Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You Asked For It...

It was packed up, but we were organizing the basement today and I found our box of pictures. It's not the best quality, but it's really hard to get a good picture of a photograph.

In Which Matteas Gets Very Excited and Smiles

video

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We've Come a Long Way...

Today officially marks the eight year anniversary of the night Aaron and I met. I'd been friends with Tristan for a while and Aaron and I had had a few conversations but hadn't met in person. He had a pumpkin he wanted to smash somewhere and since he had to work on Halloween he wanted to do it the night before. Aaron and Tristan decided to drive down from Mukilteo with their friend Chris to pick me up and we'd all have pumpkin festivities together. I snuck out of my room in the basement(it was sometime after midnight) and waited in my Dad's car for the boys to drive down my street, and here we encountered a problem: I had no idea what kind of car Aaron drove, and I wasn't about to go flagging down any old car full of boys that drove slowly down the street. I think it took about three passes before I figured out that the little maroon Honda was them. We drove into downtown and gave ourselves a tour of the fountains, and pretty much just walked around and talked. We never did smash the pumpkin, but we did get a picture since I had my camera and we got home to my parents' at the same time Damien did, so we had him take it. Aaron was pretty hot at 21, but he has remarked many times that he thinks I've gotten much better-looking than I was at 16. Even with all my teenage-awkwardness, I'm still really glad I have a picture of the night I met my husband. I'm especially glad that I printed doubles and that Aaron kept his copy, because at some point during the drama that ensued between then and now I burned mine. Silly, silly Tirzah. In my defense, Aaron was pretty silly too. I'm so grateful that identities are not static, and that some mistakes are not permanent. If Aaron and I had been held to some of the choices we've made in the past, we never would have ended up together. If anyone had told me what we were beginning the night we met I wouldn't have believed them. I would not have believed what we would put each other through, or how beautiful our children would be, or how strong we could get working through our struggles. Truth really is stranger than fiction; I never would have written out a life for myself like the one I have, but I could never have chosen a better one.

My Chubby Blue Eskimo

Matteas spends quite a bit of time in this blue fuzzy suit. Our days go much better if we spend lots of time outside, but it's getting a little chilly for babies. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it gets really cold; I might have to commission an uncle or two to come over and run Jack around. For now Matteas is content to be bundled up and stuffed like a fuzzy sausage into the front pack, where he is then zipped up under a large jacket. All the warmth and coziness gets to him pretty fast, and he is usually passed out before we get halfway to the park. Each one of my boys is helping me to better appreciate the other lately. Jack is so intense and energetic(like all my positive adjectives Anna?) and Matteas is so sweet and mellow, it's fun to have one of each. Jack is really a renaissance man these days though, running like a Tasmanian Devil through the woods for hours and then working so carefully on art projects. I told Aaron he should probably give me an Art Project Budget since I think it could easily get out of hand, but it's so nice to find something that satisfies Jack that we can do inside when it's raining or dark or I'm just too tired. He doesn't discriminate, and loves all things creative. So far we have done finger painting, wooden figurines, watercolors, crayons, markers, pencils, paper cutting, leaf rubbing, and clay. He's getting a little out of hand with the clay lately, handing me a small lump of some weird color he made and asking me to make him a Curious George or Lightning McQueen. We made some pretty cute chickens and babies, and tonight I made him a Snoopy. The Fitness has officially begun. I dug out the old weights and, much to Jack's amusement, put them to use. Then last night I went for a run and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, until I got home. I even tackled a few hills, which was probably my undoing. I stretched before I ran and again when I got home, but after sitting down to nurse the baby for ten minutes it was really difficult to get up again. My calves in particular cramped up a lot, but I'm not that sore today. I generally find that after a long hiatus, the first run back isn't the hardest; it's the second run, after your muscles have been broken down a bit by the first, that's really painful. But I decided that I can only eat so much butter before it becomes a serious problem, and my cholesterol levels can only do so much in the face of such a caloric onslaught. When we applied for life insurance we had to have physicals and my cholesterol levels turn out to be rather enviable; I'd like to keep it that way, and have reluctantly accepted that someday it might actually require a little effort on my part. Thus, The Fitness. It was nice last night, running through the neighborhood by myself. When I was a teenager I always took music with me when I ran, but last night it didn't even cross my mind. It was nice not to hear anything but the sound of my own footsteps(until the labored breathing kicked in).

