Why I Oughta

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly

My Three Stooges: Hank, Pai (dad) and Molly


(from the back seat of the car)

Hank: Mana (sister)?

Molly: Mano (brother)?

Hank: Are you my baby?

Molly? Noooo.

Hank: Then who’s baby are you?

Molly: Um… mama’s baby.

Me: (fist pump, whisper scream) Yes!

Molly: Quero água (I want water).

Pai: (driving) Do we even have…

Me: (inspecting the picnic basket) Moo-Moo, I don’t have water. I have juice.

Molly: Juice, please.

Hank: That was so polite, mana (sister).

Molly: Juice please, agora (now)!

Pai: (officially micromanaging) And there is no sippy-cup is there?

Me: (bicker-flirting) I didn’t get the motherhood preparedness badge in girl scouts, okay?

Pai: You were a girl scout and that is a real thing?

Me: I was a brownie for like 4 weeks until my contrariness caused the other mothers to advise my mom that maybe girl scouts wasn’t for me.

Pai: You couldn’t even be a scout?

Me: AMERICAN girl scout. I am sure I would have excelled at European Scouts where the girls and boys are equal, but I wasn’t into selling cookies and knotting macramé.

Pai: (mocked shock, completely facetious) Don’t you write a parenting blog?  Isn’t being perfect, like, your job?

Me: (soooooo much side eye)

Molly: JUICE!

Hank: Say please, be kind.

Molly: Juice, please, sim (yes).

Me: I have a cup and I have a straw which means I will need your help, Hank.

Hank: That is perfectly fine! I will make sure she doesn’t get a juice bath. Just don’t hit any big bumps.

Pai: Portuguese highways don’t have bumps or traffic and for this our country was practically bankrupt. If you can help, Hank, then we will be home in 15 minutes without a birra (tantrum).

Me: (handing back the unsecured drinking vessel to the nine year old to be administered to the two year old completely unsupervised)

Pai: (turns up the radio, whispers sarcastically, escalating the mock argument) Do you have a change of clothes for her? (trying to keep a strait face)

Me: (feigning defensiveness) If I didn’t pack a gawd-damn-sippy-cup do you think I would have planned ahead and packed a spare outfit for the toddler? You’re lucky there were diapers and wipes today.

Pai: (chuckling)

Me: What happened to the 15 minutes and we’re home attitude? Next time you make the lunch and pack the picnic basket then I’ll better pack the diaper bag instead of doing (whisper scream, shaking a fist at him) ALL THE THINGS, BRO.

Pai: (practically hysterical) Did you just call me bro?

Me: (giggling) You’re gonna drive me to drink. What makes you think I am the prepper in this family? Just because I carried those kids for 9 months each in my broken down trash heap of a body doesn’t mean I’m the one that has to carry their gear.

Pai: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: She’s lucky I didn’t ask Hank to have her drink strait from the bottle. Where’s the “she can scream for 15 minutes covered in orange juice” option, huh?  You’ve completely forgotten what parenting toddler Hank was like. He screamed for all of 2009. Every single day all day. Where were you?

Pai: Dissertating.

Me: (switching to my best three stooges impression)  A wise wise guy, eh? Why I oughta!

Molly: All done!

Hank: Here is the cup, mama.

Me: Well done! Thank you, Hank. (rhetorically to Hank, flirtatiously barbed towards Pai) Jeeze, how did you get to be such a kind and capable young man?

Hank: I don’t know. You’re my parents and you both taught me to be my best me so I guess I learned it from you because you’re such good parents.

Me: (heart melted into a puddle)

Pai: (beaming)

Me: Thank you so much, buddy!

Pai: That was so kind, thank you.

Hank: I’m your best filho (son) and you’re my best pais (parents).  I don’t know how good I’d be in another family, but I am so lucky I don’t have to think about that because you’re my parents.

Pai: Obrigado, filho (thank you, son).

Me: Truth.

Molly: More juice! MAMA! Juuuuuiiiiccceeeee.

Hank: Amália Sofia?

Molly: Please. PLEASE!




Sopa de Legumes (made with love)

conversations with hank sopa de legumes


Me: Hank?

Hank: Yah?

Me: Come find me.

Hank: (unenthusiastic) Coming.

Me: (scrubbing veg in the kitchen sink)

Hank: What is it, mama?

Me: Summer Session: Soup Making 101

Hank: But I…

Me: Haven’t done anything worth wile today being stuck home because of the rain?

Hank: No, that isn’t true. I organized my school cabinet.

Me: That you did and now you will help me organize these vegtables into a soup.

Hank: (annoyed) What do I have to do?

Me: Come here and observe first. A basic Portuguese Sopa de Legumes (Vegetable Soup) to be healthy it is believed needs at least ten different kinds of veg. We don’t have ten today, we have about six if we count the garlic, so this will be only a moderately healthy soup. We have 5 potatoes, one turnip, a handful of carrots, 4 small onions, three cloves of garlic and I have purslane, which is called beldroega in Portuguese, from our veranda which we will add after we make the caldo (broth).

Hank: (already bored)

Me: What veg do you want to peel?

Hank: Carrots, I guess. (miffed)

Me: We need to peel and rough chop all of this and add it to the pressure cooker.

Hank: (annoyed body language)

Me: What’s wrong? Am I tearing you away from something important?

Hank: No.

Me: Then what is wrong?

Hank: (full of sass) What makes you think that something is wrong?

Me: Your body language, your tone of voice and your lack of enthusiasm. You would have thought I asked you to scrub a toilet, not peel a carrot. What is it?

Hank: I haven’t said anything.

Me: You can say a lot without words, young man.

Me: (peeling)

Hank: (peeling)

Me: (deep breath)

Hank: (deep breath)

Me: Soup takes five minutes of work to make and is the most important culinary skill I can teach you. I want you to be independent. In a few years I want to call you and say, “Hank, I will be home in 30 minutes. Make a soup for dinner please and have Molly make the salad.” And if you can do that when you are 12 then I won’t ever need to worry about you when you leave home. Basic cooking skills: Soup, omelet, quiche, pancakes…

Hank: (cracking a smile) Chili and tacos.

Me: Totally. Once I know you can make those things, do laundry without turning a whole load of clothes blue or pink and scrub a toilet then my work is done. You already are a master of cleaning floors, organizing and making your bed.

Hank: (tone of voice brightens, shoulders lifted, attitude adjusted) I like to do those things and I like to cook. I don’t know what was wrong with me a minute ago. I wasn’t thinking strait.

Me: You have the ultimate power over your attitude and your attitude makes any job easier or harder.

Hank: I feel better. Before I felt tired and terrible and annoyed, but then I listened and soup only takes five minutes.

Me: (having peeled all my veg like a pro) Two minutes down. Are your carrots all peeled?

Hank: Yup.

Me: Cut off the ends and hand them over. (moving the pressure cooker to the sink) Now, do you see here where the top of the veg sits in the pot?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Mark that spot with your smallest finger and you will know you have enough water when the height of the water reaches your fourth finger.

Hank: Four fingers of water.  I have heard this before but didn’t ever understand it.

Me: It’s a Portuguese thing.  This measurement will never fail you when it comes to soup. (resting my pinkie-finger against the outside of the pressure cooker and adding water until it reaches my pointer finger)

Hank: That is easy.

Me: (lifting the pot to the stove) Now, I know this will be your favorite part.

Hank: What?

Me: Seasoning.

Hank: Huh?

Me: (fetch olive oil, bouillon and sea salt from the cupboard) Sopa de Legumes requires two bouillon cubes, a tablespoon of salt and a ton of olive oil.

Hank: (excited) I want to do the olive oil.

