On Not Capturing *Every* Moment

16 Oct

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Have you ever seen your child do something awesome and your very first thought is, Where’s my phone? GUILTY. Once you get in the habit of Gramming your kids’ unstoppable adorableness on the regular, it can become a difficult habit to break.

So it seemed prescient when, as I read Peter Reynolds’ “Ish” to my children last night (a truly magical, must-have book to those unfamiliar with it), we happened upon this passage. BOOM. I just got served by children’s literature.

This is not to say I’m going to stop snapping pictures of my children all day long. (Because, please.) I treasure those pictures, whether they end up on social media or just lost amongst the thousands of snapshots on my phone. But sometimes, there are moments so delicious that to capture them would be to miss the point entirely. The next time that happens, I’m going to resist my twitchy iPhone hand and just marvel.

 

Excerpt from “Ish” by Peter Reynolds.

 

The WHATEVER, DUDE Guide to Surviving Your Two Year-Old

14 Oct
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Two in a nutshell.

I’ve lost track of how many readers have asked for advice about two year-olds, because, well, two year-olds. Two is the heart of toddlerhood and the noisy swan song of babyhood. It’s no wonder parents dread it so.

But you guys, seriously, two isn’t that bad. (And I made it harder on myself by adding a newborn to the mix.) Looking at it in the rearview, the infamy of two year-olds really does seem undeserved. They still nap regularly; they’re ADORABLE; and they’re getting smarter but are still just dumb enough to fall for your parenting tricks (“Oh, look! A firetruck!”)

This is not to say that two is easy: it can be angsty and embarrassing and messy and infuriating, but more than anything else, it’s FRUSTRATING. Frustrating that they dawdle on the way to school, frustrating that they want to wear insane mismatched outfits, frustrating that they just can’t sit still and keep their hands to themselves. I used to let all of this make me really angry until I borrowed one of my brother-in-law’s mantras: Whatever, dude.

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You want to run while the rest of the family is eating brunch? Whatever, dude. At least 50% of two year-old tantrums happen because they’re hyper or bored. Run it out, girl.

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You want to make our morning coffee run dressed like Belle? Whatever, dude. Letting you make simple daily choices makes you feel powerful and less likely to flip out when I really must insist on you not wearing a princess costume.

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I’m pretty sure the baby isn’t having a good time, but he’s not crying so, uh, whatever, dude. The foundation of sibling bonds?

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Eat a burrito in your carseat? Whatever, dude. I’d rather wash a carseat than deal with a stage 5 hungry toddler meltdown.

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Climb out of your crib? (1) No chance that fall would actually hurt you at this stage, and (2) you don’t have the cojones to actually jump. WHATEVER, DUDE.

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See what happens when I don’t say “Whatever, dude?” I should have just let her nap in a wool sweater in 85 degree heat and chalked it up to a teaching moment.

This is two.

You want to drink milk from a bottle even though the pediatrician says not to? Whatever, dude. Your teeth aren’t rotting and we all know braces are in your future anyways, kid.

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Paint every white shirt in your closet? Whatever, dude. That’s what bleach is for, and getting messy is terrific for your motor skills and cognitive development.

Okay, So I Finally Made Some Chicken Stock. Now What?

9 Oct
Some carrots. Celery if you have it. An onion. A head of garlic. Herbs here and there. Pepeprcorns. THAT'S IT.

Some carrots. Celery if you have it. An onion. A head of garlic. Herbs here and there. Pepeprcorns. THAT’S IT.

I love roasting whole chickens; I don’t love eating whole chickens. Once I get past eating the breast meat (invariably with soft polenta and arugula salad) and shredding the thigh meat for enchiladas and quesadillas (an essential toddler food group), I’m kind of over it.

This is, of course, ridiculous because (1) wings and legs are delicious, and (2) it’s profoundly, horrendously wasteful. Not so, however, if you cook up a batch of homemade stock with all of those unwanted bits. Making chicken stock is embarrassingly easy, so much so that once you’ve gotten the hang of it you will quietly curse yourself every time you’re without and have to snag a box of Swanson’s.

And what, you ask, are you to do with all of this liquid chicken-y goodness?

  • Make homemade risotto. On a weeknight. Really! Risotto just doesn’t need to be complicated, especially when you’re starting with a superstar ingredient like homemade stock. This Mark Bittman recipe makes it all as low-key as possible. Extra-credit: have your kids help! The regular stirring makes it engaging enough to hold your child’s attention, and developing mastery of (and respect for) a hot stove goes a long way toward building your child’s self esteem.
  • Make a REAL pot of beans. Once you taste beans cooked from scratch, canned beans will forever make your mouth sad. That isn’t to say I don’t use canned beans all the time, because, please, but when I have the time and energy it’s the only way to go. (And if you’re in the market for excellent dried beans, Rancho Gordo’s are just beyond.)
  • Step up your baby food game. Pureed carrots < carrots pureed with a splash of homemade chicken stock. (But please be sure to consult with your pediatrician before changing up junior’s diet!)
  • Start your Thanksgiving prep NOW. Decrease the holiday kitchen drudgery by freezing homemade stock now for moistening stuffing and making turkey gravy. Looks like somebody just scored some extra time snuggling in front of a roaring fire with a gin & tonic in hand. Brava!

