Thursday, March 29, 2007

of emerging things

Right now, a new person is being born. My brother, father to two, just called me from the hospital to let me know that he and his wife are in expulsion mode. While I always find the 'we' in such sentences to be a little, well, imprecise, his timing could not have been better.

This wee one will be born on the eve of Passover (according to the Hebrew calendar), and I think it's timing is excellent. For what is Passover if not a time for transition? A departure from the known, if oppressive (Egypt), and an entrance into an unknown space in which one carves out concepts of self - and nationhood.

In retrospect, it was a very good thing that nobody apparently consulted a map while the Israelites were wandering in the desert (check it out - the Sinai desert is really awfully small for a bunch of folks to spend 40 years there. Clearly something else was going on.). They needed a childhood of sorts, in which to figure out who they were going to be, once they no longer had the Egyptians to tell them what to do.

Independence can be exhausting. And, if you are the Israelites, involve a lot of rules and bickering, each presumably as an attempt to corral or rebel against the other. Funny how little has changed, really.

Good luck to you, new wee one, and our thoughts with your mother (okay, and father) as they bring you forth. May it happen in the best time and the best way for you all.

Author's note: the new wee one is a medium sized, red headed little girl. Welcome, o niece!
In the meantime, the menu! Here are is the culinary plan for Passover, chez Imperfect, keeping in mind that the menu evolves as it is made:

Monday lunch:
coconut lox pasta

1st Seder (Monday night)
haroset: TBA
carpas: baby artichokes and potatoes!

mushroom soup
tomatillo salsa
pear-watercress salad
chicken tagine
tiny red potatoes, roasted with rosemary and garlic
blood orange sorbet
plum sauce
fresh strawberry pie (if the pie crust recipe works)

Tuesday lunch
spicy maple syrup salmon
tomato, cucumber and mint salad
rice pudding

2nd Seder (Tuesday dinner)
haroset: TBA
carpas: celery and cucumber, potatoes.
cranberry-avocado salsa
quinoa veggie salad
green salad with hearts of palm
citrus-cumin roast chicken
paella with tofu (not meat/fish)
peaches and cream sorbet
strawberry raspberry sorbet
Alexis' blueberry pie (if the pie crust recipe works)

Wednesday dinner

Thursday dinner:
go to magid's house!

Friday dinner
curried celery soup
cherry tomato and spiced sauteed tilapia
spiced sweet potatoes
mulled pears

Shabbat lunch
go to Springs' house!

All in all, remarkably satisfactory. Our thanks to IKEA for the cheapo dairy dishes and cutlery - though the comment about the cutlery potentially warping in the dishwasher was a little unnerving - and hoo, hah for the ice cream maker. And lo, it shall be good - I hope. And if not, imperfect and happy. Oh, and with lots of fingerpuppets and dress-up clothes.
In case you were wondering:

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.
It's okay. I understand.

Drama Nerd
Social Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Anime Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

Thanks, Zina.

darkness and scary death (not mine)

child: Mum, I cleaned out my cubby today at school.
Mama (absorbed): Mm, hm.
child: And I didn't make darkness or scary death.
Mama: Mm, hm - wha?

You've got my attention, kid.
Attention-getting has been happening all over the place. For example, consider these gems:

* The Eldest has been accepted to the local pluralist school. This is an immense source of delight to me, and I went dancing around the house, post-phone call from the Director of Pluralist Admissions.
We'd love to offer [the Eldest] a spot in our incoming kindergarten class.
I cannot tell you how sad we were not to be able to offer him a spot initially, he's such a taking child, [my brain tunes out here, waiting for the conversational pause in which I can screech YES YES YESSSS]...think he will thrive in our environment.
Oh - ah - well, I'll drop the packet in the mail to you tomorrow

happy Mama war dance
Yippee! Yippee! You are going to be pluralized!

The Eldest looks up from his book, an expression of mild alarm lurking around his ears - afraid to come out, probably. Finally, cautiously, he says, yay?

*The Toddles has been throwing food. Make no mistake, the kid loves to eat, and is even happily acquiring a bit of pudge. Pudginess in my offspring being hitherto unknown, I am happily pointing it out to strangers who are foolish enough to admire the child. Yup! He's adorable. And do you see the little double chin? See? There? And he's got a little extra on the thighs too - it's just fabulous. Seeing me reach for the Toddles pants, the stranger starts quietly edging away, remembering something else urgent that needs to be done in, oh, Stoughton.

Food throwing, however, drives me stark raving batty. I start off with absolutely no perspective (but kids fling food. They just do.) or patience with behavior of the I'm bored/that's yucky/ *fling* variety, leaving my response to range between grrr and a shriek. There is, of course, a perfectly rational explanation for this: when I bust my butt making food for these children, it's especially infuriating to see them disdain both my efforts and the results.

No, strike that, the glory of my children is that they expect food to show up, just like they expect clean clothes and clean tushies/scrotums. Given this, my efforts mean absolutely diddly to them. So it's the food itself they are disdaining, not me.

Nonetheless, it drives me bananas.

To illustrate, here are some pics of tonight's dinner, a make it yourself affair in which I supplied minestrone and condiments (cubed tofu, cumin carrots, cucumber - essentially, the dregs of the pre-Passover fridge).

On the left, you have my bowl of soup. On the right, you have the Toddles, masterfully reworking his soup into a mushy mass, in preperation for flinging it at his brother. Lovely.

Compare that to this exchange:

The Eldest hands a piece of pasta to the Toddles, having thoughtfully cut it up into cute rings.
Gang-gu [thank you], says the Toddles, shoveling it in.
The Eldest smiles sweetly at his sibling and tells him, you're welcome.

I swear they do it to throw me off-balance.
* They've got an easy target today, though, as I am post-breast exam roadkill. The short version: everything is fine. Well, mostly. Except that they make no absolute guarantees. And they can only find 90% of breast cancers, and, um, well, maybe I'd best come back in 6 months. Oh, and my primary care physician may choose to send me for a needle biopsy, but they didn't find anything worth worrying about. Which doesn't mean it's not there, seeyouin6monthsbye.

Umm, fine.

My opinion is that breast exams are like pregnancy: they are uncomfortable and poke and prod you in sensitive spots, painfully, and ramp up until you are practically begging for a needle biopsy/labor and delivery, just to get it all over and done.

I was invited to wear a glamorous, gaping garment over my skirt, and to sit, holding it closed in a room full of anxious (and some weeping) women, also trying to close the damned things. The collective levels of stress and distress in the room were astronomic.

From this room, one was taken to a procedure room, poked, prodded and squashed flat, then returned to the waiting room of terrorized subjects. Then, if you are particularly lucky (I was), you get called back for more photos (why? what did they see? I thought the films of my other, non-lumpy breast were a nice touch - especially with the dramatically circled bits) and more squishing.

Then you wait. And wait some more. All of this, mind you, without benefit of caffeine or alternate hot beverage, in respect for the women who are past the point where they get prodding and squishing, and are moving on to the incising and stitching.

Finally, you may get to meet the radiologist. Or, if you are a favorite with the staff, you may get to be prodded and ultrasounded and generally covered in warm jelly - and then, in that moment of especial glory, you get to meet the radiologist.

