Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Order Please!

It seems that Vivi has decided that her world needs a little bit more order these days. Shoes jumbled in a heap on the floor? Not anymore. They are neatly lined up in a row. A stack of library books piled on the futon in her bedroom? No, they must be put edge to edge to form a concise border around her rug. Groceries tossed in a cart? Not unless they can be organized into a circle first.

This picture may not look like much to you but to Vivi it is a highly organized collection of her belongings.

Initially, I was feeling all self-congratulatory about this change in Vivi's behavior. As someone who prides herself on systems and organization, I just knew that this inclination had to have come from me. She may get her athleticism and facility with language from her dad but, by god, it is Mama who knows a thing or two about keeping things in order!

Then it occurred to me-- people who need to have control are often the ones who feel most out of control. (Ummm... guilty!) I think Vivi, like most toddlers, falls into this category. Instead of chalking it up to a developmental milestone, however, I've been feeling like I haven't been doing a good enough job with consistency these days.

Just yesterday, Vivi woke up from her nap crying. When I asked her what was bothering her, she said, "Mama, I no want a big girl bed. I want to sleep in my crib." She's been in her bed for months now with no problem!

There's no doubt that we have had plenty of changes around our house. Men have been in and out working on our chimney and boiler. My husband has been away a lot for various conferences. Turtle is growing and my expanding belly is garnering a lot of attention. And Vivi and I recently started looking at nursery schools. There's a lot of talk about the future and I think we are all feeling a bit unsettled about it.

So what's a mommy and toddler to do in a situation like this? Well, I'm going to let Vivi organize til her little heart's content. And me? I've got a closet that needs cleaning out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words to My Ears

This morning, instead of immediately demanding breakfast like she usually does when she climbs out of bed, I heard Vivi say the following:

"Daddy, I want to snuggle in bed with Mama and then I eat breakfast."

Ladies and Gentleman, Mama is back in favor! Woohoo!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the Day You Were Born....

Soon after we discovered I was pregnant with Vivi, my husband bought me a copy of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. Like many women who are pregnant for the first time, I was afraid of giving birth. I had only heard horror stories from other women who described birth as "absolutely unbearable" and appeared profoundly traumatized by the experience. No one seemed willing to tell me what I could reasonably expect and the mystery scared the hell out of me.

Ina May's book changed all that. The first section was full of positive birth stories. None of the writers omitted how painful the process was or minimized the strength it took to deliver a baby and I really appreciated that. Instead of feeling afraid, I began to feel empowered. I started to believe in my body's ability to birth without intervention. Over the next seven months, I found a wonderful midwife, read as many books as I could, and even made flashcards to remind myself that "the pain is for a purpose" and that I need "to work with nature and not against it." It was hokey but it worked!

Since that time, I have loved hearing and reading people's birth stories. It doesn't matter to me if the birth was a vaginal or Cesarean, happened in a hospital or at home, induced or spontaneous. They are all compelling and they are all miraculous.

A few weeks after Aviva's birth, my husband and I each wrote our version of her birth story. It was interesting to see the differences since he remembered things I hadn't and I relayed the physical sensations of birth that he could only have imagined.

With my ever growing belly, these stories have been especially useful. Vivi asks me several times a day to tell her about the day she was born. Sometimes I skim over it and other days I tell her all the toddler-appropriate details. She thinks it hysterical that she was born naked and loves to tell people that she "almost pooped on the nurses when she came out."

Just the other day, we had this conversation:

Vivi: Mama, when teddy was trying to come out of my belly, my water broke.

Me: Really? Did it hurt?

Vivi: Yes and I go in my room and I sittin' on yoga ball. That helps my tum tum.

Me: That's good. That really helped mama when you were trying to come out of my tummy.

Vivi: Yes, but teddy was pushin', pushin' to come out.

Me: Really?

Vivi: And Mary (my midwife) saying, "I see dat baby's head!"

Me: Wow!

Vivi: Mama, and teddy came out nakey and he almost pooped on the nurses!

Of course, Vivi's birth story and Teddy's are pretty darn similar but it is great to see her little two-year-old mind processing the whole thing.

For those of you out there who would like to share your birth story, I'd love to read it. If you'd like the specifics of Aviva's (as told by an adult), let me know and I can post it on this blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili

I've been remiss in not posting any recipes lately. With the election, my pregnancy, and Vivi's various adventures, I really have not been paying much attention to my culinary endeavors. It's not that we haven't been having good meals lately. In fact, now that my nausea has completely abated and my energy is back, I've generally had it together in the kitchen. I've been whipping up mushroom risotto, Tuscan bean soup, vegetarian pot pie, and large quantities of homemade macaroni and cheese. (I've also been eating large quantities of all of the aforementioned dishes.)

