Thursday, January 31, 2013

Firsts

First fairy house and first snowdrops of the year.   Of course, I abhor climate change, but it felt good to be out on such a spring-like January day after a week of hard freezes.



Closed

School is closed because of power outages. 

Gave Up

On sleep, that is.  I tried my best with soothing lullabies, but they are too wound up. Still without power, though storm has abated.  Kids and I are  downstairs where they're playing Narnia-Star Wars Legos.

Powerless

In this amazing wind storm, we've lost power.  The cats are edgy.  And I'm awake listening to the power of nature....

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vegan Again

I just got back from the ENT to see about my continuous sinus pressure and infections.  Because the pressure, headaches, and ear pain and dullness have returned, he's put me back on antibiotics and steroids, also ordering a CT scan to look at my sinuses (his scoping today revealed a deviated septum but no polyps--yay, TMI).   I don't really know what comes after that.  I'd love tubes in my ears so I can hear better again, but I don't think that's in the cards.

Anyway, after some experience and evidence, I've realized that dairy increases my stuffiness (I had an IgE/allergy test previously for all the inhalants like dust, mold, pollen, cats, etc but am not allergic to those).  So I'm doing an elimination diet, giving up all dairy, which essentially leaves me a vegan (well, I guess I get to keep eggs, which is very un-vegan like!).  I had toyed with that earlier in December before the holidays, before the sinusitis.  We'll see if it helps.

But first I had a very cheesy lunch!  The last for a long time.

UPDATE:  A friend has recommended eliminating gluten as well.  Which leaves . . . not much.

The Family Tree

Gommie has long been very interested in our family history, gathering family photos and bits of lore, though leaving much of the archival work of birth, death, and marriage dates to my Uncle T and others.  Years ago, she gave me a binder full of her evidence as well as a chart of our family members.  I studied it then, mainly intrigued by the Confederate ancestor who reportedly fired the first shots at the battle of Vicksburg (and his son who penned his own memoirs as The Littlest Rebel), the Texas blockade runner during the Civil War, and such.  My Aunt Sis, on my dad's side, had always said we were Welsh and Scottish, but I only just found the proof in Gommie's notebook--but we're not Welsh (that it records), we're Irish!  My paternal grandmother has an ancestor, Alexander Mebane, who lived in Ireland from 1716 to 1793; eventually my Irish ancestors made it to Tennessee and then Louisiana.  I never knew we were a little bit Irish!  Now I'm doubly excited about St. Patrick's Day and soda bread, colcannon, and the like.  Turn on Riverdance!

My paternal grandfather's mother descended from Scottish stock, which I've known for a few years and we've celebrated at Scottish festivals and watching Brave.  Her relative, John Hay, was in Scotland, but in 1644 traveled to Virginia.  Family lore has long said we were related to a man executed for the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots's husband, Lord Darnley.  Lo! and behold, a John Hay was tried and executed with others for the plot.  A hundred or so years earlier than my ancestor traveled to the colonies.  Is our John Hay a descendant of the executed man?  I'm still looking into that as best I can.  But until I prove otherwise, I'm going to say yes!  I mean, who can pass up an ancestor who worked for Mary, Queen of Scots, and once was sent as an emissary to Queen Elizabeth I?  Coincidentally (and if I understand this correctly), before he was executed, John Hay was commendator (lay abbot) of Balmerino, a Cistercian monastery--and his descendant, my aunt's cousin, is even now a Trappist monk in France!

One last story has also recently come to us.  My maternal grandfather had a best friend with whom he fought side-by-side in WWII (through North Africa, up through Italy, and into Germany, I believe), Tom Brady, after whom my uncle was named.  Apparently, Tom Brady's descendants recently told us that my grandfather's unit is the one that captured and briefly held young Nazi Joseph Ratzinger, who was later released on the understanding that he had been forced to join.  Of course, that young man eventually became the current Pope Benedict XVI.

Two big mysteries remain:  are we Welsh?  and who are the ancestors of my paternal grandfather, about whose father (who abandoned his first wife and numerous kids to start a second family in the same town, leaving his never-divorced wife to start a boarding house in the early 20th century) we know absolutely nothing.

