Wednesday, May 29, 2013

hey y'all, I'm syndicated!

BlogHer

I have a post syndicated on BlogHer.com today. It's the article I wrote a few weeks ago about how we changed the way we eat after reading French Kids Eat Everything. If you get a minute, please go check it out and leave a comment! I'd love for everyone to see how great my readers are, since I know they'll love you as much as I do. Thanks!

Just as exciting, the publisher has offered a few books as a giveaway over here. Isn't that sweet? I'll let you know more about that in a few days!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

at my leisure

The toothless twins

We left Friday for the big trip, a salubrious vacation back home to the south. I am enjoying the usual perks of this trek, like eating and gossiping and allowing the constant whims and exigencies of my children to be attended by others. The girls are their summer selves, reckless and wild and covered in sweat and bug bites. Summer!

Follow us on Instagram to see more trip pictures. I think it makes you get an account, so I apologize in advance for that, but it is just too easy to share pictures that way. That reminds me of a Vivism that happened on the drive to Atlanta. She said to Dad, "Grandpa, driving to Atlanta isn't too far, it's just one far."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

on not {quite} fitting in

Me on Halloween (age 11). Yes that's a wig. And yes I am awkward.

We've been living in Massachusetts for nearly two and a half years, which is a long time for us to stay in one place. In fact, it's about as long as we've ever stayed in one city before moving. It's hard for me envision what it would be like to move right now because I still feel like I am learning how to be a proper Bostonian.

I wonder if it's a part of Boston culture that it takes longer than two years to feel like I fit in. The same couldn't be said for Wisconsin, which fit us like a glove. Ultimate frisbee, bike paths everywhere, and constant beer, fried fish, and cheese. Amen to that! If it weren't for the lack of family there and the brutal winter--worse that New England, if you can imagine that!--we would move back in a heartbeat. People seem genuinely happier there, despite the weather.

In contrast, New Englanders are not the happiest bunch I've ever come across. I realize I am stereotyping here, in the same way that you might discuss slavery apologizers in the south. I recognize not everyone behaves the same. But I've noticed more than once that people are pugnacious in an almost laughable way--picture Mark Wahlberg talking to animals, and you get it. Sometimes I LOL at how it seems like they are all looking to have their next fight.

From the way you take a number to stand in line and buy a sandwich, to even what you call the bread (don't say "white" when you mean "sub") and the stuff you put on it, EVERYTHING feels different. Nate has a funny story about ordering a sub when we first got here, and they asked him if he wanted "hots," which is a pickled pepper relish. But the way they say it, it sounds exactly the same as "hearts." It makes me giggle to imagine the curious position he was in for a few moments.

Much like when we lived in England, we spend some part of every day trying to figure out what the heck people are saying, even with small words like "jimmies" instead of sprinkles. On the surface, it might seem like an easy enough thing to learn, but what you don't see initially is that you aren't just learning the word but the history and connotation of its usage. In the case of "jimmies," it apparently has some sort of racial significance...and yet, they still say it? The intricacies of semiotics, y'all!

They way they chat with each other, their sociability, everything is slightly altered. I often feel as though I'm missing some kind of non-verbal cue during conversations with strangers.  Interesting but exhausting too. Last week I was chatting with another mom who has a six-year-old in Vivi's pre-k class. I was really intrigued because I've considered whether Charlie will be ready for kindergarten, having been born on the cut-off date. And Reader, she answered that they are keeping kids out of school an extra year, "you know, because of sports." As in, so her kids are bigger than the other kids. Say what now?

Whether I am making myself an outsider by pointing out these differences or am being made to feel like an outsider is a chicken and egg scenario. I love living here and observing people with my cultural anthropologist cap on, but at some point I'd like to be able to turn to a friend and say "I could really use a banana pudding milkshake" and have her understand what I mean. You know?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

jam session

Snow on rhubarb mountain

I am making a ton of rhubarb preserves this week, while also packing and organizing for my trip. I suppose you could say I love rising up to a good challenge. What's more true is that I am sad that I will miss out on strawberries again this year (note to self: no out-of-town trips in June) and don't want to miss out on rhubarb too. So I bought 8 pounds (!!!) of rhubarb from our local farm and have been steadily chopping and simmering my way through it. I'm making three recipes from my favorite preserving book, Food in Jars, which are:

  1. jam with vanilla and Early Grey
  2. jelly
  3. chutney


If you've moved on from the basic stuff and want your rhubarb life spiced up, check out Marisa's (of Food in Jars) rhubarb round-up.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

golden girl

I know that as parents, we all love our children to pieces. I'm not talking about just the two of us in our parenting unit but all parents collectively. We think our children hung the moon and are the most special, bright beings ever created. Each of our children is the absolute best, and we are unwilling or unable to hear otherwise. My mind tells me that my bias blinds me against our children's faults and weaknesses, yet still in my heart I know that my children ARE the best.

Genevieve had her well child visit, and the doc gushed over her as usual. She said something to the effect of "You are my absolute favorite kids today, and I'm so glad you came to see me!" which could have been just fluff but who cares? Loving her bedside manner. I ate it up as much as my kids did, since I still have my fervent desire to please all who can be considered teachers in this life. And our pediatrician is most certainly my #1 teacher at the present time. It was she, you might remember, who told us that we should ignore rather than acknowledge our kids' protests when they don't want the meal we are serving. Pure genius, that woman.

