Slowly but slowly

November 30, 2010 at 8:29 am (Uncategorized)

This year I’m being smart.  Sometimes (occasionally) I learn from previous mistakes.  I’m known for starting projects with no room to complete them. Art projects with zero table room, cookies with zero counter space, furniture rearrangements with toys still littering most of the carpet.  I end up with haphazard stacks, leading to breakage and stress and me needing to get more personal space by sending children somewhere else.  Cooking on Thanksgiving the lack of counter space snuck up on us and I was not relaxed in any way.  So I remembered that Christmas decorating was stressful for me last year because I was begged convinced to do it before I actually had prepared for it.  I couldn’t even find the tree ornaments in the abyss that is our garage.

So I’m working on decluttering and putting away extra knick-knacks before I bring out the Christmas stuff.  I figured I’d start at the front door and work in.  I’ve spent the last THREE hours cleaning our entryway.  The entryway that is simply one corner of our living room. 

Our entryway features a shoe basket, shoe hanger, shoe bench, two coat racks, three shelves, a box for each person’s various sundries that might be needed out in the world, and other various boxes of hats, socks, school papers, emergency birthday cards, emergency changes, and emergency 2nd/3rd/4th/5th pairs of underwear for the day. [I may be a little tired of potty-training that takes over a year.]  Believe it or not, our system works out pretty well.  I consider keeping our socks by the door instead of upstairs in drawers (one or two or thirty minutes away, depending on who is dispatched) one of my crowning parental achievements.

This is as good as it gets.
Entryway

Found:

  • 17 hats that fit Willa. Most cute, but 17?
  • $450 of gift certificates I’d been wondering about
  • 12 tubes of lip balm
  • 4 passes to the zoo about to expire
  • 13 binkies. Who uses a binky in our house, you ask? Nobody. (Okay, I will admit Greta was weaned from them VERY recently.)
  • Untold numbers of special rocks, small LEGOs, pens, pencils, hair bands, and bobby pins
  • 1 puddle of pee of indeterminate small female origin (we’re all about the class, here at the JaRuud Household)

Oh, and I finally took down the Halloween decorations.  Such as they were.  My kids would love us to deck out the house for Halloween.  I used to say, back in my ideological college days, that Halloween decorations were what is wrong with the U.S., because people spend a fair amount of money on them, and they could be spending those dollars on improving the lives of all the people in the world who need more to eat.  My 34-year-old self agrees with my 21-year-old self, but I’ve softened to have about half a box of reusable decorations.  Nothing flashy.

At this rate, the tree will be up January 23rd.

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Thanksgiving’s Ten Things Thankful

November 26, 2010 at 4:45 pm (Uncategorized)

Updated Friday: I could’ve sworn I hit publish on this yesterday but apparently not…

Today I am thankful for caring and kind people, all of my family and friends. A few specifics, in no particular order:

~ Auden, my go-to baby holder and chemistry expert

A bathrobe makes a lovely lab coat

~ Greta, big sister, little sister, baker, my (almost) constant companion

~ Willa, who’s actually been needing my attention lately, and I love her for it. Up to then, she’d been so easy-going that I worried I was neglecting her, taking care of all the others. She’s such a nice weight on my back, for a little while that is.

Sisters

~ Mark, book reader, dishwasher loader, provider for our family, and funny to boot

Not the greatest pic

~ Parker, grocery-sled puller, turkey liver eater (I can’t honestly say I’ve ever tried it, but he asked to today), silly silly boy

my shopping cart

~ Being lucky enough that the first five/ten thankfuls are covered just with my immediate family

~ My brother-in-law Justin, who steps in my kitchen every time he’s over and helps me pull it all together

~ My uncle Gordon, who stayed with us last weekend and paid an amazing amount of attention to my boys

Good-bye Gordon

~ My mom, who spent all day in the Thanksgiving kitchen with me, and is so much more patient with my children than I am

~ My niece Mabel, music lover, dancer, fellow lover of carbs and berries. Though I have my own kids, aunties and their nieces get to have special bonds

DSC_0341

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I have no voice

November 23, 2010 at 6:08 am (Uncategorized)

Physically and mentally. I’m calling it quits on NaBloPoMo. It’s bringing me down, man. There’s sleep to be had and snow to be played in. If I could just ditch this cold.

