Friday, July 30, 2010
You were young and you were responding to an ad in a comic book. Or was it a cereal box? I am not sure, but it doesn't matter. You ordered the soldiers because the ad showed an entire set of soldiers in various poses and you wanted to play with them. You were so excited for its arrival. Anxiously you waited and finally a small box arrived in the mail. You remember being confused at the size of the box. You wondered how it could possibly be so small and contain all the soldiers. But, with childlike logic and hope you immediately resolved your confusion by thinking, they must be sending the soldiers one at a time. But, upon opening the box you found it did contain the entire set. You were so disappointed to realize that the soldiers were so tiny. Much smaller than you anticipated. And yet you resolved to play with it. You resolved to like it as much as you wanted it.
I am overwhelmed with sadness for the young you every time I hear this story. And yet I love this story. This memory of yours. I crave it. I almost want it to be my memory. I want to have known you then. And at the same time it makes me want to know you now. Sometimes we want things so much. We wait for these things filled with anticipation. But when we finally get them they are not at all what we expected. We are not children anymore. Instead of resolving our confusion with hope and later resignation, are we filled with deep sadness, disappointment, and regret?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This desire to taste great food does not extend to my own kitchen. No. My requirements for meals in this house are: 1. Can I spell and pronounce all the needed ingredients? 2. If I am sure I can say and spell the ingredients, do I know what the ingredients are? 3. Can the ingredients be purchased at a normal grocery store? 4. Are there less than three steps involved in the recipe? 5. Will the total cost of the meal for six be less than an airline ticket? 6. Can I reasonably make the meal (that means in under one day - that's usually what "30 minutes" translates to in this house) while: breastfeeding (well not anymore but earlier that was definitely a requirement), tending to hurt kids, supervising homework, running outside at various times during meal prep for various reasons, answering to five people, looking for something my husband has misplaced, waiting on hold with AT&T, and anything else that might come up between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.? 7. Will four people under the age of nine be willing to taste it? and the last and possibly most important requirement 8. Will I be able to see my kitchen under the mess after the meal has been made and consumed (always in about a third of the time it has taken to prepare the meal, by the way)?
If the recipe does not meet the requirements, or even if I don't think it does I will glance at it and think, "Hmm. That sounds really good. I'll have to make that......................When I'm SIXTY."
So, as any good friend would I am here to give you three take aways (call me Oprah) today. I am going to give you three recipes that are super simple and that will make you believe you are a Mexican. They are - quite simply - cheese enchiladas, Mexican beans, and - hold on to your hats - Mexican rice. People always ask me for these recipes. No, I am not being sarcastic here. And since it takes me, oh, about...........never...............to send the recipes their way (mainly because this will be the first time ever I have written these down) - I am just going to send my friends to this post. So, if you didn't ask for these recipes, consider this a BONUS for reading. You can thank me later. ;o) And I will now be able to refer my kids to this post later on this week when I make them do all the cooking.
Monica's Cheesy Enchiladas Estilo Rapido
About 24 corn tortillas - don't go cheap on these get some nice fresh pliable ones
Two cans of red enchilada sauce - do not spend more than 30 seconds deciding which one - just grab one - if you don't like it try a different one next time
Lots of grated cheddar cheese - about 2 - 3 bags of pre-grated cheese or one dinner plate full if you are grating it
Lots of oil
One 9 x 13 pan
One oven - preheated to 350
You are going to get messy, so make sure you have your answering machine on, cell phone off, etc. You are not going to want to stop to chit-chat - only for blood or protruding bones. Take all the tortillas out of the package (to avoid getting anything messy later). Place them on a plate. Have your grated cheese accessible. Spray your 9 x 13 pan with Pam Place a tortilla in a small frying pan with about 1/4 inch of warm (but not super hot) oil. When the tortilla is pliable take it out and put it on a paper towel lined large platter. You can do this step to all your tortillas occasionally getting more paper towels (you do want any excess grease).
When you have your pile of lightly greased tortillas, you need to dip them all in the warmed enchilada sauce. The best way I have found to do this is to put the sauce into a pie plate and put the pie plate on the burner on low. Take care not to burn your fingers. Shake excess sauce off the tortillas before stacking the now sauced tortillas.
Now you are ready to roll and place the enchiladas. Take each fried, sauced tortilla and fill it with enough cheese to taste - not too much to not be able to roll tightly. Roll it tightly and stick it in the pan. As you roll each tortilla and place it in the pan - push it tightly up against the previous one so that you are not wasting space and getting them nice and close in the pan. Keep this up until you have filled the pan (you may need to put some going the other way on the edges because the tortillas do not extend all the way to the edges.) Pour any left over sauce over the top. Sprinkle some cheese over the top as well.
