Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So About This Halloween Holiday

I have a confession to make.  It's difficult to admit this because I know I am in the slight minority.

I hate Halloween.

I know.  I can hear you all gasping.

I don't like dressing up.  I don't like the endless supply of cheap candy.  Or the money I have to spend on handing it out to others.

I hate wasting two hours of a perfectly fine evening chained to my front door being all stressed out that I may have grossly underestimated the $18 I thought I needed to spend on bags of candy.  Brian, meanwhile, is on a neighborhood beer walk "supervising" the lil' trick-or-treaters.  Once again, I think I chose the wrong path.

I hate the hours wasted on the preceding days that are spent (by my artsy husband) carving intricate designs into a vegetable that will be soggy-mouthed and tossed in the garbage just days later.

But I do enjoy a roasted pumpkin seed.  So I guess there's that.

I hate the classroom parties where the school and teachers think it's a great idea to stuff the kids with juice boxes and cupcakes and, you guessed it, more cheap candy before they send them home tired and on a sugar high so that they can be forced to eat a quick dinner before returning to their store-bought costume to go beg for more candy.

Then they come home and can't understand why they can't eat all of their candy RIGHT NOW.  I force their sticky hands and faces in the bathtub screaming BECAUSE YOU HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW!

They wake up the next day with two less hours of sleep than they are used to and totally crashed from last night's binge.  And they're asking for their candy.  At 7 a.m.  Have fun with that today, Teachers.  Payback's a ...

And I know, I know.  The pictures on Facebook and Instagram of all our little ones shoved into a monkey suit are adorable.  But sometimes I wonder if it's really all that cute or just slightly cruel.

Halloween is huge in our neighborhood.  Which, perhaps, has only added to my distaste in recent years.  I think I liked it better in our townhome 'hood when we were lucky to get three kids at our door.

Who are you people who say "Halloween is my favorite holiday!"  Seriously?  Seriously?!

A juicy Turkey with all the sides.  A beautiful tree with presents to boot.  Or how about fireworks at dusk.

No?  Really?  You choose a painted face and a fun-sized Kit Kat over all that?

I don't get it.

Oh sure, I'll participate in the all the pomp and circumstance just like the rest of you.  You'll see photos of my dressed-up four-pack floating around social media.  And I'll answer the door with a smile on my face.  And I'll steal candy from my kids' buckets.

It's all part of the secret contract we signed before they let us take our newborn home from the hospital.

But hear me now: I am not happy about it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


You are sometimes Kate.  Sometimes Katherine.  But mostly Kaf-rine.

And you are totally two.

You love fried rice and Rice Crispies.  Rice, in general, I guess.

Your hair is almost always in your signature pigtails.  While most your age are just starting to grow their locks, you've already had a gazillion haircuts.  And it's still halfway down your back.
You are almost never without your sidekick.  Your partner in crime.  Your almost twin.  Bobby boy.  After baths we plop the two of you in the crib with your nukies and some books and have dubbed it the K&B Lounge.
Daddy is your favorite.  I'll admit it.  When the back door creaks open, even if it was just the wind playing a mean trick on you at 10 a.m., you scurry at lightening speed on your two short legs to greet him screaming his name over and over.

I don't get quite the same reception.

You talk a mile a minute.  And with great emotion.  But we have no idea what you're saying.

Sesame Street is the only show you like.  And you especially love Cookie Monster.

You love to read Llama Llama Red Pajama.  And Pajama Time.

You are a climber and a hanger.  Like scary, climb as high as you can and dangle over the edge.  And you want to hang and swing from everything and anything.  You are freakishly strong.  You protest loud and clear if I don't push you high enough on the swing.
You've got mad t-ball skills.  We're not sure if it's natural-born or learned from the Bigs.  And you can kick a ball hard and fast.  Yet you make no show of it.

Your favorite place on Earth is in the top bunk of your bunk beds.  And with a broken arm already on your resume, this gives me an anxiety attack every single time.

