Monday, April 16, 2012

The Reluctant Chef

I never really intended to be able to write "homemaker" above the occupation section of the joint tax forms I share with my husband, but "parenting blogger and budding freelance writer" doesn't quite fit in the designated space. Yet, this is the situation in which I now find myself. As a "homemaker," it is generally expected that I will plan, shop for and prepare the family meals. Individually, each step is doable, but the trifecta has proved problematic.

As a consequence, my kitchen abilities are weak. I can read and follow recipes, and I enjoy adventurous food, but I definitely lack the motivation to experiment.

Interestingly enough, before procreating I was an avid reader of cooking magazines and eagerly tested new recipes each month. If an article touted the wonders of Chinese long beans, I would search the local Asian groceries until I located the mysterious vegetable. Words like "braise" and "batonnet" intrigued me, and I devoured biographies on Julia Child and Ruth Reichl. However, since the title of "homemaker" found its way onto my mental business card, I find myself rotating between the same 10 dishes. It didn't help that my first little offspring's demands of an all-beige diet made it impossible to create one meal for the whole family.

Still, I wanted -- no, needed -- to change this mind-frame, and in order to kickstart my new attitude, I needed a project. I decided I would create a realistic guide to feeding a typical family of four.
Here are the parameters I set for my venture:
  1. Each dinner must take no more than 15 minutes to prep and cook (from playground to table in a quarter of an hour).
  2. The meals must be healthy, organic if possible, and not be laden with processed, prepared foods (no frozen pasta in a bag).
  3. The meals must be affordable, around $15.
Read the rest at Huff Post Parents

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Teachable Moment

Ahh, spring has sprung.  The flowers are blooming, children around the world are devouring chocolate eggs, and Jewish homes are being swept clean of leavened bread crumbs.  And, most critically to parents, preschool is now on Spring Break.  Since my children attend a small orthodox Chabad school, their break lasts 12 full days (it seems that Passover requires at least three days of planning and preparation).

For me, a day without planned activities is a day that last approximately 56 hours.  So, like any sane mother, I got organized.  On Tuesday we dyed Easter eggs and hid them around the backyard for an impromptu hunt (shh- don't tell the Rabbi).   On Wednesday morning we, along with every other stay-at-home-parent and nanny, visited San Francisco's newest premier playground.  After a short rest-period at home, we headed to Pump It Up, an indoor arena filled with inflatable jumpy houses.  (An hour-and-a-half of bouncing was just what I needed to ensure all children slept soundly that night.) 

When you enter the arena all prospective jumpers place their shoes in a large rolling cart.  Since my youngest insists that I jump with her, I also stored my purse and jacket.  Sure I worried about some crucial items being stolen, but as we were in a closed play space for young children, I decided that I was just paranoid. 

For the first hour or so, I kept a careful watch on my belongings; every so often I would "check" my phone messages or feed a stray child a snack.  After a while I must have let down my guard and began enjoying myself. Both girls jumped until their feet gave out,  Maisy flew down slides that had terrified her on previous trips, and Elana found a white plastic barrette in the corner of one bouncy castle.  Fun was had by all!

When the warehouse closed, we gathered our stuff, retied shoelaces, and left.  After buckling the kids into their carseats, I searched my purse for my phone, as I always do before I drive anywhere. Once a thorough sweep of all purse and jacket pockets came up empty, my thoughts immediately changed to "It was swiped!" 

However, I am very skeptical of people that use "stealing" as the first reaction to a misplaced item.  As a teacher I experienced too many students appealing to me, "Ms. Maidenberg, somebody stole my homework."  My standard reply was usually, "Now James, I can't imagine that someone would want to steal YOUR homework."  Channeling the teacher in me, I assumed that I must have dropped it, misplaced it, or one of my children flushed it down a toilet. 

Unfortunately, a meticulous inspection of my car, the bathrooms, and approximately a half dozen bouncy castles found nothing.  In addition, phone calls to my phone went straight to voicemail.  (Later that day, Apple's Find My Phone showed it's location in Visitation Valley, nowhere near Pump It Up or my house.) 

Now that I could verify that the phone was pinched, I decided to take the opportunity to have a discussion with my girls about stealing and why it is bad. 

Me- "I am really upset that somebody took my phone without asking me!"

Elana- "Oh no!  Did they steal my fairy game too?" 

Maisy- "I like the purple case."

Me- "Yes, they took the phone with the fairy game and the purple case!"

Elana- "That is so mean, I want to play Tinkerbell!"

Maisy- "I know, you can borrow Daddy's!"

Me- "Well, without the phone I wont be able to call Daddy to ask, and you guys won't be able to play your games during Saturday's plane trip.  It is really not nice to take things that don't belong to you.  It makes people sad and then they don't have the items they need."

Elana- "Yea, it is only ok to take something if someone leaves it behind and forgets about it."

Me- "Um, no.  That isn't ok either.  You should always give things back to its owner."

Elana- "But you said that I could keep the flower barrette?"

It was then that I learned that my lesson.  In the mind of a 5-year-old, there is little difference between a $600 smartphone and a ten cent hair clip.  Next time, we will give the clip to the front desk, in case someone comes looking for it.