Then, magically, with no effort, you have awesome fresh produce, lots of it organic, for better quality and price than in the grocery stores.
Even better, when you drop by to pick up said produce, apologetically late in the day, she invites you to stay for dinner, which includes grilled salmon with ginger, soy and Japanese bread crumb crust and crunchy noodle salad. Not only delicious, but Weight Watcher friendly. And loads better than the left over gumbo you were going to eat...again.
So this is us on Sunday.
As I took my quart of gorgeous looking strawberries and other assorted yummy produce, all the while effusively thanking her (again) and trying to do things like wash the dinner dishes to make myself worthy...I asked what she was doing with the two other flats full of strawberries.
"Well, in advance of the ice storm coming," we both laughed heartily at this idea, ice...here, where the average winter temp hovers around 70, "They cleaned out their fields so produce was plentiful, fresh and cheap. I got the strawberries to can into jam."
Fresh canned strawberry jam? Yum! Fun!
"Oh wow!" I exclaimed, impressed. Not enough she cans pickles and other vegetables, but she also makes jam! "Hey, the kids would love that, if you want any help, call us over when you're ready to make jam, and we'll help. Well I will, they'll add kid help."
She said sure, and so yesterday----a school holiday and day of climbing the wall stuck in the house willies---she calls and says, "Come on over, let's make jam!"
The kids had been torturing me with their new favorite game: Test Boundaries Until Mom Blows Her Top Because It Sure is Fun to See Steam Come Out Her Ears (TM) (not available in stores, by special erratic order only).
So you can imagine my joy at the thought of Getting the Hell Outta Dodge aka the house.
The kids were all very excited about making strawberry jam. "It sounds like fun," they exclaimed, "We love strawberry jam," they yelled, making it into a song, "We love jam, we love making jam, we love strawberry jam, going to make strawberry jam!" The apple, or berry in this case, doesn't fall far from this singing tree.
Except, it is actually work. There's a lot of chopping and washing and squishing and boiling.
So they lost interest.
They began torturing the baby with too much love, so I intervened and told them to go upstairs and play in the playroom. I swooped in, rescued the overstimulated and now crying baby, and fed him a bottle while my friend caried on with the jam-making.
The children obeyed---with alacrity no less---my request that they go upstairs to play.
This should have been a red flag.
It was not.
Instead, I was pathetically grateful after a hard day already of bartering and threatening to have cooperation with no argument.
I plead battle-fatigue. I plead PTSD.
Here comes the fun part, the part wherein my children show how grateful we are to be invited to our friend's house and get to take part in the jam-making...and the reason why we are just always so welcome in people's homes.
My friend had so many strawberries that once she added in the ingredients, she found herself in a pickle (no pun intended) for space.
"I'm calling across the street to run get a bigger pot since all my big pots are in use," she told me, "Are you okay to watch the kids by yourself for a couple of minutes?"
"No problem," I said to her, feeling confident.
Again, this should have been a red flag. It was not.
"He's almost finished with his bottle," I said, admiring how efficiently a just-past-newborn can suck, and how cute his little cheeks and chin looked working, "I think he's tired...so I'll let him finish and then put him down to nap."
"Sounds great," she said, whisking out the door to run across the street.
After the baby finished his bottle, I set it down on the table, and moved to sit in the living room to soothe him into a sleepy state. A few minutes passed. Then a few minutes more.
Persistence was none too glad to see her mom involved with another baby. She decided to regain my attention by kicking the dog.
I tried to verbally stop her, to no avail. My attention only encouraged her.
Every time I spoke, the baby opened his eyes. I wished I could hop up and handle the situation face-to-face with Persistence, but I hesitated to disturb the baby. Luckily, just then, my friend returned.
"Everything okay?" she asked.
"Well...can you put Persistence in the time out chair for kicking the dog?" We both turned irritated eyes to Persistence, who was giggling as her foot reached out once more towards the dog. Just a stage, I reassured myself, not a sign of future sociopathy.
I added, "Other than that, all seems fine. The girls are in the playroom...listen...you can hear them thumping like a herd of elephants now," she and I laughed, "And the baby is just about asleep."
My friend picked up Persistence and said, "You are going into time out for kicking. We use NICE feet to walk, not kick." She placed her in the chair, turned back to me and said, "Sorry it took so long...you know how chatty she can get!"
"Sure," I said.
"Okay...I'm just going to mix up the rest of the strawberries and get them cooking."
After another minute, I decided it was calm enough upstairs and the baby was asleep enough that I could go put him in his crib.
As I climbed the stairs, it occured to me that it was too quiet, and the kids' voices were too muffled. Oh no, I thought, they've gone into the office, my friend will not be happy about that.
I carefully laid the baby in the crib, then covered him with a quilt. I made sure he was fine, closed the door quietly, and adjusted from "calm gentle mom who can put babies to sleep" to "you've incurred the wrath of the mean mom now."
I opened the office door. This, this horror, I did not expect.
My friend's office was trashed.
This ain't no paint party, pals. That's what we call an unsanctioned art project.
Her middle daughter was sitting in a puddle of paint pooled on the white carpet, with scissors in her hand, and hair all around her.
Patience was nowhere to be seen, but I heard her and my friend's youngest daughter giggling. Under the desk, I thought.
"Patience," I said, trying to hide my anger from my voice, "Patience, you have until TWO to come out."
Patience and her friend emerged from under the desk. I gasped. They were naked, and each held a container of dot paint, which they had apparently---in a sort of strange homage to a Celtic battle tradition I guess---been painting on themselves and each other.
The other child took my moment of distraction to attempt an escape.
"WHAT THE OH MY WHAT WERE YOU HOW THE," I gasped and struggled for words, completely past coherence, "Okay, you two," I said, pointing to the Celtic Warriors, "In the tub, pronto." I snagged the Escapee, "You, pick up the dot paint and put it away."
I called my friend, with trepidation, "Ummm, I think you need to come up. There's a little situation in the office."
When she walked in, her face reflected the horror and exhaustion I think my own face held.
My friend's carpet? Ruined.
The mess? Cleaned up.
The children? Still alive.
My husband and I decided to punish them all night with our absolute and full attention, which apparently they are screaming for, although I think now they have decided to be careful what they wish for.
Oh, yeah and Persistence? For once her survival instincts kicked in. She heard the commotion upstairs, smelt Mom Anger, and sat, still and silent, the entire time, in the time out chair. And never uttered a word of complaint when I finally remembered her and set her free. She just gave me a hug, patted my cheeks and said, "Mama otay?"
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert, aka
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