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

April 24, 2013

just a push

i'm really not good at dealing with people. strangers or acquaintances, people i know or don't know or really should know but can't remember, it doesn't matter who they are, other people scare me and i don't like it. the it being the fact that i'm scared and the fact that people are scary.

the problem is that i am not graceful in social situations. too many times to i find myself out and about, trying to make small talk and having nothing to say. or there are conversations going on around me and i have nothing to add. so i am there, quietly observing, doing my best to blend in with the scenery. or if i do find my courage to actually say something, i usually falter halfway through when i realize that people are actually looking at me and listening to the words that are coming out of my mouth. not that i really enjoy my lonely existence, but i am so much more used to being ignored than having people pay attention. honestly, it's unsettling.

the paradox is that i enjoy going out. i like to people watch and observe from the sidelines. and i'm actually almost comfortable in a small group setting. in fact, i can sometimes handle one on one conversations, especially if i don't have to say anything. as long as i am not the center of attention, i am fine.

i do know this, and try hard to remember it, that i will be ok and enjoy myself if i'm going to be somewhere that to focus is on others. or if i'm going to be with my very close circle of people who understand my issue and jump in to talk for me. the hardest part for me then is the actually getting out and going.

it's like i have trouble just walking through the door, but when i sit down i'm fine. or i will try and get somewhere early, and then i sit in my car for a while, hyperventilating, debating on whether or not it would be better to go in or to just go home and never leave again. of course, when i am done and back in my car at the end of the day, i always wonder what i was so worked up about. and then i make the impossible promise that i will be better next time.

i do try to remember that the world isn't quite as scary as i think it is. and people aren't waiting around just to point and laugh at me. and that if they're paying attention to me, it's because they're actually interested in what i have to say. or even if they're just being polite and paying attention because i was paying attention to them, it doesn't mean they're judging me in their head. i don't know why i am constantly surprised that i am able to have a good time in the company of others, but i am.

all of this, of course, only holds true if i am going anywhere by myself. if i have my hubby or my kids with me, it's a whole different ball game. which, of course, might be the whole reason there is a problem, because i am so out of practice at going out like a grown up. i don't know how to act anymore if i'm not filling the roll of mom wrangling three crazed monkeys. but i'd like a chance at trying to remember, i just need a little push out the door.

April 18, 2013

chocolate peanut butter crunch bars

i made a dessert yesterday as a special treat, because my family is kind of sick of easter candy. that's not to say we're anywhere close to eating all the easter candy in the house, but every time anyone wants a sweet snack, i push jelly beans and gummy bunnies on them. and so, to change it up a bit, and because i've already picked through everybody's basket and eaten the stuff i liked, i made something new.

let me share a bit of background on these fantastic bars first before i really get into talking about them. a few days ago, my hubby was pestering me to make him chocolate peanut butter fudge. and though i like to try and please him by making the treats he has a hunger for, i couldn't make that because i didn't have the necessary ingredients, and i really didn't feel like going to the store. i didn't feel like going to the store yesterday, either, but i knew my pantry was well stocked enough to churn out at least something special. i was not wrong.

i started with a basic brownie as the base of these bars. and though i could have gone with the homemade, totally from scratch route, i decided to keep this layer simple and easy. the only change i really made to the box mix i used was that i ran out of oil, so i used only half the oil called for and i used leftover coffee for the rest of the liquid, something i've done in the past.

while the brownie layer was baking, i knew i wanted to create a peanut butter layer. there are some very simple ones that just mix peanut butter with powder sugar and a little milk and graham cracker crumbs, and it creates a filling very similar to that of a reeses peanut butter cup (my hubby's favorite candy). initially i toyed with going in that direction, but then i decided to go all out and made peanut butter fudge instead. still, i wanted these bars to be simple and easy, because i was feeling lazy, so i went with the best microwave fudge recipe i knew of, from my hero alton brown. i timed it so that, just as the brownies came out of the oven, i finished the fudge and spread it on top. the fact that everything was still hot really helped it to spread.