Thanks, Gommie, for keeping the family history!

Kidbits

In the last few weeks . . . .

The effects of reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:  We just finished our first foray into the Narnia series (albeit with the second book in the series chronologically) in a hours-long final read through the last several chapters, which encompass Aslan's sacrifice and death, plus his return and triumph, as well as the crowning of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.  The death scene--with the muzzling and shaving and mocking--is pretty brutal, which is why we opted for a daytime read as they cuddled up with Mama.  Almost immediately upon finishing, Sis was searching the house for entrances into Narnia, while Bud set to constructing it in Legos.  Later still, on the day Mama went into NYC, we watched the Disney movie.  Their favorite part?  The beavers!  Especially when Mr. Beaver wears armor at the end.  Of course, they had no clue about the Christian imagery of death and resurrection; no need to burden their fairy tales with adult baggage right now.  

80's dance party:  I'm not really sure how it got started, but Mama and I had an 80s thing a week or so ago, on one of those days when Bud felt almost like himself before Sis came down with her own flu.  Anyway, once we were perusing our 80's collection on the iPod, we couldn't stop.  "Mickey," "Eye of the Tiger," "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Hungry Like a Wolf," "Karma Chameleon," "West End Girls," Heart of Rock and Roll," "We Got the Beat," "Hold On," "Hold Me Now," "American Hero Theme Song," Of all the songs, the kids were fascinated by "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and requested it numerous times a day for the rest of the week, all the while asking for the whole meaning of that song.

Bud and Sis's magic show:  Bud received a magic kit for Christmas from Beloved Babysitter about which he has been so excited.  He's got a hat to pull things out of, a variety of gadgets to do ball/card/rope tricks, and even a few rabbits!  He's working on sleight of hand, slowly, but doesn't quite have the audience participation part under control.  He had Sis be his assistant and did all the tricks to her, instead of to me the audience; neither understood why it didn't look magical to have her "guess" the color or number he had chosen.  Cute, though, with them in capes, waving wands, and coming out on "stage" through the red curtains in the living room.

Inauguration Party:  Even with the flu (and Bud's 103F temperature), we watched the most important bits of the Inauguration, from the two oaths to the Inaugural poet, from Kelly Clarkson to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir to James Taylor to Beyonce.  The kids were pretty much done after the oaths, but we stayed for the whole speech. Seneca Falls.  Selma.  Stonewall.  Brought tears to my eyes to hear about gay marriage.  And Newtown.  And even the environment.  Our cookies were good, too.


Sis's baking pride:  Twice recently I have served as Sis's sous chef, allowing her to be in charge of the recipe and tell me what to do, with my taking control only of the oven activity.  The first recipe was a simple coffee-cake box mix, though we usually work from scratch, but it had a special crumb mixture you had to fold in and sprinkle on top.  She was very pleased with the effort and the results.  We baked a second time, though I forget now what,  this time from scratch, and she didn't even need me in the kitchen much.  Yum!  Homemade on your own tastes the best.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Preview

Here's the list I've been keeping these last two weeks of topics about which to post.  Let's see how many I get to this week:

  • Bud and Sis's magic show
  • On sick days--twins, challenges, etc.
  • 80's dance party
  • Inauguration party
  • The effects of reading The Lion, the Which, and the Wardrobe
  • Family heritage--Irish, Scottish, and the executed murderer of Lord Darnley
  • Knitting a prayer shawl
  • Birthday party gender politics
  • Family song canon
  • Body issues, weight, and Motherlode's post
  • Sis's baking pride
  • Caregiving and death and dying
  • Reading and watching Call the Midwife
  • Culinary diversity--Jamaican, Ethiopian, Greek, Indian, Tibetan, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Italian, 

Up to a Challenge

I know that January is usually the month of new beginnings, but I'm taking on a couple challenges for February, namely daily letter-writing and daily meditating.  I will write and mail something--a letter, a card, even a postcard--each day through snail mail.  That's 23 pieces of mail.  I was a wonderful pen pal as a child, sending hundreds of letters to my Greek pen pal Martha Bitsopoulou, in addition to correspondences with Lambeth, my Aunt Sis, my great grandmother, and other pen pals from camp, a Star Wars fan club, and such.  Nowadays, I send a ton of email and make some phone calls, but very few letters.  Though, I have sent my Aunt Sis approximately a letter a week since her illness.

