Monday, February 25, 2008

The Spatula

I have a large stoneware crock sitting on my kitchen counter that houses all of my kitchen utensils. I bought it almost ten years ago at an outdoor antique fair – so happy to find it after seeing the great idea in Monica’s, from Friends, apartment. I hate fishing through drawers looking for what I want, and loved the idea of having everything right there, where I could see it, next to the stove. I’ve heard a few sarcastic remarks over time, like “You got enough utensils?” I don’t care, I love my crock and the fast ability to easily grab and use anything in it.

The other night I was browning ground turkey for tacos and I mindlessly reached over and pulled out a spatula. The funny thing was that I pulled out one I haven’t seen in years, literally. I always loved the way that this extra small, well-used version had fit so comfortably in my hand, making using it a breeze. (For whatever reason, I have always hated browning ground meat – and this spatula made that more pleasant, too.) Anyway, after seeing this old kitchen pal, I was immediately taken back to a different place and time – really it was strange – but all of a sudden I was back to 1996 in our tiny, rented, turn-of-the-century Florida bungalow’s kitchen.

It’s amazing that, coming from those humble beginnings, that I can cook anything at all. Our kitchen was really a retrofitted old porch, with no insulation and six huge windows that pulled into the room and latched to the ceiling to provide some ventilation. We had two cabinets besides those under the sink, so our washer and dryer acted as both counters and shelves since they sat smack in the middle of the kitchen. We were engaged and then married while living in that house, and the smallness of it prevented us from unpacking our wedding gifts for the two remaining years that we stayed. With these interesting living arrangements, and it really was wonderful – we knew even then that we would look back on that house and that time with nothing but fondness – we were young and free and having fun with big dreams for our future. If you ask me, it was a pretty good place to be!

When we lived there, this was the only spatula we had or needed, and we used it to make all the things we ate on a regular basis. Even then, without an ounce of space or modern amenity, we were adventurous with our love for cooking, making grilled turkey for Thanksgiving, leg of lamb for Easter or a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding for the holidays. We made up things like grilled vegetable slaw with feta and found ways to bake our favorite childhood cookies; it just worked one way or another. In our mid-twenties, we cherished our wonderful friends that were there to enjoy every get together and BBQ and came with their own creations in tow. We had so many friends around so much of the time that people used to tell us that other people thought “Mike & Molly’s” was a cool new pub or something, not someone’s house. We loved it.

It’s amazing that an item so small and insignificant as a spatula held the power to take me back to all those wonderful memories, leave me longing for a different time in life and feeling so grateful for all that’s happened since then. It’s mind boggling to ponder all that has happened; I feel so blessed by everything and everyone now and I feel the same for our life back then. I browned that turkey with a smile on my face, remembering all our good Florida times.

After Mike had arrived home, dinner had been eaten and the kids needed us for ten other things, we began to clean the kitchen. All of a sudden I heard Mike say, “Oh my gosh – I haven’t seen this spatula in years!! Man does this thing remind me of Florida!”

“I know!” I said, loving the fact that we both share the same feelings and connection over those meager beginnings and treasured memories that seem like a lifetime ago.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poop (there's no other way to title it)

I thought I would gloriously skip over this unimaginable blip on the “parenting” screen since my two (wonderful) little girls did not bless me with it, but I was wrong. Now comes Finn.

On our return from a quick trip to Iowa to see good friends, I was contemplating the fact that I have written several stories about him, and pretty much everything has told tales of his “dark” side, of all the difficulties that this bright blue eyed tow head has brought to my life. As we drove along I thought, “I have got to do a story on all the things Finn does right.” I even wrote it down, in my list of ideas, so that I could get to it in a day or two. It wouldn’t be hard, there are a million unique things I love about him and they were all swirling around in my mind just waiting to hit virtual paper. But the week, full of unexpected home repairs that involved a 47ยบ bedroom temperature, got away from me, giving Finn time to create something much more pressing to write about.

