Monday, November 7, 2016

Thanksgiving - random disorganized musings....

I'm a geek for Thanksgiving.  It's one of the few holidays that Corporate America has been unable to commercialize to a great degree, because it's pretty much about staying home with loved ones and eating. I know there are football games, and Christmas shopping, but so far, in my mind anyway, Thanksgiving has remained relatively unadulterated.  And for that, I am, well, thankful.

Growing up, my family spent Thanksgiving either at home celebrating with the neighbors, or at our cabin in the mountains.  The sale of the family cabin and my mother's passing happened in a relatively short space of time, and at the age of 30, I was faced with trying to cobble together Thanksgiving for the family in a house that no longer really felt like a home.  I am forever grateful to the varied friends who all answered our pleading invitation to come spend "the first" Thanksgiving with us, when they probably had happier places to be.

That was the year that I began to be "in charge" of Thanksgiving, and it eventually moved to a cabin of my own up in the mountains.  I'm a foodie at heart and choose to look at the silver lining of now being able to make some changes to the tired Thanksgiving menu and finally get rid of the dreaded Green Bean Casserole.  Over the years, I've experimented a lot.....  global flavors, butterflied turkey on the grill, "light" recipes, all with varying degrees of success.  I've bought frozen Butterball turkeys, had a farmer raise (and butcher) a turkey of my choosing, and ordered fresh heritage birds from the local expensive market.

Every year, in anticipation of My Favorite Holiday, I start perusing websites, leafing through cookbooks, and asking friends about their own meals, hoping for new and unique ideas.  I've cooked Thanksgiving in my own kitchen, and taken it on the road to my cabin or other ill-equipped rental cabins, and once the commercial kitchen of a "closed for the season" rustic lodge that a group of us had access to one winter.  Every new option provides it's challenges and opportunities and I've learned a lot.

We've recently downsized our home, but have invited a large number of guests for Thanksgiving, so my new first world challenge is cooking it in my new "one cook, one oven" kitchen, and trying to find the balance between "enough" menu items for a large group and the constraints of my kitchen.  Happily, this is the first house that I think I will be able to expand my dining room table to it's full 9 feet.

As I've said, I've learned a lot over the years.  Very few "experimental" recipes make regular comebacks, but a lot of technique has remained in my repertoire year after year.  Some of the key things I've learned.....

  • Everybody still wants that damned Green Bean Casserole.  I've had to get over offering a more sophisticated alternative, and the casserole format keeps it warm longer than other recipes anyway
  • Brine your turkey.  Yes, you can still make gravy from the drippings, as long as you rinse the bird well before cooking.  Besides all the great and varied brining components (lemon peels, juniper berries, fresh herbs) I always put about a dozen black tea bags in too.  Whaaaaaa? you say?  My guess is the tannins tenderize the meat, but in my experience, a tea-brined turkey is always incredibly tender and I don't notice a tea flavor
  • Good gravy starts with good stock.  I make my own turkey stock because gravy is my favorite part of the dinner.  I buy extra necks, wings, offal, basically whatever the grocery store has and use that as my base.  Make a TON.  You'll need it for stuffing as well as gravy.  And turkey noodle soup!
  • Plan your menu all the way down to which serving dishes and serving utensils will be used for each dish.  Get those out and make sure they're serviceable and set them aside so that nobody decides to have their breakfast cereal in the dish you'd planned for the cranberry sauce.  It happens.
  • Start well in advance and make lists.  Not just what dishes, but what ingredients.  Plan out what can be made in advance and frozen.  If you buy a frozen turkey and you want to brine it, you need to get the turkey several days in advance to allow time for both thawing and brining.
  • Clear space - I always have a couple of empty bins in the garage that I start filling with potatoes, stuffing bread, the damned cans of cream of mushroom soup, stock ingredients (carrots, onions, etc) and all the other non-perishable supplies you can buy in advance.  I clear space in the fridge and the freezer for all the stuff that I:
  • Cook in advance.  There are actually very few Thanksgiving dishes that won't stand up to spending a week or so in the freezer - even the mashed potatoes!  Also turkey stock, the pre-cooked mirepoix for the stuffing, the sweet potato casserole (or twice-baked sweet potatoes that I prefer)
  • One oven is enough.  If you've planned well, meaning all your side dishes just need to be re/heated/warmed on Thanksgiving day, they will get a good 40 minutes in the oven after the turkey comes out (rests for 20 minutes, 20 minutes for carving).  All you need to do while the turkey is resting is make the gravy.
  • Get used to butter.  It's just one day - eat a ton of it.  If a recipe doesn't call for butter, it doesn't belong at Thanksgiving
  • Nobody but me likes a dish whose primary ingredient is onions
  • THIS is the most awesomest cranberry recipe and the only recipe that has made a reappearance virtually every year after I discovered it.  It's GREAT over brie and very wine friendly!  Keeps for a week in the fridge, and the recipe makes enough for you to offer a jar to your neighbors
  • Stock up on disposable foil food containers - great for sending leftovers home with your guests
  • Snacks - if you've got a houseful of football-watching individuals, throw some snacks at them like nuts, crudites, brie and cranberry sauce etc. but that's it.  They need to be hungry when dinner is served.
That's what I've learned!  What survival strategies do YOU have?

