Cooking with Kids

IMG_0194I don’t want to write about Covid City today. Instead I want to brag about my kid. Right before social distancing went into place, my food-loving five-year-old was featured on “Podcast not Podcast with Christopher Burns” where he shared all about cooking for the family. He had recently made a broccoli stew and mashed potatoes with radish for us, and was thrilled that they’d turned out to be actually tasty. Since then, L has gone on to create “delicious sparrow cake,” which did not contain sparrows and was also not a cake but was delicious, as well as a mushroom soup inspired by a Mexican recipe from one of my mom’s old cookbooks.

L has always loved food. At three months, he grabbed a chip out of my hand and tried to eat it. At 18 months, he asked to sniff the different herbs I was using and said, “Mmmmmm,” after smelling the basil. At three years, he suggested adding cinnamon to a curry I was cooking, and he was right. By this point, he can chop up vegetables, select the proper ingredients, and mix them together all on his own. He’s willing to taste anything and genuinely appreciates good food; one of his favorite meals is fresh fish, salad, and broccoli stalks soaked in vinegar. And in the play kitchen in his room, which he refers to as his restaurant, L concocts all kinds of recipes with such earnestness that when the baby crawls over, he says, “No no, baby, the stove is hot right now.”

It’s such a beautiful experience to watch my kid explore and enjoy food in this way, especially considering my own fraught history with food and eating. Even though I had recovered from anorexia nearly eight years before I got pregnant with L, all the research about how eating disorders run in families had me worried that I’d somehow pass it on. Seeing my kid chef work in the kitchen is such a joy on so many levels.

Listen to L’s interview below, and stay tuned for details on his new dinosaur-themed chain of restaurants, coming soon to a city near you (“When I’m an adult, I’m going to be a paleontologist and open my own restaurant”).

“Mashed Potatoes with Radish” – Podcast not Podcast with Christopher Burns


Delicious sparrow cake

Your Sister’s Ghost

It is 6:30 pm, Father’s Day is tomorrow, and we have nothing ready for your dad. To be honest, I was relying on your daycare teachers – for Mother’s Day, they helped you make this adorable and extensive art project that I completely love – but it seems like they don’t feel the same about dads. Your dad is a particularly chill one and not into fake holidays, but still, we have to do something. Or rather, you have to do something – I have to cook dinner.

“Why don’t you draw a picture of MommyDaddyLewis for Daddy’s special day tomorrow?” I suggest.

You run with this idea, literally, straight to your art table where you pull out a piece of blue paper and some markers. I wait until you’re settled then return to the kitchen to boil water for pasta.

August 2018 Drawing on the Balcona.JPG

A few minutes later, I walk back in and glance at the three figures you’ve drawn in the middle of the page. I’m impressed; they’re the most detailed, complete images you’ve ever made, and I’m ready to burst forth in motherly praise. But before I say anything, you start drawing another figure in the top left corner, smaller than the rest of us and clearly separate. Without prompting or even a word from me, you say, “That’s my sister.”

“What?” I reply, taken aback.

“My sister.”

“Your sister?”


I am stunned. We haven’t talked about Baby Wow since right after I lost her six months ago now. We actually haven’t talked about siblings at all since then. While her recent due date certainly triggered many things inside of me, I’ve been very careful not to mention this around you. In fact, I never even told you she was a girl. I first shared with you that I was pregnant when she was eleven weeks in utero, but then had to tell you just one week later that she wouldn’t be born. You were sad, but only for a couple of days. By the time the genetic test results came back and we’d learned her gender, you were long over it.

Thinking back to those days surrounding the procedure still hurts. But I have to put my own emotions aside so that I can be present and explore this moment with you. I don’t want to put words in your mouth or sway your thoughts in any way, so I decide to begin with, “Do you have a sister?”

“Yes,” you reply in the same intonation as an older kid might say, Duh.

“Okay. Where is she?”

“Here,” you say, tapping your drawing of her.

“I see. So do you have a sister for real, or just in the picture?”

Seriously and without hesitation, you say, “For real.”

“In real life, or just pretend?”

“In real life, Mommy.” I can sense the annoyance seeping into your voice, but I decide to push on just a little more.

“Okay, where is she for real?” 

“Mommy, she’s right here,” you say, pointing to the air beside you.

