Thursday, May 28, 2009

From Nap to Rest to Alone Time -- we are working on sleep shifts

Today I told Silas that rather than sleeping during rest (he long ago announced nap no longer was nap but "rest"), he could play quietly in his room (which is, of course, the laundry closet) and read books. No, I explained, I cannot read them to you because this is alone time. At 1:00, everyone has alone time -- Eden in her room, Mommy in her room, Silas in his room. And today for alone time, you don't have to sleep. When kids get a little older, they stop sleeping during rest and just play, like Gracie (who is 5).
What does Hudson (Grace's brother who's a month older than Silas) d0?
Well, he must have alone time too in his room.
No, he does not. He sleeps.
Oh. Well, you get to have alone time and not sleep.

A fair question is why in the world I am ushering Silas into napless-ness. I've asked myself the same thing. Especially, as Jen pointed out today, after working his whole life to help him fall and stay asleep.

It's because of the post-9:00 bedtime. We put Silas in bed by 7:30 or 8 (but I've noticed it's a little later every night since we know he won't really sleep) and then listen. Footsteps to the bathroom. Footsteps back. Involved stories and questions aloud. More footsteps. Resettling. Singing. And then the calling begins. He calls for me. And calls for me. And asks to change his shirt because he's hot, or to have me tickle his back one MORE time, or for water, or for a kiss, or to come down stairs and eat some yogurt at the table (but Mama, I'm fee-wing (feeling) wike having some yogurt at the table right now, that's what I'm fee-wing wike -- and again we have the conversation about how we don't always get to do everything we fee-ew like doing), he asks for another kiss, for a story, for---

What a glorious day it will be when Silas, once again, falls onto his pillow at 7:30 and sleeps deeply until dawn (which would also mean the end of night wakings -- a whole separate subject! -- which I'm hoping will somehow disappear when the nap does so that the house will be hushed from dusk to dawn and I will remember what it is to sleep soundly night after night. Is that so much to ask?)

As I am writing this, I can't help but notice that "alone time" has become suspiciously silent. In fact, I am pretty sure that 20 minutes in to it, alone time has become deep slumber. Yes, it definitely has.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lost -- in the house and on the screen

So here I am, one day home, with 5 loads of clean laundry piled on my bed and another in the dryer, with bottles and dishes to wash, groceries to put away, shoes to throw in the closet, a stroller with a flat tire to repair, two books to finish reading, and a couple of letters to write -- it's really a bit much.

So instead, I'm going to flop onto my couch and watch LOST, season 1. (I started mid-season 3 so I have some catching up to do). And I'm pretty sure that once I start, this may be the only thing l I do with every free moment I have for the next couple of weeks. So if you don't hear from me, I'm probably here watching hours upon hours of LOST. And probably dreaming about Jack and Kate and Sawyer as if they're really my friends, because I'll probably believe they are.

Leaving the Babes Behind

In a few days, Ben and I will have been married for 9 years. Amazing. Time becomes more and more mysterious in its pacing, and after talking to my dad this weekend who cannot believe he is nearly 70 (!) nor that he has been married for nearly 35 years, it appears that time will only become more breath-taking in its speed. To celebrate, Ben and I traveled to Paris!

A few days before we left, I took the kids to DC to stay with the grandparents. Not news, but it is SO MUCH WORK to leave children! First there was the task of PACKING -- packing all of their things for 10 days in DC, packing for my time in DC, my time in Paris, our time on the plane, my time on the plane without kids (glorious day!) -- on and on. Once we got to DC there was the business of buying groceries, making notes about schedules and sleep, coordinating the 2 sets of grandparents, and -- most importantly -- preparing Silas for my going away.

Though Silas transitions pretty smoothly, he also likes to know what the plans are. (I just spend an hour looking at my calendar -- I can't imagine where he gets this...)

I had some anxiety (ok, lots of anxiety) about leaving him. This is a boy who at this moment in time LOVES his mama. Would be be all right???

A wise therapist friend suggested that I make Silas a book about our separation -- lay out for him what would happen, where we'd be, where he'd be, when we'd come back together etc. A physical book would also serve as a transitional object for him -- something he could keep/hold/carry for security.

So I made a book and gave it to him 2 days before we left.
He read it a lot.
Both making it and reading it to him reassured me too...

