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Month: March 2009

What to do, what to do?

What to do, what to do?

One of my shortcomings as a mother is finding age appropriate activities for the youngster. I’m not very artistic and I often think that Simon wouldn’t be interested in coloring, gluing, painting, etc. either so we end up reading lots of books. We usually read books after breakfast, before naptime, after naptime, and before bedtime. Often we’ll read the same 6 or 7 books over and over again for a week. This does not seem to bother the child one bit. He could hear about Maisy’s camping trip 567 times and still be enthralled. “More Maimys,” he’ll say after I’ve read it again. On the inside I’m banging my head against a wall, but on the outside I try to be as excited as he is. It isn’t always easy. A mother can only take so much, and a child likes to learn and do new things and be stimulated, and so on.
Lately I’ve noticed that Simon doesn’t really play with toys. If we get out the blocks, he just brings them to me and tells me what letters/numbers/pictures are on them. If we get out his puzzle pieces he brings them to me and tells me what animals/objects are on them. Balls are only fun if I throw them to him. In other words, he does not play by himself. Which means he wants me to play with him. If I’m not playing with him, he is pulling chairs around trying to get on my level so he can “help” me. I don’t mind this too much most of the time. But sometimes knives get in the way. He gets frustrated when I won’t let him cut his own bread with the bread knife and I get frustrated when I accidentally cut myself because I’m trying to keep the knife out of his reach. But the reason I am telling you this is because I would like Simon and I to be able to expand our repertoire of activities. He has “painted” some, but still needs lots of supervision in that area. Crayons are not as interesting. Play-doh is only cool if he can tell me what to make. I know that as the weather gets warmer we’ll be going to the park and playgrounds more frequently, which will certainly be welcome. Today was pretty much the first day it has been warm enough for such a thing and we went twice. The first time Simon went down the slides 7 bajillion times and spent about 3 minutes in the swing. Near the end of our trip he caught sight of this funky ladder thing and I helped him up several times. Then we went home and put him down for a nap and looked at blogs and saw that Simon’s friend Ambrose (who is 1 month older than him) can totally climb such ladders like a pro and I thought, “Maybe by the end of the summer Simon will be able to do that, too.” And then we went back to the playground when Micah got home from work and while I was busy being the family photographer, Micah was letting Simon do it himself. Which he did, twice, although both of us were hovering like helicopters as he did so. And that brings me to my next point: Simon can learn things and learn them much more quickly than I think he can. I underestimate his abilities too often. I started teaching him to “read” less than 2 weeks ago and he can already recognize nearly 30 words.
So, does anybody have ideas for things the child might like to do? Something that, ideally, would not involve me being at his side all the time (except when I’m teaching him)? Or is this just something I have to suffer through (suffer? did I say suffer? I meant something I get to live and love and learn from) until he is old enough to be a little more independent. He does have a birthday coming up (3 weeks from today!), so it might be possible for us to get him some fancy toy, although we really want to avoid electronics. He already has a computer and a camera. I mean, WE have a computer and a camera that he loves so much. Ideas, advice, resources . . . send them my way, please.

oliofolio

oliofolio

For the past few months I’ve been working on a project. It’s a blog that is the brainchild of a few writerly friends and me. Each week we have a different topic and each weekday there will be a new post on that topic, or a discussion, or some other related feature. There will be poetry, essays, observations, journalistic endeavors, dialogues, character sketches, etc. written by the 11 contributors. And it is already shaping up to be something really cool. We’d love to have a wider audience than just the 11 of us and our significant others, so please add oliofolio.com to your feed readers and come check us out. Leave comments. Tell us what you like and don’t like. Submit a topic idea, a question, a request to write a guest post (the e-mail address is oliofolio [at] gmail [dot] com). Tell your friends, your family. Whatever.

My first post is up today. The topic: Hard Habit to Break.

