"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl

December 31, 2010

Hello, How was Your Decade?

Since we're on the eve of the eve of the second decade of the millennium, here's a two-fer top ten.  Wishing everyone another enlightening ten years!

What I've learned in the past decade (in no particular order of experience):

1.) You can break your own nose after delivering a baby.  (Yes. See other parent-related epiphanies below.)
2.) When people show you who they are, believe them.
3.) If your parents were even remotely effective raising you, you'll hear them long after they've gone.
4.) Street food in Peru, green light.  In Mexico, yellow light.  In India, RED LIGHT.
5.) You can also break your toe whilst skinny-dipping.  So be careful!
6.) Macs are just better.
7.) Drive-thrus for coffee are great, but I prefer sipping a cappuccino.  For an hour.  In Italy.
8.) Teaching is really effing hard if you want to be good at it.  Twelve years in, I still have a LOT to learn.  
9.) To have a quiet place of refuge, outside of your home, is an imperative. 
10.) All you need is love, sure, and it doesn't hurt to have some income. 
10.) Your best friend is the person you can try on really tight jeans (or fill in your own blank) in front of.   Your soulmate is the person who knows you better than you know yourself.  (Thank you, soulmate, for putting up with me.  I love you.)
10.) The Open Road awaits You!  Seize your days with passion and humor.  

What we've learned so far about having two kids under two, so far:

1.) No one sleeps in.  Nor ever will.  Until the kids are in high school, and only then if they opt not to do anything extracurricular that involves "practice" or "drills" at 8 a.m. on weekends.  
2.) The kids do not like to nap simultaneously unless there is a rare alignment of stars.  On such occasions, it is imperative to ignore what has to get done, and pull up a frozen chocolate bar and a couch.
3.) Change one diaper, might as well change another.
4.) Give one kid some vitamin D, might as well give the other one some too.  
5.) One person in the house gets a cold, we'll all have it within 15 minutes.
6.) Dinner with a two-year-old can drive one to laughter and madness.  (See video below.) 
7.) We need to begin to get ready to leave the house about two hours beforehand (at least by thinking about leaving the house).
8.) Never underestimate the value of having good music in the car. 
      8a.) Mexican music is hilarious to a toddler.  
      8b.) The folk music CD's at the library are great driving music: the original hippies had 
             kids, too.  Very good option when you've Raffi'd your guts out.
      8c.)  The international Sesame Street CD is terrific if you hope your toddler learns 
             "Rubber Duckie" in CHINESE, tonality for indecipherable tonality.
9.) Sesame Street is a gift from the media gods.  Thank you, PBS.  (Wonder Pets are a close second.)  Now Devi can add these words to her budding vocab: "incognito," "reporter," "octagon," "two-point-OH!" "costume," "investigate," and "hip hop."

10.) We are so, so, so lucky.  

Happy 2011, everybody!

December 26, 2010

Little Miss Homemaker

I've been thinking a lot lately about how my great-grandmothers made it work: raising families, getting clean clothes on backs, feeding everyone, keeping a clean house, etc.  No dishwashers, no washing machines, no food processors, etc.  Even my mom, who had the comforts of such machines, made it look easy when we were growing up; I feel like I can hardly keep up on account of a tendency to need to multitask. On the verge of 2011, having spent a good deal of time as a stay-at-home mom (until next year), I can't decide if I am nostalgic for a time when life might have been more simple, or incredibly grateful for modern technology.

NPR recently aired a segment about a new notion of "home economics."  Yes, you heard me right.  HOME EC.  Like, the class you took in 6th grade about how to sew pillows and make cookies.  And ever since that segment, I've been thinking fondly of my middle school home ec teacher--whose name I've sadly forgotten, but who I'd like to thank dearly for putting a little voice in my head that reminds me to put wax paper under dough when I'm rolling it, or to use the round end of the rubber scraper to get the last gooey bits out of a measuring cup.

In one of my favorite movies of all time, The English Patient, Katherine Clifton says to her lover, Count Almasy, A woman should never learn to sew, and if she can she shouldn't admit to it.  Of course, Katherine and The Count are having a hot, wartime affair and are soaking in a tub somewhere like Marrakesh.  But I digress.  If writing is supposed to be honest, then allow me to inspect my own home economics.

Maybe I should not admit here (write it, Gebell) that I've taken a liking to wearing an apron when I'm making dinner sometimes.  In my defense: I like to get messy when I cook, and there have been frequent occasions that necessitate my needing to be clean after I'm finished prepping dinner.  Also, the apron was a gift from a dear friend's mother, whose Iraqi-Jewish dishes are some I can only hope to replicate in my time, and because I hold her in such high esteem (as both a person and cook), I try to channel her while I wear the red and white striped apron.

(Side note: Heath came home once while I still had this apron on.  There were two pots and a pan going on the stove, the laundry was tumbling on itself in the dryer, I was handing my daughter her sippy cup and had my son on my hip.  He kissed me hello before he took off his coat.  Was this 2010 or 1950?)

I should probably also not admit here that I own a sock darner, and I've used it--it belonged to my dad's mom.  I keep it in a shoebox with other sewing knick-knacks procured over the years, most of which belonged to my grandparents.  Thimbles and needle-holders and the like.  I unearth this little box when a button needs to be resown or more recently, when I made my daughter's halloween costume.

This is where my domestic talents end.

I tried this past week to make two different desserts for people who'd invited us over (for Shabbat and for Christmas, how multicultural).  I first attempted baklava, and then made something called overnight cookies.  Both were lessons in What They Don't Teach You in Home Ec.  The first rule here is that you need 1) a quiet house, 2) a lot of free time, and 3) no interruptions to make successful desserts.  How do I know this?  Because after Christmas dinner, several women asked me what the secret ingredient was in the overnight cookies--was it ginger?  lemon?  No.  It was nothing.  There was nothing like those warming, savory tastes that went into my cookies along with eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla.  But I did remark that the dough had to sit overnight.  Oh, one woman said to her mother.  That's what gives them that...consistency.   Luckily, the baklava went over well, but I had to admit that I didn't have sufficient time to thaw the phyllo dough.  What I didn't say was that instead of using a margarine (the recipe had to be non-dairy), I used a non-dairy butter substitute because I'd forgotten to buy margarine--which would have tasted better--the third time I'd gone to the store in two days.

My laundry piles are now sorted into: pooped on and not-pooped on clothes.  One day, they'll go back to being color, whites, towels, etc., but as it is, I can hardly keep up.  A day without doing laundry is someone going without a bare necessity, like undies or socks.

Also, I hate to admit that I've had to rely on a professional cleaning company twice in the past four months (between the last month of pregnancy and having two kids under two years old) to storm my house armed with cleaning products and implements I don't have (but should).  It's a guilty pleasure, one that would be really expensive if I let it be habit.  It seems to me, though, that more than a couple of you reading this have done the same.  No one likes to admit they've "hired out," but it's perfectly understandable that a modern mom would do so--especially if she's working.

I don't aspire to have a perfectly clean or kept house--any of you who've been here know that!  But I do have a little wish that if needed, on a moment's notice, a drop-in guest might find some semblance of order here at the homestead, be able to nibble something nice, and use the bathroom without fear of what lurks in bathrooms.  And I can hear you--especially you, MOM--telling me to relax, enjoy the babies (oh, I do!), enjoy my time off (ah, I am!), and not to get caught up in trying so hard to play happy homemaker.  Let the house go a little (yeah-- I do).