You have been sleeping in a big bed for quite a few months now.  You made an easy transition from your crib.  Every night you go to bed happy and when you wake up you sweetly wait in your bed for someone to come get you even though you are fully capable to getting out unassisted.
Your favorite toys are blocks and puzzles and stuffed animals.  You like to copy your older sister and talk about all things princess but I don't think you actually care all that much.

You are scared of the potty.  This frustrates me to no end since you were going on the toilet for some time before you suddenly refused.  But I'm trying to be patient while you figure things out.
Everyone says you look just like Lucy. And you do.  How lucky am I to get two daughters with such striking beauty?  A rarity indeed.

You want to be just like your older siblings.  But you are your own person and don't ever let anyone put you in a shadow.

You are a caretaker.  Concerned.  You are cautious of strangers yet fearless and brave in the face of danger.  You care less about dramatics and prefer to figure things out on your own.  You spend much of your day alone, wandering about the house, yet rarely do you get into trouble.  When I go in search of you, nine times out of ten I will find you quietly crouching in your room reading Sandra Boynton.

You've got the toughest spot in the family.  No longer the baby.  Not the first born.  Not even the first girl.  Someone will always beat you to the punch.  And yet, instead of fighting to be seen and heard, you seem content with your place.  It's why I've been known to call you my favorite.  And you know, not really, because that would be wrong.  But when a mom has four, she'll choose the one who gives her the least attitude during the day and the most sleep at night.  You win, my dear.

Happiest of birthdays to our two-year-old.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just an Excuse to Post a Really Cute Picture

I'm sitting here at the computer and out of the corner of my eye I'm watching Katherine take an entire roll of floss out of a brand new container.  It's giving me some peace and quiet so I don't even care.  And it was free from the dentist so, you know...

Now she's trying to press the buttons on the netbook where William and Lucy are watching It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  William tells her no but she insists.  Then he says, "Katherine, you're almost going to be two.  You need to be a better listener."

And that's called irony, my dear boy.

I took the babies to my mom's this weekend.  Brian went to a Notre Dame football game and dropped the older kids off at his mom's on the way there since school was out on fall break.  It was a lot of shuffling around and a really long two-and-a-half-hour drive by myself with two babies but it was worth it rather than spending the weekend as a football widow with four kids.

The boys were battling strep throat last week.  I used to get all stressed out when one of the kids was sick.  Now, with four kids, two in school, it's just become a way of life.  The school year begins and I wonder, again, why our clinic doesn't have some sort of punch card program.

But Bobby's situation was especially tricky.  He's just ten months old today and that's pretty young to get a strep case.  At first I wasn't even certain that's what it was.  He was prescribed a powerful antibiotic since our area, in particular, has seen a lot of amoxicillin-resistant strep strains.  The antibiotic is disgusting with a capital D.  On his third dose he actually gaged himself and threw everything up.  And the diarrhea and subsequent diaper rash that it causes...I haven't seen anything like it.

I had so much anxiety around giving him his medicine that by Day 3 I convinced myself he didn't really have strep so I quit the drugs.  And so by the next day he had a full on strep rash.  I tried to call the clinic to get a new antibiotic but the on-call weekend doc wouldn't budge.  I wanted to punch someone.

Regardless, I still had a relaxing weekend at my mom's with half of my kids.  The weather was cold but I took the babies for a quick walk outside anyway just to get some fresh air.  Katherine refused to wear her mittens even though I'm certain the windchill hovered just above zero.  She also refused to leave the playground as Bobby and I were most certainly getting frostbite.  Definitely a Minnesotan, that one.
Stop the cuteness.  Stop it right now.  I mean summer's my favorite with swimsuits and sun-kissed skin.  But a babies in beanies?  I feel sorry for Florida babies.

I beat Brian home yesterday by four or five hours.  We did a quick dinner and bath and early bedtime.  Then I had time to get my ducks in a row before the rest of the army arrived.  And then I got the text.

"L just threw up in the car."

An expletive may have escaped my lips.

I mean c'mon.  Give a lady a break.

When she got home she seemed fine.  And Brian said she ate dinner fine.  I was confused.

"Tell me exactly what happened." I said to Brian.

He said she was reading in the car with the light on.  And then playing with his iPhone.

