Thursday, February 25, 2010

a taste of spring

Here in Portland, the daffodils are in full bloom, cherry trees are opening their pink blossoms, and purple azaleas blaze. The week my parents were here was extra special for the nice dose of spring-like sun we got. The warmth continued a few more days, finding me and the boys spending every possible moment playing outside. I took the lambskins off their beds and gave them a nice wool wash, drying them in the afternoon sun while Max and Shoghi ran around the yard.

There's nothing like a burst of sunshine and warm air to get in the mood for spring cleaning, or apparently if you are a toddler, to get in the mood to run around in the back yard in the buff. Ah, warm weather... we all welcome you!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

grandpa love

Last week we enjoyed a visit with my parents, who flew out from Massachusetts to see the boys. We hadn't been together since the summer, and you know, six months is a long time in the life of babies/toddlers. We were all touched and delighted that the boys knew who they were immediately. They loved every second of their time with Memmae and Popi, and we miss them terribly now that they've flown back home.

Strangely, I didn't get many pictures, but just had to start by sharing these gems of the boys with their grandpa. He wasn't feeling great, but he rallied his spirits and showed his grandsons just how much he loves them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

on the table (or floor)

the ew face

Well, so much for daily blogging, eh? Maybe someday life will shape up that way again. For now, I thought I'd share with you some links to recipes I've been trying.

Remember how I was excited about weekly menu planning? Well, it hasn't gone so well. For one, the boys are getting pickier by the day, and when I try new recipes (or sometimes even old ones), they don't eat what I'm serving. Pot roast was a hit one week and a total flop the next. Ribollita soup was gobbled up once, never to be touched again. As a rule, neither of them likes leftovers. To complicate matters, my sister is lactose intolerant, so many things I make, she can't eat. For me to be left with (for example) a 9x13 pan full of three cheese baked ziti to eat myself is just frustrating.

How do you all deal with picky eaters who are not yet old enough to serve themselves? Those of you who've never had this problem, well, just don't tell me about it, ok?

Here are a few of the recipes I've tried in the past few weeks:

Baked rice: very easy, great cleanup. I was the only one who ate any, and it was a little crunchy for my taste. I'll try it again and use a little extra water.

Chocolate chip zucchini bread: delicious, and the boys will eat it. I was glad to get rid of the zucchini, which until now has been one of the only veggies I could count on the boys to eat. Alas, those days are gone.

Polenta wedges: really tasty, but the boys wouldn't touch it. Really annoying, since our most reliable dinner is sliced polenta from a tube and marinara sauce.

Mom's chicken pot pie: mmm, how we love a good pot pie. I got my toddlers to eat the inside, but they wouldn't eat the crust. The first time, they turned up their noses to the whole thing. I'll post our family recipe soon.

What's on your menu for this week? In this house, we may have eggs and polenta every single day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

recent nighttime changes

Ah, it's morning naptime. I have started writing posts about our most recent attempt at switching down to one nap, but since I never finish them, I'll just mention here that our 17-month experiment lasted 2 weeks and ended in disastrous sleep for all four of us.

We're back to two naps on most days, at 8:30 or 9 and again at 1:30 or 2, and if one or both of them skips one, I just don't sweat it. It's hard - my friends with children a little older than my boys all think switching to one nap is the right thing to do, especially because Shoghi was having some really traumatic and long wakings over the past month, but I know he's not ready. Again, I could probably switch Max easily, but Shoghi just sleeps more, and he needs it. In hindsight now, it seems like his sleep disturbances were related to both teeth and language development. But as the mom of kids who were born two months prematurely, I never know when to factor in their age difference - it seems common for 18-month olds to have switched down to one nap, but more acceptable to think of 16-month olds to be taking two. Whatever the case, I have to follow their lead.

January brought a big leap in language for both Max and Shoghi - here Max is touching a sculpture and saying "bear."

