Archive for March 2007

What We Did On Our Vacation

OK, technically only my parents were on vacation, but what with Ben’s birthday and all, it began to feel like we were all on break. Which is really not so bad (except that I need to be writing my next column right now…)

So this is what we did:

Read many different books, including The Gypsy Madonna; Special Topics in Calamity Physics; What is the What; Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq; slave narratives; and Cold Mountain (all of us, though mostly my parents);

Read one book, The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds, over and over (Eli, with his patient granddad);

Read one other book, The Daylight Limited, over and over (Ben, with Tony and me);

Bake (me! Cooks Illustrated’s Best Chocolate Layer Cake, which is more complicated and less delicious than Chocolate Carrot Cake and therefore won’t be made around here again; the fabulous and easy Apricot Crumbles; my new favorite lemon dessert, Meyer Lemon Cake; and brownies);

Add words to our vocabulary (Eli: “cake” and “dessert”);

Add lines to our epic poem, even at the playground (Dad, who is working on a paraquel to Beyond Beowulf);

Learn to play catch (Eli, with his granddad);

Build with his new lego sets (Ben);

Look at old family photos;

Take more family photos;

Make plans for the next visit.

Big Plans

“Ben, what do you think Eli will learn when he’s two?”

“I think Eli will learn how to say ‘placemat.'”

“Oh. And what do you think you’ll learn, now that you’re five?”

“I think I’ll learn how to drink wine!”

Alright then.

Five Lists for A Five Year Old

Five Things Ben Likes To Do
Build with Lincoln logs, tinker toys, and blocks
Play with his friends
Pretend to be Dan Zanes and play a concert

Five Favorite Things

Musical instruments
Tinker Toys
His brother

Five Favorite Foods
Pasta puttanesca
Chard with lemon and garlic
Penne pesto
Dried mango
Chocolate anything

Five Foods He Doesn’t Much Care For
A glass of milk
Butter (acceptable only as an invisible ingredient)

Five Reasons I Love Ben
He says “actually”
He’s (mostly) kind to his brother
He always asks to be excused from the table (even when he happens to be the only one sitting there)
At bedtime, he wants me to cuddle and tell him the story of the day he was born

And extra bonus reason: this morning, he said to me, “At night, I decided I should sneak into your room and gently put this picture on your pillow!” The picture, of a house with some flowers growing in front of it, and a bright sun in the corner, is captioned “Picture of the World, for Mama, from Ben!”

Happy birthday, sweet Ben!!

Day Three

It’s always a good day when you get to visit two bookstores and eat a nice dinner out.

My parents have visited San Francisco often enough that they don’t need to travel the tourist circuit at all. Instead, there are a couple bookstores that always require a stop, and since we are celebrating a big birthday soon, we even had a legitimate excuse to spend money.

In the evening, the boys’ beloved caregiver came over and the adults went out for a fine meal at the lovely Woodward’s Garden. This restaurant has been on my radar since I first moved to San Francisco, and I’d never eaten there before! It was worth the wait. Nothing fancy, nothing stacked or foamed (and thank goodness, really), but all of it — from the seared scallops with celery and jerusalem artichoke puree, to the truffled mushroom risotto, to the chocolate ganache-bosc pear tart–was creative and delicious.

Today, we’re off to the farmer’s market to find today’s dinner, and then, tonight, the birthday feast cooking begins in earnest!

Grandparents’ Visit: Day Two

After dinner (mushroom ravioli with brown butter; chard from the yard; and ice cream for the boys who figured that since we had dessert last night we should have it again tonight. No point in trying to break this habit before Ben’s birthday, really), Ben asked for some alone time in his bedroom. Dad offered to accompany him, and Ben realized that Granddad time would be way better than alone time. Up they went.

It took Eli half a second to realize that the fun was going upstairs, and to insist on following them, so I escorted him up. Then I closed the gate and headed back down, leaving Dad to relive long-past days with young children.

Mom and I puttered around the kitchen, cleaning up and visiting. I kept an ear tuned to the upstairs. I could hear happy boy voices and the clatter of tinker toys. Then it got pretty quiet. Then it got LOUD! Crazy, giggling and running loud. I took my time finishing up, then went to check out the scene.

I found my Dad at the door of Ben’s bedroom, simply opening and closing the door while the boys ran down the hallway and back. Occasionally he would say “Boo!” Then the tickling began, both boys flushed, their hair curling with sweat, laughing so hard they couldn’t stand up.

Dad headed back downstairs, his work done, and the boys were asleep within half an hour.

And they didn’t even stir, an hour later, when the house was rocked by an earthquake.