Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Neither Rain Nor Snow

There's a kind of running joke in my family about how my mom walked me to the bus stop for only the first year we lived in Alaska, and thereafter granted me full independence for bus stop journeys. I was nine years old at the time and the bus stop was about a quarter mile away. I'm sure my independence was mostly granted because of the way below zero temperatures and total darkness.

I do not recall being particularly upset by this, but I find it amusing as an adult to tease my mom about her abandonment.

Then Cubby started taking the bus here. After a week or so of taking him to the end of the driveway--all of about 100 yards from the house--to get on the bus, and being out to meet the bus when he got home, I was all, "Yeah, you just go on out there on your own, Cubby. I trust you."

I am my mother.

But I really do trust Cubby. I trust him to wait by the side of the road, to cross the road when he's given the appropriate signal by the bus driver, and to come right into the house in the afternoon.

Charlie, however, I do not trust. And not just because he's only four, either. Cubby probably would have behaved exactly the same two years ago as he does today. But Charlie is not quite so rule-abiding and never has been. I would not put it past him to get mad at Cubby and go racing off down the road, or into the woods, or . . . well, I just don't trust him.

So now we all go out in the morning to wait for the bus, and Jack and I are always outside to meet the bus in the afternoon, regardless of the weather.

This is no small thing in this climate. One morning last week our entire driveway was a sheet of ice covered in a layer of rain, which resulted in a Three Stooges On Ice situation with children prat falling all over and the dog getting in everyone's way. It was hilarious, if irritating.

We've been out in the rain, and the sleet, and the snow, and almost total darkness. Today just as the bus arrived to drop Cubby and Charlie off, I noticed it seemed to get suddenly darker. I looked to the west to see a wall of fog blowing at us. It was cool to watch, but probably not so cool to the bus driver, who had to drive right into it.

I may not enjoy having to be out in all weathers for bus stop duty, but at least I don't have to drive the actual bus in those conditions. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No Such Thing as Too Much Stock

Cubby has been complaining of a vague and non-debilitating stomach ailment for a few days now, and requested soup for dinner in deference to his delicate stomach. It was 4 p.m. at this point and I didn't actually have any soup on hand. He waved this away, and told me to just get some stock and mix some stuff with it*.

There speaks a boy who is spoiled for stock.

There was a point this fall at which I thought I had too much stock in the freezer. I had Mr. Lonely stock, duck stock, ham stock, and venison stock. All together, there were probably about four gallons of different kinds of stock in the freezer. I actually told A. I didn't need the bones from the second deer he shot to make more stock, because I had enough stock on hand.

Silly me.

I wish now I had made the second round of venison stock when I had the chance, because I am now down to two quarts of chicken stock and two quarts of ham stock. Critically low levels, for sure.

I need to find another asshole rooster.

* This was in fact what I did, as I realized I had a little bit of leftover pasta and meatballs, a little bit of cooked broccoli and carrot, and some cooked white beans. None of this would have been enough for dinner for four people, but add some stock and TA DA! The magic of soup. Of course, this would have been a non-starter if A. had been home, but he's not, so I didn't have to worry about mass quantities of anything.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lunch a Deux

The sole remaining child at home during lunch is luckily also the only one who is young enough not to complain about the vegetable soup with dreaded mushrooms that I like to make for lunch in the winter.

Way to be, Jack. You can be my lunch buddy anytime.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Miracle on the Canadian Border

It's multiple choice time!

How would you respond to the following statement?

It is 5:34 a.m. and I am currently drinking my second cup of coffee in a quiet house.

   a) What in the hell are you doing awake at 5:34 a.m., you crazy person?

   b) That sounds nice.

   c) A quiet house? You mean all your kids are asleep and you're drinking coffee in peace? ALLELUIA!

If you chose "c," then you're right there in the small-child trenches with me. right? But even if you're not right there in those trenches, you will perhaps understand my pleasure in a 5:30 a.m. uninterrupted cup of coffee when I tell you that Jack has been waking up every. single. morning. before 5:15 for two weeks now. Sometimes before 5 a.m.

While I will willingly get up that early to have some cherished quiet time before children awake, waking up WITH one of those children that early is not so cherished. Much as I love sharing my coffee time with a squirming two-year-old, I actually prefer, uh, not to share it.

