Sunday, December 31, 2006

Greetings from the edge

Well, here we are, teetering between one year and the next, swearing to ourselves and anyone who'll listen that this year, this time, somehow, we're going to get it right. Go join the gym. Really use the membership this time. Quit smoking. Eat better. Go to the dentist. Get that new colonoscopy everyone is raving about. Whatever, people all over the world are making resolutions.

I don't like them; they always seemed so all-or-nothing to me, hold to that promise or the whole year is a bust. I try to make recommendations. what-abouts. Suggestions.

So. This year I suggest that I try to be the mother I wanted. Everyone, no matter how wonderful their mother is/was, wanted something from her that they didn't get. So every day, just for that day, I am going to try and be that person. If I don't pull it off with quite the flair I had hoped (or if I didn't pull it off at all), there's always the next day.

I was thinking that I would try making something I've never made, and selling it. I have no idea what. I have no idea to whom. But it sounds like it could be fun, so that's nice.

I may try the NaNoWriMo again. I wrote more this year than I ever have before, and I consider that quite the success. Maybe next time I can write even more than I already have. Gotta have goals.

My main suggestion, though, is to concentrate on home and everyone in it. Now that Dude is becoming more active and aware of what's going on, I realize that I haven't spent as much time -- intensive one-on-one time -- with him as I did with Perp at this age. Of course it would have been hard to, since she was the only baby in the house and he's got a lot of competition. But she's going to start going to preschool three days a week and I intend to make it a priority to spend most of that time with Dude. He clearly needs more together time than she ever did. I'll do my best.

Husband has also suffered this year, and my strongest suggestion is to remedy that: Date Night. Regularly. Maybe even a Child-free Night. Woohoo. Movies. In a theater. New movies, like, before they go to DVD or cable.

AndIhopetobeabetterpersonandallthatshitbutreallywhoamIkidding.

Happy new year. I humbly suggest you have a good one.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dear Blogger

What the fuck, dude? I have pictures. You have an "add image" option. Howzabout you let me, you know, use it?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Johnny Drama: VICTORY!!!

Ahhh. Please note the snow outside in one of the photos. Great baking weather, I say. Thanks, Ma Nature!

I just happen to have some pâté in the fridge, which I plan on schmearing all over a slice of tasty, tasty sourdough. Mmm. Pâté. Mmmm, sourdough. Eeew, snow.







I nearly ate it coming home from Dude's doctor appointment today. We live several miles off of a small highway, and when I turned off the main road onto the county road, I slid sideways toward some very nervous people going in the opposite direction. Let me add that I had slowed waaaay down and even downshifted to second, but there was just no way that corner and I were going to see things eye to eye. Yay me, though, I steered my way out of it and didn't really get much closer than about 8 feet from the nearest car. Still, more excitement than I really signed up for today. I wish I'd been able to see the other drivers' faces.

People around here--well, probably all over the country but I notice it more here because, well, I live here--drive like TOTAL ASSHOLES. It's compounded when we have weather (Midwesternese for rain, snow, sleet, heat, whatever isn't generally sunny and warm). The county road hadn't yet been plowed when I left this morning, and only part of it had when I came back (notably, the spot where I slid out had not been plowed or salted yet). That doesn't stop hotrod dickweeds from hauling ass up and down the main and side roads like they own the place. Of course, they have FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE, so they can do whatever they want, nothing's gonna happen to them.

Kids, the only thing four-wheel drive is good for is getting you stuck in a deeper ditch. You drive fast in snow or rain and sooner or later you're gonna to bite it. On a good day, you'll only harm yourself. On a bad one ... well. I hope I'm not around to see it.

In a couple of weeks, if the snow sticks around, people will access their snowy-weather driving files and things should get better. In the meantime, I'm going to assume that everyone is out to get me.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In which Husband's bounty is mine as well

Under the tree on Monday was season two of Arrested Development which may well be the funniest show of ever. Ever. How often do you get to watch a show with characters called "Mrs. Fingerbottom"? Where the accidentally photographed testicles of one chracter are mistaken for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass distruction? Never. Not unless you watch season two of Arrested Development.

Other choice tidbits, which are probably only funny if you've seen the show but I list them nevertheless because, hey, it fills space:
"Tea for dong!"

"You're losing blood, aren't you?"
"Probably, my socks are wet."

"Who'd like a banger in the mouth?"

Yesterday I stopped at the gas station to fill Hal up ($2.39/gallon) and there was a woman in line ahead of me. It took me a while to figure out that she was a woman because she wore a jacket, skirt, and purse all of camouflage fabric. The disembodied head bobbing its way into the store took me by surprise. That material really does hide everything it covers. No wonder the deer can't win.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Local boy makes good

I just love stories like this. What an amazing thing to do for someone.

