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Betsy Block

Stumbling Blocks

Coming in July 2008 from Algonquin Books:
The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World

And now, The Dinner Diaries website is up! Check it out!

If you'd like to receive (infrequent and very short) e-mails when I have pieces in real publications, and when my book comes out this summer, sign up here.

One last thought: the house has been rife with illness for the past two (endless, timeless) weeks, so there hasn't been much cooking going on. Therefore, this isn't the day for a new recipe. Soon, I hope. But these things seem to be out of my hands.

Stumbling Blocks
Andy and I thought it would be fun to have an all-family sleepover at my brother's house near Providence, where the cousins would stay home with an energetic baby sitter while the four tired adults went out for dinner.

Maya said no. Figuring that with this attitude she'd easily sabotage our good times, we acquiesced - until a few weeks ago, anyway, when the adults agreed that the time for our sleepover had arrived. Maya wasn't happy we hadn't gotten permission from her, so when she awoke that morning at 5 a.m. and started fussing, I thought she might just be showing us who was boss.

A few hours later Zack and I went out for breakfast. When we got home, Andy had taken Maya's temperature, which was normal, but he'd given her some Motrin anyway to address her myriad complaints. It's not what I'd have done, but then again I was at a fuss-free diner being served French toast at the time he made the decision. Anyway, it seemed to work, because her general unhappiness abated.

When we got down to my brother's house, Maya plopped herself on the couch and the kvetching commenced anew. A few minutes later, Andy got up from stroking her hair to do something frivolous, like go to the bathroom, so Maya came and sat on my lap. I kissed her, then asked my sister-in-law if I might trouble her for a thermometer. Sure enough, that earlier dose of Motrin must have masked a rising temperature. She was a respectably uncomfortable 101.

Just as I was mulling over how I could possibly leave Maya under these difficult circumstances, Zack yelled out, "Mom?" in that tone I've come to dread. He had developed a strange rash on his face and chin, and no, Paul, not because he was jealous of Maya. I couldn't help wondering if this reaction might morph into something, you know, deadly while we were out. The sitter looked nervous, but that might have been me.

The other three thought I was ridiculous even to consider staying home, and while they did manage to coax me into the car, I insisted on calling the pediatrician. Once he assured me that Zack's rash was definitely not life-threatening, I cheered up. I figured if there were ever a time to succumb to midlife peer pressure, this moment, with its table for four waiting just for us, would be it. I began to relax.

We sat down, ordered a bottle of red, and my cell phone rang. I knew this was going to happen, I said wearily, shaking my head. But we'd already taken care of the fever and rash; what could it be? Was someone throwing up? Or was it the kennel calling with bad news about our dog? I pulled out my phone and – oh, it was a friend calling. Just a friend.

I started laughing, and I didn't stop for the next three hours, and while I can't say I understood everything my brother said – he is a psychologist, after all – the four of us had a great time nonetheless. When we finally got back to the house, we were greeted with the good news that Maya's fever had gone down and Zack's rash had cleared up. Okay, so I learned I might need to lighten up. Still, I have one small message for my brother and his wife: next time, our house.