Tuesday, September 02, 2014

{four}


Charlotte is four years old! She can carry on a real conversation and even adds lively inflection to her voice. But at the same time, she still seems like our baby. We think back to when Vivi was four, and she seemed like such a big kid. We've always treated her that way. I guess that's why people always say the first child ends up with a different personality than the last. I just never thought we'd view our own children that way.



Next week Charlie starts pre-k, and I am going on the same emotional roller coaster that I did when Vivi started pre-k. Only this time I won't have another munchkin at home with me in the mornings! Just what am I going to do with myself?

At this point you might be wondering...am I going to blog here again? No, I am standing by my decision not to post here regularly. I'm writing today because I want to give Charlie the same attention Vivi got in all her birthday posts in years past. Charlie's posts from previous birthdays are here: {three}, {two}, and {one}. Here goes...


Dear Charlotte,

When I look back at what I've said to you in your previous birthday letters, I laugh when I come to the word "opinionated." Yes, that still fits you to a tee! On your birthday, you crawled into bed with me to snuggle. I began to sing Laurie Berkner's birthday song, and mid-way through it you said, "Don't sing, Mommy!" It's funny to me that, so unlike Vivi, you have never wanted me to sing impromptu songs to you. On the other hand, you do love for me to sing bedtime songs, but only on command. Lately you've been requesting I recite "The Goops" at bedtime, and you always laugh when I get to the last line, "Are you?"

We gave you a Betty Bunny story for one of your presents, and you've been wanting me to read it every day. You take it up and down stairs with you when you go so that it can be near you. Vivi has struggled with some gifts being just for you, particularly the Elsa and Anna dolls and the My Little Pony. Even though we explained to her at her birthday that if she didn't share with you, you might not share with her, she has been taking it rough and cried quite a bit on your birthday. Luckily, you are a sweet little sister and have been more compassionate toward her than even I have. You offer to share your toys with her, at least part of the time. Your generosity and genuine love of your big sister is so sweet to see. Today we dropped Vivi off at school, and you whispered as she walked away, "But I wanted to play with her all day."

I am not the greatest replacement for a playmate, but we have fun playing card and board games together. Right now you'd rather play crazy eights than do almost anything else. In fact, when I asked you what your favorite thing was that you did today, you said playing crazy eights. I will miss how open you are still with your jokes, shouting words like "Poopie!" and then busting out laughing. We all love to make you laugh because it is such an unreserved, gleeful sound.

We love you to pieces, sweet girl.
Love,
Mommy

Thursday, May 29, 2014

a new place to play


Hey y'all,

I have some fun news. I am starting a new website where I can share notes about motherhood and my writing process. I don't plan to include specifics about my kids because, as I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to give them their privacy back. But I do want to let you in on what I'm working on now, and I hope it becomes a place to do that. I am also hoping it does not become a place that will, as Stephen King puts in his memoir,"leave me feeling like either a literary gasbag or a transcendental asshole." But you can be the judge of that. So go take a look and tell me what you think! And if you like it, you can sign up to follow along here. I'm also still at the same Twitter and Instagram accounts if you wanna hang out there.

Cheers & xoxo,
~J

Friday, May 02, 2014

some things I wanted to tell you before I go


Every time I try to type the word "blog" today it comes out "glob," which makes me giggle. That I suddenly keep mistyping the word is somehow fitting for what I want to tell you today, which is that I am no longer going to write posts here.

Now that I'm writing this post, I realize you probably already saw this day coming. I could do a whole cutesy "It's not you, it's me" bit, but you know that already. My mom and I have this joke when I want to transition to say something about myself. Instead of beating around the bush, I jump in saying, "Well, that's enough about you, let's get back to me." I suppose that's what a blog is all about, right? Back to ME.

Writing a post announcing the end of the blog does seem overly dramatic in part, but on the other hand I don't like the idea of people coming here expecting more posts when that's not my plan right now. I guess I don't feel sad because I know that whenever I want to, I can start something new. That's the beauty of the Interwebs!

I began blogging in 2005 when I had only just learned what a blog was. I called it Aimless Digressions, and that title truly represented the topics I wrote about, which spanned from what it was like to live in DC to the new camera I wanted to buy. I really enjoyed playing with that new toy for that year or two that only my friend Caroline read the blog.

Then I got pregnant, graduated school, moved to England, had my baby, and moved back to DC all within one year. I didn't write very often then, but in those years that my dad, my mom, and my uncle Joe started reading the blog, I began to find my writing voice and enjoyed keeping my family updated on what was happening overseas and back again. I enjoyed having a digital baby book too.

Then we moved to Boston. I felt lonely in my new role as a stay at home mom to a newborn and toddler--and judged for my choice to stay home--in a new (and freezing cold) town. I wanted a place to talk about motherhood and how it was different from my expectations. My good friend and first reader Caroline suggested I use my free time to write more. So I dusted off the blog and gave it a new name. I am grateful to her for encouraging me find my writing voice.

In the years following that change, I have welcomed old friends here and even met some lovely strangers who have become friends. I've had some great opportunities come my way because of it, like our commercial, and I'm grateful for the writing connections it has granted me.

Though I'm saying goodbye to this space, I do see myself finding another home for my essays on motherhood. Maybe some day I will even work toward that book that is clawing its way out of my hazy memories. So much of creativity is ephemeral, and I am trying to take my time in creating a new space that will define me as well as "the lone home ranger" did for the past 3+ years.

Whatever I write, I know those posts will contain fewer personal details of our lives. Our little girls are growing up, and though I've enjoyed cataloging their beginning days here, I want to give them back their privacy. I decided to stop posting here when Vivi turned six because it seemed like a big milestone.

Thank you so much for listening to my rants, both coherent and incoherent, and for sharing your stories with me. I would love to keep in touch so we can keep chatting about what we're reading, and eating, and whatnot. I have more to say to you! Let's keep in touch on Instagram and Twitter. I will leave the blog up so you (and I!) can come back to use some of the recipes from time to time.

Thanks for the laughs! I will miss y'all.

