"That’s why when I have kids everytime we drive past McDonald’s I’m going to punch them in the face."

My brother recently told me the reason gambling is such an addictive behavior is that there is a constant potential for a random positive reward. According to him, that is the best way people learn, and that’s why it’s easy to “learn” to (become addicted to) gambling. I found the idea fascinating, and even though I’d never heard this until a few days ago, I now realize we have a constant potential of random reward thing going in my house. And I have actually found that my children operate well with that system. It doesn’t mean they don’t misbehave ever (the only systems that guarantee that result are authoritarian ones and there is a huge price to pay for those). It means we have more fun getting along in the house and every reward is a fun experience, not one the kids get to hound me about or expect.

We also have a constant system I do even better at, called you never know when Mama is going to lose it. Like today, as my son is on a two-day streak of bad behavior and by 11 AM this morning, I’m still doing well dealing with it. One small example of his particular mood of late: as I bring the kids to register Sophie for kindergarten today (lovely, clean and seemingly well-organized new buildings with cheerful staff a few blocks away – yay!) Nels decides he is upset I won’t let him play outside and makes the meanest, loudest yell I have ever heard. He stomps repeatedly and yells at me over and over right in front of the door we are about to pass through. Still, I patiently crouch down, ask him not to yell at Mama, pat his head, and lead him in. I really am a good Mama. The rest of our morning goes this way: he is unreasonable and pissed and says things like, “You don’t do that, Mama!” in a “big” voice and either yells or complains at most decisions I make. Finally we make it home and I am getting food out of the kitchen to make lunch (cheese quesadillas and salad w/romaine, carrots, baby corn, olives, cherry tomatoes, and Annie’s Goddess Dressing) and he is tagging right next to me in the fridge trying to paw rice milk out and loudly grousing when suddenly I cannot handle the near two-day complaints and I grab him up, whack him on the shoulder, and set him on his back three feet away in the living room, telling him “I’m going to cook lunch now. You must stay out of the kitchen.” He starts crying in earnest and writhes on the floor. I am instantly full of repentance but I take him up and bring him to his bed, gently. Then close the door and return to the kitchen. Sophie comes in, tearful, and says, “You are being mean to us all the time.” (not even remotely true; she has been teary and fearful since she got wind she is due for three shots before school next fall) and I say in a level but multilayered Crazy Voice, “Go to your room.” She runs off, crying as well. Great! Two for two.

But by some odd form of miracle they stay in their separate rooms quietly while I finish cooking and set the table. I call out, “Children, time for lunch! Please wash your hands.” and by God, they do, and cheerfully.

So I guess the Random, Crazy-Assed Mama Tirade works well enough, too. P.S. Use sparingly.

Tangentially: I owe my husband an apology. Recently at a movie while we watched the trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (in which I am inordinately pleased at how large the Surfer’s smooth and gleaming package is) I lean over to Ralph and whisper, “I thought the Silver Surfer was a good guy?” to which Ralph responds, “No, he was originally sent to destroy earth by Galactis.” Then I snort and say derisively, “No, Galactis was from Transformers,”* There was a confused silence as my husband thought that over, obviously questioning his Marvel ‘verse knowledge, and I smugly patted myself on the back for knowing more comic / action series lore than my husband. But today I see was, in fact, correct. It was Galactis (P.S. read, “This page is currently protected…” wikidendum for a good laugh).

* Turns out I was confused with Unicron.

beans are my friends, and i say this without sarcasm

We have a unique situation this week as I had thought Ralph was getting paid on the 6th – and it turns out it’s the 10th. Four more days of scraping by and not paying bills when I said I would (tee hee!). This actually coincides nicely with the offset time period I was planning our weekly menu. Without further ado, here is our attempt to be vegetarian, economical, tasty, and easy:

(You may notice my life consists of a few meals a week of Mexican food. Fuck you.)

And for this, the grocery list (all purchased yesterday):

1 head cabbage
1/2 head red cabbage
1 lb. jalapenos
1 lb. carrots
1 large bunch broccoli
1 head garlic
1 lemmon
2 serrano chiles
1 bunch green onions
2 lb. green grapes
2 cans medium olives
1 can kidney beans, 16 oz.
1 can navy beans, 16 oz.
5 lb peanut butter (no sugar added)
3 cans vegetable broth, 14 oz.
1 can green chile enchilada sauce, 19 oz.
1 large can chunky organic tomato sauce (1 lb. 12 oz)
1 lb. bag tortilla chips
1 dozen eggs, brown organic
14 oz. firm tofu
5 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
2 lb monterey jack cheese
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 pint sour cream
50 corn tortillas (2 lb. 14 oz.)
1/2 lb nutritional yeast, large flake
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/3 lb. white figs, dried
2 lbs. great northern beans, dried
2 lbs. pinto beans, dried organic

The total for everything was $67. Sixty-seven dollars for quality groceries for a week! Now, I will be buying a few odds and ends – I think milk and eggs perhaps. I’ll make sure to post the full weekly total when I have it.

