Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, a handful of these rusks, and gather ’round for Liz’s Origin Story time.
I grew up in a forest between two small towns, which basically meant that I saw more deer than neighbors and that the closest anything was at least a fifteen minute drive away. I went to a teeny tiny school, and I’m pretty sure that I was old enough to remember the first time I saw a person of color, so needless to say, words like ESL and refugee assistance and ethnic grocery were not a part of our everyday conversation.
I didn’t know it would be like this – that so many of my parenting decisions would boil down to working theory, to an intentional and loving crapshoot. I thought I would be so much more in the know, having read all of the books before Owen was born. I read about everything – from sleep to eating to vaccines to absolutely riveting car seat reviews.
I read like I had never before seen nor held a baby.
After all my reading, I thought I knew what kind of parent I’d be. I mean, I’d been running a classroom of upwards of twenty kindergarteners for the previous five years. In my mind, kids needed stability, structure, routine, which roughly translated into ideas that my babies would be on a schedule and put themselves to sleep and defintiely learn to stay asleep through the night at a young age. When they got older and were testing boundaries in a social setting, it would take nothing more than a well-timed look to make them rethink their course of action…or at worst, a fiercely whispered word.
And then I actually had a baby. And then a toddler. And then another baby. And so much of what I thought would be quickly flew out of my oft-crayola-ed windows.
It’s Friday! And yesterday, I spent eight hours alone with my kids driving home from a visit with my parents in Wisconsin, so it’s safe to say that I’m definitely still recovering from that.
(It actually went really well thanks to a little help from Goldfish Crackers, Elmo’s World, The Moth Podcast, and Starbucks drive-thrus.)
So I figured today I’d keep it brief, tell you about an epic parenting fail I had earlier this week, and then dive, mouth-first, into this pasta.
Here is what I know about my husband Eric’s eating habits.
When he was little, he had a phase of six years in which he was not enthused about meat. Over the course of his four high school years, he ate his body weight in Totino’s pizza rolls. Now, he is just about the easiest person to cook for, having only turned his nose up at one meal in seven years together – my first attempt at roasting a chicken. I didn’t eat it either.
And while he’ll eat just about anything happily, it’s not often that he craves things. Especially dessert. Whereas, I have literally woken him up to tell him how desperately I needed one of those ham & gruyere croissants from the cupcake shop up the block. (Let’s blame those 3 a.m. feedings, mmmkay?)
And so when he came home from a Saturday morning of errands with Owen asking if I’d ever though of making an apple cinnamon pull-apart bread because the one he’d grabbed from a coffee shop display window blew his mid-morning-coffee mind, I went to work.
Telling it like it is:
Owen: Mom, you’re smelly today
Me: Oh…well, what do I smell like?
Owen: Like dirt or somefing.
Owen: (farts) Oh, I just farted.
After we watched Tiny: A Story about Living Small:
Eric: Owen, did you have any dreams last night?
Me: I think I dreamed about Tiny Houses. I was trying to cook in one and really stressed out.
Eric: Yeah, the first time you try to cook anything in a Tiny House, you’ll realize you made a huge mistake…because your counter-space is your table, is your bed, is your bathroom shelf.
I didn’t talk much about it at the time because everyone knows the fastest way to make your baby a terrible sleeper is to get all braggy about it on social media. But you guys, from about five weeks on, Elsa more or less slept through the night, and it was amazing.
You have to remember that Owen woke up two to three times a night throughout his first year of life, despite numerous and varied attempts at sleep training. So for her to just sleep through the night like that? We knew it was nothing WE were doing right. Mostly, it was a miracle. So I stayed pretty quiet about it.
But you’ll notice that the operative word in that first paragraph is was. It was amazing. And now, it is over.
Well, apparently this is the year for making giant salads that I eat all week for lunch. And this sweet potato salad falls right in line. I love recipes like these – that you can make on a Monday, that can hold up perfectly well until Friday when you are scooping the very last bits straight out of the tupperware container it’s been housed in all week.
Lunchtime is often kind of a crazy time of day for us. I’m usually rushing home, having stayed too long at a park because the knowledge that winter - the season of futility and death - is ever before me. (Did you click that link? No? You should. Camp Patton is one of my favorite mama blogs these days).
taken from the carpeseason Instagram account
The plan began late Thursday night after we’d looked at the weather for the weekend – 80* and sunny, 0% chance of rain. Actually, the plan began earlier this summer after our completely wonderful anniversary camping trip sans kids. Well, actually, the plan started about ten years ago when we were dating and obnoxiously in love. Eric and I camped all the time then and when we were newly married…sometimes out of the back of our tiny car, sometimes hiking for days and setting up camp in a remote spot at night. In fact, our very first kiss was shared on the shore just a few feet away from our campsite. Camping is kind of in our family’s blood.
