We have an embarrassment of vegetables at our house.  We joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) this year which is essentially a farmer’s market in your house.  Once a week between April and November, we get a box of in season local vegetables and fruit.  Sometimes the bounty is fantastic (a July delivery a couple summers ago):

Other times, we get dismal handfuls of grainy lettuce and dirty beets.  Fortunately, that is mostly at the beginning of the season.  Also, my wife and child adore beets beyond comprehension.

Speaking of RR, she will typically eat any vegetable you offer her.  Normally she’ll try everything once and then simply decline to eat what she’s not feeling.  There isn’t much consistancy – some days she’s down with chicken, other days, not so much.  We can count on a pretty usual refusal of mac and cheese and a standard devouring of broccoli.  She has broad tastes and we are lucky.

I’m afraid we’re getting glimpses of pickiness.  I hope that it’s just more of a “it’s hot and I’m not hungry” and less of a “I hate you and all food options you offer.”  This week, I had leftover shredded zucchini on the heels of zucchini bread (three in the CSA box) and I scrambled for a way to use the rest without sautéing it.  Frankly, I’m the picky one in the family and I’m going to need more incentive than THAT on my squash.  I cobbled together the delicious zucchini patty – recipe below – and presented it to my child.

She proceeded to try to turn it onto the floor.


Excellent.  Eventually, we stuffed a few pieces into a bowl of ravioli she was eating.  Although we generally only offer what we’re eating plus any fruit or vegetables she wants, if we’re have something we can’t/won’t share, then we give her pasta.  We’re lazy.

Still, she steered clear of the DELICIOUS zucchini bits.  When the ravioli was gone, D offered her a forkful of the zucs.  Skeptically, she opened her mouth and, upon chewing, smiled.  Of course.  IT’S DELICIOUS.  She didn’t devour it but she ate a fair amount, probably because of the cheering.

Oh, yes, there’s cheering.  When she puts some food in her mouth she’s uncertain about, we go nuts. We cheer and sing and dance and praise her at the top of our lungs.  We wiggle and high five and fist bump and celebrate.  You would think we’d just won a billion dollars.  It’s sheer lunacy over a bite of zucchini.  But by god, it works.  I’m willing to be completely ridiculous for a full minute after every bite of something unfamiliar if it means she’ll take a second bite.  Also, since the cheering stops the second she spits it out, she usually eats at least one bite.  We can even use it to get her to try something by pretending to get ready to hoot and holler if it so much as hovers near her mouth.  I do not worry about the long-range impact of this method.

Delicious Zucchini (I wasn’t measuring as this was a leftover shot in the dark, you needn’t either.)
Shredded zucchini (maybe 1 cup and 1/2?)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (maybe a 1/4 cup?)
Cheddar cheese (mozzarella would also work – maybe a 1/2 cup?)
One egg
Breadcrumbs until you can get the mixture to hold together in a smallish flat patty.  The thinner it is the faster it will cook.

Heat oil in a pan.  Enough to cover the bottom (but we aren’t frying, we’re just sizzling).  When hot (drop a piece of zucchini to see – it should pop), put in your patties.  Don’t crowd the pan – leave a couple of inches on each side of the patties.  Flip when the edges are brown.  Depending on how much oil you used, you may want to rest them on some paper towels or a paper bag to suck out any excess.  Cook longer if they are too pale for you, shorter if they are too brown.  If they fall apart, you either need more breadcrumbs or more egg – depending on whether it fees dry or wet.

Eat the deliciousness.


Dear RR,

Before you were born, I looked out at our backyard and spied bits of overgrown bushes and thought, “I’m not cutting those down because someday I’m going to have a child here who wants to turn them into a secret place.  Taking away those bushes would be like stealing that child’s imagination and it won’t be me who’s responsible for that.”

Now, I’d just like to say, GET OUT OF THE HOLE.

At the bottom of the hill at the corner of the fence is a dirty patch of shade under arching canes of forsythia and a runaway boxwood.  It is, bar none, your favorite place to go after racing to the bottom of the hill.  It can’t be seen from the house and you hide there, still as a mouse, until someone says your name.  Then you start shrieking with laughter and the bushes rattle around you, betraying that you’re in your hole.  This is what I am thinking everytime you tuck yourself away:

Your shorts will be filthy
Your hair will have leaves, or worse, bugs.
What if there are spiders?
Oh god, there are probably ticks.
Remember to check that child for ticks.
Are you even really down there?
Aww, I love to hear you laugh.
Can snakes hear?
You better laugh louder, little girl!
Do you suppose there are black widows in the woodpile?
I can’t even imagine a two-year-old with Lyme.
What are you even doing down there?
Am I going to have to haul you out?
Oh, you have a place.  A secret place.  A place to fuel your imagination.  You are the best baby ever.
Please tell me there isn’t poison ivy down there.
There totally is, isn’t there?
I cannot believe I have to go down and get you out.  Again.

