Monday, January 31, 2011

There Are Children Living in my House

I was nursing Shira before her afternoon nap a few days ago, and I found myself looking around the girls' room, realizing that I am now a person who lives in a house with children. My children, even. Yup, every now and then it still shocks me that these two tiny girls are mine. And their stuff.

I'd been meaning to post some photos of their new room for a few weeks anyway. It's a lovely room, don't you think? If you were a little girl, wouldn't you just love the little kitchen? Alyce loves it the best, though she still doesn't fully appreciate the hours it took to put it together, even though I remind her regularly. One hundred screws.

When you're pregnant and awaiting the arrival of your baby, the geography of house changes drastically. Your house is now filled with diapers, tiny clothes, bulky plastic contraptions in which to contain the new baby (bouncy seats, exersaucers, swings), and bags of things 'the baby needs.' But I find the later changes even more jaw-dropping, like that I have a child who went to preschool, where her teachers traced her little body on paper, on which this child painted a purple dress.

Also mine, is this big baby who has fallen fast asleep while I'm dealing with the shock.


Alyce woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cough. I should have guessed as much after our day yesterday. I wish I would realize these things before the smack me so hard in the face.

Also, Happy Monday! What are you starting fresh this week? Me, I'm hoping to follow through with my plans to get some extra exercise. Last week I baked the winter blues away; this week I hope to sweat them away.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


10:15 am

Help me, Internet.

Alyce is in meltdown mode, though I'm not sure what triggered it today. Wait, of course I do! Matt and I had an entire fun Sunday planned (the Children's Museum in Philadelphia). There were a lot of meltdown problems in December, but January was delightfully free of melodrama (not including a certain tiny non-sleeper), so today threw me for a loop. I was Unprepared Parent today (not the first, or the last, time), in shock that Alyce wouldn't get dressed so that we could go. After a few attempts to bring Alyce back down to Earth it has become clear that we're not going anywhere. Alyce is calming down (read: crying) in her room, while I calm down (read: mope over not going to the museum) in the living room.

10:45 am

So Alyce has calmed down and agreed to put on clothes, and I've asked her to spend the next hour playing quietly on her own. I'm still feeling a bit on edge (it's been a long morning on my own while Matt's working) and I need some space. Naturally Alyce has been standing one half inch away from me for twenty minutes, as she always does after she senses that I'm upset with her, as though she's trying to crawl back into the womb.*

11:00 am

We're still occupying the same physical space and I need a break. So I take Shira and head to our room, and Alyce is one tiny step behind me the whole time. She can sense that I'm frustrated and I can see in her little face that she just wants me. So I ask her to find some books and we all lay on our bed and it is lovely, except for having to read Dora's Flowers for Mami Unicorn for 5,867th time. Things go well until I ask her to stop kicking her sister, and then we're back to our separate time outs.

12:15 pm

Matt's home and I've escaped to the girls' room to nurse Shira before her nap, when she starts fighting me. I need that fight like I need another cat, so I put her in bed and I hide under my own covers. Alyce finds me in two minutes.

1:30 pm

Matt and Alyce are playing on the floor while I'm knitting on the couch. A lovely break! No wait, Alyce is trying to tie the yarn around her neck and I just know she's going to give me trouble when I ask her to stop strangling herself. Done and done. Another cry.

3:00 pm

Clearly I'm asking for trouble today, so why not push it just a tiny bit further? Alyce? Let's go to the mall!

3:30 pm

The mall on a Sunday is rough, but we're a team, me and Alyce. I've strapped her into the stroller (there will be no chasing through the mall today) and she's relatively happy to shop. Our mission today is to find pants that fit Shira's, ahem, rolls. To be fair, her cloth diaper makes pants difficult to fit. That, and she loves milk. We decided on some stretch pants and leggings, and an ice-cream t-shirt for Alyce.

4:00 pm

Getting out of the house is a good thing. Alyce thrives when we're on the go. Sure, she asks for the odd ice-cream cone, but otherwise she's giving me no real trouble. What she does give me are thirty questions every five minutes. After the day we'd had, I just can't take it anymore.

Alyce: I'm hungry.
Me: So we should home and have some dinner!
Alyce: Why should we go home?
Me: Because we're hungry.
Alyce: Why am I hungry?
Me: Because you haven't eaten in a little while and you told me you were.
Alyce: Why did I tell you?
Me: Because unicorns made you. (That's my most reliable answer.)

The sane part of my brain loves Alyce and her questions. I love to see those big eyes take in the world and then watch as her brow furrows (just like her papa) while she tries to figure it all out. But that part of my brain requires a steady stream of patience, and did you guess? I am all out.

4:20 pm

I'm pushing Alyce in her stroller, searching for our car. It takes us twenty minutes and Alyce is filled with helpful and hilarious suggestions, trying to help. We're both laughing when we find The Kia.

Somehow we ended today, lost, and making each other laugh.

*At one point today I asked Alyce if she remembered what it was like when she was growing in my uterus. She said it was soft.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Keep Checking Your Mailbox

Could she be any cuter? Certainly not. My Alyce was addressing and adorning a letter to her Nana today. Of course, her Nana won't receive this letter for a long while because she's busy cavorting in Mexico. Won't she be regretting her decision, now that she knows a letter from her grandchild is in her mailbox right now. I'm just saying.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food on Friday

Because I was at home this week, and because I had a lot to think about, I spent many hours in the kitchen. It always makes me happier. If you are interested, here is a little bit of what I made:

This tomato lentil soup has become a regular in my winter cooking. I usually make it a couple of times a month and eat it with good bread and cheese.

