Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Today is my mom's birthday. Finn and I called her at 6:40 this morning. We're planning on making a sweet treat for her when she visits this weekend, and I prompted him to tell her that. Instead, he said, "we're making you a phone cover with our pictures on it!" Her (surprise) birthday present. Way to be a team player, Finn!
My mom and I are close. I've been blogging for four years and have written about her and what she means to me several times. For this birthday, I'll say that she continues to help 700 + children a year succeed in elementary school. This year, she was voted Principal of the Year for her county for the second time. But that's just work. Outside of it, she's a wife, mom, cook, and history buff who likes to take long walks and yoga classes. She continues to be the president of my fan club and the head of my support team. I'm learning that those are some of the most important roles that I'll have as a mother, as well. She loves her grandsons and, when they have run her into the ground, she gets right back up and asks what's next.
Happy, happy birthday, Mom. I am grateful for you every day.
A few of my favorite posts about my mom:
To Look Up To
(We had a wonderful trip last week and I have two photo-filled Thanksgiving posts to come...this week has been on the crazy side of busy..they will be up shortly)
Eamonn is thrilled, THRILLED to have been selected to be in the above photo with me. We took this one at the airport before our Thanksgiving travels and let me tell you, the Mayor of Gooberville was none too pleased that I was taking time away from him doing his standard meet-and-greet: stop, smile, scrunch hand into a fist, say "hi-eeee!" while waddle-running through crowds of people. (now that I see the picture, it also looks like I am painfully grabbing him, too. Unfortunately I had to hold him this way so that he wouldn't wriggle himself downward).
Anyway, it's been something like five weeks since I wrote here that I'd be moving to a new, redesigned blog site in two weeks. To make a long story short, I've run into some technical difficulties. Things are on track again, however, and I am really hoping to be up and running shortly after the New Year. Thanks for bearing with me.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Eamonn's bedtime varies from day to day; about a third of the time, if he's not been able to have a good nap because of picking Finn up from preschool or another activity, he'll go down at the same time as Finn, between 6 and 6:30. Usually, however, he's up until 7 or sometimes a bit after. I started noticing a few months ago that he basked in the glow of having full run of the house, all to himself. I call it Late Night. Here is our Ames at 18 months old. (For a larger version click here)
EamonnLateNight from Susannah Williams on Vimeo.
(Hopefully the music is working on this now...it isn't playing correctly on my computer)
(and..three posts today)
EamonnLateNight from Susannah Williams on Vimeo.
(Hopefully the music is working on this now...it isn't playing correctly on my computer)
(and..three posts today)
This was a weekend of no plans. Piles of laundry were washed and folded and put away. Suitcases came down from the attic to be filled for our upcoming trip to Kentucky. I made lists in my head and lists on paper and tried to transfer the former to the latter as best I could. Winter popped its head up today, ready to spar with Summer. In North Carolina, these two battle it out in October, November, February, and March. One day it'll be 76 degrees, and the next 30. That daily contest, that is our version of fall and spring.
The cold front put us all inside a little more than usual. Early on Saturday morning, Jeff and I started having a family discussion on whether or not to get a real Christmas tree this year, a discussion we've had every year since Finn was born. Finn is finally at an age where he would be fine around a real tree in the living room, but thinking of keeping Eamonn away from it and worrying about him pulling it onto himself was enough for me. We decided on the tabletop artificial one again, the one Jeff's parents gave us nearly eight years ago. Finn was involved in the discussion and upon its conclusion--despite the fact that we were planning on simply discussing it, not getting it out--he asked if we could start decorating. We looked at each other. We'd been up since 5 am, it was only 7am, and Saturday stretched before us. Why not?
So down it all came, all of the odds and ends that our parents and grandparents had given to us from their stashes: the tree and the ornaments, our two nativity scenes, the decorative Christmas villages. Jeff and Finn sorted it all, trimmed the tree, and strung the lights outside. In a couple of hours, our makeshift, hand-me-down Christmas was up. It was nice.
