Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Give Up, Weather.

I have lived my entire life in the Upper Midwest, including some of the most extreme weather places possible. You know, places where it routinely gets down to 20 below zero (with 30 below windchill) in January and 90+ degrees (with 90% humidity) in July.

But in the past 4-1/2 years that I've lived in my current southern Minnesota rural college town, I swear I have experienced more hailstorms, extreme winds, torrential downpours, and tornado warnings than I have previously in my entire adult life. I mean, five months after we moved here, the wind blew our entire patio furniture set into the neighbor's yard. A few months after that, when Genevieve was a week-old newborn, a thunderstorm/hailstorm so severe blew through town that softball-sized hail ruined literally every roof and exposed vehicle in town (including ours). Every summer things blow out of our yard and my flowers get drowned. We often get an actual RIVER OF WATER flowing through our backyard during a storm, the rain comes so fast and heavy.

It's RIDICULOUS.

The latest weather-related problem is that the rainstorms here have been so extreme this summer that our roof has succumbed, and we now have a leak in our master bath ceiling. When it rains, water drip-drip-drips out of the ceiling and onto our floor. We have a water mark around our bathroom fan fixture. We have a bucket to catch the rainwater on our bathroom floor. Have I mentioned that our house is only 9 years old, and the roof was replaced after the above-mentioned hailstorm (so is only 4 years old)?

You win, weather. I get it: you're extremely powerful. You can stop now.

(Have I mentioned that you can count this as, oh, number six or seven on a list of the things in/parts of our house that have broken so far in 2010? Clearly at some point we angered the gods of home ownership. Also the gods of prosperity. BECAUSE ALL THIS STUFF COSTS MONEY TO GET FIXED.)

Next up: Read all about how we have forgotten to teach our six-year-old how to tie! Oops!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Motherhood is my Workout.

Those super-skinny celebrity moms--the Courteney Coxes, the Gwyneth Paltrows, the Angelina Jolies--are always saying that running after kids all day is what keeps them thin. If they didn't have nannies helping them out all the time, I'd be inclined to believe them, given my own experiences. I mean, who else can eat chocolate and ice cream on a daily basis and maintain a slender weight, but a stay-at-home mom of small children?

I've had my five-pounds-ups-and-five-pounds-downs over the months and years, believe me--but honestly, I think there's something to the notion of the Busy Mom Diet. (Not to mention the Stress Diet, ha! But that's a whole different diet.) And since I've been overindulging a bit in unhealthy snacks lately, I guess it's a good thing that mothering keeps me going in a million directions (and sometimes pushing a hundred pounds) all day long.

To wit:

Yesterday the girls and I set out at about 10 a.m. on a mile-long trek to my favorite park. Our plan was to collect nature specimens on the way (just for fun), cavort around the playground once we got there, eat a picnic lunch under a tree, and hike all the way home in time for nap.

Of course I'm not crazy, people; I brought along the double stroller. Any experienced mama knows that you don't expect a three-year-old and a barely-six-year-old to make it two whole miles round-trip via their own two feet. And boy oh boy, you do NOT want to be a mile from home and have one or both of them tell you they just. cannot. walk. another. step. Plus my daughters are small for their age. Their legs are short. I was hedging my bets, you all.

Plus I had a picnic lunch, three water bottles, a picnic blanket, a bag of sand toys, my giant canvas handbag (stuffed with every conceivable need, as mamas' handbags are wont to be), and three plastic dump trucks to tote along as well. Oh, and a gallon Ziploc bag and wooden basket for the girls' two nature collections. What am I, a pack animal? Obviously I needed transportation for my goods.

We made it all the way to the park (with a fair amount of cheerleading toward the end, which was uphill) on foot, with admirable stashes of nature specimens found on our journey. Sure, it was slow going, and took us 45 minutes to get there, but hey--every two feet they had to stop to pick up a rock or leaf.

Once we got there, they were mostly too tired to do much besides play-cook and dig in the gravel with their sand toys and be pushed on the swings. We sat in the shade and sipped ice water for awhile. Genevieve rolled her dump trucks down the slides. Then we ate an early lunch, during which Julia mostly yawned and declared that she would like to "lie down right here on this picnic blanket and take a nap," and we saw a woman ride by the park on a bike with a (real, live) parrot perched on her shoulder. Yes, truly. She biked back a few minutes later so I know we did not imagine it the first time.