And I'm also joining Sharon Salzberg's 28-day meditation challenge, which means meditation everyday.  I'll breathe in and out, do lovingkindness meditation, listen to some of my meditation CDs.  I'm really looking forward to the month to jump-start my practice, which had fallen behind with Mama's surgery and recovery and then the holidays and then even the flu, which kept me from the meditation workshop.

Lastly, though it's not specifically a February challenge, I've pledged on my Goodreads account to read a book a week and I'm making good progress.  It's time actually read all the books I own!

I'll keep you updated on these challenges--it'll be a busy if short month!

A New Possibility

After more than two weeks of tending sick children, who are now thankfully well and back at school, I have a long list of things to post, from developing our family song canon to my Goodreads goal and two other challenges I've undertaken for February.  But last things first:  I want to post about the Boy Scouts.

Gommie called last night, "Are you ready to be a Boy Scout leader?"  She relayed the announcement that the BSA is considering allowing local troops to decide the gay and lesbian issue.  I told her that until the national office eliminated their anti-gay policies, we still couldn't support Boy Scouts on the local level.

But as I later read the news reports, I discovered that the BSA is actually considering eliminating discriminatory policies from their national office but leaving choices on LGBTQ leaders and scouts to the local level.

Which means we can join.

Yep, if Bud still wants to be a Boy Scout, and, if the troops in our area accept us (and I have it on the best authorities that there will be no problem on that score), we will sign up as soon as we can.

Of course, that's a lot of "ifs" but it's still much further than I expected to be while Bud was still young enough to join.

At Last

Sure, there was a delay this morning because of ice, but both kids are off to school for the first time in 16+ days!!!!

Sure, I'll be at the school in less than 3 1/2 hours for their winter concert, but I'm enjoying this bit of time right now.

UPDATE:  The concert had been postponed.  I didn't read the notice thoroughly and had sent them in their concert clothes.  Sigh.  It's just been a hard few weeks over here . . . .

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today

It's snowing just a bit (Sis said it looked like falling sugar), with sleet on the way, so the school called an early dismissal and both kids are laughing together upstairs.

Sis didn't go to school today, as advised by the pediatrician who we saw Friday about pneumonia (it's not), which means I spent my third Monday in a row with a sick child at home.  I would say that's oppressive, but then I think about the truly ill children who are receiving long-term care for critical illnesses--like their classmate with cancer--and I feel for their parents.  Especially because I know that our normal life resumes tomorrow with both kids healthy and back in school, something parents of ill children can only dream of.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers

Please hold my father-in-law, Gong, in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow.  He is meeting with another doctor, this time at a major cancer hospital in NYC, about his recent prostate cancer diagnosis to consider various treatment options. Mama will meet her parents in the city and go to the appointment. We told the kiddos this evening about his illness and our hopes for the best possible outcome.  They took it in stride but will no doubt have questions, especially considering their sensitivity to illness after Mama's summer and their classmate with cancer.

Spoke Too Soon

Fifteen minutes after hot water returned, a pipe or fitting has revealed itself as broken.  Our dear plumber neighbor is already here.


-=-=-=-=-

UPDATE:  He had to disconnect our filtered water system to stop the leak.  :(

Frozen

Thanks to our friendly neighbor plumber, the hot-water pipe under the kitchen sink that froze overnight is FINALLY defrosted.  (Yes, just the hot water pipe, probably because it has more oxygen bubbles, he said.  And just under the kitchen sink because the pipe is most exposed in the basement.) It took a few space heaters in optimal locations to work their magic.  And we'll have to drip the faucet overnight to keep it from happening again.  But thankfully, no pipes were damaged.  Mama is getting insulation tonight at the hardware store to try to seal things up.

Maybe it will keep out our winter mouse, too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

103.1F

Yep, Sis has finally hit the high-fever zone, two days after falling ill with flu A.  She always was slow to grow a fever.

