Daddy Bakes- A Tale of Redemption

I have a love-hate relationship with baking. Simply put, I love to eat things that are baked, but hate to bake them myself.

Most of my hatred comes from my inability to do it without causing some sort of HazMat situation. I may or may not have mentioned that I screwed up peanut butter cookies one day- you know, the cookies with two ingredients? Peanut butter and sugar? Shockingly simple recipe, horribly complex biological nightmare resulted.

Then there was the time I decided that even in the face of my rookie status in baking, I would attempt a from-scratch carrot cake for my wife’s birthday one year. Somehow the middle of the cake deflated, and my resolution was simply fill the crater with icing, much like I was filling a pothole in the middle of the road.

So yeah. Not a great track record in the baking department.

It’s always said that “Cooking is an art, baking is a science.” Well, having failed science (several times) I’m not surprised.

Every now and then though, I’ll get a wild idea that I’m going to try again. Mostly simple things, like getting a box or two of corn muffin mix and making them for breakfast for the boys. Well, even those damn things thwart me. In the last half-dozen or so runs I’ve taken at simple, out-of-the-box muffins, they always get destroyed in the tins when I try to take them out. I’ve tried baking them for more time. Less time. I’ve greased the ever-living snot out of the tins before I put in the batter to the point where…well….

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A week or so ago, as I ruined another batch and grumpily served the top halves of a dozen muffins to my family for breakfast, I swore I’d never bake another thing again. I was done. Had it. Stupid rasafrassin-frikkin-rippin muffins can go #%$*U&% themselves. No more baking for me. Ever. Effit.

Then came the blackberries.

One of the greatest things about summer is the berries. There’s an area near me that was clear-cut a few years back for logging, and when that happens, one of the first things that always seems to grow back in are blackberry bushes. Well, this spot is primo berry picking property. We have a pretty good system for picking too. We’ll drive up to the end of the dead-end, one lane dirt road. We’ll turn around, and my wife will drive the car back, following the boys and I as we fill our buckets with berries. She’ll keep the ‘master bucket’ in the car with her, and we do dumps of the fruit we harvest. This serves two purposes. First, especially with The Destroyer’s sure footing, we don’t lose berries constantly to his tripping, slipping, and dumping them out. Or, to be frank, his inattention to things, which results in dumping. Second, we don’t lose too many berries to little mouths which have a habit of eating them faster than we can pick them sometimes.

We ended up with a metric butt-ton of blackberries, without a real plan as to what to do with them. We tried prodding my wife into making a blackberry pie with them, an idea which she vetoed. So, there this massive bowl of berries sat in the refrigerator, bothering me. I decided that we had berries to spare, so I reversed my decision to never bake again, and started googling.

The first thing I found- was this:

Blackberry Cobbler

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Not mine- rooked from the recipe site

I didn’t have whipped cream, nor the mint-leaf garnish, and mine didn’t look QUITE as picturesque as the one on the recipe page….but hot damn was it good. It was simple too, which I think is what made it so good. If you’ve got an abundance of berries laying around, this one’s a must.

The next morning, thrilled with a victory under my belt, I decided to take another run at the baking thing, and found these:

Blackberry muffins

No picture for this one, because the recipe is actually for BLUEBERRY muffins…a fact which was missed by yours truly until it came time to add the berries to the batter and it didn’t say ‘blackberries.’ Oops.

Turns out, the recipe isn’t berry specific. It works amazingly with blackberries. The picky Narrator had to be stopped before he could eat an even half-dozen of them. This wasn’t as simple as the cobbler was, but still a pretty direct recipe which I was able to follow without killing anyone, or causing any fires.

In the end….these two recipes restored a little bit of confidence in me when it comes to baking. We still have a ton of berries left too…and I have NO idea what to do with them. I’m thinking of blackberry lemonade or on ice cream, or…who knows.

I DO know that I’m not yet confident enough to take a stab at a blackberry pie yet.
Protip: If you can’t master a pumpkin pie with a store-bought crust….don’t eff around with berry pies quite yet.

That’s it for me for now. If I take a run at anything else, I’ll let you know. Thanks for dropping in, and make the muffins.

You’ll thank me later.

~AD

 

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Cats: Thwarting 9-1-1 Since 2013

Twice now I’ve been mixed up in calls where a cat has thrown a monkey wrench into the usually well-oiled machine that is the emergency services machine.

