Saturday, September 28, 2013

Things That Happen

Today I decided to take a 5 mile walk. And by decided I mean that I accidentally locked my keys in my car and had to walk 2.5 miles home to get the spare.

It was a nice walk, all sunshiny and brisk, and lucky for me I had decided to wear comfy shoes to work this morning, which I was incidentally an hour late for. I even curled my hair for the walk. Apparently the sunshine must have appreciated it because it took all my curls and left me with something resembling a cross between Rastafarian dred locks and a string mop. I hope that was a good look for work, because I rocked it.

Things That I CAN Do

I came home from my second day of work yesterday feeling like The People From Hollywood would probably be calling any second about the movie rights for my Inspirational Life Story and All of The Children I Have Touched, kind of like Mr. Holland's Opus or Lean On Me. I never got the phone call, which was a little surprising, and then my body remembered what I had done wrong that day.

One of the students I work with occasionally needs a reset, somehow, like a time out, or a call from his mom, or something that gets him out of the groove he's in. One thing that works to start him over is a walk. So, when we ran into a wall that was evidently made of 16 foot thick brick, glazed with painfully sharp shards of glass, and with a fairly strong electrical current running through it, I decided to go for a walk with him. It was chilly outside. And the best way to keep from catching hypothermia rapidly was by moving quickly. Then I got all ambitious, and I JOGGED, you guys. For like 50 yards. I really hope nobody other than my sidekick was watching, because I saw a girl about my size running across a parking lot the other day, and I think I snickered a little. It's just not graceful. Especially when you are trying to hold your swollen uterus off of your sciatic nerve with both hands. But I did it. And I felt really good. For about four more hours. But I had a breakthrough of epic proportions with my student, and then I had a stroke of absolute brilliance (for me), and invented a game that incorporated his curriculum, which would have otherwise been left by the wayside of the survival road. It worked. I had several moments of absolute clarity while I was working, that I am fairly certain were not drug or alcohol induced, unless the technology teacher's "tea" that he shared with me was spiked. I wouldn't be too surprised. These lightbulb moments happened when something clicked between me and my new kids, explaining an interesting conclusion paragraph or how to find a creative title for a closed off 9th grader, or helping to define social perceptiveness in an applicable way to a struggling senior with disabilities. Is this why teachers teach? I've always wondered...I left work feeling like I was doing something that I might not love every single day, but something that I can do - and maybe even do well.

So I came home, and then took Aspen to Irish Dance. And on the way, Aspen asked me what the very first color movie I ever saw was.... I explained to her that color television had been around since before Grandma Stecker was born, which really wasn't that long ago, but I had never lived in a black and white only world. She was slightly shocked, but impressed that color TV was THAT OLD. I realize that spanking children for being accidentally hurtful and offensive isn't good parenting form, and I was working on some of my new teaching/tolerating techniques, so I just fumed internally all the way to Kettle Falls. And then the pain started to creep in. Like it was Aspen's reminder of my elderly decrepitness that trigged my body to reject every step, especially the jogging ones, that I had taken that day. I popped a pill and continued merrily on my delusional way, all the way through dance and home, before the pain set in in earnest.

Turns out, I don't jog for a very good reason: IT HURTS LIKE ALL HECK. I took more pills, tried an ice pack, a heating pad and a goodly amount of alcohol (still working on those wine bottles). Finally I took sleeping pills and passed out, right in the middle of Newsies. If that doesn't tell you the severity of the situation, nothing will. I woke up in pain, and I pushed through the ordeal of cleaning Aspen's bedroom with her, even after the hurtfulness she hurled at me yesterday. I got that done. I bullied Kizzie into loading the dehydrator with apples - I usually have to ask her, let her throw a fit, then start doing the project myself, making as Big A Deal as possible about the pain I am in, until the guilt overtakes her and she relieves me. Somewhere around 2:30 I called it a day, loaded up on drugs and resigned myself to a couch and a heating pad for the duration of this rainy Saturday. It's not a terrible waste of a day. We did get to watch Woodland Theater's production of My Fair Lady on DVD, which never fails to delight, and eat a lot of leftovers throughout the day. I am still waiting for hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps, but someone keeps missing his cues... But I can make it. And I can work in special ed. And clean rooms. And get stuff done. But not jog. I can't do that.  

                                            

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Things That I Make

So I have a confession: I love almost any recipe that calls for cream-of-something-soup. I am a sucker for tatertot casserole with green beans and hamburger and cream of mushroom gravy-like goodness. And the chicken enchiladas that my mother in law taught me to make that don't really resemble enchiladas in any capacity other than they have cheese and tortillas in them are one of our family favorites. In fact, they are Aspen's absolute favorite. She can't ever remember what they are called, but she loves them more than anything. And will ask for thirds, even when they are laced with extra roasted green chilis and are spicy enough to chap your lips, as Nattie pointed out. They were good. But I cheated this time, and in a rare switch-up, I assumed LESS guilt cheating than not cheating would have earned me. Someone had used up my entire "stockpile" of cream-of-something-soups, and in order to make enchiladas, I either had to resort to the traditional red sauce recipe that my Mexican friend who is whiter than any pasty sorority chick I have ever heard of gave me, run to the store for the sodium, chemical laden guilt trip of cream-of-something-soup, or improvise. I opted for plan C, and found a recipe for a substitute on Buns In My Oven. The title of this blog was slightly unsettling to me, but I found the recipe useful and most importantly: IT WORKED. The enchiladas didn't even taste like rip-off non-mexican enchiladas. Between the frozen-but-freshly-roasted green chilis and the homemade cream of chicken soup, they were not only yummy, but remarkably less unhealthy than usual (please note I do not make the leap to HEALTHY in this statement).


Donna's Chicken Enchiladas

1 lb boiled shredded chicken, canned chicken, or just whatever chicken doesn't have bones and is already cooked. 
1 can cream-of-something soup or make THIS substitute
1 cup sour cream
1 can diced green chilis (or if you're cool like me and visited the Price's chili farm, four or five roasted, diced chilis)
18 corn tortillas

Combine shredded chicken, soup, sour cream and chilis in a big bowl. Stir well. 

Grease the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Preheat oven to 350º

Put down a layer of six overlapping tortillas in pan, spread one half of the chicken mixture on top, cover with cheese, then another layer of tortillas, the other half of the chicken goop, more cheese, then more tortillas and more cheese. Cover with tinfoil and bake for about an hour or until it's all melty and bubbly and delicious. Serve with salsa and MORE sour cream, because there's never enough. 

This makes one pan. I almost always have to make two, and the amount are sort of best guess, because I am kind of a dumper rather than a measurer.




CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE

Yield: Equivalent to one can of soup

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. When melted, whisk in the flour and continue whisking until smooth and bubbly. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly, until the soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Read more at http://www.bunsinmyoven.com/2011/05/04/cream-of-chicken-soup-substitute/#r78RiCcm5G3yTCWS.99

Things That Got Done

I did it. I survived my first day of real work. I even had fun. I was on time. I curled my hair. It didn't look like it, but I did. I learned lots of new stuff about the French revolution and skills required for being a shelf stocker. I played a lot of Go Fish. I went shopping for real food with fake money. And then I came home and I canned 6 quarts of applesauce, made chicken enchiladas for dinner with some friends, and fresh apple crisp, and I kept right on going until This Very Minute. Josh is still going, finishing up the half-cleaned kitchen after he spent the whole day working on the house. I did a load of dishes and put most of the food away, and then I quit.

Truck is busily hairing every surface that I vacuumed as soon as I got home from work, and Dagny is recovering emotionally from the abandonment she endured when her new ball-throwing friend Brian left her to go home with his family. I have something on my toe that hurts, which some people have told me may be a corn, but that makes me feel old, so I am just calling it a broken toe joint.

Josh drywalled the west half of the living room today, and cut out the doorway under the stairs for my new pantry, and stuff. It looks much bigger and brighter in here. I am getting more and more excited to see the end result of this remodel - excitement which I must place carefully to avoid making Josh feel like I am pressuring him discontentedly or I am ungrateful for the good, fast work he is doing. I don't want him to think that he should be working any faster - Lord knows I have only finished emptying about 1/5th of the wine bottles I need for my new chandelier. You just can't rush quality work. Like that book I am always still working on.