while the first two layers were cooling in the fridge, i thought about how to finish these bars. i could have just used sprinkles for a festive touch. or i could have melted chocolate to drizzle over top for something fancier and more decadent. instead, i took inspiration from this post from the lovely blog cookies and cups, and made the topping that she used on her bars. because i liked the idea of a crunchy contrast to the smooth fudge and cakey brownie, i made her recipe but changed the peanut butter from smooth to crunchy, so not only was the top layer crispy from the cereal, but it also has bits of peanuts inside.

these bars were everything i hoped they'd be, and they were a huge hit with my family. all of the layers stacked together make for a very high and impressive treat. i made them in a 9x13 pan, and ended up cutting 20 pieces, but i know i could have made them smaller and nobody would have complained about not getting enough. they're definitely something i'll try to make again sometime, they'd be perfect for a party, dramatic and delicious and easily transportable. these chocolate peanut butter crunch bars are nearly the perfect treat.

April 16, 2013

tragedies and emergencies

back when i was in high school, i went on a back packing trip with my church youth group. after we had made camp, the leaders decided we should explore the area, which included crossing a 30 foot wide creek that was nearby. the water was only up to our knees, but the bottom was covered with large rocks that proved to be very slippery and the current in the middle was stronger than anyone thought it would be. we linked arms to try and steady ourselves when we were halfway across and realized it was probably a very stupid idea to be attempting. i was last in line, and when i slipped i let go of the hand i was holding and there was no one left to grab me. the current was too fast and too strong for me to stand up, but fortunately i had the presence of mind to point my head up stream and swim at an angle toward the shore. it turns out i was very lucky, because i ended up 30 yards downstream from where i fell, and there was only 10 yards between me and serious rapids. had i panicked, not kept a level head and tried to swim to shore, i surely would have drowned.

fast forward a number of years to a quiet afternoon at home. fishie was only a few weeks old, and i had just finished feeding her and put her down for a nap. my hubby was sleeping, as he had work that evening, and the boys were playing in their bedroom. suddenly i heard a loud crash and then crying. honestly, this was nothing new, as the boys were getting into the stage where they were starting to play rough. and then dear lumpy came walking down the hallway, crying. it wasn't a normal cry, it was a true cry of pain. he showed me his arm, and i could see where bone was trying to stick out of his skin and the whole forearm was at a strange angle because he had dislocated it from his elbow. i freaked out, i completely forgot what i should do in that kind of situation, and so i took him and we woke up his dad with the immortal words "does this look right?" after my dear hubby was full awake, which didn't take long given the situation, he took charge and sent me with lumpy to the e.r., where they set his bone and gave him a cast and sling. and the only reason i went instead of my much calmer husband is because i have all of the important medical history and information memorized for all of our children.

i wanted to share these lovely stories from my past because of the tragedies that seem to be happening more and more often in our world these days, and the wonderings of "what would i do in that situation?" because, unfortunately, i know what i would do, or at least how i would act. if it was only me, i'd be fine. when tragedy befalls my kids, i temporarily forget which way is up.

the truth is my family has been through an unfortunate number of tragic situations, and i wish that i could be calm throughout. invariably, i freak. eventually i will calm down and be the rock that is needed. still, because i know that i'm not so great in an emergency, i am trying to be prepared. so i plan what to do, and i go over those plans with my husband and my kids. they know where to go and who to call, and because the kids will probably act like me, they know where the important numbers and info are written so they don't have to worry about having everything memorized. i haven't gone all the way with fully packed bug-out bags, but that's really only because we have just enough money to live day to day. if i had enough left over, i'd definitely buy for tomorrow. as is, i plan. and wonder and worry and hope for the best. we know not what the future holds, but i will do my best to make sure we survive it, as calmly as i can.

