I walk my seven-year old son to school. It’s a 10-minute walk therefore, according to logic and reason, if we leave the house 10 minutes before the bell rings, Alfie will be at school on time. But thinking logically is not always sensible.
Alfie is always late. And it’s not because we cut it too fine, in fact, we’ve been leaving at least 15 minutes before that 9am bell.
What I have worked out is that Alfie can turn a 10-minute walk into a one-hour excursion. This is what happened yesterday. We set off and all was good, even the weather. We passed a jacaranda tree. We had to double-back to the jacaranda tree. Alfie wanted to touch the jacaranda tree’s leaves. He told me how interesting it is that the leaves on a jacaranda tree are so much smaller and lighter in colour than the leaves on a gum tree. He asked me how many leaves I thought were on that jacaranda tree. We had now lost five minutes. I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, on Saturday you can go and stand beside the tree and I’ll let you back into the house when you’ve finished counting the leaves, okay?’ And I dragged him forward by the bag on his back.
We rounded the first corner and took no more than three steps when we had to stop again. Half squashed on the pavement was a fairly dead black and orange furry caterpillar. ‘These are the ones that sting you’, said Alfie, ‘If they’re furry they sting so you don’t touch them’.
‘Yes, that’s right, but let’s keep moving’. And then there were more questions about how many types of furry caterpillars I thought there were and how many colours did they come in because Alfie had also seen furry caterpillars that are green.
And then Alfie noticed the sun in the sky and stopped to tell me how it hurts your eyes if you look at it and ‘How come I have to wear my hat at school even when it’s not sunny?’ And, ‘How close can astronauts get to the sun?’ And, ‘Are there scientists looking for aliens on other planets?’ And, and, and. And now we’re not even halfway there and I can’t hear the bell but I know it’s been rung.
And then we cross over the main roads and unfortunately he now sees a man walking his dog. And he asks the man if he can pat the dog and the man tells him he can and then Alfie asks him the dogs name, breed, gender and age and then tells him all about the dogs he has at home and all the while I’m tugging on that bag on his back trying to pull him along.
Next we pass by the War Memorial and Alfie likes to stop and read the inscription carved into the stone and then he asks me why you’re not allowed to climb memorials and why you can’t walk on them and I tell him it’s because it’s disrespectful and he asks ‘Why?’ and I say ‘Because they’re sacred ground and you don’t walk or climb on sacred ground’ and he asks, ‘What does sacred mean?’ And I pull him along by his bag on his back and say, ‘That’s a very good question for your teacher, come on, let’s go’.
And we take a few more steps and then we pass under the giant fig trees and he sees seed pods on the ground. He’s now down on the ground scrambling to pick these up and asking me if he pulled the seed pods open and took out the seeds and planted them in our garden, ‘Will they grow?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know but maybe that’s an experiment you can do at school’.
And we hear the bell in the distance that I’m sure is not the first bell of the day and we make our mad dash, running through the school’s gates and then the playground where for some bizarre reason we always come across the Deputy Principal who’s out for his morning stroll. Doesn’t he have an office to sit in?
We arrive at the area where Alfie has to line up with the rest of his class only to find ‘lines’ is now over and we are the only ones there so it’s another mad dash up the three flights of stairs (could he have a classroom on the ground floor next year please?) where I rip the bag off his back and search for the one remaining hook, hang up the bag and shove him at high speed through the door of the classroom. A quick wave of apology to the teacher and before she has a chance to ask for an explanation I’m at the bottom of those three flights of stairs.
I must be a slow-learner because it’s only recently occurred to me that just because it’s a 10-minute walk to school that doesn’t mean it only takes 10 minutes to get there. I’m now allowing 30 minutes, not only so he can be at school on time, but because he’s curious – and curiosity is a good thing.
Walking home can take as long if not longer so mid-week I need meals that can be prepared and on the table within half an hour. Here’s something I cook when time is short.
Sausage and Mushroom Pasta:
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This is a family meal for around $20.00.
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 springs rosemary, leaves only, chopped
- 1 tbspn dried chilli flakes (can be omitted if the kids don’t like chilli)
- 800g pork and fennel sausages, casings removed (available at delis or quality butchers)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 800g tinned, crushed tomatoes
- 400g Swiss Brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
- 2 good handfuls of chopped parsley
- 500g spiral pasta (I used organic spelt)
- Parmesan cheese, grated.
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 mins until the onion is starting to soften. Add the garlic, rosemary and chilli and stir until fragrant. Add the sausage and stir until cooked through, breaking any clumps as you go. Add the red wine and allow to simmer until reduced. Add the tinned tomatoes and mushrooms and simmer gently for about 20 mins. Add the parsley and stir through.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add a tspn of salt and cook pasta according to directions on the packet.
Divide the pasta between the serving bowls, top with pasta sauce and sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired.
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