Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Day of Four

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As Westley was got out of the bathtub, he announced for the 73rd time today, "I can't wait for my birthday!"

"It's tomorrow."

"I know!"

I glanced up at the clock. Five years ago that minute, I was walking up and down my parents' hallway, in pain—but not, I was sure, in labor—despairing. Rob was on the phone with Geraldine.

"Five years ago right now, I was in labor," I told Westley. "The midwife was getting ready to come over."

"Wow!" Westley said, sounding genuinely impressed. "Congratulations!"

* * *

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Today was tough and wonderful. Westley aced his five-year well visit. I held him in a tight bear hug while he scream-cried through two shots (his first two shots as far as conscious memory is concerned). I kissed his cheek over and over again, just like I did when he was a baby, just like I do with Ivy when she cries. For a few minutes, life felt like it was just him and me and the hurting.

Westley bounced back pretty quickly, but he told me several times over the course of the day, "I didn't like getting shots."

Word. Shots suck and I hate them.

* * *

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Westley's lunch today was a giant, post-shots strawberry Frappuccino and most of a sourdough baguette the size of my arm. He wasn't hungry for dinner, which surprised no one.

Eventually, he asked for baby carrots and a clementine.

* * *

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Westley spent an hour this morning "playing family" with all his stuffed animals and soft toys in a space ship made out of his snowman bed sheets. Then he dressed up as Darth Vader for a while. When it was time to get dressed for real, he chose his bright red Spider Man T-shirt and bright red sneakers to go with the gray corduroys I'd picked out. Westley's favorite color is bright red—not just red, bright red.

After an hour or so of relative silence (even imaginary space is quiet, apparently) Westley talked non-stop about his birthday tomorrow, turning five, his party, his friend Sarah (who, unfortunately, is the only friend able to attend the party—but, fortunately, is his favorite friend at the moment), playing games, and the robots he will invent when he grows up to be a scientist.

He sang all the music he knows from various Sonic the Hedgehog levels to Ivy while she got her diaper changed.

Westley was patient and helpful while we shopped for birthday cake ingredients and a few regular groceries. It was a little upsetting to abandon our shopping cart for a mid-shopping bathroom trip (he wanted me to come in with him but to turn around and face the wall), but finding it again was great fun:  "This one's ours, right?" He was absolutely delighted with the tiny Mr. Freeze toy I had waiting for him as a post-check-up surprise. He thanked me several times over, though he confused the character with Captain Cold, referring to him as "Captain Freeze."

* * *

When I asked Westley what he wanted to his birthday dinner? "Pumpkin pie."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yes We K'tan

This is not a sponsored post. It's not every day that I love-love-love and want to kiss a baby carrier. I had to share.

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It's no secret that I love the Ergobaby carrier. But I'm in love with the Baby K'tan. With a treasure trove of gear from Westley's baby days waiting for me in the attic, buying anything new seems silly. But the K'tan was worth every penny.

The first time I saw a mom with a wrap-style carrier was (predictably) in the Whole Foods parking lot. She was lovely and serene with a halo of curly hair and a long hippie skirt. She stepped out of her car already wearing the wrap, went around to the side where the car seat was, slid the baby into the wrap and she was on her way. I was newly married with babies on the brain, and I wanted to be that mom.

Fast forward a couple years and I have a baby (yay, Westley!) and a wrap. It was one of the ones that's just a giant piece of semi-stretchy fabric. And I could not make it work. It was always either too loose, or too tight, or the baby would get impatient and start fussing while I was trying to get the thing on, which would stress me out, thus making it harder to concentrate on wrapping... Some mothers who love and swear by their one-giant-piece-of-fabric-that-comes-with-a-copy-of-The-Ashley-Book-of-Knots carriers. Not this mother.

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But I kept being drawn to wraps. So soft. So cozy. So cocoon-like for that precious sleeping bundle, like a swaddle-to-go. When I saw the Baby K'tan, which works like a wrap but goes on more like a T-shirt, I thought it might be too good to be true. "A wrap without all the wrapping..." claims the Web site. Exactly what I wanted.

And now I want to marry my Baby K'tan. Yes, it's super-comfortable to wear and easy to use, but the thing that makes it number one in my book? I can put Ivy into it without waking her up. Yes, ma'am.

