A Few Announcements

Apparently the inside of my head now runs like an elementary school principal’s office.

1. Scratch ‘n dent produce is at high bounty early in the day. However, you have to elbow your way through the old ladies speaking in tongues, and the guy who thumps the apples with the side of his index finger.

Why does he do that? They are so not melons.

Owning my identity as part of the daytime scratch n’ dent group is a work in progress, but I’m all about the (relatively) fresh and cheap aspect.

I said fresh and cheap. Heheh.

It’s true. This bonanza set me back about $2.63.

2. This item of blue candification *may* have had its original contents intact when discovered on the subway steps.

Whether said contents *may* have ended up in my mouth cannot be confirmed at this time.

What happens in Queens stays in Queens.

3. Sometimes the joy of feeling the wind on our faces is all-consuming. Particularly when you’re en route to Six Flags.


Proof redux.

You should try it. Screw the hairdo.

4. Upon occasion, Joe is known to make things like this.

Yah. He can stay as long as he wants.

5. The sisters-in-progress make me happy.

See if you can pry a secret out of them. I can’t.

6. Nastja and I recently enjoyed this view from a 22nd-floor window.

We picked out her Manhattan apartment as well. I’m allowed to come visit from time to time.

7. My inner 9-yr-old wants all things Angry Birds.

I so need to make this in my invisible spare time.


Three Pieces of Good News

In the spirit of Life is What You Make of It…

1. We have scratch ‘n dent produce.

At our local produce place, tucked way, way back in the corner, the past-its-prime produce is sold for $ .29/pound. Our family puts away enough fruit to support a small orchard, so this was a huge and amazing discovery for me. It’s always an adventure to see what’s up for sale that day. Kind of like a CSA, only much more ghetto.

It also means I don’t break out in a sweat each time one of the kids grabs a recreational apple.

They’re all showing their best sides. Trust me.

Nastja (upon learning of my secret shopping triumph): “Ah, I was wondering why all the apples looked so weird.”

2. The cheewawas are sporting their festive fall attire.

They start to shake when the temperature dips below 70 degrees.

Yes, you’re supposed to take your coat off for dinner. Their manners are appalling.

3. My shameless-shortcut baking might just be paying off.

This ridiculously great dollar store recently opened up in our neighborhood. It is full of, as Nastja would say, “so beautiful things.” One time Joe and I went there on a date. They had sprinkles *and* candy corn. I bought both. Quit judging.

As we approach the hopeful cementing of this adoption (Joe and the kids leave for the second trip to Latvia in less than three weeks), I am continuing the heart-through-stomach campaign, assisted by said dollar store’s array of Probably Really Bad For You cookie mixes.

(El nino has grown six inches and gained 30 pounds since July. He can eat his weight in trans fats and it wouldn’t even register. I so love feeding teenage boys.)

Tonight’s selection.

True fact: I dug the above out of the garbage for photographing purposes. They were hovering.

I’ve been packing the Latvian kids’ lunches for them. It’s one of those mom jobs I really don’t mind, and I figured it had been awhile, if ever, since they’d had someone do that for them. Add to that the fact that the nutritional value of their school’s cafeteria offering would curl your hair (she writes, tossing another handful of sprinkles into the chemical-laden cookie powder). Here’s one example:

Soda: $1.00
Milk: $3.00

I kid you not.

Anyway, I found out tonight that the art of lunch packing apparently dies out somewhere around middle school, so all of their friends buy the school crap (think pizza and fries). Rather than their homemade fare rendering them uncool, however, my kids are apparently the envy of their lunch friends. “Your mom makes your lunch? I wish my mom would do that.”

I am exceedingly grateful for this–it so easily could have spun the other way.

Score one for sprinkle cookies.

Dollar store crack in a pouch, all grown up. (Sniff.)

I leave you on this thought…

You can never, ever have too much ketchup. Just ask the Latvians. 

Or come on over to our house for an after-school snack.


Beautiful and Delicious Chicken Stuff

I think my friend Amy would be proud to know that this is how Alosa described her pulled pork. It sounds like something on a Chinese restaurant menu, doesn’t it?

We are continuing to settle in and more or less find our groove with each other. I realized that we have lived together for eight weeks now, if we include this summer’s hosting. (A little needy here. It’s as if I’m in high school again, wearing a maroon uniform jumper and making up anniversaries with a swoony boyfriend. Maroon is, as a rule, an extremely challenging color to rock, I might add. Particularly when you’re a winter.)

Nastja has a job! As of today, she is officially an after-school fetcher of one very tiny five-year-old girl. Excellently, said child’s after-school program is–literally–across the street from our apartment building. Better yet, the bulk of the babysitting can be executed at our apartment, so I still get her for the ever-crucial dinner hours (soft wavery bounce of teenager-adoption-independence-attachment tightrope).