Thursday, July 31, 2014


I'm obsessed.

20+ years ago I read a GREAT novel.  It had everything I love....  deep character development, interesting and accurate historical details, and a complex plot that left me wanting more.  I got "more" over the last 20 years - this incredible, genre-bending author has written 8 huge tomes in the increasingly multi-faceted series, plus several smaller spin-off novellas that deal with some favorite secondary characters.

Every time a favorite book gets made into a movie, I prepare myself by expecting to be disappointed.  This is probably the first time I'm excited about an on-screen adaptation.  "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon has been turned into a 16-episode series that will soon air on Starz.  The first season will focus on the first book, and if it's as good as I think it will be, I have many seasons to look forward to.

Why am I excited and not expecting to be disappointed?  Obviously the fact that it is 16 episodes and not a 2-hour movie will enable the writers to deliver many of the important details and plot points of the book.  And the second reason is the production crew.  Over the last year, I've become a Groupie.  I've been following the writers, drivers, actors, costume designers and producers on Twitter.  I read every article that gets written, watch every interview.

This thing is gonna be epic.  They used archaic dyes of the time (18th century) when making the fabric for the costumes.  They hired all kinds of artisans (armorers, knitters, weavers, etc) to create all the props.  They filmed it mostly outdoors in winter conditions and put the actors and crew through hell to get it right.  They hardly used any CGI.

But mostly, the writers and producers have a true love for the story material and are staying true to the "really good yarn" that Diana Gabaldon wrote.  The author has been retained as a advisor and has been consulted on everything from scripts to casting.  They are producing it for the fans of the books, assured in the fact that new fans will follow because it's that good.

I could go on and on.  Just a few more facts to pique your interest.....  the writers call the central male character "The King of Men" because he's All That.  The actress who plays the female lead says of her character, "Well, she's just a badass - the women all want to BE her."  The Executive Producer describes the show as "Highlander meets Game of Thrones visits Dr. Quinn falls into the Time Tunnel."

Check out the preview.  Can't wait!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Random Musings on the First Day of School

It gets easier.  Or does it?

I can remember rushing through the grocery store, flinging items into the cart, a crying infant in the carrier.  “It gets easier,” a nearby woman smiled sagely.  The announcement that my son had learned to crawl elicited lots of “Oh, you’re in for it now!” from family members, implying that difficulties lay ahead.

When my last child entered kindergarten, neighborhood moms all said, “Think of all the free time you’ll have!”  And when my oldest started driving, other parents sighed deeply and muttered sympathetic platitudes.

There is a certain kind of craziness parents experience during the first and last few weeks of school – especially elementary school.  I lived through it.  But now, as my two high-schoolers drive away on their own, I sit here with the smugness of one who has survived the gauntlet of elementary school competitions activities such as storybook character dress-up day, create a family cookbook with hand-illustrated treasured family recipes project, wear a chartreuse t-shirt day, and gourmet teacher appreciation month.

There is no more trying to find the time to read aloud to my children for 20 minutes every night and logging it on a tattered chart.  No more flash cards, weekly spelling lists or math facts to memorize.  I can’t even help my kids with their homework anymore, and even if I could, I probably shouldn’t.

There are no more family-friendly festivals on campus, guest-reader opportunities, working like a dog at the book fair, bring a grandparent to show-and-tell, sweating it out during field-day, or chaperoning a trip to a museum.

