Monday, December 31, 2007

Monthly Post

We have been busy. Busy with Christmas, relatives, travels, recovery, colds, parties, more recovery, and cleaning. Both a lack of it and occasional spurts of it. The above picture is of Aaron's parents, brothers, Aunt Sandy(Sonia's sister) and Uncle Dan, their two daughters Rachel and Amanda, son-in-law Chuck(married to Rachel) and Chuck and Rachel's four kids: Hannah, Levi, Aden and Ellie. We drove up to Steveston, Canada to visit the day after Christmas. Dan and Sandy also have a son and daughter-in-law, Avi and Wendy, who couldn't make it. Jack had a great time playing with his cousins, especially Eli, who is charmingly bossy and ridiculously cute.
Jack and Eli sharing some dessert under the dining room table, where they played most of the evening.
Everyone loved Matteas, especially Eli.
Matteas under the Christmas tree. He was too excited to sleep, so he kept me compnay while I wrapped presents and we watched Midnight Mass at the Cathedral on TV.
Christmas morning breakfast. We had fresh fruit, The Dish, and sticky buns.
Jack in his Christmas jammies enjoying some fishy crackers out of his stocking.
This is Ingrid. She is special for many reasons, but she is especially dear because she named Matteas. And she speaks French to him, which he seems to understand perfectly.
We went downtown to see the trains in the Macy's window again, although it was a little trickier than last year when we had only one kid and three adults on the trip.
This is what happens when you have eleven children in your house and you ignore them for five minutes so you can eat dinner. We needed new toothbrushes anyway.
Presumably, this clever disguise was intended to hide the naughtiness with the toothbrushes.
Three sisters, twelve years, eleven kids. We're not totally insane yet, so I feel that we're doing well. Things got a little crazy that day, and after an hour or two of screaming Briana and I took ten of the kids to the park while Moira stayed behind with sleeping Adam and cleaned the kitchen. It took a while to assemble all the kids, find coats and shoes, and get out the door. As soon as we did, it started raining. But we pressed on, and after an hour of running around in the cold rain we brought the kids back for a nice warm tea party and spaghetti dinner. It's good to have family. Crazy, but very good.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Follow-through

Unfortunately, follow-through is not something I'm famous for. However, as per my resolution, that's changing. I hate this window. Really hate it. And we live just a few blocks from a gigantic fabric store, so despite the fact that I don't sew I decided that it was time to learn some new skills and then put them to good use. This was my temporary fix while I worked on my first sewing project. Briana gave me a sewing machine for my 22nd birthday, and until now I've used it once. Just to give you an idea of how un-crafty I am, I tried using my sewing machine unsupervised once and spent two hours trying unsuccessfully to wind the bobbin. Early in my pregnancy with Matteas I couldn't find clothes that fit, so my sister Moira offered to supervise my seamstress efforts and I managed to alter some maternity pants to better fit me. I think it was part blind luck and possibly some skills of my Mom's genetically transferred to me, but it worked out. My Mom tried to teach me to sew when I was little, with mixed results.
Then I discovered the fabric store. What intrigues me about it is that if you go to a retail store to purchase something made of fabric, you're limited to the patterns and colors someone else has already picked out; at the fabric store, you can make whatever you want in whatever color or pattern you want. Of course the options are finite, but barely. I don't know why fabric didn't appeal to me before, but it does now, in a lustful, take-me-home-and-do-with-me-what-you-will fashion. So I did.
These are my finished curtains. The rest of my kitchen still needs help, but at least the window looks good. I even lined them properly, and when one of my seams came out less than perfect I ripped it out and put in a new one. Taking the time for proper attention to detail is also something I am not famous for, except for when it comes to my food. And bathing my kids. And keeping my kitchen sponge sanitary. For my next trick, I'm going to make Christmas presents. I'm also going to start a sewing club with Briana and Anna and whoever else wants to join. Hey, if I can do it, anybody can.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things that Bring Me Joy

