Monday, May 24, 2010

Jump right in

Nora had her first swim lesson today and I must say, she kicked butt. A lot of the kids were afraid of the water, but she took right to it and was kicking up a storm (with good form!) within minutes. I'm not sure where she learned to do that since she last took lessons at 22 months and we didn't swim very much last summer when she was turning 3, plus she never liked to kick for me. She's ready to take off and I have hopes that she'll really be swimming well by the end of the summer. She'll also be four by the end of the summer. Gulp.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My biggest challenge this summer is to make sure everybody stays busy and engaged. The last thing I want to do is look up and find that we spent the summer on the couch. Nora's starting swim lessons next week and later in the summer is doing both VBS and summer camp at her new preschool. In the meantime, though, I'm trying to arrange a lot of playdates and outings to keep us all from going insane.

This week, though, the first week after school got out, was a quiet week. We played with friends a couple of times, watered the garden, and Nora practiced riding her bike with her Jason in the evening. One evening we picked Jason up from work and we all went to the Botanical Garden and then had dinner at Atlantic Station. Mostly, though, we've been home. We've slipped into a nice little pattern where I get to spend some alone time with each girl. Mid-morning, Anneliese goes down for a nap and I have time to play with Nora. We play a game or read a few books, have lunch, and get ready for Nora's nap. If I'm lucky and Nora falls asleep right away, Anneliese will wake up happy and I have some time with her. We curl up on the couch and I open the blinds and watch the sun stream on her sweet little face. I take pictures. I can hear her little giggles better than usual because the house is silent. I've even taken a few quiet videos--and most of the ones I take the rest of the time she will have to one day watch in mute because there is almost always music or TV or, most likely, Jason talking in the background. Love those times--that I can still carve out some quiet cuddles with Nora, and that I have time to slowly get to know sweet Anneliese.


Monday, May 17, 2010

We have an ongoing debate about who Anneliese looks like, and whether or not she looks like Nora. Why this matters, I'm not sure, but I think about it a lot. A while back we were visiting with Jason's family. They shared some old photos I hadn't seen. Everyone has always commented that Nora looks strongly like Jason, which I kind of see, but to my surprise she doesn't resemble him at all in his baby and childhood photos. I think she looks more like Jason's brother, Chris, and when I saw baby pictures of Chris I saw that Anneliese resembles him strongly as well. Go figure. Of course, Jason and Chris have a similar look to them, but their features are a little different. I'd like to think my own genetics have an influence on how my kids look, but so far there's not much evidence of that! Anneliese may have my mother's thin lips. Otherwise, I got nothing.

As for whether or not she looks like Nora, well, kind of. She looks more like Nora in pictures than she does in person (IMO) and she especially looks like her from certain angles. Here's a recent shot:


Just for fun, here's Nora at the same age. (I chose this photo because I cut part of her head off here just like I did in the above picture of Anneliese. Man, I'm good.)


Dunno. What do you think? I'm asking the two of you who actually read this blog.

Jason's been telling Nora some stories that he made up about two animals, Charles Squirrel and Olivia Robin. Olivia's name was actually Lydia, but Nora started calling her Olivia and it stuck. Charles is a slightly dim-witted squirrel who lives in a tree in our backyard. Olivia is a robin who helps him figure out what's up. I actually don't know a lot of the details of the stories since that's their thing. But it's very cute; very A.A. Milne if you ask me. The sweetest thing is that Nora seems to think Charles and Olivia are real. She calls out to them when we're in the backyard and cranes her neck looking for them. When she sees a squirrel she says, "It's Charles Squirrel!" in her cute little lisp. As she is approaching four she is becoming so worldly--not in a bad way, but in a "I'm more wise to the world" way--that I am just clinging to every little expression of her 3 year old innocence. Tonight I asked her to tell Anneliese a story about Charles Squirrel, and she made one up all by herself. It had a beginning and a middle and, well, kind of an end, she lost interest after the climax and mostly dropped it. In a nutshell (hee!), Charles had made friends with a catapillar and when he began to form his cocoon, he didn't know what was happening so he asked Olivia Robin to explain it. Olivia did, and then he got to see his caterpillar friend become a butterfly (a "baby butterfly," actually), and all was well. Jason walked in in the middle and was surprised to hear her telling a Charles Squirrel story that he hadn't made up himself. He said she may have borrowed slightly from a Wonder Pets episode, but still. I'm impressed with her skillz.

