Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This is sort of a wedding anniversary post

Yesterday was mine and my husband's seventh anniversary.

We marked the occasion by me forcing him to clean the kitchen because I was too tired, which may or may not have been because I stayed up too late the night before 'celebrating' and by that I mean watching "Hemlock Grove" and drinking two glasses of Christopher's homemade hard apple cider that is a little surprising in its potency - every time I drink it.


Or maybe I was too tired because I'd done 45 minutes on the elliptical machine at the gym, followed by 45 minutes on the stationary bike with the full leg press addition.  I'd say it was because I was dedicated (which I am, really) but I think it was mainly because I wanted to finish the second part of two-part "Doctor Who" episode.

I mean - aliens that dress up in human form and pass gas and laugh a lot?  WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?

So anyway, we also marked the occasion by me taking the ipod away from Sebastian for three days on account of the tremendous fit he threw because I allowed him to choose whether to play on the computer for 30 minutes or watch a show and he choose the computer but then thought I'd just let him watch the show anyway, which I wouldn't.  So I was forced to listen to the tantrum drag on and drag on and so I locked him in our (large, expansive) playroom just so he wouldn't wake up his sister, who was napping at the time.  I wanted to send him to his room but he told me he'd just be loud when he went up there and wake Adele up.


I'm hoping today goes a little better.  Already it has.  I stayed home from the gym today because I think both Adele and I are sick.  She's stuffed up and extra cranky when she doesn't get her way and I've got a sore throat.  We are a magical bunch, no?

Instead I took Adele to Kroger after I dropped Sebastian off at school because I needed something for supper and they had one of those little carts that kids can push around and I think it might be the best invention ever.  She refuses to actually sit in a cart because anything that would make my life easier is obviously in opposition to her Life Plan.  So I saw the little cart and thought - why not?  It couldn't actually be worse than me chasing her throughout the store.  (If you're in Target and hear 'Adele? Adele!  Adele!  I'm over here! Stay with me!  Get back here!  Come here!  Adele!' then that's me.  If you see my kid send her my way.)

And it worked.  She stayed right with me and wouldn't let me touch the cart at all.  "I push!  I push!" she said.  She only put a couple of things in the cart - including a bag of goldfish that I let her keep because I was feeling generous.  She even put all of the things on the belt for the cashier to ring up, except for the bag of flour that I didn't want to have to clean up off the floor because we all know it would have fallen and spilled everywhere and then she would have stomped in it and picked it up by the handfuls and thrown it in my face.

So we did well.  And she didn't even fight the car seat, which these days is hit or miss.  You have to let her buckle the top part herself.  Sometimes when she's feeling feisty she half buckles it, then takes it apart and looks at you like "Ha ha!  See what I did?  You want me to buckle it, don't you?  Well, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.... Tricked you again!  You're so gullible, Mom!" multiple times until I forcefully buckle it myself and then she screams and spits and screams some more and my shoulders reach up and up and up until they're almost at my ears, trying to block out the sound.

But not today.  So far.

I realize it's only 10 in the morning, but I'm hopeful.

So back to our anniversary.  We said "Happy Anniversary" a few times and when he came home from work he took the kids away to hike around a bit and look at some ducks while I recuperated from the exhausting day.  And then he gave them a bath when they got home.  And then he cleaned up the kitchen and vacuumed.

Guys.  That's what being together so long does to you.

And it's absolutely perfect.

(I gave him a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.  You are so welcome, Christopher!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Homemade Friday: Mozzarella straight from the cow. Almost.

My sister, Courtney has a cow.
No, I mean a real cow.  Like a milk cow.  That she milks every morning.

This may be humorous to those of you who knew her, who remember her saying that she was going to only have one child and live in the city and be an actress. 

Those days were a long time ago.  She has three kids, a couple of step kids, and she lives in the country.  With a cow.  And chickens.  And dogs.  And a horse.  And I suspect that she only said she wanted one child because her younger sister had a tendency to read her journal.  Also - can't we all say that some point we wanted to be an actor?

So, this is who my sister is now.  And I love it.  She gets up in the morning and milks a cow.  And I get to benefit from it.


That's three gallons of milk.  Fresh milk.  The hipster in me is completely delighted at all the stuff I can make with Whole! Fresh! Milk!

First off was mozzarella. 

We have pizza every Friday - homemade pizza with homemade dough and sauce.  And while I can't make the pepperoni myself -yet - I thought it would be super neat to make my own cheese.  Plus we're trying to save money and I spend $8 for a big bag of Wal-mart brand cheese that doesn't last as long as you'd think.  Or maybe I just use too much cheese.  What can I say.  I like cheese.  It runs in the family.  Just ask my mom.

