By: Wendy Rhein
At 20 months Sam is very clear about his needs: his special music must start when he wakes and go on again when he goes to sleep. Throughout the day it is music that soothes him and engages him when all else fails. Overwhelmed? Music. Overtired? Music. Shortout the general pissiness of an almost two-year-old? Music.
This summer I took the boys to a bluegrass concert. I was poised for it to be a bust because it was late in the evening after a day of playing in the sun. Nate curled up next to me, feet tucked under him, leaning in with his eyes closed. Sam sat on my lap, back rod straight, entranced by the banjos and fiddles, opening and closing his hands, finger tips to finger tips, the picture of joy and amazement.
He learned to snap before he could walk. When he was twelve months old his pediatrician was shocked to see him snapping with both hands while rocking out to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” in his waiting room. He brought out two other doctors to see little Sam snap. Sam just bopped his head and drooled.
I love this about him. Music has been a constant source of comfort in my life as well and like for many of us I know that music is intertwined with memories in such a way that an old song immediately calls up visceral memories of a first sweet kiss or a college road trip with girlfriends. When I was pregnant with Nate I played him music all the time (and was so thankful that I had an office and not a cubicle so I could inch up the volume when I felt the need or felt the extra kicks). His favorites during the end of my pregnancy included Queen, Martina McBride, and John Denver. I developed a birthing playlist and Nate was born to the sounds of the Village People’s YMCA and John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. I know, I know. I was nine months pregnant, irrationally nostalgic, and huge. Cut me some slack. They seemed like good choices at the time. To this day, Nate loves music with a beat you can dance to, a ditty that Dick Clark would give a 10.
With Sam, like so many things, I wonder where this love comes from. Were his birth parents musical? Did his birth mother play music for him while she was pregnant? Was there music in their home? What did he hear? He loves Bob Marley – did she play him reggae? And what about his penchant for standing up and bouncing to A Capella choirs like the Straight No Chaser my sister has given him? Where did that response come from?
I will never know the answers to my questions about his history and his cell memory. As an adoptive parent, I can’t say he has his mother’s eyes or Uncle Joe’s laugh and that’s ok. In fact it can be a good thing. This is just part of the gift of Sam that I get to unwrap and cherish every day – the unknown looks and half smiles, the blossoming personality that is at times impish and at times ages old. And his deep love for music.
My recipe this week has nothing to do with music but is just plain tasty. I am sure there is a song somewhere that would work – something by Jimmy Buffet. These margarita cookies are savory and sweet, crisp and soft. I wonder if there is a pina colada version of this cookie out there … may need to work on that.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3c powdered/confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks, room temp. Separated
Pinch of salt
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 medium orange, zested
1/2c coarse sugar (I use organic sugar with a coarser grain and deeper color, sanding sugar would work too)
2t flaky sea salt
Put the softened butter in a mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until silky. Beat in one egg yolk, salt, zests and lime juice. Switch to low on the mixer and add the flour, beating just until incorporated. You want to be careful to not overbeat and can mix any wayward flour in by hand if needed.
Turn the dough out onto a counter, make a big ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
After it has chilled and is easier to work with, take one package of dough and form it into a log (working on a clean surface) so that the end result is a log of dough that is about 1 inch in diameter. The length is irrelevant if you get the thickness right. Do this with each package. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for two hours. You can also freeze them at this point for about a month for ready-made cookies.
Preheat your oven to 350 and line 2 sheets with parchment paper. While the dough is chilling you can put together the coating. Whisk the second egg yolk in a small bowl to use as a glaze.
In another bowl mix the sugar and salt together. Spread the mixture on some wax paper.
Take one log out and unwrap it. Brush it lightly with the egg yolk, using a pastry brush. Roll the log in the sugar/salt mix, pressing the mix in gently so it sticks if needed. Think of it like rolling sushi – use the plastic wrap to help it along, rolled tight. Using a sharp knife or dental floss, slice each log into cookie circles about ¼ inch thick. Place the cookies on the sheets and be sure to leave about ½ inch between them because they will spread a little while baking. When you’re ready to roll the second log, take it out of the fridge. You want to be sure the dough is chilled when you are working with it.
Bake for 12 minutes or until they are set but not browned. The yolk glaze on the outside may brown a bit and that’s fine.
By: Wendy Rhein
Scene: 40-ish mother and 6-year-old son, lugging trash out of a nondescript apartment building’s back door. Son with Transformers backpack slung over one shoulder, looking up at the sky instead of at the potential but as of yet unrealized oncoming cars that his mother is always yelling about as he walks into the parking lot. Mother, hurried and listing to one side, struggles to balance a large plastic bag of trash, her laptop bag, purse, and lunch box of the boy’s. This is a real story with real people, not a dramatization.
“Mom, when are you getting married?”
“Who? What? I don’t know Nate. Why?”
“I need a step dad. And I can’t get a step dad until you get married.”