Me: You can do it all, my dove. Put enough olive oil that you have a slick of it on the service of the soup about the size of um carcaça (bread roll, hamburger size). I wouldn’t recommend this amount of olive oil in American or abroad.

Hank: (still pouring olive oil from our cruet in a long thin stream) Why?

Me: Because the olive oil in Portugal is so good we add it for flavor as much as for necessity. You don’t get this level of quality outside Portugal and olive oil is often bitter and very expensive.

Hank: Really? That is so sad.

Me: Chega, ja chega (Enough, that’s enough)! Now boullion…

Hank: Two cubes. (plopping them in one by one)

Me: You can use which ever flavor you like and then salt.

Hank: Can I use a spoon?

Me: Let me teach your muscles the right amount of salt to use. Cooking is as much muscle memory as it is recipe. (taking his hand and placing a tablespoon of sea salt into his palm) Take a moment to feel the weight of this salt. Learn to cook with your whole body and you will learn to cook faster and with better instincts.

Hank: (bouncing the salt in his hand) Can I put it in now?

Me: Yup.

Hank: Now what?

Me: Last but not least, we seal up the pressure cooker and once it starts singing…

Hank: It sings?

Me: What one person might consider the sound of steam spitting angrily from the pressure cooker valve I consider singing. You want your pressure cooker to sing for about 15 minutes, 20 if you are making a bean based soup, before you turn off the heat, release the pressure valve, wait for all of the pressure to be released and the pot to go quiet before you open the pot, purée the vegetables to make the caldo (broth) before you add the purslane and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Hank: So now we wait?

Me: Yup. You can go back to whatever you were so grieved to be pulled away from before.

Hank: Okay, but mama, don’t forget to call me for the next step. I want to help finish the soup.

Me: You will hear when it is time for sure. Once I release the pressure valve the singing turns to screaming.

Hank: (on his way out the door, turns back) Mama, Monica (Hank’s cousin) said when she tasted Dalia’s (Hank’s grandmother) soup it tasted exactly like Aldina’s (Hank’s great grandmother, Dalia’s mother) soup, so does that mean I will learn to make your soup and that my soup will always taste like yours?

Me: That tends to be what happens. (lighting the gas under the pressure cooker)

Hank: I love that.

Me: (gathering vegetable peels) Love is the best ingredient in food.

Hank: (coming back into the kitchen to help clean up)


Oh, The 80’s, Bless Um.

conversations with hank


Hank: I was watching TV…

Me: (gasp)

Pai: Like real TV and not YouTube.

Me: (gasp again, clutching my non-existent pearls)

Hank: What?

Me: I thought kids your age didn’t watch TV anymore.

Hank: Anyway. I was watching TV, The Simpsons, and  then this show came on called The Goldbergs and it was about what it was like growing up between 1980 and 1990.

Pai: Where? I assume America.

Hank: Yah.

Me: Oh so, my life, basically.

Hank: And the show was about how it was just like really important that like everyone have a telephone. Not a cellphone because those didn’t exist yet, but like a telephone with a cord in their room.

Pai: Hank, there were three unnecessary “likes” in that one statemet.

Hank: Sorry.

Me: We had one phone growing up and it was in the kitchen conveniently attached to A WALL.

Hank: (wide eyed in disbelief) Was that a thing with you do you remember?

Me: My main concerns growing up were getting a dog, a VCR and cable. Only one of which happened before moving out on my own.

Hank: Which?

Me: The VCR. A total game changer, but we only rented movies from the library, no Blockbuster card for my parents.

Pai: (snickering) Blockbuster (sigh).