Are you a registered organ donor? Does your family know that? Write it down. Tell your family. File an advanced directive with your doctor and make sure your family has a copy; designate medical power of attorney with someone who will abide by your wishes and won't let others override them. Me? Take whatever you can use and torch the rest. Sprinkle that in a hole and plant a blueberry bush. Every year, comment on how great grandma tastes this season. Bake a pie and think of me.

'Just good problems'
Brandon Stahl Duluth News Tribune
Published Sunday, December 24, 2006

When Lance spied a teddy bear sitting on a recliner, the 16-month-old made a crawling break for it and happily hugged the toy. Suddenly, his sister, Hana, wanted it, too.

“That’s my bear,” the 3-year-old said.

The two tugged for it, but big sister eventually won, pulling it out of Lance’s arms, toppling him to the floor. He cried — but the only thing that seemed to be hurt was his feelings.

“See?” said their mom, Stephanie, as she picked Lance up off the floor. “We still have problems. Just good problems.”

It’s been mostly good problems since July 20, when Lance received a kidney from his father, Eric, in an operation that reversed the family’s lives. No more marathon dialysis sessions for five or six days a week. No more medical crises sending the family into fear their son might not make it through the day. No more lives being put on hold and the family being split apart.

“We can start over,” Stephanie said. “We can spend Christmas together.”

They couldn’t do that last year. On Christmas at about 3 a.m. Lance spiked a fever and his family rushed him to the hospital, where he and his mom spent the day. Meanwhile, Eric was home with Hana.

“I didn’t really get to see my daughter that day,” Stephanie said.

MOVING OUT OF DULUTH

That was a typical day for the family.

Shortly after Lance was born on Aug. 9, 2005, he was diagnosed with what’s known as “prune belly syndrome,” a rare disorder that affects only one in every 30,000 live births. It left Lance with a deformed and disfigured abdomen and severe kidney problems. He would need 11 surgeries over nine months, including removal of his kidneys and ureters after they failed.

Most of Lance’s life was spent in a hospital applying temporary fixes to his health until he could grow big enough to get a transplant. He would get better only to suffer sudden downturns.

Last year, the four had been living at the Ronald McDonald House for a few weeks before Christmas so they could be close to Minnesota Children’s Hospital, Fairview, where Lance was being treated for kidney failure.

Eric and Stephanie had to quit their jobs to care full-time for their son. Even after selling many of their possessions, bills kept piling up. Eventually they had to sell their house.

“We loved Duluth,” Eric said. “But we just couldn’t stay there.”

They spent months in the Ronald McDonald House waiting for the transplant, which was delayed twice after blood tests came back with problems.

Finally, more than two months after surgery had been originally scheduled, Lance’s blood tests came back normal and the transplant was a go. After a six-hour surgery, the operating physician pronounced the transplant a success.

“Your son has a beautiful kidney,” the doctor told Stephanie and her family.

‘IT’S A START’

Once the transplant took place, they were finally able to get their lives in order.

What they first noticed was new life in Lance. Before the transplant, at 11 months he lacked energy, could barely sit up by himself and needed to be fed through a tube.

About a month after surgery, Stephanie said, it seemed like Lance was having milestones “once a week.” He’s now crawling, talking, standing up, feeding himself and having tug-of-wars with his sister. The only physical sign remaining that he was so sick is a feeding tube in his nose. Even that, the parents say, should be gone in the next two months.

“He no longer looks like a baby,” Stephanie said. “He looks like a little boy.”

Dr. Elizabeth Ingulli, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and nephrologist who is assisting with Lance’s care, said a kidney transplant for a baby is extremely rare. And for those who get them, the first six to 12 months are the most critical to see if the babies will reject their new organs, she said.

So far, Ingulli said, Lance seems to show almost no signs of rejection. “His progress has been excellent,” she said.

The Wittleders moved out of the Ronald McDonald house in late August into a two-bedroom duplex rental. The family says that it’s not ideal — it’s small and doesn’t have a yard — “but it’s a start,” Eric said.

Eric and Stephanie have found full-time jobs: Stephanie as a project manager for a direct marketing company, and Eric working for a bike manufacturer in Minneapolis. He often rides his bike the 12 miles there.

The surgery was physically painful for Eric at first, he said, but now the only lasting effect of losing his kidney is an occasional pain in his abdomen.

There are still concerns with Lance, namely making sure his body doesn’t reject his kidney. And because his immune system has been suppressed by the anti-rejection drugs he has to take, a minor malady such as a cold can become a major problem. He spent a night in the hospital on Dec. 17, his first in several months, after having a bad cough.

“That was a quick reminder of how good we’ve had it,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie and Eric have to juggle their jobs while getting Lance to physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy.

But those problems pale in comparison to the ones they had a year ago, they said.

“Our son doesn’t have to live his life in a hospital,” Eric said. “He can be at home with his family for the first time for Christmas.”

Stephanie added, “I feel such a sense of joy. It’s so good to have the family together.”

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/articles/index.cfm?id=31605§ion=News

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas everybody!

