Friday, January 30, 2015

when dreams speak

Do you ever do dream interpretation? I don't, usually. I rarely remember my dreams (except for that period when I was on Zoloft—now that was wild), but when I do, I'm more inclined to think, “Oh, that was cool/scary/weird/etc,” and then move on. Dreams shpeems.


But last night, oh boy. It was a nice dream turned nightmarish and I awoke with a jolt, semi-frozen in bed, too scared to even get up to go pee. My husband wasn't in bed and I couldn't remember why not. As I lay there, slowly gathering my wits, I realized that he had probably been struck with another bout of insomnia and was most likely downstairs watching a movie (the perfect calming, blue-light solution, ha).

So I laid in bed and pondered my dream. Because it was a nightmare and I woke up right after, the details were vivid. It went like this:

I was on a sort of open wagon which was being pulled by a person I distrust. We were moving slowly downhill, and I was watching the ground as it passed under the wagon—there were lots of tracks in the dried mud. The person and I were talking, getting more and more friendlier as we went along. We started talking about the enneagram, and the person correctly guessed my personality type. I felt known and happy. We were connecting.  
But then off to my left, I saw a horse that had broken out of its fencing. I said, We need to turn around and get the horse back in. I was planning to get a bucket of grain to lure the horse, but the person honked the horn instead. I said, No, don't do that. It will startle the horse. But the horse started heading back into the fence, so I said, Oh, all right. Go ahead, and the person honked again. The horse went back in.  
And then I noticed that a little farther down the gravel road was a house. An older woman dressed in thick, heavy clothing was pulling out onto the gravel road on a motorcycle. When the person I was with gave the second honk, the woman swerved and her bike tipped over on top of her. And then, even though she was going slowly and should've just stopped, the bike slide a few more yards, dragging her with it. 
People rushed out of the house to help her. They picked her up. Her arm! I yelled. Hold her arm! Even through all the clothing, I could see that it was partially torn off. As they picked her up, it fell off completely, leaving behind a bloody white bone. But it was the bone of a leg and foot, not an arm and hand like it should have been. 

At first, I took this dream at face value. I was getting to know someone I didn't trust and had crossed the line from mistrust to trust (the horse). Then bad things happened. In other words, don't connect with people you don't trust or people will get hurt. Cool, huh? I went downstairs and told my husband. He laughed at me and sent me back to bed.

But as I drifted back to sleep, I recalled a therapist that I had read about who used intensive dream therapy. One of the key theories of dream interpretation is that all characters in a dream are the dreamer herself. And then a totally different interpretation occurred to me:

I am beginning to understand myself on a deeper level. This makes me happy. But this also means I am, or will be, crossing boundaries and stepping out of familiar territory. There are risks involved, and I am anxious that I will be hurt. I have coping mechanisms, but in spite of them, part of me will be stripped away. Who I am is different from what I think I am. 
There are still so many things I don't know, though. Does it mean something that the horse's pasture was filled with brambly shrubs? Or that there were lots of tall trees in front of the woman's house? Or that the woman was elderly? Or that I distrusted the driver at first but then started to feel strongly connected? Or that the motorcycle drug the old woman? And about the foot instead of the arm—that part was so horribly terrifying. All that blood and bone. 

It feels like I have been given a mysterious gift, an intriguing look at my under-the-surface rumblings. It's wild.

Are any of you dream scholars? What do you make of it? 
Do you now know me better than I know myself? 
Did I just—eek!inadvertently overshare?

This same time, years previous: stalled, lemon creams, and just when you thought my life was all peaches, the quotidian (1.30.12), peanut butter and honey granola, mayonnaise, rock-my-world cocoa brownies, homemade yogurt, and orange cranberry biscotti.    

Thursday, January 29, 2015

sour cream and berry baked oatmeal

I am in the middle of a self-inflicted grocery store strike. It will probably end in the next couple days, but I'm holding out as long as possible.

It's not that I actually need a strike right now. I still have plenty of money in the grocery envelope. But I hate my end-of-the-month pattern of just scraping by. This time around, I decided to shake things up by being all scroogy in the middle of the month. Because being scroogy out of scrooginess' sake is so much more fun than being scroogy out of desperation. So instead of use the money up, I'm using all the food (I already have) up.

