Saturday, March 13, 2010

Life in the Gourmet Lane

As typical for this 11 year old, tonight Scarlett is attending the theater --this time, with a friend. While it is hard to complain about Art, the Matron has seen more shows in the past four years than her entire life. Scarlett has a long expensive list of EVERYTHING PLAYING in town that she must see. Recently, the Matron had to cancel a couple and Scarlett spent 48 hours in her closet.

This frees up one brain lobe for the parents.

So they decided to take the boys to Black Dog Cafe (because they had a coupon).

Collision of vested interests! Merrick likes just two places to dine (and let's use that word loosely): Subway and Snuffy's. He is not yet scared to death of the industrial food chain, although his mother is working hard at that.

About 4:30, Merrick began a long, hard and calculated lobby for an escape to a friend's house, one of his best buddies and second future husband, J. It just so happens that J's parents founded and ran one of St. Paul's premo restaurants for 12 years.

Matron: "But Merrick! We're going out to eat. This is like a four times a year event. Don't you want to go with us?"

Merrick: "MOM! The food at Jack's house is AMAZING. I would rathew eat thewe than anywhewe in the wowld. It is WEALLY GOOD FOOD."

The Matron relented and J's family was more than happy to fold one more kid in for a meal, while He Who Cannot Be Named and the parents went out do dinner.

It was great! Everyone pretended the pulled pork in their sandwiches had long happy pre-processed lives.

They picked up Merrick on their way home.

Merrick: "How was the westwant Mama?" (isn't that thoughtful?)

Matron: "It was great! How was your dinner?"

Merrick: "I told you they have AMAZING food!"

Matron: "What did you have?"

Merrick: "Fwozen pizza!"


Merrick: "But it wasn't Cosco so it was pwobably GOUWMET fwozen pizza."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Armed and Dangerous

The Matron has a good friend (firmly on her feet these days) who went through a rough patch. This is the kind of friend who wouldn’t want her dramas writ large, so the briefest description of ‘rough patch’ must do: your 32 year old husband drops dead of a completely out-of-the-blue unknown heart defect, leaving you pregnant with an unexpected (but very loved already) fourth child (the oldest is seven), no college degree, no job, no life insurance AND that’s not the worst thing that happens.

Okay then.

So the Matron went through a period of feeling very protective of this friend and her children, one of whom, Christina, is Scarlett’s soul sister and forever best friend – then and now. Family legend is that the two girls bonded even before birth –two big pregnant bellies with babies bumping out to hold hands.

But after the husband’s death and her friend’s subsequent complete and total anxiety in the face of unrelenting other crises, if Christina and Scarlett were at a playground with the Matron, the Matron was all about KEEPING THAT CHILD ALIVE and intact.

Matron: “Honey, are you sure you want to climb up that tree? How about sitting on a blanket with a book and a cookie?” She wanted to add: How about playing with a first aid kit inside a bomb shelter? With a helmet and knee pads? Speaking of which. . .

Matron: “Hey girls! Everybody wears bike helmets. That’s so yesterday! How about body armor while biking? I just happen to have some.”

The Matron could not put this child in a car without first debating which seat would be safer in an accident. Guess whose child was strategically crushed several times in the Matronly mind – her own!

One memorable Saturday afternoon during this period—when the girls were about three—the Matron handed parenting duties to her husband. Flagged sentence, reader! John was in charge! To blame! Threat to Christina!

Those girls were very quiet for a long afternoon upstairs; indeed, the bedroom door remained tightly closed and by Scarlett’s later admission, they were also further barricaded in the closet. Instead finding alarm in this situation (when was the last time three-year olds productively entertained themselves for hours in silence?) John found time to finish the laundry, mop the kitchen floor, take out the garbage, fix Stryker’s bike and read the newspaper. Admirable endeavors indeed, but let’s note here that women are capable of doing all those things AND keeping an eye on the children. Just sayin’.

And after a long, quiet afternoon, the girls emerged from the bedroom: bald. Okay, not quite, but oh Lordie, sheared. Completely disfigured. Partners in crime, they found scissors and discovered just what blades could do! Big huge patches of scalp shining through on the left, large strand left on top right, half inch razor fuzz near the crown . . . . you get it: we are talking three-year olds working on those heads for nearly two hours. They looked like chemo patients with different treatment phases playing out on each part of the head. It was ugly. Frightening.

Scarlett already had notoriously bad hair. Christina? Thick perfect blonde hair that had rarely been cut—hair that defines a person, that stands out in the room, gleaming health and beauty.

Now, the Matron understood that Christina was still alive. No limb had been severed. But this was just under a year after her father’s death. Her mother’s daily existence was so structured by a huge series of new unanticipated problems and crises – along with the old stuff—that this friend had no psychological wiggle room. None. You can’t control a child nearly dying and a husband who does but you can make sure your three-year old’s hair looks good. Right? Not when she’s at the Matron’s house.

After the Matron peeled herself from the ceiling (where she took her husband as well) – at least the kitchen floor was clean – she nervously steeled herself for her friend’s arrival. Jeanne arrived and the Matron wheeled out the girls, who were still pretty pleased with their artwork if not with its reception.

The Matron waited for the breakdown, the anger, the weeping. Whatever. This was a woman on an edge and her beautiful child now looked like a dying monkey.

Jeanne: “Oh Mary. All the signs were there.”

Matron: “Hey, you’re right. They’ve been cutting Barbie hair for three weeks!”

