Friday, September 20, 2019

Alone, Together: Pick-Ups On The Blacktops

Good afternoon mom at preschool pick up, waiting on the steps of the church until they unlock the doors at exactly 2pm.  Hey, remember me!  Our older kids were in the preschool together (although now they go to separate schools) and we just talked about that this morning at drop-off!  Everyone is getting so big!  Isn’t that crazy how kids keep…getting older…yup.  So how is your work going that you used to do?  You had a job at the…hospital?  Oh yeah, data analytics, of course!  Oh you moved companies?  Cool cool…never heard of that one but I also had never heard of the last company you worked for, so it all sounds awesome!  Me?  I am still at home, mostly!

Yup.

So how is your youngest offspring liking preschool here?  Oh great!  Smooth as silk huh?  That is great, it is so great to have a nurturing environment for them where they feel safe and loved and stimulated!  It’s great!  My littlest one?  Oh, she hates it a little bit, but only at drop-off and pick-up!  She feels like they are all evil child snatchers who are going to take her away from me forever, she starts crying when we pull into the parking lot and see the building and then when I pick her up in the afternoon she cries when she sees me and we have to sit in the car and snuggle for 20 minutes before I can get her back into her car seat.  So sweet, I know!  Yeah, so that has been a little rough, but its great too!  Now I have so much free time to follow my passion of being a writer totally unencumbered by the kids or stuff I have to do at home or thoughts of my baby sobbing in someone else’s arms while I self publish crap blog content!  Totally freeing having this time to pursue my own interests! Hahah!

Oh look they are unlocking the doors (Thank God)!

~

Good afternoon Dad of a girl in my younger daughter’s class.  I know I have spoken with you pretty much every day for the last three years, yet I still do not know your name.  I keep meaning to look it up in the family directory when we get home from school, but every time I have tried someone has pooped in their pants on the way home or yells at me about the continued absence of chocolate milk in their lunch box and then I forget again (I don’t know why, just terrible memory I guess!).  

Eight months ago, when our daughters were still in Pre-K, you asked me my own name. I was taken aback at the time and too flustered to reciprocate in asking you your own first name.  In hindsight, I realize this is because I had been content to refer to one another as A’s Mom and B’s Dad.  However, now the moment has passed (like, really passed) and I feel that it would be rude to ask for your first name unless I could think of a good enough excuse (“Hi, I am so sorry but I was in a minor car accident and experienced some selective amnesia!  I know, so wild, right?  Anyway, remind me of your name again…”)  So now we will just continue on in this limbo…you, addressing me by my first name.  Me, boldly maintaining eye contact and yet never using your own name, not once!  Detente.

~

Good afternoon, Mom of son in my older daughter’s class!  I have always liked your son, based on that one interaction I had with him while reading to the class on my daughter’s birthday three years ago.  He seemed bright, energetic without being spastic, quirky, and inquisitive without being annoying — no mean feats for a first grader of any sex/gender identification!  I have always secretly harbored a hope that my daughter would break with this weird stereotype and have a male best friend, namely your son.  They would build tree forts after school and play soccer and space dragons together at recess and ignore people who thought it was weird that they were best friends.  

But alas, it was not to be.  My daughter firmly went the route of befriending only other girls who wanted to play space dragons, and even though she occasionally plays prison tag (I hope to God they don’t know how bad that game sounds to us adults) with your son they are not in platonic best friend land.  So, I continue to hope.  I have no idea where you guys live in town, or where you are sending your son for junior high or high school, or if he even knows my daughter’s name.  But maybe, one day, they will ask to have a playdate so they can work on bark fort we are building down by the river (no vans in sight, I promise).


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Funky Macaroni Bake (Best Cooked and Consumed in Community)


The recipe for Funky Macaroni Bake, or FMB as it will be referred to from here on in, was one born in the kitchen of the Tacoma JV community on the corner of 10th and I Streets.  Our little kitchen had a window that led out onto a deck with a table and several potted plants, and a beautiful view of the jail, a funeral home, and Mt. Rainier (on a clear day).  The kitchen was also immediately adjacent to the “boys bathroom” and therefore subject to evacuation anytime Jordan came back from a long run and needed to walk in a towel from his bedroom down to the shower.  It was the hub of our community, and even when only one of us was tasked with cooking that evening, we would often all be found in the kitchen offering help, opinions, or an unsolicited glimpse of a hairy thigh in very small running shorts.

