Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"While we devotin'/Full time to floatin'/Under the sea..."

Gratitudes for today:

1) Kate slept all night in her bed last night! Thank you, Life! We're on night #2 of our new quest...let's see if we can make this work.

2) Singing The Little Mermaid soundtrack with Kate (her favorite, favorite, favorite movie/characters/songs right now). She also pretends to be a mermaid (and can say the word---she is talking about everything lately) in the bath. Tonight, we had a whole story going...and when it was time to get out of the bath, we pretended she had just gotten her legs. Later, when I came downstairs after my bath, she and her daddy were pretending she was in a boat. She was taking her purse on the boat and "paying" for legos with her other toys (in her purse). She was saying "pay" and "buy." When her daddy asked her "What does Mommy use to pay for things?" Kate responded, "Money." So she definitely has an active mind-life for 20 months. She is so much fun to watch as she grows.

3) The Disney Store and a Costco lunch (pizza and berry smoothies) with Mom and Kate.

4) Finishing our project/gift for my dad's birthday...We made him a coffee mug and each decorated half of it. (He probably won't read this before he receives it).

5) Kate was super-excited when we filled up the wading pool this afternoon:

This is definitely her "rockstar" face here. ;-)

I loved playing with my daughter today, feeling rested, celebrating her "big girl" success with her (she earned Little Mermaid themed cutlery, bowl, and plate), and enjoying life.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More on Heart Attitude

So today I needed a major heart-attitude adjustment. Some days, a good heart-attitude comes easily and other days being open to Life and peace is a struggle. I think it is just as important to acknowledge those struggles and the humility it takes to get through them as it is to write a blog celebrating how beautiful life is.

We have been experiencing difficult sleeping patterns with Kate this week. To start: we have completely lost ground on having her sleep in her own space. At best, she has been sleeping bedside in the play-yard, but lately she has been crawling into bed with us earlier and earlier. The progression has not been linear, and we have had some nights here and there that are more successful at keeping her out of our bed than others. I do try her in her crib nightly, but invariably when she wakes up I am so tired that I want to enact the easiest solution---and just lay her down next to me. This really has been the case since birth, although last summer we were successful with the crib. Then we lost some ground...and then regained it. And now we are desperate to have her sleep on her own.

Letting her cry it out would be an option if she were the kind of baby (as I was) that would cry herself to sleep. But she doesn't. She will cry herself into vomiting, every time. We, in fact, had vomiting last night---but very quickly upon her waking and most likely because she had had too much whole milk (another issue affecting sleep patterns). So I am spent. No one wants to deal with a load of laundry, pajama changes, and a hysterical baby at 3 in the morning if one can help it... And, more selflessly, I don't think getting that wound up is good for Kate, either.

Adding to this is our inability to coax her into enough daytime calories such that she doesn't want a nighttime feeding. I don't mind night feedings, but again, I am usually so tired that we end up falling asleep together. I definitely feel like all parents except us must have this all figured out, and I must be just too lame to come up with a solution. But I know it isn't just us...

We have also been trying to transition her from toddler formula to whole milk. But after trying this experiment twice (months apart), this transition does not seem to be working. Each time there have been several nights for Kate of fitful sleep culminating in----you guessed it---Vomit Night. For us, Vomit Night for this round of experimentation was last night. I also have undesirable reactions to lots and lots of cream in a short span, so pehaps there is some link there. She does fine with the milk-based powder (though it has all nutrients added to a 2% milk base, not a whole milk base), and she loves cottage cheese, regular cheese, and ice cream and handles them fine. So I am confused.

This is to say, I am low on sleep and also frustrated at myself for not being able to make everything about parenting easy. ;-) I also want to do what is best for Kate. Right now I think she needs her own space, her own bed...and we've desperately been trying to figure out the food thing for over a year.

So anyway, I definitely woke up grumpy this morning--a grumpiness which was all directed at the laundry machine and huffs and puffs in response to my husband's questions because in my addled state, I was convinced that he had slept through most of the night---although of course he hadn't.

Thank goodness for coffee and adirondak chairs and homemade rosemary croutons from my mom and an overcast day and some time to relax in my parents' yard and just watch Kate run around while I readjusted myself. Life provides a way to peace, but you have to be ready to admit your own faults and shortcomings first.

