Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Assessment

I finally raked off the flower beds on the side of the house where I drive in and park the car. These are the ones that I see everyday, so they needed to be addressed first so that the thought of not getting to it wouldn't drive me crazy. Tonight, Stella and I were able to inventory and assess the rest of the yard on the other side of the house.
I put on some sweat pants, an old inside out sweatshirt and rubber boots. After pouring myself a generous glass of red wine and dumping a handful of Cape Cod Potato Chips (Sea Salt and Black Pepper) into a bowl, and setting it on the deck, we set out to survey the little patch of land at 33 Hampden Road, me with glass in hand and Stella with her favorite "baby" a stuffed hedgehog, encrusted in drool.
Lots of raking is left to do along the white picket fence with the paint peeling off (another project, yet to be addressed) and the grass needs some major TLC.  The compost area demands a complete overhaul.  I don't know what has been digging underneath, (perhaps the culprit is Stella?  I wouldn't be surprised.), and there are old toys, broken wiffle balls and a variety of candy wrappers and popsicle sticks that have revealed themselves before the hostas and other greenery flourish and hide them again. (Thanks, kids!) Well, Hallelujah!  The day lillies seem to have popped up overnight!  Daffodils against the front of the house are just about ready to bloom, which can only mean that I need to get my @$$ in gear and get ready to amend, plant, water and mulch until I can't stand up again.
I checked my gardening diary.  (How else am I going to remember what happened, what I did, last year?  I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night!)  On April 7, 2013 Rob had already rototilled the vegetable garden plot and I planted Ava's lettuce seedlings (a project from a Girl Scout meeting a few weeks before).  By April 13, I was planting radishes and spinach.  O.K. I guess based on my progress from last year, I shouldn't panic, yet but I still feel like there is so much to do before Mother Nature decides it's time for the lettuce come up!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ready for Spring

The first thing to do is, rake.  I wanted to pull all the dead leaves off the sprouting crocuses and already blooming snowdrops that were peeking through, desperately looking for some sun but I knew I had to wait a bit longer. March is such a tease around here.  And wouldn't you know it.  Snow and hurricane force winds arrived on March 26th.  They even cancelled school the night before in anticipation of this one.  It's a good thing I held off I thought, as the kids and I hunkered down for what we all hoped was the last snow day of the year.  Even though Ava and Declan are still in elementary school and excited about a day off from school, even they are sick of the snow. Ready for baseball and dreaming of jumping off the raft at Megansett beach....well at least it will melt quickly at this time of year.
So, when I finally got out there to rake, I wasn't at all crabby about it, which can be my nature at times. (It's shocking that I can have that attitude, I know, but there you have it.) I was actually excited!  Excited to get going, get planting.  Suddenly, there are so many things to do.  Rototilling the small patch for the vegetable garden, turning the compost, preparing the seeds and I'm already behind.  I've got to get some pansies for the steps by the mind drifts to thoughts of summertime when I'll suddenly stop and wonder,
"Where did Spring go?"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Odd Things in Freezers

My freezer is a jumbled mess.  Half opened bags of frozen fruit, a random assortment of leftovers once thought worthy to occupy space to be eaten later at some point ( I don't know when and they inevitably get thrown out by me, the person who froze them in the first place during a mad purging spree.), 2 hotdogs in a ziploc bag and other essentials such as coffee and ice cubes for cocktails, it's all in there.  I also have trash in my freezer.  This idea I stole from my mother, Val.  Meat wrappers that would otherwise end up all over the yard before trash day, chewed to bits by neighborhood dogs and raccoons are now safely hidden away and smell free while cluttering up the freezer and camouflaging the ice cream.  But all this seems normal to me.

Other people have their own ideas of "normal" freezer etiquette.  My father allows his friends to put anything they see fit into his own freezer located in my parent's barn.  "It's a good thing you haven't gone into the freezer."  he said to me one day in an off handed kind of way. I was puzzled that he would bring such a thing up and why would I need to open the freezer in the barn?  "Billy's mink is in there."  

