Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Baby's First Chocolate

Lately, Matteas has been demanding food. Not asking for it, not mildly interested in it, but aggressively and vocally demanding it. He's also gotten quite good at scooting around on the floor and finding stray treasures. Today he found a chocolate chip. It was his first taste, but I'm sure it won't be the last. This was my afternoon project. I stole the idea from my sewing book but made my own pattern. It's a magazine holder for Aaron; he likes to read in bed but since we have our bed wedged into the tiniest room(until we remodel the master bedroom) there's no space for a bedside table or shelf. I really like the idea of using wall space for storage, especially because you can hang things high enough that kids can't reach it but it doesn't take up the space furniture does. I'm really excited about the whole concept, and everything in my house is now in danger of being stored in a hanging organizer. I plan on making one for the dining room to keep Jack's art supplies in, a storage problem that has been puzzling me for quite some time. I backed red canvas (which was really very soft for how thick it was, I think it was meant to be used for upholstery) with some tan and olive striped linen. When I proudly displayed my finished project to Aaron he asked, "Why is the back so nice?" He then confessed that he preferred the striped fabric, but it wasn't thick enough to be the front. I'm sure I can think of something to make him out it though, I got a lot of it. Maybe some light tool storage for the garage walls...

Parent Merit Badges

We've racked up quite a few already; pregnancy, childbirth, colic, sleep-deprivation, teething, middle-of-the-night vomiting, elbows coming out of socket, 104 fevers, Diaper Rash from Hell, we've even conquered MRSA. Last night, we added the Late-night ER Visit. Jack was acting a little off at lunch and wouldn't eat, which isn't entirely unusual. He'd gotten up at six so I put him down for a nap at noon, and when he woke up he had a low-grade fever. I gave him some Motrin and put on The Jungle Book, and he seemed to be coming down with a little cold. No big deal. I gave him a decongestant before bed, plugged in the humidifier in his room, and kissed him goodnight without much worry. I used to think the hardest thing to listen to was a screaming baby. I was wrong. To date, the hardest thing to listen to is your child struggling to breathe. What started out as a minor cold quickly grew into full-blown Croup in a matter of hours. I was in the living room with night owl Matteas when I heard Jack coughing from his bed, the tell-tale barking sound and the wheezing gasp when he tried to breathe in. I deposited Matteas in bed with Aaron, then scooped up Jack and took him into the bathroom to steam him. He was coughing uncontrollably and moaning between gasps for air. Now, we've been pretty sick before, but my mother's intuition was telling me that steam and Motrin weren't going to cut it on this particular night. I contemplated sending Aaron to the ER with Jack while I stayed home with Matteas, but Jack wanted me to be with him and the more upset he got the harder it was for him to breathe, so I decided we would all go together. I'd called Jack's doctor before we left to make sure they wouldn't turn us away at Steven's and send us on to Children's, and she said at the very least they could give him temporary treatment at Steven's. She called ahead and told them we were coming. If you want to get VIP service at a hospital and cut straight to the front of the line, tell them you have a toddler in respiratory distress. I walked in carrying Jack and the triage nurse ditched the patient she was with, clipped a lead to Jack's finger and immediately walked us back to a room. No waiting, no paperwork, no inane questions about what my son ate that day and how much he was peeing. She did, however, ask one funny question: "Are his lips swollen?" "No, those are just his lips." A brief comic respite in the midst of a scary time, and I wasn't too freaked out not to smile. We spent about three hours total in the ER, and after some steroids, popsicles and cool mist we went home with a bottle of blue cherry-flavored magic. It took about thirty minutes for the steroids to reduce the inflammation in Jack's airway, but after that we were greatly relieved to see him misbehaving and being cheerfully uncooperative with the cool mist treatment. Nothing says "I'm feeling better" like defiance. When we first got to the ER he was feeling too low to do anything but cling to me and nod politely when the doctors asked him questions("How old are you? You must be what, five years old?"). We got home around 3 a.m., changed our popsicle-stained jammies, then had slices of still-warm banana bread and some cold milk before finally heading to bed. We are all a little under-slept today, but happy to be basking in the rosy afterglow of normalcy after a Very Bad Sickness. Jack needs three doses of steroids over the next three days and he sounds a little hoarse, but we're over the scary part. Aaron is coming home from work early and brining Mexican food. Matteas is napping, I'm blogging, and Jack is making sparkly dinosaurs. There's going to be glitter everywhere for the next couple of days. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

For My Next Trick...

