Crazed In the Kitchen: August 2012   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How I Found Out My Four-Year-Old Son is Sexist

According to the all-knowing Internet, the average 4-year-old asks about 400 questions a day.

Looks like it's almost time for the big guns...
I’d say that’s a lowball number. Or my son is an over-achiever.

Matthew asks questions all the time, all day long. One minute he’s sitting quietly in his car seat in the back of the car, humming “Bad Moon Rising” and absentmindedly picking his nose, and the next moment he’s asking, “But, Mommy? How does the baby get IN the mommy’s tummy?”

One of the great things about being a stay-at-home mom is that I get to field about 350 of those 400 questions. Every. Day. And, obviously, my 4-year-old’s questions aren’t always easy. Recent topics include such doozies as God, death, where babies come from, and, of course, poop.

For example:

[On God]: “So God is, like, magic? And knows everything? Is God Santa Claus?”

Me: “errrrrr….”

[On the recent death of one of our cats]: “So, you and Daddy left Beau at the vet’s office after he died? Does that mean the vet’s office is Cat Heaven?”

Me: “uhhhhhh…”

[On how babies get OUT of their mommies]: “YOU SHOWED EVERYONE IN THE HOSPITAL YOUR VAGINA???? “

Me: [*cringe*]

[And, to his brother]: “Why are you such a poopy stinky butt?”

(Well, that one got less of an answer than a time-out, really.)

In general I try to answer my son’s questions as honestly and as factually as I can (except for the one about babies getting IN to their mommies’ tummies. I’m dodging that one for another few years).  Of course, I use language that’s accessible to a four-year-old, and sometimes I might not exactly know EVERYTHING about the subject in question, but I give it a go. So when I answered “How are tornadoes made?” with “Um, when warm air and cool air bump into each other and the warm air wants to go up and the cold air wants to go down so they end up swirling around each other and making a tornado,” I felt ok about it. He’s only four.

My answer? "Super duper hot!"
Of course, sometimes I don’t have enough information to satisfy my little professor. So I do what I always have done with my students: I admit I don’t know, and I point him toward other reliable sources of information. We have checked out library books on volcanoes (“But how hot is lava for REAL?”), looked up information on the solar system on the internet (“But what is the asteroid belt made OF?”), and read newspaper articles together (“But WHEN will the robot get to Mars? WHEN??”). And, very very very often, I refer him to his dad.

It turns out this may be a mistake.

Because, the other day at bedtime we had this conversation, which I thought was about evolution:

Matthew: “What kind of animal were mosquitoes before they were mosquitoes?”

Me: (having had enough questions and not enough caffeine) “I don’t know.”

Matthew: “I know who I’ll ask. I’ll ask Daddy or Uncle Johnnie or Papa or Grandpa. They’ll know.”

Me: (something is up here) “What about Grandma?”

Two-year-old brother (just happy to be involved): “Or Baba!!!”

Matthew: “Oh, they MIGHT know. But men are better at figuring things out than women.”

Me: (mouth literally agape) “What? Who told you that?”

Matthew (shrugging): “Me. I just thought it up myself.”

At this point I am starting to sweat. This is big stuff here, but it’s already bedtime and I’m on solo duty tonight. I’m also tired, and tired of questions.

Here’s what I WANT to say:
“Oh, Daddy and Uncle Johnnie, eh? The very two men who as we speak are at a Phish concert, probably swaying and playing slo-mo air guitar to some 15-minute-long, trippy version of “Hush Little Baby,” or some other such nonsense? Yes, I’m sure they’d give you a GENIUS answer to your question, darling.”

Here’s what I ACTUALLY say:
“What about Dr. Harvey? She’s a woman, and she knows a lot.”

Matthew’s response? “Yeah, but men doctors know more about people than women doctors.”


Now, I made a little jokey there about my husband but the truth is that other than his taste in music, he is an amazingly smart man. It’s part of what attracted me to him in the first place. This is a man who majored in math—MATH!—at an Ivy League college because, he says, “I knew it would be easy and I wouldn’t have to work too hard.” He reads pretty much everything he can get his hands on, and really does know a lot about a lot. Which is why he is my go-to back-up question answerer.

