Saturday, May 27, 2017

DIY Food Network Fallen Star

I love cooking shows, but they're very unrealistic. Even the Top Chef competitions don't really challenge cooks to push themselves past their comfort zones. They have fully stocked kitchens and sous chefs and secret exotic ingredients. Most people who cook don't have to worry about crazy ingredients they must incorporate, but rather essential ingredients they can't.


For example, you begin to make french toast for dinner, and find out you have no eggs, but only after you've put the milk and cinnamon and vanilla together, so you dump a whole box of banana muffin mix into the milk cinnamon mix and make banana pancakes. Preparing to make hot dogs, you discover you have no onions or mustard. Welcome to the world of inventive condiments! Yes, putting cauliflower tater tots on top of the hot dogs wins cool points, and drizzling them with the trace elements of ketchup from the leftover packets from the car might make for good tv drama, but no freshly dressed MC ever stepped out of the kitchen cabinet to award me with Top Chef points and a cleaned kitchen for making a silk purse dinner out of a sow's ear stocked refrigerator.

It's not that I don't plan a menu or shop for the meals or cook, it's that at any given moment, I must cope with all the want-a-be iron chefs or at least Food Network Star Judges, who want not just food but the right food, the perfect food, the food they don't know what it is, but want served now, hot and beautiful.
Real Conversation:

 "MOM! There is no food in the house! Can you go to the store and get bananas?"
Me: There is food in the house. There just aren't any bananas.
Son: There are no eggs.
Me: There is bacon.
Son: There is no bread.
Me: There are rolls. There are tortillas. There is dark wheat bread, plain ordinary store white bread and the ends of at least three loaves all stuffed in one plastic bag and five blueberry bagels.
Son: There is no lunch meat.
Me: There is steak-um, I already said bacon, there is peanut butter, there is provolone and if you forage, I think, some chicken.
Son: There isn't any food that's easy to make.
Me: So if I get up and make you food from what we have, would you be happy?
Son: Yes! I'll even practice the S.A.T.

Because I want the S.A.T to be practiced, I'm willing to be bribed. I begin work on hot dogs.
Daughter comes into the room. "Hot dogs? I don't like hot dogs! Mom! Can you go to the store, there is no food."
Son now points out there are tortillas, bacon, peanut butter, blueberry bagels....daughter sticks out her tongue at each, but pulls out a box of mac and cheese. "Can we have this?" It goes with the hot dogs, so I roll with it. I'm getting a chorus of yays! and I'm thinking, this is good. I'm a good mom...they'll eat, they'll be happy...

Another player entered the kitchen. She got out the celery and nutella, and peeled a mango before announcing, she ordered out because she doesn't like hot dogs or mac and cheese and does anyone else want anything? They deserted me faster than I could spell dessert.

When I served the mac and cheese and hot dogs to the remaining children, I got the question, reasonable in my younger childrens' minds, "why didn't they get to order food too?" I recalled a neighbor who used to make her kid eat her dinner for breakfast and lunch, and snack, until it got eaten. I used to think this a cruel parenting practice. I admittedly reconsidered but revenge is for the unimaginative, so today I posted a message in the kitchen, explaining the reality of things in the family mess hall.

Dear Family

I considered declaring food martial law. If you don't pay for the food, make the food or clean up after the food, you get no say in what the food might be or alternatives to eat.

However, I recognize, there are twelve different diets, different palates to please and I've yet to hit upon the magical combination of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbs that can accommodate all of your ever shifting appetites. In recognition of my inability to create a dish which uses all of the unknown secret ingredients necessary to the competition, and because that which is created is not up to industry standards as determined by all eleven judges in this house, I'm sorry but Mom has been chopped.

Whoever the other competitors are in this kitchen, I've taken away all of the car keys. Please, open the pantry and you have thirty minutes to create an entree and your time starts now. Oh, and I've been told repeatedly, there is no food. 

Good luck.

Love, Mom

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mom Hours

Everyone thinks when you have a newborn, sleep is something you aspire to have.  However the reality of parenting is, for pure sleep deprivation, nothing tops teenagers.  

