Saturday, August 29, 2015

Showcase Saturday

Because I now do book reviews (on occasion, reading one now), I'm creating Showcase Saturday. Today being the first day of this feature, I'm starting with a bang.  My cousin, Will Clark Green has a new video out for his CD Ringling Road title track and it's cool. Creepy, but cool.
If you don't know his earlier work, check out Rose Queen or Misunderstood.   Or better yet, see if you can catch him and his band in concert.  You can check out his schedule here.  It's a fun show.

 Go Will!

Next week, a book review. (It will help keep me on top of my stack of books to read).   

Friday, August 28, 2015

What's For Dinner?

Why?  Because it is frequently asked just after breakfast and I have a thing about not thinking about what I will be cooking next when I haven't finished cleaning from what I cooked just now.

But the undefeatable and hilarious Simcha Fisher has a Friday feature, "What's for Dinner?" and I thought, I ought to boast while the boasting's good.

Yesterday, I made my mother mad.  On purpose.   I called her to let her know, I had FIFTY-TWO home grown Roma tomatoes.   Not being able to eat FIFTY-TWO Roma tomatoes, even on a dare, even in Caprese Salad (Which I've lived on all summer), After I told her I didn't even use all the tomatoes I could have, she told me I was an evil daughter and I laughed my most evil daughter laugh.  We hung up on good terms.  I had tomatoes to boil.

Not a shot of mine, because I didn't have the presence of mind to take a shot before I began the carnage of cooking. 

I opted to make a home made sauce.

To make what I made for dinner last night, you will need:

A garden in the back, which your husband tends lovingly and you ignore, and which the critters that visit our property, don't destroy.  I've trained my children to run out and yell at the deer.  One time, they rushed the beasts with water guns, another time with one playing a trumpet.  It is very entertaining, and those animals now fear the utter random nature of mankind that dwells in this household.

FIFTY-TWO Roma Tomatoes.

A tall clean pot full of boiling water.
A slotted spoon.
A big bowl filled with ice and water.
A sauce pot
a wooden spoon
a working can opener. (Or one you can will to work by multiple attempts and finally prying it into compliance to get the one can of paste open).

Other ingredients:
Garlic press
olive oil.
red wine
tomato paste
bay leaf
one onion
two boxes of linguini
Kraft green tube of cheese --they get upset when you switch it up.

Patience for when you also need this:
one box of shells
one stick of butter
(For those who believe touching anything with tomatoes in it that isn't ketchup or on pizza, will cause them to mutate into something horrible like an adult).

Boil the water.
While the water's boiling, pulverize 2-5 garlic cloves, chop up the onion, the parsley, ignore the complains from the teenager about how parsley taste, threaten to put it in his sandwiches all school year if he continues to try and organize a child revolt against the green garnish.  Let the kiddos wash and tear apart the basil, mash the garlic, and the ever helpful thirteen year old saute the onion, herbs and garlic in olive oil until tender, at very very low heat.

Rinse and then core the top of the FIFTY-TWO Romas.  (I'll stop bragging soon I promise).
Immerse Romas in boiling water for two minutes.  The book says one, but I couldn't get the ice bath ready in one minute and it took a while to fish all those suckers out and into the ice water bowl.

After the tomatoes cool enough to touch, you squeeze the innards out into the pot with the garlic and the onion herb mixture.  It is an oddly satisfying experience, which separated the cooks from the critics in my household.  The chefs had fun.

Mash the tomatoes in the pot.  This takes time and aggression.  Teenagers are very good for this sort of thing.

Add a cup of wine (to the sauce, to the sauce, it's not yet five o'clock).
Put a new pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
Add the can of tomato paste.  I would have added two, but the aforementioned can opener is not feeling cooperative today. Is it five o'clock yet?

Let everything cook.
Have several come in, sniff the air, say it smells good, and then declare they don't eat red sauce.
Though they eat it on pizza, with fried cheese, and with meatballs.  

It's getting closer to five I think.....(I didn't, I saved it for dinner).
But, I have a rule about not fighting food battles if I don't have to.
So a second pot goes on the stove for plain buttered pasta with the promise of eating cucumbers and carrots first.

Five kids ate buttered pasta. I felt defeated.  When my husband returned with the cross country runner, the teen who works DQ and some french bread, four of the former nay-sayers came back for seconds and eight of the ten Antonetti's supped on homemade FIFTY-TWO Roma tomato sauce and linguine pasta.

