Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kitchen Nightmares

The following story is true... I swear to God I couldn't make these things up on my own.

When I began this blog, I remarked to my friend Beth, "I'm trying to decide if I am just overly irritated by Oprah's show today or if I really have something to say." I wondered what I could write about on a regular or semi-regular basis.

Ahh..silly child. God will provide.

It started with furry eyebrows. I hate having them waxed at the beautician's. I think she takes some sadistic pleasure from ripping them off my face. Left unchecked, they look like angry caterpillars. A happy medium would be microwavable wax. (see a kitchen disaster in the making? Stay tuned.)

Whenever I have used this wax, it has never, ever, ever melted in less than 6 minutes. Ever. Eeeever.

I popped it in the microwave, set it for five minutes and happily returned to the computer. Just a few minutes of facebook crack and then on to short lived pain and smooth clean brows if everything goes well. The worst event I imagined was inadvertantly ripping one eyebrow completely off before tomorrow's school May Crowning mass and brunch. To say that would be bad is an understatement. 8th graders are fairly self-absorbed creatures but surely to God they would notice THAT.

Only 2.5 minutes later... *snap*crackle*pop* and let me tell you, not a Rice Krispie in sight.

I ran to the kitchen, threw open the microwave door, and the familiar experience of smoke rolling out of a kitchen appliance into my face set me into action. Not only had the wax melted in record time, so had the hard plastic container. In a puddle. In the bottom of the microwave. Lucky me - I had removed the rotating glass plate because it was dirty.

Luckily, I am a pro at this.

1. Turn on microwave fan

2. Open kitchen window.

3. Snatch small fan and set it as exhaust.

4. Turn on dining room celing fan, throw open sliding door.

5. Run to bedroom, get other fan, turn on somewhere in the house.

6. Cuss.

Is this what "dual exhaust" means?

So now. Clean up. Paper towels? Oh, no we don't have any of those.

Swiffer sweeper "dusters", come to mama.

Putty knife to scrape with? Nope, Pampered Chef kitchen spatula? Yes!

I am the MacGyver of kitchen disaster clean up.

I did as much of it tonight as I could stand and had the imagination for. Knowing that my husband will come home from work in the morning and microwave something, I left this "love note" for him. Remembering that we are out of tape and I recently wrapped a birthday gift with scrapbooking adhesive, I slid the paper through the handle and fled the scene of the crime.

I don't know how I will fix this tomorrow, but inspiration will surely strike.

I'm hungry - guess I'll eat something meant to be served cold.

I'll call the beautician tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now Serving: Deer Butt Chili

I find that long term boiling and a food processor can make almost anything edible, even deer butt.

Last week, M., a former student, dropped off two deer roasts for me, perhaps in appreciation for the hours I spent tutoring him as an eighth grader in an effort to get him to do his work. Now, as a freshman in high school he has nearly straight A's, without my help.

I got the packages out of the school freezer today and wondered what kind of dinner they could become.

One package label read, "12-24-08".... Oh, a Christmas Eve deer. That must have been a great Christmas for M. Not so much so for the deer. Below that, "Rump." M. brought me deer butt. Appreciation or retribution?

As I was pondering the symbolism of such a gift, I turned it over and read further, "Ass End." I debated telling Ismael that we were having the ass end of a deer for dinner. If I did, I would be dining alone.

Instead, I told him we were having deer chili. "It's pork?" he asked. He asks this all the time as if I would find it funny to sneak pork into my Muslim husband's dinner. No, deer and pig are not the same. He muttered something about swine flu and wandered away.

I set the pot to boil on the stove, added onions, tomatoes, and deer and settled in for a long boil to make the tough cut of meat edible.

During a break in my pot watching, I saw a 6 inch spider man hanging mid air out side of our patio door and caught on our clothesline. The 3 year old upstairs chattered away in Spanish as he yanked on the string to pull Spidey back to his web. More pot checking.

After 3 hours of boiling I had little hope - then I remembered a food processor can make almost anything tender. The big chunks of meat fell victim to the shredding blades. Back in the pot with more onions. And me back to my computer and the black hole that is Facebook.