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Today, in fact, I went from sleeping baby in my arms to sleeping baby in her car seat to sleeping baby in the Baby K'tan to sleeping baby in her car seat. Part of it is my mad mama skillz. But making that transfer from car seat to carrier (and carrier to car seat) without disturbing the slumber-in-progress never goes so smoothly with the Ergo. With the K'tan, I just put Ivy up on my shoulder (like I'm going to burp her) and slide her into the wrap.

Seriously. Best baby carrier ever.

Easy on my back, easy on the nap.

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Love, love, love.
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

RAQ: Rarely Asked Questions

Occasionally, someone will ask a question in a post's comments, and I want to reply, but I'm not always sure how. Do I answer the question in the comments section and hope the person who asked will come back and check for a response? Do I try to hunt down an e-mail address and respond that way? If it's a complicated question with a lengthy answer, do I write a new post on the topic?

Usually, I get so bogged down with indecision that I never respond—and then I feel awful! I haven't forgotten about you! (And then, the longer I go without addressing a question, the weirder it feels to actually answer it.)

So! I'm going to start responding to questions in a FAQ-style format. Except that it'll be a RAQ, as I don't get asked questions frequently. Sound good?

Lincoln Park

Q: Did you make that blue hat? Where can I find the pattern?

A: Alas, I did not make it. I found it at a thrift store, in the guys' section. Because I have a large, manly head. If you have a larger-than-average head, and/or a lot of hair that you like to stuff under a hat sometimes, and/or you like your hats in the bigger side, check out mens' accessories.

Q: Talk to me about the vegan diet and weight loss! Will going vegan help me lose weight?

A: I have no idea if eating a vegan diet will help you lose weight. I lost no weight when I switched to a vegan diet (and may even have gained some). I have only ever lost weight on a starvation diet—and I have the health problems to show for it. My husband, however, naturally lost about 25 lbs. when he switched to a vegan diet about six years ago. He was never hungry, and he feels healthier than ever. Every person's body is different. If you're interested in jumping into cooking and eating delicious vegan food, I recommend Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks.

Speaking of food...

Q: That recipe looks great! Did you invent it?

A: Yes and no. I am a recipe tweaker. I find a recipe that looks interesting and then I make adjustments for what I like and what I have lying around. I often end up using a completely different bean, grain, and collection of spices from what the original recipe called for, and voilĂ , a new recipe...sort of. When it comes to gluten-free baking, I've had a lot of success using a combination of sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and millet flour. Those three together seem to make a delicious, not-too-moist, not-too-crumbly baked good. I also find that with gluten-free baking, I often have to go by how a batter looks (and adjust flour and liquid amounts accordingly), rather than adhere to the measurements in a recipe I'm tweaking. And I've had lots of recipes fail. But sorghum + tapioca + millet = hecka tasty.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Forever Awkward

Every year since Rob and I got married, I've intended to send out holiday cards. In fact, I have two boxes of Christmas cards (though not the photo-of-us kind) out in the garage right now. They've come with us on three moves and most of the envelopes are missing. Yeah.

But this year is different! This year, it's really gonna happen. This year, we are a family of four, which feels very official in an ohmygosh, SO grown-up way. And grown-ups send out holiday cards. Or so goes the logic inside my head.

When I determined that yes, 2012 is THE year, the I'm-really-gonna-do-it-this-time,-don't-try-to-stop-me-guys Christmas card YEAR, I also determined that I had exactly zero pictures of the four of us together. But! Thanksgiving would mean that we would all be in the same place at the same time, and in pretty good moods (thank you, delicious eats), and there would be another adult around to take a photo. Perfect!

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Yeah. Not so much. The lighting is bizarre, I look like I was trying to camouflage myself against my mom's floral love seat, and Rob is over it. And Westley insisted on holding up a toy in front of himself the entire time my dad was snapping pictures.

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We are Awkward Family Photos fodder for sure. No family-of-four holiday cards for us this year! (Although a couple of the shots are awkward in an almost-awesome sort of way.)

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Fortunately, I have a million and a half adorable pictures of the kids, which I can combine into an adorable, extended-relative-pleasing collage of holiday cheer.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three Months

Three Months

Ivy turned three months old on Wednesday, and I had every intention of writing this then. But life got in the way. (And then illness got in the way. I have some sort of sinus infection going. Or else I have pinkeye in my third eye. Blah.)