I really, really, really love Tillamook!
On our shoestring grocery budgets, and with augmentation from visiting parents or expired items from food pantries, we came up with some really creative recipes that year.  Giant homemade eggrolls, birthday cakes that could only be consumed in geometrical shapes, oatmeal forever, and a lot of veggie stir fries.  But the recipe that looms the largest in our community memory is FMB.  It is the most basic of pasta dishes for the cook who needs to make a lot of food for a lot of people hopefully comprising all of the basic food groups and nutrients.  There is no separate cheese or tomato sauce  — the mixture of cheese and vegetables make up the sauce.  It can accommodate a variety of vegetable or protein combinations very easily.  It can even accommodate a variety of cheeses, depending on your taste or what dairy you have located in your city.  We were able to get 2lb blocks of Tillamook fairy cheaply at our local grocery, and were never without a baby cheese loaf in the fridge.
Sautee those onions!  Add more garlic!

For a community of busy volunteers, each pouring out and breaking open their hearts in their work day in and day out, it was the variability of the recipe that brought comfort.  Even after a hard day, I was often lured out of my room by the temptation of someone making FMB in the kitchen directly below me.  Do we all like onions? No!  Great, let’s all get in here and argue about onions.  And while we are arguing about onions and grating cheese and trying to avoid being hugged by sweaty marathoners, let’s talk about our days.  

Beef!  Corn!  Onions!  Who knows what else?!
Oh wait, you sauté the carrots and corn with the onions and garlic before you add them in?  I never do that.  That is a waste of time.  No!  No it isn’t!  It builds layers flavor!  Well great, come help me stir them in so we can get this in the oven quicker then.  And in the meantime, tell me about your girlfriend/boyfriend at home and how you are doing with being separated and I will try not to feel so annoyed with how often you are using the phone line to talk them on Instant Messenger.


Add carrots!  Add zucchini!  Add mushrooms!  There are no rules!

This openness to new ingredients, techniques, and conversation makes this a perfect recipe to ride out the transition from JV to FJV life.  Wether your housemate is a guy from Illinois whom you have never met before and is now walking around the kitchen in a towel (hand towel? bath towel? doesn’t it matter at that point?) or your fifth grader or your brand new spouse, the endless varieties are designed to please any discerning palate.  Your significant other/kid/grandchild/cat doesn’t like onions?  Great - they get to come help you chop carrots then if they want a say in dinner!  And while they are chopping, how was their scout meeting/math test/day at work?

Is it toasty enough?

Just promise us, whatever you do, don’t forget the Tillamook (unless you are vegan or dairy intolerant)! 


Ingredients:
  • 1 box of elbow macaroni, or whatever pasta shape they had on sale or was expired at the food pantry at which you work
  • 4-6 cups of grated extra sharp Tillamook cheddar, preferably freshly grated off of a 2lb baby loaf that was on sale.  For those with no access to Tillamook please avail yourself of whatever pouch of sharp cheddar was on sale at your nearest grocery outlet
  • One onion, diced
  • One clove or one whole head of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup of diced carrots (more or less, depending on how many carrots are left from the 10 lbs you got at the farmer’s market seconds bin that week)
  • 1 bag of frozen corn (more or less, depending on wether it is sweet corn season and you have been the farmer’s market seconds bin that week and purchased 4 dozen for $5 and now have to put at least 6 ears of corn in everything so you don’t waste any)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1-4 cans of tuna, preferably recently expired (can also substitute with recently expired government canned pork/chicken/salmon/beef)
  • Literally any other vegetables or proteins you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp or 1 tsp of Garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp or 1tsp of Paprika powder
  • Salt/pepper wherever you want