Right now, Kate is in her crib. I heard her stir for a moment, but she seemed to settle herself. I have no idea what the rest of tonight will bring, but I had better get sleepy myself and prepare myself to meet any challenges with grace instead of a grumpy attitude.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson: My Thoughts

For an 80's kid, Michael Jackson's death marks the end of an era and serves as the litmus test by which I assess my adulthood. He is a difficult figure to mourn, because his life---controversial by increasing degree as he aged---became, to me, symbolic: he was at once the icon of an musical age, the soundtrack of my childhood, as well as the representation of fame and decadence and weirdness lived to the extreme. In this, he continued to be the mirror to our Peter Pan culture, a culture which seems increasingly preoccupied by the superficial, the material, and one which, like a child, seems to think only about immediate gratification of any extraordinary whim.

Yet few would argue against the notion that he was an amazingly talented performer and artist, able to transform himself from reticent and withdrawn into a dynamic mover and singer onstage. The few who would offer a counterargument to this would include my husband and brother-in-law, and thank goodness for that. One of the traits I love best in my husband is his intellectual integrity and his commitment to question that which, in our culture, is "never supposed to be questioned." He constantly challenges me to evaluate my own position and he never believes in letting something slip by unanalyzed. He is daring and brave in his intelligence, and I love people who say what they think even when what they have to say is hushed by the crowd for its nonconformitist nature.

So when Bill came upon me late at night on Thursday rifling through the iTunes store, we shared a laugh when I confessed that I was doing my obligatory Michael Jackson downloads. Honestly I am not prepared to prove that Michael Jackson deserves his legendary status, but I can at least stipulate that his music affected forever countless numbers of people in my generation and beyond. And for that he gets my qualified respect and my mourning---for his role as a performer in my generation, an entertainer who shaped the childhood memories of millions around the world. Whether he was weird, or worse, in his personal life---well, that is probably not for me to figure out.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't question his decisions or skip over them. We must not deify him in his death, or stop wondering what went awry. When we glorify celebrities to the point of being expected to say nothing negative about them, we create impossibly deified figures which can serve (if we aren't vigilant) as models for our children. Will I share his music with Kate? Yes. Why will I share it? Primarily because when I hear any song off of the Thriller and Bad albums, I am transported to the dance parties my brother and I had in Yorba Linda---hours and hours worth of them. I can picture riding my bike around our cul-de-sac and singing, "I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it, you know..." I had Michael Jackson colorforms, for Pete's sake. But it is not the man I seek to share with her; it is the musical legacy created through the man.

The problem in discussing Michael Jackson, it would appear, is either that we must have total compassion for him or we must completely villify him---both of these positions are too simplistic to encapsulate how I feel and think about him, emotionally and ethically.

Do I feel pity for his lost childhood and his systematic destruction of his physical self? Of course. But compassion is not the absence of judgment, and anyone who thinks so should probably do some heavy philosophical probing. We cannot feel compassion without some form of judgment having first occurred. If this is not clear, I will state it again: simply because we might be sorry about someone's circumstance does not give us logical grounds to excuse his circumstances completely, rationalize his behavior, or use the idea of victimhood to exonerate him from any and all possible wrongdoing. Where is the sense in such a thing? The idea that someone who is "victimized" never has to take responsibility for his decisions is the very most inimical aspect of our Peter Pan culture: the dark side. We forever allow someone to act as a child without the expectation of adult agency simply because he has been hurt?

Undeniably, there are serious questions about Jackson's parenting. From the dangling baby episode, to the obsessive naming choices, to the uncertain parentage, to the blankets over their heads, to the fact that he left his estate and his children in deep financial debt---I mean, really, how can anyone not have concerns about that? Therefore, the appropriate response (in my close circles, anyway) when someone makes a sarcastic joke that, "At least he left them Bubbles and the bones from the Elephant Man" is not something along the lines of calling for compassion for the children. First of all, anyone following the logic of such a joke would of course realize that the joke is making a cultural statement about Jackson, the iconic figure, and not the children. Obviously the joke is aimed at unveiling deeper concerns about shaky parenting and the fact that so many of the mourners are ready to skip right over anything bad in the search for idolatry (when we don't have real idols, we make them out of people who are not worthy). I am not a hater on Michael Jackson, but I think that we cannot rush to glorify someone without thinking about why and whether or not they deserve it. Of course I feel compassion for his children---but I don't feel compassion toward his behaviors which are likely to have messed them up, frankly. He and the situation in which his children find themselves don't get a free pass just because it isn't cool right now to question it. I don't work that way. Nobody should, if we want to preserve our intellectual integrity. Parenting is serious business. We as parents all make errors, but not all of us choose to set up our children to lead bizarre lives.

