March 25, 2010

Veggie Girl Versus the Meat Monster

A few weeks ago, I posted about my diva's decision to be a vegetarian. And then, her decision not to be a vegetarian.

Except, as it happens, she is still a vegetarian. Most of the time. Well, really, while the sun's up. She is a vegetarian every day for breakfast. She is a vegetarian every day for lunch.

It's dinner that gets her.

Pretty much every night that my kids are with me, we have a home-cooked, please-pass-the-potatoes, family-style dinner. Big bowls and platters and a basket of bread from the bakery. Thing is, I can't really make it meat-free. My Aspie craves protein like most folks crave water (or, in my case, chocolate). So meat's on the table. Period.

Veggie Girl's dilemma? She likes meat. She really really likes meat.

She also really wants to be a vegetarian. So she tries. Every night at dinner she fills her plate with bread and veggies and happy side dishes. She adds on veggie burgers and cheese and hard-boiled eggs. She eats. She goes back for seconds.

And that's when she finds that she can't really resist the chicken.

Tonight I served meatloaf. It's a funky little meatloaf fully of carrots and onions and whole wheat bread, and I'm perpetually shocked that my kids love it. But they do. And that includes my Veggie Girl.

Veggie Girl: "What are you making?"
Me: "Meatloaf."
VG: "I like meatloaf. What's it made of?"
Me: "Cow."
"Oh. That's red meat." she says. She thinks. "You know, I only eat red meat."
Me: "Don't you like chicken, too?"
VG: "Right. I only eat red meat and chicken. ... And fish."

She's still a vegetarian. Or so she tells me. She's just a vegetarian who eats meat.

And hey, look, a recipe! Because if this meatloaf can tempt Veggie Girl, your kids (if you've got 'em) might just like it, too.

Meat Monster Meatloaf
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens' New Cook Book (1996)

1 beaten egg
1 slice of whole wheat bread, crumbled
1/4 milk
1/2 medium onion, chopped to tiny bits in a food processor
1/4-1/2 c carrots, chopped to tiny bits in a food processor
1/2 tsp oregano
1 lb ground beef (don't go lean for meatloaf - you need that fat to compensate for the long cooking time)
2 Tbs ketchup

In a mixing bowl, combine everything, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Mix it up well. Pat mixture into a loaf pan and bake in a 350 F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no pink remains (use a meat thermometer - it should reach 170 F). Let rest for 5 minutes, transfer to a platter, and serve. My mom always put a bit of tomato paste on the top about 5 minutes before it came out of the oven, but my kids didn't take to that part, so I leave it off.

Strep and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I know nothing about motorcycles.

Strep, though? Strep I know. It's not incredibly zen. More tired-and-cranky making. And we're deep in the heart of it.

My Aspie has it. Strep gives him a foul temper, a foul mouth, and outrageously foul breath. And no other symptoms. Kid can't feel a sore throat, so he just gets foul. Lovable - totally lovable. And totally foul.

My little guy has it too. It kept him up all night for two nights in a row. Gave him a scary high fever and a "hurty neck." That all makes him tired, and the tireds make him cranky.

And I have it. I have it, and I'm cranky because I can't sleep when the kids are always awake, and because I have work to do and little people to take care of and groceries to shop for and my throat hurts and I have an (admittedly small) fever. I also have an awesome au pair (seriously, she's awesome - she says things like, "you shouldn't do those dishes, you're sick," and "of course you're not talking too much") ... but she's sick too. It's not strep, thankfully. But she's sick nevertheless.

The diva is not streppy. Nor is she sick. She's just surrounded by cranky. Lots and lots of cranky, from everyone but the awesome au pair. So the diva's cranky, too.

All that cranky makes for a fun, fun time.

Oh, and we seem to have infected a few friends, including one of my wine and pie buddies who was gracious enough to watch my kids for me for a few hours on Sunday. The strep was our way of saying thank you.

You know how she said you're welcome? She made a complete right turn in the middle of a phone call this evening to tell me what a great mom I am. And how great my kids are. And how much fun she had with them (while they were giving her strep). And how wonderful they are together.

I gave her strep. She gave me happy mushy mommy tears.

It may not be zen, but it's close.

March 10, 2010

Parenthood (The TV Show)

I've been watching "Parenthood." It's hard to resist because among its very many storylines, it features two parents managing their son's diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome. Alan Sepinwall, my favorite TV critic ever (seriously - I've been following him for about a decade now), wrote a read-worthy article about Asperger's and TV if you want to know more.

The thing that gets me? These parents, they went from identification in the pilot to full-on diagnosis in episode two.

That process took us eight years. Eight. Years.

My son was identified by an astute preschool teacher when he was three. He was evaluated at four (diagnosis: bad parenting), and again in first grade (diagnosis: ADHD and "on the spectrum"). And then, because apparently "on the spectrum" isn't good enough for our current state of residence, it was a year of realizing they had to have a label to give him the support he needed, two years on a waiting list, nine months waiting for a report, and another three months waiting for the school to say, "Oh, wait. Asperger's? Really?"

I'm trying to suspend disbelief. I mean, it's TV. But, seriously? One episode?

That said, the quirky kid in a pirate costume who trades bites of food for TV time and can reel off arcane facts about Billboard's greatest hits is eerily familiar. For my kid it's hockey stats and superheroes. He was never a pirate, but for a full year he insisted the world call him Peabo. And he'll eat anything - seriously, anything - on the promise of a music video on YouTube. Today, in fact, he ate a giant serving of broccoli just so he could watch the last 10 minutes of a "He-Man" episode after dinner.

So, yeah. I get it.

They get it too. Because in two episodes, they've also found a way to show the sheer joy, the brilliance and the wonder of parenting a kid with Asperger's. It's wrapped up in frustration and doubt and a bit of railing at the world. But it's all in there. Just as it would be with any other child.

