Happy Birthday Baby (It’s me, Really, Your Mama)

Oh how I’ve missed you dear reader.

You probably don’t recognize me, now that I’ve been stripped of my crown.  Now that I no longer hold the title and wear the proud sash  ‘Queen of Those Who Will Never Ever Allow Animals in this House.’

I’m not who you think I am.  Or maybe I’m not who I thought I was.

Either way I am breaking radio silence with a confession.

Frankly, it’s my behavior.  Erratic, unpredictable, and totally unprecedented; I don’t know who I am anymore.

Here’s the thing — We got a bunny.

As in a real live rabbit-like fritter (furry+critter = fritter) living INSIDE our home.  I’ll wait while needles scratch on the sound-tracks of life and those who know me well gasp for air in an aura of disbelief.

It’s true.  See?

That’s Pesto (the brown furry thing, not the kid.)

Surely it hasn’t been so long that you don’t recognize my birthday girl?  You know, the one who looks pretty darn happy most of the time but apparently, sigh, could be so much more so if she got a bunny for her birthday.

The one who spent the better part of the year writing persuasion papers on how bunny-ownership improves the quality of life.

The gal who swears that she will take full responsibility for caring and cleaning and whatever else goes along with this pet shebang. (Go ahead and smirk, you know who you are.)

The one with the smile that screams I HAVE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD but secretly is thinking, hey, who is this strange lady? She looks a little familiar and still has that weird thing for kale, but gone is that unending diatribe against pets.

I don’t know what happened to her and if you, dear friends, think it best to lock me up than I defer to your better judgement. (Another confession: I’ve taken to chatting up the fritter as I walk by on days where it’s just me and him, home alone, clearly insane.)

Leaving for a moment the unanswerable question of how we got here, I bet you’re wondering how a floppy-eared fluffy thing goes and gets himself named after an herbed Italian sauce?

Once upon a day last week, I was covered in basil and garlic and wondering how to make it into sauce.  This is what followed when I asked my daughter to read the list of ingredients from a googled recipe:

She:  Do you want it in a southern accent, or a British one?

Me:  Southern

She: Well, Bubba, that’s just the way I feel about pesto

Me: Um, huh?

She:  Well Bubba, that’s just the way I feel about pesto

And so it came to pass that

  1. My sauce did not taste very good.
  2. The bunny got named Pesto.
  3. Our family has a new framed motto that hangs  above the kitchen table:

What I did over Winter Break

My children might try to tell you that I spent their winter break hiding away in a pumpkin shell.

And maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.

And maybe the impossible sheen of my bouncy tail makes the whole issue a moot point anyway.

Ahh, such fluffy finesse.  It is not achieved through the wonders of coconut oil or conditioning.

Nope, it is the rejuvenating act of sticking my head inside a gourd and dimming the light switch of reality that does it for me.

It’s putting down the cell phone.

And leaving the laundry for another day.

It’s staring aimlessly out the window at the more industrious beings as they scurry to and fro striking impressive yoga poses using nothing more than a rotten pumpkin that’s been begging to be composted for months.

Oh yes, and it’s abdicating responsibility for feeding one’s family.  This is done best under the guise of  “helping the children gain independence in the kitchen.”

So while I curled up pumpkin-side and our rodents illustrated their dexterity, my children got busy.

They poured.  They mixed,

and they made short work of my boastful popover display with their gorgeous oven-baked pancakes.

Whereas my popovers are finicky and unpredictable, this oven pancake shows up every time, delicious in all its fluffy splendor.

Here’s the recipe.   Though I believe the true secret lies in the sitting back and sipping coffee while the children make breakfast (Warning:  when one abdicates power in the kitchen, one’s children might locate the food coloring.  Which is how one might find herself dining, ala Sam I Am, on a plate of green pancakes.)

And though you may find gangrenous pancakes unappealing, you will eat them.

You will eat them in a boat.  And you will eat them with a goat.

And you will eat them in the rain.  And you will eat them on a train.

Perfectly Pernicioius Popovers

Dang that title sounds good.