It's a short list today. As far as I can tell, this is it: -my new bathroom mirror -"A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack -caffeine I'm so tired I want to cut my head off just so I don't have to feel how heavy it is. The boys took turns waking us up last night, including a Jack poop at five o'clock in the morning which Aaron heroically changed. Jack wasn't even really awake, so I'm not sure how he managed to poop in his sleep. Tricky boy I guess. Both the boys also have pretty bad stuff noses and Jack has a nasty cough, so it seemed like we got woken up every half hour through the night. I have abandoned all thought of getting dressed today, and am drinking tea in my fuzzy Christmas pajama pants and a sweatshirt. It's one of those days where I should probably get the boys and myself out of the house, but the germs are just nasty enough that we shouldn't share. The only upside to cold season is that most of the time everyone else is sick too so we don't have to worry about it, but there seem to be so many different bugs going around just now. To borrow a line from one of my favorite blog authors, some days this job really sucks.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Parsely Sage Rosemary and Thyme

I found this Williams Sonoma dish at Value Village today. I think it looks really pretty with the tile floor in my kitchen, so for right now I'm keeping it there. I was just about to give up and go home when I saw this big beautiful bowl on a bottom shelf and am so pleased, because I didn't find much else. I did, however, find a familiar face in line at the cash register. At first I couldn't place him, so he kept catching me staring at him and then I really wanted to place him so I could tell him who I was and then he'd know I wasn't some psycho lady with a baby checking him out. Then I realized that he's a waiter at an Italian restaurant in Edmonds whose name I didn't know for long time so I referred to him as "The Pirate Waiter." Briana has since learned that his name is Peter, and we kind of like him because he is friendly to our children, a great waiter, and has a kind of casually-cool aura about him like maybe he'd be an interesting sub-plot type of character in a movie, maybe the wise bartender who helps the main character with a tough problem. So I was robbed of the satisfaction of assuring him I'm not in the habit of staring people down in line at Value Village, it was just that I recognized him but couldn't immediately place him, and then we'd have a casual laugh over the little misunderstanding, exchange a friendly "how have you been?" and be on our merry way. But you can't point at someone in line at Value Village and say "Hey, you're that waiter who looks like a pirate, and like maybe you'd be an interesting sub-plot type of character in a movie, maybe the wise bartender who helps the main character with a tough problem!" I wasn't certain it was him anyway until he walked out, carrying the CD player he'd bought up over his shoulder and perfectly balanced on his professional fingertips. Jack has begun to mellow towards his brother. He's always loved him, but has not always found appropriate channels for expressing himself. Lately we've been having little practice sessions on the right way to touch Matteas, and we go over the parts of his body that are okay for touching and then practice being gentle. I think it's working, and Jack is also maturing. I'm afraid that I'm going to blink and Jack will be all grown. It seems like he's been around a long time and it's strange to try to imagine my life before I had kids, but I look at his baby pictures and it seems like a lifetime has passed since then. Last year we tried to take Jack trick-or-treating, but he was totally disinterested. This year he was willing, with mixed results. He enjoyed the first two houses, neighbors he recognizes and says hello to often. The third house was a disaster. The guy opened the door and held out a dish of candy for Jack to consider, and while he carefully picked his treat a tiny but curious dog began sniffing Jack. Jack was unaware of the dog's presence because it was small enough to be covered by the candy dish. Jack is afraid of dogs. Terrified, really. About six months ago a puppy on the beach jumped up to say hello and put his paws on Jack, who completely freaked out and pregnant me got to swing Jack up onto my shoulders out of harm's way. That was six months ago, and Jack still talks about it and remembers the puppy's name(Jimmy). So when Jack failed to notice this tiny little dog sniffing him, I decided not to say anything and hoped he would continue not to notice. But he did. And then he tried to escape, but he was so startled that he had a difficult time working out an effective retreat, so all he managed to do was kick his left leg over to the right, stretching it out in front of his body and then trying to balance while screaming hysterically. It was pretty funny, but not as funny as would have been if I wasn't afraid we'd just scarred him for life. "Here Jack, have some candy, it'll be fun! SURPRISE! It's your worst fear!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Thank You, Karoly

