Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day Meal

Well, besides being one of "those People" who voted for Barack Obama, I have yet another un-American sin to confess: I don't like Thanksgiving dinner. I adore getting together with family and friends, but cannot think of a more bland menu than turkey, stuffing, potatoes, corn and bread. Although, I love pumpkin pie and would eat that anytime, anywhere, for sure.

But the actual bird? Eh... I usually think turkey is pretty dried out and crumbly. And most stuffing is, well, wet bread. Mashed potatoes are fine, but I don't like gravy, so I prefer garlic or wasabi mashed potatoes, but that doesn't go over well with the "likes gravy" crowd. I don't like traditional meals. I'm an adventurous eater and really like to cook, so I enjoy trying new recipes and have little emotional attachment to the traditional trappings.

I've had some interesting times when I try to cook for family, particularly Scott's family. Mine is a little less mired in "the way it's always done," so bringing experimental dishes by isn't quite the transgression that it is at the Olingers.

Here are the rules:

1. Scalloped corn: apparently, it is traditionally NOT made with Swiss cheese in it. Who knew? That's the way my mom traditionally makes it. But bring it to Easter with Swiss cheese and you'll be bringing a lot of it back home. Which is fine, Scott likes it the way I make it. I also add onions and a touch of paprika to my mom's recipe and I think it's good!

2. A vegetable medley must always include corn. Even if scalloped corn (minus Swiss cheese) is served. Otherwise, no matter how bright carrots and broccoli look when combined with the cauliflower, it will go largely untouched.

3. Do not ever bring garlic mashed potatoes to an event at which gravy will also be served. One must never mix garlic with reconstituted powdered gravy. Even though when I make the gravy from drippings, I do throw some roasted garlic in there before adding the flour (not cornstarch) and milk slurry. Hey, I can make kick-ass from scratch gravy, even if I don't care for it.

4. Relish trays should not include exotic fare, such as garlic-stuffed green olives, pickled asparagus, or sun-dried tomato dipping sauce. Ranch only, or else.

5. Pies must always have crusts. Pumpkin mousse is, apparently, weird. And will also come back to your house looked-at, but not eaten.

6. Whatever the case may be, do not ever host Thanksgiving with your mother and Scott's parents. If you do, do not serve duck, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, mushroom wild rice, and said pumpkin mousse. Your mother will go home and roast her own turkey breast so that she may savor the dry crumbles of left-over turkey for a week and your in-laws will politely decline to attend any gathering which you have offered to host where a traditional meal is expected.

Otherwise, enjoy the day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All those Whos down in Whoville...

My children are upstairs on what should be their nap. I'm listening as they squeal, giggle, and drop things (loudly) on the floor. I think that Violet is now sleeping as I can only hear the staccato of Milo's voice and the shushing waves of the white noise machine. And now I hear him whispering -- which is what he does when his sister is fast asleep and he's still fighting sleep like it's a mortal enemy. The child needs a nap -- he's been more emotional than a PMSing teenager today. Now he's calling, "Mommy!" hopefully because he thinks I'll bring him downstairs. I love listening to the kids over the monitor... Milo frequently narrates books and one can truly appreciate the bond between their children when the kids think they're conspiring to pull one over on mom.

It's been one of those mornings and I am not going to be quick to rescue Milo from his room. He's been pretending that he's the Grinch and is stealing all of the "holly-dolly Cwistmas" stuff from Cindy-Lou Who. Which means that he's filling any bucket, bag, or box with all of the toys from every container in the house. Violet is acting the full-on sidekick, having pulled a pair of his underwear over her footie pajamas and spiked her hair with applesauce. My patience has run thin today, and for that I am ashamed.

