Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I knew this day was coming.

Like a freight train rolling down the tracks it crept closer one square calendar day at a time. I kept looking ahead to the dwindling days of summer as though they would never actually have an end. There couldn’t possibly be anything more to this familiar life than baseball, ice cream and home. Could there? This brown-eyed boy and I would continue on our regularly scheduled agenda as nothing monumental was waiting just around the corner. Right?

It’s just pre-k I kept telling myself. It’s a playgroup for four year olds and we need the quiet time, I affirmed to my reflection as I curled my hair and powdered my nose. He needs to spread his wings and be taught another way to fly, I repeated, not quite believing myself but not disbelieving either. I need to give my Boy and Girl the kind of attention that an energetic four year old boy can only hinder, I reminded myself, all the while second-guessing my intentions and plans for the school year.

But no matter how firmly I planted my feet at the starting line, my knees were undoubtedly weak when the gun sounded. I listened this morning as his father quietly explained what the word “nervous” meant and whether or not he was feeling that way. I listened as he chatted on about every early morning thought he could think of. I filled his new backpack with all the things I thought he might need while reminding myself that goldfish pretzels and a juice box would be enough and that adding a photo album of us might be overdoing it. It’s only three hours, I reminded myself with a bit of embarrassment at the knot looming in the back of my throat.

He slurped his honey nut Cheerios and talked with his mouth full.

I slowly sipped my coffee and blinked my eyes often.

I made slow, deliberate moves in a subconscious effort to delay the inevitable while he couldn’t move his small feet fast enough. It must have been the new sneakers.

You talked incessantly on the ride to your new school. I listened as though I was bringing you to boot camp and wouldn’t be seeing you again for six weeks. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how I muddle through life being such a sentimental slop.

You took big steps; again those new sneakers seemed really something. You let me kiss your cheek and didn’t look back as you took your teacher’s hand, which was probably for the best because watching your Mama snivel while wiping her nose on her sleeve is never a good way to start your morning.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Waffle night

We’ve all got family traditions and memories from our childhood, things our parents always made sure to do with us and for us. We remember things like pizza night or movie night, silly made up songs that were only sung at bedtime, private handshakes or speaking in secret code when out in public just because it’s entertaining (well, my Girl and Boy hardly think that one’s much fun but I still use my own version of Pig Latin in the grocery store just to see exactly how much embarrassment I can cause them. It’s the small things in life.). It’s what every parent strives for: giving their children happy memories to carry them into adulthood. Life is just one set of memories after another and we’re all just hoping they’re good ones.

On Friday nights I like to make a colossal stack of pancakes for Saturday morning breakfasts. And the reason I don’t make them in the mornings is because I don’t like mornings. I don’t like doing anything other than getting caffeinated before 7:00 AM and I’d never get around to making the batter if I didn’t do it the night before. I think it’s nice that I know myself so well.

But on Sunday nights I make waffles. Waffles are so different than pancakes because they require more preparation and always seem to taste more special. I don’t know why this is, but the reaction I get from making a batch of waffles always has loads of cheering and “I LOVE YOU MAMA” ‘s.

Because I’m a really good friend and blogger who likes to please, I’m going to share my waffle making with you. You’ll never be the same, I promise. You might even cheer and tell me that you love me too.

It all starts with a good recipe doesn’t it? I tried tons of them too before I found The One. You know that feeling when you find a good recipe and everything just works together in harmony and it’s beautiful? I found that waffle recipe.

It’s really old, wrinkled and covered in dry batter. But I don’t care because I love it. I fantasize about this piece of paper being passed from my daughter to her daughter in a deeply special family tradition.

Shall we move on to dry ingredients? This blog entry is going to be incredibly stimulating – I know you’re gripping the sides of your chair in anticipation right now. But, sadly, this is the most boring part of the process because everything is white and powdery, not much excitement happening. Although every once and a while I’ll use one less quarter teaspoon of salt just to arouse my wild side. I get so nervous when I do that! And then I have a shot of pineapple rum.

Things really start getting electrifying from here on out. Do you like eggs? Do you even realize how much fun eggs can be? Unless you have yourself a super fancy egg white separator from Pampered Chef you’re not actually living. I force Mother Nature to do something completely against her will: physically removing an egg yolk from its slimy cytoplasm! And yes, I had to Wiki that one, so did you.

