Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween, Part 2-Got Candy?

It's a good thing we took the kiddos for their first trip to the dentist yesterday because today we ate more candy than they've had in a lifetime. More on the dentist some other time because it seems somehow inappropriate to talk positively about a profession that deems raisins too chewy and sweet on a day devoted to the consumption of much more indulgent treats.

And indulge we did. Starting at about 8:45 this morning. After testing the sweet potato bars I made for the playgroup party this morning, we kicked off the holiday with lollipops on the way to the party. Now, I want to begin this by saying we have tried to raise DD and DS in as gender neutral a way as possible, all things considered. They didn't really wear pink and blue as babes and we have all sorts of toys generally associated with each gender. We even go so far sometimes as to reverse it. That's not to say we're going to be gender-blind but we are trying to be as sensitive and stereotype free as possible. That said, DD thinks only she should have pink things and DS should have blue. This color specificity has reared its ugly head with pajamas, snack cups, and now lollipops. Because the mystery lollipop in the reddish-pink wrapper she choose today turned out to be blue. And DS had a pink one. She cried for a switch all the way to the party, eventually tossing her blue one into the nether regions of the minivan. DS was content with his and finished it before we arrived.

The party itself was a delight, with all of our little friends cheerfully arrayed in a variety of costumes. Ours were pretty much the only ones homemade. And pretty much the only ones that didn't get warned. Is that just a coincidence?

This evening was the culmination of the festivities--four parties later and it was actually Halloween! We had eaten candy all over the county, worn and not worn our costumes on several occasions, and practiced "trick or treat" and "thank you" ad infinitum. DD, warming my own heart, was eager to get dressed and go get candy, while brother took an extra 20 minutes to eat his taco dinner. While we waited for DS to finish up, DD insisted I wear my own costume as a witch (actually a Hogwarts professor, complete with my own knitted Gryffindor scarf, but few people caught on) so I donned my undergraduate graduation robes and a pointy hat. Eventually, off we went.

It only took one house for DD to have a complete grasp of the Halloween concept. She rushed up to the highly decorated door of our neighbor's house and jubilantly called "trick or treat" long before they made it to the storm door. She also proudly announced at this, and all the other houses, "we're jaguars!" Usually before being asked. Which worked fine for me--guesses such as chocolate chip cookie and puppy dog and lion were starting to demoralize me (since it was my costume design and execution).

Indeed, so well did she understand her role in the fulfillment of the holiday ritual that she was a bit dismayed when the children in the second house ran out to meet her with candy before she could say her lines. She took it anyway, though. Of course.

And where was DS in all of this? Well, he shone at the next house, on the step of our friend G. Her kids were gathering with the rest of the neighborhood gang, which we were fortuitously in time to join, and she sat on the steps with a big bowl of candy. DS siddled up to her and began to reach for the lollipop sticking out. And then he saw another and another, which he kept putting in the bag. Much to my horror. DP encouraged me to hold my tongue (after I had apologized several times and even put some of the pops back) as he literally sat down next to G, who found this hysterically funny, and began stealthily grabbing each white stick he could find. And what good eyes he has! We'd think he'd gotten them all and he'd extract another one, something like an expert player in that game with those really thin rods built into a towering pile (pick up sticks?). And he was so quiet, trying not to attract any attention. Other kids came and went but DS sat there unfazed, gathering the little lollipops unto himself. Maybe he should've been Swiper!

DD was in her element too. She got her pieces of candy, preferring the white boxes of the Junior Mints, and then checked on the other kids, "you got candy?" And she'd pass out G's, and later other people's, candy to those around her, peering into their bags to make sure everything was copacetic. She finally tired of this and rushed ahead to the next house to get more candy. It was only because she was smaller than the others and not as surefooted on steps that she wasn't the first to the door everytime.

I thought it was wonderful that our kiddos hooked up with the big group and trick or treated as a gang, even posing for pictures on the steps of one house. It reminded me of my own childhood Halloweens with all our neighborhood friends. The mild weather (at about 68F) was even the same, even if the fall colored leaves and architecture were completely different. It's a prime example of why we moved to the burbs and wanted to raise children here. I should say, though, that in my child's mind we would walk for hours and miles getting tons of candy. While my kids were the youngest and therefore turned back early tonight, the older kids still didn't get "all the way" to my house down the block, too worn out by it all. So we have lots of candy I don't like leftover. But all the playdough I bought is gone, having been extremely popular with both the toddler and teenage set.

