Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 7

Look at how timely I’m being!

The lesson: By “we want you to be yourself,” we mean “we want to decide who you are and how you express it, and if you don’t like our definitions or methods, it’s because you hate yourself.” Look, this was a Glee classic in terms of presenting a totally bonehead, asshole, ridiculous notion as if it were The One True Path. So last week, Finn announced to a crowded hallway that Santana was into the ladies, and then there was going to be a political ad about it for some asinine reason, and Santana was so righteously angry at Finn’s careless public outing and the lack of control she now had on a major part of her life, so she smacked him hard across the face and the audience cheered because seriously, Finn? Seriously?

Only this week it seems that Santana was wrong to smack him and she’s going to get suspended (even as she quite rightly points out that no one who’s slushied the Glee club has gotten suspended) until Saint Finn rides in to her rescue on one condition – that she listen to everyone else tell her who she should be and how she should express it and then pretend she thinks it’s empowering. So they all sing lady-songs at Santana for some strange-ass reason and Finn blubbers at Santana about how he’ll never forgive himself if Santana kills herself, and then Santana finally breaks down and realizes that all this public outing and pressure to fit into the Glee club’s definition of how she should express her sexuality is right, and she spends the rest of the episode outing her own damn self, mostly off-stage, and once to her abuela, in actually a well-acted and affecting scene, although, Ryan Murphy, dude, not everyone who hates the gays is themselves gay. (What, you didn’t think her abuela was clearly implying that she herself was a closeted homosexual? Come on.)

The truth: Finn was a jack-hole. Nothing he did or said was in any way right. He is totally the Dawson of this show, in that the creator of the show clearly has a major hard-on for him and believes that the things he does are saintly and “nice” and perfect, whereas the rest of see an self-involved, egotistical jackass. So, listen, kids of America – people get to come out on their own schedules. They get to decide who they are, who they want to tell about who they are, and when. You don’t know their lives, their feelings, their needs, their fears, and their preferences better than they do. This is actually true of anything your friends say or think or feel, whether it’s “I think I’m gay,” or “I think this poem I wrote is really good.” But obviously publicizing a poem, while scary, does not have nearly the social consequences or life-altering effects that telling people you’re gay does. So while you should not force your friends to express any part of themselves publicly that they don’t want to, you should really, really, really not publicly out someone. I don’t care why; if you do, you’re an asshole, even if the creator of your show loves you.

As long as we’re all here, I must address the music in this episode, because it was very mixed for me. I love to hear Kurt and Blaine singing together, so that was nice. I liked hearing from Coach Bieste. And I think hearing Mark Salling sing Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” got me spontaneously pregnant with his babies. But when I see “I Kissed A Girl,” my first thought is always of Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and I like that song so much better. Not in the least because it’s a lot less insulting to actual lesbians. I mean, it’s still about two heretofore heterosexual girls getting it on, but, unlike the Katie Perry song, they don’t have an audience, they’re not drunk, and instead of expressing the hope every six seconds that their boyfriends are enjoying the spectacle, they are instead expressing dissatisfaction with their boyfriends. I mean, the girls were adorable in this number, and the encounter  with the doofy jock that starts off the song – the one who’s all, “Lesbianism is hot because it just means you need a dick like mine to straighten you out” – that’s real life. I have a friend who came out our freshman year of college. I think she encountered that guy, like, at least ten times in the process. But still. I hate that song, and I hate it more for not being the “I Kissed a Girl” I do want to hear.

And the less said about Finn’s execrable, ballad-y rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” the better.

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Crazy, Stupid, Redux

We watched Crazy, Stupid, Stalking again with my mom and my sister and my sister’s boyfriend while they were here post-Thanksgiving. I stand by everything I said about it before, except for one thing. I had said that it didn’t make any sense that the babysitter’s dad, in pursuit of Steve Carrell, would go to the family’s home, because he’d have no way of knowing that Steve Carrell would be there and not in his divorced-dad-pad. But he did know; he saw Steve Carrell in the Home Depot earlier and Steve Carrell announced it. So I stand corrected.

And even though, after analysis, I can no longer enjoy the movie as much as I did the first time, the scenes in which Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling fall in love with each other are still the best shit ever and I sort of wish I could lift them out of this movie and put them in another one.

In fact, I have an idea for the other one I would put them in. I would like to see a whole movie of vignettes of people falling in love after following the advice of the Emma Stone’s best friend character in this movie. Just lift her out, have her tell people to study each other’s bedroom ceilings, and then watch what happens when they do.

(Note to self: Do not put this on blog. Start writing script.)

Ricki Cooking School, Chapter Two – Sweet Potato Soup

I made Thanksgiving this year for the largest group I’ve made it for so far. It was very exciting. Of course, I had help. My in-laws brought Burgundy mushrooms and seven-layer cookies. My friends Vanessa and Peter brought two kinds of homemade rolls and the essential, pumpkin pie. My friends Gretchen and Geoffrey brought green bean casserole and stuffing. Geoffrey carved the bird. My father-in-law washed up. My mother-in-law helped me set up appetizers. Gretchen helped me serve. The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is when it’s a group project like that. Everyone comes together to make a holiday for each other. It’s, you know . . . hamish.

My most successful dish was, as ever, sweet potato soup. I use my stepmom’s recipe. The thing about this soup is, having it was the first time I ever liked sweet potatoes. Or pureed soups. Or, um, a Thanksgiving meal. (I am not a fan of most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. And when I was a kid, I was especially picky.)

