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Rest In Peace, Rob Ingram

November 28th, 2011

those are words i never in a million years thought i would have to write. Rob Ingram passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack yesterday, Nov. 27th, 2011. Peace and prayers to Rob’s beautiful wife and five amazing kids. He got more done in less than four decades than most people accomplish in a lifetime. This is a huge loss to all of us, but to his family most of all. Rob, thank you for all the work you did.

this is an interview Steve recorded with Rob, September of 2009. i love the picture — was so psyched when Steve showed me the photos he’d taken. Hard to get a bad pic of the man, but I thought this one was really nice.

not finding much to be thankful about today, so i guess i will have to say, thankful he was with us for the short while we had him. Here is what OPB had to say.

– wm

“I do what I do because I’m accustomed to accomplishment CONSISTENTLY!” — Rob Ingram, from Twitter 10/12/11

Friday BlogHer Book Review: Amy Kalafa’s Lunch Wars

September 30th, 2011

Oh, yeah, I’m tagging this one six ways ’til Sunday. Because when it comes to food? There’s a war on in this world. (This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own, by the by.)

I just finished reading Amy Kalafa’s book, “Lunch Wars” (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011, 370 pages, $17.95). Kalafa is producer/director of “Two Angry Moms,” a documentary about kids and school lunches. Kalafa is also a holistic health and nutrition counselor and a Lyme disease consultant.

I like the way she set up the book. It’s a handbook and how-to guide, thus the book’s subtitle: “How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health.” She wrote the book in response to the questions she was asked as follow-up to the documentary, which was a joint effort with Susan P. Rubin, mom and activist, as well as director of A Better Way Holistic Health, a private health counseling practice in New York. Kalafa lays out the numbers, the descriptions, the basic facts, the stats and everything else you need to know to be convinced that our kids are having health problems in this nation, and that some of that stems to their diet. (If you weren’t convinced of that already.)

She also addresses food and poverty, health problems and lack of exercise, PTA wars, school gardens, and pretty much everything under the sun. She’s good, and I found this book to be useful and well-written. She casts a wide net, but she also gets really specific about the issues. She brings up pretty much everyone involved in food politics — from Jamie Oliver to Martha Stewart to Eric Schlosser to Michael Pollan. (Yes, Martha is a political person. She might not be out lobbying, but every time she discusses gardening and talks about organic food, yes, that’s political.) Kalafa sprinkles profiles with other food activists and notables throughout the book — it was a nice touch and makes the book even more credible than it already was.

What I can’t get around is this: You can slap down an Uncrustables sandwich on the counter, wet, soggy, stale and grim, in its crinkly plastic wrapping. Next to it, how about a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread, a jar of peanut butter and the jam jar? You can make a sandwich — a lovely, fresh sandwich, perhaps even one that includes organic peanut butter, jam and bread — and you can ask your guest, “Which looks better?”

The just-made one, of course.

“This is crap” (pointing to the Uncrustables); “This is not crap” (pointing to the fresh sandwich). “Do we really want the kids eating crap?” No, of course not. But you know who’s in bed with the school districts and their money? Smucker’s (Uncrustables), Tyson (crappy chicken pieces). the dairy industry. Then everyone shrugs.

Those of us who have been fighting this battle for years are feeling, right now, empowered and helpless at the same time.

School food = big money for companies. Oh, the dairy industry? Why am I going after them? Because of the chocolate and strawberry milk, that’s why. Rot those teeth, kids, we’re not paying the bills. Whoops! Your parents lost their job(s) and dental insurance? No dentist for you, baby. Maybe if you work rilly rilly hard, and are smart like Tyson and Smucker’s, you can afford insurance! Maybe you should start saving for dentures, though, just in case.

My posts are always too long, my apologies, but here are some fast thoughts:

1) Why can’t kids get water during lunch? (I mean pitchers and cups on the table, not a shared drinking fountain across the room, that, by the way, is broken)
2) Is it that much trouble to offer more vegetarian food? It’s cheaper, and healthier…
3) Why not let the kids get seconds instead of tossing the leftovers in the dumpster?
4) When I see someone using a dirty rag to wipe down a table, then wiping the floor with it, then wiping another table, it makes me want to hurt that person. Gah.
5) We have enough food in this world to go around. So why are so many people going hungry?
6) I still hate war. Food, not bombs. Books, not bombs. Love, not killing…
7) When my daughter was a newborn, the first thing another mom said to me was, Once she’s in school, you won’t want her to eat school lunch. (My thought, “What am I getting into here?”)
8) Growing up, the schools I attended were considered middle-range for poverty, probably. Lots of families with no money, lots of kids eating free or reduced lunch. We had the best cafeteria ladies ever, and everything was homemade and delicious. The parents used to eat with us all the time cuz the food was so good. So when I would read in books about the “horrible” school lunches, Tuna Surprise or Mystery Meat or whatever, it always baffled me.

