Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Master Chefs, Goettsch Junior

We are home from our long road trip (seventeen days, eleven states, very fantastic) and I will do lots of blog catchup about that soon, but in the meantime, there is a cooking competition to tell about.

On the last leg of the last day of driving, we rented that American Girl movie about Grace who goes to France to be in a cooking show to earn some prize money to save her French grandparents' French bakery (or something?) (I don't know y'all, I was in the front seat and only halfway listening) and somehow because of that story, the kids have been very into Master Chef Junior now that we are home.

Which means they have been begging for days to have a cooking competition here in our house.

And apparently all those days of family togetherness made me nuts, because I said yes.

So they made their lists and we went to the store and we picked out groceries - they needed things like ice cream and berries and various candies and syrups and cookie crumblies. YES COOKIE CRUMBLIES. The secret ingredient, duh.

So we made the most ridiculous grocery run of all time, I put All The Things on the counter, set a timer, and let them go at it.

(It was super cute actually. Nathan even made a big show of being RULL BUSY/IMPORTANT in the final seconds -- which he insisted I count down for them -- and then throwing his hands in the air when he was done.) ("Done.") (It's not like any of these actually reached any stage of completion, per se, they just... stopped adding more crap in when I told them to stop. Nuanced chefs, they are not.)

Anyway, I'm the sole judge and juror here, so somebody kick off my drumroll and I will present to you the results of GOETTSCH MASTER CHEF JUNIOR, FIRST ROUND (also last round, because yeah):

Entry 1: Blue Ants on Moss, by Anneliese.

(Just going into it, I hated the name and the look of this. Food should never be this color. Food also should not have bugs in the name. I MEAN.) Okay so this was like 90% sprinkles/candy/coconut, and only one tiny spoon of ice cream (and food coloring) to bind it together. (Mmmm crunchy.) This is fit only for Buddy the Elf. Even he might not be that into it. She was terribly proud though. Mostly an F, but an A+ for the smile that she presented it with.

Entry 2: Pinkalicious, by Charlotte.

This is ice cream with softened cookie pieces, lots of strawberries and blueberries, some coconut, a splash of milk, and more food coloring than I want to think about. She, too, gets an F for plating, but at least it had a pretty color. Also it had an excellent name and was surprisingly delicious. (I voluntarily took a second bite, so.)

Entry 3: Kids Playing In Snow, by Nathan.

Okay first: that name, I don't even know. (Is that a 'rhea diaper under the snow? I think it is.) This is chocolate ice cream with insane food coloring decisions, layers of fruit and coconut, melted chocolate chips that got hard again (legit mmmm), and m&m's. I would have eaten the whole bowl of this if it didn't look so gross. I mean, layers! Fruit! Chocolate! WINNER!

So then they ate their desserts (none of them stomached more than a third of what they created) and were very kind and praised each other's work. Adorable.

Oh and they each also made a beverage for me to taste with their entries. Mostly it was milk tinted odd colors, so I just closed my eyes and said mmmmm.

Motherhood is exactly like I pictured it'd be.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Happy Birthday, Charlotte!

Charlotte is four today! We are on the road and away from home and I am full of feelings and I can't believe our baby is four because that means I have to stop calling them all babies, right? And there is of course a birthday video.

(If you can't see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube.)

Also, if you're so inclined:
her first year
her second year
and her third year.

Happy birthday to our sweet Charlotte Booler. We love you so much, you funny chatty delightful girl. Be our baby forever, okay? Okay.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Charlotte Booler, Almost Four

Charlotte, despite being born only a few weeks ago and clearly still being a baby, is about to turn four next weekend. Four years ago today I was sitting around very pregnant thinking "any minute now" -- haaaaaa no I wasn't, I knew she would be late, we hadn't even gotten the kids handed off to grandparents by her due date. Anyway. Four years later and this post is going up as we are somewhere on the road between North Carolina and the great midwest (funny, exactly like this day last year), on a long family road trip. One of the games (conversations, really) that Charlotte loves best these days in the car is having us "guess" all the facts about Boolers. What they like to eat and wear and do. She delights in this game. So, let's learn all about what a Booler does.

