Archive for July, 2008

Four-Year-Olds DO Nap!

July 31, 2008

What I saw in the back of my car after a morning of berry picking and ice cream eating last week. Black raspberry ice cream, though you probably guessed that already.

Dear Friend of Will Who Told Him That He Doesn’t Need to Take Naps Anymore Now That He Is Four,

A) Not true

B) You are wrong

C) Careful what you say to him, or you and I might be having a VERY FRANK discussion about the Man in Red With the Bag.

I’m just saying.

Love,

Will’s mom

*   *    *

On an ENTIRELY different topic, you can also find me at Kidoinfo.com, writing about (what else) food, photos and family. Though my posts will have a decidedly familiar air to many of you, (I believe in recycling!) you’ll find a lot of helpful and interesting original writing, general information, reviews (and giveaways!) for kids and families plus a TON of info on events for kids in southern New England. Come over and say hello!

Don’t forget the gummy worms!

July 28, 2008

Okay, so I’m kind of in reruns today. This is technically a “reprint” from a guest post over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess and as a contributor to a great New England parenting site, Kidoinfo. While lots of you Best Shot Monday folks could write the book on photographing kids, I’m hoping some of you will find them helpful for taking photos of your families this summer.

But before we get to that, it is Monday, and here is my Best Shot for today, Henry in the blueberry patch last week. Looking for more Monday favorites? Click over to Best Shot Monday.

As you can see, the boy loves his blueberries.

DON’T FORGET THE GUMMY WORMS

(And six more tips for taking better photos of your kids this summer)

It’s summertime, and the activities from each busy day could fill their own photo album. Maybe you’ve got a digital SLR camera, or maybe you’re a diehard point-n-shooter, but we’ve all got the same goal in mind: to take the best possible pictures of our families, preserving the memories in the jewel-like light we remember them.

I can guarantee you’ll see great results in your photos if you try a few of these tips, and I won’t even talk about shutter speed and f-stops. And if you’re a devotee of automatic settings, you don’t have to change your stripes. You can try all these tips in auto mode.

1. Get involved.
Get close. Then get closer. Then get down low. Chances are you’re taking a photo of your child in a location you’d like to remember—maybe a scenic mountainside or a sparkling beach. But one of the biggest mistakes we can make in a photo is trying to include too much information, like taking a landscape photo that just happens to have a small, faraway person in it. Instead, fill the frame with your subject, making them the most important part of the photo. Because they are.

Want to remember the beach? Get up close to your child and photograph his toes buried in the sand, or the look on her face when she spies a new piece of sea glass. Want to remember the mountain? Zoom in as your child reaches in to pick a wildflower or throws a rock in a rolling stream.

And unless you and your child are the same height, you’ll want to get down where the action is. It’s all part of getting involved.

2. Find the sweet light.
Your photos will be 1000-percent improved if you do nothing else but this: think about the best times of day for kids to be out in the sun and shoot your photos then. Early morning before the sun gets too intense (you’re all awake anyway, right?) and afternoon/evening when the intensity wanes.

Here in New England, that’s before 8 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. this time of year. (Bribe ’em with ice cream if they are melting down at day’s end.) Full-day sunlight washes out colors, creates harsh, unflattering shadows and causes sunburn, of course, while the warmth and softness of early and late-day sun will bring a beautiful, unrivaled tone to your images.

Now, I know what you’re saying. Plenty of life goes on between 8 and 5:30, in fact most of the day for those of a certain age in my household. So if you’re stuck outside at high noon on a sunny day, pray for a cloud or find some open shade (a spot out of direct sun lit by reflected light. Just go under a tree.) and shoot your photos there.

And, if you end up with a cloudy day on vacation, you can be the annoying one that chirps, “Well, it’s an absolutely perfect day for photos!”

