I’m beginning to understand why people hate Martha Stewart. When I was single, I thought she was fine. She expected women to use power tools to build things. She raised her own chickens for farm fresh eggs. She cut off the ends of a whisk, dipped it into hot sugar water, and whipped strands of crystallized sugar into edible bird nests. What wasn’t to like? Women who hated her seemed insecure and, well, kind of lazy.
But now I’m married, with an 8-month old and a 25-month old. This morning, Saturday, I stayed home with my son, the 8-month old, and my husband took our daughter to the farmers market. From there, they drove into another town to pick up a lug of peaches we bought from a local charity. While they were gone, I cleaned the kitchen up from breakfast. I began defrosting zip locks of tomatoes that my husband had harvested from our garden a week earlier. Then a friend we’d been trying to see for months called to see if this morning was a good time to come over. Dishes were abandoned in the sink so that I could vacuum and pick up blocks, toy elephants, and dolls in our living room.
My husband came home and we had a quick discussion about whether to bake a coffee cake for our guest. We decided (and Martha probably would have disagreed here) no. Minutes later, our friend arrived. We had a nice visit. As soon as she was gone, I began washing peaches while my husband fed the kids. Then I nursed our son while my husband began peeling the unfreezing tomatoes. He took both kids up to bed while I coaxed my dog, who had just had knee surgery, outside and down the ramp my husband had built for him a few days earlier. My dog wouldn’t pee or poop, so eventually we just went back up the ramp. He got stuck halfway when his good leg slipped, but I managed to get all 93lbs of him back onto the ramp and inside the house. Then I took over with the tomatoes and my husband went outside to finish the brick pathway we’d dug out in our back yard, several months earlier. Two days earlier I’d taken the day off from work and my husband and I had built a frame, layered the bottom with sand, and laid in the bricks while the kids napped. Today, my husband was finishing the last part, where the stairs met the path. Meanwhile, I was deskinning piles and piles of tomatoes, chopping garlic, and picking basil from our garden to add to the sauce. When the tomatoes were finally bubbling in a pot on the stove, I began cutting the peaches, laying them on their sides on a cookie sheet, and freezing them. When they were frozen, I scrapped them off the sheet and into freezer bags, in five cup portions (the amount you need to make a pie). I also talked to my mom and dad (separately) by telephone to let them know how my dog was doing, one day post surgery. The peaches were about halfway done, the smell of garlic and tomatoes filling the house, when I decided I’d better try to get the dog to pee again.
We went back outside, and my dog got stuck on the ramp again. This time my husband helped to get him back on track, but the movement hurt my dog’s leg, I know, because I had my hand on his throat and I felt it vibrate in a pre-growl sort of sound. In the end, my husband had to carry my dog down the stairs. I say “my dog” because he was mine when I met my future husband, and my dog, although he likes my husband, only truly defers to me and doesn’t always appreciate all my husband does for him. While my husband set my dog down on the ground, my dog took a few steps and just sat down. Then he lay down. Very unusual for him, except that, of course, his leg was probably hurting him. As I tried, again unsuccessfully to coax him to pee, I suddenly caught a glint of metal in the sun on his leg and realized that the bandage had slipped down enough to reveal the metal staples from his incision. I called over my husband, who’s a nurse, and he agreed that the bandage had slipped. But the bandage was made of a sticky material that wouldn’t pull back up the leg. We had very little time before the kids awoke. In fact, it was a miracle they had slept as long as they had. My husband drove to Walgreens for more gauze and tape. While he was gone, I hovered over my supine dog, worried to leave him in case he tried to do something stupid, like chase a rabbit or walk up the ramp. I heard my son awaken and begin screaming through the upstairs window. It was a cool day in the shade, but the sun was so intense that I felt like I was getting sunburn and heat stroke. Finally, I tied my dog to the fence and ran inside to get my son and a hat. My son was clearly hungry. But then, he always seems to be hungry when I’m around. I put him in his round, saucer plaything, in the shade of our porch, with a zwieback I’d made from scratch two days ago. (Like biscotti, zwiebacks take two days to cook. I’d made them through the loaves and my husband had finished them the next day, cutting and rebaking them). My hat on my head, I went back out to the dog just as my husband pulled up. I talked to my dog and held him by his face to keep him calm and my husband safe while my husband pulled the gauze back over the staples and retaped the leg. It clearly hurt my dog, whose ears were straight back, but we had to keep that leg clean. I thought he hadn’t been licking the leg, but the gauze that had fallen down was sopping wet, so I had to put one of those awful cones on his head to keep him from worrying the bandage or licking the wound. I could hear my daughter from upstairs, screaming “owie” (which doesn’t necessarily mean she is hurt).