A Booler loves to giggle and shriek.
A Booler loves her brother and sister.
Boolers always use the potty.
Boolers are delicate flowers who are somewhat accident-prone.
(Boolers bruise easily.)
A Booler loves to dance, always, but especially with no clothes on.
A Booler loves to do dress-ups.
Boolers can buckle their own seat belts!
(But not unbuckle them.)
A Booler cannot walk past a mirror without admiring herself.
Boolers love pigtails, but also bows, but these days mostly pigtails.
A Booler does not like to wear her shoes on the correct feet, ever.
Boolers fall asleep in car seats, almost immediately.
A Booler's favorite foods are yogurt and french fries.
Boolers are social and love other people and might be budding extroverts.
A Booler loves to go to bed with her good-night song.
A Booler's biggest fear is being left behind: "don't leave meeeee!"
Boolers have imaginary friends, sometimes named Apple.
Boolers talk with their hands, emphatically.
A Booler loves to suck her thumb and snuggle Sheepie.
A Booler loves Daniel Tiger and toysies and her trolley hoodie.
Boolers have hair the color of the beach.
But Boolers do not have any curls.
Boolers can swim by themselves but only with a floatie.
Boolers are good at puzzles.
Boolers are good at scooters.
Boolers are really good at coloring.
A Booler promises her family she will always be a Booler.
A Booler makes her family complete.
A Booler is delightful.

Happy due date, Charlotte Booler. You are an amazing little girl.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ice Cream Layer Cake

Okay so, y'all totally flatter me. I got questions on fb and instagram about Nathan's birthday cake, which, haaaaa, when y'all see that it's basically a glorified box mix that just got stacked with some other stuff during several trips to the freezer, you will be less impressed. 

But here it is anyway, behold the ice cream cake info:

1.) Make the cakes. I made three 9-inch cake layers. I just used the sour cream white cake recipe I always do, which starts with a box mix. He requested blue, so we made it blue. And then I cut off the tops to flatten them, and frozen them in freezer bags for several hours. (Confession: I burned the sh!t out of the first three layers while I was making his birthday video and not paying attention, so I had to do them over the next day. Don't do that.)

2.) Layer with ice cream. I softened some ice cream (half an hour, til you can almost stir it) and layered it with the cakes in an 8-inch springform pan. (The internet told me to do a deep springform one inch smaller than the cake pans, since they shrink a bit when cooking, and you want a tight fit for the springform mold. Do that.) (The internet also told me to put a sheet of parchment paper down in the bottom of the pan before stacking the cakes in, to make it easier to move to a plate later. Do that too.) 
The top layer of cake stacked sort of on top of the pan, which was fine. Then I wrapped it all up in saran wrap and froze it for another few hours. I don't have a picture of what that looked like (I only took these pics for soliciting text praise, not recipe posting) ("recipe" hahahaha *wipes tear*) so just use your imagination: top cake layer sticking out on top, it's fine.

3.) Whipped cream frosting. The internet told me (are you sensing a theme here?) to use just whipped cream as frosting that buttercream doesn't taste good with ice cream cake, since it's much sweeter and it's jarring. Also, butter doesn't stick to frozen ice cream very well, because duh. 

So I made some whipped cream and sweetened it a bit (a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar) and added some vanilla, and it worked great. I frosted it and stuck it back in the freezer.

4.) Ganache. In one of the ice cream cake videos we watched, Nathan saw one that was finished with a ganache, and he wanted that. But the video was very unhelpful ("and then, frost and top however you like, and serve chilled!") and so I did a LOT of brainstorming on ganache. I needed it thin enough to pour over the top (yet thick enough not to totally run off), yet not so warm that it would make the whipped cream fall apart. And not so sweet that it would taste jarring, like I had been warned about the buttercream. 

So! I used bittersweet chocolate, chopped it up super finely so it would melt fast without the cream needing to get too hot, and then I used two parts cream to one part chocolate. And I stirred it while it cooled forever and ever (seriously like an hour) before I poured it over the top. It worked great! Not too sweet, just the right thickness, I give myself an A+.

5.) Sprinkle and serve. I put sprinkles on and put it back in the freezer til it was time to eat. We only thawed it about five minutes before we tried to put candles in, and that wasn't enough. It needs 10-15 minutes at least, to be soft enough to cut and serve.

