Baking Bread and the Feel of Fall

When I bake bread with my children, this is what happens. Maybe I am a bad mom, but I just can’t tell them “no” when it comes to playing with flour. It’s just so much fun. They write in it with their fingers, dig in it, sift it, they roll in it, and as you can see, Jeffrey really gets into the rolling part. There were actually two very nice loaves of bread that came out of this debacle. The flour is no big deal to clean up, as long as you don’t spill any water- then it becomes a gluey nightmare!

We grind our own flour with a stone grinder, and the kids think this is the coolest thing they have ever seen- They actually fight over who gets to sit closest to it on the counter, and they love to watch the wheat kernels fall into the stone wheels. Then, you open the compartment below, and you have warm, fresh flour. Eric likes to eat the plain flour right from the drawer (yuck!), but Jeffrey prefers rolling naked in it. Actually, he had his clothes off before I even realized it, and by that time, there was no point in telling him no. (editors note: no flour that actually touched naked boys was used in the production of this bread.)

Something about fall brings me into the kitchen, and I know I am not the only one. Fall is baking-bread time. I do not really let them do this every time I bake. Sometimes it is a no-nonsense affair, and they have to go find something else to do, but sometimes, if I am feeling like a happy mom, I let them have a ball helping me. As they grow up, I hope these are some of the good memories they have of a warm kitchen, a cheerful mom, and hearty, healthy, good smelling and yummy homemade food.

Last week I sent both kids out in the backyard to pick the small, hard apples off of our four apple trees. When they were done throwing them at each other and across the yard, they came in with about 1/2 a basket of actual usable apples. But, we are going to make a small batch of applesauce, and I know it will be the best applesauce ever; it came from our trees, gathered by my children… How could it not be?

The big maple tree in our front yard is just starting to turn. The tips of the leaves are heading towards yellow and amber, and the “burning-bush” in the yard is already scarlet. Last night we had a terrific wind-storm; the air was crisp and full of leaves, and I found DFM out on the front porch several times, just letting the wind whip around him and enjoying it. Something about fall is so magical…

For the Record…

This is absolutely IT. I am never doing this again. And I am saying it here, so you all can remind me when I start to wax emotional about how sweet another baby would be…

unequivocally, I hate being pregnant. Not just me, but my body hates being pregnant. Oh, I know children are a gift, and I treasure my children, I really do, even this little unborn one. But, loving my children and being pregnant… so not the same thing! I have come to conclusion that I can hate being pregnant, and I can still totally love my kids.

I do not do pregnant well. I have said this before. However, since I am in the thick of it again, I am going to say it again. Pregnant women glow, they shine, they radiate heath and happiness… yack! Give me a bucket, literally. I may be glowing, but it’s the fine sheen of a layer of sweat from throwing up five minutes ago. If I am rosy, it’s for the same reason. If I am radiating, it is because I am so hot and bothered I am sweating, and will probably throw up again soon. The women who just cruise through their pregnancies make me sick; but right now, everything makes me sick. The nausea is 24 hours a day; it never goes away. Just have fun for a second imagining that…

When I was a girl, I was riding my bike down our street one day, and I saw a squished frog. It looked like a car had run him over, and all his guts had come out his mouth. I have never forgotten what he looked like, and I often thought about how awful that would be. That is pretty much how I feel when I kneel yet again over the kitchen sink, the garbage can, the toilet, the bathtub, a plastic bag, or out the car door… I feel as though my guts are being squished out my mouth. Uggh.

By the way, there is little more humiliating that sitting at a traffic light, and having to open the car door and barf out onto the pavement. Why didn’t I have a plastic bag, you think? Well, when I have already used the plastic bag in my purse, what are my options?

Six more sick months of this. Six more months… I am never doing this again. I am never doing this again… I am never…

I #%*! My Computer

Yesterday my computer took a swan-dive into the lake of discontent. To say that it s..l..o..w..e..d down is the understatement of the year, and my computer skills being what they are, I was helpless. I have been known to fix computers by taking off (usually) my shoe and beating the computer with it; since this machine is less than a year old, I used restraint and had DFM call a friend to come take a look at it. Even making that call was progress for me…and an exercise in self-control.

