Saturday, December 31, 2011


I am not the type to make New Year's resolutions; in fact, I'm not sure that I have ever done so. But motivated in part by a friend's loss of 15lbs (over Christmas no less!) and also by Venomous Kate's recently-posted resolutions, I am making an exception this year.

First of all, as a general resolution that effects how seriously I take the rest of these, I resolve to worry less in 2012. I desperately need to try to take more things in stride, and to look actively and consistently for less stress in my life instead of more. In addition, if such things can be accomplished at the same time, I would like to:

1. Lose 15-20lbs
2. Quit drinking diet soda forever
3. Exercise several times a week, even if it's just an evening walk
4. Pray more and cuss less
5. Speak and think positively - both about myself and those around me

I could go on forever, but likely all of these things will still need quite a bit of work one year from now, so I think I'll stop now.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Twenty Questions

"People are not objects"

That was the bumper sticker on the ridiculously underpowered Mercedes sedan in front of me on the Tollway this morning. As an aside, a 200 series, really? With four people in it? I'm surprised it could actually accelerate enough to make in onto the freeway. Blech. People do really stupid things for what they perceive as status, yes?

Anyway, the sticker. What does this mean to you, that people are not objects? That you've figured out basic human biology? That you remember "animal, vegetable or mineral" from childhood? Or what? It had some veeerrryy tiny print underneath it, that another driver could only read if they slammed into the Mercedes from behind - sort of the last thing you see before you're dead, that kind of print. Not. Helpful. All I know is, it is a beautiful sunny day, ELO was very loud and cheerful, and sententious, self-righteous people need to keep themselves to themselves a little bit more.

Thank you very much. That is all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Battle of the Go-Go's

Two has come to love these little toys, so they were (of course) the main feature on his note to Santa this year. I like them, too, even though they do make Husband sing "We Got the Beat" every time he sees them. One is willing to play these with his brother at home, although I think he would draw the line at bringing them to school, as Two loves to do. Here the two of them are, enjoying Christmas vacation with small, brightly-colored plastic objects.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Comfort Food

I made this Braised Red Cabbage dish as a part of Christmas dinner, and wow, was it a perfect side dish for a cold, rainy day. It paired so well with prime rib; I suspect it would do the same with any hearty beef dish. I'm not usually much of a cabbage fan so I didn't tinker with this one at all - and thankfully it came out just right the first time. It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, David Waltuck's Staff Meals, which is sadly out of print. Here you go:

Braised Red Cabbage

5 strips bacon cut into 1/4" pieces
4 T unsalted butter
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into thin slices
2 minced cloves garlic
3 T sugar
1 large head purple cabbage, cored and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock (I like Pacific brand)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup honey
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Start with a very large pot. Saute the bacon and butter over medium heat for a bit, then add the onions and cook until translucent (10-15 minutes). Add the garlic, cook a minute, then add the sugar and cook a minute more.

Add the cabbage along with everything that's left. Increase the heat to high and bring things to a boil, then reduce to medium low. Cover and simmer for at least an hour - maybe an hour and a half. You want the cabbage tender but not mushy. Remove bay leaves, add more salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

Note: getting everything together before you start this recipe is a must. I was trying to prep this and au gratin potatoes at the same time and arrgh!, my head almost flew off. Next time I will do my mise en place and things will be more organized, yes? Yes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two's View of Christmas

Two is a bon vivant. He is the child who ate eight pieces of candy, a Cadbury bar, Pop Rocks, and a serving of chocolate mousse on Christmas day alone. But he's also more serious that most people (including me, most of the time) give him credit for.

Here is his picture that he drew for his 3rd grade school concert - they ran a slideshow of "what the holidays mean to you" during one of the songs, and this is what Christmas means to Two.

As the carol says "...Born that men no more may die. Born to raise the sons of Earth, Born to give them second birth." Indeed.

Notes on Christmas

The Grass Widow household had a perfect Christmas. The past two+ days have been filled with sleep, presents, food and peace. Here are some vignettes:

Santa is going to get an angry letter from me, because this was one of Two's presents. Yes, it's sharp and dangerous. He has reassured us at least 30 times, "don't worry." Thanks, sweetie; just what we all need to hear.

One received many, many books, this being the worst (and, of course, one of the favorites - thank you, Husband). He didn't feel very well yesterday, so he curled up and read four books in his beloved new chair. Yes. Four. And I carried that enormous chair upstairs by myself last night - no mean feat, if I do say so myself.

