Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It Started Out As A Reasonable Conversation...

...and then, as so often happens when my beloved and I talk, one of us turned into a 10 year old and things sort of went downhill.

Scene: Patrick and I are in our bedroom. He is at his desk going over finances and I am making the bed. (Why hello, 1952!) (And no, I wasn't wearing a dress and a string of pearls.) We are talking about things like putting money in the kids' college funds, paying down the mortgage early, and life insurance. My beloved will be hitting a rather big milestone birthday this year, (It rhymes with "shifty.")
and so I think he's having some of those thoughts about getting things in order. As you do.

Patrick: So my life insurance expires when I'm 58. But I'm going to have to keep working until I'm at least 70.

Me: Blame that on Mary Rose. Or my extreme sexiness. So sorry you couldn't keep your hands off me. How did you ever get so lucky, by the way?

Patrick: *eyeroll* Yeah. Um....Anyway. Maybe I should look at adjusting my life insurance terms so that it will expire later.

Me: Yeah. If you're going to be working until you're 70, that's probably a good idea. I'm pretty sure the kids don't want me living with them. They've done their time. And I'll eat lots of things, but I don't like cat food.

Patrick: What about your life insurance? All we have is that big policy on you, so that if something happens to you it'll take care of your burial and allow me to get some help around here. Like a maid.

Me: Yeah, I guess someone has to clean up around here when I'm gone.

Patrick: So a maid.

Patrick: And a concubine.

Me: ...

Patrick: A concubine. That's like a live-in hooker, right?

Me: Sometimes I can't believe where our conversations go. It's fun being married to you. It's like living with Forrest Gump's box of chocolates--you never know what you're gonna get.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I'm sitting here at the computer after having debated the merits of older Green Day versus their new release with you, and I'm struck by the thought that I only have 4 years left with you. I mean, I know that you won't be gone forever when you leave for college, but things will have changed, shifted in a way that will draw you onward and outward and away from me. Four years. Dear Lord, that's a blink.

January 2012

And so I want to make sure to squeeze it all in while I have you here. I don't want to take any part of you for granted. I want to enjoy it all.

8 years old--First Communion. Showing us your James Bond.
I want to enjoy our conversations. You are so good at drawing people in to conversations and making them feel at home and a part of things. This is a gift that I don't have and I so admire it in you.

9th birthday
I want to enjoy your humor. You are so funny. You always have been. From the time that you were not quite three when your dad asked your misbehaving self if you wanted him to pull the car over and get a spanking, and you replied "No, I want you to pull over and spank Maggie," you have shown a sharp wit, a spark of sarcasm, and a bend toward the silly in life that draws me right in.

It seems a silly thing, but I want to remember to  enjoy the way you eat.  Because, oh!  My son, you are a master in this area. You don't have three meals, you have 5 meals every day and you seem to make the most of each one. I know that if I'm cooking, for sure I'll have at least one taker for whatever hits the plate. When I asked you what you wanted for your birthday dinner, you took a couple of days and thought about it like a man who was ordering his last meal might--selecting and rejecting menu after menu until you had arrived at just what you wanted. But when at last you arrived at your decision, you made your request with the phrase "if it's not too much trouble" at the end.

10th birthday
That's another thing I want to enjoy--your concern over how people are treated. You are (and always have been) fanatical about justice and fairness. Recently you came home from a youth group absolutely incensed at the phrasing that was used by one of the leaders. You sat down with your dad and I and we discussed things. You were passionate in your argument, vehement in your belief that people had been wronged, and ready to take on any and all comers who took the subject lightly. Oh my sweet boy, I pray that you always have eyes that see the downtrodden and brokenhearted and a heart that beats for justice!

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I want to enjoy your mess. I want to revel in your dirty socks and heaps of blankets on your floor. HAHAHAHA!! Yeah, right. But I do want to remember that I only have you here for a few years more so that I shouldn't spend that time irritated because you have to turn your socks inside out to wear them because you haven't brought them down to the laundry room and you have no clean socks to wear. Not that this has ever happened, but I could see it as a real possibility. Heh.
11th birthday. Growing out his "high and tight" buzz cut.
I want to enjoy your love of reading. I love that we discuss books. I love that we talk plots and characters over meals. I love that you'll take my recommendations, but that you have come into your own in finding books that you love and that you like to recommend books to me.