So my sister gave me a ton of milk and cheese making supplies because she's awesome.

Her instructions came from The Cheese Queen.  And they were simple.  Sort of.

The first few steps are completely easy.  You put diluted citric acid in a pot with a gallon of milk and heat it up to 90 degrees, then add the rennet and let it sit for five minutes.  Then cut the curd and heat it up again to 105, take it off the heat and stir it for a few minutes.

And here's where I started having problems.

I drained off the whey and microwaved the curds, but once I tried to knead the curds, they were so hot that I couldn't touch them.  And then I repeated the process.  And then again.  I have no pictures of this because I was too busy trying to administer first aid to my scorched fingertips.

At one point I had the cheese exactly like it was supposed to be - silky and smooth and even touchable without raging burns.  But then I realized that I'd forgotten to put the salt in.  So I sprinkled it on and kneaded it in, and my cheese turned hard and rubbery and the salt wasn't worked in enough so some spots were super salty while others were bland.

I was so sad.

I tried again another day with better results - and rubber gloves.  But even though I put the salt in right where I was supposed to and didn't overwork the cheese nearly as much before it still was too hard and too bland.

However in spite of the disappointing cheese, once it was melted on the pizza it still tasted good.  And I'm not discouraged.  If anything I'm even more excited and determined to do it the right way.

See? It runs in the family.

I used the rest of the milk for ice cream - dark chocolate, vanilla and strawberry - so I need to visit my sister and steal some more.

I think I'm almost giddy with this whole process.  I mean, think of what else you can make with fresh milk!  Cream cheese!  Butter! Sour Cream! Buttermilk! EVEN MORE CHEESE AND ICE CREAM!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Doctor Who comes to call. At the gym.

So I've started watching Doctor Who.

I guess that puts me in the dorky-but-totally-cool 'in' crowd, right?

I usually spend my cardio time at the gym listening to an audiobook I download from the library, but as I wait ever so long for the next Harry Potter book to become available I've been making do with books that don't even come close to sparking the kind of interest that Mr. Potter and all the Wizards do.

I know, I'm a little late to the whole Harry Potter Craze, but at least I'm here now.  Don't judge me.  I spent most of that time when I could have been enjoying learning about Quiddich and Muggles turning down my nose at THOSE BOOKS and considering them to be beneath my "I only read literature' persona that I'd convinced myself was true.

I was an absolute joy, of course.

It's hard work being this alternative. 
Note the battered guitar case, the long
denim shirt, the little makeup ...
Actually, it's not that I didn't read other books that weren't assigned by my English professors - I did.  It's just that for many of my younger years I thought that the only right way to be was outside of the status quo.  I wasn't going to read those intensely popular books precisely because they were popular.  The same thing applied to other aspects of my life - I didn't like popular music.  Or I didn't want anyone to know that I liked some popular music.  Whenever I was driving and heard the song "Livin' La Vida Loca" (oh - you know you can still sing all the words) I would listen to it and sing along, but also be terrified that I would crash and the people who came to help me would hear that song playing on the radio and judge me and find me incredibly unhip.  It was always a bit of a relief when the song was over and I could switch the station back to something I considered subversive and cool.  Like classic rock.

My teenage years were mentally exhausting.

I couldn't find the senior portrait I wanted, which was black
and white and included a black turtleneck and an old
camera, so I'm giving you this self-portrait instead. Laugh
amongst yourselves.
So I never read the Potter books, until now.  And I love them.  I'm completely hooked.  I'll listen to them with one headphone in my ear while I clean and take care of my children - half listening to whatever they are mumbling on about.  (But not really - my kids talk nonstop.  I have to tune some of it out.)

I'll listen to them when I'm trying to force Adele to take a nap by rocking her to sleep because we all know that if she doesn't take a nap then the afternoon will go to hell in the form of yelling and spitting of food and kicking.  Thus the books keep me distracted and calm.  We all win.

And most enjoyable of all - I listen to the books at the gym.  But because of a weird glitch I've been waiting an extra long time for The Order of the Phoenix.

And it's horrible, the waiting.  It's filled with depressing books that I have to stop a third of the way in because I'm trying to use them to get me energized to exercise, and listening to a story about a woman who has lost all of her family and is about to be swindled by some stranger is not my idea of energizing.  And then there's the cliche-filled book about wives getting even with their husbands for cheating - which I thought would be light and funny but in the end became annoying and just plain boring.