It looks so slippery and gooey! I always gag a little while listening to the sounds of slimy cytoplasm dripping all over itself into a big steel bowl. It looks eerily similar to a big bowl of boogers, doesn’t it?

Aw! Look! A little bowl full of baby chicks! Hi baby chicks.

Why aren’t they peeping and chirping? Are they sleeping? I just want to scratch behind their fluffy yellow ears. Do chickens even have ears? Give me a minute – I need to research this…..



Yes! According to an extremely reliable Wiki Answers article, chickens do indeed have ears.

Okay I need to focus and get myself back on task.

Aw! Look! A bowl full of baby chicks swimming in milk!

I wisk those baby chicks until they become one with the milk. It’s always a good baking and cooking practice to prepare your dry and wet ingredients separately. It’s not always more convenient but it sure makes the batter yummier and more consistent. And when it comes to waffles, baby I know what I’m talking about.

Wisk it! Wisk it Good! (Do you remember that cheesetastic “Whip It” music video by Devo? No, me either.)

It’s time to make those wet and dry ingredients settle down and start a family. It’s all about creating the memories right? They’ve put it off long enough and neither of them are getting any younger. I don’t care if they go kicking and screaming – they’re making baby waffles.

Next is the completely unglamorous addition of canola oil. It does nothing for your waffles other than keep them from getting stuck to the iron and ending up completely torn, ruined and ugly. I tried omitting the oil once and ending up sobbing and banging my head against the garbage can for hours. Learn from my mistakes.

Let’s turn our attention once again to that big steel bowl of slimy cytoplasm! It’s time to make the egg whites work for you. They have the ability to make your waffles fluffier than anything from your wildest dreams. My recipes tells me to “beat them stiffly” but whenever I see the worlds “beat” and “stiffly” together my mind tends to wander and since I keep a CLEAN KITCHEN I just whip ‘em until they beg for mercy. Then I tie them up and call them bad names.

I continue to abuse them about three minutes before they turn into meringue. Meringue, tasty in its own right, has no place in waffle batter but is divine atop my Mum’s coconut cream pie. Mmmmm….pie.

Now we begin the most delicate part of the recipe. It’s time to blend our batter with our STIFFLY BEATEN egg whites (I assume you’ve had enough of me calling them slimy cytoplasm?).

I can’t perfectly stress the importance of being gentle here. You must treat the egg whites as though she were a delicate flower, likely to wilt and die if handled too roughly. You can do nothing but take your sweet, unhurried time when combining the batter with the egg whites. Turn and fold tenderly. Use your wisk like an artist uses a paint brush. Tell your batter how pretty she is today. Ask your egg whites if she’s lost weight. Don’t let the whites lose their fluffiness because that’s the secret to the most magical, most scrumptious waffles on Earth. IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO CHEER WHEN YOU BRING OUT THE WAFFLES THEN YOU NEED TO FOLD GENTLY.

It’s Go Time baby. Give that hot iron a good ladle full of your hard work. Start in the middle and drizzle outward. Too much and you’ll have goo cascading down over the sides of your iron. Too little and you’ll end up with crispy-edged waffles. Practice and eat the imperfect ones – nobody will notice.

Set your timer FOR TWO MINUTES AND FORTY SECONDS. You’re probably wondering why I’m yelling at you? Because I’ve been doing this every Sunday night since my Boy and Girl were ages three and five, which means I’ve perfected this recipe approximately….wait….5 times 9…carry the 2….THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY NINE TIMES. There aren’t many things in life I have full confidence about, but making delicious waffles is definitely one of them. So set your timers.

Oh my goodness the suspense is killing me! Do you even know what is happening under there?? Magic. That’s what. Open the lid of your iron slowly and take a deep breath of hot waffle air. “Hot Waffle Air.” If I could bottle that smell and sell it I’d be rich and famous. It’s the smell of always being loved.

I need to take a minute and discuss the other wonderful characters that make this Sunday night meal so complete and good for you. Real Maple Syrup should be taken for granted, implied and always assumed. If you are living in Maine and do not use Real Maple Syrup then shame on you! And it’s August. If you are not using freshly picked blueberries then you should be dragged out into the street and shot. Or just go to the school farm and get yourself some fresh blueberries and forget my last sentence. Butter. We don’t have to actually talk about the butter. It can just an unspoken, sinful agreement.

