The Problem With Standardized Tests Is Exposed In Playful New Book

This is not a test.
In fact, Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice is a critique of test-taking, and the reductive practice of choosing a single answer to an interpretable or multi-faceted question.
The book, appropriately, is tough to categorize. It’s formatted in the style of the Chilean national exam, a test all students take to determine college placement, and which Zambra took himself in 1993. Publishers and critics have called it a novel, a poetry collection, a work of criticism. But Zambra clearly aims to avoid classification. He abandoned another, more traditionally told story he’d been working on in favor of beginning Multiple Choice.
The book begins with a prompt: The reader is to determine which word, in a series of 24 questions, doesn’t fit with the others that it’s grouped with. From the first question, it’s apparent that none of the answers will be clear-cut; “bear” is matched with “endure,” “tolerate,” “abide,” “panda” and “kangaroo,” highlighting the tenuous connection that exists between so many words, and the absurdity of drawing distinct lines between them, rather than embracing their playful fluidity.
Distinct lines are just what Zambra is waging against. In one question, the narrator writes that he is Manuel Contreras, and he is also Manuel Contreras’ son. He finds a page in the phonebook with 22 listings for Manuel Contreras, looking for solidarity, but he sticks the page in a paper shredder, claiming that sharing a first and last name ― mere words ― with another individual has never done him any good. What’s ostensibly similar can be deeply and complicatedly different, in ways that can’t be whittled down into lettered options.

You can’t talk about Zambra without talking about Chile, the country he is from, and the country he’s disillusioned with. He lived through the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet’s corrupt, overbearing rule, which began in the early 1970s and lasted through the late ‘80s. It makes sense, then, that Zambra’s past books ― My Documents, The Private Lives of Trees, Ways of Going Home and Bonsai ― are short and intentionally disjointed, leaving room for the power of what’s left unsaid. The same mood reigns over Multiple Choice, which unites a series of personal stories under one theme: attempting to limit human experience to the confines of tasks and rules can stifle and distort.
The second portion of the book, “Sentence Order,” prompts the reader to place a series of events in chronological order ― but events as ethereal as quarrels and loving memories aren’t usually recalled so straightforwardly, with an accurate calendar in mind.
The fourth section, “Sentence Elimination,” asks the reader to select the sentences that should be removed because they “do not add information” to the text. The idea is that each sentence should follow after the other in a cohesive, declarative fashion ― dates and facts take precedent over emotional observations. In one question, the narrator defines what a curfew is and states that there was a curfew in place in Santiago, Chile, from 1973 to 1987. But these historical tidbits are interrupted by a less palatable detail: The narrator was born as a result of that curfew because his father stayed over at a friend’s house when it was too late for him to walk home. Of the five multiple-choice options, two imply that this anecdote should be removed from the story. Zambra-as-literary-critic shows himself here, commenting on which elements of a story ― namely, the mysterious and the interpretable ― are vital to its liveliness and emotional import.
The final section, “Reading Comprehension,” asks the reader a series of questions about a preceding text. Here, the book’s clever structure falls away and poignant vignettes emerge. Zambra crafts three touching works of flash fiction, one about a student who learns of twins who traded places to succeed on their exams, another about a marriage that later gets annulled before divorce is legal in Chile. Both are subtle and ripe with meaning. Both are stripped of nuance in the multiple-choice questions that follow.
In a question about a bitter former high school teacher who later runs into his students, the reader is asked which of his sentiments about education is true. If you were to write a book report on Zambra, the options that follow would be highlighted as its thesis statement:
A) You weren’t educated, you were trained.
B) You weren’t educated, you were trained.
C) You weren’t educated, you were trained.
D) You weren’t educated, you were trained.
E) You weren’t educated, you were trained.
What we think:
Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice is small book packed with meaning and space for interpretation. By structuring it as a test, the author comments on the rigidity of Chile’s former fascist leader. By allowing the reader to meditate on how to make sense of each puzzling question, he offers an alternative to enforced structure.
What other reviewers think:
Kirkus: “Though the overall effect is fragmentary, Zambra’s fragments are consistently witty and provocative.”
NPR: “Throughout Multiple Choice, Zambra traffics in a depth of imagination and playfulness that is akin to a guessing game. As with many of his earlier works, he is content to play with, prod, and shake up the reader, confirming once again that the questions we ask about the world and about ourselves are oftentimes far more telling than the answers.”
Who wrote it:
Zambra is a Chilean novelist who’s been described as “Latin America’s new literary star.” This is his fifth book.
Who will read it:
Fans of Borges and other playful, experimental writers. Those interested in a book about that explores the limits of formal education.
Opening lines:
“In exercises 1 through 24, mark the answer that corresponds to the word whose meaning has no relation to either the heading or the other words listed.”
Notable passage:
“The bride ― of course I remember her name, though I think eventually I’ll forget it, someday I will even forget her name ― looked lovely, but my parents just couldn’t understand why she would wear a black dress.” — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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Mom Shows What Breastfeeding Multitasking Really Looks Like

