good bye-bye summer

cape cod sweatshirt

Wait, summer! Summer! Come back!

Instead of lamenting all the things we didn’t do this summer (for example, we didn’t picnic, we didn’t barbeque even once though the grill’s replacement parts arrived long ago, we didn’t shed those extremely stubborn 7.2 lbs despite the semi-consistent-mid-day-melt-your-skin-sun-runs in the park <note overly-inclusive use of the word we here and elsewhere>, we didn’t make our favorite watermelon salad with mint and red onions, we didn’t clean out the guest room a.k.a. hoarding room and in fact added to the chaos, we didn’t bust out the brand new yet unused ice cream maker as we’ve been vowing to do for the last 5 summers, we didn’t plant any flowers or herbs in our side garden which is really just an attractive way to provide a buffet for local critters, we didn’t re-furbish our laundry room with kelly green walls and a checkered floor according to fantasies developed with the help of many pinterest boards, and we never set up a sprinkler in the lawn so that we could skip through it with glee) – nope, we didn’t do any of these things, but as summer comes to a close, I’m trying to focus instead on some of the great things we did do…

We went to the wonderful and very-manageable Bergen County Zoo at Van Saun Park in Paramus, NJ where we got a lesson in good posture from the prairie dogs:

prairie dogs bergen county zoo 2

We spent the weekend in NYC where we saw good friends, ate bagels, and gazed up at TALLLL buildings:

tall buildings

We discovered a full roll of paper towels in the back seat of the car then pretended that we didn’t:

paper towels

We learned the fine art of smooshing sunglasses onto our face:

sunglasses

We took approximately 450,000 turns on swings located in Rockland County and beyond. Code words: higher higher!

swing

We hosted many excellent chalk installations on our driveway, thanks to our creative babysitters, Emily and Jamie. One of latest included, HOP-CHALK, as coined by Ian:

hopscotch on driveway

Lastly, we went to the pool a lot. A lot. Did I ever mention that our local pool has a blue mushroom?

mushroom congers lake pool

In the words of Ian, “Good bye-bye mushroom pool.”

Come to think of it, all this is just the tip of the iceberg – we have had a wonderful time with friends and family, including a whole host of other adventures (Cape Cod, Wisconsin, Delaware and beyond). Hope everyone has had a fantastic summer and that you are savoring these last few moments. Cheers!

star sunglasses

And those things we missed this summer? I guess we can get to them next year. After all, the future is bright…

inherited: my mother things

maybe mike devenish pottery

My mother would have turned 79 today. As some of you know, she passed away at the end of December on the night of my son’s first birthday. Since then, we’ve sold her house in Wilmington, DE, which was of course an emotional and difficult process. But there was also some solace in going through her beautiful belongings and incorporating many of them into our home. In honor of her birthday, I thought I would share some of these tangibles here: they make us feel her presence and remind us of the importance of enjoying your home.

This jug, pictured above, is now on our dining room table. I have always admired this – there are no markings but with the help of her dear friend Linda, I believe she bought it in the 70’s directly from the potter Mike Devinish. This was in the small town of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, where we lived until I was 14.

The crazy thing is that this philadendron cutting came straight from her house: the jug and cutting traveled to New York with me on the passenger side floor of my very packed station wagon one dark and melancholy night this past winter. The point is that my mother cut this tendril herself, probably several years ago – it is very special to still have a living thing that she nurtured. She displayed these cuttings in unique receptacles in just about every room of her house, and she kept them going forever…I haven’t had quite as much luck with this practice as her, but I hope I can keep this one going.

hippo stool 2

This crazy hippo stool sat in our family room for a long time.  Though it currently sits in our library, I can imagine putting it in Ian’s room some day. I can attest that the top spins around infinitely in the most delightful way.

vintage hippo

This is the only photo I could find of the hippo in its original habitat, i.e. wading in a shallow pool of shag carpet circa 1974 or 1975. I am probably about 2 or 3 years old.

quilt

This quilt was given to my parents for their wedding, so it is over 55 years old. I love how intricate yet informal the pattern is. The best part is that two of the squares have tiny mice posing with cheese.

