Iron Man 6 “and a half!”

Longest-lasting trinket ever to come out of China.

I suck my teeth every time I see this. It’s a bracelet that plays a bit of “Back in Black” from Iron Man 2. It came in a card for Joe’s birthday last September. And it’s the very last thing he has received from his father.

I was so tempted not to give him the card, but a therapist I saw a few years back recommended against that sort of thing. I was trying to shield him from the reminder. But before the previous Christmas, when I was weighing the same question, the therapist advised that I “leave the door open” in the event their father chooses to come back into their lives. More than once I’ve been tempted to pitch it. Certainly other trinkets around the apartment have a limited lifespan.

Joe liked it and still plays it. He’s acutely aware of its providence and of course, It carries an uncomfortable emotional weight.

You know, I don’t often complain about our… ahem… “unique situation,” except when the kids ask about their father’s absence. Joe especially, because while I take Angie’s questions and concerns seriously, Joe remembers and talks about it less. A while back he asked why his father “used to call us and now he doesn’t.” I said I didn’t know  – more advice from the therapist, who said it’s okay not to have an answer for everything, to share their confusion – and Joe offered that maybe the problem was that we called at the wrong time. Another time I offered to call for Joe and he said no, that his father “won’t answer anyway.” Oh, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.

I am crushed by the kids’ questions and observations. I am… yeah… when I consider the ways that their father continues to benefit from my emotional energy, as I work to navigate this for/with them. I have to come up with all the answers, or something to say. I have to make sure they feel loved and valued in light of his choices. I can’t, won’t, and don’t want to badmouth him to them because it would not be helpful. I have to keep a straight face when Angie coos that she loves her daddy and misses him “so, so much.” So the bracelet stays, for now.

I imagine at some point he’ll forget about it or toss it into a “let’s make room for new toys” box and… that won’t be better.

Adventures in parenting

Because this week has been too… good? absurd? amusing?… not to share. And good God, it’s not even over yet.

Saturday AM

Out of nowhere, Joe woke up with a serious sinus infection. Poor thing had that “sick face,” just blech, where you can tell before he says a word that he’s under the weather. So we stayed home while Angie went on an all-day playdate. Joe lounged and we binge-watched Mythbusters.

Saturday PM

Sometime Saturday afternoon, Joe swallowed a penny. Sure did. A few moments of high drama during which he was gagging and I had no idea what was happening. Is he going to throw up? Is he choking? Is it from his sinuses? Is he just coughing? The whole thing lasted less than a minute, then he was fine. I felt a few new gray hairs develop.

Once we were calm and sitting on the couch, he told me he had swallowed a penny. He was so sad. I contacted the BC/BS nurse line, the pediatrician and Dr. Google. The consensus basically was, as long as it went down, he should be fine, watch and wait.

Sunday

Sick day. Quiet. No penny.

Monday

Long, busy workday before the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court arguments, piles of work to finish, press calls, planning, etc.

Got a call from the school nurse: Joe got a scratch on his forehead during gym class. He’s fine.

Ran out at 5:15 to pick up the kids, buy them McDonalds (which you know I don’t often do), bring ’em back to the office and finish up. They were weirdly enthusiastic about the whole thing. “It ain’t that exciting, kids.”

We got home just after 8:00. As soon as we walked in, Joe pooped. He and I just stood there and stared at it until I said, “Joe. There’s a big stick in the kitchen (because of course there is). Go get it.” Then, surely the highlight of my week, I poked around in his poop, looking for that penny, thinking to myself, “Tell me about substantial burdens and compelling interests.” The search was… fruitless. Ahem.

No penny.

Tuesday AM

Hobby Lobby arguments. I had to get to the court super-early, so our neighbor, whose kids go to the same school took Joe and Angie. Joe was annoyed by the change in routine.

