It's Just a Phase (and Eggplant Home Fries)

It is unfortunately easy to be disappointed.

Take our garden, for example.  I have found myself bringing armloads of eggplant and cucumbers into the kitchen while feeling completely disappointed with our garden's yield.  We have more squash than we can eat, but the tomatoes have yet to turn red.  Having jalapenos but no ripe tomatoes seems like a failure.

from our garden

But look at this harvest from just one evening in the garden!  This is far from gardening failure!

My son is going through an unfortunate phase; a phase marked by an extreme increase in want.  We cannot go into a store without him finding something he desperately wants.  And when I say no, he is extremely disappointed.  Like, my life is over disappointed.  His funk becomes everyone's funk, to the point that my daughter wants to buy him what he wants just to cheer him up.  Cheer all of us up, really.

This phase of his bothers me because:

1.  I wish I had the resources to buy my children more of their wants.
2.  I wish my children wanted less.
3.  I can't stand it when my children ask for stuff.
4.  I hate saying no.

We are a family of four living well on one income, and one of the reasons we live well is because many of our wants go unfulfilled.  All of our needs are met, and on occasion, a few of our wants are satisfied.  Unfortunately, my son's unfulfilled wants remind me of my unfulfilled wants. 

Want can be a driving force, a motivator, but want can also be a negative emotion.  Sometimes, deciding to forgo my wants, or saying no to my children's wants, makes me feel poor.  Poor, not as in the state of our finances, but as in a negative emotion, like disappointment.  It is a state of mind, and hopefully, like my son's current want-fest, just a phase.

When we left a sporting goods store yesterday without the goggles my son begged for, I had to remind him of the boogie board he got the day before, and the bag of Legos he got a few days before that.  And that's when it hit me - he's spoiled.  He's got an armload of zucchini, and he's whining about green tomatoes.  There's an important lesson to harvest here.  Perhaps we've picked too many wants lately, and we need give the garden a break.


Typically, our tomatoes ripen before our eggplant, but not this year.  We've been blessed with dozens of slender, tender Japanese eggplants.  I cubed and roasted some recently with the intention of making Macedonian salad, sans quinoa, but the roasted eggplant was so good, we ate it before it became part of a salad. I call the dish Eggplant Home Fries because the cubed, roasted eggplant reminds me of the potato home fries at our favorite breakfast diner, Katrina's.

eggplant home fries

Eggplant Home Fries

6 or 7 young Japanese eggplants (about 8 inches long or so)
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil (yes, coconut oil makes all the difference in flavor here)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cube the eggplant into small pieces, 1/2 inch or smaller.  Coat well with coconut oil.  Go ahead, use your hands.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread on a greased cookie sheet (just use your oily hands to grease the sheet).  Bake until eggplant starts to get crispy, about 50 minutes, maybe a little longer, maybe not quite as long.  Check the eggplant after about 40 minutes or so, and stir it occasionally towards the end as the fries around the edge tend to brown faster.  Best served piping hot.

I should also add that my kids won't try these, which is great for George and me - more for us!  A few of you have mentioned the difficulty of transitioning kids to a new way of eating.  It ain't easy.  Every night when I bring dinner to the table, I tell myself: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  More on kids and food later, but for now I can tell you, just keep on leading.


  1. we have rip-roarin' want-itis here, too. I wish we were rich, he says. Oh, sweetie, we are. That's when we start doing breakfast with the homeless again.
    I have onions and basil and baby tomatoes. Blessed with that.

  2. We don't have any ripe tomatoes yet either! :) Well we got a few cherry tomatoes but that's it. :) As far as the wants go...tell your son that he is lucky to have a mom that cooks him awesome paleo food :) and hey When the tomatoes are ripe you will have all the ingredients for ratatouille :)
    Great blog as usual!

    P.S. so when are we joining the roller derby team? lol

    1. we should definitely go to a roller derby event. check out the competition :)

  3. I have been wondering how your kids are doing with your family wide diet change. Will be fun to hear more on that. Also, I remember the wanty phase as a kid, and we, similarly, lived well on one income for the 5 of us. My parents met all our needs always, and some of our wants, but there were plenty of nos. I think those practical nos made me a better person (or at least a practical, frugal person when it comes to spending what I earn). I totally got it on some level even then, even if I was still wanty!