Believe it or not, I am much more free-spirited about the hole than your mother is.  You should also know that, because we love you very much, we’ve been letting the bushes grow taller.  Your mother spent most of a weekend clearing out suspicious vines, picking up questionable debris and filling holes where we’d ripped out stumps.  I have double-checked the fenced corner for webs, fangs and dead things.  And we have seen you watching us.  Making sure we don’t blur the magic of your spot.  And we have seen you spying other places to hide and cackle just in case.  Between the compost bins.  Tucked behind the compressor.  Under the holly.  And I have noticed you walking heel to toe, ever so carefully, on the wobbly bricks of the flowerbed mostly out of sight while your mother called your name, looking for you.

These things do not mean it’s okay for you to squat there, laughing hysterically, while I fend off swarms of mosquitos trying to reach in your hole to fetch you out.  Nor should you commence screaming in misery and indignation when I carry you back up the hill and into the house.  And please keep in mind that checking for ticks is not a reason to dance around like a rabid squirrel, cackling and shouting TICKLETICKLETICKLE!

And when you are sixteen and full of angry hormones, I hope you and I both remember that we left those bushes long so that you would have a secret place all your own the summer that you were two.





In which my child begins to explore fatherhood.

In the morning over breakfast we learn that our kid knows many things about her classmates.  I barely thought she knew their names so much as she enjoyed shouting them after we said them like some sort of deranged parrot.  I was certainly underestimating her.  She has been in class with several of these kids since six weeks old.  She knows Jacob is an overzealous hugger and that Lucy is a…honey badger…she just doesn’t talk about it.

Now that I think about it, daycare for the under-two set is sort of like Fight Club.

Imagine my surprise when this morning over breakfast she announced a friend’s name and then tacked on DADA!  At first I thought she was trying to magically conjure him (tada!) but in fact, she was talking about his father (who reports that, yes, they see each other every morning isn’t she so cute)  Then came another friend followed by DADA!  Sure enough, he has one too.

Thinking about it, I expect they discuss everyone’s picture sheets at school (our picture sheet includes a picture of the two of us together).  No doubt it’s a point and shout exercise wherein the children are encouraged to bellow, “Jacob’s daddy,” “Molly’s mama,” “Lucy’s sister!”  Which would explain why, when we picked her up yesterday and waved goodbye to the only other little girl waiting for pick up, that little girl said “Bye mamas!” Bye mamas, indeed.

RR has experimented with dada previously, looking at one of us, pointing and asking, “dada?”  It’s an easy enough correction but it never fails to surprise us into laughter.  How odd to be trying to sort out the world only to realize that Ralph, Casey, Jacob, Molly and Lucy all have a mama and a dada but RR and Beth have only mamas (two and one apiece, respectively).  Fortunately, this is no different than RR’s dog or Beth’s sister.  And surely, the other kids don’t know that two mamas are anything out of the ordinary.  That’s another point for passive activism!

It is dada’s day this weekend and the traditional time for the school to hand over markers and devote an afternoon to toddler art made for the male parental set.  I wonder whether we’ll get a substitute commemorative handprint or whether it’ll be scribbled hallucinations, RR’s usual artistic contribution.  I can’t wait to find out.

Power Down

Remember that time when we came in to RR’s infant daycare room and she was sitting in a corner facing the wall crying?  And the teacher (who was not the regular) said that she did that because RR screamed every time she looked at her (the  teacher).  No?  We probably didn’t tell you because that’s some kind of crazy on a few different levels.  On the whole, it was yet another symptom of RR’s aversion to strangers.  Since then, we’ve learned that as long as we’re in the room, she’s reticent but not over the top.  She has, in fact, successfully met new people.  I figure our parenting award will be delivered any day now.

We came home after her recent baby-sitting bout to find her sitting on the same patch of rug as her uncle reading quietly.  It wasn’t clear that she’d ever acknowledged his presence, though they clearly made it up the back stairs at some point.  Presumably, unless she has nailed levitation, she was able to interact with him.  There’s no telling.  He showed us a video demonstrating that she had, in fact, moved from the sandbox where we left her in order to head down the hill.  Except that the video was of her wandering up back up the hill, head down, moving at the speed of molasses and weaving slightly.  He also recounted that she spent some of the time after we left bent over in the sandbox, head between her knees, still as can be.

