26 January 2015

Three Feels Big

The Bairn turned three-years-old today.  When I was growing up, it never occurred to me that my birthdays might be more significant to my mother than they were to me.  She wasn't getting gifts or cake or the ability to go to school or drive a car like I was.  In fact, until The Bairn had his first birthday, I never considered that while I reflected on my previous birthdays each time I turned a year older, Mom was probably remembering my birth day.

Today I watched the clock and said to myself (and sometimes to Steve), this time three years ago . . . I was having contractions in the corner market.  I was still 10 hours away from having a baby.  I was on my way to the hospital.  I was a brand new mother.

I can't ever think of The Bairn's birth without thinking of all the kindness we received, far away from family, in a moldy, mouse-infested tenement, and so bewildered by parenthood that I couldn't even figure out how to take care of a newborn and fix myself lunch simultaneously without help.  Just getting to and from the hospital (three trips) took six different kind people. I had planned to use taxis but was told again and again by our friends (and sometimes mere acquaintances) that I was to call them day or night for rides. Maureen, who drove us to the hospital when we actually stayed and delivered The Bairn, chatted merrily to me, occasionally glancing at me in the rear view mirror and assuring me in her Scottish brogue, "I'm just trying to take your mind off it.  You'll be fine!" and Charlie, who drove us to the hospital 3 days later when I had a panic attack and who is the father of 10 children himself, asked me if Steve was taking proper care of me and told me stories about his first child.  Tina and Angela found me at the hospital that night after Julie, who had brought us dinner, didn't find us at home.  Angela took me to her house the next day where Aileen sat next to me for hours and taught me how to breastfeed.  And Tina kept me at her house for weeks after that, planting me on a couch with a plate of chocolates and whisking The Bairn away for some snuggling in a different room so I could sleep.

I don't know if The Bairn will ever meet any of these people who now live across an ocean from him, but they are the angels present for his birth.  He will surely hear stories about them, as they've rooted themselves in our family history through their service to us.

This is my friend Emily's blog.  We were roommates at BYU and at Sunday dinners she used to lead the discussion among roommates on topics such as which superpowers we would most enjoy.  She and her two children are in the middle of a year-long trip abroad and I love reading about her travels and her insights into her experiences, but this post, about kindness, is my favorite.  It's what I want to say about our friends in Scotland.

Happy Birthday to my three-year-old boy!  I'm so grateful for him and for all the new helpers in his life, because I can make lunch while I care for him now, but I'm still a bewildered parent working out how to raise this clever kid.

Chatting with Aunt Jean over Birthday Cupcakes

19 January 2015

Batch Cooking

Tonight for dinner we ate a jar of the chili that Steve canned last week.   It was part of our ground beef cooking extravaganza, brought on by our recent discovery of a real, live, local, independent butcher a few towns over AND of my determination to batch cook our faces off so that I can spend less time preparing meals in the wintertime and more time taking the kids to the natural history museum and lying on the couch at home with kids draped over me, which, it turns out, is the only way to survive in negative temperatures--get out of the house or do very little work when you're in the house.

Last week Steve brought home 12 pounds of ground beef from the butcher, and I made a quadruple batch of my mom's meaty spaghetti sauce, a single batch of bierocks (they're like piroshki and they're delicious and perfect for single lunch servings), and two meatloaves to put in the freezer.  Steve made 11 pints of chili.

There was enough meat left over for slow cooker cabbage rolls, one of my favorite easy winter meals, for dinner.  (There's a notable difference if you use dried parsley instead of fresh and it must be eaten with lots of delicious sour cream.)

Obviously to get that all done, I had to plug The Bairn into the iPad to watch sawmill movies and I had to trap Ellen at the sink to play in the dishes, the things they love best.

13 January 2015

Snow Days, Sick Days

We're just getting out from under weeks of illness. We've been down so long that we even dragged our TV up from the basement, where it's been sitting for the last 18 months, so that we can all nurse our fevers and watch movies and take it easy during these hard winter months.  We are also having the cold and the snow from the living in the Canada, which meant that we had to pull out a few special treats today.

Like snowcream.  The classic ice cream treat made from snow.  I ate it as a child and The Bairn is a convert, although I had to talk him into trying it.

Matching games from the parent resource center.  Ellen is very insistent about trying everything The Bairn does.  When he drinks hot chocolate, I have to give her a tiny cup of water and stirring spoon so she can participate in the ritual.

