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Walking to Defeat ALS on May 4th

May 3, 2013

Hi Readers,

Tomorrow, my husband and I will be walking up the west side of Manhattan with our kids, along with a few friends, in memory of my dearly departed sister, Beth, and raising both awareness about ALS and funds for the ALS Association as we do so.

The ALS Association was of great help to our family during Beth’s illness and even after, when they provided grief counseling. The money we are raising goes to patient services, advocacy, research, clinical trials, and counseling.

We’ve raised nearly $3000 for this walk, which surpasses the goal that we established for our team, the Phillips 66.

I’m still trying to raise another $240 to make my personal goal.  If you want to read more about the race and walk with us tomorrow, or make a donation this is the link to our team page.

I decided to do this walk at the last minute. I haven’t walked for the ALS Association in several years. I guess that raising money seems less desperate now that we have already lost Beth. Our team also did such a great job of fundraising in 2009* that I am realized that I’ve been reluctant because I won’t be able to achieve that goal again. But that seems to be letting my ego rule my actions. Staying involved and helping families who need help should be more important than that. And finding a positive way to deal with my sister’s death is definitely sort of a salve.

*and also in 2010, but I was not able to be present at that walk, which was in CT — my parents spearheaded that effort

Turning Four: Articulation

April 24, 2013

 

Sunday we were slated for an afternoon family trip to the playground. As it happened, our trip was was flouted by Henry’s first bout with flux. Or, as it is known in less poetic circles, diarrhea.

“This is some really weird poop,” he marveled, just before he started screaming, as things flew forth from his body in a completely new way.

He is young enough that new things continue to happen to him all the time, but old enough to try hard to aptly categorize and describe them. It is this ongoing upping of the ante — the watching of the child become ever more lucid and articulate — that makes drearier parts of parenting —like the never ending crumbs and the mulishness — not just bearable but something that people decide to do again and again.

We quickly switched gears away from the playground and planned an on-the-fly movie night, since the TV is closer to the toilet than the swingset is. We turned on the television and decided to watch “The Borrowers.” Once we’d selected the movie, I rushed to the kitchen to assemble some personalized enchilada casseroles and put them into the oven. That is because, a big part of movie night is dragging the high chair into the living room and letting the baby watch movies and eat dinner in the living room with the rest of us. Talk about the never ending crumbs! (Talk about the scandal of movie night for a one year old! Talk about the second child vs. the first, who wasn’t even allowed to see a video until he was 2!)

You probably recall, as I do, that a large and boring part of childhood is waiting for the grownups. I remember it most clearly in terms of sitting in a chair in a department store, sulking while my mother shopped for clothes, which were undoubtedly for me. And I know that Henry is always waiting for me to make his food, change his sister, get everyone’s coats on. On Sunday night he was waiting to watch the movie. At first, the television had a picture of the Borrowers on the screen, but soon enough it gave up and the screen saver was triggered.

“THE TV IS COVERED WITH ANIMALS,” our son shouted through his little nose, in a way that reminds me of Owen Meany, to inform us what was happening, and to tacitly question whether we would still be having a movie night.

Apple TV starts showing these crystal clear, saturated photos of animals in nature. They are the perfect photos. The most beautiful photos on earth of the most beautiful things on earth. A baby hippo with raindrops on its nose. One of those white baby seals that we are always threatened will be clubbed. A daddy lion gazing thoughtfully into the distance, his snub-nosed baby by his side.

Henry’s dad explained that the TV had gone to sleep, but that we would start the movie as soon as Mom could finish getting dinner into the oven.

Henry ruminated for a moment at the notion that the “TV” could “go to sleep.”

“If the TV is asleep,” he asked, “are those pictures its dreams?”

For months on end when he was two, I’d ask Henry what he dreamt of every time he woke up, and every time he woke up he said “Dreamed a zebra, and a giraffe.” So maybe he thought it was close to his own dreams, as yet untainted by the urbane and adult anxieties of life, or maybe he was just trying to slot the behavior of the television in what he is learning to be the behavior of the things around him.

The point is that I really like to listen to him think things through, and I hope that never changes.

