21 December 2009

Holiday Menu

I'm posting this online so that it actually gets done - I'm rather scatter-brained, as I'm not at home in my own little domain, but visiting family for a fortnight in Ohio.

We're celebrating Christmas at my Gramma's house, which, as it has been the way I've always celebrated Christmas (not observing the holiday in my own immediate family), is the only way to do it.  This being so, I've commandeered the reins of the preparations, so that it is "just so."  I like things "just so," you know.

Here are some elements that make Christmas more delightful:

1.  Real live (or rather, dead) fir/pine/spruce tree.  We have a dandy little fir that we bought from A. Brown and Sons Nursery here near Dayton.  It was on sale, as it had probably been cut a little while ago, but it was the kind we wanted, and it was "soft," as evergreens go, and had easy to decorate branches.

2.  Sweet things.  As I'm now pretty much all gluten-free, I can't even bend the rules in that regard.  But I do allow myself sweets, so I've been baking.  Ginger cake made with maple syrup instead of molasses (which is so bitter!).  And on the schedule for today are some Christmas cookines, including gingerbread people and maybe some sugar cookies (which have very little taste but are fun to decorate), and... well, something else small and tasty.  And we will be making fruit cakes for my Gramma, and a funny little "uncandied" version for me - I'm not too fond of candied fruit, so I'll try my hand with a dried fruit cake.

3.  Appropriate television nonsense.  I'm actually surprised that I wasn't able to find in the upcoming television schedule a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet.  How am I supposed to get in the holiday spirit without weird mice and Christmas toys battling it out in dance format?  And of course "White Christmas" is probably my favorite, and then maybe the Grinch, although he is a bit scary for Olivia.




4.  Christmas Eve Church Service.  My high school friend's father is the pastor (minister? I'm not too certain of the right word for a Methodist man of the cloth) of a local church which my grandmother likes to attend when she can, and we will be attending the 7 PM family-friendly (hooray!) service this Christmas Eve.  And eating ham, per my mother's request.  But not at the same time.


5.  Yummy Christmas Dinner.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Local pasture-raised Beef Roast from Aullwood Audubon Farm
  • Mashed Potatoes (of course)
  • Something to do with Squash
  • Balsamic Roasted Beets
  • Spinach Salad
  • Garlic Green Beans
  • Gluten-free biscuits
  • Mince Pie
  • Sweet Potato Pie
  • Ginger Cake
We will be having dinner around 4 PM on Christmas Day, in hopes that the other portions of my grandmother's family (i.e. my uncle, aunt, and cousins, et. al.) will be able to join us sometime during the day.



6.  Snow.  Although I can't really do much about that.


Now, after listing all of that food, I'm a bit peckish.  And I hear babies - I'm off!  Happy Holidays!!


05 December 2009

Snippets

This afternoon, we were walking home from the train when Olivia asks me, "Mommy, how do you get into T.V.?"

I explained that it was a process of someone taking a video recording of you and then someone else playing that recording on the television.

"No," she told me.  And this is her explanation:

"You take out the bathroom and cross the street and go into the T.V."

...

This evening, in the bath, in a sing-songy voice:

"And she went to her house
and her daddy's house
and her mommy's house
and her sister's house
and a ducky's house...
a pretend ducky's house (in reference to the rubber ducks in the bath)"
[ending in a chorus of bubbles]

Elizabeth of Brick Apartments

I've spent the last few days reading my dear old Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery.  Actually, I've been reading the text online, thanks to the efforts of Project Gutenberg, which posts free texts on the internet.  My real books are safely ensconced in my parents' home.

I read these when I was young, when I was more interested in the character of Anne and the romantic plot then.  But, of late, I've been thinking more about what happens after Anne gets married, as that's where I am in my life now.  Romance aside, I am much more interested in how she composes herself as a mother - particularly a young mother of young children.

Recently, I came across the movies, made in the 1980s by Sullivan Entertainment and was pleased to know that there were not only the first and second episodes, which were based on the Montgomery books, but a third movie as well.  The second movie, which I had seen when I was younger, leaves off just at the good part, as I see it now - right before Anne & Gilbert get hitched.  Eagerly, I watched the beginning credits of the "Continuing Story," but noticed that the plot seemed unfamiliar.  Anne and Gilbert weren't yet married and it had been five years, and there was some nonsense about moving to a large city, which I didn't recall.  And then Marilla is already dead, and Gilbert goes off to war, and another character makes advances at Anne and Anne goes to Europe to find Gilbert and there's a mushy love scene and...  bleck.  It left a nasty Hollywood taste in my mouth - apparently the producers felt that Ms. Montgomery's story was not adequate or exciting enough to snare viewers' attention.  But they missed the point entirely.   Needless to say, I didn't watch the movie, and promptly disposed of it.

Disappointed, I let the matter lie until the other day, when I came across an online text of Anne of Green Gables.  Eagerly, I thirstily read... and read... and read.

If you've not read the books, I shan't repeat them here, but will only say that they are delightful, and encourage you to read them, whether your are a young girl or an older gentleman.  There is much about human nature in them, and, being written over 100 years ago (the first book published in 1908), are wonderful historical sketches as well.

I was, as mentioned above, most eager to see how Anne dealt with being a young mother of young children, having two little ones myself.  I have been struggling with being too grumpy and "ruley," that is to say, too strict, especially with my three year-old.  So I wanted to see how Anne dealt with that time in her life.

I read to the point where her first son is born, and the family then moves into a new home (which is the end of one book, Anne's House of Dreams).  I excitedly took up the next book, only to find that it started six years later.  Six years!!  Those were precisely the years that I wanted!!  Nevertheless, I plodded on and finished Anne of Ingleside, and was surprisingly pleased at some of the tidbits of advice that I gleaned.

Most importantly, I appreciated how much God is present in the pages of the story.  God is simply a matter of fact, an over-arching theme of everyday life. It was refreshing to see the importance of being an upright person and saying your prayers (without undue stress on what prayers you were saying, exactly).  I additionally liked how having a goodly character was lauded over "appearing" to do the right thing - I often think about how in my own life, appearances are most important - that is, what people think often drives my actions rather than what I think is best and right.  So this was emboldening to me - I shook off some of the accumulated layers of the ill effects of our current culture to reveal my own wonderful self beneath.

Another interesting point was that Anne had a cook.  Who was also a housekeeper.  And Anne had a garden and a house.  As I struggle with keeping our home clean, small as it may be, I realise that one of my biggest enemies is "stuff" - all of the accumulated things that we are sold every day.  But the other enemy is a cultural attitude that as a mother, I must, singly and alone, do all of the "womanly duties" myself - cook, clean, do laundry, go grocery shopping, mop, sweep, dust, diaper babies, sweep some more, read stories, heal hurts, feed the family, sweep again - with no help.  Where's my cook?  How wonderful to have some companionship and another adult to speak with and share the attention of the children.

*sigh*

But the most salient point that I have decided to incorporate into our daily lives is to spend time outside.  LOTS of time.  And to read stories.  And little to no time watching tv.  My poor dears have been inside for the last week, as our car was disabled in an accident and it's been too cold (for me) to get out.  But winter hasn't even started yet, and so my goal today is to get out.

At the expense of the dishes.

Oh, well, we can't have it all.

04 December 2009

Where's the camera when you need it?

