Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pass the Soda

During this past weekend, we had a small party for Ezra's first birthday. We asked family members if they could bring some things, like soda and snacks, because the way I see it, "fun" food turns a party into a Party.

We here at the House of Bunthoff like junk food. What's not to like? It's super-sweet, or super-salty, or fattening. It's unnatural--nothing you'd find growing in a field or, say, trailside when you're out gallivanting in the woods. But it does what it does well, socking us right in the tastbuds so that we come begging for more.

As I said, we like junk food. But we don't keep it around. Why? Because we'd eat it. Duh. And just because they sell it doesn't mean we have to buy it and bring it home. Still, a party's a party. And a bit of junk food is okay, at least right now.

Well Elliott zeroed in on the soda--or "pop," for all you Ohioans who may be asking why I'd lump baking soda in with junk food. Elliott adores soda. When we're driving he always spots the beverage trucks. If he could drink soda instead of water, I'm sure he would. The only two year old that wouldn't is either disturbingly self-controlled or has been amazingly sheltered from a sugary world.

Elliott drinking soda at a birthday party is fine with me. I'd rather him enjoy his brother's birthday than become pissed off, at his young age, that it's a party celebrating his brother rather than himself. I want him thinking that parties are fun, where people are happy to be together and celebrating.

On his third cup of soda in, let's say, three minutes, Jay starts to feel like he should step in, as a responsible guardian. I'm already on my second glass of wine, and so I agree, but am also thinking, heck, how much soda could he drink in two more hours, and how much harm could it do? Knowing we were partying with family members who are much more soda-permissive than we are, I didn't want to foul the pudding, as it were. And neither did Jay, I'm sure.

When Jay limited Elliott's soda refills, one family member responded with something like, "If you didn't limit his soda so much, if he was around it more, then he wouldn't be so keen on it."

Um, okay.

So let's get this straight--if we gave him soda MORE often, he'd end up drinking LESS? But I don't think that was even the assertion. I think it was more like if we gave him soda more often, we just wouldn't notice him going gangbusters for the soda. Because we'd all, like, be used to drinking soda. Instead of other stuff, like water.

I don't know where to begin with this. I'm no nutritionist, and I'm no crunchy food saint. I have, and have cooked meals from, some of the better vegetarian cookbooks, but I also, just tonight, fed my family leftover chicken, au gratin potatoes from a box, and NO VEGETABLE. I've done worse, but am capable of much, much better. Still, though, we never pass a two-liter of soda 'round the dinner table. It's just not part of our food agenda.

And, gentle readers, fellow Americans, it shouldn't be. Soft drinks should be a treat. An occasional indulgence. Those sodas you suck down are a main reason why you're overweight. Each sweet 12-ounce can provides you with nearly 200 calories that you'd be better off not consuming. Food for thought, as they say.

"What about diet sodas?" you may ask defensively. I'll rant on that another time. I'll tell you this: if you have one every day, they may not be helping you that much.

So you can tell I'm a little steamed, because the reasoning just doesn't add up, and what's more, someone in my own family thinks there's a better way to feed my kids--a way that would give them more enjoyment. But that would be hedonism, wouldn't it--and we've all been getting the hard sell on hedonism for a long time.

Since I'm sure you're thirsty now, why don't you just crack open a can of soda and raise it in the air. To hedonism! Take a swig. Life is so, so sweet, isn't it?!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Same Boy, Different Year

June 10, 2010
June 10, 2009
A year ago, Ezra was tiny. Now he's less tiny. Today's his birthday, and during the quieter moments I found myself remembering what it was like to be laboring, to be at the hospital, and to be holding that tiny new boy. Today he's busy crawling, climbing, standing, and almost walking, becoming a little less babyish each day.

Truthfully, it's difficult stirring up a commotion for his birthday because he doesn't know the difference. He doesn't understand "birthday." A babe's birthday is really an occasion for the family members. And his Papa doesn't come home until tomorrow, and his grandparents, who are most excited, don't arrive until Sunday. So it's a prolonged celebration.

So my mother and I had a lovely day that didn't include too much: storytime at the library; lunch with Aunt Linda; plenty of playtime outside. Mom recalled all the wacky, wonderful birthday cakes she made for us over the years: Raggedy Ann, Big Bird, a train, a roller skate, and even a racetrack with galloping horses. My birthday cake track record is abysmal by comparison, but granted, the kids are young. This year it'll be cupcakes for Ezra. But I'm already thinking of what traditions we should foster, what rituals may mark our most special days.

I'd like to think that I won't soon forget the intense thrill of welcoming a new babe into the world, but it likely fades with time. So today--what's left of it--I'm savoring the memory of holding that fresh little one, all warm and sleepy and so, so tiny. But with a year under his belt now he's a plucky, sassy fellow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Summer of Ezra

It's strawberry time again here in Ohio, and my mom is here to help out--in countless ways, but tonight it's with strawberries. On a Tuesday night a year ago, we did exactly the same thing. We stayed up late, after I had come home from work, coring and slicing berries I'd bought that day and preparing batches of jam to make the next day. But baby Ezra arrived the next day, so mom handled nearly all the strawberry work.

Ezra is a year old this week, and here we are putting up strawberries again. Amazing! And what I love most is that Ezra loves strawberries. If he didn't, it all just wouldn't make sense somehow.

Today we trekked to the Wyoming farmers' market for a flat--my second this season--and the entire affair was a thousand times easier than last year. A morning spent at the zoo had exhausted the boys, and so they slept in their car seats, and Grandma Cole sat with them, while I trotted down the street to claim my berries. We returned home with still-sleeping kids--amazing! Tonight we put up two jam batches to finish tomorrow, and prepared the rest for freezing. And dinner featured a lovely salad of romaine and strawberries with a poppy seed dressing. All in all, a banner day.

Though you're surely not a grade-A strawberry fiend like me, I must recommend the berries from Branstrator Farm, near Wilmington, Ohio. They're as close to perfect as you'll ever find, with every one a model berry.