And now, a quick story about me. The other day I heard a segment on This American Life about a rat in a toilet. This was from an episode called "Urban Legends." It was an old urban legend that was actually proven to be true. The person in the segment vividly described a time he was using the bathroom and a rat actually came up into his toilet and scared the bejeezus out of him. Tonight I was using the bathroom here at home and I heard a scary scritching noise. I nearly jumped out of my skin, sure that I was about to come face to face with a snarling, beady-eyed creature. Luckily it turned out to be nothing, but now that I know of the possibility that a real rat could enter a home through a toilet, I think I'll always be a little paranoid.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

We noticed two tiny little green tomatoes on our cherry tomato plant! This is so exciting, although as is typical we were on our way somewhere when I saw the tomatoes for the first time and I didn't take a picture. Less exciting is that Jason reports there is only one little green tomato on our plant when there used to be two. Hmm. We're still enjoying our lettuce, but I am noticing holes in the leaves and a few other places. I suspect flea beetles. We're going to try to water more carefully because supposedly watering the leaves can attract pests. (Don't quote me on this, I'm getting my info from Jason, who read it... somewhere.) Disappearing tomatoes and possible flea beetles are a little intimidating for this novice gardener, but we're going to keep on plugging away and see what we end up with.

Jason tried to let me sleep in this morning, but it didn't really work out. I find myself fantasizing about a hotel room somewhere, all by myself, phones turned off, blackout curtains drawn. Since I have a less than three month old in my life, this is probably pretty far in the future, but a girl can dream. Right before I got pregnant with Anneliese (literally, like, the day before...), I had a weekend away with my best friend and it was beyond fabulous. We were going to try to get away again before I had the baby, but it didn't work out because of time and money constraints. Now she's pregnant too and I don't know when it will happen again. Both of us have many months (years?) of nurturing babies before we can do a whole weekend again, I'm sure.

On this Mother's Day weekend, I am feeling like a very lucky woman. I have a sweet husband and the most fabulous little girls. How can I describe their fabulousness without resorting to cliche? Nora is sweet, kind, adventurous, dramatic, and so, so loving. For the past year or so we've had a little exchange we like to do:

Nora: I love you, Mommy!

Me: And I love you. We love each other!

Both: Yes, we do!

Dorky, but awesome. (Aside--Nora is, at this point in her life, less dorky than either one of her parents. I think she's actually kind of popular. How is this possible? I thought the dorky gene was dominant!)

Anneliese is cuddly and beautiful and has the most eager, crooked grin. I love her giggles and coos. She has the most intent little "conversations" with us. I love how easygoing and adaptable she is. The transition to a family of four has been almost seamless--how could I hope for anything more? I love holding her, feeding her, and wearing her, and I can't wait to learn more about her. In some ways I feel like she's been with me forever, and in other ways I feel like I'm still getting to know her.

I'm a lucky, lucky mama!

Photos by my friend Dara. Check out her blog!

Happy Mother's Day, all.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2:15 a.m.  I'm sitting up, freshly showered, waiting for both my hair and the cloth diapers to finish drying. My hair because, as I mentioned before, it looks like poo if go to bed with it wet. The diapers because I borrowed them from my friend Christine and I need to pass them on to another pregnant mama who is due in three weeks. I'm still trying to fine tune my diapering system this time around, but long story short, we're going to use prefolds and wool for a while. I used to geek out over cloth diapers, but at this point they're mostly functional and not much for me to get excited about. Still, I like them and I'm glad we use them. The El Cheapo side of me thrills at the fact that I've never purchased a disposable diaper.

Parenthood and thrift have turned us into accidental environmentalists. We don't do nearly as much as a lot of people, but for a family who a few years ago was virtually oblivious to our impact on the world around us, we've come a long way. I think back to our first apartment in Atlanta. We had a recycling box that I'm not sure we ever touched. Jason might have put the newspaper in there. That's embarrassing! I hadn't grown up recycling so it just wasn't on our radar. Note to myself in 2003: it's not that hard. Today I get a kick out of finding things we can put in the recyling, and now the compost.