One more tip:
This stuff smells fantastic. I think it comes from Bath & Body Works. Gitcha some.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

{six}


Vivi is six! My mom came up to celebrate her birthday with us. Vivi is particularly fun to celebrate a birthday with because of how much she loves the event. She talks about and plans her birthday for weeks and even months leading up to it. She is just so excited! It's nice that her birthday is in spring because, for me, it marks the beginning of a change in the weather and even the demeanor of the people around here. Everyone heaves a collective sigh of relief that new life has sprung once again.

As in years past, we incorporated a local farm in the birthday activities. Because her birthday nearly coincided with April vacation week, we were able to sign Vivi, Charlie, and a few friends up for a gardening class. Afterward mom and I took them to eat dessert at one of those frozen yogurt places where you pick your own toppings. When I returned one of the girls to her house, her mom came out and said, "Now you can go home and have a glass of wine." That wasn't her first rodeo, but it was mine. Phew! The sugar shock was so great, it almost seemed like the ice cream intoxicated the girls for a full hour afterward. Much fun ensued, as I'm sure you can imagine.


This year I'm seeing how Vivi's growing sense of self is changing how she experiences her birthday. I was surprised to discover, come birthday morning, that she was disappointed to learn that even planning ahead couldn't make her birthday as perfect as she might have wanted. She hadn't considered that perhaps the weather wouldn't cooperate (ha, what's new?) or that she'd still have to participate in regular life activities--school, swim class, bath time--even though it was her birthday. But being the resilient, happy girl we know and love, she recovered quickly and by the end of the day, she said she had a great time despite those minor setbacks. I came to her kindergarten class and read one of her favorite stories, Bad Kitty, much to the giggly delight of the kindergartners, and then I watched as each and every one of them hugged her on their way out the door. She seems to have made quite the impression on them too.

I'm planning to write a personal letter to Vivi that isn't on the blog this time around. You can check out my previous birthday posts, a few with letters, here: onetwo, three, four, and five.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

{14/52 & 15/52}: mulligatawny

{14/52}: bike trailer season!

{15/52}: sisterly love

The weather lately is wicked crazy. It can't decide whether it wants to be warm, cold, windy (correction: it is always windy), or raining. I feel for the poor weather experts who have to try to predict these doozies. Luckily we have had a few days of sunshine--enough for us to burn even while wearing sunscreen--so my need for vitamin D has finally be satiated.

It rained and was hella-windy today, so it seemed like a good day for soup. I like to tinker in the kitchen, and recently I discovered I love curry in soup. First I tried this curried sweet potato soup, which was completely delicious, even to the person in our household who lists sweet potatoes as the only food he won't eat. Next I decided to try mulligatawny, which was equally delicious.

It would be impossible for me to talk about mulligatawny and not mention Seinfeld. It's a great word and a great episode and a great soup. All great! My first introduction to mulligatawny was in a little middle eastern restaurant called Lulu's in Madison, Wisconsin (it's closed now, sadly). That restaurant offered not just my first introduction to the soup but also my first introduction to Middle Eastern food of any kind.

I learned when deciding to write about mulligatawny that it's actually a product of Anglo-Indian cuisine rather than authentically Indian. Also I learned that most recipes (including the one in my 1950's Betty Crocker cookbook) call for chicken and apples, which is such a strange combination to me. Because, you know, there aren't apples in India.

But perhaps the best part about mulligatawny is that you can make it whatever way you like, with whatever ingredients you have on hand. And it's so much more fun to say mulligatawny than "curried pea soup."

The reason I tried mulligatawny now is that I happened to discover "vegi soup mix" by Bob's Red Mill, and somehow the split peas, barley, lentils, and veggie pasta seemed to cry out for curry flavoring. I happened also to have a coconut curry chicken broth on hand, so I used it, but regular chicken stock or veggie broth would be fine too.

Pic quality isn't great, but yk, does lentil soup ever look good?


mulligatawny
serves 8

Ingredients:
few Tbs. of butter & oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 good-sized potatoes, diced (or whatever other veggies you like)
2 c. Bob's Red Mill vegi soup mix (or a combo of the beans above)
8 c. chicken stock or veggie broth
1 Tbs. curry powder (a mix of coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, red pepper, and onion)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper (if you have citrus salt on hand, this is a good time to use it)
parsley
lemon

Directions:
1. Saute onion and carrots in butter & oil in Dutch oven over medium heat for 10 minutes, until onions are translucent.
2. Add potatoes, soup mix, broth, and spices (everything except parsley and lemon), and cook covered over medium-low heat for approximately an hour or until the peas have all but disappeared and the lentils are soft. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice to brighten it up.



Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Uncle Ronnie's chicken bog {& a list of freezable meals!}

I sat down here to write an update on the Ranger household. But rather than jot those deets, I veered off the path to share another recipe for comforting chicken stew (that makes two in a row).

Because sometimes your pal Jenny--a wonderful friend and beautiful person inside and out--asks you for easy, freezable meal ideas in anticipation of her first bundle of joy, and you must answer the call. Once a boat mate, always a boat mate. So I hope you'll forgive me for sharing this recipe instead of an update today, and I believe you will once you've learned how easy and delicious it is.

Only picture of me (2nd from left) and Jenny that I can find right now. She's the badass on the right.


My uncle that I was telling you about the other day--Uncle Ronnie of the sorghum syrup--is a wealth of information about recipes from the old south. He usually gets the tips from his Dad, who is an even greater wealth of information on the topic. So you can see, I've tapped into a great wellspring of recipes for you folks.

My latest discovery via Uncle Ronnie is chicken bog, a stew from the eastern Carolinas. Perhaps it would sound more tasty if I called it chicken and rice stew, but I prefer to let the title lie as is in all its odd, humble glory. Although the name is quirky and less than delicious-sounding, chicken bog is neither of those things.

A recipe as simple as this one deserves to be left without the decoration of superfluous adjectives, so I'll just tell you it is GOOD. And if you're a soon-to-be mom, you should also know that it is easy and definitely freezable. All you need is time, but if you're anything like I was during the nesting phase, you're spending lots of time rewashing the layette anyhow and can spare a few minutes for waiting and stirring.

