Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Time for our weekly wrap-up, while observing that obviously the person in charge of the mailing list for the unsolicited catalog I received this week must have been spying on me as I cooked.

A follow-up to the dessert conundrum: People, that was pretty good pie. The Vanilla Pecan Pie did not disappoint, although the crust was the approximate consistency of a shingle after baking once for the cheesecake part and once for the pie part. Next time I'll make my own dough, but the recipe is going into the keep file.

Sadness in my life last week: Our get-away weekend to see Boy#4 before he graduates meant that I missed the Small Town spelling bee. It was last Friday night, and apparently the major news outlets did not cover the event because I have not yet heard who won. But there's a confession to go along with the sadness: The first emotion I felt when I knew I would not be defending my title as Top Speller On One Night In The Crapshoot That Is A Spelling Bee? Relief. Because have I mentioned that spelling bees are crapshoots, and that had I gotten some of the other words in last year's bee I might very well not have won? Yes. This way I got to retire undefeated due to circumstances beyond my control.

Did any of you grow up being doctored with Merthiolate? When I was a kid that orange liquid was the cure-all for the skinned knees and roughed-up elbows that came with kid-dom. It burned with a blue-hot flame when it hit raw skin and the orange tint was a badge of bravery that didn't wash off. The other day I was telling one of the young'uns in the office about Merthiolate, which they had NEVER HEARD OF, and I Googled it so these whippersnappers could see how their pansy germ-killers that don't hurt also don't kill germs. Do you know what I found? The most prominent ingredient in Merthiolate is MERCURY. Seriously, mercury of the kind that is found in the warnings on old thermometers. After all these years I realized that my mother had been trying to kill me. Between that and the lack of car restraints (throwing an arm out as she braked doesn't count) it's a wonder I survived to adulthood.

This week's blurb is in praise of cheap coffee. I am a coffee drinker. I love everything about coffee--I love its smell, I love its taste, I love the way the mug feels in my hands on a cold day, I love the moment of reprieve when I've been asked a difficult question in a meeting and take a sip of coffee before I answer. But weak coffee is disgusting--do not be weak,coffee. Just do not be.

A few years ago I discovered Cafe Bustelo. It is sold in WalMart and is the cheapest coffee on the shelves, but also is the opposite of weak and immediately took me back to my days in the Peace Corps when I was in coffee paradise. It tasted just like 3 p.m. in Costa Rica, when the whole world stopped and drank coffee together.

It turned out that I was way behind the curve in discovering the yellow can.  A New York Times article in 2009 (five YEARS ago!) featured Cafe Bustelo: "Potent, cheap and with an aura of both urban exotica and blue-collar utility, it’s long been an item on the bohemian shopping list, even making it into the lyrics to Rent ('Bustelo, Marlboro, banana by the bunch')." I must be bohemiam, because if you leave out the Marlboros, that could be my shopping list. 

Put your thumb way up for Cafe Bustelo. Then wrap that thumb around a cup of it, and enjoy.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Battling the Bear in My Head

I didn't write yesterday because I was battling a bear in my head.

I didn't have my first migraine until I was in Costa Rica and too arrogant to wear a hat in the equatorial sun. After a couple of overheatings, though, I began to get headaches. These were unlike any headaches I'd ever had before--not just painful, these episodes were debilitating.

It was like having a bear in my head, a bear that spent most of its time in hibernation but occasionally woke up to stretch unhappily against my forehead. It would stretch and grow, getting angrier and more vicious as it found itself trapped. Most of the time it didn't bite--it just pushed, hard, but then it would swipe a paw against the top of my head, or bite the back of my eyeball. The flashes of pain were almost a relief after the unrelenting pressure.

Nothing I did appeased the bear--not ibuprofen, not darkness, not quiet, not rest. The only remedy was sleep, and it hurt too much to sleep. If I found a position on the pillow that seemed to make the bear less angry I would lock into that position, keeping my head still until my all my muscles shrieked, but still I was awake. I finally understood why trepanation had been a medical mainstay of ancient civilizations: A hole bashed into my skull would at least have diverted my attention from the original headache.

Eventually the pain would be so intense that I would vomit, which would push me over the cliff into sleep.When I woke up the pain would be gone. I'd feel fragile and easily broken, but the bear was back in its cave.

