Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Lights

This past weekend we went out to my parents' house for dinner. They have the yard and house decorated for Christmas. I think I always took it for granted when I was little that there would be sparkly holiday cheer all around me, but aside from the occasional curses coming from the attic when Dad was wrangling down all the decorations, I didn't know how much work it took to actually decorate.

Until I had kids.

Now I know. That's why this year, we have a tree, and that's it. I took down the Christmas houses, but I can't find a surface to put them on, and one of the bulbs is burned out anyway. Santa will still be able to find our house because our kids have been sooo good this year, so I'm not worried. ;D

Walking through the yard on Saturday night, arbors of glowing grapes overhead, brilliant blue LEDs, Christmas trees, light-up penguins throwing tiny nylon snowballs, I felt as enchanted as a little kid. C was in awe -- he took me on a walk through the yard and told me what to look at, showing me everything Grandma had shown him. His special favorite was the pair of lit penguins, who were covered with a layer of icy raindrops.

It almost made me cry, for the same reason that I choke up when I see a particularly good performance, or other work of art. I have been described as being very "pragmatic" by people who know me, and my biggest struggle in grad school was waiting to find out the practical application of all of the theory we were learning. When there wasn't one, I just couldn't get myself to care about it. But things like art, and songs, and Christmas lights, are the exact opposite. Practically speaking, there isn't really a "point" -- they take time, cost money, and don't result in anything particularly tangible. But people do them anyway. Seeing something like Mom and Dad's yard lit up for Christmas makes me love humanity, for our silly, pointless love of beauty. Is there any other species that would spend so much time and money just to make someone else smile? To try to connect, even for a minute, to that unexpressible Thing that we try to convey in art -- the feeling of being human that combines the elation of being alive with the sorrow at the fact that we won't always be; the way one moment can seem to last a hundred years, yet a decade can fly by like a commercial break. The way we love, the way we hurt, the devastating love a parent has for their child; the fact that we exist at all, that we can and do keep stringing up colored lights all around the giant flooded yard, breaking the dark of the night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Nashes Again

A week and a half after starting to wean Norah, the difference in our daily lives is striking. I have tons more energy and I just feel happier in general. I don't know if I actually had PPD or not (I never had it officially diagnosed because I didn't want to deal with doctors trying to put me on meds for a temporary condition) but once again, just as with C, the less I nurse the baby the happier I am. I wish I had a different experience with nursing, but I guess it is what it is. I have always been a low-energy kind of person, and maybe the lactation business just tips the balance a bit and wears me out too much.

All of this makes me wonder about the nature of PPD itself, and how we think about it and label it. I have had a problem with the idea of PPD because of the way I think of depression -- I tend to think of depression as a sadness that comes without a logical reason, or at least out of proportion with the logical reason. But with PPD, there *is* a reason. As much as I love my kids, it is really hard having a kid, and you have to give up a lot, even parts of your identity, your coping mechanisms, all of it.

According to the Myers-Briggs scale, I am an INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). I was looking at some information online about INFJ parenting, and I came across a list of things that an INFJ parent needs in order to maintain mental balance. It went something like this: (1) At least an hour of alone time every day (2) an area of the house which you can keep clean and control (3) lots of peace and quiet (4) regular, solitary exercise, (5) projects that have a clear, defined beginning and end.

In other words, the exact opposite of parenting young kids.

So, this is encouraging in that there is a reason why I have felt so frazzled and strung out lately, and as my brain comes back to me -- piece by piece (thank God!) -- I have big hopes and big dreams for the future of the Happy Nashes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I have started the gradual process of weaning Norah; for now we are down to nursing only at night before bed.

It might seem a bit early -- she is only eight months -- but I have an experience with nursing that I have never heard anyone else express. I don't know if that is because there are few people who have my experience, or because mothers don't feel free to express these things, but in my experience, when I am BFing, there is a certain part of my mental function that is just gone. Parts of my brain that I just can't access. And it drains me emotionally so that if the baby wants to nurse all day, I can't stand to talk to or touch anyone else all day. Night weaning and decreasing the number of feedings seems to really be helping this -- now, I really enjoy the nursing as a sweet, mama + baby experience, and I can relax in the moment a bit more.

I feel like this is an unusual experience, at best, and I have to admit that I am jealous of moms who can stand to breastfeed their kids until they are 2, and who can successfully handle that much giving on a daily basis. I sometimes feel like there is something missing in me so that I just have less to give. Cutting back on nursing N makes me feel somewhat ungenerous from a certain perspective. It is hard to avoid the "if only" disease -- if only I could conjure more patience out of somewhere. If only I weren't so selfish. If only my brain didn't slow down a little bit more with every ounce of milk.

But then, I consider the changes in me since I began cutting back the nursing on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, I caught myself singing and dancing with N in the living room, for no particular reason. I held her up in the air and she stuck out her fat little arms and smiled a big, drooly grin with her two bottom teeth peeking out. I realized in that moment that I had not been doing much singing or dancing for several months before.

And I know with both my logic-brain and my emotion-brain that C has been getting the short end of the stick when I have been so worn out. All my energy goes into the baby and he gets what is left over, which is not much sometimes. And it seems like a three-year-old needs interaction even more than he needs food. So giving up a bit of my mother-earth fantasy in relation to N seems worth it for being able to rebuild a good interaction with C, whom I have sorely missed in these weeks/months that I have been exhausted and "away." Feeling the divide between my beautiful boy and myself has kept me up at night more than once; okay, more than a dozen times, and having more energy to give to him is a very exciting idea for me after so much worn-out parenting.

It has been hard coming face-to-face with my limits as a person and as a mother. I wish I could do it all. I can't do it all.

But I keep catching myself in unexpected joy. After B left for music practice on Sunday I was lying on the living room floor playing with the kids, my feet resting on a pile of books that C and I had read our way through a half hour before -- which I finally had the energy and patience to do. N was scooting across the floor in her way, like a tiny fat soldier, and C set his truck down on the couch and leapt on me like a lion cub. "Mama," he said, planting a kiss on my cheek. "You're my friend."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Liquid Sunshine

After a temper tantrum on Wednesday, I spent the evening with some friends, being silent and morose I am sure, but it did me some good. The next day B helped me work out a strategy for dealing with random tiredness disease (RTD), including more delegation and more sleep. I have had two nights of 8 hours of sleep and it is making a difference. I am also taking liquid vitamins (better bioavailability, apparently) so I am not sure what part of feeling better comes from sleep, and what part comes from the vitamins, but I will take it, regardless.

The biggest part of "recovery," if you could call it that, is realizing, once again, that I need to seriously revise my ideas about how much I can accomplish in one day and in one lifetime. I feel like I have absolutely no understanding of what is an appropriate amount of things that I can do in a day. I am learning it all from scratch. Whatever seems appropriate to other people seems so, so underambitious to me. So once again I am razing the landscape and waiting to build until I know what I can afford. Minimal obligations of all kinds; lots of time sleeping. Lots of time alone. Screening my calls. Trying to figure out where this crazy life-boat is headed.

[Looking back on this post I see that it looks a bit melancholy, but my experience is very happy -- I am feeling much more myself and getting to know what I can expect from myself. Just dealing with burnout and looking at ways to keep it from happening again.]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

...except not

Just got a call from the Dr.'s office to say that their "machine made a mistake" and I am really not anemic at all. I just have all of the symptoms for anemia, and most of the risk factors. They want me to get an EKG, but I was thinking of three different letters: WTF.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Am Iron Man

I found out today that I am "moderately" anemic, and probably have been getting steadily worse since N was born. It explains so much, and makes be feel better just knowing that there is a quantifiable problem that I am dealing with and not just "oh, you have 2 kids, of course you are tired all the time." And of course, now that I know what the problem is, I am impatient for it to improve.

Yesterday I went to the gym and had a good workout, but it almost ended me. That is supposedly another problem that comes with anemia -- working out makes the symptoms worse, as does coffee, giving birth, breastfeeding, taking vitamins without iron in them, and doing laundry. Okay, so I made that last one up, but it seems like everything in my lifestyle makes anemia worse ;D I started cutting back my coffee a few days ago, so I guess I will just keep on doing that. I am down to a half cup per day now, and it is killing me... I love coffee! I love brewing it, I love drinking it, I love the smell, the warmth... And of course now that it is winter, all I want is some hot drinks. :p Small price to pay for feeling better, though.

My hemoglobin levels were pretty low -- 8.5, with a normal being in the 12-13 range. Below a 7 and I would have been admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion! I am still waiting on the final lab results to confirm, but hopefully there's nothing there to send me straight to the hospital. Man, I reeeeeeally don't like staying in the hospital.

That's really all the news for the day. My energy has been grinding to a halt lately, so my to-do lists are pretty short (I submit my cluttered house as evidence of this fact). I am really hoping that I can see some improvement by Christmas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I am a natural-born introvert, and usually events like Thanksgiving, with the crowds of people, loud noise, jostling (at least at our food table, I don't know about yours) and general largeness usually leaves me happy and full but somewhat strung out as well, yearning for a quiet room and some time alone.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or because everyone seems to be mellowing out more, or maybe it's just the confidence that family life has given me, but this year it was not like that at all. I felt completely at ease. Everyone around the table(s) just felt like "my people," and it was peaceful and happy. There were those great family moments where we all just happen to gather in the same place, and talk, and talk. Being a stay-at-home, I really miss talking in that way -- large groups of people, sharing memories, sharing ideas, all of it good-natured and friendly. We looked up everybody's birthday to see what famous people were born on our birthdays (me: Pat Nixon. B: Adam West). Dad hitched up the lawn tractor to a trailer full of hay and we had a hayride. At first it seemed corny but as we took lazy circles around the yard it seemed like the perfect metaphor for the year that passes in between Thanksgiving meals. Kind of circular, kind of familiar, slow yet over quickly too. And then you turn a corner and you see that piece of the yard (and it is a beautiful yard) in a way you never have before. Today it was a tall tree in the back corner of the yard with its leaves turned bright yellow, flaming on all the branches and scattered on the ground, all around. I stared up at the branches from below. C smiled and hugged N. The trailer bumped and jostled over tree roots. We drove figure eights around the yard that I used to wander in my childhood, singing to myself or reading books or gathering leaves like memories to press between the pages of the book of life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Lone Time

It has been a week since we were partying out in LA, and man, has reality come back with a vengeance ;D This week has been a blur of unpacking, deadlines, and holding back the ever-impending mess of house clutter.

