Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buddy Love

We were discussing schools and growing up.

"Will we go to the same school?" Sis asked.

"Do you mean the school you are at now?  Or that you will go to the same school together?" I queried.

"The same school together."

"Yes, probably, until you two go to college."

"I want to go to our school forever," she said.  "I like my friends."  And she proceeded to name them, finishing with "But I love Buddy the most because he's my brother.  And he plays with me."

"I do," he agreed.

Mama Love

"I can't wait until I grow up," Sis said.

"What are you going to do when you grow up?" I asked.

Bud hastily replied, "I'm going to read!"

Sis added, "I'm going to do what Mama does.  I want to work at Mama's office.  And sit next to her so we can be together."

Monday, March 30, 2009

April Book Club

If you are following along with the Hungry Book Club, our April selection, a la Mama, is Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club.  And no cheating by just watching the movie.  At least until you're done. And then, order some crappy Chinese take out and enjoy!

Pease Porridge Hot

I might sing the song with my kids, but I don't think you could get me near green split "pease porridge."  It just looks like some kind of weird, liquidy, mushy green pea-ness, not very appetizing at all.

But then Mama casually let drop that it wasn't made of green peas but green split peas, which are an entirely different vegetable, actually really a legume.   And there are yellow ones. Hmmm, yellow ones look a bit like lentils.  I think I could eat those.  

And sure enough, I adapted one of Dean Ornish's recipes for split pea soup to yellow split peas (he says you can use all sorts of beans, including lentils--he says leftovers can be pureed to make a spread for crackers, but I don't think I'm going to have any leftovers) and was extremely pleased with the results.  I substituted Herbes de Provence for the thyme because I'm just not a big thyme fan.  Also, his cooking times, for me, are always off by at least 50% or sometimes even more.  Here it goes:

Creamy Split Pea Soup
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup finely diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 1/4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups dried split peas
1 cup diced carrots
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I used 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence)
1/4 cup minced parsley
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, combine onion, celery, garlic, and 1/4 cup vegetable broth.  Bring to a dimmer, covered, over moderate heat, and simmer until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add split peas and remaining 8 cups of broth.  Bring to a boil, cover, adjust heat to maintain simmer and cook until peas begin to soften, about 30 minutes.  Add carrots and thyme.  Cover and simer until carrots are tender and peas are very soft, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish

Cleanliness Begets Bitchiness

Do you know what I realized about our brand new, neat and clean playroom?

It makes me bitchy.

I spent half the day harrassing the children to keep the house neat, to not pull out too many things, to put things away, when usually I let the fun and mess pile up until the end of the day, sometimes even overflowing into the next  day, and the next.

This new organization begets more organization and makes me something of a neat freak.  

I'm not sure I like it.  Bitchiness is a high price to play for neat and clean.  It certainly isn't any fun.

Because, at least when it was messy all day, they were having fun, even if I were stressed about it.  Now, no one is having fun.

Anybody want a large IKEA organizing system?

First of the Season

We had a magnificient (for CT) thunderstorm last night.  Brilliant lightning, pounding rain, but no fierce winds reminiscent of THE storm.  It was just an impressive spirng storm.  And smelled wonderfully.  It's going to help all the flowers, trees, and grasses, which are still mostly bare and ready for their spring dressing.

Childish Games

Freeze Tag:  The kids love the concept of this but don't really get the execution.  They call it "freeze tag" but it's not really.  No one freezes.  And they really like being "it," which rotates regardless of who gets tagged.  They at least understand "home base" but no one tries to hard to get there.  So, in the end, we're just all running around the yard.

Musical Chairs:  Like freeze tag, who wins musical chairs doesn't really matter.  And they don't care if we keep eliminating people or not.  They just like to walk around to the beat and then rush to sit down.  Since the chairs are really short, I never try to hard to find one.  And then we just start all over.

Hot and Cold:  A new favorite game.  The kids played last night as they looked for their bedtime critters to take back upstairs to go to sleep.  They liked the game so much, getting "hotter" and "colder," that they kept asking us to lose things!

Simon Says:  They like being told to do silly things, but they don't understand not to if I don't say "Simon says."  Oh, well.  It's fun to make them hop on one leg and the like.

Twister:  We have a multi-hued carpet downstairs now and are playing Twister on it.  I can get them into all sorts of contortions with "put your foot on blue" or "put your tummy on yellow."  And just like in the real twister, the point is to get all tangled up and fall down.

"I'm Gonna Get Your Sugar":  This is a Gommie game from my childhood that involves lots of cuddling, tickling, and "smacky kisses." The kids will pretend to run from me but always come right back, desperate to have me get their kisses.  Sis has even been known to head to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat, to add to her sugars!  

Obviously, this is not necessary, for they are sweet enough.

On Ice

It happens every now and again that I crave a Lime Ice, a cold, float treat from my childhood made with lime sherbet and 7-Up, much like a coke or root beer float (the proportions are up to you--I like mine more liquid than solid and always add more soda as I progress). No one I've ever met has heard of these until I introduce them; I think it must have been something my mom's town's soda jerk would make.  And it is great.  I'm sure you could make it with orange sherbet or even rainbow, but I've only had lime.  And love it!

So, when I get a sore throat, it's one of the first things I crave (which is okay because there is almost no dairy--and it's fat free!), which is what happened a few weeks ago.  And the kids caught me finishing one off during rest time.  They didn't want it with soda--they are suspicious of soda and have never had any (fine with me)--but were fascinated by the neon green ice cream.  Which they loved.  

And then they themselves fell ill and needed medicine.  Except Sis hates the flavor of her liquid Zyrtec--she sipped it for 10 minutes the first morning (unbelieving that gulping it down was less awful than sipping).  Mama read that we should give her a popsicle beforehand to dull her tastebuds.  Well, the kid doesn't need a whole popsicle at 7 a.m., and that's when I remembered the lime ice.  So, now, they (sure, "they"--suddenly his specially-flavored strawberry antibiotic tasted "icky") each get a sliver of lime sherbet before and after medicine.  It doesn't add up to a tablespoon and it makes the whole medicine process so much easier.  In truth, I took some of hers when I ran out of my pills--and it is nasty.  I think the fake bubble gum flavor is probably as bad as the bitter medicine it tries unsuccessfully to mask.  A little ice cream is a small price to pay if she (and Bud too) gets well.  

Thinking of You

Our thoughts go out to the family of our friend, Gary, who has been battling cancer these last eight months.  He passed away in his sleep last night.  

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bassackwards

I think I've had my menu planning for the kids all backwards.  I had  thought they didn't like different or new and so we were becoming stuck in a rut of meatloaf and pasta.  But this weekend--for three meals--they had vegetables with miso sauce and then Chinese noodles (Mama can't tell me which ones) with a Yaki Soba (Japanese) sauce.  Then, Bud and Sis even tried my Middle Eastern-inspired Chickpea Stew, with cumin, cinnamon, and other spices.  

Now, none of that is for the faint-of-heart, macaroni-and-cheese or chicken tender devotees that I thought my kids were.  Sure, Bud hasn't met a fruit he won't eat and inhales steamed dumplings.  And Sis loves mangoes, fish balls, and Chinese barbecued pork buns.   I knew she liked crunchy and he likes chewy, both like salty.  But since they turn up their noses at most sauces, all casseroles, anything with beans, or anything stew-like, or anything I cook with more than a few ingredients, I thought they didn't like spiced or interesting, non-bland food.  

Au contraire.  Yesterday and today, they dove into the new foods and even asked to try what i was eating.  This is a first for us; usually only grandparents' foods excite this much interest.  But apparently, they love spices and new flavors.  I'm going to have to re-engineer my entire approach to their eating.

Especially because the sauce and also the bean bans are still in place . . . .

