Monday, May 31, 2010
Part of the reason for my sporadic posting of late is that I keep landing on little nuggets of ideas that either aren't big enough for a whole post or about which I simply don't have time to think carefully enough to write a whole post.
Either that, or I'm a combination of busy and a little lazy. Take your pick.
In any case, Holly's Monday potlucks are always a riot--a great mix of random ideas, tidbits that make me laugh, and little thoughts worth chewing on. You know, like an actual potluck. Minus the jello salad into which somebody unwisely added shredded carrot.
So here's my first smorgasbord. I can promise that the categories won't all stay the same every week. And I can promise that I will post a potluck every Monday till I (or you) get tired of them. Beyond that, I make no promises.
And now, let the potluckking begin!
If Dora weren't so darn annoying, I'd be singing that "lo hicimos!" song right about now. Because yes, it's true, I did it! I finally cleared out the last bed of hideous ground-cover around our house and planted it with lovelies. I even made a row of porch pots filled with herbs, tomatoes, and salad greens. (Porch pots = no rabbits eating my produce.) If there were some sort of prize for thankless, intrepid gardening, I would totally deserve it. This de-ivy-ing of the yard has perhaps been the longest six years in gardening history.
The moral of the story is: whatever you do, don't plant ivy. It is an evil plant. It covers everything (trees, houses, you name it). And it is almost impossible to remove because it has Evil Roots Of Steel.
Evil Roots Of Steel are bad when you change your mind about wanting ivy.
Overhead this past week
Son: "Squishies don't last forever you know. So you should just trade me that one for this one. If you keep it, it won't last forever anyway."
Daughter: "I know. But I want to keep it."
Son: [in best pompous, know-it-all, older-brother voice] "Seriously, they don't last forever...They can have heart attacks, you know."
Because it's always worthwhile to try new things...
It's the ducks who are running the experiment this week, not me.
Apparently, our ostensibly pond-free backyard is so waterific after the intense spring rains that a pair of mallards decided it was worthwhile nesting in the tall grass.
Grass, reeds, who can tell? Whatever it is, it's completely water-logged. Might as well call it a pond, right? (If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck...) And if it's a pond, might as well nest by it.
Those giant, noisy machines with large human drivers that keep trying to mow the pond? They're the ones in the wrong place, according to the ducks.
This week's rant is entitled: It's BEDTIME; just go to sleep already!
Seriously? What do you think I can do to make you fall asleep? I'm sorry it's difficult, and I know that's because you go to bed now while it's still light out, but quite honestly, after the stories and tucks, the Ritual Answering of the Three Important Nightly Questions, the snuggles and the final tucks, there is nothing else I can do.
I have previously drawn the line at drug- or heavy-object-induced sleeping, but if you come downstairs one more time to complain after 48 seconds of trying that you "still can't sleep," I might be reduced to drastic measures.
I promise that it will get easier. In fact, by the time you have children of your own, you will be able to fall asleep anywhere--including sitting bolt upright--in fifteen seconds or less, as soon as there is relative quiet and no one needs anything from you.
But until you are forty, falling asleep is a process, and it starts with staying prone in your bed. Popping out of bed and trotting down the stairs definitively do NOT help you fall asleep. So let's start with the staying in bed part, and let the eyes closing part just follow along.
This past week, I asked the DIY question: How long does it take to replace the washers in leaking outdoor spigots?
Answer: Eighteen months and eleven minutes.
If you look online for directions (which I highly recommend because you will find videos that make the whole thing seem really easy), everyone will tell you it takes only ten minutes to fix that pesky leak.
Of course, it will take you a year and a half to (1) achieve the motivation to look up the directions online, (2) find all the necessary nobs to turn off the water supply, (3) unscrew the handle and valve assemblies to determine which washers you will need, and (4) schlep to Home Depot to buy the washers.
However, I am living proof that once you have motored through steps 1-4, step (5) replace the washers and reattach the valves and handles, will indeed take you only eleven minutes for both spigots combined.
Leading, of course, to a mix of I am awesome, hear me roar, I just fixed a plumbing leak! and D'oh, why didn't I do that a whole lot sooner? Talk about wasted water...
Because awesome readers deserve props...
Comment of the Week this week goes to Molly for adding the hilarious reminder of personal tape decks (with monogrammed covers, no less) to my post about the outdated stuff of our childhoods. There are no prizes, Molly -- but you do have my heartfelt thanks for the good laugh.
If you want to join in the potluck fun, click here for all the directions on how to add your own Monday tasties.
Friday, May 28, 2010
...cartoons shows were only available on Saturday mornings? And you lived for those mornings because you were allowed to run downstairs in your nightie and turn on the TV even before your parents came down, and be mesmerized by Dudley Do-Right, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Hong-Kong Phooey?
...the only portable electronic device any kid had was a box record player? And you had to know the difference between a 45 and a 78? (And how to entertain yourself by reading for long stretches of time?)
...pen-pals actually used pens to write letters?
...elementary school kids who lived within walking distance of the school walked the whole way unaccompanied by their parents? Even in second grade?
...TV came in four channels (NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS), and you had to get up and walk across the room to change them? And your guide to the week's programming was printed in a little magazine that provided tantalizing descriptions of upcoming episodes? And if you weren't home when your favorite show was on, you just missed watching it? And if you fell asleep during the late show, you would wake up to a graphic of the American flag and the national anthem playing before the channel went off the air for the evening?
...girls bought new "school shoes" in the fall, and the choices were saddle oxfords or saddle oxfords?
...most cars did not have air conditioning, and gas cost 87 cents per gallon? (and there was a key on your keyboard for a cents sign?)
...lunchboxes were made of metal and came with matching thermoses?
...your first bicycle had a banana seat? And a triangular orange flag atop a long bendy pole sticking up from the back axel?
...wood floors had to be waxed periodically?
...Lite Brites had to be plugged in to light up, and Battleship didn't light up at all?
...telephones were attached to the wall, and the receiver had a looonnng springy cord so that you could still talk on the phone while you did the dinner dishes?
...no one you knew had a microwave? And you had to learn to operate one while babysitting? And you had no idea how long to heat the chocolate sauce for the ice cream, and so you not only heated the sauce but thoroughly melted its container?
Makes you wonder what your own kids will think about with some nostalgia, and try to imagine how to explain to their kids.
What will be their version of the gut-stunning question: "Mama, what's a record?"
Thursday, May 27, 2010
What was summertime to you as a child?
For me, it was: hot hot hot hot hot, with an extra added dose of 100% humidity and hot, mediated by a lack of central air conditioning, and topped with some hot hot hotness.
I lived in Georgia. We had an attic fan, which, if you opened all the windows and turned it on, could force a powerful breeze through the entire house. This would have been delightful if the temperature outside had been something less than, say, 98 degrees with a 98% humidity rating. But during the day, we knew better than to turn on the fan, since all it did was forcefully pull the hot damp rag of humid hotness in through the windows. The house, at about 88 degrees, was actually cooler than the outdoors.
Once night fell, and the air outside cooled down (to a respectable what? oh, call it 85), we turned on the attic fan and then felt positively chilled in our beds.
But summertime was also:
- after-dinner games of Tiger or Kick the Can with all the neighbor kids
- watching Junebugs pile upon one another in the pools of street-lamp light
- feeling the warmth of the asphalt under your sturdy bare feet as you trotted home after dark
- spending long, lazy afternoons reading in the branches of the giant magnolia tree down the block
- ice cream parties in the neighbors' backyard
- listening to adults gossip over tall glasses ice tea
- listening to records in the attic bedroom of a friend who was actually a boy -- pop songs! in a boy's bedroom!
- a glorious sense of freedom
A few days ago, Son asked me, "Mama, what is Summer?" with some clear confusion in his tone. It's not that he doesn't know his seasons. It's that for the first time in his life, he is living on a school-year calendar, and as the last few weeks of Kindergarten approach, his friends are beginning to talk with eager anticipation about Summer.
Summer, of course, means Summer Vacation. A break from the rigors of school. No more homework. No more reading what someone else says you have to read. No more five-days-a-week-in-a-desk. Lots of his friends have older siblings, so they know all about Summer.
My son, on the other hand, is not only the oldest. He is also a child who has always been in a daycare/preschool that was year-round. We would take vacations at Christmas and in the summer, but all year, he would be at "school" two or three days per week.
Summer for him has always been a season.
It has never been an event.
I realized as I was out for a run a few days ago, and I saw all the new neighbors with kids who have moved in over the last six months, that Summer for me always meant having a posse of kids around the block with whom anything was possible. We could invent games, stage plays, spy on our siblings or each other, have crushes, write notes, go to the local swimming pool.
We could, in short, just BE. We could spend long hours in a group of our own choosing, setting our own rules and living according to our own whims.
I want that for my kids. I want them to remember the golden days of summer as largely unscripted and glorious in their possibility. I want them to be able to build and create and read and dream and run barefoot in the grass without having to report in every ten minutes.
I haven't figured out exactly how to do this for Son yet, how to give him the gift of freedom (particularly since there are not many children his age within walking distance, and we do not live on the sort of block on which I grew up, where everyone knew everyone else and the doors were all open to everyone all summer long). But I want to figure it out.
And I am committed to ensuring that this year, he will finally learn that even if you have to spend two days per week in day camp, Summer is indeed a sparkling season full of promise.
This year, at our house, Summer is going to be an event.
Monday, May 24, 2010
School readiness is such a huge can of worms that in some ways I hesitate to open it.
On the other hand, I've been struggling all year to get my head around the trend in our area, and I really want to talk it through and hear other people's perspectives.
What is the trend? Holding back kids (mostly boys) who are old enough to make the age cutoff to start school, so that they won't start until the following year. The reason? So that they will be bigger and more coordinated and socially more mature throughout their school years.
To be clear: I don't have a problem with any child not starting school at the "appropriate" age (as determined by the state) if he or she isn't emotionally ready to be in school, sit still for directions, share with other kids, take some personal responsibility for completing work and cleaning up, and so on.
And in many cases, the logic I hear is that boys mature more slowly than girls and that boys who are painfully shy have a hard time of it throughout school. However, that fact of human development does not necessarily mean that all boys are less mature than all girls. Moreover, I have a huge problem with holding back a kid who turned five in June (when the state cutoff is December 1) so that he will be "more coordinated" throughout school.
Because in my experience, this is basically code for holding a kid back so that he will be more likely to excel at athletics amongst his "peers." And, for a whole lot of reasons, I don't really think that holding a kid back so that he can be a soccer star in 10th grade is desirable.
Primarily, I think this creates a problem with identifying so-called "peers"--because, of course, the kid who turned five in June and was held back from starting kindergarten that September is actually seven to ten months older than many of the kids in his class.
There is a reason that most youth sports leagues are organized by age rather than grade, and that they have rules about how you can "play up" (meaning play on teams where everyone is in the next older bracket) but you cannot "play down." Just think how it would be if my preschooler on her four-year-olds soccer team had to play against a team of six-year-olds. Ludicrous, right?
And yet, we are creating situations not much unlike this in schools by allowing large numbers of kids to wait to start kindergarten.
In a class where there is a posse of older kids like this, suddenly, the kids who are starting school on time look immature. My kids, who are both very tall for their ages, have faced this issue in small ways all their lives: out in public, people always assume they are older than they are, and when a kid who is tall enough to pass for six has the melt-down of a four-year-old, people look at you and tsk tsk! audibly because they do not get that he actually is only four.
Think about this in a kindergarten classroom. A kid who is well into his sixth year simply has a longer attention span, better ability to cooperate, a clearer sense of how to present his ideas in front of the class, greater skills at negotiating social dynamics. In short, he is more mature than a kid who is barely five.
This is not a shock.
But is it really necessary for kindergarten?
When I started kindergarten, a lot of kids still sucked their thumbs. No one could read yet. We needed daily reminders not to eat the paste.
Now, at the start of kindergarten, at least half of the class is starting to read. They are expected to sit still for an hour of "center time" where they rotate responsibly from one table to the next doing assigned work. They have homework.
We have raised expectations so high in terms of the kinds of academic work that we expect of five-year-olds that it is not surprising that we are worrying about their social and physical maturity as well.
