Thursday, November 21, 2013

Apron Strings

I had a meeting with a financial planner last Thursday. Hey, here's something no one tells you about meeting with a financial planner: it's a lot like buying a swimsuit. So save up your self-esteem before you head in, 'cause you're gonna feel like ass afterward.

At one point during our meeting, financial planner guy said, "It's really something they should teach in school." First of all: Riiiiight. Have you met kids, buddy? It takes them two weeks to learn how to work combination locks. GICs are probably a little out of their grasp.

Secondly: Alright everyone, fess up. How many times have you said those same words about things you only learned about as an adult? In reality, there's only so much time in a day in the classroom, and reading and multiplication are pretty handy skills sooo... you're prolly gonna have to figure some stuff out on your own at some point. Exactly what those things are depends a lot on what your parents know: I'll bet Financial Planner's kids don't know a thing about edible and useful plants, for instance, but mine sure do. (Heck, Small Fry has even cottoned on to some of the salient points of taxonomy - he asked me the other day whether my glasses were in the window family.) So my kids are probably going to need financial planning advice one day, and his kids are not going to know what to wipe their butts with if they need to poop in the woods. You win; you lose.

To be totally honest, I'm always criticizing stuff Medium Fry learns in school. I don't agree with this; I think they should have taken a more nuanced approach with that; wtf is an integer? - y'know, those kinds of things. But I gotta tell ya, it wasn't until she signed up for Foods class this year that I really came into my own. I feel like - I dunno - like a Kitchen Elder or something. All sage and savvy and rocking an apron. Here are just some of the many quality things that Medium Fry has learned in my kitchen that they didn't teach her in Foods class:

- Freezer Management.
- The importance of having a designated no-garlic-or-onions spatula.
- Real vanilla. Real butter. Show that recipe some respect.
- (New cuss words - various.)
- No point putting the battery back in until the smoke clears.
- Clean As You Go.
- Nutmeg: proceed with caution.
- Whisk faster! Faster!
- Don't count your chickens before they hatch, but do count your eggs before you start cooking.
- No! You do not need to mix the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls!
- Okay, well, you do for this recipe, but not that last one.
- Sleep while the baby sleeps; cry while the baby cries; wash dishes while the muffins bake.
- Are you kidding? No one ever helps me wash dishes. I'm just going to sit and drink my tea awhile.
- Srsly. Put some veggies on the menu, kid.
- You don't decide what to bake; what to bake is preordained by the number of bananas turning to mush on the counter or the quantity of slightly-past-due yogurt in the fridge.
- This also applies to what to make for supper. (See 'Freezer Management.')
- When you are old enough to get PMS, you will need this recipe. Here, I'll write you out a copy myself.

Yup, my kids will grow up able to wipe their butts in the forest, swear like sailors and cook a decent meal. I think we're still ahead of the curve.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beer Garden

I got the weirdest message from an old buddy recently. Like, really old - I don't think he's ever seen me without braces. He found me through LinkedIn. If he still worked at McDonald's after all these years I would not have accepted his invitation to connect, however, it seemed as if he had embarked on a suitably high-powered professional career, so I accepted. (People seem less suspect to me if they have at least $40K in student loan debts kicking around.)


Within minutes, I had an email in my inbox. Old Buddy jumped right in with a brief synopsis of his life for the past seventeen years - university, career, marriage, kids, divorce - and followed up with a resounding, "All the while wishing I was with you instead."

Hmm. I really need to stop equating the burden of student loan debt with any qualities more redeeming than the capacity to fill out a lot of forms.

That is messed up in, like, ten different directions. First off, are you dying to meet the Fantasy Me this poor fellow has been manufacturing in his head all this time? Because I sure am. I wonder if she at all resembles the Fantasy Me who lives in my head...

I had been genuinely happy to hear from my Old Buddy, but then he lobbed this awkward L-bomb at me and I was crushed. It would have been easier to deal with if he had said I ruined his life by more active means - at least then I could apologize. But how can I be culpable for the unauthorized misrepresentation of my likeness in his fantasy life, or the passive cruelty of a teenaged me? I didn't even know how he felt.