April 15, 2013

adventures in getting to school

when bumble first started kindergarten, we used to drive to the bus stop. mind you, the bus stop was actually very close to our house, if i walked down to the end of our shared driveway, i could see it. the thing is, our shared driveway ended on a very busy street, and i just wasn't comfortable walking him and his brother down that road. especially since we would have to cross the street to get to where the stop was and there was no sidewalk so we were forced to walk along the shoulder. so as wasteful as it might seem to others driving such a short distance twice a day everyday, it's what we did.

then, when we were living with my moms, we still drove to the bus stop. we technically could have walked, it wasn't that far, and my moms lived in a quiet area. the problem was really that we were never all together and ready early enough that we could make it to the stop. there were many mornings that i can remember where we would pull up right behind the bus as it stopped, and my boys would jump out and run while i beeped so the bus would know not to pull away. have i mentioned how hard it is for us to get our stuff together so we can actually get to places on time? we rarely walked in the afternoon either. the boys were always bugging me to walk home, for whatever reason they thought it would be fun. the first day that it was nice, i threw fish in her stroller and we walked to get the boys, and then less than halfway home lumpy started crying. it seems that the bus ride was extra long and he had to go pee. we ended up "borrowing" a neighbor's bushes, and it was a long time before we tried walking home again.

now we live in a nice little neighborhood. quieter, and with sidewalks everywhere. and because the elementary school that my boys attend is connected to our neighborhood by a footpath, any child that goes to that school and lives in this neighborhood has to walk. technically, we have a choice: either we walk everyday or i can drive them everyday. depending on the weather, i will drive them, but most days we walk. of course, there are still days where we are running late in the mornings, and i end up driving them because they'll never make it if we tried to walk. or there has been a time or two when fish decided to take her nap at pick up time, so i'd plunk her in bed beside her dad, and then i'd drive to get the boys so i could get back quicker.

but now it's spring. and with the nicer weather and longer days, it seems easier to get up and going in the mornings. so we're trying something new: i am letting the boys walk by themselves in the mornings. for the longest time, i was worried to let them go, even though we live in a safe neighborhood. even though we see the same people whenever we walked together, usually people with dogs that walk the same way everyday. even though there are bunches of other kids that also walk. in fact, i finally realized that there are quite a number of other kids that walk by themselves everyday. so we sat and talked about it. and i talked about it with my husband. and everybody agreed that the boys were old enough, were ready.

still, we have walking rules. they go the same way everyday, which is the same way they'd go if i was with them. they always stay together. they don't talk to anyone they don't know, grown ups or kids, it doesn't matter. they walk straight to school, no detours.

so far, it's been good. they've made it to school on time every time, though i still have to tell them when to leave. and i always panic a little until after i know the school day started and the school didn't call wondering where my boys are. but then, that's just how it is, when you're a mom.

April 4, 2013

peanut butter cookies

i made peanut butter cookies for my dear husband today. he asked, and though i said no, i still made them anyway. because i love him. and am insane. but mostly it's the love thing.

i originally said no because there is a ton of candy in the house at the moment. our children received easter candy from four different sources, so that's 12 total baskets that entered our home. it's a lot of candy, way more than my kids need to eat on their own. they honestly get candy from random sources all the time, but i never let them eat tons of it at once. i suppose that's the reason why, when i was condensing all the baskets and containers into three separate bags, i decided it was time to throw out all the old candy. most of it was from valentines day, though there was a surprising amount of candy canes left. what was frightening, though, was at the bottom of the candy bucket was still some leftover halloween candy, and a small bag that came from a special shop on the boardwalk, the one we went to last summer. so i guess i either have to start letting my kids eat more candy more often, or i need to go through the candy bucket more thoroughly.

anyway, i told him he could just eat candy instead of cookies. still, i completely understand when you get hungry for something, and though you can find a sweet substitute, it's not exactly the same as what you were hungry for. and then you end up disappointed. i certainly didn't want to be the source of my husband's disappointment, so i gave in a made cookies. plus, i figured i could use this as an opportunity to experiment.

i have made many different kinds of peanut butter cookies in my day. many from trusted sources. but none were exactly like the peanut butter cookie i was looking for. honestly, i like all my cookies to be soft and chewy, not fluffy and cakey or crisp and crunchy. the problem with peanut butter cookies, or at least all the recipes i've tried, is that they come out perfect, but once they cool to an eatable temperature, they become all hard and crunchy. i'll note that my hubby doesn't really care, cookies are cookies in his eyes, though he really does like the nice and chewy chocolate chip cookies that i make.

