Random Crap: Brain Dump

Today has been, despite the best laid plans, a day of fits, starts and frustration. It was Monday morning, take II, all day long. And we’re only half way through the day. I’m curled up on the couch, under a blanket the color and texture of Oscar the Grouch, hair wet from a scalding hot shower (an attempt to start the day over) and watching edited re-runs of Sex and the City on TBS. Awwww yeah.

Abby is home sick with a nasty croupy cough. (don’t worry, she’s up in her room, not watching SitC reruns) Jeffrey started the day off staying home, but just before lunch I called his bluff and took him to school. Bean nearly missed his bus this morning. Like I said, Monday- Part 2.

Yesterday I made the Weeping Angel wings, and spent the entire afternoon running around to various dollar stores in an attempt to mine the raw materials for a Dalek costume. WHY do I do this to myself? The Angel outfit, minus the hair, is nearly done, Bean’s outfit was easy (a trip to the thrift store) but a Dalek outfit?? Sigh. And it’s not like I have nothing else to do…

So my San Francisco Giants are heading to the World Series again- there is no way to overstate the excitement in my family. I halfway toyed with making a run up to Michigan to see them play the Tigers, but the cheapest tickets I could find were more than $400. Each. Yeah. Not a chance. TV it will be. My brother is even attempting to grow a Fear the Beard- or as a friend of mine said when he saw Brian Wilson in the dugout “Look! Old school apostle beard!” Mormons, ftw.

Man, Carrie wore some hideous clothes on this show- a lesson in style being timeless, but fashion being passing.

Fall here in Virginia is simply spectacular. I walked out onto my teeny-tiny patio-yard the other day, and the sky was azure, the leaves were swirling in crimson, amber and fiery piles, and the sun was perfectly golden and deeply slanting. It was still warm enough that a sweater was all I needed, but with juuuust enough bite underneath the warmth to let it be known autumn was serious, not playing around. I love it.

Meanwhile back at the old western homestead, they in hard frost and barely into the forties during the day. Here’s a secret: sometimes I miss it still. I won’t when it’s still winter in April, nor when it flurries into May, and they’ve been logged in grey skies for months. But for now? I do.

Feeling restless. It’s been almost six months since I had a day/night away from kids. Now, I adore my kids, but I’m a much, much better mother when I get periodic breaks. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that yet- I don’t know anyone here yet that I can have stay with them for a night or two, but I’m starting to go stir crazy.

Trying to plan out where the Christmas tree is going, as I sit here under Oscar the Grouch. It’s a very important decision. And now that Fakey Fakerson lives at Mo’s house, we have to get a real tree- the first one of Abby’s life. I’m looking forward to it, actually.

Watched the debates. Sigh. I don’t truck in politics- as a matter of fact, I hate it. I was looking at a job in the District, and after talking to the guy for a while, he said no one wants to hire an Independent. They won’t trust me, he said. I had to pick sides. What do you do when you don’t feel represented by anyone?

There are actually a lot of movies I want to see for the first time in forever. Argo. Cloud Atlas. Skyfall. Lincoln. The Hobbit. Will I get to any of them? Meh, probably not. But it will make Netflix and Redbox fun in a few months!

Happy Saturday from Tintin

This picture, just snapped in the boys’ room, makes me ridiculously happy. Nevermind the awesome Tintin hair, nevermind Jeffrey’s cheek being sucked into the vacuum… LOOK at that genuine, natural, joyful smile on Bean *teary eyes* Happy Saturday my friends- we’re off to hunt for the Great Pumpkin.

 

Couches that Suck

Way back a million years ago there was an episode of Northern Exposure (Aidan was Chris in the Morning first) where the bush pilot Maggie had brought a beautiful chair to her remote Alaska cabin, at expense and hassle, but once she got it there, she discovered it was the Most Uncomfortable Chair in the World. No matter what she did to it, it was wretched- and everyone who sat in it would slowly start to fidget and shift, trying to make it comfortable, but no matter what anyone did, it sucked. She tried to give it away, she tried pillows and donating it- but the chair was so horrid, whoever initially took it soon returned it.

I have the couches that match that chair.