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Ready or not, here it comes

November 22, 2010 at 7:50 am (Parenthood)

About six weeks pregnant for the first time, I walked into a baby store.  A mistake.  I wasn’t ready.  Twenty feet in I freaked out, turned on my heels, and hightailed it out of there.  Five months later, I reentered, happily.  Ready to think about the purchases motherhood entails.

How I feel about Christmas on November 21st is like how I felt about pregnancy at six weeks.

Give me another Christmas trimester.  The holiday season seems to last about six weeks these days.  Can I have two weeks more before I have to think about buying anything?

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Six year old fun

November 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm (AJ, PJ)

No time to blog so I will just share a quick thought.  I’ve used up my computer time creating our Happy New Year’s card in time to redeem my coupon code, complete with some really bad poetry.  I don’t know about you, but those sites’ endless coupons keep getting me.  Even though I know another coupon will come along, I end up getting the idea that I must order something, that I might not even want, NOW, on a deadline.  Their marketing is working.  And I’m mad at myself because I’ve just ordered something that does exactly what another preschool mom brought up the other day- point out how cute girls are (something they can’t change and haven’t worked for), and when talking to boys, talk about what they can do.  She’s totally right that society and lots of parents do this.  Of course I want my daughters to know they have value for what they’re doing and not how cute they are.  And now I’ll be propagating it.  Ugh.  I’m going to have to sleep on it.

But the one quick thing I actually wanted to write about was what a wonderful age first grade is.  If you’re not there yet, I think it’s a safe bet you can look forward to it.  As opposed to some of the teen years.  How many other years with your kids will you have in want to 1) do a research project about an animal, and then 2) imagine they are that animal the rest of the weekend?  Auden and Parker came home Friday with an animal project, Auden a Harris’s hawk and Parker a badger.  It’s not due until after Thanksgiving but they were so excited that I was convinced to hold up dinner for over an hour to help them read the literature and write out sentences.  After that, they went straight into character and practiced living in the desert.  Otherwise known as the living room.  I’m realizing that the age Parker and Auden will want to pretend no longer is fast approaching.  For now, though, it’s going strong.  I love it.  Even if it does mean I’ve been attacked by a raptor more than once this weekend.

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A random travel reco

November 20, 2010 at 4:34 am (Family, Travel)

If you ever happen to be on the Olympic Peninsula, stop in Port Angeles for a visit the Art Park.  It’s not more than a mile off the highway.

Hundreds of amazingly creative sculptures await you from all angles as you take a walk through the woods.

Can you find Auden here?
91/365 see auden?

A couple other things to see:
another good use for all your old sweaters

Branch ball

If you don’t go for the art, you can go for the view:
Art park view

To see more, go jump on the ferry.  If you live in the Puget Sound area, that is.

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Vegetable Virginity

November 19, 2010 at 7:05 am (Cooking)

Growing up, a select few vegetables entered our house. Every night my Grandma Betty peeled and served raw carrots to my dad as an appetizer, while he watched the news and read the paper. (“Don’t mess up the paper before your dad comes home”, she told me once. “A man likes to read the paper when he’s done with work.” But that’s a whole ‘nother subject.) Sometimes the carrots were accompanied by celery and radishes.

Another regular vegetable was canned green beans. Ugh. The smell still gets to me. Then there was corn on the cob in the summer, occasionally potatoes, and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In my teenage years there was green salad, with aforementioned same raw veggies on it. And that was… it.

It wasn’t my mom’s fault. We wouldn’t have eaten anything else. I’m feeling her pain more and more other my motherly years. One night of cooking and having it rejected is an annoyance. Thousands of such nights… who wouldn’t give up?