And it tickles my fancy that her temperature is about 100 degrees higher than outside!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A New Strain

Sis officially has influenza A, which is a different and more difficult strain than Bud's flu B.  She must have gotten sick from school or gymnastics, not from him.

Which also means she could still give it to him.

So, even though he is only about 75%, we'll probably send him off to school tomorrow if only to keep him away from her (no worries, he's not contagious anymore).
 
And she'll probably be home all week.

So, like last week, probably not much blogging, or anything else.

Second Round: Same as the First?

Sis awoke with chills, headache, and a rising temperature.  We'll go to the doctor in a few hours to learn if it's strep or flu, or both like her brother.

Friday, January 18, 2013

TGIF!

Yay, Friday!  And a sunny one, at that.

Though, actually, with Bud home all week and so many cancelled activities, I'm not sure I could have told you what day it was.  Except that Sis knew that yesterday was chicken patty day in the cafeteria so she got to buy lunch!

And she's off to school again today, with no signs of the flu and/or strep that her brother had.  Bud is still fever-free but so low energy and with no appetite to speak of that we've kept him home today.  We're hoping with a three-day weekend, he'll be rearing to go on Tuesday.

Which means we don't have plans this weekend besides resting and relaxing at home as well as having our own little family Inauguration Party, which they actually remember from four years ago (and here).

Goes to show that time keeps moving even if you don't know what day it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sick Days

Bud is fever-free but congested and tired.   So we're watching Clone Wars (I like Duchess Sateen of Mandalore, jedi Luminara Unduli, and Padawan Barriss Offee!), while I also continue working on my first knitted prayer shawl.  I had some frustrating hiccups but am settling into it now.  At least sick days are good for something.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Good Morning!

Snow delay for Sis, who is going back to school.  Bud is still feverish and in bed.  It's a nice surprise because we weren't really expecting any accumulation.  


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Strike Three?

Double Whammy:  Bud tested positive for strep, too (on top of the flu B).  His fever is going up and we're off to the nighttime pharmacy.

Strike Two

Sis awoke late feeling congested and fatigued, begging to go back to bed.  She doesn't have a fever--yet--but she is home today as we wait and watch for it.

Otherwise, Bud's fever is low-grade, though that's still with meds, and he felt perkier this morning.  I imagine it will be a couple more days at home though.

Stay well, blog friends!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Flu

It's the flu.  Strain B.  So Bud is at home for the rest of the week, probably, and Sis no doubt soon to follow.  Actually, I'm considering just keeping her home to help stopper the contagion at school.

But it makes me want to ring the neck of the clinic doctor who refused my three requests to swab for flu yesterday.  He kept telling me it wasn't flu; there were no signs.  Instead, he did a strep test--not the rapid one, "too many false positives"!!!--and gave us an antibiotic.  Asshole.  The boy had no sore throat and only a little redness.  Just high fever, chills, and headaches.

So it's fluids and rest all week.  Luckily we made chicken noodle soup yesterday.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers


Please keep Mama's grandfather, known to our kids as Lao Gong ("old grandfather") in your thoughts and prayers.  He has developed an infection following surgery, possibly pneumonia, and is in the ICU in Bangkok.

Also please keep in mind my beloved Aunt Sis, who fell in the week after Christmas and broke her hip; this after two years of health challenges.  She is still in the hospital following surgery.

Breathe In

I'm practicing Brahma Viharas at home today instead of Sharon Salzberg's meditation retreat, which is unfortunately too far away for me to drive myself yet.  Bud woke up with a 102F fever, possibly strep (the doctor at the clinic refused my three requests to swab for flu and just gave us an antibiotic prescription instead; we'll go see our pediatrician tomorrow). Which also means no school for a few days. I hope he feels better soon (he looks and feels awful) . . . and that no one else gets it. Breathe in, breathe out.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lost and Found

Bud's school folder has been missing for days and he swore it was in Mama's car from kung fu. Well, I found it in the basement of all places today and devised a scavenger hunt for him to find it. You won't be surprised that it took him 3--THREE!!--searches of the basement to find the folder hiding right there in the middle of the floor! And then he brought it upstairs . . . and left it in the middle of the floor.  Even though part of the scavenger hunt--with clues spread throughout the house--indicated the place where his folder and backpack should be stored.  I can't decide if I made misplacing things too much fun.  And I will refrain from making stereotypes based on gender, even if all my mom friends swear it's nature and true; somedays I definitely believe them.

