Category Archives: Things that smell

Loaf Pans, Sweet Aromas, and Metaphors in Winter

This morning I’m making pumpkin bread, ostensibly for my son who’s home with a cold, but mostly because I want to fill the house with the aroma of ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Comfort. Care. Sweet.

Of late, the home has smelled of sick dog and not-so-homemade meals. The smells of exhaustion.

The pumpkin bread recipe has different baking times for different loaf pan sizes. 8×4 or 9×5.

My loaf pan, browned from years of lightly greasing and flouring, is 8.5×4.5

No joke.

Not quite here, not quite there. Close enough.

That’s how I feel these days, in this place, at this time. Maybe, in many ways, I always have.

It’s a not-entirely-comfortable feeling. No one wants to feel out-of-place.

No, that’s not right.

Out-of-step. I feel slightly out-of-step. Slightly mis-sized. Needing a little finagling to mingle with the other, uh, loaf pans. A different shelf or a little twisting here and there.

On my counter right now is a beautiful, perfectly baked, aromatic loaf of pumpkin bread. Due to the irregular size, it needed more observing, more tending, more awareness than other loaves…more wiggle room and patience than allowed for in the suggested time ranges. It took more than the 52-57 minutes. It took adjusting the oven. It took years of experience to know by sight and smell when it was close to done, and by the quality of crumb on the toothpick that it was.

There’s a lesson there that I choose to apply to myself on these days when the light is fleeting and the year fades into promises for the future. On these days when we hear no and why and you’ve got to be kidding me, on the days when self-care — the soulful kind, not the chocolate kind — is needed, on the days when the fight for rights and beliefs and humanity seems ever needy and urgent…on these days it’s ok to find the metaphor wherever we can.

Even if the metaphor is that there will always be crumbs.

Surviving Summer Fun Times Week 7– Game of Groans

Our kids’ camps ended this week, officially launching us into the “Camp Mom” part of summer. Welcome to Camp Mom. Our slogan is, “You see that door? It leads to a magical place called Outside. Try it. It’s like Narnia without the Turkish Delight.” Our sigil is a screen with a red line through it on a blue raspberry-syrup colored field. Our main battle strategy, perfected by the children, is to incessantly ask for snacks until opposing forces surrender.

Last days of camp are rarely the completely special moments we’d like them to be. One child forgot all of his food (2 snacks and a lunch) for his 7 hour day in class– thank goodness his brother shared, as did some of his lovely classmates. Strangers no more. I don’t think you can be a stranger once you’ve shared your snack cakes. Or kale. Or whatever good parents pack in lunches these days.

Despite this, we enjoyed their “Expo” – the final hours of camp where we get to see where our tuition money went this week, praying that they weren’t just playing Minecraft all day. And they weren’t. What a treat to watch the boys guide us through a technological world that is foreign and alien to us, but to them is home. But with great power comes great ability to maintain long monologues about the games they designed. I believe that they are still mid-sentences about it, some six days later.

Speaking of inauspicious endings, my daughter managed to fall into a puddle on the last day of camp. This undid her for a while, and she was completely disinterested in hearing my belief that her clumsiness is a confirmation that she is my child. She also was not interested in hearing, “Yeah, I’ve done that, too” when she biffed off her scooter yesterday. Road rash. It ain’t for sissies. Thank goodness we have so many Band-Aids.

The day after camp ended, the kids “slept in,” meaning they woke at 7:02. One twin decided to make super-secret pancakes like he was a contestant on a cooking competition, but considering he was asking where I keep every single ingredient, it didn’t take long to figure out it was going to be a fairly tame white chocolate and raspberry pancake batter. I relieved he didn’t go full Chopped and add some spotted dick or broccoli rabe. I’m counting this as “someone else made breakfast,” but I was kept grounded by the fact that he used every dish in the house and I was on clean up duty.

Fell asleep on the couch the other night and woke to the sound of a pitcher of water pouring on our new rug at about 1:30. I opened my eyes to see the dog peeing on the rug, which is really frustrating because most of the house is not carpeted so I’m not sure why he’s choosing the rug (and choosing the part of the rug right next to me). Usually he wakes me up if he has an emergency evening bladder/colon situation either by barking mildly or by nudging my hand or arm with his nose.