Still, there are nights when all I want is an easy, hearty meal. That's where my recipe for Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili comes in. It'll cook on the stove in half an hour or you can let it sit in the crock pot for most of the day. You can also substitute fresh ingredients for any of the canned/frozen items. Here are both variations below:

Lazy Person's Vegetarian Chili

1 tennis ball sized onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 6 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 green, 1 red, and 1 orange pepper (or any variation thereof,) chopped*
* You can also use 1/2 a bag of Trader Joe's Melange a Trois Pepper Mix
1 package of LiteLife Smart Ground Taco/Burrito tofu crumbles
2 15 oz. cans of red kidney beans*
*(If you soak and cook your own beans, use one cup dried)
2-3 cups water or vegetable stock or beer
Chili Powder
Lime Juice, all to taste

Cook onions, peppers, and garlic until softened. Add tomatoes, tofu crumbles, beans, liquid, and spices and simmer on stove for at least half an hour. If using a crock pot, cook onions, peppers, and garlic until barely soft. Put those and the other ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4.

It's easy, healthful, and very versatile. (Vivi ate 2 bowls of it last night!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This past weekend, my husband, Vivi, and I found ourselves traipsing through Harvard Yard to attend my husband's thirtieth (yes, that's 3-0) college reunion. We had no intention of going but my husband has a very persuasive college friend who made the trip out from Texas so we reluctantly agreed to show our faces for an hour or so.

As reunions go, this was probably your run-of-the-mill type event with the exception that everything at Harvard seems to cost more and be more self-congratulatory. When we arrived at the designated location, the woman at the door told my husband that he needed to pay $125 to enter. He explained that we weren't there for the brunch but just to see a few classmates for a few minutes. She let us in but only on the condition that we don't touch the food or she'll "have to wrestle it out of our hands." Not twenty minutes later, my husband was chastised by a former classmate for not registering in advance. That's some school spirit right there.

The "brunch" was followed by a lengthy PowerPoint presentation of a class survey where respondents noted how much money they were making, how Harvard was a chief factor in their self-identification, and how much smarter they were than their work colleagues who did not attend Harvard. Since my husband did not register and fill out a survey, I suppose that he "fails" in all three of these categories.

We did take away a few things from this reunion, however. My husband confirmed his ambivalence about his Harvard education. I discovered that the fountain of youth is embodied by my husband who was, by far, the most vibrant and best-looking of all of his classmates. (Although some were trying very hard with their obvious Botox injections.) Vivi learned that the only way to have fun at the Harvard Faculty Club is to climb three flights of stairs and then take the elevator back down... over and over again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Metaphysical Questions

Yesterday, Vivi asked me something very important. She said, "Mama, what is love?"

Oh boy! Have I been trying to figure that one out for a while now. I thought, somewhat cynically, it is when mama frantically chases you down the sidewalk praying the whole time that a car won't back out of a driveway and hit you. Or it's when I read Where the Wild Things Are for the millionth time or clean up your poop. That is definitely love.

What I really wanted to explain is that love is a warm, tingly feeling inside but since Vivi is still potty-training I thought that might confuse things.

Since Vivi came along, love has been more than a tingly feeling though. It is like my heart is swollen-- a feeling that I could just explode from the weight of my adoration for my little family. It's something that I find impossible to contain and certainly one that I probably couldn't convey to a toddler without scaring the hell out of her.

Ultimately, I told Vivi that love is a lot of hugs and kisses and snuggles from people very important to her. I don't think that was a satisfying answer for either of us. But, hey, I'm no metaphysician.

When my husband asked her, "Vivi, what do you think love is?" She paused and then asked for a dog.

Of course, the answers are always far simpler than we could possibly imagine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

In the Mouth

Not only are interesting things coming out of Vivi's mouth these days; there seems to be no shortage of things going in. In the last month or so I have removed a button, earrings, money, paper, felt, and crayons from her mouth. It's disturbing, really.

You might look at this photo and see my darling daughter with her beloved new cousin. Take a closer look and you will see that Vivi is snacking on grass during our photoshoot. That's right-- my little peanut is part Holstein. Ugh...

Now, I was under the impression that Vivi's compulsion to put things in her mouth was SOOO two years ago. How is it that this child, who will officially turn 2 and a half in a couple of weeks, is once again trying to eat things that aren't food?

My husband and I were thinking that maybe she has some sort of deficiency so we started her on a multi-vitamin. It hasn't worked and if anything, the inappropriate consumption has intensified. Is it the "I think I'm a big girl but sometimes that's scary so I'll start acting like a baby" regression that seems to happen in toddlers? Is it for attention? I have no idea. Any insight out there?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Words of the Wise

Many an experienced parent has warned us to be careful what we say in front of our toddler. After all, children are sponges and they have a remarkable way of quoting you at inopportune moments. That's the conventional wisdom, at least, but I have to say that until recently I haven't been too worried about it.

You see, my husband is not the swearing type. In all the years we've been together, I can count on one hand the number of times an expletive has escaped his lips. And, it should be noted that with the exception of one very colorful expression he used for our President, his verbal transgressions have fallen on the minor end of the expletive spectrum.

Like my husband, my language mostly falls under a G rating. Of course, there is at least one point during a day where the phrase "Oh shit" will come out of my mouth but, in general, I've tried very hard to keep myself in check.