This book was my birthday present from Aaron. The crazy looking rainbow-colored book behind it was my gift to myself, as were the chocolates and the little "Be Happy" book. The little stamp kit was for Jack. I think I'm beginning to understand the appeal of being "crafty;" there's not a lot of finality to the sense off accomplishment that comes from motherhood. So much of what we do must be done ten times a day and is undone five minutes later, but if you make something it stays made. I've had this sewing book for a while now and have been reading and reading the instructions before finally picking my first project. Let me emphasize how NOT sewing-inclined I am. I got out the sewing machine Briana gave me for my 22nd birthday and tried unsuccessfully to wind the f***ing bobbin for TWO HOURS. Luckily Moira showed me later what I was doing wrong and I've gotten the hang of a few basics. Jack has gotten extra challenging lately and I just wanted to do a good job at something, anything, so I headed to the fabric store last night after Aaron came home. They were closing in half an hour, which is the type of situation that usually makes me panic and I make poor choices because I feel pressured. I hadn't even picked a project yet, but I pushed my cart around the store and threw in a few different things that tickled my fancy, then spat out random numbers to the lady at the cutting counter. I got home and washed and dried all my fabric(one of the steps I'm too impatient for, which contributes to my lack of skills). Today both boys napped AT THE SAME TIME, an even which, since Jack no longer naps, hasn't happened in about six months. Jack's getting a cold and he woke up at 6 a.m. for no good reason, so down he went at noon. I threw my fabric on the floor and let it speak to me, then began measuring and cutting with abandon. Too much abandon, as it turns out. I thought I'd cut one piece too short so I shortened the second piece accordingly, then realized I had gotten the first piece right I'd just hidden it under some other fabric, so once I found the right piece I re-cut the second piece. I told myself, "This is the kind of thing that usually happens before the whole thing goes to hell," but I persisted. I got frisky and added the front pocket and the cute striped lining, which I didn't quite install properly but it works. I even followed the obnoxious instructions, like pressing the seams open and zig-zagging the raw edges to prevent fraying. I'm not totally pleased with my handle attachment job, but the handles are exactly the same length. I love the little pocket, the symmetry of which I took great pains with. All in all quite amateur, but considering my previous levels of skill and patience with fabric and instructions I'm really pleased. I think I feel another project coming on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

If You Like to Talk to Tomatoes...