I continued to have migraines when I got back to Kansas, and as I married and we began our family. Over the years I tried to map the cause of the migraines but the bear didn't attack often, only six or eight times per year, and I never could pin down the precipitating factor. Was the bear provoked by caffeine? Soothed by caffeine? Were the headaches hormonal? Stress-induced?

I only knew that when my vision began to blur and dim, I needed to wrap up what I was doing and make sure the Boys had someone to care for them. For the next 18 hours, I would be unable to do my job.

Yesterday morning the bear pushed against my forehead when I was still asleep. I stumbled to the bathroom and took two ibuprofen, hoping to calm it back into hibernation. I had an important work meeting I didn't want to miss. Two hours later, though, I was still shaky and nauseated, and I went back to bed.

Today I'm fine but yesterday I didn't write, or work, or think. I was battling the bear in my head.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Dessert Lady's Conundrum

I am the dessert lady for one of my women's groups tonight. This is a responsibility of almost overwhelming proportions. It isn't because these ladies are judgmental or unappreciative--on the contrary, they are unfailingly enthusiastic no matter what is put on the tiny plates they must balance in their laps.

"Oh, wow!" they will say. "I do love crushed potato chips with sausage gravy. You always know exactly the right thing to top off a meeting."

No, no, no, I'm kidding. With crushed potato chips you serve cheese sauce, not sausage gravy. But what I'm saying is that these women are lovely and gracious.

At the House on the Corner, though, we rarely have dessert. There's a box of juice bars in the freezer for when I'm peckish in the evening, and Husband has ice cream sandwiches because he can't stand the teeth-in-ice sensation that the juice bars require. But cakes and pies? Those just don't happen unless we have company. Being the dessert lady, then, is my rare opportunity to make the very best of these fat-packed delights and not have it hang around in the refrigerator to taunt me while I'm trying to be rational about my food choices.

My Pinterest dessert board is the non-parallel universe for rational food choices, and that's where I turned for inspiration. The cumulative calorie count of these entries would feed a small country for several weeks if they could be translated into actual food. There's Chocolate Lasagne, Blueberry Pie, and Apple Galette. Hot Cocoa Souffle With Coffee Ice Cream, and Brownie Cookie Pie.

I could make that one! No, that one! Chocolate! Lemon! Rhubarb! They all look so delicious--choose meeeeee! To make matters worse, I was trying to decide at 5:15 p.m. so that I could dash to the store for supplies after work, right at the moment my blood sugar is lowest and my dessert resistance weakest.

And that's why tonight instead of a light and tangy lemon yogurt cake we're having Vanilla Pecan Pie. It is a pie crust, topped by a layer of cheesecake, followed by a layer of pecan pie. Oh, and real whipped cream. With caramel sauce.

I'm betting right now the ladies will like this even more than crushed potato chips with cheese sauce OR sausage gravy. Or at least they will say they do.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Life In Metaphor

Of all the oddities I have posted in this space over the last going-on-four years, this may be the oddest. In fact, when I stuck my phone through the bars of the hotel swimming pool fence to snap it Husband thought I was wasting pixels.

"What in the world would you want a picture of that for?" he asked me.

"I don't know, but isn't it the coolest thing you've ever seen? And don't you think I'll be able to come up with some kind of metaphor so I can use it?"

Husband and I visited Boy#4 at Far Away University over the weekend. We drove 7 1/2 hours south on Friday then 7 1/2 hours back north on Sunday in order to spend 36 hours with our youngest kid, for no reason at all. We hadn't been to Far Away University all year, what with the Wedding of the Century pretty much consuming every waking moment during the fall and tax season doing the same during the spring. It struck us a few weeks ago, though, that in a couple of months Four will graduate and at that point we will have no more undergraduate children.

This is good, of course. Our budget will holler HOORAY! at the thought of cutting the cord on phone plans, insurance coverage, car repairs, etc. But this is also a moment for a little sigh that all of our children are full-fledged adults with the college degrees to prove as much.

So we drove to the city two states away where we've been visiting our Boys for so many years. If I'm calculating this right, Boy#1 made his first campus visit here12 years ago. A full dozen years that we've been schlepping couches and mini-fridges up and down the interstate, and now we've come within one trip of the end of that road. We'll be back for graduation in May, and then, who knows? Maybe never again.

