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How about some lighter, summer fare?

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked down at the geek’s feet. He was wearing cargo shorts and black socks.

“Um, did you wear those to Myles’ soccer game?”

Smirk.

“Yeah, why?”

“BLACK SOCKS AND SHORTS IS FOR 80-YEAR-OLD MEN!!!”

“Really? I thought it was hip!”

Yes, my nerdlet. The only thing that would have been hipper is if you had replaced your shoes with sandals.

Sweet.

I got my free weekend. The one I was waiting for, with nothing to do but sit on the patio and watch the kids ride trikes and throw balls.

The only problem is, Ed and Myles are missing. They’re at scout camp for the weekend. The three of us that are left are having a pretty good time — we made a kick-ass pasta sauce tonight out of cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and they ate it right up. (Family dinners are going to be a very good thing.)

But today when I got out of the shower and slipped on my wedding ring, I felt the cool metal against my finger and realized something. I’m never happier than when we’re all together. Which is only on weekends. Which means I’m feeling like someone cut off that finger.

But it also makes me realize that I’m lucky as hell. It’s been nine years and counting, and the person I most want to be with at the end of the day, at the beginning of the weekend, is still Ed. And after all this time, after all this stress, if that’s still true, then there’s nothing that will ever change it.

Awesome.

I might have finally scored one.

The other two are so firmly entrenched as daddy’s kids that I know there’s no hope. I was one; I know there’s no winning over a daddy’s girl. (Sorry mom; I love you dearly.)

But the third kid has come at the end of daddy’s rope. And he happens to be the most typical two-year-old of the bunch, if you catch my drift. I’ve witnessed Mr. Patience snapping more than a few times recently. And I’ve discovered I am enjoying tickling toes and wrestling with the last baby.

Because it’s my last summer at home with the kids during the day, I started taking them on special outings every Wednesday. We all really look forward to it as special time that’s devoted to nothing but fun.

Last week it was scorching hot outside, so we took the indoor route and went to one of those warehouses jam-packed with inflatable slides and jumpy things. Honestly, I’ve never seen such unadulterated joy. Simon raced from jumper to jumper on his tippy toes, squealing most of the way. I ran after him, and we bounced, slid, threw balls and played night-night for two hours.

Since then, he’s been jumping into my lap every morning, saying, “Jumping with mama! Jumping with mama!” He also hasn’t protested me putting him down for his nap and has even picked my lap over The Geek’s here and there.

Who knows if it will stick, but for now, I’ll take my mama’s boy. (And maybe take him jumping a few more times.)

For the past almost six days, the geek has been yukking it up with museum people in Denver.

He returns tonight.

While it’s been sort of nice, as an experience with a definite end point, to be the sole caregiver, the only lap, the lone tickler, I’m exhausted.

During the second shift of baths last night, I was covered in bubbles, still recovering from the previous night’s bout of food poisioning when it occurred to me: I couldn’t do this on my own. Not forever.

So today, I tip my hat to the millions of moms who do it every day, by themselves, with no partner to relieve them. You are my heroes.

Shortly after I wrote the previous post, I put Simon down for his nap. He insisted on taking to bed a regulation-size Packer helmet. I let him. Here’s the conversation Ed and I had when I got home from work last night:

Me: He’s been talking like crazy lately! I put him down for his nap and he spent at least 30 minutes talking to the helmet he took to bed.

Ed: Yeah, well, he ripped all the lining out of it.

Me: He did? He was talking to it so nicely!

Ed: Yep, talking to it sweetly while tearing its guts out. Just like a serial killer.

I hadn’t really gone through my past posts until tonight. I’ve written way more than I suppose I thought I would when I started this. Honestly, I had no idea what I would write about or what shape this thing would take. And I still don’t, really.

I do know that I’m happier than I have been in a while. And I’m realizing I hardly ever write about the guy who loved me through what has been a pretty dark period*. Without even a single complaint.

I can see the sun on the horizon. Hang in there, honey!

* I think I’m having an early (though maybe not if you average the life spans of my grandparents) mid-life crisis.

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Our honeymoon, which seems like a lifetime ago, was easily the best week of my life. We left for Puerto Vallarta two days after our wedding, in the middle of July.

Mexico? In the summer? Yep.

It was hot, humid and rained every day. But the rain was usually over by noon, and we were busy waking up slow and drinking our coffee until around then, anyway.

We spent afternoons on walks or horseback rides through the jungle. Early evenings were for margaritas, consumed at the swim-up bar. (It was on this trip that Pepe, the caretaker of the family villa, taught me how to get my friends stinking drunk on a concoction that deceptively tastes like it contains very little alcohol. I warn them, I always warn them, but they suck down the first one and beg for more. I’m a good hostess. I comply. I’m called evil the next day.)

