Tuesday, August 29, 2006

walking, teething, touristing we

This food is so good that I have to go and blow my nose.

(silence, as the mama tries to parse this compliment. Muffled amusement, as Auntie A and the partner watch mama and Eldest.) Note: recipe is below

It's a grab bag kind of day, people. Here it is:

*the babes has two teeth coming in, as evinced by a delicate thread of drool working its way down his chin. The teeth are on the bottom, and angled just at the same angle as the Eldest's two front lower teeth. The alignment between the boys delights me.

*Auntie A, or as we call her 'Almost Auntie A' is in town for a week! a week! Such delights have not been mine in years, and she had to come during school vacation? Oy. We've been shuttling around to the MIT museum and Frank Gehry building, the local Butterfly Place (a surprisingly delightful find), and if it ever stops raining, to the duck boats. Such plans we had! The Garden in the Woods has a big rock exhibit (small boys and big rocks - seems perfect, no?), Land Sake farm in Weston has pick your own cherry tomatoes and raspberries, taking the babes to see the allergy nutritionist - okay, so that last plan will survive the rain, but the rest are taking a beating. If anyone has a suggestion for kids on rainy day activities that will delight the adults, I'm listening. And please don't suggest the Aquarium which is a pain to get to, and yes, we'll go to the Science Museum, although the idea of seeing dried dead bones and muscle and tendon gives me serious icks. Tonight, we escape to Pandemonium, a funky bookstore in Central Square, where we'll wander and I'll try not to spend money. Ya, right.

Hopefully, this long standing friendship will survive a week with my kids. And with me, being testy at my kids. Possibly that last is the trickier obstacle - I'm rather demanding of the eldest, and currently buried in enough work to be impatient with anyone who isn't falling into line. Luckily today was a day founded on flexibility, with three separate, possible plans in train, depending on the oh-so variable weather. With that mindset came a somewhat more patient Mama, a trick I really ought to remember. Of course it helps that Auntie A is here, and currently reading stories with the Eldest while I avoid writing his IHP (Individual Health Plan) for school...

*the partner man has decided to walk. A lot. But at least he decided to walk with a cause, covering the Boston Marathon route for the Jimmy Fund, come September. He's going into this blindly hoping to find the time to "train," a practice with which I am familiar, thanks to a marathon running father. In my humble opinion, I consider marathon runners to be exhibiting an obsessive form of behavior, in which momentum is used to blot out the rational thought that would keep one in bed at 5 am on a Sunday, avoiding the pulled muscles and pain of serious running, and so on. But who am I to judge? Anyone who has seen me working my way through a bag of Madhouse Munchies barbecue chips knows that I am not unfamiliar with the focus needed to get a job done.

Me, I strongly suspect that he's walking because someone's giving him an official-ish excuse to do so, but I trust that his choice will offer support and a sense of community to our friends whose daughter is battling leukemia. And some time for quiet solitude, always useful in the over-programmed. Here's the link to his post, describing his plan and giving folks a chance to donate to the Jimmy Fund. For those of you who don't know his real name, well, it's a decent cause anyway...and the name of our friends' 1 yr old daughter with leukemia is Amelia. When in doubt, a donation in honor is always welcome. Now, if we can only manage it such that the partner doesn't spend the next few weeks hobbling with sore, cramping muscles. And I am far too wise to refer him to the marathon-running crew, who'd doubtless know how to do this. (But hopeful that you'll offer him advice without my wifely, aka credit dampening, intervention?)

The recipe that makes the Eldest blow his nose, adapted from Sole with Fresh Tomatoes,' Almost Vegetarian Entertaining.

Blow Your Nose Fish:
1.5 lb mild white fish
1 Tb olive oil, plus a drizzle
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
coarse salt
fresh black pepper
2 Tb fresh chopped parsley
2 Tb fresh chopped oregano
(Note: I love having herbs growing! dried should be fine if you need to substitute for the fresh herbs)
zest of 1 lemon, or most of a lemon

Combine the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, lemon zest in a bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, stir. Pour 1 Tb olive oil into baking dish, lay fish in dish, overlapping where necessary to make it fit. Spread herb-lemon mixture on top of fish, let sit (in refrigerator, covered) for a bit while you start the sauce. Bake in preheated oven at 425 F for 7 minutes, then broil for 4 minutes. Baking/broiling times may vary - check. Fish should flake easily with a fork.