-=-=-=-=-=-

I can't give you recipes for anything Mama cooked for dinner today.  But I will post here the Skillet Apples we made, as well as the recipe for the Chickpea Stew.

Skillet Apples at the Ivy House (adapted)

Ingredients:
4 medium cooking apples, Peel, core and slice
1/3-cup real butter (we used less)
½ cup sugar (we used less, and brown)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (didn't have this)
1 ½ cups water (skipped this too)
[Mama added some nutmeg]

Instructions:
Make a sauce be melting the butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat; stir in sugar. And cornstarch. Mix well and add the remaining ingredients.

Add apples to the sauce cover and cook over medium heat. Occasionally spoon the sauce over the apples as they cook.

Serve warm with and top with fresh ground nutmeg.

This is a highly requested recipe at the Ivy House.

[Basically, since our recipe was adapted, the instructions are:  melt butter and sugar together in skillet.  Add peeled, cored, and sliced apples.  Sautee until reach desired consistency.  I like them soft.  Best served warm).

Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 easpoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
8 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces 
1 1/2 cups chickpeas (15.5 oz can), drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, and drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit (apricots, apple slices, prunes, raisins,etc.), chopped
1/4 cup imported green olies, drained, halved, and pitted
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cover, and cook until softened, about 5 mintues.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to bring out the flavors.

Transfer the mixture to a 4-6 quart slow cooker.  Add the green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.  

About 20 minutes before serving, add the peas and dried fruit.

When ready to serve, stir in the olives and sprinkle with the parsley.  Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve hot.  

Robin Robertson, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Swedish Love Affair

What is it about Swedish sweets?  We used to live near the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville, our little Swedish (and lesbian) enclave in Chicago, and adored what they could do with marzipan.  It was a treat to go there and choose a box full of goodies for any celebration.  Now we have to make do with IKEA, and that's not a bad compromise, though there is a lot less choice.  And so, tonight, we nibbled on three of our favorites:  the oval, frosted almond tarts; the chocolate-coconut balls (oddly listing rapeseed as the first ingredient?!); and the apricot-marzipan covered, chocolate dipped, artificial arrack rolls (punschrullar).  It was the first time we'd purchased these sweets in their original packaging, as opposed to in the repackaged IKEA container; the first two are made by Delicato, the last by Hagges Finbageri. 

But what is arrack?  Get this:  it's an Indian liqueur and our internet research seems to indicate that the Swedes first began importing it in the 18th century through their Swedish East India Company (did everyone have one of those?).  It's made from either coconut or cashews and was traditionally made into punch, hence the Swedish name of the candy, punschrullar.  The word punch is even Hindi-derived, for 5 ingredients, I guess how many these hot or cold drinks had.    We had always thought it tasted alcoholic, but not obviously brandy or rum.  Ooooh, it's good.  (I could tell you more of what we found, the history of modern Sweden from the  Swedish Empire of the 17th century through the 30 years war all the way down to its supposed neutrality in WWII).

I hope IKEA stays open--and with their decrease in hours, complete lack of floor staff, and rarely fully-stocked store, it doesn't look great--because I don't think I can make any of these Swedish treats on my own.  And I won't be going back ot Chicago anytime soon . . . 


-=-=-=-=-
By the way, I thought my all-time favorite candy, the Anton Berg Plum-in-Madeira confections (which I first had working with a Danish man at a picture library in NYC), were Swedish.  Apologies, they are Belgian.  And divine.  The other flavors are pretty good too.

New and Improved

Because there is no basement renovation in our immediate future, we decided that the playroom needed an overhaul.  There were too many toys poorly stored in a small space.  Can't really enlarge the space, not going to throw out all of the toys or relocate them (we don't have toys in their room because we want them to sleep in there), though, some culling took place.  That meant we needed a better way to keep them than the ad hoc system of too-small tubs and overflowing bookcases that we had.  

And yesterday it was our project.

Some money and time later Mama had transformed the entire playroom into a neat, organized, useful, even spacious area.  There are labelled tubs, places for oversized toys, and a big expanse of carpet in the middle.  It's fantastic.  If you thought our house looked like a preschool before, wait til you see it now.  It's the neatest room in the house, having been the messiest.  I'm sitting in here now on the couch just drinking in the luxurious organization, even peace, of it all.  Mama worked so hard on it most of the afternoon and is really pleased with the results.

Maybe we don't need a basement renovation after all!

Boy or Girl

"Boy or girl," the woman asks.

"Two boys," I answer.  
 
I'm at the Golden Arches drive-thru and I'm trying to choose Happy Meal toys.  It looks like it's some kind of animal/insect/dinosaur, with no distinction between boy or girl.  So, knowing both kiddos like critters and with no time for a long conversation about it, I go with two boys.

But Sis is getting wise to me and has noticed my peculiar order.

"Mommy, I'm not a boy!  I'm a girl!  I want a girl toy!"

"But, Sis, I can't tell what the girl toy is and the boy toy is a critter."

"I don't care.  I'm a girl.  I always want a girl toy."

AGGGGGGHHHHHHH!   So, I ask the cashier to please change one of the boys to a girl.  And she just looks at me oddly. like how come you don't know the sex of your children?

"See, they're twins and sometimes they like the same things, and sometimes they don't.  But today they're a boy and a girl."

They've been two girls, too.  The day the toy was watches and I knew Bud would like a watch.  When the guy with the food saw us and realized one of the watches for a boy, he kept arguing with me, "but it's pink!"  I said that was okay, he could handle pink.  He wanted the digital read-out.  The man was loathe to hand over the coveted cardboard box of toy-cum-burger.  But he did.  And oddly, there was a pink watch with a bunny and a purple watch with a cat--Bud got the former and Sis the latter and they were extremely excited to switch to get the "right" ones--right because Sis, of course, must have the bunny; it had nothing to do with the pink.

Blah.

We get the toys, plus cheeseburger (Bud) and nuggets (Sis), and are perplexed.  In each box is a tall woman on roller skates.

Is this the boy toy?  The girl toy?  Is the boy toy a girl?  Was there no difference this week?  I think that the figurine depicts a character in a movie, Aliens vs. Monsters, but I'm not sure.  Confusion reigns.  And neither kid likes the toy.  Not because it's a girl but because it isn't cute and doesn't really do anything.

Forget the mediocre and suspect food, I'm going to quit going to the golden arches just so I don't have to face these loaded gender stereotypes and my children's predictable responses to cultural norms.  I just wish I could throw those in the trash alongside the rollerskating figurine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poet's Day

Instead of TGIF (translation for Lambeth: thank God it's Friday), I am celebrating Poet's Day today. Push Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday. I'm just ready for the weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Get Outta There

"So," they asked me, "will we ever be able to leave the house again?"

Sure, have minivan, will travel with 4 kids (and I'm speaking of local outings or day trips here, not overnights).

General Tips
  • Never let having (more than one) kids be your excuse for not going out.  It just isn't that much more trouble.  And you both need to get out.  Remember, practice makes perfect.  Okay, you're right, there is no "perfect," but practice does help.
  • Choose your location carefully those first several trips. Some criteria:  easy to locate, clean bathrooms with changing tables; ready supply of food and/or drinks; kid-friendly atmosphere, i.e. not completely breakable, where they can walk around independently; not too quiet; other children and adults to see; contained, safe space.  My suggestions:  a friend's house; church; Target (join the 8 a.m. mommy brigade getting out for coffeee and companionship even with strangers; we all did it).  Parks are iffy because of the bathroom and food situation, but more importantly all that open space and strangers.  The latter is true of malls--so easy to lose a quick kid.  
  • Go over the rules in advance.  Ours are:
1.  inside voices
2.  stay together
3.  walk
4.  don't touch anything without asking (esp at store)
5.  hold-hands-in-parking-lots rule--if not my hand, a sibling's hand, or part of my clothes or cart.  