Welcome to four, buddy!

Delicious & Easy 10 Step “German Chicken”

March 4, 2013

This is not the first time I have endeavored to roast a chicken in this space.

While I am the usual cook in the family, there are certain things I prefer my husband to do. Make the pie crust. Scale a fish. Cook the pancakes. Roast a chicken.

I bought a good chicken — kosher (ie, brined) AND it had had a chance to run around before it was murdered — so I was pretty pleased with myself.

What would I do with it? Hmm. Stuff it with lemons and only lemons. Cover part with foil. Cast iron pan and salt. Everyone has a plan, don’t they? And I always end up with a chicken that I am relatively and yet not totally happy with.

I looked to the Internet and found a recipe that sounded sort of gross, but it had 5 stars after about two billion people had voted. The people had spoken, and the people were telling me to consider this chicken, and so I did.

The differences between this chicken recipe, touted as “German,” and other chicken recipes, were interesting.

The most notable was that it was cooked with margarine rather than butter. That was absolutely not going to fly in my house, but what if I made that modification, and just subbed in butter? (The idea of subbing in butter for margarine is, of course, hilarious, since margarine is a [horrible, lamentable, etc.] butter substitute.)

The weird recipe also called for onion powder, which I am categorically opposed to, because instead of tasting like onions, it tastes like powder.

But perhaps the most eye-catching difference is that the butter (margarine?) was not just to go around the chicken, but actually *into* the cavity. Moist? I’ll say.

And when the chicken came out, it was to rest not for 10 or 15 minutes, but for 30.

The other parts were sort of normal. Stuff some celery in there; use salt and pepper. It looked easy enough that I figured I’d give it a try.

I did; it is now our delicious, delicious go-to chicken.

Ingredients

1 3 lb chicken

salt and pepper

1 or 2 stalks celery

1/2 cup butter (1 standard stick)

Procedure

1. Preheat over to 350.

2. Season the chicken in and out with salt and pepper. (I use garlic salt, which I also don’t approve of, but which I own because I bought it once for a recipe.)

3. Put 3T of the butter into the cavity of the bird.

4. Cut celery stalks into thirds. Put as many comfortably will fit into the cavity into the cavity.

5. Slice the rest of the butter and dollop it onto the chicken.

6. Bake uncovered in a roasting pan for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

7. Remove from heat, and baste with butter and drippings.

8. Loosely tent with foil and allow to rest about 30 minutes before serving.

9. Carve and serve.

10. Receive amazed and happy compliments from other chicken eaters in the family.

Baby’s Birthday

February 25, 2013

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This was written a month ago. I’m sort of on a month late schedule all around.

What does poignant mean — is it like getting pinched at the same time you are getting pet? Is it happy and sad; maybe happy but you think it will go away; sad but glad it happened anyhow; happy but pregnant with fear; an echo of another emotion?

Everything about having a baby is poignant. Today Ivy turns one. Poignant.

I look at her face. I try to see my own, since I hear so often that she looks like me. I might inadvertently see my mother looking up at me—something a little Britishy about the nose—or my dad sitting across the room, legs out in front of him, in a light blue fuzzy sleeper. The other day I saw my cousin, Susan.

This morning, I looked at the kids in the rear view mirror as the car was warming up. Henry in the back, eyes dark and warm and lovely, but in Ivy’s face, bundled to the 9s because it was 12 degrees out, with everything obstructed by a hat and a hood except a circle around her eyes mouth and cheeks, I saw my sister laughing.

When I am helping her fall asleep, and her face is in repose, I think about how much I have to learn about her. And yet, I am the person she knows the best. Every time I consider this fact I well up. It happens every time. The love I feel, responsibility I have, the care she needs. A baby is poignancy embodied. When a baby is born she has all of her eggs in one basket, and the basket is her mom. The responsibility is enormous.

As for her dad, he would have done anything for her the moment she was born, and yet it’s just within the last months that I am watching them truly fall in love, in the sense that they light up in one another’s company. Dah-ee, Dah-ee, bye bye, she sings when he leaves the room, or goes to work. When we come back into the apartment after being out, it’s a question. Dah-ee? Is he here?