An NFL player captured a very real parenting moment before date night with his wife.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie took a video of his wife Terricka putting on makeup while breastfeeding one of their 2-month-old twins. The mom was prepping for the couple’s first date night since welcoming the babies.

I got that #MilkMoney.. 1st time I'm leaving my babies for more than a hour. But 1st let me empty this Milk real quick. SuperMom #breastfeedingmommy #mommystillneedsalife A video posted by TERRICKA CROMARTIE (@iluvterricka) on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:08pm PDT

Terricka, a mom of five who made headlines earlier this year after unexpectedly becoming pregnant with the twins after her husband’s vasectomy, posted the video on her Instagram. 
“I got that #MilkMoney.. 1st time I’m leaving my babies for more than a hour,” she wrote in the caption. “But 1st let me empty this Milk real quick. SuperMom #breastfeedingmommy #mommystillneedsalife” 
The video has been viewed over 18,000 times.
Breastfeeding multitasking for the win! — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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Chelsea Clinton To Emphasize Role As Both Daughter And Mother In DNC Speech

Chelsea Clinton on Thursday morning offered a taste of her Thursday night speech for the Democratic National Convention, hitting upon the added significance of her mother’s candidacy for her now that she too is a mother.
She spoke with NBC’s Matt Lauer on “Today” about the moment Hillary Clinton will accept the Democratic nomination for president.
“I think my heart will burst,” she said.

.@ChelseaClinton on her mom: 'I couldn't imagine a better president' for my kids— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 28, 2016

She said that this election is defined by her own motherhood. “And as proud as I am of my mom, this election to me is fundamentally about my children, about Charlotte and Aidan, and I couldn’t imagine a better president for them.”
“I hope to convey a small sense of why I am so proud to be her daughter, why I’m grateful for the example she set for me as a mom,” she added.
Lauer asked whether it was difficult for her to listen to the insults and negativity toward her mom during last week’s Republican convention in Cleveland, including chants to “lock her up.”
“What we heard last week in Cleveland ― that’s not the person that I know, that’s not the person that I grew up with,” she said.

But even more hurtful, she added, were the jeers at women, minorities, Muslims and immigrants. “That’s not what I want my children to hear.”
On the subject of Donald Trump, Lauer brought up Chelsea Clinton’s relationship with Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Ivanka is a friend of hers, she said, at which point Lauer suggested she convene a summit between the two women to “discuss tone.” 
“It isn’t something that had occurred to me but it is something I would consider,” she said. ”Clearly she and I have very different views of who should be president. I don’t expect her to always have to defend her father; it’s clear that Mr. Trump is running his campaign and saying what he thinks is important in this election. My mother is not engaging in divisive bigoted rhetoric.”
Clinton said she worked with one of her mother’s speechwriters to jointly complete her address. She even practiced while breastfeeding, she added.
And as for what her father, Bill Clinton, would like to be called if his wife is elected president, she joked he may want to harken back to his Irish roots.
“I think he would like to be called First Laddy,” she said. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

