What’s for dinner?

The Kitchen Madonna has me thinking about food more than usual.

For lunch today, I planned to have tuna salad inside a yellow bell pepper that was ripening in my small container garden. Instead, I had the crusts of a half dozen PB&J sandwiches…leftovers from the impromptu lunch playdate that occurred here.

I did manage to have that pepper as a snack this afternoon, and it was heavenly. I just wish I had a bigger garden, and I wish I did better with pepper plants than just one or two peppers each.

For dinner, I’ll saute some white fish in a bit of olive oil and then top it with this Kosovo Salad. I love the contrast of the hot fish and the cold salad in each bite. I chop the veggies fine, so the salad is more like a salsa. Bill likes heaps of feta cheese…that’s the way they serve it in Kosovo, Bulgaria and Greece (from his experience). But I leave out the olives, since he has little nice to say about them (maybe one day, he’ll come around…in the last 10 years I’ve gotten him to be a bit nicer to the mushrooms of the world).

The best part of this recipe is that the salad can be made earlier in the day. The fish only takes 5 – 6 minutes to cook, so dinner is served in short order. My kids won’t eat this, so I’ll have some biscuits made up to fill their bellies. Dinner is what dinner is…I try not to run a short order grill. Most days, I try to accomodate the bland palate of the younger crowd, but sometimes I just want to eat something other than breaded chicken or tacos.

boring motherhood

Eric Scheske quotes an article written by Helen Kirwan-Taylor who is apparantly bored with motherhood:

Invitations to attend a child’s birthday party or, worse, a singalong session were met with the same refrain: ‘I would love to but I just can’t spare the time.’

The nanny was dispatched in my place, and almost always returned complaining that my son had been singled out for pitiful stares by the other mothers.

I confess that I was probably ogling the merchandise at Harvey Nichols or having my highlights done instead. Of course I love my children as much as any mother, but the truth is I found such events so boring that I made up any excuse.

I have to admit that if I were another mother at that party, I’d be giving the poor boy some pitiful stares, too. Especially if I knew she was shopping instead. Perhaps if she was a high-powered CEO or a talented surgeon or a supermodel, I might have an ounce of sympathy with a woman trying to balance a career with the demands of motherhood. But to have a nanny so you could continue to live a self-centered life? I wonder why someone would even have children in the first place?

Kids are supposed to be fulfilling, life-changing, life-enhancing fun: why was my attitude towards them so different?

While all my girlfriends were dropping important careers and occupying their afternoons with cake baking, I was begging the nanny to stay on, at least until she had read my two a bedtime story. What kind of mother hates reading bedtime stories? A bad mother, that’s who, and a mother who is bored rigid by her children.

I’m amused that she labels herself a “bad mother.” I suspect that she doesn’t really feel that way, though. She says it the same way someone in a failed marriage accepts 2% of responsibility for what happened: “I suppose I’m a bad wife…I suppose I should have waited on him hand and foot,” meaning, actually, “What a dirtbag; he did nothing for me and expected me to do everything for him.” She calls herself a bad mother for finding her children boring, but what she’s really saying is that she’s horribly disappointed that her children have not fulfilled her or changed her life or provided her with life-enhancing fun.

Life-enhancing fun? A glance at What to Expect: The First Year before conception might have clued the woman into the fun part. Stinky diapers, spit-up, teething, colic, immunizations, ear infections, baby-proofing your house…fun? How about looking at a book on disciplining your school-age child for an idea of just how much fun it could all be?

I’m not at all saying that raising children isn’t fun. I have a wonderful attitude towards my children. I love them dearly…but I accept them for who they are. Ask not what your children can do for you… The change, the fulfillment, comes not from them making your life better, but in serving them and in learning that there are more important things in life than you.

What do you do with a brown banana?

SFO Mom had a Banana Bread recipe yesterday (and a great tip for spraying muffin tins, too…check it out for yourself). I had two aging bananas, but no applesauce, so I made Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (quick bread) instead.

