15 May 2012


Posted in parenting, Z-boy at 8:44 pm by Tricia


This solves two mysteries:

  1. What happened to all our water bottles.
  2. Why the boy’s lacrosse bag was so heavy (only the one filled tonight was empty!)

(actually, we own at least 4 of the dark blue, and another orange, so we’re
still short a few…)

(no singleton socks were in the bag, you’re on your own there!)


28 July 2008

The inner workings of a 5yo mind

Posted in C-boy, parenting, T-boy tagged , at 1:46 pm by Tricia

(Background: last year our family went to Costa Rica to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project through their Global Village project. Some photos available in this Flickr set.)

This weekend, T-boy (5) and C-boy (10) and a neighbor boy (6) were wrapping spider webs around sticks. I said something to T-boy along the lines of “the web is where the spider lives. So when you do that, you are destroying their habitat.” He asked me to define habitat, so I did. Then he exclaimed “I need to go tell C and H!” and ran off to where they were. Then I heard C-boy from over the fence, “Mom, he got it confused with Habitat for Humanity!” Apparently T-boy had told them to stop destroying spider webs because they help people in Costa Rica. Good thing C-boy was there to help interpret!

15 June 2007

Signs of Summer

Posted in fun, parenting, Z-boy at 11:36 pm by Tricia

I grew up in New Mexico, in the desert on a high plateau in the southeastern corner. About every five years or so, we would drive out to Missouri to visit my mother’s brother. I remember stopping at A & W Drive-Ins and having a baby bear burger with a frosty mug of rootbeer. I remember my dad complaining “I can’t see the scenery for all these trees!” and me replying, in that sing-song ‘parents are so dense’ voice of a child, “but daaaadddd, the trees are the scenery!” (For what it’s worth, now that i live in Michigan and visit New Mexico, I understand what he meant!) I remember that I usually got a case of strep throat, and it was blamed on the window unit A/C (we had swamp coolers in New Mexico, evaporative cooling works when the humidity is so low!).

But most of all, I remember the fireflies. They were so magical since we didn’t have them back home. They became for me a symbol of summer in the midwest.

Fireflies in the Forest

fireflies in the forest, photo from wikimedia commons

They’re still a sign of summer, for me, but fireflies also evoke a different memory for me now. One evening in 2000, I went into labor while at a free outdoor concert, and I remember seeing the first fireflies of the season as we walked back to the car. My little “June Bug” became a “Lightning Bug” at that point. It was June 21st, the first official day of summer, so in my mind, fireflies shouldn’t show up until the first day of summer.

We made an exception this year, since they decided to show up on June 15th. The boys stayed up extra late, running around the neighborhood with friends, trying to catch fireflies. Last day of school, first day of fireflies – what’s not to celebrate? Happy summer, even if the official calendar says we have 5 or 6 more days of spring to go yet!

More about fireflies:

  • According to America in So Many Words, as conveyed by answers.com, “lightning bugs” is more commonly used in the US than “fireflies.” Go figure!
  • Firefly is the older, British, and more literary term, but it has lost its glow to the homegrown lightning bug in nearly every corner of the present-day United States, except the Pacific Coast and the far north.

  • The Wisconsin DNR provides info for kids about fireflies, including an experiment of sorts.
  • howstuffworks provides a scientific explanation of bioluminescence.
  • And for tech geeks, here’s a networked nightlight based on fireflies.

27 May 2007

In honor of mothers (two weeks on)

Posted in parenting at 4:33 pm by Tricia

I heard Billy Collins (former poet laureate of the US) on Prairie Home Companion this afternoon, and was reminded of a wonderful poem I heard him read a few weeks ago, from an older show. It’s called The Lanyard. The poem itself is available all around the web, but I think it really helps to hear Collins read it himself. I heard it on this show, which if I remember correctly, was a broadcast combining many previous poetry readings. Anyway, listen to segment 1. Billy Collins starts about 19 minutes into the segment, and the poem starts at about 25:50 into the segment. I don’t have any lanyards, but I do have a lanyard-holder or two! [you’ll have to listen to Collins to understand this reference]

The Lanyard

Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

23 May 2007


Posted in food, fun, parenting at 11:46 pm by Tricia

This evening I overheard neighbors explaining vegetarianism to their eldest daughter. Sometime later, around dinnertime, I heard the mother exclaim in exasperation, “{child}, you can’t be a vegetarian if you won’t eat vegetables!”

If it were all up to T-boy, we’d just eat chocolate and strawberries all the time! Actually, T-boy and Z-boy might do okay as vegetarians, especially if fried potatoes of the skinny “french” form factor were included. C-boy, on the other hand, would probably just be a sourdough-breadarian (although to his credit, he’s the only one willing to eat tomato-based pasta sauces).

