Friday, December 23, 2011

My gifts thus far...

Christmas is fast approaching, isn't it? Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Wow. Thankfully, I had already finished most of the big tasks by Wednesday, because late Wednesday night (early Thursday morning, actually) I was awakened by a distress cry from my son. The words you don't want to hear at 2:37am: "Mom, I feel like I'm going to be sick!"

"Go into the bathroom! Hurry!" See what a fabulous mother I am? No sympathy, no concern for him... just a frantic plea that he exit all upholstered and carpeted areas before the coming upheaval. (Can you tell I've had to change smelly sheets in the middle of the night on multiple occasions? You see, there are definitely benefits to your child's increasing age; now he knows what he feels like right before he hurls. Yep, that's a benefit.)

All of this was performed in a hushed panic, of course, to try to allow at least one of us (my husband, who had to rise early and work the next day) to eke out some sleep. I met my poor boy in the bathroom, right before his theory was proven true. He was, indeed, going to be sick. And that pretty much foretold the next 30 hours, give or take a few hours. Yikes. We were up for hours in the basement rec room, sitting in the dark and first watching PBS's Lidia Celebrates America (until I realized the food shots were making the boy more ill) and then some sort of home improvement program. And he was still emptying his stomach throughout. Did I mention that?

Today, I am happy to report some improvement. He's not completely cured, but he's eating now and the food is staying put and appears to be on its way to a perfectly normal exit from the appropriate end. 'Nuf said.

However, the gifting wasn't over. I never mentioned here that last week, because I was hoping the situation would blow over without tragedy...but our new cat feasted on some lovely curling ribbon from a Christmas package. Yum, yum. I found bits of it in her regurgitated meal (perhaps that was foreshadowing of my kiddo's illness) and we watched the kitty through the next day and night, making certain she could still eat, drink, pee, do the other... and she did. I read various cat forums online which led me to believe that, since she could perform these duties without trouble or pain, she had gotten the ribbon out of her system and was going to be fine. And she is fine.

However. In the litter box a little while ago, can you guess what I discovered? Maybe you've guessed correctly—a lovely, undigested 4-inch strip of blue ribbon. Surrounded by, caked with, and mostly obscured by feces. That's right, a blue ribbon poo.

So, if this is the pattern of all the good things I'll receive this year? Wow, I can hardly wait to open some wrapped packages! What wonders might I find within? Aren't you jealous!?

Seriously, I hope your Christmas is a good one. I hope you receive the true gifts of joy and peace in our savior, and the fact that he was, indeed, one of us: Emmanual. God with us.

Merry Christmas! And for heaven's sake, throw away the ribbon and wash your hands with soap and hot water.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Odd bits

Well, hello there! It's been a while, eh?

My son likes Arthur, the book and TV series by Marc Brown (who, incidentally, is from Erie, PA. We knew that because the mall in Arthur's town is called Millcreek Mall, just like Erie's! And the town Arthur lives in is Elwood City, which is a real town south of Erie. Yep! We were onto you, Marc Brown!) So, on the PBS website, there are Arthur games. And one of them is a game for his friend, Buster Baxter the bunny, who is obsessed with aliens. On the site, you can build your very own, original alien. Marcus loves it. One "parts" category from which to choose is called Odd Bits, and when you pass the cursor over it, a strange, alienesque voice says, "Odd bits." It always cracks me up. Hence, the title of this post.

(If you care to create your own alien, click here.)

Okay, back to this post.

It's the holiday season (can you hear Andy Williams crooning that line?) and things are rather hectic, but under control. Right before Thanksgiving, we added a member to our family. Here she is.

Isn't she pretty? Her given name was Ninja, and it fits; she's stealthy and silent a lot of the time. I like dogs, too, and hopefully there is still a dog in our future. But with the uncertainty of where we'll end up living (we still hope to move), a house-restricted cat seemed like a smarter choice. We've been needing a furry addition for awhile; the home just felt too sterile. She's very shy with strangers, and we were strangers initially. For days, this little lady hid in impossibly tiny spots, dusty corners, underneath cabinets, etc. She didn't eat or pee for at least 24 hours. I had second and third thoughts about our decision, which I did not voice aloud since this whole thing had been my idea.

But in time, she's come around. For the past couple of weeks, she's been increasingly friendly, and now she's staked out a comfortable chair in the living room as her own. It's likely that no guest of ours will ever see her, because said guest will be a stranger. But we know that she's really pretty sweet and playful. She's very much the opposite of our old cat, who was honestly more of a "dog-cat" that got in your face, meowed full volume, and then leaped onto your lap if you passed muster. Finding a different personality for this kitty was intentional; you can't repeat the past pet, nor should you try.

The whole experience has reminded me that earning the trust of someone who's shy and suspicious feels like a real accomplishment. I'm sort of more like the old cat, meowing a lot and getting in people's faces. That's not good. I need to be more quiet, subdued, reserved. It's not natural but it probably goes a lot farther than my current approach. I always struggle with stuff from the bible that talks up the "gentleness of spirit" aspect, because I really have to look deep in myself to find that sort of thing. Maybe I should work on putting more of it in there, so it's not such a rare discovery...

