Archive for October 2007

Conscious Consumer Meme

Elrena tagged me for this on a day that I had gone to the grocery store for celery and seaweed, and that just didn’t seem like quite enough to blog about! (We used the celery for Tony’s puttanesca recipe, by the way, and the seaweed for sushi).

Now it’s been over a week and it took till today to get back to the grocery store which demonstrates a) how successful I’ve been in getting Tony to take over the grocery shopping; b) how little in-person shopping of any kind that I do. I do as much shopping as possible on-line, even though that has tended to limit me to big chain stores; I’m trying to search out more places like this fabulous site, Etsy, which lets you buy handmade objects from individual people (nothing here I particularly need right now, but it’s all awfully pretty).

In the meantime, things have been purchased, of course; the weekly produce delivery has come a couple times, and I ordered Ben a tux for his Halloween magician’s costume (yeah, a tux is probably overkill, but for $15 on e-bay, who can resist?) But no shopping trip worth a blog post, which does makes me think that, much as I like a pretty new lipstick like the next girl, maybe I could consider joining The Compact and go without anything new for a year (yes, they make certain exceptions for kids needs, and for food and medicines); I mean, if I could still go to Crossroads occasionally for a new-to-me shirt, I think I’d be good. And given how infrequently I remember to wear lipstick, I could probably make it through the year without a new one…

Anyway, I did finally go to a store today, with Eli, and even though we didn’t buy very much, it is perhaps a blog-worthy experience. You be the judge.

Here are the rules for the meme:
Pick a recent shopping trip — for clothes, shoes, groceries, doesn’t matter. The only guideline is that it will be easier to play if you purchased at least a few things.

Now tell us, about your purchases:

1. What are you proud of?
2. What are you embarrassed by?
3. What do think you couldn’t live without?
4. What did you most enjoy purchasing?
5. What were you most tempted by? (This last one may or may not be an actual purchase!)

So, we went to the grocery store, a small, family-owned chain in the neighborhood, and bought a gallon of 2% milk (for the boys), a half gallon of skim milk (for me), a bottle of soy sauce, a big container of non-fat plain yogurt, and two bottles of dishwasher rinse aid.

1. I am, oddly, proudest of the rinse-aid. I have hated to buy the stuff, it seems like a ploy concocted by the dishwasher manufacturers and chemical companies to make you buy more junk that just goes down the drain, and it has seemed fairly poisonous. But the dishwasher works a lot better when we use it, so what to do? Today, I finally found a “greener,” biodegradable version of the stuff. And it’s cheaper than the regular kind. So, yay.

2. I’m not embarrassed by anything I bought, but I am annoyed that I forgot to bring canvas shopping bags. We have half a dozen, and I need to start keeping them in the car, especially now that San Francisco is, in an effort to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, charging for their use. I used paper today, and got the canvas bags out of the closet — one step closer to the car.

3. We couldn’t live without the milk. The boys and I eat cereal every morning for breakfast, Eli drinks 2 glasses of milk a day, Tony makes a cappuccino or two every day, I put milk in my tea. We have become the kind of family that always needs a gallon of milk. We’ve got several brands of organic milk to choose from, all of it local, too.

4. Nothing terribly exciting on this grocery list, but I think I most enjoyed purchasing the rinse-aid (I know, I know), partly because of #1, partly because it was the one thing light and durable enough that Eli could take it off the shelf and fling it into the cart. Watching him enjoy that so much made me buy two bottles.

5. Well, we were tempted by a few things. Eli, oddly, was most tempted by the Silicone-Zone Bar Board Set, four colorful anti-skid cutting boards for your cocktail set-up. We don’t really drink cocktails around here, though maybe Eli’s trying to tell me we should! On the other hand, I was most tempted, as I always am, by the pretty, robins egg blue Nigella Lawson mixing bowls. But I have three sets of mixing bowls, including a really lovely ceramic set Tony gave me, so I just admired these and moved on. We were both tempted by ice cream: “Mama, look! ah-keem! and more ah-keem! lot ah-keem!” said Eli. Mmmm, ice-cream. But I know we have a gallon in the freezer, so we moved on.

And now for the tagging: Libby, Violeta, Momifesto, LoveBug and RolleyPolley, Fertile Ground, and anyone else who needs a kickstart to a blog post!

Early Morning Applesauce Muffins

5:30 AM: I hear one of the kids get up and use the bathroom. I give thanks for independent children and roll back over to sleep.

5:40 AM: Whispering. Groaning. Louder whispering. I haul myself out of bed and head down the hall to find Ben’s buddy standing at the foot of his bed. “Ben? Ben! Ben? Are you awake?” Ben answers with a groan and rolls over.