We've also started identifying what to do if we get separated.  Stay where you are.  Find someone in uniform (guard, cashier, employee, police) or a mom with other kids.  We've been practicing first and last names, plus our little address song.
  • Keep their schedule in mind.  Don't go out right before a meal or nap, if you can help it.  My favorite time to go somewhere is first thing in the morning when they are at their best. And I'm at mine.  For us, that can be 8:30 or 9.    
  • Keep it relatively short and sweet.  For us, more than 2 stops on any outing is an invitation for trouble.  Not that 3 stops don't happen sometimes, but I had better have saved the best for last.  Even now, our trips to NYC (or Massachusetts) begin at 8 a.m. and end with us heading home around 3 p.m.  Longer than that and it doesn't go well.  
  • Finally, be prepared to cut any outing short if it's not going well (because of tantrums, unmet expectations, whatever).  There is no lesson in dragging it out on principle.
  • Other tips:  dress in similar colors so you can recognize your brood from a distance by shirt (sometimes all you might spot is a moving sleeve . . . ).  Carry a cell phone in case you and your co-parent split up.  And, finally, if we go somewhere special with a gift shop (like AMNH or the Met or Mystic Seaport), they can have approximately the equivalent of their admission price to spend (but usually only the first time we go to that place,not everytime).

How to Pack
When you have kids, it helps if you travel with their stuff.  We're teased about how seriously we take this, but I'd like to think that we are rarely unprepared.  For instance, when Bud threw up during a recent car trip, we had:  wipes to clean him up, paper towels for the car, bags to put both the waste and his dirty clothes in, a change of clothes for him and me (because he hugged me and got me messy too), water for him to drink to feel better, snacks and items to distract Sis while we cleaned him up, and a towel to put both under him and in his lap for the rest of the ride just in case.  No problem.  Well, except that he was carsick in the first place.  

Here's our working list:
  • change of clothes in season for everyone
  • towels/blankets (2-3)
  • wipes and paper towels and kleenex
  • water and snacks
  • a few books and little toys
  • plastic bags
  • portable potty
  • meds (tylenol, saline) and first aid (bacitracin, bandaids, aquaphor, sunscreen, thermometer)

Until they were older (probably about 2), we carried a variety of this with us in the diaper bag along with diaper stuff (diaper cream, diapers, wipes, bags).  Now we are bagless, for the most part, and just keep it all in the back of the minivan (which, by the way, makes for a great changing table or place to put the portable potty--just put the plastic baggy in the potty and let them go.  I hear cat litter works well too but we haven't gotten around to carrying that with us.  Yet!!)


A few words on shopping:  All that said, I prefer not to shop with them.  Not serious shopping anyway, like the weekly run to the grocery store.  And with preschool, a babysitter, and Mama who will go during church or at night, I don't have to take them shopping.  It always stressed me out and bored them when I needed to go on a long shopping trip--"don't touch," "no we can't," "when we get home."  Blah.  I know I'm lucky.  If you need tips for the grocery store, there are lots out there.  I know snacks and giving them something to do (i.e. a list to look for, counting, a cart toy) are key.  But I know I am faster, make better choices, and spend less money when I go alone.  We will go together for a few items--Target is still one of our favorite haunts--but not for more than 30-45 minutes or so.

A few words on eating out:  Practice early and often so that they get used to the atmosphere.  Go to a variety of similar places.  Go over the rules as you enter--we pretty much use the same ones for any outing (see above).  Go at off hours--like 11:30 for lunch or 5:30 for dinner to avoid waits, crowds, and slow service.  I'm less self-conscious about anything that might happen from loud voices to spilled water when few other people are around.  We now carry or get crayons and draw on the back of placemats.  Yes, you will pretty much be eating at places that have paper placemats and give out free crayons.  We used to carry cheerios to munch on before the meal--appetizers weren't necessary and they wouldn't be starving and miserable.  High chairs are great while the kids fit--keeps them contained but gives you a free hand.  Booths can also keep them contained, but now Bud likes to lean/sit/crawl on me.  We let them order what they like, within reason, giving them suggestions.  Yes, it's mainly chicken tenders and fries.  Almost anywhere. Sure, I'd love them to have varied, sophisticated, adventurous palates--but I didn't at that age (or even at 20 + their age)--and I don't want food to go to waste that I've ordered just to impress them, myself, or others--then I'd just have to feed them at home again anyway (and that would be after a scene in the restaurant).    But at Mexican places, they start with chips.  At the pizzeria, they might try salad.  Avoid that restaurant whose raison d'etre is ice cream.  They just don't eat their meals.  Go to that friendly place as a dessert treat sometime.  Wherever you are (and yes, we all go to the golden arches sometimes), they'll make a mess; we at least try to pile it on the plates at the end so the staff doesn't have to touch everything. We haven't had too many behavioral issues at restaurants but our fallback should it happen would be that the upset child would first be taken to the bathroom to calm down and then out to the car for a bit if that doesn't do the trick.  Tip well.  

I think all the practice (and stuff) has given us the confidence to go almost anywhere.   And we have, for the most part, spent most Saturdays of their lives out doing something somewhere.  They are adaptable, flexible, relaxed little outing-takers.  And we all have a good time.  Home is great, but sometimes you need to get out so you can love coming home again.   

Last Night of Freedom

I've been thinking a lot in the last 24 hours about my friends who are becoming parents tomorrow morning.  Tonight, there are no kids in their house; tomorrow there will be four under five.

My goodness, what do you do the last night before you have children, under these circumstances?  Go out on the town and not come home til dawn?  Stay home and do things you won't be able to do with a house full of kids (I leave that to your imagination--sex on the kitchen table, a keg party, music on full blast til dawn, whatever suits)?  Go to bed early and sleep all you can?

I remember our last childfree night--I was trying to get sleep in a hospital bed while having mild contractions, hooked up to all sorts of monitors, not sure if I would have an "emergency" c-section in the morning.  Mama dozed off and on in an uncomfortable hospital converted chair, with CNN or the weather channel on the whole night.  We couldn't be sure it was the "last" night before we were mommies.  But at that point, we just wanted morning to come. With the kids.  And that's what happened.

But what  would I do tonight if I were my friends?  I think, knowing now what I didn't know (and couldn't have done) then--assuming I wasn't just returning from a trip abroad with Mama, which is how I would spend any substantial free time now!--I would go into the city for a Broadway matinee (yes, it would have to be Wednesday or Saturday), have the fanciest meal I could afford afterwards, spend the evening wandering the Met (yep, it's a Saturday), and then take the train home (eating black and white cookies or Junior's cheesecake on the train).  I would then sleep in.  As late as possible.  And have breakfast in bed.  All with Mama.

That didn't happen.  And won't for a long time.  But you know what?  It's really okay.  We can do a variation of that with the kids pretty soon.  And really, they'll grow up soon enough.  We can do the city--or the world--when they move out and on.

Wonderful Advice Where You Least Expect It

You might wonder why I read The New Old Age blog, about caring for aging parents, when mine, though getting older every year, are in no way elderly or aged.  They are, perhaps, healtheir and in better shape than when I was a kid at home; I guess it's just one of the miracles of grandparenthood.  

Anyway, I read it because the blog, while specifically about the sandwich generation, contains advice and wisdom for all:  end of life issues which we should all face before the end of life; how to care for the people you love in good times and in bad; ways to make the bad times better.  Today's post contained advice the author had received and successfully utilized while caring for her mother in the last years of her life.  I think it works for parents of young children, too:
  • "Just don't hurry."  Even though you feel like you have more to do, don't rush it.
  • When she was wearing herself out in caregiving:  “You know, your mother could live another 20 years. And if she does, you won’t."  
  • "Be a duck" and let criticism and negative emotions roll off your back like water.
  • You're children are watching what you do and learning from it.
  • "People communicate all the time without words."  Try reaching out in nonverbal ways, such as shared activities.