It's her favorite day of the year!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dude overboard!

... yeaaaah, so I guess we've got a climber. Husband went in to get Dude for his early (now 3:30 a.m.) feeding and couldn't quite figure out why the door was so hard to open. Um. Probably the baby lying in front of it. I guess we have to put the side rail all the way up now. Perp never ever tried climbing out of the crib. In fact, she's only recently started trying to climb into it.

We have spent the last couple of days gearing up for Christmas, unlike, say, 90% of the rest of the country, who are heathens and prepare weeks ahead of time. Explaining Santa Claus and Christmas to a child is hard. I don't remember ever being told about it, it was always just there. But clearly I was told, right, because I was an only child and I knew all about Santa. So. How to explain fat man sneaking into house to eat snax and deposit gifts? And reindeer. Who fly. It's a little weird. Do you make a point of explaining all this or just sort of let them absorb it by osmosis? She's not around a lot of other little kids at this point so it was us or nothing. Maybe one crazyass day of giftiness will drive the point home and we can move on.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Silent Saturday

You need to get up close for this one

Crabbiness

Do you suppose the reason I was so inalterably cranky yesterday was because I managed to space my meds two days in a row? Gosh. I went to bed at 6:30 and even though I knew I hadn't posted, I was in such a foul mood that all I wanted to do was crouch under the covers and gnaw on a bloody bone. I made do with a book. (a book!!)

I churned out a wretched loaf today, and a nice one. Same batch of dough. WTH? So one more tonight for dinner tomorrow.

My question for the day: You have a robot. It cleans your house, does the dishes, menial labor, like. Do you say "please" and "thank you" to it? I don't mean a robot like a Roomba, I mean one with more intelligence and the ability to respond to questions or requests. Maybe something with the intelligence of a 2-3 year old. But not the tantrums, thankyouverymuch. Are you kind to it, or is it simply an appliance, albeit an smart, interactive one?


This post brought to you by Freaky Dreams, Incorporated, apparently.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Special for Ben

3 lb. fresh mushrooms
2 oz dried wild mushrooms
1/2 c madeira or dry sherry
1 stick butter
1 c onion finely chopped
1 t dried thyme
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c finely chopped parsley.

Pour the madeira over the dried mushrooms and let them soak until soft, probably around an hour.

Clean the fresh mushrooms and remove the woody stems. Mince them (I use the food processor, so much faster).

Melt butter and add onions, cook over low until tender, about 25 minutes. Then add fresh mushrooms to the pan and increase heat, stirring, until they give up their juices, around 5 minutes. Add the dried spices to taste.

While the mushrooms cook, transfer the dried mushrooms to the food processor and carefully pour the madeira over them, being careful to not add the sediment at the bottom (sometimes it has sand, ew). Puress until smooth and add to the rest of the mushrooms in the pan. Reduce heat and cook until the duxelles is reduced and thickened, about 40 mintues. Near the end, it dries up fast, so stir constantly to prevent scorching.

THEN:
Heat stock (chicken or veg). Add a good cup of duxelles for every 32 oz of broth. Thicken with roux or cornstarch (use milk to blend either thickener). Add 1/2 cream to the whole shebang, and s&p to taste. If you're feeling especially frisky, poach a chicken chest or two and add them to the soup in largish chunks.

That's it!


Ooh, special WI weather bulletin: snow and freezing rain pushing into our area! Maybe we get a white Christmas after all.

Someone remind me that I have got to go see this before it is removed. How cool!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Well, then

I was going to post some Very Amusing photos but Blogger is unable to process my request. I have no idea if I'll be able to submit a simple text post, but my irrepressible and sunny outlook on life forces me to give it the old college try. So. Well. Here we are.

Why do my cakes sink in the middle? Also? Why do they take twice as long to cook as the recipe says, then *still* not be done in the center (perhaps why it's falling, dumbass)? There are a couple really neat looking books on kitchen chemistry that I feel I simply must purchase but I'm forever forgetting when I surf @mazon. One of these days. I didn't do well in chemistry. I never took it in high school (nor physics, civics or any other -ics classes for that matter). When I enrolled at the university, I had to take a chemistry placement exam and I'm fairly certain the computer wanted to send me back to 9th grade. I ended up in a class roughly the size of Sacramento, with one professor and about 16 TAs. The professor invariably wore a lab coat, a black turtleneck, and dark pants. It was rumored he lived in the dorms.

I didn't bother getting out of bed the day of the final. When I took the class a second time, I managed to pull a D. Thereby ending my dreams of getting into vet school. Probably for the best, I'd want to run over every client who brought an animal in to be euthanized because they couldn't be bothered to train or care for the poor thing. People suck. That's my irrepresible sunny side talking, by the way. Ain't she grand?

