Saturday, November 24, 2012

how to amuse a one year old during the holidays

Play this again and again and again and again:

And the one year old will respond thusly:

And this is her Dylan impression. Just needs the hat, amiright?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Changed: Ways in Which I Am Different Now that I'm the Mother of Two

I no longer take pictures when the poop explodes out of the diaper and runs down the legs.

{I don't even know who I am anymore.}

Saturday, November 3, 2012

when nothing fits

I keep telling myself that my posts don't have to make sense, I just need to post something. Oh hey, here's something (imagine that):

NaNoWriMo is in full swing and I'm NOT DOING IT this year, but I do have a novel in in the works (am I allowed to share that? Maybe that stuff should be private, so that in three months no one asks my how my novel is going and then when I burst into tears they feel uncomfortable and wish they'd never asked). I'm work on an outline this month. But finishing the first draft this month? Only if I went full-out cliche and bought a typewriter and began chain smoking and poured whiskey into more than BBQ.

In other news, there was this thing called Halloween that happened a few nights ago. Lots of candy with peanuts in it that makes me have a frowny face because, talk about bad for you, that crap could kill my daughter. But she loved it, of course. Not the many opportunities for death by anaphylactic shock, but the yelling "Trick or Treat!" with abandon. She was sure to add, "It's Uli!"just in case anyone thought she was really a gorilla. Ilse didn't know what was going on, especially since we'd been telling her she'd be a lion and then that old costume of her sister's was clearly too small for her so we popped a bat coat on her instead, but she flapped her wings vigorously whenever we asked her to and walked up to the houses with her sister, an amused, confused smile on her face, just happy to be included.

Of note: we recently had a birthday in the family. My firstborn is four! There were two days of festivities, first with a successful friend party (they baked cupcakes) and then a family breakfast (we surprised her with a "princess" dress I'd mended into decency and a set of fairy wings we thrifted, both of which she has now worn almost 24/7 this past week).

Oh, and one last thing did happen recently:  a stranger congratulated me on my pregnancy. Except I'm not pregnant. Which was awkward.

And that's what I have. Random, but that's my life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Super privileged food rant

Tis the season of tomatoes, squash and eggplant, and I often find myself hearing (and, dare I admit, saying): " It's too much food! It's all rotting on my counter! If I see one more bean..."

What a terrible problem to have.

Yes, one hundred organic tomatoes on the counter (did you know they shouldn't go in the fridge?) feels like too many. Perhaps it IS too many. But what I'd it were bags of doughnuts? Would we be complaining as bitterly or would we hunker down, unclasp our belts, and dig in before they went stale?

I'm trying to keep perspective. This over-abundance of produce is only "too much" because I'm not used to eating this well. I'm used to the packaged and frozen, pre-salted and fat-alicious. I'm sure my great-great grandmothers would take one look around our kitchens and would roll up their sleeves and "put up" these amazing veggies within a day or two. And they would have been grateful--not irritated--by the abundance of food.

Yes, it means I need to figure out what to do with the produce. I'm starting to walk a bit less fearfully down that dimly-lit path of canning, lacto-fermentation, prepping and freezing, and cooking from scratch. Still a bit nervous, but feeling more confident day by day. Because what an amazing privilege to have: too much food.

Peppers piled atop the toaster? Squash overflowing from baskets? Tomatoes and tomatoes and tomatoes? Bring 'em on! We will be happy and will not complain.


Friday, September 21, 2012

life has been patiently waiting for me

As some of you may already know, I'm taking a break from Facebook for the month of September. I'd held that fast absolute until this morning, when I quickly logged-on, realized I didn't want to be back, and high-tailed it out of there all within 30 seconds.

I'm conflicted about the separation. I haven't found hidden hours to devour novels, write poetry, or play with my daughters. I haven't suddenly be able to whip together gourmet dinners or deep clean my house.

What the heck do I do all day? is something that still baffles me.

I have, however, found a certain peace whilst "unplugged." I've avoided most carefully considered political insights regarding the state of nation and the world. I've been unable to bond with others by reposting their  "...I'll know who my true friends are because they'll repost this..." status updates. And yet somehow I continue on. And that's a relief, to know I don't *need* the constant stream of updates (I wasn't sure how I'd handle it, honestly).

I am, perhaps, creating new habits. I may have read a few more books aloud to my girls this month than last, and I might be reading more creative articles online--searching them out myself rather than imbibing only those "liked" by others. It helps me feel self sufficient.

Speaking of habits, those first few weeks when I wasn't able to update my FB status, I was nevertheless thinking about updating it. Constantly. Sentences popped into my mind and I would have an addict's impulse to hop online and share the thought with you all. 

Examples of the incredibly interesting updates you missed because of my tremendous self control:

  • I cannot believe my husband has seen Kelli Ripa in person on the set of Live! And. Didn't. Like. Her. Kelli. Ripa! Boggles the mind.
  • There was just a creepy many legged bug in my bed and it escaped. Do I sleep or do I freak out?
  • She's so precious! [picture of Uli and/or Ilse being precious]
 And one particular prized moment:

  • "No, no, Ilse! That brush is for the toilet, not your hair... " Too late.
But no, instead of status updates I'm just living. Wondering what's up. Justin and I have been watching Mystery Inc. episodes in the evenings and loving them. It's Scooby Doo reincarnated for the adult crowd. (Or, at least YA). My life isn't as exciting as those meddling kids', but it's pretty good, perhaps a bit more so with the absence of the constant stream of everyone else's lives getting mixed up, making me compare and contrast every 15 minutes.

