Hey Hey We’re the Monkeys

Because we love yeasty warm smells in the kitchen and because I miss long days with nothing better to do and because my fam is being awesome about my new job, we did this:

 

If you’re about to drool into your cellphone, I agree.

Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll walk you through a virtual Monkey Bread baking blog.

If I could only add a scratch-n-sniff meme, this would be complete.

You can go one of two ways:

  1. mix this in a big bowl with a wooden spoon and then knead by hand for ten minutes, getting a super arm and shoulder workout, or
  2. layer it in your bread machine that you still have from the early 90’s and hopefully makes round loaves because you’re cool like that. And also, you’re lazy like that.

Monkey Bread

1 1/3 C. warm milk
2 tbsp. diced butter
2 eggs
2 tbsp. sugar
2/3 tsp salt
4 C. flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast

I’m not telling you which way I made this perfect little lump o’ dough, but many watts died in the process.

 

(What? What is she talking about? What watt?)

Let the lump rise for an hour or so in a warm place. I turned my oven on for a minute and then turned it off again, and set the dough inside to rise. If you’re not careful, it will be too hot and kill the yeast and then you will have a hard little lump of dough to go bowling with. We’re going for just mildly warmish here.

Next, turn your big puffy lump out onto a lightly floured countertop and show it who’s boss. This is the fun part. The punching, pushing, slapping, poking, kneading, and stretching reminds the kids that they are just a sass away from a trip to the family bakery.

Now we take the reduced lump and start pulling it apart.

 

Over and over and over…twist and pull. The smaller you make them, the more fun it will be to eat later.

 

Roll the dough into little balls and toss them into any shape pan you want. It makes into a nice sized loaf, so grab a pan big enough and butter the inside first. You could bake them in a glass or metal mixing bowl, or a casserole. I used my angel food cake pan. This is going to the monkeys, so it won’t stay in this shape longer than five minutes once it’s done, anyway.

Layer in half of the dough balls, sprinkle with your sugar/cinnamon mix, and repeat.

 

Pour two melted tablespoons of butter over it all. Your pan is already buttered though, right?

Set this little beauty back into a warm place to rise up for another hour. Clean your mess. Yes, I see it.

While it rises, get out your frosting stuff. Because, cream cheese.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
16 oz powdered sugar

Mix together to desired consistency:
thinner, add milk 1 tsp at a time
thicker, add powdered sugar 1 tbsp at a time

This is the standard recipe, but life isn’t always so tidy, at least in the kitchen. I myself would have just layered a slab of cream cheese on a hot slice of Monkey Bread and called it a day, but when you add sugar and thin it out a bit with milk, it impresses the company.

Your Monkey Bread.

Your rules.

When it’s puffed up to your liking, bake it in a preheated oven at 350* for 20-30 minutes, depending on your pan. You will know it’s done when it smells terrific in the house and when you peek in the oven, it looks toasty on top.  Reach in and tap the bread; if it sounds hollow, you win. Let’s eat.

 

Let it cool for a few minutes, then dump it upside down over a plate, out of it’s pan.

I sliced it to make a pretty picture and to make life fair.

 

The kids were disappointed.

The right way to eat this, so I’m told, is for everyone to lay a hand on the bread, count to three and pull.

You then proceed to eat your hunk of bread by hand, dipping lumps into the frosting tub.

Animals.

 

The Girl in the Cedar Chest

Definitely, I am in deep trouble here.

I’ve gone and opened Pandora’s box and now I’m on my knees and up to my elbows in memories that won’t stay in their tidy little packages. I only need one, thank you. If my elementary school awards and the cards from my wedding would kindly step aside, I could reach over and just pick the photo up.

Ugh.

My mother gifted each of her three daughters with a cedar chest when they turned sweet 16. She still has hers from a million years ago, full of bits of her life.

I’m sure she had no idea that she was entering us in the game of Jumanji when she did.

Or did she?

Traditionally, a ‘hope chest’ is to store treasures in that a young woman prepares for her future wedding and home. Theoretically, once those goals are accomplished, it gets refilled with memories.

I guess that makes me traditional, but if I had hoped in other things, I would be storing didgeridoos instead of doilies and a ceremonial British bearskin instead of baby bonnets.

It’s perfect to store linens in – who does that? – but I pretend that it does, so that I am not sucked into the abyss.

It’s for my own protection.

You know that job I just got? It turns out that the office gals are throwing a potluck this week and the ticket in is to bring a photo of yourself as a kid so that everyone can guess who is who.

Those kidders.

