Christmas Spirits… and Wine… and Beer

As you know, I take my drinking very seriously. I fancy myself to be somewhat of an expert on beer. I am still learning about scotch and bourbon but I’ve always thought learning is fun.

During the Christmas season, I always try to read “A Christmas Carol” and one or two other stories of the Season written by Charles Dickens. Christmas in Victorian England seems like a fascinating thing to me and Wife. The Spirit. The decor. One time wife had to go to London on business not long before Christmas. She returned with mini mince pies, Christmas pudding, and some catalogs that featured some dinners you could order and pick up in time for Christmas dinner. Turkey. Goose. Beef. I asked wife if they shipped international orders.

Okay. Back to the drinking. I like drinking and I also like history. I have a book on what they drank during Colonial America. Colonists took what they had and turned it into delightful and delicious concoctions. Everything organic and made from scratch. Ever have a Rattle-Skull? Delicious.

One of my favorite recipe sources.

I first learned about a drink called a “Smoking Bishop” the first time I actually read “A Christmas Carol”. I was intrigued enough to look it up. It looked interesting and easy enough. I made a batch and it was wonderful. I try to make some every year. There are lots of variations on the recipe. I don’t know if there is one “original” recipe but this is the one I use.

Photo: toriavey.com

Speaking of “A Christmas Carol”, Fezziwig served Negus at his Christmas party. I’ve looked for a recipe to this drink. The easiest one calls for a mixture of port wine and boiling water. Add some nutmeg and cinnamon. A little lemon juice. Some suggest you mix the nutmeg and wine and let it sit for an hour or so. I make it and serve immediately with a lemon wedge.

I’m always looking for new things to try. I don’t need to look for reasons. The Miracles of Christ give me plenty of those by themselves. What do you like to make and drink? I know a lot of people like egg nog. Wife has a special recipe for that that has been handed down for generations. I like to sample some of that to. After all, ’tis the Season.

Laundry Quest

If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. In my case, if I want something done I have to do it myself.

Dirty laundry on a good day

I have previously mentioned each of the Miracles of Christ are given a chore. This is their individual chore for two weeks. Normally, I find myself doing other people chores if people are going to have clean dishes come dinnertime or if I want clean clothes.

One particular child was charged with laundry duty for a period of time. This responsibility came with more than a few teachable moments for everyone in the house. Said child learned there is an indicator on the washing machine that tells you when the door is locked. Maybe they didn’t see it. Maybe “Door Locked” was too difficult to comprehend. Whatever it was, they wanted to add something to the washing machine after it had started. Rather than pause the wash to unlock the door, they decided to try brute force to get it open. It worked. The door opened. The door broke and we needed someone to come and fix the door to the washer but it worked. And the door opened.

There was a positive to come from this. The child learned to look before trying to open the washer. An added bonus for them was learning more of the features that came with our state of the art washing machine, like a door that locks when the clothes inside are being washed. What will they think of next?

Then again, the clothes actually making it down to the basement and into the washing machine are an improvement. Bedrooms throughout our humble abode have hampers that are piled high with dirty clothes that are waiting to go into the laundry room. One nameless child has a hamper that has clean, folded clothes in their hamper. But that’s a story for another day.

I find myself bringing clothes down and doing a load of laundry myself on occasion. This prevents the occasional child from telling me and Wife they have no underwear. Sometimes the child in charge of laundry will help out by moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer or from the dryer to a table in the basement. That’s it. They don’t fold the clothes. They don’t bring the clothes upstairs. One of the children does their own laundry. They never run out of clothes.

I find our laundry laborer on the couch and ask about the clean, unfolded clothes on the table waiting to be worn by eager members of out family. “Oh. I got busy.” (Netflix) “Oh. I’m gonna get to it soon.” (XBox) “I’m going to get to it.” (Pick something.)

Like I said, I find it to be easier if I just do it myself. I find I have clean clothes that way. Plus, it prevents people from being killed by a collapsing mountain of clothes.

Just me and… Forget it (A Marriage Story)

We’re a busy family. We always have been. Wife’s work schedule is insane. The kids have sports, doctor’s and dentist appointments, drivers ed. We travel here and there to visit family and sometimes help family with various things around the yard. There’s things around our yard that need attention. We’ll get to it. Sure.

