What’s That Smell? Recycled Sundays.

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David Suzuki once said that research indicates females have a higher developed sense of smell than men. I could have told you that. Most wives could have told you that.

Take Patty for example. She came home to a smell of gasoline in her house. Since she couldn’t track down the source, she phoned the fire department for advice. They said they would to come right over. She carefully explained that it was not an emergency. Nevertheless, two trucks, lights flashing and sirens wailing, roared up to her house. (It must have been a slow day at the fire hall.) The firefighters (all male) searched the entire building, top to bottom, inside and out while she stood in the shivering cold. Not one of them could locate the smell. In fact, not one of them could even smell it. The next day she learned that gasoline had been spilled in her driveway, soaked into the ground and wound up in the sump pump. That’s what she had smelled.

My husband and I often play the What’s That Smell? game. It goes something like this.

Me: “What’s that smell?”

Him: “What smell?”

Me: “That strange smell.”

Him: “What strange smell?”

Me: “Can’t you smell it? Over here. I think.”

Him: “No. I don’t smell anything.”

Me: “What do you mean, you don’t smell anything? It reeks!”

Him: “What reeks?”

Me: “Over here!”

Him: “I don’t smell anything.”

We played a continual version of What’s That Smell? Last autumn. I first noticed it when we switched to daylight saving time. It was a chilly morning. I woke, switched on the lights and turned on the furnace. A few minutes later, I asked, “What’s that smell?” The game followed the usual format. I left for work later in the day still unable to identify the mystery odor.

The smell worsened as the week progressed. Some days it was faint. Other days it seems slightly smoky. I decided there was something wrong with the heater system and telephoned a furnace expert. He arrived the next day.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he replied.

He left after thoroughly checking the system. There was nothing wrong and he couldn’t smell of thing. He decided it was probably dust in the piping.

As time passed I narrowed the smell down to the living room. I decided there must be something stuck in one of the vents. After I vacuumed them out, however, the smell remained. I despaired of ever locating the source.

One morning as I sat quietly reading the newspaper, I heard a thump on a living room end table. Since the cats were all in the kitchen with me, I went to investigate. There sat a gently smoldering green blob. I picked it up and instantly recognized the scent. It seems some little person (I assume this was a trickster fairy since both my children emphatically deny responsibility) had hidden a soft plastic toy monster on top of the lamp’s bulb. Every morning when I turned on the tri-light, the plastic would heat up and start to smell. If the light was low, the scent was weak. If I turned the light on high, the fire smoldered and smelled stronger. The lampshade hid the melting toy from my sight.

I think my husband is tired of playing the smell game. He does the shopping and although I environmentally disapprove of air fresheners, he’s been smuggling them in. It isn’t going to make any difference though. With two kids and three cats there always mysterious organic and inorganic odor makers. In fact, when my son was helping clean the family room, I noticed something.

“What’s that smell?” I asked him.

“What smell?” he responded.

I looked at his bewildered expression.

“Nevermind, son,” I said. “I’ll ask your sister.”

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Swamp weed, again! Parenting a Picky Eater. Recycled Sundays.

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Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but 9/10 of the list will be parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.

Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed the sabertooth rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either aided or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”

Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There is no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples. For two full years this will be the only unprocessed food the child will eat, switching overnight two pears, only pears, I hate apples.

There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken by Current Cartoon Remake microwavable dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “Yuck!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the microwavable dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance. Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, doughnuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has “weird stuff in it.”

Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plasticwear. At least two thirds of the refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your noodles, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, or vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like noodles anymore. The bacon is too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have reached the texture and flavour of drywall.

Pity the poor parents who express delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate chili in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade chili.

“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.

“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly response. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”

“Yeah, but these are the wrong tomatoes.”

“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s Chili has tomatoes.”

“I only like tomatoes when you can’t tell they’re tomatoes,” the child will respond firmly.

Childcare experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chili without beans, lasagna without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stroke of midnight. In which case, the parents put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a container knowing it will be eaten the same day that the children claim to be receiving too much allowance.

Published Sunday, February 16, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Parents please note: this was written before the risk of putting hot food, and especially microwaving, in plastic became public knowledge. Please use glass containers in your microwave.

P.S. This same picky eater, now an adult, has become an advocate for plant-based healthy eating. He’d have no problem eating parsley, tomatoes, or even swamp weed now.

            

Click on the cover for more information or to buy the book.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Adopting a Fluffy White Kitten, Maybe. Recycled Sundays.

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I have three cats but I’m still a normal person. I’m not a victim of feline reproduction since I’m adamant about neutering. I’m a victim of innocence.

