Ahead of Myself

I am always ahead of myself. I drop things because my feet are already leaving the kitchen before my hands have gotten a good hold on the plate I need to carry. I bump into things because I'm already walking through the door anyway even though my hand found the knob to be a little stuck and hasn't gotten the chance to finish opening it. My hip hits the corner of the counter because my mind is already in the next room. My head lives in the future. Sometimes the distant future, but most of the time at the very least a few moments from now.

The good part of this? I'm excellent at planning things, at visualizing how the logistics of something will work out. I'm always prepared, like a Boy Scout, anticipating what could go wrong and what I might need to have with me. I don't fall prey to procrastination often, so I don't suffer the stress of the looming deadline. I'm good at saving money. I remember to take pictures so we can remember the moment later.

The bad part of this? The bruises and spilled food. The overpacking. The worry over how the action of this moment will impact the next and 10 years from now. The preparation for the anticipated reaction to my actions that may or may not ever actually materialize. That one causes me to rehearse conversations and confrontations, usually in the shower and while I'm driving. When I'm in overdrive, I even imagine how I'll respond to something that I don't actually have any evidence that some other person is going to say to me. The sitting out on fun now things to make sure I stay on top of future things. The internal reactions I have when things do not come out as I imagined or hoped or expected. The external reactions I have to things not meeting my expectations and how those effect the people around me and my relationship to them. The difficulty with spontaneity and living in the moment.



Exercising My Right To Flush

Last night, after brushing his teeth, I gently excused Turtle out of my bathroom so that I could dare to go to the bathroom alone. (If a 2 year old heavily breathing and scratching at the bathroom door is considered alone).

When finished with my business, I opened the door to be rewarded by a full blown meltdown. The issue?

Let me quote: "Waaaaaah. I want to flush your pee-pee! Waaaaaaah. I want to flush Mommy's pee-pee!"

I would just like to go on record here that I did NOT videotape this. I could have. So, in 15 years, when Turtle is mortified by naked baby pictures and other such embarassments, I would like some credit for NOT saving this particular moment* for posterity.

I will enjoy the pleasures of flushing my own pee-pee without complaint this weekend, down a hotel** toilet at that, as I embark on a 48-hour childless, husbandless, women-only trip that I have needed for 2 years.

*(10 minutes)

**(OK, motel)


What's In Season?

(You can buy this vegetannual poster here.) 

The Vegetannual

I am currently relishing in reading
Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Today I sat in the park at toddler hour (10 am) without my toddler, drinking my chai, and reading about the mythical, metaphorical plant Kingsolver invented, the vegetannual. She invented this plant to help the horticulturally challenged have a handy dandy way of understanding which produce is in season throughout the year and why.

Somehow I have gained the knowledge that cherries and peaches are summer fruits and cranberries are in season in winter, I think? Winter is definitely squash, or is that fall? and a mango in January isn't normal. But I'm kind of shaky on the whole thing because for as long as I have been in charge of grocery shopping, I have gone to supermarkets that feature all produce almost all year round. I haven't gardened much, but I've tried a couple of times and remember that seed packets have maps and charts on the back telling you where things will grow and when to plant them. I know my old neighbors cucumbers were out last July. But, uh...okay that's about it for me.

Kingsolver reminds us that most of the produce we enjoy are annual crops of flowering plants. All flowering plants share a life cycle abbreviated as: winter seeds lying in ground waiting, spring sprout, shoots, leaves, buds, flowers, pollinate, fruits, store extra energy as tuber, root, or bulb, seeds lie dormant until it starts over again next spring. All of the annual plants are growing roughly across the same growing season between frosts, but since we eat different parts of different plants, different produce items will be in season at different times. So, depending of course on latitude and climate and length of season for the particulars, the basic sequence of produce that is in season in any given place will follow that life cycle. Think about it this way: lettuces are leaves, peaches are fruit, beets are tubers. Meaning, lettuce will be in season first in the spring, peaches next in the summer, and beets toward the very end of the growing season in late fall. Isn't this brilliant?! Something I can understand and easily remember.

Kingsolver's explanation is much more award winning author than mine, so I invite you to read an article adapted from her book called
"Stalking the Vegetannual".

Think Globally, Eat Locally

Now all this talk of in season, out of season is related, of course, to the travels of our food. You can't eat an out of season cherry unless it is in season somewhere else in the world at that moment, which means that someone is shipping it across great distances to you.

Some years ago, I became more aware of the distances that foods travel and the ecological impact that has and I began to read the signs and stickers at the grocery store that told me where my grapes and bananas were coming from. A handful of times I even decided not to buy something because it came from too far away and lately I've tried looking for locally produced labels when I have a choice. But most of the time, I just buy what we're in the mood for, the recipe calls for, or what strikes my fancy when I see it. And although I've been to the farmer's market on and off over the years, it has been more of a fun weekend outing than a serious way of providing food for my household. For sure we are snacking on out of season crude oil dependent tropical transports most of the time and giving it no regard.