Does anyone else have the memory of a gnat? Seriously? If I'm at the store and I realize I need to buy X but it's not on the list, I must proceed to X's aisle immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and for the love of the little baby Jesus, DO NOT GET DISTRACTED BY ANYTHING ELSE. Because then? I forget what I wanted to buy that I forgot to write down, and then I remember on the way home but it's too late and I forget to write it down (again) and the cycle, she continues.

It didn't used to be this bad. Yes, I was distractable, not like someone with ADD but it wasn't hard to send me off --hey, a kitty!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

GO to SLEEP

child. Perp slept for like 3.5 - 4 hours today so of course she's stil wide awake I have decided Dude will compensate by sleeping through the night.

I live in fear that Dude will get a slew of toys for Xmas and we'll have to find a place to stuff them. Is it wrong of me to just regift them since, hey, we have all that stuff already?

I know I'm boring. Too tired. Must sleep DAMMIT I stayed up to fricking late again.

PS, Hey, bell ringer: 90% of the people walking past you ARE NOT DEAF. Ease it the hell up.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Before I forget

Dude climbed onto Perp's bed today. By himself. Then he tried to hurl himself to his death but I stopped him. Silly boy.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Carving out time

I find myself in a quandry. I have little time to read these days (what? what the hell are you doing with your time? Put the bonbons down and pick up a book!), so I tend to be pretty particular about what I do read. I don't have as many lazy days that I can devote to munching through a particularly juicy tome, or at least I'm not willing to suspend other activities to do more reading. I suppose it is a matter of priorities. Right now mine lean more toward sleep than literature.

So I find myself doing dribs and drabs, in the car today while Husband did the groceries; during an oil change; just before bed because no matter what I'm reading, at 9 or 10 I react to it like it's a statistics textbook.

I have the disturbing habit of reading many books at one time. Right now my bedside table is supporting a manual on Photoshop Elements, Eldest by Christopher Paolini, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, and an ever-growing pile of New Yorker magazines. It will take me forever to read them, witness the magazines. Every week we get a new one. Every two weeks or so I manage to sift through one. You can see where this will lead, I'm sure.
Chaos! On my bedside table!

Of course I could be reading right now if I had any sense. I suppose I am, just not in book form. But I wish I could just dedicate a day, a dark, rainy day, to reading a good book. I'd be alone in the house, with a cup of hot tea, some snacks, my cozy slippers. Perhaps I would take a nap in the middle of the day, then fall back into my book as evening came.

I know I'll have the time again. It's just hard to see that far ahead. It seems like the big things keep getting in the way of the little things. Or maybe it's the other way around; the little things do tend to get into trouble on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Eeeeeee! coli!!!!!!

Is anyone else reminded of the Bagwan rashneesh salad bar plan, here? Remember them? They spiked salad bars in Oregon with salmonella in an attempt to sway an election in their favor? (what?!)

Anyway, all these E. coli outbreaks in such short order made me think of good old Bagwan. Because seriously, when is the last time you heard of multiple outbreaks coming oneaftertheother like this?

My God, I've become a conspiracy theorist. I need chocolate.

Do I get a Christmas party pass?

I really think it's in order, here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A sad day for comedy

Peter Boyle has died.

More here.

This just in!

The word of the year! as if you had any doubt.

Ah, but then I remembered

and posted before midnight. Because seriously? If I spaced out this early? You'd just have to hunt me down and shoot me.

I am Organizing Things. Photos, music, files, music files, whatever. All in a-soon-to-be-successful attempt to avoid sleeping because hey, Dude's just going to wake up at midnight anyway and what's the point of two hours' sleep, really? Really.

I'm deleting all the duplicate songs in iTunes (WHY can't they make that easier?), adding new music (thereby fueling my mad crush on Jonathan Coulton, despite the face hair, ew, seriously dude, rethink that), and wondering why I didn't know about John Hodgman before he was on The Daily Show (which I haven't watched in ages, I therefore hang my head in shame).

I know I'm missing out on some Very Funny People. Who are they? That's one of the things about having kids: you're too goddamned tired to read or watch shows that introduce you to the things that will make you happy, so you have to just find your amusement at home. Luckily toddlers provide heaps and scads, but it ain't exactly brain food.

I need a brain snack. I'm reading Spin based on ... someone's recommendation ... and it really is very good. It's going to take me a week of Sundays to finish it but the library is nice about renewing so yay me. I'm also reading Eldest by that rich kid Paolini. Not bad; he's got a lot of potential, but seriously? Step away from the thesaurus. You've got a sickness. A disease. A condition of some sort. Ailment. Disorder, malady, deblity, decrepitude. You know, infirmity. Tell the story and let your editor deal with the rest, huh? Because really, there's a definite tinge of purple to the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Number crunching

Dude had his 9-month well-baby visit today. He's 90% of the way to doubling his birth weight. I don't know what it is with my kids; I bake 'em extra long, they start out a more-than decent size, then they just plummet starting around 6 months. Not that I'm worried or anything, Perp did exactly the same thing, and Dude is probably going to beat her 12-month weight (18 lb), but it is sort of odd to me. So that's like half a pound a month. A bit on the slow side, but he's crawling like a madman and burning hella calories so frankly, I should be jealous.