Why is it that something so logical is so hard to comprehend and then do?

Also, it's kind of crazy how I feel like I'm out of so many things (and have the mile-long grocery list to prove it) and yet still have so much food on my shelves.

(In the last four sentences I said "so" six times. I need an intervention.)

I'm being methodical in my stockpile elimination game. I try to spread out the store-only specialties like tortilla chips, cheese, and cereal with the made-from-scratch and daily-grind foods like tomato soup, pancakes, and frozen veggies and fruits. (We have made emergency runs for milk, butter, and the like.)

But no matter my best efforts, the inevitable is happening: we're running out of certain items. We're low on decaf coffee and almonds, we're out of fresh fruits and veggies, and all that remains of the breakfast cereal is the tail end of a bag of Life.



To string the Life along a little longer, I've been upping my breakfast game. This morning was eggs and toast. Yesterday was farmer boy pancakes. And two days before that was baked oatmeal. 


But not our regular baked oatmeal! No, this baked oatmeal is my latest favorite. It's less sweet, and it calls for a cup of sour cream (which is useful when I'm buying sour cream in giant tubs so big a baby could swim in them). Plus, the recipe calls for a couple cups of frozen berries and we have scads of red raspberries in the freezer. It's a great way to get my kids to eat more fruit. (And for the first time ever, not a single child turned up a nose at the added fruit, yay!)


Sour Cream and Berry Baked Oatmeal 
Adapted from Camille over at Flowers In His Garden.

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cups milk
2 cups frozen berries
demerara sugar, optional

The night before:
In a small bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cover tightly and set aside.

In another bowl, melt the butter. Whisk in the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Cover and store in the fridge.

In the morning:
Whisk the dry and wet ingredients together. Fold in the frozen berries. Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 pan, sprinkle with demerara sugar, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes. Serve warm, with milk.

This same time, years previous: about a picture, Gretchen's green chili, to meet you, curried lentils, ode to the titty fairy, and Nana's anise biscotti.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

keep everlastingly at it

My children are not perfect little angels. The other day, just for the heck of it, I made a mental list of all their sins. My kids:

Hit.
Scratch.
Steal.
Lie.
Swear.
Scream.
Name call.
Back talk.
Tantrum.
Throw things.
Vandalize.

Granted, they don't do these things all the time—and not every kid has done every thing on that list—but these things have happened. And when I line it all up like that, I get the urge to laugh until I pee my pants and then crawl under the covers and weep.

I love my children dearly. I think they're pretty wonderful, truth be told. But, as you can see from this list, I do not see them through rose-colored glasses.

It gets weary, this constant struggle to raise responsible humans. Some days it's even downright despairing. A child does something outrageously awful—for example, lies intentionally and for an extended period of time (I can not abide dishonesty)—and I promptly sink into the pit of despair. MY CHILD IS DOOMED. SEND SACKCLOTH NOW. (Or else a pair of rose-colored glasses.) But then time marches on, the world doesn't end, and I eventually climb out of my hole and set about figuring out how to address the problem.

Sigh.

Throughout my years of hands-on floundering—ha! I mean, parenting—I've concocted a list of Tried and Trues, techniques to employ in the battle to not raise a pack of hellacious brats. These are methods I resort to because they get results. Sure, sometimes they're only effective for a short period of time, or for a particular child, but that does not matter. That they worked, no matter how briefly, is sufficient reason to mention them.


Working together post-fight.

Before I start, one thing. I am not a child psychology expert. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of my methods might be found in the parenting books under the section titled “do not do this.” So there's that.

Another thing. This list makes me sound like a drill sergeant. (According to my son, I am. But never mind that.) Truth is, I let an incredible amount of crap slip under the radar. (This may be part of our problem. But never mind that.) I pick and choose my battles.

Also, please note: “working on a problem” is not synonymous with “fixing a problem.” Problems, I've learned, ebb and flow. They morph, first appearing in one form and then later in another. Stay sharp.

And another thing. From my experience, ages 9-11 are when behavioral problems are at their worst. (Though we haven't hit ages 16-19, so don't hold me to this.) This is when the children are no longer little and excused from real work and yet not big enough to do the jobs quickly. They no longer think work is fun, yet they don't have the maturity to see the big picture and just get it done. This is also the age when they get a hankering to do something—such as, build a full-size shop, get a job, compete in the Olympics, etc.—but haven't the skill set or maturity level to put their ideas into practice. So... there's lots of time spent practicing how to be mature through the completion of unexciting household tasks.

