For Moms of Large Families

“You don’t have a TV, do you?”

“Yes. We use it so the kids don’t hear us doing that which causes this.”

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No more free Vitamin D

In history classes, my children have been learning (OK, they have been taught, which is not the same thing) that ownership claims of new lands (the Americas) by foreign countries (in Europe) were bolstered by two things: exploration and colonization.

Now there is a woman in Spain who has registered at her local notary public as owner of the sun.  You know, the big, hot ball in the sky.  She has neither exploration or colonization to back up her claims.  Apparently, she has an infantile mind…the kind of mind that says, “If I saw it, it’s mine; if I want it, it’s mine.”

“I am not stupid, I know the law,” she says.

And what, exactly, does she plan to do with her ownership?  Charge everybody a usage fee.  My response would be an equally infantile: “Oh, yeah?  Make me!”

One would have an easier time withholding oxygen from a non-subscriber than sunshine.  Even if you put sunshine-thieves in a windowless jail, any food you would supply would be thanks to sunlight.  But she’s not stupid.  I’m sure she’s thought through this whole issue and has some sort of plan for non-compliance.

I went, I wept, I wimped

My husband returned from Afghanistan 343 days ago.  I haven’t been counting (I used a date calculator), but I did not need to look up the date.  December 18th is a very important date for me, as is February 23rd, the day he completed his Kosovo deployment in 2004. 

I am thankful to have my husband home this Thanksgiving.

My friend, Laurie, did not mind too much that her husband was not home in time for a turkey dinner.  Her husband came in late last night.  Since my kids were all in bed, I offered to go and take pictures of their reunion.  I assure you, we homefront survivors want those pictures, but we’re not taking them ourselves.

So, I went.

And I wept, sort of.  I had to keep pushing images from last December out of my mind and repeating to myself, “Do not cry, do not cry, do not cry.”  It’s hard to hold a camera steady if you are sobbing, and I wanted to do a good job.  I felt like I was living in a Hallmark movie.

After their initial hugs, they stood facing me for a formal shot and then I beat feet out of there.  As I headed for the exit, I passed a woman taking pictures of her husband holding two infants.  “Would you like me to take a picture of all of you?” I offered.  “Sure,” she replied, but with a questioning tone (who is this random stranger available to take pictures?).  I didn’t explain myself – I clicked and left.  I hope that poor woman had help this past year. 

I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper.  I think I went once, before I was married and had very few people for whom to shop.  But the Army post is halfway between my home and Toys R Us, and the toy store opened at 10 pm, and I have a $10 coupon.  It was not yet 11 pm when I left my friends, so I thought it would be a great idea to get some shopping done while I was all pumped up and happy from cheering and flag waving.

I drove up, took one look at the line to get in the door that stretched across the toy store, across the big store next door and around the corner, and I wimped out.  I kept on going to the other exit and drove straight home, no conquering victories to report.

Please pass the straight edge

It’s a really low-key Thanksgiving here.  My parents and brother are in town, and we’ll all just hanging out.

This morning, I sat down with a scrap piece of paper.  “Help me out, Bill,” I said.  I started listing the food I planned to serve tonight: turkey, steak, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole.  He helped me remember all the dishes.

I then made two columns: prep time and cook time.  Fine organizational skills at work, thankyouverymuch.

As I was making horizontal lines under every dish through the columns, my husband, watching the master at work, asked, “Are those lines straight?”

I looked up at him, my eyes narrowing.  His smile was a bit too broad, too friendly.

“You will appreciate these lines come dinner time when I fill your belly with good food.”

It is never wise to tease the cook.

Delegating Dinner – The Humiliating Conclusion (and a recipe)

Friday night, I had a plan for dinner, but instead of cooking, I had been cleaning.  At 630 pm, I needed to pick the girls up from ballet.  Bill, slightly feverish and achy, was coming with me so he could pick up his car at the shop.  I stood in the kitchen with two full trash bags in hand to take to the big trash bucket outside and considered my options for dinner.