Federle Sauce:
Courtesy of Redfire Farm and their tomato festival (to which I dragged the non-tomato eating Auntie A), I now have a new found love of the Federle tomato, a roma-style tomato that dissolved into a heavenly sauce. Here's the sauce that we ate with the fish:
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 onions, sliced somewhat thinly
4 fresh sage leaves (or substitute dried), chopped
1 Tb cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine/mirin
8 chopped Federle tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 Tb olive oil
optional: 1/2 cup sour cream

Saute garlic, onion, sage in olive oil until onions start to brown a bit. Add cornstarch, stir until paste-like. Then add 1/4 c of the cooking wine, stir some more. Dump in tomatoes and the rest of the wine. (At this point, I'd shove the fish into the oven.) Stir and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes on low. The tomatoes should break down into a wonderful texture, making it unecessary to puree.

Serve sauce with fish, on the side, to be added as desired. We also had a corn, peach, avocado green salad, and rice cakes to mop up extra sauce. Okay, so the babes had rice cakes and we all glommed on to the idea. Happy, happy, slightly over-full we.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

live free or...who the hell chose that for a license plate?

First, a somewhat overdue snippet of the Eldest, from a conversation about the fish:

Eldest: (holding a plastic baggie with some worried looking fish) I'm worried about the fish.
Mama: why?
Eldest: I'm worried they'll get scared out of the dickens
Mama: (glancing at the fish, sloshing in their baggie) Oh, they've already had the dickens scared out of them. But the question is, what happens next?
Eldest: (hopefully) They'll get the other dickens scared out of them!

The fish, by the way, survived. Dicken-less.


We are freshly returned from New Hampshire, our second visit this summer to the granite state. I happen to adore New Hampshire. I'm also rather fond of Maine, but I do like the big, chunky rocks that litter New Hampshire - thus the name, I suppose. Ah. I offer here a composite blog, of snippets, trip review and finally a recipe.

Here are some short impressions of the state:

*Whither art thou, Starbucks? Hast been ousted by Dunkin? Better coffee, then…but no good chai.
*Who let the vanity plates loose?
*Oh, good gracious. Motorcycles at 2 am? I’ll give ‘em all leather wedgies!
*The family homestead survives, in ramshackle houses with addition after addition.
*Hurrah for the local supermarket, with it’s wonderful array of gluten-free foods!
*I must be seeing an odd cross-section of the population here, because I see mostly very heavy or very thin women. Being neither, I feel somewhat left out. And the collection of local Barbie-types is impressive.
* “Shriners Live Bait” on a sign. Is that all one sentence? Local customs confuse me.
*happy crowded sleeping people, and no basement ‘ick’ to keep us awake! Just small, wriggly, sleeping bodies. Hm.

Wild Rice and Chicken Salad, slightly adapted from epicurious.com

1 cup uncooked wild rice (I like the Lundberg wild rice mix)
rinse and cook according to instructions.

1 package chicken thighs, cooked. (I roasted mine, then sliced off pieces. I recommend using a wok on some dead bird, preferably boneless breasts. I suspect this would be faster, if more expensive.)
Most of a bunch of scallions, sliced.
1 pineapple, ripe, cut into chunks. Any juice that runs off the board is good - save and add with pineapple, if you can. If not, don't sweat it.

1/3 cup vegetable oil
4-5 Tb lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (if you can)
2 tsp fresh tarragon leaves (or more to taste)

Mix dressing, toss with rice and chicken. It's best to add the dressing while the rice is still warm. Taste to check flavor, adjust spices as necessary. Let sit in fridge for at least 2 hours. Add pineapple before serving.

Serve at room temp.
Optional: add green pepper, almonds, dried cranberries, pine nuts/pignola, sumac.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

gimme, gimme, gimme

According to Business 2.0, I should reelly, realy lern to spell chek this blog before publishig it. Because if I do, I could get people to read it, then sell ad space and earn buckets and buckets and buckets...

pardon me, we now take a break from our regularly scheduled blogging while the Mama goes and drools over her poor, battered budget. We appreciate your readership. Your readership is important to us. Thank you for waiting.

...of cash. Enough to send the kids to the Waldorf (thought I was going to say Montessori, did'ja?) religious school of choice. Hell, enough to fund a school that works according to my philosophies of religious and pedagogical practice. While I go and get a facial. And a massage. While a chef - no, wait - a landscaper - ah, no I kind of like doing those parts. Call me unfeminist, but there it is.

Here, according to the wisdom of Business 2.0, (the September 2006 issue, list by Saheli S.R. Datta) are the 7 habits of highly effective bloggers [sic].

* focus on a narrow niche.
Okay, anyone out there interested in kids, hemophilia and enough allergies to field a cricket team? To humble Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown? Do I hear crickets? Right, then. Moving on to

*set up your own blog, complete with permalinks.
Um, right. I'll just pop out and learn HTML, Dreamweaver and perhaps a wee bit o Java, shall I? (Extremely obscure Douglas Adams reference there, people. Anyone? This would be part of that niche thing, I think.) Or I could set the Eldest loose. He's been singing in his own language lately, perhaps he programs in it, too?