3. Go for the unexpected
If your child is about three or up, they probably know what it means to pose for a photo and you end up with a series of lock-jawed grins. So go for the anti-pose. Have your child leap in the air. Make a crazy monster face and challenge them to make one, too. (Guaranteed to get a laugh.) Sing the ABCs to them, and get it wrong, so they have to correct you, giggling all the way.

Younger than three? Try positioning them in or on something, like a ride-on horsie, a bathtub, a bucket or a basket and shoot away until they escape or are done. Then follow them around and capture their entirely unselfconscious anti-poses. Or hand them a prop you can stand to see in your photos, like a bright red ball.

4. Get cheeky
When photographing more than one child together, have them avoid perpetuating the grip-and-grin pose they see in adults. Instead get creative to get their faces close together. Have them lie on the ground and look up, which almost always will bring on the giggles. Encourage a whispered secret or a kiss on the cheek. Or just request “Cheeks together!” which will bring you sibling closeness you didn’t know you had.



5. Remove the bulls eye from your child’s forehead

So you’re on the beach. It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, and glorious streams of golden light are bathing the scene in front of you. The sky is a brilliant blue, the sand is warm and inviting, Junior is waving his snappy red shovel and he flashes you a big, natural-looking grin. Mentally patting yourself on the back, you get down on his eye level, perform a quick check on the background to be sure the lifeguard chair isn’t growing out of his head, center him perfectly in the frame and…STOP!!!

Try this. Move your camera slightly to the right or left, so that Junior is now off center. Is there something else across the frame that you can bring into the photo, like the bright blue bucket he just threw in frustration when his sand castle caved in?

I promised no photo lingo in this post, but if you’re ever tempted to Google the phrase “rule of thirds” you’ll learn a lot more about this composition technique (and you’ll find much better examples than the one I took, above.) In short, it can make for a much more appealing and interesting photo. Give it a try.

6. Take your camera for a spin

Take your camera and turn it 90°. Try using the camera in vertical or “portrait” position to capture an image of one or two children, a format that naturally crops extra information from the photo and focuses in close on the important stuff: your subject.

While excellent portraits can be in either landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) position, trying the portrait position might bring a brand new focus to your shots.

7. Don’t forget the gummy worms!
While portraits don’t need to have dead-on eye contact to be successful, there is always something a little disappointing about the image that is nearly perfect in every way, yet has a child with a vacant stare over your shoulder, probably because a well-intentioned person was jumping up and down trying to get a laugh.

When I’m nearing the end of a photo-taking session (and I use the term loosely, I’ve been known to break out this trick in the backyard with my kids) and want to bag a few more good shots, I sometimes drape a gummy worm around the barrel of my lens. This usually promotes a tractor-beam lock on my lens (hello, eye contact!), as well as an interesting discussion about worms and eating them, depending on the age of your subject.

It doesn’t last long, and if you’re shooting someone else’s kids you probably want to check the guidelines on sugar consumption, but it can be a serious secret weapon at the right moment.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Last week at a playdate, I used some of these tips to demonstrate what they can do in two quick snapshots.

Here’s Sydney before, out in the blazing sun at about 11 a.m., in a cluttered snapshot, taken in landscape view with too much visual distraction around her, and too much strong sunlight washing out her face and creating harsh shadows on her eyes. Like the disembodied adult arm and half toddler in the background?

Here’s Sydney a minute later, under a tree in her yard. This photo was taken at her level, in portrait view, in lovely open shade. She was so happy about it she even gave me a smile!

Got a great summer photo to share? Some before and afters?
Post a link to your blog, Flickr or web page in the comments section here, and let me know if these tips are working for you. Don’t have a place to post your photos online? That’s a topic for another post!

Ice Cream and What to Do With It, Part 2 (Hot Fudge Sauce and Raspberry Sauce)

July 26, 2008

Because I can’t leave well enough alone and just enjoy a scoop of ice cream, I will occasionally make this homemade hot fudge sauce. Hot fudge sauce is actually one of the easiest things to make, with a pretty huge wow factor. You can, actually, just melt some chocolate, stir in some milk or cream, and voila!

