I planted a little agave, adorably of the “jaws” variety, outside my kitchen window five years ago. It was a poor choice. The thing grew into an enormous, dagger-toothed monster that was forcing its way through the siding on the house and up under the deck. It curved around a bend in the house and brushed its spiky arms against the hose spigot so you had to be very tender when turning the water on or off. Its sharp limbs protected a sprawling patch of bermuda grass that I would have very much liked to weed. The agave had to go. Last week, I used a reciprocating saw to slice the agave’s arms off, one by one. I apologized to the plant because hacking a healthy plant to bits really felt like a cold-blooded thing to do. And the kids watched me in horror, Henry wishing aloud along the way that the agave would be able to to survive this somehow. It didn’t. After the arms were off, I kicked at and dug around the giant ball of dismembered agave that was still rooted in the soil and eventually rolled it out of its spot. The kids lost interest and wandered inside to play a game of triple dice. It’s a game Henry invented where you take turns rolling a foam 12-sided die and tripling the number it lands on (so if you roll a 12 you get 36 points). The first person to 200 points wins. I stayed outside to finish raking up the bermuda grass and agave massacre, and then the kids started screaming.
Henry ran outside and was crying and yelling incoherently, and George was still screaming inside so I grabbed Henry and ran inside to George. George had a gash on his forehead and blood was streaming down his face and over his little thermal shirt. I scooped George up and held him for a second, wondering what to do, and screamed at Henry, because it turned out he had pushed George, causing him to hit his forehead on the metal bed post. I carried George over to the kitchen and dug through the band aid box, looking for one that would help stop the bleeding. I found a blister bandage, one that’s all sticky with no cotton pad, and put that on. This would turn out to be another mistake. Henry wouldn’t stop following me around and screaming and crying. I glared at him and told him, through gritted teeth, to sit down in a chair and to stop making noise because I had to call the doctor’s office to see what we had to do. I was on hold waiting to talk to the nurse for 15 minutes. I held George in my lap while I waited and sat across the table from Henry. I told him how disappointed I was and how serious this is. For his part, Henry was devastated. Andy came home early and George and I went to the doctor’s office, where I had to use a fistful of alcohol swabs to try to remove that horrible band aid without tugging on George’s wound, and then lie on his chest and hold his hands down while the doctor glued his cut closed. He did so well. While the glue was drying on his forehead we sat in the little patient room and read a Caillou book. I offered to go anywhere he wanted for dinner. We could go get pancakes, we could go to Gattitown for pizza. He wanted Sonic- a burger and fries wacky pack with a hot fudge sundae with a cherry on top. I asked him what he wanted to drink and he said “the ice cream sundae can be my drink!” Whatever you want, George. When we got home, Henry gave George a picture of a light saber that he had spent the entirety of the time we were out drawing, with “I’m sorry” printed on the bottom. We sat around the table while George ate his sundae and talked about what had happened. How George will likely have a scar for the rest of his life from this. Then we put the kids to bed. I told Henry that I was still feeling really angry and upset, but that I wanted him to know that I loved him.
I don’t feel like I handled any of this particularly well. I saw George hurt and I lost my damn mind. I wish I was calmer and quieter and less reactionary. That I had taken the time to tend to George and compose myself before talking to Henry instead of screaming at him as soon as I walked in the door. Also I probably shamed Henry too much for this. Although I’m not clear on how much shaming is the right amount. Is it none? I wanted him to know the full extent of what he had done, how serious it was, but maybe seeing your brother bleed like that and then have to go to the doctor to have the wound glued closed would have been enough all on its own. Blaargh. I don’t know.
Here’s what we ate this week.
Coconut-Lime Pork Tacos with Black Beans. The forehead incident came after a week or so of me feeling like the kids were getting so much easier. Andy’s been playing a lot of real, grown-up board games with Henry- Oceanos, Catan Junior, and Henry’s absolute favorite and new obsession, Nintendo Monopoly. He has memorized every property and its price, how much you have to pay when it has every level of power up and what you’ll owe if you land on one that has been made invincible. While those two play games, George and I have been driving around the city, running errands together. He’s a charming companion, and happy to go anywhere. Although if it’s to the library or Home Depot he will pass the time by wedging his body in an empty patch of the bottom section of a nearby shelving unit and yelling “Come find me!!” On this day, we had an uncharacteristically great day at parkour, which has been the scene of so many of my children’s struggles. When Henry’s class was over I asked him how it was and he swept his open hand across the sky as if gazing upon a vast panorama and said “Great!” We came home and everyone ate tons of this coconut lime pork. George eats a bowl of the stuff that has been reserved before the black beans are added, because he hates beans. Henry eats two or three bowlfuls, scooped up chili-style with blue corn tortilla chips. And Andy and I eat it as tacos. I used two pounds of Blue Earth Farm‘s heritage ground pork, which is extra-fatty and extra flavorful. I drained off a cup of fat, flavored with the garlic, oregano, and smoked Spanish paprika the pork was cooked with, which I’m planning to use when I cook beans or in a small batch of tamale dough. Highly recommended.