The last thing I'll admit here: I sure like wearing that apron.

An excerpt of the NPR segment.   Click on the blog title above for more (scroll down the page for the copy).

So how does this new idea of "home economics" differ from the one being popularized by homemaking stars like Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray?
"This is [home economics], but in such a different way," argues Singer. "The Martha Stewart approach to home economics is more of a hobbyist pursuit. What these women are thinking of, it's not about a scrapbook room — they are modern girls, they live in little apartments in New York City. It's not about the perfection of your Christmas tree and your Christmas ornaments. It's about knowing how to sew a patch on a garment or knowing how to darn a sock. Or knowing what the difference between broiling and steaming is."  (source: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/23/132230490/elegantly-old-school-nostalgia-books-on-the-rise)

October 25, 2010

Leisure Suits

I'm no fashionista, but I love clothes--more, I love the design of clothes.  I've been nuts for Anthropologie since my Boston days (when no one back home knew what the store was) for its nod to kooky patterns, colors, and lines, have watched Project Runway since its inception, and try to follow the fashion mags advice and seasonally clean out or rotate whatever's in my closet

But let's be real, here: I have not bought a pair of good sweatpants since graduate school, when my days of sitting at a computer to punch out a Master's Thesis were long and cold (read: New England in wintertime), and my days for studying for its defense were fraught with couch-hopping, tea and notebooks and books and pencils in hand.  Those grey sweatpants were a $10 find (in 1996) from an Old Navy outlet in Maine, stayed with me through the aforementioned end of my graduate work, then through a ten-year residence in Boston, and met their demise (finally) during my latest pregnancy, when I could not even stand to look at their frayed, worn cuffs any longer.  Out they went, along with the other casualties of my nesting instincts, into the trash, gone forever.

Bad move. 

I'd forgotten how the weeks and months following a delivery are those when all you really want is something that fits around you without cutting into what I like to call "limbo flesh."  Your lovely prego belly is now {*poof*} deflated extra stuff you're carrying around like last year's Prada bags.  (Not that I own any Prada.)  And you just can't get rid of it yet.  And at night, when I'd be sporting those ol' grey sweats, I've had to resort to pajama bottoms that are worn so thin that a small hole is starting to fray on the left thigh and the drawstrings are stretched so that even tying double bows still leaves about a yard worth of material to tuck in.

During the day, I've had to accommodate my limbo flesh in what a friend of mine calls "big girl pants."  My big-girl pants at the moment are two in number: yoga pants and maternity jeans. 

The psychological affects of wearing one's maternity clothes several weeks post-delivery ought to be a federally-funded study.  Most women logically know that we won't fit into our "old clothes" straight out of the gate, but secretly hope that the limbo flesh magically melts away one night after we've indulged in, okay, let's face it, the cupcakes your mom left for your other kid (the one with teeth); we'll wake up after the final nursing of the night, having fed an infant maybe four times in the past seven hours, somehow rationalizing that all that cupcake calorie-energy must have gone into the milk supply, and that's why your infant is getting exponentially bigger by the day.  Um, right?

Now I'm at the point where my maternity jeans are too loose (and must be held up with an elastic backbrace that doubles as a secret-agent tummy-sucker-inner) and I'm about to wear a hole through the sitz parts, and my big girl "old clothes" jeans are a tetch too tight, just enough to make me irritable when I bend or sit, which is mostly what I do around here.  And my yoga pants?  Heath channeled his inner mother when he quipped, last week, that they could walk around by themselves.  I'd love to see what men would resort to wearing if the shapes of their bodies--namely their stomachs and breasts-- changed drastically over the course of a year.   I'd bet money that someone would invent a onesie that felt like boxer shorts or the Snuggie, but with parts that snap open and closed for breastfeeding and peeing.  I'm just sayin'.  Don't get me wrong--I don't mind hangin' out in the elastic wear.  But I'm a sucker for a well-crafted pair of bootleg trousers (I did not say slacks--there are no slacks in my closet), and sometimes, a gal would rather hit the town in something that buttons down.

Heath mercifully brought home a new pair of cotton pajamas and cozy pair of sweatpants for me the other night.  The gesture said, yeah, babe, I know you're not feeling too sexy right now, so wear this until you can squeeze back into the silky stuff again.  I love my husband for so many things, and this too.  It was an act of kindness like no other.  We're at the six-week postpartum mark now, when you're officially (usually) granted the green light for resuming all kinds of physical activities, so I'm going to make those sweatpants as sexy as I can.  Perhaps I'll have to do the dance of the seven veils in them, but I'll try, dammit.  And I'll try my best to resume the kinds of physical activities (like walking) that helps shed the limbo flesh too.  Until then, it's a stretchy fabric for me.

October 17, 2010

Introducing Sol

Yes, it's a little late in coming, but I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of our family, and a part of the reason why I haven't been and probably won't be blogging very often of late.  Holy hell, two kids under two is hard.  But this ambler of the Open Road is happier than a pig in poop, and is happily (sometimes) covered with it, not to mention the spit up, pee, and other unmentionables that make me want to shower several times a day.

Solomon Liev arrived over a month ago, and I'm just getting my sea legs on what he needs to be a happy camper: one kid hated being swaddled, one kid loves it; one kid slept marvelously in the car, the other seems to regard the car as a tempest-tossed seacraft.  I'm still in my p.j.'s sometimes at 9 (okay, 10) a.m., and have the highest hopes to do things like get groceries when sometimes by 9 (or 10) it appears that's not happening anytime soon, and we'll all have to forage in the pantry for food tonight.  What I love, though, are those quiet moments when everyone's asleep but me, and I can stare at a little mouth and gently kiss it, and get a little, tired smile from it.  Ahh. 

So: more about Sol.  Well, we call him Sol or Solly, Solly-G or Little Guy, and Dev likes to refer to him as "brother" or "Baby Sol" (and it's pretty cute when she tries to wrap her little mouth around the "l" of his name, so sometimes it comes out like "baby sow").  Sometimes I call him Sonny, a pun on Sol (Spanish for sun) and a nod to that Paul Simon song.  Generally he's a good eater, and he's gained heaps of pounds between doc's appointments, which is encouraging enough to stave me from finding The Motherly Art of Breastfeeding again.  Most importantly, and what makes all the long nights and being pooped on worth it, are the tiny smiles I get during his waking time--responses to our voices and touches that tell us we're doing something right.  I guess I didn't expect to get smiles so early on, and I'm sure it's normal.  It reminds me that my job is more than growing a person (literally); we're building a relationship. 

More stories from the Open Road to come when we settle a little more into a routine.

August 26, 2010

The Elements of Surprise

The first surprise of 2010 was learning, on January 2, that we were pregnant again.  Details aside, it'd taken us the better part of two and a half years to conceive the first time, and so when the little pink line showed up, all by itself, without the support of injections, acupuncture, medications, interventions, procedures, teas, specialists, and several months of teary defeat, I was beyond shocked.  Happily so! 
This little pink line kicked off some other surprises, too.