quilt mouse

I fondly remember searching for the mice with my mom and plan to do the same with Ian. Some of the squares were a bit frayed or ripped so I took it to a local quilt shop, The Happy Quilter, to get it repaired.  The women in the shop treated this quilt as if I’d brought them a sheet of pure, folded gold. In fact, when I told them my mother had passed only a few weeks before, they wouldn’t let me purchase fabric in the store in order to replace a few squares. “Go in her closet,” they told me, “Get a shirt, a pair of pants, perhaps an apron,”and we’ll go from there.” And that’s exactly what I did. They gave me great advice and did a wonderful job on the repairs.

miss elliette polka dot dress

This dress was the biggest surprise – I’d never seen it before, not in photos or in any of my many forays into her closet to play dress-up. I was able to find out through the Vintage Fashion Guild that this label is from the 1960’s.

Miss Elliette Label

I didn’t expect that any of my mother’s clothes would fit me because she was always either thinner or heavier than I, but this fits me like a glove. The dress was full length so I had it hemmed to my knees. Several people have told me that after you lose someone, you start to see unexpected signs from them. Indeed, it almost felt as if my mom sent me this dress.

I donned it at at my birthday party in May and loved every second of wearing it.

ian and polka dot dress

Happy Birthday Mom. I miss hearing your laughter so much, but your love surrounds us everyday in so many tangible and intangible ways.

mom laughing

why my hair looks like this (after baby)

hair growth after baby

First of all, thank you so much for not saying anything about my hair. Because we all know I’d prefer that it looked much much better than this. Any face to face discussion on the topic would be awkward and cause me to touch my head self-consciously, thereby making it look even worse. (Is that possible?) But, since you are in the unfortunate position of having to look at me, I think you deserve to be informed.

Like many women, I lost an alarming amount of hair about six months after child birth. Like many in this same position, never heard about this strange side effect of procreating – so I did extensive late night/early-morning/afternoon panic-googling on the subject. I learned that having mounds of hair left on my pillow, clumps of it in my hands, and thick tumbleweeds of it rolling around the house was completely normal.

A lot of this loss is simply hair that you didn’t lose during pregnancy, but for many women the hair loss seems to go way beyond this. It isn’t that surprising, really, considering that pregnancy and childbirth are a huge physical traumas, no matter what version you go through. Add the one-two punch of new motherhood and…well, no wonder parts of your body try to jump ship (if only it was the flabbier parts…)

The good news is that, just as every website and message board on the topic assured me it would, my hair is growing back in. And this is definitely something to rejoice. Except the re-growth has been…well, “interesting”. And not exactly a boon to my self confidence.

My husband calls this new growth my “fresh hairs” – they tend to announce themselves when I enter a room. As in: “Oh hello, Fresh Hairs.” My son is a little over 19 months at this point, so these fresh hairs are probably about about a year old and therefore nowhere near the length of the rest of my hair, which I wear long-ish.

At first, these hairs stood at attention á la cactus. For a few months, they framed my face like some kind of feathery halo. Now, they have relaxed a bit, opting to stick out like floppy fish fins at the sides. As you can see in the photo above, after being on a windy beach for a few hours, they run completely amok, defying gravity and easily winning battles against even the strongest of hair bands. (A lot of women get their hair cut at this point to close the gap.)

What’s extra aggravating is that a large percentage of my fresh hairs have decided to change things up, quite presumptuously, i.e. without my permission. Instead of growing in brown, they’ve opted for a silvery-white hue. Reasoning with them has been unsuccessful and they seem to know that my threats to retaliate with dye are empty: I have neither the time nor energy to start up this kind of beauty regimen. Such is the life of an old-ish new mom.

Anyway, I hope this helps you understand what’s happening here on the top of my head. Please accept my apologies for having to witness this process – I realize it hasn’t been easy.

