Thanksgiving Research

Last night after Thanksgiving dinner, my aunt offered me a turnip from a bag she had in the trunk of her car. At first, I said no, but then I changed my mind and decided to take one. After all, she had extra, I like turnip, and I am currently working with a limited diet. I took one and stashed it in the trunk of my own car. The cool nights, I figured, would keep it fresh until I could cook it this weekend.

This afternoon, I took my children to a local shop that we enjoy visiting. The shop has all kinds of fun toys, games, gadgets, greeting cards, decorations, etc. We did a little holiday shopping, and I came away with a bag of goodies. We decided we would walk the main shopping district of this small town, but I wanted to put my bag in the car first. I opened the back, not even thinking.

C’s brow wrinkled in surprise. “What’s that?” he pointed to the corner of the trunk, and I immediately remembered that I had placed the turnip in that spot last night.

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I laughed. “That’s a turnip. Looks like jicama, doesn’t it?” I asked him. When my aunt had given it to me last night, I realized the similar appearances between the two roots. I think C, who has recently discovered jicama, was hopeful that I had purchased (and hidden) this in my car trunk.

The similarities did prompt me to do some quick research on whether jicama and turnip are related. I was surprised to learn that jicama is actually a legume, and the root is the only edible part of the plant; the rest, it seems, is poisonous, and contains a chemical used in pesticides. Turnip, on the other hand, is a root vegetable, and even the greens are edible. Despite the similar appearance, these two roots are not related.

The things you can learn when you think your car is a good place to store a turnip for a day or two…. And now you know, too!

Sarcasm

The other day when I was cooking dinner, I decided to listen to some music from my younger days. I played a Styx “Classic” album as I prepared the meal. I was even remembering most of the words, though I will admit there were a couple songs I didn’t know. The boys were in the living room finishing homework, and J was still at school, attending a theater meeting or some such activity.

Dinner was nearly ready when she walked in the door. “What are you listening to?” were the first words out of her mouth when the song hit her. She wrinkled her nose and her tone was one of disgust. It was a tone a parent might use when asking a teenager what she was listening to.

I feigned shock. “What? You don’t like it? This is my 80s head-banging music!” I made a head-banging motion; in response, she rolled her eyes as she slipped off her shoes and headed for the living room.

It was a few minutes before I called all three kids to the kitchen to help set the table so we could eat. My voice no doubt fully pulled the boys from their activity. “Mom,” C ventured. “What are you listening to?” It was the exact same tone his sister had used only a few minutes before. J laughed when I proudly responded “It’s my 80s head-banging music!”

She came into the kitchen. “Mom, what’s the chance we could turn off the 80s grunge?”

I was looking for a little nostalgia while I cooked dinner, and look what I got: teenage sarcasm with a side of humor! In my house, who would expect anything else?

Roadblocks

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Last week, my son was chosen to attend a conference at a local university. While he was happy to be chosen and excited about attending the conference (and missing school), this was the first time that he would have to navigate an unknown route on his own.

His concern began the week before. “I need to know how to get to the university,” he told me. (My children do not have smart phones or a GPS. We rely on old fashioned maps in our house. Actually, that’s not completely true. Mapquest is my navigation system of choice in most instances).

“I can tell you how to get there,” I told him. “Or you can look it up.”

“How do I do that?” he asked, triggering a twang of annoyance in my head. I cannot even begin to tell you how much this question irks me.

“Really?” I responded. “You can spend hours on the Internet, and you don’t know how to find directions?” I sighed as I realized he has not needed directions before now. I had a brief memory of my father’s irritation with me when, at 18, I didn’t know my way to a venue over an hour from our home. It was a place we visited every summer, but the drive through farmland, over twisty back roads always induced an intense case of day-dreamy-ness in me. Because I wasn’t driving, I didn’t have to pay attention to the route. “I’ll help you find the directions, but I’m not going to do it for you. It’ll be a good exercise.” And that was the end of the discussion and the immediate effort, but not of his worries.

The day before the event, he once again expressed his concern that he did not know the way. “I’ll Google it and show you,” I told him, but I had a scheduled meeting, and he didn’t want to move from the activity of the moment. So I closed my computer and left for my meeting.

When I returned, he was packing up his gear for the next day. “Can you help me with the directions?” He looked up and smiled a sheepish smile.

“I tried to show you before I left. Go pull it up on the computer, and I’ll go over it with you.” And so it was that he was finally able to get directions. We scanned the map together, and I pointed out the route, the trouble spots, and gave him tips for navigating the morning rush hour traffic. He printed out the directions and a map of the area, tucking them into the bag he would bring with him.

The next morning, he left on schedule. He had allowed twice the time it would take for the drive. Fifteen minutes after he left, my phone rang. It was him. “What’s up?” I answered.

“So… River Road is closed.”

“What do you mean ‘closed’? Is there a detour?”

“I don’t think so. There’s just a barricade and a guy telling people not to go that way.”

“Where are you now?” I asked him as I sat down at my computer. “Give me a minute to bring up a map.”

“I’m pulled over on the side of the road.” He paused. “From the map, it looks like I can get there if I take School Street all the way out.”

I surveyed the map on my screen. “I think that will work,” I told him. “Can you get to School Street from where you are?”

“I should be able to. There are several roads that lead over there.” He hung up, and in another fifteen minutes, he sent me a text to let me know that he had reached his destination.

