Tuesday, April 29, 2008

gardening together

lettuce seedlings laid out for planting, mulched cover crops in background

It's been a busy few days here...a visit from Sam's Nana, looking at a dozen or so more houses, and planting the first little space of our community garden plot. Thanks to the rare babysitting support, Denis and I actually got to work on the garden together, which I had schemed as soon as I heard my mom was coming to town. Sure, we had a date-night complete with drinks and dessert out on the town, but it was the date-in-the-dirt that I was really looking forward to.

My former self would have balked at the shortcuts we had to take, and the fact that we purchased our seedlings and compost rather than grow our own...but what can I say? Raising a toddler is my full-time, overtime, all-the-time job now. Until Sam can be trusted not to mess with water timers and dripline, I'm not going to have the time or focus to get perfect soil aggregation and root hair contact, to pick out the nitrogen-robbing straw, and wait for optimum legume nodules. Most people I talk to these days don't even know what all that means! So. Denis and I had exactly 3 non-consecutive hours before dark to do everything from browsing the nursery to cover crop skimming to watering-in, not to mention dealing with pernicious weeds like my old friend bermuda grass. But the little beauties made it in the ground...basil, parsley, cilantro, zucchini, pattypan squash, and two varieties of lettuce. Enjoy your new home little ones! I promise I'll take care of you in between naptime and snacktime.

P.S. Special hello and good wishes to SteveW, L, and sweet little E...we're thinking of you.

I've been tagged!

Ok, so there are some games that go on in the world of blogs and I guess I've just been tagged to play one.

this is how it goes:
1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

I was tagged by carriealair another cool toddler-mom

here are a 7 random things about me:
1. I like cute lamps, like the orange-lampshade, pull-cord, brass thrift store lamp on my desk
2. my favorite magazine is the New Yorker
3. I've always been a purger rather than a packrat, though that's changed slightly living with my packrat husband
4. there must be an awesome clothesline spot at our new home (I hate the energy waste of dryers)
5. I am still not a morning person, though I've aspired to be one for a long time
6. my pipedream vacation must involve snorkeling (I've never done it)
7. I'm teaching myself embroidery while Sam sleeps

and I have to tag 7 other bloggers...hmm, this may be hard, let me get back to this...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

little friends

We've missed our little friends this week with all the sniffling and coughing around here. This photo is from about 6 weeks ago and shows Sam giving some affection to his little buddy Sadie. I'm not sure she considers a pat-pat-pat on the head to be affectionate, but she tolerated it really well.

I also missed a rare evening night out with some of the playgroup moms last night. I really didn't want to be coughing into the Thai food, so I bowed out regretfully. Last week another group of moms went out for dinner, and I enjoyed that a lot. There were a few moments of out-of-control laughter due to some shared story that only a toddler mom could find hilarious.

Here's hoping we're all feeling well by this weekend!

Monday, April 21, 2008

talking and coughing

If I had a regular paying job, I would have called in sick today. Gripped with a stuffy head and nasty cough, I took it a little slow with my toddler-gig this afternoon. Sam has started saying a new word (no surprise to any of us)...door, which sounds like a high pitched "doooooR" and is very charming, especially since he is often smiling with glee while saying it. We had suspected that this word was in play for a few days, and then it became positively clear on a neighborhood walk Sam and I took last Friday.

I had him in the ergo carrier (on my back) and we just walked up and down the pretty tree-lined streets, me having serious house dreams, and Sam babbling away thinking who-knows-what. Until. He started protesting that we were walking past the park rather than stopping! I should have known better of course, but it was almost naptime and we couldn't stop, so what I did to distract him was to start pointing at things and naming them, "look at the bushes, Sam!...oh, and there's a stick!..." exciting stuff like that. It's worked before, what can I say. But then, Sam started doing it himself, pointing towards the houses and saying "dooooooR!" I got excited too and soon we were pointing out and exclaiming with every door we passed. There were a lot of them!

Since then, it's become a regular thing for Sam to remind us that there is a door in the room, or on the page of the book, or on a house we pass on a walk. In fact sometimes nothing else matters except where the next door is. We love it, and Sam's pronunciation is getting really good too, with the "R" sound at the end becoming more present.