Or you can work a little harder and have an even better result with this:

Yummy Hot Fudge Sauce

6 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate (go for the best quality you can find or spring for, quality really shows in this recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter

2 cups white sugar, or to taste (this is not an overly sweet recipe, but check and see how it tastes to you if you want your dark chocolate fudge sauce on the bittersweet side)

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk OR the equivalent amount of heavy cream

dash salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Add in sugar slowly and stir with a wire whisk. Add salt. Add evaporated milk OR cream and stir. Bring mixutre to a low boil, then cook on low til it thickens, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla when you put it on low. Makes 2 and 1/4 cups.

This makes any scoop of ice cream into a party, and is especially good pooled over brownies and peppermint stick ice cream at Christmas. Or any other day of the year. And if you are entertaining, you feel like you got away with not really making dessert, because it is that easy to make this and then heat and pour on top of your choice of ice cream. Mmmmm….

But it is summer, and even I would admit that on some of these hot and humid days of summer, hot fudge sauce isn’t in the top ten for most refreshing dessert. (Number eleven, maybe.) And if you are awash in fresh raspberries like I am, you might just want to try this easy ice cream topping:

Fresh Raspberry Sauce

1 pint fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a blender or food processor, purée the raspberries, granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Taste the sauce for sweetness and adjust the sugar or lemon juice as needed. Strain and refrigerate. Pour in generous pools over ice cream. Can consider pouring this AND homemade hot fudge over same scoop of ice cream.

Stay tuned for more ice cream goodness tomorrow! Go have some ice cream today, and come back and tell me what you had!

Food Friday: Ice Cream and What to Do With It, Part 1 (The Chipwich)

July 25, 2008

I know. You’re reading that headline and wondering what the HECK is wrong with me, since you have never had any trouble putting away a delicious cone of ice cream, and why mess with a good thing?

Here’s why.

Ice cream in a bowl (or from the pint, if we’re being honest) can be so its-9:30 p.m.-and-I-can-eat-this-or-just-go-to-bed. Ice cream in a cone at the farm stand is lovely and wonderful, but sometimes it is just fun to exercise your creative side when it comes to ice cream, and elevate it to something you can truly call dessert. And calling things dessert is basically my calling in life, if you hadn’t noticed.

The Almighty Chipwich

I’ll discuss the base, chocolate chip cookies, another day, since there is SO MUCH TO BE SAID there, but basically you need no real recipe to make a platter of chipwiches today.

1. Bake your cookies. I will insist here that they be from scratch. Make them fairly small. Let them cool.

2. Scoop your favorite ice cream (I recommend vanilla in this case, but go crazy.) onto a cookie in modest amounts. (An overstuffed chipwich is a lot like buying a Betamax in the 1980s—it seemed like a good idea at the time, but you end up wishing you hadn’t.) Squish the top cookie on the scoop of ice cream.

3. Some might consider the chipwich unfinished without a roll through some mini-chocolate chips or some flaked coconut. I say that is gilding the lily, and I like my chipwiches as pure as, well, vanilla ice cream trapped between two chocolate chip cookies. So I quit there and put them in the freezer. (It’s a good idea to wrap them individually in plastic wrap, freeze them, and then unwrap them and serve them on a platter later.

And if one of those individually wrapped chipwiches doesn’t make it onto the platter, and you find it later in the freezer? It would PROBABLY be good with coffee when your children are napping.

I’m guessing.

Since I have LOTS to say about ice cream, yet I have two boys waiting NOT-SO-PATIENTLY to go berry picking RIGHT NOW, I will continue this series over the weekend. I can’t wait to hear how you make ice cream and other frozen treats extra special!

Next week for Food Friday? I have no idea, so bring it on—plan to post something you love!

The Sea Glass Stoop

July 24, 2008

Photographer Stacy hosts a little photo challenge each week, called Theme Thursday. This week’s theme is Summer Fun, and while I am rarely organized enough to match up the images on my camera with the right theme each week, I love seeing all the creative interpretations on the themes each week.