I had extra pumpkin (see below) and so I made these pumpkin and cranberry muffins. The only changes I made was to substitute the millet with extra flour and add pumpkin seeds and a tiny bit of brown sugar to the top of the muffins before baking.

I make pumpkin bread at least twice a month, though Matt would prefer that I make it twice a week. I think pumpkin bread is in many ways a perfect food--it doesn't require any specialty ingredients (so you can make at a moment's notice), it contains one cup of pumpkin per loaf (which might be the only cup of vegetable that Alyce eats that week), and you can make it with chocolate chips. Done and done. The only tricky part about cooking with pumpkin is that it can sometimes be hard to find. For some ridiculous reason, stores often carry pureed pumpkin only during the holiday months of November and December (I'm looking at you, Trader Joe's). Of course during the fall you can find wonderful sugar pumpkins at the market, but the idea of roasting your own pumpkin sometimes scares people away, and I don't want to do anything to stand in the way of you making this. So, you can do what I do: stock your pantry with can after can of pumpkin.

I can't find the recipe online anywhere, but it comes from Eating for Pregnancy: An Essential Guide to Nutrition with Recipes for the Whole Family, by Catherine Jones, with Rose Ann Hudson. Because I've had so many people ask me for the recipe, I'll include it here. But I won't assault you with any photos of the batch I made yesterday, because I'm still learning (read: I don't take very good photos).

Patricia Terry's Pumpkin Bread
From Eating for Pregnancy

Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaves
This recipe halves easily (but why not make both and hide one in the fre

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups sugar (the original calls for 2 1/2 cups, but I prefer it less sweet, to make room for the chocolate later)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce (you can substitute plain yogurt if you don't have
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites
2/3 cup water
2 cups solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional, but strongly encouraged)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray. In a very large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, egg whites, applesauce and water, and then add to the dry ingredients, making sure only to mix until all the ingredients are combined, and no more. Add the pumpkin and the chocolate chips and, again, stir only until just combined. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Start checking at 60 minutes, because you don't want to overbake it. Cool before slicing.

If you have any extra pumpkin, I recommend that you add it to pancakes or french toast later in the week, or maybe even to your risotto. Alyce always approves of extra pumpkin.

Finally, I am not the only one thinking about summer this week. Just looking at these photos makes my skin feel warmer. I hope everyone has a great weekend. I, of course, plan on sleeping. What are your plans?

My co-conspirator in baking.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Minutes with Alyce

More snow.

Alyce was all ready for preschool this morning and Matt had gone outside to dig out the car (another blizzard last night). I was charged with getting Alyce's coat and boots on, but when I saw Alyce quietly spread out across the couch I was overcome with an urge to snuggle my three year old. I've always been a procrastinator.

The trouble is, Alyce isn't a snuggler. Oh, how she would please her mama if she would snuggle with me all the time, but that just isn't her way. On the day Alyce was born, having just returned home from the hospital a few hours after the birth, I had no idea how or where Alyce was supposed to sleep. It was late, we'd been up for over two days, and I was that kind of tired you get when you push out a baby. I placed Alyce in her enormous crib and realized that she was just too teeny tiny for a crib just yet. Our midwife had suggested that she just sleep with us, and while Matt and I had decided we weren't ready for co-sleeping, I figured I would give it a chance. What newborn, having just arrived on the outside, wouldn't want to snuggle with her mama in bed? Alyce, it turns out. She ended up spending the next two weeks in her car seat.

Can't you just hear her saying no to another hug?
Alyce, 2010

Alyce has never, not once, wanted to snuggle up and sleep with me. Well, actually, there was that fifteen minute stretch during a thunderstorm in 2010. And did she ever snuggle hard. Thunder aside, Alyce has never enjoyed being in bed with anyone, and sometimes just sitting too close together on the couch irritates her. She has always proclaimed her independence loud and clear, and if I ever had any doubts and thought I could sneak in a snuggle, my efforts were almost always met with an annoyed sigh (I think the annoyed sigh comes before the eye roll that she'll develop in a few years). I used to have one trick up my sleeve: for twenty-two months I was rewarded with snuggles when she was too busy to notice. When I would breastfeed Alyce, with her mind so focused on milk, she would lean in, wrap her hands around me, and relax in my arms. It took all of me not to smirk and boast about how I'd won and she'd been tricked, but I knew all too well that if Alyce was alerted to her carelessness she would immediately make distance between us. So I enjoyed it for almost two years, until I became pregnant with Shira. I miss nursing Alyce all the time, especially now that I have very little with which to lure her.

I love my relationship with Alyce. I know she loves me fiercely, and that she is delighted to see me each morning (except for those first few weeks after Shira was born). I sometimes feel that our relationship is so big and intense that we can become almost too close, if that makes any sense. On these days we are sensitive to one another and some times get our feelings hurt. And even on those days when I think she doesn't have much use for me, I can see her doing things to let me know otherwise (like having a meltdown the second I walk in the door if I've been away for the afternoon). What I've learned these past three years is that I can't control how Alyce loves me. I know that she does love me, but it's not up to me how she shows it. While most days she runs across her classroom at preschool to give me kisses and hugs, other days she needs her distance. And when I want to hug her good-bye in the morning, she'd rather show off her cool, calm, and collected self and just wave good-bye.