Obviously, he wanted me to ask why Billy's mink was in his possession. To humor him, I bit. It seems during the winter months, minks are illegal to hunt, only muskrats are fair game.  Billy did not want to get caught with the contraband that accidentally ended up in his trap but it was far to prized a pelt to cast aside. My father being a good friend and always up for a bit of mischief and minor crimes, assisted him by offering space in the freezer at 540 Old Meeting House Road until early spring when the minks are legally up for grabs, again. I have no doubt that the frozen stiff animal lay aside exposed ice cubes and popsicles that will be offered to my children in the warmer months.  Gross.

Believe it or not, frozen animals stashed in home freezers for purposes rather than eating, is not new to me.  In college, I had a dorm mate who kept her cadaver feral cat in the common room freezer between study sessions in which she had to identify various muscle, ligaments, etc on its skinned corpse.  But I still don't understand why she was studying what looked to me to be a common house cat. She graduated with a degree in physical therapy.  For humans.

To be honest, I have experienced bizarre items for human consumption in Val's well kept freezer.  Back when we only had one freezer in the house, a brick red Frigidaire to match the stove and dishwasher, there seemed to be lots of items brought home by my father and stashed away neatly by Val.  Along with the Hood harlequin ice cream ( my sister Karyn and I always requested only chocolate as this was the first flavor to go and she always responded that the store didn't have any.  I swear to this day, that she did this because my younger brother, the "Crowned Prince" never liked chocolate anything.  Well, he didn't really like ice cream either, being undiagnosed lactose intolerant so the vanilla and strawberry would sit and crystallize until someone gave in and ate it or it got thrown out.) there were often stuffed quahogs and the occasional blue fish filet which may seem exotic to families who live elsewhere in the country however are normal meal ingredients here on Cape Cod. But by far the worst to topple out and land on my foot had to have been the headless eels.  Their black bodies were coiled up and tied securely in a clear baggie. My father fished them by plunging 5 pronged spears through the winter ice.  I don't know what was more traumatic, seeing the frozen snake like creature ( I admit to being afraid of snakes.) or knowing at some point that Val would be chopping it into 2 inch pieces, breading and frying it up for dinner to be served along side mashed potatoes and green beans. Even now, I can envision my father devouring this meal holding the breaded fish as corn on the cob and cleaning the spiny bone of all the flaky white flesh with his teeth as all three of us children ( and I think Val did, too although she hid it well) looked on in disgust.

When I think about it, a freezer is like any other "closet" in a house, revealing clues about lifestyle and personal stories. Just as a pair of muddy boots tells of toiling in the garden or a little black dress holds memories of cocktail parties, weddings and New Year's Eve toasts. There's probably fodder for a therapy session in my messy freezer: my life is chaotic and I feel often that it's out of control. But I'm not going to focus on that right now.  Instead I'll choose to savor the homemade mint ice cream I made for my son (his favorite flavor) and unearth those few hot dogs for dinner tonight.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions of Poor Parenting at Christmas Time Post # 1

 The Following is a true story of my own issues with the infamous "Elf"....