I am tired. In a good, productive, I did something with my day, way. I made applesauce AND money. Maybe not much, but some, of each. I am really happy to go to bed tonight with a sore back and a sore broken toe joint and a chili-pepper burn underneath one fingernail. I will dream about all of the things I will do tomorrow, and the next day. Including taking Aspen for a make-up Irish dance lesson, and probably supervising Josh in some interior design work this weekend, and maybe adopting a kitten. But you guys, I got a job. And there isn't a centimeter of wood paneling showing in my living room anymore. BAM!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Things That Work

Today was a long day. It's my last day of "freedom" before I am expected to show up at work every morning at 8 AM, AMERICAN time, every day. 5 days a week. Forever. As soon as I got the call from the school, I thought to myself: This day shall be spent on the couch with no bra. This day will be a celebration of the departure of my leisure days. This day shall be unproductive. But I lied to myself. I caught up on all of the stuff I had promised to do for the fire department three weeks ago and had been putting off, since I could always just "do it tomorrow".  I made more applesauce. And then more applesauce. I framed concert posters that have been crying to me sadly from their cardboard tubes since the summer of 2010. I caught almost the entire population of fruit flies in our house in the glass of wine that I kept misplacing. I made tomato sauce and canned it. I painted things and folded things and cooked things and took care of business that had long been neglected for another day. My days are now numbered. They are no longer mine. They are obliged to someone else forever.

look. It's my favorite. Fire map in the background,  and this is the first show Josh went to with me. But I broke the corner of the glass! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Kizzie's Birthday show in Spokane - and the Reno show that I drove a thousand hours with all 4 kids for. AWWWW

Josh is ecstatic. I think mostly because I will be less bored, more exhausted, and hopefully not have the energy to pick fights with him anymore, which he is convinced has become my full time occupation lately. His full time occupation has been remodeling our house, which, while utterly cool, is also utterly stressful, and not just to the dogs who are all TERRIFIED of power tools. I have been somewhat helplessly watching Josh manhandle 12 foot long sheets of drywall into spaces that are slightly less than 12 feet and try to turn them. I could have offered to help, but being generally weak, clumsy and also entertained by watching, I decided I was better keeping my distance. I have tried to help him figure out the maze-like electrical wiring in the house, by standing in the bathroom and shouting when the lights go off because he flipped a switch on the back porch, or tripped the breaker marked "upstairs". It's an adventure, this weird house. He's always discovering new and awesome things. Like an uninsulated roof, and a random post behind an even more random wall. He made some joke about how silly he'd feel if the upstairs fell down after he cut the random post out, and I can't help but feel relieved that my bedroom is on the other end of the house. He knocked himself out cold yesterday when he jumped up into the attic and banged his head on a post that was hiding deviously behind a chunk of insulation from a wall. I heard a moan and asked if he was OK, but he didn't answer so I figured he was up where he couldn't hear me, and I kept on chopping peppers. Later he told me that he thinks he was out for a couple minutes, but since I didn't bother to check on him, we don't really know. 
please note Truck's watchful eye in the mirror. 
Now the day is coming to an end. I have given up picking the fruit flies out of my wine and am embracing them as protein, riddled with healthy vitamins from the fruits and vegetables in my kitchen which they have been devouring. I canned a quart and a half of tomato sauce because that's how much there was. Not two quarts. Never the right amount. And I put the copious amounts of applesauce on the back porch in the remarkable cold to deal with tomorrow afternoon. After work. I am sure there is the equivalent of about 4.75 quarts of applesauce to can, just to be conveniently wrong. I have removed myself from kitchen to couch and now I sit here with three traumatized dogs. Penny is still too fat to get up, so she is snoring off the trauma on three cushions on the floor. Truck is watching Josh's reflection cuss out drywall sheets in one of the mirrors on the living room wall. Aspen is "cleaning her room" which, while I am sure is no more effective than her "washing the dishes" was at chore time, is at least out of sight and earshot. How a child can live in the same house as everybody else and know so frighteningly little about where things go, or how to do things, is amazing to me. Amazing. Kizzie is trying on homecoming dresses that Josh won't let her wear, while Josh is fantasizing about the colossal infraction that she will commit to forgo the Homecoming dance altogether. No one really knows what Natalee does in the evenings. She says homework, but I have a feeling that she is knitting sweaters for her pet rabbit or his soon-to-be offspring, or something as industrious and completely disconnected from real life as possible. I promised Josh we could work together late into the evening in jammie pants,  with our eclectic mix of Avett Brothers, Frank Sinatra and Florida Georgia Line, with a little Warrant thrown in, blaring in the backdrop, drowning out the pouty cries of grossly wronged teenage girls. He hasn't embraced the jammie pants yet, apparently they don't do well with tool belts. It seems my role in this labor of love might consist of offering moral support from the couch, keeping the dogs out from underfoot, and luring the fruit flies away from his workspace. It feels important. 


 I know that I need to go take a shower and pick out my "first day of school outfit", which I already whined about not having brand new. I was shut down quickly with a very specific look and a couple of well placed words about my wardrobe, and decided I would make do. Taking a shower is officially the first step of "getting ready" for my new job, and I am just not quite ready yet. A few more fruit flies... 

Things That Break

It's been a rough week, y'all. I've broken two of my favorite wine glasses that I got for SUPER cheap at the Pendleton store. My back has been out and getting worse, and I can't stop sneezing. Aren't allergies supposed to be a spring thing? But to ice the proverbial cake, an unnamed teenage daughter of mine snuck off after a soccer game with a mutually nameless boy for an unaccountable hour. And then she offered a series of stories which were all too easily deflated to explain her mysterious absence. How do you deal with this, Successful Parents of Teenagers Who Survived? She is obviously grounded, which doesn't mean a whole lot since we are not revoking volleyball participation, and that is the bulk of her social life... The boy she was with is a pretty nice boy - and I am not terribly worried that they did Horrible and Lascivious things, but the lies! It's the lies that break me. Make me sad. Make me worried. Make me want to do drastic things like lock her forever in a tower until her hair is long enough for some awkward prince to climb up and rescue her. I would endure a thousand shattered wine glasses and a lifetime of sneezes if I knew that she told me the truth.

Broken trust is worse than anything else that breaks, because it's not replaceable, and it takes eons to heal. Longer than the worst broken bone. It takes work to mend it. Hard work. Concentration and deliberate choices and painful sacrifice. Most people don't find it worth fixing. It's easier to throw away a relationship than to try to rebuild broken trust. I have been in some of those throw away relationships. I have been the breaker of trust and I have  had my trust broken by others. I have refused to do the rebuilding work, and I have been refused. How do you teach your children the necessity of restoring the breach that they create? I know example is the thing. Living that life of restoration and commitment to the hardest parts of making relationships work. Letting them see me building trust and allowing trust to be built for me. This is a hard, hard thing for me, and probably one of the biggest hinderances to my marriage. Maybe why violated trust with my daughter is so heartbreaking. Except I think broken trust always hurts. I don't know that it gets worse the more it happens to you... In some ways I think I have built a thick callous against it, except the callous disables me from trusting the people I should. It's hard to break my trust when I have never given it to you in the first place, you know? Josh certainly does. He patiently shakes his head at me and my trust issues, and tries his best to prove me wrong. The callous wears thinner with lack of constant abrasion. But lying teenagers don't help. Josh labors under the misconception that I trust other people more than him. People that have Questionable Morals and I don't even know very well. Mostly guy friends that I seem to admire. He doesn't get that I DON'T really trust them. I wouldn't even dip my toe in the pool of trust with them, let alone try to dive in and live with them and rest my life in their hands. I might like them. Or think they're cool. But I sure as heck don't TRUST them much. Trust has different levels I guess. I might trust them enough to invite them to my house. Trust they won't rob me. Or kill me. He wonders why I don't question them, or accuse them of heinous ulterior motives (something he gets from me a lot). But I don't have to question them. I don't have to live with them or know anything beyond face value. If they lie to me, I don't care, because I have not entrusted my soul to them. Poor Josh has the great honor of cradling my exposed - or semi exposed, and roughed over with scar tissue - soul in his strong hands. It's as fragile as my Pendleton wine glasses. But not as cheap. And much harder to replace. Or I would like to think so.

This is what I want my kids to get. Trust is one of the most precious things that another human being will give you. If you damage it, it takes time and hard work to fix it. But it's worth it. Exposing yourself to another person, or people, in your family, your closest friends, your lover - it's what makes life worth it. Relationships that are built on the never-perfect but much valued mutual trust of two or more people are the things that make life rich and meaningful. I have learned - am learning - this: That trust is the key element to any great friendship. And any love affair, family tie or best buddy is nothing without friendship. Ok, maybe not nothing. Maybe you get some good recipes or make out sessions or a few laughs. But really - friendship is important. And there's no friendship without a little bit of trust.