Today would have been Karoly's 33rd birthday, but instead it is the day after the one-year anniversary of his death. I've dreaded this day for a while because now I can no longer say "This time last year, he was alive," and that makes it a little more real. I also hate that all of the "firsts without Karoly" have come and gone, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas from now on will be the second, third, fourth...On the one hand, the pain is a little less acute, or at least no longer a surprise; on the other hand, now the passage of time will be marked by the accumulation of occasions without him. Anyone who knew Karoly was familiar with his characteristic, no-holds-barred honesty. Sometimes he was a little less than diplomatic, but it was also one of his endearing qualities, especially since it potentially saved my life. If not my actual pulse, then certainly at least the content of the life I have now. When I was 18 and finished with high school, I didn't know what to do next. I didn't own a car and had to borrow my Mom's for my babysitting jobs, which was my only source of income. I decided I wanted to go to college and didn't want to run up a lot of debt in the process, so I called up the local Army recruiting office and told them I wanted to enlist. I filled out all the paperwork, took all the aptitude tests, and was guaranteed a contract to enlist as an Army medic with a pretty generous GI bill for college when I was done. I asked my family for their opinion, feeling pretty confident in my course but wanting feedback. No one, not even my Dad, voiced any objections. All I had to do was take my physical, at the end of which I would sign my enlistment papers. A week before this was supposed to happen we had a family barbecue, which was the first time Karoly had heard about my plans to join the Army. He was livid. "Mom, Dad, I can't believe you haven't told her this is retarded! You can't let Tirzah join the Army!" As it turned out, my family was waiting for Fr. Joseph to talk me out of it and were content to let him be the one to rock the boat. Karoly beat him to it. After hearing my reasons for wanting to enlist, he asked me to wait a while before I made a final decision. Karoly and I weren't close at that point, but I respected his opinion and valued his input, plus he was the only person who told me what he really thought. A few days later he called me. "Will you agree not to join the Army if I give you my car so you can go to school here?" "Um, heck yes." "You have to agree not to enlist for at least two years; after that if you still want to be retarded you can." So I enrolled at Shoreline and felt extremely cool when I pulled into the parking lot in my zippy Nissan Maxima complete with CD player and power everything. And it was mine. I love being from a big family, but when there are nine kids personal ownership is a little hard to come by. Plus I had just been given a car that I never would have been able to afford; talk about putting a spring in my step. I think it was good for me as a teenager to drive my parents' cars, but when you want to look cool it's a little hard to pull off in a giant station wagon with wood paneling. Oh, the punchline: the day I told the Army I wasn't enlisting was a week before 9/11.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You Asked For It...

It was packed up, but we were organizing the basement today and I found our box of pictures. It's not the best quality, but it's really hard to get a good picture of a photograph.

In Which Matteas Gets Very Excited and Smiles

video

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We've Come a Long Way...

Today officially marks the eight year anniversary of the night Aaron and I met. I'd been friends with Tristan for a while and Aaron and I had had a few conversations but hadn't met in person. He had a pumpkin he wanted to smash somewhere and since he had to work on Halloween he wanted to do it the night before. Aaron and Tristan decided to drive down from Mukilteo with their friend Chris to pick me up and we'd all have pumpkin festivities together. I snuck out of my room in the basement(it was sometime after midnight) and waited in my Dad's car for the boys to drive down my street, and here we encountered a problem: I had no idea what kind of car Aaron drove, and I wasn't about to go flagging down any old car full of boys that drove slowly down the street. I think it took about three passes before I figured out that the little maroon Honda was them. We drove into downtown and gave ourselves a tour of the fountains, and pretty much just walked around and talked. We never did smash the pumpkin, but we did get a picture since I had my camera and we got home to my parents' at the same time Damien did, so we had him take it. Aaron was pretty hot at 21, but he has remarked many times that he thinks I've gotten much better-looking than I was at 16. Even with all my teenage-awkwardness, I'm still really glad I have a picture of the night I met my husband. I'm especially glad that I printed doubles and that Aaron kept his copy, because at some point during the drama that ensued between then and now I burned mine. Silly, silly Tirzah. In my defense, Aaron was pretty silly too. I'm so grateful that identities are not static, and that some mistakes are not permanent. If Aaron and I had been held to some of the choices we've made in the past, we never would have ended up together. If anyone had told me what we were beginning the night we met I wouldn't have believed them. I would not have believed what we would put each other through, or how beautiful our children would be, or how strong we could get working through our struggles. Truth really is stranger than fiction; I never would have written out a life for myself like the one I have, but I could never have chosen a better one.

