The day Siri died or Why I haven’t returned your call

This is the last transcript between Siri and me before she met her untimely demise.

Me: Siri, please give me a list of kayak rentals in the Gulf of Mexico.

Siri: Of course, Gorgeous. I have found three locations very close to you.

2 hours later.

Me: Siri, weather report for Cape Haze, Florida.

Siri: Looks gorgeous, Gorgeous.

Me: You’re really helpful today. I may just buy you an Otterbox as a little present. I might even forgive you for trying to kill me with your piss-poor driving directions to get here.

Siri: Can you repeat that, I didn’t quite catch that, Gorgeous.

Me: Never mind. Call me, “Ismael.”

30 minutes later along the peaceful bay.

Siri: Ismael, a manatee can weigh up to 3500 pounds.

Siri: Ismael, here are 10 recipes for pecan-encrusted snook I found on the web.

Siri: Ishmael, I have texted your message, “Fire up the blender,” to your husband.

42 minutes later.

Me: Siri, what is a “black mangrove?”

Me: Siri, can you pinpoint an alternative route to “Hidden Lake” other than this ominous-looking swamp path?

Me: Siri, look up, “black mangrove+things that can kill me.”

Me: Siri, call me, “Indiana Effing Jones.”

2.5 minutes later.

Siri: Indiana Effing Jones, here is an image of the “Black mangrove crab.” I did not find any results for “super spider tarantula looking monsters or some shit like that.”

Siri: I have texted your message, “AAAAARRGGGGG! OMG! OMG!” to your husband, Indiana Effing Jones.

Siri: I’m sorry, I don’t understand, “WTF?” Would you like me to do a web search for you?

Siri: Are you crying, Indiana Effing Jones?

30 seconds later…

Me: Breathless. Siri, look up “air rescues from black mangroves of death.” And call me, Goddamn Harry Potter.

Siri: I found no such results. Do you want me to post that last picture to Instagram?

Me: The one of me crying in front of that black widow/Loch Ness nest? No thanks. My hand was shaking too hard to be in focus anyway.

Siri: Goddamn Harry Potter, don’t you think you’re over-reacting? They are non-poisonous sea crabs 2 centimeters in diameter.

Me: Your measurement app is broken—they’re freaking gigantic monsters of death. Besides, I didn’t ask for your opinion, so hush. They’ll hear you and I think I see daylight up there from this terror tunnel.

Siri: Goddamn Harry Potter, would you like for me to check in on Foursquare to “The 10th Circle of Hell?”

Me: No, I want you to give me instructions on what do if your kayak capsizes. And call me Peter Parker.

At this moment, the billions of terrifying arachnid crustaceans begin to descend in what I can only assume as an unprovoked attack. Oars are flying, screams are heard clear down to the Keys, and one yellow kayak and all its passengers and cargo flip over in the brackish mangrove water.

Including one iPhone housing the irrepressible Siri protected only by a flimsy and ill-zipped sandwich bag.

Me: NOOOOOOO!!!!

I retrieve her from the bottom of the sea. The baggie is no defense against saltwater, giant spider crab monsters, and feet stomping all over her trying to get the icky off. She sputters. She reboots. Her flash is on and won’t shut off, like an eternal wink.

We make our way out of the nightmare cove of doom, but no one speaks. We’ve all been changed by the horror. When we finally make it to the dock, Siri’s light remains on, but it is clear she has little left. Her speaker has been submerged, but I hear a faint crackle.

I press my ear closer, trying to decipher her last words.

First Mate: What did she say?

Me: It was either, “Open the pod doors, Hal,” or “I’ve found the door to hell.”

We nod. Remove our caps and have a moment of silence. I look at the water-logged screen one last time.

Me: Either way, she just gave me the wrong directions to the Apple Store and liked The Deadliest Catch Facebook page.

R.I.P Siri. Had I known the OtterBox literally protected you from otters and other water creatures, I would have invested in one sooner.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Reading Disney Rainbows this Summer

One of the many wonderful things about the Disney Social Moms Media Celebration—and there are many—is the amazing speaker lineup. The awesomeness of these impressive people from all different fields, specialities and successes are extraordinary in their own right, but then when one of them speaks directly to something near and dear to your personal heart, well, you start to believe that universe may be sending you messages.

This serendipitous situation occurred for me this last April when I was sitting at breakfast listening to LeVar Burton speak to us about reading—specifically the importance of reading to and with our young children.

LeVar Burton.