Meanwhile, Vivi strutted her stuff during her appointment, as per her usual diva standards. She walked back and forth on command and answered all questions enthusiastically. Her favorite fruit is mango, and her favorite veggie is edamame (at least it's green). After the visit, I treated the girls to ice cream and then a bus ride home, which sounds like no fun to you or me but is high on their list of amazing feats.

Hey y'all. I'm on instagram now! You can see this photo there too...and follow me.

Nate and I were conversing last night about her appointment, and I started in again about not being sure I am enjoying her enough. Rather than griping about it, I am more resigned to the situation as it is and have moved on to explaining the possible reasons I'm feeling this way. Looking at Vivi's preschool photo, I am caught imagining what her senior picture will look like. Then I think about how it's not so many years from now, and then I have to sit on my hands to prevent launching myself upstairs to wake her up and give her a hug.

So why don't I just sit around hugging her all day? The truth is that while the two-dimensional girl in the photo is easy to put on a pedestal and adore, the walking/talking version of the girl is a whirling dervish who hardly sits still all day. She is a chatterbox with the ideas and energy of three children together. I find that the best way to enjoy her is to set her loose and watch the Tasmanian devil in action. Any attempt to pin her down winds up frustrating all of us.

Actually, if I had to pick one concern I have for her next year, it's that I think kindergarten is probably the time when she will be asked to sit still and complete tasks more, and I know she will clash with her teacher over this requirement. At the kindergarten parents' night, the teachers suggested we start giving her responsibility to complete tasks on her own. While I am happy to oblige, my tasks are certain to be less challenging to her since I don't accompany them with a room full of peers for her to befriend. Her pre-k teachers have told me that when Vivi is chatting with friends, there is little they can do to encourage her to stay on task. She is super duper excited about kindergarten beginning in the fall, and I know she'll do great. I guess what I'm saying is that I hope they don't change her too much. I enjoy her unbridled innocent joie de vivre!

She is still a music-lover, and her current favorite is the Icona Pop song, "I Love It (I Don't Care)." Nate and I wince when she gets to the lyrics "You're so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch. You're from the 70's, but I'm a 90's bitch." I've mostly decided to let it happen, figuring if she says these words in her normal conversations, I will address it then. It's not like she has any clue of what the singer means, so it seems harmless enough. Right? RIGHT?

Just a few more days until SUMMER OFFICIALLY BEGINS!!!!1!
xoxo
~J

Monday, May 20, 2013

{20}: I wish I was in the Caribbean rum punch

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

On the Range
May 14 - 20, 2013

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013."

We are at the Belmont Town Day in this picture. As Becky would say, see how Charlie is having fun but Vivi is really selling it? Also, I choose not to correct Charlie when she calls the carousel a "fairies go around." The adorable meter is at an all-time high with her.

My week...

  • I am trying to get ready for my big trip, which involves lots of digging up baby clothing and maternity stuff to give to my preggers cuz. Yay! I am happy to be rid of it, with only minor pangs of baby nostalgia along the way. I keep reminding myself that once her baby is wearing all this loot, my heart will go on...
  • My major dilemma at the moment is what I want to do next year. Do I want to try to get ready for nursing school or get a real-live job? Decision time is nigh, and I haven't a clue which direction I am headed.

Media

  • Vice article in which James Franco reviews the Gatsby film. I plan to go see it as soon as someone offers to watch the kiddos for an evening

Meals
  • Lentil barley soup by Jacques Pepin
  • Do you count cocktails as a meal? I will. I made Caribbean rum punch this evening, and in it I put ice, dark rum, tangerine juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, and grenadine. It is a sugar shock but in a good way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

zombieland

Eating lunch with Charlie in the playhouse

I finally got some glorious sleep last night after three days of back-and-forthing to that marathon labor. It's hard to explain sleep deprivation to someone who's never missed the majority of three nights of sleep in a row, but anyone with kids knows what it is like. It's kind of like being drunk, or maybe punch-drunk is a better way to explain it. You are walking and talking, but the higher functions of your brain have receded into the depths, leaving you to utter bookoo unfiltered sentences.

Take, for example, when I met the husband of a mutual friend yesterday. After the couple walked off, I turned to my other friend and said "I didn't like his face." I meant more his expression at the time, but whatevs. Same diff.

Snark abounds.

Functioning on a low amount of sleep also reminds me of what its like to have the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it's known to people who like to give stuff names. Unlike the time I cried when it snowed again, SAD is a more deceptive condition. I am depressed, but I couldn't completely articulate why. I might cry, but rather than cry over the weather, I cry over completely unrelated and unimportant issues. Or I might laugh, but instead of laughing at jokes, I laugh at the shriveled piece of corn under the refrigerator. But mostly I experience an absence of feeling. For a person who is normally irrationally exuberant, the lack of emotions is an unsettling experience. But what were we talking about again?

ANYHOO, today promises to bring with it some good wholesome American fun. We are headed out to the town fair, and then in the afternoon I'm off to tea again with a lady friend. I'll report back with pictures taken of both...probably with my new obsession, the iPhone.