The hike back home required much negotiation. We finally agreed that I would push them both the rest of the way home (about .7 mile) if they would walk from the park down to the bike path (1/3 mile). They did it, and then I loaded a combined 72 pounds of children into a stroller stuffed with the above-mentioned gear and pushed it all the rest of the way home under a blazing noonday sun. How much does a loaded double stroller weigh? I figure I had to have been pushing at least 100 pounds of children + stroller that last 7/10ths mile. No wonder I was dripping with sweat when we rolled up our driveway. Needless to say, everyone napped (even me).

Did I mention that Genevieve went on this entire adventure in her pajamas?

Monday, July 26, 2010

County Fair Milkshake Lunch

Why yes, we DID eat 4-H Food Barn Fresh Dairy Milkshakes at the county fair at 11:30 in the morning over the weekend! This was, of course, after visiting all the livestock barns and ogling (sometimes petting) pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, alpacas, roosters, cows, kittens, and a pony. Love those scrappy fair kids, in their boots and jeans and braids, carrying their baby goats or ducks back and forth to the pens, grooming and watering, winning ribbons.

Summer of Fun, remember?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cooking for Kids: Homemade Hummus

So, yesterday I promised you a tasty hummus recipe to eat with that yummy focaccia, didn't I? I'll give you two. Then you can try them both and decide which one you like better.

For years, I bought hummus at the store in those tiny little tubs. It was fine. Then I decided, how hard can it be to make my own?

I've never looked back. For one thing, homemade hummus is much cheaper than store-bought. Plus, it's fresher, you can customize it to your own taste (more or less tahini, leave out the garlic, etc.), and you don't have to worry about any preservatives or other questionable ingredients. And I know I'm always saying this, but it's true: it's easy. Oh so easy.

The first recipe below is your basic, original-flavor hummus, but this is a low-fat version (no olive oil). Believe me, it's still really good, but if you want to add olive oil, feel free. Throw in a tablespoon and maybe increase the lemon juice a little.

The second recipe is an unusual hummus made with all-natural peanut butter instead of tahini, with the addition of a few extra unique ingredients. It's fantastic; my kids love it and I find it utterly addictive.

Let me know if you try them, and which one you like better!

Original Low-Fat Hummus

Ingredients:
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 T. tahini (sesame seed butter, found in the health-food or organic section of most groceries)
1/3 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until it reaches your preferred consistency. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a bit more water or lemon juice.


Deliciously Different Peanut-Spice Hummus

Ingredients:
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. plain yogurt (nonfat or not; either is fine)
2 T. all-natural creamy peanut butter (the kind with no added sugar; Smucker's makes a good version)
1/2-1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
a small drizzle of dark Asian sesame oil (optional)
1 large garlic clove, pressed/minced

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until it reaches your preferred consistency. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a bit more lemon juice or a tablespoon or two of water.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Cooking for Healthy Families

One way I like to use prolific summer CSA veggies is to roast them for sandwiches. Zucchini, summer squash, onions, and eggplant are delicious roasted and layered on bread with fresh basil leaves, tomato slices, feta cheese, hummus, pesto, or mayo---or all of the above, why not? A drizzle of balsamic vinegar is also a tasty--if messy--topper. And this is a great summer supper for busy, health-conscious moms, because a.) it's EASY! and b.) it involves vegetables and olive oil and is therefore extremely heart-healthy. If your kids aren't big veggies eaters, at the very least I'll bet you can get them to dip the bread into the hummus, and that's healthy too.

But of course, you can't use just any bread. You're not going to make a delicious Mediterranean-style roasted veggie sandwich with store-bought wheat (or Wonder Bread, the horror!).

I like to make an easy focaccia. It's simple, it's good and salty and fresh-tasting, with little dimples of oil and herbs, and there's nothing better with roasted summer vegetables.

Here's my recipe. Sure, it's all white flour, but....it's focaccia. That's how you make it. The veggies can balance out the lack of whole-grains in the bread. Right?

I have no idea if this is really how they make it in Italy, but it's tasty. Try it!