That doesn't mean I'm not interested in what's up. Drop me a line, if you've a moment. I'll be over here...doing whatever it is that I do (I'll figure it out before the fast is over, I swear).  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harvesting Hops with a One Year Old

It was gorgeous this past Saturday morning. Sunshine filtered down through our still-green maple leaves, warming the porch against the chill of a light early autumn breeze. Uli was spending the day with her grandparents. Justin, though fighting a cold, needed to bring in the hops or run the risk of their ruin on the vine. He headed up to the garage roof (where our hops have been trained to grow) and cut down swathes of vines, bringing them up to the front porch where Ilse and I took over.

Harvesting anything--much less delicate pinecone/berries off a sticky ropy vine--along side a one year old would not be a first choice for many of us. It wasn't mine. 

I initially tried to distract Ilse. Gave her the scooter to climb on, necklaces to rattle, a horse figurine to gallop about, all while corralling her on the porch so she wouldn't tumble down the front steps and bash out her four adorable teeth. She would have none of that. No busywork for her, please and thank you.  She was interested in what Mama was doing.  

I readjusted my expectations and showed her the vines, the hop flowers (berries?) and demonstrated how to pick one and place it in the paper bag I was using to collect them. Lo and behold, she eagerly followed my example, scouring the vine I was holding, plucking each and every hop she found (they're the same color as the leaves; it's easy to miss clumps, but she was thorough) and after picking one she'd drop it gently into the bag. 

We worked together steadily and quietly for at least 25-30 minutes. (If you've been around a 13-month old lately, you know that's a significant amount of time.) There was little need to talk, we were both intent on hunting the light green cones, snapping them from their stems, and collecting them in the bag. Ilse was, in fact, a great help. And she was so content! It reminded me of the quote: 

" If I were to establish a primary principle, it would be to constantly allow the child's participation in our lives ... To extend to the child this hospitality, to allow him to participate in our work can be difficult, but it costs nothing. Our time is a far more precious gift than material objects. "     ~Maria Montessori

And then she was done. At first I was irritated. Was she not a wonder-baby after all? Where had her focus gone? Then she approached me, put her hands on the vine I was holding to pause my work, and signed "all done" repeatedly. I checked the time: 9:45am. Naptime. She wasn't giving up on the work, she knew it was time to have milk and to sleep. She was keeping me on schedule. I was embarrassed for not giving her more credit. 

I nursed her, put her down for her nap, and Justin and I continued working with the remaining vines. When we were done we had gathered more than 5 gallons of hops (about 5x what we'd harvested last year--our first year). 

Ilse woke and wanted to help sweep the driveway. I should have gone in to get the child-sized broom so she could have worked alongside me, but I didn't (Mama fail). 

We let the hops sit in the sun for a couple of hours to ensure they were completely dry of any morning dew, and then we began to weigh and bag them, an ounce in each bag by weight.

We ended up with around 50 ounces of hops, divided into 1 ounce bags, then vacuum sealed into larger bags for freezing. Justin put them up for sale on Craig's List (we don't have the time to make beer this year). 

Justin's proprietary hop blend (mostly Fuggles)--would be great for English-style brews

All sorted out and cleaned-up. A very good day. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Adieu, dear Summer

We are moving into autumn here. Early September can go either way in Madison, but there's a certain chill to the air in recent days, and on our evening walks we see more colored leaves now than a week ago. It's time. We accept it.

But I will miss my little Ilse in her swimsuit. Her chubby thighs rubbing against each other as she darts-slash-waddles across the yard, soaking up the sun.

I always have a pit in my stomach when it becomes clear summer is moving on (always, always. I am not going to pretend it's not my favorite). But we're already talking about Uli's upcoming birthday, pumpkin bread, puddle walks, and gloves and those are happy thoughts. We're marching on right into the next chapter. Summertime: Goodbye.

Autumn, here we come!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

in which i remind you maple syrup is delicious

my sweet Uli / summer 2012

I've mentioned my need for a Facebook fast, and I'm gearing up to begin my break this weekend. I'm planning to avoid the timesuck for a month and then reevaluate. I'll still have some presence because my blog posts are currently set-up to automatically add to my timeline, and I may get around to downloading more pictures (a chore I've been putting off, but one which really should be done, as it's my only photo backup system at the moment and I don't want to lose everything again should another computer meltdown occur [knock on wood]).

What will I do with my time this next month? I'm hoping to begin a larger writing project, update my Google Reader, plan preschool projects for Uli, rearrange the girls' room, read, read, read (old fashioned book-holding, paper-flipping style), climb Mt Everest, knit a sweater, alphabetize the spices. You know, the normal stuff.

I'll also occasionally indulge in my newest and most delicious vice:  coffee & milk with swirl of maple syrup as a sweetener. Wait, you say. Shouldn't you be cutting out all refined sugars and getting back to your pre-baby weight already? Of course. And you should probably floss more. But let's both just relax enjoy our summers, m'kay?

I learned about the fabulousness that is maple syrup in coffee from one of the natural foodie FB groups, which is why it came to mind just now. Also, because it's what I'm drinking this morning. Mmmm. So, okay, not everything about the social media is evil (well, kinda bad for me, but not enraging). Nevertheless, a fast it is. I'll exist on coffee with boiled tree sap and Blogger. Perhaps you'll join me?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

watermelon watermelon watermelon

When you don't know the words to the lyrics you supposed to repeat "watermelon" over and over to look cool, I guess. Like, I totally know all the words, just like you. To every song. (Is this a life skill or does that seem ridiculous to anyone else? Bueller?)

