Category Archives: Family

Purging the files

Last weekend, I purged my recipe file. I have this big green file folder that I use to store recipes. For the past 5 years or so (okay, maybe 10), I have been collecting recipes that looked good. And stuffing them into the file folder (organized into categories, of course. Sort of.) And I thought about it recently and realized that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, Emma would go through that file and instead of thinking fondly about the great family dinners we had, she would think, “Look at all these recipes that don’t even sound familiar.” So I decided to purge. This requires getting honest with yourself about what you’re never going to do. Kind of like going through your closet and getting red of anything you haven’t worn in a year. And here’s what I purged:

1. Any recipe for sorbet, ice cream, granita, sherbet, popsicles, or anything found in the frozen treats section. Easier to buy it. And probably better.

2. Anything that requires pounding something with a mallet.

3. Crock pot recipes for anything that is not intended to be served mushy. Because it always ends up mushy.

4. Anything that contains both chocolate and noodles.

5. Anything that has more than 10 ingredients. (Unless a) it’s for a special occasion and b) I’ve already made it so I know that it’s worth it.)

6. Anything that contains both fruit and meat. (I make an exception for apples and pork. Yum.)

7. Anything that has a jello-like consistency and isn’t jello. Like aspic.

8. Cold soup. (I know that some people like them. I don’t.)

9. 10 recipes for variations on “chicken in peanut sauce”. Because I have one that we all love and who needs more than one way to cook chicken in peanut sauce? Ditto for chicken enchiladas.

10. Candy. There are lots of professional candy makers who can make it better than I can. And that whole candy thermometer thing is a pain.

I got rid of about half of my recipes. In all honesty, I probably could have gotten rid of 3/4. But it’s a start.

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The world according to Bob Maue

My dad would be 94 years old today. In honor of his birthday, I’m remembering some of my favorite Bob Maue quotes:

1. If you keep watching Batman, you’re going to turn into a moron.

2. Why don’t you play it slowly until you learn it, and then you can play it fast?

3. Take the spoon out of that glass, or you’re going to put your eye out.

4. (In “sympathy” for my falling down the stairs): If you didn’t wear such dumb shoes, that wouldn’t happen.

5. (Also in “sympathy” for my falling down the stairs): If you wouldn’t come down the stairs in your stocking feet, that wouldn’t happen.

6. The sun is over the yard-arm. (Meaning it’s past 5:00, and therefore, cocktail time.)

7. If that guy had a propeller on his head, he could fly. (Said about a certain former pastor of our church, who will remain nameless out of respect.)

8. In response to my mom’s question, “If Ann-Margret came to the front door and asked you to run away with her, would you go?”: I’d have to think about it.

9. Jesus Christ, why can’t you let the clutch out slowly? (After about 5 stalls in a row, as I was learning to drive a stick shift in the Knoebel’s parking lot.)

10. While you’re up, get me a beer, would you?

I miss you, Daddy.

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Filed under Family, Funny Things, Gratitude

Undecking the halls

Is there a sadder annual chore than taking down the Christmas tree?

When we trim the tree, there’s such hope. Not only “hope” in the traditional Advent kind of way. But hope for the season. That all the presents will be perfect. That all the children will be happy all the time, even on long car rides. That everyone will get along. That all of the food will be ready at the same time. That you will take advantage of the long university break and work out every day and clean closets and figure out how to use an iPod. That your sister will make apple pie for New Year’s dinner. (Never mind.)

Actually, I usually start the holiday season with fairly realistic expectations. I know that, like most things, there will be good and there will be not-so-good. That nothing is perfect. That much of how it all turns out will be out of my control. (Imagine that, something being out of my control.)  But somewhere along the way, I get sucked into the Christmas vortex. My expectations rise.

And, as usually happens in life, there was good and there was so-so and there was not so good.

Not every gift was a delight. Some will never be played with and will be taken to Goodwill as part of next year’s pre-Christmas toy purge.  (And one or two didn’t even make it through Christmas morning without a tiny-but-important piece being lost.)

Feelings were hurt.

Situations were uncomfortable.

People got tired and cranky.  (Mostly me.)

Kids got bored and crabby and threw french fries at each other in the car.

But there was lots of good as well. Laughter with family and good friends. Long days with no plans and no goals. Cookies and carrots that magically disappeared after Christmas-eve bedtime, much to a 4-year-old’s amazement. Presents that delighted. Reconnections with people I don’t see very often.

And now it is over. The tree comes down and the decorations go back into storage. Until they come out again, bringing with them the hope of next holiday season.

When everything will be perfect.

 

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Nine lies and a truth

It seems that my most frequent blog topic is around why I haven’t had time to blog. Here’s the latest list (see if you can spot the true one):

1. First-grade math is kicking my ass.

2. Spending every spare moment with Lisbeth Salander (the heroine of the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series). (“Daaaaddyyy, I’m heeeere…”).

