Jul 29, 2009

The Introvert Starts and Reaches Out...

I gave the starter a try. It was, well, started with orange juice and home ground wheat berries, which is to say my very own whole wheat flour. We went to Whole Foods, and got the berries from the organic bulk food bins, and everything. Then there was a series of mixing, and adding, and mostly leaving things out on the counter, which we would normally call letting them spoil, except in this case we call it fermenting. Or even blooming, I think.

SourdoLady does indeed seem to know what she's doing, and from the comment thread it would seem that there is a niche-passion for everyone, including sourdough lovers. It would also seem that even culinary students troll the internet, looking for ways to do as little as possible on homework assignments and projects. Which really I'm not at all against, as I prefer to do as little as possible myself; it's just that "please help me, I really need an A on this" as an entreaty strikes me as beyond lazy. Don't they teach proper sucking-up techniques anymore? Something along the lines of "I would be honored to receive any of your extensive expertise on this, as I know you are among the most notable authorities in the world on this topic." OK, maybe not that buttery, but still.

The judging of poor culinary students' motives aside, the starter started out well, and was smelling nice & sour, which is exactly what I would hope to smell in a sourdough starter, but I got lax on the daily feedings, and when I checked on it yesterday it smelled bread-ish but not sour. According to the procedure it could've just been messing with me to see if I was truly committed to this wild-yeast thing, but I don't really care for those sorts of games in my relationships, so I called it off. No, actually it was because I knew I hadn't held up my end of the deal, and I felt it unlikely that I would be able to bring this batch back. And I still have an ample supply of wheat berries and OJ, so I'm going to give it another shot next week, after we get back from celebrating my grandma's 85th b'day in Idaho. RIP, little yeasties...

...This leading the moms' group thing is having effects on me I really should have expected, but didn't think about when I was writing my little election paragraph & saying things like "I would like to serve the group in this capacity" (oh yes, I brought out some of my better big words and campaign speak--who cares that I was running unopposed). I actually have to initiate conversations & stuff. We (the Cat Daddy and myself) are having a garage sale in a couple weeks, and we (SHS) are having a bake sale right along with it. To go completely overboard and make it an extravaganza, we (the Cat Daddy & I) thought it would be a good idea to invite our neighbors to have garage sales of their own on the same day. "Multi-Family Sale"--these words make hardcore bargain hunters tremble with excitement.

So I made up flyers, and the boyz & I walked our street today, handing them out. I was all for the drop and run approach, but the Cat Daddy suggested I knock on doors & throw in that personal touch, which is among my least favorite things in life (knocking on doors, not personal touches). Admittedly however, I knew that for all the pain we would probably have more success getting people to want to sell their crap with us. I consoled myself with the thought that I wasn't selling anything so they couldn't be that mad at me. And so commenced a somewhat-but-not-completely-painful hour as I knocked on 20 doors, spoke with four neighbors, one of whom I'm almost certain I awakened, wedged flyers in doorframes, and chased His Highness out of people's yards, while the Littler One snuggled cozily in the sling. It would seem that most everyone on our block works days, although there was the one house where, as soon as I shut the flyer in the screen door and was on my way to the next house, the door cracked open and a mysterious, unattended arm reached out to take the flyer. I started to roll my eyes, but I do the same thing all the time, so really my first thought should have been, "Hey, a kindred spirit!"

So that was that. I would like to point out that the Cat Daddy (the Wow) had to work, so it was up to me (the How) to carry out his very extroverted idea. Just sayin'...

Jul 27, 2009

Minimizing the Stupid...

As of a couple weeks ago, I am officially the Managing Director of my moms' group. While I've seen several variations, I really feel the apostrophe should go at the end of "moms," indicating that the group belongs to the moms. Not one mom's group, and not merely a group of moms, but a moms' group.

The club spawned from a group of moms whose husbands went out in the field a lot, but were not technically deployed, and therefore not eligible for many of the base services offered to families of deployed military-types. These moms got together and said, "No one is looking after us properly, so we've got to look after each other." That's our entire purpose--helping each other out. We do get together and have holiday parties & stuff, but we're not a social club, per se. Even though our name is Spouses Helping Spouses, I'm careful to say we're not a spouses club, and we don't want to be a spouses club. The base already has what I'm told is a thriving and successful spouses club, and we have no intention of supplanting that.

