• What $5 Gets You

    I had several boring chores that I’d been putting off and twins clamoring to earn money, so I handed out assignments.  Two glass marbles stuck in the kitchen drain– they’d fallen there when we cleaned out the fish bowl after Bingo III’s demise and had to be removed.   A pile of recipes that needed to be taped to pieces of paper and slipped into laminated sleeves.

    Porter was charged with removing the obstacles from the drain.

    marbles

    I could have edited the photo to make the sink appear gleaming white, or cropped it to show only the drain and not the Beef Ball sauce residue, but I’ve never painted myself as a paragon of perfection and am not starting now.

    “What if I only get one of the marbles out?” Porter asked.

    “Then you’ll earn $2.50,” I said.

    “I might rather do that, because then I’d get two quarters and I could put them in my quarter collection.”

    “I have no quarters because you’ve cleaned me out.  The fifty cents would be paid in dimes, nickels and pennies,” I said.

    “Then I’ll get them both out,” he decided.

    I would have gone for the tweezers or the needle-nosed pliers, but my inventor had other plans.  He disappeared into his room and returned with a Lego box full of supplies.

    magnetize

    “Yo, what’s with all the magnets?”

    “I’m going to hold the magnets over the marbles so that the magnetism seeps into the marbles. Then I’ll just hold my strongest magnet over them and they’ll pop out of the drain and stick to it.”

    Drew was at the kitchen table, painstakingly trimming all the recipes I’d had shoved in a drawer, taping them onto colored paper and sliding them into plastic sleeves so I could simply wipe them off when they got spattered with olive oil and soy sauce.

    “You can’t magnetize glass,” he announced.

    “What do you know? I’m the one with the magnets. I’ve made my pencil magnetic before,” Porter said.

    “A pencil isn’t made of glass. Mom, can you magnetize glass?”

    “Don’t ask Mom, ask me. If I hold this drill bit to the marbles for fifteen minutes that should do it.”

    While Porter magnetized the marbles, Drew finished the recipes.

    recipes

    I gave him his five dollars and the option of chillaxing or earning more money. Soon he was in the garage vacuuming the van and wiping down the seats.

    Meanwhile, Porter had an epiphany.  “I think I should electrify the glass instead.  That will be much quicker and there will only be a few sparks.”

    “Are you sure you don’t want my tweezers?” I asked.

    “You don’t use tweezers when you do the electrified marbles.”

    “Does making them electric help to get them out of the drain?”

    “Yes, but it’s too complicated to explain.  I need more batteries.”

    electrify

    Soon he’d come up with this contraption. Drew came in from the garage, lured by the promise of fire. I hovered closely at first, then decided that the addition of a battery wrapped with wire was neither dangerous nor bringing us closer to our goal. Porter didn’t seem perturbed about that. Ten minutes passed, and Porter added three more wire-wrapped batteries to the hammer, with no visible results.

    Drew finished cleaning the van and collected another five dollars.

    My neighbor came by to return a soup pot and peered at Porter’s project.  “I have a pair of antique forceps  that are long and skinny that would probably get those marbles out.”

    “What are forceps?” Porter asked.

    My neighbor is a teacher, and well-acquainted with Porter.  She knew just how to market the forceps.

    “Doctors use them for operations when they need to extract something from a person.  If you have a bullet stuck in your leg, they’d use forceps to grasp it and pull it out.  Using forceps requires a great deal of skill, though.  Maybe your mom should come get them.”

    “I use a lot of tools,” Porter said.  “Forceps are a kind of tool, so I think I’ll come with you to your house now and get them.”

    He abandoned the battery-bedecked hammer and returned with the forceps.  Moments later, one glass marble was sitting on the counter.

    “Two-fifty and counting,” he said.

    The second marble took about a minute.

    “I earned five dollars,” Porter said triumphantly.

    “You should have used the tweezers in the first place.  I earned ten dollars and read two chapters of Ark Angel,” Drew said.

    “I don’t care. I’m going to go magnetize the birdseed and see if the parakeets stick to the sides of the cage after they eat.” Porter ran to his room to begin another project.

    ******************************

    While Drew and I were reorganizing my recipe collection, I found a couple of recipes that people have requested.  The famous Cobb Lane restaurant is closing at the end of this week, and several people have asked for the recipe for the roulage. Here it is.

    roulage

    For a jelly roll pan I use a large cookie sheet with sides. Butter the sheet and waxed paper WELL.  I just use Hershey’s cocoa.  Don’t get distracted while you beat the cream or you end up with butter, but this provides you with a good teaching moment to talk about pioneers and butter churns.  I flavor my filling with a bit of sugar and bourbon.