5:43 AM: I take M’s hand and lead him downstairs, where he proceeds to tidy up. “Hey?! What’s this train doing here? It doesn’t go here! Hey, that’s silly! There’s a book on the floor!” I watch him, stunned. My children ease into the day slowly, like ovens warming to temperature. This one’s ready to party. Also, my children don’t clean. I wonder what will happen if I leave; will he just clean my whole house?

5:45 AM: M tires of tidying, and rejects my offers of books and TV. Clearly, it’s time to make muffins:

1 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1 c. applesauce
1 lg. egg, beaten
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. milk, orange or apple juice
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 sugar (optional, depending on whether your applesauce is sweetened)
1/2 c. cranberries, dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
Butter 12 (3 inch) muffin cups or use muffin liners.

Preheat oven to 375°F degrees.

Stir together the oatmeal, applesauce, juice or milk, egg, and oil. Set aside.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon. Make a well in the center, and add the applesauce mixture. Stir until well combined, but do not over beat.

Add raisins or cranberries if desired. Pour into the muffin tin. Each cup should be 2/3 full.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing muffins.

Makes 12 muffins.

Variation: Substitute 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg for the cinnamon.

By the time the muffins were out of the oven, the rest of the kids were up and ready to eat. Not a bad way to start the day.


We’ve got extra children this weekend as old friends are involved in a no-kids wedding. One of the extras is Ben’s oldest friend, M, a boy born just 10 days before Ben; the other is his three year-old sister. They’re all like siblings, really, since we see each other all the time, and it’s not much extra work for us. But there are moments.

This is what I overheard an hour ago:

Tony: Hey Ben, what’s your plan?
Ben: It’s a secret plan.
Tony: I figured, since I saw you whispering to M. Want to tell me what’s going on?
Ben: Well, we’re planning to go scare the little kids.
Tony: Oh–
Ben: Sometimes my plans put…pressure on the little kids.


We’ve got them redirected now.

Ben’s Chocolate Honey Cake

Eli and Ben were both very busy in the play kitchen today before dinner. Eli was making “salad,” tossing the wooden vegetables into the salad spinner, and then sitting on the plunger to make the thing spin with his butt (I use a different salad spinner).

Ben was making cake, which he presented to me with a flourish, and then offered to write the recipe out for me. I don’t have a picture of the cake, because I was given an empty loaf pan from which to taste, but here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Writing Meme

Libby tagged me with this weeks ago, and while I’ve been mulling it over, I’ve been tagged with two other memes, so I’d better catch up! But I’ve got to say (and this is not because I’m feeling behind, or being lazy), my responses truly don’t differ much from Libby’s. Big surprise there; on paper–and in real life–we are probably more alike than different.

To recap what Libby wrote: I like to write; I don’t have a great memory, which leads to lots of re-reading, which leads to new ideas; I had teachers in high school and college who required lots of in-class writing; I come from a family of writers, and living within a family that values the written word provides support that I do not take for granted. I spent those same years in Japan that she did, though since I was five when we left, that time was formative for me in different ways; I was bilingual from birth, and although I’m not any longer, I like to think that turning on that language button in my brain so early has given me an ear for language that I might not otherwise have.

The one thing Libby didn’t mention that I think of as a strength is that I truly like revising. I might even prefer it to drafting the original. I was struggling with an essay recently, truly having the hardest time sitting still at my desk and pushing the words out, and the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that as soon as the draft had a passable beginning, middle, and end, I could pass it on to my writing group for their feedback. I was watching the holes develop in the essay as I wrote, but knew that my fellow writers would suggest ways to patch them, knew they would point out places to expand and develop. I’m generally not so attached to my own words that I can’t trim or recast them, and I like to fuss and tinker and try to find just the right word.

In fact, this post could use a little revising itself, but I will let it go–another writing strength! being able to identify when something is good enough for the purpose–and move on to another writing project for now.

Oh, and I should tag some people: Kathy, Violeta, and Elrena — you’re it!

Summer Reading

I know it’s October, but I’ve got a new essay, “Summer Reading,” in the issue of MotherVerse available today. The Ben I write about in this essay seems so much younger to me now, I’m glad I captured this moment when I did!

Here’s a little blurb:

I don’t see Ben working to read, although he’s been interested in books and letters since he was a baby. We used to leave a couple boardbooks along with the stuffed otter and doggie in his crib, waking some mornings to the sound of him chattering and turning the thick pages. We called it his morning book group. When he was two, he got interested in what Tony and I did at our laptops hour after hour, and he’d asked to type words, too; I still have some of these files, long lists of his favorite words in giant blue font: “Mama! Dada! Ben! Cookie!”

Click on over to MotherVerse to read the rest; a one-year digital subscription is only $9 and supports the work of wonderful writers and artists.

Mama at the Movies: Shut Up and Sing

My Literary Mama column this month is about Barbara Kopple’s documentary, Shut Up and Sing. Here’s a blurb:

Four years ago, I nursed my first son with over one thousand other nursing mothers at a world-record breaking Berkeley “nurse-in.”