Tonight for our company I made the No Mas Carne Enchiladas, chile relleno, and Hogaboom Trademark Roasted Jalapeños.

My brother teases me on the phone tonight (we totally have matching Swatch phones!) that my enchiladas (which I accidentally called “vegan” because, well, they are) aren’t any good. First off, I had Ralph drive him over a plateful to prove that little monstrerd wrong. Secondly, there are two types of veg*n food in life: the kind that leave you barely full, vaguely pissy, and longing for real food – and the kind that is delicious and does not leave you ruminating on what’s lacking in the meal but rather energized by the goodness of the fare. So help me God, I don’t believe I make that first type and I willingly accept the daily challenge to make the second. Even Brother Ass himself reluctantly agreed my food is not bland hippie fare and has variety – although he then went on to say I will soon be making Assy Veggie Loaf. I didn’t think I’d say this past the early nineties, but Whatever.

typical day + best. quote. ever.

Billy comes over for lunch and to take some pictures. I wish we had a camera. Scratch that. I wish we’d get off our asses and scrape up the $100 to fix ours.

Small gaffe on Mama’s part – so today my brother is taking pictures of Sophie and the latest two shirts I’ve sewn her and she says, “I want to take pictures of my bottom and punani!” and I say (without thinking), “That’s called kiddie porn. And we’re not going to do that.” She responds crankily, “Well I want kiddie porn!”

Yes, that's what she's saying.
Billy and I doubled up in silent laughter. I immediately regretted that whole conversation. But, let’s just move on.

Boy Ningo
Nels, pensive. He’s been like that lately. I think he’s undergoing a personality change. Since it isn’t in the direction of savagery, I’m happy with it.

My room, sunlit. I would say “our room” but as Ralph points out, we are sleeping along gender lines these days. Unless we can trick the kids to sleep together, which we do now and then.

P.S. I found some crystal meth on my walk to my parents’ today. Yay!

"You've got meth!"

"I have a skeleton to bring to life." "That would be me!"

What is it about the city where any time I plan something there I’m sure it’s going to go tits-up? I fret we will be late (even though I leave with adequate time to get there), I’m sure our event tickets won’t be recognized (they always have been), that my wheels with catastrophically fail and somehow I’ll be stranded with no help in sight (never happened). In any case the night before our trip to Seattle for Bodies the Exhibition I couldn’t sleep well at all, having minor anxiety attacks over the 5-hour roundtrip drive and who knows what else.

So this morning at 9:00(ish) Sophie, my brother, and I head up and I stop for coffee and gas and after that we make rather excellent time. Good thing too as parking in the city… meh. We eventually find a space that gives me a postage-sized room to maneuver and after a few minor detours we wave our tickets at some attendants and are allowed into the almost pitch-black rooms and softly lit displays of human anatomy, all plasticized but still somehow gooey looking.

The exhibition itself mostly made me sad. I couldn’t help feeling that no matter how classy they tried to dress it up as “science” basically this was a circus, a money-making enterprise. My brother reported getting hungry while looking at the layers of meat (“like really good jerky”). For me it just bolstered my vegetarianism. It wasn’t disgusting or anything (OK, some things were slightly off-putting, especially the teratoma and the slices of diseased organs) but the flesh of the specimens reminded me of the cats we dissected in highshool anatomy and those, those were gross.

Sophie is solid. She can recognize the shapes of organs, even at the displays that had somehow chemical frozen blood and arterial structures with no surrounding tissues. She was a bit distressed at dead babies but soon moved past it emotionally. I think. I at least get some inkling of what the spleen does through the small placards (“The entire volume of your blood travels through your heart in one minute”) but am glad she didn’t ask much about it because I still don’t quite “get it”.

We head out of town and miss any traffic.

I attempt to avoid my brother by a pretend cell phone conversation. Kidding, kidding.

an update from HQX, pictoral-like

Already we are as busy here as we were in Port Townsend. Mornings my mom and I go workout at the Y while the kids cavort in “Busy Town” (the childcare facilities there). Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Sophie goes to preschool; Thursday, Nels does. Tuesday and Thursday are Sophie’s swim lessons. Every night I go to bed early, exhausted (from working out and living at my parents) and annoyed because I can’t really nest the way I want to. Anyway, forget I wrote that. It’s a tired story. I am lucky, I repeat goddamned lucky, to have such a great family to shore us up while we try to find a place to hang our hats.

