Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DIY Compost Bin

The produce section of the grocery store is always so fresh and bright that I fill my cart with a zillion plastic bags of fruits and veggies. At home I put them in the "crisper." A few weeks later the crisper has become the "rotter," and I'm throwing out way too much produce.

I convinced my husband we needed a compost bin for all of the limp lettuce and bendy carrots along with our table scraps (my 3-year-old won't eat anything green). He quickly agreed, because it would save him bagging and hauling a ton of leaves in the fall.

We aren't remotely handy, but you don't have to be. I went to a hardware store and got 4 pallets ($2 each) and convinced a guy there to tie them to my car (no you don't need a truck, just drive slow).

At home we used L-joints and bungee cables to attach them in a square, then we attached it to our fence so it wouldn't blow over.

It took a year of sprouted potatoes, bags of salad (minus the bags), brown bananas and leaves/grass, but we got enough compost this spring for our flower beds and garden. It is so amazing how all that trash turns into healthy compost!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Baby Fix

I'm posting this favorite happy baby picture so that tomorrow while I'm at work I can zip over to my blog now and then (okay, every ten minutes) and remember what will be home waiting for me after my hour long commute:

All right, let's be realistic:

Friday, April 25, 2008

On Being a Mom

I'm currently riding the emotional rollercoaster of my pending return to work (this coming Monday). There's the regret I didn't spend enough time with them, the stress of finding good childcare, the relief of getting out of the house (away from my kids), then the guilt for feeling relief for wanting to get away from my kids.

Tonight I'm going to post an essay I found online a year or so ago that always helps me put things in perspective when I'm letting my expectations (of myself) start getting out of control. Then I'm going to go look at my sleeping children and try to fix in my memory those peaceful, baby expressions and how they make my heart sing.

On Being a Mom
by Anna Quindlen

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past. Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout.

One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I included that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I included that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Top 20/Bottom 10

I decided the Top 20/Bottom 10 lists should get their own blog, and here it is!
I'm dedicating this new blog to lists and list-makers, so if you make one let me know and I'll link back to you

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In a Jam

Once I convinced my preschooler that jam didn't start out in jars and we were about to make some, she ran and got her book, "Bread and Jam for Frances," which would serve as our recipe.

Her favorite part of the jam making was all-you-can-eat strawberries as she dropped the strawberries into the (unplugged) food processor. Second favorite was pretend-snapping me with the rubber bands that were on the pint containers.

Then she found the 2 biggest strawberries I've ever seen in my life. She put them on a paper towel along with a regular sized strawberry and dubbed them a family. Then she mimicked their scared little voices, "No no, don't cut off my hair," (when I cut the green tops off) and "don't chop up my mommy!" I swear I did not teach her to make her food talk. It is very disturbing.

The one thing that was a hassle was the sticky factor. I'm kind of messy in the kitchen (understatement) and combine that with my preschooler's talent for covering every surface with goo, I'm still finding stickiness.

We've been having bread and jam every morning for breakfast and it's so yummy. I think it has a surprisingly bright flavor, and you just need a really thin layer to get a big taste. This was a lot of fun, and not that hard. Plus it's good for my ego to see all those little jars of jam. Maybe I'll try raspberry jam in a few months.

Bread and Mulch

On Tuesday I took the kids into town to mail the taxes and get a couple bags of mulch and a loaf of bread. Pretty straightforward, right?

Well, in the grocery store I walked through the produce section and they had this amazing deal on the yummiest looking local (well, Pennsylvania) strawberries. I HAD to buy them. We already have a bunch frozen for smoothies, so I figured I'd better make strawberry jam. I've always wanted to make jam, but hadn't done it before. I stopped by the canning section and stood there for a while trying to figure out what I'd need. Daughter was buckled in to the "truck" cart.

I've gotten to be an expert at steering the truck carts. The best thing about them is the child sits down in the front instead of up in the basket, which means her mouth is far, far away from my ears. Sometimes if there's a break in the background noise I hear her down in there, whining for something or complaining, but like magic, suddenly I can't hear her again. So unless she is actually wailing, or if she's hanging her head out the side where an oncoming cart could smash it, I can enjoy some peaceful shopping.

Anyway, so I was in the canning section picking out jam jars. I have made a couple of forays into the world of food preservation, with varying degrees of success. Peaches and salsa mainly. I ended up with sugar, pectin and freezer containers. At the check-out I realized, oops - I forgot to get bread, the one thing I'd gone in there for. Finally I was finished at the grocery store and only ended up with about $40 more than I intended to buy.

