Friday, February 22, 2013

sheer joy

You know what one of the best things is? Buying a bag of Easter grass for one buck and having it turn into an hour of utter joy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

sad, mad, and confused a little bit

This morning as I walked into the garage with Taran on our way to our one-morning-a-week preschool. He said to me "Mama, I'm sad, mad, and confused a little bit because the brown car went away." The brown car was our old beater back-up car which we donated to NPR a couple of weeks ago. He's very attached to our cars - despite not having more inventive names for them other than "the brown car" (which has now been replaced by the slightly less beater "green car") and "the blue car" - and since the going away of the brown car, we've discussed the sadness of its parting a number of times. It's not the cars that I want to talk about though, but the wonderful conglomeration of feelings that he expresses. He may not know exactly what each adjective means, but he does understand that they are all in the category of Blue feelings. The more feelings he throws in, the more blue he is. He's been sick this week with a cold and woke up really crying from a nap two days ago. I went up to snuggle him and through his tears he let me know that he was sad, mad, confused, AND worried. (He was upset that he had woken up a few minutes before the "awake bunny" had lit up on his clock, which lets him know that it's ok to be out of his bed. We snuggled and read a book until it lit up).

He may be misapplying the adjectives, but I am once again relieved that he is finding words for his feelings. The alternative over the last year has so often been a physical translation which turns into random hitting, tearing our glasses off and throwing them across the room, beaming us in the head with whatever is handy, and generally being an unruly, defiant two-something. I'm telling you, getting the surprise schwack for no apparent reason in mid-cuddle is enough for me to go into classic Exorcist head-spinning and it is all I can do to keep breathing and not completely blow my top with him.

We are just coming out of a particularly rough couple of weeks where all four of his two-year molars were doing their last [I hope!] pushing through at once and he was all sorts of wild thing. In these moments, I have to hold on to whatever small snippets of quiet connection I can create with him to keep my sanity. One of my favorite things to do with him is cooking together in the kitchen and, while this might be testing my luck in his wilder moments (flour bombs in the face and smashed eggs on the floor anyone?), somethimes it is the perfect thing to ground both of us. I love to stand by his side while he chops at his chef table and I chop at mine.

I feel good about these moments because, after a day of endless repetition of phrases like "Taran, Mamas are not for hitting", "Taran, we do NOT throw hard things in the house and especially not at people's heads!", it's really nice to let him know in some way that I still love him, still want to be with him, trust him to be able to handle the responsibilities with me. And..... on wild days, this might be the only way I'm going to get a single mouthful of vegetable down his gullet.

Plus, at the end of a particularly trying day (hell, sometimes by 9:30 am!!), we both need a little sweetness.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reconnecting with my kitchen

I love beautiful food. I never write about it here. I don't know why considering that so many of my resources (financial, emotional, cognitive, physical) go into thinking about food, shopping for it, growing it, cooking it, cleaning up after it... I often joke that cooking food is the one art form I'm capable of. I'm not one for recipes - I think it's the whole, can't follow directions thing. But I love to make things up on the fly depending on what's good and fresh in the market. Or, what I have on it's last legs in my veggie crisper.

Before Taran was born, Joe and I would take the time to make lovely food almost every night of the week. I'd pore through photos in Saveur magazine or just stroll through local markets for inspiration and I loved puttering around the kitchen for an hour or two drinking a glass of wine and listening to NPR as I concocted this or that. After T came along, this kind of event cooking usually happened only on date night and, if the rare mood or energy burst occurred, one other time during the week.
Now that I'm pregnant with number two and have a little electron to run after all day, dinners have been extremely uninspired affairs. We're talking cheese fries and box soups. Maybe a frozen tamale from Trader Joe's. At the end of one or two truly exhausting days, we've even been known to plow through a bowl of marshmallow oaties followed by a handful of spinach topped with bottled dressing and call it dinner (hey I've got my carbs, my veg, my protein from the milk.... that's a complete meal right?).
For whatever reason, this weekend I got a bit more inspired and we had numerous feasts.