So, with the hope that she won’t be mad at me for publicizing it, here’s how you make Sweet Potato Soup:

1. Chop up some garlic and onions. How many? Well, my instructions say three garlic cloves and one onion. Knowing myself as I do, I probably only used one onion but I probably used more garlic. Given that this recipe comes from my stepmother, I probably trusted her garlic amount to some extent – like, I used six large cloves and not a whole head – but I’m certain I’ve never used only three garlic cloves to make anything in the whole course of my life.

2. Melt some unsalted butter in a large pot. My instructions say one tbsp but basically you want enough to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and then, when that’s fragrant, add the onions. Let them sauté until they’re soft (so keep the heat relatively low).

3. Cut up four large sweet potatoes. Like, baby’s-head large. My instructions say to peel them, but I don’t, because a) all the nutrition is in the skin! and b) it’s a pain in the ass. Throw in the pot.

4. Add broth to cover. I used vegetable broth on Thanksgiving because I had a vegetarian at table (who didn’t care but still) and also I’m trying to use non-meat products where possible. I have done it with chicken broth before. I honestly don’t think it makes one whit of difference what kind of broth you use here. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are soft (15 min – 1/2 an hour). (Sometimes at this stage I throw in a whole sprig or two of rosemary and then take it out before step 5. I didn’t yesterday but one could.) (Also throwing in some white wine at this stage probably wouldn’t hurt anything.)

My instructions say that this is the point where you could stop, cover and refrigerate until later. I usually do the next step first.

5. Let cool slightly, then puree, either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. I use an immersion blender because it is so very much easier. I really don’t think I’d make this soup if I didn’t have one. Seriously, they’re cheap, so if you like pureed soups or if you’re going to home-make baby food or anything, get one.

This is the point where I cover and chill until I’m nearly ready to serve it. Then I bring it up to a simmer again while I make garnish.

6. The garnish: This Thanksgiving I toasted walnuts and rosemary with some olive oil and salt to sprinkle on top. You could also use hazelnuts, pecans, or a mix. You could use sage or thyme instead of or in addition to rosemary. I make that while the soup is reheating (or, if I am making it all the same day I’m serving, while the soup simmers away).

7. Once it’s reheated, salt and pepper that baby (unless you did that before, which would have been fine) and then stir in some heavy cream. How much cream? I don’t know. Pour and stir until the soup is of a color and consistency that look tasty to you. Then serve and sprinkle with the garnish.

Important reheating information: Cream must be reheated delicately. No microwaving the leftovers. Heat it in a pot on medium-low to low heat. Don’t let it fully boil. If you have a whole lot of soup and not a whole lot of people, keep some aside, un-creamed, and cream it the next time you heat it up.

Easy-peasy.

 

Just Your Typical Married Couple

Or possibly your typical married Jewish Couple:

Jason: Where was that Irish place we liked?

Ricki: What Irish place we liked?

Jason: I had some sort of meat pie.

Ricki: Shepherd’s pie?

Jason: Maybe.

Ricki: I don’t know. I usually get shepherd’s pie, not you.

Jason: What was it called?

Ricki: Are you talking about the Celtic Knot, where we used to go with Kerri in Evanston?

Jason: No. No, no, no. It was in the city.

Ricki: Not the Kerryman where we went that one time with Randi’s friend Lindsay?

Jason: No. Ew. No. That place was terrible.

Ricki: We thought it was good until we got the chocolate cake.

Jason: No, it was awful.

Ricki: That chocolate cake was awful.

Jason: No. It was north of us.

Ricki: How far north of us?

Jason: I don’t know, north.

Ricki: I can’t think of any Irish place we went to in the city besides the Kerryman. I went with Colin to Lady Gregory, but that was recently.

Jason: We sat in a loft.

Ricki: We sat in a loft at the Kerryman.

Jason: No, it was north of us!

Ricki: Are you sure you went with me?

Jason: Yes! Who else would I go with?

Ricki: I don’t know, your girlfriend.

(We laugh at the ludicrous notion that he could be cheating on me and this is how I could find out – he accidentally mentions an Irish restaurant he took her and not me. We frequently share jokes like this, about how ludicrous it is that he could be cheating on me. It could, in fact, be his cover. “Working late tonight, honey?” “Oh, no, I was with my mistress.” “Hahahaha! You card!” I think this is the missing sketch from A Guide for the Married Man. What, you’ve never seen that movie? Come on to our house; we’ll show it to you.)

Jason: Come on, Ricki. We were in a loft. It had stones. Like, the walls were stones. You said you really liked it and we should go back again but we never did.

(Many more minutes of this conversation ensue. Finally:)

Ricki: . . . You don’t mean Hopleaf, do you?

Jason: I don’t know, what’s Hopleaf?

Ricki: It’s Belgian. I had mussels and beer. You had a sandwich, not shepherd’s pie.

Jason: (looks up Hopleaf on the computer) Yeah, I think that’s it!

Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 6

The lesson: Anyone at all in the Quinn/Puck/Idina Menzel saga is sympathetic or interesting. So for the none of you who are reading this entry but not watching “Glee,” here’s what’s happening: Quinn and Puck made a baby in the first season, named her Beth after that song by KISS that Puck covered, and then gave her away (without any apparent legal paperwork or interference) to Idina Menzel (whose character name I’m still not going to acknowledge), who is Rachel Berry’s biological mom, who basically incubated Rachel for her two gay dads, one of whom is her biological father, neither of whom have gotten any screen time despite being apparently so into Rachel’s theater career that they had her in dance contests at three months old. But that’s another complaint. Anyway, that was in Season One. For the entirety of Season Two, no one mentioned Beth or Idina Menzel. Then at the beginning of this season, Puck was desperate to be Beth’s father and Quinn was all screwed up because she gave away the baby she hadn’t thought about in a year. So when Idina Menzel came back to Lima, Ohio, for reasons too stupid to write down here (and yes, they’re stupider than this baby plot line), Quinn decided that she had to get Beth back come hell or high-water, because now that she didn’t get to be prom queen as a junior (?), the baby is all she has to live for or some shit. So she tried to plant evidence of child abuse and call CPS on Idina’s ass. But then Puck interfered because he totally lurves Idina and Beth and wants to be a dad or something. Meanwhile Quinn is prating on about how Beth is the one thing she can’t screw up, like, yeah, that’s totally how parenting works. You don’t ever worry that you’re screwing up. But then Puck and Idina kind of made out. And the writers apparently believe that a) we are on St. Quinn’s side, because remember, Quinn can threaten Rachel with physical violence and send nasty lists around the school and betray the Glee Club and try to take an innocent woman’s baby away from her and call her a whore for generously donating her egg and her womb and nine months of her life to a pair of gay men who wanted a baby and still smell like a rose because she’s pretty and wears ’50s-ish sundresses, and b) we give a shit.

The truth: Seriously, writers? You’ve got a plot line about a hot teenage cheerleader trying to steal back her baby – whose father is totally hot and was not her boyfriend at the time of the conception – from the biological/surrogate mother of her rival while her baby daddy and the adoptive mother of her baby – who is also a teacher at her school – get it on. And it is dull as paint. That plot shouldn’t be sensical or intelligent but it should be exciting or at least funny. It is none of those things.

You know why? Because you’re making every character inexplicably preachy. It’s really annoying. Idina has the strongest preachy leg to stand on, given that she’s raising the kid, but that’s seriously undermined by her hooking up with a student. Puck is just dumb. Quinn is possibly a sociopath. But the way you’re writing and directing her scenes makes it seem like you think she’s awesome. Which makes me think you’re sociopaths.

And yet despite the sociopathy, I’m still bored out of my mind. Cut. It. Out.

On another note, show – please look at an actual high school’s calendar once or twice. The musical is typically put on in the spring; casting typically takes place in late fall and rehearsals either start right before winter break or right after. Even in schools that have a fall musical, that musical is not usually the exclusive property of one singing group. And high schools that have a poor relationship with extracurricular arts never have a fall musical. Elections for class president take place the spring before the school year, so that when the new school year starts, it starts with the student council in place. Prom kings and queens are almost always seniors, unless there’s a separate prom.

And sometimes students go to classes like Math and English and shit.

Oh, the other truth we learned this week? I’ll put up with just about anything if Amber Riley and Naya Rivera sing an Adele mash-up at the end.

 

ETA: My sister’s is up.

Ricki Cooking School, Chapter One – Brussels Sprouts

My in-laws came over last night and they really enjoyed my Brussels sprouts and asked how to make them. The thing is, I always get compliments on the easiest food. Here is how I make Brussels sprouts (or, really, any vegetable) taste good:

1. Cut vegetable appropriately. In the case of Brussels sprouts, that means cutting off the little knobby end, and then cutting them in half lengthwise (or quartering them lengthwise if they’re huge). You’ll get some leaves that separate from the sprout this way. I keep the leaves with everything else; I love the crunch they get when the crisp up in the oven. If you want things more even, discard the leaves. (Also, if you cut them crosswise or fail to cut off the knobby end or just randomly chop them up without regard to appearance – they will still taste good.)

2. Peel some garlic cloves. If you’re like me about garlic, peel at least a head.

3. Put either in a bowl or directly on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. (You could also line the baking sheet in foil to make for easier clean up.)

4. Put the oven at 450 degrees. Put in the Brussels Sprouts on the baking sheet. When they look like you want to eat them, take them out of the oven. Maybe about 15 minutes, but sometimes less. I usually check at ten minutes, shake the pan, and put them back in.

And really, follow these directions for virtually any vegetable. Potatoes and other root vegetables will take longer to cook. (I’ve also done potatoes at 500 degrees, but really, that’s excessive, and usually results in my smoke alarm going off.) And maybe change up the spicing strategy. For instance, carrots are better with fennel seeds or cumin seeds than they are with garlic cloves. Potatoes do well with a hit of dried rosemary in addition to the cloves. (I don’t like using fresh rosemary in this particular application but it’s up to you.) Cauliflower tastes great with some mustard seeds or cumin seeds instead. A little crushed red pepper never hurt anything. But really, almost any vegetable can be cooked by dousing it in olive oil and salt and roasting it in the oven with some peeled garlic cloves until it looks/smells tasty.

Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 5

Ah, the virginity episode. Excellent.

The lesson: Musical theater makes you horny. So Rachel lost her virginity to Finn, and Kurt and Blaine lost their virginities to each other. And maybe Coach Bieste lost her virginity to the football recruiter dude. And they were all involved with the production of West Side Story, and much of the “We need to have sex” stuff happened around the musical. Ergo, participation in musical theater makes you horny.

Wait a second, I’m pretty sure that’s true.

