Saturday, November 28, 2009

thankful for....Mike? (a burble and a serious thought)

I am sitting on magid's couch, half-asleep, and waiting for the laundry to dry. Because, yes, the Mikes have struck again.

On Tuesday, I checked the clock: 10 minutes. 11 minutes. 12 minutes. How long should my oven take to warm up? I checked the oven thermometer: 260F, said the thermometer. Ding! said the oven. I'm at 350F.

Are not, sneered the thermometer.

Aaaargh, said I. And called Mike.

On Wednesday, Mike replaced the heating elements in our oven, and we bid a happy farewell to the smell of gas from the broiler's heating cycle. Ah, said the oven. That's better. Oh - and by the way? F7:E0

F7:E0? said I.

F7:E0, confirmed the oven.

Okay, said Mike. Turn off the circuit, wait a minute and turn it back on. I'll call back in ten minutes. And he did, and I did, and all seemed well until Thursday morning, when....honey? the Man said, shaking my shoulder with a not-as-calm-as-I-sound grip. The oven has some wierd error message, and won't heat up.

Aaargh, said I.

In case you are wondering, the wise people at Kitchenaid inform me that F7:E0 is the product of poorly connected wires. Or possibly a faulty door latch. Or possibly a faulty board (a.k.a. expensive electronics). But once we'd coaxed the oven into heating up a little, the connection relaxed into the heat (how?), and allowed the oven to continue. We flung the rolls into the oven, followed immediately by the stuffing, and I'm delighted to say that the turkey was done a fantabulous three hours before dinnertime. Between Jonathan Reynolds and the temporary hiatus on F7:E0, we had ourselves a feast.

There were rolls and piles of veggies, making small talk with olive tapenade, unMarthaed green sauce and shamrock hummus. There was salad, for those who transition reluctantly to the main course, cranberries and sweet potatoes provided (and funked) by our guests. 21 pounds of moist, crisp-skinned turkey (if I do say so mahself). Hot dog stuffing, which you gotta try to believe. (think: sausage, fennel, pears, herbs, cubes of bread and white wine...) A nice bottle of wine, that had somehow survived its tenure under our window seat. And dessert: strawberry-lime sorbet, pineapple sorbet, blueberry pie and a plateful of fruit for anyone who missed the course's subtle theme.

We draped ourselves over our chairs, moaning quietly. Some people went home, after explaining that next year, they'll show us how this holiday really oughter be done. We staggered off to bed, happily contemplating the tautness of our bellies.

F7:E0, the oven murmured to itself. Three feet away, the washing machine hissed with jealousy, anticipating the Mike to come. And then, inspiration struck.

Water pipe closed? inquired the washing machine.

And so I am here, waiting for the dryer and imposing on magid's hospitality. Mike will be back on Wednesday, having soothed the oven's wounded spirit on Friday (he's 95% certain, says Mike), and determined that the washer requires new water sensors. Of possibly just a new mizzeekatron. A nice giraffe? Something.

So here I sit, trying to figure out if there's a way that we can throw out our enormous, ancient TV and DVD player, and still show the rare DVD to the kids on....some sort of bit of electronics that is neither large, nor expensive. Preferably free? Easily packed away in an over-full cabinet?

(Seriously, people, make with the suggestions here.)

And I'm reading this, about special needs in the Jewish community. Which makes me sad, because I know that outside of our wierd little community-bubble, what Dov and Devorah describe is true. Children with special needs are not well served in religious Jewish institutions, often for financial reasons. Sometimes - as we learned - through ignorance, lack of experience, flexibility or empathy. But often, it's money that stands as a barrier between a special needs child and a religious Jewish school.

Even if you can wedge the kid in, however, the school culture will make or break ya. Parents who embrace you and your oddball kid? Or parents who will sneer, and leave your kid out of the birthday parties, the playdates, the social life that unfurls through the child's school day? If the money for support services, or even just the adaptations isn't there, you don't get to find out. Not at a religious, private school.