This is what happens when you didn’t go the traditional route and don’t have enough of this nonsense in your home life.

I have baby photos of me, Hubby, and five kids, and they all look exactly alike. I tried putting dates and ages on the backs a few years ago, and it was Russian roulette.

Those mountains of photos will come out one holiday, soon, and I’ll just let everyone decide who they want to be.

Why should I have all the fun?

But I couldn’t figure out where all the photos went. We moved, as you recall, three years ago. All photos made out of paper were carefully boxed up and put in a safe place.

Where ever that is.

In this age of digital everything, they might be with the boxes of items “to scan someday” or they might be in the den behind the college textbooks that Hubby refuses to toss out or they could be in the Harry Potter closet under the stairs where I set things aside for proper aging, like cheese.

Then the drumbeat of the cedar chest called me as I walked past saying, “Here, look in here.”

So I rolled the dice, entered at a college term paper and waded through the perfume bottle swamp, turned right at my great-grandmother’s piggy bank and found stuff from the family tree.

Bingo.

One black and white portrait of a chubby toddler.

It’s me because my mother has carefully said so on the back of it.

Or, it could be one of my sisters, trapped in the game and stuck with my name on them, until someone rolls a 5 or an 8.

Oh look!

The stories I wrote when I was ten, and here’s the savings bond I won with them.

I wonder what it’s worth now?

I should read these, it won’t take a minute…

The Wedding Epidemic

As is expected every spring, we’ve had an outbreak of impending weddings in the area.

While we experienced a fresh strain of the pervasive bug from as far as Australia lately with no immediate reactions, this year’s version is wiping out entire communities.

Concerned citizens are urged to use whatever means necessary to contain the epidemic.

It’s a subject that must be faced square on and not whimpering from a corner of the couch, buried under three cushions and all that’s left of a bag of Cheetos.

We must remain calm.

I’ve been thinking of my daughters in particular, the ones just this side of college completed, and while I have nothing against the dating scene particularly, I hover in the background reminding them that rainbows don’t necessarily have wedding cakes at their ends.

Sometimes they land on careers or world travels or quiet coffee shops with a scone and a good book.

Who am I to pass out advice when I, their own mother, married at the tender age of twenty? (pause while audience gags and spits out mouthful of corn nuts)

How can I prove that it’s possible to live a long and glorious life as his/her own beautiful person completely without a soulmate? (pause while audience throws bag of corn nuts at monitor)

I can see there is no holding back this tide, but surely you noted my eye-rolling.

Wedding plans are highly contagious, some girls catch the bug as early as eight years old, twirling around in old wedding dresses and naming their unborn children by nine.

If you parent teens (or “tweens” which are, for the uninitiated, twelve-year-old-going-on-twenty-five-year-old girls)…(stop! yes, the girls are who I’m referring to here because pre-teenboys could care less about romance because they are fighting over the last Pop Tart in the house; they have priorities)…wait…where was I?

Yes.

If you have weathered the ages from infancy into the teens, you are to be congratulated.

And handed a cattle prod, some barbed wire, and some horse tranquilizers.

Those last are for you personally. You’re welcome.

You saunter into the laundry room, find those hidden M&Ms, and eat them in colored patterns like worry beads.

But be comforted, the Dating Twilight Zone passes in a blur because the girls have been practicing for so long.

Oh yes, it’s all fun and games until they hit their twenties.

Spring time takes on a whole new air.

It’s the scent of fabric softener and something zesty involving burlap and origami.

Pinterest breeds wedding-envy like mosquitos usher in malaria.

Symptoms in your child may include moony-eyes staring into space, feeling a little under the weather, perhaps they feel a bit “less than” their normal brilliant self; you may discover a secret stash of fat wedding magazines hidden under the bed.

I tried to inoculate them with adventure books and road trips and sports and magic gardens when they were little.

But where do we go for their 20-year booster shot?

I’m asking my daughters to stay at least fifteen feet away from all bridezillas.

They know the signs to watch for, when a fevered bride approaches: wildly exaggerated smiles from too many selfies, arms open wide in the hugging position, cake frosting on one shoulder as bait.

Don’t fall for it. Run.

Brides bite.

And once your kid has the wedding bug, all the antidotes in the world aren’t going to help.

Just hand over your credit card, call in the professionals, and wait for the virus to pass.

All About Meme

“I love them,” I said, “Where do they come from?”

My kid, of course, was creating music on Garage Band and ignored me.

He flat out refused to take piano lessons last year. He loves playing around on the keyboard and has a good ear for music and a mother who, you know, taught music lessons for years.

