For the past several weeks, the Kindergartener’s teacher has introduced a new letter of the alphabet to the class. Friday’s letter was P. P as in pickle, pie, pear, pomegranate. The kids are then asked to draw something that begins with the letter P. Here was the Kindergartener’s contribution:
Me: (uncomfortable throat clearing followed by raspy wheezing) …
Him: See, Mommy? It’s a pan.
Oh. Pan. Phew.
On the second day of the Eat Local Challenge, the Kindergartener came down with a stomach bug and had to stay home from school. Of course. It’s not a week in my household unless somebody’s vomiting. It really doesn’t reflect well on my cooking.
I managed to get some soup made in time for lunch so that the kids could turn their noses up at it. Then the Kindergartener announced, “Do you know what my favorite foods are? Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and French fries.” Great. Just what Mommy wants to hear.
It was clear I’d have to step up my game for dinnertime.
Everyone keeps telling me that I should make my own local hot dogs, but guess what, I’m not doing it. I’m not making hot dogs. Not ever. Hot dogs are meant to be made by someone else. Their mystery is part of their appeal.
I will, however, make meatloaf. Same concept, easier execution. My eat local version used ground beef and eggs from Codman Farm, previously roasted sungold tomatoes and shallots from Drumlin that I defrosted and pulsed in the food processor until chunky, bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper. The kids scarfed it. For the French fries, I did my usual thing: roasting potato wedges in olive oil. And for the macaroni and cheese portion of the meal, I made an arugula salad with turnips. Because I aim to please.
Anyway, the kids ate every last bite (minus the turnips), which is more than I can say for the squash ravioli the night before. I had made and frozen a whole bunch of ravioli filled with roasted winter squash and grated Gouda, which I cooked quickly and smothered in a tomato-sage cream sauce. The kids hated it. The adults, on the other hand, found something else to like in squash.
ELC Recap: 10/1-10/3
Wednesday, Oct. 1
Breakfast: Yogurt, scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast with honey, apple cider
Lunch: Grilled apple and cheddar cheese sandwich, green salad. Kids brought jelly sandwiches to school with carrot sticks, cheese, and apple wedges.
Snack: More apples
Dinner: Squash ravioli, broccoli, Wachusett Octoberfest, raspberries
Thursday, Oct. 2
Breakfast: Yogurt, whole wheat toast with butter and grape jam, apple cider
Lunch: Minestrone soup, baguette with butter, pear
Snack: Raspberries and Gouda cheese
Dinner: Meatloaf, roasted potatoes, arugula salad with turnips
Friday, Oct. 3
Breakfast: Same as Wednesday
Lunch: Same as Thursday, with the kids bringing PB&J, pepper slices, cheese, and apples.
Snack: Pita chips
Dinner: Leftover meatloaf, roasted potatoes, and garlicky broccoli rabe
Drumlin Farm CSA, Lincoln, MA: Lettuce, carrots, squash, sage, broccoli, raspberries, potatoes, leeks, kale, onions, bok choy, garlic, arugula, turnips, peppers, broccoli rabe
Milk: Our Family Farms of Western Massachusetts, Bernardston, MA (Russo’s)
Butter: Cabot, Cabot, VT
Eggs: Chip-In Farm, Bedford, MA (Russo’s)
Cheese: Smith’s Farmstead, Winchendon, MA (Waltham Farmer’s Market)
Apple cider: Box Mill Farms, Carver Hill Orchard, Stow, MA (Russo's)
Honey: Boston Honey Company, Holliston, MA (Russo's)
Apples: Autumn Hills Orchard, Groton, MA
Jam: Trappist, Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA; The Salted Cod, Concord, MA
Pita bread: Bay State Bakery, Worcester, MA (Russo's)
Peanut butter: Teddie, Everett, MA
Pears: Dick’s Market Garden, Lunenburg, MA (Waltham Farmer’s Market)
Baguette: Russo’s, Watertown, MA
Beans: Baer’s Best, Moraine Farm, Beverly, MA (Russo’s)
Ground beef: Codman Farm, Lincoln, MA
Beer: Wachusett Brewing Company, Westminster, MA
Last year, we didn’t talk about the Eat Local Challenge. I made an executive decision. In one short year, though, the Kindergartener has doubled his awareness, and so I thought a conversation was in order this time.
I sat him down in front of a bowl full of Goldfish crackers and explained that for one month, we would eat only the things grown by the farms we know. He was all, yeah I know, that’s what we always do. And I was all, oh yeah? Who’s the Cheerios farmer then? What’s his name? Does he live anywhere near the Frozen French Fry farmer who, rumor has it, has been known to hop the fence now and then for the Heinz Ketchup farmer?
To give him an idea of what he’d be up against, I ran through a short list of the things we’d be going without. Bananas. Orange juice. Chex. Hot dogs. The latter really made an impression:
Him: You mean, we’re not eating hot dogs ever again?
Me: Good Lord, no! Just in October. Then we’ll return to our weekly hot dog schedule.
Him: Oh. But I like juice.
Me: You can have apple cider for breakfast instead.
Him: Apple cider? I like apple cider.
Me: I know.
Him: …But, what about Halloween?
Uh-oh. The kid brings up a good point. Halloween is in October.
Me: Don’t worry, child of mine, there’s no way in hell we’re giving that up. Not on my watch.
I mean, everybody has their limits.