But if we raise the bar so that the maturity of a six-year-old is requisite for succeeding in kindergarten, then why not raise it so that seven is the new six? Surely, by seven, they will be mature enough to sit through much longer stints of work. They will have greater patience. Obviously, this is a slippery slope that I don't think we really want to go down. And yet, we are perfectly willing to allow kids who turned five many months before the mandated cutoff date to have one more year to play, to "just be kids," so that they don't have to buckle down and be so mature and grown up.
If we are so worried about kindergarten being onerously tasking for a five-year-old, then perhaps we need to think carefully about what kindergarten is requiring.
But I don't think the solution is holding back children as a common practice. That results in a potential age spread in any given grade of eighteen months. At almost any school age I can think of, that is tremendous. Think about the difference between a child who is seven and one who's eight-and-a-half. Now think about having a mix of that in a single classroom and trying to accommodate the range of maturity. It's enough that teachers have the herculean task of teaching to students who come in with different levels of skill; to ask them to deal with a huge range of behavior and maturity capacities seems almost impossible.
I don't pretend to have all the answers here. And I, fortunately, am not faced with a looming problem in our own family as a result of this issue. But I think that if we really want to educate our children well, we need to think about their school readiness not just in terms of individual skill (in the brains or brawn department) but also in terms of peer dynamics. While it might be great for any individual kid to be the oldest and biggest by far in his class, does it really serve class dynamics well to have half a dozen kids who are more than a year older than most of the rest of them in the class?
Could this trend have anything to do with the increase in bullying nationwide? (I have no evidence; I am just asking. It does seem a situation ripe for exploitation, though, to have such a wide range of ages in a single classroom pretending to be all at the same level.)
I know a lot of parents face agonizing decisions. They have a child who is very tall, always mistaken for older, who really is simply not ready to sit still for a long school day, and so they hold her back in her own best interest, and thereby end up with a child who always looks two grades older than she is--but who is successful and happy. Or they have a child who is academically gifted but socially shy, and they struggle mightily with which aspect of the child's life should be lived "at grade level." I am not trying to belittle those very difficult decisions.
But I do think that it's really important to remember that readiness and knowledge are not the same thing. Being ready to learn to read is not the same thing as already knowing how. Being ready to work in groups is not the same thing as having mastered group dynamics. I worry that we have begun to confuse being ready for kindergarten with already having mastered the skills that we once expected kindergarten to teach.
And I will say this as the parent of a child who just missed the state cutoff, and who thus theoretically should have been one of the oldest in the class: kindergarten is a fantastically magical year in which kids learn a tremendous amount. Despite the age "advantage," my bright, academically-a-little-advanced son was socially very reticent when he started kindergarten. But in the last month, he has taken magic tricks, jokes, and other performances for his Show and Tell. The outgoing and vivacious kids who could hardly write their own names when the year started? They are good, basic readers now.
My point is: in the first year or two of school, skill levels even out somewhat. This is not to say that by second grade everyone will be at the same point. But it is to suggest that the vast ranges in maturity and skill level do shrink to smaller ranges as children begin to figure out what it means to do school.
And I think there might be something to be said for trusting that our kids will rise to the occasion instead of needing to be held back until they have already surpassed what used to be goal.
**Thanks for Amber's post for inspiring me to articulate what I've been struggling with all year. You might also want to check out the comments on hers.**
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Who remembers the allure of the "puffy sticker"? The exchange value of the the "googly-eyed sticker"? The ultimate trade power of the "puffy googly-eyed sticker"?
For a couple of years in elementary school, at least in my elementary school, sticker collections were all the rage. You kept your stickers on the peel and press covers of those sticky photo album pages. That way, you could arrange them, unstick them, rearrange them, trade them, rearrange again, trade some more, and so on.
Also, those sheets were just the right size for tucking safely into your Trapper Keeper.
