Brussels Sprouts

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This morning, my youngest almost caught me putting Brussels Sprouts in his lunchbox. Almost. But I snuck them in before he saw me. Yes, you heard that right: Brussels Sprouts in his lunchbox.

This is the point in the school year when I start to get bored with the lunches I pack for my children. Now, I understand that my children are perfectly capable of packing their own lunches. However, they would put it off until the last minute, remember as they are running out the door, grab something from the pantry, and call it lunch. On any given day, such a “lunch” might consist of an entire ‘party size’ bag of chips or a single granola bar. Then, the kids would arrive back at home hungry and cranky, and they would snack their way through the pantry and the refrigerator before dinner, ruining their appetite for real nutrition. Since I don’t want to take my chances, I pack their lunches. Every day.

So last night, I put out the question: What do you want in your lunch that I haven’t been putting in there?

And W, being the smart-alec 14 year old that he is, said (without hesitation), “Brussels Sprouts.”

“Ha!” I chuckled. “What do you really want?”

And I got the typical 14-year-old-kid response: “I don’t know.”

Surprisingly, I actually have Brussels Sprouts in my refrigerator. Last week, there was a story on NPR about the local crop of Brussels Sprouts, the fact that they are in season despite the cooler weather, and how they are actually sweeter after the cold sets in. And I bought some on my next trip to the market.

This morning as I packed lunches, I popped two Brussels Sprouts into a sandwich bag. I was getting ready to draw a smiley face on the bag in Sharpie when I heard the upstairs bathroom door open. I quickly threw the bag into W’s lunchbox, minus a note or smile face. I went about the rest of the breakfast/lunch preparations as if nothing unusual had happened. Because in our house, that really was nothing unusual.

As expected, he didn’t eat the Brussels Sprouts. Instead, he jokingly offered them to a friend, who actually took a bite. From the report I got, I’m pretty sure when W found the bag in his lunchbox, it was good for a mid-day giggle.

The Kitchen

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The tile that hangs over my stove… a perfect image for The Kitchen

“You smell like food,” my daughter told me when I picked her up from practice. It was late for dinnertime, though we hadn’t yet eaten. While she was gone, I had been busily cooking.

“Yes,” I said. “I do smell like food.” I had noticed on my drive to meet her that my clothes had picked up the smell of onions. And maybe a slight cooking (i.e. burning) smell.

“Where did you go?” she asked, disappointed that she might have missed dinner out. Apparently, she was convinced that when someone’s clothes smelled of food, that person had been to a restaurant.

I thought for a second, calculating my reply. “Hmm,” I stalled. “I went to this place called ‘The Kitchen.’ Have you heard of it?” I asked. “They have great food there.”

Despite the fact that I was watching the road in front of me, I could feel the smile spread across her face. “I think I’ve been there. And the food was quite good.”

“There was a bit of an accident today though, which might be why I smell like food. The chicken and dumplings went over…. I haven’t finished cleaning it up yet.”

“Oooo! You made chicken and dumplings?”

“I did. That Kitchen is one of the best places to eat.”

“I love chicken and dumplings!” She was suddenly excited to get home. “So why is it that anytime someone smells like food, it smells like a fast food restaurant?” she asked.

I had to admit that on this particular evening, my clothes held a scent reminiscent of fast food. It was sort of a burnt onion smell, most likely because my dinner went over on the stove and therefore, didn’t cook in the most conventional manner (well, the part that left the pan, anyway).

However, I’d like to think that when I leave the house smelling of chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin muffins, or gingerbread, people notice the comforting smell of Kitchen spices. And in that case, they might be inspired to go home and spend time in The Kitchen, too!

 

Shared adventure

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I sent my children out on a mission. Armed with my camera, and all the colors of the fall season for inspiration, they went for a walk around the neighborhood so my daughter could take pictures for my son’s yearbook photo.

This plan is one that has was hatched over the summer, when I decided to save some money by not hiring a professional photographer to take C’s senior pictures. We discussed it in August, but C wanted to wait until the trees turned and the colors were bright. And he kept putting it off, claiming that his sister was never ready. J, meanwhile, claimed that C just had to say the word. It was not a promising start to the project, and I found myself second-guessing my decision.

As often happens, we procrastinated down to the wire. The pictures were due this week, and we had to factor activity schedules with days of “picture perfect” weather. And so it was Wednesday, leaving us very little time for a retake, should it be necessary.

After school, texts flew as plans came together, friends were contacted, and last minute details were taken care of. I let the kids figure out the logistics, the process, the timing. I gave them their mission, and I stepped out of the picture.

When I entered the house later that day, three kids were in the living room, laughing and chatting as they viewed the pictures on the computer. Click, click, giggle. Click, click, “Oh! Flag that!” Click, “Stop! Go back!” They flip through the photos, one by one. All of them. All 248 of them.

248 photos! (In my day, that would have been 10+ rolls of film; countless hours in the darkroom….) My daughter had catalogued the entire excursion in a photographic essay, of sorts, documenting the journey from our front door to the top of the street, and back again. Buried in among all of these photographs were the three choice moments when they stopped to focus on the mission I gave them—the sit-and-pose pictures. In total, we had seven photos in the running for the yearbook. But we had countless others that had captured a moment, a journey, a memory.

I sent my children out on a mission, but they came back armed with memories of an adventure. Sometimes, I am amazed at what happens when I remove myself from the picture. Mission (more than) accomplished!

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(all images provided by the creative eye of J)

Superheroes

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The senior English classes at our high school are working on their college essays, which is both brilliant and problematic. It is brilliant because the students will get these essays written and perfected under the instruction of their teacher; it is problematic because my son is not prepared with a topic. He thought he had another month or two to think. He has nothing to write about. Not. A. Thing.

According to this kid, there is nothing that has happened to him that is essay-worthy. And “college-essay-worthy” at that. There are no experiences that define him. I can’t even get a story from him, and I am a woman who believes everyone has a unique and interesting story.

I sat him down, and I talked to him (actually, I followed him around the house to brainstorm with him, but I digress…). We discussed the trips he has taken, the activities in which he is involved, the club he is starting at school, his culinary program, his “broken” family of origin. Still, we came up empty. Nothing.

Each day, I would hear his rants about the essay, his lack of topic, his teacher and her nagging until I finally threw out anything I could think of. “Why don’t you write about your trip to Hawaii?” I suggested.

“Mom,” the sarcasm oozed thick and heavy. “No one wants to hear about my trip to Hawaii.”

“Well, how about when you almost fell in the volcano?” I continued.

“I didn’t almost fall into a volcano—”

“And your father risked his life to save you,” I interrupted.

“My father would never risk his…,” his voice trailed off. “You know, Mom, you might be on to something!” I could almost see the light bulb go off in his head. “I can write about the time my father died trying to save me!”

Um…. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but that was the direction he took my suggestion. “You can’t really make up your college essay,” I informed him. “They want to know who you are, what defines you.”

“But Mom,” his excitement was evident on his face. “What better essay to write if I’m going to school for creative writing? I’m going to tell my teacher that this is my topic for my essay!” He disappeared into the living room.

I sighed. I had grasped at straws, handing him one without thinking it through in the way a high school senior might. There is a lesson to be learned here … I’m just not sure what it is.

One lesson I know for sure. Every kid wants to believe that his parents might have a touch of superhero… that his parents would do anything to save him, should the need arise. I believe we all need to believe in parental superheroism.

But for parents who are not very “parental,” who think only of themselves (year after year, in situation after situation) and their children know there is not even a speck of superhero, well… they might just find themselves starring in an essay featuring a poorly placed volcano.