Murphy's Law is in full force at our house.

Elsie is being a chubby darling, playing at standing up while raising her arms in the air, and I can't find our camera.  It has lain idly for the past week on the steamer trunk in our front hallway, with no real cause for use, and now, when I need it, I can't find it.

So, dear reader, you must be content with my description.

Elsie is wearing an apple-green one-piece romper and fuzzy striped socks.  Her dark brown hair has lightened a bit after our trip to Jamaica, and lost all of its island humidity-induced waviness, but there are a few sweet inklings of curls around her ears and the back of her neck.  Her chubby cheeks seem as though she is storing nuts for the winter, but we know that is only a ruse.  Although she still likes to pick up tasty things off of the floor and pop them into her mouth (don't worry, Gramma, all edible things).

She is a prolific crawler and cruiser, ably pulling herself up and moving from couch to chair to leg.  Her favorite "leg up" is actually my leg, and I have to make certain my pants are on snugly, lest a too-strong tug should yank them off.

She loves to play games - mostly repetition games, where she will mimic whatever Nathan or I do, within limits.  She'll clap her hands or hit her fat fists on the table after we do, or parrot our sounds, such as "Mama" or "Dada" or "Abha."  She loves to clap and laugh, and play pat-a-cake and snuggle into my shoulder (which is my favorite).

But this evening, she is playing at standing.  She'll start on all fours and shift her weight back into her rather large diapered bottom.  They, she'll slowly raise her arms off of the floor, wobbling until she's lifted them over her head (or as much over her head as is possible, considering she is still the possessor of short and chubby baby arms).  She then seeks my eyes and proudly quacks at her accomplishment.  My favorite part is the "dismount," where she plops onto the aforementioned diapered bottom with a soft "thud."

My sweet chubby, dimpled baby.

Perfunctory Post #1 - Nathan's Birthday

Well, dear reader, I promised I would write about his, and so I shall, mostly to satisfy the family & friends from afar who take interest in our little family's goings-on.

Nathan celebrated his 30th birthday last week (at least I believe it was last week - things have been in a bit of a tizzy in the Thanksgiving aftermath), in conjunction with Thanksgiving dinner.

To be fair, he actually celebrated his gift from us on the previous Sunday - at the Chicago Bears vs. the Philadelphia Eagles football game held at Soldier Field in Chicago.  I had actually remembered this year to procure tickets more than a week prior to his birthday, and therefore didn't have to spend too pretty a penny for seats, although it's shameful the way that tickets are acceptably "scalped."  Nevertheless, I am in no was abashed at the gift, as he attended with his father, and neither had ever attended a Bears game.

This, dear reader, may not seem like such a dire wrong.  I've never attended a Bears game, or any professional football game, for that matter, and will happily progress to the next world without ever having done so, but for Nathan and his father to have never done so - it is almost akin to a travesty.    Almost.  I still have a proper sense of proportion.

So I arranged that George should drive in for the evening and meet up with Nathan at work, who had as yet been unaware of the plans.  I packed warm "secular" clothes for Nathan - orange and blue, of course - and hid the tickets in a funny little card I made for him.  We arrived to "pick him up" and gave him the card.  He was very excited, and, after a bit of scrambling to meet up with George, embarked on the train to get to the stadium.

To the outside world, both Mr. George Davis and his son Nathan seem like pleasant, mild-mannered gentlemen.  Both are veterans of the stage, and both are soft-spoken and spiritually-minded.  Never have I heard either swear or raise his voice, or show aggression or brutishness.

And yet, when cut, both bleed orange and blue.

Our dear friend, Emeric, must be one of the most superstitious football fans ever.  He won't watch the game with certain people, as he believes they jinx the outcome of the game.  When the Bears are falling behind, he'll call me to see if Olivia is wearing her Bears sweatshirt.  If not, I am told to put it on her.  And he was pleasantly surprised one day to, in casual conversation, learn that Nathan was a football fan.  Not only that, a BEARS fan.  And, not only that, but could recite plays and statistics from years past with surprising alacrity.  They immediately became friends, and we were honored with an invitation to watch the game with Emeric.

So George & Nathan attended their first Bears game together, with seats at the fifty yard line.  The Bears had been faring rather poorly in the season (I overheard the idea that for some reason, perfectly good quarterbacks lose their spark in this team), and this game would be the turning point.  If they won, they would still have a fighting chance for the playoffs, but if they lost, the season would be essentially over.

Of course, they lost.  But it was a well-played game.

Not being so dedicated to a team myself, and knowing that by saying so here, I may forfeit all future invitations to Emeric's house to watch football, what I do like to see in a game is each team playing its best.  I especially like to see players demonstrate courtesy (no personal fouls) and dignity.  Just as in politics, there will always be someone upset by the outcome, and, Lord knows, the only thing we can eternally put stock in is the next world.  So it is refreshing to see a team play with a good sense of healthy sportsmanship and honor.  And a coach who doesn't lose his head or swear (at least not that I can tell) when things go otherwise than perfectly.

Don't worry, Bears fans.  There is always next year.  Hope springs eternal, even in sports.


02 December 2009

What the Heck is Going On?

Something about this season always brings out the mostest in me - be it the worst or the best, who knows.  I just seem to be all in a tizzy with things to do.

Which is, dear reader, why I haven't posted since November 5th.

First, it was our family trip to Jamaica, which I will have to write about separately, as it was really that amazing.  We went to celebrate the wedding of Bahiyyih & Malik, and boy, did we ever (celebrate, that is)!

Then, it was right into birthday festivities for Nathan, which (I almost forgot) included a sneaky surprise trip to see the Chicago Bears play the Philadelphia Eagles with his dad.  Neither had gone to a game before and it was pretty amazing.  Even tho' the Bears lost.  But this, also, is another post.

Then it was house-sitting and Thanksgiving prep at said house across the street.  Which was a feast for the ages.  Complete with fancy china and the "king goblet."  Again, another post.

Which leads me, finally, to the point of THIS post:

On Sunday, after cleaning up from Thanksgiving and getting all of my ducks in a row in terms of "moving out" of our neighbor's house, I thought it might be nice to go visiting.  So I called up my dear friend, Corinne, piled the girls in our sweet car, picked up Corinne and drove into "the city" to a devotional at a mutual friends' home.  It was nice and tasty, and I ran into a friend from college, who it was great to see.

And then, on the drive home, someone ran into me.  Not in the cordial sense.

I was in the right lane heading north on the gargantuan Sheridan Road, and coming up onto an intersection with a left turn.  As I begin passing the intersection, Corinne suddenly says, "Look out!" and I barely have time to hit the brakes and try to swerve, when a car from the left lane turns into ours and hits my front driver's side wheel, thereby lifting our car into the air slightly before we come to an abrupt stop toward the end of the intersection.  This same car then veers back into the left lane and hits a car waiting to turn left, which, in turn, huts the car in from of it, also waiting to turn left.  It was a scary, adrenaline-filled jumble.

Stunned, I look behind me and see that traffic has stopped, and grumpy drivers, completely unaware that time is now moving in slow motion (they missed the memo, apparently), begin to filter through the two lanes to continue on their northbound way.  I can't think of where they could be going that is so urgent.