Stupid fast metabolism baby.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Are you making it?

You should be. You know, the NYT bread that's taking the internets by storm (are you out there, internets? do you bake?). Mix up a sloppy dough and bake it in a pot 12-20 hours later? So. Freaking. Good. If I ever find the cord for my camera, I'll toss up some pictures.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1.5 teaspoons salt (more than the original calls for, but you'll thank me)
1/2 c sourdough starter if you like
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 (or 500 or 515!) degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Start it way before you need it, obviously, but I think you'll be Very Happy. With the starter added, you can also cut the first rise time by several hours. And I never need to wait 2 hours for the second rise.

Also? Toss in half a cup of sourdough starter. Oh. My God.

I need to up my cornmeal quota (instead of the bran, though maybe that will work better) because I'm having some sticking-to-the-pot issues, but I'll work it out. Also? You can make dinner rolls with it!

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

This recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street Bakery’s recipe published in the New York Times on November 8, 2006

* 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I like Bob’s Red Mill white bread flour)

* ¼ teaspoon instant (“quick rise”) yeast

* 1¼ teaspoons salt

* Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly gather dough into a manageable lump. Divide ball into 12 equal size pieces, approximately the size of a large plum. (An easy way to do this is to cut it in half, then half again; then cut each of those pieces into thirds.) Using your fingers, tuck each piece into a ball shape. Generously coat a Silpat baking mat or a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Be sure to space dough balls an inch or more apart so they don’t stick together as they rise. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When they are ready, rolls will have significantly increased in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

About a half hour before baking, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Get a nonstick 12-cup muffin pan and use aluminum foil to make a tented lid that fits around the pan. The tenting part is important—if the foil doesn’t rise well above the pan, your rolls will stick to it as they rise. You may need to join two pieces of foil. Set the foil “lid” aside and put the pan in the oven so that it, too, preheats.

When dough is ready, remove muffin pan from oven and quickly drop one dough ball into each cup. Cover with foil lid—and if you’re feeling frisky, spray some water under there just before covering (increasing the humidity under the foil tent). Bake 15-20 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until rolls are beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yields: 12 crusty, golden dinner rolls.


I'm all over these rolls tomorrow. I'm going to par-bake them and hang onto them for a group lunch I'm cooking for next month. Ought to freeze lovely-ly.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dudiversary

Dear A,

You are already 9 months old and I'm only now writing you a monthly letter; I planned to start when you were born but life keeps getting in the way. It's not quite the way I had planned things to go, but there you are. That's life. sorry. I can't honestly say this kind of thing won't happen to you again throughout your life, so you might as well get used to it now. Mama disappoints again.

You continue to be alternately sunny and serious. You go about your day with a fire in your belly, there's no question about it. Since you started standing in September (the 27th to be exact), you've suddenly discovered a whole new world exists approximately 8" above your head. The coffee table is an endless source of joy for you. I don't know if it's because you can now cruise a complete circuit around it or that there's generally something you can pull down and gnaw on, but it figures large in your life right now. Your sister enjoys sitting on it, so it clearly posesses some magic invisible to adult eyes.



Crawling was your next big feat, just under a month later. You developed an odd combination of scooting and butterfly; mostly it looked like you were doing the worm and warming up for a breakdancing competition. You have an unhealthy obsession with my plants. the begonia quakes in fear when you heave into view. It's great that you want to help me remove the dead leaves, but I'd love it if you could, you know, let the live ones stay that way.

You occasionally stand on your own, which both pleases and horrifies me. I see how happy it makes you, but in the back of my mind all I can do is hope that you take your sweet time walking. Really, it's not all it's cracked up to be. There's the falling! And the tripping! Perp walked fairly early, though, so I'm busy girding my loins and trying to put (more) things out of your reach. It's more difficult than you might imagine.

You have started to sleep more or less through the night. It is probably the greatest give you can give us right now; if only I could bring myself to accept it and go to bed at a reasonable hour.



You do a mean Bruce Willis imitation, pooching your mouth up like a teeny butthole and looking winsome. I don't consider BW winsome in any way but it looks good on you. So far, then, you've done baby goat, Joe Cocker, Buddy Hackett, and Bruce. I can't wait for the next stage. De Niro? Regan?

You continue to adore your sister with a passion that borders on unseemly. Everything she does is a source of fascination. Watching her exercise her ability to walk, talk, and maniuplate objects sends you into paroxysms of joy. You are also growning quite fond of your papa. Last night when he came home from work, you "ooOOOh-OOOoooOOOh"ed until he took you from me and you were able to bond, guy-style. I do feel badly for you that all other daytime occupants of the house are female. If you think it's hard now, wait 10 years. You. have. no. idea.