Uncle Ronnie's dad dictated few instructions. Mainly he said to cover the chicken with water, simmer until it is falling apart, strain the stock into a container, top the chicken with 2 c. white Carolina rice, pour in 2-3 c. of the saved liquid, and simmer 15 more minutes. You can certainly do it as simply as that, but I added a few fussier ingredients thanks to this recipe by Vivian Howard of A Chef's Life.


Uncle Ronnie's chicken bog
serves 8

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, skin-on and cut into parts
1 onion, quartered
bay leaf
fresh thyme
salt & pepper
2 c. white rice (I can get Carolina brand at the regular grocery)
butter

Directions:

  1. Place chicken pieces in a Dutch oven. Cover with water and throw in the onion, bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, and 1 Tbs. salt and a few teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer the chicken over low heat for about an hour and a half or until chicken is falling apart. You will have rendered the fat off the skin, and even the breast meat should come right apart if poked with a fork.
  2. Turn the heat off and let it sit covered in its liquid for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board to cool. Strain the stock into a container. Shred the chicken, leaving some big pieces of breast meat, and discard the skin bones. [Note: If you are freezing the recipe, stop here. Put the shredded chicken into the stock, label it with the name and date, and put it in the chest freezer. When you're ready to use it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, and move on to step #3.]
  3. Return chicken to the Dutch oven. Top with 2 c. white rice if you're serving 8 people (if you're serving 4, save half for later in the week at step #2, then cook fresh rice at that time). Don't rinse your rice before putting it in, since the extra starch is helpful for thickening. Follow rice directions for how much liquid to add (usually 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice). Simmer for approximately 15 minutes until rice is tender. Careful not to simmer too long, for though you want the chicken soft, you want the rice to maintain a bite. Drop in a pat of butter and maybe some lemon juice or parsley if you like it fussy. Just do me a favor and don't tell Uncle Ronnie's dad.

For Jenny & the other moms-to-be out there, here's a list of freezable recipes from the blog:

My one and only piece of advice when it comes to post-baby food is this: invest in a chest freezer! I promise you won't regret the investment even if you don't cook that often. Last I checked, they sell a reasonably large model for around $100 at Home Depot.

Good luck, Jenny! And snuggle that baby. They grow all too fast.
xoxo,
~J

Monday, March 31, 2014

{12/52 & 13/52}: chicken 'n' dumplings


One thing you should know about me is that I love chicken 'n' dumplings.

{12/52}: sickies

And I knew it was time to make a batch when the girls spent a day looking like they do in the picture above. They had a nasty cold all week.

****

Before I get more into my love of dumplings, I'll share a brief story from a recent tot class. [Aside within an aside: when they call a class "jiggle and jive" and then make the moms jump around a lot, are they trying to inspire us to go to the gym more?] We were singing a song, and I had that experience that happens to me so frequently up here where I get lyrics to simple children's songs wrong. Apparently there are often regional differences in the words, which I never knew until having my own littles. It's an interesting experience to slip and slide through conversations with locals, knowing you might mess up even the most basic of childhood rhymes. Playing eenie meanie with Vivi the other day, she says, "That's now how it ends, Mommy! You're supposed to say 'Out goes Y-O-U.'" Or else I might stop singing "Ring Around the Rosie" after one verse, and everyone else continues a second verse that includes words like "buttahcups" and "thundah."

This time it happened, though, I walked away thinking the adapted New England lyrics to, "She'll be coming around the mountain" are really missing out. They replaced "We'll have some cake and ice cream," instead of "We'll have some chicken 'n dumplings," and I simply will not stand for such a variation without attempting to rectify the situation.

****

I love Cracker Barrel. Because I can't untangle their food from my happy childhood memories--of stopping there to eat with my grandparents on our way to Birmingham to visit my cousins, of selecting paper strips of candy to buy, of playing checkers and that weird golf-tee ig-nor-a-moose game, whatever it was called--I know my love is potentially blind. But I don't care; I will go on with my positive view of Cracker Barrel, no matter any evidence to the contrary that comes my way.

Whatever you say about Cracker Barrel's food, you'll probably appreciate their chicken 'n dumplings if you give 'em a try. Some people prefer dumplings to be giant matzo-like puffy orbs, but I come from the school of thought in which dumplings are flat rectangles of dense dough. That's why I call this recipe "Cracker Barrel chicken 'n dumplings," although it's only authentic in that it mostly tastes like their version to me. {Note: I added an alternative way of making puffy-orb dumplings at the bottom of the recipe because I know some people like eating them the wrong other way}.

There are faster ways to cook chicken 'n dumplings than this recipe.


If you want a real shortcut, you can do the 10-minute car-camping version: Put a drained can of chicken, a 15 oz. can of chicken stock, and a little water/flour slurry in a pot; let it come to a boil, drop in cut-up biscuit dough from a can, wait 5 minutes; et voila, dinner is served.

Or you could do the middle-of-the road 30-min approach: Dredge 6-8 chicken thighs and drumsticks in flour. Saute in oil in a Dutch oven until brown. Submerge with chicken stock (2-3 cups), cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 1 c. of Bisquick according to package directions, drop tablespoons of dough into stew (on top of the meat), adding more stock as desired, and cook 10 minutes uncovered, then cover and cook 10 more minutes.

But I find that even going all-the-way from scratch isn't time-consuming or difficult prep. The part that takes up the most time is cooking the chicken to make chicken stock. Whether you want to roast your chicken first to add a depth of flavor to the finished dish is up to you. If you're pressed for time or simply feeling lazy like I often am, you can just start with raw chicken in the pot. The only thing that changes is your cooking time.