Avocado Toast with Blue Earth Farm Greens. Eating green things is part of my new year’s resolution. The day before, the kids and I ate almost a full pound of sopita- vermicelli noodles toasted and cooked with tomato chicken bouillon- the Mexican equivalent of Top Ramen. It’s delicious and entirely unsatisfying. I’m hungry an hour after eating platefuls of it and I feel bad about myself.
Enchiladas Suizas. The kids and I ate an early dinner of these enchiladas on Thursday and then watched My Neighbor Totoro while Andy was at Toastmasters. That is such a wonderful movie. The kids’ favorite line, if you’ve seen it, is “What a stupid bucket!” I love how brave the two little girl protagonists are and the family dynamics. Also that the little boy in the movie is kind of a twerp.
Banana Bread with Milk Chocolate Chips. We’re in the process of renovating our master bathroom. It hasn’t been touched since the house was built in 1968 and it’s got problems. Every pipe- under the sink, the toilet, the shower- leaks. The water that drips out of the toilet tank is a rusty red color that stains the floor tiles. The shower tiles are a musty, mold-lined cream. My brother-in-law Jordan is doing the tile work for us, my neighbor Otto the carpentry, but I don’t have a plumber connection so had to go outside my network for that. It was shockingly expensive to fix everything. And in the process of fixing the broken drain in the bathtub, the plumber discovered that he couldn’t fix the broken drain in the bathtub. The old piece had been welded in, and the whole 700 pound cast iron bathtub would need to be removed to fix it, something they estimated would cost an additional $1200. Fuck! For $2000, he said, they could smash the tub to pieces and install a same-size shower pan so we could have a walk in shower instead. We’re going for it.
This banana bread is supposed to also have crystallized ginger in it, which sounds outrageously good to me, but I didn’t have any. It’s from the Orangette blogger’s first book, My Homemade Life, which I finished this week and enjoyed very much. I especially liked the recipes at the end of every chapter. So far I’ve made the french toast pan-fried in vegetable oil, the red cabbage salad shown below, and this banana bread, all of which I would make again. I offered a piece of the banana bread to the plumber, who was young and fit. He declined, noting that his wife has him on a no-carb diet and that she weighs him every night. Andy later declined because it had chocolate in it. I liked it very much.
Egg and Bacon Sandwich, Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper. George and I braved the Saturday morning cold to visit the SFC farmers market for the first time in months. I bought a sprightly little head of purple cabbage to make this simple salad from My Homemade Life. It was good but not life-changing. The bacon/egg/cheddar grilled sandwich was pretty great. The kids ate that oil-fried french toast with no cabbage, thank you very much.
Ginger Chia Pudding. This looks like some diseased petri-dish experiment but it was actually my breakfast! My first breakfast. I had another one a little later. It’s pretty okay I guess, if you are on board with the slippery slimy feeling of a million sodden chia seeds sticking to the front of your teeth. I ate a few bites and decided to save the rest for tomorrow.
California and Florentine Benedicts at Crema Bakery & Cafe. Then I went out to breakfast with my friend Christy and ate again. We split two different benedict orders, with two different sides from this little bakery way down south on Brodie. These things were $8 and totally delicious! And they serve them every day! And the owner is a cool lady! It was delicious and it was really nice to go out without the kids and spend time with my friend.
Candied Kumquats. My sister surprised me with a gorgeous bag full of softball-sized meyer lemons and tiny perfect kumquats. I knew Cathy Barrow would have an idea of what to do with kumquats and I was right, as usual. Ha! Seriously though, I was right. These take two days to make but it’s really easy work. And you can do all sorts of things with the finished product. I want to cut some in half and take out the seeds and then nestle them into a buttermilk cake batter.
Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Chops, Cara Cara Chop Salad. The pork chops are more of that Blue Earth heritage pork, cooked in my very favorite way to eat chops- they’re marinated in a caramel/lemongrass/shallot/garlic puree and then cooked very quickly in a hot cast iron skillet. The salad is from Heidi Swanson’s Near and Far, which I got at the library. There are some annoying things about the cookbook-notably her inclusion of ingredients like “micro scallions”- but includes some really stellar looking recipes too. We’ve been hot and heavy with cara cara oranges since the new crop has arrived at Central Market, and this salad made brilliant use of them. The recipe calls for radicchio, not the dino kale I used, so the real deal is even more beautifully colored.
We’re ending the week down one giant agave, one bathtub, and one unmarred forehead. We’re starting a new one with a chance to be better, do better, and eat more green things. I’m all in.
Arielle, thank you for once again making my day with your delightful storytelling. i laugh, I weep, I feel hope for all of us when I read your accounts of well lived everyday life.
For what it’s worth, we had a similar accident when my brother and I were similar ages to Henry and George–I was probably 6 and my brother 4. We were playing, and he slipped and hit his head on the marble coffee table and bled like mad. 50 years later, I don’t remember how much my mother yelled at me (I’m sure it was a lot) but I still remember the guilt I felt. (And unless you hysterically told the doctor on the phone that you could see your son’s brain through the gash, I can assure you that you handled the situation better than some Jewish mothers handled similar situations).