Your cutest new skill is to clap like a madman when I shriek, "Yaaaaaaaaaay!" It's insanely cute and I'm pretty sure you know it. When you bust it out for our friends, they keel over with cute overload. Add in the fact that you now have just enough hair that small bits of it will stand straight out from your head if you smear them with food, and I'm a little concerned that someone will experience heart failure when you turn on the charm.



When you get hungry, which is all the time lately, you have an odd snuffling in and out of your nose habit, combined with the Bruce Willis face. Then you furrow your brow (you were born with a frown on your face, so this is nothing new to you) and "Oooooohhhh OOOhhhhOOOOOHHHH," until I stuff your face with food. You're especially fond of prunes, which is a good thing, because you need them. Daily. In large amounts. You also love green beans and squash. Fruit? Other than prunes? Not so much. You seem to be more inclined to eating veggies, which is fine by me. Maybe you'll be interested in gardening with me when you're older. I hope you both love to dig your hands in the soil and watch your plants bear fruit. I'm finding that raising children is a bit like planting a garden, if you will pardon my hideously cliched comparison. You have no control over which seeds will take root, but you nurture them all as best you can; once the seedlings are established, you give them all the care you can and hope for the best. You really can't do much more. So we hope for the best for you and your sister, and we give you the best care we can. The rest is up to you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sweetness

Because I'm already longing for summer

I offer my favorite (made up! by me! ME!) summer dinner recipe. It takes advantage of the prolific supplies of basil and peaches and looks real purty, too.

Smackytown's Peach Basil Chicken
Chicken chests (I like boneless but you get a bit more flavor with bone-in)
Several ripe peaches, sliced thick
Balsamic vinegar (call it half a cup, but add more if you need)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Much fresh basil, cleaned and removed from the stems
Olive oil

Sautee the garlic in 1-2 T olive oil. Brown the chests in the garlicky oil until they have a little brown on 'em. Pour in enough balsamic to cover them half way, and put the peaches in the pan around the chicken. Cover and poach on medium until done, call it 5 minutes before you check. Toss in a good handful of basil leaves and wilt them.

GArnish with leftover basil. Crusty bread, salad, and you're good to go.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dig my style

It's been several months now, but I had a supreme Mom Moment this summer that Husband reminded me about tonight. I was going out with some friends and I carpooled with one of them. We went to a local brewpub for a well-deserved snort (mango martini thankyouverymuch [I don't care what you say, it's a martini to me, so shut UP]).

We were pulling into the ramp (parking structure/garage/?? to them what don't live Oop Nort') and I spotted several kids Making Mischief. There's this large metal U that is pinned to the ground upside down (does that make sense?), designed, I suppose, to prevent motor vehicles from driving down the path. I've searched high and low for a picture but since I don't know what it's called, it's a little hard to find. At any rate. The boys had removed said U and were dicking around with it.

I stopped the car (okay, van, I drive a minivan, might as well get that out in the open. Do you hate me now?) and, in my best snarky mom voice said, "Whatcha doin??" Like, I totally know what you're doing but I want you to tell me because you KNOW it's fucking stupid and did you really think you wouldn't get busted? The main culprit hung his head and muttered, "Nothin'."

"Doesn't look like nothin'. You're gonna put that back, right?" He struggled with it for a few minutes while his idiot friends watched. I eyeballed one of them and said, "You aren't going to help him?" and he shuffled over after protesting that he hadn't taken it out, grumble grumble whine.

All in all, a most satisfactory night. We searched for our parking spots, cackling with glee. And I didn't even get keyed!

The drinks were delish.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pavlov's toddler

Okay, so you know the story. Pavlov was this Russian scientist of some sort (three sorts, actually). It was he who first reported on what we now call classical conditioning. Pretty cool stuff, and a great way to train animals, I suppose.

More importantly, it's a great way to train toddlers. You can use it for just about any behavior, but we at House of Smack choose to employ it to get Perp to pee on the potty. We manage to do so with little or no wailing, gnashing of teeth, or shattering of eardrums. I won't even try to describe how she reacts.

MIL hit upon this idea and it's pure genius. Instead of being the unfortunate party who has to physically drag the little blighter to the can, or bribe her (with your choice of nasty food-ish items), you set a timer. It's a neutral party, indifferent and amorphous. She can't fight it; she can't bribe it; it doesn't care if she (fake) cries. It dings and she goes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We're now at the point where she even if she's just hearing the oven announcing it's reached the desired temperature, she trots off to sit on the pot. Crazy!

I know many parents use operant conditioning to try and potty train their tots, but I have to say, and in no way do I mean them to take this personally: that's fucking dumb. Well, wait. It's dumb if it's the ONLY method you use. I think you could actually combine the two, using positive reinforcement AND classical conditioning to obtain a fairly salutory effect.

Of course I'm talking out my ass, but so far it's working.