No more signing my children up for summer book club, acting class, soccer camp, cooking school and arranging the carpools with all of the other harried mommies who have kids going in 3 directions every day.

I don’t miss it.  At some point it all began to feel competitive and overblown.

I may have complained about the inordinate amount of driving, but I miss time in the car with my kids and their friends.  Sometimes they’d talk to me, and sometimes I’d just shut up and listen as they talk with their friends.  Listening to the various interpretations of the fifth-grade “puberty” movie was beyond hysterical, especially when the fourth grade doctor’s kid attempted to correct everyone’s misconceptions.  Teenagers don’t come home and tell you about the program they attended about abstinence education, they prefer you didn’t know it took place at all.

And I also complained about some of the schoolwork, and elementary school events, but at least I was there.  I’m grateful that I had the opportunity, and I also knew what they were doing.  When I ask my high-schooler what he is studying in History, his response is, “History!” If he’s feeling particularly garrulous, “Things that happened in the past!”

One thing I figured out early on with this parenting gig is that everything is a phase.  Things will change in an hour or six months.  I try to be positive and embrace the new and if I can’t, at least I know it will change eventually.

But no.  It doesn’t get easier.  I might not be ferreting out papier-mâché supplies at 9:30pm or dragging three 2nd graders through Target the night before “Twin Day” but I have other important jobs.  Nag.  Busy-body.  Worrier.

In pushing these young beings towards adult-hood, I’ve always had this very sad voice in the back of my head telling me that I must raise them to leave me.  That they must become self-sufficient, eventually.  This starts with baby steps (pick up your toys!) and will somehow get to being a productive member of society.  In theory.

Right now, we’re standing on the abyss, just a few short years from pushing them out of the nest.  So, instead of carpool logistics and flash cards, much of my parenting consists of laying in supplies for unplanned hoards of hungry teenagers and worrying about car wrecks, drugs and sex.  And nagging.

In the course of a typical evening, I nag my 16yr old about making his dentist appointment, returning a library book, packing fruit in his lunch, picking up his dirty socks, cleaning his bathroom, returning an expensive piece of computer equipment, wearing his retainer, making “good decisions,” being kind.  Most of which are responded to with grunts and eye rolls.

I sigh, and look around the untidy house and begin to wonder at the wisdom of all those mommy-blogs that say to worry less about housework and spend more time with your family.  I fantasize about not having to nag or produce 5,000 calories worth of nutritional meals every day.  I dream of preparing elegant little meals that are nearly vegetarian, and not have the constant mocking of Laundry Mountain.

Then, I have one of those rare evenings where the kids spend nearly two hours after dinner sitting at the table with me.  Talking.  To me!  And I remember how rare and precious this is, and what a gift is motherhood.  And I remember to live in the now.  Memories are better than fantasies and I am grateful to be making them with my children, and I don’t care how easy or hard it gets.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger

I am buying a business.  It is scary, exciting, and fun all at the same time.  While I haven't actually started to work yet, my days have been filled with getting all the pieces in place to do this successfully.  It's been a full-time job.

It's been a long time since I was out in the working world.  I have quickly remembered how often it is that people tell you lies in the business world.  Or are merely incompetent.  Or don't care.

But, among all these fools, there are some great people.  I'd like to acknowledge everyone for filling my days these past few weeks, in one way (good) or another (bad).

Phone companies.  Gah! The wag (or some other gesture) of the finger goes out to almost every traditional "phone" company.  AT&T, Time Warner, Grandecom, etc.  Your websites are useless, offering little information beyond price.  Lists of features are either incomplete (my suspicion) or you just don't offer your business customers very much at all.  Why do I have to contact a person and talk to a fool (and wait and wait and wait, for the privledge), when the Internet is the perfect vehicle for delivering all the information I want?  The tip of the hat goes to the awesome folks at Ring Central.  They have everything I want (and then some!) at a monthly fee that is the same as the traditional phone companies.  They were friendly, personable and knowledgeable (what a concept).    They delivered and then swapped equipment quickly and efficiently.  They provided training, though their dashboard is so intuitive, it was hardly necessary.