So, what did they tell you? The Man, having wheeled around, entertained and fed the Toddles during what was supposed to be a quick appointment, could be forgiven for asking what seems a rather reasonable question. After all, surely I had been told something.

In fact, by the time I met the radiologist, jelly and all, I was so limp an emotional rag as to not register more than this: I have asymmetrical breasts with varying types of tissue, no doubt compounded by continuing to breastfeed the Toddles (d'you plan to stop soon? pleaded a desperate tech), all of which made it hard to tell what was going on. I think - in fact, I'm fairly certain - that the bottom line is that I'm fine. But I'm asking for the radiologist's report, just in case.

I explained this to the Man, who shrugged. Have you ever noticed lumpiness in my breasts? He shook his head. No complaints here, he told me. Well, then. We'll just chalk it up to being (and you so knew I was going to do this)...imperfect.
Next up: the Passover menu!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the Daddy Vein

Four days, five needle sticks. (Editor's note: a 'stick' is a needle-stick, given here to administer clotting medicines into a vein. Specifically, the Eldest's vein.)

I sat back and looked at the Eldest with satisfaction. We did it! I told him. He paused, considered the matter, high-fived me, and moved on. But I intend to linger.

The Eldest has been having a series of small bleeds - a whacked this, a banged that, an oozing something else. My favorite must be the most recent: The floor whacked his cheek, I informed the attending hematologist. I was, after all, reporting the Eldest's own description of the event. A brief, amused silence later, the doc was up to speed and discussing dosages with me. Gotta watch out for those pesky floors...Douglas Adams had a point there. Indeed, the trick is to miss the ground.

So, we had four doses of factor in four days. I missed the vein once only - a back of the hand, small wriggly vein which I always miss. And I was banned from one vein, the Daddy Vein.

Given the shortage of strong, accessible (by me) veins in his hands and arms, the Eldest and I have evolved a series of semi-successful methods to negotiate which veins get used, and when. The Eldest, for example, is very happy to offer up one of his left antecubital veins (inner elbow), but refuses to discuss having a different vein in the same area used. Or, possibly, used by me. It's a matter of his familiarity with the vein, since if it hasn't been used much, he worries that poking it will be painful. More frequently used veins, however, do not hurt - or so says he. And a sharp rise in stress means that he is less willing to tolerate experimentation by the civilian with the sharp pointy object...go figure.

Thus, the negotiation. Push the kid hard and factor (clotting med) time becomes a power struggle and a miserable one. Keep it pragmatic, and the needle stick is like - as Jill says - brushing your teeth. It's a PIA some days, unnoticeable on others. But I digress.

So, we referred to his treatment log (we record which veins we used, if they held up, if I missed/got them), and put together a roster of usable veins. One missed vein later, however, we were a vein short. What to do?

The Eldest staunchly refused to let me touch the Daddy Vein. This was, he insisted, Daddy's spot - nevermind that Daddy hadn't picked up a needle in months. I bargained, reasoned, and generally did everything futile that can be done with a stubborn, exhausted five year old in pain. Sigh. Sometimes the partnering-with-my-kids idea is annoying.

Muttering quietly to myself, we tromped upstairs, where the Eldest asked his father to perforate his sanctified spot. Shaking slightly, the Man picked up the needle, positioned his thumb in the spot guaranteed to hold the vein steady while also blocking a clean poke (neat trick, that), and nonetheless managed to get into the vein. I attached the syringe full of factor, and bam! The Eldest was clotting. The next morning, when I stumbled down to get my coffee brewing, the Eldest hollered from the table, Mum, I'm waiting! I'm ready to do factor! Chipper and unhealthily perky, the kid was happily waiting for his morning needle. I'll be damned.

Two days later, I looked at the child. We did it! I told him. Five, ten minutes later he came back to me: This brings beauty-ness to my day, he informed me. I can tell that this is going to be another happy morning, happy day, and happy evening.

Beauty-ness, indeed.

Meanwhile, preparations for Passover continue apace. Thanks to Gluten Free by the Bay, I have a matza recipe that I successfully adapted. The hard part isn't finding gluten-free matza, it's finding matza safe for the grain allergic, plus the nut-allergic. Most gluten-free matzot have either oats or nuts in them, alas. It makes a quick, dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free cracker, and I think older kids might have fun spreading the dough. I would also wonder about this as a thin, crispy crust pizza - if you try it that way, let me know what happens!

Bread of Affliction for the Afflicted
makes 6-8 small matzot, about the size of mini-pizzas

1/3rd cup potato starch
1/3rd cup soya powder (G-F By the Bay calls for almond meal, which would doubtless taste better)
1 Tb flaxmeal (ground flaxseed)
2 Tb margarine/shortening/solid coconut oil, room temp
3-4 Tb warm water, adding cautiously and more/less as needed
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 F. Cover a cookie sheet with tinfoil, or best of all - a nonstick baking sheet.

Combine dry ingredients. Using your cake mixer, add shortening until thoroughly combined. Then add water cautiously, until the dough forms a non-sticky ball (barely sticky is okay). Use additional potato starch as needed to control stickiness.

Break off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten on the tray, pressing gently with your fingers to spread it into a circle. Smooth out the edges, if you are feeling Martha Stewart-y. Circle will be thin, and perhaps 6 inches in diameter. Prick holes with a fork.

Bake 8-10 minutes, watching carefully that the faux matzot are more light than brown - don't overbake! Edges should be slightly brown, the top white.
A quick note: there's another baby carrier recall on the market, this one by Baby Trend, who is recalling a backpack carrier. More information is available here:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

lump, bump, bump

I don't know where to begin.

First, I found a new blog: No, wait, that's me writing about something else. Okay, focusfocusfocusfocus. Maybe I'll go take a shower.

focus, ya silly woman

Right. Jumping in, then: a month and a half ago, I had my annual physical. My doctor found a lump in my breast, and told me to come back in a couple of weeks, so that she could check it. As a nursing mum, I shrugged this off. I have full milk ducts, I have empty ones, I have all sorts of wee solid bits in my breast, inflating and deflating.

Except, of course, that on Friday this lumpy bit was still inflated, solid and in the same spot. If it were a plugged duct it would hurt, if it were an infected duct, it would really case scenario, it's a cyst. Worst case scenario, it's cancer.

There, I said it.

My brain is running like a diarrhitic child. I'm googling in search of wisdom, and coming up with this:
there are approximately three million women in the US with breast cancer, one million of them are undiagnosed (

From birth to age 39, one woman in 231 will get breast cancer. Hm.

The risk of breast cancer increases if a woman has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) who had breast or ovarian cancer. (not me) But also, 80% of women who get breast cancer have no known family history of the disease. (argh)

Risk may also be higher in women who have taken oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). (me - being on the pill is a good way to control bleeding in symptomatic carriers of the hemophilia gene) Except that says: Many research studies show no association between birth control pills and an increased risk of breast cancer. However, one study that combined the results of many different studies did show an association between birth control pills and a very small increase in risk. The study also showed that this slight increase in risk decreased over time. (ah. scratches head.)

