9.30.2006

7-10 business days.

My life is about to get MUCH easier.

Ever since before September--my, but that's a delightfully ambiguous phrase!--I've been on the lookout for the perfect triple stroller.

This stroller would have two in the back, one in the front, and would fold up to fit in the back of the car.

This stroller does not exist.

Triple strollers come in two varieties. The long train variety that doesn't go around corners, and the side to side to side variety that doesn't go through doorways.

Neither variety really folds up very well, and both cost a small fortune.

Today, I have ordered a quad. Two in the front, two in the back. Five point harnesses for everyone, with room for a friend. And while it really is terribly expensive... believe it or not, it costs about half as much as the typical triple.

So... anyone want to go for a walk?

I am SO excited about this.

9.28.2006

Product Review, Take I: Measuring Spoons

Yesterday, I recieved a big box full of crinkly paper shreds. You know, the kind they use for packing boxes. It also had three 11oz bags of coffee, but for three out of five persons in this household, packing materials are ever so much more exciting than coffee. And what's exciting for them means excitement for everybody. Especially the one with the vaccum cleaner.

I was rather relieved that the box arrived during naptime. But never fear, oh story-hungry readers, our resourceful wuggies found it anyway.

Yes, it was just that sort of day. The sort of day where the boys strip down completely naked and run around like mad-pickles, screaming at the top of their lungs while jumping off of furniture and dismantling the mop... and I think to myself, at least they're getting the wiggles out. The sort of day where I'd contemplate moving to Australia, except that, well, that particular book (a favorite of mine, passed down from my own childhood) is now confetti, useful only as packing material.

So really, you have no reason at all to be glad that the boys found the box--although it really was awfully cute, the way Nathan brought a handful into our bedroom to show us, solemnly announcing "mess"... The day was blogworthy enough as it was. And anyway, this particular box would have resulted in a blog post in any case.

Folgers sent me some of their new Gourmet Selections coffee in exchange for an honest review here on The Wuggy Chronicles. So this morning, as I packed Andy's lunch, at far too early an hour for comfort, especially after a day like yesterday, decided to see if their breakfast blend could salvage the morning.

I know, I know. I should always pack his lunch the night before, on days where he commutes to Pasadena. But see, ever since I figured out how to make yummy mostly-whole-grain rolls, I decided that if I made his sandwiches on my own bread instead of Oroweat, I could save us some dough, so to speak.

Which meant that late last night, after the kids were down, and the babysitter dropped off at home, and I was really quite ready to fall asleep, I was not fixing sandwiches, but baking bread.

Anyway, I was very, very groggy this morning, as I dusted off the coffee machine, and opened up the bag of coffee. We generally like our coffee rather strong, but after a bit of waffling back and forth (I put way too much effort into minor decisions when I'm groggy!) I finally decided to make it as directed the first time, so as to give it a fair review.

I was still putting away the sandwich fixings when Andy came out and poured himself a bowl of cereal. So I hadn't tasted the coffee yet when I put a cup in front of him, and asked his opinion.

My usually opinionated husband had no opinion whatsoever on the taste.

After I took a sip, I knew why. There WAS no taste. It was incredibly, amazingly, insipidly weak. I had no idea what it tasted like, but I did know that next time, I was going to make it at least twice as strong.

Then I looked over at the measuring spoons on the counter, and saw that the tablespoon measure was quite clean, while the half-tablespoon measure was covered in coffee grounds.

And now I understand why most measuring spoon sets do not include half-tablespoon measures.

I was hoping to review some coffee, but unfortunately this morning's experience has only left me qualified to review measuring spoons. Half-tablespoon measures can be very convenient for any and all recipes calling for 1 1/2 tsp. of anything. But as they are easily mistaken for Tablespoon measures (do you have to capitalize the T when you write it out all the way?) the can be hazardous to your morning coffee.

But you know what? After my third cup, I guess maybe I'm starting to like really weak coffee.

Next time, though, I'll make it as directed.

9.26.2006

Fruit Salad

Thanks to Jessica for the insight that frozen fruit makes a great automatic sauce for a fruit salad.

This little bit of improvisation went over very well at dinner tonight. It was just exactly enough to serve two adults and two toddlers.