And one more thing—  Ha! Just kidding!

Here's the list.

Tried and Trues: The Techniques
*For swearing: a potty-mouth gets to clean the potty. Or the tub, sink, floor, etc. We've tried various consequences and this one smacks a lid on it fast.

*For (extended) fussing about washing the dishes: a chance to wash the next meal's dishes. And the next and the next and the next. I say, “You're a smart kid. I think you'll soon figure out how to be a cheerful worker. Then again, it might take you several days. Maybe even several weeks! But that's okay. I can be patient. I'm here to help you for however long you need.” They usually catch on pretty quick.

*For when a particularly bad name-calling name has become a habit (for example, “stupid” or “idiot”): first, a warning that they need to make a concerted effort to stop using those words. Then, if they need outside help, the use of the word equals the loss of dessert. Only sweets for the sweet(mouthed)!

*Excessive fighting with a particular sibling: no friends until they learn to get along. Because if they can't treat family members kindly and respectfully, then I certainly can't let them relate to other people because they might mistreat them. (We all know that's complete bogus—they adore their friends and wouldn't dream of being nasty to them—but my point holds true. Family relationships come first.) How do they prove they're getting along again? They have to play games together (each person suggests three ideas and then they agree on one), do work together, have friendly conversations together—whatever they want, but I have to see some genuine camaraderie and happy togetherness for an extended period of time. 

*Scratching: lost long-nails privileges. For some reason, it's only the girls that have trouble scratching, and they both want long nails (which I abhor), so this works great.

*Slamming things around: a fine (the amount depends on the child and the level of the problem) which goes into our household budget. Reasoning: things wear out more quickly when they are mistreated and it takes money to replace them.

*Breaking things: cost of the item and/or help fixing it.

*Refusal to go to church or take part in a family activity, such as read aloud time (these aren't common and usually just a result of a bad attitude): loss of permission to participate in a coveted family time, such as movie night. Usually, just a reminder of the consequence is necessary. I don't think we've ever had to follow through on this one.

*Incessant negativity and bickering: I dole out little jars of jelly beans or M&M's for each kid and then pick one from their jar (and eat it) every time an offense is committed. It's a calm and tasty method. Another option: articulating several positive things about each person they are currently mistreating.

*Problems with not coming when called, or not obeying promptly: a rapid series of jobs. After each task, the child is to immediately report back with a “what next, Mama?” This continues until the child is cheerfully and promptly completing the tasks.

*Hitting: time out. Depending on how things went down, restitution may be required.

*Lying: loss of trust equals less privileges and much more supervision. It may take days, weeks, or months for trust to be regained. This one is hard.

*For sloppy work: more chances to improve skills because, obviously, they need them!

*For pokey work: a timer. If the task isn't done before the timer goes off, the child gets another opportunity to practice the task and hone her speed demon skills.

*Obnoxious shrieking and yelling: banishment to the outdoors for a minute or two. Eventually, they get tired of having to step outside and remember to control their voices.

Perspective Keepers and Sanity Savors
Tip Number One: space to be
Sometimes children are going through a rough stage thanks to hormones, getting up on the wrong side of the bed, whatever. These periods can last hours, days, or weeks. Sometimes, to cut myself some slack, I put a moratorium on consequences (because I'm the one who has to follow through, see) and instead focus at holding things steady. During this rocky spell, the child gets no friends and no special activities (but is not cut off from regular family stuff—I'm not a fan of exclusion), gets lots of quiet time, and has a decrease in chores and studies. Sometimes a person just needs some space to be grumpy. Later, when the child is coming out of his funk, we talk about the consequences, if there are any. By that time, the child is usually ready to do what needs to be done in order to move forward.

Tip Number Two: grace
My husband has ADD. This means that he is constitutionally unable to be consistent, follow through, and stay calm—three major points that all parenting gurus say are absolute necessities for successful parenting. In other words, according to them, my husband is screwed. After years of struggle and lots of feelings of inadequacy, we landed upon a saving grace via some experts. These guys said that ADD parents needn't beat themselves up for being inconsistently explosive. Rather, they need to make efforts to have positive experiences with their children: tell jokes, hang out, hug, work together, whatever. And it works! Lots of stuff can be done wrong, but toss some serious loving into the mix and there's grace.

