Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book review: In Defense of Food

Today was my last day of school -- I'm done for the year! I could not be happier about it, because this means no driving back and forth and back and forth, or, as I've been doing lately, spending the whole day an hour from home. We've been bouncing between school and church and the library and the park, but naptime has been an issue and it's just so tiring for me to be away from home. I wish John were done with having to deal with it too.

The next book I read this past week was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan. The book is a critique of a notion called "nutritionism," the idea that food is simply the sum of its nutritional parts. Nutritionism is the philosophy behind fortified foods, "healthy" versions of food, and artificial food. The prime example is margarine. It's supposed to be healthier because it uses vegetable oils which are lower in saturated fat ... only it has "trans fats" which are incredibly bad for you! Every time we try to improve on food, it ends up backfiring.

Pollan's answer is, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Eat food means, only eat actual foods in their more-or-less natural state -- no processed stuff. I can totally sign on for that one. "Not too much" means, as he explains it, that we should eat the way other cultures do, for enjoyment, in company of others, and slowly. Americans tend to see food as a fuel to keep our bodies going, and we scarf it down in front of the TV, at our desks, or in the car. That's hardly a recipe for health -- or happiness. And "mostly plants" means that we should eat less meat ... which was something I actually didn't agree with.

After all, Pollan spends a lot of time debunking traditional nutrition. He argues that fat is not bad for you after all (and the scientific community knows it!) and talks about traditional cultures that eat high-fat, high-meat diets. There are even cultures that hardly ever eat plants at all, and they're known for their vibrant health. But after telling us all this, he turns around and says, "But Americans eat too much meat." His defense? "Everyone in the medical community agrees on that." Yes, but everyone in the medical community thought 20 years ago that low-fat diets would save us all. Pollan even suggests the danger of meat is all that saturated fat ... but I thought we weren't supposed to be demonizing particular nutrients!

Now, I agree that conventionally-raised meat isn't the best for you, and so we shouldn't overindulge in it -- or anything else, for that matter. But I think part of other cultures' secret that keeps them from overeating is that they eat plenty of fat. Take the French. French food is swimming in butter (i.e. saturated fat) and they are extraordinarily healthy. He talks a bit about the "French paradox" but mostly says it's due to their cultural eating habits (eating slowly, having small portions, etc.). It seems to me, when you've been eating shellfish drenched in garlic butter, you won't want seconds. Trying a bunch of psychological tricks to make yourself stop eating when you've still got the munchies seems a little ... self-depriving. Possibly unnecessarily.

I also didn't like how Pollan went on and on against choosing foods based on the nutrients inside them, saying we shouldn't be counting grams of fat or carbs (which I agree with) but also saying we shouldn't keep track of what vitamins we're getting or labeling some real foods as "healthy" and others as "less healthy." For one thing, some real foods really are healthier than others. Some things, like liver, are really rich in nutrients, and others, like rice, aren't so much. Then, of course, Pollan goes off about omega-6's and omega-3's, showing that maybe talking about nutrients isn't so bad after all. Except that it is. Except that it isn't. The whole book was a little too fluffy and poetic for me to quite get a handle on actual, hard-and-fast ideas.

Overall, I did like the book, and I agreed with most of it. I agree that the industrial food system and the nutritional establishment have some serious problems. But I'm not sure I like his solutions. The real-food movement (say, the Weston A. Price Foundation) tends to treat Pollan like an ally, because he does believe in real food. However, his odd idea that we should eat less meat doesn't really jive with what the WAPF says -- even though he was happy to quote Price when he agreed with him.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with analyzing the nutrition in the food we eat. I actually love doing it, and sort of wish I had a lab so I could compare the nutrients in plants grown on different soils and so forth. I don't think we need to be counting and tallying and worrying, but I'm a believer in science and tradition working side by side. Is X a traditional food? How healthy is the culture that eats X? Can we replicate the health benefits of X in people not of the same culture? Okay, then, let's eat more X. Bonus points if you can quantify what X is and how it works.

Still, I found the book an enjoyable (one-day) read. It was short and sweet and poetically written. I liked the stories of Aborigines curing themselves of heart disease and diabetes by returning to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and things like that. And it exposed a lot of issues with processed food, a few of which I hadn't known about. So, definitely a good book -- but I wish that it, like a blog, had a comments section for me to argue with the author. I think the internet has spoiled me.

Note: It is no longer May 26th. But I'm leaving the old date because this post begins "It's the last day of school!" Oops. Somebody didn't have any blogging time over the weekend, and I think it was me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The fallacy of results

I've been meaning to write a post about this ever since I read this article: "Twin Lessons: Have More Kids, Pay Less Attention to Them." I was putting it off a little, and then I read Free-Range Parenting (which I'll review soon), and found the same fallacy there. So I think it's time to address it.

The point of the article is this: Research shows that twins grow up pretty similar even if they were raised separately. Therefore, genetics is more important than upbringing. Therefore, upbringing makes no difference. Therefore, we shouldn't bother trying to give our kids the best upbringing.

In some aspects, I agree with the article. Our kids will be as intelligent as they're going to be, whether we let them watch Baby Einstein and enrolled them in Mandarin lessons or not. The more upper-middle-class obsession with giving your kids all the optimal experiences in life (or else they'll turn out slow or behind their peers) is pretty pointless. There's never been any evidence that most "educational" things make the slightest difference. Studies do show that kids turn out better when they have two involved parents. But whether those parents sign them up for baby yoga doesn't seem very relevant.

On the other hand, the fact that a pair of twins both wore horn-rimmed spectacles and named their sons Alan doesn't really prove to me that nothing I do as a parent makes any difference. Sure, kids have a lot that is inborn. But a child raised in poverty with no father and only an eighth-grade education, looking up to gang members as his heroes, is pretty much bound to turn out a little different from a child raised in affluence and a loving home. Studies show this, as well. That's part of why parents get so uptight -- they hear a study showing that kids who own books are better readers than kids who don't own books, and so they go out and buy a ton of books. This may or may not make any difference.

