This morning I was talking to Hazel about my coming to her preschool to read a Dr. Seuss book in honor of Dr. Seuss Week.  She knows I work at home, or really go to school at home, but that’s about all she knows.  So, I said to her, “Did you know I’m a writer too?  That’s what I do right now – I read and write, and later I’ll teach other people how to do that.”

“Really?  You just write?  I want to be a writer when I grow up, just like you.”

Thinking how sweet it was to hear that, I said, “I can’t wait to read your books.”

“Hmmm, what do you write?  What kinds of books?”

“I write things about other books; I read them, then I write about them for other people.”

Laughing, she replied, “What?!  Who would read THAT?”

She’s a perceptive little genius, she is.  This little exchange made my day.

 

Landslide

When you get pregnant, and you really want that baby, all you can think about is how much fun it’s going to be.  Everyone around you is joking about how much sleep you’ll lose and how babies never stop peeing, literally never stop even though you are in the middle of changing their diapers, but you keep thinking about little stripey onesies and pajamas with butt ruffles.  Then you’re humbled by the pain and the intense watching that birth brings, and after that intense glaring at you in your most raw, the light switches off you forever and onto your baby.  And there it stays, night after night, as the baby grows up and more independent and yet still more dependent.  While you’re rocking a wailing baby at 2, 3, 4 AM, you tell yourself that soon they’ll sleep all night.  Then, while you rub clove oil on their gums to alleviate teething pain and they just scream at your efforts, you tell yourself you can’t wait until they’ve cut all their teeth.  When you’re going through endless rounds of potty training, trying 400 strategies and having them all end in pee pee on the floor, you keep saying how amazing it will be when they can go to the bathroom by themselves.

But really, it isn’t.  It doesn’t really get easier when they sleep all night or can go to the potty alone, because that’s not the nature of parenting.  It gets harder.  Do you hear me, pregnant friends?  HARDER.  Because suddenly caring for them isn’t only holding them until they stop crying; it’s layered, it’s complicated, and it’s illogical.  I have been walking through this semester, trying my best to keep Hazel, Julia, the house, and my studies all pulled together, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Hazel, who clings to me all day and would crawl back into my uterus for keeps – Julia, who’s so sweet-tempered and so much less needy than any other 10-month-old alive – the house, with its piles of laundry at various spots throughout – our food, which I try so hard to make super healthy and fresh and YAY, but is slowly involving more meals of just hummus and carrot sticks.  I’m so exhausted, and maybe parenting isn’t this hard for everyone else.  I concede that I have some factors working against me:  I’m a control freak, a neat freak, a non-touchy/feely loner freak who gets mad as hell when I can’t find my exact right highlighter and who, in reality, would probably have said “f*ck” instead of “hell.”  I’ve got some daddy issues, which are 1. being furious and 2. being furious.  Whatever the cause, whatever the complications, parenting, for me, is the most difficult, consistently inconsistent position I’ve ever held, and I mostly feel like a failure of a mother.  I WANT to go to school, want it so badly that I’m staying up until 1 AM reading articles and working on papers, and sometimes I get mad at the universe when I have to push it all off for the tiny humans in the next room.  Because I’m not mad at them, or at Amos or even me, it’s hard being mad.

But sometimes things unexpectedly clear, and, for a moment, it’s perfect.  Today I have had Julia home, still feverish, while a coughing but not feverish Hazel went back to preschool after several days home sick.  I’m super behind; I have to read Bleak House, which is like 900 pages of Dickens that I had never even heard of before, and having two sick girls has seriously affected my reading time.  So I have Julia in the sling, letting her doze on me whilst I read, and Hazel’s school calls with a suspected case of pink eye.  An hour later I settled a newly clean Julia, who pooped in the bathtub for the 3rd time this week (she has a bad diaper rash, so I put her in there to give her some non-diaper time) in her crib with relaxing nature sounds playing on my phone and a Hazel who’s half asleep and half irritated and just doesn’t know what to do with herself.  I put her beside me on my bed, hoping she would sleep.  She asked me to read to her, and because I’m so behind I started reading Bleak House to her.   What should have been a boring book for her was, for some reason, exotic.  That moment turned into Hazel stealing my glasses and book and reading the text to me.  That ordinary moment of maternal desperation turned into something so beautiful and refreshing, made extraordinary by the amazing little girl I have.  It gets harder as they get older, but the beautiful moments get exponentially more beautiful.

