How to Save Your Tomatoes and Sanity

I had a new experience on Sunday.  I was invited to can tomatoes.  I LOVE tomatoes, so I was thrilled to be included.  Although I've never been a part of the process, I was surprised to find that it was really fun and quite rewarding.

I won't get this perfect (so don't follow my recipe), but here is a sampling of the process:

Start with 4 cups of coffee.

Dress - in your worst clothes - they really don't need to be clean, but even so, you may want to smell nice so as not to offend your canning friends.
Buy -  tomatoes and ingredients (or if you're lucky, your canning friends will do it).

Pour more coffee.

Separate -  your lids from the jar, then sterilize all.
Chop veggies -  a ton of them (we did peppers, onions, and garlic).
Boil -  water in a large pot; douse tomatoes for 30 seconds, then, plop them into a sink of cold water (blanching).

Drink more coffee.

Peel - the tomato skins get soft, so it's easy to remove the skin after the blanching process.
Measure - important to have the correct amount of vegetables and tomatoes per batch - do this while chopping).
Canning - use a large mouth funnel.
Sample - very important to test your work, but make a bloody cesar.  This will help so that you can finish 2.2 more bushels.

Seal - I'm still confused about this process - I was too busy with the ceasars.
Label the jars.
Wash dishes.
Sample more salsa.
Drink more vodka.
Wash more dishes.
Seal more jars.
Label more jars.
Drink one more bloody ceasar.
Revel in the fact that you canned 4.5 bushels of stewed tomatoes and salsa.
Go home, exhausted but quite full of tomatoes and vodka.

I still smell like garlic.  Completely worth it.


Child Care Providers are Angels

Daycare is closed this week.  After all, child care providers deserve a vacation.  Actually, especially child care providers deserve a vacation.  After the morning I've had, I don't know how ours does it. 

Our three year old nephew, Owen, and Murray both go to the same daycare.  Their birthdays are five days apart and they're best friends (most of the time).  Since I don't have class on Thursdays, it only made sense that I watch both boys.  Two are easier than one - they entertain each other.  Or so I thought.

So far today, we've eaten eggs and pancakes, gone on a long bike ride, painted masterpieces, played with colored bubbles (I don't recommend this), spent time in the sandbox, set up the castle complete with balls, had a snack, sung the clean up song five times, and each boy has had a bout of tears - oh wait, Murray just started up again (Owen was trying to get out of the castle and accidentally kicked him in the face).  I've told them to share at least 52 times and constructed train tracks that rival Burlington Northern.

It's only 10:30, and already both boys are already battered.  Owen has a bruise on his cheek because Murray whacked him with a hockey stick.  Murray has a goose egg on his head because he tripped in the bathroom and somehow bonked his head on the step stool.  I've called our pediatrician twice and I'm living in fear that I'll have to call again - or worse, call the ambulance. 

At least they haven't peed in public like they did on Monday when my father-in-law had them.

Is it too early to put them down for a nap and pour a glass of chardonnay?

Hats off to child care providers everywhere.  You are angels waiting for wings.


2 Kool 4 Skool

Note:  I've edited this about thirty times, so please, keep in mind that if you find any grammatical or spelling mistakes, well, it is what it is -nothing new.  I should put this disclaimer on every post.  :)

You're probably tired of reading about my back-to-school ventures, but since today was the first day of class, I couldn't resist just one more post on the subject (at least for a while).

I have been so excited for this new chapter in my life. 

Until yesterday.

I was quietly reading the Sunday paper, when out of the blue, cold fear washed over me.  I ended up in a doozie of a panic, moaning,  "What am I thinking?"  Since my Mom isn't around for me to whine at, I did the next best thing; I called my Grandma. 

As soon as I heard her voice, I promptly burst into tears.  I gave her my best "oh-poor me-I'll never get this-how will I manage-my family will suffer-I will be the biggest, oldest dork in class-and I'll fail miserably" speech.  She gently but firmly reminded me that I'm already a step ahead of the college game and pointed out the advantages that I have over so many others.  "One day at a time", she advised.  "When you've kayaked too far and think you can't make it back home, just remember, one paddle at a time.  You'll get there." "Savor each day and when you have bad days (and you will), focus on the end result and what you want out of this".  Such sound advice - I wish I could bottle it. 

After my talk with Grandma, I felt much better.  But then, those ominous hours of dark rolled around, and I found myself sleepless; so much so that I was awake most of the night imagining worst-case scenarios while I attempted to persuade my brain to take a break and rest.

I wrestled with sleep all night.  Craig didn't have to wake me up this morning because I was already on the couch, scaring myself silly.  When he came out of the bedroom, bleary-eyed, at 6:30 a.m. and said, "It's time to get ready for school.", I wanted to reply, " No s***, Sherlock,  I've been been up all night scared out of my mind." But that wouldn't have been nice, so I bit my tongue and wearily headed for the shower.

By the time we were ready to leave the house, I thought I was going to throw up. I was shaking and my legs felt like rubber.  I was early for my 8:30 a.m. class, so I sat in Craig's office trembling, attempting to drink coffee without spilling it.  I reminded myself how ridiculous it was to be so scared, but sometimes anxiety isn't a reasonable force to reckon with.  Craig must have noticed the fear on my face, because he offered to walk me to class (I know, how sweet is that?).  On the way over, he reassured me that I would be just fine and that he would help me in as many ways that he could.  The guy has big shoulders (I have an amazing support system).  Good thing he has a degree in math and is brilliant (although, him tutoring me has the potential to cause serious marriage trouble).  As I write this, he's reading my math book with more enthusiasm than a raccoon raiding a cooler.   