But when I refer my son to him when I don’t know something, am I sending the message that if a woman doesn’t know, the best course of action is to ask a man?? Good lord, I thought I was passing the buck but instead I’m taking down a generation’s work advancing women?? And how is it that my darling son has forgotten that I successfully (as far as he knows) answer over THREE HUNDRED of his crazy questions every day?? And I almost never say something like, “WHY is it so important to know why bumblebees don’t have stingers? WHY? LEAVE ME TO MY FACEBOOK AND WATCH YOUR YO GABBA GABBA QUIETLY!”


Anyway, this is fair warning to my mother-in-law, my stepmom, my sisters, my aunts, my grandma, and any other woman who has the bad luck of walking her dog past our house in the near future. I may be sending a small, underwear-clad boy your way—either via Skype or in person—with some random question about skunks or wind or gravity or who knows what else. Please, don’t let me—and all the women of the world—down. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Truth About Wine Labels

Tastes like GOOD wine
So today I was reading the label on my wine bottle, which is not something I usually do because, let’s be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between “oaky” and “elmy” (is that a thing?). I am no wine connoisseur—I mostly choose my wines based on their price and label. Trader Joe’s is great for choosing wine. There are maybe 8,000 different kinds of wine for under $10. And truth be told, I generally stick to the under-$6 vinos anyway. Why spend a bunch of money when I wouldn’t even know the difference? The other great thing about the wines at Trader Joes is that lots of them come from snappy little up-start vineyards in California that try to lure you in with their clever names and labels. Why else would I try a wine called “Pancake White?” (my absolute favorite, so far.) And recently I bought a bottle of red wine called Cocobon because its name sounded like cocoa and its label said it had hints of chocolate. Mention chocolate and I’m pretty much in, every time.

Anyway. Today I happened to read the label on my current bottle of white (chosen because it features an old-timey-looking drawing of an elephant) and I read this: “lovely aroma of ripe tropical fruit, fresh lemon and green apple which marry beautifully with rich vanilla oak spice and melon flavors. Drink with grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa.”

Errr…come again?

So, I sniffed the wine, really trying hard to smell any kind of fruit. Green apple? Fresh lemon? No. What I smelled was…wine. You know how wine smells? That. That is what I smelled.

Hmmm. Maybe I’m getting a cold, I thought. Maybe my allergies are acting up.

WTF is "cherry coulis???"
I reread the label and decided to taste it. I like vanilla, though I’m not entirely sure if I like “vanilla oak spice.” But it sounds good. If I found a scented candle or a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in that flavor, I’d buy it. And I like melon well enough. So, I sipped the wine. And what I tasted? Was wine. White wine, definitely, not red. But just wine. And a disappointing lack of what I call vanilla, that’s for sure.

Well, I thought, maybe it’s because I’m drinking it standing over the kitchen sink with a low-cal ice cream sandwich in my other hand. Maybe if I were drinking it with “grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa,” maybe THEN I’d taste the vanilla oak stuff. Maybe I should make some grilled chicken with a pineapple mango salsa for dinner tomorrow.

Then I laughed so hard at my little jokey that my husband asked if maybe I shouldn’t lay off the wine a little.

Pineapple mango salsa??? If I want a good pineapple mango salsa, I’ll go where god or nature intended me to go—a RESTAURANT. 

So then I got to thinking about what wine labels should really say. What many of us are ACTUALLY eating and thinking and doing when we drink wine. Here’s what I came up with:

“Pairs beautifully with guilty-pleasure reality tv and a king-size bag of M&Ms.”

“A delightful complement to chicken nuggets with a ketchup/mayonnaise dipping sauce.”

“Enjoy while gorging on an embarrassing number of Girl Scout Cookies while wallowing in your latest round of parental guilt.”

“A fine accompaniment to eating your weight in ice cream and crying over your recently deceased cat.”

“Drink with Triscuits and Facebook.”

Of course, I’m just spitballing here, it’s not like I’ve done any of these things…really, I swear.

So, what’s your favorite wine?

There's nothing like a little validation to make a blogger feel all warm and fuzzy inside--this post was syndicated on BlogHer!
Syndicated on

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dead Womb Walking?

So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my uterus.

For most of my life I have taken my uterus for granted and haven’t thought about it much at all. During my two pregnancies I thought about it A LOT, of course, but once my babies joined us on this side of my cervix, I kind of forgot about it again. But now I feel bad, like I haven’t appreciated it enough. It grew two healthy babies and helped usher them into this world just as it should. (And one of those babies was 9 pounds, 10 ounces and almost two weeks late—that’s above and beyond the call of duty, uterus-wise.) If uterus-having were an Olympic sport, I’d at least qualify for the finals, I think. (No medal, though—those would go to the Super Uteruses, like the ones in surrogate mothers and Michelle Duggar.)

