Monthly Archives: March 2011

What’s wrong with our baking methods?

We use all the ingredients, follow instructions carefully, but still, when we’re baking muffins or bread or things of the sort, fruit or chocolate chip that’s in it sinks right to the bottom. Any suggestions?
–Miss W

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Chili Pancakes

having a good day
the last chili pancake
the snow this morning
Well, today began with a major headache. I’d given Dr S at Intercept paperwork with contact info for Children’s Hospital, so that he can coordinate with them about a mild sedative for Boy 2 next time he visits the dentist. Dr S lost the paperwork, so I gave it to his receptionist today over the phone. Then I received a call from Children’s Hospital asking if I was Matt’s mom. I said no I wasn’t, but I thought there might have been a mistake . . . and there had been. Children’s Hospital then had to fax Dr S so that he could correct his mistake. I am not very impressed with this Dr so far.

Boy 2 did so well in King Soopers today, the sun emerged after a very snowy morning, so I went and gassed up and bought some milk, and basically spent today cleaning up, listening to music and cooking. I made something that used to make a regular appearance in my kitchen when I lived in London . . . chili served in pancakes. Very easy, just a batch of chili (mine could’ve done with a pinch more chili powder) then whip up some pancake batter and make your pancakes and wrap them around the chili. I just melted cheese on top but next time I fix this I will also serve with some sour cream and spring onions. Made some coconut lemon bars for dessert.

Unexpectedly I got a bit teary when I sat down with Boy 2 while the lemon bars were baking. I started thinking of nanny (my grandmother) and wishing she was still alive, then realized that if she was she’d be 94. I suppose what I was really wishing for was for her to be alive and as she was the way I remember her when I lived in England. Time passes so quickly, the baby sister who was 10 when I left is going to be a mother in about 6 weeks, another sister is a grandmother. My mother was the age I am now, and now she is 70. None of these reflections are leading anywhere in particular. I guess I am just trying to come to terms with the past, accept the present and look forward to the future.

Being Human

Donna, if you are reading this, thankyou for recommending Being Human. Miss W and I have been glued to our computer last night and for an episode this afternoon. There’s a US version too, somehow we always seem to prefer UK versions. BH is the story of a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf who share a house, sounds completely absurd but is really compelling. We are TV starved here. Even if the TV got decent reception, I’m not sure there is anything I’d care to watch, my idea of a good evening now is a good book in bed with a bowl of popcorn and sometimes a long conversation with Mr B. So it’s nice to find something interesting to watch, although as Miss W pointed out there are some ‘graphic’ scenes.

Boy 2 didn’t want me to stay in bed this morning and I gave up at around 6 and began to make coffee, as I was pouring it out he nestled up in his quilt and fell back asleep. I think he just wanted to know I was up and about. I looked online at the news from England – there were huge protests yesterday against budget cuts in the public sector. Thousands of people marched, and about 200 became violent, it was very odd indeed seeing pictures of protesters taking over Fortnum and Mason’s. I do understand their anger and find it appalling that (as usual) the cuts that will begin to take effect on April 1st will hurt the most vulnerable people in society.

I listened to the radio and made turkey meatballs in tomato sauce, I was slightly worried as I pureed the celery and onion in the blender and mixed this much into the mush of the turkey with an egg and rather a generous amount of thyme. The sauce was bubbling away on the stove and I was sure the meatballs would just disintegrate the moment I dropped them in, as they were soggy blobs rather than balls. However they did hold together, and the whole thing was really aromatic and delicious, and I’ve never cared much for ground turkey. Miss W and Boy 2 had large servings and then I made a bread with lemon, blueberries and almonds. Sadly it flopped in the middle and the fruit and nuts dropped to the bottom of the loaf – but it’s very good. I’ve eaten far too much today, will attempt a walk tomorrow with Boy 2. It’s Spring break.