It's helpful that the better choice for the earth is also sometimes the better choice for our health and/or our wallets. Everyone who knows me knows I'm all about the breastfeeding advocacy, but when I think back to when I was pregnant with Nora, saving money was a huge reason I wanted to breastfeed. Same with the cloth diapers. We made an investment up front but it really paid off in the long run. I made all of Nora's baby food because it was fun and because there were perfectly good organic fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market--why not buy them and steam them myself instead of paying Gerber to do it for me? I was home anyway. Reusable grocery bags are obviously a huge trend over the past few years, but now that everybody in the world seems to be using them, I wonder why we weren't doing it all along! Our hybrid vehicle is purchase that was partially driven by my obsession with good gas mileage and partially just the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

This brings me to our latest venture. I think we're going to join a meat CSA. We've long been curious about purchasing local grassfed beef, but I always thought it wasn't an option for us because we don't have much freezer space. The goal here is both to eat locally grown food and to eat animals that are raised in a humane environment and eating the foods they're meant to be eating, like grass instead of corn for beef. After seeing Food, Inc I decided to investigate a little more and find out the smallest amount that we could buy in bulk and still have room to store. Google seems to think that my freezer could hold 35-40 pounds, but in doing this research I learned about an alternative to making a one-time grassfed beef purchase: the meat CSA. I have been familiar with the idea of fruit and veggie CSA for several years. There are probably dozens in the Atlanta area and we have considered buying in in the past, but there were a few things about them that weren't practical for our family. Our interest in fresh and local produce led us to starting our garden. I'd never heard about the same idea applied to meats, but I'm intrigued and think this could be a great thing for our family. The way it works is that we pay a (hefty) sum and we receive two dozen eggs and sixteen pounds of meat, a mixture of grassfed beef and pastured pork. We would probably try to obtain a free range chicken from time to time. We're going to try this for three months and see how it goes.

I'm a little bit excited, a little bit intimidated. This is going to require a big chunk of our food budget every month, so I hope we can budget wisely and make the most of our CSA share. We already try to eat a couple of vegetarian meals a week and we want to continue doing that. I feel like we eat way more than sixteen pounds of meat a month right now, but I'm really not sure. We do eat out too much right now and we really need to stop that like, yesterday. One of the things I'm the most nervous about is learning to cook cuts of meat I'm not used to working with. I have learned to cook gradually over the course of my adulthood, and there has been a lot of boneless chicken in my past. I'm not afraid to try new things (thanks to the internet--I'd be hopeless in the kitchen without it) but things like roasts are just intimidating. Such a big hunk of meat to potentially screw up, you know? There's also a part of me that is a little bit sad to say goodbye to those grocery store sales on factory farmed chicken. When the prices would drop to $1.69/lb I'd buy ten pounds and stock the freezer. Local chicken seems insanely expensive, and I have to cook the whole thing, something I've only done a handful of times. Between this CSA and cooking from my garden, I'll be challenged to get creative in the kitchen, which is honestly a great thing for me. I think I'm a very capable cook, but I'm very married to my recipes. I think it will be nice to break out of that pattern. Just don't expect any photos of what I cook, because I'm bad at taking pictures of food, and poorly taken food pictures gross me out.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago we got the Netflix for Wii disc that allows us to watch streaming movies on our TV. Best. thing. ever. We really need to bite the bullet and get rid of cable. We've been talking about it for a while and just haven't gotten around to it. I do want to make sure we can still get local channels once we drop it. The Netflix Instant Watch selection is so well-rounded I think I could watch things on it for a long time without running out of things to watch.

I realized a while back that I'm way out of the movie loop. That makes me sad. I also don't read nearly as much as I used to. Growing up, I devoured books. I think that internet time has replaced a lot of my reading and movie-watching time. Now that I have a Ipod with wireless internet, even at times when in the past a book would be a given, like in a doctor's office, I'm more likely to be on Facebook. Jason and I used to love going to the movies and spent way too much money hitting the Lefont Plaza, Landmark (which was called something different back then), and Tara Theaters when we first moved to Atlanta.

Recently on Netflix I saw the movie Doubt, which stars Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. I found this character-driven film to be food for my atrophyed-by-reality-television brain. The pace of the film was slow but tantalizingly so, building towards a brilliant climax and denouement that's left me pondering for days. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the primary plot deals with possible abuse of power in a religious situation, specifically a Catholic sex abuse scandal; how our faith guides us on the continuum between doubt and certainty; and what we cling to and to whom we turn in the absence of certainty. As I watched the movie I found myself thinking about my own instincts and the times that I do and don't listen to them. I really related to Amy Adams' character, who found herself unwittingly tangled in a web of scandal when she, an optimist, desperately longed for peace. In one memorable scene Meryl Streep's character accused Adams' character, "You just want things to be resolved so you can have simplicity back." I thought, "That's so me!" There are times in my life that I'll do almost anything to avoid conflict. It doesn't always serve me well.

