Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Cost Associated with Raising My Baby (for my next team meeting)

I would like to present you with a figure that shows the comparative categorical costs of raising my newborn to the present toddler-state.

All values have a very large amount of error. And I haven’t even been drinking. You will have to supply your own laser pointer.

I realize it’s been awhile since I gave you an awesome chart. This probably isn’t that awesome. Sorry.

Anyway, my point is: Babies aren’t cheap. What’s more, what WE have spent is artificially low because our kid has extremely indulgent grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties, cousins, family friends, and a sizeable fan club who never seem to tire of giving her things she needs, wants, never knew she wanted but now can’t live without… I didn’t have to buy a crib, or a lot of toys, or nursery bedding.

Also, I like to think that I have been somewhat clever on my baby-related spending. I got several things used, I use cloth diapers, I used my bank’s reward points to buy my Ergo baby carrier, and I wisely had a baby who didn’t want to use bottles or pacifiers! Go me!

I sorta thought this chart up as a testament to how little I’ve had to spend due to my generous benefactors and my cost-cutting talent, but as I put it together and tried to think about how much we’ve spent over the last almost 2 years, I am kind of amazed at how much it is AFTER all that.

It’s just about $6500. That’s almost 8 pairs of Louboutins.

Good thing I wouldn’t trade my little Cheesybread for any less than 20 pairs.

Baba Ganoush

There is a Jewish market across town that sells respectable baba ganoush, but I haven’t made it over that way in awhile. The grocery store chooses to sell something labeled “baba ganoush” but I’m fairly convinced it’s very bland hummus mixed with paste.

I miss the Greek restaurant in my old neighborhood of NYC that had absolutely amazing baba ganoush. It was so much more flavorful and rustic. So, I tried to make it myself.

The result was excellent! I will no longer have to stoop to dip disappointment! I welcome you all to experience this liberation!

Baba Ganoush

(makes about 2.5 cups)

2 medium-sized eggplants, sliced into 1 inch discs and halved
1/4 cup tahini (or 1/4 cups sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil)
1 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 large bulb garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of ground black pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut your eggplant and rub each piece with olive oil, generously, and place on a oiled or nonstick baking sheet.

2. Roast eggplant pieces in the oven for 20-30 minutes until they are completely tender, golden on the surface, and the skins are blackened. Also, wrap your garlic bulb in aluminum foil with a tiny drizzle of olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove both from oven and let cool.

3. Scrape your eggplant centers off their skins into a food processor (or a large mixing bowl). To your eggplant, add salt, lemon juice, roasted garlic pieces (you can squeeze them out of their skins easily), cumin, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, pepper, and parsley. Mix until uniform in your processor or in your bowl with a masher or immersion blender.

4. Season to taste with additional salt and lemon juice, if desired. Chill, in sealed containers, for an hour or two. You can save some in the freezer for later and keep some in the fridge for now! Serve with pita and sliced vegetables like cucumber or peppers.

NB: I have found that several recipes suggest that you can grill your eggplant to achieve roasted-ness. So, if you’re breaking out the grill soon, keep this recipe in mind.

Yes, but can you SAY it?

I have a mild amount of concern about my late-talker toddler: something between strong awareness and greatly worried. She’s just not talking in the same way she’s learned other skills. She’s good at identifying many things, she is pretty good at communicating her desires by pointing, making sounds, giving me looks… She’s very adept at getting worked up while pointing like I’m a complete idiot who doesn’t understand what she wants. I have told her that she should probably just SAY something instead of pointing harder, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

But still, the word count remains low. If I’m generous, she says about 7 words. She hasn’t added any new words in over a month. What is more alarming, she doesn’t make a lot of sounds anymore either. I haven’t heard her say “c” or “k” clearly, in awhile. Or “g” now that I think about it. She used to say “g” all the time. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard “s” or “w” or “l.”

