Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ultimate Barefoot Italian Throwdown Chef

Food Network shows are 30 minutes in length. And in 30 minutes, each chef prepares usually a main course with accompanying sides, dessert and cocktail. Unless the show is about using a particular ingredient or how to stretch one roaster chicken into 5 weeknight meals. I don't usually watch those quirky, easy "how to" shows- I want to watch the whole meal come together in a professional's hands so that I can take the menu, go shopping, prepare it that evening and eat around our family table.

I don't want to make food. I want to cook.

We don't have cable at our house, so I watch two Food Network shows back to back while I am on the elliptical machine- if I get to the gym four times/week like I wrote on the back of a cocktail napkin on the airplane flight back from New Orleans, that averages 8 shows every week. Eight chances to make asparagus risotto like Giada or Huevos Rancheros like Bobby or Roast Game Hen like Emeril or Croque Monsieur like Ina or Beef Vindaloo like Aarti.

It is possible, while I am watching the 30 minute show, to create those meals. I cannot imagine any reason why I shouldn't be able to stir a pot of risotto continually for 25 minutes. And while Giada is stirring continually, she is braising a pork loin, blanching asparagus spears, toasting almonds and creating a lady finger studded dessert, covered in freshly whipped cream.

The next time Food Network calls for auditions for the next Food Network Star, I am going to try out with a show I want to call simply Cooking with Children.

I am in a great dress from Anthropologie, my spices are already ground and out in decorative bowls, my stovetop is pristine and Bruce is on the record player in the background. Today I am making mushroom asparagus risotto. Suddenly, I can do this. I am Giada with smaller boobs and a less awesome California kitchen.

While I am trying to soften onions in butter and olive oil, Knox is pulling out the Crock Pot from the bottom shelf and leaving it directly behind me so I trip over it when I take a step back. Mincing the garlic? No problem, except the runny nose dripping down Purslane's face isn't going anywhere while she refuses to let me come near her with a tissue "while your hands are stinky, Mama". Measuring rice is super fun with the help of a 3 year old who forgets what number she was on and has to pour out the rice and measure over again at least 4 times. When I suggest that maybe Mama can take over so she can be free to play? Tears and protests requiring a few moments of reassurance that no, I love cooking with her and am so grateful for the help. Milk and chicken stock simmering together in a pot boil over while I have to step away from the stove to re-diaper Knox who can only run around naked for so long before the urge to open air pee is too strong to resist. The asparagus is easy, thank God. I don't know why anyone doesn't buy the already washed and chopped baby bella mushrooms...a quick sautee and my two risotto additives are ready to go.

 I put on an episode of Dinosaur Train for my darlings because my risotto and their show should end just about the same time and I will apply a fresh coat of lipstick before Grant walks in the door and we all sit down to a handmade meal.

Pursy wants an apple.
Knox jumps from the couch to the coffee table and almost breaks his face.
Pursy has to pee and uses an entire roll of toilet paper.
Knox wants an apple now.
Pursy doesn't want this episode of Dinosaur Train, she wants the Dinosaur ABC one. She doesn't know which one it is, and there are at least 73 episodes on Amazon Prime.
Knox throws his apple in the trashcan but misses and the sticky apple core hits the wall and the floor half a dozen times. Of course the floor was just mopped yesterday.
No one is as cool as Mama. Let's hang out in the kitchen as close as we can be to her.
Knox tries to clean up his apple core and almost takes out the ceramic serving platter with the broom handle.
Pursy wants to wear her dress up dress.
Both disappear for 30 seconds. Disobeying strict orders not to stop stirring, I walk around the corner to see a village of Cooties fighting with an army of dinosaurs in a sea of dominoes. Too many little pieces, I have to walk away and hope Grant will feel moved to pick it up when he comes home.
In the 20 seconds I walked away from the stove, the risotto stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven and the asparagus is already smoking.

I would watch that show.

Friday, January 17, 2014

And yet it hurt

I knew it was coming.

I had prepared myself for the moment it would be yelled at me across a room or screamed at my back as I was walking out of the door. I have joked about it with almost every other parent I know. In my head I know it's typical and even textbook for children as they learn that their desires and opinions aren't the only ones that matter. As limits and boundaries are made clear and they can't do as they please all the time. It is healthy and normal, and usually a sign that good parenting has been done.

And yet it hurt.

She didn't shout it angrily or even set her chin defiantly as the words came out of her mouth. She said it under her breath as she turned her head and refused to look at me.

"You are a mean person, Mama".

Oooh. I guess I thought it would be the typical "you are a mean Mama" or even simply "you are mean!". I wasn't expecting a holistic attack on my personhood. That girl is only 3.5 years old and already knows where I am vulnerable.

I picked her up and strapped her into her seat without a word. We avoided each other's eyes and I closed the door without my usual demand for a kiss. I stood outside the car and breathed for a minute. I had done the right thing and wasn't doubting the consequence I had given her that prompted her comment but man, that exact moment felt shitty.

This parenting gig is not for the faint of heart. Somehow that little angry comment from my darling daughter was more painful then all of the kicks in the shin I have gotten at other points in life. Maybe because those people weren't as dear to me. Maybe because I want her to know at all times that I have her best interest at heart and am trying to teach her how to be a decent human being.

Maybe this is just the start of many years of being unjustly accused and I just need to wait for her valedictorian address when she thanks her Mama for always being there for her.

Because, my stubborn little yellow fairy dress wearing, grocery cart stealing, cheese grabbing, stickers in your hair daughter, I will always be there for you.