We are an outing kind of family. We like to do things with the boys, go to parks or museums or simply on grocery runs. Part of this is us, and part of it is our first son, who does best with a lot of activity and structure. But these weekends happen every so often, and I revel in them. Finn never got out of his pajamas on Saturday, and he wore the same pair to bed that night, a fact which tickled him beyond belief. Eamonn curled up in our laps to read "Baby Bear, Baby Bear" 57 times. We didn't grocery shop, as we're leaving Tuesday, and so Jeff and I pulled a pizza from the freezer on both Friday and Saturday night. What is this feeling? I kept thinking today, in my leggings and sweatshirt, making popcorn with Finn, the wind wailing outside. Oh. This is laziness.
I soaked it up, the slow pulse of the last two days. Before I had children, these things--making an imprint on the couch, or not leaving the house for hours--were nothing to notice. This is something my boys have given me: perspective. Attention to the rapid fire details of every day life. And an appreciation for the pause button.
It may not look like much compared to bigger, deeper, or walk-in versions, but I love my pantry. This is the first one I've had in all of the places I've lived as an adult, and I appreciate it. As someone who likes to cook and who also loves a good deal, I often store a lot in this space. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that the stacks of bulk items, like rice, lentils, polenta, canned tomatoes, and beans, have been getting a little unwieldy. I'm challenging myself over the next month or so to make dishes that mainly use ingredients I already have on hand, in the hopes that I can a)use up some of our overstock and b)save a little on our grocery receipts. Has anyone else undertaken this sort of clean-out-your-pantry project? Let me know if you have any good suggestions or recipes!
This might look like a horror show to some, but I call it "pretty organized"
I was pretty successful in this regard with our dinners this week, but I did want to share a couple of recipes for anyone who might be interested in gluten-free/dairy-free combinations (we have been moving Finn to this kind of diet over the past month...at some point I will share more on this).
I'd been in search of a GF/DF pancake recipe he might actually eat, and after some tweaking, I think I've found one. If you give this a go, know that I only needed 2/3 to 3/4 cup of rice milk, rather than 1 cup. After one failure of a trial run (he completely rejected them), I took out the cinnamon and reduced the maple syrup to 1 tablespoon. I also used 1/2 tsp of salt rather than 1/4. I melted 2 tbsp of Earth Balance and added that to the batter as well. This version went over much better. Finn is super sensitive to tastes and smells and the smell of the cinnamon and the sweeter taste of the original recipe did not jive for him. Anyway...I recommend these!
Also, these pumpkin GF/DF muffins are excellent. I don't think anyone would guess that they don't use regular flour,butter and eggs. You do need a specialty ingredient: arrowroot starch. I bought it at Whole Foods. The best part about these muffins is that they keep very well (I've found that vegan and gluten free muffins/quick breads recipes sometimes don't hold up past 24-36 hours).
Onto dinners...this 20 minute bean chili is a staple at our house. Use whatever combination of beans you'd like..I substituted chickpeas for the great northern beans. If you'd prefer a chili with meat, just take two cans of the beans out and replace with 1/2-1 pound of ground turkery/beef/chicken. I'd brown the meat separately first and then add it in after the peppers and onion cook.
I served the chili with the pumpkin cornbread recipe I mentioned in another recipe post. One note: I bake the bread in an 8 x 8 square pan rather than a cast iron skillet. Re-seasoning/greasing my cast-iron skillet has been on my to-do list for, oh, two and a half years. Right now it's pretty useless, as everything sticks to it. Let me know how it turns out if you try it in a (properly functioning) skillet.
Next up: a pantry staple I've been making for years. This is a Lebanese rice and lentil dish called mujadara. You deeply brown/caramelize onions in olive oil before cooking the lentils and rice with them, and the onions give this extremely inexpensive and simple dish a ton of flavor. I always double the recipe because it's easy to do, and we freeze half for another night. It's not pretty, but it is delicious.
