Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jack is Six

I've sat down to write the birthday blog entry a few times now but I just can't seem to make it happen. I wanted so badly to be able to turn everything around into a positive with some sort of happy ending filled with warm fuzzies. I just couldn't find any until now.

Jack's birthday was kind of a disaster.

We spent a long weekend in Sunriver with my family with snow and food and hot tub and a visit from an old friend. That part was really, really wonderful. But Jack? He was a real handful. It didn't help that he was sick all day on Saturday. We felt sorry for him and let him convalesce on the couch with orange juice and kids' TV shows on repeat all day long. By Sunday (his actual birthday) he seemed much better and was ready to party.

This was supposed to be a ski weekend (a Christmas gift from my dad and Mary), but there was no way we could figure to get everyone up to the mountain. Since both kids scoffed at the idea of taking lessons, it was decided that Brent and Nick would snowboard and Jack would ski. And I would wait to break the bad news to Sawyer until the car had pulled out of the driveway without us.

So off they went, the birthday boy with his dad and his uncle, and I stayed behind to do the damage control and to make chocolate frosting.

Jack is an experienced skier. He talks the talk and had been talking it for awhile. But once they got up to the mountain, rented his gear AND paid for his lift ticket, he took one spill coming down the bunny slope and was done. Brent tried to encourage him. Tried to bribe him. Tried to KILL him with KINDNESS and ENTHUSIASM. But no. It was over.

And so Brent patiently returned Jack's rental skis, packed him back into the car, and drove him down the mountain and back to the house.

I thought Jack would be humble. Maybe a little embarrassed, even. But no. He swaggered into the house with enough attitude to peel paint. I'm still not sure exactly what the problem was, but I will tell you that he spent the rest of the day in full Oscar the Grouch mode, snapping at me and being mean to Sawyer. (Brent wisely returned to the mountain to salvage the rest of that very, very expensive day on the slopes.)

He cheered up a little when let him open his presents and ordered pizza for dinner. Then there was cake and singing and a VERY special mystery guest (hi Keke!) to top it all off.

But soon enough he was back to his old grouchy self and even though I knew I shouldn't, I started to get really irritated. We all just needed some sleep, I told myself. Everything would be fine the next day.

Except that it wasn't. Jack's crabbiness followed us into Monday and yet I was blindly determined to have some sort of wintery fun. I felt like Jack needed another ski day to regain his confidence. I also felt like Sawyer deserved to hit the slopes at least once during our ski weekend. And so I convinced a reluctant Brent to stop by Willamette Pass on our way home.

And at this point I should have just walked into the bathroom and flushed a big old wad of money down the toilet because that is exactly what our day at Willamette Pass was.

(Sawyer did have a grand old time on that magic carpet. So if you divide the cost of ski rentals and lift tickets by the number of times he went up and down that mini ski slope I'd say he had some great $20 runs there!)

Jack's foul mood cast a shadow of negativity over the entire day and culminated in an epic meltdown that lasted the entire length of the parking lot. I am actually kind of surprised that we didn't drive away without him at that point.

I am still looking for the silver lining here. The aha moment where I connect this lousy weekend with some universal truth or at least an optimistic final note. But the reality is that sometimes my kid acts like a total jerk and I don't know what to do about it. Sometimes no matter how hard we try to make it all special and memorable, it still sucks. Sometimes I wonder what we are doing wrong. Sometimes the warm fuzzies are really hard to find.

Jack is six. For six years I have loved this child. For six years I have held him in my arms. For six years I have wanted more than anything in the world for him to be happy.

I was finally able to write this tonight because I found this. This is the valentine Jack made but forgot to give me. This gives me hope.

(Yes those are beads and a rock taped to my valentine. I don't get it either.)

There is a happy and loving little soul in there somewhere, isn't there? I hope he makes his appearance again soon.

 In the meantime, here's everyone else having a great time last weekend.

(This one gives me hope, too.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things Fall Apart

I've heard that bad things come in threes and let's just hope that's true. Because if it's not, our streak of bad luck just might continue into this week and I really don't have time for any more catastrophes in my life right now.

(No, we don't have the flu. That was two weeks ago and it was just as unpleasant as you think it would be. Times five.)

There aren't a lot of photos this week and that's because I've been back at work. That's not one of the catastrophes-- I actually like my job and don't mind working. I spend my days with some of my best friends in the world and a group of kids who can tie their own shoes and take themselves to the bathroom. But my return to work also means less time for sewing and crafting and all of those other photo worthy endeavors that lead to good blog photography.