    Another meal we’ve been eating a lot recently is larb– like the lettuce cups you get at PF Chang’s.  I double this for my family and have the boys mix it with rice to stretch it further, or else I’d be buying four pounds of grounds chicken for this.  I use Sriracha for the chili-garlic sauce (add a bit at a time)  and a poblano for the chilis.  Whole Foods usually has lemongrass, and several grocery stores carry lemongrass in a tube.  It’s found in the produce section under the herbs packaged in plastic and is a decent substitute.  Last week I couldn’t find either and left it out entirely and no one complained.

    Larb Chicken Salad from Epicurious

    sriracha

    Sriracha sauce

    ****************

    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: How We Parent: Just Because You Asked

  • Our Neighbors, The Drug Dealers

    We didn’t immediately catch on to the fact that the neighbors were selling drugs.  Of course, we’d just moved in and had a three-year-old, six-month-old twins, and I was starting a year of treatment for hepatitis C.   I had plenty to keep me occupied inside and no time to check out the other houses on the street.

    Also, the Tiny Kingdom isn’t the first place I’d look for a drug dealer.  Sure, there are kids in the community  with plenty of money, and drug use isn’t anything new, but I figured they got their drugs downtown or at any rate, somewhere else, not right across the street.

    But as the years passed, my boys spent more time in our driveway, which has a clear view of the driveway across the street.  Kids don’t miss a thing.  At first their reports were tame.

    “The guy in the house across the street was drinking a beer and he doesn’t look like he’s twenty-one,” Finn announced one time.  He was about eight at the time and was shocked.  I tried to act shocked, too.

    “You know the house across the street?  All these teenagers are sitting in the driveway smoking.  Should we call the police?” Porter asked another day, as I was putting away groceries.  “I mean, cigarettes can kill you.  And if the smoke drifts over here and we breathe it in and die that would be murder.  I’ll call 911.”

    I restrained him with great difficulty.  He was perplexed by my attitude, and summoned his brothers.  They shared his indignation.  They all put bandannas on their noses  to protect themselves from the fumes and hid in our bushes so they’d have a front row seat when other sins were committed.

    As time passed there were late night parties, some broken up by the police, some with abrupt endings.  The driveway beer and cigarette gatherings continued. My boys began coming home from school and grabbing their air soft guns, playing Capture Osama in the front yard while keeping an eye on the happenings across the street.  They grew familiar with all of the cars that made regular stops at the house.

    airsoftnof

    Then cars began stopping by briefly during the day.  The occupants weren’t staying to smoke or drink.  They’d get out, glance around, disappear behind the garage, and emerge moments later looking satisfied.

    No one ever bothered us, and we couldn’t call the police simply because teens were sitting in a circle smoking in the driveway.  Still, the house gave off a scary aura.  When Porter had to draw a map of the neighborhood for his Webelos Travelers badge, he marked the house with a skull and crossbones:

    Closeup neighbors

    His map key helpfully noted that this house contained “bad peaple.”

    On several occasions we’d see police cars circle the block several times, slowing as they passed the bad people.  I instructed the boys to wave at the police, to refrain from peeing in the bushes when the police were around, and not to strangle each other while the police were watching.

    Yesterday I left the boys playing air soft in the yard while I ran a quick errand.  When I left, Drew and Porter had teamed up on Finn, who was hidden behind a tree and running out of ammunition fast.  When I returned, they’d forgotten all about the game.

    “Yo, Mom, you should have seen all the cops hanging around here right after you left,” Finn said.

    “I want to tell it, I want to tell it!” Drew said.

    “So first one police car started cruising around the block and my heart started pounding really fast because I thought maybe the cop thought my air soft gun was a real gun and I was trying to kill my brothers even though for once they were beating me,” Finn said.

    “Yeah, we were beating his behind so bad,” Porter said.

    “So I held up my air soft rifle and waved to the policeman to say, like, no real killing going on here, but he wasn’t paying attention to me.  He was all talking into his radio and looking up at that house.”

    “Yeah, he was holding this phone thing up to his mouth and talking into it,” Drew said.

    “It’s my story,” Finn said.

    “I was there, and I was hiding in the ivy and I saw the other police car park down the street and stay there,” Drew said.

    “Yeah, so this other cop car comes and just, like, parks right past the house and the policeman just sits there and waits.  And we were all like, whoa, and stuff, and so we got in the garage so we could watch.”

    “And I made popcorn and chocolate milk,” Drew said.