I am sure this whole statement---uh-oh, I am not falling on my knees over Michael Jackson---is sure to stir up negative comments, so bring it on. But remember, I already established that I am not a hater...I genuinely regret his loss, acknowledge that he is iconic to many, appreciate his role in my own childhood. But things that are "forbidden" to be said are the things that need to be said the most. If anything, what I dislike most right now is not Michael Jackson's personal decisions, but the culture of celebrity that his death puts in sharp relief. Yes, I felt twinges of sadness over the last two days, but not to the point where I forget myself. If we continue to suspend our judgment in the face of celebrity and to take actions because celebrities endorse them, then our culture will continue to decline. The only way to safeguard against this is to make intelligent arguments to support our opinions---wherever they may fall regarding this particular man.

I see nothing wrong with celebrating his music or his contributions to the music industry (Bill and Chet are probably wincing right now) or his contributions to dance, but we should not forget ourselves or our right to question while we do so.

Just keeping it real...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midsummer Night's Eve

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While we visions did appear..."

From A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

This evening we celebrated Midsummer's Eve at Hummingbird Home---our first Midsummer's Eve celebration and the start of a new set of traditions for us.

Why celebrate Midsummer's Eve?

1. Midsummer's Eve occurs in June, and I want my daughter's middle name to connote festivity and family. We have so many June celebrations: Nana's birthday (the person and origin of Kate's middle name), Bill's birthday, Father's Day, my parent's wedding anniversary... I want June to be full of celebration and joy for Kate. Why not make the month extra magical?

2. A reason to put on faerie wings, plan a holiday around desserts, have a bonfire...what more reason do we need really?

3. This holiday will be a good entry point later for Katie's study of Shakespeare.

4. Why not choose to make one day more extra special? It only takes a little something out of the ordinary to make magic... I can't relate to the gloomy and negative people who always seem to have a complaint about life or who start dramas with people because they have nothing better to do. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all focused on making joy and wonder out of our days instead?

5. The more I can fill Katie's heart and mind with awe and splendor and sparkle and imagination, the more she will have a bottomless reserve of happiness to bouy her through life's harder times. I want her to feel life the way I do: limitless, boundless goodness and adventure, never boring, full of ideas and dreams and possibilities...

We started by making the fairy cakes:

Katie always is so helpful in our kitchen. Here, she measures and pours the sugar into the genoise batter.

She measures out another tablespoon of sugar...

She arranges the fairy cake holders in the mini pans. Fairy cakes, you see, must be small enough for the faeries to eat tonight...

We dressed up as faeries after naptime. I really and truly bought the faerie wings for Katie, but as she didn't want to put them on, I ended up wearing them as part of my costume.

My Fairy Princess, with her wand, bracelets, and outfit her sister bought her for her birthday.

Midsummer happiness, running and spinning in the twilight on the grass...

Twirling....we liked seeing our skirts flare out...

A close-up of the fairy wand we made. Kate wanted a heart shape on top, and she chose to decorate it with some of her Winnie-the-Pooh stickers.

Faeries are light on their feet.

The Fairy Princess goes for a slide.

The Fairy Princess casts a water spell to turn on the waterfall.

The Mommy Fairy takes a turn with the wand.

Two faeries at play with the hummingbird decoration.

Kate's Fairy Princess hair-do.

Amie takes a turn with the wings: Fairy Amie.

Kate uses her wand to work some magic.

Our collection of fairy cakes. Kate helped me put the hearts on top. She did a good job, because I can't tell which ones she did and which ones I did.

Serving fairy cakes.

