Thursday, January 31, 2013

What goes around...

Your morning has taken an interesting turn when you hear yourself saying, "You'll have to wait - I'm washing Preparation H out of Sister's hair."

This is my reward for showering. I didn't hear the baby gate crash, so I didn't realize the girls had escaped. And the baby monitor added to the deception - I kept hearing them playing happily in their room. But it didn't tell me they were decorating the walls with conditioner, Preparation H, and bath crayons. I know. I should have invested in the video monitor.

Here I am, preparing for an awesome school day with fun craft to reinforce numbers and Jan Brett coloring pages, and I keep hearing, "chhhhh. chhhhhh. chhhhh." Hmm, that sounds like water running, but I haven't started laundry yet, right?

Following the noise, I find the girls standing together on the trash can, turning the faucet on and off into an overflowing sink, not unlike Mickey and the brooms. The vanity is empty, except for a few cups of water. Five pitiful half-open sponge animals uncurl on the puddled floor. Little Sis has a glob of greasy white cream in her hair. Both of them are naked and soaked. Sanitary pads and razors are strewn around their bedroom. Two rolls of toilet paper lay on the floor like streamers on a rainy New Years morning. Oh, and did I mention the wall art?

In case you're thinking, "this is the moment where Katie goes ape, and the neighbors call Child Protective Services," I actually didn't. No screaming or crying or pounding the walls or promising ridiculous punishments. Maybe the Spirit gifted me with supernatural self-control. But mostly I was thinking, "oh, this is how Daddy felt."

This is how my daddy felt when he finished mowing the lawn and poked his head in to check on the toddlers he left safely playing in their cribs. Only to find the walls and cribs and dresser and both toddlers painted with vaseline and desitin. Oh, and I gave my Little Sis a cocktail of her prescription ear drops, which led to an ugly stomach pumping incident. I know how he felt. The survey of the mess. The surprise when you find the hidden stash under a pile of bedding. Surreal.

So Mommy, if you ever thought to yourself, "that wouldn't have happened if I'd been home," oh yes, it jolly well might have.

My take away from the morning: showering is overrated.

No really, I did find out that a mixture of conditioner and Preparation H takes crayon right off the wall, no scrubbing necessary. However, removing the conditioner and Preparation H is extremely challenging {the wall still feels a little greasy}. Stick with a magic eraser for crayon wall art.

Hope my ridiculous day brightened yours!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chocolate weather {or another cookie recipe}

We are having chocolate weather. All I can think to serve for snack are chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate, biscotti, mochas. Rain and snow and more rain {and maybe pregnancy} will do that to you. We have chronic wet feet. Big one stalls at the open van door while she musters the courage to face the rain again, leaving small one and I dripping - chocolate seems to be our only cure.

 The snow brought at least 30 minutes of outdoor fun. More than that for Abby - this was her first snow, small as it was. Her excitement was contagious when she realized she could eat the white powdery stuff all over the ground.

Almost contagious. Small one was unsure of the snow, and why she needed mittens, and a hat, and a coat. She thought momma was entirely overprotective with the winter clothing. Except the pink boots. Those could stay.

A morning of firsts, passed from daddy to daughter: snow angels, snow men, snow balls. All tiny due to the tiny snow. Perfect for tiny hands.

And when tiny hands turned red and became more cold than fun, momma was able to pass on fudgy warm cookies, like only-edge-piece brownies. They were so delightful {and devoured} that I must pass on the recipe.

Double Fudge Cookies

3 c or 375 g powdered sugar
3/4 c or 65 grams cocoa powder {best you can find}
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 c chocolate chips {I use the 70% cacao 'pound plus' bar from Trader Joe's and cut up what I need}
4 egg whites
1 T vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Mix egg whites and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add whites and vanilla to dry ingredients and mix with a fork(!) until batter is wet through.

Using a teaspoon {from your silverware drawer, not the measuring variety}, scoop small balls onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space. These cookies double, even triple in the oven.
I know they look like little plops here, but magic happens in the oven.

Bake in center of oven for 13-15 minutes, until tops crack.

Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow cookies to cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then move parchment paper to a rack and cool completely before removing. I used a 'cookie spatula,' a small square silicone spatula - they picked up beautifully.

Makes two dozen cookies.

Did I mention they don't require flour, don't require beating egg whites until stiff, and would make the best ice cream sandwich on the planet??