Though it is quite possible that my kid's intelligence and temperament already determined and unalterable by me, I don't believe his values and behavior are. I'm not going to try to turn him into a quiet snuggler (I've tried and failed already), but I am going to try to teach him to treat others with respect and to go to church. Of course, he has free will and may decide to do the opposite of everything I teach him when he gets older. But most kids do echo their rearing to some extent.

I've taught a lot of kids. There was one thing I found a better determining factor in the sort of kids they were than anything else: what the parents themselves were like. If the parents loved to read, the kid loved to read. If the parents valued sports more, the kid valued sports more. This was also true for adopted children. It doesn't predict what kids will be like 100% of the time, but it seemed a better indicator than, for instance, whether their parents were strict or laid-back or whether they forced their kids to do homework or not. Those things mattered too, but less.

Of course, this is a big challenge to deal with. We have to actually set a good example, reading books and eating vegetables. But if we do it, generally our kids will grow up doing it too. They may later choose not to. But people grow up like their parents a lot more than they're willing to recognize.

Along with values and behavior, there's another thing I can teach my child: whether his mother loves him. If he grows up knowing just one thing, I want it to be that. So I try to foster a close attachment to him, to pay attention to the jabbers he has to say, to play with him from time to time. I don't do this to make him smarter. I do this because I want him to remember that I was there for him when he was a kid.

Because here's the deal: there is more that matters besides how a child will "turn out." The author of the article says it doesn't matter that he taught his babies to cry themselves to sleep, because it won't scar them for life. Okay, fine. But I could poke my kid with pins, too, and the mark would heal very quickly. If he was young enough at the time, he probably wouldn't remember it. But I'm not just raising the adult he will someday become. I'm raising the child I actually have. I believe that I should love and respect him, not because twenty years down the road it may have good results, but because he is a person worthy of love and respect now.

It's a very freeing thought. If the twin research is right, I don't have to worry that he'll have terrible sleep habits because he still doesn't usually sleep through the night or that I'm emotionally crippling him by still nursing him (ha!) or that he'll never be independent because I haven't put him in daycare. It's just as likely that he'll turn out better because of my choices, but if this fellow is right, then it makes no difference what I do. In that case, why don't I do what is loving and respectful, what feels right and what my son likes, now? It might not make him better-adjusted. But I do think it will make him happier now, and it will make him look back on his childhood and smile because it was a nice time. It might make him want to come home for Christmases because his childhood was so great. Even if it doesn't, I like to know that I have a happy, contented little boy who gets plenty of love.

So, do I believe in being more relaxed, signing up for less stuff, and letting my kid do more things independently? Yes. But that doesn't mean I don't think what I do matters. The fallacy of results leads people to either obsessively plan every moment of their child's life, because it all matters, or to adopt a cavalier attitude toward the choices that they make, because none of it matters. My point of view is that what I do matters, but the determining factor isn't the results I get in 20 years, but whether what I do shows love and respect to the child I have now. The adult he will become is largely out of my control, but the child he is now is the one I have been given.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book review: The Happiest Toddler on the Block

Lately I've been reading a lot of library books. And I mean a lot. I love to read, and until recently spent all that time on Google Reader, but having a toddler draws me away from the glowing screen and forces me to ... connect with my environment? Well, just read paper books. It's a step, right?

On Friday I plowed through The Happiest Toddler on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. (I'm kind of a speed reader ... John is always commenting on how fast my eyes go back and forth on the page. But it is a pretty quick read.) I've already read his previous book, which is about comforting colicky babies.

This book uses evolution to explain why toddlers are the way they are. Karp believes that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," which means, "human development mimics human evolution." Personally, I thought that theory was debunked years ago, but it is a kind of clever way to describe things anyway. Basically, he says that 12-18 months is the "charming chimp-child" stage, during which toddlers are a lot like chimps because their brains and knowledge haven't developed complex language or fine motor skills yet. From 18 to 24 months, they are "Knee-High Neanderthals," then "Clever Cave-Kids" at two and "Versatile Villagers" at three.

I really don't think we know as much about the Neanderthals and cavemen as he thinks we do, and I sure can see a lot of differences between toddlers and early humans. But, on the other hand, it is a nice gimmick to frame his book, and it does help you understand toddlers a little better. For instance, Marko's not a chimp. But I do better if I don't expect him to be a rational, communicative child, but rather more like a chimp would be -- friendly, interested, but not able to understand most of what I say or communicate what's going on in that head of his.

I certainly agreed when Karp criticized the way we try big-kid tactics on toddlers. For instance, saying, "Gee, I know how you feel, but cheer up, we will be going home soon." That's all wasted breath when talking to a screaming toddler. In fact, most things that would work on a four-year-old just don't work on a one-year-old.

I haven't yet tried Karp's method, though. He says that when a toddler flips out, we should get down on their level and empathize with them in "toddlerese." For instance, when the toddler is banging on the door, screaming, we should first imitate their feelings by saying, "You want OUT! Out! Out! Out!" Then, after the baby has miraculously calmed down (does this really work?), we should communicate what we want through simple words and gestures. ("Stay in! Have cookie!" Or whatever.)

Like I said, I haven't tried it, and I'm a tad skeptical. But I plan to give it a shot and see how it does. Marko doesn't throw many fits, and if he does, it means he's tired and cranky and nothing will work but a nap. But, according to Karp, things will get a lot worse when he's a "Knee-High Neanderthal" in a few months, so I'd best be on the lookout.