My lovely, awesome buy, thrift store couches I scored the first week I moved here have turned into a joke in our house. They look good! The fabric is a plush, soft chenille, the pale taupe color is lovely, and yet, I dare you to sit. Just like Maggie’s chair, you slowly start to shift and squirm. You’ll cross and uncross your legs. You’ll move the pillows around. You’ll move your butt. You’ll scoot forward, then back. You’ll lean your elbows on your knees, lean on the arm, a scowl will slowly creep across your face… and you’ll realize you’re on the Most Uncomfortable Couch in the World.

I’ve tried fluffing the cushions, propping the springs underneath, adding pillows, adding soft blankets, tipping them back and looking at the undersides…. to no avail. It’s become a running joke, how much the couches suck. Forget relaxing and watching a movie- everything is wrong about them. Your back will tense up, you’ll put your feet on the coffee table to try and keep from sliding down, you’ll try and rest your arm on the back or the armrest- all to no avail. Everything— EVERYTHING— is wrong with these couches.

I’m putting them on Craigslist.

Exterminate!

Doctor Who has taken over our lives. My children are obsessed, and I’m in the midst of trying to figure out how to make a Jeffrey-sized Dalek costume out of cardboard and dollar-store gadgets. Bean is going as the Doctor- we scored at the thrift store with a tweed jacket, suspenders and a bow tie. His sonic screwdriver came in the mail already. Abby wants to be a Weeping Angel. Ditto on the thrift store scores with a long grey dress I can modify, and more cardboard for wings.

If your kids have these same aspirations, you might want to check out this website, which shows how to make a Dalek outfit (ours will not be nearly so cool) or this one, where the woman makes the most amazeballs Weeping Angel (ours will also not be nearly so cool, though I am going to try and cop her wig idea). Mo thinks I should go as River Song, but that’s mostly due to my new short curly mess of a ‘do.

(My other secret obsession right now? The Walking Dead. I mentioned this in Random Crap the other day… but dudes! Shhhhhhh! I read the wiki pages and knowing what was going to happen totally made watching bearable. Dang I missed a lot of good entertainment while I was buried in school.)

Disarmament

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time,
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the new start.

I have not been writing. My words have been caught in the slow moving amber sap of internal criticism, more depraved and dangerous that anything external. The critic says, I must have something Important to say, something witty or clever or entertaining or beautiful. It’s so subtle, how the critic plucks away the grains of sand, undermining yourself, pebble by pebble, until you confuse the uncertainty for reality.

This morning, in the early slanting glow of the October sunlight, I nudged the critic with the toe of my boot and told her to get the hell out. I write for me. I write because it’s how I make sense of my life. I write to open the doors of my swirling, creative mind, and let the clearing winds take my feeble offerings up in gusts and eddies, leaving me clear and free, sanctified, able to see and climb the mountain that is life.

There is tremendous change, as there always is in the autumn- it’s my season. It’s where I come home and am safe enough, always, to inventory and cull and sow and reap. Things are not easy, clearly illustrated in the few cards I’ve tipped to the table lately, but it’s also so very good. If nothing else, my faith— in God, in plans strewn about, in my friends, in my own ability to do hard things, in life, in love— allows me a grace that can only be explained as a gift. It’s not my own- or at least, I am not its source.

My program for grad school might be changing. I won’t know until November, and while that’s nerve-wracking in and of itself, grace lets me know if those changes take place, there is a reason, and there is a more perfect program for me. I am being nearly offered a spot in a different program, at the same college, and I’ve been wrestling with the enticing demon of “a bird in the hand is better than….” But I have come to the decision that I should shop for exactly what I want, and not settle. Part of this grace thing, garnered over time, is that there is a bigger plan I may not see.

Not settling is a recurring, spiral theme- winding up like helix, giving me the same lessons, from a slightly different vantage point as life progresses. For years I confused battling with being strong. I am fearless, I would proclaim, swathed in armor with sword raised, ready to defend and war with life and love. I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to set down my battle-scarred shield and twisted sword, and find peace. It was necessary to have those skills, hindsight makes brilliantly clear, but wisdom also means recognizing the season changes, and knowing when to unstrap the sheathes, unthread the gauntlets, and set down the weary bones. There comes a point where the defenses once used to survive, once so necessary, become barriers to feeling new life.