Our Midsummer Syllabub: a nonalcoholic version featuring grape cider and heavy whipped cream! Decadent? I do think so!

Midsummer's Eve begins...

Boppa's s'more....

The bonfire... Midsummer tradition actually requires people to jump over the bonfire, but we just decided to make s'mores instead!
Until next year, a happy Midsummer's Eve, everyone. Legend has it that if you get up early tomorrow morning and wash your face with the dew of a Midsummer's Day flower, you will grow ever more beautiful next year!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

Happy Father's Day to all of the daddies out there! To celebrate, we had a small party here with my parents and Amanda, Hayden, and Blair. I wanted to serve a totally comforting meal featuring the favorite dishes of my dad and Bill, and so we had a southern feast: "Bisquick" chicken (used as the breading and baked), baked beans, corn on the cob, mac and cheese, buttermilk bicuits, peach pie, and homemade ice cream. Kate was a big helper with the buttermilk bicuits; she helped to measure and pour all of the ingredients and to mix up the dough. She also helped to spice the peaches for the pie. She is my little helper.

Here are some pictures of our day---though they aren't in order. I should probably put them in order but don't really feel like it at the moment, I must admit. ;-)

Kate plays in the yard in the afternoon sunshine.

Katie plays on the swings with Amie and Ampa/Boppa (she uses both, it seems, to denote Grandpa, so we'll see what she decides---Boppa was the winner today).

Delightful summer evening memories.

Playing with ice while setting up the old-fashioned ice cream maker. I have a modern ice cream maker, but this one from my childhood speaks more to my soul. I remember the magic of it and learning all about the reaction of the ice and the rock salt and watching it churn on the deck in Yorba Linda. I want Kate to have similar memories... Here, she is putting ice on my fingers.

Peach pie, my dad's favorite. I have actually never made a peach pie prior to this---mostly because I am not a huge fan of fruit pies.My mom is usually in charge of the pies. If I make a dessert, it usually must be chocolate or of the creme brulee variety. But I must say that I have really discovered a love for the pie-making process, and now I am in search of people to whom to give pies just so I can make them...

In this picture, I am explaining to Kate how to prepare the ice cream maker. She helped me to put the ice around the vat of cream. Oh this ice cream was delicious: I used heavy whipping cream and a vanilla bean (along with sugar and a touch of salt). Pure pure pure heaven with the simplest ingredients.

Katie helped Grandpa to set up our fountain that Grandpa made. I love that fountain, so I am pleased to have it running again.

Katie walks outdoors to help Grandpa with the hose.

Katie and Grandpa with "Happy Sun" (as Katie calls the fence ornament) in the background.

Bill opens his card from Kate. You can see where she has drawn and written on it.

Put the ice in the maker, Katie. (P.S. The maker isn't plugged in at this point)!

Summertime wonder. I love the sound of a churning ice cream maker outside the kitchen door.

Little Hayden and his daddy, Blair, on their first Father's Day together! Hayden is such a happy little guy....

See how effervescent he is...really adorable! He is almost crawling, getting very close now!

Grandpa opens Katie's present: a mosaic stepping stone with an imprint of her feet for Grandpa's yard. It says, "I love you Ampa" on it. This was such a fun project to do, that I see mosaic stepping stones in several family members' futures. Shhh, it will be a surprise. ;-)

More fountain time! Here, Grandpa explains to Katie how the fountain works.

Grandpa opens his card...

More swinging fun (see how out of order these are)!

Dinnertime festivities!

Daddy reads his card from Katie.

Daddy and Katie together outside.

A close-up of Katie's present to Daddy: both of their handprints on canvas with a poem I wrote and phrases expressing thankfulness for all the little things Bill and Katie do with one another.

Amanda and Hayden play together.

What a happy Father's day! So many special memories today... And I am so thankful that Kate has two of the best men in her life, her dad and my dad. We tried our best to make each of them feel special today!

Friday, June 19, 2009

This Week in Alphabet Form

A: A.P. Reunion planning is underway! I had lunch at my house on Wednesday with two of my favorite students of all time, Erin S. and Allison C. We planned the decor and menu for the July reunion. I love the class of 2008 and can't wait to see many of them again!