Early in January, we had five blissful nights when Shoghi slept completely through until morning with no wakings for bottles. This ended abruptly with the emergence of his four canines, which coincided unfortunately with Max's own top canines, causing him to wake at 3am for the day several times. It seems that Max's bottom canines are about to emerge, evidenced by two days already of a low grade fever and lots of whining and then crying at night, but fortunately Shoghi finally seems to have broken through his weeks of terrible nights - he's on his third day of sleeping straight through again. You see how this is a balancing act for me to get any sleep at all? The stars really have to align.

my poor little muffin has had a hard month, leading to a resurgence of biting. sometimes this is mitigated by sucking on bottle nipples.

I've decided to bite the bullet - once and for all helping Shoghi end his dependence on nighttime bottles. My parents are going to be here in a week, so I hope by the time they get here we'll be officially done. I've been letting him have a bottle in the morning after we come downstairs, and another at bedtime (also downstairs), so once he stops associating them with getting back to sleep, I'll deal with eliminating them from the rest of the scene. It seems like Shoghi must be going through some more developmental changes, because for the past week he's been reaching into the drawer where I keep the bottle/ sippy cup parts and finding bottle nipples to suck on. He walks around the house biting and sucking them... it seems a strange age to possibly introduce a binkie, but I might try it.

On Monday, we'll be celebrating the boys' 18-month birthday! A year and a half already, and Sunday I'm meeting a potential babysitter - very exciting changes are happening.

Friday, February 5, 2010

rice play

Here's an activity that, like pool in the kitchen, worked for us for quite a few of the early toddler months. Now that they boys are hitting 18 months, I find that their new skill of gleefully throwing things (especially rice and sand) prevent us from bringing out the rice play, but it was great up until just a couple of weeks ago.

Setup: I bought a 25-pound bag of the cheapest rice I could find at our local Asian market, and used about half for this activity. I just dragged our plastic pool in from the garage and set if on the kitchen floor on top of a large sheet. Then I dumped the rice inside and gave the boys a number of bowls, spatulas, and other pouring objects. I resigned myself to them eating the rice, and over the course of playing with this many times, I didn't notice any resulting tummy troubles.

When the boys are done, I put them in their high chairs so I can clean up without them under foot. I pour the rice into a plastic tub and store it in the garage for future play.

Now that the boys are so steady on their feet, a nice sand table would be perfect for rice play indoors, though I'm quite sure it would still involve the thrill of throwing and pouring the rice on the floor. It's a great activity, though, and keeps them occupied for up to 20 minutes.

Note: right before I got our sandbox, I did try doing this outside a few times, but it was kind of a pain. Twice I forgot to sweep up the rice in our haste to get into the house, and both times it rained, making it much harder to clean up.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

universal translator

I need one of these. Remember? From Star Trek? I wonder if they work on toddlers.

Here are some of the words recently translated from Max's growing lexicon:

wee = eggs. Also, wee-digga-wee

gus = ducks

dwee = upstairs

some are more obvious:

waaa-da = water

fwo = frog

Sho-du = Shoghi

da-da-da (ad infinitum) = sing "What's the Name of that Song"

mo sa = some more

We also have many variations of "It's a..." "Is-a sun!" "Is-a tu-a!" (It's a turtle) "Is-a cats!" "Is-a twee!"

Max probably has about 300 interpretable words by now! But there's so much more endless babble that defies translation! It's really cute, squealy and delightful, this toddler talk!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Memere's Oatmeal Bread

The theme for February's NaBloPoMo is "ties." I'm not sure if 1) I'll manage to post every day, or 2) make every post reflect this theme, but I'm going to give it a try again. It seems fitting that just yesterday I made my great-grandmother's oatmeal bread recipe for the first time. You know how I love to bake family bread recipes!

This generation has brought about major changes in the way our family connects. For several generations before, family on my mother's side lived in tight community - my mother grew up with her paternal grandparents living upstairs in a typical Massachusetts "double decker," her maternal grandparents only a few blocks away. While some of her siblings have moved out of state (to New Mexico and New York), three of the five have kept their families close by.

We grew up living just two hours away from all of our grandparents and most of our relatives. We saw them fairly often, and got to know our uncles and aunts and to some extent our cousins. We spent our childhood with four living grandparents and three living great-grandparents. What a blessing!

