Birthdays, Poke without a Diacritical on the E, and Righteous Indignation

I’m full of rage and have hated everyone for the past week, at least. When I say ‘everyone’ I mean my husband and children. I’m pretty sure the problem has been me, and not them. At least, that’s (again I say, probably) true with Andy. I’m not willing to give up that ‘probably.’ There’s still a chance I’m right about everything and right to be hateful. After we’ve hurtled through another day, after we’ve begged and pleaded for the kids to change into pajamas and brush their teeth and pee, I’ve felt like I just want to close myself into a dark box and be completely and blessedly alone. I finally deigned to share my feelings with Andy last night, and even though the kids were no less shitty today, I feel better. The internet, by way of some of my witchy/hippie friends, says that I have every right to blame this on the moon, and I feel like this is as good an excuse as any.

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a blog post, and more than that since I wrote a good one, but I just couldn’t do it until now. We have been busy, and I’ve got a whole slew of excuses for my absence, some of which you’ll see below and some you won’t. But on top of that, I’ve been tired and I just haven’t felt like doing the thing. I’m worried that my recent pattern of sporadic and delayed posting means that my blog is dying. I don’t want it to die, primarily because I think it’s good for me. It’s a time for forced self-reflection. Also I like attention. But it also feels overwhelming, to write an interesting paragraph for every day of our lives. Our days are so repetitive. Do an errand, read a million books, stop or don’t stop the kids from throwing things at one another’s heads, dinner, bedtime, exhaustion. I think the good solution to this is to be a better writer, and take notes about the novel things that happen during these days and then carefully shape those stories into something special and insightful. But that sounds hard, so I’m going to go for a different, worse solution, which is to only write what I feel like writing, and if I don’t have something to say about every dinner or day, so be it.

Here’s what we ate this week.

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Bo Bun Salad, minus the good stuff (grilled chicken and fried shallots), Strawberry Shortcakes. The shortcakes were a quid pro quo in exchange for serving my family a plate of zoodles.

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Pro Tip: If you take a picture of yourself making a funny face, and send it to people, there’s a good chance they’ll send you back pictures of their own funny face. I’ve got an impressive collection on my phone now, all inspired by George.

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Molly and I went out to eat poke! A delicious paper boatful of cultural appropriation that is also environmentally unsustainable. But damn if it’s not delicious. You have the option to add avocado or macadamia nuts to your order and I did both because I love fat. The scene is undeniably hipster. Everyone has interesting hats and takes pictures of their food before they eat it (myself included, of course, except for the interesting hat) and drinks warm cans of La Croix or tall bottles of Topo Chico.

We ate our fish piles and Molly told me tales from her jet-setting life as a savvy business lady and I read Molly notes from my 8 hour enneagram workshop. I’m super boring. Molly is an eight, like me, but she’s even eight-ier. I thought she would have loved Joey, the speaker’s daughter, who seemed so much like Molly and explained that the golden rule doesn’t apply to eights because eights treat other people exactly as they’d like to be treated (with bluntness and without regard to feelings) and people hate that. We’re supposed to instead treat other people as they would prefer to be treated. Which is a lot harder. Thanks a lot, Joey.

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The Weekend of Andy was reduced to nothing more than a hot dog topped with a slick of canned chili. The beans are also from a can. The chips are crab flavored and disgusting.

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My parents came back to town for a double-birthday spectacular. My dad’s on the 8th, George’s on the 11th. It’s been really wonderful to see the bonds grow between my kids and my parents. Henry and George are skeptical of everyone, but they really love their grandparents. Henry kept a running countdown until the hour Gangie and Grandpa would show up at the house, and said how excited he was over and over again. When they finally got there he hid under a table and then gave a quiet ‘hi’ and went to his room and closed the door. I gave him some time alone and then went to check on him. He was thumbing through a chemistry textbook that I didn’t know we had. I said, “What’s up? I thought you were so excited for Gangie and Grandpa to get here, and now you’ve closed yourself in your room to read a book?” And Henry replied that he’d found something he wanted to read first, and he’d be out in a little bit. I don’t understand him at all. Anyway, he finished doing whatever it was he was doing with his book and then came out and had a wonderful time with my parents. At the end of my dad’s birthday dinner, Henry gave him a big hug and said “I wish every day was your birthday.” I loved that.

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Samosas with Cilantro Chutney,  Green Beans with Mustard Seeds and Ginger, Cauliflower, Cashew, Pea, and Coconut Curry, Rice and Naan. My dad loves vegetarian Indian food, so we had a Made in India feast for his birthday dinner. Not pictured: eight gallons of mango lassi.

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Helen decorated the table with beautiful colored scarves, she painted golden henna designs on candles, and she strung up colorful flowers on invisible thread and hung them from the ceiling.

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And she made this spectacular cake topper for the not-at-all-thematically-appropriate red velvet cake I made for dessert. You can also see the hideous remains of the eight gallons of mango lassi and the bottle of soy sauce Henry begged to put on his rice, which is also not thematically appropriate.

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Red Velvet Cake. You might have guessed that this was not dyed with beets. There’s a whole bottle of red food dye in this cake (2 tablespoons), which is insane. But my dad loves red velvet cake and I’m not going to serve him a murky brown not-red velvet birthday cake that tastes like beets just to rub my snotty food preferences in everyone’s face. The linked blog post compares four red velvet cake recipes, including ones from Smitten Kitchen, Cooks Country, and Saveur. The Saveur cake won, and is the one I made for this party.  It was spectacular. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a really red cake and don’t mind increasing your children’s chances of an ADHD diagnosis.

