Saturday, March 28, 2009

Foodie . . . Saturday

Foodie Friday must not be meant to be.

When I was a kid, my mom was pretty thrifty with the food that she purchased. When I was very young, we drank a lot of Milk Man powdered milk. I guess it was cheaper than fresh milk. We also had limits on the cold cereal we were allowed. I don’t think my mom ever really cracked down on me since I was never excessive in my cereal consumption, but my brothers were allowed only one bowl of cold cereal and after that they had to fill their bellies with eggs or oatmeal or toast.

I decided to really try to spend less on groceries for this week, and I think I managed to get enough for the week for $72. I will obviously be drawing on our pantry items a lot, but here’s what I bought (from memory):

1 gallon local milk
1 dozen local eggs
1 large head broccoli
1 red pepper
fresh green beans
1 head romaine lettuce
2 mangos
4 apples
1 bunch bananas
3 pears
2 packages strawberries
1 jar minced garlic (I use this in bi bim bop since fresh is too strong)
1 package tofu
1 bag tortilla chips
1 box 44 count fish sticks (on a super sale)
1 large hunk of cheese
organic oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (marked down to $1 for quick sale)
1 lb. fair trade coffee
1 bottle red wine
chopped pecans (marked down for quick sale)

So far we have been eating just fine. Luke has complained about the free bread from church that I have been making his sandwiches with since it has “crunchies” in it—it is oat nut rather than the usual 100% whole wheat—but he’ll survive. The nice thing about packing school lunches is that he is hungry and I’m not around for him to harass. I have also had to make homemade ketchup, which is quite tasty, and we didn’t get fresh cilantro in our tofu tortilla soup, which I missed a little. Also, the bi bim bop was made with whatever veggies needed to be used up rather than our usual spinach, zucchini, mushroom combo, but it tasted just fine. So far, it has been quite a thrifty week.

The only problem is that when I spend significantly less for a week, I always find that I’m out of so many things by the end of the week that I have to spend a lot the next. We’ll see how it goes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Update For So Yung

Luke said he had a fine day yesterday. No time in the corner. He didn't get in any trouble because he was on extra good behavior. Mrs. Fair even forgot to keep him from recess.

"But someone did have to go stand out in the hall between a bookcase and the wall for talking," said Luke.

Hmm. Luke might be misunderstanding something, but I do think I should shoot his teacher an email.

"So you adapted?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, obviously proud of himself.

"Do you remember what adapt means?" I asked.

"It means, umm, getting to know what people are like," he replied.

Something like that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Little Miss Fair

Luke came home in a mood yesterday. It is not an unusual occurrence, but it was a particularly bad mood.

“Shut up!” he yelled at Henry when Henry tried to speak to him.

“Get over here!” he yelled at me.

It was not pleasant, and after giving him several warnings, it became clear that a time out or a meltdown—probably both—were imminent.

I was just trying to get through the afternoon, get the chores done and dinner made and homework accomplished, but Craig was home, and he decided to ask Luke what was going on. What a novel concept! Sometimes I forget that there might be a reason behind the mercurial moods of my eldest son.

“I can’t tell you!” he moaned. “You guys will kill me!” he added dramatically.

Finally, Craig got Luke to tell him what had happened. Luke had a substitute teacher yesterday and, according to Luke, he had his name written on the board, had to sit in the corner four times, and was going to have to miss recess today.

We were a little shocked, since Luke hasn’t gotten into any trouble this year at school, save having his name written on the board—the formal warning in his classroom—once or twice.

We spent some time comforting him, since he was clearly upset by it all, and then we tried to get all the facts so we could decide if we needed to follow up with this teacher or the school.

“What was her name?” we asked while trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

“Mrs. Fair,” said Luke, not understanding why we started laughing. It seems that Mrs. Fair has different standards than Luke’s regular teacher, standards that don’t seem particularly fair to Luke.

We talked a bit about how different people have different expectations, and that in life, we have to learn to act differently in different situations. We talked about the word adapt.

“Oh well,” I said, wanting to get back to my dinner preparations. “You probably won’t have her tomorrow.”

Ten minutes later, when I checked my email, I discovered that Luke’s teacher, the one that he loves and is appropriately named Mrs. Romeo, is going to be out for at least three more days. She said that she understands that routine is important for our children, and that she has requested Mrs. Fair for the duration of her absence.

Luke went to school today with serious reservations. I had to walk him in for the first time in months. We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Brilliant Sons

Luke and Henry were talking about school this morning and Luke asked me about college.

“College is the highest school you can go to, right?”

“Well, first you go to high school, then you can get your bachelors degree in college, then you can go some more and get your Master’s degree, and finally, you can go some more and get your PhD if you want,” I said.

“What?” asked Henry, confused.

“Mommy and Daddy both went to college,” I said, trying to clarify. “In college, you get to take a lot of classes about a lot of things, but you take extra classes in the area you love the most. Mommy studied English, like reading and writing, and Daddy studied math,” I said.

