Under the wire…

How could I not post in a month?! How could I do it!!! To you of all people. I am a horrible person.

But here I am, getting it in just under the wire on this most important of all mommy-holidays. I have a million excuses, but they don’t matter. I have several posts I have been percolating and a few in draft form that I’m just not ready to share. Maybe June will be their month?

I’m ringing in my Mother’s Day with a midnight glass of Sicilian red something-or-other and wasabi peas. I have been packing to head to my in-laws from where I currently am residing, in my mother’s house, where my daughter has been soaking up the daily enrichment of yards, swing sets, sandboxes, children’s activities, gardening, and endless grandmotherly attention. It’s nice to let her go barefoot in the grass now and then. As long as there are no toads.

My daughter had her first horseback riding lesson last week and she did great! She has been excited to get back on a horse since her birthday party last summer. The stable that provided the horses for her party also gives lessons and her teacher this week seems to be a natural with little ones. She had a huge smile for the entire session and was totally fearless about helping to brush the horse off in the cross-ties. I was really proud of her and I hope she gets to do another lesson really soon.

Yesterday, she visited the Audubon Bird Sanctuary for their kids’ program and saw them tagging and releasing lots of little songbirds. She made a “nest” and learned about different kinds of birds’ nests. Then, she attended a Suzuki violin recital. She sat through all but the last THREE songs, so close! She liked hearing the kids play and it was hard to make her stop trying to hum along with the songs she recognized.

Now I’ve had enough wasabi peas that my eyes have started to water and my nose is running.

It’s also 3am, I should probably go to bed. Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow mamas, may you feel appreciated, get to brush your hair before leaving the house, find something you’ve been looking for over several weeks, whatever you need most.

How could you! I do it!

“You want to read a story? You do? Okay, come on, which one?”
“This one! George!”
“Okay, here we go.”
“NO NO NO, I do it!! I turn page!”
“I just opened the book, you can turn the pages.”
“NOOOOO I turn page!”
“I know, you can do it. I just opened the book. Here, I’ll close it and we can start over.”
“NO NO NO Mama, I doooo iiiiitttttttttt, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
“Calm down, take the book, what do you want to do?”
“You’ve ruined it mom, ruined it. I have been looking forward to cracking this particular volume of Curious George open all day and now I’ve clearly seen the title page and the mystery is gone. I’m crushed. Nothing can give me this moment back. I am so disappointed that you opened it without prior authorization. How could you?”

****

“Are you hungry? Do you want an orange or a banana?”
“Orange.”
“Okay hold on. I know you want to peel it, let me get a piece up for you to start.”
“AAAAAHHH NO NO I peel! I PEEL!!”
“Okay, you can peel, here!”
“Noooooo! I do it, I peel!”
“I just got it up for you, you can do the rest, I didn’t take any peel off!”
“WAAAAAHHHH I DO!”
“Do you want an orange or not?”
“Listen, lady. I am a big fan of oranges. Not only do I like their flavor and fun segmentation, I enjoy peeling them immensely. I frankly think the whole experience is ruined if you, as you say ‘start’ it for me. It’s part of my process. I cannot possibly enjoy this orange now. No, no.. another orange will not do. I will always know that this orange was MEANT to be my snack but was desecrated by your complete lack of consideration for my feelings. Really, how could you?”

****

“We need to go. Can you put on your shoes and coat?”
“I wear bunny hat!”
“Yes, you can wear your bunny hat, but put your shoes and coat on first.”
Wanders off.
“Excuse me, can you get over here and put this stuff on now?”
Nothing happens.
“Okay I’ll come put it on you so we can go.”
“NOOO! I put on shoes!! No mama.”
“You can put them on, I just need you to hurry!”
“No help me, I put them on. I PUT ON!!!”
“Okay I’ll stop helping, jeez. Can I put on your coat at least?”
“How dare you?! What do I look like? An infant?! I can clearly prepare myself for going out and maybe if you weren’t always springing these things on me I’d be more prepared. I distinctly remember that yesterday, I HAD my coat, boots, AND hat on and was ready to go downtown and waiting by the door and at THAT time you were all like ‘oh no, we aren’t going anywhere, you aren’t even wearing pants, blah blah blah,’ and you didn’t see ME trying to stuff you into a pair of rain boots and coat so we could get out. Oh no, I wouldn’t impose like that because I’m a reasonable person.”

