Thursday, November 20, 2008

unfolding tags

My apologies for being so slow to notice, but tag, I'm it.

(The idea is to give one word answers to the questions. As you can imagine, creatures of brevity such as myself will undoubtedly kick ass here. Or just ramble on about the rules with unnecessary verbiage. Um.)

1. Where is your cell phone? charging

2. Where is your significant other? kitchen (making the dry ingredient mixes for our gluten-free, vegan challah!)

3. Your hair color? dark

4. Your mother? passionate

5. Your father? focused

6. Your favorite thing? I have to choose? ha. I'm out.

7. Your dream last night? dream? as in sleep?

8. Your dream/goal? joy

9.The room you’re in? study

10. Your hobby? exploring

11. Your fear? stagnation/chaos

12. Where do you want to be in six years? here

13. Where were you last night? bed (with a wee red headed boy)

14. What you’re not? low maintenance

15. One of your wish list items? vegetable garden

16. Where you grew up? um. got a map?

17. The last thing you did? redid my shabbat menu. We have guests coming!

18. What are you wearing? jeans and a sweater

19. Your T.V.? nope

20. Your pet? nope

21. Your computer? ahhh.

22. Your mood? relaxed

23. Missing someone? yes, but he's making those tedious dry ingredient mixes, so it's a pretty fair trade, no?

24. Your car? scraped and comfy, with just a select few bumper stickers...

25. Something you’re not wearing? pajamas - it's past bedtime!

26. Favorite store? craft stores (with lots of beautiful, funky wood)

27. Your Summer? educational

28. Love someone? yes. yes. yes.

29. Your favorite color? yes

30. Last time you laughed? five minutes ago

31. Last time you cried? when I needed to

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the lice pictorial (with updated recipe)

At some point, deep in a murk of various vermin, laundry and overly sugared children, I realized that I was looking at a series of Kodak moments.

No, really.

Turns out that a kid released from the Combing Chair of Doom (also known as the 'cookie spot,' a happy image that only lasts a couple of minutes) is testy yet slightly giddy with their freedom, and has been combed into a truly fabulous damp, spiking hairdo.
Like so.

Sitting in the midst of my frantic trollness, the Eldest was relaxed, pleased and mugging gently. He was a slightly misplaced pocket of a smooth, quiet pleasure, and just before that began to ripple outwards, reality stepped in, tossed out the improbablity - and offered an alternative.
Truly, I give the Eldest credit for catching my mood so perfectly. Add a horrified voice bubble, and there you had me. We staggered around the house, making faces and gargling gagging noises, until the Toddles noticed. I want to do that, too! Make my hair look silly, too! I looked the kid over, jumping and dancing as he tried to persuade me. This, I thought, could be an even better incentive than cookies....and it was.

The Toddles did his valiant best, but clearly he has years of practice ahead. Still, the Eldest is often reasonably obliging of a mama and her camera, and offered his brother a quick tutorial.

Replete with boy-photos, I wandered off to mop up the kitchen, or Room of Doom (as the lice would have called it, had anyone been slightly interested in their opinions). And baked pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin Cake, or the Cake that Squished the Ick
This is a beautiful, brown-orange cake, with the rich pumpkin balanced by a nicely crisp crust. The credit here goes to the MIL, to whom I'd mentioned the hunt for pumpkin bars for the Toddles' class. She barely blinked before suggesting the mix/pumpkin combination. And she was absolutely right: it's yummy! The Toddles and his classmates dove in, and didn't leave any for the adults. (I had to bring the teachers a pumpkin cupcake from home.)

1 Namaste spice cake mix (I love this part): should be gluten-free, dairy/egg/nut/peanut-free.
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tb flax meal (ground flax seed)
2/3 c oil (note: this quantity makes a slightly oily cake, and you might want to try replacing 1-2 Tb oil with 1-2 Tb applesauce/pumpkin puree.)
3/4 c water

Open cake mix, and dump into a bowl. Proceed to ignore the mix's instructions, and plop the rest of the ingredients into the bowl, as well. Mix until smooth (watch out for clumping pumpkin puree).

Preheat oven to 350F, and decide if you are in a cupcake or cake mood. We tend to be in both, and this recipe will make 12 cupcakes + 1 shallow (low) bundt cake. Spray/grease tins, and bake - 24 minutes for cupcakes, 26 minutes or so for a shallow cake.

Let cool briefly, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

options in vermin

I seem to have had the kind of day that can only be excused by having Steve Martin walk in the door, saying 'hoooooney, I'm ho-ome!'