Perhaps my wife gave birth to a tiny robot who shuts down when away from her power source (one of us).  That would explain why she sleeps so well.  It would also explain why she was weaving slowly up the hill – residual energy was emanating from the house pulling her up.  Given that, I’m not surprised that we still see tears whenever we find her alone with a strange teacher at school.  Last week we discovered her twice sitting still as a mouse, tears running down her (ample) cheeks, on some poor teacher’s lap.

As much as this breaks my heart every time I see it, I’m gratified to see it’s getting better.  I’m feeling pretty confident that by the time we get to kindergarten our little bitty robot will have a power supply that lasts past noon.

Honest Toddler

Have you seen this? Honest Toddler.

I’m pretty sure RR ghost wrote this line about shopping cart covers (I personally have no opinion of them): “I’m laughing at you, friend. Not because of the polka dot print, bare feet or even your bewildered expression but because you’ll never know the joy of putting your gums right up against the shopping cart handle.”

Gums against the handle. That pretty much sums up her take on life.

“Date” “Night”

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been making an effort to try to do fun things outside of our day-in day-out hilarity.  We do actually laugh a lot.  A lot.  But we also spend a lot of time taking care of the baby and little else.  Unfortunately, no one has dropped by to award us a lot of money.  I don’t know what’s taking them so long.

That said, babysitting once a week is more than we could possibly afford.  Also, given that we live with a child who continues to treat strangers with a reticence best reserved for cobras and folks taking bath salts, having a once-a-month babysitter is unlikely to be relaxing.  We do have a couple of family friends who are willing to come spend time with her, so we’ve been relying on that for now.  Eventually, I’d love to have a college or high school kid as a regular babysitter – it was an important part of my own growing up.

Since we don’t like to impose on our friends often, we don’t have a date night.  Luckily, I feel fortunate that even having leftover spaghetti with my wife is still sort of a date.  We like to bump knees.  We like to talk about fun stuff.  I always feel a little like she’s dating me and that makes me forget that we could use a night out now and again.  But, no money for a babysitter, no money for dinner and a movie.  At least, not very often.

Enter a jar of dates.  I filled a mason jar with crumpled up balls of paper each with a date idea written on it.  I pulled these from internet lists and eliminated any suggestions I thought too out of our reach (hot air ballooning) or not our cup of tea (soup kitchen).  I think there are 50 or so and we’ve been drawing out of the jar once a week for that last couple of weeks.

I tried to make sure we had a heavy mix of dates that could be done at home and ones that would require going out so that we didn’t need to worry too much about the babysitter situation.  So far I’ve had a lot of fun.  We played cards one night after the baby went to bed  (winner – me – deposits one new date idea into the jar).  Not turning on the television, retreating into a book or checking email was nice.  Another day we stopped by some tiny nearby shops to pick up a box of chocolate, some bread, cheese and fruit on the way home from work.  We tried cheese at the cheese counter which was fun and completely new to me.  I love that my wife is bold and willing to ask the cheese guy what to consider getting.  Since our favorite dinner hands-down is peasant dinner (bead, cheese, apples, cold chicken), this was a nice upgrade.  We shared a little of everything, except our chocolates, with RR.  Yum.

On Saturday, a friend watched RR for an hour while we went to a local thrift shop with  $10 apiece to buy each other a gift.  I bought her an old, broken-down map of our county and she got me some boards to grill cheese on (I have no idea how this works).  To be fair, the instructions were to buy a “crazy gift” which she totally did.  And I swear it was my intention until I found the map for her which I thought she’d surely like.  It was delightful to get away for an hour and we came home to a mellow kid who basically pretended that she was alone for an hour, diligently ignoring her “uncle.”  Nice.

This week’s event is less suitable for conversation but involves, in part, virtually going to a nice restaurant in town.  I’m as excited to pick things from the menu as I would be to actually go, I think.  We got a book more than ten years ago from the bargain bin of a bookstore called The Great American Sex Diet: (wait for it…) Where the Only Thing That You Nibble On is Your Partner! by Laura Corn.  I promise, I’m going somewhere with this.  This has absolutely nothing to do with a diet in the ordinary sense of the word.  Food and exercise are only mentioned as toys.  While there were plenty of the same sorts of tips in there that you could find in any mainstream magazine, she did have emphasize that one of the most important parts of the Corn Diet (corny, yes) was anticipation.  She recommended marking get-down dates (my words, also corny) on the calendar and looking forward to them.  It applies to non-sexy situations as well.  Looking forward to the one night each week that we’re doing something different with each other is fun.