****

“What are these pieces doing all over the floor?”
“I put there. I play.”
“We need to pick them up, come help me.”
Silence.
“Oh not so interested in ‘I do!’ anymore, huh?”
“Mama pick up!”
“I think you need to help.”
“Do you not know what your job is, mom? Are you unclear on what it entails? Perhaps you need an appointment with HR. Just pick up with stuff everywhere and leave my books and fruits alone. Got it? Oh, and get more of those Hello Panda things. Maybe they shouldn’t be kept so high up. Maybe I should handle snack storage from now on. You seem like you’re not keeping up with things. You better give me that ipad until you can learn what’s expected of you.”

Singing

My daughter has started singing. A lot. I’m not sure how or when it started, maybe before christmas? She would occasionally try to follow a tune if you were singing, but not really on her own. Then slowly, she started doing her own renditions of “Twinkle, twinkle little star” and the “ABC’s.” Then, “Baa Baa Black Sheep wasn’t that far off.” But in the last month or two she’s really started branching out to songs not set to Mozart’s most famous theme.

And last month is was ALL about “Easter Parade.” I found this book at the library with a little bunny who makes a bonnet and goes to the parade with her bunny dad (“Easter Parade” by Berlin/McCue). The book is just the lyrics to the song “Easter Parade” from the classic film of the same name. My grandmother used to sing it. She had a thing for easter bonnets. Anyway, I like the song, I like the movie. I’m glad my kid likes the song too, even if it means I had to explain the concept of rotogravure to a kid who has never seen a newspaper.

Now, she sings all of her favorite songs, from “Feed the Birds” to “Coney Island Baby.” It might not be recognizable to anyone but us, but she’s getting there. There are the occasional songs I can’t identify at all, or ones she might have made up? I even caught her singing to the cat. It’s freaking adorable.

St Patrick’s Playdate

I had a few, very cute, little girls over on Friday to play. My daughter was elated to have company. I made some snacks to go with the holiday– you know me. Anyway, I just wanted to share the pictures.

I think you can see where this is going…

Irish Soda Bread

The Irish Soda bread recipe I used is from the Cakewalker blog, with 3:1 bread to whole wheat flour and mixed raisins. The hint of caraway was nice. I really liked this bread.

Guinness Chocolate Pudding. So cute, right?

The recipe for the pudding is here.

The cat in repose.

Kiss me, I’m 1% irish.

If you were there

I would say to you, I miss you in almost everything. That I don’t know how I’ve gone so long or come to this place without you. That I push away the delight of remembering things because the tragedy of this empty spot is too heavy to merely toss around in my everyday life. I still don’t know how to put this. Time has done nothing for me.

I miss your face. And your sarcasm. And the way you used to solve problems like it was so obvious. I even miss your indifference to things I thought were totally cool. There is a whole planet of my own identity that circles your star. There are pages of footnotes in my book because they merely reference yours. Growing up together will do that. Or maybe you were always grown up, it seemed that way most of the time. I am missing a lot of myself, these days, and in looking for it, I keep coming back to the way you ate your cereal in the morning and I honestly cannot believe that it has been ten years since I saw you do it.

Today would have been your 42nd birthday.

If you were there, I’d take you skiing, and put granola bars in your pockets with all your extra tissues. I’d bake you cookies your way, not my way, not my mom’s way. I’d show you Downton Abbey because you’d be really pissed you missed that. I’d loan you my flannel nightshirts and we could play Bach in our pyjamas. I would give you back your stuffed Opus, but I would put a really fancy bow tie on him and I’d put him on top of a jar of apple butter. And then we could go to bed late, sleep in, and not talk in the morning at all until at least noon.