Friday night: sun-dried tomato risotto topped with scallops simmered in butter and dry sherry with a sprinking of merlot sea salt.

Saturday morning: We started with toasted pumpkin cookies (more like muffins) I had made the day before, slathered with raspberry jam for starters. We then moved on to eggs scrambled with greens and jack cheese, oven roasted rosemary potatoes with homemade chipotle aioli and strawberries sprinkled with sugar and doused with cream.

Sunday morning: We used some leftover oatmeal that had been cooked up with dried fruit and brown sugar and whipped it up into almond meal pancakes served with blueberry jam and amber agave nectar. Served with savory turkey sausage and blueberries

Sunday night: I roasted up fingerling potatoes with onion and chicken thighs. I then put the chicken thighs on the stove with a sploosh of broth, several large handfuls of baby spinach, a generous spread of Israeli feta and some chopped garlic and let it all simmer down for a few minutes. Sooooo delicious.

I didn't take pictures of any of this stuff. I was too busy scarfing. But here are some things I made in the past when I had a shred more motivation to cook (I had to go all the way back to August before I could even find any food pics if that says anything):

Harvest from our garden, drizzled with unflitered california olive oil, currants, and basil

Stuffed and baked with fennel and lemon slices. Topped with sauteed mushrooms and garden tomatoes cooked with butter, white wine, and some sort of herbs. I think tarragon.

Homemade pizza with marinara, kalamatas, garden squash, fresh basil, spinach, mozzarella, and feta
The beginnings of garlick-y brown rice-turkey meatballs with greens (I think this was collards from our garden but spinach is yummy too)

new potatoes tossed with olive oil, lemon, garlic, chives, and chive flowers

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skills Building

2.5 is such an incredible age to witness. His brain is just exploding with all the new things he's learning and doing and saying. And for the first time, he's really verbal enough that I get to have a glimpse into the working of his mind - what has in many respects been a black box to me until now. Every little cognitive leap achieved or fine motor skill conquered leaves my jaw aching with beaming pride.

Recently he's reached a new level of logical understanding: the "But...." statement. This is both pretty cool to witness and simultaneously challenging. Now, rather than just hollering out in noisy, wordless defiance when I'm suggesting something he doesn't want to do, he's capable of the beginnings of intelligent rebuttal (usually paired with a bright flash of his eyes as he disagrees). For instance

Me: Taran, now that you have finished your milk, it's time to clean up.
Taran: But... there's still some left  - as he points to the miniscule drop at the bottom that can only be obtained by licking it out with one's tongue

Me: Taran, we don't stand on chairs. It's not safe.
Taran: But.... - and he'll proceed to list off all the times he's seen me stand on said chair in the last 24 hours alone to change a lightbulb, get the rice down from the top shelf, put the griddle away...

I find myself sometimes incapable of a counter-argument because often, in a very black-and-white kind of way, he's right. And while he may be capable of posing a reasonable argument, he's not yet capable of subtle shades of gray. So I feel this simultaneous sense of exasperation and amused pride.

There are skills that I expected to witness at this age - establishment of sense of self, learning to put on his pants and work the zipper on Papa's computer bag, use a fork with the end result of at least 50% actually landing into his mouth. And then there are skills that he's decided to focus on that feel uniquely him, based on his own particular passions and interests. One of my favorites in this category is his love of precarious engineering, particularly pile-building and hanging sculptures.

Watching these constructions is akin to watching a master artist meticulously daub paint onto a canvas. He steps up close to observe the lay of the land. Assesses the size of the object in his hand and the available niches to determine best placement. Delicately places the object in it's chosen spot and then steps back to reassess, often adjusting or rearranging as he sees fit. And then finally, taking the final step back to gaze upon his handiwork and take pleasure in the accomplishment. I could watch this process in endless silent admiration.

[Here is where I was going to post a photo of the awesome gravity defying sculpture he made this morning, but I just went down to snap a photo and my ever-efficient and far-cleaner-than-I husband had already put it away. Sigh. I'm sure there will be others.]