I have been waxing much too philosophical for a Wednesday morning. Probably it was an excuse to stay wrapped in my germ blanket a little longer because my house is COLD. Cold enough that the fingers I broke two years ago are aching. Old hurts like to remind you of them when it gets cold. This is true on many levels, but there I go getting all metaphorical again.

I just got a phone call that I start work tomorrow. Real, grown up, full time-ish work at the school. I am excited. I am excited because I chose to be. And because I get to work with some of my best friends. And because I will be five steps away from sneaky teenage daughters At All Times. And because for the first time in my life, I will have a sort of retirement fund thingy. I am not even sure exactly what that is. But I am ready for it. Or I will be, once I get a new wardrobe and a couple of replacement wine glasses.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Things I Am Cooking

Call me obsessed. It's like I only leave the kitchen to sleep feverishly on the couch. After I kicked some serious peach and plum booty on Friday, I am back in the kitchen in a race against bees and the little deer who sneaks up on our porch to eat the apples that have been picked so far to use them up. No joke, at 1:45 AM, when I couldn't sleep because of jaw-clenching pain, and because Josh had just chased some punks out of the new announcers booth at the football field across our yard, I heard the suspicious snuffing and crunching and looked out the window over my bed to see our pet deer - one of many, really, but we'll call this one Mildred, eating the apples. Understand that only a fraction of the apples have been picked from the tree thus far, since I directed the kids to "pick all of the apples" and I wasn't at home to explain that the ladder there was actually for climbing up and picking the ones they can't reach from the ground. Mildred is fairly certain that the apples conveniently located in boxes on our front porch were selected for her midnight buffet - as is the local bee population who has eaten it's way into several apples and seems to be drunk on the loveliness. I redeemed many of the apples into my giant stock pot, which is now scorching on the bottom, and my crock pot, which holds half as much but doesn't seem to be burning. Oh the politics of food preservation!!!!

Canning anything is complicated in my kitchen since I only have two burners, and the former occupants installed a really cool grill into one whole half of the Jenn-Aire cooktop I have. I have used the grill once, to make some smoked chicken breast jerky for dinner. Otherwise it has sat there, collecting things. Like pots that the kids seem to have no idea how to put away. So I have one burner with some bizzarre platform, as if it was height-challenged and had self-esteem issues, so the former cook helped it out. That, coupled with a microwave that was installed directly above and about 6 inches too low, makes just enough room to fit a canner, or my big stock pot, on the front burner, with no lid. the back burner is almost useless, except I can fit the small pot to boil my canning lids back there. getting the small pan out around the big one is tricky, especially if the kids have stored all of the pots on the space offending grill. I have tried to talk Josh into getting a replacement two burner Jenn-Aire insert, but he is insistent that we are replacing the whole stove "very soon" and so I must make do. Which is also why the bathroom is still country blue and buttercup blossom. My friend mentioned the other day that I have control over that and could fix it, but that was about an hour before she met Josh and he explained that the room is "about" to be remodeled and there is no sense wasting money on paint. When he's right, he's right. Unfortunately "very soon" and "about" are somewhat subjective and the country blue is really eating away at my soul.

Anyway, it's now a race between my crock pot and the big stock pot to see who can output applesauce most efficiently. If I am judging, the stock pot is losing on the mere grounds of how much stirring it takes to avoid making smoked applesauce (something I have produced before - goes well with chicken breast jerky). Especially since I need those stirring muscles to give my stupid little vintage sieve another chance to redeem itself on four thousand pounds of apples. I was hoping the applesauce would be done in time to free up the burner to finish the bread and butter pickles I started, but it's not looking promising, and I am not sure when I would heat the canning water in that line up.

Josh is working on remodeling the stairs, which apparently needed to be done, but which makes Emmy attach herself to my ankle, usually leaving a trickle of pee everywhere we go. She hates power tools. I have tripped over her at least 8 times now, and if you have ever fallen down stairs the day after you have given birth to a baby then you can imagine the kind of pain that catching myself from a fall causes in my lower abdomen area.

I tried, unsuccesfully, to figure out how to live stream some NFL games here on my computer, but short of subscribing to Madden 25, which I think is a game or something, and costs a hundred dollars American, there is no way. There are a couple of radio stations out of Seattle that you can listen online to, but neither would play on this side of the state, or on a Mac. COME ON, PEOPLE! You are from Seatlle!! WTH. So I am stuck with my Frank Sinatra Spotify station on, wondering how all of those NFLers are doing out there. My sister in law is involved in some emotional eating, which must mean the Vikings are not doing well. She is an ardent fan, for whatever reason, to the extent that she wouldn't play Aaron Rogers on her Fantasy Football team, but has kept him benched, since he is a Packer and they are from the devil. This had rendered her absolutely scoreless, since she also traded the rest of her team for players with last names of three sylablles or more. I am keeping my head above water in our family league, but I would be dominating if I could figure out how to trade. My baby sister is at the head of the league with our ultra-competitive, death-before-losing middle brother (yes, middle child thing), but her wins were purely accidental, or maybe even karmic punishment to the rest of us for letting her call her team "Suessical". Freedom of expression be dashed, in this family, right Sanna? I would be more panicked about missing the games today except the Bronco's don't play til tomorrow, at which point I will throw a fit if Josh doesn't take me to the Whitebird. I am hoping for Andrea's sliders to show up as a menu special one of these football days, but it's almost like she doesn't care.

My applesauce is burning. And I have to go show the kids how to use a ladder. After I clean up after Emmy, and hold a tape measure for Josh.

GO SEAHAWKS!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Things That I Have Accomplished

I did it you guys. I got out of bed. I took a shower. I put on jeans even, in a dare to the day to try to stop me. I put on some makeup to cover That One Zit right on the tip of my nose, that makes me thankful for a flu bug that keeps me from being seen by anyone. I made my own coffee. I even cleaned up the kitchen which was apparently Aspen's chore last night. I fed the dogs the left over macaroni and hot dogs that nobody deemed worthy of putting in the refrigerator, and I started a load of laundry with the dog-potty bath mat that nobody thought of washing yesterday. I am making things happen!!! I feel good! Ok - that's a stretch. I am shaky and spinny and still cramping like I am heading into labor with twins - but my head doesn't feel like it's trapped in a hot, sticky bundle of gross tasting cotton candy today. And my arms don't feel like they weigh two thousand pounds apiece. And my back is still out, but that's old news, so who cares. I have peaches to freeze and plum jam to make and mail to go pick up when I feel like the least number of people will be hanging out at the post office to notice my nose.

I slept a cumulative total of 37 hours yesterday. I think some of the hours leaked in from today and the day before yesterday, but it was a lot of sleeping for one day, none-the-less. I passed out around 6:30 pm last night after a lovely dose of something that took my pain AND my fever away momentarily, and only woke up long enough to yell at Josh for drinking the frozen Cherry Soda that I stole from a 6 pack that one of the girls left here (sorry Sabrina) and had been waiting for all afternoon. He said he was cleaning up and trying to be efficient but if that was true I can't help but wonder about the macaroni and cheese... I also came to for a moment to accuse him of lying about something, but I can't even remember what now, and I think I went right back to sleep. Probably the cherry soda again. Being sick is weird. Josh thinks that my immune system is whack right now. I think it's more sinister than that. I think that my immune system is ganging up with my uterus and ovaries in a cosmic plot to make me give up entirely and quit doing Things for ever. Some days I am on the brink of giving in, but then the fruit flies from the peaches I haven't frozen drive me nuts, and Penny throws up macaroni and cheese on the kitchen floor, and Dagny poops on the auxillary bath mat. Necessity dictates action. My body loses.

