On Going Viral and The Profound Power of Good

Jan 31 2012

Lucy Robinson is Lily’s mama.

I don’t know Lucy.

But she has my deepest mama admiration and respect. And I think her story deserves to be told.

Lily’s story – which is, of course, Lucy’s, as well, since every child’s story tells the story of her mother – is making the internet rounds.

See, three-and-a-half-year-old Lily wrote a simply precious letter to a grocery store, questioning their good sense in naming a splotched bread after a tiger, when clearly the bread resembled a giraffe. Sometimes it takes a child to help us see the error of our baking ways.

And a sweet man from the store wrote back. He took the time to craft a response fitting for  a child – a little bit of whimsy, a little bit of kindness, a little of himself.

And Facebook picked up the story. And so did the Huffington Post.

And eventually the grocery store renamed their bread.

It is a sweet and darling story that’s completely worth the time to follow because it reminds us that a little girl’s ideas are worth stopping to consider. And that all by itself is a profound truth.

But there are two things that strike me in this story, and the first is this:

Without Lily’s mama stopping first to listen to her baby girl – to slow down, to take the time to help her document her thoughts, to believe that a three-year-old’s ideas were worthy of a grocery store’s attention – the world could never have listened. It’s the mamas, y’all. The mamas who are graced with the awesome responsibility of listening well to our children and helping them gain their voice.

And the second is this:

Upon realizing the virality of this story, Lily’s mama had a choice. To try to profit. To promote her daughter’s fame. To seek out the next viral story.

Instead, Lily’s mama posted this, a message of gratitude for the interest in their story, and a gentle suggestion that we readers “also consider making a small donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee, so that more children can eat. So many children, particularly in East Africa, are right now facing another day with no food. Let’s make this a real good news story.”

And I can’t help but think that this – this ending – is the story worth telling.

Lucy Robinson, you’re my hero.

Beth Woolsey

Five Ingredient Fried Rice

Jan 30 2012

If there’s something more difficult to scrape off the bottom of my sock than cooked rice, I don’t know what it is.

Really. I don’t know. Pretty please, don’t tell me. It’s probably something way more disgusting than rice, and I’ve probably had it stuck to my sock at one point or another, and I probably have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I’ve probably blocked it from my memory. Please, as a favor to a mom of five, let it stay blocked.

Rice is one of the Top Five Messiest Foods to Feed Children. It’s listed right under spaghetti sauce in a white shirt and right above giant popsicles on a hot day.

There’s just no way to feed five children rice without accepting that my home will pay the ultimate price in the form of a massive rice infestation. I don’t want to give ideas to all the terrorists who read mom blogs, but if they ever figure out how to attach a biological weapon to a grain of rice, the world is screwed. Because those grains are an epidemic in and of themselves. I find them in hair, on clothes (often days after serving it), on toys, of course on my table and floors, and – the WORST – squished onto the bottom of my socks. They stay around forever, creating mini-hazards wherever children are found.

We serve rice at our house a lot. A lot, a lot. Alotalotalotalot. Because I do things that make sense.

I blame growing up in Asia for my ongoing devotion to rice. And, the truth is, frying rice makes me feel powerful. Taking the same grain that fed the ancient, mysterious world and mastering it so that I’m able to nourish my family? That’s power. And love. And it soothes the mommy in me.

Also, frying rice in oil, soy salt and sugar makes it better than crack. Not that I’ve ever done crack. Which kind of proves my point. Because I’ve mainlined fried rice thousands of times.

I took the pictures below weeks ago so I could continue my cooking tutorials (aka cheaterpants easy ways to make foods that otherwise seem difficult). But Zakary, of Raising Colorado fame, posted her first vlog (video blog) this week, and, you guys, she totally highlights the extraordinary need for another fried rice recipe in this world and the lengths to which a desperate mom will go to get it.

I realized that I’d better finish this post STAT. For Zakary. For moms everywhere.

I’m practically saving the world.

……….

Five Ingredient Fried Rice

I’m telling you that this is five ingredient fried rice, and I’m only sort of lying.

To make fried rice, you need five basic ingredients.

  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • an onion

And then, you can add anything else you want. For this recipe, I added 2 cups of diced ham, ginger and sesame oil.