Sending Out Love

Two people in my extended circles have lost parents in the last few days.  I send my love to Diane in Chicago, on the loss of her father, and to Bonnie, in Texas, on the loss of her mother.

Stop!

"Mom, why does it say 'in the name of love' on the stop sign?" Sis asked recently.

I sang a bit of the song, but you could tell that wasn't quite enough.

Then, at Disney on Ice--or was it watching Cars with them the first time--we heard another Supremes song.

The next time we were downstairs, Mama searched the iPod and lo, and behold! we had a Supremes greatest hits collection.  Soon we were playing "Stop in the Name of Love," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stoned Love," "You Can't Hurry Love," "You Keep Me Hanging On" (which they recognized from "Glee"), "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (though, that might me Diana Ross alone).  And dancing all around the living room.

Now, Bud asks for "Stop in the Name of Love" every morning.

If only I could remember where we saw that stop sign so we could go back again . . . . (I bet Sis remembers!)

TGIF

Just sitting here, me and my continued sinus pressure.  I had hoped the third antibiotic and steroids would help.  We'll see, but I'll be seeing my ENT . . . when he gets back from vacation.

And then there was the swollen leg/blood clot scare (no worries, just some swelling and a bruise; ultrasound gives me the ok), navigating the new security policies for school access for our Brownie meetings, and exhibiting and getting all the paperwork for our art contest (mostly, and it took 3 hours yesterday) done.

Otherwise, or because of all that, I'm glad it's the weekend.  We have a puzzle to do tonight and Beloved Babysitter is coming later so Mama and I can see Les Miserables.

Barring aphorisms of sailors and the weather, how could today not be good, when it started like this?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saving Time

We have a new system here at the Hungry household for doling out much-coveted screen time:  the kids earn 30-minute increments of screen time by being outside for 30 minutes.  That doesn't mean they can cash in their earnings anytime, only that when they are given the opportunity for screen time they have to pay for it.  If they haven't been outside during the week, they won't have anything banked for screen time on the weekend (we only allow screen time on the weekends, unless unusual circumstances arise).  This would not apply to family viewings or activities, i.e. they don't have to "pay" for our Saturday movie afternoons.  We just wanted both a way to encourage them to go outside (they enjoy being outside, but they're usually resistant to the actual transition to going outside, having fun once they get there; often they just stay outside after school but the chill has been chasing them in immediately) and a way to emphasize that screen time wasn't a given. We haven't decided if their earnings can be removed for consequences--if you hit your sibling, do I take away 30 minutes of screen time that you had already earned?  I don't like taking away earnings, but it's one of the only things they value and is a privilege not a right.  When we just say we're going to take away screen time on the weekend, with the consequence coming sometimes days later than the inappropriate behavior, we forget or it loses its efficacy.  This way it is immediate and tangible.  I don't want the 30-minute tickets to become bargaining tools--they earn them only for going outside, not for chores or anything else--or punishment, though.  Hopefully, it's very straightforward (and I imagine I won't be taking any away; we'll see, but they've been testy and testing recently).

Now, the big trick is:  do adults have the same restrictions?  I surf constantly, usually on my smartphone, to the point that I sometimes don't even realize I'm doing it. I restrict it when the kids are around, but it still sucks up time.  What if I earn surfing time not from being outdoors but from being on my treadmill?  That's incentive.  But am I honest or disciplined enough to conform to it?  It wouldn't cover "work" emails--for Girl Scouts, Reflections art contest, historic house volunteer work (an update on that soon!), or hospice work--or probably even blogging which is a specific activity with clear boundaries for me, but for Pinterest, FB, weather sites, random readings of the paper and other sites.  To help break the habit, I've been keeping my smartphone in my purse.  I don't need it out when I'm home, really only needing it for outings; otherwise, I have a computer and telephone here.

