The peanut butter mayo sandwich didn’t divide my family

The PBM fit for the King

I grew up with Skippy peanut butter and PB&J sandwiches. I remember watching The NeverEnding Story, and noting the times that Bastian huddled under a dusty blanket munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As he pleaded to save Fantasia and the rainstorm thundered outside, he made his way through that comforting sandwich bite by bite. He seemed to have an endless supply of it while locked away in the school’s attic.

I’ve always enjoyed peanut butter and the various iterations of nut butter, including almond, cashew and even walnut butter. But nut butters have become the anathema of school lunches. The dangers of peanut allergies and sensitivities have gotten so much attention over the years. As a responsible parent, I understand and appreciate the safeguards we have in place to protect children who have life-threatening allergies.

At home, we enjoy the occasional PB&J sandwich on the weekends. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and comes packed with macronutrients. I’ll happily spread peanut butter on a slice of toast.

PBM: A Southern Comfort

One thing I had never tried was a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich. After reading about it in the Huffington Post article Peanut Butter And Mayo: The Sandwich That May Divide Us All, of course I was intrigued. I’ve always been interested in the time of the Great Depression (1929-1939), as it was both a devastating period and one of sea-change. The decadent roaring twenties led into a melancholic decade filled with jazz, blues, gospel and swing. One of the Southern comfort foods to come out of the Great Depression was the PBM sandwich. When food was scarce, folks could improvise with the less perishable white bread, peanut butter and mayonnaise. The combination was protein and calorie dense. The Huffington Post article referenced an older article from Garden & Gun, which provides a satisfying narrative of what it must have been like to have PBM as a saving grace, as well as a bit of childhood nostalgia for those who grew up eating it.

We all know that Elvis, the King himself, enjoyed a good peanut butter and banana sandwich. He may have even had a craving for PBM. Remembering my 18-hour road trip to Graceland years back, I knew I had to try it to satisfy my curiosity.

The experimental lunch

My daughter presided over the sandwich-making exercise, squealing with delight as she would be getting her toddler hands into the creative process. We went with GF white bread for the grown-ups, and soft brioche rolls for the kiddos. I grabbed a jar of Skippy’s for the grown-ups and Adam’s peanut butter (no additives) for the kids.

Simple ingredient list:

– Peanut butter
– Mayonnaise
– Ripe Banana
– White sandwich bread (and brioche rolls for the kids)

Ingredients
Simple ingredient list: peanut butter, mayo, a banana, and bread

Unlike some of the photos you may have seen, I used mayonnaise rather sparingly. The mayo could be overpowering, and I wanted to avoid pushing sourness into the peanut butter combo. I added sliced bananas. We had the natural sweetness of the ripe bananas, the tang of mayo, and the creaminess of peanut butter.

PBM sandwich
PBM in progress

The hubs and son were worthy participants. They both examined the lunch in trepidation, and then with a little encouragement, took the plunge. My normally picky son finished his sandwich with surprising efficiency and exclaimed “I like it.” The hubs commented that the mayonnaise combination had made the peanut butter creamier in consistency and taste. The sourness all but went away with the inclusion of the banana slices. Overall, my son gave a hiked thumbs up.

Lunch eating
Enjoying the PBM sandwich

The Verdict

The PBM was tasty enough, but didn’t rival my childhood PB&J. The experimental lunch satisfied my curiosity, and I understood why it had become a beloved staple during a time when food was scarce.

On a cold, rainy day, I am still in the camp of eating a PB&J, huddled under a blanket while watching Bastian save Fantasia for the umpteenth time.

 

Pumpkin picking reaches mass hysteria

Blinging Pumpkins

I don’t know when pumpkin picking commanded such mass hysteria, but it has reached epidemic proportions in the latter part of October. This past weekend, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at G&M Farms in the San Francisco East Bay, and it was a glorious mob scene of parents and children. I swear the humans outnumbered the pumpkins slumbering on a vacant field. Tired zombied parents pulling their unencumbered kids and giant pumpkins collectively in dusty, red radio flyer wagons.

