Friday, March 30, 2012

happy weekend

It's Friday. And a bonus day for us - no school today, and Alexi took the day off.

Tomorrow is our neighborhood's annual Little League parade, led by a nearby high school's marching band.

We'll continue our game of Pond Hockey-opoly. It the weather allows and maybe if it doesn't, we'll take our bikes out for the first time in months.

There are many new books in the house, thanks to a book fair at school this week.

In other words, a weekend full of the kinds of things that make my heart sing.

Enjoy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

what's cooking


Today was a half day of school – the worst kind of day, in my opinion. Let’s have it one way or the other. Home or not. I spend half days feeling like I’m stuck in a revolving door.

After the noon pick-up, there was the annual Talent Show mid-afternoon. Abbott stayed at school to rehearse his number; Cal, who wasn’t performing, wanted to go on ‘an outing’ in the interim. We settled on a trip to the Lego store (with his allowance money). Afterwards, we sat and ate yogurt parfaits in the mall. Cal asked me, ‘If you could have any wish come true, what would it be? Mine would be to live in the Lego store.’ I told him I’d have to give it some thought.

We made it back to school just in time for the show. The Talent Show is an event that always has the likes of Irish dances mixed in with lots of lip syncing to music about love and loss from of the lips of 7, 8 and 9 year olds, piano pieces played on a keyboard set up on stage, hula hooping, and so on. Fun and kind of tiring.

When we got home, I rummaged around to see what I could throw together for dinner. A few salad greens were the extent of our vegetable supply. The main course was going to have to be pasta or something else dried or canned from the pantry. So I made one of our standby comfort dishes. It’s kind of a Middle Eastern version of rice and beans, or the south’s beans and cornbread. Lentils and rice, topped with carmelized onions. I came across the recipe some time ago; I imagine I was searching for new ways to prepare lentils, and How to Cook Everything is my go-to for ideas. Chances are, you have all the ingredients for this on hand. It’s not fast, but it is easy. Today, I unloaded the dishwasher and unpacked lunch boxes while the onions carmelized, and the lentils and rice cooked. The flavor of the onions is what makes the dish, but my boys love it without them.

Delicious and filling; a perfect one pot meal. We eat it with a green salad.

Lentils and Rice with Carmelized Onions
Slightly adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped, plus 2 large onions, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
About 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, or water, warmed
1 cup basmati rice

In a large, deep saucepan, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cumin, and some salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups liquid.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. I usually end up using about 6 cups of liquid. Stir in the rice. Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet. Cook the onion slices over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 30 minutes.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. Add more liquid as necessary, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, they are ready to serve. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Garnish with the onions.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday

Today was busy. I accompanied Abbott's fourth grade class on a field trip to St. Mark's Cathedral, as part of their study of Christianity. The fourth grade studies world religions. We've visited a Jewish synagogue, a mosque, and a Hindu temple already, and in the next month will visit a Sikh temple and a Tibetan Buddhist temple. The experiences have been good and expanding for all of us in the community, I think.

In other news, we haven't had to leave the neighborhood after school all week, and that has felt like a gift.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday

Over the weekend I read through a number of entries in a dream journal I used to keep, years ago, and encountered an abundance of threads related to, frequent mentions of, those I worked with at the time. Today, I continued to think about the importance of the many people I'm connected to, however peripherally, and made a little more of an effort than is natural for me. I took the time to check in with a couple of friends. At school, picking up the boys this afternoon, I exchanged pleasantries with those I ran into, when I could have as easily said hello and walked on by.

For whatever reason, I played the soundtrack to Notting Hill as I tidied up the house this afternoon, and as I worked I had the thought that domestic activities are part of married-with-kids romance. They’re part of the glue that holds family life together, not always enjoyable tasks, not altogether essential, but acts that make the home a better place to be.

I hope your week is off to a good start. xo

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday evening

Evening walk.

Wishing you all the best for the week to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the best

The way Cal’s face lights up at the sight of me when I pick him up in the afternoon. He barely restrains himself from throwing his arms around me with the expectation that I carry him out, as he did such a short time ago, last year in kindergarten.

The call from Alexi in the middle of a busy work day, to say hello, without a specific question or request.

Hearing from a parent who gave a presentation on water to the fourth graders today that Abbott vigorously and enthusiastically raised his hand to answer several of her questions.

Tonight, watching Abbott and his teammates scrimmage with their coaches. The boys are nimble with a low center of gravity such that the adults had to be careful not to trip over them.

What were the best things about your day? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday


I love it here.

