So much to catch up on. This poor blog has been neglected not because I have lost interest but because of all the other things screaming louder for my attention. Have any of you noticed that during summer vacation the kids don’t go to school? Yeah. And this whole ‘building a house to sell and trying to make money at it’ thing we’ve got going on is a little intense. In a soul sucking sort of way.
But here I am, for the moment anyway, and I have many posts worth of things to share. Just to get some of the cute kid stuff out of the way I’m doing a Noteworthy post first.
I know parents say it all the time, but “It’s a good thing my kids make me laugh because otherwise I’d kill them,” might just be the truest truth out there. To make up for the strife they’ve been causing lately the kids have given me some real gems.
Me: “Felix, what do you think we should have for dinner?” Felix, without missing a beat: “Chicken fried butt cheek.” And yet I complain that no one ever helps me come up with ideas for dinner.
From the 12 year old who still dresses up to play Little House on the Prairie we get this evidence that no one is immune to the power of Hamilton: Me: “Lola, it’s time to set the table.” Lola: “In a minute, I need to have a rap battle with Pop first.”
Felix: “I have a joke!” Me: “Tell me.” Felix: “Why did the monster cross the road? Because he bumped into a bar and he asked the bartender, ‘Do you have a hammer?’ and the bartender said, ‘No.’ and he said ‘Do you have an engine tractor?’ and the bartender said, ‘No.'” He’s got a future as a stand up comedian, that one.
Felix: “I’m going to go into the closet and put on this watch so you won’t recognize me.” Then five minutes later I was just minding my own business and this strange kid with a watch on showed up out of nowhere and he’s been living with us ever since.
I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but this grouping of things Felix has slept with is just too good to not share: And yes, I’m totally serious about every single one of those things. Even the clogs. Even the frying pan. Even the dinosaur puzzle. And the skeleton, who has been hanging out with us a lot lately. His name is Charles Poopin.
I had something amazing happen to me; you’re not going to believe it. I was making BLTs for dinner and putting the bacon on a sheet pan to cook it. You know how this goes, it never quite fits on there right and you have overlapping pieces or pieces you have to cut or whatever. But look at this, just look. That is an entire package of bacon. It fit perfectly. If you can’t appreciate the magnificence of that then I don’t think we can be friends. And I know that the picture itself is crooked and that kind of ruins it, but just try to imagine what it felt like to look at that glorious sight in the moment. Like cool water in the desert, that’s what.
I can be a bit controlling when it comes to cooking. (No shit Ivy, really?!) I suck at having small kids work with me in the kitchen because I can’t handle the mess and the eating of batter and the ugliness of the finished product. It’s a major fault of mine. But I let Felix help me make Robert’s birthday cake and I was pretty proud of myself for the level of not giving a rat’s ass that I achieved. I decided we would just make a cake, not a pastry chef cake. It was sort of liberating to make a sheet cake and ice it right in the pan without needing to prove anything. I even let Fe pick out the mismatched candles and put them on wherever he wanted and it was perfectly fitting. Next thing you know I’ll be making cake from a mix. And you know what? Probably no one would care. There is a lesson there, but I don’t think I’m ready to learn it quite yet.
More things my kid has slept with recently. Lest you think I’m a horrible mother, I want to say that most of these things he doesn’t actually sleep with. He falls asleep holding them and then I extract them from his sweaty little paws so he won’t lose an eye or sever an artery while napping.
You know those days when you just loose all control around 2:00 p.m. and start shoving sweet stuff in your mouth? I really try to keep my sugar consumption in check for the most part, but I had an attack so bad the other day that there was no use fighting it. I knew we were low on goodies, but there is always something hanging around so I went to the top shelf hiding spot and, wow, the selection was dismal. There were some beat up chocolate covered raisins, a mini Krackel from Easter 2014, a partially eaten salted honeycomb chocolate bar that had fallen down behind the lazy susan, and a handful of flavored honey sticks that moved here with us six years ago. The honeycomb bar was chewy instead of crisp but I ate it anyway. Then I rummaged through the freezer and found a bag of crumbs that used to be Christmas cookies. I ate the biggest crumbs even though they were freezer burned. And then…then I ate two of the ancient honey sticks. Not only did those things move here with us, they were old when they moved. And I ate them. Not a proud moment for me, and yet here I am, sharing it with you. Why? God knows. There are some things I really should keep to myself.