This year, my boy hops down the sidewalk into kindergarten.

Four years ago, the war in Iraq was in its infancy and President Bush’s approval ratings were sky-high.

This year, a growing and non-partisan chorus criticizes our involvement in Iraq, while the president stubbornly limps toward the end of his misguided term.

Four years ago, the Dixie Chicks began a world tour with a number one hit single, “Travelin’ Soldier,” about a girl who longs for her beau to return from Vietnam. The single dropped off the charts when lead singer Natalie Maines remarked in concert, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

This year — just days ago as I write this column — Sally Field accepts an Emmy award saying (in a line bleeped from the American telecast, but heard on Canadian television), “… if the mothers ruled the world there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”

I am a mother who hates war and violence, and loves movies and music. Shut Up and Sing (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, 2006) gives me a lot of what I care about in a film. It’s no date-night romance, true, but this documentary, which details the impact of Natalie Maines’ remark on the Dixie Chicks’ music, their families, and our culture, has me singing its praises.

Read the rest at Literary Mama. And while you’re there, check out the new Literary Reflections essay, Little Finch, as well as the beautiful new column, Me and My House, by my Mama, PhD co-editor, Elrena Evans.

Breakfast, or Art Project?

Now that weekday breakfasts are a rush job, I’m savoring our lazy weekend mornings and looking forward, throughout the week, to making special breakfasts. Yesterday, we made pancake faces, inspired by a picture in a magazine my parents gave to Ben. Both boys took turns measuring ingredients and of course were fascinated by seeing what happened to the egg whites after a few minutes in the KitchenAid (No, you don’t normally separate the eggs for pancakes. Yes, the pancakes turned out to be particularly light and delicious for the extra effort. No, I won’t be doing it this way again!) We made the faces with banana chunks, shredded coconut, dried blueberries, grapes, orange slices and apple slices. It made a big mess, but everyone left the table happy.

Soccer Mom

I have never been particularly cutting-edge, but now, just as Brain, Child puts this icon’s demise on its cover, it looks like I’m becoming a soccer mom.

Ben is on a soccer team.

Now every Wednesday after school, and every Saturday morning, we gather the cleats, the shin guards, the special socks, the soccer shirt and the shorts. We gather extra water and snacks. And we gather with the other parents to watch our boys run back and forth, poking at the ball with their feet.

A few of them have clearly watched soccer before, some have even played, but most of them have no idea what they’re doing. This is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned, and the coach doesn’t a whole lot care, either. They’re here to learn how to be on a team, he keeps saying; there’s no keeping score, no keeping track of who runs up and down the field the fastest. He teaches them some moves, encourages their efforts, and generally makes it fun.

At Ben’s first game, we stood on the sidelines watching our boy, who stood on the field, watching the game. At one point he called over to us, “Excuse me?! Do you see the other team’s blue shirts? That’s because they’re called the Blue Devils!” “That’s great, sweetie!” I called back, “Don’t forget you’re playing now, too!” We joked about his multi-tasking: playing and color commentary! When the coach told Ben to “guard the line,” Ben did, not moving for several minutes, until the coach explained that he hadn’t meant Ben had to stand there indefinitely. And when the play moved further away from him, Ben stood in the center of the field, quietly practicing his pitching motion.

So maybe soccer’s not his sport, but it’s the only game in town right now. And when the forty minute match was over, Ben ran over to us and happily jostled with the other boys for his water and his slice of watermelon.

Sick Day

I spent most of 6th grade working out ways to avoid going to school. There was nothing particularly terrible about school that year, just your basic pre-adolescent social anxiety, that who-will-I-sit-next-to-in-the-cafeteria, who-will-let-me-stand-around-and-talk-with-them-at-recess kind of thing. I would start my planning the night before an anticipated bad day, weighing the pros and cons of feigning cold, flu, or fever. I knew better than to try heating a thermometer with the light bulb, because I’d read a book in which the girl narrator tries it, and the thing explodes, sending little mercury droplets around the room. Somehow I was successful often enough that I kept doing it, although (unbeknownst to me at the time) I would have been quite a bit more successful if my sister hadn’t done the same thing, seven years earlier. My mother was working full-time by the time I went on my school strike, and so aside from just recognizing the signs, simply couldn’t afford to indulge me.

Today, Ben stayed home from school, and I swear if he were my daughter, if he were older, I’d think he was trying to tell me something. He woke up complaining of a sore throat, threw up his breakfast and then, after I’d made the calls to say he wouldn’t be at school, or at soccer practice, was fine. Skipping around playing a concert fine.

I know he loves school right now. And he certainly didn’t fake throwing up (something I was neither brave nor stupid enough to attempt). So we’ll chalk this up to one off day. But I’ve got my eye on him…