Friday, July 24, 2009

Snick snacks

I’ve often joked that if my parents were to have a blog it would be all about food. What they had for lunch, who shared a steak dinner with them, the salad at the culinary school they live near, the dessert platter my dad started dinner with, the way they ate steak leftovers for lunch…and as I was thinking about what I would write about today my topics had a great deal to do with food. So, I’ll just admit that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (see, even my idioms are food related) and press on…

While I was visiting my sister we went blueberry picking. I don’t think I can accurately describe how delightful it was. Quite frankly if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be super excited about standing in a field, picking berries, knowing that they hadn’t been sprayed which meant the kids could eat them right off the bush, I would have thought you were crazy. Yet there I was, picking the largest, most delicious blueberries I’ve ever seen, with a ridiculous grin on my face and exclaiming the whole time, “I can’t believe how great this is!” (Disclaimer—I am well aware it was enjoyable because I wasn’t trying to support my family with my pickings, and I knew I could quit at any time.) The weather was lovely, the kids were bribed with a piece of gum for every pint container they filled, and each berry seemed juicier than the last. I can’t believe the satisfaction I had eating something I had brought from the bush to my home to my plate. Every time I offered the berries as a snack I practically shouted (OK, I probably did shout a few times) “Would you like some blueberries, THAT I PICKED WITH MY VERY OWN HANDS?!”


Then we went to my sister’s house and had some delicious cherry jam. Jam, that she canned herself. Hold on a minute. My sister is way more Martha Stewart-esqe than I, but really—canning? Canning always struck me as a huge mystery. Something only grandmothers knew how to do. And here she was, with her Ball jars and cherry jam. Well, you don’t have to be a math wizard to put 2 plus 2 together. After my first slice of jam soaked bread I was figuring out a way to talk her into making jam with blueberries—blueberries I PICKED WITH MY VERY OWN HANDS! Thankfully it didn’t take much convincing.



Now, let’s say you’ve got some blueberry jam (homemade or otherwise) and you’re wondering what to put it on. Might I suggest you check out this book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/. It has changed my life. Well, I might exaggerate a bit, but it has changed my kitchen. This is seriously good bread peeps. And once you get the hang of it, it is really fast. They aren’t kidding about the no kneading part either—I don’t even bother with getting out my fancy Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook attachment (too heavy). Nope, a wooden spoon is all I use. This weekend I whipped up a batch just before lunch. It was ready at dinner, we rolled it out, slapped it on the grill and made pizzas. Pizza topped with tomatoes and basil from the organic farm--good grief, what a hippie I sound like. I feel I must tell you (and I have no shame in telling you) that P’s pizza had pepperoni, salami and Canadian bacon on it—we’re not that much of a hippie household here! It was so, so good.

And finally check it out:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Teeth

I was sharing pictures with my boss last Wednesday and we came across one with G and her first missing tooth. (She lost it on July 1—and, acknowledging how far behind I am in my scrapbooking, I made her hold a piece of paper with the date on it in one of the pictures, so when I get around to putting it in an album I’ll look like I’m on top of things since I’ll know the exact date it happened.) Anyway, the picture was the classic one tooth missing smile and it reminded my boss of the day her daughter lost her first tooth. The story goes like this: Jenny was downstairs playing with her siblings and some family friends, while the adults were upstairs getting dinner ready. Jenny’s sister came running upstairs and said, “Mom, come quick Jenny just lost her tooth!” Mom replied, “Great! Have her bring it upstairs and we can all take a look! I’ll find something to put the tooth in so she can give it to the tooth fairy.” Jenny’s sister, “Um mom, I think there’s more than one tooth missing. And she’s kind of bleeding…” As if on cue Jenny begins screaming and crying. It seems there were 5 kids sitting on the back of the couch, someone leaned too far and the couch slipped backwards into the wall. But it didn’t hit the wall because Jenny’s head was between the couch and the wall. Or, more precisely, her mouth was between the couch and the wall. That was the day Jenny lost her first tooth, and her second, and her third, and her fourth and her fifth.

Even 15 years after it happened, I could still hear the fear of the moment as the story was being retold. As my boss was describing this to me I could feel myself getting more and more pale and starting to sweat a bit. (I do NOT handle blood well). Luckily, they were her baby teeth, and after lots and lots of orthodontic care (we’re talking years here people) her mouth recovered and today she has a lovely set of front teeth. It is stories like these that always make me catch my breath. How your life can change in the blink of an eye. How one minute you can be having dinner with friends and the next covered in the blood of your child. Trying to keep it together, reminding yourself to breathe because she needs you to be calm. Trying to think, “This could be worse, we’re OK, we’ll be OK.” Saying these things to soothe your child in a voice that is just a bit off. A bit too forceful, too convincing, a voice that so clearly shouts “WE ARE NOT OK” despite the avalanche of “we’re OK, you’re OK” statements tumbling out of your mouth. It’s too much to think about sometimes.

