Friday, February 28, 2014

Kids in the Kitchen - Roundup

And now for an update on all we've been cooking up since my last post on the topic, including links to the recipes -

As it seems to happen again and again, when the kids cook, the food is the best it's ever been.  Aidan tried a new recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, and we're never going back to anything else. Thank you, Great -Grandma Turano!    I don't know which is better - the sauce or the meatballs.

Aidan also made Lettuce Hand Rolls, which we've dubbed "Asian Cocoons" instead.  This is *such* a simple, satisfying weeknight meal that is easily adapted to appeal to kids and adults alike.  We add jasmine rice and steamed edamame to round out the meal. The kids usually wrap their filling in tortillas; Jeff and I opt for crunchy lettuce instead.

A family favorite that Leo served up recently is Chicken Parmesan meatballs.

 Leo also made a scrumptious, from-scratch spaghetti sauce that was officially voted BEST EVER. As in ever EVER, in the History of All Spaghetti Sauces Ever Made.  We adapted it from this recipe - we (more than) halved it; we used ground turkey; we didn't simmer it for quite the full hour, since suddenly Master Chef Night turned into Master Arsenic Hour.  (My mother's phrase - arsenic hour - you don't know whether to give it or take it....)  Anyhoo.  The sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the pasta that we all used to "carb load" before the 5K race we're all doing in the morning, to benefit the local day shelter serving the homeless in our community.

Pax served up a delicious helping of Sloppy Toms (turkey meat instead of beef); sweet potato fries, and steamed broccoli with cheese sauce. The food was delicious - Pax is an excellent cook of simple meals - but the cheese sauce did not thicken as it should have...  The next night, I took the leftover cheese sauce and mixed it with about 8 ounces of cooked macaroni.  I added panko breadcrumbs, baked it for about half an hour at 350, and it yielded the most delicious, fuss-free, and kid-approved macaroni and cheese we've ever had. (There's no guarantee, of course, that I'll be able to replicate the UN-thick sauce required to make the mac n'cheese, but I'm still feeling proud of my ingenuity here.)

 Finally, Pax whipped up some mighty fine Molten Lava Cakes, a la Emeril Lagasse.  I really liked the process involved in making these cakes - you prep them well in advance, then freeze them before baking, then serve immediately - but they did not yield that highly satisfying mounded cake form that, when cut into, pours forth the molten lava.....rather, they collapsed onto the plate.

After reading about our adventures in the kitchen, my aunt recently sent us a recipe for a chocolate pudding cake that my grandmother (her mother) used to make. I cannot wait to make it with Pax!  Ever since Grandma Turano's meatballs, I've been more eager than ever to delve into recipes passed down from generations.  Was my grandmother a chef?  Hell no.  She was famous for her gorgeous table settings and flower arrangements, infamous for the dishes she served from the sideboard.  Along with setting a beautiful table, she was immaculate, fashionable, and chic.  But her culinary skills were quite another story.  Once, thinking she'd removed a portion of cake to serve for dessert, she unwrapped the parcel in front of her expectant guests, only to reveal... an angora sweater, kept in the freezer to prevent shedding.

And yet perhaps some of what I've learned about cooking, and what I'm hoping to teach to my own children, was, in fact, passed down from Jean Seehaver.  For in the moment when the lava cake collapsed, and the cheese sauce refused to thicken, I simply chuckled and announced, "Oh Well!" - a Jean Seehaver phrase, if ever there was one.

Wee Words, take 2

Pax was released from speech therapy just under a year ago, and has continued to make a lot of progress without the extra support of the specialist.  Still, though, he struggles with the S sound.

Recently, all the boys were at my parents' house while I was at the gym.  Leo and Pax were sitting at the counter, and Pax was telling Leo some story or another, with Grandma listening in.  Gently, my mom interrupted Pax at one point to say, "Pax, I couldn't really understand what you were saying just now, because you were not using your S sound."

Very calmly and evenly, Pax responded, "Dama, [Grandma], that is because I was not peaking to you.  I was peaking Ee-O. [Leo].  That is why you do not know what I am saying." (peaking = speaking, of course)

To which a very sheepish Grandma replied, "Oh."