We only have a week left here before the big month-long southbound excursion. I went ahead and scheduled our trip to start Memorial Day weekend, figuring the kids up here get out of school at the same time we did down South. I was forgetting that they don't go back to school here until AFTER Labor Day--something about snow, the details escape me--so their school ends a whole week into June. Yikes! This little scheduling error means we are pulling Vivi out of pre-K a full two weeks early and missing graduation. I am not sure whether to count this as a missed opportunity or a big win. What are your thoughts on celebrating small milestones like that?

Friday, May 17, 2013

meet the new baby

I wrote this post last night while at a birth...using my phone! 

You thought I was going to share a picture of my doula clients' baby, didn't you? No, but it's the next best thing! Meet Leila, who, for the redonkulous price of $150, you can have all to yourself. If that isn't creepy enough, she will squeeze your finger and whisper redrum in your ear. 


This is how I entertain myself when there's a lull during a birth. Well, that and I eat brownies and doughnuts until I make myself sick. And now I can blog too!! Lucky you. Right now I am sitting in a common area, where I am inadvertently-on-purpose overhearing a conversation between an older couple, who are discussing the fact that no one won the powerball and whether they want to get some black raspberry ice cream after this. And here I was, having forgotten all about that delicious flavor.

There's a lot to love about my new phone. Even more than just photographing interactive monkey dolls and pretending I am invisible during other people's chats. For instance, I had my first autocorrect fail, in which I meant to let my sitter know she could reach me if she needed anything but instead accidentally texted "feel free to text me if you need anthrax." The nurses and I had a good laugh about that one. But really, iPhone, is it necessary that I be able to type "anthrax" quickly? As I just typed that sentence, I imagined all the watch lists I am going to end up on after this post.

On an unrelated note, but one that also includes a pic I snapped with my phone, I found an added bonus to our new playhouse, which is that I can now sit outside to work AND see my computer screen. Winning!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

how to clean area rugs, courtesy of the dudette

how to clean your area rugs

Last week I rolled up our winter rug and cleaned it to put it in storage. I am still trying to decide whether I want to buy a rug for summer or leave the floor bare. What do you do? I was telling Nate about my dilemma when he responded, completely without sarcasm, "But a rug really ties the room together." I paused mid-way up the stairs, laundry basket in hand, and leaned back my head for a deep rolling belly chuckle. His earnest appreciation for floor coverings smacked so much of The Dude--and so unintentionally so! My favorite times are when one of us is being funny without knowing it. It is truly the best way to get a laugh.

In case you would like to share in my rug-cleaning fun, I am sharing a new article I wrote about how to clean your area rugs. I partnered as a guest writer with the folks at Home Made Simple, a website with inspiring methods for organization, cleaning, and cooking. They offer some great ideas and resources, and I am shamelessly encouraging you to head over there today and check out what I wrote!

El Duderino would no doubt agree with me that a clean rug really spruces up your living room. If you need further encouragement to read my article, consider the fact that I used the word "sparkle." No, really.

Thanks, dudes.
xoxo

barreling along

I am am having this weird duality of personality this month; sometimes I am flying at warp speed and other times I can't pull myself off the couch to unload the dishwasher. I am SO ready for summer break, and I don't even have a job, y'all.

Well, right now I have a job. I've been jaunting back and forth to a birth, which could be why I am feeling so drained. It's a good thing I got my new phone because I actually had to send eleventy billion text messages. I'll spare you the boring story details about how I do not have the proper thumbs with which to text and instead will share some cute pics I took of the kids with my new toy:



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

spring cleaning and preparing, part two

We love that tulips are so popular in New England spring.

Welcome to the May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Emergency Preparedness
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their plans to keep their families safe. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

Last spring I wrote a post about how we created and maintain a bin of emergency supplies. Today I'll cover the another important part of emergency planning, creating a family communication plan. Ready.gov has a family communications website with some ideas, and I've broken those tips down for you.

Creating an emergency communication plan:
  1. Identify an out-of-state contact. In the recent Boston bombing, we had intermittent cell phone service within the city, so if we had been at the Marathon, we wouldn't have been able to reach each other. However, if you designate a person out-of-town that everyone will call, you can get updates through that intermediary. Be sure to tell that person of your communication plan.

  2. Teach your child a contact number, either your cell phone or the designated contact person's. Children ages five and up are able to memorize 10-digit phone numbers. There are some great ideas out there for how to go about helping them memorize it.

  3. Make sure your child knows how to use the phone in your home. In our house, we only have cell phones, and mine automatically locks, so I had to train Genevieve how to unlock it herself and call 911, then I had to do it again this week when I got a new iPhone.

  4. Distribute your plan to your local emergency contact, a neighbor you trust, and your child's school, along with a letter to your child in case of an emergency. 
If you've made a bin of supplies and created a communications plan, consider learning additional ways to keep your home and family safe and finding escape routes. You can also make your stockpile larger in a frugal way by preserving your own food. We are trying not to eat canned food as much as possible due to concerns over BPA, so I've been storing lots of fruit jams and pickled veggies that can be canned using a boiling water bath. Get started with my round-up of canning resources.

***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon May 14 with all the carnival links.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

on the range {week 19}: Mother's Day fun

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

On the Range
May 7 - 13, 2013

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013."