I didn't take many food pictures, although we ate like royalty, feasting on prime rib, au gratin potatoes, braised red cabbage, roasted brussel sprouts, carrots sauteéd with orange peel and thyme, and chocolate mousse for dessert. Here is part of our mid-day snack, minus the paté and baguette.

Two received a Lego project much larger than his head, and is still working on it. He's also created a number of new and interesting creatures, including the house-sized Mangmar fish, which is the sworn enemy of the Quacktable squid (yet to be made).

The family member who enjoyed Christmas the most: Knight. He thought the novelty of spending an evening at Gaga's was delightful, surpassed only by Christmas day at home. He hasn't been this happy since Lambie left us.

Just in case you think Husband and I didn't enjoy ourselves as well, I have evidence to the contrary. Here he is, laughing so hard he's crying (I'll take credit for that) and I'm looking cute in my favorite new pair of red shoes. Our 15th Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Happiness: pure bliss.

I hope y'all's Christmas was as warm, relaxing and wonderful as ours.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two's Debut

He talked me into posting his Harry Potter Lego video. Help me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

Do you remember this guy? His name is Jorge Narvaez and he and his precious daughter Alexa made this video 11 months ago. He's putting himself through college and raising Alexa and her sister at the same time. The video had close to 17 million hits on You Tube - given that it's arguably better than the original version, that's not too surprising.

So tonight Husband is channel surfing and look what we found:

Merry Christmas, Jorge and Alexa!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unrelated Thoughts

1. Why does my middle schooler have to go without water all day (unless he braves the grotty drinking fountains)? He can't bring a drink from home and have it in the halls or in class - not even in morning homeroom, which is where the school breakfast is provided. One child out of a thousand would bring alcohol, so rather than deal with 1 drunk student, 999 are left to get dehydrated every day. Well, whatever makes your job easier, Mr. and Ms. Administrator. Be my guest.

2. Today was a free dress day at middle school (or apparently so - not that One knew about it) and as I drove away from dropping him off I saw two 7th or 8th grade boys all decked out. They had skinny jeans, Tejano-star style shirts, and their hair was all spiky and slick. And they each carried (a) a bag of food for their homeroom Christmas party and (b) a dozen roses for their homeroom teacher. So. Dang. Cute.

3. Two has taken to filming himself making new Lego creations, and he is demanding I post said videos on YouTube so he can share his knowledge with the world. Is this my fault? Might be.

Whew. Finally, that horribly ugly dog is off the top of the blog. Now I'm happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How I Almost Became Famous

Yesterday I went to Natural Pawz to buy the spoiled Knight a treat for his Christmas stocking and they were having Pug Rescue Day. I'm agnostic on pugs, so whatever. However, as I was leaving I happened upon this dog:

His name is Elmo, otherwise known as Sampson, and he's half boxer and half pug.

He is the ugliest dog I have ever seen in my entire life.

And I wanted to adopt him so badly, because I was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to be famous, and with a dog like Elmo, I would be so famous. Just. Like. That. He is so ugly everyone would want to know about him. I could have entered him in the World's Ugliest Dog Contest and won; in fact, all the others contestants would have gone home crying as soon as they saw Elmo, because they would know: there is no beating this dog.

I could tell right away: he would be so famous he would put Jenny Lawson's giant rooster, Beyonce, in the shade. I'm telling you, this dog was my ticket to the fame I have never even craved. I would be on TV in five minutes' time if I owned this dog. Suddenly, when I saw him I wanted to be on TV. That's never happened before - clearly Elmo exudes some seriously influential vibes, because not only did I want to adopt him, I wanted to be seen on TV with him.

If only Husband would say yes and let me adopt Elmo, oh how my life would change. Seriously, he said no: no to the ugliest dog in the world. I'm thinking, though, that's just because he didn't get to see Elmo in person. If he sees Elmo in person, like if I send Husband on an errand next week and it just happens to be to the place where Pug Hearts Rescue is having an adoption day, maybe I still have a chance. Fingers crossed.

If that doesn't work one of y'all will just have to adopt him. Then I can be slightly famous, because it will have been all my idea. If I can't have Elmo myself, I'd like to think I'm still connected to him in some way. Go on, go get him. You know you want to be on TV.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why I'm Not Worried

Two is my media consumer. He would watch movies, play video games and surf the Internet all day if I'd let him. He's never met a screen he didn't like. We've have to step in and make a host of rules about the time he spends with his two best friends, the TV and the computer (we've banned gaming systems altogether out of an abundance of caution), but strangely enough he doesn't object. I think he knows his habits are a little excessive and he welcomes the chance to take a break and try something different. To be honest, as much as I've griped about his media addiction over the years, I have to say it doesn't have me that worried. Because what he uses all that screen time for is insipration more than anything else.

