November 21, 2014

Just Do It


My grandmother always used to say, 'if you want something done right, do it yourself'. I never want that expression to prove true, but in my experience, it's usually dead on. I have struggled to delegate throughout most of my personal and professional life. I rarely seek or accept help, and I suspect in part that's about self consciously not wanting to inconvenience anyone else, but in much larger part, it's about an arrogance in assuming that only I am capable of getting everything accomplished correctly. 

Slowly, over the past couple of years, I have been trying to farm out some of my responsibilities. It was slightly painful to relinquish fall planting to James and Little Smith for the second year in a row. This past spring, I scratched my head as I watched garlic push up in odd places throughout our garden... because why there... and why just a few bulbs over there? I was determined to step in and correct those mistakes this year, but when I realized there was just too much on my plate and the ground would soon be frozen, I determined done should trump done right

I am looking forward to the surprise of seeing where those sprouts spring up next season. From what I can piece together through the pictures, it should be interesting! :)

*Little Smith's first year planting garlic (he was younger than baby Roo!) here.

November 14, 2014

Not for the Season


Springtime comes and the leaves are back on the trees again
Snipers are harder to see (my friends)
Weeding out the weekends

Summer comes gravity undoes you
You're happy because of the lovely way the sunshine bends
Hiding from your close friends
Weeding out the weekends


Candy left over from Halloween
A unified theory of everything
Love left over from lovers leaving
Books, they all know they're not worth reading
It's not for the season


When autumn comes you sit in your chair and you stare
At the TV square
Hiding in the deep end
Weeding out the weekends

Winter comes and the days all start late
There's motion on the boughs where the dark shapes prowl
Feeling out the feelings
Feeling out the feeling


Candy left over from Halloween
A unified theory of everything
Love left over from lovers leaving
Books, they all know they're not worth reading
They're not worth reading

~ Laminated Cat (Not for the Season), Wilco

++++++++++++++++

We woke up to a decent dusting of snow this morning. The heat is on, some wood is chopped, my knitting ambitions are ramping up (trying to find the time!), and the darkness is falling way too early in the afternoon. It's a long season ahead, but I think we are all ready. 

November 12, 2014

Overload


I've long heard that women are better at multitasking than men, yet I seem to be cursed with tunnel vision. I am, and always have been, an all-in or all-out girl. My mother loves to recount a race when I was in the third grade. Once I realized that I was going to come in 'second', I abruptly stopped a few feet from the finish line and let everyone pass me. If I couldn't win, why bother?

In middle school I would assign myself papers on topics that captivated me (the role of women in Arthurian Legend, the political implications of The Beatles), and completely ignore my actual assignments. I still get slightly queasy recalling the journal I was supposed to keep in 8th grade English, chronicling the 'Guest Host' in each chapter of the Odyssey... I let it slide all term, until I was thoroughly screwed and had to report to the principal (and beg my mom for help). 

If I set my mind to something and I am determined, I can accomplish almost anything. But I have never felt as though I had any control over what it is my mind gets sets to... inspiration strikes at random, and my focus is so intense that everything else gets pushed to the margins. 

Having children has been the most profound antidote to my one-track brain. No matter what pulls at me, the needs of my kids always stay at the forefront. During my first year as a mother, it felt absolutely natural, because what compelled me was motherhood, almost singularly. I consumed studies, philosophies, products, activities, and it was a very satisfying pursuit. 

As the years have passed since giving birth to my son, my interests have opened up again, and I find myself driven by various causes, projects, jobs, and topics. In essence, I am still that obsessively focused girl that I was before motherhood, but now that my children take up a huge piece of my available brain and time, there is little left over to parcel out among my passions and commitments. It sucks!

If I have four things to do, I am physically incapable of giving twenty-five percent to each... my only option is to dedicate a hundred percent to the first item and then desperately race to give another hundred percent to the second, only to fail. So stuff just doesn't get done, especially mundane stuff that doesn't hold my interest (like house and paperwork). And as my gray hairs and dark circles multiply, James is always quick to point out that my own well-being generally ranks low on the list. 

This is a long way of saying that I am falling short; here, there, and everywhere. In the space of each day, I am happy and fulfilled and frustrated and defeated. I don't know, maybe I will work it all out over a long nap once the holidays have blown through... until then, I'll just put one foot in front of the other. 

November 7, 2014

Baby Food


*Just a note, this post was in response to a lovely email that I received, asking for some 'babyfood' recipes. I realized that with our second baby, we really haven't prepared anything special for her... so basically the whole recipe section of this blog is baby food, as far as we are concerned! ;)

The transition from milk-guzzler to solid-food-eater is a big baby milestone. With my first child, I was determined to offer him the very best. I took it all seriously (too seriously! the fate of many new mothers). After reading a bunch of books and websites on nutrition, purees, and baby led weaning, I decided to start by making my own pureed food. I was adamant not to buy any commercially produced baby food (he never did have a single spoonful and still is confused by 'pouches' of apple sauce), and I spent a good amount of time cooking big quantities of veggies and mashing and freezing them. 

