Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Multitasking is for sissies


In school, teachers were always trying to to get us to figure out the meaning of words without looking them up in the dictionary.  The strategies were various, from using context clues to breaking the word into separate parts.  Little did they know that one day I would own a Kindle that would take all of the work out of defining with just the touch of a screen.

However, there are still certain words that few dictionaries contain, but whose meaning is apparent just from reading them.  Take the word unitasker, for example.  It might seem unfamiliar at first, but think on it a little more.  Still nothing?  Chances are that you have a least one of these babies in your kitchen right now.  I'll give you a hint-any item that was specifically purchased for use with corn-on-the-cob is probably a good fit for this category.  

For more on unitaskers and the delight they bring to foodies everywhere, hop on over to my post today at Endless Simmer.  Now, where did I put that egg slicer

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Potty time

I'm not feeling top-notch at the moment, so I'll keep it short.  In case you, like me, are in need of a little pick-me-up, please enjoy the following photo.


Completely staged?  Yes.  But also completely adorable?  Oh, yes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Carbo-loading


Elijah has always been a good eater.  As he has gotten older, his capacity for food has become legendary.  Our friends still talk about how he ate an entire peach on his first birthday, after consuming an adult-sized portion of baked rotini.  You wouldn't know it by looking at him, but the boy can eat.

However, for some reason, he relationship with carbohydrates has always been a bit fickle.  He has never been a big fan of sliced bread, but give him a crusty French baguette and he's a happy man.  Yes to tortilla chips, but no to pita chips.  

And, in each stage of his eating life, there has always been one carb that he just can do without.  First, it was Cheerios.  I considered filling a tub with them for him to sit in on his first birthday.  We had to be ever on alert, lest he find one of unknown vintage beneath the couch and quickly shovel it, dust bunnies and all.

But, then, before his first birthday came around, the winds of change blew through our house.  No more were Cherrios king.  No, now, it was Graham crackers that were the carb of choice, so much so that walking down the cracker aisle at the grocery store could trigger an impassioned plea of, "Cookie, cookie."  

An here we are today.  Graham crackers are still tolerated, particularly if coated in peanut butter (be-be-bo), but there is no doubt about which grain product reigns supreme around our house.  It is the small but mighty honey-wheat pretzel stick, or preferably four of them, two for each hand.  His word for pretzel has evolved, although it only vaguely resembles the word as it is spoken in English.  At least it doesn't sounds wildly inappropriate, as our niece's word for pretzel once did.  (You'll have to ask me to tell that story in person.)

What triggers these seismic shifts in devotion?   I have no idea, and no way to predict them.  So, just as long as Aldi keeps supplying the beloved pretzel sticks, I'll keep passing them on the their number one fan (for the moment).

Friday, February 24, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
 ... 
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

And now for something completely different...


A few weeks ago, I read the final book of The Hunger Games trilogy.  I put off reading it as long as I could because I knew how quickly it would go, and how sad I would be when it was over.  My predictions were correct.  I suppressed the urge to go back and start the series again at the beginning.  I was able to do this mainly because we don't actually own the books. 

After such an emotional roller coaster, I was faced with the ever-difficult question of what to read next.  I had recently read a book by P.D. James, The Lighthouse.  Then, last week, my friend Laura offered me a copy of the next book in the same series that she had picked up at VV.  It seemed fated.  

When it comes to mysteries, I am picky.  I went through an Agatha Christie phase in middle school, but since then, no single mystery writer has captured my attention.  Jonathan Kellerman is a good companion for beach vacations, but his books don't hold up in the harsh light of everyday life.  James Patterson's books are laughably bad, particularly when they feature a female protagonist.  I have started The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency three times, wanting badly to like it, but never quite actually achieving this aim.  But, there is something about P.D. James that has tickled my fancy. (Can I write that on the Internet?)

In reading a second book of hers, I have realized what it is that I like so much.  There are two things, really.  First, the books are pretty good, and not just for mysteries.  The writing is lyrical, the plot lines make sense and the characters are interesting, particularly some of the less important ones.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the books are so very British.  Seriously, the characters spend at least a third of the book sitting around drinking tea (or sometime coffee).  I don't know if that is actually what life in England is like, but I seriously hope so.  In a way, the books are the anti-Hunger Games.  Rather than a breathless sprint to the finish line, they are a meandering walk through the foggy countryside.  And sometimes, as I drink my herbal tea with a side of biscotti, that is exactly what I need. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Let's Get Physical

Two weeks ago, Elijah started physical therapy.  And let me tell you, it is hard.  For me.  

