Real Cooking

Since last week, two chicks have taken up residence in my dining room. They are there because the main bathroom is already housing a displaced parakeet and the guinea pigs have the breezeway.

The chicks, my daughter insists, are as yet too young to be placed in the great outdoors with its fluctuating temperatures and with marauding beasts lurking in every bush. I guess she’s thinking of our beagles. So, the chicks are-at least for the time being-in the dining room.

We have chicks because my daughter’s teacher, Mr. Rod Just, thinks it’s a good idea to hatch chicken eggs in his classroom every year and then send the hatchlings home with his students. Science and lessons of life and all that.


Just kidding. I think it’s fabulous that the kids have this experience, and I don’t mind at all that we have now added two more creatures to our ever-expanding zoo. We just need a place to put them.

For now, Spot and Peep-I think those are the names that have been chosen-are content living in a large Rubbermaid storage box with a piece of screen over the top.

The screen is necessary because our deranged cat lives, for the most part, indoors. So far, she hasn’t paid much attention to the little birds, but every time I leave the house I wonder if I’ll come back to find the screen pried off and a cat with a mouthful of yellow chick fluff.

Mr. Just doled out the chicks last Friday afternoon at the end of the school day when the band kids got back from marching in the All School’s Day parade in McPherson.

Brenda Reimer, Cathy McMillen and I (along with a lot of other parents) had gone to McPherson earlier that day to watch the parade and to cheer our fifth-graders on as they passed by.

If you haven’t been to McPherson’s May Day celebration, you’re missing something. It’s really quite impressive-the parade lasted for about an hour and a half. And the only tractors in the parade were those that were pulling floats.

Nice floats. Inventive floats. Floats that people had worked a long time on.

And bands from all over. Peabody was represented in full force, dancing-yes, dancing-in formation and never missing a note. Marion was there, too, looking and sounding great. Hillsboro was represented by the fifth-grade band and the sixth-grade band, whose members marched and played along with the older middle school kids.

Bless his heart, Gregg Walker, Hillsboro’s band director, marched with the middle school and then scuttled back down the parade route to march again with the fifth-grade.

You’ve got to give Mr. Walker credit for all of his hard work this past school year in trying to build Hillsboro’s band program.

Anyway, after the parade and stopping by King’s Concessions for some food, the kids made their way to the carnival for some free time. Then it was back on the bus and back to school.

Before leaving McPherson, my daughter reminded me for the umpteenth time that I was to be at the school at three o’clock with a box large enough for two chicks.

Riding back home, Brenda and I came up with a great idea but, alas, it was too late to implement. Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to stop by Kentucky Fried Chicken and get an empty bucket and then show up at school to pick up the chicks? Oh well, I pass that idea on to the moms and dads of future Rod Just students.

Meghan brought her chicks home in a Nike shoebox and we promptly set up a nest of sorts for them to live in, at least temporarily. We found an unused desk lamp to give them some extra warmth and filled two shallow containers with chick food and water. And then the kids left for piano lessons and ball practice.

It was just me, the cat and two peeping chicks-one a ball of yellow fluff and the other all black with a yellow spot on the top of her (or his) head.

At this time we don’t know if our chickens are male or female. They are only now losing their fluff and starting to grow feathers. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ve got a couple of roosters.

I get that sneaking suspicion every morning at about 5:30. There isn’t any throaty cock-a-doodle-doo coming from the dining room, but there’s a lot of peep, peep, peep at full voice. And loud enough to wake me up.

And that’s taking a lot these days. After talking to some other parents and grandparents, it seems these are the days when the end-of-the-school-year activities overlap with the beginning of the summer activities-and we’re all just about to collapse under the overload.

This weekend found our family living at the high school auditorium watching Meg and Alex, along with our niece Dionne, perform in the recital presented by Vicky’s School of Dance.

It’s always a fun event, but after a dress rehearsal and two performances, by Sunday afternoon I’m looking forward to getting home and putting on my PJs.

So, it struck me funny when, during the second half of Sunday’s performance, after a big production number had just been completed and the applause had faded, a little voice echoed across the still auditorium.

“Now is it over?”

All of the adults in the place chuckled and nodded their heads in unison.

“No, not yet.”

And you know what? For me, I don’t think its “going to be over” for a long time. I’ve got three ball teams to follow around, church camp, weddings, summer drama, you know. If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you’re probably in the same boat. Living in a whirlwind.

And eating a lot of take-out from McDonald’s and the China Buffet. (Hallelujah, they’re finally open. I recommend the orange beef.)

Last Friday, the day we got the chicks, we decided to order Chinese food and kick back after everyone was home for the evening. My husband, always the kidder, leaned over the chick’s box with a scoop of cashew chicken loaded on his fork.

“Look” he said. “I’m eating your cousin.”

I thought my daughter would freak, but she just laughed.

“We’ll eat their cousins, Dad, but we’ll never eat Peep and Spot. They’re pets.”

“That’s right, Meg,” he replied. “But don’t count on the beagles to feel the same way.”

Oh, my. Those chickens might be in my dining room for a long, long time.

* * *

Summer fruit is starting to make its way to the market. Here’s a refreshing salad good for these warm days.

Fruit Basket Upset Salad

1 fresh pineapple

2 kiwis

1 cantaloupe

1 papaya

Strawberries, halved

Green grapes

These fruits or any others that you like may be used. Wash and cut into bite sized pieces.


2 ripe bananas

1 cup sour cream

4 Tbs. brown sugar

11/2 tsp. lemon juice

Combine in a blender and pour over fruit.

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