Thursday, October 28, 2010

pre-travel crazies, a list

I am planning to embark on a road trip with my kids, leaving this afternoon if I get everything done, which includes laundry, laundry, laundry, meticulous packing, and some clean-up. You'd think having the whole morning at home to do this would give me plenty of time, but you'd be wrong. I get the crazies when I'm getting read to leave for a trip. Stuart isn't coming with us this time (though he will join us later), but when he does it's twice as bad because on top of all that other stuff I have to make sure there's nothing left to fester in the fridge and wash every last this time I'm relieved of that. Still, I go berserk with details and tend to obsess over things that are completely irrelevant to the impending trip like organizing a shelf in the closet of the guest room or cleaning off the computer desk or scrubbing this one corner of the kitchen floor that is suddenly bugging the beans out of me.

So now here, because I have to wait for our eternally slow dryer anyway, I present to you a list of my pre-travel crazies for the day:

1. The basement. Specifically, the contractor will in all likelihood get started while we're gone. Step1 is excavating for egress windows and cutting them out of concrete block, which means the area around those windows needs to be clear. We had it almost all taken care of except for one card table full of my random crafting stuff and a smattering of high school memorabilia that my parents brought with them on their last trip up here. Instead of just moving it all over, I HAD to go through and organize all of it. This morning.

2. Bread. We're just about out, and I need to make more. Is Stuart capable of making bread? Oh yes, he makes excellent ciabatta. But I might want some to make PBJ for the road. So I have to make more.

3. Packing. I am so incredibly meticulous about packing. I make a list several days ahead of time so I don't forget anything important (and I usually do anyway, but as long as I remember my music for the concert and my glasses, I'll be okay this time). It just takes forever.

4. Also, Daniel gets really excited about packing, so he likes to pack his own suitcase. There are many problems with this. First, he picked the one suitcase that Stuart needs to use for his work travel while we're gone, the only one small enough to fit in the carry-on thingie on the plane. So I need to convince Daniel to use a different suitcase (not an easy thing, I assure you.) Then there's the problem of what he decides to pack. About an hour ago he emptied his whole drawer of summer t-shirts and PJs int the suitcase, which more or less filled it up, so there is no room left for long pants or underwear or any of the things we actually need to take along. He also develops a long list of toys and gadgets he'd like to bring along, even though they are unnecessary and we don't have room. What happens in the end is that I put away all the stuff he packed and re-pack what he actually needs to have along. Bless his heart, he just gets so excited about the whole process.

5. Anya - spills her snack alll over her clothes and has to change them 3 times and insists on wearing underwear even though she's totally not ready, and pees on the floor...

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

milk jug skeleton

The kids and I spent a good part of Thursday afternoon making this:

Actually, I did nearly all the work, since it involved cutting up milk jugs with a utility knife, poking holes with an ice pick, and fastening everything together with twisty ties, all things too dangerous or too complicated for small children to do themselves. But the kids, Daniel especially, enjoyed watching the process. Afterwards, I told my mom about it on the phone.

Me: We made a skeleton out of milk jugs to hang on the porch.
Mom: Is it realistic?
Me: Well, it's not entirely anatomically correct. I mean, medical schools won't be knocking on my door any time soon to use this in their classes or anything, but it's close enough that you know what it is.
Mom: Does Daniel even know what a skeleton is?
Me: I'm not sure. I think maybe he knows what bones are.
Mom: Does he know that a skeleton is what you see when someone dies and their flesh decomposes and decays and all that's left is their bones? You're not going to tell him that, right???
Me: Uh, no....I was thinking of just telling him about x-rays. I think that's good enough for now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Right now my children are naked. They do this at least two or three times per day - just take off their clothes for a little while and carry about their business as usual. Dare I say it's become routine?

For instance, every morning after breakfast, without fail, one of them will disappear, the other one not far behind (har) and within thirty seconds, they come running back into the kitchen without a stitch on, squealing "TWO NAKED KIDS!!" and then they chase each other around the house. This happens in the evening after supper, too, and occasionally in the afternoon if we're home long enough for them to get bored. Oddly enough, they're nicer to each other this way. Just now, for example, they started fighting over a toy truck and I hollered "You guys better get along or I'll make you get dressed!" and magically, the whining stopped.