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rest of Sunday

After the animal farm we went to Picnic Point to walk the beach, throw some rocks and watch some trains. Aaron took this picture of the sunset; I love how the landscape of the Northwest has both water and such beautiful mountains in one view. I thought a picture of the sunset would be appropriate for the end of the story of Sunday; after leaving the beach we decided to go to The Keg for dinner, which seemed sort of crazy since we had the kids and Jack had not napped, but Aaron has a way of talking me into trying crazy things. We got there around six and the wait was going to be 25 minutes, which seemed like a sign that we should go home. We decided to stick it out anyway, and I nursed Matteas in the car while Jack and Aaron went inside to wait. When I got inside, Aaron was holding Jack in front of the fire and Jack was fast asleep on Aaron's shoulder. I'm not usually thrilled about Jack being asleep that late in the evening, but since he was already out I figured we might as well enjoy it. We got our table and Matteas quickly followed suit and obligingly passed out in my arms. So there we were at dinner with two boys, talking and drinking wine as relaxed as you please. Jack eventually woke up, but was refreshed by his nap and cheerfully ate chicken strips and oranges.
We got Jack some new boots a few days ago and he's been dying to go puddle-jumping ever since. He was thrilled with this creek. He's not alone in his love of his boots. As we were walking into the park a cute older British couple was walking out. The man smiled at Jack and said "Lovely wellies!" Jack looked a little worried until I told him, "It means he likes your boots."
A boy and his Dad.
Jack's favorite thing about Picnic Point is the trains. He likes to watch them more than he likes to hear them, at least up close. We can hear the trains from our house sometimes and Jack always says, "We should get in the car and see the trains!"

Pumpkins, Chickens and Pigs

Sunday was one of those unreal days when I kept pinching myself and thinking, is this really my life? In a good way. We overslept a little, but with a little craziness we still made it to church before Liturgy even started. The boys were pretty good in church which was a nice start to the day. Damien was at St. John's too so we invited him over to our house for some huevos rancheros, which turned out to be quite delicious thanks to some help from Tristan's home-grown jalapeƱo peppers. We attempted naps to no avail, but Jack was really cheerful so it didn't seem like it would be a problem. We loaded up and headed out to a local pumpkin patch, which turned out to be using the term "pumpkin patch" quite loosely. At least the pumpkin part anyway; we followed the signs that spelled out in hopeful letters "Pumpkin Land," but all we found was a ragged patch of soggy dirt with a few pitiful vines on it, and maybe five sad-looking pumpkins. Luckily, there were lots of animals around to make up for the lacking agriculture. The piglets were really cute; they kept following the mama pig around trying to nurse, and the mama kept trying to escape.
Everyone got a little cup of chicken feed and Jack was super-conservative with his; he made it last almost the whole hour we spent at the farm.
I'll scratch your back...
This mama pig finally got a rest. Jack's been reading a book called Going to Sleep on the Farm that talks about all the various farm animals getting ready for night, and he gets a huge kick out of the pig page: "A pig curls up with family or friends, Where one pig starts, another one ends."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh He's So Handsome...

Happy Birthday Aaron!

As is pretty obvious by this time, I like cooking. A lot. I've managed to make almost anything I've ever wanted turn out alright, but there was one thing that consistently eluded my culinary grasp: fish. I'm alright with Salmon; it's a pretty straight-forward kind of a fish, very low-maintenance. But white fish...somehow I'd screw it up every time, no matter what recipe I tried. So when I asked Aaron what he wanted for his birthday dinner I felt a few pangs of apprehension when he said "halibut." It's Aaron's favorite fish, and I've ruined it two or three times. So I spent a good part of last night working out a recipe in my head and told Aaron to pick up some fish on his way home. I worked very carefully, nervous about ruining $30 of beautiful halibut. I seared it in butter, then plated it over broiled asparagus and rice with mushrooms and shallots. For the sauce I added butter to the fish pan after I'd taken the fish out and sauteed some more shallots. When they were soft, I added champagne and boiled it down until it was reduced by about half, then added a teaspoon of tomato paste. I turned off the heat and added heavy cream, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. We sat down to eat and I waited for Aaron to say something, but he was just eating quietly. I figured his silence meant one of two things: it was gross and he didn't want to tell me, or it was good and he was too busy enjoying it to comment. Thankfully it was the latter, and I was happy that my triumph over the halibut happened on Aaron's birthday. This is a fifteen layer torte I made for Aaron's birthday cake; it's kind of fragile so I just put a little tea light in the middle instead of poking 29 candles in it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