We’re busy just like you. Everyone has their obligations and to-do lists. It’s nice to get away for a while but even then it can be tough for me and Wife. Our children can be territorial; Not with me of course. I could be missing for a month and they wouldn’t care as long as screens are charged up and the Wi-Fi is working. I’m talking about their mother. That’s right. Their mother. I have been reminded numerous times that Wife is their mother. My mother is not in the house and therefore they get to have her and not me. People don’t own people and they should be able to spend time with whoever they want. I’m still working on that message for the children.

One time we took a vacation to a resort. This was before we became foster parents. There was me, Wife, The Oppressed, and The Boy as well as some of my in-laws. One week at an all-inclusive resort. No cars. No going anywhere except the beach and the restaurant. During that entire week Wife and I had a 20-minute lunch together. That was it in the entire seven days.

A rare photo of Wife not surrounded by children.

I know you’re reading this nodding your head. You’re dealing with the same thing. Or you had the same thing once and don’t anymore. You may miss it those days and for that, I pray for your mental health.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes when when we need to go somewhere and have to take two cars, the kids want to go with Wife. This allows me some quiet time. Sometimes the cars are so packed one or two of the children have to go with me. That’s when they show Wife how they can contort themselves in the car and still be able to go with her. They are willing to do anything if it means going with their mom and not going with me. I’m looking forward to one of the children getting their license. Maybe then Wife and I could go together in one car and the children could go in another. Maybe then we could get some alone time. It would just be for an hour or so but I’ll take what I can get.

Last week we had a Zoom meeting with some friends. Wife and I were set up with drinks and snacks waiting for the host to join. Something went off inside The Boy as he sensed I was sitting too close to my wife. He sped into the room, jumped on the couch and crated a spot between me and Wife for him. He doesn’t want me to get too much time with my wife. He doesn’t want me to get any time with my wife.

A Thanksgiving Leftover Story

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. If you don’t live in the United States, I hope you had a good week.

Thanksgiving has a lot of meaning for my family. Lately it’s meant something a little extra as one of the children in our house has a birthday that week. I love to share the story of how our child entered the world. Wife disputes some of what I’m going to share with you but the basic bones of the story, I think, we can all agree on.

We had been going to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving for years. This particular year it seemed like everyone was there. My brother and his wife had planned accordingly and bought the biggest turkey they could find. I don’t remember how big exactly but it was a big turkey. I was lucky. I got a drumstick. I love drumsticks.

We gathered around a table. It was a long table consisting of multiple tables one next to the other. There was stuffing. There was potatoes. There was gravy. Every vegetable imaginable. There was also turkey. Have I told you how big this turkey was?

We bowed our heads and said Grace. Following that, we proceeded to pile our plates high with the stuffing and turkey. the mashed potatoes and turkey. Corn. Yams. Gravy. I like gravy on my potatoes. I like to eat a turkey drumstick and I got one. When I was done making my plate, the tip of the drumstick was in some gravy, adding to how great this is, or is going to be.

I had the turkey in my hand. I could have used two but I wanted to keep all of the gravy on the turkey. It smelled wonderful. I was about to take a bite when I felt a tap on my arm.

“I think we need to leave,” My wife said.

It was time to go to the hospital. Of all the days. Of all the times of day. It was time to go to the hospital and welcome our first child. We got up to go. Everyone at the table wished us well. We drove to the hospital where wife was admitted. Two people went in that day. Three went out.

True story. Wife and the rest of the family dispute some of the minor details, but this is what happened.

Words of Thanks

Pilgrims

We are celebrating Thanksgiving this year. There are a lot of things, actually everything, that is different this year. Coronapalooza means plans for everyone being disrupted. Instead of travelling to a relative’s house, we will be home. All of us: Wife, children and me will be around a table sharing a Thanksgiving meal. One will complain about having to share potatoes although there is enough to feed more than the number of people at the table. Another will complain about not being able to check his phone. You see, we have a teenager who is a secret agent for the federal government. He can’t tell us what branch or what exactly he does for fear of blowing his cover.

The Oppressed is a vegetarian. I am grateful for this because it means more turkey for me. Then again, there are three teenagers I will have to fight if I want turkey. Wife and I have stocked up on wine and beer, so after the festivities conclude, maybe we can have a drink together and enjoy a second or two without children. We will celebrate and be thankful. What are we thankful for? Plenty. I, for one, am thankful I got to coach baseball and football and got to spend more time with The Boy. The Boy is grateful there is no more games and he can go back to watching YouTube videos instead of wasting his mornings outside playing a stupid game.

