Our Bags Are Packed And We’re Ready to Go

suitcasesIn fact, I’ve been halfway there since we booked our first, family overseas trip back in September. Because for me, one of the hardest things about settling down and starting a family has been, well, settling down…

Truth be told, I’d much rather be traveling the world, meeting new people and exploring different cultures, or at least still doing that WHILE having a family. Don’t get me wrong, the kid journey can be pretty amazing too but I’ve been eagerly waiting to have them participate in the bigger journey pretty much since I first conceived our daughter, 8 years ago.

Prior to that time, the world was an open road waiting to be explored. In our twenties, both DH and I did a fair amount of traveling in some pretty extreme locations, predominantly Asia but some in the Middle East too. We carried backpacks and our Angus MacGyver tool was the multipurpose sarong (which doubled as: a dress, a scarf, a sheet, a towel, a curtain). We thirsted for third-world travel, where we found life stripped away at its rawest and yet most complicated state.

Traveling became part of who we were and what drew us to one another, then also how we grew together. Now that we’re married, kids do the same thing for us. More

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John Lennon Got Shot

And if you’re reading this, I’m sure this isn’t news to you but its news to my kids, both of them, but particularly my three-year-old son. They are totally captivated by this information.

The topic came up quite innocently. And unfortunately, quite early in the holiday music season—which in my house begins the day after Thanksgiving. The song Happy Christmas, by John Lennon, came on and I mentioned how much I love the song. I also, off-handedly, mentioned that the song was even more moving because the singer was singing a song wishing for peace but tragically, was, himself, shot.

The conversation went something like this: Me: isn’t this a beautiful song, kids? It’s so sad that the singer is dead. Daughter: he’s dead? Why’s he dead? Me: he got shot. Son: why’d he got shot? Me: Hmm, I don’t More

TV and kids: the great power-off switch

Here’s a topic I hope generates robust discussion among fellow readers: it involves television viewing and the young, malleable mind…

Fokids & TVr Four-and-a-half years, DH and I have gone to great lengths limiting our children’s television exposure. Up until the age of two, our first-born had scarcely watched any TV at all. It’ isn’t that hard for us really because–aside from the month of March–we hardly watch TV ourselves. We don’t subscribe to cable, never have time for the news (did I mention we have two young kids?) and have no idea what’s happening on Must-See-TV (truth-be-told, even when we are clued in, we still don’t get it. What’s WITH 30 Rock?!). In fact, annually, we talk about getting rid of the TV altogether. At home, our preschooler’s TV viewing is limited to three options: the local PBS station, the New Hampshire PBS station and a handful of educational videos (OK, so the Sound of Music may not fall into this category but hey, if your kid memorizes the entire soundtrack, doesn’t that count 4AM Feeding?). But when we visit relatives, it’s a whole different line-up.

My mother- and father-in-law just bought a very fancy new TV. The thing is capable of all sorts of nifty things, including turning regular shows and movies into a surreal HD experience that leaves me unnerved every time. And though my father in-law holds multiple advanced degrees from Ivy-league institutions, I think the thing might be smarter than he. It’s kind of like HAL.

This year, as we spent the morning preparing a variety of Thanksgiving staples, brining the turkey and mixing up the stuffing, we let the kids watch Sprout. Since this is PBS’s offering to the venerated halls of cable TV, I assumed it an innocuous choice. Ah, but to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME. No sooner did I take a break from slicing shiitake and sit down to enjoy a speechless moment with my kids than I got peppered with requests for no fewer than FOUR items our daughter now wants from Santa (what, pray-tell, is a Tag Reader? Yet another human stand in? [this isn’t to say we won’t cave and buy one…I’m just saying…])!

Since PBS is publicly funded, they severely lack the resources to keep up with other cable network megaliths and have to rely on the benevolence of corporate sponsors like Crayola and Fisher Price. There were so many commercials interspersed between short programming bursts and get-up-off-the-couch warm up activities that I practically developed A.D.D. myself (hey, can someone pass the popcorn?) Within 30 minutes, I was so discouraged by the channel, I blew a circuit, shut the TV off and stormed back into the kitchen for a glass of wine.

Fast forward 20 minutes and the kids were on their 5th lap of the circuit that runs from living room, through kitchen, past dinning room, down hall and around again. This was interspersed with loud squeals, breaks to turn light switches on and off and occasional stumbles. I was on my third glass of wine.

Later that afternoon, as we tucked in to the fruits of our morning labors and looked forward to a long visit with family around the Thanksgiving feast, we were DH was dragged from the table on multiple occasions to referee toy sharing battles, too-quiet-upstairs-visits and the general mayhem that ensues when kids finish a 4-hour-meal 20 minutes in.

Needless to say, this did not make for a happy DH and I was the first to hear about it. My response: “how about Noggin? We are at Nai Nai’s/Grandma’s after all.” More daggers. But the result was totally silent, statue-like children. Santa could have walked through the door bearing 20 Tag Readers, four Glow Station Day and Nights and two mice in a purple cage (more on this one later) and neither of them would have blinked an eye. Added plus: no commercials; it almost made me a convert.

Almost.

But then I saw it, the eerie, glassed-over look in my kids’ eyes, their unresponsive demeanor when we called to them from down the hall, the slow oozing of cerebral matter out of their ears; we all looked on in amazement. So, as another year draws nigh and we still have some major holidays ahead, I’m sticking firm to my stance, TV too young is just a bad idea!

Thoughts from the peanut gallery? (oh, and please pass the popcorn!)

Outstanding Leek & Wild Mushroom Stuffing

Back in my late 20’s, when I had more time and less money, I was always looking for new ways to spend less and make more. Nothing helps you spend less money than having less free time so, since DH (before he was my DH) was juggling two jobs, I figured I should too. There was a fabulous gourmet grocer a la prepared food purveyor called Zathmary’s, with a shop in both Needham Heights and Brookline’s Coolidge Corner, where we were living at the time. Sadly, though Zathmary’s was terrific at managing food, they were TERRIBLE at managing money and their accounts payable so both have since gone under. However, I did take away one fabulous and regular installment from my days there, their amazing Leek & Wild Mushroom stuffing.

I’m sorry if you’re sitting down to read this after putting the last bag of Thanksgiving groceries in the fridge but if you’re as behind as I am, here’s hoping this will save you a tireless web search (Rocks in the Dryer, this one’s for you!)

Zathmary’s Leek & Wild Mushroom Stuffing (serves: 8-10)

  • 1 1/2 c. hot water
  • 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4-6 links, sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped leek (white & light green part only)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 c. dry white wine
  • 1 T. fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 baguette, rough cut in 1″ cubes (or 4 ficelle)

Soak porcini in water for 30 min then remove and chop (reserve liquid); in a saute pan, melt butter; add leeks and garlic, when softened, set aside. Next, removing sausage from casings, crumble and cook until no more pink shows; add all mushrooms and cook until softened; add leek & garlic mixture; add wine, thyme and porcini liquid; cook until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add cubed bread and egg; stir gently until all ingredients are combined and transfer to a buttered casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until top is lightly golden.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

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