I made this recipe a few weeks ago as muffins and nobody ate them (well, I did, but I was not the intended recipient). Today, I opted to use my mini-loaf pans, and the kids ate a whole loaf in a half hour. Petey practically bit my finger off as I handed him bites.

The smell of these loaves baking draws crowds. The 10 – 14 year old girls in the neighborhood got a whiff of these cooling in my kitchen last fall and were practically drooling at the front door. I don’t know if they freeze well. I’ve never had leftovers.


Elizabeth Foss at Real Learning is doing a series on homeschool for your preschooler. I would rather my preschooler just amuse herself for 3 or 4 hours every day so I could school her older siblings, but that’s just not how it works. I need to spend as much time planning and “schooling” a preschooler as I do planning and schooling a kindergartener. Why? If I don’t, she will pester me incessantly for 3 or 4 hours every day wanting to know what work she should do, and I never will get anything done with the others.

Of Elizabeth Foss’s series, here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

She promises more installments, so I will update this post as she does.

I’m in prep mode for prep mode. August is my getting ready for school month, and it takes me a few weeks to get ready to get ready. A good friend, Monica, went to a homeschool conference and placed my order for about 80% of my schoolbooks for me so I could get the free shipping. That box came last week. Bill laughed at how giggly and excited I was to open it. It’s like Chirstmas…the anticipation is almost better than the actual event.

what a day

What a day.

At about 815 this morning, the orthodontist to whom I had taken Fritz yesterday for a consultation on the recommendation of the dentist who said his mouth was too small for his adult teeth called to offer me her opinion as to what should be done. Apparently not wanting to frighten Fritz or my other children, all of whom were present of course, she waited until this moment to tell me that I needed to take him to an oral surgeon “right away.”

He has a painless cyst in his jaw, which he’s had for at least 3 months.

Although I’ve managed to remain calm throughout this day, I’ve had a few tense moments like when the receptionist at one oral surgeon’s office used the word “biopsy” and when the orthodontist’s office called back to follow up and make sure that I was being appropriately proactive in taking care of my child’s urgent medical needs.

I ended up getting a referral from our primary care physician to see an oral surgeon at Walter Reed. The earliest date they had available was August 10th. When I asked if that was ok, given the urgency which the orthodontist expressed in discussing Fritz’s needs, the receptionist said, “Well, it must be, since that’s the earliest we have.”

There you have it: socialized medicine at its finest. Your medical condition is only as urgent as our calender is full.

My other experience with the medical community today came at Peter’s 12 month well baby checkup. You can tell I’m not a first-time mother, since he is now almost 13 months old. I witnessed a deft passing-of-the-buck when I brought up his scheduled immunizations. My objections to the MMR and the Chicken Pox vaccines are moral ones, since the cultures used to make the original vaccine were made from the cells of aborted fetuses. There are alternatives for measles and mumps, but this doctor (a stand-in for the doctor I usually see), was unaware and uninterested in them. He suggested, after a lecture on the importance of immunizations (I agree!), that there would be no harm in waiting 3 or 4 months (when I would surely have an appointment with someone else). Fine by me.

{For more information about ethical vaccines, see Children of God for Life.}

At the time I sat down to write this, many many hours ago, Billy was confined to his room as punishment. He called to me from the top of the stairs crying in agony because he had come to the conclusion that I was going to hell because I was a bad mommy, and the idea of his beloved (but really really mean) mommy suffering in eternal damnation was (apparently) unbearable. I explained that, even if my punishment of him were completely unjustified, I would not go to hell for making him stay in his room for a few hours. He then wailed louder, since if I were not going to hell for my actions, then certainly he were going to hell for his. I then explained that 6 year olds do not go to hell.

One might suspect that I drill my children daily in their catechism and warn often of the perils of a sinful life. No. I don’t know where he gets this stuff.

And then, as a cherry on top of the whole day, as I sit and type this, smug in my knowledge that all five of my little angels are playing in the backyard where I can see them from my window if I should only turn my head to look, my husband comes in from work, says hi and notices the front door is open… because my children are no longer in the backyard and have crossed through the house and out the front door…Jenny naked as a jaybird in the lead, Peter following behind and Fritz, Billy and Katie chasing after (Fritz and Billy having disagreed on who should chase and who should tell mom both decided to chase). Yes, honey, aren’t I doing a dandy job raising your children?