So after several hours of twiddling and waiting for the computer to stop talking to itself like Rainman, things are better. Not perfect yet, but at least the thing doesn’t have a virus or something equally devastating. While the friend worked on my computer, he kept attempting to explain what he was doing, which is like talking Swahili to an Eskimo. Actually, I have to leave the room while computer talk is going on- it makes me feel like I can’t breathe and the walls are closing in… How’s that for un-tech? It’s really simple, actually. To me, computers are magic; they do or don’t do what you want depending on something like the computer fairies, and some (odd) people have the ability to charm the fairies and make them do what they want them to do. It seems like playing D & D or having a scraggly beard gives you an advantage over the fairies, but I am only guessing.

So today, I am making bread. I will pour the tiny, pearl-like grains of wheat in my grinder, make flour with a spinning stone, and knead soft, yeasty, good smelling dough. There will be warm flour all over my kitchen, the oven will make the kitchen toasty and cozy. When DFM gets home from work, the smell of hot, fresh, chewy bread will waft from the windows and greet him at the door. He will be a happy man, and I will be a happy mom. The perfect antidote after a day of computer hell. I might even make my own butter…

Parenting and the Pizza Guy

A short while ago, I had a birthday party for a boy who just moved into our ward from Texas. The family didn’t know anyone yet, and the kid and Jeffrey really play well together, so I invited them over, and said I would throw a small party. The mom is really cool, and we get along too, so it was really no hardship.

The kids and I blew up some balloons and bought a cake at the grocery store, called Dominoes for a couple of pizza’s to be delivered and called it good. When the family got here, they were happy and grateful to see what we had done, and the kids began to play and get loud. There were only five kids here, plus the mom and her very cool teenage daughter, but if you were listening from outside, you would have sworn there was an entire kindergarten downstairs. It was loud, but so what? Isn’t that what kids parties are supposed to be like?

The mom and her daughter wanted to see my design work, which is downstairs in my office and studio (our extra bedroom, really), so we were all in the basement. The kids were tearing up and down the stairs, laughing a romping and having a ball, while we talked textiles. Then the boys both rushed in the office, yelling that the pizza-guy was here… I had forgotten that I called, and rushed upstairs to get the door.

As I got upstairs, I could see that the pizza-guy was already in the living room, holding his pizza’s and looking extremely annoyed. Still not realizing that anything was wrong, other than the pizza-guy in my living room (have to re-stress to kids not to open the door), I grabbed my wallet and asked him what I owed him. It was then he layed into me. Ever had a pizza-guy criticize your parenting? Ever had him do so in front of guests and your children? Yes, folks, the Pizza-Guy began to tell me how long he had been standing there, in my living room, waiting for me. He began to tell me how loud and crazy the kids were, and how long he had been hollering for an adult at the door. He told me how dangerous it was that the kids had let him in, where was I while all this was happening? Huh? He told me how much time I had cost him on his route, and how I really needed to have a better handle on my family, or someone could get hurt… (I am not kidding! And he was still holding our pizza) My friend, her daughter, and all our kids are standing there looking at him with slack jaws, and I just stood there, eyes wide, like a deer in the headlights. For the first time ever, I was dumbstruck. I could not believe what I was hearing, and thus could not even fathom what to say to the guy. I never said a word. Just handed him his money, opened the door, and shut it on him.

As soon as I closed the door, my friend and her daughter exploded. I turned around, still kind of dumb, and asked if that just actually happened? We had a good laugh about it and imagined all of the things I could have said (and usually would have). I still don’t know where my tongue was that day… But it is probably a good thing that I went inexplicabley mute. My children can go all there lives without hearing what I wanted to say, and my friendship is probably better with this mom, too.

About ten minutes later, as the kids were chowing down on their cool pizza, the phone rings. Yes, it is him. Pizza-Guy is calling to say he is… Sorry. He says he realized he acted harshly, and that he had no right to speak to me that way. Ok, dude. I guess it’s good that his conscious got to him, but I wonder what really happened? I think he was afraid I might call Dominoe’s and cost him his job. Nah, not today. Its good enough that he figured out he was a tool on his own. I bet his mama would be proud!

Acts of Love

My husband is not perfect. Neither am I. But we are perfect for each other, and I just want to write a short little love letter about him, and how wonderful he is to me…

Last night, at 11:30, just as the news was ending and Letterman was starting, I had to run to the bathroom after trying to clean up the kitchen… The smell of the dinner dishes in the sink was just too much for my hideously pregnant body. DFM was already in bed asleep, (he gets up really early for work, and I am a natural night owl) but when he heard me yacking in the other room, he got up to check on me. (Asking a pregnant woman what you can do for her as she barfs, and you are the one that knocked her up, is a bad idea, but we won’t get into that.) Then, he went in the kitchen and cleaned the whole thing. Did the dishes, wiped everything down, even sprayed peppermint oil soap in the sink to mask the drain-smell. Even though he had to be up at 5:30, he did that for me. Then, he covered me up on the couch, and went back to bed. Is that love, or what?? I love him!