 

(Not So) Happily Ever After

With two little girls wearing a variety of sizes, I’m constantly doing a weird clothing dance that involves a closet, a trundle under Julia’s crib, and three under-the-bed storage units.  I rotate out summer and winter, sizes from 6 months to 2T to 3T and even a couple of 4T things.  Shoes, hats, socks, underwear – all that stuff needs to be switched out, stored, possibly donated, and sometimes even thrown out.  I also like to buy ahead of season, so I have one storage thing that’s exclusively 4T summer and winter clothes for Hazel’s next year.  Sometimes Hazel likes to “help” with this rotation by pretending to do laundry, a game in which she flings stuff all over creation and hides it under our pillows.  A couple of days ago, as she was playing, she pulls out a very lacy, frilly dress and demands that I put it on her.  The dress, which was one my mom had made for me when I was four or five, is one of those things that I don’t want Hazel to wear, per say, but I will not give away.  Somewhat bemused, I slipped the dress on her.  Halfway up she tells me to stop, she doesn’t like it, what am I still pulling it up for, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!   What would any mother with my extremely high propensity for sarcasm have done?  Take pictures, of course!!

I could not be more thrilled with her hating this dress (sorry, Mama – no offense!).  So many little girls would FREAK OUT at a frilly dress all their own, a white one – like a bride!  I hate the princess culture, and I’ve worked hard on keeping Hazel away from it.  In the store, she frequently points out pictures of princesses on anything (books, toothbrushes, cereal, you name it) and says, “Look, Mama, there’s that girl you don’t like!”  I thought it was very interesting to see her reaction to this dress, since she wants to wear skirts and dresses pretty often.  I was just so damn happy that she wasn’t prancing around, but instead sulking at me, that I just had to document it.

City Farm

Oh, hello!

 

In this lovely city there are TONS of things for kids to do, so now that we are basically settled in I thought it high time we ventured out!  Amos and I do so much with the family on the weekends, but our weekdays have been limited to walkable things – story times at the library and bookstore, playground visits off the Tomahawk Trail that I love so much, that kind of thing.  Oh, and grocery shopping.  Taking one kid in a buggy and one strapped to you into Whole Foods in this yuppy neighborhood is something very close to running full tilt into the heat of battle.  Don’t let the $400 sunglasses fool you – these people will cut you for their free sample of 2-year-old cheddar.

Mining for gemstones

For our first big field trip, I chose Deanna Rose, a farmstead in the middle of Overland Park.  There’s all kinds of stuff there for kids – all kinds of animals, playgrounds, an old schoolhouse, gemstone mining, fishing pond, and so much other stuff we didn’t even get to.  During the week it’s free for everyone, and on the weekends it’s only $2 for

Windmill

adults and $1 for kids.  The best part for Hazel was feeding the goats.  I never would’ve thought my daughter, the same one who gets excited about washing her hands 88 times a day, would be into letting goats slurp crumbly pellets out of her hand, but she was so feeling it.  Jules and I were happy to watch her experiencing the world, interacting with kids and animals, and playing pretend in this huge botanical garden geared towards kids.

I took advantage of the free admission and did not plan a huge day; I brought no lunch, no snacks, and no expectations.  We stayed until it wasn’t fun for one of the girls, which was about 2 1/2 hours.  Then Jules demanded sleep, Hazel demanded food, and I was just happy we didn’t have to have a bathroom break there.  It was a totally fun day, one that I hope Hazel will remember.  Next week I think we’ll hit either the Botanical Gardens & Arboretum or the Children’s Museum.

funny girls

 

silly face ❤

 

 

"stop taking my pictuuuuuuuuure"

 

 

 

I’m hiding my cameras.