The Kindergartener has been adjusting very well to his new school environment. I was worried he would be completely overwhelmed. There’s a big difference between two days of preschool per week and five days in a row of full-day kindergarten, but he’s handling it like a champ. He loves riding the school bus and seeing his friends, four of which ended up in his class. He loves art and music and recess. No word yet on how freaked out the teacher is about his college-level reading skills, but with 23 kids to one teacher, she probably won’t notice until February.
Still, the Kindergartener’s happy when the weekend arrives. Everything returns to normal. The bickering between the children resumes. I return to my cranky self. Husband antagonizes me. It’s a familiar and comforting routine. Like this past Saturday when the kids were eating their lunch and I was standing by the refrigerator filling my cup with filtered water, which drips out at a rate of approximately one molecule per second. Husband snuck up behind me and licked the whole side of my face. (Normally, I keep these kinds of things to myself, but it’s important to the story.)
I was about to punch him in his tender man-parts but the kids were sitting right there. Instead, I shrieked, shoved him ineffectively, and muttered a bunch of stuff, careful to keep everything PG-rated and within the boundaries of the behavior I’m supposed to be modeling 24 hours a day.
But the Kindergartener didn’t miss a beat, and proclaimed, “Daddy’s a cock!!!”
When it comes to profanity, all the modern parenting books say the same thing. Just ignore it. Go with the flow as if he had just said “apple tree.” They’re just experimenting with language and gauging the reaction. But the Kindergartener could not have expressed more concisely exactly what was going through my mind at that very moment, and so, of course, I did the exact opposite thing you’re supposed to do, which was burst out into a constant stream of laughter until I got a cramp.
Since I had already ruined the moment and all the parenting experts were shaking their heads in unison, I dedicated myself to figuring out what he had meant to say. Believe it or not, “cock” isn’t in our everyday profanity repertoire, so I doubted he was parroting us. I wanted to blame it on public school, but I went to public school and I didn’t start saying things like that until third grade (okay, maybe the summer before).
My mind ran through all the potential meanings of cock. A male rooster? The stuff you pipe into cracks in the walls? No, it turned out that he had extrapolated it from the word “cocky.” He had deduced that someone who’s cocky must be a cock, and I think we can all agree that you’d have to be pretttty cocky to go up to somebody and lick her face like that. Therefore, I deem it to be proper and appropriate usage. Give the kid a diploma.
Sally over at Tip of the Iceberg recently asked if the kids really eat what I make. As I started responding to her comment, I realized that it was long enough to be a post and so maybe I should do that instead. And that’s when the trouble began.
After writing about 10 pages on the subject, I started to wonder what happened to my ability to summarize things. It’s a yes or no question, Tammy. Do the kids eat your food or not? Well….um…you see…HOLY CRAP, what’s that thing over there? That thing that flew behind the other thing?
It’s been three weeks and I have yet to write a coherent post about it, and certainly not an entertaining one. But the subject of feeding young children keeps coming up, so I might as well come clean lest you think that the kids, in their freshly pressed knickers, arrive in the kitchen proclaiming, “Eggplant again, Mother? Why, I’d be delighted!”
My mealtime philosophy is a mix of tough love, common sense, bribery, and, most importantly, stubbornness. My own. For if you have stubborn children, there’s a 50% chance they got it from you, and now’s your chance to show them how it’s really done.
Our Dinnertime Rules are as follows:
*If you think I’ve never broken down and thrown frozen French fries and Gorton's delicious fish tenders (regular batter) into the toaster oven, then you’re crazy. I have. More than once. I’m not a robot. But by and large, we eat the same stuff.
**“All your dinner” sometimes morphs into “most of your dinner” which then seems to morph into “only two bites” after a while. I don’t know how this happens, but I suspect Husband is involved.
***Seriously, though, why would you eat your squash if you know you can have a bowl of your favorite cereal right before bed instead? (Mmmmm, GoLean Crunch!!!)
**** Ask yourself what your threshold is for torture before you attempt this. Your kids will make you pay. Luckily, I’m a glutton for punishment.
Did you notice how I didn’t answer the original question? I’ll be writing several more exciting posts on the topic this month, plus an honest update on how it’s all been working out. If you have any specific questions, leave them in the comment section and I’ll try to address them. Please keep in mind that I’m not a nutritionist or any kind of expert on anything really. This all falls under the realm of “opinion.” Still, I have some pretty strong opinions about it because I love food and I want my kids to love food, too. YOU WILL LOVE FOOD, DAMNIT.
Did I mention that a certain someone starts school this week? Free school. FREE. All day, five days a week.
Yes, this is the time when the Preschooler becomes a kindergartener, the Toddler becomes a preschooler, and I curse myself for thinking up names for the kids that would change every goddamned year. (To be fair, I thought I’d quit blogging after two weeks, but haven’t I caught on by now that nothing happens like you plan?)
I was thinking of just calling the Preschooler the Kindergartener, and the Toddler the Preschooler. Creativity isn’t my strong suit, as you well know. But that nomenclature is likely to be confusing. Like, how did the Preschooler go from being a sweet and gentle boy to a noisy brute practically overnight? (Public school, that’s how. We must all lose our innocence someday.) So, if anyone has a better idea, let’s hear it.
Anyway, given the new, freeing kindergarten schedule, you may be wondering how I plan to spend my time? Rather than doing the work needed to sustain a freelance career, I think I’ll start by acting out scenes from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown instead.