What is so appealing about hanging around in the buff? I don't understand it, really. The novelty of it should have worn off by now, since this has been going on for months already. And it's not like it's particularly warm here, with everyone wearing wool socks and jackets outside.

I don't care so much, as long as no one sits on the couch (butt germs, yo) or pees on the floor. (With Anya, this is a significant risk, though she's more likely to use the potty if she's not wearing anything so it's sort of a tough call.) After all, we are in the privacy of our own home, and if my kids get their naked fun here, they're less likely to take their clothes off in the grocery store, say, or the park. And it's good to know that for the time being, they are happy and comfortable with themselves and their bodies without being too self-conscious.

When you live in a small house with only one bathroom, there's not a whole lot of privacy to begin with. Someone's brushing their teeth while someone else is in the shower and before you know it, the boy needs to take a crap, so what can you do? Truthfully, considering the traffic jam in the bathroom every morning, I'm okay with Anya not being toilet trained yet, since that would just complicate things further. In a few months, when the basement is finished (and the bank account is empty) we'll have another bathroom. We'll also have carpet downstairs (not in the bathroom, of course, but everywhere else), so come to think of it, I hope the naked phase is over by then.

Monday, October 18, 2010

today's links

I'm a lazy, lazy blogger, but I read all this stuff today while Anya was taking a rare nap (she's sick with a cold and needed it) and I think you should read it, too.

1. If you think you don't believe in Obamacare, read this.

2. As if the humanities weren't marginalized enough already (longer post on this later, if I can muster up the energy for it), read this debate about SUNY Albany's program cuts in the New York Times.

3. And finally, on a personal note, get some tissues and go to Jessi's blog for her tribute to Ethan's would-be 7th birthday. It's just beautiful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

random on a Saturday

1. Thanks, all, for your supportive comments the other day. I do get fed up from time to time, and when I've got other stress on top of that, it just makes my fuse short(er). A night of sleep (not a full night of sleep, mind you, seeing as I haven't slept a whole night since before Daniel was born) acts like a restart button. Friday was much better. Today, too.

2. I found a dead mouse in the basement this morning. It was utterly horrifying, especially since the vile little carcass was right next to a bag of apples I was going to get to make applesauce. Maybe the mouse was trying to get to the apples and suffocated on the plastic bag, I don't know. In any case, none of the apples had been nibbled on, so I washed them thoroughly and went ahead with the applesauce. I asked Stuart to dispose of the body, though. I just can't handle mice, dead or alive.

3. In case you haven't noticed, midterm elections are nearly upon us. I try to be conscientious about voting and not miss any elections, even those smaller ones that don't seem to matter much (even though they really DO matter!). This time around, I'll be in Kentucky with the kids to visit my folks, which means I'll have to request an absentee ballot. I have never done this before! I have to admit, I'll kind of miss the feeling of walking the kids to the polling place and doing the whole process. Either way, I suppose I'm doing my duty as a citizen.

4. I have been an idiot with parking tickets lately. The other day I got a ticket for facing the wrong way while parking on the street (it's right before the street turns into a one-way, so there's no way there could be opposing traffic, and I've parked there many times with no incident.) The first time I went to the new Children's Museum downtown, I didn't realize you were supposed to pre-pay in the lot, so I paid on my way out and THEN discovered a $12 ticket in the windshield, which means in the end I overpaid even for the parking ticket. It's such a stupid way to part with money, parking tickets.

5. Happy, happy news: my little brother is getting married! This deserves its own post really, but at this point I don't have much to say about it except HOORAY!! Wish him and MJ your congrats, would you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

brutal honesty

I am here right now to tell you that there are times that parenting truly sucks. I'm not talking about the times when your kid is having a hard time or is sick and really needs you. I'm talking about the times when your kid/s treat you like crap no matter how hard you've tried and make sure you feel like less than dirt for some trivial reason. Tonight, it was the grilled cheese. I won't go into details, but in Daniel's world I messed up, and I just had had one too many times of being screamed at for no good reason and I kind of snapped. I walked out of the house - barefoot - and around the block to cool off, and I'm still having a hard time answering anyone without descending into a rampage about how at least illegal immigrants are paid a pittance for the work I do, whereas I am paid zero. I know that's not fair. I know I'm being unreasonable. I know my kids don't know better and I should just dig deeper into my reserves of patience (which are currently empty, obviously) and be a better person and better mother and give them the attention they so wholly deserve. But right now I just can't.