Recipe:
  1. Turn the oven to 375
  2. Cook the macaroni or other pasta per the instructions on the box, but drain it one minute early while still al dente.  Argue with your housemates as to when the pasta is actually al  dente, and who has to clean the thrown noodles off the wall or ceiling.
  3. In a separate pan, or in the pasta pot after it has been drained and wiped off (if you, you know, only have one pot) sauté the onion and garlic for several minutes until soft and translucent.  Argue with your housemates about how much salt to add.  Make sure you each add salt when everyone else’s backs are turned.
  4. Add in your diced carrots, zucchini, corn, peppers, and any other vegetables you have that are pushing their expiration dates.  Fresh vegetables are excellent here, but if you are an Alaskan JV you may only have access to canned or frozen vegetables.  Don’t worry.  That is why you have a loaf of cheese.
  5. SEASON YOUR VEGGIES!  This is where the garlic powder, paprika and the rest of the salt and pepper come in.  Season those babies!  Argue with your housemates about what other seasonings to use.  This is another place for your creativity to shine!
  6. In your largest bowl, preferably avocado green colored and pushing 20 years of age, mix together the cooked pasta, sautéed onions and garlic, carrots, corn, peas, 2-4 cups of shredded cheese, and your protein (or no protein if it is meatless Monday).
  7. Slop the mixture into your largest casserole dish, or any oven ready pan or bowl that will suffer the concoction.
  8. Top with remaining cheese, and bake until the cheese topping is toasty and bubbly.  Argue with your housemates about how toasty and bubbly you each prefer your cheese topping, and make sure to take it out at the exact point when all people are equally unsatisfied with the level of bubbly toastiness.  
  9. Sit around your dining room table, or out on the balcony overlooking the funeral home, and enjoy.  Complain about something the cook did in their execution of this recipe that you don’t do when you cook it.  This is the only way to achieve radical honesty.
Enjoy!

A Note on Creative Interpretations: friends, since we have now achieved radical honesty, let’s go ahead and broach some sensitive topics.  Namely, dietary restrictions and preferences.  Your housemate hates cheddar cheese.  It’s ok.  They may be missing a piece of their soul, but that is no reason why they can’t enjoy dinner.  Go for an Italian American version of FMB and use provolone or parmesan or an Italian blend.  Add in some oregano and thyme and basil.  Make the traditional cheddar FMB later, on the night they are working late doing inventory at the food pantry or whatever!  
Wait, what’s that?  You have a vegan in the house?  No cheese no meat!!  OK here are some options.  If they are open to this, omit the cheese from the pre-baked mixture, and see if they are OK with putting cheese on only half of the top of the baking dish.  If the answer is a cold, dead stare, then back slowly away and regroup.  Ask them to donate some of their $80 monthly stipend to buying some substituted.  Raw cashews for a cashew Alfredo bended sauce, some vegan cheese substitutes (they have come a long way people), or liberal sprinkles of nutritional yeast!  Get creative!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Times My Soul Broke, September 14th, 2017

2:19pm In the car getting coffee on the way to pick up L at school
R “Mama, you know you are a mean mama.  I going to kill you.  This ring is The Eye…he going to kill you!”

M “Well, I should hope not.  If the Eye kills me then there will be no one to drive the car, and it may crash and you may get hurt, and that would be very bad.”

R “No.  I will drive the car.  And the Eye will still kill you!”


3:21pm In the car on the way to gymnastics practice
L “Mama…when the baby grows up and goes to preschool, do you think you could, you know…get a job?”

M “Well, why are you asking that?”

L “I was just wondering what after care would be like, you know, to have you pick me up after your work, like some of the other kids.”

M ‘Well, when this baby is old enough to go to preschool, I would like to do something where I can write or work from home or a few hours of the day.  But because of your Papa’s schedule I don’t think I would work all day every day, unless we needed me to or an opportunity came up that I really wanted to pursue.  It would be hard to spend time with him if I had that kind of a schedule.”

L “Yeah, I can see that.”

M “But that is an interesting question Lu.  I would like to do something when the baby is in school, something more than…”

L “More than sitting around all day?!”

5:37pm In the family room, the kitchen, the living room
M “Girls, can you please put the pillows back on the couch?  I really don’t want them on the floor since Fiona is coming tomorrow and I don’t want to get go hair all over them.”

L “Sure mama.”

R “No! I wanna lie on the floor on the pillow!”

M “Riley, please put that pillow back on the couch.  I don’t want to get dog hair all over the pillows and then have them get dog hair onto Kellyn and Fiona when they sit there.”