I decided to go with my original plan, Shrimp Destin, which is very very easy and gets 6 thumbs up around here (6 out of 8 is an extremely high rating).  I looked over at my 12 year old, watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on the laptop.  The shrimp recipe is so easy that, had I been a better mother, this untapped labor source could have been making dinner the whole time I was cleaning.  Alas, too late, I realized my neglect.  I did not have confidence that this boy could follow the directions on the recipe, and I resolved to walk him through it the next time I cycled through this meal. 

To soothe these guilty feelings, I opted to delegate a portion of the cooking to him.  It wouldn’t put dinner on the table any faster, but would make me feel that dinner was a team effort and not my sole responsibility.

“Fritz, honey, can you make the rice for dinner while I go get the girls?”  He looked at me with a willing, but blank, stare.  He’d never made minute rice before.

“Just put three cups of water on to high heat.  When it boils, add three cups of rice.  And then take it off the heat.”

He nodded understanding, and when I got home, the task was successfully accomplished.  I made the shrimp and steamed broccoli (love those frozen steam-in-the-bag conveniences) and everybody but my sick husband sat down to eat.

Peter, not a shrimp lover, had rice and broccoli on his plate.  After his first bite, Fritz asked him, “How was the rice?”  Peter gave him a quizzical look.  Really, what should one answer to that question?  It tastes like…minute rice.  Fritz turned to Katie who had only shrimp and broccoli on her plate.

“Why aren’t you having rice?” he demanded to know.  She knitted her brow.  What was the big deal about rice? she seemed to be wondering.

“I made the rice!” he declared proudly.

“You made the rice?” asked Billy.  He eagerly started shoveling forkfuls into his mouth.  “Mmmmm…great rice, Fritz!” he enthused.  And then, right in front of me, he leaned across the table and gave Fritz a high five.

Peter, now understanding the fuss about rice, was quick to include his praise of his older brother’s wonderful accomplishment.

Everybody returned their attention to their own plates and eating resumed.

“How’s the shrimp?” I asked Billy. 

“It’s good, Mom,” he answered with that polite tone one might expect if one had asked how the minute rice tasted.

I did not get any high-fives.

I should have.  This recipe is quite yummy.

Shrimp Destin

1.5 to 2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp

1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup butter, melted
1 Tbl white wine
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry dillweed
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Saute green onions and garlic in butter until onions are tender.  Add shrimp, wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until shrimp is cooked through.  Add dillweed and parsley.  Serve over toasted French rolls or rice.

Good times

Oh my.  What a day.

Confessions are at 11 am at the Cathedral on Saturdays, so we hauled our sooty little souls down there this morning.  I noticed the line was moving quickly, which meant our usual favorite priest wasn’t there.  The kids went first, then me.  Bill was hanging in the back with the little ones and went after the three people behind me.

A sign inside explained the short confession time:  Deaf Priest.  Do not whisper.

This would have been a good day to have mortal sins.

So, no lengthy explanations, no probing questions, no nothing.  State your sins, say you’re sorry, get forgiveness, get out.

After confession, I like to compare penances.  I got one Our Father.  Billy said he got three Hail Marys.  Goodness!  Fritz admitted he couldn’t understand what the elderly Irish priest had said, so he did the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God and St.Michael prayers.  Covered his bases.  Katie said she, too, had not understood so she did three Hail Marys.  Then Billy admitted he didn’t understand the priest either.  (Was that a lie he told right after confession?)

I asked the kids if they saw the sign that said the priest was deaf. 

No.

They asked about the man being Irish.  Jenny, being somewhat out of the loop since she hadn’t gone to confession, asked, “Are all Irish people deaf?”

“No,” I answered, “He happens to be Irish and he happens to be deaf.  Not all Irish people are deaf.”

“Oh,” she said, “He’s deaf and he’s Irish.  All Irish people are deaf.”