I did disagree with a few things Karp said. For instance, he claims that the caveman was the first stage that had "indoor bathrooms," and therefore potty training should be done at two. Maybe that's the first indoor bathrooms that have been discovered, but I bet Neanderthals weren't wearing diapers either. I mean, hamsters have toilet corners in their cages. Animals of almost any age and stage of development prefer not to sit in their own waste (of course there are exceptions, like pigeons and poo-flinging monkeys) and babies can learn to use the potty from birth, if the parents are so inclined. A lot of people do it around the world, so there's no need to claim kids are incapable of this.

On the other hand, I loved learning about the development of toddlers. Apparently the reason Marko can't use a spoon yet is that his cerebellum isn't developed enough yet to allow his wrist to swivel. In a couple of months, it will be and he will finally be able to eat his own yogurt without help! (Yogurt is his current favorite food. If I give it to him in a bowl, he drinks it ... pouring half of it down his shirt in the process.) It's so neat seeing how babies unfold and develop on their own ... so much of what they learn, we don't have to teach them at all.

I'd recommend the book, if you have the time and can get it from the library. It's not a "parenting library essential," though. The only books (so far) that I would count in mine are Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, by Penny Simkin, and The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears. I'm still looking for other good ones, though. Once I find a must-have book, I get a copy and then lend it out to people forever. Call me the evangelist of good parenting books.

(Oh, P.S. The No-Cry Sleep Solution is good too. And the No-Cry Naptime Solution is probably even better. They're both by Elizabeth Pantley. I don't own either, though.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

How to roast a chicken

Lately I keep giving people the impression that I know how to cook. Okay, I kind of do, but I don't do anything hard. All my cooking is extremely simple and only uses common ingredients. So I really don't get it when people say, "Oh wow, you roasted a chicken!" or, "You made macaroni and cheese from scratch?" Seriously, these things are way easier than they look (or taste).

John was laughing at me the other night because I was talking about how simple it was to cook something. "You women are all alike," he said. "One of you says, 'This tastes good,' and the other has to say, 'Oh, but I only cooked a simple reduction sauce with an Italian white wine and then braised a single peacock's feather along with the unicorn steak.' It's like you think taste and effort are supposed to correlate in any way. How it tastes has nothing to do with how much work it took."

Anyway, so I've decided to share a few of my simplest dishes. Rather than impress with the originality of what I'm making (which I hardly ever can), I just want to be really specific so that anyone who does not yet know how to do these easy things, can do them tonight for dinner in 20 minutes. I'm starting with roasting a chicken, because it is a delicious company meal and takes barely any effort at all. Honestly, the hardest part is taking the chicken out of the freezer.

Step One: Take the chicken out of the freezer. Ideally you'd do this about two days before you need it so that it's completely thawed. If you miss this timeframe, you can thaw it in one day in a bowl of lukewarm water on the counter, or (like me) hasten it along still further by holding it under a warm tap. Yes, that's me, always holding a slippery, cold raw chicken under the tap and sloshing warm water around in the cavity. I like to be glamorous when I cook.

Step Two: Decide when you want it on the table. Do you want dinner at six? Then a five-pound chicken should go in the oven around four. The rule is 20 minutes per pound (more if it isn't completely thawed), plus 20 minutes for resting and carving. 10 minutes before oven time is when you need to get started.

Step Three: Prepare the chicken. Before you start, take a moment to think about cross-contamination. Anything that raw chicken touches will have to be washed. So a good place to unwrap it is in your sink or on an easy-to-clean surface. Sometimes I put it on some kind of tray so that I can just wash that instead of trying to disinfect the counter. During the process, you'll probably have to wash your hands several times, so make sure your soap is handy and everything else you need is ready to hand (your dish, seasonings, scissors).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Or 375. Either's fine.

Unwrap the chicken from its packaging. You'll probably need scissors for that. Once it's out you can just dump the scissors in the sink to wash later; you won't need them again. Go ahead and dump any juices that come out with your chicken; it's usually just added "broth" or water. Reach up that poor chicken's behind and see if there's a bag of giblets inside. Take it out. If you want the giblets (I do; such a waste to toss them!), open the bag and see what you've got. You probably have the neck, some big blobs that are heart and gizzard (sometimes more than one of each; the manufacturers just throw 'em in at random) and a floppy, dark-colored liver. Cook the liver separately or it will share its taste with the chicken. I just tip it into a saucepan to cook on the stove. The other giblets can roast in the pan along with your chicken.

Some people say to rinse the chicken inside and out and then pat it dry. I don't, because I figure someone had to do that already when they took the feathers off. And anyway, I'm going to cook it.

Plop the chicken in your cooking dish. Here are my two extra-special super secrets that make my chicken the best I've ever had: I don't use a roasting pan, and I don't put it breast-up like everyone tells you to. I put it in a Pyrex dish. Any casserole will do. An 8x8 Pyrex will hold a 5 lb. chicken if you put it in diagonally. For a bigger bird, like a turkey, those big 9x13 pans are good. And, for the special C. family touch, put it upside-down. Or rather, the way the chicken would sit if alive, breast-down. The breast is the squishier side, and the wings will look like they're nicely folded.

There are two reasons you're supposed to put it breast-up: it's easier to carve that way, and you get crispy breast skin. But I've never had any trouble carving it breast-down (and if you do, you can always flip it over once it's cooked), and I don't care if the breast skin is crispy. (If you do, you can pull off the back skin and drape a bit over each piece of breast you serve. No one will mind, or likely even notice.) The reason I cook it breast-down is because the breast is much moister. The breast cooks faster and is drier than the rest of the chicken, so when you put it facing up, it can cook too fast and dry out. When it's facing down, it cooks more slowly and sort of braises in the juices. The white meat ends up deliciously moist and not at all overcooked. No basting or shielding or tinfoil or paper bags necessary.