“Yes, that’s how that works. Why do you need a step dad? Is this something we can work on together like soccer or cub scouts? Because we’ve got that handled in our mom and sons family, right? Right? Or should we call Uncle Bob? Or Grandpa Bob?” (Lots of Bobs in our family.)
(Mom takes a deep breath.)
“No, I just need one. So when are you going to get married?”
“Well, honey, I don’t know. I would love to get you a step dad but we can’t just buy one at Target. There’s a process involved.”
“Mom, I know about dating. You have to date to get married. It’s a rule.” (Note the exasperated condescension of the world-weary 6-year-old.)
“Good, just so we’re clear on not getting an off-the-shelf step dad. I would rather have a custom built one…But you still didn’t tell me why you need a step dad right now. What is it that you want to do that you need a dad to do with you?” (Determined to attach the issue to a time-limited, time-sensitive thing that his mother can solve within her gender-bound limitations of not being a dad. Or a step dad.)
“Nothing now, Mom. But I need one and you need to date to get me one.”
“If I date that means time away from you, my love, and it would be time like dinner times and on the weekends. That’s why I haven’t done any dating since we moved.” (Sure, blame the lack of dating on the move. And play to the known weakness of your son wanting more, not less, time together. Mean. Manipulative. Clever.)
“That’s ok. You can be out if you’re on a date. But not if you’re just hanging out with your friends.”
“Huh. Have we met? When did you become a too smart for your own good 18-year-old? I could have sworn I was the grown up around here.”
“Come on Mom! This is what I want, OK? OK, I want my step dad to be able to make stuff out of metal and wood. He can design it and make it, cool stuff like machines and artificial legs. And I want him to know jujitsu, karate, and kung fu, so he can teach them to me. And he should be tall but not so tall it hurts my neck to see him. And he should drive a van.”
“A van? Like a minivan?” (Mother says with horror, while hurling a bag of trash into a little green house non-too-effectively disguising a dumpster.)
“How about a motorcycle?”
“We can’t put a car seat on a motorcycle; where would Sam go?”
“Ok, so a van for his job and he has a regular car too.”
“Deal. What else does your step dad need to be?”
“He should own a hardware store so he has access to tools and metal. And like to do stuff like camping, and hanging out. And legos. He should play some sports too.”
“What about being smart and funny and kind? And loving you, me, and Sam to the moon and back?”
“That’s your list, Mom, not mine.”
to be continued…..
By: Jillian Lauren
It’s nearly midnight and there’s a full yellow moon and loud music in the courtyard outside my door. It’s comforting tonight rather than annoying. The music in Austin doesn’t acknowledge doorways. I’m staying at a soulful little hotel with poems pinned to the walls. The poem next to the mirror in my bathroom is called “Knots” and it’s about the dual nature, oppressive and redemptive, of one’s family, of one’s past. A timely sentiment for me.
The reading at Book People went well. Another fabulous bookstore in another great town. I can usually count on one pervert (with lots of questions about lesbian harem action) and one elderly lady showing up at every reading. This reading had two perverts and a whole gang of elderly ladies. Does that mean I’m getting more successful?
Jillian Lauren- author of Some Girls: My Life In A Harem
Our adoption was finalized in Ethiopia. We all attended a goodbye ceremony at the care center, where the nannies and the children were dressed in traditional costumes and the staff said a few words about each child before praying together. The rest of the children sang to those who were leaving and Tariku left his little handprint in a book. It was sad and it was great and the whole time part of me was wishing we were just on the plane home already. I felt that way the entire week. But, in retrospect, I appreciate the importance of the rituals involved and the respectful and slow way that the children were transitioned.
In the afternoon we went to the embassy. The TV in the corner of the room was playing the BBC News. We watched as hundreds of thousands gathered on the National Mall in the dark, waiting for the day to begin. Scott and I were told there was some problem with our paperwork. For a long moment, we really thought we were going to be staying in Addis for an unspecified amount of time until they worked it out. In the end, we made it through.
Tariku conked out around 7:30 that night. I really had no idea if it was going to wake him up, but I had to try. I picked him up and carried him downstairs to the den where everyone was watching TV. Scott and I watched Obama with our son sleeping on my chest.
This video is going around on the Ethiopian adoption forum that I frequent. The organization that made it is a little bit too religious for me, but I like the video. I like the idea of rethinking our perceptions and our conversations. I’ve been spending a good portion of my days obsessing over new table linens (this is how I work out anxiety) and throwing my credit card around at Sur La Table like I am Martha Stewart herself. I’m making myself sick but I can’t seem to stop. I wake up every morning convinced that a set of rooster-shaped napkin rings are going to make the world right.
I’ve also been fielding a series of uncomfortable questions from well-meaning retail clerks who can’t understand why I would be having a baby shower if I don’t have a big belly. When I explain that I’m adopting, they invariably express their support for this great act of charity on my part. Then they ask what happened to Tariku’s “real” parents. I explain ten times a day that, in fact, Scott and I are Tariku’s real parents. And that we are building a family, not acting out of charity. The charity goes the other way. I need Africa more than Africa needs me.