Me: Music was more the competitive thing I remember. Your favorite band, knowing all the lyrics to every song, etc, that was what I remember most. Music was a part of your identity. Your friend group was often based on your musical tastes. I remember spending hours waiting for a certain song to be played on the radio and even more radical was when you would actually call into the radio station and request they play your favorite song and then you would sit riveted in front of the speakers not moving for fear they would actually play it and you would miss it. If you were very lucky the DJ would record your request and actually play the recording before playing the song and then you would scream because you were on the radio, hyperventilate, and pass out before the song would even come on. (sigh) Kids at school would have heard it because they were home doing the same thing and the next day either judge you for requesting the song or congratulate you for being on the radio.

Pai: And then there were mixed tapes.

Hank: What were mixed tapes?

Me: You would choose songs that best represented your soul or romanitc intentions and compile them into a mix

Pai: What you would call a playlist.

Me: Exactly and then you would record those songs on a cassette tape and give them to your friends and if you were brave to someone you had a crush on BUT what you have to remember is there was no internet, no downloading so you had to go out and buy all the music that made up your mixed tape or record the songs off the radio. I spent all my paper route and baby sitting money at the record shop, buying albums, cassette singles, sheet music to learn how to actually PLAY the song because my family was musical and blank tapes.

Pai: Your mother made a lot of mixed tapes.

Me: Guilty. I am a passionate person. I used to stay up real late, light a single candle and play records all night long and really feeeeeeeeel the music while staring into the solitary candlelight. Nowadays, hipsters call this meditating.

Pai: (snickering)

Me: Music was such a big thing your Uncle Jesse saved up all his money and bought a Boombox.

Pai: Oh, that was a big deal.

Me: This thing was as big as your sister, but not as heavy, and it ran on batteries which meant you no longer had to sit in the house with your music you could – wait for it- take your music with you… outside. Uncle Jesse used to throw this up on his shoulder and march around Sunset Boulevard with our neighbor and his best friend, Dennis Hicks, listening to Thriller, Run-D.M.C. and The Fat Boys, those were his cassettes I remember, and this machine ran on eight DD batteries. (gesturing the size of a single DD battery) Uncle Jesse bought eight rechargeable batteries from Radio Shack that probably cost just as much as the Boombox and I think they only had about two hours of playtime before they had to plug into a wall. Man, good times.

Hank: So where did you go?

Me: Oh, I wasn’t invited to parade around the neighborhood with my brother and his friends unless Dennis Hick’s cousin BB was visiting. My brother wanted nothing to do with his baby sister. Made that very clear when he declared he wouldn’t walk me to my first day of kindergarten and left me in the middle of the road not knowing where to go.

Hank: I still can’t believe he did that.

Me: Not every brother and sister get along. You and Molly are a rare and wonderful exception. We made up for it of course when I was a freshman and he was a senior in high school. Then we became friends, but not before.

Pai: Not all big brothers are like you. You are Charlie and Amália is Lola.

Hank: Awe, really?

Me: Totally! Oh, I didn’t see it before. You two are just like Charlie and Lola! Loving that cartoon really paid off.

Hank: That is such a nice compliment, thank you. I love my sister. I know she frustrates me so much, but every morning when we wake up I am so happy to see her I don’t remember why she was frustrating.

Me: You have summed up the parenting paradox in a single sentence.

Hank: I have a little sister, Molly, and she is small and very funny.

Me: Remember that when you’re a teenager and she is your age now.

Hank: I imagine I will be focused more on my studies, but I will always have time to play video games or pick her up from school! OH! I want pick her up from school and take her to a café and then we could talk over cakes like I do with mom, just her and me.

Pai: Your sister is very lucky.

Me: All I got from my brother when I was in elementary school was a pitchfork to the skull.

Hank: WHAT!

Me: That made it sound really dire doesn’t it?

Pai: Completely sinister.

Me: Not my intention. It was a total accident. My brother was extremely apologetic. I was fine. We were having a hay fight while bailing to my grandpa’s horses and my brother misjudged where my head was. To be fair my hair was the color of straw. My cranium was camouflaged, well it was until I started bleeding.

Pai: Okay, let’s go back to music, shall we? What were these Fat Boys?