But synagogues are a different question. There, the community's culture - their ability to incorporate, or accept (not just the rather arm's-length idea of "tolerance") the child is even more critical than their finances. We go to a shul that is perennially broke, but the community culture is one that has people looking for ways to include us. Last year, when the Toddles was forced out of his preschool, our shul was the place where we showed him that Judaism happened outside of our house. And that it could include him.

I don't need to explain why that's crucial, do I?

Which means that this comes down to a question of leadership. If more rabbis, like Dov, had children with disabilities - invisible or otherwise - then maybe something would shift. Or knew someone, or loved someone with a disability, and saw how this isolated them. Or saw how hard some kids struggle to build a positive image of themselves - their imperfect, frustrating bodies/brains/worlds - and how damaging that closed door can be.

A closed door isn't community. But do the rabbis even realize that the door is closed?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the car strikes again....

Add to the list of competencies-to-acquire: changing a tire.

I'm now in a position to say that a flat tire on a Friday afternoon, roughly 2 hours before shabbat, is not a circumstance to be desired. But if you can manage it in the school parking lot, with a playground to entertain the (overtired, obviously underfed) boys, other adults to entertain the (cranky, mentally reciting pre-shabbat To Do list), then all might just be well.

The dad who offered to change the tire for me, on the other hand? Bonus. The other dad who came over and showed us how to stand - and then hop - on the wrench to loosen the bolts? Sheer fun. The mom who helped de-bitch any text messages sent to the loving spouse? Probably necessary.

My thanks to them all: we got the tire changed, the boys chased and inserted into the car, peeling out of the lot just in time to pass the roadside assist guy on his way in. (snark) Stopped off to get the bolts checked and tightened, and left the flat tire to be patched or junked. And yet, we still made it home in time to broil the fish, whip the pudding, maple the black beans, flip the laundry into the dryer, turn on lights/oven/dishwasher, boil the water, caramelize and bake the onion tart. Wheee!

But that tears it: somehow, I have got to learn more about my own car. I also have to make that tart again, because damn, that's good.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

dribbles of competencies

In case you were wondering, while I can get blood out of just about anything, I'm a little stumped about the black greasy stuff on my hands. But in a non-neatfreaky shift, I'm loving the black goo.

Last night, my car declined to start. I sat on a random street, betwixt and between errands. And stared. The lights on the dash flared, then faded. The radio went silent. I turned the key, suggested politely, then firmly, finally used the evil mom growl. The car was unimpressed. This, I knew, was many many miles outside of my range of experience.

The lights were on, I said out loud, then they were off. And the NPR - where did it go?

Alas, said the AAA emergency roadside kit booklet, it went with the battery.

Clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick, said the engine, agreeing. This, I thought, is why I hid a chocolate and peanut bar in my bag for tonight's outing. I'd known that tonight was going to need it.

The chocolate was silky and the peanuts crunched, and mollified, I merely grinned when the booklet informed me that my troubles would be solved if I signed up with AAA. Failing that, said the booklet, find someone to jump-start the battery. I called a friend, it's going to take me a while to get to you, to drop your things off. I sadly looked at the empty bar wrapper, contemplated the lack of chocolate and peanuts. Would tea fill the void? But perhaps we can help, replied the friend. I'll send competent male out to jump-start your car.

Competent male turned up, and was indeed competent.* We compared AAA kits and happily, he knew how to use his. Except that, to his chagrin, there was his car, running - and the keys locked in it. Spare set of keys, he told me, and ran home to fetch them. Spare battery? Not so much.

We finally unlocked his car, untangled the jumper cables and compared identical AAA booklets on What To Do. We were attaching the jumped cables when roadside assistance turned up, and gasped with horror.

Don't do that! exclaimed the RA guy. You'll fry your computers.

Competent male and I looked at each other. We will? Competent male shrugged, and left me in clearly professional - and non cable-using - hands. Battery jumped, I drove home, weaving around and through my route in an effort to charge the battery. But don't expect the car to start again tomorrow, warned the professional. That battery is done.

