Thursday, September 30, 2010

Uninvited, or Eeeeewwwwww

curled up nice and tight
While baking in the kitchen on Tuesday, I was casually chatting with Shelby, who was sitting at the dining room table. Abigail was nearby, happily coloring away. Quite suddenly, Shelby stood up from her chair and rushed over to the back sliding glass door, simultaneously calling for Abigail and I to "Come quickly!" When what to our wondering eyes should appear but a little, white mouse casually sniffing away on our back deck. The girls were enchanted. I was grossed out. Of course, the rest of the kiddos were called and pretty soon all the children were clustered around the door watching this little invader roam all over our property as if he was planning on moving in. Not good.

nibble nibble like a mouse
get that thing out of my house
You see, I am a fairly relaxed mom. I don't tend to be overly girlie. (I do try to be feminine, which is completely different.) I can wrestle with the boys, bait a fish hook with the best of them, take my daughter's Manatawny Sushi Award (AKA The Eating a Wriggling, Raw Worm Award) in stride, and pretty much accept the fact that raising five boys means that I am exposed to some pretty disgusting jokes. (Seriously - what is it about farting on someone else that is so funny?) I am even on the spider-removal team, which Scott refuses to be a part of.


Rodents of all types are a completely different story. I hate them. Nay, I despise them!!! Two years ago, a vole managed to find it's way into our home. I was literally on top of the dining room table and refused to come down until my husband and my mother managed to get it out of my house. I really can't explain what happened. One moment I was standing on the ground like every other gravity-influenced human and the next I found myself on top of the table, unable to get off. I don't even remember getting myself up there.  I thought it and it happened. Instant catapult.

systematically testing for weaknesses
just like a raptor from "Jurassic Park"
I wasn't thrilled with the idea of this guy moving into our yard area and found myself hoping a snake was nearby to polish the little sucker off, and if there wasn't, what steps I might be able to take to lure one over. He meandered away from the door, I went back to baking, and eventually it was just Shelby and Abigail watching out the back door. I should have know something was fishy when I looked over and saw only Abigail still staring out the back door. Abigail never stands still for so long by herself. But I was too wrapped up in my fantasies of instant mouse death to really give it much thought. And then Shelby came through the door with a Cheshire Cat grin if ever I saw one. In her hand was a large, glass jar. In the jar was it. The inevitable occurred.

"Mom, can we keep it?"


"But mom, he's so cute!"


"I'll take care of him."


"I'll wash his cage and clean him and buy the food and supplies myself."


"Come here, little Elias, so I can nibble your fingers off."
Sensing the entrenched nature of my position, reinforcements were called quickly to the scene. All their arguments, wheedling, cajoling, pleading, promises, assurances, and basic begging fell on deaf ears.


"Well, can we at least wait for dad to see him? You know, feed it some cheese and just let him be here for a little while?"

Now, here was a thought. I was busy baking bread and pizza crusts, but once Scott arrived home from his errand, he could actually transport the little vermin to a good cemetery or a nice open field where he would be visible to hawks for miles around. Then I could be assured that the squatter hadn't taken up residence in our yard and our lives could go on as God intended.


"Okay. Then I'm going to crack the lid so he can get some air."

"WHAT??!!" Again -- I don't know what happened. All I could think was cracked lid = potential escape. Inside the house. With me.  The panic I felt was completely real.

"No worries, mom. I"ll watch him to make sure you're safe." Pathetic, eh?

Scott did manage to take him far, far away but I really didn't begin to relax on the inside until after they returned from their trip and Scott said he literally went over the river and through the woods by Big Red Bus in order to protect my sanity. To his credit, he never once teased me about about the mouse. Perhaps, just perhaps, I shouldn't tease him about the spider-creeps he has.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Short lived

Scott has this amazing grilling bible by Weber's. We found it years ago while browsing through Barnes & Noble and truly, the introduction had us doubled over laughing. We figured any book which combined meat, fire, and laughter had to be in our home. The recipes inside are remarkably easy and oh-so-delicious. This cookbook is to the grill what Julia Child is to French cooking. Simply perfection.

Our first grill was a miniscule hibachi we kept in the apartment next to the water heater when not in use. Of course, as the family size began to expand, that little grilling surface was a bit of an underachiever. Our next grill was a modest Weber charcoal picked up on the side of the road during big trash day. Our grill du jour on this bad boy was hot dogs and more hot dogs. We loved the fact that it was completely affordable and within our budget -- it is hard to argue with "free" after all --  but that was really the only quality our Weber had going for it.

