Sunday, January 29, 2012

I miss my family.

My family is so far away. Not my kids, not my husband. The rest of my family.

And tonight, I feel the distance keenly. I was thinking about my baby cousin- I am so proud of her- she's overseas studying (to be a bigger pain in the ass than she already is). And while I'm sure she misses us too (probably not very much though), it can't be as much as her mother and father miss her.

And that got me thinking, wondering if my mom misses me tonight. If my gramma misses her own children, and grandchildren, who live farther afield.

I miss my cousins (all bajillion of them), I miss my aunts and uncles (all bajillion of them). I miss my grandparents (all bajillion). I miss the people I grew up with, friends of the family, who were always close at hand.

My gramma's home was always a 'waystation' of sorts. Right in the middle, visitors welcomed gladly. We all have keys to her house (I've got mine out right now- just looking at them).

And I miss having that special place to go to. A place where your family is right there, or will be soon.

I also miss climbing the cherry tree in another gramma's yard (it's gone now), and swimming in the pool. I miss digging through all the toys she has kept for 50 odd years, playing with old barbie clothes. I miss sitting on the couch, and I miss playing card with my aunt and uncles.

I miss them so much that my insides hurt. And I'm so lucky that I get to Skype my family, and communicate on facebook. That makes it easier to know I may not see them again for a few more years.

So I guess I answered my own musings. I know my momma misses me. Because I miss her. I miss my whole damn family.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A's Hero.

One of my friends is having her 31st birthday party tomorrow morning.

We're going out for dim sum, which I alternate between enjoying and hating (I don't like squishy food in general; but, sometimes, it's just so good). I've got a some cupcakes in the oven for her, as she deserves to have cake for being such an awesome person, incredible mother and over all hard worker.

I say this, not because she's my friend (which she is) but because it's true. She is a single mother, on a limited income, going to back to school. She's a star. She makes being a single mom look easy and fun (which is not the case- you get all the 'glory' of being a parent; alternately, you also have years and years of work, struggles and resentments). I think it's absolutely incredible what a single mother does.

I get complimented sometimes on being a rock solid mom; but, she's a superstar.

I can, and have, made homemade baby food; but mostly I just buy it, convenience is key in my world. She ALWAYS made it. She plans meals in advance (I usually wait until the last minute, and fall back on a staple). She cooks, she cleans, AND she plays with her baby girl.

Her daughter is a lovely little disaster. She's just what a happy, healthy child should be. She's secure in her world, loving, funny and energetic (she's also capable of taking out a fully tidied room in under ten seconds- like every other 20 month old baby).

A is all these things because she has a mother who works her tail off (literally, she hits the gym twice a week).

My friend has no support system but her friends (and we'd each do just about anything for her); her own family is too far away/ emotionally inaccessible. The birth father is unstable, and his family is not in a position to be of help to them.

I couldn't do what she does. I couldn't get up every single day, work as hard as she does, and have no one to take the burden sometimes. I applaud single moms.

I might be a rock solid momma, but I'm no superstar. H- YOU are a hero, A's hero and mine. And I love you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hardest Year of Marriage.

What's the hardest year of marriage? Year one? Two? Five? Seven? Ten? Fifteen?

If you answered, "Yup, that one!" to anything above, you're wrong. Not a little wrong. ALL the way wrong.

Every year is the hardest year of marriage. First year isn't actually that bad, once you get through it. Neither is two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight. We're starting our tenth year in a few short months. Not married, but living together (we got married in 2004).

And every year is hard. Hard to the breaking point. We were VERY close a few times. The first was the year Bugs was 3. That was a hard one. For so many reasons. Being young, and not having good jobs was a big part of that.

Then the year Brat was born, that was another hard one. My husband was working full time shift work (plus overtime); a six year old needed attention and love; a baby needed full time care; I worked 24 hours a week from the time Brat was 2 months old. By the end of a week, I'd worked (in house and at a job) a full 80 hours. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, lunches, baby, nursing. On and on. It was hard, there is no way around that. It was hard because neither of us had anyone to lean on- because we didn't know how to lean on each other.