So this was Wednesday. Thursday the boys headed off to Cub Scout camp and the girls when to Seattle to visit friends and family. Thursday night I told G and her cousins she had 6 minutes before shower time (no, not 3 minutes, not 5 minutes, 6.—It was 8:54 and I like my math to be easy.) I sat back down while chatting with my sister when the following was shouted to me: “N just pushed G off the trampoline and she fell and now her mouth is bleeding and she’s crying!!” And then the wailing began. I ran outside to see my girl flat out on the concrete, blood pouring from her mouth, hands scratched from trying to break her fall, screaming and crying and panicking. At first all I could think of was Jenny’s mouth with a gaping hole where five teeth should have been. Then I remembered it could be worse, was she moving?? Then rage at the cousin who pushed her. And “wow, that’s a lot of blood.” All of this flashed through my mind in the seconds it took me to cross the deck and get to her. (All of the mommy guilt came later.)

She was moving around so I breathed a sigh of relief that her bones and/or her spine weren’t broken, and took her inside to see where she was hurt. A quick assessment of her mouth at least let me know she still had her teeth, but the mouth was also the source of the blood. She had somehow split her bottom gum right between two teeth. And it was bleeding. Heavily. Down her shirt, on her pants, into the white, white sink in the bathroom where we tried to get her to rinse her mouth out. On the paper towels we used to try to stop the bleeding. On the ice pack we tried to use to stop the bleeding. On the popsicle we tried after the ice pack didn’t work. On her hands as she fought me while I tried to shove my hand into her mouth to apply pressure to make. it. stop. Did I mention the whole not good with blood? My voice kept saying “we’re OK” while my mind was waiting to be convinced it was true. All the while she was crying. First just cries of pain, then cries of “IIIIIIIIII. waaaaa--nnnnnnnnt. daaaaaaaa----dddddd--ddddddy.” He was all I wanted also. MD is calm in a crisis, MD knows what to do, MD doesn’t get weak in the knees or turn white when blood is visible. But MD was 6 hours away. So I kept it together. I held her, I washed the blood off her hands so it wouldn’t upset her every time she looked down. I called the pediatrician with one hand while soothing with the other. I got her to open her mouth and applied the pressure to finally, thankfully, make the bleeding stop. Then I carried her upstairs and read to her until she went to sleep in my arms.

While I was reading to her, my brain turned on me. “You should have been watching more closely.” “She shouldn’t have been out there with the bigger kids.” “You only let her on the trampoline because you didn’t want to listen to the ‘…but everyone else is allowed to play on it.’” And while those statements have some merit, I also realize that guilt is a part of my personal parenting make-up. It’s in my DNA as a mother. However, just as I can’t turn off the worry, I also can’t make my kids live in a bubble. (Knowing me I’d be worried that the bubble was made with plastic containing BPA. Or how would we ever be able to recycle that much plastic?) So instead I focused on the fact that we were OK. Shaken up? Certainly. But OK. Then I had a little moment when I realized I had remained calm for the most part. And that I didn’t pass out at the sight of the blood. And the next thing I remember was waking up 10 hours later wearing the same clothes as the night before.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

Borrowed from my friend Matt, with my own additions...

Doctors I would NOT allow to perform surgery on me:

Seuss
Phil
Pepper
Dre
Zhivago
Dolittle
Demento
Doom
Strangelove
Laura
90210
Octopus
J
Katz
Scholl

Have a good one!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

To attend or not to attend

So it appears I missed the deadline for my 20 year high school reunion. And by missed I mean I was sitting at the computer, looking at the website and consciously decided not to fill out the form. Normally I realize I’ve missed the deadline for something when I unearth it from the pile of mail and “very important stuff” on our kitchen counter. But here’s the thing, if it was really that important, wouldn’t I have dealt with it right away?

So the deadline came and went, and I figured I was off the hook. Sure, I had already bought a new dress, but I can wear it to some other event. Maybe my dear, dear MD will need to take me out to my favorite restaurant. Or maybe I could sit in the living room wearing it while reading the next Twilight book. (Don’t be jealous of my crazy, busy life!) Then today, of all things, the committee sent a note that they had extended the deadline until next week! Really? What are these people trying to do to me? Not to mention I received a separate email today from another former classmate who is organizing a rouge reunion for the people who don’t want to pay the ridiculous reunion fees. At the same restaurant. On the same night. At the same time. Again, really? I don’t think I have the cojones (who knew that was how you spell cojones?) to pull that off. So, despite the $80 per person fee for drinks on Friday and dinner on Saturday it seems like I’m back to square one--wanting (slightly) to go, but not really willing to put up the cash or effort to actually get my stuff together to attend. Kind of reminds me of the way I felt when it came right down to deciding if I would change my name or not when I got married…

On to other items:

Last night while enjoying cherries (picked by our own hands from our lovely friends’ tree) P said “I have an indigenous way to slice these to get the pit out.” I followed with, “indigenous?” at which point he realized he had used the wrong word. MD said “do you know what indigenous means?” P’s reply was a sigh, followed by “hard working?” “Um no, I think that’s “diligent” you’re thinking of.” P, “no I meant indignant.” Well that might be how you’re feeling at this point, but still not what you’re going for.