I usually divide the task into two days. On the first day, I cook, cool, and shred the chicken (using the same method described in my chicken & rice soup post), then put it back in the stock and into the fridge overnight to marry flavors.  On the second day, I heat up the soup, add a slurry, season to taste, and cook the dumplings. If you want your kids to get some extra veggies, drop in frozen peas at the very end.


chicken 'n dumplings, the {sorta} Cracker Barrel way
serves 6

Stew Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, skin-on, cut into parts
1 carrot, broken in half
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
handful of black peppercorns
salt & pepper
few stems of flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole milk (half & half or heavy cream work too)

Flat Dumpling Ingredients: {see below for fluffy dumplings}
1c. all-purpose flour, sifted
2/3 c. water
large pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Add chicken, veggies, garlic, peppercorns, a large pinch of salt, and parsley into a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover with water (approximately 8-10 cups, depending on the size of your pot) and bring it to a boil. Quickly turn the heat down to simmer and let it cook until the chicken reaches 175ºF with a meat thermometer, approximately 45 minutes. {Note: Alternatively, you can let it come to a boil, turn the heat off, and leave it for an hour to an hour and a half if you need to go somewhere during this time.}
  2. Put the meat on a cutting board to let it cool. Meanwhile, strain the stock into a bowl and discard the veggies. Shred the chicken, discarding the fat and bones {Note: This is where I stop for the day if I'm dividing the recipe in two; you can save the bones for another round of stock-making}. 
  3. Make a slurry by whisking together 2 Tbs. flour and milk; set aside. Return the shredded chicken to the pot. If you want a soup, add all the broth back; if you prefer the dumplings to be in a thick sauce instead of soup, add half the broth back (~2 c.) and more as needed. Add the slurry and bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Combine water, a large pinch of salt, and 1 c. flour in a small bowl. It will make a sticky dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 2"x1" rectangles, add to the boiling liquid, and cook for five minutes or until the dumplings rise to the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add frozen peas if desired.
alternative fluffy dumplings (via Betty Crocker)

Ingredients: 
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. lard, shortening, or unsalted butter
3/4 c. milk, preferably whole

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Drop by spoonfuls into the boiling liquid. Cook 10 minutes uncovered, then cover pot, turn down heat to simmer, and cook 10 more minutes.

{13/52}: on the mend!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

the salad and the cone

the corn chip joke
This picture alone is kinda funny, but if you click it, it takes you to an even funnier cartoon of a drunk wife's joke.

Because everyone's experience of marriage is different, I usually find it unnecessary to compare marriage notes. Except of course when it comes to purchases of socks and underwear. On that subject, I'm chatty beyond reason. I'll even go so far as to poll the woman who avoids eye contact with me at carpool.

So let's chat, Reader. Here's what I would like to know: When did I become the primary sock and underwear purchaser for my entire household? At some point we must have made the switch, but I have no recollection of taking on the duty. And yet, I'm pretty certain it happened pre-kids, back when we both had jobs and social lives. Is this something you're in charge of in your house?

I mean, what gives? Why the magnanimous gesture that now requires me to stand in TJ Maxx and try to remember whether it's the ones without the mesh or the ones with the mesh? I'm not even going to tell you whether I'm talking about socks or underwear. I should leave something to your imagination.*

Okay, there was originally going to be more to this post than bemoaning the level of detail I've acquired about my husband's personal garment preferences. I'll try to bring it back around. I guess what I'm saying is that my marriage isn't perfect, but it is full of both surprises and predictability. Nothing against surprises, but I'll take predictability any day.

Did you read the Goop article about "conscious uncoupling"? It left the entire gossipy internet wondering why she included a polemic on marriage after the jump. Many have said much already, so I'll spare you a dissection of the nonsensical gibberish on bugs and Russian esotericists. I mention it because part of me is interested in learning about other people's divorces, especially of a couple who seemed so perfect from the outside like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin. I'll admit it, I'm curious.

Maybe I wonder about what pushed them over the edge because it seems like it'd be so impossible for us to divorce and still be friends, like Larry & Laurie David. I suppose we might if either of us were as witty and disarming as Larry David. Speaking of, he did a hilarious episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld. I loved Jerry's take on why Larry got divorced, and I happen to agree with his notion of setting the mood. If I'm getting an ice cream cone, you'd better not order a salad. We're in this together, socks and all.

*I should probably note that I don't actually mind buying socks and underwear for my husband. But feigning incredulity at my lot in life is one of the ways I martyr myself to get appreciation. I know, I know. I might be the actual worst.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

an olive branch: {brown bread with sorghum butter}

This winter weather and all its polar vortexes (vorti?) have been the great equalizer among inhabitants of New England. I'll explain how and share a recipe for brown bread with you, but first I need to tell you about a recent eureka moment.

****

In discovering more about the writing craft, I've been learning types of stock characters. One day recently, I had an epiphany about why I didn't fit with Bostonians. I let myself become a stock character...

A variation on the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" trope, I'm the manic dixie dream girl {pun gloriously intended}. I'm the southern girl whose only role in the narrative is to cheer up Bostonians. The bubbly, available pal who says cute things like "Y'all" and "Bless her heart." But most importantly, I have no complex issues of my own, and I never ever complain.

This personality description is of course oversimplified; that's the point of a stock character, right? But it does at least partly fit me and my southern roots. Where I come from, the first rule of depression club is we don't talk about depression club. Complaining about the weather, reporting the symptoms of your cold, or whining about your stress level represent a type of self-indulgence that is strictly forbidden in polite southern conversation.

I kept my mouth shut about the weather both due to my upbringing and out of fear that locals would laugh off any dissatisfaction as typical of a wimpy southerner. Oh, how adorable. You just can't hack the New England winter! By attempting to prevent them from labeling me, I ended up pigeonholing myself into one (boring) interminably cheerful side.

But I lucked out this time. This winter has been different. Cold, different. It's one of the coldest seasons we've had in something like fifty years. Like I said beforeeveryone is complaining. It's great! I'm finally able to come out of my shell, to feel like one of the gang. Because, you know what? Sometimes that damn bear eats you, and pretending otherwise doesn't stop it from being so.

Monday, March 24, 2014

the family breakfast project


When the folks at the Family Dinner Project approached me to try out their new breakfast partnership with Cheerios, the Family Breakfast Project, my first thought was: I don't have enough time to add anything to our breakfast routine.

At that time, we had recently made a big transition. We gave up our relaxed, cartoon-watching non-routine of summer for a fast-paced, challenging, drill-sergeant school routine. It was our first time sending a child to kindergarten, and the start-time switch from 9am to 8am was painful for all of us.