Anyway, I'm not much of a watermelon person, neither lyrics nor fruit. It's not that I dislike the melon, exactly, it's more that the grocery store's watermelons are all hype and no taste. Watery watermelon. Not worth the effort.

I make an exception for farmer's market and CSA watermelon. Yes, they often have seeds. Deal with it, people. These are real, spit out the seeds even though spitting is against the law, watermelon watermelons. And they taste fantastic. They're worth getting out the French knife.

Amazingly, we found ourselves with three (yes: 1, 2, 3) watermelons this week. We made one into a salad, have one yet on our counter, and, I admit it, we gave one away (we're not crazy people).

The watermelon salad was a pleasant success. Absolutely recommend it. Pick up some mint, a lemon or orange, and some quinoa and get to it. Light, flavorful (assuming you're making it with a good melon), and with iron from the watermelon and protein from the quinoa, isn't too shabby nutrition-wise.

Adapted from the Queen of Quinoa's recipe:

Watermelon Mint Quinoa Salad

  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 8 cups diced watermelon (I used a yellow fleshed fruit, probably a Yellow Doll)
  • 2 tsp orange juice
  • 9 sprigs fresh mint leaves, removed from stems and chopped medium-fine
  • few pinches of sea salt

Rinse the quinoa well (I like to put it in a wire colander, soak it in water very briefly, swirl in the water a bit, and then rinse). 
Cook the rinsed quinoa and the necessary water (it's always 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa) in a covered pot on the stove on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Turn off heat and let sit another 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside uncovered to cool.  
Add cooled quinoa, watermelon, and remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Toss gently until combined (a gentle hand and a spatula ensures you won't crush the melon).  
Chill and serve. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ilse Louise's Birth Story (one year later)

My sweet girl was born one year ago this week, an entire spin around the sun. Every time I tell this story aloud I remember something new, and every time I sit down to write it out I feel like I'm either too detailed or skipping all the important stuff. But now, let's just get it out. It's been twelve months, after all!

This is long. You've been warned.

On Sunday, August 7th, 2011, I was one week "overdue." My husband and I were preparing dinner that evening when I started to feel non-painful tightenings in my abdomen. I'd had mild Braxton Hicks contractions before, so this was nothing particularly new, and I didn't let myself get too excited. However, they continued as we sat down to dinner, so I mentioned them to Justin. We went for our usual after-dinner walk as a family, and it was after we'd returned, when the contractions hadn't gone away, that I knew this it. These were real, growing-more-intense-with-activity contractions, and then I was excited. Hurray! We were going to have a baby that night! Or so I thought.

When we got home, Uli had her bath, we put her to bed, and then I took a quick shower (almost apprehensively, since I knew warm water can slow not-yet-serious labors; it was a relief afterwards to find the contractions continuing). Around eight o'clock I called and left a message with my midwife to let her know I was in early labor. She called me back and told me she'd inform the birth team to head over to our house whenever I wanted them. In the meantime, I should relax and rest. Justin and I put in a movie to watch, but I couldn't concentrate (excited. contractions starting to pinch). Justin went downstairs to putter around. I downloaded a contraction-timing app,  popped-in my earbuds and tried to relax to my labor mix on my iPod. Contractions were coming about every 5 minutes and hurt. Ouch! I tried to relax and listing to music. And then the contractions really started to really hurt.

Looking back, I can laugh at myself, but at the time I was thinking OMG, these things hurt. I must be in serious labor! Hah, hah. No. But, yes, to me at the time. It was real and painful and I was trying to relax to the music in the dark but all I really wanted was Justin and for the midwives to be with me. So I called my midwife back and let her know that I thought they should be on their way sooner than later. I texted Justin to come upstairs. He did, and because I was worried that I would start sounding like I was laboring (thus far I'd been silent) he called his parents to come and get Uli (I was uncertain how loud I'd be during labor and I didn't want her to become frightened, so it'd never been our plan to have her at home for the birth).

My in-laws came about midnight, and as they were helping us out with a few last minute preparations--like making laboraid---Justin and I went outdoors to walk in the cool night air. And it hurt to walk. Hurt, hurt, hurt. Lying down had been okay, but standing and walking was at first just terribly pinchy but soon felt impossible. I decided that walking in the cool night air wasn't as nice as I'd imagine it would be. I'd walked to the end of our street, and it took us a bazillion contractions to make it back home, every step was a struggle, with contractions coming on top of each other. Nope, not doing that. Back inside we went.

Much more comfortable inside (and stripped down to a sportsbra and some shorts. Ugh, it was so hot indoors!). Our doula and midwives began to arrive and Uli and her grandparents left. My total birth team included my original doula [who was also a student midwife nearly finished with her certification] now acting as my midwife, a new doula, a student midwife, and a licenced midwife to oversee us all. I felt like I could talk now, not having to be quiet for my two year old, and I think I started to complain at this point. My attempt to simply relax and ignore the pain wasn't working so well, but counterpressure on my back----ahhhh, now that was helpful. Justin and the doula took turns providing the pressure. I was trying to move about a bit, but it really hurt when I did, so my doula helped me into a comfortable position on the bed, and once again I tried to relax.

Rest. Pressure on my back. Rest. Pressing. Relaxing. I labored for a few hours like that. Then my midwife let me know that my contractions were spreading out and getting shorter. I'd specifically asked to avoid all cervical checks, but she asked permission to see how far I'd dialated. She suggested that if I was around 5 or more it could be helpful for me to get up and walk the stairs to get the contractions going again, while if I were fewer than 5cm I should try to rest-up for what may be a longer labor. I agreed to the exam, but asked that she keep the measurements to herself; I was already exhausted, and I knew that whether I had 3 centimeters or 9 centimeters to go I ran the risk of being discouraged by numbers. She checked and told me I should try and rest. Shoot. Very disappointing. I'd really thought I was getting somewhere.