This morning, something sort of magical happened. Maybe it was the electricity of last night's snow storm (or something like that), but instead of pushing me away when I slid onto the couch with her, instead of moving the arm I slid across her, she snuggled right in. Without even speaking, she just settled in my arms and began to stroke my hair. Her big eyes took all of me in, as though she was either seeing me for the first time, or trying to memorize the rounds of my eyes and the wave of my hair so that she'd never forget. Then she rubbed my back, just like we used to do to her before bed. It was five minutes of bliss, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

For someone who, sigh, loves to be in control, Alyce has taught me that it's just not possible--at least not where it counts. Part of what makes these relationships so magnificent is that they are in many ways beyond our control. This is a very difficult lesson for me to learn. It's my thing, you could say. But I'm learning: we can decide how we want to act (I can tell her everyday that I love her or that I love being her mama) but I can't tell Alyce what to do. And when she does show me, I have to say, it's pretty amazing. I mean, look at this face:

P.S. Shira would prefer to snuggle at least twenty-three out of twenty-four hours each day. Be careful what you wish for, I remind myself when we're 'snuggling' together multiple times a night.

A Risky Development

Alyce now knows how to use the remote control. Come back next week when Alyce has mastered the DVR and replaced all my Ally McBeal reruns with episodes of Dora. I'm not even kidding.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Making Changes

For the last two days I've been hiding in the house with Shira. She's been battling an evil cold and yesterday she was just too miserable to leave the house. Instead, she decided, she'd rather stay home and explore this box of toys:

Can you blame her?

She also spent some quality time with Hille, who was too busy hunting robins from the window to notice that Shira was within arm's reach from his tail. One day they'll be fast friends.

Today it was snow. Heaping piles of snow. Alyce's preschool was open and Matt, who thinks people take too many days off already--for silly things like pneumonia or national holidays--would never let a little blizzard keep him from the office. Me? I was happy to stay home another day with Shira, who was feeling much better today. I tried to tell her that all that extra sleep she's been getting at night (we've gone from waking eight times a night to twice!) is contributing to her brighter mood, but she just shook her head and went back to eating her sock. It's already clear, at eight months, that Shira has better things to do than pay any attention to my advice. Even though it's good advice, exceptional even. Nevertheless, we enjoyed another day at home.


Why am I not at my linguistics class? Because my plans, again, have changed. I'm fighting my natural instinct to feel ashamed and flaky over making more changes to my plans, and instead I am trying to accept that change isn't a bad thing. Just as I learned that I didn't have to finish my doctorate just because ten years ago I had said it was something I'd wanted to do, I am learning that new plans can be changed, too. Or, tweaked.

That's what we've been doing lately--tweaking. Trying to make plans for the future when you have no idea what city (or state) you'll be living in come September is tricky (that's me putting it in happy, sparkly terms). Matt's fellowship at the university is up this summer and he is currently looking for a new job. The reality of job-hunting as an academic is that your new job could be in another time zone. This is how we ended up in Delaware in two and half years ago, and this is how we'll probably leave it. But back to my point: last fall, when I first decided to pursue teaching instead of completing my dissertation, I moved forward with a plan to get my certification to teach in public schools. I thought this would open up the most doors for me. To do so I would need to take some English courses and apply to a graduate program in education that certifies would-be teachers who have previous degrees. Without certification I could only apply to some charter and private schools. It was exciting to make a decision and move forward, and this is how I wound up in Linguistics 101.

I think we moved forward with my plan a little quickly, motivated by excitement and a sense relief that I would no longer be slumped on the couch sobbing through a page of my dissertation research. But reality looks a bit different. In order to take all these classes we need child care for both kids (which is expensive) and would require a financial sacrifice over the next year that we really cannot afford. If following these particular paths were a part of my biggest hopes and dreams we would figure something out, but they are not. Matt and I sat down together and talked about this last week, and we asked ourselves what we really wanted from the next two years. First, a tenure-track job for my brilliant husband. Done and done (or, at least, I have all the confidence in the world that a department will scoop him up in no time). Second, we both want a third child. I know, I know, we'll be outnumbered by cats and children, but it's what we want. Not tomorrow, but in the next year or two.

Having made this clear to ourselves, we can make decisions accordingly. For myself, I still want to be a teacher, but I don't want to return to school (at this point) to make that happen. I will instead look for a place to teach this September, you know, once we know where we will be living. Watch out, children of Texas, you might have a Canadian amongst you soon! I'll get you spelling 'colour' in no time! So for now I am not going to continue in linguistics because it was a credit necessary for a very particular graduate program that I no longer need. I am still taking a course in American Literature in the coming term, because 1) I love reading, 2) it's free, thanks to Matt being faculty, and 3) my future students will only accept so much Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler for so long before they rise up and demand someone local.

Stay tuned for more changes. I don't want to overwhelm you all at once.

Anyone else making a big change?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Alyce discovers sand at Rehoboth Beach, 2009

I love, love the winter. Why? Because of snow, scarves, hats, sweaters, hot chocolate, rosy cheeks, kids in squishy snow pants, the smell of cold, and most of all, because of not being hot. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't stand being hot.

But today, after a very long, especially cold January, I've caught myself dreaming of the ocean and warm sand, and yes, of being hot. Well, at least nice and warm. I hope all of you can conjure up similar feelings of warmth today.

That's all I have for now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

There's a Cat in My Room

Every night we go through the same song and dance. We tuck Alyce into bed (and then get her out of bed for that last trip to the potty, desperate as she is to extend the day just that little bit longer). Then she asks us to leave the door open just a little bit (followed by an important discussion over what exactly constitutes a little bit) and to put up the gate--so that Lucy doesn't bother her.

And then it begins. Usually we've retreated into the kitchen, either making a late dinner for grown-ups, or cleaning up the dishes from an earlier dinner, and we'll hear it: There's a cat in my ro-om. THERE'S A CAT IN MY RO-OM.