Go ahead. Judge me. But if you dare tell me how much worse it's going to be in ten years when they're teenagers, I guarantee you'll be sorry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I realize the blog has been quiet for a little while, but seriously, there is not much interesting to say over here. We're having astonishingly beautiful weather, so the kids and I have been soaking up all the sunshine we can before the cold and gloom set in. We've had multiple sessions of apple-picking and pumpkin-carving, and just this morning the trees in our yard suddenly started dumping their leaves, so soon we'll have leaf-raking and leaf-pile-jumping as well. Daniel is absolutely loving preschool, and Anya wants so badly to go, too, but until she potty trains, she can't be enrolled.

The whole month of October I've had a hard time getting ahead of what needs to be done. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and it just feels like everything gets half-done if at all, and it's frustrating. A lot of this, frankly, is housework and laundry, stuff that is so very tedious to talk about, but really is important because, you know, I live here and I can't stand the mess. I don't mind a little disorganization, actually, but too much mess makes me feel stressed out. The problem is that everything else (like the kids and piano stuff, obviously) takes priority over things like pick-up and vacuuming, so the house just isn't clean. Hiring a sitter wouldn't help because everything I need to do - i.e. practicing and housework - needs to happen at homeand even with a sitter they'd still be underfoot. Keep in mind they haven't even started the basement work yet, so it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday Five - favorite fall food edition

October. It's really fall now. It's dark more than it's light, the leaves are turning colors and piling in the street, I've put away the kids' summer shorts for good now (I think), there is much discussion around here of jack-o-lanterns and Halloween costumes, my knitting needles can't keep up with all the projects I want to do (well, that's usually the case anyway!), and the supply of fresh vegetables is rapidly declining. This year a warm spring and wet summer made everything ripen about two weeks early, which means everything is done two weeks earlier than usual in the fall. Frost predicted for this weekend means that tomorrow's market is surely the last opportunity I'll have to stock up on tomatoes for sauce. I also plan to take the kids apple picking this morning while the weather is mild and there are plentiful apples to pick.

Late summer and early fall are, in my opinion, the best for local eating. Before the first frost, there is an abundance in our CSA box and at the farmers' markets. I don't can, but we have a chest freezer in the basement, so it's possible to eat local produce, if not exclusively, for at least most of the year. And because I spend quite a lot of my time thinking about and preparing food for my family, here's a list of five fall foods we've been enjoying of late:

1. Corn on the cob. Until there's a hard freeze, you can get fresh corn in Wisconsin at the markets. In fact, the cool nights late in the season make the corn sweeter. My kids love corn on the cob, especially Anya, whose favorite thing lately is to sit on the porch and peel it "like a banana!"

2. Apples, apples, apples.

Oh, how I love apples. I love that there are a zillion varieties to suit everyone's taste. My favorites are the ones that are crisp and somewhat tart, like Jonafree and Honeycrisp. I love that you can go apple picking and fill a whole bag in just a few minutes. I love to make applesauce and eat it for dinner with potatoes fried with cabbage (and occasionally spicy sausage), or for breakfast on top of pancakes with whipped cream. And there's nothing cozier in the evening than a mug of warm apple cider with a cinnamon stick.

3. Tomato sauce.

I know tomatoes are really considered a summer fruit (or vegetable, whichever way you look at it) but up here they don't really get going until the middle of August or later. I bought them by the huge bagload through the month of September and made lots of sauce. Some we ate with fresh noodles, some we made into tomato soup, some went on pizza, and a lot went into the freezer.

4. Pumpkin spice cupcakes. It's rare that I make pumpkin spice anything, to tell you the truth, but this week after some festive jack-o-lantern carving with new friends in the neighborhood, we accidentally brought home a little pie pumpkin that never got carved. So I sliced it in half and baked it and scraped out the flesh and purréed that in the blender and then flipped through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes until I found a pumpkin recipe to try. I added chocolate chips and left off the frosting, and they were pretty good. The kids sure inhaled them!

They like jack-o-lanterns, too. These pictures are actually from a couple of weeks ago; we got started on Halloween early this year.

5. Squash soup. But it's got to be made right, with a little sweet, a little spicy, but not too much of either. One recipe I use a lot calls for carrots, onions, squash, broth, some yogurt and a touch of maple syrup. I usually throw in a bit of ginger, too.

What about you? What are your favorite fall foods?