Monday, December 31, 2012

What are a few pee stains between family?

My favorite block of the pee quilt

the new doll house

tired and anxious as *&^% sitting in the super tall chair at the funeral home.
If you have never suffered from anxiety, then you probably should thank the deity of your choice and do a little happy dance for your good fortune.
If you have suffered even a little with anxiety, then you will do a little happy dance that I am the one dealing with it and not you.
On the very best days I struggle not to want to climb into the linen closet and never come out.
Most people that know me, who have worked with me will think that is an exaggeration, since I have a fairly fine tuned routine down pat, which helps me keep my shit together most of the time.
I am superficially one of those really high functioning people.
It is all part of my strategy for keeping my head together.   
LOOK BUSY! It makes you seem less crazy!

I can be counted on in emergencies and urgencies; I will get you sorted out and make it look normal.

On the inside I am a fraidy cat of the highest degree, nerves worn and frazzled.

Between Christmas and losing my grandfather and all of the giant loads of baggage that accompany death,  the last couple of weeks have been very difficult.  I was also off work.

Now for a normal person being off work would be a blessing, but for a nervous nelly like me, being off work takes away about %50 of my purpose in life and without purpose and direction I am nothing.
I am not the sort that enjoys time off.

My idle hands need no devil to do the dirty work, I can whip myself into quite a frenzy with one unfocused afternoon. By 7:00pm I am convinced that the world is coming to an end and that I might blow away, or disappear. If my grandparents house is sold, then will I cease to exist? I will not have any kind of home.  These are the kinds of irrational thoughts that float around in my head all the time and make me do things like knit ten hats, or make baked Alaska or never throw anything away.  As if I were supposed to keep myself tethered in order to exist. Batten down the hatches and wrap yourself in the rags of your elders...  Good thing I was in Campfire Girls for so many years, those knot tying skills are useful.  To make things worse, my son went home from the funeral with my brother for a few days.  That just about killed me.  When Maxwell is away I get a terrible feeling that I have forgotten something important and that feeling never goes away until he is safely back in my sight. 

On the positive side of things, my house is very clean.  There is not one article of dirty laundry around and there are heaps of cookies and baked goods. 

I also had the idea to dye that old quilt I found at my grandparents house with turmeric.

In my head it was a good idea, because using something natural is always nice, right?

And using a plant based dye would surely be better for the old, old fabric that some kind of synthetic thing.
I besides I happen to have a lot of turmeric on hand because it's part of Rolf latest harebrained health scheme.

I would use turmeric to dye that quilt, ridding it of all the old pee stains and make it a beautiful work of folk art!
That is what was in my head three days ago, when I filled our bathtub with hot water and turmeric and half a pot of coffee (it was there and seemed like a good pee stain hiding medium).
I threw the quilt into the tub and there it sat.
It was too light, you could hardly even tell there was anything other than water in the tub.  I was feeling guilty about using up any more of Rolf's turmeric, when I remembered I had a giant can of curry powder that we had purchased years ago.  So I threw about half into the tub with the quilt and by golly it finally started to look yellow and more importantly to hide the stains.
It was all going exceedingly well, until Mark came in and asked why the house smelled like Indian food.
I was too pleased by the color to notice that the house did indeed smell a little like a curry.  It was a small price to pay, as far as I was concerned.
Do you know how much a double cotton quilt soaked  in a bathtub full of curry water weighs?   
I wrestled the soggy mess into a laundry basket and put it in the washer to spin, dried it in the drier and now it is resting comfortably on the sofa in the livingroom, a lovely shade of yellow, with not a trace of old pee stains.
If that weren't enough to raise me out of my funk, I got a message on Facebook from my friend Rachael that said "check your porch." when I did, I found a huge, beautiful doll house, that has Freyja on cloud nine.
She has set it up, complete with a horse corral and a bird roost on the roof.
The dog keeps trying to bust the place up, by sticking her head in the attic and trying to squeeze into the dining-room and nap.  If we can keep Rosie out, I think this will be one of the best Freyja occupying devices we've had in years.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

a fine machine

Despite getting a kings ransom of new stuff for Christmas, Freyja has spend the better part of today playing with a car that she built out of a Brio building kit and some animals that were Maxwell's when he was very small. 
There is a living story, a running record of the events unfolding in the living room, where the tiger is stalking a trainload of eraser creatures; I haven't figured out where the giant car comes into play.