And at night, when I am getting the children ready for bed, and Henry is wiggling and refusing to get dressed and she’s doing rabble rousing of her own, laughing and throwing herself to the floor to hug an animal or two, she’ll then crawl off and turn to yell over her shoulder HIYA!, her version of Henry. He will laugh and jump up and follow her down the hall, even further from the pajamas I am trying to apply to his fresh little body. They laugh together in a last burst of energy before bed.

She talks about her father and brother, and she can demand to be fed bananas, but she has no words for me, yet. She doesn’t seem to recognize me as separate.

The first year of having a baby is tiring. The first time around it’s exhausting, not just the pinched nerves down your arm from holding her day in and out. If you are an anxious person, you will have watched the subject of your fears shift from your own mortality to that of someone else. With a second child, it’s sweeter if only because it’s less scary and you know that the exhaustion will pass. You can relish the taste of the short time of babyhood. Plus, there is the mirroring of emotion: the ability to re-experience the love for the first child as reflected in the feelings for the second.

Mostly, the first year of having a baby is secretly feeling luckier than everyone else put together. People approach me in the store to tell me how luminous and lovely my little girl is, and all I can come up with is an earnest “I am really enjoying her.”

Today and all the days, it is gravely important that I do my best for her. I’ll be your defender little girl, though the truth is that I’ll also be your aggravator, if only accidentally. I’ll do my best to get you ready to leave here someday, though I will cry to see you go. I’ll try to tell you what I think is important, and watch you come up with your own ideas. I don’t know what will happen but my intention, at least, is to respect you, Ivy, and let you flower in your own unexpected way.

You look like us but the light in your face says that you are wholly, wholly your own.

I love you, baby girl. Happy birthday.

How to Create Your Own Extensive Ebelskiver Breakfast

January 14, 2013
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nom nom nom

I was given an ebelskiver pan several years ago.

I’m generally opposed to pans that only do one thing, perhaps because I am a New Yorker, which is synonymous with being a Less Spacer.

But I was intrigued, and I now have a habit of making ebelskivers every New Year’s Day.

What are these damn things? you ask. They sound wobbly. Like edible jokes. Edible jokes on skewers.

They are a Danish dessert filled with bits of apple, I reply. But I pretend they are breakfast food, like a little round pancake donut combo, and I fill them with jam, Nutella, apple, banana, or some combinations of those things.

The mode of creating them is to create a buttermilk batter, get the pan hot, put butter in each of the 7 half circle divots, add a bit of batter, add a smidge of filling, and then add more batter on top.

Let each one firm and color a little in the pan and then twirl what is becoming a burnished little ball with a chopstick or knitting needle to cook the other side. Shake a bit of powdered sugar on at the end, and life seems pretty much perfect.

My new trick is to put them into an oven set to about 220 to keep them warm, and then serve a gigantic pile at once, rather than meting them out. It’s more exciting, too, when you approach the pile unsure of which sort of filling you will get.

No one can say that I don’t lead an exciting life.

Ebelskiver Recipe

Ingredients

2 eggs whites

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon white sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups buttermilk

butter for cooking

Procedure

1. Beat eggs whites until stiff. I used to think this was a big deal, because I was doing it with my KitchenAid mixer, which very heavy and has grippy feet AND is kept under the counter, and it’s nearly impossible to get out quietly, and since I am always trying to get or keep someone sleeping, it was prohibitive. Now I use my immersion blender whisk attachment and it’s actually fast and fine.

2. In a second bowl—one that is rather large—mix together all of the white powders. Then all add of the yellow substances, and the buttermilk. Stir all together until smooth.

3. Fold in the egg whites. This requires quite a bit of folding.

4. Heat butter in the divots of the pan. Put in a bit less than one tablespoon per divet. When it is hot, add a bit of batter — less than you want to. Add a bit of filling and top it off. Turn gently with a chopstick. Cook slowly so that the outside gets browned but that the inside also gets cooked.

Serve immediately or keep a pile warm in the oven for a heaping, majestic presentation.