Cue the laugh track, folks, because the Imperfects have taken 'wow suckiness' over the edge and into cheap comedy. It began this morning, with a focussed, quick-moving Eldest and a recalcitrant Toddles. No, wait - to be absolutely precise, today began last month and with a book.

Over a few weeks, I've traded in our worrying Skin Deep scores for primarily 2s and 3s, with our lonely 5 and 6 reserved for the Man. I took my handy-dandy Sharpie to every bottle and tube, labelling them with their score. And for the Man, I added some suggestions for lower scored products. Looks like we're just going to keep the 'everybody makes their own decisions' conversation going for a while here...

Trading in my skin care products, however, was not so simple. Would this dry my skin out? Leave it too oily? What about deep cleaning pores? And can we avoid nuts and seeds and gluten-containing grains, along with the scary chemicals? Without the scary price tags? Um. Maybe. But when it comes to dandruff shampoo, I was stumped. None broke the bank, but most had wheat or some other verboten ingredient. I'd found one that left my hair oddly oily, and was still hunting around for another when I begain to wonder how well this thing handled dandruff, let alone why it was dumping oil on me.

I'm itchy, I thought - paused - thought again. Before I could chase the thought to its conclusion, the phone rang. Oh, sure! We'd love to have a playdate. Just drop him off - mm hm, yep - and we can feed him dinner before you get back. The Eldest glowed, I grinned, and happily bounced off to indulge in a moment of well-earned paranoia.

Yep. Again.

When he brought them home the first time, I felt terrible. The poor sweetie, so itchy from his eczema that he never noticed the crawling ickies? Oh, how we'd failed him. This time, however, I was just pissed. I have filing to do. Menus to make. Companies to harrass about potential cross-contamination (did you know that One-Pie canned pumpkin has potential nut and seed cross-contamination? hrugh), columns to write. And apparently, nits to pick.

Nevermind, I said cheerily - not so easy with the clenched jaw, let me tell you - I have a stash of lice treatments. We'll get this taken care of right now, I informed the boys. And off I went to my stash. We had nit and egg removal gel, a spray for unwashable items, and no - no? - shampoo. Oh.

Okay, I thought. We'll get more. Lots more. But, oh, can't leave for the next 3.75 hrs, or we'll miss the repair guy who is finally going to solve the dishwasher problem. Six weeks of arguing, and I'm sticking this one out. But staying here without lice management? Oh, no. I snagged my complementary medicine book and was informed that we would mix filtered water with tea tree oil, rub that into the hair and scalp, and do a careful combing. Right, then.

The Toddles wailed when I explained the plan, wailed again when I offered a DVD, and wailed some more when I informed the boys that the Eldest would go first. (Note to self: try to avoid delousing a newly awakened toddler.) I settled the Eldest next to the sink, and answered the phone. Yes, I told the pleasant repair man, we're here. See you in fifteen minutes.

Twenty minutes later, I was focussed on vermin - and so was the repair guy. Do you have mice? he asked, I don't know anything other than a mouse that can chew it's way into a dishwasher. Rinsing off something small and wriggling, I blinked. Chew? CHEW??


(Fuck breathing - CHEW???)

Tell you what, I suggested, I'll handle one vermin at a time.

The laundry piled up, and so did the nits in the sink. Held in place by a combination of cookies and growls, the Toddles bent his head to me. Is that a bug? he asked, twisting to see. Is that one a bug? Can I keep it?

I'm not sure, the handyman admitted. Ask your mother. The Toddles looked at me hopefully, but I was mentally bopping his visually impaired father on the head, and didn't reply. Can't get the air conditioner out, eh? I muttered. Window won't open, hmmm? I glared at the Toddles' scalp. Must be that the window is broken, because surely there's no bracket holding it shut. Under the comb, the Toddles winced, considered and reached for another cookie. Can't imagine why the wife thinks there might be a bracket, when clearly there isn't. Oh, noooo.

Quietly, the handyman fled. The laundry piled up higher, the playdate canceled, and I sent a message to the Man. Lice, I informed him. Drowning at work, he blipped back. I raised a dangerous eyebrow.

Behind me, the laundry filled the hallway, making a nice little infested barrier between the boys and the kitchen. The Toddles noted the pile's potential and dug in. Oh, said the Eldest, himself wrist deep in infested bedding. Should we not do that?

I snarled.

The beds stripped, the washing machine whining and my scalp itchy, I yanked a kerchief over my head. I can either delouse myself or feed the kids, I told myself sternly, but not both. And oh, for some post-bedtime quiet. (In the background, the Eldest sensed a cue and roared at his brother. The Toddles, justifiably, bopped him.) And some chocolate, I mused. Opening the fridge, I found my leftovers sitting in a small puddle of something brown and organic. Not chocolate, then, I suggested, and pulled my jaw shut. Whisky? On the shelf above, lettuce dissolved and quietly dribbled downwards.