*Think of the blog as a database. Cite authors and publications by name, use tags, keywords, categories.
Tags? What's a tag? I do like me organization, though. Can there be nice, matching containers with pretty lids on?

* Blog frequently and regularly, if possible at least half a dozen posts before lunchtime on weekdays.
Apparently, you lot read things at lunch. Who knew? And who the hell has time to post that much? Read that much? I'm not boing boing, people. Not even one fourth of the boing boing. Of course, if I let the Eldest post, now...but he'd need to learn to spell better first. Or would he?

* Use striking images.
Naugahyde. In 98 degree heat. With dog hair. That do ya? (Again, anyone for the reference?)

*Enable comments and interact with your readers.
Hey, how you doin'? (Anyone? Anyone at all? Sigh.)

*Make friends with other bloggers.
Yup. And then we can all read each other, like one big happy fambily...hey there, jgfellow, how you doin' there, darlin'? Yup, that does seem to work.

And yet the budget is still battered. Well, jg-man, I can hear you pointing out that perhaps, perhaps, were I not to insist on getting the big hunks of broken glass out of the backyard, we'd have a slightly healthier budget.

And nowhere for the kiddo to play with that monstrous kiddie basketball hoop you hauled home, dear. And who the hell decided that a newly gut rehabbed building would be made pretty with landfill? I know it was the seventies, but still. Landfill!!? I've been picking chunks of glass out of the garden for the past two years.

Maybe I should reread that list, then, eh?

two sunflowers

Okay, okay, I think I get it this time: shut up and get out of the way. Or possibly it was relax and let things happen? I do get those cosmic messages mixed up sometime. Maybe it was prepare for anything, then take it as it comes. Oh, whatever. Obviously, I'm not really paying attention.

Wonder what a cosmic time-out or detention look like?

The past few days were yet another in a series of lessons in, well, whatever it is that the universe is trying to teach me this month. The Sil-ly came a couple of days late (traffic was brutal on the 'Pike, I hear) for a visit, and stayed a couple of nights extra. For the first time, I watched my recently independant playing son quietly and harmoniously (erm, mostly harmoniously) engaged with his cousin. And the wee ones more or less ignored each other, so that worked out well, too.

Here's the way it went, in shorthand:
*children went for a walk with their father and auntie
*mama and auntie shepherded small people to Lands Sake, a farm in Weston, MA, where small children peacefully picked raspberries and cherry tomatoes.
[Clip: pick the red ones, sweeties. Red, not yellow.
small children run around shouting, I have a red one, like a rose! and, I have a red one, like a fire engine!
Mama eventually realizes that half the rows have no red ones. She stares. Slowly, slowly, she realizes that those rows are sungold cherry tomatoes. Quietly and methodically, she begins to eat...]
*I don't like this food! It's yucky! (Meanwhile, a cousin is working on a third slice...)
* You go on - I'll watch them.
You're sure? Okay - your turn next.
Happy, showered, peaceful mamas...

And now they are gone, speeding back down the 'Pike, back home to Republican-land. I looked around my little domain, and the babes cuddled against my leg whilst the Eldest played one of innumerable games of 'soccer' between Boston and America. hmmm. I heard the slam of a ball into the windowseat, and shout of 'home run!' and grinned.

Ambling into my kitchen, I found mounds of cherry tomatoes and a good quart of mostly-ripe raspberries. Munching my way through the cherry tomatoes, I pulled out a recipe and started making Peaceful Corn Muffins. Here it is:

Peaceful Corn Muffins
(initially meant to be made with blueberries, I've made them with frozen cherries, and today with raspberries. Be generous with the fruit and remember to pick something that adds juiciness, or else the muffins will be dry.)

serves 6, assuming everybody wants seconds. Adapted from Living Without, Summer 2006.
1/2 c rice flour
1/4 c tapioca flour
1/4 c potato starch flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 c fresh blueberries or thawed frozen (or more)
1 large egg or 1.5 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer, plus 2 Tb water
1/2 c soy milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil (this makes slightly oily muffins. I'm experimenting with an oil/applesauce mix, and will let you know how that goes..)

Preheat over to 425 F, prep - spray/grease - muffin tins. Mix dry ingredients, add fruit of choice. Add liquids, mix until flour is just moistened. Tip: cornmeal absorbs liquid. Move quickly in getting the batter in to the muffin tins after this. Spoon into muffin tins, filling 2/3rds full. Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes. Try not to eat before serving.
Cook's note: the muffins were nicely pink, and raspberries be good in this recipe. But more like 2 cups of them. Best fruit so far in this recipe: defrosted, frozen pitted cherries. Oh, and 1/4 c. applesauce and 1/4 c. veg oil is nice, but makes the muffin batter thick, and it sticks to the tins. So loosen the muffins in the tins carefully once cooked, or change the proportions to have a wee bit more oil and a wee bit less 'sauce.