We can't figure out why Lucy insists on hopping over the gate into Alyce's room or why it bothers Alyce so much in the first place. Lucy doesn't jump up on Alyce's bed or anything too intrusive, and she often does not even make a sound. But Alyce's keen nighttime vision, determined as she is to keep her eyes open as long as possible, will spot the intruder right away. She seems to like Lucy enough during the day, and will always list Lucy as her favourite among cats (poor Hille is never included), but after dark she seems to take great offense at the thought of sharing her room with a cat. The other cats are not concerned about Alyce's preferences, as they have preferences of their own and at this point in the day are happily asleep on the living room furniture. But Lucy is committed, for reasons unknown, to Alyce's room. I have a few theories, myself. Lucy is by far the most evil of our cats and I expect that her commitment to Alyce's room is motivated by that old-fashioned desire to do whatever it is we're told not to do. Lucy is also the most social of the cats, so her obsession with Alyce's bedtime might be an attempt to weasel out a few extra minutes of attention from Alyce, who unfortunately, according to Lucy, will be prevented from giving pets for the next twelve hours. How sweet of Lucy, really, to recognize that sleep deprives us from giving her attention.

Whatever the reason, all I know is that I had to climb over the gate into Alyce's room six times tonight. Six times I gently picked up Lucy and escorted her out of her room (or something like that). And yes, everyone except Alyce realizes that the best solution to our problem (short of Lucy moving out) would be to close the bedroom door.

But then it would not be open a little bit.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's Monday Tomorrow!

We're all tired these days.

Shira made some more sleep progress last night, but that doesn't mean I'm above complaining about her starting the day at 5:30 am. But progress is progress. And progress means sleep. But not sleep for tonight, because in honour of two nights of decent sleep Shira has gifted us with a nasty head cold and a new tooth coming in! If anyone is up around 3:00 am tonight, I'll see you online. These rosy teething cheeks actually glow in the dark.

Matt tried to talk some sense into Shira over the weekend about, you know, sleeping. Fingers crossed that she takes him more seriously.

All this annoying sleep-talk aside, I think Shira has fallen in love with Alyce. Aren't big sisters the greatest? Speaking of siblings, I taught my first sibling preparation class today, and it was so much fun. It was a tiny class (only one family with two kids), but they were awesome kids. We had a lot of fun and make a fantastic book about their family to give to the new baby. I could get used to this.

What did you do this weekend? Care to share the details? Did you get lots of sleep?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Enough About Sleep Already, Sort of

Last night, our tiny sleep tyrant only woke up...wait for it...ONE TIME through the entire night! She went to bed around 6:30, woke up around 8:00 and cried for five minutes, and then didn't wake up again until 2:45 to nurse. She then went back to sleep until 6:00. Can everyone hear the angels singing? I was so delighted to wake up at 2:45 full of milk. It's been a long time since Shira's given me the chance to be engorged. Yes, nursing mothers, you heard me right: I was excited to be engorged and slightly uncomfortable. I have big hopes for tonight.

Moving on.

Here is where I found myself online this week:

I made this for dessert, from Ina Garten's Back to Basics. I don't think I've ever liked chocolate more than I did that night. In an effort not to eat the entire thing (notice the two sticks of butter in the recipe, which you absolutely cannot skimp on), we stuck the leftovers in the freezer for next Shabbat. I'm not sure how well it will fare in the freezer, but our cholesterol levels required it. I'm fairly confident that nothing could make this taste bad. Now go buy eggs, butter and sugar and make this. Thanks for the cookbook, mum!

I want to try this recipe for fish tagine. I'm always looking for fish recipes since we don't eat meat in our house, but we do eat fish and I know about four recipes for cooking fish (and my favourite is Molly Wizenburg's recipe for sole meuniere in Bon Appetit). My friend, Dani, recommended that I visit Big Girls Small Kitchen for cooking inspiration, and so far I've been very impressed. The only downside is the use of language such as 'the Rents' when referring to their parents, and now I feel very, very old.

Finally, Matt passed along this post from one of his favourite sports writers. Matt reads roughly one billion sports blogs every day (I'm only exaggerating by a little) and I'm lucky he only forwards me the good ones. This one made me a bit weepy (the good kind), because I saw Matt with an older Alyce and Shira in this piece, adoring them in all their glory and my little ponies. It was one of the sweetest perspectives on parenting that I've read.

Hope it was a good day for everyone! May tonight be filled with lots of sleeping, mostly at my house.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sleep, Or the Reason I Get Up in the Morning

If it seems as though I obsessed with sleep, you're right. Of course I am. In the same way that a person giving up sugar fantasizes about a chocolate torte (that would be really tasty right now), or someone turning their back on caffeine dreams of a morning cup of coffee (that sounds good, too), I think about sleep a lot. Especially when Shira is getting ready for her second nap of the day, while I'm on my way out to do some work, all I'm thinking about is how much I want to climb into bed. And stay there sleeping for at least one weekend.

The thing is, I'd always found it odd that new parents are asked so frequently about their baby's sleep habits. I got the impression that there was a medal I didn't know about, given to parents whose babies slept through the night the fastest. Why didn't anyone tell me? I love competition. Medals aside, maybe I found the obsession with sleep a bit out of place because Alyce, for the most part, seemed to sleep the way I thought babies should: decently some of the time, sporadically the rest. She went to bed early and was in her crib for twelve hours, usually waking once for milk. (Our early obsession around Alyce revolved mostly around breastfeeding. I'll save that for another day.) Sure, I was often tired, but I didn't understand the obsession with sleep.