On one hand, everything I’ve read says that it’s still too early to really panic about a late talker. On the other hand, I keep seeing things that suggest that kids should have at least 20 words in their vocabulary by now or else they should see a speech therapist.

Conveniently, my mom is a speech therapist. She remains unworried. Should I be worried that she’s not worried? Probably!

I have tried to get a little pushy, lately, and I can get her to make an “n” sound if she really wants to nurse. And she’s happy to point out any and all dogs when she sees them by saying “da.” But she also says “da” for “that” and “dad” so…

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted if there are any remarkable changes. In the meantime, I’ll just be working on my “concerned” face.

20 Domestic Demon Tips

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of Deity, when in fact the thing that is WRONG with my dwelling is most likely that I dwell in it and make messes of all sorts. Also, the cat. [Sidelong glance across the room. Cat yawns and walks away.]

But I know that blog readers love household tricks like toddlers love cellphones, so I’m going to attempt to give you my list, as totally uninspired as it may be. And just for reference, I’m not taking ideas from any other blog because then why would you be here? You could just go there?

1. To rescue white clothes (not synthetic fibers) from yellowing due to age or stains, you can soak them in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, then pour off all the liquid but leave the clothes still wet and place them in a plastic garbage bag and tie it shut tightly. Let this sit for 24 hours and then run the clothes through a regular wash cycle. They will have a new life. You can’t do this TOO often, because bleach damages the fibers, but it’s good once in awhile.

2. If you simply can’t get a stain out of an otherwise good piece of light-colored, natural-fiber clothing, consider dyeing it with fabric dye that you can buy at most craft stores. It’s cheap and pretty easy and most stains will disappear under the new color. (Notable exception, oil stains may not.)

3. After cooking, when your skillet is really dirty, add dish soap and hot water while the pan is still hot on the stove and let it sit there on the turned-off burner. The heat and soap gets the de-griming action going faster for later washing.

4. To get an enameled pot or pan really clean after many uses, you can scrub it with powdered laundry detergent and water. This takes of months of stains and build-up.

5. Old toothbrushes make excellent scrub brushes for around sink hardware and along grout. Just spray the with cleaning product and go to work.

6. Speaking of teeth, toothpaste and a toothbrush is the best thing to use to clean pearls.

7. My sister told me that to clean a bad-smelling suitcase (the fabric kind), you can wet it down with vinegar and water and let it sit for a few hours and then rinse it off with water. After they dry, they will smell fresh. It works pretty well!

8. Don’t throw away your dry cleaner bags or the hangers/pins/clips. Take them back to the dry cleaner! I hate throwing away plastic, knowing that it will spend 100,000 years in a landfill. Most dry cleaners I’ve used, are happy to reuse hanger, pins, clips, and undamaged plastic clothing bags. If they won’t accept these things, many plastic bag recycling bins will also accept clear bags and metal hangers can be recycled with metals in most places. Check your local recycling guidelines for details. And if you CANNOT recycle the clear plastic bags, save a few now and then to use as drop cloths for painting, crafts, or under messy projects.

9. When packing up clothes for long-term storage, be sure that everything has been recently washed (on HOT if possible) and dried thoroughly. If you suspect a stain, be sure to treat that area well before the last wash. After the clothes have gone the drier, give them time to dry from the humidity of the drier as well, before folding. Layer the folded clothes with fabric softener sheets periodically in your storage container to keep them fresher. All of this goes for Space Bags as well.

10. Large size plastic salad shells from the grocery store, when washed out and stripped of their labels, make excellent storage boxes for shoes and flip flops.

I use this one!

11. Chocolate truffle boxes also make nice earring and necklace storage.

12. Keep your fine silver jewelry stored in small ziplocks, with the air pressed out, just like the jewelry shops do. Use silver polish only when necessary, as the oxidized silver layer gets stripped off, leaving a new layer silver to be oxidized.

13. Tights, nylons, and other garments made of spandex or lycra can become brittle when dry, so if you haven’t worn them in a long time, put them in a steamy bathroom before putting them on to avoid tears, runs, and snags.

