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!

Recipe: 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!!

A New Leaf: Happy Birthday To Me

We’re going to try something new for my birthday- we’re going to try and move this day from the realm of CRAPTASTIC (um, filing for divorce on your birthday, anyone? don’t recommend it) and gently nudge it back towards where a birthday, at least for most folks, might be- near, perhaps, say, HAPPY?

So far, so good. It’s not that all my birthdays have been crummy- it’s just been a long string where I just sort of got through the day, where I didn’t want to make a big deal, and where I didn’t want my kids to feel bad because we couldn’t do anything, or, well… you get the picture. Last year on this day, this is what I wrote:

Figure I may as well mark the milestone. Today is my birthday. This is what I look like today, at the end of my 39th trip around the sun- but it is not who I am. The tiny lines and freckles on my face mark my earthly journey, and they don’t bother me much. It’s what’s inside that makes me proud, that makes me stand taller and hold myself in esteem. And I realize now, as I stare down the nose of forty, that I like who I am becoming as a mother, a woman, a human being, and a daughter of God. I must have needed some serious refining, because the paths I have chosen and been given are not the easy, simple ways- but I would not be who I am without that hard road. Today I thank God for the broken road, the hard road, the rocky path, and the patience He has in allowing me to hammer myself on the anvil of life and become whatever it is He knows lies within.

Sometimes I’m a pretty smart cookie. At least in retrospect. Yesterday, it was hard to be thankful for the (still) broken road that I’m traveling- but even in my weariness, I know it’s mine, and there are lessons I must learn from this path.

So this morning, I woke to flowers and birthday cards, and happy, boisterous arms around my neck. I woke to my son trying to cook me breakfast, and another coloring me a picture, and Abby with her finger in the frosting. I woke to notes from people who love me, and phone calls from even more of those precious and treasured people.

Things are never going to be perfect, and honestly, I don’t think I wanted a perfect life- whatever that means. What I have is amazing, the gifts I’ve been given— gifts which allow me to navigate this crazy, broken, wild yet still beautiful mess of a life– are tremendous and valuable. There will not be another day wasted on wishing for something, anything, that has not already been granted.

Like the Persian carpet weavers who include intentional mistakes into their complicated and stunning tapestries, I’m going to start weaving the thorns and crags right into the tapestry of life, and call it Beautiful. The garden is already perfect.

Happy Birthday to me.

(btw- that picture is how you do blue eye makeup and not look like a Bozo)

Surrender, Dorothy

Listening through cotton, the dryer whirls comfortingly down the hall. The clacking tells me there is at least a handful of tooth-fairy money and probably some Legos churning away with the jeans and newly clean gym clothes. I can hear Bean downstairs discussing the merits of Doctor Eleven over Ten, and garbled interjections from Abby’s softer voice. The peanut butter toast and canned pears I placed on the table are long gone, and crumpled and torn homework papers should soon be fished from the bottoms of backpacks, smelling like every elementary school ever- the odd mix of bananas, dust, glue, sweat and industrial disinfectant. I just can’t stomach it tonight.

In my room, the wide swath of comforter wafts out before me, and my bedside lamp is warm and low. The very late setting sunlight dares to break apart a the damp clouds that have had a death-grip on my sky all day, and shards of thin sunlight break through the curtains. My laptop hums softly cradled on my bent knees, while random Pinterest flotsam and jetsam wanders across the pane behind this one.

My iPod is making a Genius mix that is oddly brilliant, and I idly wonder how that’s possible- it’s too accurate, actually, and I have to shut it off before I throw it across the room. Sometimes music is the balm for my soul, and sometimes it’s like having my heart peeled with a knife- but it’s never wrong. No matter what, a song comes on I need to hear, even when I don’t want to listen.

Deep pink shadows fall over the railing and down the stairs from the paper lantern over Abby’s bed, and I move my feet absorb the residual warmth from where she had been flopped a few moments ago. I wasn’t as interesting as her brothers’ conversation, and she floated off with the pink light, clutching my ragged childhood copy of Charlotte’s Web. Dear lord, I love that girl.

Nothing went right today. Nothing whatsover. So by dinner time, it was toast and pears, and cozy nestling in instead of fighting it. Sometimes, I’m just too weary to pick it up and keep going. Just for today. Just for tonight. All day I waged battle, all day I tried to tackle Life, and now… now I am tired. Now, I am laying down my battle gear, scarred and worn to the shapes of my needs, my calluses, my strengths, and my weaknesses— I submit to the night, until the sun rolls around the eastern sky again.

Tomorrow I will get up and try again. 

*really? really??*

It will al be fine. Always is. I am well acquainted with my bootstraps, and I have several kicky and cute pair of Big Girl Pants. I’m no ones victim, and this too shall pass. Yeah yeah yeah- believe me, I’ve got that one down in aces. It’s a bad week, not a bad life. Right? RIGHT??

I won’t line everything out, because dammit I am sick of having crap going wrong, but I will give you the nutshell: grad school testing, interviews, changes in program, IEP changes, emissions test and state inspection, parking ticket for not having said test despite having a 30 day window and proof of said window, two months of waiting if we get EBT with still no answer or funding, medical benefits that are turned down at every hospital and clinic I can find, Bean needing some medical care, a car accident (very minor), attempting to get flu shot and being told my benefits are only good at a doctor’s office (see above), another test, state of Washington lost the child support X sent in (yay!!) despite my having been waiting since Sept 1 for it, X cannot send October support in until we figure out where September went, bills due, and on and on it goes.

The part that sucks is many of these things I am powerless to do anything about. If I can get in there and roll up my sleeves and do some stomping, I’m more than happy and willing to do it- it’s just the layers of crap and bureaucracy so many of these problems are couched within… I’m exhausted. And I popped the yolks flipping my eggs this morning. Going back to bed is looking pretty good…

And Abby wanted to take goofy pictures and put them up- so there’s your dissonance for the day. Plus, it’s my birthday on Wednesday. Erp.