I want to enjoy watching you with your siblings. I love that you have a distinct and special relationship with each one. I love to watch you talk school and social life with Maggie. I love to watch you wrestle and talk sports with Sean. I love to watch you give Mary hints and instruction on video games when she tries to "hang" with the dudes. For that matter, I love that you will let her "hang" with the dudes.

12th birthday. From "high and tight" to "long and shaggy." Also, I promise we fed him, he just has a metabolism that I covet.
And I love to watch you with your dad. I love how you have taken on his love of cars. I love how you want to go places with him. And I love that you think you stand a chance when you take him on in a wrestling match. Someday, my dude, that power will shift. Stay hopeful, my friend.

I want to enjoy your enthusiasm--your dressing up for spirit days and vocabulary day at school, your fanaticism over the Steelers, your happiness when a new "Top Gear" is on, and just your general happiness at your place in the world. I need to learn more of this from you.

13th birthday
I want to enjoy your ready hugs, your voice cracks, your face-splitting grin, your sarcasm, your absent mindedness, your goofiness, your intelligence, your night-owl, snooze-button-hitting, twenty-minute-shower-taking, daily-pop-corn-eating self. I want to squeeze out every last drop of you that I can get in the next four years.

July 2012

Because these last 14 years? They have flown by. And they've made me so very grateful for the blessing of being your mom.

Happy 14th birthday, son!
I love you,

P.S. You are my favorite James!

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's More Russian Than Apple Pie?

Um...EVERYTHING but apple pie, apparently.

 Wait. Let me back up.

Some weeks ago, I was reading the newspaper--specifically the Taste Section--when I came upon a recipe. First, you must know, that I am a sucker for nearly anything involving apples. I love apple crisp, apple dumplings, baked apples, apple danish, apple cake, caramel apples, and even though they contain absolutely no apples whatsoever, I enjoy the occasional handful of Apple Jacks cereal. But my hands-down favorite is apple pie. I absolutely love it, and come September am ready, fork in hand to have some. So when I saw the recipe for an apple pie that was ready in a hurry, I knew I had to give it a try.

This was my first mistake.

My next mistake was to make an assumption about the words "pie dish" in the recipe. Perhaps "pie dish" translated into Russian is "giant bowl the size of a turkey platter to catch all of the dough mixture that will overflow your normal size pie plate."(Yes, I keep saying "Russian." Now, I cannot be certain that the woman who submitted the recipe is Russian, but based on her Slavic sounding name, the blurb about her that was written above the recipe, and the fact that this turned out to be no more like regular apple pie than the 100 calorie packs of Oreo Thin Crisps are like Oreos, I'm going with the assumption.)

This recipe didn't call for a traditional crust--part of what appealed to me about the recipe. I enjoy pie crusts; love them actually. Could eat pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar like my mom used to give me when she baked when I was a little girl. Yum! But the fact that I didn't have to take time to roll out and chill the dough and whatnot, seemed like a bit of convenience that I could get behind. So I mixed the egg whites and the sugar and the egg yolks and the flour.


Then I scratched my head thinking, gee that seems like a lot of liquid for one pie plate. I'm not the best guesser when it comes to volume. The fact that I often start putting leftovers in a dish and then either have too much room left or have to switch to a bigger dish almost every. single. dinner. should be your first clue that my estimation of volume leaves something to be desired. But dude. When I say there was a LOT of liquid/crusty stuff I am not kidding. I poured it over my sliced apples per the directions and that's where the fun began.

Thinking that it would settle down into the apples I kept pouring. Mistake. Again. It never seemed to settle down into my apples and just kept wanting to run over the sides of my pie plate. It was like trying to catch ice cream drips from a cone on a hot day. I'm glad no one was in the kitchen to see me. It was like trying to juggle. Did I mention I can't juggle? So I made the very excellent decision to not use all of the liquid/crusty mixture. This, after making the decision to say "yes" to my beloved's proposal of marriage, turns out to be one of the best very excellent decisions I have made in my life.