Conclusion? frightened rabbit brain skittering around inside my skull, with a small voice providing counterpoint by muttering, 'Dynasty. This is another freakin' episode of Dynasty, enacted by a cast of the Imperfects.'

Translation? There is so much medical drama in our life, the one kid is allergic to this, the other anaphylaxes to that, the first is getting physical therapy for a painful, immobilizing bleed, clotting this, oozing that, blah blah blah scarlet fever. Somehow, this feels like more of the same. Must be more of the same. (mental image: me, shrugging this off. C'mon, shoulders. One, two, three, shrug. Ah, the hell with it.)

So, part of me is having a hard time taking this seriously. It's shrugging this off (shrug shrug shrug), having read the script and knowing that yes, there is a next episode coming, same time, same channel. The other part is rabbitting away, muttering about the ultrasound scheduled for later this week, remembering my friend Malka, remembering Elka. Frankly, between these two bits of me, I'm fed up. I think I shall stage a revolt and create Part Number Three.

That part can be the bit that figures out Pesach (Passover). And possibly has a shower.


Note: today is a two-fer-the-price-of-one blogging day. Here is the first post of the morn, this one with frogs in it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Froggy went a courtin'

Have you ever heard Bruce Springsteen's version of it? Fabulous. The Nome sent us a CD with that on it, and I've been hearing echoes between my ears for days now. Finally, iTunes called and I answered...we are now the proud owners of a slightly used copy of We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions, and I am happy to report that Erie Canal is as good as Froggy. Ribbit, sploosh. yay.

The Toddles, having turned a fantabulous 18 months, is following his brother's pattern. Not only has no emerged, but it has brought its friends, NO and NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Oh, joyous day.

But instead of being a source of independance and strength for the Toddles, the ability to say no (or, possibly, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!), is twisting him up into knots. We end up doing a little dance, in which he gets more and more distressed, unable to find satisfaction in the ability to refuse, as refusal bans him from a thing he actually wants.

Me (at top of the stairs): let's go get a snack, little man
Toddles (face lighting up): Eat! Eat!
Toddles walks over to me where I am now standing on the top step. Pauses.
Toddles: Noooooooooo. (backs away)
Me (eyeing him carefully): Eating? Do you want to go and eat?
Toddles (happily runs over. Pause): Nooooooooo. (backs away)

This can repeat for some time. I court him gently, he is excited about the prospect I suggest, but then something in him makes him refuse - upsetting him as he does. It's as if he can't stop his internal naysayer, poor tyke.

Last week, the little guy was hungry, and I happily provided both boys with the latest batch of failed cookies, a.k.a. 'gookie,' in Toddles-speak. But between hungry and end-of-the-day tiredness, the Toddles ended up on the floor of the kitchen, wailing, 'Goookie! No! Gooookie! Me! Me gooookie nooooo megookienoooomegoookienooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo' until finally lapsing into incoherent tears. Which just goes to show: it's tough to be small.

Three things have helped with the smallness: first, wrapping. I have taken to offering 'wrap? wrap?' to the Toddles, preferably before I start cooking dinner (evil coincidence there: tired children + tired mama +dinner needing to be made and put on the table + increasing hunger in children, who then haunt the teeny kitchen, interfering with the mama's ability to make said dinner = explosion, occasionally maternal, reliably offspringal). Snugly wrapped, he settles in.

Second, the Eldest. The Eldest has taken to looking after the Toddles from time to time, and finally seems to have learned that grumbles and noncompliance around dinner-production hour make for grumpy ME (which is to be feared) and let dinner (which is catastrophic, according to his stomach). Therefore, he tries to entertain the even tired-er, grumpier Toddles. It works about half the time.

Third, Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer. The Toddles adores this book, which is a delightful little story about a wee dog who does just about everything but bark, to his mother's consternation. John Lithgow does a great reading of it, though he is apparently unaware that the vet is British. The boys and I have investigated the matter, and he is.

The Toddles will carry this book around, delighted by a dog who says mooo, and demand multiple, serial readings of it, and will furiously decline other, lesser offerings. it speaks to his desire for patterning, his own struggle with rebellion and individuality (yes, 18 month olds and teenagers both), and he just likes saying moo.

On Friday, I came home from an errand to hear Mary Jr. reading a different book in a voice touched with a slight edge of desperation. From this I was able to deduce the following:
a. she'd already read Bark, George a few dozen times (Mary is a very patient soul)
b. she was trying to interest the Toddles in this less desirable book
c. he was having none of it, and was probably half-way across the room already.
d. If I was smart, I'd quietly tiptoe back down the stairs and out the door before the Toddles heard me and came running, a copy of - oh, damn it. Busted.

Toddles On Me Back Dhal (variant)
serves 3-4

2 Tb olive oil
1-2 large onions, finely chopped (unless you have onion-eating children, in which case, chop roughly)
1 Tb curry powder or 1 tsp hot curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 cubed sweet potatoes
1 can small white beans OR 1 cup red lentils
2 and 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup light coconut milk or whole milk (not soy)
black pepper
1 head broccoli, sliced into florets (frozen is fine)
1 pkg tofu, cubed (not really small cubes, or they will break up into crumbly bits - about 1 inch cubes are good, bigger is always fine)
4-6 kaffir lime leaves

heat oil and saute onion until browning. Add spices, stir, and wait until you can smell them. Then, add the sweet potato, stirring to coat it in the spices.

Toss in the lentils/beans, cook until potatoes are starting to get soft, about 10 minutes.

Add everything else. Cover and cook until the broccoli turns bright green. Serve, preferably with toasted bread to soak up the sauce.

Note: I find this to be a rather mild dish, but my crew like it that way - the Toddles will eat the tofu out of the dish, which suits me fine. Spice it up if you prefer some heat, and then let me know what worked!
Babywearing warning: Infantino is having a sling recall. See here for information on it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

mirror, mirror

Oh. My. Deity of Choice.

This wrapping business is clearly getting out of hand. It started off as yet another Mama does research on gear instead of on the dissertation, and now it's sucking me in via the local wrappers. I keep meeting people who think like me, who find my parenting strategies (ha! strategies. That's rich) make sense, who will eat my food...but now things have gone a little too far.

Today, I think I met my doppelganger. She has two boys, she's into organics, homemade cleansers, cloth diapering, babywearing, nurse 'till they quit, has a kid with food allergies, co-sleeping...and her name is the same as mine, bar ONE consonant.

And she showed me this . Omigod (see above), and they are cheaper on eBay.

And today, this came - the Maija. Used, of course, and way cheaper than new. And ooh, the Christiane, and I'm ogling the Claudia - and the Kristen looks like a beautiful hat the MIL knitted for the Man for Chanuka, which he would NOT let me steal and oooh ooh ooh.

On a slightly less gushy note - if only because this subject sternly resists gush - today's mail also had a package of these . I tried an all-cloth weekend, and in under two days we were out of cloth and falling back on the flushable gDiaper inserts. In, mind you (to give them their due), the cute gDiaper pants. So Kim over at Montana's Diaper Store was very patient and found me these. Hopefully, they'll work! They'd better - the Man is already reading me a budgetary riot act, and is rarely pacified by 'but I returned that, and used the money to buy this.' In his mind, spent is spent - and there are no do-overs.