Hazel has recently expressed interest in touching my cameras  taking pictures.  I have to fight against every self-preservation instinct to snatch it out of her hands, my hands doing a little puppet-show-pantomime as I reach to steady, but pull back, again and again, but I don’t want to stifle her creativity.  I think she’s doing a smashing job, eh?  These are the only couple of photos she’s taken of actual people; far more, far, FAR more, have been of the carpet.

B is for Breakfast

"B" is for Banana split Breakfast

And butterfly, and broccoli, and baby.  Since I have Hazel home with me now, at least until I start school again after Christmas, I’ve decided to really try working with her as if she’s in preschool.  We are by no means rigorous in approach; our schedule is loose, allowing for a daily walk in the morning and many story times at the Barnes and Noble a block away.  What I have been trying to do is incorporate lessons about the chosen letter into our everyday life, in the same kind of way we teach her about food in the grocery store and animals out at the park.  Looking up preschool/homeschool ideas led to a scary number of print out coloring sheets (that can’t be all that people do with their kids, right?  seriously?), so I came up with a few ideas based on things we already like to do at home:

  1. Breakfast:  I made a banana split breakfast with Greek yogurt, cranberries, almonds, and agave syrup on top of a banana.  It’s been intensely popular, and she’s had one for the past three mornings.
  2. Baa Baa Black Sheep:  Hazel likes this rhyme, so we made a picture of sheep with the rhyme, and she wrote in all the letters “B.”  Then we used glue sticks (BIG DEAL for ol’ Hazel) to glue cotton balls onto the sheep.
  3. During our daily walks, we identified all the things that started with the letter “B” and drew them when we got home.
  4. We completed the two worksheets on “B” that are in her Getting Ready for Kindergarten workbook, because yes, we totally skipped the Getting Ready for Preschool one.  🙂
  5. We made “B”roccoli stew for dinner one night (and probably tomorrow, too) at Hazel’s request.
  6. We made a nature “b”ox out of recycled cereal boxes and clear plastic from a Cabbage Patch doll box.  Hazel likes to pick up little treasures when we go outside, and now she has a place to put them that isn’t between the couch cushions!

I think this was a fun learning experience for the both of us.  When people first become parents, everything seems so difficult.  All the sleep loss, the diaper changing, keeping box cutters and Windex out of the baby’s mouth…all of seems so damn hard.  It’s only when they get older and you have another do you realize that all that stuff is a freaking cake walk, and teaching your child logic and critical thinking and why some people will actually try to hurt you is way, way harder.  Teaching her like this is such a challenge; Hazel is picking up on these things so quickly that it takes my breath away, so I’m off to prep some things to do for the letter “C.”  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!  I’ll post our “C” fun too 🙂

Encouraging the Messy

Hold on to your seats, kids, but I have a confession:  I don’t like to be messy.  SHOCKING, right?  Um, yes, I do know that I have an unhealthy obsession with being neat.  It’s actually kind of a blessing, really; my house stays clean without my being all obsessive compulsive about it should it get dirty.  That’s how I try to see it, anyway!  But lately I’ve noticed that streak in Hazel, too.  I don’t know if I’m unconsciously training her to be this way or if it’s passed on in my genetic material, but I have started to worry just a smidge about it.  I want her to feel creative without restraint at times; we can always clean it up later, right?  So yesterday I pulled out the fingerpaints for the first time at our house, both in the spirit of being messy and to make Daddy a painting for Father’s Day.

But then he showed up, so we abandoned the Father’s Day bit and just focused on the messy!  Hazel had kind of a hard time with getting her hands dirty – at first.  She got more into it when Amos and I participated as well.  After one painting she was done, though I think it had more to do with wanting to get into the sprinkler than it did being worried about messiness.  I’m looking forward to trying out more projects with Hazel that foster development of right brain activities; I’m definitely a creative person, but I know I’m held back by wanting to be neat, in control, and logical.  I don’t want to put that on Hazel (or Julia), but really want to provide an environment where she can try out all kinds of different things to see what suits her best.  Maybe, though her experimentation, I can loosen up a bit myself!!!

