Sunday, November 25, 2012

Big Boy Bed

My youngest child attempted the crib version of the Great Escape yesterday. Frankly, I'm surprised his nearly-three self didn't attempt this earlier.  But, as he is the Best Baby Ever, who has morphed into the Best Toddler Ever, he graciously stayed behind bars a little longer than my other two kids.

Once he knew he could vault over the side of his crib, we couldn't keep him locked up.  Other parents have differing opinions.  Such as the couple with whom we shared a waiting room when I was pregnant with my second child about six years ago.  The other mother noticed our then two-year-old son, who was playing with her two-year-old son.

"Has he tried to climb out of the crib yet?"

"No, thank goodness."

"Mine has. So I bought one of those tents that keep cats out. Except we don't have a cat. It's to keep him in."

And then she told me that my hair was really pretty and that we should be best friends.  Okay, fine, she didn't do that, but the creepy factor was there. And, I figured if a kid wants out of a crib, HE IS GETTING OUT OF THAT CRIB AND THE TENT WILL ONLY MAKE HIM ANGRY.

So, when Little Guy swung that leg over the rail, I knew it was time. I didn't want a jail break in the middle of the night.  There'd be sirens and dogs and floodlights and possibly a concussion, and really, who needs that?  So, off came the fourth wall (wink!) and his crib is now a toddler bed.  He happily snuggled into it, laid his head down on his dinosaur pillow, and tumbled into dreamland.

Of course, he did wake up about four times throughout the night.  But he stayed PUT, like a good lad.  No nocturnal wanderings, doorknob twisting, or any such shenanigans. We'll see what tonight brings.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I Killed It Dead

We spent Thanksgiving at my Dad's house. That's still weird, by the way. Calling it my Dad's house, and not my parents' house.

Anyway, a couple of the branches of the family agreed to meet up and cook dinner there. If we left it up to my Dad, he'd offer us saltines and grape jelly.

We all took on something. My sister jammed the turkey in the roaster in the wee hours of the morning, and kept a-bastin' all day long. My sister-in-law and I put together the many casserolly-type dishes and shoved those in the oven.  Last, she took on the sausage stuffing, and I jumped on the mashed potatoes. Ten pounds of mashed potatoes. Which turned out to be about eight pounds too many, but I have no sense of scale when it comes to these meals.

It should be noted that we weren't cooking our versions of these dishes. Our labors were not taxidermic, either. More of a tribute. My mother could cook, so her recipes, unaltered, would be tasty. I wasn't champing at the bit to mix some champignons in with the stuffing, or add a soupcon of pecans to the sweet potatoes.  That's not what Thanksgiving is about, right? Thanksgiving is all about eating the food that tastes like it did when you were eight years old and swinging your bare feet under the kitchen table, marvelling that everyone, big brothers, big sisters, parents who sometimes had to work late shifts, were all sitting there with you, at the same time, with no intention of running off the moment the cutlery clattered into the sink.

Anyway, there I am, standing in front of her stalwart Sunbeam mixer, shoving the last of the boiled potatoes into the bowl. I turned the dial to a slow, steady three-pace, and it whirred to life for the final batch.  It's an old mixer, a loved mixer. Which means that parts were a little stuck, a little warped.  The beaters, for instance, were more standoffish than usual.  Instead of kissing the bowl, there was about an half-inch gap 'twixt the them and the bowl. To ensure a thorough and even whipping of the starchy goodness, I had to use a spoon to poke potato chunks toward toward the maw of the beaters.

This was fine. Everything was fine, FINE I tell you, until...

My tornado of a daughter ran through the room, shooting toward the sink with a glass plate. She was about to hurl said plate into the depths of the sink, where it would likely shatter. Mmm.... glass-seasoned turkey, anyone?  To save the meal, I dropped the spoon to catch the plate, and it was quickly swept between the beaters.  The mixer grunted, trying to whip the unwhippable.  The motor sparked, then gave up the ghost.

I killed my dead mother's mixer. On Thanksgiving. It was as close as peeing on her grave as I can imagine.  My only consolation is that she would take great joy in knowing that I couldn't duplicate a meal she made about forty-seven times without destroying an appliance.

