cooking together

Owen’s been playing with language lately, or rather, since he first started talking. But lately it’s been noticing similarities in dissimilar words, like, “I just heard the furnace go on.” “Furnace, like in fur!” or “We’ll stop at the bank, too.” “Too, like in two feet!”

Today I was mixing up some french vanilla pudding, because we had a chocolate pie crust left over from doing something for Christmas, so I figured dump some pudding in it. He helped me mix it with a whisk, so it wasn’t perfectly blended, and as I poured it into the pie crust, I noticed a few gloppy lumps in the pale yellow proto-pudding. “We can’t eat the pie until it gets firm, right now it’s runny.” “Runny, like runny nose!”

Maybe I’ll be able to eat some once it’s time for dessert.

(Just sharing.)

peas and carrots, carrots and peas

Owen and I have been working with a tiny garden.

peas and carrots

We are growing peas (basic English, in a pod) and carrots (danvers and rainbow, I like nantes but the hardware store didn’t have nantes seeds right then, we’ll add some later) in a big plastic pot in our yard. Historically, I’ve liked real terra cotta, but we’re making a concerted effort to save water, and terra cotta helps dirt evaporate away a lot more of its moisture than plastic does. And we’ll save and reuse these for a long time. (Also, we move a lot, and terra cotta is heavy and I tend to break it when we move.)

Owen loves peas and carrots, as well as some other vegetables, but this batch is easy, he can pick whenever he likes, and every couple of weeks we can sprinkle carrot seeds into bare patches. We have to plant it well into our front yard rather than back because it needs to be in a sunny spot and convenient to water, as well as away from the carrot-loving dogs, who would dig up their own snacks. We’ll irrigate it with a sprinkle can, I think, with both fresh and occasional water left over from household use.

One reason we’re doing this, aside from, oh …

  • I think it’s good for people in general to grow food
  • I think it’s good for kids to see where food comes from
  • It’s science
  • It’s fun
  • It involves dirt
  • I’d like Owen to increase his variety in vegetable-nomming, and I think growing them is a good way to do that

  …is that I’d like to find ways to help Owen learn about water conservation, and giving him ways to practice it in daily life is a good way to do that. We can turn off water while brushing teeth, and not refill the tub immediately after a long soak, and turn off the hose when we’re done playing outside, but I think actually using water to make food grow, watching the process every day, is a solid, practical water experience. I love that he’s old enough not to want instant gratification with the seedlings sprouting, and the carrots and peas ripening.

I’m just not sure I am!

Owen grows peas and carrots

making dinner

I’m cooking dinner, which is a bigger deal than it seems. I’m making rigatoni (boiling it, not making it), on which I’ll put freshly grated parmesan, and I’m braising kale that had been sitting in some olive oil in a ziploc for 24 hours, after yesterday’s failed kale chips experiment*. With Owen’s rigatoni (he’ll say “not the round noodles, real noodles, long waaaaavy noodles,” by which he means ramen, but that’ll just mean more rigatoni for me) I’ll put chunks of Trader Joe’s chicken apple maple sausage, which he prefers cold. Owen won’t touch the kale. Casey can do what he pleases with what he pleases.

Anyway: I’m cooking dinner. This is a big deal because the nature of the limitations RA has placed on me this time around means I can’t lift heavy pans (e.g. drain rigatoni of its boiling water) and it hurts to stand for long periods of time. So lately, I’ve been “cooking” things like Trader Joe’s fried rice, which I can nuke for 4 minutes and has honest-to-goodness vegetables, and Owen likes it.

But though a fair bit of my current disability comes from RA’s inflammation and what that does to pain levels and the way my joints and connective tissues function, some happens because I’m weak and lazy because when things hurt, I sit on my butt. There’s a fuzzy area between too much and not enough activity when flaring, and I’m way over into not enough.

So I took a walk today, with Owen and the dogs, just a tiny bit too far, then came home and took extra ibuprofen and lay down for a rest. And now, while dinner cooks itself for a few minutes (I should go check that pasta), I’m blogging for a few minutes. Then I shall go get myself some food and eat it.

In a very nice world, I’d clear off the dining room table and eat with Casey and Owen. (Audrey gets home from work very late.) There’s a small chance that will happen, but small. Casey’s not feeling well, and we’re not in the habit of family meals. But at least I’m making dinner.

*I read a few different recipes, and there’s a lot of variation among the 300-degrees-will-burn-it and just-keep-an-eye-on-it and 250-then-rotate-pan-then-300-for-3-minutes-then-remove-and-let-rest and other schools of kale chip thought, so I did 250 for 10, then rotated, then 250 for … checks, still nice and tasty crisp on the outside but chewy-raw on the middle for about a freaking hour, then I turned it up to 300 and suddenly scorch it was overcooked and bitter. So screw kale chips.

finding the boy a posse

We have, more or less, decided to homeschool Owen at least for the early school years, unless we stumble on an awesome alternative, our local public school turns out to be perfect, or any number of other options.