So I've decided that being skinny is overrated. I kind of wish I would stop cooking fabulous things for myself to eat, but I'd obviously rather cook than lose baby weight. The top picture is the Barefoot Contessa mushroom soup I wrote about earlier, but that in itself isn't the really exciting thing. The Really Exciting Thing is this: I found a way to make it better. No offense to Ina, but using champagne instead of white wine and leaving out the parsley took the soup from delicious to amazing. I also used really fresh leeks from Central Market and fresh thyme from Anna's garden. For our next meal, we had grilled squash and steak with a mushroom peppercorn sauce. The sauce didn't call for mushrooms but it did call for heavy cream and I didn't have any, so I added the mushrooms to make it a little more substantial. It was pretty good, but I think it needed some sherry or cognac for a little more kick. The recipe was from Celebrate the Rain which my sister Moira gave me for Christmas and I've had a lot of fun with it. One of my favorite things about it is that, unlike its predecessor Simply Classic, it has lots of pictures in it. Beautiful pictures. It has a recipe in it for a five-spice lacquered duck that I really want to try. I've never had duck. I cooked one once for someone else, but didn't taste it. Jack is obsessed with tractors. We went to Central Market on Saturday night and bought tons of amazing vegetables. I love that store. We were there for almost an hour and all we did was look at seafood and peruse the produce section. I'd like to go without the boys sometime and find funky things to try in the Asian section, pay too much money for some cute mugs and a wooden salad bowl from their mercantile display, then try out the wine section. I could spend days in the store and not run out of things to interest me. I'm impressed with myself that I'm not actually fatter, what with the decadent cooking and the complete and total absence of exercise in my life. I've decided, however, that things are going to change. Not my cooking; that's too much fun. But the exercise thing. It was so much easier to keep up with it at my parents' house, Lake Washington Boulevard is absolutely the most beautiful place to jog, bar none. However, the park by our house has some pretty nice paths and if I don't make it outside I can always(and really should) use my weights for something other than a tripping hazard. And now that I've put my resolution on my blog I'll feel compelled to make it true, lest I appear flaky. This is a 460-pound pumpkin. I need to exercise so I don't look like this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fall Comes to Lynnwood

It is a perfect day for blogging with a giant mug of hot tea, which, fortunately, I happen to have at my side. It is fall the way it can only be fall in the Pacific Northwest, being both sunny and cloudy at the same time with little rainstorms in between. Jack and Matteas were totally anti-napping today, so after a frustrating half hour we gave up and ventured out into the blustery day. Our backyard borders on Lynndale park so we walk through there a lot, and today we spent more time in the woods than on the playground. It was windy and a little rainy, but Matteas was snug in the Moby wrap under my sweatshirt and the cold never bothers Jack.
Some interesting mushrooms which, according to Survivor Man, are safe to eat and allegedly quite tasty. We did not sample them.
Right outside our backyard.
Jack discovered the enchanting noise that fallen leaves make when you walk through them dragging your feet. Something about it struck him as very funny and he laughed so hard he fell over, which produced more laughing.
Funny story: at the entrance to the park there are these posts to keep cars from entering the lot where the foot path begins. At the beginning of the path was a teenage girl who had blue fingernails with her arms around the neck of a shaggy-haired teenage boy, who seemed to like the fact that the girl had her arms around his neck and was returning the favor around her waist, and generally they were looking very canoodle-y. Jack thought this was hilarious. He turned around and grabbed onto this post in imitation of the girl and said "Look at me, mom!"
This is a very cool little clearing in the middle of the woods.
I never even noticed this tree in the summer.
Aaron brought me two-dozen roses on Friday. They still look pretty good.
The potty training continues to go well. Jack didn't quite understand the concept of pooping on the potty chair until today; his previous efforts involved taking off his diaper, pooping on top of his diaper then putting the poop into the potty chair before dumping into the toilet. It took a few discussions for him to grasp the the relationship needed to be directly between the poop and the potty chair, but today it clicked because he did it perfectly. As you can see, he was feeling a mixture of pride and surprise.
This tree is across the street from us and it changes a little everyday. I can see it from our couch where I spend of a lot of time nursing so I appreciate the view.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Boys Will Be Boys...