As a young child, I remember waking in the middle of the night to all the lights on in the hallway and other bedrooms, hearing my mom crying and pounding to the laundry room and bathrooms and back, all because my brother and sister – twins, probably 20 months old at the time – had removed their diapers and made an enormous mess of their room. Yes, I am talking about poop, among other things! Their toddler story which also included climbing out of cribs and quietly escaping to other more dangerous places for toddlers, ended with backwards PJ’s, a shared mattress on the floor, dressers facing the walls and a deadbolt on the door. It sounds extreme, but if my memory serves, their double mischievous behavior was getting really scary and this was what needed to be done for their safety and so my poor mom could get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep!

So you can now guess what happened. After two days of shortened naps for Finn, I was so looking forward to getting him down for a typical three hour snooze while I worked a little – my monthly deadlines are fast approaching and I really needed some time. But after hanging up from a business call, I realized he was awake – way too early – and I went into investigate. I couldn’t have imagined this scene and I never want to see it again.

I know that I am lightening up a little as a mom, because I honestly considered taking a picture, but then decided against it – that would be too horrifying for him as an adult. (Revenge???) Anyway, it was EVERYWHERE: he had removed all his clothes and diaper prior to “going” so he was able to take full advantage of his chosen art medium; his body his preferred canvas. Oh my God. To make matters worse, there was a fresh and perfect spot of urine on his floor outside his crib. I can just picture him there, in all his proud naked glory, facing outward and peeing straight through the bars of his crib. For him, how cool this all must have been!

I’ve given enough gory details and I’ll spare you the clean up story, which mostly involved me becoming too emotional and saying “This is yucky!” and Finn saying, “Yeah!” with a huge grin on his face, over and over again. As usual in my most frustrated moments, my child has given me no recourse but to laugh.

And this morning, I’ll cut away the duct tape securing his little diaper.

I promise to write my “What Finn Does RIGHT” piece sometime soon. But not today – today this is all I’ve got. One thing I can tell you for sure – I am never bored.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Morning Madness

We have a morning problem. It used to be that Logan was the only one who would stomp and growl at me while getting ready for school and Riley would run around being her compliant self, while Finn was left in the sanctity of his crib until the last possible moment. Well, things have changed and Riley has now begun to follow in her sister’s footsteps, leaving me completely exhausted by 8:20 when we’re on our way to school. For the last two days, instead of brushing her teeth, Riley has decided to change her entire outfit two minutes before getting in the car. Yesterday she emerged back in the kitchen, teeth not brushed, with a spaghetti strap summer halter top on and white corduroy pants. I was furious! Meanwhile Logan had gotten herself preoccupied with ten things other than her coat and shoes. I was about to lose it…. As usual!

Now everyone is thinking I’m an ogre, I’m sure. It’s just that there was no time left to change her and Logan was about to be tardy for school. (I am a big fan of punctuality – I guess it could be a slight obsession.) Anyway, that’s how we left home and that’s how she stayed until gymnastics class at 4pm.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. We were on the way to school and I was working hard to control what has become my usual morning drive-to-school rant. I literally make myself sick while spouting off, but I am so frustrated by that point I feel I can barely stop. I was asking the typical (and useless) question “Why don’t you guys listen to me?” and Logan delivered a quick and annoyed “I don’t know.” That, of course, made it worse. I said, “You do know! And I’d much rather hear that you’re sorry and you don’t know what you were thinking, but that you won’t do it again!” And Logan, totally matter-of-factly, said, “Ummmmm. I think I’m going to go with….. I don’t know what I was thinking. Yeah, that’s the one.”

All I could do was burst out laughing, thankful for her comic relief to hit me on the back of the head. Sometimes I get so stuck in my daily routines and responsibilities that I am like a steam engine forging ahead, not taking notice of all the wonder around me. And what’s worse is that I’m creating this “before school” memory for my kids of a ranting pushy lunatic shoving them out the door and into the world every morning! I know I’m not alone. I have a good friend that is experiencing something very similar with her daughter and the bottom line is that it is frustrating. But they are little kids. Because they are little kids, it’s okay to change into a ridiculous outfit, even right before school (we put on her coat and she was fine.) It’s okay to get distracted now – as they grow they’ll lose that opportunity for most of their days and nights! And it may even be alright to be tardy once in awhile, as long as we try our hardest to be responsible and on time.