Couldn’t find a cab for love or money, then the cabbie asked “which Supreme Court” I wanted. Caught me off-guard. “The… big one. By the Capitol.” Stood out in the cold and snow with thousands of other people from 8:30a-1:30p. Words can’t touch how frozen to the core I was. Frozen through and through. Princess Anna frozen.

Got a call from the school nurse: The health form she has is out of date, please bring another. 

Tuesday PM

The PTA for the kids’ old elementary school was having a fundraiser dinner at Haydee’s in Mt. Pleasant. They danced with friends, I chatted up the parents, they had quesadillas, I had margaritas (and might have eaten, but who knows and who cares).

On the way out, I was still a little damp from being out all day and it was still so cold. I had a short but intense freakout, where I just could not stand being cold for a moment more. “SERIOUSLY. I am SO. TIRED. of being cold. CANNOT. ANYMORE.”

No penny.

Wednesday AM

My feet still felt cold.

Comparatively calm at work. You know when The Big Thing happens at work, The Big Thing you spent months planning for is over, and part of you has no idea what to do after? Just blink and stare at the papers and to-do lists scattered all over your desk.

Got a call from the school nurse: Angie fell down in class and got a bloody nose. She’s fine.

Wednesday PM

Saw in the my email that “Scooby-Doo Live! Musical Mysteries” was at the Warner Theatre that night, one show. First had to figure what to do about Peapod delivery slated for the same time. Learned from customer service that I’ve been “a great customer for ten years” – I had no idea – so the nice man whispered I was last on the route.

Bought the tickets and was all excited to show the kids. Angie was delighted. Joe was annoyed because “I don’t like musicals! I like movies!” Oh, shush. Both loved it, though complained that I wouldn’t buy them the overpriced merch. “You got to go to a special fun show on a school night, and cotton candy. Mommy loves you, but now you need to stop.” By the time we got home, they had come around and since then have talked about how much they enjoyed it.

No penny.

Thursday AM

Joe is annoyed that we’re not doing anything tonight. All I want to do is go home and sit quietly.

Got a call from the school nurse: Joe and a friend bonked heads during recess. He’s fine.

No penny?

The things she carried

Before I left Ohio, I poked around Nana’s room…

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I started with this and was initially only going to post this picture because it is everything. It is everything old lady, old lady of a certain time and place, Italian Catholic and my Nana.

She still used powder puffs. My mother just gave her this one (along with the body spray over on the right – Wind Song!) for Christmas and said she really had to hunt. When I was little and would sleep over Nana and Pap’s house, after she gave me a bath I would lay on her bed and she would powder me with the big puff. I loved it. Makes me wonder why they fell out of favor because they really are/were quite nice.

I have a small collection of Catholic figurines that Nana’s given me over the years, and I cherish them because they remind me of her and all of my growing up. None of us have been to church in forever, but she was still strongly connected. She passed with that rosary in her hand.

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Her bulletin board. Frankie, who just died a few months ago himself, was my mother’s pug. She adored him and, from what I could tell, the feeling was mutual. They were home all day together. He sat with her constantly. He slept in my parents’ room but checked on her every night before he turned in. They were buddies and she was heartbroken when he died. My mother would almost certainly have waited longer to get a new dog had Nana not gone to her and asked if they could have one. (They got two, but a story for another time.)

 

 

 

 

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This was her spot. Her magazines would be to her left. Among other things in her side table is a little book of Bible verse, some candy, dog treats, a envelope of cash and her checkbook. Probably more candles. Behind her is a collection of pictures of my cousin who died last summer. Missing is the angel throw that was usually on her chair, a gift from Pap’s funeral.

At my mother’s we were talking about how… weird? sad? bittersweet? it is how small your world can get as you get old. That chair in that room was pretty much her world. I know some of it is just the nature of living past 90, where you outlive your siblings, friends and peers. Her hearing was bad and her ability to follow a conversation was slipping.

But. She was comfortable, safe, loved and cared for at my mother’s. The rest of called frequently and visited as much as possible. She wanted for nothing. She still helped in the kitchen, clean up, put away dishes, and that was great but there was nothing she had to do.