Thus concludes another normal day at my house.

A lesson in Humility

If Humility is the mother of giants, then children, at least my children, are her midwives.

I was just starting to be a little happy with how I look. I’ve lost all the weight I gained during my pregnancy with Peter, plus an extra ten pounds. I’m only a few pounds away from my lowest level since having children which is about what I weighed when I got married.

Now, if you’ve borne a child, you know that achieving your pre-pregnancy weight means very little in the grand scheme of things. Excepting the few women (famous models and actresses) who spend all their time and money on nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and nannies to watch the baby so they can work out, a woman’s body is never the same after having children. Even if you can wear your “skinny” jeans or that slinky dress and look fantastic, the naked truth (who threw that rotten tomato at my pun?) is that it is very difficult to get rid of that bulge in the lower abdomen.

C’est la vie.

Now it’s summertime here in the Northern Hemisphere, and pretty durn hot all over the US from what I understand, and you’ll have to excuse me if I just don’t feel up to wearing a girdle. I guess the shirt and pants I was wearing yesterday were a bit baggy, or perhaps it was just my relaxed, end-of-the-day, exhausted posture, but whatever it was it inspired Billy to pat my tummy and say with utter joy:

“Oh, Mom, I’m so excited about the new baby in your tummy!”

To which I patiently responded (while mentally noting the need to do more crunches):

“Honey, there is no baby in my tummy.”

To which Fritz replied:

“Sure there is, Mom. That’s how your tummy looks when you have a tiny baby growing in you.”

Who needs an EPT?

Billy then went on to ask if he could watch the next baby (since there will be a next baby at some point, since that’s what moms do) be born. He was really disappointed, crying!, when I suggested that he grow up, get married and watch his own babies being born or that perhaps he could become a doctor and help other babies enter the world, but that, no, he wasn’t going to watch his next sibling (whenever that may be) be born.

Fritz suggested that watching a baby being born might be gross since they are covered in blood. I agreed and made the mistake of expounding on this by saying that there’s blood and goop and other icky things. Fritz then decided he needed more information about why babies are all yucky when born and what was that whole deal about an egg anyway?

I answered these questions truthfully, but quickly, having decided that the whole point was merely to delay bedtime and not really some grand quest for information.

In the meantime, my ego was still sore from the tummy-bulge comments. A few months ago, I did some internet-research on the subject. My question was this: which helps more: cardio workouts or crunches? According to Google, the loudest voices in the debate are the plastic surgeons who say that the only thing to be done is a tummy tuck. There were pages and pages by tummy tuck proponents including my favorite one which described their “post-pregnancy tune-up” to include a tummy tuck, liposuction (for the thighs and other areas) and a breast-augmentation to replace tissue lost due to breastfeeding.

Bill’s all for that last part.

After much searching, I finally found a few quiet voices that basically said an increase in lean body mass was the key (achieved by both cardio and crunches) and, of course, patience was necessary since these things take time.


In the meantime, I’ve got my boys to remind me to do a few sit-ups and to motivate me to get out of bed for those pre-dawn runs. And also to remind me that tummy-bulge, whether it be a new life beginning or the instrument of Humility, isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Video game debate

The boys are going through withdrawal.

While on vacation, they had access to and played video and computer games daily. Here at home, there are no such amenities.

So, the boys keep asking if they can go play over at the homes of various friends who have video games. I have explained repeatedly over the last few days that it is rude to go over to someone’s home and ask if you can come in to play. They can ask someone over here (the boring land with no technological amusements), or they can ask someone to play outside (what they used to do before discovering how wonderful it could be to sit and chase monsters around a TV screen), but they may not ask to go inside someone’s house.

Last night, Bill and I discussed, again, our philosophies on video and computer games. It was like a parenting refresher course…one of those sessions with no children around to overhear us rehash our position and make sure we can speak as one when the kids beg, plead, and bargain for a new privilege.