Take the Test

Worried about your risk for type-2 diabetes?  Take this test, which predicts possibility of adult-onset of diabetes, mentioned today in the NYTimes. You'll need your BMI (unless you know your vitals in metrics).  Easy and quick.  And good to know.

For the curious, my risk is very low, according to this test (and theory).  But oddly, there wasn't a question about gestational diabetes. Though, a nurse friend of mine had said that one of the biggest risk indicators is other immediate family members with diabetes, which I don't have.

Congratulations!

Congratulations to our church friends who will soon have four children in their family!  Tomorrow--ALL in ONE DAY--they will become parents of a 4 1/2 year old, three year old twins, and a one year old!!!!  Puts the chaos in my house in perspective, I think.  But if anyone can do it, these two wonderful people can.  Good luck!


No Fun

When I told Bud and Sis last night that they couldn't go to school today, Sis was very upset, "But everyone will be there.  And we'll miss all the fun!"

But we're having some of our own fun today.  They woke up and immediately began singing the school birthday song, choosing friends and family's birthdays to celebrate.  Somehow the discussion turned to "animal powers"--cheetah power, bunny power, seal power.  Apparently, if you sprinkle a power on one critter it becomes another kind of critter.  Bud was turning everything into a seal.

Now we're playing picnic downstairs, camping out in the middle of the living room.  While we were eating vegetables and desserts, Sis decided it should be Halloween.  So they are closing the windows to try to darken our otherwise normally bright house.  Luckily, it's overcast today, so it's got the right gloominess for Halloween.

No telling what's next.  But at least we're not missing all the fun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Unexpected

Bad News:  Bud and Sis are officially sick and will be staying home from school tomorrow.  Bud came down from afternoon resttime, not 10 minutes after Sis and I had come downstairs, with bumps all over his face and bright red cheeks.  What in the world?  The doctor could see us right away and so we headed in.  The bumps had mostly subsided before she saw him, though he was still red cheeked, but we did determine that it is probably some allergic reaction to some kind of contact--the bacteria in his own nose, "spring," or something similar.  He hadn't had any new foods and it wasn't a food-like allergic reaction anyway.  But now he's got some benadryl.  And antibiotics for the infantigo (impetigo--there are bunches of spellings for this common skin rash), which is what is keeping him home; we'd been putting cream on his nose where he's rubbing the "nose knots" (read:  nose snots) but it's still gotten infected.  Then the doctor looked at Sis's ears--still fluid-filled and not registering on the meter--so we have Zyrtec and a nasal spray for her; she's staying home too.  That means I walked out of the doctor's office with instructions for 6 meds between the two of them!  I didn't realize they were that ill or miserable; I'd just been startled (no, how about frightened) by the bumps/hives.  Talk about feeling like a negligent, remiss mom, especially because once they'd been clear of fever this weekend, I'd sent them to school.

Good news:  I had totally forgotten that a friend had called weeks ago to ask me out to the anniversary party of my favorite feminist/vegetarian restaurant Bloodroot.  And so I said I'd go.  Then the above happened, Mama raced to the pharmacy after swinging by the house surreptiously to get the Rx, and my friend decided she wanted to go early.  Not a good mix.  But I still got there (again, a negligent, remiss mom who was by then totally desperate for a real meal and some adult conversation outside of the house.  I only wish Mama and I had remembered to get a babysitter and go together, as we had originally discussed weeks ago).   I had an incredible dinner--French cream of mushroom soup that was flavorful and creamy without being too lumpy, their yummy and dense homemade oatmeal bread, a fresh side salad, and this incredible noodle souffle that was kinda like a noodle kugel but not a sweet dessert one, though it did have some creaminess, eggs, maybe even some cheese like ricotta, and a bit of lemon--it actually reminded me a lot of the filling of a cheese kolache from home.  With a tangerine soda and a slice of nutty Queen of Sheba cake, my friend and I had a delightful evening up to and including belly dancing!  Yep, three American Tribal bellydance aficionados performed and then encouraged us to dance.  I hadn't had enough champagne to do that, but I liked watching the talent of the women.  I might even consider taking lessons--it must be great for the back and hips!  I came home with a new calendar, a "stone-ground" chocolate bar, two books for the kids (Raising Dragons and one about an egg which title I forget), and a book about lesbians and Girl Scouts (I'm a lesbian!  I was a Girl Scout!), including an essay by someone we knew in Chicago.

So, I guess, all's well that ends well, even if tomorrow is going to be a long day with two sickly kids.  At least we have two new books.  And of course Mama picked up some other treats at the store.   And I can always teach them to bellydance . . . . 

The Dentist

Apparently, Bud has my teeth.  And Pop's.  But, luckily today, despite that genetic disadvantage, he got a clean bill of health from the dentist.  No cavities!  We were advised not to give him soda (!) or juice--not even have it in the house, which we actually don't.  He gets juice when we eat out or when he's sick and needs liquids.  That's about it.  Apparently, though, his mouth chemistry is always going to encourage cavities, just like mine.  Today we were all lucky, even though he was nervous the whole visit, remembering the two repairs he had last time (those cracks in the enamel which the dentist said were probably just defects but were turning because of the chemistry, I think is how it went).  Sis picked up on the nervousness and so had some of her own, though she's always had successful dental check-ups.  Worst of all?  Poor Mama, who has to go this afternoon to have her own cavity filled (albeit the first one since childhood).  So, Sis gave Mama one of the stickers in her dental goody bag (which had a toothbrush and paste and floss; they also got a balloon, a water battle, and a toy from the "gumball" machine--talk about over-rewarded).  It's Mama's "be brave" sticker.

Be brave, Mama.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oink Oink

While I have long known that I really liked our kids' school, today just clarified for me why. When I arrived to pick them up, there was a folded sheet of paper with a note attached in Bud's cubby.  I recognized the format immediately:  a recipe.  Oooh, exciting.  The note from the teacher said that while she had been reading A Cake All for Me by Karen Magnuson Beil with Bud, he had said that he wanted to make the cake.  Seizing the teachable moment, she photocopied the recipe and left it for me, remembering our family penchant for baking.  It would have been so easy just to say "yeah, I bet it's good cake" and leave it at that, but because of her dedication as a teacher, including her relationship with and knowledge of Bud, she took those extra steps.  

I read the recipe--noting 3 sticks of butter!  4 eggs!  2 cups of sugar!--and knew I had all the ingredients.  So right away I promised Bud that we could make the cake.  He was so excited about his idea and helped with everything.  Sis did too, crediting him with the success of it.  And success it was. And not just because it's good cake.  They were very proud to share it with a little friend and his mom, whom we invited over expressly to try the cake.  It's good cake, with the surprising but unidentifiable crunch of the apple mixed with vanilla, orange, and chocolate in a dense cake.  It would be even better with frosting but my kids (my kids??  my kids??) didn't want any.

We'll be taking the teacher some on Thursday, with extra pieces for the other also wonderful teachers.  

Thanks for everything, and not just the recipe, Mrs. Teacher!
-=-=-=-=-

Piggy's Polka-Dot Cake

nonstick coking spray or margarine

3 cups flour plus 3 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 apple

4 eggs

1 Tbsp. grated orange rind

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups margarine (3 sticks)

1 cup chocolate chips


[Note:  Directions are paraphrased from the book.]

Heat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x13 cake pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle flour inside the pan.

Sift and mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine milk and vanilla in separate bowl.

Peel and core one apple and chop into tiny pieces.  Set aside, along with chocolate chips and grated orange peel.

Beat margarine and sugar together in a large bowl until creamy.

Add eggs beat well.

