Wednesday, May 28, 2008

late afternoon walk

Last summer Sam was a crawling baby who only ate purees for dinner, and part of our evening bedtime routine was to go for a short stroller walk up the street before taking a bath. This year he is a running toddler who says words and eats regular food, and lately he has been wanting to go outside right before dinner, so much that he grabs my hand and tugs me towards the front door. So we've resurrected our walk up the street, only now we go hand-in-hand. Yesterday, Sam missed out on playgroup because he was still contagious, but he was feeling much better and tugged me to the door just as I was starting to get his dinner ready. There was a bit of a chill, so I zipped on his 'leather' jacket, and off we went.

We stopped to check out some lavender and of course point out doors too.

He likes to walk on the river rock landscaping that many of our neighbors have on their parking strip. Sam also seems destined to get a splinter because he loves this old wooden fence. He liked the all the attractions on our walk much better than his subsequent dinner. His appetite for food isn't quite back yet, but I'm glad his outdoor spirit is.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

baking and miso soup

Our long weekend was largely composed of sleeping, cuddling, dispensing medicine, and taking walks. No bbq, no household projects, no tackling of the task list. Just taking care of our sick little boy, and trying to keep us grown-ups from getting sick(er) ourselves. Still, it was Denis' birthday and we managed to celebrate a bit. Denis is fond of chocolate, and the past two years I have baked him chocolate cakes (actually I think I skipped a year in there when I was still in first trimester wooziness). Anyway, those who know me know that I am MUCH more of a cook than a baker. In fact, before getting married and having a baby, I really didn't want to have much to do with flour and measuring spoons at all. Somehow having a husband and child changed that and suddenly I find myself with a kitchenaid mixer and a bunch of sugary recipes.
Well, I could use some help. I opted out of the chocolate frustrations of my previous cake forays, and picked this Three-Berry Cake which seemed simple enough for a non-baker-nurse-mom. It turned out great, as you can see by the photo above, but that is despite the fact that I completely screwed up the lemon zesting. I have a small zester, which I find very ineffective, and a small cheese grater, which I used this time and managed to grate all the way to the pith (though I tried not to), making the zest bitter and useless. If anyone can tell me how to successfully zest a lemon (i.e. a good tool to use), I would be very grateful. This cake was tasty though, and best of all Denis liked it. He even packed himself a little piece for his lunch today.

While we're on the subject of baking questions, I've been getting into baking banana bread, using this recipe and it is very banana-y and delicious, but again I could use some advice. While this bread is baking, it oozes out a LOT of watery buttery liquid which drips to the bottom of the oven (or now that I know, onto a cookie sheet). This doesn't seem normal, and makes cleanup more involved, though the bread is moist and fantastic. Any ideas on how to avoid the ooze? And now, back to cooking....familiar territory. I am fully convinced that the soup above has been responsible for the fact that I am not sick, and that Denis is not sicker than he already is. Miso soup is the most delicious and powerful medicine you can make. Meat-eaters have chicken soup, I guess, but for me, miso soup is where it's at. It only takes 20 minutes to make! Sam even ate the tofu and noodles, and his appetite has been basically non-existent for days. I made it twice this weekend: basically I sauteed in a saucepan on medium high heat a lot of minced ginger, a couple dashes of red pepper flakes, and some tofu in toasted sesame oil a couple minutes. Added a lot of crushed garlic, a few sliced scallions (and julienned carrots one time), sauteed some more. Added a handful of baby spinach leaves, some cooked noodles, and a dash of shoyu (or tamari). Added some water to not quite cover the raw spinach leaves, and covered pan until wilted and water just boiling. Took pan off heat. Stirred in a cup or two of warm water with a few tablespoons of (stirred and dissolved) miso. Done! If you get the proportions right, you have a nice savory broth with perfectly balanced ginger-garlic flavors, a hint of scallion and other veggies, a touch of heat, and the satisfying softness of noodles and tofu. Yummy! Or as Sam would say, "Mmmmmmm."

Monday, May 26, 2008

ear infections

Well, Sam wasn't any better yesterday; in fact he seemed even more unhappy, and had some disturbing nighttime this morning we went back to the doctor. Diagnosis: 2 ear infections, and nosebleeding nothing to worry about. So he's on antibiotics now, and we are all hitting this baby illness milestone together. I have much more understanding now of what some of my fellow moms have been going through with their sick babies. It is so hard to watch them suffer, not know what's hurting, fret about their fluid intake, worry that it's all so much more serious, and keep up the pace with all their needs for comfort, reassurance, mind-reading and making it all better. When hugs and kisses don't calm the whimpers, when wiping the nose doesn't make breathing easier, when offers of juice or water or mommy's juice or special-cup-juice are all unappealing, when the brow is hot and the eyes puffy, when a walk sounds good but then walking hurts too, when even pointing at doors does not bring back that sparkle...that is being sick. Sam, our little bundle of joy, is sick.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

virus update

I ended up taking Sam to the doctor yesterday since the long weekend was coming and I wanted to rule out anything serious. Diagnosis: a bad virus, but no secondary bacterial infections. The rash on his neck and back is related to his virus, rather than the heat rash I thought it was from last week's super-hot weather. But his lungs sound fine and his ears are healthy-looking, and his throat looks sore but nothing worse than that. Probably his sore throat is what prompted him to point to his mouth and whimper the other day, not teething as I thought.

