my quote of the moment: "if you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." ~julie-jeanne-eleonore de lespinasse

June 27, 2012

absence makes the heart grow fonder

i love my kids, i really do. they are my world. honestly, that statement is more true than i'd like, sometimes. in the eyes of many, i am a stay at home mom and nothing else. so without my children beside me, what does that make me?

at the moment, i'm not sure what it makes me. every summer, we pack my boys off to spend a few weeks with my in-laws. they live up town, a few hours away, and though we usually visit at least once a month throughout the year, it's never enough time for everybody to do all the things they want to do. and so, when school lets out, and when cub scout camp is done, they go and visit without my hubby and i. and this year, fish went too.

it's great for them, because without me there, they don't really have to follow my rules. though it's funny to hear them talk on the phone, because i can tell the certain routines we've established that they still try to follow, the ones that don't work in any place but home. but they get to stay up late and drink sugary drinks and watch all sorts of tv shows they're not allowed to watch at home. but what my boys love is that they get to go fishing and camping and ride their atvs, all the outdoor stuff they love to do that, unfortunately, we get too busy to do at home sometimes. so for them, these weeks spent away are a great vacation.

they're great for me, too. there are so many things that i put off doing because i just wasn't able to get it done with all the kids and their little grabby fingers here. things that i bought to do all the way back in december, projects i'm finally able to tackle. and there are still boxes i'm unpacking, which just goes so much faster when you don't have to stop for drinks or diaper changes or to break up fights. these weeks are my one time off i get each year, the only time i get more than 24 hours without my kids, where i can be home and do work.

it's nice for me. it's something i look forward to. it's something i desperately need some times. people throw around a lot of terms about parenting, attachment and helicopter, the french method and the tiger moms, discipline styles and punishment types, and it all makes my head spin sometimes. the thing is, i don't really feel i have a choice in the way that i parent, though maybe i do and i'm just lazy and not creative enough to see it. the truth is that i am home with my kids all the time, and if we go anywhere, we go there all together. so if they need something, i know. and if they have an issue, i am there to deal with it right away instead of them trying to work things out on their own. and as far as fish is concerned, i am here for her, always here for her, so whether it's 7pm or 3am, she just walks over and gets my attention to try and get what she wants.

and it's hard, and it's exhausting. and it's especially difficult to get others to understand what it's like. because unless i sit and pretend i don't see them, they just keep bugging me and yelling and screaming until they get my attention. or if i do ignore them, any of them, and they get the hint to go off and do their own thing, five minutes later it usually gets worse. conflict resolution is not a strong point for any of my kids, but then they've never had a chance to practice it, because they always have me. and i have talked to doctors and such, and they've said that sometimes, especially with fish, sometimes it's not so much that she wants or needs, but rather she likes to watch me jump.

that's why these weeks away have been hard on her, especially in the beginning. she wanted to come home, and was screaming and crying and throwing fits. and my dear mother-in-law said she was fine, that she would tell hubby and i when it was enough and we needed to come and get our little girl. because though everybody up there loves her, they won't carry her or hold her or cuddle her like i do. which i know, at this age, i don't need to do, but sometimes it's just easier to stop what i'm doing and put everything away to hold her than to listen to her screaming for ten minutes.

though some said they can't understand why i don't miss all the kids and want to go get them. and i do miss them. but sometimes i miss the ability to sit and watch a movie without having to pause it ten times. or i miss being able to get projects done that i've been putting off simply because i wouldn't be able to focus on them. sometimes i miss reading all the books i have, the ones with lots of words and no picutres. mostly i miss getting to take more than a five minute shower. and sleeping in. and not having to share whatever it is that i'm eating, and actually enjoy my food.

i love being a mom. but i also love doing activities that don't define me as such. and i miss all my kids, and i know they miss me, but i also know this is good for all of us. we all need distance to grow, and time by ourselves to be who we are as ourselves and not just as an extension of somebody else.

