Tuesday, September 29, 2009

a sign and a bowl of leaves

At some point, autumn arrived. Which frankly, is kind of rubbing my nose in the absence of summer. The disappearance of August, the blur that was September.

Really, any number of things appear to have vanished on me. The summer, bursting at the seams with discoveries, such as this local resource, which allowed slightly grubby, map-wielding boys to practice the fine art of hiking, getting lost, unlost and peeing into local waterways.

(and no, I won't show you a picture)

The school prep arrived, mid-summer, hoisting a mammoth set of lists (school A, preschool B, to do for meeting 1, for meeting 2, for meeting 3, for follow-ups until late into many wee a.m.s), hollered continuously in my ear from oh, June onwards, and then suddenly, fell silent. School! School! School! School! rushed in to fill the space, with a small dash of ohmygoodbritchesandstiches - a carpool? Appallingly, we found ourselves inadvertently early to school, and then to preschool. For three weeks straight. Who can keep that up?

(When we pulled in 2.5 minutes late today, I offered up a quiet sigh - of relief.)

And then, the chagim were upon us.

If I stop being chipper for a moment, I'll admit that the second half of summer was an ordeal. Not the parenting part, that was tough in spots in an entirely (okay, almost entirely) standard-issue fashion. But the school prep was enormous, and worse, it was shared. The Man and I worked together on it for the first time evah to assemble resources for the teachers, to write explanations of how to handle allergens in the classroom, what Good Manufacturing Practices actually means - and why it's not even close to reliable as a way of saying "safe." And recipes, and lunch ideas, and snack ideas, birthday party ideas, and develop a gluten-free, vegan, kid-friendly *and* easy challah recipe, and, and, and, ack.

Let me put this simply: some things, it's easier to do myself. Some things, it's easier to do with someone - okay,anyone -besides the person I love, cherish and really hope to spend as many years with as possible. Some things, I should be smart enough to do with a girlfriend, or maybe a minion. (note to self: get minion) And, if I have to do it with my loved, I've got to remember to brush up on the diplomacy, and brace for long conversations about how the process is going, when I'm really just twitching to stop talking and get back to getting the job done.

Ah, meta-conversations. So almost-nearly-useful. Except when they are.

And a word of advice? If you do end up in this loving but rushed, ginormous To Do list of kid-with-thing school prep, buy a rope. And a shovel. Take up meditation. And when your partner suggests that maybe it's not worth doing something that you are certain is critical to helping walk that fine line between the child's needs and the school's needs, well, breathe. Put the stapler down, hon - it's really not going to make you feel better. Not in the long run, anyway.

Just breathe. (FYI, gritted teeth are acceptable)

And then blink, realize that the summer ended shortly before the kids hoisted their backpacks and bounced down the stairs, oh, a good four minutes before I managed to follow. Oh, and that so far, so good. And then, hello, it's Rosh Hashana, and there's the Eldest, unsubtly holding this:

Because if you are going to begin a new year, well, Nahman of Breslav might've had something there. Take another deep breath, hon, and find a way to greet each man with a pleasing face. The gargoyle thing does not seem to suit me, saith the Toddles, and he informed me that I was the grumpy parent, while the Man is definitively the fun parent.

Oh, ouch.

I walked around, smarting, and occasionally ranting about working parents vs home-working parents. And then apologizing to my offspring, when my rants became audible. Don't worry, Mum, I'm used to it, the Eldest soothed.

Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow bloody ow.

Some years, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are a necessity. A chance to back up and rethink, after a time of change and grumps. Happily for me, neither of our boys are subtle. Panim yafot it is, then. And a healthy bowl of these:

We sat on the bed, the boys and I, with Yom Kippurd daylight fading outside our window. A bowl of autumn, of color and leaves fading from bend to crackle, between us. We looked at the bowl.

Every year, I told my unexpectedly solemn audience, leaves grow. Leaves fall. And then, they grow again. And every year, we make mistakes, realize our mistakes, and try to do better.

Every day, the Eldest corrected me. And I grinned. Yes.

These leaves are falling, and we can let them take some of our mistakes with them. What kind of mistake, or "I'm sorry" do you want them to be?*

I'm sorry for hitting my brother.
I'm sorry for not cooperating
I'm sorry for taking his Pokemon card
I'm sorry, said the mama, for not taking good enough care of myself, so that I can take better care of you.

two pairs of small boy eyes swivelled towards me. One set of eyebrows arched.