Milestones

  • Vivi lost her first tooth! It was loose due to a falling injury last year, so I'm thinking this tooth would not have come out for years otherwise. Toothless is her new nickname.
  • A late Christmas/Mother's Day gift for me was a new iPhone 4. Please share your favorite apps. I'm way behind on this whole neck-bending phone-watching trend.

Media

  • A good part about blogging is when you are connected to others that are part of your métier.  A bad part about blogging is when you are connected to Internet trolls. Unfortunately this mom got the latter after writing about her fears that her daughter might become a bully.
  • One of my favorite bloggers, Kate, almost never writes any more, but it's understandable now that she's got an army-crawling, table-biting boy
  • Nate bought a Kindle version of Jim Gaffigan's new book, and I'm way psyched for it to be my turn to read it.

Meals

Sunday, May 12, 2013

raise the roof!

Phew! We had an action-packed Mother's Day. Nate offered to let me sleep in this morning, but the birds had another idea and decided to alert me to the presence of daylight at 6:30. So, whatever, early starts can be fun too. Nate and I went for a run sans kiddos, which we do only a few times a year now. The weather was sprinkling and high 60's, my perfect running conditions.

We went to lunch at our favorite flatbread pizza place, which was a blast. Who needs brunch when you have pizza and beer? In the afternoon, the guys assembled the playhouse while I presided over the event and offered color commentary. Nate also fixed a bunch of our old crystal door handles so that most of the doors in our house now open and shut. This might not seem like a romantic Mother's Day gesture, but it really was the best gift I could have asked for. I stood at the coat closet for a few minutes today, just smiling and opening and shutting the door.

So far the playhouse is a huge hit! The girls love to play house. Big thanks go to Grandma Bonnie and Grandpa Dave for the great present! We left Grandpa with the kids playing in the house and took a nice long walk. More grown-up conversations, y'all! Hope you and yours had a great Mother's Day.

Love and hugs,
~J

Vivi's toothless expression is its own brand of comedy. Love it.



Saturday, May 11, 2013

soak it up

A break from all the fun with the film Robots. It's a cute one!

Most days I love staying home with my kids, but I admit the little stinkers bring with them a fair amount of absurdity. Sometimes I find that my cup overfloweth with nonsense. But the great thing about having a grandpa visit is that grandpas are nonsense sponges. They ooze their own fun and silliness while simultaneously absorbing all the excess foolishness around them. Hence, Nate and I managed to squeeze in an actual relaxed adult conversation on a walk down to the hardware store, while the tomfoolery ship trailed behind us with Cap'n Grandpa at the helm.

Sorting, playing with, and keeping track of Legos is another of a grandfather's many talents

Along our route, I noted that there were many edible plants, and I thought of Elle. I have been wanting to make salad from the greens that grow in public spaces, but what about dog pee? It seems to me that with all the dogs in our neighborhood, any leafy edible not growing in my fenced-in back yard would be anointed with animal urine. Perhaps it is a given that one should eat their own backyard weeds, but we seem to be lacking in them, possessing minimal dandelions, no violets or chickweed, nor any other weed that I can find. I'll check back in a week and see how it's going back there with the weeds.



In other backyard growth news, we have some seedlings at work now, and Vivi's fairy garden is looking splendid, as our our lilacs. They really are the best of flowers, so fragrant and hopeful.


Our entire fence line looks like this. Thank you previous owners!

Tomorrow is the raising of the big playhouse, and I have pinned all my hopes of relaxing out of doors on its ability to entertain/babysit the girls, so I'll let you know how that works out for us.

Strawberries, lettuce, future fennel, and mint. We will also do tomatoes, carrots, and maybe potatoes.

So, tell me, how does your garden grow?

xoxo
~J

Friday, May 10, 2013

we can improve upon this

I made what is hopefully going to be an improvement to the blog by removing the Disqus commenting feature. I had heard from quite a few people that it wasn't working right, and from my end I noticed that about every fifth comment would disappear for no apparent reason before I could reply. Not deleted, just gone. So I hope if you found it frustrating to comment before that you will do it now. Okie dokie?

This change to the blog got me thinking about other life changes I and others could make. Vivi has been trying to quit the thumb-sucking habit for some time now. Her most recent goal was to quit by her fifth birthday so she could wear nail polish. When that day came and went, she announced "Oh well! I guess we can try again next year." Noooooo!! We've been told by just about every child development professional that we should avoid negativity where the thumb is concerned and make only gentle reminders, but Reader, it is so hard. Any advice here is heartily appreciated.

In return for my gentle suggestions to Vivi, I've allowed her to comment freely on my slouching problem. Who knows if it's a habit developed from my embarrassment over being the tallest by a foot in eighth grade, my desire to go unnoticed in the public school system, or if I just have weak stomach muscles or something, but I slouch...A LOT. If you know me, you are already aware of this problem, along with the fact that I have a funny gait. I saunter, in fact. Imagine, if you will, a mash-up of Goofy and Meg Ryan, and maybe throw in a dash of Olive Oyl. Can you picture it? That is my amble. I am not in any hurry, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't be even if I wanted to.

Some people have notedly tried to help me out with my funny walk by offering me some tips:

"Stick your chest out, like you want men to notice you!"
No thank you.

"Try pilates!"
Um, what?

