Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Does O.'s Garden Grow?

Well, lately, it's looking quite nice. Thank you to bean plants: so foolproof and fast! Guess that's why they have kids plant them in dixie cups at school. Although the one O. did at school was the only non-grower around here this season.

My mom and I finally devised a Scout-proof fence around it, so I haven't had to replant it every other day for the last couple weeks, and it's gotten a chance to sprout. Here are a few photos of the progress.

I don't profess to be a great photographer, and I struggle with Blogger and photos -- not sure why some of these are on their sides, because I thought I had rotated them. Oh well.

View from the porch



Lettuce. The earlier planted row seems to have stopped growing.
Maybe I'll harvest them and call them "microgreens."

Bean plant.

Squash and basil from seed.
I've never had luck with herbs from seed, so we'll see.
I bought a plant as well, because I can't do without basil.

Tomato I bought already mature.
Barbara Kingsolver wouldn't approve, but then again,
she doesn't have two children under five. Babysteps on this gardening adventure.
Smaller tomato, and the giant tomato cage that was the only size left at the store.

This was supposed to show you my marigolds and petunias,
but looks just like wet mulch and some greenery.

Flower bed and yard. White impatiens in this one.
Also, the stepping stone the kids made me for Mother's Day (in front of our gnome friend).
J. wants you to admire the grass, and to be annoyed
that I deadheaded my petunia onto its beauty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Options for Your Lunch Break

In the last week or so, I've come across a few food related bits of things I thought I'd share with you.
First of all, I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and wondering why in the world it took me so long to do so. I know it came out right as N. was born, and that probably explains it, but I knew I would love it, as I love nearly everything Kingsolver has written, even her not as good stuff like High Tide in Tucson. Probably because she's literary, but also secretly a biology nerd, which pretty much describes myself. Anyway, I'm only two chapters in, and I'm fascinated. I'll give you a full review when I get done, but so far, I'm really sad I didn't plant a patch of asparagus when I moved into this house. Apparently, you can't harvest it until its fourth season. A. and E., get yours planted in the new house now.

Next, a collection of food related websites that are a nice diversion when you're looking for something new to read on the web, or you're feeling a little in a cooking rut.

Entertainment Weekly highlighted seven of them in this article. I think I like Orangette the best of these, though "This is why you're fat" is hilarious and oddly hunger inducing.

Another "foodie" website I came across recently is I guess it used to be a magazine, but is now purely online. Fun stuff here, a nice mix of basic tips and informative articles and some interesting opinion. For you Office fans, here's my favorite of what I've read so far here. The Top Ten Food Moments from "The Office." What could be better than a combination of television pop culture trivia and food??

Oh, and have you heard about the latest Bravo food show? It's Top Chef Masters, and oh yes, that means it is real "celebrity" chefs competing against each other. Personally, I can't wait to see Michael Chiarello get taken down a notch or two by the likes of Rick Bayless.

And finally, while we're on the topic of cooking, sort of, an update on my adventures in eggless baking. I made some oatmeal cookies. Used the recipe on the Quaker can, not my mom's recipe, not sure why. I used the egg replacer, and they turned out really flat. I had to kind of flip them upside down off of the pan onto a wire rack so they didn't fall apart. But they tasted pretty good, probably because the recipe called for two sticks of butter. Not presentable for entertaining, but tasty for at home.
This week, though, I had a success. Found a recipe for raspberry oatmeal bars in Real Simple magazine. It's weird how many successes I've had from here lately. Usually, I can count more on Cooking Light, but they've had a lot of nuts in there lately.
Not a single egg in the original recipe. It's a shortbread kind of dough, with raspberry jam smeared on top. They were quite delicious, and since berries are always a hit in our house, O. and N. both enjoyed them. My only complaint is that the recipe only makes enough for an 8 inch pan. I was making them to take to friends that I was making dinner for, and thus had to make two batches in order to have any for us. I didn't want to push things by doubling it for a 9x13 pan, but maybe next time. Super easy, too: just whir some stuff together in a food processor, press it into the pan and smear with the jam, sprinkle with berries, and bake. I think I'll go have another right now.

(I can't find the recipe on the website to make a link to it, but email me if you want it.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Can't Be Four, Can You? I Don't Know. Let Me Ask My Mom.*

This morning, O. said to me "I'm really four, right, Mom?" And I assured him that he was indeed, really four. "I waited a long time to be four, didn't I?" he added.

Today, I'm reflecting on what it means that my son is now four years old, and what it was like to celebrate Mother's Day yesterday after one of my most trying weeks of being a mom yet. A little over a week ago, O. was bitten by our neighbor's dog. He's okay, and while one of the bites was on his face, near his eye, it didn't require stitches, and is now healing nicely. Our neighbors are friends (and readers of this blog), and I know are feeling nearly as bad as we are over the whole situation. To top it off, four days later, we made a return trip to the ER with N. She tripped and fell at the zoo, split her lip open, and required three stitches.