I think I'll keep watching.

March 8, 2010

The Education of Veggie Girl

You know what the diva ate tonight? Baby portabellas sauteed in butter. Steamed green beans. Oven fries dredged in olive oil and sea salt and roasted till brown. Blueberries. A slice of Italian bread.

And fish. Ocean-friendly, U.S.-farmed tilapia, bathed in orange juice and fresh-squeezed lemons and baked until flaky.

The vegetarian experiment has officially ended. My diva saw the fish, she saw the calendar, and she said, "I think today I'm not a vegetarian."

She achieved her goal, though. My environmentally-conscious 8-year-old had committed to going veggie from Valentine's Day through March 8. And outside of one small serving of roast chicken, she did it. Along the way, she learned to enjoy soy nuts and veggie burgers, sunflower seeds and mushrooms. She tried tapenade and tabouleh and hummus. She wasn't too fond of tofu dogs, but honestly, I don't get those either. Limp, floppy little things. Not exactly appetizing.

I have a feeling my girl will wander in and out of the vegetarian lifestyle for a while. She liked it, and she liked that she was helping the world in her own little way. And she does love her veggies.

I am one proud mom.

P.S. Still no working showers. Fingers crossed that they'll show up tomorrow.

March 6, 2010

Water Woes

Remember the bit about my house falling down around my ears?

Yeah. Still falling.

I bought a new microwave. And then it snowed. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. And then my plumbing exploded.

No, it's not burst pipes. Well, maybe it is, but they didn't burst from the cold. For one thing, it's not cold anymore. And this just happened yesterday.

See, yesterday my au pair came to show me the shower in the bathroom she shares with the kids. This is the same shower we've been turning on and off with a screwdriver for the past few months. And yes, that should have been a great big giant red flag. What can I say.

So, she showed me the shower. Water was streaming down the back wall, coming from behind the fixtures. This was way worse than a stripped and leaky faucet. This was massive water damage, and likely inside the walls. Nascent, I hope, but we don't know that yet.

I found a plumber. He came within the hour. He's my new best friend.

He explained to me that I have a heckuva situation on my hands. My tub? The fixtures are on the wrong side. On an internal wall. With an air vent alongside the plumbing. Fella spent an hour trying to figure out an access point. In the end, he figured out that he could rip out the sink and cabinet from my master bath, break through the drywall, fix the plumbing, then put everything back.

Guess how much that's gonna cost. Just guess. I dare you.

'Cause that kind of work? Takes hours. And more than one guy.

So my friend the plumber shut off all the water to my second floor. He's supposed to come back with friends on Monday. That's how long we'll get to live without showers. Good weekend for it - kids are with their dad, I'm out of town with friends, and my patient au pair is being well cared for by some very kind neighbors.

I still don't have lights in my living room. Or a railing on my back deck. There's a great big hole in the roof of my shed. And, oh yeah, an infestation of odorous house ants in my basement. And yes, that totally grosses me out because I am, after all, a girl. And, um, human.

But yay, I'm getting the plumbing fixed. One home repair down. About 37 to go ...

March 1, 2010

Knit, Purl, Toe Loop

My Oma was a neat lady. Teacher, skater, gardener, knitter. She taught me to knit and to cross-stitch and needlepoint. She tried to teach me to skate. And about that, let's just say that I really liked the knitting.

I was a little thing when we started. My Oma showed me how to cast on, to knit, to purl. I knit up a swatch big enough to be a potholder. Except I didn't learn to bind off, so I wound up with a set of fat, plastic, circular needles wrapped in white yarn. I still have that thing somewhere.

But it was a memory. And it stuck.

When I took up knitting for real, the first project I made was for her. A simple feather-and-fan lapghan in pink acrylic with a long yellow fringe, meant to keep her warm while she watched figure skating on TV. It came out sideways. She used it anyway, because that's what Omas do. And when she died, my cousin thoughtfully packed it up and sent it back to me. Now it's draped across the foot of my daughter's bed.

I never took to skating. Too clumsy. Although, somehow, knitting and skating remained inextricably linked in my crowded little brain.

Which is why I signed on for the Olympics. The Knitting Olympics, that is, sponsored by my girl, the Yarn Harlot. The goal: cast a project on during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, knit like a madwoman for 17 days, watch a little skating, and finish the whole thing before the closing ceremonies are done.

Knitting? Skating? At the same time? Cool!

Of course, we were about an hour into the opening ceremonies when I decided I should do this. Like any obsessed but time-pressed knitter, I do have a few projects waiting ... so I dashed upstairs and found this gorgeous cotton I'd bought last year along with the pattern I'd picked to go with it. I managed to dig up a pair of size 6 needles: if you've ever seen my closet (which you won't), you'll know just how hard a task that was.

And then I cast on. For 17 days, I knit like a fiend. I watched some kick-ass skating, and I knit. Kim Yu-Na beat the tutus off of everyone else on the ice. And I knit. I have a callous where the yarn wraps around my finger, and a deep bruise where I push against the needle. My shoulders ache. 

And yet, I didn't finish. I didn't finish because I'm a crazy lady who thought a hardworking single mother of three would have time to knit a whole sweater in just over two weeks. I mean, it's sleeveless, right? Piece of cake!

Yeah, not so much. I got about half of it done.

I'm awfully darn proud of myself, though. I'm proud that I tried. I'm proud that I made it as far as I did. I even learned a few new skills along the way.

I'm still knitting my sweater. I may not have finished on time. But I will finish. And I will have a beautiful, summery sweater to show for it. My version of a skating sweater.

Thanks, Oma.

* PS Yes, it's rather ridiculous to blog about knitting and not include any pictures. But my camera is full so, well, there you go.