Good enough that in the name of honoring this amazing breakfast treat we will ignore the self-incriminating feel of it.

I know what you’re thinking.  That if I must insist upon this alliterative annoyance, why not go with something more suitable?

Persnickety perchance? That packs the power of the literary ‘p’.

And persnickety does reference the careful labor demanded by the stubbornly mysterious popover recipe.

Nah, persnickety doesn’t make the cut.  Why?  Because I am unwilling to log the details that might explain why this recipe delivers breakfast magic on some days, and dense little pancake-flavored hockey pucks on others.

I know first-hand the disappointment of the pop-under.   I just haven’t worked out if I should blame the weather or the children or the 250 pound squirrels that leap and twirl upon our deck while the poor treats are trying to cook.

DARN YOU POPOVER!  HOW I YEARN TO UNLOCK YOUR ‘TO POP OR NOT TO POP’ DRAMA!

Hence, pernicious.

Moving on.

Pernicious.  Perfection.  Popovers.

The words are a careful caress.  They pour forth effortlessly, tumbling one into the next and in so doing create an overall feeling of peace and harmony and goodwill for all mankind.

That’s the kind of power a perfect popover can punch.

Warning (every great recipe should come with a warning):

Your pops could flop.  Sometimes, they will not.

Popovers are like that.

Pernicious.  Persnickety.  And perfectly fabulous when they want to be.

Nature: 1, Nuture: 0

Yes, I know.  The smile on this face as it soars through the air with the greatest of ease would delight any parent.

And yet I confess, for as long as our youngest has been flashing us hints of her true nature, I have been trying my darnedest to nurture it out of her.

I’ve tried logic. I’ve tried restraining devices. And I’ve tried everything in between.  Nurture’s got nothing in the face of the iron strong will of a child who sees very little appeal in setting her feet upon terra firma.

My husband will gently suggest that I over-react.

That I’ve spent the past 9 years ladling up my fears and issues all over this poor child who really doesn’t curse the world that has unjustly saddled her with laws of gravity.

Perhaps.

It’s been a few years since Psych 101, so help me decipher this.  It’s Acadia’s answer to her 4th grade assignment to draw a picture that shows the class how you see yourself:

Ok my child, I hear you.  It’s not a passing phase.

And I do apologize for overlooking this obvious fact when you brought home your first arboreal self-portrait over 3 years ago.

It is not the thrill of autumn colors that tugs at your heart.  And it’s not the alluring scent of crisp apples that metaphorically attracts you to the tree-tops, either.

Ground = bad.  Tree tops = Good.

Got it, nature.  Message received.   And I hereby promise to try my best to harness my smothering need to nurture you back down to the earth.

What, me worry?

As a nationally-acclaimed worry-wort  (*disclaimer: no one has ever given me anything but grief, let alone acclaim for my vigilant worrying) a few weeks ago I did something that I’ve been feeling kind of proud of.

This:

That’s me (not pictured) boldly allowing my baby to ride her bike to school clear across suburbia all by herself without any bubble wrap.

And here I am not pictured again, sending my 4th grader out to meet the school bus alone with little more than a smile and that pack on her back.

I am brave. I am chill and relaxed and so comfortably assured that my children are prepared for their world that I can barely think of anything to worry about.  List? Consider yourself checked.

Vegetables? Eaten.

Sunscreen? Applied.

And oh yes stranger danger and helmets and looking two ways and holding on with both hands we’ve covered you too.  We are good.

And then, an email.  An email from school that came with this title:

Bear Activity confirmed in school district.

Aces.  So much for all that time I dedicated to compulsive preparations because I can tell you this with utter confidence  —  I sent those little lambs out into their environment without a single item that might be useful in self-defense against wild animals.

Unless you count a sharpened #2?

I turn my jittery, flustered attention back to the email and find, not a step-by-step on defeating bears with writing implements, but this helpful tip:

“Please talk to your children about bear safety.”

Um, right-o.  I am sure that tying trash in trees and stomping out campfires works just fine when these not-so-gentle giants are encountered in their woodsy ‘hood, but what could bear safety in the suburbs possibly look like?