Cover with aluminum foil and pop in the over for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.
There are many, many variations on this recipe to include - meat, chicken, onions, grated and fried zucchini, olives, sour cream, etc., etc. My kids like straight up cheese. I, of course, am open to trying anything new.
Monica's Pot Beans
6 cups of pinto beans
3 large cloves of garlic
Rinse the six cups of beans well. Pour into a large pot (not a stock pot). Add water to cover the beans and then about one additional inch. Bring this water to a roaring boil. Pour the water out and put in clean water. Add a little more this time (to about half an inch below the top of the pot). And three cloves of garlic (whole cloves - they will cook down and virtually dissolve. If you are not re frying the beans you may want to remove them later), the jalapeno, enough cumin to cover the top of the pan (about 1-2 tablespoons), and enough chili powder to cover the top of the pan. Bring this to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for at least two hours (depending on your "simmer" it could be more - till the beans are tender) - but up to eight hours. The longer the better. I like to put the pot on in the morning and cook them until dinner. You will have to add a little more water so that the beans do not burn and to keep the water level about a half an inch from the top of the pan. 30 minutes before you are planning on eating the beans or frying them - add about 3 teaspoons of salt (or salt to taste). There are two very important things to remember when making beans 1. There is NOTHING worse than the smell of burned beans. Your family will hate you. 2. DO NOT put beans in the refrigerator when they are still even WARM to the touch. LET THEM COMPLETELY COOL. There is only one thing worse than the smell of burned beans - the smell of rancid beans because you put them away warm. Your family will hate you. To re fry beans: Heat oil (don't be shy here - you want enough to be able to taste it - about one tablespoon for a small pan) to medium hot (when water will sizzle on it). Pour beans in and use a grease catcher on top (or back away quickly or you will get burned). Let the beans simmer in the grease for about five minutes. Smash them with a potato smasher. Serve hot.
Monica's (well not really mine) Mexican Rice
1 cup of rice
2 cups and just a splash more of water or chicken stock
If using water you will need a chicken bouillon cube
1/2 can of tomato sauce
one minced clove of garlic or garlic powder
Heat some oil in a pan (not too much - about one shy tablespoon). Lightly fry the rice. Do not let it burn or get brown - keep stirring it. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle on your spices - enough to color the rice (about three pinches of cumin and chili powder and a good sprinkling of garlic powder or your minced clove) and turn the heat back up to medium high. As soon as your spices are mixed, pour in your tomato sauce. No need to measure - just guess a half a can (the small can). It should be hot enough at this point to sizzle. Mix the sauce in so that it is all incorporated. Then immediately pour your water or chicken stock. Turn the heat up to high. Stir it all so that it is blended nicely and the rice lays EVENLY in the pan. When it boils, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium (it should still be bubbling LIGHTLY). Set the timer for 20 minutes. Resist the temptation to remove the cover until the timer rings. When the timer rings, turn off the heat and leave it covered for about another five minutes.
The woman who gave me this fool-proof recipe (if it doesn't come out the first time - adjust the liquid slightly or spices - and KEEP TRYING) said not to make it when you are sad. The rice will be hard. ;o)
As always - Happy eating!
Monday, July 26, 2010
With my eyes closed I say, "I saw my mother yesterday in church."
"Your mother is dead," she says flatly.
To this plain fact, I have no response.
Hardly veiling her sheer bewilderment and frustration with me she says, "I thought you were Catholic. How exactly do you reconcile being Catholic and believing in spirits?"
I do not hide my frustration when I say back to her without hesitation, "As usual, no reconciliation necessary. I do not see what they have to do with each other in the least."
My ancient priest has just said in his Irish lilt, "And now let us sit for a little silent prayer." It is at this time in church when I can intensely feel your presence. I usually feel you in church, although I am not sure why. Is it because you loved church? Is it because I am somehow conjuring up your spirit in church? Is it because you cannot resist the calm and quiet? I will hear a song that you loved and I will feel you embracing me. And then later I will close my eyes. And there you are.
I do not know if it's because I happened to sit behind a woman with precisely your color hair. I notice this immediately. Her hair is a slate gray with specks of white in it and it is unwaveringly straight in the back. I know it is not you because her head is too small and shaped differently, but I can almost hear you getting a cut similar to hers and then later saying, "Well, I really don't like the way he cut it, but..................."