    “Yeah, Drew made us popcorn and stuff and we three just sat in the garage and took in the show,” Finn said.  “Hey, did I tell you about the time I saw a guy walk up the driveway and come back with a bag of powder?  I didn’t know what it was then, but now that I’ve watched CSI:Miami, I bet it was cocaine.”

    “When was that?”

    “Maybe a year ago,” Finn said.  “Come to think of it, that was kind of stupid for me to just stand in the middle of the yard and watch this big dude buy drugs.”

    “So did the police ever go up to the house?  Did you see anyone come out of the house?” I asked.

    “No, we ate all our popcorn and the police drove around and the other guy parked and watched for a while, and then they left.”

    It’s hard to know what to make of all this.  Until now, the neighbors have seemed to be more of a nuisance than a danger.  Of course, all I’ve seen is the groups of teenagers hanging out, and the occasional late, rowdy party.  I don’t know whether Finn’s account of the powder purchase is true, but I do know that there have been a lot of strange comings and goings at the house lately.

    All I can do is hope for the best and look on the bright side.  There have been a rash of burglaries in the Tiny Kingdom lately.  The increased police presence around our house may not be intended to thwart the thieves, but it’s making me feel more secure on that front.

    air softno finn

    Plus, I have a battalion of air soft soldiers ready to protect me.

    ****************************

    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: G-Strings and Tube Socks

    ***************************

    It’s hard to believe now, but I was one of those moms who said, “No guns in our house! I mean it.” It’s a losing battle. Boys pick up stuff and say “bang bang” whether they’re holding a spoon, a stick or a feather.

    My guys are way into airsoft guns (they shoot soft rubber round things) and they like both the Rifles and the guns like the 44 Magnum.   Overall it seems like harmless fun, but make sure your kids are wearing Safety Glasses at all times.  Plus, put them in charge of sweeping up errant round ammo. It’s a pain in the ass and you don’t want to do it.

  • “Don’t Pull My Weenie” & Other Thanksgiving Thoughts

    Hiking through the woods wasn’t what I pictured myself doing on Thanksgiving, but I did.  We have some land in Chambers County that we’re about to sell, and Bill, the boys and I left my in-laws’ house in Gold Hill this morning and went to take some pictures to show interested buyers.  The land is right outside Lafayette (that’s “la-FAY-ette” if you’re local), and breathtakingly beautiful.  We’ve fixed it up for hunting, adding green fields to attract deer, and the game camera and many footprints we saw confirmed that the place is teeming with them.  Over the past year we cut in roads, planted some brown stuff that turkeys enjoy, and the twins personally hauled rocks to build culverts over the creek that runs through the land.

    I got photos of deer and bobcat tracks, Drew mooning Porter through the back of the pickup, the young pines that populate part of the land, Porter attacking anthills with a stick, the thick brush at the edge of the fields where deer hang out and boys peeing in the woods (from the rear).

    As we left, Porter found a smooth hardwood stick that was at least six feet long.  It was strong, too.  He threw it, javelin-like, all over the woods, and it didn’t splinter or shatter.  He fell in love and begged to bring it home.

    Finn and Porter had been nagging each other all morning, and Finn had swatted Porter several times.  Bill told Porter to put the stick in the back of the pickup if he wanted to bring it back to Gold Hill, and I saw the evil in Finn’s eyes.

    “Don’t screw with that stick,” I told him, waggling my finger at him.

    Thanksgiving lunch was at 12:30, so we got to Gold Hill at 11:30.  When we got there, the stick was gone and Finn confessed that he’d tossed it out the back of the truck “because he thought it would be funny.”

    I stomped inside to repossess his cell phone.  “I can’t believe that dumb f-,” I was saying, when I realized that our Thanksgiving company had already started to arrive.  Early.

    I figured that was their tough luck.  If they wanted to come early and see real life preparations for Thanksgiving, they could.  So two ancient aunts and Bill’s grandfather, assorted caregivers and a guy named Chuckie who was a stranger to me but stayed all the way through the pecan pie, so I assume he was related, watched while Bill and I verbally flogged Finn.  The show wasn’t over; they also rubbernecked as I padded about in my robe on my way to the shower and back with no underwear underneath.

    According to Bill’s dad, Pop, the relatives have been arriving an hour early for half a century, and the practice was especially exasperating in the 1990s when BB’s ancient aunts, Nita, Nan, Eleanor (“EL-na” if you’re local), and Ruby Clyde were all alive and mobile, but only Ruby Clyde remains and she had to be wheeled in early and seemed pissed off about it.  She also called Pop “Chuckie’s dad” the whole time she was here and awake, which could be considered further evidence that Chuckie is part of the family.

