History Lesson

As the unbloggable continues, and I find it increasingly difficult to rouse myself from the deep funk I’m mired in, I almost didn’t post again today – I’m just finding it hard to find the motivation (to say nothing of the time) required to write something intelligent and relevant.

The Young One, however, has rescued me, and given me something amusing.

It’s hard to believe that my baby, the youngest of five, is a senior in high school, but he is.  Due to some scheduling conflicts (i.e. he didn’t want to give up either of his two study halls or early dismissal) he is taking Speech and Performance – what we called “drama class” back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  For this first grading period, his teacher is taking the “speech” portion of the class very seriously, and today he will be giving a speech that he has committed to memory in front of the entire class.  I forget how he got stuck with JFK’s inaugural address, but that’s the speech he’s been agonizing over for the last several days.

Mostly the last several days because he put off memorizing it until the last possible moment.  (Can we say “senioritis?”)

Seriously, though, by last night he had most of it down pat and was just struggling with a portion towards the end of the speech, but earlier this week he was having quite a bit of trouble with the first line, which consists of a rather long list of names.

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens

He was pacing around the room while Beloved and I were doing whatever it was we were doing, repeating the line over and over, and becoming increasingly frustrated because he had to keep referring to the sheet the speech was written on.  After a bit, he was able to recite the names, but then came up blank at what came afterwards.  Finally, in an exceedingly irritated voice, we heard this:

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens…I’m gonna botch the Bay of Pigs.  Have a nice day.”

After the hysterical laughter died down and we picked ourselves up off the floor, Beloved turned to me and said, “YOU raised him.”

Don’t think I’m not proud of that.

RTT – 3 Weeks In, Politics, and Back To School Blasphemy

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Well, here it is – Tuesday again.  Menopause seems to have stolen my brain this morning, so I’ll just do some Random rather than try to write something coherent.

You’re welcome.

(And bless you, Stacy.)

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Today is Day 21 of the Whole30.  I have to admit, at the beginning I was more than a little dubious about my ability to see it through (having failed miserably twice before), but I am confident that I’ll make it through the next week without a problem.  Even exercising every day is not as hard as I thought it would be; the day before yesterday as we were getting ready for bed, Beloved said, “Hey – you haven’t exercised today!”  So I dropped to the floor and did 40 crunches before my abdomen gave out.  The above mentioned brain fog began last night – I’m just so darn tired and am having a lot of trouble concentrating – and I was not in the least bit motivated to take my usual mile+ evening walk, so I did three sets of 10 squats and 10 pushups.

Ouch.

At any rate, I’m glad I subscribed to the daily motivational emails; they’ve been great at informing me about what to expect over the 30 days.  For instance, today’s email talks about forming habits, and a curious effect called “extinction burst.”  Simply put, “Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your habit.”

Which probably explains why I’ve been craving a damn waffle like mad for the last 3 days.

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I’m sorry, Mr. Akin – apologize all you want.  You’re still a douche bag.

And people wonder why I don’t view my Libertarian vote as a wasted vote.  Just about anyone would be better than the clowns in office, or those running for it, in either of the “major” parties.

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We hit another milestone at the Sushi Bar tomorrow:  The Young One begins his obscenely expensive senior year in high school.  As he’s the youngest of five, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that 1) after 23 years, I’m almost done with public school and B) good gawd, I really am THAT old.

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Yesterday, while we were out and about, engaging in our annual tradition of waiting until the last possible moment to go school shopping, I noticed the arthritis in my hands twitching.  Since changing our diet over two years ago it has almost completely disappeared, but once in a while I’ll notice it.  I commented on it, and The Young One asked me why it was bothering me.

“See those rain clouds on the horizon?  It’s probably going to rain, and for some reason, cold or damp weather can make your arthritis act up.”

“Why?”

“I really don’t know,” I replied, “but it probably has something to do with the barometric pressure.  It drops when it rains.”

“Well, why don’t you Google it and find out?” he asked (and quite reasonably, I might add.)  “You can find out anything on Google…”

“I guess I should,” I said.  “Does that, like, make Google a god?”

“It might as well be!”

That does it.  I’m going to spend every Sunday morning henceforth as the Church of the Almighty Search Engine.  Does that make Larry Page and Sergey Brin Co-Popes?