We're using the leftover sauce today to make beef stew.   I think I may have to call my mom.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Small Success Thursday

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two More Weeks Please

School starts in six days.  

I am not ready.

The kids are not ready.

Bedtime is still something negotiated and I've yet to have greater success than the UN.

Several still have last minute projects they aren't finished with, but which they do not seem to feel require urgency.

Three need haircuts.

Four need new clothes.

The dryer isn't working.

I'd like a day to sit and do nothing at the pool before school starts.

I'd like it for all of them too.

I'd consider home schooling, but it might mean summer went on too long.

Because I'm the biggest lover of these hot sleepy days.  

In case you've forgotten...a flash from the past.

What We Didn't Do This Summer.

I'll be outside making s'mores if anyone needs me.  That is all.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Plotting Penelope

In between shuttling cross country runners and field hockey practice, getting children to sit and do their summer work they've ignored for two months, and maintaining (sort of) the house, I've abandoned Penelope to wait until her writer Odysseus returns (when school starts).

But it doesn't mean I've been idle.  Writing a book means more than character development, it requires plotting out the rollercoaster the reader will enjoy.  It must have dips and turns, twists and unexpected plunges.  It cannot be a straight line or it will bore the reader.

The sheet of paper looks like this:

The first bad day.  (Why Penelope opted to go with Odysseus after her father lost the race).

The worst day. (When Agamemnon and company came to visit).

Being in charge.  Defense, food, maintaining infrastructure, being mom, being alone among the ruling class, alone among the single mothers, an alien in charge of everything, and isolated from everyone.

Being held accountable.   When big plans fail.   When little things are lost.  When there is nothing about tomorrow, save the dull hope, they might come home.

Everyone falls.    Rumors abound of Odysseus being not only alive but enjoying himself on some island somewhere with a woman rumored to be a goddess.   His mom commits suicide.  Her son is a peevish adolescent.  It's ME time.

Everyone fails.   Odysseus returns, and the deaths of 104 suitors and the twelve servant women who served them, and the resentment and fear of the remaining citizens, makes Penelope someone now everyone fears, and Odysseus someone, no one trusts.

The long decay.  Twenty years of rotting, trying to pretend that day didn't happen and neither did the twenty years apart, and of everything around them revealing, all of it did.

A reminder of everything.   People from the past come, telling the story that's become part of everyone else's lives, a dream version with fantastic outcomes.  

Everything burns.   Fight where Penelope and Odysseus finally speak face to face about everything and the cost of all of it.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Ask Why

Every once in a while, part of my brain must feel I don't suffer enough, and so I venture into my children's room to help with the upkeep.  That part of my mind (secretly masochist) is never disappointed.   I suppose I should feel grateful, otherwise that gremlin in my subconscious would force me to exercise.

Today, I found my middle son sleeping on his bed on his pillows with no pillow cases.  I know there were cases on them yesterday.  They're not there today.  I'm pretty sure he ate them in his sleep.  I'm considering buying organic ones so that if he is consuming them, at least he'll be getting some fiber in the process.

You're probably thinking "Sherry, you're overreacting. Come on, it's a pillow case."  I would agree, if this were the first, second, third, or even possibly the fifteenth time.  But I have a history with this child. We make the bed.  We talk about how it should look.  Almost every morning, it does not look that way.  Most notably, the pillow cases are awol.  Sometimes I find them.  Some are still missing. I've not yet resorted to a hidden camera to discover what happened, but that time may come.

Moving to another son's room, I opened the closet.  Perhaps an ill considered move, but it did explain where the case of 35 water bottles I bought yesterday went.  The kid is a runner so I get needing hydration, but to hide them in his closet so as to prevent all others from infringing on his water rights smacks of a type of corporate mentality I don't favor.  So I'm leaving a note for the lad, and a tall plastic cup in his closet.   "You have a sink.  You have a cup.  You have unlimited water at your fingertips.  Don't go Nestle on me.  Love, Mom."

Lest you think I only pounce on the boys, or that the girls are less challenging, my youngest owns three pairs of shoes.  We only have the left one of each of them.  I have searched.  I've resolved not to buy new shoes until we've explored every option, for I know the moment I come home with new footwear, all the old shall reveal itself and I'll be torn between returning said shoes and now having another pair she can lose.