A simple romaine salad, or a greek salad, tastes great with mujadara. I happened to have a bunch of golden beets that weren't going to last much longer in the refrigerator, so I made a roasted beet and spinach salad. To roast beets, wash and peel them, cut them, toss in a little olive oil and salt, and roast at 400 for about 25 minutes (they should be tender when pierced with a fork). I added warm beets to spinach, toasted pecans, cranberries, and a little feta. I used my standard salad dressing, which is from the Daily Garnish blog: 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon orange juice, 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
And finally, another simple meal from mostly pantry items: I pureed a can of cannellini beans using my immersion blender, and added drained and chopped canned artichoke hearts, jarred roasted red peppers, and chopped kalamata olives. I then took corn tortillas and heated them in a dry skillet over high heat for 2 minutes on each side (to soften them), then spread the mixture on one half, folded the tortillas in half, and cooked them for about five minutes on each side. You could use flour tortillas and skip the step of heating them in a dry skillet first. Cheesy kale on the side!
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Yesterday marked 18 months for Mr. Eamonn P. He slept later than usual, which meant that I probably wouldn't be able to get him down for a nap before picking Finn up from preschool, so I decided to seize the opportunity for a special outing with my little guy. After we dropped Finn off, we headed downtown to Marbles, the children's museum.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love this age. Eamonn is so much fun and so curious. I love seeing that little lightbulb go off in his head as he takes in the world around him. Since it was Friday, Marbles was packed with school groups, but Eamonn held his own. His favorite things to do are playing in the water area and picking up every basketball in the basketball court area, carrying it outside the court area, and then bringing it back.
After an hour and a half of serious playing, Eamonn started getting tired, and we headed next door for a special lunch date at a cafe. They had an outdoor patio, and since it was a pretty warm day, we sat outside, the only customers. Three huge trees loomed over us and every time the wind blew, little yellow leaves fell on our heads. Eamonn loved it.
I try my best to be present in the moment when I am with both of my boys, but it isn't easy in all of the commotion. Getting to spend one on one time with each of them, though, is a different story. Making a "secret cave" of sheets with Finn, or building block towers for Eamonn to knock down, I'm able to step back and see just how precious this time is. I'm able to see them and think "this is Finn at 4, this is Eamonn at 18 months," and all I feel is gratitude.
So Ames and I stayed on that patio for as long as we could, leaves in our hair, and a bug that kept landing on his head, making each other laugh on the only day he'd ever turn 18 months old.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I love my boys. I love being with them at home. They are fantastic, funny, loving little angels sent from heaven, etc..etc..etc..etc. However, there are times when I send Jeff an email at work that reads: "they're trying to kill me again." Most days, I actually do feel as though I am wrangling wild animals. Hungry wild animals. Here's a little snapshot.
6:30 am---I was up with Finn twice in the night, so Jeff blessedly took the boys early. At 6:30 I am dead asleep when I hear a little voice luring me into consciousness.
"Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?"
I open my eyes and see Finn's face an eighth of inch away from mine. I almost scream but my senses aren't firing on all cylinders yet.
"Can I have a graham cracker?"
"No, you can have oatmeal or eggs or fruit or a muffin."
"BUT I WANT A GRAHAM CRACKER!!!" Still an eighth of an inch away from my face.
7:00am--I try to eat breakfast and also take a shower while Eamonn whines and cries outside the shower door. He missed his nap yesterday because of the preschool luncheon and is not his usual self. I towel off and attempt to put clothes on my body while a sad spider monkey clings to me.
7:30 am--Jeff is out of commission and now the fun really begins..entertaining the boys for a while before it gets warm enough to head outside. Highlights:
I enlist them to help me clean and refill Eamonn's humidifier. Finn does. Then I put it back in Eamonn's room. While I reach for Eamonn's clothes from the drawer, they are like starving pigs to a feed. They love the humidifier. (or really, Finn does, and Eamonn just wants to do what Finn wants to do). Finn turns the "on" button up to full blast and then, before I can get to him, he purposefully inhales a huge breath of the vapor, with his mouth nearly on the spout...Eamonn copies him. They both start gasping and choking and then crying.
We begin the rodeo that is getting them dressed for a cold day (summer, why hast thou forsaken me?). Eamonn would be cool to get dressed but again, he likes to mimic the laughing (casted) hyena who is avoiding it at all costs. At one point they try climbing the outside of the stairwell and I have both arms around them, pulling them off while they resist at all costs.