But this is all irrelevant! Tonight is Column Night, and tomorrow is Polish, Look Disgusted and Send It Off Night. This would all be simpler, of course, if I weren't trying to write the thing in five minute intervals. I keep it in a folder marked 'Professional Writing,' if only to remind myself that this is Work with a capital 'w,' Official and Wage-Earning.

Note: the series of capitalized words in the above sentence have nothing to do with a lapse into Elizabethan English, but rather in an attempt to persuade the author - if not the reader as well - that this is Serious Business, and should not be Taken Lightly. Ya dig?

Damnit. The Serious Business is 178 words too long. That's not me being wordy, that's me tackling a topic too big to fit. And it's too late to start over...sigh. Back to the coal mines, folks.

I'm taking a break from the column to offer up tonight's dinner, which was fast, fabulous and a little fattening, alas. Still, the Y chromosomes were happy, happy people, and it's been a while since I've seen a pot that empty. Hm.

Coconut Lime Lox Pasta (say that five times fast! Okay, so it's not that hard. Fine.)

Serves 4.
Bears a rather vague resemblance to "Pasta Bows with Smoked Salmon and Dill," from Pasta Entertaining by Linda Fraser, pg 26.

1 bag Tinkyada pasta (rice pasta)
2 scallions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and squashed
1 Tb olive oil
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 cup mirin, or rice wine for cooking
2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets of medium size (not too small, or they will cook too quickly)
12 oz smoked salmon, or lox, cut into bite-sized bits
2 Tb fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
4-6 kaffir lime leaves (sorry, Anon., but yes, kaffir) or juice of 1 lemon

Cook the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and toss the garlic into a big sauteeing pan (it has to be big enough for everything to end up in the pan once you are done, pasta included). Saute until the garlic starts to brown, then add wine and let it steam furiously for a minute or two. Dump in the coconut milk, the broccoli and let it boil down for a few minutes.

Add lox, kaffir lime leaves (not lemon juice - if using lemon juice instead of lime leaves, add just before serving or it'll get lost). Stir. When pasta is cooked and drained, add everything else.

Toss with pasta and serve. Serve yourself first, or you risk getting edged out by the other omnivores at the table, including the ones that have been refusing broccoli steadily for the past month, not to name names - you know who you are.
P.S. sorry about the lack of photos - the camera broke! Agh!

Monday, March 19, 2007

lactation, fermentation and generalized growth

With the flurry we just had tonight (yes, I was out in it), it seems hard to imagine anything growing. Really, it's the seal on the March snowstorm - an event that had me wholeheartedly glad that I am not the program director for the New England Hemophilia Association, whose job it was to undo all her painstaking work as she canceled this past weekend's event.


And yet, with all this, burgeoning happens. The Toddles was offered a new realm in which to play, as the nice folks in the cheese section at our local Whole Foods put together an impromptu tasting for my 18 month old. I appreciate their time - and the Toddles truly, enthusiastically appreciated their offerings - but it makes you wonder.

If they so comfortably indulge a toddler, to whom - or what - else have they fed cheese?

In a different realm, in case anyone is wondering, the state of the nursing mother's lingerie drawer is about to take an upswing. It's a far , far cry from the pragmatic, industrial snowstorm I had grumped about previously. And now, according to my mother the lactation consultant and LLLeaguer, La Leche League is joining in the fray. The more the merrier, I say.

Or to be precise, the more the prettier. Sexier? Funkier? These boots are made for lactating? All of the above?

And growing in yet another matrix, I took the boys to the New England Flower Show today. The Toddles fell asleep in the car and missed much of the fun, but the Eldest and I wandered around and oohed. Oh, look at the koi in that pond! Oh, did you see the train on the miniature tracks? It moved! Oooh, look at the giant, lovely, slabs of rock. How did they get those in here? is the Toddles having fun up there on my back? (back cross carry wrap, thankyouverymuch, executed in public - ai yai yai) Yes, Mum, he's trying to grab that tree's flowers. Ah.

And on.

What I really appreciated, however, was the Eldest's sense of timing. A joyful, excited little person, he hauled us from exhibit to exhibit for about three hours, collapsing finally at home in a calm, contemplative heap.
I think I need an ice pack, Mummy, he informed me.
Marvelling (and slightly suspicious) at his aplomb, I handed him one and gently asked to see the area. Sure enough, a bleed had forged past yesterday's big dose of clotting protein, and had swelled the muscle on the left leg. The Eldest helped me assess the damage, then sat calmly, holding the ice pack on the area, while I negotiated dosages with the hemophilia treatment center.

Things are growing, folks. Mostly at the Bayside Expo Center, and I doubt they're sustainable there... Still, the luxuriousness of the Flower Show is nothing in comparison to the strength and growth of my child's psyche. But I suppose the horticultural folks had to start somewhere.
Not, mind you, that I'm at all biased.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

with apologies to Mr. Pratchett..

It should not surprise me that my house is full of numbers. After all, consider the source...

Right now, the Eldest is happily counting to 200 by ones (a process long enough to wear down even the strongest feeling of maternal pride. SEV'NTY ONE! SEV'NTY TWO! SEVN'TY THREE! Sigh.) and to 100 by tens, a far kinder approach. I love this, partly because my feeling is that the more flexible he sees numbers to be, the more he realizes that they are made of bits and parts, like words, the more approachable they will be for him. Or so I fondly hope.

Meanwhile, however, the Toddles decided to join the fun. Naturally, we have numerical flashcards in the house (how not? I remind you to consider the source..), and the Toddles likes them. Today, however, he surprised me.

Toddles (holds up card): EYT!
card reads: 72
Me: oh, that's nice, sweetie.
Toddles (holds up card): NYNE!
card reads: 20
Me (lifting head sharply from coffee cup): Hunh?

Yes. Eight and nine. Does he understand the words? No. But he certainly has heard the progression often enough to be able to parrot them to me. Nor is this the first time. And in case I'd missed the point, the Man showed me dancing columns of numbers tonight, the product of a year's dreams and hopes for his bonus check, now pinned and slender on a page.

Clearly, numbers are now the Imperfect sub-dialect, and I invite you all to come and chat with the natives. But not me, thanks, I'm obviously a transplant into this environment...
Here's a different number: I apparently require 11 acres. How many do you need to sustain your lifestyle?

I'm wondering if a sub-grouping should be made for families with young children. Certainly I found the urge to use disposable baggies, containers, paper towels shot right up when the boys arrived - not to mention diapers! That's a hefty ecological footprint right there.

It's funny, but part of me says that I should feel smug that I'm a rag-using, mostly cloth diapering, organic veg buying mama. Instead, I can hear my mother laughing. Yup, my mom, who early on suggested rags, cloth diapers and babywearing (aka wraps and mei tais), to my horror, not to mention doulas and homemade cleaners. She now sees me doing all of that plus the organic stuff (insofar as the horrified Keeper O the Budget will allow). Giggle away, Mum - you've earned this one.