The bad luck streak began with the fucking Volvo. You remember that piece of shit car that I'm always complaining about? The one that we've poured buckets of money into? The one that's been spewing black smoke? Well, we finally decided to rid ourselves of this burden and sell the damn thing. So Brent listed it on Craigslist and we started getting some pretty low ball offers. Now mind you, we were trying to sell it for a fraction of the Blue Book price because of the whole spewing black smoke thing. Brent was pretty sure we could hold out for a higher offer and so we kept at it and blah blah blah. Long, predictable story short, the car died on us and we ended up selling it for a fraction of that fraction of the price. So pennies, really. But honestly, at this point I am just glad to see it go. Fuck that fucking car.

Then some good luck came our way thanks to Uncle Sam. Having three kids and living off one income is all starting to pay off! Oh yes, it's tax return time! The one time of the year when we can feel rich for a few days before we blow it all and then go right back to squeaking by. Brent had started complaining about our mattress a few weeks ago and how his back was hurting in the mornings. And I was like, "Hello! My back has been hurting FOR YEARS thanks to this stupid mattress!" We've been sleeping for the last five years on this hand-me-down mattress from my brother that, in addition to being totally uncomfortable, makes this horrid creaking and groaning noise every time you move. Which means that getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night has the potential to wake up everyone in the house. And, uh... those other things that you might do in a bed... well, let's just say that this mattress totally sucked it.

So Brent, the shopper in the family, started frequenting the mattress stores and he quickly found THE DEAL. A closeout/floor model/ultra clearance mattress extraordinaire. And of course it was The Last One. EVER. And of course he was going out of town the next day and so in the spirit of getting THE DEAL, I had to drag three kids to the mattress store by myself to make the purchase. AND THEN I had to come home and entertain three kids while simultaneously hauling the Shitty Mattress from Hell out to the garage and then evicting a burrow of dustbunnies from under the bed frame before the delivery guys came. (This was a two beer kind of evening, if you know what I'm saying.)

But this mattress? OH MY GOD. I had no idea how much having this mattress would change my life. It's so fucking amazing. I just. I can't. Words don't even. Ahhhhh.

And so it would seem that things are looking up for the Rosses.

Ha ha ha. Also that day, in addition to dealing with the mattresses, I built a fire in our fireplace. We have ceiling heat in our house, so in other words, we have NO HEAT AT ALL unless the fireplace is going. Then we bake like potatoes. It might surprise you to learn that I am actually pretty good at building fires. This talent comes from years of being chronically cold and living with this useless ceiling heat. I can almost always get a big old rager going and heat up the entire house pretty quickly. But on this day something wasn't right. I got the fire going, but the flames looked funky and big clouds of black smoke came pouring out whenever I opened the door to add more wood. On the plus side, our smoke detector works just fine, apparently. I eventually got the fire going well enough to take the frigid edge off but managed to set off the smoke detector just often enough to wake Clementine during every single one of her naps that day.

In addition to purchasing the mattress, being in charge of three small children, and nearly burning the house down, I managed to find the time to bake some cookies. After all, this was our first night with the new bed and we needed some celebratory dessert! I occasionally make the Oatmeal Scotchies from the back of the butterscotch chips bag and I always have to wonder what the hell the people at Nestle are thinking when the recipe call for two sticks of butter. Are you kidding me? I use one and guess what? The cookies are absolutely delicious. Anyway, I like a chewy cookie and I'm all about pulling the cookies out of the oven before they get too brown, but I noticed right away that these cookies were coming out pretty raw. And then I realized that the oven wasn't hot. The oven wasn't hot because THE OVEN WAS BROKEN.

Okay, fine. These things happen. But does everything have to conspire to break at the same time AND to coincide with our tax return?

After what can only be described as a heavenly night's rest, Brent and I were congratulating ourselves on our steal of a deal on this mattress. And again, in spite of our broken oven, it would seem like blue skies were perhaps still heading our way. No more back pain! No more creaking and groaning!

Then Brent went to build us a cozy fire and discovered the black smoke phenomenon for himself. First the Volvo, now the fireplace! What's with all of these fire hazards in our lives?! Brent is a lot smarter than I am because instead of just piling more wood into the woodstove and hoping the black smoke plumes would miraculously go away, he decided to investigate. Turns out our chimney cover is clogged up with a bunch of chimney crud, so we should probably feel lucky that we didn't actually catch the house on fire. Instead I was just irritated about having to get the chimney cleaned, because my god, one step forward and two steps back. ALWAYS.

This is before a multiple bandaid collision. Those razor scooters are much faster than you think they are when you are contemplating buying one for your almost four-year-old.