The first time was when I was saddled with the cat of a homeless woman who tried to run me over with her car when the EMTs tried to take her to the hospital. I spent nearly two hours sitting in a parking lot with a cat on a leash making call after call to Animal Control, who wouldn’t take it because it wasn’t a dog, and our town didn’t have a certain statute in place that allowed them to deal with cats, and with rescue organizations who denied helping me because it was a pet and not a wild animal. Finally I got a friend of mine who works for a vet to babysit the cat while its owner was in the hospital.

As a bonus, I dealt with the same woman and the same cat not two weeks later. This time, the woman was being transported after a car accident, and I got the cat again. Thankfully, I’d had the foresight to leave my vet friend on speed-dial.

The second time was tonight, and completely out of the blue.

One of the other agencies in the county was out on a call for a potentially disturbed individual. Nothing too out of the ordinary with that, so I didn’t think much of it.

Almost an hour later, at nearly 4am, the phone rings. County dispatch is on the line.

“Yeah….uh…I’m hoping you can help me out. We have a dementia patient we’re trying to transport to the hospital, but we can’t, because she’s got a cat with her and we don’t know what to do with it.”

At 4am, neither the animal control officer, or any of the humane society people in the area were answering their phones. He called me because our campus has a Veterinary Technician program where the students take care of cats, dogs, and the like. He was hoping I’d be able to take the animal and let the vet program babysit it while the owner was in the hospital. Poor guy though, the program is shut during the summer since nobody’s around to take care of the animals.

I did also have a momentary panic attack, afraid that it might be the same woman that I dealt with at the old job, that somehow, she managed to find me and was coming to try to finish the job of running me down. Thankfully…different lady.

What amuses me, is that we’re a set of organizations that train for some of the worst possible situations that human beings have to offer each other. We have training programs for engaging and terminating an active shooter, taking down violent suspects, emergency medical procedures, car chases, gun calls, drug deals, you name it, we get the training for it…but at 4am, when we need someone to take custody of a cat? There’s nothing in the playbook for that one.

Eventually they were able to find a place for the cat to go in another town, and the woman was safely transported for evaluation and treatment.

 

My Cover Was Blown…

So, we took the kids to the Intrepid Museum in NYC last week while I was on vacation.

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A country boy, the drive into, and around NYC always daunts me. I get sweaty, nervous, and probably a little short-tempered. After my GPS had a minor stroke and decided to send me towards the center of Manhattan island to find an aircraft carrier, my wife and I used her phone to find a snug little parking lot right across the street from the museum where we could stuff the car for an eye-watering $30 for the day.
We open the door to the ticket office and I immediately froze. Security and metal detectors were immediately inside the entrance.

“Oh. Crap.” I said out loud. I looked for a security guard.

Me: “Excuse me sir, can I talk to you for a second?” He looks at me.
Him: “Armed?”
Me: “Huh?”
Him: “You’re a cop and you’re carrying?”
Me: “Uh….yeah…How did you….”
Him: (grinning) “We can spot you guys a mile away, go on through” he said, after I showed him my ID.

I go through the metal detector, which bings at me, completely baffled. My wife laughed at me.

“Come on, there’s a LOOK about you guys that anyone in the know can spot. Close-cut hair, clean shaven, relatively good shape… (she emphasized ‘relatively,’ which cut a little.)

I guess she’s right, although I always try to go out of my way NOT to look the part. I don’t wear any law-enforcement themed shirts, hats, jackets or anything in public. I often dress like a well-to-do hobo, and when I’m on vacation, rarely do I shave. I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of keeping things on the DL when I was in public…but apparently not.

My wife also informed me that no- I’ve not been doing that great a job. Growing up around people who were on the job, she can spot a cop from a mile away so if SHE says it, it must be true.

I’ve been mulling the incident over for a few days, and realized that there have been a few other instances where this sort of thing has happened. “Oh, you look like a cop.” or “You’ve got to be a cop somewhere aren’t you?”

I realized that it all goes back to my academy days when the instructors we had took a bunch of raw jokers from all ages and walks of life, and molded us into police officers. One of my drill instructors, whom I’ll never forget as long as I live, told us one day “No matter how big you are…walk as if you’re ten feet tall.” Apparently, I took that to heart without even realizing it.

Very few professions can boast changing a person’s behavior, attitude, and overall presentation as much as law enforcement can. Our training all but requires such a change. When a lot of us consider police officers as “Never off-duty” you start to develop a personality that brings part of your training home with you when you leave your uniform hanging in your locker.