Next I headed to a garden store for mulch and when I got there they had their herbs and flowers outside. In the spring it's just so easy to get carried away with garden plans. I have these images of an old fashioned herb garden where I can just step out for cooking ingredients or home remedies. They had a great selection, so I got one of everything. I ended up with stuff like Feverfew and Echinacea and St. John's Wort. I even got a Stevia plant. Once I got home I looked them up and I can't imagine we'll ever use them. Hopefully they'll be pretty anyway.

So I got the herbs, a couple of tomato and pepper plants and a bunch of pretty flowering perennials. I'm so over annuals. I got them all loaded up in the car and realized I'd forgotten the mulch. With all the groceries and plants there just wasn't even room for mulch. At least I managed the bread.

It wasn't until I got home that I realized I just bought supplies for a week's worth of work, and none of it can be put off, since the strawberries and potted plants have a definite shelf life. This explains why I haven't been on much this week. ;)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Please pass the Rogaine

I've been making fun of my baby for only losing hair on one side of his head. If they made Chia pets that look like babies and you only watered half of it, that's what he looks like. I thought it was being rubbed off in his sleep, but he's pretty still when he sleeps, and he doesn't sleep on the bald side.

Then it hit me. It's my fault!

When he cries, I soothe him by putting my cheek against the side of his head and 'shhhing' in his ear. His head is still pretty wobbly so it's rubbing against my cheek. And I only hold him like that on one side - the balding side.

So could someone please pass the Rogaine? I figure a little and he'll be good as new. Maybe that and some T-Gel for his cradle-cap-from-hell.

While you're at it, could you hook me up too? I seem to be losing more than he is as I'm getting over the whole pregnancy thing. Maybe I shouldn't feel bad for turning him into some freaky half-grown chia pet and just call it even.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What Good Looks Like

A year ago at work everyone got a poster that showed, "What Good Looks Like" (WGLL) for their own position. Lately I've been wondering WGLL for the Mom Career Path.

There's the obvious: Love, provide, teach, be an example, listen.

But do any of us really feel like we're doing enough? How many of us feel like WGLL is a clean house, tidy kids, cookies from scratch, well-balanced meals made with organic food and humanely raised animals, good manners, making sock puppets which star in plays? Shakespeare plays. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but not much.

Let me tell you about WGLL around here. Me getting dressed before noon. My daughter brushing her teeth morning AND night. Or just once. I'll take once! Washing hands after going potty instead of just using hand sanitizer because mom's nursing the baby AGAIN and the faucet sticks too much for daughter to turn on. A game of Candyland. Sloppy kisses and too-tight hugs. Making macaroni and cheese together. Giggling about the baby's loud farts. Pretend picnics and tea parties that last 10 minutes because that's about my limit. No TV before lunch. Lunch. A shower every other day. Holding the baby at night while he sleeps instead of doing the dinner dishes because that's the only alone time I get with him. Laughing.

Why do we as women put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything? WGLL should be sane, balanced, happy women that enjoy their kids most of the time, don't feel guilty when they don't, and are confident that while maybe they can't do everything, what they are doing is enough.

As I read blogs and chat with friends it really seems like we share so many similar challenges. Why does it have to be competitive for so many women? We need to stick together. We're good moms! So, tell me WG -really- LL at your house.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My duckling's a swan after all

I was looking over my posts about my son and I've really not painted a very attractive picture of him. I've talked about his resemblance to a raccoon, a baby elephant, a tiny old man and a changeling. I've told the public about his earlobe hair and gassiness and then I set him up for the worst pinch of his short life. I think it's about time I say something nice about him!

He's such a patient baby. When he has a stuffy nose he lets me put drops in and doesn't cry. He lets his sister kiss him at least 5,148 times/day without getting fussy about it. He's got the softest hair, amazing blue eyes, and he smells sooo good (most of the time). He's so happy most of the time and almost always gives me coos and special smiles when he sees me.

Someday if he ever reads this blog I hope he's not too mad about the Ugly Baby post. I had to hunt really hard to find those awful photos. I actually think he's a very beautiful baby, and not just because I'm his mom.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My daughter's top 20 bottom 10

Here's what I think she'd list:

TOP 20
1. Cinderella
2. Ariel/Jasmine (tie)
3. watching TV or movies
4. being able to reach the light switch
5. slobbery kisses from my baby brother
6. doing my own seatbelt
7. wearing fast shoes
8. bubbles
9. cooking with Mom
10. green noodles (pesto sauce)
11. playing board games with someone
12. being read to
13. playing tea party
14. being silly with Dad
15. playing hide-and-seek
16. cookies with m&m's in them
17. shopping
18. dancing
19. when my brother smiles at me
20. working in the garden with Mom

1. getting in trouble
2. bugs
3. eating food that's green (apart from green noodles)
4. scary dreams
5. ponies
6. flying kites
7. going to bed
8. turning off the tv
9. potty accidents
10. not getting my way