Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WFMW: Tomato paste on demand

If you’re like me, you hate having to open a can of tomato paste for the one tablespoon called for in almost any recipe that uses it. What happens to the rest of the tomato paste? Either I put it in a container in the fridge, where it just sits unused—because how often do I need tomato paste? Certainly not more than once or twice a month—or else I have to throw it away. An entire can, wasted! This is one of the few ways I am frugal—fretting over a 40-cent can of tomato paste. The irony is that I often forget to buy it in the first place, leaving me without an important spaghetti-sauce ingredient. (At least, I guess it’s important. Let’s assume it is, okay?)

Here’s what I do now. After I add the paste to my recipe, I line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and put tablespoons of paste onto the sheet. I pop it into the freezer and by the time dinner is over, it has become little frozen blobs of tomato paste. I then put these into a freezer bag, which stays in the freezer until the next time I need a single tablespoonful. Put it frozen into the pot; it will melt and do its job in the recipe.

Or, I suppose you could buy tomato paste in a tube and forget about it. Still, this works for me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recap of Thanksgiving Yumfest

We're back. Well, we've actually been back since Friday night, but we weren't really back into the routine of things since it was a weekend. You know how Mondays are the hardest day of the week as far as motivation goes, the Monday after a holiday is even worse, and the routine is shot to pieces after you travel with kids? Yesterday combined all of those things. While grocery shopping, I considered giving the kids away for free, but doubted there would be any takers. Yeesh. I remembered why I usually wait to get groceries when Justin is home, but since there was very little to eat in the house, including no cereal (and three members of our household can't live without cereal), we had to go.

Today has been much better, since Miss Pink was super excited to get back to school and Mr. Blue had a good old time with his playgroup buddies.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, though. Every year, I hear about the menu in advance and feel concerned that there might not be enough food. Especially desserts. One can never have too many desserts at a holiday meal, is my considered opinion. Fortunately, my mom and aunt always make extra so there is always more than the original plan.

Our menu was: turkey breast perfectly seasoned by my wonderful brother; honey-mustard glazed pork loin roast; dressing; gravy; candied yams; creamed corn; green beans almondine; roasted potatoes (new, but we all agreed they made a nice change from mashed); bread; and a relish tray that I skip except for the deviled eggs, because really? I'm not using up valuable stomach space for raw tomatoes. Desserts were pecan and pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice cake, oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, coconut cake, Dreamsicle cake (orange-flavored), fudge ripple cake. I think that's all. You know, I'm making myself hungry. I only had leftovers for one meal, after all, and now I'm thinking that might have been a mistake.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Language Explosion Alert: Proceed at Your Own Risk

We’re in the middle of a language explosion around here. Mr. Blue’s vocabulary is expanding--seemingly like the universe, at an ever-increasing rate. At night Justin and I recount the things the words he’s spoken for the first time: “He said ‘medicine,’ didn’t he?” “Well, actually it was more like ‘medsih,’ but yeah.” He says simple sentences now, like “I walk stairs,” or “Mamaw go bye-bye.” With each addition to his vocabulary, my heart swells with pride, like he’s the first kid who ever learned to talk. Now the words are coming out so fast, I find myself thinking, “When did he learn to say that?”

Like every kid, though, he has his own unique names for some things. He calls his toothbrush his “Nemo,” even though he has no idea that’s what the decorative fish on it is named. The blanket he sleeps with is, inexplicably, an “otay.” Anything heart-shaped is a “vah-vah,” and until this week he called a light that can be switched on a “dawdaw.” Monday night Justin told me Mr. Blue said “light” instead, as he turned off the one in his room. (It seems so strange that we can pin down the exact day he started calling it a light.) I felt the pang that I’m already familiar with from Miss Pink’s toddler years. You know they have to learn the real word, but the nonsense one is so cute, you hate to see it go.

Mostly, though, I’m happy to be able to communicate with him the way I communicate best—with words. Of course I loved my children's first few months, but sometimes it was frustrating that the screaming bundle couldn’t just tell me what she or he wanted (and I’d have to haul my shirt up and see if that was it. Again.) Plus, I like newborns best when they aren’t doing anything; if they’re calm and still, it’s a good thing. Any communication from a tiny infant is an urgent call to action. Now Mr. Blue can run around pointing at things, identifying them, and having a conversation with me. “Oh! Pane! [pointing at sky]. Bird. Fower. Want swing, Mama. Where juice? Tank oo. Oh, poopy” (not always accurate, but still helpful).

Then I chase him down (not an easy task), hold him tight, and whisper, “Stay like this. Stay just like this, and don’t ever change.”