  4. It is just a phase - this I do know for sure. My kids have reached a point that they really hardly ever ask for things but rather experiences. I would much rather say yes to an experience than stuff. He will grow out of it but trust me, my kids were once there. BTW, my oldest turns 16 this Sunday and he is not getting his license which he highly desires.

    As far as eggplant, I draw the line. I wouldn't try them either.

    1. i'm so grateful to know moms that are ahead of me that can provide reassurance. thank you, denise.

  5. Those eggplant fries look delicious.

    I think its healthy for us to not have all our wants met. My daughter is going through the same phase of wanting everything and I wrote recently about learning how to ignore the 'I want'. I hope you don't mind me sharing: http://childhood101.com/2012/07/learning-to-ignore-the-i-want/.

    I feel like I still give into her 'I want's far too often and each time I do I regret it. I want her to grow up knowing that happiness is something she can create - she doesn't have to buy it.

    1. excellent article, tricia. thank you for sharing the link. i have to remind myself that we have plenty of content moments, too, and countless moments of creating our own happiness rather than buying it. just as it's easy to feel disappointed, it's also easy to see where we fail and forget to see where we succeed.

  6. Two of my three always want. And you are right it is contagious and a big downer. I would love to figure out a way to show them our abundance. Just like your garden, we have so much. Truly the tomatoes are just icing. I have never thought to use eggplant this way. Mostly because it is not one of my faces. Does it really crisp, or is it a mushy mess. (You can tell my bias there).

  7. AnonymousJuly 19, 2012

    Speaking of kids and food and changes--I find the hardest part of getting my son to enjoy any sort of vegetables is that I love to eat seasonally. To me, that's the best part of vegetables, gobbling up favorites when they're at their peak and then moving on to the next. For a three year old, (and I'm guessing for older kids, too) it's just too much change. We've been eating lots of tomatoes around here lately, and loving them, and he'd rather have frozen peas from the freezer. Sigh.

    1. this is so very true! kids love consistency and repetition. it's comforting - and food should be comforting. we've been able to stick to and love seasonal fruits, but for veggies, i find we gravitate to many of the same favorites year round (with the exception of what we grow seasonally). my daughter would live on baby carrots and canned green beans if she had her way.

  8. Molly, thank you so much for posting about your son and his "wanting stuff". You couldn't have wrote about this at a better time for me. I have been going through something very similar with my youngest son. I am so happy and feel a little relieved to know that I am not alone about sometimes feeling a little down about not being able to give my kids a little more of what they want. I know it sounds ridiculous when I am typing it out. I mean, for heaven's sake, we live in America, we have access to so much, we live in a big house, he has his own bedroom, plenty of clothes and toys, a mother and a father that love him to no end, a big brother that loves to fight with him {haha} he has lots of friends, he has a mom that is a stay at home mom {that would be me!} who I might add, cooks 3 meals a day, plus who also loves to bake, we have a tree house, a quad, a creek that runs right through our back yard...but what he seems to focus on is this: his friends have a trampoline, his friends have a swimming pool, his friend lives in a brand new house and everything in it is new, we live in a {gorgeous} house that was built in 1920, he thinks it is just old, where I think it is gorgeous and charming and I have always considered us very blessed to live in such a house. So, basically right now, he has some wants at the store, but more so, he is in the phase of comparing what we have to others. My oldest son never did this, so this is new for me. Anyhow, just wanted to let you know, I hear ya.

  9. I find that many people never really grow out of the Toddler stage, regardless of what their age is. And that goes from some of the people I previously shared an office with! It's all about boundaries.

  10. Julie KernJuly 19, 2012

    Another wonderful post, Molly--I too am guilty of the "wants", and I am more blessed than so many--is that just human nature?? It sure takes some conscious re-framing to be grateful for what we have. My son is almost 16, but many years ago we had a talk about why he didn't have a Game Boy/Playstation/XBox, etc.; I told him, "Sweetie, unless you are Bill Gates there will always be people who have more money than you--and unless you are sleeping on the street there will always be people with less money than you--the world is filled with people in the middle, and we should be thanksful for what we have!" It did the trick--for a while:)

    1. oh julie, i have a whole post in my head about that very thing. someone will always, always have more, and someone else will always, always have less. and yes, i too believe wanting is human nature. it really is a driving force. we wouldn't thrive without desire.