Because, said the mama, when I'm tired or I have too much to do, then I'm grumpy. And then I'm not having fun with you, am I?

two heads nodded solemnly. So, then. I'm sorry. And I'll try to do better, to find boy time in each day. Because boy time is part of taking care of me, you know. Boy time is good.

two grins quirked. They already knew that, but were too nice to say so, I suspect. And so we sat, a bowl of sorry leaves by our legs, our hands and arms wound around each other. And we watched as the sky striped with pink, shading grey and blues at the fading of the day.

*this was a type of Tashlich , in which we cast away the burdens and sins of the past year, by throwing bits of bread or cracker into a body of water. The Eldest's class, however, raised the problem of throwing stuff into the waterways, and they chose to do a class tashlich with peat moss. Give nature to Nature, the Eldest intoned. And glared when I suggested a family tashlich with Imperfect-friendly bread. So, leaves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

dinner? anyone?

Note to self: anyone making a highly aromatic soup on a fast day, gets what she deserves.


Badly Timed, Deliciously Smelled Tomato Soup

(serves 4)

6 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
3 slices of ginger root, matchsticked (note: smaller or larger slices as per your ginger-lovin' preferences)
2 cardamom seeds
1/3rd tsp coriander seeds
3 bay leaves
3-4 Tb olive oil
4 nearly overripe tomatoes (or canned equivalent), plus 28 oz diced tomatoes
salt and black pepper to taste
4 cups water/broth

toss spices and oil into a large pot, and let them heat - and start sizzling while you finish smashing and peeling the garlic. Fling the garlic in as you go along, because surely dinner should have been on the table 20 minutes ago? And hey, isn't anyone setting the table?

While you holler for the kids to come and bring plates, forks, knives and spoons to the table, roughly chop the fresh tomatoes, if you are using any, and toss those in. Remind the boys to bring glasses, also, while you open the canned tomatoes. Stir the pot, toss in anything remaining, cover and abandon to simmer while you go and chivvy the troops.

And dig up the napkins - how on earth did they end up down there? Hmmm. Resist the urge to go and find the guilty party (and congratulate him on his creativity), because at this point the soup's been simmering nicely for about 20 minutes, and you need to find a stick blender.

Use the stick blender.

Remind the children that dinner is traditionally eaten at the table. Remind them again. Disentangle the younger one from his Lego, and airlift him to his seat. Pour soup, and pass bowls of toppings, like cubed avocado, the slightly crushed tortilla chips from the bottom of the bag, bits of cucumber, and consider the days when you might've plopped sour cream on top.

Note: if you have, for some unimaginable reason, just discovered that your defrosted salmon went into the oven with a lovely pomegranate sauce (open bottle, pour) with a hint of plastic (take scissors, release salmon, release plastic), then possibly you are 1. overtired and 2. could happily dump a can of small white beans, great Northern beans or another mild white bean into this soup. Cook briefly, puree and serve with salad and maybe some of Gamma's improbably good croutons. Or, consider some leftover chicken, shredded and added post-puree, or possibly as a topping.

Note the second: this would never happen to me. Nope. Nuh uh. And especially not after a long, thoughtful conversation with the Man whilst returning home from Rosh Hashana, in which we identified a prompt 6 pm dinner as being the key to many happy widgets. Like timely bedtimes, less tired children and smoother evenings and mornings. Nope. I'd pick that plastic out before it melted into an alarmingly viscous sauce and swirled into the lovely pomegranate stuff. Yep. That's what I'd do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

and there it went

Did you drive past Battle Green today? I was one of the slightly melted looking figures, sitting in the grass, and blinking.


and there went two hours of quiet chat, a very respectable pair of blushes and a rather nice peach Greek yogurt. (Thanks, L) And grass, and a guy in Revolutionary garb, and oh, was that a mom from the Eldest's school, wearing a bonnet and - no - hoop skirts? Funky.

Did I mention that there were trees? Grass?


And I'm driving home with the Toddles, who is opening his car-friendly lunch. He sees the note I've tucked inside, and puzzles out the words. I help: Toddles, I love you! - Mummy

Oh, says the Toddles, thoughtfully. That makes sense. (I cock an eyebrow at him from the front seat.) Sense, clarifies the Toddles, like it's possible. (I wait, stifling giggles. He re-reads the note.) Yes. That makes sense.