But put an iPad in his hands, and the kid thinks he’s Mozart.

No, it was Beethoven who went deaf. Must be Beethoven.

Little Ludwig is one of my “go-to”s for all things techy because every five minutes my electronics are outdated and updated and generally leaving me in the Stone Age.

I am used to feeling stupid on a regular basis. But I don’t like to live there.

“Mom,” he asked, “what is a me me?”

“Look at my Pinterest,” I demanded, shoving my MacAir between him and his decibels.

My Pinterest, as you know, is full of wise-cracking memes that speak to me at gut level. I figure if I laugh hard enough, I will eventually build up some nice abs.

“Somebody, somewhere, is making these!” I told him, “And I want in. Where do they come from?”

After some severe eye-rolling, I was told to pronounce it “meem”.

Whatever.

L van B knew everything except that. So I turned to Siri and within five minutes, I had this:

0cf1fb4137d212cc82a846c7e638b430

Now I can wax poetic about the fact that my family, while willing in spirit, are totally incapable in body, of landing anything where it actually goes.

The dirty dishes are set two inches away from the dishwasher.

The dirty clothes are set two inches away from the hamper.

Only two inches of toilet paper are left on the spindle.

Wet towels lie crumpled below the racks from which they ought to hang.

But this little gem of a meme gets right to the point. ‘Nuff said.

And yes, it should be called a “me me” if “I I” made it.

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The next thing I wanted to figure out is how to add sound and video clips to my blog…

 

Look! It took two teenagers and one frazzled mom to figure out that I can (sort of) put audio in this blog.

First we tried Garage Band, so we went with that truly obnoxious 80s tribute to Amadeus, just to make my point to the kid.

Who didn’t get it. Which doesn’t matter because neither did Garage Band.

This one is iMovie. So naturally, it wants to be a movie. You’re welcome that I didn’t show what we all looked like while trying to find the right buttons to push in the right order.

Oh my.

And I realized why they know more about technology than I do, and why the socks never land in the hamper:

I am a “the hamper’s half empty” kind of mom, and they are “the hamper’s half full” kind of kids.

They are fearless with buttons. They act like the world won’t blow up if you push the red button, and I was raised knowing for a fact that you do NOT push the red button. Ever.

So I’ll be attempting to throw more socks to the wind and find more ways to have fun with buttons.

I hope I win.

The Miracle Move

Exactly three years ago today, our family moved out of the only home we’d ever known.

I remember swinging in the entirely helpless, in-between place where we were actually homeless bums because our old house was sold and our new house was still pending in escrow.

All of our earthly possessions were squeezed into a large storage unit in the middle of town and I held the key sometimes at night, turning it in my palm, wondering if everything fell through – if somebody somewhere sneezed – if maybe we could hold a garage sale and live in the storage unit ourselves.

We’ve camped in worse.

Webster defines ‘miracle’ as an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. Google calls it ‘a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences’.

I call it the awesome awareness that God takes a personal interest in our lives. If God wanted us to move or not move, He could accomplish it any way He chose. But what He really cares about, is whether we want to walk humbly with Him, not the other way around, regardless of ‘very welcome consequences’.

It makes swinging in those helpless, in-between places feel secure.

And sometimes things happen that are neither probable nor ordinary.

