"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Half Way Around The Sun

Nib is six months old. Halfway around the sun for the first time in his external life.

He's getting super big lately, I feel like he's made of silly putty, he keeps stretching. Sometimes it seems like he's longer every single time I pick him up. I noticed yesterday when I sat down to nurse him that he's clearly to that funny stage where they are developmentally still "baby" but they're so large that doing the baby stuff is getting a little cumbersome: he fills every inch of the changing table, his legs kick and flop well out of my arms during nursing sessions  and he is starting to look a little out-sized in his backwards carseat position. He's living in the stage of Almost/Not Quite.

He has three teeth now, his two front bottom rabbit teeth and one side tooth on the top left. I think more are on the way. He's drooling buckets, cramming everything into his mouth and gnawing persistently on his own raw hands. He's bitten me a few times now while nursing but nothing hard enough or mean spirited enough yet that I am tempted to wean him instantly. He's a good natured early tooth boy.

Such fun. So, I thought I'd maiden voyage and add Nib to the tradition of Like and Dislike lists and see what I could catalog for him at the very new age of just 6 months of life. Here's what I've got:

  • Peek-a-boo
  • Slow braised beef (all fall apart tender). He sucked down about a half a cup of it the other night at dinner and fell asleep, slurping his last fistful, propped up on the tray of his highchair. Super cute.
  • Ice cream (his first food and one of his favorites)
  • Big brother Ru's antics, specially performed to make him smile
  • A good crust of bread for chewing
  • Splashing in the bath
  • Balloons, both to hold onto and to watch
  • Kicking his feet...he kicks while sitting on the floor, just to see his little booties wiggle. 
  • People. Nib will go into anyone's arms and grin at every charming granny that coos in his direction. He's such fun to go places with, people love him.
  • The rustle of paper, he is into ripping it at the moment


  • Having his feet tucked into pajamas...he kicks and peddles the first one out, squawking loudly, while you try to wrestle the second in. It's very exciting.
  • Canned, baby food carrots. He makes the most terrific faces about just one spoonful. 
  • Being bored. 
  • Swallowing solid, bits of things. He gags and panics quite a bit still. 
  • Having his face wiped off
  • Wearing socks. He can pull those suckers off faster than you would believe.
  • Opening his mouth to show off his teeth.
  • Going quickly down the stairs in someone's arms...you can feel him shudder and tighten his grip at every step. 
  • Having cool things taken from him. He howls indignantly if I take back my shoe to put it on my foot after he's found it on the shoe rack and decided to consider it his personal treasure.
  • Sleeping in. He's his mama's boy. He talks loudly and cheerfully if we're slow to rise, until I cave and get up with him.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes It's The Little Things

We are back home and I am steeping myself in the completely restorative feeling that comes from being in your own element again, being master of your own destiny and returning to routine, health and some semblance of normalcy. To really "get" what I'm feeling, see my astute sister-in-law's post about her own homecoming experience here. Plus, you get to see three portraits of cute small people. *wink wink*

I have been thinking lately about being a detail person. I really am. Sometimes planning throws me into such a horrific muddle because its all predicated on being a big picture person and the big picture often makes me quite dizzy. Trip planning is hard for me, and in some ways being around my in-laws is hard for me because they are a whole clan of big picture, strategy, logical thinking folks. I am a bit odd in their midst, although clearly loved and welcomed.

Today, I'm reveling in being back in my own house where nobody cares if I have an organized grasp of the big picture and there's no committee of logic analysis. There's just me and my silly, over-observant world....and it's okay.

Here's a little taste of what I've been savoring the past couple of days, little bits of goodness still soaking into my spongy, introvert's cerebrum.

First of all, witness the sweet, black olive above. We were having olives with lunch today and when I opened the can and poured them into the bowl there was this little twiggy bit in the midst. I went to pick it out and plucked up this stubborn little olive still holding its stem, not just a stray bit of debri. I feel like I stumbled on a slightly more alive piece of food. This olive made it all the way through the ripening, picking, washing, sorting, pitting, canning and distributing and kept it's own little stem with it, the whole way along. I love tiny reminders of real vibrancy.

