Monday, March 29, 2010

almost there....and gone

It's 10 am, erev (eve) Pesach, and the house is tidyish, the laundry humming, and the crockpot doing marvellous things that require little from me.

It's crazy prize day! I told the kids this morning, and informed them that they can win a prize for getting dressed & brushed & breakfasted. And there's more - every time you help, you can win another prize! The kids looked aghast, then thoughtful. Recklessly, I threw my last card on the table. And, if you each help me THREE times before 10.30 am, we'll go do something fun.

(um. Think, woman, think. I'd planned to take them to the park, but it's pouring yuckies out there. Need incentive. Need outing.)

We'll go and get fish for the aquarium!

(niiiice. Real nice. Piscine sacrifice? Sure - whatever it takes, with the seder approaching, the cousins packing the car, and the Man at work.) Here we go, Team Imperfect!!

Fifteen minutes later, I had two dressed kids, one hunting for teensy, baby-cousin-unfriendly Lego, and the other contemplating his toothbrush. A half hour later, the Lego was packed upstairs, the toothbrush was used, and the breakfast cleared. In the kitchen, the crockpot was crockpotting, the potatoes boiling and the first charoset just, well, glowed.

Because cranberries and oranges can do that, you know. Apples in hand, I was reaching for the grater, the Eldest was moving the laundry into the dryer, and the Toddles was, well, doing something Toddleiffic. I flipped on the computer.

And remembered: on a different bit of earth, our cousins were waiting. Their mother was a sister-in-law to my grandmother, wife to one of my grandfather's brothers, beloved and acerbic, sharp-minded and determined. She'd silvered into a strong, stubborn matriarch.

We've been losing our matriarchs, lately. I remember the Eldest, wearing a turquoise t-shirt that matched his cousins, bouncing around at her 90th birthday. All dark eyes and flopping hair, he was astonished and overjoyed. All of these are cousins? he'd asked me. And I was nearly in tears at the pleasure of being able to answer, yes. All of them.

She'd sat at the heart of the turquoise swirl, smiling, hugging the kids as they read her something on a card. Watched the Eldest jumping off a stone wall, told me that he was just like the other kids. She was right, too. Smiled at me, with an edge of relax, you nervous Nellie. I had to grit my teeth to smile back, then. The currents of cousins swept the moment away, letting me have the time to realize that she was right.

She's resting now. She's gone.

Death doesn't fit with my gigantic To Do list, although it's incongruous to think it. Death is too harsh for the finger puppets that we'll have later, the cheerful reenactments of the Red Sea's parting, the seder bingo games. We've reshaped Pesach into something thoughtful, but mostly fun, hopefully satisfying. Gone is too abrupt, too harsh in this setting.

Or maybe, it's not.

I'm sitting on the kitchen floor, 10.30 am has come and gone - and the Eldest, breezing past, couldn't care less. I'm thinking about the fibers that hold our family together, the webbing of love and shared experience, the sense that a connection should be there, leading us to seek one out. Create it, if necessary. Pour ourselves into it, if we can.

I'm thinking that maybe, if I strip away the finger puppets and Moses costumes, Pesach can hold this, too. The harshness of loss, the ruthlessness of need, the necessity of an interweaving of person to person, that can lead us out of pain. And into a desert, I mutter, refusing to be too maudlin.

But in the desert, there was manna. And there were people, learning all over again how to weave their webs. But in this desert, I'm providing the lopsided manna, and the space for the tying of fibers, and weaving of webs. Which means that I'd better heave my ass off the floor, and go do it.

..and as I snip at myself, prickling myself into action, I can feel her - grin.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

confused by the economy? The Toddles isn't.

I was zooming down the highway, contemplating the difference between my rented SUV and my short, agile sedan, when:

Mum, when I have a family, how can I buy them a house?

I admit that this caught me somewhat off-guard. I asked some questions.

When I'm eighteen, he explained, because then I can drive a car.
And a job? college? post-college? You will need to earn be able to some money, kiddo.

There was a dangerously thoughtful pause from the back seat. Then:
I'll just get money from the bank.

And oh, but he explained: The bank has someone who goes and finds money. Then he comes back and gives the money to someone. If nobody is there, he waits for one, two minutes. He considered briefly, then went on. If he hasn't come back yet, that's okay. I'll sit in the waiting room with my family until he comes.