We’ve been talking about taking Owen camping since he was born, but then I got pregnant with Elsa when he was still pretty young. And really, who wants to sleep on the ground when pregnant? Or get up four times in the middle of the night to pee…in an outhouse? Not me. So we waited.
Well, you guys, we did it.
We took our babies camping.
And while I’m busy preparing an entire post, complete with pictures and snake stories (intrigue!), about our experience, I thought I’d share one snippet of our adventure with you today. It involves our neighbors at the next campsite over – three young men from India. They were probably around twenty, and the first time we noticed them was as we were cooking our dinner.
They turned their car battery on and started playing music…not concert-speaker loud, but definitely loud enough to hear. And the thing is, had it been a little bluegrass, or something soft and woodsy, I probably wouldn’t have minded. But no. It was a steady stream of Bollywood beats, Enrique Iglesias, and Nickelback. Nickel. Back.
There are times when I plot and plan what meals I want to make – some extravagant Pinterest idea, or a recipe that’s been rattling around in my brain for a year. I finally commit and make the meal; we photograph, feast, and then spend the next six hours cleaning up in our dishwasherless kitchen.
There are other times that I realize that I’ve been making something for months and it’s high time I shared it with you (though, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to go public with my secret penchant for homemade chocolate frosting on graham crackers).
But the other day, I realized I needed to share this salad with you. More Please
What’s better than muffins?
Newborn babies, that’s what.
image from shuttersmack.com
I’m delighted to be sharing over at the beautiful photography blog Shuttersmack while Leslie takes some time to snuggle her new baby and nibble on those fingers. I can’t even deal. I shared an old favorite with her – these banana nut muffins. They’re the perfect gift to bring over to a new mama because those post partum hormones make you snacky and these can be eaten with one hand. Win Win! They’re also the perfect way to tiptoe back into fall baking. Head on over for the recipe and stick around to check out Leslie’s amazing photography and eye for all things beautiful!
I really have nothing to offer you today but this panini.
Really. I mean, I thought about writing about the two large pots of mums I impulse-bought yesterday. I love mums, and every fall, I see them, neatly placed on the front steps of more put-together people’s houses. As I drove home yesterday, I saw them on display in a local nursery’s outdoor section, and pretty much slammed on the brakes, unbuckled both kids, and bought two pots, just like that. I thought about telling you how I came around the corner this morning only to find Owen very carefully picking off the unopened bulbs of one of the plants and how we had a long and very sobering conversation about how we just can’t do that again because those “balls” will never become flowers once they’re dead..and how he keeps asking me if everything is dead now and I fear I’ve done something irreparable to his little psyche.
But really, all of that is pretty routine, pretty par for the course.
I thought about writing about a moment I have every day around 2:15 in the afternoon.
It is incredibly life giving to be able to call a friend and tell her about how you were up six times last night with a fussy baby…about the grocery store line meltdown that happened despite the steady stream of graham crackers flowing from your diaper bag…about how your toddler just vomited all over the couch and you spent twenty minutes hyperventilating about killing a fake bug…and to have her sigh, or laugh, into the phone and say, “I totally understand.”
I am blessed with many friends, but only a few who are walking lock-step with me in the treanches of toddlerhood. Rachel is one of those friends, and she and I spend a lot of time talking about what it means to thrive in this season, significant conversations that are punctuated with urgent trips to the potty and requests for help climbing up the slide, but significant nonetheless.
This summer, she and I started scheming about a little day retreat. A day away from the diapers and dishes. A day of quiet. A day in nature. A day to reflect. And of course, a day to eat. And the amazing things is, we (with the help of our amazing baby-daddies) made it happen.
We set out on a Sunday morning, armed with coffee cake and a thermos full of good coffee large enough to sustain a small family through the apocalypse. We drove into rural Wisconsin, ending in Grantsburg at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, where we sat near a lake for hours, seeing only a handful of people while there.
Okay, so remember last week when I was all like “grill everything! summer forever!” and promised not to go all pumpkin on you yet?
Well. I caved.
And made you soup.
But you have to understand what happened. Last Thursday, it was eighty-eight degrees. And humid. I turned our air conditioner on.