So, we did head home early, with DD twirling her jaguar ears around as a magic wand and DS stopping by G's house to get some more lollipops. We spent the rest of the holiday on the porch with the candy spread all over the (now sticky) exercise trampoline, talking to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and hopping up every now and then to pass out candy to the visitors to our own house. DD sampled every bit of candy they got (while we quickly weeded out the ones she couldn't try, like the ones with peanuts. And our own personal favorites.) She tried Dots and Starburts, Kit Kats and M&Ms, skittles and tootsie rolls, usually taking a small bite and then putting the rest back on the trampoline. There were little colored candies everywhere. She even fed me, passing along an M&M or Skittle between her own samples. But DD was the funny one: he unwrapped every single last lollipop from G's, took various licks, often held 3 or 4 in his hands at once, and then piled them up for safe-keeping. By bath time, they'd found their way into the front of the miniature Good Humor ice cream truck scooter we have.

And despite the sugar high, the babes are in bed and DP herself snores next to me. Our black cats are safe in their room, having celebrated what we consider the official holiday of black cats everywhere with their own big bowl of wet can food. All is well.

Now if I just had one of DS's lollipops . . .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes, II

Setting: our minivan in the driveway
Action: DS climbing into the front seat to "drive" despite strict instructions to get in his car seat
Mommy: "You are in trouble."
DD (sitting admirably and enviously in her car seat): "I want to be in trouble."

Out of the Mouths of Babes

This from DD on the monitor, the red lights of which indicate that no sleeping is happening (or has been in the 20+ minutes of singing and playing and reading; there was a long debate about which nursery rhyme to sing):

"I might be tired? We might be tired? I am very tired. I need my pillow."

Then after much exchanging of pillows and stuffed animals, DS asserts, "Mommy, I'm awake."

Not DD: "I'm not awake."

Segregation

Well, my daughter is pro-segregation. She absolutely cannot abide by different foods co-mingling on a plate, heaven forbid touching. It's gotten to the point that if we have more than one thing for dinner--in courses (because my timing is usually off and veggies take longer than I ever remember)--she wants a new plate. Now, I can't imagine where this got started. I think it's developmental. I definitely remember not liking my food to touch or putting more than one type of food on a utensil at the same time (the exception being gravy for that purpose)--and I must have been old enough to remember. I definitely remember my father saying, "it all goes to the same place." Not the point, as I recall. So, I'm not annoyed by this new habit just curious.

My dear son couldn't care less. In fact, he seems to go out of his way to mix foods--dipping anything in whatever sauce or condiment is on his plate. This morning for snack (we're testing dairy), he dipped string cheese in vanilla yogurt. This afternoon, after hot dogs, it was carrots and grapes in the leftover ketchup.

Good thing DD doesn't really watch him eat. She'd have an apoplectic fit.

And truthfully, I'm not sure I'd blame her at all.

At least she didn't see him dip the animal cookies in ketchup!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Body Electric

(I think the title of this post dates me. Who out there is singing Irene Cara now? And, yes, I know, it's really Whitman.)

I had a revelation about my body today. Several, actually. It was my first physical therapy appointment. Ever. Since the babes, I've had abdominal and back aches, no doubt due to the various surgeries (2 hernia repairs, c-section with ovarectomy) and, well, carrying and carying for babes. It's been worse since Memorial Day, when I threw out my back while, get this, sitting down.

And today I found out why.

I had thought it was a weight problem. And of course it is, but I've lost more than 50 lbs (if you count from the moment before the babes were born), more like 35 of non-baby weight and I've felt worse than I did at my highest (even my highest pregnant) weight.

Turns out that losing some weight complicated all the muscles issues I'm having. In fact, losing the weight meant losing some of the support that was keeping my muscles from hurting. I have a diastasis, which means my abdominal wall is split down the middle at the linea alba. Mine is three fingers in width! Wow. This of course can cause more hernias. But it also adds to the weakness of all the other abdominal muscles. And my back.