Official Call for Entries

Official Call for Entries

Time is flying, Easter is almost here, and we are now accepting entries into this years peep show. For inspiration and/or to figure out what we’re up to click here (what we did last year) or here (what we ripped off). Okay, here are the rules:

1. The display must include those abominable sugar-coated marshmallows called Peeps.
2. The deadline is Saturday, April 11th at midnight EST.
3. Submit a photograph of your entry to us via e-mail (heiselt at gmail (me) or heiseltea at gmail (Lizzie).
4. Blog readers will then have one week to vote for their favorites after we post the entries.
5. Winners will receive the following prizes:

First Prize: A personal logo or mark designed by a professional graphic designer.
Second Prize: A hand-knitted scarf knitted by an awesome scarf knitter.

Third Prize: Back flip lessons by a real back flipper (some restrictions apply)

Honorable Mentionables: Bragging rights and free publicity.

We look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Brrr.

Brrr.

The boiler in our building went out sometime yesterday morning. It is still out. We have no heat and no hot water. I haven’t showered since Saturday (which is really a long time for me). We have stacks and stacks of dishes in our sink from a fancy dinner we had with some friends last night. And it is so cold in our apartment. I just want to curl up in my bed and wait until Spring. Oh, wait. It is Spring. Then why on earth is it only 35 degrees outside?

I don’t want to be cold any more.

G is for Gratitude

G is for Gratitude

Micah and I had our plan. I may have mentioned it before. It was to pay off my student loans as quickly and painlessly as possible using Micah’s bonus check and the raise he would be getting after his first year as a salaried employee. We thought it was a good plan and that we could pay off the loans long before Simon entered kindergarten. Within a year or two even. And then September happened and we knew there would be no bonus and no raise at the end of his first year. And I began to grumble and worry and be anxious about how long it would take us to dig ourselves out of this little debt-hole and get to higher ground. And then we read Elder Bednar’s talk about prayer and decided one night to take his suggestion to give a “thanks only” prayer.

And then I felt a little silly because: we have a place to live. We are not in danger of losing that place to live. We have a fairly secure income. We both have the ability to freelance if that income becomes less secure. We have good health. We have a healthy child who is smart and fun and handsome (at least when he doesn’t have crusty snot around his nose). We like each other. A lot. We come from good families. We both graduated from college. We know how to drive (but we don’t need a car — thankfully). We come from good families who support us in our crazy endeavors. We lived in Hawaii for a few years. We live in Brooklyn. We have clothes and shoes in our closet and food in our cupboards and fridge (and Simon’s closet). We can be a family forever. We have peace. And so on and so forth.

I still find myself getting anxious and sad when I think about how things are going to take longer than we had originally planned, but then I remember that we are actually doing really well and I am grateful.

G is for Grocery Shopping

G is for Grocery Shopping

This is how it works: On Sunday night or Monday morning, I plan the meals, usually with Micah’s help (since this, I believe I have mentioned, is my least favorite chore). I take stock of our inventory and make a list. Monday is (usually) shopping day. We do not own a car, and I always have Simon with me when I go. The store is about two blocks away, so it’s not a long walk by any means. Simon used to ride on my back, but lately I have been letting him walk (and hoping that I can carry him and the groceries home if I need to). When we get to the store, Simon chooses the basket (I always get a basket so I know I can carry it all home). He usually picks up the first one and is really excited about it: “Purple!” and then sees the one underneath it and is even more excited: “Blue!” Last time we went to the store Simon chose a green basket, but had second thoughts while we were in the produce section and went back for a blue one.

He likes to “help” me carry the basket for as long as he can and he puts most of the groceries in the basket after I get them off the shelf. This prevents tantrums. The aisles in the store are narrow, often with a large pillar blocking half of it off, so it is essential to keep moving or stand to the side and let other shoppers through. There isn’t room for tantrums in the store. The cereal aisle is tricky. It also houses the baking goods and peanut butter and jelly, and we usually need to go down it. But Simon loves raisin bran and often gets upset if he doesn’t at least get to hold a box of it for a minute, so I try to have something else up my sleeve to get him through: “Hey, Simon, let’s go get some crackers. Hold my hand and we’ll go get some crackers.”

(These are the grocery bags we only wish we had. Photo from designmom.com.)