Yes, that is a fantastic idea. I’ll start with gazpacho. Lots of gazpacho. Then I’ll mope around as if I’m despondent about the recent turn of events. Why does he have to go to kindergarten? Why, why, WHY? There will be much pacing and hand-wringing, not to mention checking voicemail every two minutes. Oh, and throwing things just to be dramatic. I really don’t do enough of that. I don’t want to die having never thrown anything through a plate glass window in a fit of rage. That would be a waste.
I just hope that after all of the lighting things on fire, high-speed scooter chases, gazpacho at gunpoint, and dancing half-naked in windows play out, Husband doesn’t make me go out and get a real job.
This recipe is straight from Spain and is my absolute favorite. You can thicken it up with bread soaked in water if you like. Adding garlic is also fair game. Sleeping pills are optional.
4 large tomatoes
1 bell pepper (green is traditional, but I prefer red)
¼ medium onion
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
In a large pot of boiling water, dunk tomatoes for 20 seconds or so, then submerge in ice water until cool. The skins should slip right off. Core tomatoes, then cut in half across the equator and squeeze out the seeds. Cut into quarters and place tomatoes in blender.
Peel cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Holding a spoon upside-down by the handle, dig a trough along the length of the cut side of the cucumber to remove the seeds. Cut into pieces and put into blender, reserving one piece to chop for garnish. Core and remove seeds from pepper. Reserve one piece to chop for garnish and add the rest to the blender. Add onion (chop some extra for garnish), olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Refrigerate. Serve chilled topped with chopped red pepper, cucumber, and onion.
The Toddler needed a little extra incentive to eat his broccoli last night. Husband, trying to improve upon his usual dinosaur analogy, encouraged him to pretend he was a giant eating his way through the forest. The Preschooler, ever the helpful assistant, objected.
“Giants don’t eat trees," he corrected. "They eat Englishmen.”
The Preschooler has a funny way of coming up with excuses that make no sense when he doesn’t want to do something. Husband would say he gets this from me, but that’s because Husband is a big liar who’s always spreading lies about me.
Here’s a conversation I had with the Preschooler just 10 seconds ago:
Him: Can I have a snack?
Me: Sure. I’ll get that while you get yourself some water. Here’s a cup.
Me: But what?
Him: I have no pants on.
Me: You don’t need pants to get yourself some water.
Him: (reluctantly) Oh…okay.
The first in a long list of things one can someday hope to accomplish without pants.
Today, at Codman Farm, I had the intense displeasure of seeing the beef freezer completely empty. WTF? Why is everyone so interested in local beef all of a sudden? (P.S. This is the last time I’m sharing my local sources on the interweb.)
My consolation prize was to stock up on bacon and eggs, which, I’ll admit, did console me. Temporarily. Until I was jolted back to discomfort by the realization that, in my dreamy state, I had just allowed the Toddler to be shocked by the electric fence surrounding the goats.
Did you know that goat kids and human kids respond similarly to electric shocks? They respond quickly and without objection. And the remorse is sincere.
Parents respond, too:
Me: What kind of a mother are you?
Me: There’s no sign. Oh look, now I can see where it’s hooked up to the electricity. Wow, I bet that really…hurt.
Me: Go touch the fence.
Me: To find out how bad it was.
Me: I’m scared.
Me: Have you no maternal instinct?
Me: Look, I would gladly touch the fence if it was going to spare him pain, but I don’t really think me touching the fence after the fact is going to help anyone.
Anyway, I didn’t touch the fence. The Toddler, with the extra sympathy he received, was back to a somewhat subdued version of his normal self in under 60 seconds. So now I’m wondering if it would be wrong to employ electric fence technology in our own home? Like encasing the Preschooler in a cage of low voltage to keep the Toddler from beating the crap out of him every minute of every day? Any thoughts?
Last week, while doing some important business in the bathroom, I noticed a ladybug trapped between the storm windows. Normally, finding a ladybug would be cause for celebration, especially considering I have yet to redeem myself for an earlier ladybug transgression. But, my several attempts to return one to the farm have ended poorly. I had to ask myself how many ladybugs I was willing to sacrifice to right my previous wrong.
I sized up the insect:
Me: Are you getting enough to eat in there?
Me: Looks like the spiders have it pretty well locked up, huh?
Me: If I told you there was a place far, far away with an all-you-can-eat buffet of juicy bugs, all arranged by type in neat little rows, would you believe me?
Me: It takes a special kind of ladybug to survive the journey, though. It’s not for the faint of heart. Lesser beetles have died in the process. Perhaps you want to sleep on it?
Me: All right, then. If you’re still here tomorrow, I’ll take you.
Not only was the ladybug still there the next day, but she brought a friend. So, five minutes before departure, I emptied out the Preschooler’s bug house, which had half a moldy corncob and two dead corn worms inside. In went the ladybugs.
Me: If you make it there alive, I only ask that you deliver the following message. (whispers)
Then I handed them off to the Preschooler, who carried them with us to the fields and deposited them on some tomato plants. One stayed put while the other flew off in the direction of the tractor rumbling in the distance. That’s two ladybugs to replace the one we viciously stole.
That should make things even between the Farmer and I, don’t you think?