#TBT Fifteen years on Garden Walk by Elizabeth Licata

My GWB poster collection hangs in the kitchen, around the laundry room door.
Note that I don’t say “Fifteen years OF Garden Walk:” the event celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. But it was in 2001 that I first joined the Walk, which at that point had about 100 gardens total, scattered through Buffalo’s West Side. This year, over 400 gardeners have put their properties on the free tour, which takes place this weekend. So in this unconventional TBT post, I’m taking a little tour of my years with GWB. Though I didn’t start blogging until 2005 (with Gardening While Intoxicated), so the 2001-2004 memories are sketchy. From the blogging years, I have excerpts from  GWB-related posts, and links.
Here’s an early photo, though I didn’t go digital until 2004. That enclosure is now stone.
After convincing the GWB organizers that my Allentown neighborhood should be added to the tour, I got enormous buy-in from my immediate neighbors, and a bunch of us signed up. It was amazing to welcome a stream of visitors over the two days, but unfortunately my husband was out of town. He was kind of horrified that I was doing this and on the phone was unable to understand how it could be enjoyable. However, the next year, 2002, he was at my side, welcoming walkers and said to me with conviction: “This is great. I love this.”
After we cut him off the railing
That was the year of the smoking cowboy:
The next day, after we’d been open a couple hours, and I’m beginning to perk up from coffee, my husband comes around the corner and asks, “What’s that black thing chained to our front railing?” I hasten to look and, much to my horror, someone has padlocked a wooden silhouette of a smoking cowboy to our front porch (really stoop) railing.

I wrote the text for a lavishly illustrated book about Garden Walk and published these musings about public and private gardening as part of a GWI post.
As gardeners and property owners, we always have to ask ourselves: how public do we want our gardens to be? Even if you’re not allowing thousands of people to walk through your garden, as I do, installing a bright flower garden in front of your house rather than a discreet lawn invites attention. And some people don’t want that kind of attention. The former owners of the GWI property commented that they’d never wanted to draw notice to the house in the way they felt we did when we had a mural painted on the garage door.
This was also the year all the (then) Ranters were in Buffalo for Garden Walk, which was a lovely blur. I can’t really find a coherent post from that experience, just snippets. I guess we were having too much fun. Amy did, however, publish an awesome article in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. And this was the year I finally got a pond. Ponds are big on the Walk, especially with kids, who love the fish.
The cottage district is one of the more popular areas.
In my letter from the editor in the magazine, I posed the question:
Is it possible that Buffalo and Western New York could one day become more famous for gardens than for snow?
GWB expands into a five-week-long garden festival, with open gardens, sixteen other walks, and more. But even more exciting (for me), 70plus garden bloggers descend upon Buffalo a few weeks before the walk (no room in hotels during the walk), and write dozens of posts raving about a city some of them never thought they’d visit.
I haven’t had these ferns for a while. I remember I used to have “what is it” labels propped against my neighbor’s windows.
I wrote a post listing all the benefits of a free, uncurated garden tour. My favorite was this one:
This lack of competition and the fact that very few of the gardeners work with professional designers gives non-gardener visitors the idea that “if they can do it, I can do it.”
Over the years, as GWB has grown, national recognition has increased; journalists from a diverse range of publications now visit every year. The GWB bureaucracy is much bigger now and there is a separate book of open gardens and other regional walks. Overall though, GWB still has a friendly, grassroots feel. Everyone is smiling. People take their time; they know they’ll never get to all 400 gardens and they’re fine with that.
Try a garden walk in your community. You’ll never regret it.
#TBT Fifteen years on Garden Walk originally appeared on Garden Rant on July 28, 2016.

Source: GardenRant

Snooki Just Beyoncé-Dropped The Best/Worst Rap Video Of All Time

Tell your loved ones goodbye and prepare for Armageddon because Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is releasing music under the pseudonym “Yung Mommy.” 
“Here it is. My first music video,” the “Jersey Shore” star wrote on Instagram. “I’ve decided to be an ass and record a song about my life and being a mom and shoot this fun and hysterical music video to go along with it. I hope I win a Grammy for this one. YOUNG MOMMY, OUT.”
Words fail to describe what exactly transpires in the two-minute clip dropped on Wednesday night, but we’ll try.  
It’s a little bit of this … 

…. a sprinkling of that 

… and a lot of “Avatar”-worthy green-screen work. 