I really . . . don’t know what to say. They did a sort of reasonable job covering issues related to sex and virginity and being a teenager and whatnot. It should be about love, not some random thing like bringing authenticity to the role of Maria(?) or being really drunk and, like, high on life or whatever. It’s a big deal, but it’s not like you’re a dirty lollipop if you do it. Boys want love as much as girls, and girls like sex as much as boys. The only thing I have to add, having gone through sex ed in the early-to-mid-’90s, is CONDOM CONDOM USE A CONDOM DON’T CARE USE A CONDOM. NO GLOVE, NO LOVE. NO SLEEVE; NO, STEVE. NO RUBBER, NO . . . FLUBBER? Yeah, I’m done.

The truth: Since I have no objections to the “Glee” episode (Well, okay, first of all, not that I care, but why wasn’t the Will/Emma chaste romance covered, and second, what was up with the . . . sound . . . mixing . . . on “America”? It sounded weird.) I may as well use this time to give my incredibly important advice to any future teenagers/young adults regarding the loss of virginity. Really, this column is for future Zoe, because probably by the time she needs this advice, she won’t talk to me about it. But I think it might be useful to, you know, my masses of virginal readers.

1. CONDOM CONDOM USE A CONDOM. And if you’re in a heterosexual pairing, a chemical form of birth control like the Pill would not be amiss, as well.

2. Really, really want it. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, like, duh, you’re a teenager and/or a human, you have hormones, you want it. But there’s wanting it and then there’s wanting it. There’s “I’m really curious about it.” There’s “Everyone cool does it.” There’s “My partner seems to be really jazzed by the idea and I have no objection.” There’s “I really love my partner and want to express that” (which is a great thing to feel, but not what we’re talking about). There’s “Isn’t it time already?” I’m not telling you you’re wrong for feeling all that other stuff. But that’s not really, really wanting it. Really, really wanting it is more like, “Oh, my God, I need it NOW NOW NOW please!” Wait for that. Wait for that, and then wait for a few more days/weeks/months after that, because it’s way, way better to have sex you really, really, REALLY want than it is to have sex you sort of think maybe you should have because come on, really, it’s sex, why wouldn’t you?

3. Love is good. But trust is key. I know I’m supposed to be all about “Wait until you’re in love before you give away your special flower,” but love is tricky. For one thing, if you are still a teenager, you’re likely to fancy yourself in love with any dipshit. I know, I know, not you, because you are a super mature teenager, not like all those other fools, and your love is real, and how dare I in my stupid 30-year-old-ness doubt your love. But look, I’ve been a no-seriously-I’m-really-mature-for-my-age teenager. And I was a moron. My moronity resulted in a whole lot of not-sex-having, which is less dangerous and also less fun than sex-having moronity. But I was still an idiot, and you probably are, too.

But also, while love is absolutely great- and I definitely recommend having sex with someone you’re in love with, because you’re in love with this person, whether you’re a virgin or not – it’s not the key. The key is trust. (It’s very likely that the person you trust is also the person you love. So that’s convenient.)

In the Bible, they use the verb “to know” to mean “to have sex with.” I’m not trying to get religious on you, but it’s a good euphemism (seriously, some of these Biblical authors could write) because ideally, that’s what sex is – getting to know someone intimately and completely. And if you’re going to let someone know you, you need to trust them. So think to yourself – would it mortify me to fart in front of this person? Cry? Fight with my mother? Would I want to see this person fart, or cry, or fight? Because if those situations are not tenable, you don’t trust each other enough to have sex.

4. Be ready. This is sort of sex-ed classic, here. (From back when I was taking sex ed, back when they educated us about sex. Not now. Now the sex ed classics are stuff like dirty lollipops and not telling your knight in shining armor how to rescue you from the dragon or some shit.) If you can’t face the idea of buying a pack of condoms in a drug store; if you can’t have a conversation with your partner about sex and whether you want to have it and the details of where and how and when; if you can’t think to yourself, “What would happen if a baby resulted from this sex?” and then have a reasonable thought process about it, both to yourself and with your partner*; if you are excessively worried about your parents finding out, not in an “Oh my God, that would be embarrassing” way but in a “Oh, my God, they’re gonna ground me” way; if you’ve never done anything adult or independent before, like hold a job or take care of another creature or perform a household task because you knew it needed to be done and not because your mother nagged you 800 times – you might not be ready for sex. It is a grown up thing to do. You need to be a grown up to do it.

*If you’re gay, I know that’s not applicable. So do some other thought experiment instead. Think about if you’re ready for a lifetime of the care and feeding of a relationship. Think about what you and your partner would do if some other crisis befell you, like if your partner had to move in with you or something. Is your relationship crisis-ready? Are you?

5. Be, um, ready. This is for heterosexual girls*. Readiness is not just a physical or a mental state. It’s a physical one, too. If he can’t get three fingers inside you without a considerable amount of pain, don’t have sex. I’m not saying three fingers needs to be pleasurable or comfortable. But if it’s painful, sex will be, too. So see rule #6.

*I imagine that this rule is also applicable to some forms of homosexual sex, especially male homosexual sex. But I don’t know enough to offer advice there. Maybe talk to Dan Savage?

6. Foreplay is your friend. This is related but also separate from #5. Spend lots of time – weeks, months, even years if you’re really young – doing all the other stuff but not having sex. Do this because it’s fun. Do this because it helps take your body from “Well, sex could be interesting” to “Oh my God, NOW, PLEASE.” Do this because it gives you time to get to know your partner and whether or not you can trust them and enjoy them and maybe love them. Do this because you won’t be able to have this kind of fun quite as much as an adult; you’ll just move more quickly on to the actual sex and then kind of go nostalgic for this part. Also, come on, people. I’m not asking you to eat your vegetables or do your math homework. I’m asking you to spend time fooling around. Why wouldn’t you?

