What We’re Doing: Marvelous May

WBMarvelousMay2016

Ok. Maybe it hasn’t been entirely marvelous with an illness, two injuries (mine), and a lot of rain when we’d have it fair, but there have been movements to marvel about.

 

WHAT WE’RE DOING

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The Fox and his sponge.

After the amazing Taco Party on Beltane, we’ve been moving through the final spring classes my son’s taking, working on routine health check-ups, and getting the house in a more manageable state. We also did a major cleaning on the car, and got rid of everything not essential; my son even helped scrub the pollen off the tricky edges the car wash didn’t clean.

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Running with his Wind Stick at Tiny Treks

A lot of children, for various reasons, weren’t able to attend the last couple of music classes, and with only four kids left, my son felt totally at ease to be himself.  He participated more, laughed, and had fun without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of little bodies in the room. He also has had a lot of fun at the last few Tiny Treks classes he’s been taking; becoming more engaged in the activities, and coming home to sing songs to his dad he heard on each hike. But as he told his coach, gymnastics is his favorite class, and we’re going to keep it up through the summer.

My daughter’s been accepted into the Running Start program. Just one more orientation, and she can sign up for classes!  Meanwhile, my “nephews” both celebrated their birthdays this month — one became a teenager, and the other is officially an adult.  He’s graduating from a community college with both a high school diploma and Associates degree next month, soon to enter a local university.

Here’s the marveling part.  I marvel every day at these children.  I watch them, and sometimes, when I stand apart and let them alone to be their truest selves, everything clicks, and I make peace with existence. It’s as if knowing they’re here, real, and confirmed before my eyes, everything one might fear — death, taxes, needles, war — they mean nothing in the moment compared to these young beings of light and laughter. Their brilliance isn’t blinding, but a warm, reassuring glow.

And with my own, sometimes I stop and think, “Wow. I made those two. I made them inside me. And they’re marvelous.”

MySleepingBabies-May2016

WHAT WE’RE READING

Right now, the Little Fox’s two favorite library books are Drew the Screw by Mattia Cerato and The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin. Ok, maybe the latter isn’t his favorite, but I want to promote it anyway.

516t7-dwbol-_sx258_bo1204203200_First, though, the simple book about a screw and the tools it lives with in its garage doesn’t have many words.  Only a dozen or two, but the cartoonish pictures allow parents to talk to their little ones about common objects found in a garage or workshop. Since the tools are anthropomorphized, they’re given different personalities, and it’s clear from their expressions some are friendlier than others and some don’t like the screw much. My son picks up on all this and asks questions about their feelings, their smiles or frowns, the menacing grin of the saw he reads as “angry,” and he sees things I wouldn’t if I looked at it alone.  Subtle things in the background. I usually read this one twice — once quickly for the words, and the second time to explore the pictures.

516ktpcfm3l-_sx258_bo1204203200_Now, when I think of ugly vegetables, I think of the wasted food that doesn’t make it to the grocery shelves because it doesn’t look perfect.  But this book is about a different set of “ugly” vegetables — a young girl questions why her mother doesn’t plant flowers like the neighbors, and plants Chinese vegetables instead. She watches with envy as each stage of growth shows the difference between the plants, from the dirt to the labels to the sprouts. It all looks ugly, until harvest time when her mother begins the soup.  An excellent look at differences in cultures within a neighborhood, what gets prioritized, and even hints at internalized racism, which seem somewhat healed by the sharing of the soup. I might like this book more than my son, but he adores having me read about the making of the soup and reading off the ingredients in the recipe at the back.

5963_howl-coverThe Dragon is finishing up an assigned essay on both On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and Howl by Allen Ginsberg, Jack’s presumed lover and longtime collaborator.  Though I haven’t been given access to the essay yet, she has made some comments. She doesn’t seem to care much for Kerouac as a person, but she does find the history fascinating, and the backdrop of his travels adds to the landscape of mid-20th century America she’s been learning about.  She enjoyed a lot of Ginsberg’s poems, but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprising given her modesty), didn’t care much for the title poem.  For me, the title poem is the reason to own the book in the first place, but she keeps reminding me by her actions and preferences, that despite our similarities, we are not the same person.

I finished reading The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up (a.k.a. the KonMari Method) by Marie Kondo last week.