I’m still very, very fresh to it all. With less than four years on the job, I’m still learning all of this- these things that are sometimes alluded to, but never really taught in formal training. I guess I don’t know if my starting to LOOK like a cop when I’m out with my family is a good thing. Perhaps I have completed the transformation now from IT nerd to police officer, but on the other hand, I feel like there’s a sort of advantage lost by looking the part when I’m out and about. I also don’t want to take too MUCH of the job home with me, as there are a lot of things I see and do that I don’t really want my kids exposed to yet. I don’t need to use my ‘police voice’ when I’m trying to discipline them, and I don’t want to go distant or callous when I’m dealing with them or their mistakes.

I’ve always said that I’m juggling the job and my family, and the more I think about it, the more right I think I am in saying that.

 

 

“Me Too!”

So yeah. Wow. I have a blog still.
July….was one hell of a month. I was able to get two weeks off for vacation, although not at the same time. I had a week right at the beginning, and another right at the end. Those two weeks were filled with travel, extended family time, visits to places of historical and cultural value, hiking, a few (not many) trips to the gym, and more and more, on top of the two weeks I had working as usual. August looks to be a little more tame, so I’m hoping to get more time on this thing.

Work is going great, although I still have a few psychological scars from the last job that keep leading me to believe that I’m going to screw something up somewhere along the line. None of my coworkers make me feel that way, it’s just something inside ME that I have to deal with…for another nine months when my probation is ended. I make that hurdle, and I think I’ll be in the clear.

While work seems to be getting easier, parenting….is not. Talk about a challenge, I constantly feel like I’m not doing anything right at all, although the boys are indicating otherwise…more on that in a moment.

The stressful part really, is dealing with two boys where the oldest is grown enough to do fun and exciting things with, and the younger brother can’t stand to be left out of anything. I understand he wants to be included and he wants to be like his big brother, but he’s really not ready for stuff yet. Something as simple as fishing. The Narrator and I used to fish a lot more than we have this season. We’ve cut back a little because every time we talk about going, the little guy pipes up “I want to go fishing too!” Occasionally I’ll try to herd the two of them, but the little inevitably gets bored and irritating only a few moments in, and I have to corral him on top of making sure the seven year old doesn’t spear himself with a hook, unsnarl lines, re-bait hooks, and so on. As a result, fishing simply isn’t as relaxing as it once was. It will be again soon, but it has become one of those things that is a chore more than anything else.

Another example, is the monster truck show that The Narrator and I have been going to every summer since 2013 when I graduated the police academy. This year, we decided to take The Destroyer along with us. I was ready for that, until my wife decided that I’d need help with the two of them, and said she’d go along. The interesting part there, is that neither boy was all that much trouble, but my poor wife hated every second of being there. I spent more time worrying about her being bored than I ever was about the boys. One more thing that just simply wasn’t as enjoyable.

I know this will all fade out, as soon as the boys are a little older, but for right now, every day is chock full of frustration.

But…there’s an upside.

As you may or may not know, I work overnights. I usually leave the house about the time the boys are having dinner, and get home around 8am. Then I go to sleep until around 1 or 2, and on my busy week, I’ll do that two or three days in a row.
Having vacation last week, I was home every night. The usual bedtime routine for us is my wife takes The Narrator in to his room where he reads for a few moments, then she’ll kiss him goodnight and he’ll fall asleep on his own. I’ll take The Destroyer, read to him, and lay with him until he falls asleep next to me.

This past week though, the boys requested that I put them both to sleep. The first night I went in with The Narrator, we finished our story, and I turned out the light.

“Daddy?”
“Yeah bud?”
“I really miss you when you’re at work.”
“I know. I miss you too.”
Then I hear him sniffle. He’s crying there in the dark, thinking about me going off to work at night. We talked a while about why I go to work and why I do what I do.

The little one too-

“Daddy?”
“Yes?”
“Do you go to work on this day?”
“Yeah, I leave around dinner time.”

He too starts to cry, genuinely upset that I’m leaving. It got worse this afternoon, he fell asleep on the couch. I woke him up as I was going out the door. He woke up, saw me dressed and ready to go, and immediately fell apart. That made leaving extremely difficult.

I must not be effing up as badly as I feel like I am at times.

It could be that I’m my own worse critic…I think many of us are.