Eyes, in the Back of My Head

I look out my family room window and there is Little Man, happily tromping on the automatic pool cover, waves gently bobbing him up and down. My first reaction was to laugh to myself at the cuteness of the moment; then the ‘Mom’ instinct kicked in, I opened the window and yelled…”GET. OFF.!!” Little Man freezes in his tracks (rising and falling, rising and falling like a boat on the ocean), looks about, curious as to where that mysterious stern voice is emanating from, which is destroying his joyful play. His bubble of fun was burst. He did get off the pool, and he never did locate me in the side window. His apparent bewilderment and awe of being ‘watched’ reminded me of an episode raising my daughters.

While my girls were growing up I counseled them to behave, even when mom wasn’t looking because I had eyes in the back of my head. No, I didn’t creep them out. And no, they didn’t think I truly had eyes in the back of my head, (Although I suspect the ‘kind’ offer to brush my hair may have had the ulterior motive of verifying the validity of my words) but they did know that mom would find out any mischievous acts they chose to commit.

Staring out at Ruger, I inwardly giggle as I remember one lesson-learning instance, when leaving for school my eldest daughter asked if she could purchase a sucker from student council at school that day. I told her no, she had a treat in her lunch, she did not need to purchase a lollipop. Besides, she was late for the bus, and she had no money nor the time to get it. Later in the day, while I was volunteering in the school (unbeknownst to offspring #1), one of the other mothers happened to mention the ‘special occasion’ lollipops and informed me that my beloved child had borrowed the needed currency from her daughter to purchase afore mentioned confection. She assured me it was perfectly alright by her, but she wanted to be sure I was alright with it. I-Was-Not. I thanked her and assured her my daughter would be returning the borrowed funds in the morning. I wrapped up my volunteering and headed home to await the bus.

Not much later I watched, from the front bay window, as the dynamic duo hop off the bus and hurried home. Once coats were hung, backpacks emptied and afternoon snack served, I sat my angels down and inquired about their day. I allowed ample opportunity for a confession from my spirited eldest and when none appeared to be forthcoming, I inquired directly,

‘How was the sucker?’

That precious little cherub turned the most lovely shade of crimson in the cheeks, eyes widened, jaw dropping as she asked

‘How did you find out?’.

I answered: ‘I told you, I have eyes in the back of my head’.

Fortunately for mama-bear, the lesson was a double whammy since Pee Wee was sitting right next to her squirming sister, absorbing all. I explained that while I didn’t literally have eyes resting in the back of my skull, we did live in a community that cared for all the children. I counseled them that there was nearly nothing they could do that I could not find out about, and that they needed to act accordingly. And yes, the cost of that lollipop was coming out of her piggy bank.

Watching my puppy straddle the waves created by his antics, I am reminded that parenting is much like an ocean. We ride the waves. We have peaks, we have valleys. And in the end, we hope that we sail that ship safely home to harbor as we deliver our precious cargo to those unknown lands we call, the world. I’ve had my share of valleys, but that was a ‘peak’ moment of motherhood. And, how much of a blessing is it that I have been gifted with the opportunity and responsibility of  raising this incorrigible, spunky, energetic <not so> little bundle of fur, who had rekindled those rare moments of parental success?

Now, if I can just work my mama-magic on Little Man enough to convince his ‘box full of rocks’ noggin that I still have those Eyes, on the Back of My Head, he might turn out half as good as my girls. Then again, that blue roller coaster in the backyard is like the Siren…..calling.

Sigh.


When it’s Hot, thank the Lord

Yes, it’s hot and I want to thank you Lord, for air conditioning.

I’m serious. I want to formally and officially thank our Good Lord for air conditioning, because without the ability to escape the heat for a bit and sleep at night, I’d be one crabby, nasty, terribly unpleasant human being to live with.

I have to laugh at myself, because as I sit in my kitchen typing, gratefully at peace with the warm but tolerable temperature, vs the hot and sticky muck outside, I am drawn back to a memory of my youth, living in Oregon.

As I recall, I was about 6 or 8 and we were living on the west side of town, in a brand new sub-division. We had moved from California and I thought it was the coolest thing to be on a cup-de-sac, with acres of hay fields to play in as our back yard. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. New development….fields. Yep, no shade. Gratefully, Oregon is fairly temperate and doesn’t get too hot nor very cold. In fact, being a zone 8 (gardening term) it ranges from 20-90 degrees, but with only a handful of days in those extremes, if it ever got that ‘extreme’.  A typical, average day runs between 50-70  deg most of the year. Thus, many homes do not have a/c there, and when I was growing up, this exposed little house did not.

The sweltering run of hot days this summer brings to my recollection a particular ‘heat wave’ of one summer in that house.  What was probably only days, felt like weeks of 90 degree weather. My brother’s and my little bodies, (children tend to run hot anyway) felt like they were going to instantaneously combust. Poof! I was convinced my mother would wake and we’d be ashes.  It was so hot, this little child refused to sleep in anything other than cotton undies, and I recall my thoughtful mother bringing in a small fan to blow air on the sweating little bodies, in a failed attempt to keep us cool enough to sleep. Despite the near Adam and Eve-like state, the thin sheet over the top of me felt as heavy as a woolen winter blanket.