Jeanne: “Then there was that fascination with scissors, the incident of the dog hair cut, the talk about boy hair and girl hair. The signs were all there.”

Small pause while both mothers considered.

Jeanne: “Well, let’s hope we do better with crack.”

And they both laughed until they cried, sort of a lot, and it was about a buncha things.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Run! Do Not Follow this Advice!

Feeling adventuresome, anyone?

The Matron is not much of a cook. Let’s say that another way: she enjoys plunging into the kitchen, sans cookbook. She likes to make things up!

While such free-wheeling results are sometimes nebulous (she won’t be sharing the turnip soup), sometimes she stumbles across a flavor combo that kicks ass. Here she will share three of these gems. You will only read this here, once.

Note: the Matron has been blogging for over two years and this is her FIRST post giving cooking advice. Think about it.

Warning fair weather friends: this is Minnesota in March. We’re still talking density and survival.

Yams! Ah, the Matron loves these plump little pleasures – meaty, dense, sweet. There is no better winter food, folks; she eats hers her special most excellent tahini sauce. Bake your yam to the texture you like it (could that phrase also be sexual: bake your yam, baby). Dice up a mix of tomatoes, cilantro, and raw red onions. For the Matron’s purposes, cooking this just for the two grown-ups, she puts about half a cup of tahini and a dollop of oil olive in a sauce pan and slowly blends the two, adding a dash of lemon at the end. In the mood for something sweet? Toss in a bit of brown sugar. To serve, split open the steaming yam, spread the tomato/cilantro/onion mix on top and pour the tahini sauce on top. What does the Matron love best about this meal? Yams basically bake by themselves. Between tahini and tomatos, you’re talking about 10 minutes of prep. The other joy is the surprising pleasure of contrasts in this meal: the steaming hot, gooey yam against the cool crunch of tomato and onion, and the bright cilantro paired with tahini’s dense nearly bitter flavor. Num!

But for those readers feeling foolish or trusting, she has a tried and true meal that 100% of all children on the planet adore. That’s right, folks: 100% of humanity under 18. Quinoa + eggs. For those not in the know, quiona is a high protein grain that takes just 15 minutes to make; it cooks just like rice with two cups water, one cup quinoa. Boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Make a big old plate of scrambled eggs. Combine eggs and quinoa! The combination is perfect – tough, savory grain with the fluffy eggs. All high protein and sort of like hash browns and eggs only healthier. You can toss in any extra that your audience might like: cheese, apples, broccoli, peas, carrots, chicken. But the basic quinoa and egg combo is a kid crowd-pleaser that feels like a casserole without the pot. Seriously, kids beg for it. At least those who eat.

The Matron is also a fan of oatmeal. Quick oats will do: her talent is found in the fixing. Slice any fruit or combination—bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries—and set aside while the oatmeal cools just a little bit, because good oatmeal needs a minute or two to settle. Sure you can put sugar or raisins in for sweetness but the Matron is a fan of peanut butter! A big swirl of the creamy brown stuff mixed in gives the oatmeal an amazing richness. Toss the fruit on top. Trust her on this one. Peanut butter in oatmeal is sort of like the difference between real cream in your coffee and the fat-free faker. You’ll never go back to naked oats.

There you go. A rainy Wednesday in Minnesota, one sick kid (Merrick weighing in with fever at 103, Day Two), and the stovetop.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Break?

March has offered the Matron and her family its usual bluster and blow: crisp mornings and cold houses with a hint of heat in the afternoon, tidings of a season to come. This month also introduces the entire state to the Spring Head Cold. This might be a uniquely Minnesotan malady. Mornings? Still below freezing. But by the afternoon the snow melts; there are patches of ground and grass, brown, but visible. The heavy jacket you need before noon is lost in the van after school is out. It's a month of schizophrenia, knowing that the massive 100% reliable end-of-March blizzard is also in store, even as the children beg to leave hats and mittens behind. Forty degrees is a miracle. But the wishy washy weather leaves the body vulnerable to attack. Your immune system isn't sure if it should be celebrating or shoring up for the apocalypse.

Just in time for the Matron's Spring Break -- which does NOT coincide with her children's--the children are sick.

Instead of catching up on all that paperwork and grading, she has spent the morning cuddling with the feverish Merrick. But even his cough is cute. Fever 102 at 10:30 am, which is generally a sign of more woe to come. The maternal body must be awfully sympathetic these days, as it appears to be sharing Merrick's burden with its own sniffles and sore throat. Scarlett? May require hospitalization (her assessment).

Spring Head Cold is a seamless entity -- if not nestled solidly in your own house, he is visiting the neighbor until it is time to cross the street and slip through your window, again.

Spring Head Cold, in honor of your arrival, one of the Matron's favorite poems:

Life with Sick Kids

One child coughs onnce
and is sick for nearly eight weeks, then the other child coughs so
hard he nearly vomits, three weeks, and then
stops and the first child cuoghs a first cough,
and then the other delicately and dryly begins to cough,
death taking them up and shaking them
as kids shake boxes at Christmas. So in bed on the
third day of the blood when it would be
almost safe to use nothing,
just a tiny door left open for a resourceful child,
I cannot see or feel or smell you, I keep
thinking I hear the unconceived one
cough a little introductory cough.

Sharon Olds

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Star

For the elders reading, there's an internet phenomenon in which people make copies and riffs bouncing off a college student's original song.

John Mayer responded.

So did He Who Cannot be Named. See below.