Friday, March 27, 2009

To see afresh

Last night Silas and I sat on the couch for "feshul" (special) time.
He eyed my laptop: "I want to write letters. Green letters."
So I opened a Word document and put the computer on his lap.
Using his pointer finger he carefully picked a letter.

"v v v"
"Lots of v's!"
"What does this button do?"
"Try it"
(a back slash)

After he had typed for a bit, his page looked like this:


He paused, leaned back and looked at what he'd made.
"It's a strawberry farm!"

Then we played with capslock -- big B little b,
J's, I's, then rows of I's:



He looked at the I's for a second: "I'm building something."

He typed more rows.

"What are you building?"

He looked up again.

"I'm building a wall:"


He built for a few more minutes and then was done.

Right now he is standing on my chair driving Percy the train on my head,
down my arm, occassionally down my face (this is met with some words...),
and saying, "Could you put Eden to bed now?" (he's the morning nap police)
and "I love you Mommy" which means, you just spoke in a stern tone.

He just looked up at the screen and said, "Oh, is that what I made?"

I'm going to try to be a little more like Silas and see strawberries in my Word documents. Here's the whole thing-

bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb BBBBBBBRBBRR


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Growing up, St. Patrick's Day was not a big day in my house. It was April Fool's Day when I squeezed green food coloring into the milk gallon. It was Valentines Day when I pulled out red t-shirts and meticulously added 3 extra candy hearts into my crush's envelope. But St. Patrick's Day was... a day for green socks? And a day when it was all right to pinch my brothers before they put green on.

I'm not sure whether it was after I drove a teeny car across Ireland on the left side of impossibly narrow roads, walled in by jagged stone, or whether it was after Ben and I moved to California and began to grow our own life, but at some point, we claimed this day as a festive one.

Like so many traditions I love, the heart of St. Patrick's day at our house is in the kitchen. Whether or not there are Lucky Charms for snack, green shoe laces, underwear, or button down shirts, there is always Corned Beef, Cabbage, Soda Bread and Beer. Silas still hasn't warmed up to the cabbage, but there is time.

Here are the recipes:

* * * * *
Corned Beef and Cabbage

First thing to say about making corned beef, is plan to be home for the afternoon.
A note about your cut of meat: the flat cut seems to be much more meaty and less fatty -- go for that one.

There are a few ways I have made my corned beef in the past. The easiest is to buy a pre-packaged slab of corned beef and follow the instructions printed on the label (which involves placing the meat in the pot, covering with water, bringing to a boil, adding spice packet, covering and simmering for 2-3 hours).
-During the last hour, add carrots, onion, parsnips etc. to the pot and re-cover
-During the last 15 minutes, add chopped cabbage leaves

If you plan to go it alone, here is a bare bones recipe:
-Preheat oven to 325
-Place 5 lb piece of beef in a pot
-Cover with water and ale (proportions are up to you -- 1/4 water, 3/4 ale works, 1/2-1/2 etc)
-Bring to a boil
-Once boiling, remove from heat, cover with foil and move to oven
-Cook one hour per 1 pound of meat
-During the last hour, simmer onions, carrots, parsnips or whatever other veggies you choose in broth
-30 minutes before you are done, glaze meat with a mixture of brown sugar and mustard
-15 minutes before it's done, add the cabbage (it cooks quickly)

* * * * *
Soda Bread

I'm a big fan of this recipe and would also recommend the bread made into scone-sized loaves and served with tea. Yum.

