Monday, July 4, 2016

How easy it is

[I've waited to share this story for a year, because I'm hoping that my friend won't remember it as clearly as I do.]

Last year, close to when Rex was born, a friend of mine invited us (me and Genevieve) to lunch. We arranged to meet at a restaurant that Genevieve and I went to fairly regularly, after school one day.

I preloaded her. We planned. We discussed what kind of manners we use at restaurants. The usual (long and extensive) routine.

When we got there and ordered, she was as good as gold. She was remarkably well-behaved the entire time we were there, on her best company manners. High fives all around!

At one point, my friend - let's call him Kristoff- leaned over to his intended - we'll call her Anna- and said softly, "See how easy it is? "

Piece. Of. Cake. Riiiiiiiiight.

I don't think he intended for me to hear him, but I did.

In that moment, all I could think is, "Are you kidding?! EASY?!"

All the hours of "please"s and "thank you"s. All of the discussions, all of the preloading, making sure that she'd gotten all of her wiggles out- but wasn't so tired that she was going to melt down in the middle of the restaurant. And all the other minutiae that have consumed my day-to-day reality.

The 90%-of-the-time challenge for the 10% smooth sailing. (Your percentages may vary.)

But how do you say this without it sounding like having kids (or being a parent) is awful? (Because it's not, obviously.) And there I was, eight and a half months pregnant, about to do it all over again. 

The best way I can think of to explain it (a year later) is this: if I was to sit down at the piano and play a complicated piece of music, you wouldn't assume that (a) I sat down at the piano for the first time and the music magically flowed from my fingers or (b) that it was easy. 

And if I've learned anything, it's that if something looks easy, someone has worked really hard to get to that point. (Rome not being built in a day, and all that.)

I felt like laughing hysterically. I actually *physically* felt my eyebrows hit my hairline in utter disbelief. what did I *do*? 

I pretended that I didn't hear it. 

Because all of the thoughts and words I had couldn't possibly explain the feelings that come when you look at your amazing kid(s) and think, "I have an amazing kid."

But maybe that's just the hormones talking. Because parenting? Is not so easy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Leaps and bounds

Last Friday, both kids hit major milestones.

Rex learned how to clap, which is delightful and ridiculous, because we all cheer and clap when he does. I had forgotten how funny this stuff was; we'll be sitting at the table, Rex will clap, and then we all clap and cheer. 

Other milestones that abruptly followed: "up" arms, pulling his belly up to crawl, and - most terrifyingly - he's figured out how to pull himself up to standing.

I mentioned that BOTH kids hit milestones at the same time, so brace yourselves.

Genevieve wrote her first word. Without help.


There we were, taking our shower, and Genevieve was drawing in the steam (like we always do), and I looked, and there is was, as clear as day.


And then again, and again, and again. I may have flipped out and cheered. And squeezed her. Because YOU GUYS, MY BABY CAN WRITE!

Reproduced for you here, since the charm of writing in steam is its ephemeral nature:


I feel like I've totally hamstrung her with a name like "Genevieve". I may as well have named her "Chrysanthemum", which - let's be honest- I never spell correctly on the first pass (and even now, I used autofill and totally cheated). 

And she's definitely not a "Gen", so there goes that potential solution. She also shot down going by "Eve".

Thankfully, after a frustrating (and abruptly aborted initial attempt, after some struggles with the letter "N") she tried again the next night, and got as far as "GENEV" without help, and then asked me for the letters, which I cheerfully provided.

After that, I grabbed one of our window markers and wrote her name clearly for her, as well as "VALENTINA" (her imaginary friend with an impressive origin story, more on her another day), and "REX". She traces the letters with her finger, then writes them above (or below) in the steam.

When I told her that her name is really tricky, and that most grownups (ahem, Starbucks baristas) can't spell her name without help, she said, "Maybe I should have it on a piece of paper to help them."

My baby is a genius. And I couldn't be prouder.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


 Dear Andrew;

Happy Father's Day! The day Genevieve was born was the day we became parents, and the day Rex was born, our family was complete. But really, without us (and let's be honest, mostly me), where would they be? So, it all starts with us.

2 kids: achievement unlocked!

Thank you for being an awesome partner. We've been together for a long time. So long, that when you "solved the puzzle ball while you guys [Genevieve, Rex and I] were sleeping", and I answered, "Suuuuuuuure you did. While we were sleeping. Right."

... You produced a photo. Because you knew I wouldn't believe you.

