August 4, 2017
By Ekta R. Garg
Enjoy these Spurts from the last two weeks, readers!
Lately the kids have been bugging me to let them help more with chores. I don’t know whether it’s because my children are strange or because this is that sweet spot most people talk about with their kids. You know, after the tedium of diapers and stopping to examine every single bug on the sidewalk but before the nightmare of slamming doors and being told how awful we are as parents.
Regardless, I’m making the most of it.
One day last week Eleven wouldn’t let the idea go, so I told her to take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer. I explained the trick of giving each item of clothing a little shake before tossing it into the dryer to help it dry that much faster. Then I told her about the lint trap and how it needed to be checked.
“Do you know what lint is?” I asked, realizing its dishwater grayness can sometimes freak people out.
“Oh, yeah,” she replied immediately. “I’ve seen enough episodes of Full House. Danny Tanner, lint—I know all about it.”
Who said 1990s sitcoms were all froth and no substance?
Earlier this week we arrived at the YMCA for camp, and the kids started climbing out of the car. Eleven grabbed her snack bag and water bottle. Nine grabbed her snack bag and made for the door.
“Water bottle,” Eleven called out.
“Just bring it,” I told her. “I know it’s her responsibility to remember it, but as a big sister it’s your responsibility to help out your little sister when you can.”
She didn’t say anything as we walked toward the sliding door entrance of the building.
“Of course, eventually the younger siblings learn to take care of their own things,” I said. “Then us older siblings keep doing things for them anyway, just to annoy them.”
“Anything that annoys her is good,” Eleven quipped.
“You know that the younger ones usually want to annoy their older siblings too,” I said.
Good. As long as we’re square on that. Don’t want anyone telling me later that they weren’t warned.
Like many parents who own the duty of meal planning, sometimes I get stuck for new ideas. Occasionally I have random items left in my fridge from other meals and want to try something new with them. Earlier this week the item was orange marmalade, not a favorite by a long stretch in our house, and I decided to tackle a couple of Rachael Ray’s recipes.
Rachael and I—or, her shows and I, at least—go way back, all the way to the earliest days of my marriage, and I own several of her cookbooks. I’ve made many dishes from the books to varying degrees of success. Sometimes it’s as much about trying a new technique as anything else.
The orange marmalade made its way into an orange-balsamic glaze for some turkey breasts, and Rachael suggested a lemon risotto to go with it. I’d never made risotto before, although I’ve watched her and other TV chefs do it, so I figured this was a good chance to try something new. Broaden my own skills, as it were. I added a side of steamed green beans and decided to call it a meal.
The turkey came together really well. The green beans came in a steam-ready bag from the store, so they came out fast. The risotto took the longest, which surprised me. I knew it would take a while, but Rachael called it at about 18 minutes. I found myself standing there for almost 45, still stirring and waiting for all the liquid to absorb (although I did bump up the quantity in her recipe, so that’s why it took so long.)
When we sat down to eat, I got a thumbs up on the green beans and the turkey. The risotto? Not so much.
“It’s okay,” Nine said, trying to hide just how much she really didn’t like it.
“Yeah, it’s okay,” Eleven said.
Maybe there wasn’t enough lemon zest? I don’t know. My husband asked me how I made it, and I described the process of adding liquid a little at a time and stirring it and waiting for it to evaporate before adding the next ladle of liquid.
Eleven looked down at her plate and back at me. “Well, now I feel bad.”
I shook my head. “Don’t. That’s how we learn, right? We try new things, and some of them go well and some don’t.”
Neither of the girls said much about the meal after that, but I could see in their faces that they appreciated how much time and effort had gone into making it. I hope they can see this as a positive experience. Sometimes you only learn by doing; just reading about it or watching others doesn’t cut it.
This afternoon Eleven, Nine, and I got into the car to drive to the other side of the neighborhood to drop Nine off at a friend’s house. As we made our way, I spotted a turtle plodding its way down the street. I slowed down so the kids could see it.
“Mamma, we have to move it to the side of the road!” Nine, our resident animal lover, said.
“How are we going to do that?” I asked.
“Yeah, how?” Eleven asked.
“We have to pick it up!” Nine said.
“What if it bites you?” Eleven asked.
“I’ll hold it far away from me. Please, Mamma, we don’t want cars to hit it.”
I have to admit, even as I slowed the car down, stopped it, and put it in Reverse, a thousand conflicting thoughts ran through my mind. The desire for the greater good—“Helping animals helps the environment!” “Be kind to all creatures!” “Show compassion to those less fortunate than us!”—battled with the common-sense approach that infiltrates a parent’s life—“The turtle could have diseases!” “People driving down the street will get mad at us for blocking the road!” “What if the turtle bits off your leg?”
Well…maybe not common sense all the time.
As soon as I put the car in Park, though, Nine unbuckled her seat belt and opened the car door. To her credit, she didn’t make a beeline to the turtle right away. She eyeballed the street to make sure no one was driving like a crazy person. By this time one car had come to a stop behind me, and an oncoming car had stopped to see what we were up to.
I opened my own door and got halfway out. Nine made her way to the turtle, which had started to figure out that all was not right with its world. It had already pulled three legs into its shell, and by the time Nine approached it the fourth leg and its head had tucked inside its mobile home too. I exchanged a look with the lady behind me, and she smiled back.
Nine turned back to me. “Can you help me?”
She must have seen my own hesitation, because she turned right back around, picked up the shell a little gingerly, and walked it across the street. She placed it in the grass in front of a home and trotted back to the car. As soon as she got in, I hit the button for the sliding door to shut.
“Make sure you scrub your hands really well when you get to A.’s house,” I said.
“I will,” she said, and even without looking at her I could hear the smile.
We spend many hours watching documentaries of fascinating places and creatures. I’m glad that Nine got the chance to exercise her love for animals today.