Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's getting better

A lot of Christmas shopping has been done and the second four loaves of stritzel are in the oven, with one more oven load ready to go in. The tree is set up but still barren. We still don't know if the stritzel will be good. This has not been a good year for stritzel.

Stritzel is a bread my husband's family bakes at Christmas. It has ungodly amounts of butter, eggs, is almond flavored, and is rolled with a layer of almond paste filling inside. No store in town carried almond paste this year. After spending an hour in the local grocery store looking for something that didn't exist I decided to google almond paste recipes. There were several. They are a little bit of work, and most of them required a food processor. I have a tiny processor that fits on my blender base but I knew it couldn't handle this quantity so I was relieved to find a recipe that used a meat grinder to grind the almonds into powder.

First you boil the almonds for a few minutes. Then you pick up each individual almond and slide the brown skin off. The cold wet pale naked almonds then lie on a cookie sheet in a warm oven for a few minutes to warm up and dry out before being mercilessly ground on the coarse setting of the meat grinder. The fine setting of the meat grinder comes next and this is where it all went bad for me. Pushing the chopped almonds through the fine screen squeezed out all of the oil leaving me with long thin tough strings of almonds that resembled shoestrings or pasta - you choose. The strings dropped from the grinder into a bowl of the oil that had been extracted from them.

I am looking for a finely ground paste and this is not looking anything like paste but I still had some optimism. I put the mess in the mixer bowl thinking that if I just mixed it up it would break up into the lovely paste I was dreaming of. It broke up, but not into anything resembling paste. I was just lots of little hard pieces of finely ground almonds that had cemented themselves into a sand-like consistency swirling in an almond scented oil.

I told my husband I'd just wasted $6.50 of almonds. Waste isn't something my husband is too crazy about, but he doesn't think in terms of me making a mistake. He thinks, "I can fix this!"

There is still one more step to making the almond paste. A syrup is to be added to the finely ground powdery almonds. I'd given up before doing this because it was already a lost cause. I don't know what all my husband tried. I couldn't stick around to watch anymore so I drowned my sorrows with an impossible logic puzzle written by Albert Einstein that my son found on the internet. I know that whatever my husband did involved a hot rubber smell from the blender motor and both the blender pitcher and the small food processor container as well as the microwave and the mixer. But after a long time he brought in something he insisted was nearly perfect.

That was two days ago. It has taken me until today to get over my frustration with the stupid meat grinder and the stupid almonds and the stupid recipe for almond paste. The paste still has some interesting texture but its appearance is similar to the stuff I usually buy. My husband has promised to eat all the stritzel I make with this homemade almond paste because it just isn't Christmas without it. Now you know the essence of Christmas. So I made twelve loaves. No use messing up just a little.

Friday, December 22, 2006

New words, same stuff?

I received some new adoption information the other day. We have been struggling with adoption issues this month and this information is a new way to look at the struggle.

We have been working with terminology based on the concept of Reactive Attachment Disorder. When a child does not attach to a caregiver it affects the child's ability to attach to others in the future. If that initial attachment is undermined or eliminated by neglect and abuse the child learns that adults do not protect, can not be trusted, and are painful to live with. Then when a loving adult tries to build a relationship with the child the child sabotages it. The closer an adult becomes, the more of a threat they are to a child who is unable to attach. When a child with attachment disorder is adopted, that child fights possibility of attachment to the adoptive parent. The closer the parent tries to become, the more the child pushes them away. Behaviors become extreme and sometimes violent. We have experienced this.

So this is the new look to the same stuff.

At even the preverbal stage, children somehow have some concept that their lives are in the hands of their parents. If things go wrong it is their parent's fault. They don't have the rationality to understand that there are things that their parents can't control. They just believe that their parents have the job of protecting and caring for them and if that doesn't happen, they hold their parents responsible.

So a child is abandoned, or maybe neglected or abused. Then the child is adopted by another family. After the adoption is final the child becomes angry and begins acting out at more and more extreme levels. This is good. Yup. This is good. It means that they have accepted the adoptive parents as parents and now they are angry at them for not protecting them from all the things that happened before. The anger is an indicator of acceptance of the adoptive relationship.

Inducement is another word that plays a part here. Inducement can be described with this scenario. One member of a family comes home at the end of a day that has gone badly. She is in a foul mood from the many things that went wrong. As she enters the house, even if she says nothing, the things she does soon have everyone in the house feeling the same intensity of negative emotions.

With adoption the emotions can be indescribably strong, emotions of abandonment, lack of trust, rejection, etc. Inducement is what happens to the rest of the family around such strong feelings. Somehow the child produces those same emotions in the parents, and sometimes the other siblings. It isn't an intentional thing, but there it is. It happens.

Unfortunately I have no suggestions about how to deal with all of this info. The article ended with the hope that life would be easier somehow just because we all know that the pain we are in right now is mostly because our child accepts us.

The ideas are OK. I can see the rationale. But either way the living it out is much the same. Whether I am being pushed away because attachment is so threatening or being hated because I wasn't there to protect my child from the bad things that happened to him, I'm still faced with the same every day life.

I guess the differences rest with the children. If the different language allows them to make more rational decisions then I'm all for the different language.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


No presents are bought or hidden. My tree stands in the dining room with no lights or decorations. My baking is not done. My baking is not started. I killed my poinsettia.

I don't know yet what will get done, but I think life is forcing me to accept the essence of Christmas instead of the trappings of it. I guess it is embarrassing that it takes crisis to do this. I'm still fighting it. Will it still be Christmas if the things we usually do aren't done? What is non-negotiable? What will the kids miss if we leave it out? What will they like or hate about a pared down Christmas? Will they feel neglected because the needs of one or two have precluded a regular Christmas for all the rest? Oh silly angst!

I have terrific kids who love each other and who love me. They will cherish time together spent enjoying each other. This will be a good Christmas unless I ruin it with too many regrets and other foolishness.

So ....

Here are some things that are good.

A friend of our family was quoted in Sojourners magazine. The following link gets you to the web site and then you click on current issue, and then on the 'Carnival' article. You need to complete a free registration for this link.

My husband took the whole family out for supper last night after my son's concert which I wrote about here.

My husband traded in his guitar on a used one that is better and he and my son both played it as soon as he got home. I love home made made music in the house.

I heard an interview with Yusef Islam, otherwise known as Cat Stevens, on NPR. It was great, and he sings, and his voice is older but just as rich, and somehow gentler and wiser.

Sunday, December 10, 2006