Turd

As I was making dinner tonight Older ran up to me waving a blank piece of paper with some urgency. “I need three pieces of paper. I looked and there was only one piece of paper left, but I really need three all together.” Okay then; I procured him some paper and went back to sauteing kale.

I long ago stopped asking Older what particular idea he has in mind when he requests paper or art supplies. He might make a mess, scattering so many tiny pieces of paper on the ground in the course of feeding his muse, that it looks like a freak snowstorm his our house, but he never really gets into any trouble. I expected to find the paper turned into some fanciful model but after he went to bed I found three short stories, printed in 2nd grade handwriting, lying on the floor. As someone who fancies herself a writer, my first thought was “Yea! A budding creative writer in our midst!” Then I read the stories. Verbatim:

Story #1: Once a boy hit a toilet. When the boy’s mom went poop the toiled reflushed. It covered her with poo and pee. Suddenly the poop came alive and started kissing her face. As you can imagine she got a lot of poop. Then they went away and everything was back to normal. The end.

Story #2: Once upon a time a boy named Jack licked his mama’s butt. His mama screamed and spanked him. But he blocked with his karate moves. Then he barfed on his mama. His mama fainted and then puked on Jack. Jack screamed and punched his mama in the face. The end.

Story #3: Once upon a time there lived a scientist who always asked why. One day in the park the flowers came alive and we are going to destroy your planet they said/ Whey he said. Because that is what we do they said. Why he said. Well we have to they said. Why he said. Well it um blech they barfed out all their insides right on the scientist. The end.

What the hell? I am partially amused at the never ending depths of potty humor that spring forth from the eight year old male specimen. I am pleased that there were minimal misspellings in his writings (he even spelled “a lot” properly, something many adults have not mastered). I am happy that he is writing. But I am also, quite frankly, kind of offended at the unfortunate predicament of the mother in two of these stories. A child psychologist would probably say something to the effect that it is a sign of Older’s secure attachment to me that he feels able to voice his negative feelings in this way. But still…I am miffed and a little bit pissed. I slave away for my kids. I spent tonight making homemade treats appropriate to my kids ancestry for “International Day” at their school tomorrow* and this is the thanks I get. I am totally out of my depth with parenting an eight year old boy. Is this just innocuous bathroom humor? Should I worry? Should I talk to him about it? Should I ignore it? Should I stuff my face with all the extra International Day treats in order to deal with my parenting stress? What do you think?

*Swedish Rye Cookies for Middle’s Class (Husband has some Swedish ancestry) and German Bretzeln (Pretzels) for Older’s Class (my ancestry).

Friend or Enemy?

I think my favorite book title of all time remains the child development classic Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy. Baby was VERY three today; sometimes acting like a sullen teenager, other times so sweet she makes me want three more kids. This morning there was a litany of complaints so long I was laughing on the inside. I try very hard not to show my amusement on the outside because A) Mean and B) That would only further enrage the beast. Her list of grievances this morning went something like this:

-I asked her if she wanted more breakfast.
-I told her she had to wear shoes when we went out.
-That it was winter and thus cold outside. For the record it was 45 degrees when we left the house, Baby was ensconced in a fleece jacket with a hood. Poor girl is going to be in for a nasty shock if we ever leave Southern California and she finds out what real winter feels like.
-The heater is does not instantaneously fill the car with heat.
-The heater might make the car too hot and burn her.
-That the Rose Parade was not happening at that very moment. In fact, not only was the parade not happening, but she could see as we drove down the street that the viewing stands were being disassembled. She did not approve.
-She couldn’t sit on my lap while I had my blood drawn this morning
-That we weren’t going to pick up Older and Middle from school. It was 10:00 am – they get done at 3:00.
-That the buckles on the shopping cart were broken and she might fall out.
-That it was cold in the grocery store.
-That it was “winding” (windy) outside. It was not in the slightest.
-That when we returned home Daddy would not be there and that we would thus be lonely; just us two girls and the cat.
-That our much loved neighbor had the gall to go to work and was not sitting in her driveway waiting for Baby to arrive home.
-I suggested that as it had been five hours since she used the bathroom she might want to give it a try.

Shockingly, she didn’t protest her nap at all and asked to be nursed and rest early this afternoon. She took a great nap and afterwards we snuggled under a blanket and ate 5 clementines between the two of us while we laughed and talked for half an hour. I made vegetable stock and had it simmering on the stove while she napped and she even commented that the house smelled “yummy” when she woke up and was excited to see all the delicious vegetables. She had morphed back into a perfect little dream child.

