Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am maker of food........

Many people enjoy cooking. Some might even consider themselves "chefs". I  think my husband is a chef - he can create amazingly flavorful dinners out of the most exotic blend of ingredients. He considers himself a "cook" while I consider myself a "baker". But I realized that's not really accurate either. I mean, my cakes are always lopsided and mereingue scares the crap out of me. So, I'm not really a baker either. What I am is a "maker of food".

This is a special category of individuals who make food because it's necessary, because they are inspired to use up the last shreds of leftovers in the back of the fridge and because they are unnaturally attracted to magazines and cookbooks featuring photos of adorable monkey cupcakes that they will never make (but they'll buy the book anyway, because maybe....someday...). Or maybe that's just me.

But here's the thing. I actually enjoy making and eating little hot dogs rolled up in crescent rolls, or the creation I made tonight - tortillas spread with peanut butter and nutella, bananas and walnuts and "fried" in a little butter (or Smart Balance, I try to be healthy when I can!). I absolutely love my Tupperware that has lots of little sections - it's like a challenge to find something different and interesting for each section. I love to make up trays of crackers and cheese, fruit and veggie platters, assortments of sweet treats. Basically, I love appetizers!

We sometimes have a dinner we like to call "Feast". This is just an assortment of fun finger foods - usually just stuff found in the fridge, maybe, if I plan ahead, a shrimp platter or special dessert. I love the idea of having multiple things to choose from, a little bit of each. It's like the best of everything in bite-size! Frankly, I think my kids eat more fruits and veggies on the nights we have Feast. It's just more fun and there might even be some caramel to dip the apples in or ranch for the baby carrots.

Some people might find some type of satisfaction or pride in carting a steamy roast to the table on a platter. This freaks me out. Having to make a meal where all the "parts" are done at the same time is TOO HARD! Thanksgiving dinner is my biggest challenge, and I don't do such a bad job, but for cryin' out loud, I need a few months to recover after that feat! I can make a pretty good lasagne, throw together a ceasar salad and put some store bought garlic bread in the oven in a pinch, but why? Now that I've married a "chef" the fancy dinner footwork is done for me.

We share dinner duties around here, but often, as of late, dinner duty falls to me, and so I get creative. Which, for me, means "fun" food. Sure, I'll do the meat/starch/veggie combo from time to time, but the other night when I made pigs in a blanket and set out baby carrots and grapes, the kids ate more than they have in ages. Because, let's face it, those things are damn good!

When my kids were little, I didn't just cart around the boring old snack bag of Cheerios. No siree! I made peanut butter and  jelly roll ups and cut them in slices, sushi-style. I made "antipasto" - cut up string cheese and olives. I hoarded magazines with pictures of fun food. From them, I once made octopus on seaweed - a hot dog cut halfway through in "slices" boiled so the tendrils would curl, to which I affixed mustard "eyes" and set upon a bed of seaweed (ramen noodles died with green food coloring). Who cares if my kids were almost teenagers when I made it? It was FUN!!

I had a blast making cakes for my kids' birthdays and other occasions. Now that Hayley is older, she's taken over as resident baker of the family so I don't make too many cakes anymore (besides they're lopsided, remember?). But oh, the glory days! I made a Barbie cake so detailed with saccharine goodness it practically gave you a toothache to look at it. Barbie gloriously presided over a garden of green frosted cake, surrounded by real, tiny white picket fence, decorated with candy "rocks" and gummy frogs. I made a cake for a spa party once in the shape of a face, complete with green face mask and cucumber slices over the eyes. For a school cake walk, Hayley and I worked together on a sleepover cake - tiny Twinkie girls all snuggled in their respective fruit leather sleeping bags. I'm gettin' a little teary-eyed just thinking about those days.....

But that's the point of food. It should be fun and shared with people you love. I love me a good potluck like nobody's business. Bring on the jello salad! Bring on the Dorito casserole! Bright, pretty colors, layered goodness, fluffy deliciousness..........fun food is just GOOD! Now, go and whip yourself up some fruit kebabs or homemade fudgesicles. You know you want to!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Totally pacifying.........