Toss together in small serving bowl:


1 apple, cut into bite sized pieces
2 banannas, sliced
1 grapefruit, segmented, membranes removed
2 kiwi fruits, skinned and sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

mix together in separate small bowl:

1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and smooshed. (1 cup whole berries, smooshed into 1/2 cup)
2 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Pour strawberry mixture over fruit. Enjoy.

This morning...

...over our morning "cereal in a bowl with milk at the table in chairs" (we're going through a "prepositional stage")...

...Nathan grinned at me an announced

"Mama's super!"

And my heart melted.

Orthodoxy

Andy's very last assignment for his month-long diversity class was to go immerse himself for a few hours in an unfamiliar environment. Somewhere he could experience being "other." Where everyone differed from him, either in terms of race, ethnicity, class, or religion.

The Isamic Institute of Orange County is right down the street from us, so Andy thought that would be an obvious choice. The location was ideal, and even the timing was wonderful, since Friday afternoon was the first big slot of time Andy had available to work on this.

But it turned out that you cannot observe their services without first going through an orientation, and that just didn't fit into Andy's schedule, since, well, Friday afternoon was the first slot of time he had available to work on it.

Thus it was that on Sunday morning we trekked down to Garden Grove to visit an Antiochan Orthodox Church.

It was a very strange experience, and strangest of all in how strange it was not.

We came looking for the experience of being outsiders, very different from everyone else. Instead we found a bunch of people very much like us. Isaiah and September were little angels during the liturgy, but Nathan was quite noisy. I didn't mind waiting out in the narthex with him, though. You can't get angry when your little boy is chattering incessantly about all the crosses and how they remind us that Jesus loves us. And it was so good to spend time with all the other young mothers chasing around their little ones. Families like ours seem to be the norm around there. Young intellectual couples with lots of babies--two toddlers and a bulging belly seemed to be the average family size. Mothers breastfeeding three-year-olds. The gypsy-garbed young woman---adorned with tatoos, piercings... and a head covering---pointed Nathan out to her adorably dred-locked son, and whispered "Look! Another little boy with long hair!"

I felt so very, very normal.

Which is, to be perfectly honest, a rather strange experience for me.

The liturgy, too--the little I saw of it... I expected the beauty, expected the strangeness, but I was completely taken aback by how comfortable it all was.

There was so much beauty, and yet beauty was so obviously not an end in itself, all was meant to draw the mind to Christ, and anything that draws the mind to Christ cannot help but be very beautiful, almost as though by accident, it's that inherent.

The choir was at the back, singing so beautifully, but they stood at the back. They were not the point, they were simply worshipping together with us, facilitating our worship, sweeping us forward with their song, sweeping our souls toward Christ.

The large icons at the front, too, and the dozens upon dozens of smaller icons in clusers along the side walls... all were beautiful and golden and glowing... and decidedly two-dimensional. Which is true, of course, of all icons, lest they decieve the eye into seeing them as more than they truly are, and thus seeing less than there is. As windows to heaven, they must necessarily be flat.

I must say, though, that lovely as they are, I'm quite uncomfortable with the whole idea of icons. And flipping through their pamphlets did little to allay my discomfort. That an icon of Christ would actually share in certain properties of Christ Himself, and serve as a window by which the soul can glimpse heaven... the belief seems blasphemous.

But of course that is precisely what I firmly believe about art in general. When a work of art depicts something, it's really like the thing it depicts, and by participating in and isolating certain qualities of the object, it can teach our soul to see the object in a new way. But it is a very uncomfortable thing indeed think hard about great art about Jesus.

It is strange and disorienting to realize that coming to a reasoned, consistent disagreement with their stance on icons would require as big a shift in my thinking (if not a bigger) as to come to agree with them.

The emphasis on Mary is extremely uncomfortable indeed, though, and I see no potential resolution there.

As for their claims to truly be The Church, I have no basis on which to evaluate them. I was under the impression that the Orthodox Church believes that nobody else is saved. But from the little I've been learning, it does not sound like they deny the existence of true Christians outside Eastern Orthodoxy. They simply claim to be, here on earth, what Protestants believe only exists in heaven. They don't deny that Protestant churches are what they claim to be, they simply claim that the Orthodox Church is something more.

Which turns out to be a much bigger claim than I ever imagined.

