Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three is a Magic Number

I may never take the kids out in public by myself again.

I was so traumatized this week by The Biggest, Ugliest, Most Horrible Public Meltdown that I have ever witnessed or been a part of. Ever. Seriously, it was so bad. Blood was almost shed- mine, theirs, the stupid people's who kept staring at me while my kids were freaking out. I was ready to kill them, too.

Jack is three and quite frankly, it's not going so well. He's so emotional and opinionated and oppositional. There are days where EVERY LITTLE THING feels like a struggle. I've never wanted to wish any of the time away, but I'll be ready for four come February. Three sucks.

These epic fits have been enough to make me want to just give up on this whole quality parenting thing and drive the kids through McDonald's for dinner, toss some fries on the floor, and park them in front of Sponge Bob Square Pants so I can go smoke a cigarette and drink bourbon in an overstuffed recliner. I mean seriously, I've been using positive reinforcement and ignoring the undesired behaviors for years now, and that sure as hell doesn't seem to be working...

But the worst part about Jack's meltdowns is that during these moments of utter anguish I can actually see myself in him, and it ain't pretty. I remember what it's like to spiral out of control into a fit of such raw emotion that there's no way out except to scream and hot tears burn your cheeks and you just keep on screaming until you can scream no more. Yeah, I was an emotional kid, too, and it was hard. I guess I just want Jack's life to be easier.

(And now I really sympathize with my parents. Um, sorry about that.)

In a weird way, though, it's almost a relief to see that these crazy emotions seem to be in our nature, Jack's and mine. I always thought it was my fault that I was so quick to tears and so if I can blame nature for this, I guess I will.

But he can be awfully sweet, too, during moments of concentration.

And goofy when I ask him to pose with green cauliflower from the farm. Yep, that's right. Green cauliflower. Weird, huh?

We will be okay. This is just a rough patch. I know this. But it's still hard to see your kid, who you have poured your heart and soul into, act like the devil incarnate. Makes me feel like somehow we've done something horribly wrong. Where did we go astray?

And so I seek refuge in the kitchen where even if I can't control Jack's behavior, I can control what he eats. We've been winning the war with Jack over food for awhile now. He tried to get picky on us, but we weren't having it, and now he eats broccoli and asparagus with gusto. Yogurt with blueberries is a treat and salmon is his favorite meal. I'll take my victory where I can at this point.

This weekend we went on a food preservation rampage. I think I was channeling some residual anger from The Meltdown and I inflicted my rage on tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn. The freezer is getting full.

Is there any hope for our garden tomatoes? Between Sawyer's appetite for destruction and this wacky weather, I have my doubts. Hopefully the predicted warm sunshine this week will prove me wrong.

What's the best thing about waking up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning to the sound of dueling screeching kids? You get to see a sunrise like this one. The moon and a rainbow? Looks auspicious to me.

I had to get up early anyway, because my dad and I have decided to run a half marathon in November. Today was our first training run. It was an invigorating way to start the day.

Jack had no meltdowns or time outs today.

Brent caught two Steelhead today. They were delicious.

So things around here aren't so bad after all, I guess.

I found this old note in our junk drawer. I think it provides some insight into the complexities of our household and the dynamics of our marriage. Maybe this is only funny to me.

I especially appreciate how, in my apparent haste, I misspelled vacuum and yet remembered the tilde. Insight indeed.

So why don't you all go ahead and leave a comment telling me about the worst experience you had raising a three-year-old and how it all turned out just fine. Can you do that for me, people of the Internet? 'Cause I could use some reassurance here. And it's still a long way to February.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Channeling My Inner Martha

My friend Peter once remarked (with a hint of disdain in his voice) that he was surprised that I was so domestic. I guess I had never thought about it like that before, but maybe I do seem like a person who would be less inclined towards the domestic arts. But let me tell you, I do so love a weekend of sewing pants for one of the kids, baking a loaf of whole wheat bread to feed my family for the next week, whipping up a big pot of soup from whatever Brent scored at the farmers’ market, and scheming up my latest Halloween decor theme.