1.  We'd just gotten a formal, family portrait taken of the three of us that day, and had already laid out some of the proofs on our dining room table.  I picked up a black-and-white 5 x 7 and took it over to Heath.  "There are four people in this picture," I said.  He was totally perplexed.  Did I see a ghost in the shot?  Was there some goofy Three Men and a Baby thing going on?  It took a minute to sink in.  Surprise!

2.  And not being ones to wait to see which flavor baby we'd created, we found out the gender when the time came.  And Surprise!  (If you don't already know, this one's a boy--or so said the ultrasound tech.)  More surprising than finding out the gender of your baby are the reactions of those who ask about it, including:

Congratulations!  You finally put a stem on the apple!
Oh, boys are so...different!  (Um, yeah.  They're not girls.) or:
Get ready to never slow down!  Boys keep you moving!  (Okay, but my girl keeps me sitting?) or:
Oh, that's too bad.  It's no fun shopping for boy clothes.  (Are you kidding me?  I'd enjoy shopping for toothpicks.) and this one:
Wow!  A perfect family!  One of each! Usually followed by Now you can stop having kids!  (I've never--and will never--think in terms of any family as "perfect," but the comment is problematic anyway, considering how dysfunctional any family can be despite how many people/children and/or which genders comprise them.  And I don't know if we're done having kids.) 
And my favorite...
Thank goodness it isn't a girl--they would be horrible rivals!  Okay, Zoltar.

3.  Of course, we're interested to see what Dev's response to having a little brother will be.  We've prepared her as best as we think a toddler can be prepared, inviting her to kiss my tummy, reading the Big Sister book, encouraging her enthusiasm when she sees other babies (she's a little obsessed with them).  When she got a Little People playhouse for her birthday, I was a little concerned that she kept putting the baby on the roof rather than in its crib.  Last week, though, at her cousin's birthday party, she eyed and then descended upon a toy stroller and delighted in pushing it around.  Maybe--surprise?--we'll have a natural mommy's helper.  I'll be relieved.

[3.1.  I cannot believe this kid's capacity already.  It's really nice that our pediatrician was a little impressed with her being able to reveal the blue and purple crayons and naming their colors respectively, but I was really knocked out when at Wegman's last week, Working on a Dream came on and Dev said, under her breath, Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce.  Maybe it was my imagination, but damn, I'll be so proud if she knows that album.  (Maybe she said "juuuuuuuuuice?")]
4.  No one can tell you on your wedding day just how your lives together will turn out--all you two know is that you're really nuts about each other and you're certain you'll be nuts about each other through everything.  So it is with a sense of humility that I remark here how amazing I think Heath is--both as a husband and father.  Surprise!  If I'd known how naturally this all came to you, I'd get in my Delorean, gun it to 88, go back in time, and start having babies with you when we were like, 23. And 25.

5.  I've written a lot about finding the work/mommy balance--the "it's okay to really like your job and be a mom" stuff--on this blog, and I'm probably not done.  But I am shocked to find that I am very, very lucky and happy to be able to be a stay-at-home mom for one, whole year.  In June, I was sure that I'd miss being in the classroom come September, and I'd feel the nesting instinct to ready my lessons like I've straightened all the closets in the house.  That former instinct came and went.  Big surprise to me.

6.  The phlebotomist I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the past nine months--for reasons that are pregnancy-related, but not dramatic--likes to give me her prediction, each week, as to exactly what day I'll deliver.   We actually argue.  She thinks I'll go early; I'm pretty sure I'll be on time, because, as I tell her heatedly, I can't go early, because there's just other major stuff going on and the baby's room isn't even painted and we haven't really picked a name and we have no idea what we're doing.  If she's right, I have to bring her chocolate, and if she's wrong, well, she gets off scott-free, because I don't know if I'll be getting back to the lab with an infant and toddler in tow just so that she can give me my due desserts.  One of the last surprises of the pregnancy: what our son's birthday will be, and who will win the chocolate.

July 28, 2010

Going Om

I've had this little issue for a while. I think they call it "anxiety." I call it a "tendency to be incredibly indecisive, uneasy, and crave order when about to embark upon enormous changes and/or be placed in awkward social situations." In lieu of drugs, like Xanax and the lot, which I'm sure have their own merits, I try to do things like rearrange closets, cupboards, and drawers, take walks, swim, and a pursuit of late, get tantric. Before you get lost in dreamy thoughts of Sting in odd positions, let me be clear:

I'm doing yoga.

But I'm not That Girl (yet). I don't hang out in yoga pants and a Starbucks accessory, nor am I practicing shoulder stands in my living room (but power to you, if you can do that). I still have trouble Threading the Needle and keeping Tree Pose, and don't know my Vyaghrah Kriya from my Kokila Asana unless you'd like to put those words in Devi-friendly words I can understand like cow, cat, dog, and tell me which way they're facing. The only Sanskrit I can decipher in classes is Shivasana, Dead Man's Pose, which is lovely because you lay down and take a 10-minute nap; also, Balasana, Child's Pose, which most teachers let you do after you've just tried something really hard. These are my favorite poses because, as my girlfriend Allison says, "any exercise where you get to put your head on the floor and sleep can't be bad."

The latest wave of anxiety began to wash up as my 20th-year high school reunion neared (it was last weekend). Evites were sent, the posts on Facebook became more and more frequent as the reunion approached. Text messages abounded. (How did anyone reunite before The Age of Immediacy?) Let's be honest: I hated high school and can distinctly recall the feelings of despair and self-loathing that met for martinis every morning in the pit of my stomach. I know I had friends, and I cannot believe how many of them I still keep in touch with--but I think my closest friends in high school were the hallway walls against which I'd walk so that I didn't have to be so...noticed. Unless one of my many crushes were walking toward me. Then I'd contort myself, I think, by putting my head in my armpit and walking to class half upside-down. Take that, yoga!

And so, married and a kid and a half on, twenty years out from high school, the common, high school phrases--I'll go if you go and I don't have anything to wear--resurfaced. I was pretty amazed at my confidence in deciding that yes, I would go, and show up eight months pregnant, a little bloated and sweaty, with an agenda as simple as finding out what everyone's been up to since the last reunion.

It turned out that I couldn't make it to the actual reunion, but I did squeeze my feet into a very fashionable (and high) pair of wedges for the pre-reunion-reunion. And just as I began to park the car, I got that icky, anxiety martini feeling again in my stomach. Luckily, I walked into the bar with some other reunion-bound girlfriends with whom I'd just had a massive, Indian feast. I'm sure I had garlic naan breath and was already pretty sweaty from the intensity with which I scarfed my dinner down (and lest we forget, the hottest summer in recollection atop a bunch of pregnancy pounds). I wasn't feeling particularly attractive at all--and was so full that I could have gotten into my shivasana right there in the parking lot and been very happy rubbing my big, pregnant, buddha belly. Onward I persisted.

It turned out to be a fabulous evening: naturally, I saw the requisite few I had little to say anything to, but got to talk and hug and catch up with some old friends (and not-friends) who've turned out to be fabulous people. The Kids are Alright, I thought. We've done well for ourselves, and after a while, that icky stomach vanished. I was truly in the moment: happy for people who were happy, happy to see that for the most part, we're living good lives. My true moment of Zen was a hug from an old homeroom buddy I thought I'd never see again (save for the few graces of aforementioned Facebook), who was as happy to see me as I was him. A scrawny but attractive and suave teen, he's grown into a gorgeous man who works for the San Diego Chargers and has an equally gorgeous family in Southern Cali. I did not cower from my old crush (still cute, by the way), nor shy myself away towards the walls from some of the "popular" girls whose very glances had once made me completely ungluey with self-doubt.