I did test out larger chunks of food (a la baby led weaning), but Little Smith is the kind of kid that really prefers to sit back and let me do the heavy lifting. He loved being spoon-fed, and probably would still go for it if I offered. I discovered homemade purees was kind of a funny camp to be in, it seemed like most of the other families I knew were either fully on the baby led boat, or opting for the convenience of store bought baby food 'pouches'. Truthfully I didn't mind the work, and appreciated that I could expose him to all kinds of spices and flavors at such an early age. 


When our second baby was ready to test out some real food, we started with pureed sweet potato, just like we had with her big brother. She was interested, but it was obvious very quickly that she was more excited about feeding herself than having me shovel food in. It was also clear that there was no way I would have time to mash stuff up smooth enough for her to enjoy it. 

It's funny, because I always resist the idea that everything gets tossed out the window with the second kid, but when it comes to food, that is how it went down for us. I didn't go back to research baby led weaning at all, but I did start to give her big chunks of food. We fed her lots of bananas, hard boiled eggs, and avocados. We did chunks of roasted veggies and steamed broccoli... but the truth is that I really didn't think that critically about having food just the right texture for baby Roo to handle and gum, I just offered her the parts of our family meals that best fit the bill. 


If I felt like there wasn't enough for her to eat at any given meal, I would supplement with store-bought baby food pouches. Gasp! They worked really well, because while she didn't like eating purees from a spoon, she was happy to suck them up like a smoothie. I do know you can buy those things and fill them with a homemade mixture, but that was so not going to happen. I had to laugh at how self-righteous I had been about commercial baby food the first time around. It's expensive and a lot of packaging, I wouldn't want to use it exclusively, but there are also a lot of products out there with good ingredients that are very tasty. And in a pinch, it's an excellent and convenient option. 


Once she cut a few teeth, we started just feeding Roo whatever we were eating without much editing. Is this baby led weaning? I honestly don't know enough to be sure, but it kind of seems funny that there would even be any term to describe something that has felt so obvious and easy. Now if we could only get our four year old to pick up a fork, we'd really have this mealtime thing down!

November 3, 2014

Amusements


I've often remarked here how well Little Smith plays on his own. It's a common occurrence for him to spend the better part of an hour building elaborate block and train track constructions. Occasionally he will ramble to himself or boss around his sister during the process, but mostly he just works through it in silence. There are certainly many (far too many!) moments where he is needy, wants to chat, whine, and demand that I meet his every need, but nearly every day does also include some down time, where he is busy and engaged with his own projects. 

When we learned our second baby was going to be a girl, everyone warned me that she would not have this skill of independent play. Girls are social creatures, and they demand much more attention, seems to be the common wisdom. So far baby Roo is definitely more social than her brother, certainly more willful, and probably more demanding. She is still very young, so who knows... but for now, she does seem pretty darn good at occupying herself , at least for short intervals. She will build little block towers alongside her brother, letting them fall and then working to stand them up again, she will rock her dolls and throw them into a little cradle before scooping them back in her arms, she'll totally pull books off the shelves and unwind a roll of toilet paper. For a one plus year old, she is decent at keeping busy. 

There was a moment last weekend when I looked around our tiny home and realized that all four of us (five if you count the cat) were happily engaged in our own quiet activities. While we obviously love doing things together as a family, James and I have also always been happy to work on our own tasks. It's fun to share in each other's interests and projects, but I appreciate that I can have some stuff that's just for me. I've been thinking the kids might feel that way too, or maybe they just haven't reached the peak of their needy phases yet :)

Many of our hobbies involve making things, cooking, eating, or being outdoors. Sometimes we all need a little passive entertainment though, so here are a few recent favorites in that department, from each member of our household (minus that cat!).

*Baby Roo (at 15 months old):
*Little Smith (at almost 4 yrs old):
*James:
*Lilly:
  • reading: sadly, very little. I just finished re-reading Mappings (for teaching purposes). I did also just stumble upon this article on the 'default parent', which made me smile knowingly.
  • listening: Hurray for the Riff Raff, St. Roch Blues ... latest obsession
  • watching: just saw Boyhood (superb, as I am sure you've heard), and mostly waiting for the new season of Mad Men to buy on iTunes (TV has really lost me and it's the only show left that I still actually watch... what will I do when it's gone?!)
  • streaming: (I love podcasts, less investment than an audiobook and the perfect pastime for a stroll or car ride. It's my version of TV.) Nerdist, WTF, Doug Loves Movies, and when I'm really feeling like I want to bend my mind, The Duncan Trusell Family Hour
I'm always eager to add to my list and hear favorite books, music, movies, shows, and podcasts from others, if you care to share!