I get kicked in the head while Finn does his indoor trapeze. Yes. We have one. Yes. He does it in the cast. I lift him on and off or we put the "crash pad" under him.
9:00am--we head outside in hats and coats. Finn tries to use the leaf blower and has an attack over it not being "tied" the way he would like it to be. I suddenly realize that he likely hasn't eaten since breakfast at 6:30 and is in dire need of Second Breakfast. "Are you hungry?" I ask him. "Ye-e-e-e-es" he says through the cry/whine.
9:01 am--we head back inside. Poor Eamonn is very upset, as he loves being outside. So I set him up at the water table on the deck while Finn devours a muffin and a half, three huge spoonfuls of peanut butter, and an entire banana. Eamonn climbs into the water table and starts laughing, like, "you fell for this one AGAIN, Mom?!?!"
9:20am--Eamonn gets changed into dry clothes. Eamonn is very cranky and very sleepy, but this is very early for a nap for him. I decide to give it a go.
9:30am-Eamonn's eyes are at half-mast while I put him down. The minute his head hits the crib mattress, however, he opens them wide and smiles at me, like, "SUCKER!!!" I leave him in there to see if he'll settle himself down into sleep. He doesn't. Instead, he poops.
9:40am--the gang's all awake and back together again!
9:40-10:15am--I can't remember, but Finn had taken his clothes off again. Also, while I fill Finn's sippy cup, Finn opens Eamonn's and Eamonn dumps it on himself. "Finn! Why did you take the lid off??!" "Eamonn was trying to get it off! I was just trying to help him!"
10:15am--Wrestle Finn back into clothes. Change Eamonn's clothes for the second time. Get Eamonn into his red push car and Finn into the stroller. Take the long way to the park. "Let's go the short way!" says Finn. "Mommy needs some exercise!" I say. (pushing a push car and a stroller is often less work than wrangling them while they are on the loose)
10:35-11:30--park, tennis courts, walking up and down bleachers, Finn goes #1 behind trees, Eamonn loses his hat, the boys find a tennis ball canister and chuck it at each other.
11:30--head home. The "short way" home requires that I mount a steep hill while pushing the boys in their separate mobiles. I have figured out from many past experiences that the best way to do this is to push Eamonn with my left hand while walking in front of the stroller and pulling it behind me with my right hand on the bar across the front of the seat part. Today, Eamonn decided to take this physical challenge into Double Dare territory by continually pushing his feet against the front wheels of the red car, thereby bring the car to a screeching halt every 90 seconds. I had to stop and brake the BOB, remove Eamonn's feet while telling him "feet inside the car, Ames!" and then begin the sojourn again. 90 seconds later.....screeeeeech.
11:45--lunchtime. Also, it's not even noon.
But...I'm still alive. I win again.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Last week, I had good intentions and decided to try out a little craft I'd seen here. (I wanted to do it last year, actually, but I had a five month old and couldn't get it together). Basically, you collect leaves with your child and then dip them in melted wax. You can then string them up as a decorative garland or place them in a decorative bowl. I had thought Finn would be really into dipping the leaves in wax, as he typically loves sensory play, but I'm not very smart and didn't think about the fact that, since he wouldn't actually be able to touch the hot wax (or roll his entire body in it, which he does during most other types of sensory activities), it wouldn't hold much allure. He dipped five leaves and had enough. I dipped the rest, put them in a bowl and thought about making a garland for about five days, attempted to make a garland using thread for two days, spent too much time on this while the laundry and dishes piled up, finished the garland, and before I could hang it up, Eamonn climbed on top of the table and tangled it to nothingness in about 30 seconds.
Jeff and I went out with a couple we met through Finn's preschool on Saturday night. As I got ready, I realized it had been more than a year and a half since we'd gone out with another couple without our children. We were both very eager and also a tad nervous about our ability to go out with people as a couple and speak sentences without strange grins plastered on our deer-in-headlight faces. The eager-deer-in-headlights-nervous face is pictured below.
My forehead wins the forehead contest
Anyway....we did it! A great time had by all.
