Friday, March 2, 2012

oscillate - vegetable, craft, or mistake?

At our house, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and May day mean crafts. For me, there is a certain similarity between doing craft projects with my children and my relationships with certain vegetables. With both, I like the idea of them. In the abstract, I think “Yes! Squash. We could really eat more Squash." In the same moment I am distracted by something shiny on the seed rack and think "Hey! Look at this lovely seed packet for red and white striped beets! I’ll get these and these lovely locally grown squash.” With craft projects I think “Oh wow, that papier-mâché birthday dinosaur egg piñata looks fun! We could absolutely do that this weekend.”

Then, with both, I order/find/abscond with all the ingredients. I put them neatly in my “craft projects to do” basket or in my crisper and then put the entire thing off. Sometimes I find that procuring the ingredients for my life is exhausting. Now I need a nap and a bit of tea. I don’t need to be getting all gluey or figuring out what to do with a squash. I need a bath. (Also, a nap?)

A day later . . .

“No . . . I don’t think we’ll make squash soup tonight. Tonight seems more of a taco night. Where did I put the cheddar cheese?”


“No . . . I think the children are too tired to make the papier-mâché dinosaur birthday egg piñata. They’ve had a busy day. Why don’t we watch Mary Poppins instead?”

Finally, when I have put off the squash so that we are in a “compost this tomorrow or eat it today” situation, I take the plunge and give them a whirl. I find a recipe that is interesting enough for me and not too “strange” for them (“Mama, why do you serve us strange food sometimes? We like food that is not strange”), and I press on. When served, the soup is a beautiful orange and steaming with flavor. I am excited to be serving such a healthful meal to my family.

Everyone watches me take a bite. I do so with exuberance. There is hesitation on the part of the others at the table. Everyone takes a teeny tiny bite. Noses are wrinkled. J, in his analytical fashion, explains that he’s sure that squash soup is delicious, but he needs to eat new foods very slowly and that next time we have it he plans to have two teeny tiny bites. They offer me the remainder and pour themselves cereal and make toast. As I eat my bowl of squash soup and they eat their cereal, I console myself with the study that came out a few years ago that says that children will eventually eat what they see their mothers eating. I extol the virtues of vegetable eating and I explain the importance of a varied and vegetable-rich diet.

And then . . . about halfway through my bowl of soup, I find myself not really “into” squash any longer. I’m not feeling full, exactly. I’m just over squash. I find myself eyeing the strawberry jam toast everyone made.

The same thing happens with crafts. When we are finally in a moment where no one is hungry, crabby or chasing someone else, we jump in. We get out the modge podge and the newspaper, the balloons and the construction paper. We get out the scissors that cut scalloped edges and we consider whether glitter glue is appropriate for this project. We turn on the happy music.

We wonder briefly why T needs to mix up the glitter with the glue for the inside of the dinosaur egg piñata, but we press on, trumpeting artistic freedom. Secretly I am sure that unfettered glue and glitter access will somehow lead to her later success. Fifteen minutes in, Elizabeth Mitchell is crooning “Little Liza Jane” and I am in the zone. I am glittering, slathering and enjoying. I am taking in their focus, the way they get such joy from a bunch of gluey newspaper and a balloon. My heart is full, my hands are unrecognizable, and I am so grateful to be whiling away the afternoon with these lovely people I share my life with.

In the next moment, the half-done papier-mâché balloon bounces onto the floor and the glitter goes bouncing too. The children decide that they are too too sticky and they want a bath and E starts crying because she got glue in her eye. I carry them down to the bath and get them settled. I come back up. I see glue. I see half-covered papier-mâché balloons and glitter. I see the drying glue that trailed the path of the errant balloon. I sigh. I want to take a bath myself. I am so over crafts.

It takes me about two and a half weeks to forget about the squash soup or the last 40 minutes of the dinosaur egg piñata project. Then, while trolling on the internet I think “Wow the kids would really have fun making those lace EasterEggs” or “Wow—that’s a neat way to cook a turnip” and we are off.

oscillate - back, and forth. and back. and forth.


  1. I love this. Such vivid pictures your writing evokes. And of course the literal pictures are vivid, too.

  2. I'm always THERE, hearing your kids and sharing your frustrations, when I read your posts. Of course, I really AM there in some of these ... I swear that you're pulling specific instances straight out of my memory too!