Last night he did not have a wake-up until 5:30, at which point we again brought him to bed to sleep with us, since he was otherwise inconsolable. Today he seems about the same as yesterday, drinking more and fighting his nap right now (did we spoil him by letting him sleep with us? maybe.), but energy- and mood-wise about the same. It's nice to have Denis helping me today. Tomorrow is Denis' birthday, and Monday we have a bbq with some playgroup families, so I hope Sam turns a corner today. I know he would enjoy our fun plans. It's his worst illness of his short life so far and his suffering is so terrible and real. I've postponed weaning until he gets better. Nursing seems to bring him comfort as well as (hopefully) some healthy antibodies. Get well, little guy! We love you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

18 months (and 10 days)

Sam turned 18 months last week! He had his well-baby check too. He measured 2'8.5" tall, which is at 64% for boys his age, and 24lbs 6oz, which is 32% for boys his age. Long and lean, sounds about right. They also measure head circumference, which is 19.02" or 68%. The doc was impressed that Sam has never been on antibiotics in his short life and judged him to be a very healthy happy little boy (of course there was nothing happy about his mood when she checked him, he screamed the whole time!). At the time of his check-up I counted 8-9 words that he could say, which is not too shabby for his age. They look for 20 words by 20 months, but a lot can develop in the last month, she said. Since the visit, I think he's picked up a couple more words. New words this past month: woof-woof (for dog), hi, bye-bye, buh-buh (bunny), door, bubble, ball. New words the past week: hot and trash (when he *ahem* finds something on the floor, then runs with it over to the kitchen trashcan). New word yesterday: juice. Other developments: getting really good feeding himself with the spoon, first band-aid worthy boo-boo (middle finger of right hand got caught in a door, my fault), first skinned knee (a hot day in our backyard), allows mommy to "blow" his nose with a tissue, one-nap schedule totally stabilized and working great (6:30/7:00am wakeup, 12:00ish-2:00ish nap, 7:30 bedtime).

And today's update: Sam is sick! He has a low-grade/moderate fever, a smidgen of a runny nose, and an occasional cough. His spirits are down, he didn't nap more than 30 minutes yesterday, and his appetite's been almost nil, though he did down like 12 ounces of juice when he woke up yesterday (see his new word for the day above). Motrin lowers his fever and makes him feel better, but most of the day he just wimpered and glued himself to me, poor guy. Just when I've started weaning too. Not the first time I'll feel mommy-guilt, I'm sure. A little Sesame Street Old School (from my era--the 70's) made us both feel a little better.

Last night was bad: 5 or 6 wake-ups, hot and sweaty with fever, we comforted and alternated dosing motrin and tylenol, adjusted clothing and room temperature several times, changed a diaper, and finally, at 5:30 brought him into our bed to sleep on my chest, just like when he was a newborn. I was recently telling my brother, the brand-new dad, that the chest-sleeping really helps newborns sleep better, but that it doesn't last. Once they get a bit older, you can't do it anymore, so enjoy it while you can. Well, I wish Sam wasn't sick, but it sure was nice to sleep together like that one more time.

This morning, I think his fever broke because he is cool to the touch and in better spirits. He ate almost an entire 2-egg portion of scrambled eggs with salsa. At one point (before his tylenol re-dose) he whimpered and pointed to his teeth. I asked him if his teeth hurt, and he nodded affirmatively. So maybe he's teething too, which would explain all the drooling. Ok, I know this level of detail is not exactly interesting if you are not Sam's mommy, but I was proud that there was at least some communication about what has been bothering him. My little boy is growing up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

weaning: part 1

As I sit here and type, Sam is reading his going-to-bed book with his Daddy instead of with me. It is our first night of voluntarily (on my part, not Sam's) not nursing before bed. There were a few tears when I kissed and hugged him goodnight, but Sam loves his Daddy so much that he was quickly distracted by the pleasure of pointing out doors and kitties in his current bedtime favorite, Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond.