"Brian," I said, "she got carsick."

It happened one other time to her but it was so long ago it didn't even occur to me until I put all the facts together.

She slept soundly through the night.  Woke up and ate breakfast like normal and went to school.

But I'm not going to lie.  Even though I was certain she was only just carsick and not bringing a virus into our home, I still went to bed with a pit in my stomach.  Tossed and turned as every other child woke that night for some reason or another.  But not Lucy girl.  She was healthy and happy.

Oh dear God, please keep it that way.  The Pukes have no place in our home.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thank God for Weekends [And A Recipe for Soup!]

Albeit the dreary weather this weekend it turned out to be a nice series of days for us.  It was a good end cap to a very long week in which I think most of you were worried about my sanity after my last post.  I entered Monday morning thinking I was a fool for writing what I did on Friday.  And then 3:00 hit and I was most certainly sure that what I wrote was pretty all true.

No matter how much I get done during the day, no matter how much time I've had to myself, no matter how well-napped the babies are, all hell breaks loose when the Bigs come home from school at 3:00.  Are we the only house?!  Suddenly all at once every one wants my attention.  And a snack.  And a new diaper.  And to have a full on meltdown.  They want to go outside but they don't want to change out of their uniform.  And when they do go outside someone gets poked in the eye with a  stick and screams bloody murder.  Then they come inside and it's a fight to hold off screen time for as long as possible lest their brains turn to mush.  All the while I'm trying to piece together the ingredients we have on hand in my head to make a healthy and delicious family dinner.

Only three more hours until Dad gets home.

So we took a break and didn't get a thing checked off our to-do list this weekend.  But we did take the kids bowling and we went to church as a family and we went to the apple orchard.  It was full and joyous.

On Friday, to warm the souls of my family on what was a rainy, windy and cold day, I made my annual butternut squash soup.  I found this recipe years ago on Foodnetwork.com but I've altered it so many times that it now has become my own and resembles almost nothing of the original.  This soup is crazy amazing and my kids all ask for seconds and thirds.  And whenever kids eat that many vegetables in one sitting, the recipe must be shared.

This recipe does take some lovin' care. It would not be filed under Quick & Easy. I let myself off the hook on rainy days.  I go through backpacks and then I let them pick out a movie and get all cozy on the couch while I immerse myself in the kitchen.  In some ways (a lot of ways!) rainy days are easier. So I recommend keeping it in your back pocket until a wet and cold day just as I did.

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
2 Carrots, roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons butter (or more if you're into that)
1 Onion, peeled and diced
2 Celery stalks, diced
1 Apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 Red bell pepper, diced
1 Teaspoon dried rosemary
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil for roasting

1. Arrange the squash and carrots in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Note that the smaller you dice the squash the more caramelized it will get.  Some like this, some don't.  If you've never cut up a butternut squash before, see this helpful guide.  Drizzle the squash and carrots with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a cast iron oven or stock pot over medium high heat.  I used my beloved Le Creuset that my MIL gifted to me so many years ago.  Toss in the onions with some salt.  Sauté until translucent.  Add the celery and other pinch of salt.  After two minutes add the apple and some more salt and then the red bell pepper and some more salt.  I add salt after each addition because I think it enhances the flavor better during the cooking process than it does when I add it at the end.  I also feel like I end up using less salt this way.

3.  Let all those veggies hang out over the heat until the squash and carrots are done roasting or until everything is nice and tender.  (If it's taking too long for the veggies to get soft you can always add a bit of the chicken stock and simmer it.)  Then add the squash and carrots and rosemary.

4.  Now you'll want to puree everything into a soup.  I have an immersion blender which I believe to be one of the best inventions of all time.  But if you don't have one of these you can just use your blender or food processor or even a food mill.  You'll want to make sure and puree it in batches though.  Which is why I love my immersion blender because I can do it all at once without dirtying another item.  You can make the soup as smooth or as chunky as you'd like.  I happen to like mine a bit on the chunkier side.  During the pureeing process it helps to add a little bit of stock.

5.  When the ingredients are pureed, return to the stove and add the stock or what you have left of it.  Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer 5 more minutes.  Enjoy!