My Chubby Blue Eskimo

Matteas spends quite a bit of time in this blue fuzzy suit. Our days go much better if we spend lots of time outside, but it's getting a little chilly for babies. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it gets really cold; I might have to commission an uncle or two to come over and run Jack around. For now Matteas is content to be bundled up and stuffed like a fuzzy sausage into the front pack, where he is then zipped up under a large jacket. All the warmth and coziness gets to him pretty fast, and he is usually passed out before we get halfway to the park. Each one of my boys is helping me to better appreciate the other lately. Jack is so intense and energetic(like all my positive adjectives Anna?) and Matteas is so sweet and mellow, it's fun to have one of each. Jack is really a renaissance man these days though, running like a Tasmanian Devil through the woods for hours and then working so carefully on art projects. I told Aaron he should probably give me an Art Project Budget since I think it could easily get out of hand, but it's so nice to find something that satisfies Jack that we can do inside when it's raining or dark or I'm just too tired. He doesn't discriminate, and loves all things creative. So far we have done finger painting, wooden figurines, watercolors, crayons, markers, pencils, paper cutting, leaf rubbing, and clay. He's getting a little out of hand with the clay lately, handing me a small lump of some weird color he made and asking me to make him a Curious George or Lightning McQueen. We made some pretty cute chickens and babies, and tonight I made him a Snoopy. The Fitness has officially begun. I dug out the old weights and, much to Jack's amusement, put them to use. Then last night I went for a run and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, until I got home. I even tackled a few hills, which was probably my undoing. I stretched before I ran and again when I got home, but after sitting down to nurse the baby for ten minutes it was really difficult to get up again. My calves in particular cramped up a lot, but I'm not that sore today. I generally find that after a long hiatus, the first run back isn't the hardest; it's the second run, after your muscles have been broken down a bit by the first, that's really painful. But I decided that I can only eat so much butter before it becomes a serious problem, and my cholesterol levels can only do so much in the face of such a caloric onslaught. When we applied for life insurance we had to have physicals and my cholesterol levels turn out to be rather enviable; I'd like to keep it that way, and have reluctantly accepted that someday it might actually require a little effort on my part. Thus, The Fitness. It was nice last night, running through the neighborhood by myself. When I was a teenager I always took music with me when I ran, but last night it didn't even cross my mind. It was nice not to hear anything but the sound of my own footsteps(until the labored breathing kicked in).