"You have shin splints because you run so damn weird."
Thanks, Coach.

[When discussing silly walks, are you already picturing Monty Python? Me too!]

So yeah, I could stand up a bit straighter. I think that will be my new self-improvement project. Where's Henry Higgins when you need him, amirite ladies?

Oh, and I'll also add "Stop yelling in the tone of a shrill siren wail" to that edification list. It is so un-lady-like and generally embarrassing. What would you change about yourself if you could?

Reading a book with a grandparent while sucking her thumb might be her all-time favorite activity.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

did you ever know that you're my hero? {Updated}

I've been coming up with lots of ideas for what I could write about, but I am actually more interested to know what you're doing. Did you know that, when I write "So, what's going on with you?" I actually want to know what's happening with you? Like, for real. Even if I don't know you in person, I would like to have a chat. So if you're cleaning your refrigerator or petting your cat while you read, I am genuinely interested in finding that out. This means you, Dad.

Update: Ask and you shall receive! I got quite a few messages this morning that Disqus is not working right. Geez, you guys, thanks so much for letting me know. I still don't like Blogger comments, but for now it will be what I'm using. Try it out for me? Thanks!

Moving on from begging, I will share a bit of what's we're up to today. A shipment of two giant boxes arrived in our mudroom. They are waiting for Grandpa Dave's arrival tomorrow so he and Nate can assemble a backyard cedar playhouse for the girls. Meanwhile, our entryway smells delightfully of a cedar chest. I suggested to Vivi that they girls could color the outside of the boxes with crayons, and she enthusiastically replied, "Let's design some plans for this art project." Future engineer?

In other tales of household heroism, Mom and I planned and hung a gallery wall in our stairwell when she was in town. I am quite pleased with how it turned out. Care to take a gander?


The wall on the right is going to have some of its photos swapped, but even empty frames are a huge upgrade from what was there (i.e. nothing). Some of these shots I will leave, though, like the ones professionally taken and all the B&Ws. Others, like the flowers (left over from a years-ago failed nursery project) will be swapped with more chic landscapes. More of England, perhaps? Here, have a closer look:



Right now it has a funky mixture of B&W, sepia, and colors. I'd prefer B&W with red accents, but maybe this is one of those projects where you step back and chew on some hay for a minute before you make changes. Do you have any first impressions to share?

My favorite is the opposite wall, with its mostly symmetrical layout and matching colors.

I need to get a magic eraser for those pencil marks. And where's that personal assistant I ordered?

Mom laid the whole planned display on the floor first, which helped tremendously with placement. Is this a well known decorating trick? I have tried it before, but she added the element of snapping a photo, which was key in avoiding confusion once half the frames were hung.

At one point as I was standing on the old rickety wood ladder, precariously nailing hardware, I noticed a sign on the ladder that reads "This unit is not meant to be used separately." Ha. Fear of heights aside, I found the whole experience completely fulfilling. Productivity provides its own brand of endorphins, I suppose. I just wish I could be as productive all the time as I am when visitors are around, especially my mom, who is the doer of all doers. Therein lies the rub, since most of our visitors probably want to do other things than assist my home improvement exploits.

Perhaps I can lure you over with a glass of white wine. You can sit on the stairs and direct where and how my photo swapping should occur, and I'll do the labor. Deal?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

details

Even as I began making some plans the other day for what I would do this week and remarked to myself "I don't have that much going on!," I knew it wouldn't last. Either because of jinxing myself or because life has a way of filling in the gaps, my moment of freedom was short-lived. I got a migraine followed in quick succession by Charlie catching a 24-hour vomit virus. Luckily no one else in the family caught it, but the laundry required by one child during such a night is astonishing. It really makes me pity the people who don't have nearly industrial-sized front-loading washers waiting in their basements to do their sick clean-up bidding.

We're all back in good spirits now, and I've returned to the sorting of the cold-weather and warm-weather clothes. This routine has a method: I find some clothes I truly hate--they seem to materialize out of nowhere, no?--and I stack them in the corner. Then when I come across an item I'm not sure I want to keep, I go over to the stack and sit the item on top. Immediately, I get a gut reaction that is either "Gross, it belongs there" or "Quick, pick it up, or it will be gone!" The key is that you actually have to walk it physically over to the stack, don't just let it hang in the closet or sit in the drawer. The other key is you can't listen to your brain's hasty protests, like "I might wear these jeans to paint the house!" The irrational hoarding part of your brain doesn't know what it's talking about, for you will be far happier without the clutter than you would be if you kept those ugly jeans. I'm sharing my tip with Works for Me Wednesday, though I'm not sure this trick would work for anyone but me. But there you have it. Use it if you will.

So I guess I'm just checking in with the deets, but there's not too much happening over here. What's going on with you? Fill me in!

Yesterday we went on an impromptu picnic after picking up Vivi from school. We sat in the grass under a cherry tree and ate our store-bought tuna wraps in quiet satisfaction. Life burgeons all around us, and as happens so often to me as a mom, I want this moment to last forever. I try to stuff down that guilty feeling I get, wondering if I am enjoying them enough, because it is not a helpful feeling, and because I don't think that part of me will ever be satisfied that I am truly relishing them as I should be. I get the same feeling about the spring blossoms; when I see them, I am both happy and guilty, somehow believing I am supposed to be getting a greater appreciation of them than just the joy I get in seeing them when I pass by.