Memere was my mother's maternal grandmother. Thinking about her now, I realize I don't actually know a lot about her life. Named Edna, I know she was part Irish, but she was French-Canadian through-and-through, preferring to speak French. She lived to be well over 100 years old, though I didn't see her after she fell ill in her late 90s. I remember her to knit for us every Christmas, and recall her always in the kitchen - a petite elderly woman chattering away with my grandma in French. Was it Mem who made the poutins that became the stuff of family legend? Was it her mince meat pie that always appeared at holiday meals? Was this bread recipe passed down to her? I just don't remember. The next time I visit Grandma, I'll have to learn more about her mother.

my grandma (Mem's daughter) with Shoghi last summer

I got this recipe from my mom ages ago, and it was very easy to put together. When it came out of the oven, I actually didn't like the molasses fragrance, but I cut into the hearty bread this morning, toasted it, and ate it with butter and my raspberry jam, and wow... I think I have a new favorite bread. Earthy, mildly sweet, a smooth, dense texture - this oatmeal bread is fabulous. I hope Mem feels the love from a couple generations down today, and knows she's missed and loved. Five generations so far have been nourished by this yummy bread.

Memere's Oatmeal Bread

1c quick-cooking oats
2c scalded milk
1 pkg active dry yeast
4-6c flour
1/2c molasses
2t salt
1/4t ginger

Place oats in large bowl, cover with scalded milk and allow to cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in 1/2c warm water and 1t sugar. Stir in molasses, salt and ginger to yeast mixture, and add to oat mix. Stir in 4 1/2 cups of flour and knead for five minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a firm, slightly sticky dough.

Place in oiled bowl and cover with a warm, damp towel. Allow to rise to double (I preheat the oven to 170* and then turn it off. This decreases the rise time if your house is cool). Punch down and divide into two. Bake in a greased bread pan at 350* for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack and serve warm with salted butter and homemade jam!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have been so excited about getting the boys a sandbox. They love to play with rice in our old plastic swimming pool, but that kind of play isn't working out so well anymore: in the house, the rice throwing is just too intense for me to deal with, and outside, cleaning up all that grain is just a hassle.

"fwow!" squeals Max as he throws the rice...

Last summer, my parents got one of those turtle sandboxes, so I trolled craigslist until I found one.

july - the boys were 11 months old

Sadly, it turned out to be a flop. It's way too small, and they're just too young to take turns being inside the box - this new toy is just too exciting for that. When they both sit in it, they can barely access the sand.

Plus, Shoghi acted like it was water, and kept diving in - mouth first. I know it's normal, and a little sand in the mouth doesn't freak me out, but gobs of it? Making him choke? It was gross, and disturbing. I know he'll stop doing it after the novelty wears off, but that day it just overwhelmed me.

As quickly as the box got set up, it got fenced off.

I think the only solution is to get another one - you just have to roll with where they are, and I know the sand play will be gret for them. They will also benefit from each having his own play space. Just because they shared my womb doesn't mean they have to share everything!

Monday, February 1, 2010

january, a month of constant vigilence

January has been quite a month! The boys are both now solidly walking, talking up a storm, and signing quite a lot! We endured two rounds of colds, our first case of impetigo, and the emergence of 6 out of our 8 canines (Max still hasn't hatched his bottom two). This has led to extreme sleep disturbances, and an average of 4 hours a night of sleep for me, as I spent my nights shuttling between my unhappy boys. For the first time in a very long time, I actually had to enlist my sister's help during the night on at least two occasions. By the end of the month, it also became clear that it was time to try reducing to one nap a day - we're still in the throes of that transition.

some beautiful weather this month meant a lot of time outside.
shoghi discovers soil for the first time.

the emotional needs of toddlers can be so intense. thank god i'm in the habit of babywearing. i honestly don't know what i would do without my carriers.