Elijah does experience frustration at times, and last week our session was cut short because his streaming nose was getting in the way of the breathing required to do his exercises.  But his physical therapist, Erin, is clearly no stranger to working with children, and I am impressed with the way that she seems to know just when to push him a little farther, and when to let him take a break.

No, as much as it pains me to admit it, I am the one struggling here.  I noticed that when telling people about our PT adventure, I tend to do one of three things: 1) act like it's no big deal -  "Hey, she comes to the house!" "It's covered by our insurance!" 2) make a joke - "Yeah, it's about time he got off his little butt." or 3) shift the conversation to things Elijah is good at, like talking.  As I was noticing this, I started to think about why.  Why is it so hard for me to accept that Elijah just needs a little extra help?  


I think part of it just comes from being a parent.  Elijah is but 17 months old, yet I already want to protect him from the world.  I don't want life to be hard for him.  Sure, challenges build character, but not without frustration and tears.  When a random stranger feels the need to comment about his lack of walking ability, it hurts because it feels like they are telling him that when they see him, they notice what he can't do.  

And then there is my general personal aversion to asking for help.  I don't know where this comes from, certainly not my upbringing, but for some reason I associate asking for help with weakness.  And now that it is my child that needs help, I see it as a reflection on my parenting.  Yikes.  Typing it, it seems illogical, and yet, the feeling is there.
 


Already, he is making progress.  He can now go up the stairs by himself, and does so at every opportunity.  He will likely learn to walk soon, and this whole period will be one for the record books.  It has already taught me much about myself, though, and not all of it is good.  I need to stop caring about what other people think.  I need to welcome help when it is offered.  I need to chill out. 

I am sure there is some sort of stair-related metaphor I could insert here, but I'll refrain.  For now, I'll just keep cheering Elijah on in his arduous climb towards mobility.  Oh, oops.  Sorry.  I couldn't help it. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Prepositional Phase


He started, as, I gather, they usually do, with nouns.  "Mama."  "Dada."  More soon followed.  "Ball.  Spoon."  It almost made me cry the day that we pulled up to the house in the car and from the backseat, I heard very distinctly the word "Home".  Then there were names.  "Ah-no" for EleanorOlivia became "Yee-ya".  Whenever he picks up my phone and I ask him who he's calling, it's "Mamo". 

This all makes sense.  If he can see it, he can name it, and, sometimes, he can say it.  

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the next class of words to be ushered in are all about where those objects are headed.  Some are prepositions and some are adverbs, at least as far as I can gather from the information at Dictionary.com.

  "Up" and "down" kicked things off, as they allowed him to direct Daddy and Mama to where he would like his lazy little behind to be positioned.  He also uses "down" to inform us that he is going to attempt to scoot down the stairs, in case we are interested in rescuing him from a headlong plunge. 

Thanks to the iPod dock, which is typically set up to play his nighttime sounds of light rain, he now knows "on" and "off"(see above).  Light switches are fun for that too. On is much more difficult to handle than off, motor-skill-wise, but not to worry, we spend long periods daily practicing these important skills.

The most oft-used, however, are the lovely pairing of "in" and "out".  It happens that just as he is learning these two words, he is simultaneously devoting large portions of playtime to taking things out of other things, then putting them back in.  This is great when it comes to cleaning up the Legos, but a bit less great when I attempt to put on my shoe only to find t a set of keys lodged in the toe.  The beloved binkies are a recipient of a lot of this in-and-out-and-in-again play (see below).

So, what's next?  Verbs?  Adjectives? From what I hear, pronouns are years away.  

Oh, and what part of speech is the word, "No"?  Because that is certainly one of Mr. Bossy's current favorites.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Weekend By The Numbers


Days: 4 (No school for B and B on Friday)
Days remaining: 1 (Thank you, Mr. Presidents)

Movies viewed: 2 (Our Idiot Brother, Gosford Park)
Movies viewed with subtitles: 1 (Can you guess which?)

Doughnuts consumed: 2? 3?  Does it count if you break it into little pieces and eat them throughout the day?

Parks visited: 2 (Park 4 and the arboretum)

Family members seen: 5 (via webcam, but still lovely)
Family members who are one year old as of Saturday: 1 (Happy birthday, Sydney!)

Latest bedtime: 11:30
Earliest bedtime:  Right now! See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
 ... 
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't worry, Mom...

