined to make a sweeping change in their appearance, stick with the traditional bad haircut or poorly applied self tanner. Not me. For some reason, in my hormonally-enhanced state, I decided that the part of my body most needing a makeover was the one part I couldn’t see.

How hard could it be, really? I picked up a home waxing kit at the store, waited until Paul left the house, and locked myself in the bathroom, determined to emerge well-groomed and glowing with round-bellied, feminine beauty.

This could be a much longer post if I described to you, in horrific detail, the two hours that followed. I still cringe to remember my ungraceful contortions as I tried to reach past the giant beachball of my torso, the yelp of pain I emitted when I yanked up that first wax strip only to discover most of the hair still firmly attached to my skin, the pitiful tears I shed when I realized that I still had to do the other side.

In the end, all my effort was for naught. Far from evincing the clean and well-kept image I had hoped for, I limped out of the bathroom looking as if I had mange.

I vowed, then and there, never again to attempt a home waxing…of anything.

Yesterday, I called Lynn, my spa lady and Wax Wielder Extraordinaire. This woman is an expert in the art of waxing, and can keep up a steady stream of banter so interesting that you almost forget she’s simultaneously torturing you. I see her every summer and we have a friendship of sorts, though I don’t think she knows what I look like without a grimace of pain on my face.

“I’m sorry, darlin’,” she lilted, “but I’m booked up for two weeks solid!” It was disappointing news, but she recommended another salon in town, and I had no choice but to call up and make an appointment for Saturday.

This morning I pulled into the parking lot of the Zi Spa, feeling a lot like an L.A. socialite as I walked up to the sleek building and made my way through the tropical paradise of the lobby. Up three floors and through the glass doors, I stepped into a garden of Zen delight. From the artfully placed running water features to the warm, soft lighting, everything in the Zi Spa seemed designed to elicit relaxation. I signed in, and a smiling receptionist asked me if I would like something to drink. The water came iced, in a crystal goblet, with a wedge of lemon and a little straw. I thought about moving in.

After only a few minutes wait, during which I nearly fell asleep to the serene strains of Celtic harp music, a friendly aesthetician introduced herself as Starr and ushered me back into a clean room with subdued lighting, candles everywhere, and a towel-draped massage table in the center. The harp music followed us. For a moment, I wished fervently that I was there in that beautiful, soothing room for something nice, like a massage or a pedicure.

For those of you who haven’t experienced a bikini wax, it generally goes like this: The aesthetician leaves you alone in the room for a few minutes with a little paper pair of disposable underwear and a clean towel. You doff your bloomers, put on the paper ones, and lay down on the table with the towel across your lap. The sense of awkwardness and impending doom you feel is similar to the one that accompanies your annual visit to the OB/GYN.

The waxer returns and sprinkles the area about to be waxed with talc, to prevent the wax from sticking to the skin. She then proceeds, one small area at a time, to remove unwanted hair from the small but sensitive strip of skin where your thigh meets your torso. First she applies hot wax. This part actually feels good, and, if it’s your first time, lulls you into a false sense of calm, wherein you find yourself thinking, “This isn’t so bad, actually.” Then, while the wax is still warm, she presses a gauze strip on top of it, allowing the wax to cool slightly, forming a strong grip on both the hair and the gauze. Finally, holding your skin taut with one hand, she uses the other to quickly rip the gauze away–wax, hair and all.

Hmmm…how can I describe the pain? It’s not most excruciating pain in the world, but if you waxed an unwilling P.O.W., you would certainly have the ACLU breathing down your neck for violating the Geneva Convention. It’s worse than getting a tattoo, but not as bad as pushing out a baby. On the sliding scale of pain, it falls somewhere in that nebulous middle area: the pain we accept as the cost of getting something that we want. After each side is waxed, strays are plucked with tweezers and a soothing lotion is applied to pacify the angry, now hairless skin before it riots and decides to leave the body altogether.

In all, it only took about fifteen minutes, and Starr was an excellent Lynn replacement. We talked about kids, about Las Vegas, about waxing (“A few men do come in here, but do you know I’ve never had one single repeat back waxing customer?”) I grit my teeth and gasped a little bit here and there, but didn’t allow a single shriek to break the mystical spell of the Celtic harp and waterfalls.