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Brisket Tacos from Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. We rolled up to Valentina’s on Friday at 11 and there was NO LINE and I got to put these brisket tacos in my face and it was pure magic. Getting two was a mistake because one by itself will make you full, but I ate both of them anyway.  I want another one right now and I just ate.

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And then it was George’s turn! Part of my ongoing exercise in giving up some of my control over every last detail of everything meant letting George have a hand in planning his birthday party. We sat down to talk about it a few weeks beforehand and I’ve gotta hand it to him, the kid’s a natural. What food should we serve? Apple juice cupcakes, blueberry cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, sausages, and tea. How should we decorate? With pictures of George! What favors should we give your friends? Shirts! With buttons! I didn’t do the shirt thing but we nailed the cupcake/sausage/tea/pictures of George parts.

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Another Helen cake topper! She beautifully encapsulated the theme of the party, as outlined by George, of cupcakes, apples, and pirate ships. The 16 candles were also George’s idea.

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I stuffed that pinata to the gills, and after a few meager swipes from tiny children, the thin piece of twine that held it up snapped and the pinata fell. Andy’s fixing it here, and I really love the polite concern on the children’s faces.

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Success! Sadly, I forgot to nab one of the York peppermint patties from the melee.

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Brotherly love.

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My mom got this shot of George hurling a water balloon into Josie. These balloons were too small to pop upon hitting your tender fleshy bits. The only hope you had of getting someone wet with them was to throw them at their feet or try to dump the cooler full of water on top of them, both of which were attempted with varying degrees of success.

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And that’s a wrap on George’s third birthday. There are a lot of things that I love about George. He makes up rhymes and songs that are honestly fantastic. He tells us stories. He cannot let a stick pass through his line of vision without picking it up. Lately he has referred to said sticks as his ‘mega hammers.’ Every night before bed we read a book together in my room until George announces that he’s ready to sleep, at which point he says, “Henry, I’ve got a surprise for you.” And Henry says, “What is it?” And George says, “Open it up and see!” And Henry takes the imaginary thing from George’s hand and we all sit silently for a few moments while Henry thinks of what the surprise could be before saying, “Oh! It’s a lollipop! Thank you, George.” He’s a very small person and is so nice to hug. Happy Birthday, George ❤

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We spent the day after the party sitting around in our underwear and eating steak.

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And baked potatoes, and a salad with a soy-balsamic dressing. The steak is from The Food Lab, and so is the salad dressing and both came out exactly perfect. This was the last night my parents were in town and we all lingered around the table, eating some novelty ice creams. And after that everyone went home and Helen and Jordan’s little dog, Bonbon, was hit and killed by a speeding car. It was a horrible thing. Please send my sister and her family some love, and give your own dog some extra love too, and a nibble of the fatty bits from your steak, if you make one.

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Turkey Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Szechuan-Style Green Beans. I don’t know how to write a smooth transition from losing your pet to a plate of turkey meatloaf. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Bonbon at all, except that it felt wrong to write about the food we ate the night she was killed and just say the steak was delicious and not acknowledge the awful thing that followed.

A lot of nice things happened on meatloaf day, though. My friend Amanda came over in the morning to look at my backyard. She’s a talented designer and gardener and she’s making me a plan for my backyard for my birthday. And then my neighbor Otto, a carpenter, came over and started working on a few changes to my kitchen. He knocked out a set of cabinets that hung over the sink and counter. They had started pulling away from the ceiling and every time I put a bowl or measuring cup away I imagined the thing crashing down on me and the children. My kitchen is tiny, and I thought it’d be tough to lose a third of my storage space, but it turned out it wasn’t a big deal at all. I gave away a lot of gadgets I don’t use and wine glasses I’ve never used and added a fourth shelf to my two remaining cabinets. And the room looks a whole lot better. And then I got to go to lunch with my food52 friends, and they surprised me with birthday presents and a cake and I got to eat fried green tomatillos that were delicious and a black bean dip that wasn’t and that filled my teeth with bean skins. And then we ate meatloaf, and I liked that a lot too.

Tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. Today, my best friend Molly, with the help of my friends and family, surprised me with the most beautiful and special birthday lunch of all time. I’m still feeling awash in the love they showed me today. So great is my feeling of love and peace that I thought about rewriting my bitter diatribe at the top of the post. I didn’t though. I’m so excited to share pictures of the lunch in my next blog post, which will be right on time. Yes it will, yes it will.

 

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4 thoughts on “Birthdays, Poke without a Diacritical on the E, and Righteous Indignation

  1. Barbara September 19, 2016 / 11:53 am

    Happy birthday, sweet Arielle! Have a wonderful celebration. XO

  2. Ben Smith September 19, 2016 / 2:28 pm

    I was TOTALLY the “I will come out and be social once I finish reading this thing I found” kid. I am still the “I will totally come out and be social once I finish reading this thing I found” kid.

    There’s a Poke place opening near where I live and I want to try it out (food trend! that’s probably overrated but still!), but I’m also feeling a little murky about the potentially culturally appropriative-ness of it.

  3. bsideboston September 19, 2016 / 2:28 pm

    I was TOTALLY the “I will come out and be social once I finish reading this thing I found” kid. I am still the “I will totally come out and be social once I finish reading this thing I found” kid.

    There’s a Poke place opening near where I live and I want to try it out (food trend! that’s probably overrated but still!), but I’m also feeling a little murky about the potentially culturally appropriative-ness of it.

  4. Gangie September 19, 2016 / 2:29 pm

    I remember times when I hated everyone. I’m sure it was me and I’m sure I’m not th only one.
    Moving on, I’m so glad to read a new post! We had a spectacular visit, family fun and great food!
    The steak was wonderful and a rare treat. The Indian cauliflower was amazing and the red velvet
    cake was the best I ever tasted. Kudos! Thanks Arille!

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