Easy Focaccia

Ingredients:
1 tsp. sugar
1 (.25 oz.) package Quick Yeast
1/3 cup very warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
olive oil for brushing on top
dried oregano and/or basil and more salt for sprinkling

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let stand until foamy and creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture with flour and salt. Stir well to combine. Stir in additional water, 1 T. at a time, until all flour is incorporated and dough pulls together into a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. (I like to use an oven-proof bowl and place it in my oven turned to the very lowest temperature possible, 175 degrees. Sometimes I turn off the oven after awhile and let the bowl continue to sit in the warm oven for the remainder of the time.)

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Deflate your dough (punch it down), then turn it onto floured surface and knead briefly. Place on a greased baking sheet and pat and stretch dough out into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick and approximately 5 x 12 inches (I'm totally estimating here; I don't pay that much attention to size when I make it). Gently indent dough with your fingertips, at regular intervals in rows, to make "dimples." Brush surface of dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried herbs and salt.

Bake 10 to 20 minutes (shorter for a moist, fluffy focaccia, longer for a crisper focaccia. I like to bake for about 15 minutes).

Cut into rectangles and spread/fill with desired sandwich ingredients.

Next time I'll give you a delicious homemade hummus recipe for this yummy bread. Check back!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Sweet, Sweet Summer

Of course summer means zucchini. And though my girls dislike cooked zucchini in any sort of dinner dish (quiche, frittata, pizza, and the like), there is no doubt that ANYONE will eat zucchini when baked into a chocolate-zucchini cake.

I served this to a visiting friend the other week, dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with a few extra chocolate chips, which melted slightly on the still-warm cake, and she requested the recipe. I can't remember where I found it--it may be from Martha Stewart Living?--but it doesn't matter. All that matters is DELICIOUS.

Chocolate-Zucchini Cake
makes 1 pound-cake type loaf

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (unpeeled)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Gently fold in grated zucchini.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spray a standard-sized loaf pan (roughly 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean or mostly clean. Set pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove cake from pan to cool on rack completely. When totally cool, dust with powdered sugar, and cut into thick slices to serve. Garnish with extra chocolate and/or whipped cream if desired.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Twins?


Are these two really almost exactly two years apart in age?? Don't they look like little fraternal twinnies?

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Refuse to Think About The Scandalously High Price of Pool Admission or the Fact That Summer is Finite.

The Summer of Fun is flying by, and perhaps you are wondering how it's going. What fun things we've been doing and all that?

Aside from trying not to dwell on how fast summer is going, I've been keeping my kiddos busy with plenty of fun adventures. Here are some of them:

Going on a day trip with friends to a fantastic (free!) native-rescued-animals zoo and park an hour from our town, amidst the woods and rolling hills of southern Minnesota, on one of the most perfect-weather days of the summer:


Making sand pies in the backyard:


Picking, blanching, and freezing lots of green beans from our CSA farm:


As well as cutting sunflowers, oh joy:


And, perhaps most fun of all, spending every Friday morning at our city pool's Toddler Time, packing a lunch and staying as long as possible, running into all the other moms and small children we know for a sort of impromptu pool party, baking in the sun and eating sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies in wet swimming suits. I hope my daughters remember this, years from now.

However, since leaving a digital camera in your beach bag several yards away while you wade in the pool with your children is probably not the smartest or most secure thing you could do, I have no photos of Friday mornings at the pool. You'll have to trust me that Fridays are the best: all morning at the pool, picnic lunch, quiet afternoons with children napping in the cool dark house, their muscles depleted and their skin still warm. And then, every other week, waking up after nap to go to the farm, to pick more green beans.

Amidst the bills and the repairs and the house-painting and the chores and the usual chaos and stress of nonstop parenting of small children with no help and never quite enough money, this is what matters: the zoo, the sand, the farm, the picnics, the pool. Summer of five and three, of six and four. Summer of Fun.

And then when I start to get too heartbroken about how fast summer flies, I make myself feel better by imagining myself in these awesome boots in October:



They're ON SALE at Title Nine, you all. And even a mom needs to look cute for back-to-school.