Nathan loved it; it's exactly what he wanted, so it's a win for that alone.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mean Mommy, Blah

I'm having one of those bad mom mornings where the kids are up too early and I haven't slept more than a few hours a night in five nights, and the bickering is too much, and when someone cries because they need me, it makes me feel angry instead of compassionate.

One of those mornings where parenting looks ugly on me.

I'm so tired.

And nothing about this season is particularly tiring (aside from bad sleep, everything (except the bickering) has been fine all summer, and fine this weekend in particular. AND YET. Mean mommy is out, in full force. I am so irritated and so done. I was done by 7:30 this morning, to be honest.

By the time I had chased each child to their room (where they stayed) (unheard of) and closed my own door to listen to a podcast for an hour, and then delivered Nathan to his day camp (the drive was in total silence, there and back, the kids didn't even ask for anything from the drive through when I stopped for a sweet tea) (!) I realized... I have fully scared them into submission today.

Charlotte dug something out of her hamper so she could wear my favorite color. 
Nathan packed all the healthiest things into his lunch box for camp and didn't even ask for a brownie (I would have said yes, for the record). 
Anneliese has been holding Hattie close and walking around quiet as a church mouse.

Y'all, that doesn't feel good. It sucks. I know it's okay to have mornings where we are hurt and frustrated at each other, but damn, compliance earned by fear of my anger just feels hard and gross. It's not the first time it's happened, but it's still a gut check every time.

There's no conclusion or happy ending takeaway here, other than maybe to name and own that it's not always sunshine and roses and making the best of the chaos. Some people are good at that, or at least good at telling people that, but I'm not always.

I'm crabby at them and mad at myself and BLAH. Some days are just hard.

Unrelated to anything, other than BLAH in general: Nathan banged his head really hard on a door frame last night and it was a pretty giant goose egg pretty quickly. He's fine this morning (the most fine of everyone here actually) but it sure looks painful, doesn't it?

Send us all some virtual forehead kisses today? We need them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Holding Pillows

Okay so amongst a handful of other more... typical eight-year-old presents, like lego sets and minecraft shirts and and a toy robot kit and space stickers for his ceiling, he also got a long-awaited... holding pillow.

This is a thing I didn't even know was a thing until the past few years.

They're just those slinky squishy pillows you see in various places, apparently Brookstone has the best ones - fom pillows, they call them - but they're all over. Anyway Another Nathan has had one for years, calls it a holding pillow, doesn't like to sleep without it (whoops I just told the internet about that) (seriously though he even travels with it). So when he moved, and needed to fly back with limited suitcase space, he asked if he could have a holding pillow here, in the guest house, so he didn't have to pack one when he visits. WELL OF COURSE. Easiest thing ever, to make our favorite guest comfy.

Anyway, long story short, we got one, it's kind of cool, and now everybody in my house wants a piece of that thing. I used it in the guest house to prop my book arm up when I would go over there to read. Then it made its way to my bed for leaning purposes, or head propping while watching TV. Then the kids started fighting over who got to hug it and sleep with it. 

Y'ALL. I mean it's fun and soft and I like it too, but... it's just a pillow. Not even a pillow. A pillow-thing.

So in April, one of Anneliese's friend's big sisters gave her this one as a hand-me-down. She was thinking Anneliese would like it just because it's a silly rainbow thing but she had no idea the pure joy of her having her very own holding pillow. (!!!) (?)

Can I say it again? It's just a pillow. JUST A PILLOW. It costs $15. We can own as many of these as we want!

So when Nathan wanted his own too (SHOCKING), which he has "casually" mentioned for months now, I took Anneliese to the mall to pick one out for him. She chose a bright blue one, and I swear it was the happiest thing he opened on his birthday.

And thus ends today's episdoe of You Can Never Predict The Random Things Kids Will Go Nuts For.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pool Party!

We had a sweet little pool party for Nathan on Sunday afternoon for his birthday. He had no specific theme requests this year, so the theme was, come over and swim at our house and have cake. EASY AND FUN.

I made favor bags with treats like candy and sunglasses and goggles and some mincraft toys and origami-type folding crafts. These bags were nothing fun or fancy like the lego or dinosaur or rainbow ones but I lined them up on the mantle like always, because THAT IS A THING I DO OKAY.