I can only assume that it’s a little bit Never accept candy from trench-coat-adorned bears.

And perhaps a smattering of Just Say No, er, to bears.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bowl

Excuse me the title, but when Acadia showcased her Queen Monster Tomato my mind had yet to make the leap from Shark Week and bigger boats to farming and jumbo tomatoes.

And when I say we’re gonna need a bigger bowl…

I mean with all hands on deck and tomato juice flying and canning jars bubbling away and our floor running red with the carnage of so much flesh being torn limb from oops, sorry.  Darn shark week muddling my metaphors.

Argggh, who needs sharks?  I’ve got a couple of  scurvy lasses willing to flash their knives in the name of preserving food.

And while all hands were on deck for slicing dicing squeezing and chopping,

a funny thing happened to me.  In the midst of all this my pulse, racing with the pressure of back to school and outgrown sneakers and unfamiliar schedules and shark attacks, started to beat just a bit smoother.  And my brow, furrowed with the worries brought on by a new middle-schooler and a calendar to be updated with activities galore, relaxed back into my forehead.

So what does one do with an abundance of relaxed emotions and a couple of backyard apple trees that chose this year to produce hundreds of glamour-shot worthy beauties?

Easy.  One leaps deftly from canning tomatoes to grinding out applesauce.  And once again our workers sliced and diced and ground away

all in the name of putting up enough sustenance to keep us well throughout the harsh winter to come.  Oh the joy of walking past the crumbling destruction that is our flooded basement and into the storage closet that now houses this bounty —

(Note to the nay-sayers:  Yes, one can survive on tomatoes, applesauce and jam alone.  But just in case, say hello to our back-up plan:  Operation Vegetarian Katniss.

Once Upon a Time in an Enchanted Suburb

Once upon a time in an enchanted suburb there lived a family.

There was a king.  A queen.  A couple of princesses.  It was quite an ordinary family. They were content; not much happened in their little kingdom.

Then one day funny things did start to happen.

Funny, unexpected things that were not really the ha-ha kind of funny but more of the surreal funny of old-fashioned fairy tales.

The king, a rugged, tough guy sort of king, ignored a nagging pain in his side.  And wound up spending his magical summer in the hospital.

The brave queen soldiered on.

And then the princesses began acting funny.  They slept-walked into dangerous unknowns, narrowly escaping swirling attic fans and plunges.  They threw up.  They fainted.  Their fair coach failed to complete the trip home.

And yet despite grave doubts, the magical summer did end.  Happily-ever-after returned to enchanted suburbia.  And the brave queen soldiered on.

And then one day in the palace kitchen . . .

Princess number 2 skipped happily along, successfully navigating the stairs and turning the corner into the kitchen, for she wanted to know what was being prepared for dinner.  The Queen was there, chopping veggies; she was unaware of the terror lurking just feet from her precious princess.

The princess threw her hands up and started to scream.  And when I say she started to scream I mean SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM as in the horror industry was on the phone immediately trying to sign up such splendid vocal chords.

Her pointed finger shaking, she screamed on.  And when the queen followed the wiggling digit she saw, not 2 feet from the warm kitchen with the chopped vegetables and the screaming princess, a bear.


A BIG BEAR.

A BIG BLACK BEAR staring my shrieking princess in the eye.

A big black bear standing on the welcome mat inches outside our patio doors as if he had just taken the burgers from the grill and was merely waiting for the princess to lend him a hand in opening the door.

And then he loped away, pausing once for a slow backward glance.  He sauntered into our garden where he found our berries covered in snow, and with a cat-like grace leapt 6 feet to the top of the fence, strolled a bit up top, and disappeared into the afternoon sun.

And the brave queen?  She’s kind of at a loss here.

Moral of the Story: Heed Check Appendix Light

If we had paid any attention to the check engine light before we left, the car probably wouldn’t have stalled out.

Likewise, if Dave had heeded his check appendix light, he wouldn’t still be sitting in that lousy hospital bed and I might not consider vacation to be a four letter word.