But it also turns out that I am what you call hyper-flexible. Which means I can, with no warm up stretches or anything, lay my hands flat on the floor from a standing position, and other various loose muscle tricks. This is great for gymnasts and such, but not good when your muscles are weak and you have other issues. So, I'm a loose rubber band, with no real muscles to hold everything together.

Also my hips are not aligned properly. One is higher than the other, and not just in the way everyone is uneven. So, all that waddling that I've always done (so much for corrective shoes and walking around the backyard "heel-toe") that people think is a sore foot or a limp, is just the uneveness of it all. Which in turn leads to back trouble.

All in all, I need help and my PT can help me. And it doesn't sound like it will take too long to see some results. Though, I must say, even doing the two pretty minor exercises she gave me today has made me stiff and sore.

But I'm thrilled. It's like realizing I was a lesbian way back when and then watching all the disjointed pieces of my earlier life fall into place. Suddenly, body issues that go back decades suddenly make sense, have an explanation. And, in many ways, it is not my fault. Which is a huge relief. I don't waddle because I'm lazy but because I'm crooked. Fine. Great, even! No wonder I suck at P.E. No wonder I had so much ligament pain on my left side during my pregnancy. And how cool is it to be hyperflexible?! When I get this whole thing straightened out, I'm going to do more yoga!

And in the end, it's wonderful just knowing why.

"I sing the body electric. I celebrate the me yet to come."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween, Part 1

We've already had two Halloween parties--DP's office bash and our annual church potluck. The kiddos are really getting into trick or treating this year. DD especially understands the concept. She particularly understands that she has two hands so don't just give her one piece of candy. She also knows that she is not limited by the number of pieces she can hold in her two hands--this is why she has a bag--so don't try to give her just two pieces. Nope, she'll stand there saying "candy" until satisfied that's she's been treated.

Now mind you, we practiced. The kiddo says "trick or treat," and then the adult gives them something (we practiced with cat toys, socks, Fisher Price animals, whatever was on the floor nearby). Then they say "thank you." DD never got this part; she would say "trick or treat" again. Go figure.

They can't have most of the candy being distributed. It either has questionable ingredients or is a choking hazard. But that doesn't seem to matter. They don't actually care if they eat them. DS would choose the "brown" ones, even though he's never had chocolate; apparently, brown wrappers just caught his fancy. As I mentioned, DD is just interested in quantity. The exception to the rule is lollipops. Both are crazy about lollipops. Any Dum-dum will do. DS tried a Tootsie pop but he kept biting off pieces and handing them to me. DD just likes to hold the things and wave them like scepters; I'm not sure she actually tastes them.

The other questionable aspect of Halloween is the costume. Now, when they were just three months old or so, we dressed them in romper costumes--a pumpkin for DS and a black cat for DD, straight off Target's shelves--and we were good to go (though we didn't actually trick or treat, that being way past our bedtime). The second year, I had the crazy idea that they should be gnomes. With hats. Somehow I missed the cardinal rule that kids don't like to wear things on their heads (unless singing a Laurie Berkner song, A Pig on Her Head, and then it's great fun). And the key to the gnome costumes were the green and red felt-covered birthday hats. Otherwise, the little cream shirts with brown belts didn't make much sense. Why a gnome? We'd spent the summer enjoying our garden gnome and our book about gnomes. And the kids were short and cute and a pair, so why not a pair of garden gnomes? Oh, well. We didn't even get a good picture. But I still have those hats here somewhere.

About a month ago, they decided that they wanted to be jaguars. As in Mama and Baby Jaguar from, you guessed it, Diego. I waited until about a week ago to start the costumes in case they changed their minds, but they didn't. DS was going to be Mama Jaguar. DD was Baby. I don't know how they decided--and it seems backwards to me--but it is set in stone. And I was supposed to be Rescue Pack. A tan terrycloth towel, some felt spots, and a headband with ears and yarn made the costume. Easy, peasy, stinky. The glue gives off this toxic smell.

Which doesn't really matter. Because they don't wear the costumes long enough. And the only time they have, they did it without the ears and everyone thought they were chocolate chip cookies.