I arrived at my first class and waited in the hallway because there were already students in the classroom. A lady at the front of the room was talking to students that were seated, so I assumed that the class prior to mine wasn't finished.  I soon discovered that she, too, was an O.T.A. (older than average) and just as scared as I.  I think I'll make her my new best friend.

The rest of the day went fairly smoothly, despite that I had a math (sigh) quiz on the first day.  It should have gone something like this:
a:  Marie is not the oldest person in her math class.
b:  Marie is definitely the oldest person in her other three classes.
c:  Who cares?
d:  Marie needs to buy stock in erasers.
d:  None of the above.
e:  All of the above.

Answer:  E
Write this down - there will be a test. 
P.S.  Murray has been saying things like, "when I get 31, can I come to your college?"  And, "Mom, I'm off to school to do my homework!" (while running around with my backpack)  I hope this is an encouraging sign for the future.

Sick Day

Murray is sick.  I hate it when he's sick.

He developed a fever late yesterday afternoon, and complained of a sore throat and a headache.  As soon as I heard, I rushed to the local pharmacy and purchased every little thing I could think of to make him feel better.  Acetaminophen, orange juice, chicken noodle soup, a new thermometer, etc. 

After he spit out half of the dose of medicine I gave him, I put a cold washcloth on his head and put him on DH's lap.  I had him sip soup from a mug, encouraged fluids, and gave him a tepid bath.  Just call us the Spock's. 

At 7:30 p.m. or so, he suddenly perked up and decided it was time to run around the house.  Craig and I attempted to settle him down, but soon gave up when he showed no signs of feeling ill - it had to be the acetaminophen.

Murray slept with me, so Craig got the boot to the couch (he insisted he would sleep better, I didn't make him, I swear).  Other mommies know that when your child is ill, even if he/she is sleeping soundly, you wake up every fifteen minutes or so to check foreheads for fever and signs of respiratory complications.  I am one of them.  I'm exhausted.

This morning when Murman woke up, he demanded breakfast and PBS Kids, just like any other morning.  I felt some relief, thinking that I was a genius mom/nurse.  Not so much.

He's not complaining of aches and pains anymore, but he's been extremely lethargic and doesn't have have an appetite (he only ate 2 french toasts sticks at breakfast instead of the normal four).  This, from a kid who acts like the Energizer Bunny, eats 8 meals a day, and asks for a snack five minutes after he's put his dinner plate in the sink. 

So, Murman and I spent the day taking it easy.  I've watched 'Toy Story 3' twice, 'How to Train Your Dragon' once, and more PBS Kids then I can handle.  I missed my trashy daytime t.v. and ignored the laundry.  We snuggled on the couch and ate chicken noodle soup and drank copious amounts of ice water and orange juice.

Sick days aren't so bad after all.


Older Than Average

Note:  Edited version.

I hate to say it, but autumn is upon us, which inevitably brings a new school year. One more week until classes begin for fall semester. It looks to be a long three years, but I think I'm finally ready to do the college thing - and do it well. (am I finally growing up?)

The start of school has always made me feel that I have a chance to begin again; a fresh start. It's a wonderful feeling, but it's also a bit intimidating.

Take, for instance, a kindergarten kid walking into class for the first time, or teenagers joining the ranks of junior high or high school. I remember it well -it's kinda scary to be the new kid.

At the age of 30-something, I'm going to be the new "kid" again. I'm diving back into the collegiate life as an older than average student. Now I'm the one who will have the awkward moments and feel unsure of myself. I will be out of fashion and I'll be the nerd who sits in the front row and writes down every word the professor says. I'll roll my eyes at what I think about my 19-year-old classmates ("like, did you go to the kegger at Alpha Omega Delta last night? Like, it was SO lame and can you believe, like, she wore that? Gross.) when really, I'm just a tiny bit envious.

Likely I'll be forced to do a group project with said young adults and they'll teach me some important life lessons. After all, I could use some education.

Wish me luck.


Daddy's Hands

I love it when my Dad visits, which he did last weekend.  He's a big kid at heart but also an awesome father to my sister and I and grandfather to Murray.

Murray thinks the world of him - we all do, but in Murray's eyes he is nothing short of a hero.  The feeling is mutual.  Grandpa Doug took part in water fights (the rest of us watched), pretended to be a jungle gym, took Murray on long walks, played endless games of hide and seek, and woke up every morning to cuddle and watch PBS. The two of them read books and sang songs and played Memory.  He set up a tent and told the ghost story of the "Blue Bear" and practiced casting with a new fishing pole.
The special relationship that the two of them share brings a flood of my own memories.  My Dad and my sister and I have always enjoyed a special bond, (although we were equally close to our Mom.  We have great parents.)  Dad held my hand when I was in pain, counseled me through fights with my friends, scolded me when I was late for curfew, cried when I went to prom, took me hunting and fishing, and put together my bunk beds when I moved into the dorm.  He was there when my Mom was sick and died, helped me through countless heartbreaks, walked me down the aisle, and welcomed Craig to our family.  When Murray was born, he was so excited he could hardly speak.

The best thing?  He still does all of those things for his adult children.  When I'm sad, he lets me cry.  When I'm mad, he lets me rage.  He believes in me and gives me (too much) credit.  He gently lets me know if I'm wrong.  He adores my sister and I, and wants to help us when we're in need.  He has the hands of a worker and the heart of a child; never questioning, always loving.

No family is perfect and ours certainly isn't. We all have our ups and downs and battles to face.  But at least we have each other.  Thanks, Dad.