Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh. Chirstmas tree.

I became today the owner of a Christmas tree for only the second time in my adult life.  At the risk of losing friends and readers, hello you intrepid 11, I dislike Christmas trees.  $50 for a dying bit of vegetation that sits in my living room dropping bits of outdoors inside.  I have to feed it.  Water it.  Give it attention and lavish it with beautiful things.  And then, after becoming a part of the "family" for three weeks, I have to throw it away.  Well, I have to drag it outside where it stares at me from the back yard, stripped of it's finery and looking progressively sadder, sicker, and deader, waiting to be hauled off to the dump by my spouse on his next day off, sometimes weeks away.  Humbug.  I'd have preferred to let the thing keep growing happily in nature doing natural things.
That having been said, it's a nice tree.  It makes my husband happy; I've caught him lost in thought and smiling at it more than once already tonight. It causes my son, inexplicably, to grasp his crotch and blow at it from across the room as if it was on fire and come to steal his pants.  But, I confess that I teared up a little as I took from our small box of ornaments the plaster cast  I made last December of his little hand.  Was it really so tiny?  And the photograph a mommy friend, due soon with her second, took of me holding Bar in the air and gazing at him with such rapt joy that I almost don't recognize myself.  And yet, there I am and seeing that happiness from the outside reminds me how much becoming a mother has changed me for the better.  So, Tree (and mommy friend), thank you for that.  And there are three one dollar bills, held together by a diaper pin waiting for their turn to adorn the tree again this year.  My now sister, married to my brother-in-law a few weeks ago, pinned them to my tree last year in a dramatic flourish after listening to me ramble on about how much I hated Christmas trees.  "There," she proclaimed, "now it's a Mitzvah tree."  And, so it is.  Those slightly less than crisp bills reminding me that kindness is never misplaced and that family, far-flung, alternative, blended, or otherwise, is a blessing.
Though I still think that a tabletop tree, fake, pre-lit and pre-decorated would leave plenty of room for these cherished mementos and not lessen their specialness, I am content, I suppose, to lose this battle in my household and welcome my coniferous guest again this year. It's a nice tree.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Words to Live By

Until quite recently Bar has confined his use of language to six words.   What I admire, though, is his ability to communicate fully with just those words.  He's great with inflection.   Each word can be both a statement and a question and, with that versatility, he pretty much covers all his bases.
Bar:  Mum?
Me: Yes, Bar?
Bar:  Cheese?
Me: You'd like some cheese?
Bar:  That.
Me:  Ok, I'll get you some cheese.  Here you go.
Bar: Mum!  Cheese.  This.
Me:  Yes, Bar.  Cheese.  It's good.
Bar:  Cheese.  Mum?
Me:  Yes, Bar?
Bar:  Cat! Cat, cat, cat.  Cat cheese?
Me:  No, Bar.  The cat does not want cheese. (This has been recently proven untrue.  The cat does, indeed, want cheese.  A lot.)
Bar:  That.
If you ask me, that's a pretty durned elegant use of the English language.

However, Bar has finally decided that he does need more than his six essential words for living (mum, dada, cat, this, that, cheese) and has been working on words that express his deep and undying love of things that go and food.  So, he has chosen 'backhoe' and 'potato.' Pronunciation is still an issue though.  A fly on the wall in my house would hear the following conversation at least 741 times a day.
Bar: Cock!
Me: Truck, Bar.  Backhoe.
Bar: Cockho!
Bar: Mum?
Me: Yes, Bar?
Bar: (growling as if possessed by Lucifer) Ta-to.  TATO!
Me: Potato.
Bar: Cock!  TatotatotaoTA-TO!

A somewhat less elegant use of English, but a no less effective one.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Late Letters

I began writing regular letters to Bar when I was pregnant.  I thought it important for him to one day read some of my words, written in my own hand and, perhaps, have a little insight into who I am now.  It occurred to me that I might need the reminder as well in the coming years (decades!).  I was diligent about these letters, a happy semi-nightly activity that I looked forward to at the end of the day.  And then, it seemed, life got busy, Bar stopped sleeping and started going, going, going.  Before tonight, my last letter to him dated 12/06/09 reads;
"Dear Bar,
 My son, my darling - it is 4:45 AM.  Sleep.  Please.  Sleep.  That is all.
I love you.

And so it is that my days and nights have passed until tonight. 