Once we’ve navigated the aisles and our basket is full, we check out. Most of the cashiers recognize Simon and smile at him as we approach, both holding the basket. I unload our things onto the conveyor belt and Simon — and this is a new development — looks for a place to put the basket away. Next to the baskets of juice at the entrance of the checkout aisle is no longer good enough. He needs to put it “away” as he reminds me several times in ten seconds (the child shows mild signs of anal-retentiveness, despite not having any real experience with potty training). But after that issue is resolved, it is time for his favorite part: pushing the buttons on the payment keypad. This also amuses the cashiers and they beam as I tell him which buttons to push.

And then we’re on our way home. These days I take a little nylon backpack and put as much stuff as I can in it so I have a free hand for Simon. He wants to carry a bag as well, and sometimes I let him hold on to one as long as the contents cannot be damaged by being dragged for a bit. But he gets tired of it after a minute and is happy to let me do the carrying. By the time we get home I’ve usually got groceries on my back and in my hands, and Simon on my hip.

G is for Goals

G is for Goals

I like to make goals. I like to have something to work towards. It helps me if it is something big like running a marathon or getting a master’s degree. Or marrying the handsomest man ever or having the most intelligent child in the world. But once I get down to smaller goals, it is easy for me say, “Why bother?” Right now I feel like I don’t have any goals at all, just vague ideas about things I’d like to do in my life: places I’d like to be published, books I’d like to write, countries I’d like to go to, and, of course, to be a better wife and a better mother. Those last two are ideas more than goals because I don’t know how to measure them and I don’t really know how to plan specific ways to achieve them, two important things to do when you are trying to change your life, I believe. It’s like making a New Year’s resolution to “get in shape” without also making the goal to go running 100 times that year or to stop dropping by Cold Stone every day after work. I feel like I’m just sort of waiting for it to happen.

And I’m left wondering:

Am I being a good wife just by letting Micah relax when he gets home from work? By trying to make foods he likes for dinner every now and then? By being happy to let him bring home the bacon while I try to keep his child happy and learning and growing?Am I being a good mom when I catch myself before I raise my voice? When I try to let Simon do things himself, even when it is slow and messy? When I play “steamroller” with him on the bed?
Sometimes these things seem so trivial and . . . not enough.

How can I make these goals more specific, quantifiable, attainable? Any ideas?

G is for Green

G is for Green

Green like this little piece of work that arrived on our doorstep yesterday:
Anybody know how to get a little boy to use it? Pointers are appreciated.

But really I mean the green of the great outdoors. The grass and trees and bushes. I miss it. This winter has felt really long. And cold. And we are often reminded that we chose to leave Hawaii so we could be here now. Hawaii, where everything is green (except our garden) and growing and warm and humid. It sounds lovely right now. I am especially reminded of this on days like today, when LOST is on and Micah and I spend an hour in the evenings wishing we could chase the castaways around the island and trying to figure out if we know where anything is filmed (we usually don’t).
It took me a long time to feel comfortable with Hawaii. I’d say I only really enjoyed the last 6 months, after our exit strategy was in place. But of course I now look back with fondness on the whole experience. And I miss it. I miss Saturday hikes on the Hau’ula trails, evening runs on Kam Highway, walking across the street to the beach, snorkeling at Sharks Cove, shave ice with ice cream in the bottom from Matsumoto’s. I miss (dare I say it) the chickens — if only because they were such a loud part of our life there. And they are better than the drunken yelling we get here sometimes. I miss being able to go tell people that we’re on our way to Honolulu and we’re going to Waikiki Beach. I miss looking for waterfalls on the windward side of the H-3 tunnel. I miss the times when it was just me and Micah doing whatever we wanted to do. I miss having lunch together outside the Cannon Center and walking home from work down Kulanui Street. I miss our friends. It seems like I barely got to know most of them before we had to leave (thank heaven for blogs). And the one thing I miss in particular is the drive between Punalu’u and Kaneohe, past Ka’a’awa, where the highway is so close to the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other and some times you are driving through the jungle and everything is so green and the road is windy and it felt so wild. I miss that. And I can’t wait to go back.

This week brought to you by the letter G

This week brought to you by the letter G

Originally I was planning to letter-of-the-week posts every once in a while as Simon learned the alphabet, but he caught on a lot quicker than I thought he would, so now I am just doing it because I want to.