If Owen were an introvert, it would be an easier decision, but he’s an extravert. Locals who homeschool point out that I have to “not be afraid to drive,” and that we have lots of park days available (yeah, more or less) but still, keeping him out with other kids is going to be a lot of work. The teaching, or facilitating learning, will be easy. I mentioned today in an online discussion that he has a hard time at park days where most of the children are 8+, as he feels left out (understandably, and I don’t expect olders to include him) and someone told me that kids his age are better off forming warm relationships with adults.

We’ve done that. He’s got his adult peeps. But I know my kid. I’ve seen him with welcoming kids of his own age (ideally, for him, 4-6ish), and with his bestest friends he glows, he thrives. And I’ve taught kids his age in group settings. Some kids are probably best off with mostly adults, but some seem to need at least a few hours a week in community with kids near their own age.

The problem with modern public school is that’s a false community, artificial socialization, 25 kids and one harried teacher with little time to just kick back and know each other. There’s always the next directed activity, or sit and listen, or rush through lunch to get any time at all running around at all. Yes, kids need socialization, but not *that*. They need time, and just hanging out.


When I was a kid, we had kindergarten 3 1/2 hours a day, and that involved a lot of recess and play dough, hanging out with friends, even a nap period. Those are the olden days, and that classroom experience is gone.

So: I’ve got this bright, extraverted, “spirited” child, and all the Exploratorium memberships and random playground visits in the world won’t get him a posse. A very good, unschooly nursery school might, and I’d love to send him part time to one, but the two that first come to mind are on the peninsula, and up in Berkeley/Oakland, and then we come back to how much I’m willing to drive. Preschool schedules involve rush hour driving at one end or the other, and carschooling has its place, I really can’t physically manage that much driving. I don’t like it, it’s bad for the environment, it hurts my body.

Currently my workable ideas are:

  • If we can find someone local who’s free on weekdays, gets along great with O, and would love our quantity of materials and kid-friendly space, I can host a playdate.
  • Join the most likely of our local park-day organizing groups and go to the park days that work out for us. (I don’t like having enforced schedules unnecessarily, so we join lots of park day and similar groups and go as often as works for us.)
  • Getting involved with a UU congregation — there are four within a reasonable distance, two of those have strong children’s programs — and letting a couple of hours of his week be part of that community, which could last him for years.

Those seem good, all of them. Also, they make me tired to think of. But it’s what I’m signing up for, and I prefer it, for O, to having him in what modern public elementary school has become in California.

And then there’s moving to Baltimore, which has a homeschool community center that I truly covet. But that might be the least likely option, short of having him join a four-square church youth group.


wishlist info (completely inconsequential) for me to link to as needed later

This is put together for a specific gift exchange, but here’s the gist for anyone else who wants to use it.

1) I don’t need anything.
2) Neither does my kid, whose list is linked from mine.
3) We both like new things, including things we probably won’t get around to buying ourselves, thus the lists. (I also use both of them as shopping lists, e.g. “What is that brand of sweats that Owen finds comfy? Oh yeah, on the list.”)
4) We are both happy with pre-owned things, either stuff that has belonged to you, or to someone else.

When I link stuff from my list on my blog, I often go through my own affiliate link to add a few cents to my amazon credit, whence comes stuff like books for Owen (and for me, but ….) However, you can also start at to choose a nonprofit organization to get a few of amazon’s cents. I do that, unless I’m specifically shopping through a friend’s affiliate link.

I use mostly amazon for ease of address finding. You can access my powell’s wish list here, they also have my address. I don’t actually care which store things come from.

Of course, you might already know how to reach me, but I don’t share my address online. Those of you who have it, if you notice something you have and don’t need, and want to sell it or give it to me, let’s talk! This is especially true for things on Owen’s list.

Flying horse

screw the (food) rules (for our kid)

Owen used to love a few different veggies, not most, but enough to get him decent balance. His favorites were broccoli and carrots.


He’s never liked greens, nor, like his father, any form of what we call squash in America (courgettes or pumpkin types). String beans are a rare event. He likes peas okay, but they’re mostly fiber, not major “green vegetable” nutrition.