And when I FINALLY beat the puzzle ball, and I sent you this:

Victory... Is... MINE!

This is - allegedly - rated for 4 year-olds. It took us [Me and Andrew] MONTHS to beat it.

You sent me this:

(And on a related note, take a moment to observe this:)

No resemblance, whatsoever. Or drool.

But enough about our bizarre unique marriage. On to the kids.

You go to work, drive in traffic both ways, and then we slide straight into the nighttime routine. Dinner, shower, books, bed.


I understand (at the very least, the basics) of biology, but moments like these make me marvel at how wonderful and strange having children can be:

Again, with the resemblances!
(If you look closely, you'll notice the SAME SLEEPING FACE.)

I love how you look at our kids.

How was Rex ever this small?


You're also the dad:

... who went on a closing hour run to the store for
- last minute glitter for cascarones
- a replacement Sophie
- Lemon Oreos, because I NEEDED them, like I needed air to breathe.
... who played the part of Elsa, exclusively, FOR A YEAR. (I was cast as Hans, remember?)
... who goes to the store with Genevieve and recognizes her for the evil genius that she is.1

... who kept filling water balloons, even when that meant that Genevieve IMMEDIATELY threw it at you WHILE YOU WERE FILLING THE NEXT ONE, which you knew she was going to throw at you the instant you handed it to her.
... who helps Genevieve with her - sometimes complex - costumes and jewelry


... who helps Genevieve find solutions to her problems.
... who takes Rex after he's bitten me, and reminds me that Genevieve went through a biting phase, too, and we persevered and were able to preserve our nursing relationship.
... who WD40'd the squeaky swings because it was giving me panic attacks. (Just because they squeak doesn't meant they'll fall, just because they squeak doesn't meant they'll fall, just because they squeak doesn't meant they'll fall...)
... who went and got the torn window decal out of the trash so that Genevieve could have closure, because she told you that she "...would never be happy again." (Quelle dramatique!2)
... who laughs when Genevieve sighs and says, "Dad-deeeee!" in that exasperated, teenage voice. (Funny now, we'll see how funny it is in ten or fifteen years.)
... who is brave in the face of terrifying monsters, and also giant spiders.
... who still appreciates our inside jokes from YEARS and YEARS ago.
... and who still seeks my counsel, personally and professionally.

So, what I'm saying is that even when I'm tired, and short-tempered, I see you. I see all the things you're doing. I'm noticing.

Someday, I'll get over the fact that Genevieve told me she loves you first, and Rex did, too, "I la dadadadada!"

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... and someday you'll get over the fact that "dada" means both "Daddy" and "I have a wet diaper".

I love you, and the kids love you.


Happy Father's Day, Andrew. I wouldn't and couldn't have done it without you. 


Also, since he definitely bears mentioning...

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They ended up in matching outfits, UNPLANNED.

To my own dad...
... who taught me that sometimes, we are the source of our own problems.
... who taught me the importance of being polite, firm, and persistent when solving problems.
... and who told Genevieve she could have cookies for breakfast EVERY DAY, and then told me that - as a grandfather- it's not his job to say "no" to the kids. (Perks of the job, I suppose.)

1. [Apples and trees, amiright?]
2. [See "1", "Apples and trees"]

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What, now?

Genevieve has discovered jokes, and humor. It's very funny listening to her trying to put together original jokes- particularly after she repeats a joke she's heard, and then does her own riff on it.

Yes, those are mitten clips holding up her "dress".

We're also working on explaining how "funny" works, and that being funny on purpose is actually really hard. (There was some real heartbreak when we talked about this.)

Like, for example, instead of making a fart noise, she says, "Fart!" and then laughs hysterically. (To be fair, I usually laugh, too.)

[Since our household is fancy and multilingual, sometimes she says "Fart!" in another language. We are truly a cultured bunch.]

Recently, we had a golden moment. A breakthrough. A conversation that proved that all my hard work and excellent parenting was coming to fruition.

Me: Guess what.
Genevieve: What?
Me: Chicken butt.
Genevieve: Fart.

My work here is done. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

An Ode to Tired Mothers

Once upon a time, when KidBrotherSam was a little guy in diapers, my mother was tired. Exhausted. Positively knackered.

Obvious, right? It wasn't until I had Genevieve that I understood exactly what "tired" meant. (Even moreso since I have had Rex.)

It was first thing in the morning, and Mom had gotten up to brush her teeth. Instead of her toothpaste, she grabbed this:

(For childless readers, this is diaper rash cream. Not toothpaste.)
"Mom," I said.