And yet I feel like my trip to the end of the world helped me to get some perspective on things. Something about hauling ourselves all the way out to the mountain-y craggy beach at Malibu, seeing the Pacific, and feeling so very small helped a lot of details to jog back in place. Somehow, a trip away from home tends to make home make more sense in the end.

To be more specific:

I realized that I have been WAY too busy since Norah has been born. In the hotel and on the road/in the air, I often found myself with only one thing to do at once, and I found that I functioned much better that way. I seem to have regained some of my short-term memory capacity (which I thought was lost forever) and I think I'm being nicer, too. You'd have to ask Ben if this is actually the case, but I believe it is. :)

I am beginning to recognize too-busy-ness as an inherited trait, and I have to actively choose not to give in. I think I have already mentioned here that I have cut back from teaching for two colleges to teaching for only one, at least for the near future. It feels very right.

I realized that I need time alone every day. I got time to myself each day of the trip (weird, right?) and I just sort of instantly felt like my old self, and I think that there is a connection there.

I realized that the past 6 months or so have been really exceptionally hard, and that it is all right for me to admit that and make positive changes for the next six months. I have possibly had some PPD, which changes the way I evaluate things.

Of course, all this hippie-dippie self-awareness comes at a cost. I am more aware of being tired now, so I can't live on caffeine and denial and stay up until 3am doing work anymore... at about midnight I am totally done. This is both good and bad, although I suspect it is more good.

-The best part of all was realizing how much I worry in my daily life, and letting go of that worry. I think that the prospect of flying two little kids out to LA and then driving ourselves around, meeting various deadlines, and wearing a strapless dress could have been the perfect recipe for a nervous meltdown, but instead the fear just faded. After the 101, I-10 doesn't look like much, you know? It reminds me a lot of the way I felt right after my bad car accident when I was 17. I realized back then that had things gone only slightly differently, my entire life could have been wrecked. Rather than making me nervous, though, this thought actually freed me. I realized that I could die at any moment, and so I could see no reason to worry and no reason not to enjoy life. The fact that I am here at all is so improbable, why not relish every moment?

-I am cutting back on the sort of hyper-communication that I would get involved in, on the phone, on FB, etc. I stand back and pretend that I am a couple of time-zones away, and things just don't seem like that big of a deal anymore. In a good way.

One small interesting note is that I think I may finally be integrating the "mother of two" thing into myself and my identity. I had several moments during the trip when things were just going inexplicably smoothly -- for instance, on the way out to CA, there was a moment on one of the flights when B and C were reading Curious George together and I had N balanced on one knee, eating oatmeal and peaches from a jar at 30,000 feet. No spills, no whining, no problems. I thought, maybe the inherent inconvenience of life with two small children has somehow made me immune to some of the hassles of traveling. Long flights used to make me want to scream and pull my hair out, and now I am just like, "Wow, 3 hours and fifteen minutes with nothing to do? And my phone doesn't work? SCORE." The TSA suspicious-liquids screening was kind of a pain in the neck, but it was no worse than trying to pay with a (oops, expired, let me get out the new one... do I have the new one with me? Hold on...) debit card at the grocery store with two fussing kids.

A lot of the goodness of my experience with the trip came from B doing so much with the kids, always ready to hold them, amuse them, feed them, etc., and of course being willing to drive us on our errands through the hideous end-of-days traffic in and around LA. It really cut down on the heinous trip-related work that I had to do, and allowed me to relax in what felt like the first time in... forever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

City of Angels

The Happy Nashes just returned from a 4-day odyssey to California for a wedding. It was definitely an adventure! I will be writing more about the trip over the next few days, but for now, here are a few highlights:

--I have never wanted to give a company a big hug before, but Southwest Airlines and I are now BFF. We had four flights total, and they all boarded quickly (15 mins tops) and had timely arrivals and departures, cheerful flight attendants, nice passengers, low fares, and very quick de-boarding as well. We didn't sit at the gate for any length of time after arrival, as I have always had to do with other airlines (ahem... DELTA... ahem...). No switched departures, strange delays, or shenanigans of any kind. And they did Family Boarding which allowed us to find seats together each time.

--The kids did SO WELL with the traveling. I had so many nightmare scenarios played out in my head -- screaming children, tantrums, diapers at 30,000 ft., security issues, etc. but it went so smoothly. I feel like it was easier than a car trip. N loved to nap on the planes, I think because of the combination of white noise and motion, and because she was right on me in the sling instead of strapped in her car seat. C watched his portable DVD player, ate snacks, and only got whiny towards the very end of a couple of really long flights, when I was feeling a bit edgy myself.

--B and I reached a kind of traveling zen early on in the trip -- I would say maybe after our first flight -- and we were like a machine. We were so efficient, so cooperative, and so focused. We even had a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves and the kids were fine, and it was really fun. I was afraid it would be just a lot of work and kind of lonely, but I really got to hang out with B a lot, and it was kind of like old times. Very much a vacation from the daily grind. I loved it. :)

--Speaking of B being awesome, he drove on the LA freeways! In a car with no driver's side mirror! ;D And lived to tell about it.

--The most beautiful view ever -- right before Malibu Canyon Rd. meets the Pacific Coast Highway. You are driving through canyons and mountains, up and down and around curves, and then suddenly on your right the landscape sort of falls open and you can see the Pacific in this breathtaking panoramic view. I gasped while we were driving, and freaked B out because he thought something was wrong. But I couldn't help it. It was glittering, clear, and flat, and I felt like we could see halfway to China. It didn't even seem like Earth.

--Seeing our good friends Mark and Reina get married was the greatest part of all. They are such a great pair of people, and unlike many couples, you get a sense that they just really truly enjoy each other's company. I know they will have a long and very happy life together. And may I say that Reina was one of the most beautiful, radiant brides that I have ever seen.

More later! For now we are enjoying being back in our hometown, where "rush hour" means that it will take you half an hour to get home. ;D

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh, Brother

This morning I turned off the monitor at 4am and just went to sleep as N cried, because I had not yet been to sleep and knew I would be up at 8am again. In the morning, I woke up to her just waking up and mildly fussing. When I went in to get her, I saw that she was surrounded by a halo of toys. C had heard her crying and came in to give her a selection of age-appropriate toys (every single one of them was a baby toy) to keep her calm before I came in.

What a brother! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sister Mary Yellypants

When N is being especially fussy, she often gets a stern look and rejects every attempt at making her happy. She will furrow her tiny brow and scowl in a way that reminds me a lot of my fifth grade teacher and the nuns who ran my elementary/middle school. With that one look they could let you know the following things:

1. I saw what you just did
2. I know how disobedient you are, even if you are acting like you are obedient
3. I heartily disapprove
4. Your parents will hear about this

And so I call N "Sister Mary Yellypants" when she is handing out demerits to me. C had a similar persona, The Boss, who was a disgruntled bureaucrat who pitched a fit when you did not file all the appropriate forms in triplicate. This would often happen when I took a shower or went out to get the mail (or, heaven forbid, out for the evening) without prior approval, for example. Man, I used to spend HOURS in HR explaining myself...

Happily, The Boss is no longer a large part of C's personality, although there is a Napoleonic persona emerging these days... "Fire the cannons! Because I say so, that's why! Lay SEIGE to them! They SHALL NOT STAAAAND!" And then he gets sent into exile, though only to his room, not a remote island.

But I kind of hope Sister Mary Yellypants hangs around for a while. To be honest, I like a girl with a little bit of sass.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let It Rain

I know it's just a superstition, but I love the old folk belief that rain on your wedding day (in spite of what Alanis says) means good luck. I have been thinking about our wedding a lot lately as we have been getting ready to go see our friends get married, and celebrate with them.

In a way, it was not long ago, and in a way I was the same person then that I am now. But a lot about me has changed -- I have grown up -- a LOT -- by becoming a mom. I am so much more confident, so much better of an advocate for myself and for others, because I was forced into it during C's hospital stay. I used to be so timid, and I am not anymore. That is a really nice change.

My memories of the ceremony and wedding day are crystal clear, like a hi-def movie. I had a feeling on my wedding day that was almost like my experiences with birth -- I felt like I had lived all of the moments before, or like it had all been written down already, somewhere else, thousands of years before. I can't really explain that part of it, just to say that I felt the presence of God there, and the feeling of embarrassing riches being poured out on our heads.

I think a lot about those moments -- exchanging vows, rings, kneeling down alongside my husband for the first time, just seconds after we became husband and wife, the high-five at the back of the church when the whole ceremony was finally over and done with -- and I remember how fresh and naive I was, not in a negative way, but just in an untested way. My love was a grand and glorious thing, something brand new and shiny. It's easy to look back on our clear skin and ruddy cheeks and think, "how silly we were then, how young!"

But when I think back on it, I am glad that we got married then, in our youthful abandon and our blushing glee. On that day, I cried a tear or two and got a little choked up during our vows, but nothing out of hand. Looking at his hands in mine, the shiny new rings, our best clothes, the smiling faces of our loved ones all around us -- it was easy to put aside the tears. But if it were now -- holding those same hands that I held in the NICU by C's bedside, on the news of lost family members and friends, deciding to purchase our house, telling him that C was on the way, and then that N was too -- trying to speak those vows knowing the real-life way that they would play out in our lives -- I would have started blubbering like a little girl. I understand more now about old couples who sit together quietly and happily without saying much. I believe it is not because they have run out of things to say, but because words are not adequate for expressing what marriage really is, or what it means. I would just walk around like a broken record saying, "Thank God I found you" every second of the day.

On our wedding day, it rained all day long -- from the moment I woke up, throughout the wedding and reception, and all the way up to Atlanta where we started our honeymoon journey. Even though I know it's just superstition, I sometimes think that the rain was God's way of saying that our life together would be challenging, but He would always be there, too, messing up our hair but also pouring out blessing. Catching a glimpse of myself with my messy mom-ponytail, I can see that He has. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sanity Project

N turns 7 months tomorrow, and she just got her first tooth yesterday! Chomp chomp. You can't see it yet, but believe me, you can feel it! ;D

On Monday I am going to see a dietician to figure out what is going on -- I have a bunch of random problems that I think are all related to nutrition, so I just want to go and get it all squared away and figure out a solution. I am tired all the time, can't sleep when I have the chance, can't sustain any kind of weight loss regardless of what plan I follow, and don't really feel any hunger at all. It's weird. I could eat nothing or everything and it wouldn't feel much different. I just eat when I start to feel dizzy and weird, or whenever the next meal is supposed to come. I am also forgetful, agitated, and really tired of being large.

I had been hoping to get down to a weight about 15 lbs lower than where I am, so that I could feel more confident in the dress I am wearing in a wedding in a few weeks, but I tried everything and this is as good as it's getting. Super frustrating because I feel like me effort doesn't show -- I have a "lazy" body even though I've been anything but. Luckily no one else is as concerned with my weight as I am ;D

So I'm looking forward to meeting with the dietician, to see what she can tell me. I am quite impatient for it, actually.

On Sunday I worked my last day for one of my college teaching gigs, and I am very very very glad for the break. I was burning out on it pretty quickly -- it was hard work and not very rewarding. The remaining college that I teach for is my favorite -- the work is defined much better and I really like the people. It's good. I have one more push of final grading and then I will be done with college #1 for the near future, and I am really looking forward to a saner schedule. For the past 6 months I have been teaching 3 classes at once, with a schedule of watching the kids from 8am to 9pm, chill for 20 minutes or so, then work from 9:30 or 10pm until about 1am, sometimes later if grades are due. Then fall in bed, get up 1-2 times in the night to feed Norah, then up at 8am to start again. It's no wonder my whole house is a wreck and I don't know which way is up. Am really looking forward to a bit of sanity again.

Maybe after this first bout of teething, N will chill a bit in her sleep habits. My ideal schedule would be to go to bed at 10 or 11, then get up around 6 to work for 2 hours before the kids get up. I tend to work really well in the early morning. So maybe I can find a day to "switch" my schedule -- the challenge with changing that way is that I have to find a day when I don't need to stay up until 1 to finish things, so that I can get up at 6 without putting myself at a terrible deficit. I am praying for sometime this week, maybe Wednesday night/Thursday of this week.

Is there a patron saint of mothers getting enough sleep? ;D

The only other news right now is getting ready to go on our trip to the wedding -- things are shaping up well and I am feeling really good about it. I think we will have a good time. I am sure we will have some crazy story about a meltdown in a really inconvenient place, or something really funny. Looking forward to the adventure! :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Parade

I am thinking there is something about the stretch of time from October to December that makes moms particularly vulnerable to Supermom-itis. There are so many opportunities to prove that you are all the things that a Mom "ought to be" -- Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving crafts and dinner, and Christmas... don't even get me started on Christmas... pictures in the pumpkin patch, pictures with Santa, cookies...

Am I the only one who finds herself starting to compete even against my will? It is so strange. I will be thinking, with the logical part of my brain, "just do your best and have fun." And yet my Supermom brain will start scheming, making lists of all the Things I Must Do, getting morose because I can't possibly accomplish everything... and it starts to run away with me.

This year I am working on having a sane holiday season. It might be a crazy thing to hope for, but I have recently been struggling so much with expectations vs. reality, and it is time for me to really get realistic about the holidays, and act in accordance with the realism.

Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to everyone else, and why do the holidays bring out the worst competitive streak in me/us? It's a great mystery. Something to think about.

For this year, I am going to try the following:

-presents that are simply "good enough," rather than "absolutely perfect."
-foregoing my annual tradition of baking Christmas cookies. I have two young kids, and I'm just not going to do it. :p pphhhlbbt
-shopping early, in small batches, often without the kids, when possible.
-spending time with people instead of spending money on things.
-scheduling time for quietness and family time, even in the midst of the holiday hoopla.

Is it too ambitious to forego ambition? Can I strive not to strive? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grand Parents

At the local stay-at-home-mom venues (museums, parks, kid-friendly restaurants) I have been seeing a lot of grandparent + toddler pairs and trios lately. Sometimes just Nana and baby, sometimes Grandpa too. Something that strikes me about these little groups is that they are always smiling and enjoying each other, whereas the other moms and I have our hair falling out and are trying not to yell at the kids in front of each other... even though we know we all slip and do it when we are alone. Sometimes we're barely conscious -- just trying to shuttle the kids from one obligatory event to the next without any major snafus.

So what's the difference?

I don't mean to discount the stress that moms are under -- it's real, after all -- but the grandparents have a way about them that just might be contributing to the peace:

They are rarely trying to "get" the kid(s) to do anything in particular. Generally they are just going at a slow pace and doing only one thing at a time.

They talk to the children -- and actually listen to what they say in response. This might seem super obvious, but in the haze of daily stress, it's easy to overlook and just keep saying "uh huh," and "oh really?" without really listening. But the kids can tell the difference.

Ice cream is usually involved.

I think I can definitely take a lesson from all this. While I can't be "grandparent-ish" all the time, I can take advantage of the chances I have to slow down, listen, and dig into a hot fudge sundae.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Balance Beam

This week I have been trying to slow down and pay attention to what is really going on.

To be fair, this sort of thing happens to me a lot -- cyclically -- I gallop down the road thinking everything is fine, and then all of a sudden I am done, totally empty, like a used tube of toothpaste, and I haven't got the slightest idea what happened. So I have to dramatically cut back and figure out what's going on.

To be more concrete in my explanation, I realized all at once about a week ago that I was not eating enough, exercising too much, still somehow not losing weight, being a little too obsessed with losing weight, and also completely exhausted from not sleeping enough at night. All of these were problems that needed dealing with, but it was hard to know where to start.

I signed up for an excellent calorie tracking website, to get my calorie totals back up where they need to be, and I have had three great days with that. I am cutting back on my employment, which gives me the shakes and the chills and the heebie-jeebies, but I'm doing it anyway because it's the right thing to do. I realized I am obsessed with staying employed, and not just employed but extremely employed, because I feel like it will somehow "save" me from housewife syndrome -- no woman can be a dull drudge if she's earning a bunch of money, right?? But this is in the same category of doing things just because someone told you not to. Living reactively and acting from a sense of fear is not authentic, not joyful. I should not work excessively, because then I don't rest enough and I become a pain to be around.

Which leads me to the latest and most important change to incorporate. C stayed with B's mom overnight and I got a nice little mini-break from the stresses of toddler-mothering, and I read some great material sent to me by a friend, which stresses a sort of present-moment type of parenting. There is a lot of wisdom in what I read -- things like, just make the next interaction you have with your child a positive one. It's so simple, but it's so profound, and it is exactly the kind of idea that I was looking for.

God heard my cry and answered my prayer SO quickly on that one -- just two nights ago I was praying to find a better way to relate to C, and then it literally fell in my lap -- through Facebook, no less -- and it was the answer, as surely as gravity holds me to the earth. A peaceful afternoon and evening, even in the face of some high toddler emotion.

And the greatest of all -- so healing -- several spontaneous hugs from C. I love knowing that he feels comfortable to just come up and hug me, whenever he needs to.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So Heavy

I have to apologize in advance that this will be a plodding and serious blog post. As always, read if you want and feel free to ignore.

I found out today that I have been undercutting my daily calorie needs, by quite a bit. The calculators I found tell me I should be eating 2,100 calories a day and I have been eating about 1,000 to 1,200. I had been getting more and more impatient, wondering how much more I could cut, when I am already feeling dizzy and sick a few times a day as it is. Then, I learned that this is not because I am out of shape, but because I might be sort of (literally?) starving a bit. Which seems strange because you would think that if I were starving I might have actually lost some weight. But that is neither here nor there. This is not a post about weight loss.

Discovering this, that I was eating not just a little bit under my goal but actually quite a lot under my goal, the whole time feeling like I was an overeater, was an unpleasant wake-up call.

Coupled with this, I got enough sleep last night for the first time in about six months. I have been sleeping in general 5-7 hours of sleep broken by 2 to 3 feedings per night, so all in all, not a whole lot of sleep, but apparently enough to keep ticking. But last night I slept enough and woke up to a new kind of consciousness this morning. Good, but not good at the same time. Realizing my calorie snafu, in my new state of consciousness (i.e., non-zombie) I realize a very heavy ugly fact: somewhere on this road of parenting and [failed/attempted] weight loss I have left behind part of myself. It's lying on the road somewhere miles back. To be honest I think that I might have laid it down on the day that C was born, that terrible day, something so integral to myself that without it, I can't remember what it was to begin with. A piece of self? A range of emotion? A capacity for something? Maybe that part of me that used to join clubs in high school, or the bit that was good at arts and crafts, or the singing self. Not robbed from me, not stolen by the patriarchy, but laid down by me because my hands were full for the moment, but then the train sped off with me on it and now the tracks cross at their vanishing point in the distance.