I certainly didn't see it coming. So when things like this sneak up on you, do you get to be smug or quietly shocked by the person you've become?

Just do me a favor, folks, and on the day that I buy washable pads for myself or, heaven help us, a Diva cup, please sit me down and do a full neuro exam. 'Kay?
And some annoying news: Could Cookie Monster be renamed? I send you here for the news:
Veggies vs Cookies. Nah. Couldn't be.

Friday, March 16, 2007

fit to be wrapped

Magid, I repeat: some people can make anything sound risque. You can make anything into food. Do your worst.

Today, the Toddles and I drove out to Framingham in the rain, to meet a lovely mama who'd driven in to run errands and....drop off my new wrap. It's a hemp-cotton jersey fabric, undyed with a green vine in the middle (helpful, that), 4.3 meters long. Yowza, that's a lot of fabric. And it gets used surprisingly quickly.

Should I be surprised that the previous owner/maker of this wrap is another nursing mum? That her blog has the word 'natural' in the title? That her child also has an allergy? Okay, yes, the last one surprised me - other than that, I suspect that mamas crazy enough to wear their babies also share a number of parenting approaches, in a self-selecting sort of way.

A couple of meetings and one pick-up later, the Toddles, the Eldest and I were all home and looking at each other consideringly. I had chicken marinating in the fridge, and freshly made breadcrumbs. The plan was for lemon breaded chicken, but how, oh how to have my hands free and the kiddos happy?

Natch, we wrapped. I used a simple back wrap, though I rather wish I'd used this one, but I'll try that over the weekend. Wrapped on my back, the Toddles held his pig puppet firmly, and relaxed. Five minutes later, the chicken was in the oven and the Eldest was enjoying feeding bits of apple to his swaddled sib.

Heaven. And so simple! Thanks, mama, for making this possible. Next up, the ORANGE moby My heavens.

On a different note, first round of edits on the book happened this week. Whoo-hah. Tough to edit something with so little text as a children's book, and it was a nice challenge. And so exciting to see things moving!

Sound of small voices downstairs, clumping of blocks. Occasionally, a bigger Man voice passes through. Happy Y-chromosome chaos, while I'm wrestling with my column. Ah.

No, NO, NO!
Eldest: Dad, he was breaking the blocks and I told him NOT to!
Toddles (wailing): bomp! BOMP!

I wonder if the Eldest realizes that his days are numbered, as spin-master. Already, the Toddles is starting to tell his own side of the story...ain't sibs grand?

GF-Lemony Breaded Chicken

1 chicken
2 lemons
olive oil
garlic powder
black pepper
safe breadcrumbs (I just whirl stale homemade bread in the food processor, spread over a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for ten minutes. Let cool, bag and keep in fridge/freezer)

The night before:
Wash chicken, dump in ziploc bag. Squeeze lemons and pour into a bowl/1-2 c masuring cup. Add olive oil until you have 50/50 olive oil/lemon juice. Toss in salt, pepper (to taste - how's that for helpful!). Close up ziploc bag and put in fridge, laying it flat.

Day Of Eating:
Use cooking spray to coat a baking dish.
Flip bag over a couple of times, so that both sides of the chicken spend some time in the marinade. 1.5 hrs before dinner, pull it out.
Pour 2 c breadcrumbs into a bowl (you might need a little more, a little less depending on how thick you like your crumb coating). Add garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, to taste (okay, okay - maybe 1 tsp paprika, 3/4ths tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp pepper).
Dip chicken into crumbs, coating both sides.

Note: because you have no egg for this recipe, the crumb coating is kind of thin. I pat extra on top of the chicken, once it's in the baking pan.

bake 375 F, for about 45 minutes. Check to see that it's done.

Note: don't have gluten-free, nut-free, vegan bread and the Imperfects are coming over? Ener-G makes a safe rice bread, sold at some Shaws/Star Market stores, and the Harvest Coop in Central Sq, Cambridge. Check the ingredients and label for allergy warnings, but as of 5/2/2007 the bread looked fine. Whirl in a food processor and bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, 350 F or until golden brown.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

encouraging habits

In case you were wondering how the 18th lunaversary dinner went, here's a visual: apparently, someone enjoyed his vegan, gluten-free cake. But with that much chocolate, who wouldn't?

Little, fascinating moments have been cropping up lately - odd conversations, new fascinations - and nudging me out of complacency. Okay, out of an imperfect complacency, but that's not really the point.

a mother and child are sitting in a car. This might just have been a tactical error - it's hard to escape when one is strapped in.

Eldest: Mum, how do people die?
Vaguely Maternal Person: (surveys coffee-less, breakfastless self, considers dropping head onto steering wheel) Give me a moment, sweets. I'm not quite awake enough to answer that question.
Eldest, consideringly: Okay. I'll give you until you start driving.

Few things are as relentless as a small boy with a question. But then, of course, there's the unexpected small boy, answering questions....

Me (pointing to self): Who is that?
Toddles: Mummy!
Me (pointing to Toddles): Who is that?
Toddles: Emmo
Translation: Elmo

long pause, as I contemplate the silent, ancient TV downstairs.

Me (pointing to Eldest): Who is that?
Toddles, gleefully: Ai-Yai!

Hm. Ai-yai-yai-yai-yai. Not so far off, some days...
and then there's educating the offspring, whereby the maternal figure teaches her children the best she has to offer.

Eldest: Mum, what was that scream upstairs?
Me (ruefully, remembering the 20 minute struggle to get the Toddles' new shoes on): a primal scream, hon. It's what you do when you are so frustrated that you have to explode.
Eldest: And you exploded in a primal scream?
Me: yup.
pause, as the Eldest digests this
Eldest: could you teach me to do that?
Me: don't think I need to, dear one. Don't think I need to.


The Man, in case you were wondering, is hiding. When he comes into the study, I make him look at wraps for sale (Nino vs didy? 4.6m vs 5?), show him YouTube clips of people wrapping, and tell him about how I tried my very first wrap.

Which, by the way, I did - I wrapped the Toddles today, and he loved it. We borrowed a moby from the sample stash at Magic Beans in Brookline, and I took it and the instructions to the play area. Every so often, I'd capture a boy and tuck him in/wrap around him. My most successful wrap was a back carrying arrangement - heaven on my back, the weight mostly on my hips, and comfy! The moby is way, way to stretchy for long-wrapping comfort (so stretchy that despite my best efforts, the Toddles was able to put air between his tum and my back - ugh), but I'm so excited to have finally tried the process. Yay!

This should be obvious as something I'd end up doing. I adore snuggling my boys - most of the time. I adore night nursing, when I'm still awake and the Toddles is delighted and silly about seeing me. It's the highlight of parenting my children. Anything for a cuddle, to get to hug warm solid happy little boyness - and then watch them tear across the room on some mysterious errand. This wrapping business is going to only egg me on, to hit me at two of my weakest points: spending money and getting cuddled. Oh, dear.

But pity the Man, who is now digging his way to freedom with a zester... Hey, hon! What do you think - a hemp-cotton mix wrap, up on the For Sale or Trade boards! Do you think I could ever learn to dye things?