LeVar Burton.

I don’t think that was news to the parents in the room—it’s not exactly a secret—but a renewed enthusiasm cannot help but be contagious when such a passionate and dynamic expert in the field is sharing his zeal on the subject so eloquently.

My secret Mom mission this summer (and please, don’t act like you don’t have one, too) is to read more, both with and to my kids as well as my own personal reading list. I realized sadly that as life gets lived, the ebb and flow of once-favorite activities get on the ebb side too often, and summer is the perfect time to get back into the reading flow.

To assist me on this agenda, there are a few opportunities I learned about that I’m utilizing and would like to share with you.

~The first is from LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow itself, and features a downloadable app that gives you and your children access to thousands of titles at a click’s command. There’s a free trial that you can learn more about and download on Readingrainbow.com. Please check it out—I can tell you with complete sincerity that you cannot find a better advocate for children, literacy, and humankind in general than LeVar Burton.

~Also on that website there’s an opportunity to join a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Reading Rainbow into more classrooms. Any denomination by July 2, 2014 can make a huge difference. I just proudly donated to this beloved campaign.

Levar Burton reading  aloud--a beautiful thing.

Levar Burton reading aloud–a beautiful thing.

~Disney Jr. has teamed up with First Book to donate up to a million books to children who may not get that opportunity we take for granted at home. GiveaBookGetaBook.com is a special website where you can enter in a redemption code to download a free digital book for your family to read, and that same book in physical form to be donated to a region of the country you designate. It’s a wonderful program that will run 4/1/14-9/30/15, and those redemption codes can be found in specially marked merchandise at Disney stores, Radio Disney promotions and other retail locations and products all summer long. You can read more about the initiative on the Disney Parks blog, or just seek out one of those codes and get started sharing the gift of reading with your children and total strangers. I can’t think of anything more meaningful for a summer treat.

That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.

That time when Tim Gunn, Ariel Winter and David Arquette read books to my kids.

I hope these are a few resources that will help your Mom missions this summer and beyond.

Happy reading.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Sh*t Parents at College Orientation Say

Sh*t Parents at Orientation Say

Oh, I’m not one of those parents who coddles their kid, but I’m somewhat of a control freak.

Wait, what?

We have special circumstances in our family.

But my kid is different.

Your father will build that loft higher.

If she gets assigned to a community bathroom, we’re transferring.

Can you skip back to that last slide? I’m taking pictures of this entire presentation with my iPad to replay for my husband when I get back to the hotel.

When I was in school we didn’t have Facebook yet. You met your roommate on the first day of school and lived with whatever you got.

Wait, what?

He may be 18, but as long as I’m paying tuition, I should have access to his school email and conferences with his professors.

My kid is going to eat every single meal in the dining hall.

My kid won’t eat a single meal in the dining hall.

I’m pretty sure my daughter will place out all freshman classes. And sophomore. And junior.

I’m going to need you to print all of the emails the school sends you, okay, honey?

Where are the dorm cleaning products kept? My Johnny is a neat freak!

Who do I talk to about getting a higher housing number? We were downloading a particularly long Power Point email from her Aunt of “Awesome Photographs,” and weren’t able to login in time.

So is your son rushing? No, he’s Italian.

Do I get charged for parking when I come to visit my daughter and stay in her room overnight?

Do they have coffee around here?

Do they have wine around here?

I seem to have something in my eye, where are the tissues?

 

Sh*t Orientation Leaders Say

Great question! Now I’m going to repeat it back to you somewhat differently in answer form and throw some catch phrases in while not saying anything of interest and refer you to a website.

We encourage you to have a conversation with your student regarding ______________.

You can get more information about that on our website.

The tissues are right over there.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Patriotic Deviled Eggs

Patriotic Deviled Eggs

Patriotic Deviled Eggs

This is either a desperate cry for professional help or a fun way to celebrate Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day cookouts.

Take your favorite Deviled Egg recipe and throw in a little reverse Easter egg dying, and you’ve got the weirdest yet best addition to any potluck.

For my sized large platter, I boiled 18 eggs and then peeled them as they were warm so they came off easily. Cut them in half and reserve the yolk in a separate bowl for your filling.

Count out the number of red and blue halves you need, then prepare the dye according to the package directions of ordinary food coloring. I used a few drops of color, vinegar and boiling water in a cups and then let the colors cool slightly before coloring the whites.