I suppose now the thing to do is stop starving myself; though it was accidental, the undoing of it must be on-purpose. And sleep more, sleep as much as I can, and be nicer to her/me. What did I leave, and where will I find it again?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Soap and Windows

At the ice cream shop last week I had a brush with my old preemie-birth PTSD, once again through the sense of smell. I was washing my hands at the sink there when I caught a whiff of the soap -- the same exact soap that they had at the NICU when C was first born. It is so strange, I am telling you, one little sniff and suddenly there I am, that weird feeling of being piloted around in a wheelchair, the way the wind blows across your face even though you are inside, because your husband is pushing the chair really fast, because he walks faster when he is pushing a wheelchair, and he walks pretty quickly anyway. The cabinet of gowns, the hot water sink, the little telephone where you call and ask permission, may I please come in and see my baby? The worst part was the walk from the door when they buzzed you in, all the way to your baby's room. Once, they moved him without telling us. What's it like to get to your baby's hospital room and see an empty bed? I relive it every time I smell that damned soap.

Note to self: bring hand sanitizer to the ice cream shop to use instead of their soap. I don't want to start associating ice cream with IVs and little beeping machines.

This week our air handler went kaput but we were blessed even in needing this pricey repair. Just one week earlier and the heat would have been too much to bear, but this week we just left the windows open, ran a few fans, and got along great. Truthfully I like the fresh air circulating around the house, and I feel, strangely, as if we all cooperate better. Part of this might just be the relief of fall (and I can't help thinking how much the Florida summer is like the northern winter -- the time when you need all your mental faculties and stoutheartedness to get you through) but I think part of it is being subject to the whims of the outside. We band together as a family because we have no choice but to take the weather as it comes.

It will be nice to have the handler repaired (especially come April and May of next year) but part of me will be a little sad to see it go. Something about open windows and swirling fans that that particular smell of Florida in fall makes me feel like I am a kid again, and the good part of being a kid -- sundresses and sandals, make believe, and sandboxes. I am back there again only this time much richer with my own little darlings.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


When the weather turns fall-ish I always want to go camping, and I have bouts of nostalgia for my hiking days. Specifically:

-The smell of a little camp stove boiling away with some camp food. Mealtime was such a special time on the trail because we were working so hard, we actually needed everything we ate. And call me crazy, but meals taste better in the woods.

-Opening the tent for the first time in the morning. To feel cool air, smell that fresh smell, and see a mule deer? A chipmunk? Wildflowers?

-Distance. Thinking about real life is so much easier when you're not actually in it.

-Simplicity. When you have to carry everything, you can pare down your "needs" to a very short list.

-Carbs. ;D

One day I look forward to hiking and camping with my family! :) What's your favorite camping spot?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lessons from my husband

B just turned 30 and we had a good time celebrating. As I was thinking about the time since I met him seven years ago, I realize that knowing him has changed a lot about me, in very good ways.

In addition to, in some ways, raising himself, B has a wisdom that is much older than 30 years. He has not always had it easy but you could not want a more warm and loving husband and father.

If I could summarize what I have learned since I met him, it might go something like this:

1. Don't think about limitations, think about possibility. B tells me I should finish my novel and publish it and make us a million dollars. He isn't kidding -- he really believes that I can be successful with my writing. And so I believe it too. He doesn't waste time thinking about all the reasons why a thing wouldn't work, he just tries to do it. It's a great lesson, and it's one that has led me to a lot more happiness in my work life than I had before I met him.

2. Get used to pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. This is not just in terms of economics, but emotions as well -- sometimes you just have to pull yourself up out of a bad mood, not because it's easy, not because you want to, but because life is short and when you are happy the people around you are happy, which reflects back and makes you happy too. So when you're in a little ditch of sadness, just climb out of it, already.

3. Quit your whining. I am a whiner. I whine when things don't go my way, I whine when things go my way but other people I know aren't happy. I whine when I am tired and I whine when I can't sleep. B teaches me to quit whining and just do what needs to be done. It really saves a lot of time, and it makes me a much more pleasant person to be around.

4. Now is the time to live well! B doesn't save things for a special occasion -- the special occasion is now. Any moment can be worthy of expensive champagne or gourmet chocolates or the latest installment in an anticipated TV series, or a fantastic dinner. And why not? This doesn't mean that he is frivolous or wasteful, just that if there is something nice, why not enjoy it, instead of sitting around looking at it? Somehow when you follow this rule, something new seems to pop up to take the place of whatever you just used up.

5. Never take the first package you reach on the shelf. That's the one everybody picks up and messes with. When you decide to buy something, reach in the back and take one that was hidden. Thank Papa Nash for that one. :)

6. Family first. This is just like it sounds. Our mutual belief in this idea is one of the reasons we got along so well when we first met. You should be deeply suspicious of anything that tries to divide you from your family.

7. Whiskey is best served straight from the freezer. ;D

Happy birthday, darling, I love you so much! My life is a story of triumph because I know you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Country Road

I took a long drive today after we picked C up from preschool. I set the car to go due east and we drove and drove. The weather was so nice, I wanted to go outside and wander around by a lake for a while, and then stop and have a picnic (maybe Colin Firth would be there? LOL) but the weather, while slightly crisp at only 89 and slightly drier than usual, was just a little too hot for any sustained trekking otuside, especially with two little bitty kids on the verge of naptime. So I thought, why not take a drive, with no object but to drive?

I went to Monticello. It was beautiful. The road there is lined by white fences (really) and bucolic little green fields of livestock and shiny grasses. The sky was blue and the clouds were puffy. Along the way I remembered a trip to a u-pick strawberry farm from Spring last year, and I remembered a girl I used to be friends with who lived out that way, who I would spend hours with on the weekends, going to this or that play, watching intellectual movies, and deciding which old British actor we would marry when we grew up, which ended up happening a little too quickly. I remembered a drive I took during my Freshman year of college with a friend of mine to take pictures, how beautifully blue and sunny that day was, too, how shiny and new my SLR was, how deliciously empty the days of Christmas break at 19 years old.

The kids were mercifully quiet. The only sound was the wind, and the car, a ghastly but necessary but wonderful SUV, so big and roomy and apparently good for napping. Quiet baby snores from the backseat.

I got all the way to the courthouse in Monticello, drove around the roundabout, and then headed back toward home. It was almost like meditating, almost like a retreat. It reminded me that fall is not far away -- the cooling crisp season that I wait for all year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sticky Situation

This afternoon when we got home from the store C disappeared as I was putting the groceries away, and it was a little too quiet. When I went to investigate, I found him digging into Ben's caramels. Except he ate so many, his teeth got stuck together. It was the funniest thing that I couldn't laugh at, because he was embarrassed, and also I don't want him to think it's funny to steal candy. But I was laughing -- silently, over my shoulder -- so hard that I was crying. I guess that's why he was so quiet! ;D

Monday, August 30, 2010


This week I am working on getting the house under control and basically organized. The way I usually operate is that I go through phases of trying really hard, then I find it impossible, then I have some deadline, then I quit trying, a week goes by, and then I try again to get it under control but it's hard because I've let it go for a week. It's actually quite a bit like losing weight, or at least my experience with losing weight.

I have never really known how to keep a clean house, and I have to kind of learn it as I go. One thing I have learned lately is that it takes pretty much constant effort. This is hard because of course I want to do something and then have it be done, but housecleaning is not like that.

An obstacle I have discovered is part of my own personality -- in general, I do not fight losing battles. If I see that I will not succeed at something, I quit trying, to save my energy for something else. This has cost me a couple of friendships and people close to me have been frustrated and annoyed by this habit of mine, but I just can't get interested in wasting energy on things that are guaranteed to not work. It seems like a foolish waste to even try.

But then, I am thinking lately, life itself is a losing battle -- nobody's going to make it out the other end still alive -- but it's still worth it to live. So maybe it's still worth it to clean, even though the house will never actually be clean.

So this week, I am trying to practice the discipline of cleaning every day, whether or not anything actually stays clean. We will see how it goes! Already, there are more clean clothes. ;D

Monday, August 23, 2010


Score one for attachment parenting! I guess all the hard work for the past three years means something after all -- dropping C off at preschool went so smoothly. I have had a harder time eating a cupcake or parking my car than I had dropping him off. It reminds me of me, actually -- I remember my first day of kindergarten so clearly, I think I hurt my mom's feelings because I was so ready to go. Other kids were crying, and I was like, okay, see you later! Same thing C did this morning. So either he is a really secure kid, or he would trade me away for a train table. Or maybe both. ;D

Now Norah is enjoying an extra long, uninterrupted breakfast, and I am marveling at the quiet quiet house.

So proud of my boy! :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Only the Good Notes

Last fall I had a weird moment of realization while I was watching "The Holiday," of all things. I am forever having these epiphanies because of random pop culture tidbits.

Anyway, it's a great romantic comedy, if you like that sort of thing (which I do!), and there is this one scene where Kate Winslet and Jack Black's characters are talking. Basically, KW is a woman who has been in love with a man who likes her but is too flighty and ridiculous to really be in a relationship with her, and JB is in love with an actress who is two-timing him, but I think at the point in the movie where the conversation takes place, they are both sort of attached to these other people (you know, the classic "fall in love in spite of yourself" trope). Anyhow, JB is playing a song on the keyboard, and... you know what, instead of describing it, let me just attach the clip:

When he says, "I used only the good notes," it was like somehow I just looked at my life and I saw that there were so many good things filling it up -- like a table loaded down with bouquets of flowers, or like right before Thanksgiving dinner when all of the dishes are laid out and everyone has made their specialty, and it is special and beautiful and it smells great, and there is laughter in the background. I could see how many "good notes" that God uses in my life. That it was almost obscene how lucky I was.

I have been having moments like that again this week, feeling so grateful that I am almost ashamed. I mean, I am actually ashamed, thinking of the things I complain about -- the laundry keeps piling up, the dishes never end, C has tantrums in public... but then I think, I have a great husband, a house, health insurance, beautiful children, and an extended family where everyone basically gets along. I can afford my groceries. My challenges are real, but they are "detail-level" challenges.