"Hello! I'm an olive...I grew on a tree. See?"

 Secondly, A, the boys and I, bunked with some family friends on our drive home from family Thanksgiving festivities. This particular couple is quite eccentric, sometimes intimidating and always provocative in some new way. I know that there are lots of ways in which I "ought" to be sort of nervous around them and I'm sure many people are. They are frighteningly intelligent, elegant and proper, ferociously impressive in four thousand ways. But, see, the wonderful thing is, they are also interesting, generous, artistic and very warm...and I like them immensely.
One of the things I love about visiting their house is that the lady of the house is a great interior decorator. I love treasure hunting around the place on the sly, there are so many wonderful little touches, tucked here and there.
Myriad little bits of homey, artistic goodness.
I hope someday my own house will ooze the kind of layered creativity, charm and artist's spirit that hers does. I wish I had taken more pictures and I am looking forward to our next visit.

Then the last setting I want to share is even further back, a couple of days ago while we were stationed with A's family. We took a little family outing to the Frederick Meijer Gardens and although I did enjoy the Christmas trees from around the world displays and the staggering greenhouses filled to brimming with moisture and botanical life...I couldn't get over these little paper flowers that were tucked near the side of Vietnamese display area.
Look at how fabulous those are! The little petal shapes are wired onto real branches and some of them are double layered to created ruffled fullness and a few even have a shimmery bead sewn in the center to add a flick of glitter. I was just so struck by them. Am I insane to consider making my own for early cabin fever displays in March?

Then, after we'd wandered through the whole building, enjoying all the highlights of the offerings and taking pictures and discussing the high points together...we went to get our coats and on the way to the coat check room I peeked at the little cafe on the side and discovered this hidden gem, flaming across the ceiling in secret, hidden brilliance.
Is that not breathtaking?

Gosh, I love Chihuly. Happy homecoming to all the others out there who were traveling, I wish you many moments of small beauty and the bright, clear eyes to see it when it appears.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Ptosis Update

You can see that his left eye creases differently, but otherwise looks pretty darn ideal. There is also a touch of scarring in the eyebrow incision spot that you can't really see in this photo.

Those who have been following for only a short time may not know that Dee our second son, was born with congenital ptosis, an eye condition which basically means his eyelid didn't raise and lower properly and was permanently drooped. I talked through my blog about how the surgery procedure worked and shared the immediete recovery aftermath business with everyone, but I have said nary a word about it for ages, very nearly a year really, so I thought I'd give a quick little update.

Dee's vision is vastly improved and I really think we did the right thing. He can see up above him, squint his eyes, view the world binocularly, and has a lot more physical confidence than he did pre-surgery. That said, his eye will never look perfectly normal, sometimes he only opens one eye, sometimes his control is delayed and sometimes even when he does have his "adjusted" eye open it just looks slightly uneven. The cosmetics aren't perfect. That said, I have no major complaints. Surgery was scary, but I think it was a good choice.

We are still on a fairly frequent upkeep schedule with lots of eye doctor check-ups compared to the average kid although they are dropping off to be less and less frequent since he's had no real issues post-op. There have been no documented problems since although we're wondering if he might be starting to have a little lazy eye muscle movement, amblyopia is the technical term. No clear confirmation yet on that and in many ways we're still really waiting for him to get obedient and communicative enough to undergo serious visual testing. Only then will we really know how he's actually developing. He's only two and we've been told that this sort of thing will begin around three or so.

Its been pretty interesting to have a teeny, tiny taste of family handicap politics present itself in our life. I very, very often field pretty bold questions from strangers in public places:

"What's wrong with his eye?"
"Is he okay?"
"Did something happen to him?"
"Can your son see?"