Freyja, doesn't enjoy a lot of quiet, and is just as happy with the sound of her own voice, which is pretty much fine, until one of the characters in the story says "MOM, MOM!" and pulls me from my book. 

I am off this week, which means 24/7 child tending, which can have it's ups and downs. 

Today has been fairly good, so far. 

Freyja and I went to exchange some pants that she got as a gift.  They were the kind of pants that have the very clever adjustable waistband. 
Clever for everyone, except my ultra sensitive, princess and the pea child, who is driven mad by anything rough in her clothing.  So the pants were returned and replaced by sweatpants with no tag (my sincere thanks to who ever came up with the printed tag, what a blessing). While we were at the store we bought tights and a black sweater for her to wear to the funeral, tomorrow.  So we are now all set for any funerals that may come up in the near future and we have non-itchy pants for other occasions.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Maxwell in his Tyrolean hut (hat), embracing his German heritage grunge style.  Rolf gave him the hat last Christmas and he wore it for me, when we went to a nativity play at a big Apostolic faith church, on the night of the school shooting.  I really needed some old fashioned wholesomeness.  They had a real camel in the manger and everything.

Christmas morning; Freyja got a real konga, Maxwell checking it out

Mark in his annual sweater, Freyja checking out her new books.

Mom and Richard, salad course.

Baby Jesus wants us to wear really ugly Christmas sweaters.... Mark embraced the Christmas spirit.

Mark was in charge of stocking and he NAILED it, making the kids super happy, and me raise my Baptist eyebrows with the excess.  I love this man a lot, have I mentioned that part?  Note the quilt from grandma & grandpa in the background, on my other grandpa's chair.  my life is filled with ghosts that love me.

stocking love.

"Santa brought me a new girl bike, even though mama thought I could use Maxwell's old one!!!"

I had given Maxwell a long rap about having quit my job and how he was older now and he would have to let Christmas be for Freyja... he said "it's ok mommy, I don't need anything." but through the miracle of Christmas, and grandpa Harlan, Santa got a very cool used practice  bass and amp. One very happy boy!!! It is even strung for a lefty, and Don has promised lessons.  

My three children.

I expect ooohhhs and ahhhs!  Whole Foods is selling the buche Noels cakes for $27, and the local French bistro for $42. what you see here my friend is my grandma Betty's Devil's Food cake rolled jelly roll fahion into the traditional French confection, layered with raspberry jam and dark chocolate cream cheese filling. It was FANTASTIC, if I do say so myself and I do.  A few weeks ago I was wringing my hand over where to find some meringue mushrooms, since making my own seemed overwhelming and Freyja remembered that she saw some on a cake in a French bakery in Lake Oswego, when caring for my grandfather.  I called the bakery to see if they would sell me some and the chef agreed to make some and send them to the SE store.  I went to pick them up, expecting to pay a fortune and the sweet French lady at the counter said, "just purchase a coffee" so the mushrooms were mine for $3.00!!!                                                                             If you even need a coffee and a pastry I highly suggest La Provence

Monday, December 24, 2012

When we opened my grandfather's safe, we found a stash of terrible family photos and school pictures of all of us grandkids inside, among the deed to the house, insurance papers and other important documents-This was all his doing, as my grandmother was a careful record keeper and would be turning over in her file drawer if she knew what a mess he had left.