Time to feed the troops, then head off to the homeopathic pediatrician for an introductory visit. I wonder what she'll be like, what she'll say...I wonder if a nanny will float down to land on my doorstep, blowing away the pathetic few emails from the lesser, somewhat questionable nannies applying to look after the babes...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

but it's Sunday!

...and I'm totally drained. The partner got up, gave the Eldest his dose of clotting factor, did the dishes, took the boys to morning services at the synagogue, and got me non-coffee. (Note to partner-man: large coffee, Dunkin' Donuts, extra extra skim milk, extra sugar. Go.) Then I hauled myself around doing laundry, while he took out the trash, cleaned up the yard waste that has been decomposing in the side walkway and cleaned out the basement window wells. Now I'm lying down, supposedly taking a nap.

What the hell? Did the partner and I switch places? And if so, who is going to go and pound in the edging for my flower beds?

I'm in that almost sleepy state where I could maybe sleep, but I'm staring blankly at my screen. In case you are wondering, according to this, I am Bart Simpson....

You Are Bart Simpson

Very misunderstood, most people just dismiss you as "trouble."

Little do they know that you're wise and well accomplished beyond your years.

You will be remembered for: starring in your own TV show and saving the town from a comet

Your life philosophy: "I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I enjoyed it, and I don't know why I'll do it again!"

...I should go and get a PhD in English....and possibly see about finishing it, too

You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
You'd make a talented professor or writer.

...I'm a jelly bean of controversy

You Are a Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bean

You have a strong, distinct flavor that makes you quite controversial. Some people love you, others wish you would disappear forever.

and my power month is August!

Your Birthdate:

You tend to find yourself lucky - both in business and in life.
And while being wealthy is nice, you enjoy sharing your abundance with others.
You put your luck to good use: you are very ambitious and goal oriented.
Often times, you get over excited and take on more than you can manage.

Your strength: Your ability to make your own luck

Your weakness: Thinking you can do it all

Your power color: Bronze

Your power symbol: Half Moon

Your power month: August

and my aura is colored a stunning shade of...red?

Your Aura is Red

Your Personality: Self-confident and stunning, you live in the now! You love life and experience all it has to offer.

You in Love: You're a bit private and have trouble opening up. You need a secure guy who can deal with your independence.

Your Career: Your ideal job gives you a ton of control and concrete results. Consider being a chef, surgeon, or architect.

Hmm. Anyone remember the color of my world? Not red, that's for sure. Hmph.
Even so, having now been defined by anonymous code-builders, I think I can go and take that nap.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

lemon philanthropy

I'm sitting here with my eldest, and he says to say "thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you..." to the people who came and bought drinks from us today. An especial big thanks goes to R and E, who bought three! drinks and came after reading about the stand on this blog.

Here's the story behind our day, lo now these many months ago (June, to be precise):

I had given a talk for the local childrens hospital, to their philanthropic (aka hit you up for cash) arm. As a way of saying thank you, I was loaded with teddy bears and coloring books and a book called something like '26 Steps: A Child's Guide to Philanthropy.' I was a bit surprised to be so weighted, as my talk had been largely about why it isn't a good thing to tell our oh-so not-quite tragic story, and why perhaps we really shouldn't. And yet.

In the book was a number of stories about kids who decided to raise money for the hospital. All had some connection to the place, whether personal or they knew a kid who'd gone there, was going there, etc. These kids went door to door, donated bat mitzva gifts, had lemonade stands - all of which raised money that they triumphantly donated. Each story came with a take-away, as they say in corporate speak, but as this is a book for kids, the take-away was (wisely) an object. One was a recipe card for lemonade. Another was a small charity box, shaped like a cute caterpillar.

Child: Let's build the box!
parent does so.
Child: Let's fill the box!
parent mentally slaps head, then empties change purse into box. Parent and child rifle the partner's change stash to finish the job.
Grand total: $3.43

The next day, we went to the allergy clinic at the hospital. This was an appointment for the babes, during which I would studiously ignore the Eldest for about two hours. I'd brought an evil DVD player, complete with Mary Poppins, and planned to plug him in. Still...

I called my friend over at the arm-twisting branch, and she agreed to come and ceremoniously accept the caterpillar box. We met before the appointment, and she'd brought a nicely elaborate certificate of donation, and....another box, this one three times the size of the first.

Later that day:
Child: Let's build the box!
parent does so.
Child: Let's fill the box!
parent groans, then points out that no change purse in the world will fill that large object. Parent and child plan a better way to extract monies to fill the tea-cup dog-sized thing.