I am daunted by knowing that the rest of this month and most of next month will still be isolated for me. Scott is at work on a production for a touring Christmas show. The very amature organizers are needing lots of hand-holding and the dinky spaces into which it has been booked are thwarting his technical efforts. Then he will be out of town for deer hunting, too. The following weekend, he's back to touring and, I think, he's at that until practically Christmas. I know that he's doing this to ease our debt, but part of me is exasperated -- with him gone for 2/3 of the month, I managed to keep our checking account in the black and not dip into savings to make ends meet -- a first since June... I am having big misgivings about a trip to California that he desperately wants to take in May. It's not that I don't want to see our friends, but maybe if we didn't take that trip, maybe we might see more of him in an average month because he wouldn't feel the need to freelance for cash.

I want very much to go see my sister after she welcomes her little boy to the world, but I don't know how to pay for a plane ticket at this point. And when I mentioned it to Scott, I actually felt a bit like Sarah Palin because he immediately asked, "You'll be taking Violet, won't you?" Why? Why can't I take three or four days without my kids? I adore them, but I haven't been separated from Violet for more than a work-day her entire life. Yes, she's still nursing twice a day. But she doesn't NEED to and, I think, it doesn't occur to her if I'm not aruond. I think that when he mentions the first of his sabbatical trips, I'll likely ask him, "You'll be taking Milo, won't you?"

I'm quite certain that I'm feeling this resentment because I'm so very used to Scott being an equal parent -- our philosophy is that the only thing I can do that he can't is breastfeed. The kids adore him and he is tremendous with them. And, hey, when he's alone with the kids for more than an afternoon, his parents leap to the task, inviting them out for the afternoon to help out and such. I guarantee that he wouldn't have to spend weekend after weekend without seeing a soul... I guess one gets used to the functionality of a two parent home and, knowing that the home is one-parent at the moment (mostly by choice) is worse than knowing that your the only parent, ever. I dunno... now I feel all whiny.

It must just be different for mothers. Nobody assumes that our children are the fifth and sixth appendages of their father, but any time I'm anywhere alone, I am always asked, "Where are the kids?" This makes it pretty clear to me that I would be a terrible stay-at-home mom. Like, seriously bad. And that my temper would quickly get the worst of me about which I would feel endless guilt. Kinda like the Grinch after he's stolen Christmas from the Whos.

Scott came home from NYC to find Milo not only pooping on the potty, but doing it entirely by himself, wiping and all. OK, I still do a quick bum check, but the process is all him. And Violet is talking about three times as much as when he left. And who knows what our little Whos will do between now and Christmas that he will miss... By the time he's around, it just might be my (finally napping -- I hear the snoring) Milo carving the "woast beast."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday, at Last!

Ahhhh... it is Friday, yay! It's been a stressful week at work, and somewhat at home. The kids have been delightful, though poor Milo is still having coughing fits in the middle of the night and Violet has resumes a once-a-night feeding habit. But at least I can feed her and lay her back down and even if she's awake, she's not fussing about it -- that is a huge step forward!

Scott returned home from New York City yesterday afternoon and I am so glad to have him back! Of course, he met me at the door (actually at the CAR door) with a hug and a kiss and a, "Don't freak out, but the dogs got into the garbage." Our crazy mutts have a habit of wreaking havoc when Scott's not around -- even though I am usually the primary food and water giver and snuggle-meister, they like having the man around.

I'm about to pick up the kids from daycare and it is likely that when I walk in the door, they will both smile at me and run the other direction. I'm not nearly as entertaining as the other children, after all. This has been common for Milo, but Violet has started doing it, too. She has a particular mischievous look that she gets as she's about to do something (mildly) defiant -- she purses her little lips into a tight smile, as if she's trying to contain a giggle. Her little eyes turn up in commas as her eyelashes lower like a screen to block her intentions. Of course, like any 14 month old, her sense of reasoning isn't terribly advanced and it's pretty apparent to anyone over 12 that she's about to take off like a pinball, binging and bonging into any obstacle between herself and her destination. Still, she makes a decent go of it and, more often than not lately, I have to ditch my shoes and pursue her into the house.

Milo isn't nearly as subtle. He sees me, smiles, sometimes even runs over for a hug, then begins arguing, "Mom! I don't want to go home. I want to stay and play!" or "I didn't have a snack yet!" or "I didn't have water yet!" or whatever. "I've got a GREAT IDEA! How 'bout I stay and play and you come back and get me later?"