My daughter, my son and I went to buy a sweet white kitten, the fluffy heart-tugging kind they show in toilet paper commercials. It was for my daughter, a cat-aholic if there ever was one. It would be a low maintenance pet and we’d feel good for having saved an animal from euthanasia. Unfortunately, all the ivory colored kiddies were gone. My daughter asked to see a gray female that was caged with the black and white male. The woman in charge met us at the counter with both kittens.

“One for me!” cheered my son.

I protested in vain. The woman promptly dumped both in my arms explaining that they were littermates who hadn’t been separated since birth. A single kitten would be lonely. The pair would play more and be physically and emotionally healthy. The kittens looked up with their huge trusting eyes. My children stared pleadingly. The woman smiled and offered two for the price of one. Ten eyes, waiting. I was a goner.

The black and white kitten we named Patch was the friendliest. He also had ear mites, which required swabbing both cats twice a day for two weeks. There aren’t enough pillows or oven mitts in the world to stave off a panic kitten. My husband and I looked like we’d wrestled with thorn bushes.

They did keep each other company, for almost a year. Then Misty developed into an aloof, “don’t bug me, that’s if you can find me” cat. Patch was constantly rebuffed. In a sickeningly weak moment, I decided to get him another playmate and take the pressure off Misty. I waited until another white kitten was up for adoption.

I made it clear to the children that this was to be my kitten. The white kitten was fluffy and plump. It had one blue eye and one pink. Pink eyed white cats are sometimes deaf. I clapped my hands and made silly noises, but the cat did not respond. It was either hearing-impaired or very dull.

“Look at this one, Mommy,” called my son as he watched the loose kittens through the viewing window.

I was doomed from the first glance. A black and white kitten, one ear up, one ear down, was bouncing sideways across the floor. He stopped to tumble with a tabby, and then tried to crawl up the wall to the window, meowing frantically for attention.

“He’d make a good playmate for Patch,” said my son.

The moment the scruffy little fellow was put in my arms, he twisted around and licked me.

“He’s rather ratty looking,” I protested. “Why is he scratching his ear so much? I hope he doesn’t have ear mites.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the woman. “We put down any that have ear mites.”

My children’s eyes widened. They looked from me to the kitten in horror. It’s always the eyes that get me.

“We’ll take him,” I sighed.

He didn’t have ear mites but Virgil’s done more than his share of damage and had more than his share of trips to the vet. He gives new meaning to the word pest. He’s also funny and affectionate. Patch and the kids love him. So now, we have three cats, none of them white.

September 9, 1990

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Being Santa Isn’t Easy. Recycled Sundays.

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Although people often criticize the Santa Claus figure for intensifying the commercialism of Christmas, I enjoyed his special magic. I confess I was one of the greedy children who boldly listed numerous presents, numbered in order of desirability, with appropriate locations and prices. On Christmas, I tabulated the haul beside my stocking with my requests. It never matched, but I was thrilled that an enchanted immortal elf had come right into my small shabby house and left gifts of love for a little nobody like me.

Fortunately, my own children accepted my rules about Santa letters. Santa would fill their stockings and leave one special toy for each child. They could suggest one or two ideas, but it was up to Santa to decide. What? No list? Ah, but what a thrill knowing Santa might bring that extravagant toy advertised on Saturday morning cartoons, when Mom and Dad said it was too expensive. This put the jolly man in red on SUPERHERO status.

My children suspected that Santa did not have the same standards of “good” behaviour that Mom and Dad did. Didn’t the hair-puller up the street get an incredible Ghost Buster vehicle? Didn’t the manipulative girl from school get a Barbie bride doll? Santa obviously loved them in spite of their flaws and all these dire warnings about “watching out” and not crying or pouting were nothing but parental machinations.

Fuelling the legend did not come without its physical as well as financial price. Every year we would allow the children to stay up a little later for family carolling, the reading of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and a check with CBC radio on Santa’s progress. They’d set out the snacks for Santa and his reindeer. (Honest, honey, Santa doesn’t mind store-bought cookies.) Mom and Dad would watch a bit of television or read for a while, naively assuming that the children would fall asleep during this time, enabling Santa to make his visit.

Not that our children didn’t appreciate what their parents brought. I always planned a perfect balance of gifts, equal number and equal cost. Christmas Eve, I would slip them into their sacks (I may not be able to fly in a sleigh, but I can save a few trees). The sacks are numbered, each child receiving the same number, opening them in the same order, and each matching number containing a gift of similar value. (Santa would have ho ho hoed himself silly.)