Dying eggs from the inside out

Dying eggs from the inside out


Place the whites in the color for 3-5 minutes each for desired color. It is a much faster and brighter process than shelled eggs, so keep that in mind.

Drain on paper towels, hole-side down until ready to fill with your favorite deviled egg filling. I used my Deviled Eggs Benedict recipe.

Dyed cooked egg whites.

Dyed cooked egg whites.

Arrange on large rectangular platter in the shape of a flag, and start singing the anthem.

Feel free to bring them to therapy.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Top 10 signs school is about to end

Top 10 signs you know the school year is ending:

10. School busses start carrying salve on board for the third degree burns resulting from vinyl seats reaching 37,000 ℃ by 7 am.

9. Too short to be considered “crayons,” you now have a box of wax finger paints. All in Burnt Sienna color.

8. Notes from the teacher are now scrawled on the back of Expedia and Priceline search results printouts.

7. Entrees on the hot lunch menu include candy from the leftovers in the teacher’s lounge and the “You’ll get it back in June” drawer.

6. The only matching pair of socks in the entire fourth grade is between your daughter and the kid who slept over last weekend.

5. Backpacks have deteriorated into back-of-knee packs.

4. The amount of times you hit the snooze button has grown exponentially throughout the year; you now only awake to the alarm of your own sobs when you realize you have to return to school after Memorial Day weekend.

3. Because of #4, your kids have a laminated tardy slip.

2. Car line has become merely a suggestion.

And the number one sign that school is almost out?

Commercials start alternating between Sylvan Learning Centers, Back to School sales and top shelf vodka.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Graduation Wreaths

I’m usually not this crafty, but for our recent big dual graduation party, I wasn’t all that impressed with the generic “Congrats Grad!” balloons and paper cutouts.

Enter the wonder of the Internet.

I watched this Youtube video, and made a couple in each of my boys’ school colors and then personalized them with their initials, pictures, and extra touches to make it look like I overpaid for them on Etsy.

Permission granted to use this for graduation, birthdays, or anytime you need some fun.

Personalize them for your own event.

Personalize them for your own event.

IMG_2981

©2014 Tracey Henry

Happy Mother’s Day. For real.

My discomfort for Mother’s Day is well-documented. Over the years, I’ve explained that since my own mom passed away 13 years ago, ownership of this day has not been possible for me. This has eased slightly in recent years, or at the very least, worn the edges of the day down enough so that pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but it still remained one of my least favorite days.

This year, I thought it could be approached differently. When I realized that our oldest son’s high school graduation was scheduled for the same day, I thought, good, it will shift the focus to this bigger milestone.

Which it did.

Startlingly, suddenly, with a huge lump in my throat, here was the day my little boy grew up.

I know this is the moment that we parents work so hard for. We want nothing more than to watch our child on a graduation stage, cap and gown clad marching toward their bright future. The recognition of this incredible occasion is important and I did in fact graduate from high school and college, so I’m not sure why this epiphany is falling out on the keyboard in such a tangled incoherent mess, but I’d be lying if I denied that beneath the joy, there is grief. Not a wringing of the hands doubting yourself grief, or even the hapless wishing to turn the clock back grief, but one of the quiet knowledge that you’re going to miss something that has been so beautiful in your life every day for the last 18 years.

And that you’re also missing that other beautiful someone who felt this way about you on graduation day so many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve begged for her haunting. I’ve waited for her signs. I know they are there, but perhaps because I’m watching so insistently, I think I often miss them. That whole watched pot thing, I suppose.

But I know she will be there on Sunday. For me, and for him. Because she wouldn’t have missed this in life, I know she wouldn’t miss it now. It’s almost sacrilege to even doubt her presence there.

And when I realized that she would be there then, something else finally came into focus. She was there on his first day of Kindergarten, his hockey games, our vacations, and every day in between. She is in his face, Matty’s laugh, Amy’s eyes and Jessie’s spirit. She is in my mirror. She boils that pot over every night at dinner.

And so I think after all of this time, after all of the homemade cards and flower pots received with white knuckles, I can at long last welcome Mother’s Day.

The one the calendar says is Sunday, and the all of the real ones in between.

See you Sunday, Mom. I’ll be the one smiling looking up into the trees.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Public Health Alert–Senioritis

As two of my children approach graduations—one 8th grader leaving middle school and one high school senior about to enter college—I can attest to the very real, very serious condition of Senioritis.