And so I've given up the books for now - until the next Harry Potter one, of course.

I'm much less annoyed and don't roll my eyes anymore while I'm working out, which can be a little disconcerting to see someone do multiple times in the gym, I'm assuming.  They probably think I'm having a seizure, much like the time another mother told the daycare workers that they thought Adele was having a seizure because she crossed her eyes.  (Did I tell you that story?  If I didn't then let me assure you that there was no seizure.  She just crossed her eyes.  The end.)

I don't know why I didn't think of watching Netflix on my phone before now.  It seems like the perfect solution.  I've often thought that if there was just something interesting on television at the gym my workout would be much easier.  Because there's only so much Fox News that I can handle watching - evening if I'm not listening to it.  I can just tell by their facial expressions that they are being extremely biased assholes.  (Yes, I totally see the irony in me being a biased asshole by putting down all of Fox News.  But COME ON.  They allowed Glen Beck to happen.)

So back to Doctor Who.  Remember when I brought it up many, many words ago?  I've been hearing a lot about it in the last couple of years.  So I thought, why not?  And I like it.  I don't love it yet, but I'm only three shows in so I have faith that our relationship will blossom and I will finally be a part of the group.  It's like, now everything is ironic and what's dorky is dorky in the best way possible.

The Doctor
We can all embrace ourselves and our love of science fiction without everyone thinking we live in our parents' basement and eat pizza and stare at a computer screen playing World of Warcraft into all hours of the night.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Guys.  I'm finally cool for not being cool.

It's what I've waited my whole life for.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Motherhood and more: Weighing the workforce*

I’ve been contemplating going back to work.

Well, sort of. I mean, I want to. I do. Kind of. My kids are growing older. My son will start kindergarten in the fall, and my daughter will be old enough to start preschool.

It seems a good time to start looking. I like the idea of doing something, using my mind for more than worrying about my kids eating enough vegetables, contributing to the household funds, and in turn being able to go out to eat on occasion or buy a dress without feeling that I’m taking money away from my kids’ vegetable fund.

No, they don’t actually have a vegetable fund. But sometimes you need a pretty dress at the expense of a good grocery trip, you know?

(I’m joking.)

But, man. We’re coming up on summer, which is the best time to be a stay-at-home mom. We can spend all of our time outside playing in the little pool, making smoothies and digging in the dirt. We can ride bikes and grow tomatoes and blow bubbles.

Winters are hard because I’m not the best at playing and when we’re inside they both look to me to entertain them. Well, me or the Ipod, which they continuously fight over. And I spend a lot of time arguing with my son to wear actual long pants when it’s 10 degrees outside. And I fight with my daughter to stay inside when she isn’t wearing shoes or a coat or pants when it’s 10 degrees outside.

And then I fight against my urge to run away from home.

But summers are so much easier on everyone, especially considering that I don’t have to layer up myself and my kids in scarves and hats and gloves and, most difficult of all, pants, just to go out the door. And the kids are much better at entertaining themselves outside without my help. And there is less fighting because there is more to do.

I’ve been lucky to be able to stay at home with them for as long as I have. It most definitely hasn’t been easy — monetarily or mentally. And physically, for that matter.

But I’ll never forget the relief of not having to take my daughter to daycare. Of being able to just hold her and not hand her off to someone I barely knew.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find the perfect job that will help me edge back into the workforce with relative ease. Or maybe I’ll stay at home another year or so, spending my time trying to keep my youngest from aggravating her brother more than anyone ever thought was possible.

It just depends. Whatever job I find has to be worth it. It has to be right for me and right for my family. It has to challenge me but also be something that makes me feel like I’m working toward something, like I’m doing something meaningful.

And it has to be worth being away from my babies.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on April 24, 2013.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Self-perception dysmorphia is totally a thing because I just made it up

I think I learned something about myself last week.

I know, I know.  It's a little dorky and cliched and whatever to announce that in a blog, but give me a break.  I haven't been in this space for three weeks or so and I missed my blogaversary and I'm a bit nostalgic and also rusty.
I'm including this picture of myself because I feel
like I have a lot of wordy posts and maybe you'd
like to have something to break up all of the words. 
That's my backyard.  It has a tent in it.  And a dead
plant.  And over my shoulder you can see our raised
garden bed.  And one of the nurses at the hospital
said I had really pretty hair.  So you're welcome to
stare at it instead of the bags under my eyes.

