accomplishments that are worth a damn to ME anyway

Tonight I brought the following dinner to a friend who recently had a baby:

  • Chicken salad
  • (chicken marinated in lemon juice, soy, rice vinegar, and sugar, then broiled)
    red-leaf lettuce, cucumber, carrot, baby corn
    sweet sesame dressing

  • Cold sesame noodles
  • Peanut sauce
  • Rooster sauce
  • Satsuma mandarins
  • Two-layer cake with chocolate frosting (my friend’s favorite), all from scratch.

I also made marshmallows and sewed hats.

And no, I don’t work my ass off nor have a messy home nor a rigorously clean one. Nor do I use TV to “babysit” while I do these various activities. I do however have a relatively ordered home, a joy in learning how to care for it, a husband who participates in housecleaning, and children who (more or less) know how to entertain themselves or even assist me in the sewing room or kitchen.

I have found my groove in life, again.

buns in the oven

I have discovered recently that I am an overbaker. It comes by naturally – my mom is, too. I’m not sure if my dad or brother ever baked anything but I’m sure if they did, it was crumbly and dry. Never soft, chewy cookies in our household – always the crispy ones which are still better than No Cookies so we made do (did you know cookies should be taken out of the oven while they still look wet?). I have this fear of baking something with a gooey middle, but then I realize it has never happened in my life except that one time at the Farm when the gas oven assed-out on me. So the possibility enters my mind I need to take things out of the oven sooner.

So today I am making a Quick Plain Cake coupled with a rather fancy frosting – the “Best Chocolate Frosting” from Pasta & Co. Coupled on top of my efforts regarding overbaking I have managed to make the moronic error of putting too much flour in the batter, resulting in THREE cakes now cooling on my windowsill. The cake was originally intended for a friend whose dinner we are providing tomorrow; now I have two additional portions to attend to.

As I type this my son is climbing all over me me. He’s wearing nothing but his sister’s “Friday” panties, a drawn-on goatee he supplied himself with, and a smile.

np – Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” which I really can’t help but like. One of those overplayed songs that somehow hasn’t lost the charm for me.

"I carried a watermelon"

My movie night went well.

Nothing like a little 80’s beefcake and very, very cheesy (yet fun) film. Everyone brought lots of great Mexican food, beer, wine, etc.

In honor the Mexican potluck thing, I also made these (only very marginally are they “Mexican”):

Pumpkin Enchiladas

1 ~4 lb. sugar pumpkin
2 cups sour cream
3 cups shredded gouda (divided, 2 cups and 1 cup)
2 jalapenos, ribbed, seeded, and minced
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon masa harina flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cans red enchilada sauce
20 corn tortillas
oil for frying

Preheat oven to 425. Wash pumpkin. Cut into large wedges, scrape out sides. Roast skin-sides down for about 40 minutes. Take out, allow to cool.

Meanwhile, saute garlic in butter. Add masa harina and stir until thickened. Add sour cream and 2 cups of gouda. Stir until all is melted. Set aside.

Take pumpkin and peel off skins, put flesh in food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Mix with salt and jalapenos, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Wet bottom of large baking pan with some sauce. Soften tortillas in oil (one at a time). Put about 2 tablespoons pumpkin mix and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese roux in each. Roll and place seam-side down. Pour sauce over and top with.

Bake 40 minutes, covered. Allow to set for 5 minutes; serve.

domestic interludes

Today I woke up in worse shape than I was two days ago. My throat, my sinuses – congested, scratchy, ill. Yuck. This morning at least I am blessed with plenty of sleep and no hangover. At 7:30 I slide out of bed (kids still sleeping) and head to the kitchen. Start coffee for my husband and I and some breakfast for my kids to warm in the oven (they wake up voraciously hungry and a proactive breakfast is something I can throw at them in self defense, like jars of peanut butter at voracious doberman shepherds from some movie I saw once).

