Thursday, April 29, 2010

5 pm Buttercream

Last night at 5 pm--known as "the witching hour" to those with children for good reason--I tried, for the first time, to make swiss buttercream. Do you know about swiss buttercream? I do. I know all about regular buttercream, swiss buttercream, italian buttercream, and french buttercream.

I would like to take a moment to insert a public service announcement: If you are so foolish as to become obsessed with buttercream while surrounded by the chaos of three little boys (well, four, see below) as a checking out/coping mechanism, do not accidentally get sidetracked and type "french butt" into a google search.

Swiss buttercream is made with a meringue that is first whisked over a pot of simmering water. Such a task is not something that one should attempt while bouncing a fussy baby and hosting yet another boy for a playdate. Just to be clear, this upped the boy total in my house to four, ages 4 months, nearly 5, 7.5 and 8. I was also making steak, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, steamed green beans, and (boxed--homemade would have pushed me into the range of certifiably insane) macaroni and cheese for dinner.

Thinking back on last night, I wonder why I attempt such things. (The buttercream, by the way, didn't turn out quite right. I think I didn't whip the meringue enough before adding the butter. But I added some powdered sugar and managed to turn it into a fine regular old buttercream.) Here's the thing: my life is chaotic. I think I try to find some calm in the madness, but it is filled with a lot of noise and activity. It isn't that we are over scheduled--in fact, I think I keep my boys' activities to a minimum--but my children are full of energy. They are opinionated. They speak loudly. They rise early. And when I put too much effort into calming the storm, so to speak, I just become depressed. What saves me is going about my own business within the chaos.

And so I bake. I cook. I research buttercream. I scrub the floor. Because it all makes me feel like I am accomplishing something. And I like eating good food and having a clean house.

And you know what? Sometimes within this chaos that is my life right now, I am able to step outside of it all for a moment, and see it for what it is: beautiful, messy, joyful life that is racing along faster than I know.

This morning, we were downstairs looking for Luke's scrapbook. He is apparently having a drawing smackdown with one of the older boys at his school. Luke says he is a better artist than this 10 year old. Luke has challenged him. An outside judge (the 10 year old's brother and Luke's classmate) will determine the winner.

So we were late for school, and we were running down to the basement to find the scrapbook, Henry helping, me carrying Silas. We found it and were running back up the stairs, Luke in front, Henry next, and me in the back, carrying Silas facing outward, as he now prefers. And I saw my little brood, lined up by size, running up the stairs. And I could see them next summer, all three of them with Silas following them himself. And I could see the next summer, with Luke nearly 10 and wanting his little brothers to leave him alone. I could see my life, lined up on the stairs.

And it is amazing. Even if I never master swiss buttercream.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Henry, Man of Mystery

My Henry. He is a mystery to me in so many ways. Luke is predictable. I know when he is going to explode. His patterns are recognizable. I usually know what is going on in his head.

Henry? Not so much.

This morning I was kissing Silas in the folds of his neck while Henry ate his breakfast.

"Mmmmm," I said. "I'm just having a little neck for breakfast."

Henry wanted in on the fun, so he moved in for some kisses.

"You know we are only pretending to eat Silas's neck, right?" I checked. After all, Luke bit Henry's tummy when Henry was about Silas's age after Craig had been blowing raspberries on Henry's belly.

"Of course!" replied Henry.

My Henry, you see, doesn't get carried away like Luke does.

"I can only bite someone's neck when I'm an adult," said Henry. "And that would be a bad choice."

Ahh, the adult choices, adult consequences speech, coming back to haunt me. I hadn't thought Henry was listening as I lectured Luke.

* * *

I have been feeling sad lately because Henry has been such a little boy. His new haircut only confirmed the obvious to me: gone are the days of princess crowns and polka dot pants. Henry is all boy.

But again, the mysterious workings of Henry's brain have surprised me. We were in Target yesterday and Luke was drooling over superhero action figures. Henry glanced down at a display and said, "I have always wanted one of those."

"What?" I asked. I couldn't see anything on the end display that seemed like it would appeal to either of my older boys.

"One of those dogs," said Henry, pointing at what can only be described as a Paris Hilton dog.