What techniques do you employ to combat bad behavior? 
How do you keep perspective in the midst of the ups and downs?

***

*The title of this post comes from my father-in-law. He says it in reference to marriage, but I think it stands true for parenting, too.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.27.15), swimming in the sunshine, Friday evening fun, down again, shoofly cake, and gripping the pages.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

the quotidian (1.26.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


Leftover poinsettias from church: my daughter scored again.


Iced.


Wintertime color pops.


A broken back saves time. 
(Or something like that.)


Mellow vs. high-strung.


Breakfast state of the union.


One hundred percent phonetic: his journal.


A serious conversation revolving around potential marriage partners.


Morning rummy with my boy.


Coordination.
(The raised eyebrow helps.)


What we eat when the kids are gone. 
Him: fried eggs, pan haus (the neighbors butchered again!), bagel. 
Me: buttered popcorn with salt and nutritional yeast and seltzer with apple juice.


Gone parents: a fun read.

This same time, years previous: hobo beans, in which it all falls to pieces, rocks in my granola and other tales, what you can do, first day of classes, and then we moved into a barn, the quotidian (1.23.12), five things, housekeepingcorn tortillas, grumble, grumble, flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, pink cupcakes in no particular order, capturing the moment, and baked brie.            

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

lazy stuffed cabbage rolls

I am striking out all over the place when it comes to making meals that my family enjoys. For awhile there I was a dream mom, serving up the honey-baked chicken, the spaghetti and meatballs with vodka cream sauce, the pepperoni pizza, the egg and sausage bake, the mac and cheese, etc.

But then, all of a sudden, I got sick of it. The meals were too easy! Too predictable! Too boring! Too nice! I missed the weird grains, lentils, and spices, the not-our-standard veggies, the unusual sauces, the from-scratch hearty fare. I missed challenging my family.



See, if I don't keep hammering my loved ones over the head with broadening-their-horizons eats, they will invariably turn into club-wielding, nose-picking, grunt-grunting cavemen. A mama's gotta be careful of these things! So I stocked up on little white beans, red lentils, and fresh spinach. And I started push-ush-ushing the envelope.



Now mealtimes are pretty much hell. What with all the yell-ell-elling and groan-oan-oaning, one might even go as far as to call them barbaric.



Certainly, a lesser person would admit defeat and wave the white flag. But not me! Onward ho I go, slinging legumes and roasting cabbages. Certain progeny are beginning to look a wee bit peaked, but that's okay. If nothing else, at least we're saving money.



So, Saturday's supper. In keeping with my general mission of inflicting massive doses of mealtime misery, I made lazy cabbage rolls. I had high hopes. What with the beef and sauce, the family would be sure to like it, right? And I would be sure to get a little buzz from feeding them their evil nemesis (brown rice) and an entire head of knobby cabbage. It could only be win-win.

I was wrong. The masses revolted. Which was royally irritating since the meal was most definitely a gold medal winner, at least in my opinion. I couldn't stop eating it.

For reals. I've been eating the leftovers ever since.

Yesterday my mother stopped by and I fed her the last of the crock pot cabbage. And whaddaya know? She loved it! I almost didn't know how to interpret her loud moans of delight, so foreign to me are the sounds of mealtime appreciation.

“You like it?” I asked.

“Oh my, yes,” she said. “Yes. Yes!

(For those of you worried about my wasting-away children: tonight's supper is pasta with pesto, peas, pickled beets, and applesauce. They will happily consume one-half of the meal. The other half they will simply consume. Then tomorrow they'll sup at The Grands and pig out on hot dogs. The next night will probably be pizza. Because I am battle-worn.)

Despite my family's unfavorable rave reviews, this dish is quite spectacular. The assembly takes minutes (with the addition of the roasted cabbage, which is a fairly mindless step), and the final product is like a rich, very thick stew.


Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls 
Adapted from Aimee of Simple Bites.

1 small head of cabbage, cored and cut in wedges
olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
1 egg
2-3 cups cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon each sugar and cider vinegar
sage, optional

For the cabbage:
Lay the wedges on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, turning the cabbages over at the halfway mark.