Then we stumbled upon the grilling bible. It's ironic that a book on grilling by Weber is what pushed our Weber to the side of the road with a big "FREE" sign taped to it. We upgraded to a three-burner Kenmore from Sears purchased for Father's Day the year after we moved into the townhouse. Scott insisted on three burners because it would allow for indirect cooking. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I figured he was the grill guy, so who was I to argue?

The food this man concocted on that Kenmore was amazing! He would chose a recipe or two out of his Weber's Big Book of Grilling, I would do some shopping, and then the kids and I would sit back and wait for the magic. Marinated salmon, garlic shrimp, corn on the cob, whole chickens, steaks rubbed & then cooked to crusty perfection. And the hamburgers -- famous. We were so far beyond hotdogs that it took children begging for a weenie on a bun for us to throw a package of the great American summer time food on the cast-iron grate. We went through three propane tanks a summer, but was it ever worth it!

When you use something this hard and then store it outside in the elements, it seems inevitable that it will officially die. But we were stunned. How could our grill have deserted us? We had just had the twins, so the idea of handing over money for a new grill was not really palatable. But the grilling gods saw fit to bless our fiscal responsibility and we stumbled upon a reconditioned grill while on our way to the library one morning. Completely restored by a retired gentleman who tinkered for fun and sold his repaired projects in the front yard, a four burner Charbroil grill reasonably priced at $50 was absolutely was this family of (then) 8 needed.

At the beginning of this summer, our Charbroil decided it, too, was joining the Kenmore in the great grill heaven reserved only for those grills which have been truly adored and generously used. And now, as a family of 10 with commitments on time and money, we decided we would not purchase another grill indefinitely. It was not a decision made because we enjoyed grilling any less; rather, it seemed the pragmatic thing to do. And so we went through most of our summer smelling other family's amazing grilling-meat-smells while we continued to use the crock pot, stove, and oven.

As August was drawing to a close, we made a decision based on the 30% off end-of-season sale at Target: it was time to replace our grill. In our quest for healthier living, we finally decided on a charcoal grill because we had read something about it being healthier than propane. And it appealed to Scott's southern roots, this idea of cooking over molten hot bricks of fire. So we bought a Barrel Grill & Smoker and dove head first into the world of charcoal cooking. We congratulated ourselves on our shopping savvy because we loaded down on the grill and clearanced grill accessories for just under the price of one of those gas grills plus we were going to be providing our family with healthy grilled meals.  I dashed into Giant and bought an organic chicken and nitrate/nitrite free hotdogs before we headed home to assemble the grill and cook us some weenies.

Ahh, if only it were as easy as we always think it will be.

Scott and Dawson assembled the grill in an agonizing two hours. The grill had some signs of having been dropped and it definitely didn't look like it lined up to me, but we weren't sure it would really matter. I mean, we are talking about heaps of burning coal here! I figured the heat generated might melt some metal. For the record - it sooooo matters that your Barrel Grill & Smoker line up. Nothing we have cooked on this grill has been cooked easily, and most would not win any awards in the taste category, either. The weenies roasted that first night weren't the sizzling hot, perfectly grill scored hotdogs we have some to expect from Scott. That right there should have been a clue - hotdogs only okay? How exactly do you cook a hotdog badly? The chicken had raw legs. Ew. And hard, smoky potatoes did not seem appealing to me in any way whatsoever.  The temperature guage didn't work, so I would go outside and see how long I could hold my arm in the heat 1850s-style to determine the temperatures. Seriously.

I missed Scott's uber-confident "I can grill anything" attitude. Now he was a fusser, "Do you think we put in enough bricks? I counted out exactly what they recommend in the book. Huh - I think I should add more bricks. What do you think? Perhaps I should raise the rack a little. Or maybe lower it. What do you think?"

We did try contacting the company about our temperature gauge and misaligned barrel using their "Wait! Please don't return this item to the store! We can help you!" contacts. Emails got returned and phone calls were not returned. Great. Target, being Target, said they will take it back so we figured we would go look at other charcoal grills at Home Depot or Lowes sometime this next weekend.

Today, I was at Target with Tucker picking up some essentials - tissues, toothbrushes, doggie-poo bags. Tuck asked if we could check out the grill section again, so we meandered over. And there I saw it. The Stainless Steel Brinkman Scott had been drooling over. Four burner with an extra side burner, perfect for Pennsylvania sweet corn. Cast iron, porcelain dipped grill racks. 652 square inches of grilling space plus warming rack. 75% off. That was enough for me. Within minutes I had this grill-for-a-king on a flat bed being wheeled to the checkout counter.