This week, since I think I could throw a rock at my external hard drive and hit a photo of summer fun, I had to participate.

Here’s a peek at the Sea Glass Stoop, executed perfectly by Will, a self-proclaimed sea glass machine, who spent about an hour with his brother, dad and grownup friend Tyler on the beach in this heavenly corner of Maine, looking for sea creatures and sea glass. They were successful.

Henry didn’t get what all the fuss was about (these were TEENY pieces of sea glass on this part of the Atlantic coast) but he gave it his best copycat approach.

Monkey see, monkey do!

Hope you’ve got lots of summer fun going on! For LOTS more of it, head over to Stacy’s today.

Construction Cake Returns

July 21, 2008

We celebrated Will’s fourth birthday yesterday, and as you can see, it was a day of glorious celebration and excess for him, starting with breakfast out and a stack of pancakes bigger than his head.

That’s birthday frog out to breakfast with us, a present from his friend Lydia when he was still a wee one nicknamed Froggy.

We enjoyed a swim after breakfast, and then a wonderful party with friends and family in the afternoon. And cake.

I know you’ve heard me say this before, but seriously, folks?

BEHOLD.

This year’s construction/dirt cake topped last year’s version by a fair bit, with a water feature, a roadway and pixie stick/caramel guardrails. The cake was Smitten Kitchen’s moist, delicious Homemade Devil Dog Chocolate Cake, and it was enhanced with chocolate pudding as mortar, gummy worms of two varieties, pulverized oreos for that earthy, dirty look and pulverized golden oreos as sand. Oh, and a retaining wall of chocolate frosting and malted milk balls. Sorry I didn’t take step-by-step photos as I went, as you might imagine, my hands were COVERED IN CHOCOLATE.

I SO hope Henry wants one of these next year. I’m thinking of a Necco-shingled cottage being constructed by the sea…

My favorite part was seeing all these sweet little ones chomping on what looked like real, mud-covered worms. (Brown earthworms courtesy of Bee’s in Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Like the symbolic STOP sign?

And finally, the dreamy look on his face may be my favorite shot of the day, so I tag it my Best Shot Monday. For more best shots, head over to Tracey’s.

Happy birthday, my big four-year-old boy! We love you!

Food Fridays: Summer Salads

July 18, 2008

It’s predicted to be a wicked scorchah here today, at least as hot as it ever gets on the coast, and weather like this gives us permission to find a new kind of simplicity and creativity. Like, for example the cold cereal with milk and bananas I gave the boys for lunch yesterday. Which they thought was just HILARIOUS.

For me, I like to find the fewest possible ingredients I can put together and still call dinner. It seems like we’re entitled when it is this hot, and since you’d never eat like this on a crisp October day or a snowy January evening, I say celebrate the season.

I enjoy an excellent Watermelon Gazpacho each year at my village fair’s unrivaled “soup kitchen” (More than 25 types of hot and cold soups served for lunch in the gardens of a stately historic house. They are mostly all sold out by noon. Locals? Come early!) and I was looking for something along those lines—cool, crunchy and savory and sweet at the same time. (My guest blogger Laura from Cult of Domesticity shared a good sweet one, plus an excellent corn salad in her post for me earlier this month.)

I found this recipe in the June 2008 Bon Appetit, and while the reviews suggest things can get ugly quick when it gets watery, I was heartened when I spotted the same recipe tested at the always delicious Smitten Kitchen, and Deb made no mention of excessive watery-ness.

Try at your own risk. Deb’s photo is way better than the epicurious.com photo, and makes it look much more appealing, too.

