Cooking By The Book

I seem to be segueing into some kind of early fall hermity thing. I LIKE IT, BY JOVE. It’s keeping me out of trouble and writing, which is always good. Posts here are going to be kind of kid-heavy for the next little while, I think. I hate to be all cats-and-crystals about things, but I am pretty far into my own head…and at the same time nothing is happening. It’s like the Fat Head of John Travolta in an infinity mirror on some kind of film loop. It doesn’t make sense, and at the same time nothing’s happening. I am reading and writing a lot, and the postcard summary is that I’m Happy and Keeping Busy. I will let you know if I am doing something, or, you know, leave the house to go somewhere besides the grocery store.

Franny asked me to dye her hair, like for real, for real Oprah-Winfrey-whole-segment for real. She cleaned bathrooms for a few weeks in a row to earn the moneys. Are you sure, I asked her. She was really pissed when she was 5 and her father took her in to get her hair bleached to be a flower girl at the wedding of a cousin she barely sees. Is it okay to demand that a human prop in your wedding risk scalp blisters? I will let you decide, gentle reader.

Is it okay to do it now? I will let you decide that as well. I told her it would sting. We did it. Now she sort of looks like that adorable child from Lazytown. I need to snap a pic of her today. No scalp trauma, but I kept a close eye on it. It is pretty.

I am kind of bemused with the layers of weird bureaucracy at the girls’ new school. They get stamped when they leave the bus, so they do not forget their bus number. Strudel wears a badge and a wristband with all of her infos on it. They are not allowed to ask for water with their lunches; their choices are cow, chocolate cow, or soy. “What do kids who cannot have those do?” I asked. “Oh, there is a drinking fountain,” Franny told me.

I was told very sternly that they would not be let off the bus unless I was there, because Strudel is five. I was throwing on my shoes yesterday to come out and pick them up at the bus stop when they walked up to me through the yard, several minutes early.

“Whoa, you girls are home early, eh?”

“Yes,” said Franny, who usually acts as spokesdwarf. “And YOU WEREN’T THERE, so we decided to come home.”

“Okay, good call. No one cared? They did not try to hold you?”

“No,” she said. Well, okay.

Strudel had her first homework assignment this weekend. I know some people (Montessauruses) who would begin spontaneously bleeding from the ears if they heard “kindergartner with homework” but we are in lockdown now, yo. Do your time, don’t let your time do you.

“I don’t feel like doing this right now,” Strudel said. It was Sunday, and I had suggested to her for the 48th time that weekend that she might want to sit down and do her homework.

“The weekend is almost over. Just knock it out, baby,” I said. We read the instructions together. The worksheet said that the child should make a poster summarizing her summer in pictures of the activities with simple words or phrases labeling the activities. Her father suggested she make a list of all the things she remembered from this summer.

Strudel’s response was to get irritated. “THIS IS STUPID. WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?” Franny, the occasionally-frustrated but overall lover of homework and all things school-related, looked at her incredulously from across the table, where she was at work on a drawing.

“What’s wrong with homework?” Franny said. “It’s a drawing, you like drawings.”

“I’M JUST GOING TO SCRIBBLE,” Strudel informed us.

“No, you’re not,” I said. “Do a good job. This is your schoolwork. You have to actually try, okay.”


“It’s a life lesson,” I said. “You do this now, and then you get to do fun things you want to do later. Most of life is figuring out how to follow the rules so you can find joy in other places, where there are no rules, or only your own rules.”

She looked down and started drawing a picture of a large house that dominated most of the picture, possibly to get me to stop talking, since I had gone into Lecture Mode. She informed us it was her Grandpa’s house, where she had stayed for a weekend. The final cut for the poster was the house, a pool, her lost tooth, and roller skates.

The last thing to do was write the title of the poster: Strudel’s Summer.


“It’s in the directions, dude, give it up.” I wrote it down on a separate piece of paper so she could copy it in her careful cursive.

“Do you think there is a high rate of suicide among teachers?” her father asked me in the kitchen a few minutes later, out of earshot.

“Yeah, these are my genes, sorry,” I said. “Chin up, though, little soldier. Only twelve more years of this.”

Later I was flipping through Alice Waters’ bio when Franny sat down next to me and said that someone besides her teacher was coming into the classroom and having “carpet circle time” with them.

“Oh?” I said. “Some kind of reading thing?”

“No, this lady asks us a bunch of questions about what we like and what our families are like, and we all have to say answers.”

“They are trying to see which of you are mental and which of you, if any, are being burned with cigarettes at home,” I told her.

“Oh,” Franny said.

“There’s really no reason a government agency needs to know any of this about you or us. I have already filled out the forms with your vital stats. All they are there for is to present information to you, hopefully educational. I would advise making answers up.”

Franny began frowning at me.

“See the inherent challenge: How quickly can I get the school to call my mother?”

“MooooooOOOM come ON,” Franny said.

“I’m serious, they want to waste your time, you waste theirs right back, okay, poodle?”

12 thoughts on “Cooking By The Book

  1. [“It’s a life lesson,” I said. “You do this now, and then you get to do fun things you want to do later. Most of life is figuring out how to follow the rules so you can find joy in other places, where there are no rules, or only your own rules.”]

    I desperately wish someone had told me this as a child, or even as a 20 year old. You’re amazing.

  2. I’m so glad someone told me that as a 36-yr-old. I can’t wait to hear back about whether or not she made some exciting stuff up. A girl I know told her parents that (here at school) the teachers put the bad children on the roof. Creative, but untrue. They actually believed her and had the balls to be indignant about it.

  3. oh yes, the Lecture Mode. I hear my voice going there and sometimes, I am powerless to stop. Even I stop listening to myself at that point.

  4. Strudel can write??
    Franny’s school making sneaky family situation enquiries sounds like unbelievable opportunities for general fuckery. Something about enforced hair dying could work, but I am sure Franny can come up with something much more creative.

  5. I’m a high school teacher and I am going to quote your “life lesson” because it’s SO TRUE. Thank you for putting it so succinctly. Maybe it’ll sink in those kids’ melons this time…or not.

  6. Jane: Yeah, I blame Montessori. Apparently she’s the only kid in her class who can read, too, which worries me. She is bringing home “Make the letter A” worksheets.

    Marie: Heh, I think you have to figure it out for yourself, sadly. I chose to get the stick for years instead, like a dumbass.

  7. I was reading/writing before Kindergarten too. The school I was in chose to “put me with older students” during reading time, which was both great and terrifying as I padded down the hall to the second grade room in my tiny uniform.

    It might be a reason why she didn’t want to do her homework, maybe she thinks it’s dumb or not worth doing. The Strudel needs a challenge!

  8. dude. I don’t know you, I don’t have kids, I used to live in Seattle, and I can’t remember how I got to your website, but Oh My God, I love you.

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