Inevitably, I would discover one of my daughter’s gifts hadn’t arrived. I would try to rejuggle them into balance of number and quality. Sometimes, I gave up and slipped a few bucks in place of the missing gift. I’d pile them carefully under the tree, then realize my son was missing a package. I already gave a gift of clothing to him on the night of the Christmas concert because last year’s outfit was suddenly too small, even though it fit the week before. Then, I’d root through the packages in search of the money, renumbering and rejuggling. (Fortunately, I have mellowed over the years.)

Time to check the children. Like four blue spotlights, their eyes shone in the dark. “Is it morning?”

“How could it be morning? You haven’t gone to sleep yet!”

“It seems like a very long time.

Not as long as it was going to seem. Mom and Dad lay quietly in the dark, trying not to fall asleep and wake to the horror that Santa screwed up. Periodically, the toilet would flush, reminding us that little children awake past their bedtime have busy bladders. Eventually, we gave the big threat. “If you keep getting up, Santa won’t come. In a couple of hours, the sun will rise and he’ll have to head back to the North Pole without bringing your presents. Stay in bed with your door shut.”

Finally, Santa arrived. He dragged out all the presents that had been stashed in obscure places. He could have stored them in the bottom of their closets or under their beds and they never would have noticed amid all the refuse of Christmases past.

The stiff plastic bags sounded like gunshots going off in the night. To his surprise, many of the gifts still had price tags. Santa peeled and scratched, only to discover most have another price below. The tags stuck to his sleeves, his pants and the bottom of his big black boots.

He filled the stockings, then turned with a sigh. One looked fuller than the other. He knew that small gifts often cost more than large ones, but did the children? Of course, I didn’t mind if he used something from under the tree to help stuff the sock. He rooted through the sacks to find something that would fill out the smaller stocking, while I rejuggled all the presents again.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, we finally got it right.”

December 1990.

                    

Click on the book cover for more information.

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

New Release – Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come

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Click here to buy “Then the Tooth Fairy Won’t Come”

Timo wants to pull Dion’s loose tooth but his methods are pretty strange. Dion won’t let him touch it. All he can think of is how Timo’s crazy ideas will result in a lost tooth. Then the tooth fairy won’t come. Should Dion figure out how to get his tooth safely out or just let it be?

A funny, imaginative story with a subtle message of how worrying makes our fears grow.

Listen to the author read part of it on youtube

An Old Man’s Dirty Secret. Recycled Sundays.

 

One of the best things about summer holidays is doing family activities you don’t have time for during the school year. Somehow, between all the lessons, columns and school events, we seldom take advantage of the free library and Parks and Recreation programs.

We even less often have time for special open-host club events or visits to parks and museums. My kids now know that summertime means examining antique dental chairs, feeding snakes, listening to lectures on the Precambrian Shield, peering through telescopes, tasting wild plants, or hiking through ruins.

Imagine my daughter’s surprise when I asked her if she wanted to go to a Rock Show.

By the time we were heading down the driveway, she realized there would be no loud music or flashing lights at this Rock Show. Guns and Roses would not be playing. I guess I should have said Rock and Mineral Show.

Enthusiasm rose when we entered the West Arthur Community Center and saw the beautiful displays. There was enough glimmering jewelry available to keep any 13-year-old interested. The artisans presented creative blend of fanciful imagination and cold, hard rock. My son was drawn to the clear crystals made into pendants and purchased one similar to that which Vincent gave Catherine in Beauty and that Beast.

We were all captivated by the very elderly gentleman who had prepared a fascinating and informative display on fossils. He asked us if we would like to learn a little about and warned us not to suggest he’s been there during the Reformation. I glanced at his thin body, white hair, heavily-lined face, and smooth pink lashless eyelids and bit my tongue. He explained the air is involved during the formation of the plant and animal fossils. We were impressed with the discovery of a creature older than the dinosaurs hidden inside a dull looking rock.

Surreptitiously, the gentleman drew my husband aside. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the lady and the young ones,” he stage whispered, “but do you know what this is?”

My husband bent to examine a blackened, round object the size of the cantaloupe. He could not identify it.

“It’s dinosaur dung,” exclaimed the gentleman gleefully.

I laughed and pulled both my wandering kids back. This would be better than seeing Guns and Roses any day. “Look, kids,” I said. “It’s fossilized dinosaur doo.”

The children examined it and then exchanged glances. At that moment a voice in the intercom announced that a talk on amethyst was beginning. We hurried off, forgetting about the dinosaur doo, for the moment.

