Saturday, September 29, 2012

the teenage brain

Mr. Tailor and Mr. Reporter performing at Jim and Brad's wedding

I do NOT trust my teenagers.

I love them.  I respect them.  I feel honored that I'm their mother.  But for years (even before my sons entered adolescence) I've gone along with Bill Cosby's claim that teenagers have idiot chips in their brains.  And this assertion has brought me an uncommon power to stand by my "no" to those pesky requests from our sons that make me feel a bit antsy.  So we have rules:
  • They are not allowed out past 11pm- unless there's a special exception such as a midnight movie premiere while under the supervision of a parent (it will never be me).
  • They are not allowed to go to sleepovers.
  • They are not allowed to watch movies upstairs in the cloud room with a girl without their brothers' supervision (the younger the brother, the better).

Here's what they know:
  • They know that they can't argue with me when I say no (they've tried).  They can't ask me if I trust them (they have and they know I don't).  
  • They know that I'll respond with the "idiot chip" theory.  Or worse, they'll get a story about how their mom or dad's own idiot chip worked when we were their age.
  • They know that the idiot chip won't fall out of their brain until they reach the age of eighteen.  And if it doesn't fall out by then, then they're on their own with their consequences because we will no longer be legally responsible for them.
  • They know that every night they go out with their friends (who also have idiot chips in their brains), their parents will be waiting up for them until they have returned safely home. Every. Single. Time.
This has worked well for us.  The boys understand that their years of poor judgement is only a temporary condition that will leave them unscathed if they carefully follow the guidance of their all- knowing parents. They've expressed that they like our rules.  Perhaps it's the boundaries that bring them comfort in their world of uncertainty.

I don't know why other parents haven't embraced the "idiot chip" doctrine more wholeheartedly.  It will save them a lot of grief believe me.  Fortunately today, scientists know quite a bit more about the teenage brain than Bill did when he was raising his own kids.  And it turns out that Bill knew what he was talking about. 

Check it out:

So go ahead, parents- enforce your rules!  Use the "idiot chip" card.  The science is finally here to back you up so you can sleep well at night.  Best wishes for soft pillows and peaceful dreams. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

signs and wonders

reverence, 2012

There is a rosemary bush that lies underneath my kitchen window that faces the south side of our red brick home.  When I planted it, five years ago, it was small enough to place into the soil using only a humble spade. And other than a few random sprinklings of residual coffee grounds needing to be cleaned out from the bottom of the french press, the rosemary has primarily been left to the detached care of Mother Nature. By the looks of it, this aromatic bush couldn't be happier.

Claiming a free Saturday to work in the garden, I determined that something had to be done about this vigorous plant that was quietly, yet persistently, encroaching upon the shared space of the lavender and lemon balm.  So I started hacking away at it (haphazardly, mind you) with the pruning shears.  I was doing such a thorough job of the task at hand, zipping right along, that I nearly chopped up the praying mantis that was resting, perfectly camouflaged in green, on the sprigs.  Luckily, the mantis was aware of my formidable presence and made just the slightest movement with its hind leg to catch my attention.  Had it exercised the least bit of restraint by cowering into paralysis a few seconds longer -it would have been a goner for sure.

Although, now that I think about it, I probably didn't need to fear for the little bug, after all.  French folklore asserts that the praying mantis is a beacon in the dark- a living compass that will direct a child home if he or she is lost.  And the French aren't the only ones to place their confidence in this pious insect- as the Arabs believe the mantis will direct them to Mecca.  Not a bad sentiment to consider when chopping away at the rosemary- while free falling into my thoughts.

Lately, I've been hoping for some direction of my own.  Hoping that my choices will bring good results- that the decisions I make today won't lead to regrets in my future.  There are so many pieces to the puzzle that are beyond my reach.  Pieces that others have to bring to the table so we might put it all together- to discover the final picture.  Maybe the praying mantis is a little omen, set outside my kitchen window to reassure that I'm heading in the right direction- proffering that the pieces I'm adding to the puzzle are the right shape and color and are fitting together just as they should be.   Or maybe the rosemary bush is simply the perfect hiding spot to nab the singing mosquitoes and unsuspecting spiders for a hearty meal.

I think that for today, I'll choose the former way of looking at this little carnivore.  After all, the sun is shining and its rays feel nice and warm against my back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

got basil?

The nights are becoming a bit chilly and soon all of the annuals in the garden will succumb to Jack Frost's pernicious bite.  One unlucky victim I hate to lose each year is the basil.  I've tried preserving this herb over the years by applying the foolproof methods of freezing and dehydration, but the color and flavor never held out- and ultimately I'd be left with quart- sized freezer bags of brown, flavorless basil leaves that invariably ended up in the compost pile.

But not this year.

Recently, I came across this article in Organic Gardening magazine and my hopes for basil butter, basil flavored soups and pesto during the winter months suddenly moved from just wishful thinking to a happy reality- it's all about the process and I could just pinch myself for not thinking up this idea myself.
basil butter (light yellow) and basil oil (dark green)

All that's required to take your basil into the winter months is oil or butter.  Simply marry the two by using a food processor, pestle and mortar, or knife and spoon to chop the basil and combine with the butter or oil.  Next scoop or pour the basil mixture into a freezer bag, smooth flat- releasing the air from the bag, seal, and then store into the freezer.
When you need your basil later, you'll merely have to cut off a piece of the basil butter/oil and you'll be good to go.  Add it to your recipes or apply directly to warm bread or potatoes.

Easy peasy.
photo by Mr. Tailor
Of course, we had to sample the basil butter before we stored it up for the winter.  And to our delight, it was as delicious to the taste as it was to the eyes.  The real test, undoubtedly, will come in January- but my bet is that this method is a keeper.


Monday, September 3, 2012

this made me laugh

spying frogs, 2012

Annie Dillard:

Now it is early September, and the paths are clogged.  I look to water to see sky.  It is the time of year when a honeybee beats feebly at the inside back window of every parked car.  A frog flies up for every foot bank, bubbles tangle in a snare of blue-green algae, and Japanese beetles hunch doubled on the willow leaves.  The sun thickens the air to jelly; it bleaches, flattens, dissolves.  The skies are a milky haze- nowhere, do nothing summer skies.  Every kid I see has a circular grid on his forehead, a regular cross-hatching of straight lines, from spending his days leaning into screen doors.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, page 204