Monday, June 22, 2009

Could I Have Phantom Kid Syndrome?

Today is Day One of the Kids-At-Camp-Mom-At-Home experiment, and I’ve got to confess, there have already been a few glitches. Not with the kids -- you can be sure they are fabulous and achieved the “Mom who?” stage within minutes of my departure yesterday. Nope -- I’m the old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

To my credit, after waking up at 5:30 this morning, I did remember that it is summer, so I knew I could burrow back down for another hour or so of nightmares about my 14-year-old-son driving. Before dozing off to those chilling images, though, I got up to look in on the kids, who natch, weren’t there. Oops.

When I woke back up at 7:00a, with sunlight lasering into the room and Lionel (the feline alarm clock) clawing at my toes, it seemed like a perfect day to support my local Starbucks. (True. Any day is the perfect day for a 'Bux outing.) Darling Daughter is also a fan, so I decided to treat my girl to a carton of her fave – vanilla milk.

Double oops. And I don't drink milk. Think it’ll keep for four weeks? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure it wouldn't survive the shipping.

Medical experts say that some amputee patients have sensations, including pain, in a limb that is no longer there. Phantom limb syndrome is what it’s called, I believe. I’m no doctor -- I don't even play one on TV -- but I think I may have phantom “kid” syndrome. They’re no longer here, but to me, it feels as if they are. To make matters more real, I’m considering going upstairs right now and flipping on the lights in Snarky Son’s bathroom and bedroom. Later tonight, when I go back upstairs, I’ll yell down, “Get up here right now and turn off these lights!” And I’ll get the same response as if SS were here. Crickets.

But we (the royal feline and I) are working it out. We’ve got plans. Big plans. OK. Lionel’s plans are actually the same as always: Eat, yawn, sleep, stalk. Repeat. On occasion, act indignant.

I, however, have compiled an absurdly long and ridiculously hopeful To Do List. Come on, now. What makes me think I can wire and install a ceiling fan by myself? Or clean out and organize the attic in 95 degree heat?

Making matters more ridiculous, I foolishly continue tacking items onto The List. Think I can wallpaper the bathroom tomorrow? I've never wallpapered so much as a shoebox. Write a novel in three weeks? Um. These one page blogs pretty much max me out.

I’ll have more to occupy myself in the next day or so, though, when I can commence stalking my own prey: Mike the Mailman. Seeing as how SS attended camp last year, Mike already knows the drill. Before he even gets to my yard (where I wait impatiently on the front steps), he’ll shout out, “No letter today, Cheryl!” Or, “You got two, today, Cheryl!” (“Cheryl” is the name on all of my bills. I’ve never had the heart to tell him I’m only called that when I owe someone money. Or am in trouble. Or both.)

I’m hopeful about receiving letters this week. And I have reason to be. As the kids and I made the trek to camp, I beseeched, coerced, and ultimately, bribed them to write home. We struck a deal at one dollar per well-written letter. BTW, a note that begins, “Dear Mom, Camp is great” does not pass the “well-written” test. Nor does any letter with “Dear Mom, Please send me …” as its auspicious opener. Writing BIG does not qualify as writing WELL, either.

In fact, until I get a letter, I think I'm going to disregard The List. I'll consider it my own form of protest. Kind of like a hunger strike, except there's no way I'm going to let myself go hungry. With the kids away, I can cook whatever I want -- just for me -- starting with this tangy, crispy Mexican chopped salad.

Mexican Chopped Salad with Spicy Butttermilk Lime Dressing

Dressing (Note: I like my dressing thin, but if you like it thicker, use more sour cream and a bit less buttermilk.)
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
juice of 1 lime (at least 1 tablespoon)
1 cup buttermilk
fresh ground pepper

1/2 avocado, cut in 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup diced jicama
1/2 of a 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
kernels cut from one raw cob of corn (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 pound shrimp, sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning, grilled or seared in a hot skillet
romaine heart, chopped

Make dressing. Stir together sour cream and mayonnaise until smooth. Using butcher knife, mince garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, to make a paste. Scrape garlic paste into sour cream mixture, and stir in cayenne pepper and lime juice. Stir in buttermilk. Season with additional salt and fresh ground pepper as needed. Chill for at least an hour or overnight, to allow flavors to meld and mellow.

Compose salad. On a bed of chopped romaine, arrange remaining ingredients, topping with the warm shrimp. Pour dressing (as needed) over.

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