Category Archives: science

Kitchen confidential

Due to my position as a feral housewife who writes about her family, I am often asked by people what advice I’d give to someone who was unsure about having children.  

OK, technically no one asks me that question but it seemed like a good opener and I have been itching to use the phrase “feral housewife” ever since I encountered it on a random Internet meme. But if someone DID ask me this question, my answer would be this: 

Are you ready to make three meals a day, every day, for probably the rest of your life, only to have each of those meals verbally eviscerated by tiny personal versions of Gordon Ramsay? No? Then get you a dog and prepare to live a happy, peaceful life. 

If yes, my sincerest apologies in advance. I recommend stocking up on boxed wine and designating a drawer in your fridge as your “stress cheese” drawer now before you even get started. 

See, no one warned me and my husband that children expect to eat all the time. Nor that they also hate any and all food. Oh sure, our friends and family might have mentioned their children were “picky” eaters but we, in our sweet, innocent naivety, didn’t realize “picky” is code for “eats three things but not really even those things.” For example, my children only eat chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and fish sticks (but not THAT kind of fish sticks, the other kind). Oh wait, sorry, they also say they like pizza. Except they don’t really like pizza. My first grader only eats the crusts and my preschooler makes me scrape off all the toppings and sauce so she can eat the dough underneath. Because they are monsters. 

Adding insult to injury were all the parenting books we read (ok, the one parenting book we kind of skimmed) that insisted family mealtimes are of the utmost importance for a child’s development without ever once mentioning that the majority of those family mealtimes would be spent arguing over how the pasta smells gross and the meatloaf looks like dog poop. 

Then there’s all those pesky doctors insisting on the importance of children eating a varied diet full of different vitamins and nutrients in order to be healthy. LIES. All of it. My children are somehow still thriving and with a seemingly endless supply of energy despite not knowing the difference between a tomato and a watermelon. 

They don’t even have scurvy and I’m pretty sure they should have scurvy by now. My daughter licked an apple six months ago and it’s the only vitamin C she’s had since. I’m not saying science is wrong. I’m a big believer in science. I’m just saying that while man cannot live on bread alone, little boys apparently can because science simply cannot compete with the stubbornness of children. 

I used to enjoy cooking, you know? I found it calming and at the same time creative. I found a quiet joy in chopping and a contentment in coming up with new menu ideas. A chef transforming ingredients into life sustaining works of art for the people she loved.

But now? I am merely a sweaty, red-faced short order cook, taking the same orders in a gruff manner day after day and barking out names of dishes for my husband to whisk away to our unhappy regulars.

It’s exhausting. 

Perhaps that’s why it all came to a head a few nights ago. Maybe that’s why after enduring meal after meal greeted with that same look of disgust and disappointment on their faces, I lost it. Or possibly those selfish little picky weasels had it coming. 

Whatever it was, I snapped. Over an hour making dinner from scratch, all of which was greeted with groans and anger. ANGER. They didn’t just not like my food, they were angry I would even present it to them. 

So I did the scariest thing a mom on the edge could do. I swallowed my own rage and looked coolly at them. Then, in my calmest voice, I said…

“Fine.”

And their dinner went into the trash can. 

Dramatic, sure. But not if you view it in context. That context being my first instinct was to throw open the window and hurl the plates even more dramatically through it. 

Oh, you should have heard it. The howling, the wailing. How could I do that?! What will we eat now!? We were going to eat it, we swear! Can you make us something else?

To which I answered, easy, nothing, don’t care, nope. 

Now, I’m not naive enough to think that this little episode will change much of anything. But when it comes down to it, that’s not the point. The point is it felt really, really good and I’m smiling even now as I type this and remember the look of horror on their little faces. 

And now I can go back into the kitchen with a bit more serenity, a bit more of the old me who loved cooking. Because should they keep complaining, I still have my “dramatically throws food out the window” bit. Then, after that the roof. Eventually I could hire a crane and drop the plates from there. 

The possibilities are endless, really. 

Not all that glitters is marigold

I once was very mean to a marigold. It wasn’t anything personal. It was merely in the name of science.

Specifically, that name was the Fourth Grade Science Fair. The birthplace of so many childhood wrongs. Somehow I had convinced my teacher of the merit of the hypothetical question “Does Being Nice to Plants Help Them Grow?” A fantastic scientific query when you are both lazy but insecure about being lazy and want to make it kind of seem like you care while doing minimal work. 

So I planted two marigold seeds. Once I day I would sing to one and read it books and was on my best behavior. The “grandma is over for a visit and it’s her birthday” behavior. 

And to the other one I was verbally abusive in that unique, dark, unholy way that only a 10-year-old girl can be. 

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I don’t remember my official “results” or even my grade. The only conclusion I took away was the knowledge that the entirety of this one marigold’s life was having a freckled brat angrily try out new curse words on it when her mother wasn’t around. 

This lingering guilt likely explains my current awkward relationship to plants. Why I have never gardened. Why house plants stress me out. Why I prefer to let plants run wild and free in nature. I do not, under any circumstance, want to be responsible for them. As soon as they are in my care, I feel the crushing burden of having to keep them not only alive, but happy. And I don’t necessarily trust myself with the weight of this commitment considering I have seen the immoral results of my former mad scientist self. 

I killed a flower WITH WORDS.

I’m a monster. 

Which brings me to last week. There are always consequences when one tries to play God with Nature. Mine came in the form of my friend Melissa, who very sweetly and generously surprised my kids with their very own starter vegetable garden kit. Complete with 15 different seed pods. It was one of those enrichment activities I’d heard so much about but have never, ever done with my children. I wasn’t worried though. At least at first. I assumed like most other things that were good for us, my family and I would talk excitedly about it for 15 minutes and then forget about it completely. 

Oh, but then how their eyes lit up. For the first time in a long time. They were engaged. They were getting along. They were happy in a way I hadn’t seen since school shut down. 

Sigh. 

So we planted the tiny seeds in the tiny pods while the kids peppered me with one thousand questions. All of which I enthusiastically answered wrong because I know zero about gardening but still wanted to encourage their newfound passion.

“Momma! What are turnips!?”

“Sad onions!”

“How did turnips get their name!?”

“They were discovered by Joe Turnip of Indiana!”

“What do leeks taste like?”

“Like celery that is wearing a bow tie!” 

And from there things started to spin out of control. I casually asked my mom to help me find something to put all these seed pods in because she knows more about gardening than her marigold murdering daughter. Before I knew it, a large garden bed, a toolkit, adorable tiny gardening gloves and four giant bags of soil were making their way to my house. Because a Memaw who misses her grandchildren and who has an Amazon Prime account at her disposal is a dangerous creature. 

Then my husband started talking about how we’ll need a trellis for the tomato plants and maybe a tiny fence to keep out the bunnies and maybe we could plant some sunflowers too. 

And daisies, added my daughter.

And tulips, added my son. 

And, lo and behold, I am now the reluctant owner of a garden. Responsible for the health and happiness of dozens of tiny lives. Which means I’m obsessively watching them and constantly questioning if I’m over or under watering and following my husband around the house telling him about all the awful things I learned on Google today.

“Did you know some ancient religions thought plants had souls?”

“Did you know trees make cries for help? Like when they’re in danger or thirsty?”

“Did you know plants know when they’re being eaten? They send out defense mechanisms to try to stop it.”

Sigh. 

I guess the punishment fits the crime. As they say, the arc of history bends toward justice. 

But as they also say, you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her like it. 

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