Now I do. I really, really do.

p.s. Looking through my iphone last night, I realized that not only am I obsessed with talking about Shira's sleep, it seems that I'm also a bit nuts about taking her photo while she's sleeping (as you can see here). If you give me an iphone, there will be a photo of sleeping Shira on it in no time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Confessions of Lazy Recycler

Only moments after taking this photo I found two more in the kitchen.

Since returning from Canada at the end of December, life has been such that cleaning has been a low priority around here. I'm in class every day, Matt is preparing for a new semester of teaching and working on a ton of applications for next year, and have I mentioned that Shira's not sleeping well?

Our house is so teeny tiny that cleaning, and just as importantly, tidying, is necessary for survival. But lately we have felt so overwhelmed by life that very little has been cleaned and even less has been put away. Don't get me wrong: we "keep house" everyday, what with the laundry and dishes our family of four produces (don't even get me started on the toys). But we have not given any attention to those small, though necessary, acts of putting things away when we come home at the end of the day. So on our counters you would have found at least a week's worth of notes and drawings from Alyce's school, empty snack cups, and multiple sets of hats and mitts; at the front door you'd have tripped over the fifteen pairs of shoes we kicked off at the end of each day; and on the bookcases you would have seen high piles of all those little things that Alyce passes us all day long (markers, beads, unicorns, rocks, tiny pieces of paper, half-chewed carrot sticks). And mountains of dust. I say you would have found because today I reached my limit of chaos and spent the afternoon cleaning the house. Usually I turn to the kitchen and cook or bake away my frustrations, but today I needed to move. Shira sat in the middle of the room while I puttered through the house putting everything away in its place or in the garbage. How glorious a clean house feels. Sadly, though, there are no cupcakes. I'm starting to rethink my decision to clean over baking.

All of this is really just to tell you that in my efforts to clean this afternoon, I finally decided to face that long-overdue pile of recycling. Our run-of-the-mill recycling happens every day (thanks to Matt taking it out to the bin each night), but one pile has been ignored for weeks now. We buy our eggs from the local food co-op, and these eggs come from a local farmer (in the summer we can buy from him directly at the farmer's market). He reuses egg cartons, so the expectation is that we return our cartons each week when we pick up new eggs. I have failed, failed, failed with my egg carton returns (it might have something to do with the fact that I always have at least one child on top of me when I'm running out the door and making room in my arms for egg cartons ranks as a low priority). We go through a lot of eggs since we don't eat meat in our house and because I do so much baking, so this is how I ended up with sixteen eggs cartons on my table today. In honour of putting things away, I collected all these eggs cartons from the kitchen and moved them to my car. I'm certain that I'll bring them to the co-op any day now.

May your day be filled with similar achievements! How exciting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Plan B

So the joining of two sisters didn't work out exactly as we'd planned.

We had thought (hoped) that Shira would adjust to some lengthier sleep cycles once she moved in with Alyce. Since Shira always seemed to stir (which would often lead to waking) when we came to bed or got up to yell at a cat, we thought she might sleep better without these distractions. Maybe she'd even be comforted by the presence of her big sister! Yes? No.

Last night was our third attempt at Shira and Alyce in the same room. After Shira woke up screaming for the third time before it was even ten, and because I found Alyce in her bed, softly crying, with her hands over her ears, I decided to get over myself and bring Shira back in our room, or more specifically, into our bed (since her crib was now in her new room). Matt was asked nicely to sleep on the couch (or he got the hint when we arrived home later that night and found our bed full of baby), and Shira and I spent the night awake in our bed, she, poking my eyes and eating her sleep sack, and me, begging the child for sixty minutes of sleep. In a row. By morning it was settled: Shira needs to learn how to sleep, and she needs to not do it with poor, tired Alyce in the same room. So right now Shira is sleeping in the portable crib that is set up in our room, and will do so until she can go a few hours without waking up to yell at us. It's one thing to feel this miserably tired, and another thing entirely to feel this miserably tired while arguing with an equally miserable three-year-old.

I should mention here that in order to have the girls share a room, we needed to switch bedrooms. Alyce and Shira now have the big room, while Matt and I squeeze into the small room. The crib and the bed couldn't fit in the smaller of the two rooms and we were happy to give them some extra room for tea parties and the like. But you see where I'm going with this? Alyce is now enjoying the very large room all to herself, while the three of us are wedged in the other. Alyce's grin is threatening to overtake her face.

So now we are in many ways back where we started, faced with a baby who won't sleep. I am so tired that I can't even waste any energy on being pessimistic about all this (though I can't make any promises about how I'll feel tomorrow). I know that Shira will learn how to sleep and we'll do whatever we can to encourage it. I'm now at that silly stage of tired. I am giddy and vulnerable, a dangerous combination for sure.

For those of you who sent messages and comments of encouragement, thank you so much!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ten Things I've Learned About Sleep

Sporting her new sleep sack, Shira taunts me with a little daytime sleeping.

1. Sleep is the like the best friend you took for granted, who has moved on to bigger and better friends, and now taunts you at every turn. In spite of the meanness, you desperately want to be friends again, and you'll do whatever it takes. Suddenly I'm back in seventh grade, and now I'm weeping in the corner.

2. Smug, second-time parents should take a moment before proclaiming how easy it was to get their first child to sleep through the night. They ought to realize that the second child, no matter how delicious in other regards, will certainly make it her goal to wipe said smugness from their faces. And she'll do it around three in the morning.

