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The Maximalist(s)

August 26, 2013

I’ve long considered myself  a maximalist.

Mostly, this has to do with toppings for ice cream or sandwiches. Given the choice to have a sandwich with ham and cheese and mustard and bread — that’s 4 ingredients — or a sandwich with cherry peppers and those shaved onions and avocado and mayo and salt and pepper and vinegar and oil and shredded lettuce and maybe some sort of cheese or meat, I’d take the one with cherry peppers and everything else every time. The cheese and meat are often incidental. They get in the way of my toppings.

When I was growing up, there was a sandwich place called D’Angelo’s in my town. At first, they just served pocket sandwiches. I’d rather do just about anything than eat a pocket sandwich, but number 9 on the roster had shaved steak and American cheese. You could get onions and pepper if you wanted. You could get mushrooms. You could get lettuce and tomato. You could get chopped hot peppers, the stinging vinegar they were packed in adding a wonderful acid component. You could get salt and pepper. (You could get mayonnaise, but everyone has to draw the line somewhere, and on that sandwich that was overkill. On most sandwiches, I would indeed pull the trigger on mayonnaise.)

And then one day, they stopped identifying as just a pocket sandwich restaurant and started to serve sandwiches on sub rolls. It was a life changing moment. Nothing is identified by numbers there anymore, but the name “Number 9″ lives on.

When I make burgers at home, I exhaust even myself providing little bowls or plates of things to dress them with. But that is how I like my burgers. I start by dicing onions and cooking them in butter. Then I salt and pepper the meat and squoosh the butter-cooked onions through. I cut tomato, spice up mayo with chipotle or sriracha, sautee mushrooms. There is lettuce available, for crunch. Cheddar or Swiss. Ketchup.

My husband is a bit more measured.

We have 2 kids, each with lots of qualities of their own. It’s a fun family game to attribute a behavior to one side or the other. Sleeping late? That’s my side. Throwing a tantrum when someone tries to help you? Husband. A child begging to use the vacuum? I won’t say who that is, but I will say that it’s not me.

The little vacuumer is great at cleaning up the garden, but he has become a minimalist. He will scream at me for, say, including cheese in his quesadilla. Or for including a hot dog in his hot dog bun — you know, doing bad stuff like that. But the one year old is still a good eater. People in restaurants often approach me to marvel at her capacity. She is a very petite child, but this has nothing to do with her eating habits. She slept horribly as a young baby. Clarification: she slept Guinness Book of World Records horribly. The first night I ever remember her sleeping well was when she sat in a chair and ate dinner for a full uninterrupted 90 minutes. If I recall correctly, it was hundreds and hundreds of small fistfuls of smoked salmon risotto with marscapone cheese. She kept being willing to eat more, and I kept giving her more. Then she slept through the night. Now i feed her as if she were Muhammad Ali nearly every night. She is still svelte, but now she is a glossy-furred good sleeper, too.

When she’s not stuffing her face, she’s stuffing her arms: her other focus is collecting stuffed animals in her bed. I suspect her to be a maximalist. I suspect that she is the kid who might want not chocolate, or not rainbow, but chocolate AND rainbow sprinkles on her ice cream a few years down the line. Ketchup, mustard, relish AND onions on her hot dog.

But for now she’s got the bear and the dog and the other dog and the turtle and the zebra and the cow and the babydoll. And the rabbit and the lizard. And before you lift her out of her crib in the morning, she will hand you each one and deliver a personal thank you for taking each baby, and for holding onto it until she’s out and can grab them all from you again.

The Maximalist likes to run with her whole crew. And who can blame her?

Mango Blossoms

June 26, 2013
thanks for caribb on Flickr for use of the photo

thanks to caribb on Flickr for use of the photo

My inlaws were in from Chicago this weekend and we subway’d it out to the beach Saturday to fly a tiny kite and to say hello to the ocean. It was the Mermaid Parade, which we’d managed to forget, so we also saw a lot of glittery, near-nude women with Technicolor hair.

And I guess that not all of them were women.

We had passed several thousand Mr. Softee trucks, tinkling their siren songs, when I saw our four year old  stomping with a twisted, tortured face. I noted that he wanted ice cream but didn’t want to ask.

I have a conflicted relationship to him asking for things. On the one hand, I want him to feel more comfortable asking for things than I did as a child and frankly, than I do now. On the other, I don’t like being asked for ice cream every single time we walk by it, and because it is on wheels, it is not above following us.