Onward to another new addition: a lovely, nearly completed (doesn't have a door or windows yet) shed in the garden. Yes, I know—why build a shed if you plan to move? Please ask my husband. Maybe you'll get a more satisfying answer than I did.

Moving on, I looked for a photo I took last summer, but couldn't locate it and was too lazy to search through my CDs of saved images. The photo featured a wonderful, simple, possibly nutritious entrée called egg-in-the-hole. I first learned of this easy meal from Martha Stewart, but I turned it into an art form in late August, when our home-grown tomatoes were bursting from the vines. EITH is a lovely food form because it is completely flexible and easily individualized. (And yes, occasionally I take pictures of my edible creations. No comments, please.)

Here are some divinely uncomplicated instructions for Egg-in-the-Hole:

-Take a piece of bread, rip a smallish hole in the center, and eat the bread you ripped out to sustain you while you cook this masterpiece.
-Heat a medium-sized fry pan over medium heat.
-Drop in a BIG pat of butter.
-When it's sizzling, decrease the heat slightly and drop in the hole-y bread.
-As it begins to toast in the pan, crack an egg into the hole in the bread.
-When about 30 seconds have passed, use a spatula to loosen the egg/bread so it doesn't stick too much to the pan.
-After about 30 more seconds, turn over the egg/bread.
-Add some lunch meat or leftover turkey or ham to the top of the mostly cooked egg.
-Add some shredded or thinly sliced cheese atop the meat.
-Ascertain that the egg is fully cooked or darn close, and then turn off the heat and cover the pan for a minute or two.
-EAT. It's that easy. The most difficult part is washing the fry pan. Which isn't too bad, since you used a ton of butter to prevent sticking. ; )

The tastiest combo I found was whole wheat bread, a home-grown egg courtesy of my sister's hens, then turkey topped with a fresh slice of tomato, sprinkled liberally with Parmesan and pepper. But the beauty of this is that it works with whatever ingredients you have available. The butter gives the bread a rich, crispy texture that feels positively luxurious. You don't even need meat, because the egg gives you protein. You can use fresh greens wilted on top, or just cheese, or even a dollop of cottage cheese. It's completely up to you. Use whole-grain bread and don't go too crazy with the butter, and you might just be able to pass this off as a healthy little meal.

Signing off now; more Christmas-related tasks await. Stay jolly and joyful!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Extroverts, optimistic party planners, and other menaces

Disclaimer: It's the mad, misguided Christmas season, and that can mean only one thing—Mel is in rare form and her bad side is hanging on the clothesline for all to see. And this rant has nothing to do with Jesus, for whom I am very thankful.

Christmas inevitably brings many stress factors. Not just the shopping, the over-spending, the regular-and-expected lying to children, the preparations, the baking, the decorations which might be skipped in years past but are now par for the course with a child in the house... Those are all festive yet exhausting. But the biggest stress inducers by far, for me at least, would be the multiple social occasions that pop up and the people who pressure you to attend them.

I'm an introvert. I've confessed that here before. It doesn't mean I don't like people; I genuinely like a lot of people. I even admire some of them, emulate a few, respect several... But anyway, being an introvert simply means that I am not fueled by my time around people. I find that it makes me weary. I am fueled, fired up, and energized by time alone or with just a close friend of two.

That said, you can imagine that the Christmas season is fraught with peril for people like me. Suddenly, a relatively open schedule is littered with events, parties and dinners and family occasions. It's hard to squeeze them all in, but more than that, it's difficult for someone like me to embrace them and anticipate them with anything other than a heavy sigh. I already know what they will entail. There will be long hours of conversation, often about things I don't know (at the many occasions that my happy, friendly, extroverted husband has been invited to); there will be lots of fattening, rich, sugar-laden food (that I will have to avoid so as not to aggravate my prediabetic condition); there will likely be other women I don't know fawning all over my guy, which makes me a tad uneasy. There will be several events which don't allow children, and that's fine here and there but introduces some friction into the works because although they're not my events, I am expected to find childcare—which can be challenging anytime, let alone at Christmastime...

To make matters more complex, my spouse loves people, adores these gatherings, and is happy not to miss a single one. Indeed, all the people who are like him, who also happen to be planners (thank Heaven the spouse is not), are delightedly setting up all sorts of fun evenings (and some daytimes) in which every attendee can come and happily revel in the wondrous company of all the other scintillating people.

Well, here's a newsflash: some people just don't revel in it. Some people find it tiresome after awhile. Maybe even after a very short while.

Just because people have good intentions does not guarantee that they always have good ideas. Sometimes, other people need to be honest and explain the flip side of all this Christmas activity. I don't want to be a hermit, but I am worn out with biting my tongue and saying yes, with shouldering blame for simply being who I am, for the implications from others that I am a strange, twisted, mean-spirited misanthrope when all I really want is meaningful time with my favorite people instead of frenzy.

That is all...for now. I apologize for being a damp dishcloth.
Happy, happy
Joy, joy.
-Ren and Stimpy