A couple of shots I took last week at the airport observation tower:
And finally..today was a special day at Finn's preschool. There was a Thanksgiving "performance" and a luncheon held afterward. The two and three year olds stood up on a stage and sang three Thanksgiving songs and one hymn. Eamonn and I got there early to snag prime seats, and Jeff flew in from work right in time. Finn was the very last child to file in, at the end of the line, and walked past about 60 people who were ready to watch the stage. He stood on the end on the stage, too, a move on the part of his teachers that tells me what I already knew, which is that they know him, and know that to be up against other children on both sides, rubbing elbows, would have been hard for him.
He chewed on his owl necklace (one of his oral motor tools) like a madman the entire time. The group of little ones was divided in two: those who tried their darndest to sing out, and those who stood quiet and overwhelmed and sang a couple of words. Our Finn, always unique, formed his own, third category: those who were quiet and overwhelmed but who also enjoy interpretive dance. True to form, he dealt with the crowd and the foreignness and the performance by 1)jumping up and down in place 2)giving the occasional twirl 3) jumping up and down with his casted foot in the air and finally 4) giving the occasional twirl while jumping up and down with his casted foot in the air and making interesting facial expressions. Jeff and I were holding our breath the entire time, hoping his casted foot would not land on any of the Shirley Temples next to him. Luckily, his performance stayed within the range of "normal antics by nervous child" rather than "could someone get Martha Graham off the stage now please??" We were very proud of him.
The best part, I should add, was when the children sang a hymn, and the whole room began clapping at the end, and Finn saw Eamonn, and shouted several times, loudly and gleefully, "EAMONN! EAMONN! EAMONN!" And everyone thought he was shouting "AMEN!"
Monday, November 18, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Those of you who have read this blog for years know that my mother-in-law, aka Kim, aka Nana, is something of a force of nature when it comes to running a household. I am not kidding when I say that she steps into our home and approximately 6 minutes and 21 seconds later, parts of it look very strange...almost...shiny. I'll come downstairs, half-awake, in the morning and wonder whose house I've broken into. Why do our kitchen counters look so expansive??? Perhaps because the clean pans left drying for two days, the sippy cup from four days ago, the random coins/dead leaves/ dried mud/whatever else the boys have dragged in over the past week have been cleared away.
There have been some entertaining moments between the two of us in the kitchen over the years. A few of my favorites include the time when I made spaghetti for dinner and Kim did the dishes afterward. I put the pot that I'd used to boil water into the sink and she said, "is that the last one?" And I told her not to worry about it, that we could just "let that one soak" overnight (pots that have been used exclusively for boiling water generally don't need to soak). Or the time I was trying to refill our ice tray while talking and turned the faucet on all the way, so that the water was hitting the ice trays and shooting out of it and spraying all over the place, while I madly kept moving the tray back and forth, trying to get the cubes to fill up. It was a workout. "Whew!" I said, like I was doing an admirable job, taming wild horses. "Maybe it might help if you turned the water down?" Kim suggested gently.
During this visit, the best was when she was heating up leftovers to eat for lunch and placed a paper towel over her food before putting it in the microwave. Finn, who requires everything to BE DONE EXACTLY THE WAY IT HAS BEEN DONE EVERY TIME BEFORE, got very agitated and said, "No, Nana!! Please don't put a paper towel over it!! Take it off!! We don't do that!!" To all of you out there who have yet to experience the wonder of children: know that they will out you on everything. Everything.
Anyway. All this to say that Nana was here from Wednesday to Sunday to help out with my poor casted boy and everything else that came her way. She showered Finn and Eamonn with time and attention and put her time in with reading BUG BOOK and wrangling the different kind of force of nature which is Finn Donald Williams. She watched Eamonn so that I could take Finn out, just the two of us, which was priceless to me. She somehow also managed to help me achieve an elusive dream of mine: being caught up on laundry for approximately 36 hours. That's no small feat.
I'm not always very good about admitting that I need help, but I'm very glad that I did. I'm also very grateful for her complete willingness to drop everything, bring play clothes, step into our tornado, and leave it, if not calmer, at least a little shinier. Thank you, Nana.