It is generally to be expected that children of a certain age will require less supervision than ones of a younger age. I've watched with envy as other moms pass off responsibilities to their maturing youngsters, enjoying greater liberties even while having much smaller ones underfoot. It was with such burgeoning expectations that on a morning when I was running behind schedule, I tossed back over my shoulder to the Hobbits heading out the door, "You're surely old enough to know the rules and I hardly need to helicopter over you, right?" Listening to the chorus of assent, I informed them where I'd be and admonished them not to kill each other. I failed to mention not killing themselves. An important distinction, it turned out.
I've been a mom for almost twelve years, so I've done this for a little while. I've heard and even affirmed the chestnut, "When you can't hear them, go look for them, because they're up to something." Rookie error. No doubt. I got out of the shower and proceeded to proceed with my day, checking things off of my tyrannical to-do list. I vaguely remember thinking that they had come so far, matured so much, mellowed so significantly to be playing together so well. Must be the diet stuff, no doubt of it.
Rookie error. No doubt.
I was shaken out of the hazy-fringed, pinkish fantasy by an ominous crash in the vicinity of our back deck. Trying it imagine what it was that had caused such a loud noise, I dashed toward the back door to see a ladder laying on the deck and the blur of Dog, scuttling for cover. To tease the details out of what happened weren't so direct as what I'm relating and took quite a bit of time to unravel, but I did manage to find out what had happened.
It seems that the three of them had invented some kind of pitch and catch game between the deck and the ground, involving a Woody doll...or is it more politically correct to call them "themed action figures?" At any rate, this Woody--as much abused as his big screen doppelganger--ended up on the roof and stubbornly refused to come down. Smart Woody. Not to be deterred, these squabbling siblings were able to truce long enough to devise a plan of appropriating a ladder, bringing it up to the deck, and climbing up to retrieve the...action figure. Who was seeing a great deal more action that Disney ever imagined or intended, given his subsequent bedraggled appearance. This worked well for a few times--apparently all of the times while I was still in the shower--and they were actually throwing the doll up there for the purpose of retrieving it. Until Dog hit his knee on the poorly placed ladder and managed with that blow to knock himself off the ladder, barking his knee and obtaining quite a lump from the ladder's descent to the deck. I couldn't decide whether to shake my head or laugh. I think I did both. He was most incensed because Princess, of the Amazon stature of five years old, failed to hold the ladder securely enough to avoid this.
Where was Bug in all of this, you ask? Oh, when his exit from the roof disappeared, he availed himself of gravity and jumped off the roof at the front of the house. I kid you not. It should be noted, for the sake of everyone's cardiac stability, that our house is a low-slung bungalow which sits on an incline and the lowest part of the roof is actually the front of the house. I can stand flat footed and reach the top of the roof with my hand. But for an eight year old, even one who is tall for his age, that is quite a jump.
Dog was quite offended. I'm not sure exactly why. I didn't laugh in his face, nor did I yell at him for being stupid. I didn't ground him or exact any punishment or consequences for it, though I did try to explain to him why it was ill-considered behavior. He disappeared in a sulk and when I noticed that he'd been off my radar for a while, I asked the other Hobbits if they'd seen him. Nope. My last sighting of him was the vicinity of the van, so I suspected I knew where he was. Sure enough. Sulking in the van. I hopped in and sat next to him.
"So is this what running away looks like at your age?" I asked. He muttered that he wasn't running away. Somehow we managed to get the conversation going again and he poured out all of his tweener frustration. I listened, sympathized, and reminded him that if he was being an eleven-and-a-half year old for the first time, then I was being the mother of an eleven-and-a-half year old for the first time. We chuckled and walked away friends again. Though I'm still not sure what I'd done wrong in the situation. Other than take a shower.
The Hobbits like sweets, but for comfort foods, nothing beats fried anything. The moment seemed to call for comfort food, so Bug asked if I would make up fried onion rings. He even suggested the application, though I was mentally heading in the same direction when he made the suggestion. He's the one making his own breakfast these days...scrambled eggs. The next generation's chef, that one.
These onion rings take a bit of advance prep, but are, in Dog's words "awesome" and Bug concurred, asking, "Who wouldn't like these?" That's a five star rating in our house.
Grainless Fried Onion Rings
2 onions, sliced thinly and separated into rings
2 cups tapioca starch
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
Take sliced and separated onions and soak in cold water for a few hours or overnight. In a plastic bag, measure the tapioca starch and seasonings and shake to mix. Drain the onions and toss into the plastic bag, shaking and mixing thoroughly to coat. Remove onions and spread onto a large platter or cookie sheet. Spritz with water from a spray bottle until the flour is damp, but not so much that the flour is rinsed off of the rings. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours, then repeat the procedure with the bag of seasoned flour a second time. Spritz lightly a final time and leave the rings in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or ideally overnight.
When ready to cook, heat lard in cast iron dutch oven or skillet to frying temperature and scatter rings in hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until desired crispness. Remove and drain. Enjoy!
When I spoke with my dad later that week--he was out of the loop, working on a hurricane relief crew on the coast--I shared the story. He laughed, too. I told the story of the neighborhood kids, including me, climbing up on the roof of the pump house located in a no-man's-land in our neighborhood. He informed me that he was aware of the practice, but let us stretch our wings, as it were. Then he shared a few of his childhood horror stories. Generational ties.
There's an old expression that God protects fools and children. Good thing that, since we seem to have a double dose of both.