 

 

 

 

 

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And on top of her magazine stand? I swear I didn’t put this there. At Christmas I was in talking to her when I noticed she had Prevention. I don’t know a soul who gets there. Well, it just so happens that I successfully pitched a feature piece to them on women and the ACA, and it ran in the November print edition – the one pictured here. So I pointed it out to her and explained how I made it happen. That was great. She was really impressed, and you know, it was hard to explain to her what I do, so to have something tangible was great. You can see where she has the page marked.

Also in her magazine rack? Trash. Big Nana never met a tabloid she didn’t like. You’d be amazed at the celebrity gossip (true or not) she was up on. What she had for dinner last night might be a mystery, but Nana was up on Kimye’s relationship woes and whether Kate Middleton is pregnant again.

Finally, just the fact that she owns this amuses me. She and Pap always had a magazine/newspaper rack, but you really don’t see these anymore. They seemed to disappear well before the internet era.

ImageIf anyone under 70 still uses curlers like these… well, entirely possible they do, but I’m not aware of it. To my mind they are 100% Nana. She was a hairdresser for years. When my mother was young, she had a little beauty shop in her basement. It was still there (though no longer open) when I was young, and I thought it was the neatest thing in the world. It was pink tile, so ’50s era. I especially enjoyed those big dryers where you could pretend to be an astronaut, and when you turned them on, the warm air felt so good. (I’m still a fan of the dryer. Love you, warm, white noisy cone of silence.)

And in her way, Nana was concerned with/critical of her appearance until the very end. That Instagram of her I took my last night in Ohio? She hated it. We didn’t have a viewing because we talked about how much she wouldn’t want people looking at her. Whole ‘nother post there about cutting myself some slack and staying in the picture… 

ImageShe liked candles. A LOT. (And I think by the time I got around to taking this pictures, my mother had already moved some. I could have sworn there were more.) She had at least one, as many as three, going in her room at all times. My mother swore she’d eventually burn down the house. Nana was tough to buy for because there was increasingly little she needed or wanted or could use, but she always liked a nice candle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile markers

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I’ve been using the nom de plume Bomboniera – not just here but on various message boards and elsewhere – for years now. Yes, the “party favor” connotation amuses me. But more than that, a bomboniera is often a little box or tulle bag of confetti, sugar-coated almonds meant to represent the sweet and the bitter of life.

Tomorrow I’ll celebrate my 40th birthday! (Friday I’ll really celebrate. Hope to see you.) Yesterday I learned that Big Nana is unwell and is on hospice care. The, uh, candle is flickering.

I am all over the map. I should be heading back to Ohio right now and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be there Saturday. The Vegas contingent has arrived. The kids are still there, in the midst of all this commotion. (Oh, and have I mentioned the two new rescue dogs? They’re not fully house-trained yet, wheee!) But, ugh. I also selfishly want these next two days. I just do. The family is telling me to enjoy myself, I can always drop everything and go home if circumstances warrant and Nana would not be happy to hear that I called off my celebrations. So the compromise is I won’t cancel, but I promise to feel really guilty about it.

(I am very grateful I just had a week there. I hadn’t been home since last Easter.)

But more than anything my heart is with Nana. She’s outlived Pap by ten years. She hurts a lot. She’s so tired. Her 93rd birthday is this month, so it’s not like the fact of her mortality comes as a surprise. It’s just… yeah.

Make these

Don’t make me mince words. These are fantastic and make them.

I’m thinking about other cereals that would work well here – All-Bran, maybe? Or Kashi’s version of Cheerios? Maybe you could add mini marshmallows, though personally I think that’d be gilding the lily.  These are sweet enough.