But you can add frozen or fresh veggies, scrambled eggs (if they don’t make you yarf – you know who you are), lunch meat, garlic, coriander, cumin… you know, whatever you have sitting around in your spice cupboard or fridge that sounds yummy.

The beauty of fried rice is the fact that, in Asia, it’s a leftovers dish. Kind of like stews and soups. You take what you have on hand, you throw it all together, and you hope to God it turns out well. Also kind of like life.

Directions:

Dice your onion. I don’t care how you dice your onion. I think I’m supposed to care, though, so here’s how I dice my onion:

I cut it in half. I peel each half. I slice each half into strips.

Then I cut across the strips like this.

It’s he fastest way I can dice an onion, and that’s important to me because I’m an onion blubberer.

In a large skillet – or a wok, if you must – using 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium high heat which seems WAY too hot, but isn’t-isn’t, fry your diced onions until they turn dark brown and sorta charred.

You’re not really caramelizing onions (which is a slow release of sugars). You’re more cooking the sin right out of them and helping them find Jesus. If they’re not getting singed in the process, it’s probably not working right. (No offense, Jesus.)

Next, add your “other chunky stuff” to the skillet. In my case, that’s ham.

And then cook the hell out of it, too. Charred, black spots here and there? That’s how you know it’s working.

This really bears no reflection on my theology.

It probably bears a lot of reflection on how I think theology shouldn’t be, but we can talk about that later.

Let’s take one second to discuss rice. I always use leftover rice. Whether yours is leftover or fresh, the cooked rice you’re using should be soft. As you may know, if you store leftover rice in your fridge, it gets hard and gross. Don’t use hard, gross rice; frying it that way will make hard, gross fried rice. Making leftover rice soft again, though, is easy peasy. In a microwave-safe bowl, dump your rice and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with a plate and microwave on high for 3 minutes. As the rice steams, it reconstitutes the grains, making them soft, and, well, edible. Edible is definitely the goal.

To your rice (or to your skillet – again with me not caring), add 1/3 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. soy salt.

And then add “other non-chunky stuff” (i.e. spices and sauces) to your rice or skillet. In my case, that’s 1 tsp. ginger and 2 tsp. sesame oil.

Dump all that stuff in the other stuff.

Sentences like that are the reason I’m not writing a cookbook. Know thyself, yes?

But really, everything should be in your skillet now, which is still on medium high, even if that makes you uncomfortable. You want to fry the rice while constantly stirring it, not steam it. And if you can’t stir constantly because that’s the dumbest direction EVER to give moms of little kids… as though you’re not going to have to stop to wipe someone’s butt or lecture a child about slamming his brother’s ear in the door… well, then, you’ll get little, yummy, crispy bits in the rice, and, I’ll be honest, the imperfect parts are my favorite.

Keep frying and stirring until any liquid is fully absorbed by the rice, creating a nice coating. This usually takes 5 minutes or so.

Then serve it hot. With a side of veggies if you have guilty-mama syndrome.

Try to keep grubby kid mitts out of the rice until it’s eating time. Kids are very, very sneaky, so good luck.

Now, I can’t claim that this fried rice recipe is authentically Asian in any way other than the fact that I use, you know, rice. But that’s the beauty of fried rice, really. It’s a creative endeavor that lends itself to improvisation. And that’s why it works for my family. There’s no one right way.

For an authentic, Indonesian twist, though, and one that I love, put an egg on it. The fried rice “special” always came with a fried egg draped over the rice. Almost like putting a bird on it, except, you know, not.

Enjoy!

……….

Five Ingredient Fried Rice:
the short, boring directions

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups cooked rice, any type
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce (I call it soy salt, ’cause I like to call a spade a spade)
  • a diced onion
  • whatever else you want – ham, diced lunchmeat, scrambled eggs, garlic, coriander, cumin, chicken, fresh or frozen veggies, etc.

Directions:

  • In 2 Tbsp oil, over medium high heat, fry onions in a large skillet or wok. Let them get dark brown and charred-ish.
  • Add other chunky ingredients (i.e. ham) and fry ’til there’s also some golden brown char here, too.
  • Make sure your cooked rice is soft.
  • Dump in everything else and continue frying and stirring on medium high ’til everything is combined, coated, and absorbed.
  • Serve hot.
  • Put a bird fried egg on it.