What I'm NOT doing these days: working on my book, working on anything else for publication, earning any money, painting any of the other bedrooms, figuring out my life, scheduling any of the school-friends playdates I swore we'd do this summer (my kids don't want to, anyway), running as many miles per week as I'd hoped to be by now. (Though do not fear! I have faithfully adhered to my Summer of Running vow to not skip any runs unless the temperature outside is over 90 and/or it is raining heavily. Or if there's a tornado. Which, this summer, seems to be every other week or so.)

That's all I got, folks. Off to have some more fun.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Successful Solo Parenting

Now that I can safely admit that it was last week that Christopher was traveling for several days in a row, leaving me and the girls home alone (you probably all guessed that anyway, right?), I feel compelled to tell you that it was THE BEST WEEK EVER. Uh, no offense to my husband?

Seriously. We had SO. MUCH. FUN. And the girls were angels. There were literally NO meltdowns, tantrums, crying fits, defiant voices, or fussy freak-outs until Friday afternoon (just before Daddy came home). I think I went my longest stretch of time ever without yelling. (The math is easy: good behavior = no yelling.) Bedtimes were easy as pie. Everyone was happy, easygoing, and cooperative. The days were full, busy, and happy, and the evenings were 100% fine. I never felt like my tank was below empty or that I didn't have the energy to cook a proper meal or fold the laundry. I planned a TON of super-fun summery activities for us to do, and we loved every one. The girls followed all my rules without complaint. Every chore got done. We picked 2 gallons of sugar-snap peas and 1 gallon of green beans at our farm. The cat was fed, the plants watered, the car filled with gas.

Do you get what I'm trying to say here? The most remarkable thing about my span of solo-parenting--beyond the fact that it involved no yelling or crying (or whimpering)--was that it was, in some ways, completely unremarkable. Of course Daddy was missed, and everyone was glad to see him on Friday, but it was no harder caring for the girls on my own than it is when I'm not on my own. Maybe even easier, and my theory about that is that I am the stricter parent, but also the clearer and more consistent one, and with only me as a parental variable, there was no room or reason for negotiation or defiance or even fussing about the bedtime routine. Done, done, and done. And yes, I realize this was only four days, and that the wheels may have fallen off the bus eventually. And I don't mean to insult my traveling husband, who needless to say loves his daughters with all his heart and is a great dad. But there's no denying the week was easy and pleasant.

Taking care of kids by yourself for several days in a row may be nothing to you--maybe you do it all the time, maybe even with more, or younger, kids than mine. But it's not routine for me, so I don't enter into it expecting it to be a breeze. It's nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Hooray for--despite the normal mama nostalgia and the baby lust and all that--children growing up and things changing. And for summer weeks when everything magically goes perfectly, and you're doing it all on your own, so you can legitimately pat yourself on the back and say, Nice job, SuperMom in Wonderland.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer 2010


You'll probably see this on the Christmas card later this year. That's a metal sculpture rising out of the gorgeous flowerbed in our town square, seeming as though it is coming out of our heads. Sigh. Did they have to include a metal sculpture? Weren't the flowers perfect enough? And not photo-interfering at all?

Anyway: July, 2010. Three blonde girls as Scandinavian as they come, and our handsome dude.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ooey-Gooey Warm Banana Boats

Last weekend the girls and I tried a fun new kids' snack idea. It was DELICIOUS, so I thought I'd pass it along.

OK, so yes, I understand that most days in July you're going to want snacks and treats that are cool and icy: your ice cream, your Sno-Cones, your Popsicles. But if you and your kids are craving something different, or just want something kid-friendly and fun to make, I've got a delicious little recipe for you. Your kids will love it, you'll love it, and anyone else within tasting range will love it. And if you're concerned about sugar and healthy snacks in general, you can maximize the peanut butter element and go easy on the chocolate chips and marshmallows, or substitute raisins for one or both of the latter. But even if you make it this way, it's still a whole lot healthier than a hot fudge sundae or a Bomb Pop. I mean: banana! That's a fruit, people!

Here's how you do it:


Ooey-Gooey Warm Banana Boats


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Take a ripe banana and, with a sharp knife, make a long slit lengthwise through the peel and into the fruit. (That first step is for adults only, obviously.) Prod the slit open enough to make a trough along the top of the banana for filling with goodies.