Things you can never have too many of: 1. Lilacs. 2. Purple things that make you think of Prince.
I don’t write much about my big kid these days because she is old enough to have opinions on who knows what about her and I want to respect her privacy. She also reads this from time to time and will give me hell as only a 12 year old can if I embarrass her. This little tidbit falls into a gray area of acceptability but we were laughing about it a lot together and I think she’ll forgive me. The momentary fad in the sixth grade right now is learning sign language and talking to your friends without actually talking. Lola was practicing so much that she actually strained a muscle in her thumb. I can now add sign language to the list entitled Crazy Ways My Daughter Has Hurt Herself. Also included are gems like ‘sitting at the table’, ‘starting the microwave’, and ‘drinking from a glass’. In this house we have many strengths, but coordination is not one. Felix may be the one to break our long, glorious streak of no organized sports, and I’m starting to think he might not be related to the rest of us.
I bought a pair of high waisted jeans. Because I’m sexy like that. Every time I put them on I think of the mom jeans skit from Saturday Night Live. They are certainly helpful with muffin top issues, but I’m afraid of where this might lead. Next I’ll be wearing pale blue sweatshirts with pictures of geese on the front and knee-high pantyhose with my Aerosoles. I’d also like to sign up for a laughing class at the senior center (doesn’t that sound awesome?!) but I’m not over 55.
There are a lot of things I don’t like about having a three year old in my bed at night. The grabbing and thrashing and talking and clawing at me means that I’m woken up repeatedly. I actually can’t even fathom what it would be like to sleep all the way through the night anymore. But I tell you, when the snuggling is good, it is so good. I woke up in the early morning hours last week and found my little guy soundly sleeping with his back against my stomach, head nestled under my chin. The air was cool, the bed was warm and my pillow was just right. And my boy was still. Still. As in not moving except to breathe. It was one of those perfect moments when I’m glad I’ve been lazy about teaching him how to sleep on his own. He’s changing so quickly right now and I know that his sleep routine is going to change too. Our snuggly nights together are numbered. It will happen gradually, and we will all be ready, but I want to soak up the sweetness while it lasts; sleeping with my kids has been one of the most precious parts of motherhood for me.
Do you ever feel like you live under a tyrannical dictator? A crazy one that makes impossible demands of everyone around him and goes berzerk when those demands are not met immediately? One whose abusive behavior you forgive the second he shows an ounce of tenderness or remorse? One that makes you wait on him hand and foot and has you convinced that his bad behavior is all your fault? No? Well then you must not live with a three year old.
I have a new job! This is good and bad because my kid free time is so limited and I’m feeling spread a little thin, but it feels good to be working again. I’m doing some (part time) personal chef type cooking for two lovely families and so far I’m really enjoying it. It may be a temporary thing and that is okay too. I’ve said for a while now that I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life but I don’t want to go back to cooking for money. This feels different though, because I’m cooking food the way I want to, being creative and using high quality ingredients. It’s kind of like cooking for my friends or family except I get paid for it. It has cut into my writing time though and I’m a little bummed about that.
The best toy EVER is the vacuum cleaner I bought a few weeks ago. It has gotten more hours of play than all the Christmas toys combined have gotten in three months. The down side is that it lives in the middle of the floor with attachments scattered everywhere and yet I don’t get to use it to clean up because it is always in use.Wait a second, what does that sticker on there say?!Uh…
Nothing says true love like spending your 15th anniversary doing taxes so you can meet with the accountant the next morning. We had planned to celebrate the weekend after, when we could get a sitter and go out, but fate had other plans. We all got the flu for two weeks, then the sitter was booked up, then sick again, and now Felix is going through some separation anxiety that makes leaving him, shall we say, difficult. We ended up last weekend (a month after the anniversary) having lunch together at home and calling it a celebration. Felix was napping and we threatened Lola with chores if she didn’t keep quiet for half an hour. And this is what life and marriage are like. We’ve had an anniversary in Tuscany, an anniversary where I was at a birth, an anniversary in Marrakech, romantic dinners out, romantic dinners in, and now an anniversary spent with receipts at the kitchen counter. You win some, you lose some, you cry and laugh and carry on.
