Musings on Life, Love and Leftovers

Archive for the tag “gender”

Writing on Eggshells

This week, I’m planning to dye my fingers a new shade of purple, a color not found in any box of crayons. It falls somewhere between eggplant and magenta, and pretty much clashes with my Easter outfit. Hopefully the stain will fade before I go to a concert with my neighbors next week. Guess I can always wear gloves. All of this in the name of coloring Easter eggs with my family .


These days, though, it’s tough gathering the egg-colorers. There was a time when I would be surrounded by a quartet of boys happily decorating oval orbs in a rainbow of hues. Once the decorators left, I’d stand alone near a plastic bowl holding four dozen hard-boiled eggs, surveying the damage once known as the surface of my kitchen table. I had thought I’d learned my lesson from last year’s Easter egg coloring fiasco. That’s why I had painstakingly blanketed the table with layers of yesterday’s newspaper, but somehow a pinkish-green dye managed to find the one triangle that went unprotected. The oak grain now possessing a colorful, confetti-like stain. This botched job was not a commentary on my table-covering abilities; it’s directly related to the five people vying for space around six coloring cups.

Mess or not, the Coloring of the Easter Eggs has been a key element in our family’s springtime traditions that include new clothes, egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies.

Mess or not, the Coloring of the Easter Eggs has been a key element in our family’s springtime traditions that include new clothes, egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies. It’s these customs that I count on year after year to replenish my little-girl-at-heart spirit and keep me on track as mother, and now a grandmother. As a child, Easter meant a frilly bonnet, new patent leather shoes and the promise of a basket to be filled and hidden by the Bunny. My family has their own ideas about how to welcome Spring.

Years ago, I would watch my sons, Shawn, Jake and Seth, balance hard-boiled eggs on the rim of a flimsy wire holder only to plop them with great care into the pools of color. Each allocated 12, while my husband, Nick, and I share a dozen. Often this process yielded a cracked egg or two.

What a sight to behold: the five of us huddled around the kitchen table without a pepperoni pizza in the middle. For this group to sit in the same place at the same time, the enticement had to be huge. Normally my team of three sons/one husband was off doing their own thing: soccer practice, mowing the lawn, playing video games, away at college. But for theoe few minutes, we gathered as a family with a common goal – to create the best, most bizarre-colored Easter egg.

With my crew, best isn’t defined like it might be by the judges who award Nobel Prizes or Oscars. You won’t find these guys producing a Faberge egg look-a-like. Best usually ended up being the funniest, stupidest or oddest egg. I always wondered that if I had daughters instead of sons, the winning egg might have a more artistic tilt. Maybe in a few years, when my granddaughter Windley is old enough to participate, I’ll find out for sure.

Alas, as a boys-only mother, I’ve learned to look at things from a different viewpoint. I stayed competitive by marking my eggs with corny sayings or kooky nicknames, but I never won. This contest was fixed. The brothers voted for each other’s entries and I ended up looking for a recipe that calls for 48 hardboiled eggs, give or take a cracked few.

Teasing, pestering and bestowing nicknames on their loved ones is one way the male species shows they care. Nick was renamed Scoop, after the boys found out he worked scooping ice cream as a teenager. I was pegged Pebbles a la the Flintstones’ daughter, because of the ponytail I pull to the top of my head when I do my morning workout. During the two years he wore braces, Seth was called Sid (after the mean brace-faced kid in Toy Story). All these names and more would float to the top during this creative free-for-all, only to find themselves written on eggshell surfaces with a wax pencil the size of a golf tee.

I didn’t ponder the absurdity of it all, because if I did, I’d be tempted to trade the bags of jellybeans in for green bean seeds and spend the time planting in my garden. Why dye dozens of eggs, put cellophane grass in the bottom of a long- handled basket or buy yellow marshmallow-shaped peeps? Because those things, along with a new dress to wear to church, singing Here Comes Peter Cottontail and tulips decorating the center of my dinner table make my Easter.

This year, blessedly, our family has grown. After inventorying the selection of pastel eggs nestled in our refrigerator, the Bunny will place one in each of the eight baskets ready to be hidden. On Easter Sunday morning, it will be easy for me to find mine. I’ll look for an egg that says “Pebbles Rocks” scrawled unevenly across a purplish tint. That’s when I know, ridiculous or not, these are the moments that mean the most. Maybe not to my kids, but definitely to a bonnet-wearing little girl who years later became a mother and a Sitie.



A Girl, Four Guys & Football

shutterstock_113473264Around my house I’m outnumbered. I’m pink in a world of blue. Three sons, one husband. When everyone else stands up, I’m sitting down. I’m the only girl in a house full of guys, and it’s lonely. No one to show new shoes to. No one to care about a bra sale at Kohl’s. No one to share clothes with.

So how does a lone girl even the playing field when she lives with four guys? By picking up her game. Her football game, that is.

With my days bombarded with ESPN (the TV station and the Magazine), I learned quickly how to be in with the in-crowd. And with this crowd, you have to know football. That’s why I chime in on discussions about a team’s defense or chances for a Wild Card bid as though I were sharing my recipe for Cheeseburger Soup. I throw words like depth-chart, Wing T and free safety around with apparent abandon. Someday I hope to actually learn what they mean.

The real test of fitting in with these guys comes in the mastery of the Fadden Football Pool, known around here as the FFP. Each week we predict the outcome of the week’s football match-ups.  It’s a simple contest with simple rules: Someone, usually my husband, Nick, cuts out the odds board from the sports page of the daily paper and tapes it to the official FFP clipboard. The rest of us take turns writing our prognostications on the official FFP tally sheet.

