We spent the night here last night, and were awakened by the bleary light of an east-facing window, the sound of birds, and the crashes and bangs from the construction site next door. As you can see, Cleo is still not over-fond of the concept of a day with two 6 o'clocks in it. ;) I'm titling that picture "East-facing Window, Monday Morning".
There was going to be another picture of her carrying out her usual morning routine of digging me out from under the covers then rooting around under there like she's going to find treasure or something. I was going to entitle it "Dignity, Always Dignity" but it turned out to be a hopeless muddled blur of waggling backside and duvet. Not enough Photoshop in the world to fix that.
I do have coffee, and I even found a cup to put it in. The box I'd opened thinking it held the cups I'd packed up for just this eventuality actually turned out to contain my great-aunt's Depression glass. That won't work. Luckily, in the random desk-dreck box I found an artsy cup a friend gave me years ago for babysitting his cat and that got me through until I could go figure out what I did with the cups I intended to be using. D'oh.
I've got my computers setup on a folding table backed up into my kitchen island. it looks like I'm trying to launch my kitchen into orbit or something with all the monitors and cords strung around. This whole mess will be moving into it's actual future space this evening when my real desk arrives.
This is a good thing. Because I am having a dreadful time focusing on my work when right behind my screens I can see five or six home setup projects (and at least two home improvement projects). Once I get my desk over to it's new locale I should be able to think a bit more clearly. I've got three different To-Do lists (house, work, Easter) going at once here to attempt to calm the face of the waters.
My younger son goes on Saturday. I'm worried about him, and about my monster-in-law. I'm not worried about the two of them together. She has a sad liking for rogues, and they actually get along the best of any of my kids. And she needs the help. But I still worry about the whole rest of the situation around him up there. The problems of living rural and out at the very End of the Road are no joke. That way of living is right up his alley, but he's also got the lowest defenses against it's pitfalls.
My roommate spent several hospital visits finding out she has developed COPD and has now had to move in with her daughter. My younger son is moving to Alaska. My dayjob is still taking up more time than actually is included in any given day. And I'm moving. I've got Easter dinner to plan, the Easter bunny to frame for it. I'm swamped. ;)
Seriously, a whole lot of work and effort over the last several months is all coming into focus here in the next couple weeks. It's terrifying and wonderful, all at once.
Tonight we're doing St. Patrick's Day dinner (everyone was WAY too busy with their own work and life yesterday). This is the last time for a while here that I'm going to have all the kids in one place. And we've kicked it off properly. Corned beef and all the fixin's are cooking. I need to go finish prepping the cabbage and peeling the potatoes for the colcannon. There's the first parts of a tipsy trifle in the oven (that's a chocolate fudge Guinness cake cut into cubes, then layered with rum-touched clotted cream and whiskey whipped cream.
Fun will be had by all. Which is good, because it's prep for all hands helping me move all weekend.
This recipe is not just a list of ingredients. The making of a proper pumpkin pie must follow the proper steps and take the proper time in order for it to be savored.
First, timing is everything. Pumpkin pie must be made at oh-dark-hundred the night before the meal it accompanies. You do not do this at a time when normal humans (or the children) walk the earth. If werewolves aren't howling at the moon, give it another hour.
This is for three reasons:
1) If you make it, they will eat it. Now! Not after the dinner when you want it. The only way to foil them is to bake late and store securely. A decommissioned missile silo works well if available. I get by with a bank vault and a pirate's lair with lots of traps.
2) You will never have time to do it earlier that same day due to the aforementioned children and all the other dreck you have to get together.
3) Tomorrow you are going to have a velociraptor taking up the oven for nine hours, remember? I assure you, the only other thing that's going to fit is just enough of your hand to burn the heck out of it while basting.
Second, you must have your kitchen ready. This activity cannot occur in a clean kitchen with counter space. I don't know why. It's a mystery. I just know that I've never had a bake turn out properly if I started out with a spotless kitchen. Besides, with the kids doing the dishes this is a mythological event.