So why am I now suddenly all, “How great is my uterus?”

See, I had a birthday recently. The First Annual Celebration of My 39th Birthday, to be precise.  And as the big 4-0 looms ever larger, I can’t help but wonder if my uterus’s time is up.

If it’s not just a dead womb walking.

I have always said that I want to be done having kids by age 40. I’m not sure why I drew the line at 40—I guess it was all the talk about how your fertility decreases around then, at the same time that your chances of having problems with your pregnancy increase. For whatever reason, for me and many of my friends who put off having kids until our 30s, 40 is the big cutoff date. Last call at the fertility saloon, if you will.

Well, 40 is just one year away. And if you do the math, given a nine-month pregnancy (HA!), that means we have just 3 more months to decide if I’m retiring the old uterus or calling it back into baby-making action one last time.

And I just don’t know.

There are some days when I KNOW, unequivocally, that my two darling boys are enough for me. It’s not just the days when they fight like rabid badgers, though that certainly helps. But it’s also the days when they are just wonderful; when we are lying in a heap on the couch reading a book together, or sitting on the floor at the airport eating a McDonald’s picnic and watching planes take off as we wait out a 2-hour delay. And I think, “How can I ask for more than this? Why rock this happy little boat?”

But, then… Then I remember being pregnant. Feeling those first kicks and hiccups and even the right hooks to the bladder. Somehow the balloon ankles, sciatica, and crippling nighttime carpal tunnel pain are forgotten. Instead I think about that delicious anticipation that comes before you meet your newest little one, the nine months of wondering what he or she will be like, and then the slow process of getting to know the precious little human you helped create.

(If a mom with a new baby happens to walk by as I’m having all these thoughts, there’s a good chance my ovaries will just explode.)

Ovaries exploding in 3, 2, 1...

It doesn’t help that every time I turn around or log onto facebook someone in my real or online life is announcing their third pregnancy. I can’t even read my favorite celebrity gossip magazine without hearing about Jennifer Garner’s new (third) baby or Tori Spelling getting pregnant just one month after her second baby with her current husband was born. (By the way, that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, am I right? ONE MONTH? We all know what that means, and that is completely cray cray. Good lord, give your poor lady parts a break, Tori!)

Of course, everyone assumes that if we tried for a third, I’d want a girl. And sure, there are times when I think, “Wow, everyone in this family farts a whole lot,” and then I think it might be nice to have a daughter to hide in the corner with, fanning ourselves and spraying Febreze at anyone who gets close. And, I have to admit I kind of want to see what would happen if my husband ever had to deal with little-girl hair. THAT would make for some entertaining facebook photos, I’m sure.

But truthfully, when I think about having another child, I don’t secretly wish for a certain gender. I just think about holding a squishy little newborn and smelling his or her wonderful little head. (What is it about newborns’ heads that make them smell so good?) I think about another round of first smiles, first steps, first words. I think about the amazing, addictive, indescribable feeling of love I have for my sons.

But still, I just don’t know.

I wish that the decision to have a third child were as cut-and-dried as the decision to have a first or second. With our first baby, the question my husband and I had was relatively easy to answer: Did we want kids or not? The answer was yes, the timing was right, so we moved on to the fun part. Sure we were a little scared and not entirely sure what to expect from parenthood, but we forged ahead anyway. The decision to have a second child was also easy. We asked ourselves,  “Do we want our child to have a sibling?” The answer again was yes, and though it was a little more difficult to find time for the fun part with a toddler in the house, we managed to make it happen.

It's Ryan Gosling holding a baby. *Drool*
But, a third? Not so easy. Right now, we are so lucky. My two boys are healthy. They are active, happy, little beasts who, sure, tend to break things and whine a lot and refuse to eat most vegetables, but who also, for the most part, get along with others and follow most social norms (you know, just not the ones involving nudity). They are by no means perfect, but they are perfect for US. How do I know if we are meant to have another?

So. My husband and I have some thinking to do in the next month or so. There’s a lot to consider—even more than what I’ve laid out here. My uterus is looking for answers, and I can’t keep her waiting much longer. (Uteruses are female, right? It would be weird otherwise, I think.)

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you—how did you know when you were done having children? And how did you know how many you wanted to have?