Archive for September 2009

Untruffled

September 29, 2009

It was that kind of day.  I had the sniffles.  Rainy and dreary outside and BOTH soccer practices had been cancelled.  BOTH of them.  It very rarely happens that we aren’t picking one child up and dragging another in the opposite direction during the week.  Rarely…heh.  So how did I choose to celebrate?  By trying out a new recipe, of course!

This is not a cooking blog.  Not by any means.  I have mentioned several cooking incidences….such as the disappearing apple brown betty….and the pesto pizza the Princess and I were hooked on for a while….and the step by step directions for swiss steak  posted for the Prince’s future benefit.   But I am far from being the kind of master cook that would dare to talk about cooking here.  FAR from it.  Tonight I chose to tackle my very first home made Macaroni and Cheese. 

Now Mac’n Cheese  has long been a staple in my family’s life.  Not the REAL stuff however. More like the orangey Kraft stuff from the box.  Nothing goes better with hot dogs and ketchup…or fish sticks and applesauce.  And we have a LONG history with it.  The stuff practically got me through Sunday nights while I was in college.  The instant microwave packages were the very first things my kids learned to cook on their own, I think.  They used to eat it for breakfast before school on cold, winter mornings.  (I am not a Mom who divides food into specific meals.  If they eat anything hot for breakfast,  it’s a good day!)  And if we really want to go gourmet we use the white cheddar or Shells and Cheese boxes.

Several weeks ago, a recipe in People magazine caught my eye.  The Waverly Inn Truffled Mac and Cheese.  The Waverly Inn is in New York City.  People wait for weeks – no, months, I think – for a reservation there.  Intriguing.   I have never eaten there.  I don’t even live in New York City.  I only know about it because Maura Tierney was photographed there while out with  friends.  (Yes, I remain a geeky fan.  See her recent turn on ‘Rescue Me’??  Fabulous!)

Anyway, the recipe looked simple enough. I don’t exactly keep Da Rosario white truffle oil ($12 for 1.76 oz. bottle) in my pantry but I figured it was almost a minor item (added after cooking…’to taste’??) even though it was listed in the recipe’s name.  I even bought whole milk for the occasion…..which we NEVER have on hand.  We are a 1/2 percent family. 

I dutifully boiled up the one pound box of macaroni and set it aside (with a drop of olive oil to keep it from sticking).  I melted butter and whisked it with flour and dijon mustard untill it was a fragrant golden color.   Oops.  Added the milk a little quickly but continued to whisk and stir while the milk boiled and the sauce thickened.  I added the Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar cheeses and stirred them until all the shredded pieces were melted and the mixture was fragrant and creamy.  I skipped the salt because I didn’t have unsalted butter to use in the beginning.  It wasn’t really until I began to add the macaroni to the pan and it was beginning to overflow that I realized how much Waverly Inn Untruffled Mac and Cheese I was going to have on my hands.  And the stove.  And the counter top.  And, eventually, the dinner table.

Undaunted, I poured the mixture into one of my biggest baking dishes and covered the top with toasted bread crumbs, slipped it in the oven to finish heating through and set about finishing the pulled pork barbecue sandwiches we were having with the humungeous main dish.  Added cottage cheese, cold veggies and dip, sugar free Kool Aid and dinner was served.

I am not sure if it was all my anticipation of the fragrant dish, my sniffles, the rain drumming on our roof….or the absence of the Da Rosario white-truffle oil to taste.  Maybe it was just the years and years and years of Kraft boxes in our cupboard.  The Waverly Inn’s Untruffled Mac and Cheese just did not do it for me.  Or for anyone else at our table.  It was so…so….so bland.  Sigh. 

Princess ran the rest of it to the neighbor’s, who were happy to have it  for their dinner.

I am not sure what Ms. Tierney and her friends were eating at the Waverly Inn.  Or anyone else for that matter.  I am not sure what else they serve there.  It might be interesting to find out.  Might. 

I used to be impressed that a chef – or restaurant – could demand that kind of wait time for reservations.  I am not so much any more.  I realize that I am no master chef and my ingredients might not be the same quality.  But if I am ever in New York again, I will hit Morandi  or Chez Josephine for a late lunch…..and serve up a microwave cup of Kraft’s mac and cheese back at the hotel for dinner.  Or maybe just stop by the corner hot dog stand.  I am SO not a hoity toity when it comes to food.  I enjoy presentation.  I enjoy anticipation.  I enjoy something different.  I enjoy fun.  But sometimes the orangey Krafts stuff is juuuuust right.

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Bullies

September 26, 2009

     Every once in a while something pops up in my life that I seriously regret.  Some memory of something that makes me feel like I made a wrong choice.  A baaaad decision.  And I begin to think about the long range consequences.   And what kind of an effect that decision will have.