In all its branches, Christianity is about both doctrine and practice. While Protestantism leans toward the doctrine side, Eastern Orthodoxy leans more to the practice side. There's a big emphasis on spiritual disciplines, and achieving mystic union with Christ. Christianity isn't just a set of doctrines, with practical applications, it's a skill that can only be learned through observation and mentoring. Suddenly apostolic succession becomes very, very important. You want to learn how to become like Jesus from someone who learned from someone else, who learned from someone else, who learned from Jesus himself.

It seems that it should be a theoretically simple thing to discover whether this claim is institutional only, or a vibrant, living reality. I don't really place a whole lot of stock in apostolic succession in the West, because it has passed through unholy hands. Whatever conclusion you may come to about the rightness of any particular branch of the faith, there is no Western church which you can trust on the basis of pedigree.

Is there a trustworthy pedigree in the East? I have no idea. I'm fairly familiar with the history of Western Christendom, but I know next to nothing about about the history of Eastern Orthodoxy. Does it share a rocky history much like our own? Or is it indeed an unbroken chain of holiness? The latter seems highly unlikely, aside from the profoundly miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.

But I really don't know a thing about it, so I'm quite eager to cast my eye over a few history books.

In the mean time, we're embedded in our own church at Blessed Sacrament, but I think we have much to gain in learning from these other followers of Jesus. So we just might be back Wednesday night.

9.24.2006

Slip-n-Slide

If you think it's fun to splash around in water on a vinyl mat, you should definitely try orange juice on linoleum. So much more slippery... imagine the possibilities!

9.22.2006

All better.

Not only was traffic just fine, but everybody played hooky from Andy's last class, so he got to come home an hour early.

Tembo and I are going to have a grand time this afternoon, just us girls. I'm gonna get me a nice big cup of tea, and do a bunch of menu planning. This month I'm going to add up all the quantities of all the ingredients, so I know exactly what I'm doing. No more guestimating for me... not until I've made a practice of precision, anyway, and thus have developed an accurate sense for these things. I'm also going to add up the expected total cost of various meals in my repertoire. It should be a fun project... I'm quite looking forward to it. I wonder if there will be time to squeeze in a bubble bath, too?

And best of all, when the boys return this even, probably a bit the worse for the wear after their vaccinations, I will be full of love and patience and kisses for them once again.

1 hr. 50 min.

More or less.

Traffic had better be good, today.

I love my wuggies dearly, but I have been on mommy duty for entirely too long.

The moment you walk in the door, dear, they're all yours.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go attempt to separate the clean laundry from the dirty laundry.

I'm postponing all teaching moments about the difference between clothing and confetti for some other time when I'm rested enough to tell the difference between joi de vive, and willfull destructiveness.

9.21.2006

Saturday

It's all going to be better on Saturday.

Last night, while Andy was off at the computer lab, writing a paper, the kids were asking about him. Where's Dadders? Where'd'e go?

I assured them not to fear, Dadders will be home in a few hours.

Of course, you'll be in bed by then, but you can see him... well... no, not in the morning, but when he gets home from work.

It wasn't until he kissed me goodbye this morning, at 5am, that I realized that wasn't going to happen, either.

See you at 9:15, honey.

Saturday, kiddos. You can see him on Saturday. And the class will be over, no more papers to write, no more observation hours to set up and attend. Saturday.

Actually, I guess you get to see him tomorrow, too. He gets off work at noon, and he's coming straight home to take you in for your shots.

But let's not think about that right now, on Saturday, we're going to the zoo.

Because starting on Saturday, it isn't going to BE a zoo around here.

Not for the next two months, anyway.

9.19.2006

So much for chivalry

Nathan knows that when a lady sits down, a gentleman ought to pull a chair out for her.

After all, how else are you going to keep her from stealing YOUR SEAT!?

***IMPORTANT NOTICE***

No babies were harmed in the making of this post. Situation was intercepted, and not a moment too soon. And Nathan found himself sitting in... a different chair.

9.18.2006

Antiques

There's no way I'd admit to this, except that it's just so funny. Last night, the only way I managed to get dinner on the table was with the aid of the Antiques Roadshow. It's a heinous thing to snatch away these precious moments of childhood, and squander them without purpose... but I decided that dinner might be of more use to them than that hour of cognitive development, crucial though it might be. It turns out that the wuggies disagreed with me on all counts, and spent dinner politely requesting that please I serve them cookies and goldfish crackers rather than a luscious, velvety homemade macaroni-and-cheese casserole with just a hint of garlic. Admittedly, it did have rather too much romano this time--I'll post the recipe when I work out the right proportions--but still! All they ate, in fact, were the beets. Ah, the joyous serendipities of Mystery Can Night.