This morning my life feels like a Hallmark card from God -- "Here are all the ways I love you," from Him to me, and I look around the table and see them -- shiny little baby blue eyes, faces smeared with chocolate or bananas, twenty sticky fingers, and then B comes in the door and he is glad to see me and I am glad to see him. It's like God's love was so huge and all-encompassing that I couldn't even see it. I almost can't really think about it, it's too big.

I can't think of a really good way to wind up this post -- I will just say that I am waking up to the huge blessings in my life, and feeling like I need to live my gratitude a little better than I have been. I mean, it's a gorgeous life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cabbage Two Ways + Preschool!

This week I had a huge head of beautiful purple cabbage from the organic buying club, and I prepared it in two different ways. I made them both up, and they were both really yummy, so I thought I would share. Recipes at the end of the post.

But first, I have to say that I am going through some kind of transition -- I think it is brought about by C starting preschool, me shifting back into getting in shape, N sleeping well, etc. She is in the phase of infancy that I like the best -- still little, round and squishy, but interactive!

But I digress.

I thought I would not cry about C starting preschool, and I am still not sad about it, but I started crying today thinking about it, mostly out of wondering if I did well enough in his first three years, did I give him a good enough start? It sounds silly to write it down like that, because it's not like I'm cutting him off and kicking him out of the house -- he is just going to spend 9 hours a week down the street playing with his friends and learning to share -- but still. It also made me realize how much time I spend with him. In an average week now, I am away from him (i.e., not in the same building) maybe 3 or 4 hours total, and some week it's 0 hours. So going up to 9 hours every single week will be different. I have no idea what it will be like.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to it. I think it's great that Norah and I will have some time together, and I also suspect that I might do a better job of cherishing and enjoying the time I do have with C if it is somehow limited. Don't we always take for granted what we have? Right now -- since N was born, really -- the daily balance is very precarious. I have to let something fall every day, some juggling ball has to hit the ground, and usually more than one. The mental list goes something like this:


I can keep maybe 3 of those consistently in the air, and sometimes a 4th if I am on top of things. But every day I end up having to drop a few of them, and it's hard to decide. But if I don't decide, and try to do them all, then they *all* fall. So I have to sort of shift around which ones I let go on which days, so that they all get some airtime, if that makes sense.

Today Mom, Housekeeper, and Teacher did pretty well, but Editor dropped a deadline and Wife made a dinner that B doesn't really like much, because it was easier than defrosting meat and cooking a different thing. Self had a big day yesterday (went out to a bar to meet my school friend for her birthday) so even though she didn't get to do much today, she still feels fine (and hey, she's blogging right now, so there you go). Mom lost her temper a few times, but she ended well with peaceful happy bedtime stories, so she gets an A for effort.

So that's the merry-go-round of my day. With C learning social things in school for part of the week, I might be able to get some things done without having to compete or choose quite as much, which might make me more relaxed when he comes home. I am just speculating here, but I do know for sure that keeping up with a creative, energetic 2 year-old is a full time job, to say nothing of N, teaching, or chilling with B.

I was also crying a bit because I am so glad that we get to send him to school -- I didn't interact with kids my age until I started kindergarten, and I have always been a little "behind" socially because of it. Even now, when I am on my way to a dinner party or a gathering where I do not know everyone, I have to give myself a little pep talk, and part of me always wants to run when a room has more than about six people in it. So it means a lot to me to take steps to help C avoid that painfully-shy socially-awkward millstone that I drug around during my school years. There are no guarantees, but wouldn't it be marvelous if he just didn't really think about being awkward? Wouldn't it be great if he grew up confident enough to just jump into a situation and be himself?

But part of the tears are because of something I have only realized since N was born. I worry overmuch about C because of his beginnings in life, being a preemie and all that. I thought I was over it, pretty much at least, and having a healthy almost-term birth with N really helped to heal a lot of that, but I still worry more about him. I think part of me will always be sitting by his isolette, hands folded, nervously watching the little beepy monitors and his tiny tiny sleeping swaddled self. But I don't want that to cloud his own experience of his life -- I don't want to tell the story a million times so that he feels like he is somehow responsible. I want it to be a fun fact he tells about himself when he meets a new friend -- I was born 8 weeks early, but look at how handsome and charming I am now! But I don't want it to be a defining feature.

And he is my first, and he is my boy, and he is my baby. My giant, three-year-old baby who can already operate the PlayStation better than I can.

But that is enough of that. On to the cabbage!

Cabbage Two Ways

1. Cardamom Coleslaw

Mix together:
-half a head of purple cabbage, finely chopped
-just enough slaw dressing to barely coat the pieces -- maybe 3 tbsp?
-a splash of white or apple cider vinegar
-grated carrots (if you want)
-crumbled feta
-a pinch of cardamom (a little goes a long way)

It is so good. Seriously.

2. Cabbage and Pasta

Heat 2 tbsp of butter on medium -low. Grate in a clove of garlic and a smallish shallot. Add bacon pieces (I used bacon bits but you could cook some bacon ahead of time and use those drippings instead of the butter.) Add half a head of purple cabbage, cut into thin ribbons. Saute slowly until tender. Put in a bowl.

Boil a pound of whole wheat angel hair pasta (I used Barilla Plus). Drain.

Mix the pasta and cabbage together in a bowl. Add parmesan cheese.

Yum! :) I wish I had a picture to share, but I was juggling a fussy baby at the time so I just got it done quick and ate as soon as it was finished. I was especially proud of this because C ate a whole plate of it, and while B might not have voted it his favorite, he did eat a whole plate as well and didn't have to go to McD's to make up the difference. ;D

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back in Balance

I have been delaying my next post because last week I had so many deadlines, I was just working, working, working. This week is much better and I am enjoying my time as Mom and even some time as just me.

N is easily rolling over now, and she does a little inchworm-crawl in combination with rolling over. It gets her across the room but not necessarily with any intention -- she just sort of moves around willy nilly, ending up wherever she will, whether it's under the piano, trying to crawl through a wall (Ow! Mom! My head keeps cramming into this baseboard, no matter how many times I try it! See? Ow! Ow!), or rolling across C's cars and trucks like a bulldozer.

It's funny to me how much less concerned with germs I am with N than I was with C. I was joking with mom the other day that with C, we did everything but boil the carpets. I remember washing everything in water so hot it scalded my hands, and wondering whether I should boil his apple juice to sterilize it before I gave it to him. Now, I pick a pacifier up off the floor, run it under the faucet for a second, and poke it in. ;D

N is also cooing, giggling, gurgling, and blowing bubbles now, which is maybe the funniest thing I've ever seen. C never blew bubbles, but N loves it. I look over at her and and goes grbblllllvvt and then smiles a drooly smile at me. I am not sure why being a parent makes me think that drool is cute, but there you go.

C is preparing for school, which is he very excited about, but I think I may be even more excited. With all due respect to my homeschooling friends, I am not sure how I would ever manage that -- I have a hard enough time keeping him occupied in playtime, and to be completely honest I am looking forward to him having some productive time away from home. I think the biggest thing is that when I can't give him enough attention, whether it's because I'm taking care of N or because I'm working, I feel twinges of mom guilt. But if I know that he is learning and making friends and playing, then I feel good and I know that it is healthy and right. There may be some adjustment but I think he is going to do really well there. We have orientation tomorrow to meet the teachers and see his classroom.

I am working on a story/article idea that is too un-formed to discuss in any coherent way, but I am excited about it. I finally entered my story into a contest. My goal was just to submit it somewhere, and I did it! :) I find out the results of the context of September 30, and then probably find another place to submit it. That is, I will be submitting it somewhere else as long as I don't win the contest. ;D

My other big thing right now is that I am getting back on the fitness train. I had a good gym week 2 weeks ago, and then a really bad (nonexistent) one last week because of the deadlines, staying up too late, sleeping in too late, and dragging through the day. I am very glad to have a more balanced schedule this week.

B just had a root canal, his second in less than a month, and he is tired of getting dental work! He and his bandmate are preparing for their first couple of gigs, and excitement is running high. The latest preparation is a fog machine to add a little mystique to the show. I am very excited for the first gig, coming up at the beginning of next month!

Well, N beckons with an "I'm starving!" cry -- more later!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bricks from Heaven

I was praying the other day about whether or not to join a gym. There is an endless list of pros and cons -- the cost, the convenience, the focus, the potential for real change, how necessary it is, how practical to join or not join, etc.

The answer slapped me in the face a bit: "Do what you need to in order to not think about yourself all the time."

And I realized I have gotten a little [more] self-obsessed [than usual] in regards to weight loss. So what I take away from that unexpected answer is that I should make a plan and carry it out, instead of agonizing. Don't try, do! So you can move on to more important things.

I joined the gym and am enjoying my first week, and enjoying the extra mental space I have now that I am not sitting around wondering whether or not I should join the gym. ;D

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Fam

I love my little family so much. It's a lot of work and a considerable amount of chaos, but geez, it's amazing.

N is growing so fast. Laying across my lap, she looks like she is twice as long as she was when she was born, and she is getting so substantial and baby-fatty :) I love it. She has started blowing bubbles while she hums -- it's maybe the most adorable baby thing ever. In my memory, I don't think C ever did that. She coos, giggles, smiles, squeals, and has recently started grabbing my face. She absolutely loves interaction. When I have someone over to watch her, all they have to do it make faces at her and feed her every once in a while. I am thinking she might be kind of extroverted, and good for her! I have to admit it is a secret hope of mine that my kids don't inherit my painful shyness. I had such a hard time relating to other kids when I was little, and I love the idea that my kids might not have that same challenge. Of course, if they do, I suppose I will be in a good position to help them through. In any case, I love how chatty they are.