I am kneeling in the pew with my hands folded and when I close my eyes to sink into my Silent Prayer, I can immediately see your face on the black that is the inside of my eyelid. I sit quietly trying not to make any movement, not wanting to leave this place where I am. Effortlessly my brain is emptied. As far as I can recall, I have no thought. My whole body is consumed, but I can still hear. I hear, "The body of Christ." I hear this over and over until I can't really hear the individual words anymore. It feels like the moment before you burst into uncontrollable crying. When your eyes well up with tears more powerful than a tidal wave. And your nasal cavity fills with salt. And you know that in a moment you will be overtaken with heaves of sobbing. It feels like that. But it is not that. Because I am so vividly rocked I have to open my eyes. And incredibly there are no tears. Amazingly my eyes are dry. My nasal cavity is clear. I am not shaking. I look around concerned that someone has seen what has happened to me and this person is staring at me. But, no one is. Everyone is quietly milling about. The priest is staring into the congregation. You are gone. That quick.
"You know that what you are saying is not possible, don't you?" she says to me slightly condescendingly.
"Yes. I know."
Thursday, July 22, 2010
It started with me innocently asking my husband what we were going to do for our upcoming milestone. Over his paper with his coffee in hand, he looked over at me and said fairly dismissively, "I dunno. What do you want to do?" So, I did something DANGEROUS that always has serious repercussions. I told the truth. "Go away somewhere we've never been together - like Chicago, or San Francisco." He looked back at me perfectly bewildered and speechless. It was as if I had said this in a foreign language (and not like Spanish - more like Chinese). Calmly and quite bravely he said back to me, "Oh. I was thinking more like getting a coffee at Starbucks and then heading over to Barnes and Noble."
Say what??? Did he even want to make it to the milestone???
So, fast forward a few weeks of silent treatment and we were ready for step 1. I am joking..................
So, step 1. Secure Responsible Care for Our Four Kids For Three Days So That Husband and Wife Can Go Far Away to a Place They Have Never Been Together. Now see how that kind of looks like the title of a book? That's because securing responsible care for four kids for three days is just about as hard as getting a freaking book published. Thank God I have the best in laws on the planet.
Step 2. Decide what to do for three days with no kids. Now if you have four kids (or just two - or possibly one really hyper one) you are probably thinking what I was thinking. THREE WHOLE DAYS without the FOUR kids??? Holy Canoli. Is that long enough to fly to Europe??? Well, hold on to your panties. Thank God this was not a 12 step program because step 2 is a doozy.
We tried several ways to approach this decision. Such as: We consulted a professional. Turns out We Is Poor. So consulting a professional did not help much. She told us we could go to..............................Austin. That's a slight exaggeration, but we are on a budget and we do want to be able to feed the kids till December, so we opted to not go with the professional. We consulted friends. Turns out friends are overrated when it comes to making this kind of decision. And when all else failed, we consulted each other.
Enter: Real Life.
Which just by the name - you know it's not going to be nice.
Remember the good old days when you and your guy or lady would DO STUFF? And, I am not talking rolls in the hay here, either. I am talking STUFF. Like go to bars, listen to music, go to plays (y'know the ones that don't involve Cinderella?), take in a show (ANY kind of show), go dancin', enjoy each other's company. Now if you've not been married long or you are childless - this may be fairly simple. But, if you've been married since you were three sizes smaller, your hair was a different color, and you've had children who have sucked all your brains out of your head - - this may be a stretch for you as it was for me. I really have no words to describe what entailed, so I will just give you the following.
Here's a sample conversation:
Him: So, let's think. What do we like to do? That should help us decide where we want to go.
Me: Hmm. I'm not sure.
Him: Well, I know we like to do something? (say that with a little desperation in your voice)
Me: Yeah, well, I know it, too (more desperation).
Him: Hmm. Well, we used to like movies before there were bars and babysitters there.
Him: What about museums? We love museums, right?
Me: Uh-huh (enthusiasm fading here).
Him: Okay, so not so much anymore. What about live music, the bar scene?
Me: Won't that mean we have to be up late?
Him: You're right. Good point. How about food? We like to eat, right?
Me: YES! (A little too excited). We LOVE to eat. Perfect lets go somewhere where there's food.
Him: It's settled then. We will EAT!!!
Him a little later: Well, we could just stay here to do that.
chuckling and then mad laughter
Me: Yeah, and we'd have your parents to eat with.
a quick digression into more mad laughter
We could think of one more thing we like to do (don't worry I will spare you the details and leave that to your imagination partly because I am insanely modest and also because I don't want you to poke your mind's eye out later) and we love, love, love to do this thing without four ears pressed to our door and continual knocking and asking, "Are you almost DONE???"
So, it's pretty much settled. To celebrate being married longer than Abraham, we are going somewhere that is close enough to not cost a million dollars, but too far for our four kids to walk to and bug us and this place must have food! Yippee! Can't wait!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I nudge you and you turn. "What?"