Now you must assemble all your ingredients. This recipe makes four desert pies, and three breakfast tarts. Put the things you assemble into three stacks.
- four cups of sugar, plus an indeterminate scoop because that doesn't look like enough
- 10 grinds on the nutmeg grinder
- a palm of salt
- a palm of ginger
- a palm of allspice
- half a palm-full of cloves
- four palms of cinnamon
- several random shakes and grinds from the spice jars listed above because it doesn't look right
- eight eggs
- 2 large cans pumpkin (not that mix stuff)
- four 12 oz. cans evaporated milk
- four regular pie pans dressed with crust (Pillsbury only if minions have been particularly evil or kitchen in particularly advanced state of higgeldy-piggeldy)
- three of the holes in the mini-loaf pan dressed with crust
- 75 foot roll of Reynolds Wrap, of which you only need about a foot right now
- Three beers; two root and one stout
- half recipe worth of banana bread batter
Now it's time to start putting it all together. After you've washed the large mixing bowl from making the pie crust, open a root beer and put Stack 1 ingredients into the bowl, dry stuff first, then eggs. Beat senseless with rubber spatula. Add Stack 2. Beat senseless again with rubber spatula. Pour brown mess still left in bowl (not the part that's spattered all over heck-and-gone) into the pie pans and the crusted mini-loaf pans. Cover edges of crust with strips of tinfoil, struggling manfully to not poke it into the mousse-part so it bakes in there like that. Fill un-clad mini-loaf pans with half-way with banana bread batter.
Remember you forgot to turn on oven, so read pumpkin can to see temp. Giggle at their dumb theatrics about preheating and that whole one-temp-for-15-minutes-and-then-turn-down gig. Set oven to happy medium and then remember it's witch-tit cold outside tonight so turn it up another five degrees.
Put first two pies in immediately on the center rack with a baking sheet on the lower rack to diffuse heat and to make sure any spills are deflected directly onto the heating element while still baking into an evil black metallic object on the sheet. Consume root beer, read book, and shoo house-apes back into bed at random intervals for 55 minutes. Spend five minutes trying to find a safe spot to lay down book and figure out what kids did with hot-pads. Remove first two pies carefully from oven and place on cooling rack.
Put second two pies in their place in the oven. Open second root beer. Repeat last baking experience, only watch for smoke coming out of oven from baking sheet getting too hot to deal with the spills. Move cooled pies on rack to bank vault. Remove pies and baking sheet from oven. Pies go on rack, baking sheet goes across burners of stove-top where it can properly singe your eyebrows for next step.
Place mini-loaf pan in oven with the banana bread towards the front where the oven is cooler. Open stout. Continue to bake at exactly the same temp with a blithe disregard for the directions for about half an hour (give or take a page). While this is baking, do dishes and clean up counters and start doing any other prep work possible for tomorrow and consume the beer.
Remove cooled pies from rack and place them in pirate's cave (diversification is good in baking, too). Open the oven and (once you are done wincing away from the steam-burns on your corneas) poke banana bread with toothpick. If done, remove and shut off oven and place on cooling rack and leave to cool while chopping vegetable, measuring ingredients, and whatnot for other recipes to be actually cooked tomorrow.
When cool, move pan and put the cooling rack across top of loaf-pan face-down. Using a towel to hold it all together, turn as one unit and leave until the tarts fall out of their own accord. You will be able to see this clearly because the pan is stilted up on the banana bread's tops. Then pick up the pan and "help" the banana bread out by dint of gentle nudging and the occasional poke/lever with a plastic knife to free any stuck spots.
By this time, beer will be done and so will you. Cover three loaves of banana bread and the three tarts with a kitchen towel to decoy the kids in the morning and hit the sack. Set alarm clock for six for humor's sake.