It's not exactly our New Year's Resolution, just a way to navigate computers and outdoors here at the least outdoor-appealing time of year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Geese

It's not a pretty picture, but I wanted to record that we've had untold numbers of honking geese overhead the last few days.  These are just some of this morning's.


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Different Number

26.

The number of victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

26 angels inspiring 26 acts of kindness.

Except there were 28 souls lost that day.

Because I count the mother of the shooter and even the shooter himself.

After much reflection and some passage of time, I wanted to post about the number 26 and the other two.  Of course, I am not a family member of any of the victims and would totally understand and respect if they couldn't bear to mention their loved ones in the same breath as the shooter.  Just as families of victims at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, even Oklahoma City and September 11 focus on the lost innocents and not the criminal perpetrators, so it is right that the families of Newtown do, too.

But I am speaking of and to those of us who are unrelated bystanders, witnesses you may say, of this tragedy, for whom this loss while intense and painful is not personal.  For it is we who are spared the emotional trauma of the shocking loss of a loved one, we who have the distance from the tragedy needed to reflect upon it at large.  As a religious person, following the principles of Unitarian Universalism which focus on the inherent worth and dignity of all people as well as the inter-connectedness of all life, I cannot forget the shooter or his mother.  And while the majority of my thoughts and prayers and tears are with and for the lost first graders and their teachers and all of their families, friends, and community, as well as with the first responders, I have also been thinking of the other two.

I cannot blame the shooter's mother for her own death nor for the actions of her son, even if the guns were hers and she knew of his mental health challenges.  As for her son, about whom I know very little, I do recognize how he must have been so alienated from the human community and from his own worth and dignity to take the lives of children, teachers, his mother, and himself.   While this in no way explains, excuses, or condones his actions, it allows me to feel compassion for him and for her and for their family and friends.

And compassion is what we need right now, for the victims, the survivors, and ourselves, as we begin to heal and especially as we begin to engage with the issues that contributed to this tragedy such as gun control and mental health treatment.   Separating the shooter and his mother as the "other," as evil, as undeserving of compassion, even as somehow inhuman, only serves to create an illusion of safety, albeit one that we, especially parents, would very much like to embrace right now.  If he is an example of evil, we can condemn, hate, even erase him.  Then we do not have to address the very human circumstances, within all of us to some degree, that led to this tragedy; we do not have to recognize or admit our own complicity in this violence, however minimal or indirect via gun and healthcare laws, media and culture, etc.

But it is through compassion for all of the lost souls, all 28 of them that day, that we as both individuals and as a society will perhaps come one step closer to healing from this tragedy and to preventing another similar one.






Friday Night Ice

On Friday night, we trooped--with the Brownies--to Disney on Ice, our first time at that show.  It was crowded and chaotic, swarming with young children and things to buy.  We had great seats, rink-side, and could see everything, from the ice-skating Cars to the flying fairies.  The fairies were my favorite; Sis thought so, too. We all liked Toy Story--laughing at dancing Hamm and admiring Jesse's lanky moves (Bud did not like that Barbie ripped up Ken's clothes, though; he thought it was mean, even under the circumstances)--but Sis thought it was too long.  They were a bit confused about the appearance of an undersea set, not sure if it were Nemo or Little Mermaid, even with "Under the Sea" playing.  Clearly, we're not quite ready for Disney World!  But we were a very enthusiastic audience, sipping slushies and eating cotton candy while smiling and even waving at the skaters.  I definitely admired the athleticism and artistry of the skaters, who demonstrated some of their jumps and spins in a post-show technical explanation.

Choose Love

We were driving on the interstate the other day and Bud noticed the striking green-and-white, "We are Sandy Hook/We Choose Love" billboard.  He wanted to know what the sign meant so we discussed love, respect, compassion versus anger, hate, and violence.  We also talked specifically about compassion not only for the victims but also for the shooter and his mother.

To change the topic somewhat, I mentioned that the surviving students of Sandy Hook, all 400+ of them, were now back in school at a new place.  Bud thought on this a bit and asked, "Does that mean there are no kindergartners at their school now?"

Oh.

How does he get right to the heart of it every time?