It’s rather humbling to be reminded of how spoiled I live as an adult. Not everyone has a/c, and with this long stretch of brutal hotness, I am even more grateful for the inspired invention of cooled air. I think of how life has changed due to what is seemingly such a simple idea and product. I marvel at the freedom and power of the American free market to make a once expensive, elusive and desired symbol of wealth and privilege, in to something the everyday common man can attain and afford. Think about it for a moment. We travel, for the most part, in comfort. We work, for the most part, in comfort. There are places for everyone to escape the heat, public buildings, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, gas stations, malls, community centers. It has become such an everyday, accepted luxury of living in America, I think sometimes it’s good to be humbled and be reminded of how truly blessed we are. It’s easy to get caught up in the difficulties of living, and so pausing for a moment to relish the little things can be a tonic to the life-worn soul.

And so, as I peer through the steamy double pane windows out in to that sauna, called summer in Minnesota,  I turn my face to the heavens and thank my Good Father for, what to Him is a just one of the many ‘simple’ gifts He showers on us in this broken and flawed world of ours…Air Conditioning.


Billie Rupp’s Popcorn Balls

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Here is my second attempt to post my godmothers wonderful popcorn balls. It appears wordpress is not exactly easy to navigate for someone who is technologically handicapped. My wonderful, reminiscent ramblings were deleted somehow, some way I’ve yet to comprehend.
So back to old school, type it up in Word and then copy/paste. I’m never going to rely on word-press to save my draft for me, no Sir-E-bob. (UGH! SO FRUSTRATING!)

When I was 6, my parents moved our family up from California to a cul-de-sac in the western suburbs of Portland, Oregon. I have fond memories of that house: riding my banana bike with ‘reins’ (a piece of string) tied to the handlebars of which I had vivid fantasies of riding some great white majestic mare; making mud pies with my brother, digging caves in haystacks of cut drying wheat in the fields next to our housing development, playing on our Jungle Gym; and going over to Mrs. Rupp’s house, a wonderful woman who would become my Godmother.

Mrs. Rupp you see, always had something wonderful going on in her kitchen. My own mother was a stay at home mom, but as we all know, the grass is greener elsewhere, and my mother was a busy woman. My little brother and I would regularly traipse over to see what interesting thing she was working on, and hopefully score a treat.

Mrs. Rupp had the best sarsaparilla ever. She made the syrup from scratch and kept it in a mason jar in her fridge. She’d fill a tall glass with ice, pour the molasses colored brown liquid in, then fill it with old fashioned seltzer water. Half the thrill was holding the glass up and letting the bubbles pop in our noses. Mrs. Rupp’s mother made shrunken apple ‘people’, which created a mixed reaction of ‘neato’ and ‘gross’. But, the memory most fond for me was of her popcorn balls.

You see, every Halloween, Mrs. Rupp handed out homemade popcorn balls. Creamy, sticky, caramel-loaded goodness that we waited a year for. Those were the days eh? When people actually handed out homemade goodies like real candied apples (bright red and shiny), real lollypops, homemade divinity and fudge, real candies. Oh yes, those were the days alright, and lest I start on a rant about the world we live in now…we’ll move on.

My Godmother would hand them out at Halloween, but I make them over the Christmas holidays. I prefer to give baskets of homemade treats over store bought trinkets which end up in the trash. I wrap my popcorn balls up in waxed paper and tie them off with a piece of string or colorful rubber band, and nestle them in with other homemade goodies. So, as we begin the Christmas giving season, here is the gift of my Godmothers famous (at least in my mind) Popcorn Balls:

Pop 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels and pour in to a large bowl.

In a saucepan melt:
1 stick of salted butter (extra for your hands and molding)
30 large marshmallows
1 cup of brown sugar, packed

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You could use unsalted and add back a bit of salt, but I just use regular salted butter. The marshmallows I buy are Gluten Free, be sure to check the ingredients if you are intolerant. I supposed you could make your marshmallow from scratch, but I don’t bother. If you do, a bag is 10 oz and you don’t use the entire bag, so I’d estimate you need about 9oz.

Once the mixture is all melted and all the marshmallows have turned to goo, pour the whole thing over the popped corn and stir to mix.

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Then take additional softened butter and liberally rub it all over your hands. Grab a lump and form in to a ball, putting on some waxed paper (or parchment) to cool. Try not to compact them too much. They should be kinda loose, just packed enough to keep them in their shape. See in the photo below? These are not lead balls of sugar. When they cool, you want to be able to pull them apart, its half the fun!

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You will likely need to reload your hands more than once to keep the mix from sticking and making clubs out of your hands. You’ll want to work fairly quickly to keep the mix from setting up. I recommend for large quantities you make multiple batches instead of doubling. Its easier to work with while warm.
Note: If they are too warm, they will not stick together. Just wait another minute and try again. Keep your hands covered in butter to keep them from sticking to your hands-which can be frustrating!

That’s it! I hope you enjoy them as much as we all do. I hope they become a tradition in your house, and if you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below.