I make a mental check to see how the girls are - Elsie has promptly fallen asleep and Olivia is asking questions about what just happened, which Corinne is deftly answering while taking stock of the situation.  I get out to look at the car and it appears that there is only some minor damage to the front bumper and the front driver's side wheel well.  I somehow see that a police car has driven up, and the officer is asking all the drivers involved to retreat to a driveway nearby.  I dutifully try to back the car up, and am presented with a bit of difficulty in doing so - it feels as though I have a flat tire or something.

In the melee that followed, I am so thankful for Corinne's insight.  She quickly calls a friend to come and pick up the girls, and then calls Nathan's work and has him paged (he had escaped somewhere away from his office) so that he can come down, too.  She bawls me out of my stupor in so that I answer the officer's questions and don't allow the offending driver to label me as the "striking vehicle," when (as we later find out) there was no way that I could have rendered as much damage to my car as was there on my own.  She guides me to sit in the car to stay warm, as I aimlessly walk around the car, looking for God knows what.  I was so stunned that I didn't know what to do with myself.

Our friend, Bushra arrives and takes Olivia into her car.  Nathan arrives, and Corinne and Bushra leave with Olivia, who is excited about reaching the "promised land" of cable television at Corinne's house.  Elsie is still asleep.  The police officer is busy with paperwork as Nathan and I inspect the car.  When we drive it slowly forwards and backwards, it sounds and feels as though we are driving a flat tire over glass.  But there is no real visible evidence of any problems, except that the tires don't turn together - one would be parallel with the car's frame while the other would be turned on an angle.

I approach the officer's car and ask to see my insurance card, because we need to call a tow truck for the car.  He asks me if that is really necessary, as the damage appears to be very slight.  I reply that it is not drivable, and, although he appears to not believe me, he hands me my card.

The first car to leave was the least damaged one - the car at the front of the queue to turn.  Then the second car in the turning queue drives off.  Only the striking car and I remain with the officer.  The offending car soon drives off, with several tickets, and the officer approaches my car.  He tells me I need to accompany him to the station.

He may have believed that I was feigning surprise, but I really was taken aback.  I wasn't sure why I would need to go to the police station - but he was vehement that I hurry and follow him in my car.  When I ask what I should do if the car can't keep up, he told me that I needed to have a better attitude.  Fortunately, Nathan was there and asked the words that my brain couldn't manage to form:  why does she need to go?   It turned out that because I had mislaid my driver's license earlier and did not have it with me,  I was getting a ticket.  And so they needed my signature at the station so they could release me on bond.  I'm still not sure how to explain it, but I ended up riding in the back of the police car, leaving Nathan and Elsie with the car.

There isn't much leg room in the backseat of police cars.

I signed and waited for the officers at the station to finish their paperwork.  My officer was in a hurry to get back to the scene and be on his way, and so he started to take me back to his car before the desk officer was finished with the paperwork.  At this point, I believe that my officer realised that I wasn't being stupid or playing a part - I was doing the best I could at following his instructions (he had been rather curt up until then) - but was new to this and wasn't sure what was expected of me.

In the car on the way back, he asked for the names of the girls, as he hadn't realised that there had been children in the car.  And he asked what we would do in order to get the car home - to which I replied that we would try to drive it.  Content that his job was finished, and realising that he had left some paperwork at the station, he dropped me off and rushed away.

I think that police officers should have secretaries.  There is certainly enough to think about with the law and all.

At this point, I transferred Elsie's car seat to our neighbor's car (which Nathan was driving at the time), and proceeded to try to drive our poor little car home, with Nathan in the rear with his hazard lights on.  I could drive about 5 miles an hour and successfully crossed Sheridan road before I decided that we should actually try to call a tow truck.  I called our insurance and started to make a claim, before finding out that we would need to pay for a tow truck (we had no money on us, and our debit cards had been canceled as I had lost mine on our way to Jamaica).  So we started out again with my goal to get the car parked on a side street with no parking restrictions.  Ten minutes and three blocks later, I found a spot, right near our first apartment.

So we left our little car, content that anyone who tried to steal it wouldn't get very far, and prayed that no street cleaning would occur between then and whenever we could pick it up.  We picked up Olivia and went home and went to bed.

I am still trying to sort out insurance things - we have full coverage, but are reluctant to make a claim, as it will put us out $400 (plus we don't have rental coverage).

Our insurance, Allstate, has contacted me twice already to take a statement, and is making arrangements to have the car towed, in the event that we do not have resolution from the other insurance company.


The offending party's insurance company is a small local establishment, who will not accept liability because they have not yet heard from their client nor have they made an assessment of the damage.  They are apparently so small that they do not employ appraisers, and have sent out the request for an appraiser on Monday.  It is now Wednesday and I have not heard from them.  I have called every day, only to be told the same thing.  When I ask to see if we can at least have a rental car, they tell me that they cannot do anything until they have finished their investigation.

I think that they should hire me to fill out the paperwork - I'd get that thing taken care of in a jiffy.

01 December 2009

Bag Lady

Erykah Badu has a song called "Bag Lady," which is pretty amazing.  In it she describes what you might begin to imagine when you hear the term "bag lady" - a presumably homeless woman who is carrying all of her things around with her in shopping bags of various assortments.  However, as the song progresses, you realise that Ms. Badu is singing about ALL women (and probably some men, too) who take on too many things - hold on to what's not good for them or what they think is important, when the reality is much more simple

"Bag Lady, you gonna hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that.
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold onto
Is you, is you, is you.

"One day, all them bags gonna get in your way
One day, all them bags gonna get in your way
I said one day, all them bags gonna get in your way
One day, all them bags gonna get in your way
So...

"Pack Light."

05 November 2009

Sound Check

It's late.  Well, not really, but I'm bushed.  And I don't even want to think about all of the things I have to do tomorrow.

So I'm sitting at the computer and looking at Facebook pages.

And as I sit here, I hear little noises in the background:

"scrape, scrape"
the sound of Elsie scooting a chair around in the background

"crackle, crackle"
the sound of Elsie pondering a leaf

"thump thump thumpthump thump"
the sound of Elsie crawling at full speed over to pull herself up on my chair

"rustle thump"
the sound of her diapered bottom hitting the ground again

"smack smack smack"
the sound of Elsie pondering something from the floor in her mouth

"plat plat..."
the sound of fat fists slowing meandering into the front room

"clunk"
the sound of those same fat fists pulling a book off of the shelf

"thump thump thump..."
the sound of more crawling

"                  "
the sound of trouble.  I'd better go see what she's up to.


04 November 2009

Olivia's Cake

Olivia loves to crack eggs.  And she's pretty good at it, too.  I remember an incident with my little brother, Joe(y), when he made pancakes and I was picking shells out of my teeth all morning.

This morning, I come into the kitchen to find Olivia spread-eagle on the floor, with a carton of eggs in front of her.  She was "counting" them, which includes a song that goes:

Hickety-pickety my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen
One, two, three,
Four, five, six,
Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten.
Gentlemen come every day
To see the eggs my hen doth lay.*

*What the heck is this rhyme about?  In my teen years, I would have ventured to say it contains some sort of sinister sexual undertones...  I don't know what that says about me.  Any thoughts (about the rhyme, not me)?

When she gets to the part about the counting, she dutifully counts the eggs.  It's a fun game, and I've learned to not worry about cracked eggs.  There is something really magical about texture for her and for me, and so when she plunges her hand into a bowl of lentils or flour, I can relate.