Enjoy!

On Hiding in the Bathroom and The Unshakable Faith of Children

Jan 28 2012

Sometimes my children have more faith in me than I have in myself.

It’s one of the gifts – and unique pressures – of having children. Like friends, children insist on believing in you.

At least until they reach the age of disillusionment, I am capable of all things.

I am magical.

I, after all, have direct access to God and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Internet.

Which is why the bathroom is such an important place. A sacred space. A Mommy base.

Here, on the floor that’s sticky with hair spray and boy spray, I hide from the pressure of omniscience because all the bacteria know me for who I truly am – a fallible, broken creature who’s not above crying in the shower.

In my oasis, the knocking is incessant and accompanied by The Moms.

You know The Moms, right? They’re a vocal exercise of increasing frequency, volume and repetition.

“Mom.”

“Mom?”

“MOM?!”

“MomMOM!”

“MOM! Mom. MOM! Mom.”

And on and on and on. Like the Ha Ha game with Ha’s that go on forever until someone breaks. (The breaker is usually me, FYI; my children have amazing stamina.)

But in the midst of The Moms this time, I hear a new sound. An advocate in the voice of my oldest child as she hollers, “Stop bothering Mom! Just let her go to the bathroom. It’s not like she’s going to stay in there forever, you know.

Which brings me back to this…

Sometimes my children have more faith in me than I have in myself.

Which just might give me enough courage to come out this bathroom.

 

I run very fast on my merry-go-round in my dreams.

Jan 26 2012

“I run very fast on my merry-go-round in my dreams.”
Cai Woolsey, age 5

“MOM!”

“MOM!”

“MomMomMomMomMOM!”

His cry echoes through the house.

Seriously? I think as I lug myself out of bed to go to my preschool baby. I can tell by his tone that he’s not distressed, so I’m less motivated than usual to come as commanded. It’s the middle of the night. I just Want. To. Sleep.

I shuffle into his room, and I sit down on the corner of his bed, scraping the back of my heel on the metal bedframe that’s jutting out ever-so-slightly past the ill-fitting box spring. I remember I meant to fix that.

Cai is sitting straight up as though pulled suddenly to life by a puppet master. I put my hand on the back of his head at the top of his neck, and I cradle it as I lay my forehead against his.

I do this to communicate that I love him. And that I’m very tired. It’s my loving ploy for sympathy, and it never, ever works.

I whisper, “What do you need, baby? You’re supposed to be A. Sleep.”

I don’t know why I can’t casually say the word “asleep” to my kids in the middle of the night. I insist on making it two words, as though separating the syllables will force them to bend to my will.

Fall. A. Sleep. 

I make sure my eyes are just a little too wide and a lot too crazy because, even though they can’t actually see my expression in the dull green glow of the nightlight, I believe that putting kids back to sleep in the middle of the night requires method acting. I immerse myself in my character. Frazzled, exhausted mama who uses the words A and Sleep with a hitch of a pause in between them. I don’t, after all, want my kids to feel like I cheated them out of a world class performance when it’s within my power to deliver one.

Cai ignores my admonishment. It’s method acting for the child, too, I guess.

And then he delivers his message.

“MOM!” He stage whispers, hot breath on my face. “MOM, guess what? I run very fast on my merry-go-round in my dreams.

Cai, despite the hour and his awaking only moments before, is full of excitement. He’s SO PROUD.

And I can’t help but think that I run very fast on MY merry-go-round, too. And not always in my dreams. I run very fast on my merry-go-round of life. And sometimes that dizzy, panicky run wakes me up in the middle of the night. But usually not in the good, I just ran really FAST and THEREFORE I am AWESOME kind of a way. Which is really very shortsighted of me.

I think that sometimes angels from Heaven whisper to our babies while they’re sleeping. Messages for them. And messages for their mommies.

I know of no other way to explain the wisdom of the child who breathes life into his mama in the middle of the night with his divine vision.

“I run very fast on my merry-go-round in my dreams.”

He didn’t know, not completely, what I meant when I whispered back to him, “Oh, baby. Thank you for telling me. Me, too. And isn’t it FUN?