If you also lost a ridiculous amount of hair after having a baby, I echo everyone else on the internets – it will very very likely grow back in. Just keep a good number of hair bands, clips and baseball caps at the ready for when it does. I recommend taking lots of selfies along the way to document this weird aspect of this already-weird physical journey. (And don’t delete them, just in case you ever want to share a significantly cropped version on your website. Hey, you never know…)

So what exactly is going on there, on your head? Please feel free to leave an explanation in the comments section below.

is there anything crazier than childbirth?

Ian, one day old (new)

Ian, one day old /new

What’s miraculous, crazy and painful ALL OVER? Childbirth. And it seems to me that every birth story has a good dose of surprise to maximize the mayhem.

I recount a few of my biggest surprises during Ian’s birth over at Mommy Training Wheels, today. Check it out by clicking here.

This awesome and very genuine blog is written by a mom whose son is a few months older than Ian. And she is expecting her second bundle in a matter of weeks. I have certainly enjoyed reading “the ramblings of this sleep deprived mother” and wish her the best with Number Two.

maybe I’m not smart enough to be a parent (oops too late)

alligator t shirt

I don’t know how you’re feeling about your intelligence these days, but mine is definitely in question. I’m tempted to build myself up here by listing all of my academic accolades…I realize, however, that these are ancient and utterly useless when it comes to the kind of knowledge I am lacking. (And maybe useless just in general but let’s not visit that sad, overgrown island.)

For example, until about three minutes ago, I didn’t know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. I wouldn’t have been able to pick them out of a police line up. More relevantly, I didn’t know which one is featured on my 19 month old’s T-shirt, pictured above. (Love this handcrafted shirt – my husband got it on the street in NYC from the person who crafted it.) I have been calling it an alligator. My son is now therefore calling it his “alligator shirt,” quite proudly, and I had no idea if this was correct.

While folding laundry today, I decided enough’s enough – I’d better consult the google machine for the sake of clarity. Turns out I may have been right: the main physical difference is in the snout – the alligator’s is wider and shorter (like on this shirt?) while a croc’s is longer and pointed. I’d like to dedicate my correct guess on dumb luck.

I know this is just the beginning of the informational “winging it” that’s about to happen in this household. We are coming upon the Time of a Million Questions with our son and I won’t be able to answer many (any?) of them without looking them up. Just as I can’t do even the simplest math without a calculator.

Feeling similarly, my husband purchased this book, Homework for Grown-ups: Everything You Learned at School and Promptly Forgot:

Homework for Grown-ups

(For the record, I am not worried about my husband’s knowledge base – he’s way way ahead of me, especially when it comes to trivia and general knowledge. In fact, I’ll probably refer Ian to him by answering many of his curious inquiries with, “I don’t know, why don’t you ask your dad…”)

The chapters in this clever book include: English Language and Literature, Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Science, Religious Education, Geography, Classics, and Art. There are tests at the end of each chapter, with answers in the back, eek! And there’s even a “Recess” section in the middle explaining hopscotch and how to make the perfect paper plane. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

Where did it all go? Everything we learned at school now seems a distant memory. We sit slack-jawed when our children ask us which planet comes after Jupiter, or what the capital of Bulgaria is, or what quid pro quo actually means. Have you ever found yourself making up your own version of the Pythagorean theorem in order to avoid the humiliating scorn of your offspring? Have you ever started blithely on a list of the thirteen original colonies only to find yourself stuck at eight? Have you ever succumbed to the temptation to use the embarrassing cop-out clause “Ask your father/mother?”

I should definitely read the rest of this book, though I have no idea how or when I’ll fit this in. Maybe in the next few years my stupidity will become even more glaring and I’ll blaze through it in a series of all-nighters. This is, after all, pretty much how I operated in high school, college and grad school. And though I resisted mentioning this above, I now feel the overwhelming need to share with you that I did very well academically.

I also feel the need to share with with you another one of Ian’s cute shirts, this one obviously depicting a camel:

giraffe t shirt

I wonder: are you feeling smart enough to be a parent?

some burning questions about cracked pepper

cracked pepper smile

Last night I made a simple salad with arugula (a.k.a. rockets) which, as many of you know, is leafy green with a rather “peppery” flavor. I put some cracked pepper in the dressing along with some lemon, olive oil, and fresh garlic. I added pepper to the salad. Then I ground some more pepper into the bowl after I chopped it. I ask you: is there anything more delicious?

arugula salad

(Actually, it might have been even one pinch better if accompanied by the peppery notes of a nice red zinfandel, but unfortunately I didn’t have any of that on hand or…in hand.)