Damage Control


Everyone at work has been speculating that perhaps the sudden change of weather is causing so much ennui and exhaustion, I have no idea what it could be but Boy 2 spent Monday and Tuesday at home with the flu and I have had a horrible backache. On Tuesday I took Boy 2 to Intercept to check in with the new doctor and get meds, what a farce. As previously reported, Dr H has been replaced by an elderly doctor. He is rather sweet and perhaps I am agist but I felt very discouraged as I followed Dr Steve back to his office (all the toys Dr H kept in there are gone now) and I found myself shrieking at Dr Steve, as I was assuming he was hard of hearing as most people in their 70s/80s are. He just squinted at me vaguely and then said said incisively, “I have a question for you.”
I nodded in anticipation.
“Where are you from?”
“London,” I said.
“Ah, London,” Dr Steve smiled nostalgicaly, “I wish I was there now.”
It was at this point that I noticed a trickle of blood coming out of his nose, but he left the room to get copies of Boy 2’s prescriptions and I hoped he’d notice and deal with it, but he returned moments later and announced “oh, I am having a nosebleed!”
I gave him 3 kleenex and told him to tip his head back slightly, and then me and Boy 2 left (with blood smeared prescription) and I was thinking, “why, why, why? Why did Dr H have to leave and be replaced by Dr Steve? Are they going to find someone else? What if Boy 2 has an issue, I will never be able to talk it over with Dr Steve . . . ”

Then today was the meeting. APS had redone their joke of an IEP in an attempt to make it look more serious. The horrible family liaison person stood at the head of a table and made notes – Boy 2’s strengths, issues, goals etc. etc. “Oh, I am so excited about all his strengths!” she gushed, pouring a bag of mini Mars bars over the table. Apparently, Boy 2 is making brilliant progress in his classroom, is smiling and happy each day and everyone is astonished by his efforts.
Yeah, right.
It was so obviously an exercise in damage control and I didn’t believe or buy a single word of it. Every time I have contact with these people I feel angry and as I read the revised IEP I noticed a few things that had been written . . . ‘Boy 2 sleeps a lot and Mom (ugh, I HATE it when people I didn’t give birth to call me mom) reports that this is because of all the meds he’s on.’ Well, you know what – he is on all those meds because your staff took away his schedule, his structure and just for the hell of it changed his classroom all around and he was so anxious he could hardly function or face going to school! And then there was ‘Mom reports he was ‘gouged’ across the face and the scar may be permanent.’ Mom reports???? That happened IN SCHOOL as you well know, no matter how you may try to disassociate yourselves from the incident. I love the way they have put ‘gouged’ in inverted commas too, as if it might be an absurd exaggeration.

Must calm down, I am seething. What a bunch of lying, evil hypocrites.

My Dream House

How I wish I had photos to post today. Every day, I drive past an old green, dilapidated farmhouse. There’s a vintage, rotting pick-up truck parked beside it and behind the house several tumble-down outbuildings and a quonset hut. Sometimes clothing is pegged out on an old-fashioned clothesline. Cows wonder all around. I’ve always wondered who lived in this place, and thought how lucky they are. Well, today when I was returning home from work I noticed a ‘garage sale’ sign outside the house, wanted very badly to turn in but dared not risk not being home when Boy 2 arrived. I was wise not to risk it, because Jennifer was just arriving with Boy 2 when I pulled in and so was Mr W, he’d come to collect Miss W and Boy 1. But he asked me politely if there was anywhere I’d like to go, before he took off with them. I said yes, and told him about the garage sale, of course one whiff of a garage sale and my ex is panting so off we went.

It was just an amazing place. Cow poop was everywhere though, up the driveway and all around the path leading up to the house which had a sign on it that said ‘stuff inside!’ An old man came out to greet us and I followed him into a house that probably hadn’t seen a lick of paint since 1950. The entryway was a strange, small high-ceilinged area with 3 steps that led up into a small kitchen with original cabinets and torn-up linoleum. There were worn wood floors, peeling wallpaper and 2 old ladies seated in an empty living room, I told them how I drove past this house every day and how charming I found it, one squinted at me and said, “well I guess it is kinda pretty.”