We’ve enjoyed this light-hearted family rivalry for 20 seasons. Starting in late August through the January playoffs – even when a son was away at college and had to phone in his choices or someone has the flu — one thing can be counted on, the FFP.

With player names like Daddray, MegaMom, SonicShawn, Jakeman and $ethMoney, the gloves are off each week to have your moniker posted as the winner. Luckily for me, a few years ago, the gender scales were rebalanced slightly, with the addition of RedGhost and CaptainScallywaggs. Come game time, any one of us can be found holding the clipboard where the prediction sheet is secured. In the other hand, a yellow marker ready to highlight the winning teams.

Here we’ve found a common ground — girl and boy alike. Mastering the FFP takes the perfect blend of football smarts, a sense of humor and a whole lotta luck. It doesn’t matter if your cologne is Windsong or Aramis.

With 32 teams and 16 match-ups most weeks, the total number of wins possible varies during the season. There have been weeks when I’ve been crowned champion before the Monday Night Football coin toss. There have also been times when my win total was less than my shoe size.

Each Sunday, we gather in front of big screens to watch the players, listen to the commentators and make a few comments of our own. As I claim my seat in the recliner, water bottle in one hand and a bag of Scoops tortilla chips in the other, I’m hoping that it will be my name emblazoned as the week’s winner.

But winning isn’t what matters. I’ve already won because I love the camaraderie I share with Nick, and my sons, Shawn, Jake and Seth. They don’t want to spend time scrap booking. My requests to go to afternoon tea have fallen on deaf ears. No takers to join me for a pedicure.

But just mention the football pool and we chat up a storm. Not knowing if Green Bay’s punter has a pulled groin or Atlanta’s quarterback is out for the week, I still manage to fake conversation with the best of ‘em. Just because I’m outnumbered doesn’t mean I have to be outsmarted.

Nike turf or natural grass, we’ve found a common ground and it’s green with white lines. Just perfect for a pink girl in a blue world.

Color Coded

shutterstock_293178716Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Or so we’re told, but in an ever-evolving color-neutral society, even the toy world gets caught in controversy. Recently the makers of the Easy Bake Oven reassessed their color scheme. It didn’t matter that for five decades famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay overcame pink and purple play ovens to find success in their careers. Today, chef-hopefuls of either sex, eager to improve their novice cooking talents, have a palate of hues including blue, black and silver—to choose from when buying the iconic oven.

As a young girl, I didn’t own the once light-bulb heated range that now looks more like a microwave. I never bought one for any of my children, either. In fact, as a young mother, I never placed tea sets, glitter lipstick or even training bras in my shopping cart. But if you need advice on where to get the best deals on trading cards, athletic supporters or wiffle ball bats, I’m your girl.

As mom to three sons—Shawn, Jake and Seth, there’s not much pink in my home. From the time the oldest was in diapers, my house was strewn with soccer balls, dump trucks and building sets. There were no ribbon dance wands, dream houses or stuffed pandas tucked into corners of my family room. Naively, I lived through my thirties without ever trudging down the all-pink Barbie aisle in Toys ‘R Us. Too much time spent in the Hot Wheels section, I guess.

I would envy mothers who could french braid their daughter’s hair, spend time shopping for ballet slippers and attending jewelry design class. While those women were splurging on pedicures, I was digging rocks, pogs and unidentifiable gooey substances out of my sons’ jeans pockets.

There’s an upside to being the queen of the house, though. I was among the first subscribers to ESPN the Magazine, before most people even knew the sports publication existed. I can list eight ways a baseball player can get to first without getting a hit. (In case you’re interested: walk, hit by pitch, error, catcher interference, fielder’s choice, obstruction, dropped third strike—either wild pitch or passed ball). Not so long ago, I readily named all the characters in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series. In a pinch, I could probably still come up with ten or so. I can hold my own in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Even in an evolving world where opportunities for both sexes continue to even out, mothers know their sons and daughters see things differently. Their interests, tastes and preferences vary from the TV shows they like to their choices of what to wear to school – jeans and a t-shirt vs. lacy tops and leggings.

Whether you live on the pink or blue side of the fence–or if your family contains representation of both–it’s tough mingling the two. The harder job may be teaching boys growing up in an all-guy household how to treat women and in an all-sister home, teaching girls how to relate to boys. My sons love their girl cousins and their friends’ sisters, their first contacts with the other side. Still, it’s not the same as living with a female relative, other than mom. (Mom’s not really a girl anyway.) No tiaras and doll babies were crammed in the toy closet alongside the trucks and car tracks. My sons didn’t have tubes of mascara, lipstick or a curling iron crowding the bathroom countertop.

They learned from their parents that pink or blue didn’t equal weak or strong. It wasn’t unusual to for my fellas to witness me fixing sticky doors, replacing the car’s broken sun visor or digging out an overgrown honeysuckle bush. Their dad throws in a load of laundry, cooks his Sunday morning breakfast scramble and moves my yoga mat aside without so much as a whimper.

A balanced life uses every shade in your paint box. My sons know it doesn’t matter who does the shopping, the cooking or the cleaning as long as the work of the family is accomplished well and with love. Chicken casserole, frozen pizza or chocolate chip cookies taste just as good in any color oven, not matter who’s doing the baking.

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