Saturday, December 17, 2005

If I'm Hoarse From Yelling It Must Be Christmas Baking Day.

There was a time, in college, when my mom and I had ourselves goin' on the "Witty One should be a teacher, yeah, it's 'portable,' and a good fallback-type professional qualification for a woman to have" trip. You'da thought we were living back with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Bonnets and all. Well, thank God, I woke up before I took a single education course and majored in politics, because I'm not cut out for this hands-on with kids thing.

I'm telling you, after today we just may have to rename the blog "Drooling Freak Lady Driven Crazy by her Shorties and the Irreverent One" or maybe just "Sucky Mom and the Irreverent One." Because today, TODAY we made sugar cookies. And decorated them.

(Did I mention I have two sons, ages five and three?)
(Did I mention that I have recurring delusions of being Mary Poppins?)
(When I'm really just Sucky Mom and I should go back to my blog instead of trying to BAKE FROM SCRATCH while ALONE with my Very Young Sons?)

So now I'm wondering if I wouldn't have had a better day if I'd just repeatedly poked myself in the eye all day instead. Well, yeah, probably. Or it would have been the same but my kitchen wouldn't so resemble an area that's seen a raucous Keebler Elves party.

It went something like this. "Boys, guess what? Today we're going to make Christmas cookies!" Excited boys cheer and commence running a lot, occasionally injuring selves and each other, while I place the ingredients on the Splat Mat (best purchase I ever made.) This is followed by the who gets to push the mixer button crisis (during which Son the Younger finds the turbo button accidentally and sprays us all with powdered sugar), followed by the "NO DON'T LICK THE RAW EGG OOZE LEFT IN THE SHELL!!!" crisis, followed by the this is MY measuring cup and he can't have it crisis. Five minutes have now elapsed and I am thinking this was a bad idea, but we don't even have cookie dough. (Must I even mention that the easy-peasy refrigerated stuff isn't even an option, living as I do in Korea?) I soldier on.

Fortunately once we have dough, it has to cool for an hour or so. Peace reigns as the boys watch "Frosty the Snowman" and "Santa Clause is Comin' to Town." Then all aitch-e-double-hockeysticks lets loose 'cause it's time to roll the dough and they BOTH want to roll the dough and the rolling pin is Son the Younger's favorite toy in the world beside Thomas the Tank Engine. The problem is compounded by the fact that the dough is too cold/hard to roll by mere boys' hands yet, and that flour is needed so it will roll and not just stick to everything. Reality is very hard to process in the face of such enthusiasm.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I am an incurable perfectionist? The kind who, even as she knows in her head that this should be a crazy, messy, fun process to be enjoyed feels her teeth grinding, her gut twisting into angry snarls and needs a paper bag so she won't scream at the thought of the totally ruined cookies that will come out of this project? Okay.

So let's just admit that by the time one set of cutouts have been placed on a baking sheet into the oven the boys are drifting away from the table toward their toys, and I'm guessing it has something to do with the inordinate amount of clenched-teeth frustration and bitey commentary that is coming from their mother. And, secretly, because I'm Sucky Mom, I'm not terribly unhappy about being left to do the rest of the cutouts myself. 'Cause then the angels don't have their necks all cricked, and the snowflakes don't look like they've been through an industrial accident.

I will say that for the decoration process I was pretty cool and indulgent. I let them make a decent mess and half of the decorations/frosting went in their mouths, on their face, or on the floor. (Bath night!) But I have to give half of that credit to the Splat Mat, because I think I would have had an underlying edge if I had to watch excess frosting and sprinkles and sugar directly encrusting my table.

Because I'm a control freak, I then insisted that they wait until after dinner to eat their creations, but then I did let them each have two. TWO. "Only after you eat a good dinner," I said in my Sucky Mom voice. Can you believe God let me have children? If I was cast in Willy Wonka I'd be the dentist dad who throws out all the Halloween candy.

Please don't sing the Psycho shower-scene theme yet; my husband generally has the whole indulgent let 'em roll in it scene, not me, and he's been out of town for nine days now. He's all Yang to my Yin, yadig? I guess I'm allowed to be a little keyed up, but I hope I didn't just spend the day imbuing my boys with a deep-seated avoidance for holiday cookie-making. (The year is 2027. In a therapist's office, a handsome young man says, "For some reason, doc, every time I see The Exorcist, I want to make Christmas cookies...")

