Promptly washing and putting away the dishes after I’ve made dinner is a way of saying, “Hey, I love you and I really appreciate all the effort this meal took!”. Waiting until the next day to wash dishes is like saying, “Hey, maybe I don’t appreciate the effort this meal took THAT much, but I love you enough to wash the dishes!”. Leaving the dirty dishes in the sink until I give up and wash them myself two days later is pretty much saying, “Hey, I love you and I want you to go ahead and order that red faux deer head off of Etsy!”.
BRYCE (refusing the easy pain au chocolat I offered him): No. I don’t like chocolate.
BRYCE: Can I have a brownie?
End scene 1.
I cook sometimes.
Well, a lot, actually.
Today there was some snow around, so I figured it was as good a time as any to break out the comfort food. Baked macaroni and cheese is a huge New England comfort food staple, so obviously being a good little Boston wifey it’s become one of my comfort food staples. Usually, I make it with about half cauliflower and half pasta (well, maybe slightly heavier on the pasta) to cut calories and add vitamins, and also because it’s tasty as hell. But Target didn’t appear to have frozen cauliflower today, and since I am a great follower of the Only Stop at One Stop When You Shop With Children Rule, I didn’t pick some up elsewhere.
I also happened to happen upon two forgotten butternut squashes (Squash? Squashes? That sounds awfully ungrammatical…) in my pantry’s produce bin yesterday, so I had in mind that I should cook them before they were forgotten again. I roasted them simply, with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, then peeled them and stuck them in the fridge.
1.5 boxes pasta of your choice, cooked al dente (I used whole-wheat smallish shells)
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced or smashed (to taste)
4 tbsp flour
3.5-4 cups milk
Sage to taste, fresh or ground
1 tsp paprika
2 oz swiss cheese
2 oz + 1 bag shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup parmesan
1 cup ricotta
Roasted butternut squash to taste (about 1 squash), in smallish chunks
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook pasta al dente. While the pasta is cooking, cook the butter it over med-high heat till foamy. Add the onion and garlic and sauté till nice and brown. While that’s happening, add your sage–I recommend a generous portion–I snipped a few tbsp of fresh and later added more ground. When the onions and garlic are soft and lightly browned, add the flour and cook to make a roux–I kept mine going till it was brown and rich-smelling. Add the milk (I’d say I used maybe 3.5 or 4 cups? I sort of eyeballed it…) and whisk it together to mix. Turn the heat down to med and keep whisking. Add the 2 oz cheddar, swiss, and parmesan cheese, as well sea salt and pepper to taste and about 1 tsp of paprika. Keep whisking over the heat till it thickens. When the béchamel has thickened, mix it the cooked pasta. Add 1 bag (I think about 2 cups?) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, about a cup of ricotta (I dropped it in by spoonfuls so some would mix in but some would stay ricotta-y), and however much roasted butternut squash in hunks or chunks (I used probably about 1 squash’s worth?). Mix the whole sucker together and put in a well-greased 9 x 13-ish pan. Sprinkle more cheese on top if you like (who doesn’t like more cheese?), bake at 400 for about a 1/2 hour.
Feeds one family of four containing 1 mac n’ cheese-
adoring man, 1 unable-to-stop-picking-out-extra-noodles woman, 1 won’t-touch-it preschooler, and 1 eats-some toddler for at least 2 nights, probably more if you serve it with bread and salad instead of just peas.
YUM. I’m thinking of adding or subbing in some gouda next time.
Yep, danger. As in, I think I’m in danger of becoming like Andy Rooney. You know, all crotchety and hatey. (WordPress keeps automatically changing “hatey” to “hater”. Because, you know, “hater” is an Important Word.)
I didn’t used to be crotchety and hatey. But now, there it is. Come to me with a problem, that your tennis elbow is acting up or your soufflé didn’t rise or you suspect that your spouse is sort of an asshole, and I’ll be all, “Oh, NO! That’s awful!” and I’ll either literally or verbally take you into my soothing arms. But all the while, I’ll be thinking bitter hatey thoughts. Thoughts like, Who cares about your stupid fucking tennis elbow? I’ve had fucking tendinitis for almost a decade!, and Seriously with the fucking soufflé? Just BUY one like a normal person! FUCKING AY!, and Of course your spouse is an asshole…how ’bout you grow a set and tell him/her you won’t stand for it any longer?
See? Andy Rooney. Hatey. This is an enormous concern to me, since I have always loathed Andy Rooney. And also because whenever Sean says something old-man-y, I giggle and call him Andy Rooney in a mocking tone. Me becoming more Andy Rooney-like than my husband could really put a dent in my mockery, and that would be a shame.
I’m thinking the best way to quash my inner Andy Rooney is to actually treat myself as something important, and address the shit that gnaws quietly at me. For instance, tendinitis? For almost a decade? Really? And I still haven’t bothered with acupuncture or keeping up with yoga? Well, shit. And, you know, talking with people for whom a perfect soufflé is important is a good way to set yourself up to have to hear a lot about fucking soufflés. So, duh, maybe don’t hang with the soufflé crowd. (Sadly, there’s not much I can do about your spouse being an asshole…that’s all on you, Muffin.)