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rest of Sunday

After the animal farm we went to Picnic Point to walk the beach, throw some rocks and watch some trains. Aaron took this picture of the sunset; I love how the landscape of the Northwest has both water and such beautiful mountains in one view. I thought a picture of the sunset would be appropriate for the end of the story of Sunday; after leaving the beach we decided to go to The Keg for dinner, which seemed sort of crazy since we had the kids and Jack had not napped, but Aaron has a way of talking me into trying crazy things. We got there around six and the wait was going to be 25 minutes, which seemed like a sign that we should go home. We decided to stick it out anyway, and I nursed Matteas in the car while Jack and Aaron went inside to wait. When I got inside, Aaron was holding Jack in front of the fire and Jack was fast asleep on Aaron's shoulder. I'm not usually thrilled about Jack being asleep that late in the evening, but since he was already out I figured we might as well enjoy it. We got our table and Matteas quickly followed suit and obligingly passed out in my arms. So there we were at dinner with two boys, talking and drinking wine as relaxed as you please. Jack eventually woke up, but was refreshed by his nap and cheerfully ate chicken strips and oranges.
We got Jack some new boots a few days ago and he's been dying to go puddle-jumping ever since. He was thrilled with this creek. He's not alone in his love of his boots. As we were walking into the park a cute older British couple was walking out. The man smiled at Jack and said "Lovely wellies!" Jack looked a little worried until I told him, "It means he likes your boots."
A boy and his Dad.
Jack's favorite thing about Picnic Point is the trains. He likes to watch them more than he likes to hear them, at least up close. We can hear the trains from our house sometimes and Jack always says, "We should get in the car and see the trains!"

Pumpkins, Chickens and Pigs

Sunday was one of those unreal days when I kept pinching myself and thinking, is this really my life? In a good way. We overslept a little, but with a little craziness we still made it to church before Liturgy even started. The boys were pretty good in church which was a nice start to the day. Damien was at St. John's too so we invited him over to our house for some huevos rancheros, which turned out to be quite delicious thanks to some help from Tristan's home-grown jalapeƱo peppers. We attempted naps to no avail, but Jack was really cheerful so it didn't seem like it would be a problem. We loaded up and headed out to a local pumpkin patch, which turned out to be using the term "pumpkin patch" quite loosely. At least the pumpkin part anyway; we followed the signs that spelled out in hopeful letters "Pumpkin Land," but all we found was a ragged patch of soggy dirt with a few pitiful vines on it, and maybe five sad-looking pumpkins. Luckily, there were lots of animals around to make up for the lacking agriculture. The piglets were really cute; they kept following the mama pig around trying to nurse, and the mama kept trying to escape.
Everyone got a little cup of chicken feed and Jack was super-conservative with his; he made it last almost the whole hour we spent at the farm.
I'll scratch your back...
This mama pig finally got a rest. Jack's been reading a book called Going to Sleep on the Farm that talks about all the various farm animals getting ready for night, and he gets a huge kick out of the pig page: "A pig curls up with family or friends, Where one pig starts, another one ends."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh He's So Handsome...

Happy Birthday Aaron!

As is pretty obvious by this time, I like cooking. A lot. I've managed to make almost anything I've ever wanted turn out alright, but there was one thing that consistently eluded my culinary grasp: fish. I'm alright with Salmon; it's a pretty straight-forward kind of a fish, very low-maintenance. But white fish...somehow I'd screw it up every time, no matter what recipe I tried. So when I asked Aaron what he wanted for his birthday dinner I felt a few pangs of apprehension when he said "halibut." It's Aaron's favorite fish, and I've ruined it two or three times. So I spent a good part of last night working out a recipe in my head and told Aaron to pick up some fish on his way home. I worked very carefully, nervous about ruining $30 of beautiful halibut. I seared it in butter, then plated it over broiled asparagus and rice with mushrooms and shallots. For the sauce I added butter to the fish pan after I'd taken the fish out and sauteed some more shallots. When they were soft, I added champagne and boiled it down until it was reduced by about half, then added a teaspoon of tomato paste. I turned off the heat and added heavy cream, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. We sat down to eat and I waited for Aaron to say something, but he was just eating quietly. I figured his silence meant one of two things: it was gross and he didn't want to tell me, or it was good and he was too busy enjoying it to comment. Thankfully it was the latter, and I was happy that my triumph over the halibut happened on Aaron's birthday. This is a fifteen layer torte I made for Aaron's birthday cake; it's kind of fragile so I just put a little tea light in the middle instead of poking 29 candles in it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