"Did you have any nicknames growing up?" I know the answer, but I ask anyway. I am not anticipating fully what will be spoken.
"Sure. Doesn't everyone."
"Well, what were they?"
"You mean like what did all my girlfriends call me?"
This is meant to get a rise out of me, but I ignore it. "No, like what did your parents call you?"
"Lots of stuff. Digger, juero, hotchie, ultimo, junior." Then a pause, "Shithead."
I have known you for a long time, so I do not ask if you are joking..................
Beer bottles litter the counter top as daylight streams in through the broken blinds. You awake from the couch where you have fallen asleep and no one has bothered to move you. You blink back the sun, rub your eyes, and try to distinguish where you are exactly and who is with you. As your eyes focus you see your father asleep in a chair. A beer can still in his lap. You get up and make your way to the bathroom to pee. On your way back you kick over a pipe of some sort that has made its way to the floor. You make a mental note to pick that up later.
Your father moves slightly and not knowing exactly what will come of it you walk over to him and lean into him. This could be a good or a bad move, but you are hungry and your stomach is leading the way.
It turns out to be a good move. Your father moves slightly and squints open his eyes. "Hey you," he manages. As he says this he tousles your hair and the beer can tips slightly and beer starts to flow into his lap. "God damn it," he mutters. You quickly tip it upright and he says, "You're saving the day already, digger."
"I'm hungry, pops."
"Well, let me pee and we'll eat, then. What time is it anyway?"
You do not know how to tell time yet, but as he pees you bring him his watch which you had seen next to the pipe. "Well," he says, "what do you know? We slept till half past a monkey's ass. Or noon." He grins and messes with your hair again.
He pops a beer as you both wander through the mess over to the fridge. He cracks it open and it is nearly empty. All you can see is a jar of mayonnaise and some kind of drink in a carton. "So, I see your ma has not managed to get to the grocery with her busy schedule and all." He says this in a funny way that you do not yet know as sarcasm. You cannot figure out why it makes your heart hurt a little.
"She's been working," tumbles out of your mouth. Your instinct is to defend her, but again you do not yet know why.
"So, she says, digger, so she says."
While he has been sucking on his beer and talking to you he has taken two pieces of white bread from a bag on the counter and spread them with mayonnaise. He has put the two pieces together and placed this on the counter in front of you.
"Nothing in it, pop?"
"No, ultimo. Not today."
You eat it. "What do you call this kind of sandwich, pop?"
"Well, if I were you I'd call it lunch."
Friday, July 16, 2010
there is no way i can give you all of my advice in one blog post, so i am going to just give you a few gems now and possibly a few gems later. we'll see if you can handle the truth. today the two topics will be: 1. projectile vomiting and 2. talk like your own mother/father
we will start with projectile vomiting. mainly because that seems like a fine place to start. where most parenting books start with conception, i prefer to hand you something that will really help you handle the situation when it arises. and if it has already arisen i hope that you will concur with my advice and rest assured that you have handled it successfully.
the ins and outs of projectile vomiting
a. what is it? it is scary, nasty, linda blair vomit that FLIES out of your possessed infant/child's mouth as if being propelled out by satan himself. if you think i am exaggerating - you have not experienced it. projectile vomiting usually occurs suddenly with little to no warning (possibly a strange look in older kids that could be mistaken for gas). and it most often occurs at night, in the car, at a busy restaurant, when you are all dressed up on your way to some place fancy, or at grandma's house when she has company.
b. what should you do if your child starts this vile behavior? GET HER/HIM TO A NONCARPETED AREA AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN IF NOT FASTER. this is critical unless you want to be smelling this vile nastiness well into next week.
c. divide and conquer the following tasks with whoever is the closest unfortunate soul. COVER YOUR FACES with a bandana, scarf, gas mask or whatever you have handy so that you do not begin to projectile vomit yourself (believe me one person vomiting is fun enough for everyone). the tasks that must be accomplished (depending on the age of the afflicted child): bathe the child thoroughly (ears, hair, and other crevices are places vomit loves to hide to be discovered later when you are trying to comfort said child), disinfect (like with powder or something else that successfully masks nasty smells just in case some is still hiding somewhere) and change the child, make sure they are in a washable area and not crying anymore (they will then need to be left so that you can attend to the other tasks), strip all bedding, wash the affected walls, wash the dog or cat if they were so unlucky, take the mini-van to get detailed, apologize to grandma's horrified friends, write a check to the restaurant for damages, re-do the kid's bed and line with something that can be easily washed, spread a shower curtain liner under the crib/bed, and finally place the sickie snuggly in their new rubbermaid bed.