He thought he was prepared for the day when he left home, but there are things we don’t plan for on our journey. Sometimes, unexpected things come up—detours, roadblocks, wrong turns. All we can do is prepare the best we possibly can and be flexible. Because he had printed out the map and tucked it into his bag, he was able to recalculate his route and make it to his destination with time to spare.

Mistakes

Writing 101, Day 13: Play with word count….

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This evening, in an effort to get to bed earlier, I made the mistake of asking my children to start their own lunches for tomorrow. If they don’t have time to eat the lunches I make, they will definitely not have time to eat the lunches they made.

It was an experiment that became the mistake I am not likely to repeat….

Snacks (2)

It is a rare occasion when I arrive home from work and have both the time and the motivation to make a real meal for dinner. I am good at whipping up something quick—spaghetti, chicken parmesan, tacos, etc. But making a full, more complicated dinner takes time and energy that I don’t usually have when I get home from work.

So last week, I planned ahead. I made pasta salad on Sunday for a potluck, and I doubled the recipe so we could have it for dinner on Monday, the most hectic day of our week. Pasta salad, ham, and broccoli—a simple, quick dinner.

As we sat down to eat, C looked at the food. “This is what I had for lunch.”

“This is what I had for a snack,” J piped up.

“You had this for a snack?” I asked. Then I looked at C. “I packed you a sandwich for lunch,” I responded. “You didn’t have pasta salad.”

“Yes I did,” he retorted. “You packed me a snack. I eat lunch when I get home from school.”

“What?” I studied his face. He was serious. “Wait… you eat a full meal when you get home from school?”

“Yeah, Mom. We eat so early at school, that’s just my snack. I eat lunch when I get home.”

“Every day?” I asked him.

“Yeah, pretty much.”

Well, that might explain where all the food has been disappearing to….

Writing Space

Written in response to Writing 101, Day 6: The space to write….

My children were very young when I became a single mother—my youngest was 14 months old—but I have never stopped writing. I have “paused” every now and again when life becomes overwhelming, but I have written, at least a bit, through each stage of their lives. Because I also took on an online teaching position, I became accustomed to working with much distraction.

When the children were young, I would work and write while they played—sometimes in the other room, and sometimes right near me. Often, the children would have their various craft projects or drawings-in-progress splayed across the kitchen table; I would squeeze myself in, claiming a tiny little spot of table real estate, just big enough for my laptop. Crayons, markers, clay, googly eyes and cast-off drawings inched nearer with every movement they made. When they were quietly engaged in their own activities, I could write without a problem. However, I developed tactics to deal with noise and distraction.

On one particularly memorable day, I was sitting at the kitchen table working, and W was sitting across from me, bent over some project or another. He might have been about eight at the time. The other two were in the living room, and they were not being quiet, by any stretch of the imagination. I was working, but to keep my focus, I was dictating to myself as I typed.

I saw W look up from his project, so I watched him as I typed. He looked at me, cocked his head and narrowed his eyes as he studied me, pondering what to say. I stared back without pausing in my typing or my dictating. “Mum, can you type silently?” he asked me.

I raised my eyebrows in question and halted my dictation and hence, my typing. “Do you hear your brother and sister?” As if on cue, one of them squealed, and they both giggled. W nodded. “That is why I can’t type silently.” He held my gaze for a long moment before he sighed and turned back to his work.

Since then, I always try to type silently. But sometimes, when the distractions are just too much to handle, I have to type out loud.

Talk-to-Text

Writing 101, Day 7: Let social media inspire you. In this case, texting rather than tweeting.

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On Friday night, my boyfriend discovered the talk-to-text feature on my phone. He was texting my daughter who had just finished her evening performance of “Our Town,” and I needed to let her know we were on our way to pick her up. “Oh look, I can say something!” he announced as he pushed the microphone button and recorded his message. Because he had been privy to J’s iMessage voice recordings to her step-sister on her iPad, he thought he was familiar with this feature. I believe he thought it would send a recorded message that J could listen to.

Instead, it translated his recording into a text message, one that made little sense. He read the first to me. “Hello just seen we are on our way the by.” I glanced over just as he hit “send.”

“Did you just send that message?” I asked, watching his reaction while trying to keep my eye on the road ahead. He looked at me sheepishly and nodded.

“It’s fine,” he said. “It’ll be fine.”

I turned back to the road, shaking my head. “She doesn’t know you’re with me, so she won’t know why I am texting,” I said. The thought was meant for him, but it was pretty clear I was speaking to myself. In my peripheral vision, I could see him playing with the microphone button, holding the phone near his mouth again.

He was like a kid with a new toy. He recorded a long message, then read it back. “Is a new place not called our house call to you or town whilst turn it I am actually talking English probably my accent I’m not sure goodbye a deal spot lab what’s in.” And as soon as he finished reading, he hit send again.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” I laughed. I wanted to take my phone back, but I was actually somewhat amused. By this point, I knew that J would realize it wasn’t me texting, so I was exonerated of all responsibility. He recorded another message and sent it, then another. “Are those messages even making any sense?” I asked. He had stopped reading them to me before he sent them.

“Not much. She’ll figure it out.” Yeah… I doubt anyone would figure out those messages!

When we pulled up in front of the high school, the last few drama students were out in front waiting for their rides. It was a beautiful night, unseasonably warm. I rolled down my window. J was holding her phone. “Guess who discovered talk-to text?” I asked, and we all burst out laughing.