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

Monday, May 28, 2012

a bearded man, armed to the teeth

I read this last month and thought it appropriate for Memorial Day. Even in this abbreviated form it's a bit long for the non-poetry inclined;  if that's you, try just the first and last stanzas--they're my favorites. 

The Antiquity of Freedom
by Willam Cullen Bryant, 1842

O Freedom! thou art not, as poets dream,
A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,
And wavy tresses gushing from the cap
With which the Roman master crowned his slave
When he took off the gyves. A bearded man,
Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand
Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; the brown,
Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred
With tokens of old wars; they massive limbs
Are strong with struggling...

Thy birthright was not given by human hands:
thou wert twin-born with man. In pleasant fields,
While yet our race was few, thou sat'st with him,
To tend the quiet flock and watch the stars,
And teach the reed to utter simple airs.
Thou by his side, amid the tangled wood,
Didst war upon the panther and the wolf,
His only foes; and thou with him didst draw
The earliest furrow on the mountain-side,
Soft with the deluge. Tyranny himself,
Thy enemy, although of reverend look,
Hoary with many years, and far obeyed,
Is later born than thou; and as he meets
The grave defiance of thing elder eye,
The usurper trembles in his fastness.

Thou shalt wax stronger with the lapse of years,
But he shall fade into a feebler age---
Feebler, yet subtler. He shall weave his snares,
And spring them on thy careless steps, and clap
His withered hands, and from their ambush call
His hordes to fall upon thee. He shall send
Quaint maskers, wearing fair and gallant forms
To catch they gaze, and uttering graceful words
To charm they ear; while his sly imps, by stealth,
Twine round thee threads of steel, light thread on thread,
That grow to fetters;  or bind down they arms
With chains concealed in chaplets.

                                                        Oh! not yet
Mayst thou unbrace they corslet, nor lay by
They sword; nor yet, O Freedom! close they lids
In slumber; for thine enemy never sleeps,
And thou must watch and combat till the day
Of the new earth and heaven. But wouldst thou rest
Awhile from tumult and the frauds of men,
These old and friendly solitudes invite
Thy visit. They, while yet the forest-trees
Were young upon the unviolated earth,
And yet the moss-stains on the rock were new,
Beheld they glorious childhood, and rejoiced.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

a newer, cleaner era dawning

In a mystical congruence of events, Ilse has taken her first bath. Surely she's bathed before, you say. Well,  if you're asking if I've washed her, of course. I wipe her down regularly. But immerse her lower half in a vat of standing water? She has found that most disagreeable. Ear-piercing shrieks the entire time her toes are in the water, ceasing only when she'll been pulled out and toweled off -disagreeable. 

She slept through her actual "first bath."
So she's has a couple of dips in the kitchen sink that she didn't totally hate (two, I believe. Maybe there was a third?).  But that's it. Seriously. We've just been wiping her down for the past nine months. 

Sure she's happy, now that's she's OUT of the tub.
Which brings me to last night. After a particularly grubbifying evening which included beach sand (both the digging in and some eating of) I knew I couldn't just re-diaper her sandy body and call it good. She needed to soak. I prepared myself for the screaming and plunked her into a warm bath next to Uli. A few stunned seconds passed (again with the horrifying water, Mama?) and she decided all was well. Ilse picked up a bath ring and happily spish-splashed with her sister. I even washed her hair with nary a tear. 

The first time I'd successfully washed her hair without her crying (first of now three times! Whoo-hoo!)
I'm not convinced she's a bath lover now, but at least I'm no longer certain she'll be the Pigpen of her group. We'll continue to give this bathing thing a try and perhaps one day I'll be able to snap follow-up bath shots to go with these first-bath photos. 

My sweet (and, sure, slightly dirty) babe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sometimesss She Surprisssesss Me

"Mama, this is my pet snake. 
It's venomous, but I have a special immunity.
You should be careful, though. Watch out for its stingers."

This introduction was then followed by a few hours of snake play, a declaration of her intention to become a veterinatrian and/or herpetologist, and a thoughtful examination of what in our household a large snake might consider as ideal food (cats and Baby Ilse, watch out!). 

What really cracks me up is that she can correctly use the words venom/ous, immunity and herpetology/ist but still calls a snake's fangs stingers.  I suppose she's only 3, after all.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Brought My Newborn to Work With Me

I haven't blogged about this before now for a couple of reasons.