Yes, The Young One, There IS a Santa Claus. YES. THERE IS.

Recently my friend Gretchen wrote about the apprehension she experiences when she thinks about having the “there is no Santa” conversation with her young son when the time comes.

She’s completely justified in this.

I originally posted the following in August 2008, and it is extremely fitting for this time of year.  It basically recounts what is probably my biggest parenting fail (although I’m sure if you asked any of the kids, they could reel off an entire list of them).  But even if it wasn’t the worst, it’s one of those memories every parent has that makes them cringe whenever they think about it.

So, just do yourself a favor and think about how you’re going to tell your kids there is no Santa…or take the easy way out and never tell them at all.

(For the record, the child in question has turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted human being.  Although he will NOT hesitate to tease me mercilessly about this.)

(Oh, and I’ve adjusted their ages for the purposes of keeping this current.)

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Beloved and I have 5 kids between the two of us – their ages are 28, 25, 23, 20 and 17; the oldest and youngest are boys and the middle three are girls.  We’ve been through this, and while I can’t vouch for Beloved, the most traumatic of the “There is no Santa Claus” conversations for me have been the first and last…probably because they were the first and the last.

When Oldest Son was about 8 years old – maybe as young as seven – his father and I told him the truth about Santa Claus.  I don’t really remember why; perhaps he’d heard something from the kids at school, or maybe we’d just decided he was old enough to know the truth.  Telling Oldest Son anything has always produced one of two reactions – grave contemplation, characterized by a slight frown and furrowing of his brow, or complete skepticism, denoted by the downturn of one corner of his mouth and the raising of the opposite eyebrow.  (As a teenager he expanded on that repertoire with a completely blank stare that was surprising in its eloquence:  “Yeah, Mom – just keep yelling at me…it’s all going in one ear and right back out the other…”)  The Santa Claus Revelation produced the Grave Contemplation response, whereupon he immediately retreated to his video games to mull it all over.

Maybe two or three hours passed when he approached his father, and with a completely hopeless and dejected countenance, said, “Dad…the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too?”  We felt absolutely awful until we found out that he turned right around and – you guessed it – spilled the beans to his 4-year-old sister.

It wasn’t anything, though, compared to that same discussion with his little brother.  Fast forward 12 or so years, and The Young One and I are in my car, driving from Euless, a suburb of Ft. Worth, to downtown Dallas to pick up Oldest Son and bring him back to our place for a couple of days (probably so he could do his laundry).  If I remember correctly, it was early October and the initial “Holiday Season” onslaught of toy commercials was just beginning.  The Young One was 9 years old, and happily chattering away, something he does exceedingly well to this day (both the “happy” and the “chattering”).  Before I knew it, the subject of what he wanted for Christmas came up and somewhere in there the words “I hope Santa Claus brings me” were uttered.

I was a little taken aback – somewhere, somehow, my middle-aged and over-tired brain dredged up an obviously false memory of having laid this subject to rest the year before.  I shot a quick glance at him as we bulleted down I-35 towards the Mix Master, and uneasily said, “Uh…dear?  You know there isn’t really any Santa Claus, don’t you?”

He turned a startled and stricken face to me.  “Huh?  What???”

“Honey, you know Santa Claus is really Mommies and Daddies, right?”

He gave me an incredulous stare for maybe five seconds and then burst into anguished, wracking tears.  I was at a complete loss – never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d get such a reaction, no matter how wrong I was in my assumption or how disappointed he might be.  It took him a couple of minutes, but he finally calmed down enough for me to say, “Honey – I’m sorry!  I thought you knew!  Haven’t the other kids in school been telling you there isn’t any Santa Claus?” (He was, after all, in the fourth grade.)

“Yes – but I believed YOU!” he cried, and began sobbing uncontrollably again.  “I’ll NEVER be able to trust you ever AGAIN!”

I have to tell you – I’ve had people say some truly horrible and crushing things to me before (*cough*ex-husband*cough*), but nothing has ever made me feel as awful as that did.  I had visions of being dragged, against my will, on Oprah and having Dr. Phil declare me the most insensitive and unfit parent in recorded history while the audience beat me with copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Fortunately, Oldest Son and Darling Daughter have a marvelous relationship with The Young One, despite their age differences, and he adores and worships them both.  Once I had Oldest Son in the car, he was able to begin damage control and had The Young One calm enough for Darling Daughter (master of the “Let’s See How We Can Use This To Our Advantage” school of thought) to take over by the time we got home and really work on him (I’m sure it was she who pointed out to him that Parents are far more easily manipulated accessible than Santa Claus could ever be).