I feel weird even bringing it up, but I feel like in most teen comedies, it seems as if couples go from kissing occasionally to sex right now. This does not seem to me to be reflective of real world experience. I could be wrong.

7. Masturbate. Think of it as self-foreplay. You get to know yourself. You get to have orgasms without worrying if you’re gonna respect yourself in the morning or if some other dire consequence of sex will happen. And you will gain the relative confidence of someone who’s already had an orgasm in the past twenty-four hours and therefore can make thoughtful, reasoned (or at least more thoughtful, reasoned) considerations about the source and circumstances of the next one.

8. If you really don’t want to, don’t. If your religion or your own heart says you ought to wait for marriage or at least the assurance of permanence; if you kind of want to but are kind of scared; if you think you ought to want to but don’t really; if you ate too much or drank too much or your body is not responding to overtures – stop. Just stop. Say to your partner, “Gee, you know I think you’re the bees’ knees, but I’m not up for this right now.” If your partner’s response is anything other than, “Okay, we’ll try again some other time,” do not have sex with that person. Because even if your virginity is a thing of the distant past, you should always be able to say, “Rain check?” to a partner who says, “Sure thing!”

9. You’re not a dirty lollipop. Sex isn’t bad. It isn’t good. (I mean, hopefully, it’s good, but it’s not, like, moral.) It’s sex. It doesn’t make you tainted or dirty or bad if you have it. It doesn’t make you frigid or cold or prudish if you don’t. I know I just put a lot of rules up here, but these are not rules along the lines of, “And if you ever have sex that doesn’t follow these rules, you’re a dirty, stupid, used-up whore.” They’re rules along the lines of, “If you want to have an ideal first time, or an ideal any time, these are good rules to follow.” But not having ideal sex doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person. Maybe you already lost your virginity, and it wasn’t ideal. Don’t worry about it. Do the things that make you happy that, if they involve another person or people, make them happy, too. That’s all.

The only thing that makes you a bad person is hurting or disrespecting others. Don’t do that. Don’t pressure other people into sex they don’t want. Obviously, don’t force anyone into sex they don’t want. Don’t make other people feel that their sexual choices or desires make them stupid, or bad, or gross, or weird. That’s what makes you a bad person. Having sex, or not having sex, those are perfectly acceptable human options.

Sophia?

Darling, sometimes I can almost believe that we are, in fact, the same person.

We are, Sophia. You live in my imagination.

You have quite the imagination.

That I do.

Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 4

Okay, people, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The first of my backlog of Lessons to Unlearn from Glee!

Lesson: Leprechauns don’t exist and don’t grant wishes. Some random dude who is apparently the winner (or one of the winners) of some random reality show and who is Irish and has no chin to speak of at all is apparently pretending to be a leprechaun to get Britney’s Pot o’ Gold, which I guess we’re supposed to think is her . . . uh . . . they’re supposed to have sex, is what I’m getting at, but I was thinking the whole episode that we’d find out that she meant something totally different, like she’d been collecting arcade coins in an actual pot or something. But instead she came to the realization that leprechauns don’t exist and don’t grant wishes.

The truth: Shirtless Puck? Cute Blaine song? Crazy cute outfits? Well, I guess I got my three wishes.

Oh, wait a second. I mean, sure, I wished for those things, especially shirtless Puck (and man, did I get him tonight) but they were way down on my list. I had “sensical plot developments,” “consistent characterization,” and “funny, punchy writing” at the top.

Instead I got Finn acting randomly douche-tastic and weird, the new girl I refuse to acknowledge changing personality completely in the face of Santana’s bitchiness, another new guy who just seemed to have “twinkle” as his only character direction/motivation, two characters making random mean faces during group numbers for no apparent reason, Jane Lynch phoning it in (and who could blame her, really?), and a whole series of other nonsense I want nothing to do with.

Oh, and there was a thing with the baby and Quinn and maybe Idina and Puck getting it on. I will not acknowledge. Except to say one thing – Show, just because Dianna Agron is a pretty girl and a decent actress does not mean everything Quinn says and does is reasonable and/or sympathetic. Stop that. You’re making me not only suspect that Quinn is in fact a sociopath, but that you people are as well.

So I guess leprechauns aren’t real and wishes don’t come true. Oh, well. I’ll get the next one up ASAP.

One random thought – the song where the twinkly Irish guy is singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and he’s in the cafeteria singing sort of slow and wistful while all around him random extras bump into him and carry on with their jovial lives – that was supposed to look like that similar scene in Grease 2, right?

Kate?

San Francisco

We went to San Francisco. I did, in fact, wear a flower in my hair, if only briefly.

Whenever my dad goes away, he sends his family witty e-mails, almost daily, to tell us what’s happening on his trip. I didn’t do that, but I thought I’d do a post, and send it to him. Hopefully I can get somewhere like 80% of his amusingness quotient.

Thursday

Our flight was at 7 am, meaning we had to be up at 4 am. That would be ungodly enough, but Zoe, who fell asleep in the car on the way home from Hebrew School Wednesday evening, refused to go back to sleep until after 10 pm, and then woke me up at around 3 am, just to cuddle. Which is adorable, of course. But exhausting.

We are now flying United/Continental pretty exclusively, and it’s not only so that we’re in the terminal that has a Frontera Fresco, but it might as well be. We got sandwiches. We were delighted. The flight was mostly uneventful. Jason conked out the minute we were in the air. I tried to conk out but Zoe wouldn’t let me. But eventually she did go to sleep, on Daddy’s chest, allowing me to stretch out and get in a little nap, too.