The Toddler has developed his own code names for the two farms we frequent most. Drumlin is the “Owl Farm,” for its rehabilitated birds on display that the Toddler is so fond of. Codman is known as the “Donkey Farm” for reasons I think we’ve already covered. The two farms are close to each other and have a lot of the same animals, not to mention a lot of the same letters in their names and the same number of syllables. Frankly, I was getting them confused myself. This makes it easier.
The Toddler was excited about going to the Owl Farm today, it being farmshare day and all, except he called it the “owlshare.”
Mmmmmmm, owlshare. What a great idea! They offer three different varieties of owl, no less. Hawk, too. I wonder if it would be PYO? If so, I would steer clear of the Great Horned Owl. He doesn’t let you out of his sight for even one second. (Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping? It’s daytime.) The tiny, napping Screech Owl would be easier to catch, although it’s going to be slim pickings when he gets divided up 45 ways.
Owlshare. If only. Personally, I had my eye on the pheasant.
We had a really great time last week. This is actually the second year we’ve had a good vacation, so I think the karmic debt owed to us after the Great Vacation Disaster of 2006 has been settled at long last.
We rented a small cottage in Brewster, not far from where we got married, with just a short walk to the beach. The weather was perfect the whole time, raining only at night, and we never ran out of things to do with the kids: fishing at Nickerson State Park, mini-golf, checking the lobster traps on Grandpa P’s boat. And, of course, the beach.
Husband had fun building vast sandcastle compounds with serpentine waterways and canals. This is not the most elaborate one he made. The kids would then populate it with moon snails, hermit crabs, and little fish they found in the tidal pools. I particularly enjoyed the spectacle that would occur when we threw an empty snail shell into the hermit crab pool and they would squabble over the new real estate. As hermit crabs grow, they need bigger shells. Once one wins the epic battle for the trophy house of his dreams, he switches. Then, another shell becomes available and it’s chaos all over again. It was recycling at its most hilarious. Later, the tide would reclaim them all as it inched its way back in.
An oyster farm, only visible at low tide. It seemed like the folks at family-run Brewster Oyster were out there every day tending their charges. Oysters take about three years to reach market size. They sell locally to restaurants like the Brewster Fish House, a favorite spot where we got to have dinner one night without the kids.
This place only has about a dozen tables, but we try to come here every year despite the wait. Their lobster bisque is unlike any other: a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, and chock full of meaty chunks of lobster instead of being puréed into oblivion. Now I’m spoiled forever. Thanks a lot, Brewster Fish House.
We caught frogs and polliwogs at Flax Pond at Nickerson. We did not eat them.
In Eastham, we noticed a sign for fresh-picked corn from Log Cabin Farm. Corn in Massachusetts in the second week of July? I don’t think so. I gave them the third degree despite my limited farm knowledge. They weren’t lying, though. Their farmer covers 15 acres of his corn with black plastic to create an outdoor greenhouse. The woman running the stand said they had corn on July 4th weekend.
So, of course, I had to buy some. What we didn’t eat that night, I stripped from the cob and made into a corn and bean salad to eat with grilled striper the next day.
The most successful meal of the vacation. The kids loved it just as much as the adults. Earlier that afternoon, I had made my way to Breakwater Fish & Lobster on what turned out to be only the second day of the commercial fishing season for striped bass. The woman at the counter winked at me and asked, “What took you so long?”
I wonder how long it will be before this post-vacation glow disappears?
I’ve been hankering for cherries ever since I saw that recipe in Food & Wine. The one with the port-soaked cherries over ricotta. That’s not the kind of thing you can mention in passing and then expect a girl to go about her daily chores in a focused way. No, not when there are cherry trees to locate.
But who in Massachusetts grows cherries? Anyone? Let me save you some legwork. YES. Carver Hill Orchard in Stow does. And so we went.
Tractors are always popular with the kids. Especially shiny, red ones.
We found grasshoppers in the tall grass next to the strawberry fields. I already have my source for strawberries, though, and you can’t tell me that anyone grows them better.
Now it’s like Christmas Day for me. Rainier cherries, sweet and delicious. We filled a quart and then picked up a pint of Bings from their farm store. Those came from their other orchard where the wind from one of those crazy thunderstorms we’ve been having lately knocked them all down.
Last week may have been it for cherry-picking, but you can pick your own peaches around the last week of July so mark your calendars. They have apple-picking, too, in season of course. This is the same orchard that makes the Box Hill apple cider that Russo’s stocks. Quite good. They also have an ice cream stand, as if grasshoppers, toads, and tractors aren’t enticement enough.
Carver Hill Orchard, Rt. 62 West, Brookside Ave., Stow, MA, 978-897-6117.
Lately, I’ve been taking the kids fishing on the Charles. One of the benefits of my by-now-long-forgotten jogging regimen is that I was able to scope out some nice fishing spots. You wouldn’t normally think to look behind your supermarket, and yet, at least where I live, you’d be surprised by what you find back there.
The Preschooler has his own little fishing pole with an easy push-button reel and a bobber. I think we got it at Target. For bait, we use hot dogs from the conveniently located grocery store. We stand on a dock or the riverbank, plunk it in, and just wait for something to happen. And when nothing does, we resort to watching the cormorants sun themselves, counting ducklings, and looking for turtles. We catch nothing, but I don’t really care because it’s fun.