There was nothing for sale except mildewed cookbooks and broken appliances. I did find a tin with a picture of Elvis on it, I thought it had marbles in it, but when I opened it to my astonishment it still contained chocolates! But they wouldn’t part with the box of fifty year old chocolates, I ended up just buying these food shields (out of politeness really but they will be useful in the summer). I walked slowly out of the house into the cow-poop covered yard and around the outbuildings and said hello to the cows, they were looking at me and Boy 2 very curiously. Me and Miss W talked obout how we could grow tomatoes here and fix up one of the old outbuildings and keep chickens. The old man took us into the massive quonset hut, which contained abandoned, filthy broken furniture, old bits from cars, toys, all pieces of his life I expect.

It was a nice, unexpected thing to do today, visiting that old farmhouse. I know my fantasy of having chickens and growing things is exactly that – a fantasy – I know the chickens would probably all get TB, my crops would fail and I’d have a breakdown, but it is such a lovely fantasy, and I love old houses, and I loved that house. The old man told us he’d just sold it, plus the surrounding 600 acres.

There’s another meeting next week and I’ve been trying very hard not to brood and worry but I was bristling yet again yesterday when I opened Boy 2’s back pack. There was yet another form for me to fill in ( the previous one asked me ridiculous questions, like was Boy 2 capable of painting trim and inviting guests over for supper? ) This one came with a snotty little note from the OT, ‘could you fill this in and return it by next week? I gave you a copy last week, this is the second copy I’ve sent home.’ Actually, it isn’t. I check Boy 2’s backpack each night. Before Christmas when I was told to please return forms and responded that I hadn’t received any, it turned out that the para had forgotten to put them in Boy 2’s back pack. I wrote a snotty note and put it with the completed form, but changed my mind today and put a more politely worded note in, merely pointing out that I try to be prompt about these things, and there had been no previous form sent home. I am so fed up with this lot! But I don’t want to descend to the level of exchanging snotty notes, even though I am itching to write nasty things in his back and forth book, just as I was itching to lunge across the table at the IEP and scream swearwords.

I could watch a movie tonight but I’ve got a more tempting prospect – my library book! I’m reading The Radleys by Matt Haig. He is the UK author who gave my short story first prize several years ago, but I have to admit I’ve been dragging my feet about reading his latest book because it’s about vampires. However, it is quite brilliant, the story of your typical, restrained, dysfunctional British family, but with the added issue of a terrible secret. Because the parents, Peter and Helen Radley, are abstainers – vampires who haven’t had fresh blood in years and want to live as normal people. They have never told their pale, sickly offspring the truth. This is a novel about families, secrets, and doing what is right, a darkly humorous pageturner that might make you quite relieved you have a head of garlic in your fridge.

Wacky Wednesday

It can’t be all down to the time change, but I have felt dreadful the past few days. I couldn’t sleep last night and it occurred to me that it was Wednesday morning – but was it a late Wednesday? For Miss W every 2nd and 4th Wednesday in the month is late. Out of bed I got, my head thumping, and checked my calendar, seeing (mistakenly, of course) that it was the 2nd Wednesday in March. I stumbled back into bed and had horrible dreams of IEP meetings gone bad, with me ‘throwing a strop’ as they say in England, and swearing at Boy 2’s teachers. So Miss W missed her bus this morning because I thought it was a late morning and it wasn’t and by the time I got back to the house I was all sweaty and headachey, I practically chucked Boy 2 onto his bus and went back to bed, no work for me today. More deranged dreams.

But there was no bread in the house and at around noon, Miss W and I ventured out, Miss W looking rather pale herself. I think we both needed some fresh air. We cooked this afternoon, I made the fishcakes from Nigella Bites. I found them slightly bland, I substituted tuna for salmon and the only other ingredients were potatoes, lemon zest, cayenne and seasoning, I think an onion would have been nice added in, maybe even some spices like curry powder. I also made a cake – spiced upside-down pear cake and it was incredible, a dark gooey concoction with nuts on top, the pears were all soft and sweet, the molasses (something I have never used before in cooking) is like treacle but not sweet – gave it a very interesting flavour. Perfect with ice cream. This recipe is from the March/April issue of Taste of Home. Miss W said it was the best dessert I had ever made.