The Firestorm over Mr.Fish…

It seems Mr. Fish and his recent relocation has sparked a bit of a family feud. Last night after Dumber #26 read my post about what Mom did, he called her at 10:30 to yell at her, and then Dumb #22 wouldn’t talk to her when she called him this morning.

So then Mom calls me to tell me that my facts are not all correct. The Fish-Man did not actually pay her for Mr. Fish; she gave him away. Just so that I am clear: this is better? Anyway, this was the only point she disputed. She said if my brothers were so upset, they could go to the fish store and buy Mr. Fish themselves. Eh-hemmm. Brace yourselves….

(I have to laugh, as I can see it from all of their points of view…)

Unimportant addendum: For the next day, all creativity is being funneled elsewhere. Yes, in between gagging and throwing-up, I am finally working. I finished five of the six design specs today, and now just have to finish the drawings and have the photo’s taken. Tomorrow while Jeffrey is at school, Eric and I will go to the printer. The plastic bag in my purse will hopefully not be needed. Seriously, three is a good number, right?

Ode to Mr. Fish

My children have a vintage story-book they love about a boy who has a goldfish. Despite warnings from the fish store proprietor, the boy feeds the goldfish much too much, and the fish grows and grows, outgrowing his tank, the kitchen sink, the bathtub, the basement and ends up at the community pool. If you are familiar with the book, you know what happens, and probably think it is just a cute story. But in our family, we know that it is real, and in fact, is based on my brother’s (#22) goldfish, Mr. Fish.

When Dumb was in 5th grade (makes him maybe…ten?), he went to a carnival at his elementary school, and won a little, tiny orange ‘feeder’ fish in a plastic bag. He brought it home and put it in a bowl on the kitchen counter, and named him Mr. Fish (genius and creativity are not bedmates). There was one particularly close call when Tequila (bad pet names run in the family), my mom’s cat, actually had Mr. Fish out on the counter, gasping for water, licking his kitty-lips with glee, when we caught him. Mr. Fish survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, where gobs of water sloshed from his bowl and we didn’t notice, several incidents with Tequila, three housing moves, and lots of neglect from a less than attentive boy. Through it all, in spite of the care he got, he continued to grow.

Due only to my mom’s guilt, he was moved from the first fishbowl to a small tank in Dumb’s room, then a larger tank, then a large tank with filter and fancy stuff back in the kitchen, and finally to a very large tank with no fancy stuff because there was no room for fancy stuff and Fish. This diminutive, guppy-sized fishy grew and grew, with each new bowl and tank, he simply filled it up, as though the extra room was a personal challenge. Remember, this was a “feeder-fish”, the kind made for turtles and other tank-dwellers to dine on. Not even a real goldfish!

So yesterday, my mom and step-dad went to the local fish store to see about getting yet another larger tank (seriously, upgrading to 25 gallons…for one fish) and began to talk to the fish-man about Mr. Fish. Fish-Man did not believe them when they told him about Mr. Fish. So, he gave them a big bucket, and sent them home to get Mr. Fish so he could see for himself. When they returned to the store with Mr. Fish in the bucket, and removed the lid, a group of people gathered around to see this freak-of-nature. For one thing, Mr. Fish is not orange anymore. He is clear. Yes, really. Clear. You can see inside of him. And, he is 12 years old, and over nine inches long. He NOT a koi fish, he is a “feeder-fish”, and Fish-man marveled at him, and got his entire story from my mom. And then, Fish-Man offered to buy Mr. Fish from my mom.

Mr. Fish now has yet another new tank, and a new home. He is in a very large tank at a very nice aquarium store, and I shudder to think how he may grow with the proper care and room. I wonder if Fish-man knows what he got himself into? Really, one carnival fishy turned into a 12 year commitment for my mom. I suspect after the waves of guilt subsided, she danced and little jig out in the parking lot. In the space of one week, she got rid of Dumb and Mr. Fish. Now, that’s freedom…

Cows and Romance

We went to the County Fair on Saturday to celebrate Eric’s birthday, and the kids had fun, I think. Sometimes when I do things with my small kids, it is so much work and hassle, I walk away feeling drained and wondering why I even tried. Then later, I hear the kids are telling everyone they know about how much fun they had. Seems they take away a very different experience than we do as parents. That, in this case, my friends, is a good thing.

