Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't Snore, It's a Campus Tour

A two week blogging break. Oh my. My evenings keep slipping away from me somehow. I doubt anyone wants to see photos of laundry mountains, of sinks piled high with dishes, of hubby doing lots of work at home, of two-plus hour bedtime routines, or of my nursing the oft-awaking Sweet P. You have your own sink and laundry mountains, right? Unless the answer is "yes," then don't answer that.
I'm going to cop out by offering a little photo essay of a weekend trip we took with the family.
When hubby and I talked about taking the kids to Notre Dame for a football weekend, I pictured a nice, crisp autumn day. I planned and packed for the perfect fall day. We'd enjoy some tailgating and crunch leaves as we walked around campus with the tots.
What we got was the perfect summer day with fall foliage in the background. I hate to be a complainer because I know what it's like to tailgate when it's freezing cold or pouring down rain, but I'll just say that it was a bit too hot for my taste. When there's an awesome spread of food on a card table, and I'm too hot to enjoy any of it and too hot to drink anything but water (no Diet Coke for me, much less a beer), then you know it's hot.
The heat got me a little cranky for the first half of game day, which means I didn't take any pictures of the tailgating scene. Next year when I'm there on the actual perfect autumn Saturday, I'll document that part of the college football experience because there's plenty to see and talk about.
Despite the heat, we had a lot of fun. The dads and the four year-olds went to the game. My mom and my sister LAP and I walked around campus with the other kids until the four year-olds had enough and needed to be met at the stadium door. Who knew that during the game, there are hundreds of packs of women and grandparents stroller-ing around campus? I should have guessed, but it was one of the first times I'd really been outside the stadium during the game for a long period.
I also learned that a student center convenience store is like heaven on earth for a six year-old (my niece Fancy), that there are now hydration stations where students can fill their water bottles, and that one of my mom's memories of visiting campus fifteen years ago was that the recycling/trash situation was really confusing.
This photo essay is turning out kind of lame as I realize I took zero photos on Saturday. I may have posed for one though (just taken on my sister LAP's phone so less pathetic than it seems).
Someone's name is engraved on a plaque near Subway and the bathrooms. NTB.
I'll just say that game day ended with an Irish victory, cousins playing together, and Papa John's pizza so win, win, win.
Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the empty Ice Mountain case--the "treasure chest"--that Bub filled with bottle caps, empty water bottles, leaves, grass, and assorted trash and insisted on carrying from one parking lot to another and then taking home to Chicago. Damn.
I did take some good photos on Sunday morning when hubby, the kids, and I walked around campus with my parents.
My dad's been going to ND games for forty years or more.
The Main Building known for its Golden Dome
A view of from beneath the Dome.
Hubby and I got engaged at this site, The Grotto, and were married on campus.
Not the best photo (note my gray roots and muffin top), but very special to be there as a family.
Grammy and Pop with the troops.
Bub meditates on the beauty of the season.
We ended our low-key campus tour in the visitor center, where I decided to sit down on a couch and feed Sweet P before we hit the road to head back to Chicago. I was feeling a little awkward about nursing her there (despite having the hooter hider), but then I realized there were three different statues of Madonna and child within fifteen feet of us, not that I am comparing myself to Mary . . .
This photo left me thinking that someday when we move to a new house, I would like to have my living room ceiling painted in some cool way.
All in all, we had a lovely weekend. Bub was more interested in asking questions about campus and trying to figure out why it was special to us than I expected. I look forward to going back as a family many more times. In the summers, the university has a family dorm where you can stay with your kids. Now, that's probably one of those things that sounds like more fun than it actually is, but give us a few years and we'll check it out.
What about you? What special places from your past have you taken children to visit? How have you spent your autumn weekends this year?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How the cookie crumbles

I am so very thankful to be living the life I always imagined for myself: great husband, completely lovable kids, happy (if messy) home. But some days the gap between the Best Life MEP I imagined would be inhabiting this life and the Real Life MEP who actually lives it seems particularly wide.
Allow me to offer two examples of this gap.