I watch the girls frolicking in the woods, giggling because they spied a ladybug, and I am struck by how little they look. Satisfied they are still my babies, I turn my attention toward the sun and lie in the grass, eyes closed, to soak it in. Just at that moment and not a second later, Vivi yells "Mommy, my tooth is almost all the way out!," thus breaking my brief truce with the marching of time. Of course her tooth would fall out now. Despite my silent protests, it seems they will keep growing.

I am not one to quote poetry often, but my resignation to life's continual passing brings to mind that Virgil poem Georgics from which we get the phrase "Tempus fugit." Here it is:

Sed fugit interea,
Fugit irreparabile tempus, 
Singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.

But meanwhile it flees: 
Time flees irretrievably,
While we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

on the range {week 18}: updated


{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

On the Range
April 30 - May 6, 2013

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013."

I can't claim credit for my post title today. My aunt has a framed photo of herself and her sister as little girls, and she wrote a variation of this sentence below it. It always made me chuckle as a kid, even the thousand and fortieth time I read it, so I've been dying to steal it ever since.

Update: So, apparently it's not a good idea to use certain words in your post title, for they attract p*rn sites. Thus, I removed a sentence in my title that said "A coupla [warm baby birds] standing around." Except I didn't way "warm baby birds" but other words that mean the same thing as those words. You got me? Sheesh, the stuff you learn blogging. It could fill a house. Or at the very least a single-wide trailer.


Milestones

  • Vivi came inside after playing to tell me with a serious look on her face..."Mommy, I've realized something. Bubbles are not fantastic, they are terrible and not fun. AND a mess." Then she showed me her hands, which she then proceeded to wash carefully after throwing away the bubble stuff. Is she her father's child or what? Ha! The whole scene makes me giggle every time I think about it again.
  • Charlotte is a common name up here, as is the nickname "Charlie" for boys, so one way I like to distinguish my Charlie is to give her lots of other nicknames. Chuck is my personal favorite (did you ever see that short-lived program, Pushing Daisies?). Lotti is not really that cute in my opinion, but it's fun when you add something to it, like Lotti McSniffles when she's sick. I change it up for added interest, like Chuckles McFussyBritches when she's tantruming. Vivi's been playing around with it too, but the other day she said something like "Charlie McFuckles," totally by accident of course, and I still haven't recovered from all the laughing. 
  • My little brother turns 20 today. If that doesn't make you feel old, I dunno what will. Happy birthday bro!

Media

  • You can't spit without running into a fairy garden these days. They are the terrariums of 2013. But who cares? They are awesome! Whatever gets my kid in the dirt is ok by me. One of my favorite how-tos is this one by Beth of Remarkably Domestic. I think the pipe is too much for me, but I'm all for grouting some rocks onto an old pot I have lying around. Cute, huh?
  • Do you love IKEA as much as me? If so, you will love this Apt Therapy article compiling ideas for hacking their furniture to create cute stuff for your kids. I wish I were that crafty.
  • I'm not sure if this LA Times story would have always made me so steaming mad or if it's partly because I just got done re-reading Lee's novel. I mean, really, the nerve of people! Will we never live down the stories of old people being swindled by snaky men? Let's hope she gets herself an Atticus-worthy attorney.
  • Yet another reason to love Jenny Lawson, cuz she ain't gonna let no door tell her what to do.
  • I am so glad I know better than to "birthday jack" Facebook posts about my kid turning 5. So creepy. If this ever changes, friends, you know what to do. 

Meals
  • Beef vegetable soup
  • I tried a new thing at Trader Joe's, which doesn't happen often. They are called aloo chaat kati, found in the frozen meal section, and they look like Indian hot pockets--except they are way more delicious. Like the samosas at TJ's, it's a vegetarian meal that is greasy enough that it satisfies me the way eating meat does--no easy feat in my mind.
  • In the interest of full meal disclosure, I had not one but two bowls of Trader Joe's mango sorbet last night, with coconut sprinkled on top. So yummy.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Vivi's laissez-faire birthday party


The little dears have finally moved away from the age when a group photo involves children standing higgledy piggledy and wizz wuzz all over the place to the age when they put their arms around each other and smile. Or pout, as it may be, but look at the camera all the same.

If you know me only through the blog and not in person, it is possible I have not communicated to you the extent to which my elder child ADORES having a birthday. This little human schemes and hatches her party plans year-round. Some days she wants a Batman rainbow unicorn cake, and some days she wants to go to a water park (dear God why), but the universal components are friends and food. I like that she understands the important aspects of party-planning and doesn't get bogged down in details, which allows me lots of wiggle room.

For me, it is important that party-planning and execution be simple and relaxed. A core element of my personality is that I can't be bothered to fuss when entertaining guests. Adding a secondary layer to my character onion, I think all the focus on children's birthdays has become bananas, and I refuse to take part. The expense, the cheap plastic crap, the stress. What are we teaching our children? I won't go into details since it's a well-covered topic, but I will share my favorites of others who have covered it, e.g. UMN Birthdays without Pressure, a Boston Mamas article, and a Minimalist Parenting article.