So I've decided that being skinny is overrated. I kind of wish I would stop cooking fabulous things for myself to eat, but I'd obviously rather cook than lose baby weight. The top picture is the Barefoot Contessa mushroom soup I wrote about earlier, but that in itself isn't the really exciting thing. The Really Exciting Thing is this: I found a way to make it better. No offense to Ina, but using champagne instead of white wine and leaving out the parsley took the soup from delicious to amazing. I also used really fresh leeks from Central Market and fresh thyme from Anna's garden. For our next meal, we had grilled squash and steak with a mushroom peppercorn sauce. The sauce didn't call for mushrooms but it did call for heavy cream and I didn't have any, so I added the mushrooms to make it a little more substantial. It was pretty good, but I think it needed some sherry or cognac for a little more kick. The recipe was from Celebrate the Rain which my sister Moira gave me for Christmas and I've had a lot of fun with it. One of my favorite things about it is that, unlike its predecessor Simply Classic, it has lots of pictures in it. Beautiful pictures. It has a recipe in it for a five-spice lacquered duck that I really want to try. I've never had duck. I cooked one once for someone else, but didn't taste it. Jack is obsessed with tractors. We went to Central Market on Saturday night and bought tons of amazing vegetables. I love that store. We were there for almost an hour and all we did was look at seafood and peruse the produce section. I'd like to go without the boys sometime and find funky things to try in the Asian section, pay too much money for some cute mugs and a wooden salad bowl from their mercantile display, then try out the wine section. I could spend days in the store and not run out of things to interest me. I'm impressed with myself that I'm not actually fatter, what with the decadent cooking and the complete and total absence of exercise in my life. I've decided, however, that things are going to change. Not my cooking; that's too much fun. But the exercise thing. It was so much easier to keep up with it at my parents' house, Lake Washington Boulevard is absolutely the most beautiful place to jog, bar none. However, the park by our house has some pretty nice paths and if I don't make it outside I can always(and really should) use my weights for something other than a tripping hazard. And now that I've put my resolution on my blog I'll feel compelled to make it true, lest I appear flaky. This is a 460-pound pumpkin. I need to exercise so I don't look like this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fall Comes to Lynnwood

It is a perfect day for blogging with a giant mug of hot tea, which, fortunately, I happen to have at my side. It is fall the way it can only be fall in the Pacific Northwest, being both sunny and cloudy at the same time with little rainstorms in between. Jack and Matteas were totally anti-napping today, so after a frustrating half hour we gave up and ventured out into the blustery day. Our backyard borders on Lynndale park so we walk through there a lot, and today we spent more time in the woods than on the playground. It was windy and a little rainy, but Matteas was snug in the Moby wrap under my sweatshirt and the cold never bothers Jack.
Some interesting mushrooms which, according to Survivor Man, are safe to eat and allegedly quite tasty. We did not sample them.
Right outside our backyard.
Jack discovered the enchanting noise that fallen leaves make when you walk through them dragging your feet. Something about it struck him as very funny and he laughed so hard he fell over, which produced more laughing.
Funny story: at the entrance to the park there are these posts to keep cars from entering the lot where the foot path begins. At the beginning of the path was a teenage girl who had blue fingernails with her arms around the neck of a shaggy-haired teenage boy, who seemed to like the fact that the girl had her arms around his neck and was returning the favor around her waist, and generally they were looking very canoodle-y. Jack thought this was hilarious. He turned around and grabbed onto this post in imitation of the girl and said "Look at me, mom!"
This is a very cool little clearing in the middle of the woods.
I never even noticed this tree in the summer.
Aaron brought me two-dozen roses on Friday. They still look pretty good.
The potty training continues to go well. Jack didn't quite understand the concept of pooping on the potty chair until today; his previous efforts involved taking off his diaper, pooping on top of his diaper then putting the poop into the potty chair before dumping into the toilet. It took a few discussions for him to grasp the the relationship needed to be directly between the poop and the potty chair, but today it clicked because he did it perfectly. As you can see, he was feeling a mixture of pride and surprise.
This tree is across the street from us and it changes a little everyday. I can see it from our couch where I spend of a lot of time nursing so I appreciate the view.