Does that make me the Cookie Monster?

Chicago Highlights

Today, DD played a game. She lined up her baby stroller, complete with baby, in front of an empty cardboard box, which she then crawled inside. She placed her backpack full of fake food behind her and proceeded to read her Dora books. When DP asked what she was doing, she was flying. Yep, flying to Chicago.

Three weeks out and both kiddos still talk about the trip almost daily. Sometimes, they talk about the flight and the big airplane they rode on; sometimes we remember our friend "Mike-yine" and her cats and Miss Karen's drums. We read our Good Night, Chicago book a lot and talk about seeing the train in the garden. Then there are the dinosaurs at the Field and the lions outside the Art Institute. And the Bean.

And these are just the things they talk about. But there were also several great meals--lots of Chicago hot dogs and Middle Eastern food (DD inhaled her first kebab). DP and I managed some Italian beef sandwiches (wet and sweet for me; wet and hot for her. It's a Chicago thing) when the kids fell asleep in the car (that's where all the naps happened.) And one mediocre but memorable meal at the Rainforest Cafe with another good friend and lots of animatronic animals.

The Field had a marvelous new playlab, with arts and crafts and costumes, drums and corn harvesting activity which we enjoyed with our friend "Miss Diane." They also loved the stuffed animals and dinosaurs. The Botanical Gardens, up a very familiar drive through Evanston towards Glencoe, had a G-, or garden, scale train with miniature landmarks, including several Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, made out of twigs. DS especially loved the Thomas train, while DD was fascinated by the train with pigs that passed by the schoolyard. The Art Institute was probably the most disappointing, if mainly because it was the most anticipated by me--the marvelous Kraft Education Center and family exhibition space downstairs has been mostly reclaimed for storage because so many of the treasures of the museum are down while the new modern wing is being built. So, there was nowhere for the kids to play, really, being too short to see the Thorne Room miniatures well, while I viewed my favorite galleries. Which worked out fine because so much of the art I liked was off view anyway. Including all the armor and most of the pre-19th century works.

But, I did walk my children through their first real art museum, which was a highlight. DD and I examined Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day and talked about umbrellas. DS liked Monet's train painting and Renoir's image of a lady at a piano. Neither really liked Shukongo-Jin, the Japanese guardian figure (too scary) but did like the T'ang funerary ceramics, especially the lady on the horse. It was one of the hardest tours I've ever given! The first of many, I hope.

In addition to the first art museum and first kebab, there was our first real train ride, on the "el." We did the Loop, which both fascinated and frightened the kiddos. DS's mouth was agape the whole time. And DD insisted she sit in the seat, too unnerved by the swaying to stand up and look out the window. Until she did get up and then stood holding onto the pole just like any other pro. DP and I had to laugh, who would've thought that we would ever take the el for fun? Or with our own kids? Certainly not something we thought about during all those commutes.

We also took them to our old stomping grounds, which have been quite gentrified since we moved. But the good ol' lesbian/feminist bookstore Women and Children First is still there, though it now carries--gasp--male authors. The kiddos banged on the little piano and pulled numerous chapter books off the shelves while DP roamed the lesbian fiction and women's history sections and I searched for LGBT-friendly children's books. We came away with several, including the classic Heather Has Two Mommies.

Of course, the purpose of our trip was to visit our friends, and so the best parts were the conversations we all had, with the kiddos providing lighthearted distractions from the realities of breast cancer. Even if they don't know why we went, I think they will long remember our trip and our friends.

Good night, Chicago.

Cinco de October

It's a few days late, but I went to a wonderful, much-needed moms' night out (MNO) on Friday. The theme was Mexican, a belated Cinco de Mayo. There was wonderful dip--the cream cheese/bean/cheese/salsa mixture that I've only encountered in Connecticut (at every party I've hosted someone has brought it. Now, I thought I knew all of the Tex-Mex appetizers, having grown up in TX, but this cream cheese one is new to me. BTW, if you want a great article on Tex Mex, and how it is "native foreign food" and not real Mexican--duh--check out the recent NYTimes). Then we moved onto dinner, which featured this delicious chili including chipotle chilies in adobo sauce--this gave it this smokiness that I liked. Oddly, I recently came across a recipe featuring said ingredient and had never heard of it before. DP will like it, I'm sure. Our hostess--for hers was the chili (served with rice and FRITOS!)--then served vegetable burritos, made especially tasty by a tomato puree/cream sauce. We finished off the meal with the "Mexican" dessert coffee I brought. While I had to prep and cook some of it there (a big no-no for guests, I know), I think it turned out well. There were also tasty peanut butter-chocolate squares and brownies with ice cream. So, sure, not completely authentic, but delicioso all the same. And the company was good.

