Lori comes from a family of foodies. They email each other pictures of what they made for dinner, text each other recipe ideas, and call each other to talk about what restaurants they either have been or plan to go to. On our last trip to visit her sister in DC, I asked Lori who was picking us up from the airport.
“Huh, I have no idea.”
“Haven’t you been emailing back and forth with your sister?”
“Yes, but that was to figure out the menu for the week. I told her lobsters didn’t feel like a Wednesday meal.”
She seizes every opportunity to involve the kids in every aspect of food – not just cooking, though Nick and Gabe make amazing gluten-free pancakes (Gabe stirs the eggs; Nick flips the stack; Olivia watches from her high chair, banging the wooden spoon on her tray) – but also growing and buying it. She’s that mom in the grocery store who has her kids squeeze the avocados, sniff the peaches, and read the ingredient labels. Plus she has carved precious space from her beloved vegetable patch to make a raised box just for the kids. It’s pretty awesome to see them casually walk past it and pluck a stalk of broccoli off and start chomping, or grab some chives to gnaw on during the ride to school. It is one of the many reasons we don’t use pesticides. (“Don’t eat that hon, Mommy has to wash off all of the carcinogenic chemicals. Just temper that impulse you had to eat something healthy.”)
My side of the family is a bunch of word geeks. My mom emails the Washington Post Mensa Invitational (which is apparently, an urban myth that nevertheless has me howling). And we trade bad jokes:
“Where do crazy rugs go? A loomey bin.”
“Did you hear the one about the dyslexic atheist insomniac? He stayed up wondering if there was a Dog.” Rim shot!
I seize any opportunity to cultivate the same love of language that I have. So for Nick, that means expanding his vocabulary (“Specificity in language, Nicholas. Now go get your shoes.” “You mean, sandals, Nana?” “Uh, yeah.”) For Gabe it means actually using his vocabulary (“No, I don’t know what point/grunt/cry means, sweetie. I guess you’ll have to say it.”). And for Olivia, it means mimicking her vocabulary (“Da…da…da…squawk…squeal…Da…da…da”)
After we dropped Gabe and Olivia off this morning, Nick and I were walking thru the uneven parking lot when he spotted a puddle with hills of asphalt poking thru the surface.
“Hey! That looks like a bunch of islands!”
“It sure does.” Alert! Alert! Teaching moment. “That’s an archipelago.” Then I did my crazy mom dance – anything for learning. “A group of islands, doncha know, is an archipelago!” We sang our little ditty all the way to school, in various musical styles of course – rap, country, new age, opera, grunge rock, metal…yup, we hit ’em all.
But I’m still not sure if archipelago will make it to our usual post-dinner activity where we go around the table making up sentences.
Nick: No! The cat didn’t go in the tree. It went in the alley to find its babies. Then in found a dog who chased it…
OK, so…we’re still working on the “yes, and” part of the game where we make a story from scratch. At least we have the storytelling part down.
Food and language are clearly a part of how Lori and I express ourselves to our children. But are we raising a family of future food writers? Or will they rebel and become illiterate junk foodies?
Only time will tell.