Monday, March 12, 2007

as joy says, crack

I am writing and rewriting and trying to unearth my next column from the writing and rewrites. I even sat down and wrote a 'goals/methods' note to myself as a sanity check - what is this column really going to be about? Is it going to be me as the Mama Bear, don't mess with me advocate for my children? (I would love to turn that whole sentence into links to various posts of heroic maternal nature, but I'm wayyy too lazy to go check for more. Take it as a gesture of tremendous arrogance and self satisfaction - I certainly intend to - and ignore me.) Is it going to be about the ways we handle anxiety and difference? The ways we fail to? I dunno.

Somewhere in there, a column is fighting to get out. I hope it makes it, I truly do.

In the meantime, I give you this: weaving.

The Eldest has been weaving on a hand loom for some months now, starting up and stopping again when he loses interest. Today, I went to Target and while there, we bought the Toddles some pop-beads (you know, the absolutely boring battery-free, won't get your kid into Harvard kind of toy). The Eldest, scenting parental blood, pointed out that surely, he should get a toy too?

Okay, I told him, scenting a math moment, The pop-beads cost 4 dollars. You can have something whose first number is a 4, but not if there's a number before it or after it (and I pointed out the decimal point, to be quite clear). It has to fit in the budget, I said firmly, and ignored the mental voice that disagreed with the likelihood of this (oddly, this mental voice sounded a lot like the Man. Odd). The Eldest considered, then agreed.

We walked up and down the toy and sports aisles for about twenty minutes. I was delighted to see the Eldest pointing out things that looked desirable, while noting himself that they were not in the budget. It was a splendid lesson in limited consumerism, dented slightly by his affection for things that launch themselves/other things/liquids at a target (preferably human?) at top speed. Sigh.

Finally, the Eldest found a friendship bracelet weaving kit, on sale and reduced yet further. And so tonight, he carefully braided six strands together to make a bookmark.

Weaving seems to be much on my mind as well, as I stare at the bounty of woven fabrics that people are wrapping babies in. This is a far, far cry from the idiot-proof Baby Bjorns that the Eldest and I started with. But with the growth of the Toddles, my beloved Kangaroo Korner fleece pouch is not quite right. The problem is one of weight distribution: the pouch puts the weight on one shoulder, while distributing the weight on two shoulders and back would be far, far better. Woven wraps, or German style wraps do this well for toddlers, while doubling as your baby blanket/sunshade when not in use. But possibly hot and sticky, come July? Must consider.

Wondering if I'm ogling giant blankets, to be worn around myself and my heat-producing Toddles in the New England summer? I wondered, too. Take a peek:
Looks nice to me...

Must consider this: hm (the Maija is a quiet, almost copout fabric, considering the yowza whoa nellie fabrics out there for the woven wraps!))
and this:oh, my (I'm a little nervous about the colors, but the Uilli is lovely)
and ooh, oooh this: lustlustlust (look at the Freya! but the gauze ones can put fail to distribute weight as well in the hands of novice users - aka me)
and this moderately priced object sensible? me? this is consumer fantasy moment! bah, ye sensible
And don't think I'm actually going to pay that for any of them! Once committed, once the funds are found (o column, my column), I'm going to hunt up used wraps...the ladies on really know how to window shop. My favorite are the many posts asking someone else to buy the carrier for sale, so that the poster no longer has to lust after it...

To put aside the fun with fabrics for a moment, I'm borrowing a Moby wrap (thanks Nome! Thanks, Joy!) and practicing with local babywearers' stash. I do appreciate the loong trial periods offered by the online stores, which is appropriate given the learning curve on wraps, but I think the Man will appreciate it more if I play around in the very very shallow end of this pool for a while.

Splish, splash.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

mapping our way out of grumpyland

with, of course, food.

Today is the Toddles' eighteen month lunaversary. Or, to put it differently, the Toddles is now a year and a half. Who could grump on a day like today? The sky is blue, the lunaversary boy is sleeping off an intense playdate, and the Eldest and I paused over a bowl of auwwwwwggh (translation: shocked, delighted mouth happy). See photo for illustration. Note empty bowl.

Over the past year or three, the Eldest and I have talked about combinations. Combinations of flavors, of textures - and today, of temperatures.

Here is what was in the bowl:

  • 1/3rd cup guacamole
  • 8 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 3/4ths cup salmon salad
  • 1 cup steamed potatoes
  • 1 Tb basil oil

Note: all were leftovers. Swanky, eh?

The way to create the auwwwwwggh face is to heat all but the guacamole together. I used a microwave for this. Then, glop the guac on top. Feed to self until small child inserts body between bowl and mouth, demanding some. Feed to small child and let the expression on their face make up for the slight emptiness in maternal tummy.

Happy 18th, Toddles. You bring light and richness into our world. You are playmate, companion in adventure, fellow mischief maker, and cuddler extraordinaire.

approving applause from the Eldest

We're so glad you've come!


Imperfect Guacamole

Take 2 avocados, slightly squishy. Remove peel, pits (resisting urge to plant pits and create avocado trees). Invite small children to mash avocado, turning it into avo-mush.

Squeeze 1 lime. A lemon is an acceptable substitute. Add to avo-mush.

Add: salt, pepper, curry powder, garlic powder to taste. Taste frequently while adding, because, well, it's yummy.
Imperfect Salmon Salad

1 tin salmon
1/2 cup pitted green olives (stuffed are fine), sliced
salt, pepper, curry powder to taste
1 scallion, chopped
1/3 rd cup parsley, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, mashed
1/3rd cup olive oil (or less - to taste)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or less - to taste)

Open and drain tin of salmon.
In a mortar and pestle, mash up the garlic clove. I like to do this with the salt, preferably using kosher or sea salt, which seems to make the process easier. Once the garlic is well mashed, add a Tb of the olive oil, making a sort of sauce.
Mix all ingredients, adding oil and vinegar cautiously, stopping when the salad tastes right.

Highly Irregular Basil Oil

This is essentially a basil pesto, minus nuts and parmesan. As such, it's very flexible. I drizzle it over baked tofu, broiled salmon, and use it for my odd potato salad. Mm.

1 bunch basil leaves
3/4ths cup olive oil
1 Tb salt (more to taste)
2 tsp black pepper (more or less to taste)
1 tsp sugar
1-2 cloves garlic
Optional: green olives, sunflower seeds, parsley

Toss garlic, salt, sugar (and nuts/seeds if using) in the food processor. Process. Add everything else, whirl into oily sludge. Keeps in the refrigerator in a closed jar for just over a week.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

oh, crap, here we go

Remember when I said that we don't do things the easy way? Did I ever say that?

Well, I should have.

The verdict is in: the Eldest is invited to join the wait list at the pluralist school. Which means our luck is holding steady, which means that the chances of his getting a spot are, well, about as good as (How good is it, Johnny?) a sesame seed and my kid's immune system. So, we now have to argue about the local Ortho school vs public school for a year. This is going to suck. Nobody is going to like this discussion, and offering to put all of the tuition money to the kids' college fund (a tactic I've considered) is not going to make it any simpler. And that's a lot of nickels, folks.