14. It is best to iron cotton shirts while still slightly damp rather than drying completely first.

15. Alcohol will make glass streak free if you pour it over the surface to rinse off the surface. This is useful when you are trying to make stemware absolutely sparkle. The alcohol will evaporate and leave the surface clear without any wiping or towel drying. You need to use 70% ethanol or ethyl alcohol or higher. As a bonus, you’ll also sterilize your glass.

16. To ripen hard avocados, put them in a bag with an apple and tie shut. A day or so on the counter will make them ripe and ready to eat.

17. Instead of recycling all glass jars (from things like pickles and sauces), save some, scrub off the labels, and use them to store things you buy in bulk or that come in non-reclosable plastic bags. You can even put a nice label on the new jar or paint the lid so that it looks nicer.

18. Keep nuts from going bad by storing them in the freezer.

19. Store fresh herbs that are on stems like you would cut flowers, in a vase of water on the counter, instead of in the fridge.

20. Most glues and inks will dissolve in acetone, so if you have a stubborn label or ink stain, you can try nail-polish remover. Just be careful not to use it on silver, or polystyrene, which will cloud.

Has this blog discussed boobs enough yet?

May I please have my boobs back though?

I have been nursing so long now that I am starting to forget what it was like to wear a normal bra, a shift dress, have a day where I don’t have to hold still and have someone chew on me for an hour or longer.

I can’t really say how many times my daughter nurses in one day, thanks for asking Dr. Pediatrician. It varies greatly. Today? It was about 700 times. I know this because around 2pm, I pretty much gave up rehooking my bra tabs. Other days, I start to feel optimistic that we’re almost done because she’ll go most of the day without demanding it.

And she never “requests,” she demands.

Occasionally, I can distract her (Squirrel!) or bribe her with a sippy or a real cup of cold water or milk. We don’t give her any kind of juice and I almost never refuse to let her nurse if she absolutely insists after these tricks.

And I’m a huge sucker (or is it suckee?) in the morning when I just want to sleep a little longer and I know that she’ll just stay in bed with me for a little while if I just give her boob access. Partly this is due to her waking up too early and if she won’t go back to sleep, the whole day is miserable. But a lot of it is just me, being tired.

I haven’t completely decided to quit cold turkey, and I am pretty sure I couldn’t do that anyway. I have successfully eliminated nursing between bedtime and about 5am, so that’s something I guess. I fully expect it will take until she’s 2 to wean. After 2, then we’ll have to reassess the situation and I may have to start getting a bit more pushy. By which, I mean making my husband dress up like Elmo and run into the room every time she demands to nurse.

Day to day grind

“Any idiot can handle a crisis, it’s the day to day that wears you out.”

This quote is all over the internets, attributed to Anton Chekhov, but nowhere can I or this other blogger find the original source of it. I agree that it certainly SOUNDS like Chekhov, but it probably isn’t.

That being said, it’s a good one.

As the former Queen of Procrastination, I like to think that I’ve really honed my crisis-timecrunch-deadline solving abilities. I spent most of my academic years trying to find new ways to make myself better at doing more with less time. How motivated of me, right?

If my mom is reading this, she should probably stop right now.

I once turned a paper in two years late. Oh yes.

By the time you turn something in THAT late, you basically have no motivation to work on it, and at the same time you know it has to be so totally amazing and perfect that you have created a perfect storm for procrastination: no clear end, impossible to do. By the time you have a real deadline (I’d like to graduate please), you are having a minor stroke every hour until you get it and many other things that have piled up completed. My diploma should have actually have a footnote that I minored in Practical Procrastinology.