Lew's Family Portrait 2018.JPG

Our Mothers Have a Way of Shifting the Universe in Lumen Magazine

Granny_Mom_MeThere is no better way to honor my mother than by writing. While she was not a writer herself, she did fully embrace her own creative energy throughout her life via the piano, her voice, and, mainly, her needle and thread. She passed her love of art onto me, celebrating the goofy short stories I wrote in elementary school as if they were Nobel Prize quality and always urging me to write more. When others told me a Masters in Creative Writing was a waste of time and money, Mom told me to do it not just because I wanted to, but because she knew I needed to. Therefore, it is incredibly special to me that Lumen Magazine has published my essay, “Our Mothers Have a Way of Shifting the Universe,” that I wrote on the first anniversary of her death. Please take a moment to read and share; not only do I hope to keep her spirit alive, but I also think that, in a society where death is a taboo topic for conversation, it’s important to share our experiences. Thanks, Mom, for the support that I still feel and will always feel.

Pictured: Me, Mom, and Granny.

Marriage and Parenthood

waldmanimageA big anxiety of mine surrounding parenthood is losing the spark between my husband and me.  I don’t want “the two of us” time to get lost in “the three of us” time, or to become “the two of us talking about the baby” time.  I’m very much looking forward to family time, and I think watching my husband be a father will be a truly special and exciting experience, but what we have right now is great.  I’m wildly in love with him.  I don’t want the baby to take over that love.  I don’t want our lives to become centered around our child.  And I think this is important, for our own well-being and for the child’s.  Children need to feel that their parents’ relationship is safe and secure.  They also need to know that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

In her inspiring article, Truly, Madly, Guiltily, appearing in The New York Times back in 2005, Ayelet Waldman expressed similar sentiments (much more eloquently).  But apparently, most Americans don’t agree with us. The backlash Waldman received after publishing her article is insane.  People threatened to report her to Child Protective Services! I, however, felt relief as I read it.  Keeping the spark alive is possible.  Loving your spouse as much, if not more than, your child is okay.  You are partners in life, before, during, and after raising children.  You are not partners with your children.

As Danielle Teller writes in her recent article How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage, “We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life.  When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative because parenthood has become our new priority and religion.”  I am lucky to have found my soulmate who, after eight years together, still sends flutters across my stomach, still turns me on, still makes me feel sexy and loved.  Obviously, pressing pause isn’t the way to sustain this wonderful, healthy connection between us.  And in my opinion, parenthood shouldn’t become an all-powerful thing that takes over every other aspect of our lives.  Yes, I realize that recovering from labor, learning to breast feed, sleeping in two hour increments, changing 10+ diapers a day, not showering and barely eating is not romantic.  I understand that children are demanding during all phases of their lives, and that parenting is exhausting.  I also understand that no matter how much I’ve babysat, read about parenting, or studied about child development, I have no real concept of what my life is going to be like in six months.  But Waldman and Teller give me hope that while it’s not easy, and while many people may not agree with it, it is possible and good to prioritize my relationship with and love for my husband.  Doing this will not make me a bad mother.

Image taken from Truly, Madly, Guiltily, published in The New York Times on March 27, 2005.

Funny Things I Said When I First Found Out I Was Pregnant

Ah, the assumptions I made before the joys of the first trimester kicked in…

“I’ll definitely continue biking to work every day. A 45-minute ride is such a refreshing way to wake up.” No, no it’s not. The one and only time I tried this, I left the bike at work and picked it up in the car the next day.

“How cool, almonds are a natural way to get rid of headaches!” How cool, they don’t work. Much like Tylenol.

“I’m not going to worry about a miscarriage. Instead, I’m going to enjoy every minute of this experience.” Does Google-ing miscarriage statistics every day count as worrying? I needed something to take my mind off of those throbbing headaches and steady nausea (“morning” sickness my ass).

“Since I won’t be going out so much, I’ll be able to fit in so much writing.” I really was able fit in so much writingsleeping.

image“Will I miss having my period?” Ha! This is one of the few perks.

“Waiting up for Dave to get home from work at one a.m. won’t be a problem.” More like, falling asleep by nine p.m. on a Saturday night won’t be a problem.

“The acne can’t be that bad.” At least pregnancy is more fun than puberty.

“I don’t think I’ll have much trouble getting a full night’s rest – I’m a really good sleeper.” Wasn’t anticipating so many vivid dreams, nor the fact that even though the baby is so tiny there’s no way it’s pressing on your bladder, you really do have to pee at least once a night. Damn hormones.

“Working a double every Tuesday will be totally fine.” Right. Totally fine as in, I was so tired one day I actually cried on the train that was taking me from job #1 to job #2.

“Having a secret will be fun.” Or torturous! It’s thrilling to finally share the news.

Good riddance, first trimester!