These are two creations that he invented today:

Harry Potter's Potions Cabinet: Harry has no hair and an angry face because the potion he concocted made him bald.

Some Kind of Spaceship: Cobbled together from four or five Star Wars kits. The propeller at the back makes me think it floats, too. This might have been inspired in part by The Incredibles.

If this is why he loves movies so much, then I love them, too.

Happy Birthday to my Dad

It's my Dad's birthday today - the day we used to set up the Christmas tree when I was a child, and then have steak and baked potatoes, my Dad's favorite special meal. Here's to the man who spent 13 of his own birthdays wrestling with a cold, snow-covered Christmas tree just to make me smile.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heard Around the House

One to his Dad while wrestling: "Hey, a little higher and you can kiss those grandchildren goodbye. Watch it."

One on buying a llama at Heifer International: "It's not every day you can buy someone an animal that can spit from 15 feet with pinpoint accuracy."

Two on the llama purchase: "But how are we going to pick who gets the llama?"

Me, at 9:45pm: "Hurry up - it's past your bedtime." One: "What is our bedtime, anyway?" Me: "8pm - has been since you were a litte boy." One: "So that's always been just a goal for you, I take it?"

Either child, when I get near the bathroom door they have left ajar while showering/dressing: "DON'T LOOK!" Yes, as I said, the door is always ajar. And this comes from the same two monkeys who continue to talk to me through the bathroom door every time I take a potty break.


I feel beaten up most of the time these days, as if people and circumstances are contriving to put me through round after round with Manny Pacquiao. It makes me tired, all this fighting, especially since so much of it seems to be about whether I have the right or the ability to make good decisions. I'm constantly on the lookout for another wound, another verbal punch that is meant to tell me "I blame you for this" or "What you did caused it to all to go to hell."

I'm used to having my judgment and worth questioned, and I'm used to fighting back. I'm covered in wounds and yet, I'm still here. After all, I'm the one whose birth parents dumped her because 21 is "too young" to be a parent. I'm the one whose mother said "your fiance is possessed by demons", and I fought back and married him anyway, because it was my decision to make, not hers. I'm the one whose father said "I'm tired of all this shit" and walked away because I wasn't worth the trouble, and I still stayed alive. What I don't understand is why these attacks continue to come, over and over no matter how old I am. Why everyone around me inevitably reaches the point where they openly question everything about me. Where they wonder what the hell they are doing with this mulish, difficult woman who won't shut up and do what they want her to do. Where they begin to openly doubt my ability to do anything right. Sometimes that doubt is unspoken, but really, come on: I'm not stupid. If you really think I'm capable of making the right decision, why are you standing there fighting with me?

All I want is the benefit of the doubt. I just want someone to respect my judgment and my opinions, to think my decisions will be and are solid. I want someone to defend me, not attack me. And I don't have that. Not anywhere I look.

I'm getting pretty damn tired of getting beaten up, I have to say. Really. Freaking. Tired.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Two still believes in Santa as fervently as he ever has and none of us - not even One - has the heart to tell him the truth. When his friends tell him Santa is really just mom and dad he denounces them as heartless liars and goes along his merry, believing way.

God how I love this child!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Did You Learn in School Today, Sweetie?

One's answer: "Today I learned in Health class that the dad of one of my classmates is in prison serving a life sentence. We've been talking about who we are and what we like about ourselves and what we don't, and when it was his turn he started talking about this and then he was just sobbing all of a sudden. It was awful."

Two's answer: "We did math, like, almost all day, even fractions. Because fractions are going to be on the STARR test and it's going to be a really hard test so we have to study a lot for it."

So I feel overwhelmed by One's answer. 11 is too young to deal with that. I don't want him to go to private school with kids whose parents have private jets at their disposal, but did he have to learn about "dads who go to jail" today? Really? Not that I blame that poor child for talking about it: I wouldn't want to do an "All About Me" project in Health class either if that was one of my talking points. But I'm feeling very much like a protective mama bear right now, and part of me wants to stuff One back into a shell for a few more years before releasing him into the wild.

Two's answer today is, in reality, the more troubling one (and yes, he frequently talks in onelongsentencelikethat. just in case you were wondering). This STARR test is the replacement for the state-wide TAKS, and most of what we've been told equates to "if you were commended on TAKS you'll barely pass STARR." For all of that, I don't give a rat's patootie about the damn test. I don't want anyone teaching anything because it's on some test written by a bunch of yahoos in Austin. I want my child to have a good, intelligent teacher and I want her to teach my child what a third grader should learn. Why does it have to be more complicated than that? Yes, I am aware that is merely a rhetorical question. But why does it have to be?

Fortunately for everyone, neither of the boys seem horribly upset about his day. It's just mom who got all stressed out. And that would be, of course, business as usual.

Monday, December 5, 2011

School Frustration

I have many moments in my life when I am grateful for the boys' schools. Our experience with our elementary school has been overwhelmingly good: a sensible, intelligent principal, good, solid teachers, an overall nice group of kids, and intelligent and involved parents.

Correspondingly, our experience with middle school so far has been more positive than negative. It's free, it's safe, most of the teachers are good (math right now looking like the only exception), the kids seem decent (from what One has told me - I have yet to meet any of them, as there are no opportunities to do so) and One has ridiculously good grades without an overwhelming amount of homework every night. But there are problems, and the problems are not ones that can be fixed. They are endemic to life in a 1,100 kid school in the 7th largest school district in the country. So far this year we have:

1. The lack-of-parent-communication problem. No fix for this, other than One has learned to borrow the office phone if he needs me (after I wrote every conceivable phone number in Sharpie in his go-everywhere binder, of course). Yes, Mom will fix it if it's broken. That's my job.

2. The lunch room problem, which consists of a 6th grade principal who thinks the proper punishment for loud and obnoxious students is to ban an entire third of the lunchroom from talking. Because he can't possibly find out who is making the noise: he's only interested in ferreting out the general direction from which it comes. I asked One if I could email this man about it, since One is not in the group making the noise, and he paled in fear. Please don't let Mr. W. learn my name. It will only come back to hurt me, because he's not a person you want to cross. Well, now: that's nice to know. I'm glad they've put him in charge.

3. The district-wide surprise testing, taking up an entire week. New this year: how fun. Four 2 1/2 hour tests, one on each core subject. The teachers weren't allowed to tell the students about it until today and the tests start tomorrow. We don't know if the teachers have prepared the students by covering the material beforehand, or even if the teachers will count this test as a grade (it's up to them individually). Just show up, pencil in hand, spend 10 hours taking tests you can't study for and live with the fact that you have no idea if it will affect your grade or not. Sounds just fine to me. And these tests are all in addition to the yearly Stanford and the new STARR (replacing the state-wide TAKS). How many weeks are we going to spend on standardized testing again? And who exactly does it benefit? Somehow, someone forgot to tell me the answers to those questions. Or maybe the answers don't exist. Who can tell?

4. The rumor-based problem: One's has a friend and fellow 6th grader who was given days of detention for filming a bus driver screaming at a fellow student. He took his video to the school administration and threatened to put it on You Tube; the threat may have been what earned him the detention instead of the filming. Nonetheless, you have to admit: it's disturbing. It makes me very glad I put in the extra effort to drive One to and from from school every day, rather than leave him to the tender mercies of a bus driver.

I know very well that, while these problems would be solved by a move to private school, others would crop up to take their place. Homework would double, for one. And there are other problems - perhaps mostly social ones - that I don't know if we are prepared to deal with. Never mind the cost: adjusted for inflation I make 25% less than I did when One was 6 months old, so spending $20,000 a year to educate him really isn't very palatable. Or possible. And even if it were, at this point we're stuck for another 18 months at the very least: you can't put together an application to the kind of private school One deserves to attend on a whim, nor do we have friends influential enough at those kinds of schools to make his acceptance possible without us jumping through all the standard hoops. We have made our public school bed, and likely we will lie in it until he goes to high school.

Overall, I still think we've made the right decision in choosing to keep One in public school. But if you think that once a decision is made I stop thinking critically, you have another thing coming.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Cards

Kristen Howerton at Rage Against The Minivan has a post on what to do with Christmas cards post-Christmas, and I thought since I hadn't posted on this in a long time I would put up a picture of what we do every year with all the beautiful photo cards we receive.

So if your card is up there, please know that we stop and visit you frequently as we head in and out of the house through the kitchen door. And we all like that, very much.