Lately, being sick in addition to being broken, I have been mulling over this desire, or maybe need I have to do more, or different, than what is required or expected of me. Sure I can do laundry and make dinner, but I know I am capable of more, and even with three kids (Halle has left a gaping hole of responsibility in my life), four dogs, a house in the throes of remodel and it being canning season, I know I should be doing more. Making money. Contributing. Becoming famous somehow, doing something exotic. We had a discussion about this last weekend, My Darling Husband and my sister and her Darling Husband and I. She has the same Notion of Greatness that I do, and somehow we got our wires crossed in the department that says homemaking and mothering children is ENOUGH of an accomplishment. I blame the homeschooling icons of overachievement like Jane Addams and Molly Pitcher and Florence Nightengale. They were all of the traditional roles of a woman PLUS some. Even Ma Ingalls did a heck of a lot more than change diapers and make dinner. It's only in recent decades (baby boomers, anyone?) that the picture of a woman in a tweed dress with an apron and a feather duster and two perfectly packaged children became the epitome of female success. Show me your 197 quarts of peaches, lady. Your newly sewn curtains and the school wardrobes you made your kids out of the old ones. What do you mean you haven't published three successful novels and changed your own oil? I think there is something wrong with me. So does Josh. I think that is why he is SO excited at the prospect of me having a "full time job". If my mind is occupied with anything else, I will quit bemoaning the fact that I am "doing nothing" with my life. Even if the "full time job" is only 6.5 hours a day, and will do very little to occupy my mind - it is something. And I get paid for it. It's not the Exotic Thing that I am always looking for - riding ATVs around the forest or doing archaeological surveys in the middle of nowhere. It's not a big money to see cool places and play the sub-hero (is that the correct mini version of a superhero?) like wildland fires. It's not training wild tigers and zebras or lending medical aid to clinics in Ugandan slums. But it's people. And it's special people. People who can teach me much more than they could ever hope to learn from me. People who need the time and patience and attention of One Human Being to get them through a simple day of school. It sounds frustrating, and restrictive, and almost boring, but good. And necessary. It sounds perfect. I hated riding ATVs around the woods and doing surveys because I was alone. There was no one there to learn from or share with. I survived retail because I like the people and I like the Things, but after awhile the Things get really old and the whole idea of retail becomes tasteless to me. This job would be good. If I get it. And Josh would quit wringing his hands and pacing the house every time he catches me on the Living Social website. BTW, did you see the adorable Sock Monkey headphones? SO CUTE.

I have a lot to do today. I am hoping the coffee settles some of the shakes down (because that makes sense, right?) so that I don't cut my fingers off dicing peaches for the freezer. And I wish someone would explain to Dagny in words that she can understand that ONLY HUMANS POOP IN THE BATHROOM. I guess the little awe-shucks paddlings I am giving her aren't working. It's even worse now that she has figured out where Aspen keeps her Calico Critters and I am finding fuzzy little chewed off paws and tails in her piles of poo. This is an expensive hobby, Dagny. I now owe Aspen a baby squirrel and a horse - I didn't even know Calico Critters made horses. I wish she would do normal dog things like Truck does - for example: chewing up a purple jalapeño all over the living room rug and then deciding it's too hot to eat and leaving the seeds strewn everywhere. Dagny decided to help him finish it, and now she is rubbing her nose all over the carpet in an attempt to stop the burning. I would be mad, but the peppers are full of healthy antioxidants to counteract the macaroni and cheese I fed them.

Unfortunately for Productivity, that elusive waif, it's much too cold yet this morning to leave my germ blanket at do anything. Until it warms up enough that the fruit flies are no longer dormant, and/or the sourdough bread on my counter thaws enough to make toast, I am stuck here with my coffee and my list of things yet to accomplish. Sorry Jane Addams - I will have to catch up later.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BendAbility: Things About Being Sick

BendAbility: Things About Being Sick: I felt it creeping up on me last night. I will admit that there have been girl's nights before that involved smoking a cigarette or two,...

Things About Being Sick

I felt it creeping up on me last night. I will admit that there have been girl's nights before that involved smoking a cigarette or two, Cloves of course, in the pinnacle of my poor intake decisions of the evening. Last night I didn't take a single puff, but my voice started waning and there was this burning sensation in the back of my throat that was ominous... and then a cough. A sneaky little cough, like it thought no one would notice. By midnight, when everybody straggled reluctantly home to kids that were probably asleep in their dirty play clothes without brushed teeth and after a dinner of macaroni and hot dogs, if they got dinner at all, I was left alone with a small furnace smoldering about half way down my throat and up into the back of my nasal passages. I took Nyquil, to be sure that I wouldn't feel a thing while I slept. I didn't, until I was awakened at 8:30 AM by a small black dog jumping with all four paws onto my sore left boob. That was enough feeling to make up for the peaceful night. I tried to get my eyes opened when Josh responded to my hoarse cry of pain, but I think I only got my mouth open a little and the fumes from my Nyquil breath soldered my eyelids shut, and drove Josh back out of the room. Apparently he had already been for a run and showered and chased kids off to school and that's what Emmy was coming to tell me. I wanted to crawl back under my blankets and die, but a full bladder and some other compelling feminine issues required that I get up and shower Exactly At That Moment. Hot water seemed like a good idea anyway, or it did until it ran out about 4 minutes into my shower. Did I mention that it was nice and chilly this morning? To be honest I don't really remember how I got from cold shower to sweatpants to couch, procuring my electric germ blanket for it's annual inaugural run along the way. There's a chance I might be delirious, I am not sure, but I did find coffee, which MacKenzie had already made, mercifully.

I had only been sitting on the couch for 7 minutes, trying to read the 11 texts and 14 Facebook notifications that had bombarded my phone while I slept, when Josh shoved a 5 inch thick text book with TINY print and asked me to drill him on ALS drugs. Seriously? Does he not smell the residual Nyquil on my breath? And that is AFTER I brushed my teeth!! Mom wants me to pick flight times for a trip to Seattle in October, and I am supposed to choose a bank in Colville that isn't the (only) credit union because one of the tellers made Josh mad by telling him their policy on check cashing. He says policies don't make friends in the business world. I told him that was an interesting concept and he should totally understand why the kids don't like him, given that it is also true in the home/relationships world. I also had to schedule a doctors appointment, remember how to turn on the germ blanket, call the state insurance line to hear, in a very nice voice, about a 51 minute wait time, and decide what Aspen's favorite color is. These are all very complex things for a semi-early morning with no breakfast, a bad cold, moderate -to-severe anemia, and did I already mention the temperature drop this morning?

If someone would fix me up a big, steamy plate of corned beef hash with a couple of over-easy eggs and some sourdough toast, all would be well in the world. I shouted my order to the universe but all I got were some weird stares from the dogs, who are very excited that the germ blanket is up and running again. Did I mention how cold it is this morning? I think Truck is mildly hypothermic (well he's sleeping a lot...)  because Josh picked up all of the blankets, and my coffee has a layer of ice over it already. Rude.  This day is destined for the greatness of couch time, Pinterest, and wishing for food that will not be delivered to my living room, despite the earnestness of my desire.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things That Happen To Me

I should have been able to tell that I was pre-menstrual 5 days ago when I tried to kick Josh out of the house again. It's a pretty sure sign that all is not well on the hormonal front when I start "helping" him pack his meager belongings while he is taping the freshly hung drywall. But for some reason, my period always takes me by surprise. Probably it's some freudian ploy of my mind to purposefully forget that it WILL happen sooner or later so that I can ruin another pair of jeans and buy new ones. Or so I have to go through the self-flagulation of changing my sheets for the third time this week after Emmy's little bout of bulimia. It depends on whether the hedonistic, self-indulgent hormonal side, or the depressed, self-loathing side of my hormonal psyche is winning the struggle for personality dominance. It's a crap shoot. Just ask Josh, after he finishes unpacking.

I was interrupted this morning for a brief trip to Colville to unlock the Yukon for Josh, which had gotten the keys locked inside mysteriously somehow, while he was standing in the parking lot holding very large bags of maxi pads. I felt like running the spare key 45 miles into town for him was the least I could do in light of the remodeling and the latest threat to his domestic stability. I offered to buy him lunch as well, but he said something about a headache and throwing his trailer (with a flat tire [the third this month]) into the air and punching himself in the face, so I decided to let him just go on his merry way, tire-buying and all of that. I did relieve him of the maxi pads and a dozen or so cheap picture frames he had picked up for my girl's night craft project. As I drove home I began to see the point he was making at the rummage sale on Saturday when he was holding the Vera Bradley bag I paid a dollar for, and a snowflake rug, and he began grumbling about the sad digression of males from hunting mammoths with spears and making fire, to carrying second hand purses. He might have a point.

