The Wetters of the Alphabet

Jan 4 2011

They’re boys.

They’re twins.

They’re 4.

They pee in the same toilet.

At the same time.

Often.

We went to McDonalds on Saturday.

Cai had to go potty.  Cael thought that sounded fun and asked to come, too.

I wasn’t sure why he thought that sounded fun.

Do you sense the foreshadowing?

We three squeezed into one stall and the cooperative peeing adventures began.

All of a sudden, I noticed arching pee streams straying from the toilet bowl, skittering off the edge of the toilet seat and dripping onto the floor.

“What are you doing?” I screeched intelligently.  “Pee goes in the toilet, not on the floor.”

“But Mom,” my preschool boy Cael announced, “we’re making an X.”

“You’re making an X?”

“Yes.  You know, the letter X?”

Except Cael can’t pronounce his “L’s,” so what he really said was, “Yes.  You know, the wetter X?”

Mm hmm.  I was starting to understand that it was the Wetter X.

“You guys are making letters with your pee?”

“Yep!” they agreed proudly.

So, on behalf of all the Wetters of the Alphabet, I’d like to officially apologize to McDonalds bathroom users everywhere.

I cleaned it up the best I could.  Honest.

This message was brought to you by the letters X and P.

And by the number 1.

Bacon and Toffee Cake Mix Cookies

Jan 2 2011

I’ve noticed the bacon craze lately.  Probably because I don’t live under a rock.

There’s bacon all over the place.  It’s on maple donuts and cupcakes.  I’ve seen bacon bubbles and bacon soap.  There’s even a plush, talking bacon toy.  If you don’t believe me and you have a ton of time to waste, just check it out.

For years, my brother Jeff has randomly issued the “bacon or chocolate” challenge:  name a food… any food at all… which can not be improved with either bacon or chocolate.   Go ahead.  Take a reading break to think of something.  If you think you’ve got something that’s NOT better for adding bacon or chocolate, comment.  And then my brother will refute you.  It’ll be fun!

Last week, I told you about my post-Christmas baking experience and my desire to create a bacon-licious cake mix cookie for Ian, my carnivorous child.

This week, I felt the “put up or shut up” decision pressing in on me….

If you’ve been reading for even 5 minutes, you know that I never choose Shut Up.  That left me with Put Up.

Fortunately, you didn’t leave me without inspiration.  Special thanks to AJ (your baconating adventures are mah-velous… chocolate chip cookies with bacon bits is my new favorite idea!) and Emily (so glad to have the link to a bacon pecan cookie recipe), which gave me excellent jumping-off points to create…

Bacon and Toffee Cake Mix Cookies

Here’s what you’ll need:

For those of you who are counting, that’s 7 items.  More than double the number of items required for regular cake mix cookies.  They are: yellow cake mix, corn muffin mix, eggs, oil, bacon, toffee bits and brown sugar.