Banks.  On the advice of our financial planner who is structuring the deal, they recommended two organizations as being effective with this particular structure.  Chase and Wells Fargo.  Chase has more convenient branches for me, so that seemed a no-brainer.  Wag of the finger, Chase!  As soon as I had all the documentation to get my banking set up, I went to a Chase branch.  Nice people.  I told them what I needed to do.  Blank stares.  Handed them the instruction sheet provided by the financial planner.  Quizzical looks.  Got them on the phone with the financial planner.  Stammering and stuttering.  Picked up my toys and left.

The financial planner gave me a name of a Chase corporate person who understands this.  I called her.  I emailed her.  Silence.  I called again.  I emailed again.  More silence.

OK, on to Wells Fargo.  Tip of the Hat!!!  Their rep reached out to us immediately.  Understood exactly what we were doing.  Set it all up without me having to leave the house.  Did it in a day.

Two days later, I got a call from the Chase corporate person.  A day after that, I got a call from the local Chase person who had previously looked at me like I had two heads, "Um, I think I get it now, c'mon back and we'll get you set up."  Too late, losers!

More finger wags to the financial world.  I'm not real organized sometimes, and my money is in a couple of different places.  Some of it needed to be consolidated to finance this deal.  Calls to Prudential and Morgan Stanley got the same answer, "Oh sure, we can do that!  It takes about two days!"  Great!  I'm under a time crunch, that is the answer I wanted to hear!  This week, I've actually tried to make it happen for five days now.  Nothing.  Dead in the water.  Prudential:  "Oh, you're married?  Well, there is an 8-day waiting period on that type of transaction for joint accounts.  Oh, and you need it notarized."  Morgan Stanley:  "We don't do that."  What???  It's my money, freaks!  You're just trying to hang on to it!  Organize a conference call w/ Morgan Stanley and my financial advisor who says, "That's crazy.  We do that all the time.  There's no reason Morgan Stanley can't do that."  Morgan Stanley:  "We still don't do that."  Gah! 

Obviously a Tip of the Hat goes to our financial advisor, Guidant Financial.  This deal is a little more complicated than I am used to, and they have been great.  Available, responsive, clear, concise, methodical.  Everything you expect from someone you are paying to help you.  Some of the other guys Just. Don't. Get. It.

So.  It's been a fun couple of weeks.  Working on website copy.  Doing photography.  Being visionary.  Learning new things.  Talking to potential vendors.

I will keep you posted!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Homecoming. Texas Style.

After learning that homecoming is fiasco-ridden marathon last year, Aidan said, "Never again!"  He decided he would spread the word that he was planning on "being out of town."

Then, he liked a girl.

And she liked him back.

So, here we go again, on the homecoming roller coaster ride that only Texans can do.

Last year, the "ASK" involved a small gift.  This year, the tradition seems to have morphed into a memorable event.  Things like many candles lit in the girl's front yard.  A scavenger hunt.  Convincing the teacher to add it as a question to a test.  Surprise is key.  Aidan hatched and discarded many different ideas, all involving varying degrees of props, supporting cast, financing and originality.  His final production involved half-naked men and body paint.
Just in case you couldn't tell, lying on your side to see the video, the boys all came out of the locker room of a swim meet and lined up in front of the stands where The Girl was sitting.  Some kind of tribal yell, and then they ripped their shirts off.  They each had a letter of H-O-M-E-C-O-M-I-N-G on their chests, with Aidan as a "?".  Definitely points for originality. Good thing she said "Yes!" with such enthusiasm, being a public event and all.
The next "event" on the agenda is The Ordering of The Mum.  There are all kinds of rules surrounding The Mum and it's best to get professional help.  The Mum Lady does a remarkable job and produces a quality product, no two alike.  Also to be accomplished is The Purchsing Of The Tie so that it will match the date's dress.
While all this is going on, the kids (and I suspect, the Mommies) start tossing around ideas for The Schedule of Events for the Saturday night of Homecoming Week.  Appently, "nobody" actually attends the dance anymore.  Each idea is more elaborate than the next, and all involve much carting of kids to and fro by weary parents who have been carting to and fro all week.  This year, somehow, the Saturday Night Events got moved to a town all the way on the other side of the lake.  Somebody wanted to take photos at the Botanical Gardens over there, even though several generous families all offered their very lovely (and local!) yards for this segment of the Festivities.  Also on the evening's agenda is dinner out, bowling, and an after-party at one of the kids homes.  Oy.
As we enter the homestretch, the events come fast and furious.  Next up is The Presenting of The Mum, which happens on Thursday, so the girl has the chore pleasure of wearing it all day at school on Friday, after which it gathers dust on her bedroom wall.  Mum Presentation takes place at someone's home and involves several couples.  The girls, all a-twitter, gather in one room, while the boys enter and conceal The Mum in another room.  Parents orbit in the margins of the room with cameras ready.  The boys enter and give The Mums to the girls and there is much "ooooh"ing and "aaaaahhhhhh"ing with exclamations of "It's so pretty!"  Everybody dons their Mums, poses for photos, then removes The Mums for intense examination of all the details.