At any rate, the wuggies were not too pleased with my efforts to make them a nourishing meal, but they greatly enjoyed being plopped in front of the safest-looking show on the tube, and learning all about how to identify a Tiffany vase, and all about the hideous necklaces Lucille Ball had the misfortune of wearing, and how probably it was a gift, not because it was so tacky, but because she never would have bought anything nearly so expensive.

And they learned lots of other stuff, too, apparently. After dinner, Nathan began carrying around a rather beat-up carseat cover I'd brought in to wash. He proudly showed his find to Auntie Sarah.

"Antique!"

9.16.2006

Whole Wheat Rolls

I'm rather of the opinion that all-purpose flour might better be called "no-purpose" flour. It's a sort of jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. You can use it for anything... but it's just not quite ideal. For yeast breads, where you really need well-developed glutein, bread flour yeilds far better results. And for quick breads, where you need to be careful to avoid too much kneading lest the glutein make it tough, whole wheat flour works quite nicely and is ever so much more nutritious. Lately, whenever I make biscuits, I've been just replacing ALL of the white flour with whole wheat, and making no other adjustments to my normal recipe. And they turn out great. They actually come out lighter that way.

Of course, I do have to admit to using all-purpose flour for cakes and pastries and sauces... but only because I'm not a serious enough baker to go out and buy cake flour and pastry flour and figure out how to make a lumpless white sauce with cornstarch.

But this post isn't about all-purpose flour. This is about whole wheat flour, and how I finally figured out how to make beautifully fluffy rolls, with all that whole-grain nutty goodness.

The key is gluten, and thoroughly mixing it into your dry flour. Sadly, your regular grocery store probably hasn't even heard of gluten, and I haven't seen it at Trader Joe's, either. I get it at Henry's Market, and I know I've seen it at other health-food stores.

Mix thoroughly in large bowl:

2 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour (all-purpose if you MUST)
1/4 c. wheat gluten

Set flour mixture aside.

Place in bottom of bread machine:

1 1/4 c. water
2 large eggs

Sprinkle flour mixture over eggs and water.

Add:

1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. dry active yeast
3 Tbsp. butter

Set machine to dough cycle.

When dough is complete, form into rolls and arrange on a buttered baking sheet. Or casserole dish. Or whatever. Let rise until doubled, about 45 min. Bake at 350 until golden brown, around 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy with a nice big blueberry-peach-walnut smoothie. Such a nice, refreshing, low-key lunch!

=)

AND... if you happen to forget the yeast...

it makes an AMAZING flatbread.

Not that I ever forget ingredients or anything...

9.14.2006

Polyphony

Sometimes, around the dinner table, we sing grace. Like we did on special occasions back home growing up, and always I dream of the day when our little family can sing in four part harmony. Andy holds down the melody, and I experiment wildly, a different descant every time. The harmonic freedom is glorious... but really, there's only so much you can do, and I dream of adding more voices to the mix.

Tonight, I think I got my dream. It wasn't four parts, since Andy had to work late, and I'm not so sure that it was harmony. But whatever it was, it was glorious.

As I sang "God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for this food..." Nathan sang "God, God, food, Tembo get in chair...," and all the while we were singing, Isaiah sang a sevenfold Amen, interjected with frantic exhortations to his brother to keep holding hands.

And oh, it was glorious.

9.12.2006

Duck out of water

We've been out of the duck stage for a while now. Gone are the days when Isaiah would crouch in the hallway, blanket draped over his head like a jedi's hood, and quack to passersby. Gone, too, are the days when the ducks were the primary attraction of any excursion. Now the zoo is about monkeys and the leopard, and the park is about the swings and the slide, and above all the climbing.

But ducks are still very important, nonetheless.

And ducks should be in the water.

There were lots of ducks last time we went to the park, and they weren't in the water.

There was much sobbing.

