Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bye-Bye Bobby: The End of an Era

It all started at around 10 a.m. July 2,2003. That's when my sweet sister-in-law, Beth, came into the hospital room where I was snuggling with Nate, who was just under sixteen hours old.

She placed a 12x12-inch square of velvety,baby-blue fabric in his hospital bassinet. It was a brand-new "lovie" blanket; her daughter had one as a baby and as comfort objects go, she assured me it was the best. Because of its size, it was totally portable and could easily be stuffed into a diaper bag, and the material was so silky and soothing that it had an almost magical effect on a cranky baby.

She encouraged me to cuddle with it a bit so Nate would pick up my scent on the blanket. When I did, I could see what she meant- - -I remember all too well the calming sensation of the satin trim of my childhood blanket between my finger and thumb, how it made the world just slip away. I gently laid the lovie on Nate's chest.

Here was our first sign: he clutched it right away, and fluttered his tiny eyelids as if in recognition of an old friend. Newborns are so between two worlds anyway, so maybe that blanket just reminded his soul of its previous heavenly home. Who knows, but from that moment on they were darned near inseperable.

That blanket, named "Bobby" by two-year-old Liv (we still don't know why) was dragged everywhere with Nate and got him through the transition from crib to big-boy bed. I hate to admit it, but we relied on ol' Bobby as much as he did at times. Concerned about how Nate will handle sleeping over at Grandpa's for the first time? No worries, we've got Bobby. Afraid the baby will get restless on the five-hour road trip? Pack that Bobby. NOW.

Nate referred to Bobby as a "him," a living, breathing best bud. Bobby couldn't be left outside because he might get cold. Bobby can't be left in the hamper all night because he might get scared. Bobby's dirty and needs a bath. Bobby was almost part of the family, and eventually became a permanent fixture on Nate's pillow, ready for nighttime duty.

Until two weeks ago. That's when Nate decided that as bonafide five-year-old, he didn't need Bobby anymore. He instructed Mark to "take it to the Goodwill store so another baby can buy it." Mark nodded in agreement, then came downstairs and gingerly handed the tattered piece of blanket-trocity over to me and said "We're supposed to be taking this to 'Goodwill.'" He used air quotes. I love it when he uses air quotes.
"I think Goodwill will ban us from ever donating anything again if we drop that thing off." I said. We decided the top shelf of the guestroom closet, waaay in the back, would do for now.

It hasn't been an ultra-smooth transition. Nate has asked for an extra hug or two at bedtime "Because I miss Bobby," but for the most part he's really moved on. But this means that our baby has taken one more giant step to big-boyhood. Maybe it's us, the parents, who aren't truly ready.

I want my Bobby.

A real summer beauty

. . .and the sunflower's kinda pretty too.

Note: mini pottery vase handmade with love by Dawn

Monday, July 28, 2008

I want some cheese with my whine.

Monday at my desk, 3 p.m.

OK, it totally should be 5 by now. . .

Wishing I was on vacation like last week, visiting my dad and other extended fam.

I miss my babies and wonder what they're doing right now. Husband included.

I don't want to cook when I get home, but that would mean succombing to pizza, fast food or subs and I dropped $109 at the bright, shiny overpriced grocery store yesterday so I know I gotta.

Nate is currently on restriction from TV until at least Wednesday (too much emulating what he sees on Spongebob---don't ask). Must shoo children outside while I cook. Maybe I can throw a bag of Skittles under a shrub and start a scavenger hunt? Hmmmm. . .

I want to play with the kids but dinner is top priority when we walk in the door at 6, so play comes later. Also, N just got a super cool set of plastic handcuffs (they click open with no key, my mama didn't raise no fool) complete with police badge and ticket book from the dollar store, the retailer of shame. It was his treat for being good at the dentist last week. We've certainly gotten our money's worth out of it, though; he's played with little else since he got it. But dinner preparation will be quite prolonged unless I get him out of the kitchen, or else I will be placed "under arrest" about 49 times. Olivia, Mark and I have all been dragged in to jail (which is currently located in the laundry room) by Deputy Nate at least twice a day each in the past week.

That dentist trip reminds me: No Skittles. I wonder if they'll go after a bag of Baked Cheetos. . .

Monday, July 14, 2008

Homemade pizza, an experiment in budgeting

I use the term "homemade" very, very recklessly here; this pizza was homemade in a very Sandra Lee-inspired way. Frequently when I'm visiting my good friends the innernets I come across a lot of budget-smart blogger moms who make their own pizza at home and rave about the "tremendous money savings" and how much "fun" it is to do with their kids.

Dadgum it, they're right again.

Now, most of the recipes I've found use the real deal when it comes to dough, starting from scratch. There's a lot of covering and waiting for dough to rise for an hour or so and then punching it down and blah, blah, blah. But some of us had a loooong rainy Sunday evening yesterday and couldn't be arsed with such nonsense.

I started hunting for a recipe shortly after the last time we called our local Papa Domino's Hut. For a large pizza for our family of four, it was close to $25 with tip. But my time is very precious to me too; I mean, all that time in the kitchen jabbing at dough and such could be spent sprawled in the beanbag chair eating Pirate's Booty crumbs off my t-shirt. Anyway.