1 December 2006

Tasting Notes

Posted in food, fun, parenting at 7:51 pm by Tricia

I just discovered “Dad Labs” today. Their tagline is “taking back paternity”, and despite having a serious note, it’s also fairly humorous. On a whim, I watched this juice box tasting video, and it had me laughing out loud. Whoever you are, you must watch it, and watch the whole thing (don’t give up during the ‘nutrition facts’ part at the beginning!).

25 November 2006

Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Chutney

Posted in C-boy, food, parenting, Z-boy at 1:52 am by Tricia

I’ve been out of my sling for nearly 2 weeks, but I still have some lifting restrictions – about 10 pounds, or not much more than a jug of milk (which is 8 lbs). The doctor specifically warned me against removing heavy turkeys from an oven, or carrying a big pot of potatoes in boiling water.

The former was going to be the biggest challenge to a traditional Thanksgiving, in large part because Jonski Papa and T-boy have been out of town since the 14th. Instead of inviting guests just to have someone to manage the turkey, we accepted an invitation to feast with friends. When I checked with C-boy and Z-boy to find out what I should offer to take, C-boy immediately exclaimed, “mashed potatoes, like Grandmother makes!” So of course I wasn’t too surprised to find this poem in his backpack at the end of the school week:

Mashed potatoes. Yum yum yum!
Ate or eat which one?
Small plate? No, I want a
Huge plate of mashed potatoes!
Eat or ate which one?
Deep down in the bowl mashed

Oh so good!
The yum yum yum potatoes.
Ate or eat which one?
To eat mashed potatoes.
Oh so good!

I’m not big on mashed potatoes myself. I have too many childhood memories of being required to eat cold – and thus unpalatable! – mashed potatoes. But it’s almost a chicken-and-egg conundrum: did my potatoes get cold because I didn’t like them, or did I stop liking them after the first few times I was forced to eat them cold?

So when asked, I told our hostess that I would be in charge of mashed potatoes for C-boy’s sake, and also that I would bring the cranberry chutney that has become a tradition for Jonski Papa and I: not Mama Stamberg’s, but Madhur Jaffrey’s Garlicky Cranberry Chutney.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney
from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook East/West Menus for Family and Friends (Harper & Row, 1987)

1-inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (I used a mixture of red wine and pear vinegars)
4 tablespoons sugar (I used 3 Tab raw sugar)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

l-pound can cranberry sauce with berries

1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
ground black pepper

Cut ginger into paper thin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about four tablespoons of liquid left.

Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are ok. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Serve warm or cool (refrigerate to store).

That left me with the mashed potatoes. A year or three ago when I made mashed potatoes, they came out all gluey and horrid. Since I knew that some potatoes were better for boiling and some for roasting – something to do with the starch profile, I think – I worried that it might have been from using a mix of potatoes from my CSA, that I’d used the wrong type of potatoes. But after listening to (and calling in to!) Turkey Confidential from The Splendid Table, I’m now convinced it’s because I used my stick blender in an attempt to get lump free potatoes (C-boy doesn’t like lumps).

Although “like grandmother makes” does seem like a high bar, in truth her method is rather traditional, probably about the same as in my Betty Crocker cookbook. The thing is, I favor roast potatoes – less work, plus I vastly prefer the taste and texture (even when cold!). I’ve tried to get them to eat roasted ones, which Z-boy tolerates, but C-boy doesn’t (maybe because of all the seasonings I use, or the crusty bits one gets from roasting). So this past year, whenever I roasted potatoes, I’d also bake a few large ones. I taught C-boy and Z-boy how to scrape out the center, mix it with butter and salt, and voila! A mashed potato-like substance.

Because of my doctor’s prohibition against big pots of potatoes, I thought about roasting, but that’s not really what my child wanted – and it was Thanksgiving after all, the day of family traditions. Betty Crocker‘s recipe calls for 2 pounds of potatoes, boiled in 1 inch of water. Seems like that would stay under my 8 to 10 pound restriction, even if I upped it to 3 pounds of potatoes to serve a crowd. Plus, I’d be cooking them last minute at our friends’ house, so I could get someone else to drain out the pot if necessary.

Both dishes turned out to be successes. All the six children had one or more servings, and actually seemed to enjoy them (although I think a few other adults stuck to the more tasty side dishes, as I did!). The kids weren’t so keen on the chutney (I probably would have despised it as a child, had my mom been able to find fresh ginger in the store!) but the four other adults all raved about it and ate multiple helpings. Everyone was full and happy – more from the offerings of the house (including a fine heritage turkey from a farm on the other side of the state), but also from our small offerings.