The first symptom is a noticeable lack of interest and energy. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to the expected school-related assignments, but with most normal human activities. In fact, it may appear that the only thing your child will graduate from is higher levels of apathy.

Victims of Senioritis may appear to have some yellowing of the eyes. You may suspect jaundice, but don’t worry, it’s just that they’ve used up all of their bathroom hall passes weeks ago.

You may also notice a severe and rapid decline in cognitive skills. While it could be attributed to long and late studying for final exams, unfortunately the only math your student is doing is the computation of how many days, hours and minutes are left in the school year and how many cubic yards of garbage will come home from their lockers.

Difficulties with hearing may also result. You can ask them what time the athletic banquet is or when they get their yearbooks and they simply stare at you as if the words were spoken in Spanish—a language they just spent the last decade studying in school so even then it shouldn’t be that incomprehensible—but nonetheless they will mumble they think their teacher said something about that last week, but lately her words are coming out all muffled and monotone, to which you’ll laugh and say, “Like Charlie Brown’s teacher?” and they’ll say, “Who’s that?” which you’ll then wonder what you just wasted the last 12 years educating them on when they can’t recognize a simple pop culture reference but then it will make sense why every time you’ve called them “Pigpen,” in the past it never seemed to register and then you’ll really start feeling guilty that you’ve raised a mess maker who will never win Jeopardy! and then you won’t hear anything either above your heaving sobs of failure.

Nausea can also occur. While it can be due to anxiety or excitement, the more likely culprit is they’ve resorted to eating the old snacks at the bottom of their backpacks.

Other psychological disorders and behaviors are common. Like spending hundreds of dollars on Prom night food, flowers, clothes and cars to spend exactly 12 minutes at the actual dance. The obsessive compulsive use of car window paint and Sharpies. Amnesia regarding uniform and attendance policies.

Be advised that Senioritis is not limited to graduating students. It is very common among parents of said pupils. They can be easily identified as the babbling adults standing helplessly in school offices with open checkbooks. Pale, with elevated blood pressures and profuse sweating issues, they are usually chanting from the fetal position in the corner, “Are you sure you turned that in?” or “But the Evite said 7:00, not six.”

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Senioritis. The condition seems to be exacerbated by long banquets, presentations and ceremonies where its contagion level is at its highest. The only treatments currently are radical and random in their efficacy. For student patients, hours spent with other sufferers, laughter poring over yearbooks, new country music, Doritos and long summer days seem to bring relief.

For afflicted parents, it is not so simple. Common methods are lame and last-minute attempts at scrapbooking, wine coolers, old country music and sappy reminiscing. Unfortunately, these are mere placebos, and those exhausted parents of seniors rarely take their medicine as directed, and all end up hoping for reinfection.

Because it’s the one disease that you beg for recurrence if it means your kid can be quarantined at home just a little while longer.

Good luck boys, you’ve us proud every day.

©2014 Tracey Henry

The 9 nonsensical lessons I learned at DisneySMMoms and 1 important one

Last week I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I attended with a friend and my two daughters, and it is truly an experience I will never forget.

I had a wonderful time, met amazing people and learned a lot. To summarize a trip of this size and scope is almost a disservice, so I have attempted to compile the top 10 lessons I learned.

1.) Remember to bring the Fit Bit next trip. The massive step count will justify another Dole Whip.

2.) Never trash-talk a 7 year-old about who is going to puke first on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are no winners in that game.

3.) Buzzfeed needs to issue a quiz on “What kind of Ride Line Person are you?” Answers will range from Personal-Space-Ignorer to Huge-Gap-Leaver. I will probably score, Why Yes, I am the Line Police, since both of the previous profiles seem to haunt me at every attraction.

4.) Finding Hidden Mickeys does not constitute make-up homework in Geometry. (But it should.)

5.) Those huge mylar balloons that they sell on Main Street will out-last the stand-by line at Peter Pan, a week’s hotel stay, hundreds of miles stuffed in a trunk, several seasons of “Good Luck, Charlie,” a forwarded power-point slideshow entitled, “FW: FWD: RE: FWD: YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS KID!” from your grandmother and an Oscar acceptance speech.

6.) No one who hasn’t had their face on a jar of Smucker’s with Willard Scott on the Today Show knows who Mr. Toad is but everyone agrees his ride is little more disturbing than wild.

7.) Even though you may feel the same effects the next morning, “park-hopping” and “bar-hopping” are not interchangeable activities.

8.) Restraining orders signed with big overstuffed costume gloves are still legally valid. (Sorry again, Hercules.)