Scott glimpsed it in the box on his way out the door for a double shift at the hospital this afternoon. His initial response had me second guessing my decision just a little. "If you didn't like my charcoal grilling, you could have just said so." Truly - I blamed the grill, not the charcoal. But I am ready for my grill master to return. I'm so over the pansy-"What do you think?"-grilling nonsense. There was some of the expected "You saved me money by spending money" ribbing that I get during every end-of-season Target sale, and then he was dashing out the door. Minutes after he got to work, Scott sent a text saying that he is actually excited about the grill and that the one thing he missed the most about propane was just going outside and turning it on. Preach it, brother.

So our experiment with charcoal grilling was short-lived. For those of you who love it, we tip our ball-caps to you & your patience with those dratted little bricks. As for us, we are big fans of push button ignition and non-renewable propane.

Let the grilling commence.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

tick, tick, tick

So I am sitting here at 10:08 pm precisely and trying to figure out what I should write about. It has been a busy day followed by a busy month. And I really don't know why. What exactly has made our late August into September so ridiculously busy? And don't try to tell me it's the whole having eight kids thing. We've had eight kids for over a year now and I don't remember being this busy.

I think, just maybe, our slow-down button is broken. I'm sure it can happen. Just today, the brand new metronome I ordered off Amazon (to replace the original metronome I ordered off Amazon which arrived broken) was broken by Shelby. It wasn't the slow-down button, rather it was the button that decides to turn off the insanely regular tick-tick-tick-tick. Now, we are turning off our brand new, used for the first time today metronome using a toothpick. I think that perhaps we can squeak about two weeks of this method before a toothpick tip will be jammed into the opening, leaving the metronome in the on position permanently. And I say the on position because we would not be the family where it gets stuck in the off position. That wouldn't be nearly unique enough.

But maybe, having this insanely regular ticking would be a good thing. We could use it as a contest to see who can pick up ALL the Legos using the fewest ticks. And while we are discussing Legos, I am already regretting buying the large, Rubbermaid tubs which made it easier for the boys to access their "little Legos." Those things have been everywhere today. (We have several sizes of Legos. Little are the traditional size that everyone pictures when they think of a Lego. Then we have the Duplos, which are great Legos since a baby can't die on them. We are big fans around here of non-death toys. So we go one step further and have some monster-sized Legos that can actually build walls. And there are even the baby Legos, which have nice, rounded edges so that toothless gums can have a field day. Who knew those Swedes were so brilliant in the Lego department?)

Or the ticks could be incentive to complete each math problem within certain parameters. Five ticks for a basic addition problem. Twenty for an algebraic equation.  Then you could slow the goals down for handwriting - the more ticks you use, the better, since you are supposed to be writing slowly and carefully, concentrating on your letter formation. And thinking about letter formation makes me wonder why two of my children, who have been taking penmanship lessons since they could gasp a crayon, have writing a chicken would disown. How is that possible?

I could use the ticks as my audible "time is passing" notice on those days when I wake up so tired I'm convinced that time is standing still to mock my weariness. A reminder I can hear might help my sanity on those days. Of course, so would a warm bath and a nice, long nap but I don't exactly see that happening any time soon.

OR - I could just take out the battery. But then that creates the whole conundrum of "Mom -  I can't find the battery! I know I put it back into the basket with the metronome, but it's not here!" Why is it that every single child of mine insists that they know something, even when the evidence of their lack-of-knowledge may be staring them in the face? Case-in-point: the other day Shelby came to me panicked that her camera may be broken because she had changed the batteries and yet the camera still wouldn't turn on. I opened the battery door, reinstalled the batteries the correct way, and the camera turned on. Shelby's answer: "I know I put the batteries in the right way." Sure you did. I just magically switched the positive and negatives before opening the camera door because my secret goal in life is to prove you wrong. OR - you made a very simple mistake that dozens of people make daily. Which is more likely? "Mom, I know I put the batteries in right!"

Of course, I could accept defeat and simply order a third metronome from Amazon. The good parent thing would be to order a new metronome and if this third one is broken, then the offending child must pay for the replacement. I must confess I'm not always willing to be a good parent. Sometimes I just want to say, "No worries, accidents happen" and buy another metronome indefinitely. Now is this because grace and mercy would say "No worries" or because secretly I really, really want the kids to like me, and taking their money for a musical tool is not exactly endearing?

Oh, forget it. I can't figure out what to write about. I'm going to bed.