2 c flour
5 T sugar, divided
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
3 T butter, chilled and cubed
1 c buttermilk*
2/3 c raisins or currants

Whisk flour, 4 T sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
Add butter.
Rub the butter into the flour mixtures with your fingers until crumbly (fine crumbs)
Make a well in the middle and pour in buttermilk
Blend (don't over mix)
Add raisins
Scoop dough from bowl and on a cookie sheet, make it into a ball and flatten a bit.
Sprinkle with sugar (coarse sugar would be great)
Bake at 375 for about 35-40 minutes

*if you do not have any buttermilk, add a tablespoon of vinegar to a near-cup of milk and let stand for 5 minutes until it thickens -- that will suffice

* * * * *
Beer Bread (this year's addition -- thanks, Lindsay)

VERY important note about this recipe: use a dark beer or lager! If not, the bread will lack depth of flavor and richness.

3 c flour (gently spooned into measuring cup)
3 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/4 c sugar
1 12 oz dark beer
1/3-1/2 c butter, melted

Blend all ingredients except the butter.
Scoop sticky batter into loaf pan.
Pour melted butter on top (original recipe calls for 1/2 c, which is a lot and delicious -- 1/3 does wonders as well).

Bake at 375 for ~50 min.

And of course beer. Neither Ben nor I are not dark beer people, so instead of Guiness, we drink our light beer from cold bottles (and sometimes add a drop of green).

Next year, I am going to be sure to make a huge corned beef so that the following night we can eat this -- a recipe much more Irish, I think.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Well, my friend Jen showed up at the fairgrounds and waited in line with her 3 year old in the hot sun for an hour and a half, holding a place for me (bless her). As soon as my babysitter arrived I ran over, and within 3 minutes of finding Jen (or really 1 minute), a woman walked through the winding line that must have had well over 1,000 people in it, telling all of us toward the back to "enjoy the rest of your day" because all of the tickets were gone. Gone. Just like that.

I definitely underestimated Orange County.

As I meandered back to my car, past the hundreds of expectant remainders now waving "vouchers" (blank index cards) for the Town Hall Meeting tickets they would soon receive, I hovered longingly around those at the front, kicking up conversation. "Did you sleep here last night?" "When did you get here?" "Are you excited?" (to which there should only have been ecstatic jumping but wasn't) "Who are you going to give your 2nd ticket to?" "Would you accept my passport -- the only thing in my pocket -- for one of those vouchers?"

I tried to keep it in the road. I didn't do anything inappropriate. I didn't offer to buy anyone's ticket (though I eyed the group of 18 year old boys for a long time wondering if they REALLY cared or just camped out to sleep in the parking lot). I didn't get an index card from my car and try to blend. Instead, I walked away, feeling that I was missing something, that there still must have been some way to get a ticket.

Later in the afternoon, while I was driving Silas home from school, we passed a church's sign that I read aloud: "Welcome Mr. President"
"Why it say that?"
"Obama is coming HERE tomorrow, to Costa Mesa!"
"OH! I never seen Obama before."
"Yeah, me neither."
"Is he very nice?"
"Yes, he's very nice. He encourages people."
"He says, 'Yes we Can!'"
"Yes we can?"
"Yeah... YES WE CAN!"
"... kind of like Bob the Builder."
"Oh! 'Can we build it? YES WE CAN!' .. Yes we can. Uh-huh."

And that was our lesson of the day.

Now I am off to get corned beef cooking and mix up some soda bread because it is, after all, that day.

I will keep you posted about whether I pace Newport Blvd. tomorrow with my children in a stroller wielding signs like, "We love you Obama!" or "Sidwell Alum!" or "Come by 260 Victoria St. for Coffee!"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reports & Recommendations (and Obama) -- the posting of many links

Some Reports:

*First, let it be known that President Barack Obama is coming HERE to the OC Fairgrounds on Wednesday. Now for those of you who happen to live in the same city as this man every day of your lives, this may not seem like important news. However, for one who lives across the country from him in a land of very little political movement, I feel as though he rifled through a haystack, plucked me out, and said, "THERE you are!! I am going to come all the way to no-major-airport Costa Mesa to see YOU!"

*Second, I apparently am anticipating this event in my subconscious, too, because last night I dreamed I was driving down Wisconsin Avenue with Michelle talking about real estate and public vs. private schools on our way to go jeans shopping.