For those of you who have been following this blog for years, I'm sure you've wondered when my mother's passing will stop being so omnipresent in my posts.  The answer is...  I don't know.  I really don't.  I think about her every day, many times a day.  Which is weird, because I didn't think about her this frequently when she was alive. It would be wildly inauthentic if I stoppered the frequent loneliness I have for her, though, so express it I shall.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Spice Must Flow

Call me Sisyphus.

I am glacially de-cluttering my parents' kitchen. This involves evicting items from cabinets, scrubbing said cabinets, and re-organizing as I go.

I call it "my parents'" kitchen because, even though my mother died nearly two years ago, it is so very much her kitchen.  Dad just eats there.  Everything else is hers.  Her pots, her pans, her salt and pepper.  Well, there's also the clock.  The one that says "Snookie's Kitchen."

You can't argue with a clock.

(Sidenote:  You can, however, take issue with the fact that they have multiple clocks. There's the "Snookie's Kitchen," clock, a cuckoo clock (that cuckoos every fifteen minutes), the microwave clock, the stove top clock, and the under-the-counter radio clock. Did I mention that none of the clocks agree on a time?  These are very, very disagreeable clocks.)

Today, I focused my efforts on the spice cabinet.  Yes, cabinet. Not rack.  Most people have a spice rack, maybe even a Lazy Susan thingamajig, that contains about two doze frequently-used spices.  Since my mother cooked in great volume, frequency, and variety, she'd racked up a rather large collection -- conglomerate, really -- of spices.  I mean, she wasn't rolling her own sushi or anything, but she'd delve into Americanized versions of Irish (corned beef and cabbage), German (sour beef and dumplings), Italian (meat lasagna), French (chicken cordon bleu), and, of course, White Trash American (I can't even begin to christen the chef's salad sprinkled with Fritos and drizzled in hot Cheez Whiz).  Point is, there were about a hundred and fifty spice containers in this cabinet.  Can you even begin to appreciate that many  bottles of cloves, oregano, and mace?  Also: what is mace, for God's sakes?

I've been dreading the cleanup effort on this particular cabinet.  The way I figure it, in the twenty-one years she lived there, my mother cooked over seven thousand dinners in that house.  That cabinet represented the love she poured into each of those meals.

Ugh, I just dove into the deep end of my ow melodrama.  Blech. 

That's who I am now, for better or for worse. I'm reduced to the weepies, and possibly the vapors, by McCormick's finest.  Anyway, I went through all of these stupid spices, simultaneously getting teary-eyed over the Cream of Tartar that I knew went into the incomparably fluffy meringue atop her lemon pies. Cream of Tartar should NOT make cry, right?  

Lucky for me, before I could make myself throw up from my own weak sauce, I found the five boxes of baking soda.  Why does anyone need five boxes of Arm & Hammer's finest?   Mom, apparently, had some hoarder tendencies.  

Each bottle, each tin*, made me think of something she cooked for us. Since food was the real way that she'd tell you she love you, it was stupidly hard to toss an empty container of garlic salt. 

Confession:  I might -- might -- have found, and hugged, an empty bottle of Superose liquid sweetener. It caused an ape-strong memory of my mother mixing a squirt of it into her morning coffee, still bleary with sleep.

But toss it I did it, along with dozens of bottles of spice.  I pared the collection down to those that hadn't expired, and further reduced it to those spices that my sister and my father actually use.  I started with a hundred and fifty bottles.  I ended up with about thirty.  Now they can use that cabinet for a bunch of other things, including their coffee, tea, and baking ingredients.  Which is good.  But now there are two trash bags full of that which spiced up our family life for decades, which makes me feel incredibly awful.  

I know it's just stuff. Unusable stuff, to boot. But myriad tins of bottles... They are a powerful symbol of my Mom, and now they sit in an inglorious heap, waiting to go to a landfill.  And that's what feels awful.  If she were here, she would've called me a ninny for either being emotionally attached to a dusty bottle of cloves.  Well, either that or she would've been horrified that I threw out 'perfectly good' thirty-year-old bay leaves.

But she's not here, so I'm helping my Dad by clearing out the stuff they don't use or need.  In every way, what I'm doing is sane and right and good.  But it still sucks.

*thirty seconds of Google research shows that McCormick issued their spices in tin canisters during the '70's. So, this means that my mother bought these spices while living in my childhood home, and then moved them TWICE, and still didn't pitch them.