In other news, Clementine has discovered her thumb.She gets more giggly every day. I have never seen such a happy baby.

Sawyer is always up for a game of Sorry. He cheats and he can't shuffle cards, but if you can get past that he's pretty fun to play with.

And Jack got a pretty awesome first report card AND he lost his first tooth.

And so it would seem that good things also come in threes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pizza for 5 and Pop Music for All

First of all, I made some hats for my cousin's twins! This is such an easy and well written tutorial. I have used it over and over again. You should try it.

Secondly, baby!

Lately I have had to come to terms with a few things. Like my favorite pizza crust recipe not making a big enough pizza to feed all of us, for example. This family is growing! And no, I don't mean that we're having more kids (NEVER AGAIN!), I just mean that the boys are already starting to eat us out of house and home.

One time, long ago before I had kids, I was standing in line behind this nice, chatty lady at the grocery store while she unloaded a gigantic cart filled with loaves of bread and gallons of milk and bags of apples and boxes upon boxes of cereal. I imagined she was stocking up for a family reunion or a big trip. "Nope," she replied."I have teenage boys. This is what they eat every week." I feel like I am already turning into that lady, and it's only going to get worse.

Remember the cream puff incident? Turns out Jack really really REALLY hates it when you call him Cream Puff. "Stop calling me Cream Puff!" he yells before stomping out of the room. And then of course Brent and I have to keep a straight face while making comments like, "What's wrong with Cream Puff?" and "Wonder why Cream Puff is so mad," because clearly we are assholes.

Anyway, Cream Puff can really put away the pizza. We usually have a homemade pizza for dinner at least once a week and recently there just hasn't been enough to go around. So I started experimenting with our recipe and I made a few adaptations and viola! Here is our newest pizza crust recipe:

2 1/4 t yeast
2 t honey
1 1/4 c warm water

Put those things in a bowl and set the timer for 5 minutes. Then add in:

3 c flour (here's where things can get a bit crazy. You can use half all-purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour, but I strongly recommend replacing some- 1/4 cup maybe- with vital wheat gluten. I know! Gluten=the devil. But trust me on this one.)
1 t salt
1 t olive oil
1 T yogurt (whole milk is best)

Knead for 8 minutes. I use the bread hook on the KitchenAid for this. Then place dough in an oiled bowl to rise for 30 minutes. Heat pizza stone to 425. Punch down and stretch out the dough on some parchment paper. Top the pizza and slide the whole thing (parchment paper and all) onto the heated pizza stone. Bake for 12-15 minutes. This recipe yields enough pizza to feed our family of four eaters. But I am pretty sure Cream Puff counts for two.

Speaking of recipes, I've also been tinkering around with our recipe for pancakes. I have told you before how much we all love pancakes. The problem is that certain people (Cream Puff, for example) have a hard time waiting patiently for the pancake making process. I am pretty speedy when it comes to making pancakes (I mix the dry ingredients the night before) but Jack can eat pancakes more quickly than I can make them and if I remember correctly, his PR for pancakes is something like 6 in one sitting. So I usually make him eat an appetizer before he starts in on the pancakes. Fruit and yogurt, for example. This greatly increases the odds that Brent and I will actually get a pancake or two for ourselves. I have also found that mixing in a half cup of muesli makes them heartier. Using Star Wars molds to shape your pancakes is optional.


Again with the Star Wars! This doesn't really seem like us, does it? Well, the times they are a changin'. My kids are getting older and even though we were once naive enough to think we wouldn't "do" characters, if your kids decide they like Star Wars, you pretty much can't escape it. And so instead of fighting this obsession, I am embracing it. Well, I am trying to, at least.

It's like Sawyer with music. The kids loves his pop music and no matter how much we've tried to broaden his exposure to the music that we like, he just can't get enough One Direction. And so I indulge him and listen to his favorite station when we are in the car and we switch over to Pandora Top 40 when Brent is not home. I think all generations believe that the music from their youth is better than the music of today. My dad certainly wanted me to appreciate Bob Dylan more than I did when I was a teenager. (See above paragraph! It was not all in vain!) But the funny thing is that one day you are preaching about real music and real talent and the next day you wake up and you're a Taylor Swift fan.

(What can I say? She has a nice voice and, quite frankly, "I Knew You Were Trouble" is pretty much the story of my early twenties.)

So I'm embracing the Star Wars and the pop music. Who doesn't need a pep talk from Pink? And how can you not whistle along with Flo Rida, in spite of his thinly veiled sexual innuendos? And LMFAO, I know I am not your targeted demographic, but I so hear you with the shuffling. Me too! EVERY DAY!