B: Blueberries! Katie and Amie and I picked more blueberries today. Although the heat made us hustle, we have discovered the secret to blueberry picking: if you get down by the base of the plant and look upward, there are whole treasure troves of blueberry clusters visible that are not visible if you look downward at the plant. Picking blueberries is so meditative for me. I think I want to plant some bushes in my backyard.

C: Chariyasatit, Alexander Edward. Steve and Carol had their first baby, a son, early this morning. He is adorable, and I can't wait to meet little Alexander! I love him already as part of our extended friends-like-family.

D: David is helping to bring over all of the garage items from our old house. We made an afternoon run today over to the old house together, and it was strange being back there and it feeling so familiar and yet not like home. I had a wave of nostalgia when I peeked at my morning glories and the prunis trees and thought of all the time Kate and I spent back there. It made me miss her, and home truly is where she and Bill are.

E: Eyeglasses are pretty important. Note to self: always make sure you know where your eyeglasses are BEFORE taking out your contacts---otherwise you will be searching blindly for awhile, as I was just doing moments before working on this blog. Silly, silly.

F: Father's Day plans are well in the works! I finally started our craft projects for both Grandpa and Bill. Grandpa's is done and is drying. I am almost done with Bill's, but it needs finishing touches. Kate was able to do a part of each craft, and I am liking how they are turning out. We are having a big Father's Day party here for three families on Sunday.

G: Grumpy dwarf came for a visit in my body earlier this week, but I found a family doze/reading time in the family room yesterday to be a restorative. I loved being all together and hearing the waterfall outside and the breeze. I woke up feeling much more at peace. I love when the three of us are together being cozy.

H: Happiness is cuddling with my daughter in the evening and reading to her and smelling her hair and giving her kisses.

I: iPhone fun in our house today: we decided to get Bill the new iPhone for his upcoming birthday. He really loves it, and we had a good time trying out the voice recognition feature. Somehow when I said, "Play Moody Blues," it decided I told it to play The Ventures instead. More practice to come!

J: Jumping around---I am actually doing all of these letters out of order, here. I think I will go back to "H" now.

K: Kate brings me happiness all the time!

L: Love, for my husband and for Kate. I am very lucky to have both of them...always.

M: Midsummer Night's Eve is coming up on June 23rd, and of course I am planning a dessert party and midsummer festivities. I bought a pair of fairy wings today for Kate to wear, and I plan to use the fire pit (bonfires are a big part of the tradition abroad), to make fairy cakes, and a nonalcoholic midsummer syllabub. I want to celebrate the renewal and life the solstice brings, and I like having a celebration in June for Katie June to enjoy. This is the first year I decided to do this, so I plan to build on it as the years go on. I started planning a little late, like a couple days ago, so I am rushing a bit...but I think it will be memorable this year nonetheless. I also need to brush up on my corresponding Shakespeare play...maybe prepare a reading as we make s'mores.

N: Neatly stacked piles of classic Little Golden books make me happy, and Kate loves them, too. We received our Amazon parcel of several old titles this week. I am in love with all Eloise Wilkin books and several of the Little Golden books from the 1950s and 1960s.

O: Orange and lemon marmalade: My mom made the most delicious version of this, EVER! I usually am not a huge fan of the store brands because I don't like the sour afternotes. But my mom's has a sweet finish, and I love it. I bought a sour dough loaf to enjoy with the marmalade. I want to try making some myself. It is truly delicious! (Wait, is it weird that I don't like the sour notes in some marmalades but like to eat it with sour dough bread...Hm, a sure sign that I really am crazy).

P: Party-time on Saturday for Bill's 60th birthday! All of the McGaughs are coming over, and I am still working on the menu for that.

Q: Quietude: the air conditioning just went off. The only sound now in the house is my typing.

R: Resting is good, but my brain has been going a mile a minute this week and has been having a difficult time settling down---too much to do!

S: Sad fish: Phelps, our betta, had some slime spots (or ich, hard to know which) on him yesterday. Dad and David got him some medicine and we're treating him...but I hope my "fish killa" past isn't going to repeat itself here... What is it with me and fish? Keep your fingers crossed.

T: Thank-you letter: I received the sweetest thank you letter from Nana for her tea. I will keep it always, and have always considered myself lucky that she was my grandma...