If you could hear me, I’d tell you that so much has changed and yet nothing has changed, that I see you everywhere but especially when certain people smile knowingly with just one corner of their mouth. And that sometimes I think it’s just been a really, really long time since you’ve called and maybe I’ll just get on a plane and go find you. But mostly, I’d tell you I love you and I didn’t want this decade without you, and even more so, I didn’t want you to miss out on all that could have been. All the things you would have done with that incredible mind of yours and all the things we could have done together with this incredible sense of humor of ours. If maybe you were just out there, in witness protection or something, I could bear it.

At our violin teacher’s 30th anniversary recital last year, she dedicated the Bach Double to you. The last time she and I played it together was at your memorial. I, of course, had not even thought about that until she read a little biography about you to the audience. A biography from your obituary. That I wrote. It’s probably a good thing I was playing the first violin part because it took me a moment to get my heart off the floor. I am pretty sure you would have been slightly uncomfortable at the gesture, us playing in memory of you. I know you would have felt bad for me, though. I have lots of emails of you writing that you felt bad that things were hard for me that came easily to you. Like organic chemistry. You always looked out for me. I just helped you buy dresses. But, I know this would have been hard for us both.

There is so much I would want to say. But more than any of it, ever so much more, I want to hear you again. To check the real you against the voice of the memory of you in my head, like diploid chromosomes, like tuning strings, like coming home.

Valentine projects

Valentine’s day might be my favorite holiday…in my mind it is, anyway. I can imagine some pretty nice ways to spend it. It doesn’t have the same let down of New Year’s Eve, where when it’s over, you are facing JANUARY. Valentine’s day is looking ahead to spring, maybe with some St Patrick’s, spring break, Easter thrown in there.

You don’t have to buy gifts for so many people like Christmas, and you don’t have to even buy a gift at all. Valentine’s day encourages handmade cards and cookies and stuff! You don’t have to watch any parades, cook any 5 course meals, visit any cemeteries, attend any family picnics, construct any gift baskets, boil any eggs, wear any particular color, drink any particular beverage, or try to find the best place to view fireworks while avoiding mosquitos.

To me, it’s all love and dessert and a little bit of crafts.

You don’t have a significant other, you say? That matters not. You heard me. You don’t have to be in a relationship to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Really! In college, I made frosted sugar cookies for my friends. I sent cards to relatives. I bought little gifts for people who were special to me. I ate chocolate with abandon.

But I realize I’m weird. I know not everyone is going to get on board with my vision. But if you are interested, this is what we got up to this year:

1. We had a valentine-making playdate with my daughter’s friend. It was cute, they were happy to see each other. They ate a lot of strawberries. Not very many valentines were made….


2. I made these little cherry hand pies for dessert. I got a heart-shaped pie mold from Williams-Sonoma a number of years ago, but when I tried making pies with it before, the dough cracked and flaked apart to badly. Last summer, I started experimenting with more flexible doughs for sweet pies and found that using half butter, half cream cheese made a much more elastic dough. It rolls and works like a dream.





3. We went out for sushi, my daughter was a perfect angel, she got little presents from her dad and I, a friend, her grandmother. It was all very sweet. She ate dragon fruit.

4. We came home and had our pies and ice-cream, the little angel went to bed, and her dad and I had some chocolate fondue and watched a movie.

A pretty nice way to spend a February 14th, I’d say.

February Sleep Regression, we meet again.

I don’t know if this is some kind of annual conference that I’m just not aware of or maybe the winter gets to be too much to bear and bad sleep ensues, but this is the 3rd time around with us, February sleep hijinks.