It’s 6:30 am and I’m about to do it all over again. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Baby it's cold outside!

I have been having daydreams of spring weather. Not just the thought of being warmer, but that feeling that I know that we have all on that first spring day when it’s warm enough to open your windows and the warm sun is hitting your face for the first in months. You hit all the buttons on the radio until you finally find something you love and you blast it and sing and you feel sixteen years old again. That’s the flash of spring I’m having, pretty much by the hour.

Zero is cold. The car thermometer reading “-6” when you drop off your kindergartner is downright ridiculous. And I have nothing to say about a wind chill of -26, except “BRRRR!” Yesterday, while we were experiencing the aforementioned temperatures, I ventured out to the grocery store; I had no choice. I wasn’t alone though, I saw three moms I knew there, all grasping at their Sunday opportunity of shopping alone. As I packed up my car in the frigid air, my skin actually hurt, my jeans were so cold I didn’t want to move and my eyes burned. All I could think was that I was so glad the kids weren’t with me and not for the usual reasons either!

I talked to a family at a birthday party yesterday that plans to move to Florida, Tampa in fact, near our old stomping grounds. Their house went on the market on January 1st and they have yet to have a showing. But they hate the weather here and plan to get south one way or another. They even mentioned that they thought it would take two years to sell their high end home, but they didn’t care! All the way home I wondered what we were thinking coming up here eight years ago, unknowingly submitting ourselves to the worst winter in 29 years! But I do know what we were thinking. ... a little bit at least.

We were thinking that we wanted to be near the majority of our family when we had kids. We were thinking how, although it may sound appealing right now, there was something lacking when we hung our Christmas lights in cut-offs holding our beers. We were thinking that August in Florida, now hold on to your hats, is just as miserable as February in Chicago. We were thinking that we missed fall and all its autumnal glory. We missed the newness and excitement that comes with spring. And we were thinking that we just belonged up here, again in the Midwest, left with dreams of beaches and seeing dolphins during our daily runs.

Seriously, I really don’t know what we were thinking! God speed spring!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

M&M's and Eskimo Kisses

Stupidly, but necessarily, I have begun the process of giving Finn more freedom in his little life. That means that the gates enclosing him in the kitchen and family room area are no longer in force during all of his waking hours. This is hard to do and hard to remember to do – I think we’ve had a gate in operation at all times since late 2002. Mike is even struggling with it; constantly picking Finn’s pudgy little bod up and placing him behind the bars again. You can only imagine the protests in the form of an inhumanely high pitched scream. There is nothing like it. “Force of habit,” Mike grumbles and releases the gate and the kid once more into the great unknown.

Anyway, Finn and Riley were upstairs playing this morning while I took care of a few things. After five or ten minutes had passed and the unbearable silence became too much, I went upstairs looking for him. Riley was, of course, engulfed in Barbie world as she usually is – she plays so beautifully by herself sometimes. And there was Finn, holding two brand new, but now empty tubes of M&M chap stick that Riley just received for her birthday. His mouth was full; his face painted with the stuff and it was jammed into every crease of his hands and fingernails. Not to mention that the chocolate-colored goo was also ground into Riley’s carpet in several places. I swear the combination of disbelief and frustration he conjures up in me is something I’ve never felt before.

It was okay. I washed his hands and face and scrubbed Riley’s carpeting (I hate the first stains on new carpeting!) The bummer was that it was 11:10 and we had to fly out the door to get Logan from school. I buckled him into his seat quickly, all the while growing more and more nauseated by the super-sicko-sweet smell of the chap stick all over his shirt. By the time I reached the school, I had the windows open to make it more tolerable and Logan immediately complained about it when she entered the car. It was horrible! I stripped him the second I walked in and we all felt much better.