He is a brave man. He puts up with a lot. And I love him for it. He's even gone and sat through two Volleyball games, which shouldn't be called games at all, but Volleyball Marathons. They are similar to middle school track meets, where parents are obliged to go and watch 5 hours of someone else's kids doing events we've never heard of, except the shorts are shorter and most of the moves have been the same since they invented volleyball in the early 70s when hot pants were in. (and not Zagorra HotPants, either.) Volleyball is one of those sports that I am not sure I get. It could just be that it's hard for me to go and be supportive of my 16 year old when she just gone done screaming at me about how I never even care and don't give her anything. I catch myself imagining my reaction if a spike was accidentally delivered right into her nose, and I am mildly alarmed that a cynical, serves-you-right snicker is the first response that springs to mind. But luckily, I am the adult in this relationship, and I can leave the teenage rant at home and even be excited when she makes good plays. I am mostly excited when she's making good plays because it distracts me from what Aspen is doing while we are at the Volleyball Marathon, which is something that looks suspiciously like a dropped-candy treasure hunt on her belly under the bleachers. You know it's bad when I call her out from between the seats to go ask her score-keeper father (not Josh) who is wolfing a hot dog,  to buy her a soda. That father figured out that if he got there in time to be a scorekeeper, he didn't have to pay the entrance fee, which is the price of a small south african country. Josh caught on quickly, and wore one of his 37 EMT bags to the last marathon, telling the money taker as he walked in that we were there "for medical coverage" for which she thanked him. I walked in behind him, perhaps blushing slightly. It did save us enough to buy the extra jumbo pack of maxi pads today, so I can't really complain.

Tonight is girl's night at my house, which is only for girls aged 21-99, so no kids are allowed. I tried to point that out to some of the girls who maybe have one or two daughters that they like to bring EVERYWHERE with them, which makes conversations about developing tidal charts for period flows and effective husband modification techniques somewhat awkward. It's also confusing for the poor little kids who visit my house a lot when the regular snack free-for-all zone has been converted to a makeshift bar of 8 kinds of liquor and a bottle of seven up. I like girls nights. At least I think I do. It's been a long time since I hosted one, although I would like to believe that I invented the tradition back when Grey's Anatomy was a Thing and I finally had a big enough living room to fit three people in. Somebody else came along and added the whole craft notion to the deal, which isn't a bad idea, but I can't understand why a night of drinking wine and talking our heads off isn't productive enough. If I had a dime for every one of the Global Problems we solved at our girls nights, I could afford to go to the Volleyball Marathons as a parent instead of an EMT. Not that we would, because not paying is a matter of principle for Josh. He has a strong disbelief in paying for anything.

In preparation for the "party" tonight, as Josh keeps calling it, (he clearly has no understanding of the productivity we achieve), I have a very long list of things to get done, which I am accomplishing by simply eliminating them off of the list. For instance, since I made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip raisin cookies last night, I can cross off the fancy peach tart I was thinking about making for dessert tonight. And since Emily gave me cucumbers I need to deal with, I had to cross off sorting through the yard sale box that is oozing junk all over my laundry room. Even thought I am not dealing with the cukes until tomorrow. And I have to cook the chicken I thawed yesterday for dinner, so that means I don't have time to dry any apples or clean my room. It's similar to the method I use to avoid getting out of bed until the Last Possible Second in the morning. Smell my hair, eliminate shower. "Pick out" my outfit while lying in bed with my eyes closed. Rule out breakfast and yell loudly for someone, ANYONE to make coffee. Decide against planning to be on time, since that generally never works out anyway. Check teeth to see if you brushed them last night and could get away with a few more hours if you skipped this morning - this is determined by the amount of fur you find with a tongue sweep. Accomplishing all of this is exhausting and requires an extra few minutes of sleep, which is also similar to preparing for a girls night, and now I am wondering if I can sneak a nap in by crossing off everything else on my list... I mean, there was that EMERGENCY run to Colville that I can use to justify anything undone.... It really jacked up my day. Plus I have cramps. That's an instant free pass for anything, isn't it?




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Things About Semantics and Peppers

Some of the recent events in my life have given me reason to pause and consider my verbage more carefully. The instance the other night of "yakking" vs. "throwing up" is a good example, but also, I received a vegetable in my first Bountiful Basket that I was unfamiliar with, and had to google it. I wasn't sure how to start, but being, what I consider to be a fairly intelligent and somewhat knowledgeable person in the vegetable department, I thought I could figure it out. First I googled onion family, because the vegetable resembled a cross between a leek and a dill plant. No dice. Nothing close. Then I googled cabbage family and was even farther off. Finally, when I hoped no one was looking, I googled wispy leafed vegetable and found this:

FENNEL

It was fennel. I have cooked with fennel seed, know what it is. Like it even. But this plant was not in my repertoire of known vegetables. Needless to say I deleted my dumb-sounding google search and covered it with exotic fennel recipe searches. All of that to say, sometimes dumb words get the job done better than grasping, smart ones.

Josh is always chastising me about semantics. And how mild exaggerations are far from lies, more just questions of semantics and properly embellished statement. I would like to believe him, but his semantics have caused some trust issues.

Words are like peppers. There are strong ones, and hot ones, and mild ones, and sweet ones, and it's important to choose the Right Ones for the right recipe, time, place. Dumping them all out on the ground doesn't help anybody, but picking them and preparing them and placing them carefully and in the right amount makes them worth their weight in gold. I am mostly saying that to make an awkward segue to my next subject. And to try to sound deep and intellectual, which I really am not feeling at all today, especially when I had to google segue to figure out how to spell it because spell-check didn't even recognize my attempt. 

Yesterday Aspen and I went to town and got a million pounds of roasted Anaheim peppers from this really awesome couple outside of Kettle Falls who grow peppers of all varieties, just for fun. And to sell. For some reason, the market in NE Washington for peppers is limited to green bell peppers from Safeway, and my very dedicated friend Rebecca who cooks everything with green chilis because her husband is from New Mexico. Clive and Diane Price's gorgeous pepper garden is full of purple and green jalapeños, sweet gypsy peppers and robust Anaheims that are dropping like flies as the weather changes. If you want peppers and you live in the area, give them a call at 509.680.6989, and set up a time to go. They will pick your peppers, and roast them in their awesome propane torch roaster, and if you're lucky, they'll spill some on the ground and give you TONS of extra for free. And they might even throw in a rainbow. They are some of the nicest people I have met - but plan a few extra minutes (hours?) to chat with them about peppers. It's clearly a passion. They let Aspen crank the roaster for awhile, then Clive talked her into tasting one, and it was SPICY. She tried to fight the tears back by rubbing pepper juice in her eyes, and her constantly grinning bravery won her an ice cold coke from the Price's. If you live within a 300 mile radius, go visit them, you won't be disappointed. I came home with two HUGE pans of roasted peppers, and I only spilled one of them on the floor of the car when I locked up the brakes for a deer. Take containers to lay your hot roasted peppers flat in - any big pans will do. I stuck all of my peppers in the freezer as soon as I got home. I even included the carpet from the floor of the mini with some. Diane hooked me up with some recipes too, which I will share later if they turn out amazingly...
aspen, getting buff. 


bonus (double) rainbow!

yes, that is beer. and yes, this is before the deer. 




Monday, September 16, 2013

Things About Dogs

Last night, for the second time in a week, I was awakened by a black cocker spaniel throwing up on my bed. If Aspen throwing up in my hair when we were at Disneyland was grounds for disowning, then this is definitely a good reason to have Emmy stuffed and mounted on the hood of Josh's car. Josh valiantly jumped out of bed and said he would take care of it, which apparently entailed dragging the tainted comforter into the laundry room and leaving it, then coming back to inform me that the slimy wet spot on the bed wasn't truly throw up, she just yakked. Oh. My bad. I will make sure I distinguish between the two next time at 2 AM so that I don't overreact. Several of the dogs have been throwing up around the house lately. As if it's canine junior high and bulimia has just now caught on. I know we have been after Penny about her weight, but this is getting ridiculous. We have been trying to figure out why, and Josh suggested his suspicion that one of our swarthier neighbors has been poisoning them by throwing undeniably tasty morsels over the fence. He's almost right, except the tasty morsels were OUTSIDE the fence, and I am the swarthy neighbor. I started a compost pile outside the fence on the back corner with all of my canning scraps, and Penny, dedicated scavenger that she is, figured out that she could nose the fence up a post in the corner and slither under. Oh, the perks of being legless. The other small dogs have been sharing in her indulgent forays, and the three of them come back home for a symphony of puking at inopportune hours and locations. It's special. One more cause to question my steadfast and life long love of dogs. Too many is just too many. And Penny is really more potbellied pig/mini hippopotamus than she is dog.