Seeing grandparents is on the level of Mardi Gras for the children, so we knew that the treats would be flowing. So finally we asked him whether he’d prefer a treat then or later in the day. He wanted a treat just then, of course. But right at the moment when it was decided then we passed a spectacular sight, which was a man grabbing a mango from a box, impaling it on a stick, peeling it lickity split at an awkward angle, then hacking at it willy nilly with a machete in order to turn the stone fruit into a lovely blossoming all-fruit lolly. Then he’d hand it to a thirsty, sandy customer and collect their money. The customer could add lime and chili, or just walk off and eat the lushly orange fruit as is.

Henry, stunned at the sight, forgot about ice cream and asked for one of those. Most of me inflated with happiness that my son wanted a beautifully presented fruit rather than industrial-grade ice cream, but a small part of me winced in anticipation. His father was certain that a whole mango would be too much, but I knew that a whole mango would be perfect if it was the sort of mango that passed muster – but that Henry has a very complex relationship with mangos. When they are good they are very very good, and at other times, he wants them to be good, and yet is disappointed, and begins to shriek in a way that only a 4 year old hysterically disappointed by the characteristics of a mango can, or would. 

We waited for the mango-ist of mangos to come out of the box: shiny, orange-fleshed, still firm but juicy and softer than the drier, yellow, less ripe versions. And then we stared into the sea and were ruffled by the breeze as we enjoyed the lush and colorful beachy treat.

Time for Pie

June 21, 2013

Happy summer, pie eaters.

In honor of the first day of summer, I made a blueberry pie. In fact, I just made this pie for the first time myself, and I realized that I made a few errors in posting the recipe last year.

For one, I suggest that you sift the flour and salt together in a large bowel.

Now, where are you supposed to get one of those?

Also, I failed to specify how much butter to stir into the filling after the boiling step. It’s 2 tablespoons. I have updated both the recipe and the language at the link below.

It was pretty delicious.

Give it a whirl.

Jane Delea’s Cold Blueberry Pie

The Milk Givers

June 18, 2013

Readers: This is an older post that I realized I never published, and so I finished it and am publishing it this morning. It is also the start of a new project called The Body Project where women (and who knows, possibly men) will be contributing work about their own bodies for publication on Church Avenue Chomp. Further information to follow, but contact me at churchchomp at gmail dot com if you are interested in submitting.


Henry nursed forever — until he was about 3 weeks shy of 3 years old.

I’d tried weaning. I’d failed. I’d worried about it and then decided that though things weren’t proceeding as planned, that no one would die from this situation.

That’s what I thought, and our pediatrician thought, but it is not what the obviously horrified hospital pediatrician, the guy we met when Ivy was born, thought when he asked us about our family. He grimaced. He announced that my son’s “time in the sun” was over. He acted like we would were doing a serious disservice to our new child unless we threw our old child into milk rehab, stat.

Uh, I have tried milk rehab, sir, and please cut it with the vitriol.

As it happened, the last time Henry even asked to nurse was the morning of the day his sister was born. I plucked him out of his crib, carried him into my room to snuggle, and then it was off to the hospital for me. My new baby nursed that afternoon. When Henry came to the hospital to meet us, he hugged me, and he snuggled me, but he did not ask, and he never asked again.

After he passed the torch of Family Nursling to his sister, he would “check in” with me, but in a different way. Specifically, he would grab my my post-partum belly and smoosh his face into it. He’d try to lift my shirt anywhere to do this. “Keep my shirt down,” I’d fake-cheerfully implore when we were, oh, anywhere we went. He tried to touch my belly everywhere.

Last summer, I realize that he didn’t do that so much anymore. Instead, when he wanted to “check in,” he would try to touch his sister.

I did not know how to keep a 3 year old from mauling a baby with love. He’s largely gentle but there was some leaning that was . . . less gentle. And it’s not great when he pulls on her legs. It’s enormously stressful, for me, and I can’t imagine how the baby feels, though when I finally get him away from her so she can get some air, she generally has a huge grin on her face. But I ask him not to. I tell him not to. I bodily remove him. I urge him not to a bit louder. Sometimes, I yell. “Will you listen to Mommy?” my husband asks.

“No,” Henry would respond cheerfully, or sullenly, but the answer would be no. He loves to snuggle that baby.

One day recently I asked what his favorite part of Ivy is. “I like the warm parts,” he explained. He pointed out her belly, and then her head. “And I sort of like these too,” he continued, indicating her arms and legs.

How about Daddy? I asked, curious. “With Daddy, I like the roof,” Henry said, indicating his own head.

Oh, what about me?

“With you?” He cupped his hands over my chest. “With you, I like the milk givers.”

A colleague once warned me that whatever you called your breasts in a goofy way when your child was nursing would someday be parroted back to you by that child in public. With this in mind, I was so careful not to use the word boob or breast or even any body part word at all. All I ever did was vaguely offer milk. Or milky, in the way that I also say eggy, leggy, cribby, etc. And at one point, he started to call them milkies. “I will keep this milky for myself when the baby comes,” he one day informed me, in reference to the milky on the left side of my body.