Add flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with flour.  Beat well.

Stir in chocolate chips, chopped apple and grated orange peel.

 Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  

Put on wire rack to cool. 

When completely cool, frost with chocolate icing.

 

 from A Cake All for Me by Karen Magnuson Beil (sans recipe for chocolate frosting, which my kids didn't want)

 

Hi Lambeth!

And thanks for the tp!

Your recycled stuff is softer than ours.

March Books

As you know, the Hungry Book Club was reading Geraldine Brooks's Pulitizer Prize-winning March, a creative exploration of the father in Little Women-as-Bronson-Alcott-inspired-New-England-radical-turned-Civil-War-chaplain this month.  I was very excited about this (my choice) for two reasons:  I liked Brooks's nonfiction Nine Parts Desire and I love Little Women.  And I was disappointed.  But after discussing my disappointments with Gommie (a guest member of the club this month) and Mama, I realized I might have read more (or less) into the story than intended.  I just felt so let down by March's complete ideological breakdown at the end of the story, when he cannot bear the consequences of, among other things, his pacifist notions.  And then, in flies Marmee's first-person account of March's breakdown, which completely interrupted the strong first-person narrative by March for me, especially because it only seemed to exist to demonstrate their fragile relationship built on so much miscommunication.  But, in fairness, it was all well-written and evocative.  I suppose I just didn't like witnessing the weaknesses of these two characters so strongly.  But perhaps that is in fact the sign of a very powerful book.

And I loved, and could not put down, Brooks's People of the Book.  It reminded me of some of my favorite academic novels (for lack of a better term--books about books or other academic research/endeavors), such as Name of the Rose and Posession (I guess you could count DaVinci Code but the awful art history in that drove me bonkers), and whatever you would call the epic historical expanses of Michener's Source or Rutherford's Sarum (the latter are often "twinkies," the former often much more literary).  I guess as a Ph.D. with years of research and study behind me, I like it went research and knowledge--the joys, and more often, frustrations of the work--as well as the art, literature, architecture, or history itself are the focal point.  People of the Book fictionalizes the amazing history of the Sarajevo Haggadah, c. 1350, a rare illustrated Jewish manuscript used for Passover Seders.  The Australian conservator studying the book uncovers her own origins while tracing those of the book back from its rescue during the war in Bosnia by a Muslim librarian, through another rescue from Nazis, again by a Muslim librarian, all the way back through Venice in the 17th century to Spain in the 15th century.  Besides the numerous mini-history lessons, I greatly appreciated the exploration of previous multi-ethnic, mulitcultural societies such as pre-expulsion Spain, Venice before the Inquisition, pre-War World I Vienna, and then Sarajevo before the civil war--as one character notes, book burnings always preceeded other burnings, and then the mass graves.   If I ever wrote a novel, I hope it would be like this (but about Victorian art . . . surely I can construct an academic mystery around some PRB paintings, right?)

I think I'll be reading her other novel, Year of Wonders, next.  And I think she's at work on one about 17th-century Cape Cod now.  Can't wait!

Not Amuse Bouche

Please help Goo win $500!  If his entry for most disgusting delicacy wins--and he chose kiviak, which I just cannot describe here--he gets cash.  Check out his post on kiviak and the link for the voting.  Thanks for helping!

Amuse Bouche

Just a few morsels:

  • What color is your hotpad?  An article in the NYTimes talks about nutritional gatekeepers, or the people who are most responsible in a family for the food it eats.  Apparently, there are five kinds:  giving, methodical, competitive, healthy, and innovative.  There's a test you can take to identify your type.  I came up a true Heinz 57, a combo of allmost all the types (except competitive) with none dominant.  Maybe that's because I'm just starting to find my footing as a homecook.  I would've said I was a "giving" cook, the kind that "are enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies."  But I also try new recipes and ingredients, try to make healthy alternatives, and am a slave to a recipe.  
  • Today, Bud came home with a recipe for cake from one of his teachers.  Apparently, they've been reading A Cake All for Me, which presents a recipe for cake in nursery rhyme, and Bud said he wanted to make it.  Well, I have all the ingredients, including--gulp--3 sticks of butter!  So we'll be doing that this afternoon.  Makes me wonder how many children's books with recipes an integral part of the story (as opposed to children's cookbooks) there are.  I know of Growing Vegetable Soup, Apples!Apples!Apples!, Thunder Cake, and All in Just one Cookie.  More on this after some research (and more and more and more and more).  And a report on the cake when we've made it.
  • It's actually just as well that Bud brought home a recipe he wants to try.  Ever since reading about the temptations of an empty cake stand, I've wanted to bake something, especially the olive oil orange cake in the article.  I even have a cake stand (which stands, safely, in the basement for now because it is glass).  
  • We're hoping to join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) in our area, which means we'll get a box, one share, of produce each week of the growing season (starting in June, through October).  I'm really very excited.  We'll get to try new foods, become acquainted with our local farmers, support local agriculture, visit the farm, and supplement our own garden efforts (which, as you remember, were destroyed in the storm last year, much to everyone's chagrin; the kiddos have been planning this year's crop since then).  YAY!!!
  • Otherwise, there have been so many tempting recipes and ideas on Mark Bittman's Minimalist columns and Bitten blog recently:  the anti-ramen, chocolate mousse, chopped salad, and two links to Mike Licht's blog NotionsCapital about food blogs and Girl Scout cookies.  

Healings

I've had an appointment with a new orthopedist that went much better than the last (not that that was too hard to accomplish).  Though, he's put he back in physical therapy for a "tune-up." Like both my PT and first (awful) orthopedist, he measured my left leg longer than my right, but he attributes that to scoliosis (I'm not totally convinced because I think I limped before the onset of puberty).   Otherwise, I'm probably in for chronic back troubles, later even arthritis, because of some degeneration in the discs and a possible spur forming at L3-L4 (I give these specifics for Nurse Banana, if I have them right).  Not much to do about it except exercise.  I think, though, that I'm out of the "running" for that 5K walk for the present.  We'll see what the PT says.  

I also had a follow-up with my GP today about everything.  First, she repeatedly apologized for that first orthopedist, but was glad to hear that the second was successful.  My ears are still fluid-filled, much like Sis's, and so I'm headed to the ENT, probably for some steroids, hopefully not tubes.  Sis and I can probably go together, as she'll have to go to if the antibiotics don't clear things up.  The best news was that my bloodwork was great!  YAY!!!  No signs of any sugar issues that made my last GP constantly hysterical (and even she admitted once that there wasn't anything wrong with my tests).  And my cholesterol is good.  Also, no anemia, nothing wrong with anything else.   Yay for a vegetarian diet!!!!  YAY!!!!

The kids' colds are improving, no fevers so they went to school and had a fun time.  We picked up a picnic but ate it inside because of the wind (and colds).  So, we're all feeling pretty good today!!

Sweetness and Life

So, what candy bar are you reaching for?  Apparently, more American adults are consuming more (and cheaper) candy than they were this time last year.  Several candy companies profits are up from last year, a trend which mirrors the success of candy companies (and the birth of many of our favorites like Tootsie Pops and Three Musketeers) during the Great Depression.  As if we needed any more parallels between today and the 1930s! 

My candy of choice?  Peanut M&Ms.  But it hasn't been an M&M week here in awhile.  Thankfully.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Many Thanks

I love it when friends give me recipes. And I got three new ones this week! My little cup (and ice cream bowl and fruit plate and bread plate) runneth over.

-=-=-=-=-
Fresh Ice Cream

1 bag frozen fruit
1/2 C yogurt (plain)or vanilla
1/4 C sugar
3 TBsp water

Blend all ingredients in mixer until smooth and enjoy.

(Note: R and J love it! We've had strawberry, mango, pinapple and blueberry. Can't wait to try more. Trying to find coconut. If you see it, let me know!