On the way home, I asked everyone what they had liked best. We discussed the exhibits. Suddenly my son piped up. “I don’t believe that man about the fossils, though,” he said.

“Why not?”

“I think a dinosaur boob would be a lot bigger than that round black thing he showed us!”

A discussion of mammary glands and dinosaur food followed. My son laughed when he realized what the deposit really was. I asked my husband about his strange smile.

“I was just imagining if a dinosaur boob really existed.”

Rocks and Minerals for older kids site

Kids Dinosaurs site

Fossils for Kids

                    

Click on the book covers for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

“I don’t know what I want to do. Nothing interests me.” (Recycled Sundays)

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Lately I’ve been thinking about how many young people (teens and twenties) elect to do nothing in the absence of finding a “fulfilling” or “exciting” job (with good pay, holidays and benefits to boot). Personally, I’m of the belief that this almost never happens. I think we MAKE our jobs fulfilling or exciting, just like we make our lives.

I believe only boring people are bored. A creative person can find something interesting to do with a stick and a rock. A boring person can whine in a room full of toys and entertainment systems.

I think the two are related.

Stimulation rarely comes from outside. Sure, the first time you see fireworks as a child or ride a wild rollercoaster, your are pulled outside yourself. But, the rest of our lives, we need to nurture our interests. We need to investigate, experience,study, ponder, and interact with what is around us.

We need to INVEST in the experience in order to feel anything. Eventually, with time and successful encounters, our interest, attachment, and enjoyment increases. It does not fall into our lap like Newton’s apple. We grow it like the little red hen’s wheat.

So why do so many young people have difficulty doing this? It may be because we have raised them to be passive intakers. They take ballet lessons instead of inventing a dance with a broom and a record. They belong to competive teams (I am really amazed that timy little football uniforms exist) instead of organizing a game of kick the can with friends. They play on safe plastic structures in supervised and restricted ways instead of hammering together boards and an old tire. The play with gaming systems, often against people they can’t even see, instead of playing hopscotch in the driveway with the neighbour. They put batteries in their dolls who move and talk whether the child is in the room or not. Many children go to daycare, to school, and then to lessons/clubs/teams and then watch tv and go to bed.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad. They do, however, have a cumulative effect.

I wonder if living such controlled lives has disempowered our children. Are they shocked and disappointed upon reaching adulthood to find that the perfect job does not arrive shrinkwrapped and tailor made?

Just a thought.

(September 30, 2010)

                    

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

“But, Mom…” Recycled Sundays.

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Remember those patronizing books we used to receive as children about hygiene and manners. They often rhymed and had bland drawings of Dick and Jane types smiling and speaking “Oh so respectfully.” We knew they weren’t real people and would not model ourselves after their pablum personalities. We also suspected the kids on Father Knows Best were just in it for the money.

Today’s kids have the opposite, with Bart Simpson, Family Guy, South Park, and Robert Munch’s best seller about farts. The kids still know these people aren’t real, but model them anyway. I do admit that Bart Simpson didn’t invent, “I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault.” but he has certainly helped to perpetuate it.

That’s why it was so much fun to recommend Piggyback. The title is a double play on “piggyback.” In a clever and intriguing (Find Waldo technique), Browne shows us what happens to three chauvinist pigs, daddy and two sons, when mommy has had enough.

Appropriate behaviour in a pluralistic society, inundated by our corporate giant to the south, is harder and harder to pinpoint. It depends, of course, if you are talking to kids or adults. Adults tend to be more divided on the subject, although far too many agree on one thing. Whatever the neighbour’s kid does could be inappropriate, but whatever their kid does never is inappropriate.

All is not serious, though. Sometimes you just have to laugh at what kids think is normal. Here are some behaviours I have watched over the years.

1. When brushing your teeth, try to avoid making foam as much as possible. Take at least three minutes to get the paste on the brush. Whisk the brush over your teeth, contacting the enamel as little as possible. Be sure to spit the paste down the side of the sink to create glue-line streaks. Don’t worry if you accidentally drop some into the drain hole. It will eventually build up and create a block the size of the Hoover dam. (Of course, it would be easier to squeeze the paste directly from the tube into the sink, but not nearly as creative.)

2. Try to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. If you’re sent back, settle for second best and leave the tap dripping. Make sure it is the hot water.

3. If your mother forces you to wear a jacket to school when it is merely 5 degrees celsius, don’t argue. It makes a great first base.

4. If it moves, chase it. If it sits, collect it. Store it in an unlabelled box under your bed. No one will dare touch it.