But the next morning, it did. And when it started, I was prepared: had driving directions in hand, apples in bag and Eldest in the backseat, and we drove straight to AutoZone. Bought a battery. Watched the store's guy try and fail to unscrew the strap holding the old battery in place. Watched the car try and fail to turn on. The hours, which had been sliding away, giggled and picked up speed. Lunchtime came, and the Eldest finished his apple, two bags of potato chips and a pair of cookies. I'm still hungry, he told my rumbling stomach, having eaten my share of the snacks along with his own. I clamped my jaws shut, and worked to preserve any illusions of loving motherhood that he might have left.

Ah, but this time: spare battery.

One Roadside Assistance call later, the troublesome nut had spun off, we had a new battery in place, and I had been talked through hubcap replacement by the RA guy. I drove home considering this - the Home Depot guys are of the opinion that I can do nearly anything myself, including cutting tile. Is the RA guy of this ilk? I'd be disappointed in you if you couldn't, said a friend. I eyed the tires dubiously. Where I grew up, you called a guy. Competent, RA, handy or otherwise. Or caught a bus.

Sure enough, my first efforts popped off. The next round looked oddly askew - I'd covered the air thingie. Bloody car. Need a pack mule. Telecommuting, mutter mutter mutter something about a bicycle. Four new hubcaps and black goo later, I'm of the opinion that competency is a slippery, fluid concept. But I might - possibly - perhaps have dribbles of it.

perhaps. occasionally, I mused, spreading putty over the rusting holes in my paint. But, from the look of the swirling, delightedly unsmooth putty, not terribly often.

*please note that I say this with all sincerity: comparatively and otherwise, he was competent.

on an un-lunched day like this, when I'd rather have been doing any number of things other than considering my own dubious compentencies - and not so dubious ignorance of things vehicular, a serious pick-me-up is crucial. Mine? Steaming wedges of plain potato, coconut curried chickpeas from this wonderful cookbook, and unMarthaed green sauce.

unMarthaed green sauce
based on a recipe for green sauce, from a Martha magazine, picked up and carried reasonably far in a slightly chimicurried direction.

1/2 of a red onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3rd tsp red pepper flakes
most of a bunch of parsley, including stalks (if your food processor is up to the challenge, that is)
3-4 stalks fresh oregano, leaves stripped off (even if your food processor can handle it, the stalks are woody in flavor. I'd pass.)
1/3rd cup stuffed green olives (plain green are fine, too)
juice of 3 lemons
1/4 c rice vinegar, unless you have red wine vinegar (I didn't)
1/3rd to 1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper and ground coriander to taste

Add ingredients to the food processor: heavier ingredients first, then leafy and spices. Keep the liquids in reserve as encouragement to the machine when it falters, or has trouble chopping the elusive leaves. A nice, percussive pulse should do the trick: you want your sauce to be finely chopped, and not pureed. Mine was puree, however, and I managed to love it regardless.

Adjust your flavors to suit you - add olive oil if you need the sauce to have less zing, and more smoothness of flavor. Add lemon juice if you need more zing, salt if the flavor feels wimpy, extra onion for more pungency, capers and cornichons if you are having a Marthaesque moment of piquancy, anchovies if you are feeling traditional (but for heavens sake, add the anchovies early on in the percussion, 'k?). In short, have fun.

And when you are done, consider the simple, wonderfully neutral steamed potato as a backdrop to all that flavor, hmmm?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a wry grin, an impressively numbered giggle, and oops

Oh, I have to laugh at us.

The melodrama (oink flu!), the frenetic mama (dress! gigantic bruises on shins - need thick hose! thicker! where is the thermometer?), and the ridiculously bouncing children.

I have a big number, the Toddles informed me.
I nodded. He'd clocked in at 104.9F, and yes, that was a nicely large number. The Toddles, satisfied that I'd understood the situation, curled up in our battered papasan chair, and patiently waited for me to tuck a blanket around him. He peeped out.

I'm better now, though. And damn, but he was.