Sorry, Jack. Mommy can appreciate you more after 5:30 a.m.

I have no idea why Jack is sleeping in this morning. I can only hope it continues.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mixed Reviews

I made some split pea soup for dinner tonight, mostly because I had all the ingredients on hand and no other brilliant ideas for dinner.

I don't think I've ever made split pea soup before. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever actually eaten it before.

I used a recipe from Christopher Kimball (of America's Test Kitchen fame), and it was okay. Not being an authority on split pea soup, I don't know if mediocre is all I can expect from it (I suspect this is the case, seeing as the main ingredient is, well, dried peas), or if it was the recipe, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the taste sensation.

Apparently, neither was Cubby.

He was halfway through his bowl of soup when he announced, "I'm going to have seconds of this. It doesn't taste perfect, but it feels good in my tummy."

Yeah. Sounds about right to me.

P.S. Any mediocre soup dinner can be salvaged by cornbread. Good thing I made some. It was a good call. Everyone kind of grudgingly ate their (single) bowl of soup, but everyone wanted seconds of the cornbread. Life lesson: Always make cornbread with soup. It ends the meal on a happy note and makes everyone forget about the soup, especially if it was forgettable to start with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Sweet with the Bitter

This morning at 7:10, I dressed all three children and myself in our outdoor apparel so we could all go out together to wait for the bus. (It was a balmy 18 degrees above zero this morning. Tropical!)

At 7:20 a.m., the bus arrived, Cubby led Charlie onto it holding hands, and the bus driver got off to tell me that because Charlie is only four, the bus driver will buckle him in with a seat belt and he'll have a permanent seat with Cubby every day. Then the bus driver got back on the bus, buckled Charlie in, and drove away with two of my three boys.

That was the bitter part.

And then Jack insisted on taking a walk, because hey! We're outside! In the semi-dark! HOW FUN!

Jack also insisted on getting up at 4:58 this morning, so at 8:30 a.m. I declared both him and me done and put him down for a nap.

And then . . .

This is the sweet part.

Some of you may recall the great joy I experience from a solitary, quiet meal with a book. So when I was standing there in a quiet house trying to figure out what I should do next, and I remembered that I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, I made myself a real breakfast. An egg, leftover mashed potatoes with cheese, and greens*. Then I sat down with my book (that's a really good book, by the way, if you're looking for a non-dry but fact-filled non-fiction book) and read and ate.

I'm so tired today that I feel a little ill, but I have a hot cup of tea next to me and probably 45 more minutes of quiet before Jack wakes up.

Bitter and sweet. The essence of motherhood.

* Incidentally, those greens are actually lettuce. The reason that I cooked lettuce for the first time was that our refrigerator inexplicably went crazy yesterday and more or less froze the entire contents of the refrigerator, including an entire head of green leaf lettuce. I was reluctant to throw the whole thing out, so I chopped it up and cooked it with olive oil and garlic. It's good. Indistinguishable from bok choy, pretty much. Something to keep in mind the next time I have excess lettuce from the garden and get sick of salads.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Then There Was One

Charlie's first day of school today required me to go with him for an orientation/open house thing for the families for an hour or so before we left them to it.

A. had to leave this morning for Blackrock, so it was just me and Jack to take Charlie. It was 8 degrees below zero when we left for the school. So by the the time I got the van started to warm it up, everyone dressed, and the backpack on the school kid, I only had time for one very rushed photo. Which is totally blurry and useless because Charlie was mostly concerned that his cool new backpack be in it:

It is a pretty nice backpack.

We made it to the school right on time. His teacher is very sweet, and Charlie didn't seem to have any hesitation about racing to the front of the pack and leaving me behind with Jack when we went on a school tour with the whole group.

Jack was the only younger sibling present, which meant the other parents spent a lot of time watching me corral him in attempts to keep him with the group and not, say, stopping at all the fascinating water fountains or making an unscheduled visit to the computer lab.

Most of the other parents also took photos at some point. I forgot both my camera and phone, so I fail at that.

When it was time for Jack and me to leave, I gave a disinterested Charlie a high five, pulled a reluctant Jack away from the toys, and left.

There was remarkably little drama involved. I can only hope it stays that way. (Unlike his previous school experience.)

Tomorrow he gets to start riding the bus with Cubby. The good times just keep coming.