Every day on the way to the hospital I pass the place where we were married.   Out front there’s this green guy with waving tentacles and fangs that hollers at me as I go by.  He’s all IN SICKNESS AND HEALTH this and FOR BETTER OR WORSE that.  And to think that 13 calm years of marriage had me thinking I was in for some wine sipping and sunset-ward sailing.

Other guys may say a quick goodbye to their appendix and head for the door.

Dave is not like other guys.  Today is his 11th day in the hospital, which by my calculations makes this the Worst Vacation Ever.

Turns out, if we had heeded that check appendix light when it burst in Colorado, the road to recovery would have been a whole lot smoother.  And this vacation would be more about rinsing sand from our nether regions and less about white blood cell counts and red jello.

Not that it’s all hospital gowns and stalled out engines (did I mention the car died? I think that was the same day Kira started throwing up. Or maybe it was just after my mother was diagnosed with Lyme disease, but before my father learned he was in the cast for another week. Funny how things blur together in these hazy summer days.)

Still, if you squint just so it’s almost like there is some good old fashioned vacationing going on out there —

There’s been broccoli picking in Grandma’s garden.

And a full moon over the bay.

My lucky sailor gals have a Grandma willing to take them on a boat-bound sleepover tied to the dock when loftier plans get foiled by hospital stays.

And then there’s mugs like this one.

I suppose it technically belongs to my sister, but it’s currently working overtime melting my aching heart, which despite nagging setbacks still harbors dreams of sailing off into the sunset with that guy I made those vows to.

Yeah, yeah, I’m still in.  For better or worse.  In sickness and health.

Ahhh, Vacation

There’s nothing like it.

The crisp scent of ammonia in the morning.

The precious squeak of white shoes on linoleum.

The fluorescent lights and the beeping machines.  Nothing says vacation like the emergency room.

And this year, instead of wasting time with pedestrian trappings like sand castles or sailboats we simply unloaded the suitcases and the children and were on our way.

If you remember Jack Nickolson in Something’s Gotta Give,

then you’ve got a pretty good idea of how our first few nights at the beach went down.

We loaded up for the big road trip as planned, last Tuesday. The only addition to the car load of snacks, bathing suits and t-shirts was a bottle of ibuprofen for Dave’s unusual fever and stomach pain.  Funny thing; his appendix, which burst somewhere between Iowa and Wisconsin, didn’t slow him down a bit.  He sill managed a week’s worth of driving, basketball, jump rope and kickball games on the road out east.

The CT Scan tech asked me if he had a high tolerance for pain.   I think he just hates the idea of missing a game.

Understandably, Dave didn’t sleep well the night of the surgery, but it was not the beeping machines or the nurses in and out of his room demanding vitals that he blamed.  No, it was the screams of “STOP HIM HE’S GOING TO JUMP!” and “SOMEONE CALL THE ER, HE’S JUMPING!” that kept him up.

Turns out that one of the druggies from detox decided he’d had enough of the cafeteria food and thought he’d sail off into the sunset instead.  Hard to blame him considering the tantalizing view from the hospital windows.

Don’t get any ideas, dear husband.  My only wish is that you mend well and come back to me and then, I promise, we will sail off into the sunset together.

Silver Bells, Cockle Shells, they’re all just fine without me

While I’ve been busy with a bunch of this

and a whole lot of that

I haven’t had much time to pay attention to what’s going on in my own backyard.  Yes, you’re seeing right.  It’s time for the Aerial Squirrel Olympics.

And the garden, while not defying gravity, is worthy of some medals of its own.  Fat snap peas hang from stalks that sail skyward

We’ve had fresh salad every night

The strawberries are ruby red gems of tasty goodness

Even those I have neglected are putting out.  Ignore an onion long enough and she’ll do something to attract your attention —

Likewise the weeds.  I knew it would pay off to put off pulling this guy.

And just like that the summer is sailing past, and it is time to hang up the jump ropes and the swim goggles, wish the veggies good luck with their battle against the weeds, and load up the car for the jumbo July road trip.

We’ll catch you from the road.  ‘Til then…Wagons East!