Bales of fun
Enjoying the corn maize labyrinth

There was no escaping the bags of sweet-smelling kettle corn, painted scarecrows, Indian corn, pony rides, and bales of hay designed into an elaborate maize labyrinth. I was half-expecting David Bowie’s Jared the Goblin King to bust out like the Kool-Aid man from the white-washed barn between us and the corn maize. But no — it was just the dads slinging kids on their shoulders while waiting in line for the next pony ride.

Activities at the pumpkin patch
Riding a wee little pony

Pumpkin season is the formal acknowledgement of fall, the precursor to the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every fourth quarter celebratory occasion. It is a rite of parental passage that is both a timeless classic and Instagrammable sensation. If you have a young child, pumpkin picking is nearly inescapable, unless you’re traveling out of the country during the month of October.

Pulling up my Instagram feed, I am duly inundated with photos of adorable babies and tots smiling with orange pumpkins in the background. Glamorous women guilelessly reposing against a backdrop of white-washed pumpkins, gourds, and chip proof manicures.

Pumpkins are as Americano as pumpkin pie, as this luscious squash is thought to have originated in North America with references dating centuries past. I am a big proponent of the fall tradition welcoming pumpkin spice with a vengeance – pumpkin spice coffee, pancakes, cereal, cakes, and popcorn. As with all holiday traditions, I am happy to go all out as I relive the magic of childhood.

Next up – Halloween.

All about the decor
Halloween decorating

We grow up too fast, don’t we?

Once upon a time, I was a child…

I look at my kids most days with a mixture of pride, amusement, and befuddlement. Sometimes I feel like a bystander watching them with soft observant eyes, comparing mental notes to my own childhood. Was I that spunky? Was I that incredibly loud? Did I have that same kind of crazy kid energy? Hmmmm….I think you know the answer.

At that age, I was watching Sesame Street and The Great Space Coaster, unpacking toys from my hallowed Happy Meals, hoarding bazooka gum wrappers to read later, and playing chase with the wily ginger-haired twins down the street. I remember taking pride in my red suspenders and bright corduroy pants, patched up at the knees with bright quilted flowers and butterflies.

I remember having a quiet, thoughtful conversation with a neighborhood friend, asking why her shoes were two sizes too big. They were careworn hand-me-downs. Her mom said she would grow into them. Looking back, I realized her mom couldn’t afford a new pair. As young kids we didn’t quite understand. It didn’t quite register until years later. Instead we laughed and played with whatever we could get our hands on, often coming home with dirt smudged on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes.

Then there was the evolution of my hair. Bowl cut graduated to pigtails graduated to ponytail graduated to spiral perm. Full stop.

Once upon a time
Little old me

Flipping through the leaves of an old family album, I would remember things with greater clarity. History condensed down to these album pages.  I pause.

When did I become my parents? Why did childhood summers seem to last forever while the last few months race by – only to remind me of my own ephemerality. When did I become so old?

My solitary moment is shattered when my toddler daughter chortles and rolls around on the floor. She’s swiffering the floor gleefully with the force of her entire body. At the very same moment, not even a yard away, my son is obsessively doing the floss. His arms swinging back and forth with metronome precision, rapid-fire style. It’s a race in a never-ending loop. Impressive. Thank you Fortnite for this mind-numbing visual.

Floss
Doing the floss

I can relate to my kids’ range of pure emotions that take them on a rollercoaster ride all in a 24-day cycle. Peals of laughter that would deafening in an echo chamber, hard stubborn expressions when the wrong sort of vegetables appear on their plates, and the saddest of disappointments when they fail at something important. I look at them through Seussian lenses, delivering the exaggerated character expressions that warrant their quizzical looks and verbal appeals of “mommmmmmmm…..”

While times have certainly changed, the fundamentals of being a kid have not. While we navigate our grownup world, we have the ability to hold on to our childhood essence for a lifetime. To play, to laugh, and to be authentic.

Play time
To play, to laugh

 

Afternoon Tea with a toddler. Think twice

Try not to sweat the small stuff

I love creating memorable experiences for my kids and finding special occasions to bring us closer together. Whether that’s a weekend adventure, a trip to a museum, or creative projects at home. With two young kids, I almost always feel exhausted at the end of any project or endeavor. My son is also at an age where he is over-the-top inquisitive. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.