3. New episodes of “Glee”, “Parenthood”, “30 Rock”, and “Modern Family.”

4. 24-hour coverage of the Chilean Miner rescue.

5. Trying to learn the rules of soccer. (Rule number one seems to be that everyone is not supposed to cluster around the ball.)

6. Navigating the torn-up streets in south Oak Park adding hours to my commute.

7. Sewing homemade Halloween costumes. (Ok, that one’s obviously a lie.)

8. Buried under mountain of art projects sent home from preschool every day and trying to find my way out. (This week’s theme was “leaves”. Oh boy.)

9. Exploring run for mayor of Chicago. (I think I have a better chance of winning than Rahm.)

10. School, work, soccer, gymnastics, cross country, homework, piano lessons, college visits, birthday parties, running, getting ready for Halloween (seriously, did Halloween require this much preparation when I was a kid?)

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Molasses and salsa

September makes me want to get organized. To throw things out. To find out how many jars of molasses I have in my cupboard and put them all together. (4. I have 4 jars of molasses in my cupboard. All of them open. And I have 4 bottles of Worcestershire sauce, 8 jars of salsa, 4 large containers of Crisco and more bottles of vinegar than I can even count. And cumin. Man, do I have cumin.)

But I digress. (Maybe it’s been a few Septembers since I organized the kitchen cabinets.)

September makes me want to go through closets and get rid of things that don’t fit anymore. (Don’t fit the kids anymore, I mean. Of course, everything still fits me.) To get rid of the mountain of papers in the office. To organize and fold. To clean that utility closet that still sort of smells like the cat died in it  bad.

I’ve long thought that the Jewish calendar, with the New Year in September, made so much more sense than the random January 1 date in the middle of winter. (Of course, I realize that it’s not winter everywhere in January. Typical American-centeredness, I know.)

September, with its cool (er) nights and low (er) humidity (okay, on some days), gives me energy. The start of school makes me feel like it’s a new beginning. Like the world is full of possibilities. Like anything is possible. Like this is the year that I will get organized and stay organized. Like this is the year I will write songs, and write in my journal every day, and talk to all the people I care about on a regular basis.

Yep, this is going to be that year.

And in the meantime, just let me know if you need any molasses.

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Summer fantasies

Ah, the fantasies of summer.

Each year (round about April) I have this fantasy of the way summer is going to be. Long, lazy days with no homework, no 8 a.m. school arrival times, no cross-country practice, no ACTs to prepare for. No food-service cards to recharge online. No keeping track of when pajama day is. (Or when show-and-tell day is. Or what the show-and-tell theme is.) No identifying 15 things in the house that start with the letter Y.

Nothing to do, nowhere to be. Late dinners of simple, grilled food. Trips to the pool after dinner. Relaxed bedtimes. Relaxed wake times. Low stress.

And I count the days until the end of school.

At which point reality sets in.

8 a.m. school arrival times (to the elementary and preschools 6 short blocks from our house) are replaced by 8 a.m. (ok, “-ish”) arrivals at the day camp program (a 20-minute round-trip from home). And the same trip in the evening.  Homework is replaced by swim lessons four nights a week. The camp also has pajama day. And super hero day. (Which I forgot have no memory of ever knowing about.)

Grilled food is actually a rotating selection of pizza/macaroni and cheese/scrambled eggs after swim lessons. Relaxed bedtimes are actually hurry-up-it’s-late-and-you-have-to-get-up-for-camp. Post-dinner trips to the pool are replaced by I don’t even know what.  Relaxed wake times are not possible because…oh yeah, I still have to go to work in the summer.

High humidities eliminate any hope of low stress. (Stop touching me.)

So here I sit on August 3, fantasizing about the start of school and the start of Fall. Counting the days (or at least the weeks) until we are back in our regular routine. Dreaming of cool nights and cool mornings. Of school shoes and new backpacks. Of hot dinners in the crock pot. Of seeing the other school moms on a regular basis.

And in my Fall fantasies… it will be perfect.

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Less frayed around the edges

My sister and brother-in-law came to stay with the kids while I was out of town last week and as a result, we are now a lot less frayed around the edges. I’m happy to report that:

1. We have new shower curtain liners in both showers. No more mildew.

2. All the lights in the house are now working.

3. I have a complete inventory of everything in both freezers (including which freezer it’s in).

4. The refrigerator is clean, all of the shelves are at the perfect height and the cheese drawer is in a better place (no, not heaven. Just a more logical place in the refrigerator.)

5. Margaret dresses herself with no help from me.

6. The dining room table is reoriented the way it really should be (but I never realized that it should be that way.)

7. All of the Tupperware containers and lids are organized (but unfortunately, none of them match each other.)

8. David and Margaret’s Ikea dressers are assembled and all of their clothes are perfectly folded and organized.

9. I no longer have a coffee table next to the couch (that one’s going back, because I don’t have any place to set my coffee when I’m watching TV.)

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my wonderful sister and brother-in-law, who love me and love my kids and come and help me when I need them and un-fray my house.

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