* * *

We made it through the fourth trimester! Ivy is no longer a newborn. She's a baby. She's the babiest baby who ever babied. She smiles and coos and tries so hard to roll over, and she kicks happily in her bouncy chair. She's often quiet and serious, just taking it all in, storing up knowledge for later. But she loves to use her voice.

Ivy loves to talk. She has more to say than any baby I've ever known. If I just stare at her and smile, she coos long phrases that go on for minutes and include the babytalk equivalents of semicolons and parenthetical statement. We also have long conversations that go something like this:

Her: EeeeEEEeee-aye-aye-aye! Aah-oohOOH!

Me: Aah-ooh? Really?

Her: Aye-AYE-aye! Aaaaaaaaa-OOH!

Sometimes I think she's auditioning for Rent. Or else she just wants me to take her out tonight.

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At first, she looked like Rob. Then she looked like me as a baby. Over the past few weeks, Ivy has started to look more like herself. Her eyelashes popped out about a month ago, and they continue to grow longer and curlier. Her eyebrows are getting dark. She's rubbed off all the newborn hair on the back of her head—or else I've kissed it off. I kiss her head about a thousand times a day.

I think Ivy might be a brunette. (Westley was definitely a blue-eyed blond at this age.) Her eyes are still a mysterious, in-between color. They're magic. I can't seem to snap an accurate photo of them. They shimmer like labradorite.

In just a few pictures, Ivy looks a lot like Westley.

Three Months
(It helps that she's wearing Westley's hand-me-downs.)

I often wish I had the option to just laze around with Ivy, the way I did with her brother when he was a baby. Instead of us getting used to her rhythms, she's had to adapt to ours. That's the thing about being a second child.

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But it's working out really beautifully. Most of the time, things are good. I'm amazed by how far we've come just in the past few weeks. The 3-6 Months clothes are already starting to look too small. Nursing sessions don't go on for hours. There is something resembling a sleep schedule.

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Right Hand

It's funny to me that I still can't believe Ivy is real. Yesterday I put her on the changing table and I was just blown away by her actual-baby-ness. All I could do was stare at her, because, Look at you! You're a baby! You're my daughter and you're really REAL!

She seems too magical and funny and strong and beautiful to be a real baby. To be my baby. Looking at her is like seeing sunlight breaking through the clouds on a gray day.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: Quick Bread Quickie

Peach Chai Bread

Not much food-writing around here lately, huh? I still don't know how to make the food thing work with a baby who loves to nap on my body and prefers to be held at all times. Somehow I manage to cook every day, but it's not the careful, calculated cooking I used to do. It's flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, God-I-hope-this-will-turn-out-OK cooking. Stressful. I get it now when people, and especially parents of young children, say, "I hate to cook."

I don't hate to cook. I hate to bake. (And yet, during I recent kitchen clean-out, I discovered that I have more baking-type things than anything else. What business do I have owning FIVE cake pans?) Which is why Rob made this bread.

Peach Chai Quick Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
3/4 cup almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups of peach puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp black pepper
Leftover vegan buttercream frosting for topping (optional)

(I know what you're thinking, especially you, Allison: there is no such thing as leftover buttercream frosting. In my house, leftover buttercream is a thing that sometimes happens, despite our best efforts. Sorry about that.)

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees (yes, 330). Grease loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum and whisk well to combine. Add remaining ingredients (except frosting, if using) and mix like crazy. The batter should be fairly thick.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 60 minutes, or until the toothpick trick works. Allow bread to cool in the pan 10 minutes before slicing. Oh, and if you believe in leftover buttercream and want to use it, just spread a couple tablespoons over the top of the warm loaf. It'll get all drippy and glaze-y.

Peach Chai Bread

Eat it all. This is the "quick" part of the quick bread. The whole loaf will be gone in less time than it took to assemble and bake it.

P.S. I feel about chai in Fall the way the rest of the world feels about pumpkin. If chai is not your thing, feel free to leave out the spices. And if you don't have peaches languishing in your freezer from summertime, mashed banana—or, yes, pumpkin—works in this recipe, too.

Peach Chai Bread

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Dailies 11/12

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How many cups of tea have I made and just forgotten about? I'm surprised there aren't 30 mugs of ice-cold, very strong tea all over my house.

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I am behind on life. Every afternoon I think tonight I'll be sure to do my PT. And then the evening rolls around and I've either forgotten all about or I'm so tired my vision is a little blurry and I'm on edge wondering if the baby is really down for the night. I haven't ordered Ivy's birth announcements yet. I keep not writing up a testimonial for my doula because I want to say something better and more meaningful than she's awesome and you should hire her. (We love you, Kerri!) I thought I planned the meals for this week; I did grocery shop a little on Saturday and a little more today, but there is still nothing in the house to eat.