Another girl thinks water other than from the pool, will result in a Wicked Witch of the West type melting.  "I took a shower yesterday." is her favorite explanation of why today, she should be exempted.  Worse, others are starting to take up her call. "Save the water. Save the laundry.  I don't need it." Granted, that would leave more water for the hoarder son to drink, but still.  I've created a check box next to her (and all the others I have to trust but verify) to ensure next to Godliness is maintained.

Parenting is about sacrifice, continuing on, and loving when what you really want to ask over and over again, and maybe get an answer, is "Why?"

Why do they leave towels and clothing on the floor NEXT to the laundry basket provided for receiving them?

Why do they cut open an watermelon and scoop out a perfect sphere of fruit from the middle?

Who bit through the bar of cheese?

How can the ones who need naps never sleep and the ones who theoretically are youthful and full of energy require 17 hours of rest a day?

What makes it okay to always save the ends of the bread for my sandwich?

Why does doing the dishes mean leaving the pots and pans for me?

These questions go unanswered, even if asked.

It has taken twenty-two years of experience to come to the understanding behind all of it.   It came as a result of my daughter's shopping spree. She'd explained she needed some things.  I agreed.  I gave her a budget, a credit card and dropped her off at the mall.  Two hours later, she came back with bags.  She'd eaten in the food court, picked up some headphones and bought perfume.

"Did you get what you needed?"

She'd forgotten.
The answer is simple.  Don't ask why. They're not holding out on us. They don't know.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Night Shift

New moms get all the breaks. People advise them, "Sleep when the babies sleep," and bring ice cream.  Friends and family suggest date nights and "taking time for me."  

It makes sense.  Rookies need time to adjust to the reality of motherhood, which is not baby waking hours but every hour since the baby first came to be.   I used to joke, parent hours are from five a.m. to twelve midnight, but that was before I had teenagers.

Between teens on dates, teens with jobs, track and field hockey and all the other treats of summer, the window of non-necessary time has shortened on both ends.  My body is missing that extra hour.  Last night, I dreamed I was sleeping.  How tired do you have to be to have your subconscious fantasize about being unconscious?  

My daughter laughed when she saw "Sleep" on my to do list for the day, but I'm serious.

Last night, the four year old came to us at midnight because she had nightmares.  After cuddling, she took herself back to bed at one.  I figured, good for the night.  The light went on at 1:30.  A teen wanted a snack.   The light went on at 4 a.m.  My youngest son needed a change.  He had the grace to curl up at my feet in his blanket after I cleaned him up, but I hadn't the energy or the will to move him.   At 4:30, the four year old returned.  No reason, she just got in bed.

Within fifteen minutes, both children slept perpendicular to the bed, giving me a pillow sized space in between.  I cursed myself for checking the time.   Forty-five minutes until the first alarm.

I could get up, get a jump on the day, get dressed...I'd just opted "No." when  the son with cross country tryouts came running down the stairs to make sure I was awake so he wouldn't be late.

My brain sang a version of the Lego song in the shower.

Everything is awful.
Everything hurts when you don't ever sleep.
Everything is awful
....when you don't get to dream.

A diet coke later, I'm on the road wondering if it would be better if the teenager with a learner's permit took the wheel when he told me I drove like an old lady.   I'd sat at the red light musing about the idea of doing nothing all day for several days.   I imagined floating down a river, sitting at a pool, and feeling strained to open a book, lift a fork or even flip over to tan evenly.   The light turned green.

I told him, there is never a situation when calling someone an old lady is a compliment, it was very early, I hadn't slept and it was closer to home than the school such that his taxi felt taxed to be transportation at this point in the day.  

He had the grace to mend his speech....though the substitute of Wise for Old, wasn't too much of an improvement.

Worse, my body is starting to adjust, to wake up after four hours, expecting to have to do something.

So I've begun strategizing.  There isn't a manual for parents of older children on how to get them to understand, you're closed.  I've tried saying the Internet and the server is down, I'm going offline, off the grid, I'm done, but they don't understand my being tired if they're not.

In the meantime, I've crafted the beginnings of a plan.

First Rule:  Post hours of operation, pad the hours on both ends.  

Second Rule: Have incentives for teens who allow 8 hours that rival Price is Right Showcase Showdowns.  Pay for each hour over six you're allowed to rest.  I've got a coupon for Amazon and one for pizza.  All yours if I get to Carpe Diem the night.