Since the arrival of” The Elf On The Shelf” in stores across the country, it has become a Christmas “must have” for parents in the know.  Every year since my oldest was in preschool, I heard parents talk about the joy it brought to the children and the harmony it restored in their homes.  I was always guilt ridden that I had again not had the foresight to purchase an elf for my own family in time for the holidays.  But this year, it would be different….
The Eyes Have It
I’m a horrible parent.  I know I have said this before but this time it’s doubly true.  You see, I bought an “Elf On The Shelf” for my children to celebrate the Christmas season.
What I thought was going to be a fun holiday tradition for years to come, one that my own children would wax nostalgic about and want to pass down to their own children, turned out to be, well, disastrous.  I even imagined that my two children may fight over who would actually got to keep “Frosty” (that’s what they named the elf) for their own.  Maybe I would have to put it in my will.  No, instead, my two terrified cherubs decided that Frosty needed to go back to the North Pole after the first day and stay there.
I should have known that my seven year old daughter might have an issue with the elf with the funny, sideways looking eyes but she seemed interested and excited enough when she woke up this morning to find a special new book on the breakfast table.  Once she began to read the story, then looked up to find the elf in the chandelier over the table, she appeared to be hooked, her imagination ignited.  Then my son woke up and stumbled down the stairs.  A look of excitement colored his face and he was instantly intrigued by the story as well.  Ahhhh, while the Christmas memories were created before my very eyes, I couldn’t have been more proud of my own performance insisting that I had no idea how the elf and the book had arrived, could it have been Santa?  The children’s father was happy to play along, too.  My husband, I think, looked forward to all the interesting places he would place the elf once it arrived back each morning after its nightly trip to report to Santa.
Once Ava read the story and had fun thinking of names for the elf, she went about her morning the usual way but was afraid to play in her room while I took a shower before bringing the kids to get the bus.  I found this odd, but mostly I became frustrated.  Ava normally was afraid of going up to her room when it was dark out (a fear that she inherited from her grandmother who used to pay her own sister to turn on the light in her room when they went up to bed for the night)  not in broad daylight with the sun streaming in the windows.  Instead of trying to figure out why, I demanded she go and play in her room as I was going to be in the bathroom adjacent and there was “nothing to be afraid of! “
I swear my mother intuition is sometimes just shut off.  Thursday is my regular day to volunteer in Ava’s classroom.  I sat at the desk collating the huge stack of copies I had just completed.  As Ava and her class mates got ready to go to lunch, she stepped out of line to come over and kiss me.  This wasn’t odd; she often showed me affection while I am helping.  But today, she whispered, “That elf is awfully mysterious.”  I just nodded and gave her a hug.  After all, that was the intention:  Mysterious Elf arrives in Home to tell Santa about Naughty or Nice Children, report at 11:00.  I was actually thrilled she still “believed” enough to think the whole thing was true.
In the afternoon, I got the kids from the bus and we chatted on the walk home about where Frosty may be next and if he had moved while I was out.  We arrived home to find him in the same place, up in the chandelier above the dinner table.  That’s when the whining began.
“Mommy, he is creeping me out!” Ava said
“Why honey, he is just a friendly elf?” I responded
“I don’t like his eyes, I don’t want him to come back!”  Ava was serious as she hid her face in her hands.
I thought I could talk some sense into her.  This was supposed to be a fun, new tradition to last the whole month long, to make my children actually behave for fear that Santa would really find out.  I had heard from other parents that they wished they could have the elf out all year long, that’s how drastic the behavior changes (for the better) had been in their own homes.  Now, it appeared that all bets were off.  I could feel the angelic attitudes already slipping through my fingers.  Fighting and bickering all December long, here we go.
We sat together on the couch and I asked her exactly what she was afraid of.  I thought at one point that we actually came to an agreement, a compromise that would get us over the hump, to get her used to having Frosty in the house.  We began to set up some rules.  We said them out loud so that elf could hear: No showing up in Ava’s room, no going into the bathroom, no hiding in the laundry basket or in drawers.  In fact, just stay up high where no one can accidentally touch you, Frosty.  Are we clear?
“I’m still afraid of his eyes.”  Ava said
“What if he wore sunglasses?”  I asked
Ava laughed.  I thought about fashioning a pair of Barbie’s sunglasses for Frosty just like the elf in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer who had to shield his eyes from the glare of Rudolph’s nose.  I could do that tonight, after Ava went to bed.
“No.”  She said and she buried her head into my shoulder as we sat on the couch.  She couldn’t bear to look into Frosty’s eyes even by accident.
“Could you please tell him not to come back?”
“Yes.” I said reluctantly.  “Can we maybe invite him back next year?”
“Maybe.  If he knows the rules.”
I remembered as I was washing the dinner dishes while the kids were happily watching TV (in another room away from the elf) that I used to be afraid of what I called, “The Eyes”.  I hadn’t thought about it in such a long time, it must have been buried in my subconscious.
In our “old” house, where we lived until just before I turned five, there was a trap door to the attic located in the ceiling of my room, just above my bed.  For some reason, the ceiling was painted except for this door, leaving the knotty wood exposed.  It looked like a bunch of creepy eyes from my preschooler perspective and I was perpetually scared of them night after night.  As much as my mother tried to comfort me and get me to go to sleep, some nights, I just screamed, “The Eyes!” and she would have to console me until I fell asleep.
So, I guess I understand the “creepy eye” thing even though I was hoping to be a Christmas hero.  And the Elf on a Shelf is now the elf in a box under the bed, hidden far from view, until maybe next year.  That is, if he agrees to follow the rules and wear sunglasses.