Sometimes I use Husband’s fancy-schmancy fishing rod and cast out with a lure, reeling it in with a rhythm that mimics nothing in nature, and praying to God that I don’t get the line tangled up in something, as I’m wont to do. Then, I’d have no choice but to cut the line, and I have no idea how to rig that thing back up again so Husband won’t notice that I’ve been messing with his stuff.
Husband is the fisherman in the family, having fished with his grandfather since he was a kid. Years ago, he offered to teach me how to fish and I could barely contain myself. Fishing seemed like the perfect activity for me. You can get lost in your thoughts for hours at a time while still getting credit for doing something productive. Plus, you get to be outside, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with dinner.
But bad things happen when spouses try to teach each other anything. God forbid we actually learn something from one another at this point in our marriage. For example, I should be learning how to listen carefully and follow instructions, instead of doing what I damn well please. Meanwhile, he should be learning how to be patient, but at the same time not be condescending, which, apparently, is very difficult to do. We always end up driving home in a huff.
However, the whole family went fishing last weekend at Spy Pond in Arlington. The kids had a blast wading in the most-likely-quite-unsanitary water, Husband caught a couple of fish, and I caught my first. See? I can learn things. So, yesterday, I brought the kids back to the banks of the Charles with my newfound confidence, and guess how many fish we caught?
THIRTEEN! Twelve sunfish and a bass. All were dehooked and released (I’m not eating any Charles River fish). The kids are going to get entirely the wrong idea about fishing, but we still had the best time.
Boy, do I need to get out without them more often. I felt so light and unencumbered. And it seemed so unbelievably quiet without the whining and the screaming. I mean, yeah, other people’s horrible children were nearby, but they were not my responsibility. And when I ignored them, it actually worked.
The weather was perfect: breezy and cool, with blue sky resting on big, puffy clouds. I saw birds. I saw ladybugs. I even saw the Farmer going back and forth on his tractor. I was careful to wait until he was facing away to blow kisses in his direction, and then pretend like I was too busy with my important berry-picking to notice him on his return trip. Farmer who? I’m sorry, I’m not aware of any farmers in the vicinity.
When I was done stuffing my face with strawberries, the timing worked out just right so that the tractor would be carrying the Farmer toward the end of the rows just as I was walking by. I considered just standing there in his way to see what would happen, but he’s a very focused worker and I‘m not in his good graces as it is. Instead, to increase the odds of acknowledgment, I joined a gaggle of little boys and their Tractor Fan Club, and waved along with them. He waved back. Hooray!
Soon we will be wed.
The Preschooler told the funniest joke yesterday:
Him: It’s April today.
Me: (sigh) For the ninetieth time, it’s June.
Him: No, it’s April. ……APRIL FOOL’S!!!
Is that funny to anyone else or just his mom?
Of course, there were quite a few flops leading up to that one, and then so pleased was he with my reaction, twice as many afterwards, including this one:
Him: It’s April today.
Me: Already? Is the kitchen done, yet?
That’s my little optimist!
Ah, but it’s getting there. Only the trim and cabinets to go. Do I hear July?
The ladybug was doing quite well up until yesterday, the day when he was to be returned to the farm. The Preschooler had diligently provided spinach and lettuce leaves peppered with aphids each day, along with just enough water to keep his worms and the other bugs in his mini-ecosystem happy. He slept with his transparent bug bucket at the head of his bed every night despite my better judgment. And even though my dad tried to drown every living creature inside with a Katrina-like deluge when I wasn’t looking, I was able to downgrade the storm to a Category Two before any long-term damage was sustained. Or so I thought.
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the ladybug seemed fine. By 10:30 a.m., he was not fine at all, having fallen from his perch at the top of the bug bucket into the muddy soil below like a tiny, discarded strawberry. I tried to soften the blow to the Preschooler by explaining that he must have been an old ladybug. After all, the Preschooler had just guided a dozen ladybug larvae through the pupa stage and beyond a month earlier. I assured him that the ladybug didn’t die from lack of love.
But really, Ladybug, you couldn’t have held out for just a few more hours? This was not going to endear me to the Farmer, who, by my calculations, had 350 more aphids than usual to contend with. The story was supposed to end with our triumphant return to the farm, ladybug in tow. The Preschooler would release him into the wild with a bittersweet flourish, thereby learning a valuable lesson about love and letting go, while the Farmer would bestow upon me a knowing look that I would interpret as his pledge to be my backup husband. Instead, it was almost as if the ladybug was making some sort of grand statement. A refusal to be a pawn in the elaborate lover’s games of another species. Leave it to me to find the one principled ladybug.
I didn’t want to return to the farm empty-handed (more for the Preschooler’s delicate pride than my own, I swear), so I spent some undisclosed amount of time outside looking for a replacement ladybug. Normally, you can’t walk three paces without being swarmed by ladybugs, but you just try looking for one when you really need it. I was not successful.
So, I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson from all this. If you ever find a ladybug in your CSA produce, don’t tell your farmer.
You may be wondering how my long-awaited CSA pickup went yesterday.
Picture this. It’s been a day of unrelenting rain, but as the kids and I approach the downhill slope leading to the tent, it suddenly stops. The sun peeks through the clouds. A giant rainbow forms before my very eyes. The 2008 Summer CSA Theme Song is playing in my head at top volume. The kids start running down the hill. I catch sight of the Farmer, so I start running, too. The kids fall down. I hurdle right over them. And then, just as I’m about to launch myself into the Farmer’s unsuspecting arms (cue sound of record player needle scratching across vinyl), another CSA member starts talking to me, blocking my trajectory.
