Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rain, Rain

This was good for at least 30 minutes worth of fun. Note that Miss Abby now has Fifth's Disease (also known as Slapped Cheek/Human Parvo Virus). Rob is recovering from it. His hands swelled so much that he had to take his wedding ring off. Luckily, it seems to only affect children with the rash and mild fatigue.

We played a couple games of hyper dash. Spread the disks out, set the number of players and choose a level. You race around trying to put the controller down on the color/number/correct math answer/reverse, etc. depending on the level. Perfect rainy day game if you have a big indoor space in which to play. Luckily, we do.

Mommy's rainy day fun involved some light reading. I also am 3/4 of the way through the surprisingly addictive Twilight. Just finished Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. I cleaned out the pantry after I finished. Amazing how many chemicals/junk we put into our bodies and those of our children. Made me feel like a horrible mother for ever allowing my children near a cheese puff or piece of processed chicken.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stinky Breath, Songs, and a Cleaning Lady

(I just want to note that the above video is worth watching, if just to relive those lovely 70's fashion. Elton looks a little like the Lucky Charms leprechaun in one of those shots).

In the mad rush to get skirt, tights, and shoes on the girl, her hair brushed into something at least close to passably neat, and the snack box, her jacket, (really cold here this week), my coat and purse into the car... we forgot to brush the child's teeth. It dawned on me halfway to school. She was very upset, informing that "I wont' be able to talk today. I'll have to keep my mouth closed because of my stinky breath!"

We have had several days of freezing night time temperatures and low daytime highs here. We southerners are not acclimated to the cold and bundle up like artic explorers during these cold snaps. Abby informed me as we got out of the car that I should have "bring-ded" her gloves. If you were polishing up my mother of the year award, you might want to put away the cloth.

Every morning on the way to school, Abby chooses number ten on the CD for listening. Only we had a new CD in today and she selected number four on the playlist. I heard "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit, You know I read it in a magazeeeeeeeyine Bennie and the Jets" 3 times on the way. Perhaps it will now be on repeat in your head too?

Mr. Budget (a.k.a. Rob) has decreed that yes, we can afford a cleaning lady to come round for 4-5 hours every two weeks. He claims this is the happiest he has ever made me. It isn't THE most wonderful thing he's ever done, but it certainly is in the top ten! As a working mother, having just the big things out of the way so I can keep up with the laundry pile, homework and still have a little family and me time is a pretty big deal. In fact, the cleaning lady may have been a little, er, disconcerted, by my declarations of undying love for her dusting talents and skills with a mop. Fingers crossed that our schedules work for her and we can keep her. Now that I've had the cleaning lady, I think I'm addicted.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Tomorrow is a big day. The inauguration of our new president. I can't wait to show J.T. all of the tradition... it will be the first he is old enough to understand.

So much is expected of Obama. In a way, I feel a little sorry for him. We are all elevating him to the status of the best and brightest our country has ever known before he has even been sworn in. He will be under immense pressure as he deals with the many problems our nation is facing.

He is intelligent, confident, and seems to possess good character. Those qualities are the ones I'm hanging my own hopes upon. I realize that no person is a magic elixir who can resolve problems instantly. We all should be prepared for a bumpy ride as the consequences of years of bad management will be impossible to fix quickly. I know we are in a place I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. When true equality is more than a dream, but has become a reality.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hog's Head Cheese: A Life Lesson

Hog's Head Cheese

1 pig's head, with ears and tongue
2 tablespoons salt
1 large onion
4 whole cloves
1 bunch mixed herbs
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon each sage, cloves, allspice
4 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons lemon juice

Ask your butcher to scrape and clean the pig's head thoroughly, splitting it and removing the eyes and the brain. With a sharp knife, scrape the ears, peel the tongue, and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place in a large enamel kettle, cover with cold water, add salt, cloves stuck in onion, and the bunch of herbs (tied in a muslin bag). Bring the water slowly to a boil, cover and simmer 2 or 3 hours, or until the meat is ready to fall from the bones. Let it cool in the liquid. Then removed the meat to a colander to drain. Strip it from the bones, cut the ears in slices and the tongue in small dice. Season the meat with the rest of the salt, paprika, sage, cloves and allspice. Add the vinegar and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly. Pack tightly into a large bowl, interspersing layers of meat with slices of ears and bits of tongue. Cover the bowl with waxed paper, then cover with a plate and put a heavy weight on top. Keep in the refrigerator 2 or 3 days, when the head cheese will be ready to serve. to serve, cut in thin slices and serve with Vinaigrett sauce, chili sauce or prepared mustard. Yield: 20 slices.