As an adult, I’ve learned to enjoy, and cook, quite a few more vegetables. Broccoli is a staple for us, as are fresh green beans, and we pull in frozen peas or corn in a pinch. We do asparagus in season, experiment with squashes, cook with all kinds of dried beans, and I remain a devout fan of the raw carrot.

I was thinking we did okay. Vegetables were served, even if most of the time much cajoling was used to get a child to take a bite.

Then I started getting a CSA box. Even getting a “regular size” box every two weeks, as opposed to a “family size” box once a week, I had trouble using them up.

And then. Then I forgot one week to pre-substitute out some of the unfamiliar vegetables for vegetables we’re used to eating. And we got (besides some usual ones):

  • Brussel sprouts. Still on the stem, no less. I’d never even taken a BITE of one before. Cooking them… uh, hmmm.

 800px-BrusselsSprouts-OnVine

  • Turnips. I recall my Norwegian-Canadian Grandpa Alf eating them raw with salt in front of the TV watching hockey. I think anyway. But the likelihood my own children would follow suit is slim to none. Never tried to my knowledge.
  • Collard greens. Otherwise known as giant green fans. Mark, the boys, and I took turns fanning each other with them. Willa thought it was great fun. For a while I thought this was the only use we were going to get out of them. Again, never tried.

 greens_collard

  • Romanesco. The only reason I knew what this was when I took it out of the box was process of elimination. So, yes, I was a Romanesco virgin.

Brassica_romanesco

  • Bok choy. My favorite pho place uses it in the vegetable pho. I always eat it first to get it over with. It’s not horrible, just a little slimy. And at least in the soup, hard to eat when it’s not cut up.

Not one to waste food, especially special organic local food I’ve paid a premium for, I set out to figure out what in the world to do with these strange foodstuffs.

The results? Positive on the whole. I learned at least one way to cook each. Except the bok choy. That’s still in the fridge. And most importantly, they were actually good. Really. Who knew? Brussel sprouts have made it onto the Thanksgiving menu even.

Beginner’s advice for the easiest most palatable ways to cook these:

  • Saute the Brussels sprouts in olive oil with salt and pepper. Parker asked if he could try one. Do you think I said “No honey, these are just for adults”? Hell no!
  • Scalloped turnips. I would never have known they weren’t potatoes. For reals and for trues.  Cheese and cream never hurt a food.
  • Collard greens. Chop up just the leafy parts, stir fry, then add chicken stock and cook until it boils off.  Tasty!  And I felt so vegetably-pious, eating my greens.
  • Romanesco.  Cook like broccoli.  By which I mean, pleeease don’t overcook.  Less is more.  It was fine, but we’ll probably stick to broccoli.
  • Bok choy.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

If you are interested in trying some of these “exotic” veggies, NPR happened to have a great show on cooking some of them this morning.

These accidental veggies were just what I needed to get out of a food rut. I may not incorporate them all into our repertoire, but I’m excited to try more new veggies. And someday, maybe, in one month or one year or ten, Greta will surprise us and try some. Until then, I’ll keep putting an infinitesimal bite on her plate for her to scoff at.

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5

November 18, 2010 at 5:57 am (Time) (, , )

In my endless futile quest to get it all done, I have a new strategy.

Really, it’s all about tricking myself.  And it’s not earth-shattering.  Most time management techniques aren’t.  It may be the most boring subject I could possibly choose to blog about.  But what the heck, since it’s been working, I’ll share.

First, a few techniques I’ve tried that I’ve determined don’t work.

1) Do the maintenance chores- kitchen, laundry, picking up- first thing in the morning.  Then pick up other tasks in the afternoon.  Go to Costco, make dentists appointments, paint the house.  My problem with this?  I could never get the kitchen, laundry, and picking up under control.  I’d end up at 4 o’clock every day realizing I had a dirty kitchen to make dinner in and still hadn’t left the house.  Leaving the house once a day even if not absolutely necessary is key to my mental health.  I can’t always put the maintenance chores first or I won’t be heading to the dentist until I chip out a filling eating popcorn.