Since I usually have two requirements for baking (easy + impressive), this was a little challenging for me.  Definitely not my normal half-baked approach (ha!), but in the name of bacon and out of love for my meat-adoring child, I persevered.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Cut 6 slices of bacon into pieces. Why do you need a visual for this?  I don’t know.  But I got a little trigger happy with taking photos for this project, so please bear with me.  I promise that I really do think you know how to cut bacon.
  2. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Why medium heat?  Probably because every single recipe that calls for frying stuff says to do it over medium heat.  Truth be told, medium heat is way too slow for my patience level.  I mean, do you see that bacon?  It doesn’t look like it’s cooking AT ALL.  I turned my heat up to medium high.  I can’t recommend that you do that because no one ever suggests cooking things on medium high.  But here’s what happens when you crank the heat up… I’m just saying.
  3. Drain the bacon grease into a measuring cup. That there’s 1/4 cup of bacon grease from 6 measly pieces of bacon.  That’s terrifying.  But DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY.  You’ll be eating it later.  Terrifying and delicious.
  4. Pull that bacon out of the pan and drain it on paper towels to get the excess grease off.  No, not because I suddenly decided that the extra fat on these pieces was going to do you in (although I’m not saying it won’t), but because you’ll need to get the brown sugar to stick later and you don’t want the grease to get in your way.  Do not fear.  There is a method to my madness.
  5. Now dump that bacon back in the pan and add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Cook over medium heat.  See how that works?  Medium heat.  The go-to heat.  Fine.  I couldn’t stand it.  Here it is cooking on medium high.  You want the sugar to really melt down into gooey glaze that coats the bacon.  If it looks like there’s still sand in the pan, you haven’t cooked it enough.
  6. When you’re at Gooey Glazed Bacon, dump it all onto wax paper.  Or, if you’re like me and you have only 1 inch of wax paper left on the roll, then foil works fine.  Then separate all those little suckers into individual bits so they don’t set up in a clump.  Now you have candied bacon.       Candied bacon.        Let’s pause for the reverence this deserves.                OK, carry on.  FYI, I caught a family member (who shall remain nameless due to the fact that my husband reads this blog) putting the empty wax paper carton back in the drawer later.  Seriously?  Seriously.
  7. I’m pooped.  Creating candied bacon about did me in.  That was more labor-intensive than any recent baking project.  I had to decide… take a break or push on?  Then I remembered how easy the rest of the recipe plan was, and I pushed on.
  8. Dump these ingredients into a bowl: yellow cake mix, corn bread mix, 3 eggs, and 2/3 cup TOTAL oil/grease combo.  For the oil/grease item, take your measuring cup that already has the bacon grease in it… the one you DID NOT throw out… and top it off with vegetable oil ’til you hit the 2/3 cup mark.  That’s your combo.  Now mix together all your ingredients. 
  9. Add toffee bits.  I thought the whole package might be a bit much.  Then I thought, Are you kidding?  These are freaking BACON cookies.  You passed “a bit much” way, way far back there. So I dumped ’em all in. 
  10. Put these bad boys in 1″ balls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.  Don’t worry – the bacon part is still coming.
  11. As soon as you pull these out of the oven, while they’re still really squishy and warm, take a few of those candied bacon pieces and shove them into the top of the cookie thusly: I know thusly isn’t a word.  I just want you to know that I know.
  12. I thought this picture was worthy of a Step #12:  Mmmmm.

Now, I can’t in good conscience leave you with this terrible and delicious recipe.

Here’s a link to Weight Watchers.  And here’s a link to the Couch to 5K running program.  I’m a personal believer in both.  When I’m running tomorrow, I’ll be thinking about these cookies.  I won’t say regretting them.  Life’s too short for regret.  Besides, my motto is “will run for food.”

Or, if you’re not enamored with weight watching or with running, you can always take Ian’s approach.  You remember Ian, right?  The carnivore.  The meat lover.  The kid who committed only one crime in his life… stealing BBQ ribs from our daycare provider.  The only kid I know who prefers a taco over a cookie.  The kid who started this whole bacon cookie idea in the first place.

That kid.

Well, he tried the cookies.

I watched him take his first bites.  He said he liked them.

And then I found this, his cookie, abandoned and left behind.

Minus the bacon.

Figures.

Bearing Witness

Dec 31 2010

“Marriage isn’t about romantic love.  It’s about bearing witness to someone else’s life.”

I was listening this week to a radio broadcast with Brian Doyle, author of The Wet Engine.  He credited his wife with that statement about marriage.

Bearing witness; it’s a thought that has come back to me over and over during the past few days because it strikes me as profoundly true.

It makes me think about bearing witness as a wife, a friend, a daughter, and a mother.

Marriage isn’t about what I get out of it.  It’s about bearing witness to my husband’s life.

Parenting isn’t about what I get out of it.  It’s about bearing witness to my children’s lives.

Friendship… well, you get the idea.

Namaste, a common greeting in India, is sometimes interpreted to mean, “That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.”  And, although I haven’t had time to see the movie, I keep hearing stories about Avatar, in which they greet each other by saying, “I see you.”

I find myself wondering… as I’m caught up in my daily minutia, how well am I seeing the people who are my life?  How well am I identifying pieces of God in them?

My son, Ian, is 11 years old.  We’ve been his parents for 7 1/2.

Ian has special needs.  His expressive language is severely delayed, and this year I watched his 4 year old brothers surpass his speech ability.  I don’t know yet how to express how that makes me feel.

Every day of Ian’s life, he struggles.  He fights to be understood.  What’s fairly easy for you and me — putting three or four words together and asking for what we need — is a puzzle for Ian.  Our neural pathways are direct; we think a thought, we say it aloud.  (Or sometimes, we think a thought and work hard not to say it aloud.)  Ian has to route his thoughts over the mountains and through the woods of his brain to have it come out garbled and often unintelligible.

Ian is my hero.  You know why?  Because he keeps on trying.

