30 September 2009

And then I entered a blogging black hole...

The Mad Scientist working late every night does that to my blog. I don't like the keyboard on the desktop (sticky keys, it messes with my spelling) so I tend to avoid it whenever possible. Which means that when the laptop isn't available, the blog will suffer. Sorry.

So, just to clarify a few points:

I do NOT want a tiki-gremlin to periodically pop up in my kitchen and give pop quizzes on my mothering abilities and the cleanliness of my floors. What I want is a tiki-gremlin who will pop up (at believable moments, i.e. NOT when I'm shouting at my family feeling frustrated) and spout encouraging phrases. Things like "excellent way to handle the melt-down!" (theirs, not mine), or "Wow, you're really efficient at that whole tub scrubbing thing!" (I have no idea when in my life that would be appropriate).

Apparently several of my readers were expecting my announcement (so they claim) because of my previous post regarding my hospital visit. So I would just like to point out that I did not have any idea I was expecting when I went to the hospital (or when I put up that post, I don't think). I just knew it was a good possibility. I also knew it was too soon for it to show up on a standard pregnancy test. Because I keep track of these things. Which is good, since no one at the hospital listened to me, and they gave me a prescription that isn't safe to take while pregnant. I'm really glad my husband has access to prescription information, because the pharmacist told us (and I quote) "Well, I'm sure the doctor was aware you were nursing (he wasn't, no one asked) and also should have known what the pregnancy class of the drug was." That's helpful, thanks. All of which is to say, don't just assume the doctor or the pharmacist knows what they're doing. Make sure you ask questions, until YOU are comfortable that you have enough information to be sure they know what they are doing. (Stepping slowly away from the soap box. Pregnancy does this to me. Sorry).

And my favourite response so far:

Monkey1 has announced that he would like a brother. Monkey2 has decided she would like a sister. They are both adamant that I produce their preference. (Monkey1 is more so, at the moment). Monkey1 has decided that the solution is for me to have twins. He said "Could you pray and ask God to make it twins?" I said "YOU can pray for twins, if you want to." (I'm not crazy enough to put in a special request of that sort.) :-)

22 September 2009

This is a Test...

I think one of the most difficult things about being a mother and a housewife is, that there is never any way to gauge how well you're doing. The only markers that can be seen are the ones They are always telling you to ignore. "Don't waste time cleaning while your children are small! You should be enjoying the moment with them!" Never mind that having dirty floors makes me feel like a terrible wife, a terrible mother, and a terrible housekeeper. Oh look! Monkey3 is snacking out of the dirt pile I still haven't swept up! Again! Well, I must be doing something right! (HA). The All-Knowing-and-Ubiquitous-They aren't very helpful when it comes to motherhood. Or housekeeping, for that matter.

That's what was so great about college and high school. You always knew where you were at. (Of course, this comes from someone who never really studied for tests, but managed to get mostly A's anyway.) I always said that if I needed to cram before a test, I obviously didn't know the material, and cramming wouldn't fix it. Mostly it worked. There was a time, in Geometry, that I got a 14 on a test. Which was actually really shocking, because a) I had NEVER gotten such a low score before, and b) Geometry was the only branch of math that I actually enjoyed. Euclid was my friend. And I loved proofs. (If it makes anyone feel better, the teacher let me re-take the test, and I passed with a 65).

So, I was a really good student, and I appreciated having markers of my progress and success. And now? Now I have nothing. Of course, not all tests come with a grade. There are the pass/fail type, which always drove me crazy. I mean, seriously? I want to know HOW I DID, not just that I passed! Did I pass by a little? A lot? barely by the skin of my teeth? HOW CAN I KNOW WHETHER I NEED TO RELEARN THE MATERIAL, IF ALL YOU TELL ME IS THAT I PASSED?!? Those always bothered me. Except, of course, when I knew I barely passed, and I was grateful no one else had to know. There's always an exception.

And then there were those random tests, where nothing was right or wrong, and the purpose was merely to gather information. Example: When I started college, all the incoming freshman had to take a personality test. This was supposed to reveal things about ourselves that would help us do well in our future at the school. (If you want my opinion, they should do those tests BEFORE they do roommate assignments, and take the results into account.) The results came back in four quadrants, each labeled with a letter. My results? I was pretty much right down the middle. Nothing outstanding or remarkable at all, nothing really to take note of. Frankly, I didn't find it very helpful, and I'm not sure it was really very indicative of my personality.