Joke’s on me. After all that edifying crisis-solving, I find out what takes REAL talent is adeptly enduring the daily slog through the rote, trivial stuff. Like diapers, making lunch, washing dishes, reading “Hop on Pop,” or picking stuff up off the floor. I guess this is why they say parenthood is the hardest job? Very little about it, at this age anyway, is all that intellectually challenging (though, boy does it help to have a background in science), but it is all. day. every. single. day. And kids love repetition. Every warm-blooded animal on earth manages to “parent” in some small way, even if that means not eating your babies. So when I say, a monkey can do this, I mean it literally. Is it difficult to amuse, dress, entertain, and nourish a little kid? Only sometimes. Is it difficult to do this every day to the exclusion of all else that makes you feel like a person with their own life? Of course.

But so much more is expected of us, of our kids, so it’s not as simple as being a wire-monkey mother (an interesting research study on physical contact used these). You do have many minor crises along the way as well as the pressure to optimize all aspects of childhood so that your kids can excel in life. But after washing out the same cup for the 50th time this week, I wonder if maybe a house monkey wouldn’t be so bad…

Aging out of Toys

One year and many toys ago...

A few months ago, I took many of my daughters infant toys and put them in a bag to take the donation place. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been there yet. I have a few bags of clothes, some other things, and so it’s not particularly fun for me to haul all this stuff on the subway and then down several blocks, so it gets put off and off…

A couple days ago, my toddler discovered said bag of infant toys. Now, these are the BEST TOYS EVER CREATED. She won’t let me put take them back. I know some of these were old favorites, but come on. She can’t be THAT misty about memories of being 3 months old and chewing on something, right?

Apparently, I was wrong.

She has carried a few of them around for hours. She tried to throw one of them in the shower with me. She spent a great deal of time with me on the bed trying to get me to make the sounds of the animals on her old rattle. I’m never entirely sure what a hippo is supposed to say, I’ve always just done “roar, blurbp, blurbp” like it’s roaring and then going underwater? The hippo onomatopoeia is not very formalized. The giraffe could use some help, too.

New Strategy: Leave these old toys out until she gets tired of them. Attempt to remove them, one by one, to a better hidden location and then get my crap together and get them out of the apartment with haste.

I already have a kind of toy-rotation going, but I think I’m going to go one step farther and actually hide more toys to take advantage of this absence-makes-the-toy-more-awesome phenomenon.

For Mothers of Daughters, 20 Ideas

Simone de Beauvoir writes at the beginning of “The Second Sex: The Formative Years,” that “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature.”

This is a complicated time to be a girl. Gender norms are falling in so many ways, yet some weird, mutant form of sexism keeps hanging on. Women enjoy greater freedom now than ever before, but we are a mere 3 or 4 generations away from not being able to vote. In the span of human history, that’s just a flicker.

There is a very challenging balancing act facing our daughters; how do they live unconstrained by their sex, in a world that hopes to be post-gender while still stumbling, but still celebrate their femininity in whatever way they feel most comfortable? How do we best prepare them for this? I’m not sure I know how I’m going to do this, but I have been thinking about it quite a bit and here’s what I’ve come up with. I hope you’ll appreciate these suggestions, created mainly for myself, and maybe with hopes that they’ll help you, too.

20 Ideas For Mothers of Daughters:

1. Provide her with a wide selection of toys and activities, not just girl-centric once and not just gender-neutral ones either. Being progressive about gender roles means being open to more, not selecting less.

2. Show her movies that meet the Bechdel Test (film has at least 2 named women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man). You’d be surprised how few movies pass this test.

3. Teach her manners that are less about being a little “lady” and more about being a considerate person.

4. Give her books and stories about women who achieved remarkable things, not just things that are/were impressive simply because a woman did them, but accomplishments that stand on their own.

5. Share your makeup tips, hair care tricks, play with nailpolish, etc. But don’t push her into using beauty products nor bar her from them entirely. Makeup is a creative outlet, a way to convey a message, a tool to highlight your features, but it’s not the point of life and shouldn’t get in the way of living and creating.

6. Don’t make fun of her body, criticize her features, or tell her her looks are a limitation.

7. Be honest about periods. Don’t get too precious or too dramatic about them. They are neither a big deal nor a shameful secret.