For the filling:
Put the onion, beef, egg, rice, parsley, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Combine, using your fingers.

For the sauce:
Whirl the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and the remaining teaspoon of salt together in the blender.

To assemble:
Pour half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of your crock pot. Place half of the cabbage on top. Evenly distribute the meat over the cabbage (as you would the topping for an apple crisp—in other words, don't pack it). Arrange the remaining cabbage wedges on top. Drizzle the remaining sauce over all, and sprinkle with some dried sage, if desired. Cook on high for six hours.

Wear earplugs to the table so you don't have to hear the kids fuss.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.20.14), on the relevancy of growing onions, world's best pancakes, multigrain bread, moving forward, chocolate cream pie, on thank-you notes, and on not wanting.    

Monday, January 19, 2015

the quotidian (1.19.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


Farmer Girl breakfast: cracked wheat pancakes.
(But with this leftover porridge in place of the cooked cracked wheat.)


Have you ever tried Pink Lady apples?
They're delicious—sweet and crispbut even if they weren't, 
I'd still eat them, simply for the pink factor.


About a six-month supply: so much cheaper when buying straight from the farmer.


Roasted cabbage!


Reading to her cousin, yes, but the real reason for this photo is the pierced ear.
After getting them pierced in Guatemala, she let them grow closed. Then at Thanksgiving, after hearing her aunt recount piercing her own ears as a child, this girl snuck off to her room and re-pierced her own ear. But just one! She plans to be a pirate next Halloween. 


After getting bucked off (and the ensuing wild horse chase), some good, old-fashioned discipline.


For a little boy, from The Grands: the perfect doodling book and these erasable colored pencils.


Nothing happened. 
(Yet.)

This same time, years previous: the things people say, cream cheese dip, the good and the bad, educational thoughts, kind of, cheesy polenta with sauteed greens, snapshots and captionschuck roast braised in red wine, and peanut noodles.

Friday, January 16, 2015

just do it

My father has set a goal to write one hundred 100-word essays. He usually writes them in the morning, sitting at his desk in the study. The other evening when we were at their house for supper, he let me read some of them. (Actually, I didn't know about this little practice of his until that evening—and he's been working on them off and on for a couple years—and only because Mom mentioned it.)

Here's one of my favorites:
So, is a suitable shoe at Bon-Ton? We’ve been here two hours. Do shoes create self-image?  
Never mind that last night’s temperature, 15°F, portends the winter to come. Only slip-on shoes with low sides or no backs will do. At least the toes are pocketed! Whatever she chooses, she’ll be graceful, herself.  After a snow, I’ll shovel a path to the car, an elegant path for elegant legs ending in elegant shoes. 
She’ll shiver and fiddle impatiently with the heater’s knobs, but when we enter the theater, she’ll be queen, having defied the elements in her wonderful shoes.
*** 

I struggle to teach writing. Aside from, “Do it a lot and you'll get better,” I don't know what else to say. One of the guys in our small group is a high school English teacher. Sometimes he tells us about a lesson he taught and I'm invariably amazed and fascinated and inspired. Such creative explanations! Such perfect metaphors! Such probing questions!

But at our house we're back at square one, battling the run-on sentence and possessives. I don't have the terminology—the facts—to explain the stuff clearly. I don't know the rules. Prepositions? Ha! I hardly even know what they are, let alone why they matter. So we (meaning, my older son) did a grammar workbook and some spelling stuff. Handwriting, too. It all helped, but only marginally.

Several months ago, I settled on the most basic thing possible: daily writing. I give my son a topic, set the timer for 30 minutes, and set him loose. The only rules: solid sentences and be logical. When the timer bings, I read over his writing and we correct it together. I'll say things like, “There are three run-ons. Find them.” Or, “Do you know the rule for when to spell out numbers?” And then we discuss and correct. Sometimes he spends another 15 minutes rewriting or fine tuning. Other times, we save an underdeveloped idea for the next day's writing.

As for topics, I sometimes ask questions based on what's been going on; for example, “What did you do over Christmas break?” Sometimes he writes a letter or email. Other times I use this page as a springboard for thought-provoking questions. I try to strike a balance between narrative (easy), comparison-contrast (super hard, logic-wise), persuasive, etc. Bit by tiny bit, he's improving.