Sigh. Even offering wild monkey sex isn't going to help this conversation. Although it would make for an entertaining time-out, assuming the participants were still on speaking terms by then.

Which means it is now time to do a post I've been putting off: the quality of education post. Shifra, a J-blogger whom I alternately like and find irritating, noted here this post by Rabbi Horowitz (nobody I've heard of, but he has a blog that is clearly aimed at the right-wing Orthodox Jewish community. Erm, very right-wing. Shifra, in turn, posted this about the question of Jewish education.

Horowitz's point is a good one: schools should serve all. The hallmark of a good school should be that it serves each and every student, irrespective of their level of intellect and capability. Not that every kid goes to the Ivies, but that each child comes out a committed and interested learner of the subjects offered. That is excellence.

Here's where it gets interesting: public schools, which have to accept each child who registers (barring charter schools and others with application exams), know this. They have evolved to suit each child's needs as best as resources permit. Admittedly, around here the resources are ample, which skews my view. Disclaimer finished, let me say that the Cambridge public schools that I've visited offered ample evidence of this mandate. I suggest this post, by Nancy Walser on the subject - her comment in response to David Kravitz is especially interesting, particularly the second comment in response to him. By contrast, the private schools I saw were either aware of the implications of their population and its needs - or not.

Private schools have the luxury of refusing to admit a child for any number of reasons, including that s/he wouldn't fit into the 'classroom environment.' This is a splendidly slippery phrase, meaning, essentially, that your kid might not be bright enough, your family might not be rich enough, your kid might be too medically complex - but all of that fades in comparison to what it really means: we're not interested in adapting our classroom to suit you. Given resources, given a desire to adapt and nurture, a classroom can accommodate any child and see them flourish.

No, really.

What I see in the schools around me is either a sense of exhilaration, of enthusiasm and commitment to the child's needs - or apathy and self-satisfaction. Which leaves me with this question: why should I, as a religious Jew, accept second-rate education simply because it happens to be Jewish education? And why is the community putting up with education that segregates people by the child's intellect and/or the family's income?

Let me be clear: it's not that the local Jewish schools aren't accepting kids because, as in Rabbi Horowitz' and Shifra's posts, the kids aren't smart. To the contrary. They are either succeeding or failing to keep the smart children engaged and flourishing. So, the smart kids leave and head to greener pastures. Elsewhere, yes, children are failing to make the cut. Failing? What a concept to apply to a child. Shouldn't their success or failure be taken on their own terms? Certainly, for lower and middle school, at the very least.

This is lazy pedagogy - worse, it's a cop-out. And one that fails the children. No fools, the kids will pick up on this intellectual/economic snobbery (even if it is snobbery by default) - certainly, at one of my private high schools, my classmates were quick to make it clear to me that I was there despite my family's lower income level. Not every bright child is uniformly stellar, not every average kid is, as Rabbi Horowitz points out, uniformly ordinary.

Teach the children successfully in a mixed environment of individual skills and values, and you create a community that embraces differences. Differences in abilities, differences in income - and yes, because I am my boys' mother, differences in needs. But it only works if you do it deliberately and well.

Oh, crap, here we go.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

bombs away

Some days, the smart thing is to put the pillow back over your head and shout, 'Do over!' Preferably without ever leaving your blankets.

Other days, you drive past a fallen hat in the parking lot, and realize that it's the one your MIL gave you for Chanuka, fallen as you wrangled a stubbornly walking toddler back to the car.

Hm. It was the second sort of day, starting with coffee (thanks to the ineffable Mary Jr), moving on to a triumphant text message from the same (about her midterm, huzzah!), and concluding finally in a back spasm during which I and my offspring were fed dinner by the family who'd foolishly invited us over for a playdate. Blessed, blessed people, and what a bountiful day!

With that in mind, it is time to drop a cute-bomb. Or possibly three.

The Grandmere had brought the boys a wombat and a pig. The wombat, part of an educational campaign waged by two generations of Australians, was duly ignored while the boys argued over the pig. We have, I pointed out to the combatants, two pig puppets - one large, and one small.

Some time later, I notice that it's ominously quiet in the family room. I peek. The Eldest frowns over his paper, thinks a moment and writes a letter. Mutters briefly, writes a second, then a third. He hands me a paper: P
I raise an eyebrow. It says Pig Long Tail, Mum, I am informed. Ah. Some people stake a claim, others plant a flag - the Eldest, with his faith in the power of writing, wrote down which pig belongs to him.

Of course, he had to figure out the spelling first. And, mind you (I am shamelessly proud here), on his own. Nice one, kiddo. Now, if only your little brother could read.


Buck-oo, says the Toddles, assembling the buckle on his high chair. I lift him down, his meal concluded. He grumps at me and climbs back up, to reassemble the buckle.

The Toddles is so enamored of his various buckles that we've been forced to lie the highchair flat, to keep him from climbing in and out to play with the buckles. Buckoo! he shouts, triumphantly, and off he goes.

With the language, of course, has come the search for the limits on the concept. What else could be a buckoo? According to the Toddles, the answer includes:

  • childgates,
  • child locks
  • buttons
  • zippers
  • shoelaces, when tied
  • seatbelts
  • puzzles
  • generally anything that clasps, fastens and bars one from access

Kid's got a point. Or possibly, a clasp.

On Monday, the boys went off to the homeopath for NAET treatment (diary for the Eldest, grains for the Toddles - thanks, M/FIL!). After, I took the Eldest, very late, to school.

We arrived to find a flurry of kids headed downstairs for a Shushan Purim party - in costume. Quickly, the Eldest and I ran to his classroom, where he deposited his things while I looked for the costume stuff. What about this, I said, waving about a brightly embroidered jacket. No, he told me. How about this? this? this? Finally, I reached down and grabbed some elaborately ragged tulle. This?

The Eldest looked at me patiently. Nothing strikes me as beautiful, he said.

who could argue?


The Toddles, as I might have mentioned, likes edges. The edges of my shirts, my sleeves, the hem of a shirt or skirt - and best of all, the neckline of my shirts. Never one for low-cut shirts, the Toddles seems to disagree with me, and has managed to stretch out a few of my shirts' necklines impressively. But then again, my boys have always pushed my fashion boundaries.

One day this past week, the Toddles was dangling off my shirt while I cooked lunch. Finding a nicely edged pocket on my pants, he switched to that - and nearly yanked the pants off my hips in the process, as he pulled and folded, pleating the fabric until it suited his needs.

At some point, he let go and was quietly standing next to my leg when I heard a telltale beeping sound. The little bugger had picked my pocket, and was calmly, curiously dialling my cellphone. I laughed and took the phone back, and put it back into the pocket - and waited to see what would happen next.

Sure enough, the Toddles barely paused for his beloved edges before jumping right in to the pocket for the phone. One moment a child's comfort mechanism, the entree to a world of crime.

I suppose there really is something subversive about child-led parenting. Clearly, providing for a child's needs can only lead them to the dark side of the Force...