There were complex rules that governed the value of your sticker collection:
* sheer numbers of stickers didn't necessarily make your collection enviable
* duplicates, except of really really fantastic stickers, were a little lame (hence, those sheets you could buy at the Hallmark store, if you chose to spend your allowance on stickers rather than saving it up to buy another Smurf to add to your collection, were not that cool because they contained 20 of the same sticker)
* flat stickers were barely acceptable; puffy stickers were where it was at
* if a sticker was not puffy but was glittery, or changed like a hologram, or had googly eyes, that was great (the word "awesome" had not yet been invented)
* you would have to trade multiples of the more mundane stickers for a single highly desirable sticker
* you and your friends could have better collections if you shared the wealth around without making direct trades: I give you my duplicate puffy mouse sticker today, knowing that this weekend, after your mom takes you to the store like she promised, you will finally be able to buy those googly-eyes clocks, and you'll give me one because they come two to a pack
I remember my parents not getting it. They thought stickers were a stupid waste of money. Not that they ever said those words exactly, but they made their opinions pretty obvious. Stickers were pointless. They did do anything. You couldn't play with them. You couldn't build them into something else. You couldn't display them (unlike a doll collection or a tea cup collection). They didn't further your knowledge of anything or make you more coordinated or strengthen your creativity.
No, stickers just sat there. Sticky. Stuck to an old photo album page, gently wiggling their beady black eyes.
Still, they were all my heart desired for at least one full school year.
* * * Fast-forward thirty years. * * *
My son asks me if he can buy some squishies.
"What are squishies?" I ask, trying to keep the tired out of my voice, dreading the thought that these will be like the $3 Bakugan, of which one must have many, not to play with because the game is far too complex for a five-year-old, but just to look at because they are cool.
"You get them at Pizza Hut," he answers.
This, as you might imagine, did nothing to explain what they were. I assumed they were some kind of Pizza Hut version of a Happy Meal Toy, so I agreed to go to Pizza Hut for dinner one evening. Mistake #1: worst pizza ever. Mistake #2? Squishies are contained in the gumball machines at the front of the store, meaning that one need not eat a single bite of the food in the place in order to procure said magical items of childhood longing.
Yes, it's true.
Squishes are the new puffy googly-eyed stickers:
They are little rubbery animals -- some from land, some from sea -- that have small holes in their bottoms. Ostensibly they are for capping pencils, but every kid at Son's school just carries them around in a little drawstring bag, counting, categorizing, arranging, collecting, trading, and sometimes giving them "for free."
The fifth grade brother of one of Son's best friends has been particularly generous about giving Son squishies "for free." I think he may have felt sorry for the little guy with his pathetically small collection of three squishies. (Oh, he once had more than that, but they are so easy to lose; thankfully, now he has a bag to keep them in.)
They cost 50 cents each in the machines, but they have an economy all their own, in which some are Rare (always pronounced with a capital R), and some are awesome, and some are dull. There are giant ones, but we don't have any.
They can be traded -- sometimes two for one, sometimes even trades, but the key (as with stickers) is that each party always assumes he or she has gotten the upper hand in the deal. "Mama, guess what? I took the pig and I traded it to Noah, and he gave me a puffer fish! Can you believe that?! A pig for a puffer fish! And it's even a Rare!!" Presumably, Noah has gone home to his own Mama and bragged that he has the only pig in school, while looking vaguely disgustedly at the three more puffer fish he is dying to unload if only someone would offer him the cow.
Husband had to dash out tonight after dinner in the teeth of an impending thunderstorm, driving two children clutching six quarters each to Pizza Hut, so that they could add to their squishie collections as promised. They'd raided their piggy banks and left the house in high anticipation.
Though he was quick to offer to take them in fulfillment of my promise earlier in the day, Husband quietly opined that squishies were a silly waste of money and that the children should learn a preference for spending their hard-earned change on something "better."
He's right, of course. In an abstract sense.
But I couldn't help but remember my childhood sticker infatuation.
It wasn't just about the stickers. It was about the comaraderie. The chance to be center of attention for a moment if I had something really desirable. The ability to come out of my shell of shyness and transact serious trades on equal footing even with the popular kids who had no trouble making friends and telling jokes at which everyone laughed easily.
And so I periodically hand over an extra 50 cents. I let them amass tiny bags fully of silly rubber creatures.
When Son comes home from school, bursting with the news of his latest trade, or the exciting Rare his good friend has, or the one "for free" that some kind older brother offered up, I know that to him, for now, it's all about the squishies. But in the long run, it's about learning to negotiate, learning to intuit notions of popular value, learning to speak up for himself.