Once you've got it in your pan (which probably took you about five minutes) you can season it if you want. I often dump a little olive oil on it and then sprinkle on some seasonings: salt, pepper, sage, garlic, and rosemary. Whatever seasonings you like are good. Just salt and pepper is fine -- or nothing, if you're short on time. I generally wash my hands, and then use my clean left hand for dumping stuff on and my right hand for rubbing stuff into the chicken. You can just spread your seasonings over the back, legs, and wings. It takes two minutes but does make the skin super-delicious.

Step Three: Put the chicken in the oven. Then immediately turn the oven down to 350. The extra heat will help crisp the skin a bit, and then the lower heat will do the actual cooking. At least, that's what the Joy of Cooking told me. If you're concerned about the time, you can use a higher heat, but you'll have to look elsewhere for a chart that will tell you how long you need. I only know 20 minutes per pound at 350. If I use a higher heat, I generally just have to poke at it a bit to know when it's done. Also, if your chicken's still a little frozen, you will need more time or a higher temperature.

Step Four: Take the chicken out of the oven when the cooking time is up. To know if it's done, cut into the thigh (which takes the longest to cook). If it bleeds and the meat looks raw or pinkish, it isn't done. If clear oil comes out and everything looks white, it's done. (Sometimes there's a slight reddish tint on parts of the meat that touch the bone. This may be just a stain from the bone marrow. If you're unsure, just cook it longer. It's hard to overcook a chicken.)

Or, you know, you could use a meat thermometer. I don't have one.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes or so (this helps it absorb its juices and be moister) and then carve it up. A serrated knife seems to work best. I generally cut it into drumsticks, thighs, wings (these are usually quite small, for a kid perhaps) and two or four breast pieces. The delicious marbles of meat on the back are the cook's treat to eat in the kitchen.

And then you eat it! There are usually a ton of drippings in the pan afterward. Pour them into a jar or measuring cup and put them in the fridge. When they separate out, scoop off the fat (schmaltz) to cook your eggs or onions in, and save the broth for soup. Have everyone save their bones, and after dinner you can start some chicken stock going to be ready by tomorrow's dinner.

To make this a full meal, you can start some rice or potatoes and a vegetable a few minutes before the chicken comes out of the oven, and they should all be ready at the same time.

Preparation time: about half an hour. Total time: two hours and change. If you make it for company, you can pop it in the oven before they come, spend a couple hours eating hors d'oevres and chatting, and then when the house begins to smell delicious, you bring out this fantastic chicken and impress everyone.

At which point, I guess, you tell them, "It's so simple; I simply caught a phoenix on my way to the grocery store and then braised it in the milk of a minor goddess." Something like that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Birth scars

Birth is a funny thing. It can be a rite of passage, but it's also the source of a lot of horror stories. Women LOVE to get together and compare how awful their births were. I personally don't think it's just a spirit of competition. It's the desire to work through the emotional scars their births have left them with.

I don't think birth has to be traumatic, in most cases. But it so often is. Last century, women gave birth in "twilight sleep," strapped down, or unconscious for just the moment of birth. Now things are better, as hospitals discover methods of pain relief that allow the mother to stay aware, and women discover natural birth methods.

My mother's birth stories were always so inspiring, and she enjoyed telling them. She used to tell me about this or that child's birth, how she thought she couldn't do it and did it anyway. She seemed so empowered ... except for my own birth. My birth sounds pretty awful. It was quick and not too terrible physically, but I was separated from my mom as soon as I was born. Though she liked to tell me about the things she did while she was in labor with me, the songs she sang, and all that, she just never could forget how she felt when I was whisked away before she got a good look at me. She tells me she could hear a baby crying far away and wondered if it was me. And that once she got me, she was afraid to really look at me, to count my fingers and toes as she did with the others.

I never really understood that until I had my own. See, birth is an awfully emotional experience. It's supposed to be. The hormone that produces labor contractions, oxytocin, has an odd side effect of enhancing memory. That's for bonding -- so that you will remember that baby is yours and never forget your first meeting. But for so many women, the memories imprinted on their minds at their babies' births is quite different. They remember in detail who was there, what they were thinking, what the doctor said. More than anything, they remember how they felt, and they won't ever forget. That's why it's so ridiculous when the Bible says, "though a mother forget her child." No mother would forget her child. Ever. It simply does not happen.

What I remember best from Marko's birth is this.

I remember seeing, for an instant, a wiggling, crying mass of gray quickly turning to pink before the doctor wrapped a blanket around him and handed him to someone else. She told me, "He's okay, but we will suction his lungs anyway, just in case." I wanted very badly to tell her, "No, if he is fine, just give him to me," but I couldn't seem to speak.

I remember hearing him cry on the warming table across the room and wanting to send John over to be with him, but I was beginning to fall apart and couldn't make myself let go of his hand.

I remember the doctor leaning hard on my belly in what is understatedly called "uterine massage" as she yanked the placenta out and said, "Come on, this isn't so bad, you just went through labor."

I remember a hand appearing with a needle that jabbed into my leg, and asking what it was. "Pitocin," said the nurse. I was angry that they hadn't asked me first. I wondered if they gave it to me because it was procedure, or was I actually hemorrhaging. I wondered if they would tell me if I was. And I was angry that no one was telling me anything, especially as I began to grasp that there was nothing the matter, everyone was calm but they just didn't think it was important to tell me what was going on.

I remember asking over and over again, "Where's my baby? Aren't you done yet? Can't you give him to me?" I watched the clock and thought, "How long does it take to suction a baby's lungs? I can hear that he is fine, why don't they give him to me?" It took them around 45 minutes, every minute of which I was in great distress. I had had my baby for nine months and now he was gone.