I have no recollection of what else is in that jar and so I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of the dates, even though they don’t always involve going out at night.  “Date” “Night,” indeed.

You’re Here Why?

Coming on to 2 years old, I took a look back to see what people have been reading most.  Hands down it was the the post on what to call pacifiers, complete with pictures of the more interesting ones.  I’m pretty sure from search results that people want to know what they can give their kids that won’t look like a pacifier.  I’m also pretty sure that these parents don’t have kids yet.  Because seriously, once your kid finds one she likes, are you still looking around for that adorable one straight out of Deliverance?  Also, that post includes the name “Britney Spears” so it’s obviously my best post ever.

We call ours “pacifier” and we went with a basic, buy at Target style.  She still uses them at night and uses the name “ba-too-wa.”  Go figure.  I don’t think that was on my original list of options, but far be it from me to argue with an expert.  Although we decided that, in the grand scheme of things, the pacifier battle (i.e. removing it) was not one we were going to wage yet, this week brought with us a smattering of thumb sucking.  I don’t even know what to do with that.  Maybe it tastes good.

People still really want that picture of a basilisk.

Folks also like to read about the things we thought we wanted and didn’t want.  Let me tell you, three months old looks a lot different than almost two.  I’m pretty sure it’s not even comparable anymore since some of the things she didn’t like then (books) are the things we can’t live without now.  To recap:

Bedding: those Pottery Barn sheets with the beach theme are getting a serious workout.  I still love them.  LOVE them.
Carseats: We used the racing stripe car seat into the ground and stayed brand loyal with the new one.  Yay Graco for at least offering a style that didn’t scream boy or girl.
Playpen: We are still using the playpen every time we travel or a child comes to visit.  I can’t believe I ever thought, eh, we probably won’t use that.
Rocker: The recliner?  Priceless.
Pajamas: She has long since grown out of my favorite sleeper but she’s so adorable in ones we can find in regular shops that we haven’t been back to Hello Earth.  Still though, I loved that sleeper.  More important is the ability to rotate through several sets without having to constantly wash laundry.
Hand-me-downs: Still love them.  I need a family IV drip of adorable hand-me-downs.  Most notable of late is the robe.
Diaper bag: we never did use that camo bag and no one from CraigsList will buy it.  If you want one, we will send it to you – no charge!
Gifts: She obsesses over the books she got from friends and the ones we bought for her.  I was going to use the word cherishes but then I decided that did not sound like my child wolverine at all.
Bath gear: everything is beyond useful (those washcloths still smell – weird.)
Baby hangers: so perfect and contrary to the advice we got early on (not from you, you’re beautiful and charming), “Oh don’t bother with a dresser or hangers, you’ll just end up dressing her from a pile in a laundry basket,” we do end up using them.  We also occasionally take from the laundry basket.  We also occasionally forget to fold them first.
Dinnerware: We never use that metal cup or plate.  NEVER.  Why didn’t we return that thing?!
Toys: She did end up with some toys, though not without a little bit of moaning on my part.  She prefers to chase us around, brandishing books at our calves like a little, scholarly, Atilla the Hun.

As for carrying the baby around, she would mostly prefer to run everywhere.  She used the Moby wrap as a baby and moved into an front carrier after that.  She is now in my most favorite backpack ever, the Kokopax.  It’s super light, has a stand to rest on the ground and hasn’t got any fancy contraptions like an umbrella or mesh cover for me or a tiny tornado to destroy.  We use it constantly and will probably only stop when she gets too heavy for me to haul.  She’s at 25ish pounds now, so I’m more like Wonder Woman than I thought.  We don’t have an umbrella stroller.  It seems unnecessary for a child who pretends she’s in an Olympic sprint at every opportunity, but we’ll see if even Wonder Woman can stand up to my wife’s persuasive abilities.

I’m pretty sure that’s going to permanently wrap up the assessment of things we got, things we loved and things we thought we’d love but didn’t.

Finally, folks love to land on the Supreme.  That my friends, has a happy ending.  Our beloved ugly duckling was spotted languishing in the basement by a handyman who wanted to take it home to his daughter.  We gave it to him.  And so it cycles back to the beginning.  Bought for a daughter, used for a baby, taken home to another little girl for her dolls.  The Supreme has lived up to its name.  Bravo.