Let your kids fill the opening with a tablespoon or so of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and peanut butter. (Oh my goodness, the possibilities! You could use butterscotch chips, toffee bits, shredded coconut...whatever your heart desires!)

Stuff the banana full, press the filling down well, and close the peel back up as best you can. Wrap the banana tightly with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and either spoon the melty, gooey banana mixture into bowls, or eat directly out of the peel with a spoon.

For a S'mores-type dessert, serve with graham crackers on the side or crumbled on top. Yum!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Snapshots from the Summer of Fun

Linden Hills playground, Minneapolis, July 8, 2010.




Thursday, July 08, 2010

Summer FTW

Lest you think, from yesterday's post, that I hate my parenting life (I don't, at all. Any full-time stay-at-home mom knows you can hate the minutia of your parenting life--tantrums, skipped naps, laundry, cleaning up someone else's vomit--and still love your life), a sampling of the girls' and my activities this lovely, summer week:

  • toddler-and-parent swimming class
  • playgroup at the park
  • picnic lunches (three times this week, in three different awesome, summery places)
  • six-year-old swimming lesson (bonus: no tears!)
  • Popcorn Wednesday
  • playground
  • ice cream shop
  • movie night
  • visit to our CSA farm
  • road trip
  • toddler time at the pool
  • library
So you see, being home full-time during the summer with children old enough to swim without diapers and sleep (mostly) through the night can be a wonderful, wonderful thing. Plenty of joy, plenty of fun. Tiring, though.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Yes, yes, and YES.

OMG. This article from New York magazine is the best articulation of the crazy-making oxymoron of modern parenting I have ever read: you know---how you truly love being a mom, it has brought meaning to your life in a way you could never have imagined, and you would never trade it for your old childless life, and yet, so often, you just, well....hate parenting? Totally illogical and disturbing, right? Well, read this and nod your head in recognition at every single sentence.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some Solo Fun?

Don't worry; it'll be fun.

My husband is traveling for work a little bit this summer. One to three years ago, this would have meant that during those days, I'd be spending a lot of time attempting to nurse one baby to sleep while entertaining the other, exercising during naptime because I couldn't leave the house for a run for four days' time, skipping baths because I was too tired by 7 p.m. to give them, and whimpering to myself.

Luckily, children grow and things change! I know: it's a revelation!

A few years ago, when I wrote about how desperate I felt during one of my husband's business trips, home alone with two toddlers and no help, a then-friend (who had never been a full-time at-home mom with one baby, let alone two, nor had ever lived more than an hour from either her parents or in-laws and who also had a nanny so had never spent even one full day, let alone four, without help) responded snarkily with a loaded "Wow." She also enjoyed describing how fun it was when her husband traveled for work, how she and her boys did all sorts of special, exciting kid-and-mama things, like camping out in the living room and eating ice cream cones for dinner and watching movies and popping popcorn. (I may be paraphrasing a bit here.) I didn't point out that HER CHILDREN WERE THREE TO FIVE YEARS OLDER THAN MINE and perhaps were capable of doing something other than nursing, waking up multiple times during the night, getting their diapers changed, needing their food cut up for them, sleeping in a crib, and CHOKING TO DEATH IF THEY ATE POPCORN.

Needless to say, that person is no longer a friend of mine. Because really, who needs that kind of response from a friend?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is this: while I know that solo-parenting for four days this month will be exhausting, and that NO DOUBT there will be some yelling and possibly whimpering (by me, I mean)--especially at about 9 p.m. on my third straight day without reinforcements when my children are still awake in their beds, fussing and calling for water and the fan off and the light on and tummy medicine--it is also much, much different to solo-parent a newly-six-year-old and an almost-four-year-old than to solo-parent infants, babies, and toddlers. Meaning, my daughters are now able to do a lot of things that they once could not--things that make my life easier than it once was, and things that can be fun for us all. We can go on fun mama-and-daughters adventures and eat popcorn and skip the occasional nap in order to squeeze in a day trip to meet a friend for ice cream and a visit to a big city park. No one is nursing, or in diapers, or potty-training. No one needs to have every bite of every meal fed to her on a spoon by someone else (me).