We spent the weekend visiting our favorite antique store one last time (bargains!), eating wonderful Mexican food (deliciosa!), and quizzing Four. Did he need anything? Could I take him to the barber--it looks like a haircut is way overdue? How are classes going? (The answers to these were no, no way, and fine. Also, he promises to get a haircut tomorrow.)

We've had weekends with college kids when class stress was high and we had to walk the fine line between sympathy and encouragement. There have been visits when questions about post-college employment or graduate school choices thickened the air with uncertainty. This weekend wasn't one of those weekends--the heaviest subject that came up was that haircut.

It was a good weekend when the most exciting thing we saw was an upright beer bottle making laps around the swimming pool, perfectly balanced and catching the tiny current caused by the filters to stay afloat.

And right there is your metaphor: These days I'm like a beer bottle in a swimming pool, staying afloat, just enjoying the sunshine and currents.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nothing to See Here

I have a friend who is a wonderfully attentive reader of this space. She often sends me encouraging messages when she finishes her daily dose of blather, sometimes saying "I LOVE THIS!" and often saying "I know exactly how you feel, hang in there."

She also is the one who, when I am AWOL for more than a couple of days, shows up in my in-box with concern: "Everything okay?" It is just the kind of encouragement I need to continue on my quest to use up all the words in the internet, and I dash off more Thoughts for cyberspace.

This week, in an uncharacteristic lack of Thoughts, I have nothing to say. Nothing. The well of words is dry.

I took Monday off, hoping the well would re-fill overnight. It didn't, so I scraped into the mud at the bottom to use the phrase "Making whoopie" for the first time in this space. Husband pointed out later that there is a segment of the population who would not find that phrase as funny as we did, a good reminder that there probably should occasionally be the tiniest bit of our lives left unshared.

Yesterday, more lack of Thoughts and another day off. Today, just to reassure my friend that everything is okay, I'm posting a picture that I found in my free clip-art source labeled "Happy Smoke Detector." It pretty much sums up my week.

I'm here, I'm happy, I'm doing my job. Thanks for checking!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's the Second Childhood

Our church had its sweetheart banquet Sunday night. This is one of those lovely moments when you realize again that love comes in all shapes and sizes and generations. And what do church-y types do when they want to recognize its loving couples in the congregation? Why, they play a rousing rendition of The Newlywed Game, of course.

We all remember The Newlywed Game, right? It was a smarmy game show popular during my teenaged years, back in the days when network censors still took their roles as the upholders of Standards and Practices very, very seriously. Believe it or not, children, there were still seven words you couldn't say on television.The whole point of The Newlywed Game was to ask the couples embarrassing questions to see what kind of euphemisms they could create to describe body parts and marital encounters.

So when the pastor announced three couples were being chosen to play The Newlywed Game Husband leaned over and whispered to me "I wonder how they're going to work 'making whoopie' into this?" I giggled, because that had been the exact thing was I leaning over to ask him.

As it turned out, though, the game was a sweet and G-rated reminder that love is not just for newlyweds. Among these contestants were a couple of oldlyweds (46 years wed, to be exact) and some midlyweds (19 years), as well as the true newlyweds who exchanged their vows only four years ago.

Here's what I learned from that game: Husband and I would have lost. I could not have come up with his favorite music star, because "Anyone from the '70s" would not have been acceptable answer. I couldn't have told you the bad habit I wish he would break because I know better than to point out his faults in front of all those people if I want him to continue to balance my checkbook. I wouldn't have been able to pin down his favorite vacation unless I could have said "Any of them except the 1988 camping trip through Ohio."

We would have fallen into the same category as the oldlyweds, who did not win because there were just too many choices, too many memories piled up together in their collective databanks. He said her favorite musician was Elvis Presley and she picked Johnny Mathis, who would have been her second choice.

But hey, if the question had been "What was the most common answer on the original Newlywed Game?" Husband and I would have earned the five points because at heart we are both eight years old and we would have known "making whoopie." We are, in the most immature sense of the word, childhood sweethearts.

We may not win the SPECIAL PRIZE CHOSEN ESPECIALLY FOR YOU!, but back off, Bob Eubanks. This is working for us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Today's graphic is in honor of Valentine's Day and of the lovebirds (also known as Husband and MomQueenBee) who live in the House on the Corner. The fact that I did not bestir myself to change its color to red is in honor of the general attitude this particular pair of lovebirds have toward Valentine's Day, that attitude being "meh." He proves every single day that he like me, as evidenced by his dropping of everything to rescue me from car trouble yesterday. Aspiring lovebirds? That's how you do it.