I think he even learned to trust me again.  Or at least wrangle an XBox out of me.

 

It’s That Time Of Year Again. Already.

Now that Halloween is over, we’ve been inundated with Christmas commercials, reminding us it’s time to ask ourselves that all important question:

“What the @#$% am I going to give them this year??”

Actually, we’ve already started our Christmas shopping – trust me, this is early for us – and what to give any particular person isn’t causing us too much grief (for a change).  No, it was the realization that, as of Thursday, we’re only two weeks away from Thanksgiving that’s stressing me a bit.

Last year about this time, I sent an SOS out to my readers about what to cook for my husband’s favorite holiday.  In the end, I took their advice and our dinner was a mixture of traditional favorites and new, healthy dishes.  Surprisingly (or not), the “traditional” dishes, which almost universally contained refined flour and/or sugar, didn’t taste as good as Beloved and I remembered – and we felt lethargic and kind of crappy for the rest of the day.

This year it will be different, for a couple of reasons.  I’m no longer consuming gluten-bearing grains of any sort, as well as any form of cow’s dairy so many traditional dishes will either be gone or reworked to fit my diet.  Then there will just be me, Beloved and The Young One for the big meal and while Thanksgiving is Beloved’s favorite holiday (“You get to eat too much, drink too much, watch too much football and you don’t have to buy anyone a present”), The Young One, being a picky eater, is less than enthusiastic about it.  Given my traditional menu, he’ll only eat turkey and rolls; if I make mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, he’ll eat the potatoes and nibble the green beans, after he’s picked off all the onions.  He could care less about pie.  All in all, The Young One much prefers Christmas dinners, which I don’t normally have a set menu for – last year I did a standing rib roast, and made chocolate souffle and peppermint ice cream for dessert (his all-time favorite).  (And no, don’t bother suggesting something non-traditional for Thanksgiving; Beloved loves him some turkey – besides, we already have one in the freezer and another on order.)

At any rate, I’m struggling a bit with Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I will probably buy some brown-and-serve rolls for The Young One (bread doesn’t even tempt me any more, so I that’s not a problem) and make him some Roasted Garlic White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes (I may even make him something chocolate for dessert).  As for the rest of it, I’m having trouble making decisions, especially since there’s just the three of us.

So, give a girl a hand, and give me your opinions:

The Turkey From Hell – this is a no-brainer.  I’ve been making the same recipe for 12 years, and have absolutely no inclination to change.  I only mention it so my newer readers can follow the link and read the recipe (just sub the flour with arrowroot or coconut flour).  It’s spectacular.

Spicy Cranberry-Wine Sauce – I originally posted this as a part of another recipe, and tweaked it for Thanksgiving last year and it was just wonderful.  I may make it again (perhaps tonight) and post it as a stand along recipe before Thanksgiving, but I’m entirely open to suggestions for another form of cranberry sauce or relish.

My Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing made with Savory Almond Muffins instead of cornbread.  Once upon a time, this was my favorite dish at the holidays.  I’ve tried to sub the cornbread with the almond flour muffins already, and while it tasted just fine I wasn’t real thrilled with the texture.  I’m going to make it again tonight, with some tweaks and (perhaps) some different ingredients, so we’ll see.  This is one of those dishes I’m on the fence about, but what would I replace it with?  Suggestions for a grain-free stuffing/dressing?  Preferably without oysters or sausage.

Puree of Turnip with Crispy Shallots – this is just so good.  I don’t much miss mashed potatoes, but when I want them these will be a fine substitute – and they’re fancy enough for a special meal. However, I’m willing to take suggestions for another potato substitute as long as it’s not mashed cauliflower, of which I’m a bit tired.

Maple-Sage Hasselback Sweet Potatoes or Maple Butternut Squash Souffle – if I were having a houseful, I’d make both but since it’s just the three of us (and The Young One will eat neither), it will be one or the other.  I just can’t make up my mind which.

Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta or Green Bean Casserole, without the flour on the onions, and using coconut milk in the mushroom sauce. Both recipes are just stellar, and I’m really on the fence with this one.