-=-=-=
Conn-Mex Party Dip

It is so easy- Spread the medium size tub of cream cheese on the bottom of a pie plate (we like Temptees brand) then spread a layer of either mild salsa OR a can of Hormel chili with beans (which ever suits your fancy) Finally sprinkle the top with Mexican shredded four cheese and bake 350 degrees until bubbly (about 25-30 min.). Serves with tortilla chips.

Mexican Dessert Coffee

1/4 cup ground dark roast coffee (regular or decaf)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 cup water
1 cup milk
1/3 cup chocolate syrup (I used Hershey's Dark)
2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream optional

Place coffee and cinnamon in filter basket of coffeemaker. Add water and brew as directed.In saucepan, blend milk, chocolate syrup, and sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.Combine milk mixture and brewed coffee; stir in vanilla. Garnish with whipped cream and cinnamon. Serve.

(By the way, my mom friends laughed when they saw "serve" written at the bottom of my notes. Sure. Apparently, Judith Jones thinks "set aside" is the silliest recipe instruction. I think "serve" might be.).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What's the Magic Word?

Jessica Seinfeld would be proud. In our house, the magic word is "zucchini."

I'm not exactly sure how it all started, really. We were building a castle with couch cushions on a summer day so hot that we were taking refuge in the air conditioning. I put cushion gates up and then kept asking the kids, who were stocking said castle with necessities--food and musical instruments--what the magic password was. And at some point, "zucchini" was suggested. Let it be known that DD suggested it. DS wanted "avocado." I teased them for a bit with "broccoli" but "zucchini" won out. And they thought that was hilarious. So they kept running up to the gate, beaming excitedly, and yelling out, "ZUC-CHI-NI!"

Now, it turns out, that "zucchini" is our magic word for everything. If you are trying to get them to say please by asking "what's the magic word?", you aren't going to get what you expect. If we're posing for a picture, it's not "cheese" on everyone's lips. And if you need a gate opened or a chinny-chin-chin house protected from the huffy-puffy big bad wolf, your answer is a vegetable.

And we've noticed that consumption of said vegetable has actually increased. This summer I made Summer Squash Soup and they both determinedly ate the green ones before the yellow ones. Same thing earlier this week when we were eating steamed vegetables at Longhorn Steakhouse with my folks. I think we might actually have to see about planting some next spring.

But what brings me to this today is naptime. As I've mentioned, we aren't napping very well now that we sleep in toddler beds. For the last few weeks, with Chicago and my parents visiting, we've done most of our napping in the car. But today was back to "normal." I knew it wasn't going well when they started discussing books, which meant they were no doubt both out of their beds perusing the bookshelves (which would normally make a parent proud, but not during naptime). They ended up stuffing all the thin books underneath the door, which they can no longer open since DP installed those babyproof handles this weekend (It's almost people-proof. All my art group guests today had trouble opening the door to the downstairs bathroom!).

And then I heard it, right after pleas for mommy to come open the door could be heard over the rattle of the new plastic handle cover. DD sang out the password, "Zucchini," hoping the door would magically open.

DS chimed in, "ZUCCHINI!"

And what do you know? It's magic.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bubbles of Summer

Just as the so-called "boys of summer" are only just now starting the World Series, so I am only now able to pass along the recipe for bubbles that made summer joyful.

Our second birthday party this summer was bubble themed, inspired by our favorite bubble playspace at Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk. I had baby pools filled with (admittedly store-bought) bubbles and staffed with bubble wands of all shapes and sizes. There was also a bubble machine blowing magic across the party constantly. I had hoped to have a hula hoop to dip in bubble solution and then pull up over guests standing on a stool in the middle but I never worked out all the mechanics. The hula hoop sits in the garage waiting for another use.