Chopped Vegetable Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Bon Appetit, June 2008

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Campari or plum tomatoes, diced, drained

1 1/2 cups diced seeded watermelon

1 large green bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

1/2 large English hothouse cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

1/2 cup very thinly sliced radishes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

10 ounces feta cheese, broken into small cubes (about 2 1/2 cups), divided

2 green onions, chopped, divided

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves, divided

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Toss first 5 ingredients and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Add half each of cheese, green onions, and mint. Mix remaining cheese, green onions, mint, and oil in processor; add yogurt and oregano. Process just to blend (do not over-mix or dressing will get thin). Season dressing with salt and pepper; mix into salad.

But since that is completely untried, I feel it is only fair to give you something I HAVE made and can recommend. Since this is a completely made-up recipe based on something I spotted in the Whole Foods prepared foods section (when it was still Bread & Circus, that’s how long ago it was), I can only give you faint suggestions for quantity. Work with me, it all comes out fine in the end. I’m sure there are a zillion versions of this on epicurious.com and elsewhere if you are more precise than I.

Uh, let’s call it…

Black Bean, Pepper and Corn Salad with Lime-Cilantro Dressing

1 medium or half of a large Bermuda (the purple ones), minced

A couple of bell peppers, diced (go for color here. I recommend green and red, or green and orange)

About 4 cups corn kernels orn, can be from the cob or the bag. Grilled is nice, but I rarely make that much effort.

2-3 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained. (Add 2, then mix and review your ratios. Add more if you like.)

The Dressing

Whisk together about 1/4 cup fruity green olive oil, the juice of one lime, 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon cumin, a dash of cayenne pepper and about a 1/4 of finely minced fresh cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over chopped vegetables in a bowl. Adjust ingredients of dressing to taste, and add more as needed. Mix well. (Should just make a light film on the beans and vegetables.)

Note: Much like the Texas Caviar salad versions, also another good cold summer salad, this can be bulked up with 2-3 cups of cooked grains: rice, orzo pasta, quinoa, you name. it. Chill and serve cold with lime wedges on the side and a sprig of cilantro on top.

Okay readers, I can’t wait to see what YOU’VE got for summer salads on this historic Food Friday, the first to include readers. Leave a link to your blog, or a website with one of your favorite summer salads or just add the whole recipe in the comments. Because we’ve got plenty more of these hot summer days left.

Next Friday? Keeping cool with frozen treats! Tell me what you do, or would love to try making with ice cream, sherbet, sorbet or ices this summer. Need inspiration? Check out the July issue of Martha Stewart living, and this search on epicurious. Mmmmmm….

How to Charm Me

July 15, 2008

Tell me Henry “is soooooo cute, Mom. I want us to have another baby in our family.”

And then, a few days later, tell me that when you are a “big man” you want to “get married when Henry gets married, so you can always live together.”

–William, age FOUR IN JUST SIX DAYS as he would tell you

These little gems tide me over when I hear the usual din, like, “Moooooooom, Henry isn’t sharing!” and “Moooooooom! Henry pulled my hair!”

Cows and Cones

July 14, 2008

I have about 597 Maine photos I could be posting today, but summer keeps rolling on and I loved these photos of boys and ice cream from last Friday, taken at a new local farm stand/farm/dairy bar. Animals galore, beautiful farm scenery, a lovely shaded place to sit and very good ice cream. Locals? I highly recommend, ask me for the 411.

Not pictured: the swim that immediately followed this ice cream outing.

Well, HELLO, ice cream, where have you been all my life?

Must eat quickly. Must not look up or breathe in between bites.

No WAY am I sharing this with my little brother or anyone else. No WAY.

Little does Will know he already did share—a scoop out of his into Henry’s empty cone…

So the toddlers (mysteriously replaced here by these hip, vacationing dudes) stayed neat and clean while the ALMOST four-year-old had to ditch the shirt after ice cream. How does that work?

Dude! Enough with the cows. Isn’t there a casino around here someplace?

THE BEST PARENTING TIP YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE HERE. OR ANYWHERE ELSE.