Recipe: Pesto Orecchiette with Clams

Monday nights are like the battlegrounds of motherhood for me; I have Julia all day, then I have both girls from 4 PM or so until 10:30 PM when Amos comes home from teaching his late class.  I don’t know if it’s my anticipatory stress level or Murphy’s Law, but it always seems like my normally sweet, easy-going daughters have some major issues on Monday night.  Tonight was no different; Hazel, having not napped at all today, was also sporting a big bruise from being (accidentally) stepped on by one of the younger kids, while Julia was in full-on screamo mode, needing to nurse while I needed to make Hazel dinner and then needing to be held while I needed to clean Hazel up, eat my dinner, and play/or something with Hazel.  Julia almost NEVER needs that kind of attention, and when she does it usually doesn’t last very long before she falls asleep.  Except on Mondays, where she needs to be held for a back-breaking 2 hours.

But this post is supposed to be about a recipe, right?  Well it is!  It’s about this easy, elegant meal you can make while you’re nursing a baby & holding her in midair with one arm and continually reassuring a toddler that yes, you are making dinner and no, you will not eat hers.  So here’s the rub:

Pesto Orecchiette

1 lb. bag of orecchiette (aka hats)

1 lb. asparagus, ends broken off & chopped into about 1″ sections, nothing precise

1 jar of pesto

1 can of diced tomatoes (we like the fire-roasted variety)

1 can of chopped clams, although I think I’ll double up next time

a bit of chevre, if you’re feeling decadent

s&p to taste

1.  Start your pasta water boiling (don’t forget to salt the water!).  Whenever it boils add in your pasta and cook al dente; that is happening on the side while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.

2.  Saute your asparagus in some butter, with a little salt and pepper.

3.  Once they look nice and shiny, but are still a bit undercooked, add in the clams, (drained) tomatoes, and just a bit of the clam liquid.  You could also add in a splash or two of some nice chardonnay, if you have it lying around (which I did, yay for us).

4.  Let that asparagus simmer in the lovely liquid the clam juice, tomatoes, & butter have made.  Just cook it until you like the texture.

5.  Drain your pasta when it’s finished, add in the asparagus mixture, and stir in at least half the jar of pesto.  You could go more or less, just depending on how you feel.

6.  Pour yourself a glass of that chardonnay, dish up a bowl of pasta, and top it with a few crumbles of chevre.  Enjoy!

Life with this Newborn

Does Julia still qualify as a newborn?  She’ll be four weeks old on Monday, and I just cannot believe it.  Although this go-round has been much sleepier, calmer, and cleaner than it was with Hazel, I still find myself having my morning coffee in the shower and my breakfast at 11 AM, one-handed, while Julia nurses.  We have all been figuring out how to fit this new, needy baby into our lives, and it’s been pretty easy – way easier than I anticipated, for a couple of reasons.

First, Julia is an awesome baby.  I don’t know if it’s her personality or my calm demeanor (way calmer than with Hazel) or both, but Julia just isn’t a difficult baby.  She’s predictable, for starters.  From day one, it seems, she has followed a schedule.  That girl eats, then chills out until she has a dirty diaper about 30 minutes later, then she chills out or sleeps until it’s time to eat again.  At night, we nurse around 10 or 10:30, and then she sleeps until about 3:30 when we change diaper/nurse again, and then she sleeps again until about 6:30.  That is not too shabby for a teeny baby, dudes.  Just recently I’ve started to lay her down for her daily longer sleep, as opposed to wearing her in the sling, and she doesn’t have to cry it out for long at all before she just lets herself sleep.  I thought I was lucky with Hazel, as far as baby behavior went, but I think we hit the jackpot with this kid.