As counting eggs brings up the desire to crack them, Olivia then suggested that we make something.

Olivia:  How about a cake?

Me:  What kind of cake?

Olivia:  CARROTcake.

Me:  You ate all the carrots yesterday.

Olivia (without pause):  CHEESEcake!

Me:  We don't have any cheese.

I look into the cabinet and realise we don't even have any flour - at least not the gluten-free kind, which is the only kind we can eat.  But we DO have almond meal.  Hmmm...

Me:  How about almond cake?

Olivia:  ALMOND cake!

So we proceeded to cook an almond cake.  Replete with almond milk, since the only other milk we had was daddy's half-and-half, which is sacred for the morning coffee.

We donned our aprons, and got to work.  We measured and dumped and Olivia got to break her eggs.  Two of them:

 

Then she got to mix:






She even got pick the shape of our cake, which was square.  Which, I just learned, is her favorite shape.  Triangle is runner up.

Here's our final product.  We're going to go eat it now and tell you all about it.  If you are interested in the recipe, I've posted it on my Sweetgrass Blog.  Or at least I will once I've finished eating our cake!



01 November 2009

Halloween

In lieu of a long message today, I'm simply posting photos from Hallowe'en.  We had a family theme, one which Olivia chose, of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs.

Can you guess who the wolf is?




Here we are with our dear neighbor, Amy, and her dog Kiko.
Olivia the wolf decided she is cousins with Kiko the Malamute.




Here is Elsie trying on her piggy bonnet, which I had just finished sewing.
Our house was covered in pink fluff yesterday, as well as bits of wolf fur.




HAPPY HALLOWE'EN!!


24 October 2009

The Power of Unity Video

I puppet the Lime Green puppet, my sister puppets the Orange one, and I do the voice-over for the Yellow puppet.

23 October 2009

Fluffy Babies

So I've been sewing the dresses for my sister-in-law, Bahiyyih's, upcoming wedding.  She will be married in Jamaica, and we are all going.

Which, of course, means that the three girl cousins absolutely HAVE to match.

Nathan is groaning in disgust at this very moment.  He HATES matching.

Here's a problem - wedding dresses are WAY too expensive.  So I'm making them from scratch.  With the help of the internet and DIY pages.

Here's one of the babies' dresses, not quite finished.  It is a most exciting dress for a three year-old, who tried it on:



and spun and spun:



But not so exciting for a baby who can't crawl in it.  It was fun to see standing up, but once she sat down, it was all over. 



Oh, well.  She only has to look fluffy for a little while, then she can be naked.  She is only a baby, after all.

Dishy Drama

It always happens like this - I think that our family is running on an even keel and then... BAM!  Something happens that throws us all off course, and we need almost a month to get back together.

Like these past three weeks, for instance.

It all started when I left the house one Friday morning without washing the dishes.  I should never do this again, but I probably will at some point.  We were leaving for Rockford to visit Nathan's family and celebrate his father, George's, birthday.  Nathan writes on Fridays and Olivia has an Ecology class that we three ladies attend (Elsie chews blocks, mostly), so our morning time was pretty hectic.  This, coupled with the fact that the house was a bit messy as we had been in Ohio the previous weekend for my brother's wedding... the sum result was a rush to leave while Elsie was asleep and dirty dishes in the sink.

I ended up staying a few extra days in Rockford to work on my sister-in-law's wedding dress, while Nathan came back home to go to work.  I returned only to find those same dishes in the sink.  I refused to wash them, justifying this with the fact that I had two children to watch and other people had been home without ANY children - plus, I recall that I had cooked the meal that those dishes house which, in our house (ideally), means that someone else gets to wash the dishes.

As if passive resistance ever works in the chore war.  They lay there, mouldering, while we again whisked off to Rockford, this time to help Bahiyyih move her belongings into her new house.

We all came back together this time, and returned home to be greeted by those same dirty dishes.  Seeing that they were not going to wash themselves (hope as I might), I dug in and violently washed every single one of them.  Our counter was full of clean dishes.

Which stayed there for less than a week, at least.  I'm going to go put away the last ones right now.



No one eat anything else, please, unless there are no utensils involved.

06 October 2009

I think I have a razor somewhere...

So I've been thinking about body image.  My body image, specifically, and how it applies to my dear darling dumpling babies.  I know that the way that I feel about myself and the way I feel about my body seeps into the minds of my children - mostly subconsciously - and serves as a foundation for the way that they will view themselves in the future.

Why so deep?  Because it's easy to think about food and nutrition (as I've been doing off an on in my Sweetgrass blog) and how they affect the body, but even more difficult to assess how ideas of self-image affect the body and the psyche.  These ideas may not cause weight gain, but they do affect the way one interacts with the world and as little girls especially are bombarded with images of "beauty" day in and day out, I want my girls to feel confident with who they are as humans and comfortable in their own skin - regardless of weight or color or acne - all of those things which our society puts so much importance on but which are the most difficult to change.

Which brings me, dear reader, to the point where I reveal some shocking (to some of you) news:

I have hairy armpits [gasp!]

(My mother is probably groaning at my revelation of this to the entire world.  Hi, momma!)

It all began when I was fresh out of high school.  I had started shaving my legs when I was 12 - at summer music camp, because all of the other girls had bare legs and because my mother wasn't there to say "no" - and I hadn't looked back since.  I could never quite master the knee area, and usually left the shower to look for bandaids to cover the little nicks that I had made, thereby dripping water and blood all over the bathroom floor in the process.  The armpits were worse - I never really cut myself, but they were always itchy bits and sometimes while trying to remove every trace of my dark (almost black) hair, I would shave several of the topmost layers of my skin raw.  It was, dear reader, not as glamorous as the magazines touted, and I could never get my legs to quite forget that hair grew there.

The worst part, though, was that, despite all of my efforts, it always grew back.  I would get maybe one good day of hairlessness, but by the second day, I'd be stubbly.  It was an exercise in futility.

So there I was, out of high school and embarking on a Baha'i year of service in Minnesota.  Exposed to nine other souls who each had different viewpoints and life stories, and we would all impress our ideas and struggles upon each other in some way as we traveled the central states over the course of the next year.  I was ripe for change and hungry for new views.

In our travels, I recall stumbling upon the idea that shaving - which at that point was one of my greatest nemeses - originated in Roman times, as a means whereby the wives of pedophilic aristocrats (which may have been almost everyone, according to some accounts) could please their husbands by emulating the nudeness (meaning hairlessness) of young boys.  Regardless of the validity of this claim, it certainly made an impression.  No way was I going to cater to the fancies of some old fat Roman guy.  Ick.

Here was my out - I could turn my dislike of shaving into a political statement, thereby winning "cool points" from all the deep thinkers among my peers.  Except in any large social gathering.  Then I would have to shave, to save myself the embarrassment of explaining this entire story, or being compared against other girls, which is the prime pursuit of every young person, male and female alike.  The boys do it to see which girl they like best, and the girls do it to see which of their compatriots they need to trump to win the favor of the boy they prefer.  Good lord, what a complicated mess.