He wrote this one last week. It made me laugh out loud.
How do male and female roles differ in your family? 
The mother does the cooking, financial work, shopping, school work, and the yelling at the kids and the father. The father does the equally hard work of bringing in the money for the selfish kids and greedy mother. The father also built the house with his own two hands, while the mother kept the bratty kids out from under the father's feet. The father does all the outside work while the mother is inside on her DELL INSPIRON 2006 that's running on duct tape and salt, a term the eldest son uses for saying the father and the mother need a new computer.
The kids sometime think that the mother is cruel to the father, but then the father yells at the kids and they change their minds in an insistent. The mother's never persuaded to do what she doesn't want to do. She rules with a staff of thunderous might, always telling the children or the husband that they need a move on in life, or that they are being lazy, or come say 'what next.' The father, on the other hand, is a mighty man who, even though he stands close to six feet tall, can never stand up to the mistress of the house. When the mother leaves, the selfish children are excited because they get to stay with the father, and because he might let them watch a movie. The father never really does all the chores the mother tells him to do, because he always stumbles on to a good article or the selfish children throw a hellish fight. During the fight the father yells at the mouthy children and says, “THERE IS NO MOVIE FOR YOU NOW.” Naturally then, the children fall apart and that's the end of a good evening.
*** 

Recently, I had to write a 100-word essay. Actually, it wasn't an essay, per se. More of a description of a seminar I'll be giving. I spent an afternoon mulling over the topic at hand, re-reading old posts I'd written, and watching a TED talk on the art of giving presentations. And then I sent a couple rough drafts to my mother and we spent another good while hashing out the finer points over the phone. All for 100 (less, actually) words. HOW DOES ANYONE EVER WRITE A BOOK?

Here it is:
Skipping School: Doing Education Differently 
What is learning? How does it happen? This often-fraught homeschooling mother of four will share her stories. This seminar is for a) anyone who has children or plans to have children, b) educators, and c) both homeschoolers and people who are appalled at the mere idea of homeschooling. Myths will be debunked, the status quo challenged, and horizons broadened. Everyone welcome! 
(This seminar will be one of the many offerings at our church's biannual convention in Kansas City this summer. More information forthcoming.)

(Title inspiration courtesy of Kate Fridkis' blog, Skipping School.)

*** 

Do you write daily?
Do you have any good pointers for teaching writing skills?

This same time, years previous: when a scholar marries a hunk of reality, on being burned at the stake (or not), day one, the quotidian (1.16.12), snapshots, Julia's chocolate almond cake, and five-minute bread.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

on kindness

On Sunday, Pastor Jennifer said that the definition of kindness is to enjoy people.

Want to be kinder? Actively enjoy people more. 

I've always thought “being kind” meant bestowing niceness on someone. Pastor Jennifer's definition, I think, is much meatier and way more fun. Kindness is delighting—honestly delighting—in other people. How crazy-neat is that?

*** 

I recently read a blog post on parenting tips in which one of the pieces of advice was: “Ignore your mother-in-law. She knows nothing.”

The suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, meant to be funny and all. But still, it felt like a slap. Ha, ha! Those stupid mothers-in-law—

And then, Oh CRAP! Where does this leave ME? I have four kids! At least a couple of them are bound to get married! 

So I left a comment: “Lucky me, my children aren't married yet. I'm still relevant.”

Writing people off is the opposite of enjoying them. It is unkind.

*** 

In contrast! …

Back at our annual soiree, my sister-in-law and my mother were recounting their adventures from last spring when they were in Japan. Among other things, they had gone to a bathhouse—you know, the kind where all the women (men in another section) sit around naked in hot water. This was a bit stretching for my mother, but she was game. And my sister-in-law, in telling it to us women, exclaimed about my mother, “And her body is so beautiful!”

We all kind of stared at my sister-in-law. It's not every day that young women see grandmas naked and rave about their bodies.

“I'm serious!” she said. “Her skin is gorgeous!

Her words pierced. So sharp and bold, unflinching in their extravagance. So warm.

*** 

My PMS has been pretty bad this time around. Off and on, my moodiness overwhelms and I can't stand anything, especially myself.

Two days ago my younger daughter locked the keys in the car and I had a the-world-is-ending meltdown. My daughter apologized—it was an accident—but I couldn't hear her. I couldn't see her. All I could see was my own misery and misfortune. I carried on like someone had chopped my foot off.