Mean or otherwise.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Whole Crazy Parade

It didn't seem complete to post just photos of Grant and I.
Jacques was in house and more then ready for photos with diners at his restaurant, Jacque-Imo's

Courtyard at the Maple Leaf before a show by Johnny V

Waiting for a cab and doing shots with Mark and Kim

Standing in front of our first place at 2612 Constance St

Love these next few photos because 1. I took them and the lens makes me look like a great photographer 2. Caryn is in front of the camera instead of behind

Still newlyweds- three months since these crazy kids tied the knot

Los Carson

Coquettish on Canal Street

Wait for it...

Heeey Chris

St Peters Street waiting for a show at Preservation Hall.

Commanders Palace Restaurant

The Ladies at Parasol's

The Boys

The whole motley cru. And every one of them influenced our marriage at different seasons of life.

Anniversary Dinner at Dick and Jenny's

My Handsome Husband
Bec and Bill

Liz and Jonathan

Caryn and Chris

Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Years Together

New Orleans. Five days in our favorite city with some of our besties celebrating our 10th Anniversary. We have been talking about this trip since our second year of marriage and I still can't believe it actually happened. We came back over a week ago and I can't seem to get back into the rhythm of real life. I feel like I am floating on a cloud. I find myself grabbing Grant's hand and feeling this overwhelming sense of gratefulness that our hard work and passionate friendship has created a marriage that is strong and exciting. It meets both of our needs- the core desires of our human hearts. Grant craves stability and I need change. Grant described it perfectly when he said that he feels like the course of our 10 years of marriage has been all over the place- things are constantly moving and shifting in our world. The only constant as life has evolved has been the two of us. Standing in the middle, holding hands.
Since we got back to Pennsylvania, I have been overwhelmed at the goodness of my life. My healthy marriage, my energetic children, my house, my friends, the pot of black bean soup on the stove...as I told my friend Margo today, the height and breadth of my thankfulness is getting a bit ridiculous. To which she responded, "those who get it will be happy for you and you don't need to worry about the ones who don't. But I get it, so there's that". Confidence has never been Margo's problem.
But I do feel completely bowled over by the good thing I have been given. The friends who drove and flew to New Orleans to celebrate with us, the grandparents who took such excellent care of Purslane and Knox so Grant and I could have time away, the memories of a young marriage filling an entire city everywhere we walked. I have been given so much to love.
God has been good to me.
We decided to take some photos on our 10th Anniversary in the famous Lafayette Cemetery. Courtesy of one of the most talented photographers I have ever had the privilege to preen in front of, who also happened to be a part of our weekend of besties, I give you the State of our Relationship.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Grant, the Monster Slayer

We came back after a five day trip to New Orleans (details to come) around midnight on Sunday and landed in real life with the same force and jolt as our plane landed in snowy Pittsburgh.

Grant's parents had been with our babes during our time away and did a marvelous job. The house was clean, the toilet paper was refilled and the fridge was full of leftovers. Craft projects hung from the fridge, the windows, the walls, and there was a snowman enjoying the single digit weather outside.

We decided just to leave the suitcases in the hall and fall into bed- knowing that Monday morning was a few hours away. It came earlier then that...

Purslane has been going through a scared of the dark, does not want to be alone, please sit by my bed until I fall asleep phase. Complete with a very convincing fear of monsters. We had decided to deal with this by both engaging her imagination and teaching her coping mechanisms. We chose not to let her crawl into our bed every night when she came down the hall claiming to have seen another monster in her room, but committed to sitting in her room and talking about what the monster was doing, what it looked like, if it was looking for something, etc. We had actually gotten to the place where we would sometimes hear her chattering away in her room after bedtime, and in the morning she would tell us about the pink monster that sat on her dresser looking for cookies. She informed us that she simply told the monster that she didn't have any cookies and he/she would have to wait until morning. Success, right?? We are amazing parents.

Sunday night/Monday morning around 2am, she came into our room. We were happy to see her and gave her a few snuggles before getting up to take her back to bed. This moment is what the phrase "losing your shit" was invented for. The screams and tears that came out of that child were epic, and because she had been doing so well with sleeping in her own bed, surprising. Of course the ruckus woke up Knox who was instantly also hysterical, although I am not convinced he knew exactly why he was supposed to be crying.

It took most of the rest of the night to calm her down, get her back in bed, and tuck Knox back in his crib. All we could get out of her was variations on Scared and Monsters. She was so distraught when we tried to leave her room that I ended up curling up with her in her toddler bed and trying to get at least a few hours of sleep.

We didn't know what to do. We tried our original tactic but now the thought of talking to a monster was out of the question for her. We offered leaving the light on but that wasn't enough. At one point I tried taking her stuffed animals as consequences for refusing to go to bed, but it had the opposite effect. Now she was terrified of monsters AND not having all her "friends" in bed with her. We were at the mercy of a three year olds very real feelings about very imaginary monsters.

Then my brilliant husband did it. He sat at her bedside and told her very calmly and directly that she could feel safe staying in her room by herself because he would walk the hallway and check for monsters. She immediately calmed down and snuggled under her blankets with all her friends. She said goodnight. And for about 5 minutes I heard him walking up and down the hall and her sweet little voice would call out "Any monsters Daddy?". He would answer "No, sweetie, I'm out here looking". And she laid down, finally falling sound asleep while her Daddy kept monsters away.

Honest to goodness- that is a MAN.