So I tried to relax, but the contractions were so painful that even spreading out from each other it was difficult to think about sleep. So they gave me some Tylenol PM in an attempt to calm contractions enough to help a laboring mama sleep. But no, my contractions kept on coming (though remaining spread-out to about 5-7 minutes). My doula sat with me and helped me through the waves while Justin went into Uli's room and got some much-needed sleep for himself.  I was so tired that I was eventually able to fall asleep inbetween each contraction, have five minutes or so of sleep, wake for the next contraction, fall back to sleep, etc. I was vaguely aware of an occasional beam from a flashlight and whispered discussions being had, but all-in-all I was undisturbed between the contractions.

Suddenly it was light outside. I don't recall the times any longer (I've waited so long to write this all out!) but Justin had rejoined me in our bedroom.  My labor picked up again. I had to be reminded to keep my voice strong and low. Vocalizing through the contractions really seemed to help, and the low tones helped focus the sound and keep me calm (otherwise I started to sound like I was screaming. And I wasn't really meaning to scream, just working through the tightening).

We spent some time on the bed. We spent time on the birth stool. Sometimes I'd lay over desk in the hallway. Sometimes I'd hang out in the bathroom for a few contractions (that was the very best! Except that there's not much room in there for anyone else, so I didn't want to stay in there. Well, I did want to stay in there, I just didn't want to labor totally alone nor ask my midwife to squish in there with me).

The entire time I was laboring my doula was keeping me hydrated. I'd asked that they regularly offer me something to drink and eat even if I wasn't asking for it, and I'm glad they took that to heart because I wasn't feeling like talking. Moaning, yes. Talking, no. It would have been an unwelcome distraction to ask for a drink, but I never had to ask--a straw was regularly placed in my mouth. Most of the time I was drinking water, but I also had laborade and they made me a delicious fruit and almond butter smoothie, too. I did at one point feel queasy and asked for a bowl in case I threw up. I felt instantly better just knowing the bowl was there, and didn't vomit. Looking back, that might have been transition?

At one point I remembered to text my supervisor and let her know that I wouldn't be in the office that day. It's funny, the things I thought about while in labor. I'd heard of "labor land" and figured it was a mindset during which you were fuzzy-minded and disoriented and perhaps talking nonsense. I experienced the opposite--I was unable to talk during most of my labor but my mind was focused intensely on my surroundings. I remember thinking, "I can't possibly be laboring as normal, because I can still think!" which is a ridiculous thing to think. Still, it wasn't what I'd expected, the clarity of self during labor. I never lost track of being me, and I'd thought I would. Actually, some of the things I remember thinking are kind of funny. Like, I was a big focal point person and would look at one shadow or crack in the floor while making my way through a contraction, and one time the lovely student midwife moved and her leg or something blocked the crack in the floor I'd been focusing on. I was so mad at her! Crazy, right? The amazing thing was she realized my dilemmea and quickly moved for me, allowing me to continue to focus on that exact crack. She has secret powers of understanding a laboring woman, she does. And also, later, when I was pushing one of the women was quietly encouraging me and she had a smile on her face. I remember thinking Stop smiling! This is horribly difficult and no one should be allowed to smile right now! But at the same time I knew that was me being unreasonable.

Yes indeed, finally, it was time to push. I'd left the bathroom after one of my sojourns there and was wondering to myself whether what I was feeling was an urge to push. I contemplated that through a contraction or two until suddenly another contraction started and then I KNEW that yes, this was what needing to push feels like. I instantly went from standing to a semi-squat, and that alerted my team that I was in the pushing way.

I pushed for forever. Let me repeat: I pushed for forever. Okay, perhaps if gaged by your fancy modern clocks it was somewhere around 3 hours (I forget exactly. I have it written down, but I'm trying to get this story out right now, no more delays), but when you've been laboring since 6pm the evening before and had a full day of wakefulness before that, pushing in the afternoon that follows feels like it's taking an eternity. It was great to push, don't get me wrong. It felt like, Finally, this is happening! I'm having this baby right now! But it was also exhausting. If one hadn't been eating and drinking while laboring I could see how one could just give up at this point. In fact, toward the end of the pushing, right before her head appeared, I remember telling my team, I'm too tired, I can't do it anymore. Just take the baby out! Part of me knew I didn't really feel that way, but it seemed appropriate to say. I was so tired. They were all around me, smiling and told me that absolutely I could do it, I was doing it, and my baby would be born in moments. So exciting.

We were in our bedroom on the floor at the foot of the bed. A "sit-upon" and numerous pads under us, towels surrounding us. Pushing, pushing. My water broke--whoosh--and there was meconium, but the baby's vitals were superb, so no worries. First came the baby's head. Hurray! Just that alone was an accomplishment, after all the hullabaloo associated with Uli's rear-first presentation. Then her body was taking more than a few pushes, so they suggested I move to a "Captain Morgan" stance (kneeling on one knee, other foot in front). And then came the rest of baby! It happened so quickly, from being [mostly] inside to --whoosh-- born! Amazing. I held her and saw that she was a her and told Justin that we had a girl and, as we'd previously decided for a daughter, her name was Ilse Louise. Lovely. She was lovely.