One lemonade stand later, we had this: $40.96. The child sold organic lemonade and iced tea at 50 cents a cup, and get this: we only sold 38 cups. Tells you something about the persuasive power of a cute child, sweetly asking you to buy a drink on a hot day, no? Or maybe it was the combination of child and worthy cause. And yes, there were those few whose eyes I watched flick from child to MedicAlert bracelet, and they probably figured out the 'why' to the cause chosen. And maybe it says something about the liberal folk of Cambridge (now pay attention here, jgfellow), because while their politics might spring from the heart, so too comes a bit of good will.

At dinner that night, the young captain of industry turned to me and asked, 'Mum, have you ever spoken to God?' Cautiously, thinking of Amber Tamblin and certain people who say that they have, indeed, spoken to the Big Guy, I said, 'no, I haven't.' 'But what does His voice sound like?' he pursued. 'I don't know, sweetie,' I said, sticking to my line. 'I think it sounds like thunder and lightening,' he informed me. Scrambling a bit, I tried again: 'I think that you can feel God in your heart,' I said, treading very carefully. 'Like when you've done something good, you know that it was the right thing to do from your feelings. Perhaps that's a bit of God that you feel?' He nodded, satisfied.

There's time enough to introduce him to the remote versus the active deity debate later. For now, if I can use God as a tool to help him to listen to himself and to develop a barometer for the nature of his actions, then that's enough God for a four year old, I think. It's too easy for God to be the great punisher, the big kahuna who will slap you down if you are bad. Why bother? Better to let the kid internalize the role of judging his own behaviour.

Either way, internal or external, I'm pretty sure something or Someone gave the kid a pat on the back that night, because he had indeed done Good.

As part of an effort to prove to myself (among others) that yes, there really *is* good food available to us, here's the lemonade night's dinner menu. Please note that I was assisted in the kitchen by a handsome young (very young) line cook.

Indian spiced salmon, broiled (a small area left spice-free for the sensitive of palate)
leftover mushroom fried rice
green salad

dessert: sliced bananas in a bath of orange-lemon juice, with brown sugar and coconut on top. Baked. Heavenly!

Monday, August 14, 2006

up, up and TSA

This past weekend, the babes and I flew to Pittsburgh. It was an endeavor characterized by a certain amount of starting and re-starting, as we took ourselves to JetBlue, only to be told that our wee a.m. flight had been canceled.

for this I got up at 5.30 a.m.? Grump.

The nice lady behind the desk offered me another flight, which would have us missing our connection in NYC, then a second flight from NY to Pgh, which would have us spending the entire day flying. Hm. Wake up at 5.30 am, catch an 11am flight, then a 5pm connection? Not bloody likely. In response, I offered my best raised eyebrows, and she relented and offered us a direct flight at 1pm. We'd arrive in Pgh only an hour later than expected. Graciously, I accepted.

But then there was security. For those of you wondering, here are the items I was carrying:
EpiPen Jrs (epinephrine auto-injectors)
multiple jars of baby food
sippy cup of water
diaper cream

My diaper bag was politely searched, and the Purell politely confiscated. As I walked away, I passed a number of gel-filled coolers, sitting sadly on a side table. Was it the coolers that were the difficulty? The contents? Either way, someone was in for a long and hungry flight. Nonetheless, my compliments to TSA: like most women, I hate having other people rummage in my bag. I keep a ridiculous quantity of small things in my bag, and they are arranged in areas (near the shoulder strap, near the middle, in the funny corner with the crumpled fabric) such that I can find small fiddly things by touch. This is, of course, an arrangement easily disturbed by hands squirrelling around in my stuff. Even my dear partner does not always remember the cardinal rule: don't open the purse/bag, just pass it to the woman in question and let her do it. And yet the TSA man carefully poked through my bag, and just as carefully, put everything back exactly where it belonged.

Hmm. Wanna bet he's happily married?

Pittsburgh was not at all as I remembered it, possibly because I'd never left the Jewish ghetto-neighbourhood while I lived there. I looked with some appreciation on the children's hospital being built, some trepidation on the grungier and nastier blocks, and with outright awe at the Market Square Giant Eagle. Yowza. A cheese room? Tamarillos? I could've happily moved in and lived in the parking lot.

Home we went, after a familial stop, to where the j.i.c. had begun the slow process of unearthing the bones of an otherwise unassuming house. Under stained ceiling tiles, awful pink walls and grey carpet with mysterious stains, hid a home with long clean lines, soothing strong colors (yes, both of those - I know. But so it is.). The j. of j.i.c pointed to a doorway. 'i. had to rebuild that,' she said casually. I tried to hold my jaw closed, and thought ruefully about hiring handy people. And I'm proud of my ability to grout things? Um, right.