And there were times I stood back, thought to myself, "If we got divorced, he'd have to take the kids for at least 3 days a week, and I'd get a bit of time to myself." Not going to lie, it was tempting.

There were other times when I stood back, thought to myself, "If I'd killed him when I met him, I'd have been out by now." I got that line from my uncle, the RCMP officer. After he'd been married almost 25 years. True story.

I look around my house right now, and I wonder, why is this year a bit easier? I mean, I didn't start working right away after Monster, but I'm back at work now. My husband is still pulling 50- 60 hour work weeks. There are 3 kids underfoot who want attention and love. I still make meals, make lunch for my husband every day, and do the cleaning? How on God's green Earth could life be better for me now than it was 5 years ago?

I have someone to lean on. My husband is my best friend. We can sit, we can laugh, we can talk. We know now, leaning our backs against each other isn't weak, it's smart, and it's bracing each other up for the times when we need it most. My back isn't against a wall anymore, it's against him.

And now, I have hope (that's BIG Hope, not measly little "hope"). I have been through the darkest part of the forest; but, I can see through those trees now.

In a few short months, Bugs will be legally old enough to babysit. It makes my whole heart sing.

Going out to do the groceries after 7 pm again. Going to the gym, even when my husband is working. Having dinner out with a friend on a Tuesday evening. Yeah, I'm going hog wild.

Added to the fact that my husband now does the laundry on his nights off (as he works nights, when he's not working, all the whiny midgets are in bed, so he typically gets to watch whatever he wants on tv for 10 hours straight and hang out on the couch alone); and Bugs does the dishes. My life has never seemed more joyous.

I'm sure Bugs might not like that he does dishes every night. I effin' hated it when I was his age. But, I honestly believe it's good for kids to work around the house. It shows them that part of being in a family is pitching in, and helping out where you can. Chores teach children how to be self sufficient and self reliant in the long run. Brat had to clean the bed room tonight, and Bugs did dishes. I got to watch my favourite Food Network show- which was all the relaxing I needed to get the bathroom cleaned, the living room tidied up and dinner for tomorrow planned and started. Take THAT Martha Stewart.

So, the hardest year of marriage is all of them. But, making it through the worst, well, it leaves you free to enjoy the best. And if you make it, you have someone who can enjoy that best with you, when you leave the kids at home to fend for themselves.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Old People.

It's a friend of the family's 88th birthday this week- and that got me thinking.

What has she lived through? What laughs? Loves? Hurts? Fears? And I settled my thoughts on the technological advances in specific since the year she was born- 1924.

In short, she was born before: scotch tape (I'm at a loss as to how a present was wrapped); spiral notebooks; ballpoint pens; aqualungs; velcro; a- bombs; microwave (there were no Pizza Pops back then, so no midnight snacking either); prepackaged cake mixes; nylons and teflon. I'm only up to around 1950- and I've not included everything (obviously, or I'd have to spend the next twenty years on this post alone). Given all the changes in the world of today, I wonder what men and women from my grandparents generation think is the most important.

And I've come to a conclusion. I know what the most important advance in technology is, without argument. The most important technological amazement is Diet Coke.

Don't laugh/ roll your eyes please. I'm completely serious. The single most important thing in our world right now is diet coke. I have several reasons to sustain this claim.

1. I live on Diet Coke. I know it's not good for me, I'm not an idiot. But it's quick, it's caffeinated, it's fizzy and it's sweet. It's thirst quenching and refreshing. It's almost as good as a sandwich (well, not even a bit, but it's better as my evening snack than a huge tuna salad on white is).