Thus, about three weeks before Vivi's fifth birthday, I started running the potential itinerary by her, and darned if she didn't accept all my ideas graciously and even enthusiastically, bless her. I enjoyed sharing her party last year (see my original post and/or when it was featured on Apartment Therapy), so I thought I'd share the party details again this year.


Genevieve's laissez-faire fifth birthday party

The Planning

Going off our rule from years past, she was allowed to invite 5 friends, one per year of age (plus siblings. Poor Charlie had to endure a confusing moment when Vivi said "You don't count at my birthday, Charlie." Her pouty bottom lip will slay you). She has two best friends at school, so I cleared some possible dates with the moms ahead of time, figuring if they couldn't be there, it wouldn't be worth having a party at all. Really, this kid is a fiercely loyal friend.

The Activities

I knew from last year that 2 hours was a good amount of party time and that we only needed one or two scheduled activities. A few months ago, her grandparents gave her and C tie-dyed t-shirts from their island vacation, and she was enamored with the dye process as I explained it from my summer camp days, so I knew we had settled on a good activity with tie-dying shirts.

Tie-dying might be good for older kids, but for five-year-olds, it was mostly me & moms doing all the work. Meh.

Because we normally plan her party close to Cinco de Mayo (giving me a good excuse to serve my favorite snacks, salsa and guacamole), I mentioned to a friend we might get a piñata, and she told me about this great kind with ribbons the kids pull instead of beating it to death a la Steve Martin. Sold!


An activity we didn't do that I still love the idea of is to get an old big white sheet for a picnic, and then when everyone's done eating, give the kids fabric pens and let them draw on the sheet. What fun that would be!

The Food

On the morning of her party, I did a quick shopping trip to our local farm and Trader Joe's to get everything except the avocados and kiwis, which I purchased a few days ahead to give them time to ripen. The kiwis are part of another birthday tradition I started with her last year, which is to buy her exotic fruit. She gets to watch it ripen all week, which just adds another layer to birthday excitement.

I got veggies and strawberries at the farm (a rare time for us to buy out of season). At TJ's, I bought all of the other party stuff: that tray of four kinds of hummus, a bunch of various chips and salsas, and brownie bites and lemon squares. For refreshments, Nate got beer and hard cider (an elderflower type from Angry Orchard, so good), and I got a bunch of those fancy sparkling juices from TJ's. The kids had a big serve-yourself juice container of watered down pink lemonade.

As for the dessert, we have noticed she doesn't love birthday cake but obsessively craves ice cream, so I brought up the idea of an ice cream sundae bar. YES YES YES! I knew at that point we were all set. The kiwis and strawberries went into a bowl, and the brownie bites and lemon squares in another bowl, to serve alongside the ice cream sundaes. Thanks to my mom, who bought Vivi some cooking supplies at Christmas, we already had a bunch of fancy sprinkles to go on top. Oh, and I got the ice cream and mini cones in bulk at the supermarket for cheap a few weeks ago and stashed them in the basement chest freezer I love dearly.



The Party

When the guests arrived, the kids ran around the backyard playing with our hastily purchased dollar store accoutrement, sidewalk chalk and butterfly nets. Watching them enjoy the unscheduled play time, I realized that even with short activities, I was still over-orchestrating the whole event. Next year I'm filling up the galvanized wash tub with water and bubbles and putting some tea pots and cups out there, and I have no doubt it will be enough. You should have seen them chase each other around the yard with those nets, trying to nab their friend's heads instead of bugs. The parent crowd eyed each other, shrugged, and passed around more food and drinks. Three cheers for good friends!



After-Party Run-Down

Here's another party tip: have the right adults present. I had fretted over the possibility of Vivi getting a bunch of crap we don't need for her gifts and pondered the idea of telling them not to bother ("Your presence is the present" kind of thing), but in the end I opted to let them make their own decisions, and it worked out perfectly! All the gifts she got were thoughtful and not what I would call a waste of resources. A fairy garden, a date to paint pottery, and some retro games like a Jacob's ladder. As time goes on, I am more convinced that all I need to do to raise good kids is to surround myself with a good tribe. The rest of the details fall into place on their own, if I have the courage to let go.


Tie dye was a bit of a mess. The kids were into it for about three minutes, until they realized the moms were doing most of the heavy lifting, and then they slowly wandered off. It was nice to be able to send everyone home with a t-shirt, but it wasn't an expected addition so I wouldn't do it again.

The ribbon piñata was fun in that it's much easier and more civil to have the children take turns without having them blindfolded, dizzy, and swinging a heavy bat, but I will tell you that the ribbons did not make the dang thing open. In the end, Nate still had to do the Dad Maneuver (sans wood saw, fortunately) and rip it apart.


To my surprise, the kids didn't dive in and elbow each other to get candy; they were all first-timers, so most stood there with dazed expressions, except for one girl who wisely grabbed a butterfly net and shoved it under the ladybug just in time to catch the spilled candy guts. I high-fived her mom for raising such a practical kid. My mom found these adorable peanut butter and jelly wallets on sale, so we let the kids put their piñata score in them, and I counted those and the tie-dye shirts as "goody bags."