February 2011 kicked off the 6-7 month spree of my darling baby waking up and needing to nurse, be held, etc. by me and only me, for hours, several times a night.

February 2012 featured the “How many times is it possible to wake up in a single night and yet still fall back asleep between each time” game with the expansion “If you make a sound while leaving the room, go back to start” set.

And here you are, February 2013, with the Endless Bedtime Reel, sometimes with a Night of Nostalgic Wake-ups thrown in for fun.

It doesn’t have to be this way, we could just enjoy each other, even if it is well below freezing out and winter will drag on for many weeks. Have a chocolate heart, February, or a glass of wine and stop being so impossible. I think we could be really good friends if you cut the crap. I am a big fan of Valentine’s Day, honestly. It’s like my favorite.

So let’s clear this up before March shows up. I never liked that bitch.

The minor heartbreak of growing up

This morning at about 6am, my 2 year old woke up and called me. It was way too early for her to be up but she wanted “up” so I took a chance and brought her back to bed with me.

She hasn’t slept with me in the morning since early December when I stopped letting her nurse in bed with me for an hour. It was our last nursing session of the day. Since, she has been set against sleeping with me in my bed, even when I kind of wanted her to (especially when it was too cold in the apartment last week).
However, this morning she willingly came into bed with me, started pulling up my shirt…and then I think she kind of realized she couldn’t nurse. Like that part of her life was really over. She laid there and pet my boob for about 10 minutes and fell back asleep against it.

The amorphous “they” say that growing up is a long series of letting go. It’s tiny fragments of a heartbreaking odyssey.

I wanted to be done nursing for a long time, pretty much after month 8 I was ready to move on. But my daughter loved it so, LOVED it. And I had a hard time taking away the one thing that had been such a constant source of comfort from the moment she drew breath. It was nutrition, security, a sleep-inducer, a coping mechanism for sickness, and a reset button for emotional distress. It got us through take off and landing ear popping and kept her quiet during concerts. It put her to bed every single night for 2 years. I said I was going to quit after a year, but when she turned 1, there was NO way she was going to let me. I said I’d “revisit” the issue at 18 months, but even then, she still needed it at bedtime and during the night sometimes. At 2, we started trying to put her to bed without it, but she still needed it to stay asleep in the early early morning hours.

I nursed her for 27 months, 2 weeks, and a day.

It’s probably fitting that our last time was on the bed that my husband and I had in college, the one he first told me he loved me on, which is currently living in my in-laws blue guest bedroom. I didn’t know it would be our last time, but that’s probably for the best. I think I was half asleep anyway.

It’s the end of a chapter. Even if I never really enjoyed nursing as much as I thought I might, I’m so glad I did and I’m actually pretty proud of myself for making it this far.

And I’m proud of my little girl for growing up, even if it’s sad letting go.

Snow White and Mary Poppins: A Lazy Critical Analysis

My daughter hasn’t seen very many movies, Disney or otherwise, but she has seen a few. I felt like we were going chronologically there for awhile. The first one she ever saw was Fantasia, then, Mary Poppins, but then back to Pinocchio, Alice and Wonderland, Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp, Winnie the Pooh, and Snow White. It’s clear her two favorites, at the moment, are Mary Poppins and Snow White. She listens to the “Poppsie” soundtrack All. The. Time. Omg.

I mean, Julie Andrews is basically a magical treasure, but even I have my limits. I think my husband and I have heard “Feed the Birds” about 800 times in the last few months and I’m not even exaggerating. She wakes up in the dead of night and asks us to put on “Poppsie.”

Snow White is a more recent favorite, mostly because Snow White is better branded. She sees Snow White when we are out in the city on toys, books at the bookstore, stickers, and the like. She likes the little critters in it and the dwarves, but I think something about Snow White’s child-like face appeals to her. The music isn’t remarkable, but it doesn’t make me want to kill myself.