Best Life MEP is a cute, fit mom with a good haircut and cool clothes. Real Life MEP has not worked out in a couple of years. She wears a ponytail every day and a "uniform" distinguished by sweatpants, jeans, casual tops, and running shoes (hint: one doesn't get fit by simply dressing in workout clothes).
Best Life MEP is a kitchen goddess, creating delicious and nutritious meals for her husband and kids, wowing the friends and family gathered around her table. When Real Life MEP has the time to cook and the presence of mind to plan ahead and shop wisely, she's pretty good in the kitchen. She loves reading magazines and cookbooks and searching for recipes online, but you might never know it given the frequency with which frozen pizza and peanut butter and jelly hit the plates Casa Real Life MEP. We won't even talk about the chicken nuggets.
One of these days, Real Life MEP always tells herself, one of these days . . .
I started this Monday with a hopeful heart and my favorite sweatpants. I'd attack the seven loads of laundry in the basement. I'd be a patient and enthusiastic mom. I'd get the fresh sage I needed for the pork loin and apples recipe I wanted to try. I'd get Sweet P to take a nap in her crib. Bub and I would make some chocolate chip cookies during Little Bit's nap time.
I started the laundry. I played with Little Bit while Sweet P slept late. We headed to the store.
By the time I had loaded my grocery bags, one of which housed fresh sage thankyouverymuch, I had figured out that Sweet P had a fever.
By the time the boys were eating their lunches (peanut butter and jelly for Bub, hot dog for Little Bit), I had made an evening doctor's appointment for Sweet P and given up on the laundry in favor of snuggling my sweet girl. I got Little Bit down for his nap while Sweet P slept on my shoulder. I let the chaos and mess build up all around us. Sweet P peed all over my favorite sweatpants.
And Bub?
Bub remembered that I had said we were making cookies during nap time.
"I'm sorry, Bub, but your sister is sick. I don't think today's the best day for making cookies after all." I offered some version of this explanation fifty times or more. Or more.
The kid would. not. let. it. die.
"Fine, let's make the god damn cookies." (Don't worry, I did not say that out loud, but I was thinking it. Sorry God.)
Five minutes into the project, Little Bit wakes up.
So then I am making the gosh darn cookies with two helpers and without much patience or enthusiasm. And I'm using a recipe for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies from a cookbook called Good to the Grain, the exact kind of cookbook that Best Life MEP buys and Real Life MEP always "means to" use. Best Life MEP thinks, I will learn to bake and not only will I bake, but I will bake using whole-grain flours. Then Real Life MEP is all, I am messing up my kitchen and wasting the precious few moments when Sweet P is content in the exersaucer for cookies that will probably taste like cardboard crap. Real Life MEP is tempted to give up on Best Life MEP once and for all.
Except that the cookies did not taste like cardboard crap. Our cookies completely rock! NTB. These cookies are bar none, the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever baked. Not just "good for being made with whole wheat flour" but good, great even, by any standard. The cookies are huge, and their texture is perfect -- a little bit of crunch on the outside, but a delightful chewy, denseness on the inside. I followed all the directions perfectly (except the one about using high-quality bittersweet chocolate and chopping it myself) and the results way exceeded expectations. I credit the recipe more than the chefs, but, damn, what a sweet, surprising success.
These suckers are good like I could wrap them in plastic and sell them at Starbucks for four bucks a piece. And even though I know whole wheat does not mean calorie free, I cannot stop eating them.
Thank goodness for sweatpants. And thank goodness for sweet, persistent kids. And for moms who say "yes" sometimes, however reluctantly, and who buy whole wheat flour and fresh sage with a hopeful heart and put them in the cart next to the Tombstones.
There are rare, beautiful moments when Best Life MEP and Real Life MEP face one another. At such moments, I like how that cookie crumbles.
Any sweet or surprising victories in your world these days? How do the Best Life and Real Life versions of you compete?
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