Valentine’s Day

We don’t make a big deal of Valentine’s Day, though we make cards for each other and exchanged little gifts (for me: chocolate caramel hearts; for Tony: a giant-cube ice tray to keep his evening whiskey cold; for the boys: chocolate lollipops). But I did want to make a special dessert, and with my heart-shaped cookie cutter, it didn’t take much effort to do this:

That’s one vanilla ice cream heart, and one heart each of ginger cake and vanilla pound cake (gifts for our New Year’s Day party that I’d stuck in the freezer for a day like this), plus a little puddle of chocolate sauce (I tried to make a heart, but the sauce resisted my decorative efforts.) Of the red sauce, Ben asked brightly, “Is that blood?” No, it’s raspberry sauce — nothing more than a pint of raspberries pureed in the blender, pushed through a sieve, and brightened with a squeeze of lemon juice. Eli said “This is the best dessert EVER!” and proved it:

Listen to Me!

Last week at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, I heard Jhumpa Lahiri give an inspiring keynote speech in which she said that becoming a writer is “taking the leap from listening to saying ‘Listen to me’.”

Well, at the risk of being a bit self-promoting, I invite you to listen to me on Friday, in a radio interview with Literary Mama columnist Cassie Premo Steele. Cassie is a beautiful writer whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple years ago at a Mama, PhD event. She is smart and funny, interested in writing and books and mothering and good food, and so we are sure to have a fun conversation. I hope you’ll listen in!

The show is Friday, February 11th from 8:30 to 8:45 AM, PST. Click here to tune in.

edited to add: click here to listen to the archived version of the show.

Mama at the Movies: What’s On Your Plate?

I always used to say that breakfast is my favorite meal — it’s the one time of the day when you can justify eating dessert (pancakes! waffles! coffeecake!) as your main course — but lately my allegiance is swinging toward lunch. I still love breakfast, but usually I’m too sleepy to be any more creative than to eat my standard bowl of granola.

Lunch offers time for anticipation. Lunch permits a bit of planning. Which is not to say my lunch is always fancy or complicated — usually it’s not; often it’s a sandwich, or some leftovers, or a simple salad. Occasionally I meet a friend or even — when the stars align — my husband, and we’ll eat out. And one of my favorite lunches is in the school cafeteria.

I write about school lunch this month in my column for Literary Mama; here’s an excerpt:

My boys, as I tell them regularly, are incredibly lucky with their school lunch program. It wasn’t always this way. My husband went to the same school, in a time when on hot dog day one lucky kid was served a rubber hot dog, which meant free seconds and a bag of chips. I always wonder how many kids bit into that rubber hot dog (and how many of them took two bites before realizing their mistake). The school, like most schools, used to house vending machines full of sodas and candy. But then gradually — and not without difficulty or complaint — things changed.

The rest is posted at Literary Mama; click on over and tell me about your own school lunch experience.

I’m back!

My poor, long-neglected blog and blog readers, I am back and determined not to let Facebook status updates and tweets drain all my blogging energy away… anymore. I hope you’ll check in regularly.

Mama at the Movies: Sperm Donor X

I’m working on a trilogy of related columns right now, covering three documentaries about different paths to motherhood and changing attitudes toward how we become mothers. The first, Adopted, looked closely at two families who adopted daughters from China. The third column, on the documentary Sunshine, will explore one family’s history of single motherhood. And the second column, on Deirdre Fishel’s film, Sperm Donor X, is up now at Literary Mama. Here’s an excerpt:

I must have been in second grade when I first thought about how old I would be in the year 2000 — 32 — and what my life would be like by then. Basing my vision entirely on my mom’s life, I assumed I’d be married with four kids.

I didn’t spend the intervening years fretting about the gap between that vision and my reality — milestone birthdays came and went without a husband, and at some point I realized I didn’t really want four kids — but by the time the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 1999, I was engaged and on the way to a more realistic vision for myself. These days, when I’m helping Eli find dress-up clothes for his stuffed dog’s wedding or discussing the rate for a night in Ben’s space hotel, I sometimes pause to marvel that this has become my life, a life I could never have imagined when I was the age my oldest is now.

I’m lucky that my childhood dream adjusted easily to my adult reality. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to give up one dream for another, or struggle to get the family I wanted. That struggle, and that difficult adjustment to an unanticipated reality, is the undercurrent of Deirdre Fishel’s documentary, Sperm Donor X (2002), which follows four women, including the filmmaker herself, who want to become mothers and find themselves unexpectedly doing it on their own, with anonymous sperm donors.

You can read the rest over at Literary Mama. The film hasn’t been released yet, as the filmmaker still needs to raise funds to license archival footage. If you’d like to help, consider making a donation at Kickstarter.