Note for my glutenous friends: A friend made these for me and the girls as part of the funeral fare. Bookmark this recipe as an easy gluten free recipe if you don't have a gluten free kitchen - no need to buy special flour.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Well worth it Granola

The roar of the grinder, click of a heating oven, bustle of washing dishes and sweeping floors, mixing ingredients. First trimester ickiness is so last month.

And we're eating real food. Fresh veggies and homemade bread. I even made ricotta cheese yesterday (yummy). I haven't felt this "normal" in months.

I got some terrific cookbooks for Christmas, books I'd eyed for months. My book this week is Alana Chernil's Homemade Pantry. Here I was jonesing for cereal, and she reminded me that I can always make my own. Delicious, gluten free granola. We've tried the store bought variety. Dried fruit and nuts stuck to corn chips(!). Huge disappointment. And really once you've had fresh from the oven, cinnamon smoldering granola, you never reach for a box again. Plus it takes about 10 minutes of undivided attention. That's less time than I take reading ingredient lists at the grocery store.

Best of all, this recipe is flexible. If mine doesn't come out clumpy enough, add sugar and oil. The fruits, seeds and nuts are completely your preference. Even the baking time can be adjusted to suit. So make it yours.

Well worth it Granola

8 c rolled oats (gf if need be)
2 c seeds (sunflower, sesame, amaranth, flax, chia, pumpkin, buckwheat/kasha - use what you have)
2 c chopped nuts (use your favorite)
1/2 t salt
1-2 T cinnamon

1/3 c oil (I use coconut or sunflower seed)
3/4 c applesauce or canned pumpkin
1/2 c maple syrup or honey
1-2 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease two large casserole dishes.

Mix all dry ingredients in your largest mixing bowl until evenly incorporated. Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl until mixture is smooth. Poor wet ingredients over dry and stir until evenly coated.

Lay raw granola in prepped dishes and spread evenly. Cook for 30 minutes. Stir and rotate. Repeat twice. When granola is golden and crunchy throughout, turn off oven and allow granola to cool in the oven for a couple hours.

When cool, transfer to canisters. If you want dried fruit in your granola, you can add it now or when you serve it.

Enjoy in handfuls, in yogurt, over ice cream. Any time really.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

'On the side' is a very big deal for you

Hard to believe but I was the only momma desperate enough to take her kids to the playground this morning in the 29 degree weather. I'm pretty sure Michigan moms laugh at high 20's. We bundled in layers and wool socks and ran over the frozen mulch to the deserted play equipment.

For 20 whole minutes. Fingers were too stiff to grasp ladders. Faces were too numb to smile. As we ran back to the van, big one asked, "Mommy, why am I crying?" Good times had by all. No really. We had a great time. Just what we needed. Running under a crystal blue sky.

We needed hot chocolate just as much. I warmed up the milk frothier and grabbed the cocoa powder. Topped each mug with a homemade marshmallow. Best part of a cold winter play.

As I watched the girls sip, I felt a twinge. My momma worked really hard to combat genetic fussiness. Not the kind where you gripe. The kind where you make a fuss about everything... The Sally Albright Syndrome. "I'd like the apple pie a la mode heated with strawberry ice cream. If you don't have strawberry, I'll take whip cream, but only if it's real. If it's from a can, then nothing... Yes, the pie, but then not heated."

Years of training us simply to peel and eat an orange. No sectioning or sprinkling with powdered sugar (which is exactly the way my grandfather had his orange every morning). She worked to simplify because my grandmother was a fusser, a major fusser. We used to joke that she asked whether or not we wanted a serrated or straight blade used to cut our sandwiches. We joked, but it was almost true. Every meal was a major production. She specialized in any dish that required ingredients from 3 speciality shops and took at least 6 hours of prep time. That's just who she was. My mom didn't want the burden of the production passed on.

You regular readers are probably laughing already, thinking, "this is the blog with recipes for making ice cream and granola - all stuff I can buy at any grocery store." What can I say? You can't fight genes, or maybe I don't chose to fight these genes.

Because I love a production and a good mess in the kitchen. If not for a power outage, I'd be in there right now candying peanuts to put in homemade banana ice cream.