Things my kid has slept with recently: Not that I blame him, I mean, who wouldn’t want to snuggle with a Microplane or pieces of a Shop Vac? So cozy!
These last few weeks have felt long for a million stupid little reasons that I can’t quite cope with. There was a particularly rough stretch mid month that just seemed to drag on forfreakingever. Normally I make a proper Irish spread for St. Patrick’s day, something like shepherd’s pie or colcannon or Irish stew and soda bread (no corned beef, I just can’t, it smells too much like armpit) but this year I was totally spent. It felt like it had been Thursday for like 18 days, and it was still Thursday. So this year’s St. Patty’s dinner looked like this:No, not really. I pulled it together and and made these sandwiches. Grilled Irish cheddar, bacon and yellow heirloom tomato on white bread (remind me to explain my love of white bread sometime). They were tasty, and special because I didn’t kill anyone that day.
You know what’s adorable? When a small person wearing sweatpants, mismatched socks and sandals on the wrong feet tells you that you’re adorable. My exhausted, anxious, brow-beaten heart can still be melted.
Lots of talk about Halloween around here. Over the last couple of weeks my conversations with Felix have left me laughing and scratching my head. Me: “What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?” Felix: “Hmm. Maybe a crossing guard with a weasel on a life jacket.” Then later, “What do you want to be for Halloween?” “I want to be a friendly blue monster…like that car (points to a black Toyota 4 Runner).” A few days later, “What do you think you want to be for Halloween?” “Raggedy Ann’s dad.” And finally, “Have you decided what you want to be for Halloween?” “A spider with a balloon helmet.” I think I have finally convinced him to be Raggedy Andy. He’s kind of like Raggedy Ann’s dad, right? I found some terrifying inspirational images on the internet that I just had to share with all of you. Something about a grown man in this outfit is super scary to me.
Nothing says fun like a Friday night multiplication facts competition. Lola gleefully watched Robert and I take the test she took at school, 100 problems in 3 minutes. What were the results you ask? Well, I got 94/100 (the damn 12s, I don’t think I ever learned them, and no, I’m not planning to any time soon) and Robert got 97/100. Neither of us did better than Lola who got 99/100. In our defense, we had had a couple glasses of wine. But really, the shocking part of this whole thing is that we did this, by choice, on a Friday night. And laughed really hard doing it. What has happened to me?!
I hardly ever buy meat at Costco because it grosses me out. But the other day I was there and feeling particularly sound in constitution so I thought I check out what they had and I was heartily rewarded. They were selling ribeye cap steaks! Yeah, I know, crazy right? I’ve been looking for a source for those for years. For those unfamiliar with the delectableness that is the ribeye cap, imagine if a hanger steak and a tenderloin got together and had a perfectly marbled baby. When you get regular rib eye steaks, they sometimes have a strip of the cap along the top, notice and enjoy the next time you eat one. When the entire cap is removed it’s fairly thin, like a flank steak, but some of the best meat you will ever eat. I was introduced to this culinary delight back in 2007 when Robert and I ate at The French Laundry. We were told at the time that Thomas Keller uses almost exclusively this cut of beef in his restaurants, and for good reason. Why it’s so dang hard to find in stores I don’t know. But anyway, we had a lovely dinner with the steaks (when I say lovely, I mean the food was good, the atmosphere was the normal chaos that happens around here at dinnertime). I kept it simple and just seared the meat and made a little shallot and madeira pan sauce to go on top. We also had cauliflower gratin and sautéed carrots with thyme.If there are any photographers out there who can tell me how to take a picture of meat without it looking disgusting, please give me some tips. This meal was great but the pictures I took are pretty gross.