     I have been told that I think too much.

     The Prince has been playing soccer since he was five.  That’s 10 years now of soccer skills and listening to coaches and plying his team working skills with other kids his own age.  And he is very good at what he does.  He has superb skills.  He has leadership ability.  He knows how to be part of a team and how to carry his own.  He can make others listen to him most of the time.  The problem is, he doesn’t believe that about himself.  And that attitude all comes down to a bully situation.  I think. 

     When the Prince was going into third grade, we made the decision not to have him move from the recreational league to the travel league with most of his team.  The travel team league would mean year round practices and games, farther out of town games and tournaments and more intensive coaching.  We felt that the year round, intense sport situation would conflict with his academics at school.  We wanted him to still have fun with the game but  be able to become serious about reading and homework and projects.  It was a parental decision.

     While I don’t regret that decision, I seriously regret the place that it plunked my child.  From that moment on – with that club – team selection became a very political issue. There was such a large group of the Prince’s age that wanted to play, that there would always be two teams.  An ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team.  A ‘white’ team and a ‘green’ team.   A ‘select’ team and – because they didn’t want the two teams playing against one another – a ‘rec’ team.  In spite of his skills and his heart, the Prince was generally relegated to the rec team after tryouts.  Because he missed a year of travel soccer back before third grade.  Political.  And that’s not a biased parent talking.  If I had my druthers, my kids would be in drama….or art…..or music.  Seriously.

     Unfortunately most of the boys who were in his class of peers in elementary school were on the ‘other’ team.  There was one that was particularly vocal about the Prince not being good enough for the ‘real’ team.   His teasing was picked up by others and we told the Prince to just laugh it off.  It wasn’t true, after all.  He knew that.  We knew that.  That was all that mattered.  besides, I knew their Moms.  Talking to them might make other things more difficult so it was better let sleeping dogs lie.  Right?

     Fifth grade.  Sixth grade.  Seventh grade.

     Tough times anyway.  Times made tougher by the ‘friends’ that continued to tease.  Continued to….torment….albeit in a ‘friendly’ way.    The circle became even bigger when he moved to middle school and there were more from the real team there.  Most of his team mates attended other middle school in the district.  We tried to talk him into making new friends…and he did…. but their interests were not soccer.  Which he is what he loved.  And besides, the others in that group had been his ‘friends’ since Kindergarten.  He liked them.

     During this time the Princess had been exploring other sports but was recruited by another club that was teaching her some excellent soccer skills.  We asked Prince to change soccer clubs so he would be working with hers but he chose to stay where he was.  He liked his coach and he liked his team mates.  Even if they weren’t ‘good enough’ for the real team.  Finally he decided to switch. For the training.

     Then the mantra with his circle became his need to switch to another club because he was too chicken to continue on the ‘not real’ team.  Again, we told him to just let it roll.  He would have to learn  how to deal with trash talk sometime, right?  He knew he was getting better training.   He knew his skills would be better.  That’s what mattered.

     In eighth grade – blessed be – another student from his school joined the outside soccer club.    So did his sister.  We parents swapped driving duties.  The kids became good friends. 

     One day, my new friend and driving buddy approached me about the teasing that was going on among the boys.  She asked me if I knew what was being said to our sons at school.  Every day.  Multiple times.  I nodded when she told me.  Nothing different than the Prince had been told before.  Nothing different than I had heard for four years. 

     Then she said something that put my son’s anguish into perspective.  Eight members of that ‘real’ team were in their circle of  friends.  If three of them (and it was usually more)  made a daily comment to our sons about ‘not being good enough’,  then they were being told three times – EVERY day – that they were not good soccer players.  Didn’t I wonder what kind of effect it  had on my son’s self esteem?

Whoa.

No.  I never really did.

Thinking I was giving my child the tools to deal with the outside world, I was forcing him to take constant hits….against his abilities, against his dedication to do well, against his talent, against his self esteem.  Multiple hits…on a daily basis.

I truly did my son wrong.

And he is still paying for it.

He  remains  friends with most of those boys from the bullying years.  That’s a good thing.  Some of them even play on his high school team.  Others have gravitated to other sports. 

I admire my son’s  ability to forgive,  his talent and his dedication to a sport that he truly loves.  I especially admire his courage.

I just wish he did.

Maybe

September 24, 2009

MVC-004SMaybe its because I still look out on a soccer field and just see kids running back and forth – enjoying themselves  and their sport…pushing themselves to the limit for the pure enjoyment of playing together.  Who cares about the game and the rules and the plays??  I mean, the boy has ONLY been playing the game for eleven years and  I JUST figured out the off sides rule last spring.