Third Rule:   If all else fails, I'm  finding a cheap artsy movie theatre and wearing dark sun glasses. I will pay for the opportunity to sit still for three hours.  I just hope I don't snore.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Biggest Disability

Every once in a while, I'm reminded of my son's disability, of the reality of Downs Syndrome.  Most days, he functions so well and so seamlessly in the family, it doesn't get considered.  He's their brother. He's our son.  We go about our day, breakfast, clean up, get dressed, make the list, organize the day.  The kids do their work books or play. We have lunch. The teen goes for a run.  The next teen plans her afternoon on the phone, the girls play a game and the boys pair off and I do whatever work didn't get done earlier.  Until recently, I spent a lot of time writing.

But my son is getting older.  He'll be seven in September, and with that growth, he's become independent, if not safe.  He knows what needs to be done to make a sandwich, to pour a drink, to go outside.  He cannot make himself a sandwich, pour a drink, or go outside without assistance.  But he does not know that.

When we go out to the park, I spend my time worrying about his running, and about how to keep up with him when he will get taller and faster as I get older.  He says "Hi" to everyone on the trail, and wants to go up to every dog.  I worry about him getting bit because he might be too rough with the dog.

While working in the kitchen, he pulled a cooler to me.  I had to tape it shut because he wanted to get in it. Clearing out the room of trash, he called me to come see his bed. He'd placed stuffed animals on it.  "Look." he said, and before I could compliment him on his project, he ran to his sister's room to yell into the fan, and I worried about the fan.

We signed him up for swimming lessons.  Within minutes, he'd escaped the instructor and jumped into deep water, requiring a rescue.  He now wears a life jacket for the lessons, but the lesson I keep learning is be afraid.  Be vigilant.  No matter what.   Because while Paul's independent, he's not safe.

Back when I was just a teacher, I had a student whose mother hovered.  I wish I could apologize to her.  I now understand her fear.  While a teacher, I preached independence, self sufficiency.  I didn't have to live with the random wrong or dangerous choices her son made every day in their home.  The school doesn't have a microwave or a toaster or a bathtub to worry about, and my classroom came with two assistants and multiple locked doors to prevent random running and a high fence around the grounds.

I still want him to become capable, so that he doesn't become safe at the cost of capacity to act, but it is hard. It would be easier to stop pushing him to become more capable, It would be easier to lock him in, lock everything up, and make the world padded for his protection, but only easier until he entered the unpadded world.

Both the mom and the teacher in me knows he needs to be able to act in the unsafe world.  So I took him today for a little run on a trail, his sister, him and me.  He loved it, except for the leaf he threw from the bridge that got caught in a spider's web.  It was supposed to fall into the creek. He felt vexed it didn't, so he threw another one.  That one floated past the web. But the original leaf remained suspended.  Watching the other leaf float down the stream, I noted the better leaf didn't make it to the water. It would have floated splendidly if it hadn't been caught by the sticky part of the web.   The web kept the leaf safe from getting wet, but also kept it from moving on, becoming a boat, and traveling further than it could go by itself with the dull summer breeze.

When we got home, I thought about how afraid I'd become for him, and how dangerous that fear was for him, even in some cases, more dangerous than what I sought to protect him from.  I would trap him as the spider, suspend him from growth while keeping him safe.  So I've written notes to myself on his IEP, because his objectives and goals of self sufficiency and capacity can only be reached if I make some goals and objectives to be met too.

Let him begin to float down the stream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Twenty-Five Years of Elephants

In two weeks, they all go back to school and the house will have a different sort of rhythm and I'll wonder how we'll manage life then too.  It's always overwhelming and then not for me.  I can hear my dad's question to me whenever I'd feel overwhelmed, "How do you eat an elephant?"  I'd snarl, "Who'd want to?"  "How do you eat an elephant?" he'd ask again.  "One bite at a time." is the answer.  It meant, stop feeling overwhelmed and get to work.

Today is our actual 25th Anniversary.  It's also the day I said I'd return to blogging.  We held great celebration in honor of twenty-five years of marriage.  If you'd like to read about it, I wrote about the event in last week's Small Success Thursday, but I didn't post here in keeping with having a sablogital until today.  

Besides, we were preparing to launch our oldest out to Cleveland for graduate work. (Elephant).  We bought a third car. (Elephant).  We bought a ticket for the college girl to fly back. (Elephant).  One of my kids started a job. (Elephant), and five of them are in swimming lessons.  (Elephant --schedule, Elephant laundry).  The dryer is not working.  (Consistent annoying Elephant).