That sort of thing...and I try to answer honestly and warmly. Its a little shocking to have people point out their observation that they notice something amiss and a piece of me feels defensive but there's a small bit of me that is glad that they just ask, frankly instead of whispering behind their hands at us. I wonder how having ptosis will affect him as a person and what he will say when people start to ask him their questions instead of me. So far, I have yet to hear anything from Dee himself about how his eye affects him either physically or socially/emotionally. I'm very curious to see if anything will ever emerge there and also wonder if he remembers the surgery experience.

For now, things are good...easy and uneventful, which is about as great as you can hope for in a post surgery world. You want things good and boring in the health histories of your kids. Its just a good way.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Poetry Friday: A Noun List

Today I am sharing a poem I wrote five years ago...the year I was 25. This poem is sort of a word game I challenged myself to. I decided to have a go at writing something personal and slightly vulnerable that included the top 25 most common nouns in the English language. All the nouns are in capitals.

I've included a few shots of my circa 2005-6 for your enjoyment, give you a little image in your mind of the "me" that is speaking.

My Uncommon Experience

I have found my PLACE in the spiral of TIME
My niche between WOMAN and CHILD
I am hovering in this 25th YEAR
Breathing in my fully fragrant LIFE
I savor the WAY I fit snugly with this MAN,
Our love a snapping, tender THING
But just broken-in enough to leave a
PERSON feeling warmed at the sight of us.
I cherish the pizzazz of youth under the
GOVERNMENT of a new womanly knowledge.
I love this DAY when I cup them both in my HAND.
And, I am pausing here, at this comfortable POINT,
Young enough to still have a robust NUMBER of elders
But old enough to have developed a mothering EYE,
Respect, keeping COMPANY with
A cozy amount of irresponsibility.
I am suspending animation for just this WEEK,
Just long enough to WORK this GROUP of moments
Into that fat CASE of files marked “Great Feelings,”
I will chew slowly, nourished on the delicacy
That is this minute PART of my life in the
WORLD distilled into a fleeting seasonal dish.
The great PROBLEM is: The FACT of Time's moving on.

If you would like to see more Poetry Friday participant posts, head on over to Random Noodling for the full list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Catalog of "Dee-lights"

I'm slowly working my way through capturing all three boys, (if you hadn't guessed already) so, today our middle-man. Dee is fabulous through and through, a completely and thoroughly different animal from his brothers and such a very concentrated personality. Love him to pieces.

Dee Likes:
  • Knobs, buttons, levers, locks, screws....any tiny, little mechanism
  • Seafood of all kinds...if it lives in water, he'll eat it with relish. You asks for canned sardines as a treat. 
  • This book.
  • Ataulfo mangoes...not the standard variety which he rejects summarily. He cares a lot about texture. The normal mangoes are too stringy but Ataulfos are super creamy and smooth. He and I eat them together. :)
  • Painting! (He and his big brother can do this together by the hour)
  • Maple syrup (he'll scoop it off the top of his plain yogurt at breakfast and slyly sip it away and ask for more...not that that plan really works our for him, but he does try)
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and cream, cream, cream. He's our dairy boy. He'd be very happy to never drink anything else. I try to get him to drink a little water now and then.
  • Forklifts...not sure where that came from, but its a downright obsession.
  • Black olives...he loves manipulateable food and gets no end of fun out of capping all his little fingers with olive hats.
  • His penis. (Well! I'm just saying!)
  • Closing doors. He's kind of compulsive about making sure nothing is ajar. It bugs him.
  • This song. Makes me smile all the time that my two year old walks around singing The Beatles.
  • And also this song.
  • The concept of "treasure." He's always hunting it and showing it to me and talking about some.
  • A's dad. He talks all the time lately about how he "wikes Grandpa Awen...he so nice!"
  • Sitting on the toilet. Not sure why. Maybe its great to be alone in there or something? He'll sit and sit and sit and sit...we've started instituting time limits.