And I love having ridiculous homemade treats to give my girls and sweet hubby. Pillowy vanilla marshmallows atop hot chocolate. Candied orange peel. Peppermint meringues. I've only gotten worse since the gluten free switch. I guess I'm trying to make up for the world of things the girls can't have, all the cupcakes and bakery sweets. Instead, they get homemade goldfish crackers. Maybe if the homemade stuff is enough fun, the off limits stuff won't seem so tragic.

We'll keep making and enjoying huge messes. And the delicious food that results. Get your kitchen ready... I should have a few more recipes headed your way.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Enjoying each other

8 o'clock. I can barely read through the yawning. Big one stares expectantly at the enormous stack of library books. We've been reading for almost an hour.

"Sorry, Baby. I know you picked more books, but Mommy's pooped."

Quizzical look.

"Mommy's tired."

"Why are you tired? I'm not tired."

"I know you're not tired." It doesn't matter how tired she is, you can never tell her she's tired. It starts a marathon of sleep deprivation for all involved.

"How about we sleep right here, Mother?"

She curls in close and pulls my head down to hers. We lay still so long I think I might fall asleep.

We need this moment. Sweet, restoring togetherness. Mommy's so tired from a day of screaming, fighting, fussing, fit-pitching - all day discipline. I need this quiet to remember my darling girl, how much I enjoy her. Not love her. That doesn't change. But enjoy her. Because some days are more enjoyable than others.

Like the night we shared creme brûlée at Fresh Market. Or the Christmas shopping trip to buy gifts for small one. Or sipping hot chocolate from espresso cups.

She breaks the silence: "Mommy, I need to tell you a question. Ummm..."

She thinks up her question.

"Butterflies. Why are they so stinky?"

"Are butterflies stinky?"

"Oh yes. Butterflies are very stinky."

Silly girl.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Celebrating a life well-lived

We're back. Settling again. Bags unpacked {half of them}, forgotten charger overnighted, groceries bought, bread baked. Regular life is returning.

Thanks for your prayers last week as we traveled back to Tennessee for my grandmother's funeral. I broke blogger etiquette by the absence of a tribute post. I didn't eulogize either. I had no words, at least no new words. By God's grace, I already said what I needed to say to my grandmother.

Her funeral was as hopeful and encouraging to me as the most God-centered wedding. A reflection on a life well-lived. A celebration of glorious homecoming. I left her memorial inspired by God's work to change our hearts here on earth. She asked for a party, no tears, and to hear, "O when the saints go marching in." She got it. We celebrated our memories of her life, then hung out until the wee hours of the morning enjoying each other. We left physically drained and emotionally charged.

We'll catch up more over the next couple days {I am going to get back in the habit of posting}. For this still hectic day, that's enough.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Remembering Christmas

I found an article {you might have read it already} about a mom's 18 point contract with her 13 yo son over his iPhone. The contract in general makes beautiful, if startlingly rare, sense, but that's not what I latched on to.

It's her 13th point, about not taking 'a zillion pictures.' She says There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory.

I thought about her advice as I looked through my Christmas pictures. Nearly two weeks of family fun and approximately twelve pictures. None with DH's side of the family, which is especially odd because that side boasts two professional photographers and at least five DSLR cameras among us.

But I literally couldn't find the time. We were playing on the floor or talking or scheming at cards or cooking or giggling or a million other more important things. Things I will remember and enjoy in the file cabinet of my mind. They will never find a scrapbook page, but whenever we get together, this Christmas is one more family experience that we draw from.

I love photos. I love taking them, especially the random moments. As long as the camera doesn't own me. As long as the picture is a tool, not a crutch. Because sometimes, I find myself remembering the picture, not the event. And sometimes all I remember is my view finder, not the fun. Those pictures aren't worth it.

If you're not a photographer, if your kids' wedding slide show will be 30 seconds long, and you've never bothered to sign up for instagram, you haven't cheated your kids or your memory or missed your big life moments. They simply aren't on film. Neither are 99% of human history's most important moments.

If you join me in the photographer category, keep snapping art and sharing {your kids' slide show might need serious editing, however}. The scrapbook or the blog post doesn't make life legitimate, just documented. Our lives find importance through the people in those pictures.

Now I contradict my own post {as I frequently do} with the handful of Christmas pictures:
Sporting Momma and Auntie Em's reindeer antlers

He's an angry elf 

Reading the Nativity with PopPop on Christmas Eve - Momma's favorite part of Christmas

Favorite 'present' Christmas morning - camping with Nana on the living room floor


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