You see, any time Milo has a "GREAT IDEA" you pretty much know you're standing in the quicksand of three-year-old logic. As in a GREAT IDEA might be for him to do exactly as he wants, me to not stop him, and then get a hug on top of it. Right? Milo's GREAT IDEAS are always followed by a cheesy used-car salesman smirk and a quick head nod -- as if that alone was a contract. They usually end with, "Okay?" or "Right, Mom?" and sometimes, the most audacious ideas end with, "Don't you think that's a GREAT IDEA, Mom?" Not really, little buddy...

If I put together the sum of Milo's behavior in an attempt to predict his future, he has outgrown my earlier prediction of mountain-climbing veterinarian and will likely become a charismatic leader of a pack of prowling teens, bent on living life according to the principles of Star Wars, playing with action figures long after they're too old to really enjoy them, and diving into bags full of Halloween candy (That looks cool, mom!). He will pepper his dialogue with "cool," "cwazy," "actually" and "of course." And whomever he lives with will have to dress him and remind him that "the tag goes in the back!" Because such things are so far below his RADAR they might as well not exist. Wait a minute... this is sounding very familiar... Ah, yes, I think I just might be describing Scott here... Except for the Halloween candy -- Milo attempted to give back a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Scott might have died a little after that.

Anyway, happy Friday! and Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Call Me Mom

Well... we are now almost to the halfway point with the Great Single-Parent Experiment (aka Scott's trip to New York) and I got a little cranky last night. Darling Milo was overtired -- poor little guy coughed half of the previous night's sleep away and took a very short nap, so he was whinier than usual. And Miss Violet was completely interested in everything that I was doing. So I was running around the house in a vain attempt to clean up and her little hands were coming long after me undoing everything I'd done. Not inappropriate for a 14 month old, but frustrating nonetheless. So when Scott called to ask if his brother Matt had called me to let me know that they are expecting this summer, I was a little miffed. Not about the baby -- that's great news.

You see, I've been doing the single mom thing now for a week and no one has called to check up on us. Maybe it's because everyone believes that my parenting skills are outstanding and that I couldn't possibly, you know, want to talk to another adult or anything. But my mom hasn't checked in, I called my dad to thank him for the kids' Halloween box, and my sister didn't call this weekend, though she said she would. She has been keeping up with email, but with her little boy due next month, most of her conversations are about baby, birth, and familial boundaries. As they should be -- I remember the fog of being an almost-parent where nothing was as important as what my body was doing (and I apologize if I was overbearing in the least -- it never seems that way while you're in it). My mother-in-law called the day Scott left to see if he made it safely. But no one has called specifically to ask about us. Maybe I'm just being whiny... I can't tell.

In the mean time, my children have been keeping me busy and entertained. Here are a few instance of said entertainment:

Me: Milo! I don't want you to climb on the table.
Milo: I'm not climbing, Mom, I'm practicing not falling.

Violet, as she points to parts of my face: Eyessss, erssss, air, ose...
Me: Did you just say, "eyes, ears, hair, nose?"
Violet: Yeah
Me: what's this? (pointing at my hair)
Violet says nothing, but smiles and dances her little head in a pleasant rebuff of my attempts to goad her into performing.

Violet has begun saying "Mwah, mwah, mwah" when she's ready for bed -- as in kisses goodnight. She leans into Milo's bed to give him a "mwah".

The other day, while I was breastfeeding Violet, I was pretty much topless as Violet has begun this thing where she sucks for a moment on one breast, then switches to the other, back and forth the entire feeding. Milo snuggled up in my armpit and asked, "Is she nursing milk from that breast?" as he indicated the breast she was suckling.

"Yes, honey, she's drinking milk from this breast."

"OK," he says, burrowing even deeper into my side. His little square hand slid under my arm and onto my exposed breast, where he rested it gentle and cool against my skin.

"Ummm... what are you doing, buddy?" I ask hesitantly.