Anyone who has spent much time reading with the two to five year old set in the last 30 years is familiar with the phenomenon known around here as “All Berenstain Bears, All The Time.” Felix has recently discovered the joys of this book series that has well over a hundred books, but pretty much just one plot. These books are addictive, and some of them have questionable content in my opinion (we just hid ‘The Bully’ because all the talk about beating people up was having a bad effect on Felix, and don’t even get me started on the one called ‘The Birds, The Bees and the Berenstain Bears’. It basically tells kids not to ask questions about where babies come from.) But we read them, and read them, and read them some more; they’re like literary junk food. I’m starting to have a real attitude about these characters I spend so much time talking about. Like Mama Bear for instance. She’s such a self righteous bitch. I can’t stand her, and I can’t read any of her dialog without putting on a condescending voice, it’s just how she talks when I read. She and Papa Bear pretend that everything is just great in their relationship, and they preach about family values, but there is trouble under the surface. I know I shouldn’t gossip, but I think Mama is having an affair with Dr. Bearson, the family dentist. Check out this look she gives him while saying goodbye and tell me I’m wrong.
I wonder sometimes if my social anxiety is getting worse or if I’m just becoming less able to deal with fakeness, in myself and others. After a trip to the pumpkin patch I realized that it had been a good time in part because I hadn’t run into anyone that I had to make unexpected small talk with. That’s not a great sign. I like talking to people, some people, but I like to know ahead of time who I’m going to be talking with. The annual pumpkin patch visit always gives me a case of the nervous sweats. Everyone is dressed in their rugged, yet perfectly conceived fall garb, Carhartts and plaid for the men, Hunter rain boots (perfectly clean) and down vests for the women, kids in either a Halloween themed outfit or in a mini version of what their parents are wearing. Every year it seems I run into someone from high school whose name I can’t remember (but I’m pretty sure they were a jerk), or some overly smiley PTO mom who just ran a marathon, bought a condo in Whistler, and is trying to start a music program for highly gifted kids. And I’m there with my realness oozing out around the edges, wearing boots with actual mud on them and stuffing my face with Halloween candy. This year was a pleasant surprise for me as I got to mind my own business, which was taking pictures of the kids and trying not to get covered in rotten pumpkin.
Thank you to everyone that read my last post about my dad and gave me such wonderful feed back. I was really touched that so many of you shared it or felt inspired to reach out. This whole writing thing is a little nerve wracking for me but it was a real thrill and encouragement to get such a great response.
The coyotes have been noisy lately, howling up a storm every night in the open space right across the street from us. It’s loud and a little creepy, especially when there are what sounds like 40 of them yipping and yowling and probably killing something a hundred feet from our house. Felix was scared of the sound the other evening and we told him that the coyotes are just wild animals that live in the bushes and like to sing. He was quiet for a bit and then he said, “I like wild animals that live in the bushes and don’t sing.”
Orthodontia. We paid $5600 for the privilege of looking at this on a daily basis: I have to get to crank this apparatus every evening in order to “expand Lola’s palate” over the next month. Do any of you have a fear of going crazy and doing something horrible some day? It’s one of my worst phobias, and for whatever reason this device triggers it in a serious way, maybe because it seems like such an instrument of torture. I’m afraid I’ll lose it and crank the thing too much, ripping the poor girl’s face in half. I promise I won’t though.
Birthday week. Lola turned 12 and made some brag worthy birthday dinner choices. First, she chose to have macaroni and cheese, not unusual for a kid, but she likes this version that is over the top and adult in every way. I use this recipe as a guide, but switch up the cheeses to accommodate what I have on hand, I up the nutmeg a bit and use white pepper instead of the black. Does that make me a pepper racist? I hope not. I also grind the bread crumbs in the food processor because I like them a little finer. I don’t make this very often because we would all weight 500 pounds if I did, but it’s a pretty great choice for a birthday dinner. For dessert she wanted a salted caramel chocolate cake (can you imagine how that makes my pastry chef heart swell with pride?) No food coloring, no gaudy decorations, just a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a couple of perfect garden roses.