“Then, you can go for two more years and just study your very favorite subject and get your Master’s degree,” I went on. “That is what Mommy did. Finally, you can go to college for four or five more years and study your favorite subject some more and get your PhD like Daddy did. Daddy is a Math Professor now since he did that.”

“I want my PhD!” said Luke. “I want my PhD in gym!”

“Oh, that sounds cool,” I said.

“I want my PhD in crafts!” said Henry.

“Wait, I think I want my PhD in crafts, too,” said Luke.

My two sons, following in their father’s footsteps in academia. Perhaps Luke could write his dissertation on the cultural impact of macramé in the 1970’s. Henry could specialize in the history of playdough.

We are a bookish family, I tell you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Foodie Friday (oops, it is Saturday)

I have a confession to make: I read food blogs. The ones where people take photos of everything that they eat during the day like this one. It is a total waste of time, and something that only a true foodie could understand. Craig thinks I’m nuts. He walks by me while I’m online and asks, “What is Kath eating today?” with a smirk on his face.

But you know, he isn’t a foodie. And I am. You know you are a foodie when one of your main childhood fantasies was this: Everyone has disappeared suddenly (because of The Rapture—hey, we were a hippie Protestant family back then before converting to Eastern Orthodoxy) and so . . . I go and live in the grocery store. I still have the fantasy, to tell you the truth, but it is a bit more specific. I go and live in Whole Foods.

Anyway, this is all by way of introducing my Foodie Friday feature. I don’t have it in me to start a food blog, but perhaps I will try writing about food once per week. And for the sake of alliteration, I will try to make it on Fridays. Because I have to use those two English degrees, you know.

I have been thinking more about food lately for a few reasons. First of all, we are trying to cut back our spending, and so I’m trying to figure out how to spend less while still feeding three adults and two children as healthfully and ethically as possible. Secondly, it is Lent, and so we are trying to eat less and limit our animal foods. Finally, my neighbor and friend American Family is doing a really cool challenge for herself and her family right now that has gotten me thinking more about how I could involve my family in becoming more aware about poverty and our food choices.

So here’s my inaugural post--my groceries for one week, which cost me $130. I use coupons and a store shopper’s card, and the choices I make are not always logical, I suppose—local but not organic eggs and milk, a few organic veggies. I try to buy local and/or organic as much as I can afford—but that isn’t a whole lot—and I usually try to buy fair trade sugar and coffee. I also shop the local farmers’ market whenever I can. I am aware of the concept of eating seasonally, but with my picky family, this is often hard for me.

Now, as a foodie, I always love reading these sorts of posts on other people’s blogs, the ones where they share photos of grocery shopping trips or document everything in their pantries. If you are a foodie, enjoy! If not, bear with me. I will only write about food once per week. Oh, and if you have any money saving or better ethical use of your dollar tips, send them my way.

Here’s what is in the photo above:

Powdered milk (for baking)
2 cans refried beans
unbleached bread flour (standard sized bag—5 pounds?)
large can pumpkin
carton of egg whites
2 lunchables (the kids requested food item)
2 boxes Cascade Farms granola
fish sticks (16 count)
2 bags shredded cheese
1 package square 2% cheeses
frozen spinach
1 gallon local milk
1 big tub plain organic yogurt
frozen peas
2 bags tortilla chips
baking powder
1 single serving organic vanilla milk
dried pinto beans
dried white beans
whole wheat tortillas
smart balance margarine
2 bags goldfish
2 loaves whole wheat bread
2 packets taco seasoning
3 packages strawberries
plain soy milk
1 can crushed pineapple
sliced almonds
fresh salsa
1 package tofu
dish soap
2 bunches bananas
1 dozen local eggs
international delight creamer (Craig requires this)
sour cream
big bag organic carrots
organic baby spinach
2 large sweet potatoes
store brand rice chex
6 pack of magic hat roxy rolles beer
1 cucumber
4 red pears
1 personal watermelon
green beans
1 head romaine lettuce
soy ham
1 head cauliflower
2 bunches broccoli
grape tomatoes
1 bunch celery
4 apples
2 avocados

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Word Play

Henry has always used language in a really unique way. He has a hard time remembering words, and so he does the best he can. Luke talks a lot and has a large vocabulary, so I think Henry might just be trying to keep up, and perhaps he doesn’t have the same natural aptitude for complex speech that Luke does. Or maybe Henry is just a poet at heart.

The other day Henry opened his Lunchable—Luke and Henry always get to choose one thing from the grocery store and this, to my great horror, is always what they choose—and he saw two Oreos. “Cheerio cookies!” he exclaimed excitedly. All day he talked about his “delicious Cheerio cookies,” even though I corrected him over and over. He also cannot remember the word paintbrush, preferring “painting stick.” And to my dismay, he can’t remember the word mole, and so he refers to my little brown bumps as nipples. This is particularly disturbing because Luke has a mole fondling habit that Henry is picking up on, and so Henry calls out to me, “My turn to rub your nipple!”

While Henry cannot remember a lot of words, he also has a strange sense of humor. The other day Aunt Mara said, “Okey Dokey Shmoky,” when she was agreeing with Henry.

He looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “No! You mean Okay Dokey Fireplace.”

“Did ‘shmoky’ make you think of smoky, which made you think of fireplace?” Mara asked.

“No, I just made it up!” said Henry. And then he proceeded to use his newfound phrase throughout the day.

Luke doesn’t have the memory problem with words. In fact, Luke has a startlingly accurate memory. However, he has been experimenting with the word ain’t lately, but doesn’t quite understand how to use it.

When I asked him if he would like a snack a few days ago, he said, “I ain’t want one.” He has been using ain’t in this context for several weeks. When I asked him where he heard the word, he told me that some kids at school say it.

Finally, a few days ago when I asked him about the snack, I started laughing at him. “Luke, you are misusing your incorrect grammar!” I said.

And then I found myself giving a lesson on the common usage of the word ain’t. I wouldn’t want Luke to sound extra ignorant, after all. I wouldn’t want the ain’t-usin’ crowd to mock him.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Living In Community

I grew up in a very unique community. We knew everyone in our rural neighborhood and we all went to the same church that was within walking distance. I heard rumors throughout the years that some people thought we were a commune or a cult. I moved away from there ten years ago, and now that I have a little perspective, I can say that it is a bit of a strange place, certainly a little homogenous, perhaps a little bit narrow-minded, but also magical. I grew up in a place where the kids ran wild and free on fifty acres of forest. There were rope swings over ravines and wild berries for eating and moose lurking around corners. We got up to all kinds of adventuring. I remember once climbing the cliff face of a large hill with my friend Anna, and she got stuck. We were out in the middle of the woods with no one but our ten-year-old selves for help, and so eventually, I managed to coach her down.

It wasn’t just a place of running around in the forest. Besides all emerging from our houses to go to church together on a regular basis, our community members spent a lot of time together both in organized activities and informally. One year, someone decided to organize a New Year’s Eve celebration in the church basement, complete with the ubiquitous potluck and talent show-like entertainment. I don’t remember much from that evening, but I do remember that one man composed and performed a hippy-dippy song with this refrain:

Living in community
People are so happy and free
As long as we rely on each other.

Craig and I still remember this song and sing it to one another when we are joking around about my unusual background.

And even though living in my little neighborhood in Chicago was in many ways the opposite of living in my community in Chugiak, Alaska, it was in some ways the same. It was a place where, when the weather turned warm, everyone emerged from their apartments to convene at the park. It was a place where we walked everywhere and where we knew almost everyone. It was a place where I could ask for hand-me-down maternity clothes when my first set were lost and I was newly pregnant with Henry, and clothes poured in, more than I could use. It was also a place where a lot of people had a lot of the same ideas—in this case, about parenting—which was an experience to which I was accustomed.

So when we moved to this little town in central Ohio, I didn’t know how to make friends. There didn’t seem to be many people at the park. A lot of people drove a lot of places. I didn’t see the same people everywhere I went. And—shockingly!—different people parented differently. Our first year here was lonely for me.

But then, right around the time of our one-year anniversary here, something happened. S, whose son was in Luke’s kindergarten class, joined the book club I was in with some old grad school friends. Tracy invited S and I to go to the wine tasting at a local wine shop, and we have begun regularly getting together. One of the grad school friends became real-life friends with some bloggers in my neighborhood, and invited me to hang out with them. Some of those blogger friends invited me to hang out at the park after school. Threads of friends began to overlap and intertwine, and now, nearing our two-year anniversary here, I feel like—oh my, I sense some hippy-dippy song lyrics coming on—a blanket of friends is protecting me and keeping me warm.

Yesterday the weather took a turn toward spring with sun and temperatures nearing 70. We spent an hour after school at the park both yesterday and today, eating snacks, chatting with friends. The boys both found people to play with, things to do. And I felt happy and free.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Sometimes I get really depressed when I look at crafty, creative, design-oriented blogs because I don't have much of an eye for home design and I'm not exactly what I would call crafty. Also, I have a horrible camera and no photography skills whatsoever, so anything I take a picture of looks kind of awful anyway. Nevertheless, I do not think I am devoid of artistic skill, as the above examples prove.

I might be the proudest of the first: Craig in a spiffy outfit. I shopped for this ensemble and helped him get dressed for a job interview a few weeks ago. This is the second time that Craig has worn a tie since I have known him. The other was at our wedding.

The second picture is of a dragon that Luke and I made from something called "model magic." It is a foamy, air-drying substance that is easy to work with.

Then there is Henry's cardboard house. He made it with a little help from me, but he painted it all by himself. Together we made the little creatures inside out of model magic and homemade salt dough. The creatures are a little hard to see, but there are a couple of penguins, some snowmen, a ladybug, and a "rainbow eggsnake."

Finally, we have the snowman that I helped the boys build a few weeks ago. I think he was pretty cute. Also, we woke up one morning to find that someone had added some penny buttons down the front, which was a little bit magical.

So there you have it! Proof that I am crafty. Now if I could just take gorgeous photos.