...if a parsnip makes you smile. I know the line is about squash, but I haven't made any squash lately. I did, however, make parsnips. And carrots, and salad with candied pecans, blood oranges, avocados, red onion and pomegranate vinaigrette, and steak au poivre(fancy talk for "steak tenderloin with shallots and cognac"). I also made (nearly)flourless chocolate truffle cake with whipped cream and fresh raspberries which I didn't get a picture of because I was too busy being a neurotic weirdo and throwing my own birthday party. That's right. I like to think that I'm not uptight, but I am. Uptight to the point that I would rather spend my birthday cooking all day than let someone else do the work so I can relax and have the food come out differently than I want it. I turned 25 on the 19th and agonized for quite a while over how I wanted to spend my birthday like it was the last birthday I would ever have and this one had to be It. Finally I decided I'd call a few friends, ask the ones with kids to get babysitters and come over for a late dinner(after my kids were asleep) of just adults. That's not what happened. Aaron cleaned all day(even the toilet) and entertained the boys while I cooked and cooked and went back to the store multiple times when I forgot ingredients, but finally the house was sparkling, the dessert was perfect and done ahead of time, and the rest of the cooking was well underway. Then came the phone calls. No one could get babysitters. I decided to let Jack stay up, we fed the kids dinner and then the party really got started. With ten kids. 'Cause that's how we roll. It was a great party, lasting into the wee dawn hours. The kids eventually all fell asleep but the party didn't end until about three a.m. So it didn't happen anything like I'd planned, but in retrospect I think it was very appropriate that I spent my birthday doing what I love: cooking beautiful food for close friends amidst oodles of children. There were no good pictures of me from the party. There were in fact only two pictures at all, and the other one is worse. I'm wearing the shirt Aaron bought me on Wednesday, The Day of the Perfect Latte. A few mornings ago I awoke to find this mallard couple in my driveway. I presume they were looking for a love nest. I told them this one was already taken. On my birthday, Albert and Anna's oldest daughter Elizabeth informed me that Matteas had a tooth. I thought maybe she was seeing things because, being the one who breastfeeds him, I thought I would have noticed such a thing. She was right. He cut one tiny tooth on the bottom and although it's small and lone Matteas knows how to work it. Jack loves puzzles. Uncle Tristan got him this one for Christmas and he's getting really good at finding the missing pieces. His favorite is sorting out the edge pieces at the beginning. Matteas and Mattea, who gets fatter on a daily basis. I can't blame Matteas for wanting to eat her; she's quite the cream puff. Her dad Shane calls her his little Chub Scout. Jack playing in the mud. He informed me that he was making cookies for his kids. In preparation for making salsa for tonight's tacos I put several tomatoes on the counter. When I went to chop them I noticed that one was missing. Then I hear Jack singing the theme song to Veggie Tales. I found him sitting at the top of the stairs, carefully cradling his tiny tomato and trying to shield it from my vision. I asked him if he wanted a Larry to go with it. He was thrilled, and wanted his picture taken with them.
Aaron brought me these tulips today for no particular reason other than the fact that he's generally fabulous.
This was an amazing taco. Normally I prefer hard shells, but I grilled flank steak for these and soft shells just seemed better. I also make the pico de gallo fresh which is the thing that really puts any Mexican fare over the top. I do like to talk to tomatoes occasionally, and to these tomatoes I said, "Hey, tomatoes, meet cilantro and his friends; jalepeno, lime juice, and red onion. I think you'll like each other." They were kind of shy at first, but after an icy margerita they gelled nicely.

Friday, April 18, 2008

April Craziness

It was crazy to be digging out the snow clothes today, but it was kind of a cozy surprise. We went to Costco this week so we were well stocked with food, and after some sledding and snowman building we came in and made hot chocolate. Still, I can't believe that this time last week it was over 70 degrees. I find it highly appropriate that I was born in April; sometimes, stuff just comes out of nowhere. Once a week, Sonia picks up Jack and takes him to a gymnastics class she found nearby and he absolutely loves it. At home he says, "You be Coach Brittany and I'll do reenastics." On Wednesday Aaron had the day off, so we decided to all go to gymnastics together and watch. Jack was pretty squirelly, but he did really well. Afterwards Jack went to Sonia's and Aaron and I went to the mall, where we partook of absolutely perfect lattes and Aaron bought me a really cute shirt before the rampant consumerism got to us and we had to flee. Jack decided his hat was too itchy, so he found his hood, stuck it on and pronounced himself ready for the snow. The dishpan in the grass last week was such a success that we decided to do it again, but since it was too cold outside we staged it in the kitchen. Matteas and the floor both got very clean. I'm happy to say that I'm almost rid of all the purple in my kitchen. I'm not sure how to handle the walls yet since there's a disgusting backsplash made of badly painted tile surrounding the countertops. I sanded off some of the paint and discovered that the tile, like everything in this house, was multicolored. Specifically, green, pink and white. The green actually would have been pretty if it had been the only color, but I knew that was too much to hope for from this house. And now, I almost like my kitchen. It feels a lot bigger with the lighter cabinets.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