We're sort of the slightly-off-center types. Most of us are just trying to do a good job supporting our husbands and rearing the kiddos, so we don't have time for the formalities and such one often encounters in other groups. We operate on as little written policy as possible. I could go into a lengthy description on that one, but we would all go cross-eyed, and who wants that? We operate with as little drama as possible, and we try to be for each other as much as possible. Much of this is in direct contrast to what is so common to various womens' groups these days. And so far it's worked. We've grown to somewhere around 50 members, all with kids and many with husbands who are deployed, TDY, or out in the field often. Which, as we've learned, is fancy techincal military-speak for "gone."

Dads are more than welcome to join, but so far no takers. Which bums me out, but on the one hand I can see how 50 women would be ever-so-slightly intimidating to the lone dad. I don't know what it is about women, but I'll go ahead and say that it's all too common that when you put a bunch of women together in a room, before long things get stupid. We compete, and we jab, and we hurt people's feelings without a thought.

I've been thinking about why this is, and thus far it seems to boil down to two things: fear and a lack of control. You certainly can't admit when you're afraid, so the best way to cover it up is by acting as unafraid and strong as possible. And when you feel that you have very little control over your life (such as when the military tells your husband when he can & can't breathe, spit, or come home), the quickest remedy is to find something to be in control of, so you can feel like you have control over something, regardless of its significance or impact, or even whether or not the control you think you have is real.

So, now that I'm something akin to president of this wonderful little group, I find myself thinking, How do I help preserve what those before us have worked so hard to build, and protect the safety that people feel, without going to that fear and control place myself?

The answer, thus far, is Jesus and books. Now, we are not a religious club. Although most of the members have some sort of religious affiliation, one of our big deals is that anyone of any religion is welcome, and no one is going to run around trying to get people to convert. The topic comes up, sure, but no unsolicited sales pitches. But the big epiphany that came to me is that I can see my personal position as a ministry. I don't have to try to sell God to show his love to people. God is very much about being for people and helping them out, things with which our club's purposes mesh quite nicely.

The books are just reminders. Leadership topics & stuff like that. I go to fear and control so easily; I need almost constant reminders of my personal boundaries, what I can and can't control, and what it means to be the leader of a member-run group. I've already adopted kitschy little phrases, such as "We're the steering committee, not the driving committee," and "Our job is to minimize the stupid." That last one is by far my favorite. The military (as with anything in life) is full of a lot of stupid. When we support one another, we minimize the stupid.

Write that down, kids...

Jul 24, 2009

Reasons I Love My PT's...

I'll admit I was not optimistic about finding a good physical therapist when we moved to Cheyenne. My outlook improved, however, when I first went to my current PT's and found this posted in the office:

The Ten "Nevers" of Physical Therapy

1. Never say you can't...because you will do it anyway.
2. Never say "It's easy"...because we'll make it hard.
3. Never say "I want to go home"...because you'll just stay longer.
4. Never lose count...because you will start at 1 again.
5. Never complain...because we'll never listen.
6. Never argue...because you will never win.
7. Never scream or cry...because it only encourages us.
8. Never look like you're enjoying it...because we'll put a stop to it.
9. Never hold your breath...because if you pass out and die, we'll have to do paperwork.
10. Never lie or cheat...because we know the truth and you'll live to regret it.

I know well enough not to do any of the above, but they still kick my butt. Fabulous...

Jul 17, 2009

Oh Yes I Did...

"Weigh your..."


Still gaining well--over a half ounce per day for the last month.

Because he's awesome...

Jul 16, 2009

Hokey Tucks...

His Highness: "Mommy, muffin!"

Me: "Yes, you may have a muffin. You may not steal any more cupcakes, but you may have a muffin. Do you want me to take the paper off?"

HH: "Yes!"

Me: "Geez, these didn't turn out well at all. They're all dense & tough. It's like a friggin' hockey puck."

HH: "Hokey tuck?"

Me: "Yes, hockey puck. Are you going to eat the hockey puck?"

HH: "Yes! A-hokey tuck!"

Off & running...

Jul 11, 2009

For Starters...

An update on the baking--the Cat Daddy did attempt a batch of bread, and I think for a first attempt it turned out respectably. The outside needs some work, but the inside turned out chewy and delicious. It's hard to get a really sour sourdough, but with some butter and even a little salt it's quite yummy.

Now that he's provided a baseline, however, my competitive side is emerging. I've never had that much interest in baking bread, but now I'm curious to see how I can get it to turn out.

In describing some (really good) marriage advice he got, Jon over at SCL talks about the "Wow" person and the "How" person. The "Wow" person is the ideas person, and the "How" person is the implementer. "How" people have to be careful, in getting more info and boiling ideas down to practicalities, that they don't squash the "Wow" people's dreams.