8. Get excited about the good things she’s exited about, even if they aren’t things you have ever been interested in or all that comfortable with.

9. Stand up to sexual discrimination and sexism wherever and whenever you see it. Make sure that she knows that unfairness doesn’t ever have to be tolerated.

10. If beauty is more than looks, reflect that position in your actions and words.

11. Compliment her for her perseverance, her creativity, her intelligence more often than you do her appearance.

12. Don’t fight over hair styles, hair accessories, all the time. Unless it’s picture day, if her hair is clean and does not actually look like a rat-nest, let it go.

13. For the love of everything that is holy, remember to vote. Take her with you and vote, if you can. Promote women in politics. Take issues that affect women seriously and stay involved. Talk about them when she’s able to understand.

14. Take her for a fun and extremely helpful bra fitting when that day comes. Too many women are spending too many years in the wrong bras. It’s madness.

15. Talk about what matters in a boyfriend, girlfriend, or any friend.

16. Share embarrassing stories of your youth. It helps to not feel like you’re the only weird one.

17. Know that she is not you. Her life is not yours to control, to live vicariously through, or to correct your own mistakes.

18. Never believe that insane logic that “if she hates you, you are doing it right.” Even when she’s a teenager. Give her more credit than that.

19. Get into math! I know this probably seems weird, but mathematics is such a fundamental part of education and to do well in it relies so much on confidence. Far too often, girls are allowed to slip slowly behind and it’s so damaging to their self-image. Start early, be vigilant, and have fun with the subject, even if you hated it.

20. Keep other women around that make her stronger, smarter, and more loved. The ones that don’t, beat them off with pointy sticks.

Rice Noodle Soup

Pinterest is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Let me take that down a notch. Pinterest is probably the best thing that has ever happened to my recipe card box but the worst thing to have happened to my kitchen and sleep habits.

I saw a caption that someone pinned that said “Honey, could you order a pizza? I have been too busy pinning healthy recipes on Pinterest to make dinner.” I would have included this image here, but I didn’t pin it and now it has disappeared from the current top pins. That’s how fast this stuff moves, people! It’s built for insomniacs with ADD. I have considered no less than 50 projects in the last hour, ranging from harmless little kids’ crafts to large-scale ceramics. Because what my apartment REALLY needs is a potters wheel and 100 lbs of clay.

Anyway, so when my husband gets home, I have about an hour to look at my laptop and go “oh, shiny!” and then go make dinner. Sometimes the shiny stuff wins, so it helps to have some recipes that while they won’t get you Top Pins on Pinterest will, however, result in dinner, with vitamins, and flavor, in under 10 minutes.

I know that all these ladies on TV with their 30 minute meals and their “this only takes a few minutes” have really dominated this speed-cooking topic, but they are all full of lies. I’m talking to you like a real person. A person who doesn’t wants to dirty more than one dish, one knife, and wants to be done with the whole dinner ordeal as fast as possible without contributing to your Vitamin A deficiency.

To that end, I give you:

Rice Noodle Soup

1 package of rice noodles
1 box (2 cans) of vegetable broth
6-8 baby bok choy
1 small piece of fresh ginger (~1 tablespoon), sliced
1 cup enoki mushrooms (or oyster, whichever you prefer)
2 medium carrots
1/2 cup firm tofu, diced
Chili garlic sauce like Sriracha or similar

1. Start your vegetable broth boiling in a saucepan on medium-high. Add your sliced ginger.
2. As soon as you get to a boil, add your noodles. Rice noodles cook in a ridiculously short amount of time, so have all your other ingredients out and ready for action.
3. As soon as your rice noodles have started to soften, toss in your tofu, the mushrooms, and the bok choy. You don’t have to cut the bok choy if you don’t want to, but I cut off the bottoms so the leaves would separate and cook faster.
4. Cover your pot and wait like 1 full minute.
5. Shred or use a zester tool to create thin carrot strips over your soup. Stir these in and go grab some bowls. By the time you get your bowls and your chopsticks ready, your soup will be done.
6. Divide out your noodles and veggies and things sort of evenly over your bowls and then pour the broth over them. Serve with chili garlic sauce that can be added to taste.