A couple of days ago we were at a water park and G threw a giant fit about wearing a life jacket. She finally came around and put the jacket on and told me she wanted it to be “nice and tight, because that’s the way it works best to keep me safe. And safe is good!” I sighed, kissed her forehead and said (in my best you’re testing every ounce of patience I have voice) “I love you.” And what was her reply? Keep in mind, this is the child who must give me a “basket of hugs and a basket of kisses and a huge basket of sticky so they can stay with you” every night before bed, and then blows me kisses over the covers and asks if I caught each one of them. So anyway, I said “I love you” and her singsong reply was, “and I love safety!!”

I’ll be out picking blueberries and away from the internets for a few days, so have a great weekend everyone! (Or just you HB, the only person reading this!)

Should I attend the organized reunion? The rouge reunion? Feel free to sound off.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It started with an explanation, and a can of soup

Hello world! (Or hello 1 reader who made me start this thing to begin with!) I feel I've got a bit of 'splaining to do regarding my blog URL thing. My name is April, but I don't really have short arms. I also don't have much technological sense, so on occasion, my friends have referred to me as a dinosaur (to be more specific they call me a t-rex). I may have been known to use this lack of knowledge to get out of things by bending my arms so it looks like my hands come out of my shoulders and saying “rhaaaarrr.” You would be surprised at the kind of leeway people are willing to give when a middle aged woman roars at them. Anyway, I’ve used that excuse to my advantage quite a bit, however, my friend HB (you’ll hear more about her later) decided to up and move away, and she forced me to stretch my arms a bit to make a blog so we could stay in touch. So look at me! I’m on the cutting edge of technology…technology from roughly 5 years ago I guess. In about 3 years maybe I’ll see what this whole “Twitter” thing is all about…

Now, onto my random thoughts for today…many years ago I worked with a guy named Mike. Mike was a great guy, a world traveler and taught me that many problems in our office could be solved with a confident voice and a red pen. His theory was that if people heard the confidence in your voice they would either: 1. Know you could solve the problem (using the red pen) so they would stop arguing with you, or 2. Know that they couldn’t make you change your mind so they would stop arguing with you. Clearly the critical piece of this puzzle is that people would stop arguing with you. Once Mike let me in on this secret I was in business and I’ve been thankful to him ever since.

Unfortunately, another secret Mike let me in on was the fact that as a teenager growing up in Iowa he worked on a chicken farm. And I don’t mean a picturesque, red barn, one John Deere tractor, family farm kind of chicken farm. I mean a giant warehouse full of hormone/antibiotic-filled chickens (here’s the part where I frown disapprovingly, yet also have to admit to buying this kind of chicken all the time from the grocery store). Anyway, Mike used to work at the chicken farm and told me that one of his jobs was to collect the old, dying chickens. The ones that had stopped laying eggs and/or were too sick to live much longer.--I’m sure in my na├»ve mind I thought the story could end happily there. Perhaps they’d get to live on a real farm somewhere as a thank you for all the eggs they had produced? Nope, not so much. Mike let me know that he collected these chickens to be sold to companies to be used in chicken noodle soup. The next time I had chicken noodle soup, I closely examined the “pieces of real chicken!” in it and felt a little queasy. Why is it we can just happily munch our food without giving a second thought until we’re face to face with the actual reality of what it takes to get it on our plate?

And I don’t just mean meat. As teenager I spent a summer working from 7 pm to 7 am 6 days a week at the local pea processing plant. Peas would come in on giant trucks from the fields and if they weren’t timed properly, a line of trucks would form where the peas would be off-loaded into the factory. Some of the trucks would have to wait more than an hour to be unloaded. In 104 degree heat. Needless to say those peas weren’t lookin’ so good by the time they got to us. Do you know what they would be used for? Baby food. Because it all would get blended together. Of course there were other times when the peas would be sent back for a second cleaning because things like small rodent bits were found in the batch. I don’t eat frozen or canned peas anymore. There are times when I’m not sure if I should marvel at the efficiency of the American food system or be horrified by it.

Part of me wants to ask you all what’s your worst food job/experience so I’ll know what else to watch out for, but the other part of me would rather bury my head in the sand. Luckily, I think there’s only about 2 people reading this and they know I have a weak stomach and know that I don’t think I could take one more thing to be worried about regarding our food or its impact on the environment, or big business or anything else! So instead I’ll just ask what was your worst job? I know there are some good ones out there!

“Gosh April, this was a random blog” you might be thinking to yourself, and you’d be right! All I have to say is that I had canned chicken noodle soup for lunch today, picked out all of the chicken before I warmed it up, thought about Mike and wanted to share. Who knows what might inspire the next post?!