The currants are my addition but I think they work really well. Also, I only added salt to my own, and it makes them taste a little like chocolate covered pretzels. Oh my God, so good.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Haystacks

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  • 1 (12 ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips (minis are good here)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 3-3/4 cups Fiber One cereal
  • 1 cup raisins or currants
  • sea or kosher salt (optional)

Line cookie sheets with waxed or parchment paper. In large microwaveable bowl, heat chocolate chips and peanut butter uncovered on High 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute longer, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted and smooth.

Stir in cereal and fruit until well coated. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, at least 30 minutes.

Angie, Angie, Mad at Mommy

And I just had a conversation the other day about the kids and gender performance. It’s no secret Angie is in a serious, serious princess/fairy/princess fairy phase. Most of the time, I don’t fuss. I really try to follow her lead and focus much more attention on what she does rather than what she wears. So long as she plays and runs and kicks a ball, do I care if she does it in a tutu?

I do care about her self-image.

Her: Mama, am I beautiful?

Me: Sweetheart, you are always beautiful. You are beautiful, smart, tough and brave.

And I do care about how she perceives gender. She’ll tell me outright – this isn’t me being perceptive – that she is wearing a dress “so that [she] will be a girl.” I assure her that she is a girl and will always be a girl*, no matter what she has on. In part because I want her to decouple who she is from what she’s wearing. In part because she’s got a closet full of adorable shorts she won’t touch.

It’s only getting worse. Last week she asked for something pink to wear so I pulled out a little cotton jersey dress – mind you, this was only to wear around the apartment – and she was displeased.

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Her: Ummmmmm….. no, thank you.

Me: What’s wrong with this dress? It’s pink.

Her: It’s pink, but it’s not beautiful.

Me: Aw, come on.

All this in mind, today I put her in pants for the first time in ages. Camp was having a big party and the kids all had to wear yellow shirts. Plus it was cool this morning and they were both complaining. It’s July so it’s not like I have tights handy. It was going to have to be light pants. The child lost her mind.

She was so mad she left the apartment wearing no shoes, hat or jacket. I had to carry her all the way to the bus, screaming the whole time, while I tried catering to her every clothing whim/concern.

Me: There’re hearts on these! Pink hearts! They’re so, so gorgeous! Your shirt is yellow like a sunflower! It’s got ruffles! ANGIE YOU ARE SO CUTE I CAN’T EVEN STAND IT.

She sulked all the way to Dupont Circle.

*Chances are. Let’s leave that conversation for a later date.

A big deal to small people

I’ve been complaining all summer about the commute to Georgetown – which, to be clear, does suck – but I took a moment today to consider a few high points.

 

ImageThey adore this block of 27th that basically has no sidewalk on one side. We have to walk down it every chance we get, so the kids can make a big show out of balancing on the curb. (I know, surprising that my offspring should have a flair for the dramatic.) 

In this picture, Joe is making a return trip, a) to show off that he can, and b) to help his sister complete the journey. So sweet. Angie declined the offer. So tough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Every Wednesday we visit the Georgetown farmers market after camp. We don’t miss it. The last time Joe did Rose Park, there was an Italian ice guy we liked, until one week he just disappeared. The head of the market explained (just so) that it was learned the Italian ice “wasn’t locally sourced,” and he had to go. Well, of course.

Now we visit the cookie guy. Angie gets chocolate chip, Joe gets a lemon drop, I ignore the prices and just enjoy delighting the children.

 

All the lunch in the world

I’ve said this before: the surest, fastest route to my lizard brain is for the kids to tell me they are hungry. Cold also gets there, but hungry? Instant stress. Feed the children.

Some day last week, on the way home from camp Joe said there hadn’t been enough food in his lunchbox for an afternoon snack. (We’re supposed to pack enough for morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack.) And he laid it on thick.

“Really, you had no food? You ate everything before afternoon?” ‘Cause you gotta know I pack a good deal of food already, and typically a solid third to half of it comes home. He’s not a big eater.

“I had no sandwich, no watermelon, no animal crackers, no apple, no cheese stick –“

“I get it, Joe. I get it.”

