Sunday, February 28, 2010

This weekend's column

I've noticed that the Ledger is putting my weekend columns online on Sundays rather than Saturdays. I'm just glad they're still posting them!

Here is today's column, for your viewing pleasure (ha!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Heavy metal pretzels

Now, if I were Dave Barry, I'd probably say that "heavy metal pretzels" is an excellent name for a rock band. But I'm not, and it probably isn't, anyway.

What it is, however, is an apt description of my first foray into pretzel-making yesterday. I love to bake, and have slowly been conquering my fear of baking anything that involves yeast. I've made a few simple loaves of bread, tea rolls last week, and I decided that yesterday, for a playdate with two of Abby's friends who love to bake, we'd try pretzels.

The playdate never happened, but the dough was ready, so I got Abby and Timmy to roll and shape it, which they enjoyed.

Then the recipe called for a boiling-water-and-baking-soda bath, using a large pot or a roasting pan. Figuring a wider, flatter pan would be easier to get the pretzels out of after 30 seconds, I got out my roasting pan.

The boiling water bath was easy, although the pretzels got quite plump as soon as they hit the water. Even though the recipe says it makes 8 pretzels, I bet I could have made at least 12 and they would have been big enough.

After the jacuzzi dunk, the kids brushed the pretzels with a beaten egg and sprinkled salt. A few minutes in the oven, and out they came. They were beautiful! We couldn't wait to try them.

When they were cool enough, I took one pretzel and divided it in thirds for Abby, Timmy and me. And they were delicious...except that somehow the baking soda bath had picked up the aluminum taste of the roasting pan. The outside tasted metallic and yucky, although the inside was very good (I hollowed out another whole pretzel to make sure!)

We will definitely try making them again, but I'll use my stainless-steel stockpot instead. No one likes heavy metal pretzels.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bowling photos

Thanks to my friend J for these photos of yesterday's bowling expedition.

Vacation blues

This hasn't been the best vacation week ever. We had planned to go to Rochester, but our plans changed at the last minute.

Because we had planned to travel, I did not structure the week with activities here, so we've been winging it. I don't recommend this as a vacation week strategy. It was fun for a few days, but by the time the Tuesday snow arrived, we all had cabin fever and I realized I had to swing into planning mode.

I'd like to say we scoured the community calendar in the paper and packed our days with one educational, fun-filled activity after another. What we actually did was go to the Y in the mornings and plan a few playdates. I also had the singular privilege of making a huge food shopping run with three kids in tow. (To be fair, they really were very well-behaved in the store, but still, it's not my favorite thing to do.)

We've also gotten back into our practicing routines, which has been good. Abby is starting Minuet I, and Brian has pretty much conquered French Children's Song. He also put London Bridge together for the first time yesterday.

One highlight was that we took one of Timmy's friends and her mom to Boston Bowl yesterday afternoon for some candlepin. The kids had never been before, and I'd only been once, myself, having grown up in tenpin land. The kids had fun, but Brian was ultra-competitive and got very sad and disagreeable when he realized he came in second, even though it meant he had outscored me and all the kids. We had a long talk about sportsmanship last night, which hopefully will stick the next time we plan an activity like that.

Of course, no outing would be complete without at least one mishap. This time, Abby dropped her bowling ball on my friend's foot. Poor J never saw it coming, and was hobbling around for a little while. She later said she saw stars. I do hope she's okay today.

Abby had quite a bit of difficulty bowling. Her motor planning and spatial awareness problems both came into play, and the resulting efforts became painful to watch for me. (I feel strangely defensive, writing that. Please save your harsh comments and hear me out.)

I've been encouraged in recent months about Abby's progress in so many areas. Yesterday's bowling expedition was an undeniable reminder that she still has a long way to go. It left me feeling deflated and sad, even though she said she enjoyed the experience and didn't seem bothered by her difficulties in the least.

For me, it brought into focus that despite my belief that Abby fits in with her peers in most situations, there are some in which her disability becomes painfully obvious. I didn't appreciate the reminder.

Bowling mishaps aside -- if nothing else, this week has proven once again that several days of unstructured time is no good for Abby, or for any of us, really. She even said to me yesterday, "Going back to school will be a relief." I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's day column

My editor asked me to write a column about how Earl and I fell in love. The resulting piece took place a little while after the initial fall. Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday again

I'm at the top of the first hill, looking at the ups and downs that are going to be the roller coaster ride of this busy week.

In addition to the normal weekly routine, I'm substituting for a cantoring colleague who is out of town for a month, and have two morning funerals scheduled already. I am grateful for the work, which I enjoy, and am pleased that he asked me to cover for him.

Tomorrow is Timmy's kindergarten registration appointment. The actual appointment shouldn't take long, but compiling the necessary documentation is a big project for later today. Proof of residency, immunization forms, birth certificate, photo ID, tax forms, you name it, the school district needs it in order to determine whether my youngest son, who has two older siblings currently enrolled in school, is eligible to attend kindergarten next year. I realize that it's the same for everyone, but it's busywork I don't enjoy, especially when I have to fill out the same information on multiple pieces of paper in the same registration packet. It all seems very inefficient in this computerized age.

There are a few other things -- coffee with a friend, a church function, snow coming on Wednesday. I also printed out one of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words, from the Petrucci Music Library, and would love to start learning it. I never, ever, play piano for pleasure, and am thinking I really should do that for myself once in a while.

Time to get started. The week should be an interesting ride.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fun Friday

I am very excited today for a few reasons:
  1. Timmy had a playdate so I had extra kid-free time this morning. I exercised a little longer than usual and then did some housework in anticipation of Earl's parents coming over for dinner tomorrow. Not a thrill-a-minute morning, cleaning and all, but it is done, it looks good and I don't have to do it tomorrow.
  2. I got a writing assignment that looks very interesting. Can't wait to get started.
  3. A different afternoon schedule today: usually Earl and I divide and conquer -- he takes Abby to church choir while I take the boys to dance class, or vice-versa. Today, we're all going together to pick up the kids (and then to the doctor's office so they can get their second dose of H1N1 vaccine...that's not the fun part, obviously) and then OUT to EAT. This may not be a big deal for many readers, but we never, ever, go out to dinner as a family. We're all looking forward to it.
  4. I met my deadline, despite choosing to do housework over editing this morning.
  5. I had a nice cup of tea with a friend today. Aaahhhh.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy list

  1. Abby playing well tonight in her teacher's violin studio recital. Not spectacularly; not her very best, but still pretty well. Especially considering the off-the-string phrasing in Andantino.
  2. Abby never getting nervous or even hyped up about performing. She likes to do it. She gets up there, does it, and sits back down. No biggie. I never was that calm about performing, even as a child.
  3. Timmy being so good about going to the Y lately. He hated it for a while. We went, anyway, but it's much easier this way.
  4. Thinking about my extra-long morning tomorrow...picking Timmy up later than usual because of a playdate. Extra time! Wow.
  5. Realizing that just briefly meditating on the word, "patience," when I'm feeling impatient, actually changes how I feel.
  6. Abby's math test being postponed until Thursday.
  7. Feeling like I ought to mention Brian and Earl, but they are fine and I'm tired, so deciding to just sign off and go to bed. They know they make me happy, too.

Boys, overheard

Timmy: I can't wait for the flowers to grow, but I can wait for the mosquitoes.


Brian: You know what iron gives you? Red blood vessels.

Timmy: And Spiderman. And I know what else is red. It's the stuff under your eyes.

Brian: You know when your eyes are all red, you can see your brain.

Timmy: Now I'm thinking.

Abby's violin studio recital: Allegro

Abby's violin studio recital: Andantino