Cue battle royale in which R starts crying hysterically, vowing to never let go of the pillow, that she needs that pillow on the floor, no other pillow will do.  Clearly she is working through some other emotions here, using this situation as a proxy.  I try to let her work through them while keeping the pillow off of the floor, for the afore mentioned reasons.  I am thus an evil and mean mama.  She walked through several rooms of the house carrying the pillow, before abandoning it on the living room couch and telling me I could put it away now.  After about 30 minutes.

Monday, August 21, 2017

First Day of Full Day Preschool

Today is R’s first day of preschool.  Full day preschool.  Seven full hours, Don at work, alone to do whatever I want or need.

I do not feel like breaking open the champagne and pouring a mimosa, or planning a three cocktail lunch with my girlfriends.  But I sure didn’t cry in the car as I drove away!  I do feel a sense, not of loss, but of contentment.  

When we would tell people that R was starting full day preschool this year, there was the inevitable question that followed, always to me “Ooohhh….what are you going to do with all your free time?”  Some people who were stay at home parents got it, and would answer “Oh, don’t worry.  You won’t be sitting around staring at walls.  You will be doing the same stuff you do every day — taking care of everyone and everything.  This time you just get to do it without someone begging you for a snack every five minutes!”  To other people I would joke and answer “Haha, probably wander around my house crying for twenty minutes and then get back to work!” That is code for “I don’t know, probably everything I usually do in a day but without the fun dress up games and dance parties every twenty minutes.”

In reality I just did not think about it too much.  Life is busy, it gets as busy as you let it get, and I was sure I wouldn’t be left with hour long stretches of daytime TV dramas and bonbons.  

So I walked R into her preschool today, got her lunch and backpack and nap mat and water bottle and supplies sorted, gave her a hug, and then walked back out to my car.  I didn’t sit in my car and tear up (well, I was blowing my nose every five seconds, but that is due to the summer cold from hell, not an excess of emotion).  I had spent all of my preschool drop off emotions on her last Spring when she went to half day preschool for the first time.  This time I was just so thankful there was no screaming, crying, begging, hitting, or kicking.  I got to give my preschooler a kiss and a hug goodbye instead of prying a honey badger off of my body, handing her to a teacher and fleeing the room like a criminal.  

You may think I am exaggerating.  I am not.  It was bad.  Really bad.  Don was in Haiti for ten days on a surgical trip, and had been working a lot in the last few weeks.  I had been stressed helping him get ready for the trip in the aftermath of our December fundraiser and Christmas.  Everyone had all of the emotions.  

Honey badger at drop off because she didn't want to go to preschool.  Cue feelings of parental guilt — maybe I am sending her too early, maybe I should keep her home with me, does she really need to socialize this early, shouldn’t I just be better at planning things and teaching her myself?!  Honey badger at preschool pick up because she didn't want to leave and come home with me.  Cue second round of parental guilt, along with some deep seated personal insecurities thrown in for good measure — I should have worked with her more on better ways to express her emotions, she is having a tantrum because I should keep her home so she can nap during the day, everyone is watching my adorable little daughter hit me in the face with her fist, its ok other parents with emotionally stable children, everything is cool, nothing to see here!

I cried on the way home or running errands after I would drop her off.  I cried on the way to pick up L from her school after picking R up fro preschool.  I cried midway through the day just thinking about going back to preschool to drop her off or pick her up the next day.  I cried all the tears all the time.  I was emotionally eviscerated for a good two to three months.  

To be very clear, no teacher or parent ever said ANYTHING that made me feel bad.  Everyone else was very supportive.  The head of the preschool would take R from my arms when she would start to scream at drop off and say “Just go Mom, don’t you worry.  This happens all the time.  I will call you in ten minutes and let you know that she is calmed down and doing fine.”  And she would.  Sometimes other parents would offer to carry R’s backpack to the car as I carried her, kicking and screaming and trying to hit me in the face.  Everyone else was awesome.  It’s always the demons in your head that are the loudest.  


So today’s drop off was not big and emotional because I had seven full hours in the day to myself.  It was calm and unemotional.  Which was glorious.  I don't feel like celebrating.  I don't feel like crying.  I just want to get started on my giant to do list, watch 85% of a solar eclipse without burning my retinas, and pick up my girls at 3pm.