It turns out that the information-gathering types of tests are the only ones that continue into later life. Also, they get much more clear-cut, and (apparently) more accurate:


Oh, look at that! It's positive! :-) Surprise! Monkey4 will be arriving in early May.

(This has been a test of my family broadcast system. You may not pass this information along to anyone else. They should be reading the blog themselves. You may, however, mention that there is a post up they may want to look at.)

19 September 2009

A Lantern Named Jack (I Think)

We made a quick trip to the grocery store the other day, and of course (it being September) the first thing we saw walking in was a large display of Fall-type-stuff, including several large pumpkins. Which Monkey1 immediately decided he had to have, "To make a scarecrow head thing." Yes, he meant a Jack-o-lantern. Not sure where he learned about those, because we haven't carved one in this family since before Monkey1 arrived in the world. But it seemed like a good idea, one of those fun family bonding things, so I dutifully selected a pumpkin and carted it home.

Saturday was The Day. First, we had to gut the pumpkin (it wasn't as traumatic as it sounds):

Monkey1 decided on square eyes, which he wanted to carve himself. Monkey2 watched intently.

The eyes were carefully extracted:

He was very pleased with himself. Maybe he has a future in ophthamology?
We hope not. The Mad Scientist needed a break to regroup:


Monkey1 proceeded to explain, in great detail and with much finger waving to demonstrate the correct shape, exactly how he wanted the mouth to look. (He did not want to do that part himself. Apparently, dentistry isn't his thing.)


It turns out he wanted the mouth to be a simple crescent, sans teeth. The Mad Scientist decided he was up for the task. Monkey1 supervised:


Three fine-looking men:

And the coolest night-light ever!

(Don't worry, we only left it on for a few minutes, and it was up on the eight-foot shelf where no one could reach it. Because Mama pointed out that Monkey3 would have no problem climbing up on top of the armoire if we left it there. Because he does that all the time anyway. A disaster was averted, and everyone went to bed to dream sweet dreams of toasting pumpkins and cheery smiles in the dark.)

12 September 2009

Gratuitous Monkey Moments

Monkey #2 had her arms wrapped around Monkey #1, who was walking around the house. They were both giggling hysterically over the fact that she had "caught" him...but I knew she was over-tired, and the tears were probably only moments away. Sure enough, about two minutes later hysterical wails erupted from the other room. Monkey #1 came strolling through the door, completely oblivious, saying in a VERY pleased voice "I got away!"

Speaking of the hysterical wails of Monkey #2, Sunday when I walked into her Sunday School classroom they erupted the moment she saw me, and continued all the way out to the car. I thought the problem was that she hadn't been able to finish her craft, and kept explaining that she could finish it at home. Finally, climbing into her car seat, she managed to explain the reason doing it at Sunday School was the only acceptable option: Through her tears she choked out, "B-b-b-but...THEY have p-p-p-PURPLE glue!" Have you seen the purple glue sticks? They bring joy to a young monkey's heart.

10 September 2009

I knew we kept him for a reason...

Sunday night I heard something going on with Monkey #3 that made me laugh. Monkey #1 was in the kitchen with me, and I said "I'm so glad God gave us Monkey #3! I know some days he really frustrates you, but, mostly aren't you glad God gave him to us?"

To which Monkey #1 solemnly replied "Yes, because he makes noises I've never heard before."

:-D

08 September 2009

One proud mama

My sweet daughter, Monkey #2, has a close and loving relationship with the dirt in my flower beds. A few days ago she walked in completely COVERED with it, and I couldn't resist snapping a few photos:

Hello, Monkeybean! My goodness, HOW did you get so filthy??


Never mind, it's always the same old story. Wow, you are really styling today! How about posing for me?

Ok, I turned off the flash! I promise, no more flash.

That's beautiful. One more smile!

Lovely my dear. I'm sure you have a wonderful career ahead of you. That pose is just stunning.

Who could resist this (dirty) face? :-)

Visit Not Before 7 for more Tiny Talk Tuesday posts.

06 September 2009

Metamorphosis

Thursday night the Mad Scientist and I noticed that the chrysalis was becoming transparent. Can you see the pattern of the wings? Please excuse the photo quality; I'm working with a very small camera.
By Friday morning, the butterfly was successfully hatched (see fantastic photos of that process here). (I can't tell you how huge a sigh of relief I breathed!). We were just in time to watch the wings finish unfolding. I had put a small dish of water in the jar the night before, but it never seemed interested in going down. Very shortly it began circling the waxed paper over the top, and I announced that it was time to release the butterfly! Monkey #1 helped it climb out of the jar:

It wasn't in a hurry to fly off, so he got to examine it. He was very intent about this, as about most things:


It sat for a while, stretching its wings, feeling the breeze and warming itself in the sun:


We thought maybe it would like to get a drink from the flowers, so Monkey #1 held it near them:


It stretched its wings a few more times, and then flew to the top of our maple tree to soak up the sunshine. After about a half hour I noticed it had flown off. We wished it a safe and happy journey to Mexico!