I don't remember if she cried or not. I just remember holding her and looking into her eyes. I sat down, semi-reclining while we waited for the placenta, and I just held her and looked at her. I felt awesome, not tired any more. Once the placenta was birthed the midwives cut the umbilical cord and I guess at some point Justin must have taken the baby from me, because I ended up in the bathroom with the women helping me get cleaned up a bit. Or maybe they first helped me into the bed? I don't exactly remember. The usual checks occurred. Baby was perfectly healthy. 8 lbs, 2 oz. I was doing well. Thirsty.  I could pee (that's apparently a thing, after you have a baby?) I'd torn a tiny bit, but I didn't require stitches as long as I avoided the stairs for the next week (I did not want stitches, thank you very much, so agreed to stay put).

And then, a several hours later, I was good, Ilse was good, Justin had been a great partner, big sister was back home, and we were left alone. Our family of four.

And so began Ilse's "fourth trimester."

Less than 24 hrs old. Our first mommy/baby pic.
Today, one year later

Sunday, August 5, 2012

a little Sunday sass

I think Facebook is ruining my life. I spend too much time reading about people I don't really know anymore and then worry my status updates are offending them. And when I'm offended (admit it, half of Facebook is viewing photos, the other half is gasping in horror at the crazy political crap being forwarded around) I try to keep the rage off the screen but instead find myself venting to my spouse, who bemusedly reminds me that I am choosing voluntarily to cavort on the internet with these people who are so not my mind-kin.

Plus Facebook is making me lazy and fat. It's true.

I'm considering going on a FB fast. Perhaps for a month or so (no one-day, one-week fast for me, hells no. Go Gandhi or go home!).

We'll see. It may improve my blogging. I never sit down at the computer any more, just roam FB on my phone.

But now, see here, I'm sitting at the table! Blogging! With a nursing nearly-one-year old on my lab, even. Fancy.

And here we are below, just moments ago, pre-milks. She's so sweet. First she's happy, then I changed the options to sepia and she responded in traditional old-timely fashion by becoming all serious. That's because she's brilliant and ironic too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Sunday Haiku & Snaps

The cuckoo
with a single call
has established summer
                        ~ by Ryรตta 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Books That Have Made Me the Parent I Am

I was rocking Ilse to sleep and wandering past my bookshelves, and the thought occurred to me that some of these very books in front of us have provided an idea, bit of knowledge, or instilled in me the confidence (also known as sass) which I needed to become the mama I am to my girls. Not that I'm claiming to be a perfect, fully-developed and all-knowing parental unit, but overall I'm happy with my parenting choices. This household may have been very different if it weren't for these particular reads, (presented in the somewhat random order in which I pulled them from the shelves):

by J.M. Barrie (1911)

The book that first made me consider the nature of childhood as one that's beautifully magical but inevitably fleeting. Oh sure, you say. Peter Pan, yup. But have you read the book? Forget the Disney remake, the original novel is something of a wonder. Read it. The end (completely different than that of the cartoon movie) makes me cry every time. And it was during my first read-through as a teen that I came to the bittersweet realization that being a child is both incredibly special and also over before you know it,  that childhood is something the child herself doesn't understand until it's passed her by. I still think about that realization and imagine what it'll be like for my girls when they suddenly cross the line to discover they are no longer children. Oh dear, the thought brings tears to my eyes even now!  We all typically rush around so terribly and with such intensity; Peter Pan creeps into my mind and reminds me to slow down, that we should celebrate childhood before it's gone. Charlotte's Web is also "one of these" types, though to a lesser extent.

by Susan McCutcheon

Technically this book's information is used just prior to becoming a parent, but lookatthis I'm listing it anyway. Taking a Bradley class was the very best thing I did while preparing for my firstborn, and this book was a major class resource. Are there better preparing-for-labor books? Perhaps. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by the amazing Ina May Gaskin springs to mind; should a vote ever need to be made Gaskin would likely win out, but I don't have a personal copy of it (yet) so I'm not counting it for this list.

by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Brian Rupenthal

A cookbook? But of course! Hungry kiddos need to eat, and I'm not interested in raising processed-food lovers. If you've read my cooking blog, you know that Laurel's Kitchen has been my go-to for healthy meal planning these past couple years. Filled with easy to make, whole food, garden-friendly recipes, I've yet to make something from it we haven't enjoyed. Our favorite dish is Whole Beet Borscht (we triple it, for extra to freeze); it's the perfect way to use up our beets (oh, we grow beets. One of the few foolproof veggies this Wisconsin soil is able to produce in mass quantity without watering) and the girls love it.

by Ruth Yaron

Speaking of cookbooks, I suppose I should mention the book that claims it contains "everything you should know about feeding your baby and toddler." Should know. As in, If you don't know all of this you're a bad mother! or at least that's how it felt when I first read it through. Technically this book didn't so much help me as overwhelm me to the point of inaction. There is so much detail in here and so many recipes (each with variation upon variation) that rather than feeling inspired to whip up homemade everythings I instead felt horribly inferior and guilty. I subsequently tucked my copy up away amongst the other cookbooks, and avidly avoided it for three years. I've since made peace with its busyness and have found it helpful with Ilse, but I list it here as less of a favorite and more because not all books that affect one do so in a positive way. I think Super Baby Food was too much for me as a new mother and actually kept me from making Uli's food when she was little. Alas.

by Nathan H. Azrin, Ph.D. and Richard M. Foxx, Ph.D.