Why aren’t more people making calls about this? Sending e-mails? Having lunch with their kids, if possible? (Brown bagging, obviously.) Telling the school districts and the USDA that the food lunch program, as it exists now, is unacceptable, especially for kids who are in poverty? For many kids, school breakfasts and lunches comprise most of what they subside on. If you are what you eat, then they are a sausage biscuit, chased with chicken nuggets, tater tots, and as much ketchup, ranch dressing and chocolate milk as they can wolf down and guzzle. There are also a whole lot of kids in the world who can’t digest milk, are allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts, who are vegetarian, or celiac, who just plain don’t like milk and would prefer water, who don’t need the sugar from juice… on and on.

They are not being served.

It doesn’t take much to offer beans and brown rice instead of a peanut butter sandwich (I’m thinking of kids with allergies). And beans and rice instead of chicken nuggets? Always a good idea. The costs are lower, too. In the cafeterias, they’re giving our kids meat that is not even acceptable animal feed, the grade and quality are that abysmal. I could just throw something right now. How about a box of stale, nasty, frozen pizzas?

I’m remembering an evening many years ago. A friend had dropped by, and brought a friend with her. I didn’t know this person. She started interrogating me about my baby’s diet, Well, we’re vegetarians. If she wants to eat meat when she’s older, she can, but this is how we cook (beans and rice, whole grains, greens, vegetables and fruit. She didn’t like cow’s milk, once we were done nursing — at age 2 — so she drank soy milk, fortified with calcium and iron).

This woman, who was in my space, in my kitchen, started screaming at me that I had to give my daughter meat (we tried, actually, on a number of occasions — neither of my kids has ever cared for meat. But the woman never heard this, because she just kept screaming at me). “You could give her a hot dog! You could give her a hamburger!”

Oh, my Lord. It was awful. I had to stop her, so she would leave. My friend? She just stood there, silent.

I was a new mom — I used to second-guess myself constantly. So I finally came up with, “Why is it OK to take a kid to Jack in the Box, expose them to e coli and they can die from it, but there’s something wrong with what I’m doing?”

She left.

All these years later, it still pisses me off.

Ah, the Lunch Wars and the Food Wars. I’ll keep fighting until you lose.

– wm

note from my good friend…

September 17th, 2011

…when I told her I did not get the full-time job I interviewed for (adding that I have not been offered full-time work since 1998):

“I think you forgot that you have been working more than full time since 1999. Yes it’s unpaid and undervalued but you have been doing the essential and invisible work of mothering since you got pregnant. After the revolution, mothers and elders will be revered properly, but until then we have each other to remind us that making breakfast, feeling warm foreheads, remembering the asthma meds, folding laundry, etc. is THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK ON EARTH.”

So those of you who need to hear this today? Yes, it is the most important work on Earth.

Thanks, my friend. I needed to hear that.

hey, you. get offa that cloud that is facebook and read my blog.

September 13th, 2011

It’s Tuesday, and about time for an update from the Wacky House:

* School has started. The kids are doing great (4th grade and 7th grade this year #wheretheheckdoesthetimego???.

* Steve took some vacation days here and there this summer, and is back to work. He can bike to work now! Rock on, Hockey God. And he’s still bloggin’ away, as you can see, and occasionally arguing with assclowns. (Currie, you really do work my nerves. And don’t think I’ve forgotten how you like to defend pedophiles like “homeless activist” Michael Stoops.) (Hell hath no fury, and memory, like me.)

* Do I have a job yet? No, I do not. I am planning to start working the phrase “as a former sex worker” into conversations, though. For example: “As a former sex worker, I can recommend the non-fat skinny vanilla latte.” That should lively things up.

* Will I be placed in a school this year? Will I remain unpaid and still-gainfully retired, writing away? We’ll see…

* Book is almost ready for publication, I’ll keep you posted. Still working on my Dear Late Granny’s cookbook/memoir. Bogged down a little, what else is new? Seriously. I spent about 400 500 617 hours pinning laundry to the line this summer and watering the garden and yard. Seriously. It rained today and I almost ran out and kissed the muddy ground I was so happy.

* am Oregon girl.

* Mt. Hood fires need to go out. The air quality has been crummy, the sunsets and sunrises look a lot like L.A. and… I like trees. That mountain terrifies me, but I love it. Maybe the rain will help?