Monday, November 12, 2007

Family Heirlooms

Justin’s back (insert huge sigh of relief here). The kids were ecstatic to see him—they rough and tumbled for an hour or so last night, once we were back at our house.

What I didn’t know was that he brought home his late uncle’s prized 1930 Ford Model A. I already knew he was planning to buy it from his aunt. After Uncle Ronald died, Aunt Melba planned to sell it because their son didn’t want it. When Justin told her he’d like to buy it, she was thrilled to keep it in the family. I didn’t mind because we don’t have to start paying her right away; most likely he’ll pay her when he can take company profits.

Very similar to this one on Wikipedia except that the wheels on ours aren't red.

It’s a really cool old car. Everything is original, except the engine has been replaced, but with a refurbished old one that has 2000 miles on it. (And I suppose the tires have been replaced!) Also Uncle R added a starter and an air conditioner, but they are made to look old. The interior is spotless, the original tan mohair. Chloe loved getting up in the rumble seat. I think my favorite part is the rationing sticker from WWII on the windshield. It’s like owning a piece of American history and a family heirloom. As Justin told Aunt Melba, he and his dad didn’t share anything like that to work on, so it’s something he’d like to have from his uncle (they did work on cars together when he was young.) And then Juck’s mom gave him a derby hat of his dad’s that he’d seen his dad wear all of his life. It really goes with the car. Maybe next year for Halloween we can go as a gangster and his moll. Something about old cars makes me want to get into costume.

Also, Justin’s mom gave him his dad’s wedding ring. Justin wants to wear it sometimes, which is fine with me as long as he doesn’t wear it all the time since it isn’t the one I gave him. (He lost his wedding band four years or so ago. He can’t wear one when operating a saw, so he never really got used to wearing it; he used to take it off and play with it constantly.) I don’t know why I don’t want him to wear his dad’s ring 100% of the time, since I’ve never really minded that he doesn’t wear a ring at all. If it had been handed down to be his wedding ring, I think I’d feel differently. Last night we talked about the possibility of him wearing it on his right hand, but he thought that meant he was divorced, and the Internet said that might be right, or that he was a widower, or a bunch of other possibilities, none of which conveyed the meaning we were going for. I didn't want him to be communicating that he's not married, although not wearing a wedding band at all hasn’t seemed to be hazardous to our marriage. (I don’t understand why you’d keep wearing a wedding ring at all if you were divorced. Why remind yourself?) Anyway, I’m glad he has something to remember his father by.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

No Way It's Gourmet

Sometimes I don't know why I even try to cook yummy, healthy meals. I make things like chicken fajitas with homemade guacamole, spaghetti and meatballs, lemon shrimp and rice, sausage-corn chowder...and other things that I would consider reasonably kid-friendly and easy to get on the table without much prep time. Most nights, we have to make our kids eat a minimum helping of each food.

Guess what my kids ate last night willingly and asked for seconds. They were eating like it was going out of style.

Microwaved chicken fingers and green peas.


A discriminating palate is not something that is developed overnight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

If You Didn't Think I Was Crazy Before...

My husband is gone and I feel much better.

Wait, let me rephrase that. I feel much better than I did yesterday even though my husband has gone out of town. Yesterday and last night and this morning I was a nervous wreck.

His trip to Louisiana wasn’t really the reason I was choking on a huge wad of anxiety. No, he’s gone on trips before and I’ve handled it fine ever since I started participating in the medicating of our society. I was all, “Bye honey, come back soon!” But this newfound independence was really because nothing made me anxious. Things that once would have had me huddled in the corner hugging my knees into my chest and whispering, “I want my mommy,” after I said yes to drugs, caused me to say (and mean) things like, “It will all work out okay.” And then stop in disbelief because did that just come out of my mouth? Am I an optimistic person now?

And I liked it. I really, really liked how I felt—normal! Maybe for the first time in my life!—and as far as I was concerned, you’d have to pry my pill bottle from my cold dead hands.

So things in Casa Hairlinefracture were going along swimmingly, when my loving husband gave me the gift of permanent b!rth c*ntr0l (I’m thinking I might get spam if I spell that correctly.) So anyway, the time came for me to stop taking what I was taking, and I did…and I felt a little weird but not too bad, until this week, when—oh my God, I had sleeping problems and anxiety and buckets of tears and the desire to lock myself up in a cabin in the woods. Just like when I was first diagnosed, which terrified me. Because if I know one thing, I know I never want to go back to that bad place in my mind ever again. Never ever ever.

My doctor said he’d up my dose of Anti-D’s if things didn’t improve and until then to use the medicine that helps me calm down enough to sleep if I need to. Other than that, you’re fine! Thanks for the copay!