Toilet "training" is controversial nowadays (at least in most of the natural parenting forums I haunt), but this book helped my mother potty train me and my siblings, and it's what I turned to when Uli was ready. One intense (exhausting) day of introduction and practice and Uli was in underwear during the day (and nights relatively soon after that). Not that there weren't accidents (it's my belief that because we deviated somewhat from the course as detailed in the book we may have delayed what otherwise would have been more immediate results), but overall Uli was using the potty consistently within a very short time of the training. I plan to give the same thing a go next summer with Ilse.

by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen

My girls are a little young for the whole death thing, perhaps, but I'm glad to have found this book. The pictures are lovely (detailed illustrations of animals and plants and people of a quality akin to that of a naturalist's field guide or an Audubon painting) and the message is simple: life has a beginning and an end and that's true for all living things, whether plant or mammal or insect or human. We haven't known anyone who has died, other than my in-law's dog, so I don't know how much my three year old needs the death discussion, but she's interested enough to sit through a reading every so often, and it has allowed us to add "died" to her vocabulary in a meaningful way. I am grateful to call this book a resource.

by Roberts Mendelsohn, M.D.

I've only just read this book, am I'm happy to have found it. My family lives much as this doctor recommends (fevers mean the body is working--don't push the Tylenol; breastfeed (and never consider your M.D. to be your lactation consultant, seek expert nursing assistance if there's trouble); avoid antibiotics like the plague; don't worry so much about normal childhood diseases, they're known as childhood diseases for a reason--'cause normal kids get them, stay home from school, eat some soup, and get better; vaccinations are credited undeservedly--avoid them), so while his message isn't a revelation to me, it's nice to have his book on my shelf for those times I need a quick reference or reassurance that even though our lifestyle is not mainstream it is nonetheless one that has good sense. My only complaint: that an updated copy isn't available (this particular book was written when the varicella vaccine was still just a rumor).  For those who demand contemporary texts I recommend The Baby Book (so good! the best baby care book I know) and The Vaccine Book (not anti-vax, but cautiously vax, which I can appreciate) both by Dr. Sears and the amazing text The Science of Parenting by Margo Sunderland (fabulous fabulous book. I need to get my own copy); I've borrowed all three from the library several times, and if I ever find them affordably second hand they will so be mine.

by Orson Scott Card

Genius children removed from their homes and trained by the government for combat and strategy in the hopes of annihilating an alien species? Why not. This book struck a chord. Kids can be smart, they can be cruel, they can be the saviors of a people. Or killers. The thing to remember is not to underestimate them (and don't pretend that they're harmless pawns).

by Wole Soyinka

A boy's childhood in Africa. I adore this story for many of the same reasons as Ender's Game--small children are described as complex beings, with inner minds intent on discovery. The respect with which Soyinka describes a child's thoughts is admirable. I think about this book whenever I see Uli squirming over one of my quick explanations about large issues (war. race. why some animals are food animals and some are pets. why some people talk about G-d);  she intuitively knows when there's more to a subject about which I've quipped. It's shameful of me to gloss over the details when she's eager to learn, so I go back and try to more fully discuss the issue in which she's interested in a manner she can understand.

by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen 

I've always been drawn to Montessori theory and remain a firm believer in its validity even as I fail miserably to institute Montessori routine into our home. I feel I'm not home enough during prime learning hours to really get the Montessori exercises going. Which is a total cop out; I just need to suck it up and get off my rear already.

Though familiar with the overall educational Montessori system, it wasn't until I read this book that I first learned of floor beds for infants. And then I scoured the internet looking for confirmation. Do people really do this? They do! Fabulous. Neither of my girls have needed a crib due to the floor bed (and not-Montessori but still useful co-sleeping) concept. Skip the crip (assuming scorpions aren't typically roaming the floors of your house).

Also gleaned from this book:  when a child is focused on something, leave them the hell alone (paraphrased).  No clapping, no kissing, no cooing, no telling them what a brilliant little puss they are. Let them be. Drawing attention to yourself as an observer disrupts their concentration. Just let them practice whatever it is they're practicing. Children don't learn to receive praise, they learn because they're hardwired to do so--don't toss a self-consious wrench into the mix. This idea has meant I'm much less an Oh my gosh you're amazing. Let's clap about it! -type mother than many others, and sometimes I wonder whether my friends and family think I don't care about my daughters. But I do. I just don't want them to feel like I'm watching them. It freaks me out when someone watches me write, for example. Just leave me alone! (Love you, Hon!)

Crocodile on the Sandbank and the rest of the Amelia Peabody Mysteries
by Elizabeth Peters

Crocodile is the first book in a most enjoyable mystery series. It's actually the third or fourth book and beyond that belong to this list, but I thought it proper to start you at the beginning. I love the Peabody mysteries for four reasons: (1) Amelia's husband's name is Emerson, which I adore and was in a final running if we'd had a boy, (2) mysteries involving Egypt? Awesome, (3) the books are hilarious in a British mystery sort of way (if you know what I mean, you know what I mean), and (4) the Peabodys bring along their young son on their early 20th-century Egyptian expeditions even though someone nearly always is murdered or a valuable site is vandalized, and he grows to learn fluent Arabic and is so familiar with Egyptian customs he can blend in as a citizen whenever he likes. I freakin' LOVE that. I so so so so so want my girls to be able to speak a second (and third) language with fluency. So far I haven't found a multi-lingual play group but I'm on the lookout. If Amelia can wear pants and have her son pick-up a second language, so can I.

And that's what I have on my shelves at present that I think were significant enough to mention. (Next up: movies?)