We got in and took a taxi to Tara and Gabrielle’s place. They live in Bernal Heights now, which is just an adorably perfect neighborhood, and their house is adorable, too. There’s basically one main drag with restaurants and shops and bars and whatnot, and then houses go up the hill from there. Their house is adorable, too. It’s a bright blue and has a lot of space and a window seat and a fireplace. After showering and unpacking and searching somewhat panicked-ly for the cat (who was sensibly hiding under the bed, where she stayed for most of the trip), we got lunch at Progressive Grounds and then picked up overpriced groceries at Good Life Grocery. Then we went home to drop off groceries and Zoe decided she was not leaving the house again. She needed hydrocortisone so I headed to Walgreens myself (and got reacquainted with the concept of “hills”) and then, when she still didn’t want to leave the house, I went by myself to the bakery Tara and Gabrielle had recommended in the book they keep for home-sharing purposes and then decided to get my nails done at the place that was offering manicures for $8, where I had a lovely conversation with a woman who had lived in Bernal Heights her whole life. And the stuff from the bakery was good, especially the Melon Pan, which was just a little roll, very light, that had been made with melon something or other to make it sweet, but it wasn’t a filling like a jelly or something, which I would have hated. It was just sweet, light, melon-y bread.

Tara and Gabrielle got home from work – much to Zoe’s delight – and then started preparing dinner. They were having their group of friends from church over. It was very lovely  and their friends were very cool. Gabrielle made chicken in her clay pot and one of their friends brought lime brownies and it was all very good. And one of their friends announced her pregnancy. Wahoo!

Once the friends left, I was completely wiped. Tara was going to set up the aero-bed for me but I said that would take too long (less than five minutes, but too long) and grabbed a pillow and blanket and conked out on the floor.

Friday

Tara and Gabrielle had taken off of work. We had a leisurely morning. Gabrielle made crepes. Then we plotted our Napa Valley day. We decided to go to the vineyard with the gondola ride and tour (Sterling) and thought we’d either seek out lunch in Yountville (where French Laundry is, but we did not expect to go there) or try the cafe at the Culinary Institute of America.

Only the thing is, there is no cafe at the Culinary Institute of America. There’s one in New York, and they’re building one in Napa, but there is none now. So we had to (sigh!) settle for the actual CIA restaurant. Sacrifices, sacrifices.

For some reason, in my head, I had pictured the CIA being very chef-modern. White, stainless steel, glass. Very cutting edge. It wasn’t. The buildings look sort of castle-like, and the restaurant was very Tuscany-by-way-of-California – stone walls, copper lighting, big wood tables. The food was, obviously, delicious. We got the basket of bread with the white bean puree (which was good, but Thursday night Gabrielle made this garlic spread that was just raw garlic and a little parmesan cheese and oil and crushed red pepper and salt and pepper in the blender and that was really, really delicious). We got the bread in part because we thought Zoe would eat some. She would not. Jason got butternut squash soup, of course, which had pomegranate seeds and molasses which was really surprising and delicious. We girls shared Prince Edward mussels in a spicy broth. Very, very tasty. I think the entree winner was Gabrielle with a crispy confit chicken thing over a salad with bacon vinaigrette. Jason and I shared the duck and the lamb. Very, very tasty. My lamb had this perfect crackle. And Jason’s duck was sublime. I feel I should learn to cook duck. I don’t know where I’d get duck, though. And Tara had a lovely cod with vegetables and romesco, and Zoe had quesadillas, which she actually ate quite a lot of once she positioned them so she couldn’t see the char marks. We decided to forgo dessert because a) we were stuffed, b) the dessert menu was a little boring, and c) Zoe had had quite enough of attempting to behave herself.

So we headed out to Sterling. It was a little wet outside but not detrimentally so. Zoe was nervous about the gondola ride at first but got really into it. Then they did a thing where they set up stations through the winery and you toured and tasted. Zoe seemed to enjoy herself. She got a cork and at the end there was grape juice for her. (Just boxes of Juicy Juice. Jason was disappointed. He thought it would be special grape juice from their own grapes, like we get from Navarro. I didn’t.) It was cool seeing (and smelling) everything and the winery and the views were beautiful. My favorite was the Petite Syrah. Everyone else’s favorite was the dessert wine. I thought it was too sweet, but then I did have a craving for dark chocolate, so I guess it worked.

The drive home was long and traffic-y and dark, so we couldn’t see the beautiful views like we could on the way there. When we got home we were all pretty tired so we had some snacks and watched some TV and went to bed.

Saturday

Saturday morning, we went to the farmer’s market by Tara and Gabrielle’s house. It was pretty crowded, which made me nervous, but it was nice. They had permanent concrete booths for the sellers, which I thought was cool. And very good tamales, as promised. Zoe got extremely intrigued by the kale because Gabrielle and Tara told her that they always find a caterpillar in it.

After the market, we headed to Oakland to go to Fairyland. We were meeting our college friend Leslie there with her partner Iris and their baby Joe. As excited as Zoe was for Fairyland (which is an amusement park built for kids in the 2-7 range, with fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme and children’s-story-themed attractions), Zoe was much more excited about the baby. She had fun at Fairyland itself, too. She liked the Alice in Wonderland tunnel a whole lot, and the wishing well, for some reason, and the puppet show. (It was Velveteen Rabbit. I hadn’t read that book since I was, like, six. What a depressingly weird thing to read to small children.) She also climbed up the rope net thing to the crow’s next on the pirate ship – and then couldn’t figure out how to get down and got very upset. But mostly she liked Baby Joe. And Baby Joe liked her.