Oh, the details!
THIS is why one hires The Mum Lady.  I sooooo could never pull this off myself.  All the bling, all the braids, all the special tassles, boas, sparkles.  Oy!
These are all the special braided ribbons. 
Various plastic symbols

The mum included a horse head (she rides), a jaguar jewel tassel,
and the teddy bear had a crystal tiara
Ribbons with their names, and even a whistle - in case she needs to get someones attention

A feather boa on a silken silver cord, and much artistry with the ribbons

There is even candy embedded in the Mum.  And bling.  Lots and lots of bling.

 Friday, the school halls and classrooms are filled with Mums.  There are students hiding beneath them somewhere.  One smart teacher made the kids remove them and hang them up on the wall.
Each Mum seems more absurd than the next.  I'll get off my Mum soap box, but will leave you with one last image, all from our local high school.

Finally, Saturday arrives, the day everything has been building towards.  Apparently, the girls all start getting ready about 10am.  There are hair appointments, mani-pedi's, and makeup parties. 
Since I had been a "conscientious objector" to the complexity and geography of the plans, my only role for the evening was to drop Aidan off at someone else's house where the first leg of the evening was to begin.  The Photo Shoot.  From there, they were taken to a restaurant for dinner, and then moved on to the bowling alley.  After bowling, they returned to Flower Mound to hang out at one boy's home for the "after party."  All transportation provided by parents with more generous spirits than I.

I know I'm being kind of snarky about all this.  I will add that Aidan and his very nice date had a great time.  This is an awesome group of kids and as a parent I want to be supportive of them since they ARE so great.  I know they get tired of hearing "Back in the day, we didn't expect all this rigamarole!"  I don't know how or why or when things got so complicated.

But, as always, at the end of the day, I am grateful.  Grateful for my healthy kids and that they continue to make good choices, including surrounding themselves with great friends.  Grateful that we are able to provide them the evening they want.  And yes, I am grateful that it's over.
Until next year.  When I will experience this again, adding the perspective of my daughter!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Destin 2012

We had an absolutely fabulous week in Destin just before school started.  Seven straight days of beach time together - heaven!  Enjoy the photos!

Click here to view this photo book larger
Create your own personalized photo books at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Building Character...

...Or TMI about swim meets!

It's a well know fact that swim meets are long, uncomfortable, and boring.  For most people.

Not for "swim parents."  See, while a swim meet LOOKs like just one race after another, with hundreds of kids who all look alike, there is actually a lot more to it than that, if you know the swimmers, and all the drama.

Not "drama" in a bad way, drama in the Wide World of Sports way.  The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.  What may LOOK like eight kids swimming the same stroke across the pool at the same time is really eight different stories playing out, sometimes over the course of a season, just the 3 days of the meet, or only that one swim, right there.

We swim parents spend the 3 days doing the zombie shuffle around the stadium.  Must.  Keep.  Blood.  Moving.  We are like leaves drifting in an aimless current, occasionally gathering in an eddy to exchange information.  "How's Nathan swimming?  Did you see Kiley get the meet record?  Wasn't that race with Carly and Lauren amazing!?  Did Stephen qualify for TAGS?"  We are like one, big, extended family and we love to celebrate the achievements of everyone else's kids.

To give you a feel for the ups and downs of a meet, here is how Aidan's story played out over three days.  You will see why I don't mind watching him swim.

Aidan recently turned 15, and it's time to start competing against "men."  No more being ranked by how old you are, either you qualify to swim based on time (not age), or not.  At this point in his swimming, the Big Goal for the end of the season is to qualify for a Sectional meet, which is about 1/12th of the country.  (There are 4 zones, and each zone is divided into 3 sections.  We are in the western section of the southern zone)  Aidan was close to achieving a few qualifying times for Sectionals, so that was his primary goal for this meet.  There are 2 levels of qualifying times, called "hard cuts" and "soft cuts."  You have to have at least one hard cut to qualify, and each hard cut earns you the right to swim two additional events as long as you have the soft cut.