Then there's the other stuff like preparing the rest of them to return to school. (Elephant).  We just need to get school supplies, school clothing, finish summer projects and pack up one for college, get another through college applications and a driver's test, get them back on fall time (hah), and start up all the other routines I've ignored in favor of party prep for the past two months.

 There are moments when it feels like I've got fifty elephants to eat and I'm not hungry.

That's the problem with successfully managing a big event.   You don't get a pass on the small stuff afterwards.  Even my own brain is disgusted with me when after preparing to host seventy-five people by making lists, checking them, following through, I promptly forget to look at my calendar and miss a scheduled dental appointment for two children the next day.   My inner nag raged...If you could manage that...then why aren't you able to manage this?  And if I'm honest, a little voice answered, "Because I'm tired of eating elephants."  

We rescheduled, next week. No biggie.  I made my list of today's elephants.  We'll get the physical forms done, mail a package and buy shoe racks to house all the footwear that twelve pairs of feet own, and a shower rod and a curtain.   I will wonder how we managed the past few weeks as this feels taxing in its own way.  

It's why I need still time.  Today.  Today is important.  Today I have to consider, we started down this road with an epic celebration, and all the time since has been built up of little moments of managing, of somehow filling the hours with love, discipline, adaptations, adjustments, humor, surprises, dates, lessons learned and forgotten, seasons and schedules, elephants.  Today is our anniversary.  Today we promised forever, no matter how many elephants we'd have to eat.   At midnight, my husband gave me a beautiful silver and pearl necklace and some stationary.  The stationary has elephants on it.

Twenty-five luminous years passed in the blink of an eye.   Twenty-five years of cakes and wine, feasts and trips, hospital visits and long hours, laundry and gardens, songs, movies, books and games and it is not enough. There's never enough time.  I will never tire of his company.  It has been thus far, a luminous experience, being married to him. The elephants are part of what makes it lovely. Otherwise, it is a story with no plot.  

So we'll watch our wedding tape, go out to dinner, and toast to the next twenty-five and all the elephants it will bring.   Bon Appetit. 

Scene from the party, a gift from the children who attended, to us.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Party Magic

Twenty-five years ago, I had insomnia.  It was the night before our wedding and I tossed and turned until my mother was summoned.  She stroked my head.  I started sobbing because I would look tired for our wedding.  She said I wouldn't, "Bridal magic." and that little phrase was sufficient for whatever demons were gnawing at my brain and preventing sleep.

Today, we've spent two months preparing for a party. It is tonight.  It is five o'clock, and I've had fitful sleep at best.  I've told myself the story but I think today's bout of non sleeping is due to thinking about all the details.   There have been other nights, when thoughts crowd out sleep. It's part of why I turned to writing, to pull out all the random elements from my brain, so the rest of it could function.   I turned off my blog to prepare for the party, so I wouldn't be haunted by the need of upkeep, instead I'm haunted by all the stuff that didn't get out.

"Sherry, Sherry, you are anxious about many things." I could hear.  I thought about the feast to come, and how I'd love to have "that moment" with every one of my guests, all the friends and family that have driven, flew, struggled and still come.   How I'd want to spend the whole evening with each of them, with only them, and how I'd want the evening to never end so I could be that present with each of them and only them and the pain of knowing the time will ebb as the tide.   That's the point of a feast, to remind us that we long for an eternal one.  So it is no wonder I pine before the party starts about how little time there is to spend here, on any given day, enjoying each others company.

I'm telling myself, I must chose the better portion, even as we work through the final stuff, present, present, present.   The very thought of being present is like a warm bath, a cool breeze, It is both. The anxieties spool away.  Yes we will still need to lay out the tables, put up the lights, make the salads and ice the drinks.  I could add to the list but it would stir up the wrong sensibilities in me.

Besides, I wrote them down already.    So what were the moments today?  Getting to hug the people who came through the door.  Watching my nieces watch Wreck-it Ralph on our bed.  Seeing my mom and her sister talking in our living room.  Having them here even if I was busy trying to figure out how to put a tent together and failing miserably. Talking under the successfully set up tents, watching my 19 year old dance with my nine year old while we tested the sound.  A thousand little moments crammed in between the weed wacking, dishwashing and cooking.  Those moments were magic.   Party magic.  I yawn.  The thinking onto the page worked.  I'm going back to bed.

So I'm going to believe today in "Party Magic" and press forward.  When I wake up, the day awaits.

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