The kitty made me cry today. I was trying to soothe Ivy and trying to get Westley to wait a minute and trying to remember where the hell I put my cup of tea. The meowing for food (two hours before kitty dinnertime) was the last straw.

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Life is so loud and I want quiet. Every sound Westley makes, I think, "Could you just...not?" It doesn't help that about 90% of his play noises are the sounds of toys killing each other. Imaginary things blowing up. I know he's just pretending, working his way through a developmental-psychology-sanctioned warmonger stage, but I keep thinking about the real wars going on and it makes me sad.

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Life is so loud, but it looks quiet in pictures. I only think to (or manage to) get out the camera when things are relatively calm and still: waiting for story time at the library, playing in the park on a chilly afternoon, enjoying the heated floors of my parents' basement. Will I remember the overwhelming feelings of spread too thin and not quite patient enough when I look back at images from Fall 2012?

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Or will I get that same wistful look that the old women in the grocery stores and coffee shops get when they see this youngish mother with her energetic preschool boy and snuggly baby girl? My own grandmother repeated their mantra when she came for a visit on Friday afternoon: "Enjoy this time. It goes so fast."

Enjoy this time, I tell myself as I stand in the parking lot, leaning over the side of the car seat to nurse a squalling Ivy. It goes so fast.

Enjoy this time, as Westley jumps and makes blaster noises in the backyard at eight o'clock in the morning. It goes so fast. And he tracks in mud and wet leaves, bubbling over with excitement, eager to share his knowledge of fictional characters and their powers.

Enjoy this time, as I hold and kiss and rock the baby and my biceps ache and my mid-back burns and my long-forgotten tea cools.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Next Year, He's On His Own

Little Link

When Westley said he wanted to be Mega Man for Halloween, I thought, How hard can that be? Blue bodysuit, done! But it turns out that the important-to-Westley part of the costume was the Mega Buster, Mega Man's light-up arm-cannon-thingamajig. (I'm pretty nerdy, but I had to look it up.) Which he wanted to actually light up and glow in the dark, and probably launch rockets for defeating "bad guys" and God knows what else. Again, I thought this might be doable—or Dad-able.

My father is super handy. He's one of those major DIY guys. He can put a kitchen where there was no kitchen! So when I found instructions for a preschool-sized Mega Man costume online, I was on the phone immediately: "Hey, Dad-who-can-make-anything, can we make this?" And he was like, "Hell no, that looks really hard."

With a few extra hours in the day, we probably could've pulled it off. But instead of trying to find a bunch of extra any free time, I got busy talking Westley into going as his second choice, Link from The Legend of Zelda series.

Shield.
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If Mega Man was going to be easy, Link should be really easy, right? Green hat, green tunic, done! But over the several weeks leading up to Halloween, Westley's costume got increasingly more complicated. The hat had to be hand-sewn. The shield had to be hand-painted. The belt had to be cut down to size—and a loop attached for the sword which required power tools. (Thanks, Dad!)

I ended up putting a lot of work into Westley's "easy" Halloween costume, and Halloween in general. (It wasn't enough to carve one pumpkin. I somehow decided we had to have six.) I made myself really anxious over it, too. It wasn't really for me, as Halloween is not a holiday I enjoy, save the whole carving pumpkins thing (see previous parenthetical aside). Yes, I wanted Westley to have a costume that would be fun after Halloween was over. Something that would hold up better than a bagged, party store costume, that he could wear for Emerald City Comicon or PAX next year if he decides to dress up. But I'm not sure Westley noticed the difference, or cared. I think he probably would've been just as happy with a costume-in-a-bag.

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This morning, I was still feeling some of the Halloween-related anxiety. I got so caught up in "getting it right" that I lost the fun of making something fun! Westley doesn't need a couture hat or hand-painted shield to pretend he's someone else. He does that all the time in the back yard with a stick and over-sized rain boots.

Westley looked awesome as Link, and he had a great time on Halloween. But next year, his costume will be about him and what he can imagine, not about what I can make.

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* * *

Tiny Damcer

P.S. Ivy was a ballerina. Her costume was made of things we already had around the house, and new clothes she needed anyway.

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