Thursday, November 26, 2015

Treasure Gathering

I am a collector of treasures. With my plastic beach bucket and journal of blank pages. And my pathway is strewn with lumps of gold and plates of silver. With emeralds and rubies and sapphires and diamonds and pearls. The hillsides are encrusted with gems. I need another bucket.

I am shoveling the colors and wonder and giggles into my bucket. I am trying to cram these joys into words.

Golden leaves, cloudy peeks, stark-naked trees, powdery snow, little mittens, falling flakes, salty jerky, golden grass, frosted trees.

Frozen streams, falls, cold fingers, fitful nights, tears, chapped lips, short outings. Coats on, coats off, hats on, hats off, gloves on, gloves off, boots on, boots off. 

Lord, help me not to miss the treasures of today because I was looking for something else, something entirely within my expectations of beauty and luxury and wealth and relaxation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Alliance

With each change of the seasons and change in the children's abilities, I remember. 

Like déjà vu, these wintery days of indoor rough housing, laughter, food, and alliances. There were alliances in my growing up home. Usually between me and the sibling that was providing the most entertainment. When Jonalyn let me enter her queen's bedroom and allowed me to play with her special dolls, she was my benefactress. When Jacob and I allied together to mock Jessica or create some dangerous contraption outside, we were cronies. When Jess willingly participated in whatever activities I planned for us, she was my minion. 

But usually it was Jacob and me. We were the closest in age and his protecting big brother personality complimented my adventurous loyal ways.

While adulthood reflections of this union have created a nostalgia, nothing has evoked my memories like watching my own children enter into a similar union.

Something has clicked in their little developing brains. I think it must be Rose's ever-increasing ability to talk, or maybe it's Lee's respect of the spanking spoon when he persists in tormenting Rose. 

Within a week's time, they've made a truce. They pinkie swore and clinked their plastic sippy cups together in solemn ceremony. From now on, you and me, doing things and making stuff and speaking gibberish.

  They look at each other from across the dinner table and laugh at the very sight of one another. Rose brings Lee his fuzzy blanket and he picks up her dropped spoon from beneath her high chair at the dinner table. Their little feet go thump-thump-thumping across our wood floor as they run from their bedroom to the living room in pursuit of each other. When two minutes have passed with one sibling absent from immediate sight, they ask, "Where'd Rosie go?" or "Lee?"

When I can't make sense of Rose's baby-talk, Lee comes in to translate. Usually by saying something like, "You wanna go to the zoo, Rose?" or "You wanna eat a tree, Rose?" or "You wanna catch a tiger, Rose?"
Rose: "Yeah." 
Lee to me: "Rose wanna catch a tiger."

Overnight my energies spent on engagement of children went from 75% to 50%. Laughter is the soundtrack of my meal making. Little voices. Thumping feet. Absurd suggestions. Let's pick our noses, Rose. Let's eat this paper, Rose. Let's touch our belly buttons, Rose. Let's drink from the sink, Rose. Let's put out this fire, Rose. Let's be tigers and growl at Mommy, Rose. 

Growl away and continue the play. My life is getting sweeter every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vegetable Tom Yum Soup

We've been battling colds around here the last two weeks. This called for some spicy Thai Tom Yum soup, which turned out to be fairly simple to make. I got my recipe off and then tweaked it to fit what supplies I could find.


10 1/2 cups of chicken stock
12 thin slices of ginger
6 kaffir lime leaves (They're lenticular shaped and two are connected together as if strung on a necklace. These are the essence of the soup. Substitutes, such as lime juice can be used, but you'll lose good flavor.)
3 stalks lemon grass, smashed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1-3 Tablespoons of hot chile paste or Sriracha, depending on how hot you like your soup
3 Tablespoons of fish sauce
9 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup of onions, chopped
3 plum (Roma) tomatoes, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped in half
1 1/2 cups chopped bok choy, cabbage, or Chinese cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
6 sprigs fresh cilantro (for garnish)
6 green onions, thinly sliced


Bring chicken stock, ginger, lime leaves, lemon grass, and hot chile paste to a boil in a large pot. I made my stock from scratch and boiled all these ingredients with the chicken carcass. If you do this, then remove leaves, ginger, and grass when you remove the chicken carcass. If you don't do this, allow the herbs and such to steep for 20 minutes before removing them from the broth.

Stir in fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, tomato, mushrooms, bok choy, and carrot. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and green onions before serving. Having rice on the side is ideal. Rice may be added to the soup to reduce the heat level.


Employ 3-year-old to cut soft mushrooms.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween (Lumberjacks & Kitties)

A banana was running the Whittier's Spooktacular 5k. Two bananas actually. And a gorilla, Noah's ark, the standard princess-fairy-undead crowd, a six-foot-tall unicorn, a plethora of super heroes, and Thomas the train with his conductor and railroad crossing sign.

Halloween morning Phil, the children, and I sat on the brick seat-wall on the corner of Greenleaf and Broadway to watch the runners go by. The runners in first place were without costumes, but then came a high school track team wearing capes and various superheroes keeping a steady pace. Those that followed were obviously participating in the costume contest. Though, I can't imagine Gil Rodriguez and his staff of Sharpstone Realty dressed in their business attire were going to win any prizes.

After the race we strolled home for a pancake breakfast made by Phil. Luke joined us for the meal too.

The rest of the day we spent in relaxation and preparation for the evening trick-or-treaters. Phil gave Lee a Black & Decker chainsaw and then demonstrated how to use it by sawing through a log on our front lawn. Lee took copious notes.

 And Rose watched from inside.

Phil also sawed a wedge in a log to serve as a seat for Lee the Lumberjack. Suspenders, beanie, painted beard, plaid shirts, and chainsaws. Rose naturally had to be a kitty and somehow I found myself in kitty clothing as well. I don't know how that happened. Thanks to Mama Mina, Rose had kitty make-up too.

Our street was decorated for the crowds. One neighbor held her family party in her front yard. They had a chemistry-theme going there. Several other neighbors put up rather grotesque horror scenes and others decorated with lights and pumpkins and simple ghosts. They too got into the spirit with their costumes. We had a jellyfish umbrella, mad scientist, and a family of characters from Peter Pan. 

We had over a hundred trick-or-treaters this year. After comparing notes with our neighbors, we think the influx of children was due to the Saturday holiday. Phil is proud to say he didn't give away a single piece of Halloween candy. All the trick-or-treaters had to earn their treat by feeding our bonfire with slivers of sticks. Our evening highlights included visits from Thorpe, the Post, Jensens, and the company of the Himes.