3. I am not above the odd temper-tantrum (don't tell Alyce) in the early hours of morning, when Shira, after two hours and twenty minutes, is still barking after you've done everything, short of handing her the moon, to get her back to sleep. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a moon delivery to make.

4. I am also not above kicking my husband under the covers when the other child is crying. The deal in our house is that the one with the boobs gets up for Shira, and the one without gets up for Alyce. It rarely works in my favour, but you can be sure that when it does, I'm not wasting one iota of potential sleep, not even for a more civilized shake of the arm. It takes too much energy, and I am well beyond civilized at this point.

5. That after the second half of my pregnancy with Shira, and the eight months since I gave birth to her (about thirteen months) of not sleeping through the night, wherein the last of two of these months 'not sleeping through the night' usually means up nursing every two hours, I am so tired that I have lost the ability to exercise an ounce patience on individuals who insist on crawling through the grocery store at the pace of a sloth. I might just lose my mind.

Even Alyce moves better than eighty percent of other shoppers. Here, she's helping me out at Trader Joe's. And yes, she's wearing a tutu.

6. I am willing to trade chocolate and kettle corn for some sleep.*

7. Did I mention that we have been sharing a room with this sleepless, barking baby for eight months? This makes letting her 'cry it out' a little tricky, since you are in bed a foot away from her. It's as though she has actually crawled into your ear and is yelling at your soul.

8. That after eight months of sharing a room with our little sleep tyrant, we are ready to pass her along to her big sister. Alyce and Shira are now roomies. We had always planned on them sharing a room (since we like the idea and because our desire for a large family is not matched by the income required for as many bedrooms), but our lack of sleep may have influenced us to move a little too quickly. If it was a challenge to let Shira cry it out in our room, it's a bit of a disaster to let her cry in a room with Alyce. Because then Alyce cries. And then I cry.

9. Even after a night filled with screaming, crying, disruptions, hurt feelings and more crying, the girls don't seem to hold even the tiniest of grudges come morning. Alyce, who was entitled to some grudge holding, was just as excited to see her baby Shira in the morning. There were smiles all around.

10. Parents do hold grudges.

*Keeping in mind that I will resume the eating of chocolate and kettle corn once sleep has been had. I'm no hero.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Last Week is Over

It was a tough one and a long one, but it's done, done, done. Two Praxis exams and a non-sleeping baby later, and I'm still around to tell the tale. In honour of such a difficult week, Matt and I decided that it was the perfect time to move the girls into the same room! Are we insane? YES!

I will share more details later in the week, because my brain shut down around four-thirty this morning when I was entertaining Shira, now known as "the baby who might be raised by the cats from this day forward." The cats would be terrible parents, I'll admit, but I'm just tired enough that I'm seriously considering it. Hille would want to be a good parent, but he scares and tires easily. Lucy might have the skills necessary but usually uses these skills for evil, not parenting. And Pomegranate just doesn't care.

So more coming tomorrow. For now I'll just say that Alyce has been incredible with her new roommate, even when said roommate screams at regular intervals through the night. Tonight, as Shira was fighting sleep with her (as of lately) usual screaming, we heard Alyce singing her a lullaby. Of course it made Shira even angrier (because she didn't want Alyce to ever stop singing), but Alyce now holds the world record for best big sister of all time.

Celebrating her new title with some well-deserved hot chocolate.

My wish for everyone, but especially for me, is a wonderful night's sleep. Good night everyone!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I've Been Sleeping

You know how sometimes your body crashes, and you just can't stop it, no matter how much you need to study or do linguistics assignments or look after your children? That happened to me this week. My body shut down, I shut down, and I napped. Yesterday I napped for three hours in the afternoon (thanks, Shira). For those fortunate enough to read my daily status updates on facebook, you'll know that Shira has not slept through the night for months, and by not sleeping through this night I mean waking up every two hours to nurse. I'll be talking more about this next week, because I need to talk through the pain.

But I'm just here right now to say that I'm hiding away, sleeping and studying. My second and final exam is this weekend. Take that, Praxis.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eight Months

And here is where I begin to wonder where the past eight months have gone. I know this happens every time a baby is born, I know babies grow into toddlers and preschoolers and large people, but why does it have to happen to MINE? Didn't we just get her? And could she be any cuter? I think not.

So happy eight months, Shira Clementine. May this be the month you learn to sleep through the night. I'll even let you learn how to crawl (and so making the daytime a lot more difficult for your parents) if you'll just let me sleep. See how generous I am? Just think of all the fun you'll have chasing the cats and your big sister (and then think about all that glorious sleep just waiting for you each night). I think you'll agree that this is an excellent offer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Can Speak Math!

I've been a little beaten up by an afternoon of test-taking, but I'm happy to report that I didn't fail! I was confident that I'd reach the required score for reading and writing (thank you thousands of tuition dollars), but the math? It wasn't pretty. But who needs pretty when you can get four points higher than you even need? It's like I had some spare points, in case someone else needed them. You need some math points? I don't mind sharing!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the person who invented computers, and the person who invented this computerized test (you'll see where I'm going with this in a second), and then the person who realized it would be a good idea for the computer to give you some of your test scores as soon as you're done writing, so that you don't freak out for three weeks waiting for the mail. Because then you can rush home and tell your family! And the internet!

Now, for some rest. No, actually, it's not time for rest. I have a second test this weekend. But it is a math-less test, so bring it on.

Thanks for all the good thoughts this today!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Little Math to Keep You Warm

Can't write, must multiply fractions and find for x. And then sob in the corner.