When faced with an outing like this, particularly when the child/adult ratio is not favorable to adults? Forego your dreams of licking and savoring a scoop of mint chocolate chip or that sundae you’ve had on your mind.

No, I say cut your losses and GET YOURSELF A MILKSHAKE. Even when it gets a little melty, because you’ve just had to spend precious minutes away from your ice cream to strip down and hose off a child, you still have a sweet, delicious treat waiting for you when you return, almost entirely uncompromised, and it won’t spill or melt down your arm. You know, the one you’re using to pry them off the cow fence.

This strategy almost always works perfectly.

For more Best Shot Monday and perhaps more messy boys headover to Tracy’s for the full Best Shot Monday roundup.

Food Friday: A new look at an old summer favorite—Potato Salad

July 11, 2008

My head is so far into summer that I can barely emerge long enough to do things like, oh, think past my next swim. Even the fun stuff, like making playdates, or figuring out our next adventure seems like a little too much work some days—it’s been so great just to let the day happen, as least as much as I can.

As you can imagine, I haven’t felt too imaginative in the dinner department, either, but inspiration is beckoning, with summer’s best produce beginning to file into the kitchen.

Like yesterday, when Will and Henry picked and ate the first two ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden, and I knew it was time to post (and make) this twist on potato salad. We had this at a Memorial Day party, and immediately hunted down the recipe. I’ve made it once before, but as soon as I gather a big enough handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden (when H&W aren’t looking!), I’m all over this recipe again.

Note: This recipe is best made and eaten on the same day. The leftovers were a wan, watery version of the original robust salad.

P.S. I’d love to hear what YOU do with potato salad at your house, and see if you can top this one. It won’t be easy, of course, this one has BACON and AVOCADOS. Mmmm…

Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Bacon and Avocado

5 pounds small red potatoes (I probably used more like 3-4 pounds)

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (used the full pound, of course)

3 small avocados (I think mine were medium to large, but I’m not complaining about extra avocado)

6 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (I halved mine, and used about 2 cups, was still good)

12 scallions, sliced thin (had no scallions and used red onion instead, minced finely)

12 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or to taste

6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

12 Tablespoons olive oil (I used a super green and fruity one)

salt and pepper to taste

In a steamer set over boiling water, steam the potatoes, cut into one-inch pieces, covered for 8-10 minutes or until tender, then let cool. (I confess, I didn’t do this, but just boiled them. I’ll try this next time, though they were fine with the boiling method.)

In a serving bowl, combine the potatoes, bacon, tomatoes and the avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into half-inch chunks. Add in the scallions and basil.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, and pour the dressing over the potato mixture. Toss the salad gently until well combined.

Serve warm or chilled, delicious both ways!

OKAY READERS, YOUR TURN

No need for me to be the only one having all this food fun. And in fact, you’d eat a whole lot better if there were some more cooks posting their favorites each week. I happen to know of many WAY more accomplished cooks/foodies out there. Some of you are already writing about your food adventures on Fridays, and my mouth is watering at the thought of reading your food contributions.

So let’s do this—if you’ve got a recipe to share, do it on your blog next Friday and leave a link to your blog in the comments here at Food Fridays. And if you don’t have a blog, put the whole recipe in the comments.

I’ll even throw out a topic for next week: summer salads. Bring on your summer best for next Friday!

Thank you to Eileen Doolittle for this delicious recipe!

Vacation: The Aftermath

July 9, 2008

I have…

…seen a little boy’s dream come true: a candy-filled pinata hanging from a digger.

…600 plus photos to wade through.

…four small pieces of Maine granite on my washing machine, removed from various pockets, also one half of a sand dollar, three bird feathers and a snail shell. Relieved to find no dessicated snail inside.

…funny pictures of loveable, goofy kids.

…seen harbor seals, blue skies, kids splashing in lakes, green waves, osprey nests, outdoor showers, kids playing in mud, foggy mornings and beautiful dinners.

…heard the sounds of not one but two two-year-olds singing “happy birthday” over and over again.