The worst thing for me is that this shakes my belief in the possibility of friendship between men and women. Is there always an ulterior motive on the part of at least one party involved in the (ostensible) friendship? Is the true, platonic, gender-neutral relationship like the Yeti or the small batch of chili - mythical creatures, existence never proven? Have millions of years of human evolution culminated in nothing better than bilaterally symmetrical sacks of hormones that surf professional networking sites hunting for the one that got away?

I've been mulling over this dilemma for a few weeks now - and it is a dilemma, because I have several male friends who are pretty special to me. I know I'm feeling evolved enough not to need to club them over the head and drag them back to my cave for some hot monkey love, and for all I joke about men I'm not actually convinced that they're a different species (if we prick them, do they not bleed?) so I have to assume we're all more or less on the same level. Not to mention that I would have to be a pretty insufferable bighead to go around thinking everyone who wants to occasionally catch up over a beer is secretly in love with me. (If we start catching up over Beef Wellington and red wine and a crackling fire, well, I might start to wonder, but beer - no big.) 

So I would like to propose a more nuanced solution to this conundrum: I know I try to avoid spending time with people I dislike, so let's just guess that, generally, we choose to be friends with people we like. And despite the astronomical divorce rate and how much everyone on Earth whines about their spouse, what does approximately every wedding invitation ever made say on it? 'Today I marry my best friend.' So let's also guess that, generally, we try to marry people we get along with. It seems to me that it naturally follows that some (highly variable) amount of future relationship potential exists between any pair of people who get along alright. What doesn't follow naturally is that potential being entertained or realized: the germination rate is as low as we choose to make it. And the occasional beer has not been proven - at least in my 'gardening' experience - to enhance that rate.

I remain a believer. Cheers to that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Great Pumpkin

In keeping with his nascent criminal tendencies, Small Fry lifted a mini pumpkin from the flu immunization clinic on Halloween.

In an act that I'm sure to come to regret later as having nurtured the Seeds of Badass sprouting within him, I gave the theft a decisive "meh" and carried on with our afternoon plans. However, this long-term-poor decision has turned out in the short term to be inexplicably awesome: pumpkin rolling has become the latest craze in our house. Seems there is nary an activity into which pumpkin rolling cannot be incorporated. Yoga, dominoes, lunch - you name it, my kids are rolling a mini pumpkin around in it. And that pumpkin is truly beloved: it debuted at number 1 among the most bickered-over items in the entire household arsenal of available toys.

(I don't pretend to understand this phenomenon, but it does occur to me that the job of designing new products for children must be a deceptively difficult one.)

Although it can sometimes be hard for the recipient to grasp the honour imparted by the act - sortof like when your cat brings you a dead mouse - the granting of permission to use toys of particular importance to a child can be viewed as a proximal measure of the esteem in which the child holds a given person. (At that particular point in time, anyway - again, very cat-like.) Judging by the withering look Small Fry gave me when I initially declined his sweet little invitation to "woll my pumpkin?" in favour of finishing up the dishes I was washing, it must be a bit of a cultural thing, with adults originating on some far away planet with inscrutable norms where no one rolls pumpkins or basically has any fun at all. ("Okay, okay, jeez, I'll come roll your pumpkin, just stop looking at me like that already!")

Parenting fail. I should really know better by now.

But kids know. They get it. When someone says to them what really amounts to, 'Hey, wanna do some weird shit with me that I think is pretty rad?' there's no hesitation - they're all in. They're smashing driveways and rolling pumpkins like nobody's business. If only we could carry that enthusiasm and enjoyment of the happiness of others with us over to Planet GrownUp the world would surely be a better place.

Yesterday, Small Fry invited Neighbour Baby to both roll his pumpkin and rub his sheepie. Neighbour Baby promptly and happily - yet solemnly, as befit such an occasion - obliged. And I know Small Fry would do the same for him.

Theirs is a true bromance.