Have I mentioned I dislike math? Especially the lonely kind of math you learn all by yourself in preparation for these evil standardized tests. They don't even go easy on you because you're Canadian and didn't grow up writing these kinds of tests. I'll just say it: multiple choice gives me the willies. And in order to cope with these willies, I have consumed more pizza and peanut m&ms than anybody ought to.

Now I must go and study some more. The good news is that I've probably passed my practice tests so far--I say probably because, despite my graduate degree, I can't decipher the cryptic scoring system of the Praxis exams. My study guide offers an explanation something like, "if you get 75% of the questions right you'll likely achieve a score of 678, but sometimes you can achieve this score if you get 65% of the questions right, or if you're writing the test on a Tuesday in June, you might score 783."

Fortunately this weekend was not all about studying. We did some other stuff too:

What is January good for if not a little static electricity. One girl found this very entertaining.

Shira grew a new tooth. That red cheek has been staring us down all week.

The neatest ice cream-eater in the U.S.A. But that neatness comes at a cost: it was the slowest cone in history.

Hille rested.

I also bought this for Shira. The girl likes her sleep sacs, and she's growing out of everything we have. I am a sucker, and I mean sucker, for polka dots.

I hope everyone had a warm weekend inside under blankets. Maybe you read a great book, or studied math?

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The End of a Week

For those of you who know anything about procrastination, Friday afternoons can be a real pain. The great potential of a Monday can come crashing down on a Friday. For those adept at putting things off until the last minute, Fridays often mean getting a week's worth of work done. Years ago I remember telling myself, and others, if they would just listen to me rather than judging my procrastinating ways, that I did my best work under pressure. I think I was just making that up.

It's true that I write productively under pressure, but I think I only write well because I'm writing. As in, I might have also written a decent paper or essay over the course of a week or month if I had just sat down to work on it. That specialness of the last minute? It turns out, that's actually just called working.

You might think that leaving graduate school might mean the end of such procrastination, but you'd be wrong. I know I was. My Friday afternoons are still filled with things I wish I'd done earlier in the week, like learn math for my Praxis exam this coming Monday and send that birthday package to Simon and Morgan. But here we are, late Friday afternoon and those things are not done. But I won't be too hard on myself. Even if I haven't re-learned all the math from high school, I've done a lot of studying this week. I also learned how to do word trees in my linguistics class (jealous?) and I've been reading lots about siblings.

There's something else. What am I forgetting? Oh, right. My baby quit sleeping this week. That can often stand in the way of progress. She's been waking up every two hours to nurse for the last two months (she's almost eight months old), but this week she's reached new heights of non-sleeping and I'm beginning to get the crazies. It happens to the best of us sometimes.

But now it's the weekend! Friday afternoon, with all its expectations, is almost behind us. I have much studying to do over the weekend, but that's not all. Alyce and I have some celebratory ice cream to eat (I'll let you in on the details next week) and I'm going to suggest to my husband that we have our own celebratory champagne with dinner tonight. You know, to celebrate that we made it to Friday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Like Looking in a Mirror

To get ready for the "Preparing for a Sibling" class I'm teaching this month, I've been researching some material to add to my own seven-month experience as a parent of siblings (seven months sounds terribly impressive, I know). The photo below is taken from one of the few books I've found on preparing your family for the birth of a second child, and I instantly saw our family reflected in its image:

Isn't it lovely to coordinate everyone's pajamas?

And then I realized it looked more like this at my house:

Shira, overcome with grief, as Alyce removes the balloon from her desperate hands.

Good night everyone! Sleep tight.

Top photo: From One Child to Two, by Judy Dunn

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Eek, I feel a bit out of place in class.

I arrived yesterday and immediately began to assess my classmates. This wasn't the kind of assessment carried out for the purpose of judging or private mocking. This was all about me: I needed to know if it was obvious to these college freshman that it had been (ahem) fifteen years since I was a freshman. Oh yes, it was obvious. At least it was to me.

Feeling a tad jumpy, I alternated between wanting to hide in the back with wanting to introduce myself to everyone. Hi! I'm a thirty-three year old recovering PhD student looking for a new career and I'm beginning right here in this Introduction to Linguistics class! I have two young children and at this very moment my breasts are filling up with milk because it's about that time for Shira to be waking up from her nap. I'm slightly neurotic, always tired, and I like to bake! Also, I hear you talking about sororities--I don't really know what sororities do, because I'm also Canadian. Do you want to sit next to me?

Fortunately for everybody, I kept to myself. I'll save introductions for another class.

But I didn't need to speak in order to stand out. It turns out that my entire personal style betrayed my age. It's not that I looked old, exactly, but I was decidedly not of their age. First, I didn't have long, straight hair. Seriously, do all college women forgo hair cuts? Is it a budget issue? And don't even get me started on the Uggs and leggings. Everyone repeat after me: leggings are not pants, no matter how much you want them to be.

All day I've been wondering how I must have looked in my own undergrad. There was always at least a couple of continuing education students in my classes--were they too wondering if each of us had signed some contract wherein we agreed to wear Silver Jeans, a GAP t-shirt, and a Mountain Equipment Co-op fleece everyday? And now that I think about it, my hair was long and straight! Great, now I feel even older. I was that girl, but now I'm not, because I'm thirty-three and married and I've grown and given birth to two babies and been in school for...

I can't even bear to finish that sentence. At least I can take solace in never having worn leggings as pants. That counts for something.