This is a picture I took in our Brier kitchen after Damien babysat Jack for a few hours. The fact that he was covered in chalk and dirt was how we knew he had a good time. So the past two days have been pretty nice, having Aaron around all day Monday was a rare treat. Even still, I'm finding that my tank gets down to empty pretty quickly these days. I think that sleep deprivation is the cruelest torture ever; when I'm under-slept, even good days are hard. My other major struggle right now is resigning myself to the fact that no matter how well-behaved they are, two year-olds are messy. Really messy. It gets really old cleaning up the same messes ten times a day so sometimes I try leaving it alone until Jack is in bed, but on days when we stay home all day the mess really bugs me. If I have to be in the house all day, I'd like it to be clean. His fever is all gone but his nose is still runny and he has an awful cough, so I haven't taken him to any of the indoor play spaces I've been discovering so as not to spread germs. We really need to unpack so we can use the basement as a play space, as opposed to hauling all of our favorite play things into the living room. I briefly considered making a rule that all the toys stay in Jack's room, but decided that was stupid because it's Jack's living room too, and he likes to do his living with a lot of toys. I have started making him clean up one activity before getting another out, but the rules are kind of hard to enforce when I have Matteas in my arms most of the time. It helps that most of the time Jack's not malicious about his mess-making, he's just doing what makes sense to him. He's in that "what will happen if I do this?" stage, and I don't think I have enough safe, contained ways for him to conduct his experiments. It's nice that his face is so transparent, so I can always tell if he knows he did something he wasn't supposed to or if he's just having a good time. One of my favorite Jack faces is the "I can't believe how cool this is!" face, when his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline and his eyes get so wide I can count his eyelashes. It makes it awfully hard to be serious if he's just done something disastrous, like the other night when he was in the bath and I heard him hop out and close the door. He never closes the bathroom door, so I became concerned. I got up off the couch and walked down the hall to the bathroom, which was all the time he needed to squat down and poop on the floor. When he saw me open the door he panicked, grabbed his pile of poop nuggets and threw them hastily into the toilet, as if hoping to destroy the evidence. We had never really discussed if pooping on the bathroom floor was allowed or not, and since the urge had struck while he was in the tub he wasn't wearing a diaper, which wasn't his fault. Aaron and I decided that if he's aware enough to get out of the tub and put things by hand into the toilet, he's ready for potty training. Aaron set up his potty chair in the bathroom and today he told me he had to pee, so we took off his diaper and he hopped onto his potty chair and peed like that's how he always does it. I'm a little apprehensive about how this stage is going to go, since I've always felt that new babies and big-kid poop don't really mix. Still, I do really appreciate his boy-ness most of the time, and even though it's loud and messy and deaf I wouldn't change him even if I could. At least not while he's only two.

Success!

I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with my first efforts. The paints are really nice quality so they were fun to use regardless of the results, but I also think George is pretty cute. I wasn't sure what to paint at first, but then I had the idea of painting Jack's favorite characters and putting them up in his room. George having "a good pipe" is one of Jacks favorite pictures from the book. I asked Jack what he thought of my painting and he grinned and said "Wanna take it!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