First, the County Fair here in Eastern Washington, is a real county fair. Lots of 4H exhibits, Grange exhibits, and agriculture and animal husbandry. There was a large midway with all the rides, exposition halls, a huge food area, and lots of barns full of cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, llamas, sheep, goats, and even camels. (Who knew there were camels in Washington?) The kids thought this was fabulous, and Eric was delighted with the cows, and Jeffrey got to see where milk comes from. (I’m not sure he actually believes that we get our milk from that weird bag-like thing hanging under the cow)

The most important thing I took away from the day? The County Fair is a bad, bad place if you are in your first trimester and fighting nausea and the urge to barf all day long. I had to run out of the animal barns more than once. Not that anyone would have noticed, with all the cow poop around, but still… DFM took pitty on me and told the kids it was time to go somewhere else, and we headed over to get lunch. What normally would be an appealing array of food to choose from was just one big nasty smell-o-rama for me; I left DFM and the kids to go look for an ATM, but what I really wanted was to get away from all the hundreds of stinky food smells wafting around. Not a good time for Mama.

On the happier side, Eric had his first carmeled-apple and made a fine and sticky mess of it; Jeffrey was very brave and screwed up the courage to pet a goat, after Eric showed him it was ok; we paid outrageous carnie prices for dumb little rides that the boys loved; they both ate blue sno-cones and turned blue inside and out, and we got to see an antique tractor race. Oh, and the weather was lovely, which was great, because last year it rained the whole fair.

Later that night, DFM and I went out to dinner for our 6th anniversary. Doesn’t seem that long when I write it, but lifetimes have passed in six years. I’ll spare everyone the details of our date, but after dinner we ended up at Toys-R-Us to exchange a birthday present. After 6 years of being married, and 16 years of being best-friends, we don’t need much to be amused. A dinner with no kids, some quiet in the car, and an uninterrupted night of sleep… Now that’s romantic!

The Birthday Fairy

We have a special family member in our clan; her name is The Birthday Fairy. On the morning of our birthday, every year, my brothers and I would wake to a bedroom decorated to the hilt, with crepe paper streamers twisted from corner-to-corner, balloon, confetti and a sign celebrating how old we were turning. When I say always, I really mean always.

Even when I was away at college, The Birthday Fairy called my boyfriend, and not only explained what to do, but also mailed him the goods to do it. When I was living on my own, again in my hometown, before I got married, She came while I was at work. I suspect She is like Santa Claus and can come down a flue or has a key for every lock, because that house didn’t even have a chimney. (One year, She went over-the-top and completely filled Dumber (#26)’s room with balloons; we have a snapshot of him standing with balloons up to his chest. He was 20.) The point is, we always knew something was coming, and it made our special day even happier.

It is important to note that I believe the reason The Birthday Fairy was so successful in our home is because my brothers and I all sleep like absolute logs of the dead. You can march a drum-core band running vacuums through the room while we are sleeping and we won’t even roll over. All three of us.

Up until last night, The Birthday Fairy, Jr. Had been able to spread joy to my children on their birthdays too. Jeffrey sleeps like his mama, and I can go in his room turn the light on and clean out his closet after he has fallen asleep. Nothing. Eric, on the other hand, takes after his daddy. If you walk by his room and step on a squeaky floorboard, he is up and at ’em. It has actually been a problem, since we have another rambunctious child in the house. We keep a small fan running in Eric’s room for the white-noise factor, no matter what the weather is like, and it seems to help. But, this has caused some big problems for the Fairy. When mama cannot even kiss her baby goodnite without waking him up, how does the Fairy enter and decorate a bedroom??

Little Eric woke this morning to his second birthday (albeit, completely not caring that it is) to nothing special. The guilt is unbearable. I have broken the chain, and feel unworthy to call myself the daughter of the Fairy. Granted, the living room had a birthday sign up, and a few presents wrapped, and he was delighted with his new tub of Tinker Toys, but he missed that magic moment when you wake up and see your room transformed and full of exciting colors and balloons and streamers.

I hang my head in shame, and hereby vow to come up with a contingency plan for next year. Maybe I can give him some cold medicine the night before? Or does that again push the line to bad mama? Oh, woe is me! Happy Birthday Eric! Mama LOVES you!