05 September 2009

This is just to say

That I have nothing to say
nothing at all

except that it is late
and the week is over
(thank God)
(I mean that sincerely)

Forgive me.
I'll try again
tomorrow.

(With regards to William Carlos Williams)

02 September 2009

Super Fast, Easy Lasagna (Without Spinach)

I love lasagna, and more importantly Monkey #1 loves lasagna. He discovered this last summer, while we were living with the Mad Scientist's parents. Prior to that I'm not sure he'd ever had it, because I was convinced it was a total pain in the patootie to make. Then my mother-in-law shared a beautiful secret with me. And, because I love you all so much (at least the "you all" that I imagine I am writing these posts to), I am going to share it. Because lasagna is now in the category of "Super Easy Fast Meals" in my book. And that's worth celebrating.

What I hated about making lasagna was the part where you try to spread the cheese on the noodles, and end up wrestling increasingly smaller bits of noodle around the pan with a sauce-coated spoon. I can't be the only person who's had this problem, because they now sell No-Boil noodles, which are advertised as not needing boiling before assembling the lasagna. These, however, only come in white. I don't buy white pasta. We do whole grain everything around here, so it didn't look like those were an option.

So I was completely delighted to learn (from my dear Mother-In-Law, of kitchen-painting fame) a super fast, super easy way to make really delicious, inexpensive lasagna. It involves a deep, dark secret, that I am going to share without further delay. Ready? To whit - that is true of ALL lasagna noodles! Yes, it's true! And this truth will change your lasagna-making life.

First, you will need ground beef, lasagna noodles, three types of cheese (one soft, two shredded), a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a couple of eggs. I use a pound and a half of ground beef for our family of five. I prefer whole wheat noodles, but get whatever makes you happy. Just don't spend the extra money for the fancy-schmancy no-boil noodles, because they are totally unnecessary. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Brown and drain your ground beef:



Once that is done, add one jar of spaghetti sauce to the meat. Then put about this much water in the sauce jar (I tore off the label so you could see it. This is very non-specific; it just adds some moisture - for the noodles):

It should look about like this when you're done:
Next assemble the cheese portion of the lasagna:


In a medium mixing bowl blend 2 eggs with 16 oz. ricotta cheese (or fresh goat cheese, if you have it available. That's really good.) Stir in about 1.5 cups each of mozzarella and parmesan cheese (I substitute whatever cheese I have on hand for the mozzarella. I like the flavour of the parmesan, so I always use that one). Stir all the cheeses together.

Now, grab a 9x13 baking pan. Spread a bit of sauce on the bottom, to help keep things from sticking:
Now take your plain, ordinary, lasagna noodles of choice (these are mine):

Make a single layer over the sauce, and top with half the cheese mixture:

Admire how it spreads so easily, since the noodles are rigid!
Top with half the meat and sauce mixture:
Then repeat the layers - noodles, cheese, sauce, using up the rest of the cheese blend and sauce mixture. Top with the rest of the shredded cheese, which will total roughly one cup:

It will look like this from the side:
Now, here is the Very Important Part: Cover TIGHTLY with foil. This keeps the moisture in while it is cooking, which is what actually cooks the noodles.

Then put in the oven for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, stick a knife in to check that the noodles are soft. (If not, leave it in, covered, for a bit longer. I have never had to do this.) If the noodles are soft take off the foil and let it cook for another 15 minutes. That's it. There were a lot of pictures, but it really only takes 15 to 20 minutes to put together. The important thing is to do it early enough to allow it to cook for the full time, so the noodles can absorb the liquid. Oh, this is so good!

Ideas for customizing: try different cheeses, different sauces, and extra toppings. (I'm actually thinking about trying some spinach blended into the cheese mixture. I suspect the problem with my mother's spinach lasagna may have been the lack of meat, not the spinach. That, and the walnuts. Don't tell my brothers.)

This another fast, easy meal, which ALWAYS works for me! See tips for what to do with the time you save at We Are THAT Family, hosting Works For Me Wednesday.