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Entries in parenthood (7)


Things my kid made me do... and I'm glad

I never predicted this! Image courtesy Library of Congress.I thought nature was going to give me somebody just like me... a girl, for starters. One who didn't look forward to gym class. One who made sure to be parked in front of the TV when the next figure skating competition was on. 

But of course it doesn't work like that. I got someone far better. I got my boy. My athletic, unstoppable, funny boy. 

And along with that has come some pretty cool changes to my life. Things I never expected for myself. 

Take football. Football, the sport I have never understood and never wanted to watch. It wasn't on in our house, growing up--that was baseball, sometimes. My high school had a football team but I pretty much went home once my marching band job was done. But now I've got my Redskins t-shirt and yesterday I caught myself having a deep conversation with a Kohls' checkout clerk about RG3's recovery (or lack thereof). And I even joined my first Fantasy Football league this fall (don't ask me how they're doing). 

Then there's scorekeeping. I actually was the scorekeeper for my kid's baseball team, for a few seasons, until we moved. Never did I think I'd be following a baseball game closely enough to be marking down every strike, ball, and base play. I started because I wanted to help out. But in truth, I loved it. It really taught me a lot about the game and gave me new appreciation for its strategy.

There are things I have given up, too. I used to insist on cooking "real" dinners with "real recipes". Now that's something I save for the weekend, if at all. I still make dinner, but it's essentially sponsored by Trader Joe's. That's because I've got the kid stuff to focus on, and my life is richer for it. 

You think you know how your kid is going to change your life, when you first look down at their face. But they've got a lot of surprises in store for you. Sure, some of them are stinky. But a lot of them are quite delicious.


Mom, am I a good artist?

My gradeschooler is great at a lot of things. Baseball. Reading. Making friends. 

But art has never been his... thing. From the time he was very small, sweet daycare teachers would hand over his art pieces almost apologetically. "He was in a hurry to go play with the trucks," they'd say. 

Now he's becoming aware of the difference between his art on the classroom wall and the art next to it. The other day, he asked me, "Mom? Am I a good artist?"

I was glad for the fact that I was driving, that he couldn't see my face jerk in surprise and worry. I was glad for the pretense of focusing on a lane change. 

"You can tell me I'm bad. I want you to tell me the truth," he urged from the backseat. 

"OK. I will," I said. But I still needed to think for a minute. 

Is he a bad artist? What exactly makes for a bad artist? For that matter, what makes for a bad writer? Is it really about whether people like what you make? 

Or is it about effort?

Could art be the one area where our modern sensibility of awarding effort actually makes sense? I'm the first to roll my eyes at everyone getting a trophy, but I wonder... maybe that's OK when it comes to creating. So long as you do you best, then you're good. 

Kirkus might disagree with me, of course. 

"Mom?" my kid asked from the backseat. "Tell me."

Finally, I did. And honestly. "I don't know if you're a good artist yet," I said. "But I do know that I haven't seen you try very hard. And to me, that's what makes a good artist."

Silence. I glanced in the backseat, wondering if I would see tears. 

Instead I saw a determined face. The same one he gets when he's two strikes down, or strapping on his catcher's gear, or aiming for a basket. 

"Then I'd better try more," he said. 

The next day he came home with a cool drawing of a cave with a dog in it. Or maybe a weasel. That's debatable. But he'd obviously spent a lot of time on it. And I could see traces of him sketching everything before coloring it in. There were erase marks, even, in places.

And guess what? He says he won a prize for best drawing in class that day. Now I know it was probably because the teacher was so astonished that he spent a "whole half hour" on this drawing. But that's fine. He needs the encouragement.

And like everyone who wants to be a good artist, he needs the practice.


Ideas for nut-free camp / school lunches

Our son's camp has a new policy this summer: no nuts, period. No peanut butter, no Nutella, no trail mix with nuts, etc. They are Not Kidding Around. Kids who bring any food with nuts will see their lunch confiscated and tossed.

Let me hasten to say that I get it. Nut allergies are a very serious thing. Without policies like this, some kids might not be able to go to camp at all. 

(I do wonder what's going to happen when some of these kids grow up and head off to the corporate world... are nutfree policies coming soon to an office park near you?)

Anyway, facing a summer without hot school lunches and Uncrustables to feed my child was a very daunting prospect. I'll admit it. We're not the most ambitious lunch makers for our kid. Nor is he the most adventurous lunch eater.

I tried googling for lunch ideas and found such helpful suggestions as making my child a gourmet cherry-Asian-chicken salad (oh yes, THAT will go over big) or using a nutfree peanut butter substitute like sunbutter (tried it; hated it; moving on). There aren't any microwaves available to warm up lunch, nor is there refrigeration available, of course (thank goodness for ice packs). Pair that with my inconsistent but insistent worries about food additives (my latest freakout is nitrites, so forget lunchables) and we had quite a time coming up with lunches.