Now I can’t help wondering if that was Andy Rooney’s deal, too. If he was so annoyed with everything in the world at large because he felt timid about his own importance. Oh, Andy Rooney. I would hug you, you poor crotchety thing. I mean, as long as you didn’t talk about your tennis elbow.
Before today’s lead playgroup-class at Isis, a fellow mom leaned forward, allowing the rear of her navy canvas backjack to go slack. “I want to ask you guys for some advice,” she implored, wiggling her toes in sock-clad feet as her toddler scampered and cavorted. “What are you guys doing as far as discipline? Do we do time-outs, or what?”
Discipline. The Big D. One of those enormous topics of parenting, discussed at length both by those who are currently parenting, the verb, and those who are not and may never; both groups imagining themselves equally informed but only one group really subject to scrutiny.
I smiled, only half to myself. Parents and nonparents and never-parents, let me let you in on a little secret. Discipline, at least at the toddler stage, is all for show. No, really, it is. It’s in no way effective at changing behavior, it’s just an elaborate dance that we parents do in order to demonstrate to anyone who happens to witness the behavioral transgression that’s occurred that we Desire an Orderly Child and Do Not Allow Him/Her to Run Wild. Every, “Oh, no. We don’t hit!” (“We”, may not, but the toddler in question surely does!), each “NO. We take turns!” (Sure to garner the best fuck-off face your toddler can muster) is designed primarily with the audience in mind, and only secondarily with an aim at Behavior Change.
And why should it be? Offering painfully reasonable explanations in painfully reasonable voices to the crazed being that is a toddler is like offering them to a feral cat. “Nooo, mustn’t scratch. We are gentle. GENTLE! OWOWOWOWOW!” (That last bit being the sound you emit when either the feral cat or toddler finally bites you in frustration.)
“I don’t bother with discipline. Really, not at all.”, I ventured bravely. “Time-outs just seem pointless right now, like they’d complicate my life.” (Of course, most of the parents in the class are first-time parents, with no idea of what it’s like to split your time between two, to choose “a less complicated life” over “a well-behaved child”. I say to them, just wait.) A few polite nods in agreement, a few openly incredulous faces appeal to the class’s facilitator. When should time-outs begin?
“Usually not until the preschool years.”, she asserts, her face apologetic. “Right now, focus on redirection, or really noticing and rewarding good behavior.” Redirection is all it is, all it ever is. Hell, I think I redirect more than I “discipline” now, with a five-year-old. She’s helpful, the facilitator. She calms the first-time parents’ clumsy fumbling fears, makes them see that they’re not insane when time-outs don’t work with their 20-month-old. That’s what people get from these classes, I think to myself, that’s what they are for.
But then Juniper is snatching a scarf from another toddler, so I have to intervene. “No, no, Juniper. We share the scarves. Share.”
I seem to have taken a detour on my way to Rampant Success. Rampant Success is funny that way, what with the road to it being so winding and rocky and full of distractions and dead ends and barbed wire and Ferris wheels.
I have taken a great many detours on this road. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve taken enough detours that neither I nor Rampant Success are probably sure any longer whether or not I’m even attempting to head in that direction. But whenever I realize, not that I am most assuredly not on the path to Rampant Success, but that someone else stayed on track and made it there, I tend to stamp my foot indignantly. I am supposed to be there.
I am not there.
Some of the distractions are Not Entirely My Fault. There was the first Big Distraction, the boy-shaped distraction that began as a set of thin unwavering blue lines on a pregnancy test and grew into the brash tumbling towheaded thing that is Bryce today, Bryce my love, my heart, the very definition of the agony and ecstasy that is parenthood. Bryce was the first Big Distraction.
And after him there was selling the house and buying a house and finding a temporary apartment and actually buying a house. Then there was Juniper, as towheaded, stubborn, and lovely as her brother. Juniper with her head full of tousled ringlets, who has never met a stranger and cannot pass a book without snatching it up and demanding “Boo-ree! Boo-ree!” (That’s “book, read!” for those of you who do not speak toddlerese.)
On top of the child-shaped distractions, simultaneously both soft and pliant and insistent, there is the man-shaped distraction that is my husband. Not easy to ignore. Not pliant. Not intentionally distracting. (What kind of asshole would be, really?) But another one, another enormous maw of need that I automatically pour myself into until he quiets. Would they function without me? Not, of course, in a permanent, I’ve-left-to-find-myself sort of way, but in a more temporary, I’m-setting-additional-priorites sort of way.
Is that even possible?
It must be, I think, it MUST be. Because if it is, maybe I can take another route, find another detour. Maybe my route to success is meant to look more like a Family Circus comic than some others are. Through the sandbox, up the tree, past the fire hydrant, hop through the hopscotch, back along the road again.
But reaching the end, eventually. Right?