Perhaps you've read some of these too:  what did you think? Do you have others to recommend?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Quote of the Day: exploding minds want to know

"I was glad of my strong hips and sound cage of ribs to save me from flying apart, so explosive were my thoughts."

 ~from Muriel Spark's Loitering with Intent

Not bad exploding, mind you, but the good kind. The OMG, there's so many amazing things in the world I don't know where to begin! sort. Just another reason to grateful for a sound body (helps keep my wild imagination in check). This mother intends to enjoy her weekend and hopes you are off enjoying yours. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Let Us Eat Lettuce

I've blogged about my love for Community Supported Agriculture ("CSA") programs before, and I'm thrilled that CSA season is here again! This year we're splitting a full produce share with my husband's parents, so we'll have garden-y goodness every week from now through mid-October. We've partnered (a CSA is a type of partnership, really) with a new-to-us farm this year: Equinox Community Farm.

First CSA deliveries tend to be mostly greens, so it was a very pleasant surprise that along with the anticipated Asian cooking greens (polkadotted with bug bites, but that just proves they're organically grown) and young garlic & scapes, Equinox also added purple kohlrabi and a container of the most succulent strawberries you can imagine. Also: lettuce. So. Much. Lettuce.

So let's talk about lettuce. As a vegetarian I'd had my share of lettuce-as-a-meal. Most often in the past I joined a group of family or friends at a restaurant of their choice and, faced with a menu of factory-farmed meats and cheese-laden pastas, ended up making do with a pitiful side salad (iceberg, carrot shavings, perhaps a mealy tomato slice or two). I quickly became a lettuce-hater. It was eaten by necessity but I took no pleasure in the green. (And yes, it's absolutely possible to hate lettuce and still be a vegetarian because there are a million non-lettuce plant-based foods in the world).

Since re-introducing meat back into my diet (we're going to come back to this in another post someday soon, but suffice to say I think my meat-eating days are numbered) I've ironically forged a new love for these first greens of the summer. I believe growing our own garden has had a lot to do with it (iceberg is banished from our property!); baby lettuces are amazingly delicious and so very easy to grow. Trying to choose seasonal produce has helped as well, since these first fresh-from-the-soil greens hint at all the amazing greenery soon to come from the Wisconsin earth. You don't get the same rush when picking-up a bag of pre-washed at the grocery store.

So lettuce is back on the menu, boys. But. OMG. So. Much. Lettuce. You cannot possibly eat so many salads (ok, of course you could. But I don't care to and neither do you, probably). What to do? You could let it sit in a bag in your fridge until it becomes a slimy goo and then toss it into the compost, OR...

You could make Lettuce Soup!

Sounds weird, I know. I mentioned that I was going to make this to some co-workers and the idea received a general thumbs down as far as mouthwatering ideas go. But I persevered (read: I had so much lettuce I was desperate) and tried it anyway. And, of course, since this is how these things go, even though I was worried it'd be disgusting it was the opposite. It was so delicious. SO. DELICIOUS. And now it's your turn to make it. Believe me, it's worth it, even though the photo I snapped with my iPhone doesn't communicate how good it is.

Adapted from a recipe of Emeril's:
Lettuce Soup
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 green garlic plant (use all the bulbs & the scape)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried chives
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 heads of lettuce, washed & torn into pieces (I used a green lettuce & a red lettuce)
  • 3 cups light stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or heavy cream)
  • Any cooked or canned vegetables you wish to add (we used potatoes, carrots & green beans)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Heat large saucepan and add olive oil. When oil is hot add the onion and cook for a minute or two, then add the garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the parsley, chives, tarragon and lettuce and stir until the lettuce is completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or transferring the soup in batches to a blender or processor) blend the soup--use care, it's hot! Add other cooked or canned vegetables and warm through. When ready to serve, stir in the milk or cream and season with salt and pepper.
4 Servings.
We ate two heads of lettuce last night in the form of delicious delectable soup. Even Uli ate her fill. And no need to use the salad spinner, just rinse, tear, and add to the pot.

No more excuses for the slimy bags rotting in the fridge, no more complaints about being force-fed rabbit food. Lettuce soup will save you. Repeat after me now: when the CSA gives you lettuce, make soup! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dear Stupid Person in Your Stupid Car:

Today your blue station wagon continued on when you should have yielded me the right of way. I was on your RIGHT. It was an unmarked intersection. I got there first. I had the RIGHT of way. But you were driving parallel to the major road and just decided to be a jerk about it.

Last week your red sedan failed to yield me the right of way at the same intersection. It had looked like you were stopping and so I started to go but then you didn't and I had to slam on my brakes. I would have honked but your dog was hanging-out of the passenger window and I didn't want to scare her because I'm not a jerk like you.

Last month you in your black truck failed to signal before moving over two lanes of traffic. I wasn't in any danger because I was quite a ways behind you, but I saw you and it was irritating. It's not like you need to conserve blinker fluid or anything (it's cheap! They only charge me $5/refill each tuneup.)

Also, another time you parked in front of our house almost all Saturday morning, and I prefer that no one parks there. Park in the driveway of whomever you're visiting, they're presumably not going anywhere because you're visiting them.

And another thing, I don't like your after-market illegally tinted windows. They make it look like you're trying to look like Somebody you're not (because, let's face it, this is Madison, and you're not) or that you're a vampire (which would be cool, but again, you're not).

Plus, we should have better public transportation and if we did you wouldn't irritate me so much because we'd all be zooming around on the lightrail but we don't probably because jerks like you won't vote for it. You want your stupid could-have-been-tax-money in cash because you want a vanity plate.