So today, I pulled out one of my old favorite childhood books that I recently rediscovered in an old box, The Giant Walt Disney Word Book, published by Golden Press in 1971. It is inscribed to me from my Dad on May 16, 1974, apparently following a business trip to NYC. I adored this book. It is 141 pages of detailed scenes with labelled objects and old-timey Disney characters doing things (such as On The Farm and When We are Sick, pictured above). Since Sam is really into his word books now, I thought he would enjoy this one, while I could remain on the couch within reach of the kleenex. Well, we spent over an hour looking at page after page pointing out all the doors. Sam would say, "doooooor! doooooor!" and I would say, "Yes! *coughcough* I see the door! *coughcough* That's a good one!"

And so the afternoon passed. Sam never seemed to mind all the coughing and nose blowing...he was too busy learning to talk.

Friday, April 18, 2008

the littlest farmer

So part of the intention of writing this blog into the universe was to help manifest the merging of the new me, a full-time toddler mama, with my long-term identity as a biointensive grower. It has been so incredibly all-consuming to incubate, give birth, breastfeed, comfort, play, clean, and teach these past couple of years (not to mention kiss, cuddle, stare at cuteness, take pictures, stare at picture cuteness...) that I have had no time for sowing, digging, weeding, harvesting, or composting. At least, until a couple of months ago when I started my plot at the local community garden. Yay for that. A mix of cover crops is slowly making its way towards feeding my soil with newly fixed nitrogen...love that.

But what I really really want is to open my backdoor and step out into a mini-farm of our own. I want Sam to wake up in the morning and run outside in his barefeet and pj's and pick dew-covered strawberries for breakfast. This dream is so strong in me, more powerful than any dream has ever been. I must make this happen for our family.

So we've been househunting. I've seen 13 houses in the past three weeks, and many more before that. I always spend the most time looking at the yard, figuring out the exposure with my compass, tearing up the grass and laying out the beds in my mind, and getting that most important "feel" for the place. Still looking. This house will not be our dream farm yet, but it will be our little homestead and we will make a tiny farm out of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


After the milestones review the other day, I've been thinking about all the other things I could say about where Sam is at in his life right now...what he likes, what he does, who he hangs out with, things like that. This incomplete list is what comes to mind:


  • finding doors wherever he goes to open and close them

  • bobbing up and down to music

  • running away from his parents at the park

  • wrestling and cuddling with his parents at home (I call this "getting mauled" because he just throws himself at my face, often causing minor pain to my nose, eye socket, etc. I love it though!)

  • word books

  • favorite toys are mirror-pound-a-ball, popcorn popper pushtoy, musical phone, tupperware

  • bathtime

  • Taimi our kitty

  • exploring the garage

  • the dishwasher

  • going to Chase's house for playgroup

Doesn't like--

  • when Mommy goes on the computer

  • when Mommy reads her own book or magazine

  • diaper changes (a real struggle about half the time)


  • water (to drink)

  • more

  • all done

  • bath

  • nurse

  • casually working on please, thank you, help, but we're more interested in talking now!


  • 18 month clothes getting a little snug

  • fitting into 24 month or 2T clothes for summer

  • shoes size 6.5 with room to grow

  • does not tolerate hats (we need to work on this)


  • I cannot think of a single food he flat-out doesn't like, though he is not always in the mood for every food and will refuse or gorge on most foods at one time or another

  • for breakfast, oatmeal with yogurt, applesauce, almond butter and cinnamon, also often a banana or orange

  • for other meals, roasted sweet potatoes, omelette with veggies, black beans, peas, korean veggie pancake, rice or cheese crackers, cream cheese sandwich, sunflower butter sandwich, cheese/refried bean/corn/salsa quesadilla, yogurt with blueberries, wholewheat pasta with veggie sauce, sauteed tofu and spinach, seasoned tempeh, strawberries, baba ghanouj, cottage cheese, wholewheat pita bread, asparagus, anything Mommy and Daddy are eating

Little Friends--

  • At our Monday playgroup Sam plays with Chase, Sadie, Miles and Grace

  • At our Tuesday playgroup he plays with Sadie, Weylyn, Reilly, Keil, Megan, Ryan and Jack

Places we go to have fun--

  • For outdoor fun we go to HP regional park, OH park, McN park, LH park, CC regional park (names abbreviated for privacy)

  • For indoor fun we go to library storytime, PS playspace

  • For special occasions we go to the Discovery Museum, to meet Daddy for lunch, or someplace new

And lately, we've been doing some househunting together...more on that later.

