The blackberries. They’re back, and they’re as free as ever along the old train tracks behind our house, and I am out at all hours picking them. (Almost all hours–I do try to avoid the prime coyote hours of dawn and dusk.)
Our fridge filled up quickly, and then our freezer, but my addictive picking habit had not been fully satisfied so I turned to the only thing left…jam.
This is how my summers were growing up: we’d spend the early summer picking strawberries from our strawberry garden then fill the kitchen sink with water and berries to help sort and stem the berries for Mom’s freezer jam.
Then the huckleberries turned red and we’d pick all those and turn them into pies in our Holly Hobby oven. Next came blueberries in the front yard– we’d pick and pick and pick so we could spend July rolling in blueberry pies and cobblers, buckles and crisps. When the cherries ripened on our tree we’d pick all the birds didn’t get, pit them, and can them.*
As summer waned we’d head down our dead end street to forage for blackberries until our hands and mouths were equally purple and we’d bake with them or turn them into jam. In late August we’d head to the fruit stand, load up on peaches and pears, and spend evenings canning jar after beautiful jar of fruit. Our pantry, by this time of summer, had become an oversized jewelry box with its shiny jars of every color.
Come September the Italian prune tree in our front yard would start dropping all its plums and what Mom didn’t cook down into plum sauce was used as ammo in our neighborhood Plum Wars.
So for me, summer isn’t measured in weeks or months as much as it is measured by the ripening of fruit. I love that the farther I walk down into my backyard, the stronger the smell of blackberries becomes. I’ve planted plum, pear, cherry, and apple trees but they are too neglected to produce anything, and I can’t bring myself to buy can or jam fruits that were free to me for so much of my life. But the blackberries? Those I couldn’t get rid of if I wanted to. And so I pick.
Kevin made the mistake once of asserting that home-canned peaches are not any better or different than store bought ones. (I’ll pause while you suck in a horrified breath.) He paid for it. The story is worth rereading, if you have a minute.
So it was a bold move he made last night while watching me wash and sort and mash and strain and peel and pour and boil and stir and clean last night when he leaned back on a counter and said, “I just don’t think I’ll ever get it. They sell perfectly good jam at the store for zero the work.”
Guess whose lunches are going to be chock-full of peanut butter-and-nothing sandwiches this year?
And now I am stuck with 24 jars of jam that may not get eaten but will at least not get wasted on an unappreciative palate. Pbbbblllt.
The jam might go to waste, but at least the blackberries didn’t. Right?!
*Then in the winter when we were eating our canned cherries, my mom would pay us a nickel if we found a neglected pit in our cherries. I was the entrepreneur of the family who would intentionally leave pits in about 20% of the cherries I pitted.
So I decided to take a break from over-planned parties after Rocco’s train party last month. For his September birthday, Vincenzo decided he wants an Under the Sea party at a pool, and I am trying really hard to just rent the room, send out an e-vite, buy a cake, and have V pick out favors from the Dollar Store. The party is about 6 weeks away, so as per my new plan I should have zero done so far.
But I got nervous about the pool rentals being booked, so I got that done a couple weeks ago.
And then I found a green/white scrap of paper in my craft room and couldn’t sleep until I had turned it into invitations. I promise you, I tried–really I tried not to!
Then I *accidentally* searched for “Under the Sea Birthday Cakes” and then accidentally showed the options to Vincenzo, who fell in love with a cake that requires chocolate shells, which happen to be sold on Amazon, and I also happened to be looking for excuses to buy things on Amazon while I still had my free month trial of Amazon Prime, so…
And since the shells were only sold in a 3-pound bag, I had to do something with the 2.5 pounds:
I’m planning on serving Goldfish crackers, granola bars, and juice boxes at the party, and you have no idea how hard it is not to make individual labels for the juice boxes.
And I’m also trying hard not to do either of these:
…or set up this art project:
…or serve this:
…and I am trying really, REALLY hard not to buy a pair of these:
Honestly, the amount of effort it takes to restrain myself from all this decorating and planning might end up being more effort than it takes to actually do all the decorating and planning. Not over-planning a party is the hardest thing I’ve done in years.