9.) Turn on the flash for selfies on Space Mountain.

10.) Just because parenthood can be serious business, childhood isn’t. There is this modern tendency for us to be so wrapped up in the responsibilities, expectations and journey of motherhood, that we can easily overlook the happy fact that a childhood is occurring in tandem.

Don’t miss it.

We can’t go to Disneyland everyday, but magic can be a daily event. Find it. Point it out. Laugh with it. Create, make, build, feed, read, appreciate, praise, worship, sing, breathe, adore, photograph, grow, enjoy, write, cry, memorize and wonder at it.

Share it.

The memories will last even longer than that mylar balloon.

The best hosts ever.

The best hosts ever.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Stuffed Leg of Lamb wrapped in Pastry

I’ve never been a ham person. In fact, I really dislike it. The only time this is ever an issue is Easter Dinner because somehow, this has become the go-to protein for spring because sodium pairs so nicely with tulips. Or something.

Despite this culinary expectation, Easter Dinner has become one of my favorites to make and eat because of my main dish alternative to ham—a stuffed leg of lamb wrapped in pastry.

This recipe is original—it’s inspired by a recipe from a torn Xeroxed copy from an unknown cookbook that’s so old I just used the word Xeroxed. That page was lost decades ago, and the recipe below has morphed into the beautiful dish it is today. This will render the words, “But I don’t like lamb,” a bold-faced lie by anyone who has even spoken such nonsense.

Stuffed Leg of Lamb in Pastry

1 boneless leg of lamb, 5-6 pounds, butterflied (you can have your butcher remove the bone or cut it out yourself—it’s not particularly difficult.)

Salt, pepper and olive oil

Stuffing:

2 lbs ground sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, slightly beaten

Kitchen twine

2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg
Kosher salt

1.) Preheat oven to 450℉. Prepare lamb by opening up, trimming and pounding if necessary to make a somewhat flat, butterflied surface. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2.) Make stuffing by browning the sausage in a skillet until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before adding the next 5 ingredients, then mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Open the leg of lamb like a book. A delicious, mouth-watering book

Open the leg of lamb like a book. A delicious, mouth-watering book

3.) Place stuffing in an even layer across the entire surface of the butterflied lamb. Press firmly into the meat, but don’t worry if some spills out. Cut 4 large pieces of kitchen twine, and then get someone to help you tie—you’ll need a couple of hands for this step.

Proper stuffing placement: lots and everywhere.

Proper stuffing placement: lots and everywhere.

4.) Starting at the narrowest end, roll the lamb and stuffing up jelly-roll style. It doesn’t have to be too tightly rolled, and don’t worry about loose stuffing that falls out. Tie 3 pieces of string across the sides, and 1 lengthwise to hold the ends in place. Trim the excess pieces of string and discard.

5.) Smear a thin layer of olive oil on the tied lamb and place on a rack in the 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes to get a nice sear on the top. Remove from oven and let cool about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350℉.

tied leg of lamb

6.) Unwrap and slightly roll out the seams of the puff pastry sheets. Place the slightly cooled lamb on top of 1 to 1 1/2 sheets depending on the size. With remaining sheets, wrap top and sides, pressing seams together with your fingers until it looks like a wrapped present with all surfaces covered. Trim off any excess dough and reserve.

7.) You can make any fancy adornments with the extra dough like you would a pie—I make a long braid down the center—or just make a few air vents in the pastry with a small knife. Make a simple egg wash with a beaten egg and water and brush over the entire thing. Sprinkle generously with the kosher salt and put back on the rack of the roasting pan.

That gasp of goodness you just emitted is called silence before the lamb.

That gasp of goodness you just emitted is called silence before the lamb.

8.) Bake in the 350℉ oven for another hour and a half. Check the internal temperature of the lamb often with a meat thermometer a few different places until it reaches medium rare at about 140-145 degrees. Cooking time will depend largely on the size and amount of fat, so it really is important to check the temperature because nothing is tougher than overcooked lamb. This takes approximately 25 minutes per pound, but again, keep checking after 90 minutes. There will be some carry-over cook time when removed from the oven and rested.

9.) When desired internal temperature is reached, remove from oven and let stand 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Stuffed and wrapped lamb, deconstructed

Stuffed and wrapped lamb, deconstructed

10.) No mint jelly required. Happy Easter or whatever special occasion you are celebrating.

©2014 Tracey Henry