Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Zzzz

Oh, sleep.  How could I have taken you for granted for all those years?  For 26 glorious years, I went to sleep when I was tired, woke up when I was rested, and even slept until eight or nine o'clock on Sunday mornings.  But did I appreciate those precious hours?  Not nearly enough.  As Joanie Mitchell puts it, "Don't it always seem to go/that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." Preach, sister.  Something tells me she must have had two small children.

To Isabel's credit, I will say this: she will usually go back to sleep in a matter of minutes.  Usually.  However...this is not as great as it might seem.  Sure, she doesn't conduct screaming parties from 3 to 6 am like some people used to.  No, instead she wakes up every hour, just to say "Hey", and by "Hey," I mean, "Heeeelloooo, is anyone awake out there?  Can't you hear me crying?  No, I don't actually need anything.  Just wanted to make sure I'm not all alone in this cold, cruel world.  Oh!  There you are!  Yes, I was calling you.  And now that you are up, I was thinking that I might like a snack.  Pretty please?" Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

Of course, sometimes Iz has been known to sleep for three hours in a row.  But Elijah usually helps out in that case, waking up smack dab in the middle of those three hours to ask for a glass of water.  Or just to say hey. 

I would write more, but my last two remaining brain cells have been exhausted by the first three paragraphs.  I think I'll go take a nap now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Yellow

What is it about yellow that makes me feel so happy?  I know it's not just me, otherwise that original smiley face would have been a different color.  Sunflowers, sunshine, lemonade...there's just something about that color that makes me feel light inside.  When we moved into a new house when I was in sixth grade and I got to choose the color of my room, yellow it was.  I was hoping for something a little brighter than "candlelight", but my mom had the final say.  She made up for it with some sweet homemade curtains, though.

Unfortunately, given my skin tone, yellow is not the most complimentary of colors.  I have been told that I look good in "burnt orange", but really I think brown is my best bet.  Meh.  Fortunately, I now have a daughter whose current skin tone is as blank as a palette can get, so she will definitely be sporting some yellow this summer, starting with the hat I just picked up at the thrift store that makes her look like a flower.

Now I've got my own house (sort of), and so when it came time to pick the color for the entryway, I threw the full weight of my opinion behind yellow.  After we finished painting, we stood back and wondered if maybe it was just a little too yellow, but two years later, I am still loving it.  And if Isabel pinks up too much in the coming years to pull off the yellow look, well, I've still got Brianna.

Blogging from A to Z: X marks the spot

I love scavenger hunts.  For this, I blame my father, math man and puzzler extraordinaire.  Each Easter morning as we were growing up, while other kids were going on a chocolate bender, my sister and I were attempting to crack the code that would allow us to find our hidden Easter baskets.  One year, the hunt was simply two skeins of yarn, one for each of us, that had been run throughout the house and had to be followed and and rewound until we reached our destination.  Another year, each clue was an aerial view of each room in the house with shapes to represent various pieces of furniture, and an X at the location of the following clue. 

I have carried on the tradition in my own life.  In our younger years, I would create scavenger hunts for my sister and our neighborhood friends.  Often, the prize would be something that we already owned.  The joy was in the seeking.  When I visited my cousin Katya while I was in college, I created a visual scavenger hunt for her, a pre-reader.  The best clue was the one taped to the dog's collar.  Kurt has had to put up with a few of my scavenger hunts throughout the years, although I have gotten the sense that he doesn't feel quite so strongly about the hunts as I do.  I think that perhaps he is missing the accompanying nostalgia. 

These days?  Well, Elijah is not quite old enough yet, but that will change soon, and until then I will have to content myself with other things.  Also, I can't believe I haven't tried geocaching yet.  We are going on a few epic road trips this summer, so that might have to change.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Why

Dang, here I am behind schedule again.  Sunday is supposed to be a day off for good behavior in the challenge...but I think missing two days in a row counts as bad behavior.  W it is...

If you ask Elijah to do something, or not do something, and he doesn't like it, he will ignore you.  Mostly, though, he does what he's told.  If he asks for something, and you say no, he will ask you for it again and again and again.  Or he'll just move on.  He has not yet stumbled upon that one word, that one horrible word, that all parents dread - "Why?" 

I am sure we will reach that stage one of these days, but I will enjoy that little word's absence while I can.  There is, however, a downside to this hole in his vocabulary; we cannot ask him why he does what he does.  And there are so many things that really could use an explanation.  For example...

"Why, Elijah, when I emptied out the recycling bin the other day, did I find Isabel's pink monkey?"

"Why do you ask for a second bowl of yogurt and then refuse to eat it?"

"Why are you morally opposed to using the toilet?"

"Why is it that you feel 5:30 am is a good time to wake up?

I feel like I could host my own TV show - Unsolved Mysteries:  Toddler Edition.

Friday, April 26, 2013

{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, April 25, 2013

Blogging A to Z: V Street

A few weeks ago, I met my neighbor, Nate, for the first time, and after determining that his name is not Luke, as previously thought, I suggested that he host a barbecue.  I am not usually so forthright, but a few other neighbors and I had been talking about some sort of V Street get-together, and the unique set up of our street makes his yard ideal.  You see, only one side of our block has houses that face V Street.  On the opposite side, where Nate lives, the houses actually face another street, and the backyards are the ones that are on V Street.  I can see Nate's backyard from my front porch.

Being a nice guy, Nate agreed and a week later, the partying commenced.  It started small, just my family and our landlord Jonathan (once he found some pants), but as the night wore on, more of our neighbors joined the festivities.  By the time we left at eight, there were twenty people or so in and around Nate's tiny yard.

The most amazing thing about this is that our block is about as diverse as it gets.  We have young people, old people, black and white, single and married, gay and straight.  And almost everyone was there, including Miss Dee, our tiny, elderly neighbor who hauled over her giant boombox, complete with extension cord and bag of cassette tapes.  Apparently she usually goes to bed at seven, but stayed at the party past nine to play DJ.

Kurt and I moved to here in 2008 because we knew the landlord and got a good deal on the rent.  Five years and two children later, we are still here, enjoying our life on V Street.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Ultimate Sorry

Some years ago, the Washington Post Magazine asked readers to submit a short, true story to the following prompt:

Tell us about a time that a competition went too far.

I wrote a story in response, although I never submitted it.  I will tell it to you now.

When it comes to absurdity and competition, nothing beats a game of Ultimate Sorry!  My husband (then boyfriend) and I "invented" it in college.  The key difference between this game and the classic board game is that a draw of Sorry! or landing on the other person's piece sent the offending piece not back to Home, but to anywhere accessible to the opponent from his or her seat.  We quickly learned that when playing outside, choosing the green pawns meant considerable time spent in the grass, and was to be avoided.  Pieces were, at various times, dug out of flowerpots and tempted away from the neighbor's dog.

The high low point of our Ultimate Sorry! adventure, however, came one day when Kurt made the mistake of leaving the kitchen table to go the bathroom during the game.  In his absence, I raided the refrigerator, clearly in violation of the agreed-upon rules, but it was an opportunity too good to resist.  Potential disqualification was certainly worth the look on his face when I drooped his next sorry-ed piece in a bottle of barbecue sauce.  Of course, in the true spirit of the game, he fished it out, rinsed it off, and the absurdity continue.  As I recall, I finally lost when I couldn't get him to open his mouth and return my missing pawn. 

At least he didn't swallow it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blogging A to Z: Two

Is there anything in life so joyous a being two?  You are small enough to be completely enveloped in a great big hug, but big enough to sit at the table with the grown ups.  

Is there anything in life so frustrating as being two?  You are old enough to understand that you can't have everything you want, but not quite ready to understand why.

Is there anything in life so wondrous as being two?  There are endless towers to build, sand pies to cook, songs to sing and books read (and reread).

Is there anything in life so exhausting as being two?  Emotions are like tidal waves, sweeping you away with their sudden force. 

From dictionary.com:
Terrible: adjective 4. formidably great: a terrible responsibility

Terrible twos indeed.

Blogging from A to Z: Story

I am a sucker for a good story. 

While I certainly feel that I can appreciate good writing when I encounter it, it is in no way a prerequisite for my enjoyment of a particular book/movie/TV show.  For example, I kept thinking about the plot of Gone for Good by Harlan Coben even though I think the actual text may have been written by a monkey.  I totally did not see that ending coming.  I also couldn't stop watching the third season of Veronica Mars even though the show had jumped the shark so high and far that I couldn't believe it hadn't been cancelled.

Mercifully, I have lately encounter several instances of that rare, delicious combination of good writing and a good story. 

And what happens when you have neither?  Ugh.  I'd rather not talk about it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Recycling

I am about to reveal a deep, dark secret about myself.  Are you ready?  I don't like recycling.  I know this is semi-irrational, but it's true.  I don't like it, and here's why: I don't trust it.  I mean, it would be one thing if I could put my soda can (Diet Coke, please) in the bin, have it carted away, and two months later or something, go visit it in its new life as a hubcap or cufflink or new soda can, but I can't, and that makes me nervous.  I have faith in a lot of things: God, Jesus, the postal service, most of the medical profession.  I just don't feel the same way about recycling.  It seems to good to be true, that I could throw a hot mix of cardboard, metal and plastic into the blue bin each week and somehow this will save the earth.

My other problem with recycling is that I think it creates a sort of laziness.  You know, like this.  After all, it's reduce, then reuse, then recycle.  It's better to throw something in the recycling than in the trash (provided it's actually recyclable), but really it's better not to throw things anywhere.  Companies promote their products as being packaged in recyclable material, which bypasses the question of why we need so much packaging in the first place.  Seriously, Amazon, did my new pair of socks really need bubble wrap and a cardboard box?
Someone I know and live with (ahem) is concerned that this post will make me seem snobbish and/or discourage people from recycling.  So, hear me when I say that if you are outside my house and trying to decide if you should recycle your beer bottle or throw it on my lawn, please, I implore you, recycle.  If you really want to be my new best friend, though, brew your own beer.  I'll bring over my empty bottles and you can fill them back up for me.  Together, we can make recycling obsolete. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Quilt

Is there anything that says "You are loved" as much as a homemade quilt?  One of the first things people notice when they enter our house is the huge multicolored quilt that hangs on our dining room wall.  It was a wedding present from a friend with whom we hadn't kept in close touch, and when I opened the box, I could not believe what was inside.  To me, it is positively one of the most beautiful things we own. 

Homemade quilts abound around our house, and each one mean something special.  A t-shirt quilt made by my mom graces the twin bed in Elijah's room, my high school years condensed and made snuggly.  Elijah has been the recipient of not one, not two, but three quilts in his young life.  The Baby Snoopy quilt reminds me of his early days, when the only way to get him to sleep for more than an hour at a time was to roll him tightly like a burrito.  The yellow quilt that matches his curtains recalls the anticipation that came with putting his nursery together before his arrival. His newest quilt, transportation themed, reflects some of his "big boy"interests, and makes an excellent road/train track/restaurant table cloth.

Of course, Princess Isabel now has quilts of her own.  While I might opt for purple or green or blue for her daily outfits, I love having her pink quilts around to remind me of the joy of girlhood.  I am not yet a quilter myself, but with all the joy that quilts have brought to our home, I may just have to give quilting a try.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Present

Yes, yes, I am a day behind.  Shhh...don't tell.  I will try to get caught back up today.  Or I might just take a nap.  Anyway...

I just finished reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and it is all I can do to stop myself from jumping on parents in the library/at the park/in the street and telling them all about it.  Basically, if Jesus had been a parent, he would have loved this book.  Okay, that's a little over the top.  But only a little.

I am sure I will reference this book fifty million more times in the next few weeks, but one idea that stuck with me from the beginning of the book was this:

As adults, we are constantly juggling between the past, present, and future.  We want to experience the present moment, but we are also thinking about what just happened, or happened yesterday, or how what is happening now is related to what happened before.  We want to experience the present moment, but we are also thinking about what we have to do next, what we should be doing, and by the way, what does it all mean?

Children have no such problem.  For them, the only time is now.  We felt this the hard way this week around here when we told Elijah on Tuesday that his grandparents would be coming to visit...on Friday.  For half an hour, he stood at the front window yelling, "Grandma and Grandpa!", deaf to our explanation that they were not actually here yet, but they would be soon.  But not that soon.

Moments like that aside, what a joy it must be to only think about what is happening at that moment.  To be able to live fully inside a single moment is nothing short of heavenly.  Jesus knew what He was talking about when he said, "The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these [children]”(Matthew 19:14).*

*And when he said, "Read Simplicity Parenting."  Just kidding.  But seriously, read it.

{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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Onions

What is the deal with onions?  Specifically, why do so many people dislike them?  Okay, not everyone is going to eat raw onions like apples the way my mother-in-law does, but I cannot think of a single entree in my repertoire that is not enhanced by the addition of onions.  Just like Jenny over at Dinner:A Love Story, even when I am not sure what I am going to make for dinner, I never go wrong by putting a little olive oil in a pan with a chopped onion.  And ever after years of cooking with onions on a near daily basis, there are still revelations.  After listening to a story on The Splendid Table a month or two ago, I realized that I had not been caramelizing my onions for nearly long enough.  It seems that 15 minutes is the minimum, 30 is better.  Since I have begun stretching out my onion saute time, I have gotten several compliments specifically related to the onion flavor in my food.  Yep, there is something magical about onions.  In fact, I hear that in some cases, they can even save your life.

Six months

Yesterday was Isabel's six month doctor's appointment.  Just like her brother, she is average height and skinny with a big head.  In other words, she is totally perfect.  And my, what big eyes she has!

She is still my mellow girl, happy to watch Elijah or Mommy while thoughtfully chewing on her toys, her fingers or, if she can reach them, her toes.

She is certainly a smiley little princess, and thinks Elijah is simply hilarious right up until the point that he "snuggles" her face.  She is very forgiving of his excessive affection, although he should be prepared for the day that she has the hand/eye coordination to grab his ears.  They are quite the dynamic duo, and it is clear that our family was incomplete without our little Iz.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Nearly New

Recently, more than one person has suggested that I change the name of my blog.  After all, I have two children now.  I am certainly no longer a new mom.  Right? 

I really didn't think too much about the name of my blog when I started it two years ago.  It sounded nice; it rolled off the tongue; no one else on Blogger was using it.  I see now that it was the perfect choice, though. 

First of all, I was never a Brand New Mom.  I wasn't watching diaper changing videos on YouTube (hey, Sade) or waking up to feed a baby in the night for the first time (thanks for that, Brittany and Brianna).  Certainly having a child that was all mine, all the time, around the clock was both uniquely exhilarating and singularly exhausting, but it was a more intense version of something that I had been doing since I was in sixth grade or so.  Thus, I wasn't quite new, just Nearly New.

The other reason the name still fits is that I think I will always feel a bit like a new mom, no matter how old my little chickens get.  Someone commented on another blog that I read that you should give yourself a year to get good at something.  I have pondered this, and I think it rings true for many things: learning a new craft, speaking another language, riding a bike, learning to walk.

It can never be totally true with parenting, though, because the task is ever changing.  Just when I was getting the hang of being a parent of one, there was Isabel.  Now two kids seems doable, but Elijah needs to be potty trained.  Soon Isabel will be mobile.  I have certainly gained some wisdom in the past two and a half years and I pray that I will be a better parent tomorrow than I was yesterday, but it is clear to me that I will never be an expert.  I will always be a least a little Nearly New.

This is how my garden grows...

By the way, have you used PicMonkey yet? Why the heck not?  (Although, be warned, once you visit, you may have to cancel your plans for the rest of the day.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Mmm-hmm

One of the great joys of being a parent is seeing a child discover something for the first time.  Whether it's the first taste of ice cream, the first tentative steps, or the first experience of the ocean, these "aha!" moments are the high notes in the long and complicated symphony of parenthood.  They warrant calls to grandparents, video recordings and, of course, in my case, blog posts.

As wonderful and memorable as these moments are, for me they are not the best thing about being a parent.  I much prefer what I will call the "mmm-hmm" moments.  If you are a parent, and especially of you have been one for a while, you can probably already guess what I am talking about.  Just as high notes are only a fractional part of the whole symphony, so it is with Major Childhood Events.  It is all the other parts, the daily-daily, the harmonies and fillers and repeated refrains that give the music of life as parent its richness.

As I watch Elijah move sand from bucket to bowl and back again in the front yard, celebrating the spring weather that brings us out of doors for the first extended period in months, I feel the hum of daily life, the contentment of being together, the "mmm-hmm".

As I bask in the light of Isabel's gummy smile while I change her diaper and sing "Crazy Girl" the same way I did yesterday and the day before and the day before yesterday,  I celebrate the "mmm-hmm".

Even those high notes, those accomplishments, those first steps, are the culmination of a thousand other mmm-hmm moments where nothing momentous seemed to be happening, and yet there was greatness in the making.

What was your mmm-hmm moment today?

Elsewhere: I am now a contributor for a new blog called Voices from the Ville.  Check out my April post!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New header!

 Yes, it took 6 months for me to add poor Isabel to the header.  I'm not sure if this one will stay, but it's a nice place holder while I experiment with some potentials.  What do you think?

Blogging from A to Z: Library

I have a terrible auditory memory.  Attending lectures in college was more or less a waste of time because I have such difficulty remembering things that I hear.  I enjoy listening to podcasts, yet it has happened more than once that I couldn't remember if I had already listened to a particular episode even after possibly repeating the first five or ten minutes. 

Fortunately, I have been able to compensate for this shortfall-bordering-on-disability with a visual memory that is as acute as my aural memory is dull.  I can recall most things that I read, sometimes with an eerie exactitude.  (For example, I can still "see" in my mind the scene from one of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books wherein Ramona takes one bite out of every apple that the family has picked because the first bite is the best one.  Girl had a point, by the way.  I was probably 10 years old when I read that book.)

How does all this related to the title of this post, you ask?  Hold on, I'm almost there. 

One of the things I like to do with my scary-awesome visual memory is take imaginary "tours" of places that I have been, particularly places that are very familiar to me.  This seems to work best just before I fall asleep.  And one of my favorite places to tour in this way is the Downers Grove Public Library, my childhood home-away-from-home.  It was completely remodeled while I haunted its hallowed halls, so sometimes I think my way around the old version, sometimes the newer. 

In the old building, you could get to the children's section by entering and walking around to the left.  At some point, maybe fifth grade or so, I "adopted" a shelf of picture books that I was in charge of keeping in order by checking on it every week or so.  I am still quite good at alphabetizing, which is basically a useless skill.  To the right of the entrance were the adult fiction books, which is also where the teen paperback books were keep on spinning racks.  I spent hours, both in the library and at home, devouring those books, with special preference given to Lurlene McDaniel and Chris Crutcher.  Nothing like someone else's tragedy to minimize feelings of preteen angst.

Sometime in high school (actually 1999, according to my googled sources), the library was totally redone.  By that time, I had less occasion to visit the children's area, but still read plenty of fairly trashy teen lit, which had migrated up to the second floor.  I can still picture the time I ran into my friend Maggie there.  She told me how she was taking a class at her Catholic school that just involved reading as many books from a given list as possible and taking quizzes to show you had read them.  This basically sounded like heaven on earth to me.  The funny thing is, though, I cannot hear this memory, but I still see clearly how we talked over the low shelves just to the left of the stairs to the second floor. 

What is the point of this rambling post?  Hard to say.  Perhaps it is simply that sometimes we write (or think) to remember and relive, and by doing that we reaffirm where we've been and how that makes us who we are.  And who I was, and am, is surely tied to the nearest public library.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Kiss of death

Elijah, my dear 2.5 year old, is a fairly mellow guy.  Ha!  Just kidding. 

These day, however, he is capable of playing by himself for minutes, sometimes tens of minutes at a time.  It is a beautiful thing.  It is a thing that enables me to nurse Isabel in peace, or wash a few dishes, or stare into space while I drink my tea.

But...no matter how engrossed he is in his play dough/dirt digging/bean counting,  there is nothing like the ring of the phone to put an end to the peace and quiet.  And checking my email?  Not a chance.  There is something about technology that is truly the kiss of death, behaviorally speaking.

And so, I have decided to take some drastic measures.  The phone, well, that one will just have to stay.  I don't get too many calls during the day, anyway, and if I put the phone on speaker and Elijah can add his two cents, I can usually take care of business.  The computer though...

I've been reading this great book, Simplicity Parenting, which I will write about more another day, but basically. the author has four ways that you can simplify your family life, and one of them, the chapter I haven't read yet, is about filtering out the adult world.  Before I have even read it, though, I know what it will compel me to do.  I need to stop using the computer when the kids are awake.  That's it.  I just do.  I'm not saying that you need to do this.   I am not saying that parents need to do this.  I need to do this. 

Because what I have realized is that when I'm washing the dishes, or drinking tea, to Elijah, I am still accessible.  He could choose do join me, or not.  The computer, though, is a black hole for my attention - none can escape to rest on him.  And am I really going to get anything done right then?  I'm not so important that checking my email can't wait a few hours.  In fact, the people that find me most important are already at my house.  And if anyone is going to suck up all my attention, well, it should probably be them.

{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, April 11, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Jelly Belly

By now, most of us have heard of Michael Pollan's food credo: "Eat food, not much, mainly plants." This is excellent advice, and except for the occasional slip-up, my family tends to adhere to it.  Tonight, I made cauliflower curry with red lentils, which we ate with a side of salad. I think Pollan knows what he's talking about, particularly, with the part about eating food, because I ate some barbecue Pringles over the weekend and my body was not happy about. 

But.  Let's pause for a second here and contemplate what I consider to be a work of art in the "food-like substance" category: The Jelly Belly.  So smooth and colorful, they are like tiny jewels that unlike M & Ms, will actually not melt in your hand.  Texturally, they are simultaneously hard and chewy, clearly a triumph of modern chemical processing.

And then there's the flavor. This is where Jelly Bellies really distinguish themselves from the jelly bean competition.  From plain old cherry to cheesecake to my favorite, juicy pear, they manage to capture a complete flavor experience in such a tiny bean.  There is nothing quite so nasty as accidentally biting into a buttered popcorn Jelly Belly, but it's not because it doesn't taste like popcorn - it's because it does.

Growing up, a favorite activity of my sister's and mine was to visit Treats 'n' More, the candy store at the mall, that had 30 or more individual bins of Jelly Bellies, each with a different flavor.  We would traverse the store, each with our own set of tongs and plastic bag, and carefully select two or three of each of our favorite bean.  This way, we could avoid the treacheries of the peanut butter or black licorice flavor and my parents could kill an hour or so on a rainy day.

I do think that the Harry Potter Jelly Bellies may have taken things a step too far (I never made it past Black Pepper), but that may just be because by the time the booger and other flavors came out, I was too old to really appreciate them.  I enjoy Jelly Bellies to this day, though.  I often find myself unable to resist their aesthetic appeal as I stand in the TJMaxx check out line.  I usually opt for the "soda shop" variety pack because just as in my days of choosing my flavors by hand, there is absolutely no chance mistakenly eating the black licorice flavor. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Incomplete

If, on any given day, I was graded on what I had done during the day, nearly every box would be filled with the letter I.  Incomplete.  There are many, many things that are truly wonderful about parenthood, but there are also many frustrations.  Never sleeping more than three hours in a row is trying.  Dealing with two-year-old defiance is overwhelming.  Being unable to find one item of clothing that does not have spit-up stain is gross.  For me, though, the hardest part right now is feeling like nothing is ever done.

It generally takes me two to three sittings to finish one wimpy blog post.  Making dinner is an all day affair, broken up into 15 minute increments.  It has happened more than once in recent months that I looked down to find that I had only cut the nails on one of my hands.  I enter a room with a purpose that I never achieve, distracted by ten other things.  I've been returning library books without finishing them.  I've more or less given up on crafting for the moment.

There is a lesson in all this, though.  As a wiser one than me once said of our actions as humans, "[They] may be incomplete, but [they are] a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest."  That something may not get finished is no excuse for failing to try.  There will be more time, if not today then tomorrow, if not tomorrow than maybe years from now.  Maybe this particular task, book, thought, project is meant to be incomplete for awhile so that something more important (like baby snuggling) can fill up the time and space instead.

On days when nothing seems to be getting "done", I remind myself of these words by storypeople's Brian Andreas:

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.

Keep reading to see who else is blogging from A to Z!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


In case, with all this A to Z blogging business, you haven't gotten enough Elijah pics lately, check out this post, by fellow DC mom Caroline, over at the DC lifestyle blog Prince of Petworth.

Blogging from A to Z: House

I have lived in a lot of houses.  Also, two apartments and two dorm rooms, plus some unremembered places before the age of two, but mostly houses.  The first one I can recall was on Houlton Court in Schaumburg, Illinois, and even though we moved before I started first grade, I can still recall the ring in the backyard where the previous owners had an in-ground pool, the walk-out basement, and a wall of mirrors that greeted us upon entering.  After that it was on to Elm Street in Downers Grove, IL, where we had a creepy unfinished basement that was our "messy spot" for elaborate card houses and a folding door on the bathroom.  The doorbell was rung by turning a tiny handle and the garage door had to be opened by hand, a job that my parents delegated as soon as my sister and I were old enough to lift it.

Sixth grade brought a brand-new house 8 blocks away on Wilson Street, with another unfinished basement that was great for roller blading in circles and writing in chalk on the walls.  Once the space was finished a few years later, it became my dad's man cave and the number one neighborhood sleepover destination.  There was a mysterious interior balcony that witnessed multiple stagings of Rapunzel and a chandelier that was never dusted but still seemed very fancy.

My senior year of college, my friends and I rented a truly enormous house on another Elm Street for just $1600 dollars a month, which seems unbelievable to my current city-dwelling self.   My room was the only one on the first floor and the door had formerly lead to the outside, so it was thick and heavy.  My room came complete with a working spigot.  My future husband lived in another group house across the street, but came over most days for dinner because the kitchen in a man house, well...whatever you are imagining, it was worse.

After college I moved to DC and another house full of girls, this time strangers who would, in some cases, become lifelong friends.  The house on Perry Place was tiny, and when a friend was in need I gave up my vow never to share a room again until marriage, rocking (literally) some reassembled IKEA bunk beds.  That was the house of many twin sleepovers, the first of which occurred when the girls were just a mere two weeks old.  It was also the house of Dino, the neighbor who would hang from the tree in his front yard for exercise.

When Kurt and I got married, we were blessed to be able to rent the house on V Street that we currently inhabit.  It is not too big but was plenty big for the two, then three, now four of us.  We have added a kitchen island, pot rack, bunk beds, a shed and a sweet bench on the porch, and are currently trying to subtract one giant, broken TV.  Word just arrived that we can stay another year, and we are delighted.

So many houses, so, so many memories, and certainly there are more to come in our nomadic future.  Just as long as I have a bed to sleep in and some place to make a cup of tea, I'm set.  (Although, I can't say I would complain too much if the next house had a dishwasher.  I'm just sayin'.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Montessori Monday: The Easter Eggs Roll On

This year was Elijah's first ever Easter egg hunt.  Even though Kurt and I showed an excess of enthusiasm for the activity and the eggs were basically hiding in plain sight, Elijah just wasn't that into the whole thing.  Could it be that he was distracted by the fact that he had just discovered his new drum set?  Entirely possible.

Anyway, a few days later, once the shine had (only slightly) worn off the drum set's arrival, Elijah started showing a renewed interest in his plastic eggs.  Seeing the opportunity in this, I dug an empty carton out of the recycling bin (with a family egg consumption of two dozen a week, there are always some around) and devised a little activity.

The procedure went like this:
1. Take two matching egg halves out of the plastic box.
2. Put a small wooden person inside the halves and close.  (Unfortunately, these cheap-o eggs do not close easily, so Elijah needs help when completing this step.  That is the once area where this activity needs improvement.)
3.  Place egg in carton.  If there is already an egg of the same color in the carton, place the new egg next to it's color match.
4.  When the carton is full, remove the eggs one at a time.  Open them over the plastic cup so that the wooden person falls into the cup.
5.  Place the egg halves back in the plastic box.

I have to say that when I came up with this activity on the spot, I did not expect Elijah to take to it as much as he did.  We have probably completed it ten times or more so far.  It is definitely going to be staying in rotation for a second week.

The biggest lesson I have taken from this activity is that I should not underestimate Elijah's ability (and patience!) when it comes to multi-step processes.

So, what else do you like to do with your leftover Easter eggs?

 And, did your Easter egg hunt also end when your child found their first egg full of chocolate?

Linking up with Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

Blogging from A to Z: Girl

Two and a half years ago, having had no first-hand experience with boyhood, I jumped in with both feet to the adventure of being a Boy Mom.  For eighteen months or so, I delighted in all things boy.  I found Elijah so delightful, in fact, that I had basically decided that I was meant to be the parent of a boy.  Or boys.  After all, my sister-in-law has two girls, so logically, we would have two boys.  (Okay, that is actually not at all logical, and certainly not mathematical, but it's what I thought.)  Then, in a surprise (to us) move, we decided at our first second-time-around ultrasound to find out our baby's gender, and surprise! "it" became "she".  Excited though I was, I also felt uncertain.  After all, I knew at least a little about being a "boy mom".  This was uncharted territory.  Well, not completely uncharted, but still, it felt new.  This was also coupled with the feeling, apparently common, that I didn't know how I could ever love any child as much as I loved my first-born.

Isabel is six months old now, and of course, all of my fears were unfounded.  Isabel is the light of my life, just as Elijah is.  My universe is lit twice as brightly as before, and this time the clothes are way cuter.  In fact, when I went to pick out her Easter dress, which looks a bit like a cloud with a baby inside, I didn't even buy a new outfit for Elijah because TJMaxx wasn't offering anything that he didn't already have.  As I stood in line with my cotton candy on a hanger, it was clear to me that I love being a Girl Mom.  There's no guarantee that Isabel will share my love of crafts or want to participate in a mother-daughter book club or call me every day even when we have nothing new to talk about, but the possibilities are there.  I can't say I look forward to the rocky road that is female adolescence, but I can always call Aunt Sarah and ask for advice if the Iz gets a little rebellious.

These days, though, Izzy is all sugar and hardly any spice, and for that is XXtra nice.

(Sorry.  I couldn't help that last part.  Feel free to blame my Grandpa Ron, punster extraordinaire.)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Fast Food

I love vegetables.  I really do.  Brussels sprouts, peppers, salad of any and all kinds: I just can't get enough.  And around these here parts, we eat meat maybe once, twice a month.  We like beans, bean and more bean, plus tofu thrown in for a little variety.  Why is it, then, that I am absolutely powerless to resist the call of the almighty drive-thru french fry?

It may actually be my greatest failing as a parent, except for the time that Elijah fell off the bed.  I mean, I knew it was bad when we drove through McDonald's this week on the way to the Arboretum. (At 10:30 am, no less.  For shame.  But what's a half-starved breastfeeding Mommy to do?)  Anyway, we're driving away from McD's, and Elijah says, "Mommy, do we have some nah-kins?  Because we need them for the cheese."  Yes, that's right.  We go to the drive thru and Elijah expects not just fries, but cheese fries.  I am a bad mom.

In my defense, Elijah has very positive associations with spinach, carrots, and most especially mushrooms.  I don't even have to cover them with liquid cheese-food.  I bet that would be delicious, though.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Ears

 Eyes get a lot of credit, what with their being the windows to the soul and all, but I think ears deserve some love, too.  I am fully aware that this thought arises from being a sleep-deprived nearly new mom, but really, have you ever looked closely at an ear?  Isabel, as a six-month-old, has not gotten the memo about eating less often as she gets older, so every two to three hours, I once again find myself contemplating her ears.  Their tiny, perfect shape reminds me again and again of the miracle that is life, specifically this life of hers that still fits in my arms.  As she becomes more alert and observant (and vocal!) each day, her ears play an ever larger role in her growth and development.  They are things of functional beauty, just one more reason that I feel blessed and awed by my baby girl.

And, today, apropos of of nothing besides perhaps this blog post, the following conversation occurred:
Elijah: (Looking at the alphabet on his wall) The octopus has no ears.  He needs to get some at the store.
Kurt: What store should he go to?
Elijah: The octopus grocery store.
Elijah: He should go to the ear store.
Kurt: What should he do with the ears?
Elijah: Put them on his neck.  He needs them to hear.

Keep reading to see who else is blogging from A to Z!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Dinner

Now and again, in various cultural commentary, I will read or hear about The Importance of Family Dinner.   The articles tend to be include something about how important family dinner is, how its demise is indicative of the degradation of society as a whole, how it is a metaphor for all things good and holy, etc.  Heck, eating as a family is even the topic of one of my favorite blogs.  All of this chatter, analysis and pontification used to make me feel a bit puzzled.  Now that I am a parent, that puzzlement has shifted to gratitude.

I was puzzled because all my life, I had assumed that everyone ate dinner as a family.  After all, my parents both worked, my sister and I both extra-curriculared1, and yet very nearly every night, there we sat, together, always in the same positions, at the family dinner table.  At times, room was made for a friend or two or three.  One time, half the youth group knocked on the door around six o'clock and somehow, loaves and fishes style2, my mom found enough family dinner to feed the whole crew.

I am sure we complained about the food from time to time3, and there was a memorable period where my sister boycotted pretty much anything in favorite of cheese quesadillas that she made herself in the microwave.   During certain periods of adolescent/parental conflict4, there wasn't much to be said.  And yet, no matter the extenuating circumstances, there we were, at the table5, eating together as a family.  I just assumed that everyone else was doing the same.

I know now that this is not the case.  Family dinners don't just magically happen because you are a family and you have to eat.  My parents made it happen, night after night, for 20 years or more6.  And now my husband and I make it happen nightly as well, despite fussy babies, long work days and one very demanding two-year-old7.

Because eating as a family was important to my parents, it is second nature to me.  For this gift, handed down through the generations as it has been, I am filled with gratitude. 

1 Yes, I made that word up just now.
2 See The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 6, Verses 41-44
3 I still maintain that Salisbury steak is not meant for human consumption.
4 I believe this included most of 1996 
5 Except on Sundays, when we would eat homemade pizza in the family room watching either Top Gun or League of their Own
6 Actually, a lot more, because I happen to know that my parents still eat dinner together nightly.  And they've been married for 34 years now.  That's a lot of dinners. 
7  I suppose calling him demanding is redundant.  I hear they're all like that. 

Keep reading to see who else is blogging from A to Z!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Catholic

It is sometimes surprising for people to learn that I am Catholic, which is probably to my discredit, but that is a topic for another day.  I am Catholic, and happy to be.  I am not Catholic by default, or because my parents are, or because I can't think of anything better to do on Sunday mornings.  I am Catholic because it is the faith through which God has chosen to reveal Himself to me.

What does being Catholic mean to me?  Well, it means that I believe all this, for starters.  I believe that God looked at all He had created, saw the mess we were making of things, and sent His son, Jesus to die as reparation for the sin that we could never atone for on our own.  I believe that, try though I might, I cannot be the best version of myself on my own.  I fail short daily, and it is only through Grace that I am able to get back up and try again, and again and again.  And fail as I might, God loves me anyway, which is awesome beyond my understanding.

I believe that the sacraments allow us mere mortals to encounter God in a unique and personal way.  I believe the saints are holy men and women who, because of their nearness to God during their lives, are now able to intercede for us in prayer.

I am religious, I am spiritual, I am inquisitive about matters of faith, and I am Catholic*.

*I am resisting the urge right now to write some sort of disclaimer announcing that just because being Catholic is part of who I am, it doesn't allow me to judge you.  This would be true, but I hope that for those who actually know me, in, you know, real life, it would be unnecessary.  Being Catholic is an inextricable part of who I am and who I hope to become, but it is not the only part.  My life has been greatly blessed by those of many faiths as well as those with no faith at all.  My hope in writing this, as with all these A to Z posts, is just to share a little more about who I am.  Amen? 

Keep reading to see who else is blogging from A to Z!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blogging from A to Z: Boy

I was raised in a Girl House. I have one sister who is 2+ years younger than me. Our house had no action figures and a giant box of Barbies. More than one of our video games featured bunny rabbits, and those games were played on the original Nintendo or Sega Genesis long after new and exciting updated systems became available. (My parents weren't all about enforcing stereotypes. We had lots of neutral toys like board games, too, but we liked the girly stuff.)  We even lived in a girl neighborhood.  All the kids on our block were about the same age, and we basically engaged in a rolling play-date with the four girs in one house next door and the two girls in the other.  My dad, bless his heart, played Pretty, Pretty Princess a time or too, turned me into a sports fan, and hid out in the basement when things just got to be too much.  He became such a contented girl-dad that when I was pregnant with Elijah, but did not know the baby's gender, he would ask, "How's my granddaughter?"

Then, at the age of twenty-six, two years after marrying one boy, I gave birth to another and suddenly found myself in a Boy House.  The trucks and dinosaur apparel started rolling in unbidden.  Elijah started making fart jokes and laughing at slapstick humor at a surprisingly young age.  It's only a matter of months (fingers-crossed for potty training) before he starts leaving the toilet seat up.  I haven't forced any boyishness upon him, yet he can identify as many vehicles as farm animals.  (I hold up his love of his baby doll as proof of my even-gender-handedness during playtime.)  I have to hold my breath while biting my tongue (not a physically easy task) during Elijah and Daddy's nightly wrestle time, resisting the urge to intervene before someone gets hurt.

In October of last year, Isabel evened the gender teams around here, thank goodness, taking us from Boy House to Full House with her arrival (which is not to say there isn't room for more...).  I know there's no guarantee that she'll do crafts with me, or call me daily once she leaves the house (you're welcome, Mom), but at least I had a lot more fun picking out Easter clothes this year.  Also, at six months, she has yet to tell me a fart joke.

Keep reading to see who else is Blogging from to A to Z!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Montessori Monday: In praise of play dough

I was reading Montessori at Home!  recently (which, by the way, is a really great book if you want to start doing Montessori activities with your kids but don't know where to begin), and in it, John Bowman says that if play dough had been around when Maria Montessori was doing her thing, it would have been a regular part of the Montessori classroom.  The more we use it around here, the more I see what he means.  When it comes to developing fine motor skills, play dough is where it's at.  (Fyi, I make my own play dough, and you can find the recipe in this post.)

For the past month or so,  Elijah has been seeking opportunities to use scissors.  He has the basic motion down, and is working on the correct placement of his fingers, but has not yet been able to master the making of successive cuts.  He tends to make one small cut, then just rip the paper the rest of the way.  I tried getting him interested in cutting smaller strips of paper, he wanted "a whole piece".  Our house was starting to overflow with ripped up paper.  That was okay, but how to get him more scissor practice?  Yep.  Play dough.

Elijah typically uses the Fiskar's kid scissors (like these) for his paper-cutting, but for the play dough cutting, we pulled out his Crayola scissors, since they have proved useless in the cutting of paper.  Because he is still working in single cuts, I rolled out a play dough "snake" for him, then demonstrated how to hold it slightly back from the end and cut off a chunk.  When he's ready for making more than one cut in a row, I will form the play dough into more of a disc shape, I think.

And, while we were on the subject of cutting stuff, I added in a butter knife.  The critical pieces with that seemed to be working on using the rough edge to do the cutting, and employing a sawing motion.   Now that I have demonstrated these tools, I am interested to see what happens if I set up the activity again this week and leave him to it.


Oh, play dough.  You are awesome.

Blogging from A to Z: ASL

Today is the first day of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!  Here I go....

If you know me in real life, you may know that I am a fluent Spanish speaker.  I started studying Spanish in high school, but it was my college semester in Ecuador that really cemented my facility with the language, and I have enjoyed speaking it ever since.  What you may not know, though, is that Spanish is not my second language, but my third.  When I was twelve, I took some "communiversity" type classes in American Sign Language, and even now, I am still conversant in sign, with a vocabulary of probably two or three hundred signs.  When I first moved to DC after college, one of my roommates had a deaf sister, and I was excited to find that even after years away from the language, I was still able to effectively communicate with her in Sign.

That said, I estimate that my sign language skills are probably at the level of a two or three year old.  This is especially apparent to me when I see people signing on the Metro (as often happens here in DC) and I have no earthly idea what they are talking about.  Just as Elijah is quite able to make himself heard in English, but really only understands that which is directed at him or someone his age, I am a toddler to ASL.  (I imagine this is why Elijah can only let Kurt and I talk for a minute at the dinner table before he butts in with, "What are you talking about?")

I would love to return to ASL someday, to have a chance to really learn the language, particularly the receptive part (also, my finger-spelling is atrocious).  For now, though, I am content to sign to myself from time to time, and I am grateful for the language that kick-started the part my brain que me dejaba hablar espaƱol con fluidez.  American Sign Language was my first linguistic love affair, and as such will never quite be forgotten.

Keep reading to see who else is blogging from A to Z!