Perhaps I have my yoga classes to thank. (These are a far cry from those iconic aerobics classes in the '80s where an instructor was considered "good" if she barked like a drill sergeant and made you feel like a soggy noodle by class's end.) Both at my prenatal yoga class at CNY and at my mixed-levels class at the JCC, I have an instructor who likes to improvise based on the class's needs on any given day, who wants us to speak up about what we want and need, and ask questions, and generally not go gently into poses that might get uncomfortable. This is fantastic! (And remember, you get a nap at the end!)

The other perk of taking yoga is that attending class reminds you to do the most simple thing you already do everyday: breathe. There's all kinds of breaths you can take, like Lion's Breath and so on, but you're really just encouraged to breathe in and out through poses at prescribed times of movement so that you maximize the pose and (I think) let energies move where they must through your body.

I found myself taking those long, deep breaths while I was listening to some of my old cohorts talk about where their lives had taken them. Truly at ease: perhaps 20 years out, confidence comes with understanding that very much like practicing yogic poses, strength is a combination of time, mastering the art of knowing your limits, and simply breathing through the challenges.

I'm never going to be a lithe, sinewy, yoga body--I'm just not built that way--but I am enjoying these classes, and maybe this needs to be a lifelong pursuit: not for merely its physical benefits, but its overall affect on my psyche.

And maybe, sometime in the future, I'll have the time to attend classes more regularly, perhaps when our kids are a little older. Until then...I have to go clean out the fridge.

July 07, 2010

Life is But a Dream

As my last school days wound down to Regents scoring and book inventory, I started to get a little nervous.

Okay, maybe really nervous. Because Heath and I had pretty much just decided that it'd be best for me to take a full-year maternity leave rather than one semester. And I know I've done this before: make way for my sub, who'll be sitting at my desk, thumbing through roughly a decade or so of lesson plans I've scraped together for one class or another, kindly and gently bestowing upon my would-be students the Holy Words of literature and writing like the Dalai Lama until light pours out of their sweet little eye sockets. And I'll be wondering if s/he does it better than I do. And I'll be home, with two kids. And up to my ears in diapers and baby poop.

Now of course, I'm ecstatic to be taking the year off for this maternity leave, and it is, as many a once-stay-at-home-mom/dad have told me, precious time I'll never get back with my kids. It's already started, really, since here we are, July, and Devi and I having a great time in ways it's hard to have when I'm up to my eyeballs in essay-grading. Summer rocks. I'm excited to meet the little guy when he shows up in September, and I can't wait to see where life takes us over the course of the next year.

I get little stomach butterflies, though, when I let myself imagine scenarios like the Desperate Grocery Shopping Trip: MacGyver couldn't figure out what to make for dinner between the cans in the pantry and the frosted-over boxes in the freezer, and it's time to Haul Kids and get to the store. Can I put a two-year-old in the shopping cart so that the carseat can rest on top? Will I incur a moving violation if she stands up in the cart while in motion? Where do the groceries go with two kids in the cart? Do people grocery shop with papooses?

Okay--I realize it gets far more difficult than this. I know there will be those moments when Devi is practically pantsing me for something while Little Guy is screaming his head off for hunger, or I'm mid-nursing when I hear a crash in the other room and that moment of silence right before the screaming turns my insides gooey.

The comments about having our kids so close together--only 20 months apart--have been interesting, too. Take, for one example, the chatty redhead at the public library yesterday who, while she watched me playing 'dinosaurs' with Devi, commented to her friend, Wow, she has a baby and she's having a baby. I looked up at her so that I could catch her facial expression, since I couldn't quite catch her tone. She caught my eyes and said, I was just saying that you must be really tired. Yeah, I said. I'm almost eight months pregnant, it's blazing hot out, we don't have air conditioning at home, and I have a nasty head cold. . She asked how close our kids would be, and I told her. And then, the question I may have been asking myself and ignoring-- she roped her red locks around her neck and widened her eyes--are you CRAZY? I smiled, said that maybe we were, and before I started to justify to THIS COMPLETE STRANGER why we'd decided to do so, caught myself and went back to dinosaurs.

The internet can make you nuts, and if you Google "having kids close together," you'll get 6,770,000 results (in .34 seconds!) about it. Some think it's cruel to both children, some think it's unfair to the elder child, some think it's downright the best thing you can do for your kids. I've stopped Googling. This is our Open Road, dammit, so y'all keep your opinions to yourselves.

Last night, after her cool bath and during cookies and milk time, Devi reached across her highchair, putting her crumby hands in mine. This is the cue for wanting to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." We like to simulate the rowing by pushing and pulling each other while we sing, and on the fourth round, it occured to me that this is a brilliant little song.

Row, row, row your boat
gently... down the stream
merrily merrily merrily merrily
life is but a dream.

Not to get all foofy and English-teachery on you, BUT (can't help it!): the essence of this rhyme is about going with the flow. And happiness. And the beauty of letting your little rowboat go where it may, and how dreamy that feeling is. I'm open to other interpretations, so fire away.

I know for all the simultaneous screams and being pulled in different directions and chaos of two kids, twenty months apart, there will be some beautiful moments. I hope the transitions into this next part of our lives are gentle (don't worry, though--I haven't forgotten what 3 a.m. feedings do to a gal's mentality), and I hope we can keep our little rowboat gliding gently on whatever course we're meant for.

June 25, 2010

A Fellow Roadie

I'm pretty honored that one of my favorite singer-songwriters, John Prine, decided to swipe my blog's moniker for his new album title. I was introduced to Prine's music, like most, when I first heard Bonnie Raitt sing "Angel from Montgomery," and became a casual fan of his when I heard him sing it, live, at one of the Newport Folk Festivals I attended in the early part of the new millenium, when I was free-wheelin'. His wise, weathered voice and storytelling hit me hard. Can't wait to hear the new stuff, John. Until then, here's a bit of a review from Amazon:

Looking at life through the rearview mirror was the inspiration for John Hiatt s brand new album, The Open Road. A classic Hiatt record, the rockin songs sizzle with the heat from two-lane blacktop on a summer s day. Hiatt and his touring band (Kenny Blevins on drums, Patrick O Hearn on bass and Doug Lancio on guitars) recorded a set that gives Garage Rock a new meaning. All the other years, my songs are about coming home, Hiatt says. But within these 11 new songs including Haulin and the title track The Open Road home is never the destination.

Home is never the destination. Walt Whitman and I couldn't agree more.

June 08, 2010

Help Get Our Market on the Map

If you're a regular reader of the Open Road, you know how I like a good Public Market. But my absolute favorite one is our very own, and it's beginning to garner some very much deserved attention.

For one, our local market has been mentioned in the current issue of Saveur Magazine (thanks, Heath for finding this gem about one of our local potato growers--see the "Family Man" part of the article). I'll shamelessly add here that we've had a subscription to Saveur for a few years, even though we're not technically foodies (more people who like to eat); and to see our own city's market mentioned in this very haute cuisine, edgy food mag is pretty exciting.