There was a slightly less dangerous pause.

This will be before I have babies, of course.

Because babies don't suit waiting rooms? I was about to ask, when he began to explain about his partner, and we got tangled up in the question of types of partner vis a vis gender, the complications that some partners offer for baby-making (both in-house and otherwise).

How odd, he said, as I explained some of the more complicated options. And mused quietly for the rest of the drive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

oh, the caulk it is so eeeeeeevil

[Setting: an apartment, a man with boxes of dishes at his feet. The boxes are labelled Passover, and he is pulling mugs out of a box. There is faint singing in background]

A man, stage left, pauses. Looks up, tilting his head slightly.

Honey? Is that you? What are you singing?

Upstairs, too-high pitched laughter begins, then stops abruptly.

Oh, the caulk it is so eeeeeevil, eeeeeevil, so eeeeeeevil is the caulk.

The voice trails off, giggles briefly, then falls silent.

The man listens, then shakes his head sadly.


Lesson of the day: after spending the day alternately scraping at sanded caulk, then doing anyfreakin'thing else, the last remaining bits of unscraped caulk will still be there when you haul your now-tired tushie back into the bathroom. No matter how useful or virtuous the other things are that you did, ultimately, time will be short, you will be tired, and the mmnphrmgrlt [our apologies for the editorially imposed gag. done now] caulk will be sniggering at you.

Oh, also - don't mix sand into your caulk, even if someone explains that this will be oh-so pretty and match the grout. And the tiles. I don't care how extremely close you are to delivering a baby in that unfinished bathroom when you hear this, or how much you'd like something to be oh-so pretty at this time of your ginormousness. Or how temptingly confident this idea of pretty sounds, when you thought you weren't going to make it past functional before you go into labor.

No, woman. Stand your ground, hoist your uterus and insist on sandless caulk. Or rue it lo, these several years later, when it is too dry, black-brown-yellow, and only barely more flexible than the grout it covers. Then, you will be forced to ruthlessly part the sanded caulk from its sanded mate, and consider the menage a trois that seems to be happening with the ancient caulk from bathroom incarnations of yore.

And you won't like it any. Capisce?

in lieu of school bus

Note to self: stop bitching about driving the kids to school. It could be worse.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to scraping gross, mildewy (then bleached, then rubbing alcoholled) caulk from our tub. Which, I hasten to note, I'm doing now because I can - and not because mildew has any bearing on Passover prep whatsoever.

It is mere coincidence that the lack of useable tub/shower has a bearing on our incoming houseguests....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

a random composite about light and eggs

While things sprout, irrespective of the ridiculous East Coast weather, my inbox has tossed sprout out the window, in favor of a galloping, galumphing grow. It overfloweth to an objectionable, four-digit degree, partly with routine ignorable emails (Family Fun in your area! Today's Science News Headlines!), and partly with emails that I really, really should answer. Some fun professional stuff, in a year when I'd pretty much resigned myself to not having a profession, some school stuff, some friend stuff, and a few, neglected, please get out your calendar emails.

(I'm hiding from those last, because I hate getting out my calendar - usually it laughs at me, and suggests two possible dates, roughly 2.6 months hence. Insert feeling-sorry-for-self bit here, followed by bracingly balanced bah, humbug.)

Trying to keep up, my emails are getting shorter and shorter. Here is today's, in response to a lovely human being who asked about egg replacement in a recipe for the Eldest's school.
Re: egg replacement in gluten-free baking

1 egg:
1 tsp baking powder + 1.5 TB water + 1.5 TB oil

2 eggs:
1 tsp baking powder + 1.5 TB water + 1.5 TB oil
1.5 tsp Ener-G egg replacer + 2 TB water

3 eggs;
don't do it.
Got it? Good.

On the upside, however, I did check my blog email for the first time in roughly 7 months. So, if you sent me an email, I'm on the job - and I wish to apologize for having had the gall to ever set up the email account to begin with, given that I was then (inevitably) going to lose the scrap of paper with the password. Pesach cleaning bonus: found it!