2. 100 years ago, when the Coca Cola Bottling Company released Coca Cola, very few of the people in North America had 'weight management issues' (that's fancy for 'fat asses'- Thank YOU Fancy Nancy). Back then, a 4 oz bottle of Coke was a treat. It's not what mothers had for breakfast (Yes. I mean me. I drink Diet Coke for breakfast 6 days out of 7). As a society, we've become dependent on soda, energy drinks and juices. Drinking tap water is for losers (Yes, I mean me. I drink tap water, and am clearly a loser). Because of an increase in usage/ dependence on convenience food and drinks, there has been a corresponding increase in weight and obesity (still talking about me). This trend towards larger waistlines and higher BMI's has led towards the companies of our grandparents' generation finding solutions for the consumers (weak willed, soda guzzling idiots that we are); so we can continue to be avid supporters of their bottom lines. This need for a lower caloric beverage has led to EVERY single one of the major soda companies making a zero calorie soda. Which is awesome. I can have Diet Coke, diet rootbeer, Diet 7up, diet anything- and that is a miraculous advancement.

3. Now that I've established that consumers buy diet drinks, let me point out the best part of a diet soda. If I have 1x 8oz cup of regular coke for breakfast every day (which is likely to be the case because I hate making coffee), I would be ingesting 970ish calories/ week. Which isn't bad- if I didn't sip at a drink all day long (which I do). So, I'd be more like 970 cal/day. Totally unacceptable. That's the equivalent of two large bowls of ice cream. And if I have to choose between caffeine and ice cream, someone isn't getting out of today alive. Not me, I'll be fine. It's your life that could be risked if I'm not getting enough caffeine. Because there is no chance in H*ll I'll be giving up ice cream any time soon. So, clearly, for the betterment of humanity, I get to proclaim Diet Coke as a necessity. And I get to say, without hesitation, it's the most important development of the industrial world in the last century.

So, having copious relatives, friends and acquaintances who might read this and say, "She's finally lost her mind. What about x-rays, penicillin, and blah blah blah?"  I say, "Nope. Diet Coke. Licked it, sticked it, stamped it." (That's the international childhood refrain for ending any argument).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I want a Humvee that runs on cow farts.

Winnipeg weather is bullshit. Global warming is awesome.

Yeah, I said it.

One week ago, we were hovering in the 7-10 degrees C. It was warm, sunny, pleasant. YAY! For global warming! We didn't need jackets- let alone mitts, hats, scarves, neckwarmers, snow pants and boots. Then five days ago, it snapped. We lost 25 degrees overnight. Going from +5 to -20 (plus a windchill of -28). It sucked. Hard.

Normally, winter doesn't make me a raging lunatic. Normally, winter doesn't show up in 8 hours either. Normally, I have several weeks to acclimatize to the shift in temperature.

I didn't get any time at all this year. And yes, I know it's the middle of January, and I *SHOULD* have seen it coming. Well, I didn't and that's global warming's present to me. I coasted through a brownish-grey Christmas season, in which I enjoyed being able to take the baby outside.

Now, I can barely leave the house. Because babies aren't supposed to wear snowsuits in their car seats anymore (safety reasons I believe), Monster is in a fleecy PJ looking thing. And I don't feel good about taking her outside when it's -40 degrees with windchill. Even if we're just running to the van, I don't like how cold her hands, face and feet feel when I take her out again.

ASIDE: Personally, I don't remember very many instances of babies being flung out of their car seats because of their snow suits- but maybe that's because I didn't know babies actually existed until I had them for myself. 

I also don't remember winter waiting until mid-January to show up with a vengeance. I mentioned this to a friend, who calmly told me, "That's the effect of Global Warming. It's only going to get more dramatic from here on in." OH NO. I mean, I've heard about global warming. I probably even watched part of Al Gore's movie (I think I fell asleep- but definitely not because it was boring. I fall asleep during all movies I don't give a sh*t about).

But this might be the first time I've given global warming any thought at all. I knew the Polar bears are losing their homes- but I figured they'd be alright- someone else will deal with them. I knew that the ozone was depleted- people are always going ON AND ON about wearing sunscreen for just that reason. I knew that the ice floes were melting- I saw a power point presentation of the pictures- well, part of a ppp- I got bored and went back to Facebook.

I never thought that I'd be able to wear a tee shirt to the store in Winnipeg in January. And now that I have, I don't want to go back to being bundled up like a Inuit woman in a snowstorm.