Last week, the three of us were perambulating the byways of the market, Heath, on the search for his empananda, and me, on the hunt for fresh peaches, when the announcement was made that the RPM has been nominated as one of America's Favorite Farmer's Markets--and that it's up to us to vote. If you're a local, and you utilize the bounty of what our market has to offer, or you know someone who does, or you just like going to Java's and hanging out to people watch, please vote! Here are Farmland.org's directions:

"It’s summertime and that means two things: 1) There are loads of delicious farm fresh produce available at Rochester's farmers market every week; and 2) American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest has kicked into gear and we need your votes to win!

The process is simple. To vote for our market, all you have to do is:

1.) Go to www.farmland.org/vote

2.) Type in City of Rochester; and,

3.) Click “Vote”

"That’s it. That’s all it takes to bring Rochester one step closer to being America’s favorite farmers market!

"According to American Farmland Trust (AFT), the purpose of this contest is to re-connect local consumers to local farms, with the ultimate goal of keeping our nation’s farm and ranch land productive and healthy! Buying at the farmers market keeps money in the local community and helps farms and ranches remain economically viable. By voting, you’re helping support farms and communities across the nation. As American Farmland Trust says, “No Farms No Food™!” (I've had to cut & paste for time saving's sake. You get the idea.)

June 02, 2010

Making It Last

N.B. This is a rough draft of a story I'll be submitting to a literary magazine in the near future. I'm posting it for your generous feedback and also because it evidences that I've been writing, even if it's not on The Open Road, and despite that I really should be grading final exams.

I was never the type to imagine my own wedding. My childhood imagination preferred to amble somewhere between what it might be like to be married to Officer Jon from the late ‘70’s show Chips and what it might look like if Officer Jon and I set up house. When my friend Liz and I played in our tree houses (always one tree apart, just like our actual homes were), my pretend kitchen had two refrigerators, just like my actual home did.
After my husband and I moved into our house, we inherited a second refrigerator and put it in our basement. For a while, there was nothing in it except for our leftover wedding cake, which we put in the freezer, mummified in layers of wax paper, Saran Wrap, tin foil, and a white baker’s box. We were saving it for our first anniversary, which came and went, having neglected the cake in the basement in favor of a filling dinner out at our neighborhood Italian bistro. But I thought about the cake. Maybe it would be a romantic surprise for dessert someday.

The next evening, I was doing laundry when my thoughts turned again to the wedding cake. By now, the baker’s box was crowded by frozen leftovers from Thanksgiving, frozen hors d’oeurves party guests hadn’t finished, frozen emergency chicken soup. I excavated deep into the back of the freezer for the box and put it on the dryer. Over a year later, the cake looked as fresh as it had on our wedding night. The fondant began to perspire. I knew I’d had better taste it so as not to inadvertently serve up freezer-burned cake for dessert. I grabbed a plastic fork from the box labeled “paper goods” on the storage shelves.

The cake had turned a little stale; the layer of raspberry was still tart, the fondant, chewy with a hint of freezer burn, but sweet. It was nothing my husband would want for dessert, I knew that much. So I kept sampling.

Before the dryer cycle had ended, a quarter of the top layer had been finished. To rephrase, with propriety: I had eaten a quarter of what was left of our anniversary cake. I’m certain that with every bite, I thought about my father, who’d just passed away from pancreatic cancer; or why we weren’t getting pregnant yet; or how it would be go back into the classroom in a few weeks with the cloud of depression over me. With every swallow, I thought about these things, but not about the erosion of our savory cake, which we saved for a special occasion, not for moments of laundry and sadness. Are you okay down there? my husband beckoned. And with a mouthful of cake, I replied, trying not to choke, I’m fine!

The cake became a symbolic balance of self-preservation and cake-preservation, a tug-of-war between swallowing sadness and admitting my secret felony. (For once, I looked forward to doing laundry.) My husband only asked about it once, about whether I thought it was still good, and I mustered that I’d tried a bit and maybe it was time to throw the rest out. Which I did. On our second anniversary.

Photo source: www.ehow.com

May 09, 2010

Moms' Daze

It's my second Mother's Day, and I've been trying to supress the urge to cry all day. (Really, all week.) I have a natural tendency to be weepy, but today was the perfect storm of all things that might bring me to tears. I thought I'd write. And sure, I know I haven't written a lick here since March--but more on this in a moment. Read on.

The water works started sometime last week. Heath was out of town for the second week in a row; Devi was being her lovable and 15 months-going-on-adolescent self; and the ungraded stack of essays at school had piled high enough on my desk to be level with my neck. I was a little overwhelmed. No time for blogging; forget about returning phone calls on time or responding to Facebook messages. (Here's where honest writing is hard to do, because I know my dear and loving husband is going read this and say, why are you writing this?)

So overwhelmed, that I'd maintained my composure enough to seem somewhat together at school--had some excellent class discussions, even, without managing a thought about the chaos awaiting me outside the room--even had the staff at the daycare, my in-laws, and even my mom, who always just knows, convinced I was fine. Just fine. Until Heath called. Then, I became a complete, meltdown nightmare. When I heard myself say, out loud, Do you know how hard this is?!? that I had to quietly admit to myself that I was totally out of line (and, I might add, I had to admit that I have absolutely no idea how all my single mom friends do what they do on a daily basis).

My temporary insanity on the phone also stemmed from some weird, deep-seeded fear that our pediatrician would be chewing me out the next day at Dev's checkup. What if I hadn't given her enough vegetables? What if I'm not reading to her enough? What if she's watched one minute too much of Elmo's World? What if I've somehow compromised her development in some way I don't know--in short, WHAT IF I'M NOT A GOOD MOM?

I don't know how Heath managed to calm me down. But he did. And when we got off the phone, I felt horrible. I'm a fishwife.

The pediatrician, it turns out, was very happy with Devi's development, and left the office smiling. I was as relieved as I can remember being when I passed the GRE's. I don't know why I anticipated the checkup more as an assessment of my parenting than my kid's health, but this is the sort of thing that gets into the mind of a tired, perhaps overworked, and (here goes) pregnant, hormonal, mom.

Yep. We're expecting again, in September, and we're told it's a boy (a boy!). This pregnancy has been pretty smooth, thank goodness, but there is no exhaustion that can rival the gestational kind (unless, I think, you're ambling, directionless, in the Sahara at high noon). The obvious variable is the little girl in the room who's tugging at my pant leg to sing Frere Jacques one more time while I'm trying to get from the fridge to the sink in the hopes of making something resembling dinner. The hormones have really had their way with me, like that diminuitive, snickering Boris Badenov. I love being pregnant, and am so thankful for the ease of the conception (after what we'd experienced in ttc Devi) this time around. But the hormones are downright nasty, sneaky, unpredictable.

Heath insisted he put together a Mother's Day brunch for the moms in our family, despite his being out of town until Friday evening.
And somehow, not only did he make a beautiful brunch, but he created some funky, sushi-inspired rolls out of mango origami wraps, and baked a banana tartin from a recipe he'd seen in transit on a flight (see photos). And in addition to bringing home fresh flowers with the bagels he picked up this morning, he also somehow made a really adorable coupon/picture book (from Devi), for things like hundreds of hugs and kisses, and a card that said everything just right that (you guessed it) brought me to tears.