We are winding down from a five-day school vacation for Nastja and Alosa (some Christian school conference plus Columbus Day). I’m counting it a win that they were Busy Enough for all of them, at least in my opinion. (That little nagging fear that my opinion/impression is wildly whacked out and in actuality they’re miserable? Always there. Just like herpes.)

We inaugurated a Family Movie Night tradition this past Saturday evening. First flick was Step Up (the original), after which we immediately agreed to watch all four. Can someone tell me why the formula for all those dance school movies mandates the harming of a young sibling? I felt like I was watching Fame all over again.

[Sudden burst of words among siblings.]

Julia (who gets facial tic-y at missed movie dialogue): “Can you pause it? There’s a lotta TV talking happening here.”

Nastja: “With three kids, it happens.”

Alosa: “Welcome to your life.”

So then yesterday during church I look over to find the 11-yr-old wearing this:

Ask yourself, “What would Jesus wear?”

“I can see you through my skepticals.”

(We didn’t bother to correct her. There are so few of those moments left anymore.)

I’m the owner and protector of these Euro-chic boy feet now. He selected those shoes himself.

In other news, we’ve been going to this Russian Baptist church lately. I decided it would be a nice touch for the kids to connect with God in their semi-native tongue. It’s a very small congregation. I’m convinced the pastor’s wife has a direct line to God and they play some kickin’ music. I don’t think I’m really a Baptist at heart, but the majority of the service happens in Russian, and everyone really likes my cookies, no matter how slice ‘n bake (hydrogenated shortcut baking is again fueling my world).

Yesterday I decided to do an instant replay of communion at dinner (Nastja had a headache and Alosa had gotten mysteriously skipped over during church). I bought a bottle of grape-intensive kid champagne and a loaf of bread, though at first I considered these.

Jesus loves me, but still would not authorize these for communional munching.

Here’s a bite of childhood, per my Latvian daughter. Wonder if that cancels out the calories? I’m so in if that’s the case.

If they served ice cream at communion, everyone would go to church a whole lot more. Just brainstorming here.

Meet Useless, Uselesser and Really Freaking Useless.

They get no stars. Ever.

A Meat People

So we are settling in as a family of five. Nobody has hemorrhaged or bolted yet today, so I’m calling it a win.

Truthfully, the kids are great. They keep us hopping (I started this blog post on Saturday, if that gives you an idea), but we are enjoying them just about every minute.

The hugest blessing is that, consistent with this summer, they treat the 11-yr-old as one of the pack. It’s awesome. Even when they gang up on me.

My contact name in the 11-yr-old’s new phone: MJ (Mama Julia)

Apparently she’s adopted as well. Tell that to my stretch marks.

I am meanwhile doing everything within my power to win all kids’ hearts through their stomachs. This involves meat. And plenty of it.

Once upon a time, we were essentially a vegetarian household. Then we decided to host some Latvian kids.

Nastja and Alosa most recently lived on a farm. Their food traveled about two feet to their plate. I pretty much want to live in their foster home. All the days. Still trying to figure out how to make that happen.

All this to say, our kids like meat. The other day, when I told a very hungry Nastja that the sausage in the fridge was intended for dinner but the cheese was immediately available, she replied balefully, “I am a meat people.”

(Please note my casual conjugation of “baleful”, as if I speak SAT prep on a regular basis. In reality, I stole it from someone’s vocab homework. Did I mention I have two middle schoolers and a high schooler now? Plenty of vocab to swipe.)

A very pretty meat people, if I do say so myself. That was her first-earned American dollar, now spent.

(Number of days in her new school before she was asked out on a date: .75.)

She said no. (Applause.)

I would have handled that situation so much more moronically when I was 17. Sigh.

Now, we are a meat people too.

Alosa: “Why Americans invent ketchup when they never eat enough?”

And this was a moderate quantity. Trust me on this one.

Number of hot dogs in my freezer: a lot. Really, a lot.

Alosa’s daily hot dog quota: three. Would be more, were it not for the blasted nitrites.

On another note, our old Razor scooters are seeing a lot more action these days.

I love it when they go like this.

Julia: “What would you like in your lunch tomorrow?”

Nastja: “Do you have any cookies?”

Heart through stomach, people. Heart through stomach.

Shameless shortcut. So ghetto. Dollar store all the way.

Eww, a pumpkin barfed. Cleanup in aisle six.

I always presume that corn syrup solids will withstand extreme heat. Is that genetic?

Julia: “I pretty much just need to stock about eighty of these cookie mixes at all times, don’t I?”

Joe (chewing): (nods)

Heart through stomach. Ghetto shortcuts sanctioned.