  1. Buying our new house was contingent upon selling our current one. The owners of the house we were buying were also going into escrow on their next home, which was also contingent on selling theirs to us.
  2. All three house sales were resting in the hands of a single realtor. Call her Julie.
  3. Julie had been working with the owners of the house we wanted to buy. The elderly retired doctor and his wife were in no hurry to move and wanted a significant price for their nest egg. The house went on and off the market for over a year before we noticed the sign in the front yard. And when they saw us looking at it, they took it down again.
  4. We thought perhaps this wasn’t the house we were supposed to buy. So we went looking around at other houses, just in case. All the other houses immediately went off the market and stayed there. Those left over were quite obviously not our next home. See point #11 for that thought process. Over and over, we kept winding up back at the doctor’s front door.
  5. We schmoozed Julie and wooed the good doctor for an entire school year. Kid number four was about to enter high school. If this house fell through, we were going to call everything off and stay put until the last kids had graduated.
  6. On the other hand, we had entered kid number four’s name into a lottery for the brand new high school being built across town. The one right by the house we wanted to buy. The school that, miraculously, pulled his name for fall enrollment. He was in. We weren’t.
  7. We went to town on our current house. I reduced our worldly possessions by two-thirds. If we didn’t absolutely need it, it was donated. I packed what I thought was and slowly the garage filled with packed, marked moving boxes. We painted, we cleaned, we prepped. Because when you ask for miracles, you create a space for them to occur.
  8. When the good doctor was finally ready to negotiate, he accepted our offer. This was not the price he wanted. But it was the price we needed. He wanted to stay in the house after escrow closed, for another two weeks to comfortably move into his new one. This was not the time we wanted. But it was the time he needed.
  9. We had exactly forty days from putting a sign in our front yard, to sell our house. Forty.
  10. Julie was a little taken aback with my enthusiasm. I insisted she could throw open houses every day if she wanted. What was left standing in my house took five minutes to tidy. I sat in my car, parked on the street, reading, while she showed yet another family around my home. I put out fresh flowers and baked pumpkin pies. I tried to stay out of her way.
  11. But. The family who ended up buying the house came to my door on night thirty-five, as I was dashing out for the evening. I invited them to look into every corner they wanted to, and left. Perhaps it was the honesty combined with the “my house is your house” attitude. But really, I’ve always been like that, so if they felt welcome, maybe that’s how you know you’re finally…home. On day thirty-nine, we were in escrow.
  12. Paperwork. You would not believe how much. Monopoly money flying. Just short of offering our firstborn, we managed to get approved. Homeowners Insurance in a five star Fire Hazard Zone should not have been possible.

The kids didn’t want to move. They couldn’t understand why I would pack and toss and make them clean for months if, obviously, “we weren’t moving”….

But on the day we stepped into this house, Something in their hearts said “Welcome Home”.

None of us ever looked back.

Heigh Ho Heigh Ho

Okay, I’m not gonna lie.

I’m half freaking out and half doing the Happy Dance around the living room.

You guys, I got a new job.

Don’t tell the tater tot.

Everyone remain calm.

Remember that post I wrote last month? No? Good.

Because we don’t want my new employers to read it just yet. So far as I know, they haven’t figured out that they’ve hired a blogger, and until we know exactly where their sense of humor lies, we don’t want to shoot ourselves right in the foot by shooting off our mouth.

You know what I mean? Good.

Turns out, the world is a crazier place than even I imagined, and airplanes do fall from the sky and land on the freeway and now my newly licensed son can stop rolling his eyes over my repeated pleas for him to “look left, right, left, up, and down before proceeding through the intersection” because yes, aliens might land in front of you, you just never know.

And also, jobs fall from the sky.

I had no idea and I pinkie promise to stop rolling my eyes so hard that a blog falls out.

Anyway, this job is top secret until I’m actually sitting in a chair, doing it. It involves a highly reputable employer and I will be doing public services for the greater good and probably I will have a Super Suit.

I was finger-printed and drug screened and background checked and my new boss, though delighted that I passed, is obviously going about this whole investigation wrong.

Some employers look into social media accounts in order to see the real person they’re about to hire. Possibly, mine would have raised a couple of eyebrows.

But, had my children been contacted, a completely different and highly checkered past would have surfaced.

Kids? What kids? Nope, no kids here…

Hush money will be wielded in the form of a giant batch of monkey bread.

(Recipe to follow later this month, assuming it works.)

So far as I have ascertained, I will be taking calls from upset and irritated random people.

That may explain why I’m being rushed through the hiring process.

And also why they seem to like me so much.

But I must admit, taking upset and irritated calls happens to be my specialty.

I have an established protocol with a high rate of success for them.

We’ll need to stock up on gummy bears, chocolate chip cookies, and pink puff balls.

They don’t hand out Super Suits to just anybody.

Humdinger

Flowers come into their glory this month, adored by the bees, the butterflies, and the hummingbirds.

The skies in which they soar turn azure, opal, and amethyst by turn.

And in the alcove of our front doorway, a hummingbird nested.

It was a marvelous little egg cup, woven of spider silk and fairy threads, a bit of lichen and delicate downy dryer lint.

 

She was quite industrious, pressing and shaping her aerie with her wings and breast and feet, until it was exactly right for her family.

She didn’t know I was watching.

 

Once she began leaving the nest again, my attempts to photograph the contents were tricky. The nest was too deep to see eggs, but eventually, dark elbows and chins began to wiggle.

 

Mama flew constantly, feeding the babies. I could clearly see two sets of beaks open wide.

 

Eventually, the twins grew large enough to peek over the side of their bed.

 

And then they could sit up and see properly.

 

As they sprouted feathers and stretched their shared bedroom to capacity, mama no longer needed to sit on top of them. They kept each other warm and sat perfectly still as our spring break multitudes passed by, coming and going through our front door.