in fact, i used my chocolate cookie recipe as inspiration for the peanut butter cookies i made today. yes, today i went and made up my own recipe, which was a lot easier than i thought it would be. i knew i wanted a chewy cookie, and i remembered the trick from other recipes is to use all brown sugar. white sugar makes a crisp cookie, and the only difference between brown and white is the addition of molasses. so, when i made the peanut butter cookies today, i only used brown sugar, and i threw a few tablespoons of molasses in for extra insurance. i also remember that butter will make for a crunchier cookie, so i probably would have used shortening if i had any. instead i added extra peanut butter, because i figured that there was enough fat in the peanut butter to make up for the lack of any extra fat. that and i've come across a few peanut butter cookie recipes that don't add any extra fat or flour. it was that reason that i used very little flour in my recipe today, though i was too afraid to skip it completely. also, using my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe as a guide, i only used one egg, which made the batter too stiff, so i added some milk for additional liquid. i also added baking soda as per that recipe, because i wanted these cookie to rise a little.

the end result is exactly what i hoped it would be. the cookies have a nice outer shell around a chewy, very molasses-y center. the peanut taste is present, as it should be, but it's not overwhelming like eat a spoon of the stuff straight from the jar. i don't know yet how these cookies will hold up over the next few days, if they'll dry out and get crispy, but if i know my family, they won't last that long.

these cookies are a double win, as they are delicious, and a signal to myself that i am getting very comfortable in the kitchen. this isn't the first recipe i've successfully adapted, and i know it won't be the last.

April 2, 2013

sring break

my boys are on spring break right now. it boggles my mind that they have such a thing. everyone else i know with kids in other districts near and far don't have to deal with this, the trecherous evil of the school board to give kids a vacation with a weekend filled with sugar and candy smack in the middle of it.

last week was a short week for them. it snowed monday, and though they could have handled a two hour delay, the school closed and the boys had off. then on thursday, the "start" of break, they only had a half day. it still counts as a full day of school, but really it's a day to rush through a little bit of work and then let the kids play "educational" games. not that i'm really complaining about them playing those kinds of games in school. lumpy needs more practice playing games with peers, unfortunately he's sometimes lacking in the good sportsmanship department. and it's not he's really a sore winner or loser, it's that sometimes people want to modify the rules to make things more fair or run smoother, and he freaks out. lumpy is a stickler for following rules to the letter, and working any loophole made by them.

well on thursday, i picked the boys up from school, and bumble came home with easter candy, so i can only imagine how much work was done if they stopped to hand out candy to all the kids. it is at that point i realized this break would be sugar-fueled craziness.

they then had off on friday, and they don't go back to school until this thursday, so it's almost a week off. and it really doesn't help that we had an easter dinner with my moms on saturday, and then with my dad on sunday, at both of which they got more candy. and of course, the easter bunny had to stop at our house sunday morning. though the easter bunny here was clever and left a handful of candy and a nice toy instead of a basket full of sugar.

still, it's been sugar overload. everyday, a few times a day, they have a piece or two of candy. i'm trying to be reasonable, and we're talking about appropriate serving sizes together so they understand, but still, that kind of constant sugar buzz is something they're not used to. and i know there have been studies done that say sugar doesn't wind up kids, and that might technically be true, because the amount of sugar they're eating is not what is calling their craziness. it's the fact that they're eating any sugar, because they're not used to it, that winds my kids up so. it's the treats, and then going out and doing things, it's all the over stimulation. all three of them have been bouncing off the walls at different times, and then dropping down in a crash when they don't get what they want.

unfortunately, my boys need the structure of school to help them hold their emotions in, and i just don't have the time and energy to keep a constant super schedule going at home. especially at this point, where everybody is bouncing around like rabid monkeys, i'm lucky to keep everything from falling into total chaos. i believe all of us are secretly, or not so secretly, counting down the days until school starts again. and already, i shudder to think what summer will hold.