Something was amiss - I looked at the screen door (now open) and realized that the three year old was no longer upstairs, but in my doorway and my inside cats...outside. Aye caramba. I introduced my Swahili named gatos, Moshe and Tembo, to him and he appreciatively stroked and chased each of them around the patio only to be scooped up by his embarrassed father.

It's been a multicultural night around here... a little Spanish, a little Swahili, and a whole lot of redneck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today we took our 8th graders to the Children's Museum in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. We visited the Power of Children gallery to see the Anne Frank exhibit and saw a local high school perform the play Life in a Jar.

I have been to the gallery before. The exhibits show many pictures of a young, carefree Anne before the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and she and her family went into hiding. The museum has videos, interactive displays and sound and light shows to keep the kids interested.

A large red leather school bag drew my attention. I opened the flap and the attached display told me what Anne stuffed in it on the day they fled: her diary, her favorite pen, some curlers and barrettes. Silly things she thought, but she'd rather have these things than more clothes. They were her things.

I wondered what Adam would stuff in a bag at her age? What "silly" things will be important to him?

At that point, the gallery became personal to me. The Frank's had done everything right. They fled war ravaged Germany for a safer existance in Holland. They protected their girls fiercely and went into hiding when they were further threatened. Yet, they couldn't control anything. Otto Frank lost his girls and his wife.

What would I do in his situation? As much as I think I should, I really can't control everything. I might do everything right and one day lose Adam. If I did, I'm not sure I could go on with the courage that Otto Frank displayed in his remaining life time.

Yes, I honored Anne as I do everytime I visit that gallery, but today I also honored her devoted, strong parents. I think that would please Anne.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


This has not been the best weekend. Aside from a great gathering with my college girlfriends on Saturday, I have been trying to recover from being awake and working almost 23 hours from Friday to Saturday. I haven't had enough sleep and that tends to make me more than a little cranky.

This afternoon, while wishing for a nap, HGTV was rolling in the background. A young couple in Scottsdale, Arizona was was overly distraught about which 250K house they wanted to buy. (I say the world really?? a lot in my head lately) Of course, everything ended well with them getting a great deal and a new set of living room furniture as a housewarming gift from the network. Good thing too, because with a $1750 house payment, they are going to need someone else to buy them things.

I wondered what they did to be able to afford such a house. We work so hard, but money still seems really tight all the time. We can afford our life, but there are no frills, no vacations, and no extras. And my dryer squeals a tune that implies imminent death.

So as I watched the young couple jumping into their new pool in the closing shot, I will admit I felt more than a pang of self pity. I'd rather stay positive though and thought, "What do I have, that they don't?"

I looked at Adam. I have him. He is my miracle.

I don't care about their stuff any more. They don't have what I have.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Boy Should Have to Wear Pink Jammies to the Babysitter...

No one but us will ever see them.

That's right. Rationalization 101.

I stood in Wal-Mart cursing under my breath because my son's recent growth spurt had propelled him into 12 month clothing at the age of just 5 months. He needed new jammies and soon because he could no longer straighten his legs comfortably. I'm convinced that's how some men get bowlegs.

Easy peasey - I'll just get the next size up. Easier said than done. The season outside had not changed but it sure had inside the stores. Still in the thirties at night and in the jammies section all shorts and t-shirts. Now even if he is in 12 month clothing, he's still just a little guy and I can't bear to put him in shorts at night. More so, I can't bear to give up my subarctic temp setting on the air conditioner. I like it down right frosty at night!

Fate conspired against me and after three Wal Mart searches, I finally found a single package of warm, blanket sleepers with footies. One was yellow, with little kitties and the other was hot, look at me, razzle dazzle, PINK.

No one will ever see them but us.

He doesn't care.

This is stupid. He'll be warm.

I wonder what Ismael will think?

Okay, I'll get them.

The next day I discovered that Once Upon a Child has almost everything I could need at any season in virtually any color and size. Hence began what I suspect will become a long, long love affair that the local store.

So last night, I finally pulled the pink ones out. As I zipped them up, he cooed happily, and I cringed at the lovely embroidered flowers on his chest.