It has come to my attention that my mother, who is also my most loyal reader, depends on my daily posts not only for the value they add to that great expanse that is the blogosphere, but also as confirmation that all is well in that far distant land of Washington, DC, where her darling daughter resides.  I spent this past evening enjoying a lovely supper with the neighbors, followed by a rather lengthy conversation with a short-lost friend, and am thus feeling too tired to write a proper post.   I cannot leave this day blank, though.  My mother's peace of mind is on the line, after all.  So, Mom, please accept this picture of the back of your grandson's head until I can come up with something better.  See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Showing some love

I am not a Valentine's Day person.  Basically, I feel the same way about Valentine's Day as I do about chicken.  I don't dislike it.  I just don't really care about it.  If I think about it, I tend not to get too worked up about holidays general.  Perhaps this speaks to some essential character fault, but that is a topic to be explored on another day.

Yesterday was supposed to be a day of love, though, and I have lots of that, so I couldn't let it pass completely unacknowledged.  Elijah and I started the day off right with a waffle and strawberry breakfast lovingly prepared by Brianna's teacher.  The best was watching how startled Brianna was by the whipped cream canister.  According to her, "It sounds just like a snake!"

After that, Elijah and I stopped at a few stores to pick up supplies for that evening, and he selected his own Valentine's present.  He, for one, was definitely feeling the love.  (See above and below.)


For the other man in my life, I did some high-quality home cooking (if I do say so myself).  At first, he requested black bean burgers, but I vetoed those for their lack of requisite specialness.  Upon further consideration, he chose jambalaya with shrimp for his holiday meal.  With help from The Joy of Cooking and Whole Foods, I was able to prepare a dish that I considered to be eminently holiday-worthy.  Particularly because I left out the chicken.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Awakening The Inner Artist: Zoo's Who


" Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso

I have seen this quotation several times on the blogs of parents and early childhood educators that I highly respect.  I think it gets to the heart of what education should be about.  To me, the educated person is one who does two things: seeks the truth with a critical eye and an open mind, and pursues creativity everywhere it may be found while appreciating the unique creative gifts of others. 

One difficulty that parents and teachers can face in reference to the latter, though, is that many of us feel insecure about our own creative abilities. Somewhere along the way, it seems that one of two things often happened.  Either we were told, directly or indirectly, that we were not "good" at (drawing, writing, singing), or the making of art was simply de-prioritized until the creative part of us became severely atrophied.  

"Sharks grow sharp teeth/Row by row./Some above and some below./Some grow left and some grow right./Oh, and by the way,/Sharks bite!"
 So, how do we prevent the same thing from happening to our own children when we feel ill-equipped to be artistic role models?  It should not surprise my regular readers that one way I like to encourage creativity is through the use of picture books.  One in particular that caught my eye recently is Zoo's Who by Douglas Florian.  I picked it up at Value Village for a mere 80 cents, and when I got a chance  to really look through it at home, I was enchanted.

The book contains 21 animal-themed poems and accompanying paintings.  The poems are cute and funny, very Ogden Nash.  But it is the paintings that I truly love.  First of all, they are accessible.  Stylized, representational, or sometimes downright abstract, they clearly dispel the idea that art is only valuable if it is an exact recreation of real life.  Seems obvious, but I feel like that is a major hang-up when it comes to kids of a certain age (7-10 or so) and art.  
"A hissssing sound/On ground/I make:/Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssnake."
Also, the paintings include a variety of media and techniques.  As it says on the last page of the book, "The illustrations in this book were done with watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, inks, tin foil, candy wrappers, shredded papers, stencils, rubber stamps, and much collage on primed brown paper bags."  Sheesh.  Just reading that sentence gets my creativity buzzing.  

 I could seriously go on about this book for awhile longer, but I won't because this post is long and the hour is late.  My point is this: Creativity is something that lies in each of us, however dormant it may be.  If yours needs a little wake-up call, I highly recommend this book.  

I am saving the penguin poem for another day when I post about one of my favorite things - portmanteau words.
 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Down and dirty

Ah, city living.  So awesome when it comes to ethnic eating, so disappointing when it comes to personal outdoor space.  

Now, we do have some friends with amazing luxuries (namely grass) that lurk just outside their rear doors.  We, however, have only concrete.  Well, and some bricks.  And a muddy rock patch off to one corner.  

If you are a regular reader, you know that I full embrace the common outdoor play space, otherwise known as the urban park.  Going the park is an event, though, involving shoes, a stroller, possibly a car and at least a bit of planning.  Sometimes, you just want to go out and play, particularly when it's time to ward off the post-naptime-crabbies.  So, I have resolved that between now and the summer, I am going to transform our back "patio" into a full-functional outdoor play space.  