As with most other foods, these go wonderfully with breakfast sausage or bacon.

The First Bird I Saw This Year

January 7, 2013

It was on the afternoon of January 1st. I went outside to take a run after an extensive ebelskiver breakfast. I was underdressed and, as it happened, brimming with spherical pancakes, so I decided to take a brisk walk instead.

On my brisk walk I saw a blue jay. It was hailing a bit at that point, wee scratchy rocks tumbling down from a steely gray sky, and I was surprised to see such a bright hopping creature in the midst of the tumult. Hop, hop, hop down the driveway of the house guarded by a pair of Library Lions. The blue jay was the first animal I’d seen all year.

Maybe it meant something!

I have done a bit of research on bluejays.

They stand for loquaciousness, communication, expression, assertiveness, creativity, confidence, vitality, loyalty, solidarity, and the will to protect.

Other attributes I see are: resourcefulness, fearlessless in regard to protecting loved ones, and the ability to make the best of their environment.

I’ll take it!

Bunny, tiger, octopus, let’s welcome a new totem into the menagerie this year — the blue jay.

Readers: do you have an animal totem?

Happy 2013!

January 4, 2013

Happy new year! After a long and varied trip for the holidays, I write to you from my living room, which is full of my formerly splendid and fragrant Christmas tree, still ornamented, however now a loosely held together collection of angry, droopy, barely-green strawlike bits after I left town for 10 days and did not arrange for it to be watered.

Also, the living room is full of thousands of tiny Legos, for the most part arranged into tableaus (ahem, tableaux) of police with fancy vehicles catching bad guys sporting all different sorts of hair, as well as some plastic safari animals that I bought yesterday in the hopes of making a diorama of the African plains with my soon-to-be 4 year old, because the weather is cold and will be cold for the foreseeable future and projects! We need projects!

We also have a large cage in here, either to cage the baby in away from the tiny Legos, or to cage the Legos in away from the tiny baby, and it’s hard to figure out just how to do it. Mostly we have to watch her.

Yesterday, she did not eat a small refrigerator magnet, but only because her hero of a brother moved it out of her reach. I dreamed last night that she ate some coins, and that was probably not a dream that portended prosperity, but rather one that expressed anxiety over caring adequately for her busy, bouncing, beautiful, increasingly exploratory self.

She does not have the same relationship to the word “no” or more specifically, our preferred phrase “not for babies” that her brother did. If I say no, she will smile big and wag her little head back and forth, an exaggerated imitation of my no, as if to riffle the small flat raft of yellow hair atop it. Then she will cheerfully resume doing whatever it was she set out to do that provoked the no. Like licking the bottom of a shoe. As in:

No!

Big smile,

Head shake,

Lick.

Repeat

Etc.

Soon, the baby will turn one. I have not posted about how she started to eat actual food, more than six months ago, and how she is a natural born eater, whose favorite foods are breakfast sausages and huge quantities of soup. (Have you ever tried to feed soup to a baby? Put it on your bucket list. Or, put a bucket under the baby.) I have not recorded how she expresses excitement, like when she sees a cat, for instance, by throwing one arm up into the air and attempting to trumpet like an elephant. Or about how she got me up every two hours for the better part of a year, because when that is happening, the getting up, it is like stepping on a one of those cartoon hoes, and getting thwacked in the forehead with the handle, and your eyes turn into x’s, and your relationships turn into x’s, and things like blogging and personal hygiene and the ability to be civil whisper drily away like leaves of a coniferous tree that one has neglected to water for the better part of a fortnight. It leads one to do things like misspell the word “from” on the Christmas present tags, or record one’s son’s name as HERNY in places where the judging eyes of others will see it.

I have three posts I have not posted because, they are written, but then, I forgot that I wrote them.

One is about chicken and how I figured out the best way ever to roast a chicken. I’ll clue you in on that, don’t worry. Another is about how no one lets me sleep, and hopefully I just complained about that enough. Another is about some boys dancing on the subway.

I just wanted to check in and say hello, and Happy New Year, mine seems pretty happy so far and I hope yours is as well, and can someone help me shove this tree out of the window?