First, I know it's considered a huge privilege to bring a baby to work. Not every parent has this option, either because of the nature of their position or because of their employers philosophies or worksite rules. I've feared that by describing my experience I might make those who are unable to take their own babies to work feel guilty. In no way am I trying to start a mommy-war; this post is just me sharing what worked for me.

Second--and this is confession time--part of me is embarrassed that I returned to work while my baby was still so new. Whether I returned because I had to or because I chose to (in reality it was a mix) doesn't really matter. Either way, my brain is having mommy-wars with itself. So, realize that though I'm writing about how glad I am that it all worked out, I'm also worried I'll be judged on the fact that I attempted it in the first place. Give me the benefit of the doubt; I did weigh the pros and cons of returning to work (considering both earlier dates and later, with and without baby) and this was what worked out best for me and my family.

So. Enough of that. I am sincerely grateful and happy with how it all went down, and here goes the tale:

When Ilse was seven weeks old, I packed us into the car one morning and headed into my office for work. Ilse had been born during a very busy time of year for my office. Yes, I was fully eligible to take unpaid FMLA leave of up to twelve weeks, but I was both feeling a responsibility to my office as well as a significantly lighter purse (unpaid leave, remember). So I asked to come early with baby in tow, and my supervisor and her supervisor agreed. It was Bring Your [Infant] Daughter To Work [Every] Day!

Logistically I was set: I have my own office. If I were in a cubical or working on a sales floor, I may not have been able to convince everyone that my newborn belonged with me at work. But with my own space and door it seemed reasonable. Also, my supervisors (and the company in general) consider work/life balance high priority. So for my bosses to say, Sure, bring her in! wasn't all that crazy-sounding around these parts.

But how did it actually work? I focused on a few key items to keep things moving smoothly:

(1) I babywore Ilse in a Wrapsody wrap each day. Though surrounded by unfamiliar sights/sounds, Ilse knew right where I was every moment and was kept safe and warm.

(2) I breastfed on demand. A full-bellied infant is a happy (and sleepy) infant. Most of my job duties are performed while parked in a chair, so I'd be sitting at my desk (with Ilse in the wrap) and whenever she'd stir I'd check her diaper (if it were time for such things) and then nurse her. This is where using a wrap totally rocked, because I could adjust Ilse in it in a way that would allow me to carry-on with typing or sorting-through emails, albeit somewhat more slowly and one-handed. And because of the wrap sometimes I could even leave my desk and wander over to the shared printer in the middle of the office and run off copies while discreetly nursing.

Here are actual photos me nursing Ilse at work: 

Not so scandelous, right? And, finally,

(3) I set-up a Pack 'N Play. I had permission to set it up in my office, and though moving between my desk and my file cabinets became a tight squeeze, I'm happy it was there. The P&P was both a place to put Ilse down when I couldn't hold her (such as when I was putting on the wrap--though more often than not there were co-workers ready and willing to snuggle her) as well as a stable surface on which to change her diapers. I'm certain we could have managed without it, but this way I didn't have to scan for errant staples every time I set her down. Small blessings.

And that's my story. Ilse and I went to work every day together for six weeks. By the end of her twelfth week she was become more alert for longer timeperiods and I was starting to feel some pressure, juggling her and the job at the same time. It was okay, calling it quits to bringing her in at that point. I felt at peace with it. She and I had been able to share our days together from her birth, and I'd managed to contribute at work as well. It truly was a win-win.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the year's at the spring

all's right with the world

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gorgeous 3.5

Her beautiful three and a half year old mind wants to know
May I?
Exhausting. Exhilarating.

Nothing is undoable.
No bridges burned.
No trolls barring the way.
All roads lead exactly where
they will.
Asks Daddy for adjustments
Bedroom walls are bare but for orange paint,
an I Want To Believe poster and a horse calendar.
What else does she need,
the world before her?

Perhaps a carrot?

Outdoors an entire tree in (a) bud. The flowers she picks
carry her mood inside. Both the Spring outside and in her step vibrate joy.
She sits porch-side and waves hello to the neighbors
(or their dogs. "Can I pet your dog?" she yells).

So happy to be here. So ready for more.
So full of hope. Life.

It's a privilege to be her mother.

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