It's about building friendships. And that, to me, is worth a lot of spare change.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
...Bossy visited SE Michigan, slept in my guestroom, and I didn't take a single photo.
I laughed and talked and drank wine with her. I drove with her to a local brew-pub and laughed and talked and drank beer with her, alongside a whole group of other great women. I even got to ride in (Harrison) Ford; he was dreamy.
Here's what I can share about hanging with Bossy: she is incredibly nice, prone to strong hugs for both "hello" and "goodbye" (a good thing in my book, since I grew up in a family of serious huggers), and--if there were justice in the world--ought to be my neighbor. Also, she takes better photos that include herself than I can take of other people. I don't know how, but that's the miracle of Bossy.
(Photo borrowed from Bossy, and containing the lovely MomZombie.)
Also, somehow, Bossy after umpteen hours of roadtrip will look fresher and more awake than I do in any photo containing us both. Again I say: the miracle of Bossy.
...I have never read any Twilight books, didn't see the first movie, watched New Moon last night just because it was there rather than because I'd been pining away to see it, thought it was on the hokey end of "fine, if that's what's on and it's a rainy evening, and you're exhausted from work and in your jammies and snuggled up on the couch with your cozy husband," and generally don't see what all the fuss is about (though I'll probably watch the sequel just to see how that 18-married-to-109 thing goes).
Sure, it's completely, 100% crystal clear to me why 15 year old girls are swooning in the aisles. The heart-wrenching angst of teenaged love is pitch perfect. There's not a single note in my high school memory box that couldn't be worked into that script, nary a page in my high school diary that isn't captured with brilliant precision. In all its heart-broken, aching-poetry-writing, self-involved-love-story-longing, this perfectly captures high school.
Which I, for one, would never want to relive again.
So can someone please explain to me why otherwise grown-up, intelligent 30- and 40-something women are swooning right alongside their teenaged daughters?
...I don't understand how Justin Bieber gets his hair to stay like that. The brushed forward, tousled emo look is nothing short of miraculously impressive.
I have a student with hair like that. He tousles it himself at least ten times during each class period. It always falls perfectly forward, framing his eyes in a moody-yet-styled way.
Even Usher would be impressed.
What are you not afraid to admit?
Monday, May 10, 2010
How does Trader Joe's afford to put out a regular newspaper of current offerings? And mail it to customers free of charge?
Even newspapers can't afford to put out newspapers anymore, and they run advertising.
Sure, the Trader Joe's newspaper IS advertising, but I can't imagine that it garners enough return on the investment to be worth the production. Sort of like a real newspaper. But without the news and with more goofy psuedo-Victorian cartoons.
* * * * *
How well does that Master Cleanse diet work anyway? And really, 10-14 days? That seems like a very long time to live on nothing but lemon-water spiked with maple syrup and cayenne pepper, even if you are ingesting some calories thanks to the syrup.
If the information about the diet didn't sound quite so much like a cross between a cult and propaganda supporting anorexia, I might be inclined to take it a little more seriously. After all, I actually feel like my innards could use a good cleanse. But while it's touted as a program that "rests the digestive system and allows the body to heal [and] eliminate toxins," the promotional material also trumpets right up front that "Every day of The Master Cleanse that you overcome the psychological need to eat, you feel a growing sense of control that motivates you to complete the process."
Seriously? Isn't relishing the control that enables one to "overcome the psychological need to eat" precisely what lands young girls in hospitals because they are eating a fried egg on half a slice of toast and calling that their meal for the week?
Shouldn't this program be a crime?
* * * * *
Who willingly fills out a 27 question survey in order to register a product for a warranty? Especially a survey that asks about leisure activity preferences, annual household income, contemplated upcoming large purchases, brands of major appliances, spending habits on optional goods, gender and ages of your children, your education background, major credit cards you own, and whether you rent or own your home. Among other things. Twenty-seven questions. To sign up for the warranty on a $30 ice cream maker.
The real question is: if I only fill out the three questions that are actually relevant to the warranty (you know, the ones about my name and address and the serial number of the model I bought), will Cuisinart deny me the warranty because I didn't tell them my birthday, marital status, and income?