…eaten my weight in blueberry pancakes, fresh strawberries, popovers, chocolate birthday cake and lobster. Oh, and butter.

…picked (and cut!) at least 10,000 strawberries.

…no need to ever hear “Blueberries for Sal” on tape again.

…watched kids flee from their dinner.

…4,869,596,381 grains of sand in car, bags, house and washing machine.

…witnessed brotherly love (ouch!)

…captured four cousins in a tree…

…three brothers on a deck…

…and two brothers back home again.

And millions of great stories and happy memories.

Thanks, guest bloggers, for doing such a stand-up job of taking over here—I think I could take the whole summer off!

Gotta go, I have a few more pictures to sort through…more tomorrow!

Everyone Was a Baby Once

July 6, 2008

Welcome the fabulous and funny writer and working mother-of-four Jen from Get In The Car! who is one of my favorite bloggers and I’m delighted to have her posting at Hank and Willie today. As her regular readers know, Jen and family are tending to a family member with an unexpected illness and would certainly welcome your prayers and good wishes.

* * *


These past ten days have been surreal for my family. In the midst of the regular summer crazies the most unexpected tragedy befell my brother-in-law. This post won’t be about what happened, although I can tell you he is alive and with a spirit intact and filled with generosity, love and gratitude.

No, this post is about the child in all of us. And it came about in the most unexpected way. Today I worked at the hospital (I’ve been MIA since the PTA Convention and then with my brother-in-law). Late this afternoon I walked onto one of the ICU floors to get some paperwork filled out by a patient. The first thing I noticed was the grim-faced police officer sitting outside of his room, clacking away on a small official looking laptop. I did a double take on the patient’s chart – oh. Meth overdose. No wonder.

I felt myself harden inside as I judged this young man for his foolish choice before even crossing the threshold to his room. I’m a mom. I protect my own children from this kind of trash. I stepped in and took a good look. He was only twenty-four, but nearly unrecognizable as a young man. His skin was pocked and eaten away by meth sores, and he had white streaks slashed across his cheeks where the acidic vomit (imagine what your body would do if you regularly consumed Meth) had left its angry mark on his ravaged skin. I asked his nurse if I could talk with him and she shrugged her shoulders and looked at him with contempt.

“He’s sleeping it off. Wake him up.”

I understood why she felt this way – all the sick people needing care and this delinquent eats poison and gets some of the best care in the state. Her attitude may have been wrong by medical ethics standards, but I can understand.

“Mr. Meth Head?” [not his real name] “I need you to wake up so that I can speak with you.”

He slowly opened his swollen, bruised lids. He was obviously confused as to where he was, and for a brief moment, his vulnerability shone through him like a beam of light. Almost instantly I felt overwhelmed with compassion. What kind of life led him to this path? What was he numbing inside of him with drugs? Maybe nothing. Maybe he was just a junkie who had been given every opportunity and screwed it up anyway. Or maybe he had an unspeakably painful past.

I put my hand on his arm. “This won’t take long. I know you’re feeling sick and I’ll be quick.” I looked down and saw that his hand was handcuffed to the bed rail.

After I finished up, I turned to leave and I heard him croak out to me, “Has anyone told you you’re beautiful today?”

I quickly smiled and left. The cop gave me a grin and joked that I had a date as soon as he got out of jail.

Later, when I got home today and hugged my children hello, my six year-old son brushed past me and then turned, almost as an afterthought. He looked up at me with clear, blue eyes. He drives me crazy with the longest eyelashes you can imagine – they nearly rest on his perfect pink cheek and I joke that it’s a tragic waste on a boy.

“Mama? You look beautiful today.”

I felt my knees nearly buckle as I bent down to give him a squeeze. I will do my best by him, but no one knows where he’ll be in twenty years. I whispered into his soft ear, “Thank you, baby. You’re beautiful, too.”

I’ll bet that young man handcuffed to the bed was once a beautiful boy, too.