* in other family news, the youngest cat, Baby, has let the following be known (via his messenger, the youngest child, Wacky Boy): “He does not want his Chicken Coop to be called that anymore; he wants us to call it his ‘Man Cave.’” (Referring to Baby’s corner retreat in the library, where he keeps his scratching post, blankie, toys and catnip.)

* When my husband woke up our daughter this morning “it’s after 7! wake up!” she responded with this: “Fu…..” Her father’s response: “What was that?” Wacky Girl, fast on her feet, even when she’s sacked out: “I said ‘Ugh.’” Yeah, sure you did.

* This is the same girl who yelled, “Goddammit!” at her father when he got shampoo in her eyes, when she was not-quite-two. Steve: “Nancy, do you have any idea where she got that?” Me: “Nope.” (inside, heart swelling with pride, My girl.) (and really, aren’t you a little surprised that she didn’t yell, Goddammit, Steve!)

* what’s up with you??

– wm

great interview with Grace Paley

September 1st, 2011

love this. (interview with the late writer Grace Paley, from the Paris Review.)

INTERVIEWER: What were you doing before you became a published writer?

GRACE PALEY: I was working part time. I was hanging out a lot. I was kind of lazy. I had my kids when I was about twenty-six, twenty-seven. I took them to the park in the afternoons. Thank God I was lazy enough to spend all that time in Washington Square Park. I say lazy but of course it was kind of exhausting running after two babies. Still, looking back I see the pleasure of it. That’s when I began to know women very well—as co-workers, really. I had a part-time job as a typist up at Columbia. In fact, when I began to write stories, I typed some up there, and some in the PTA office of P.S. 41 on Eleventh Street. If I hadn’t spent that time in the playground, I wouldn’t have written a lot of those stories. That’s pretty much how I lived. And then we had our normal family life—struggles and hard times. That takes up a lot of time, hard times. Uses up whole days.

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell the story of the publication of your first book?

PALEY: I’d written three stories, and I liked them. I showed them to my former husband, Jess Paley, and he liked them, and he showed them to a couple of friends, and they liked them, so I was feeling pretty good about them. The kids were still young at the time, and they played a lot with the neighborhood kids, so I got to know the other mothers in the neighborhood. One of them was Tibby McCormick, who had just gotten unmarried from Ken McCormick, an editor at Doubleday. She knew about these stories, and poor Ken was more or less forced into reading them—you know, The kids are over at her house all the time, you might read her stories. So he took them home and read them and he came over to see me and said, Write seven more of them and we’ll publish a book. So that’s what happened. Luck happened. He also told me that no magazine around would touch them, and he was pretty much right about that too, although two of the stories in that collection were finally taken by Accent.

on the nightstand: the Lovely Suzanne’s “Muffins & Mayhem”

July 11th, 2011

Dear You,

Sometimes, I get so personally attached to a writer, and/or the person’s book, that I just want to hug ‘em and not let go and not share them with anyone. Mine, mine, mine. Do you ever get like that? Is it just me?

Anyway, that’s how I feel about Suzanne Beecher and her delightful new memoir/cookbook, “Muffins & Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life.” Mine, mine, mine. I bought a copy for my Kindle, read it on the iPad just now, and have a hard copy arriving in the mail in a few days.

Mine, mine, mine. But how can I hog her all to myself? I cannot. And so I will share this much with you:

Her book is funny, rich, inspired. Suzanne has been through a lot, and every time she ends up with lemons she just makes a pitcher of lemonade, then sells it by the glass. Her recipes are so yummy… I knew some of them from her blog, and have made several of them over the years (Crockpot Stuffing, Dolly Madison Muffins, Skunk Beans). I appreciate a girl who can cook and write, probably more than your average fan. Who knows why? Oh, wait…

I have written about her so many times here on The Blog (go search for “Suzanne” or “DearReader”), I’m like her one-woman fan club. But not. I have to share her with the nearly half a million readers who follow her book clubs. Also one time she sent me chocolate chip cookies, when I was working at Jefferson High School in beautiful Portland, Ore. I shared them with the students and some of the other teachers and staff. We took pictures of our Cooky Feast and mailed them to Suzanne. She is crazy for pictures. And her grandkids. And her bubble machine. And her pink flamingos. Also she is nuts about her husband. I’m just sayin’ — what a gal.

She is such a good writer, my Internet friend Suzanne. Inspirational and funny, poignant and assertive, business-savvy and artistic, compassionate and not-at-all-perfect. But she’s perfect to me. And if she wasn’t all the way in Florida, and I wasn’t all the way out here in Oregon, I’d go give her a big hug right now.

Only she would probably say, Honey, it’s 11:17 p.m. on a Monday night, shouldn’t you be in bed? Heehee.

Go buy her book, and buy a couple of extra copies to give as gifts. Knowing Suzanne, she will send you a free autographed bookplate and a bookmark.