My son, on the subject of Margherita pizza

Why is the pizza called Margherita? What are these green things? Do I have to eat them? What’s basil? Does basil grow in the ground or on trees? Did God make them? Does God eat basil? Can we get a pizza without basil? Actually, I just want pizza with no sauce, no cheese, no basil, and no tomatoes.

Me: No, because it’s no longer a pizza.

Fast forward: The basil and the tomato slices (on his side of the pizza) have been surgically removed.

Half and half
You can tell which side is his side of the pizza.

I love that my son is curious. He has an existentialist mindset, questioning absolutely everything and defining his own sense of the world. Something we should always encourage as parents…to question things.

My daughter, when it comes to tea time

My youngest is a toddler with a bold personality. She can be a hurricane force of nature, and I can see the machinations behind her cherubic mien. In many ways, she and I are most alike. My mom says she is a mirror copy of what I was like at that age. Personality to boot. Embracing her English side, my daughter loves playing make-believe with tea sets and sipping from tiny cups.

Make-believe tea time
Playtime with tea and cakes

My son was an easy toddler in comparison. He has a breezy, sunny personality and in my eyes, a total charmer. My daughter is far more intense in comparison, a roller coaster of fun and ebullience.

Afternoon tea with fine china

I had made an appointment to take my parents and the kids out for afternoon tea. It would be a first-time treat for my daughter and son. I thought “how cute” if I could dress up my girl in a frilly outfit and adorn her hair with a fascinator hat from her Auntie D. She was so good with her toy tea set. Surely this was an excellent idea.

Reality: Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The English Rose Team Room in San Francisco’s East Bay is a gorgeous place with fine bone china and tables covered in pretty tablecloth. Every inch of the place is covered in floral patterns. Very English I thought. But as soon as I walked in, I had a feeling of dread. Everything was in close quarters and the fine china looked incredibly delicate as I saw my toddler stomping her little feet.

Beads of sweat formed on my brow and on my upper lip. As we sat in chairs with little seat cushions, the server appeared and patiently walked us through the tea service.

Tea service
Server was warm and friendly

Delicate teapots in the shape of chimneyed houses, cups with delicate handles, clattering saucers, gilded plates, and a 3-tier tray of finger foods appeared. Every inch of the table was covered with dangerously breakable items. Did I want hibiscus tea or mint tea? Cucumber sandwich or egg sandwich? Scone with clotted cream and jam, or carrot cake? Sugar cookie or apple pie? Everything was sumptuous, but I was too busy hovering around my little girl to have much of an appetite. Making sure she didn’t touch this or that, or worse actually drink anything from a tea cup.

I looked over at my son. He was enjoying himself and was quite happy with his special meal and apple juice in a tea cup. Bonus, he found a tiny dish of M&Ms next to his flower shaped PB&J sandwich. Talk about finger food!

Afternoon tea with the family
Happy with his kid-friendly meal

My son was a perfect little gentleman and made his momma proud. My daughter, on the other hand, was building herself into a quite a state. Of course she wanted to interact with the fine ladies sitting at adjacent tables. An elderly pair were having a polite conversation to our right, while the table to our left had the most well-behaved pair of young sisters, bows and all. This was not going to be my day.

My daughter bellowed that she wanted to get down from her chair. Nana and I promptly escorted my mini-me outside where they had pretty tables and tea sets displayed in a garden party setting. Phew, disaster averted. We had escaped outside.

Garden party setting
My girl running around in the garden party setting

Pretty soon a stuffed bunny with long floppy ears caught my daughter’s eye. She managed to decapitate it with one quick swoop of her energetic arms. The bunny’s head was fortunately affixed to a wooden stick, so I was able to easily re-attach the head to its floating body.  Another potential crisis averted.

So much for finding respite outdoors, the garden party setting was rife with adorable breakables. With defeated looks, we marched right back inside.

Back inside for tea
With nana by her side, she dips her pirouette smack dab in a frosted cupcake

We finally got my little one to take a few bites of her meal. She managed to dip her pirouette straight into the frosting of a pink cupcake, and made a little mess of things. Bits of her beautiful floral PB&J sandwich ended up on her lap, and she slingshot launched the fascinator hat, nearly hitting me in the face. Her idea of sitting in a chair was to stand, so she was at eye-level with all of us. Did she think she was the Queen of England?