In his old age (3 1/2) he’s rejected pretty much everything but carrots, which he still loves raw as a snack. He’ll taste most new foods a little, but his standards are most summer fruits (especially watermelon and berries), his beloved apples, bananas, and mangos. Watermelon, raspberries, and mango he can gorge on to bulging. He’s not as nuts about apples but he seems to have a very special appreciation for and I buy a variety of types, organic, usually local, some small and some big so I can just hand him one while he’s playing, sized according to how hungry he seems, and it’ll disappear. Or I can ask him whether he’d rather have a sit-at-the-table lunch with sandwich or noodles and fruit, or just a snack bowl to sit with when he’s in deep-focus building mode,
and he’s often happy to have a bowl filled with a couple of whole small carrots (we don’t often buy the baby carrots, but the nantes carrots from our weekly produce box are 5″ long), a sliced apple, a couple of ak-mak crackers, a piece of cheese.

But vegetables, aside from carrots? Just no. All that great fiber and those happy A vitamins? No.

But then I put some ideas together:

    • He loves mangos. As far as nutrition goes, they’re one of the better fruits. We haven’t been eating them lately because the wonderful keitt mango, so huge and not stringy and incredibly tasty, are out of season.
    • We used to carry “pouch food” like happy tot or plum organics in the car for his “must have snack NOW” moments, when we were under-prepared.
    • I need to flipping bend or abandon rules like “baby must have kale even if I have to hide it in special kale-and-chia muffins” that don’t work well for our family. We are just not going to be that perfect food family, just as we’re not perfectly tidy nor perfectly scheduled or perfectly AP. Our family is doing fine, our kid is thriving.
    • I’m not the parent who’s going to make daily hemp-seed-and-parsley smoothies. I might do it now and again. Maybe. As a joke.

So I started getting pouch food again, any mango blend that includes good veggies (he has no idea the mango-pear-spinach blend is “greens”), and am stocking the “on the go snacks” shelf with it, the food he doesn’t get regularly at home like “honest juice” blends, organic milk boxes, and gummy bunnies, the things I throw in my purse for if we’re having a long playground session and he needs fuel, for if we’re in traffic on the way to his grandmother’s house and he gets hungry. HE LOVES THEM. Mango has a lot of C and A, and once you start blending in green veggies, it balances nicely. He loves them. “You want a mango snack pouch?” “Yay, I love those!” And unlike the boxed milk and packs of gummy bunnies* he’s allowed to have them as snacks at home, too.

I give up. Screw rules. It’s perfectly good food.

*I’ve started trying to remember to use my amazon associates thingy when I link to amazon stuff so on the off chance someone buys something while still in a session from my click, I get a few cents with which to keep Owen in his book habit, and they require that I’m transparent about this. But I don’t always remember. Also, if you do you can pick a nonprofit org to get the money back.

**Annie’s gummy bunnies have vitamin C, are a vegan gummy option***, are so soft and tasty, and I love them, otherwise I might not include them. But I love them, so nyah nyah. They’re car snacks for me too.

***Many gummy candies are made with gelatin.

Thriving, I tell ya.

Owen says, "I am a fan of hiking."

Educational Activities, and learning what’s right for us.

I’m not sure yet what form Owen’s early education will take. As a family, we haven’t decided. We’ll see how options pan out in the next year or so. Our kid is 3 1/2, we’ll need to make the kindergarten decision within the next year. But I’m not leaning toward public school kindergarten or elementary in its current state, and our private school options aren’t better.

That’s basically not related to what follows below, just an intro because I haven’t discussed our school plans here much at all.

But I’m leaning this way –>

Recently on one of facebook’s more conservative homeschooling pages, someone who’s homeschooling a kindergartener posted that he’d had surgery and missed a week of school. She wondered how she could make sure he doesn’t get behind.

I honestly felt a bit ill reading that. Poor kid can’t slack off a week for surgery? From homeschool? Even if she’s in a state that requires record-keeping of educational activities and a minimum hours per year of “learning,” she can call a trip to the kids’ science museum three hours of science, and baking cookies together an hour of math and science, and reading books before bed half an hour of literacy. Because it is.

We’re not radical unschooly here, but I lean unschooly with very flexible-eclectic-as-desired mixed in. I like the idea of paying attention to where he could stand some foundational learning and first strewing (making materials and opportunities available for him to choose from) and then perhaps suggesting or requiring activities and classes to fill things in. I don’t think it’s best for every kid, but I think it’s probably best for most, when it comes to willful, creative kids whose bouncing off the walls is best managed by breaking down walls to begin with.

I don’t want to train him, I want to raise and educate him. I want him to see learning as fascinating and indispensable, not a chore. For some kids, a “brick and mortar” (wood and steel frame with stucco, here) school with teachers and desks and stoplight behavior lists are probably the best way to make that happen. For my willful, very bouncy, spirited kid, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. He and the teachers will drive each other bugnuts.


Viewing sunspots. (L-R: Casey, Owen, Scott Hildreth)