Well, I didn’t want to be rude, so we exchanged pleasantries. But all the while, I could sense the Farmer withdrawing and eventually disappear. No, wait. Come back. He did eventually come back, but our long and passionate embrace only took place in my mind. So, yeah, it’s pretty hard to live up to my expectations at this point.
I was bagging my 4 heads of lettuce, bok choy, radishes, and spinach, when I noticed a bright red ladybug on one of the leaves. I quickly handed it over to the Preschooler, for he loves insects with a fervor that even I would find hard to understand. He ran over to show the Farmer who, in his calm way, suggested that he leave the ladybug on the farm to do his good work eating aphids.
I could tell by the crestfallen expression on the Preschooler’s face that this was never part of his agenda. He planned to add the ladybug to his cache of inchworms he collected over the weekend, along with some woodlice and a shield bug I captured for him yesterday, and we would all live happily ever after in a house infested with bugs.
There was no way around it. I would have to take sides. But whose? In one corner was the Preschooler doing his best not to burst into tears while I made a convincing argument for letting the ladybug go. In the other corner was the Farmer looking particularly devastating. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Why, yes. Yes, it does.
I ran some quick numbers in my head, and the Preschooler kept coming out on top. I banged on my calculator really hard, but numbers are numbers. We would be taking the ladybug home no matter what. How many aphids can one ladybug eat, anyway? (Note: turns out ladybugs can eat as many as 50 aphids per day. Crap.) Still, I got the Preschooler’s back while he absconded with his prisoner.
On the drive home, I brokered the following deal. We’d keep the ladybug for a week, feeding him aphids from our spinach, and if he survived the noise and chaos of our home, we’d return him to the farm next week.
Or. Or maybe I’ll hold that ladybug hostage until some ransom demands are met.
Shockingly, that CBS piece on supporting local farmers does seem to have run, though it appears it was demoted from national news to local Oregon news. Which is fine by me. I only know a few people in Oregon.
The segment came out much better than what I was envisioning, that’s for sure. The idea of eating locally was not portrayed as completely wacko, but rather somewhat sensible, which is a refreshing change of pace in the mainstream media. I must reluctantly extend props to CBS.
You'll find the video here, but you are under no obligation to watch it. If you do, just remember what I said about the hair. I could have brushed it, sure, but then I would have been misrepresenting myself. I’m just keeping it real.
Other notes: Only bacon could make me forget that I was on camera. Thankfully, they cut the orgasm part out. The Toddler was so sweet and well-behaved that day that it appears that I've been lying about his daily antics. I am not. But, I'm glad we have some smiles to save for posterity. And at the end, the great food discovery they made mention of me making in my own backyard was this: I’m a shitty gardener. I pulled the only three red tomatoes off of the only three surviving plants in my yard that weren’t weeds. But, shhhh. I think you’re supposed to draw a different conclusion.
So, that's my moment of fame. Let’s just stick to print from now on, shall we? Speaking of which, the written transcript of the segment is entertaining if you enjoy the butchery of the English language as much as I do. Points for finding all the typos (hint: there’s more than two). Also, they gave Husband my maiden name (I win!).
[Update 6/9/08: It did run nationally. Here's the proof. Well, I'll be damned.]
So, I haven’t started painting, yet. Some might say I’m procrastinating. Some might say I’m just doing an extra good job with my prep work. Cleaning, spackling, sanding, caulking. Who doesn’t love caulk? Still others might say it was just too glorious of a long weekend to stay indoors. All good theories. All correct.
Since the painting hasn’t officially started, I figure I can cheat on my forced vacation. Also, because the Preschooler was in his usual good form at lunch the other day, and I don’t want to forget. Per Husband’s transcription service:
Him: Daddy, why does the sky get dark?
Husband: You mean at night?
Husband: Well, the earth is turning all the time. During the day, the place we live on the earth is facing the sun, so it’s bright. But then the earth turns around so we’re facing away, like in a shadow, so it’s dark. And for people who live on the other side of the earth, like in China, it’s daytime for them.
Him: (long pause and pondering) You mean the China people only come out at night?
Yes, son, exactly. That’s why we lock the doors.
The mealtime battles with the Toddler continue. Here, Husband tries a new approach:
Husband: Aren't you going to eat your sandwich?
Husband: Then have some pear.
Husband: Don’t you want to grow up to be big and strong like Daddy?
Husband: Oh, well. Then, I guess you’ll end up like Mommy.
Thanks. Thanks a lot.
Well, I’m surprised it took me this long to get to our second installment of Who Wants to be a Moron?, but here we are at last. As always, the object of the game is for you to make me feel better by providing SPECIFIC scenarios in which you were stupider than I was.
First, let me just say that there’s been a lot of vomit in our house lately. Just the Toddler’s, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in volume and frequency. As a result, nobody’s been getting much sleep around here, and the laundry and dishes have been piling up. Not a good time for a major appliance to break.
The trouble started with a jeweled goblet (doesn’t it always?). We got one for each kid at a medieval-themed birthday party over the weekend. The Preschooler became so enamored with his goblet that he has since requested that all of his beverages be supplied in a vessel encrusted with rhinestones. Luckily, our entire house is constructed of rhinestones, so this is not a problem.
For some reason that even I can’t understand, it ended up in the dishwasher. By my own hand. (The left is blaming the right, and the right is blaming the left, but I know my precious left hand would never do such a thing.)