* * * * *
And, perhaps most importantly: how does anyone get psychologically primed to give up all those great Trader Joe's cheeses, the whole grain crusty bread, the creamy goodness of home-made double-ginger ice cream, roasted asparagus in season, the first grilled steak of the summer lovingly prepared by one's husband, and all the other culinary delights of the world, in order to drink lemon-cayenne-syrup water for two weeks? Frankly, in my world, this just cannot be done.
And, I'm thinking, it might be morally wrong even to try.
What is the point of life if we cannot sustain our souls as we feed our bodies, foster strong and practical relationships to food as we nurture our children's healthy body image, indulge our senses as we model the joys of eating well?
Pass the double-ginger, please.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I have been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am in my children. They are bright and funny and thoughtful and smart. Sure, they bicker and whine and squirm and insist on sitting in my lap at dinner. But they also look out for each other and come running as fast as they can to greet me when I get home.
Every year at Mother's Day, I want to be able to write some profound words about motherhood. And every year, I read this Audre Lorde poem and find myself wordless. There is nothing more or better than this that I could ever write. And so, to all the mothers who are celebrating their children, to all the children who are celebrating their mothers this weekend, I give you this.
Happy Mother's Day.
Now that I am Forever with Child
by Audre Lorde
How the days went
while you were blooming within me
I remember each upon each
the swelling changed planes of my body
how you first fluttered then jumped
and I thought it was my heart.
How the days wound down
and the turning of winter
I recall you
growing heavy against the wind.
I thought now her hands
are formed her hair
has started to curl
now her teeth are done
now she sneezes.
Then the seed opened.
I bore you one morning
just before spring
my head rang like a fiery piston
my legs were towers between which
a new world was passing.
I can only distinguish
one thread with running hours
you flowing through selves
Friday, May 7, 2010
I love homemade bread. Well, truth be told, I love all breads -- as long as they are hearty, toothsome, crunchy, chewy, fragrant, crusty, or otherwise bread-like.
I have a bread-maker, and I own the world's best cookbook full of bread-maker recipes. But sometimes, I just don't have three or four hours to be at home, tending the machine. Tend a machine? Yes, I do. I have found that sometimes the "kneading" motion wiggles the machine half-way off the counter. And I learned the hard way that the directions are serious when they tell you that you have to remove the bread promptly as soon as the timer goes off, if you want to avoid soggy and unappetizing consequences.
So here's the recipe I use when I'm feeling supremely lazy and/or short on time, but I still want to eat really delicious, nutty, whole-grain goodness. It takes no kneading of any kind. You mix it up like a biscuit or cookie dough, bonk it into the oven to proof and then bake, and two hours later...mmmm.....
Super Awesome No-Kneading Bread
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup bulgar wheat
2 1/2 teaspoons gluten
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons (or one envelope) yeast
1/4 cup craisins or raisins or currants
1 Tablespoon honey
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
Put all dry ingredients & fruit into a bowl and mix well. Add wet ingredients. Stir. The mixture will be sticky and gooey. Let sit long enough to get out your loaf pan and cooking spray and put away all the ingredients. Spray the loaf pan, add the dough mixture, and place the pan into a COLD oven. Set the oven to 225 degrees, and set the timer for 45 minutes. When the timer rings, do NOT open the oven. Up the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for one hour.
Remove bread from pan, and allow to cool before slicing, if you can stand to wait that long. (If you can't--I never can--the bread will taste delicious piping hot with a little butter on it, but it will be quite crumbly and somewhat more difficult to slice until it cools.)
This will NOT be a tall loaf with a fine crumb like a sandwich bread. Instead, it will be a hearty, grainy bread that is tremendously satisfying if you like the nutty taste of denser breads.
This is a very forgiving recipe. You can substitute pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds for the sunflower seeds, if you like. You can add 1/4 cup of your favorite nuts, chopped up a little. You can substitute other grains for the bulgar or for a portion of the oats. You can even remove up to 1/4 cup of the flour and substitute other grains or seeds for that.
I would post a picture, but the bread never lasts long enough in our house for me to take one. I'm baking a loaf this chill and rainy afternoon, though, so perhaps I can add a photo.