Aside from having to be vigilant about applying sunblock and Mederma all summer, we probably won't even notice any marks on either of my kids in a couple of weeks. But of course, there's the worry about the wounds other than the physical ones. The fact that it's enough on O's mind that he wants me to be sure to tell his principal for him when he greets us on our way into preschool. He's thinking ahead to our trip to the lake, the next time he will sees his cousins and asks whether or not his boo-boo will still be there. He's also suddenly interested in what makes an invisible fence work. I start to think about my own first memories, and wonder where this will lodge in his own story of his life.

I'm torn as to whether to write about any of this, not sure really what the etiquette is for such situations, but somehow it just doesn't feel right to skip over my thoughts about O., wrapped up as they are in his moving on to a new age, and move right on to blogging about the cool things I have been finding at my library lately, or a couple of cool websites I recently discovered.

My thoughts on being his mother right now are all tied up in what it means to look at his face with its fresh but already fading reminder that he's heading out into the world where I can't protect him from everything. I knew that, had already experienced that in his forays into the world of school, and playing on a soccer team for the first time. But this time, the thing I couldn't protect him from wasn't something you'd rather delay because you don't want him to grow up just yet. It's something I didn't want to ever happen at all. It's not just me that knows I can't always protect him. Now he knows it too.

Of course, I would rather have these learning experiences be things like realizing he's not the fastest one on the soccer field. But we can't ask for what happens to us in life, only do our best to handle what does happen. I know he will be fine. Realize in fact, that this is helping him become the man I look forward to knowing. And so, while this experience is weighing a little heavily on us these days, I want to take the time to remember all the other things that make knowing my four year old so amazing.

For example, I continue to be astounded by the ways that his mind works. Sometimes he make connections that just amaze me in their complexity and memory recall.

We were driving through the campus of a local university recently, and he asked what all the people were doing walking around. I told him that they were in college, and were probably on their way to class. He said "But Mom, college isn't for going to class. I go to class. You go to colleges just when you're on vacation." It took me a moment, but then I remembered that his only other reference to "college" was our stop to look around the University of Virginia on our way to the beach two years ago.

Of course, he also knows exactly how to push all the most annoying buttons on me. We spend large amounts of time discussing potential situations he is sure he will not like, and all the ways he is going to be naughty when he gets into said situations (eg: haircuts, dentists, doctors). Then when we're actually in the situation, he acts like it's no big deal, until we leave, and he throws another fit to show me how mad he is that I made him do such a humiliating and awful thing.

He is newly argumentative, and occasionally shoots me a "Yeah, so?" look that I fear will haunt me well into his teens. He finds potty talk alluring and hilarious, and slips it in to conversations purely to test my mood and, to see if his sister will choose to add those choice words to her limited vocabulary.

When it comes to his sister, he's either her greatest champion or her worst tormentor. He loves to try to get her to do crazy and reckless things, like take all the pillows off of the couch and leap into the pile they create on the floor. (Maybe I should be thankful this week brought our first trips to the ER). He teases her by taking exactly the toy he knows she wants right then, throwing it into his dump truck and racing in laps around the kitchen, usually while I'm trying to cook dinner. Her screams don't seem to bother him at all. But then, the moment that her tears are caused by something I've said to her, he runs to her rescue, bringing her exactly the right baby doll, and finding the words to calm her that no one else can.

The day before his fourth birthday, we were making preparations for a little party with some of his friends at our house. I had planned a "dinosaur dig" which involved hiding tiny plastic dinosaurs in his water table, which he was helping me fill with sand. When I mentioned that when we did this activity, each child would get to take home whichever dinosaurs they found in the sand (said dinosaurs were purchased specially for this activity), he promptly lost it. He gathered up all the dinosaurs, started crying hysterically, and said: "Call all the moms and tell them not to come tomorrow. I don't want to have a party. I just want to stay three. Then I won't have to share."

It's both delightful and frustrating to watch him on the soccer field. It's clear he has his own game plan devised in his head, and it does not necessarily involve taking the ball away from the other team, nor scoring a goal. He runs with purpose, watching his own feet rather than the ball. He has a look of competitiveness and focus, but is most glad to head back to the sidelines to drink out of his water bottle. If you ask him what he thought of the game, he says "That other team is just too fast. But I scored goals at practice time." And that, of course, is just fine.

Yesterday, after a delightful Mother's Day morning, filled with gifts J. had helped the kids make for me, and a breakfast I didn't have to prepare, J. was outside cutting the grass. O. and N. were running wild and ganging up to not listen to me. At one point, I had to yell at both of them because they were about to break some toy. O. turned to me and said "Is it still Mother's Day?" When I replied that it was, he came over and gave me a hug, said "I love you, Mommy," and proceeded to behave for nearly five straight minutes.

What I love about where he is in his life is that magical combination of challenge, awareness, and sweetness. And the fact that I can still cure just about anything with a hug.

*The post title comes from a phone conversation between my grandmother and O. on his birthday.