Because Ed’s parents paid for our groceries and our lodging was free, we decided that when we ate out, we were going to eat fabulously. And we did. One of our favorite meals was at La Palapa, in the romantic district.

I don’t remember my entree because the soup overshadowed everything. It was my virgin tortilla soup voyage, so I had no idea that they can be heavy, overspiced affairs. This one was light, refreshing and vegetarian.

When I got home, I spent hours scouring the Internet for a recipe close to what we’d tasted. Turns out, it was the most simple one I found, with just a few ingredients, that brought me to that place, that humid, breezy hut that smelled of seawater and chili peppers.

In the summer, I like it just the way La Palapa serves it, with a light vegetable broth and without meat. But this weekend, being that it’s still cold in this godforsaken tundra, I used chicken stock and some shredded chicken to make it a little more hearty. Tortilla soup must be served with plenty of accoutrements, like sliced ripe avocados, chopped cilantro and crema or sour cream. And of course, crispy tortilla strips. I bake them, which admittedly isn’t that authentic, but it’s easier than spattering oil all over my kitchen and more healthful. And I think they add the required crunch to the soup.

One more thing — you MUST make your own stock or broth for this soup to work. It’s just not worth it to use the canned variety, no matter how high-quality it is.

tortilla soup

Kick-Ass Tortilla Soup

6 – 6 inch corn tortillas
2-3 tsp chili powder (I prefer Ancho, but to each their own. Just please use pure powder.)
1 large poblano chili
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups vegetable broth (or chicken stock if you’re making chicken version)
2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes
juice of one lime

For garnishing:
Tortilla strips you make below; sliced ripe avocado; sour cream or mexican crema; chopped cilantro; cotija cheese. (Use whichever ones you like — it’s a customizeable thing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 4 tortillas into matchstick-size strips. Arrange on baking pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt; toss. Bake 15 minutes, or until crisp.

Char poblano over gas stovetop or under broiler until black. Put that beautiful little sucker in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes. Take it out and peel. Seed and chop it into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cut 4 tortillas into 1 inch pieces. Heat oil. DO NOT SKIMP ON OIL. Cook tortillas until crips and golden, stirring occassionally, about 15 minutes. Add poblano, onion and garlic, saute 2 minutes, or until onions are soft. Add cumin and remaining chili powder to taste. Sautee another minute. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring just to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken, if using, and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Stare into the eyes of your dining companion, certain that you’ve found true love.

Just after noon on New Year’s Day, Ed looked at me from the edge of the bed he’d been perched on for the past 15 minutes, staring into the void, and said, “I can’t go out there. It’s just too bright.”

About nine hours previously, we had stumbled out of a white limousine filled with people who were probably more drunk than we were. Which is saying something.

I later heard the trip from my parents’ house in the middle of nowhere to Sheboygan, which usually takes about 25 minutes, took longer than an hour because of barf stops.

You’d think none of us could get that drunk, what with the five courses of fabulous food we had devoured. But 8 bottles of kick-ass pinot noir later, there we were. As snockered as a gang of 21-year-olds on someone’s birthday.

I think there was a shot of tequila in there somewhere, and I remember toasting with champagne, too.

Shockingly, I can remember what I ate. It was delicious, and I’m publicly thanking Lynny for all her hard work. She gave us all the gift of a fabulous and memorable (um, what we can remember of it) New Year’s Eve.

What I chose from the five course menu (there were a few other options for each course):

Tuna tartare
Apple, manchengo, almond salad (I think I licked this plate)
Crab ravioli (I had to protect this dish from grubby paws who ordered the also kick-ass tortellini)
Surf and turf (crispy shrimpies! delicious meat!)
Panna cotta with grapefruit honey sauce (light and creamy, but I was too full to finish it)

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Ed: Against my better judgment, I ate the rest of the cauliflower soup*.

Me: Gassy?

Ed: Oh my GOD. I almost crapped myself. It’s not just gas, it’s DECEPTIVE gas. It’s don’t-let-it-get-away-from-you gas.

* If you care to inflict scary gas on your loved ones, the soup was awesome. You can get the recipe here.

Four things I’m thankful for (also my favorite school assignment of the year to read):

1. The seven-year-old who listed gravity and electricity as two of the things he’s most thankful for.

2. The about-to-be-four-year-old who makes me pipe-cleaner bracelets and insists we paint our fingernails the same pink color.

3. Mr. Almost Terrible Two, who has decided it’s fun to blow his nose on daddy’s cheek.

4. My best friend, who stays up late to watch TV and drink wine and laugh with me, even though it makes him tired in the morning.