This meet was run in what is called a championship format.  Meaning there are preliminary heats in each event in the morning, and if you finish in the top 16, you come back at night and swim it again in finals.  This format pits the very fastest kids against each other, and they all swim just a little bit better in these fastest heats at night.

Swimmer rankings are released a few days in advance of the meet, so you can get an idea of where you fit in the overall scheme of things and predict whether or not you will qualify for evening finals.

Aidan's main focus for Friday was the 200 IM.  He was ranked 57th among the 95 entrants with ages 15-27.

He had a GREAT swim - and got a "soft cut" for Sectionals.  Since he moved up so much in the rankings, he had one more opportunity to get the "hard cut."

Here is a video of his swim.  I really like the 200 IM because you get to see all four strokes, but it only takes about 2 minutes, unlike the long slog of the 400 IM.

Since I hadn't expected him to make finals, we had no hotel room.  I found a covered parking garage at a church and we sat in the car for four hours with the AC running.  Aidan slept, and I monitored the engine temperature, occasionally going for drives to keep the temperature down.

Back to the pool for finals.  The good news is, he killed it again and dropped more time and wound up being ranked 12th overall.  The bad news is, he didn't quite get the hard cut.

Meet the Crabby Boy in the lobby when the meet is over.  "Great swim!" I enthused.  He glared at me.  Rolled his eyes.  "Dood!  You went a 2:20!! That's AWESOME!" I insisted.  He growled at me.  "I don't care.  That's like a consolation prize.  I wanted to go a 2:19."

Alrighty then.  It's gonna be a long ride home.

Up at 5am to make the hour drive to the swim meet.  This time, we packed a change of clothes.  Just in case.  The main focus of the day is the 200 back, and he is ranked 21st.  He's one second off the soft cut and four seconds off the hard cut.  He is wearing an expensive "technical suit" and his legs are freshly shaved.  He is ready.

He didn't just get the soft cut - he killed it (again) and got the hard cut.  He made his goal in prelims.  Then he swam a solid 100 free and broke a minute, but that event is dominated by guys who have several inches and fifty pounds on Aidan, (we call them Zoo Animals), so a good time drop is the only prize.  He also swam the 400 IM.

So, back to the meet for finals, and since he lacked a clear goal, he did not swim as fast as he is capable.  Sort of a let-down after having such a great day.  But he finished 8th overall, which is a nice bump from being ranked 21st!  My pride in him is no consolation for him though.  He felt like tonight's race was pointless, and hated that he didn't do his best.

Sunday dawns, and his last event of the meet is the 100 back.  That is his best event.  He is tired.  Worn down to a nub.  He also has to start the meet with the 200 breast.  Any 200 really takes a lot out of you.  He swam pretty well, but made a mistake on his pull-out and was disqualified.  That takes the wind out of your sails and he still had to wrap his mind around trying to get a hard cut in the 100 back.  He told me when I dropped him off that morning, "Mom, if I make the hard cut in prelims, I am NOT staying to swim it again at night."  I get that.  But that is a conversation he must have with his coach, and not an argument that is worth having at this moment.

I can tell by his posture that he is feeling defeated and has lost his fire.  He swims the 100 back and gives it absolutely everything he has to give.  He gets a soft cut.  Not the hard cut.  Ugh.  He wants to be done, and he's not.  He has to do it again.  I stand in the back of the stadium watching his every move.  Trying to discern what his coach is telling him, whether or not he has enough left to make hanging around for finals even worth it.  He hits the cool down pool.  That is a good sign, if you mean to swim again, you MUST cool down after every race or your muscles seize up.  He packs up his things in a desolutory manner.  I am waiting to see if he folds up his chair, which means he does not intend to return.  The chair stays.

I meet him in the lobby.  He has a face like thunder.  This is going to be a long afternoon.  "Food or sleep?"  I ask.  "Food.  Then sleep."  Off to iHop (for the 3rd time this weekend) where he wolfs down his usual in silence.  I keep my mouth shut.  Back to the car and the covered lot by the church, he has 2 hours to sleep.