I am happy. For the first time in a long time, I am content. I conquered some ridiculously hard things, and it’s possible the season (or at least the day) has come where I am allowed to lie down by the river, trail my fingers in the cooling water, watch the gold, pumpkin and scarlet leaves swirl against the azure autumnal sky, and exhale.

Powerless

“What do you mean you can’t find your sweatshirt?! The bus will be here in 3 minutes! Get upstairs and FIND it!” She raked her fingers back through her curly hair, catching on knots and adding frizz to the already tangled mess brought on by the humid dawn. The sun wasn’t even completely over the horizon, and she’d already been hunkered down, searching and crawling around looking for lost things for an hour. Shoes. Socks. Homework. Backpacks. The more she looked, the hotter the anger and frustration bubbled up.

It’s the same fight and struggle of every mother: put your crap away. pick up after yourself. wash up. no food in your bed! pick up your crap. PICK UP YOUR CRAP. Only this morning, as she lifts the edge of the couch and peer under, the go-gurt wrappers, Legos, socks, missing church shoes (WHERE were these yesterday?!) papers, scissors, remote controls, an iPod, and a some missing keys greet her. There is yelling. She is not proud, and the missing sweatshirt is not found, and the boy gets on the bus without a kiss goodbye, while the younger ones run for their flashing, waiting bus down the street. She stands at the curb, arms crossed, in her pajamas, feeling the sting of stereotype and fighting back hot swirling tears of frustration and regret. She hates starting the day this way. She wishes this was the first time.

Life is swirling around her, eddying at her ankles, pulling the sand out from under her feet in a constant tug, leaving her dizzy and unsure where to step next. She had imagined this quarter off of school would be a respite, a way to catch her breath and remember who she was before grad school started. Instead, the old tripe about nature abhorring a vacuum was daily illustrated in technicolor, and she couldn’t seem to get a grip, let alone ahead.

The weeks were flying by; there were IEP’s (yes, more of them), scouts, interviews, test prep, tutoring, snarls with the DMV, a fender-bender, doctor appointments for the kids, procurement of records, snafus with the bank, denial of EBT benefits, appeals, callings, lessons, back to school night, parent-teacher conferences with the non-IEP kids and on and on it rolled. She had another interview to set up, and two tests to take, but couldn’t find a place giving them in the window she needed. It might mean travel, and that would mean more nightmares. And the holidays were starting to swell before her and she knew when she turned around, the wave would crash in a heave of chaos.

She watches the giant ochre busses groan and roll down the street, and waves feebly at the dark reflecting windows in which she sees not her children, but the reflection of the morning sky. She hopes they can see her, and that for today, it’s good enough.

Random Crap: Bad Blogger Edition

Getting it together seems to be juuuuust beyond the tips of my fingers lately. Spinning around, I realize it’s the 9th of October already, and I’m stunned. How are the days flying by with little to no regard for everything I have to do? I’m dizzy.

The schools here are rather intrusive into family life and time, and I’m going round and round with them on what constitutes their right to my children’s time, and what I hold firmly as mine. On the east coast there is a substantive and noticeable difference in the intensity level, and I can’t help but see it with my west-coast eyes. To me it seems like a self-perpetuating cycle where people equate business and scheduling with being important and successful. I do not. Protecting my children’s right to still be children, to have unstructured play time, and time to just stare at the clouds and contemplate wherever their minds roam is a priority to me. And I’ll fight you on it. *lacing up my boxing gloves*

I’ve got a bunch of grad-school crap I’m trying to take care of too, but I’m so stressed, I’m not writing about it. Testing, program consolidation, grant writing, possible interviews in programs are consolidated, the inability to get answers yet… etc.

Jeffrey has been tapped to play the baritone tube (euphonium) for band. Much to Jeffrey’s dismay, the band director does not have the skills or music for the bagpipes, thus Bean has taken over the bagpipes as his instrument of choice. Be jealous of practice time at my house. Be very very jealous. You cannot even imagine…

The heater kicked on for the first time yesterday. That’s a full month later, at least, than it would have in Washington state- and we’re still a good ten degrees warmer than they are still.