In Brian Doyle’s interview, he said that we tend to mistakenly think that life is about being strong.  It isn’t.  There are things that happen to us and to those we love that no amount of strength will overcome.  Instead, we endure.  We bear.  We last.

I suspect that one of the triumphs of life is in the endurance of it.

And that a triumph of relationships is in the privilege of bearing witness.

I’m not a huge advocate for New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t have anything against them.  I just rarely think I’ll have time to follow through on new and grand plans.  I mean, seriously folks, sometimes I don’t have time to bathe.  That should come first.

But tomorrow begins a new year.  It’s a natural time to reflect on the past and to think about what the future may bring.  Some moments will be fun.  Some will be funny.  Some will break my heart.  Of course they will.  I’m a mother.

Maybe I’ll give this whole resolution idea a go.  I’ll be honest; lack of time never really stopped me from doing anything else.

So these are my New Year’s resolutions, written as a letter to my children:

Dear Abby, Ian, Aden, Cai and Cael,

That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.

As we enter a new year again together, I want you to know that:

I resolve to see you.

I resolve to bear witness to your amazing and crazy lives.

I resolve to endure with you.

And I love you.  No resolution required.

Mom

Wishing you and yours a Very Happy New Year,

Beth

Hope Beckons

Dec 29 2010

We get flu shots in our family.

We do it despite the fact that there are about 47 million reasons not to do this.  If you don’t believe me, just google “reasons not to get flu shots.” When you look at the results, remember that everything you see on the internet is true.

There’s one compelling reason we practically knock down our doctor’s door to get flu shots every fall.

Nope, it’s not ’cause the Center for Disease Control recommends flu shots.

Nope, it’s not ’cause our pediatrician said it’s a good idea.

Nope, it’s not ’cause I love torturing my kids with shots.

Nope, it’s not even ’cause it works.  Like last year… it didn’t work for us at all.

Here it is, the only reason to get my family flu shots:

Because it might work.

And might makes right!  Yeah, yeah, I know that “Might Makes Right” is supposed to refer to strength and force — but I like that I can hijack the phrase to mean possibilities.  To mean hope.

If you’ve ever:

  • gone to bed early on Christmas night because you’re a touch under the weather
  • only to get up 15 minutes later to take your kid to the emergency room because she has strep throat and needs antibiotics
  • and spent 3 hours waiting for help because Christmas night is a terrible time to go to the emergency room
  • and two nights later spent time pacing the hallway waiting for your husband to give birth to a kidney stone
  • and tried to decide whether or not to force your husband to do an encore at the emergency room whether he agrees to go or not
  • and then received a message from your friend who normally watches your kids while you work saying that she’s spent the last two days sanitizing her daughter’s vomit-laden bedding and clothes
  • and then been in the middle of editing a blog post on illness, the flu, the holiday season and vomiting (and I mean right in the middle — like right now, for example) and had one of your kids start vomiting in the bathroom
  • and had to take a break from typing about vomiting to go take care of actual, real vomiting

then you, too, might adopt a Might Means Right philosophy of life.

As I send this off into the internet ether, I cling to hope. The hope that this year’s flu shots worked.  The hope that tonight is not the night that I have to use the washer’s Sanitize cycle on six sets of bed linens.  The hope that the New Year will begin with fireworks and not with explosions.

Oh, I realize I should be hoping for things that are more profound.  And I do.  Somewhere deep down inside, I hope for things that are more meaningful.

But right at this moment, I hope no one else starts puking.

Thank you, Flu Shot, for making my hope possible.

A Lesson in Christmas Baking

Dec 26 2010

Today I learned a valuable lesson in Christmas baking.  Namely, it’s never too late!

I realize it’s the day after Christmas.  I’m a little behind.

I’m perpetually a little behind.

Somehow, my kids didn’t care that it’s too late.  Kids are really good that way.  Too late for Christmas baking?  Not on their watch.

I have two main, often competing, goals when I bake.  They are:

  1. Easy
  2. Impressive

Those aren’t necessarily listed in order of importance.  When I look at recipes, I’m always judging the time vs. wow factors.

Can I get this recipe done while monitoring the activities of 5 kids?  Can kids help?  Is it even within the realm of possibility to have a clean kitchen when the project is over?

If I can answer two of those questions affirmatively, I’ll probably go for it.