Inspired by her life as a young mother to her two children, Lorenzo and Giovanna, Snooki spits about stretch marks, saggy nipples and breastfeeding. 
“I used to be so wild / I was the life of the party,” Polizzi raps (?), referring to her days of smushing on the shore. “Now I’m all grown up / So instead they call me Mommy.”
The rest of the “Jersey Shore” crew, of course, gets a shoutout, as well as Mr. Snooki, Jionni LaValle, whom she married in 2014. 
“Late nights getting reckless with J Woww Sammy and Ronnie/ All these dudes were hopeless but then I met Jionni,” she sings. “I’m a mommy with attitude / No time for a hater cause they too rude.”

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Source: huffingtonpost families

Twin Brothers Battle Rare Condition That Causes Never-Ending Hunger

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Raising twin boys is a challenge for any single mom, but it’s especially difficult for one particular mom in New Haven, Connecticut.
Dianna Schatzlein-Ahern’s two youngest sons, Stevie and Eddie Ahern, are 11. They both suffer from Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic condition that makes them insatiably hungry no matter how much they eat.
“I have to keep everything locked away so they don’t get up in the middle of the night and have a feast,” Schatzlein-Ahern told Barcroft TV. “They can never feel full, so could potentially eat themselves to death.”
For health reasons, she attempts to limit her sons to 1,200 calories a day each. To do this, she has to lock up all of the family’s food; she also locks all the medications in her bedroom, and then locks her bedroom door when it’s time for sleep.
“They’ll eat out of the garbage. We always have to take the garbage out and put it outside,” she said, noting the boys are normally sleepwalking when that happens. “I don’t think they’re aware of it. They’re just so hungry that they’ll just eat, wherever they see food. They’ll eat it off the floor and they’ll eat it off anybody’s floor.”
Prader-Willi syndrome affects between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 30,000 people worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health. 
The condition is a caused by genetic dysfunction on a specific area of chromosome 15. Most of the time, Prader-Willi syndrome occurs because a region of chromosome 15 from the father’s side is deleted. In rare instances, it can also happen when a child inherits two copies of chromosome 15 from the mother, instead of one from each parent.
Most diagnoses happen when the children are babies, but their mother says Eddie and Stevie only learned of their condition a couple of years ago.
“We knew there were issues when they were young, but no one could tell me what it was,” Schatzlein-Ahern told the New Haven Register. “We went from place to place, doctor to doctor, until finally one day I finally found a specialist in Long Island who was able to diagnose them.” 

The stress of watching after them eventually took a toll on their mom and dad’s marriage.
“I’ve been living just me and the boys for two years now,” Schatzlein-Ahern told Barcroft. 
There’s no cure for the hunger that comes with Prader-Willi syndrome, but growth hormone therapy and exercise can help reduce the risk of morbid obesity and build muscle.
People with Prader-Willi syndrome are prone to temper outbursts, stubbornness, and compulsive behavior such as picking at the skin, but, for Eddie and Stevie, those behavioral problems are exacerbated because they also have autism spectrum disorder.
“It’s so overwhelming,” Schatzlein-Ahern told“They have so many health issues, they get obese, and they have severe mood swings, but they’re so lovable and like little mayors everywhere they go.”  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Support Pours In For 4-Year-Old Amputee Whose Prosthetic Was Stolen