9/12

I vividly remember that awful morning. Sharon and I had just returned from a jog, and were sitting in the Horton lobby together, helping one another work on memorizing the book of Romans. (A noble task of which I only finished a chapter or two, but which I do believe my dear and virtuous friend accomplished in entirety...) There was quite a crowd watching television, absurd for 6:30 am., and rather annoying. Slowly I became aware that Sharon wasn't paying any attention to my recitation, eyes glued to the television screen. I turned around to see what was going on, and slowly I became aware that this wasn't a horror flick, wasn't a spoof, but a live news broadcast. The reporters at the site were as bewildered as I. All across the nation, we watched together as the burning tower crumbled, and as a second plane crashed into its twin.

And then the Pentagon.

And then...

An empty field in rural Pennsylvania, somewhere in Somerset County. The heroes of flight 93 were a light and an inspiration, a shining ray of hope on this dark, dark morning.

I remember the next morning, too, wondering if I would see smoke on the horizon, and wondering if it would be from Anaheim to the east or Los Angeles in the west.

But there was no smoke. Our safety has not been incidental, nor has it been cheap.

And today, the day after 9/11, I want to say thank you.

9.10.2006

Both and.

Already not yet.

Death and resurrection don't follow a straightforward chronology.

At least not the sort I expect.

And always I am startled at this strange admixture of being and becoming,

confused, awed, amazed, and perplexed

at what it is to be

human.

9.09.2006

Beware the leaven of the brioche dough.

I've emerged victorious from a long and rather gruesome battle with a small ball of brioche dough.

Word to the wise: never eat raw bread dough if you've been exposed to a virus.

I've always felt a touch of sorrowful affection for the thousands of tiny creatures who give their lives to make my bread light and fluffy.

No more.

9.01.2006

It's all Greek for me!

One very busy afternoon last week, I stopped at Trader Joes to pick up some pizza dough for a quick dinner.

I ended up leaving with a whole shopping cart full of nutritious goodies... but no pizza dough.

You see, it turns out that they sell pita bread at Trader Joes. And not the nasty Sara Lee stuff, or even the quite nice pitas under the Sahara label. Oh no. These were scrumptiously fresh, covered in sesame seeds... mmm-mmm.

Last time ground beef was on sale for .99/lb, Andy cooked up a HUGE batch of seasoned patties for gyros. Inauthentic, I know, but SO yummy, even when you sub out the lamb with beef. The idea was that on busy nights we could just defrost a few patties, stir some cucumber and mint into yogurt, throw it all into pitas with some veggies, and have yummy nutritious meal pretty much effortlessly.

(Yes, I know he's wonderful, and no, you can't have him.)

But the grocery stores in our new neighborhood don't sell pita bread. So I was going to have to make my own pitas for the gyros. Which is certainly well worth the time... if you have the time. And the whole point was to have food for when there just wasn't enough time. It was all very depressing.

Somehow it never occurred to us to check at Trader Joes.

Anyway, all that is a very long and round-about way of saying that I suddenly found myself at Trader Joes, looking for yogurt for the sole purpose of making gyros. There were all sorts of other reasons why I needed yogurt, but since it was all spur-of-the moment and I didn't have my grocery list with me, I was only actually thinking about gyro-making. So that is why I passed right over the regular plain yogurt, and despite having no idea in the world what it was, bought "Greek-style" yogurt.

I have no idea what I expected, but this was definitely not it. I guess I must have been expecting something resembling regular yogurt.

And this does not.

Although I suppose you might say that regular yogurt does resemble Greek yogurt, in a shadowy sort of way, like lamps resemble suns and housecats resemble lions.

Rich and thick and creamy and flavorful... this is what yogurt is meant to be.

And if your parents just so happened to have brought you a jar of wildflower honey from a little bee farm in Arizona... who needs ice cream?

It just puts yogurt into a whole 'nother category.

It's a good news, bad news, really bad news sort of day.

The good news is that since Nathan's tummy bug was quite shortlived, and last night Isaiah was done throwing up by morning, I have high hopes that Tembo will also get well within a few hours.

The bad news is that I've been so busy giving baths and changing clothes--not to mention making arrangments for holiday weekend dental emergencies!--that I haven't gotten around to steaming the carpet in the boys room. (I have washed everybody's sheets though.)

And the really bad news, of course, is that we exposed everybody on Thursday.

So if any of your kids catch it, I'm awfully sorry...

...and you can borrow our carpet steamer.

=/