Here is the text of the first letter I have written to Bar in nearly 9 months.
"Oh Bar,
  You can't know, I think, how much I love you.  These few months have been exhausting.  It's been almost, nay, it's been more than a year since you've slept more than six hours at a stretch.  I've missed so many letters I wanted to write to you for sheer exhaustion.  But these notes are not obligations to you - they're a record of my voice, such as it is, for you to read one day and, perhaps, know your mother better.
  I think you may like to know about the many nights, after you go to sleep, how much time I spend looking at photos/videos of you.  You're not in bed an hour before I miss you (even if I wish you wouldn't wake up for hours).  Tonight, I am listening to a song called "Nothing" by Steve Foxbury.  This is the chorus; 'There's nothing I'd rather do, Than anything, I do with you'
  It's completely true, dear child.  Though it may come far too early, I am so excited for tomorrow.  Can't wait.
I love you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Morning Routine

A friend asked today about our morning routine.  Below, my answer in 20 easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1: Hear Bar greet the day at 5:45 AM with enthusiastic shouts of "Mum!" DaDA!" "Cat?  Cat. Cat. CAT!"
Step 2: Pray for death to take me quickly.
Step 3: Sleep for 45 more seconds while spouse changes the first diaper of the day.
Step 4: Get assaulted by kisses and hugs.
Step 5: Reflect ever so briefly on how much I like kisses and hugs.  Pray for death.
Step 6: Get kicked in the face, stabbed in the eye, and punched in the throat in my child's exuberant and acrobatic display of nursing prowess.
Step 7: Pray that maybe he'll fall asleep at the breast like he used to (one year ago) and I can go back to sleep.  At this point I even start to have hope.
Step 8: Hopes dashed, Bar races into the house and starts pulling tupperware out of the kitchen cabinets, stacking it upon the cat, and locating small items to throw in the toilet, available to him since DH forgot to close the bathroom door again when he got up to pee.
Step 9:  Wonder why death is taking so long to claim me.
Step 10: Hear a loud clatter/bang/boom/shatter.  Leap out of bed and find the child with diaper removed sitting in a puddle of pee, and nibbling on the box of sugar cubes that I clearly didn't hide well enough.
Step 11: Screw you death, I'm up, I'm up.
Step 12: Clean pee, feebly suggest use of the potty next time, hide sugar, boil water for tea, apologize to tupperware smooshed cat.
Step 13: Feed offspring.  The typical meal is a fistful of organic shredded wheat (made with real shade-grown fair trade hippies!), organic blueberries, organic plain whole milk yogurt, and toast with butter.  Bar uses this time to lecture me sternly on how rude it is that I try to check my email during his meal.
Step 14: Finally get a sip of my now tepid tea.
Step 15: Child comes to show me where he has pooped on the floor.  "This!" he says proudly pointing, his perfectly clean and comfy cloth diaper discarded in the hallway. "Where does poop go Bar?" I ask.  He races into the living room to retrieve his potty, hands it to me and says, "That." 
Step 16: Sigh.  Clean poop.
Step 17: Read my child books. Endless books.  All the books.  He lets me know he wants to read by getting them out of the bookshelf and battering me about the face and head with them.  "This!  Mum?  THIS!"
Step 18: Wonder if toddlers can see you if you stop moving.  Sit completely still with eyes closed.
Step 19: Theory busted. More bookish assault, further reading, diaper locating, and cat mangling.
Step 20: 9:45 AM.  Spot a yawn.  Nurse.  Tuck child back into bed.  Drink cold tea.  Collapse onto couch and stare blankly into space wondering what I'm supposed to do now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'd do anything for love, but I won't do that.

 To my beloved child: Though I cherish your generous nature and am so proud of how much you like to share, I will not, under any circumstances, eat the soggy, chewed up piece of toast you keep offering me from your mouth no matter how many times you try to put it into mine.  Even a mother's love has limits.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Holy Crap or One Step at a Time