No one will ever see them but us.

Off to bed he went and we happily slept in our own beds all night long.

Tonight I picked him up at the babysitter's and as I came through the door, I saw my beautiful son sitting on her couch. In pink pajamas. Smiling, happy to see me and pretty in pink as it were.

Fabulous. I forgot to lay out clothes for him this morning and Ismael delivered him to the babysitter as is. I think I will donate these to Goodwill sooner than later because no boy should have to wear pink pajamas to the babysitter.

I would post a picture...but no one will ever see them but us. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dichotomy defines "dichotomy" as division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups.

Janet's defintion: watching my drama queen son in a "tough guy" bib gagging and making faces over the taste of pureed vegetables.

Courage Under Fire?

Saturday started out as normal - breakfast at Flapjacks with mom so that she would have a chance to see Adam. On the way home, we stopped at Wal-Mart, picked up some pictures and a few groceries, and headed home.

Once home, I went into the kitchen and got busy. I had things to do!

I started peeling potatoes, and started knicking my fingers with the peeler. By the time I was done, I had a kitchen towel wrapped around my bleeding thumb and a large bowl of nicely peeled and sliced potatoes. I lovingly layered them in the pan, added cream, parmesan cheese, butter, thyme, chives, and garlic. Potatoes Gratin a la Tyler Florence at the Food Network. I'm not an expert chef, but I know how to use a recipe site.

An hour into cooking and I peeled back the foil anticipating wonderful things. After all, I had used FRESH thyme. Spending three bucks on fresh weeds to liven up a dish ought to produce wonderous results. Right? They had hardly cooked...hmm...oven temp? Good. Pan overfilled? Nope. Any spillage? No, not from the pan...but...there was a small puddle of cheese in the bottom of the oven. It was like someone placed the pan in the oven, then threw a handful of cheese in the bottom of there for fun. I scraped it up with a metal spoon, moved the pan over, and added a pan of fish for my husband's dinner.

Meanwhile, I was cooking onions, rice, and spinach to add to the fish. I was in kitchen diva mode. It was smelling yummy...but the burning smell from the oven increased. I checked and it seems that disturbing the puddle of cheese was a critical mistake. It was smoking, but seemed unthreatening. So Ismael would have smoked fish for dinner. I was okay with that.

Thirty minutes later...I removed the fish, added it to the concoction on the stove, and checked the potatoes.

STILL not done. Hmm... Tyler?

So I made the fatal decision to turn the oven up 25 degrees. Apparently the flashpoint temp for parmesan cheese is 400 degrees.

The next time I checked the potatoes the bottom of my oven looked like a flambe was cooking. Small circle of tall orange flames.

I shut the oven.

As if that would help.

I looked for the baking soda that I could have sworn was next to the stove. Gone.

I ran to the pantry and looked for it on the baking shelf. Nope. I did find the open bag of brown rice which at this point rained down on my head.

I ran back to the oven. Yep. Still fire. I grabbed a kitchen towel, removed the pan of uncooperative potatoes, wet the kitchen towel, and smacked at the fire. After all, it wasn't a grease fire. That should have worked. Except that cheese IS grease in its solid, yummy form. The fire splattered everywhere. That was a bad, bad plan.

I remembered that the apartment complex has a fire extinguisher in the hallway. I grabbed that, pulled the pin, aimed the hose, and BARELY touched the trigger. Poof! No fire! Success! Crisis averted. No 911 call!

My jubilation was short lived.

I had just that moment of elation. Accomplishment. While I stood there, stupidly savoring my victory over disaster, smoke and powder billowed out of the oven into my face and all over me. The kitchen air filled with the evidence of my success. The smoke detector began screaming. Ahh...heaven.

Disaster control. I scooped Adam out of his bed where he wasn't napping anyway and tossed him in bed with Ismael who was napping until my rude entrance. In what I hoped was a calm voice, I explained to my startled husband, "I spilled some cooking in the oven, it caught on fire, I put it out with the fire extinguisher." With that, I grabbed the fan and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind me. Poor Ismael.