Though it was hot for the party, only one kid took a swim in the bubbles. And boy, did he have fun!

So, even though fall is supposed to be upon us, here's a recipe for bubbles to save for some sunny day next year.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Bubble Solution

1/2 cup dishwashing solution
1-2 tablespoons glycerin (available at pharmacies) or corn syrup (but this attracts bugs)
6 cups water

Mix together, age overnight, and have fun!

Think Pink

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month--have you done your self-exam? Do you need to schedule your annual mammogram? Mine is in 2 weeks, the beginning of November, which means I won't get any of the pink goodies I know they pass out at this time of year.

That's okay though, I have a pink bracelet which I wear for our friend whom we visited in Chicago. She has breast cancer, and now bone cancer too.

So do your BSE and, if necessary, get that mammogram and remind someone you love to do the same.

I'm Always Chasing . . . Ice Cream

One of my parents' favorite things to eat here in Connecticut is Rich Farm's ice cream. Served from a shack in an idyllic pastoral setting, complete with corn rows and cow smell, this ice cream is frozen heaven. I don't even want to know the butterfat content; it's so rich and creamy.

The babes were asleep on the ride home from the Bronx Zoo on Saturday and we decided to make the swazu for ice cream. We stopped by the house to pick up the Rice Dream vanilla "ice cream" that I had purchased just for this purpose and headed off for our own grown-up treat with the kids still miraculously asleep.

The sky was darkening and we hoped that our ice cream run wouldn't be rained out. Though we would certainly have braved a torrential downpour for caramel apple, sweet cream, toasted almond, pumpkin and the like, we didn't know if they closed the outdoor set up if it rained.

And there before us, in the quirky dark/bright dichotomy of a rainstorm in the afternoon, with the fall trees glowing in the contrast, a rainbow appeared. And not just any rainbow, but a full double-bowed arch. End to end, all the colors, twice. I've only seen one other pair of rainbows like it, on a similar stormy afternoon during a drive to a childhood friend's house. It was beautiful.

DS awoke about that time and marveled with us at the colors in the sky as we sang the rainbow songs we could think of. Unfortunately, DD missed it completely, so asleep was she.

But she awoke in time for the ice cream, enjoying two whole bowls to her brother's three, while the four adults put away 7 1/2 scoops between us.

And we all felt the rainbow was a sign that this ice cream was divine.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Mouse in the Restaurant

We do things in threes in our household. Mainly because Dora does. If you've ever watched Dora the Explorer, you'll see that her itineraries always come in threes-check the Map--you know, the place where you go when you need to ask for help. The kiddos seemed to remember the trip trios from her show so we started organizing our days tripartite-ly.

Today was "Meeting. Library. Restaurant." Easy. Though, DD kept switching the last two, mainly because she is always hungry. So we went to my Weight Watchers meeting weigh-in, which wasn't bad considering 4 days in Chicago, and then headed to meet friends at our storytime program. Which, coincidentally, had the theme of three today--three bears, three pigs, three kittens.

Afterwards, we went for lunch. And while we were there, DS became obsessed with a clock, complete with pendulum, on the nearby wall.

"Hickory Dickory Clock," he kept saying. "Hickory Dickory Clock."

And then he started asking about when it was going to chime.

"Mouse? Mouse?" Of course, where was the mouse. Now, all this seemed fine and dandy to me but the people at the next table only caught the last bit and looked concerned. So I explained to DS rather loudly that the clock wasn't quite about to chime so there was no mouse but we could sing the song.

Which one of the passing workers heard and thought was cute. So, then DS asked her where the mouse was and she replied, without missing a beat, "it's his day off."

She who Laughs, Lasts

Our trip to Chicago last week started so well in the beginning. The idea of flying excited the kiddos, who were cooperative and good-natured for the drive to the airport, the security check (they think it's funny to take off their shoes), the wait for boarding, and even the take off. Even when the flight attendant got on the microphone with tears in her eyes and a choke in her voice and the pilot announced that we were making an unscheduled landing in Albany because of a problem with an engine (read: the engine was smoking with burning oil and they had to turn it off), even when fire trucks dotted the runway and the airport was in emergency mode, the kids were fine. They like the lollipops we give them for their ears at takeoff; they like all the one on one time with a mom; they like the little houses and little cars and huge clouds. And so, when we made that emergency landing, DD yelled out "We're in Chicago!", perfectly thrilled with our little adventure. We chuckled to ourselves in irony, noticing that no one else laughed.