I have been bursting to talk about the movie, especially since I've been Googling and finding that there are a variety of interpretations of almost every scene. I wanted to talk about it so badly that I actually recounted the entire plot to Jason on a car trip the other day, essentially ruining the entire film for him. But I know he'll never get around to watching it, anyway. That's the way it goes with us. We're trying to watch Mad Men together and we've managed two episodes over the past eleven weeks. For us that's one of the realities of being in a relationship for nine years and having two young children. It's a bummer, but I feel really good about our relationship overall and look forward to one day in the future when we'll have time to sit around and watch movies all the time again. A full time housekeeper would free up a lot of time for those pursuits--just sayin'--not that that'll ever happen. ;) If anyone reading this has seen the movie and wants to chat me up, please do so while it's fresh in my mind! I'm so foggy these days that I'll probably forget the details in a couple of weeks. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you should. I love a juicy dramatic movie.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I find myself blogging late on a Sunday night (Monday morning) yet again. No shower tonight, but I could probably use one. I got one this morning, but that was in Pensacola, and it was muggy there today! Weather is one thing Jason and I definitely don't miss about Pensacola. I hate my "Pensacola [extra frizzy] hair." Jason hates his too (it's kind of curly), but I think it's cute. Neither one of us likes the stickiness that we just can't shake off. I find that even after being outside only briefly I get so hot that I still feel gross a couple of hours later.

Anneliese got to meet a lot of people, but there are still a lot of people who have yet to meet her! We got to see a lot of Jason's family, including Jason's mom and his brother and brother's fiance, all of whom live out of town. His youngest brother has always lived in Pensacola but is in the process of moving to California. We had full, full days, getting up early in the morning and visiting all day and not getting to bed until ten or later.

Nora was in rare form on the car ride home this afternoon. I think she was in the process of crashing from a major, several-days'-long sugar high. I don't know if I'd seen her that way before and it was kind of scary! We're far from sugarfree; we're a "everything in moderation" family. I've always kind of rolled my eyes at supposed correlation between excess sugar and behavior problems. But I'm starting to wonder if there's some credence to the idea. Of course it's hard to isolate one factor when we're also traveling and there's lots of excitement, late bedtimes, etc. But we do eat more junk than usual when we travel and it's something we should probably keep an eye on in the future.

Speaking of traveling--we're planning a week in Pensacola around July 4, so I hope we'll get to see some more people then. We were also thinking of renting a place at the beach in August, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out given the oil spill. Everyone we spoke to over this visit was very worried about the effect of the spill and the ramifications it's going to have on local industry, everything from fishing to tourism and trickling on down. I hope it doesn't turn out to be as bad as some people fear. If the beach is unusable because of the spill, we probably won't rent a place since beachgoing was going to be our focus. We have been kicking around some other road trip ideas, including either Philly or Chicago, but after this recent reminder of what it's like to travel in the car with an infant, I think we might end up having a "staycation." Which is the cheesiest "word" in the world, but I can appreciate it on some level because it's very succinct! It might be nice to have a lot of family time and check out some things in Atlanta we've either never been to or haven't been to in years. We could also do a weekend in Chattanooga or Athens if we wanted to get out of town for a few days. The more I think about it the more excited I am at the prospect of staying at home, having Jason take some time off, and spending all that time together. It's no secret that I love Atlanta, and the fact that I'm still chomping at the bit to get out and do all the things it has to offer really confirms that it's the best place for our family to be.

I'm still thinking about what I want to do with those last few garden squares. Time's a wasting--I need to get some seeds or transplants in the ground. While I was at my mom's house, I had limited internet access. I spent a lot of time thumbing through a old Southern Living Annual Recipe book looking for recipes and inspiration. I saw one for cilantro pesto--intriguing! I wonder the best way to eat it? When I think pesto my mind automatically goes to pasta, pizza, and bread--three things that I should probably be eating less, not more of. I took home a small bagful of my grandfather's compost. He died almost four years ago and was ill for a while before that, so it's really old. I didn't even know he had compost back there. My grandmother was boggled that I only took a grocery bagful, like what was the point I guess, but we really don't need a lot right now. It's a component of the original soil mix for our square foot garden, but once the soil is in the box you only need to add a trowel of compost every time you replant. We're also making our own compost, so that will be ready eventually. I might end up taking a lot more of Grandfather's compost if one day we build another bed, but for now we're all set.

Cute baby:


Cute big girl:


My desktop weather app is grumbling something fierce and Jason told me there's a 100% chance of rain for tomorrow. I foresee a stay-at-home day. I hope I at least get a grocery list done, because the cupboards are looking pretty bare. Truth be told I'm probably not up to taking them both out on a rainy day to restock, but if I can at least get a list made then Jason or I can get it done tomorrow evening. I hope.