But today? Today is cloudy, with a high temperature thirty degrees lower than that. We’re in that awkward time when it’s too cold to keep the windows open, but not quite cold enough to turn on the heat. So we’re dressing in layers at night like we’re camping and wearing socks again. Socks!
Can we just talk about September in Minnesota? It’s arguably the most beautiful month of the year here, with gorgeous temps and low humidity. Though changing leaves speak to us of fall, it’s still feels a lot like summer, and the farmers market tables are this cornucocupia of both seasons.
People begin to dress in layers, little pumpkins taking the place of their pupils for a few weeks. And that makes sense. I’ve been there. But this year, I’m clinging to summer with death-grip knuckles. Perhaps it’s because school started here, and the high schoolers are back to walking down our sidewalk, yelling expletives as though they want me to have to explain to my two-year-old what the F word means. Perhaps it’s the fact that today is not slated to be more than 68 degrees outside, with a dreary gray sky and rain to boot. But winter, you guys. It’s coming. And I’m kind of dreading it.
On a Road Trip, A Week Before our Month-Long Sugar Fast Began:
Me: I want Dairy Queen.
Eric: (drinking Mountain Dew) No, no we don’t need that stuff.
Me: Fine, I’ll settle for gummy worms.
Eric: Here, have some Mountain Dew…it’s basically liquid gummy worms.
Owen: (rifling through our diaper bag…finds wrapped sanitary pad and triumphantly holds it up) Hey! This is a present for Milo’s birthday!
(…a few hours later…)
Owen: (finds same pad) Hey! This can be a card for Granpa Ron!
You guys are food people, right? I assume because you read this blog that you, like myself, might also be the kind of person who watches the Food Network. We don’t actually have cable, but due to a free-Hulu-trial-turned-3-month-subscription (darn you, Master Chef Junior binge), I’ve been watching a lot of culinary TV.
The other day, I was folding laundry and decided to give Throwdown with Bobby Flay a try. I thought…I like Bobby Flay, and mmmmmm let’s watch a half hour of tikka masala.
Why didn’t you guys warn me? Throwdown with Bobby Flay might have the worst premise in all of TV. Here’s a breakdown:
Both Eric and I were born country mice. We grew up in homes surrounded by space and corn fields, few neighbors, and an impossible amount of trees. We grew up to the sounds of rushing creeks and the occasional coyote and stern warnings about watching out for deer as we grabbed keys and headed out the door at night in high school. We grew up where dogs were let out the back door to do their business where they pleased, usually and courteously near the edge of the woods.
Now, we, and our children by default, are city mice. Instead of acres of backyard, we have city parks with playground equipment and splashpads. We are within minutes authentic Indian curries, Greek falafels, and Vietnamese pho. We take city buses and can listen to different languages spoken in our grocery store aisles. We hear sirens and fireworks and planes that fly low overhead, and we could go and see good live music almost every night of the week.
Remember winter, guys? Remember when my baby was born and it was -25* windchill outside the hospital room window? Remember the first time you heard the words Polar Vortex?
And now, here we are, in August. And really, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed summer weather more than what we’ve had this summer, amIright, fellow Upper Midwesterners? That same Polar Vortex has given us unseasonably cool weather. Low heat, low humidity. I think we’ve turned our air conditioners on twice.
The days have been just warm enough that you’re still fine in a skirt and tank top but not hot and sticky to the point that you seriously consider sleeping in your spider-filled basement. It just hasn’t been the kind of heat where you want to punch something in the face.
It is a rainy Friday morning, and I have spent the last twelve hours waiting for Owen to throw up.
He woke up from his nap the day before with a pretty high fever, and now I am playing vomit roullette as to where he would strike first..in his bed? on the couch? all over the carpet? It is, of course, the perfect time for him (and subsequently the rest of us) to be sick because we have house guests – Eric’s brother David and his wife Julia – sleeping upstairs, with more coming in a day or two, plus a family reuinion to travel to later the next week.
The definition of listless, Owen is sitting on the couch with his beloved monkey, as Daniel Tiger sings, over and over, that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Elsa is fed, and I have literally just poured my coffee when he starts to cry.
I run over to the couch, and last night’s milk is all over him, the monkey, and the cushion he’s on. I gag briefly as I enter into that special moment of realizing that I am the one who has to clean this up.
He is crying as I pull him off the couch, and I am mentally calculating just how much vomit is sinking into the couch cushion as I rip his shirt off and run to get him some water. Owen is briefly pacified, so I turn to the couch to rip off the cover. I get the front corner removed and then move the couch a few inches away from the wall to do the back corner.
That’s when I see it.