But if I'm being honest, it isn't so much that I feel or look old. I don't think thirty-three is old and as I tell my husband at least once a week, I'm exceedingly hip.* No one can see my gray hair and the kind gentlemen at the wine store asks me for my identification every time I shop. I like getting older and all the things that come with it: having kids, staying in on a Saturday night, growing old with Matt, a little more confidence. Bring it on. No, this isn't about being fifteen years older or the fact that I'm in class with people born in the nineties. This is more about my trepidation over jumping ship and starting over. It's about progression and the way I halted progress on my PhD in order to, in some ways, start over at the beginning. At thirty-three I feel a bit like an impostor amongst these other students, because, haven't I already done this? Haven't I already sat through first year surveys and written those exams and papers? Haven't I written an honour's thesis, and a master's thesis, and didn't I start writing my doctoral dissertation? What am I doing here again?

Alright, alright. Calm down. I know why I'm here again and as much as I will continue to have doubts (because that's what I do), I'm holding on to that feeling I have that tells me I'm doing the right thing. And just because I'm starting some things over doesn't take away from the hard work of things I've already done.

Now if you'll excuse, I have homework. But first let's take a moment to adore Shira's chubby arms. This post was getting altogether too serious.

The skin, the rolls. So delicious.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Wish I Had a New Dress to Wear

See, it's my first day at school.

As I mentioned before, I would like to be a high school teacher. Since my previous degrees are in religious studies, and since it turns out that most high schools don't hire teachers to teach courses in Buddhism or religion and gender, I need to brush up on another subject. I'm only a few courses shy of an English major so I am using the next six months to fill in these gaps. This month I'm taking an intensive course in Linguistics. It will meet everyday for the next four weeks and I'm already a little nervous about being the oldest person in class. You'll know who I am because I'll be the only woman not wearing leggings and a pair of Uggs.

I'll also probably be the only one with a breast pump in my bag. I can't say for sure, but it's a good guess.

Wish me luck! I'll be sure to tell you all about my first day.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Magical Dinner

I never realized how tired I would be at six-thirty every day. I know, I know, this is about to sound like another post where some smug parent reminds non-parents that they don't know what tired is. As though non-parents don't have long days at work or play and neither collapse on the bed at the end of the day nor fall asleep at seven. Silly, silly non-parents who think they're tired. They should try being parents, and then they'll see.

Actually, it is one of those posts. I am tired, and I blame my children.

But my purpose here today is not to complain about exhaustion, but to celebrate the hour between six-thirty and seven-thirty, that first hour after both girls are in bed. I love these children to pieces, but that hour? It's pretty amazing. And I'll fight you for it.

Some days I collapse on the couch (if I haven't already fallen asleep nursing Shira). We try to eat some version of dinner as a family most nights, so this magical hour isn't usually spent cooking. Matt often heads back to the office in the evenings (Matt spends part of most days with Shira while I'm working, so he needs to make up that time) so we've usually had dinner. But sometimes I'll use these nights to cook for myself, and tonight I was rewarded with a bowl of incredible pasta and a glass of chianti, for one. Really, there is something magical about that hour, and I just needed to share it with you.

Pasta is a required food in my life. I have no patience for those who try to convince me that pasta is bad for me. My mum instilled in me a love of pasta with oil and garlic (with more than a sprinkle of parmesan) and it has remained my comfort food for years. It's cheap, real food. But in the last few years I have coveted an additional ingredient, one that could drastically change my favourite dish. But everywhere I looked, I heard people singing the praises of this little addition. I devoured Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, where I noticed she added this special ingredient to more than just pasta, and I found that Mark Bittman considered it a staple, in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (and that little column he writes).

I was ready to try it. I added a fried egg to my pasta. And it was a fabulous decision. I hope you will too. Tonight's dinner was just the third time I've tried this, and it was certainly the best. Maybe it was the hour's magic.

Pasta with Fried Egg
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Serves one

A handful of spaghetti or any long pasta (I use whole wheat)
olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Boil the water for the pasta. Add some salt to the boiling water, add the pasta and stir to prevent sticking. While the pasta is cooking (and it won't take long), heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Let it sizzle a few minutes and then crack the eggs. Watch these eggs carefully, because you don't want them to overcook. The yolks will serve as an instant cream sauce for the warm pasta, so no eggs-over-hard for this dinner. As soon as the whites are almost set, flip them over for just a moment to warm up the yolks. Drain the pasta, add the eggs and oil, and toss with the parmesan (you can add a little reserved pasta water if it is too dry). I like to mix it up in the pot and slice up the eggs with a knife so that the egg really coats the pasta.

Pour glass of wine and enjoy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Was Anyone Else in Bed Before Eight?

Is everyone relaxing and recovering at home today? I was asleep by 7:45 pm. It was the best New Year's present ever. I'm really looking forward to when the girls are a bit older and we can all spend New Year's Eve together with a bunch of games and good food. Maybe we'll be a little crazy and invite some friends, too. I'm already thinking about the menu. It's looking good.

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite moments of 2010:

From the top, left to right:

My first trip away from Alyce. I was six months pregnant with Shira, and spending a week in Canada. Matt sent me this photo while he and Alyce were making "I miss you, Mama" signs.

Alyce's first big kid haircut; My mum spent two weeks here with us, waiting and waiting for Shira to arrive. I went into labour the day after she left. As much as I wanted mum to be there for Shira's birth, the time we spent together, just the three of us girls, was worth it.

Alyce tried out her old car seat, just to make sure it was alright for Shira. At that moment, Alyce became a big kid to me.

Then Shira arrived. That was a good day.

The only photo of the four of us.

I'll never know what the two of them have together, but I can sense them plotting already.

Alyce's word for 2010? Silly. When I'm having a hard day with her and her three-ness, I look at this photo.

Shira, having already become entrenched in our family, as though she was always here.

My Halloween fairy princess.