But he is quickly growing up. Now he calls them Milk Givers.

The Walk!

May 9, 2013

It was amazing. I was behind in fundraising for the walk for ALS we were going to do on Saturday. And then, I posted about it on the blog.

Immediately, we were up and over the hump. The matching grants from people’s employers aren’t even reflected yet in the totals and we are already WAY over the goals I had set.

You guys are the best readers (and friends!) in the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Walking to Defeat ALS on May 4th

May 3, 2013

Hi Readers,

Tomorrow, my husband and I will be walking up the west side of Manhattan with our kids, along with a few friends, in memory of my dearly departed sister, Beth, and raising both awareness about ALS and funds for the ALS Association as we do so.

The ALS Association was of great help to our family during Beth’s illness and even after, when they provided grief counseling. The money we are raising goes to patient services, advocacy, research, clinical trials, and counseling.

We’ve raised nearly $3000 for this walk, which surpasses the goal that we established for our team, the Phillips 66.

I’m still trying to raise another $240 to make my personal goal.  If you want to read more about the race and walk with us tomorrow, or make a donation this is the link to our team page.

I decided to do this walk at the last minute. I haven’t walked for the ALS Association in several years. I guess that raising money seems less desperate now that we have already lost Beth. Our team also did such a great job of fundraising in 2009* that I am realized that I’ve been reluctant because I won’t be able to achieve that goal again. But that seems to be letting my ego rule my actions. Staying involved and helping families who need help should be more important than that. And finding a positive way to deal with my sister’s death is definitely sort of a salve.

*and also in 2010, but I was not able to be present at that walk, which was in CT — my parents spearheaded that effort

Turning Four: Articulation

April 24, 2013


Sunday we were slated for an afternoon family trip to the playground. As it happened, our trip was was flouted by Henry’s first bout with flux. Or, as it is known in less poetic circles, diarrhea.

“This is some really weird poop,” he marveled, just before he started screaming, as things flew forth from his body in a completely new way.

He is young enough that new things continue to happen to him all the time, but old enough to try hard to aptly categorize and describe them. It is this ongoing upping of the ante — the watching of the child become ever more lucid and articulate — that makes drearier parts of parenting —like the never ending crumbs and the mulishness — not just bearable but something that people decide to do again and again.

We quickly switched gears away from the playground and planned an on-the-fly movie night, since the TV is closer to the toilet than the swingset is. We turned on the television and decided to watch “The Borrowers.” Once we’d selected the movie, I rushed to the kitchen to assemble some personalized enchilada casseroles and put them into the oven. That is because, a big part of movie night is dragging the high chair into the living room and letting the baby watch movies and eat dinner in the living room with the rest of us. Talk about the never ending crumbs! (Talk about the scandal of movie night for a one year old! Talk about the second child vs. the first, who wasn’t even allowed to see a video until he was 2!)

You probably recall, as I do, that a large and boring part of childhood is waiting for the grownups. I remember it most clearly in terms of sitting in a chair in a department store, sulking while my mother shopped for clothes, which were undoubtedly for me. And I know that Henry is always waiting for me to make his food, change his sister, get everyone’s coats on. On Sunday night he was waiting to watch the movie. At first, the television had a picture of the Borrowers on the screen, but soon enough it gave up and the screen saver was triggered.

“THE TV IS COVERED WITH ANIMALS,” our son shouted through his little nose, in a way that reminds me of Owen Meany, to inform us what was happening, and to tacitly question whether we would still be having a movie night.

Apple TV starts showing these crystal clear, saturated photos of animals in nature. They are the perfect photos. The most beautiful photos on earth of the most beautiful things on earth. A baby hippo with raindrops on its nose. One of those white baby seals that we are always threatened will be clubbed. A daddy lion gazing thoughtfully into the distance, his snub-nosed baby by his side.

Henry’s dad explained that the TV had gone to sleep, but that we would start the movie as soon as Mom could finish getting dinner into the oven.

Henry ruminated for a moment at the notion that the “TV” could “go to sleep.”

“If the TV is asleep,” he asked, “are those pictures its dreams?”

For months on end when he was two, I’d ask Henry what he dreamt of every time he woke up, and every time he woke up he said “Dreamed a zebra, and a giraffe.” So maybe he thought it was close to his own dreams, as yet untainted by the urbane and adult anxieties of life, or maybe he was just trying to slot the behavior of the television in what he is learning to be the behavior of the things around him.

The point is that I really like to listen to him think things through, and I hope that never changes.

Welcome to four, buddy!


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