Lola is a remarkable gift getter. She loves all presents, and is especially appreciative of ones that are homemade or from the heart. Her enthusiasm and gratitude are delightful, one of her best qualities. I loved hearing her whoop with joy when she opened this one from my aunt: That there is a box of freshly picked chanterelle mushrooms. For a 12 year old’s birthday present. And do you see that smile? I can use this picture as proof that I’ve done at least one thing right in raising this girl. The mushrooms were the firmest most meaty ones I’ve ever seen and I cooked them into a lovely risotto with a bit of crispy pork belly on top for day two of birthday fest 2015.
As some of you know, Robert and I were a little freaked out when we found out I was pregnant with a boy the second time around. We joked in a very politically incorrect way that even though we know that you can’t turn a person gay we were sure going to try. The idea of raising a stereotypically gay son was much easier to get my head around than a team sports playing, non-showering, sloppy dressing, rough and tumble straight boy. But I overheard this conversation between Robert and Felix the other morning and I think Mother Nature has made her call. Robert: “Why don’t you ever snuggle with me in the night?” Felix: “I like to snuggle with Mama.” Robert: “Why?” Felix: “Because Mama has boobs. I love boobs.” God help me.
This fall weather got me feeling like making bread again so I got my sourdough starter all freshened up and made this loaf. If you are local and want some starter with which to make your own let me know, I’m happy to share.
I took the kids on a walk in the woods. It took us about 45 minutes to go half a mile and in that time we had a scraped knee, a fall in the blackberry bushes resulting in bloody hands, two screaming freak outs about spiders, and a bee sting. Ahh, nature.
It’s hard to be encouraging about your daughter starting 6th grade when you know it was the most horrible part of growing up for you and everyone you know. I’m not supposed to say, “Good luck kid, it’s going to suck,” or “My God, some of those girls look so mean!” but that’s what I’m thinking. Poor child, she doesn’t even have a mom who can lie convincingly.
Does trying to be all things to all people count as exercise? If so, I’m in great shape this week.
Late summer corn chowder with bacon. I had to make adjustments for all the members of my family to eat it, pureed for Felix, red pepper removal for Lola and lots of hot sauce for Robert, but I thought it was delicious all the ways.
Watermelon. There is no worse snack for a kid who doesn’t yet know how to slurp juices in while eating. I don’t care how good it is, a watermelon will never be worth the sticky aftermath. Everyone thinks I’m kidding when I say I don’t want watermelon in this house ever again but I’m not. The ear protection is for fashion only.
Kid quote of the week from Lola: “What language do the Babushkas speak?”
As I sit here writing my little guy is at his first day of drop off preschool. I’ve been so excited to have this time and now I’m twitching around the house full of anxiety. I never expected to be such a neurotic mother; it still surprises me after all this time. Push, pull. Push, pull. Like a heartbeat.
I’m going to try doing a weekly post of little things. Things I cooked or things that happened with the kids or in life that I want to tell you about but that might not be worthy of a whole post of their own. We’ll see if it sticks. Here is this week’s list:
I chopped an onion at my kitchen counter while crouching under an umbrella being held by a two year old. Go ahead and try to picture that.
Nothing makes you feel old like purchasing a training bra for your daughter. Don’t tell her I wrote that, she’ll never forgive me.
Plums. I’ve frozen 10 pounds of Italian plums and 18 pounds of Satsuma plums thanks to generous people I know. I’ve also eaten about 75 plums while standing over the sink and I made a yummy plum crisp for breakfast this morning.
I can put on mascara while being given “shots” in the butt with an empty bottle of 409.
We’re going to build a spec house! Robert’s new business, Cedarwing Builders, will be up and running soon and this is going to be our first big project. I have agreed to do the design side of things, which I know nothing about aside from when we built our own house. Wish me luck.
Fig upside down cake. I didn’t love the recipe I used for the cake part but it was pretty and has potential so I might try it again.
I came upon Felix playing with a stuffed fox and singing to himself, “In my scrotum, in my scrotum, in my penis, in my scrooooooootuuuuuuum.”
I stress-ate 3/4 of a bag of sweet potato chips in the car. My pants don’t fit. Are these things related? Possibly.
This salad. Curly endive, guinea hen legs, figs and grapes roasted with port and sherry vinegar, and goat cheese toasts with fresh thyme. The dressing was some of the roasted figs and the juices from the pan, more sherry vinegar, shallots and olive oil.