Phase one came about because last week I opened the back door to take out the trash, and Elijah followed.  When I came back in, he wanted to stay out, and it was a balmy 60 degrees, so I let him.  He headed straight for a bag of dirt and began moving the contents of the bag, handful by handful, on to the concrete.  Seeing this, I gave him a metal bowl from the kitchen and a spoon.  He played for 20 minutes with these simple tools, ending up quite grimy but highly satisfied with himself.  However, Kurt later pointed out that potting soil with Miracle Grow is probably not a recommended play material for toddlers.  I realized that when this kid really needed was a sandbox.


We made a trip to Home Depot, picked up a rectangular plastic box and lid, and a very, heavy (but cheap!) bag of play sand.  Yes, that is what it is called.  Play sand.  Perfect.  A few days later, during nap time, I swept off the porch, moved  the stray gardening supplies under the house and set up The Sandbox.  I like that it had a kind of Zen garden look to it.

As soon as he saw it, Elijah knew just what this setup was for.  Most of his playing involved a lot of moving things from here to there (rocks to bowl, bowl to box, sand to cup to bowl, etc.), but I look forward to watching his sand play evolve.  The only drawback to unleashing the joy of sand play in February, though, is that today, when it was 20 degrees out, Elijah sat at the back door plaintively crying "Out-dide! Out-dide!"  Another 20 degrees, and I would have gladly given in.  On the upside, though, there was not a mosquito to be seen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
 ... 
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coffee Conundrum


Recently, I started doing something that, like eating Brie and filing my taxes, that surely makes me a grown-up: drinking coffee.  Apparently, though, I still have a lot to learn.  Namely, what does the term "flat white" mean?  

To find out, hop on over to my latest Endless Simmer post.  Thanks to some coffee-savvy commenters, I won't have to go to my grave without the answer to this pressing question.  Phew.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The 100th

This magazine is good, but my mommy's blog is much better.

So, as you may have realized from the title, this is my 100th published post.  When I write that, it actually seems like a paltry few.  The other blog I write for, Endless Simmer, is not too far from 3,000 posts.  Whoa.  Still, it is an accomplishment, and as such, I must recognize it. 

Kurt suggested that I include a list of my top 100 blog posts.  Ha ha.  Five years from now, that might be a good idea.  In the mean time, here are a few stats from those first one hundred gems of  crystallized wisdom:

Date of my first post ever: Februrary 4, 2011
Date that I began blogging in earnest: Monday, October 3, 2011

Page views to date: 4,093
Page views by my mom to date (estimated): 4,000

Most popular post: When Board Books Go Bad  (One of my first, as evidenced by the tiny, poorly taken pictures.)
Favorite post: All of them.  (What?  It's my blog.  It's like my second baby.)

Favorite thing about blogging:  Looking back and seeing how much I've written
Least favorite thing about blogging:  Remember to take pictures

Pictures of me: 10, plus or minus 3
Pictures of Elijah:  Let's see...one hundred posts, times three pictures each....a lot

So, what has been your favorite post so far?  And, if you've been lurking around reading my blog without commenting, I encourage you to take this opportunity to stop being so creepy.  I'm talking to you, Katie.




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What was I waiting for?

Oh no!  I love this blog, but I know nothing about it's author.  What should I do?!

As I approach my 100th post, I am realizing that, although I have been faithfully writing for over three months now, my blog is lacking some of the basic things that I love about other blogs.  In the next few weeks, I will be working to remedy that by making a few changes. You may have already noticed the first one.  If not, simply direct your eyes to the upper left-hand corner of the screen.  

No, not that far. 

Still don't see it?  Look at the word "Diary" in the blog title, the look down an inch or two.  

Yep!  That's it.  

That tiny "About Me" tab, and the page where it leads, took way longer to orchestrate than I anticipated.  But, as that is usually the first place I look when visiting someone's blog, I figured it was about time.  Now, most of you reading this know me in real life, but humor me and click on the tab anyway.  If nothing else, you will have the privilege of viewing a very retro picture of the twins.  Enjoy!


Monday, February 6, 2012

The Smell of Childhood


There are certain aromas that even now, in my late-20s, bring my childhood rushing back.  The scents of baby shampoo, Crayola crayons and gerbil-cage cedar chips all evoke moments long past.  I realized recently that even the smell of the vacuum cleaner in action reminded me of my younger years, when it was my task to vacuum the stairs.  On a side note, I look forward to the day that I can delegate that one to my own children.

