Monday, December 17, 2012

That's the Spirit!

I want to enjoy the Christmas season, I truly do. The problem is in the stress of buying gifts, wrapping gifts, decorating the house, fulfilling obligations like helping my daughter to participate in the "All Kids Craft Fair" by practically making all her crafts while she is at school, dance, basketball, etc., attending various "fun" events and battling the worst cold I have had since the turn of the century. The anxiety over attempting to fit all this in within a few weeks because I neglected, yet again, to begin the shopping process early in November, is a product of my own making. One would think that I would buy myself some time by eliminating the holiday baking: excessive amounts of all different types of cookies all hand make by me and lovingly packaged for only the most deserving friends and relatives. No, actually this insanity is what keeps me from jumping off a cliff into the abyss of holiday madness. Except for one children want to help me.
If you only watch one minute of t.v during the month of December, you are guaranteed to see an ad featuring a loving mother helping her cute elementary school age children create Christmas cookies and various other holiday treats all while an emotionally charged yet mellow pop song plays in the background. These advertisements serve up a walloping portion of guilt especially during this time of year when all I want to do is banish my own kids to the playroom in the basement so that I can enjoy some peace and quiet by myself in the solace of my own kitchen. Just call me, "Mother of the Year". I kept them at bay as long as I could. Claiming that I had to mix the dough myself so that I could "focus" on the ingredients. But those kids know what just about every holiday in my kitchen means...cookie cutters. "I want to do the Santa carrying the bag one!" Ava yelled over Declan's request to use his new "Ninjabread Men" cookie cutters, courtesy of my sister-in-law out in California. (She'll get hers when Maggie and Nate are old enough to insist on helping out in the kitchen about 2 years from now!) Just what I wanted to give to my friends and neighbors, Christmas Ninja Dude Cookies performing various martial arts moves. How festive.
My guilt gets the best of me and I succumb to the constant requests. There are only so many times I can endure the question, "Mo-om! When do we get to help?!" "O.K. You can both help but one at a time. Whenever you work together, you fight and I can't handle that today. I will call you when it's your turn." "I want to go first!" "He always gets to go first, I never do!" and so on, etc., etc. "Enough! I said I would call you and you won't complain about who goes first!!!!"
Let's just say, that I managed to survive, but just barely. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Land of Milk and Agave

This post is terribly irreverent. You can turn back now. Just know that you have been warned, that's all I'm saying. It all started when I was sitting in church on Sunday, this time actually listening to the sermon. At least I tried to focus and listen to all of it, instead of daydreaming. It was about Moses. Moses and the burning bush, only it wasn't really burning, Moses freeing his people, Moses and the Land of Milk and Honey. Milk and honey. Milk and agave. Milk and agave and unsweetened cocoa, a revelation. Hint: here's where the daydreaming began. Chocolate syrup has been a bit of an issue for me. Any of the premade stuff is full of corn syrup and even food coloring, if you can believe that one. At one point, I subjected myself to making homemade chocolate syrup for my children as not to deprive them of what I consider one of the great pleasures in life: icy cold, chocolate milk. But they consumed the chocolate syrup so voraciously, that it was all I could do to keep up. They not only wanted it in their milk, they insisted on dribbling it on pancakes and waffles, using it to smother scoops of chocolate chip ice cream, and then my husband constantly helped himself to as much as he wanted, likely squeezing it straight into his mouth whenever I wasn't looking. At this point, we were going through at least 3 squeeze bottles full a week. Pure insanity. I stopped making this delightful syrup maybe a year ago. But that hasn't stopped me from craving a delicious, cold chocolaty beverage from time to time. And it doesn't help that every work out magazine lately has been extolling the virtues of drinking low fat chocolate milk after a workout to "rebuild" your muscles. So, after the gym one morning, as my kids ate their Cheerios, I stood with my back to them and secretly experimented with the only things I had in the cabinet: Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa and vanilla scented agave syrup from the health food store. By mixing 1 teaspoon cocoa with 1 1/2 teaspoons agave syrup into a paste and then adding a cup and 1/2 of low fat milk, I had come up with a heavenly concoction. I know that keeping this recipe all to myself, not sharing it with my people may be perceived as selfish, maybe even sinful. But I believe that they are better off without this temptation and I am a better person for taking responsibility and shouldering this burden, alone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shower Surfing