Today: The G Train.
The G train is the only subway line that doesn’t go into Manhattan (shuttle trains don’t count). It is kind of funny looking on the map as it crosses from Queens into Brooklyn, through territory no other subway line even gets close to. I must admit that I was skeptical about the G line early in our time here. We rode the G up to Greenpoint (the northern most neighborhood in Brooklyn) one Saturday to go get some free wood that was listed on Craigslist. We had to wait a very long time for the train and it didn’t really connect to any “useful” subway line. But now we ride the G train regularly and I kind of like its quirkiness. I like that it is only 4 cars long (most trains are at least 8) and that it stops in the middle of the platform — even though it means we have had to run for it on several occasions. That’s okay because the G train is so much more personable than the other trains. The conductor sees a lady with a small child running for his train and he kindly waits until she gets there, often smiling and nodding as they cross through the doors, which he closes behind them.And of course Simon loves the G train. Well, any train really. It used to be that if I wanted to get him excited about going out somewhere I’d say, “We’re going on the train! Let’s get your shoes on so we can go on the train!” But he doesn’t fall for that any more. He has to know which train. “Gee? Gee?” he’ll ask (or “Cee?” or “Ess?” or “En?” or “Aar?”) and I’ll tell him which trains we’ll take to which places. And then he will sometimes be happy to let me put his shoes on. And then he will remind me every few minutes what train we are going on and ask if we are still on track to ride the promised trains. I can see us relating very strongly to this in a couple of years.

Someone’s in the Kitchen . . .

Someone’s in the Kitchen . . .

I’ve been branching out from my usual, safe, familiar, comfortable ingredients lately and coming up with some pretty spectacular recipes that I thought I would share. They are both sooo-good and so-good-for-you, and they don’t take too much time. A little planning, but not a lot of time. I apologize that I don’t have pictures of all the finished dishes from my own kitchen. I forget about the camera and then then the food is gone.

This beet risotto was a quick-and-easy dinner a few nights ago. It would have been quicker if we had a better knife for cutting the beets with, but we didn’t. I served it with a spinach/feta/strawberry salad topped with capers (we currently don’t have any dressings) and it was good. We have a lot of leftovers because it is really filling, but that just means more for later.
I’ve made this black bean and quinoa salad twice, which we eat as a main course. The trickiest part for me is cooking the quinoa. I’m not sure the directions on the recipe are the best, although it turned out fine. It was just a bit of a hassle because I don’t have a fine mesh sieve, so I was trying to use a dish cloth to rinse the quinoa beforehand and it was tricky not to make a mess. (Adding new knives and fine mesh sieve to kitchen wish-list.)

This lime and peanut salad is very much like the quinoa salad, only you use cabbage instead of quinoa and add some peanuts at the end. And no black beans. But I used pepitas instead of peanuts because I was planning to make this yellow pea and pepita salad, and then overcooked the peas until they turned to mush (don’t worry, I made a soup out of the mush and it turned out okay and hardly took any extra time at all).

Micah ate three bowls of this curried brown rice (recipe below) with tomatoes and peas the first time I made it. I thought it was pretty darn tasty, too, so I made it again. It does have to bake for an hour, so you have to plan ahead enough to accommodate that, but other than that it is a very easy meal to prepare. And did I mention that it is tasty? I got it from The New Best Recipe cookbook.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped medium
1 1/2 teaspoons hot curry powder (we use a mild curry powder)
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
salt
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cup brown rice (length of grain does not matter)
2 1/3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (we use chicken bullion)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed


Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet over meadium-high heat until foaming; add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent (3 minutes). Add the curry powder, ginger, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until fragrant (1 minute). Add the tomatoes and cook until heated through. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Spread the rice in a 8×8 inch baking dish. Bring broth to a boil, covered, in a saucepan over high heat. Once it boils, add 1/8 teaspoon salt and pour over the rice. Stir the tomato mixture into the rice and spread into an even layer. Cover with a double layer of foil and bake 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, stir in the peas, and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 5 more minutes.

I don’t know how essential the last 10 minutes of standing are. I assume the first 5 are so the peas get warm and the second 5 are so everything else gets a chance to cool a bit.

And then to round it all out we made (well, Micah made) these delicious doughnuts. Balance out our eating a bit, you know. It’s important.