Archive | July, 2010

Fish Out of Water

15 Jul

Whine: My skin hates pool water. My eyes hate pool water. And apparently, from the odd way I couldn’t hear much for about twenty minutes, my ear hates pool water. And, of course, the only thing to do around here is swim.

Cheese: Everybody is VERY hydrated. Pool water counts, right?

In my former life, back in the long-ago era of gainful employment, I taught second grade. At random intervals throughout the school year we would be given the opportunity to take our learning outside the classroom for a field trip. People would usually assume that after being in the classroom day in and day out I’d relish the chance to change things up a little. To that I say HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Twenty-some-odd eight-year-olds running loose in the nicest music venue in the city then being forced to sit in actual seats for an actual performance the WHOLE TIME without pulling anyone’s hair or having to go to the bathroom or falling on the ground without explanation is actually not much of a change. Except if they fall out of their chairs (as they are prone to do) from the balcony, well, you get the idea. So a field trip really did nothing for me except up the ante and wear me out and give the children an even wider space in which to make mayhem.

And so when someone with small children says to me “I need a vacation from my vacation” I know exactly what they mean.

Just gearing up for a morning by the pool that is just out your back door is grueling. Most kids come when you call about as well as a deaf three-legged dog and stay still about as long as a hummingbird on uppers, so you can imagine that trying to coax them into yesterday’s wet swim shirts with the teeny tiny neckholes without pulling a muscle is virtually impossible. Then you spray $10 worth of sunscreen onto each appendage, thus making them expensive and slippery (i.e., even harder to catch) when they decide to run away. Finally, exasperated and exhausted you send each kid the direction of the pool and stack your arms full of PFDs. Life jackets, arm floaties, little rafts with leg holes that took all morning and a few episodes of hyperventilation to inflate. None of which they will wear for more than 90 seconds at a time, and especially not when they jump all kamikaze-like into the deep end when you are not looking.

Then you get to the pool/lake/dry creekbed and the real fun begins. Trying to man all battlestations at once is a little overwhelming, so the seasoned traveler knows this one very important rule. Bring reinforcements. If, for example, your beloved parenting partner cannot join you because he or she is too “busy” because they are “earning a living”, it is advised that you trick a friend or relative into “vacationing” along with you. Younger sisters who don’t yet have kids are preferable, as they have no idea what’s about to hit them and will come along gladly.

Once you and your trusty helper are in the specified body of water you can decide the best way to play it. A man-to-man defense will work so long as your child-adult ratio remains 1:1. Once you are outnumbered, switching to the zone will probably serve you better. One grown up in the deep end, eyes peeled for un-floatied jumpers. And one manning the stairs for Potty Emergencies (and not the pee kind, there’s no sense rushing to the pool restroom for pee since they will be done by the time you get there) or kids submerging deck chairs for their underwater tea parties or almost-five-year olds trying to ride in the baby float and getting their legs stuck in the leg holes.

After a few rounds of Chug The Pool Water alternated with The Swim Burps followed by Let’s Jump!Let’s Jump!Let’s Jump!, your little charges will begin to show signs of Swimming Fatigue. Evidenced primarily by nuclear meltdowns. For example, crying over  the floatie they’ve been ignoring the whole time and now everybody needs all at once. Or extreme drama over getting a drop of pool water splashed into the eye/ear/mouth even though up until that point they’ve been voluntarily drinking the water and splashing it into their own faces. And finally, once your little redhaired swimmer’s arms and legs begin to match her hair, it’s best to get her out, rinse her off and start frying eggs on those shoulders, because swimming makes everybody hungry, doesn’t it?

And so you slide the PFDs onto your arms, grab a screaming swimmer with each hand and coax them into their dry clothes and naptime beds so they can get a head start on NOT SLEEPING. And you can get a head start on IGNORING THEM while you MAKE DINNER with the stovetop that refuses to heat up for twenty mintues then gets blazing-hot and scorches your grilled cheese/chicken breast/pancakes. And also the oven that seems like perhaps it was intended for foods that need to heat slowly at a low temperature, so it is less like an oven and more like a giant crock pot with a door, meaning you should have started dinner at 4:30 that morning. But what can you do? It’s Budget Travel at it’s best.

And so it’s a late, late dinner anticipated by ravenous little people who are biding their time by playing drums on their baby brother’s head and climbing on the dinner table all while your sister aka traveling companion looks on in abject horror wondering how on earth wild chimpanzees took over her nieces’ bodies. You finally win The Battle of the Stove and then sit down at the table they just climbed off of. Your little angel takes one look at the bounty they are about to receive and says (write this down, it’s a good one): “I wish we were at home so we could go to a fancy restaurant.”

At that moment you choose to laugh. Hysterically. Or maniacally. And then you begin to relax as you silently pray the prayer that you are now sure your parents prayed over you for years and years. “Please Lord, let their children do unto them as they have done unto me. Amen.”

Below you will find the ubiquitous Summer Vacation Photos. Just be glad I’m not inviting you over for dessert and setting up my slide projector.

She reminds me of Whiplash, the bad guy from Iron Man 2. Stay out of her way. Seriously.

My Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades. Upside Down.

Armed and Dangerous

A Little Eye Candy for the Ladies

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Insufficient Memory

12 Jul

Whine: You are very fortunate to be hearing from me today. I am taking time out from my very busy schedule of making memories to write this post. Making memories is exhausting.

Cheese: I have Photoshop and I’m not afraid to use it. Faking memories is not nearly as exhausting.

If you are like me you have many happy vacation memories. And you want the best for your children, which means giving them some vacation (it’s pronounced buh-KAY-shin if you’re four years old) memories of their own that do not involve reruns of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Handy Manny. I’ve taken the time to outline the elements of a proper vacation.

For any proper vacation, there is always Travel. As in spending five hours packing up everything you own and shoving it into your vehicle. This is done by allowing your children to use the open vehicle as an amusement park, climbing over the seats and turning all the knobs. When you finally “have everything you might possibly need”  (i.e., no more room in the car) you strap them into their seats (with the car running, obviously, since it’s 100 degrees at your house). Twenty minutes and two screaming kiddos later, you hop in the car only to realize that they’ve been sitting in their seats under a vent blowing HEAT at FULL BLAST and talk radio BLARING out the back speakers for that twenty minutes. Hence the crying. When you finally get out of your driveway you will then realize that you forgot the collapsible bed rail which of course you cannot collapse after turning around and going home for it, so you shove it beneath your son’s infant seat which is reverberating with the sound of his fury at being strapped in without prior authorization.

If you’re really, really lucky, your Travel is Budget Travel, which involves lots of begging (please, please, stop hitting your sister and don’t vomit until we pull over), borrowing (minivans and dvd players to name a few) and stealing (ok, no actual stealing, unless you count stealing a glance in the back for the ten minutes the sisters were peacefully coexisting.) But, we tell ourselves over and over, Budget Travel is where it’s at. It may not be pretty, but we’re bonding. Listen to them sing over Puff, the Magic Dragon in perfect little girl harmony. I mean, memories must be made and not bought, right? Oh, now listen, they’re fighting over who gets to sing the chorus. Precious.

Budget Travel also requires a mid-journey stop to slap together a few ham and cheese sandwiches  from the cooler in the back seat that is jammed full of groceries so as to avoid the insanely high prices of whichever vacation locale one happens to frequent. Incidentally, a pound of frozen hamburger works well as an ice block, in case you were wondering. So you throw a couple of dry sandwiches (because of course you forgot the mayonnaise) back to the wolves, who half eat half smear them across the back seat of the [borrowed] minivan. But sandwiches are so much healthier than those deliciously greasy and temptingly convenient chicken nuggets. No more trans-fatty sludge for us, no way. You’d think after five days of limited rations, the number on the scale would have gone down instead of up. But you would be wrong.

And the linchpin of Budget Travel is, of course, the borrowed lodgings. Whether it be a condo with a pool or a house on the lake, knowing the right people is key to vacationing on a dime. Borrowed lodgings are fantastic if your children are the play-nicely-on-the-piano and put-away-their-toy-as-soon-as-they-are-finished-playing type. However, if you happen to be blessed with the peanut-butter-cookie-dough-slinging, spilled-milk-on-the-carpet, crushed-froot-loops-in-the-couch-cushions type, borrowed lodgings may actually cost you more than booking a room at the Hilton and hiring a babysitter.

Borrowed lodgings often involve water/outdoor activities as the primary (i.e., only) means of entertainment. So after wrestling your exhausted and disoriented children into bed after your Incredible Journey and having them awaken far too early the next morning while you are feeling every last ounce of strength leave your body because all you ate for dinner the night before at 10:30pm was a “well done” grilled cheese sandwich, if you wake up to cloudy skies and a side of drizzle, you may be quite tempted to lock yourself in the bathroom and order a pizza.

But these are the days that memories are made of.  Will they remember crying and whining most of the day because they had a hard time sleeping in an unfamiliar bed and freaking out when they hear the tiniest bit of thunder over the pool they were swimming in? Or will it be eating sandwiches and Froot Loops for almost every meal because Mommy says something about a budget? I sure hope it’s the having a picnic on the balcony and convincing Mommy to swim in the rain. Otherwise their next buh-KAY-shin, might just be a stay-KAY-shin.

Before they accidentally kicked their plates to the ground.

Stay tuned for part two of the Summer Vacation series later this week!

Five for Friday

9 Jul

Whine: Polishing silver is not as glamorous as it sounds.

Cheese: Unless, of course, as my friend Carah said, you have somebody do it for you. Which is why I have Mr. Dad.

You may be wondering what I am up to since the posting around here has slipped into a cycle as irregular as an antique washing machine. Or you may not be wondering, since you are just assuming that having another kid has put me in over my head, with little time for luxuries like blogging or opening the mail. You would be right.

But there’s another reason that I am in over my head. I am insane.

Which means that I do the same thing over and over (e.g., bite off more than I can chew) and expect a different result (e.g., to not lose my marbles and/or temper in the process).  Thankfully, this also usually means that Mr. Dad (and several other pitying souls) jump in and saves my bacon. Zebra cupcakes at 2am, anyone?

Here are pictures from my our latest episode adventure. Delicious treats for my friend Jen’s birthday soiree.

Mini Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Sea Salt

Got this recipe from Martha’s new Cupcake cookbook. The caramel was not as gooey as I was expecting, but let me tell you, sea salt can cover a multitude of ills.

Raspberry Cheesecake Lollipops with Fresh Raspberry Garnish

These are basically mini-cheesecakes on sticks, covered in chocolate. Take a bite and pop in a fresh raspberry. I’m sad they are all gone.

Croquembouche

And finally, the piece de resistance, my nemesis – – the croquembouche. Essentially a tower of cream puffs glued in place with caramel. After one and a half failed batches of the pastry, a few “choice” words and a swift kick to the cabinets, I almost gave up. Reason and Mr. Dad both told me it would be fine to use (gasp) store-bought cream puffs. But insanity and my friend Tina told me to forge ahead, and so, of course I sided with the crazy angel on my shoulder and kept filling those half-flattened puffs with the pastry cream whose directions I accidentally forgot to follow. Then I overcooked the glaze, rendering it unchewable for human teeth. Good thing I never got around to making those caramel apples last fall, cause we melted down those leftover Kraft caramels and started engineering our cream puff tower.  By then Brother Bear was howling, so I turned over the engineering to Mr. Dad. The results were quite tasty. A little hard to pull off the tower, but what’s a little effort when there are cream puffs involved?

The Spread

I hosted the party with my friend Roxanne, whose culinary exploits make croqembouche seem like a grilled cheese sandwich. There are not words for her level of fancitude, which is why I just made one up. Delicious rosemary skewers, biscuits with pecan cheddar spread, tiny stuffed tomatoes and a cheese plate (you know how I feel about cheese plates. . .).  Her silver was all polished and her signature cocktails rocked the house. I’d throw a party with her any day.

The Birthday Girl

And finally, the birthday girl. My very beautiful friend Jen. Whose ridiculous good looks only serve as a vehicle for her awesomeness as a person. She once cleaned my kitchen when I was too sick to move, and let me tell you, that is a good friend, because that was before my “do the dishes every day” phase of life.

This Five for Friday would not have been possible without LOTS of help. So here are a few gold stars to my helpers.

Gold Stars

Mr. Dad: For baking tiny cupcakes, rolling lots of cheesecake lollipops without sampling too much of the goods, stacking the croquembouce you told me I didn’t have time to make and (drum roll, please) cleaning up the kitchen. You leave me speechless.

Roxanne: For letting me ride your rockstar hostess coattails.

Tina: For enabling cheering me on, then washing my dishes. (No, washing my dishes is not a requirement for friendship with me. It just keeps happening.) Also for taking those exquisite pictures of the party.

Rachelle: For making emergency flower arrangements after I dropped the stuff off at the last minute on your doorstep.

Everyone Else: For listening, ad nauseum, to the tale of the croquembouche and not looking visibly bored. Also for lots of help and suggestions and withholding judgement when you know I’m in over my head.

NOTE: Please stop by Monday for the first installment of the What I Did on Summer Vacation series. There will be multiple posts, all in one week. Insane? Impossible? You’d better believe it.