So, if Global warming is the cause of an unnaturally warm November, December and (first half of) January- then I'm in. Whatever causes it- fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial manufacturing or cow farts- I intend to be the front runner in the war on Ozone and breathable air. I'm going to get myself a wooden Humvee with an all plastic interior, running on methane- and I'm going to drive it twenty feet to get milk. Three times a day from now on.



Treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor; flippant.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dirt Velvet Cake

Made a cake tonight. A 'red' velvet cake. Originally designed to use as little cocoa powder as possible during the wartime ration era, TRUE red velvet cake is made with a smidgen of cocoa and a splash of red beet juice (where the colour comes from).

I didn't use beets. I don't like beets. In fact, I'll go so far as to say "Icky". I also didn't use food colouring (which is what most recipes call for). I didn't have any food colouring.

I don't know where it is. I don't know where it went. I am reasonably certain I've never used three ounces of red food colouring in my life, so clearly it should still be in my pantry (careful! I almost typed 'panty'- which is stupid place to store anything, let alone food colourings). But, it's gone.

So, I improvised. I took some of my red dusting sugar, mixed it in with some water, dissolved it, added the cocoa and used that. It's not 'red' so much as it is dirt brown. Oh well. So, I made "Dirt Velvet" cake.

Having finished the cake, iced it with a luscious cream cheese icing, I decided I'd make the 'red' come on the outside. So, I used the most awesome invention of all time. I got it at Michael's (my favourite place on Earth). It's food colouring spray. I got red, silver, and gold.

So, I fancied up my cake with some aerosol-y, chemical happiness. I love modern life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Mitt Full of Gratitude.

Can I be grateful for something that isn't my own?

Can I have gratitude for something without feeling indebted for it?

I don't know if I 'can'; but, I am and I do.

I am grateful every day for my mother. My mother had a hard row to hoe, but she did it. She didn't complain. She didn't blame other people (at least never in my hearing). I never heard her say a bad word against my biological father. Not once. I never heard her use excuses, or try to reason her mistakes out of existence. So, I am grateful for my mother. I am grateful for her strength of character, for her will to live a better life. Her choices were not made by me (or for me); but, I can be thankful, grateful and appreciative of them.

I am grateful for my step dad, who loved me. He didn't have to, he still doesn't have to. But he does. And I am grateful for that. For him, stepping in and stepping up. For the time he drove two hours (each way) to bring me a hat, mittens and a scarf because I was complaining about being cold at university (I don't know that I really was cold; but I do know that I was looking for an excuse to leave school and come home). He could have simply refused to let me come home, and hung up the phone on me. He could have told me, "Suck it up buttercup." Actually, those were his exact words. But he drove four hours round trip to hug me and say it to my face. I can be grateful I had a father willing to do that for no reason other than he loves me.

I can have gratitude. I do have gratitude. I am able to receive gifts without feeling the need to "repay" the favour. I give gifts because I choose to, not because I have to. I don't 'repay' a gift given to me, because that would be ungrateful (to me it would take away the charm of receiving a gift for no reason other than love) and it would diminish the reason the giver chose to give it. Exchanging gifts is different than 'repayment in kind'.

I've had a chance to read recently a blog written by an adult adoptee. An angry, unhappy person by their own account. This blogger refuses to express 'gratitude' for being adopted. She says that she owes her parents no gratitude at all. In fact, the writer completely rejects them. Berates them even.

The writer of the blog also rejects the notion that being loved and cared for is something to be grateful for.  I don't understand that. Maybe that's because I never, ever (not even once) felt like I 'owed' my parents my gratitude. They didn't ask for my gratitude. They earned it. Maybe that is the difference.

Sometimes I think people misunderstand gratitude, and misunderstanding, they dismiss gratitude as something pathetic, or undesirable. I might not have had a perfect start to my life; but, I will forever be grateful to my momma for everything she did to make her life, and my own, better. I will forever be grateful that although I was a shit of a teenager, my father loved me and stuck with us.

Less than three you guys. Always.