And yet, Martha Stewart I am not. I like to say the f-word. I drink a lot of beer. I am a total feminist. I would still go see a punk show if you invited me to one. I have tattoos.

However, there is something about the house and home. I’m devoted to my family. I like us to eat well and I’m not a big fan of processed foods. I want my kids to have clothes that five other kids at the park aren’t wearing. I’m also kind of a homebody by nature.

So in finding the balance, I’ve discovered that you can have it all. The education/career/independence and the housewife/mom/Martha Stewart all wrapped up into one. It can be done, but it’s exhausting and requires a lot of coffee. (And sometimes a lot of beer.)

I’ve linked you to the recipe for this bread before, but I’m starting to fear that someday my links will all be dead and then I’ll have no way of knowing how to make all of this food because god forbid I would actually take the time to write down a recipe on paper- ha! How archaic.

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

Into your Kitchen Aid, put
2 ¼ t yeast
3 T molasses
2 cups warm water

Let the yeast bloom for five minutes.
Add in:

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats
4 T melted butter
2 t salt

Mix until combined. Let rest for 30 minutes. Switch to the bread hook and mix for about 6 minutes. Let rise in oiled bowl for 1 hour, shape, place in buttered loaf pan and let rise again for an hour. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. DO NOT cut into the loaf until it has cooled. This will be difficult. I have faith in you.

This year I made pizza sauce to freeze. I’d link you to the recipe, but really all I did was boil down a big old bunch of tomatoes (I left the skins on because I am lazy), add a few handfuls of basil, a healthy dollop of tomato paste, tons of oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of red pepper. Now, I’ve been long tormented by the issue of tomato paste (don’t I sound like Martha now?) and whether or not to buy it because of the whole BPA in canned foods dilemma. It’s really easy for me to jump onto any sort of food safety bandwagon, watch some documentary, and then become completely hysterical about what we’re feeding the kids and declare that we cannot possibly eat ANYTHING AT ALL ANYMORE because the food industry is so effed up and Monsanto controls everything with their corporate evil empire and WE’RE ALL GOING TO GET CANCER AND DIE, etc.

Where was I? Oh yes, tomato paste. I made my own! It took a long, long time and I followed a recipe until it got to the part about cooking down the paste for hours and hours on end and then I just turned off the oven and called it good. And it was. (I can't find the link right now, but it essentially involved boiling down a bunch of tomatoes, straining them, then cooking them in the oven with low heat for a long, long time.)

In other domestic news, I’ve been sewing for… wait for it… MYSELF! See? I made this skirt! And in the process I remembered why I don’t sew for myself. Kids’ clothes are so much easier. A lot of seam ripping went into the making of this skirt. And you better believe that there was a lot of swearing, too. But here it is- my skirt for me! (Just don’t look too closely at the seams. What the hell was I thinking using a contrast thread? That’s for real seamstresses who actually know what they are doing.) Sure, this skirt’s not going to win any prizes at the county fair, but I think I’ll be able to wear it to work.

(A quick aside: I once entered a pillow that I had sewn in the youth sewing contest at the county fair, I think I was 8 or 9. It was a heart shaped decorative pillow made from- get this- white fabric with red hearts AND it had a ruffle with red ribbon with white hearts AND IT HAD A RED BOW IN THE VERY CENTER! My god, it was the tackiest thing ever and it won first place. A blue ribbon! It was a proud day for my mom.)

Sawyer got a haircut! Yes, I know. It was time.

Jack brought home his First Ever Homework Assignment!! I was so excited! But then I was like really? Homework from preschool during the first week of school? Sheesh. I thought I was an ogre. But then I looked at the assignment and it was so cute with these little drawings to color and interview questions for Jack and a place to glue on a family picture, so I got all carried away thinking about how we could impress his teacher with paint! And glitter! And googly eyes! And then I remembered that it was Jack’s homework, not mine. Oops.

Eschewing child labor laws, we've recruited Jack's help in our home beer production. There are currently two kegs of beer fermenting away in my bedroom closet as we speak, so if my work clothes smell a bit like a brewery, hopefully my colleagues will understand.