June 25, 2012

happy mother's day from around the world!

yes, i know the real mother's day was a while ago. but my sisters and i always do a big dinner event, and it always ends up happening during the last week of june. all of us leave very different, yet super busy, lives, and it's when we can all get together to make the magic happen. even though it's always late, all of our mothers always feel super special, which they should. we all have multiple moms, and every one of them is very important to us.

so every year, we pick a place from around the world, and have a special dinner based on that theme. the food, the music, the decorations, all of it is made by us, by hand, and based on one specific location. most have been places we've been, but some have just been places we enjoy or wish we could go.

it all started many years ago, like back in 1999 or so, with a high tea. we served little sandwiches and assorted teas and little cakes. it was such a huge success, we've repeated the event almost every year, inviting more moms as they've joined our large and nontraditional family.

after the high tea, we did hawaii, with fish dishes and lots of pineapple. then there was new orleans, where we had a crayfish boil and beignets and lots of zydeco music. we did a carnival theme, where we played games like ring toss, ate corn dogs and homemade funnel cake, and even had a pie eating contest. after that was a carribean theme, with jerk chicken, fried plantains, and tropical flavors ices. next was a kentucky derby theme, because the party fell on the day of the race. we ate mashed potatoes and fried chicken, drank sweet mint tea, and had strawberry pie for dessert, and everybody got a fancy hat to wear. then we did greece, and decorated with grapes and lots of white and blue. we ate olives and feta, spanakopita and dolmadakia, and of course, baklava. after greece, we had a spanish theme, with many tapas and a huge paella. then we did germany, and had pretzels with various mustards, good dark breads, and spatzle and schnitzel. and, with my love of baking, i made a huge german chocolate cake. that brings us to last year, where we made french food. appetizers includes a cheese platter, then french onion soup, coq au reisling, and homemade salted caramels for a take-home snack.

this year, i decided to challenge myself. my sister suggested india, a cuisine and culture i am not really familiar with, but i still agreed. and yesterday, we transported all of the mothers to india. we danced, my sister gave henna tatoos, and we ate. i helped to make so many things i've never had before, like aloo tikki (a fried potato patty), pakora (a deep fried vegitable fritter), chicken tikka masala, chana masala (a chickpea dish), and chapati (a flat bread). for dessert i made kheer (a very loose rice pudding) and kulfi (an ice cream). everyone said it was a great success. even though i've never had most of the dishes, so i didn't know if they turned out how they were supposed to, i can still say i thought everything was delicious.

now i'm already thinking about "where" we should go next year.

June 23, 2012

thoughts on the terminator, time travel, and other things

the other day, my dear hubby was flipping through the channels and landed on one of the terminator movies. i have no idea which one because, honestly, i've never seen any of them from start to finish. still, the premise of the movie got us talking.

the point of all the movies, i believe, is that a robot from the future comes back and tries to kill the humans that, in the future, lead the resistance against the sentient machines. which, personally, i thought was silly.

first, the machines had to believe that they were in serious trouble to actually bother sending something back. and if they knew they were about to be defeated, in stead of some sort of defense tactic, they take their resources and waste in on time travel? that doesn't seem like a very logical move to me.

second, if they know who is destroying them in the future, wouldn't it be easier to go back and kill them in the hospital when they are born? as opposed to going back and trying to get a kid or adult that can actually move and fight back? i mean, that's what makes the movies fun, just not plausible, in my opinion.

my last issue is more of a personal ideal than something i have against a plot point. from my vague understanding of the movies, and from what my hubby has explained to me, in the first movie, the machines try to kill a kid. the events of that movie totally change future events, the future timeline of everything, but the machines still try to send robots back to kill these people. if they know that sending things back in time alters the future, why do they think it's a good idea to try? i would think, as machines, they wouldn't do anything they weren't sure about, or was at least statistically viable, but messing with the past could completely alter the time line to give all the future events you're trying to prevent by going back a certainty of happening.

i've thought a lot about time travel, and personally, i think it's something too dangerous to mess with. just the physical act of going back, even if a person doesn't touch anything or talk to anyone, could create a butterfly effect that would change the future completely. or create an alternate reality of future events. and if that happens, then what certainty would a traveler have that they would ever get back to their correct time? the probability of that happening, with multiple possible futures creating multiple future dimensions, makes it almost impossible.

also, on a much more personal level, i believe it wouldn't matter what the machines did or who they were able to kill in the past. if they were meant to be destroyed in the future, it would happen. because, simply put, i believe in fate. on a grand scale at least. i believe in the cosmic good, that good will triumph, that evil will always be on the margins. i believe that people are inherently good, that even though there is corruption and badness, that the good more than balances out. also, through little acts of kindness, we can still show others how wonderful this world can be, that not everyone is bad or self centered. evil and darkness will always remain, but it just helps to show how much brighter the light in this world can be. and if things are meant to be, they will happen, no matter how you change the past, you can not alter the future on a grand scale. individuals are too insignificant to alter the grand design, no matter how much we might mess things up in the here and now.