My husband lifted my dog back onto the porch. I fed him, gave him his antibiotic, brought him back inside. I washed my hands and got my daughter, who had stopped screaming and was lying in bed, feet up against the slates, dolls in each arm when I walked into her room. My husband finished the pathway, mowed the lawn, and picked raspberries and more tomatoes from our garden. I kept my daughter from hitting my son, then I fed them dinner. Yogurt, dried blueberries, and Cheerios for my daughter, oatmeal and applesauce for my son. Normally, we have homemade baby food, pureed squash or beans from our garden that my husband makes and freezes into little icecubes, but I’d used the last of them the night before. After my husband had showered and changed, I took the kids up and gave them a bath while my husband blanched the tomatoes he’d just picked, and added them to the sauce bubbling on the stove. My husband watched the kids, who can’t be left alone for a second (the two year old, that is because she hits her brother or tries to unplug appliances) while I took the dog back outside. This time, he did fine on the ramp and he peed and pooped. Back inside, my daughter pooped in the potty, a breakthrough. I gave her a sticker, wiped her bottom, brought her upstairs so that she could flush it down the “big potty” and washed her hands. My husband was heating up a frozen pizza. We ate the pizza while our daughter walked between us, taking bites, saying, “more pizza.”
“More pizza please?”
“More pizza peash.”
Then I fed our very hungry son yet another bowl of oatmeal and nursed him. My husband gave our daughter milk. He had returned to the tomatoes in the kitchen when a patient of his called to report her sugar tests (he’s a diabetic nurse educator, and he does most of his work from home). He went up to the office to talk to her and my daughter pooped a second time in the potty as I was getting her brother ready for bed. He had pooped in his cloth diaper (we use both kinds). My husband, phone call over, took the poopy diaper to clean, while I finished up changing him and helping our daughter through the rituals we’d set up as rewards for pooping in the potty: sticker, wipe, flush, hand wash. Halfway through, my husband came down and gave our daughter a diaper change, helped her brush her teeth and flush her poop, while I put our son to bed.
With the kids in bed, my husband and I met up in the kitchen. He started transferring the tomato sauce to a smaller pot, to store in our small refrigerator overnight while I washed dishes. Then I took a batch of peaches out of the freezer, scrapped them off the cookie sheet, and bagged them. We had a brief discussion about how little room was left in our deep freezer, what with our locally grown meat, our frozen tomato sauces, and our frozen peaches (not to mention pizza). I had meant to put a bottle of red wine in the fridge for an hour (on NPR’s The Splendid Table that day, Lynn Rosetta Casper’s guest had said that red wine should not be room temperature), but I’d forgotten, so I put the bottle in the freezer for 15 minutes while we cleaned up the kitchen. My husband finished up washing the big pots (we try not to use the dishwasher more than once a week, to conserve water and energy). Finally, the kitchen clean, the peaches halfway done, the sauce cooling, we retreated to the living room for glasses of sort of cool wine.
Just as we sat down, we heard our daughter through the monitor say, “Aggie poopy diaper!” My husband went up and changed her diaper. Aggie back in bed, we talked about what to do with our evening. It was 8:30pm. He wanted to watch a movie. I decided to go upstairs to either watch Project Runway on tape or blog. I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d be able to rouse myself to stand. Once upstairs, I decided to blog. I climbed into bed and propped my pillows up behind my back. As my 10-year old laptop was turning itself on, I heard my daughter yelling and realized that I hadn’t given her the night’s dose of amoxicillin for an ear infection she had earlier in the week. The phone rang as I went downstairs. My husband was talking to a patient. I showed him the bottle of medicine and he indicated that he’d also forgotten. I went back upstairs and got my daughter. She clung to me like a little monkey on the way downstairs. When she saw her dad on the phone she screamed with excitement and said, “Daddy!” She’s gotten good at taking the medicine in her mouth with a syringe since we’ve started to let her push the plunger herself. She got through all the medicine without a hitch. By now my husband was off the phone. I brought her over to him. She was still holding me in a strong grip. Even her feet were hooked around my waist. “Night daddy,” she said.
“Love you, Aggie,” he said.
“Love you, mommy,” she said.
“Love you, Aggie,” I said.
“What about daddy? Love you daddy?” he asked.
“Love you daddy,” Aggie said.
On the way upstairs, she said, “Love you daddy. Love you mommy. Love you Leo.”
“Love you Seeker,” I said, talking about our dog.
“Love you Seeky-Dog,” she said. As I lay her in bed, she seemed like she wasn’t ready to stop. “Love you, Grandma,” she continued.
Aggie went to bed. I went back to my blog. My husband went back to his movie. I want chickens in my yard for farm fresh eggs. But I’m exhausted. And I still have to get out of bed, go back downstairs, and get my dog up and back outside to pee. I still have to brush my teeth. The zwiebacks taste great, just like I remember, but they break more easily than the store-bought ones and I have to figure out why. Martha Stewart could probably tell me. But suddenly I get why she elicits such hostility from some people. And I think that if I had chickens, I would try to not be so god-damned smug about my farm fresh eggs.