And I recently went through labor naturally.
*SERIOUSLY, SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME NOT TO OR I’M GOING TO GO DOWN TO THE BASEMENT RIGHT NOW AND MAKE THEM!
It’s hard to take pictures when you have three kids. I see 100 beautiful photo ops over the course of a weekend but miss them all because I don’t want to spend so much time behind the camera that the kids start thinking of me as a hired photographer and walk around aimlessly, asking everyone, “What happened to Mommy?” So all I end up with are a few shots that kind of miss the point, but at least I showed up.
This week we spent a few days in Seaside, which is pretty much Jersey Shore for kids. I would love to have pictures of Grammy burning marshmallows at the campfire, the boys snuggling in bed together watching a movie, Shirtless Guy cruising the strip, my nephews diving into the freezing ocean, and the kids accepting candy from a creepy guy on a street corner, Instead, here’s what I got:
Vincenzo really has a beautiful face but he doesn’t really know how to pose for pictures. When you tell him to look at the camera, first he does this weird, shifty-eyed thing and then when you say, “No, at the camera,” you get this:
Or if you say, “Smile!” you get this:
Fortunately, I know just how to turn that frown upside-down:
As for Rocco, you just can’t get him to do anything you ask him to do, and he’s always looking down. So you tell him there’s an airplane in the sky and you get this:
And for an encore, this:
The thing he was nearly peeing his pants about this weekend was riding the train, so we put him on one the first chance we got. Behold his look of uncontained joy:
Think I’m making it up? Here he is on his third lap:
The next time I try to get a picture of my boys, instead of saying, “Smile!” I’m going to say either, “Smolder!” or, “Look down!” Then at least I’ll have the satisfaction of having my kids do exactly what I ask them to.
Check it off the summer list. We done it! Excuse the lack of pictures of kangaroos; it’s hard to take pictures while carrying around a 6-month-old, so my shots were fairly hodge-podge.
Here are the boys, showing how old they are:
Here’s Rocco, looking for a treat.
(Just kidding; that’s an actual donkey.)
Mama kangaroo with baby roo:
Vincenzo with baby roo:
Vincenzo photobombing C with baby roo:
Donkey on a swing:
Just a really nice picture:
It was a gorgeous, sunny weekend here and I spent most of it at the beach with my family, but despite that I was in a bad mood all weekend and couldn’t figure out why. I decided maybe it was because of the disaster that is our fridge, so I cleaned it out. That didn’t help so I turned my rage on our Tupperware drawer and threw out every lid that looked at me wrong. Afterwards I still felt pissy, so I labeled toy boxes downstairs. I shaved my legs. I made my bed. I deleted 80 hours of unwatched Olympic recordings from our TV. All to no avail.
The next thing to cross my path was my husband, who was immediately sent downstairs to clean out the garage. He did, but I still found myself wandering around the house like a Real Desperate Housewife looking for a frenemy.
I made a list of about 30 reasons I might be in a bad mood and spent some time yelling at each of the reasons, but still ended up feeling crappy and confused about why I felt crappy.
This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to tell you then I got my period, ha ha, that’s all it was, now let’s all go have some Froyo and talk about how adorable Gabby Douglas is and how hot Michael Phelps is from the neck down.
But no. I’m actually still in a bad mood. I am holding the baby I love so much, sitting in the shade on our deck on a brilliant afternoon while my other boys play in the pool, watching the Blue Angels do fly-bys, and I am feeling like I just found out I’m dying.
Which, if you think about it, I am. You are, too. We all are. So there. Now go enjoy your own bad mood. And make sure you bring your husbands into it because if nothing else, at least you’ll get a clean garage out of the deal. You may not die happy but at least you’ll die organized.
Postscript: I wrote that yesterday. This morning I got together with a good friend who asked me to lay it all on her and so I complained and whined about things that spoiled people complain and whine about for an hour and MAN did that feel good. They say laughter is the best medicine, but forget that. Whining is MUCH more effective. At least when the whining is applied to a friend who understands.