The Winter Olympics have been up on the second monitor at my desk this week, and I glance at NBC's internet streaming  from time to time so I can see just which world-class athlete is crashing at the moment. (Seriously--the men's short program in figure skating was like watching Nascar if Nascar had a lot more sparkly tights.) The best part of the off-prime-time coverage is the second string of announcers, all of whom seem to be British. I don't know who the woman skating commentator was but she sounded exactly like Lady Mary. My favorite comment was about Jeremy Abbott, who took perhaps the most spectacular fall I've seen outside of America's Funniest Home Videos. "When he's good he's spellbinding," Fake Lady Mary said of Abbott. "When he's not, he's...disappointing." Oooooh, burn.

It occurred to me that there are now two generations behind me who have no idea where "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" originated. So sad--I can still see that poor ski jumper cartwheeling off the end of the ramp, as he did every Saturday afternoon of my youth.

Blurb of the Week: It's tax season and that means long hours for my CPA, who is also the CPA of a lot of other people but the Husband only of me. Those hours are probably a good thing right now, because I've discovered the world of BBC detective shows. Last week I blurbled about Sherlock, this week I found Luther, so it's just as well Husband was at the office and not trying to compete with Idris Elba for my attention.

If you have Netflix and can check this out, go ahead and shake hands with a sick person because you're going to want to take a couple of sick days once you get started on this series. It's dark and fascinating and the only purely good person in it is the sidekick, but it's so mesmerizing I found myself forgetting to knit while I watched.

It's not for the faint of heart, but Luther will make you realize how good a television series can be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Right Place, Right Time

Today I learned that I can do more with my car than drive and add gas. I can also open the hood.

This is not a great accomplishment for most people, but for those of us who have the manual dexterity of warthogs and have not previously had the occasion to try opening the hood, it's a milestone to be noted in the baby book.

Truth be told, I could have lived just as happily without knowing I had this ability. But this was my morning to deliver meals to shut-ins, and as I was dropping off the final lunch I noticed vapor coming from under the edges of the hood. Because I have an almost paralyzing fear of car fires (I saw a Buick on fire next to the highway when I was six or seven, and I have never forgotten that IT CAN HAPPEN) I did what any rational person would do: I got back in the car and drove as quickly as I could on the six blocks back to the House on the Corner. I opened the hood, felt the tiny thrill of achievement at that success, and bent in for a deep sniff to see if the smoke was animal, mineral, or vegetable.

Then I called Husband.

Have I mentioned what a good guy he is? Even though he is a CPA, and this is less than an optimal time of the year to rescue stranded motorists (even those who may be related to him by--his own--marriage), he  was there within minutes. When I described the sequence of events, he gently reminded me that those fire demonstrations in fourth grade were not kidding, and that if this ever happens again I should (1) probably not drive the car, (2) definitely leave the hood closed in case it actually was a fire, and (3) for heaven's sake don't be an idiot and put your face right down into the smoke. At that point he arranged for transport to the car hospital.

The mechanic hasn't called back with a verdict on whether Pearl needs minor repair or major surgery, but I was in the right place at the right time. I was at the end of the route and  near home, at a moment Husband could come to the rescue.

The shut-ins all got their lunch, and I got a reminder that I have the best Valentine ever.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cakes I Have Baked

There was a time in my life when I made some pretty darned good birthday cakes. Really, I did. Even though I had no culinary or artistic talent whatsoever, I tried to give the birthday boy exactly what he wanted for his special day, whether that something was chocolate icing with confetti at age three, or  Winnie the Pooh at age five....

I free-handed this icing. My 38-year-old self was much more awesome than I thought at the time.

 ...or a foot kicking a soccer ball at age eight.
Licorice string laces on the soccer boot.
Eventually the Boys  were not living within geographical reach of my oven, so I outsourced the cakes to brothers and friends and the food services at their dorms. But I went to fairly extreme lengths to make sure birthday was synonymous with cake. There was the year that we were camping during Boy#1's birthday, so I had a grocery store bakery decorate a cake for him. This doesn't sound complicated until you consider that this was pre-cellphones so all arrangements had to be made from the pay phone at the entrance to the campground.