Miss D

-=-=-=-=-

Mama Teacher's Friend's Fruit Salad
1 3½ oz pkg vanilla pudding (small, instant is fine)
1½ cup milk
⅓ cup frozen concentrated orange juice (can be thawed)
¾ cup sour cream
Beat dry pudding mix, OJ, and milk 1-2 min, until well blended.
Beat in sour cream.
If your blender can fit this, it works great. I usually double my recipe, and it overflows.
Drain fruit and fold in:
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks
1 16 oz can sliced peaches (cut up)
1 11 oz can mandarin oranges (I cut mine in half)
1 sm - med jar maraschino cherries (depends how much you like them)
3 medium bananas, sliced
2 medium apples cored & chopped ( Peel on or off- your preferance)
Chill overnight or at least several hours before serving.
Enjoy!

-=-=-=-=-

Miss B's Dinner Rolls

1 1/4 cup water (less 1 tablespoon if you use liquid milk)
1 tablespoon skim milk powder (Miss B just uses milk)
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast

Combine ingredients in container of bread machine. Use on dough setting.

Remove dough from machine. Punch down. Roll into dough log and pinch into 12 balls. Place in greased muffin tin. Brush with melted butter. Cover with towel and set in warm place to rise 20-25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown (can partially bake, 7-11 minutes and then freeze and/or reheat/finish off later).

Miss B

Here Come the Grooms

. . . . and the whole 7th grade was invited because one of the men is a math teacher! My goodness, what kind of maelstrom this would have set off when I was in 7th grade! Or even at my junior high now. Because of course, it's completely illegal in Texas.

Which reminds me, if gay marriages or the creation of contracts that mimic marriage--both of which we have--are illegal in so many states, can I be arrested? I mean, I've engaged in an illegal activity. That makes me a criminal. Why haven't I been arrested when I'm in Texas?

Our Second Day of Spring

Warm sun, cool breeze, grass
with an earthworm, new bulbs near
rocks where we played.

In the Papers and On my Mind

Not time for long reflection, just a few notes:




  • 90 year-old Bat Mitzvahs? Women in a nursing home outside of Cleveland are celebrating their comings-of-age some 80 years later.



  • Have unemployed friends? This article gives some suggestions to help them (well, if you are gainfully employed with power to loan out desks and offer other professional services--I can offer the homecooked meal, though). May we all not need this.


  • Jane Brody's Guide to the Great Beyondis highlighted on the New Old Age blog today. It's a powerful description of a "bad" death.

  • Is God Disabled? Professor and author Nancy Eiesland, who is also a person who used a wheelchair, has found out, having died of genetic lung cancer. I was fascinated by the excerpt of her reasoning, that because Jesus's appears after the Resurrection with his wounds that God is also disabled. She didn't want her congenital bone defects healed when she died, seeing them as an integral part of hersef, and liked to picture God with a "puff" wheelchair. It might sound crazy, but she helped the UN draft the Declaration of Rights for People with Disabilities and taught at Emory's Candler School of Theology.


Whoops, ran out of time because it's going to be lunch soon. More later.

Proustian Potatoes

Both Mama and I have started private family history blogs to share and store our families' stories. Mama came up with the idea as she mentally, in advance of physically, prepares for her trip to Thailand this summer to see her 90+ year-old grandfather. Her mother has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to record family memories and cultural traditions (Chinese, Thai, and American), posting two or three tidbits daily, from how the Chinese celebrate birthdays to how picky an eater Mama was as a child (lining up French fries and eating them in descending order!!). Inspired by this enthusiasm, I started one for our family. While much of the geneological data of our extended family has been collected (only my paternal grandfather's father's family is completely untraced, but mind you, that's 1/8 of my material), thanks to several avid, amateur sleuths, many of the more entertaining and interesting stories are not recorded. You know, the "dash" between a person's birth and death dates. My family blog hasn't quite taken off, but I think it will eventually.

So, I'm looking into ways to help. I stumbled across one this morning: an article in the NYTimes about how to interview your parents. In addition to general hints such as model the kind of reaction you want (i.e. be philosophical to get philosophizing), the article points to a book by Henry Alford entitled How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People, which records the advice of several famous individuals.

I had already come across Old Friend from Far Away, by Natalie Goldberg, who talks about memoir-writing from the "side" instead of in a linear progression. Her book has several writing exercises to elicit memories, including ten minutes each of fill-in-the-blank "I am looking at . . . ", "I am thinking of . . . ", and "I remember . . . . " Another was write for ten minutes on mashed potatoes. Mama and I had a good giggle over that in the bookstore as we were considering purchasing the book, but also at least ten minutes of discussing our memories and recipes for mashed potatoes, such as my mom was probably the only person not to serve mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving (who needed it when there was dressing?) But when she did make them, my favorite variation had cheese! Mmmm, wish I had some potatoes in the house . . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Update

Last things first: the kids are sick. Without casting blame, just noting coincidence, someone is always sick after a Gommie visit, either Gommie (usually with a stomach bug) or us (with colds). This time it's us. Bud and Sis are full into coughs, stuffy noses, and sore throats. I'm just waiting for the fevers. Of course, that is on top of the ear trouble Sis was already having and taking antibiotics for. But, then, those won't protect you from a virus.

But, that said, it's been an okay weekend. Friday found us at a playdate where we stayed late for lunch and got to help make dinner rolls. Saturday was the church booksale where we picked up lots of new-to-us wonderful things (Mama is there now, breaking it all down for tonight's Community Seder, which we will not be able to attend). And then we had an absolutely brilliant afternoon play session outside--more on that when I can publish my "Second Day of Spring" post. Today, still thinking there was nothing out of the ordinary, we went to church, but by fellowship hour, I oculd tell we'd made a mistake. Though they did scarf down the cake honoring two members who will soon be relocating to Switzerland, they were clingy and tired. Sis even quietly burst into tears as we said goodbye to the "Swiss Family." Only reading Sylvester and the Magic Pebble while we waited for Mama to return from the store perked anyone up (and that is such a happy book in the middle).

Now, we're at home, on our big bed, watching DVD #2 of Diego--does sickness make them nostalgic for their "old" shows? Bud just sits and stares (I was next to him for about 1 1/2 hours, reading Geraldine Brooks's excellent People of the Book in one hand while cuddling him with the other--I've seen all the Diegos so I don't need to watch to comment on the plot). Sis is fiddling with Mama's collection of stickers (which we use for lunchbag notes) and making her own cards. I'm about to head downstairs and pick up a non-crumbly snack to serve in bed, just like on "Obama Day."

But that was a better day by far.

Friday, March 20, 2009

TGIF

Really, doesn't that just about say it all?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Updates

On Gommie: she got home just fine and is recovering from a great trip.

On Ar-Ma's visit today: she came up today to go with the kiddos to school and had a great time, staying so late I'm sure she's hitting traffic on the way home right now.

On Miss T: she is headed back to GA, car full of toys and groceries from TJ's.

On Miss J's mom: she has lung cancer, stage 3; please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

On Sis's ears: worse than last week despite all the garlic mullen drops; now we're on to antibiotics. After that, the ENT doctor.

On my orthopedist: I have another appt with a new doctor next week. Wish me luck!

On my mind: Natasha Richardson; the Obama's garden on the White House lawn; religious people using more aggressive medical treatment; lots of Motherlode posts; noncustodial parents in Brain, Child; the special Museums section of the NYTimes with two articles on museum education; various posts on the Well blog; etc etc etc.

That's just a little of what's going on here. More later.

Chinese Blessings

A Zen story, that I first read in Momma Zen, tells of a man who is opening a store and asks for a blessing from a Buddhist monk. The monk creates a calligraphic scroll which reads "The grandfather dies. The father dies. The son dies." The store owner is horrified. But the monk explains that this is the order of things; anything else is a tragedy.