Hollow leg

I swear, I don't know where they put it. Last night, Dude ate a full cup of green beans (3.5 oz), most of a jar of peaches (call it 4.5 oz), several ounces of a chicken/wild rice mush I made him (call it 2 oz, and mmmm!), and several healthy spoonfuls of prunes. Hello, growth spurt! And? I put him to bed easily without nursing. First time of EVER that's happened on my watch.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Too sad to think much

My deepest condolances to Brenna on the loss of her friend James, and to Kati, Penelope, and Sabine Kim on the loss of their husband and father. So many people are thinking of you right now; I hope you can feel it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dude, you're totally tagged

OMG! I've never been officially tagged, at least as far as I know (which is my lame way of saying that if I ever have been, I didn't know it because I didn't see the post, oh, dear.) Schweet!

Five things you don't know about me

1. I'm a chronic starter and a shitty finisher. Unfortunately Husband and I share the latter. This means we have Something To Finish in every room in the house. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because it means that we've worked our way throughout the whole place. So yay us. But it also means that there are lots of small things, all why-didn't-we-do-this-shit-sooner? stuff. There are baseboards that need to be put back, trim that needs a second coat of paint, etc. I have lots of crafty things (curtains for Perp's closet) that I haven't managed to finish. Having two small kids in the house don't make it easier.

2. I can read as many as five books at one time. I generally do. It takes me forever to finish one, of course, but somehow it feels like I'm saving time by piling them on. Hi, I'm NWB, and I'm an idiot.

3. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Ideas range from science writer to organic farmer. Toss in pediatric nurse, epidemiologist, and something to do with animals and you pretty much cover the gamut. I have TOO many interests to figure out which one to settle on. I hope the kids have a better handle on their desires for their lives.

4. I have wicked tics and I could make them much better if I took meds but the side effects are worse than the tics, so I just muddle along. No one ever says anything, though they're impossible to not notice. I have been diagnosed by one doc as having Tourette and another as having dystonia (a catch-all dx if I ever heard one). I worry that it is TS and that it will affect Perp or Dude (it's more likely to hit him than her), or that their friends will tease them about it. But I can't bring myself to get treated given the potential problems from the meds. When I first decided to try and get treatment, I was so dopey that I fell asleep in the john at work. For half an hour. Toss in the odds of developing tardive dyskinesia, Parkinson-like symptoms, tachycardia, and oh, that pesky sudden and unexpected death thing, well... you get where I'm going. So I tic merrily along and figure that it hasn't stopped me from getting hired or married or making friends, and if other people can ignore it, so can I. Clearly I can't but I'm trying.

5. I bake a mean sourdough. French-style, so it's got that crusty, chewy, tastiness on the outside and fluffy airiness on the inside. It's all in the starter. I have a great starter. Just yesterday it burst out of its container on its quest to take over the world. I beat it back with a KitchenAid mixer. I think I've finally gotten it down right, and I plan on blind baking a bunch of loaves and tossing them into the freezer. Then I can lob them at my enemies give them to people as gifts. They also make fabulous croutons.

Since I'm ever the nosey one, I think Amy,
Devan, Kerryn (Hellloooo?! Are you still down there?)
Shelli and Dyke One should tag along. Feed my inner snoop!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Time for church

Before I forget: this morning we were on our way into town to investigate a school for Perp (worth its own post) and she spent a good three minutes singing, "Oh my God! Oooh my God, oh my God. Oh my Goooooood!"

Dream a little dream of me

I've been having those dreams again. You know the one. You're tooling along, doing your normal everyday thing, when you suddenly realize that you haven't ever gone to that one class you registered for and tomorrow is the final. Even worse, they've moved to another room so the registration papers you managed to root out of your long-neglected bookbag do fuck all for you. All your other classes? Covered. You've been there every day, minus that long weekend in Vegas (mmmm, Lotus of Siam), you're totally on top of it. You're a freaking star!

How did you manage to forget an entire class? It's essential to your major, you can't graduate without it, yet you've managed to let it evaporate entirely.

WTF?

It's almost always a science class. Chemistry and some kind of biology are the ones, generally; once in a while it's math but that's probably because I didn't take many math classes.

It's probably stress but I don't think I'm under any more than normal, just the everyday got-a-toddler-and-an-infant kind. But something must be up, because I only have these dreams once or twice a year.

I'm sorry, there's not much I find more boring than listening to someone else's dreams, but hey, this is my turf and I get to pee in all the corners if I want to.

If it turns out lie the last one, I'm going to post a pic of the most gorgeous sourdough boule. Stay tuned for details.

I need an intervention

because I watch Intervention. I'm not a hitman or anything but I'd be willing to take Sylvia out if her family asked me to. For free. Consider it a favor.

Jesus God woman, I haven't a single iota of an ounce of sympathy for you.

I've also never seen anyone pound vodka like that. I do find that a bit impressive.