The Norris clan annual vacation week at Swifts Beach in Wareham, MA is a slow torture for me. Although I enjoy visiting with the many cousins, aunts and uncles we only get to see but once a year, there is so much more to contend with. Excessive drinking in the hot August sun on the beach, children swimming over their heads with little adult supervision, and dirty rental houses that are one step below camping is not my idea of fun. I find myself monitoring the toddlers allowed to wander freely near the ocean's edge and the little ones out in the surf while the parents imbibe, their backs to the ocean, laughing and carousing, not a care or concern about the offspring bobbing in the waves. After the beach fun, we are offered the use of an outdoor shower and a warm can of Bud Light as the kids, run barefoot from rental to rental, screaming and sucking on lollipops given by an overindulgent aunt. I try to calm my nerves and hope that no one falls and chokes until we corral our own and call it a night. My two cherubs cry, "Why do WE have to leave? Why can't WE stay over?" As we load them into the car, I cannot wait to escape to my clean, air conditioned home and relax knowing my kids are asleep in their freshly washed sheets, safe from harm. The problem is, that my husband has enjoyed this vacation since he was a child and my own children can't get enough of it.
Instead of renting a room within my mother in law's place (sharing only 2 bathrooms with 3 families: adults, toddlers, teenagers and everyone in between is awfully close for comfort) we decided to take day trips as Wareham is only a short 30 minute car ride away. I thought I might escape some of the drama and dirt that way. Unfortunately for me, I still had to endure some hardships. After the beach on the first day, I needed to rinse the salt and sunscreen from our bodies before dinner. A quick outdoor shower was all that was required. Simple enough and welcome in the sticky, still heat at the cottage a few blocks away from the breeze at the edge of the ocean. I should have stayed covered with beach sand and salt. I opened the door to the dank, dark roofed shower. I knew there would be mold since the sun could not possibly dry out the smelly interior. I reached in and hung up my beach towel, stiff with salt. There was a lot of undrained water from past showers, murky with shampoo residue and a red Solo cup floating in it from last night's party. At least there was a wooden platform so that my feet could remain clear of the sewage. O.k. there was some shower gel I could use, instead of the slimy bar soap left up on the shelf. "I can do this", I thought to myself, "at least I don't have to endure the windowless indoor bathroom with its perpetual poop smell." I held my breath and stepped in. WHOOSH! The floor moved! I was suddenly surfing through the filthy, soapy water! WTF! Seriously, I expected a rat to swim by. Somehow I found it in me to remain balanced on the floating barge as not to fall in. I reached up to grab the filthy walls for balance, not knowing if I would ever get close to clean again after this horrific experience. How can people who are renting a house for a vacation week put up with this? Do these city people actually think this adds to the "Cape Cod Experience"? (Actually, Wareham isn't technically Cape Cod, but don't tell the Norris family, that.) And I thought the candy cigarettes that Rob's sister bought for the kids last year was bad! This shower surfing through waste water definitely tops the list. I quickly rinsed off. (I was already in there, and was too afraid to "try out" another mildew and mouse dropping infested shower at this point.) I emerged from shower hell to my husband laughing at me. I shot him my "Don't you dare F with me" look. It was only Monday, we still had four more days to go and I was already plotting my own personal scheduling conflicts so that I would only have to endure minimal time in these less than savory conditions. My husband and children can stay here without me and enjoy the charm in roughing it but I know better. From now on after a day at Swifts beach, I'm taking a sponge bath.