One nap later, he ate lunch, had hot cocoa (sans chocolate - duh), tested some homemade sunflower spread, and generally climbed all over his brother. (But he wants me to jump on top of him, said the Toddles, and I waited for the Eldest to disagree.) And declined to take his ritual afternoon nap - to my horror. Instead, we made family sorta-trees, had a blast requesting every book we could think of from the library, and made necklaces and bracelets.

Yep, we might be just about fine.

Just so long as nobody else gets it.
Hey, honey. Listen, the boss sent me home from work - apparently, I'm sick.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

oink, oink y'all

Don't worry, the Eldest told me, his neutrophils, macrophages and lymphocytes are on the job, fighting. He'll be fine.

I blinked. I gaped.

Oh, I said weakly. Good to know.

Watching me stagger slightly, the Eldest beamed a benevolent, if deeply satisfied grin.

Bloody hematologist. Doesn't he know that I'm the one in charge of quirking my kid?

In case you were wondering, yes, the boys have H1N1. Confirmed? Oh, no. But there's one case of confirmed H1N1 in the Eldest's school, and why the pediatricians aren't testing more possible cases is beyond me, but hey: my boys match the differential. Well, sighed the pediatrician, we know what this is.

I nodded. It was conjunctivitis gonna getcha followed by oink, oink my head hurts because I'm griddle-ready, followed by oink, oink (the encore). Oh, yes. I knew what this is.

Half of the Eldest's class was home today. Large swathes of the Toddles' preschool was home on Friday. Parent teacher conferences have been canceled for the Eldest's class tomorrow. Need I go on? This oink flu is packing a tidy punch, and ow.

The poor Eldest was flattened by a migraine on Friday, which then introduced the 102F temps. They do-si-doed the headache until last night, when the virus managed to trigger a measly 100.1F as a farewell gesture. I waved at the departing bug, watching the Eldest sink into a healthier, deeper sleep. Down the hall, the Toddles was considering the merits of 102F, but by morning would have settled on a red cheeked, limp 103F. Despite that - or okay, yes: because of that, the boys are more or less adorable when they're sick. The Eldest, his head aching and the Tylenol waffling, was a cuddly sweetheart. The Toddles, despite a tendency to burst into tears, is proving to be much the same.

And they're egging each other on. When the Eldest was sick, the Toddles brought him books. Today, the (now healthy) Eldest began his morning by building a display box for the Toddles' treasured rocks - and ball.

then another for himself.

And curled up on the futon with his brother, and a book that his hematologist had recommended for him. Flinging up my hands over my calendar, my editor, my ridiculously untouched list of Things I Really Gotta Do Soon, the continuing lack of those crucial quiet&alone moments in my days, I spent a satisfying few minutes stomping around, muttering. Overlooking the thoughtful child on the couch, interpreting his world. And pretending that I really did understand this oink flu thing, that I could read around the hype to decide how worried I wanted to be.

Don't worry, the Eldest told me, his neutrophils, macrophages and lymphocytes are on the job, fighting. He'll be fine.

I blinked. I gaped.

Oh, I said weakly. Good to know.

Watching me stagger slightly, the Eldest beamed a benevolent, if deeply satisfied grin. Lookit, I thought. Brain on the loose! Neurons at large! At home! With me!


Sunday, November 08, 2009

enter: the dress

Well, the Toddles had classic, bacteria gonna getcha conjunctivitis. Whee! and where's the Purell?

He was deeply irked by the news, but mollified by not having to go to the pediatrician (who diagnosed him over the phone) and was willing to consider the possibility of eye drops. He's still willing to consider them, albeit with less enthusiasm as each dose goes by.

But there went Thursday. And Friday.

Blessed be, the Eldest came home from a playdate on Friday with a squashed ball of a dress in a paper bag, courtesy of one of those moms who always look wonderful. Dunno how she does it, but she always looks great, with a flavor of quirky humor, playful style that flares or settles as needed. She'd sent along her dullest dress, and I felt alarmingly unlike myself in it.