It was really good seeing Leslie again. She seems very much like Leslie. And her partner is a lovely woman, too. We had a really nice time.

It was Jason’s birthday, so when we got home we ordered the pizza he’d been craving since the last time we were in San Francisco – Zante’s Best Indian pizza. (You didn’t know there was more than one Indian pizza, did you?) And we had some wine and some ice cream Gabrielle made and watched a movie. I think it was Jason’s favorite birthday.

Sunday

We hustled as quickly as this group is able to hustle (not very) to Brenda’s for New Orleans brunch. There was a wait, as they’d warned us there would be, so Tara hung back and the rest of us went to Philz for coffee. Despite the doofy “z”, this is very serious coffee. You pick from, like, fifty different roasts and then tell them how sweet/creamy you want your coffee and they do it all for you. (Me: a little sweet, not at all creamy. For those of you who need to know how I like my coffee.) I chose a dark Arabian roast and it was quite tasty.

Brenda’s was very busy but totally delicious. We had beignets, some of which were stuffed, one of which was stuffed with crawfish. I really liked the crawfish one. Zoe really liked the powdered sugar. So much so she licked the plate. Watch for the video of that on Facebook. And then we each had about half our meal and were too stuffed to move.

We went home and Jason futzed some with Tara’s electronics and Tara and I took a walk up Bernal Heights Hill, which was a challenge but rewarding with views of the entire city and also cute dogs playing. Then Tara showed me her favorite house in Bernal Heights and we walked back. Gabrielle had to study so the rest of us headed to John Muir Woods. The drive was beautiful but made Jason sick. The woods were unbelievably gorgeous. They look like those woods in fantasy movies that contain creatures who are not exactly eager to rip your throat out or anything, but won’t necessarily stop a creature who does want to do so. Know what I mean? Half the trails were closed and Zoe was seriously cranky and of course there were lots of other people there, which I hate, but we managed to have a lovely walk anyway. I really liked it.

For dinner we got In-N-Out Burger because Jason was wild to try it. My take? It’s better than a McDonald’s hamburger, sure, but so are lots of things.

They put on Crazy, Stupid, Love, which, despite my feelings, I would have watched again, only Zoe needed to be taken upstairs and snuggled to sleep and then I got pretty sleepy and went to bed myself.

Monday

Despite everyone being up by about 6:30, we still barely squeaked out of the house in time to make it to the Japanese Tea Gardens during the free hour. (If we had been traveling with my dad, we would have arrived in plenty of time only to discover that this Monday was not free, despite every other Monday being free, just because that’s how things usually work with my dad.) It was lovely there (despite the presences of other people). We especially liked this cool arched bridge you have to climb up. And Zoe spent a long time putting leaves, one by one, in the basin of a waterfall.

We took a walk through Golden Gate Park afterwards. We saw all sorts of waterfowl in the lake, including one bird I’ve never seen before that made an impressive noise. We walked Zoe to a playground, where she swung for a few hours or so. Then we picked up lunch at Tara and Gabrielle’s favorite sandwich shop, Ike’s, which was quite tasty. Then Jason spent the afternoon napping or futzing with Tara’s electronics. I took Zoe to the new candy shop in the neighborhood, which was quite pricey but of course tasty. Then Tara and I took her to the Bernal Heights Public Library, which has a playground. Zoe and Tara played on the playground for quite some time. Then we went to the cute little shop down the street from Tara’s house where Zoe got some stickers and Pop Rocks and then we went home. When Gabrielle got back from work, I realized – crisis! – that I hadn’t been to Humphry Slocombe yet! So we quickly made reservations for Pomelo so that we’d be done with dinner in time for our ice cream.

Pomelo did not seem to feature any of its titular fruit, more’s the pity, but it did feature a very San Fran menu. By which I mean, it was all local, organic, and seasonal, and some items were Asian, and some were Latin-influenced, and some were sort of vaguely Tuscan-by-way-of-California. I had a “seasonal” bread salad with Brussels sprouts, persimmon, and Asian pear – delicious – and half of Jason’s curry stew – also delicious. Zoe had a bowl of white rice and then tried to go to sleep on the bench.

Humphry Slocombe was just as good as I thought it was going to be. After tasting several flavors, I settled on one scoop of Black Sesame and one scoop of Chocolate Sea Salt. Oh my goodness. The chocolate one was decidedly salty and the sesame was full of toasty sesame goodness. I also got a package of Brown Sugar Fennel caramels which we ate at the airport.

I thought I’d stay up to watch an episode of the Wonder Years with everyone when we got home. I failed to do so.

Monday

Well, Tara and Gabrielle were off to work, so we packed up and got ready to go. If Kay is Uncle Mark’s disciple, Jason is Dad’s in terms of what time we should get to the airport, so we were there about three hours before our flight was to take off. The taxi came on time, the drive to the airport was all of five seconds, checking our bags and going through security was a breeze, and then we . . . waited. Well, we had lunch and waited. I went to the bookstore and for reasons having to do with my cultural masochism I peeked at a Tucker Max book. Now I will never be able to un-know these things.

Flight uneventful. Got home. Had a great deal of trouble placing a To-Go order at Tom and Eddie’s. Did a little unpacking and laundry and went to sleep.

Zoe woke up this morning saying, “I want to go to San Francisco!”