It might seem weird for me to write a post about pacifiers since my kids are all pre-teen or teenagers. But pacifiers, those rubber and plastic combos that placate many a baby, were a huge part of our life. Funny thing, the pacifier. I mean, who thought that up? Obviously a breastfeeding mother who thought, why can't I just detach my boob and go about my business? This kid is driving me nuts? Then, some lightbulb went off and someone invented the pacifier. Wikipedia (always a reliable source - ha!) says the pacifier, also called "dummy" or "soother" originated perhaps as early as the 16th century as a "sugar rag" or "sugar teat", literally a soft rag with a bit of sugar in it and tied with a thread, intended to soothe a teething baby. In the 17th century a "coral" was a term for a rather expensive pacifier made with silver (hence, "born with a silver spoon in his mouth"), and often coated with mother-of-pearl or coral (hmmm.....I guess if you were really broke you could pawn the baby's pacifier?). Well, history lesson aside, pacifiers became a part of our lives in an unusual way.

Our first baby entered the world just as peaceful as can be. The hospital staff suggested that IF she needed to be soothed between feedings (haha), we should let her suck on our finger. This never seemed very sanitary to me, and also a bit weird, but we did it anyway. After many white-knuckle car rides with the baby howling (and a little bit of parent howling as well), my husband pulled into a drugstore parking lot and said "Go in there and get something, ANYTHING, that remotely resembles a finger for that baby to suck on!" I stared at the store display, confused, and ended up buying eight different pacifiers - all of which she hated. My sister, a more experienced mother than I, spent a long time "training" the baby to take this pacifier (I'm not sure what transpired during this "training" - she ordered my husband and I to go out to dinner). But, thank God, the baby took it, and was much happier. Happy baby equals happy parents and we became another set of thousands of parents who say "I'll never give my kid a pacifier!" and promptly did. At that point, "who cares?" became the mantra.

So, we entered the strange world of pacifiers where kids fall in love with a plastic and silicone object and covet it more than anything in the world. They even give it special names. My first child called hers "paci" (passy, rhymes with gassy, which also makes babies smile!). My second child called hers "Paco". No idea where that came from. My nephew called his "taba". Again, completely no explanation. Many others call it a "binky", "sucky" (that one cracks me up - it's MORE sucky if you forget the sucky when you leave the house!), "nuk" (a nod to a brand name) and many other nicknames for this object that, when you get right down to it, is a baby's drug of choice.

Those little suckers (pardon the pun) are all well and good when they're soothing the wailing baby, or keeping a tiny toddler quiet during a meeting. But the fateful day comes when it suddenly becomes a little less chic to outfit your preschooler in the latest kid trends with their plastic "friend" hanging from their lips. They accomodate this extra appendage very well - talking around it, slipping it out deftly when sipping a juice box. But when the kindergarten bus comes rolling into YOUR neighborhood, do you really want to have the oversized baby in overalls, new kicks and a PACIFIER? No you  do not. So, it's time to devise a plan to get rid of the baby crack. And that is a lot harder than it seems. The addiction is.....well, it's addiction! There's no getting around it and no easy way to get rid of it. Some kids give it up willingly - the promise of a treat or giving their pacifiers to a new baby is enough to lure the sucky away from the preschooler and into the mouths of babes. But other kids take a lot longer. A LOT. I, for one, can attest to a four year old who was quite fond of her pacifier. Oh, not in public, she had the decency to not humiliate her obviously flawed mother in public, but at home? At night? It was pacy or nothing. Until one day..........

To spare the gory details, I'll just say there was a particularly nasty tantrum on the way home from a preschool field trip in which the pacifier was demanded repeatedly, despite my reminders that we leave pacy at home and that we could get it later and that if she didn't stop screaming RIGHT THIS MINUTE I was going to throw that pacy in the garbage, yes I was! Once we arrived home (after dropping off the obviously shaken mother and child who were our carpool buddies on the trip), I said "That's it! I've had it! The pacy goes away TODAY!" I decided cold-turkey was the only way and I gathered up all the pacifiers and....no, I didn't throw them out, I was smart enough to keep them squirreled away in a drawer "just in case" but I was really hoping this would work.