WARNING: Plot Spoilers Ahead

At the risk of being murdered in my sleep, I'm going to write a review of the movie Juno. I haven't seen any movies lately that have really moved me, but I was so affected by this one that I feel I must speak. You may have heard some of the buzz about this movie especially around Oscar season(it got 4 nominations and won "Best screenwriting"); Oprah loved it, critics and audiences raved about it, the whole world seemed to be in love with Juno and the quirky, off-beat soundtrack. The synopsis on the DVD proclaims "Juno delivers huge laughs and feel-good fun without even trying!" First of all, it does try. Really hard. The result is a sometimes-funny but mostly-abstract dialect that seems just a little too contrived, especially since most of the characters in the movie seem to speak the same language. Whole towns don't talk like that, just Diablo Cody(the Academy award-winning writer). And she's funny, sometimes; mostly because she uses the word "shenanigans." It's a funny word, no embellishment required. In case you live under a rock, this movie is supposed to be a feel-good coming-of-age story about a girl named Juno who finds herself pregnant at the age of 16. After having second thoughts in the waiting room of an abortion clinic, Juno decides to give her baby up for adoption and finds the "perfect" couple; a would-be rock star husband still holding onto the glory days of his past and an uptight OCD wife who has neither tolerance nor respect for her husband and his guitar collection. Openly naive Juno admits that they look perfect on the outside, but quickly discovers that all couples have their problems. Juno's own mother left her when she was a baby to marry someone else, and Juno's father remarried a no-nonsense woman who continually refers to Juno as her "dumb-ass stepdaughter." I was thinking that this would be one of those movies about growing through life's struggles, owning your mistakes and rising to the challenge; it seemed like an obvious assumption given the accidental pregnancy-turned-adoption angle. One teenager's mistake is a barren woman's dream come true, surprise baby gets loving parents and everyone lives happily ever after. But no. The plot comes crashing down when Juno goes to visit the prospective parents of her baby and finds herself alone with the husband(Mark), with whom she has been exchanging music and almost-flirtatious conversation. While listening to a song Mark says reminds him of his prom, Juno and Mark start slow-dancing. A pregnant 16 year-old and a grown married man. It was at this point that Aaron announced, "I'm uncomfortable." My sentiments exactly. As they sway slowly back and forth together, Juno's head resting on Mark's chest, Mark says softly, "I'm leaving Vanessa." All of a sudden Juno is uncomfortable, not over the fact that the man she was hoping would be a father to her baby is coming onto her, but because he's leaving his neurotic and unaffectionate wife. I think I would have liked the movie if Mark and Vanessa really had been a loving couple dying for a baby, but the reality the film seems to be getting at is that everybody has problems and there's no such thing as a lasting marriage or a stable family so just do the best you can. Having been unwed and pregnant myself, I sympathize with Juno getting called a "dumb-ass" and receiving unwanted attention from the kids in school(though I think it was easier to be pregnant in college than it would have been in high school). To her credit, Juno doesn't let herself be defined by a moment of poor judgment and is frustrated by others' inability to see beyond her pregnant state. No one seems to be very upset about the fact that she had sex so much as the fact that she was dumb enough to get pregnant, a hypocrisy of our society I find infuriating. Having sex is fine, getting pregnant is what makes you an idiot. So after all that drama, Mark leaves his wife and Juno still gives her baby to Vanessa, a woman hungry for a baby but who demonstrates throughout the film her rigid inability to let people be who they are and insists they be who she wants them to be or get out of her life. Poor parent material, I think. But maybe I'm the crazy one for thinking that the point of parenthood is not to turn your children into who you want them to be, but to help them become who they want to be. And that's how the movie ends. No one really seems to experience any growth or change, and the message seems to be "find the best way to endure your problems until the storm passes so that you can go back to being the way you were before." And the soundtrack is absurd, accomplished mostly by two people who can't actually sing and can kind of play guitar. I can do neither, but I realize that and don't subject other people to performances of my "artistry" then defend my lack of talent by calling it "honest." Sure it's honestly; honestly bad. I sound like a huge prude and a major kill-joy, but I'm not really; I like movies that feature triumph over adversity and mistakes turning into opportunities for life-changing growth, but Juno isn't one of them.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just a Teaser

Today was amazing; we got a little summer preview and we took full advantage of the gorgeous weather. We got up and had breakfast, then went outside and stayed there all day. Aaron and I did a bunch of yard work while the boys played and watched and Jack occasionally helped. I had to stop to play with Matteas a lot as he is no longer content to merely observe, but that was fine with me. Aaron hired a guy to come cut out some stumps in our backyard and they left huge holes. Huge. Like you could bury a person in there. We have five or so of these holes in our yard, so Aaron and I spent a lot of time filling them in with dirt. So, having toys for kids is ridiculous. Give them some water in a dishpan and you've got at least an hour of entertainment. He was happy in here so long that he was all wrinkly when I finally took him out. We even had our lunch outside. We had grilled Monterey Jack cheese and turkey sandwiches on sourdough; warm sandwiches on a hot day seemed weird, but all we had was cheese and turkey so grilling was the only way to make it exciting. They were delicious. We had Grandpa Tom, Uncle Tristan and Uncle Conrad over for dinner to share some tasty hamburgers, green grapes and watermelon. Yes watermelon. It's not quite watermelon season yet, but it was nice and firm and sweet, not grainy. Jack is now passed out in bed after a popsicle and a bath and Aaron and I are tired and a little sunburnt. I'm excited for summer and more days like today; my feet are filthy and I have no complaints.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Does This Face Make My Eyes Look Small?