Monday, December 17, 2012

That's the Spirit!

I want to enjoy the Christmas season, I truly do. The problem is in the stress of buying gifts, wrapping gifts, decorating the house, fulfilling obligations like helping my daughter to participate in the "All Kids Craft Fair" by practically making all her crafts while she is at school, dance, basketball, etc., attending various "fun" events and battling the worst cold I have had since the turn of the century. The anxiety over attempting to fit all this in within a few weeks because I neglected, yet again, to begin the shopping process early in November, is a product of my own making. One would think that I would buy myself some time by eliminating the holiday baking: excessive amounts of all different types of cookies all hand make by me and lovingly packaged for only the most deserving friends and relatives. No, actually this insanity is what keeps me from jumping off a cliff into the abyss of holiday madness. Except for one children want to help me.
If you only watch one minute of t.v during the month of December, you are guaranteed to see an ad featuring a loving mother helping her cute elementary school age children create Christmas cookies and various other holiday treats all while an emotionally charged yet mellow pop song plays in the background. These advertisements serve up a walloping portion of guilt especially during this time of year when all I want to do is banish my own kids to the playroom in the basement so that I can enjoy some peace and quiet by myself in the solace of my own kitchen. Just call me, "Mother of the Year". I kept them at bay as long as I could. Claiming that I had to mix the dough myself so that I could "focus" on the ingredients. But those kids know what just about every holiday in my kitchen means...cookie cutters. "I want to do the Santa carrying the bag one!" Ava yelled over Declan's request to use his new "Ninjabread Men" cookie cutters, courtesy of my sister-in-law out in California. (She'll get hers when Maggie and Nate are old enough to insist on helping out in the kitchen about 2 years from now!) Just what I wanted to give to my friends and neighbors, Christmas Ninja Dude Cookies performing various martial arts moves. How festive.
My guilt gets the best of me and I succumb to the constant requests. There are only so many times I can endure the question, "Mo-om! When do we get to help?!" "O.K. You can both help but one at a time. Whenever you work together, you fight and I can't handle that today. I will call you when it's your turn." "I want to go first!" "He always gets to go first, I never do!" and so on, etc., etc. "Enough! I said I would call you and you won't complain about who goes first!!!!"
Let's just say, that I managed to survive, but just barely. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Land of Milk and Agave

This post is terribly irreverent. You can turn back now. Just know that you have been warned, that's all I'm saying. It all started when I was sitting in church on Sunday, this time actually listening to the sermon. At least I tried to focus and listen to all of it, instead of daydreaming. It was about Moses. Moses and the burning bush, only it wasn't really burning, Moses freeing his people, Moses and the Land of Milk and Honey. Milk and honey. Milk and agave. Milk and agave and unsweetened cocoa, a revelation. Hint: here's where the daydreaming began. Chocolate syrup has been a bit of an issue for me. Any of the premade stuff is full of corn syrup and even food coloring, if you can believe that one. At one point, I subjected myself to making homemade chocolate syrup for my children as not to deprive them of what I consider one of the great pleasures in life: icy cold, chocolate milk. But they consumed the chocolate syrup so voraciously, that it was all I could do to keep up. They not only wanted it in their milk, they insisted on dribbling it on pancakes and waffles, using it to smother scoops of chocolate chip ice cream, and then my husband constantly helped himself to as much as he wanted, likely squeezing it straight into his mouth whenever I wasn't looking. At this point, we were going through at least 3 squeeze bottles full a week. Pure insanity. I stopped making this delightful syrup maybe a year ago. But that hasn't stopped me from craving a delicious, cold chocolaty beverage from time to time. And it doesn't help that every work out magazine lately has been extolling the virtues of drinking low fat chocolate milk after a workout to "rebuild" your muscles. So, after the gym one morning, as my kids ate their Cheerios, I stood with my back to them and secretly experimented with the only things I had in the cabinet: Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa and vanilla scented agave syrup from the health food store. By mixing 1 teaspoon cocoa with 1 1/2 teaspoons agave syrup into a paste and then adding a cup and 1/2 of low fat milk, I had come up with a heavenly concoction. I know that keeping this recipe all to myself, not sharing it with my people may be perceived as selfish, maybe even sinful. But I believe that they are better off without this temptation and I am a better person for taking responsibility and shouldering this burden, alone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shower Surfing