"A Tini Puppini?" I asked, reading the label.

"Yes!" said Henry. "They come with so much stuff!"

Stuff like a tiara, a curling iron, a carrying purse.

I have since looked on the website, which I invite you to do for yourself. There is a lot of talk of fashion, doggy divas, and the like.

I just can't wait to see what Henry will be up to next.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm Doing Something Right

I'm sorry if you are seeing strange html code in my last blog post. It is showing up when I view my blog from one of our computers but not the other. I don't have the energy to try and fix it right now. I'm thinking of switching to some other blogging format, as I'm having trouble with blogger these days. Any suggestions? It needs to be easy and FREE.

I guess I'm doing something right in feeding my boys. Yesterday, we were on a tight schedule in between school pickups with swim lessons to directly follow. We had just returned home from Henry's school, and I needed to nurse Silas, so Henry offered to pack the snacks for the afternoon.

"Just wait a bit and let me help," I said.

"Mom," said Henry, "Will you just let me do it all by myself?"

"Sure," I said, figuring I could always re-do it if necessary.

Here is what he packed for two little boys: three yogurts, three apples, two oranges, grapes, six foil-wrapped carrots, and two baggies of homemade caramel corn.

I immediately realized two things.

Henry has a good understanding of healthy eating.

And I am clearly starving him.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm Back (More or Less)

Wow, it has been three months. I just decided that I was too busy and preoccupied to blog there for a while, but I find that I’m beginning to feel the longing to think again. Just a little bit, though. My writing for the next few months won’t be profound or anything, but I just need to get back to it, you know?

The last few months have been filled with a whole lot and a whole lot of nothing. We’ve gotten back into a routine of sorts, although Silas still isn’t on any kind of predictable schedule. My days involve a lot of baby bouncing with some dishes and laundry thrown in for variety. I think that if it was just Silas around, I could get him more settled into a routine, but with two older kids, it is hard to follow his rhythms in between the big boys’ commitments. Welcome to life as a third child, kid!

Silas is so big now compared to last time I wrote here. He smiles. He laughs. He coos and babbles. He rolls over. Silas adores his older brothers, and watches the world with wide eyes. He is nearly four months old.

I am much more mellow this third time around, but every now and then, a little bit of the crazy creeps in. With Silas, I have fixated on his skin. He has fairly bad eczema on his face, and I get really freaked out about it sometimes. I am constantly second guessing myself, trying to figure out what I’m eating or doing that is causing the rash. The other day I actually spread peanut butter on his leg to see if he broke out in a rash. Yah, I guess I’m not completely the cool, relaxed third time mom that I would like to be.

I’ve been thinking about food lately. I’ve been hearing a lot about the show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, so I watched an episode on Hulu. I liked it, but it made me so upset that I’m not sure if I can watch any more. Some days I think I’m doing really well with feeding my family as healthfully and as ethically as possible on our budget. And other days I think that I let my kids eat way too much processed junk.

Here’s how I’ve taken a small stand lately: Recently, I have decided to never buy a lunchable again. My kids beg for them—I don’t know why—and I used to let them buy one per week. But I’m putting my foot down. Secondly, I will only let Luke buy school lunch once per month. He thinks I’m soooo mean (since there are two school lunches per month that he would like to buy) but until our school district starts providing lunches that don’t include disturbing offerings like the “chicken hipdipper” and a foot-long hotdog, he’s only getting one per month. I know, I know—I need to work on changing our district’s lunches in some way, but I’m giving myself until Silas turns one. These things I’m doing are tiny little steps, but they are my recent attempts at improving our family’s health and our impact on this earth. And we are still doing all the other stuff we’ve always done. Trying to buy mostly whole foods. Trying to buy as locally as possible. Trying to garden (we aren’t great at it, but I figure that we will improve each year, right?) Oh, the garden. I need to work on that. Right now it is a pile of compost. I’m feeling the crazy lurking over my shoulder, the I-have-a-baby-and-won’t-ever-accomplish-anything-again crazy. Like make a new banner for my blog.

Okay, now I’m really rambling. So much for thinking again.