All that’s left is to live your life in TWO MINUTES AND FORTY SECONDS intervals. Turn that batter into pure love. You may find that you have extra time while the waffles cook. I like to let my mind wander towards images of Benicio Del Toro's sweaty chest. Or maybe you could think about whether or not you’re doing enough for the environment? Endangered animals? Global warming? Or you could just take pictures of your newly manicured toes. Which I did, by the way, but I’ve already accosted you with too many pictures as it is. You don’t really want to see my cute toe polish. Oh. You do?? Okay, if you insist….

When all is said and done, you’ll have a steaming stack of devotion to give to the people you love the most. It’s one of my favorite things about being their Mum. In all reality, I like nothing more than making them good food and watching them feel full and happy.

Every Sunday night I bank on my perfect waffles canceling out all the neurotic tirades that will inevitably begin on Monday morning.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sometimes you just need three green buckets.

And filling up your three green buckets early in the morning (as Mama stumbles around the yard, drinking her coffee and complaining about getting sprayed with the hose) so the water will be a perfectly warmed temperature by suppertime is a really wonderful idea. There’s something so refreshing about dipping your toes into water that’s been kissed by the sun for six hours. It can cool you and warm you all at once.

The water begs for your toes, knees and elbows to wade deeper. Just a few inches deeper. You reach for the bottom and wiggle your fingers on the way up. You pause to scratch for a booger.

It wants you to make yourself as small as possible and dive in. Don’t be shy. The water’s fine. If you can’t fit in this bucket, try another one. This is all very fun and makes you extraordinarily happy.

That feels nice doesn’t it? You tell your Mama how you wish to be as small as a grasshopper so you can swim in the green bucket. You can even put your face into the water and blow bubbles. You make her laugh with your funny grasshopper jokes. She's actually laughing at how your butt crack is showing but you don't know this.

You try and use your big muscles and pick it up, but there needs to be less water. You look to see if Mama notices how big your muscles are. As you pour, you listen and watch as it trickles over your toes, across the pavement and down the hill. "We are watering the neighbor’s apple tree with our bucket water!" you say. You ask to go visit the neighbors but I remind you how you’ve already been to see them twice today.

You get excited because water is cascading over your feet. You know exactly how much to leave in the green bucket. Just enough. Big muscles don’t grow on just anybody you know. But when a person is four years old, their muscles grow to epic proportions.

With your strong arms you pick up the emptied bucket and give yourself the happiest of showers, which is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. It doesn’t matter that you’re wearing clothes. It doesn’t matter that somebody might be watching. You feel good. Three green buckets and strong muscles.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

During which I discuss the state of my hair

specifically its style, or lack thereof, during the summer months. I don’t usually complain about my hair (not that I ever have a shortage of topics to complain about, because honestly, why are turn signals and the proper use of brakes such difficult concepts for some people??) but I’ve been letting it grow for so long that I’m starting to feel as though I have a second person living on top of my head. A hairy person who hates to be brushed, doesn’t think lying flat is fun and enjoys getting caught in bra straps and other various things that open and close, like car windows, kitchen cabinets, mouths and sticky four year old fingers. For the most part, I’m relatively content with the status of my hair and I’ve come to accept its thick, dark, almost carpet-like abundance. But I’ve definitely ignored it this summer, never really letting it out to play and be happy in its natural, curly state of twisty tangles. I’ve kept it locked away from the world as if something were wrong with it. I’ve treated it like some horrible, biblical skin condition that would’ve sent children screaming into their mother’s arms and young men chasing after it into the night, torches in hands. I think I’ve been neglecting it. I never buy it flowers anymore, never ask it how it’s feeling and I’m really starting to question our relationship. Sure it looks lovely in pictures, but the reality is nothing short of a sweaty, confusing mess that clings to the back of my neck on sunny days like a starving leech and expands like an anxious blowfish on the humid ones.

And since I had seven different places to be on any given day this summer, I gave up all hopes of pretty hair, put the flat iron back in the drawer and imposed an 8:00 AM curfew by putting the whole party on lockdown.

I have one in pink, green and red. I always color coordinated with according lip gloss and I even County Girl’d it up a few times with a baseball cap when I was feeling especially nutty (I even added a mouth full of Bubble Yum when I wanted to capture that “bratty 15 year old potato picker” look. Except my hands never smelled like rotten potatoes and I always wore cute shorts and adorable shoes this summer. I draw the line somewhere people.)