I love you too, Mummy.


and the boys are splashing in the BigFamousClever University's pool near our home, somehow having managed to collect the Eldest and leave the school parking lot in under 10 minutes. How? I have no idea. Possibly by using the same pixie dust that now has the Eldest zooming across the pool. Long, straight strokes of the arm - then a few slightly panicky short ones - and the kid pops up to breathe, gifting me with a lovely, gaptoothed grin. Look, Mom! What did you think of that?

As it happens, I think a great deal of that. And I tell him so, delightedly, while fishing the Toddles out of deepish water.


and the boys are asleep after a hilarious Tanith Lee short story, the dishes are mostly in the dishwasher and the Man walks in the door. A wee trigger in my brain responds: exhale now?

But at some point in the day, I realize, I'd already done so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

any minute now: exhale. (ahem: ANY minute now?)

okay, okay, so it's been a ridiculous summer. And a quiet bloggish one, mostly because you couldn't hear me wailing, and there's this - and that - and I'm not ever getting enough sleep and ohmyfriggin'mmmmmphm there's THAT, and I just don't have time to blog about it (dissolves)

On the other hand, if you live within roughly 6.31 miles of me, probably you did.

It has been a ridiculous summer. Wonderful kid stuff, improbable mama stuff, some absurd kid stuff, some astonishing family stuff. And then slog stuff, which is expected and yet somehow seems to do a wonderful pufferfish imitation, when it comes to the amount of work-time it required.

I have a backlog of stories to tell you, but let me just let it rest with this: school has started.

The Eldest has begun second grade, and managed to be tense but pleased last week. He was even more pleased when the puppydog eyes worked on one of the teachers, and she let him take home one of the classroom books. He finished it the next day, and I spent a lot of time hollering for him, blinking at the silence before noticing the attachment of nose to binding.

Had that one coming, no? (Mother-mine, your comments aren't needed at this point. And yes, I can hear you laughing. You don't have to call and tell me how funny that is, because I was just like - oh. Hi, Mom.)

The Toddles has begun preschool, and did so with an astonishing lack of fanfare. While I hovered, teary-eyed in the background, the Toddles checked in with me once, twice, and then went to fall in love with his two new friends, Girl Adorable and Girl Lovely. When I picked him up, he asked if they could come and have a playtime with us? And sure enough, Girl Adorable did.

My teacher has a smile, he confided in me, that when I see it, I can tell that she gives hugs. I nodded. I knew that because, seeing me sniffle, she'd hugged me.

I inserted fanfare by managing to set off the fire alarm just before the kids sang happy birthday to the Toddles - a story that deserves its own post. (see? backlog!) And then took pictures of the aftermath, all of which have other people's children in them, so I can't show them to you.

Oh, and we managed to be on time 4 out of 5 times: an Imperfect record. This may have something to do with the promise of hot cocoa for children who are ready to go early, possibly related to the alarm clock that says hilarious things when you hit snooze, and then wake up enough to listen. And laugh. Which seems to set the day off to a good start. (except when they slow down and keep hitting snooze, rather than brushing teeth. Funny clock vs toothbrushing - can you see where this is going?)

But oh, yes. All manner of things will be well, and all manner of things will be well. Regular amounts of sleep will slink back in, and routines will establish. Even carpools. But for now, while the Man is resting his post-Jimmy Fund walk bones in another part of the country, I have to go and washdishesmakelunchespacksnacksprintdrivingdirectionsmaillettersfindcleanclothes and find the Eldest's bloody OT report (see? a whole backlog), so that I can argue with the insurance people tomorrow. Danged thing isn't filed, it's not in the random pile of Papers To File, and it's not, as I suspected, in the Man's inbox. He gave me permission to rummage through it, and while I did find any number of things that should have been dealt with 4-7 months ago, I didn't find the report.

At which point, still alarmingly tired and now out of sorts, I tossed out the surprising amount of extraneous paper, stapled repeat notices of various sorts together, put all of the recipes into a folder marked "RECIPES," and have made another folder marked "REQUIRING ACTION."

Because every escape from the loving home and hearth should come with a price, don't you think?