Still reading? My grandparents grew up in an age when recipes like Hog's Head Cheese allowed families to use, and not waste, a large portion of their food sources. My mother-in-law worked in the fields of her family's farm, collected eggs from the hen house and learned how to cut up a chicken for cooking. She remembers when they butchered hogs and made sausage. The sausage was wound around the inside of the barrel and the pig fat poured down the center, keeping the sausage cured. Families purchased only a few things they could not raise or grow on their farms: flour, sugar, salt and other spices, coffee, etc. Leftover biscuits and bread were made into puddings, cornbread into cornbread dressing, meat into soups and stews. Summer vegetables were canned and available for winter use.

I sometimes wonder if our modern quest for convenience and cheap food isn't moving us backwards instead of forward? Surely the chemicals and excessive calories that taint our food today aren't moving the human race into an age of greater health, prosperity and intellectual gains?

Our family lives in an agricultural region with a long growing season. What a shame that my grapes come from Chile and the strawberries from Florida or California (3,000 miles away). We are hoping to plant a small organic garden this spring so we can enjoy home-grown tomatoes, fresh squash and peas. No chemicals, no shipping... just some hard work. I think it will be worth it!

There will, however, be no pigs. So don't come round looking for any Hog's Head Cheese!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Foot in Mouth Disease

This article was posted on CNN yesterday. We've all been there, either on the receiving end of a snarky comment or the person shoving foot in mouth all the way up to the ankle.

I have to agree with the author that the NUMBER ONE thing a person never, ever, ever asks a woman of childbearing years.... "When are you due?" My dear friend Angel once met up with an acquaintance (actually the wife of her cousin's ex-husband) and uttered those very words.

The conversation went something like this: "Wow! You look like you are ready to pop. When are you due?" There was, if I recall the retelling of the story correctly, a moment or two of awkward silence before the following reply was given: "My baby is six weeks old." Oops.

The girl has a history of getting into awkward conversations. There were two girls, different ages, at our high school who had similar, unusually set eyes. Angel had a Journalism course with the younger of the two and asked the girl to tell her her sister's name. She gave Angel a funny look (no pun intended) and responded: "I don't have a sister. Convinced the two HAD to be kin, Angel says: "Yes, you do!" Which still makes me laugh (but no LOL, Stomper Girl).

I had my own foot-in-mouth moment at J.T.'s birthday party. I won't retell it as it was tragic and not at all one of those things you can laugh about later. It WAS unintentional and unpreventable... so I can live with it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Five Probing Questions

The Interview Meme has made its way round to me. I eagerly stuck my hand up over at Fairlie's place as I got nothing for you otherwise. Birthday party hangovers and pictures of cupcakes with Spongebob and Patrick sugar decorations. Stomper Girl gave the absolute best interview. Would you expect otherwise from a world-famous tap artiste and Parvo virus survivor? (Takes a deep breath). My answers to Fairlie's five probing questions:

1. Aliens recognise your family's potential to form the basis of a new super-civilisation and abduct you all - but before you go you are allowed to select one thing each to take with you. What does each member of your family choose?

First let me say how flattered we are to be chosen. It will go straight to Rob's head, of course, but I like to think I'll not let fame and superior genetics change me. Hey. Should I be concerned that you worded this interview as five "probing" questions? This isn't going to turn out like that Twilight episode where the aliens(who had ginormous heads but were otherwise remarkably humanoid) were selecting humans for their new recipes, is it? If we're being fattened up for the kill, I would rather spend my time plotting escape instead of worrying about what I'm taking. Assuming we aren't about to be crispy fried, what are we packing....

Rob would probably choose the laptop. Surely there are things on a spaceship that will need to be organized, cataloged, and inventoried. Mr. Collector just finished inputting price guide values for his 12,000 comics. Just in time for the NEW price guide to come out of course.

Asking me to choose ONE thing to take is like asking a kid to name their favorite candy. Choice sends me into a tizz. What to pick? What to pick? Will I have buyer's remorse later? What if I pick this but I really, really wanted THAT? The aliens may get tired of waiting and move on to someone else by the time I choose ONE thing. (Tapping hands, thinking, thinking thinking....) Okay it will be a book. Or the camera? No, the book.

J.T. would select an action figure. He walks around with one most of the time, making action figure noises and carrying on some sort of on-going adventure with them.

Abby would take some sort of artistic instrument. Marker, pencil, pen, chalk....whatever new civilization we are a part of will have lots and lots of murals.

What places (anywhere in the world) are top of your "to visit" list?

1. Paris. The wine. The chocolate. The romance. The architecture. The history. The pastry. The wine.

2. New York. I think. I'm claustrophobic and am accustomed to more space and less people... so I don't know if I would find the city overwhelming or not. Seeing Rockefeller Center, visiting Broadway.... surely they would be worth a little hyperventilating.