Monday, April 14, 2008

the park

I remember about 10 years ago I went to the park with an organic farming colleague of mine who had just left the dirty world of growing veggies for the nice paycheck world of organic fruit distribution. She was babysitting her niece, and our catch-up conversation needed to happen at the local park. Now I do have fun childhood memories of going to the park with my grandmother, getting pushed on the swing, picking up maple tree helicopters...but on this particular day I remember feeling a widening gulf between myself and my colleague, who had of course sold out by going into distribution, and on top of that she was wearing platform shoes, not to mention this foreign world of strollers and string cheese she had brought me to. "No, no," I thought, "this isn't right at all...we're two badass farming women, with backs as strong as any guy...we double dig garden beds and push wheelbarrows of compost for fun...we wear double kneed canvas pants with rivets and big black heavy workboots! We do not hang out at the park and we do not wear platform shoes." Well, turns out she had changed.

And now, I hang out at the park too. I do not, however, wear shoes that in any way endanger my balance. How could I, when I am running after my little one all the time?

I have discovered the joys of being a park regular. It's not the organic symmetry of the landscaping or the richness of the soil in the sandbox. It's not shooting the breeze with other moms on the park bench (I never get to sit down at the park...Sam is the child who is always running out of bounds, turning the corner to see something new). No. It is seeing the smile on my little guy's face when he climbs up the playstructure all by himself, all the way up to the top of the slide, the sparkle in his eyes as he looks down, and his burst of glee as he slides with complete trust and freedom, his hair standing on end from the static charge, and the quickness with which he picks himself up at the bottom, and turns back to the steps to do it all over again. He's got some independence and some adventurousness, that little boy...it feels kind of familiar.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

17 months old

We’ve seen quite a bit of development this past month here in toddler-land:

  • Says “Daddy” in context! His first real word (“uh-oh” has been around for a couple of months, along with a kissing/smacking sound that indicates Taimi our cat)! He says it like “Daddeeee” and he uses it to refer to both Daddy and Mommy. I go to see him in the morning and he is all excited saying “Daddy! Daddeeee!” Denis gets it all the time of course, and when the phone rings while Denis is at work, Sam immediately perks up and says “Daddy!” because it is usually Daddy and Sam likes to listen to Daddy on speakerphone. Sometimes Denis gets called a nickname version “Dadu” which is supercute too.

  • Definitely mimicking our sounds and intonations (we swear he was trying to sing along with us Row Row Row Your Boat one day in the car).

  • Learned to climb onto the couch, bed, and adult-size chairs around the house. Loves to climb onto the chair to work the lightswitch, or to sit with us at the kitchen table. He can climb off the couch and bed backwards by himself too.

  • Graduated from fully soft-soled baby/new walker shoes to tough little boy sneakers.

  • Points to pictures in books and connects them to real life objects. The first was seeing the green door in his book Love is a Handful of Honey (one of my favorites and given to Sam when he turned one by our dear friends T&M). Doors are one of his Very Favorite Things, so it really got him excited to see one in a book. Now he looks for doors in all his books, and points at everything he’s interested in so that we will say what it is and he will give an excited grin like we said exactly what he was thinking.

  • Nods yes in answer to questions like, "Would you like to go outside?" or "Are you hungry?" Has also shaken his head no a few times, though this is much more rare (only a matter of time, I realize! also his positivity answering the question has absolutely nothing to do with how cooperative he will be putting on his shoes for going outside, or getting into his highchair to eat!).

  • Lots of success feeding himself with a spoon (we still do most of it, but he practices the whole meal and gets plenty of bites accomplished himself).

  • Learned to keep his bib on while he is eating and to take it off when he is finished (he went through a phase of not wanting his bib on at all...had to be real parents and enforce some limits here).

  • Figured out how to take a bite off of something, like a half banana or sandwich. To be fair, we never encouraged this and only offered him bite-sized pieces until now (which he often stuffs like 10 pieces in at a time anyway, the little squirrel), but he can now be mostly trusted with bigger chunks of food. I see a whole new world of possible meals consisting of sandwiches, yay for that.