Our afternoon tea outing turned to be an abbreviated visit, and we left with a generous doggie bag filled with all the sumptuous food we had not been able to enjoy.

We’ll come back in a couple years

Fine time
Afternoon tea in the future

In summary, I loved the ‘idea’ of experiencing afternoon tea with the kids. My son happily nibbled on all the finger foods and loved the whimsy of the tea settings. It was too much to expect my toddler daughter to sit still for even a few minutes. Would I go back? Absolutely! But I’ll wait a while until my daughter is a bit older. At the moment, we’re better off taking her to the local pumpkin patch.

Relationships are work (in a good way)

Marriage, a journey in progress

Whoever said marriage is easy has not been married. It’s hard work. Just like you work to excel in your career, parenting, sport, or other pursuit. Marriages are not Netflix Originals where someone realizes the error of their ways, and decides to whisk you away in romcom fashion for a happily ever after.

It’s also not a dating app scenario where you get to swipe right if something doesn’t work in your favor. Don’t like the way he picks food from his teeth. Too bad. You’re committed. Unfortunately, we live in a challenging time in which a “disposable” mindset is so pervasive. Fragmented families, experience with unhealthy family and romantic relationships, and an instant gratification culture where you’re just an app, tap, and swipe away — can make commitment that much harder. Everyone comes from a different place, and everyone comes with their unique set of baggage.

So, let’s talk sustainability.

Great relationships take work because it’s worth the investment.

We are products of our childhood, upbringing, and cultural norms. Statistically speaking, children of divorced parents are more likely to jump ship. And, if your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91% more likely to get divorced. (Source: Nicholas Wolfinger, Cambridge University Press 2005). 

But statistics are just numbers at the end of the day. Like Ben Stiller’s risk manager character in Along Came Polly, it’s best to throw the risk assessment out the window and commit to doing the work. And be your own best judge.

After reading key publications and articles on the subject (the work required is consistent), I’ve distilled the summary down to five points.

1) Be a good listener and ask questions

As a busy mom I am engrossed in work, caring for the kids, running errands, and juggling multiple projects. Being a good listener is one of the most important aspects of being a great partner. You can visibly see your partner’s reactions and emotions. We each have our own idiosyncrasies, and it’s important to be present for those we love.

2) Have high standards for each other

Having high standards for each other is crucial. There was a reason you got together in the first place and exchanged ‘I do’s.’ If something bothers you, address it immediately. Don’t tolerate negative or hurtful behavior on either side. Talk it out, and work on nipping the problem in the bud.

3) Learn to argue constructively

Sometimes you agree to disagree. It’s inevitable. I can have strong opinions as does the hubs. Arguing constructively means respecting the others’ opinion and exiting the argument gracefully. That may involve humor, a time-out from conversation, and sometimes just an acknowledgement that both views hold merit. Agree to disagree.

4) Show you care

I grew up in a household where “acts” (i.e. making a favorite meal, planning a special trip) spoke volumes when it came to love and commitment. For others, those acts aren’t enough. Some require more tactile or verbal demonstrations of care and love. Talk about and understand what your partner needs from you (and vice versa).

5) Plan regular date nights

Life gets in the way, and you find yourself frequently exhausted and drained. Having kids are an absolute delight, but it’s hard to schedule regular date nights. This is an area that can provide a great opportunity to re-connect, and just have fun.

Enjoy the journey (there will be bumps)

For my part, I am a work-in-progress and on this journey with my partner.

Yes, marriage is a lot of work. It has its ups and downs, and that’s par for the course. The down times can be incredibly tough, but it’s an opportunity for an honest relationship assessment, and a time to reboot with kindness and forgiveness.  I read a refreshing post (encourage you to read) by Winifred Reilly, a Marriage and Family Therapist, which gave her perspective on 36 years of marriage.

My parents have an amazing relationship and 40+ year marriage, which came from a shared journey with shared goals, and a belief in a happily ever after.