Kingsolver's book asks the reader to give some regard to this. I will probably look further into the
Slow Food Movement and groups like Locavores. I might revisit the idea of joining a local CSA. I've looked into it several times, but never taken the step. I might at the very least try to frequent the farmer's market more often. I might stop buying out of season foods and try to find recipes for the in season ones. But, herein lies the rub for me...

I believe in this issue and agree with it, but being non passionate about gardening, food shopping, meal planning, cooking, and all things related, I'm not finding an inner fire to get me actually making big changes on this one. And I fear that plus becoming used to being able to get all produce all the time is going to make it hard for a lot of us to do the right thing when it comes to sticking with local food.

Change takes time, though. So, at least understanding the vegetannual and thinking about it when I shop is a good first step!

Further Food For Thought

If our historical relationship to food and the ecological impact of agriculture interest you, I also recommend reading anything written by
Michael Pollan or Vandana Shiva.


Let Them Play!

Driving the other day, I heard this story on NPR about Gever Tulley who founded The Tinkering School near San Francisco.  In this ultimate summer camp experience, kids get to stay for a week and build creations of their own design (with some guidance) and test them out. The use of power tools is encouraged, as is creativity, risk-taking, and intuition.  Kids must make real things and try them for real.  No models or look-alikes here.  They build boats and find out whether they'll sink or float when they get in them.  They cross bridges they've designed and drive cars and motorcycles they collaborated on.  They fail and fail again and get hurt and go back to the drawing board and fail again and think on it some more and persist until they succeed.  

Tulley says in the NPR interview that one of the experiences that inspired his camp was observing a mother scold and remind her son about her "no playing with sticks" rule.  I'm with Tulley on this one.  Lord help this next generation if they haven't even been allowed to play with sticks.  Why, when I visited Paraguay, the host family I stayed with had a 3 year old boy who I observed playing in the backyard unsupervised with his father's machete.  Okay, admittedly, that kind of freaked me out.  But, clearly we are overdoing it when we protect our kids from sticks (not to mention denying them a connection to nature and natural objects).   

Tulley is working on an upcoming book, "50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do" and gave a TED talk on 5 of them: 

This reminds me of the recently popular "Dangerous" books by Conn & Hal Iggulden.  Just today I read an article called "How to let kids be kids" in this month's Redbook.  It made the case for the downside of overscheduling our kids and overstructuring their play, quoting experts who explained the value of free play driven by curiosity about the world and how it works.  I remember reading a long time ago the quip that all toddlers start out by dropping and throwing and hitting things with the basic mental attitude of, "what will happen when I do this?" and that scientists are just the people who managed to not get that squashed out of them by their parents and the educational system.  

I'm so glad to see this resurging interest in letting kids be kids and just play and explore their world.  I remember the elaborate games my siblings and I used to invent on rainy days stuck inside and the little inventions I used to make when left with free time and craft supplies to think and tinker.  In elementary school I helped run the filmstrips (god, I'm old!) and the teacher would ask you to "rewind" the filmstrip when it was over, which was a laborious process done by hand. I took a toilet paper tube and an empty jewelry gift box, some scissors and glue, and invented a filmstrip rewinder. You could put the film roll in a tube on one end, feed it through a slot across the empty box into a slot in the tube on the other end and you could quickly rewind it into the second tube with your finger.  Plus, you could view the slides on it against the white background of the box as you did so.  

To this day, obviously, I remember the details of that invention, how it worked, and how proud I was of thinking of it, making it, and trying it out to find that it worked.  If you fill a kid's life with pre-packaged toys meant to be used in pre-thought of ways and guided activities with rules, how will they ever invent something?  or have the self-esteem that comes with that?  

Which reminds me to share with you an astounding article I read some months back called "How children lost the right to roam In four generations". In it, the author interviews one family and shows with maps the diminished range that each succeeding generation was allowed to explore unsupervised. I know that as an elementary aged kid, I regularly hopped on my bike or roller skates and went up to a couple miles out on my own or with friends. And that was sans helmet or cell phone or water bottle or firm deadline for arrival.   Now even though I'm in a sleepy suburban, family friendly neighborhood, I really wonder just how far I'll feel comfortable letting my son go.  Has anything actually changed in terms of the risk?  Or just my perception of it due to scary news stories and such?  It's an important question.  

For much more along these lines, check out Free Range Kids , a website devoted to helping "our kids embrace life!". It's got thought provoking articles and practical ideas on how to get back to the good-old-go-outside-and-play-until-dinnertime days!

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this topic.  How far were you allowed to roam as a kid?  Did you own a pocket knife, try driving a car, play with fire, etc, before you were a teen?