Sigh. I will now wretchedly crawl into bed alone. Sucky Mom. (Hubby usually reassures me on this point.) Lucky me, I get the whole bed to myself, but the shine has worn off. Hubby comes back tomorrow at 5 pm, but then there's jetlag. But then we get a week in Hong Kong. I think I'll deserve some good shopping. Next year I'm baking cookies when they're asleep. Sucky Mom.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Shopping Absurdities

I've just finished the book "Big Fish" by Daniel Wallace -- you know, the one they based a recent movie on, which starred the currently-ubiquitous Ewan MacGregor? Anyway, my favorite joke in there goes like this: Man sits down in cafe. Waiter asks, "What will you have, sir?" Man says "I'd like coffee without cream, please." Waiter returns after a few minutes, says, "Sorry, sir, we're all out of cream. Would you like your coffee without milk?" I like this one because it feels similar to situations I've encountered living in Korea. In Korea, this joke would go "I'm sorry sir, we don't have cream, so no coffee for you." That or, "We don't serve coffee without cream. Goodbye."

Like last week, I found a store for new brand of clothes that I like, which is tough here in Korea, where everything is generally festooned with lace or ruffles or sparkles or puffed sleeves. Ick. Anyway, this brand, Uniqlo (don't ask me re: the name) reminds me of an early Gap. I actually found a pair of boot-cut indigo wash jeans for about $35 that don't have man-made crinkles somewhere or extra buttons on the back pockets. I'm telling you, that's hitting the jackpot here.

So I find the jeans and a pair of stripey socks and take them to the counter. The sweet girl with extra eyeshadow and a slight lisp behind the counter tells me that, sorry, honored customer, but one can only buy three pairs of socks. They're not bound together, but she says there's a sign up (didn't see it). I clarify: so it's not that I get a better price if I buy three, it's that I MAY NOT buy one pair. Yes, indeed; why am I not surprised? Didn't buy the dumb socks.

I could go on. The customer is not yet king in Korea. Often to get what you want you must persist and be what would be considered "difficult" in the U.S. It's frustrating because if you're not in a mood to be a squeaky wheel, no one will bend the rules for you. You get the feeling there are no fixed rules, and indeed, often if you ask two people about something you get two different answers. Example:

A Korean friend was interested in two silk pillow covers for sale on a table marked "between 15,000 and 30,000" (about $15 and $30, respectively). She talked at length with the salesgirl there, decided on a particular two pillow covers, at which point the girl said, "oh, honored customer those are $60 each." My friend, being thrifty and Korean, argued, but they are on a table marked with an upper price of $30, how can you price them at $60 apiece? That's not right, etc. So you know what the salesgirl did? She let her buy them at $30 apiece! Now 1) this was not a street market, it was Korea's equivalent of Nordstrom, a department store; 2) these were pure silk dupioni pillow covers, 3) they were already on sale at half-price, and 4) they were marked $60 apiece. Dude, in the U.S., that salesgirl is SO fired.

In a way, it is refreshing, because salespeople here have mostly not clued in to the Money is God mindset, so no, they won't do anything to make a buck. Koreans are more interested in avoiding and quickly resolving confrontation. But that means that often, you have to be willing to look like you're going to start one. The lesson is, yeah, if I had been willing to make a stink, maybe I could have gotten the dumb socks. It can be exhausting. Soemtimes I just want fixed rules and prices. It can feel like living on shifting sand.

And I'll just end with this: why did I just see an ad on Korean TV for a baby doll that farts? Is there really a consumer demand for this here? Are toddler girls all over Korea throwing tantrums screaming "I hate it: she wets, she cries, but SHE DOESN"T FART!" Okay, I'm done.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A new ... Milestone?!

Today the Monkey and I crossed a new and disturbing Milestone. The poop-in-hand. I had stripped mokey our of her one-piece fuzzy sleeper to change her diaper today and she made a quick escape, as has become her routine. Figuring her little Bum could use the fresh air, I let her wander off and waited for her to return. She Returned all right! With a plum sized ball of poo in each hand! She sweetly walked up to me, handed me one, and as I realized with amused horror what was in my hand, I also saw her putting her other hand up to her mouth (it's one of those things you remember in Slow-motion) about to Eat the OTHER plum sized ball of her own poo! I quickly grabbed it from her, realizing I now had a ball of baby-poo in EACH hand, and after checking that she had no other poo-in-hand, deposited the poos in the dirty diaper, and attacked her with a wet wipe. The rest of the day her nickname was "poo-face" and I'm 99% certain I confiscated all poo, since no more poo surfaced as the day progressed and there are no "strange-smelling corners" in our house. At any rate, I can now add that to my list of disgusting things I willingly cup in my hand for the sake of my children. It goes right under the puke I willingly caught, more for the sake of her clothes than her health, but gross nonetheless. and if I HAVE to hold poo, at least it's Monkey's and not Hubby's, yes?

And No, I'm not certain that there wasn't a third poo-ball that made the whole trip past the teeth- Maybe her handing it to me was her way of saying "Hey mom! Try this!" Oy...