*Third (and then I will change topics), I am feeling mounting anxiety about HOW my shaking hands with and holding my children up to the man for a picture will transpire because both ticket distribution and town hall meeting (where he will appear) happen during nap times! CURSE NAP TIMES! (...wash my mouth out with soap, nap times are a gift from the heavens! but they do seriously cramp my fan club style)

*Fourth, I am in the midst of reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I love her -- that comment should be in the recommendation section) and feel the impulse, and responsibility, really, to cover our back deck with a vast (vast-ish) garden of carrot, cucumber, lettuce, herbs. Something drastic would have to change in the green thumb arena, though. I'm optimistic.

*Fifth, we are in the thick of colds once again. I have not tasted a single thing for 5 days. Literally. I told Ben the other day that Eden has been having huge dirty diapers but that they're odorless and that she must be digesting differently. Turns out I just haven't been able to smell for 5 days either.

*There are those days when raising kids full-time feels like a boondoggle, replete with trips to the beach, charming 3 year old quips, a quiet napping house, and "feshull" (special) time with Silas. And then there are days like today. Eden's nose has turned into a bubbling, dripping, oozing spigot. Silas can't get enough of his Mama and wanders around the house saying, in a nasal whine, "hold me, mommy, hold me mommy, hold me mommy." Naps-- well just forget it.

*I have started going to counseling for some revelation and direction, and am again convinced that ignorance indeed is bliss, just as the Underground Man suggested. But the problem persists that as soon as one draws that conclusion, one is aware of the bliss, and therefore the ignorance, and once she recognizes that ignorance, the nagging sense of there being more to know does away with the bliss all together... Ben and I were talking about this the other day. Is it worth digging in, unearthing, getting messy when everything functions as is? Is it worth finding out more if that more may shake your footing? And I think yes, if you are willing to stay on for the whole ride, it is.

Moving on to Recommendations:

-Molly Jenson's debut album just came out. Go buy it now!! You won't regret it. She is lovely, and her music is too.

-If you are one for food and cooking (or gorgeous writing) check out the blog Orangette
And also buy her new book A Homemade Life -- you may feel inspired to all of the sudden add candied ginger to your banana bread and to make french toast like you've never made it before.

-A decent cheap champagne, if you care to weave Champagne Thursday into your weekly rhythms, is Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry. (I am constantly on the look out for inexpensive sparkling wines/champagnes -- if you know of any good ones -esp dry ones- please leave a rec!)

-And why not buy yourself some TOMS (Ninja shoes as Max calls them)? -- they are comfy, come in a zillion patterns/colors, and when you buy one pair the company donates another (a hefty price for a donation, I know) AND the children's size shoes are a-dor-a-ble.

That's all I've got for today*

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Delirious Conversations (the perks of colds)

Colds suck. And all the late night waking sucks.

But there are little bright bits of yarn woven into the choppy nights: all the dreams (many of which involved the cast of Friday Night Lights because obviously in my subconscious I think we really are friends). The quiet whispering from the pillow next to me, "I wuv you." The little foot against my leg looking for contact. The conversations.

At some point last night, Silas became too tired to keep waking up, so each time he had to cough, he would sit straight up, cough and cry a little, but not fully wake. His eyes would roll a little and he'd pause as if he were searching for something to say:

Lie down Silas.
Shhhh, go back to sleep.
could ... you...?
His eyes rolled a little and he reached out his hand.
Could you... ?
Lie down, Silas.
He lay down, hand still out.
Could you... bite ... my finger?
I pretended to bite his little finger, the one he sucks that is covered with coughing disease.
He started to pull his hand back in -- then pointed again.
And kiss my finger?
I pretended to kiss his ET finger.
He held out his palm.
And kiss my hand?
He settled into the pillow.
I kiss my own hand holding his hand.
And then he was asleep.