The vision of the j.i.c. awes me. Who would see a lovely home in that dump? Who would have the energy and skills and general willingness to put all of that time and work in. And will that energy survive the wee fellow who joined them, twelve weeks ago? That remains to be seen, but what has survived the advent of wee boy is the gentleness in the relationship of the j.i.c.

The list of hidden truths about babies is long: your stomach will never look quite the same. A variety of firm spots will become less so, some floppy or droopy, and your spouse will learn quickly to proclaim adoration for the change. You will never again finish a novel in one go. Your conversational topics will dwindle, and the nature of poop will be too high on your mental rolodex of topics. Using the bathroom alone will become an opportunity for alone-time. The phrase 'you look great!' will have the silent addition of 'considering...' And the ability to sleep in on Sundays will completely evaporate.

Most of all, however, the relationship between spice will change. When you make the shift from beloveds to legally acknowledged partners, the spousal relationship ups the relationship ante, making the un-hampered socks or the raised toilet seat weightier issues than pre-legal binding. Children raises the stakes even further, leaving you to wonder not only if your spouse will spend the next forty years dropping his socks by the bed, but if he'll teach the kids to leave their laundry lying around, too. Suddenly, minor issues become hanging offenses. Although possibly the whole Judge Jeffries thing is also due in part from chronic lack of sleep...

So how did the j.i.c. sidestep this evolution when they extracted their wee boy?

Now, yes, I know that they were relating in public, in front of an audience bright-eyed with curiosity. But still, over the course of a weekend there was not a major roar at each other. Roars, yes, but the sharpness of a spouse frustrated with a spouse, or directing irritation at a spouse, not so very much.

All of this, however, pales in light of the absolutely fantastic food. The spice could have roared, the baby sung counterpoint, but all I could see was extraordinary, over-stuff myself food - food which I did not prepare, for whose existence I was not the consultant, and glory be, it was extremely good. Blessed be, and I'll be back...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

fragments of sense

Tonight my mood is fizzing, swinging between delighted and sensible, so I won’t aim for a coherent post. Instead, I offer you these snippets:

*today I used craigslist for the first time as an consumer, rather than a provider. I’d used it twice before, to get rid of a bookcase and to put our bird up for adoption. Each time, craigslist served me well. Today, I picked up a rocking chair – a solid and surprisingly large piece that will hopefully help us in the great effort to persuade the babes to sleep. (Yes, still working on that. Please don’t offer advice…) Magid joined me and hoisted most of the weight, most of the time. Okay, nearly all of the weight, nearly all of the time. I darted ahead and opened doors, measured openings and delivered opinions. And held small children and got in the way. Huzzah for craigslist, for magid and for the commonplace marketplace! We could never have afforded such a chair on the fly like this, nor would I have managed to get the thing home without magid who, when I was nearly ready to give up (we couldn’t fit the thing into the car), figured out a way to secure it in the trunk and guided me home.

*The babes is now happily standing on his own, and continues to rise to standing calmly, with an expression that indicates that applause would be appreciated, but that he intends to look mildly surprised and humble should it be provided. If I am too slow, he provides this himself. He continues to delight the Eldest and I, recently by helping put laundry into the washing machine, or by holding a block or toy to his ear with a quizzical expression, as if waiting for it to act like a telephone. I had forgotten how much a child of nearly-one understands, and the social scientist of their minds at work. Already, he recognizes and responds to my roar – less clear to him is the Eldest’s wail of distress, perhaps partly because he knows that the wail may easily turn into a giggle..

*the search for a our-family-friendly breakfast cereal continues. Most contenders have potential cross-contamination with wheat, dairy, nuts or peanut, so we’re limping along on puffed rice. Today, I broke down and bought a cocoa-flavored puffed rice. Any suggestions, o readers? On the upside, I finally found an easily portable finger food for the babes, who needs practice with such things, as well as to be persuaded that when I produce chunks of baked sweet potato, bits of rice pasta, etc, that these things are desirable and delicious, despite not being pureed. And yes, he maintains this position of uncertainty despite his happy continued peach-gnawing. I salute his determination to hold the line, whatever that line may be. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to respect it.. But it irks the dickens out of me that the new option is by Gerber, evil megacorp that it is.

*I have finally embarked on a long standing project. Two, to be precise. The first was working on the lighting for our home – our tenth anniversary present to ourselves, supported by the MIL and FIL. We intend to bring light into various dimnesses, and to get rid of the ancient halogen that pretends to light our dining area. It was perhaps unfortunate, then, that we went as a family to look at lighting while I was loopy on Benadryl. What a waste! My chances of getting my partner back out to the store are nearly nil, and I spent most of the time thinking things like ‘ooo, look at the pretty light. It sparkles. Do I like sparkles? (note: I probably do not.)