This was our third month since our dear Emilia retired from caring for my boys in order to welcome her own sweet baby. To say I've missed her is an extreme under-statement; in short, the household fell into complete disorder, I had to close Bamboo Village Press and completely abandon my other brand new business Good Karma Marketing. If you are one of the many friends or family who has emailed, commented, left voicemail, or sent a message via facebook, you may suspect that I have been ignoring you - in reality, I just haven't had any time. I haven't listened to voicemail for about two weeks, to be honest. I guess I'm a little shut down these days.

This month, I was inspired by several of my mama-of-multiple friends and a visit to All Roads Montessori School to give the boys more opportunities to participate in learning about daily life. Miriam is a mom of triplet girls who sent me a very helpful intro to setting up the house in Montessori-style, following a visit from my friend Jolene who planted the idea that I could use this method at home.

we took these lights down and the boys were both so fascinated, i decided to put them in a basket on the shelf. they carry the basket to the table and i plug them in. we've talked a lot about colors this month, so this activity was a good match.

These inspirations have mostly involved changes in mealtime and cycles of activity. I've deliberately refrained from using the word "help" when we're tidying up or doing other chores - I want them to get a sense that it's just a part of the day, and that they are responsible participants, not helpers. I've capitalized on their obsession with sweeping and vacuuming to make these a part of completing meal times and activities involving messy play (like rice or bean play).

any excuse to sweep
much fighting ensues over whose turn it is with the broom. i hope to get two child-sized brooms this month

Jen described in a recent post how she does meals with her twins. Until that time, I'd been resigning myself to the bowl-hurling, and had convinced myself that they weren't ready for dishes - for the most part, I was putting their food right on the table, which seemed logical after they both graduated from highchairs with trays back in December. Then I started serving them on those plastic plates with little divided sections, and they LOVED it.

At the same time, I realized that this was going to require me to be at the table with them at all times, not preparing each different dinner item as the meal progressed (i.e. as they rejected the last thing). They both really love seeing all their food at once, and generally go for the fruit first, but don't complain when it's done. I did a lot of praising - basically a running commentary of "wow! Max is keeping his plate on the table!" and "Shoghi, I love how you're eating with your spoon!"

All of this work has yielded real fruits: we have very little food throwing, and virtually no plates end up on the floor anymore (wish I could say the same about spoons and forks, but you gotta start somewhere, right?). I do preempt the throwing, though... if I see them gearing up, I say "oh, it looks like you're done. Let's move your plate" or something along those lines. I also tell them that I'm going to help them to remember how to do something, rather than just taking it away.

messy baby/clean baby.
some things never change!

In celebration of this amazing mealtime transformation, and after visiting the Montessori school, I got some small ceramic plates and cups from Goodwill and that's now what we are using at the table. They seem to love their open cups, and like watching me pour their milk (which I give about a tablespoon at a time).

our new place settings

The other major change has been that I basically follow them around now during their active time, and draw their attention back when they're finishing an activity. I tell them that I see they're finished with it, and tell them that we'll put it back on the shelf. I didn't really think they were even hearing me, but last Monday at the doctor's office, I told them we were going to put the toys away before leaving the exam room, and Shoghi actually picked up a toy and put it away! I was so shocked and excited!

In a similar vein, Max has learned to pick up his juice cup or any snacks he has (intentionally) dropped onto the floor from their small table (which I use for snacks) and put them back onthe table. He stands there and applauds for himself, which is totally darling.

This constant attention to what they are doing, and my running narrative of what we are doing and how we are finishing, has definitely contributed to my lack of time to get anything done. By the time the boys are in bed and the kitchen is cleaned up, I have just about done everything I can for the day. I watch an hour or so of TV with my sister and then head off to bed, only to be invariably woken an hour or two later to attend to one of the boys... and so it begins again.

In February, I'm counting on better sleep, unless our 2-year molars decide to show up early (there's been a lot of chewing on fingers this week). I will definitely have to do some kind of modified sleep training for Shoghi, who has reverted back to his persistent, angry wakings of a year ago. Plus, I have got to get rid of his nighttime bottle once and for all... and so the story goes.

we discovered planes this month: "A PLANE!!"

I'm glad to leave the stress of January behind, and look forward to this month which will bring a visit from my parents. Be well, Internet friendlies!