My heart was warmed to see my name on a will from 1970, written in an old fashioned kind of flowery language that would never have come out of his mouth in real life, my beloved wife, my beloved children and  grandchild.  We may have lost something with progress; there is something so lovely in that old piece of paper.
These photos are of Christmas 1987, at my uncle's house.
My mother, brother and I lived in this house from 1976-79, my mother is responsible for all the Laura Ashley wallpaper.
The pig in the photo, snored when you pressed his belly,  much like my grandfather, who could fall asleep almost any old place, having spent 40 years working the 4:00am shift at a dairy.

I inherited my sleep walking and talking from him.

My grandmother loved to tell about the time, she answered the door, to find a man that my grandfather had made arrangements to sell a cow to. 
She called for him to get up and deal with the visitor, which he did, jumping up from a dead sleep on the sofa, and taking care of the transaction. 
When the door was closed and the man was out of earshot my grandfather asked my grandmother what on earth had gone on.

When my husband has complained about my nocturnal wandering, screaming and general carrying on, my mother would say "well at least she hasn't sold any livestock."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

this is what my grandmother liked to call a "five generation" picture.  She was very fond of these multi-generational photos.  From the left, my Grandpa's grandmother "Grandma Morland", my grandpa's mother "Grandma Magers in Idaho" (not to be confused with my grandma) then my grandfather and me, and on the far right my mom.
My grandfather passed away yesterday morning, about 10:15.
We had been expecting it, he was 87 and had been ill for a long time.
I sat with him on Wednesday evening and other than being in his pajamas at 5:30 in the evening, he was pretty normal.  Naturally he knew the jig was up; the doctor told him Tuesday that he wasn't going to continue treatment and that he didn't have much time left.  He had grown thinner and thinner over the past few months, so he looked strange, his giant Popeye hands and forearms, not matching up to his withered body.
My mom had been staying with him at his place for a couple of weeks.  My kids stayed with her last weekend to help and keep her company.  I think it was good for them, having not really been around old people, the way I had growing up.  Sometimes I am struck by how different my children's lives are from the way mine was as a child.  Mostly I think that is a good thing, but in some ways, I think there is something lost.
On Wednesday we were about two thirds all there. My mom and her brother, my brother and our cousin.  My mother's sister has a hard time with a lot of things and finding appropriate ways to express grief is one, so it was just as well that she wasn't there.  Mom had been cleaning out all the closets, all those funny crooked spaces under the eaves, that were crammed full of woolen blankets and dolls and old newspapers.  My cousin asked for the hutch.
She said "that has always been there, and I would really like to have it if no one else wants it." 
I said "that has not always been there, that is new, that came from Uncle Lee's house."
My cousin is younger than I am, for her it had always been there, but for me, it had only been there about 30 years, hardly always.
My grandparents had a simple life, they had humble sturdy, plain belongings, there wasn't much to split up.
Nothing of value. 
It was decided that I would take the table.
A round maple monster with three leaves that seats 20, since I entertain.
My cousin was given the hutch, and I took a quilt that had a water stain, but also some lovely embroidered animals.  "I can cut up up, dye it to hide the stains, bind it and give everyone a little piece." is what I said, but I knew darn well that no one but me would be interested.
I will fix it up for myself.
Honestly, it doesn't even look like my grandmother's hand.
It looks too simplistic.  She was fond of gaudy flowers with lots of French knots and bright colors.
This was done by an austere person, simple animals on a white background, hand quilted with white thread. I would put my money on my great-grandmother, Anna, if I had to guess.
My grandfather told me that he had not had a visit from the preacher for a long time.  He said that he had stopped tithing to the church a few months back and instead had been paying the rent on one of his former foster children's apartments.  "I figure she needs it."
My grandparents faithfully gave the church a big cut of their income for years and years.
This new minister was not my grandmother's favorite, and shortly before her death she called him an "asshole", which was not her customary insult.

My grandfather also had reservations about this pinky ring wearing fellow, but he stuck with his church community until the end.
Dutifully driving his less fortunate friends to church every Sunday.