"Yes, baby," she said.

"That's diaper cream," I said.

"Yes, baby," she said, continuing to put Desitin on her toothbrush.

It was obvious that she was on autopilot, even to my six-year old self, "Mom. Mom."

"Yes, baby. I heard you," she said, putting the Desitin-ed toothbrush in her mouth.

A horrified look, toothbrush out of her mouth, "This isn't toothpaste."

"That's what I TOLD you, Mommy," I said.

In retrospect, I imagine my part looked something more like this:

As an adult, I thought it was funny, because WHO KEEPS BUTT CREAM NEXT TO THEIR TOOTHPASTE?

Well. Funny story...

I would like to present an Apples & Trees ProductionTM** (the first of many, I'm assuming)

I present, my own Desitin toothpaste moment:

Genevieve was a baby. I had cut my hair short while I was pregnant, and spiked it using hair glue. This exact hair glue, in fact:

For your reference, I do keep my hair products on a shelf, next to...

... My toothpaste. Which looked this:

I'm sure you can guess what came next. I unscrewed the cap and started to squeeze the tube, and that was when I looked down and realized that it was hair glue I was applying to my toothbrush. It was in that moment, where I Understood, and I felt solidarity of a whole, new kind with my mom. And maybe also some real empathy, since You Can't Really Know Until You Know.

So, to all the tired mothers, Happy Mother's Day, from my family to yours. But most of all, to my own amazing mom.


... And keep the diaper cream FAR from your toothpaste.

(Just to be safe, you may want to have your coffee before you brush your teeth.)

**  Apples & Trees ProductionsTM, brought to you by Apples Who Do Not Fall Far From Their Trees

Monday, April 18, 2016

Not-My-Mom's Chicken Soup

When you feel like this...


You should make this. 

According to KidBrotherSam, and Mom. (Pinnable image, just in case)

Chicken soup wasn't really something that I grew up eating when I was sick. Chicken broth, yes, by the gallon even. But when I was sick, all I really wanted to eat was plain basmati rice and plain yogurt. That's it.

I never really intended to have a special chicken soup recipe; rice and yogurt was good enough for me. As with many of the good things that happen, I tripped over this recipe when I was looking for a recipe that was both gluten-free and nightshade-free.

(This is harder than it sounds, since nightshades are both delicious and frequently used as substitutes for wheat. I was cooking for a special-diet crowd, and I was determined to find something that would please everyone.)

Enter my favorite soup cookbook: Soup: A Way of Life, by Barbara Kafka. I bought it for a specific squash soup recipe (Quibebe, which is unbelievably tasty and savory), and I've found that her recipes are reliably delicious and not fiddly or overly complicated. Her vegetarian borscht is also amazing, though it requires the village (you know, the one it takes to raise a child?) to help peel and dice ALL the vegetables. [Luckily, it serves a batallion, so you'll have plenty to feed all those helping hands.]

Over the years, I have adapted it to be my own, which really means modifying it to be The Way I Like It. My tastes swing towards really flavorful food, so your mileage may vary. For me, this is a panacea. From ennui to the flu, this makes everything feel better, and it freezes really well.

There are other upsides to this soup - the way that I cook it - the main two being that (first) you only really need to be upright for 15 minutes (on and off), so even if you're starting to resemble the undead, you can have some delicious chicken soup. Second, it's a pantry dish for me. So, no zombie-runs to the grocery store.

I know it's good, because when KidBrotherSam was on his way home from college, he asked Mom for "that amazing chicken soup" which he described as "the best thing he ever put in his mouth". To which Mom informed him, "That's not MY chicken soup."

I had to write this up, because once I was too sick to throw ingredients in a pot, so Andrew and I had one of Those Relationship Talks.

Me: Andrew, make me soup.
Andrew: Okay.
Me: Make it EXACTLY as written in the cookbook. [Sometimes he likes to get fancy.]
Andrew: Okay.
Me: Except use three big cans of chicken broth.
Andrew: Okay.
Me: And Sriracha instead of jalapeño.
Andrew: Okay.
Me: And-
Andrew: You know you're basically changing the whole recipe.
Me: ...
Andrew: Please write it down, and I'll make it.

So, it went into the cookbook. And now, it's all yours, and Pinnable, if you so choose.