I’m grateful for The Oppressed, who is healthy. Years ago, when she entered this world, she was in the NICU for a few days. She made it and now we are blessed with her unsolicited advice on how we can be better parents and constant reminders about how we only had children so we can have people do work around the house and yard.

I’m grateful for our life and house. It’s a house that is filled with children, including our Gaggle of foster children. Our life has allowed us to take in additional children. They have brought with them additional challenges such as road lessons, more school, more classes and more teacher conferences. There’s also the occasional teen melodrama from time to time, but my wife and I are able to see it through and recover just in time for the next melodramatic issue.

I’m grateful for Wife. She is constantly working long, seemingly endless hours to support us. I’m pretty sure her work schedule violates labor laws and I am glad when she can walk away from her work so we can reconnect and see what new crisis is waiting in the wings.

I’m grateful for Kitty, our fierce and wild pet who protects us from dangers outside our home. I’m grateful for her jumping on my lap and keeping me warm.

There is plenty to be grateful for and we will celebrate that this week. We will celebrate among children attacking each other, among insults and other barbs travelling across the table. I just hope the banter and rancor will stop long enough when I want another helping of something. I hope there will be a word or thought of gratitude between the shouts of, “I like your cut, G!” and the incoming slap that immediately follows. Maybe a word of thanks instead of shouting, “You’re so sus!” Maybe a word of thanks instead of the usual words we hear when one is chasing the other around a table or around the house.

I’m also grateful for you visiting. Thank you for reading. Happy thanksgiving.

Little Pilgrims

On Facebook: Drink Your Juice

On Twitter: @Greg_the_Brave

Prince of the Road

Being a foster parent gives you numerous challenges everyday. There are things to deal with for school. There are doctor and dentist visits. Meetings with social workers. Another wrinkle being a foster parent can bring is a change in the order of milestones.

Our children range in ages from 17 to six. We will be celebrating a driver’s license before we will celebrate graduation from elementary school. We will help prepping for a high school final exam before dealing with middle school orientation. Things like these are perfectly normal for a family that doesn’t exactly do “normal”.

One of the Gaggle has their learner’s permit. This person has made Wife and I proud. They have shown initiative in their life and work. They looked for and got a job. They sought out how to get their permit and they are looking into driver’s ed.

The child and I have been out on the road getting practice and experience whenever we can. They do well most of the time. Then again, there was this one time…

I fancy myself an amateur craft beer and bourbon critic. One time nearly became a “Four-finger Night” as a neighbor likes to say. We were driving around town. The Gaggle had a few rounds behind the wheel under their belt and kept improving. We were making our way home. On our right was one of those glaring-red stop signs. Painfully obvious to me right away. Somehow, the Gaggle didn’t see it until we nearly passed it. Being the diligent person and stickler for rules, they slammed on the breaks as soon as they recognized their folly. I exclaimed an expletive and put my hands up to shield myself from the dashboard in case the seat belt didn’t work.

The Gaggle apologized. I reminded them to keep their eyes open when driving. They promised to do so and thanked me for the advice. As we continued our way, the route called for a left-hand turn. Unfortunately for our driving novice, this was one of those clearly visible streets that somehow remained hidden until you were halfway by it. Most people would continue on and make the next turn and make their way back to it. Not the Gaggle. Our driving dynamo saw the nearly passed street, slams on the brakes, and cuts the wheel for a hairpin turn that would make Vin Diesel proud. If they ever start casting for “The Fast and the Furious 17”, I think I’m signing the Gaggle up for it. Wait. They haven’t made part 17 yet. Have they?

We continue. We’re almost home, much to my relief. I think the car’s relieved, too. I instruct the Gaggle to make a turn. Maybe they were thinking about the turn they almost missed. Whatever it was, they make this one a little premature and we’re on the left side of the road, practically on someone’s front lawn. I thought I heard a mailbox scream and a lawn gnome reciting a prayer. I tell the child the laws haven’t changed and we’re still driving on the right side of the road. He apologized and literally rights the situation. We get home. He apologizes again before we get out of the car. We get inside the house. People inside ask how it went. We both say it went great. I poured a bourbon.