Fast-forward to my almost-married self - confident and hairy, and assured that the affection of my husband was not contingent upon my lack or presence of body hair, which I was very good at growing.  Those of you who are entirely fair or entirely dark may not appreciate this, but I was in one of the worst predicaments - pale skin and dark body hair do not a model make!  I had embraced my creation, and appreciated this aspect of my nature.  However, the night before my wedding, I recall an interaction where I raised an unshorn arm to stretch and the friends in my presence raised eyebrows and exchanges glances.  I felt belittled and embarrassed.  The next morning, I got up early, pilfered a disposable razor, and shaved.

Thus began my sordid and complicated affair with my razor.  If I shave, there are fewer "points off" in the beauty contest.  If I don't, I feel better about myself.  To a point.  I still can't reconcile the ideas of beauty and body hair.

When I began this post, I thought that, by the end, I would reached some epiphany, wherein all would be made clear and I would be able to proudly declare myself either hairy or hairless.  But, like all things in life, there's a bit of confusion and compromise.

I suppose it is best summed up by Ms. India Arie in one of my favorite songs, which starts something like this:

"Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don't..."


Hunter-Gatherers

Our friendly neighbor Kiko, who is an Alaskan Malamute, loves to come over to our house.  Not for any real companionship reason - it's just that he always finds tidbits of yesterday's (and sometimes last week's) meal under Olivia and Elsie's chairs.

I think Elsie must be getting back to her roots.  DEEP roots, I mean.  She's been nipping off at the strangest times, only to be found underneath the dining room table, thoughtfully chewing secret things.  I'm not even sure what, since I swept only yesterday, but this is her favorite place to find food.  Not in a high chair, or even on my lap.  But on the floor.  Under the table.

I thought it might be that she likes to eat close to the earth.  So I would give her a biscuit or a rice cake and plop her down.  I'd glance away for a second and she'd be gone.  A scattering of rice cake to throw me off the scent, but I'd soon find her in the usual place.  Chomping away.



I recall a study I did in college to determine whether squirrels preferred whole peanuts to "shelled" (i.e. no shell - I'm not sure why they call it that) ones.  My findings led me to conclude that they preferred the whole ones, and that it was because it stimulated an ancient response where one had to struggle for food in order to enjoy it.  Maybe this is the same thing.

So now I'm debating putting her regular food on the floor for her to find.  Or getting a dog.

05 October 2009

My Brother's Wedding

This weekend, we welcomed a new member of the family on my side - my brother was married to Ms. Jessica Greenwalt, of Ohio fame.

Hooray!

The ceremony and reception were held in a beautiful lodge in Oak Openings MetroPark, which was a beautiful, serene setting for such a sacred event.

Here's a photo of Olivia gettin' down with my Gramma, who is in her 90th year.  Gramma stayed later than we did at the reception and word is, she got busy on the dance floor.  Yay, Gramma!



Elsie, on the other hand, was plumb tuckered out:



I wish I was still small enough to be carried around.

I think Olivia had the most fun with her cousin, Liam, who went for a walk in the woods with her:



One more photo - this time of the bride & groom (along with the mass of our family).  Can you find them in the red?


30 September 2009

Mama, the television tyrant

As I was putzing around this morning on the computer (how is it that, even before I get dressed, I am on this thing?), I heard a tiny cry from the bedroom.  Mama senses all a-quiver, I rush like a ninja into the bedroom, so as not to wake the other sleeping souls, and to the bed of Olivia, who is crying, fresh from a dream.  Here is a brief transcript of the ensuing conversation:

Me:  What happened, sweetie?

Olivia:  You turned off the T.V.

[crying resumes]

So apparently my three year-old daughter is having nightmares about me turning off the T.V.  This is bad. 

Or is it?  Maybe we are watching too much television in the first place - granted, we limit it to videos that I've deemed "okay" - no violence, well-developed heroines,  and just a little "benign peril" (as my friend Gavin as aptly deemed it).  We watch mostly Hayao Miyazaki's children's movies:  Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro (about sisters), and Panda Go! Panda, and we watch them in Japanese or Chinese (Olivia has been preferring Chinese these days - go figure), as the English versions say weird things (which are probably also in the other versions, only we can't quite understand them).  We also watch Milo & Otis, Winged Migration, and some Little Bill episodes I recorded many years back.  But just reading this list gives me cause for pause.  That's quite a bit.

I've been figuring out little family projects that we can do each week to improve our family life - so maybe one of them can be a "no T.V." week.  Which, honestly, would not be missed if I were up to getting out of the house more.  I'm really a couch potato at heart, and I love T.V. - mostly the mindlessness that is required to keep up with popular shows.  I suppose I could put a bit more energy into planning daily schedules...  But I don't want to over-schedule, either.  We just get bored.

So, dear reader, any ideas?

27 September 2009

They're called Clementines, not Oranges...

Our dear friend, Dena (A.K.A. Doda) recently shared a wealth of clementines with us. Olivia loves them. Earlier this morning, she carried them around the house in a tea cozy. This afternoon, she practiced peeling them.

But don't let me tell you about how she loves them. You can see for yourself!


 I must admit, if I had had such peel-friendly fruit when I was younger, I may like oranges now.

What time is it again?

This has to be one of the more annoying aspects of young family life - I am awake at 4:30 AM.  Not 2 or 3 AM, at which point I could coax myself back to bed and sleep; nor 5 or 6 AM, when I could simply be awake.  No - 4:30, which may be one of the silliest times in existence.

And the weird part is, I can't even figure out why I'm awake.  Sometimes, there's a bit of logic - like I had to nurse Elsie.  But she's asleep, and I'm wide awake.  It could be that the low battery on our smoke detector woke me, but I prefer to adopt a more complex and emotionally satisfying explanation - there must be something wrong with someone.  Someone must be sick or injured or near death's door and my strong intuition has wakened me to worry.  How kind of it.  Or - and here's my current favorite - our house may shortly be attempted to be entered by robbers and I woke up in time to foil their attempt by locking all of the bolts on the rear and front doors.  Aha!  Of course, if someone really wanted to break into our house, I don't think that a bolt would prevent it.  However, I do my part in making sure that it appears as undesirable as possible from the outside.  Like hanging up my skivvies on a makeshift laundry line outside the back door.

I am reminded of Anne Shirley, heroine of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and subsequent books.  I practically devoured these when I was younger, and I could certainly appreciate Anne's flair for the dramatic.  She would romanticize about nursing her best ("bosom") friend, Diana Barry, back to health from the brink of death, and then dying herself in the process.  I wished so much for a bosom friend whom I could nurse back to health... but I wasn't so keen about the dying bit.  I still have too much work to do here to kick the bucket!



And it reminds me of another instance of awakeness - which I'm sure my poor Gramma can recall with perfect clarity... I won't go into it now, but it involved a big hairy spider (which I can't stand), a stupid mourning dove, and a proposed trip to Meijer in the middle of the night.

So I'm going to go change the battery in that smoke detector and get back to sleep.  Good morning!

23 September 2009

Small Victories

I was looking this afternoon, with more than a few twinges of envy, at the profiles of many of my friends on Facebook - those with no spouses or children and the accompanying early nights, early mornings, and "no longer nice" clothes.  Maybe it's a case of "the grass is always greener," because I didn't exactly have a wild lifestyle even sans husband or children, but I couldn't help missing those days - hanging out with dear friends until the wee hours, going out to dinner (because at that point, I could afford it!), wearing pants that fit and being able to brush my hair.  You know, the little things.