Strangers came together to have this 4-year-old’s back after an upsetting incident. 
Liam Brenes, who has FATCO syndrome and had to undergo amputation in the past, uses a prosthetic on his right leg to help him move around. Tragically, it was stolen during a recent beach trip while he was out swimming, ABC7 reported. 
As news got out about the incident, people jumped at the chance to help. Company Essential Orthotics and Prosthetics in Palmdale, California offered to donate prosthetics and the boy had his first appointment with them on Tuesday. 
“It’s one of those rare moments that you take something you do and you get to do something better with it,” Michael Metichecchia, fellow amputee and owner of the company said, according to ABC7. “You get to give back.”
Metichecchia explained to the Huffington Post that Liam actually will get two different prosthetics. One of them will allow the boy to be active and do “anything he wants to do.” What’s more, the leg will be have a “Ghostbusters” design on it. The other will be a water leg, which Liam can keep on when swimming. 
In addition to the prosthetic donations, many others have extended a helping hand. A GoFundMe, which was started for the boy, quickly smashed its $10,000 goal, bringing in $19,025 as of Thursday morning. 
The incident even attracted the attention of Robert Herjavec of “Shark Tank.” He plans to send Liam and his family on a trip to Disney, ABC News reported. 
“I mean, to think about what the little boy has gone through,” Herjavec said, according to ABC7. “And with everything that’s happening in the world and so much negativity, I just thought if I had the opportunity to make him grow up in an environment where he thinks there are some good people in the world, why not?”
The outpouring of love and support for Liam is well-deserved. The thief not only stole the prosthetic, but also took other belongings including a wallet and Liam’s father Frank Brenes’ camera. When the dad broke the news to Liam, the 4-year-old’s response was heartbreaking.  
“He said, ‘It’s OK Daddy, I can just ask Santa for something important. I’ll just ask for a new leg,’” Brenes told ABC News. “I thought, ‘How is that his first reaction?’”
Luckily the resilient boy now has new prosthetics to look forward to. And as for the funds from the crowdfunding campaign, Liam’s father Frank Brenes explained to the Huffington Post in a message, that the family is still trying to decide how to best use the money. But they’re set on donating a large portion to Shriner’s Hospital as well as the Challenged Athletes Foundation. They also plan to use a portion to help send Liam to Camp No Limits, a camp for children with limb loss or limb differences. 
  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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How A Mom’s Behavior Might Be Alienating Her Teen Daughter

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Gina claims her 18-year-old daughter, Alexis, was “kidnapped” by her “survivalist” boyfriend and says she fears he is brainwashing her against their family and fears for Alexis’ safety. Both David and Alexis, on the other hand, say that Gina’s claim is absolutely false, that Alexis is 18 and went voluntarily with him.
Why Mom Says ‘Social Media Joke’ With Daughter ‘Backfired Big Time’ 
After reuniting with her daughter on Dr. Phil’s stage, and criticizing both Alexis and her 19-year-old boyfriend about their behavior, Gina asks Dr. Phil, “Where do I go from here? I want a relationship with my daughter.” 
“If we were going to make a list of ways you could alienate and drive your daughter away, what you’re doing right now, in the last five minutes, would be the absolute best way to alienate and drive her away,” Dr. Phil says to Gina in the video above. “You couldn’t push her to him anymore if you had a stick and were chasing her down the street.” 
“You’re right. You’re absolutely right,” Gina says. “I’ve tried everything.” 
Dr. Phil repeats some of the statements that Gina has made to her daughter during the show and says, “I’m thinking, my God, I would go stick my head in a blender before I would come home.” 
Dr. Phil continues, “You’re making it so unattractive to come home.” 
Watch more from this episode of Dr. Phil, “’I’m Afraid My Daughter Was Kidnapped by Her Survivalist Boyfriend.’”  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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Someday I Won't Pick You Up Again

Recently my friend sent me a quote she saw posted about how someday all moms put down their kids and never pick them back up (because they’re now too old to want/need to be held). As a new-ish mom, (roughly 6 months in) this wrecked me. Yes, the baby stage is hard in many ways, but there are so many reasons I want to cling to it.

Right now my life is filled with craziness. Baby just started to crawl, so my days feel as if I am chasing a mini-tornado continually trying to keep him (and my house) safe. He’s also teething, so this tornado is usually coupled with an inconsolable shrieking. There’s also the ongoing sleepless nights, diaper blowouts, and spit up messes. It takes approximately 92 hours to leave our house thanks to feedings, diaper changes, outfit changes, and packing up enough stuff for a small army. In many ways this stage of life is exhausting and emotionally draining. I can understand why some people loathe the baby stage.

Yet, for all of the craziness, this stage is pretty great. I love when baby boy is nursing and he snuggles his little warm body so close to mine. I love the endless cuddles, in which he feels safe in my arms. I feel as if I can protect him from everything wrong in the world simply by picking him up and wrapping my arms around him.

He’s at a stage where he gives grins out for everything and everyone. He doesn’t know hate. I love that innocence and that his smile can light up a room. I want to hold onto that innocence and love for as long as possible. It isn’t just the grins that get me. Right now he has the best belly laughs when I tickle him or play peek-a-boo. He squeals with such delight when I raise him over my head and we play “airplane.” He hangs on my every word and wiggles excitedly when I sing a song or read a story. He is discovering so much and I love seeing his little mind work things out. I love when his eyes light up in excitement and he looks at me to celebrate his victory of figuring out something new. For now, I am his world and he is mine. There are often times he reaches his arms out for me and my husband is convinced his inner monologue is saying, “mama, mama, mama, mama!” Until I pick him up and hold him.