Serves 2 adults and one very happy noodle-baby, in UNDER 10 MINUTES.

To my 18 month old

To my 18 month old,
A couple weeks ago, you and I were waiting for the train and an elderly lady came over to say hello to you. You were very bored because there was a problem with the trains and we had been waiting a long time on this platform. You were acting very silly, as you do when you are overtired and bored. This lady was quite entertained by your dancing and spinning in circles. When you stopped, she talked to you and asked if you liked to dance. I asked you to tap your toes. You did. And then you clapped and spun around like the beginning of a book you love and gave her a big smile. She was totally charmed.

You have that effect on people.

I see less of your baby-ness and more of your kid-ness every day. Once in a while, I even catch oh-so-brief flickers of grownup-ness. You are great at holding my hand and getting on and off escalators and subways. You hold the pole in the train yourself and it’s just about the cutest thing ever. You still love baths and books, you still have impossibly soft cheeks. But you have lost your baby laugh and your hair is getting so long. You can put on your own shoes and (almost) pants. You’re great at giving hugs and kisses. I will always miss your big baby kisses, but now, you are really using them to show affection so, they mean much more to me.

You have many different games and toys you really like now. You’re crazy about your big, stuffed, brown and white cow; you always want to dance with your dad and the cow at the same time. Your cow is often the first thing you ask for in the morning. Your library continues to grow and you are very independent at selecting your own book and bringing it to us. You’ve been skilled page-turner for a long time, but now you also are excellent at pointing out all the details on each page when we ask. You love pointing out babies, pandas, and cats. Your favorite books right now are probably the Knuffle Bunny and Pigeon books. But you also still love many of your old favorites. You have another book you really enjoy called “Press Here” and you follow all the instructions so well. You can do almost ALL the instructions in your “Elmo Says” book, too. You “walk like a cat” with the best of them.

You have started eating better. You like edamame, peas, beans, cheese, pita, broccoli, leafy greens, quiche, and all kinds of dips. However, you adore cookies and noodles and any kind of fruit. I think your top favorites are watermelon, strawberry, blueberry, and mango. You would eat fruit all day if I let you.

Sometimes, when you are calm, contemplative, and staring off into the distance, you are so beautiful that I can’t believe I’m your mama. How lucky am I? When you are being sneaky or silly, you are just so cute. You are a lovely and captivating dancer. You impress me all the time with how much you understand. You nod yes, and shake your head no, and sometimes you say a very quiet “yeah yeah” when you mean yes. But you always shake your head very deliberately for “no.” You say “mama,” “dada,” “duck,” “dog,” “bye bye” and “cat” quite well, but not much more.

I can’t wait for you to start talking!

Your dad and I are constantly impressed with how much you know, how quick you are to figure things out, how funny you can be, and how absolutely beautiful and adorable you are. The way you smile when you wake up and are still sleepy but you see something funny, the look you get when you really want something and we finally figure out what it is and ask you and you nod and say “mmhmmm mmhmmm” with total seriousness as if we are the ones who just don’t get it, the open-mouthed, wide-eyed breathlessness when you are really wound up, all of these looks are so you, so temporary, and so precious to us.

I love you like I’ve always loved you and I will miss you at 18 months like I will miss you at any age, but darling, when you’re all grown up, remember that there was once a time that I carried you all over town, danced with you while waiting for the subway, made you snacks, told you that I loved you, but still had not heard you say anything about it. I’m standing in the long, evening shadows of your baby-ness now, and I’m sad to see that light fade. But I know that soon you will find your voice and what a day that will be. I am so exited for it to begin. Just let me sleep in a little first!

Your Mama