I'm repeating myself with this last party rule, but it's worth saying again, as it is probably the most crucial element: invite a close friend of family member you can boss around, preferably of the female species. Of all the days I say "I wish I had a wife," the day of a party is the day I most need a clone. Last year we had my friend Liza, who stepped in beautifully to pull off the Spiderman (and Spiderwoman!) cookie cakes. This year my mom agreed to come and help wrangle, and I couldn't have done it without her. You want her and Liza on your party-planning team. Thanks Mom!


Sunday, May 05, 2013

my love affair with England

Did I mention yet that I think I'll try writing every day this month? Next month I'll be taking a vacation from regular life, and it will likely be from the blog as well, so I thought I'd send off with a month of daily posts. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

When we lived in England, I didn't write nearly enough on the blog about what daily life was like. I chalk it up to typical me in my twenties. "Life will always be this interesting and therefore why bother talking about what I'm doing?" or something along those lines.

Now of course I see my lack of writing as a bunch of wasted material. From time to time, I think about sharing that journey with you, but it seems awkward to bring it up randomly. Hey guys, remember when I used to live overseas that time five years ago? Let's talk about it!

But now I have my nose in another Jane Austen novel, at the same time as I'm reading a biography about the great William Morris and watching a Masterpiece version of Emma that I rented from the library (did I mention I'm obsessed with Victorian England?), so my travels have been rattling around in my mind. It seems like as good a time as any to bring it up with y'all.

Oh, first I want to mention the Masterpiece Emma. Have you seen it yet? I'm enjoying it so far. It has the naturally slow pace of a Masterpiece series, and it's fun to see all the usual British suspects playing the beloved Austen characters. Who doesn't want to see more of Johnny Lee Miller? So far, the most interesting distinction from the Gwyneth Paltrow film (an absolute favorite of mine, likely in the top 10) is the spotlight on Miss Bates. She was a bubbly caricature in the film, providing little more than comic relief--"PORK, Mother!" and such. But in this series, you get an in-depth look at how miserable her life must have been to have only her senile mother as a companion. You truly feel what Austen must have wanted us to see. A woman without fortune was certainly pitiable in that day.

In contrast, I don't think it's possible for an actor to improve the job Juliet Stevenson did with Mrs. Elton in the film version. I'll share some pictures with you to honor my favorite of her lines, "People with extensive grounds are always so pleased to meet other people with extensive grounds." Here here!






I miss living somewhere that there were other tiny towns a half kilometer away.


This one makes me tear up thinking of how perfect and calm my life was in England, nesting for my new life as a mom and taking in all the sights and smells of spring.

One part of the Masterpiece Emma I loved is seeing the fields of rapeseed again (the stuff that makes canola oil, with the worst name imaginable). They are so lovely you can't look upon them without smiling. Add this to the list of things you want to see before your time is up.


The year we were in England, it seemed the fields burst into life the very same day as Genevieve, so I also always think of her when I see them.




Here are some from far away. Cool, huh?

What do you think, should I write more about England some time? I have many more pics I can share.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

in with the new

Spring is finally here to stay. With it came all the bargain shopping experiences you know I love. Negotiating ain't my thing, but if the price is set, I'll buy--and the last hour when everything is half price is fun too.

This weekend was my church's rummage sale, which is always a favorite. The children's book section is where I make a bee-line during the volunteer pre-sale. Check out some of these "awwww"-inducing finds:



Last year I volunteered during sale week by marking prices on breakables, but not being a tchotchke collector, I was worried I did it badly and found the experience stressful. This year I stuck with sales, which I liked because it involved talking to people. I met lots of the congregation who come to the 11am service. They all sized me up to be a 9am-er, "because all you 9am-ers have small kids."Yup.

The hardest part about sales was the rush at the end of the half-price sale. Everyone seems to assume you will give stuff away for nearly free just to get them out of your hair and because you don't want to cart the goods off to charity. They are mostly correct in this assumption, but I must tell you a hard truth. This segment of society--who haggle with volunteers at a rummage sale from which the proceeds go to a good cause--they weren't raised right by their mamas. My fellow fraught cashier could be heard a time or two exasperatedly bristling, "Oh all right, have it your way." I just laughed because laughter is how I handle awkward folks. Well, laughter and judgmental blog posts.

The adult book section--by that I mean books for grown-ups, not of the three-x variety--also had some great finds, so I think my summer reading selection is nearly complete. I put it up on Goodreads in case you're on there too and want to follow along or comment. If you're an avid reader and not yet on Goodreads, check it out! The combined inventions of GR and Pinterest mean I almost never miss a book recommendation these days.


Would you count Faulkner and James as summer reads, though? Hmmm, perhaps not. What do you have on your current book list?

p.s. I've already read Stumbling on Happiness, but I gave it away years ago and thought I could use a refresher. Do you give away books you liked? I can't handle clutter, so I find it's easier for me to get the book again later from the library or a used book sale than it is to lug it around for years. If I keep it, I just end up resenting it gathering dust. Plus, giving it away means I get to share book-love, which is one of my favorite life activities!

p.p.s. I admit that pic above of the books isn't great to show off the titles, but I wanted to squeeze in my other new purchase. That little bowl on the left is also a find from the church sale. Three bucks! I've been looking for a bowl for all the cell phone hoopla, and this one fits the bill nicely, doncha think? Here's a better shot of the books:


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