And it was a good thing we did it, because I was about ready to cave. I’ve had such difficulty with Fritz in motivating him to do schoolwork and practice the piano that I was ready to introduce a new privilege solely for the ability to take it away as punishment or allow use as a reward. And Fritz isn’t a bad kid. He’s actually very helpful with chores and loves to help with Pete, especially in getting him in and out of the van. But school and piano are work, and he just doesn’t want to do it.

Bill, who has in the past enjoyed video and computer games and, one would think, might be most sympathetic with the boys’ desires, is firmly opposed to the whole thing. In fact, yesterday I overheard him using pretty strong language in telling Billy why he wasn’t getting video games ever (things like brain turning to mush, etc). Of course, Bill didn’t have these diversions when he was 6 or 8 years old, so making them available to his little boys is not a top priority.

It’s not that we’re opposed to these games in general. TV, computer and video games are all forms of entertainment. Entertainment is necessary and good, depending on the content and the time spent doing it. When Fritz and Billy were littler, they had fairly unlimited access to educational TV. Fritz could recite his alphabet and identify most of the letters by age 2. I attribute this to his viewing of Sesame Street once or twice a day, with me singing along and talking about the letter of the day. None of my other children were quite as advanced, but then none of my other children had a mother who could sit around for an hour and watch Sesame Street with them.

Katie and Jenny have not had unlimited access to educational TV. Katie was 2 and Jenny a newborn when I began homeschooling. The TV was off for much of the day. Katie and Jenny have had unlimited access to educational life as they have sat at the table and listen to the boys’ lessons. They didn’t hear the alphabet song but rather the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The few hours in the day that are available for watching TV should not be ceded to the boys and video games which are inappropriate for their younger sisters (inappropriate, not in content, but in time spent). In other words, perhaps an 8 year old could play a video game for a half hour. But a 3 year old should not. If our one TV has a video game on it, then that is the prime entertainment for that half hour and Jenny will be “playing” (watching) too.

I suppose we could get another TV. I suppose we could put it in my bedroom.

Uh, no.

I’ve never had a TV in my bedroom…not when growing up…not in college…not in my adulthood. Definitely not to provide a place for my boys to play video games.

So, video games are out. Computer games? Perhaps. Someday. I’ve seen several that were educational. The player needs to do math to obtain ammo or to proceed down the path or to learn secrets. These were the games I was prepared to allow the boys to play in order to punish/reward them. But then I would have to share my computer. And the boys would have to take turns. And I’d have to monitor the timer and do all sorts of interventions…pain in the rear.

For now, at least, computer games are out too. It’s just another one of those things that they don’t need. And I can’t really justify them having.

The trip

Virginia. North Carolina. South Carolina. Georgia. Alabama. Florida.

Return to Alabama. Georgia. North Carolina. Tennessee (oops). North Carolina. Tennessee (meant it this time). Virginia.

At dinner on Thursday evening, I was standing outside a restaurant talking to a woman I didn’t know, and I had to think really hard to remember where I was and what day it was.

I’m just glad it’s Saturday and I have nowhere to go and nothing to do (except unpack, do laundry, etc etc etc).

After I got down to Alabama, Bill sent me this picture. I had already seen it a week or so earlier, but he felt it was appropriate. I didn’t set any land speed records, but I did have fair winds and cooperative kids and made it south-west of Atlanta before I stopped on the way down.

I don’t happen to have a rosary hanging from my rear window. I may be the only Catholic who doesn’t these days. If anyone can find one of these, though, I would hang it there.

All in all, the vacation was pleasant. I helped with dinner and housecleaning, but none of these were my primary responsibility. Even with laundry, I would put a load in the washer and come back to discover my sister or my mom had dried and folded it. There were extra eyes to watch, extra arms to hold, and extra legs to chase the little one(s).

I read one book of fiction (unplanned), but got only halfway through one of the non-fiction books I brought. Fiction is so much easier to put down and pick up and get through. One day, I’m sure I’ll be able to get to all these other books I want to read.