Tonight, after bathing and story time, we put Dev to bed, and as she curled herself around her favorite bear blanket, lay down for a minute. The quiet and our being together was the antithesis of the chaos of the past couple of weeks. Heath wanted to show me this ad that a colleage of his had shown during one of the presentations on his business trip, and admitted that he, too, had gotten a little weepy last week--the commercial just reminded him of our little girl and how fast she's growing.

So if I'm crying this week, it's maybe one part tired to two parts happy. Happy, thankful, a splash of sentimental with the appreciation for just how beautiful life is, whether or not the baby eats her veggies.

March 22, 2010

The Start of the Seasons/Unofficial Lineups

Apparently, Dustin Pedroia is already on fire, and baseball season's still so young that I can barely sniff the Fenway Franks. But if the tease of sunlight and warmth we got in Rochester last week was any indication of Spring--I'll even take the return of the family of bluebirds in the backyard as a sign--then the sounds of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy can't be far behind.

And you know what that means: it's music season. Better--it's FREE music season. Our Little City by the Great Lake does a fair job of providing its residents with decent music through the warmer months. Residents can perambulate downtown, white wines or beer or whatever in hand, and catch live acts, from old bluesy men and their guitars to international-music quartets that can get even the most reserved of the white winers to shake their merengue-makers.

This year's lineup includes Jeff Beck (the first of two shows is already sold out), and a show in the Bowl with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. And someone else.

A Yankee.

In December, buying a ticket didn't seem like such a bad idea. Seeing Bernie Wiliams work his fingers around a six-string posed little threat in the off-season. But if he's good--as his website proposes--I'm going to hear even more about how talented the Yanks are than usual. It will make for a rather unharmonious domestic situation, I think, as the Sox/Yanks rivalry in our house is as permanent as our 50-year-old furnace--and burns as hot. I bought the ticket in my husband's interest--as going to the Jazz Fest and the NYY's are two of his summertime staples. I'd hope that if Papelbon or Beckett were touring and touting some artsy wares that Heath would thoughtfully surprise me too.

So I'm a good wife. A really good wife, and will even stop my tongue from making Tea-Party type jabs and quips during the concert.

But after that: Game ON.

March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring

My day really began early, when Dev, on the changing table, took my hand, inspected it, then held it to her chest and patted it. Then, upon reinspection, she kissed it. Twice. She let out a little giggle and pointed to her window: "bah." The birds. I heard them too--and decided I'd had enough with the weekend cabin fever. Time to hit the streets.

Our Public Market was the perfect spot this morning to initiate our meeting spring, however the cold/warm fronts blow. With Dev bundled from head to toe and our Boulder Coffees to go, Heath and I wove our way around hundreds--hundreds--of people caressing and sniffing the produce and goods (full props to the Italian bakers peddling kosher, Irish soda bread). A cinnamony, roasted hazelnut scent wafted, swirled, and flirted alongside the sweet smell of fresh fruit abounding, the local wines being sampled, fresh fish, basil. We resisted the Empanada Stop (but got Devster a spinach bagel to munch), and with our fresh pizza dough and veg in tow, were off.

We enjoyed a grill-out/eat-in lunch with our neighbors. They have three boys, and I honestly don't know how they keep their heads on straight (though they're some of the most organized people I've ever met). Their eldest showed us his piano prowess (unprompted--and impressed Devi so much I think we're going to have to get a piano); Devi was fascinated by Tinkerbell, their cat (we will not get a cat).
The kids played outside on the swingset for a while, and then we disbanded for naptime.

And that was a glorious hour: I raked the yard, cleaned up the flower beds and found some hidden daffodil shoots under the leaves, swept the front steps and driveway, got my heart racing a little. It's just late afternoon now, and while this is more of a day-in-the-life post, it's a post, and it's good to have that done too.

Tonight: off for a date with my hubby to the movies. And of course, some homemade pizza, courtesy of the market.

February 26, 2010

Blog Swap, 2.10

This week's post, "In the Closet," can be found on The Weekly Meat. Be sure to find your way back here next week for more Open Road adventures.

February 22, 2010

Our Missing Neighbor

[By guest writer Ben Kauffman, author of The Weekly Meat]

Wilson's car is unmistakable. It's a 15-year-old matte-black Jetta with a paint-to-Bondo ratio of roughly 2:1.

The kids know it by sight. We know when Wilson is out, and when he is probably home. He has not been home in over two months.

I should say that we don't exactly live in a neighborhood where folks use "winter" as a verb — as in, "I find the snow positively abhorrent, so I winter down in Florida." Rather, we live in an area in which the nattering "bum" on the street may well be tenured at Harvard or MIT.

I should also say that though we are friendly and neighborly with Wilson, we're more acquaintances than friends. He's easygoing, and we stop and cross the street to chat when we run into him; share gardening tips. When we were away for a week last year, he is the one who told us of the near fire catastrophe outside our place (a transformer blew up, showering sparks down on a bag of dry leaves, which promptly lit, etc.). He is point of a fascination to the kids (young E-O pronounces his name "Oh-sun" and has gone through stages of asking what we think he's doing roughly every six and a half minutes), and a curiosity to AKL and me. But he didn't mention anything about going away. And now it's been a while, and we're both curiouser and concerned.

We've never asked, so we don't know much of Wilson's story. What he does, how old he is (somewhere between 30 and 50, but who knows where), where he's from. He has a bit of an accent, and looks — as handfuls of our neighbors do — like he might come from the islands.

I admit that worrying he might have died in Port au Prince is a bit of a melodramatic stretch. After all, he couldn't have driven there. Yet, like Jimmy Stewart, I can't help but think that something is up, and particular thoughts of Haiti have crossed my mind. His window shades haven't moved the entire time. And it's just my egocentric nature to assume that he would have told us of any long-term plans if he'd known them in advance.

And yet, I also wonder how well any of us really know our neighbors. I'm not big on local TV news (I tend to mockingly refer to it as my wife's "car crash and fire show"), but I do often think of the stock interview with the neighbors after local domestic tragedies and the like. There's something both poignant and perfunctory about the "they really just kept to themselves" and the "I never would have thought he was capable of something like that"s.

So, Wilson.

He could be dead and buried. Could be sick or in treatment. Could be training for bad things in the Hindu Kush. Who can say? But we're curious — anxious even — to know. While these things tend to be harmless and easily explained, I wonder sometimes what I would say about Wilson — or any of our neighbors — if interviewed by the local car crash and fire show. And I hope that tomorrow I wake up and kiss my kids and eat breakfast and when I walk outside to go to work, I know — know — that all is right in the world, because what I am looking at is a 15-year-old dinged-up Jetta with a bad paint job parked directly across the street, Wilson happily puttering around in his front yard.

February 16, 2010

Product Review: ThinkBaby Meal Set

I almost never win anything, so it was a happy morning when I was contacted by Doreen at Mom Goes Green that I'd just swept the ThinkBaby giveaway, and would soon be expecting this very hip (and very green)
meal set for babes.

Since Devi started daycare, I'd been keeping an eye peeled for sustainable containers (rather than disposable plastic or plastic baggies) that could store food, be eaten from, and not leak any nasty chemical compounds. This set is basically as close to perfect as one could hope for, although you can't microwave anything in it (as the inner containers are stainless steel). The set includes two bowls and a bento box (I love imagining Dev carting her bento box to school like her diminuitive, Japanese counterparts), very ergonomic fork and spoon, and--this last one puzzles me--a mug. Perhaps there are some dexterous toddlers out there who have no trouble with this, but I think the mug must be for the moms who are slugging their coffee in one hand and feeding their babes with the other. Matching coffee mug and baby feeding set!