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Good bye, shoes.  Thank you for being fabulous and making my son smile.

The good: many, many of her ideas are excellent suggestions for people looking to make major changes to their lives by improving their living spaces. Her trial-and-error perfecting of her method over most of her lifetime definitely developed a keen mind for organizing.  She suggests all people should first discarding most possessions, keeping only what “sparks joy” or is necessary, doing so in a specific order by category (not by location), and only then finding the right storage for each item.

The problematic: Some of her methods go too far and simply aren’t practical in a large home, or with children around.  That isn’t to say children can’t benefit from this method (she has a 3 year old client), but her specifications often assume a certain style of architecture — a Japanese style, where closets are deep, include well-defined sections, and even have a cupboard above them.  She recommends having all of one person’s items in their own closet, regardless of their use.  Believe me, this doesn’t work if you’re trying to change a diaper at 2am and all of your supplies are in another room.  Also, red flag here, she pared down to thirty books. Thirty! As a friend said, “I have thirty books on horse care alone!”  Yeah. I can see reducing our educational books that aren’t likely to get used ever, or ditching some of the gardening and cookbooks I rarely refer to, but we’re bibliophiles and we like living in a library.  Finally, it’s clear tidying is Marie’s way of feeling worthwhile, and it stems from a childhood desire for positive attention.  She takes it to such extremes she sometimes comes home late from tidying other people’s homes and passes out on the floor just inside the entrance of her home.

Despite its flaws, there’s a lot to learn from it, and like all advice books, take what works for your life and put it to work, discarding what doesn’t spark joy.   😉

Also, you’re probably folding things wrong:

 

WHAT WE’RE EATING

About once a month, I drive thirty minutes out to Bellevue to buy baked goods from WildFlour Gluten-Free Bakery.  Though I love Flying Apron, and some of the store options we find, WildFlour is by far my favorite (their scones are better than any wheat-based scone I ever ate).  I pick up biscuits, scones, cupcakes, cookies, baguettes, and other treats, and I always grab a double pack of Rebecca’s (owner) pizza crusts.  Being gluten-free means having limited pizza options outside the house, and too many have cross-contamination issues.  When we last made pizza at home, we bought a big bag of pepperoni at PCC for one of the pizzas, and froze what we didn’t use.

I made baguette pizzas with the pepperoni, black olives (my son’s favorite), and gouda cheese (many Japanese swear by it in place of mozzarella, and it’s divine and melts faster), but even adding plenty of pepperonis to the baguettes, we had some leftover. So, I made cucumber pizzas based on a (cooked) zucchini version, and served them on the side as the “salad,” which I thought the kids might enjoy.  My daughter says the marscapone “hides the disgusting flavor of the cucumber.”  We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, but my son generally enjoys cucumbers.

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Cucumber Pizza Rounds

1/3 pkg of sliced pepperoni
1 large cucumber, sliced
marscapone
pizza sauce*

Slice the cucumbers into thick rounds, arrange on a plate.  Using a cheese knife, spread marscapone on each.  Add a dollop of warm pizza sauce, and top with a pepperoni.  Serve to hungry spawnlings as soon as possible.

 

*Mama Raven’s Pizza Sauce

1 can tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, pressed
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
tarragon
paprika, sweet ground
1/4 c. shredded parmesan, romano, asiago, or a blend of the three
water
salt
pepper

In a small pot, warm the olive oil and saute garlic.  Stir in about a tablespoon of tarragon, for two minutes before adding the tomato paste.  Season with paprika and sprinkle the balsamic vinegar liberally. (Pizza sauce is basically sweetened marinara, and rather than add sugar or corn syrup like commercial sauces, I find balsamic vinegar adds the right balance without being saccharine. I typically add red wine to my marinara, this also allows me to skip this step if I wish.)  Let the tomato mixture warm a little before adding an equal amount of water and stirring thoroughly. Once hot, blend in cheese, stirring constantly until melted, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

This is in no way a traditional sauce, but it works, it tastes amazing, and I can whip it up in a matter of minutes when we’re late to making lunch and everyone’s hungry.  Note that I use tarragon instead of oregano and basil because I prefer the flavor; I find too much basil in a tomato sauce to be cloying and unpleasant, and oregano, while good in moderation, doesn’t agree with my stomach or my palate in the amounts required for all the Italian-ish food we eat.

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