Daddy’s Guide to Beer

Last week, I gave you a little glimpse of my thoughts on beer. This week, I thought I’d do a little public service and talk to you about what beers pair nicely with the type of day I’m having. As we head into the middle of November, the weather continues to decline and the temperatures continue to drop. Thanksgiving isn’t far away and Wife and I are still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to navigate our way through it this year. Yes. Life is throwing us plenty to deal with and an evening pint is certainly appreciated from time to time. Here is what I like to reach for depending on the situation.

Ale – A little light something. Perfect for preparing dinner or cooking. A little something to take the edge off after the Homework Wars.

IPA – There’s nothing wrong with an IPA. I just need a break from the hoppiness from time to time. That doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. It is. A strong IPA can be particularly tasty, especially after a day of homeschooling.

Lager – Not too dark. Not too strong. Another great companion when working over the stove or grill. Also an ideal companion after the children come home from school and are less than motivated to get their homework done.

Stout – A nice, dark beer that’s not too strong. A stout is great at night after the Miracles of Christ have gone to bed after a day of mental anguish filled with, “Drink your juice.” “Read a page,” or, God forbid, “Write a word.” A stout almost makes you take your time with it. It makes you sit back and unwind as you sip it. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Just a couple of minutes to decompress.

Beer. I’ve earned it.

Find me on Twitter @Greg_the_Brave or check out my Facebook page:

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What am I Drinking?

I am a self-described amateur beer and bourbon critic. I like to sit down and enjoy a glass or bottle of something. Parenthood has made me enjoy this even more.

When I have a beer, I like to have something locally made. Wife and I like to support the local businesses. The local breweries are no exception to this for me. I like the local stuff and I like to drink it at the local places. Coronapalooza has made going out to places a little difficult but I can still buy something and take it home.

What do I buy? Almost anything. I like lagers, ales. I like IPA’s but only so much. Sometimes I need a break from them. I like beers with fruit in them, usually blueberries or cherries. Chocolate. Coffee? Not so much.

Hoppy beers. Strong beers. Not too strong. I have five kids and I need to be up in the morning but a good, strong porter or IPA can make a nice nightcap, especially after a long day.

I want to know about the local stuff. I want to know what people like to drink (or brew). What are people selling? I’m the guy who can talk to the people behind the counter or bar about their beer all day. I used to work at a liquor store. I could help people find something new and I got to learn a thing or two from the sales reps.

I’m a beer geek. I like to research what I’m drinking. I like to see where it came from and what went into it. Where was it made? How far is it from where I am. If I go on vacation, I look for the local stuff first. I’m on Untapped. I like to see what’s out there. I take my vices seriously.

I like to have a little something after dinner. After the kids have gone to bed and as I am unwinding after a day of homework, dishes, and maybe while I’m preparing the next installment of my parenting exploits. I call The Boy my little reason for single-malt. I sometimes remind the kids it’s too early in the day to want to drink. Like most adults. I like to have a drink. I like it the most when it accompanies conversation with other people. One of the neighbors has a bar in their basement that I like to frequent. Before Corona, my family would go to someone’s house on a weekly basis for a pot-luck. We would sit around, have dinner and a drink and relax. We’d blow off steam for a couple of hours by talking about life and our jobs and the kids and how we have ruined their lives during that particular week.

I certainly miss it and I’m sure you do, too. We didn’t light the fire pit too often this past summer. We spent too much time cooped up in the house instead of in backyards and on front porches talking to neighbors and friends. One local place even shuttered its doors due to the ‘Rona. A new group bought it and re-opened it. That’s a good story. A lot of other places throughout the country haven’t been so lucky.

Technology has allowed me to keep in touch with some of my friends. We have a beer while we talk to each other and find out how we’ve been and what we’re doing to see ourselves through this. We can’t wait for this to be over. When it is, I hope you’ll do some celebrating somewhere local. There’s a business that would certainly appreciate it.

Bruh and Sus

As of right now, we have five children: two elementary-aged children and three teenagers. Wife says she doesn’t have teenagers. She has five small children.

The three teenagers will start their day with some breakfast. One may take some coffee with breakfast. Another will start their day with a body check as they walk by one of their siblings. After delivering the body check, they will run around the kitchen trying to avoid whatever retribution the checked is trying to deliver. This will go on for a couple of minutes with both children who are wearing socks on a hardwood floor. What could possibly go wrong?