When it was over, I dressed, paid the receptionist, left a tip, and took one last look around the spa. Returning my empty water goblet at the desk, I took in the plush terrycloth robes and slippers, the sound of splashing, and the smell of lavender.

Next time, I decided, I’ll definitely go for the pedicure.

A Bikini Wax Haiku
by Katrina

Hot wax, inner thigh
I have paid in agony
Glabrous joy is mine!

Stop the Presses!

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Breaking News: I have finally received a reply to my first and only ever fan letter!

Yes, that’s right. As embarrassing as the truth might be, here it is: you are reading the blog of a 32 year old woman with her very first celebrity crush.

I don’t understand it, really. I made it through the eighties and all those issues of Tiger Beat magazine without ever feeling the urge to put pen to paper for the likes of Kirk Cameron or Ralph Macchio. And “The Coreys”, while charming and funny, were, to me, as fictional as the characters they portrayed in teen movie after teen movie (though, if pressed on the point, I was more a Feldman follower than a Haim fan.) The girls that swooned and sighed over Hollywood heartthrobs baffled me. What was the point? Trying to make contact with a famous person was as rational as trying to build a working spaceship in your backyard.

So I said then.

Fast forward fifteen years. It’s Girls’ Night Out, and I sit in a darkened theater, surrounded by friends, drinking in the newly released, Joel Schumacher-directed feast for the senses, The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve seen the stage production in London, and I already love the story. But from the moment the Phantom appears on the screen, I am captivated in a whole new way. Who is that?, I wonder. This Phantom has an edge to him–a gritty, untrained rawness in his voice and a sensitivity in his face that transform this classic role into something unique. The actor brings the Phantom’s vulnerability and thwarted humanity into stark relief against the backdrop of dark obsession and unchecked violence. Compassion awakens, in both Christine and the audience. For the first time, the choice Christine must make feels like a real one.

His name, I find out later (isn’t IMDB wonderful?), is Gerard Butler, and on my next trip to the video store I rent the decidedly non-glossy UK release, Dear Frankie. Amazing. In his role as the quiet Stranger, Butler illuminates the achingly human drama playing out between the story’s mother and son with subtle depth. His few lines could be written on one sheet of paper, but he uses his face and body language to create a truly multilayered addition to the cast of characters.

Of course, I had to tell him so.

So I wrote my first fan letter. It was nothing fancy. I told him how much I liked his work. I said I was looking forward seeing his upcoming films, Beowulf & Grendel and 300. I asked for an autographed photo.

I also mentioned my wonderful and handsome husband. You know, just to save Gerard from the embarrassment of flying all the way from Scotland to Idaho to ask me to run away with him only to have me turn him down flat. Those celebrity egos are surprisingly fragile.

Anyway, that was months ago. I had given up all hope of receiving my photo, sure that my letter was sitting on a dusty stack in the basement of some management agency, forgotten and likely to end up in a landfill.

Then, yesterday, it came: my very own signed photo of the Phantom, along with a deeply personal and heartfelt letter from Gerry himself. (Is it okay if I call you Gerry, Gerry?)

Here is the picture:

“Best Wishes!” Do you see that? Clearly we’ve made a connection.

Though I value our newfound friendship, I do hope that Gerry doesn’t expect me to go flying around the country to attend his movie premieres and all those pesky awards shows. I’ve got a family to raise here, after all.

Still, it is rather nice having a celebrity friend.

This is my second, if you count Dick Van Dyke, which I do, of course.

Maybe someday I will tell you about Dick and I, and share the riveting tale of our star-crossed meeting in the produce department of Vons in Malibu. The details are a little fuzzy, but I do remember dripping melted ice cream on his shoes, and at some point I’m pretty sure I sang him the entire chorus of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Off key.

Now I know what “star-struck” means.

A Thought on Motherhood

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“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

G.K. Chesterton

The Mommy Wars, we call them. And they’re all about choices. More specifically, they’re all about me trying to feel good about my choices, usually by defending them at the top of my lungs while waving my spear in the air and denouncing everyone else’s choices as primitive, selfish, or just plain uneducated.