I do not fall apart like that very often, thank goodness. But what made the situation worse was that I felt helpless against my irrational emotions, hijacked by hormones. I could not, simply could not, cope.

Which makes me wonder about the link between depression and kindness. If depression is the absence of the ability to enjoy things, are depressed people destined to be unkind?


***

One recent evening, in the throes of riotous grumpiness—snapping at my husband, fussing about life, whining and bitching and generally being the most pitiful, rotten, unlovable soul in the world—I finally collapsed in a heap of despondent despair on the sofa to watch an episode of The Gilmore Girls.

My husband scoffs at my silly Netflix shows (preferring instead to read a book), but this particular evening he walked boldly over and snuggled up next to my toxic self. It was the sweetest thing he could've done. I was at my lowest—I had nothing to offer him—and yet he was choosing to enjoy being with me.

His kindness didn't change me much, but I sure felt it. Him sitting beside me was exactly what I needed. His presence was a balm. (And I don't normally describe his presence as "a balm.")

*** 

Back to that mother-in-law joke. Maybe I couldn't enjoy it because I'm pmsing and therefore unable to enjoy things. Maybe, if I was totally even-keel, it would strike me as spot-on hilarious.

Which makes me ask: are depressed people more likely to be critical? Are kind, hormonally-balanced people less likely to shake up the status quo?

And so ramble on my thoughts.

The end.

This same time, years previous: through the kitchen window, GUATEMALA!, vanilla cream cheese braids, quick fruit cobbler, cranberry relish, starting today..., ants on a log, spots of pretty, and inner voices.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

cranberry bread

I've been meaning to share this cranberry bread recipe since, oh, back around Thanksgiving. That I'm actually doing so after such a long wait only proves how good the recipe really is. If it were mediocre, it would've faded from memory and never seen the bloggy light.

Or I suppose the long time lapse might prove that I'm lazy.

Or that I forgot.

Or that I didn't really like it but have nothing else to write about so now cranberry bread it is.

That last one is not definitely not true. Well, at least the “not liking it” part is not true. Having nothing else to write about kinda is. I kept having other things to write about and so the bread kept getting scooched back. But not today! Today's the day the bread's gonna shine!


I have two proofs that this bread is good.

1. Thanksgiving evening when we all gathered at my parents' place for dessert, the options were excessive: chocolate-orange bread, cranberry pie, pecan pie, pumpkin bars, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, cheesecake, and cranberry bread. The little humble cranberry loaf not only held its own, it stood out. Everyone said so.

2. At our family Christmas gathering, there was a meal of desserts (it appears we have a thing for dessert suppers)—well over a dozen exotic cookies, as well as an apple crisp and, again, that unassuming cranberry bread. And just as before, the cranberry bread got raves.

I made the bread myself somewhere between numbers one and two. In fact, if my memory serves me right, I think I made it the day after Thanksgiving. It was so good I had to have it all to myself as soon as possible. My husband ate a whole loaf (they were minis) in one sitting.

This recipe happens to be similar to a recipe I already have on this blog. But this bread uses more sugar and less butter, as well as dried cranberries instead of golden raisins. As a result, it's more moist and a little sweeter, and it packs a satisfying cranberry punch. So good!


Cranberry Bread
Adapted from Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende Devlin and Harry Devlin.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon orange zest
¾ cup orange juice
1½ cups dried cranberries
1½ cups fresh cranberries, chopped

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with your fingers. Whisk in the egg, zest, and juice. Fold in the dried and fresh cranberries. Divide the batter between four, greased mini loaf pans (or a couple larger pans). Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-70 minutes, depending on the size of your loaf pans. When the loaves are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, they're done.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.13.14).

Monday, January 12, 2015

the quotidian (1.12.15)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


And then he nibbled my knee. 


Ice bounce.


Of a cold morning, waking up.


Blogging and journaling.


Big boy, little boy.


Winning, but barely.

This same time, years previous: roll and twist, sticky toffee pudding, spinach lemon orzo soup, crumbs, eyeballs and teeth, kiddling shenanigans, rum raisin shortbread, creamy blue cheese pasta with spinach and walnuts, kisses and band-aids, and earthquake cake.