Bar took his first steps last Wednesday.  He took said steps while at a friends house for a play date.  A mommy friend asked me, "Is he walking yet?"  I scoffed at her in response and began to weave my usual yarn about how my boy, a content little bump on a log if ever there was one, would still need me to babywear him at his high school graduation.  "It suits me just fine," I said to her.  "Oh," she replied somewhat perplexed by my atypical lack of interest in the milestone of walking, "I only ask because he's cruising so well." Indeed he was cruising like crazy, taking laps of the kitchen island.  "Well, in this case, the two are not related."  And wouldn't you know it, Bar arrived at the end of the island, reached out as far as he could, finally steadying himself by just his little finger, and easy as anything, threw both his arms straight up in the air and step, step, lurched towards me wearing a smile as big as he was long.  I marked his great accomplishment, this toddler right of passage by screaming out,"HOLY CRAP!"  This, of course, startled him terribly causing him to fall right on his bum and begin to whimper.  I scooped him up in my arms to comfort him and he was instantly soothed - my baby returned to me and I could deny for a few minutes longer the little boy shaped creature that had suddenly switched itself for the infant I knew and loved so well.

Of course, none of this was sudden, really.  Bar was certainly late to get on the mobility bandwagon never even attempting to crawl until four days before he turned 11 months old, but once he got going, he kept going.  His recent enthusiasm for climbing has chased everything but my sturdiest lamps off of the end tables.  I did manage to salvage my favorite set of coasters before he pitched them into the oubliette behind my couch.  Finding myself now in possession of a mobile mountain goat of a toddler has been a harder adjustment than I would have imagined.  Days are so full.  We eat, go for walks, pet the cat, climb and fall off the couch, build towers, hide my dishtowels, topple over the dog bowl, and take hourly breaks to use his little toilet.  We read books, eat more, listen to music and dance, clap hands, assault the cat some more, practice yoga, visit the neighbors, and nurse.  All before noon.  His energy is inspiring until about 4 PM, when I am ready to crawl into a cave and hibernate or at the very least slink into the bathroom with a glass of bourbon and my laptop to poop and check my email in peace.   I am so tired.  My bones are tired and I suppose every mother could write this same post.  Still, I wouldn't trade this time; I believe it an investment in his future.  This constant effort to match and meet his endless energy with love, enthusiasm, and patience will surely pay off.  Right?

And so I look to Bar, as I often do, for inspiration.  Baby steps, I tell myself.  He's got the right idea.  In the face of what seems too great a leap, too much change, I'll try to throw my arms up, smile, and bravely take the next step.  If I stumble, well, I reckon my boy spends just enough time crawling around the floor still that we can lay there for a while, read a book maybe, have a cuddle, and then pick up and keep walking, walking, walking.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ralph Rides Again.

Ralph.  The missing member of my family.  He's been gone from us since November and oh, I miss him.  We moved a few months before Bar was born and he never really settled in to the new place.  There were too many other cats around, including the white one that had come to live with us; Ralph never did play well with others.  He stuck it out for a spell after the baby was born though his mood and demeanor became increasingly un-Ralphlike.  I would sometimes bump into him on walks through the neighborhood and he'd warmly greet me, running up to rub my legs and accepting a squeeze.  We would stroll the streets and chat idly - that cat was a talker - about the days events, about which local restaurants had been feeding him and which houses on the block had the best scraps.  But, as soon as we would come close to the property line, he'd dissolve into a snarling hell beast and scamper away, returning only in the quiet of the night through the cat door and right up onto my bed for a snuggle.  I loved those peaceful moments with my face buried in his fur breathing in sweet smell, always of pine and sunshine, especially as contact with him became more and more infrequent and often strained.
Ralph left in stages, I realize now.  He'd go missing for a few days and I'd end up having to spring him from the various cat pokeys about town, Animal Control, a local vets office, neighbors he had convinced that he was starving to death.  I would walk about with signs and people would stop me on the street to tell me that they saw him daily at their home or office.  It turns out that Ralph had several pretty regular haunts.  The folks at the deli at end of the street used to give him ham.  He used to sit in the bodega across the parking lot and wait for people to buy him cat food, which I learned later from the owners happened several times a day.  They had never sold so much cat food.  And one afternoon, as I was outside walking with Ralph, a family - mom, dad, two kids, and a dog - on a walk of their own approached.  I nodded as they passed by.  Imagine my surprise when the whole bunch of them largely ignored me and, instead, shouted out choruses of, "Hi Ralph.  Hey Ralph.  See ya Ralph."  He trotted off for a pet from them.  More friends for Ralph.
And then, one day, he was gone.  I can't say which day because I did not know it was going to be the last day.  The folks at Animal Control came to know me by the sound of my voice.  Local business owners gave me sad looks as they asked if I'd found him yet.  Mostly I had given up hope after nearly two months.  And then, I had a voice mail on my phone one January night from my father-in-law.  He had spotted Ralph!  Where?  Crossing the street in front of our old house, some 10 miles away.  A flurry of phone calls to former neighbors followed, but nobody had seen him.  For a time, I was certain I'd find him and drove down our old street daily.  More time passes and no Ralph and he slips back into memory.  I still placed the occasional call to Animal Control, but didn't really expect there to be any result.
So I almost fell out of my chair when three mornings ago I got a call from our former neighbor. 
"Hi," I say, "What's up?" 
"Ralph is here."  
"What? Where? When?"
"Ralph is here.  Sitting on my fence, right now."
"Oh.  Oh.  OH!  Um, how does he look?"
I had no idea what to say.  Or, for that matter, what to do.  I agonized.  I cried.  I miss him.  I wanted to race out there and scoop him up and bring him home.  Only, Ralph has made it abundantly clear where he wants to be, risking life and limb to cross miles of road and train tracks and hostile territory to get back to his home.  What right do I have to go catnap him?  I thought about going out for closure, to pet him one last time and sniff his head.  But how would that go?  Would we sit on the stone bridge over the creek and look for fish as we used to do?  Would he even let me pet him?  And could I really get into my car and drive away leaving him there in the woods alone.  I think I could not.  It would hurt too much.  My last memory of Ralph here with me was a lingering morning in bed when he slept tangled up with me, head on my pillow.  It was a good, if unexpected, goodbye; tender, sweet, and full of the love and trust that filled our six years together.
And so, it is enough to know that he is healthy and well, that his coat is shiny and he is not too lean.  I expect that he has found a family out there who has taken him in and I fantasize I might meet them one day and say, "This is Ralph.  He likes sunshine.  And vanilla ice cream if he gets to lick it off your spoon.  Please love him so much.  He is a good cat."
To Ralph, if you ever pass this way again, the cat flap will always be open here.  Until then - Ride on, Ralph.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A good day for ducks.