I put a significant amount of pepper on just about everything: pizza, tucked into a grilled cheese, eggs — oh, definitely eggs. I do stop myself at Indian and Chinese cuisines, but just barely. I wonder: is it normal to get jittery if I’m in a restaurant where there isn’t a pepper grinder? I’ve considered carrying one of my own. Perhaps I could invent some kind of holster or purse-sized mill for ~Pepper Lovers on the Go~. Maybe it could double-time as a pencil, since I always seem to need one of those, too. James Bond could borrow it (endorse it?) if he ever needed to jot some blog notes and spice up his calamari with one quick sleight of hand.

I also wonder: how much of the allure is the flavor, and how much of this is about appearance? This butternut squash and sage ravioli was delicious with a bit of butter (btw, not home-made) but don’t those little speckles just seduce you? (Note to self: take a “before” shot first so you can demonstrate the contrast.)

black pepper on ravioli

And, finally, is it wrong for me to have introduced pepper to my toddler? This is the newest method of getting vegetables moving from bowl to spoon to mouth. A quick google search suggests that there aren’t any adverse affects. Except, one day, he kept asking for “more! more peppers!” and, in some kind of delirious flurry of pride and wayward desire to share my predilections, I kept turning turning turning the grinder as if it was filled with magic.

When his next bite resulted in coughing, red eyes and a look of confused pain, I apologized and said, “well, yes, there is such a thing as too much.”

Of course, I haven’t taken my own advice on that yet.

Did someone say peppers (sic)?

IMG_5257

Oh okay. I’ll eat some of those carrots.

IMG_5262

Yum.

IMG_5265

And this right here makes me a very happy mom.

Hey, if loving pepper is a crime, then lock me up and throw away the key. But just let me have this, okay?

pepper mill

How about you – are you a pepper enthusiast? Or are you of the opinion that I have officially…cracked? Please leave a comment below.

why a water table is one of the best investments we’ve ever made

Step2 WaterWheel Activity Play Tableimage source

Before becoming a parent, I’d heard of water beds, but not water tables. Turns out this is a completely unnecessary yet wonderful “invention” for those of us with toddlers who don’t have pools and are trying to find ways to cool down at home without relying on that extremely popular invention called… television.

Our 19 month old can spend hours, literally hours, scooping water with a simple cup and pouring it: back into the water table…into another cup…onto his feet…on our feet…on the ground…on the nearby mulch, on a pile of rocks he has collected, into the flower pot, etc, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless and each new iteration is accompanied by a squeal of delight followed by all kinds of business-like concentration as he repeats the same action to slightly different effect 150 times.

water table

It’s not that water tables are the ultimate toy, it’s that water is. And this thing puts it exactly at his height. Besides, while playing with this, he is cooling us down, he is cooling himself down, the slate floor of our porch is getting clean, the flowers are getting watered, and well, basically everybody is happy. In fact, watching him play with this is somewhat meditative. It’s almost like being at the beach except without getting stuck in traffic or getting sand in every orifice.

My husband calls this (and all the corollary research our son does in the bath tub) hydro-dynamics. Indeed, this seems like a good foundation for becoming an oceanographer or hydrologist. Maybe he’ll be an engineer with a specialization in the science of…fountains or…man-made water falls…or water parks (ooh, I hope he can get us some free tickets). But once again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

water table happy

The point is that I recommend this. And I’m not getting paid to say so. When this water table plays out, we plan to fill it with sand, since we don’t have a sand box. I am hoping he still enjoys this to some degree next summer.

Do you have one of these? Do you want ours when we’re done with it? Or are you one of those sensible types who has every right to tell me that the exact same amount of joy can be extracted from a simple bucket? Feel free to leave a comment below…

there’s a carrot in my shoe and other developments

20140525_164621

Announcement: the home tome headquarters have recently gone through a significant reorganization. This includes changes in both staffing and office space.