Yet, I know there is a day (which will come sooner than I think) when the incessant mama will morph to mommy and then mom and then “ugh, mooooom.” There will be a day when my songs and stories and games won’t elicit the same giggles and shouts of glee. In fact, some of my jokes and stories will likely elicit groans and eye rolls during the teenage years. There will come a day when the endless cuddles will only come every so often and then maybe not at all. There will come a day when I won’t be his world. When someone else will become his world in a completely different way. And that’s okay. That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to go out into the world and explore and learn and grow and love. But, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. Along the way he will learn things like hate and prejudice. He will learn that not all people are good. He won’t give out his smiles so readily. And at that point, I can’t fix everything so easily for him. I won’t be able to shield him away from the bad, just help him overcome it.

Someday, I’ll stop picking him up because he’ll be too big. Someday he won’t need me like he needs me now. Someday he will keep discovering the world without me alongside him. Someday I won’t know everything about him inside and out because someday we may not be able to see or talk to each other every single day. But, even though that someday is inevitable. Even though that someday is hard to imagine for this new mama, there is something about that someday that will always be true. Something I want to tell my baby, so he doesn’t forgot it – ever. Someday, I may not physically pick you up, but I’ll always be there to emotionally pick you up. To support you, love you, encourage you. Even on the days when you may not think you need me, I’ll be here, in case you decide you do. I’ll always have a hand to hold or arms to hug you. Just in case you decide you need me to be that source of comfort and love. I can always give you that, even when you’re all grown up and on your own. Because, no matter how old, no matter how big, no matter where you are – you’ll never stop being my baby.
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Food Is Love

Food Is Love

When I was 6 years old, I talked my parents into buying me a pair of moccasins so I could pretend I was an Indian warrior. Unfortunately, the moccasins offered little protection when I did my war dance over a broken Michelob bottle. I was more upset about my ruined moccasin than my cut foot.

My mother cooked up a batch of chicken noodle soup, just the way I liked it, heavy on the noodles, light on the soup.

“Have some soup, and know your mother loves you.”

When I scraped my knees trying to ski down our back alley with my feet taped to strips of aluminum siding (don’t ask), the pain was assuaged by Mom’s spaghetti and turkey meatballs.

“Eat this, and know your mother loves you,” she cooed. By my second meatball, I had all but forgotten the boo boos.

The message was clear: Food is love.

If food was love, my stoic, WWII vet father loved himself a lot. I tried to grab a bit of tangerine off his plate one day and almost lost a finger.

He was a man of few words, but one of them was “more,” which he almost always said at meal times. He had one full sentence: “Shut up, or I’ll crack you one.” Let’s say we weren’t close.

A month after my mother died, my father and I became fast friends. It was surreal to find myself hanging out with a man I’d never really known. We ate fried flounder and french fries near the ocean and talked about the sea gulls stealing everyone’s food. He said entire sentences that had nothing to do with cracking anyone.

“What a pig!” my father said throwing a french fry at the gull.

My tough-guy dad seemed to have died along with my mother. A softer, gray-haired man who loved to feed birds took his place.

But three months after my mother died, my father met Natalie at a Jewish Senior Citizens party in San Diego.

“She’d not much to look at, but she’s good company,” was my dad’s only comment when he broke the news to my sister, brother and me.

Natalie felt threatened by the memory of my mother and so abolished all talk of her while she was around. My mother’s photos were put away, as well. We figured we’d talk to my dad about mom when Natalie wasn’t around, but Natalie forbid my father to be alone with any of his children. It went on like this for 15 years.

My brother’s wife Dela figured out a way to warm my father’s heart. She cooked for him. Matzo ball soup was his favorite. He’d make the trip from San Diego to Los Angeles just to get Dela’s schnitzel or matzo ball soup. But he never came without Natalie.

On a visit to see Dad in San Diego while Natalie was in the bathroom, my father pulled out his wallet and showed me a picture of my mother when she was young and beautiful.