So while the Cat Daddy (the Wow) decided, at 10:45 pm to make a sourdough starter, I chose to go to bed and then do some reading about sourdough starters (the How). Now, nearly a week later, I'm ready to try my own. I found a recipe online that looks promising. It was posted by someone called "SourdoLady," so I'm thinking it's at least worth a shot. If someone's entire online identity references their bread baking specialty, that's gotta mean they're pretty good at it, right?

Wish me luck...

All Boy...

I'm not sure what the expression "all boy" implies, exactly. I mean, I know what it implies about those to whom it refers, I'm just not sure what it implies about those who aren't all boy. Are they half or part boy? Can you round up, like 86.9%, and still be considered all boy? Or are all boys considered all-boy?

Well, regardless of the finer points of such a label, I would say that all the boys in my house are all boy, including Max the Perrier (that would be a poodle-terrier). I've never owned a boy-dog before him, and I'm getting quite the education. For example, it would appear that neutering (which presumably took place for him several years ago) does not necessarily completely prevent humping, marking, and other such behaviors. Actually I think we've eradicated the marking, at least in the house anyway, by putting in the wood floors. No matter what we did to the carpet, or how many doggie-spanks we gave, we could not get him to stop completely. Wood floors = done. As far as we can tell.

Which leaves the humping. That word has bothered me ever since about second grade when I learned it in the, um, physical sense. Wednesday, "hump" day? Forget it. I can't even talk about it. Sort of like the word "fart," which makes me giggle to this day every time I say it, except with "hump" I just blush. Anyway, with the female dogs it's easy to explain away as a dominance behavior. With the males it doesn't seem so clear-cut. All I know is that we need to make sure Max has his own stuffed animal to woo, and I am exposed to doggie boy-parts way more often than I ever wanted. A little embarrassing when company is over, but I can live with it to an extent. I try not to make a big deal out of it--I don't want to give the poor dog a complex or anything. So my response is usually something like, "Wow, having a moment, there, Max?" and then I avert the gaze because he looks sheepish when he's caught in the act.

So THEN add a two-year-old learning about words, and parts, and things, and it gets interesting. Yesterday I was changing the Littler One, and His Highness came in & said, "Max, mommy, poop." Which led me to begin the questions...

"Max pooped?"

"You pooped?"

"Who pooped? When you learn to use the potty we won't have to deal with poop in your diaper, you know." No pressure, just saying.

I assumed he probably needed a diaper change and didn't think much more about it. He avoids diaper changes like the plague. And yet he doesn't want to use the potty. Confounds the mind, that kid. I finished changing the Littler One and took him out to sit in the swing. Oh, but the sight that was there to greet us. Max and all his parts.

"Ohhhhh, Your Highness, were you saying that Max pooped?"


"No he didn't poop..." and we proceeded to talk about how boy dogs have boy-parts too, but they're different from people's parts, and how Max was having a private moment, and it was perfectly normal (this I'm trying to convince myself of), blah blah blah.

So then later in the day His Highness wanted to know where Max's parts went. This is like the blind leading the blind, as I never took doggie sex-ed, so I'm not even sure how it all works, but we deduced that probably everything was back inside Max's body. Which is where it belongs, as far as I'm concerned, but I didn't get into that with His Highness. A topic for another day...

Jul 10, 2009

No, Not That Mark...

I came across Mark's blog last week. Mark and his family go to the home church in Phx. I don't know them well. For example, I did not know that Mark is an author. He's had one novel published and another one is on the way. I haven't read his fiction, so I don't know if it's any good. On his website he assures me that it is, and if you go to there he'll assure you of the same. I really like his blog though. Thus far, anyway.

I like it that Mark is an author and has that creative side to him. The more people I meet at the home church, the more artist-types I find. The church was birthed more or less from a music ministry in the 60's & 70's, so one could hardly expect otherwise. I don't know crap about most art, but I like it.

It's so easy to think of art as ancillary, and in some sense I suppose it is. If everything hits the fan and we have to go live underground and eat rat burgers, then anything not having to do with food, water, or shelter becomes ancillary. But I think art is more important than just pretty pictures or exciting stories or whatever. There's something about artistic expression that reveals God, even when the artist isn't painting, or writing, or singing specifically about him. I like it when the artist-types are given a venue for their expressions, especially within the church, because it lets me see God in ways I never thought about. And then I start wondering if maybe we all have some artist in us. Some more than others, granted, but maybe at least a little bit in everyone...

Jul 8, 2009

Cat News on the Horizon...

The Cat Daddy's been looking at kitties to adopt. Very cute tuxedo kitties. This is a very bad sign...

Jul 6, 2009

Asking the Baby...

When His Highness was born I was part of a moms' group. Its purpose was to help out new moms, and mostly to talk them down from the panic that feels continuous in those first few months. In the process, however, the moms got to talking, and some hit it off quite well, and boom--friends to continue the support long after we got kicked out of the group.

Oh, but "kicked out" is such a strong term. There was no set timeline, but it was a revolving group. Once your baby hit 12 weeks or so you were "encouraged" to move on to bigger & better things, in order to make room for the fresh batch of brand-newbies. Kind of like Menudo, when the boys would hit puberty. The voice dropped, and bam--gotta get on moving with the music, as they say.

The group (the moms, not Menudo) was led by a nurse from the hospital, and it operated much like a 12-step group, minus the 12 steps and serenity prayer. In the basement of the Methodist church, we would meet and go around the circle and share how things were going--victories, concerns, venting, etc, and sometimes we'd have a guest speaker come talk about vaccinations, or baby slings, or whatever. Lots of tears, lots of hormones, lots of diaper-changing. It could get hairy at times, since there were as many philosophies as there were moms, but that's where the nurse was really helpful. She was quite skilled at validating most everyone's viewpoints without stepping on people's toes who didn't feel the same way, and she was awesome at undoing the damage of some of the more alarmist doctors in the area. Just so we're clear, it's OK if one of your breasts gives more milk than the other, and if anyone tells you otherwise they have no idea what they're talking about.

The best advice I got--but I didn't follow it--was to not freak out about giving the baby a bottle of formula at daycare. We ended up doing it, and I ended up freaking out about it, and eventually I calmed down and was able to be OK with it.

My favorite pieces of advice that I follow to this day are that you probably won't damage your baby by trying something for a day or two, and to ask your baby to make a change. The first is awesome for obvious reasons. New moms tend to create a worst-case result for trying something new, and then mentally follow the path to the quickest and saddest catastrophe possible. Reeling it in a bit and offering perspective reminds us that, at any time, we can revert to whatever was working.

The asking is something I never thought about before. When you read the parenting books there are generally two illustrations--the parents who regulate everything, for fear that baby will take over the family, edging out Mom & Dad's identities and desires, and growing up to think (s)he's the center of the universe; and the parents who regulate nothing, for fear that baby will feel rejected and worthless, and then starve. Neither of these helps the neurotic moms who just want to sleep a little and feel less scared. One day several of us in the group were talking about how we were growing weary of the constant feeds, and we wanted to try to space them out more, but we didn't want to harm a hungry baby. Depending on who you read, the two extremes would say to either take charge and be the parent so the baby wouldn't be spoiled, or to forget about any sort of schedule so the baby wouldn't starve.

And then Jen (the nurse) said the most novel thing. She said, "Try asking your baby to wait 15 minutes. Pick the baby up, walk, occupy, distract, and see if (s)he'll hold off. If so, great, you can do this for a while and then gradually increase the space between feeds. If not, feed your baby without any guilt. You've tried, and (s)he may not be ready, and that's OK."

I like this idea a lot. It validates the baby as a real person with real needs, without INvalidating the needs of the parents and their job to take charge and provide structure. It's especially helpful this time around, because of the Littler One's personality. He nurses to sleep, period. While this feels right, and I have no problem doing it, I do have the voices in the back of my head telling me, "He'll never go to sleep any other way," and "You'd better train him now or he'll be spoiled." So over time, every so often, when I was sure he was full and dry and tired, I've asked him to go to sleep without nursing. Most of the time he would protest and I would proceed to nurse him peacefully to sleep. But once, a couple weeks ago, he protested, and I tried to nurse him, and he screamed harder, so I had to try a couple other things until he finally gave in & slept. Since then there have been a few similar times, and I'm thinking that as he's getting older, he's becoming more open to other forms of comfort. Which means I can hand him off to Daddy more. Oh yes. Yes I can.

It makes me feel good and right to meet his needs ("A need that's met is a need that goes away") and do the nurturing & stuff, and it makes me feel competent and powerful to gently encourage him to grow & develop as babies do, even when he might resist the idea. Then I get all weepy and emotional, which is neither here nor there, except to say I'm really thankful for the good advice I got way back in Massachusetts.