And maybe it's because those were the times that I could actually update my profile on Facebook (although I must admit, it didn't exist before I was married - it's been that long!) without interruption, or because I could go out with only a wallet and some keys (and no bag full of assorted yet sometimes necessary knick-knacks), and the only accidents I had to worry about involved cars, and not toddler pants.

It's my friends who have the time who keep the fullest profiles, and I imagine that when they've entered parenthood, they'll be focusing on more important pursuits than changing their status every five minutes or touting their most recent photos with gaggles of well-dressed, neatly-pressed friends (can you tell I'm a bit resentful?).  Of course, these same friends are also quick to post a photo or video of one of my beautiful and brilliant children, and I can't help but feel a swell of pride.  They are wonderful people - I'm just grumpy, I suppose.

Therein, I think, lies an underlying problem - I'm grumpy.  There are no videos of me.  I've become my children's mother.  I am no longer Liz, the witty and brilliant woman, the cute and cool truth-seeker.  No.  I am mama.  Who at this very moment is hiding a cell phone in her bra and edging the computer inch-by-inch away to keep them from the drooley jaws of a ravenously teething 8 month-old.  I know that this is a stage, and that all too quickly, I'll be looking at my daughters' Facebook profiles (or whatever new-fangled fad is around in ten years) and seeing comments from boys.  Good Lord - bring me back!  I understand all of this very logically.  But I still miss the attention.

I was talking with my dear Gramma (hi, Gramma!) - who is almost 90, but is a wonderful gutsy woman, who still lives alone in her wonderful magical house, and writes an email to the family every night - yesterday, and we were talking about music lessons and fulfilling potential and things of that nature, and I realised that it isn't really about being the biggest or the best - it's about being YOUR best.  I was reminded of a quote from Baha'u'llah:

The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him.  Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle.  The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.

Essentially, it doesn't matter that I'm not the best or most famous.  My work is to make certain that I'm the best at being me.  And of making sure that I fulfill my potential - whatever that is at this time in my life.

So maybe I'm not celebrating the world's most largely-attended party and "going out" means the grocery store, but I'm working at being the best I can be.  So there.

And, just to make sure that I'm still the best at something else, I've got the market cornered for cute photos of my kids.  Here's a little taste of that.  You can even see part of my face.


:)

Stand By Me

Just a reminder that we are all one amazing chorus of humanity.

22 September 2009

Pat-a-Cake

If you ask Olivia, she will tell you that the name of this game is "Patty Cake."  Just so you know.

Elsie loves it.  As evidenced below:





Sorry that this is so short, but it's bedtime, and I have an 8 month-old chomping on my leg.  Literally.

20 September 2009

Zoobilee Zoo

Do you remember this show?  For some reason, the theme song to this PBS kid's show is forever etched in my brain.  I can't remember my phone number sometimes, but I can recall this tinny song:

"Zoobilee Zoo, Zoobilee Zoo,
Magic and wonder are waiting for you..."

We actually went to a real zoo yesterday - the Chicago Public Library and neighboring suburban libraries are participating in a Museum Pass program, which allows cardholders to "check out" a free pass for a week to several area museums & parks.  We got two free admissions to the Brookfield Zoo - Elsie was free, so we used the passes for the grown-ups (Nathan and me) and paid only $8 for Olivia.  What a steal!  Right?


Elsie with the goats & later eating pizza with daddy (she washed her hands first, folks).



 
Olivia the fish & later watching fish.


Unfortunately not.  The zoo, like any other theme park, it would seem, found ways to nickel and dime us.  We spent over $60 (I haven't had the guts to look at the actual receipts) for food ($15 for three hot dogs and 20 fries -  that is, twenty french fries, not twenty orders of french fries - which, by the way, I dropped all over the floor) on two meals, two carousel rides, and admission into the Children's Zoo.  And we didn't see the dolphins or go into the Play Zoo (which is different than the Children's Zoo) or ride the tram or go into the butterfly area or see the dinosaur exhibit.

But, nevertheless, it was fun!  The weather was perfect, we were all together, I was only grumpy once, and Olivia talked to the animals.

17 September 2009

Early to Bed...

So the girls and I have started taking our Fall classes.  This past spring, if you had asked me if Olivia was in preschool (which was, rather to my surprise, one of the first questions asked of Olivia by any grown-up person we met), I would have said, "no!" and thought to myself, in a rather presumptuous and smarmy voice "I am the first educator of my child, thank you very much!"

Now, as preschools are starting up, and Miss Olivia is asking about backpacks and playgrounds and all of that paraphernalia that makes school interesting, I realise that I've got a precocious three year-old and a cold winter coming up, which, in Chicago, means a lot of indoor time.  Together.  Alone.  With a lot of "why" questions...  For months.


Our brief but exciting courtship with a "real" preschool ended up with all parties disappointed.  Fortunately, Olivia didn't know too much of what was going on, and was sweetly excited when we "investigated" a possible school for her to attend.  I went in to inquire as to the availability of space for Olivia and left feeling strangely poor.  I left feeling strangely poor - I can't believe how much preschool costs!!  We ended up playing on the playground as a reward.


Therefore, dear reader, I have constructed a Fall schedule, which not only encompasses Olivia's budding education, but mine and Elsie's as well.  Here is our plan:
  • Mondays - Spanish Day
    • Olivia and I are going to learn The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah in Spanish together, as well as various vocabulary and phrases, and practice throughout the week
    • As a side note (for which, it seems, I am notorious) living in Chicago with dark hair almost immediately puts me in the "she must speak Spanish" category.  To my embarrassment, I don't.  But, no longer!!
    • As another side note, Mondays are also the days that I have a bellydancing class.  But that is another post.
  • Tuesdays - Swim Day
    • Olivia started her first swim class when she was 6 months.  Elsie is starting hers at 8 months.  Get 'em young, I say.  Baby swim class is primarily a bunch of moms and dads holding their sometimes screaming children in the warm water pool at the YMCA and bobbing around and singing little songs like "the Hokey Pokey" and "Ring Around the Rosie," which are paired with special movements designed to get your baby acclimated to water.  Sometimes too acclimated.  Elsie ended up with a snout full of water during her first class, but she bore it well.
  • Wednesdays - Music Day
    • I disliked piano lessons, mostly because they were 30 minutes during which my lack of practice over the previous week was revealed to my long-suffering teacher.  I would often feign sickness, but my mom would send me anyway.  Once, however, I was actually sick and vomited all over my teacher's new second piano.  I can't imagine how one cleans sick off of piano keys.  My poor teacher...  My poo mother...  Poor me...  That being said, Olivia is slated to start her lessons in the next few weeks...  We shall see how this goes.
  • Thursdays - Gymnastics Day
    • The ad said that jumping on the furniture was just one way to know that your child is ready for gymnastics.  My thought is, "will this release that pent-up energy or make more?"  I hope the former, but am prepared for the latter.  Our poor downstairs neighbors... 
  • Fridays - Ecology Day
    • This is actually mostly for me.  With Elsie tied to my back (or front), I will tromp along with Olivia all over the Lighthouse Landing dunes in Evanston every week to learn about plants and animals.  In any weather.  There is a snack involved somewhere there, too, but I am mostly excited about the potential to wear galoshes.  I love galoshes!
  • Other bits
    • These are mostly for me, and include a yoga class, an exercise class and an elliptical machine at the YMCA.  At various points in the week, when I get up early enough or can sneak away in the evenings.  Which leads me to now, 5:30 AM, and a hurried goodbye, so I can wash last night's dishes and don some stretchy pants for a 7 AM power yoga class.  Power yoga?  That's another post!