I felt pressed to get everything done in the morning. It seemed like every precious minute was spent accomplishing necessary goals: dressing, eating, packing a lunch, brushing teeth and washing up, and getting shoes and winter attire on. Oh and the kindergarten backpack with folder and any homework tucked in, too. I envisioned reading about the program, then feeling guilty for not being able to enact all the wonderful things it offered.

Although I resisted making any changes to our already packed schedule, I figured it couldn't hurt to promote the program for other families who sought to broaden their breakfast horizons. So we agreed to participate in their commercial (we're that first family in the clip). That was a blast! After shooting the commercial, I completely forgot about the whole thing and went about my business.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

sorghum syrup: history, health benefits, & use

Sorghum syrup from Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill


The History, Health Benefits, & Uses of Sorghum Syrup

Have you ever heard of sorghum syrup, also known as sweet sorghum or sorghum molasses*? I learned about it recently through my Uncle Ronnie, who was telling me his fond memories of eating it drizzled over biscuits as a child in North Carolina. I happened to mention I'd never eaten it, so he sent me a batch! Gotta love uncles.

{*Note: Although some people call it sorghum molasses, sorghum syrup is not actually molasses, which is a byproduct of the sugar refining process and is made of sugar cane, not sorghum cane}.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3 uses for citrus peel {that you can start doing now}




Long lists intimidate me. I'm skeptical of their fancy promises. 101 places you can hide your elf on the shelf! 500 uses for dryer lint! 28 ways you can improve your routines!

More like 28 ways you didn't know you were doing it wrong all along.

A few years back, I heard I wasn't supposed to put many citrus peels in the compost. I've since learned that old rule isn't true, but it sparked my interest in finding other ways to use the peels. I looked for how-tos on the interwebs. One suggested I should keep my peels in a giant bag in the chest freezer. Good idea! But wait, she wasn't finished. Then, when the bag was full, I should put all the peels on a baking sheet and dehydrate them in a warm oven for many hours. THEN, I should grind those dehydrated peels into powder, and only after all those steps could I turn them into a scouring scrub. Ain't nobody got time for all that.

I'm not making any promises or offering long lists today. I'll just tell you the three ways I store my leftover citrus peels right when I'm cutting up the fruit. It will take you thirty seconds longer than tossing them in the garbage, and I promise (okay, one promise) you'll be glad you have them on hand.

Friday, March 21, 2014

the golden oldies

When I was a little girl, my parents and stepmom introduced me to many musical styles, from Blues to Beatles to B-52s. I can barely remember a moment a record player was not seeing action in my parents' homes. Those were happy times.

c. 1984. Ignore the awkward bunny and instead direct your
attention to the records in the corner. So much space taken up!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{10/52 & 11/52}: a bloom before spring

Updated 3/19: I forgot to tell you about my article that was published last week on Natural Parents Network, 5 Lessons My Kids Taught Me.

If there's one positive that comes out of being plunged in cold weather for so long, it's that I'm motivated to try new indoor activities to clear out the doldrums. For the kids, this means new art projects like shamrock potato stamps. For us, this means new food and drinks to brighten our dreary days.

This week I spotted a big bunch of Meyer lemons--my first ever!--at the seconds table of our local farm stand, so I made bubbly marmalade and lemon syrup. I've been stirring the marmalade into my oatmeal and yogurt, and we tried out a new cocktail (recipe below) that received our highest rating: restaurant-worthy. On my first sip I decided it's the perfect balance between a feminine and masculine drink, a little sweet but with a punch.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

oatcakes

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here
{Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I just think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}

Our favorite local Scottish restaurant--and to be honest, the only Scottish restaurant I know about in Boston--serves oatcakes upon arrival. We go for brunch, and I love their Prosecco cocktails and gigantic egg sandwich. What was I talking about?

Oh right, oatcakes. I'd had these a few times in England too, enough to know that I love any device that allows me to get more butter and jam in my mouth. Oatcakes fit that bill nicely, indeed. I've enjoyed noshing on them any time of day with homemade jam (mostly from this book; the winners in my opinion are apple cranberry jam, vanilla rhubarb jam, and slow cooker blueberry butter) and Kerrygold butter.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

overnight oatmeal

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here. {Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I am mentioning it because I think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}

Yesterday I told you that roughly half our breakfasts are yogurt. Well, I'd wager another good 40% of our breakfasts are oatmeal. Sometimes I just make rolled oats in the microwave, and other times I'll make Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal (also a favorite for bran muffins: carrot raisin and cranberry orange).

Hot cereal is a favorite of our whole family, and we call it "porridge" to distinguish from grits and microwave oatmeal. I love steel cut oatmeal, but I used to lament that 30 minutes is just too long to spend on a breakfast that's so similar to one that can be accomplished in less than 10. Then my Uncle Ronnie told me about how you can get around that lengthy cooking time, which brought steel cut oats back into our weekly repertoire. You just boil oats and water for a minute, cover the pot, and let it sit overnight on the stove. In the morning, a quick zap in the microwave or a few minutes on the cooktop gives you a meal in the same amount of time as the quick stuff but with fantastic texture.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

how to make yogurt at home {with no fancy gadget}

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here. {Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I am mentioning it because I think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}

After the first two days of breakfast recipes (read: buttermilk biscones and breakfast cookies), you might believe I start every morning with a fresh, sugary pastry. But actually, our breakfast breakdown looks more like this:




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

kitchen sink breakfast cookies

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here. {Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I am mentioning it because I think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}

Have you made cookies for breakfast? I stick them in the freezer and defrost a few at a time. Reheated for a minute or two in the toaster oven, they taste like fresh-baked indulgent treats and make breakfast on the go a snap.

I've shared a recipe for breakfast cookies in the past. I still love that one for its low sugar content (applesauce FTW!) and lots of grains; it's more of a Clif bar than a cookie, really. But when I need to use up bits of baking ingredients from my cupboard, or when I feel like my kids could use a big dose of butter, adding "everything but the kitchen sink" is a great way to accomplish those goals. 



