It started like any other end-of-school-year morning—I awoke at 5:43 a.m. to the sound of my 13-year-old screaming at one of the twins to, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM! GET. OUT. NOW!!!”
My littlest ones literally rise with the sun these days, then wander into someone’s bedroom and begin hunting for treasure. As I herded the chipper twins into the playroom I mumbled, “You can’t … it’s still in the fives...” I immediately fell asleep on the couch as they watched TV (and honestly, I have no idea what they watched—I was just so glad that they were quiet and still.) A phoned-in breakfast of cold cereal was followed by my own muffled grunts as I dumped backpacks onto the kitchen table in search of last night’s homework assignment and then, at 8:30 a.m.—thankfully—they climbed onto the bus and were finally off; having already put in a three-hour day.
It’s like Groundhog Day at our house. Every morning, weekday or weekend, every morning begins before 6 a.m. with one or both of the twins ping-ponging through our bedrooms, digging through personal items until they find something worth keeping (this includes cast-off toys, journals, electronics and intimate apparel). The random searches end with a teenager yelling for as long as it takes to chase the little girls away, or when my husband or I corral them into the playroom.
Maybe it’s because I had hoped—no, expected—that these mind-numbingly early mornings would end by age 3, and that's why they feel so much more painful now then they did when the girls were little babies. I knew what I was in for then, but now? By this point, I was hoping to have the twins trained to know how to brew a good pot of green tea and perfectly poach an egg. OK, I overshot that one.
So it was this afternoon, when the little girls got off that big, yellow school bus and ran into the house that they found me slumped over my computer trying to finish up a deadline. Tess sincerely asked, “Mommy, are you tired?” Mimi chimed in, “Why do you look so tired?”
I thought about answering, "Because you little bastards wake up with the birds and proceed to jump, squeal and run around the house with no filtration on the amount or volume of noise that bubbles from your abnormally large mouths—that’s why!" But said, “I just ... am.”
I cut up an apple, spread some peanut butter on the slices and poured two glasses of milk for them. After their snack, they looked at me again, as I stared all glassy-eyed into the computer screen. Tess asked, “Mommy? Do you want a foot rub?” Mimi added excitedly, “Yes! We can lay you down in the bed and make it like a spa!” I quickly agreed, “Yes, please!”
We went up to my bedroom and they laid towels beneath my head (should have picked up on this as an ominous sign) and feet. They found the expensive lotion that I only use on rare occasions. Heck, they could have used the costly truffle butter I had in the fridge for all I cared. They instructed me to close my eyes and they would begin.
It. Was. Awesome.
Gentle little hands, rubbing my feet and calves. I was asleep within a few minutes (snoring, they told me later.) The phone woke me up. It was my husband wanting to know what we were having for dinner. I told him that I had just had the best foot rub in the world, that I was feeling uber relaxed and would be making penne with an asparagus with avocado sauce and fresh, as well as smoked, salmon.
I could faintly hear the television on in the playroom. The girls were content and quiet. Our house was so peaceful. I was so zen and at one with the world. Until I got up and looked in the mirror and saw that face looking back at me.
I literally yelped. In my deep, peaceful slumber, my dearest little ones had managed to give me a full makeover (way over). I slowly walked down the hallway to the playroom. As soon as I walked in, the little girls howled with laughter and squeals as I ran after them to kiss the red lipstick off on their cheeks.
This is the face of a woman who was massaged into a brief, but deep sleep then bamboozled and painted to look like a girl-clown in search of her next heroin fix. This is my face: writer, volunteer, wife, mother of four. It’s that last job that got me into this, uh, mess.
After taking a picture of my hot-mess self, I washed my face and started on making that pasta. There was homework to do and baths to give and lunches to pack, so that we could get to bed early, because tomorrow morning would arrive all too soon.
Penne With Sauce of Asparagus, Avocado, Fresh and Smoked Salmon
This could easily be made vegan—just leave out the fish. The sauce is so velvety, not to mention pretty.
2 cups vegetable stock (or salted water)
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed off, the rest cut into 3-inch pieces
8 ounces fresh salmon fillet, skin removed
1 large shallot, peeled and cut in quarters
1 large clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 ripe avocado
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon (to taste)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 pound penne (try to find slow-dried pasta—it tastes better)
4 ounces smoked salmon (hot or cold smoked is fine)
Parmesan to pass (if desired)
1. Fill a large pot with very hot water, cover and set over high heat for the pasta. In a separate pot, pour in the vegetable stock, bring to a boil then add in asparagus. Bring stock back to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes, add the shallot halves, bring back to a simmer and cook 3 minutes longer. Ladle out 1/2 cup vegetable stock, then drain the asparagus (or keep it and drink as soup.)
2. Refill the asparagus pot with very hot water and a hit of salt and bring to a simmer—slip the fresh salmon into the simmering water and cook gently for 7 to 10 minutes, until just cooked through. Then break into small chunks. Break the smoked salmon into small chunks, as well. Start cooking the pasta.
3. Pile the asparagus, cooked shallot, raw garlic, avocado, lemon zest and juice into a food processor and process for 20 seconds. Add in vegetable stock, and continue to process until smooth. Taste, and add 1 teaspoon salt.
4. Cook pasta al dente, drain and toss with sauce. Top with fish, and serve with freshly ground cracked black pepper and Parmesan, if desired.