Jonski Papa also made the cranberry chutney at his mother’s house. His older brother wouldn’t even try it. Oh well, you’d think we’d be used to such attitudes, with the selective diners in our own house. But when it’s your big brother, at least you can tease him – with your own kids, you’re better off saying “maybe when you’re older and have more sophisticated tastes, you’ll like it,” or exclaiming “great, more for me!” while serving them a huge plate of mashed potatoes and a few slices of turkey.

13 October 2006

Some things never change…

Posted in C-boy, parenting at 8:57 am by Tricia

Apple Machine in 2001On the left is C-boy on a trip to the orchard in 2001,

Apple Machine in 2006and on the right is a picture from 2006

Some things (like his fascination with the mechanics of the apple sorting machine) never change – they just come into sharper focus! :^)

21 September 2006

The Toast Master

Posted in food, parenting at 11:37 pm by Tricia

We are friends with a family from school that includes a boy (I’ll call him S) who was in the same class as Z-boy last year, and a girl (B) close in age to T-boy. We started a weekly child care swap in the second half of last school year, so the kids spent a fair amount of time together. We didn’t see each other quite so much over the summer, but the new school year – and the fact that S looks up to C-boy’s Lego- and Bionicle-building prowess – has meant more visits in the last month or so.

A few weeks I learned that S thinks I make the best buttered toast in the whole world. He tried to explain to his mom why it was so special – “there are these dents in the bread and the butter pools in it and it’s so great.” They did all sorts of trials to try to reproduce this at home. “Mom, this isn’t quite right. Will you please ask her for her recipe??!!”

You read it here first: once balloting is closed, I’m sure to be acknowledged as the Toast Master of my neighborhood. The thing is, I’m not even sure what my secret was! Probably the bread – we typically buy an “artisanal” bread, so I suspect this fabulously impressive toast was made with sourdough or sesame semolina. Or maybe it’s our toaster oven, with half the heating elements currently out of commission, and a slight eau-de-crum any time we cook in it. And come to think of it, the boys will often ask that I make their toast instead of Jonski Papa – something to do with pre- or post-buttering and the resulting impact on crispiness, so that might have entered into it.

It’s funny how kids think. Sometimes we put out so much effort in making things fun or grand or impressive, and the effort goes completely unnoticed. Other times we can make a piece of toast, probably completely by muscle memory and without even making much effort, and it becomes The Standard By Which All Toast Is Judged.

I know there’s an underlying lesson here, but I not quite sure what it is! It’s not the overly simplistic “kids need your presence more than your presents” interpretation, because let’s face it, I wasn’t really ‘present’ when I made that toast. But little things sometimes make a big impact. How can I pay attention to find more ways to be Toast Master to those around me?

15 August 2006

Skateboard Mom? Not me!

Posted in C-boy, fun, parenting, T-boy, Z-boy at 9:59 pm by Tricia

A few weeks ago, Z-boy turned to me in the kitchen one night and said: “Tell me the truth. Do you put on heelys and skate around the house after I go to bed?” Where this came from, I have no idea, but after assuring him I did not, he proceeded to ask “Do you have any other secrets you’re hiding from me?”

Z-boy has been obsessed with skateboarding for months now, so Jonski Papa read him the biography of a current skateboard phenom, Andy Mac. Although they’ve been visiting various skateboard parks in this part of the state this summer (Z-boy on his skateboard, C-boy on inline skates), T-boy usually stays home. He’s too little for skate parks, plus he still needs someone to hold him up while skating. So I was surprised while planning a trip to the library the other day when T-boy insisted he get a book about Andy Mac. I dutifully found the book, and let him carry it on the way home. He showed it to his dad and proudly announced “We got a book about Andy Mac!” “Oh. What does Andy Mac do?” his dad asked (expecting to hear something along the lines of “ride a skateboard”. “He drops in!” T-boy replied. The title of the book, in case you didn’t follow the link, is Dropping In With Andy Mac (‘dropping in’ is the name of a particular skateboard trick).

Skateboard Mom Back Cover We also got 2 picture books about skateboarding on that same trip: Cosmo Zooms and Skateboard Mom. You can probably guess the plot of the latter book from the title (if you can’t, here it is: boy gets skateboard for his birthday, mom grabs it away and rushes out the door to show her stuff). But what got me was when we finished the book and I turned to the back cover and saw: “You better ask your mom what surprises she has up her sleeve…” Deja vu! Wasn’t Z-boy doing that just the week before? Eerie.

As it turns out, the author of this book used to be on an amateur skateboard team as a kid, and has founded The International Society of Skateboarding Moms which is “about making time for play, no matter your age.” I really wish I were better about making time for play, or had a more playful spirit, but I just don’t see myself stepping on a skateboard any time soon. A scooter is okay, but that’s about as extreme as I’m willing to go for the time being!

(And no, I’m not going to tell you what surprises I have up my sleeve – at least not today!)

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