on a side note, though i believe in the unchangeable fate of the world, i do believe that people have the power to control their own destiny. or rather, everyone has a path, and they can chose to slink along and just survive, or they can work and fight and rise to meet the greatness they have inside. we, as people, can work together so that all can be lifted up to meet their full potential, we can inspire those around us. no matter our differences, we all have the common goal to make the world a better place, and it is our responsiblity to give our children hope for the future.

because no matter how dark things get, how bleak things seem, there is always hope. and if i didn't truly believe that, i would have given up a long time ago.

June 22, 2012

and then there were two

so here's a true fact: kids like animals. seriously, there is at least one animal that every child thinks is the coolest thing ever. and that is why kids like pets. and want pets. sometimes unreasonable pets.

this love affair with animals always starts out innocently enough. a fun little game to play with the very young is "what sound does a cow make?" and then the child says "moo" and everybody gets excited. and then you go through all the barnyard animals you can think of, because so many little ones have stuffed animals or pictures books with cows and pigs and chickens and horses. my kids always cracked up when they got to make turkey sounds. then you move on to not so common animal sounds, like rabbits and fish (seriously, my kids played this game on difficult). or, my favorite, the wild animals. because after monkeys and wolves, lions and tigers and bears all say roar. as do all dinosaurs, which is fish's current favorite.

anyway, after learning about all the different sounds animals make, then next step was to let them see all the animals in real life. which meant trips to zoos and aquariums. and of course, there was always the petting zoo area set up at community fun fairs. that was when things would go down hill, because after seeing and cuddling real live animals, then question became, can we get one?

and no, no you can not. because we are not farmers, i would have to endure the crushed look on my children's faces when i told them we were not going to raise goats or sheep or chickens. or even rabbits, the fluffiest traitors of all. conspiring with my kids to convince me to get them a pet, with big eyes and a fluffy butt.

not that i really have a problem with pets in general. just pets that we own. i am not really a pet person. i like cats very much, and have owned a number of them. but things always go wrong, and we have to get rid of them for one reason or another. i really am not big on dogs, but we've even owned a dog. things with her went very wrong, through no fault of our own, and she had to go too. taking care of pets is lots of work, and it always ends up on me, and lately, i'm just too busy to bother with it.

and so, this great desire of my children for a pet is met with the great compromise: a fish. because fish are easy, and most of all cheap. and though mammals were never able to last in our home, goldfish were another story.

until now, it seems.

we had gotten fish, and then they'd die, so we'd replace them, and the cycle would continue. my boys would name them and claim them as their own, but never get so attached that losing one was a traumatic experience. and then, four years ago, we got another tank worth of fish, and most didn't last. except for rocky. he lived with us for a long time, and even survived the move to my moms', where, instead of set up a tank inside, we dumped all the fish we had into her outside pond. and then it started getting colder, and we were worried that rocky wouldn't survive the winter, as he is a tank fish and not a pond fish. the rest we didn't care about, but rocky is huge with white and gold and black markings, so he was always easy to spot. so we took him, and a few friends, out of the pond and put him into a tank. and now that we are well established in our new home, we brought the tank, and rocky, with us.

unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be doing well. there was, at one time at my moms' house, seven fish in the tank. when we moved it over here, there were only three left. now, the two little pond fish are swimming around just fine, but poor rocky is bobbing around more than he is swimming. there are times that he swims, and i watched him eat, but i don't honestly think he's going to make it.

the saddest part, though, is that we brought the tank and the fish and set everything up while the kids are out of town, so they would be surprised when they got back. hopefully they'll be ok with the surprise of a tank of all new fish and no rocky. because i don't think i can afford to replace an eight inch multicolored fish and call him rocky II.