Monday, March 10, 2014

buttermilk {bi}scones

Author's Note: In honor of the Family Breakfast Project, I am sharing seven days of easy family breakfast recipes. At the end of the week, I'll write about how the project went for our family. You can try it out too! Sign up for emails, click through on the web, or download the whole guide here

This post was shared with The Homestead Barn HopMYHSMand Real Food Wednesday.{Disclaimer: I am not being paid for sharing the program; I just think it's a great way to help you share breakfast with your family.}


I used to be afraid of making scones. Then I happened to mention my fear to a friend who knows I make biscuits on a regular basis, and she put my worries to rest. According to my friend, there was nothing different about the two. In fact, she said, making scones is even easier than biscuits.

And you know what? It turns out she was right! I should have known. When people express surprise that I make homemade biscuits, I am always quick to correct them on how simple the process is. Scones are similarly simple, except they don't even require the folding of dough to make layers. You can cut them straight out of the bowl if you want!

When were eating my first batch of scones, Nate asked me what was different to make them so much fluffier than scones he'd had in the past. I told him that my scones employ the same tricks as my biscuits, i.e. top rack of the oven, sifting cake flour, and using a tiny bit of lard. He said I should really call them "biscones." Upon hearing the word, I suddenly recalled I'd read the term "buttermilk biscones" once in a great Southern cookbook a while back. It guess the notion burrowed in my brain until I was ready to make scones a year later.


I have perfected a base for what I believe is the perfect scone recipe: not too sweet; healthful enough for a wholesome breakfast; and with just the right amount of biscuit-like fluffy, buttery texture. They are pure baked goodness. I am sharing this recipe with you today with the hope I can also pass along the courage to make them. Because they are so easy, it would be almost criminal for you to walk away from this post still believing scones are outside your skill level.

Like with my blank slate muffins, the combinations that can be made using this recipe are only as limited as your creativity. I'm sharing my four favorite flavors, but the sky's the limit!


buttermilk biscones (adapted from this Taste of Home recipe)
yield: 12 scones
total time: 30 minutes


Ingredients:
2 c. white whole wheat flour*
1 c. cake flour**
2 Tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. (12 Tbs., a stick and a half) cold unsalted butter***, cut into small cubes
1 c. buttermilk (or milk + 1 Tbs. white vinegar or lemon juice)
(+ any fixin's, see list of ideas below)

*You can substitute all-purpose flour, but you won't detect this healthier alternative.
**Cake flour=sifted all-purpose flour with 1 Tbs. cornstarch per 1 c. flour.
***I substitute 2-3 Tbs. lard for some of the butter, which adds a great texture.


Fixin' Ingredients:
cranberry orange
1 c. fresh cranberries, chopped in food processor with 1 tsp. sugar (or 1 c. dried cranberries)
1 tsp. orange zest

ginger lemon 
3/4 c. crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest (approx. 1 lemon)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

chocolate coconut 
3/4 c. flaked coconut (back off sugar in dough if using sweetened coconut)
1/2 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (optional)

simply spicy
1 c. dried fruit (for adults, plump fruit with a bit of rum; for kids, boiling water)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Glaze Ingredients (optional):
1/4 c. whole milk (or you can jazz it up by brewing Earl Grey tea in hot milk)
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. vanilla



Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda; cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until mixture is crumbly and butter is pea-sized. Stir in the buttermilk just until combined. Fold in the fixin's of your choice (Note: If you don't want to add anything else, the recipe is great as is, with maybe a dollop of clotted cream if you can get your hands on it)
  2. Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Pat each half into a 6-in. circle. Cut each circle into six wedges. Separate wedges and place 1 in. apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  3. (If you are glazing the scones, skip this step) Brush scones with milk and sprinkle them with sugar. 
  4. Bake at 400° on the top oven rack for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack. 
(Optional) Glaze Directions:
  1. Whisk together milk, vanilla****, and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Dip warm scones in glaze by turning them upside down into the bowl; keep a firm grip on all sides with your hand to avoid dropping or crumbling the scone. 
  2. Return glazed scones to wire rack to drip and cool. Scones can be kept in an air-tight container on the counter for up to a week.
****If you're like The Pioneer Woman, you can make a better-looking glaze by using a real vanilla bean; but if you're in my house, ain't nobody got time for that.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

for the birds

A startling thing happened earlier this week when the girls and I were exiting the mudroom.

 ****

I must pause already to tell you I love the word "mudroom." There has never been a room more aptly titled. A mudroom, in case you ain't from 'round here, is a room to catch all of the snow, ice, and mud that happens from winter to spring. Mudrooms come in all manner of shapes and sizes and can be as simple as an enclosed front porch or as formal as an entire dry-walled room. Coming from the front porch rockers of the south, I was a bit put off at first by all of these glass huts in the front of people's houses up here--they do obstruct the view of the front door, after all.

But by the time we were buying a home almost two years later, a mudroom became an obsessively important item on my homeowner's checklist. Luckily, we ended up with a pretty good one. It's not perfect, but it modulates the cold enough to keep shoes out there (and a mattress, as we currently do. Sigh. It's a long story). Our mudroom not only prevents wind, sleet, snow, etc. from hitting our front door, but it also provides a sound barrier. And it is via this topic that I return to my original story.

****

So the girls and I exit the mudroom, bracing ourselves for the cold, which does come as usual. But what causes us to pause in our snowy tracks is not the biting wind on this occasion but the sound coming from the trees.

Are those...birds? Vivi asks.

You know, I think you're right, I hear birds too! I reply.

What are they doing here? Charlie wants to know, puzzled.

We go so long throughout the winter without hearing a peep from the cardinals and robins. When they finally return, their miraculous lovely tones are striking enough to cause a three-year-old--who barely remembers their existence--to scratch her head and smile at the strange beauty of life.

For the birds, today I am grateful.

p.s. Remember the old Pixar short film, For the Birds? I'm going to play it for the girls when they get home from school. It's a great one!


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

{8/52 & 9/52}: screw gentility

There are two main reasons I try not to complain about the weather, and they both have to do with my southern heritage. First and foremost is that as a southern girl, and I am born and bred to please. Genteel manners are in my blood, and a lady never lets on that she is not in a state of supreme comfort. Secondly, I still really have no concept of what is normal for the weather up here, and I refuse to be that cliche, just another Dixie redneck who can't hack the cold.