And so - I learned something.  About myself.  Last week.

On Wednesday I had some, I guess you could call it exploratory surgery.  (If you are of the male persuasion or don't like to read about lady bits, you might want to pick up in the next paragraph.)  Basically I've had some random, excessive spotting that I haven't been able to get rid of for the past year and a half.  So my doctor figured it was time to take a closer look and see what she could see with a camera.  Like the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.

I don't know.  Rusty, remember?

I didn't have any pain, but I had to have anesthesia, which meant that all day Wednesday I was groggy and tired.  The kids stayed with my parents, who are pretty amazing for taking that on.  The were there all day Wednesday, Wednesday night, and all day Thursday.

For a week before the surgery I started getting excited, thinking about all of the uninterrupted time to myself I would have.  I never have time alone, and I absolutely never have time alone where I don't have a million things that I have to do.  And with this, I physically wasn't able to do anything, so I was ordered by my doctor to do nothing.  To sit around all day.  DOING NOTHING.

I spent all of Wednesday laying on the couch watching television.  I did attempt to knit a little bit, but my mind wasn't able to focus.  And on Thursday I tried to get up and clean a bit but got dizzy and had to sit back down.

I thought I would be in heaven.  It was all I thought I wanted.  Time to veg out.  Time to do nothing.  Time to not worry about anything but running out of television shows to watch.  (I totally ran out.)

But I hated it.  HATED IT.  I was so bored and lonely and just all around done with doing nothing.  My body didn't know how to relax.

I spend so much time running around all day that when I was forced to relax I was miserable.  The TV was ridiculous and irritating.  I read, too, which was nice.  But all I wanted to do was stand up and vacuum or wipe something down or knit something or sew something.  I wanted to DO something.  Or if I couldn't do anything, I wanted my babies back home so I could break up their arguing or fetch a cup of milk or play outside.

I wanted this so much that I made Chris go pick up the kids on Thursday when I probably should have taken another day to recover.  I was by myself all day with the kids on Friday and in that time I made bread and pizza sauce and pizza dough and mozzarella cheese and ice cream and I fixed lunch and I carried my daughter around because she wasn't too happy with me for leaving her for so long.

And I loved it.

It was exhausting and even a bit painful, but that's normal, right?

I struggle over and over again with feeling like I fail at motherhood or fail at keeping the house in order.  I feel like I'm lazy and unproductive.

But on Thursday, when I was begging my light-headedness to go away so I could do some laundry, I realized that I've got this.

My house may not always be spotless (HA!) and my kids may spend too much time playing games on the ipod - but I'm not lazy.  Or unproductive.

So shove it, self-perception dysmorphia.

Go somewhere else.  I don't have time to deal with you.  I'm too busy.

(Here's a link to my first blogaversary post.  Maybe for my third I can get it together to write something super awesome.  One can hope, right?)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Darth Maul is a part of the Easter Story, right?

Spring Break has only been officially happening for five hours and already I've thought about locking my children in their rooms 12 times and thought longingly about shipping them off somewhere for a couple of weeks 18 times.

So I'm not going to put much thought and effort into what goes into this post today. 

It's not all that different from what I normally do, only smaller.

Here are some pictures from our Easter weekend.

On Saturday Chris' brother and his wife took the kids to a egg hunt/party at his work.  Here is how my son came home:

That's Darth Maul, in case you didn't know.  Whatever you do, don't call him Spider-man.  You will be the worst mother in the world and also a little dense and subject to heavy sighing and disappointment.

We attempted to dye Easter Eggs that aftenoon, however it lasted 45 seconds, until Adele got mad that we wouldn't let her drink the colored vinegar water and attempted to dump it all out.

I didn't sleep well Saturday night.  I think it was because the Easter Bunny put the kids' baskets outside of their bedroom doors and so I was worried that Sebastian would get up to pee in the middle of the night and stumble upon the baskets.  Because for some reason that would be the worst thing that could ever happen and Easter would be ruined.  (I don't claim to be completely sane.)

I shouldn't have worried because Sebastian is his mother's son, and he got up early, noticed the baskets, but didn't touch them because it wasn't technically time for him to get out of bed and start his day.

We had a great day visiting family, and I even got to take a short nap, which may have been the highlight of my day.

Here is the best picture of my children on Easter.  Those white spots are rain.  Because of course.  Notice Adele rubbing her neck:

That's because in all the previous pictures Sebastian had her in a choke hold.

 It was my fault, really.  I told him to hug her.