One last thing:  what kind of gas mileage do you get in town?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Have I Mentioned I Like Cookbooks?

I know. Everything is about to change! And then a cookbook post. I appear disingenuous. But I can't change overnight, or even if I do, I don't know if I'm prepared to write about it. So I'll stick with what I know for a while. Or forever. Really, I'm struggling with this whole be radically awesome deal.

I've been struggling with writing this blog, too. I look back on past posts (pre- Palingenesis) and find myself occasionally charming and funny (and self-absorbed, you mutter. Indeed, indeed). I have found very little of my latest writing interesting. The past couple of years have been... sapping. Is it the transition of my first child from infancy to toddler/preschooler? An I'm in my mid-thirties breakdown? Perhaps a voodoo curse.

Essentially, I need to figure out why I'm writing. Not writing in general (which I feel compelled to do in as much the same way I feel I must breath or drink coffee) but writing this blog in particular. I'm uncertain that Palingenesis is meeting my blogger needs. Is it meeting your reading needs? Do you even read this thing? (No, wait, don't answer if you don't.)

So anyway. Cookbooks. My love for the cookbook continues in spite (or perhaps because) of the sixty pounds I really should shed and that my household's day-to-day cookery has been long turned over to my stay at home husband. You may follow my obsession over at Well-Cookbooked, which means you know I'm nearly certifiable. I cannot get enough. Cookbooks, that is.

Perhaps because I have the other dedicated cooking blog I rarely discuss my culinary perusals here. I'm thinking that might change. I occasionally write about books here, and the cookbook is a genre that holds my interest throughout the year (while, on the other hand, I cycle through sci-fi / classics / fantasy / historial / self-help / drama / poetry phases in my "real" reading). Rather than saving everything for Well-Cookbooked I suppose I can spread the love. Why not.

The books in the photo were my latest score from a very exciting garage sale. The house had so many cookbooks I had to be dragged away before I spent all my birthday money (carefully saved since December). I'm currently reading Countryside, Garden & Table by Martha Adams Rubin and have found it enjoyable (heavy on the chat, light on the recipes, but it's okay in a Kingsolver type way, you know?). Next up will be Cook It In a Casserole, largely because in the book's forward it states that the best thing to come from Hitler's war (waged during the book's compilation) was that casseroles came back into fashion via necessity. I'd never heard the "Hitler = WWII = Casseroles = Good" argument before, and I'm intrigued to read what else the book may hold. (You need not remind me of fruit of the poison tree discourse as I'm leaning that way already. But still, I'm curious.) Third down is my new first edition copy of Love and Knishes found at the same garage sale (and which, yes, I bought even though I already had a copy at home. But who can say no to Kasdan? Maybe I should run a post giving my extra copy to a lucky reader. Let me think on that...).

And that's me for now. Reading about cooking. Thinking about life and blogging.

It's not a bad way to spend the last day of May, really. (Now, on to June!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

and I'm a goddamn coward but then again so are you*

My girls are brave. Eager. Certain that every moment of every day holds a revelation, an opportunity to grow. As indeed it does hold for them.

Ilse rolls new tastes across her tongue, fully invested in what is means to eat a pea or the puree of sweet potato, or the smush of a cooked onion. She picks up each and every Cheereo within her reach, proud of her newfound ability to feed herself, screaching if you attempt to interfere with the honing of her skills. She's unconcerned that her audience has more practice than she.

Ilse works faithfully towards her pursuit of becoming functionally bipedal, pulling herself up to standing and setting one foot in front of the other again and again and again. She teeters, totters, and falls on her sweet cheeks (both sets) repeatedly every day but is not deterred; a quick peck from Daddy or Mama and she's off again, kitties to catch and an older sister to emulate.

Uli lists her numerous life goals with excitement and great sincerity: student (she looks forward equally to both elemantary school and university, and she was heartbroken to learn that Hogwarts isn't, in fact, a option), bus driver, grocer, mother, soccer player, cat owner, boy, artist, herpetologist, and Fastest Runner (or, alternatively, Bicyclist) In The World--she intends to explore all avenues.

Whenever we adults tell Uli a certain thing is not done, she asks why. And if our response is something to the tune of We Don't Know How, she, with the wisdom of a sage, says: "You could try and learn."

I watch my girls and am thrilled they thrive while dreaming big, grabbing goals (and cats), conquering what initially seems too difficult, moving constantly forward, expecting great things of themselves. They don't consider their current limits, they push themselves on to the next great idea, the new goal, the more difficult advance. And why shouldn't they. This is humanity's call. Their destiny.

Lately I've been asking myself when I stopped doing the same, striving as they do, conquering the difficult then moving on happily to the next challenge, my next Big Thing. I used to. But now, how often now do I test my own limits? When did I decide to accept my current status as my forever status?

Complacency. It may occasionally be viewed as a gift, granting peace and patience during dull times. It can also be a curse, extending the dullness, dissuading one from taking the leap into the unknown when it's time to do so.

Testing limits is uncomfortable. The first attempt can a rough one. Scary. But surely it is rewarding, one way or another (even in the form of a smackdown)?

Though I admit to some feelings of trepidation,  I'm now beginning to rethink my current Self. The routines to which I cling might soon be tossed out. The "facts" about my life are, in fact, merely labels and could be reworked.

It's all very vague, I know, and sometimes I'm frustrated that I can't go into more detail on this blog because my name is attached via search engine. But I'm hoping to share great things. Perhaps sooner than later.

*from The Lion's Roar, of the new-to-me Swedish duo First Aid Kit. So awesome. Go listen

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