Does this look dishwasher-safe to you?
How about now?
The gems have mysteriously disappeared, which may explain the horrible grinding sound emanating from the dishwasher motor. It's worse than fingernails against a chalkboard. I’m sure the trolls that live deep within the manifold (kin to the sock-stealing trolls that inhabit the dryer) are dancing a gleeful jig right now, proclaiming, “We’re rich! We’re rich! We’ll never work again!”
In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how to break the news to Husband. Maybe I’ll just wait until he reads it on my blog!
So, spill it, people. Has anyone ever destroyed a major appliance in a more idiotic fashion? Please spare me no details. I need something to carry me through all of the dishwashing that lies ahead of me. In keeping with the bacon prize theme, I have some lovely bacon band-aids for the person who has the best story. Ah, the healing power of pork products…
Today, my Dad came over to play with the kids, so I made him a very manly hot pastrami sandwich (hold the frisée), along with blackberries from Guatemala and sugar snap peas from god knows where. Both kids were happily munching on their pea pods when my Dad declared himself to be done. With a big pile of untouched snap peas on his plate.
Him: What’s for dessert?
Me: For you? Nothing. You didn’t eat your peas.
Him: I had a bite. I don’t like them.
Me: You don’t like peas? But you ate them in the artichoke risotto just last week. Remember how you were picking out all the artichokes, and I asked if there was a single vegetable on earth that you liked, and you said peas?
Him: Yeah, cooked. Not raw and still in the womb.
Me: But they’re really good this way.
Him: I like my vegetables cooked. I don’t eat sushi peas.
(Swear to god, he said “sushi peas.”)
Me: Kids, do you think Poppi should get dessert if he doesn’t eat his peas?
Me: Sorry, Dad, those are the rules.
Him: How about this? How about I just get back in my car, turn around, and go home?
Me: …Tell me again what flavor of ice cream you wanted...
Free babysitting. That’s why tough love doesn’t work on your parents.
Dear Fellow Grocery Shoppers,
Sorry for the horrific scene at the supermarket today. I don’t usually lose my temper like that in public, but one’s own offspring are experts in staking out the boundaries between sanity and what lies beyond it so that they may be the first to map out this uncharted territory. And then use it for extortion later on in life.
I know your Very Important Buying Decisions aren’t made any easier by the sounds of two wailing children. Believe me, it’s louder where I’m standing. (Except for the old lady with the hearing aid turned up to maximum. I know you didn’t see that one coming.) But the lesson they have to learn is that the rules aren’t going to change no matter how much they scream. Or at least that’s the lesson the Toddler needs to learn.
I don’t like scenes. I go to great lengths to avoid scenes. It’s possible that the Toddler has figured this out. But if the choice boils down to teaching a valuable lesson that makes some noise or giving in on an important point just to keep everyone happy, well, sometimes the unpleasant thing is the responsible choice. They can learn the lesson from me now, or from someone else much later. Someone who doesn’t love them nearly as much as I do.
And did you notice that we got through checkout with nary a peep? That’s right. I expect our next shopping trip will go much more smoothly.
Enjoy your Ho Hos. Good day.
We’ve been letting the kids watch parts of the BBC’s Planet Earth series as a refreshing break from trains with creepy faceplates. Despite the documentary being gorgeously shot, some of it is hard to watch, even for a cold-hearted person like myself.
One example: the migrating gray whale and her calf who are being stalked by a large pack of killer whales (warning: spoiler). The killer whales spend 3 HOURS chasing the pair, ramming them and trying to separate baby from mother, until the calf is so exhausted that the mother tries desperately to nudge the little one toward the surface and balance him on her back so he can take a breath.
Since there are no happy endings in nature, I inevitably found myself screaming at the television, “I FUCKING HATE YOU, KILLER WHALES,” but only in my mind since I was trying to be brave for the children. But, god, it really makes you question your fortitude as a mother. Would I have fought so valiantly in the same situation? Because I can barely swim a complete lap without getting winded, and that’s without killer whales chasing me.
So the Preschooler and I have been talking a lot about nature (or at least the two or three things I’ve observed from my perch in a suburban window). My fall-back line has been, “Sometimes things like that happen in nature,” as if nature is something separate from ourselves, safely viewed from behind a screen.
But, some things, you can tell, are starting to click:
Him: Tigers are predators, right?
Him: And killer whales are predators?
Me: Uh-huh. (stupid, goddamned killer whales)
Him: So, are we predators, too?
Me: Yes, that’s true.
Him: Because we eat meat?
Him: What animal does bacon come from? (Wait a minute. He knows the answer to this question. Where is he going with this?)
Me: Bacon comes from pigs.
Him: Where does ham come from?
Me: Also from pigs.
Him: Where does lamb come from?
(ALERT! ALERT! TRICK QUESTION.)
Me: Also from pigs. No more questions.
Hypocrisy is a dish best served cold.
The other day as I was making dinner, the Preschooler was rambling on and on about something, so I proceeded to turn the elevator music in my head up to its highest volume. After a while, he got all up in my face and asked me point blank, “Are you listening to me?” To which I replied, “I’ll listen to you as soon as you’re quiet.” (Not one of my Top Ten parenting days.)