My mom and Sophie, just before church last Sunday. Sophie has a secret. Can you guess what it is? She is not wearing panties. Before she went to church, I told my mom, “Make sure she’s wearing panties.” Guess when my mom found out she wasn’t? During church service.

For me, to chase the blues away: a little materialism goes a long way. In this case, abovementioned DC hoodie and:

A pair of Keen shoes. The shoes are not yet broken in but soon, I will wear practically nothing else. On my feet, I mean. (hoodie and shoes courtesy of zappos.com – the closest online thing to instant gratification).

Mom and I trade off cooking each night and everyone else benefits. My brother had several helpings of my Vietnamese Sticky Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Weekends, I sometimes cook a special breakfast. (this version is made with a cardamom-challah made locally at the Farmer’s Market – open year-round here).

OK, just to prove to you how weird my family is (mostly my mom and brother), they made this “dog hair sculpture” after my mom gave Tuck his cut.

Actual dog, post-haircut. I try to be nice to him. He has “issues”.

Today: my father has his nasty chemo and my brother and I try to feed him milkshakes (this went very badly) and I try to keep the kids upstairs so he can sleep.

notes on a decidedly non-scandal

I ran two miles today. I ran two miles today! Yeah, yeah, I know you’re thinking, Hell, I could run two miles. But can you, really? And DID you? Oh and P.S. a certain somebody, your comment re: “treadmill freak” did not go unnoticed. I will be biding my time.

I also got to meet with the HR employee at Ralph’s new job. What we learned simply stunned us: a lower health insurance monthly premium than we imagined, we’re talking one-tenth what we paid at his previous job! All the benefits were great. Full medical, dental, and vision, with a flex spending account we can use toward deductible. Today I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for his job.

Conversation between me and my brother, five minutes ago:

Me: “Billy, I have some really good coffee in the freezer, you can help yourself.”
Billy: “Oh, no thanks.”
Me: “I didn’t mean right now, I meant if you’d like to try it.”
Billy: “Oh, I don’t like to waste good coffee on myself.”
Me: “Spoken like a true git.”
Billy: “What?”
Me [ Don Logan voice ]: “You heard.”

Sophie and Nels, sleeping. Sophie is sleeping with a large, very realistic-looking black-widow spider sculpture. She’s creepy like that.

in a glass case of emotion

Well, I am feeling wretched today – it seems December, in two days, has already brought a share of disappointments. So I was oddly cheered when I discovered about five minutes ago that I have actually recieved something like *four comments* on my sewing blog (I’m not really sure how anyone finds it either – I lost my links at this oft-visited page and have been too lazy to put them up). Right now I have no camera (except my assy iSight on the Mac – a camera that always includes my rather messy and grungy laundry room background) so my sewing and knitting efforts (re-conn’d pants! left-handed knitting!) have gone undocumented.

But sadly, at this moment the more depressing circumstances in my life are overcoming the good. My parents won’t be around for Christmas while my remaining immediate family member – my brother (viewed here with hospital bracelet regarding an episodic severe intestinal illness) told me he’d rather have Christmas by himself, my husband doesn’t seem to care how much I am sad about not being with my FOO. Two friends have gone AWOL while I worry about their personal circumstances, one friend broke up with me, my older child is ill, and my younger child is growing out of his clothes too fast. And last but not least, Blogger Beta is acting like a gay and our bank account will be hitting bottom on Monday with four days left until payday.

Wow, it actually did not make me feel better to write that all out. Anyone interested in keeping me from throwing myself in front of a fast-moving train, feel free to send me a cheer-up email. Or barring that, a train schedule.

Today while the children napped (like canaries, their sleep-response seems proportionate to daylight) my husband and I wandered around the house, bored, ineffectual, too lazy to jump into our typical uber-housecleaning weekend frenzies. I was too cold and he was too warm (as usual) and we had carefully not over-scheduled our weekend – so now we had nothing to do. This afternoon while I cut out a pair of flannel pajamas he ventured into the attic to pull a cheesy-ass tinsel tree (via Freecycle) and thrift store lights out of the attic. Our now-garish living room awaits the awakening of the oldest child (yes, she is STILL napping, at almost 7 PM!) who will doubtless be thrilled at our impressively “festive” living room. Now that my knitting is caught up I am currently searching for an *easy* sock pattern for Sophie and feeling overwhelmed at the idea of assembling Christmas presents together this year.

Looks like it’s lumps of coal for many of you.

pictures courtesy of weirdbeard

Life the last week.

Sr. Mysterioso is my kitchen muse. He watches all with a knowing smile.

My son was very grumpy when he woke up from his nap the day after Billy’s arrival. Yes, I cut his hair recently. He is now looking more like a boring-arsed Little Boy instead of my fey little elf-maiden.