After I perused a few recipes I realized I had most of the stuff I needed already on hand: parmesan cheese, some leftover bolognese sauce from Friday night,ricotta cheese, and olive oil. So, not counting the stuff I already had in my pantry and freezer, I ended up spending only about $14, and there's still lots of ingredients remaining for future pizzas.

A quick roundup of my grocery list:
Two bags of Martha White pizza crust mix, $2(This was the real time saver! My home girl Martha always comes through for biscuits, cornbread and now pizza crust. That chick is something else. )

One jar of Ragu Pizza Quick sauce, $2.89 --Please don't judge me. I've tried a lot of fancier pizza sauces over the years and they were either cloyingly sweet or just tasted like plain tomato puree. This one fit the budget, doesn't have a lot of added sugar, and has a good blend of spices.

Small can of black olives, $1.89 - Maybe it's because it's part of her name, but our Liv loves her some black olives. We let her mark her territory with a ton of them when we were adding the toppings.

Turkey pepperoni, $3.79

Mozzerella cheese, $3.19 --sliced, not shredded

The process was so stoopidly simple, but much more fun than wringing our hands waiting for the pizza delivery guy.
First, I used my two packs of dough mix and followed the package directions, which just calls for adding about a cup of hot water and mixing with a fork. And the covering and wait time? Five minutes, people. I told you Martha's my kinda gal.

The dough turned out very pliable and stretchy enough to cover a fairly large square jelly roll pan, and I pinched the edges to make a lip for the sauce. Next we brushed a thin layer of olive oil on the dough to keep the sauce from seeping through and to help crisp up the edges. Then we spread only about four or five tablespoons of sauce so the crust wouldn't get soggy.

Next we slapped on the cheese and got down to the businesses of adding our individual toppings. Olivia chose the top right-hand section for her olive-palooza. I picked the left section for sort of a lasagna-esque deal with the meat sauce and ricotta. I added a few pepperoni slices too. The picky boy child, well, he went a little crazy and added some extra cheese to his section.

The baking time was only about 15 minutes, but about halfway through I noticed the cheese on the right-hand side was browning faster than the rest, so I tented it with some foil. This turned out super yummy, and the kids were very impressed with their efforts. This is definitely something we'll work into the regular rotation because it offered a fun activity plus a dinner that pleased everyone's individual tastes. Ah, success- - it smells a lot like garlic. And olives.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Impulse buy, forgiven

Hello, BOGO Planters Peanuts from the Wal-Marts!! Nice to see ya.

Friday evening I walked in the door after work to find these guys on the little side table in my kitchen. They are the epitome of what sometimes happens when I sent my hubby to the store. But, given that they are cute and they bear a ton of crunchy salty goodness, they are more than welcome at Casa Crazy. Plus, they made me smile at the end of a long day when they greeted me at the back door- - - said hubby and children were glued in front of Animal Planet. I think I'll go see if my new nutty pals want to talk about the coming week's menu plan. A peanut sauce is definitely in the picture somewhere.

I was also quite grateful for all the things H did remember to pick up at the store, not the least of which was this new cereal I've been wanting to try: Kashi Honey Sunshine. It looks and tastes kinda like Corn Pops but with a lot more fiber and a lot less sugar. While he was waiting for dinner, my youngest managed to tear himself away from observing Meerkat Manor on AP to forage for a snack. Then something amazing happened.The little stinker managed to scarf down two little dry cups of it before I put the kibosh on his munching so he'd actually eat some dinner. I tried to play it all cool on the outside, but inside? Inside? Inside, I was joyously screaming "HE'S EATING CEREAL OUT OF A BOX THAT DOESN'T HAVE A PICTURE OF A TIGER, A TOUCAN OR AN OBNOXIOUS LEPRACAUN ANYWHERE IN SIGHT!!" Thanks, Kashi---y'all are miracle workers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You Gotta Try This!

My cheap-o camera doesn't do this justice!

Last night I was suffering from FMG, or Farmers Market Guilt. It's what happens when you have leftover, slightly shriveled produce in your fridge that was picked at the height of its deliciousness by someone's loving hands and simply Must. Not. Be. Wasted. The modest cast of characters included: A few small pods of okra, one ripe tomato, two ears of sweet corn and half a vidalia onion. So, I searched my good friends the innernets and came up with a slight variation on something I found on
Here's what I did: I chopped up a few slices of bacon and threw it in a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil, then sauteed until it was just turning crisp. Then I added the diced up onion and stirred it around until it wasn't brown but just translucent. Then I added the corn (after scraping it off the cob and supplementing with a small bag of frozen white kernels) and the okra, chopped up. I stirred it around for a minute or two, just until the okra started giving up some of its lusciousness, which more unappreciative folk might call "slime." Then I added the cored, chopped tomato and gave it a few more stirs until it was just softened. A little course salt and pepper and voila! Summer in a skillet.

