Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saved by Strawberries


This morning I had to go to the hospital in the nearby larger village for a three-hour glucose test. This is a prenatal test for gestational diabetes, only required if you fail the one-hour test given at the doctor's office. And for the first time ever, I did fail it.

Way to go, little girl! Keep on differentiating yourself from your brothers! (But not this way, please.)

So I had to go into the hospital, where they took a blood sample after I fasted overnight to see what my fasting glucose level is, then gave me a gaggingly sweet orange-flavored bottle of grossness to drink, and then drew my blood once an hour for the next three hours.

Because it took almost an hour to do the registration and initial blood draw, that meant I had to sit at the hospital for four hours.

I brought a book. It was okay. I didn't pass out or throw up or anything. Not even a headache. And hey! I got to read for four hours! Practically a vacation!

But I could still think of a lot of other things I would have liked to have done this morning. And I bet A. could think of a lot of things he would have rather done than supervise our three sons and Cubby's friend who came over early for a day o' play.

So is an overnight fast and four hours at a hospital with multiple encounters with a needle a better alternative than four small boys careening around? Jury's out on that.

Anyway.

By the time I finally got jabbed for the last time and was free to leave, I was really, really ready to go. But just as I walked out the door of the hospital, I saw . . .

Strawberries?

Yup. There was a guy setting up a table right outside the entrance and putting out various fruits and vegetables for sale. I guess he's there every Wednesday at 11 a.m., and I just happened to walk out right as he was setting everything out.

Good thing, because there were only six quarts of strawberries, and I bought two of them. I suspect the remaining four didn't last long.

So the first thing I got to eat after fasting for 17 hours was a fresh strawberry. Yum.

I decided after that it would probably be wise to not ingest any more sugar, even in fruit form, so I dutifully ate the nuts I had brought to break my fast and brought the rest of the strawberries home to the kids.

I wouldn't say the strawberries made the whole trip worthwhile, but it made the end of it that much sweeter.

(I don't have the results of the test yet, so just cross your fingers for me, okay? Thanks.)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Practically Giddy with Freedom


Thus far, having Cubby and Charlie home for summer break hasn't been as bad as I'd feared. Maybe it's because I already had Jack home with me, so it's not as if I was going from child-free days to child-filled ones, but I really think they've done a pretty good job of entertaining themselves.

I mean, sure, we've had our moments (or days . . .) of constant squabbling and unpleasantness, but generally they've managed to find things to do.

They've added on to their fort under the spruce trees, built bases for their "guys" (action figures) out of cardboard boxes, made books*, peeled potatoes, made a smugglers' cave, picked and shelled peas . . .


A sight to warm this shelling-averse mother's heart.

Made stew out of the empty pea pods and day lilies . . .


These two lowly sous chefs did most of the prep, and then Master Chef Cubby stepped in and added some sugar and water. Yum.


They actually ate some of it, too. Good fiber, I guess.

Despite their general self-sufficiency, they do appreciate being taken somewhere on occasion. Yesterday the whole family went fishing and then to a playground. And today, A. took them to climb a mountain.

Mountain climbing is Charlie's particular interest. He informs us he's going to climb Mt. Everest when he grows up, so he needs to start practicing. It was he who requested to climb a mountain last year, which resulted in the ridiculous 7-mile trek with three small children and a lame old dog. A. decided that he would aim a little lower this time. Today's mountain hike is only a mile long. 

Mia was not invited. She can no longer climb even a minor mountain. Nor can I, in my current state of seven months pregnant and feeling it. So the two old invalid ladies stayed behind and let the robust young men tackle the tiny mountain.

Which means I am home alone. For at least four hours. 

WHATEVER SHALL I DO WITH MYSELF?

Well, first I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen and living room, because I'm one of those people who can't be truly relaxed if there's a mess in view. Then I started laundry. Then I went out to the garden and did some harvesting. Then I dealt with the produce I had harvested (washing lettuce, cooking kohlrabi greens, etc.). 

Anyone without children is probably reading this in horror and thinking, "THIS is what freedom looks like if you have children? I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN." But those of you with children know that anything you do without those children in attendance takes on a meditative quality when you can do it at your own pace and without interruption.

Next on my mental docket is a shower. And then I'm going to cull some toys from the overstuffed toy box, which is a task I can only do on the sly when my hoarder children aren't around to protest my throwing out that precious plastic piece of junk that came off of a juice box or something.

I also deliberately saved some coffee from this morning's pot, because I'm going to have a milkshake with my lunch. Oh yes, I am. And no one can stop me.

FREEDOM.

* Inspired by the book sale at the local library, Cubby decided they should sell their homemade books in front of the house. He spent a good long time setting up his display, making signs, putting on price tags, fashioning a money box, and so on, and then some lady actually stopped and gave them TEN DOLLARS for two of their books. Thankfully, it rained that night and ruined his business enterprise, or I'm sure he would have been hitting up every passing car to buy his creations, which I was not entirely okay with.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not Winning Any Cake Wars Here


When I asked Charlie what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he was characteristically elaborate and imaginative.