June 20, 2012

oh my oven, why have you forsaken me?

so i talk about baking around here a bit. or a lot. but i love sugar and butter and flour. and mixing it together makes everything better.

seriously, mixing flour and butter and sugar, spices and chocolate, nuts and oatmeal and extracts of flavors, this was my happy time and my kitchen was my happy place. i know baking from scratch is a source of stress for some, but it was stress relief for me. it was something that was exacting and precise, a tested recipe was something i could count on, something that would never let me down.

and then we moved and things got busy with the packing and the unpacking and just life in general. and i wasn't able to bake anything for a while. but then i was here, in my new house, and all my old friends, my pans and spoons and measuring cups that i had missed for so long, they found their new place in drawers and on shelves, just waiting for me to use them. and so i did. i made a cake.

and it was good. it was a new recipe i hadn't tried before, so when the timing was a little off, i didn't think much of it. and i baked some stuff for dinner, just following the recipe on the bag or box, and things came out ok.

and then i made chocolate chip cookies. and things were not ok.

a small aside: the recipe i use for my chocolate chip cookies is the same recipe i've used for years. i have literally used it close to one hundred times, probably making thousands of cookies. it is one of my favorite recipes, one i have memorized, one i could make in my sleep.

and so, when this recipe, the recipe that is like my oldest and dearest friend, lets me down, i know there is something wrong. and that something wrong i am beginning to think is my oven.

now the crazy thing is this oven in my new place is the one that came out of my old place. and it's one we bought not too many years ago. it served me well in my old house, and i really did use it every day. then it sat in my moms' garage for many months until we found our new home, where it was soon installed. but now it's just not the same.

things are baking too fast, not burning because i'm trying to be careful, but definitely getting overdone. so i don't know if it's getting too hot now or if it wasn't getting hot enough before. (full discloser, we lived in a pretty crappy place before, and even though it was plugged into the correct outlet, i wouldn't be surprised it wasn't getting enough juice) so i'm trying to get used to my oven all over again, like it's brand new. it just means that all my dependable recipes aren't so dependable anymore. and what used to be a calming, stress-free activity is now something i have to think about and pay attention to. and it's not like i don't already have enough of things i have to pay attention to.

June 19, 2012

a new beginning... again part II

i did it again. and i kept telling myself i wouldn't do it again. i went and disappeared for weeks and left my poor little corner of the interwebs all sad and lonely.

but i had a good reason. or i have a good excuse. or maybe it's a lame excuse, but it's totally true, so that's got to count for something, right?

so see, what happened is this: we moved. seriously. except that anybody that's been reading along with my rambling for the past couple of posts would know that. moving was a very slow process for us. we moved some stuff, and fixed some stuff, and then moved some more stuff. and then it got to the point where almost all our stuff was in the new place, which of course meant unpacking and organizing. which fell squarely on my shoulders.

not that my dear husband didn't try to help, but really it's not stuff he knows where to put because it's not stuff he uses. half of it was probably stuff he was wondering why we had in the first place. though i did get a little upset with him by saying everything that wasn't his or the kids was automatically mine. seriously? because i don't think the bath towels or the glasses we drink out of or broom are solely mine, it just so happens that as the one that is home the most, i am the one that uses that stuff the most, so i'm the one that needs to know where it's new place is in the new house.

anyway, unpacking and organizing was a long process. a process that is technically not quite done yet. but still, it's something i hate doing. it is on my long list of panic inducing activities. so i had to take things slowly to avoid freaking out. because besides setting up the new house, i also had to feed and cloth and diaper all the random little people that also inhabit this space, and i can't do that effectively while sitting in a corner breathing into a paper bag.

so, when i wasn't taking things out of boxes and shoving them in closets, or making more koolaid for the millionth time that day, i was mindlessly surfing around, looking at stupid memes mostly, trying to avoid thinking about anything serious. which also meant i was neglecting to follow along with all the blogs i normally keep up with. not that i read particularly serious stuff, but it sometimes gets to the point where keeping up with all the new content is more work than fun. and i had enough work in my life at the moment. so i stopped reading.

and because i stopped reading, i stopped tweeting, because those activities go hand in hand for me. most of the people i follow are authors of blogs i also follow. and it's one way i interact with those that follow me. but if i wasn't reading new post, i didn't have much to tweet about.

also, because i wasn't reading and i wasn't tweeting, i wasn't really inspired to write. so nothing here. which just turns into a vicious cycle of nothingness. but when you're in the mindset that can't handle anything more stressful than a lolcat, the nothingness makes perfect sense. at least to me.

so there you have it, the "why" for the lack of anything new here.

but wait, you might say, this is new, right? a sign of better times perhaps? and all i can say is i hope so. things have settled down. and hopefully i'll be able to get into some sort of summer time routine, and that will also help to make things go more smoothly. until then, i hope to take things one day at a time, because really, that's all a sane person can do. and i like to pretend i'm mostly sane.