After that, the hormones let up and I don't remember so much. When they gave me my baby, he was just a little face up above a burrito of swaddling and didn't look like much. I was happy to have him, or rather relieved, but I still felt a little wrong. Like I shouldn't actually have a baby. It was the middle of the night and I felt really out of it. I tried to nurse him but I didn't know what to do, and eventually I handed him back and was allowed at last to have something to eat.

And, despite my resolve to count those fingers and toes right away, I didn't. I didn't want to take off the swaddle because I didn't think I could rewrap it. I figured the nurses knew better than I what to do with this confusing bundle. I got other people to change his diaper for me; it was John who discovered the birthmark on his tiny leg. I liked him a lot, didn't want to let him out of my sight, but I felt unsure of what to do, so I left him in his plastic bassinet most of the time. Besides, I was too sore to get out of bed and pick him up. No one would either let me sleep or let me hold him ... it was just an endless procession of people coming in to say things to me or take my blood pressure.

Of course I did eventually get past this. My second night in the hospital, I was up with the baby most of the night (I was so tired I was dreaming with my eyes open) and I actually got to take care of him myself. I studied his Yoda eyes in the darkness and called him, "little stranger." Having him rely on me like that made me feel much more like his mother. And after a week, when John left for work and his family went home, I had him all to myself and began to really bond with him. I ditched all the swaddling blankets and took him into the tub with me, where I finally got a good long look at those toes and those skinny newborn arms and legs. I fell in love with the fuzz on the top of his head and the funny faces he made. I began to feel competent, first to the point that I was willing to do everything myself, and later to the point that I refused to let anyone else do anything. My baby didn't care who held him, but I was so attached that it had to be me.

It's been over a year, and I don't feel so broken up about it the way I used to. But still, I do regret it. It was a silly hospital policy of playing it safe, even though they knew my baby was all right, and they took away our first moment together. And I'll always remember that, even if I don't let it upset me (much) anymore.

The next time you hear a woman complain about her labors, don't tell her to get over herself, to be thankful she had a healthy baby (if she did), or to stop talking about it. The trauma of unwanted events at the time of birth is real, and she could probably use a listening ear. Even if you're not a mother, your mother went through it for you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A bunch of quick takes

Isn't there some blog thing where you do a lot of "quick takes"? And there's some particular number you have, and someone you link back to? Well, I don't know who or how many, but I have a lot of little short things to say, so that's what I'm going to do.

⅜: The baby has been really cranky lately. I actually think it's due to too much sleep. Is that possible? See, he always crashes out in the carseat, and we're spending four hours in the car every day. But he still takes his normal nap, and gets a reasonable amount of sleep at night. Yesterday I managed everything so that he only got one big nap and a catnap on one of the car rides, and he was MUCH better. Go figure.

‰: The other issue is his stuffy nose. He often can't breathe out of it at all. Which means nursing is basically impossible. We were getting to the point where I could get him to sleep by just lying down next to him, but lately that hasn't worked, so getting him to bed at night is quite a trial. Stroller walks are the last-ditch effort that nearly always works.

√2: Speaking of walks, this is a really nice neighborhood to walk in. Very quiet and hardly any traffic. Except ... there are a lot of barky dogs. And when they see a sleeping baby passing in a stroller, they yap to wake the dead. Sigh.

6+2i: We got some rain yesterday and it is cloudy and damp today. After a hot, dry week, this is just what I was hoping for. The soil has this hard crust nothing can sprout through, and the lawn has many bare patches. Now that it's damp, things are sprouting through all over the place! This means my green beans, oregano, coriander, and thyme, and it also means all kinds of weeds. On the lawn, I don't care -- I don't think there's a rule that it all HAS to be grass, and I'd certainly prefer dandelions and clover to bare ground. But in the pots where I'm growing herbs, it confuses me. I don't know what my seedlings are supposed to look like, so I can't pull anything till I figure that out. Hopefully I will figure it out in time to NOT season my spaghetti with grass or something. I am not very good at plant identification: I know what maybe five of the plants in my yard are, and there are dozens of mystery plants.

π: Does anyone know how to transplant tulips? All my tulips are in the wrong places ... like in the middle of the lawn.

2log10: I planted some mint yesterday. It's Corsican mint, which is really tiny and smells delicious. I saw it at the farmers' market and couldn't help myself. Seriously, I should have someone go with me next time, to stop me from impulse buying. I was in a bad mood at the time and getting some retail therapy ... at least my retail therapy is delicious and sustainable, right? Ummmm well, I still shouldn't go again for awhile ... all of our money needs to go to gas for the next week.

e^2: Ugh, gas prices. Luckily here in the boonies it's only $3.79. But that's still not much of an "only," and a full tank doesn't even last us two days, with amount we're driving and the gas-guzzling giant maroon van we own. I believe we are paying more for gas right now than we are for our mortgage. That's a testament to the cheapness of our house as well as the expensiveness of our gas. BUT, in two more weeks, I won't have to work anymore and we'll only be logging half the miles! Or rather, John will ... while I stay at home and don't have to set foot in the car all day. I feel a little guilty, but it is easier for him than for the baby.

42: The baby, I mean the toddler, I mean Marko, has a little problem with sign language. He picks up signs very fast and then uses them all the time, with no notion of what they mean. For instance his new one, potty. He thinks it means, "Please take off my diaper, Mama, so I can sit on the potty and play with a book for awhile, and then get up and pee on the floor." Thank goodness for hardwood! I don't think we'll make much more progress on potty training until we're done spending so much time in the car.