There is one smell, however, that even as I child I recognized as disconcertingly unnatural: Play-doh.  My mom claimed that it was an "outside toy" because of the mess it made, but I am sure that allowing the odor to dissipate into the outdoor air was a motivator as well.

With this in mind, when I saw this post on Childhood 101, I made a mental note to try making my own play-dough one day.  Last week, on our snow day, that day arrived.

 
The recipe is extremely simple.  The only ingredient that you might not have on hand is cream of tartar.  We bought ours in the bulk spices section of Yes! Organic Market.  The dough turned out great, texturally similar to the name brand stuff without the (non)toxic odor.  It did stick to the pan a bit, and the pan needed a good soaking before I was able to clean it.  Also,  immediately after making it, the dough was hot, and took quite awhile to cool.  Those minor problems aside, I consider this experiment a rousing success and I don't for see buying any of the stinky stuff again if at all possible.  



Homemade Play Dough
Recipe from Childhood101 via The Lost Art of Childhood
  
2 cups of all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons of cream of tartar
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 cup of salt 
2 cups of water

Mix all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until a sticky dough forms.  Allow to cool.  For colored dough, add a few drops of food coloring to cooled dough and mix in by hand.  Store in a zipper-seal plastic bag and it will stay soft for a week or more.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
 ... 
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snow-Free Snow Day


Two years ago on February first, I was pregnant with Elijah and DC was absolutely covered in snow.  I remember walking out the front door to go to the neighbor's house, just to be able to go somewhere, and promptly turning around at the bottom of our porch steps.  At that point, I was hip deep in snow, and I realized that any attempt to leave the house was futile and ill-advised.

Today it was sunny and 65, but it felt like a Snow Day.  Elijah and I had a very important, mildly stressful appointment scheduled for 9:30 that was likely to last all morning.  Then, all of the sudden, circumstances changed and poof! it was gone.  Realistically, this just made it into a day like any other, but somehow, it felt different.  If you ever had a snow day as a child (or even as an adult)  you know what I am talking about.  There is something about an unexpected day of freedom that is magical, even (especially) if you just end up sitting around the house.

Hmm...what should we do today?

We did actually leave the house for awhile, roaming the streets of Hyattsville, stopping in at Busboys and Poets, checking out a new (to us) yarn store (or, from Elijah's perspective, a ball store.)  But I think if you asked Elijah, the best part of his Snow Day was just hanging around the house, banging on pots, enjoying some yogurt and pineapple and learning how to relish the unexpected day off.




Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nap Math


Naps are so tricky.  Elijah has pretty much followed the "regular" pattern of napping throughout his young life, which almost (almost) makes up for the fact that he just started sleeping through the night.  He went from three naps to two around 5 or 6 months, and he is currently in the process of dropping his morning nap.  By currently in the process, I mean that he won't take one when I put him in his crib at 9, but will fall asleep in the car during the ten minute trip to the grocery store immediately following

But here is where it gets tricky.  By my calculations, Elijah should not (for everyone's benefit) stay awake more than 5 hours.  If he wakes up at 6:30 (a fairly typical time) and refuses the morning nap, that would make the ideal nap time 11:30.  But this is not good for two reasons: a)When is this child supposed to eat lunch? b) If he only sleeps for two hours, we are barely limping to the finish line by the time 6:30 rolls around, which is the absolute earliest that he can go to bed in order to sleep all night.  

When both of our children were new, one of my friends developed this complicated-looking data-collection chart in order to calculate her daughter's optimal sleep schedule.  This thing looked like some sort of Defense Department schematic.  I got dizzy just looking at it.  However, I totally get where she was coming from.  It is hard to shake the feeling that somewhere in all this, there exists a perfect schedule that will allow everyone in the family to make it through the day sane and well-rested.  

Despite the fact that some days it feels like a losing (my mind) battle, I hold firm to the need for a schedule.  As a teacher, I saw first hand that predictability makes children feel safe.  I have no doubt that it is at least as true for toddlers as it is for fifth graders.  

And, of course, Mommy loves nap time, too. 

PS You may have noticed that the picture above appears a bit grainy. The reason for the lack of high-resolution photo is that it was taken on my mom's iPhone, not my fancy-pants camera.  She couldn't resist snapping this lovely nap time pic.  I, on the other hand, wouldn't dare risk waking my sleeping beauty, even in the face of such an opportune picture-perfect moment.