I got some color-your-own beach balls for the kids* to color as everyone was getting here. (*For me. Okay? Fine. I wanted to color a beach ball. The kids liked it too so hush.)

I ordered a variety of inflatable things to "decorate"(/play with) in the pool, including a bunch of adorable beach balls and a dolphin ring toss. And a cruise ship 
because obviously.

Charlotte hoarded them mostly to herself. (Which makes sense because in my Big Book of Facts About Boolers, on page 16 it says that boolers love balls. So.)

But the kids all played together in the pool for a while, I checked out the sexy lifeguard with a few up-downs, and all was well.

And then Nathan opened presents and we had an ice cream cake, which is what he requested, which I had never made before in my life, which I wasn't ready to outsource to baskin robbins, so we watched some videos and we tried it. (Post about that later.)  It came out great! 

(Yes, that is corn growing back there behind his head, by the pool deck. Also a post for later. To be filed under: OH MARKY.)

Speaking of Oh Marky, a day after the party there are still balloons stuck in our tree out front, and Mark keeps doing THIS to get them down, and we keep joking that this is the only use a southerner has for hockey sticks. It makes me laugh. 

(If you cant see the embedded video, click here to watch on YouTube.)

No, I don't know why we own a hockey stick in the first place. Someone asked me and... I honestly don't know. I have no good answer. I don't even have a bad answer. KEINE AHNUNG.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nathan is Eight! Happy Birthday!

I can't believe it's true, but baby Nathan is officially eight today! When I look at his newborn pictures (as I do every year on his birthday, don't we all do that?) it is harder and harder for me to reconcile that tiny little boy with the puckered mouth and half-closed eyelids and mess of dark hair, with the blonde serious bright boy in our house today.

Where in the world have these years gone?

As always, here is a birthday video of Nathan over the last year:

(If you can't see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.)

And, as always, the links for all the previous ones. Oh, my memories. My little one, who made me a mommy.

Nathan's first year
Second year
Third year
Fourth year
Fifth year
Sixth year
Seventh year

Hey sweet buddy, as much as we loved you that first July 26th, we love you even more every birthday and every day and every year that has passed since then. Happy birthday, dear Nathan.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Neon Storm Trooper

Okay so I don't think I ever blogged about this, but I fell in the shower several months ago, the first weekend in May, and I bruised my ribs pretty badly and they hurt for weeks. I couldn't carry Ali well, I couldn't get dressed easily, I couldn't steer the car without pain, I couldn't even take a crap like normal. My whole torso hurt.

Anyway I texted with my mom and she helped me know what to do and how long it would last, and it eventually went away and felt totally better, but I had also landed hard on my wrist in that fall, which at the time hurt, but not nearly as bad as the ribs, so I didn't think much about it. But in the months that followed, as my ribs got better, my wrist kept not getting better, and it wasn't until I did a whole week at Montreat and had outside eyes asking me things like why I couldn't open jars or doorknobs or hold my hair dryer right, etc etc etc, that I realized how much it was still... off.

So, I went to the orthopedist and heeeeey I fractured it! In two places! And then compensated for that pain with all the wrong types of wrist movements, and thus have inflamed cartilage and tendons and that's what's cause my pain now and ANYWAY I am in a cast for five weeks. Plus some undetermined more weeks of splinting and therapy and I don't even know, I'm tired and frustrated and over it already.

I will say this: cast technology has come a long way since my last broken arm in the 90s. This one is in two pieces, and they still mold it around your arm with hot water, but instead of plaster strips it's sheets of pliable plastic. (They still do plaster casts too, but he asked if we were a Water People and I almost fell out of my chair laughing. YES PLEASE I NEED WATERPROOF.) Anneliese was with me and she talked me into the neon yellow velcro instead of just white or black, which is what I was leaning towards.

I'm kind of glad she did, because with the black I would have really looked like a storm trooper. But with the bright yellow, I'm like a cool 80s neon storm trooper.