It has been quite a journey nursing Sam these past 18 months, and I consider it one of my proudest lifetime accomplishments. It is bittersweet to begin weaning. I had hoped for child-led weaning, but the truth is that I am ready now. At least, I would like to stop nursing before bed and before nap, and keep the morning nursing a little while longer. I have much more to say on this very fundamental component of our lives this past year and a half, but for now I will leave it here, and tiptoe past Sam's door, where he is no doubt sleeping peacefully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

into the weeds

pretty and tasty: borage, a nice weed
I remember when I used to get paid to do gardening 40 hours a week. It was my job in one form or another for many years. Sometimes people would express how lucky I must feel to play in a garden all day for money, and I would reply that yes, I did feel lucky, but not because I was playing, and certainly not because I was getting paid much. I felt lucky because I had a real connection to my work and a sense of pride that I was doing something to improve the earth rather than plunder it. But it was a job like any other job, with its stresses and hardships and tedium. In the midst of managing everything, I would often long simply to weed mindlessly all day. To drop the endless list of tasks, troubleshooting, and timelines, to just squat and think small, think weeds, think nothing. That would have been playing, I thought, how nice that would be. But there was never enough weeding for that. I weed very fast for one thing, and I manage the garden in such a way that there aren't too many weeds in the first place. Weeding is also an easy task to give to volunteers or interns looking for a job to do. So weeding was never actually a big part of my day, which is maybe why I dreamed of it so fondly.

Well, guess what I will be doing all summer? Yup, weeding. I have the weediest community garden plot I have ever seen. I mean, it is a blanket of weeds! And not just easy weeds either, we're talking bindweed and bermuda grass, man. That stuff never goes away. You pull it out one day and it's back the next. Roots that go all the way to China. It will be interesting to see how well my plants grow, because this underground network of weed roots is a constant tap on my soil nutrients. I'm hesitant even to mulch it, because that would make pulling the pernicious weeds more difficult, even while suppressing some of the more innocuous ones. Jeez.

weeded, partially planted on left, unweeded and unplanted on right
It doesn't help that I feel like I'm being watched by my fellow community gardeners. They certainly don't have the weed situation that I do. I'm the new person, falling down thankful that I even get a plot in the first place. They know very well what they did: they gave me the plot from weed hell, and they don't even know that I used to dream of weeding. They go about their business, watering their perfectly neat little rows of beets and peas, admiring their perfectly clean black soil, looking over at the mess they handed me out of the corners of their eyes, thinking, Is she still over there weeding? Does she know not to put the bad weeds in the compost pile? Does she know those weeds will come back? How will she handle this garden bed that has frightened away all gardeners before her?

Well. We shall see.


from Each Peach Pear Plum, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Puffin Books, 1978
Sam and I share a common passion these days...illustrations of cute little houses in his children's books. For Sam, his passion for houses is connected to one of his Very Favorite Things and currently his favorite word, "door," which he loves to have the excuse to say out loud. He has always loved opening and closing our front door, and any other door he finds, so it makes sense that he would enjoy pointing them out in his books.

from Kiss Good Night, by Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram, Candlewick Press, 2001
I also love the house images from these books because they so charmingly evoke that feeling of "home sweet home," a feeling I long for and work towards with every real estate listing I look at. As Sam and I turn the pages of these books, and he points and exclaims "door!", I reinforce his interest with "wow! another door!" and at the same time I dream yet again of living in a little house of our own, as cute and as perfect as the little houses in these books.

Of course the reality of the homes I see, and there have been a LOT of them, is that they are rarely cute. But that's ok, that can come later. For now, we're looking for just a few criteria:

1. 30 minutes drive or less to Denis' workplace (the shorter the better)
2. not in a rundown neighborhood
3. not needing any big improvement projects
4. fits all our stuff somehow
5. has a yard suitable for gardening and playing
6. has good light inside
7. in a good school district
8. we can afford it
9. has a garage, preferably attached

It's usually the light that is the most elusive. Why are so many houses dark? I don't get it at all. Good light is so powerful in a home, I think, and I don't want to compromise that. Often, too, the yards I see are not suitable, because they are too shady. One house that I was just about ready to say, "this is the one!" had excellent light and the perfect backyard: half shady and half sunny. But then there were some big problems, so it turned out that it wasn't the one.

This week I spent several hours thinking I had "the one" too. It had all our criteria, except that it had a bonus room/dining room instead of a third bedroom, and we decided that we could do better than that. It was cute, though.

Honestly, I am getting a bit burned out. I have looked at over 30 homes (I should count them, maybe it's even more than that), most of them with a squirming Sam on my hip. If he could talk, I'm sure he would say "Come on, Mommy (or Daddy, since he still calls me Daddy), let's get this one! It has everything I need: doors, a bath, and some outside space! Can we get it? Please?" And then he'd run around with his big smile on his face, so easily satisfied.