After a LONG morning of running errands, including an overly huge trip to the grocery store, I was hungry and a little bit crabby, ready to have lunch and get Pax down for a nap.  I said to him, "Pax, what is it you told me you wanted for lunch?"  He responded, "I want you to make me some swoppy joes and macaroni and cheese."

Exasperated, I said, "Pax, lunch is not something where I make you a bunch of different things.  Lunch is very straightforward."

He looked at me and cocked his head to the side.  "If lunch was straightbackward, then,...."

...and recited, in reverse, all the things we'd done that morning.

"We'd have to go back to the grocery store and put everything back on the shelf.  Then we would go to the place to mail things.  We would go home, and I would watch A LOT OF television. [cringe!!]  Then you would take me to Grandma and Grandpa's, and then we would have to go back home again."

He looked at me, triumphant.  I looked at him, astounded by his recall.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wee Words

What I'm giggling about these days:

Pax and I were in the car, running errands and about to stop by Grandma and Grandpa's house to drop something off.  "Are Grandma and Grandpa here?" Pax asked as we pulled down the driveway.
"No, they are both at work."
"Oh.  Grandpa is golfing?" he asked.
"No, he is at work."  I replied.
"Yeah, that's what I said.  Golfing."
On the way home from the grocery store, Pax was munching on the Kit Kat I bought him at the checkout.  With a deep sigh he said wistfully, and mostly to himself,
"I wish chocolate was helfy [healthy].  I would make it for DINNER."
Every preschool day, I ask for a report about how he enjoyed his morning.  Answers are usually "Stupendous!" or, more often, "Awful."  Being put in time out or not getting to do show and tell (because of bad behavior) are the usual causes of Awful Days... (I'm still wondering how long it will take to make the connection that better behavior would yield more days deemed "stupendous" ...)  Anyhow, he still loves his teacher, even when she is a "meaniac" for putting him in time out.  Today, he made her a beautiful card before we left for school, and when she opened it, he told her, "That is a picture of me being naughty outside."

As if she needed reminding!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Map of my Heart

This morning, I happened upon a post from an art blogger I really like - she has a wealth and a depth of knowledge in art, and yet her methods and approaches are easily recreated by anyone.  I am not an artist; I know next to nothing about painting, composition, the difference between gouache and acrylic.  But I do know that I love to Create Things, and that creating things is important.  And so-- inspired,

The five of us sat down together to Create Things.  Our idea springboard was found here, and this is what we ended up with. (Clockwise, starting top left:  Anne; Aidan; Leo; Pax; Jeff)

A Map of My Heart:  
people and things that I love; pictures and words of what holds space in my heart.

I'm thinking I'll string these together on a pretty ribbon and hang them from the mantle, or perhaps mount them all together in an oversize frame.  And I love imagining this as a new tradition; I'd love to see how their hearts change, grow, expand in the years to come. Our work this morning was intentional, peaceful, quiet, contemplative, each of us absorbed in a common task.  And it was affirming, quietly yet powerfully affirming, to see such overlap in our hearts' maps.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Heart Day

Family Date = Ice skating at an almost-empty rink, followed by hot cocoa (for 3) and draft beers (for 2), followed by an impromptu snowball fight that had everyone in giggles, including the passersby, followed by a very scrumptious, authentic Chinese dinner at a new find in town, followed by a quiet evening of drinking wine, revising a paper, (Jeff) and remembering things (Anne).

Happy heart day.

A reason to celebrate!

Last year I wrote about why I struggle so much with Valentine's day, a holiday I used to adore until heartbreak  made it lose its luster.

Today, my heart is celebrating the love of all people.  In a historic and important step in our history, Virginia IS for Lovers.

Recently I wrote to a dear friend --

Hi Friend,

I've been thinking about the particular challenges and judgement you face that extend beyond what most of us moms experience, both because you are lesbian and because you've adopted a child.   I want to point out to you a different perspective...........