Well, it seems that Aviva is giving me a bit of a reality check these days. The other night as we were walking into her bedroom and I was talking about something, she said "Shut up, Mama! My granddaughter (her imaginary friend) is trying to sleep." Excuse me? Did the words "shut up" just come out of my child's mouth? What heathen child on the playground taught her to say that?!?!?

Well, it wasn't a heathen child. It was me. Apparently, when I am on the phone with my sisters I frequently tell them to "shut up." No, not in the rude way. I say it in the "I can't believe it. Really?" way. I didn't even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out.

Unfortunately, Vivi's verbal experimentation doesn't end there. The other day when she slipped under the table after lunch, I gently inquired if she was pooping. Her response, "Mom. Get out of my face." That one we'll definitely blame on the heathens at the park.

Luckily for us, Vivi has also had some less shocking turns of phrase. After trying to unsuccessfully fit the cell phone into the camera case, she reluctantly sighed "Well, that's a bummer." This weekend, she grabbed a toy at the store and said, "This is freaking me out." And just yesterday while pooping she informed her daddy that she was "cooking something in my diaper."

In the last week or so, I am pleased to report that there haven't been any more repeats of the uglier comments. Vivi asks for her privacy instead of telling me to get out of her face. She does occasionally use "shut up" but it is in the context of "Mama, I no say shut up. Those words hurt your feelings."

I've learned my lesson too. No more hanging out with those heathens at the park!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Memo to Sarah Palin Part II

As a mother, and as many mothers and fathers before me, we believe that all of our children are created equal. Apparently, you don't feel the same way about your own children.

You seem to have no problem appearing on the cover of popular magazines with your special needs son or carting him around on stage after the debate on Thursday night. Yet, there have been no public appearances by your teenage daughter since her pregnancy was announced around the time of the convention. Why wasn't she on stage with you and the rest of your family after the debate?

Oh right, it's not in your political best interest to include her. You're just exploiting the baby for this election.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Memo to Sarah Palin

It's Senator "Biden" not "Obiden."

McKiernan is the commanding general in Afghanistan not McClellan.

You used "kind of" and "you know" to punctuate your statements at least fifteen times. If you need to do that, it seems to us that you aren't sure and you actually don't know.

Is bringing some "Wasilla Main Street" reality to Washington a euphemism for moving crystal meth across state lines?

Oh, and it's "nu-cle-ar" not "nuke-u-lar."

Doggone it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Money, Money, Money

Not only is Money, Money, Money Vivi's favorite ABBA song but it seems to be a primary concern for the majority of us these days. With all the news of banks collapsing, the stock market uncertainty, and mounting foreclosures I find myself worrying less about whether or not we'll have the money to send Vivi to college and more about whether or not the money in our retirement plans will actually be there when we need it.

I'm a worrier by nature so all this economic news hasn't exactly left me with a warm and tingly feeling. I try to remind myself that we're lucky though. My husband makes enough money that we are able to live a full and happy life. Not an extravagant life, by any means, but a happy one.

What makes a happy life? For us, it's lowering our standards for what we "need." We don't have a huge house and, thanks to my husband's foresight, we have a fixed rate mortgage and expect to have it paid off in less than seven years. We have one cell-phone that we carry only for emergencies. We don't have cable or the latest gadgets. Most importantly, we don't have the feeling that we are deprived.

For us, our lives are enhanced by knowing how lucky we are to have the little luxuries we do. Those luxuries aren't fancy cars or designer clothes, they are things like an occasional meal out, a few new books for my husband, a couple of yards of fabric for me, a yoga class, and a family vacation. I think it is such a gift that we have a wonderful library two blocks from our house where we can get any book or DVD or CD that we desire.

This is not to say that we don't have money worries. In the next couple of months, we will have paid for a new boiler with installation ($5000), a rehabilitated and safer chimney ($3000), our midwife fees for Turtle's upcoming birth ($3800), and Vivi's visit to the emergency room ($ god only knows). It's shocking to see it all written down. While I can't blame George Bush for the poorly-timed but necessary maintenance to our home, I can blame him for our pathetic excuse for health insurance.

You see my hard-working husband is self-employed so we have to pay for our own health insurance. We pay Blue Cross about $400 per month for coverage that does not kick in until we have met a $10,000 deductible. Effectively, we have catastrophic care. We just could not afford the $1500 a month we would need to pay for broader family coverage.

So how does George Bush play into all this? About a year ago, Bush vetoed bi-partisan legislation that would have expanded children's health insurance. The bill would have subsidized health coverage for 6.6 million people, mostly children, from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private coverage. Ladies and gentlemen, that would be us. (OK, so maybe I am feeling a little deprived but health insurance shouldn't be considered an extravagance.)

With 47 million uninsured Americans currently living in this country and millions of others like my family who are underinsured, one would think that this election would be a wash. Obama's plan clearly will cover many, many more people than McCain's but do people really care? Or do they only care when they are the ones actually seeing the medical bills? I just don't understand how this country can tolerate Bush taking us into a war that has cost us at least 600 billion dollars so far but aren't outraged that our government is unwilling to cover the cost of health care for our children. It makes me sick...

How's that for irony?