Now you can peruse all of the first day of school pictures.  Cry.  Or don't.  Whatever.




L, first day of preschool, 2013
L, first day of preschool, 2014

L and R, L's first day of Kindergarten, 2015

L and R, L's first day of 1st Grade, 2016
L and R, R's first day of half-day preschool, January 2017


L and R, L's first day of 2nd Grade, 2017

L and R, R's first day of full-day preschool, 2017

R, line leader for the day, huge mosquito bite by her eye, 2017

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Situation of Socks



We have been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation, so much so that I often find myself coming up with Perdism’s throughout the day.  I can’t write this story without recalling the moment I was inspired to put pen to paper…  

It begins...
I was walking through the living room and saw a pair of tiny socks on the floor.  I frowned, stooped to grab them, and was greeted with the site of another, larger sock underneath the coffee table.  I grabbed that too.  I walked through into the kitchen: a pair of folded socks on the kitchen counter.  Having captured this errant hosiery as well, I bore my increasing burden through the pantry, damn it, another pair of tiny socks discarded, one on top of the dog food container and one perilously close to the dog’s water bowl.  I retrieved them, one slightly damp, and, increasingly suspicious that I was following the trail of some monstrous leprechaun or mischievous sock faerie, I continued my way upstairs.  

There, underneath the banister.  A veritable cache of tiny person stockings.  All told, I had about ten pairs of socks in my arms to deliver to the washer after a two minute walk through the house, and the Perdism came to me.

I have a situation, which means a problem, and that problem is with the situation, which means a location, of socks, which are mittens that you put on your feet.

Why?  Why are there socks everywhere?  Why do I put socks on my children only to have them shed within minutes?  Don’t they understand that even though it is spring it is still like 60 degrees in our house?!

Another pocket of castaways.
Perhaps it is because socks are, historically, the most loathed of all garments to a child.  Coming in a close second are underwear and anything with a tag on it.  I know this because I have two siblings, and between the three of us we were constantly tortured by socks, underwear and tags in our youth.  I have very specific memories of trying to get out of wearing socks, of putting them on while my parents were watching and then hiding them in spots when I thought they weren't looking and trying to run outside before they noticed.  Of course, this never worked, and what ensued was a battle royal in the laundry room just off the garage.  

I would be told that we were not going to school/the store/a party/hiking/etc until I put on my socks.  Then I would writhe on the laundry room floor in agony until one or both of my parents forcibly placed them on my feet.  Then I would writhe in greater agony because the offensive garments were killing me.  They.  Were.  Killing.  ME!

Anyone out there feeling me?  Anything else out there know what it is about socks that is absolutely unbearable to sensitive young toes?

Is the seam the issue?

Yes, that’s right.  The seam.

The fucking seam.  The root of all evil.  It chafes your toes, it digs into them, and God forbid your socks should ever get turned around and the seam should become off center.  That was the worst.  Stop everything.  Literally.  I have to take my shoe off and adjust my sock or I will go insane and start throwing things.  Underwear and t-shirt tags were the same.  They were always touching you, itching you, or tickling you.  If your parents cut them off then that inevitable 1 cm leftover was even worse.  If they ripped out the tags then your clothing disintegrated in the next wash.  It was a lose lose lose.

All I can say about recent advancements in the textile industries is thank God that we have learned how to mass produce socks without toe seams, and print ink labels on the backs of t-shirts and underwear.  This is a life saver for parents of tortured children and parents who were formerly tortured children everywhere.  Well, everywhere our first world problem having, entitled,  ridiculously tortured by good clothing asses can afford to buy seam and tag free clothing, that is.

Maybe it is not the seam that is the culprit here.  Perhaps it is just the nature of our two girls that they want to be barefoot, free to feel the carpet and wood under their feet at home, the grass and mud between their toes outside, and the hot, sticky chafe of the inside of their shoes in direct contact with their skin.  Perhaps they don’t understand that the foot can produce a quarter of a pint of sweat in one day (GROSS) or that heat is lost through their feet at a higher rate because of the greater surface area of their toes!