With the death of Natasha Richardson, whose mother Vanessa Redgrave is still alive, as well as all the other sad, tragic, and stressful stories that seem to be overwhelming my friends and family recently, I am reminded of this story. It's hard to feel blessed by death, but as my friend Lambeth notes, "alas, that is the way life goes."

It has occurred to me that I was fairly protected from tragedy as a child, either because my parents actively shielded me from it or because few tragedies befell our family or community. There were tragedies but I was so young for the ones that intimately touched our family. I am only now as an adult realizing, in an emotional and personal not just a theoretical way, that other people besides "grandparents" or people far away in war zones and poverty-stricken countries fall ill, are injured, or die. Children, moms, dads, siblings. I've witnessed a lot of loss in the years since I've had children, either because my circle of friends has expanded or because I am so much more affected by the stories that I hear now that I have my only children.

Mama, who grew up in NYC, watched the evening news everynight and was always aware of tragedies, of loss, hearing nightly about murders, car and other accidents, abuse, and the like. And as she spoke of it, she realized it had probably contributed to her being a serious and anxious child; even though it had not been her family, it had touched her deeply. How had only coming to this knowledge now affected me, she asked? I realize that it makes me more mindful of the moment, has probably contributed to my increased attention to spirituality and to improving my communication and relationships with people, but in a way, perhaps the most profound change has not been the creation of fear but the growing acceptance that these things happen, that it is not particularly as rare as I had thought. Does it make such tragedies less sad? No. But I'm not looking to answer "why?" I'm not as angry or confused as I might have been. Just as when George Mallory was asked "why do you climb Mount Everest" and he answered "because it is there," I don't ask why there is death and tragedy--it's just there. And not struggling against it has helped, just let the sadness flow over me, and hopefully away. Even so, in the best of all possible worlds, the monk was right: grandparents die, parents die, and only then children die.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Museum Education in the Spotlight

Like yoga? Want to spend the night with your scout troop in a museum? Prefer your art via podcast? Trying to enliven your classroom discussion of American history? Keep an eye on the programs listing of your local art museum: strange and wonderful experiences await you, as described in The New York Times's special museums section. At least two of the articles deal directly with museum education: one for adults and one for children (in their classrooms). It is very encouraging that museums are bolstering their programs, even if it is often in a desperate effort to attract audiences in these lean times. Museum education departments have long employed creative programming and innovative collaborations to attract visitors, both individuals (families with young kids, teens, young professionals, retirees, people with special needs, etc.) and institutions (schools, social groups, religious organizations), some of which are described in the paper. It is rewarding that these efforts are getting some notice.

The Sky is Falling

A story emailed by our minister today (from an article she was reading):

The story is told of a night long ago when the stars began to fall from the
sky. The villagers, surprised by the stars streaking across the sky, panicked
and assumed the world was coming to an end. They ran to and fro crying, "The sky
is falling, the sky is falling; the world is ending," until one of them
remembered the wise ones who lived just outside the village. Frantically, they
ran to this older couple in search of an answer. "Look," they shouted, "the
stars are falling into the earth. What will happen to us?" The wise ones, who
had been observing the changing sky for some time, paused a few moments and
asked the villagers to gaze upon the sky one more time. "Look at the sky," they
whispered, "look at the stars that are falling. But, now, pause a moment and
look again, look this time at all the stars that are not falling, but remain
shining in the heavens."

Double Departure Day

The last day of Gommie's visit is always brutal--a couple of hours together in the morning with the departure looming. So it is today. We'll pile into the car in about an hour and head to the train. Then we'll go to a friends' house to play with Miss T and sons before they depart for Georgia tomorrow; so this is our farewell to them this trip, too. Coincidentally, both will be back this summer for the twins' birthday. Right now, that seems very far away.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On My Mind

I can't get the recent critical injuries (or the extremely conflicting coverage) of actress Natasha Richardson out of my mind. In part, this must be because I can see her husband Liam Neeson, in one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, burying and mourning his wife in the early parts of the film. I hope that life doesn't come to imitate art. My thoughts are with them.

Kiss Me, I'm English, Scottish, and Welsh

Okay, sure, everything but Irish. But St. Patrick's Day is really more like "Celebrate Celts" day, right? So, we've got the Chieftains on the iPod (next is Riverdance and then my traditional bagpipes collection) and corned beef and cabbage going into the crockpot. We'll make Irish soda bread after school, for which we are searching for something green for the kids to wear. Don't want them getting pinched (though, I'm not sure that's a thing up here--besides, don't really want them pinching other kids at school!).

Good ol' Irish blessings on you and yours!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Progress on Peanuts?

It looks like there might be progress in helping treat/prevent/even eliminate peanut allergies, as described in the NYTimes today. Because the kiddos had numerous food sensitivities, we have--at the suggestion of our ped--tried nuts yet, though I'm convinced they've already ingested peanut dust or oil in any number of processed foods without effect. I'm afraid, though, that by the time they can eat peanuts they won't want to. They know they can't have them and don't even try. I'm not sure they'll try when they can, after years of avoidance. But we'll see.

Quick Update

We're full into Gommie's visit and very busy, but here's a sketch:


  • Saturday @ American Museum of Natural History: the kiddos loved showing Gommie the dinosaurs and the bunnies in the dioramas (in fact, for the first half hour, there was much pulling of Gommie this way and that). Bud kept exclaiming over the dinos on the 4th floor, which he hadn't seen the last time, "I never knew there was so much to see." And he could name most of them (luckily, he can't read, so we didn't have to read every label). Sis was a bit scared of the huge dinos, but hung in there (and was fascinated by the pterosaurs hanging from the ceiling). Two highlights--eating dino nuggets (Gommie didn't actually believe they would all be in the shapes of dinosaurs--Sis bit the heads off all of hers) and visiting the Discovery Room, with its "nesting dolls" (matryoshka), build your own Kwakiutl-inspired totem pole (they liked showing the real ones to Gommie, though Bud still doesn't like that dark gallery much), the fossil dig and dino reconstruction, and the Baobab tree with its animal search worksheet (which Sis completed fully with Gommie before reading the rhythmic This is the Tree). They also really like the Hall of Meteors and the film narrated by Sally Ride, with Sis identifying the sun and earth as they appeared and Bud constantly marveling at everything on the screen. Bud came home with dino book and plastic playset, plus a poster featuring the various dinos on exhibit, while Sis had an arctic animal playset (yep, not quite equal, but what she wanted).
  • Sunday @ Bowling: Yep, the kids went bowling, Duckpin Bowling--smaller balls, shorter pins (?), and luckily with bumpers in the gutters so almost every ball scored (Mama remembers going candlestick bowling as a child with family in Boston--those pins are straight up and down sticks, not curvy pins). With the house lights down, disco lights on, and kids' music blaring, it was a great happy birthday to two of our little friends (including Miss T's son, all the way from GA). Bud took to bowling right away and would wave and flap his arms and dance while the ball rolled down the lane. He would shout "goal!" or "score!" when pins would fall. Sis was more serious but not as dedicated in her bowling pursuit and spent a lot of time with Gommie, munching on snacks, and looking at the arcade games. And she devoured all the crust on her pizza and icing on her cupcake.
  • Today: we're heading to playgroup this morning and then over to our housebound friend's house this afternoon to deliver her dinner. Otherwise, it's an "at home" day.
  • Tomorrow: school and maybe shopping with the $10 Gommie brought each of them, all in singles, which were quite impressive as they fluttered to the floor from the cards.
  • Food w/Gommie: we've made Gommie's famous baked chicken with rice and gravy (the latter two being the favorites), baked a pumpkin pie from scratch at Sis's request, and made oatmeal scotchies to take to playgroup this morning. Later today, we will make chocolate mousse and stuffed shells for our friend's dinner.
  • Gifts from Gommie: Gommie's suitcase is filled with treats: Easter PEZ candy "depressors" that the kids have come to expect, gel window cling forms for Easter which now adorn their bedroom windows, Easter bags with a bunny and with sports balls (I'd bought the same $1 bags at the store a few days before--great minds), books on dinosaurs and on art (which actually came earlier via post), and, perhaps most special of all, holiday pillowcases for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter for each of them from Gommie's good friend Granny Q. These not only will adorn their pillows for the holidays but serve as toy sacks on the other days (we already have Halloween and Christmas, which they love using and playing with). There's also those $10 which we'll take to the store later for books or toys.
  • Music with Gommie: Bud's already introduced Gommie to the musical numbers of the "movie prizes," and they've danced to Bhangra on our iPod. Bud's also performed to the "marmalade song." And Sis and Gommie have played piano, learning the "Brontosaurus song" together--of course, Sis remembered all the words at one go but Gommie still doesn't remember. (Aunt Banana, please email or call us with the words to the T. Rex song of Uncle Soccer's--nobody can remember past the first line.) Finally, there's the ever-present "Willaby Wallaby Woo" wrhyming song and our mealtime family song. And, of course, Gommie's morning wake-up, "You are My Sunshine" (which is, in my opinion, much more morning-welcoming than Pop's bugle calls of my childhood!).
  • Gommie as childcare: I'm grateful to Gommie for cheerfully and heroically watching the kiddos while I've gone to the orthopedist, had a blood draw, gone grocery shopping, fetched things for Bud when he was sick, and made quick visits to see Miss T. Best of all, she babysat for Mama and I to go on two dates, to the book store and to the Ethiopian restaurant (which was wonderful--I liked the yellow split peas and also the lentils, Mama liked those plus the green beans. And, of course, the injera spongy sourdough-like crepe bread. It was great to get out and try something different; we hadn't had Ethiopian since living in Chicago and had forgotten had vinegary/sour and delicious it is.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Words of Wisdom