Tonight the pendulum swung back towards madness with bedtime protests to rival the fervor of a political dissident. It’s alright. I find this third time around, I am mostly enjoying three years old. Besides the title there is a lot to love about the “Friend or Enemy” book, foremost of which is their primary for suggestion for dealing with the frustrations of a tyrannical three year old: to send said three year old to preschool/daycare or to hire a babysitter. Because I am working I get to do just that a couple of days a week; and those two days allow me to truly enjoy my days with Baby – no matter how crazy she gets.

Thank You Tupperware

Back in the 80s my mom was a Tupperware lady (and she lived on diet Pepsi and she did aerobics – complete with brightly colored legwarmers and we watched Magnum P.I. religiously – we were totally 80s). Somehow being a Tupperware lady came with a library of recipes; collected I suppose so that the 80s housewife could make the perfect things to fit in all of her specialty Tupperware. As an aside, my favorite totally non-necessary, highly specialized Tupperware piece was the Velveeta keeper. As far as I know, there was not any specific “pretzel keeper” but, nonetheless, my mother loved to make an awesome soft pretzel recipe, courtesy of Tupperware. Today was a chilly rainy day and I didn’t really want anything fancy for dinner. Around 3:00 this afternoon I remembered the soft pretzels of my youth, broke out the recipe, and started a batch rising over the warm pilot light of my old gas stove. Tonight the girls and I feasted on just-out-of-the-oven pretzels and chili for dinner. It was quite satisfying. In the event that it’s rainy or cold where you are here’s the recipe from Tupperware to me to you:

Totally 80s Soft Pretzels

Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (equivalent to one envelope)
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
Large grained salt

Directions:

1) Pour water and milk a in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of water and let stand for 5 minutes.
2) Gently mix in remaining ingredients except egg white and Kosher salt until a thick dough is formed and knead for 5 – 10 minutes. Slight additions of flour or water may be necessary in order to come to the right consistency. (I use a stand mixer with a dough hook for this step.)
3) Form dough into a ball and set in mixing bowl. Set mixing bowl in a warm location covered by a towel.
4) Allow dough to rise until doubled in size (approximately 2 hours).
5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6) Roll out dough in sections 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
7) Cut dough into strips and form into shapes. Shapes can include traditional pretzels, braids, and letters. (I like to give each kid a pretzel in the shape of their first initial).
8) Place shaped dough onto uncreased cookie sheet.
9) Brush shapes with egg wash followed by a sprinkle of the large grained salt.
10) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top.

Note: Particularly good with honey butter, mustard, or cream cheese on the side.

Whacking the Weeds of 2014

There is a house in my neighborhood that I covet. It is a grand old craftsman, 4500 square feet, built in 1906. It is in a state of disrepair, to put it mildly. There is a blue tarp covering a significant portion of the roof and a furry coat of moss blankets many of the wood shingles. The front yard is a mishmash of bamboo stalks, upended flowerbed edging, and dead patches of grass. From outside, I can see the clutter that must permeate the inside of the house as every window sill seems to be lined with an assortment of old bottles and brick-a-brac. The large backyard, barely visible through a chain-link fence, must have been a lovely retreat once, with mature trees and brick pathways; now it is an overgrown tangle of trees that have woven together to create a space that is both a bit scary and completely enticing. I run past the big house several times a week trying to glean little bits of information about it, daydreaming of the owner coming outside and inviting me in to take a look (I bet the woodwork and built-ins are phenomenal). Much to my surprise, a few weeks ago I was running by the house and found the backyard cleared out. It must have taken many truckloads to strip away the years, but there the yard was, ready and waiting for something new.

I feel a bit as if that house is something of a metaphor for my life. The past couple of years of my life have been about clearing out the old and making room for the new. There was definitely a build-up mental detritus and I’ve worked hard to clear out the metaphorical weeds and cobwebs. The main reason I haven’t written here in months is that I have finally started on something new. I have been working, quite literally, nonstop since school started in late August: 1:00 to 2:00 am has become my new bedtime, as soon as the kids are in bed I am wedded to the computer, working, working, working. It’s been both satisfying and incredibly difficult. I think every day about writing but I haven’t been happy with writing so anonymously her nor have I come to any conclusions about how to be more open and pure. At the beginning of this new year, I have resolved to give up on the perfectionist fantasy of writing perfectly. It’s going to be messy, but messy is better than nothing at all. So let’s get the dump truck, clear out 2014, and see what next year brings?