16 September 2009

Bonita Applebum

Okay, so maybe the song by A Tribe Called Quest isn't the most appropriate reference, but I think of Bonita being a beautiful little girl with apple cheeks - on her face.  Like my babies.

This past weekend, we had an AMAZING trip to Michigan, where we visited a FANTASTIC ORGANIC FARM (which I will write more about later), and also stopped by to pick apples at a little organic orchard, called Tower Hill Orchard, owned by a couple from Chicago who are moving out to the country.

(our hostess driving away on her John Deere)

While Olivia slept, Elsie played, and Nathan relaxed, I picked six (6) pecks of apples.

(this is a Jonagold)

I think Nathan especially enjoyed the peace.

(can you see his legs?)

And my littlest one ate her first baby apple.

(that's what teeth are for)

She's been rolling in them ever since.  Her newest favorite game is to crawl over to wherever I've moved the bags of apples to get them away from her, sit on her bottom, and peer inside one of the bags. 


Then, she spies an apple she wants, picks it up with her fat little hand, and tries to chew on it.  Regardless of the success of this exercise, the apple almost always ends up rolling away from her.  She crawls after it, and rolls it some more until she tires of this game and crawls away somewhere else.  I've got apples all over the house now!


But how can I complain?!?

12 September 2009

Little By Little

Our dear friend, Laura Harley, is an AMAZING life coach and musician who lives in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  She came to Chicago earlier this summer to do a little workshop on spiritual growth, in which she shared some of her music.  One of the songs, called "Little By Little," Olivia really took to, as it had hand motions that accompanied it (Olivia loves hand motions) (and so do I!).  In fact, when I was singing it (out of the blue) this morning, Olivia remembered those same motions, which I myself had forgotten!!

Kismet, I suppose, as this evening I checked my email and found a free download of this same song from Laura.  I was able to download the song to our computer and play it for the girls as we ate dinner - Olivia, a grilled cheese sandwich & grapes, and Elsie, bread & 1/2 a grape.  Delicious!

Here's a clip of our little music video, complete with the hand motions.  Enjoy!

07 September 2009

Step In Time

As a combo birthday present (our birthdays are just shy of a month apart), Olivia and I went on a date to see Mary Poppins at the beautiful Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago this past Spring. Daddy got to watch Elsie, and Mommy & Olivia were treated to great seats and a good show. It was really fun, although I must admit I'm not sure how much Olivia actually understood.

One thing I'm sure she got was the song "Step In Time." In the Disney movie, I wasn't too keen on this one, but in the show, it was really amazing. Mostly because I could see the real talent & hard work that was required for it to look good. Live theatre really brings out the magic that is lost in film.

This song was the most memorable, and it wasn't long before we had incorporated it into our daily litany. Most often to encourage Olivia to move. She moves at her own pace, which is much slower than mine, and instead of repeating "come on, Olivia" we discovered that "Olivia Carmel, step in time" was much more effective at inducing her to move it. It was more fun, too, for everyone.

Once we had Olivia Carmel stepping in time, we moved onto other friends and family: Elsie Shirazih, Kilam Hassani & Nasir Amir (Olivia's two older cousins), Mommy mommy & Daddy daddy (apparently we don't have middle names?). We also switched out the verb (to step) with other exciting ones, like "clap" or "stomp." We were really excited to sing "Elsie Shirazih, crawl in time!"



Like all new fads, our "Step in Time" routine slowly faded out. Olivia learned to run (hooray!) and Elsie has been pulling up on the couch and our bed - we've been teasing her that she'll be walking soon. In fact, I hadn't thought about stepping in time until the other day when I overheard Olivia playing with her sister. Most politely, she asked her sister in a sweet sing-song voice:

"Elsie Shirazih, will you please step in time?"

03 September 2009

Catching Water

When Elsie was tinier than she is now (I almost typed "When Elsie was little..."), she did not like water. It was a rather strange phenomenon that she could, very simply, do without.

Hooray, no longer! This past weekend (or was it last weekend? I forget!), while at the 50th Annual Green Lake Bahá'í Conference in Wisconsin, we had some down time while Olivia was playing with cousins. I was cleaning the kitchen of our cabin, and Elsie was patiently waiting for me to attend to her. As I was doing dishes, and she seemed interested, I simply plopped her into the empty sink next to mine.

She loved it, as evidenced below. Particularly interesting was the game of trying to catch the water as it came out of the faucet:


31 August 2009

This is a hard post to write. I wouldn't have thought so fifteen minutes ago, as I lay in bed with my thoughts chasing themselves silly in my brain. But now that I've come to do it, it's gotten a lot more difficult.

Usually, I try to couch the heavy stuff in humor, so as to not seem like a fanatic, and to keep those with differing opinions reading without offense, but it seems like there's no way around that sort of business with this post, since almost everyone has an opinion about this subject, and I can guarantee that you are going to either love what I say or hate it. So I'm going come out and say it: this post is about sleep.

Don't mess with my sleep. I'm not kidding. Let me tell you why:
  • Mother of two small children
  • Third floor walk-up apartment
  • Carrying babies and groceries and sometimes a toddler, too
  • In charge of the house - which does not clean itself (you were right, mom)
  • Mother of two small children
  • Recovering from surgery (still)
  • Propensity to worry if awake at midnight
  • Early morning "alone time" (where I get to shower and pray and do yoga)(don't mess with my shower, either, but that's another post)
  • Mother of two small children
  • Inability to sleep past 8 AM
  • The direct relationship between sleep and temper
  • Sleep deprivation is literally a form of torture
  • Did I mention I have two small children?
The list goes on and on, but I will not. Summarily, if you wake me up in the middle of the night, you'd better have a pretty good reason.

So when I was awakened this morning at 1 AM I thought, "what's on fire?" I couldn't immediately figure out why I was awake - Elsie was asleep, Nathan in bed, and Olivia snoring across the room. After puzzling for a minute, I discovered the culprit - our downstairs neighbor. Who is 10 months old. Screaming. At the top of his lungs. For 10 minutes or more. Finally, I heard the blessed door to his room open and thought, "hooray, mama!" But the crying continued. For another 10 minutes. Being a mammal and a mother myself, my body physically responded to his cries, by pumping adrenaline into my system and prompting lactation. I became the Mama Hulk (hey, Jessica!). I was enraged at the cause of this baby's distress. No one would stand in my way! I had heroic visions of bounding down the stairs, breaking through the door and rocking him to sleep. Although how he may respond to being soothed by the Hulk...

When he finally and suddenly quieted, I knew his mama had come to the rescue, but also knew that this was not what she had planned - they are trying the "cry it out" method of sleep "training." The mama starts grad school soon and wants him to be on a sleep schedule so that she can study and rest. We all want happy neighbors, believe me!

Up to this point, dear reader, I can be fairly sure that you have at least commiserated with my sentiments. But I fear here is the parting of the ways. Because now we are delving into that electrically-charged topic: baby sleep. And I, being up at 3 AM, have no qualms about telling you how it is. So, there.