 Dee Abhors:
  • Keeping his shoes on in the car...I'm really trying to teach him this, especially as the cold weather approaches.
  • Changing his clothes.
  • Having his hair washed.
  • People laughing at him, even in a kind way...he really can't handle it.
  • Going down the stairs...not sure why this is suddenly a huge panic button issue, but...yeah.
  • Taking naps. He's ridiculously hard to put to sleep these days...far harder than his older brother.
  • Hard boiled egg yolks....he peels the whites off and eats them and hands me the pale yellow ball of "yucky part"
  • Crowds. He loves it when everyone goes away and he's alone or all the other kids go away and he has a few select grown-ups to himself.
  • Spots on his food. He picks them off or cries broken-heartedly....depending on how high his energy tank is at the moment.
  • Being sticky. He will happily play outdoors and get all muddy but he'll be beside himself if he gets jam all gummed all over his arm.
  • Being put on the spot. He'll melt down instantly. He is not the kind of kid you ask to do a few party tricks for your friends. Heh.
  • Spicy foods. He will cry and wipe his tongue with his hand frantically and say, "Its too picey!
  • Having his portrait taken. You have to be very subtle to take a good picture of him. There's no way he'll go for "Smile, Dee!" Insta-sob-fest.

These photos of just make my heart pitter-patter. You can feel so palpably what a sweet soul he is. He was just delighted with the fact that he'd been given this tiny pinwheel at church and then that he'd discovered the wind would blow it outdoors. I love how fixated he was and how placidly pleased it made him. I loved it when he closed his eyes to see how it felt too. 

This particular little guy has been quite difficult to parent in some ways, but that particularity also makes him such a wonderful and fascinating little person. I can't wait to see what he becomes.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beautiful Diversions

Nib is discovering knobs and buttons and switches. He's very interested in pulling on things and putting them in his mouth and yanking them off of whatever they're attached to. It just looks like he's working the Etch-A-Sketch here, but really, he's just trying to pry off one of the knobs. Hey...diversion, is diversion...intended by the designer or no!

Here's a stack of fabulous links for you to enjoy. This is the pile that I couldn't keep suppressed. So much good stuff out there in the interweb!

  • This fabulous song is stuck in my head.
  • This couch is a brilliant, brilliant use of thrift store embroidery finds. Am so tempted to copy it. Do I dare to try?
  • Have you tried halvah? Its my new naughty snack craving. Think sesame instead of peanut butterfinger. Completely addictive.
  • Our Indian corn will probly come down very soon and when it does, I am considering making one of these, seasonal beauties.Seems like just the thing to wear when visiting the friends and relations.
  • This fabulous scene gets my very largest vote for touching video of the week. 600 opera singers dressed casually and masqueraded as crowd members and surprised all the staff and shoppers in a Philadelphia Macy's with a live rendition of The Messiah. I cried. Super moving.
  • I love this list of things to do when bored. There are about 57 that I wanna run right out and try instantly. (Lots of them would make fun dates too!)
  • And speaking of list-ology, this list is a genius compilation too. Words are so great.
  • And isn't this a brilliant, helpful tool? You know...for when we get all spellbound by the brilliant diversion of the interweb?

So, that's my current round-up of inspiration for the time being. Got anything that you're dying to share because its so genius?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Freeze The Good Stuff

 The nights are getting pretty chilly now, we're breaking out the footie pajamas on a regular basis. Ru asks every single morning now, "And Mommy, is it going to be cold today?" because he is hopeful that we will have a warm day which means that he can wear short sleeves and sandals, and that there will be snow, which is his fondest dream at the moment. I kinda think this cold weather business is here to stay for a while.

And we have a new family dessert, ice cream is passe, cocoa is in. A has been pioneering a new family tradition of after dinner homemade cocoa...and we're drinking them topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, in little espresso mugs. So much fun! I am hoping the trend continues long enough to extend beyond the classic rendition to: warm eggnoggy white cocoa, minty cocoa, nutmeg dusted mugs, and maybe a white chocolate variation? Its a great way to get a little, warm shot of dairy in at the end of the day. What flavor dreams am I missing?