“No!” my husband said.  “You’re part Irish.  Are you deaf?”

Cheekily, my 7 year old asked, “What did you say?”

*******

Then we went to the store to buy some pants, socks, and shoes because my children keep growing despite my expressly stated order that they should mature, but not grow.  Growing can be done when they have jobs to pay for clothes.

By this time, they were starving, and we decided to feed them even though, for sure, my son would grow a half inch during the meal.  While we waited for our food, I suggested we play a game to keep everybody’s mind off the fact that we were waiting for food.  I suggested that everybody pick a new name and we would all call each other by these different names for the rest of the weekend.

“My name is Empress Maria Theresa.  You may call me Empress or Your Highness and you certainly may curtsy or bow when speaking to me.  Please speak in German or Czech.”

Bill selected Hector.  Fritz wanted to be called Bob.  Billy, Hades.  Katie, Nancy Drew.  Jenny picked some fairy name, then said she didn’t want to play.  Fine.  Foo on you.  Peter first picked Carson Palmer.  Mary is Mary.

At one point, Peter was acting like a 5 year old and Bill suggested that he act like Carson Palmer, meaning, like an adult.  Images flashed in my mind of the notorious behavior of professional athletes, so I began to protest, “Well, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea…”  Then I pointed to Billy, “He’s HADES.”

“Good point,” said Bill.

Peter changed his name to Joe Hardy.

*******

It was a steak place, this restaurant, but the children’s menu did not have steak on it.  The adult menu had 12 oz steaks or larger (or a 6 oz filet mignon for more than the 12 oz sirloin).  There was no steak salad or steak burger or anything small and less expensive, so I told Billy he could not have steak.  Feeling bad for our carnivorous young son, my husband ordered a steak and gave him some to supplement his chicken finger lunch.

Billy, I mean Hades, when given his portion, responded, “Thank you for your offering.”

If you don’t quite get that, you obviously haven’t read the Percy Jackson books.

*******

More errands.  Mary falls asleep.  The kids are given an option to stay in the car instead of going into Home Depot for air filters and light bulbs.  Katie and Jenny want to come, but the rest will stay.

“Fritz, sit up front and look 12,” I say.  He’s been affecting a “mature” look since he was 11 1/2 so I could run quick errands while leaving a sleeping tot in the car.

“I am twelve!”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Good.  Sit up front.” 

*******

At Bass Pro shops, nobody wanted to stay in the car.  That’s OK.  I came prepared with a book.  I happily stayed with Mary.

Bill wants to take me out to shoot shotguns.  I know, I know.  What a lucky lucky gal I am to have a husband with such romantic ideas for dates. 

He said he needed ear protection.  He said he knows I’m sensitive to things touching me, and thought perhaps the stick-in-your-ear ear plugs might annoy me.  “It’s OK.  I’ll just go deaf,” I said.

After the errand, he showed me the stick-in-your-ear $0.99 ear plugs he bought – for him.  And he showed me the full-cover-over-your-ears, much-more-than-$0.99 ear protection he bought – for me.

This is love.

*******

On the way home, I read him a few snippets from Rachel Balducci’s book.  The theme of these excerpts was Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris is not well known in my home…yet.  I noticed how eerily quiet the car became when I was reading.  My cell phone rang, and I spoke for a minute to a girlfriend.  The din from the back of the van was the usual volume – loud.  But when I hung up and went back to the book: silence.

*******

We went home and somebody said something else very funny.  I can’t remember it.  But I do know that Fritz said, “Mom, you have to put this on your blog!”  It doesn’t matter what it was, really.  His comment wasn’t at all narcissistic, self centered – somebody else was the clever one.  And he has very little clue that complete strangers read this blog.  He knows my blog is our family history.

We ran errands and took care of business.  We ate lunch and spent the day together.  We had fun.

It was just an ordinary mundane Saturday, but we want to remember it.