"Character- the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life- is the source from which all self respect springs." Joan Didion.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie- FOOLPROOF

I made a lemon meringue pie. It's so good that I can't even think anymore. Here are the directions. I assume since you choose to make a pie, that you already know how to make a crust (or you'll buy one pre-made) I don't care either way. It's the filling that makes this pie phenomenal.

Lemon "Curd" Pie Filling (not a true lemon curd):
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 - 1 cup lemon juice (I like lots, but the more you use, drop some of the cold water from the recipe, or you'll end up with runny filling)
6-10 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water
3 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
1 cup BOILING water (I use my kettle)
rind of 2 lemons (I sometimes use more)
2 tbsp butter

1. Start by mixing the sugar, salt, cornstarch (or flour in a pinch, but it's not as good) and the COLD water into a midsized sauce pot. Mix the heck out of it, because the starch makes it glomp up. After the lumps are out, mix in the yolks and then the lemon juice. So good.

2. Add the boiling water all at once, while you whisk the mixture at the same time. Place on a (preheated- ie, glowing) medium-low stove top. Keep stirring, constantly until it thickens. I DO NOT use a whisk here, or touch the bottom of the pot too much, because it starts to brown, and I don't like brown guck in my pie.

3. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from heat, stir in the lemon rind and butter. Pour into the baked AND cooled pie crust. I like to take this opportunity to lick the spoon, ensuring quality before I continue. If it isn't lemony enough, I just zest extra lemon, and add another squirt of juice on top.


6 egg whites.
1/4 tsp cream of tartar- this helps prevent 'weeping' meringue, but isn't necessary
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
3- 4 tbsp cornstarch- a second stabilizer in the meringue.

1. In a stand mixer (you can do it by hand, but I don't like to), start mixing the whites, get them to the foamy, soft peak stage. Add the cream of tartar and the sugar.

2. In a small pot, mix the water and the cornstarch, heating until it goes clear, and thickens. Take it off the stove, and stir to cool a bit.

3. Once the cornstarch has cooled to your touch (ie, not hot enough to cook the egg whites), slowly pour it into the mixer while whipping the whites to a stiff peak. (You can test your peak by touching the back of your spatula/ spoon to the whites and lifting off. If the white peaks, without drooping down, it's stiff. It will also be shiny when it's done, but if you over whip, don't worry too much).

4. Top your Lemon Curd pie, making sure you touch ALL the crust, the entire way around, this prevents 'shrinking'. Pile the rest of the meringue onto the pie, and 'style' in any way you like.

5. Bake at 350- 375 F for 10-13 minutes, until the meringue is golden and brown.

I will take a picture and post as soon as I find the camera.
P.S. Obviously, I found the camera.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I have that. That too.

There are things that are mainstays in my diaper bag. Obviously, diapers and wipes are the most important. But there are other things in there too. Things you might not consider essential to your day- to- day travels; but I wouldn't be caught leaving the house without them.

I will try to outline the need for some of my choices, others should be reasonably clear. I think everyone should carry a diaper bag. Everyone. Including non- parents. Well, okay, maybe not non parents.

First, I have three different bags. The small one is for short, less than an hour trips. It's got only a couple diapers, a pack of wipes, a small blanket (in case the baby is cold, or I need to nurse discreetly). That's it. There is room for my wallet and keys to be thrown in.

The midsized one (it's actually quite large) is my everyday roaming about bag. It's got everything I need for the baby, the kid and the pre teen. And then some.

I've got: diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for baby, a clean shirt for myself, toys, soothers, blanket (x2), snack bars, "Baby Gourmet" fruit packs, dry baby cereal portions, a sippy cup, two spoons, a small pack of 'surface wipes' (ie, a ziploc I cram Lysol wipes into- for use when I have to put the baby down someplace she might chew).