Now I pack enough for a weekend camping trip. He actually noted today how heavy his lunchbox was. Well, yes, darling. You did that.

Today was: 

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Top left: PB&J, banana, Goldfish crackers.

Top right: Hard boiled egg (“egg in my hand”), mini bagel, sliced cheese and hot dog

Bottom right: applesauce and Greek yogurt

Bottom left: homemade granola

We’re out of cheese sticks and fruit snacks or something would be shoved into that little space next to the granola.

Joe ate the sandwich, half the egg, half the bagel, half the crackers, all of the applesauce/yogurt and granola. Doesn’t matter. If can squeeze a Cornish game hen into that lunchbox tomorrow, I’m doing it.

When the going gets tough…

…the tough get going while the rest of us retreat to the kitchen. At least, that’s what I did today.

Some years ago, at a work conference, a colleague fell ill and passed out. She had some chronic health issues and who knows what misfired at that moment, but one moment she was fine and the next, out cold. Paramedics were summoned and a small group of us waited with her. After what felt like an eternity, she came to and we helped her to a chair. As we waited for the ambulance, I kept asking if she needed anything.

Me: Could it have been your sugar? Would juice help?

Her: I don’t think so.

Me: Would you like a glass of water?

Her: No, thanks.

Me: Muffin?

Her: Didn’t we just eat? Aren’t you still full from breakfast?

Me: Heh. Yes. I know. I’m sorry. All I know how to do right now is feed you.

Her: Okay. I’ll have a glass of ice water.

Me: Oh my God, thank you.

So in lieu of anything more helpful or productive, today I took to the kitchen. If I can do nothing else, I can always feed you.

Macaroni & Cheese (with peas and bacon)

Soooothing.

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) small pasta. I went with cavatelli.
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 T butter — unsalted, cut into pieces
  • 12 oz evaporated milk (I didn’t have any kind of milk, so I whipped together cream cheese and maybe 8oz hot water. Whatever, it worked.)
  • 12 oz grated cheese. I used cheddar and cojack.
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
  • 10 strips crispy cooked bacon, crumbled

Put the water on for pasta and start the cheese mixture…

Combine milk, cheese, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper and stir together until smooth. Set aside.

Cook pasta to al dente. (This is important, as it’s going to cook another 10 minutes in the cheese sauce. It shouldn’t be done done when you drain it.) Put the frozen peas in the strainer. Drain pasta over the peas and pour all into the pot.

Set the pot over low heat and, stirring constantly – this is a good job for your silicone spatula – bring the mixture to the first bubble of a simmer, 5-10 minutes. It should thicken noticeably. This may take several minutes.both into the pot. Add butter and stir until well-blended.

Increase the heat slightly if the sauce is still soupy after 5 minutes, but watch it very carefully.

Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature until ready to serve. Sprinkle with bacon.

Cheater, cheater, banana eater

Banana, chocolate, peanut butter. Honestly, this couldn’t be easier.

Again with the overripe bananas. I think I’ve mentioned before that if I don’t have set plans for them, they go into the freezer whole. I buy bananas every week, so there are always at least a few, on the counter, in the fridge, in the freezer, at various stages of ripeness.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana “Ice Cream”

3-4 overripe bananas

1/2 cup peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1-2 tablespoons milk or cream (optional)

If you planned ahead, you might have those bananas peeled and sliced. I certainly didn’t, so I defrosted them in the microwave just enough to peel.

The dairy is only to help get the bananas going. I went ahead and used Greek yogurt, because I didn’t want to add much in the way of liquid and thought the yogurt would give it a nice tang.

Everything goes into the food processor and blended well.  Then I poured into ramekins and put them into the freezer for 30 minutes, stirred, and back for another 30. This would also make excellent fudgesicles.

Verdict: Angie was mad there was peanut butter in her chocolate ice cream, but she’s been in a mood all day. I think she’s just tired. Joe liked it a lot. I’m actually not at all a fan of peanut butter ice cream, but the texture and flavor are excellent.