And C. What can I say about him?? I can't put it in words. He has started reenacting the X-Games movie, doing "dirt bike jumps" on his little tricycle, which is adorable enough as it is, but he also requires a costume of gloves and a helmet. He pretends to jump, then he throws the bike down on its side and says "It creeashed!" Then he mimes ripping open the velcro on the back of his gloves the way Ricky Carmichael does. OMG. Yesterday he told B that he wants to ride dirt bikes when he grows up.

He's still afraid of the vacuum, though, so we'll see ;D

The big news around the house is that he is starting preschool at the end of August, which I am very excited about, because I think he will really enjoy the structure and interaction and learning new things in a new environment. I am waiting to see if I feel those pangs of mommy-tears or anything, but so far I just feel really joyful about it. I feel like there are things he needs that I can't really supply here at home, mainly interaction with friends his age and learning to be in a classroom-type setting, and I look forward to seeing him learn new songs, new games, manners, etc. I know my little man will do a great job.

The newborn chaos is tapering off, which is a great, great blessing. I am getting to enjoy the kids again, rather than just feeling crazy and overwhelmed, and I am discovering that they are so, so delightful. Really skilled at making messes, but delightful nonetheless. :)

Friday, July 30, 2010


So maybe it's because I have been watching seasons of 80s dramedies on Netflix, and maybe partially because N is finally sleeping well and I have the mental space to think about things a little, but basically I have been thinking about what it will be like to Turn Thirty.

Thirty Thirty Thirty. In some ways it seems so young. I feel like I'm almost forty, not almost thirty. There have been so many events in my life already, I feel lucky to only be looking at thirty, with so much already under my belt.

And in other ways, I feel like I was just 22, 18, 15, 12, 6, 3. And simultaneously glad that I am no longer any of those ages.

Then, it's time to think of some other goals. I had an unofficial list of things I wanted to do during my twenties, and it went something like this, if I remember it from my fevered zealous nineteen-year-old brain:

-Married by 23
-Kid by 25
-Publish something
-Go to Europe

In real life I didn't make it to Europe but I honestly let that one go -- this decade has turned out to be a lot more about relationships than places. Other than that, I hit my marks pretty close -- married by 24, kid by 26, grad degree, and I have sort of published, if an online group blog counts. It's semi-official. I have submitted my first story for consideration for publication. I 100% (okay, 98%) expect a rejection, but I am proud of myself for putting it out there. And when I get the rejection notice from the first place, I'll find somewhere else to send it. And keep writing other things as I have time.

But none of these specifics really matter; instead I feel like the important thing is, I feel like I can stand behind my work of the past ten years. It was not graceful, in fact it was usually very un-graceful, but I pushed forward and have actually made some really nice, pleasing progress. Enough progress to consider sitting back and smiling on my life as it is now, for the afternoon of my birthday. Which is not for another 7 months, but I might as well start getting ready for it. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playing Cars

This evening I got to play cars with C as N laid in her bassinet and played with the little velcro elephants that hang over her head. Down on the vinyl tile in the hallway, following along with his play narration, I lost track of time and got to spend 20 minutes in his own play world. It is amazing how much his imagination has grown just in the past month or so. He told me a story, complete with "Once upon a time." He learned the phrase "a little help!" -- called out when you fall over -- from a Veggie Tales video, and now all of his cars flip upside down and call out "a little help, orange car! A little help, silver car!" Then the car that was called on has to drive over and help the other car flip right side up. Then the car that fell over thanks the car that helped him flip right side up, and they decide what to do next.

The subject matter of his play was so sweet and lovely -- the cars were helping each other, racing each other, and giving each other good things to eat. They like what he likes -- blueberries, cereal, and cupcakes are their most common meals, and they give each other strawberry milk to drink. They went to the playground at one point, going down slides and riding the see-saw. They also check each other's tires all the time to make sure they are okay, and comment on how much they like the things that the other trucks can do. (For example, the monster trucks get a lot of compliments from the other cars about how high they can jump.)

It was really, really fun. I haven't played like that in a while. It was fun visiting his world, and seeing how lush the scenery is. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood memories, playing Barbies with my sister. For hours.

Oh, man... Barbies... I have a girl now, I might get to play Barbies again someday soon! :D

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress

On my trek to a healthier life I have had some progress! I lost an inch off my waist and finally a few pounds. My largest pair of pants is now slightly loose. (Interestingly, my hips and thighs have only given up a quarter of an inch between them. Blame my genetics ;D )

It's just the motivation I need to keep on. Seven full days of good eating! Not as much exercise as I wanted, because it's hard to schedule, but I'm not giving up on that. Figuring out today whether I can afford to join the gym.

Anyway, just thought I would report this success, since I spend so much time on here whining about how much I wish I had results ;D

Onward and upward! :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Who, Me?

I am coming to that point in new-mom-ness where I can tell it is time to pay more attention to myself, or else I run the risk of not being a good mom because I am out of touch with what I need for myself, if that makes sense.

One of the hardest things about motherhood, for me, is that if I follow my natural instinct, I will wear myself out to the point of insanity. My motherly instinct is to completely forget about myself and do everything I can for my kids, which leaves me exhausted, underfed or overfed, resentful, and feeling like a failure. I am not saying this to brag that I am oh so selfless, but just to say that my personal instincts, if left unchecked, lead me to dangerous levels of self sacrifice that end up really being selfish in the end, because they are unsustainable, and they lack perspective, and they are really unnecessary.

What all this rambling means is that sometimes to be a better mom in the long run, you have to be a "bad mom" for a moment in the present. Case in point: the BF/bottle tension and debate. From my posts a few months ago you can see that B and I started N on one formula feed per day, in the evening, which did away with the terrible scream-for-four-hours-every-night scene that we had been dealing with. This worked really well for several weeks (5? 6?) and then, two weeks ago, N started what I assumed at the time was a growth spurt -- more hungry than usual, cluster-feeds, etc. When the growth spurts happen, I typically just hunker down for 48 to 72 hours of getting nothing done, and then it passes, and everything is all right. Except this one didn't end. It continued until I stopped keeping track, and was getting less and less sleep every night, and then this week, I realized I was losing my mind. My brain was spinning in those exhaustion-induced circles, the ones that happen when I am trying to figure out something -- any combination of actions, words, etc. -- that will end in me getting some rest. In these situations sometimes my mouth will say the things it needs to even though my brain is shorted out -- in this case, I got some good advice from my friend (thanks HF!) and got a little perspective from a desperate late-night "what in the world should I do" kind of conversation.

This conversation reminded me of the best aspects of having girlfriends, and also helped me to feel better about the reality of my situation, and highlighted the ridiculousness of being idealistic about feeding methods when you are juggling so much. Too much, really, and I am going to have to figure out how to pare it down.

After my friend left I sat and thought and cried and prayed and figured out that part of the problem with letting go of the breastfeeding ideal (I will still breastfeed, but whenever you introduce more formula, there is the risk that your supply will just decrease to the point that baby loses interest, so you have to be ready for that possibility) is that I am not completely sure who I am when I am not a mom. This was a really hard realization because of course that is exactly what I feared when I had C, and exactly what I precisely wanted to avoid. Nobody wants to be "that mom," who has no identity apart from her kids.

I think I came by it honestly, though -- right before C was born (just a few weeks before) I had a final disagreement with an old friend of mine, and without going into the middle-school-style details, within a few days I had lost most of my long-term girlfriends, several of whom never even explained what the problem was -- they just quit answering my calls. So I was confused, angry, sad, etc., and then three weeks later -- surprise! -- I was the mom of a 4 pound preemie. I kept having to fight the instinct to call them -- I hadn't even had time to erase them from my phone book. They would have been my first line of defense against such an upsetting thing -- the early birth, the fear, the weird hours, not having time to eat, etc. But they were out of the picture. With my social life kind of slashed-and-burned, I just jumped into motherhood as the obvious choice, because in terms of standard go-out-for-martinis kind of girl activities, I suddenly had no one to do that stuff with, and besides that it took 24 hours a day to take care of C. So it's kind of like if you were thinking about moving, but then your house got firebombed, so you had no choice but to move, and didn't even get to pack your stuff to take with you.

So here I am three years later, living here in Momville, and I like it, very much in fact. But I don't have anything to remind me of who I was, because it all got wiped out in a freak friendship/napalming accident.

In the meantime, I have made a lot of great new friends, and old acquaintances have deepened into real actual friendships. I am slowly getting over my fear of girlfriends and am enjoying being surrounded by people who genuinely enjoy my company, and vice versa, much better friends than the Napalm Girls, when it comes right down to it. And I sense that there is something missing, parts of me that I am perhaps avoiding or neglecting or allowing to atrophy because it is scary to look at the question Who Am I as it stares at me. And I want to be interesting, I want to have things to talk about, I want to keep learning new ideas and doing new things. I want to be an agent of action -- I want to be the subject of the sentence instead of the object. Or better yet, just the slim, spare verb: Runs. Walks. Laughs.

So, in a way, it's time to rebuild. What makes me happy? I thought of singing, because I used to do that a lot, and I was actually good at it, but I joined a choir last year and I couldn't stand sitting still for so long while someone criticized my (and about 600 other people)'s ability to, like, pronounce a Latin word perfectly while singing F-sharps on the top of the staff. And they were charging a hefty fee to be a member. So I quit, and I am not really sorry, but I was surprised to find that I hated singing in a choir, when that was such a large part of who I was and what I did, back in my old life.

So what does that leave? I remember that I used to like going out to movies, but now when I go to the movies I get bored, or I feel like falling asleep. Occasionally I like a movie, but not the way I used to. And besides that, going to movies is not an engaging pursuit in the way that a hobby is supposed to be.