So, I'm listing a few of the lunches "main dishes" that have been a big hit with our incoming second grader. Hope this is useful to a few other parents too. 

  • Hard-boiled eggs along with garlic popcorn we buy in Wegmans (sounds weird but he LOVES it, and the popcorn is a whole grain, riiiiight?)
  • "Stackers" made of Jimmy Dean reduced-fat turkey sausage patties and (defrosted) frozen waffles. I use a biscuit cutter to make the waffle size match the sausage patties size. If I'm careful I can get two little waffles out of a normal-sized one (and the leftover bits are a good start to my breakfast).
  • "Stackers" made of nitrite-nitrate-free salami (thank you Applegate Farms) and colby-jack cheese, paired with Ritz crackers. I use the same biscuit cutter to shape the salami and cheese. Leftover salami and cheese scraps go great in a breakfast omelette.
  • Bagel spread with a thick layer of cream cheese
  • Pasta salad made with the Betty Crocker Suddenly Salad Classic mix. This is getting oddly hard to find in grocery stores, but he LOVES the stuff and it cooks up in ten minutes. One box will buy me two days' worth of lunches.

What nut-free kid lunches are a big hit in your house?



Reluctant stage moms and Spanish moms...

We try to give our almost-seven-year-old son every reasonable enrichment opportunity we can. We've got him signed up for baseball (his pick, his love) and Sunday school (guess whose pick that was?) and right now he's also sampling a totally fun hip hop class (again, his pick). (If you are the DC area and want a referral to a great affordable dance school with kid hip hop lessons, drop me a comment). 

So when the flyer came home for before-school language lessons, we offered. We always offer. But the dirty truth? I sort of hoped he'd say no, like in other years.

I think it's great for kids to learn language at an early age. But there's often a sort of self-congratulatory note, I think, to the conversations with parents whose kids are taking language enrichment classes. A la "Jordan is taking French. For my next birthday he's going to translate a de Beauvoir essay for me!" And that makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to be that person. 

I can hear you, other parents. You're telling me this: it's not just language lessons. You could probably pick any enrichment activity and hear the same kind of tone from some of the parents. "Oh, your son is learning about Moses in Sunday school? Huh. Our little chubbykins learned how to walk on water last Sunday, in her class!"

Still. I will admit to a combination of shrinking dread and pride when Little Dude announced, quite cheerfully, that he would be taking Chinese lessons. When we figured out that the Chinese lessons were 40 minutes away and Spanish was at his school, he decided that Spanish would be just as awesome. And today, he started class. 

I feel the funny looks from people when I say he's taking Spanish, even if we're not in the same room. "Is he in middle school already?" an online acquaintance asked. No, no, although he's got the eye-rolling all set for that day. So I have fresh sympathy for the parents of kid actors who insist "no, seriously, they ASKED to do this. It was NOT our idea." 

I should be proud. I know this. So I will not mutter about where my kid went at 7:40 this morning. I will stand up straight. I will take pride. I will say, "yes, my son is taking Spanish."

Just don't expect him to be quoting Isabel Allende next week. And if he does?

I'm not telling.



Little Dude's picks for picture books, on World Read-Aloud Day

So Twitter shook me awake this morning and informed me that no, it's not just Wednesday and make-Swedish-pancakes day and A-New-Top-Chef-Is-On-Day. No! It's World Read-Aloud Day!

How cool is that?

In honor of the day I asked Little Dude to suggest six books--one for each year we've been reading to him--that other kids his age would love to have read to them.

Yeah I'd like to pretend he picked the Caldecott winners that we stuff on his shelves every year. But none of his picks surprised me--"boy" stories through and through and each with a hero he can look up to.

But who cares? I'd read cereal boxes out loud to him (in fact, I have) if it keeps him engaged in reading.

1. Chris Barton's SHARK VS. TRAIN

2.  Any new issue of the magazine Lego Club, Jr. although he says he doesn't understand the Bionicles comic insert one bit. That's good because I can barely read the tiny font! (Or maybe I'm reading the entirely wrong words and that's why he's confused)...

3. Any issue of National Geographic Kids magazine. Current favorite article right now, which we've read at least five times, is about a humpback whale saving a seal from a pod of hungry killer whales. 

4. Any Star Wars story. 

5. Melinda Long and David Shannon's PIRATES DON'T CHANGE DIAPERS (we like to read the pirate voices in a high-pitched sort of squeal)

6. TOY STORY (we have the Little Golden Book). I was happy to hear this, since I thought Luke and Yoda had completely pushed Woody and Buzz off the pedestal. 


Happy World Read-Aloud Day, all!