Babies nap.  Babies have simple needs.  Eat. Change.  Hold.  Sleep.
Teens send you text messages at ten in the evening while you're folding laundry, "Are you going to the store?  Because we're out of bananas."  I sent back, "Where are you when you texted this?"
"In bed."   "So you want to know if I would get up, get my purse and drive to the store...before or after folding the laundry?"   The teen had the grace to send back, "No. I'm not in bed. I'm at school and I've been hard at work all afternoon, studying, studying, studying. I in no way would ever dream of asking you to go out after working all day if I'd not done the same.  Good night!"  

Evening patrols to guarantee lights out mean policing cell phones, taking the cord for the Wi-Fi on occasion, and reminding people that yes, there are after hours, when everything including the kitchen should be closed.   I find the hours between 1 a.m. and 5 to be most likely to be in compliance, but it's never quite a lock..  

At five, I've heard one rising with the proposal of a morning jog.  Believing in sleep as a normal part of life, I've explained,  once we get to morning hours, if the sun isn't up, you aren't to be out.  However I have the equivalent of electronic roosters all over the house.  My cell goes off at 5:50 and there are at least four alarms which blare at six, though to my knowledge, none of them rouse actual children, just me.

So nestle up with those newborns and enjoy this restful stage of life and remember, this is all just training for later.  This part of the road of parenting you're on?  It's the wide easy part.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Always Another Page

Writers, like teachers and parents, are fundamental optimists.  We begin with the unknown, the story we can't quite see but know is in our brains, or the unknown student, or the child in the womb.  Each day, we pour everything out like the ocean, and hope some of what we present, sinks in.  The cumulative effect of writing, of teaching, of parenting, is the outcome of all we give and all the reader, the student, or the child brings to the process.  In all three cases, it is also a journey and an act of faith, to every day begin again, even if what you wrote yesterday stunk, the classroom didn't sing, and your mom skills yesterday didn't quite measure up. Begin again. Begin again. Begin again.

That's the advantage in each of these vocations, they're as much about love as they are about knowledge and practice.  They're callings which demand one do even when not inspired, and one do and do and do again, regardless of outcome.  They are professions which care deeply about both the process and the product as it were, but can't be reduced to process and product.  You can't be a writer, if it is only about success, or only about generating word count. The words have to be about something and pointing toward something bigger than the mountain of cyber space they take up.  The story has to matter, has to move.  It is about relationship.  The story reflects both the author, and the reader's response, and is a thing itself.

Likewise, you can't be a teacher if all that matters is test scores or lesson plans, you have to work at those things, but teaching is about relationship, both to the students as individuals, and as a class, and to the topic.  It is a triangle.  Student-Teacher-Topic.  How do I reach them today?  How do I reach them tomorrow?  And also, what did I learn about them today?  What did I learn about myself in the process?  What will we learn tomorrow?  It is an ongoing snowball process, which should always build upon itself.

Parenting begins as a reflection of the Trinity, Mom, Dad, child, or if you go one step back, Husband, Wife, God.  It is always about trying to reveal to the other (in this case, the child) who God is by what we do.  To the extent we get in the way, we mess up.  However all of these processes are something which must begin again each day, and which build upon whatever came before, regardless of how well or poorly executed.

Writers Block, like teacher burn out, and distracted parenting, is when the person cannot get out of the way of either the process or the outcome.  Rededicating, rechristening one's self to the process, and not demanding that feelings or inspiration, supersede the act of doing, of being present; of working at writing rather than worrying about what to write, of teaching, or of parenting.

The solution is always self surrender, begin again and to try not to get bogged down in minutia or overwhelmed by the longevity of the task itself.  These are infinite professions.  There are ends to stories, to school years and stages of parenting, but the act of writing, art of teaching, and role as a parent, goes on infinitely.  Even silent, we will be telling stories.  Even without a classroom, we will be teaching the world, and we cannot cease to be parents, only better or worse ones.

In each of these vocations, the act itself often brings us to places we'd never reach on our own.  The journey on the blank page, into the classroom, or within our own home, is often a joyous surprise.  And when it is not,  the good news in all three roles is, there is always another page.  We can always begin again.  There are always more stories to tell. There are always new things to learn, new things to share, new ways to reveal knowledge and to invoke wonder.  Each day, we can begin again and love better, love more deeply, and get more out of the way.

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