I like to write, but that is not the kind of activity I am looking for, and in many ways writing (for me at least) is a very solitary kind of pursuit. I don't like to show my writing around until I am happy with it. This blog is a good interactive-writing kind of experience, but it doesn't push me outside of my comfort zone. Sitting in my house typing on my laptop is pretty much the definition of "my comfort zone," so I am looking for something more than that.

It's terrifying. It's like a second adolescence. ("Who am I? What am I about? When's lunch?") Which doesn't seem quite fair because breaking free from adolescence was a really hard-won victory for me.

So, all of this is to say, it's time for me to do some vaguely uncomfortable things in order to expand my world a little, bit by bit, so I don't end up fast-forwarding to my last kid heading off to college and me having absolutely no idea what I am about when I am not making lunches and doing laundry.

Cheers! Maybe it will be fun. It scares me to death and annoys me to think about it right now, but I have that standing-in-the-wind feeling about it, the feeling I get when the Spirit is moving in my life. The small still voice says that it will be nothing like what I expect, larger and more full-tilt than I expect, and difficult, and wonderful. Which, as a mom, is one set of feelings that I actually am pretty familiar with.

Wish me luck! ;D

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stress Test

The stress level around the Nash house is running high today, with B in bed suffering from a toothache so terrible he is seeing stars and can barely talk and certainly can't eat. He is on the books for an emergency root canal but for now nothing helps, not even the pain meds the dentist prescribed yesterday. It is so terrible to see him in pain, and there is literally absolutely nothing I can do to make it better. It really reminds me of how powerless I actually am over my life, as if I needed more reminders of that!

On the diet/exercise front, I have not craved sweets as much today as I have craved protein, which I suppose is a positive change. I hope that means I am building muscle and need to protein in order to maintain the lean muscle mass, although that could be wishful thinking after only two days back on the Shred.

Yesterday N decided she needed her formula bottle at 7:00 instead of 8:30, and would not rest nor stop screaming until she had it. She wouldn't even nurse, which I don't like, but after a point you have to stop trying to force your ideology on your baby. If she craves formula in the evenings, what can I do? It concerns me that she might be trying to phase me out of breastfeeding, which would be disappointing and definitely more expensive, but I have never felt confident about my milk supply so maybe the BF is just not cutting it anymore. I'm not giving up, though, As of now she is still on just one bottle of formula, and I want to keep it that way until she gets on some solids at around 6 months. Then, if she wants to drop a few of the nursings, that's all right, although of course I would like to continue as long as possible.

It is so difficult, the constantly-shifting needs. It is the scourge of taking care of a baby -- they change so quickly that as soon as you have actually figured out what they need and gotten the hang of delivering it, they change again and you are back where you started.

Sleep deprivation is also starting to get to me a bit -- the kids have been so needy this week that I have not been able to work during the day (today is an exception), so I have been starting my teaching at about ten at night, which leaves me finishing between midnight and 1am, dishes and laundry undone, toys scattered all over, etc. Then I wake up about every two hours after that to feed N, then up at 8 to a messy house, hungry kids, dirty diapers, and a new slate of work. It's kind of discouraging, but I know that the sleep deprivation makes it seem worse than it is. I might get to catch up soon, or get a few extra hours of sleep, and then the situation will not seem quite so dramatic or dire. Still, it has to be said, parenting is not for the weak! ;D

I have found that good nutrition makes handling (juggling) it all a little easier, so on that front I suppose I have made some progress, even if I haven't actually lost any weight or inches. I eat a lot of veggies, whole grain, and lean protein, and a little fruit, and it works well for a steady supply of energy. Now if only I could kick the coffee habit. But that's another challenge for another time, I think.

Time for a snack -- if you pray, say a quick prayer for me, and I will do the same for you.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gold Star

Today I get to put two foil star stickers on my calendar -- a blue one for eating well, and a green one for exercising. Call me old fashioned, but I love a good star chart. It ignites something competitive in me that is helpful when trying to get up off my butt and change something.

On day three of working hard with no measurable results, but I'm not giving up yet. I can say that as I was doing the Shred video this evening, the sit-ups were a little easier, which is fantastic because I hate sit-ups. Not for the ab workout, but for the fact that they make my neck hurt a lot.

Speaking of hating certain exercises, I hate jumping jacks. They also make my neck hurt, and my head, and after three days of Shred workouts last week I was sidelines with a migraine on the fourth day and have only gotten back on track in the past two days. So I think I have to go a little more low-impact than Ms. Michaels would have me do, just because I get tired of popping ibuprofen and feeling like my spine is compressing every time I jump up and down. So I do a little modified jog or a less jumpy jumping jack during the cardio parts of the video. I have a lot less pain, and I know I am not getting as good of a workout but I think that's how it is going to have to be until I drop ten or fifteen pounds. I just have too much on my frame to be jumping it around right now, at least comfortably. And dreading migraines makes me want to skip workouts, which is the road to Nogoodville.

So I am still hanging on, dejectedly/hopefully pasting stars to my calendar, and really really really hoping for some results soon. And hating people who lose ten pounds by making a tiny change. Not really hating them, just feeling an envy that borders on psychosis. I don't know if I can explain how hard this change is for me, I am still pretty much counting it in hours rather than days. I want results so bad I would pay for them. So here's hoping something wakes up this body of mine and inspires it to *burn* some of its fat store.

I am popping sugar-free candy and drinking water and just hanging on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Losing It

Just some thoughts about the weight loss journey, as it is really difficult right now and I think that writing about it is more positive than eating a bunch of cookies.

First of all, man, am I addicted to sweets! When I don't give into my cravings, they get stronger and stronger, like a little voice whispering "caaaaake cooooookies piiiiiiiie caaaaaaandy" in my ear. It's just ridiculous.

Also, I am curious to hear if anyone else has this experience, when I am cutting back on my sugary vices all of my feelings are so much more raw -- I am more emotional in general (which I hate!) and the answer to everything seems to be "eat some junk." I am in the process of reprogramming myself with different things to do when I need to take 5 minutes to myself. Instead of cookies... tea! I have found some dessert teas that take the edge off, but nothing is like the real thing. Yeah, I am totally an addict.

I am also in my least favorite phase of weight loss, and I am just trying to hang on -- the phase when I am exercising and eating right, but because it has only been 48 hours instead of weeks or months, I don't see any results yet. It is so hard to keep on when I feel like I am putting effort in and getting nothing back. I know it is just a matter of waiting for a day and then a week and then a month, but changing habits is so hard, I feel all whiny and I want some results... now! Stomping my feet like a toddler. I am wondering when it gets easier, because in my previous attempts I have stopped before it got easier. So I am just trying to hang on. Hang on. Hang on.


My Girl

When I was pregnant with N and we found out she was a girl, I was afraid. I have never been very girly in general (I still can only put on the most basic eye makeup without looking like a little girl who got into mommy's things). And maybe because I have had so many close friendships with girls in my life, the absolute worst moments of all were those sniping, in-fighting middle-school girl moments of orchestrated social destruction, reputation assassination, and any other amount of dramatic-sounding scenarios that might seem silly to an outsider, but which have been completely devastating to me.

So I was afraid, because I didn't know if I would know what to do with a girl, if she would be born wanting to know how to do a manicure or how to French braid her own hair (I have never even been able to French braid somebody else'e hair, much less my own). Or maybe she would learn her housekeeping skills from me, and we would perpetuate clutter and lack of focus and laundry baskets full of clothes that may or may not be clean (or possibly dirty, I really can't remember) to the next generation as well. Or that maybe I would forget to teach her everything I know about respecting herself, everything I learned the hard way, and she would end up with the wrong friends, or the wrong boy, or the wrong profession...

It's possible that I was getting ahead of myself.

But now -- now that I know her -- how do I explain it? She has a gentle sweetness about her that is like a balm to my fears; I know that I will teach her the same way I teach C -- one thing at a time, one day at a time, and lots of prayers in between. She's like a piece of sweet, fragrant spice cake, so delightful -- smiles and coos and even a few little laughs, already! I love her so much that the words "I love her" are inadequate, ringing flatly like dull dented metal hitting the ground. I kiss her pink toes and sing a song I made up about her. I love her but it is so much more than that.

My girl.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dream House

A long time ago I read a post by one of my favorite authors, Annie Proulx, in which she described her perfect house. I have been thinking of it today, and here are my ideas. If anyone has some spare millions they want to donate to this cause, just let me know ;D

The space would be divided into two halves: utility space and living space. On the utility side there would be a giant laundry room with two washers and two dryers, large folding tables, and everyone's closet and bureaus. No clothes would ever go into bedrooms. Three spacious dressing rooms with good lighting and full length mirrors would be part of this room as well. Adjacent to this laundry room would be two full bathrooms with sink, toilet, shower, and garden tub, with a separate on-demand water heater for each bathroom.

Attached to this space would be the home gym -- a treadmill, elliptical, weight machines, excercise bike, and hot tub/sauna.

Additionally, in the utility side of the house would be a big room like a shower stall, with a drain in the floor and various hoses, showerheads, etc. It would be comfortable enough for art projects and other messy activities with little kids, and when the activities are done, you just wash all the mess down the drain and march the kids to the shower and laundry room for new clothes. Also good for washing the hypothetical dog which we may one day have.

On the living side would be a family room with large TV, game systems, comfortable chairs, etc., a library with an adjacent office for reading and working, and large, comfortable bedrooms for everyone. Also, connecting the utility space and living space would be a meditation room with almost nothing in it, and a large window with a great view.

Add a recording studio for B and an art and play room for the kids. In the center of the house with a dining area and bar would be a huge professional-style kitchen with a drain in the floor also, and a big flattop grill. And of course one of those professional dishwashers that cleans everything in ten minutes.

Ta da! My most hated chore, dishes, would be made easier, and my second most hated chore, putting away clean clothes, would be taken care of as well. Living space would be just for living, and any mess/clutter would accumulate in the utility areas, right next to the right place for taking care of the mess.

