Crazed In the Kitchen: January 2013   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Can Southern California Recover from this "Arctic Blast?"

This post is the first in my new series, "Way-Back Wednesday." On the third Wednesday of each month, I'll revisit one of my favorite posts from the past. Considering that I've been blogging for a whole year now, I figure I've got about 3 months before I run out of "old" material. Then I guess I'll have to institute "What's-Happening-Today Wednesday," which, technically, will just be another new blog post. But, as my husband likes to say, that's Future Molly's problem. Present Molly likes "Way-Back Wednesday," and is proud to present the first in the series....
Can Southern California Recover from this "Arctic Blast?"
We've had quite the cold snap here in Southern California this past week. Daytime temps have been stuck in the 50's, and nighttime temps have fallen into the *GASP* 30's! OK, upper 30's, but still. We don't see 30 degree-weather very often around here, so the response has been somewhat close to panic. ESPECIALLY from the local news media. Check this out to see what I mean:

In light of this emergency, my family has had to take some extreme measures. First, we have had to figure out once and for all how to work this, our heater:
Cat photo bomb
Yes, that vent you see bears the sole responsibility for heating our whole house. For our part, this involves a complex schedule of opening and closing various bedroom and hallway doors so that the thermostat, in the living room, gets some heat and the boys, in their bedroom, get some heat, and that we, in our bedroom, are kept cat-free (thanks to my cold-hearted husband). Sadly, Hubby and I have to choose between heat and being cat-free, so I am sleeping under, I don't know, maybe EIGHT blankets at night these days.

The second adjustment we have had to make has been to our clothing choices. My boys had to trade their light hoodies for fleece jackets on our bike rides around the neighborhood. My poor 2-year-old abandoned his barefoot lifestyle and took to actually wearing socks inside the house. And while my 4-year-old STILL refuses to wear jammies to bed, he has been donning them as soon as he gets up each morning rather than wearing nothing but underpants, as is his usual style.

Yes, it has been a week of sacrifice and hardship for us here in Southern California.

So, for my first "Way-Back Wednesday," I've decided to revisit a post I wrote around Christmastime a year ago about my problems adjusting to winters in a warm-weather locale. I grew up in Chicago, so every year at Christmas I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone when I see Christmas lights wrapped artfully around palm trees, shining their twinkling lights on lush, green lawns. To see what I mean, check out my post...

A So-Cal Christmas

And, while I appreciate your worry and concern, know that we here in Southern California are going to be OK. Temperatures should be in the mid- to upper-70's by the weekend, my kids will enjoy their friend's birthday party in a local park, and the fleece jackets will be stored safely in the hall closet for the next few years.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How My Dead Cat And My 4-Year-Old Saved Christmas

I have to admit, Christmas is sort of a bummer for me. Thirteen years ago, one of my grandfathers died on Christmas Day, and then four years ago my mom died just a few weeks before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year? Eh.

But this year, I had to rally my Christmas spirit. See, I now have not one but TWO young sons who believe in Santa Claus and who have fully embraced the spirit of the season. (That is, if by “spirit of the season” you mean “getting presents, eating junk food, and losing your shit at increasing volumes every day for the three weeks preceding Christmas.”) So I couldn’t really half-ass it like I have in the past.

But I knew I couldn’t make Christmas really wonderful for my kids if I was mostly faking my own joy of the season. So I thought a bit about what I could do to make me feel jollier over the holidays. And I came up with a great idea:

This year, for the first time, we would get a CHRISTMAS TREE!

Now, please understand, I am not such a Grinch that I have denied my children the delight of having a full-sized, decorated Christmas tree simply because I didn’t want one. The problem always lay with one of my cats. He was a voracious plant-eater—anything plant or even vaguely plant-like was delicious to him. And since plants violently disagreed with his digestive system, we had banned them from our house, including Christmas trees.

Tiny tree, post-Santa garbage collection
To compensate, we bought a 2-foot fake tree that we decorated then placed on a table and surrounded with whatever we could find that would block the cat’s access to it. Toys, books, empty cereal boxes, water bottles—it was like a yearly game of Tetris as we tried to cover every square inch of space around our midget tree with clutter and garbage so that the cat couldn’t get at it.

Ahhhh, clutter and garbage...the true spirit of Christmas.

Each year, I looked at our sad little garbage tree and wished we could have a big happy tree. I didn’t want my kids to grow up thinking it was normal for Santa to haul out the trash under the tree and leave presents in its place. I wanted a proper Christmas tree, and this year I was going to have one.

(As for the tree-eating cat? Well, it turns out that was a good news, bad news situation. The good news was the cat wasn’t eating plants any more. The bad news was that was because he died back in August.)

So, in an unusual fit of holiday cheer, I packed both kids up in the car and headed to Target to buy a big, beautiful, gloriously pre-lit fake tree.

At the store, we snagged one of the snazzy carts that have the little trailer behind it with two kid seats. This meant both of my kids were strapped in and contained—a definite plus in a crowded pre-holiday Target. But it also almost doubled the length of my cart—a definite minus in a crowded pre-holiday Target. But then, in a true Christmas miracle, we easily found the tree section, picked the kind of tree we wanted (7 ½ feet tall!!), and found a Target employee to load the enormous tree box into our cart.

But as we headed for the checkout lanes to pay, I realized we had two problems.

Add 70 lbs of kids and a huge Xmas tree...
One, my extra-long cart was now about two feet longer—thanks to the huge box sticking out of the end of it. Doing a simple left turn required about 72 adjustments and took at least 2 minutes. It was going to take FOREVER to get to the checkout lanes.
But it turns out that was a good thing, because it gave me some extra time to figure out how I was going to solve problem number two: fitting two kids in car seats, one driver, and one enormous Christmas tree box into my Honda Civic.

I called my husband, thinking he could bring the second car around to take the tree home. No answer. After a few more fruitless calls I realized I was on my own. I paid for the tree and slowly, slowly wheeled us all out to the car.

With the kids safely strapped in their seats, I got started. Despite a valiant effort, the trunk was a no go. The box was going to somehow have to fit in the car with us. I got to work adjusting the front seats—pushing them back and reclining them as far as I could without crushing my kids. I took off both the headrests, and I pushed and pulled that tree box until it was almost, ALMOST all the way in the car.

But not quite.

The box and I had reached a d├ętente. It needed one little push from the passenger side, but if I let go of it and left my spot on the driver’s side it would slide out of the car. And I wasn’t sure I could recreate the exact sequence of maneuvers that had gotten us so close to victory. I felt my newfound Christmas spirit slipping away as I imagined wheeling the kids and the tree back into Target to return it. I sighed and muttered to myself, “If I just had someone to give it a tiny push….”

From the back seat, my 4-year-old piped up, “I can help, Mommy! I’ll use all my strongth power!”

I smiled at “strongth power” and realized he was right. He could help me. My baby wasn’t such a baby anymore—he was pretty strong and, just as important, he could unbuckle his own car seat. He popped out of the car, got behind the box, and gave it his biggest push. Lo and behold, it slid just far enough in that we could close the passenger door. We jumped up and down in the parking lot, high-fiving and screaming “STRONGTH POWER!” while my 2-year-old applauded in the car.

We survived the trip home, and I used some of my own strongth power to put the tree together. And then, for the first time, we got out the BIG box of ornaments, and decorated our full-size Christmas tree.
And it may just stay up until Valentines Day