Or maybe temperature regulation is the issue.  Now that I am old and beginning to waste away I wear socks almost year round, especially to bed.  Double thick wool in the winter and light running socks in the summer, but the socks are always on.  If I get into bed without socks, I feel like my toes immediately turn into ice cubes, and the rest of my body heat is sucked down through my ice cube toes and lost to the ether (don’t question me on the science of this, I don’t care).  However, my eldest must run a few degrees warmer than I do, because even when our house is 60 degrees she sheds her socks as soon as she comes in the door because they make her feet sweat and they are too hot.  MOM THEY ARE TOO HOT!

The final cache, mere feet away from the washing machine.
Well, regardless of wether their feet are being attacked by demon seams, they just want to run around like naked little fairies,or the socks are melting their feet off of their bodies, the crux of the matter is not the why, but the where.  Or, rather, the why of the where.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do they have to leave their socks all over the God damn house?!?  They have sock drawers.  They have laundry baskets.  They can both reach the washing machine, and, point of fact, regularly indulge in the pleasure of throwing clean clothing and random non-clothing items into the washing machine just because they can.  But can they, when directed, put a dirty sock into any one of these many acceptable receptacles?
Of course not.

My daughters, and, I believe, most children, are still more like faeries than human.  As J. M. Barrie pointed out faeries can only be bad or good at one time, “because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”  Children are like that when they are young.  Their bodies are so small and their feelings and thoughts are so big, that much of the time they only have room enough for one at a time.  The socks are scratchy, chaffing, hot, restricting their sense of freedom — they come off.  The next moment they are borne away on the back of another whim, sensation, or fit of imagination and the socks are left behind on a stairway or behind a couch cushion.

Knowing this, however, doesn’t keep me from getting frustrated at the growing number of missing socks in sock drawers or the frequency with which I stumble upon strays.  But it does keep me from threatening to throw away the errant hosiery that I do find.  Afterall, if I am wrong about their one track minds, then such a feint on my part would be playing right into their hands.  If they are sneakier than I think, then that might be what they had in mind all along…



Whimsical faeries or nefarious villains?  The jury is out...


Friday, February 12, 2016

A Simple Soup

I know I am a little crazy.  But it is days like yesterday that bring that fact home even more.  I had an awesome morning with an old friend and her little boy, who were in town for an overnight playdate.  Right after lunch they got in their car to drive home, R went down for a nap, and D walked out to go into the hospital for a few hours to do patient follow up.  Right as he walked out we talked a little bit about plans for the rest of the day.  It was Ash Wednesday, so we were planning on going to mass in the evening, and then having a vegetarian dinner.  Since I didn't have anything planned, Don suggested we just have some soup and bread.  And then he walked out.

(Note: this is not really true.  Actually, before he left he asked me to please do something nice for myself like read or write something, instead of picking up legos.  Because I was on my hands and knees picking up legos.  And sometime in that conversation we talked about a simple dinner of soup, because it was Ash Wednesday and that was an easy thing to do when you are not eating meat.  But mostly we talked about me not cleaning or doing laundry the whole time R was taking her nap.  Because my husband loves me and wants me to take care of myself.)

And this is where the crazy comes in.

I sat down.  I read for a while.  But I couldn't get settled.  Something was nagging at me.  Something was making me feel shitty and nervous and a teensy bit bitter for some reason.  And then it dawned upon me.

Soup.  A simple dinner of soup.  A simple dinner of all vegetable, no meat, soup.  Are you fucking kidding me?  Because what is the one kind of stock I do not have in my house.  Vegetable stock.  I have chicken stock.  I have ham stock.  I have beef stock.  I even have dashi, from last year when I went crazy for several weeks, ordered a bunch of stuff online from Japan and cancelled life for three days to make David Chang's ramen broth.  But I don't have vegetable stock.  

So what?  I have a pantry.  The pantry has cans.  Some of those cans contain soup.  One or more of those cans of soup are likely to be tomato or another variety of all vegetable soup.  Right?

Wrong.  Not wrong as in I don't have any cans of vegetable soup.  Wrong as in, no, we are not going to eat canned soup.  Wrong as in now I am going to put my book down, get my ass up out of this chair, and make some damn vegetable stock.

Note: this is obviously not what D meant when he suggested a simple dinner of soup.

