No food for anyone.

I’ve had the urge to make something complicated and time-consuming for quite some time, but while the onset of the crawling stage usually signals an increase in the amount of time a caretaker has to accomplish complex tasks, such is not the case with multiples. Since the moment the more solid of the two put knee in front of knee on that fateful afternoon, triggering the second to immediately mimic her in an act of spite-learning, they’ve been determined to maintain continuous trajectories in opposite directions, only joining paths in a frantic, spastic race to be the first fed if they’ve spotted me with a pair of bottles. (They’re perfectly capable of holding their bottles and feeding themselves, but they prefer to have me serve them and bask in the awareness that, for a few minutes, those other two can meet their own needs.) In yet another manifestation of the what-goes-around effect, the 7-year old who tried to escape from a dentist’s office though the window now does little more than corral her own tiny travelers, a task made even more nerve-wracking after a carelessly early introduction to the Melissa & Doug Latches Board, aka Baby-Lock-Pick.

Add to that one case of heat rash, two counts of teething, and a three-year-old who pipes up hourly with gleeful declarations of “I’m a rascal!”, and I foresee myself having had it for the next few weeks. Mouths will be fed, but not particularly enthusiastically. The blender will take a vacation from making baby food. An exorbitant amount of plastic will be discarded. Cooking will be limited to boiling, toasting, and zapping, as well as limited in general. I believe child services cannot call me on this, given the confounding number of soldiers the Raw Food Front has amassed.

I’m going take a short holiday from being “the best mom I can” and concentrate instead on the only thing left to do when everything starts to fall apart: maintain a covetable outer appearance! With enough topsoil, mulch, palettes of annuals and back-breaking yard work, I can at least control my exterior dominion. Besides, babies’ wails of indignation are much less incapacitating outdoors (especially if the children are parked several yards away from adult ears) and virtually undetectable once the little mouths are packed full of grass and clover.

I hate you, Taco Night, but I love you, Mr. P.

On the Fare that Deserves No Photo

Last night was Taco Night. I’d say it’s safe to estimate that 90% of Americans have some sort of ritualistic, at least semi-annual variation on the mass consumption of anglicized Mexican food, and I’m also guessing that with most couples, it’s the one who won’t be doing the dishes that becomes hysterical with anticipation. In our house, the enthusiastic party (or, Mr. P) enjoys an array of toppings presented in separate, identical (or at least coordinating) bowls. Dishwashers may be considered “standard” home appliances, but I’ve yet to live anywhere where that term is applicable, and subsequently have the hands of an 80-year-old. Yes, I could wear gloves, but I’m uncomfortable if unable to directly monitor the temperature of my scalding dishwater. I’ve said it before, dish soap should only serve as a backup; all germs should be boiled off upon contact with the dishpan. So Taco Night cultivates an atmosphere of mingling delight and resentment at the Peña home, especially when accompanied by a request for ground beef seasoned with Old El Paso Taco Powder, a substance I believe is more appropriately suited for arms research than oral consumption.

My preferred version of Taco Night is really more Fajita Night, with soft tortillas, herbed chicken fried with onion and pepper strips, and an austere trio of accoutrements. But I’ll trade a fajita monopoly for a happy husband. While husbands are generally thought to be lower-maintenance than wives, they do require some upkeep, like my monthly washing of an unnecessary number of bowls, and tolerance of a taco-scented bedroom for forty-eight hours. Before you get your progressive pants all twisted, I’ll point out that I didn’t say “men” and “women.”  I’ve met many couples with a male wife and vice versa, or just two of one or the other. But the minute you secretly roll your eyes over your beloved’s shower-time rendition of “Empire State of Mind” or clench your jaw in fury over the offending amount of time he/she takes to select soap at the market, you can consider yourself a spouse.

I like the idea of vegetables…

Squash Savers

Not only was it a delightful day in all ways save for infant temperaments, but one packed full of smug superiority, my second favorite vice. BK and I got an invigoratingly early jump start on the day, giving a friend a lift to work at eight, then we slowed down by the house as Mr. P chucked in the girls, and off we traipsed to our local farm where we fed goats and bunnies and picked a pound of nice fat blueberries. I’ve learned to bring Wet Ones along on our pickings, as Billy the Kid brazenly over-samples to the point of facial evidence, and I dislike receiving cool looks from any sort of help. Back home, we picked our first summer squash, and I created the following recipe to render the yellow vegetable adequately palatable, mostly by masking the crap out of it with ingredients I like, such as eggs and crackers. The resulting side dish was victoriously satisfying, but even more delicious was the nap I unintentionally took with the girls after lunch.

I have a generous but firm quiet-time policy to ensure my babies get at least twenty minutes of sleep during the day, and BK can either nap with me on the couch or play quietly in the office or his room with a variety of toy options, including (and I will not apologize) the iPad. But even the ultimate attention magnet only buys a half hour at most of distraction for a three-year-old, and I usually get just a short lie-down before I have to engage El Torito in something far away from my napping time-bombs. So I awoke disoriented and suspicious two hours later, and followed a trail of strewn berries into the kitchen to find my little man closing the fridge door, hands clawed and straining to transport many more blueberries than they were able to hold. Evidently, BK had quite a little afternoon for himself. After ditching his pants in the bathroom, he based himself on the office recliner with the iPad, making routine trips to the fridge to reload, while watching some sort of ridiculous anime in Japanese he found on the hulu app.

12 1/4″ slices from the widest part of a summer squash
1 C finely crushed butter crackers
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C grated mozzarella
1/4 C grated Parmesan
Canola oil

Combine the cracker crumbs with the spices and salt and spread them out on a plate. Heat about a quarter cup of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once it’s hot, dip a squash slice into the egg, coating completely, then lay it on the crumbs and turn/pack to coat. Put it in the hot oil and repeat with the remaining slices. After all have been in for 1 minute, start flipping the slices over with tongs, beginning with the first one that went in. Once flipped, let them cook for another minute or until they’re crisp and golden-brown – no amateur pale spots!

Transfer the slices to a plate lined with paper towel to blot the excess oil, then arrange them on a rack placed over a cookie sheet. Top each with a sprinkle of parmesan and mozzarella, and broil them on high at the second-highest rack level for a minute or two until the cheese just starts to brown. Serve them scalding hot to avoid any trace of actual vegetable, and don’t forget to hide your berries!

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