General Conference (the grand poobah of Mormon meetings, held twice a year) was a bit rough for me this last weekend. Sometimes I wish we could abandon the rhetoric, and be a little more personal. I wish we could acknowledge that The Ideal actually constitutes less than half the members of our church, and that The Family comes in many shapes, sizes and variations. I wish we could hear more of talks like we got Sunday morning, and less of what we got Saturday afternoon. That’s all I’ll say about that.

I took the holiday yesterday and went into the District and hit up the International Spy Museum. It was totally irresponsible and I should have been studying or working, but I really didn’t care. It’s a cool museum with lots of Cold War and WWII relics and gadgets, and it’s weird to see things I remember now in a museum.

Still not sure about the haircut. It may take a while for this to feel like me.

I got suckered into watching The Walking Dead. I hate hate hate scary movies, gore, violence, and icky movies and TV- and I had purposely avoided this monstrosity of all the above. I’m forced to admit, while covering my eyes and peeking over the edge of the blanket is necessary sometimes, the story actually got to me. I just don’t watch the icky parts.

I have a new nephew, born yesterday in California. Auntie Heather is due next month, another friend had a baby on my birthday last week, and another is due in a few days. It’s baby season. Not for me! But for a lot of folks I love. So yay!

General Conference Cinnamon Rolls

This is what I’m making tonight- a recipe I originally posted years and years ago, but a recipe which still gets huge traffic. I can’t eat them, but for my kids and those I love, these are a must for the first weekend in October. Hope your Saturday is lovely! If I get these babies in the oven on time, there might even be some chalkboard wisdom. 86.jpg
These cinnamon rolls are the closest thing you’re ever going to make at home to the real deal. I say that with absolute certainty and calm. They. Are. It. I’ve held this recipe close to the bone for a long time, mamas, but I will now divulge the secret:

Pudding.

That’s right, you make the rolls with vanilla pudding as your primary liquid. That, and a lot of butter. I have no idea what the nutritional breakdown is, but to be on the safe side, and out of kindness to your heart, I suggest making them only 2 or 3 times a year. Without further ado, I give you,

General Conference Cinnamon Rolls!

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

Bloom the yeast with the sugar in the warm water, waiting for froth and bubbles.

  • 1/2 cup instant vanilla pudding powder
  • 1 c warm water
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, with a wire whip, mix the pudding powder with the water until well combined and smooth. Add the butter, eggs and salt, whisk to combine well.

Add the bloomed yeast/sugar/water mixture and combine well.

Add flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes together, and is still soft, but not sticky. Knead until smooth. It will feel like fat baby thighs.

Let rise in a warm, covered and lightly oiled bowl until doubled in size. About 2 hours.

Punch down, and knead again.

With a rolling pin and a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to a 34 x 22 inch rectangle. Keep moving the dough as you roll, to keep from sticking to the board.

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon

Melt the butter and pour the whole cup on your rolled out rectangle of dough. (I told you only a few times a year!) In a separate bowl, combine with your impeccably clean hands, the sugar and cinnamon, then cover the butter-drenched dough rectangle in an even and delectable layer of cinnamon sugar.

Starting at the 22 inch side, roll the entire thing into a nice, long cinnamon tube. Seal the edge with a little bit of water on a pastry brush or your fingers.

With a serrated knife, (or even better, a piece of thread or dental floss) cut the log into 2 inch segments, and carefully move your giant cinnamon treasures to a glass pan.  Put no more than 8 in a large glass Pyrex casserole dish.  Do not crowd them- they will rise almost double. Whatever baking dish you use, deeper sides give the rolls a softer exterior = better.

Cover in a warm place and let them rise again until fat and happy- about two hours.

Bake at 350* for 15-18 minutes. Really, only that long. Do not over-bake. You want them to be soft, yet set, in the middle. The house will smell divine.

Icing:

  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cream

Whip all ingredients together and smear on top of still warm rolls.

Remember, only a few times a year!! (For us, it’s Christmas and General Conference- the grand-poo-bah of all Mormon meetings) Your taste buds will rejoice, your heart will need a serious, sweat inducing walk afterwards. Enjoy!!