The Norris clan annual vacation week at Swifts Beach in Wareham, MA is a slow torture for me. Although I enjoy visiting with the many cousins, aunts and uncles we only get to see but once a year, there is so much more to contend with. Excessive drinking in the hot August sun on the beach, children swimming over their heads with little adult supervision, and dirty rental houses that are one step below camping is not my idea of fun. I find myself monitoring the toddlers allowed to wander freely near the ocean's edge and the little ones out in the surf while the parents imbibe, their backs to the ocean, laughing and carousing, not a care or concern about the offspring bobbing in the waves. After the beach fun, we are offered the use of an outdoor shower and a warm can of Bud Light as the kids, run barefoot from rental to rental, screaming and sucking on lollipops given by an overindulgent aunt. I try to calm my nerves and hope that no one falls and chokes until we corral our own and call it a night. My two cherubs cry, "Why do WE have to leave? Why can't WE stay over?" As we load them into the car, I cannot wait to escape to my clean, air conditioned home and relax knowing my kids are asleep in their freshly washed sheets, safe from harm. The problem is, that my husband has enjoyed this vacation since he was a child and my own children can't get enough of it.
Instead of renting a room within my mother in law's place (sharing only 2 bathrooms with 3 families: adults, toddlers, teenagers and everyone in between is awfully close for comfort) we decided to take day trips as Wareham is only a short 30 minute car ride away. I thought I might escape some of the drama and dirt that way. Unfortunately for me, I still had to endure some hardships. After the beach on the first day, I needed to rinse the salt and sunscreen from our bodies before dinner. A quick outdoor shower was all that was required. Simple enough and welcome in the sticky, still heat at the cottage a few blocks away from the breeze at the edge of the ocean. I should have stayed covered with beach sand and salt. I opened the door to the dank, dark roofed shower. I knew there would be mold since the sun could not possibly dry out the smelly interior. I reached in and hung up my beach towel, stiff with salt. There was a lot of undrained water from past showers, murky with shampoo residue and a red Solo cup floating in it from last night's party. At least there was a wooden platform so that my feet could remain clear of the sewage. O.k. there was some shower gel I could use, instead of the slimy bar soap left up on the shelf. "I can do this", I thought to myself, "at least I don't have to endure the windowless indoor bathroom with its perpetual poop smell." I held my breath and stepped in. WHOOSH! The floor moved! I was suddenly surfing through the filthy, soapy water! WTF! Seriously, I expected a rat to swim by. Somehow I found it in me to remain balanced on the floating barge as not to fall in. I reached up to grab the filthy walls for balance, not knowing if I would ever get close to clean again after this horrific experience. How can people who are renting a house for a vacation week put up with this? Do these city people actually think this adds to the "Cape Cod Experience"? (Actually, Wareham isn't technically Cape Cod, but don't tell the Norris family, that.) And I thought the candy cigarettes that Rob's sister bought for the kids last year was bad! This shower surfing through waste water definitely tops the list. I quickly rinsed off. (I was already in there, and was too afraid to "try out" another mildew and mouse dropping infested shower at this point.) I emerged from shower hell to my husband laughing at me. I shot him my "Don't you dare F with me" look. It was only Monday, we still had four more days to go and I was already plotting my own personal scheduling conflicts so that I would only have to endure minimal time in these less than savory conditions. My husband and children can stay here without me and enjoy the charm in roughing it but I know better. From now on after a day at Swifts beach, I'm taking a sponge bath.