Parenting drama erupted between Peter and Audrey. Having been woken up multiple times two nights in a row and working without a weekend brought Peter pretty much to the brink of his breaking point. Audrey’s insolent attitude was all it took for him to fly into a rage. I will not give you the blow by blow, but let’s just say it was pretty bad. All of us were exhausted by the emotional strain. Everyone felt hurt, victimized and guilty.
I escaped to the kitchen. As I stepped away and began methodically cleaning up the kitchen, I felt a calm fell on me like a fuzzy blanket. I remembered an old Chinese proverb 退一步海阔天空, which means “Retreat one step, the sea is wide, the sky limitless.” The proverb is actually from a couplet that starts with 忍一时风平浪静, meaning “Tolerate one moment, the wind turns calm, the waves peaceful.” I’m afraid I may have lost the beauty in the original words that carry such a visual sense of the sudden broadening of the horizon in front of you when you shift your perspective by taking one little step back. Of course we couldn’t all live in such a philosophical and detached manner as in Chinese proverbs. We never feel we are good enough as parents simply because we love our children too much to feel anything is good enough.
There is a Shanghainese term for children 讨债鬼 — debt collecting ghosts — meaning whatever you do, you owe them. When I was growing up I heard this phrase yelled out by neighbors and friends’ parents all the time, but I never thought much about it. For some reason, my parents never called my brother and I 讨债鬼. They were too cultured for it, I suppose. Certainly we gave them just as much grief.
Audrey had a complete recovery from her hysteria in the afternoon when a friend came to visit and they ate ice cream sandwiches together. Audrey was chatting and laughing like nothing had ever happened. Her friend said that she didn’t have eaten and began eating the leftover shredded pork that I made for lunch. She loved it, “This chicken is really good,” she kept saying. And I wasn’t sure if I should tell her that this was not chicken. I was afraid she might be grossed out. I have learned that in America, not everyone likes pork as I do. Instead of explaining the dish, I casually asked her if she ever fought with her father. She nonchalantly said yes, about once a week. I asked what about and she said usually over small things. I felt somewhat relieved that what happened this weekend was not unique to our household.
The two girls went shopping at Target, each bought a bag of “things.” Audrey bought a pair of bunny ears for Easter, lolly pop, Febreeze and a pink rabbit mold, all for 11 dollars. The shopping spree gave her the leisurely pleasure she wanted today, but I’m sure these things will be forgotten and get piled up somewhere at a corner in a couple of weeks. Once again sabotaging my efforts at “discarding what no longer spark joy” as per Marie Kondo.
When Peter came back from work at 8 pm, Audrey went to him and said, “I’m sorry I gave you the attitude.” Peter’s exhausted face lit up as he gave her a big bear hug. I am proud that Audrey instinctively understood to “retreat one step.”
I thought of a passage from Housekeeping, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers Marilynne Robinson: “At a certain level housekeeping is a regime of small kindnesses, which, taken together, make the the world salubrious, savory, and warm. I think of the acts of comfort offered and received within a household as precisely sacramental.”
Shredded Pork Tenderloin with Peppers
Ingredients for the Marinade:
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp minced ginger
Ingredients for the Dish:
8 oz. pork tenderloin
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp pure sesame oil
1 large jalapeño pepper, sliced lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
3 tbsp scallion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced (1/2 for the marinade and 1/2 for cooking)
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
Ingredients for the sauce:
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp xylitol or brown sugar
1/4 tsp corn starch
Wash the pork and slice the pork into 1/4 inch by 2 inch strips. Rinse the pork until all the pink in the water is clear, drain. Marinate pork in wine and soy sauce for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.
In the meantime, slice the peppers, set aside. Mince the garlic, ginger, scallion. Add 1/2 tsp minced ginger in the marinade and mix the rest with minced garlic and minced scallion in a small bowl.
Drain the marinade from the pork and add 1 tsp corn starch, 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well with your hand or a spoon.
Heat the oil on high heat in a wok, sprinkle some minced garlic, ginger, scallion and let it sizzle for a while. Add the shredded pork and stir for one minute. Add all the garlic, ginger, scallion and stir for one more minute. Add the peppers and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce and give it a few good stir before turning of the stove.
Homemade Graham Cracker
1 cup plus 2 tbsp whole-wheat flour (or white, or arrowhead mills gf will work, too)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp xylitol
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses(or maple syrup)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp water or milk of choice
Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet in a separate bowl, then mix together. Form a ball with your hands (or, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, put the mixture in a plastic bag and squish into a ball). Place the ball on a piece of wax paper, then place another sheet on top and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into very thin (graham-cracker) width. Cut into squares or cookie-cuttered shapes, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, depending on whether you like your graham crackers super-soft or crispy.
Adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie