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Paper Dolls

February 23, 2011

One of my favorite things about my own childhood is how much my mother supported my dreams.  She indulged and encouraged my wildest fantasies, believing with equal gusto, or so it seemed to me, that I could become a famous fashion designer and a quantum physicist, despite not knowing, actually, what either of those jobs might entail.  (The great irony of my life is that my mother wasn’t quite as supportive when I came to her, after my first year of college, and declared that no career or career-prep interested me as much as motherhood.  An irony because I’m pretty confidant, now, that she’s totally satisfied that I just live in my hometown with my family and do this.)

As a child, my play was always designed around these grand dreams, and I spent hours constructing the props I would need to create the elaborate worlds of my fantasies.  I loved all kinds of imaginative play- make-believe, role-playing, dress up, barbie dolls.  House, doctor, school, work.  I could be persuaded to ride my bike around the neighborhood with my cousins, only if each of us pretended to be someone else- an expert in our field, an unlikely crime-fighting trio composed of one actress, one scientist, and one lawyer.  Or swim in the pool all summer, carefree adults luxuriating at a fancy country club or mermaids involved in a mystical plot.  I actually can’t remember many times when I wasn’t fantasizing about something else.  This bath water is a soup and I’m the host of a kitchen show; this mailbox is the president’s mailbox, and I’m the president, insisting, in an effort to stay humble, to retrieve my own mail.  The bus to school is the bus to a Swiss boarding school, and who knows what adventures are waiting for me there?  Chores and the mundane could become romantic adventures.  (To some extent, as an older child, I replaced this activity with reading, but I still participated in it at least sometimes until, well, I guess I still do it now.  These chores are challenges in a bizarre reality show, and I’m the reluctant star.)

My favorite, though, was playing alone, quietly, all the dialog of a particular drama playing out in my head, and dolls acting out the scenarios I’d dreamed up.  I liked barbies, of course, and even large dolls, like Cabbage Patch dolls, or Pamela.  Among my favorites were paper dolls, with their endless but delicate clothing options and static poses.  Mom bought me all kinds: fairy tale princesses, 80s heroines, prairie girls.  They weren’t good for group play- their clothing sat precariously on them, threatening to flutter to the floor with the flick of a wrist.  They were a low-key, lone endeavor.

I also loved making paper dolls and clothes for paper dolls, and could easily spend several afternoons in a row carefully drawing and cutting them out, tracing them to make snug and smart clothes.  I was the kind of kid who loved large, intense projects.  And when those projects were complete, I could just as easily spend another several afternoons enjoying and considering the results.  Many solitary hours were happily spent simply thinking and dreaming up situations for my dolls.

I’ve learned, as a parent, to relinquish control of playing.  When I was a child, I was mostly alone and I was the boss of my imaginings.  Now, I have to defer to Irene’s mind when playing make-believe.  The worlds are hers.  And, of course, I’m okay with that.  But I can’t help but relive, in some ways, the joys I myself felt, mastering the puppets in my own created landscape.  I hope I can pass down that love of imagining, and of make-believe, to my kids.  I truly believe that those experiences are what made me into a person who still loves being alone.

Now, I’m the kind of lady who tries not to buy something that I can make, and so introducing paper dolls to Irene has turned into another family project.  She’s pretty interested in them, and I’ve smiled to myself overhearing the little dialogs that occur in her games.  Arguing over toys and pretending to be cheetahs.  I wonder if my own mumblings, under-the-breath bickering and making-up between my dolls, amused my mother so much.  I wonder how many more wonderful years I have with the kids constructing endless worlds and solving myriad problems in imaginary places and between imaginary people.  I am so looking forward to seeing what they come up with.


A day in food- Part 1: Morning

February 19, 2011

The first in a series that looks at our eating habits, this entry deals with the morning and what I feed the kids and myself.  I’ll be totally honest throughout this series, which will take a hard look, during part four, at my weaknesses and cravings.  I’ll just mention now that, unless noted otherwise, we try to eat mostly homemade stuff, including but not limited to bread and noodles, baby food, and jellies, etc…, and we buy organic, local or homegrown whenever possible.  Judah drinks Similac Sensitive Formula and stopped drinking breast milk around 3 months.

So, why document?  Why even create an entry like this?  Well, it’s no secret that throughout my life, my relationship with food has been, um, troubled.  I’ve found that in keeping careful track of the food I eat and the kids eat that I’m more prepared to make good decisions during the days.  That’s not to say that I always make good choices, or that I don’t lapse, frequently!  But, through documentation, I’ve noticed a trend in healthy eating.  Irene and I try to eat 5 colors every day and at least 5 different fruits and vegetables (these rules usually just reinforce one another), and the family has really been experimenting with different whole grains.  Irene and I also try to stick to a one-treat per day rule.  She’s awesome at it, usually going to bed about an hour before my own, personal struggle with that particular guideline begins.  But, that’s for another entry.


The next morning, in our house, actually starts the night before.  It takes a lot of preparation and planning to get Irene to sleep in her own bed, all night long, with no trips to our room.  She has to be in a certain mood, she has to have had a certain amount of physical activity, she has to feel as though she’s seen and talked to each of us enough throughout the day.  And even then, there’s usually the shuffle between parents.  I want mom no I want dad no I want mom.  She’s really improved at putting herself to sleep, but there’s still the 4AM visit.  We’ve created routines and rules to make the transition from the waking day to the sleeping night as painless for all three of us as possible.

One thing we’ve started is to leave a little morning snack in Irene’s room the night before.  It’s meant to be an incentive, a little autonomy- just think, when you wake up in your own room, you can start eating your snack whenever you like!  It’s totally up to you!  We hope that this will keep her in her own bed at night, and keep her in her room until the magical hour of seven o’clock.  We let Irene pick out her own snack and prepare it- but being four, it’s always the same thing: oatmeal squares and a juice box.

While we’re still upstairs in the morning and Irene is happily munching her squares and reading a book or watching She-Ra (or the like), Judah usually has his first bottle of the day, the first of four or five that he drinks in addition to the massive amount of food- both baby and otherwise- he puts away every twenty-four hours.

We usually come downstairs around 8:30AM, and that’s about the time I start my water intake for the day.  I try to drink 6 pint jars of water each day, and I have been trying to drink a glass of room temperature water every morning before I put anything else into my body.  This is not a difficult task for me, and is one of my very few naturally-occurring healthful habits.  I also carry around a 16oz metal water bottle all day, just in case, and usually need to refill it once before bed.

It’s worth noting that morning is the easiest time for all of us to make healthful food choices.  The kids are both hearty eaters in the morning, whereas by the time dinner rolls around, we’re usually patting Judah to sleep and bargaining with Irene.  Ah, but again, that’s for another entry.

Anyway, once downstairs, the kids start playing, or Judah hangs out in his high chair with some cheerios and bananas, while I make oatmeal for Irene and me.  It’s almost always the same: Irene- the works, bananas, raisins, flax seeds, maple syrup or sometimes honey, milk or almond milk, crushed almonds; me- bananas, flax seeds, and a drop of maple syrup.  Sometimes I make oatmeal for Judah, but he’s really more interested in finger foods right now. Irene and I try to eat facing each other at the dining room table, or else in the kitchen with the radio on, although, I’ll admit, sometimes she eats hers while playing computer games and I eat mine standing up, cleaning the kitchen.

I make oatmeal by putting the old fashioned or steel cut or Irish oats in the bowl and pouring boiling water on top.  Then I cover the bowl and let the oatmeal steep.  Generally, while the oatmeal is cookin’, I use the leftover boiling water to steep some tea for later use, and place a stick of butter on top of one of the plates to soften it for bread.  I try to make one or two loaves of bread every other day these days, so I’m usually bringing some milk to room temperature or softening some butter at any given time.

And I also admit to drinking way more coffee than I really should.  I drink 2 pints a day, probably, skim milk included.  And though I’m trying to make our food choices as natural as possible, the main place I regularly deviate from that is coffee because I take Splenda in my coffee.  I really need to shake a  lifelong sugar addiction or whatever label best describes seriously not monitoring my sugar intake, at all, up until roughly one year ago.

Everyone typically needs a mid-morning snack.  If Irene is home from pre-school, I usually offer a smiley-face snack.  That’s a random snack usually made up of cheese, nuts, fruits and vegetables, either fresh or dried or both, and sometimes some dark chocolate.  Smiley-face snacks always please Irene, and she eats them all up, even if there’s stuff in there that I usually have to beg her to eat, no matter what they include- jicama, radishes, baby corn, peas, raisins, dried apricot, banana slices, apples, carrots, almonds, hazelnuts…  I like smiley-face snacks because when she asks for a snack and I say “how about a smiley-face?” she always nods happily instead of saying, “no, I don’t want that.”  Therefore, I avoid the situation of offering a menu of anything and everything in the cabinet, only to be met with rejection.

Judah has some protein mid-morning, usually in the form of beans of quinoa cereal.  He’s a little too young for peanut butter and the like.  He also eats one or two servings of baby food mid-morning.  That’s generally: cooked and coarsely chopped carrots, sweet potatoes, or potatoes;  or pureed green beans, peas, or rice and meat.  Then another bottle before his nap.  When he wakes up, I like to give him some fresh mango or applesauce, something sweet.  I make all of Judah’s baby food, usually storing up a week’s worth or so on Sundays, so that it’s readily available.  Judah eats maybe 2-3 jars of store-bought baby food throughout the week, in a pinch.

Mid-morning, I’m still feeling super motivated, and usually indulge in some nuts and dried fruit, cheese and crackers, dark chocolate and carrot sticks, or some combination of those, sometimes some combination of all of those.  I’m also a huge fan of corn grits, apples and sunflower seed butter, flat bread and honey, grapes, raisins and peanuts and chocolate chips, and wasabi peas.

All of this food preparation occurs during, around, and through our usual morning routine of dance parties, arts & crafts, [computer and otherwise] game time, free play, exploring, nap time (for Judah), bread mixing, letter-writing and email checking, and all before lunch!

Some morning food goals:

  • Start Judah on a sippy cup of water, or two parts water and one part juice, or whole milk, before April 1
  • Increase Irene’s morning water/liquid intake.  Hopefully, she can drink 1 cup before lunch.
  • Think about starting to maybe decrease my own caffeine and artificial sweetener intake
  • Investigate agave nectar, honey, etc… as natural coffee sweeteners.

General (goals/house/family) roundup and welcome!

February 15, 2011

Hello readers!

So far, I’m certain that six of you exist and I know just who you are.  I write for that general audience, and for myself, mostly myself, because I assume you are interested in what I’m doing.  I mean, it’s sort of like having a conversation with a few close friends- I edit to meet the understanding of that group and its members, and the rest is whatever.

In an effort to be less self-important in some ways (and more so in others, obviously, but we’ll leave that to another post), I’ve terminated my Facebook activity, and encouraged my friends to find my musings and goings-on here.  What I’m trying to say is, let me know if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  I’d like to explore writing in a more accessible way.   Please interact with me, frequently, and let me know what’s going on in your lives, too.  I want this to replace Facebook in a positive way with a few choice friends, and I think this can be a safer, warmer, nicer, more fun place for us to do that, if you like.

Oh my goodness, I am so conceited.  Let me just stop right there.


Here’s what’s happening on East Street…

I have a few January totals to report.

  • My $1.60 batch of homemade laundry soap yielded enough for 20 large loads of moderately soiled clothing.  I have to admit, it wasn’t too effective on the tough, caked on stuff, but it really did a great job on anything from light to heavy-medium (or medium-heavy).  I always wash on the super load setting-  that is, I always fill the washer to capacity, so maybe with a lighter load, it might do even better.  Either way, I paid $.08 a load, verses $.26 a load, and that feels great!  I live for saving $3.06 a month!
  • In January, Irene watched 35 hours of television.  This is not counting family movie nights.  Looking at that total it still feels like waaay too much, a total waste of time.  But it evens out to about an hour and fifteen minutes a day.  My goal is to have the television on fewer than five hours a week, and I think we can get it down to that this Spring.  We won’t have time to sit in front of the tv when we are walking to the garden and playing in the back yard.  I guess for winter, it’s an okay number, and it’s still way better than the three to five hours a day she got when I was working.  I might need to spend some time rethinking these goals, or at least re-imagining what they include.  I mean, is there a different weight for so-called educational programs?  What about for stuff the whole family likes watching together?
  • The garden is researched and planned.  I’m waiting for some seed catalogs to arrive in the mail so I can do my seed shopping.  My earliest inside-start date is March 19, so I still have some time.
  • Weekly chores are going great; it’s been easy to stick to the schedule (today was bathrooms/trash), especially if I do my weekly chore first thing in the morning.  If it’s an upstairs chore, it’s been especially great to get it out of the way and then get down to the kitchen.  The only bad thing has been laundry- I have piles of clean clothes because, of all the chores I do every day, putting away clean clothes is by far my least favorite and I avoid it at all costs.  It’s pathetic.
  • A previously unpublished goal of mine is to write at least four letters a month.  My friend Kristin doesn’t email or text, and so writing is the most effective way to keep in touch with her.  She’s also a busy mom, with several jobs and responsibilities, so catching her on the phone is unlikely.  We’ve been pen pals for several years, but now I finally have time to keep up a  regular correspondence.  A close friend of mine recently lost her mother, Patty, and in a very beautiful, funny and moving obituary, it was mentioned that Patty kept up with several long-distance friendships; I thought that was a wonderful thing to read about someone.  I hope I can be that kind of friend to the ones I love through letters.  Anyway, since January,  I’ve written three letters- well on my way to the four-letter goal.

Other things are happening, too, of course.  Judah is moments away from taking his first step.  Irene is putting herself to sleep at night (sometime soon I’ll write about the long-goodbye to family bed), and times are nice.  It’s warm at our house, peaceful.  We all seem happy and anxious, just waiting for Spring.


Just one more thing.  My husband knows me well: for Valentine’s, he brought me silk flowers from the props shop and a handmade card.  Zero dollars, a million kilowatts of love.

Pearl Gearl

February 12, 2011

Tonight, as I was getting ready for the Valentine’s Day Dance, something happened to me for the first time:

I wore pearls with an apron.

See, Richie’s jacket needed to be ironed, and I didn’t want to chance getting water on my outfit, so I put on my apron.  And, officially, I arrived as a housewife.

Living- registered trademark

February 11, 2011

Since I spend my days caring for two people other than myself, I sometimes gets absorbed by chores.  Brushing teeth, combing hair, pulling on sweaters, tumbling down the stairs, stuffing crumpled t-shirts into dresser drawers, gathering around the table, cutting, gluing, snacking, washing, entertaining, engaging, calming, rinsing, resting, nesting, snuggling, sweeping, mixing, encouraging, wiping, smiling, counting backwards from 100, caffeinating, laughing, chopping, smearing.  It’s easy to go from playing in the corner, to noticing the corner has a cobweb, to dusting and vacuuming the entire downstairs of the house.

Armed with a strong sense of curiosity and a nerdy nature, I’ve approached this situation like I would any other- by studying.  I did the same thing with gardening, and, recently, stationed at Laurie’s dining room table with a stack of books, notes, charts and plans, I remarked “I feel like I’m back at exams” and Laurie asked “but who’s giving you the test?  Yourself?”

But, yes, of course, that’s who.  I tend to live life through stages of an outline:  ponder, research, organize, create, schedule.

Anyway, the truth is, I’ve discovered the need to be careful and methodical about this subject, homekeeping, and therefore, I’ve consulted the president and ceo of Living.

I feel a little concerned that Martha agreed to be photographed with a roll of *gasp* paper towels, but otherwise, I feel like she and I are very like-minded in our homekeeping philosophy, ie we obsess easily.

So far, I’m pleased to discover Martha and I have a similar fondness for glass jars, storage, recycling  and calendars.  I’m not convinced, though, that my current weekly chore schedule would impress her, but nonetheless, with Martha’s helpful advice, I’ve created and implemented one, and for the most part, stuck to it for three weeks now.

Weekly house cleaning schedule

Monday: Clean out and organize cabinets and refrigerator.  And just do a general check-over in the kitchen, laundry area and party pooper (downstairs “bathroom” which is a toilet in a room).

Tuesday: Take out trash and clean bathrooms.  Clean toilets and floors, sinks and showers.  Take trash out and down to curb.  Rinse out trash cans. Replace can liners.

Wednesday: Vacuum entire downstairs, and tidy up coat closet, art shelves, nook and toy areas.

Thursday: Vacuum entire upstairs, including both kids’ rooms and hallway and staircase, and dust and organize the master bedroom.

Friday: Every other Friday, mop the kitchen floor and clean all heat registers.

Saturday: Dust and organize Irene’s bedroom (including sorting out outgrown clothing).

Sunday: Dust and organize Judah’s bedroom (including sorting out outgrown clothing).  Prepare recycling for the curb.  Rinse recycling bins.

Daily: Sweep floors, laundry, dishes, clean kitchen, generally tidy, pick up after ourselves, that sort of thing.

Although I really enjoy cleaning, I generally try to get my weekly chores completed as early as possible in the day so I have plenty of time for things like, oh, you know, reading about cleaning.  One of my new favorites is Mrs. Beeton, who died at age 28 but still had time to be a homekeeping expert.

Irene has a chore chart, and helps me put away laundry and clean dishes, cook dinner, pack lunches, etc…  Judah’s job is to not eat everything he picks up.  He stinks at his job, and Irene doesn’t love helping with chores, but she loves drawing a clumsy smiley face on her chart at the end of the day, so that’s still a win, I say.

Martha is teaching me how to make my own cleaning products, and the best way to store bulk items.  Slowly and carefully, I’m becoming a homekeeping nerd, and I like it.

Monday is food cabinet cleaning day

January 17, 2011

Fluffy Sunday Pancakes

January 16, 2011

It’s a rare day off for Daddy, and we like making it as sweet and warm as possible.  Today we are playing Wii, bundling up for a walk, napping, heating up leftover sweet potato soup and pizza.

We decided to have pancakes instead of French toast so we could use our bread for pb&j later or tomorrow, so I tried a new recipe that I found when I googled “best pancake recipe ever.”

Best Pancakes Ever from

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted

butter for the skillet

Mix the milk and vinegar in a medium bowl and leave to sour for 5 minutes.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk egg and butter into the milk and pour the dry stuff into the wet stuff and whisk away the lumps.

Heat a skillet (I only have a medium iron skillet) and coat with butter.  I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup filled about two thirds of the way filled with batter to scoop the batter and pour into the skillet.  When bubbles appear on the surface, flip and cook on the other side, about, oh, a minute?  Less?  These babies cook fastish.

PS- They were the best pancakes we’ve ever had.