It was a L-O-N-G night. That child cried, shook uncontrollably (could this be withdrawals?), wailed, begged and pleaded for the return of pacy. I held my ground. Not very well, mind you, and there were tears of my own, but at some point sleep blessedly overtook us. In the morning I steeled myself for another long day of tears and entreaties. But here was the advantage of breaking the dreaded pacifier habit when your child is old enough to go to school. My daughter pranced into the room, triumphant and announced "I went the WHOLE night without my pacy! Now I can get my ears pierced!" Sigh. Well, here's hoping next time we break a habit she doesn't ask for a tattoo.

Pacy, binky, taba, Paco.........whatever you call it, pacifiers are a weird concept. A blessing and a curse. Personally, I'd like one of those silver and coral numbers....I could pawn it and buy some sweet shoes.

Parenting by text.....

Some will say that technology makes our life better. Some will say it makes it worse. I think it all depends on how you look at it. For example, I spend a lot less time screaming for my kids now that I can text them. The texts go something like this: Me: 'mere. Child: Why? Me: Don't argue with me. Just come. Child: K. Then, the child arrives in front of  me and we have a conversation in a normal tone of voice instead of how it used to be, like this: Me: (insert child's name screamed at top volume, with syllables enunciated to distinguish between children - a curse of giving children names starting with the same first letter). Child: What? Me: Come here! Child: Who's here? Me: NO! COME HERE! Child: Let the dog out? See what I mean?

I enjoy parenting by text. I've had arguments, deep discussions, funny conversations and nice chats with my kids over text. Not that it's a substitution for face to face conversation. We have plenty of those, too. And they are punctuated by laughter, sometimes a little yelling, sometimes a lot of yelling, but mostly just good dialogue. Now, I'm not a fan of texting the person next to you (although I've done it) or texting at the dinner table (strictly off limits). My husband hates it when I text during a dinner out or at a school event (but sometimes I'm just checking up on the kids, really, I'm not on Facebook. Not always!). But I do enjoy texting instead of yelling. And I enjoy how I can keep tabs on the kids and not even be in the same room. For instance, I might hear a lot of yelling and raucous behavior, perhaps punctuated by a loud crash. And instead of rushing to see what happened, I might wait a minute then send a benign text: Save the pieces!

When my daughter is out late at night, and especially on nights she's with her father (who goes to bed before all the children!), I can have her text me when she's home, safe, without having to stay up and wait. I can get some sleep instead of trying to hold my eyes open over a book that keeps falling into my face, waking to that tell-tale chime of the text message. And, even though it's naughty and against the rules, I love it when I get a text during the school day saying I just got an A on my precalc test! I don't so much love the ones that say Mommy, I don't feel good or I forgot my lunch. But, still, it's nice to know I have this small link to my kids during the day, and that, when I once again forget to tell them I made an ortho appointment for right after school I can text them the good news and avoid a crisis (most of the time!).

Mostly, I love being able to parent from afar. When my kids are at their dad's, or on a vacation, and I can't be with them every day, I can still text and keep in touch. On my last trip to San Francisco, when I was exploring the city on my own, I took time throughout the day to text the kids pictures of my adventures and the sights. It was fun "sharing" it with them, especially since I didn't have anyone right beside me to share it with.

Still, there's no substitute for sending out a mass text to all the kids saying HOMEWORK, NOW! or Am I the only one who hears the dog barking? or even the occasional missive written in my kids' second language (text)........I LOVE YOU!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teach your children well........

When our kids are little, we teach them many "life skills".......such as dressing themselves, using the potty, brushing their teeth, taking a shower. We're so proud and happy when they achieve each and every milestone that, while basking in our happiness and pride, we often forget to teach the "fringe benefits" to each life lesson. For example, we teach our children to use the potty, but do we remember to teach them to change the toilet paper roll? Or to always make sure there's extra toilet paper in the bathroom? I'm pretty sure we don't, as evidenced by my children, who all use the potty like experts, but still can only manage, at the very highest level of competency, to unwrap a new roll of toilet paper and set in on the counter, inches away from the holder (oh, and they "miss" when they throw the wrapper in the trash).