Just kidding, I am putting a positive spin on it but actually I hate it. If I had typed this post on Tuesday when it went on, it would have just been cuss words. I'm better now, but still hate it, so here is a list of things (so far) that suck with one arm in a cast/splint/storm trooper outfit:

1.) driving while drinking anything
2.) driving while talking on the phone
3.) tampons
4.) holding a phone in general
5.) bras
6.) buttoning pants
7.) face washing
8.) sex
9.) carrying a purse (while also holding kiddie hands)
10.) pit shaving
11.) pushing a grocery cart
12.) typing this blog post

Stay tuned, there will be more.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Montreat 2015

I heard someone say last week that one of the great things about Montreat is that every year youth conference is different, a brand new experience; yet somehow it also feels just the same as always, so familiar, and known. It's the most true sentence I've heard in a while.

This year was just lovely for me up there. It's the third year in a row I have gone, so that familiar thing is totally real for me now. Just driving into the gate and climbing up the million steps to the top floor of the inn, or hiking down the path by the lake to go to church or my small group, it all makes me feel warm and homey and happy.

This was Anneliese's first year to go be a clubbie, and she did just great. It amazes me how quickly she makes friends and finds delight in new people. She loved her club kids and her counselors and swimming and singing new songs and her group even got to go do the most! fun! activity! ever! which was... walking to a field by the main entrance road, and waving to people driving in. They made it very official and called them the Montreat Wavers (listed on their official schedule) and I almost fell over laughing but she delighted in it, so, okay.

(Isn't that exactly the kind of thing this child would delight in? I mean.)

The first few days really pushed her limits on exhaustion and tears and so much walking, but she adjusted and by the end of the week she was an old pro, save the miserable window between her nap (when I was in my daily afternoon meeting of small group leaders) and our dinner (scooting into the dining room in the last opening minutes, so to maximize her rest time), when she was hella crabby. But! Other than that! Easy! Great first week of Montreat!

I think I have decided that Montreat is really good for the kids. I mean, not that that's a novel idea; it hit me the first year with just Nathan how good it was for him to be a bit out of his element and try new things and new foods and new people. But this year I felt it in an even bigger different way. Both Nathan and Anneliese can have so much freedom there, freedom that our normal life doesn't afford. With Nathan, I can just set a time/place to meet, and let him go off on his own, and trust that he will be there. He knows which roads are too busy to cross, he knows which people will help him, staff nametags, etc, not to mention the whole place is crawling with teenagers who are high on being Good Kids and tend to flock towards him as some kind of mascot. (You should have seen the teenagers lined up to play cornhole against him in the barn one night.)

And when we go to a playground or the dining room or sit down outside or wherever, both of them can just... run free. Into the woods, not in my line of sight, whatever. I know this doesn't sound novel to those of us who grew up in the 80s (or who live in small towns), but this is... not like our urban Raleigh life. It just isn't. It will come, in time, but we aren't there yet at home. Montreat is a really good place for them (and me) to get used to some kiddie freedom, and they loved it. They walk around and enjoy it like they belong. Which, of course, they do.

Anyway, the whole point of the conference isn't the kids, but the youth, and getting to be a small group leader, and bonding with the other adults who are there to do the same. And this year was as great for that as always.

Another Nathan (who roomed with Nathan in an adjoining room again this year) was there as a shadow (he's running this whole conference for two weeks next year!) and it was the most chill I have ever seen him at Montreat. Like a vacation! He showed up several times at the ends of my sessions, with coffees in hand. He met Nathan at meeting points. He pedaled Anneliese (and all of us) on a sparkly paddleboat.

We all went for a barbecue dinner. We had a lovely week together. (And a lovely few days in Raleigh before that.) It was a super friendship bonding time for us, in a special place. Remembering last year on the edge of the cliff of his move, and all the work and stress and angst about that, it just felt so nice and easy this year. 

And my small group was incredible. We had one hard day full of hard confessions and some things that needed Adult Intervention, but they were well-poised to support each other in it, since they had bonded so quickly at the beginning of the week. They are smart and thoughtful people, these teenagers. And I know I say it every year, but anyone who feels cyncial about kids this age has not watched them stand in a room and look each other in the eye and pray to God to give thanks for other people in that room, specifically by name, people who they only met mere days ago. It's amazing.

So yeah, it was a wonderful week again. It's always hard to leave. After we took Another Nathan to the airport, we came back to load up our own stuff and the kids wanted one last Huckleberry ice cream, and Anneliese spent many weeks' worth of allowance on a neon green sweatshirt blanket that says Montreat on it, so we drove away both happy and sad.

See you next year, Montreaters.