Matteas is the most amazing baby in the world. If he didn't torture me at night, I'd think he wasn't human. I have the Head Cold From Hell, so this morning I was parked on the couch with toilet paper stuffed up my nose to control the dripping while Jack watched Winnie the Pooh for the third time. It occurred to me that I hadn't heard from Matteas in a while, so I pried my eyes open and peeked over the edge of the couch to see what he was doing. He'd been quietly and happily playing with...Jack's dirty sock. For forty-five minutes. He saw me, and gave me this face. He's making pig noises. Like I said, amazing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Tricks

We discovered recently that Matteas can sit up on his own. I'm not sure how long he's been able to do this as we haven't tried until a few days ago; he's so content just rolling around most of the time. A few days ago he was sitting in my lap and I noticed he wasn't leaning against me, so I sat him up on the rug and let go. He stayed up. The couch behind him is there just in case, but he didn't need it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How Do I Stand the Cuteness?

For Jack's birthday our friend Jamie gave him the coolest present; a pop-up fort in the shape of Thomas the Tank Engine. Jack is always wanting to dismantle my couches to make a fort and it drives me nuts, so this fort(which folds flat for storage) is a brilliant solution. Matteas is also quite fond of it.
Matteas thinks it's better when it's tipped over.
As a teenager I had a brief rebellion during which I had a very bizarre impulse; when I saw an unattended traffic cone, I stole it. I stole a total of three from around the Seattle area and I've found all kinds of handy uses for them ever since. Plus Jack thinks it's super cool to have real construction cones to play with his tractors in the dirt. They also make very nice baseball tees. This was Aaron's idea. As kids we used to push each other around in a laundry basket all the time, but Matteas can't sit up on his own yet so Aaron implemented the tub seat. The boys had a great time.
I'm pretty sure Matteas knows he's cute.
Matteas recognizes Aaron's voice over the phone. I don't know if I've ever seen a baby as in love with his Daddy as Matteas is. Jack loves Aaron now, but as a baby he preferred Mama. Matteas, however, gets rather excited about Aaron coming home from work and if he is not in his Daddy's arms in a matter of moments he disintegrates.
This is my Uncle Zsolt, one of the coolest guys in the world.
Jack is in a horrible place with his napping. Normally he goes to bed at eight p.m. and wakes at eight a.m., which is a pretty nice cycle. But that's without a nap. If he naps he won't fall asleep until around ten, which doesn't make for a very nice evening. If he doesn't nap though, he is in a terrible mood from about 3 p.m. until bed time. I let him nap last week and to make sure he awoke cheerfully, I crept into his room and slipped Matteas into his bed. Both of the boys thought it was pretty cool, they really like snuggling each other. Matteas has gotten rather aggressive about wanting to participate in dinner lately, so the other night Aaron let him suck on a green bean. He mashed it between his gums(no teeth yet) until it was limp and lifeless. I didn't think he got anything out of it, but his morning diaper the next day contained ample evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Because I Have Healthy Babies

If you watched Oprah yesterday, you would've learned about a childhood skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa, or EB. It is a disease which, from birth, causes the skin to blister and form sores which cover the entire body. Eventually the hands and feet web from all the scarring, and most of the body must be covered with bandages to prevent infection. Most people with EB don't live beyond the age of 30, and every moment of every day is extremely painful. Currently, there is no cure. The Satya Foundation is selling a butterfly pendant necklace(sufferers of EB are called 'butterfly children' because their skin is as delicate as a butterfly's wing) and donating 100% of the proceeds to the EB Medical Research Foundation. I'm so grateful that I have two healthy boys, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be to watch your little baby suffer from such an awful disease. If you'd like to buy yourself a pretty necklace and donate money to a worthy cause at the same time, visit