2) Work off an enormous list of tasks that need to get done.  Every day, cross off approximately one and add three.  End every day feeling like a failure.

Here’s my latest con to get work out of myself.  5 things, I call it.  Every day I write down 5 things I’m going to get done today.  ONLY 5 things.  Okay, I’ve given myself a sixth bonus task a few times.  For extra credit from myself.  I give myself permission for some for some of the tasks to seem trivial, if they’re important to me that day.

Here’s a recent day’s list:

  • Volunteer at Auden and Parker’s school
  • Work on scanning pictures (this is for a Christmas project)
  • Prepare snack (to bring to Greta’s school next day)
  • Put laundry away
  • Make bread for potluck dinner at Greta’s school

 Another day:

  • Pick up living room
  • Take care of friend’s kids
  • Make dinner
  • Nap (some morning you just know you need it)
  • Blog

And today’s:

  • Make dentist appointment
  • Plan out how to use all the vegetables in the fridge- meal/menu planning
  • Dig out 18 month clothes to loan to niece
  • Pay attention to Greta (she was needing it)
  • Clean up kitchen

I think my 5 things system works because it’s finally a realistic goal of what one mama can get done amongst all the diaper changes and peace-keeping and “how do you spell…?’s”.  I feel accomplished when I finish my 5 things.  I have days I know I’m tired and set less ambitious goals.  Days I know I’m going to completely ignore the maintenance chores.  Leave the two days worth of dishes in the kitchen and not worry about them while I pay bills and renew library books on-line.  Because, oh well.  And days when I only do maintenance stuff (well, and take care of four children).

I still have that enormously long “to do” list.  I look at it to make the 5 things list most days.  It’s just not lurking constantly like I am supposed to accomplish 43 tasks TO-DAY.   And hey, I finally called the dentist today.  Took three minutes.  And I just looked- it’s been on my to-do list since FEBRUARY.  My teeth may not rot out of my head after all.

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Blurg*

November 17, 2010 at 7:08 am (Uncategorized) ()

I’m thankful this evening that I was able to meet two friends for dinner, knitting, cake, knitting, and most of all- chatting.

As I sat talking, I noticed several themes.  Four things, and only four things, I kept bringing up: 1) interesting tidbits from NPR, 2) interesting tidbits from blogs I read, 3) perhaps not-so-interesting references to Friday Night Lights, and 4) things we did at preschool. 

None of these have anything to do with me having actual face-to-face interactions with adults.  Because to talk about them, you’d have to have them.  And I don’t.  And none of these have anything to do with anything I’ve actually done lately.  Because what I do is drive children around, try not to yell at them, and cook dinner for people who call it yucky.

I can’t decide if it’s truly a problem I want to do anything about.  In all actuality I think I don’t really care.  But fair warning if you happen to run into me at a Holiday Gathering  near you- I’m likely to start sentences with “So I was listening to NPR and…”, and I’m likely to give you a blank stare if you mention Kate Middleton*, Natalee Holloway*, or any music produced after 2004.

I am a stay-at-home-mom cliché.  And at the moment it doesn’t bother me.  I’ll catch up in the 2020s.

*According to onlineslangdictionary.com: “When you can’t explain something. It’s how you end a sentence instead of trailing off.” = the thought processes my brain is currently capable of.

**Top searches according to Yahoo right now.

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8:43 am

November 15, 2010 at 11:40 pm (WJ) (, , )

A Breastfeeding Story (with plenty of other trivialities mixed in)

The three older children have just left.  I am rain-drenched from going outside in a T-shirt and yesterday’s flats to help load them and their three carseats and three backpacks and buckle them in.  No, scratch that.  I watched my friend buckle them in her car while I distracted her by asking questions about her weekend.

My bi-weekly gift of three hours with (four months old yesterday- what happened?!?) Willa alone has begun.  First, pick her up and ask her what we should do first. 