Everyone's a know-it-all when it comes to babies. So let me state plainly that I am in no way trying to prove why I am right and everyone else is wrong. I am simply putting to rest (no pun intended) all of these silly little arguments that I have encountered during our foray as parents relating to babies & sleep. I'm no professional, but my babies are both asleep, and neither woke me up.

First off, we sleep with our babies. In the same room. In the same bed. To be succinct, we sleep with our baby in "the big bed", whilst our toddler sleeps in her toddler bed most times, and sometimes migrates in the middle of the night to the big bed.

Why?
 
Well, it's not because we're hippies or new-age granola-eating nutters, although I sometimes give that impression.

Space, of course, is a big consideration. We have a one-bedroom apartment. We have one salary coming in, and it's barely living wage for a single man, let along a family of four. We live in Chicago, which is full of tiny spaces, so a crib isn't going to fit in with our queen bed and our dressers, and thus it was initially out of necessity that we plopped a crib mattress on the floor next to our mattress when Olivia was born.

Development is also improved by close contact between mama and baby. It is a scary thing to be born - to go from the warm, all-inclusive womb-room to the bright, chilly world is a big change. Babies' heart rate stabilizes and breathing improves (not to mention crying decreases) when in close contact with mama or papa (see Kangaroo Care). I recall an anthropological study done in West(?) Africa which noted that in a particular culture, it was the practice for children after they were weaned to lay their heads on their mother's breast (read "near her heart") every morning before going out to play. This study also noted that the IQ for these children was higher on average than in the United States.

But the biggest and best reason? SLEEP!! I sleep so much better when that baby is in the bed right next to me. Do I sleep through the night? No. But I wouldn't anyway. Mamas have what is called heightened adrenaline production. It's a by-product of having children. I wake up sometimes just to check if my husband is breathing. Imagine how much more I am concerned about my offspring. However, the reason I sleep better is because I don't have to go far to check on my family. Nursing is simply a matter of rolling over. In fact, mothers who co-sleep (that is, sleep with their babies in the same room and/or the same bed), wake up more often, but for shorter periods of time - so much so that I can't even remember waking up most times. My quality of sleep is improved, and therefore my mood is improved as well. Have I ever had to get up in the middle of the night for babies? Yes - three times, and all of them involved vomit. But no baby has ever cried in my bed. If she stirs, I'm right there. Elsie will nurse without even waking up, so I guess I can say she sleeps through the night, although that in itself is a silly measurement of the "goodness" of babies.

Common Concerns

This is the part where you pretend that you are my mother, and I get to convince you that what I am doing is a good choice for my family.

One of the arguments that I've heard against co-sleeping is the fear that the baby will never leave the family bed. So let's talk about independence. Apparently, this is the pinnacle of achievement for any parent - and independent child. I can appreciate this. Having a child who can go the bathroom by herself is a wondrous thing indeed. I want my girls to be fully conscious and intelligent contributors to society. When they're grown. Which, as one can observe, they are not. No one expects an infant to use the toilet, so why should we expect a baby to sleep through the night in a cold room, with no other people nearby? Babies are babies. They are not little grown ups. We are one of the few animals whose baby is born completely dependent upon us. Perhaps it's because we are bipedal and our pelvises are too small to pass a fully-developed human brain (that's my anthropological training there). Or maybe it's what makes us distinctly human. Whatever the reason, our babies need intense care. They can't even move on their own with any purpose until 6 months! Meet a 6 month-old puppy and compare. The bottom line is that we need to care for our babies. Cultures decide what that looks like, and I simply happen to disagree with our culture's attitude.

My mama's biggest concern was that I would roll over on the baby in the middle of the night and squash her. There are of course instances of this happening. Infant death due to overlaying has happened. However, so has infant death in cribs - and crib death is actually higher. The key is safety. Here is why it works for us: we don't drink alcohol, smoke, take sleeping pills or any other drugs. All of these interfere with the body's sensitivities and response. If you do any of the above, then co-sleeping is not for you. A friend explained it to me by asking, "how often do you roll off of the bed at night?" To which I replied, "never." She then said, "how much more do you think that your awareness of your baby will be?"  Interesting point.

Another loving family member once reminded me that's what cribs are for.  I didn't even know what to say about that.  Yes, cribs work well in keeping baby from rolling onto the floor.  Many babies even sleep well in cribs. But cribs are not inherently safe, even with all of the safety standards present in this country.

In summation - we sleep with our kids.  Not everyone agrees with us - but we have, thank God, two healthy growing girls, who are, we trust, full of even temper.  Sleeping with your children is not for everyone, but its for us.

So there.

20 August 2009

Playing with Goo

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Don't be alarmed - there is no slime involved in this post. "Goo" is the name that Olivia has given my momma, and so when she came up to visit for a day, we all got our Goo fix.

Hooray!

Elsie is rocking back and forth all over the place, and I imagine she'll be crawling for real by next week. Which means I need to re-baby-proof. Which means I get to crawl around the house looking for things I can get into if I were a baby.


Here is Goo with Elsie. Apparently, she is ready to skip crawling and get to walking. Her latest trick is becoming so stiff that there is no bending her in the middle. Which is rather inconvenient for carseats...


Here is Goo with Olivia - standing, but the other way 'round.

Visits from mommas are always fun, especially when you are someone else's mama. I keep thinking ahead to what things will be like when I go to visit my girls when they are older... But I'm not quite ready to go there yet.

18 August 2009

Teething Biscuits

Elsie now has three-and-a-half teeth. The half is visible, but you can't quite feel the sharpness of it, so we are designating it thus until it hurts. : )

It's a messy business, growing teeth for the first time, and painful, too, although mostly for the fingers, faces, and random appendages of those unfortunate souls who stray too close to Miss Elsie's vise-grip jaws.

So, to the relief of all involved, we've adopted teething biscuits. We get Healthy Times Maple Teething Biscuits, which are wheat-free and have no cane sugar. The only drawback is the gooey mess and the general smell of maple that attaches itself to Elsie, but believe me, I'll take that against chomping fingers any day.


12 August 2009

Olivia's Haircut, and Golden Sandals

Miss Olivia hates to get her hair brushed. Hates it. I know that's a strong word, but, frankly, it may not be strong enough to do justice to the intense dislike she feels towards any detangling apparatus...

The Davis family has a tradition of not cutting a child's hair until after the second birthday. Dutifully, I plaited and pigtailed Olivia's hair until she was almost three, but by then, she had had it with my wily ways and was determined to outrun or out-cry my combing tactics.

The solution? Haircut.

In general, Olivia's hair mimics my own, with all of it's amazing lifelessness (not really, it's just determinedly straight). However, she's got a few bits of daddy's curls, and there is a particular portion on the back of her head that is the master tangler section, and I blame Nathan. Mostly because I don't want to believe that any of my genes would purposely torment me by being so obstinate (a point at which my mother would laugh mercilessly and mention something about "payback"), but also because it's got more texture than the rest, which lends it to tangling. But I'm not certain it doesn't do it on purpose...

So here's the fruit of our "salon" visit - which entailed about 30 minutes in front of the hallway mirror, with Olivia sitting on a stool with a towel wrapped around herself, me with a pair of kitchen scissors (our general sharps broke recently after a nasty run-in with a coffee can - don't ask), and Elsie trying her hardest to roll, scoot, and crawl away:



Oh, and Olivia asked me to share this photo, too.