He told me "they aint suppose to know who gives what, but this one does" and so with the money gone, the home and hospital visits dried up. 

My mother and I had hoped to have the funeral at the funeral home, rather than church, but my uncle wants it at church, so there it will be.

We will lay my grandfather to rest with my grandmother, in one of those tomb things that look like a giant file drawer, in a room that smells like moss. 
My grandmother was terrified of being buried, and while my grandfather scolded her that it was unchristian to have such a fear, death hath no dominion and all that , he dutifully shelled out for indoor burial.
She would say "Chuck and I will be together and Larry will be right under us."  She found it comforting to know these things, to have her son so close in the after life.
He abided most all of her wishes and whims, right to the end. 
I asked my grandmother why she married him, when at the time she was beautiful and young and dating a cowboy.  She said she married the sharecropper's son because he came to visit her when she was sick, because he was "good and steady" and that was more valuable than a mustachioed cowboy on horseback.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I've written a bunch of posts in my head, but so far none have made it onto the page and the one that does, this one, most likely will not be very good.

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs, let's start with that...

Like everyone with a pulse we have been horrified and saddened by the murders in Connecticut.
I know that at some point Freyja will hear about it and I will have to figure out a way to assure her that she is safe, even though I'm not totally sure. 

"nothing will happen to our kids"

Is what I told Mark Friday. 

"how can you know that?"

"I just do."

That is my story and I am stubbornly sticking to it.

I have had a really hard time squaring my feelings about the mother of the shooter. 
I get it, he was disturbed, but knowing that how on earth could she load the house up with guns? There are a lot of really kooky, crazy folks out there that never get to act on their impulses, because they don't have a closet full of weapons.  
Is being a gun nut, or a collector acceptable? 
Just because you want to own a bunch of shit that has the sole purpose, to kill, to be used for killing, should you be able to?
Clearly I think not, and I hope the powers that be finally get it.

I read some place, maybe it was Mary Karr's friend Dooney that said "anything you can't defend yourself against with a shotgun, you shouldn't mess with." which sums up well how tired I am of the old handgun argument.

Now I am just ranting and I suppose I should save it all up until I have something more coherent to say.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I am not much of a shopper, and I hate crowds, so it is fairly rare for me to go to a mall, but on Tuesday I had to get a gift for Mark that is only available at a big box store, so I complained about the trip that loomed large in my future, at the breakfast table.

I thought I would pick Freyja up after school and bring her along, since she enjoys all the hubbub those types of places have, but instead I went early in the morning, after I dropped off the kids and got a coffee.

In the afternoon a young man went to the mall and shot the place up, killing two people and injuring a third. 

My husband was frantically phoning me, because he thought we were going after school. 

Like a silly goose I had my cell phone turned off, because I don't like the noise.

On Wednesday I went to work and on my way to lunch the news reported the name of the people killed and one victim was a fellow I went to high school with. 

His brother was in my class, he was a year older.

Life is very strange, random and unjust and terrible. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Volunteerism- Mama said knock you out...

 For the second year in a row, I volunteered to work the cafe for the school's art sale, a big fundraiser, where they bring in local artists, who sell their wares, and give the school a cut of the profit.

This year I asked my mom to help me with the two person shift.  She needs stuff to do, and I didn't want to be stuck with a stranger, so it felt like a win/win solution.  We signed up on the nifty little online sign up gadget for the opening shift, 9:30-12.

I picked mom up at 8:45 and we walked into the "cafe" at 9:10.  The cafe had been set up in the teacher's lounge with lots of extension cords, for heating up food and making coffee.

There was one dad, who had been tasked with shopping, donation solicitation/pickup  and set up.
There was also this very uptight woman from the previous year, dressed like she was going to a business meeting, in heels and a sweater dress, looking all stressed out from the moment we walked in. She and I had not really clicked, the year before, so naturally I was not excited to see her again, and I could tell the feeling was mutual.   I don't know why this gal didn't like, or approve of me, but she clearly didn't and we danced the dance the year before, where I was polite and she was nasty and pinched, and frankly, I was not in the mood to for a repeat performance.