 

Fly Rhymes With Die

Jan 25 2012

My dad is a pilot. He flew for the Marines. He flew for two airlines. He flew for humanitarian aid and for Jesus. He’s not kidding around, y’all. My dad FLIES.

My mom, in what can best be described as a fit of youthful exuberance and a desire for marital bliss and, you know, to have something in common with him (which is exactly why I’ve learned to use math analogies when communicating with my husband), acquired her private pilot’s license approximately 40 years ago. Seriously, if you were, like, on board an airplane when some horrific medical event occurred that took out all of the pilots and flight attendants and a desperate person stood up and screamed, “WHO IS GOING TO FLY THIS THING?” … you would want my mom to be there. ‘Cause she would march her tiny little self up to that cockpit, declare that she is SO the boss of it, and then land it safely. After which, she would make everyone brownies because she knows that brownies always make everything better. My mama is a fly girl.

I am, therefore, the daughter of two people who independently, of their own free will, and without guns to their heads chose to operate teeny tiny tin cans WAY up in the air.

You guys, I know that Wilbur and Orville Wright are revered as the grandfathers of aviation and credited with building the world’s first successful airplane. But I’m pretty sure they weren’t so friendly with our good friend, Sanity. Because here’s their story:

Wilbur and Orville Wright:
A History by Beth Woolsey

Two brothers earned a living making bicycles.
Then they were all, “DUDE! Let’s make an airplane!

The End

Which brings me to this: people who launch themselves at fifty-bajillion miles per hour into the air and then keep climbing to 30,000 feet are off their rockers.

And the only thing crazier than flying is listening to flight attendants deliver “emergency landing” instructions prior to take-off as though it’s possible to walk away from A TIN CAN THAT FELL 5.6 MILES TO THE EARTH.

I don’t like to fly.

But I do it. I stick my tongue out, neener-neener style, at my fears and to show them who’s boss. It’s important to me to live my life and to not let my fears live me. Take THAT, Fear of Flying, I shout, giant bottle of Xanax rattling in my upraised fist.

Because I don’t like to pass my Xanax-chewing ways on to my children – all of whom get giggly and say, “WHEEEEE!” upon take-off without the aid of benzodiazepines – I play along with “emergency landing” instruction time.

“Ssshhh,” I say to my kids while flight attendants don their bright yellow life vests and mimic blowing air calmly into the red blow-tubes as though we wouldn’t be passed out from hyperventilating or smoke inhalation or, you know, BEING DEAD. “We have to listen so we know what to do in case of an emergency, kids.”

And then my children pull out the safety instruction cards from the seat pockets in front of them, and, bless their sweet little hearts, they read the whole entire thing. And I, their calm, cool, collected mother who just LOVES airplanes because, by God, I AM FROM GOOD, SOLID PILOT STOCK, answer their questions.

“Mama? Is that a SLIDE?”

“Yes! Doesn’t that look FUN? AND, if we land in water, it’s also a BOAT.”

“WHOA! And why is she taking off her shoes?

“Well, probably so she doesn’t poke a hole in the boatslide with her high heel. That would be bad.”

“TOTALLY BAD, Mom! ‘Cause then the boatslide would SINK and we would ALL DIE, right?”

“Uummm… maybe.”

“Yep, Mom. I’m pretty sure. They’d ALL DIE from being drownded.”

“Ookaaay.”

“And, Mom? This picture is where the WHOLE PLANE IS ON FIRE. Right, Mom?”

“Um. Right, baby. That’s an engine fire. But see how this little book tells us what to do and where to go if the plane is on fire? So do you see which exit we use?”

“Well, yes, Mom. We use that one right back there. But you know what part of this book is my very, very favorite?”

“What part, baby?”

“It’s this part right here.”

“Why, baby?”

“Because this is the part where they’re all already dead, right, Mom? So they don’t even have to do anyfing at all!”

He reported this with a gleam in his eye and rampant enthusiasm.

If I didn’t know better, in fact, I’d think he was messing with me. 

The fearless little punk.

 

 

A Persuasive Essay by My Kid

Jan 24 2012

You know that preteen kid I have who struggles to strain his words through expressive language disorder?