  • Likes to use a bit of lipbalm, just like Mommy (ok, not really a milestone, but I just love how his little mouth contorts as he gets his tiny dabs of lipbalm).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

more hiking

Sam and I went for a hike this morning at our favorite regional park 10 minutes from home. We've been going there often since he was a wee babe, sometimes in the ergo carrier, or the backpack, or the stroller. Lately, Sam wants to walk by himself, and today he covered over a quarter mile with a modest elevation gain. We went all the way up to the pond with Sam toddling along ahead, stopping now and then to take a closer look at all the flowers by the side of the trail. We got to the pond and threw a few stones in to hear the plop (I did, he doesn't know throwing yet). We listened to the redwing blackbirds chirping to each other from tree to tree. Sam was prepared to keep hiking on his own, but I put him in the stroller, a little against his will....because sometimes I just need us to go at my pace for a bit.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

sleep deprivation takes a holiday

We haven't been getting much sleep around here lately, and a couple of weeks ago I was feeling an intense desire to just get out of town for the refreshment of a beautiful place. Death Valley came to mind (one of my very favorite beautiful places) but was too ambitious. We settled on Pinnacles National Monument, about 2.5 hours south of here between the coast and the central valley. Both Denis and I had been there separately once before. It's a place for hiking and rockclimbing in a pretty rugged patch of wilderness. Camping seemed like way too much work with all the baby-gear we have to carry with us already, so we decided to stay in a motel between here and there for two nights and get a good dose of beauty and quiet for the weekend.

I will skip over the disaster that was our first night in the motel, where all three of us got less than 3 hours of sleep. I will also skip over the part where we turn away from Pinnacles due to the huge crowds and long wait to park.

The valley drive to and from the east side of Pinnacles was amazing. Green rolling hills dotted with sprawling oaks and the occasional farmhouse and barn. Really got my farm-dream juices flowing.
Our second night went better, and Sunday we packed up, went out for a big breakfast, and headed to Henry Coe State Park, a place neither of us had been before. We made sure to call ahead to insure parking. It was lovely! We took a nice hike through woods and open hillsides. Wildflowers were just starting to bloom and the hills still had a bit of green. Sam looked a little tired in the backpack, but perked up when we let him hike through the grass with a steady hand from Daddy.
Although sleep deprivation reached a new low on our little trip, it has improved greatly since we've been home. I have heard from everyone that the 2-nap to 1-nap transition is a challenge, and it certainly is, but it's been working out really well ever since we've been very consistent with an 11:30 nap every day. Yesterday he even slept 3 hours! We've also had great success dealing with the early morning wakings (4:45 am) by going in to Sam and explaining very softly that it's still nighttime and it's time to go back to sleep and mommy and daddy are asleep too and we love you and we'll see you in the morning. He really understands! I think we're back to a normal 6-ish am wakeup time now. Amazing what a little sleep will do.

Monday, April 7, 2008

toddler food

It makes me a happy mommy that my little boy is such a good eater. From his first food (avocado) at 6 months onward, he has been willing to try new things and consume a healthy and diverse diet. His palate even tends toward the spicy/savory, which is a big bonus in this household. Most vegetables do better incorporated with other foods or sauces, but I don't have to go so far as to hide them. The main challenge for the past several months has been to make everything in finger food form as much as possible. He does fine being fed on a spoon, but he enjoys feeding himself with his fingers, and I enjoy being able to do other things in the kitchen while he eats.

Lately, I've been making Hearty Korean Pancakes, from the Vegetarian Planet cookbook, by Didi Emmons. These concoctions allow me to put both brown rice and several vegetables into a neat and tasty finger food. The batter consists of half brown rice flour, too, for even more healthiness. I can't post the recipe here since I follow hers almost exactly, but it is basically a flour-egg-water batter combined with cooked brown rice and raw shredded (or diced) vegetables (I used spinach, carrot, and scallion). The consistency is like a potato pancake and it cooks five minutes on each side. Traditionally these pancakes are served with a tamari/sesame oil/chili/garlic dipping sauce, but I just throw those ingredients in with the batter so that the pancake gets the flavor without the fussiness of dipping (not quite in Sam's skillset yet). I just cut into bite sized pieces and he gobbles them up!

Friday, April 4, 2008

maple syrup

There are several food crops that I consume regularly that I cannot easily grow myself here in northern california...one of the loveliest of these is maple syrup. A jug of homegrown arrived today from New Hampshire, many thanks to two of my favorite people, and the definite highlight of today.

Sam enjoyed playing with the jug too.

Let's toast the beginning of this blog with a little taste of the maple tree. mmm.