From my dear friend Lambeth, a personal comment on yesterday's post (his comment button wasn't working!): we all have an asshole and it performs an essential function, don't look down on it, if you see what I mean.

I love Lambeth!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Backwards Steps

I visited an orthopedist today. And I'm not sure I've felt so humiliated and discouraged in a long time. Basically, I had to argue with him that my legs weren't the same length and he basically said he couldn't check because I was too fat for him to measure. Then he said even if they were different lengths, it wouldn't explain why I was having trouble and that is was abnormal for a young person like me to have back issues. Not that he asked me ever what the pain was like or how the injuries occurred. He didn't seem interested in the symptoms or their cause. He laughed at orthotics but said he could write me a note for a tummy tuck to strengthen my core. I had x-rays on the spot, luckily no degeneration of the bones--so I'm not a surgical candidate. At one point, he even took a call to deal with getting money back from an insurance company and only came back later, while I sat there in a robe waiting! Really, if I lost weight, I'd be fine, and that was about it, he said. Reminds me of my old GP who thought everything was related to my sugars. Do I know that? I know weight loss would help, of course, and I've lost another 5 lbs this month. But I don't think that's the only problem. He also said if I felt like chiropractics, PT, or massage therapy just to try it, not that he seemed to care, you know, since I wasn't headed the surgery route (even though he said back surgery never worked). So dismissive. And then he prescribed me some muscle relaxers and ordered an MRI because it probably was a herniated disk, though really I wasn't having any pain as far as he could tell. He never seemed to listen, not about hyperflexibility or my history of limping or any of that. Oh, it was awful. And I sobbed all the way home. I'm so depressed and not just a little scared--what the hell is a herniated disk anyway? I've been trying to be proactive but goodness I remember why I don't like doctors (or some men, but that's just a bias that crops up when I deal with assholes. Lambeth, I can hear you hitting "comment" right now!). So I called my new GP, talked to her staff, and said I needed a new orthopedist, that I couldn't deal with him, and they suggested another group. But I'm just not sure I can go, even though Mama said she'd come too.

March into a Museum

With The Metropolitan Museum of Art planning a 10% reduction in its staff, and major museums across the country such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta slashing budgets and cutting staff, it's time to "March into a Museum." Cultural and arts institutions account for $167 million dollars a year and employ 6 million people but were almost cut out of the economic stiumulus package (zoos and aquariums were and will not receive additional federal support).

So grab your kids and go to your local museum! If you can, pay the suggested admission, eat lunch, buy souvenirs, make it a day. There has been much discussion about the recession returning us to values that we as a country had downgraded in our pursuit of wealth, such as family, education, creativity, service. What better way to enact some of these values than spending a family day together? And it could help save the jobs of some of those 6 million people.

See you at the museum!

First 24 Hours

Gommie is here, having lots of fun, creating lots of wonderful chaos, giving me a delightful break (because she gets to read, play CandyLand, and watch them dance--I cooked dinner uninterrupted, which was a nice divergence from normal.)

But this post is for two medical updates: Sis went for a hearing test yesterday afternoon. Mama had noticed about ten days ago that Sis was either ignoring her or saying "what" more often. I hadn't noticed and neither had her teachers when she brought it up at the conference. But earlier this week, Sis said she had to move her hair to hear and even that her ear hurt. I started to notice the "whats" and silences. So, just to check, we went in yesterday. Sure enough, Sis has fluid in her ears, enough so that she's flatlining on the tympanum tester (coincidentally, I've got fluid in my ears too and was given some meds at the doc's on Tuesday. Maybe we're both having allergies). Anyway, we're using garlic drops for a week and then will check again. It's not permanent hearing loss but definitely need to get that fluid out of there.

And then last night, Bud threw up. It was about 10 and the adults were headed to bed. He coughed a few times, cried for me, and, as I walked in his room where he was approaching the door, he threw up everywhere. He emptied his stomach of lunch and dinner but within about an hour was back to sleep for the night. This morning he didn't mention it til I told him he couldn't eat PEZ candy for breakfast and asked if he remembered being sick. He did and put the candy down. I think we're going to have to stay home this morning, just to make sure he's okay (and so he doesn't eat all the food at playgroup). I might stop by myself, when I run to the grocery for some things, if only to see Miss T, who has safely returned to CT with the boys for a visit.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Of Love and Frosting

It's Gommie day tomorrow!

We've been counting down for weeks now, closely monitoring the approach of the day with a special calendar for this week. Bud was so excited because "tomorrow I can wake up and say 'zero days til Gommie comes!'"

So, don't expect too many posts. But I'll give you two tidbits to tide you over:

I've been doing "time-ins" with the kids now for awhile to discuss any problems that arise between the two (read: when they are about to kick each other to death). I usually start with "what's going on?" (not exactly "what happened" but close) and proceed to feelings and wants, trying to get them to talk directly to each other (sound familiar? Yep, nonviolent communication, but I'd come up with the process beforehand and haven't started my NVC for parents book yet, will soon, interested in new strategies). So, today when Sis and Bud had had enough of playing with each other but hadn't actually decided not to yet, I asked Bud what he wanted and he said, "I want love from Sis." (Can't get more nonviolent than that! Except it's not a specific or doable request. Oh, well. We're all learning!) It was so sweet. She was nonplussed, though.

Also, yesterday, we made cupcakes, basic chocolate box mix with jarred/jarring frosting (oh how the mighty fall) with lots of sprinkles. And each kid lavished love and frosting on a big cupcake, sprinkling the dickens out of it, and then gifted it to me with a big smile and "it's for you, Mommy!" Two delicious chocolate cupcakes from my sweet kiddos. And you can bet I ate them both right then and there. Delicioso!