Catastrophes, Great and Small

It’s been a helluva week. We started this week with me setting my glorious macaroni and cheese dish on fire, and are ending it with a really killer head cold, and some non-fun items got stuffed in between as well.

First, the Sunday tragedy that began it all. Jack had a Cub Scouts meeting, and while he and the Prof were gone, I enlisted the help of the two littlest boys to make the skillet mac and cheese with crispy breadcrumbs. Craig “measured” the ricotta and mayo, Liam measured out most of the other ingredients, cooked the onions, stirred in the cheese to melt, and did other helpful things. Truly, my only real part here besides supervision was to cook the roux, as that’s a bit tricky for a 6 year old. They were doing awesome, leaning near the gas cooker but careful not to get burned, helping open and close the oven door carefully, carefully. I was also making roasted pork chops with beets and kale that night, so when the macaroni was done I pulled it out and began that process. The chops and beets were pretty delicious FYI – the sweet beets really complimented the savory chops, and the shredded kale salad was divine, though I used balsamic vinaigrette instead of making the dressing from scratch because it was a long night already. Anyhow, I pulled the finished pork chops out to rest in their juices and decided to stick the cast iron skillet of macaroni back in just to give it a little warm-up and brown the breadcrumbs. I set a timer for 30 seconds because I know how quickly breadcrumbs can burn, and set to prepping the 5 plates (sometimes we eat family style, but often I just serve food plated since the boys need help serving themselves anyway and it saves a step). The timer buzzed, I turned back to open the oven door and check my masterpiece, and it was literally on fire. The entire circle of the cast iron skillet was a wall of flames. I had a millisecond internal conversation – how can I put this out without ruining it? – and then decided that it was going to destroy my oven and set the house on fire if I didn’t get it handled asap. So I grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the kitchen sink and sprayed.

It’s a gas oven, and I’d put it under the broiler  – well under, at least three full inches below – but I guess it was turned up too high and an errant gas flame caught a corner of breadcrumbs, and then the whole thing lit up. It might have burned itself out quickly – who knows – but I wasn’t betting my expensive oven/house on waiting it out. I guess I could have dampened a towel and thrown it on top but in the split second I had to decide, I went with the option that destroyed our gorgeous creation. Truly, it was barely burned at all. After pulling my smoking masterpiece out of the oven, I eyeballed it and actually started to just scrape the top layer off, but it was made in a cast iron skillet meaning it was pretty shallow.  As I expertly scooped the top inch off, little powdery extinguisher chemicals were drifting into the layer underneath. Ultimately I decided that I had to dump it all in the trash, and then I quickly made a 99 cent box of mac and cheese which the kids liked just fine anyway. (But not me!) Meanwhile I took about eleven million hours to get all the chemical powder cleaned up, and then I was coughing all over the place and googled whether it was going to kill me. The results are mixed – some websites said “this is an oxygen inhibitor, and it will coat your lungs and make you suffocate!” and others were like “yeah, it’s an irritant, but you’ll be fine.” Turns out the latter is true, of course – I wouldn’t bathe in the stuff, but a small under-sink extinguisher was just enough to save us from the flames and coat my smallish kitchen in dust, but not enough to kill me.

As the week went on, I had a parent teacher conference with Jack’s teachers to discuss some anxiety he is having, and solutions to some struggles with reading and math. I felt good about the outcome, but it was stressful to re-live all of his sensory and auditory processing issues, and to have to reckon with the fact that it will never go away for him. Then I also had to spend hours upon hours preparing the application for public school charter, then standing in a long-ass line to turn it in – on paper, in person, no electronic submission allowed. The boys will also have to take a test, and if they pass (they didn’t last year, the test is secret as are the test graders, it is total BS) then they get put into the lottery, and will have a 1/500 or so (that’s secret, too) chance of getting in. It’s very very frustrating to have my tax dollars go to a school that works so hard to keep us out, and to have to spend so much time on such a long shot. Plus I don’t really want them to move, as moving schools is kind of traumatic and I don’t like this school as much. But it’s free, vs. gigantically expensive private school, so we have to keep trying. Ugh. It put me in a bitter mood, however. As I stood in line, I observed the testing process for 4 year olds (yes, preK kids are also tested on reading and math before they are allowed in), and it made me furious. They are taken from their parents into a back room, asked to take a secret test on an iPad which many of them may never have seen before, and then the results of that stressful process dictate whether they’ll do well enough in school that this school will let them in??? Not only is this not how public education should work, it’s also dumb to think that their performance is indicative of their ability to succeed in school. UGH. Fury.

So after missing at least 3 hours of billable time for Jack’s conference, and 4 hours of billable time for this charter school nonsense, I’m super behind. I’ve already had a talking to. Great way to start the year. I try to catch up on weekends but there is so much domestic work that has to be done – laundry like crazy, grocery shopping and cooking, cleaning the bathrooms etc. To top off this crappy week, I’ve also got a raging head cold – nose that is by turns really stuffy and drippy, irritated throat, sneezing like crazy (which makes our corgi lose his mind). I caught it from Liam, who suffered through it all week without a single complaint. Meanwhile I was up about fifteen times last night to get a drink of water to soothe my parched, tickly throat. The end of this day can’t come soon enough.

Wish me a better week next week. No fires, no stressful school situations, full health!

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3 Responses to Catastrophes, Great and Small

  1. LL says:

    “Not only is this not how public education should work, it’s also dumb to think that their performance is indicative of their ability to succeed in school. UGH. Fury.”
    FURY INDEED. I hate that, I hate it so much, and it was never intended to be the way public school work. Even for those who will never use the system, EVERYONE should want a well-funded, fully-utilized public school system because EVERYONE has an interest in a well educated youth. It hurts my heart that so many kids will purposefully get left behind so young.

    And I weep with you at your mac and cheese. I had to throw away a raw broth I never cooked and it didn’t take as much effort as your mac and cheese. We will rise again in triumph in our kitchens! And you should make your dish again, you deserve to take a well-earned bite of that deliciousness.

  2. Laura Watt says:

    Aww… here’s to a better week next week! Starting with the WEEKEND.

  3. joy says:

    Oh, how enraging. Catastrophes great and small is a wonderful title for this post. The privatization/charter school/test-’em-to-death mentality is destructive and awful. The thing that burns me every time I think about it is that wealthy people who promote this BS do not send their kids to schools like this. They send their kids to well-funded, holistic, nurturing places that emphasize critical thinking rather than rigid discipline, that provide space for kids to make mistakes and grow instead of turning everything into a high-stakes set-up for failure. UGH.

    And then to lose an entire homemade mac and cheese on top of it. Here’s wishing you a better week!

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