I serve my soup with par baked ciabiatta rolls that I cover with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary before baking.  This soup keeps really well and can be refrigerated and reheated though I'm not sure for how long because ours was gone in less than 24 hours!

Now if this recipe were really Pinterest worthy, I would have taken some great photos of it.  But I did not.  Mostly because my hands couldn't be bothered with anything besides a spoon.  So instead, you'll have to settle for some apple orchard shots.  There's an apple in the soup so it's kind of related, right?

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Triumphant Return to Blogging (Or Something Like That)

I'm toggling between the choice to write a lighthearted "Here's Why I Haven't Been Blogging" post or a "Holy Crap This Mothering Job Kinda Stinks Sometimes" post.

Let's start with this: The whole month of September was something of a blur.  It wasn't something every week.  It was ten things every day.

I'm straddled between being a mother of school-aged children and being a mother to babies.  They are two very, very different things and I'm still trying to figure out how to do that dance.  How do I quiz the first grader on his spelling words for tomorrow's test while the toddler is screaming incomprehensible words at me and the baby has poop running down his leg?  I'm not making that up.  It really happened.

How do you bathe four children and tuck them in at a decent time while still getting a couple of books read to them and picking out one's picture day outfit and another's field trip attire and cleaning up dinner while also leaving some time to maybe ask your spouse how his day went?

How do I fit exercising, eating, showering, sleeping and maybe some writing all within a 24 hour period?

Well that answer is easy.  I don't.  I get to pick one, maybe two, at most.

Right after Brian landed from his week-long business trip we headed straight into the eye of the storm: Wedding Week.  Brian's youngest sister got married.  It was the pinnacle event of the year.  And it was so much fun.  But also a whole heck of a lot of work and planning and coordinating.  We ended the wedding with a hotel room just to ourselves without kids.  I strategically planned that knowing I would most definitely need it.  And it was great.  And my mom was all kinds of wonderfulness for staying at the house with the kids.  But bliss only lasts until you get that one text that says one of your kids just barfed all over the dining room floor.  And instantly I'm slammed back into mom mode.  Vacation over.

No 24-hour bug here.  Katherine caught a doozy of bug that had us running for buckets for 48 hours straight which meant our weekend was eaten up with bleach and approximately 47 loads of laundry.

Monday morning Brian started working at a new company.  I'm really happy for him.  It's a company that he's been wanting to work for forever.  He's become so talented in his career and I'm really proud of the ease for which these opportunities seemingly fall effortlessly into his lap.  This one took two months of back and forth before we made a final decision and I'm not going to lie, I was hesitant.  Maybe I still am.

All week he's left early and been home late.  This is a major shock to our family routine.  It won't be like this forever but it is our new normal for the next few months as he gets ramped up.

And so all week, as he's gone before my coffee has been poured and I watch the minutes click past our normal dinner time, I'm left wondering what it is that I want to be when I grow up.

There's been a lot of talk about leaning in and leaning back these days.  But I know there's no easy answer.  I desire it all with only a fraction of it within a reasonable grasp.

Anyone who says they love every minute of being a stay-at-home parent is a liar.  Either that or they haven't done it long enough or don't have enough kids to drive them bonkers.

Anyone who says they love every minute of working full time and dropping their kids off at daycare every day is also a liar.

I know women can't win this game.

I want to be at home with my kids so that Brian can work to provide for us.  But I also want to escape the feeling that I exist only so that others can live the life they want.

I know that writing is key for me but time is ever absent.  As I write this I have dripping wet hair and no makeup.  I haven't eaten anything for lunch.  Bobby is pulling every article of clothing out of a shopping bag I had ready for storage.  Then he is crawling under the table and biting my toe every few minutes.  The lunch dishes are still scattered.  The laundry needs to be changed.  The bills need to be paid.  Dinner needs to be prepped.  I have an hour and half until the kids get home from school and hopefully, if I'm lucky, just as long until Katherine wakes from her nap.  Then it's snacks and backpacks and a fight about turning on the TV.

But today I made the choice to write anyway and that feels good.
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