However, I pulled it together long enough to make several potential choices, to gasp at the cost of the only – only! – fixture I liked for the dining area, and to go home where I fell over. I have a vague recollection of my partner looking grumpy as he sat on the edge of the bed, and I’m fairly certain that at least one child joined me at one point. If not two.

Combining the beginning of the lighting project with another minor project, painting blackboards on a wall in the boys’ room, and I feel pretty snappy. My list of DIYs is irritatingly long, and each morning I look at the cracking grout around the bathtub and swear that yes, today is the day! I will caulk today. I even have the caulk. It is even sittng on the staircase, waiting to be taken into the bathroom and used. And yet, there it sits. Could I yet become a person who has caulked tubs? Today, I feel that there is hope.

* The fish have stopped dying. (We can now all pause for a wee Hannibal Lector moment.) We went burning through Speckles One and Two, Katie One and RedCap, but Katie Two, Snapper/Snappy and SillyFish seem in the bloom of health. And occasionally cranky when I forget to feed them quickly enough. And to my joy, the fishtank has actually had an unexpected benefit: instead of collapsing in front of the TV in the late afternoon, whilst I make dinner, the Eldest is now watching the fish, and narrating what he sees. When he gets bored, he wanders off and plays. The amount of TV he watched was a major point on my Bad Mama list, and to have that removed is a great relief. That the Eldest, sans TV, is a happier kid surprises me not at all: a half hour of the idiot box and he’d be a limp rag. More, and he is a whining limp rag. (shudder) Now, if only the fish didn’t seem to be taking turns with the roses, my score on the keeping things alive scale would be better.

All of this, and I have yet to find a nanny. Anyone know of someone in the Boston area who wants to look after the babes two days a week? She should be loving, inventive, cool headed in an emergency…and preferably carry a parrot-head umbrella.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I've got *how* long until candlelighting?

Shabbat is rapidly swooping in, and I have yet to finish making dinner, trace and paint a pair of rectangles on the boys' wall, screw in a doorknob, change water in the fish tank, shower and then try to excavate my home such that the guests can find the table. But what the hell, the partner has taken the boys walking (no surprise, that), and I have finally got a few moments...so let's blog!

To you all, I feel like I've hit a quota on my political posts. So instead, I refer you to this and this for an on-the-ground view of the war in Lebanon. It just makes me so sad. And I'll happily send you to this grumpy take on Mr. Gibson.

Rapunzel, I did not forget your question about kisui rosh. (See here if you missed the post.) I've actually been ducking it, because it's not an easily answered one - or perhaps it's an answer that makes me uneasy. Either way, here I go:

When I was first married, I lived in a community that seemed to me to be very interested in guidelines. Odd ones would crop up, ones I'd never really thought had much bearing on my practice, and there was an uncomfortable undercurrent of keeping up with the Cohens. It seemed almost as if your public faith was more important than your private faith. Now, keep in mind that I was rather young then, and that my practice then was more mimetic, or what I'd learned in school and at home, than it was a compilation of deliberately investigated and chosen behaviours/beliefs. My MIL would remind me that I'm not so very much older now, and I'd have to admit that my faith seems a permanently evolving creature. And that's my disclaimer.

I covered my hair when I got married for a range of reasons. First, I looked it up. According to the Rashi (commenator) on the relevant bit of Talmud, this seemed to be the thing to do. The flexibility and range within this practice seemed as much community-oriented as it was personal choice. As a member of the Orthodox community, then, I looked around and chose from the range of choices being enacted in my community. As an individual, however, I knew that I suffer from headaches, made worse by even the lightest headband, and I suspected that this would cause complications. Still, there are different headcovering options, and some would be kinder to my splitting skull than others.. I also knew that I was applying to graduate school, where I'd most likely be the only religious Jew the department had. Kisui rosh would make me a rare bird, indeed. Weighing this, I made a deal with myself and my partner: I'd give it a year. For one year, I'd keep this stricture, and over the course of the year we'd see how it felt. Convenience was not a reason to ditch it, even in the summer, and if necessary we could find a nice engineer to build a mini-a/c into my hats/fall (half-wig). And so it went.

I gave it a year and a half, in the end, and it was a good thing to have done. I learned that I could be that person, that I was comfortable with long skirts and demure dress, and that I could also be a variant with jeans and a scarf. But neither felt quite right.

Meanwhile, I was having migraines. And we'd moved to a community where only one or two women covered their hair. Being religious at grad school did indeed make me an oddity, but in a good way, as the faculty was intrigued by my day-school Hebrew and training in literary analysis.