I'd forgotten we'd thought many of the deceased were kindergartners.  I told him there were some survivors in first grade . . . but what else can you say?


Third's a Charm

After feeling stuffy on Friday, I went to the doctor again this morning.  Yep, sinus congestion is back.  And I'm on another antibiotic, my third.  Plus steroids to see if I can beat this thing.  As well as Nasonex and Mucinex.  Not sure if it's a cold or allergies that keep popping up, but we'll see if we can squelch it and find the source.

On a good note:  I'm home watching last night's "Downton Abbey" episode!  And I do feel much better than last time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Special Days

I never know how these conversations get started, but at dinner the other night, the kids were asking about our anniversary.  This is never a simple matter because we have several to choose from:

  • the day in June 1994 that we met
  • the day in August 1997 when we became a couple (the date on the calendar in the kitchen)
  • the day in November 2001 that we signed official domestic partner papers in NYC
  • the day in October 2005 when we celebrated our civil union
  • the day in December 2008 when we legally got married in Connecticut (the date on the wooden box Mama gave me as a wedding present)
There's another date, when we had friends witness some legal papers that cemented our connection, but I can't recall that one, but it predated 2001.

Anyway, about every three or four years for almost the last two decades, we can point to a date!  

So we had to explain to the kids--again--why we have so many dates and why we didn't get married in 1997, 2001, or 2005.  They have trouble comprehending "illegal."  And they still don't fully appreciate, despite our repeated assertions, how lucky we are that we can marry even now in Connecticut.  And we haven't stressed that we are only married in CT and not federally (they wouldn't understand how this costs us thousands of dollars in taxes a year), though we mention it occasionally.

The unique moment in this specific conversation was Sis's memory of our wedding in 2008. 
 
"Wait, I remember that!  I was there!"

"Yes, you were there.  Not many kids were at their parents' wedding."

And Bud chimed it, "Cool. We were at your wedding!"

I'd say that's an unexpected perq of the challenges of same-sex marriage in this country.

A Budding Greek Scholar

Bud came home from school earlier this week saying he was learning Greek!

Imagine my surprise that this was in the second-grade curriculum.

He went on to explain that he was doing the "older student" level on Lexia, the school's computerized reading program and it was teaching him Greek root words:  tech, psych, tele, bio, chrono, and so forth.

Rarely getting the opportunity to put my eight college semesters of ancient Greek to use these days, I whipped out a pen and paper to show him how the Greeks wrote those words.  A mini-Greek lesson ensued, as I wrote those words in Greek, and both of their names, then changed the first lines of the Iliad in the original and ended with my favorite quote:


tis de bios; ti de terpnon;
ater cruses Afrodiths.


What is life?  What is love?  Without golden Aphrodite . . . .

I was rusty, but they didn't know.  And we all had fun.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Christmas Turtle Strikes Again!

It's been a few years since we've had a visit from the Christmas Turtle, but he (she?) came today!  Sis found a bag with a present in it under the tree, which we know wasn't there earlier because we've cleaned up all the Christmas gifts and decorations except the tree and ornaments.  Of course, she's the one who spotted it--Miss Eagle Eyes--though it must have been there since before they got home from school.  Maybe he came while I was at Pilates?  Or coffee with Miss S?

Anyway, it was the Disney edition of Headbanz, the Q&A guessing game.  Sis immediately broke out the mouse ears and passed them around so we could play a few rounds before Bud had to go to kung fu.  We're not the most up-to-date family on Disney movies, so we allowed some extra hints.  I guess the Turtle knows we're going to Disney World later this year.  It was fun . . . and silly.  And hard!  Try guessing "glass slipper" from yes or no questions.

Bud and Mama headed off, but Sis and I kept playing for another hour.  An hour!  Curled up together on the couch, we took turns guessing.  If it were a movie she hadn't seen, like all the Cinderella clues, I gave her another one.  She let me slide with guesses like "that turtle in Nemo" and "the big monster in Monsters, Inc."    My more Disney-savvy friends would have laughed (and I would have said I knew Disney pretty well, but I guess we just don't watch them over and over).