After breakfast and the accompanying cardio, it is time to begin the fun adventures of homeschooling. Sometimes, all three children will be in the same room looking over the assignments and offering whatever moral support they can. This usually comes in the form of, “You’re such an idiot!” or “Will you shut up?!” Meanwhile, Wife is downstairs dialed into a meeting with other business professionals making sure her phone is on “Mute”.

After a rigorous morning, it’s time for lunch. The Gaggle will try to fit one more hit to the back or push someone to the bed one more time before running like Hell downstairs to be the first to the kitchen and first dibs on whatever it has to offer. After pushing, shoving, and reminding each other how stupid or “sus” they are, everyone finally finds something to eat and sits down at the table. A meal is shared over how easy the other’s subjects are and if one had the other workload, they would have been done with the day already. This, of course, prompts another to yell, “Liar!” across the table and they could have been done with everything already if they really wanted to make them all look bad.

“Oh my God, Bruh. You’re so sus!”

During lunch, Wife and I will check in on the future of our country. Things are going great for one (pick one). It’s the other two (pick two) that are having trouble. Then again, they wouldn’t have so much trouble if they weren’t so dumb. This is where one will try to climb over the table and assault the other, who is trying to hide under the table from the attack. The third is preventing them from hiding under the table so they may have the proper retribution. Wife and I step in and direct everyone back to their corner – I mean, seat – and instruct them to finish their lunch. They will have another class starting soon.

Lunch ends and they go back upstairs. This is hastened some by someone trying to get one more jab at someone and then run. One or two will run after them. They are usually directed to their own rooms. Two go to one room. One goes to another. More schooling. After the day comes to a merciful close, we are reminded again by all of the Gaggle how smart they are. Each maintains they are the smartest. Each one is reminded by the other of their stupidity. Wife reminds everyone she doesn’t have teenagers. She has small children.

Dinnertime approaches and we sit down to find out about each other’s day. One of the Gaggle talks about his ever-growing list of girlfriends and how it’s so hard to keep track of all of them. Another calls Casanova “Sus” and reminds him of his looks. They tell him the list of girls who are repulsed is longer than his list of “girlfriends”. The first laughs and says how foolish his sibling is for thinking that.

Dinner is over. Some people hang around in the dining room, especially if there’s a fire in the fireplace. One of The Gaggle finds Kitty and spirits her away to the bedroom because Kitty “loves” them the most. I have a drink and unwind from the day and the verbal barbs that accompanied it. Tomorrow is another day sure to be filled with more sibling love and tenderness.

Fun With Flag Football

The Boy has moved on from baseball to flag football. This new experience has paired him with different friends from school and the neighborhood. So far, he seems to enjoy it. Then again, he’s up for anything but baseball right now.

I offered my help to the coaches if they needed it. They accepted. There are over 10 kids on the team who need help lining up, knowing when to run and stop running. Conversations on the sidelines get so intense that the kids don’t hear their names being called on to the field or being told to get off the field. That’s where I come in. My main job is to shout, “On the field!” or, “Off the field!” Coaching baseball has prepared me for this.

Like every other sport, football offers its unique challenges. Strategy is paramount. It’s important you don’t tip your hand to the other team so we try to shush the kid who yells, “Don’t forget I’m getting the ball!”

There are other things we need to work on. Focus is one of those things. After the quarterback takes the snap, they will sometimes hand the ball off. If the running back doesn’t have their attention stolen by something else happening on the field (an airplane, someone who looked like a classmate, a fly), that’s a small victory.

We also need to remind the children that there are more receivers than balls. This will come up when someone doesn’t get the ball thrown to them. They were wide open. The defender couldn’t catch them. Why didn’t the quarterback see them and throw to them. Their upset but a little encouragement in the huddle while they demand a trade or a new quarterback usually calms them down and allows them to refocus on the task at hand.

It’s been an interesting season, so far and we’ve won more games than we’ve lost. That’s always good. We stretch before practices and games so kids don’t pull a muscle or sprain anything. Other teams are running sprints and doing pushups. We don’t get into that. It may change if we see Bill Belichick scouting our team for any future players but that doesn’t seem likely.