Threats: take 2

I learn again and again how hard it is to bite my tongue at the peak of frustration and not hurl empty threats into the air like: "SO HELP ME SILAS! if you don't get your pants on RIGHT NOW you will NEVER leave this house again!! " (when on earth did I start saying "so help me,"?) I have been trying to curb these outbursts and instead say things that actually have meaning, to motivate with positive reinforcement, to redirect. But all of this is very hard.

I wrote about a low point in my threatening career when Silas was at the peak of I'm-2-and-have-a-new-baby-sister. Today I hit another low point when talking to Eden. Fortunately, she still isn't fluent in English, and I'm pretty sure she was unmoved.

It became clear as of 20 minutes ago, that I am weening Eden today. She has nipped me a couple of times as babies do, I've screamed, she's frowned the biggest frown, burst into tears in slow motion, and then finished nursing. But today, she rounded a corner and became an all-out repeat-offender biter. So nursing is done. Especially since after she bit me the fourth time, I yelled again and inadvertently whacked her little diapered bottom. And then laughed. I am not a spanker, but I can see how biting could drive me to it.

Anyway, once it became clear there would be no nursing today, I frowned at Eden, carried her downstairs, put her on the floor, grabbed a bag of frozen milk from the freezer, frowned again, saw that Eden looked concerned, flashed her a huge smile, thawed the milk, made a bottle and took her back upstairs.

I should add that the child has hardly eaten today, went to Disneyland (talk about sensory overload) AND missed her nap -- I expected her to gobble the bottle and instantly pass out -- and I really hoped she'd do both.

Instead, she bit the bottle, pulled it out of her mouth, looked at it, squirmed, wiggled, twisted, did back bends toward the window. I re-situated her, turned her around, said things like Come on, Eden... Here you go, Eden... Open your MOUTH, Eden... Come ON, Eden!... Put this BACK IN YOUR MOUTH, Eden!... COME ON!... And then -- EDEN!... YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO DRINK MILK AGAIN IF YOU KEEP ACTING LIKE SUCH A MAD WOMAN!

Sitting at the kitchen table an hour later, the house is FINALLY quiet. After talking and crying and yelling in her bed, sitting up and shaking the bars like a little trapped zoo monkey, Eden is asleep. Whew. And I think I will give her milk again later. And maybe even some oatmeal.

Colds -

I am sitting in the loft. My eyes itch. My nose is running. I can't hear anything. It feels like someone with big chubby hands is squeezing my face and head. I have Silas's cold.

Silas is in his room -- his and Eden's room! -- coughing in the dark. Despite the box's warning "NOT FOR CHILDREN UNDER 6 YEARS OF AGE," I just gave him some children's Dimetapp. His Dr's office suggested it (does that make it ok?), and I opted for sleep. I hope this is ok. I remember as a kid faking sick at night so I could drink the grape syrupy Dimetapp that lived in the narrow hall closed above the ironing board. And I've lived to tell about it. But I was probably older than 6.

This is one of the nights when going to bed feels exhausting -- the anticipation of hard sleep interrupted. And interrupted. And interrupted. A night like last night when Silas woke up so many times that I was sure it was almost morning -- the time when all of the fitful waking would end -- only to find it was 12:07 AM and so many hours still lay ahead. I am going to take some dimetapp too.

It is hard to dig deep in the night. To dig deep and meet a child's need with sweetness, kindness, care, when I feel so impatient that the child has needs at this hour. It's hard not to feel put out or to think about how tired I'll be at 6AM.

But that's my job, isn't it? To take CARE of. To think of Silas when he cries out or whimpers or coughs in the night, not of myself. To remember what it felt like to wake up in the night and want my mom. To remember what it felt like to have someone be patient with me, what it felt like to be received. To put myself, my tired self, aside. I had to will my whole body to remember this last night as I stroked Silas's hair for the millionth time and softened the irritation from my voice. The great life lesson condensed in a cold.