It was no laughing matter. We spent almost the whole day in Albany, a perfectly nice small airport. We ate all of their allergy-friendly food in the first hours and eventually gave up and started feeding the kids happy meals. We bought several sets of cars and airplanes to play in the hallway. We chatted with other passengers, particularly the Notre Dame fans who were quickly drinking themselves into merriment. We even bought souvenirs to remind us of the experience. And we waited through the rumors--they would drive us all in a bus to NYC to fly us out that night! They would drive us all in a bus back to Hartford and we could fly out in a few days! They would bring in another plane and take us all to Chicago! We decided we wouldn't go to NYC and would only head back to Hartford in a rental car after spending the night in Albany to break up the travel. DP, who had noticed the smoke and the engine shut off, thought we were crazy to get on another plane. I just wanted to get to Chicago to see our friends. And through it all, the kids barely noticed that Albany wasn't Chicago and that we weren't exactly where we wanted to be.

In fact, when they finally boarded us on a flight to Chicago late that afternoon, DD thought we had finished our outing for the day and were going home.

And then she cried on the plane all the way to Chicago.

And so did her brother.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I say Tomato . . .

So much has happened in the space of silence on my blog this last week. I'm not sure I'll ever catch up. We went to Chicago over the weekend to see some dear friends and had a wonderful time. I'll get back to all the yummy food and great times we had soon. And now my folks are in town for an extended visit so there will be lots to write about that too.

But today was just one more clear example that my son has genes that don't originate with me: he eats raw cherry tomatoes. He inhales them. He probably had 40 for lunch.

He even dips them in ketchup!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Everything's Better with Apple Butter on It

Have I mentioned that my kiddos are addicted to bread and jam? Sometimes it is very Dickensian here, "Mummy, please more hot bread. With butter." Not real butter, but natural apple butter. It's very specific--they like the bread--it's brown rice bread from the freezer section of the natural food store--hot from the microwave (it is better that way) with the crusts cut off. DD likes her bread with the apple butter on it, and apricot jam on the side. DS likes his bread with both the apricot jam (or jelly, though officially it's Polaner all-fruit preserves) and the apple butter on the side. Though, this changes morning to morning.

Okay, I know--apple butter AND apricot jam? Well, it started that one liked one, and the other liked the other. Then there was some cross-pollination and now they both like a little of both. I am careful that the spread to bread ratio favors the bread.

And sometimes the bread is in squares, and sometimes I am asked to cut them into "sticks." Recently, DD has been biting hers into train shapes.

Anyway, the other day, once all the bread, butter, and jam was distributed, I cautioned them that the bread was still hot. I think DD thought the bread had a boo-boo. Using a phrase we use when someone gets a boo-boo, DD said"Butter will make it all better" and smeared some apple butter on it.

And then he ate the whole thing in 3 bites

Sunday, October 7, 2007

You are What You Eat, Part Two

We went to the local Mexican food place today after church, encouraging the kids with stories about how Dora and Diego ate fajitas and tortillas. We encouraged DD and DS to say "hola" and "gracias" to the servers, just like their favorite explorer and animal rescuer respectively. And when the food came we said it was "caliente." Which was the opposite--a word that was the focus of a recent storytime--of "frio."

And what did DD say? "I'm a frito."

Maybe she did eat some frito chili pie the other night . . .

Friday, October 5, 2007

Frito Chili Pie

It's late here and, while I have been rehearsing in my head my post on "white trash food" and this title would seem to be heralding such a post, it's just going to be a short ode to Frito Chili Pie.