Remember, tomorrow's the big day! ;)
Every year since they were in the third grade my kids (more accurately, my daughters with some help from my sons) write a parody song making fun of me and how old/gray/geeky I am. It is referred to as my "birthday song".
Here are some old examples:
2009 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014
This year they're making fun of my recent adventures in World of Warcraft. They sang it to me at our family celebration yesterday and, as is traditional, I am returning the favor by posting a recording and the lyrics for all to see.
Sung to the tune of "I won't Say I'm In Love" from Disney's "Hercules"
(The Muses are red and in italics)
I say there's nothing wrong with claiming
Something's off about my gaming
It's not reality, it's fiction
What am I doing with this WoW addiction?
What could be wrong with flying?
Or sleeping in a forest glade?
Buying lots of items, or hunting down Night Elf brigades?
Beating back Silithus tentacle corruption with a Widow Blade?
When do I say, no way, I won't go!
You know, you won't, you don't want to say no.
I just won't play, I can leave on my own.
Every time I say I'm quitting
Just one last task and then it's over
No more killing, no more maiming
It's not too late to start this life all over!
There's nothing wrong with saving
ancient giant island turtles.
Messing with the undead and
collecting wind-up clockwork squirrels.
Shouting Leroy Jenkins
when you face destruction by your enemies.
I can't delay, it's not fun anymore.
Not now, just wait, in the update there's more.
I won't give in, it's another trap door!
You want to play, it's okay you want more.
It's not okay, I can't play it.
She won't play the game.
There is no way, I won't play it.
What's one more day? Pick Alliance or Horde.
Just one more raid.... Then I'm quitting for sure....
(together) Shalalala muah ha ha!
And now I'm a year older in the only way I want to measure it. ;)
(This was originally written in 2003, which was the year half of the Pagan Horde was headed off to jr. high. I was inspired to go find it by my neighbor's return from shopping with her brood, and her query as to whether her daughter bought a particular pair of shorts from Build-A-Bear. I don't miss these days....)
The dreaded First Day of School fast approaches. We must arm ourselves for the dread tasks that lie ahead. First, a trial of strength and endurance of epic proportions as we set off on our quest: School Shopping.
Seriously, we aren't going to pull a sword out of anything. We just have to pick up a few things. Come on! It'll be fun! Based on our previous experiences I took the time to write up a few things, just so you know the schedule and we are all on the same page. Take a look.
I have a hard time with a lot of these "meme" photos out there. Instead of laughing, I end up frustrated at people's lack of understanding of what's really going on there.
Today's example: The World's Most Useless Cat (stuff like this)
There are a bunch of these types of pictures out there, but the general theme is a cat who is just hanging out with a mouse instead of killing it.
Well, duh. Most housecats were never taught how to cat Hunting isn't just an instinct. It's also knowledge. In the wild (or in the case of a household who is keeping them) they're taught by their mothers, starting from the time when they're weaned. That's about the time they're usually sold/given away.
The training they get as they're raised by humans is to be gentle, to only damage things like their scratching post and their squeaky toys. So why would you expect them to go hog-wild on an actual fuzzy living creature?
That's not to say many of them can't pick things up fast if you let them outside and give them some time/motivation to figure it out. Many of their "play" behaviors in the house are limited or unfocused pieces of the art of the stalk. The instincts are still there, and hunger is a sharp sauce.
But you don't take a kitten who comes from a line of probably generations who have been born of mothers who never have left a house and were never taught themselves what to do and who has been taken from that mother just when it's time she should start showing them the ropes and expect it to act like a slavering beast just because it's shown something from the order Rodentia.
I had written a thing (and it is an awesome thing). However, it sort of turned into a possible GWJ article. So I ran it up the flagpole on that side of things and we'll see how that goes. ;)
Been cleaning out my closet and dresser, and organizing things to get ready for packing for PAX Prime. Back in a deep corner of a drawer I ran into a little piece of family history -- a certain pair of white denim jeans. These things bring back memories, but it requires a bit of story-time to explain.