Coffee, she says!  I pour a cup of the pot Mark brewed at 5am and set the microwave for 44 seconds.  I am no coffee snob.  What to do while we wait… (because I am so neurotic about efficiency I couldn’t possibly just stand there and talk to Willa- which is how I end up completely scatter-brained and inefficient)… laundry! 

Move clothes into the dryer, taking care not to drop them in the cat’s water dish like I always do.  Put muddy clothes from Saturday’s rainy park outings into soak.  Notice Willa in her bouncy seat is chowing down on her hand.

Yo ho, are you ready for a nap already?  Clearly you are hungry, but are you tired also?  Not so much looking like it, but let’s try for it anyway.  Mama’s got things to do.  Three hours, three hours!

Go upstairs.   Hmm, the bed is stripped.  Because, like I always do, I left Willa naked there this morning, thinking I’m sure she won’t pee this time.  And like she always does (and every other baby, and I know this and choose to ignore), she peed.  Find some baby blankets, and we lay down.  Oh, and find my cell phone.

It’s a source of pleasure and guilt.  I often (okay, usually) put Willa down with my cell as amusement.  Check email, check Facebook, check blog reader.  A triplet of websites each time.  It makes nursing even more enjoyable.  What’s not to love about lying in my comfy bed, with a warm cuddly baby, reading amusing anecdotes?  And if I can hear Mark outside the bedroom taking care of a screaming three-year old and It just took a little longer than usual to get Willa down, honey, well, so be it.  (We’ll see if he gets around to reading this post.)  I do worry I’m making Willa believe she’s not worthy of my attention, though.  Like I should stare at her beautiful baby face and sing her to sleep every time, not just sometimes.  My own little Mommy-guilt dilemma that I bash myself with multiple times a day.  I know I’m a nutball, I know.

So we lay down.  (If you find a mistake in the lay/lie grammar, please alert me.  Most of those grammar rules come easily to me, but for some reason this one causes me trouble.)  I twist her to her side.  She grins at me.

I’ve always been a big side-lying nurser.  I like it for being able to leave without disturbing the baby after she falls asleep.  I know moms that never master it, which I cannot fathom.  It’s so useful.  Try it, really, you’ll like it.  (Disclaimer:  You do not?  Okay, do what you like!  I’m not saying not side-lying nursing makes you a bad mother.  Or not nursing at all!  Or not having children at all!  Though if you don’t, you probably stopped at the words A Breastfeeding Story.  Okay then.)  And it’s easier on your wrists/arms.

She whimpers in her sweet Willa way as I adjust pillows and shirts and blankets.  Letting me know she truly is hungry.  Good, we’ve timed it right.  She’s not full-on crying, so I also know she’s not starving.

She latches on easily, begins gulping.  Greta asked me the other day why Willa sounds like a pig when she nurses.  I suppose she does, a little.  At least she sounds like what I imagine pigs to sound like, because I can’t say I’ve spent much time among real live ones.

I launch Google Reader.  The light from the phone draws Willa’s attention.  I move a pillow between it and her face.

Her left arm flails around until it finds my right thumb.  The (second) connection Willa-required for nursing and sleep.  Her grasp seems to me a loving hug.  I need you, Mama.  Not just for food but for tender touch.  I am happy to lose my texting thumb to her.

Her eyes close quickly.  I have always loved the early morning nap that babies seem to take just after breakfast.  Sleep seems to come easily at 9am, and not always so easily at 2pm for that afternoon nap.  Time passes.  A belly fills, an amusing blog is read.  A content smile on two faces.  Or perhaps mine is more an amused smile, and hers a content smile, or as much of one as a nursing baby can mange with a nipple in her mouth.

Time to get up and work around the house spend too much time writing a blog entry.  I let her hand go, and it does not flail.  A sure sign she is asleep.  I release my breast from the gentle sucking she has continued.  Ease her to her back.  Her hand immediately and desperately searches her face.  Thumb finds mouth, mouth sucks vigorously.  Fingers fan above.  The sucking quickly slows.  She is fully asleep.

I tiptoe downstairs, remembering my cold coffee still in the microwave, in love with my baby Willa Apple Merigold.

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