1 dinosaur suit and a snack later, he was good to go.

Evening: pumpkin carving ala Ralph. Who is that lurking on the attic stairs?

On Wednesday my brother, daughter and I journied to the Serpentarium in Monroe, Wa.

The mamba is my favorite snake. Because I picked it that way after a couple lines in one of my favorite novels.

Of course Sophie handled snakes. Gee, you think? She was a blur of light for one hour, racing around the room and looking at everything. Many specimens that would eat her if given half a chance.

The alligator snapped at my brother and I think he peed his pants a little, but he wouldn’t admit it.

This thing has the face of evil. The head is pretty much life-size in this picture – about 4 1/2 inches across. And it had two-inch fangs. I liked snakes more before I saw this one.

Back at home, at the park. One block from our house. My kids are running at me about to jump on me in that way where their foot hits me in the groin, etc.

Today’s word: GLOBSTER.

but seriously, there is no passive-aggressive anger in this meatball sandwich i just made you

Well, I just snapped at a perfectly decent human being. And I think it was a pregnant one, carrying a gift for someone else. Yeah, I’m an asshole. See, I was dropping off a gift at a baby shower because I wasn’t able to attend and this nice-looking young woman who was dressed lovely and smelled like flowers asked me to park somewhere else, and I fixed her with the dead-eye and said, “I’m not staying”, practically hissing like some cretinous Gorgon sister. It wasn’t her or what she said; she caught me at a bad time. Then she proceeded to back down on the parking thing, she introduced herself, and then said, “It’s nice to meet you.” I felt about two inches tall and hideous.

Yes, today is one of those days you don’t want to cross me. Or don’t even want to try to say anything to me unless it’s something like, “Hey, can I help you carry that?” or “You look nice today.” That’s right, I’m being a bitch. Now I know I joke about being a bitch all the time but I never mean it, because anyone who knows me knows I’m not really. I guess I should stop saying it because it cheapens days like today where I’ve just about had enough and I extend my regrets to anyone who’s going to run across me and I really, really want people to give me a break and not annoy me. But they keep doing it.

Part of my problem may be a slightly heightened sense of schedule and responsibility. My brother is visiting. This is a good thing, except that it’s hard for me to have company. I mentally “hover” over the person(s), especially if they’re not someone I can trust to help me care for my kids. And it’s really a mental holdover of my own, not a reflection of the capabilities or willingness of my guest(s), who are always happy to help I’m sure. Whatever it is, it sucks.

Once in my life I have actually taken a “time out” from my visitor: I basically said, “You need to entertain yourself for a while. I’m going to sew.” In that case my friend was probably relieved to have a break. But it’s hard for me to do. As I type this now my brother and son are upstairs playing on the computer and I feel guilty. Not guilty for neglecting my son, which I do regularly, but guilty for not providing 100% appropriate entertainment for my guest. This is dumb because this guest, like most, does not need this from me.

An IM from my husband: he is going to be home late. He doesn’t know when. Yay! More good news.

where the weekend takes you

Dear Readers.

So much to tell, and no idea where to start. The family drama. The impromptu, packed-up-in-twenty-minutes roadtrip whereby I loaded up my oldest child in our truck and headed down to visit my brother for the weekend. The two days away from Husband and The Boy where my daughter and I were thick as thieves, staying up to 2 AM then sleeping in together, limbs wrapped around one another and hands tangled in one another’s hair. The sheer comedy of my daughter’s unconditional and expressive love toward my brother, who can be understated as standoffish (until you get to know him, anyway). At 11:30 PM on Saturday night, the two of them head into a local pizza parlour. She: peaches-and-cream complexion, blonde wispy hair, white sweater and kitten hat, and frilly skirt. Holding the hand of her Uncle Billy: sunglasses, long dark hair and beard, slight glower to his walk, and in his perennial thick dark wool peacoat (which he wears even on the hottest of summer days). They spent many an hour curled up on the couch (watching Nightmare Before Christmas and – Ralph was so pissed to hear this – Jurrassic Park). I think he’s still trying to resist her charms a little, but it isn’t really working.

I learned that it’s possible to have a vacation with a child. Of course, we’ve had the kids on vacation before. But I mean a vacation in the sense of: totally relaxing, responsibility-free, fun every single minute of the day. No back-breaking lifting of an 18-month-old squirming fiend. Caring for a child 100% potty-trained who also washes her own hands when she’s supposed to and can occasionally find her own food. No goddamn breastfeeding! [sigh!] Bliss for a couple days.

Unfortunately, The Boy is making up for his lost time without Mama. He seems to have grown an inch and converted yet more of his precious babyfat to sturdy muscle. He also can climb higher, scream louder, and eat more.

Three more weekdays to survive.