“My beautiful wife. I could do no wrong in her eyes.”

“Do you miss her?”

” I think about her every day.”

He quickly put his wallet away when Natalie came out.

When my father was 83 years old, I told him that I wouldn’t visit him anymore if he wouldn’t spend time alone with me.

“I’m an old man; give me another chance.”

He picked me up at my hotel, sans Natalie. We went to Anthony’s on the Bay in San Diego and ate flounder.

Jews love flounder. It’s a thing.

Dad admitted to me that he was unhappy with Natalie but too old and tired to do anything about it.

“It’s never too late to be happy, Dad.”

“I’m an old geezer. I’ll just put up with it.”

He put a shopping bag filled with mail on the table.

“Can you help me go through this?”

From that point on, I would fly in from New York to San Diego. We’d eat flounder, and I would help him go through his mail and pay his bills.

We went on a health kick and ordered the flounder broiled not fried with cole slaw instead of fries. It wasn’t gourmet, but the fish was fresh and the bay was beautiful. Dad didn’t use salt due to high blood pressure, so I squeezed lemon on his fish and dusted it with pepper.

“Thank you,” Dad said, eyes twinkling, and devoured his meal.

“Dad, every once in a while you have to chew,” I said laughing. I took my napkins and wiped the cole slaw dripping down his chin.

One morning while Natalie was in a rehab center recovering from a fall, Dad fell in the shower. He couldn’t find the strength to climb out of the tub, so he curled into a ball and went to sleep. He stayed like that for 24 hours before Natalie’s daughter found him.

By the time he got to the hospital, he had hypothermia. I flew out from New York City and sat by his bed.

On what felt like a race against time, I tried to find out a little more about this man who shared so little of himself.

“Tell me about your childhood, Dad.”

“It was okay.”

“Were you happy.”


I decided to try something new. It occurred to me that my father didn’t know much about me either.

I’d become a chef and the owner of a catering company in New York City. The road to get there had been wild and rocky. Every day for the next two weeks, I sat by his bed, fed him from his hospital tray and told him about his daughter.

“When I first started cooking women weren’t welcome in the kitchen. I had to dip 3,000 strawberries in chocolate.”

“Three thousand! How did you do that?”

“It took me all day.”

“You’re tough like your old man.”

“I’m starting to think so.”

“Tell me another story!” he demanded.

“The first party I catered was for 50 people, but I didn’t know how to order food, so I came with enough cold cuts for 150. I made a mountain out of cold cuts.”

“A whole mountain! Wow, 50 people!”

“That’s nothing dad. I was catering a wedding for 150 people when I got the call about your fall. ”

“Wow,” he said, shaking his head wide-eyed. “One hundred and fifty people! That’s a lot!”

From that point on, my father would call me every day, sometimes 10 times a day.

“How many people you cooking for today?”

“Today we have a big one, 200 people. ”

“Wow! That’s a lot!”

“It’s okay, Dad. I have a lot of help.”

I moved Dad into an assisted living home with full nursing. Over the next five years I visited him almost every other month.

Every time I walked into his room I was armed with his favorite treats: kosher hot dogs slathered in mustard and a double pile of sauerkraut (just the way he liked it) or Chinese vegetable egg rolls.

My father would cheer.

“There’s my beautiful daughter who never forgets me!”

I had to start cutting the hot dogs into 4 pieces. Otherwise, he would down them in one bite. I never met anyone else who could do that.

“Dad, please try to chew!”

Mustard and sauerkraut dripping down his chin, mouth full of hot dog goop, my father still managed to ask, “How many you cooking for now?”

“Dad, next week is a big week: two weddings and a bar mitzvah. All together, 500 people!”


When a nurse walked in to check his blood pressure, dad yelled, “My daughter is cooking for 500 people. She’s a big shot!”

“Just like her father,” said the nurse winking at me.

“Can I have another hot dog?”

“Dad. You have to save room. I brought you your favorite dessert. Apple pie!’

“Apple pie. I love apple pie. That’s my favorite.”

“I know, Daddy.”

As I spoon-fed him the pie, I pet his cheek, freshly shaved by the nurse. He was so happy, he was humming.

Out of my mouth tumbled, “Have some apple pie, Daddy, and know your daughter loves you.”

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