Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

This book is required reading for Family of the Special Needs Child, a class that is perhaps becoming my favorite this semester. That is a bit premature. I have only had two classes and the first few chapters of this book are not due to be read for a few weeks but I couldn't help myself. I was overcome by curiousity. And despite the fact that my Math for L.D. professor said our required reading is engrossing, I haven't gotten to the engrossing part yet. I wanted to read.

Here is the thing. If you are a teacher. Or a healthcare worker. If you are in any kind of public service. If you are in fact a human being living on this planet. You need to read this book. It is sad. And powerful and remarkable in so many ways. It was written by Anne Fadiman, a Western Ma. local. There is truly something in the water around here. If you live in western Ma. you are a blogger or a poet or a lyricist or a novelist or a playwright, You almost don't have a choice. And yes, I realize it is a bit silly to include blogger there. I guess I am giving myself airs.

This poignant tale is the story of the clashing of cultures between the Lees, an Immigrant Hmong family from Laos and the American medical team they encounter in California, when their youngest daughter begins to suffer from epilepsy. Fadiman does an extraordinary job weaving together the story of the Hmong people, the Lee family and the experiences of the small county hospital that provided services for little Lia. There is no bad guy here, just immense cultural difference and confusion. Everyone involved is doing what they believe is best for the little girl. But things go terribly wrong. Of course I haven't finished the book, I am trying not to, but I have a fairly good idea about how it ends.

Our class has been having these great discussions about the Special. Ed. process and the American education system and how to navigate it as a family, as an immigrant family, as a parent with special needs etc. And yesterday when a friend of mine from Uganda (who happens to be a single mom with a child who has special needs) came to visit I was reminded again of how difficult it is for so many reasons, how important cultural awareness and sensitivity is. And I am not talking about being politically correct. I am talking about being aware that there are differences and not to assume that our way is understood. There needs to be a better way to help families understand the process. Our class is pretty much devoted to that idea. Our system of transitioning children and families into Special. Ed. mostly doesn't work. How can we make it work? That is one of the things I love about my program. It is very critical. Occasionally one of my professors feels the need to remind us that they believe that Special. Ed. is a very good thing they just know it needs to be better.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

s c h o o l

It has begun.
This semester I will be immersed in the study of Learning Disabilities, Teaching Math to Students with Learning Disabilities and The Family of the Special Needs Child. I am soooo excited about these classes. I can't say enough about my advisor, professors and this program. I am so inspired and um... inundated already. And if anyone wants to talk about these subjects let me know. I could go on and on. You know how I do that.

Just wanted to let you know that I won't be around the blog quite so much until May when I will garden, play, cook, craft, read and blog in earnest. Until then I will do my best to keep my small and I like to imagine, devoted readers abreast of my daily inspirations and struggles and yes, calories of interest.

And now it is time for chocolate and Masterpiece theatre...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

this bears repeating

Thanks Constantina, for introducing me to Li -Young Lee. Two years and 15 days ago Rose passed away. And for a couple weeks now I have been thinking about the right words.

I cannot read this poem without tears.

From Blossoms
-by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


Friday, January 22, 2010

a river of words

Sometimes I feel the need to apologize for dreaming big for my kids. After all, my child is no more special than your child, except to me. But, I guess I should say that to me dreaming big doesn't have anything to do with how much education he will have or how much money he will make as an adult, instead it has to do with how kind he is and to what extent he has made use of his gifts. And I don't think that those desires of mine warrant any apologies. I just have this innate thing with humility I guess. Does any of this make sense?

While I was ordering my books for school, I ran across a gem of a children's book. I decided I would order a book or two for Henry's birthday in February. Yes, we have lots of books. I am a book whore, it could be worse. This book by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet spoke to me when I saw it. It is about William Carlos WIlliams. Ever since Henry declared that he was going to be a writer and artist, I have thought about how I could foster that in him. What better way than to support that verve for creating than to provide him with a beautiful book about a writer who wrote about ordinary things in his own distinct way. And the book describes his life and work in such a lovely way. I have always admired his poetry and love to see it presented alongside his life story in a children's book.

(an excerpt)

They call me and I go.
It is a frozen road
past midnight, a dust
of snow caught
in the rigid wheeltracks.
The door opens.
I smile, enter and
shake off the cold.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

new cookie love and new faces

2 bits of important news

1. We found a new cookie recipe that yields outstanding cookies, cornflake and oatmeal chocolate chip, dense and crispy in a pecan sandy meets shortbread kinda way but with bits of cornflake and oatmeal, wow.

2. Ezra has been drawing a ton lately and he has his own style of portraiture that I think is quite expressive and sophisticated for a 4 yr. old. I love that both of my boys love to draw. But I am not sure they ever had a choice in the matter.

No, the bloke on the right is not happy to see you, he is carrying a "dagger".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Betty Draper, or salad number 2

I have to admit that I am prejudiced against taco salads. And curiously fascinated by them, in the same way that jello salad fascinates me. On the one hand they are sort of yummy, on the other hand they have a bit of a suburban 1950's dare I say, trashy mystique? And how we love/ hate that mystique. This ambivalence might explain why I always want to challenge peoples' snobbishness about food. I struggle with my own snobbishness about food, and that is a characteristic I find hard to swallow in people-snobbishness that is. I perfectly understand wanting to be healthy, vegetarian, gluten, lactose or dye free, but can we please lose the attitude people? It is f o o d. And to me it is as much about community as it is nourishment, or at least I strive for it to have that meaning. And sometimes it is about stress and needing chocolate, which is unfortunate.