Luckily, y'all, those reasons have gone out the frosty window now that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is complaining to me about the weather. And thus, I say to Boston, on this bitterly cold Wednesday in a sea of bitterly cold days, DUBYA TEE EFF.

I am done. Done with my drippy nose, my numb fingers, my arse that tenses when I walk outside my front door. I am DONE. But unlike other activities I decide I'm finished with, being done does not mean I will be any less forced to deal with this weather. But I don't have to like it any more. You hear that, Boston? I DON'T LIKE YOU MUCH RIGHT NOW.

{That's about as harsh as my criticisms get, but I mean it with all my heart.}

And yes, I'm sorry I'm using the blog again as my personal punching bag, but what good is it if not a repository for my bitching, moaning, and aimless ranting? Sigh. Okay, I suppose I should end with cute pictures of my kids, which I can only hope make up for all manner of blogging sins. Please say yes?

{8/52}: Vivi has two less teeth than when I took this pic.

{9/52}: Writing her name! My big girl.

I am, XOXO, etc., your cranky pal,
~J


Friday, February 21, 2014

love is an open door

Music from the movie Frozen is always in my head. The girls want to listen 24/7, and I can't blame their passion. I can still clearly recall the gusto with which I belted out the soundtrack to Footloose. Exhausted was the needle of my record player when I was five and six-years-old.

These songs do make better little girl ballads than Kenny Loggins' catalog. But on the flip side, earworms are a less pleasurable side effect to the album's constant rotation. They randomly and unexpectedly burrow into my thoughts throughout the day. Doing dishes, folding laundry, sitting at my computer, I hum the catchy tunes. Soon enough, I find myself musing about how accurate and poignant the message is behind "Love is an Open Door."

[LOL. I'm sorry, I've never rickrolled you before, and I simply couldn't resist. Here's the real link.]

True, exhorting the enlightening merits of my children's music is downright nutty sentimental of me. But you must already know about my sentimentality. If not, allow me to introduce myself: I am a complete and total sap.

But sometimes being sappy gets the job done! I have been a much more productive writer in the past few months, signing up to contribute essays in several places. I am also helping my dad with a project that is teaching me much about the writing craft.

In that vein, here's a book I recommend: "Several short sentences about writing," by Verlyn Klinkenborg. True to its title, it is a collection of short, powerful sentences about writing. Not so much advice as little snippets of truth, this book is what might happen if you turned Jack Handey on his head so he actually made sense.


My bed: a favorite place to write. Just me, the cat, and the sun.
{and sometimes laundry}
{ok, always laundry}

Earlier this month I submitted an essay for a collection of doula stories. Ever the romantic, I contemplated including John Lennon's quote about love and fear in my composition. You know the one. It goes like this...
"There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life."

So here's my sappy conclusion. When we let love drive, it is an open door. We say yes, even when we are afraid. New opportunities pop up. Some might seem too good to be true; I probably don't need to tell you how those turn out. But all in, life could be a better ride this way.

p.s. Here's Charlie singing Let it Go, another of the Frozen songs:

video

Thursday, February 20, 2014

as usual, I refrained

Chucks for Chuck.

I was typing my grocery list into a note in my phone the other day. My old way of grocery listing was the ubiquitous pad and ballpoint pen my dad taught me to carry always; those trusty partners have served me and my lack of short-term memory well over the years. But lately I'm getting into this smart phone thing, and my new method of listing is to scribble needed items on the white board then transfer them into my phone. I have no idea if this process saves or costs me time, but it does keep me from ever losing my list.

So anyway, I'm typing the list, and I get to refried beans, which my phone autocorrects to refrained beans. This accidental correction cracks me up for way longer than it should, perhaps because of the irony of the autocorrect in telling me what I already know. Yes, thank you phone, maybe refried beans aren't such a good idea after all.

Somehow this typo got me thinking about restraint. Another contributor was Becky's tweet wondering when we're all going to be rewarded for our ladylike behavior. Yes! I wonder this all the time, and the only answer I can ever come up with is that at least we get to laugh later?

Take, for instance, a family I encountered yesterday while the kids and I were sledding (please!). We're at that giant hill in our neighborhood with the view of Boston, the same one from last weekend. As you can see in that video, there are lots of families all sledding at the same time. We, each of the families, follow some kind of unspoken Yankee sledding protocol.

Boot-height snow. It's a doozy. 

I am a quick-study on the social order of things, so I'm pretty good at the rules already: stay to the right if you're faster, yell "look out!" if anyone's about to bite it, make sure your kids aren't getting in everyone's way, keep to yourselves and talk amongst your own--unless of course one of my kids wipes out, then I flash a grin at the family next to me because all grown-ups appreciate a good kid wipe-out. The best yesterday was when I sent the girls down on separate sleds at the same time; at the exact moment Vivi wiped out, Charlie veered off in Vivi's direction and sledded OVER Vivi. It was fantastic.

I'm getting to the refraining part, I swear. As I was saying, we encountered the most bizarre family yesterday. The family is made up of a few kids, a few adults, and a grandma figure, and they relentlessly, comically get in everyone's way. The kids will stop midway down the hill and just seem to lay there forever; no one in the family offers assistance. The adults mill about in the walking path, talking amongst themselves and generally ignoring all of us. But they seem to be sledding for the first time, so I let it go. Plus, if you know me, you know I will let a situation get incredibly ridiculous before I say anything. Even then, I might not say anything.

I should mention a contributing factor in yesterday's comedy of errors was that surprisingly few locals were present. I know this because I was giving a dad sledding tips, and I am NOT the sled guru by any means. Because it's February vacation week up here (a kind of mid-winter spring break, only with more snow), I figure most of the locals are up north skiing somewhere. The absence of locals is notable because, as I've often said in the past, Bostonians don't let anyone get away with anything. If you make any errors, you're going to hear about it posthaste.

In this case, the lack of locals means that just as it seems like this family couldn't be more annoying, the grandma pulls out a bag of disgusting-smelling snacks (dried fish, maybe?), and the ENTIRE FAMILY sits down right in the middle of the big hill to eat them. If that weren't enough (and it is), the sleds of the two young boys periodically roll downhill by themselves. Following sledding etiquette, the other children present offer assistance by lugging the sleds back up to them, which is no easy feat, only to have it happen again moments later.