To add insult to my already injured mop, I’ve decided to grow the FABULOUS Jessica Alba bangs out to long length for Autumn so I can, you know, keep it fresh and interesting. Like you never know what I’m gonna do next. Boo!

So under the bandana or baseball cap, there are these angry things just waiting for you to reach up and touch them. They’ll bite your finger clean off.

In short I’ve forgotten how to make my hair look cute and even if I wanted to I can’t because I have angry bangs growing off the top of my head and they’re currently experiencing puberty and are just looking to start a fight.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I love living in a climate with such

dramatic changes in temperature and season. I’m a mover, a shaker, a person who has difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. I’ll like to change things up. Ask my husband. I’m forever whining about altering the layouts of various rooms throughout the house because I love that feeling of walking into a newly painted or rearranged room and saying “Oh! It looks so different! We all get off somewhere right? And I think it’s totally hot to move the bookshelf three inches to the left.

The month of August has always rendered me poetic. It’s a time when the hazy afternoon hours seem to drag by, the sun unrelenting. The sun moves closer to the south as it sets, and if you breathe in the warm air deeply enough you can smell the sweetness of autumn lying just below the surface, waiting as the minutes of dwindling sunlight tick by, getting closer with every sunset.

Autumn never comes as surprise; we always know she’ll arrive on time. And still we’re never quite ready to remember why the goldenrod flowers bloom so brightly and why the pollen sends small fists to itchy eyes. Yet we always act so startled to see summer’s last hurrah.

We’re never quite ready to release June and July for another year, as if holding on to them will somehow keep the chill of a Northern Maine winter from the backs of our necks and the cracks in our window sills. Or maybe if we close our eyes tightly enough and remember how the lazy river snakes its way across the County or how the fat bumblebees wobble from one blossom to another, winter won’t bring us to our knees this year.

It’s part of the dance. We say we’re not ready for summer to end but we revel in the blooming sunflowers and hold the plumping apples in our hands as they pass the time until the first frost sweetens them for pie. We dig our hands into our vegetable gardens, waiting to harvest our summer efforts. We anticipate nature’s painted landscapes of fiery orange and brilliant reds, knowing how sweet the air will taste as we hike over the crunching leaves in September.

It’s the goldenrods. Despite the warmth outside my window they never fail to put me in an autumn state of mind.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's almost as if I had to choose

between effectively home schooling my 10 and 12 year olds (you can assume the word “effectively” means without getting totally frustrated at my four year old every ten minutes for jumping off the kitchen table for the 87th time while we’re sitting around it, trying to interpret some National Geographic article on why honeybees are not native to North America) and just being at home with him, giving him all my attention. The age difference between my Big punks and my Small, yet dynamically energetic, four year old is never more glaring than during the school year.

It’s so glaring that I feel like a teacher in a one room schoolhouse (but without the hair bun and ugly shoes) and Laura Ingalls Wilder is going to burst into my kitchen at any second and give me some pointers on teaching grades K-8 all in one day. I know some families home school all their kids from the very young to teenagers, but I’m having trouble finding a balance between “STOP TRYING TO FLY DOWN THE STAIRS” and “Okay punks, let’s talk about dangling participles for a few minutes.” Because I can barely explain adjective clauses and indirect objects to myself in a quiet house, let alone to two wide-eyed tweens in a very loud house being turned upside down by one of the cutest and most destructive 35 lb forces I’ve ever met.

I made a choice. And I chose pre-k.

I’ve played a mental game of ping pong with the pros and cons of my decision all summer, but for the most part I think this little child is going to have an incredible amount of fun in a brightly colored room filled with toys, music and other four year olds who think smelling each other’s fingers and galloping at light speed in circles in the best thing ever. I sincerely hope they pay those teachers well.

I chose three, glorious, uninterrupted hours every day to be alone to with my Big punks, having actual continuous conversations. I’m going to be able to speak in full sentences without being punched in the butt by a small hand wanting attention. My Big punks are going to be able to think about solving their algebraic equations without letting out frustrated sighs of annoyance because another remote controlled car has run away with their pencil. Granted, there will still be frustrated sighs, but they will be directed towards me and since I’m the big meanie making them learn this crap, that would make more sense.