Happy New Year

It’s that time of year when work quiets down to the point of a gentle ebb and flow rather than its usual breakers pace.  This year has been particularly rough for me (and for everyone in my family) and this moment of peace is very welcome.  I’m much more inclined to reflect on the year in June – too long spent with students, perhaps – than in January.  After all, I’d much rather consider the highs and lows with a gorgeous garden to look over than with a desolate, frozen lawn.  Looking down the barrel of June makes it much easier to think hopefully.

This year we’ve been hip deep in loss and sorrow.  Too much of both.  There is no upside to that, not really, and we’re left with frayed edges and hanging threads.  Nothing is neat and tidy or perfectly concluded.  I can see this in the small things – dog fur in the corners, sticky spots where RR ran past with god knows what in her hands, cloudiness on the back window where another year has passed without windex.  I see this in the personal things – hair left to grow long, clothes too big or too small but nothing just right, dinners cobbled together from cereal and popcorn.  It’s all a little overwhelming when taken together.  And when I find myself multi-tasking while scrubbing the shower door as conditioner sits on my hair I know the backlog is getting the better of us.

On the other hand, there is so much blooming around us, it’s impossible to keep my head down.  Things are sunny.  Literally.  We’ve had a perfect spring.  Seeds have taken in the garden and wildflowers are pushing up.  The herb harvests are primed for picking.  The rain barrels are brimming, ready to step in when the intermittent sprinkles stop.  Our child is springing past babyhood.  Her pants are too short.  Her smiles are glorious toothy things.  Photos are blurry messes because she barely stands still.  She runs likes she’s in the Matrix, legs wide, leaping from the pavement, rushing forward without checking her speed.  She is frequently scabby.

I can see why baby books are important now, since we’ve only haphazardly collected this year of memories.  On the plus side, there’s no line to fill for the mornings where we quietly dress and shower while she babbles in her room, waiting for the right moment to shriek and cackle with glee when we walk past her door.  And there’s no picture spot for the moment she started singing to herself in the backseat.  But our memories are perfect for that.  Also, for collecting the bits of childhood better left forgotten (Butt hurts mama! Yogurt down the shirt at breakfast.  Nooooooo shoes, noooooo!) She’ll be two at the end of this month and her timing is perfect.  We’re closing out this cloudy, stormy year and bringing in a better one.

That Reminds Me

Remember RR’s first rock show?  You guys, she was great.  Once she heard the volume of the club she smacked her headphones on and left them there until the show was over.  She stayed in the front row and watched the band like a superfan which, I suppose, she is.  She didn’t do much socializing (not surprising) and was ready to get out of dodge as soon as D was done singing.  I’m so glad she got to go to one of her mother’s shows.  But don’t just take my word for it…

Whoa Nelly

Living with a smart kid is weird.  She isn’t smart in a Mensa sort of way or even in any way you could measure on a test.  She’s just a live wire.  When I picture RR’s brain, I see popping synapses, small showers of sparks, racing neon connections and little tiny black-outs when circuits get overloaded.  My own brain, by contrast, is sort of like the Lazy River at the amusement park.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to learn as many things as a toddler does each day.  I’m always surprised by the things that get swept into broad categories.  That bus is a “truck” and the noise it makes is “woooo woooo” like a train.  In fact, all large vehicles are the same.  I take some of the blame for this and have been known to refer to a uniform as an outfit or a helmet as a hat.  On the other hand, she is detailed and deliberate about tiny things I didn’t even think she noticed.  For example, the sort of cup D usually drinks coffee in and the differences between one glass (water, mama) and a teensy bit smaller but otherwise identical in appearance other glass (juice, mama).

But then she’ll sit on my lap as I put on her shoes, look over at the birthday card I’ve just written for her friend and read his name.  Or she’ll jab her finger at a discarded shoelace and say snake…sssssssssss and cackle.  Her eyes light up when we say RR, look, and then do something she hasn’t seen before (like signing and spelling mama) which she then repeats slyly when we least expect it.  Perfectly.  Last night she spelled hat.  What will it be tomorrow?  Cat?

I feel like I’m living in a constant state of surprise.  We don’t plan to do anything to encourage this (see: Lazy River).  But I sock it away to rub over like a smooth stone while I endure no less than two full minutes of shrieking for suggesting that peas are not the devil.  She’s never stingy when serving up humility.  I assure you that she turns white as a sheet when approaching the potty and spends a significant amount of car time trying to figure out how to re-velcro her shoes.

Some days she’s almost more than I can take, other days I wouldn’t want anything else.  This is one of those days.