Alas, the quiet the never came: “Blah, blah, blah…book…blah, blah, blah… soup…blah, blah, blah…rocks from outside.” Then he shoved his book, Stone Soup, two inches from my face. I had recently bought him that book because I remember the story from when I was a kid. About how a whole village comes together around a common meal. Someone starts with a pot of rocks and water, and, bit by bit, with everyone’s generosity and cooperation, it evolves into something delicious.
I also liked the illustrations in this particular version by Jon J Muth, but we hadn’t had the chance to sit down and read it all the way through, yet.
Anyway, the Preschooler was very excited about the prospect of making stone soup. Since he never likes soup, I figured I’d better indulge him if I wanted to make any progress on that front. I told him to sit down (quietly) and make a shopping list. So, he did, diligently copying down the ingredients on each page. The list seemed long, but I didn’t care because I like quiet. Plus, I figured we already had most of what we’d need: onions, carrots, celery, maybe a potato or two.
Here is the list he brought over:
Oh, good. And I cursed that book. There was a second column, too, with such things as lily buds, lychee nuts, and steamed buns. But, at least we had the rocks.
The next day, we made a special trip to the Asian market to get supplies. They were fresh out of cloud ear, taro root, winter melon, and pea pods (WTF?), but I explained that that’s the beauty of stone soup. You make it with whatever there is, it’s different every time, and it’s always delicious. God, I thought, I hope I’m right.
Back home, the Preschooler stayed with me throughout the entire cooking process (highly unusual). We sautéed the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots in a big pot. We added, like, 10 cups of water (in case we had to share with the other villagers). We threw in two well-scrubbed stones the Preschooler picked out, diced yams, shredded cabbage, a can of baby corn, soy sauce, rice wine, loads of salt and pepper, and a bit of cayenne. We simmered that for a little while, then added noodles and pork dumplings from the market’s handy freezer section. Then, we added enoki mushrooms and diced tofu. And when it came off the heat, we stirred in mung bean sprouts. I was sure there was no freaking way this kid was going to eat this soup.
BUT HE DID. I very nearly crapped myself. He ate three spoonfuls of broth PLUS he fished out a noodle PLUS a baby corn PLUS a piece of tofu. Tofu. Who among us here on the Internet even likes tofu? (He said it looked like cheese but didn’t taste like anything.) And, I’ll be honest, both Husband and I really enjoyed this soup. Enough that we said to hell with the rest of this damned village. No one ever makes soup for us.
That’s the spirit.
As I mentioned, it was raining over the weekend, and so, naturally, we decided to go to Codman Farm. This is my emergency rainy day go-to spot when the kids need to burn some energy. The meat freezers are in a big barn with hay and plenty of space to run around and get some fresh air while I debate with myself whether or not to buy the giant $14 bag of suet.
This should really be a no-brainer. Yes, buy the suet and relive the golden, olden days of McDonald’s french fries in your very own home. And, yet, can I justify a bag that big? Although, when it melts down, it probably would all fit in a single pot. But, still, $14 for one batch of fries? Can you reuse suet the way you reuse oil or does it go rancid? God, where’s the Pseudo-Chef when you really need her?
Anyway, I have this conversation with myself every time we go, and every time I get home I think, why the fuck didn’t I buy that suet? I will never learn. In the meantime, the kids have had fun and we usually see an animal or two. Which brings me to the real reason for this post. Asses.
Behold, once again, the Preschooler:
Me: See the donkey over there?
Him: Yeah. That’s a nice ass.
Me: Um, what? (Who is he talking to and how many years have just elapsed?)
Him: An ass is what I call a donkey.
Me: Well, that’s true. That is another name for them, I guess. But, people usually just call them donkeys.
Him: Well, I like to call them asses.
(How can I, of all people, really argue with creative license?)
Me: Okay, but here’s the thing. Ass is also a naughty word for butt. And the donkey might think that we’re calling him a butt, which isn’t a very nice thing to say.
Well, that was easy. I don’t think I’ll have any such luck with the f word.
Him: How do you make cheese?
Me: Well, first you take milk, and then you cook it. And, um, well…(god, I should really know this. How DO you make cheese, again?). You mix it with some stuff, then you kind of squish it down until you get cheese. And then you can eat it just like that, or you can put it in a cave for a little while where it’s nice and cool.
Him: A cave?
Him: With bears?
Me: Well, they try to pick a cave without bears. Otherwise, they’d eat all the cheese.
Him: Oh. Why don’t they put it in the refrigerator, instead?
Me: Hmmm. Good question. I guess cheesemakers are just really, really dumb.
I didn’t really say that, for crying out loud. But, now that I mention it, why are cheesemakers so dumb? Roaming the wilderness in search of caves, bears waiting to ambush them at every turn, when there’s a perfectly good, mold-free fridge right there?
The Preschooler is such an earnest little guy, yet he still manages to freak me out sometimes. Grab some popcorn and let’s watch:
Him: What are those things called?
Me: What things?
Him: They’re people.
Him: They look just like us, but they’re brown.
Me: …Uh… (oh, god)
Him: Sometimes they sing. Like in Shrek.
Me: …Urgh… (we’re not in public, are we?)
Him: And you cook them and eat them?
Me: … (oh, shit, what have I been teaching this child?)
Him: Wait, I know. Gingerbread men!
Me: Oh, thank god.
Him: Can we make some?
Me: Yes! RIGHT NOW. I don’t care if it’s March.
Turns out the only racist in this family is me.