 The boys are enjoying the leaf fall and the fact that at the moment there are giant piles to jump in, on every single curb. There are detours to be made between the car and any door....wander this direction to kick leaves....wander that direction to jump in a heap....wander over there to throw some in the air like confetti....  Such fun. Strange to see the naked trees reaching up over the horizon now though...
 Been having lots of fun in the kitchen lately. Made the first batch of Christmas cookies and packed them away in the frozen zone. I baked up some simple, no fuss chocolate spice cookies, Midnight Cracklers from Dorie Greenspan's classic baking tome. Pretty dead easy and dark, rich, chocolatey flavor...mmm...I'm not even that wild a fan of the whole chocolate chocolate chocolate thing but, yeah...these are good. They remind me of Mexican hot chocolate with the rich chocolate, hint of spice business. We're off to a good start.
 Oh...and warning. The dough is almost better than the finished cookies. So delicious. Like moist grown-up brownies in a chewy, wad-able, hold-a-chunk-in-your-hand form. Dangerous stuff folks. I bagged those suckers up for the freezer at lightening speed!

 I also baked up this pound cake a while ago and remembered, (per the recipe's instruction) that I'd frozen one for later and we broke one out to celebrate an autumn picnic in our yard after church on Sunday. This pound cake rocks and it freezes astoundingly. Its almost better out of the freezer...I'm not sure how that's possible, but there it is.

 See, aren't the colors an amazing whirl of light? Most of these leaves are down already. That's why we're glad we are lucky enough to own a camera. Nice to freeze more than just cake and cookies for later.

Happy last moments of Autumn everyone!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Ru Snapshot

Today the beginning of a new bevy of lists. Kids tastes and interests, even their most passionate ones, change like the wind. At the moment...this is a snapshot of my oldest son.

Ru Likes
(he and I scoop avocados out of the shells with spoons together)
 chocolate milk
"fixers" (repairmen of all stripes)
taking pictures 
skateboarding and skateboarders
Aunt Gigi's apple cake
baking things
being read to
(we're working on Little House In The Big Woods)
sausages of all kinds
plain cheese pizza (I am mortified)
weed whackers and leaf blowers
dogs, of all kinds
Darth Vader
helping A take out the garbage
painting (both walls and watercolors)
St. Marcellin cheese
having a knife at dinner
drinking water
his flip-flops 
(he's very sad about the non flip-flop winter footwear custom)
salt on his food....lots of salt
mopping the floor
washing dishes
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Ranch dressing

Ru Can't Stand

tomato sauce on his pasta
fish of any kind
taking a nap
having his food cut up for him
long socks
zipping his coat up 
(he prefers to wear the whole thing flapping open, hanging by the hood from his forehead)
having anyone in the room while he's dressing
having anyone think he's "dumb" (his current paranoia)
waiting for winter
being put on the spot
dried pineapple
pants that are too short


Friday, November 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: Leaf Verse

We are to that time of year that is hard for me to enjoy. We're past the glowing throes of autumn when the world is a blazing whirl of color and crisp days...we've had our first frost and snow and jackets are now mandatory. Now its on to hearth-fires and handicraft marathons, days when we snuggle under blankets and read stacks of storybooks and when we can't so I curse the windshield while I try to unearth it from its layers of ice with that little scratchy tool buried in the trunk of the van.

I want to be so cozy about it, I'm trying to will myself into that space by trying to enjoy even the annual destruction of the foliage.

Late Autumn Theatrical

There is a host of seasonal Post-it notes,
Flittering in our street corner maple-top.
They are pale, wasted ghosts of leaves,
Performing some great arboreal Hamlet,
Thinner than themselves, inscribed “November”
On every shuddering vein and tip.
We are at the climax now, the part where
There is a great stage-death, en masse
One million staggering, fainting falls then
Performing on the chill, even lawn
They twitch at the heels, gag and roll
Crisp into rigor mortis and compost dramatically.
Such an impressive show will doubtless
Inspire an encore and we will have the whole
Thing over again beginning with the bit about the
Hope of sap rising and the miraculous green buds
Whirling open their newborn chartreuse feathers.
Check out lots of other Poetry Friday participants and their selections here.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making Things Season

We're starting to really think about Christmas around here. Not that we're decorating or anything like that, but we're starting to think about making things. Its that time of year.