Enjoy your night. xo

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the beginning

this morning with a friend at Porchlight Coffee

I admit it. I’ve been a bit surly about the advent of spring. Uncharacteristically for here, it seems to me, the weather remains cold, the landscape mostly devoid of color. Yesterday I woke up to frost on the neighbors’ rooftops, and there was snow on the cars near school. But, you know, around here cold usually means clear skies, and that is no small thing. Our side of the world continues to move closer to the sun; warmth is only a matter of time.

This morning, as Cal practiced the piano, I realized he was playing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring'; new music for him. It made my whole day. Think I’ll give his piano teacher a bouquet of flowers when we see her this week.

Other signs of spring: My energy level is high. I hear ever more bird songs each day. The first round of blossoms are starting to show themselves around the neighborhood – cherry blossoms and magnolias, finally. And there are daffodils.

Wishing us all a season of growth. Happy Vernal Equinox.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Flat Stanley


Like many first graders around the country (around the world?), Cal and his classmates have started a unit on Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley is the main character in a book series by Jeff Brown. A boy named Stanley Lambchop has all sorts of adventures after he gets flattened by a bulletin board.

Cal and his classmates each made their own Flat Stanley, and soon, he'll go visit a family member or friend. The host family will incorporate Stanley into their lives, and correspond with the class about his adventures with them.

You may recall seeing the construction for Abbott and his first grade classmates. This time around, the teachers asked the parents to do the prep work - cutting out felt bodies, glueing on eyes, cutting out clothing, and making little mops of hair and a few random accessories, like hats and scarves. We took all the prepared components to school, and the kids got to assemble their own Stanley. They chose the clothing, accessories and hair they wanted, glued some of it on with fabric glue, and drew his face. A couple of parent and grandparent volunteers brought in their sewing machines to secure everything in place.

I look forward to hearing about the upcoming adventures!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday

Midmorning, as I waited for Abbott to get out of his hockey gear, I daydreamed about what I would make for dinner. I decided I’d put together some sort of risotto full of fresh herbs, broil a salmon, and bake a cake – an almond cake I’ve been wanting to try. I planned to stop at the market on the way home from the rink to buy the fish and produce.

Then I was reminded that Cal’s end-of-season hockey party was this afternoon, and my cooking reverie evaporated.

The party was at this crazy place with bumper cars, miniature golf, laser tag, video games, bouncy house – you name it - all under one roof. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be for Alexi and me – we were actually able to converse a bit in the miniature golf area; miraculously, the music didn’t get piped in there. The boys had a great afternoon, and were a bit dazed and subdued on the walk back to the car.

We stopped at Delancey for dinner. Alexi and I sat knee to knee and shared a salad as he played peek-a-boo with a nearby toddler, who signed 'more' to him whenever he took a break.

In this new week I have less on the calendar than in the past few weeks, good news, and more I want to do, also good. I’ve woken up earlier than I’ve needed to the past few days, apparently eager to get started. It’s hard to beat that.

Wishing you a satisfying week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

La le feile Padraig gach duine!

Happy St. Paddy's day, everyone!

St. Patrick Was a Slave

I hope yours is a nice one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday night

at Volunteer Park Cafe

Have you ever noticed how we, in the broadest sense, are in the habit of saying what people expect to hear? Being genuine often comes across as over-sharing. It makes people uncomfortable.

When things start to get a little crazy around here, usually just before dinner, if I’m lucky, it finally occurs to me to turn on some music. Johnny Cash saved us, tonight.

The weather is a little absurd right now, if you ask me. Sun, rain and snow, all in a day, more than once this week.

When, after the lights are out, and the house starts to settle and one of them says, ‘Mom?’ and I say, ‘Yes?’ and he responds, ‘Good, you’re there,' I feel my life has been a success.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday

I spent the morning working on a project for school with a group of other parents. It resulted in some racing around in order to do everything else that needed to be done before school was out, but, as always, it was so worth the time. Since the boys became school age, when we stopped spending as much time at parks and such, I've found being a full-time parent can be somewhat isolating. I take the opportunities for connection as they come, and am glad to do my part for the kids and the school.

We're loving a new ipad application recommended by our school's technology teacher called Spellboard. Alexi set it up last week to help the boys with their spelling words. Here's how it works. You input the words by typing and by saying them, and then enter the child's grade level and the language (you can use it to study Spanish vocabulary words, for example). The study mode allows the child to tap on the word to hear it said (in your voice!), and find the words in a word scramble/word search. You can practice writing the word on a virtual white board, and connect to Wordnik to get the word’s definition. The program keeps statistics about the amount of time spent in each area of study, and performance on quizzes.