: Our housewarming in two weeks -- we'd better get serious about hanging pictures and (perhaps) making curtains. I want our house to look its best. Also, not a mess would be nice. It looked great when we moved in, and now there are toys everywhere. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For all the mothers

(a second post for Mother's Day week)

For all the mothers, everywhere in the world,

For the mother of twelve and the mother of one,

For the mother up to her ears in preschoolers and the mother waiting for a call from her grown children,

For the girl seeing the second line appear on the pregnancy test and wondering how her life will change,

For the woman alone in a nursing home wishing for a chance to see her grandchildren,

For the mother treasuring the memory of a few precious days of pregnancy before her miscarriage,

For the mother realizing her disabled child will never live on his own,

For the mother pacing the floor with a newborn in the middle of the night, wishing for sleep or a little company,

For the infertile woman who weeps at the picture of a newborn, but opens her motherly heart to nieces, nephews, and neighbor children,

For the mother superior of a monastery who lies awake at night worrying about her spiritual daughters,

For the mother of a priest, who lives in awe of her son's vocation, but wishes he would come home more often,

For the single woman who becomes a teacher, a nurse, or a social worker to share her motherly love with those in need,

For the mother who homeschools her six children without a complaint, but secretly wishes someone would offer to lend a hand,

For the single mother who faces each day knowing her children have no one to rely on for food or clothing or shelter or love but her,

For the adoptive mother who opens her arms to a child she doesn't know, and in a heartbeat becomes his mother,

For the mother raising her children on her own while her husband lives far away,

For the mother facing a second deployment away from her toddler, fearing he will not remember her when she comes home,

For the mother waiting up nights in the ICU, praying for good news and fearing the worst,

For the mother who has had to bury her only child, and still can't answer the question "Do you have any children?"

For my mother, and your mother, and Hitler's mother, and Jesus' mother,

All of my thanks, my love, my prayers.

Mothers make the world go round. They wipe noses, listen to heartbreaks, check breathing, kiss wounds. They make sure the homework has been done and that the teenager is eating enough. They are privy to a kind of love that doesn't happen to anyone else, a love that makes you cry and gives you the strength to do a million tiny things, or a single big thing. Even when they are discouraged, complaining, overwhelmed, slacking, daydreaming of something different, they are loving with all their hearts. When the job is easy and pure joy, they are there; but when it's day after day of grinding difficulty, without a sick day or a day off, they are there too.

All of us exist because of a mother bore us; all of us are whole because a mother (biological or otherwise) raised us and taught us how to be alive.

Thank you, every mother who has raised me. My mom, my grandmas, my aunts, my friends' mothers, the women who ministered to me at boarding school, my godmother, my choir friends who took me into their homes, the parents of my students who brought me cookies and listened to me, the office ladies at work, the nurses at the hospital, the nuns at the monastery, my teachers, my babysitters, my friends.

The love of mothers, that love which sacrifices itself and knows no bounds, allows us to live, and to find life worth living. God bless you, mothers everywhere.

Recipe: Eggs with dandelion greens and wild onions

I've wanted to forage for a long time. The problem is, in the suburbs, just about everywhere is contaminated with something. The landscaped areas are sprayed, and the wild areas are at risk for runoff. But now that I have my own yard, I've been foraging by learning to identify the plants right outside my door. I know they're not sprayed, and I can return to the same spot day after day and get more.

I picked two of the very easiest plants to identify: dandelions and onion grass. I'm sure you can recognize a dandelion, and you're a rare person if there are none in your yard. As for onion grass or wild onion, you probably have some if you've ever unaccountably smelled onions while mowing the lawn. It looks just like chives, with a tiny bulb at the bottom. Bruise it and sniff -- if it smells like onions, you've got the right plant. If not, it might be lily of the valley -- don't eat it!

I got some young dandelion greens (the younger, the better) and onion grass, and washed and chopped both. I put them in a saucepan with about a tablespoon of cider vinegar and cooked them on medium heat for about three minutes, at which point the vinegar had almost all evaporated. I tossed in a hunk of beef tallow (a tablespoon of butter would work just as well) and sauteed the greens for another three minutes or so. Then I added two eggs, scrambled them till they were done, and ate the whole thing with salt and pepper.

They were delicious. I've occasionally tasted dandelion greens and found them just too bitter, but the bitterness had almost all disappeared. There was just the faintest bite left, mixed with sourness from the vinegar. It might have been even better with parmesan cheese.

In any event, it was delicious enough that I scarfed them down and rushed to the computer to rave about it! Like all of my most delicious creations, there was no time for any pictures. But I heartily recommend this dish ... in ten minutes I foraged and ate a delicious lunch!

Gardening with baby

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Those of you who regularly read my blog know that I'm very excited about starting to garden. The baby is enjoying it, too -- he's always borrowing my trowel and poking around, or scratching in the dirt with a stick. He always comes inside with dirt on his face and hands!

Personally, I encourage scrabbling in dirt, eating dandelions, and getting sunshine, so my son is doing exactly what I would like. As a kid, I remember poking around in our large yard, building fairy houses and trying (and failing!) to grow dandelions. These are my best memories of growing up. I want Marko to be an "outdoor" kid, not an "indoor" kid with a pale face, poor health, and a video game habit! Nothing's better for kids to do than to play outside, and all that's required is the (negligible) sacrifice of giving up what I'd like to get done and going and sitting out there with him.

No worry about me getting bored, though, with my garden to tend. Nothing very exciting is going on at the moment, but I have been gathering grass clippings to mulch my beds and pulling weeds. Look how everything's growing!

My sage plant went and grew these lovely flowers!

The Cherokee Purple tomatoes, which I bought at the farmers' market and planted two weeks ago, are leafing out very nicely. A few leaves have holes in them; I blame some kind of bug. My beefsteak tomatoes, which I started myself, are settling in and look fine too.

The biggest tomato plant

I never showed you my raspberry bush yet. I found it at Aldi for $5 and was surprised to find that it actually showed signs of life. So, after much debating with myself, I bought it and built a bed in the backyard for it. I fertilized with a few kitchen scraps and some homemade bonemeal, and it seems to be doing well. I hope it has enough sun where it is -- the whole backyard is shadier than I'd like.