U: Umami---the fifth taste on the tongue. Now that Kate is older, I am returning more passionately to my hobby of cooking and menu planning. I have some yummy things I want to make....

V: Very happy that we might be starting a chicken coop soon....I am much more skilled at keeping chickens alive than fish.

W: Watering my flowers has taken a magical turn for me, as I found an old-fashioned watering can hiding in the backyard, left behind by the previous owners. I have been watering all of my flowers with the watering can for about a week now, and I prefer it to the hose. A watering can slows down the process and makes the actions more deliberate. I really feel like I am working for my flowers, and I like that. Kate also says "watering can" now. I've always wanted a watering can... I love old-fashioned things.

X: Xylophone. Or X-ray. I think that is all Kate's alphabet books offer me on this one.

Y: You have the power to make each day a magical one worthy of celebration.

Z: Zzzzzzzzzzzz, time for bed now!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Tea Party for Nana's 84th Birthday

Roses of pink and cream...the formal china...love songs from the 1940s and 1950s...a house full of family and love and laughter...

Katie and I were fortunate to be able to host Nana's 84th birthday tea party this afternoon with most of our family in attendance. Preparing for days, I would not have been able to have enacted my whole vision were it not for my mom. She provided infinite help in watching Kate yesterday so I could cook, and she came over early this morning to help cut bread into shapes and to assemble sandwiches. She also baked our scones and was my sounding board for the menu.

We wanted to make Nana feel beloved and special and to show her how grateful we are to be able to celebrate another birthday with her. I am also thankful that Kate got to have a role in helping with so much of the preparation---because I will always tell her the story of how she helped to throw her Nana a birthday party. We want to give her an understanding of the importance of family early in her life, and we want to build memories and narratives that link her to family members across all generations.

Here are some pictures of our tea preparations/tea party:

Katie helped with the cupcakes. She put all of the cupcake wrappers in the tin, directed me to the put the batter in each cup, (licked the spoon), and then sprinkled pink sparklies on top of the frosting.

Kate then performed some taste-testing to ensure quality.

Some of our roses....our colors were cream and white, with accents of pink and yellow. I wanted the party to feel old-fashioned and of the springtime.

An overview of the the three tea tables.

Nana's place setting...

A close-up of one of our tables. I used one of my teapots as a small flower vase for some of the roses. Two kinds of scones comprised the first course: apricot oat and currant. Mom, who has the precision necessary to be not just a competent baker but a FABULOUS baker, prepared these scones for us. We served them with Devonshire cream and raspberry preserves. We had lemon curd, but forgot to put it out!

After the scone course and a second course of watermelon/feta/carmelized macademia nut salad, we started on the third course: tea sandwiches. Here are the cucumber-butter-dill and the salmon-cream cheese sandwiches.

Nana loves Braunschweiger, so we served some spread on toasts with creamy dijon and a pickle to balance the richness.

The egg salad sandwiches were shaped into hearts because we love Nana.

And the last sandwich was a chicken-tarragon spread.

For dessert we had the cupcakes and also a fruit tart. I used Temecula blueberries on the tart. Yum yum!

Nana and me. I love my Nana and am so full of joy that I was able to celebrate her.

My mom and Nana.

Katie June and Nana June, ready for scones.

Evelyn and Nana. Evelyn took the day off of work to be with us, which was really meaningful. Evelyn is definitely part of our family now, and I couldn't imagine her not being here with us.

My dad and Nana.

Bill and Nana.

Aunt Jen and Nana.

Aunt Debbie and Nana. Jed, Fon, and Violet were here, too, but I want to respect Jed's sentiment he shared once about not wanting a lot of information about his family online. I wish I could show Violet off, though, because she is adorable!

Playing in the backyard.

Generations at the tea table...

Generations before tea....

David at the tea buffet, third course. We served three kinds of iced tea: pekoe, chamomile, and raspberry. I love having this buffet station for entertaining.

David and Nana.

Dad visits with David and Evelyn.
So it was a day full of love and laughter and my amazing family. I am so thankful they could be here today and that we could have this memory in our Hummingbird Home.
Happy Birthday, Nana! We love you!