"Well, Violet does it. I think it makes her calm so I can do it, too."

I never really expected any other male than Scott to be feeling me up on the couch...

Oh, and if you want to know how we're doing, give me a call: 319-895-6349. But not tonight. Tonight I'm skating and the sitter won't answer the phone if you do try to call. I'm available tomorrow, though.

Friday, November 7, 2008

All By Myself...

Well, yesterday signaled the end of my Election Day and Post-Election Day high and the beginning of my descent into temporary single-mom status.

Well, to be fair, that started Tuesday night, but my enthusiasm for the election really covered my stress at being a single parent. As in on Tuesday night there was a moment when I was naked, fresh from the evening bath, holding a very slippery wet son as he scrambled frantically to not fall into the toilet, and my daughter (also wet and slippery) was attempting to climb out of the tub. I snagged her and shut the bathroom door quickly lest naked wet toddler tried to run and potentially slip on the hardwood floor. While I was wiping the stinky bum of my son, said toddler grinned, squatted and peed on the floor. She's very coordinated, though, she managed not to step on it as she darted away to sit on the little potty chair. She just got it in the wrong order, d'oh! Milo was pooping again when they called the results for Iowa, something I really wanted to see since I was one of the people who participated in the exit polls on which they based that result.

Anyway, Milo came home from daycare on Wednesday night running a fever and with a headache. Though he was not running a fever yesterday morning, he was still pretty pale and still complaining of the headache, so we all stayed home yesterday. In reality, he was easily fine by noon, but the thought of getting us all prepared and out of the house for the day seemed unappealing by that point. So we all stayed in for the day. Aside from some naptime shenanigans on the part of both of my babes, it was a pretty mellow day. I did some dusting in the family room and scrubbed the sink and tub while the kids were playing. I was also able to get the dishwasher unloaded and the garbage out, so one cannot say I spent the entire day goofing off. When the kids did finally nap, I updated my work webpage.

The day was a funny one for Violet as had three baths yesterday. She decided to give herself a full-body spa treatment with her oatmeal then I was calling in to work and telling Coralie we weren’t coming. Bath 1. Then she painted her face with spaghetti at suppertime and put applesauce in her hair. Bath 2. Then she came running when I was drawing Milo’s bath because she wants to be in the tub any time there’s water in there. Bath 3. She also threw a puzzle piece in the toilet and ate half a crayon yesterday. Welcome to toddlerhood!!

Milo, well... Milo has had a gargantuan case of the whinies -- which I tolerated when his head hurt, but he was feeling fine this morning. He whined all the way to daycare because I shut off the show he was watching so we could leave (I told him he wouldn’t be home to see the end, grr…) and then because his winter coat is too big (it’s a Carhartt with Richard’s company logo on it and it really IS too big), and then because his car seat straps were too tight and I didn’t warm the car or give him a blanket this morning. Argh! And the radio was playing a song he didn’t know and Violet was laughing too loud and I tied his shoes too tight and whatever… When we finally got to daycare -- it was an excruciating four minutes -- he told me the real issue: I wanted daddy to hug me this morning. Me, too, baby... me, too...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Were You?

At 9:50 last night, our phone rang. Scott was calling me from NYC. He was standing in Times Square outside of CNN with about twenty-five thousand of America's children, anxiously waiting for polls to close on the West coast. My phone was vibrating with energy from the crowd around him, clustered close to Jumbotrons with the map of our country prominently displayed in blue, red and yellow. His voice hummed with palpable excitement, the students with whom he gathered were watching the results of the first national election for which they were eligible to vote. He held his cell phone above his head so that I could hear the throng chanting, "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" and "Yes we can! Yes we can!"

I told him that I was jealous. I told him that I wanted to be with him -- at home or in NYC -- for this moment. He interrupted me to say that they were calling another state, but that they weren't sure which one. I saw at home before he did that it was Virginia, I squealed into the phone, "VIRGINIA!" He repeated me, awed, and the kids around him cheered at the news.