The raspberry plant is alive!

Just this week I planted some green beans around the raspberry bush. I hope it isn't too late to plant them, since our spring sprang a long time ago, but I didn't want to wait for fall.

Trying out the wild onions he helped forage in our yard

What I'm looking forward to the most is getting to pick the first juicy tomatoes, warm from the sun, and letting Marko chomp into them and get the juice all down his chin. There's nothing better than a fresh tomato right off the vine!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.

  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.

  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.

  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.

  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.

  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).

  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.

  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.

  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!

  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.

  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.

  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.

  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.

  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!

  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.

  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.

  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.

  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.

  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.

  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.

  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.

  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.

  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.

  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.

  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.

  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.

  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.

  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.

  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.

  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.

  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.

  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.

  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.

  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.

  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.

  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.

  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.

  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.

  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.

  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.

  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.

  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.

  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.

  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.

  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!

  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.

  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day!

Is it just me, or does Mothers' Day always come sooner than we expect it?

I love Mothers' Day, because it's a great opportunity for me to appreciate my mother. Is there anyone who doesn't like showing their mom a little love? And even more so for me ... because my mother is demonstrably more awesome than anyone else's mother.

Don't believe me?

My mother was always there when I needed her. Always. I was trying to remember what she did when she wasn't with us kids, and I actually can't! I guess she cleaned the house ... made dinner ... wrote in her journal ... but most of the time, she was playing with us, taking us for walks, telling us stories.

Then, when I was bigger, she homeschooled us with all her might. She not only filled my head with information, she filled it with curiosity and the desire to learn more. She wasn't afraid to teach me things she didn't know -- she'd find a book and learn with me. Her willingness to teach things unfamiliar to her is why I felt confident to learn Latin along with her, and later on my own, until I was ready to excel at college and become a Latin teacher.

She fed our imaginations with stories and encouraged us to tell our own. I don't think it's any accident that my brother and I both wrote a lot of stories. She read book after book to us when we were small, and shared her made-up stories as well.

In the summertime, we practically lived at the beach. She brought us to one park after another, and encouraged us to play in the yard (which became a fairy land as we played our games of make-believe). In this way, she shared her love of nature and wild things.

I was an incredibly emotional, dramatic child and must have made her life pretty difficult with my constant tantrums, but she didn't lash out at me or withdraw from me. Instead, she patiently kept helping me manage my big emotions, and nowadays I think I do a pretty okay job. A lot of it was just a matter of waiting it out, I guess, but it means a lot to me that she was willing to stick out the emotional rollercoaster with me, whether that meant being ready for a hug when I picked myself up off the floor, or getting me a calming cup of peach tea when she saw me losing my cool.

Though she was and is an incredibly sympathetic and kind person, she wasn't afraid to punish me when that was what I needed. But it was always with mercy, never too harsh and always with an explanation.

The one thing in which I wish I took after my mom more is her spirituality. Without being obvious about it, she always brought us to prayer and was found praying on her own all the time. She took us to daily Mass and to her works of mercy, usually visiting the elderly. She taught us to think of those less fortunate than us, not just in money, but in human contact, and she taught me (who used to be afraid of the elderly!) to share my love with those often lonely souls.

Yes, I really think the way my mother raised me is the best, and I try to be like her. But even more than her mothering when I was a child, I cherish the relationship we have now. Today we really are the best of friends. I don't have a single friend who gets me quite the same. We share our mothering struggles and laugh over the craziness of our kids. We love to have fun together -- whether dancing to old records in the basement, or going out to Thai food and trying new things. There are inside jokes between the two of us that no one else seems to find funny, but make us laugh our heads off. And when sorrow strikes us -- the loss of her dad, or the loneliness of a move -- we each look to the other for a good talk and some comfort.

Right now my mom is on the other side of the world, raising her family in a foreign country in order to stay close to my military dad. I miss her so much and really wish she could be near, playing with her grandson and sharing a cup of peach tea. But even from far away, I'm loving her, praying for her, and sending her all my best thoughts. Time to go call her!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Settling in

The boxes are mostly unpacked, some of the pictures are hung, and the rhythms of our new life are starting to take shape. And boy, is it ever tiring.

We knew the commute would be killer. Our hope is that it won't be for too long a time. My job ends at the end of May, so I won't have to do the drive anymore. John is hoping to find something closer in the near future ... but we'll see. No luck yet.

Here's what our schedule looks like. We get out of bed at 5:25 and leave the house by 5:45, taking the sleeping baby out of bed in his jammies and letting him sleep in his carseat. At 6:45 (or hopefully before) we reach the train station, and John gets on the train to arrive at work around eight. Once I've dressed the baby and we've both had something to eat, I still have an hour to kill before work. Monday I spent it cleaning our old apartment, yesterday I played with the baby in a park, and today I went to daily Mass, which is amazingly convenient. Well, I guess not so amazing considering I work at a Catholic school which schedules itself around daily Mass in case anyone wants to go.

From 8:20 to around 9:10, I teach. Then I usually go by the office and make sure there's nothing else I'm supposed to be doing. Then we drive home, whereupon the baby goes to sleep. All this car time kind of wreaks havoc on his nap schedule; if he is even a little bit tired, he sleeps in the car and destroys all chance of any other nap for four hours or so. But we're working with it. The important thing is that the baby wakes up when we get home, which isn't too hard to arrange.

Then I play with the baby, clean the house, work on my garden, and make dinner. The baby naps at 2:30 or 3:30 for about two hours. At 5:30, I have to leave to go get John. His train comes in at 6:25. If we're lucky, the baby is nicely rested from that nap and won't go to sleep in the car ... if he does, we are all in trouble as far as bedtime goes. That happened on Monday.