Lucky for Josh I have become so inundated with unthinkably gross things lately, like picking up poop in Aspen's room, and giant spiders on my arm and in my bed, and a wet spot on the couch that I haven't identified a source for and flat out REFUSE to smell, that I didn't insist that we get out of bed and clean Everything In A 50 Foot Radius, since usually throw up contaminates the Entire Room. I was half tempted to just tell him to put the "yakked" on side over by him, so I wouldn't lose my fluffy blanket. But I toss and turn too much, and couldn't stomach the risk. The offended coverlet is waiting for me now in the washing machine - threatening me with that "you let me sit here too long" smell. Does anyone want a mini hippopotamus?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things That I Have Learned

The last few days with my older kids have been kind of rough. We always go through a reintroduction period when they come home after the long summer of little responsibility and lots of fun. Chores are an imposition, rules are offensive, and we are terrible parents for a few weeks, regardless of how much money we are bleeding for volleyball gear and ASB cards and road trips and, and, and... But it's been rough this time. And hurtful. One of my long time parenting crutches was a decision I made a long time ago to work really hard to not take anything my kids would say to me, personally. They're kids. They say stupid things. Things they don't even understand. I am the parent. It is my job to let them learn how to express themselves without being disrespectful, and the only way to do that effectively is by not reacting emotionally to every emotional outburst they have. I have done pretty well, sometimes. But the last few days has driven home a new sense of rejection and failure as a mother. These feelings are fleeting and unfounded, and I have every faith that me and my girls will be fine, but I've had to step back and go, "ouch." Ok, regroup. And it makes me look at how we got here.

I am a selfish mother. I always have been, from the time that Halle was born just after my 19th birthday, and I couldn't wait to leave her with grandma for a few hours so I could go to town and feel like a 19 year old again, until recent years, when I spent money on tickets for some show I thought was more important than a phone bill. My phone got shut off ever so briefly, along with everyone else on the plan, which happened to be my sister and brother-in-law at the time, and it didn't go over well. I don't know if I actually had bought tickets to anything around then, but probably lattes and other irresponsible things that I didn't need, but somehow justify because I have already lived the Hard Part of my life. Somewhere along the line I decided I was done suffering. Done going without. And I would beg, borrow or steal to make sure I could live the life I wanted, not the life that I had earned. There is little justice in this world, and it doesn't matter if I worked full time or didn't, but minimum wage just doesn't justify lattes or concerts when you have four kids. I know this, but I couldn't stand the thought of going through life missing out any more than I already had. In short, I had issues. I still have issues. Luckily now I have a husband to curb my issues, and shame me for considering frivolous things when we can't afford them. And remind me of my shameful and irresponsible past. But it's true. The way my girls are treating me now springs from the very same ideal that I have fostered for years. The ridiculous notion that I detest in other people that says "I am a martyr and I have done all of the things right and I deserve to get what I want!" My kids haven't watched me go without, or give up things that I desperately love. There was that one time when I had to quit volunteering at a fire department because it was more selfish time, away from them, that I couldn't afford. But it nearly broke my heart. Because I am selfish. I am always trying to justify the things I get. By selling other things, or giving something else up. I will give up lattes for a month if I can go to the  _____ show. I will sell these boots I don't wear if I can have those shoes. The problem is, I usually take a loss on some level, and all of those little losses add up, especially when you have four kids and an unstable income. But I have been so desperate to not miss out. And to not go without any more. To not drive cars that always break. To not wear anymore clothes that I hate. I have spoiled myself. And my kids too. I have taught them that we get what we want, no matter what. Shame on me. How can I wonder where their treatment of me comes from? Look in the mirror, girlfriend.

It is convicting when I realize that I have bred this monster of ingratitude and presumption. It is overwhelming to consider how to undo the damage and redefine our outlook on life. At one point I was proud of myself for raising tough and resilient kids, but now I see a house full of princesses with no gratefulness. Including myself. How can I be grateful to my husband for all of the hard work that he does for us when I know that I would have gone out and made it happen with or without him? Of course the rent is paid, the refrigerator is full, life is good. And it would be even if he wasn't here. But who is it that I would owe for it? The taxpayers? My parents? Credit Cards with no mercy? It didn't matter that I worked full time and didn't make enough to cover everything. I got food stamps which left me enough extra to go to a concert. Shame on me. I was THAT person. My kids are becoming THOSE people. I have gone seriously off course, and I am sorry. I have so many things, experiences, advantages, that I just don't deserve. And I have come to believe that I DO deserve them. It's like a terrible virus, ingratitude is. A soul-eating disease that is destroying our culture. I caught it, and I spread it. God help me reverse the effects.

Wow. That was a lot of heaviness and self-chastisement. I almost feel like I deserve a reward of some sort. But that's one of the symptoms. :) I should engage in some self flagulational cleaning. I have a lot of stuff to get done if I am going to start working every day. And not just couch time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things About This Day

I got two of my new vintage aprons today. They're cool. They are a little bit too long, but have pockets. And they were made by a woman named Marge. That makes them extra cool. Now I can get busy for sure in the kitchen.

yes, I am wearing something under it. seriously, you guys. 

It is September 11th. I went to a commemorative assembly at the school this morning where I was scolded for not wearing my fire department shirt by some people, scolded for not sitting with the responders by others, and scolded by my daughter for being there at all. Apparently within the last 24 hours I have earned the rank of Worst Mother In The World, after I let Josh go up and help the four younger cousins & sister clean up her room, which had been the battlefield for a frenzied Lego war. He touched something wrong, I guess, and isn't supposed to be in her room at all, which is interesting, considering he PAYS FOR IT. She gave each of us a severe tongue lashing, and apparently I was grounded from being seen in public because I was severely reprimanded for showing up for the 9-11 assembly. That's why I didn't wear a uniform of any sort. I was there as a mother. To shame my daughter, as she delivered a 45 second speech about the responders that died in the twin towers. I was there to remind her that I am a mother first, and a responder, and maybe someday, a hero. Whether Josh moves her dirty clothes or not. I must have been forgiven and ungrounded by noon because I stopped by for lunch at the special ed room, where all of my favorite people hang out (why is that so weird?) and she came to see me there.

September 11th changed us as a nation, but there are moments that I wonder if all of the changes have been good. Or if we have adopted an even more arrogant philosophy that American's aren't allowed to suffer. That it's a crime against humanity to wound the American Pride, and we should be dealing with more important things than terrorist attacks, like stepdads invading bedrooms. MacKenzie was 4 when the towers fell. We lived in a tiny straw house, with dirt floors and some sort of improvised running water. MacKenzie was happy to have new shoes and hot dogs for dinner. When did life get so much more ridiculous? I take full responsibility for forgetting to teach my kids that good things must be earned. That nothing comes without hard work. That no earthly possession is worth as much as a relationship, a family. I know that they are teenagers, and one day this knowledge will come to them. I have faith in that. But I feel like I have not done a good job imparting it to them. And Josh agrees heartily. How do you teach your child gratitude and humility? To prefer other human beings above themselves, even sisters (ew)? I don't think it totally occurred to me until I had my heart chewed up and spit out and then I turned and did it to someone else, that nothing could be as important as loving others more than yourself. I love this country. And it shakes me to my core when our vulnerability to random acts of terror is showcased as it was on this day 12 years ago. I am ashamed that part of our response to this exposure was to puff up arrogantly, shake our collective fist,  and spend thousands of lives to put those crazies in their place. I absolutely think we needed to respond, but I think we also should have done some cultural resetting, realizing that the superficial icons of our country didn't hold any weight compared to our family, our liberties, our beliefs. But it's easier to focus on the bad guys than to look inside and get into an argument about where we have gone wrong. We're so busy running the rest of the world that our own household is out of order. Story of my life.