So, here you have it.  A recipe for some not so simple vegetable stock (yes, one of the ingredients is dried mushrooms, which I happened to have because of the afore mentioned ramen broth adventure in the Spring of 2015) followed by a recipe for not so simple vegetable soup.  Pair with a thawed loaf of bread from an Italian restaurant that you forgot was living in your freezer.

Vegetable Stock
1 Huge Stock Pot
32 cups of water (or however much that was that I poured in there)
2 carrots, peeled and broken into pieces
2/3 bunch of celery, root cut off so I could pretend I rinsed the dirt off of it
1 large onion cut in quarters, peel left on
1 head of garlic cut in half 
4 dried mushrooms from a bag in your pantry from when you went crazy and made ramen broth, or whole mushrooms of you have them, or mushroom stems if you are insane and keep mushroom stems in baggies in your freezer for use in making stock.  Along with shrimp shells.
4 sprigs of thyme 
A handful of parsley
Salt and whole Pepper corns to taste

1. Literally throw everything into the pot and bring it to a boil.  
2.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, or whatever keeps things at a low simmer on your stove top, and simmer that mother for as long as you have.  Seriously, if you don't need the stock until tomorrow or you are working ahead, simmer that all day.  All. Day.
3.  Except half an hour in decide that the mushrooms are really potent and take the two biggest ones out.  Reserve for the soup.
4.  When you are done simmering that mother, turn the heat off and let it cool a little.  Or put on some protective clothing, get your strainer and another large pot or Tupperware out, and strain that mother while it is simmering hot.  It will splash.  It will burn you.  An onion skin will pour out into your strainer, act as a luge, and cause about 4 cups of scalding hot stock to shoot up at you, soaking your apron that thank God you remembered to wear and sweater and jeans.  You were warned.
5.  Show your two year old the stock and ask her what color it is.  This is fun because everything is blue.  Everything.  Well, not really.  Your stock should be dark brown because of the mushrooms and onion skin.
6.  Use immediately, or cool in the fridge and then portion into freezer bags and freeze for later use.


Simple Vegetable Soup
1/2 sweet onion or yellow onion, diced super, super small so your kids don't freak out at the texture
4 cloves of garlic (or less or more) chopped finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 potatoes, diced
4 mushrooms from your stock, chopped however you want them
2 cups of cherry tomatoes that were getting a little wrinkly, cut into quarters
8 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of farro, barley, kamut, rice, or whatever locally sourced, non GMO, ancient grain you have on hand

1. Melt a pad of butter and a blop of olive oil into your soup pot on medium low.  Add the onions and garlic at the same time and sweat them for at least 10 minutes, low and slow.  You don't want them to brown, just get soft.  Add salt and pepper.
2.  Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Saute these with the onions and garlic on medium for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start getting mushy.  Add more salt and pepper.  If you want to add any other spices, this is the time.
3.  Add your vegetable stock, preferably warm from the stock pot or the microwave.  Turn up the heat to bring the soup to a boil.
4.  Once it is boiling add the grain of your choice, and stir.
5.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the grain is cooked through.  If you notice the soup getting too thick for your taste, because the grain is absorbing it, then add more stock.

Enjoy your "simple" vegetable soup with crackers, bread, or some shavings of Parmesan!

Friday, August 7, 2015

An Apology to the Woman Who Cut in Front of Me at Meijer

This morning while in the checkout line at Meijer I experienced a lack of basic human courtesy that shocked me.  There was a crowd there this morning and only a few checkout lines were open.  I was waiting in a long line at one lane, and about ten lanes down there was an older woman waiting in another long line.  I was struggling to control my girls at this point  — we had been at the store longer than any of us were comfortable with, even though I had provided snacks and diversions in the pet department and promises of a chance to stretch their legs very soon.  Still, at this point my five year old was under two throw pillows in the cart and my two year old was trying to throw herself out of my arms onto the ground screaming “Down!  Out!  Down!!”  I was already considering just abandoning the cart and making a run for it, when a sign of hope appeared.