I, too, am almost ready to just pick one already. The weather is getting hot, and the worst thing about our current house is how stifling it becomes in hot weather. When I was pregnant two summers ago, I would take cool baths just to get through the heat of the day. Last summer, Sam was barely a crawler, and we spent afternoons playing and reading on a blanket in the shade of the olive tree in our front yard. This morning, we took a walk downtown and it was already very warm. We passed all the pretty houses, and I literally fantasized that someone would just walk out and tell me I could name my price and the house would be ours. Ha! I should stick to fantasizing plant lists!

I am willing myself not to be discouraged. To keep going, keep looking. These little house illustrations, and Sam's infinite enthusiasm for them, keep me positive. We will have our home sweet home, and maybe someone will even find it charming enough to draw a sweet picture of it someday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day

My two loves gave me the perfect day. I appreciate every moment.

Friday, May 9, 2008

what a difference a gate makes

The other day I met up with our Tuesday playgroup at a fenced-in park, and now I may never go back to an unfenced park again. All the moms got to chat, I got to take pictures, the kids were happy and safe without being chased and redirected from the parking lot or the horseshoe pit. So relaxing, a big change for me since Sam is often the one most actively trying to escape the group for something more interesting far away. He was also quite happy in his confined space. Here's four of them: Sam looking back at his girl buddies Sadie and Megan, and behind them Megan's twin Ryan in the process of standing up.

Sam and Ryan had the unfortunate shared experience of getting dog poop on their shoes somehow.
Probably when they were having this pow-wow at the far side of the park.
We love our buddy Sadie who just moved into our neighborhood! She shared some of her strawberries with Sam and he proceeded to grab them by the fistfuls and finished every last one! Luckily we had some orange to share. Don't they look cute together?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

a new cousin

In my continuing quest to capture Sam's incredible cuteness on film this week, I was subjecting Sam to another photography session the other day while he played in his room. After many blurry deletes, I caught this gem, and then, seconds later I turned off the camera because the phone rang. It was my brother with the news that Sam's little cousin was on the way. Yesterday morning she was born! We are so excited to meet her! Welcome to the family Sofia!

Monday, May 5, 2008

hold still!

The photo of Sam that is my computer's wallpaper dates from last September, when he was 10 months old. Prior to that photo, I had a changing series of favorite portraits of him as my wallpaper since before he was born (if you include pregnancy photos). Why not change it since September? Well, this little guy just doesn't hold still for good portraits anymore! Add to that the poor light in our house, and it has simply been tough to get nice closeups of him lately. I can sometimes catch him in his highchair, but I'm not so fond of the food-smeared face look. Yesterday I took about 30 shots and managed to catch him once in focus for a thoughtful pose.
Otherwise, he really only sits still to read, but I have to be stealthy. If he knew I had the camera pointed at him, he'd be scrambling out of his reading nook faster than a shutter click. Then we'd have yet another blurry shot of Sam in motion. Thank goodness for digital.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

mommy's shower

I call myself "mommy" a lot with Sam..."mommy's going to put your shoes on you need mommy to help you? pinching mommy...mommy's turn to brush your teeth...mmmm, mommy likes broccoli." I don't really say "I" or "my" with him too much. Is this weird? I don't know. I just hope I don't do it with other people because that would be weird.

Anyway. When Sam started taking only one midday nap several weeks ago, a problem arose as to when I would take my shower (when mommy would take mommy's shower). Previously, he took an early nap and I could shower during his nap around 9:30, which was acceptable. Now, his nap wasn't until 11:30 and we usually wanted to leave the house for an outing beforehand. Waiting for naptime was not going to work, and taking a shower really early, before Denis left the house, was just too early and hectic. Leaving Sam alone to play, even with the bathroom door open, was just not safe.

I started putting him in his crib with some toys and books while I took the fastest shower I possibly could, but Sam did not like this idea at all! He screamed and screamed in protest. How dare I confine him! I tried to ease him into it by explaining how nice it would be to play in his crib for awhile. I started reserving his favorite toys only for shower-time. I gave him lots of praise and attention before and after. Nothing helped. Screaming and screaming, all through my shower, toys and books thrown on the floor. Very relaxing, let me tell you. My showers were over in 7 minutes, but it was the most headache-inducing 7 minutes of the day.

What could I do? I explored all options, but this one really was the best, if only Sam could agree with me. And finally, he did. Being consistent paid off, and day by day, he cried less vehemently and seemed to accept that crib-time during mommy's shower was not so bad.

The past few days, when I've asked him "Ready to go read in your crib while mommy takes a shower?" Sam nods, grabs a book, and walks towards his room with a smile on his face. I drop a stack of books in his crib with him, and he amuses himself reading while I take whatever time I need to get ready. It's quite pleasant. I think he even starts slowing down a bit in anticipation of his quiet reading time.

So mommy's shower is no longer a problem, and is now just part of our morning flow. I always considered myself a good problem-solver in work settings. The stay-at-home-mom job has some pretty mundane problems, but it still feels satisfying when they get solved.