Today is Boy#2's birthday. He is half a nation away, and hunkered down in his apartment under threat of ice inundation at the university where he is a graduate student. He's a smart, well-adjusted adult so I'm sure he's not suffering because his mother didn't bake him a birthday cake.

But his mother is suffering, just a little, and missing the beautiful-eyed boy who is now 26 years old.

Happy birthday, Two. I wish I could bake a cake for you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cool Job

This is the view out of my office window this morning.

I know you're tired of me talking about SNOW with more SNOW and an extra side dish of SNOW, but that seems to be our life in Small Town right now. It snowed last night!

Now I know that by the standards of Wisconsin last night's snowfall wasn't much. We didn't need those orange flags on eight-foot poles that warn snowplows of curbside mailboxes. (You Wisconsin people are a hardy breed, and I salute you.) This was only a couple of inches of feathery flakes, easily brushed off of cars and not deep enough that the Snow Day Princess even considered pulling out the megaphone to cancel classes.

But it is enough snow that the guy on snow-clearing duty in the parking lot outside my window is having a really, really good time. He has pushed this snow all over the lot! He has piled it here, then transported it over there. He has endlessly beep-beep-beep-backed up then vrrrroooom-whined-scraped-forward that two inches of snow until he has completely DOMINATED the parking lot clearing.

I believe this may be the same guy who mows the strip of grass under my window each and every day of the summer, making phone conversations a series of "What? I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" and "Is your speaker turned all the way up?" from my end.

He works on the days when the weather is in the single digits, and on the days when the weather is in the triple digits, and on all the days in between, so I'm glad he enjoys the toys that help clear the parking lot and manicure the grass.

Thanks, guy. Make all the noise you want.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I have almost nothing to say; it may be that all of my thoughts have been frozen before they reach the part of the brain that generates thoughts. Our wacky weather is exploring the part of the thermometer below the bulb, and it is COLD.

This weather means that the parking lots at Small College continue to be snow-covered several days after the actual snowfall, resulting in the extension of Park Like An Idiot Day through the entire week. Holy cow, do people park like idiots when they don't have the visual clues of painted lines to herd them into spaces. Yesterday I saw a student park his car AGAINST THE ANGLE in the angle parking. (Is that what you would call it? He had the hood of his car perpendicular to the car in the next space.) Fortunately, I have not lost my Appalled Mom Stare and I  used it on him. He backed out and parked again, this time parallel to the next car.

Appalled Mom Stare FTW.

The de-stuff-ification of the House on the Corner continues apace, with 16 bags/boxes now gone. It's turning out to be a profitable endeavor--the fuzzy picture with today's post shows the coins found in just one day of cleaning out stuff. Eighty-three cents, baby, and 84 bags still to go. 

Just so you know, Boy#1 and I could have done this. We chose not to.

And the blurb of the day:

My latest binge-watching seems to have focused on British detectives, and in that vein I've started to watch Sherlock. I am now seeing what all the fuss is about. Great characters, terrific chemistry, excellent plot lines. In fact, at the risk of being labeled a heretic, I'd rather see a new episode of Sherlock than of Downton Abbey. Last night I found myself catching up on the very earliest episodes of the series rather than watching figure skating. At this rate they're going to take away my Olympic fangirl card.

We all know that the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes was also in 12 Years a Slave but did you know that the guy who plays Dr. Watson played Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movies? No, I didn't either.

What a wonderful world we live in when a Southern plantation owner and Bilbo Baggins can make a movie together. I recommend Sherlock but I would pay good money to see one with those two characters in the leads.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Day

Hey! Guess what! Not half an hour after I posted the poor-me-please-feel-pity post that was yesterday's message to the internet, the boss walked into my office and conceded that with snow waves breaking over us like a frozen version of the Banzai Pipeline, we should probably send people home. I am also people, so home I went.

The rest of the day I spent Doing Things and Thinking Thoughts. Here are the things I did:

1. Baked Snow Day Bread. There is nothing like the yeasty smell of homemade bread to make everything seem right with the world. I may not be working but look at all those little microscopic animals in that dough lifting it right out of the pan.