She looked my way and ignored me when I walked in, so I said "Hi! I'm Heidi, and this is my mom, who has volunteered to help. I did this job last year, remind me of your name." because honestly, I had blocked it out of my memory! She walked over and reluctantly greeted me (if you need visuals, imagine short, zaftig blonde woman and her skinny mother, and tower of power, cranky sweater dress lady looking, literally down on us).

The vending table looked like shit.  There were handwritten napkins with menus and prices.  There were dried out pieces of bunt cake.
Things were all messed up and if there is one thing both mom and I do is unmess things.
In moments  I had arranged the food and my mom had counted faced all the cash in the cash drawer.  Sweater lady was selling her own line of cookies, and was otherwise occupied while we were setting up, so she sent her 12 year old mini-me over to meddle.
She pulled a pile of napkins out of my mother's hand, and mom pulled them back.
She took a plate of donuts out of my hand and rearranged them, then she reached over and started to pull a pile of paper plates out of my mother's hand and I just snapped.
You can insult me, but I will be damned if you will be rude to my mother, to anyone's mother, really.  So I reached out and took the plates and said "Stop. I am working with those, you need to move away."
the whole room went silent.  The girl, one of those girls who is not used to anyone putting her in her place was silent, her mother was silent.
My mother, who doesn't give a shit, what anyone thinks, cracked a smile.
I said

"this is a case of too many cooks spoil the soup.  If you have a master plan for this set up, you need to either share it, and that means creating a map of the lay out, a menu with prices, organizing the cash, and a list of 'to do items', and you need to have it all set up before your volunteers arrive.  Or you need to be respectful of the people that are volunteering and stay out of the way.  And you need to control your child, because if I have anything yanked out of my hands by a 12 year old again today, I will respond in a manner that you will not find pleasing. " 

The room went silent again, sweater dress and her daughter left and we merrily sold our soup and donuts until the end of our shift. 

Tis the season

So we put up the tree and got the Christmas season off to a good start with out annual St. Nicholas dinner. This is a Playmobil Advent calendar that Mark's brother gave Maxwell when he was little.  You open a little gift box each day of December and built a Christmas scene.   The Santa sleigh was a Playmobil set he begged my mother for when he was three, it came with a camel and a nativity scene, which has gotten mixed up with the other 100,000 Playmobils we own.  The Santa and sleigh we have managed to keep separate, with the Christmas stuff.
We made cookies.  I am not really a cookie maker, so I usually leave that piece to Rolf, who makes the "Butter S", and every year I take a little of the dough and roll it out and make some cut out cookies and decorate them with sprinkles, and every year for the past 22 years he is horrified.  This year Freyja dusted most of the cookies with fuchsia sanding sugar and little candy stars and you would have thought he thought it was the best idea in the whole world.  I also made some Swedish ginger cookies, because they are really easy to make and because we already had the house pretty trashed by two little girls and one unruly dog.  They came out well, and the girls had a gay old time decorating them. 

Weighing the ingredients is one of the coolest things, much more fun than a measuring cup.

St. Nicholas dinner a day late, but not a dollar short.  Everything was lovely. I made my mother's apple, onion dressing, mashed sweet potatoes (not yams), with orange juice,  quince sauce with cranberry, sour cream gravy, cabbage sauteed with juniper berries, caraway seed, onion and apples, and a pork tenderloin for my step father, who might feel naked at a veggie dinner.   Rolf's girlfriend brought funeral potatoes, pickled beets and a carrot cake.  It was a fine feast.

My Great-grandmother, Grandma Koko's gold leaf glasses, and my special Christmas plates that Rolf surprised me with 20 years ago. Granma Koko was a little on the morose side.  I am happy to let her legacy live on here in lighter and more cheerful surroundings.