"The cake should have little bits of whipped cream all around the sides, and strawberries in the whipped cream, and ice cream in a mountain in the middle."

After further questioning, I ascertained that the cake and the ice cream should be vanilla. Also that there should be frosting--vanilla, of course--but only around the edge. Underneath the little bits of whipped cream.

I feel sure someone with some kind of cake decorating skill could have made something lovely from those instructions. But this is me we're talking about here, so this is what he got.


Thankfully, the strawberries rescue it from a completely monochromatic and nuptial color scheme.

I'm not a proponent of non-chocolate cake and have never made a vanilla cake, so I had to find a recipe. I used this one from Smitten Kitchen--only a half recipe, which made plenty for us--mostly because it had buttermilk in it. I like buttermilk in baked goods. The cake reminded me in texture of pound cake, which is a good thing for me. Also, it was easy enough to make with all three boys "helping" me, which was another of Charlie's stipulations for his cake.

Strawberry season is over here, so I had to use the frozen strawberries I buy in big bags from the store for fruit shakes. Definitely not as good as fresh, but they did serve their decorative purpose. I fully intended to buy whipped cream in a can--something I actually have never purchased--to save myself the extra step of whipping cream to finish off the cake, but I couldn't find any at the gas station/dairy store I stopped at, so I bought the real cream and had A. whip it for me. Probably for the best in the end. 

Of course, it turned out that Charlie mostly ate the ice cream, whipped cream, and strawberries, because he doesn't really like cake all that much, but he seemed happy with my attempts to make his vision come to life.


Plus, he blew out all his candles on the first try. Success.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five



Happy birthday to
the irrepressible Charlie.
A true original.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not the Takeaway I Was Hoping For


I'm currently reading The Long Winter to Cubby and Charlie as their bedtime book. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from this inspirational story of the Ingalls family enduring a harsh winter of deprivation: endurance, fortitude, courage, industry (keep that coffee mill grinding for the literal daily bread, girls!), and gratitude.

So what does Cubby say to me yesterday? "How come in The Long Winter, Ma doesn't ever yell like you do?"

Probably because her kids didn't do things like lock the bathroom door behind them with poop in the toilet so no one could get in to flush it until the key was found. And not just because they didn't even have a bathroom.

She had four girls who were seen and not heard, and Pa would take a belt to them if they disobeyed their mother. Does that sound good to you, Cubby? No? Then be thankful for the yelling.

That's not what I said, but it's what I thought. What I said was, "Just because it's not in the book doesn't mean she didn't do it."

Though she did probably yell less than I do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

All the Comforts of the Smugglers' Cave


Cubby burst in the front door yesterday, followed by his two minions, and asked me if they could use their jackets for the floor of their smugglers' cave.

Say what?

"What smugglers' cave?" I had to ask.

"The one we made under the picnic table," he replied.

"And what are you smuggling?"

"Peas from the garden. So can we use the jackets?"

"Sure."

"YAAAAAY!"


The wily smugglers in their camouflaged cave. With a padded floor.

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Fat, More Better


It's kind of a running joke with A. and me that I'm famous for my potatoes. Whenever one of his friends would eat with us, that friend would inevitably ask how I made the potatoes. It didn't matter if they were roasted or mashed or whatever, the potatoes were always the best thing in any dinner I prepared.

I joke that it's because they're cooked with such love, because I myself really love potatoes. What I usually told his friends was that they were so good because we grew them ourselves, so they were really fresh. That's partially true, but I think what it really comes down to with potatoes is salt and fat. To make really good potatoes, you always need more of both than you think.

I have come to discover that adding fat to almost anything will make it better.

Tomato sauce for pasta is good. Tomato sauce with cream or bacon is better.

Yellow curry is good. Yellow curry with heavy cream is better.

Corn chowder is good. Corn chowder with sour cream is better.

And I can now add another to my list: Stir fry is good. Stir fry with a peanut sauce is better.

The peanut sauce I made to go along with our meatball lettuce wraps was not universally beloved by my family. In fact, I was the only one who really liked it, so I had a lot left over.

I decided to make stir fry last night to use up some of the carrots, kohlrabi, greens, and snap peas coming out of the garden, and to use up the rest of the peanut sauce.

YUM.

My standard stir fry sauce is soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and a little sugar. Those things are all in the peanut sauce, too, but the addition of the peanut butter really makes the sauce just that much better. Tahini would probably work as well.

The only member of the family that didn't eat the peanut sauce this time was Charlie. Of course. But everyone else happily consumed the previously unloved peanut sauce.

Gotta have that fat. It makes everything better.