I always wanted to bring a glowing mountain of a lime jello salad, glittering with jewel -like, barely recognizable fruit to Laurie and Anton's organic farm parties. Just to see peoples' reactions. I don't even like jello. But when my Nana Kitty made Ambrosia salad I found it hard to resist (of course anything mixed with whipped cream is iressistable to me).

I know, I am all over the place now. And here I am about to relay another un-recipe. and it almost seems too obvious. But the fact is that taco salad can be healthy and filling and quite easy. I made one for myself for lunch today.

taco salad

shredded carrots
tomatoes, if you dare eat them out of season, use grape or cherry.
red onion
olives are great if you have them
any other veg. that you have around
black beans, rinsed, right out of the can
shredded cheddar
cilantro, if you're lucky

small dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream
dollop of salsa
drizzle of olive oil
red wine vinegar

Chop up the vegetables. stir in dressing accoutrements
and if you want to really hit that retro vibe throw in some broken tortilla chips. Mix it together watch some Mad Men and know that your grandma (or someone else's) is looking lovingly over your shoulder.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

the virtues of a chop salad

You know how when you are eating a salad and you look down into the bowl, unless you are barking at your kids to get back to the table or having an adult conversation, anyway you look into the bowl to get the perfect bite. The perfect bite might be a tender baby spinach leaf nestled into a crunchy candied pecan and maybe a crumb of blue cheese or it might be a bit of crisp romaine, a juicy wedge of Gold Current tomato, parsley and a thin ring of red onion.

Okay, so I do this.

And after spending two weeks eating and drinking and eating as if I am doing research on the GOUT, I decided to make more of an effort to create salads that I could really look forward to and that could maybe be considered meals.

salad # 1

chop salad

The following ingredients do not need to be measured, consider what you like and make substitutions.

Roughly Equal Parts of:
sweet bell pepper
chick peas
romaine lettuce

A bit less of:
provolone cheese
red onion

Chop everything, this is salad you eat with a spoon.

Dress the salad with a Gorgonzola vinaigrette...

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 4 ounces)

This was so good I ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning and made another batch for dinner again tonight which both kids devoured.

I based this salad loosely on a salad I loove at Pizzeria Paradiso in Noho..


I recently came to the conclusion that my desire for another bookshelf was well substantiated. With an ever-growing collection of beautiful children's books and Matt and I both in grad. school (will we ever leave?), piles of books are growing and growing, at an alarming rate. So I asked Matt, told Matt that I would love a new IKEA bookshelf, I even had a specific series in mind. SLAVEG or HALPSEK or BLOMKVIST or LAMNERG or something, I think. But we both agreed it would be more responsible to buy something used.

SO, I made pizza for the kids on Friday. Heather came over with her kids and they all watched Tarzan together.

AND Matt came home from the Friday auction with 2 MIRRORS and 2 CREDENZAS. Which reminds me of stories my mom likes to tell of my dad going grocery shopping for the basics and coming home with 10 loaves of white bread (which my mom never let us eat) and a jumbo pack of pink scented toilet paper (because they were on DEEP sale) and we could go another week without leafy greens, eggs and milk.

One of the credenzas remains on our miniscule front porch because we can't find room for it. The other has become the home for our t.v and very happy fig tree. AND it's a great credenza. Great in the previous sentence means "has lots of character". Matty and I separately came to the conclusion that it looks like it belongs in a rectory. It is so very 1960s nativity. But it is solidly built and it got a few books off of the floor.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Olive Kitteredge

I just finished Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout (thanks to maggie b. for giving me this gem). I still feel a little choked up after reading this book.

There are books that transport you to a different time or place, I love those. There are books that teach you how to do/make useful and /or beautiful things, I love those too.

There are books that beautifully celebrate the quotidien. Life can feel small sometimes. We spend so much time cleaning crumbs off a table, coercing our children to getting into the bath, thinking of what we need to buy at the grocery store, waiting for the next, better thing. And so I love to read a book that reminds me how beautiful it is to sweep crumbs off a table. And I love to read a book that reminds me of the beauty of everyone and the everyday. Because we all need those reminders, almost constantly. At least I do.

And I should say, that while this book reminded me of the importance and beauty of the everyday, it did so in a completely unsentimental, non-precious sort of way.

The characters in this book are living, breathing people, and that is another piece that make this book such a good read.

It's also so New England, and being a New Englander, I love that.

And now to deal with a 7yr. old's bloody nose, teeth brushing and bedtime...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hello 2010! You are so sci-fi.

Holiday Rundown

What I ate too much of:

Sponge candy from Olivers in Batavia. A family tradition. Aunt Morene and Uncle David send us boxes of this every year...It is unbelievably delicious. I am pretty sure that crack is one of the main ingredients.

What I read:

The first two books became my appendages for a few days. The last book I am still reading. I highly recommend all three. The image size is not a reflection of how engrossing the books were...

Other notable books we received...

Amy gave me this to feed my passion for Virginia Lee Burton, a remarkable woman and artist.

This exquisite book had the kids mesmerized. I appreciate the section on War Maidens... I see a lot of tracing paper in our future...

This is a classic book about Santa claus written by L. Frank Baum. The illustrations are gorgeous.

Bats at the Library and Bats at the Beach, both Harcourt books from Amy, are sure to be favorites. The illustrations are so warm and sweet. I love that the stories are written in verse. Perfect for a new reader.


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