Every year I make a little A frame gingerbread house from a perfectly good Czechoslovakian kit and the world does not come to an end.  This year I thought it would be a good idea to make my own and it was a disaster, heaped upon a catastrophe.   Much yelling and swearing was involved and the walls fell down TWICE.  I will be returning to my tried and true model next year.

Freyja told her teacher about St. Lucia Day, and offered to teach the class about it.  She proceeded to look up information on the computer, on her own (with Onkel's help) and make a report for the class.  I was very impressed. She told the teacher "we celebrate St. Lucia, because she is the patron saint of light, and I am the light of my parent's life, that is why they named me after the saint. I am also named for the goddess of love." Someone had healthy self esteem!

quince sauce,  paprika and sour cream gravy and apple mustard sauce and a pea salad, which is not at all traditional, for St Nick's day.  The photos got all mixed up and I am too lazy to fix them.

Freyja and a friend mixing up the cookies

Then I decided to make an owl doll, for no good reason.  He came out pretty cute.  All hand sewn.  My design.

Approach the haus with extreme caution!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Every nutty detail

My friend Shawn said "tell me every nutty detail about your holiday", in an e-mail.

There weren't a lot of nutty details, truth be told.

It went rather smoothly and sanely.

My friend Aunt Karen came by train Tuesday and we cooked- A LOT.

Before we cooked with went out to Mi Mero Mole, which I happen to love (despite the fact that the owner is a little bit of a pompous ass, and the food is much to spicy, often, which my friend Tony says is not possible, but it is totally possible. HA!)  Mark hates it, and was annoyed that I chose to go there, but I wanted Karen to check it out, as she loves unique hole in the wall places, plus it's close to our house.  Win/win.   We split a margarita and plotted our cooking strategy for Wednesday.

On Wednesday we got up hella early with Miss Freyja and picked up my mom and headed to the Pearl Bakery, to fortify ourselves for the heavy cleaning and cooking that would surely come over the next 24 hours.

Freyja and I had made name tags ahead of time, and I had moved the kitchen table into the dining-room, so most of the really heavy lifting was done by the time Karen and I got started, which meant we got to laugh a lot and drink too much coffee.
We did arrange the table settings and think long and hard about pedestal  vs taper candles.
We dispensed with the tapers, they have too much risk of dripping.  We decided to go with ease and casual, which is not usually my style.
When I pulled out two white tablecloths Karen frowned; we typically use this loooooong homemade cover that I made from yards and yards of expensive Provincial French fabric, purchased in the mid 90's from Daisy Kingdom, when they still had a giant store in NW Portland (Karen is a sucker for nostalgia and fine linens), but once I reminded her of all the ironing that usually goes into the table, she was game to try something new.
We did white, with a lot of autumnal color from festive decorations, quinces and acorns and it looked fantastic.

We had 16 people total, with three 13 year old boys and one rather rowdy 3 year old, who nearly gave me a heart attack by squeezing a handful of pomegranate seeds onto the while tablecloth.  My friend Pam laughed out loud.  She said she loved seeing my uptight boundaries pushed.  The parent of the three year old told her "Heidi has different rules, lots of rules..." I don't know who in the world would not have a rule against fruit squeezing, but there you go. Different strokes I suppose.

In the end it was a fine evening and we went off to bed knowing that we were heading off to Beaverton bright and early the next morning for a family birthday party for Mark's niece. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

cranberry sauce with apples and molasses

Quinces from our quince tree!
Aunt Karen after dinner

Maxwell in his new T-Shirt

Kid table kid

No running in the house, being ignored

A lot of food was made

Apple, Greek yogurt and thyme tart

A large volume of mashed potatoes

Cream being whipped

Four desserts

A loose acorn theme

Freyja and Aunt Karen making pies

name tags

Wawa checking out the scene