d. keep saying to yourself, "i love this kid."
e. repeat steps b. through d. for the next 24 hours because it never happens just once or conveniently in the bathroom.
f. know that what goes IN will come OUT again. so make sure it's something you can stomach seeing and smelling again soon. i recommend - water, clear gatorade, water, pedialyte, and water.
so simple. if someone had told me this eight years ago it would have avoided a lot of heart ache. much more useful than "how to tell if your two month old is gifted."
okay. topic 2. talk like your own mother/father
remember when you were young - all those things you said you would NEVER say when you were a mom or a dad? well, believe it or not when good parenting fails - there is a time for these phrases. there are so many that my own mom used and so many that my friends' parents used that i couldn't possibly relate all of them. so, i will just bring up a few in list form. they each are effective at their own times. with more frequent use you will quickly learn these phrases effects on your own kids. experiment and have fun!
1. my all time favorite (in response to the question, "but, why?") - BECAUSE I SAID SO. love this. use it liberally and your kids will learn it so that they can say it to their kids and you will live posthumously.
2. CLOSE THE DOOR! DO YOU THINK WE ARE TRYING TO AIR CONDITION THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD???
3. you are this close (fingers indicating a very small area) to being in this much trouble (hand indicating a very large area).
4. a stitch in time saves nine.
i like to use little gems like this with kids who play DS's and sit in front of the TV all day long. i like to do it when they are being especially cranky and difficult because they have no earthly idea what i am talking about. they will invariably stop, cock their heads to the side like a dog, look at me like i am plumb crazy, and forget what they were ranting and raving about just one second ago.
5. start a "well, when i was a kid................................." story. kids HATE those. nothing will lull disruptive kids into quiet stupor faster than a story about the eight blocks of snow you had to walk through when you were a kid.............with no boots.
6. while you are at it - do something your mom or dad would have done back in the day. one of my personal favorites is public shows of affection when my eight year old boy is misbehaving. nothing like a kiss on the cheek to rein him in QUICK.
well, folks. that's all i got for now. i hope that you have been brave in handling the truth. and i hope that this has been useful and that you can examine the real side of parenting. if you are not brave enough, well...........i know where to find you. ;o)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
What did it feel like? If there was a hole in your heart, how did you fill it? With God? With food? With love? With regret? If there was a wound, did time heal it?
Sometimes I am consumed by the thought of you missing us. Sometimes the hole in my heart is filled with an image of you sitting in your heaven looking at all of us and not having to miss us anymore.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Although the words are always different - this is the feeling of shock. No matter what the words - all shock looks and feels the same. I remember it so well I can taste it. And it always tastes the same. Like old money smells. Briney and bitter. When it is over, you do not ever want to taste it again, but it is undeniable. You know that you will.
Months possibly years later I can remember the moments of shock vividly. Strangely, what I will not remember is what I was thinking right before the news hit me. I want desperately to remember this, but try as I might these thoughts are just out of reach. Was I so happy? Could I not believe how great things were going? Was I thankful that things were not worse? Who did I want to spend the rest of my life with? What was I craving?
I don't really think it will change anything, but I must feel everything now. I must remember everything precisely. There must be a careful account of every moment so that when I am drowning again I will be able to remember what it feels like right before you drown. If there is any comfort to be had I will bottle it. I will coat myself in the comfort of these thoughts so that it will soften the blow........Soften the blow of the next drowning.
Friday, July 9, 2010
I say to you, "Did you have fun yesterday swimming?" You nod, but I can tell from your face - you are far, far away.
So, in the silence I confirm, "We all had fun."
You say with that delightfully whimsical smile of yours (the one I will have carved in my memory until I die - and then still),
"Yes, but I wanted to fly and I couldn't. My wings got all wet."
When these incredibly exotic words tumble so easily out of your innocent young mouth I wonder, Where is it exactly you travel when you go?
Because I so desperately want to go there, too.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
your hair is slightly stiff and smells faintly of shampoo and a lot like river and sweat.
your feet are dark and dirty.
your hands are pruned from swimming.
your smile is a white spot on your dark face.
as i hold your beautiful face in my two hands i try to drink you in because i know this will not last long.
it is summer and i love you.
all four of you.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
As I am floating out of this dream in between the subconscious and wakefulness trying groggily to prevent the unraveling of memory, I hear a voice. It says, "I had a nightmare." In my foggy mind I think, could you have been swimming in that channel with me? Did I let you go? Then I slowly open my eyes and I am hugely relieved to see and soak in your beautiful huge eyes staring frighteningly at me. I know that you are safe....for now.