Bon appetit!

Wacky Mommy

ps — private note to my son, who is very much a 9-year-old: Darling. When I tell you, Go to bed, please go to bed. Do not go stick Silly Putty in your sister’s hair, instead. That is just naughty. We had no choice but to cut it out, and now her hair is all… hunky in that spot. It’s in hunks now. Hunks of hair. Love you so much, Mommy

this one is for all the little kids

June 29th, 2011

happy Father’s Day to Steve-o and all you dads out there

June 15th, 2011

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” — Clarence Budington Kelland

and this one is especially for Hockey God:

Subject: A Hockey Story

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and a man makes his way to his seat right at center ice. He sits down, noticing that the seat next to him is empty.

He leans over and asks his neighbour if someone will be sitting there.

“No,” says the neighbour. “The seat is empty.”

“This is incredible,” said the man. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and not use it?”

The neighbour says, “Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Stanley Cup we haven’t been to together since we got married in 1967.”

“Oh … I’m sorry to hear that. That’s terrible. But couldn’t you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?”

The man shakes his head “No. They’re all at her funeral.”

an oldie but goody + a runaway bestseller with a wildly-inappropriate title

June 15th, 2011

Read!

and please get some #!@$@#! sleep! (Awww, who’s been reading the mom bloggers?)

– wm

Book Review: “Buglette, the Messy Sleeper,” “Trumpet of the Swan” & “National Geographic 2012 Kids Almanac”

May 16th, 2011

I was a big fan of E.B. White growing up, and read and re-read “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little” many times. I still have my original little paperbacks. My daughter and her father had re-read “Charlotte’s Web” approximately eight times by the time she turned seven. (We were gifted a big, gorgeous illustrated copy by my sister-in-law.) They bonded over it, it was extremely sweet.

My son is a Stuart Little fan, although I have to say, he likes the movies more than the book. (What??? Child of mine, what?) When I got older, I became a devotee of White’s work with Strunk, “The Elements of Style.” (“Omit unnecessary words.”) (OK, I never said I obeyed their edicts. But I always try.)

So how did we miss “Trumpet of the Swan”? I’ve been reading it with my son for the past couple of weeks, and we’re both enjoying it. It’s funny, it’s real, it’s fantasy, it makes me happy. It’s one of those bonding books, just like “Charlotte’s Web.” We have Louis, the white Trumpeter swan; his dad; his mom; his best friend Sam Beaver; Serena, the swan he longs for — all such good characters. This one is an excellent nighttime read-aloud. I love White for a lot of reasons, but the main reason? He doesn’t talk down to kids. We could all learn a little something here. (Scholastic, 210 pages.)

And now, a fast review of the new Nat’l. Geo. Kids 2012 Almanac, by our two in-house kid reviewers:

Wacky Boy: “OK, I get to do it all. From this book, I learned that there are a bunch of ways to be good to the environment. For instance, you can transform dog poop into energy.”

Wacky Girl: “Har, har, har, har, har!”

WB: “Wait! That’s not all.”

WG: “I learned about amazing animals, such as gray wolves. No! That’s not all! I learned about how polar bears survive in the deep freeze.”

me: “What about global warming?”

WG: “Just kidding, that’s not really global warming. It’s actually, like really cold where they live. So they have a lot of hair. It says on the cover, This book is everything you ever wanted to know about everything, ever.”

me: “Do you agree with that?”

WG: “Ish.”

and… they’re done. (National Geo. Kids, $13.99, 351 pages.)

Wee little Buglette is a very messy sleeper. She is giving her mother fits. Sweet book for the littles, and the watercolors, all in purples, grays, greens and other light shades, are soothing and pretty. (Tricycle Press, $15.99, 32 pages.) You will find Bethanie’s website at aquapup.com, and her blog at bethaniemurguia.blogspot.com. Until May 21st, 2011, she’s giving away signed copies, so go leave her a note (U.S. only please, sorry, guys :(

She might even give away an original illustration, how’d ya like that?

Plus! Leave a note here on Wacky Mommy for a chance to win a signed copy of the book (two chances! here and over at Bethanie’s), stickers or a “do not disturb” door hanger. If you are interested, leave me a comment (I’m lonely! I love when you say “hey”) (also, something about contests! makes me break out the exclamation marks!), and then send me an e-mail with your request, plus your name and home address. I will see what I can do… (again, U.S. only, argh.)

No, I won’t sell your home address or e-mail, c’mon. This is just a fast fun one. I’m cutting ya off after… the fifth person enters, how’s that? (This is why I never do contests… who has the time?)

Have a great week, y’all.

– Wacky Mommy

(Disclaimer here, yes? Noted!)

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