3. London. Everything in Europe is so very old. Old here is relative, as our country is so young. And they have castles. Real castles. Not the Disney knock-off variety. Oh and Eddie Izzard is from England.

4. Australia (of course). Love to see your sunshine coast, the Sydney Opera House, the Outback. Mainly I would love to meet all of you! Can we have a barbie? I might even try the vegemite.

3. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Perhaps this question could be better answered by stating what I didn't want to be. I went through the usual careers every child envisions as their future.... fire fighter, teacher, doctor, scientist. Scientist stuck the longest. A couple of math courses and a physics class finished off that dream.

4. Is there anything about blogging that surprises you? How connected I feel to people I have never met. How cathartic an experience blogging can be. It is my space to do with as I please. I can choose what I divulge, the manner in which I like to share, and how frequently I do so.

5. What plans do you have for noon on January 20th?

Lunch. If all is going well with my plans for healthy living, I will be eating a nutritious meal chock full of veggies and lean protein, topped off with a low-fat fruity dessert. If I have PMS there will be chocolate involved. It might even be the main course.

If you want me to ask you five searing, intense, politician on the hot seat kind of questions,

1. Send me an email or a comment saying: "Interview Me"
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You can then answer the questions on your blog.
4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you or comments that they want to be interviewed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Squoosh Generations

My parents have been members of the "squoosh" generation for years. That time in life when you belong to neither the oldest nor the youngest generation. Rob and I joined the club 8 years ago this Saturday.

I believe parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job on the planet. Children require so much of you in terms of effort, tough decision-making, resources... but the love they give you is more than worth the hard work involved in being a mother or a father.

Being a parent surely makes us appreciate our own parents in a new light. The people we viewed as lucky to be in charge are viewed in a new light as we examine them from the vantage point of peers, in a sense. We have entered a phase of life we witnessed them living. We can understand the sacrifices, the hard choices they made to be sure they passed down values and work ethic and love to us. Even when we weren't very cooperative or willing.

The squoosh generation has two phases I think. One where you are happily ensconced between the lively youth and the wise elders of your family. The second is where you begin parenting again. The period in which you become caretakers of your own parents.

My mother is there. My aunt is there. They have, in a sense, become parents again to their mother. I think it is harder than the first go round of mothering their own children. The stages are regressing instead of moving forward to new maturity and knowledge gained. They are not preparing little ones to leave the nest, but returning one.

It is painful. It is full of tears and patience and temper tantrums. It is tragic and beautiful and horrible and loving. It is remembering the gifts your mother has given you and hanging in, sometimes by your teeth and fingernails and nothing but force of will to do your best, to be respectful and to remember that this is your mother. Even on the days you cry all the way home. Even on the days you do nothing but give and let it be taken from your heart, your soul, your energy... until you don't feel anymore. Yet you feel everything, amplified a million times.

Thank you Mama. I love you. You are an amazing mother, an amazing grandmother and the best daughter a mother could have. I will tell you that. Because she can't.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year, Older Me

Sunday I will be another year older(but not deeper in debt). I take comfort in the fact that I will always be younger than Rob and will always be "the baby" in my family. Some in the older generation still refer to me as "the baby", even though I have quite a few gray hairs and have noticed some wrinkling in the brow/eye area of late.

Rob prepared a delicious steak dinner this week just for me, complete with salad and wine. It was so yummy (made more so by the fact that I didn't have to cook it) that Abby has requested an encore. He cooks, he cleans and he "cleans". How lucky am I?

I think J.T. (and Stomper Girl) have given me Parvo virus for my birthday. I did not need rouge this morning and spent part of yesterday with a heating pad on my aching hip bone. It has been a year of crazy illnesses in our house. I have had strep throat for the first time. J.T. has had Impetigo AND Parvo. Abby has had colds, strep throat, ear infections. Rob has been victim to backaches and flu. Hopefully 2009 is a healthier year around our place.

My commitment to getting healthier moves forward. While I didn't meet the goals I set for myself, I did lose (and have kept off) 14 pounds since April and continue to make exercise a priority. We are all eating better. While I say it is mostly about health and not appearances, a smaller arse and skinnier thighs would not be unappreciated.

The "To-Do List" for 2009:

1. Keep up the exercise
2. Write more.
3. Read more.
4. Try some new healthy recipes.
5. Plant a small veggie garden.
6. Increase Abby and J.T.'s hosuehold responsibilities.
7. Take a family trip.
8. Take a "no kids allowed" trip.
9. Find the happy.
10. Find the good... in as many people as possible.

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