Now, every once in a while, that most illusive of all recipes comes along.  The Super Uber Cheater Pants Recipe.  The recipe that’s so easy, you can actually make it while monitoring the activities of 5 kids, and also so impressive that you can… gasp… feed it to guests, sell it at bake sales, or take it to the office Christmas goody exchange.

Since Super Uber Cheater Pants is kind of a mouthful, I’m referring to these kinds of recipes as GENIUS from here on out. Because that’s what they are.  Genius.

Today’s project was…

…drum roll please…

Cake Mix Cookies

My mother-in-law let me in on this secret a few years ago.  OK, OK.  I know I might be the last person on the planet to hear about cake mix cookies, but I’m telling you, they changed my large-family life.  Here’s the recipe:

  • Mix together one box of cake mix, two eggs, 1/2 cup oil, and — here’s the key — other stuff
  • Roll into 1 inch balls, and bake cookies in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes

The key to making this recipe impressive, referred to above as “other stuff,” is in your own cake mix creativity.  For example, you can make:

  • Eggnog Cookies (spice cake mix drizzled with melted white chocolate chips and sprinkled with nutmeg)
  • Red Velvet Cookies (red velvet cake mix with marscapone cream cheese icing and a silver dragee on top)
  • Snickerdoodles (add cinnamon to yellow or white cake mix and roll balls in cinnamon sugar)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies (chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips)

We made today’s cookies with chocolate cake mix and white chocolate chips.

I made these cookies with 6 kids in the house: one child in our room with Strep Throat (diagnosed Christmas night after 3 hours in the emergency room… which makes our Christmas sound pitiful, when in fact it was delightful right until the trip to the hospital), one child playing Wii while listening to We Will Rock You 3500 times on his new MP3 player with blessed (blessed!) headphones, and the remaining four children helping with the cookies.

It took:

  • 3 children to pour cake mix into the bowl
  • 4 children to crack eggs
  • 1 child to pour oil in the bowl
  • 1 child to drip oil all over the floor
  • 3 children to individually push chocolate chips into the cookies (my most brilliant “involve the children” move of the day)

I only got distracted once.  I don’t remember why, but I do know it was right in the middle of setting my oven timer for 10 minutes.  FYI, I timed myself later, and it only takes 4 seconds to set my oven timer.  So somewhere in that 4 seconds, I got distracted and set the timer for less than 10 minutes.

When you don’t cook cookies long enough, they don’t set up right on the cooling rack.   (That comment brought to you by “um, duh.”)  And, if you don’t cook cookies long enough, chocolate chips might fall through the rack and leave holes in your cookies.

That’s not a brown chocolate chip.  That’s my table.  You can see it through the hole in the cookie.

That white pointy thing under the cookie rack is the escapee chip.  No worries – I took care of that bad boy.

I also learned today that you can rebake Cake Mix Cookies if you somehow manage to mess up your oven timer.  Three more minutes in the oven did the trick.  No one even noticed.

Especially not Emerson, our house guest for the afternoon.

(See?  I really can feed these to guests!)

Emerson’s a good egg.  Cai and Aden got right in on the action.

In fact, everyone loved them.  Except my oldest son Ian.  The one who’s enamored with meat.

And if my son prefers tacos?

So be it.

Maybe I’ll work on a cake mix cookie recipe that incorporates bacon. (UPDATED: I did. Here’s the link to Bacon and Toffee Cake Mix Cookies.)

Actually, that sounds pretty darn good.  Dare I say GENIUS?

…..

Please do feel free to share your own GENIUS recipes with me!  I can always use more.

Christmas Greetings

Dec 25 2010

Our twin four-year-olds dressed themselves for Christmas.

Nicely done, gentlemen.  You make a mama proud.  In the interest of full disclosure, you can plan to see this photo again as part of your wedding rehearsal montages.

Merry Christmas to all our friends,

Beth

Cocky or Confident?

Dec 22 2010

This is a picture of my brother:

I’m using it without permission.  I stole it off of his gmail status.

It’s not a very good picture.  (Why are you using this picture, Jeff?  You look like you’re being successfully hypnotized.)

I’m just calling it right now – I’ve already managed to make my mom really mad.  What do you mean by ‘It’s not a very good picture?,’ she’s thinking.  It’s a lovely picture.  He looks like a Hollywood star.

My mother is delusional in all the very best ways.  We had an argument a few years ago about this very topic.  My brother mentioned that a friend of his secured a modeling deal with Nike.  My mother chimed in that she thought Jeff should apply.