Finally, a type-A New Englander walks up, grabs the sleds, and hurls them uphill. They do not seem to notice even this act of silent aggression. As I told Nate the story later, I realized it was like watching a silent Charlie Chaplin movie. Fortunately it was the kind of bad that is funny, which allowed me to share plenty of empathetic glances with other families. This feels like a big win for me, as these Yankees are a tough nut to crack, y'all.

Have you encountered anyone lately who refuses to follow social rules? What do you do when this happens?

Stay warm! xoxo ~J

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

{6/52 & 7/52}: surreal

I didn't post the weekly update pic last week partly because I wasn't sure if I wanted to share that we were in a commercial. It seems like no matter how I phrase it, that kind of update drips with exaggerated conceit, almost too "Hey look at this impossibly cool thing I'm doing!" even for a self-important blogger like me. Then we got more snow, and I didn't want to be that person who is all "Poor me! It is snowing AGAIN!" so I stayed away for that reason too.

But then my family shared the commercial on Facebook and said such sweet things about us, and I thought okay, reality check. We are all fine, yes. And I do want you to know about the new Family Breakfast Project, which is how we got in a commercial in the first place (note: you can see the commercial in that link). Remember when I posted about the Family Dinner Project last year? They are the same organization sponsoring this new program.

So basically, last week was surreal in a few different ways.

{6/52}: Eating cheerios while watching themselves in a Cheerios commercial. A weird unplanned coincidence.

The snow isn't even the surreal part, although it has been a huge amount. I mostly don't mind the snow; it is magical when falling, and after that you dress for the weather and get over it. The unfortunate part of this weather isn't in fact the snow but the cold; it has been almost too cold even for Charlie to play in the snow, but Vivi is determined to play no matter what the temperature and will stay out there by herself for an hour or more, just digging and rolling around.

But here's the truly surreal part. We took them sledding over the weekend, and after just a few rounds with us at the helm, the girls decided to sled on their own! They are true New Englanders. I feel the need to mention that the first time I saw this hill covered with snow three years ago, I was hesitant to go down it. Me, a grown human. And now my three-year-old is solo-traversing it. Life, man, it's weird like that.

{7/52}: Fearless Yankees
video

video

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

{NPN carnival}: don't fear the tears

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
***

Before I became a mother, there wasn't much I feared. Who needs fear when I knew everything already? For instance, I knew that by being calm, my baby would be calm. I knew that because I have always slept like a rock, I'd of course have a baby who slept well.

But I didn't. Instead of sleeping, my baby preferred to cry for three months straight from two months old to five months old. When people used to cite the incident where Michael Jackson held his baby upside down as evidence of his eccentricity, I would dryly reply they must not have ever had a "colicky" child. Like Chris Rock once said, I'm not saying he shoulda done it, but I understand.

If my experience taught me one valuable lesson, it's that you can't always control whether your child cries. 

You can cut out dairy, breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, burp the baby only while perching her at a 90 degree angle, swaddle her, un-swaddle her, use an amber pacifier, hand-knit diapers made from wool spun by Tibetan monks, add a humidifier and a noisemaker, and wash all your linens in vinegar or your own tears. You can do all that, and you might still end up with a baby who cries at all hours of the day and night.

Here's what I learned: it's okay to let them cry. 

I'm not here to judge any parenting style. I'm simply suggesting you can let your baby cry at times without applying a title to what you're doing. There's a fantastic article on Natural Parents Network that suggests allowing crying is not necessarily the same thing as the dreaded moniker "cry it out" (CIO).

You can't always prevent your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartner from crying either. You won't always understand why they are crying or be able to comfort them. That's certainly been true for my second daughter, who went from being one of the most content, sleepy babies I've ever seen to a three-year-old who cries at the drop of a hat. Literally, her hat could fall off her head, and she'd cry.



Speaking about parenting styles, there's a style referred to as RIE, Resources for Infant Educarers, that has been highlighted recently in a Vanity Fair article. [Update (2/11/14, 5pm): I added a link to the Vanity Fair article that was missing. When I first read it, I felt like the author sensationalized RIE, making it seem like a fad and conflating different notions about what RIE is and isn't. But you should be able to make up your own mind.] It will likely mean RIE will be in the limelight for a while, and some RIE principles apply to this discussion.

The foundations of RIE are built upon awareness and respect. You could say it's the opposite of helicopter parenting. Instead of making snap assumptions, interfering, and rescuing, RIE followers let their sensitive observations guide their actions and listen closely before responding. What would you call that, drone parenting? Okay, so maybe I'm not all that good at describing RIE either. But lucky for you, Janet Lansbury is; her RIE parenting basics (nine ways to put respect into action) is particularly useful.

I haven't always handled my children crying well; sometimes I interfere and attempt to rescue them or even try to silence them. And hey, I'm not judging you if you've done that too! But what works better is if I treat my child the same way I'd treat a doula client if she cried during labor, with patience and respect. I'd let her struggles happen because they bring her strength.

The important distinction here is the same as one I teach parents in a childbirth education class: There is a difference between pain and suffering. To prevent suffering, we must not numb or avoid pain but be mindful of its motivation. Just as there is physical pain in labor that serves a purpose, there is emotional pain in childhood that serves a purpose. Painful emotions can be self-correcting and self-healing. Trying to quell the expression of the pain won't make it go away, and indeed it could serve to stifle their ability to self-regulate their emotions. Part of childhood is learning to express and control emotions without our interference.

[A note for new moms: If you're anything like me, on days your baby cries you might end up crying too. Take heart. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are normal! You can relieve them gradually by seeking interaction with other new moms in a support group, yoga studio, or free library music class. Friendship is just around the corner.]


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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 (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
  • When Parents' Fears Escalate — If we didn't self-doubt, we probably wouldn't care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama's family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I'm a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Proactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son's future?
  • I Don't Homeschool to Manage My Kids' Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household - that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent - that most parents share - looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit...Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear...
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren't anywhere near as scary as she'd thought.
  • Don't fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me... — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.

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