The 'Yes' Drawer.  The kids have taken over one of my kitchen drawers.  It's full of their own kitchen utensils and things I suspect they can't break.  Sometimes they like to pull everything out and play games with them.
Ellen is, in fact, holding a knife sharpener.  That should probably go in the 'No' Drawer.

05 January 2015

Our Favorite Books of 2014

This was not an impressive reading year for me and Steve.  Steve claims that he didn't read any books at all, but I know this isn't true.  He read several books lying around the house and at least portions of a few I brought home from the library.  Unfortunately, neither of us can really remember which books those were.  He definitely read at least part of The Screwtape Letters, Nova Scotia Outstanding Outhouse Reader, Think Like a Freak, and Jim Gaffigan's book, Dad is Fat.  I told Steve that I love him even though he's basically a book-hating book-burner for reading so little this year.

If Goodreads is right, I only read about 20 books this year.  That seems like a really low number, but I have been really busy teaching The Bairn not to bite holes in the wall and crying over the fact that my floors cannot stay clean for even 30 minutes after being washed.

Of the books I can remember reading, these were my favorites:

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is quirky, 12-year-old genius who becomes the project of a terrible school counselor and a Vietnamese family, when her adoptive parents die in a car accident.  YA novel with a really lovely narrative voice.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Improbable love story in which a woman is able to speak to her husband in the past on her parents' house phone.  Somehow Rainbow Rowell makes this work.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Thirteen-year-old Jenna searches for her missing mother with the help of a washed up psychic and a jaded private investigator.  Jodi Picoult is such a talented storyteller.  Her stories always have a dramatic twist and I really did not see the one in this book coming.

Cinder (and the whole Lunar Chronicles series) by Marissa Meyer
YA cyborg Cinderella story.

Tinkerlab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Innovators by Rachelle Doorley
From the author the blog by the same name, this book is full of good projects for kids.  

Ellen loved these books best this year:

Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam
Bugs.  Cute bugs.

Doggies by Sandra Boynton
I'm not sure why Ellen loved this one so much, but she thought it was hilarious.

Noisy Farm by DK Publishing
Lift-the-flap books are always popular with my kids.

And these were The Bairn's favorites:

Georgie by Robert Bright
The classic story of a gentle ghost who loses and then regains his job as the resident ghost at the Whittaker home.  The rhythm of the story is really nice and I like the old-style illustrations.  The Bairn and I both love it.

Steam Train, Dream Train and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
I think we've read every vehicle book in our library, and these are definitely two of the best.

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
This has shown up on the blog before, but it's The Bairn's all-time favorite book.  He has loved it for at least half his life now.

Things That Go by Anne Rockwell
The Bairn likes all of Anne Rockwell's books, but this is his favorite of hers.  He often requests that I go to the library to get it for him.  It's just pictures of different vehicles organized by where they travel (air, water, etc.).  We thought we'd found a copy online for $0.01, but when it arrived it was a different book by the same author with the same title. 

Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore and Nancy Carpenter
Based on a true story, this is the tale of baby ducklings who are saved after falling down a storm drain.  Great illustrations and storytelling.

Obviously I need some book recommendations.  What do you suggest?

31 December 2014

The Old Year



  • Steve started his own business.
  • The Bairn potty-trained.
  • Ellen learned practically everything she knows, including how to walk and how to snatch toys from The Bairn's pile and then run.
  • I was not pregnant for one single day of the year.
  • We made friends this year.  Each of us made at least one new friend.  The kind of friend who invites you to her house for parties.  Except for Steve.  His new friend invites him over to his ex-military bunker.   (Steve loves it.)
  • This is the best picture taken of me and Steve in years.  

Lessons Learned
  • Brussels sprouts are best steamed.  Trying to fancy them up with cranberries and nuts and so on is almost always a mistake.
  • The Bairn is happiest in a tree.
  • At least one person in our family will always be sick at Christmastime.
  • Eating lucy cats (lussekater or Swedish saffron rolls) with my children on St. Lucia Day is the best possible thing to do in December.  The Bairn keeps asking when we're making the next batch.

Happy New Year!

17 December 2014

Baby E

I just love her sweet curls. That is all.

11 December 2014

Christmas-ing It Up

We decorated the house last week and got out the nativity for the kids.  It makes Steve very nervous when they touch it, even though I purchased it specifically for that purpose.

Shepherds taste delicious.

This week we brought home a Christmas tree. When we got home, Ellen dressed herself up in some warmer gear.  She loves wearing gloves and hats.

She even kept her hat on for the eating of the Christmas tree-shaped fruit snack before standing awe-struck in front of the tree for a bit.

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