Jasmin's Healing Chicken broth:

  • 3- 49 1/2 oz cans of chicken broth (I like Swanson's)
  • 1 bunch of scallions (or an onion can be substituted, preferably white, but yellow works, too)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro (or parsley if you find cilantro to be "soapy")
  • 2+ Tablespoons Ginger Paste (more if you have the energy to mince it fresh/ like it stronger)
  • Squirt of sriracha
  • 2+ Tablespoons Garlic Paste (more if you have the energy to mince it fresh/ like it stronger)
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of 4 lemons (or more to taste)

OPTIONAL: (for when you're up to adding solids to your soup)
- Alphabet noodles, ramen noodles, or rice
- Precooked chicken, preferably from your leftovers, though a precooked, grocery store rotisserie chicken also does nicely

Pour the chicken broth into a huge pot. Splop in the ginger and garlic paste, toss them in the pot. Add the Sriracha. Mandolin the onion/ finely chop your scallion whites, throw them in the pot. Get the pot to boil, then drop the temperature setting for a 20-minute simmer.

While it's coming to a boil, wash and chop the cilantro, and juice the lemons. Then, SIT DOWN. (Do not go to sleep with a pot on the range.)

[If you want noodles, now is also a good time to start the pot of water and the noodles. DO NOT add the noodles to the broth, let folks add their noodles separately. Just keep the broth separate; you'll be happier.]

Around the 20 minute mark, toss in the lemon juice, add the cilantro, give it a stir, turn off the heat and let it sit while the noodles finish.

Serve it in a fun mug, put the noodles (and/or other extras) in the mug first, then add the broth. Freeze the extra; if you're not feeling well, 2 minutes in the microwave gets the broth ready to drink.

And, if you needed any further endorsement, this soup gave me one of my first The-Student-Has-Become-The-Master moments: when I delivered soup to Mom and Sam across the street when they were quarantined to Knitmore West. 
There's nothing like taking special chicken soup to your mom when she's sick.

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I'll cover you

Today, we had a park play date with a couple of Genevieve's classmates, and their wonderful moms.

ChrissyG and I had been trying to connect for a while, and our schedules aligned. I told her that Genevieve had a play date, and in her usual chill way, ChrissyG was up for a trip to the park. 

At one point, we had the girls on the carousel, and Rex in the stroller. 

[Theoretically, I could have put him in the ergobaby carrier and had him on with me, but that's the beauty of hindsight, isn't it?]

Then came the constant tug-of-war that is life with two kids; ride the carousel with Genevieve, or wait with Rex and the stroller on the sidelines. 

Ride with Genevieve, it means a lot to her. TUG.


Stay with Rex; he's a baby and will cry. TUG. 

"Mommy, ride with us!" TUG. 

You can't stick ChrissyG with babysitting; that's not why she came along. TUG. 

ChrissyG saw me in the midst of my dilemma, about to sacrifice Genevieve's real and present needs for Rex's theoretical and only possible needs, raised an eyebrow and said, "Ride the carousel. It's two minutes. Rex will be fine. I'll take good care of your baby."**

I can't even tell you how relieved I felt. 

"I'll take good care of your baby." Magical words, because you know you can rely on them.

Because you realize you're being ridiculous, but it's okay, because it's normal; ChrissyG understands. She's been there. Thrice. 

That's what friends- best friends- are for. That gentle reminder that you're not as alone as you might feel sometimes. 

And if you're being ridiculous, they'll tell you. 


**I swear my mom said that same thing when Genevieve was a baby. Clearly, I keep excellent company. 

Monday, April 11, 2016


Mom: Thank you for giving me grandchildren who love to eat.
Genevieve: I don't like to eat! Except when I like to eat...
Me: What you like is to be contrary. 
Genevieve: I do not!
*All adults*: Knowing glances and smiles


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rapunzel, Rapunzel...

Genevieve turned four years old in January. (This probably deserved it's own blog post.) She had been planning for her birthday since- literally - two weeks after Rex was born. (That would be from September to January, for those of you playing the home game.)

She squirreled away her favorite clothes in a special drawer, and called them her "January clothes".

A favorite thing? It's with the January clothes. Something fancy? It's with the January clothes. That thing we can't find? With the January clothes.

And you can bet that once it went in the January clothes drawer, it was unavailable until- you guessed it- January.

The long-anticipated January clothes

With some necessary boundary setting (no hand knits or shoes in the January clothes drawer), she packed her drawer.