Work or stay home?
Cloth diapers or disposable?
Breastfeed or bottle feed?
Pacifier or thumb?
Ferber method or attachment parenting?
Co-sleeping or independence?
Public school or private school? Or home school?
Spanking or non-spanking?
Barney, The Wiggles, or no TV at all?

If there is a decision to be made, you will find women on both sides of the line, fighting fiercely to defend their turf in the sandbox of parental proficiency.

To be honest, I have, at times, envied these women a little. Look into their eyes and you will see a passionate certainty, a blazing confidence that seems to say, “I’ve got this mommy thing all figured out!”

In the seven years I’ve been a mother, I’ve felt a lot of things. Joy? Yes. Fear? Almost daily. Pride, wonder, disappointment, amazement, frustration? Over and over.

Certainty hardly ever makes the list.

With every decision I make, on issues as silly as the Tooth Fairy or as serious as discipline, my overwhelming feeling is hope. Hope that I’ve set my child a step further down the path to integrity, independence, and faith. Hope that I’m not screwing up too royally. Hope that somehow, some way, despite me–and maybe even the tiniest bit because of me–my child’s canoe will make it through the all roiling rapids ahead without capsizing.

Parenting is a tough gig. And yet, rather than offer support to each other, many moms are at war, whether the battleground be bottles and bedtime or career and home life.

Why do we do that? Why undermine each other like that when we’re all basically fighting for the same thing–healthy, happy children? I’ve pondered this for a while as war stories have come in from traumatized friends and neighbors. Nothing can bring a grown woman to tears like an outside voice confirming her worst and most secret conviction: “You’re doing it wrong.” Isn’t that, deep down, what haunts us? I suppose that winning this sort of victory gives a momentary reprieve from the worry, from the nagging feeling that we could be better, that we could do more.

Fortunately, mommy guilt doesn’t cage me anymore.

For one thing, when you have a child with special needs, that yardstick you’re using to measure yourself against other moms pretty much gets thrown out the window. Suddenly, it’s all about what’s best for your child, with no thought to what the mom down the street thinks about it.

Second, as anyone with more than one kid knows, I’ve come to understand that every child is different, and so is every family. The gentle verbal reminder that brings one child to instant obedience doesn’t even make a blip on another child’s radar screen unless it’s accompanied by a swat on the bottom or the (serious) threat of donating all his worldly possessions to charity because he didn’t clean his room. Though I believe that there are sound, reliable principles of good parenting that are always true, the way that these principles are applied can vary widely with equally good results.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I’ve realized that, no matter how it felt when we nervously carried that little, vulnerable bundle of spit, poop and dreams home from the hospital, we are not in this alone. There is One who holds my children closer to His heart even than I do, and it is to Him that I appeal daily for wisdom, patience, understanding, patience, and help. (And did I mention patience, Lord?) He is with them when I cannot be, and I have faith in Him to smooth over the many mistakes I make in my stumbling walk through mommyhood.

So, to sum up, I’d just like to say to my fellow moms: Relax. You’re not doing it wrong!

(Except for you. Yeah, you! Cut that out!)

Notes from First Grade

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It’s the last week of school, and every night Katie’s backpack is filled with papers, folders, and projects as her teacher goes through the process of helping the students clean out their desks and cubbies for the end of the year.

Sorting through the mess this evening, I was delighted to happen across this note. The unsigned party’s handwriting doesn’t match Katie’s, so I can only assume it was accidentally swept off of a neighbor’s desk as they cleaned up for the day:

Child #1:
Why did you tell everybody about the dream that was rude!
Thanks a lot
love Maysen


Child#2:
Sorry
I thout it was funny
I din’t mean know that it was Rude
but I saved your Life in my dream are you happy about that?


I have a lot of hope that these two can work it out. Maybe it’s the “love” at the end of Maysen’s rebuke, or the heartwarming dream heroics of Child #2, but I think their friendship is going to make it through the Embarrassing Dream Incident and into deeper waters of understanding and support.

It’s never too early to practice good conflict resolution skills.