My daughter needs more attention. I don't think baking cookies or pizza lunches at Ciao Gelato do it for her anymore. My first tip off? She doesn't bake cookies or have pizza lunches with me at Ciao Gelato. Jeremiah does, but we are not talking about him. We are dealing with a 9 year old girl who has acted like she was 5 years older at any given point in her life. So really, I have a teenager, minus all the phone calls. Oh, she'd gab away if she could. Kids her age just don't do that yet. Instead, her talking target is me. My girl is crazy dramatic, like her momma, and loves to talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. And honestly, it is downright wearing. She doesn't understand when to stop and easily goes into over drive. It's like that social sensor that warns us when we have said too much, talked too long and tells us to shut-up so that someone else can get a word in edge-wise. Yeah, she doesn't have that. Neither does my Grandpa. It's inevitable. If you listen to one story and laugh, she launches into another. If you listen to the second story and laugh, she fires right out with another one. If you listen to that, it will lead into another story and another. It's endless. Believe me, I have tried to listen intentionally without stopping her. I decided one day that for as long as she'd talk, I'd listen, engage her, ask questions. This was simply...Not. Possible. NOT. POSSIBLE. She will talk, and talk, and talk. Jeremy regularly warns the kids to not use up all their words for the day. Yeah, come dinner time Jeremy has been know to shut everyone down. Decree a no-talk zone because "the kids have used all their words for the day". I'm being serious. It usually lasts 30 seconds. Maybe. It's very necessary. That 30 seconds is precious. Sometimes, when Isabella is on a roll and has been talking non-stop for a while she will run out of things to say and stories to tell so her answer is to start making up "jokes". Jokes like this:
Isabella: Mom, What did the broccoli say to the orange?
Isabella: Stop talking to me you fruit!
Me: ha, ha, ha (forced laughter)
She will even fill up spaces or gaps in the conversation with words while she searches and grapples with her mind for something...anything else to say.
Isabella: OK, OK, OK, I have another one, um. Ummmm. Wait! How did it go? Oh yeah! Wait. Um, ummmmm, OK, so the...Wait! I forget. Lily told Anthony a funny joke in school and it has something to do with...Oh! I don't know! Want to hear one I just make up? OK, OK, OK. Um. uhhhhhhhhhhhh, uhhhhhhhh, So the lady, no wait, sorry! The broccoli again, you know the broccoli from the other joke? (yes, Isabella we understand) well, OK, knock, knock?
Me: Who's there?
Isabella: The head
Me: The head who
Isabella: the head of broccoli...get it? The HEAD of broccoli?
This morning she just stared at Jeremy and I from across the counter and said "How bout that airline food?" I was like "huh?". She repeats, cracking up half way through "How bout that airline food?" I say I don't understand. She says "It's a joke. You are supposed to think it's funny." Her saying "How bout that airline food" is a joke. Don't you get it? Me neither.
I feel bad about it because I love her, and she is an engaging, funny little kid (jokes above are not indicative of her charm or humor) but after so many of these incidents, she has to be shut down. It's for her own good. Or my good. I just cannot be talked at all day long. Nothing drives me nuts like being bombarded with talking...for long periods of time. Or short periods of time if it's several kids talking at once, which is usually the case. I have to shut them all down. I want to listen. I do. It's just that I also have to fold the laundry, put it away, feed Olivia her snack, fill her sippy, oh, I have to wash it out first? Approve Jeremiah and Isabella's after school snack, remember to grab my other jacket from upstairs, charge my phone, get the spelling words out and get Isabella working on them, quiz her on the bible verse for the week, return a phone call, check my e-mail, write back, sweep, prep dinner, pee, and finally fill up my wine glass because...damn.
I would really like to be a good mom. When my kids grow up and they look back on their childhood I would like them to say man, that was fun. I love my parents. They were always there. So supportive, loving, and encouraging. NOT remember how there was always "quiet Sunday?" not Sunday but "QUIET Sunday?" and we couldn't talk all morning because Mom and Dad were (trying) to read the Bible and they actually wanted to concentrate, but we talked anyway, relentlessly? And got in trouble. Over and over again? Man, that was a blast! Those were the days! Riiiiiiiight. Yep, we are guilty of "quiet" Sunday. Not even gonna lie.
I recognize it's my job to take charge. This is my life and my children's adolescence. I'll be darned if I'm going to recognize a problem and ignore it. So I'm taking charge. This week starts the first of many dates with my children. Jeremy and I will take one child out for focused, special time regularly. I will be away from my responsibilities at home and therefore be able to totally absorb, and be in the moment with that particular child. I'm starting with Isabella. We will take her out to dinner this week and do whatever she wants to do. I will ask questions. I will enjoy her and dag-nab-it, if that includes jokes about the cob knocking on the corn's door well, then, great. I can take it coach, because she's worth it and my attention.
I made something special for my kids this week. A love offering if you will, for all the times I told them to be quiet and leave me alone while I did something. I made strawberry sorbet. It was super easy and quick as sorbets are just sugar and fruit that is frozen. I know what you are thinking. My extraordinary "love gift" for ignoring my children was the easiest of all desserts, took 5 minutes, no cooking and three ingredients. Well, to that I say...You should have seen their faces when I served it. :)
I made this "fancy" by garnishing it with fresh basil. I love basil and strawberry together and since my kids have grown up with a foodie Mom, they didn't even question it. Basil and strawberry? Sure, why not? There is something about homemade ice creams and sorbets that make me feel like an accomplished cook. They are simple in essence, but when you sit down to eat, and it tastes just like you bought it in a store, bursting with fresh fruit flavors and balanced with both tart and sweet from the sugar, I have this overwhelming sense of I made this. I MADE this and it's good.
You know what else is good about strawberry sorbet? When kids are eating it, they are quiet as church mice.
adapted from Bouchon, by Thomas Keller
makes about 1 quart
2 pounds fresh strawberries
1 1/4 cups sugar ( I used just 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Fresh basil, in ribbons for garnish
Combine the strawberries, sugar, and lime juice in a blender and blend to a puree. Strain to remove the seeds, if desired. Refrigerate until cold.
Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Just before serving, sprinkle basil, if using on top of sorbet.
You don't need to strain the mixture before freezing if you have a powerful blender, like a vita-mix; but if you don't, you may want to strain the mixture to remove any seeds. I only had 1 pound of fresh strawberries so I used frozen strawberries which I already had in my freezer to make up the other pound called for in the recipe. It was perfect because I didn't even need to refrigerate my finished mixture because it was already very cold from the frozen fruit.
I'm writing this part of the post after my date with Isabella tonight. It's was great. My Grandma watched the kids for us while we took Isabella out. Anyway we went out to the Canton, a local Chinese restaurant we never go to because it's quiet and we have three kids. It doesn't work well. But that is where Isabella wanted to go and it was great. We drank hot tea and slurped hot and sour soup and I listened to her. She didn't talk nearly as much as I thought she would. Maybe when she is not competing with younger siblings she doesn't need to say much. We had a delightful time. But on the next date, I hope she talks more. I'm warped like that.