this is totally what I will look like in these, right?
But now I have aprons. Which means my household WILL BE in order. Which means I will make pints and pints of glorious salsa today. In addition to vintage aprons, I ordered a pair of Zaggora HotPants to wear when I exercise. Or mostly when I don't, which is often what I do. I ordered them because the model looked really good in them, which means they MUST WORK, right? I am a sucker for that kind of thing. And I want them to work. I want to burn extra calories when I am not-exercising, even if they make a weird swishy noise when I walk. I am going to wear them for a few weeks. Maybe every day. All Day. Without washing them (ok fine, I will wash them). And then I am going to let you know how Skinny I Have Become. Of course, letting you know how Skinny I Have Become is contingent upon me measuring myself to find out how Skinny I Am Not right now, and I am really adverse to doing that. I had to measure myself to figure out which size to order, and then I had to go throw up real quick. After I threw up I was able to go down a size, which was encouraging, but still. I hate measuring. And weighing. The battery on our scale has been dying for some time now. When you turn it on it just reads LO. I thought for a few days it was congratulating me on weight loss, and then I realized it was talking about the battery, and once I reset it it would actually weigh me. The results have been so offensive that I feel compelled to attribute it to the waning battery. Clearly the thing is WAY OFF. So I had Josh pick up a new battery today. Installing a new battery means I will not set foot on the darn thing until I have worn my new HotPants for a few weeks, for fear the appalling numbers were not really the fault of a dying battery. My ever-rational line of reason tells me that I am carrying so much water weight that the HotPants will just sweat the pounds right off of me while I am not-exercising. I can only hope. I have started juicing again, but my juice was so gross today that I actually cheated and threw away the last few tablespoons. I always forget that limes must be used sparingly in juice. Especially when I have a whole Costco bag of limes to use up. I will put some in my salsa today, instead of my juice. In addition to juicing I have been sampling that Spark drink from advocare, which has lots of vitamins and I think I might like. I will let you know. I have also finally decided to eat reasonable food, like lots of vegetables and fresh stuff. Over the weekend I was on something of a comfort food kick. Another good reason to avoid the cruel bathroom scale. But what do you think - HotPants and Apron? Yep, that's what I thought.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Things About Adulthood

It has occurred to me, as I have moved back into neighborliness proximity of my younger sister, and we are now somewhat more "grown up" than we were when I lived here four or five years ago, that everyone defines adulthood by a different set of parameters. As I examine the standard by which my sister and I measure "being grown up", I begin to realize that these icons of age for us really have nothing to do with that, at all. I started to notice it in earnest when Em and I were canning peaches the other day. She donned one of her many adorable vintage aprons, very similar to the dozens that my mom owned when I was growing up, and offered me one as well. I have one apron in my house. My mom made it for me from a vintage pattern, and it's apparently Christmas themed, which I somehow didn't pick up on until my baby sister Susanna pointed it out once. When one has only one apron, one cannot be picky about seasonal indications. As I put on Em's extra-cute apron, I felt an immediate sense of arrival. Arrival into adulthood, like my mom. I used the crap out of that apron, wiping my hands and pretty much everything else that might have needed wiping on it. I couldn't help noticing, during the 6 hour canning ordeal that resulted in 20 some quarts of peaches, how enslaved (in a good way) Em and I both are by the traditions instilled in us growing up. I have canned with several other ladies over the years, and adopted, or at least put up with, other methods of food processing that they have introduced to me. But as I canned with my sister, there was an unquestionable method-flow of procedure that was rooted in a linoleum floored farm house kitchen outside of Colville, more than 20 years ago. Em commented on how nice it was that she didn't have to tell me what to do next. Or vise-verse. This is how it's done. I know that so-and-so doesn't boil the lids, and somebody else heats the jars in the oven first, and lots of people cut their peaches in quarters instead of 12ths, but Stecker girls do it THIS way. Because we are grown ups. With aprons.

After we got done with that, I went home and got on eBay to find myself some vintage aprons - clearly the missing element in my lonely canning experiences in my own kitchen. Em stopped by and asked me if I had felt convicted when I was wearing her apron. Convicted about how good it felt, and like maybe I had put it off a little too long. I said yes. Just yes. And I ordered some aprons. We went and visited Sister's Second Hand, which is the only one in Northport, and a garbage dump turned treasure trove that we like to loot and pillage periodically. I only find good stuff when I am there with Em, because we are racing to find the best vintage junk before the other sister does. Someday maybe we'll own our own Sister's Second Hand, and spend our time scouring the universe for cool stuff to sell other competitive find-hunter sisters. Sometimes we find something at the same time and have to try to be adult about who's house it will go better in. Or we just make up something ridiculous about seeing it first and don't care. Probably if I did that I would feel guilty and give it to Em for her birthday or something. But not if I found it first fair and square.

Being a grown up means cooking from scratch, and washing the dishes more than once a day. And vacuuming regularly. It means bargain shopping, coupon clipping and Extreme Thriftiness. And maybe even stockpiling. Josh has always accused me of stockpiling, which is absurd, since I don't have lentils OR millet, both crucial elements of stockpiling, and since I ran out of toilet paper completely today and had to ride my bike to the neighbors to borrow a roll. I can only imagine how cool I looked with a fluffy white roll of Kirkland Select TP in my bicycle basket, coming home. If I was a true stockpiler, THAT never would have happened. And I would have a legitimate use for several plastic Five Gallon Buckets of Things. Now that we live in the boondocks, I can buy GINORMOUS bags of sugar and flour and thousands of Ziploc bags at a time and tell Josh that he just doesn't get Country Living yet. Or adulthood. I feel like if I was more of an adult, I wouldn't feel so giddy when I finish a batch of jam. I probably wouldn't need to leave it sitting on the counter for a week, jars shining in the sunlight as if they are waiting for blue ribbons at the fair. I wouldn't expect everyone that walks in my front door to ooh and ahh over the pretty oranges and yellows and reds. If I was more of a grown up. I wore my Christmas Apron when I made peach jam yesterday. I was hoping nobody would stop by to catch me in my off-season attire, which they didn't, while hoping they would stop by to see the lovely jars, which they also didn't, but I am certain the apron is the whole reason that this batch of jam turned out thicker and better than the other ones. I also switched pectin, but that seems like a silly reason. Maybe I am not such an adult after all.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Things To Avoid

I am writing words on a page right this very second as a last ditch effort to get out of cleaning my room. I hate cleaning my room. Mostly, I hate cleaning my room because someone went in there and basically threw up 17 tons of clothing all over the floor that I can't stand. It's all ugly clothes that make me look fat. Clothes that are stupid and uncomfortable and smell weird. And they're every where. Creeping out of drawers and sliding sneakily off of hangers to attack me when I try to find my cleanest dirty sweatpants. They're hateful clothes that snicker behind my back and whisper how much cuter they look on my 16 year old daughter when she was wearing them while I was out of town. And they're covering a disgusting brown carpet that Josh says he won't take out of my room until it's clean. A disgusting brown carpet that has ganged up with my old, hateful clothes to make me feel dirty and disgusting and like my Only Friends In The World are my sweatpants. I have to get in there and kick those nasty clothes in the bum so that I can get rid of the spiteful carpet that would make me hate my whole room if there wasn't a really comfortable bed in there. Actually sometimes I think I leave the horrible clothes on the floor, covering the foul carpet, just so I don't have to walk on it, I can just walk on the clothes I hate to get to the comfy bed. Or the sweatpants. But I can't avoid it forever, the carpet, and the clothes. I have to overcome it, so that Josh will tear out the gross floor covering and expose the asbestos linoleum from the 60s that he says will kill us if we breath the air emanating from it. I keep explaining that it can't be worse than the contaminated carpet, and I would rather die than wear any of the clothes anyway. Horrifically, I have to go in there and sit ON THE VILE CARPET to PUT AWAY THE HURTFUL CLOTHES to get anywhere in this life. Even to die from the asbestos. It's all up to me. My life is hard. And that is why I am typing.

When I opened up my eyes this morning, the first thing that crossed my mind is that someplace, there is someone waking up in worse pain than me. I congratulated myself on the habit that I have cultivated of comparison-gratitude, whereby I now instinctively turn my complaints into a pseudo-thankfulness. Psychologically, I am not sure that I am winning. Mostly because my second thought was that whoever out there woke up in more pain than me was probably suffering for some good reason, and nobly so, and I just have a stupid uterus. So then I thought that I should be thankful for even waking up, since some people didn't even get to do that this morning, and my shallow, selfish psyche instantly threw the pain and the mean clothes on the floor and the disgusting carpet in my face and made some snarky comment about how not waking up sounded somewhat pleasant, and at least those poor souls weren't in more pain than me anymore. Human beings are terrible people. Really we are. Here I am, whining about some moderate-to-severe chronic pain, and too many expensive clothes that don't fit on my too well fed body in my too-warm, if dirty and smelly house, and I can't really stop my own mind on a plateau of actual gratitude. Shame on me. I deserve to clean a disgusting room.