2. Blocked several finished knitting projects, including a just-completed shawl (which, if I can bring myself to part with it, will be the grand prize in the De-stuff-ify With MomQueenBee activity we're all doing together) and a cowl that's been done but not blocked for about three years.

3. Had a nice long phone conversation with Boy#3, who is a teacher and was having his own snow day. 
Me: So how is your day going?
Three: Pretty rough. I picked out a movie to watch, piled up all the blankets on the couch, made some cocoa, got my popcorn, then on the third sip I burned my mouth on the cocoa."
Then he laughed and laughed.

4. Fed my newly-acquired addiction to BBC crime dramas on Netflix, this time with Inspector Lynley. This find is slightly north of okay--not nearly as good as Prime Suspect but quite a bit better than Grand Hotel, a BBC product that tries very hard to be Downton Abbey but is not.

Here are the thoughts I thought:

1. Are these college kids insane? WHERE ARE YOUR HATS, COLLEGE KIDS?

2. No, really, where are your hats? Your mothers would be appalled to see you out there when the temperature is FIVE DEGREES and your heads are uncovered.

3. Those students should really put on hats. And gloves.

And then I turned my attention back to bread baking and British detectives.

Aaaaaahhhh, snow days.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We Are Here! We Are Here! We Are Here!

Okay, I'll say it before you do.

"Wow, MomQueenBee, you look TERRIBLE today. Your hair is all messed up, there are bags under your eyes, you have a shocking lack of lipstick, and you probably take the worst selfies in the world. But what is that your Snow Day Sweater? And is that your OFFICE in the background?"

Why, yes! Yes, that is my Snow Day Sweater. This sweater is at least 30 years old, since it's a hand-me-down from Much Older Sister and I have a picture of her wearing it as she holds her baby son, who is now 32 years old and has five babies of his own. (Well, he shares them with his wife.) The sweater is indestructible acrylic, though, and quite warm so it's what I wear during a Snowpocalypse, which is what we are having in Small Town today.

However (and this is a big 'however') Small College is open. Yes, you heard me right. The place that direct deposits my paycheck for doing a job I truly, truly love is open, so I was up at 5:30 a.m. to let everyone know that they would have the opportunity to LEARN today! Wooooo!

Shockingly, many students (and even more faculty members) were not as thrilled as you would think they would be, even when I pointed out that they were getting full value for their tuition dollars. Staying at home in pajamas drinking hot cocoa binge-watching Damages on Netflix blah blah blah something more and I forget what else seemed to trump the joys of learning.

So in this selfie you are seeing the slings and arrows of the wrath of academia hailing down on the messenger, as reflected in the haggard expression and lack of lips. But you are also seeing my OFFICE behind me, dang it.

Like the Who's down in Whoville, I am here, I am here, I am here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Game Highlights and Birthday Wishes

I am, of course, a Kansas City Chiefs fan. That makes it mighty hard to root for the Denver Broncos, even if I'm a Peyton Manning fan so I wasn't devastated by the results of last night's "game" which was a game only in the sense that there were teams on the field and a coin toss by a large furry animal before it started. This "game" was over after one play.

But I do love the Super Bowl in that it's one of two times during the year I prop a plate on my lap in front of the television and eat pizza guilt-free. (The other time is March Madness finals.)

It isn't that I don't eat pizza, especially now that the empty nest means that toppings can include MUSHROOMS and BLACK OLIVES and other delicacies the Boys would not describe as edible. All of the other 87 times I eat pizza each year, though, it arrives with a hearty dish of guilt on the side. (So much crust! So much cheese! So much deliciousness! I shouldn't be eating this! Nom nom nom!)

The mushrooms on last night's super supreme, though, are dedicated to Boy#4. He is the person in our clan who most dislikes fungus on his food (his phrase), so I thought of him with each delicious bite.

I also thought of him because today he is 22 years old. Twenty-two! How could he be celebrating this many years, when it was just yesterday that I waddled into the hospital and discovered his head was lodged right beneath my sternum, generating a delivery-room crowd that probably violated all sorts of occupancy codes as they watched a fantastic obstetrician manipulate this 9 lb. 8 oz. hunk of baby into a better position for joining the outside world. (One of the residents was standing on a chair to get a better view. No, I'm not kidding.)

Anyway, happy birthday, Four. Except for your aversion to mushrooms you have been an ideal child in almost every way. I'm glad I'm your mom.