By 7:30, we're home, and I have to put dinner together (which, if I've been sufficiently productive earlier, won't take long) and we eat it. Then John gives the baby his bath, I wash the dishes (I miss you, apartment dishwasher!), we say prayers, and I try to get the baby to bed. Lately it's been kind of a chore. A long stroller walk works, but what about when it rains? Sometimes it's 9:30 or 10 before he's really asleep ... hopefully today will be better, because he went down for a nap at 2:30 instead of 3:30. I sure hope so.

Once he's in bed, we're quick to follow. The baby is in his own room now, so we no longer have to wait for him to be in deep sleep before we can get ready for bed. Ideally we'd be in bed by 9:30, but that hasn't happened yet. Then, the baby wakes up during the night. Monday night, he woke at 11 and 4 and slept soundly the rest of the night! Last night, he was up four times between 10:30, when we went to bed, at 5:30. Not fun.

This is all very hectic and tiring, and I have to admit I've taken to drinking black tea. I do not normally drink caffeine, but I realized I can't keep this up without it ... I'd be a hazard on the road. If you've been keeping track, I'm driving for 3-4 hours a day. Not a good idea to be feeling sleepy!

The upside of this is that, for me, it will only last three weeks and then I'm done. After that, John will drive himself, leave the car at the train station, and come back in the evening. Baby and I won't have any car time at all ... but John will still have a lot, and will be pretty tired. You see why he's in the market for something closer to home.

The house itself is just as nice to live in as I thought it would be. Of course it has its quirks. One is the old-fashioned doorknobs. I love these, but John hates them -- and even I don't like it when they won't open silently to peek in on my baby while he sleeps. Then there's the general lack of outlets, another function of the house's age. We have to plan every room based on where the only outlet in it is ... and very few of the outlets are grounded. This means that my laptop can only be plugged in in the kitchen, bathroom, or utility room. Luckily the cord reaches into the dining room, where I have it set up.

A big plus of this house is its wonderful insulation. It was made to keep cool in these hot Virginia summers, so even on the hottest day it's at least ten degrees cooler inside. On the cooler days, this isn't such a plus. It's a refrigerator in here! I'd be tempted to run the heat, even though it's May, if there were oil in the tank. There isn't, and by the time we have the ability to fill it up again, it will probably be much too hot to justify it. So I've been keeping the windows open on the hot days to fill our house with warm air for the night.

I still love the yard. The front is in bright sun pretty much the whole day, while the back is in partial shade. We switch between one and the other to keep from getting burned. The landscaping is what you call "mature," that is to say, there are tons of well-established plants, most of which I can't identify. Sometimes there's the remains of a bush with something else planted on top of it. Sixty years of would-be gardeners have been poking around in this yard. There are tulips scattered all over the place, as well as many different shrubs. I found the tag for some green peppers the other day ... so I am not the first to grow vegetables here, either. At the moment, though, there isn't anything edible growing that I recognize -- though there are tiny green fruits on the two trees in front, and I'm quite curious to see what they are.

A little bit of me worries, hoping we've done the right thing. I still love it, I love the house, the town, everything, but what about this commute? Can we really do this long-term? Will John completely burn out, and when will he have time to spend with us? But I think of all the other options that we had, and I really do think this was the best. Yes, of course we have to make sacrifices to live on one income where most people have two. A lot of people think that means cutting coupons or not going out to eat, but this is a drastic way to save quite a bit of money. It's a big sacrifice for my husband to put up with all of this trouble for our sake, but he has always been willing to do what he has to for our good.

Still, I hope that perfect job opens up right here in town. It would make everything just right. Until then, we're plugging along and doing okay.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

All moved in!

Well, our move on Saturday was successful.

If tiring.

We had a bunch of friends helping, so we were able not only to move all of our stuff, but unpack many of the boxes and put others in the attic. Though the usable space in this house is not large, there is tons of room in the attic for all those boxes of winter clothes, baby clothes, and books that were cluttering up our apartment before. Things look pretty tidy.

Waking up in the new house was strange; it still doesn't feel like our house. I need to take some time to rearrange my kitchen until it is just how I want it, some time to clean just a little more, and some time to relax around here so I start to feel comfortable.

The baby is sleeping on a mattress on the floor for now. I need to figure out how to keep him from rolling off it so much, or else put a soft comforter next to it so the wood floor doesn't wake him. I'm not going to put him in the crib, though: the one time I tried it, he woke right up and was quite annoyed! You can kind of see how low it is ... and seeing as I'm used to lying down with him for a bit when I put him down to sleep, it just wasn't going to work.

We didn't have time to paint his room ... though the color doesn't actually look this horrible in real life. I still don't know what color we'll end up doing. Maybe a soft yellow. Or sage. Or something.

We did do our room though! It looks amazing. Like the other room, the color here isn't exactly right; it's bluer in real life.

I still have to get our sailboat pictures framed ... the idea for this room is kind of a New England/sailing look. I'm going to have white curtains, perhaps with a blue motif on them. I plan to make them, but I will have to see what fabric I can find.

I'm a bit nervous about tomorrow. I have to drive John to the train, wait around for about an hour (probably catching daily Mass in that time), teach class, drive home, and then pick up John later. It's 40 minutes or so to the train (maybe a little less if he goes all the way to the end of the line? we will have to find out), so that's almost three hours of driving all told. With a baby. Every day. Once I'm done with work in three weeks or so, the amount of driving that has to be done will be much reduced ... but I'll be stuck within walking distance of home during the day. Luckily this area is pretty walkable.

I'm very glad to be moved in. And, I planted the rest of my tomatoes! Everything's in the ground now and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of results I get.
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