After all of that psychological, guilt-based warfare on myself, I decided to just stay in bed and play with Dagny for awhile. That seemed to help my general demeanor, as well as a bowl of slippery ripe peaches with heavy cream and some darn good coffee. I do have to pretend that this brown carpet isn't in my house when I eat and drink, or watch movies, or anything, otherwise it grosses me out and I want to just rip it out right now and die of asbestos poisoning. Can somebody tell Josh that nobody every died right-this-second from asbestos flooring? I am sure that is true but I lack the evidence to back it up. He is mostly concerned with the asbestos accelerating the acute case of high blood pressure and heart disease we both got when we sat in a car for a month on the last fire and gained ten pounds apiece. He doesn't believe me when I tell him that the carpet is contributing to my depression and nasty carpet has been linked to a high percentage of unexpected suicides. Much more dangerous than asbestos flooring. Plus the asbestos has cute yellow flowers that make me feel happy. At least I will feel happy when I die of heart disease and asbestos poisoning.

I really think that it's all of this BROWN that is getting me down. Seriously. I like brown, certain shades in certain contexts. But to be fair, everyone knows that we got rid of a certain Suburban once because the brown overwhelmed me and made me heartsick (which is like emotional carsickness). Now the whole house is brown. Brown carpet, brown walls, brown windowsills and couches and pillows and dogs and floors and paneling and tables and chairs and brown-brown-brown-brown-brown. I feel like I am drowning in dirty brown that smells like 4 dogs and teenage girls. It's too much. I am heartsick. No wonder I won't leave the house and I feel depressed. I feel brown when I walk outside and go to town. Everything is brown. I am brown. Even the deer in my front yard right now is brown. The layer of dust and mud on both cars is brown, and Josh doesn't support car washes that cost more than the loose change in the cupholder that you give to the youth group in the Safeway parking lot. It's because of people like Josh that youth groups don't do car washes any more. At 47 cents a car, it just doesn't add up. So our cars are brown too. And our porch. And even my coffee. And all of our furniture. The reason I like my bed so much is because it's red and green and yellow. And soft. Not scratchy and dry like brown is. I keep threatening to take a giant bucket of any color paint that isn't brown to all of these paneling walls, just to keep from going brown-crazy, and Josh tells me to just wait, he is sheet rocking them any second. If I would quit spending the sheet rock money on shoes. BUT THE SHOES AREN'T BROWN. Which is probably the biggest reason I got them. I just need less brown in my life. So I take a lot of naps. But maybe, if I go clean my brown room, Josh will let me asbestos-poison myself. Just maybe.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Things About Rain

It is pouring outside. Water is running in rivers down my windows and my driveway. I should be wearing my fire turnouts right now, sitting in a big fire engine, waiting for law enforcement to tell us we can go put out the fireball that was once a house way up Onion Creek Road somewhere. That's where Josh is. But it's raining, and my turnouts had a lot of spiders on them the other day when I was at the fire station. And there are plenty of boys on those trucks who aren't being attacked by their vicious uteruses (uteri?) or beckoned by their soft and fresh-out-of-the-dryer sweatpants to a couch full of Very Insecure Dogs. So I am not. I already spent the morning driving kids back and forth between school and sports physicals and I got very wet doing so. It seemed reasonable to me to warm up my coffee and the last piece of Peach Upside Down Cake for breakfast, which I made last night in psychic preparation for a rainy morning,  and take care of the canines. Especially since Emmy was upstairs in whichever bedroom she felt like was the safest, howling pitifully and alone at the thunder and fire siren when I walked in the door. The poor dog has an emotional meltdown every time the pager goes off. Or one of the military jets fly over. You should have seen the puddle of pee yesterday when Josh was shooting nails into the concrete floor of our "new" living room. In some ways I envy her. If I could pull of such a totally pathetic and believable routine of psychiatric issues, I would probably earn myself a mandatory spot on the couch eating bon-bons and watching crap TV. Pretending to be stable only results in people expecting me to do stuff, like take kids to sports physicals and respond to fully involved house fires. (Ok, now that I am not there and I realize the guys are all geared up, I am a little jealous... but the sweatpants....). I am just going to sit here and talk about how productive I was last night, when I made this:


This is Peach Upside Down Cake. I meant to take a picture of the whole thing, but it was gone too fast...

PEACH UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

(from about.com's Southern Food site. If a recipe that involves "southern" or  "south" pops up in a google search, it's almost a given that I will head there...)

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups sliced drained peaches
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Preparation:

Melt butter in a 9-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter. Spoon fruit over the brown sugar.
Beat eggs until light and lemon colored; gradually beat in granulated sugar. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the hot water. Pour batter over peaches. Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn upside-down onto a serving plate.
http://southernfood.about.com/od/peachcake1/r/bl50727c.htm 



I actually went to town this week. Oddly enough, I couldn't wait to get home, and I promptly cancelled the family shopping trip to Portland this weekend. I think the big mistake was going into WalMart, and realizing that there wasn't anything that we could possibly need badly enough to justify ever going there, or anywhere else in public, again. Some days I feel like I am embarrassed to be a human. Not that being a smelly, gaseous, snorey dog would be any better, but people are dirty, and gross, and obnoxious. And we are just silly. The things we "need" or want or do are just silly. I can say this because I am among the most exacerbated representations of all that is shallow and human. I love to shop. I love junk. I love kitsch, and the stuff that nobody would have ever thought they needed to own. Like spoon holders to get dirty instead of your stove top, or corn-on-the-cob holders, or paper plate holders. Or holders of almost any kind. I am a total sucker for cute things. Like that little ceramic animal that serves absolutely no earthly purpose other than taking up space and collecting dust. BUT IT'S SO CUTE! Again, people are silly.

Spending all of this time at home has made me look around, and I see so much stuff that is unnecessary and almost embarrassing. Why do I have a thousand magnets on my refrigerator? Because they're cool. Why are they cool? I don't know, they just are. And they hide the orange juice and strawberry jam that is dripping down the door. I remember being a newlywed, the first time, and having all of this furniture that people gave us, most of which was hideous and we hated. And when I moved away from that life, I swore I would only have furniture in my house that I loved. Or at least Really Liked. Having a husband with somewhat different taste than mine has compromised my avowed standard a little bit, but I have realized that A)even the stuff I love gets dirty and gross and embarrassing and B)the stuff I love changes and some of the things I loathed before, I'd be fine with now. I don't really have furniture that I can't stand these days, but I can't stand the way that the furniture I have, looks. It's dirty. I vacuumed one couch three times last week and truck is sleeping on it now (thunderstorms exhaust him). SOMEBODY got green gum in the carpet, and I am still lacking the hardware to affix that One Last Knob to the shabby chic dresser in my living room. I feel absolutely content with the stuff we have now, and maybe in a dramatic but gradual change of heart, I can't wait to offload a lot of the junk as we go. Including magnets.

It is Friday, I guess. That's what a lot of people are saying. All of my days run together. I suppose that means that Josh is leaving soon for drill in Portland, and I will have three girls to contend with all weekend alone. With all of the horrible things going on in the world, I really shouldn't feel so overwhelmed with this. It's not like my house is a Syrian Civil War, Or a battle of moral parenting skillz on the Interwebs between a cadre of blog artists, or even a fully engulfed ball of fire. It's just a lot of hormones and emotions and dogs. And gum on the carpet. I could go to karaoke tonight. Or get some pizza for dinner. I could take the girls to "town" tomorrow to get "stuff". Or I could take a lot of naps and watch a lot of crap TV. If I had a TV commentary blog maybe I could get away with it. I mean, who doesn't want to read about Kim Kardashian's baby weight or what's happening with Breaking Bad? All of this is made imminently difficult by the fact that I only have Netflix for TV so my entire commentary would be over a year behind. Maybe a television commentary blog for financially destitute and rurally secluded housewives who are avoiding laundry and a box of peaches that need to be canned? I am sure I could blog at their speed. Maybe I will try that. I think I am so totally energyless because the proposition of a "full time" job at the school has cropped up. It exhausts me to even think about working FIVE DAYS A WEEK. FOREVER. Because I am spoiled. 6.5 hour days with benefits and summers off. I mean, what's to even think about? It's a no brainer. Doesn't really matter if my job is scrubbing toilets in the kindergarten room (which, BTW is the grossest thing I can think of, next to middle school boys bathrooms), it's the IDEAL job for me. Even if it's a job. And it happens EVERY DAY...... I CAN DO IT. And I will. Happily. More happily if it means I need to shop for new "work clothes", because like I just pointed out, we don't have enough stuff. What this says to me is "go take a nap right now before you run out of time and have to go to work every day." Maybe what it should be saying is "hurry up and get your laundry done and can your peaches before you don't have time." Maybe I don't speak conscience any more. I think the nap conversation is winning, hard. It is raining, after all, and the dogs are needy...