    It would have been marvelous if everyone had arrived an hour early, we had eaten, and then the holiday was over.  However, two relatives bucked tradition and got lost, despite the fact that they grew up in the Gold Hill house, and arrived an hour late.

    During the hour we waited, the boys shot BB guns in the back yard, and Finn took careful aim at my mother-in-law’s outdoor chandelier and successfully blasted several of the glass candles out.

    Bill confiscated the gun and ordered him to gather pecans while he thought up a better punishment.  I suggested that he make Finn clean out Pop’s spit cup with his tongue but instead Bill elected to ban him from the next hunting trip.  No hunting or texting made Finn a sad boy, which was the intended result.  However, he filled up a three gallon pail with pecans, and my mother-in-law, unaware of Finn’s new status as scum, promised that he could take the pecans to town and keep the money, so I’m not sure the deprivations had their intended effect.

    It’s Thanksgiving evening now.  I’ve eaten more sweet potatoes, and we’ve watched the Auburn local news.  The big story was that the Ruby Tuesday’s got an 85 from the health inspector because the cooks were handling the baked potatoes with Oh My God bare hands.  Finn and Porter and Drew have called a truce.  They’re upstairs playing “Zombie,” which involves them pummeling each other and shouting things I hope my in-laws don’t hear, like: “If you pull off my weenie I’ll die!”

    Still, even with the brotherly combat and the peep-show shower, I’m thankful for my family.  Plus, no one puts the fun in dysfunctional the way we do.

    *************

    My in-laws just had some friends come over and all three boys, led by former scum Finn, got up, introduced themselves and gave strong handshakes.  I love my oldest again.  Now I can go to bed happy.

    ************

    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: The Sex Talk

  • No, They’re Not Identical

    Dow1

    Drew

    IMG_2298

    Porter

    When you have twins, people always ask you if they’re identical.  Drew and Porter are not.  Now that they are in the fourth grade, their differences are more pronounced than ever.  Porter weighs ten pounds more, is two inches taller, and looks like me and Finn.  Drew is skinnier and pale, and everyday the cleft in his chin resembles Bill’s even more.

    The differences go beyond looks.  If my posts seem Porter-heavy, it’s because he’s always cooking up an experiment, asking a jillion unanswerable questions, or pointing out the inherent injustices in life.

    But with Drew, it’s steadier.  I imagine that this must have been what it was like to raise Bill.  No drama.  Follows the rules.  Does chores without asking.

    And it’s this last item that starkly demonstrates their differences.  The boys have duties around the house, and failure to perform them results in fines.  Most mornings after the boys leave for school I check their rooms and see who’s fallen down on the job.

    They have to make their beds:
    Drew’s Bed
    dbed

    Drew gets style points for neat pillow stacking.

    Porter’s Bed
    pbed

    Porter’s bed features half-price Target bedding in colors guaranteed to calm a child down at night, but he didn’t even fake making it up.  Minus $1

    They must leave their floors neat:

    Drew’s floor

    dfloor

    No complaints here.

    Porter’s floor

    pfloor

    Porter’s floor reflects his diverse interests, but a floor is where you walk. I’ve told him it’s permissible to shove everything in the closet as a quick cleaning strategy but he has not exercised even this minimum amount of effort. Fine $1.

    Because male Glamores are hardwired to leave drawers open, I require them to close their dresser drawers  each morning:

    Drew’s Dresser
    ddresser

    Porter’s Dresser
    pdresser

    Porter has lost another dollar.  This failure is even more egregious when you consider that I rarely have time to fold clothes and put them in anyone’s dresser, so the boys generally grab clean clothes straight from their laundry baskets in the “dining room.” Porter could have gotten dressed for a week without ever needing to open those drawers. The fact that they have been opened makes me worry about what’s inside.

    Porter’s been known to keep cooking implements
    drawer

    and birdseed in his desk drawers, so my fears aren’t unwarranted.
    wdrawer
    But when it comes to what’s important, Porter is highly organized. Halloween candy, anyone?

    Porter’s stash

    porg

    So I know he is capable of living an uncluttered life.  Whether he goes broke learning to do so is another issue.

    ***************
    Hey! This Thursday, November 13 I’ll be appearing at Milestone Books in Vestavia City Center between 5 and 8 pm to sign copies of the book The Mothering Heights Manual for Motherhood, in which my essay “I Love You Like The Crazy You Drive Me” appears. I’ll also be doing a reading at some point during the evening, and if I find out an exact time I’ll post it. I’d love to see you there.

    ***************
    Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Wednesdays: Bible Club, Smelly Van & Pink Thong