I had always rather liked rainy days, especially in springtime.  I found it peaceful to listen to the rain fall through the newly emerged leaves and the joyful twittering of happy wet birds.  I got lots accomplished too, the rain somehow focusing me on some bit of paperwork or household chore.

Oh, how these days are no longer those days.  It has been raining for 60 hours.   Stuck in the house with a cooped up toddler and a whiny cat, I have decided I'm putting one of them out in the rain this afternoon; the jury is still out on whom. We'll see how things go after nap time.   My son is a gentle, accepting boy.  His even tempered approach to navigating the world is a daily lesson for me.  "What would Bar do," I think to myself sometimes when I am particularly frustrated and feel like throwing things.  Since I cannot always eat, shred, or ignore my problem until it goes away, I am often left to work it out on my own, but even considering his Zen approach to living calms me down and clears my head.  There are two things that Bar abhors, being stuck indoors and being dressed.  60 hours of consecutive wet and cold has been tough on my little naked naturalist.  The cat has similar dislikes and it is quite clear that she blames me for this stretch of bad weather that is ruining her springtime outdoor fun.  She follows me around the house stomping her little white feet and yowling, a veritable storm cloud of crooked attitude and pent up energy.  I've never tried to dress her, but Bar spends a fair chunk of time laying things on top of her and she doesn't seem too thrilled about it.  So far today it has been his socks (removed and tossed in a fit of nudist pique), his uncle's slipper, a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the television remote, and a few pieces of dried papaya.  Cue more stomping and storming by both, the cat because the partly chewed sticky bits of papaya were too great an assault on her dignity and Bar because she got up and ruined his lovely tower.

The sun broke through the clouds for the briefest of moments as I've been writing this.  There is, perhaps, hope that we will all be soon released from our indoor prison.  If it appears again, I will pull the tarp off the firewood and picnic outdoors anyway.  The child will have to be dressed, but maybe he won't notice if there are leaves to look at and wet grass to rub his hands upon.  I'll make tuna for lunch to make Her Grumpness the cat feel extra included.  Yes!  There it is again. Hope returns to this bleak land. 

And now, perfectly timed, the sleeper awakes.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I've just been dealt a healthy dose of it.  Mrs. Powell, I owe you an apology.  In the time it took me to proofread my last post, Bar, the little darling, removed his diaper and finding therein a turd of significant size began to finger paint my carpet and ottoman with it.  All your kid did was forget his iPhone.  Mine, it seems, is clever enough to remove his own diaper, but not to avoid playing with what he finds there.  Sufficiently humbled, I now return to scrubbing the carpet. 