I didn’t feel fine. I knew what he was saying was right—he didn’t need to change anything based on one day of anxiety after months of tranquility—but I would’ve liked a little more sympathy.

Which I got from my sweet friends and my husband. I tried hard to stay rational—thanking God that I was at least not curled in the fetal position with my mouth in a silent scream—and formulate a plan.

I called my OB-GYN’s office today and asked for their perspective. “So, when your patients have a really tough time when they go off the pill, what do you suggest?

“Putting you back on it,” she said.* That way I don’t have to change my other medication yet, she explained. If the sudden drop in hormones affects me badly, it’s better to be on the pill to control it. Plus she was very nice and sympathetic. Hooray for good nurses!

So there is a plan. It may not be perfect, but now I am not anxious, and that is definitely a good thing. Even with my husband out of town, I feel more like the optimistic person I’d started to become. I like that girl. I want her to stick around.

*If anyone points out to my husband that he underwent a surgery that many men fear just so I could go back on synthetic hormones, I will HUNT YOU DOWN and KILL YOU. Because happy pills or not, I would not be a good woman to live with if there was any kind of chance that I might get pregnant again. Right now the poor man just wants me to do whatever will make me feel better again.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Just (Don't) Do It

I was a leeetle depressed today. All day long the bad mood persisted, like that little black cloud over the head of a cartoon character. I kept trying to do things to make myself feel better (going to the gym; eating leftover Halloween candy, but not too much, because that would just make me feel worse; taking a nap; washing my disgusting oily hair) but none of it really worked.

I knew what was bothering me: it was this article. In it a professor lays out all the reasons not to go to grad school. All of which I have known in my heart were true, which explains why I haven’t gone back yet. But last week I was driving along sans kids—they were with my parents—and a thought popped into my head: When Liam goes to preschool I could finish my degree. And it made me happy. Because: now I have a purpose in life! I could read books and talk about them, which is pretty much all I want to do in life, except to get as much sleep as possible.

However. There are compelling reasons not to go to graduate school in the humanities, both practical and personal. The best practical reason is that there aren’t enough jobs. “Last year, the total number of advertised jobs in English dropped from 983 to 792, and only about half of those jobs are on the tenure track. Remember that the 977 doctorates produced in 2000-2001 will have to compete with hundreds of job-seekers from previous years, to say nothing of all the adjunct faculty members who are looking for full-time, tenure-track work.”

And those are Ph.D.’s, people! I have no intention of spending years slaving over a dissertation and then end up with no job. If Ph.D.’s can’t get a good job, where do you think that leaves someone with a lowly master’s? Um-hmm. Talk about throwing money away. We’re doing better financially, but not that well.

But, you know what? I’d still do it if it was what I really wanted to do. Today I was pouty, like the Mean Professor Guy had taken my candy away. (Sadly, it is still here, in a humongous bowl on top of the refrigerator, and I wish someone would take it away. [Okay, technically it’s the kids’ candy. Details.]) I took this to mean that I did really want to go back to school and it was just Unfair of someone to be so Rational with me that I couldn’t argue back. Except that wasn’t what it was about.

At one point late in the afternoon I realized something. I said to myself, “You just want to go back so you can write papers and get grades. You want validation. You want to be able to say you are Doing Something, you are not just a stay-at-home mom. That’s why you want to go back.” (Yes, I know I am strange for talking to myself. I do it all the time, though.)

And what I told myself was correct, I think. Because I don’t want to go back to school to teach, even to teach college students (although that would be better than teaching anything else.) Here’s where I say what you’re not supposed to say, because it’s Impractical and Impossible and a Pipe Dream: I want to write. Not just a blog that three people read (although thank you for reading and commenting, I do appreciate it); not just Bible studies for the church, although I love those too. I want to write for a living, and whether that means fiction or freelance writing or some combination, that’s what I want to do. When our pastor was teaching on the Biblical meaning of “vision,” he asked us to look at where our passion and our talents intersected. All signs kept pointing to “Write,” over and over, every time I thought about it. It was kind of like God was poking me in the forehead: “How many times do I have to tell you, silly girl?”

The thing of it is, if I go back to school to get a fine arts degree with an emphasis on creative writing, guess what I’m eventually going to have to do. That’s right, write a novel or a bunch of stories. Guess what I can do when the kids go to school, and not even have to pay a university for. Guess what I’m scared to try to do, but you know what? I’m going to do it. I have a purpose, and it may not seem like much, and it doesn’t pay well at all, but it’s time to stop putting it off.

Or at least it will be time next year. God, I obsess about things way before it becomes necessary, don’t I?

But I do feel better about the whole thing.