I hope your week has been a good one thus far. xo

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spokane


Typically when we travel to a hockey tournament the team's hotel is just off a highway or exit, with nothing around but chain restaurants, if there is anything. In Spokane this past weekend, we stayed right on the river, in the heart of the downtown. Alexi and I looked at each other in amazement when we realized it, unable to believe our luck. We walked to local restaurants and shops, rode the historic carousel, even saw a movie (The Lorax). We spent a lot of time in Riverfront Park getting to and from our hotel to downtown, playing soccer with pinecones, batting them with sticks. There is great universal pleasure in green spaces. The scenes of families, people out walking their dogs, couples on benches completely absorbed in each other, could have been anywhere.

Monday, March 12, 2012

on the road

From the passenger seat yesterday, somewhere in eastern Washington.

Whew. That was not what I expected at all. I’m still rubbing my blurry eyes, after getting home after midnight last night and ten hours in the car. In my mind I tend to romanticize road trips – you know, singing along to the radio, together, song after song, for hours on end, blah blah blah. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We spent the past few days in Spokane, on the other side of Washington state, for a hockey tournament of Cal’s. We didn’t anticipate snow and snow-related accidents closing the mountain pass that must be crossed to get home, just miles before we entered it (this is mid-March!). Last weekend we traveled over the very same pass to and from Wenatchee, without incident. Last weekend we had our boots, our sleeping bags, our shovel in the trunk. Last night, as we sat, parked on I-90 watching the snow fall, we had none of it with us. And I worried and fretted. Fortunately, we had just filled up our gas tank and replenished our candy supply. I am much more cheerful under duress with sugar on board. We sat in line, parked, for quite some time, wondering if the road would open again before morning, calling friends and neighbors to discuss our options, before deciding to backtrack to another mountain pass to find our way home. The boys were fine - they played video games until they fell asleep, unable to believe their good fortune.

I know many of you are tired today, too. We all set our clocks forward yesterday, and I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one scowling at the still-dark sky at 7am. Another parent told me, as we stood outside First Grade waiting for the doors to open, that more heart attacks occur the weeks after daylight savings than at any other time of year. I’m not surprised.

Roadside cafe in Tokyo, Washington.

Tell you what – I'm going to rest up, and tomorrow I’ll be back with more from the weekend.

I’ll just say what I already let some of you know, via facebook and twitter, from the road. Cal’s team won first place in the tournament, and as I watched those boys play their hearts out, it felt like watching the Olympic gold medal game.

Cal scores!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

from Thursday evening

Thursday afternoons, I volunteer in the school library. The best part of my time there is helping kids find books. I get questions along the lines of, 'Can you show me where the books on danger are?'

Back at home, I help tie up all the loose ends of homework. Everything is due on Friday.

After the lights were finally out tonight, I separated the boys for uncontrolled silliness; not a bad problem to have. Some would argue that the laughing together was the most important part of the day.

Tonight we'll sleep with clean sheets on the beds. Some things never disappoint.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday


Abbott's fulfilling a school requirement for community service as an assistant coach, alongside Alexi, for Cal's hockey team. I went along tonight; fun watching him in that capacity.

Feels like a full moon today, doesn't it? Good gracious. Technically it happens tomorrow morning - close enough.

I've taken to doing pushups every day - only 10! - and they are embarrassingly hard. I make sure I'm completely alone before getting down to business, so to speak - no witnesses.

I long for the return of color to the landscape. I'm sure it will happen any day now. Maybe in your corner of the world it already has.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday


Got through the bulk of our taxes this morning while listening to the piano tuner at work elsewhere in the house. In the distance, a neighbor hammered away at something. I felt a kind of solidarity - all of us making things happen, getting it done.

As I drove around, and took care of household chores, I listened to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, written and narrated by Sherman Alexie. I've been wanting to read this book for some time, and when I saw it in Audible's Young Adult section, I decided to preview it for the boys. I'm going to wait a couple of years to play it for them, because I don't think they're ready for at least some of the content. I'm profoundly impressed by the truth, the humor, the integrity and intelligence of the writing. A few things I 'bookmarked':

The world – even the smallest parts of it - is filled with things you don’t know…a huge idea. Even a (small) town is a place of mystery.

Hard work – the act of finishing, of completing, of accomplishing a task – is joyous.

'The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.' – Vince Lombardi, as quoted in chapter 6.

All right, then. Goodnight.