I made five New Year’s resolutions last year. I love New Year’s resolutions; they really work for me to make positive change in my life. I am a ridiculously goal-oriented person and I get a little high off of a ruthlessly honest assessment of how I did. So without further adieu, a review of 2014:

*I shall not buy any desserts in 2014. This includes cake, cookies, ice cream, and candy. I can buy ingredients, but if it’s sweet and I want to eat it, I have to make it. One of the reasons I made this resolution was that because in the shit year that was 2013 it became very clear to me that I was treating my sadness with sugar. Now, as vices go sugar is pretty tame. That said, two desserts a day isn’t a recipe for long term health either. I did buy some desserts in 2014, but I probably made 80 to 90 of all the sweets I ate. As much as I love ice cream, I ate gallons less this past year. After consistently making my own ice cream (a delicious, but rather slow process) most-store bought ice cream simply doesn’t compare. I don’t really even want to buy ice cream any more. I also broke myself of my See’s candy habit (not that I will turn down a box if you send one my way – milk chocolate, if you please) but I respect it as a treat rather than a given in my life. I plan to stick with this attitude towards sweets in 2015 and hopefully for the rest of my life.

*I will stay in better contact with my far away, but much loved little brother. I think one of the difficult lessons of adulthood is that everything, absolutely everything in life is a phase; both the bad and the good. My brother and I were quite close growing up. The greatest thing about my brother is that he is a truly caring person and could always make me laugh; not an easy proposition. Now my brother lives 1500 miles away and has a life very different from my own. For many years, we’ve rarely spoken; not out of any animosity but out of the simple tragedy of growing apart. I know that we will never be able to as close as we were when we were kids, with bedrooms across the hall from one another; each others’ only friends as we moved time and time again during my childhood. But I don’t have to accept estrangement either. Neither of us are phone people, but I made an effort to text and Facebook him this year. I planned a family vacation and he came all the way from the Midwest to join our family, my parents, my sister and her girlfriend at Legoland. My kids got to know their uncle and now ask when they will see him again. In particular it was awesome to see Older, who has a quirky silly sense of humor, bond with my brother who is in many ways a big kid at heart. I am definitely going to keep our communication going and my mom and I are already planning family vacation 2015.

*I will run an official 5K race. One day in March I was out for a run; planning to go my regular 2.5 miles when I realized that as I neared the end of the run I wasn’t all that tired. Maybe it was the fabulous egg sandwich for breakfast, maybe it was inspiration, who knows, but I busted out a 5K with my personal best mile right on the spot. I was elated and realized that I didn’t need an official race to consider this one a success. The truth is I have no desire to wake up early – ever. I don’t want to pay for the “privilege” of going for a run in a big crowd of people when I much prefer to run by myself. Now I run a 5K, two to four times a week, every week, rain or shine. I’m not making any promises but I am mulling the idea of running my very own 10K race at some point. Husband even offered to make me a little “race” medal out of wood himself. This one was definitely a success.

*We will finish our house – all the little (and big) things that need fixing, all missing molding/trim, all the the repainting, EVERYTHING. It’s not world peace, but this past year I painted every single interior wall of the house. (And hired someone to paint the exterior). It. Feels. So. Damn. Good. Despite my love of old houses which are only one step more put together than ruins, I am basking in the joy of living in a house where I don’t feel a constant need to do something. We also very nearly made a big move this past summer and one of the more minor yet important reasons that we didn’t move was that I could barely stand the idea of all the work and stress it would take to get the house ready to sell so quickly and the idea of never having lived in finished house. We have a few more important things to finish on the house (electrical is really out of my scope) but for the most part our house is show-ready and it feels phenomenal.

*I will write, creatively, every day. This resolution was a spectacular failure. I set myself a trap by setting a goal of every day; it was far too ambitious and rather than do it halfway I didn’t do it at all. I also failed to anticipate just how busy I would be in the fall semester. I didn’t have enough time for exercise or sleep, much less writing. I do, however, absolutely feel that there is something missing in my life without writing. So I suppose despite my utter failure to write, this resolution was useful in that it made me realize just how important writing is to me.

It’s January 1st today, and I feel like I should have my 2015 all perfectly formulated and ready to go, but *deep breath* they’re not ready yet and I know I have a much better chance of succeeding if I take the time to make the resolutions specific and meaningful. So stay tuned…I promise that one of them will be writing here on a regular basis.

Did you have any resolutions for 2014? How did they go for you?

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