And of course, you are all invited for dinner! ;D

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kick Me!

So in an effort to reduce my amount of self-indulgent weight-related whining, I am starting another program tomorrow -- the Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred. I am normally very anti-bandwagon, even to the point of being ridiculous, but I have heard such great things about it from so many people, I have to give it a try. I hear that it does a lot to tone you and build your strength, and sometimes not so much in terms of weight loss, so here is what I think I will do:

-Work out either 5 or 6 days a week (I'll play it by ear). You are supposed to do it every single day but I know that is too extreme for me.

-Not weigh myself for a full 30 days. This is going to be hard because I am kind of addicted to the scale. I will go by how my clothes fit, and how I feel, and if the workout gets any easier over time. I think I'll take my measurements, too, because that can be something tangible. Weight is too deceptive, though, especially if you are building muscle.

-30 days from now (August 5) I want to be a big size 12 -- as in, for my goal, I want to be able to fit into my size 12s, even if they are a bit uncomfortable still. Then in two more months (October 5) I want the 12s to comfortably fit. After that, maybe I can work down into a 10 or 8, but honestly, a nice, fit size 12 would make me happy. We'll see how it goes. For reference, I am a large-ish 14 or smallish 16 right now, depending on the brand of clothes I am wearing.

-Watch what I eat in a general way, just not overindulging in sweets, etc. I am not going to freak out about the food.

-Drink plenty of water.

We'll see how it goes! I hear the Shred is tough, but so is not fitting into any of your clothes. ;D I have a good motivator in the fact that I am in a wedding this fall, and my size 12 dress is already purchased and sitting in a box on my shelf. I am looking forward to wearing it!

I have bought little foil star stickers to put on the calendar every time I work out. I am totally a star-chart kind of girl.

Here's to persistence! :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lucid Dreaming

Just a little note about something awesome... I don't know if you have ever heard of lucid dreaming, but it is basically a state in which you are dreaming, you know you are dreaming, and yet you completely control what you do. It's kind of like being in a video game, where you can do anything you want. One of the features of lucid dreaming is that it tends to occur during short periods of sleep rather than long solid nights -- which is why I get to enjoy it while taking care of a young baby (up every 4 hours at the least, often more frequently). I had these kinds of dreams when C was little, and now I am having them with N. It is so much fun! :) Last night I was running around in San Francisco and I actually flew over the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember the moment when I decided to fly -- "I'm dreaming, why not?" I could feel the air and the wet droplets of fog, smell the salt, look down at the giant expansive bridge; it was amazing! I highly recommend it. :)


Today I am thankful that there are so many people who disagree with my political opinions, so that there can be a better balance of forces in US politics. I think that any power, unchecked, is dangerous, and I am thankful that we can have a (relatively) peaceful interchange of ideas in which both the individual and the society are considered. Sometimes it can seem frustrating, and like no progress is really being made, but if someone else's opposing opinion can keep my views from becoming monolithic and megalomaniacal (which would cause them to balloon, take over, and then destruct in a spectacular manner, like the extreme-left ideology of the early USSR) then that is a great miracle of democracy, and a great reason to keep on believing in the American experiment.

Just quit having those ridiculous tea parties. Seriously.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A short post to report the things of the week:

One great thing is that the course I am teaching has been redesigned so that it requires a LOT less grading. In particular, the heinous assignments that had to be graded within 48 hours of whenever the student felt like turning them in have been abolished, meaning that I have entire days now when I don't have to grade anything. Which has done wonders for my general morale and my housekeeping skills. I have actually done some laundry (emptied out the playpen, which was full to the top with clean clothes needing to be folded and put away).

I felt like a change in the house, so I rearranged the living room furniture a bit. It was fun to do myself, since I'm not pregnant anymore and I don't have to worry about picking up something heavy. I like the new arrangement. :)

I also got another post published on the Modestly Yours blog. It's always fun to see my stuff up there.

For next week, I have a goal of revising my short story and deciding where to send it first, with an absolute deadline for submission of a week from Monday. I have to quit stalling! (Quit stalling! Quit stalling!)

Happy Independence Day! Do something independent to celebrate ;D

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whole Grain Week

This week (starting Monday, and with the exception of the homemade crackers that I tasted) I have eaten only whole grains this week -- no refined anything. I have also avoided eating any sort of concentrated sugar, like cookies or cakes or candy. The sweetest thing I have had is raisins and dates and a bit of honey or jam here and there.

Why do I bother mentioning this? Because I have lost 4 pounds in the past 6 days (!!!) and have not had a mid-afternoon energy slump, either. Just thought I would share that, because it has been the first weight-loss and improved energy success that I have had since N was born. I have a goal to lose another 4 by the 4th of July, so I am finding places in my day to add a bit of exercise. It's hard, though, in this hot weather! What do you do to exercise in the heat of summer, other than walking around the mall?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Homemade Cheese Crackers

I just made these from a recipe that I adapted for myself; the original needed a food processor and was seasoned differently. I don't have a food processor so I switched it up a bit and it turned out really, really yummy.

1 cup flour
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (I used the cheapo pregrated stuff in the can and it still turned out really good)
Morton's Brand Nature's Seasoning (celery salt + pepper + onion + garlic)
turmeric (if you want them yellow)
3-4 tbsp of buttermilk

Let the butter soften but not melt (I popped it from the fridge to the microwave for 30 seconds). Mix in the paremesan to form an evenly-textured paste.

In a bowl, put the flour and seasoning. You could use different seasoning if you wanted -- italian seasoning, or cumin + chili pepper, etc. etc. The turmeric is purely cosmetic and I put it in so that C might eat the crackers. Cut in the butter/cheese mixture until it is an even, crumby texture. If you have made your own biscuits or pie crust this step will look very familiar.

Add the buttermilk, one tbsp at a time, stirring. Stop adding buttermilk when the mixture comes together as a dough.

Knead about 12 times.

Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch and cut into squares with a pizza cutter. Sprinkle with salt if you want. Lift the squares from the rolling board to a baking sheet with a spatula.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until the edges just barely start to brown.

Store in an airtight container. Ta da! :) Yum.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Here is the homemade yogurt recipe -- no special equipment needed other than a candy thermometer.

-4 cups of milk (I like organic whole milk for this)
-3 tbsp plain yogurt

-1 saucepan
-1 candy thermometer
-1 large glass jar big enough to hold 4 cups
-1 cooler filled with hot water

1. Heat the milk to 180F, stirring every so often.
2. Turn the heat off and let the milk cool to 118F.
3. Take some of the cooled milk and mix it with the yogurt
4. Mix the yogurt-milk mixture back into the large pot of milk, stir. (You can add some buttermilk at this point as well for a slightly tangy yogurt)
5. Pour the milk into the jar and seal
6. Put the jar into the cooler. Make sure the water comes up to the top of the jar.
7. Close the cooler and wait 5 hours.

Yogurt! :) The next time you make it you can use some of your batch of yogurt to culture the next.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quotidian / Miracle

You do not like them, so you say;
Try them and you may, I say!

I have Dr. Seuss running through my head tonight; I have had a moment something like the epiphany at the end of Green Eggs and Ham where suddenly what I was running from makes sense.

I had a heartwarming moment, or rather a chain of moments today, and I feel like that feeling -- that heart-hug feeling -- is a gift from God and I am grateful for that gift. It's something like this:

On the way to the store today in the car I was suddenly struck by how amazing, miraculous, beautiful, fantastic it is that when I drive to the store I have these two amazing little people with me... it's hard to explain in words, I just suddenly felt how fully miraculous C and N are, and I felt so lucky to be their mom that I teared up a little and had to get ahold of myself so I could drive. So it was sort of a random gratitude attack. Nothing wrong with that.

Then, tonight, which I am ashamed to say is only the second night that I have ever prayed with C, I am realizing that there is something going on in those lessons, some kind of strange spiritual alchemy -- I show him how to pray, but the things that he says, hearing from his own mouth what he chooses to say thank you for, they just floor me. He remembers things from hours and days before, little things that he liked, that he enjoyed. He seemed relieved to have a forum to say thank you for these things; he seems to genuinely enjoy listing his blessings, and there is real gratitude there as well, so sweet and innocent but very instructive to me; I spend a lot of time listing out the things that we need or want but we don't have yet -- a back porch, a fence, a college fund -- and I forget about all the really amazing things that are all around me. For example, this house! I complain about its little quirks, but it is larger, cleaner, and sturdier than any other place I have ever lived in my life. How can I complain about that? I feel like I am learning so much more about how lucky I am by teaching C to verbalize his thanks for the little daily things he loves so much.

Then, the final touch, N was having her nightly bottle and I looked down at her and she was grinning at me, this huge, toothless, milky grin. It had real understanding and real mischief in it -- so much character in that little smile. My girl is only almost three months old, but I feel like I know her so well already, I feel like we have talked and had conversation even though in reality she has only wailed (and in the past week, begun to coo! Which I love so much).

Somehow in the combination of those three little happenings I felt what I have been missing and praying for, and which I feel lucky to have received -- something tangible from God, some little point of connection. And I felt in that moment for the first time since N was born that I really am a good mom; seeing both of my kids showing such sweet, empathetic impulses makes me think that somehow I must be getting some of what I wanted to teach them out there and into their minds. It was like a shoulder squeeze, a little word from God that was so much kinder and gentler than what I expected to hear. I have a long list of the things I have not been doing right lately, but instead of any of that it was such a positive message, a "you did good" message. It makes me think that God is not the legalistic punitive figure that is sometimes presented to us; that maybe it is true what I have suspected in little bits from time to time -- that God is so much bigger than what we can imagine, and that somehow (paradoxically) he never seems larger or more all-encompassing than he does when he appears in those tiny daily details, those moments behind the wheel, during nighttime prayer with a toddler, or in a gleeful milky grin from a little girl so fresh from him.