Hello, said the dress, politely stretching across my (larger) torso. You don't happen to own a pair of kicky boots, do you? I had to admit that no, I did not. The dress considered this, swishing gently, and decided to forgive me.

It might have reconsidered when I discovered that I had tossed most of my makeup, but if so, I appreciate the tactful silence. Goodness knows I was grumbling loud enough for the two of us.

The wedding behind me, I've been considering the phenomenon of the well-dressed woman. I dunno how it's done, no, not even after years at Loehmann's and the group dressing rooms populated by lots of helpfully opinionated strangers. Getting dressed ought to be a simple process, I know this:
1. consider the message you want to send (put together, casual, educated, harmless),
2. consider your audience
3. given 1 + 2, make choices.

And that's where I crawl back into bed, overwhelmed. For years, I'd happily stay home on Sabbaths, if only I could avoid getting dressed. So the idea of someone who can do that, day after day, well. I wonder if she'll do tutorials for friends? Teach me how to assemble things? As much as I love color, texture, and happily admire fun, funky style - I'm still the mom who looks faintly rumpled, whose bra strap is perennially peeking out from that ancient shirt, and yes, wears the same three sweaters because I understand what they do and how they read in the language of clothing.

Perhaps my mental audiences are too loud. Perhaps they are fashionistas, claws extended. Perhaps not. Either way, the dress wasn't afraid of them, and I was happy to lead where it followed.

But I'll say one thing: pearls go with everything.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

the eyes have it

Dear school,

please excuse my mom for being late today. She seems to have had bit of her brain leak, somewhere in the 112 minutes spent in TJ Maxx. There were words to describe the experience, but mostly all she says now is aaaaaaaaagggggh.

sincerely, Eldest

Point the First: we have a wedding on Sunday

Point the Second: I did not know this, which might possibly explain why I did not a. arrange for a babysitter or, b. buy a present

Question: how on earth did the Man end up with the wedding invitation?

Point the Third: I actually have nothing to wear. Not a dramatic, arms flung wide nothing - I actually do not own a dress that is appropriate to wear to a wedding. (For the sake of brevity, I'm not counting the ones that really, holy moly, do they not fit.)

Point the Fourth: Clothing shopping is, generally speaking, a timeless sort of hell. So I don't do it, except under extreme duress, such as when I'm about to visit my parents. Then, I might go - but always to the same stores - and pull a few things off the (sales) racks - but always in the same colors - and then mutter something about needing to wear something other than black/grey/blue/brown and put things back. It's an astonishingly effective experience, and may account for why my clothes are still all black/grey/blue/brown. And not increasing in number.

Point the Fifth: there will be any number of people at this wedding that I've known since grade school, high school, etc. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggh?

Point the Sixth: this would be the week when I pick up a lovely, oh so delicately colored zit. Smack on my nose.

Question: 112 minutes in TJ Maxx?
Answer: because if you are going to have a soul sucking, jaw dropping (who wears THAT? and how does it stay ON? - Judge's Note: extra points for saying that out loud) experience, now would be the time. And that is an excellent place for it.

Point the Seventh: the Toddles appears to have conjunctivitis.

Question: if your child has conjunctivitis, can you haul him to the local thrift shop to bargain hunt? If your child has conjunctivitis, is this an excuse for staying home from the wedding to tend his poor infected self? (um)

Note to self: child with conjunctivitis + allergies = child with three possible types of conjunctivitis (bacterial, viral and allergic). Therefore, child with conjuctivitis is not = child with clear course of treatment. Which means that child with conjunctivitis, if bacterial = child who may remain untreated for an additional 24 hours after visible symptoms begin, to rule out non-bacterial options. (The Imperfects are a little low on antibiotic options, and have been kindly asked to use as few antibiotics as we possibly can. And even then, to use fewer yet.) Conclusion? child is likely to have a compatriot in eye-ooze unless we're really, really lucky.


(unless the eye-ooze upshot is that I get to avoid the whole hose-and-dress thing, in which case, whee! That's almost worth 7 days of half-nelsons at dosing times.)