I placed the fairly overflowing pie dish into my hot oven and put a cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch any wayward drips or splashes. This turned out to be a very excellent decision as well, since as the liquidy/crusty stuff expanded as it cooked, pushing itself out of the pie plate and onto my oven creating great blobs of burnt crusty stuff and eventually virtually gluing my pie plate to the oven rack. (Can you guess how I'll be spending my Monday? Did you guess cleaning my oven? You win! You win one non-American apple pie!)

The cook time also turned out to be more of a suggestion than a direction. When I started to pull the pie out of the oven at the directed time, the entire center of the pie was still doughy and uncooked. Blurgh. So I cooked it longer and stared in disbelief as the crusty/doughy stuff kept growing like The Blob--or a  volcano spewing lava. Yes! That's it! It was like a dough volcano. It was a volcadough! (Say that out loud. It sounds like you're saying "volcano" when you have a head cold. Funny!) (Related: I am easily amused.) When I finally took it out of the oven 20 MINUTES over the cook time found in the recipe, it still didn't look completely done, but it was starting to burn. I would have put foil over the edges like you do on a regular crust, but I was afraid that if I tried to stifle the lava-flow that the Blob Pie would eat me.

When I finally cut into the pie, I discovered that the pie-that's-not-really-pie wasn't completely done in the center. It was still doughy. Also, I discovered that the pie-that's-not-really-pie was more like bread pudding. Now, that's fine, if bread pudding is what you are aiming for. But when what you think you are baking is pie, well, that sucks. It's kind of like when your mouth is prepared for a grape jelly bean, but it turns out what you have is a black licorice jelly bean. Again I say, Blurgh!

I cut exactly three servings of this pie/not pie. Exactly half a serving was eaten. Then I spent another 20 minutes cleaning the baked on/overflowed crust off of my pie plate. I'm grateful that I didn't serve this to guests like the paper suggested. And now I'm wondering if I can sue for false advertising. Or at the very least get compensation for the time it's going to take me to clean my oven.

So, I have learned some things from this whole pie/not pie episode. And the first is, never trust a Russian. HAHAHA!! I'm kidding!! (Related: I am not funny.) Actually the first is that I will continue to read the Taste Section of my paper. I will also continue to try new recipes. But I won't be making any more Russian apple pies. Unless I have plenty of vodka on hand. Then I might be persuaded.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October Randomness

Today at QSS, we have a bit of October randomness for your viewing pleasure. There have been several things burbling about in the dark and scary recesses of my brain--most of which, luckily for you, I won't share here. But, in the interest of full nearly full partial a tiny little bit of disclosure I will share a few.

Thing the First

    This girl?
    She is growing in beauty and wisdom and good stuff. (Wordsmith!) But I also find myself worrying over her. 16 is hard. Hard on her. Harder on me, I think.

Thing the Second
     This boy?
     It is Vocabulary Day at school. No, he isn't going as "The Most Interesting Man In The World." He is dressing as his vocabulary word--"pretentious." Prep school jacket? Check Brandy snifter? Check. Fake posh accent? Check. One hardly sounds pretentious when they are rockin' the Indiana Twang. (I don't have Indiana Twang. I have T-ville Twang. The mother tongue of my hometown. It's all good.)

     We made up a fake school crest, named his school "Pretentious Academy" (his vocab word had to be present somewhere on his costume), and created a Latin motto: Ego Super Omnia--Ego Over All. I'm hoping that the darn things stay attached until his English class. Also, really hoping that the brandy snifter doesn't get tagged as inappropriate and get us both in trouble. I was trying to get him to carry a pipe, but he told me that that was a no-go. I'm not even sure where I could get a pipe, so it's just as well. We've been throwing around lines like "I was lunching with The Donald on his yacht over the weekend when I received an emergency call from the POTUS, asking for my advice regarding the latest polling numbers," and "Oh, summering in the Hamptons is just okay. It seems that the riffraff is taking over. Why, do you know that when I was playing a round with Tiger--who by the way seems to have corrected his back swing per my tutoring--I kept getting texts from Beyonce and JayZ asking when I was going to stop by for a swim and help with the bass on the latest album they are working on? The nerve! Next year I believe we'll summer in Switzerland. The Swiss are sooo much more polite." So you know, good times.