Instead of coming up with a clever conclusion to this blog entry, I think I'll go watch Dexter season 4. So suck on that, Martha.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Doing Things the Hard Way. Alternate Title: What I Did During My Summer Vacation

So I have to write this stupid essay about what I did this summer. By Friday.

(Who would give such a totally lame back to school assignment?)

And it needs to be really good because I'll be sharing it with a group of seventh graders before I make them write their own What I Did This Summer essays.

(I guess I would.)

And then I'll have to read and grade them so they had better be interesting, which means that I'll have to make mine super interesting, you know, to model the interesting writing and all. And funny, too. I'd like to laugh out loud while I'm reading these essays and not because I'm laughing to keep from crying about the spelling/punctuation/grammar.

I probably should be working on that right now instead of putting it off until Thursday night, but instead here I am because apparently I like to do things the hard way.

I figured that out about myself this summer. This was our first summer in real kid mode. We've been in baby or toddler mode for awhile now, but this year was different. We found ourselves starting new traditions, venturing to unknown places, and living a two-kid-family lifestyle. And we also found ourselves doing some things the hard way.

For example, instead of driving to the library one morning, I got adventurous and took the kids on the city bus. It was a true LTD experience (I'll just leave it at that) but the kids loved it. I think we need to take more advantage of the public transportation system to get around town.

We also rode our bikes a ton this summer with the boys cozied up in the bike trailer. (Someday I will upgrade from my 1970's Schwinn Collegiate to a bike with more than three speeds, but I guess that day is not today. On the plus side, pulling that trailer behind my old bike is one hell of a workout!)

I don't think we turned on our dryer a single time this summer. Sawyer does not appreciate having his Very Special Blanky (which he has affectionately named "Mine") washed and hung out to dry.

We started the summer with such high hopes for our garden. Brent put in two more raised beds and planted a ton of goodies. And then this wacky weather came along and threw a wrench into the plans and so we really didn't end up with the bumper crops we had hoped for. But at least Brent's job at the farm means that he brings home boxes of fresh produce twice a week and so our freezer is full of veggies for the winter and we've all gotten our zucchini fix for the summer.

Jack's sunflowers did well. I'm still holding out some hope for the tomatoes...

And of course I've been making my lists, and spending hours in the kitchen with my thoughts as I trim/blanch/freeze until I see veggies when I close my eyes.

Before I had kids I always wondered what kind of mom I would be. And then we had babies and I wondered what kind of family we would have. And now we have kids and I think we're figuring out what kind of family we are. A family that chooses to do things a certain way, even if it takes more time or effort, because we've decided that it's important to live our lives in a way that reflects our tastes and values.

Um, so, yeah. I guess that's what I did this summer.

Or should I just write about letting Jack poop on the side of the road?

The Organic Cotton Anniversary

Five years ago this guy and I stood up in front of a bunch of people and said we were in it for the long haul. Well, so far so good.

(This is one of the only pictures from our actual anniversary where Brent does not look like he's about to bite me. I'm not sure why he seems to do that in photos of the two of us, but you'll be sure to notice it now that I've mentioned it.)

Five years ago this guy was but a thought, a dream, a hope...

Five years ago I never would have imagined adorning my front yard with a sunbleached plastic slide and a rusty dump truck.

Five years ago I was friends-for-life with her mom. (Some things haven't changed.)

Five years ago I would have thrown away a broken camera.

Five years ago I never could have imagined how funny it would be to see my kid try bubble gum for the first time.

Five years ago I had no idea how much love my heart could hold.

And just how does one spend the fifth anniversary? We rounded up a babysitter (thanks Grandma!) and biked down to dinner at Cornucopia and then it was off to Ninkasi for a beer. Or two. Since I rarely venture out after dark (how lame am I? Oh wait, I have two kids!) I found that my bike light was missing, so clever, resourceful Brent suggested that we wear headlamps. Oh we were a sight.

And to commemorate the occasion? T-shirts from the brewery. Matching ones- oh yeah! Five years ago I would have never seen that one coming...