Received email from school social worker who also doubles as Boy 2’s behaviour therapist (sigh) today, asking for food suggestions for food that could be used as reinforcers, I suggested potato chips, skittles, trail mix. She replied and said she wanted to stick to healthy items such as popcorn and raisins. OK, whatever.

I’ll try to make up my missed hours the rest of this week, I really think I did need a day at home today. I couldn’t believe I screwed up so badly with thinking it was the 2nd Wednesday in the month. I felt so fed up this morning, Boy 1 walked wordlessly out of the door for school, then walked back in. I asked him if he had forgot something, he sort of lunged in for a hug, then walked out again. Told Miss W how awful I felt and she said “it’s stress, Mum,” in a very grown-up sort of way. Maybe it is stress. I’m going to catch up with some reading tonight.

A Meeting

playing after supper
I realized I was sick at work today, I’d felt a bit off earlier but put it down to the time change, we’re all struggling with that, especially Boy 2. It’s pitch black now when I drive Miss W to Wendy’s for her morning drop off, and I am yawning my head off on the drive back at 6.30. Got to work and I was all sweaty and prickly with an additional feeling of dread knowing I was facing a meeting about Boy 2 at Jewell Elementary and it might well by quite unpleasant. Was brooding also about the disaster in Japan and Glenn Beck’s thoughts on the subject, I am quite good at taking profound stupidity in my stride usually, but the comments of this disgusting man make me sick. So I felt sick and grouchy and depressed and that was the mood I took to the meeting about Boy 2.

It was different from last time, which the staff didn’t take seriously at all, they were laughing, eating and wearing pajamas. Theyw ere more serious this time, present was Boy 2’s new teacher, Miss M, his speech therapist and OT, director of special ed and bloody horrible DB, school liaison person. On Boy 2’s side were me, Mr W, Nancy from ARC and Miss K (behavioural therapist) and Laurie. Meeting began with usual introductions and unhappiness and disatisfaction was aired, Nancy did a lot of the talking for which I was very grateful, she was articulate and forceful. She said that the IEP was a joke basically, no data was being collected on Boy 2’s progress so how could any developments possibly be being measured? Miss M spoke up and whined that she had started her job at a very difficult time and was doing her best but it was hard, when asked if she had a schedule she said it was for the benefit of the staff, she still hadn’t got around to making one for Boy 2(and she went bright red). Miss K pointed out that she’d had 3 months to do it, and providing a visual schedule for a child with autism was a pretty basic requirement.

The special ed director’s theme was basically to agree that everything had indeed been awful for Boy 2 – and he apologized profusely, but of course, that is all about to change. Asked why Miss K had not been welcomed in the classroom and why my queries about this had gone unanswered he expressed surprise – oh, no – this was not the policy of APS at ALL, they wanted to be partners with the parents etc. etc. I asked why, if this was the case, it simply hadn’t happened. More apologies. I asked about the awful set up in Boy 2’s classroom, was assured that this had all been changed on the advice of JFK Partners. Wait a moment, I frowned, wasn’t the old set up made after consulting with JFK? That’s what I’d been told by the old teacher. But apparently she lied – I was told she’d had ‘her own ideas’. Mr W here pointed out forcefully that we had been lied to over and over, and I agreed with him. Special ed director is mealy mouthed, hypocritical old bastard.

I left the meeting disgusted. I had challenged Boy 2’s teacher (who stated that he didn’t enjoy body lotion) and obviously hardly knows him, I was seething with loathing for the school liason person actually who tried to inject a little humour into the proceedings by chuckling at Boy 2’s quirks, I am afraid I almost bared my teeth at her. She was so dismissive of my concerns at the last meeting to the point of being rude. But a nice thing happened on the way out of the school. Three little girls, making their way home spotted us and called out “Bye!” to Boy 2, they were smiling at him. If only everyone was so nice.

Made spaghetti for supper, took a painkiller, and am on my way to bed.

Eat, Pray, Love

Oh God, I’ve cared for Boy 2 Friday/Saturday afternoons after mornings at work, and all day today. I have now hit the booze. I want to go for a long walk and the sun is shining but I can’t face a walk around this trailer park with dogs yapping at me whilst holding onto Boy 2 for dear life. Today he has wanted to pointlessly sit on the toilet for long periods and seize stuff out of the fridge – milk was sloshed all over the floor. I am starting to have the usual dark thoughts about the summer break. So today I have roasted a shoulder of pork for lunch, talked to my mother, guzzled wine and looked through Nigella Bites (ugh, deep fried Mounds bars? How disgusting). I also tried to watch Eat Pray Love and suffered bravely through all the quaint foreign people until the point where JR is slurping up spaghetti in the piazza, beaming all around – what self-indulgent crap. Sorry Lara, I cannot do it.

I feel so confused when the clocks change, I’m not sure quite when to do things, like give Boy 2 his meds and so on. Tonight plan to have very long, hot shower and leap ahead with American Rust.

The Widower’s Tale

gift from China Town, NY
I am just tired this week, exhausted by the sameness of my days, driving, and depressed that May is so far away, but determined to find a way to organize my time better so I can find some time to write. On Monday I stayed home (bad weather I was nervous about venturing out in) and actually started a story for Dorchester, however that is all the writing I’ve managed this week – pathetic!

I’m reading American Rust by Philipp Meyer at the moment, a novel about two teenagers in trouble in contemporary America, in West Virginia where mines and industry has dried up and there is a general mood of hopelessness and despair. It sounds bleak – well it is bleak – but it also a pageturner, each chapter told from a different POV, every character imprisoned in their own individual way. And I am listening to The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass, almost stopped listening to this but by disc 4 I was interested enough to continue. This novel is about a man named Percy Darling, a 70 year old who has been single since his wife died 30 years ago. Now he finds himself embarking upon a love affair. The novel is also the story of several other characters, one of my favourites of which is Ira, the young gay man who is a teacher at Elves and Fairies, the school run by Percy’s daughter. Ira was unfairly ejected from his last job when it was discovered that he was a gay. Yes, I like this novel – it’s convincing, interesting and thought-provoking with a wide cast of intriguing characters.

Miss W was out when I arrived home today, on a hike and shopping in Boulder. We had samosas for supper and talked about the earthquake in Japan, news has been awful lately, what with Wisconsin as well. I don’t understand it -get rid of unions to save money??!! That makes about as much sense as slashing money for schools and libraries – when are people going to wake up?

Boy 2 came home from school the other day with this Green Day T-shirt removed – It wasn’t dirty, was it removed because it has a hand grenade on it?? I have no idea and there was no comment in his back and forth book, but I do know America is very touchy about symbols of violence, which never fails to strike me as somewhat odd.

Boulder

Miss W speaking! 😀 Today I went with my mentor over to Boulder. We hiked halfway up (or much less) up the Flat Irons, which, by the way, looked absolutely magnificent, and then we went into Boulder. We went to Pearl Street Mall, which is this outdoor mall. It’s full of street performers and arguably homeless people, and it has really cool shops. The performers:
•a couple of college kids with different sized xylophones. They were creating beautiful African-sounding music.
•various guitar players
•this hilarious guy who juggled knives and torches and insisted that street performing was the only source of income he had. He had this little kid throw him the things he juggled. At one point they said:
Performer- “How old are you?”
Kid- “10.”
Performer- “I knew this was my future when I was 10”
I laughed so hard, I swear I busted a gut.
There was also this cool store full of imports from various countries. There were hot sauces called “The Hottest F**kin’ Sauce” and “Slap your Mother” (slogan: “sauce so hot it makes you want to slap your mother”) It had books like “Splat the Cat” and “The Farting Dog.”