I've mentioned before that she turns into a Gremlin when she has sugar, so I pulled out my copy of Sweet and Sugarfree (a gift from my friend Rachel), and picked out a cake recipe that didn't sound *too* terrible for a test run.

First- in order to qualify as a cake (generally speaking), you need the Deliciousness Trifecta: eggs, sugar, flour. Of the three, this recipe had... Flour. 

We made the "cake" and the "pineapple pudding" for the topping, and had a grand time doing it. But when it came time to lick the beater, Genevieve took one lick and handed it back. 

"Maybe it'll taste better once it's baked," I said, full of hope (and sugarfree righteousness). 

It didn't. In fact, you could see the writing on the wall when Genevieve's friend PhiloSophie very politely said, "The... Uh... Frosting (?) is sort of falling off the cake."

We tasted it, and I excused everyone from having to eat it. It wasn't cake. It wasn't bread. What it was, was horrible. 

"I'm throwing away the sugarless abomination," my mother, who NEVER EVER wastes food, informed me.

I didn't argue. The first thing I did the next morning was order the princess cake she had been asking pining after begging for. The bakery asked which princess she wanted (of two choices, neither of which was Elsa), and she picked Rapunzel. 

[Verne here. Rapunzel is not a princess. Didn't those yahoos over at Disney ever crack a book? Her parents were so poor they couldn't afford VEGETABLES and -essentially- traded their baby for some. Harrumph.]

Andrew took Genevieve to pick up the cake, and it was everything she had always dreamed of. 


As you can see, it also had a knockoff Barbie stuck in it, and to my great chagrin, it wasn't just a torso. (In saying that, I don't know if that would have been better or worse.)

I have a lot of issues with Barbie, but the main one - aside from all my feminist issues - is a sensory one. They don't feel nice to play with. 

I tried to spirit Rapunzel away after we cut the cake, but even I, Captain Killjoy, am not made entirely of stone. 

[Captain Killjoy! She crushes dreams with a single syllable! She enforces bedtime! She's able to stop shenanigans with merely a raised eyebrow!)

So now, despite my efforts to the contrary, there's a Barbie in my house. And Genevieve loves her. 

... And like a file, she snuck inside in a cake.

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The T-Rex is decidedly NOT a party animal.
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...Much better.
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IMG_3066 copy 
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Yes, those are dinosaur candles, per her request.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Corned beef and cabbage

St. Patrick's Day has always been an excuse for us to get together with friends and family, drink beer, and enjoy corned beef and cabbage.


I've done it a few different ways, including cooking it in beer (which made my diabetic-teetotaler father's blood sugar go unexpectedly CRAZY, oops), in the oven, and in the crockpot. My favorite way, BY FAR, is my newest discovery- to do it in my electric pressure cooker.

If I was going to do an ad for electric pressure cookers, it would go like this:

"Do you cook for your family, but have poor planning skills? Do you forget to pull meat out of the freezer until it's an hour before dinner? Do you WISH you could get that same effect from the crock pot WITHOUT having to add to your already stressful morning routine? 

Well, look no more! An Electric Pressure cooker is the thing for you!"

Below is Cook's Country (free) recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage. (original recipe pulled from here, but reposted with my electric pressure cooker changes so I don't forget how I did it in the future).

A Pin-able image, for you

Corned Beef and Cabbage
  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) corned beef brisket roast, with all the juices and "extras"
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 carrots, peeled (3 chopped, 9 halved crosswise)
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds small red potatoes
  • 1 head green cabbage (2 pounds), cut into 8 (2-inch) wedges
  • Pepper


1. Combine beef, broth, water, chopped carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, and allspice in Electric Pressure Cooker.  Cook for 96 min on high pressure (24 mins for every pound), 10 minute natural pressure release, then quick release. The fork should slip easily in and out of the meat. (And flake off the edges, for quality control and tasting purposes, of course.)

2. Transfer meat to 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, feed the solids to the hoardes that smelled the delicious steam during the depressurization. (KidBrotherSam and Genevieve made short work of this; Andrew had to move fast to get some.) Pour 1 cup cooking liquid over meat. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes. (Defend from "tasters" and "quality control specialists" with a long-handled wooden spoon and a matronly voice.)

3. Meanwhile, return remaining cooking liquid to Dutch oven, add butter, and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and simmer until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add carrot halves and cabbage, cover, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer vegetables to serving platter and season with pepper to taste. (Reserve cooking liquid for making gravy)


4. Transfer beef to carving board and slice against grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with vegetables.


Bon appétit!