Thing the Third

     This boy? Number 59? He rocked his game on Sunday. He held his blocks on the O-Line and when  they put him in on a couple of defensive plays, he got a tackle in the backfield. Yeah, baby! I'm pretty sure that milkshakes as bribery incentive are working.

Thing the Fourth

     Have you read this? It's changed my perspective on being in pictures. I am doing my best to think about this when a camera comes out and someone wants to take my picture. In fact, it led to a self-portrait session the other day where I came out with a couple of photos I like. They aren't the best--a little fuzzy, a little grainy--but they are something for my kids to look at one day and remember, and that's what I'm aiming for.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Photo Walk

I may have mentioned that my camera and I have been having a difficult relationship lately. It sits on my counter, where it always does so that I can grab it quickly when inspired or a photo opportunity arises, waiting patiently to be picked up and put to work. But recently, I have been uninspired. I cannot seem to gather myself to take pictures. And if you have been reading here for any length of time at all, you know that I really love taking pictures. I get myself centered and put back together when I'm looking through the lens. So seeing my camera just sitting there on my counter has been guilt inducing and hard. Finally, yesterday, I made myself pick it up and take some shots while on a brief stroll. It was okay, but I found myself gritting my teeth through the whole encounter, like I was pushing it to be over.  Friends, this is not how I want my relationship with my camera to be. So I'm just going to try to make myself take pictures every day and get back into the swing--faking it until I make it. I promise not to post pictures of all of it. But for now, because I feel like I have to, I'm posting some of what came out of my camera yesterday.

Fall is a beautiful time of year here in the Midwest, but given our drought this summer, no one was really sure how beautiful this year's fall colors would be. I think it's safe to say they look pretty good. We may not have mountains or beaches. We may be awash in corn and bean fields. People from both coasts may refer to us as "flyover country." But I have to say, we here in the Midwest really know how to celebrate fall.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If Wishes Were Horses...

I've spent the better part of the last day and a half wishing. Dude. If all my wishes were horses, I'd be riding in style.

I wish...

that the caloric and nutritional value of M&Ms and broccoli were switched.

that I understood science better. That whole thing the Nobel prize winner was working on? So. Confused.

that I wasn't afraid of power tools so that I could work on some things I want to do around here.

I wish...

that parenting was as easy and black and white as I thought it was before I had kids.

that I could take on the heartaches and heart breaks of my children.

that beds made themselves.

I wish...

that I was a dog. Or at least a dog in this house. Life would be so very easy and so very good.

that "end of life" issues were easier.

that fall colors lasted longer.

I wish...

that my mom's visit would've lasted longer.

that my dad had come over for a while, too.

that laundry would get done as quickly in my mother's absence as it does in her presence.

I wish...

that I could look at my camera and feel the need to pick it up and take pictures.

that I could figure out what's wrong with my printer.

that the dumb dog were hairless.

I wish...

that all television shows were as good as Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife.

that teachers and cops and firefighters and nurses would be celebrated for what they do the way the Kardashians are celebrated for doing nothing.

that a pumpkin roll would magically show up on my doorstep along with some apple cider.

I wish...

that I could figure out what to make for dinner.

that groceries were cheaper.

that my sewing machine liked me.

I wish...

that both of my brothers lived closer. I miss them.

that making a decision on paint colors was easier.

that I could have pretty hands.

I wish...

that I had picked the last tomatoes before the frost.

that the election was over so I wouldn't have to listen to the shouting and disrespect and division.

that you could know just how much you coming here and reading my words and leaving comments means to me.

See what I mean? I'd be riding in style. Giddyap!