I was back two seconds later. He'd rolled over and was just laying there with Adam. "Come HELP ME." I mean come on. The words FIRE and EXTINGUISHER should alert him there is a potentially deadly problem afoot. Plus the kitchen is so smoky that I can't get in there to open the window. I seem to think that HE should be doing this. Lack of oxygen. I was apparently not thinking clearly.

Neither was he. He just stood there, barefoot in a pile of rice in front of the open pantry, looking at the smoke and powder in the kitchen air. The two meals, uncovered, on the stove. Oven door hanging open. Previously clean laundry on top of the dryer. And the piece de la resistance ... the enormous mess I make when I cook all over the counters. Did I mention that I had been cooking with spinach? That seems to rain in my kitchen like confetti when I use it. I make a god awful mess.

"NEVER MIND! Go back to bed!" And he did. Ugh!

I ended up leaving the mess, throwing all that food away, leaving the windows hanging open with every fan we had running, and putting Adam in the car to head to the cookout. We bought KFC cole slaw on the way. My contribution. I mentally dared anyone to make a smart comment about it.

This morning I got up with all of the cleaning on my mind. All the laundry in there would have to be rewashed. All the baby bottles and their million assorted pieces. Should I wash or toss the onions? So much to think about. And Ismael was standing back in his spot in front of the pantry, looking into the kitchen, and then it happened. The straw broke the camel's back.

He asked, "Did you throw rice on the floor??"

Is he serious?

I went back to bed.

And as I was laying there thinking about all the correct things that Prince Charming could have said or done, I heard a distant "ting." Silverware being taken out of the dishwasher and put away, making room for a new load of fireproofed silverware, dishes, and baby accessories. "Ting, ting." Ismael, who had been working all night, was helping me in his own way while I wallowed in bed, and self pity. I'm not sure which was warmer or more satisfying.

Guilt drove me from my warm haven to my husband's backside which I hugged as he stooped down to get more dishes. With his help, we got one load of dishes going and a load of laundry. My task seemed less monumental and he was freed from kitchen drudgery to pursue his all consuming passion - in 24 hour news on the DVR and the Internet at the same time.

As for me, I'm buying a bucket of baking soda.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Apple and the Tree

My mother is on facebook.

If it isn't weird enough that I, and all of my college girlfriends, are on facebook at the end of our thirties, my 66 year old mother is tearing it up.

This morning's status update for her was: "Carol is going to put some color on her hair. It might take a couple weeks off her age. Or not."

After a few exchanges with me about Adam not recognizing her and making arrangements for lunch tomorrow she wrote: "By the way after my hair was all fixed I sprayed it with scrubbing bubbles. Had to start all over. Nice!"

I hurriedly related this story to my friends at school, laughing until I cried at the same time as I did.

But I didn't readily admit that I have (nearly) done the very same thing!! Hairspray and Scrubbing Bubbles cans are deceptively similar!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Operation: Family Tradition

On Holy Saturday, Adam and I needed an outing. Even my facebook status proclaimed: "going somewhere - don't really know where yet, but we will figure it out!" The weather was finally warm enough to think about being outside with him and we were (I was) bored. It's difficult when the baby is small and funds are tight. Add to it a holiday weekend when most friends already have plans, and the remaining options are slim. We (again I) decided that going to the beautiful grounds of the Art Museum would be a new adventure and provide a nice setting to take his six month pictures.

When we arrived, my normally super-happy bambino turned into an uncooperative little tot. He would not smile, or even look amused for the camera. He behaved instead as if we never have taken him out in the sun before. I snapped pictures while he scowled. I snapped pictures while he teetered and fell over in the grass. I snapped pictures in the sun and in the shade. In fact, I snapped pictures until he and the camera batteries totally gave up. I left, dejected, wanting some super awesome pictures and feeling like I had nothing to work with. I admit that I am jealous of the studio pictures my friends have of their children. I desperately want something as creative and beautiful as they have.

When I began to work with these on the computer, I found some that were actually quite good. My favorite is the one where he is touching the grass for the first time in his life. There was something in his curiousity and cautious approach to something I take for granted that is fascinating to me. I had been tempted to just delete the pictures and try again another day. I'm so glad that I didn't. We have so many pictures of him, happy and squealing, but none where he is truly exploring the world around him in a new way. I look forward to more of these moments.