However, I have some problems with Snow White’s plot. Take the Wicked Queen, she’s supposed to have all these magical powers yet she fails to kill Snow White? I totally understand assigning her huntsman to do it at the beginning. Seems pretty standard to delegate that, even if it poses risks to one’s popularity should the dirty deed ever go public. Seems like she would have wanted no accomplices. But whatever, she doesn’t like getting her hands dirty. But after she finds out the huntsman tricked her, she has to adopt a disguise, concoct a poison apple recipe that has a catch, go down there herself and hope that all works out? I mean, Snow White is a naive teenager (13 in some stories), basically if you get in range, you could just run her through with a sword. She let the “witch” into the house for the love of god. Why not make this simple? It’s the classic villain “sharks with freaking lasers on their heads” mistake.

The theme of Snow White seems to be: if you are a very sweet and pretty girl who is good at housework, things will probably work out for you.

On the other hand Mary Poppins offers much richer fare: it has a message of the importance of childhood, imagination, spontaneity, civil disobedience, responsibility, financial planning, family togetherness, good health, manners, humor, equitation, job satisfaction, impermanence, and women’s suffrage. Feel free to tell me if I’m missing something. It’s just such an interesting movie. And the songs are pretty great. Sure Dick van Dyke really should have been sent a different dialect coach, but he’s a fantastic dancer and really knows his physical comedy.

I know it’s a popular academic exercise to disparage the Disney Princess role. Even when they try to have a “girl power” character like Merida in “Brave” (yes, I know, Pixar) there are still issues with how their choices are portrayed (see this very interesting post by Rebecca Heins, who is a Media Studies professor with a fantastic blog). But it bears repeating that most of the Disney princesses don’t have stories of complex depth and redeeming personal growth. Are there lessons to be learned from them, sure. Some good ones, some useless ones, and some bad ones. The persistant vilification of people with bumps in their nose did not make me feel particularly great when I was young. It’s not all Disney’s fault, some of these movies are based on centuries old stories and some of them were made into films almost 50 years ago. Snow White was made in 1937, Mary Poppins in 1964 (but based on a story that takes place in 1910), it’s a bit of an unfair competition.

Still, if Disney is going to put all these princesses in a “club” like a box of assorted truffles, I’m going to have to choose. And I’ll take Mary Poppins over any girl they have in a tiara. Besides, Julie Andrews can out-sing them all.

Eating Out Midterm Warning

My husband and I, we have honed our skills, over the years, at eating in restaurants. We can occupy a table in a wide variety of places, three star and no star, of almost any ethnic sway, and hold our own. We have cultivated a pretty nice eating out technique and I think we’d be welcome customers in almost any establishment. A long time living in big metropolitan areas, plenty of travel, adventurous tastebuds, and a shared interest in trying new things has taught us a great deal. Not only are we pretty good at eating out, we enjoy it as well.

Well, our toddler is bringing down our Restaurant grade point average.

We went out tonight because for SOME reason our building shut the water off on our floor from 3pm to after 8pm, without warning. Cooking was out of the question. We went down the street to a friendly little Chinese place that always seems delighted to have children. They normally are very sweet to our daughter. But after tonight I think maybe they’ll reconsider that.

Things started off well, but then one thing let to another, and all of a sudden she was throwing chopsticks on the floor. The waiter brought clean chopsticks and handed them to her and she PROMPTLY threw them to the floor!

Appalling. I nearly left her with the bill.

I had to tell her that we’re graded as a TABLE. This is like a group project. And she’s bringing our GPA down. Not cool.
I tried to explain that if we don’t pass enough tests, we won’t pass the semester. And if we don’t pass the semester, we won’t be allowed to take Restaurants classes in the Spring. We’ll have to wait until Summer and retake Restaurants 101: Food Courts and Coffee Shops all over again. And frankly, mommy and daddy passed that decades ago with FLYING colors.

Someone needs to think of the good of the group and start doing their homework. I’d like to work up to 2 star sushi sometime this decade.