But I put aside my war with the inbox(es) on Monday, long enough to appreciate the 45 minute commute to the Eldest's school, and the 1.25 hr commute home from it. Holy freakin' moly, but it rained small lagoons. Bad time to have waterfront property, people. Hell, bad time to have property without a water repellent force shield.

As it poured, the Toddles and I munched on a bit of sunshine in a mango peel. The kid scooped up most of the mango, then grinned so beautifully that I *ahem* completely missed his swiping of the last two pieces.

That was good, Mum! he informed me, sure that I hadn't been paying attention to the mango bonanza by my elbow. I looked, mournfully, at the empty plate. Mango-goateed, the kid grinned. Can I have a flashlight? I need to go and shine light in the darkness.

Outside, rain plummeted, the river rose and water spouted through manhole covers. I looked at mango boy. Um, sure. But I think you just did.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

brace yourselves: the Passover prep post

The challenges are few, but comprehensive:

* organize and plan resources:
* menus & recipes (vegetarians! non-vegetarians! carnivores who also eat PB&waffle!)
* haggadas, various seder materials for adults, children
* guest head-count + places for guests to stay
* scheduling for tasks/goals
* shop for non-perishables & perishables
* turn chametz kitchen into Pesachdik (Passover-oriented) kitchen
* clean and transform the apartment
* clean and transform the car
* various sundries, all astonishingly time-consuming.

Of these, the quest for affordable, gluten-free matza reigns supreme. Where? How? Last year, I ordered my matzot from these lovely people, and the year before we bought our first and slightly crumpled box of oat matza from this company. This year, I will be appreciating but avoiding these matzot, which do not (say the company FAQ) meet the requirements for Passover, though they do meet the requirements for gluten-freeness.

Where my recipes are concerned, I do have a binder with last year's recipes, menus and inventory of my pots, pans, plates, etc - it's a glorious, shedding mass of paper. Tonight, promises the Man, he'll tackle it while I wade through my scraps of recipes. This year, we simplify last year, which had me firmly tethered to the kitchen. Because what's the point of a burble of cousins, if you can't burble along with them?

Until the wading begins, it's electronics all the way, baby - and the annual hunt for the thing that didn't work. Three years down the road from my first seder, that's charoset. Last year, we used this - and the children informed us that it was not banana-riffic. I offered a fresh cranberry-orange relish, and was informed that while fun, it was not charoset. So.

Here's what I've found: dried fruit charoset, non-sponsored dried fruit charoset, or choose one from this list. But I'm most certainly taking suggestions...

Pre-seder mini-dinner, seder 1's dinner and carpas/charoset/z'roa/maror/washed romaine, day 1 lunch, pre-seder dinner, seder 2 dinner, carpas/charoset/z'roa/maror/washed romaine, 2nd day lunch, dinner, 3rd day lunch....breakfast????? yikes??

Oh, me, oh my - how the shopping list does grow. Mine is mostly produce, fish and a bit of (eep) meat. And a headache's worth of fruit, to pacify the children in search of a nice cookie. Which we haven't got. *sigh* Most of our year-round desserts are Passover-friendly, but their ingredients aren't cleared for use by the rabbis. Usually, this is simply a matter of rabbi-power: they don't tend to check the niche market foods, because they're short on time. And rabbis. But we persevere....and make lots of phone calls to the Sephardi rabbinate.

Fluffing my bits of paper, I begin to think that the standard Pesach and allergy mistake is the same. If you lack a central ingredient for a recipe, don't fake it - find another recipe. Sorbet has served us well in the past, and I'm eyeing a variety of the ice creams and sorbets over here. Solid sweet-yumminess? On shabbat, we tested this vegan coconut macaroon recipe, and woot! Yumilicious. Apparently, macaroons are like meatballs: the eggs and flour appear to be crucial, but are, in fact, not. Whew. But I'm still stumped on breakfast. Matza and jam? Listening to me mutter, the Man winced.

The list grows, and my paper-ruffling continues: it's easy to turn out an elaborate, tether-iffic menu, and harder to turn out a simpler one, with built-in breaks between meal preps. Oh, for the luxury of being able to cook in advance of the holiday.... Oh, well. Until that glorious day, I'm eyeing leftovers, and hoping to turn up some good non-lentil, vegetarian bean crockpot recipes. Because we can used dried, inspected beans, but not canned. Any suggestions?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

honing their craft

On Wednesday, the Eldest worked on developing his skills at school.