I am so grateful for you - for your family.  I wish that my kids saw families like yours more often.  I wish they saw families like yours, because you are living, breathing examples of the values we're working so hard to instill in our children.  I use that word very deliberately - values - because of the weight it carries in other contexts.  I value the diversity of your family:  two moms; an adopted child; a multi-ethnicity family.  I value that you demonstrate the truth of what we teach our children, that families come in all different packages: some have two moms, or two dads; some have a single parent; some have a mom and a dad; some kids are born into a family and others are adopted, but all families have a commitment to one another, and a commitment to loving each other no matter what.  

Recently, Pax and Leo were playing with Little People, and it evolved into some kind of elaborate game of house.  Pax and Leo both wanted to be the dad, and the start of an argument began, until Leo exclaimed, "Wait a minute, we can both be the dads!  Some families have two daddies!"  Peace was instantly restored and the game continued quite merrily... all because of their clear understanding of what constitutes a family.

Do you have any idea how much my heart swelled to hear that?  How grateful I am that they are able to effortlessly articulate their acceptance?  How in that moment, I appreciated yet another facet of our friendship?  And how, in that moment, I envisioned an entire lifetime where they will continue to speak up and speak out for what they value and know to be true...

And so the next time you face judgement - perceived or real - remember my gratitude for you, for your family - diverse in composition but unified in love.  My kids are better people because of it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Early riser

Leo to me: Pax tried to come in my bed this morning and wake me up too early, but I told him NO!

Pax overhearing him:  Want to know why I always want to wake you up early?  Because I love you soooo much and I just want to [s]nuggle with you.

Even if the most exhausted, overused, and rather ineffective phrase in my parenting vocabulary is "Keep your hands to yourself," it is moments like these that positively slay me.

We might as well just go ahead and call this place Philadelphia, for all the brotherly love around here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I Like About You

For his birthday, Pax's Grandpa Howie and Grammy Trisha sent him a card with a plastic bracelet inside. The bracelet has a pre-recorded song on it, What I Like About You (by the Romantics), that plays about 5 seconds of the song, featuring the (only, apparently,) essential "what I like about you" part.

Pax wears it incessantly.  And therefore plays it incessantly.  Three months in to dozens of daily repetitions, Pax looked at me very seriously and asked, "But Mommy, what is it they like about me?"

Turns out the Romantics got it right.  Here's what I like about you, Pax.

You keep me warm at night.  Sneaking into my bed at 3 in the morning is your regular habit, and yet the simple pleasure of waking up to see you, content and peaceful, slumbering beside me; feeling the warmth of your body tucked under the covers - in those early, quiet moments before the morning rush has begun, I drink you in like the fresh brewed coffee waiting for me downstairs...

You hold me tight.  Earlier this week, we arrived home from errands, chilled to the bone, feeling weary and spent.  You sensed, without me asking or saying, how much a hug from you would ease my chill and my worries.  You wrapped your arms around my leg, tightly, until I bent down to you.  You wrapped your arms around my shoulders and patted me gently on the back.  You said nothing to me at all; you just held me in your small arms.

You really know how to... swim.  In the bathtub.  In winter.  When it's 20 degrees, bleak and gray and making me wonder if there will ever be a day when I am anything but frozen to the core, you don your swim goggles before bath and declare it's time for you to practice.  And you do, with abandon.

..and how to have fun.  You love picnics.  You help me be spontaneous.  On the one and only day in months that the temperatures reached above 50 degrees, we decided, spur of the moment, to stop off at a favorite picnic spot for lunch and a little exploring.  The next week, we resumed our twice-weekly picnics on the floor of my office.

You tell me all the things that I want to hear.  (yeah okay and some stuff I never want to hear.... )  You tell me, again and again, I wuv you, Mommy.  You holler from one room to the next until I finally come in, slightly annoyed and wondering what on earth could prompt such a racket from you, only to have you look at me and say sweetly, again, "Mommy, I wuv you."  

Pax, you are so big and so little all at once.  Tonight, I held you again in my arms and let you drift off to sleep before transferring you to your bed.  My arms felt heavy, my back was sore, and my legs were numb... and yet I never wanna let you go.  

That's what I like about you.