That kid who has a really rad “Geez, Mom!” holstered but ready for a quick-draw in a frustration shoot-out?

That’s the kid who makes me put on my big girl pants and show up for this Mom job every single day. Because even when I feel scared and alone trying to navigate infinite waters of need, being present right now is the only way I know how to do what love does.

And I’m grateful beyond measure that kid has a teacher who believes in him.

She believes in him so hard that she decided this is the year. The year my kid who sometimes can’t get out more than a wholehearted “WHATEVER, Mom” is going to participate in the mainstream fifth grade persuasive essay project.

My kid. A persuasive essayist.

You know what’s wrong with special education teachers? The really, really ridiculously good ones? They simply refuse to believe that their kids are incapable of achieving great things, and they go around spreading that kind of optimism like the flu.

And so, today’s post is brought to you by MY KID, the essayist, y’all! Oh sure, he might have help with sentence structure and vocabulary. And he might get to dictate to a grown-up. And it might take him several hours. But his thoughts and the content are all his own, and that makes a mama proud.

His topic? Someone who shows perseverance and should be on a stamp.

……….

I want my Papa to be on a stamp.
a persuasive essay by Ian

I want my Papa to be on a stamp.  He had to practice for a long time to learn to fly airplanes.  He works me hard on my karate.  Papa still loves me even when I argue with him.

Papa loves airplanes.  He likes to fly big airplanes and small airplanes.  Papa learned to fly in the Marine Corps.  The Marines are hard.  You have to do whatever they do.  Papa did it, and then he flew!

Karate is hard work for me.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood for karate, but then Papa works me hard.  He makes me practice and practice and practice. He knows it makes me better and work on my orange belt.  He does it because he loves me.

Sometimes I argue with him.  Sometimes he gets mad, and his face gets red.  I get consequences to help me learn.  He thinks I am smart and can do better.  He does it because he loves me.

Papa should be on a stamp because he shows shows perseverance and he loves me.  It makes me happy.

The End

……….

That was Ian’s someone who shows perseverance and should be on a stamp.

Here’s my someone.

The End

Love,
Mama

An Open Letter to My Chin Hair

Jan 23 2012

Dear Chin Hair,

When I was in the third grade, I had a costume party for my birthday.

I was a stop light.

This stop light is from Room Doodles, but if you imagine it with legs, arms, a head, really bad bangs and a lot of freckles, then you get the gist.

I’m pretty sure the reason I was a stop light was because my parents were all, “What can we do with an eight-year-old, a cardboard box, and some paint?” But what do I know, really? Maybe I had a thing for stop lights at age eight. Maybe I begged to be a stop light. I mean, God knows I like to control things. Maybe my parents were just accepting me on a core level. Maybe I should write them a thank you note for loving the me I am rather than spend precious moments of my life – moments that I will never get back – writing to my chin hair.

Or maybe I should spend my precious life moments creating cardboard stop light costumes in Mom Sizes. ‘Cause I could I totally use a stop light costume around here. “Hey, you. Yes, you. You GO to the bathroom and stop dancing around holding your penis. … And you. Yes, you. You STOP picking at your brother RIGHT NOW. … And you. SLOW DOWN before you hit the corner of the wall we have to go back to the hospital for more forehead stitches. PAY ATTENTION TO THE STOP LIGHT, YOU GUYS.”

Stoplight costumes for moms. I’m going to make meeeeeellions.

Anyway.

When I was kid, my mama had a rule. Because I was eight years old, I was allowed to invite eight friends to my party. It was the Number-of-Guests-per-Year-of-Age rule. An oldie, but a goodie. And so I invited Tracy, Wendy, Danielle, Stephanie, Dana and three Jennifers.

And that rule made sense when I was eight.

But, Chin Hair, somewhere along the way, I feel like you and I got our wires crossed. I think maybe you were there with me in 1981, under my skin, listening to that rule. And you mistakenly thought that it applied to you, too.

So you’ve been throwing kickin’ chin hair parties on my face for several years now, and I’ve noticed, you keep inviting more guests. While I truly and deeply admire your dedication to including everyone, all the time, now that I’m 38 years old, this whole Number-of-Guests-per-Year-of-Age thing is becoming a real problem.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this,

STOP IT!

Love,
Beth