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Some Earth Day Grillin’ and Gardenin’

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Before we even knew the forecast, we had decided Sunday would be the day we dig the garden.

It’s convenient to now think of it as an “Earth Day” activity, but the truth of the matter is that my awareness of the comings and goings of the actual day of “Earth Day” is tangential at best. At some point I knew it was coming, but that didn’t really put it on my radar.

However, seeing as it was quite pleasant here in Seattle, weather-wise, and because we’d planned an earthy activity on an earthy (faux) holiday, we turned it into a bit of a family event.

Among my many neuroses, would be a persistent concern about food and all the nasty things that can happen to it between the time it’s gathered in its raw/natural state and the time it arrives on my plate.

Actually, the true terror isn’t really when it arrives on my plate, rather on the plates of my wife and child. I get the benefit of said concern for the well-being of the others, so…there you go.

Hence, in addition to wanting to make sure Owen grows up with a hard-wired love for Detroit sports and music made with stringed instruments, I hope to instill in him an adventurous palate and a strong understanding of food. I believe a key component to this is going to be giving him a life-long appreciation for where food comes from.

I’m certain that, had I been asked when I was in elementary school where food came from, my response would have included words like “cans” and “grocery store.” This despite the fact I count among my most treasured memories sitting with my grandfather on his Allis-Chalmers tractor traversing corn fields.

Same beloved grandfather would send us kids out to the fields to bring back large rocks for which he’d pay us on a per-piece basis. I now realize this was a very low-cost way to get some peace and quiet in the house.

George Doubrava was a wise man.

Anyhow, my point would be that I plan to put forward a focused effort on arming my son with as much knowledge and understanding of food as possible and hope it benefits him his entire life.

Turns out it’s not entirely difficult to sell a toddler on the idea of digging a garden. I don’t even think Owen was particularly psyched about digging in the dirt, which might seem a stereotypical sales point for a young boy. All we had to do was bolster his natural desire to be doing whatever he sees Mommy and Daddy doing with a tool he could use.

Orange watering can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it! That’s all it took!

Well, “all” includes refilling the can several times to account for both how little water it took to make the can too heavy for him to carry without spilling it all over himself, as well as for how quickly he was able to dump the water. Unlike the gentle misting effect of the typical Seattle rain shower, Owen likes to go for the midwestern-style downpour where no umbrella can really save you.

In a sort of celebration to the launch of our gardening operations, we also heated some charcoal for a particularly meaty, not-at-all gardened dinner entree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What better way to bust into the warm weather of “grilling season’ than with a giant sandwich of grilled meat? Other than vegetarians, who doesn’t love a burger?

Despite having turned myself off from the prospect of buying meat from most sources, I still am generally open to the products found at our local Metropolitan Market, which made it an especially sunny moment when I wandered over to the meat department to see them running a special on Wagyu beef. With enough meat to make two large adult patties and a toddler version costing me less than $6, I couldn’t resist.

I know Anthony Bourdain would think me an idiot for eating ground Wagyu beef, but after having it at Hubert Keller’s burger bar…well…I just don’t care. It’s crazy delicious.

The Missus had requested a pasta salad with the meal.  She also wanted tomatoes, artichokes, and Parmesan cheese in the salad.

Being the wise guy I am, I hit the market’s olive bar for some marinated artichoke hearts AND an artichoke lemon pesto thingy I thought would work for oil. Also, trying to be considerate, I opted for some sheep milk feta to help with any lactose issues known to rear their heads in the house, and a small block of another firm sheep cheese spiked with black truffles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Result? BAM! (What? NOBODY but Emeril get’s to use ‘bam!’ amy more? Please…)

I used a Barilla pasta that wasn’t quite like the rotini/rotelle I am used to getting, though, if I’m honest, I don’t remember whether it was called either of those things. It’s definitely spiral-like, as you can see, but can be stretched out, rather than being held to a certain length. This worked most advantageously for Owen who dragged a few spirals around his plate while making a snake-like “sssssssssssssssssssssssss…’NAKE!”

(It’s funny he can do the “ssssssssssssssssss” all day long, but always says he’s being a “NAKE” and that he takes his shoes and “DOCKS” off. Not sure when it’ll click he can put the hissing sound in front of “nake” and say “snake,” but it’s cute for now.)

Unfortunately, the Missus had particularly wanted the Parmesan to satisfy some need to salty something or other. She claims to really like the salad I made, though.

Moving on…

We supplemented the entire venture with the leftover Spring Asparagus Salad I had made the day prior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s my recipe. I am “Seattle Dad.” The secret is OUT!

Hearty, well-sourced meal provided the calories to go dig in the dirt for a while. It felt momentous to get started on something that will pay dividends potentially for years beyond our time in this house.

So, Happy Earth Day, even to you scrooges who turn on extra lights to spite the “libs.”

Lessons From a Toddler: Infernal Screens!