Well, at least we'll be more prepared for the Magic Kingdom!  Thanks, Christmas Turtle!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Holiday Recipes, 2012

I neglected to post the recipes we used this holiday season, so I'm including them all here.

Enjoy!

A New Orleans Christmas


Shrimp Remoulade
We eat this every Christmas Eve when we get back from looking at lights; it’s a tradition from Mom’s family. Dad always wonders why we don’t eat it on other days. I didn’t like it much as a child but it is a tradition and it’s growing on me.

4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons prepared mustard (French’s)
2 teaspoons horseradish
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoons pepper (dark, cayenne)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup salad oil
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped green onions
2 –3 quarts cooked and peeled shrimp

Combine first 8 ingredients. Gradually add oil, beating with beater. Add shrimp, celery, and onion. Chill. Serve on shredded lettuce with crackers.

Mom


Muffaletas/Muffuletta/Muffalatta (who knows?!)
Very similar to those at Central Grocery, which I remember eating on our trips to New Orleans.

Combine:
1 jar salad olives, drained
1 jar cocktail onions, drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
celery—chopped fine
Bread
meats (cheap lunchmeats--ham, bologna,salami)
mozzarella cheese

Bake at 350°F until brown and cheese melts.


Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
I didn’t really love gumbo when I was younger but it has certainly grown on me now. So, for the first time, the night before the crash of Flight 587, I made gumbo, based on my mom’s recipes and my New Orleans cooking school class notes. And you don’t really need Andouille sausage—just any smoked sausage. Note: My mom adds a can of diced tomatoes; I don't.

4-5 chicken breasts
½ cup flour
½ cup oil
2 large onions chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 lbs. sausage
6-8 cups chicken stock
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons Tony’s (approximately)

Saute sausage medallions. Saute onions, celery, pepper in sausage grease.
Make roux (Mom says you can microwave til brown, stirring after every minute; I tried this to start but then but it in a pot to finish). Add chicken broth. Add onion, celery, pepper, and sausage.
Saute chicken until dry and stringy. Add to pot. Add bay leaf, garlic, Tony’s. Simmer for 2 hours.
Serve over rice. Freezes really well.

Mom


Bread Pudding and Bourbon Sauce
I got this from Southern Living. Mom makes it now for all of her events and gets raves of compliments from real Southern chefs. I usually decrease the number of raisins, which will burn on the bottom if not floured. I know some people insist on adding fruit cocktail; I don't.

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup butter, melted
2 ¾ cup whipping cream
4 cups cubed French bread
¾ cups raisins (or less)

Combine first 4 ingredients. Stir in butter and cream. Gently stir in bread and raisins. Pour in lightly greased 2-quart deep dish. Bake 375°F for 50-55 minutes, shielding with foil after 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Southern Living magazine

Bourbon Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup cream (whipping, heavy, half-and-half)
2 (or 1) tablespoons bourbon (or your favorite--rum works well)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Melt butter in a small saucepan; whisk in flour and cook 5 minutes. Stir in sugar and cream; cook 3 minutes. Stir in bourbon, vanilla, and nutmeg, and simmer 5 minutes.

Family Circle


A Southern New Year

Cornbread
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup Quaker or Aunt Jemima enriched corn meal 
1/4 cup sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup skim milk 
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
2 egg whites or 1 egg, beaten 

Put cast iron skillet lightly coated with oil in cold oven and heat to 400 F.  Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into heated pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm. 9 servings.


Black-Eyed Peas
As tradition goes, you have to eat all your black-eyes on New Year’s. 

1 bag black-eyed peas
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
garlic, minced.
salt, pepper 

olive oil

Soak peas overnight in salted water.  In morning, drain and rinse peas. 

Saute onion, optional pepper, and garlic in oil. Add peas. Cover with water (water is double the amount of peas or more). Cook until tender, about 2 1/2 hours.  *Goya's jambon bouillon makes this tasty if you don't use a ham bone.

School Day

School's back in session this morning and, boy, it was soooo cold at the bus stop (our driveway) this morning.  17 degrees, with 11F windchill!!  UGH.  But the kids didn't care and ice skated on the frozen puddles in the driveway.   Not a bad way to start the year!