Although the wee birds watched them closely, very few of our visiting revelers knew about the tiny sentinels at our front door.

The little ones grew to the size of your thumb. Their bedroom began looking like any teenagers’. Mama sat off to one side and scolded me when I tried to take a photo. I don’t blame her.

 

Some things don’t need to be shared in blogs.

But her pretty babies started getting their color.
And then they began to perch on the edge of the nest and vibrate their wings.

 

And one fine day, baby number one took off, never to be seen again.
We don’t know where he went, but we’re sure mama followed to find out.

Because two days after, baby number two jumped.

He didn’t go further than one branch over. But he seemed pleased as punch about it.

 

Over the next week or so, he levitated from twig to twig, mama following him anxiously and filling him up with nectar. He preened his budding wings and stayed sheltered in our doorway, eyeing us now as family members and posing for the camera.

 

Once in a while, he managed to land back in his battered nest, but the well-worn refuge never felt quite as comfortable again.

 

Which is why, when Hubby opened the door to get a pair of shoes yesterday, the little hummer flew right into the house to take a tour.

I’m pretty sure trading up was his thought, and if I hadn’t seen what he did to his old home, I might have been delighted with the prospect.

As it was, his mama and I were yelling at him from both sides of the open front door, and in the confusion, he went straight up into the skylight, sidestepping our discipline.

I couldn’t watch.

Hubby got the pool net extended as high as he could reach, and when the baby finally wore his poor little self out and landed on it, Hubby gently set him back on the front porch.

Baby Hummer was covered in cobwebs. He let Hubby pull the worst of it from his trembling back, then we closed the door so his mama could do the job thoroughly.

Today, mama has moved him off to the big trees. I can hear them chattering away and see a flash of emerald between the boughs now and then as they enjoy the golden spring sunshine… now flowing through a thoroughly cleaned skylight.

 

Cheeky bugger.

Everything Is Awesome!

Out of all of the amusement parks available to Southern Californians, Legoland is my favorite, hands down.

Or hands on, as it were.

We hadn’t been in years, but our spring break company included a five-year-old legomaniac, and when everything is awesome, you gather the master builders and go.

It was nostalgic and new and delightfully nerdy to watch my massive boys take their little cousin and introduce him to the way of the Lego.

We rode the rides and shot the laser guns and climbed the fortress and drove the boats. We ate the barbecue and got a drivers’ license and pulled to the top of the towers of power.

But more than anything, we explored what the imagination can do with a little piece of plastic.

Miniland is getting an upgrade, and there was an entire section devoted to Star Wars.

Be still my heart.

Photos. Enjoy.

Earth

Endor

Naboo

More Naboo

Death Star

Tatooine

If you know my house at all, you know we have a closet filled top to bottom with Lego bits. I’ve given boxes of them away once in a while, but somehow the closet is never diminished.

Now we know why.

My boys spent a significant amount of time and money shopping for the perfect little pieces that they can’t get anywhere else.

How they know which tiny bits they don’t have, is beyond me.

The boys found out about a new trick up Legoland’s sleeve: if you bring along a mini figure, you can ask any park employee to trade with you. They have three or four mini figures attached to their name tags, and if you have a good eye, you can spot highly collectible ones, just hanging out there at the turnstile.

The boys went nuts.

Four trades in, they had what was apparently the world’s coolest mini figure. Who knew.

We passed the visitor information booth.

An employee inside had an entire Star Wars battleship on his name tag.

The kids went in for the kill but came up empty.

Come to find out, the battleship was the actual name tag. Rats.

I walked around wondering if the employees would trade socks with me if I demanded it.

Or maybe wallets.

Goodness knows mine was wearing thin.

We posed with Batman. We posed with Lord Vader. The giant Bionicles weren’t as giant. Our last photo shows my kid posing at its kneecap. But this week, my ‘kid’ was up to its shoulders.

The legendary Fireman Show was gone for good, and we tried to convince our little cousin that putting “the wet stuff on the hot stuff” was a solid piece of Legoland information, but he was too busy attacking suspicious looking tourists with his foam sword.

Somebody’s gotta keep the place safe.

Finding Scooby Doo Lego was the frosting on our plastic cake. I’m happy to report that Daphne’s curves are finally in the proper shape, and Fred is still a square.

Scooby is going home to Canada later this week, to meet another little puppy named Stella.

Their job is to save the world from snowbound extraordinary people.

For at least the month of April.

“I am your father!”