About 8 o’clock after Ralph has left and I’ve caught up on email and am contemplating sitting down and resting (I’ve done the math and I believe I do this about every 2.6 days) when I hear whispers from the hallway – Sophie coaxing Nels about something. I open the door to their bedroom to see my children, tousle-haired, pj’d, asking for Mama. I know the drill. I take my coffee and put it on the coffee table; sit on the couch. Nels crawls up on my left side, Sophie furnishes the blanket and tucks herself on my right. The three of us sit there quietly for minutes. I stroke their backs and the length of their strong, sturdy little legs; their little hands pet me. The smell on the top of Nels’ head is something lovely and indefinable. It is part shampoo, part health, part sleep, part uniquely and wondrously my Son.

I realize as I sit there with them that I have some sort of precious commodity. I have a treasure that I did not altogether ask for, nor did I quite win like a lottery. It isn’t the only treasure in the world nor the most glamorous. I do not deserve it entirely, based on merit, but many others (more deserving?) do not have what I have. These creatures curled up on my lap depend on me, love me, and are forever connected to me. Nothing could break the programming within them that causes them to find my arms, my voice, my smell to be the most Home they could ever hope to find.

A couple hours later and I’m home doing dishes by myself. My daughter is at school; my son with Abbi who is watching him for me as I take a more restful morning than I would normally have. In this way too I am fortunate, benefiting from friends who are also raising their young children. Abbi and I are sometimes like dual wives; daily bringing food, clothing, children’s books and knitware back and forth to one another. Just a phone call away from help, commiseration.

Tonight for dinner: Beef-in-Guinness (courtesy of a lovely brisket from Sunny Farms*), potatoes, cabbage, and carrots. We are sharing our meal with a friend and her daughter. Home-cooking and loved ones all around.

* This website cheerily claims, “a row of registers along the front of the store helps keep customer wait time to a minimum” – what they don’t tell you is that there is no frakin’ room to wheel your cart, and that several of your fellow cart-using customers will glare at YOU as if this is your fault. It’s the weirdest vibe.

another blessing: grandparents

This morning my parents, the dog Tuck, Nels and I walk Sophie to school. My son is sedate and measured in his walk – unlike his usual spastic running. The sun shines through the apple tree at my neighbors and my dad fetches my son an apple which he holds but won’t eat yet. After we get home I do the breakfast dishes. My mom and I are planning to do some canning (with the tongs, rack, and pot my father so sweetly bought me) so I’m getting my kitchen ready while my mom makes up a grocery list for my father. I ask my dad to take Nels to the store with him; he flat-out refuses. “He’d love to go!” I suggest. “No,” my dad flatly shakes his head. I head back into the kitchen and mutter, “They say it takes a village…” and my mom finishes, “Yeah, a village of girls.”

Soon my mom and I are in the kitchen, canning tomatoes from her garden and listening to “The Best of The Ronettes” while Nels totally fakes it as if he is perennially the Perfect Child – blissfully petting the cat up on the attic bed, putting his boots off and on, holding make-believe with his toys calmly in the corner, putting my buttons back in their glass jar after sorting them (I can only surmise he is keeping his image up for Grandma). Soon there are five pints of tomatoes on my counter and it’s time to get my daughter from school. Out to the beach where we have sandwiches and pickles and my kids run on the beach with their grandfather walking behind.

We get home to naps and some sewing on Nels’ Halloween costumes. Tonight we’ll be barbecuing dinner out at the beach with my folks, then Ralph and I get to have a date together.

can you tell me why you have been so sad?

Today was the most brilliant wakeup in so long. All four of us in bed; sunlight filtering in. The Girl scooting up to her brother and kissing him on the mouth: “I love you, Nels.” Everyone waking up cozy, warm, and loved. These are moments in your life you will never have the same again.