But my baby! I’m sending my baby away! (Insert the image of a hysterical mother ripping out clumps of her hair and wailing at the feet of a bewildered and obviously frightened pre-k teacher.)

Dear God what have I done?! How will he survive without me?!

Five years ago I was trying to get myself knocked up and if somebody had just pulled me aside and gently warned me about the syndrome I’d experience with having a Last Baby I think I would’ve gone into this much better prepared. But nobody did that for me. I was simply given this brilliant, brown-eyed son and went about my business as if HE’S NEVER GOING TO LEAVE SOMEDAY AND BREAK MY HEART.

And he is breaking my heart because he’s so impatient to go to that damned school that he can hardly talk about anything else.

And I’m not the only one cheerfully lamenting this milestone either. My Boy would lasso the moon and stars out of the sky if he thought it might make his little brother smile, and he can’t stop mentioning how big his Bubby looks with his backpack slung over his small shoulders. And my Girl would cross her arms and punch the lights out of any passerby who didn’t smile at her little brother just right (Not that he doesn’t elicit that same response from her with his daily torments, but that’s his job as a little brother I say and WELL DONE I also say. I too, had a little brother and it’s the sweetest revenge to see her so utterly annoyed that her teeth actually become loose.). She dresses him in khaki pants and button up shirts just for practice and tells him how handsome the teacher will think he is.

His Father and I just stand over him, marveling at this beautiful creature we created, knowing deep within our hearts that he’s the link that makes us what we are. We were something good and safe before we met him, but now we are something else. He is made from pieces of each of us and not one of us can stop ourselves from giving him everything he asks for. Which, ironically, is one of the reasons why pre-k is going to be a good! positive! experience for him because he’s, how should I say this, SPOILED ROTTEN. In a good way.

And all he’d ever have to do is just mention breastfeeding and I’d be all over that. It’s sad really. I’d be so much less neurotic had we just gotten ourselves a puppy.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I'm just thankful

that it started before I go on vacation because I read somewhere that wearing a tampon while riding a bicycle is one of the requirements one must under go while journeying through the 6th layer of suffering in Dante's Inferno.

Plus if my Husband and I actually have an opportunity to be away from our (lovely!) children for an extended period (drip) of time who really wants a white string hanging around, with no other intentions but crashing the party?

I never said this blog had manners.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

It's like Christmas in July

only without the overpriced wrapping paper, last-minute stocking stuffers and Goodwill bell ringers on every corner. It's a gift. A newly found sense of freedom and maybe even some fear thrown in for good measure (and good old fashioned Catholic guilt). It's like never needing a bra.

I'm talking about built-in babysitters.

I'm talking about older children who not only call you Mum but who are capable and willing to take care of the smaller child who also calls you Mum. For extended periods of time. Hours even. Did you even hear me?? It's like all those sleepless nights with the three-toed sloth clinging to my boob never even existed! Or if they did I've suddenly romanticised them into oblivion because I now have the freedom to leave my children safely at home without having to spend hours on the phone promising responsible teenagers that coming to my house won't be anything like the last time, that his pants will definitely stay on this time, and that he won't make them play that game where they have to guess which animal makes the sound "GARUMP SHLAHBEE POOPYBUTT" for seven hours straight (because an animal like that doesn't actually exist and he was just stalling to stay up later, but most teenaged girls are too naive and sweet to catch on to his tricks until it's too late). And by the time I'm driving them home their cute hair-do's are all messed up, they've got applesauce all over their new Hollister jeans and their phone is still drying out from being hidden in the toilet.

And I'm getting a little tired of paying lots of dollars for a few hours of freedom. The way I see it? I don't owe my big kids any money for babysitting their little brother. HE'S MY GIFT TO THEM.

See how nice I am?

I was totally cut out for this parenting gig.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Renée Chalou Ennis

is considering a return to blogging.

Damn. It seems that Facebook has conditioned her to speaking in third person singular.

She may or may not be sharing her adventures in home schooling, preschooler-wrangling, tween-angst and a life in limbo for 2009/2010. Her house is still on the (lifeless) market and her husband has moved his office from down the hall to across town, much to her relief. It was getting unbelievably crowded and there was a brief moment in time when running around screaming with her hair on fire seemed like the right thing to do.

Oh. And she's been running and strength training.

It only looks glamorous in pictures. The sweat and foul language really detracts from any lady-likeness she may have once had.

See you on Facebook.