Okay, so there's a far more prudent review of the ThinkBaby Stainless Steel Feeding Set here. I recommend anyone concerned with the effects of plastic on food visit the ThinkBaby site. Thank you Doreen and Mom Goes Green! We'll use these in good health.

February 09, 2010

Settling Down and Writing It

I was settling in last night and considering both an article from The Times (see below), which my friend Tina had sent along, I thought about an old friend, colleague and mentor, Karen Harris, who, like Lori (mentioned in the previous post), somehow found the time to form a second formidable band in Boston, teach, and have two kids.

Read "The Referendum," especially if you have children, and see if you agree:
The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home. It’s exacerbated by the far greater diversity of options available to us now than a few decades ago, when everyone had to follow the same drill. We’re all anxiously sizing up how everyone else’s decisions have worked out to reassure ourselves that our own are vindicated — that we are, in some sense, winning.

I found the article both wildly true and untrue, and considering the aforementioned rockstar women (both on this post and the former) who seem to Do It All, have no regrets, and are enjoying the best of both their mommy lives and creative lives, it seems more likely that I can too.


This morning, during second period Humanities class, one of my students remarked that "no one should get married before 27 or after 32." We were all amused, so asked him to elaborate. Paul said that until you're 27, you need to see the world and get all of your dating/partying out of your system, and after your early thirties, you're ready to settle down and "make money," so that you don't wind up a bachelor uncle who's the odd man out at family functions.

What's so bad about being the bachelor uncle, we all asked?

"Yeah," a kid retorted. "I have one of those. He's kind of sad."

"Not my bachelor uncle," another quipped. "He lives in Florida and gives me a lot of advice about women and stuff. He's got the life. He's happy."

Another student remarked that you'd better get "all your living done" before you have kids, because man, once you have them, Life. Is. Over. I wanted to tell the kids that my husband and I, who enjoyed traveling before we had our daughter, went to Japan with her for a week in August. But I was having too much fun listening to the reactions abounding.

For a few minutes, we were totally off-topic and went into why people might want to get married at all, or have children for that matter, when life seems so chock-full of Stuff To Do, like being in relationships without commitments or kids, or form rock bands, or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge to laze around a farmer's market on a Sunday, or see Kathmandu. Or write the great American novel.

In Up in the Air, Ryan, its protagonist, espouses that "the slower we live, the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living." The pace of Doing It All and doing it on your own time, when you want to, is supposedly how both this character and Tim Kreider see the married-with-children situation. It is, after all "settling down." But does that mean we're settling? Do the pursuits we dreamed about before our life partners and soulmates and children came along have to wait on the back burner, clamoring and clinking and steaming in the background?

February 08, 2010

Prioritizing, Revisited

I met playwright John Cariani last week. He had flown in from Manhattan to watch both the professional and student versions of his play, "Almost, Maine," which was in production at Geva and for which a number of high school drama folks, including me, were involved in a project wherein the kids performed what their adult counterparts did. Cariani sat on the stage while we sat in the audience before him, humbled and awed; if you missed the play at Geva, and you happen to be a romantic--well, then, you missed a beautiful piece, replete with clever vignettes and a set that transformed a backdrop into a multitude of stars and the Northern Lights. But I digress.

The students got their chance to ask Cariani their questions, and he answered them as cleverly as I'd hope a writer would, but as humbly as a working actor might. He remarked at one point that he does what he does--take acting jobs--to eat, and he writes because he truly loves to. I had the chance to ask him how he balanced working (acting) and writing. Or making a living and doing something he loves and not being able to live off it (not immediately). Because you can love what you do, but not every minute: even if what you do is talk about writing and books and metaphors and art and history and music (and verbosity and run-on sentences). And you can love doing something that you don't get to do very often because it's just not economically feasible to do so. Like writing a blog, or short stories, or poetry.

Cariani's answer was this: that he writes when he finds time, but that admittedly he has no one to care for, and he lives far from family. He goes out to movies, out to dinner, has lunch dates--but when he's home, he writes. Somehow he just seems to work it out between shoots or takes of CSI or NUMB3RS or whatever commercial he happens to be doing.

For a second, I let myself think that OF COURSE this John Cariani can write fabulous plays and eat his cake, too. No one to be responsible for! No worries! Aha! There is no baby waiting to be picked up mid-afternoon who he's missed so much that he cannot conceive of sitting down to write while that baby plays with the ball-popping machine or points to Big Bird Goes to the City
for your 1700th dramatic reading.

And then I remembered Lori McKenna. This young, incredible singer-songwriter that a friend once introduced me to personally because he'd taken a liking to her music and had begun to follow her gigs around New England. By the time I left Boston, I'd seen her enough in concert that she recognized me, and once, we got to chatting as she was putting her equipment away. McKenna got down to writing and recording her music while a stay-at-home mom of three, but by the time she had her FIFTH kid, had already become quite the buzz. When did she find the time to write?

When the kids were napping, she said. And when they went to bed.

It comes down to finding the time, and if I'm worth my weight in ink and lead, I'll do that. Right after every last essay is graded. And I've read Big Bird in the City with verve and flair for the 1701st time.

My students wanted Cariani to sign their scripts after the talk, and so in a weak moment, I decided to also. Talk got to that I hadn't had any of my students in a theater arts class, since I'd been on maternity leave last year when it was offered.

"Really?" he said. "So you have a one-year-old?"


"And you directed this play?"


"And you teach?"

"When do you sleep?" Cariani winked at me.

February 02, 2010

A Bermuda Triangle of Events

An amalgam of baby (who turned one!), work (midterms week and grades due tomorrow), the play (performance was last night), and utter exhaustion has kept me from the Open Road. I'd love to follow this with a proper blog--hell, I'd be happy with an organized rant--but I'm going to bed. Until later...

January 15, 2010

M(i)LK Day

Just a year ago this coming week, I was hoping that Devi would be born on one of two days considered auspicious (to us liberals, anyway): either Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, or Obama's Inauguration Day, which happened to fall on consecutive days in 2009. She was born on the 19th, MLK day: auspicious not only because the day marked the birthday of one of the world's most important civil rights leaders, but because every now and then she'd be able to celebrate during a three-day weekend or at least a day off from school.

So because we're celebrating Devi's first birthday over the course of the next week and a half, it's fitting that the festivities ought to start with a major milestone in her development.

Yes, blog readers, try to contain your excitement and enthusiasm when I reveal that our child has transitioned to cow's milk.

And I think her first word (apart from mama and dada) is moo.

Stay tuned for accounts of the first-year festivities...

With the new year came the countdown to our tigerlily's birthday, and as all birthdays should be, Devi's will be celebrated over the course of a couple of weeks. The festivities began with a trip to the children's museum to see the exotic fish and butterflies on MLK day (a day off for me, and, apparently, everyone else with a child who visited the museum that day). Yesterday, we surprised Dev in with a bunch of balloons in her room. She wasn't sure quite what to make of them until she was really awake, and she's been swatting at them every chance she gets. Last night, the grandparents came over for a little dinner and cake--the baby's first real taste. (Of course, she's hooked.)