While we were at Fort Rucker, AL, we visited Lake Tholocco, which the kids really enjoyed; we went to the pool a few times; we went to the circus; we went to the aviation museum on post; and we saw this statue in the city of Enterprise, just off post. It is called the Boll Weevil statue. My sister had seen it before, but didn’t realize just how special it was. Yes, that is a Boll Weevil being held aloft by a woman. This statue happens to be the only statue in the whole world honoring a pest. And it’s right there in southern Alabama. They honor the pest because it destroyed the cotton crop, which led them to plant peanuts instead, which made them wealthier than they had ever been planting cotton.

After a week, I left my sister’s house and drove down beautiful rural roads to my parents’ home on Florida’s panhandle. I loved the rural highways I traveled. The kids were engrossed in some video; I considered turning it off, but chose instead to selfishly savor the scenery in peace and quiet.

Bill flew in on Saturday, and we were all happy to have him join us for the last week of our trip. Me especially.

While in Florida, we went several times to Eglin Air Force Base which is on a bay off the Gulf Coast. There is a nice, free swimming area with water shallow enough that I didn’t need to worry too much about Jenny, but deep enough for the boys and Katie to swim around. Fritz spent quite a bit of time with his face in the water watching the little fish and the hermit crabs. He tried snorkling but couldn’t keep his head straight and kept getting water in his air access.

My dad took the boys back to this bay to go fishing. Fritz caught his first fish – a four-incher! He was excited. Billy caught something, too, but it was much bigger and whatever it was managed to escape the small, non-barbed hooks my dad was using. Only 6, and he’s already got a story about “the one that got away.”

One day, my sister and her kids came down to my parents’ house and we all went to Eglin together. My dad rented a pontoon boat and took us out for a few turns on the bay. Only 10 people could go on at a time, so my sister and I and Pete sat on the beach the first lap. When it was my turn, Jenny (absent a nap) was getting cranky and I told my dad we needed to start heading back. Thank goodness she fell asleep in my arms, and we decided to do one more circle. A minute later, I looked out and saw a dolphin. It was the highlight of the day. We made a few loops and ended up getting about 30 feet from a pair of them. The kids were thrilled. We all were.

We also made one trip to the Gulf and played in the water. It was the worst weather of our trip. A front came through and we had rain, thunderstorms and temps that dipped below 80 degrees. Despite that, the kids had fun in the waves and wanted to go back. But it takes about an hour to get there from my parents’ house and Pete was so cranky at being strapped into his seat that I tried to eliminate trips of longer than 10 minutes the last few days we were there.

On Wednesday we headed back up to Fort Rucker and spent the afternoon and night at my sister’s house. We began the drive back on Thursday morning before 5 am. This was a nice, but tedious drive. The kids didn’t sleep as late as I had hoped, and so we began the cycle of rest stops much earlier than I wished.

We got into North Carolina and after lunch found the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. As my dad said, you don’t count miles on this sort of road, you count hours. There are few intersections, so once you are on it, you stay on it for quite some time. The speed limit is 45 mph, but we generally drove at about 35 mph up and down twisting mountain roads with little to no shoulder. And we frequently pulled over to the “scenic overlooks” to look over the scene. Very pretty.

We drove to the Asheville area, which is where the Biltmore estate is. By the time we got there, it was past dinner time and we were cranky and tired. We had dinner and then drove to where the Biltmore entrance is, but of course it was only open until 5 pm. Oh well. We knew the kids wouldn’t tolerate a guided tour anyway. I’ll have to go back some day, though. The gate house at the entrance has a cubic volume that exceeds the house in which I currently live.

We checked one hotel and found it booked solid, so we decided to just press on. We headed into Tennessee and picked up Route 81 North. It was a beautiful drive there too. Much better than Interstate 95. We pulled into a Motel 6 somewhere in Virginia at 1030 pm, and moved the sleeping children with ease. Six hours later, we moved them again into the car and dragged ourselves home yesterday by mid-morning.

Today will just be a gentle day, I hope. If the kids watch TV all day, that just might be ok with me.