There Are Almost No Words

To describe the absolute, knock-down drag-out no-holds-barred insanity of the past week. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. Thankfully Matteas has been alright except for a few stuffy noses, but the rest of us have had fairly awful colds off and on for months now. Last night Jack had a fever of 104.1. I was pretty worried, but Aaron took him to the doctor earlier in the day and she said it was just a virus. Still, poor Jack looked awful and now he has a cough like a barking seal. His fever is gone though, so hopefully he'll be on the road to recovery from now on. Speaking of recovery, I'm still working on mine. Physically I'm alright, but spiritually I feel pretty beat up. Lack of sleep is not helping. I felt pretty drained yesterday and then Matteas would not sleep last night. He'd spit up on me a couple of times, but I have found that my standards of personal hygiene have really gone to heck since becoming a mom and so I mostly ignored it. There is a limit though, and I discovered at 4 a.m. that my limit is getting barf in my hair for the third time after not showering for two days. I sat there in bed, blearily looking at Matteas(or trying to) and feeling ready to cry(again) when I made myself chuckle by thinking "If I was a muffin, I would be Disgusting Muffin." That thought alone should be testimony to the degree of mental anguish I'm suffering. But instead of crying, I decided that baby and I would take a shower, which he always likes. Plus he was covered in his own spit up. So we had a nice steamy shower and some nursing time and got dressed in nice clean pj's, and by then it was five o'clock in the morning. I had not yet slept. Sometime between five and seven I fell asleep but woke up to Jack in my bed coughing. Aaron came in from getting ready for work, looked at me and asked me what happened. "He didn't let me sleep again." I don't remember what happened after that except for thinking how very badly I wanted to sleep, and then I woke up and it was 10:30. I had slept for almost three hours. I had vague concerns about what Jack might be up to as he was no longer in my bed, but was too busy enjoying the feeling of lying in bed with a snuggly baby curled up with me. Finally I thought I'd better investigated, so I got up and came out to the living room to find a fire going and candles lit, and Jack and Aaron eating tortellini at the kitchen table. "How are you here?" I asked, to which my sweet husband replied "You looked like you needed me, so I stayed." So now, with my eyes a little less blood-shot and my sanity barely in sight off in the distant future, I actually have the energy to get excited about a few things. Aaron kicked me out of the house yesterday evening while the boys were napping, so I went out and got a few things. I bought some new crayons and a sketch book for Jack and a collection of little plastic farm animals, which he was been really fascinated by lately. For myself I got a new set of really nice watercolors, a set of brushes, some watercolor paper, and two books; one is called eat pray love, and the other is called The Birth House. The first book everyone seems to be talking about and the second one I've never heard of, but it's about midwives and women and babies. So last night when Matteas wouldn't sleep, I read. A real book. Not the whole thing, but a significant portion. It made me feel kind of giddy. I think I might even get a chance to try out my new paints tonight, which will probably make me even giddier than the books. I used to paint for hours when I was a teenager, but I haven't done it in years. My Dad used to get mad at me for hoarding dinner plates smeared with paint under my bed, unable to bring myself to waste the paint. Hopefully I don't suck at it after years of neglect; that would be awfully disappointing. If I'm pleased enough with the results of my efforts I'll post some pictures. And now, as both boys are sleeping, some quality time with my husband in front of the fire.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails...

I'm so sad this picture came out fuzzy because his face looks so cute; he was reading the paper in bed with Aaron.
There were some shocking headlines.
There has been a lot of soup in our lives lately, due partially to the cozy fall weather and largely to my obsession with the Barefoot Contessa. I used to watch Rachel Ray's show a lot because when Jack was a baby and Aaron worked late it made me feel better to know that somebody somewhere was making dinner, and it certainly wasn't me. But lately I've realized: I don't cook any of her food. So my new culinary crush is Ina Garten. I like her cooking style, and there's something about Ina's voice that seems very maternal and reassuring so that no matter how complicated a recipe is her soothing vocal tones calm you into thinking you can cook it too. The above Mexican Chicken Soup wasn't complicated at all, but it was extremely delicious. Aaron has discovered lately that one of his favorite spices is cumin, and there's lots of it in this soup. I also made another soup of Ina's this week of which there are no pictures, but it was really good. It was Cream of Wild Mushroom soup and it was really easy and fun to make, and also really good. It's hard to put a cube of butter, a cup of half and half and a cup of heavy cream in anything and have it turn out gross. You can search for both recipes at Foodnetwork.com.
Every Wednesday the library has a kids' program where they read stories, play games and make a craft, and Sonia has been taking Jack every week. Each week has a theme; the first week was bears, the second week was trains and yesterday was puppy dogs. Jack wanted to wear his ears at dinner; his tongue is out because he's panting like a dog.