March 27, 2012 2 comments

Have you heard the one about the people who look down their noses at parents who use their television as a babysitter only to find themselves enlisting the distraction of the ‘idiot box’ to keep their own children preoccupied once they themselves have procreated?

I’m not sure we ever quite fully qualified as thinking ourselves being too cool for television, but am certain the amount of television we have allowed our son to watch is a lot more than we’d ever imagined in those golden, pre-baby days when you are absolutely in control of every aspect of parenting conceivable.

Despite a general awareness that the Bubba has gotten more familiar with a handful of PBS series (including Pearl Jam’s performance on ‘Austin City Limits’ of all things), it never felt entirely like the bad parenting I’m sure we’d have labelled it some 26 months ago or so.

But then…

“Daddy…Daddy…Come get me.”

My son has only recently begun to really stir his vast collection of words and phrases into short sentences, so I’m barely used to that, but somewhat used to it.

What I was NOT ready for, upon reaching his bedroom.

“I want unh watch ‘Dino Train…go that way watch ‘Dino Train’ with me?'”

“Dino Train” is Bubba-speak for “Dinosaur Train,” which is an animated show that runs mornings on PBS, featuring dinosaurs and trains.

Only the lack of guitars and maybe characters aping Johnny Cash and Eddie Vedder keeps me from wondering whether they’d designed the show specifically for him.

Then again, you wouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time with too many toddlers to figure out that dinosaurs and trains are pretty popular territory. Really, the question is how it took so long for someone, somewhere to pitch the idea.

“Hey…kids like dinosaurs…kids like trains…why don’t we slap together a show about dinosaurs who ride trains?”

“Sounds awful. What would they do?”

“Who cares? Have them actually talk about physical characteristics of different species. The kids won’t care, because it’s dinosaurs and trains.”

And a franchise is born.

Now, if you don’t have children, let me tell you something; you’d be SHOCKED at how quickly someone with fewer than two years on the planet can pick up on something and attach to it. I remember distinctly being asked for ‘Dino Train’ before I was aware it had ever been on the television. We have our son in school (we call it ‘school,’ but, yeah, it’s day care) five days a week, and the only show ever on the TV in the mornings is ‘Sesame Street, ‘ which is pretty much the one show I was 100% cool with being on, even despite the Elmo-ization of the entire neighborhood.

It turned out, however, that dear old ‘Sesame Street,’ the show I remember fondly from my own 70’s childhood, was nothing more than the gateway drug.

Piecing it together now, I know it was those weekend mornings when we’d start with “Street,” but I’d take advantage of the fact the Bubba was chilling in front of the television to go brew coffee…then make a quick breakfast…then more elaborate breakfasts…

Soon enough, we knew expanded our knowledge to “Dordze,” “Cat Hat,” “SooPuh Why,” Sid,” and even, rarely, “Dahmuss.”

Outside our house, that would be “Curious George,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Super Why,” “Sid the Science Kid,” and “Thomas & Friends,” that last once being an older series about a talking train, which could have held the keys to my son’s heart if only they’d worked in, say, Johnny Cash and horseys. Well, and being on earlier in the day, I suppose.

Despite all the show knowledge and enjoyment and even occasional requesting, it didn’t seem awful to me until I realized my son was barely awake before asking, not to see mommy or for milk or to pet the doggie, but to watch ‘Dinosaur Train.’

And, as the Missus said, “It made me feel like we’re doing something really wrong.”

I’m not okay with that.

Hence, the television did go on this morning for less than five minutes. After brewing some coffee, I made my way back to the living room, grabbed my son’s red toy guitar, sat on the couch, and starting playing it (no better than he can, to be honest). I knew it would distract him, which is a favorite technique of mine. I also know it’s a bit manipulative; I should probably feel worse for that, but…we’ll work on that.

The distraction gave the Missus opportunity to click the screen dark, which is how is remained the rest of the morning and until after the Bubba went to bed for the night (of course, some members of the household are not to be denied their ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fix).

What this episode did, though, was make me consider more how I was burning through my morning in a rush to get on my way to work, with my son being among the tasks that needed addressing on the way to commute time. Sorting him out was getting him dressed for the day and plopping him in front of the screen until we had a chance to get ready ourselves, after which we’d put his shoes and coat on and get out the door, which meant he was being treated with no more a parenting touch than, say, feeding the dog or brewing the coffee.

Not the example I want to set.

So, in addition to guitar distraction, we kicked the soccer ball around the living room for a little bit. After a while he let me know that “we playin game togeduh.”

Together.

That’s when I remembered that, over the weekend, he was really into saying how almost everything we did was something we did “together.” And I think that’s really all he wanted. Seems to me kids want to be doing whatever  their parents are doing, which, if you’re playing a game together, is exactly what they’re doing.

Fucking brilliant and simple and damned if I shouldn’t have seen this without having to be told at FAR too early this morning, in not so many words, that I wasn’t quite getting it.

Cheers son. Well played…together.