D! You've got junk! Little baby junk! Isn't that a weird concept? We had penii!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Heaving a sigh of relief

Our phone and DSL were out from sometime yesterday evening to this afternoon. Imagine my building rage at the prospect of crapping out on Holidailies Day 3. But woohoo, here we are back in bidness.

How many of you have gotten sucked into digital scrapbooking? I haven't even done any layouts yet but the opportunity to sniff around the web to find free files is stragely addicting. If I ever figure Photoshop Elements out, I'll post picture of the kids.

OT: what the FUCK is up with dress shorts? NO. Nonononononononononononono. NOOOoooooo! I don't care whose label, what length, what fabric, SHORTS ARE NOT FOR FORMAL OCCASIONS. Hell, they're not for semi-formal. Beach. Garden. Hiking. Fine. Clubbing. Dinner. Meeting. WTF? NO!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

Drunk with power

So I didn't tell you about Thanksgiving, did I? WELL! My dad and stepmother were here, along with MIL, FIL, BIL and SIL. The ILs, if you will.

I got a ginormous (organic!) turkey at the co-op and hemmed and hawed and freaked out for a few days before I lit upon the original and rarely done idea of brining it. I know! Who knew you could do such a thing?!

3 gallons water
3 c kosher salt
1 c brown sugar
1 orange peel
many, many smashed garlics
handful of peppercorns
lots of dried rosmary that was too old to be of any use but what the hell

The bird was still frozen on Tuesday when I started this all up, but I figured since it had to live on the porch in a cooler, I needed to get a headstart. So I lobbed the gobbler into a big garbage bag, poured the brine into the bag, and tied it all up. Then I shut the cooler and went inside for many drinks.

You must not forget to flip the bird occasionally. I did not forget, but someone might, and you cannot forget to flip the bird. Seriously, it's like the only time you can do some bird flipping without someone else getting up in your grill and wanting to start a fight, so take full advantage, people.

The morning of TD, I rinsed the bird out, poured the brine into the driveway (gee, I hope the lawn survives), and my dad made the stuffing. About two hours into the job, I checked on the bird and saw that it was browning super fast (remember the brown sugar?), so I (okay, Husband did it) put two layers of foil on it and went on my merry way. My dad went in to peek and started to shriek about how it was burning and how hot was the oven, my god, man, how hot is it? "Five hundred." Cue wailing and gnashing of parental teeth. So to keep the peace I turned it down to 400. This is where the "drunk with power" part kicks in:

Let me tell you, they're still talking about that bird. The juiciness. The crispiness of the skin (which, in my opinion, is the whole reason to roast a bird, so you can feast upon many square feet of crispified bird surface). The flavor! So piquant! And I have to stop here and give myself props for the gravy, which was excellent. And copious; I do so hate to run out of gravy before I run out of leftovers.

We had many kick-ass sides, MIL made pies a-plenty (mmmm, pumpkin, ew minced meat), and I had the traditional okay-Thanksgiving-is-officially-over sandwich at about 6 pm. Yesterday I put the rest of the leftovers (turkey on the bottom, then gravy, which is the only acceptable way to reheat turkey) into a tub for the freezer. In a few weeks, we can relive the joy of excess and all we have to do is find the damn thing.

So neener, Dad. I always cook my birds fast and they're always juicy and delish. Never doubt me again!

On losing

*ahem* sorry, where were we? Oh, right, I was going to post daily throughout November and score that righteous turkey portrait. Until I passed out from stress got that wicked head injury forgot. Whatever, I have a lot of shit going on, dude, I can't be here for you every day.

Ooh, except now I'm going to participate in Holidailies 2006, so I guess I will be here for you. Every day. Unless I forget.

So. What's happened Chez Smack since last we met? Dude stands on his own for a few wobbly seconds now and again. Perp continues her verbal diarrhea and it is très amusant. Today she was tossing a huge rubber ball up the stairs, then letting it smack her in the forehead (where's that study about soccer players who do a lot of headers having more brain injuries than those who don't?); every time it bounced back down she's let out this hysterical cackle then shout, "OH MY GOD!" and toss the ball back up the stairs.

This afternoon she was playing play doh (we don't need no steenking articles) and kept saying, "I hate this show." I so don't say that.

While at the IL's place, she told FIL, "It's a hard life," which I totally do say. A lot. Because I have a toddler in the house. Hear me? Hollah.

Dude has started clapping, and I've already trained him (like a seal! but without the ball!) to do so when I yell, "Yaaaaaaay!" V cute, if you ask me, or even if you don't but you totally would because it's the polite thing to do, ask about someone's kids.

I've decided that on days that I can't think of one more fucking thing to say, I'll post a recipe. So next time I draw a blank, it's Fannie Farmer's molasses cookies, and they will kick the snot out of anyone else's molasses cookies, that's all I know. I love molasses. Sometimes I'll just eat a spoonful of it. Lots of iron, people, don't make that face.