Now, I'm not going to engage in the constant, endless debate on what constitutes chili. I'll say, to borrow a phrase, that I know what I like. And most Texans would say what I like ain't chili. I like ground meat, not stew meat. I like it with tomatoes. I like, gasp, beans in my chili. I don't care for veggies in it, or mole. I will eat it over lots of things--crunched up saltine crackers with shredded cheddar cheese is a family tradition; over rice with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese was called jambalaya for 12 years of public school. I have never had it over spaghetti like in Cincinnati but I'm game to try it. But the way I like best is over Fritos.

It amazes me that Frito Chili pie hasn't caught on everywhere--my mommy friends up here had never heard of it when I served it at a playgroup and kept needing instructions on what to do with the Fritos. And I didn't even serve it the traditional way, which is actually a ladleful of chili poured over the opened small pouch of Fritos. We had it at school, football games, fairgrounds, you name it. But those mommies loved it and I even got talked into hosting a second Frito Chili Pie Playgroup.

It's the ultimate social food for me, a fun food, a fall and winter food. So even though it's been summer up here in the Northeast, I made a batch of chili this week. This is cheater's chili--it only takes a bit to throw together and relies on, please don't tell a soul, a packaged mix and canned beans. But as I've confessed, I'm no Wick Fowler purist. I think I like the kind of chili we used to get at school. Over Fritos. And this is the closest I can get to it.

I will say, it was a disappointment to me that DD and DS did not see the beauty of the dish, especially because they love Fritos (can I tell you how excited I was when I found an easy-to- locate snack food they can eat?) and ground turkey. They wouldn't even try it, DD because of the beans, DS because of DD.

I'm hoping they'll come around.

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My Playgroup Frito Chili Pie

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can Ranch style beans (there will be an homage to these later. I literally "import" them from Houston everytime my folks come up. It's the one thing I just cannot find up here, now that the stores have Pace Picante sauce and Rotel tomatoes. If only Blue Bell ice cream travelled as well.)
1 can light kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 packet McCormick chili mix
14 oz can diced tomatoes
Fritos
shredded cheddar cheese

Brown the ground meat, draining fat. Brown onions. Add all the beans plus the packet of chili mix and tomatoes to meat and onions. Add water if necessary (I like my chili soupy, so the Fritos can absorb some). Simmer. Serve with lots of Fritos and cheese.

You are What You Eat

The babes have a new food in their repetoire--fried rice. We first had it last Saturday when DP was gone all day sailing and I wanted something different for dinner. They can have the little bit of egg in it--they are obsessed with scrambled eggs and ask for them at every meal--and we just ask for no soy sauce. And, as with the mixed veggie bags, they can pick among the rice, chicken, peas, carrots, and onions for their favorite bits.

So today, we announced that we were going to have Chinese food. And DD starts dancing around the kitchen, "Chinese food! Chinese food!" and wanting to instill in her some connection to it, perhaps some pride (though DP doesn't think much of American fried rice), I said, "yes, and you are Chinese."

And she said, "I am Chinese food."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Size Does Matter

My kids ate two whole bags of steamed vegetables today! We used to buy fresh vegetables but the kids would go on and off, say, a broccoli kick and we wouldn't eat it all and it would go bad. We didn't want to try canned veggies too much because of the high sodium, even though there are several organic varieties at our stores (we shop at two--the grocery superstore and the small health food store; everyone says to go to Trader Joe's but I'm not adding a 3rd store and they don't carry enough allergy friendly stuff to drop either other store off my list). So a friend turned me on to frozen bags of vegetables that steam in your microwave. And they even come without sauce.

So how do I get the kids to eat two big bags of veggies in one day? I choose the mixed bags--broccoli, snow peas, and carrots; broccoli and cauliflower; corn, carrots, and asparagus--and put the plate between them. They then pick out what they want--which is never the same thing--and work their way through the whole plate. Today, they even left behind their hot dogs to eat the corn and carrots (I know, I know, hot dogs are terrible. But at least they were nitrate/nitrite free turkey dogs). It's actually quite fun. I get in the game, too, setting the right vegetable-eating example--oftentimes, DD likes to choose which ones I get. I got all the small carrots. See, "big" is very important when it comes to food. DS always wants a "big one," meaning a big portion of whatever. He likes the longest asparagus, the widest carrot slices, the most cereal. She does too. Which is why I got the small carrots.

But when it comes to vegetables, bigger--and more--is better.