I come from a family that has very few family traditions and have a sense that I need to create some for my son. I think that on his future birthdays and half birthdays we will return to the museum, to the same wooden bench, and take a new picture to mark the growth and wonder of the previous six months. It's not a grand tradition, but it's ours.

Friday, April 10, 2009

It wasn't supposed to be....

He wasn't supposed to be hungry yet. He just ate 90 minutes ago, and a full bottle at that.

Yet, as I sat down to a quick supper for myself of canned corn chowder soup, a turkey sandwich and a coke zero, my son insisted from his play mat that yes, indeed, he was hungry.

Or maybe just lonely. He loves his play mat - the colors, the music, the hanging animals - and it is a safe place for him to play if I am otherwise occupied. But tonight, he was having none of it. The lights and colors would not satisfy him.

And I wanted to be otherwise occupied. I wanted a few minutes just to myself to have dinner. I couldn't enjoy it (and not because it was a lousy dinner) while he insisted that he didn't want to be down there by himself.

I went to the kitchen and picked out two vegetables. Tonight's fare would be orange. I gathered the required utensils, a bib, and a wet cloth, and lastly my son. I desposited all of this into and onto his high chair.

And an amazing thing happened. I got my time to eat, but not alone. Once he was sitting near me, Adam quieted down quickly and happily watched me eat. He chattered at me, more than with me, and blew some raspberries my way (that is today's stunning developmental milestone...I would rather he learn to roll over).

When I finished my last bite of soup, I popped open a small container of squash, dipped the baby spoon into it, and put it in his waiting mouth. I really can't tell what it is that he thinks of squash...he looks like he is alternately savoring and questioning the taste and texture of such a food. He ate every bite though and greedily went on to his favorite: carrots. The smooth velvety texture of such a colorful vegetable should never be underestimated. Each bite was greeted by Adam with a hearty groan of appreciation. It was as if he couldn't imagine a more perfect food on the face of God's green (and orange) earth.

So we ended the meal as we always do, though today's bit of squash in/on his nose was uncharacteristic, by sitting him on my lap and looking out the window to see what the world has been doing since our last meal.

This week has been horrible. I have missed deadlines, been reviewed at work, neglected to grade my papers, attended a 3.5 hour academic competition, forgotten more than I remembered, and managed to get 47 8th graders to accurately portray, as much as possible, the way of the cross through the eyes of Mary. I have been overworked, overtired, and overstressed all week.

But tonight, I had dinner with my son who loves me more than I deserve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oprah has it wrong....

For a long time now, I've felt like I've needed a voice. I have a LOT to say - ask my husband...just don't ask him what I said...he may not know.

Tonight after my son went to bed, I was watching Oprah on my most favorite invention ever - the DVR. I watched two women (selling their latest book) talking about how imperfect and difficult motherhood is. They interviewed hundreds of mothers and heard about how they have not had showers in three days, take vicodin to get through the day, or wear Depends on the road because they are running from school to school.


And these women, Trish and Amy, say this with a smile as if this is normal, proper behavior...just a little secret that they have to let us in on. During the production shots for the show at their homes, the women smile with their PERFECTLY dazzling white teeth and talk about how hard motherhood really is while their combined five children leap from sofa to sofa in the palatial home. The madness continues outside as the kids run wild in the beautifully landscaped yard and the moms pose for the camera in front of the Mac laptop.

Another mom interviewed writes a blog about how hard motherhood is...and rakes in $40,000 a month doing it!


Now, I am new to this whole motherhood thing, but I'm not sure how to complain about it in a way to rake in that kind of cash, live in a huge home, and get my teeth whitened, because they sure need it.

On the contrary, I won't pretend motherhood is easy - it takes a lot of unselfishness, and that is difficult. But these women who martyr themselves to the point of wearing diapers to run errands are clearly women who do not embrace the role of being a parent, which doesn't mean that you must die upon the cross of motherhood.

Motherhood is a lifelong collection of God's Smallest Graces, showered on us one after another, if we only recognize them.