When a kid misbehaves, people judge the kid. But they also judge their parents. And being a single-mom, you start off with a double-handicap. I used to get so much crap from all sides. I was too strict. I wasn't strict enough. If I'd punish them more, then they'd not act out. They were acting out because I punished them for anything at all. Why are you hanging out with kids so much? Why did you just drop them off and abandon them at this other place? Between the kids' need to push the boundaries and grow and the world's expectations for how a mother is supposed to act, everything I did was a careful negotiation through a minefield.
Dealing with a situation when a kid is acting out in public and you don't feel safe rounding on them for it is difficult. Adding my personal approach of trying to frame everything as a natural consequence without actually just giving them enough rope to hang themselves and it gets doubly complicated.
But one day I accidentally found an equivalency I could express that gave them just enough of an idea of how I was feeling about a given situation and put them on notice they were headed outside the lines, while being framed just weirdly enough it could be used anywhere.
And it all started with these white jeans.
Back in the day, the Gang liked to go to our local roller rink every Friday night. And one time I wasn't thinking and wore this certain pair of white denim jeans and a white t-shirt. I'd forgotten it was "Black-out Night"; they turned on a set of black lights on the floor so everything was this eerie purple and clothes glowed. To top it off, I decided to skate too.
Under black light, that outfit glowed like a good deed in a naughty world. The dye in them is really phosphorescent. Then to top it off, Oh... My... Gawd, Becky. "Baby Got Back" rolled up, and I was grooving along, not even realizing that I was basically Casper the Unfriendly Ghost, public-image-wise.
I was a known quantity anyways; the regulars around there knew I was weird as chicken mittens. No one actually said a word. But after I got off the floor I realized that, socially speaking, that might have been a tactical failure on the scale of Napoleon calling a rain-day at Waterloo. So I stayed off of the rink for the rest of the night.
A few weeks later, some of the yahoos were acting like dorks in a store and some random "concerned" citizen had just given me a bunch of crap for my "permissive" parenting style. I was really upset. On the way home in the car I pointed out to the kids that the way they were acting made me feel embarrassed in public, just like they might have felt when I was skating in those jeans. They remembered. And they then told me that I'd made the rounds of the school rumor mill again. Not bad, just at the titter-and-eyeroll level. That made me feel even worse.
But now we had common ground. We talked about it then and at various other times, and the code-word "White Jeans" came to mean, "Hey, you're acting like a putz in a way that's going to cause problems. Quit it." It went both ways. They could use it on me when I'd rolled the geek-o-meter up in the high 8's in public. I could use it when they were headed to Brat Alley.
The point of it wasn't to actually do it. I never did wear those (or a white t-shirt) to Skate King again. The point of it was to be able to communicate how we were feeling about what was going on and ask the other to quit it without going into specifics we weren't comfortable with in public.
We used that tool all through the rest of their growing years.
The infamous jeans are laid across the bed while I finish this up. The girls will be here in a while to help me to sort through more of my mom's things that have been sent down to me in an attempt to get this house in some semblance of order. I'm considering meeting them at the door wearing them, to see if they remember. ;)
I'm getting cold feet on this book thing.
I read back through these snippets I have here, and I don't know. I mean, I find it hard to imagine anyone but me and maybe a Gramma or two would care. Or, instead of caring, maybe they're hurt.
If I stuck with fiction, it wouldn't be so bad. They would have to figure out which part of it was supposed to be "them" before they freaked out. With anecdotes, it's one step easier.
I know there's a balance here. I will have to find it.
... but I can't understand it for you.
Read that somewhere, and I've been pondering it. Talk about a way of reframing life.
My Gramma used to say something similar. "Don't take aspirin for other people's headaches," was one of her favorites. An online acquaintance posted, "I just realized my parents spent most of their time trying to make better kids. I spend my time trying to be a better parent."
It's a common wisdom, but it's hard to keep a hold of on days when you are running around Mach 5 with your hair on fire.