Here are pictures of it:
(I also made one for him when I went to Boston for the weekend, which was much simpler and less colorful and he loved it just as much)

Saturday, May 23, 2009


From time to time people ask what Silas's and Eden's personalities are like. I always talk around the question until it seems like I've talked for long enough and then change the subject.

How lame am I that I don't know their personalities?

Recently I read a parenting book that gave a list of personality traits and made me realize that part of the problem is I have no language to describe personalities, for example, does your child have an easy or difficult time with transitions? Who knew that transition-response was a personality trait? What's your husband like? Well, Ben's really good at transitions.

But as I've thought about it, this does seem to be a good question. First we have Silas, a child who walks into school, sees orange play dough and a garlic press, and forgets that I'm still standing behind him. Then there is Eden, who when handed to different person (doesn't matter who the people are) immediately becomes little floppy noodle and arches away in protest. Difficulty with transitions? Too soon to tell.

And, then, there's me. It's not that I don't like change, it turns out, but that I don't like the process of moving into change -- yes, transition.

For example, right now I am sitting at a dining room table in a beautiful beach house in Corona del Mar with my mom, dad, sister, Ben, Silas and Eden (who thankfully are sleeping) listening to big tumbling waves crash out there in the darkness. This is the 4th night I've been here but, as things would go, it's really the first night I have been here. The previous three were transition. So here I am, ready to settle in for the week, just in time to pack up and drive home. For another transition.

In the Morning Kitchen (not to be confused with In the Night Kitchen, one of SIlas's favorite books)

(I just posted this entry but it came up in April 2nd so I'm posting it again here)

Oh, mornings.

I've always been a morning person. The women in my family for decades have awakened early and savored the soft pocket of time before anyone else wakes.

But mornings alone and mornings with small children are different beasts. And the definition of "morning" tends to be different too.

Today, Eden woke up hungry at 5:45, and by 6, Silas was calling for me. We piled them both in our bed, pretending we could buy a few more minutes of sleep. As usual all we got was wiggling, little bodies inexplicably edging us almost off the mattress and wild elbows and knees hitting our eyes, noses, and chins.

So down we went.

Eden sat in her high chair squinting at the lights and squeezing banana in her fists. Silas knelt on a chair scooping up spoonfuls of oatmeal and asking incessantly for the rice krispie treats we made for school. And I stood at the counter holding a hot mug, watching them.

I have been wanting to make bread for weeks now. The thought of kneading and punching down the airy dough, of shaping a loaf, of watching it rise and brown, and of eating my own warm bread has been calling.

So I reached for my binder of recipes and flipped through the pages:

-Lucy's Basic Bread -- Lucy, my mom's long-haired-Montessori-teacher friend who never had children and always baked bread, who now lives somewhere in the Northwest, who was always beautiful, appealing, and inaccessible, who drove across country with my mom and a huge brown bag of buttery popcorn.

-Auntie Anne's Baguette -- my white-haired Minnesotan great-Aunt, who is sweet, full of faith and looks just like Mrs Claus (and whose husband may as well BE Santa)

-Gail Mott's Porridge Bread -- for years, Annemarie and I filed through the Mott kitchen door with coats and bags and textbooks (and now toddlers) and pried lids off round tins of cookies or hunted for a wax paper-wrapped loaves of banana bread. Most of my favorite baking recipes are Gail's.

I decided on Gail Mott's Porridge Bread, and beat my tiredness into the dough on the counter, folding it and folding it as I added at least 3 more cups of flour than the recipes called for to get rid of the stickiness (somehow, the bread was still good).

Later in the day, I came across the blog The Wednesday Chef, which sparkles and inspires. Her entry from March 30th, which is below, hummed right to me:

Sunday morning, pad quietly into the kitchen. Kettle on, cupboards open. Pull out the box of cake flour, just the right amount still in the bag, the bottle of inky molasses, soda, baking powder. Two eggs from the fridge, cold and smooth in my hands; spices from the freezer, their bottles frosting immediately in the warm kitchen.

Baking first thing in the morning, before the first cup of tea, before opening the door to get the paper, before even being entirely awake, is one of life's small pleasures. One of my life's small pleasures. I love the silent, solitary work in the kitchen, the concentration, the satisfaction at seeing a few simple ingredients come together under my hands and blossom into something else entirely.