An hour later, we had a little neighbor girl over for a play date. She walked in our front door and announced, “It stinks in here!” Nice. I hope this is an isolated event.

No there is never a dull moment with this little man around. Later this afternoon, he discovered, with utter joy, Eskimo kisses, which he proceeded to plant on me for five straight minutes. He was belly laughing and giggling like he’d never seen or done anything so wonderful. All I could think was, “Neither have I.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Logan's Post on Finn

Logan has been wanting to do her own blog post and began rehearsing this last night. It was so cute, we had to get it up here. From her mouth to my fingers to your eyes... here goes!

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Finn. He was so cute and had a head full of golden hockey hair. He was very sleepy that night. And I sung him a song because his eyes were falling. He was very tired. This is the song I sang, "Lullaby, lullaby, go to sleep baby Finn. When the cradle, when the cradle goes down it will fall in your arms and I will hold you gently and I will swing you until my arms get so tired. And I will sing you to bed. Cradle, cradle and all."

When he had a fun time with me, we had a great time together. I love being with my baby brother Finn. He is so nice to me. He just learned how to call me "GO GO". He loves me and that's the end.

The Crush

Okay, I’ve blown it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as bad as I did last night when I grossly, but not intentionally of course, completely mishandled a situation with Logan. Here goes…

She was sitting at the dinner table across from me and looking especially adorable. Her hair was in these perfect waves all around her face, her light blue eyes were clear and sparkling and her complexion the perfect peaches and cream. I know we all have those moments when we are just taken back by how beautiful these little beings we created really are and that’s exactly where I was at that moment. Even better, she was in a state of “information disposal” letting me in on some real life stuff. I was enamored.

She began talking about Valentines Day and the cards they were going to make for each other at school. Within seconds, her words took a whole new – NEW – direction. She said, “My teacher says we can write things on our cards to each other. Things like ‘Love” or ‘I like being your friend.’” Then, “Do you know what I think I am going to write on Quinn’s card, Mommy?” It was so clear to me that she was telling me something really important to her; that she was feeling every bit of it. She said, “I think I’m going to write ‘I have a crush on you!’ because I kind of do and I sit by him a lot and he’s really nice and he’s really cute!” I was shocked! Just looking at her undeniable sweetness and innocence, I knew she meant every word. Her words came out calmly and so sweet, not silly and boy crazy. It could have gone a number of ways, and I just blew it.

My head went to the wrong place. I thought about the little guy’s mommy seeing Logan’s card and not being receptive to it. I thought about a friend who has a similar situation with a boy who’s gaga over her six year old and she and her husband can’t stand it. I just wanted to protect this little angel in front of me, so I suggested, in the nicest of voices, that she might write something else, like “I really like being your friend” or, and seriously don’t laugh “I have a friend-crush on you!” How dumb this all seems in hind sight. Anyway, I was certainly right about the amount of emotion swirling around in sweet Logan, because as I said, “What do you think, Daddy?” and blindsided the poor man just walking in from work, Logan BURST into tears.

A horrible mommy, that’s what I am. I know people make dumb mistakes every single day, but what was I thinking? I couldn’t have anticipated her reaction, but did I need to even say anything but, “That’s great honey. I really like that you shared how you feel with me.” Why did I make a mountain out of a mole hill? But now, I probably planted this seed of “I can’t tell her anything” that will grow into a teenage monster. Ugh.

I backpedaled like Lance Armstrong and tried to repair the damage as Mike scooped her up in his arms and she just cried and cried, saying she didn’t know why. If I had to guess, I’d say that she felt that she really put herself out there, and my suggestions made her feel as if she’d done or felt something wrong. After five minutes we had her calmed down and we had a good talk in her room.

She says she’s going to tell him she has a friend-crush on him. I told her that sounds great; whatever she writes will be perfect. And I vow to think first, react later and only if necessary.

I’m so sorry Logan, as much as I hate it sometimes, I’m learning as I go, too! I love you!