No short-cuts today. And shouldn't that have become obvious by now? I glared at the ceiling, paused, told Skin Deep to shut up for a few - and called the Man to order up some poison.

One pot of basil-artichoke pasta, and a fragrant Indian tomato soup later, I called the SIL. I'm making dinner, I told her. And explained. The SIL didn't miss a beat. Given that, she informed me, making dinner is positively heroic. I grinned at the phone. Yep. But I called you so that you could tell me so.

By more-or-less bedtime, the boys had filled their tummies and I'd grimly poisoned their scalps. Scratching, I reluctantly poisoned mine while the Man experimented with his brand-new home barbering kit. He stuck his head in the door, looking like a cat who'd lost an argument. What do you think? he asked. I'm wondering why I bothered paying for a haircut before now! IHe posed in the doorway, odd tufts sprouting from his scalp - and grinned proudly at me.

Steve Martin he isn't, our Man, but he offers a humor all his own. And, after the day's bad comedy, I was happy to let him walk around like that for a couple of hours before tidying him up.

Monday, November 03, 2008

electing to...check out the fence

I'm getting civics lessons over here. And flag trivia.

As election day looms, the Eldest's class has swung into full gear - as has the rest of the school. The first graders are learning about the flag, it's history and significance, as well as some of the rules of flag use. (These do not, in case you were wondering, include matches. I asked.)

MumMumMumMumMum, can I help? I want to carry that in!
I look at the bouncing kid, and look at the enormous bowl of salad.
Sure, sweetie, but be careful. Take it right up to the table, and offer it to one of our guests.
The Eldest offers me a solemn look. Don't worry, Mum, he tells me. I'll carry it like the flag, and never let it touch the ground.
Oh. Um, thanks.

Tomorrow, the school will vote, echoing the adults. The kindergartners will count the votes, and the first grade will help (says the Eldest) tabulate them with graphs. The eighth graders will be at the real polling stations, and try to predict the outcome. And on, and on. It's a grand old flag, the Eldest sings to himself, and I have to smile. Tomorrow, his class will perform that at the school assembly, and the Eldest has been drilling us on the words. Just in case, I suppose.

Tomorrow also, our street will be packed with cars and people, jockeying for a decent parking spot near the polling station. The Man will come home early, and take the boys with him when he votes. And somewhere before, during and doubtless after, I'll talk to the Eldest about respecting people whose choices differ from our own. I'll remind him that John McCain served his country, and is worthy of our respect. But, I'm sure the Eldest will reply, John McCain is going to kill all the endangered animals! The Eldest will look at me, and at his father, with wide, horrified eyes. He will be certain of this coming slaughter, and he will know that his adults would not accept this.

And yet, his father will cast a vote as his conscience dictates.
Anon., you mention undecided voters and the derision that goes on around them. I live with one, and he's a thoughtful, worried man. Neither candidate quite suits him, and there isn't an issue that he is sufficiently passionate about, such that it could tip him off the fence. Believe me, I've checked.

I would have thought that he'd feel strongly enough about women's health (+ Obama) and reproductive rights (+Obama), redistributing the taxes to those with the cash to fork over (+Obama), the environment (if that means green tech to you, then somewhat + Obama - unless you ask the Eldest, who focuses on wildlife preserves and endangered species. In which case, +++Obama), revamping the health care system (depends on what that means to you), gay marriage and rights (+ Obama), thoughtful intelligence (+ Obama but take away a point for being a celeb candidate, then add one after remembering our most recent bout with a president's reflexive gut responses), etc.

Nope. A single issue won't do it, and the combined positions that the candidates hold won't tip the Man, either. It's not just a matter of Republican vs Democrat in our house, it's largely a matter of economics. (No, really). The Man believes in a free market, and I believe in an amoral one. I think healthcare is a right, and he thinks it's important. I believe that the average person doesn't know how to negotiate for their rights, nor are they aware of all of their options. He thinks that a sense of entitlement and awareness of resources isn't class-specific, and people who need help will find it. I think that industry runs amok in the US, and has too much influence in government. He thinks that a strong economy requires that influence, making the government's pro-industry decisions worthwhile. And on, and on. Our views on the world have much to do with how we read the candidates, and where we assign the points. I'm a flaming liberal wearing a t-shirt that says "if you aren't upset, you aren't paying attention." And he's....a libertarian, I think, wearing a nice red tie.

Inevitably, then, the choice that the Eldest - and I - find so clear is just not navigable for the Man. Which leaves one question: who will he write in?