The Literary Mama Pajama Party Reading

Come out and join me, Lisa Harper, and Nicki Richesin reading some of our favorite springtime picture books! We’ll be at Books, Inc., Laurel Village on Thursday, May 6th, at 6 PM. The bookstore supplies the popcorn, we supply the stories, you supply the kids.

More details here.

Doggie’s Wedding

As I have written before, Eli cares for his stuffed animals quite devotedly. Like any good parent, he tucks them into bed at night and makes sure they’re cozy, he throws birthday parties for them, and worries about their eating habits.

Big Doggie, the biggest of the stuffies, is also the oldest of the stuffies and recently we learned that he has a job. Every night at bedtime, Big Doggie eats a snack from his new bowl and heads off to his job, typing on the computer and talking on the phone (happily he doesn’t leave the bed, and the work seems not to interfere with Eli’s repose). So I shouldn’t have been surprised the other day when Eli announced that Big Doggie was getting married. “Who is he marrying?” I asked. It was a stumper. Eli glanced around his bed, then ran to the basket of other stuffies and started pawing through the pile. He pulled out the stuffed snowman Ben made at a friend’s house a couple years ago and held it up, laughing. “Big Doggie can’t marry the snowman; he would melt!” He rejected the kangaroo, the otter, the two frogs, duck and many others before finally coming to a dachshund about half Big Doggie’s size. Right behind that one there was a smaller dachshund. “Perfect!” Eli crowed, “A bride and a baby!”

So, we had the players, but then Eli realized we needed a wedding feast. “Cookies! Chocolate chip cookies!” Easy enough, and more fun when I remembered that we have lots of cookie cutters to make the wedding dessert more special. We picked out three dogs (a lab like Big Doggie and two different dachshunds), a bone and a heart. We picked flowers from the garden.

We dressed the happy couple in special outfits, including collars for their wedding rings, and we deptutized the mooses as ring bearers:

The preparations wound up taking a couple days, as we kept getting interrupted by little details like school and bedtime, but when you figure how long engagements tend to be these days, and how expensive weddings can be, I think we did pretty well. And afterward, the happy couple jetted off to Hawaii (under a living room chair) for their honeymoon, while the rest of us finished off the wedding feast.

Who Does She Think She Is? benefit screening!

Last year, I wrote about Pamela Tanner Boll’s inspiring documentary about artists who are also mothers; if you haven’t seen it yet and are in the New York area, here’s a great way to see the movie, participate in a lively conversation about art and parenting, and do good — all at the same time!

“This film is not about being a woman or being a woman artist, but rather how to be a human, how to find your true place in life.”

Join us for an evening of inspiration, collaboration and art

Wine Reception* Film Screening* Panel Discussion

May 1, 2010

6:30 pm

Peekskill Hat Factory

1000 North Division Street, Peekskill

Tickets: $30 per person

Hosted by The Peekskill Hat Factory

Benefitting The Garden Road School’s Arts in Education Programs

For more information or to purchase tickets visit: The Garden Road or email infoATthegardenroadDOTorg

************************************************************************

ABOUT THE FILM:

WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? is a documentary by Academy Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll that follows the lives of five fierce female artists who refuse to choose between their art and their families. Through the lens of their lives, the film explores some of the most problematic intersections of our time: mothering and creativity, partnering and independence, economics and art. Visit the film’s website to view the trailer and to learn more.

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:

We are honored to have six very talented artist-mothers signed on for what is sure to be a lively, relevant and moving panel discussion following the film. These fascinating women represent a cross section of female artists working to balance their art and families. They bring to the discussion a diversity of artistic mediums, life experiences, and personal perspectives.

Maria Colaco

Leslie Fields-Cruz

Sarah Haviland

Kathleen Pemble

Lowry Reinaur, Artist in Residence at The Garden Road School

Dar Williams

Eight Things About Eight


It looks the same upside down and right side up.

On its side, it’s the symbol for infinity.

It’s a power of 2.

It’s a homophone (remember the old joke, Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine.)

It’s a Fibonacci number.

It’s the number of notes in an octave.

It’s the number of planets in the solar system (sorry, Pluto, we still miss you).

It’s the age of my firstborn son. Happy birthday, Ben!

image credit

On Reading Aloud

I had the opportunity to return to View from the Bay last week to speak about the importance of reading aloud, and also to share some children’s books chosen by my son’s school librarians. It was hard to stick to my allotted five minutes! Here’s the clip:

http://cdn.abclocal.go.com/static/flash/embeddedPlayer/swf/otvEmLoader.swf?version=&station=kgo&section=view_from_the_bay&mediaId=7298242&cdnRoot=http://cdn.abclocal.go.com&webRoot=http://abclocal.go.com&site=