I love my brother.  He’s funny as heck.  He knows how to dress.  He has excellent hygiene.  (Something that should not be underrated.)  He’s fit.  He’s employed.  He can shoot a basketball; sometimes into a hoop.  And he’s not a model.

We all laughed at my mom.  Especially my brother.  He suggested that perhaps he could secure a modeling contract as a Scottish cowherd.  I looked for pictures of Scottish cowherds.  All I found were pictures of Scottish cows.

Turns out, that works, too.  Do you see the resemblance?

I thought so.

Anyway, my mom is delusional in all the very best ways.  She really, truly believes that her children can do anything.  Neither of us has secured a modeling contract or become President or pursued medicine or law because we choose not to do so… certainly not for lack of qualifications.

Growing up with a mom like mine resulted in two cocky children.  We kind of think we’re awesome.  Well, we do think we’re awesome, but I had to put “kind of” in there because it’s more socially appropriate.

At some point in adulthood, my brother and I figured out that we’re cocky and that, sadly, it’s not always justified.  We started playing a game with each other called “Cocky or Confident.”  It goes like this:

  1. Someone asks us to do something we’re not qualified to do.  This includes everything from our current forms of employment to cutting hair.
  2. We agree to do it.
  3. We call each other on the phone.  “Um… Jeff?”  “Yes, Beth?”  “I just agreed to plan a high-profile event for 150 people I don’t know.  Was I Cocky or Confident?”  “Cocky, Beth – you were Cocky.  When do you want me to cut your hair?”  “Tonight would be great.  Thanks.”

Here’s a picture of my husband and me with my hair after my brother cut it:

That was 4 years ago, so ignore any fashion implications, please.

Was Jeff Cocky or Confident?  I’m going to go with Confident.  I mean, I think we both know it’s not the best haircut ever, but I had just delivered twins two months before this photo was taken.  I needed a haircut in the worst (the WORST) way.  I called my brother because, of all the insane people in the world, I knew my brother would be all “of course I can cut your hair.”  He googled How to Cut Hair.  And then he cut it.  And then we took family photos.  It was awesome.  Like my brother and me.  That awesome.

The time my brother dyed his wife Kim’s hair?  Well, Jeff, that was Cocky.  You should never do that again.

I’ve often felt bad for my children that their mother isn’t the same bastion of endless adoration as mine.

After a recent dance competition in which my eldest daughter Abby performed, I told her what an amazing job she did.  She’s an incredibly talented technical dancer.  She’s athletic and graceful and her body just intuitively understands how to move.  She’s also very shy and pretty much paralyzed when she has to perform, so we work on encouraging expression and strength of movement.  Her dance instructors have been fabulous, always thinking of new tricks to teach her confidence.

I did tell her how amazing she was.  I really did.  You were great, I said.  Your movements are so fluid, and you hit every move.  You were beautiful.  Your memory for dancing in incredible. I went on and on and on.

And then Abby said, What can I do better next time?

Just so you know, when a 12-year-old asks you this, the correct answer is, Oh, nothing, sweetheart.  You can’t possibly do any better than you did.  You were just wonderful!

And then you should shut up.

Seriously.

Shut.

Up.

Do not, under any circumstances, say something along the lines of: Well, maybe you could smile a little bit.

Or: It would be fun to see bigger movements.

Or, really, really don’t say something comparative, like: Your techniques were much better than the other groups, but their expression really made their dances interesting.

Saying those things would be dumb.

Saying those things would imply that you think that your daughter’s dance was boring.

Saying those things would probably make her cry and make you feel bad and undermine all of the good things you just said.

When I was younger, I was afraid I would grow up to be like my mother.

Now, I’m afraid I won’t.

The good news is, my friends’ daughter, little miss one-year-old Leigh, is showing some serious potential to fill the void I’ve created.

I was copied on an email message to my husband Greg last week, along with this photo:

The message read:

Greg, I thought you should know that when we were at the store the other night, Leigh kept pointing to this picture and saying “Geg, Geg.”  That’s you.  Congratulations!

Cocky or Confident? Get it?  (Sorry, y’all.)

So the next time Abby asks me “What can I do better next time?”, I’m sending in the big guns.

Mom and Baby Leigh, start your engines.  You’re going to be on duty for the next, oh, 25 years or so.

Raising the next generation of Cocky kids with a little help from my family and friends,

Beth