Maybe its because I have a hearing loss and am generally oblivious to the calls of the refs….and the taunts of players themselves.  I enjoy watching the expressions of the players.  Determined.  Focused.  Daring. 

Maybe its because I am a Teacher and deal with children learning and modeling behavier on an every day basis.

Maybe its because the Prince has had a rocky start as a soccer referee based totally on this particular fear.  

Parents.

And adult spectators.

Please.  I can get as enthusisatic as the next parent.  I can scream and holler and clap and cheer along with the best of them.  My kids are relatively good at the game.  And its fun to watch them play.  Its exciting. 

I know that I complain alot.  The early morning or late evening or far away games are a pain.  The cold and the wet and the heat are uncomfortable at their worst.  Injuries have become more frequent as they learn to kick harder – and more accurately – at each age level.  Goodness knows the cost has changed over the years.  Costs for coaching and camps and equipment.  But not the game.  The game has stayed the same. 

Watching little kids trip over themselves as they learn to get their bearings on a smaller soccer field is a hoot.  Catching pre-teens as they dance along the burbling limits of energy on a grassy field, squirt each other with orange slices that you paid dearly for and gobble down expected snacks after each game is a pleasure.  Enjoying the fluid motions of your teenagers as they come into their own in a sport that has become like second nature to them is pure heaven.  But that’s the beauty of the sporting world.

Something not so beautiful  happened last night.

I was sitting in the middle school bleachers with a friend whose child was sitting on the bench of the opposite team.  Our children were teammates with another club for two years.  It has been almost as long since we have seen each other.  What a nice surprise.  What fun to casually watch the game and talk about our kids and how things have been going for them since we last talked.  I was sharing the fact that we loved the new club.  That my child had made some good friends.  That the team had a real ‘family’ feel to it.   That they were a considerate and happy group of families.

Maybe I missed a few rough calls during our conversation.  I noticed that there had been some rather loud cheering after a goal.  I even clapped myself as MY child had been a part of that goal.  My friend had to leave for a bit but assured me she would be back at the end of the game so our kids would have some time off the field to chat before going home.  I was content in the bleachers – watching the game and waiting for my friend.  The next thing I knew the opposing coach turned around and told parents in the bleachers to quiet down or they would be asked to go to the other side of the field behind our team. 

What?  So now I am sitting with stunned adults who were used to cheering.  The next goal, they literally screamed…and stamped their feet on the aluminum bleachers….and whistled…..and cheered.  I was sharing the score with my husband on the phone at half time when our manager approached the bleachers.  Our parents were instructed to move off the bleachers behind the opposing team to the other side of the field for the rest of the game.  Disgruntled, they did as they were told.

Now, I was in a quandry.  I was waiting for my friend to return.  I hadn’t been yelling during the game.  I decided to stay put…along with another parent…..who eventually got up and moved to join our parent group a little later.   More goals…more calls….and the din from across the field was even louder and more….determined?   So I moved as well….off the bleachers….with a rueful smile at the small group of parents from the other team.  I stood at the fence surrounding the field.  And watched the rest of the game.   Watched my child and her friends.  Running, shooting, bumping…determination filling their faces.  All the while contemplating – and worrying – how my little ‘stance’ would be interpreted by the parents who had moved across the field. 

My child and her team mates won the game.  They lined up in the center of the field – as is the customary show of sportsmanship – to high five and hand shake the hands of their opponents.  I was so proud to see all of  our girls  race toward the bench to high five a player who had been injured as well.  Good sports.  GREAT players.  Short meeting with their coach and mine headed across the field to me…and to talk to the old friend.  As we headed back to the car, a mom from the bleachers stopped me to compliment the players on our team – and particularly my child – for their ‘talent.’   Said they played a very good game.

Now, I am not one to really listen about what players choose to say to one another on the field.  My children know that we expect them to be good sports in a game.  We expect them to treat other players with the same consideration they would anticipate for themselves.  We expect them to always listen to and respect their coach.  Luckily for us, their coaches have always been deserving of that respect.   My only interest in after the game talk is if they enjoyed playing.  If not, we talk about why.   My husband handles the logistics of the game…..all the whys and the wherefores of each referee call….all the moves and the plays.   That’s their thing with him.  I could care less.

I think that’s why the incident on the benches is so very troubling to me.  Why should a coach have to tell a team to ‘not pay attention’ to their parents??  Why would people who are paying for their children to learn and enjoy a sport choose to go beyond what they would expect from their own children?   Its troubling.

Maybe I missed something while I was talking to my friend.  I hope so because for me…..it’s still about the tripping  over the ball and the orange slice wars and the fluidity of teenage confidence and motion.  I am pretty passive when it comes to sports….especially kid sports.  Its all about having a good time.  I just don’t get the rage that causes conflict  there.