5. Everything tastes better with whipped cream. Even a cookie.

6. Everything tastes better with a cherry. Even pop.

7. Everything tastes better with a straw. Even pudding.

8. If you can eat it with a straw, a cherry, and whipped cream, you should run for Prime Minister.

9. Girls are annoying and should be avoided at all costs. Mom is not a girl.

10. Live by the motto of Robert Benchley, who was a grown up, but understood children. “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” Stick to your Lego task, Sega challenge, or hockey card sorting if it takes all day, but sigh and groan if cleaning your room, doing your homework corrections, or writing a thank you note takes longer than a Canadian commercial break.

March 29, 2010

Click on the book covers for more information.
                                  

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Kids Need an Accessible, Comfortable Arts & Crafts Space to Freely Create

So you may or may not have read a couple of days ago that my newly refinished drop-leaf  (craft) table became something other than what I intended. I couldn’t bear the thought of paint, glue and scissors being used on it. For once, I was too successful.

Using the work table in the laundry room was not a good idea as my littlest granddaughter would wander off and start to pick up dangerous items. “Don’t touch that,” became the dominant phrase.

I have a large foldout table that I use for cutting fabric and as extra dining when we have a large number of guests. I decided to give it up and use it for crafts instead. So I set up the foldout table in the family room where its ugliness dominated the space. I took storage from my sewing room and filled it with small canvases, stickers, paper, sparkles and sparkle glue (which somehow manages to get on all of us even when were not using it), and more. There is also a basket with project ideas, materials and kits such as plexible glass stained-glass materials and parachute cord for bracelets.

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Now, a granddaughter can go there on her own without saying, “Can I do some crafts? What do you have?” Whereupon I start digging through cupboards and make a complete mess. Then she says, “No thanks.” I think I am going to have to change the brown butcher paper cover fairly often though. There is ugly and then there’s really ugly.

Also I needed to make a space for the paints, markers and brushes. Something more organized and not so unattractive as the white plastic drawers hidden under the table.

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We had a ratty boot rack from my husband’s old mudroom. I painted it and added some embellishments that I thought the children would like and I could live with. Everybody likes stars, especially ones that sparkle.

 

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Unfortunately, I was quickly reminded when I tried to draw the music staff that curved lines are just as difficult to draw as straight lines if you have Parkinson’s Disease. Luckily, sparkle glue and sparkle paint make everything look better. And, yes, I did inadvertently sparkle for days.

 

On the whole, this set up is working well for us. There’s no need to haul out craft stuff  to find what my granddaughters want to work on or clear space somewhere in the house. It’s all there, ready to be used. It requires very little cleanup. Everything can stay out for days between visits.

The only thing I realized is that I should probably cover the dining chairs with paint proof fabric since the older girls work with watercolor and acrylics, not washable paints like the three-year-old . Then I can stop hovering with a wet rag and gasping every time their brushes drip. That will be my next “craft corner” project, after I make a new art smock for my littlest granddaughter who is outgrowing the “scratchy” plastic one.

Having a space where things can be left to dry, or projects can be abandoned for periods of time, makes crafting all the more inviting for kids. Realistically, though, I could put a table in every room in my house and I would have enough space for their projects and mine. Now, I just have to figure out where I am going to cut fabric for my sewing projects and what to do when we have too many guests for our dining room table.

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Do you think people would be willing to use a TV table for the sake of art?

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

I’m Not Eating That! (Recycled Sundays)

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Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but nine-tenths of the list will be the parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.

Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed a sabre toothed rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either ate it or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”

Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There’s no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples For two full years this will be the only unprocessed fruit the child will eat, switching virtually overnight to pears, only pears, I hate apples.

There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken up by Current Cartoon Remake TV dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “I’m not eating that!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the TV dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance.

Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, donuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise, and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has weird stuff in it.

Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plastic ware. At least two-thirds of refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your Zoodles, spaghetti, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, and vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like Zoodles anymore. The spaghetti is too old. The bacon’s too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have the texture and flavour of drywall.

Pity the poor parent who expresses delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate the chilli in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade.

“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.

“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly responds. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”

“Yeah, but these are real tomatoes.”

“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s chilli has tomatoes.”

“I only like it when you can’t tell, “he’ll respond firmly.

Time for the Cartoon TV dinner.

Child care experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chilli without beans, lasagne without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stoke of midnight. In which case, the parents will put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a plastic container knowing it will be eaten the same day their children claim to be receiving too much allowance.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News 1991

                    

Click on the book covers for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages