Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina Relief

Tonight we watched part of the NBC special on Hurricane Katrina. I say a part of the special because the images and stories on the screen made me weep. The devastation that hit Mississippi and Louisiana is so deep and intense that it is hard to imagine -- seeing the special was important but it was so effective that it was impossible for me to watch the entire thing. Some people who remained behind in the affected regions may have done so out of personal choice but what struck me today was that without a vehicle of their own and money enough to evacuate, many of these people had no choice at all. They had to stay and accept what fate threw their way. For so many of these people their lives will never be the same, especially since so many of them were starting off at the poverty level or below in the first place.

I know that life is complex and that other areas of the world have situations that are experiencing situations that are even more desperate than this. The effects of this hurricane really bring home the kinds of sorrow that are experienced around the world on a daily basis. They also reveal the kind of kindness that strangers can show to strangers, which is heartwarming and beautiful. If you have anything that you could spare for the people going through this tragedy I encourage you to play a part, even if remotely, in making a stranger's life just a little bit easier during this terrible time.

(Photo above taken from the NY Times website)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Yellow Jackets

As I've mentioned briefly before, I am terrified of bees. I try to be reasonable about it, though it might not look that way to others around me should I spot an actual bee. I truly do admire honeybees and enjoy reading about them, but any stinging insect that comes near me freaks me right out and I feel powerless against the fear that floods me. Sure, to you it might look like a housefly, but if it came near my face and I was caught off guard I might flip out on the spot.

With this in mind, imagine how thrilled I was when my husband told me that we have a yellow jacket problem. These wasps are among the most aggressive of all and can be very protective of their nest. As luck would have it, this nest was located right outside our garage and not a day before this discovery I had walked right past it with the baby. Eek. These yellow jackets were now all over the outside of the garage and the nest was just getting bigger almost before our eyes. His eyes, really, because there was no way I was leaving the house with these banded menaces lurking outside. I think he was just terrifying me further when he headed out with the camera and returned with photos of the wasps and their nest. For you, I include one of them here.

My husband had read Julia's post about declaring bee-had and after uttering a declaration himself he headed out to wage war on our own specimens. He sprayed them thoroughly with poison (no I am not happy about spraying poison and not crafting a wee homemade trap that would be nonintrusive and nondamaging to the environment. However. That is all fine and good for ants but these were YELLOW JACKETS and there was no way I was going to be able to handle anything outside without assurances of their utter destruction. Yes, I know this is bad and I should just get a grip. No, it does not look like that is going to happen anytime soon.) and today all that remains are their tiny corpses. I am sorry they had to meet such a swift and unpleasant end, but for the love of mike -- yellow jackets here at my very own house. It was just too much to bear. Thank god I had that dear husband of mine around or otherwise I probably would have just moved.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Family Time

We spent the past weekend in New York with my family. I've got so many siblings, cousins, etc. in the area and a three hour drive to get to them, which means I try to pack as much into the weekend as possible. Which also means that my poor daughter and husband wind up a little stressed out from the whirlwind that ensues. As hard as I try to cram everything in, I add social pressure and knock out naps and family sanity. By the time we got back last night we were all ready to crash into bed to try to recover.

This weekend was particularly crazy since my family is trying to come to terms with some staggering pieces of news. I am certain that somehow, some way my family is going to one day be reading this blog. That is just the nature of these things. And so without going into too much detail I will say that the current drama relates to the unexpected loss of one pregancy and the unexpected arrival of another child. In this case, Unexpected = Life Changing and Heartbreaking.

There is nothing that anyone in my family can do to change the basic facts of these situations, and so there is a flurry of activity and effort in each case about what we can do to help the siblings involved, determine on our own how involved we want to be, how to talk about it to the people involved and each other. And the thing is, there are no easy answers and no end in sight for any of us involved. Both people immediately involved will be wrangling with the fallout of these times in one way or another for the rest of their lives.

I know that all of this is vague but I guess the point is this: it's difficult to tell whether the harder part of family is the physical effort of being with them or the mental attempt to adapt and react to the facts of their lives. Right now I am feeling the effects of both sides wearing me out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Photo Friday: Chaos

The theme of this Photo Friday is Chaos. Here's a picture I took this morning of a grasshopper. Right now locusts are posing a significant threat to the already instable Darfur region of the Sudan. More information on locusts from the website linked above can be found below. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/160, aperture f/2.8. I hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Here are some key facts about locusts:
*The desert locust is the single most destructive insect. It is native to Africa, the Middle East and western Asia. A locust measures only 4.5 cm to 6 cm (1.7-2.4 inches) long and weighs two grams but manages to eat its own weight in food every day.
* If an area is unable to support localised populations of locusts they will gather into a single mass, or swarm. This is often precipitated by favourable breeding conditions, which leads to over-crowding and scarcity of food.
* Locust swarms vary from less than one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres. In each square kilometre there can be between 40 million and 80 million locusts. Swarms can travel 130 kilometres or more per day.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Competition

I am a member of one of those infernal baby boards, the kind where women (and a few men) get together starting when they are pregnant and carry on after their babies are born. The one that I am on is organized by the month that we were due. I have been reading and occasionally posting for more than a year now, though I am not sure why I return day after day. Most days I just shake my head at what is written and wonder about the people putting all of this stuff out there.

There are times when this is a very supportive community and people are genuinely happy for each other and offer great advice and generally share stories about how the pregnancy/baby raising is going. And then there are the other times, which seem to me to be in the majority at this point. The board took the tone of a race track soon after we became pregnant, with parents hustling to claim that they knew the sex of their baby already (through ultrasound, symptoms, or prognostication bordering on sorcery), were already showing (unless they had just had too much cake that day), had felt their baby move (or was it gas? HOW COULD THEY KNOW, they demanded). As due dates approached, there was a flurry of homespun methods to induce labor, stories of false labor that sent them sprinting to the hospital to claim their bairn too early, frantic wondering about what would happen if they passed their due dates. After the babies were born, the race continued with progress reports about the babies' size, physical coordination and development, and the mad rush to start feeding them solid foods before they fell behind the pack.

I realize that everyone wants the best for their baby, but does everything really have to be such a competition? There is such a wide range for normal development, especially for children this young. If the constant fretting alternating with boasting does anything it only serves to make for insecure mothers and pressured children. There is plenty of evidence of this on the board, with moms questioning every decision they make with their children and writing in distress that their child is not crawling at six months, should they make an appointment to have him tested? I just wish that there was more support and a better understanding that our children are resilient and more than likely completely normal no matter what they can do at the moment. I know that I can be guilty of this same insecurity, but right now it just seems to me that if you love and play with your child and keep an eye out for obvious medical concerns, your child is going to be fine. And probably a lot happier with a parent that's not so stressed out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Unsolicited Advice vs. Helpful Information

Today I received a surprising amount of helpful offers. Generous strangers showed up anonymously to sell me books and contact lenses, advising me how to increase traffic to my site and find games online. This has nothing to do with you, my dear and real commenters, and I encourage you to comment as often and about whatever you would like. The more the merrier... up to a point.

That point would be where spammers enter the picture. I have no idea how they found me already -- it hasn't even been a month yet that this blog has been up and running. How they manage to leave comments is bewildering, too. They can't run around to each actual blog and paste in their comments, right? But this afternoon they came in a flood and I had to activate the authentication code that will now show up in the comment page from now on. I'm sorry if this turns out to be an annoyance and I hope it won't stop those of you who comment on this site from continuing to do so.

Let me know if you have any other ideas how stop spammers. I welcome any advice that you have!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Little Presents

I love this site. It provides free plans for making all kinds of things. And being a girl who tries to stick to some semblance of a budget, it's great to be able to find things that I can make for nearly free. I made an eye pillow for my sister in law for a not-for-any-particular-reason present. I purchased the fabric from a heap of scraps at a fabric store -- it was beautifully red and silky and seemed perfect for this project. It cost about a dollar for enough fabric to make a rectangular pillow that I filled with rice and the envelope to keep the pillow inside.

The beauty of the site is that you can sort the list of projects based on the material cost, time to complete, difficulty level, material and project type. If you're looking for ways to be creative or make little gifts, this is a great way to go. This was quick, easy, and inexpensive and people always love to receive presents when they are not expecting them!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Somalia

I like to look through the BBC website to see what news may be reported outside of the American media. It usually gives a very different perspective on the world, and there are stories available there that I do not hear anything about in this country. Today there was a troubling article about violence and a completely different way of life in Somalia. Did you realize that Somalia is the only country in the world without a functioning government, that this has been the case for the past fourteen years? There is no national currency, few national resources, and this country is one of the poorest and least developed in the world. More than 80% of its citizens are illiterate and there are no public schools. With the current anarchy there is little chance of this country getting back on its feet again -- and though a transitional parliament was sworn in a year ago, per the BBC article this has failed to end the anarchy. This is the fourteenth attempt to bring peace to this country. The previous thirteen have failed, and there does not seem to be a great deal of hope for this effort.

Somalis are being shot, stabbed and otherwise assaulted in a country that is not even at war. The victims are typically women and children, contributing to the high infant mortality rate. According to MSF (
Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders), "More than 10% of children die at birth and 25% of those who survive perish before they are five." The mothers in Somalia love their children the same way that I love my baby. The idea that she would have a one in four chance of dying before she reached the age of five is heartbreaking. To live in a country where there would be no police intervention, no governmental recourse to take... I cannot imagine how it would feel to be so powerless to stop such force against the ones you hold closest to your heart.

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Food Security Analysis Unit estimates that 919,000 people in Somalia are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. I keep trying to think of what I can do to help this situation in my own small way. Some food donations appear to be stalled, held hostage in the port. I do not know if this is typical or if some donations are making it through. Donations to MSF will likely help the most, though writing to your senator or representatives in the house is a good habit to adopt. Please consider doing something, even something small, to change the lives of those you may never know. Their experiences are different and more desperate than we can imagine and it seems to me that we have a genuine duty as humans to do what we can wherever we are.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Just For a Laugh

I am very tired tonight and so will leave you with this photo I found at ZeNeece's World. It cracked me up and I hope it brings a smile to your face too. A real entry is on the way for tomorrow!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bringing Up Baby

I started a new mothers group when Baby G was three months old -- I knew it was important for me to be in touch with other moms, to talk about what was happening in my life, ask for advice, have G. exposed to other people on a regular basis, etc. Since I have never had a driver's license (how someone as independent and stubborn as I am has managed to reach thirty without getting a license is a long story) it was much easier to start a group of my own rather than try to get to an already established one. Besides, the women in my group have all just had their first baby within the past nine months, so we have a lot in common right there. And it's great to be able to pick just the women I think would be a good fit in the group. Did I mention I can also be very bossy?

Anyway, this week one of the things we talked about was raising our children. It seems that to be a good mother is to be equal parts physician, physical therapist, cognitive scientist, behavioral specialist, and nutritionist. Probably more that I don't even know about. And, my possibly- still-reading audience, I can tell you that I am none of these things. I worry that the type and quality of play is not right, the toys I buy Baby G. are wanting, that I should be doing more to encourage her to learn to sit up or crawl, etc.

The great thing about it (and this should come as no great surprise, I suppose) is that all of the other moms in my group worry about the same things. The books that we've read are not especially helpful and most typically the guidance we receive is to follow our instincts. We do, and we try to do our best with these babies, but who knows whether one hour of Baby Einstein in a day is better or worse than thirty minutes? What if G never learns how to roll from back to stomach and then back onto her back? Does it matter? I have no idea. The good thing is that she seems to be developing right on track regardless. Somewhere in the comments on Beth's site this idea emerged: maybe it's the worrying and wanting to do the right thing and the dedication to your baby's wellbeing itself that is the most important. The desire to be a good mother creating a good mother. I really like to believe that's true.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Photo Friday: One


The theme of this Photo Friday is One. Here's a picture of a Queen Anne's Lace -- I love the idea of many tiny blossoms making up one larger flower. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 17.1 mm, exposure time 1/85, aperture f/4.8. Hope you like it! Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Littlest Evictor

So my two faithful readers (are there more of you? I wonder about you lurkers...) know that sleep has been a big cause of consternation here. I've written about it before here. Things continue to improve, though, I am happy to report. The sleep routine for Baby G. is down to thirty minutes (at 7:00 p.m. one of us gives her a massage, changes her diapers and into pajamas, 8 oz bottle and then a bit of singing and rocking) and we can still put her down awake and leave the room. She might quietly play with a doll for a few minutes but then she just goes to sleep -- there's not even the fussing anymore. And she will stay asleep for hours and hours, now waking only once per night and waking again at 7:00 a.m. or so. It feels like a miracle and the relief from the near-hourly wakings is incredible.

The only problem? We cannot sleep in the same room with her if she is going to keep up this amazing sleep schedule. Apparently we have been waking her up, and here I was thinking we were all getting better sleep because we were in the same room! I am shocked to realize this, really, but the evidence is all there. We've been waiting to put her in her own room because there is no air conditioner there and the windows are a little shaky. We need to get them replaced but put it off because we are a little lazy and a little foolish, I suppose. Anyway, our sleep arrangements now consist of my husband sleeping upstairs on the guest bed, me sleeping on the couch and the baby slumbering away contentedly in our room. It is ridiculous. We're working on it. Things will change soon, right? Well, we are enjoying the newfound sleep so much that we're happy with just this, but I'm sure we'll get around to the windows soon.

My main reason for posting about this is that there are so many people out there who believe they need to leave their babies to cry in order for them to develop good sleep habits. Parents call it helping them learn to soothe themselves, crying it out, or letting them wear themselves out or blow off steam. As I wrote before, to me it is just heartbreaking. And now I feel more certain than ever that it is also unnecessary. I realize this is my first child and I have a relatively easygoing baby, but I hope this will work for subsequent children as well. And if any of you are thinking about going the CIO route because you don't think anything else will work, I am telling you that no crying was necessary to get our child to learn how to get herself to sleep and stay asleep. Of course, we still have to find a way to get back into our own bed... it's not perfect so far, but at least it's quiet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Human Clock

I love the Human Clock -- as the site describes, it "shows a photograph of the current time, with the photo changing every minute of the day (all 1,440 occuring minutes on Earth!) Thus you end up with a rotating picture clock sorta deal." You've got to see it to believe it. I like keeping it up in a tab in Firefox all day. I know that it's quicker to just look in the task bar or at a clock on the wall to see what time it is, but there's something about seeing time in ways that are unusual and rarely what I'd expect that makes this site useful and also fun. People contribute photos from around the world, and the collaborative nature of the clock intrigues and charms me. Plus I like it that Craig Giffen has created this clock in his own spare time just for the sake of doing it, rather than for profit.

This has been a day when my head has been spinning with the craziness in the world around me. Cindy Sheehan, a woman brokenhearted over the death of her son, tries to get the president's attention to no avail. Her determination and focus show no sign of flagging, and the anger and cruelty of her critics is breathtaking. There is a stampede in Richmond for cheap used iBooks, where people were trampled, sent to the hospital, where one man felt justified in swinging a chair to strike people who were trying to cut in line and another simply tried to drive his car through the crowd. In the Gaza Strip people are being forcibly removed from their homes, a woman set herself ablaze in protest and one settler took a security guard's gun and proceeded to kill several people. I find myself staring in wonder at my computer screen as I read the news. I realize I am unable to fully understand the motives of the people involved... but it seems to me that some of the attitudes and approaches I see in these stories point to why this world can be so difficult at times. I don't want to critique the choices of a person or group of people whose lives I know I can't fully know or appreciate. I do feel very comfortable when I say that I doubt life has to be this difficult.

The Human Clock puts a different face on the world. Every minute I see the efforts of a person or group of people who want to add to this free service in their own creative and individual way. It shows people having fun, contributing unselfishly and expecting nothing in return. I feel connected temporarily to people around the world, working toward a common goal. It shows new ways to look at the world around me, and there are days like today when I really need that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Broiled Tofu Plus a Noodle Salad

Tonight I made another vegetarian dish. I swear, from the way I post on here you would think that we are vegetarians. I can assure you that we are really very much the opposite, but we do try to eat at least one vegetarian meal per week. I think you can tell already this is going to be one scintillating post.

So the salad that you see up here is made with Chinese noodles (the recipe calls for soba noodles, but our weary little supermarket does not carry such exotic items), peanut and sesame oils, ginger, soy sauce, snow peas, scallions, carrots and fresh mint. The flavors combine in unbelievably good ways and this recipe makes enough for at least five or six servings, which means you can cook it one night and not have to worry about cooking again the next night -- win. Also, great for the summer because there is only a total of seven minutes of cooking time on the stovetop.

Okay, moving on to the main event, I cut and pressed spiced tofu and broiled it after rolling the triangles in soy sauce, sesame oil and black pepper. Eight minutes total in the broiler, so nothing in this meal is going to heat up your kitchen too much. These are served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, grated ginger, lemon juice and zest, and peanut oil. So good, and this recipe really makes double what you need. Tomorrow night all I need to do is press and broil more tofu and then we've got this meal all over again. Which, given the amount of prep work involved with this menu, is a very welcome thing.

Let me know if you'd like me to post the recipes -- they are great, but I might just leave this post as is if you just like to look but don't think you're going to make either of these dishes. But you really should -- they are just that delicious.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Other Lives

This afternoon J. calls me from Jeffrey, telling me that he has new Manolos in that he thinks I would love plus some other gorgeous things for fall. Of course, he thinks he's reached Janet and I'm no Janet. It's not the first time he's called, and I never manage to get to the phone when he does. He leaves his voicemail and for the twenty seconds it plays I imagine I am the kind of woman who would get calls from salespeople in NYC stores, telling me about their amazing shoes. I cannot fully imagine that kind of life.

This month, my friend N. went to Paris for what was meant to be a weekend with friends. Long story made short, after a delay at the airport she decided to just stay for a while, a year at the most. She was stranded at the airport after her friends left, with ten euros and no working credit cards -- now she is living in a friend's apartment, has a job at a pub and is having a blast while she explores a different kind of life, unplanned and unbidden, in France. She will study art and language and soak up life there in a way that only someone as open as N. is could .

There is a carefree quality I imagine in the kinds of lives that Janet and N. lead. And there is no part of my life that is carefree. I don't say this as a complaint, and it is all too likely that I would not know what to do with myself if I did have that kind of carefree-dom. To me, it is beyond the limits of reason to spend $700 for a pair of shoes and beyond the limits of my capability for calm to leave all that I know behind so abruptly. And yet there are people for whom this kind of behavior is perfectly reasonable. It's not wrong for them, though I know it would be wrong for me. But there is a wistful look I give over my shoulder when I look back to where the paths toward those other lives branched off long ago.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Spelling with Flickr

Do you know about spelling with flickr?

Mone letter iSeaLand LK
AHaGive me a ...
HONiron e up closeY

It allows you to create signs and edit them as you like and then copy and paste the html results. One thing I really like about html is that the language allows you to copy and paste big chunks of code, modify them slightly, and look like you know what the heck you're doing with your website. Obviously here on blogger, it is even easier.

This year I began to edit/update/maintain the website for a volunteer group. I knew nothing about html when I started and now I only know about ten things, but I find that I can fake my way through it convincingly enough. Just getting started and being willing to take a chance at messing around with the code was the biggest step. Which is a lot like this blog. I may not always know what I'm going to write about and I may not always know the best ways to create a great post, but I am determined to jump in and just put something out there.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Today I tried to recreate a salad that my husband remembered from his youth. It involved cucumbers, tomatoes and an Italian dressing, which all sounded simple enough. And our kitchen was full of cucumbers and tomatoes that had to be used or else I would face the dreaded moment when you realize that all of those vegetables you were going to use? Are now withering away in a sad heap of mold and regret.

So. I sliced two giant cucumbers very thinly (I love the way that they look when they are cut as thin as I can make them, so the sun can shine through. I think it's beautiful.) and then sliced the rest of the cherry and grape tomatoes in quarters (I think it was about two or three cups once sliced). I added about half a cup of chopped red onion and then made the balsamic olive oil dressing from this site. I used about two thirds of the dressing on the salad and put the rest in the refrigerator for another salad. And voila:

I let it rest in the refrigerator for nine hours before eating, but I'm not sure if that made a difference or not. When we ate it, we added our own additional salt to each serving to taste. We thought this salad was delicious and very summery and you really enjoy the tastes of the vegetables in it. Plus, it's a great way to use up all that produce! Let me know if you try it.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Photo Friday: Violet


It's funny that the theme of this Photo Friday is Violet. Here's another view of the violets from last week's shot. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/125, aperture f/2.8. Hope you like it!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Procrastination Game

I made this counted cross stitch for my niece in 2002. I started it right before she was born in October of that year, vowing to send it out before the new year. Well, that new year came and went, and while I did finish it in 2003 I didn't frame it until 2004, when I was going to visit my brother and his family in Japan for the first time. Keep in mind that this was not the first time I was meeting my niece. It was just that by that point the procrastination seemed ridiculous and I had to get it done.

It's hard to disappoint people -- right now I'm sitting on a video I made for this same brother at Christmas time, vowing to get it out to him in the first weeks of January again. Maybe that's the problem and I need to avoid making promises that involve the first month of the year. In fact, I wouldn't even feel bad about it except that someone in my family spilled it to him that the video had been made, and now he is expecting it. My new goal is to get it to him before Christmas of this year.

What is it about putting things off that appeals to me so much? Besides the obvious, which is that I don't have to do any actual work now? Is it a fear of failure that can be avoided altogether if I don't actually complete the task? Is it that I secretly enjoy the task that should be at hand and don't want it to be over? I don't really know -- it's probably a bit of all of these. I try hard to avoid procrastination, but it seems that there is always that one thing that hangs over my head.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iced Tea Baby

Baby has been watching us eat and drink for a little while now, and it is hilarious to watch her scrutinizing our every bite and swallow. Before, she had no interest whatsoever -- food was pretty boring and she just didn't seem to see the point. Now, it really doesn't matter what we're consuming, but she is particularly interested if there is a crunch involved.

When it comes to giving the girl her own food to eat, though, she really doesn't seem that interested. She's still happily breastfeeding and at five and a half months weighs 16 pounds. Half of that is distributed between her chubby cheeks and chubby thighs, I think -- she is a gloriously healthy looking baby. There's really no reason to pursue it except her emerging interest in our food. So we tried rice cereal, the traditional first food. We've tried it thick, thin, mixed with water, mixed with formula, in a cup from a spoon... nothing.

However, her dad seems to have figured out what will get her eating... Slim Jims and iced tea. She'll delicately sample the spiced wand and take sip after sip of the tea. I am horrified to think that these are her real first foods, but she loves them both. As I have said from day one, this girl is definitely her father's daughter. These little slips make me wonder, though -- how on earth are we going to get her to enjoy rice cereal now that she's eaten those other things? What kind of miserable eating habits are we teaching her? Given her interest in the telephone lately, I'm sure she's going to be dialing Domino's for a delivery any day now, tossing my plans for organic handmade baby food right out the window.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fulfillment of Fear

This morning I watched Regis and Kelly (Bryant Gumbel and Kelly today, as Regis is off on another mysterious assignment). During their pre-wheel banter, the subject of Kelly's many fears came up. It turns out her mother instilled a fear of ice skating, house fires, and others in Kelly at a young age. And rather than feeling protected, she now has an encumbering fear of many different situations.

All of this made me think of the way that I was brought up. We did not go to parks or to other childrens' houses -- my mother brought us to play once or twice with her friends' children, but there was no contact with them after the visit was over. At home, we were sent out into the yard to play and were fearless at rolling ourselves down hills, climbing trees, exploring our environment and generally being creative kids. However, perhaps being overwhelmed with six children, there was a lack of instruction in many basic skills. We were never taught how to ride bicycles, swim, skate, even play with other children outside our family. We went on precisely one family vacation in my childhood. It wasn't that we had a miserable childhood, but we missed so many of the simple experiences that help children get to know the world around them, see how they fit into it, how to manage their interactions with their environment. Increasing the trouble, as we grew older, we were moved to increasingly remote, rural areas and kept sheltered and protected from the world around us.

And we grew up seeing our parents' fear. For my father it was fear of failure, fear of being made to look foolish, and other ego based fears. For my mother it was fear of elevators, mice, flying, and fears of other circumstances when she felt out of control. In both cases, the fears were crippling and life altering -- for me, their fears are frost on the windows through which they see the world. It holds back their view and keeps them quietly inside.

Growing up in a house with so many frosted windows makes them seem natural in mine. I don't feel safer as a result of the way I was brought up, I feel more vulnerable to the things I may encounter that I won't know how to manage. I have to fight every day to try to keep the windows to my life from being frosted over. I do it when I sit still as a bee buzzes around my head, I do it when I take driving lessons, I do it when I walk into a room of strangers and struggle to catch my breath and calm my heart. I know that I will be doing it for the rest of my life. And as I feel my fear bubble then freeze, I know that I will try to do the opposite for my daughter, giving her as many new experiences and teaching her as many skills as I can, so she can move through this world in ways freer than I can dream.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sudoku Satisfaction


This is part of a screenshot from this site. It provides countless sudoku puzzles for free -- and as Anita pointed out, they can be incredibly addicting. This puzzle was the first one I solved completely without using the How Am I Doing (aka the Help Me Just a Bit) button. It is easy to understand the problem, a bit more difficult to actually solve the problem on an Easy level. How anyone does it on the Evil setting is impossible for me to know -- it makes my head spin, but I will try to keep working my way up to it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Puppets

I made these puppets for Baby over the winter, before she was born. They're just crocheted out of little bits of leftover yarn and very quick to do. I did the two sets for her and her cousin in just a day, and I am not all that speedy with a hook.

This dog was made from instructions on this site, and is one of my favorites.


The instructions for the mouse are here -- there's a tail that curls around that is missing from this photo.

The rabbit was made from these directions. It turned out to be tough to embroider the features on in any kind of decent way. Not just for the rabbit, for all of these. Maybe there's a technique I was missing, or maybe other people are generally more artistic and skilled and fabulous. Well, artistic and skilled, anyway.

Directions for the elephant can be found here. If you think these animals are a little wonky, wait until you see the frog.

See? If I had not told you it was a frog, would you be thinking "Green ET" right now? Yes, these are some wacky looking puppets, but I figured the baby wouldn't really mind at first, and when she got old enough to know that frogs don't really look anything like that, she would be hopelessly attached to her beloved finger puppets and not even care. Something like that. Directions are here for the frog. You will see that even if it looks crazy, it is not all that different from the pattern.

The only problem I have now is that Baby wants to eat them. And the books tell me she is not supposed to eat yarn, so for now I hold them up from time to time when she is shrieking in the car and hope the wonky frog captivates her until the next rest stop.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Getting in trouble

So I was reading a great new-to-me blog today, and in the last entry on the page the author makes a reference to still being worried about getting in trouble even as a full grown independent adult. I connected with this idea right away -- I'm 30 years old and still worry about getting into trouble. I'm married to a wonderful man who doesn't criticize me or say I shouldn't do anything -- and I'm a parent now, so heck, in a few years I'll be the one dishing out the "in trouble." So where does this come from?

I think it's because I grew up in a house where I definitely didn't want to get into trouble -- there was the fact that I had disappointed my parents, which felt terrible. On top of that, my parents' main method of discipline was physical discipline (ranging from mild to extreme, depending more on their mood and frustration level than the level of the offense itself). So I wanted to steer clear of that -- not that it meant that I would steer clear of doing the things that got me into trouble. No, I was focused on avoiding being caught, or if caught, lying well enough to get out of the worst of the punishment.

Here I am at 30, still hiding the things I think other people won't approve of or framing those things in ways that will help me avoid the worst of the disapproval if found out. And people, it's not like I'm talking about anything all that bad, in childhood or now. My worst offense today is an irrational love of cigarettes. I have never smoked around Baby and never smoked while pregnant -- but I do love them and will use any excuse to have them if they are around. I hide this from nearly everyone, and it feels strangely brave to post it here. I'm still worried about getting caught and getting into trouble, though the crushing, heated fear of trouble is itself worse than anything that would happen to me. Where is the trouble going to come from? What is the worst that will happen? It hardly matters, it's this feeling of TROUBLE that pushes down on my chest and makes me tremble.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Photo Friday: complexity


My first Photo Friday! This week's theme is Complexity. I took this photo of violets from my yard from beneath the glass bowl holding them. Taken on my Fujifilm FinePix A330, focal length 5.7 mm, exposure time 1/52, aperture f/2.8. Hope you like it!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Focusing

So. Clearly I am new to blogging. I am still trying to find my way and find my focus, and so I feel like posting on all kinds of topics. Do I need to focus? After all, how many people are even reading this now? Navel gazing, electronic or otherwise, feels self indulgent and I don't feel like being completely self indulgent even at the best (or worst of times).