Back to the pool, I have done my best to refrain from saying anything.  "Dig deep, buddy" I say as he exits the car.  "Swim it like it's 105 meters!" hoping to convey the message that he must not run out of steam in the last 5 meters like he's prone to do when he's tired.  He glares at me.  "I don't even know why I'm doing this," he mutters as he slams the door extra hard.

I stand in the back of the stadium watching his warmup like a hawk.  He talks with his coaches.  Do they know?  Do they know how utterly defeated he is?  My heart is breaking for him and I want to rescue him.  I want to go down on deck and tell the coaches that I am scratching him out of this farce.  I want to put this behind us and take him home.  I don't want him to have to fail.  But I am not raising a quitter.  I go back to my chair and try not to think about it.

It's a long wait.  3 1/2 hours from the time he had to report for warmups to when his event starts.  I am kicking myself for not realizing this and getting permission from the coaches to roll in late.  Coulda, shoulda, wouldaBad Swim Mommy.

Finally.  The Men's 100 back final.  I don't want to watch.  But here it is.  Can he do it?

What I missed on the video is once he got out of the water and made his way over to see his coaches, there were a whole bunch of swimmers waiting to congratulate him.  The swim parents all around me in the stands were as on edge about it as I was, and they were equally elated over what Aidan did.  I am so grateful that Aidan is surrounded with so many supportive friends.  People who "get" the "drama" of it all and understand the difference a few one-hundredths of a second can make to a dedicated swimmer.

Mostly, I am grateful for the lesson that Aidan learned.  He now knows that even when he doesn't think he has it in him, if he digs deep enough, he really does.

Aidan's story wasn't the only one at the meet though.  There were so many kids who did amazing things, who dug deep, who outswam themselves.  I love knowing these amazing kids and the excitement of watching them achieve their goals.  This is why swim meets aren't boring.

I meet him in the lobby.  I want so bad to wrap him in a bear hug and plant a big sloppy kiss on his cheek.  "Who are you and what have you done with that crabby kid I dropped off here this afternoon?" I ask instead.  "Mom!" he says, "Did you SEE Lauren swim the 50 free?  That was AMAZING!" he exclaims, and goes on to gush about all the accomplishments of his swimming family.

Suddenly, the drive home looks pretty promising.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Braggin' on My Kiddos

One of the "over the top" (in a good way) things about Texas is PRIDE.  Not just pride at being a Texan, but pride in anything worth being proud of.  And while everyone is proud of their kids, I've noticed that Texans have a few more ways to show it.  I'm sure this happens in other areas, but California is my only other experience and I didn't notice it to be as pervasive as it is here in Texas.  Things may have changed in the time that I have been gone - do y'all have a lot of this kind of stuff in YOUR area?

One way to show your pride is a yard sign...  doesn't matter if it's a sport, arts or academic team.  School-associated or private club.  The kids expect a yard sign announcing to all who pass by that they are part of something.

Then, there is the vehicle stickers.  I just keep adding to my back window as the stickers arrive.  Who knows how many I'll have on there after a few more years?

Like all parents, I'm proud of my kids and like to brag about them now and then.  Actually, that is one of the main purposes of this blog!  So, a couple of recent accomplishments from the end of the school year.....

Aidan lettered as a freshman.  Which presented a sort of unique opportunity, how do you order a letter jacket for a child that has only begun to grow?  Um yeah, it's a little big.  But if fits Ray perfectly, so we figure the sizing is pretty much spot on.

Bridget was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.  She works really hard on her school work and gives every assignment and test 110% so she definitely deserves the honor!

Hopefully, my kids will continue to work hard, both at school and other activities.  Mostly, I want them to be proud of themselves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pictures of Food

It's no secret that I like to cook.  That's a good thing, because sometimes I have to make five meals a day.  Also, my kids train hard and need about 5,000 calories a day, mostly of GOOD food (with actual nutrients in it), and that isn't always easy.

Food experts say that first, you eat with your eyes.  Maybe that's why I always feel like taking a photo of my food - a way to preserve my accomplishment before it's been eaten.  They are bad photos because it's usually w/ my camera phone.  And I don't really cook "pretty" food - I'm just a plain, family cook.