Hi, my name is Riley.  I like sitting on the backs of chairs,
couches, and grocery carts.  I love the feeling of falling!
A store employee came out from a lane two lanes from mine, and, turning directly toward me, asked me if I wanted to step over to his lane because he was going to open up.  I said thank you, and yes I would.  Actually, I said “Oh my God thank you so much, YES!”  Behind the store clerk I saw the woman watching us.  She frowned at me, and as I struggled to pull my cart out of the lane and turn it toward the newly opened lane, she whipped her cart around and strode quickly past the eight closed lanes toward us.  She looked right at me and her frown deepened as she pushed her fully loaded cart into the free lane and started unloading.

Well, I wish I could say I was gracious.  But in reality I barely stopped myself from throwing a full on adult tantrum.  I barely stopped myself from yelling “Mother Fucker!” and storming with screaming kids right past her and out of the store.  I didn’t behave much better than that, but I didn’t make a public scene.  Well, I didn’t.  Riley probably qualifies as a public scene wherever we go.

In any case, I didn’t think about her, or her life.  I didn’t consider what circumstances would lead her to ignore the struggle I was having and put herself first.  I didn’t think about whether she had an ailing spouse or child at home and needed to get back, or whether she had an appointment to keep or person to meet.  I didn’t think about her at all except with the term “bitch” attached.  

And so, Woman Who Cut in Front of Me at Meijer, I want to apologize.

I want to apologize for the open mouthed bitch face I gave you.  I know you were frowning at me before, but I straight up gaped at you.  People talk about Resting Bitch Face (RBF) as a joke, but I gave some straight up Active Bitch Face.  

I apologize for loudly exclaiming “You have GOT to be kidding me!”  I don’t usually comment in awkward social situations like that.  I was raised Episcopalian, and even though I have converted to Catholicism, a religion steeped in pointed commentary, it is in my nature to suffer such a lack of courtesy in silence.  I am more of a silent believer in Karma, more apt to glare, breathe deeply while counting to ten, and pray that your evil ways do not catch up with you before you mend them.  I embrace my British ancestry while secretly thinking of the things my Apache ancestors would have done.  But you extend my stay at a grocery store by 20 minutes while I was already hanging on to my sanity and my toddler by the tips of my fingers.  That was my breaking point.  Who knew?!

I apologize for aggressively trying to initiate eye contact with you the entire time we stood in the check out line together.  I couldn’t understand why you were suddenly so hesitant to look at me.  You seemed to be fine glaring at my daughters every time they moved, breathed, or made a sound.  But you would not meet my eyes anymore.

Hi, my name is Lucy.  I know there are two throw
pillows, but I will fight you for both of them.
I apologize for all of the times my toddler touched or played with an item of yours on the conveyor belt as we waited for you to finish directing the clerk which items to place into which bags.  To be fair, your bananas would never have been molested had you not stolen our place in line.  And, when you think about it, its really miracle she didn’t bite right into them.  Furthermore, if I am being totally honest, I could have tried harder to prevent her from touching your things.  But I was really tired of holding her while she tried to kick me, and her interest in your groceries was keeping her from riding on the edge of the cart like a horse.  I was selfish, and I am sorry.  

Further along those lines, I apologize for the fact that I had absolutely no control over my toddler whatsoever.  Grocery carts cannot contain her.  She laughs at restraining belts.  She leaps from moving carts.  She pitches herself forward or backward out of my arms in total disregard for anyone’s mental or physical wellbeing, including her own.  She is 22 months.  She is a force of nature.  She is a compilation of curiosity, desires, and emotions in a harness of blood and bone and completely devoid of any rationale or temperance.  She is glorious and she might actually kill me one day and I love her.

Finally, I am sorry that I bitched about you all day to anyone who would listen, and that I am still thinking about you now.  You did something unkind.  You had your reasons.  I hope they were good, but it is really not my position to judge them.  I did not answer you with kindness, I answered you with anger and sarcasm.  That was not a good model for my children, and it was not healthy for my heart.

I forgive you for your simple transgression.  Such a gesture is meaningless to you, you might not feel you did anything warranting forgiveness.  The gesture is for me, to purge the black flower of rage that blossomed in me when you steered your cart into lane 13, an emotion disproportionate to your actions.  I forgive myself for my day of wallowing in that rage from time to time without stopping to consider your humanity.

I only hope, were we ever to meet again face to face in the checkout lanes of Meijer, that I would be strong enough to act differently.