H, wrote the Eldest cheerfully, you are a peice of rubbish.

For a moment, the boys doubtless wore the identical grins of small boys who are treading the edge of the great, wide Okay.

E, wrote H, you are a piece of moldy bread.

Looking at the Eldest's note in my parent-teacher conference, I laughed. And suggested that the boys needed more practice in the flourishes of friendly insults.

May the fleas of ten thousand camels do the electric slide in your armpits!

The teachers carefully did not smile. Bad mommy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

driving the Toddles

Once per week, the Toddles and I have a quiet morning together. In the car, of course.

The bonus of the Eldest's insistence on the whole grow-and-develop thing is that he now gets dumped weekly into a carpool car. Calmly slinging his booster seat over one arm, he trots cheerfully out the door. I look at my milk-and-Earl-Grey, astonished by the idea of actually finishing it. For the next 25 minutes, the Toddles and I wander around the house, slightly bewildered but distinctly pleased with outselves. Naturally, this means that we're reliably late leaving the house.

But once we're in the car, and I've finished my weekly rant on why on earth does this morning always end badly, we remember love and smiles and begin to chat. One week, the Toddles told me a long, detailed story about flying to visit his grandparents, explaining his speed in flight in relation to the cars' speed on the highway. (He is faster, apparently. But willing to wait for his grandfather's car to catch up to him at prearranged meeting points. I approved.) Another week, he described a series of dreams. Detailed. Color-rich and fascinatingly kaleidoscopic.

And promptly forgotten. (ack, ack, ack)

This week, sitting in godawful traffic, taking deep, post-rant breaths, I whipped out a pencil and paper, and scrawled notes. The following is whatever was vaguely legible, and the soundtrack is by They Might Be Giants, here comes science.

In the song, they say they will drive the electric car to a website.
to the West Side?
Maybe. But they say website. And they can't - websites don't have houses.

The white blood cells are fierce. So is the voice [of the singer].

[in response to the mama's praise for active, interpretive reading] I only accept real high-fives.

We're going over 120 miles per hour!
The mama looks at her mirrors, notes the police car sitting calmly on the side of the highway, writing a ticket for a hapless car. Refuses to panic.
It's 120 on the tiny numbers.
oh. Metric is tricky.

when we go to the car fix-er, I can calculate! With the buttons!
(pause to give thanks to the wise mechanic, who stocks giant calculators under his counter. Insofar as I can tell, he does so primarily for my kids.)

And, above all:

you know, "right now" helps.

I believe that last, and it's extraordinarily poignant. I spend the rest of the drive contemplating the fiery neural network strapped in behind me, which I'd already ripped at for dawdling. And how that charged brain coexists with a cheerfully absolute sense of timelessness. Not deliberately choosing to ignore time, simply unaware of it. Five minutes means nothing to the Toddles, if you finish quickly, you can do Fun Thing is a tease, because what does quickly mean? And can you be done first? creates a panic, and oftentimes, tears. Time, in whatever sphere the Toddles floats in, is fluid. Minutes are flexible, and Time To Go is absolutely, positively someone else's problem.

I suspect I know whose it is, too.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

almost? maybe? spring?

Before I jump in, take a moment to wave hello/hug/sit with Brenda: her son was just diagnosed with hemophilia. Over the phone, by the way - which means that she didn't get the hug, or the reassuring physical presence of the people who are there to help. The folks who make it possible for you to breathe, or find the normal under the shreds of the world you thought you had.

Seriously, people: over the phone. Oy.

But I digress.

After two warm, let's hit the playground after school days, I am willing to admit that - maybe - there are hints of spring. Note the qualifier, however - in New England, spring is a nebulous business. Still, I've sent in my seedling orders to the lovely folks here, and have begun perusing some marvellous garden porn. Oh. My. Gah. I want to plant it ALL.

But I'll settle for some cukes, lots of herbs, lettuces grown in the shade of peas and vining cukes, and the boys' favorite: carrots. Dang, but I want to start now. Still, wise and patient soul that I am, I know that the past two Mother's Day have come with frost. So.