This was Soooo good, y'all, and so darned pretty you almost don't want to shove giant spoonfuls of it in your mouth while standing over the sink. But, maybe you can't help yourself after sitting in traffic in a thunderstorm with panicky kids and a growling tummy. Or, maybe that's just me. Anyway.

I kept thinking how excellent it would be as a side with some grilled fish, chicken or maybe some shrimp skewers. But last night, since the tiny punks needed to be fed too, I found it paired beautifully with Gordon's fish sticks and red grapes.
Try this sometime this summer. Okra lovers rule!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Forgive me, but this is cheaper than therapy. Cooking also helps.

The other day marked the anniversary of my mom's sudden, untimely death. My dad and I sent eachother our usual daily e-mails, never once mentioning it. Then, at around lunchtime he called me at work and said, "Uh, Honey?"
"Yeah, Daddy?" I responded.
"Never mind," he said. "You're at work."
"It's OK, Dad---what? Are you OK?"
"Yeah. But, you know what today is, don't you?"

I knew. But, unlike Dad, I have the luxury of a full-time job, two jacked-up little kids and a husband to occupy my time and my mind. So, we chatted for a few minutes about how we couldn't believe it'd been three years and how, for him, it still feels as recent as last week. I so wish I could change that for him. For me, mercifully, it doesn't feel that way anymore, but it still smarts.

The graciousness and goodness of people still amazes me every day---our neighbor brought cookies with a note that said, "Thinking of you this weekend," and several of my co-workers came by my desk that day with hugs. I also got e-mails from friends and family. I don't know why that date sticks in people's memory; perhaps it was because it was over a holiday weekend.

Over the last few days I've taken comfort in all the nice folks we know. I've also found solace in my good friends Ben and Jerry, so I need to watch it 'cause those guys are bad, bad influences.

Yesterday the kidlets, H and I went to one of our local farmer's markets and my haul included some yellow squash, zucchini, vidalia onions as large as softballs, dark red cherries, tomatoes (both ripe and green) and sweet corn. I came home and threw myself into cooking every bit of it the best way I knew how, with a few twists. I threw some parmesan and cream into the sauteed squash and onions. I added horseradish to the dipping sauce for the fried green tomatoes. The corn was so sweet and juicy it needed nothing but a quick dip in some boiling water and a shake or two of salt. And, yes, we can say we had "just veggies" for dinner even though there was cheese, cream and frying involved. Hey, this is the south. We're allowed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

First Day of Five-ness

Another installment of "Abuse of Blog as Baby Book."

Our resident five-year-old really loves:

1. Doughnuts. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime--who cares when, just bring 'em on in bulk. He'd rather have Krispy Kremes than any other treat, including ice cream. I'm seriously thinking about ditching the birthday cake for next year (he just licks the icing off anyway) and picking up a couple dozen chocolate-glazed KK's with sprinkles and call it a day.

2. Fire trucks. Since he could walk, this kid has made woooo-woooo siren noises that made our windows rattle and our dog head for under the bed. He once came down our stairs dressed for preschool in last year's shorts (which were now short-shorts), a plastic fireman's helmet and cowboy boots. In February. He totally looked like a tiny Chippendale's dancer. I should've booked him for a bachelorette party and put some cash in the college fund.

3. His grandpa (my dad). They have been tight since day one, and one of the first "real" sentences out of his mouth at two years old was "My pa-pa is my best friend." My dad happened to be within earshot at the time, so I'm pretty sure that kid is getting a new car one day.

4. His sister's nail polish, jewelry and ballet outfits. We have pictures that will one day surely get him to do my bidding lest I show them to his friends.

5. Going to Pinetown to visit. He's a displaced country kid, for sure.

6. Going to Ohio. He's only been once, but frequently asks when we're going to "The Ohio" again to see Uncle Dew, Aunt Ro and Pam.

7. Watching the "Here Comes a Fire Truck!" DVD. See #2.

8. Playing with Anna Marie, our little eight-year-old neighbor. She's a lanky blonde beauty, but Nate loves her for her video game collection and acrobatics on the swing set. Technically she's more his sister's friend, but don't tell him that.

9. Swimming in grandma's community pool. He just made it to the other side of it without water wings the other day! It wasn't a pretty sight---a lot of flailing and splashing but he got there.

10. His grandma. For her generosity, constant gentle sweetness and, like any good grandma, she ALWAYS has gum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Maybe I'm Amazed

June 28: "Is it here yet, Mama?"
"No, not yet. Today's your party, though."

June 29: "Is it today?"
"No,not yet."

June 30: "I'm never gonna be five. Only four all the time.
Everybody's five but me."

"Sighhhh. . ."

July 1: "Mama?" (Pointing at the calendar)

"Yes, it's finally here!"

Happy birthday, little Tater. Today's your day! Tonight it's hot dogs and cupcakes and some serious pinata bustin'. I can't believe you're five! I know for you it's been an excruciating wait, but for me and your dad it feels like we were just smelling your feathery, chocolate-brown newborn hair and then we blinked and now we're here! We love you---you'll be our Baby Nate 'til you're 80.