Its just a game after all.

Enjoy it for what it is.

Right?

Useta Be

September 17, 2009

Useta be…..we would cuddle in the lazy boy rocker with a blanket and a bottle and enjoy a few moments of quiet and calm for those last few moments of every day.  I would steal a few glimpses at my favorite tv show and always be drawn back to your sleepy eyes and round little cheeks and oh so very sweet hands.

 Useta be…..you would perch in the crook of my elbow, our temples pressed together at the side of our faces, the whispery soft feel of blood pumping to your brain carrying thoughts and wishes and dreams…..soulmates.

Useta be……(before the air bag deemed it unsafe) you would perch in your car seat next to me, clapping your hands and hooting and hollering along with the latest Disney Sing Along cd.  ‘Davy Crockett’ and ‘Tiki Room’ singers had NOTHING on our mutually off key chorus.  We made up with enthusiasm what we lacked in ability.

 Useta be……we snuggled together in your bottom bunk to read aloud at night and you would protest mightily at my Kindy Teacher use of voices for all of the characters.  My big bad wolf was just too dang scarey.

 Useta be…..you liked the clothes I picked out for you to wear….well, most of the time anyway.

 Useta be….. we would lace our fingers in the car, talk about things we saw at the side of the road, make up stories with your spelling words and share the things that went on in your world.  We could solve any mystery…..any problem…..anything.

 Useta be…….mine was the smile  you looked for when you needed encouragement to try something new,  pride when you accomplished a goal and comfort when things were not going so well.

Useta be……

 Now, the teenager that you are, has lost the ability to speak in entire sentences,  doesn’t crack a book unless its absolutely necessary,  listens to music only you can hear through your ipod ear plugs,  mumbles in response to even very basic questions,  scowls disdainfully at outfits of my choosing and seems to smile only if there is something to be gained.  Homework is yours and not to be shared.  You rage when I ask you to pick up your socks and every chore is completed with a stomp and a growl.   You don’t want to talk.  You’re too big to cuddle.   You’re too private to share.

“You are too involved in my LIFE!” 

Just humor your  Mom here, son. 

 I am missing the useta bes…….

The Grand ‘Stay-cation’ of 2009

September 4, 2009

It’s official.  Today was the ‘Meet and Greet’ at my school and the place was hopping with excited Kindergarten through fifth graders, their parents, various grandparents, older siblings, younger siblings, strollers, neighborhood dogs, cats and a hamster or two.  Okay.   So the dogs and cats and hamsters weren’t there.  But the ‘Meet and Greet’ always marks the official end of summer vacation and beginning of the new school year for me.   This weekend is the last few days of sleeping in, chasing sun and just doing…nothing.  And this was a different kind of summer for us.  For once we didn’t travel.  Anywhere.  It was a ‘stay-cation’….and a busy one, thanks to our two teenagers.

Our stay-cation involved one nasty bout with the flu, a seven day visit from my Floridian parents, five weeks of layoff for HRH, a huge family reunion slash 5oth wedding anniversary slash high school graduation pig roast, a garden, twice weekly high school ‘Captain’s Practices’, 5 weekly high school summer league soccer games, a visit to the 4H fair, five days of Extreme Sports camp, 1 mammogram, one midnight showing of ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’, 2 classes of soccer referee training, 2 searches for free local skateboard parks, 2 athletic physicals, eight days of Youth Police Academy camp times 2 teenagers, one YPA graduation celebration and cake decorating ordeal,  two nights at the drive-in sleeping through two explosion riddled new releases, one rainy weekend of camping when I read FIVE books, one purple cell phone for one 14th birthday, 3 evenings of  high school socccer tryouts (he made the JV team!) followed by daily practice sessions rquiring transportation one way,  one Farm Town farming addiction to Level 27, nine mornings of teaching Summer School, two high school soccer tournaments, four official high school soccer games, three ‘unofficial’ freshman soccer games,  16 hours driving to/ riding/driving from Cedar Point, blueberry picking, 4 days of club soccer camp for her followed by four regular season practices, 2 Rip Chord concerts in the park, one high school registration day, 12 inches of hair cut from one head, 107 Facebook ‘friends’ and ensuing messages, one staff cookout picnic,  two giant stuffed gorillas, one skipped in favor of soccer practice middle school ice cream social because she wanted to, one school district opening day rally, one work day in my classroom (where I finished placing 320 logins and passwords on 4th/5th grade class lists/sorted 160 2nd/3rd grade login cards to new classes and deleted/found the school’s main web site page) and the ‘Meet and Greet’ celebration. 

And here I thought I was bored……

Heh.