Now it gets more 'unusual' (I'm pretty sure it only seems unusual to people who don't have children or "anxiety" issues). I also have: socks- one pair for each of us (I've been in situations- repeatedly- where the kids needed new socks), bandaids, polysporin spray, needle and thread, lighter, large candle, tooth brush and paste, floss, gum, at least ten different colours of crayons, small sticker pads (unused and as yet unseen), "feminine crap", pads of paper, children's books, MY book, orajel, tylenol, cough drops, cough pills (adult and kid), antihistamines, kleenex, rubber gloves, plastic ziploc bag with more plastic bags in it, and last, but not least, $20 in cash and $10 in change. I also try to change up which toys are in the bag from week to week, and I check my 'stock' before I go to bed at night, and add anything specific I might need the next day.

Yes, that really is the list of things I need almost every time I leave the house. Really. Including the socks.

My biggest bag is for over night trips. It includes all of the above, PLUS, two extra changes of clothes for baby (for cool and for hot nights), a nasal aspirator, vicks vapor rub, batteries (camera, kid toys), more foods and books.

Okay, so basically it's a huge survival kit. But, that is what parenting is all about. It's not about having the cutest kids (it is a bit about that), or about what brands your kids wear. It's about survival. Pure and simple survival. Making it from today to tomorrow- with a minimum of crying (my crying- I don't care if kids are crying- it's like choking, if they are making noise, they'll live)

Once you've run into a situation where: your pants rip, your child skins a knee (and won't shut up), you're still ten hours from being done your 'quick visit', one kid is acting like a bored schizophrenic, another starts to gag and cough because of allergies, the baby poops ALL over the place- well, you'd be grateful to have my diaper bag with you. I have it ALL covered.

I also carry a card (I made for myself) which says,

"This Card Entitles the Bearer to: FREAK the F*** Out- OR Bribe Children with McDonalds."

Feel free to make yourself a card like that.  It's saved all our asses more than once, reminding me that it's easier to bribe for temporary good behaviour than it is to suck up your pride and apologize to your kids for acting like a head case.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy ___ ____!

It's a new year. Again. 2012. I'm still waiting to see if the world crashes to an end. Maybe it did and I just slept through it.

I have lost the ability to enjoy New Years Eve. In fact, I'm pretty sure the last time I had much fun on NYE was in 2000- and there are pictures floating around someplace that substantiate just how much fun I had. I can party. Sort of.

I COULD party. I can't party anymore. Not because of the kids. I'm not so lame that I'll blame my kids for how lame I am. I can't party anymore because I'm not allowed. I don't have the requisite number of friends.

I don't know what happened. When I was 18, I had more friends than I had barrettes (and at that time, I had a really impressive barrette collection). When I turned 21, I still had lots of friends, but I had learned to become slightly more 'selective' about whom I spent my time with. By 25, I had a couple handfuls of friends.

Now, I have three-ish. My oldest friends live 2000 kms away, so I don't count them in my three-ish.

The problem, as I see it, since I'm not super cool anymore, I don't get to have/ go to big parties, which, as everyone under the age of 20 can tell you- THAT is where you meet your newest besties. Well, parties and bars.

I'm just not awesome enough to: spend three or four nights a week barhopping; to meet everyone (well, everyone worth knowing); spend hundreds of dollars on liquor and beer; use facebook to find the people I met at the club and spend the next two hours tagging myself in all the pictures from the night before.

It's probably why I haven't managed to crack 1000 friends yet on facebook. Because I'm too lame.

I don't go drinking. I don't have parties. I don't text (actually, I haven't seen my cell in over a month now- and if I do find it, I'm not sure where I put the charger). I don't spend hours everyday trying to find the most flattering picture of myself, so I can make it my newest profile picture (in fact, I once used a picture of me making "monkey face" as a profile picture, and it's about the most unattractive picture I've ever seen).

Those are some of the reasons I can't have NYE anymore.

The biggest reason though? I got a letter from the "cool" kids about five years back, uninviting me to "New Years Eve" for the rest of my life. I'm not even allowed to SAY, "Happy New Year".

It's federally mandated that I have to be in bed before the ball drops. Fact.

So, instead of HNY, I say, "May you have the longest year of your life. May you have all the things you never knew you wanted. May the people who love you continue to do so."