It's still the Summer of Fun, and I've got lots planned. But some of it is going to be Solo Parent Fun (With a Little Yelling and Possibly Whimpering). I'm sure it's going to go just fine.

But even so, if you have babies or toddlers and you find yourself partner-less in parenting for any period of time, and you feel a little (lot) overwhelmed and desperate and disappointed in your mothering limitations, and you tell me all that, I won't raise my eyebrows and say, "Wow."

I'll say, "Oh my God, I totally remember those days, you must feel like poking your own eye out with a stick. I'll be right over."

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Island of Misfit Parents

From one of the funniest columns about parenting I have ever read (via Salon.com, today):

...The gangs speak their own languages when it comes to things like sleep training, and it's important to learn to decipher them. For instance, our friend Marsha recently asked me whether our daughter was "sleeping through the night yet," which in gang-speak means, "How are things on the Island of Misfit Parents?" I tried but failed to change the subject, and when I described the ambivalent, improvised approach Jenny and I take, I was met with the inevitable phrase, "Whatever works for you!" which means, "Have fun visiting her in juvie!"...

Click here to read the whole thing. It's not all about sleep training. But it is about the conflicting "gangs" of modern parents, at war over who's doing sleep, peanut allergies, feeding, birthing, and, um, surviving as new parents the RIGHT WAY. Very astute, and very hilarious.

Oh, and by the way? I am. Doing it the right way.

Supermom is Exhausted and Possibly Temporarily Off-Duty.

Reminder to self for next summer: successfully managing kid soccer, swimming lessons, and nursery school summer "camp" during the same four-week period is less "Summer of Fun" than "Summer of Crazy." (Note: Not the same thing.)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Believe Me, I'm Looking Forward to the Day When They Can REALLY Cook Dinner. Awesome!

So the girls and I have been working our way through the Beverly Cleary chapter books--you know, Ramona Quimby? What a dear memory she is for me! It's like meeting an old childhood friend all over again, only I've aged and she hasn't. I vividly recall entire chapters before I even read them aloud to the girls, that's how great an impression those characters made on me when I was a grade-schooler. I recall reading them myself, however, not having them read to me, so I know I was older than Julia is now (and of course Genevieve) when I first encountered Ramona and her family.

Anyway, the other day we read a chapter wherein Ramona and Beezus get in trouble with their parents for complaining about the dinner their mother has cooked (which, by the way, is TONGUE. Tongue, people! Because it is more economical than roast beef, and the Quimbys are a homey lower-middle to middle-class family (or, perhaps back in those days, just a typical middle-class family, unlike today when people who own in-ground pools and three cars call themselves "middle class") and money is tight. But seriously, tongue? Wouldn't YOU complain too?). The girls' punishment is having to cook the evening meal themselves the next night.

Julia was immediately enthralled with this idea, and decided that she and Genevieve should do this, too--not as a punishment, of course, but just for fun, because it sounded exciting. (Now keep in mind that Ramona and Beezus are, in this book, something like eight and fourteen years old, NOT just-turned-six and almost-four.)

We had a little talk about the age difference between the sisters in the book and the sisters in our house, and how she and Genevieve would not be allowed to use the stove, oven, microwave, or sharp knives. No problem! She would make something cold. How about lunch? I suggested (sandwiches, raw veggies, fruit?). Rejected. OK, dinner it is. Julia agreed that Tuesday night would be a good time to try out her new idea, since she would be cooking only for herself and Genevieve because Christopher and I have been hiring a sitter for an hour or so those evenings and going running together, feeding the girls first and ourselves later. I won't go into the fact that this arrangement also freed Christopher and me from the obligation of consuming a questionable dinner made by MERE BABIES.

So what did she and Genevieve make? Lettuce, tomato, mayo, and cheese wraps made with whole-wheat tortillas, fruit salad (banana, grapes, apple--needing help to cut the apple)--so far, so good--and, for "dessert," a piece of bread apiece, topped with strawberries, honey, and cinnamon. Which I guess is basically a jam sandwich.


So on Tuesday for dinner my daughters ate a sandwich wrap, fruit salad, and a jam sandwich for dinner. And a glass of milk.

A little carb-heavy, but better than tongue, for sure. And what's with that dessert? I offered a graham cracker instead of the bread, but it was a no go.