One thing that's been running around in my head today is how I can focus on Baby news or wha I ate for dinner when there are so many other things far more worthy of attention in this world. Like the extreme poverty and starvation in Niger (see here for more information and here for organizations that are helping). Or the fact that many women in the world face such desperate and crushing inequality -- it makes me so glad to be raising my daughter here, but my heart breaks for women struggling with these situations and wish there was more I could do to help them. The problem is I feel helpless in the face of such large problems -- I can donate a little money or write about them here, but does it make a difference?

So that's what's on my mind tonight -- whether it makes a difference whether I blog about large problems that the whole world needs to focus on or tiny ones that really only affect my little family. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sweet Sleep

Husband and I have been trying to find a way to help Baby go to sleep on her own (without needing to be rocked, nursed, and walked to sleep) -- with the caveat that no tears be involved. I realize this elicits hearty bellows of laughter from the CIO crowd, but I am a softy and it breaks my heart to think of her crying. Yes, I realize this is probably more my issue than hers. No, I don't care.

We've been stuck in a rut with Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution -- Baby was going to bed earlier than before and we had a much better understanding of her sleep needs, etc. However, it was taking us three hours from the start of her bedtime routine to the end, when she fell asleep. Exhausting and ridiculous.

So we decided to jump out of the rut and allow fussing, though still not out and out crying. After just a couple of nights (with no tears, just some annoyance on her part) the bedtime routine is down to one hour. We can put her in the bed awake and she falls asleep on her own. We are, of course, frustrated with our own stupidity as parents. It hearkens back to the days when Baby would fall asleep and we would imagine she was through eating -- then wonder why she woke up so mad later. It turned out we needed to feed her from a bottle for that last feeding, as she was so tired that she'd fall asleep before she was through -- and it took us a long time to figure that out. It's hard when no one will tell you in clear terms what your baby needs. I know they are all different, but still.

Good luck to all of the other new parents out there. When things get frustrating, it helps to think of how many other people out there are going through the same kinds of things at the same time you are.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Chili con Caryn

One of my favorite blogs is Caryn's Delicious! Delicious! cooking site. She is so creative and clever and a fantastic cook. She is also a much better photographer than I am. Tonight I tried to make her Spicy Vegetarian Chili -- I did not have oregano (who doesn't have oregano? I opened my empty spice container three times to make sure I really didn't have it) or the chipotle peppers, so I threw in chili powder as she suggested. I also got a little distracted opening all of the cans and left my garlic and onions on the heat a bit too long, so I wound up throwing one entire undrained can of black beans in to stop it from burning. The rest of the recipe went pretty much according to plan. I can't recommend this chili enough -- it is delicious and very forgiving, which is just the kind of recipe a girl like me is always looking for.

I also made cornbread from the Epicurious site. It was very fast to mix together and incredible with the honey butter. Keep in mind that this is not sweet cornbread -- the butter sweetens it up but on its own it is very plain. This was what I had in mind, but be sure to read through the reviews if you want to punch it up a little.

I love recipes like these because they are so quick to make, delicious to eat, and easily interruptable in case your baby is crying and pulls you away for a little while. Lord help us with getting her to learn how to sleep -- it may b e the end of our sanity, but at least we're eating well on the way.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Back from Boston

Husband, Baby and I went to Boston last week for work (husband) and fun (ostensibly, Baby and me). Traveling with a five month old is difficult -- walking with sixteen pounds of baby attached to you via Baby Bjorn, enduring hour long train delays with a little one who has already tested the patience of the passengers in your car, and trying to enjoy a leisurely lunch while praying your fidgeting child does not erupt into a full on freak out -- I do not know how anyone with more than one chid manages it.

My personal highlight of the week came early on, when our car broke down. Long story short, I wound up in the front seat of the car nursing Baby G because I was about to burst while my husband and friend stood off to the side trying not to notice anything unusual while we all waited for the tow truck. I have lost any sense of modesty or dignity now, and have resigned myself to a happier fate of handling unexpected craziness and irritation with as much grace and calm as possible.

Baby is very social and will smile and play with strangers and friends alike. This was the other great realization of last week: that I am becoming a more open and friendly person because of her. Strangers notice the girl from across a room or across a train, smile, start chatting. She responds in such a sweet and unsuspicious way that I find myself following her suit. I imagined the tiredness, frustration and happiness that would come with having a baby, but never would I have imagined that at five months old she would be changing me in ways like this.