The anchors on CNN looked as if they were collectively holding their breath as the seconds counted down to the polls closing in California. I counted aloud, "10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 2..." Before I could say "one" the graphic flashed on the screen, "President-Elect Barack Obama." The world erupted. Over the phone I could hear Times Square lifting a communal voice, roaring approval.

People are always asked, "Where were you when..." In my lifetime, the only "whens" have been bad news:
Where were you when the space shuttle exploded? (home sick, eating peanut butter toast and watching the launch)
Where were you when the first Iraq War started? (in a dance lesson, Lesley Harrington ran into the class in tears to announce the war)
Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? (sitting in stunned silence in my father-in-law's office, glancing at the clear blue morning sky, unsure)
Where were you when the second Iraq War started? (in a rehearsal for a one-act play I was directing. I begged the cast to turn off the TV as the live footage looked like a video game and it all felt too cavalier.)
Where were you when Katrina hit? (the Norfolk, VA, airport on the way home from my borther's wedding, cradling our two-month-old Milo in my arms, mourning the loss of a city to which I have never visited)
Where were you when Cedar Rapids went under water? (At work, nervously clicking local news websites, watching as the floods swallowed Quaker Oats, the library, the museums, the theatres, the cultural center of my town and all of the homes surrounding the downtown)

I haven't gotten to answer the good questions:
Where were you when we declared Independence from Britain?
Where were you when George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States of America?
When our legislature created the Bill of Rights?
Where were you when Lincoln abolished slavery?
Where were you when women got the right to vote?
Where were you when the nation desegregated?
Where were you when man stepped on the moon?

And now I can answer the question to which all of those questions have lead:
Where were you when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States?

I was in my living room, wearing my pajamas, on the phone with my husband who was standing in Times Square and we were connected to the entire world.

I teared up as I kissed my sleeping babes, knowing that the first President they are going to remember is the face of the America to come, the America of our future. They went to sleep when our country was a land of opportunity for most, equality for some, and woke this morning in America, the land of hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gone, Gone, Gone...

My sweet Scotty is on his way to New York City. I will miss him a lot. I like snuggling with him at the end of the day, my ear resting on his chest, his breathing and warmth lulling me to sleep. I am at home in his arms, his familiar touch is soothing and grounding. Come home soon, my love!

We took the kids to vote this morning. Milo put our ballots into the machines for us and I took part in the exit poll -- I think that may end up counting more than my actual vote. When you hear early results from Iowa, that's me! And I do mean early as I was the last person that was polled from our precinct and it was 7:45 AM when they polled me.

I hope that maybe in the next election I will have the time to volunteer to attend the state convention and help shape and ratify the party platform. I would love to attend a national convention before I die, too. Since having children, I am feeling like I need to make more noise and move the country in the way that I want to raise my children.

The next two weeks are going to be long -- today will be exciting and I am sure that the excitement will make the time fly by, perhaps tomorrow, too. But then it's going to set in that I am the only adult in the house, unless you count the thumb-less wonders, Mocha and Tess. And I don't think that they have the skills, desire, or knowledge to care for the kids. I can't even imagine one of the mutts trying to change Violet's diaper... And dinner wouldn't get on the table because they'd have eaten it. They don't really help clean, either...

Anyway, I hugged my darling Scotty a long time this morning. I was trying to convert some of his energy into an affection battery since I'll be on the giving end of all the affection for a while -- I wanted to store some of it for tonight, when I'll be watching Barack Obama make history as our sweet babes slumber, unperturbed by politics, dreaming of child-like wants (Star Wars guys and boobs, no doubt). I'm sure that one of the dogs will be curled up at my side on the couch, but they pay no heed to the media. I'll imagine him reclining on his hotel room bed, hearing the sound of metropolitan traffic as he scans CNN online and watches CNN for that moment when the election is called and we turn the page in the history of America. He's likely to be munching on Starburst candy and sitting there in his pajama shorts with the waist twisted ever-so-slightly off of his center line. I hope that his thoughts drift back towards us, back towards home and towards our very long hug this morning when the world was a different place.