Finally, a happy spring vacation to Mary Jr. Mary is named, as you may know, for Mary Poppins - for so extraordinary and unexpected a find was she, that she might as well have flown in on her parrt-headed umbrella.

This past week, she has been staying with us - an arrangement that has been, improbably, marvellous. I've had someone to share my coffee in the morning (otherwise, more than I can drink), company at odd hours of the day, a spare pair of hands when the Man has worked late, is late, needs me to take the Eldest to school, and someone who understands how marvellous it is when the Toddles, unprompted, identifies a duck (Uck! Uck!), or how hilarious it is when he calls himself Elmo (Ehmmo!).

Naturally, I worried about this arrangement. Is it going to damage the professional relationship? Are we getting ourselves into a role we shouldn't play? The Man, uncharacteristically, pushed all concerns aside, and invited her to stay another night. I was relieved and delighted. And a day later, I overheard this:

Eldest: Is V- really Mary Poppins?
the Man: I don't know. Why don't you ask her?
Eldest, thoughtfully: Can she slide up the bannister?
Man, choking slightly: Um. Have you ever seen her do it?
Eldest, with a touch of scorn: No. But she might not do it when I'm looking.

Ah. Bottomless carpet bag or not, she's a blessing and a marvel. And screw the professional relationship: how professional can one afford to be, when the job is really to fall in love with my child?

Monday, March 05, 2007

nine point nine six zero kilos, lady

Okay, Friday worked, thanks to some furious triaging. I did not go to the school visit, I did take the Toddles to the pediatrician, where thankfully he did not vomit on her shoes...and was told that he didn't have strep - instead, he has some sort of inventive GI bug that begins with vomit and ends with diahrrea.

What is this, medical sibling rivalry?

It infuriates me, though, that the nurse on call was happy to write a script for antibiotics without even eyeballing the kid. This is a child with a truly horrendous family history of drug allergy, specifically antibiotics (can't get more dramatic than the Eldest at his best!), who is already collecting his own list of allergies, and there are resistant bacterial strains thanks to sloppy medicine of exactly this sort. One third of all prescriptions for antibiotics are not necessary - and the Eldest has had three surgeries thanks to resistant strains of bacteria. Four? Too many, in any case.

I'm on a good maternal advocacy run - between the nurse on Friday and the clinical assistant two weeks ago. She barked orders at me (get him undressed. Put him there.), then ignored the wailing Toddles as he sat on the scale, too busy herself bitching to a coworker about something. Face turned away from the child, she stuck out an arm to keep him in place. I saw the scale's numbers blink, blink, stop on a weight, leaned in and plucked the Toddles from the CA's grasp. We're done now, I told her. She looked at me, furious. I didn't get a weight! she said, accusingly. Yes, you did, I pointed out calmly (how annoying is it when people are calm in the face of your ire? Heh), it was 9.960 kilo. She took petty vengeance on me by refusing to write it down, but I happily recited the weight for the doc we saw, who wrote it down on the chart. Neener, neener, neener.

It's surprisingly hard to have those moments when you stand up for yourself or your child at just the right point in the process, that you can gauge the power structures and object without worrying, paralyzed, about consequences - or not feeling entitled to begin with to issue anything resembling a complaint. So I take my triumphs where I can find them. 9.960 kilo of ruthless cuteness, I say to the inconsiderates of the world. See how you like them diapers. Which, by the way, is a nice little weight for an almost -18 month old who nearly slid off the weight charts 6 months ago. Ha, and ha again.

Lovely lunch on Shabbat, with recipe below. I bought a moulded cake pan from Williams-Sonoma, shown here, though I assure you that it cost half that! These little minicakes solve the vegan gluten-free cake challenge, which is that you can get good crust, but the suckers get squodgy in the middle - or just collapse - when you try and make a regular round/square/springform cake. And don't get me started on bundts. Sigh. But with these wee things, I can make a kid-appealing cake that actually has the texture to please, well, ME. (FYI, I used Cathy's Cupcakes recipe with dark, nondairy chocolate chips from Trader Joe's.)

On a different note, the Cambridge Public School system is currently reeling under a wave of solid approval from the city's middle class, who are happily sending their children to Cambridge public schools. I will be tracking this issue here:

But on to the recipes:
Chicken with Leek and Fig

1/4 c olive oil
4 large, well washed, chopped leeks
16 light skinned fresh figs OR dried figs (note: fresh are much, much better!)
salt and pepper to taste
8 chicken thighs (or one large package of the flash-frozen Empire chicken thighs), fat and possibly skin removed
2 cups white cooking wine
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1 Tb honey
3 sprigs fresh thyme (okay, if you absolutely must, dried can be substituted - maybe 1/2 tsp)

Heat olive oil in a large pan, saute leeks until soft and browning (this will take a while). If your pan isn't nonstick, you will need to stir regularly, or risk adding more oil - if you do so, I strongly recommend skinning the chicken to keep this from being a rather fatty dish.

Add figs, salt, pepper, wine, vinegar, honey and thyme. Simmer 10 minutes or so.

Arrange chicken in a roaster. Pour fig-leek mixture on top. Bake 450F for 45 minutes or until chicken is done.

Friday, March 02, 2007

hmm, let's see now...

Time to take stock, I think.

  • the Man is home
  • the Y chromosomes are asleep
  • the Grandmere has arrived
  • Mary Jr is sleeping over
  • the scarlet fever has joined forces with irked eczema, egged on by a Mango Tango drink that I gave the child who, scratching uncontrollably post-mango, was fed Benadryl by his mother while secretly celebrating because last night his feet spent way too much time in the vicinity of my solar plexus and tonight he'll be in a drugged stupor
  • the Toddles is running 102F
  • we have new towels (first ones in ten years!)
  • the Toddles vomited all over most of them
  • I got an ear pierced. Again.

Tomorrow, I will:
make bread, bake chocolate-chocolate chip cupcakes, bake a leek and fig chicken dish, construct version three of a rice dish I'm working on, put together mishloash manot bags (minus chocolate-chocolate chip cupcakes), take the Eldest to school (8.30am), visit a school (9am), go back to the doctor who found a lump two weeks ago at my checkup (see me freak - whoopdefreakingdo, I'm a nursing mum. Lumps abound. 10.30), fill the urn, make a tofu tikka masala dish that I swooned over last week (no recipe available - just get one of those Arora indian spice mixes and replace the chicken with tofu, and toss in the cauliflower and baby bok choy, sliced up - ahhh - and add a few kaffir lime leaves for extra ahhhhh), roast spiced sweet potatoes, make pasta and hot dogs for Sat dinner, and find something to feed everybody for lunch. Oh yes, and meet up with my dear R at 3pm, wash vomitous towels/clothes/poopy diapers and figure out Purim costumes!

The Eldest, I suspect, will be Jack from the Magic Treehouse books (although he looks ready to throw that over to be whatever Sam is, sigh), the Toddles will be whatever the Eldest was last year, and the Man has offered to be a treehouse. While reading the Megilla - including, I should hope, doing the voices, yes? Yes.

Easy peasy. And if not, on the seventh day, we shall rest. Possibly by pitching headfirst onto the bed or any available surface.