After story time at the library, I had four girlfriends over with their babies (all girls!). We ladies are coming out of our winter hibernation. In catching up I can’t believe how much everyone’s lives are in flux. Pregnant, cranky and nervous; workaholic husbands, marriage trouble, friendships strained. To look at us from the outside we seem so boring. But there’s so much going on. Ralph came home for lunch to a roomful of 9 females (Nels was asleep in his room). He took it in stride.

Big date night for The Girl and I. First: sushi with Sindee and Julie. Edamame and rice for the wee one. Then some window shopping; a steamed milk; a carousel ride; and to the movie (Robots – great voice talent, little else to offer).

My life is full of love and I want to hold it in my heart.

you were the mother of three girls so sweet

who stormed through your turnstile and climbed to the street
but after conception your body lay cold
and withered through autumn and you found yourself old

can you tell me why you have been so(sad)

he took a lover on a faraway beach
while you arranged flowers and chose color schemes

can you tell me why you have been so sad?
can you tell me why you have been so sad?

the girls were all there
they traded their vows
the youngest one glared with furrowed brows
they tenderly kissed then cut the cake
the bride then tripped and broke the vase
the one you thought would spend the years
so perfectly placed below the mirror
arriving late you clean the debris
and walked into the angry scene

it felt just like falling in love again
and it felt just like falling in love again

can you tell me why you have been so sad?
can you tell me why you have been so…

guilty pleasures, then & now

Current crutches:
avocado, egg, and cheese breakfast sangich at On Common Grounds
Twin Peaks (only at the end of Season One, so no spoilers!)
dynamite roll at Sentosa (or, “Satan’s Middle Finger Roll” due to hot sauce)
red wine (a perennial for myself)
pinching my children’s bottoms (sooooooo nice)

Fallen out of vogue:
cigarettes (so last week)
chocolate (only while Jodi was here)
breves (only with Abbi)

two wives, three kids, and a bun in the oven

So starts the first morning of a new partnership. For a week it will be Jodi and I corralling our three little ones and she’s knocked up to boot. Things are going well so far. The two girls are ecstatic to have a playmate their own age and are still high off the fun of a new friendship. Sophie is alternately bossy and helpful to the littler girl, much more scattered than usual and less of a help to Mama. Cyan is a willing accomplice.

The Man leaves for work a few minutes late at quarter to eight, toothbrush poking out of his mouth. Then it’s on to Jodi and I to get ready for the day. Changing diapers. Helping with the potty. Putting hair up. Dressing three kids. I get my brood ready and Jodi and her girl are at the table for breakfast #2. Michelle arrives to help with housework while we’re out, so I let her have care of my children for my 15 minutes to myself. I step into the shower and experience a few wonderful minutes of washing my face, scrubbing my scalp. The hiss and splash of the water obfuscates whatever the hell is going on out in the living room. By the time I am dressed and my hair dry Paige is here too. It’s time to go. The ratio of four adults to three kids allows us to get carseats, kids, diaperbags, etc all loaded up in the car in a timely fashion.

Stop at the husband’s work to pick up some cash. Drive through for coffee. Head to playschool. Kids run around; parents steal an hour for “class” in the next room. Normal chit-chat: how to get our kids to eat, unfairness along gender lines of parenting, sex (or lack thereof). There are two husbands there and they valiantly stick up for “their side” of the whole mess. Three of the women at the table are pregnant. All of us are looking for a safe place and strength in numbers. We head back to the kids’ room and sing, pack everyone up, head home.

Groceries and then home for lunch: sandwiches, pickles, carrot sticks, tomato soup, milk. Kids are winding down; lunch is cleaned up; children are changed, nursed, soothed, read to.

I figure Jodi and I have twenty minutes to talk with no distractions before it’s time to get back to work – wash diapers, do laundry, figure out dinner, do dishes, and get our kids to the grocery store again before heading home to cook. Foreseeing this brief respite we have stocked up on good coffee and some bistro cookies (carefully hidden from the kids).

Time to enjoy a break.