Second, and really importantly, Hazel is an awesome big sister.  Wait, that needs to be all caps – HAZEL IS

Hazel shares her special blanket with Julia

AN AWESOME BIG SISTER.  She is not jealous, she is not mad, she loves Julia, and she tells us all the time that she loves Julia.  Before Julia was born, Amos and I talked to Hazel all the time about how life with a baby would be.  We talked about how they cry, they can’t talk or walk or use the potty yet, and that she would have to share her room and toys with the baby just like the whole family would share the house, our food, etc.  We never told her that her sister would bug her or take up her time or annoy her by crying a lot.  I take time to point this out because, as is the case with so many other things, strangers (and even some people we love, but I’m not naming names here) tried to suggest that this would be the norm to Hazel.  Someone might, upon seeing my huge belly and Hazel in the front seat of the buggy, sidle up and say, jokingly, “Are you gonna be a big sister?  You gonna have to share your toys with someone else??”  Expecting a negative answer from Hazel, probably in a garbled lisp given the babyish nonsense voice they would use when talking to her, they were ALWAYS cut off by me (or Amos) saying, “Of course she’ll share, just like we’ll all share our things and home with this new baby!”  We never introduced the idea of the new baby as a burden for Hazel, and I think that really helped ease the transition for her.  We’ve also made sure to have a bit of special quality time with her as often as possible, even if it’s just going to the store with one of us by herself, and I think she really likes that.  But beyond anything that we could do, Hazel is just proving to be a compassionate, thoughtful person.  When Julia cries, Hazel sings Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to her and lets her have Corduroy and her special pink blanket.  This is extra sweet because they were the only two things we specifically told Hazel she would not have to share with Julia.  We just have two awesome, amazing girls, and I’m just really happy with how things are happening right now ❤

Mr. Sun and Potty Training

*Parenting Disclaimer:  This blog is all about poop, so be ye warned who read here.

For months we have been working seriously with Hazel on learning how to use the bathroom.  When she was 12, 13 months old we started letting her mimic us using the toilet and let her actually flush the toilet to dispel any fright she might have experienced at the loud noise.  After a slightly confusing and bumpy start last summer, she started to regularly use the bathroom for the #1 around Thanksgiving or so.  She now has that down about 99% of the time, with occasional accidents usually happening while she’s sleeping or if we are in the car a long time, times like that.

Where we have had some major issues were with using the potty for poop.  She had a scary accident on the floor early on in the potty learning, and I really think that freaked her out about going without a diaper on, regardless of whether she was on the potty or not.  And so we have struggled with it, trying virtually EVERYTHING.  Stickers, making her just sit forever on the potty, ignoring the potty altogether.  About a month ago we started on a new plan of attack which incorporated both lots of “big girl” talk, centered on her becoming a big sister very soon, and we talked about how it would be her job to teach Julia to use the potty.  I know that responsibility talk doesn’t work for every child, but it does for Hazel (she’s MY child, after all!).  We combined that with timing her on the potty.  She gets 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off to play, and so on.  At first it was taking us about an hour, and then she would go in her diaper anyway.  So then we let her play without a diaper, and that was successful a few times, but mostly she would hold it for hours more until she took a nap.  So I did more research and came up with this guy.

Behold Mr. Sun.  So many parents suggested that we do one of two things:  first, that we give her little rewards, specifically candy, and second, that we allow her to run around naked.  I liked the second idea, but I was afraid that she’d have another accident on the floor and be more freaked, so that’s a no go for her.  And we do not reward her all the time, because we believe it leads to an adult who expects rewards for doing regular things (studies have been done, people) AND we do not use food as a reward, because it’s not.  So, I thought, I am okay with her being rewarded with pride in herself and our pride at her behavior…and so I came up with Mr. Sun.  He’s a badge that we let her wear if she poops in the potty – he has nothing to do with pee-pee.  We told her that she could wear it and show everyone, that everyone would know she is a big girl who goes poop in the potty.  And since giving it to her she has gone FIVE WHOLE DAYS in a row!  We have also upped the ante with allowing her to wear underwear for 15 or so minutes after going in the potty, and that has really fueled her desire to be a big girl.  I think we are very close to total potty control, with nighttime being the next frontier.

I thought I’d share because this is a parenting miracle for us!  I have been so hopeful that Hazel would basically be out of diapers before Julia arrives, and I think that we have a really great shot at it.

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