First, we have a new CEO. He has been a strong candidate for this position for approximately 18 months and we he recently decided he is ready for the promotion.  While he is rather young to be running the whole operation, he has a lot of fresh ideas and a great deal of energy. Mostly, we are impressed by his leadership skills; he is a man of action and isn’t afraid to implement changes, especially when it comes to re-arranging the space.

For example:

From now on, shoes will serve as the appropriate receptacle for carrots, and all other pretend edibles, for that matter. See above.

Refrigerator magnets will be kept in the recycling bin.

Though we did not formerly realize this, it now makes the most sense to keep measuring cups on the bathroom floor.

Note that an infinite number of tiny supplies can be tucked behind the couch cushions.

The official break room for all teddy bears is now located under the dining room table.

It has been decided that all full length mirrors and glass doors are to be covered with tiny handprints and copious amounts of saliva.

And finally, big news: Several new staffers have been hired on and awarded with the coveted office space under the chair:

little people

We’d like to officially welcome them to the team and thank them in advance for all their hard work!

***

Please feel free to share any new developments at your headquarters. And hope you are having a great summer so far!

thoughts while scraping gum off the bottom of my son’s tiny shoe

gum shoeThis is the most tedious micro-management project yet. Except less  management and more tedium.

But I must [scrape] get rid [scrape] of this glob [scrape with disgust from another angle] so he doesn’t spread someone else’s mouth germs all around our house. 

Then again, this gum does smell refreshingly minty and it appears to have conveniently picked up a good amount of dust, granola and stray hairs that I missed when I swept today last week whenever that was.   

Maybe this could be a new cleaning trend. Come to think of it, Magic Gum Shoes just might be my million dollar idea…”Clean your house without lifting a finger.”

Should I throw away this butter knife when I’m done? 

Where did he step on this gum, anyway?

And I’d like to know who has the nerve to just spit out their gum willy-nilly when they’re done chewing it. How exactly does that work? Is it an open-the-mouth-and-let-gravity-take-over kind of thing i.e. just letting it fall or does it require a more dramatic pah-tooey spitting action? Or did he/she call in the help of a hand to transport the unwanted gum from point A (the mouth) to point B (the ground)? Because I definitely AM holier-than-thou and I just can’t picture how that goes.

Whatever the case, the perpetrator should, no doubt, be tarred gummed and feathered.

Have you taken on (or been forced to take on) any good scraping projects lately?

exclusive preview of the baby scrapbook I’ll never get around to

scrapbookThis is the scrapbook I bought more than a year ago when our son was still napping twice a day and pretty much immobile. (He is now 17 months old, napping once a day, and aspiring to move at the speed of light.) This book represents my high hopes for documentation and a desire to express myself through hard-core collage-ing. After all, the work I did on our honeymoon and wedding scrapbooks could surely qualify as an extreme sport.

Here is the super-fun paper (180 sheets of fun, to be exact) that I knew would inspire all kinds of creativity:

scrapbook paper

How great are these stickers?:

scrapbook stickers

This bag is overflowing with items to cherish and display with an artistic flair all my own:

20140529_125954For example, I was careful to save the tiny bracelet that was around our son’s wrist in the hospital, lyrics to the wonderful song my step-mother composed and recorded for him, congratulatory cards, the breastfeeding log I kept for several months, his first boarding pass, a tuft of hair from the first haircut we gave him, etc etc.

And, finally, here are the photos I planned to include:

20140529_125615

There are only about 2.7 million photos to go through from his first year. I just need to edit that number down to what, maybe 100 photos? 150?

Some of the things I have learned from motherhood is that you have to go easy on yourself and be realistic about what you can handle. Alas, this is why I’ve accepted I will never have time to complete (or even start) this project.

Instead, I suppose a blog post will have to suffice!

How about you? Have you been able to keep a scrapbook of your child and if so, did you have to pull all-nighters in order to complete it?