{BREAKTHROUGH} Stop Waiting For Your Toddlers to Grow Up

8 Oct

 

The salad days of parenthood?

The salad days of parenthood?

Sometimes it seems like I get the best advice from perfect strangers. Taxicab drivers and grocery store clerks, the people who pour my cappuccinos and sell me children’s shoes. A few weeks ago, my tribe exploded into our local dry cleaner’s shop, my son flailing in the Ergo (pissed he’d not been allowed to walk) as I juggled two overstuffed L.L.Bean totes and shouted after my daughter to SLOW DOWN. (I’ve had nightmares about her being impaled by a rotating dry cleaner’s hook.) As my husband’s dress shirts tumbled onto the counter, I apologized for the chaos. The woman behind the counter smiled to herself, said she had children, too. Eight and eleven.

I had to ask: “It gets easier then, right?”

She laughed. Laughed out loud in my face. Gesturing towards my children, she exclaimed, “This IS the easy part! No homework, no worrying about their friends or college.” She paused, then added more gently, wistfully: “And they love you so much when they’re little…”

Ohhhhh, this conversation annoyed me. Had the same evolutionarily-necessary brainwashing that helped me forget labor pain made this woman forget how hideously exhausting toddlers are? Because, lord, am I tired. (And I have help! And preschool!) My children are not the sort who sit quietly with a single toy or coloring book; they MOVE. (Something my mother-in-law and husband assure me is genetic.) My threenager is constantly testing the limits of my patience. (And gravity.) Changing my son’s diapers should count as cardio. We are all in constant motion, all of the time.

On the longest days, my husband and I fantasize about a “promised land” of parenthood, where all of our children are potty trained, water-safe, and old enough for ski school. We’ll once again fly without toddlers stomping cheese crackers into our laps, travel sans strollers and diaper bags, take island vacations without spending the entire trip sitting in a piss-filled baby pool. We’ve been talking about this since our first child was barely walking, and it’s only become a louder refrain as we’ve added to our family.

But what that woman at the dry cleaner’s shop said has stayed with me. There is a certain simplicity to the needs of small children. A clean diaper. A nap. A juice box. Though they may communicate these needs urgently (and LOUDLY), they’re in truth quite easy to satisfy.

But helping with Common Core math homework? Soothing a child who’s been teased by mean girls on social media? Shepherding a stressed teenager through the daunting college application process? Oy. These are real problems with real consequences. Toddlers can get themselves into real trouble, too (as we learned recently with our daughter’s roof climbing escapade), but mostly, they’re just waking you up at 2 a.m. for a sippy cup of water. It’s annoying, sure, but it’s not going to alter the trajectory of their lives. Between high effort/low stakes toddlerhood and the very high stakes of adolescence, might I someday long for a time when getting people to poop in potties was my biggest parenting conundrum?

And toddlers really do love you so hard. I’ve been kissing and hugging the heck out of my kids since birth and it’s pretty cool now that they’re returning my affections. Both children have mastered an epic “movie” hug, running towards me and lunging into my arms for a desperate hug like we haven’t seen each other in decades. It is AWESOME and undoubtedly the envy of every parent at preschool pickup.

This isn’t to diminish the very hard work of raising toddlers. (Because, you know I know.) But it is undeniably simpler and sweeter than the years that lie ahead. Perhaps the promised land isn’t three years away; perhaps it’s now

{P&V Must List} October 2014

1 Oct

Though I continue to find signs of summer at the farmers’ market (like seriously wonderful dry-farmed tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms and Lucero Farms strawberries my daughter gobbles up by the basket), the arrival of October is an undeniable sign of fall. And you know what, after a summer full of more sunshine than I’ve experienced in 14 years (adios, Karl), I’m ready for the change of seasons. Here’s what’s on Priss & Vinegar’s must-do list this October:
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Miss out on an excuse to put up a holiday wreath? Please. The only decision here is whether to go handmade candy corn or big ole’ bow.

After a daring naptime escape out her bedroom window, I’ve been in the market for a constructive outlet for my daughter’s, ahem, prodigious climbing skills. This apple picking cheat sheet on Mother Magazine has me inspired to plan a mother-daughter apple picking date in nearby apple mecca, Sebastopol. I’m seeing some butternut apple soup (and perhaps fewer dangerous naptime escapades) in my very immediate future.

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass hits San Francisco this weekend! Though we may not be able to ride our bikes there as in years past {tear}, it remains an unmissable event for my country music-loving husband and the girl who adores him.

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Speaking of essential San Francisco events, buy your tickets to the California Academy of Sciences SuperNatural Halloween Party ASAP. It’s hands-down the most fun family Halloween event we’ve attended yet. (And my kids’ costumes killed last year thanks to my sister’s ninja sewing skills.)

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I’ve met a record number of vegetarians since moving to the East Bay, which means I finally have an audience for my all-time favorite Moroccan Vegetable Tajine. It’s certainly not the prettiest thing I cook but this sweet-warm-spicy pile of vegetables is so delicious, so nourishing, that the smell of it cooking in my home always makes me smile.

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