Jul 4, 2009

Bread That Tastes Like Where You Live...

So, the starter behaved itself. I looked at it a couple times, and it looked back like it wanted to kill me. Then I stirred it once and it seemed a little less hostile. By the time the Cat Daddy returned from alert yesterday, it was bubbly and gooey, and smelled like alcohol (the drinking kind). According to Alton Brown (who invented pretty much every recipe I make that is worth eating), this means that it was a rip-roaring success.

The next step will be actually baking a loaf of bread. I'm just learning about breadmaking and starters, but to me this is where it gets interesting. If we succeed in baking a loaf of bread, and if we decide that it's good enough that we would want to eat more just like it, we can maintain the starter indefinitely by feeding it every time we bake a loaf. People have maintained starters for generations, passing them down to family members like treasured heirlooms.

Basically the starter would take up permanent residence in the fridge. The cold makes the yeasties go dormant so it more or less hibernates until we warm it up again. I have a few semi-permanent tenants in there at any given time (baking soda, maraschino cherries), but it boggles my mind to think of maintaining a starter for the long haul.

Ooh, and if we get really brave we can do a wild culture starter. Instead of using store-bought yeast, you let it accumulate the bugs from the air (there is a certain amount of yeast in the air at any given time). It can get a bit dicey, as that means that bad & nasty bugs can also make their way in, and then you have to toss the starter & try again, but because different places have different yeast make-ups, the taste of the bread made with that starter will be unique to where you live. This is why true San Francisco sourdough can't be replicated exactly anywhere else. Weird.

So anyway, the starter now lives in the fridge, at least until we can test it out and see if we want to keep it. Now we just have to figure out a permanent container; I want my cobalt Pyrex back...

Jul 2, 2009

Burping Yeast...

Remember how I mentioned that the Cat Daddy decided to make a sourdough starter last night? At 10:45 pm?

So, this morning he left to go on alert until tomorrow afternoon (24 hours, my eye). Apparently it exploded in the night, but before he left he cleaned it up and said something. I don't remember his exact words, as I was still lying bleary-eyed in bed while one kid nursed and the other decided that 6 am is a perfectly acceptable waking-up time (which it used to be, in my previous life when I went to bed by 10pm). But it was on the order of "Hell, let's keep it going and see what happens." Awesome. 2 kids, 2 dogs, and now a colony or two of yeasties.

So I am in charge of the care & feeding of the starter while he's gone. I'm hoping that avoiding eye contact and being as amiable as possible will appease the starter to the extent that it will keep to itself. I don't care if it burps at me, I just hope it stays in the bowl...

Jul 1, 2009

How Church Turned Out...

We went with the slightly more churchy one. It's a Berean church, and is part of the Berean Fellowship, which is sort of like a denomination, but not really. Local autonomy, or something or other. I'm not sure how many people are at church on a given Sunday, but there are people of all ages. All ages. I swear some of the folks are pushing 100--it's amazing.

They roped us in with their dang kindness and understanding, and people that we started to really like. Plus the Cat Daddy's crew partner and her husband are in our small group. Current crew partner, that is; they change a lot. They then proceeded to completely spoil us when the Littler One was born, bringing us all sorts of dinners, and even the old people don't bat an eye at our jeans, shorts, and/or flip-flops.

So now we are starting the business of plugging in more. Finding our respective niches will take time, of course, but for now I'm taking proactive steps such as making eye contact and talking to people without ending the conversation at the first opportunity. This is progress.

One thing that's great about this church is the sheer amount of food they give out. It seems like there's some sort of potluck or fundraising lunch almost every week. And they have a gymnatorium. Or maybe they just call it a gym--I guess there isn't really a stage area that would merit the "-atorium." Anyway, it's big, and has industrial-strength carpet with the AWANA game markings velcro'd on. Or maybe color-duct-taped. Whatever. Brings me back to the plastic bowling pins and carrying beanbags on my head around the big circle in the AWANA Olympics at ASU. And there's a kitchen next to the gym, with a pass-thru window for the giant coffee makers & coolers of powdered lemonade. And I may or may not have seen basketball hoops. It's spectacular.

On a completely different topic , the Cat Daddy has decided, at 10:45 pm, to take up baking. He was all, "You should try baking bread sometime. You have the mixer for it now." How did I know that was coming. I knew that was coming. I replied "You should try baking bread sometime." So he decided to make a sourdough starter. He's watching the yeast belch, & there is a foil-covered nightstand lamp involved. I need to vacate the vicinity in a hurry...