January 10, 2010

Foodies for Thought

It happens most Sundays. I wake up with the intention of cleaning the house and preparing a week's worth of meals and getting all my essays graded and still find time for a nap. Oh, and laundry, which is the muli-tasker's crack.

I haven't napped since Devi was maybe five weeks old. There's just too damn much to do. I always loved when seasoned parents warned that if I didn't nap when the baby did, I'd lose points in the nap karma department, and then I'll never ever be able to again because before I know it she'll be 17 and asking for my car keys and then we'll just stay awake worried. Forever.

One thing I do with great success, most Sundays, is poke around food blogs. I love food. I love writing. So some of these are just a divine respite from the reality that nothing else is really getting done.

My friend Amy in Boston was my introduction to food writing and the meaning of a "foodie" (i.e., someone like Amy who will devote time to finding the perfect wheat flour for a particular recipe). Since exploring the pastries of Puerto Escondido with Amy and our friends Allison and Tina (ah, to be young), my own interest in the pleasures of the palette have matured. For one, Heath and I enjoy a subscription to Saveur, the covers of which on our humble coffee table always belie the baby foodstuffs in the pantry. But the food blogs are enough to carry me away for too long, languishing in the recommended pairings and recipes from true culinary connoisseurs.

Visit www.foodblogblog.com to see how extensive online food writing has become; the book/movie, Julie & Julia, depicting a woman's experimenting with Julia Child's recipes for 365 days and blogging about it isn't off trend. I tried a food writing unit with my seniors and they did well; but we were all a little humbled by the really good stuff. When I'd asked around on Facebook for suggestions of food writing to share with my classes, these were some of the responses:

Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
Use Real Butter
Isabel Allende's Aphrodite (apprently not suitable for young eyes)
Old issues of Gourmet Magazine (sniff, sniff)
Casual Kitchen
My Burning Kitchen
That Girl Can Eat
Ntozake Shange's If I Can Cook You Know God Can
Ed Behr on wine and cheese from The Art of Eating (a quarterly)
Untangling My Chopsticks, A Culinary Soujourn in Kyoto by Victoria Abbout Ricardi
Foodie Confessions
Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed

I'm still trying to get through the MFK Fischer's tome, The Art of Eating.

Bon Apetit!

Spanish-Style Toast with Tomato (Pan Con Tomate)
1 6" piece of baguette,

 halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 very ripe large tomato
Coarse sea salt, to taste

1. Heat oven to 500˚. Put bread on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Rub garlic over cut surface of bread and drizzle with oil.

2. Put a box grater into a large bowl and grate tomato over largest holes, discarding skin. Spoon grated tomato onto toast and sprinkle with sea salt.


This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #126

January 07, 2010

Stage Moms

Over the winter break from school, and finding myself with a few minutes between a book, the laundry, and waiting for my frozen pizza to heat up, I found this TLC show called "Toddlers and Tiaras."

And if you, like I, have seen it, you ran screaming from your t.v., swearing aloud that the world is a really f'ing crazy place and the people in it are completely tapped.

And then you went back to your t.v. and sat down, appauled and unable to move, transfixed by how insane some women can be about their daughters winning pageants for no apparent reason other than they very closely resemble miniature versions of a cross between The Stepford Wives (post lobotomy) and Tammy Faye Baker, hair, eyelashes, and sparkly costume all. While we watch the girls (some of them as young as 18 months) twirl themselves around the stage to canned, drum machine/keyboard music, the camera pans to their mothers, many of them once pageant girls themselves, miming and modeling the dance routine they've doubtlessly rehearsed in their living rooms to exhaustion, jumping around in faux-Fosse fashion.

I would like to think that I support all women, no less all mothers, in their tastes and desires for their babies to be what they think will make their children happiest and most fulfilled and nurtured. The show made me shudder, though, and when Devi woke up from her nap, still a little drowsy and warm from nuzzling her blanket, I made a quiet promise to both of us that I'm not sure I can iterate clearly in one sentence here--but it was partly to let her be little as long as she was little, to not rush her growing up, to let her personality emerge, and to try my hardest not to pin my own hopes or lost dreams on her (not that I'm sure I have any lost dreams--life's been pretty good--but I think if I had any talent with a guitar, I would have loved to be a rockstar, or at the very least, a really kick-ass soul back-up singer).

We took Dev to get her 1-year-old portraits done last Sunday. Alloted 30 minutes and three outfits, I chose a casual outfit she'd normally wear for play, a polka-dot dress I found on the clearance rack at Babies-R-Us two days prior, and a little shirt-dress I found in Japan that sports a strawberry and boasts the Champion logo and our hometown, the (old?) Champion HQ, from a Champion outlet store outside of Tokyo. During the shoot, the photographer did her best to get just the right angles and shots, while Heath worked his magic to make Devi laugh, and I worked mine. Apparently my magic is jumping up and down and making crazy sounds and faces like someone on a cocktail of mushrooms and crack.

And just as our photographer gleefully squealed that she got what she wanted, I had a flashback of those stage moms, jumping up and down and all about. It was a scary moment. Thankfully, no false eyelashes nor hair extensions on our stage, but I imagine there will come a day, maybe 6th grade, when she'll want to pierce a part she can't spell yet, or like the prom, when I won't help but be sentimental for the good ol' days when the dresses covered more than high breast tissue and thigh, and my girl will look like she's prematurely 35.

I, new mom and part-time control freak, just hope I have the fortitude to let her be herself.

January 05, 2010

Who Who's Clever

Most of us know that Jewish folks (such as we are) consider it to be bad luck, or at the very least, premature, to decorate a baby room way ahead of the delivery of a baby. So when it came time to think about our baby's room--she was yet to be named, so we just called her Blueberry--we had plenty of time to figure it out. Some of my friends had their baby rooms decorated within seconds of their first ultrasound, so I was ancey to get started, and tried to sate my nesting instincts by organizing all the closets in the house.

We knew we liked a calm green color. The paint we chose was actually called sweet pea, or something like that, but that was totally unintentional. We knew we wanted to showcase a tree--a symbol of life and family that Heath and I love--on one of the main walls, and after much consideration of having people we knew over to paint one, we found this awesome (and easily removable) decal, worth every cent for it is easily peeled and replaced if you totally mess it up (as I did). And we had this great rug: a lucky rug, because it never would have made it home had it not been for a generous gift certificate to Pottery Barn, and a PB gift certificate left over from our wedding. It features our light green and a dark green, had a bird and an owl on it, and we thought the owl would make a cool motif.

And books. We knew there needed to be books in this room. So we have a little book corner where we read, and on a very neat and picked-up day, it looks like this:
As you can see, the owl motif took: the lamp and stuffed owl came from Target, and now there's a very wise vibe about the room. But let's be clear: this room is still coming together, and Devi's turning one in a week.

In today's mail, we received the potterybarnkids catalog that does little else than make a parent feel a.) completely disorganized or uncoordinated, b.) lacking in imagination, c.) poor, d.) like why should a 4-year-old get a mahogany desk with a file cabinet when I have to keep my mail piled up on the counter and I'm using the kitchen table for a desk?

But we noticed that the catalog featured owls (maybe it's a comeback for owls this year), and we gave ourselves a pat on the back. Devi's room rocks! And it only took a year to put together.
Oh--and Dev's favorite book at the moment? Peek-a-Who!