Apple Bacon Upside-Down Cake or my grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie without a crust and the appropriate paleo/real food substitutes (after all, pumpkin pie is really nothing more than a custard baked in a crust).  Again, if I were cooking for many I’d make both, but two desserts seems a little superfluous for two people.  Opinions on which I should make?  Suggestions for a different dessert?

So, that’s what I’m thinking about making; I’d love your feedback on my choices.  I’d also love to hear what you’ll be having for Turkey Day, whether or not you prescribe to any sort of “diet” or not.  So, let’s talk food!

OH – one thing that will be on the “drink it while you’re cooking” part of the menu is an absolutely fabulous dairy-free eggnog I’ve come up with.  I didn’t get any pictures when I made this weekend (it went that quickly), but Beloved’s done nothing but beg me suggest that I make it again immediately soon, so you’ll get the recipe for that before The Big Day.

And have a lovely Tuesday, y’all.

The (Very) Young One Saves The Day

I wonder sometimes if kids aren’t hardwired for technology.

When I was a child, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there wasn’t anything in our house I could operate that my mother couldn’t, simply because technology – or at least, affordable, accessible technology – hadn’t changed much between the time she and I became adolescents respectively (I guess it didn’t hurt that there was only a 17-year age gap).  Oh, I had access to things as a kid that my mother did not – color television, touch-tone telephones and 8-track cassette players – but it wasn’t anything terribly complicated.  You pushed a button, pulled a knob or dialed a dial; the most complex technology in our home involved wrapping the tips of the rabbit-ear antenna on our television with aluminum foil and positioning them just right in order to get decent reception.

Today, I couldn’t tell you a fraction of what our BluRay DVD player does, or how to make it do it.  We have approximately 374 remote controls in our home – one for the ceiling fan in the living room alone (no, I am not joking).  When I bought my behemoth of a microwave, which will grill, brown and nuke food, it came with a set of instructions so complicated Oldest Son immediately dubbed it “HAL.”  We won’t even go into the myriad of attachments and features that accompany our Dyson vacuum (Beloved: “What does this button do?”  [Pushes button.] Jan:  “It dumps the dirt back on the floor, dear.”).

Absolutely none of this phases The Young One.  I’m lucky I can turn our 52-inch television on and off – The Young One can hook up three different gaming systems to it as well as a DVD player and make them all work.

Simultaneously.

Without reading any instructions.

Of course, this only applies to electronics (turn on the stove?  Operate the washing machine?  Not on your life), but the kid is some kind of savant (being the mother of a 16-year-old who can not seem to turn on the stove or operate the washing machine, I’ll kindly leave the word “idiot” out. For now).  He had mastered both video game joysticks and controllers before he was two, and was beating the pants off of his older – 12 years older – brother.  The kid couldn’t talk, but he could kick your ass at Mortal Kombat and Banjo Kazooie.  At three, he would get on our computer and resize and rearrange all of desktop icons to his liking as well as tweak the mouse and keyboard settings to optimize your DOOM playing experience.

This was all the more remarkable when you consider the fact the child barely spoke a word before his sixth birthday.  I had his hearing checked, had him tested for autism and took him to a speech therapist, all to no avail.  It’s not as if he wasn’t frustrated by his inability to communicate, because he was; he had horrid, terrible temper tantrums that gradually decreased in frequency and severity, but didn’t go away completely until he was in the first grade.  Nor was he unintelligent – I joke about the idiot savant thing, but the boy was, and still is, scary smart.

One day, when he was maybe 4? 5? Darling Daughter and I decided to rearrange our living room, which of course necessitated moving our television and VCR.  We unplugged all the wires, moved the devices, and plugged them all back in only to have a blank, blue screen stare back at us when we turned the damn things on.  So we unplugged and replugged and rearranged wires, several times, all to no avail – all we got was a blank, blue screen.  This went on for nearly half an hour and I was so frustrated I was near tears when my son, who had silently watched everything, calmly walked over and pushed a button on the VCR.  The television screen immediately sprang to life.

He looked at me and said the longest sentence he’d ever spoken, up to that point:

“I fix it, Mommy.”

For more Spins about kids and technology, visit Sprite’s Keeper.  And don’t worry about The Young One – these days, I can’t get him to SHUT. UP.