But if I don't get something up on my blog, all 3 of my readers will wonder what happened, and my Klout score will fall below 50.  I think it's cool I have a Klout score that is a higher number than my age and I aim to keep it that way.

So....  here are a few photos of my culinary accomplishments and the reasons I took the pictures in the first place.

Eggs.  Eggs are a recently discovered condiment in my house.  This is a white bean and kale stew, and I've "gilded the lily" by topping it with a poached egg.  I've put poached eggs on salads, burgers, a plate of sauteed spring onions, a stack of grilled asparagus, into a bowl of tomato sauce.  Eggs just add that extra bit of luxuriousness (and protein!) and plus, when The Girls are in top form, I've got lots of them.

Tomatoes.  I sure wish I could successfully grow tomatoes because despite the fact that I don't much care for them raw, I cook with them all the time.  Below is a sheet pan full of halved romas dusted w/ a bit of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

A few hours in the oven and they are like candy.  I can remember my mother saying this about vegetables and I always thought she was crazy.  Now I know what she meant, or I've become crazy too.

More eggs.  This just makes me happy because it's an egg from 50 feet from my house, and deer sausage from 50 miles from my house, compliments of Boy.

Grilling.  I love to grill.  I don't care what time of year it is, I grill many nights a week.  I will grill the bread, the dessert, even the salad sometimes.

Yum.  This was a pretty tasty snicky snack, pulled together by a little dish of wine jelly, infused with lemon and rosemary.  Went GREAT with the fish and the tangy chevre.  Should have made more of it.

More eggs.  Mother's day breakfast in bed.  Eggs Benedict.  No further words are necessary.

And finally, more eggs.  One of the challenges of my household is to balance the needs of my calorie-consuming kids with the needs of my aging body.  One of my favorite meals is to make a red sauce (with all those lovely cooked tomatoes!) that is full of all kinds of veggies and love.  The kids get the sauce on pasta, and I eat a bowl of it with a poached egg (or two) tossed in.  Yum.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Morning Survival

My kids are competitive swimmers.  And generally, once they reach a certain age, morning practices are an inevitability.

Aidan started doing them a couple of years ago and it was a big adjustment for both of us.  It took at least a month before 4:15am didn't feel completely brutal.

Middle schoolers have time to come home after practice, high schoolers do not, especially given the fact that we live so far out of town.  So, this year Aidan had to learn how to be ready for his entire day at 4:15.  Me too - it meant adding LUNCH to the morning routine.  And a second breakfast that could be eaten in the car.

Then, Bridget started doing morning practices, and that meant another breakfast, and another body to roust from the bed, and a second pool to get to by 5:00am.

Our general routine is that I get up at 4:15 and head upstairs to wake the kids.  Aidan wakes up pretty quickly, Bridget not so much.  Aidan knows immediately what he wants me to fix for first- and second-breakfast, Bridget not so much.  They are both guilty of rolling over and going back to sleep, which I don't have time for, and that makes Mama cranky.

We have from 4:15 - 4:40 to get up, dressed, pack one lunch, make 3 breakfasts, and get whatever they need for practice (water bottles, clean towels, shoes, equipment bag, etc.) and get out the door.  You can see why any deviation from The Schedule makes Mama cranky.

I start the breakfasts (could be cereal, toast, bagel, oatmeal, or egg sandwich), and then start texting the kids to see if they are up yet.

It is generally known that if I have to stop what I am doing, and head back up stairs and wake up sleeping children, that Mama gets Extra Cranky.

Sometimes, it doesn't go so well.  Like when Bridget decided to curl up in a ball on the dining room floor and cry herself back to sleep.

It's times like those that Mama has to take a deep breath and decide whether the right approach is cajoling, yelling, or letting everyone go back to bed.

One of my biggest saviors has been making breakfast sandwiches in advance and freezing them.  Yep, took me about 3 years to figure this one out, I am slow that way.

I brown a pound or so of deer sausage, and crack a dozen or so eggs.  Ray bought this cute little pan that is perfect for an egg & sausage patty.

I crank out a dozen or so of these patties, and also put an equal amount of english muffins under the broiler to toast.

I assemble them all with a slice of cheese and put them into a zip top baggie, suck out the air and freeze them.

About 1:10 in the microwave and it's a good start to their day.

I actually don't mind morning practices.  It makes the evenings less crazy, and we often are all home at a decent hour for dinner together, which I love.