In the kitchen:
Boy two wanted to cook. With much delight, he sequestered himself for the making of the world’s best molasses cookie ever. I am descended from a master of molasses and make a pretty fine molasses cookie myself. I tasted his cookies ready to sweetly encourage him from the heights of my better way. But his cookies weren’t ok, they were amazing. Starting to feel a little threatened, I reminded myself to be happy for him. He is after all my son. Just because he killed the competition on his first shot at molasses cookies didn’t mean my contributions to the craft of cooking had no value.
To comfort myself, I ate a lot of cookies. Secret ingredients were enthusiastically confessed as I ate. Clarity came not with the choice of ingredients, but rather their amounts. My prize Mexican vanilla (for which one needs half the called for amount to equal three times the glorious flavor) had been used by a boy who didn’t wait excitedly for it to arrive, procured by relatives visiting in Arizona. The cookies were soaked in vanilla like fruit cake in brandy. Undercooked cookie consumption could have meant a drunk driving charge. The recipe called for a teaspoon. Boy two used a 1/4 cup. (That’s 12.5 times the amount the recipe called for if anyone’s curious.) I’m going to stick to my recipe after all, but if I ever want a very pricey cookie, I know who to call.
On the way to school:
Girl one says God can do anything.
Girl two is sympathetic to her position but not convinced. God is great and everything, she says, but . . . God has never turned a mother into a baby. He has turned a baby into a mother, but never a mother into a baby. And even when he turns a baby into a mother it’s not very fast. It takes like a really long time. So maybe he can turn a mother into a baby, but so far, he never has.
After dinner exchanges:
I see Boy two give Girl one some money. I can’t figure out why, so I take the money away, give it back to him along with advice not to share, and go about my business. He takes his money and goes upstairs to find Girl one. I can hear him giving her the money again.
She doesn’t need your money, I say when he returns. It’s really ok to have your own things.
Don’t worry, he says rubbing his hands together with a wicked smile. The only birthdays left are hers and mine. I’m just helping make my present even bigger.
There’s a third book I’d like to write called, “Advice to My Children.” To be presented upon their 18th birthday and ever year thereafter as needed. Here’s the chapter on life and money.
Eat a simple balanced diet. Cook your own food. This will make you healthy. Healthy people have an easier time making good decisions about the rest of their lives.
Whenever possible, get a good night’s sleep for the same reasons.
Unless there is a compelling reason, eat at home. Candles and a tablecloth do wonders. Eat in a different room if you need a change.
Buy the kind of underwear that comes grouped in packages.
Wear them until they don’t make that kind any more, then keep wearing them.
When the occasional hole makes known, shrug your shoulders.
When the elastic fails completely, head to town and buy some new ones.
Reduce the number of specialized cleaning products. Vinegar. Bleach. Ammonia. Good stuff . . . but don’t mix them together.
Don’t give people gifts they don’t need just because everyone else is. Be sincere. Save the big gifts for people who really need them.
Make a list of free entertainment: books, board games, borrowed movies, art projects, hikes
Don’t buy technology unless yours is broken to the point you would have thrown it out ten years ago.
If you buy technology, buy used: computers, TVs, appliances
Don’t drive to get one thing. To get in the car, you need at least two reasons. Or three.
Spend little time and money trying to look like Hollywood stars. Be you and find your own stars. Put the extra money in a savings account.
Don’t spend money you don’t have. Even if you know you’re going to get it.
When the wheels fall off the vacuum, see if you can pull it across the floor without scratching anything. If you can, buy more vacuum cleaner bags; there’s still a lot of life in them there hills.
When you realize your popcorn popper has turned 21, throw a party (with popcorn of course) and raise a glass. Thank the superglue that held the broken plastic together these last five years and tell her you hope she’s good for another ten.
When your living room is full of creams and blues, your couch is about to sing her last, and someone offers you a free red and green striped couch in prisinte condition, say thank you. Then go get that couch. Add, “finding synonyms for, juxtaposition,” to your free entertainment list.
When the upholstery on the arms of the chair disintegrates to strings, duct tape. Find removable coverings from other chairs and lay over fresh duct tape. If colours don’t suit, tack on some hand towels.
Be generous. Use most of everything else you have to do worthwhile things with people you love. Need little.
Buy good toilet paper. Not everything should be a chore.