Eventually, I decided that I just wasn't that person, that this felt like wearing a mask or persona. That kisui rosh was an option for a different version of religious me, and that worst of all, I was on the verge of rebelling. Lest other practices get lumped in with kisui rosh, I decided to face reality and make the change that I'd already seemed to have chosen. Off came the hats, to the distress of the faculty, who were concerned by this apparent religious backsliding. And my partner?

I never wanted to say anything, but I'm so glad you've decided not to do this anymore...

And that's the story of my wig, now stored in the back of my closet. It's become a metaphor for the evolving self, I suppose..

Oh, crap. I have two hours. Good luck to you, Rapunzel, in whatever evolution you are experiencing. And to you all, shabbat shalom. May this weekend bring us all peace.

dinner tonight:
watermelon gazpacho (must add the thyme!)

goan fish curry
tofu-cucumber salad
corn salad, currently much too garlicky
hearts of palm/avocado salad, courtesy of my dear Viv

homemade lemon sorbet

As you can see, this is a variant on the idea of throwing money at a problem. We're feeding a bunch a folks tonight, some vegetarian, some not, and some preggers. I couldn't decide what to make, so I'm throwing food at the problem. Surely someone will eat something...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

and the trees went down..

When three hickory trees fall in the middle of a town, does anyone picket?

Apparently, they do - electronically, that is. Recently, I wrote this about a town's decision to allow a family to remove three hickory trees. The topic has now been rechewed by Slate.com's own Emily Bazelton, here. Emily is, as you can tell from the picture, distressed because her son's chosen snack was denied twice, for potential nut/peanut content. Once is an accident, twice is kinda careless, no?

Following her editor's instruction to be controversial, Emily has sparked the 'is my kid more important than you kid' debate, using her undernourished child as the vehicle, while handily tossing out the old 'overprotective parent' line, to undercut the credentials of the allergy mom or dad. Or the school board, who presumably made the rules that she finds so onerous. Oh, Em. How unoriginal of you.

Yes, your child is less important than mine. Is that what you wanted to hear? Yes, I am a mean mama, over protecting my kid and unnecessarily restricting his diet - and your kid's diet, all in one swell foop. Better now?

Oh, and by the bye, Emily, you forgot one crucial thing: allergies are not static. With each exposure, a child's allergy can ramp up, until even a hitherto mild allergy can become a life-threatening one. So what risk, exactly, would you be willing to take if you were in my shoes?

In my not so humble opinion, Emily has succeeded. She's provoking, all right. And yes, she raises a real problem. But more than that, she proves that among the virtues she's teaching her child, mindfulness and respect for the needs of others is not so much a focus. Read the damned labels, Emily. Teach your kid to be a mensch.

Trust me, that lesson has much more value than 'but I wanna eat that for snack!' As any allergy parent knows, sometimes food has less value than a human being.

Dinner tonight: nothing! It's the ninth of Av, a fast day. The boys, however, feasted on leftovers.
For the curious, yes, I did respond to Emily's article on slate.com's message board, aptly named The Fray. I'll give you a hint: I posted on August 3rd, at about 7 pm...and those of you who know the Eldest's other diagnosis will easily identify me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

game playing

It sometimes surprises people who know my partner and his family, but I am no game player. I have the worst possible mindset for game playing: I'm impatient and extremely competitive. So, when I'm too impatient to think strategically, I get seriously crabby when I, not surprisingly, lose.

Over the years, my strategy has been to avoid all games, since in addition to not really enjoying the stomach-churning experience of sore loserdom, I also find my own competitiveness uncomfortable. So I find myself in the slightly awkward position of being uninterested in the games beloved of childhood: Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land (which has other, philosophical difficulties) and War, or as it's known in our house, Peace-Keeping Mission. I get quickly disengaged from these games, unsettled by the Eldest's enthusiastic competition, and try to redirect him towards something cooperative, such as building blocks. No go.

But the babes and I play games. We play peekaboo, and he always sees me. We play build it and knock it down - and he always does. We play for me? thank you. For you? you're welcome. We play throw the ball, and he sometimes does. And as of today, we play share the peach.

The babes, whose track record as an eater is a bit spotty, watched me carefully as I ate a peach today. His own opinion on peaches had been expressed a number of times, in regards to puree, and then in relation to a beautifully, perfectly ripe peach. He declined this object and its potential for juicy mess. Repeatedly. But here I was with an extremely unripe, sour peach, and he was watching me avidly. I shrugged and handed it over, to be rewarded by the sour-lemon face. And then.

The babes paused, unquirked his mouth, and sucked on the peach again. He sucked on that thing for a good five minutes, before handing it back - inquiringly. I obliged by taking another bite, and he went back to work. Tonight I type with a wakeful babes at my feet, who is standing and dimpling at me, awaiting my next bite.

My turn. His turn. Happy, happy sourness, and nobody loses.