It so happens that the best recipes for this kind of early morning venture are plain and homey ones. They have to be. I'm not interested in four-layer cakes at 9:00 am on a Sunday, or in rolled fondant, or pastry cream. What I revel in making are recipes that dirty just one bowl, that surprise you with their ease, that come laden with history, the knowledge that they've been made a hundred thousand times before, in thousands of kitchens, by thousands of slightly sleepy home cooks who don't have the luxury to worry about whether or not the cake will rise or turn out as it should.

Monday, May 04, 2009

a little note about Coarse Sea Salt

Coarse sea salt works well on many things (on a steak, in guacamole), but proves to be particularly delicious on vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, sliced bananas, and pecans...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wouldn't Ignorance Be Bliss? (some thoughts about our world and roles)

A few things I've been thinking about:

*Local or Organic?

I've been particularly conscious of organic produce for a while now (as many of us have). Most of the groceries stores close by have either small organic selections or very pricey ones, so I've become faithful to the farmers' market (oh how I love tables of honey jars, cartons of eggs, heaps of onions, apples, bunches of beets). I started going for less expensive organic produce and because it became a Saturday morning ritual with Silas, which always involves a cup full of kettle corn.

In my wallet I carry a little chart that Cooking Light published in their April 2009 issue of the top 5 fruits and vegetables that are must-have-organics and skip-organic, so I keep that in mind too. Here's their list:

Buy Organic:
-potatoes (root vegetables in general)
-bell peppers

Skip Organics and Save Money:

My main motivator for buying organic is to reduce (or avoid) the pesticides and chemicals we put in our mouths, and especially that I put into my children's mouths. It always seemed to me better to buy organic at a store than not-organic at the farmers' market. But after talking to some of the farmers and reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I learned that many of the small farmers are not certified organic (there are many hoops to jump through for the official stamp) but DO grow their produce chemical-free. This is good to know.

Another thing I learned is how exceedingly important buying local is for our farmers, for our economy, and for reducing waste (oil and other). I never really realized that before. So the question of whether to buy organic in the store or not-organic at the market has changed for me. So much so that I spend my time at the grocery store constantly reading labels to see where the milk farm is, where the eggs were laid, where the avocados were grown etc.

So I'm buying Local (more). Which often kills two birds with one stone because local usually means small farm, which usually means friendly, natural farming methods.

Oh heavens.
I have written about this before because I am haunted by garbage and by our consumption.

Not long ago, I bought Silas the book Where does all the Garbage Go?, and every time we read it, I wish I didn't have to think about the answer! According to the book, each of us produces about FOUR POUNDS of trash PER DAY. Even if we are generating only or a quarter of that, the math is astounding. And all that trash can only go so many places... (um, hello, WALL-E).

I've made some little steps in our house of much garbage -- finally (FINALLY!) I recycle -- why don't all counties swoop blue bins off the curb? And I am trying to be conscious of what I throw away, which -- the really hard part -- means being conscious of what I buy... I try asking if what I'm buying will end up in the trash within a year and if I could get it used (and without all the packaging) somewhere else. These are hard questions when I'm gearing up for plane rides and will buy ANYthing to entertain, or when it's Saturday morning and time to go garage sale-ing, but it's time for Eden's nap, Silas slept badly and is crabby, Ben wants to surf, and I would love a coffee.

As for composting, another thing I'd like to try, I haven't yet. Ben, because he is Ben, thinks we should skip buying the $275 composter and make our own, which sounds clever and thrifty, but could quickly become a bin of pungent rotting food on the back deck. Any suggestions?

On a slightly more empowering note, Ben sent me an email recently about the 3/50 Project
which is a project for supporting local businesses. The bottom line is this: pick 3 local businesses you love and spend $50 at each per month. The impact sounds worth it -- check out the website!

I am going to try to do this -- will let you know how it goes.

As always, there is so much to change and challenge in our world. And there is so much that's easy to ignore (or not ask questions about). It's overwhelming, really. So I am trying to remember -- and believe -- that teeny actions like putting recycling bins on my back deck and noticing my trash (does noticing count?) matter.

Is there anything you are trying to notice?