What if Bill Buckner worked for Apple?

He'd be this guy, Gray Powell.  Gray Powell walked into a beer garden a few nights ago and left, sitting on the bar, his prototype iPhone.  Oops.  I'm probably the last person in the blogosphere to catch on to this little story, so I'll not beat it to death much further.  But, as it was discussed in my living room last night, I realized that in all my musings about what Bar may or may not become, may or may not do, it has never once occurred to me that he might grow up to be, "that guy who leaves his prototype iPhone in a beer garden."  I somehow doubt that thought ever crossed Mrs. Powell's mind either.  So, to my son, dear Bar, I say this to you now on this most public of forums; should you ever commit a comparably boneheaded act and become, say, "the guy who accidentally mislays the only set of keys to the space shuttle," I will still love you without end or reservation, beyond limit and reason, but please, please don't.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Ems

It's 10 PM.  Do you know where your children are?  I can certainly account for mine.  My little nursling is wrapped around my midsection, long outgrown but not abandoned his Boppy pillow, fretting and nursing his way back to sleep.  I expect this bout of wakefulness is brought about by his ever closer to arriving seventh tooth.  Teething has not been kind to Bar and me, or any unfortunate soul who lives within earshot, and should I ever meet the Tooth Fairy in real life I expect I'd have some unkind words for her at best or, at worst, I'd punch her in the mouth and be done with it.  But, whatever the reason he has awoken, here we are, nursing, and, er, blogging in the dark both finding a kind of comfort in this now well established routine.
First, however, here is a list of things I would rather be doing.
1.  Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I had to stop at the dramatic height of season 5, episode 10.  Bummer.
2.  Having a ciapirinha.  Because caipirinhas are yummy.
3.  Getting an aroma therapeutic massage.  
That's pretty much it.  This is an otherwise peaceful time for me knowing that, as Bar's universe gets bigger by the day and his control over it increases dramatically, touching base with me, mom, once even twice a night helps ease us both into this brave new world called toddlerhood.  Tonight for dinner, we shared a meal of pancetta, peas, and big hunks of Parmesan cheese by candlelight - even babies deserve a pleasant atmosphere for dinner.   How grown he is, I thought to myself, noting the bits of asparagus still stuck in his hair from lunch as I plucked out the newly introduced bits of his all "P" meal.  And here we are now, no fancy cheese or cured meat would satisfy his need in this moment.  Milk, momma - mmmmmmm.
It's now 10:40 PM and Bar is happily snoozing again.  And look, plenty of time left to finish Buffy.  Everybody wins.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A good egg

How does one begin a blog? I find I have no idea. So, I suppose I will begin by simply beginning. I may revisit some past events or musings in later posts or eventually offer more explanation for why this blog exists at all. But, for now, starting from here will have to do.
This is Bar. He is my son. He is the fruit of my body, the light of my life, the spark of my soul. To most everybody else, I reckon he is just a boy. That's fine too. He enjoys egg salad, the cat, and "reading" the newspaper. On extra good days, he'll manage to combine all three and I find myself the proud owner of a kid, a cat, and a pile of shreds and mush all an identical shade of yellowish grey. Being his mother, I think that the sun rises and sets on him and his mushy piles, so I don't mind. I'm also reasonably fond of the cat.
Bar is one whole year old. He and I, and the cat, have spent our days playing and reading, eating and sleeping, growing and learning. Every new mother I think is amazed at how fast time moves when her child is developing daily more of his brain and body than she will for the rest of her life. It's a humbling realization and one that sets me into a tailspin of blind panic and terror if I dwell too long on the notion that I'll not be able or even around to protect him from so many frightening things - smog, war, the pressures of becoming a great man (or even a pretty good one). More on all that another time.
Today is only the beginning of a simple blog about food and drink, navigating motherhood, and celebrating life as I've got it.
And with that; here is Bar's favorite egg salad recipe.
2 hard boiled eggs
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1.5 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 large multigrain cracker
Smoosh the eggs - the capers together until they reach the consistency of, well, egg salad. Smear it on the cracker and give it to the baby. Best enjoyed outside in the sun with an animal friend on a pile of newspapers or a blanket.