 

This Bothers Me

(There will be no “Glee” lessons for a while. Last week’s isn’t free on hulu until tomorrow. I won’t post on this week’s until I’ve posted on last week’s because I’m anal like that. And tomorrow I have my usually insane Wednesday, and then we are leaving for San Francisco for a week! Wahoo! So I’ll do a three-lesson blitz when we get back.)

I know this article is advocating for better public funding for preschool and that’s all fine and good. But it bothers me to think that we’re just accepting the premise that kindergarten isn’t, in fact, “Day One.” Shouldn’t it be impossible to be behind before you’ve started?

The first paragraph mentions that these kids don’t know “basic preschool concepts” but “preschool” is not, despite the way parenting magazines put it, a stage of life, it’s a method of schooling. The real question is, can children learn the alphabet at five or six or have we missed some sort of window if we wait that long? If we have missed some sort of window, if it is, in fact, necessary cognitively to get kids knowing things like the alphabet before the age of five, then hell yeah, preschool should become a) publicly funded and b) mandatory, just like school. In fact, it shouldn’t be “preschool,” it should just be “school.”

If, on the other hand, by “behind” we mean “not keeping up with the Joneses” then I think the problem is with the system and not the kids/parents.

I struggle with this because I do want Zoe to learn the alphabet and shapes and colors and numbers, like, now. I mean, she can sing her ABCs; she recognizes all capital letters (I think) and a lot of lower-case letters and is getting to know what sounds they make, and she knows shapes and colors and we’re working on numbers. On a good day she can sort of add and subtract. And we do send her to three mornings a week of preschool at a temple and I do want them to be, you know, teaching her stuff (although I care more that she learns how to interact in a group setting and that they cover Jewish holidays and stuff, but that’s just content).

But when I started Zoe in preschool, I had goals like “learns to be with and mind adults who are not exclusively ‘hers'” and “learns to go along with group activities.” And I sent her to a preschool at a temple so that Jewish holidays and concepts would be part of her school life. Other parents in the class seemed to be upset about a lack of “kindergarten preparedness,” by which they meant early reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. I thought simply being in a classroom at age 2 was enough. And look, we were in the Transitions class. I had initially put Zoe in the Me Alone class but it didn’t work out so we had to move her. For those in my audience who are not parents and therefore not accustomed to the ridiculously dorky naming strategies for child-things, a Transitions preschool class is where the parent or caregiver stays in the classroom, slowly backing away from his/her child, for a few months, until the child is comfortable. A Me Alone class is one where the parent or caregiver does not stay. So the people in my class did not feel their children were old enough to be in a classroom without a caregiver right away, but felt their children were ready for reading.

My thought was that, in fact, being in a classroom without a caregiver, learning to take direction from a teacher, to sit in circle time and wait for snack and wash hands and use the bathroom and line up and share with other kids who are not your siblings or even your friends but just happen to share a classroom with you, was all kindergarten preparedness. But apparently just getting that down is not enough to put you in the right place for Day One.

I also ran across this recently (which I ran across through this wonderful site which is helping keep me a sane mommy). It’s a list of things that advice books in 1979 thought you should be asking yourself to see if your child was ready to start first grade. (I guess in 1979, kindergarten was more of an optional thing?) They don’t demand that your child already know the alphabet. They do demand that your child can walk around the block him or herself, something we are now loathe to allow any elementary school-age child to do. It’s a really interesting difference.

The numbers in the article on Good.is contribute to my suspicions. Only six percent of kindergarten teachers feel the kids are well-prepared. That’s a really low number. That means that the level of preparedness cannot have much to do with socio-economic status, since (I hope) less than 6% of this country is in such dire straits that basic attention to the education of under-five children in the house is so drastically sub-par. Wait, that sentence makes no sense. How about this? If we are attributing the lack of normal “kindergarten readiness” to households in which parents are either so overworked that they cannot attend to the education needs of their children, or so undereducated themselves that they dot know how to properly educate their children, or so poor that they can’t afford a good enough private preschool for their children, or really so very out of the run of general society that they can’t even get their kids in front of a “Sesame Street” episode every once in a while, then we can’t be talking about 94% of all people in this country. I know we’re in a serious recession/why-aren’t-we-calling-it-a-depression, but that can’t be right. Because, socio-economically, my own family is doing fine, but I don’t think we’re in the top 6% of the country. And we’re doing the normal things you do to educated a three-year-old. And I have lots of friends and acquaintances who are also not in the top 6% and they’re doing those things, too. And I know that’s anecdotal, but think about it yourselves. As bad as the economy is right now, do you really think that 94% of the households in this country are so bad off that they are, in one way or another, unable to properly prepare their kids for kindergarten?

Or is it more likely that what kindergarten teachers expect a level of preparedness that’s unrealistic?

I’m not trying to make teachers the bad guys here. I know what pressure they’re under. Kids are not allowed to be kids; they must be test-passing automatons, and if they fail to be adequate test-passing automatons, teachers’ jobs are threatened.

This is also putting unfair expectations on mothers. (Yeah, mothers. Because we know “parenting” almost always means “mothering” in cultural rhetoric, no matter who’s actually doing what.) Because ideally, you shouldn’t work when your kid is young, meaning your husband’s salary better be able to support your family AND put your young kids in expensive preschools that will “prepare” them so that they aren’t “behind on Day One.”

Look, I’m all for publicly funded pre-school/day care. That’s a great idea. And generally, I really like Good.is. But the “Eep! Behind on Day One!” tone of this article is annoying me. Because really, Day One should be Day One; there should be no behind.