Which is another life skill - good aim. I often find more trash outside the trash can than actually IN it, specifically in the kids' bathroom. Now, I KNOW I taught them that icky things go IN the garbage, but I guess I forgot to have them take practice shots so that the refuse would actuall make contact with the INSIDE  of the can. Kind of reminds me of their laundry bin. Definitely more clothes on the outside, carpeting the floor, than on the inside (in their defense, it's usually packed full, because that's another skill I forgot to teach them - if the laundry bin is FULL, one must actually DO the laundry to get it EMPTY again).

Now, I do remember teaching my little ones to brush their teeth. I supervised until I felt they had it just right and could polish those pearly whites to a gleam. What I failed to teach was how to spit without splattering the mirror and how to rinse rogue blobs of toothpaste down the drain. Silly me.

I beamed with pride the first time they made their own snack! What geniuses! What bright children! However, in my giddy glory of  pride, I forgot to teach them how to clean up after that snack, actually rinsing off the dish and putting it in the dishwasher. (Note to my children: the dishwasher is that big, squarish thing to the right of the sink that makes a whooshing noise a few times a day).

One of the trickier skills of childhood is taking lids off of various products. That's why they make childproof lids! But once a child is old enough to actually USE said products, that small motor skill of unscrewing or uncapping or flipping up a lid is refined. However, I also seem to have forgotten to teach them how to replace said lids. In fact, I'm pretty sure they think the lid is disposable!

My kids can make some pretty big messes. But that's ok, because we live in a pretty big house. Isn't that why we move to bigger and bigger houses as we have more children? So they have more places to leave their messes, and still manage to find a "clean space" to make another one? I think it's time to move up again. This time we'll need a mansion!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeff wins again!

Up early on a Saturday for the Cottage Lake Triathlon.......

Making some final adjustments to the wetsuit.......

Thank God for westuits on a cold morning!

Getting in the water........brrrr............

Coming in from the swim...........

Way to represent for the company!

Transition to bike...........

Coming back from the bike ride.......

Heading out on the run, taking time to wave to his biggest fan!

Still smiling after swimming and biking.........

Passing a competitor at the finish!

Finisher's medal!

Happy camper!

Jeff won third place in his age group! YAY! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

BMR - Curtain Call

Take a bow, Kids' Choir!

Let's hear it for the people behind the scenes!

Ssssssassyyyy!

Austin pulls Hayley's arm out of the socket!

Great show!

Saying thank yous, handing out flowers........

More thank yous.......

The stage crew!

And it's a wrap! Great job, BMR!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BMR - Behind the Scenes

Harrison after the first show - the smile says it all!

Jasmine and Hayley

Tonaiya and Harrison

Max and Hayley - Max surprised Hayley with flowers and an invitation to homecoming!

Hannah and  Dannie being......Hannah and Dannie!

Pretty girls!

Jeff was challenged by one of the high school techs - could he still do a handstand? Yes, he can!

Arlie and more of the kids' choir......

Hayley and Jasmine!

Max, Haley F., Audrey, Hayley, and Jasmine

Happy faces!

Hayley sharing a laugh with Haley B.

The two Ha(y)leys  - all grown up!

Harrison and Arlie under heavy layers of stage makeup!

Arlie and Harrison hoist George, the tiniest 9 year old around!

Chandler and Hannah

Maddi and Hannah

Photobomb! Thanks, Hannah!

Hayley says "f...." oh wait, she's telling me to back up........

Hayley, Jasmine and Becca

Rhianna, Hayley and Haley F.

Hannah and Ashton strike similar poses.......

Hayley and Austin

Kate, Hayley, Austin, Max, Rhianna and Jasmine

Colin sporting a unibrow and chest hair.....

Hayley and Jasmine

Vamping it up!

Hayley poses with the professional photos......

Work it, girl!

So sassy!

Hayley and Maddie - hard to believe these two have known each other since age 4. They dressed a lot more conservatively then........

Hayley with LOTS of stage makeup on.......

Seastars!!

Now we really know she's acting because she would NEVER kiss her sister..........

Austin give Hayley a lift!

Cute!

Arlie is so short compared to Austin and Max!

Austin give Arlie a lift!
Hayley, Alyssa the choreographer, Austin, Max, Kara and Sina

Harrison and "Elpheba" aka Rachel - now THAT'S some stage makeup!