Cracking a Smile

eggs

I have plenty of reasons to smile these days—and I’ll be sharing a few of them soon—but something that never fails to make me happy is gathering eggs from my chickens. The range in hues on the shells is amazing, and the flavor and color of the yolks inside puts store-bought eggs to shame. It’s like seeing the sun on a clear day vs. through layers of clouds.

Despite writing a book about a kid who cooks, I’ve never thought of myself as much of a wizard in the kitchen. I’ve aspired to be someone who follows—and even improves on—recipes to create memorable meals, but my actual culinary skills are … not so much lacking as underdeveloped. But one day I decided to learn to scramble eggs really, really well, and then I moved on to frying. Maybe poaching is next, since it’s something my oldest daughter has already pretty much mastered. Hopefully she can teach me.

My kids would probably tell you that my signature dish is hamburgers. While I do have a go-to house recipe for those, I’ve always found that the most fun is in topping them, and my favorite thing to stack on a patty is, yes, a fried egg. It’s all the more delicious knowing that the key ingredient came from just a few steps away.

construction.JPGDespite having a fancy place to lay (that photo above is me building our coop with help from my parents), my hens have started hiding their eggs around the yard. I suppose it’s my fault for giving them free reign of the yard during the day. They most often now lay them under a jasmine bush, and if I don’t get to them fast enough or I miss a few, there’s a creature in my yard (I’m thinking possum) that snatches one or two away for a late-night snack. I guess I’m not the only one who likes fresh eggs!

finished coop.JPG

Whether you’re a human or a hen or an egg-thieving marsupial, I hope you take some time today to appreciate something that makes you smile. Or whatever the equivalent expression is for animals with beaks. And if you’re so inclined, let me know what it is!

hens in coop.JPG

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Identity Week: Freaky Friday

Identity Week: Freaky Friday

My kids are storytellers.

They’re obviously wired to be storytellers, what with my genetics and all, but they’ve also been raised on a steady diet of dramatic narratives, from their minimum of three nightly bedtime stories to the repeated tales I tell about past family happenings at every chance I get.

My firstborn will recount, in great detail, the time she found a black widow that had fallen into our house from the mail slot near the front door. Likely stunned at being shoved from its home by a sheaf of letters, it had curled up into a ball like an obsidian marble in our entryway. An unexpectedly large obsidian marble.

“I reached out an stroked it, once, with my finger,” she says, demonstrating the hesitant gesture. “Slowly, it began to stick out its legs … .”

The telling—complete with hand motions—is a near-verbatim recitation of my own telling of the event to friends and family. And I wasn’t even there to see what had happened firsthand. My wife was the only adult in the house at the time, so my account comes from her descriptions.

My daughter was about 18 months old when it happened, so there’s a chance she doesn’t actually remember it at all and has just adopted my version of the story as her memory without realizing it.

Either way, shortly after my wife realized what her child was petting, she clamped a cup down over it (I don’t know why she didn’t just smash it then and there) and called me at work to say that there was a large black widow trapped near the front door, that she was leaving the house and taking our kid with her, and that she’d come home after I’d taken care of the (contained) threat.

Reality Week throwback: I was next prepared to write some sort of profound musing on the nature of stories and how they define us, weaving together disparate thoughts on the Bible, J.R.R. Tolkien’s idea of a “eucatastrophe” (“the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears”), Neil Gaiman (my favorite author, besides Ray Bradbury), comic books, and more. And then my 1-year-old decided that flopping around, screaming and crying, and accepting anything offered to him (sippy cup, apple sauce, blanket) only so he could throw it angrily away was preferable to sleeping for several hours last night. So I got up early this morning to finish it off to find that both my daughters chose to wake up, too, to catalog, trade, and bicker over candy they got from a piñata at a birthday party last week.

Then, after my wife came downstairs with the baby (asking, “Why are you kids up so early?), my firstborn declared: “We’ll make a surprise breakfast for mom. The baby will distract her by running away from her. Dad, you’ll cook it.”

To which my next daughter replied: “Yeah, I’ll tell Mommy! ‘Mom, were making you a surprise breakfast! But I won’t tell you what it is.'”

Firstborn: “Actually, Mom, we’re just having eggs. It’s a bummer. Don’t look at the nonsense in the kitchen.”

So apparently I have to go make eggs.