  11. Just wanted to say "Thanks" for your excellent post. It seemed to be just the thing I needed to read today.

  12. Great post, Molly! It's funny, I certainly have a lot of "wants" as well but I find that the "wanting" is more fun. Once I have purchased one of them, I think to myself, "oh...what was the big deal? I could have lived without this!" haha...hopefully this is just a phase for your son and living with less will soon become more satisfying.

  13. I like how even as you are annoyed with your son's wants, you recognize your own. I am similar in the garden. I was just musing yesterday how it surprises me every year (after 15 years growing a backyard garden in this spot) how something in the garden always falls short. This year it was the carrots. Why does this always surprise me? Because of my wants I suppose. Gratitude is the antidote.

    I live in Southern Colorado and am writing a story on the Paleo diet for our regional Edible magazine. I come here often for info, inspiration and your gorgeous photos.

  14. I sympathise with you on the 'i want' . I feel that my daughter never is happy. My wee boy is quite so, happy just to trot along. My daughter must have this and that, mostly just for the sake of buying things. Little insignificant things. My dad passed away in May and I thought they might cut me some slack. But its not stopped raining and we haven't had a holiday. Im quite happy recently just to 'be' wish I could pass it on.

  15. I think the 'I want' mindset is a habit just like any other and as for any habit, it takes effort and time to change. I made a decision at the beginning of this year not to spend any money, except on necessities. When I see something I really like, I put it in my 'shopping bag' and go back to it 2 or more days later and it's a good check to find out if I really like something. So far since January I have bought a skirt (in the sale, but not necessary) and a raincoat (in the sale and very necessary as our summer weather has been dire. I have also bought a very small amout of fabric (1 metre).
    My daughter (just 16) has been reading your blog too. I showed it to her after her eating habits took a dip after her exams. She is vegetarian. With her first earnings from her summer job, she bought herself a juicer and we have all been very excited to try juicing. vegetables.

  16. Woven bacon! Ha. Love that.
    Just catching up on a month of Sundays, can you tell?
    It all looks good, better than good. Congratulations on your upcoming anniversaries, progress, motivation, courage. And sympathies on the Green-Eyed Monster. It is fierce. But a phase.
    Happy summer to you, Molly,

  17. We ended the wants several years ago when we started telling our daughters that we could not buy things made in China (for human rights, environmental, economical, political, military reasons...we just picked one they could understand at the time). It ended about 95% of the "gimmees", and best of all, they policed themselves, looking at the label first before asking if they could get it. Those little sagging shoulders would say it all and they would put it back on the shelf and move on. Yes, I still walked away sometimes feeling guilty about denying them a small pleasure, but at least felt like we were doing it for a good cause. And, walking by all that plasticrap has allowed us to save a boatload of money over the years. Over the years, they have seen their friends drown in rooms full of broken toys and have evolved into smart consumers who value quality vs. quantity. I do fear they may go nuts in the Dollar Tree once they are out of the nest!

    Is it hard...yes! I tell my husband that we will someday end up making our own toilet paper and candles, but we keep looking, or find an alternative, or just get over it and move on. For the purpose of full disclosure, we do have the "China Exception" rule--if we really need the item and have exhausted all options over a period of time, then we will get it. I gave up on the affordable shoe search--my husband found running shoes made in the U.S. but otherwise, I will only look so far, then have to buy what they need...they can't go barefoot and I have other things on my my to-do list!

    One funny story to end my tale: a few years ago, my elder daughter told me that her friend at school said Santa is not real. She was adamant that he is real, and her reason? Sometimes, if she REALLY wants something but it's made in China, she gets it for Christmas, and she KNOWS her parents didn't buy it, thus he must be real! So, Santa does have a soft heart after all! ;)

  18. you do such a great job putting things succinctly. My 8yo also has a case of the wants, and I, too, wrestle with feeling "poor", wanting to give, and more so, not to spoil. Over the summer, what my kids wanted were experiences. Expensive ones like the water park, the amusement park, Disney, etc...
    And while experience is what we give our kids MOST (climbing, camping, hiking, beaches, lakes, etc..), they are at the age now where their friends are going here and there, and telling them all about it. These parks and places all require LOTS of money and frankly are not where I want to spend my precious family time or dollars.
    Sigh. I dunno.



email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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