We're settling for sprouting indoors, and bouncing - no, jumping - out of doors. Spring up, sprout, shoot up, stretch and bounce. The Toddles, ankles showing, is sprouting in classic style. And, given his anti-haircut platform, also in non-classic style:

With any luck, the fresh beans in our jar will imitate him, echoing my precious seedlings. Three kinds of cherry tomatoes, three kinds of heirloom tomatoes, sage, oregano, genovese basil, and the smell of rich dirt under my nails. The determined curls of green stuff, stretching in the warm sun,'s tantalizing.

More pragmatic than I, or perhaps less bletheringly lyric, the Eldest is using his bounce and zing to demonstrate why, exactly, I would really, really like a jump-rope for my next birthday.

bounce, bounce, bounce, went the boy, solemn and flying. A small girl, thumb in her mouth, paused to watch. And happily, refrained from comment. But had she, I think she should have said:

go Eldest, go - go Eldest, get yer groove on, get yer jump on - go Eldest.

Hanging mid-air, the kid looks remarkably peaceful. It feeds my determination to make peace with his bounce and zoom, the flip of his internal speedometer from 15 mph to 87, the blur that follows a bounce. Because, as a wise friend suggested, maybe he needs it.

Looking at him here, it's inarguable. Looking at them both (currently wrapped around each other in a slightly cranky and heavily elbowed ow! hey, gerroff my weinie! who farted? boy-tangle), it's wonderful and chaotic and thank heavens, headed for bed soon. Because all of that motion and sprout - anticipated and otherwise - is exhausting.

But makes for a peaceful, giggling bedtime.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

too...many...posts... (and Purim)

I'm burbling with posts that are half-written, not-written, and seeping slowly, determinedly, towards the keyboard. But while I'm wrestling with ways to talk about what, exactly, is manipulation, or the NPV in relation to oh, allergy tests? People's interest in sneering at allergy tests? Prodding them thoughtfully to see if they deflate? Given that it took me a full hour and much muttering to write a sensible comment, I'm going to wimp out...and just slap down a photo post.

So, happy belated Purim! Below are the boys, fierce in their costumes as Moltres (a feathered, yellow Pokemon who gives of flames) and a pirate. See? fierce?

okay, maybe more like, sheeesh, MOM, just take the PICture alREADY. Try this one:

fiercer, right? Taking grr, boy pictures appears to be an art - and one that lends itself very very well to the blurry photo, aka the photo that is designed to show action, momentum and the vibrancy of the kid who didn't politely hold still. Oh, well.

Neither, as it happens, did their brains. And if you've not yet had the pleasure of researching pirate couture with your preschooler, allow me to recommend the experience. According to the Toddles, pirates havehats, Mum. Red hats. With white stripes - but the white stripes have to have red in them, too. And treasure maps. The treasure maps were tricky, but the eyepatch was easily faked. And, having discovered the joys of descending numbers of stitches, i used the same trick to make Vulcan points on the Eldest's hat. In the theory that these points were avian, of course. Because - did I mention? - we've turned into one of those irritating crafty homes. It was inevitable, the Man said, soothingly. You've always been the sort of person who likes to do things herself.

Yes. But in my defense, crocheting a hat is, apparently, much like pickling: it's a big, fat, no freakin' way could this be so easy! Two hours or so later, aargh, said I, pirate hat in hand, but it is. And oh, yes, it is also danged cute. See?

Details? Alas for you all, I'm delighted to offer some.

I used the pattern from here, on the grounds that it did not require more than an active neuron or two, nor did it require much time: with two chunky yarns wound together, this was a quick hat to make.

The Toddles' hat pattern also made the Eldest's flaming Moltres head - sans flames. Many thanks to magid, whose timely advice saved me from the perils of hyperbolic crocheting. Instead, I merely doubled or tripled the number of stitches per row, which is totally different, if only because it doesn't have that unnervingly mathematical name. My fibonacci'd stitches hung on chains of twisting, feathery thread, the elegant version of which would look more or less like this.

Or, in my case, like this:
I'm going to spare you the details of the Eldest's flaming, ribbonned wings, not because I have any mercy on the subject, but because I'm tired. And I am, for once, going to sleep. Where I shall doubtless dream of grinning pirates (with secret, hidden fire-wing-maps sewn into their pirate vest pockets) and swooping, laughing feathered boys....