 We will mix up cookie dough and put it in the freezer anytime we get a free moment from now till the 25th and this weekend I hope to sit down and make up lists of make-able gift ideas for all the people I can. We buy gifts too, but I like to reinforce every year the idea that our hands are still useful, creative and elegant instruments that are quite capable of making something well-loved...even in our modern age.

Yes, you can just get on Amazon and buy everything you need. (I've done it! And there's a certain freedom there too.) but there's something really soul feeding about making a lovely thing for someone you care for and seeing them unwrap it carefully on Christmas morning. This year we have a mortgage in our budget pool so that means there's even more incentive to get out of the mall box and start dreaming up gifts here at home.

 We have finally run out of this wonderful large packing paper that our movers used around our goods, so that means the boys are a little restless for something creative to do with their hands. Just in time...I could use a few more tiny creative hands.

I'm even starting to think about taking up my knitting needles again.  I guess cold fingers will do that to you. *grin* Remembering the success of my hat knitting venture from last year and thinking sort of bravely of making a little sweater for Nib. So scary! Argh! Somebody tell me I can do it.

I also found instructions online for finger knitting by accident and was enchanted with the idea of teaching Ru because he pesters me endlessly about "teaching him to knit" although I've tried and obviously, wielding the needles are a bit much for him at the age of 4. This might be the perfect solution.

Am also starting to think very deeply about gifts for the boys for Christmas. I have decided to do three gifts for each of them...which may be objects, experiences or some other idea. I want to come up with a gift for each boy's: mind, body and spirit.

And look at that jolly baby! If its even reasonable to call him a baby. You can't see in that picture but he's managed to cut through his two front teeth at 5 months of age. He's still sleeping beautifully, grinning ear to ear and astounding me with his easy-going calm. He's a very good natured little person. I can't wait to see what he's all about as he unfolds more and more.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spotlight on the Playroom

Whole lot of paint on my fingers and toes lately as we start to really get into Remodeling Land.

Little mini-tour of an evolving room in our house today. I have shown you bits of the playroom before, but today you'll get a little glimpse into its hopeful future too. Right now, we are mostly calling it "the playroom" by default because it is the place where all the toys and many of the kids books live, but it will also be the room where we will homeschool.

The walls are all faux-wood paneling in a dark brown which makes the room feel very close and cave-ish. But, that is changing! We are now halfway through painting the walls with a gallon of flat white paint that, believe it or not, I found in the basement. (How fabulous is that?) The beauty of knowing that everything will be eventually getting painted and that the floors will eventually be refinished is that kids can paint too! No worries about "messing it up" really. The boys think that's the best thing ever.

Finished walls...just trim left.

Art hanging finally! Love that purply watercolor on the right...Dee's work.

Kid measuring chart, a cool housewarming gift from the next-door neighbor

Where I've stopped at the moment...and you can see our new stand globe, the recently hung curtains and our two free chairs that will belly-up to the table I'm still looking for.

I got a gallon of soft periwinkle blue ('Blueberry Buckle') for $5 in the reject paint section and slapping that on some or all of the walls will be the next step. I think once we've opened the space and made it more breathable with the white its going to be fun to add a little character and homey love with a touch of color.
Found this old metal tray and the two wooden crates below it at a free neighborhood swap. Am planning to have Dee help me organize the rest of the Matchbox cars in it.

Other ideas on the way include:
  • A thrifted heavy, very large baroque style frame, painted gold mounted on the wall, around a chalkboard, right at kid level. Something like what this woman did.
  • This giant zebra rug, made with just glue, scissors and felt
  • A big, sturdy table of some kind that I am hoping to find for free on Craig's List or else curbside
  • Some of these nature posters
  • A cheap cd player/tape player for listening to books on tape or music together
  • A frame like this, and a rotatable set of "The Great" artist's works to put inside
  • A simple, big  wall clock with hands and numbers
  • And...one or both of these very cool cupboards which the sellers left down in the basement