I got up to clean it and saw by the front door that apparently my dog has stock in Metamucil or Activia or Starbucks.

I ended up dragging the front hall mat (his inside pooping ground of choice) outside and pulling a Scarlett O’Hara – promising I’d deal with it tomorrow, most likely by asking my husband to hose down the mat and the dog.

My focus returned to the rug. Here’s the thing, though, I couldn’t find where he had peed. It’s a fluffy and apparently super absorbent rug. I tentatively touched at the rug, first with a big toe, then, as I was coming up dry, on hands and knees, slapping at the ground. No luck. It was the worst kind of magic – a completely dry rug, but not one made of charcoal. The strong ammonia scent was not exactly Glade-worthy, so I sprayed the rug with a cleanser that claims to rid rugs of pet odors, obviously never having met the stink bomb that is my dog.

Full of the type of joy that toe-tapping for dog pee in the wee hours of the morning can bring, it took about two hours to get back to sleep. At 6:30, my daughter awoke crying. I always think of that is some sort of warning sign that she’s going to throw up, because every time she throws up she cries beforehand. In full panic, I ran to her room only to find she’d had a bad dream. I lay down with her hoping to wring a few more minutes of probably fitful sleep, but the thought of poor sleep with my daughter’s hair up my nose was preferable to her being…oh, yes, there it was. She was wide awake, happy as a clam, and ready to meet the day full force.

Sleep deprivation is the Ramsay Bolton of my life.

I finally finished my daughter’s blanket which ended up being a color scheme I can only call Fever Dream.

I just got this yarn, and it’s time to knit something for me.

Because winter is here.

Surviving Summer FunTimes Week 6 — I’m Loving It, but Don’t Quote Me On That

Happy Back to School Week! Haha. Just kidding. There are 6000 more weeks of summer vacation.

 

Something smells. Seriously, in my house, something smells. I get little wafts of it every so often and then it dissipates so quickly I can’t find it. It’s not quite as bad as my dog’s odor, which usually smells like he ate something so terrible that he emits gas from the center of Hell. But it doesn’t smell like rotting food. It kind of smells like a melting crayon covered in mold that’s been jammed in the heating vents — which makes no sense because right now we’re running AC. My husband was kind enough to suggest we might have a dead animal somewhere in the house so I may have to set the place on fire.


The kids asked for a day off from camp, and I agreed on the condition that the only television we watch would be shows I want to see. We watched Iron Chef and the ingredient was Wahoo. The kids were completely and hilariously repulsed by the whole thing. They learned a valuable lesson: never ask to stay home again.

That evening, the boys put out cheese and crackers as appetizers. Nicely plated, too. Not sure if they were inspired by Alton Brown or just trying to get at some pre-dinner noshing in a very clever way. Either way, it worked. The only problem is all the children loaded up on Triscuits, Laughing Cows, and a questionable plop of hummus, so the nice dinner I made became the slightly less nice lunch the next day.

I asked my daughter, “Do you want to help me make brownies tomorrow?” She looked at me, eyes wide.

“It is my duty,” she said.

Every so often, I feel I’m doing something right.


Figured out what the smell was. It’s the kids’ paint, made by a popular crayon company. I wasn’t completely off when I said it was a combination of dead animal and crayons. But all art projects made with that paint were photographed then tossed.

There is probably some analogy about creation/death (smells) but I’m too woozy to figure it out.


The boys finished their “regular” camp and began a week of coding classes. My husband came home from dropping them off and reported that the boys did not want to have their dad walk them into class.

While the boys were at class, I took my daughter to the local children’s museum for the first time. I’ve been avoiding it because I remember taking the boys there and being exhausted, but then I realized (a) she’s starting kindergarten in a few weeks and we won’t have the same amount of time together and (b) she’s not twins. We spent hours playing and exploring, despite the fact that she’s probably a little too old for the place. Fortunately, she’s not too old to hold my hand while we wander around.

These are the moments that grab a small awl and bore time-passing holes in my heart. And I realized I actually enjoy having my kids home for the summer.  It’s going to be hard for me in September when they go back. Now, feel free to repeat that back to me in a week when I am saying I’m going nuts from all the bickering and the fighting and the permanent state of snacking they all seem to be in. But for now, I am enjoying them very much.