December 30, 2010

New Feature

DD and SI think this is all crazy talk.
I have decided, in the interest of humor and my own sanity, to host a regular feature on my blog.

"Ask a Toddler."

I am hereby soliciting questions, and perhaps weekly, I will post a video of one of my daughter answering your questions.

So, any and all questions are welcome.  Most times I expect SI will answer your questions, as she is a very opinionated little monkey, but I'm sure DD will chime in from time to time.

Disclaimer- I may have to rephrase your question in order to get an answer.

Thank you all for your participation in this absurd exercise!

December 29, 2010

Busy but Having Fun

Well, we're back from our journey to Minnesota.  Our house is full of boxes of things to be assembled, to place somewhere in our home, and then to use to our great enjoyment.  In other words, our home is in a state of advanced chaos, with the kids still in vacation mode and a lot of catching up to do.

But it was fun!  And the girls LOVE their presents!  And were so very well behaved.

Now, SuperMommy is cleaning cleaning cleaning so that she can get everything set to start using her brand new BREAD MACHINE (Thank you, to my mother-in-law!) to see to it that there's a constant parade of fresh breads coming from her kitchen.

It's very exciting.

In the meantime, there is still laundry to be done, packaging to be disposed of, new music to enjoy, a great deal of other minor messes to compete with, and several grocery type trips that need to be taken care of in short order.

Ah, home... filled with the sorts of messes I feel I can control.  I love my life!

December 20, 2010

Narrowing in on the New Year

DD and SI under the dining room table
I find that, as a parent, my system for planning ahead has changed somewhat.  I'm always looking a few more steps ahead than I used to.  This time last year, I would probably be focused on Christmas/Channukah, our trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Minnesota, and FINALLY getting my holiday cards out.  Not this year!

You may recall my to-do list from a week ago.  Let's revisit that for a moment...
  1. Make/hang curtains over dining room window
  2. Make holiday cards (this involves both studio arts and fun crafts this year, so I'm particularly excited)
  3. Bake holiday cookies (this year's selection: date balls, chocolate crackle-tops, ginger underwear-men, cocoa amarettis, and peppermint dusted candy-canes)
  4. Make myself that skirt I've been so excited about since I saw one similar to it at Anthropologie in September and picked up fabric and buttons for immediately afterward
  5. Set up Christmas tree
  6. Wrap Christmas presents
  7. Stockings, gifts, grublings and friends
My skirt is cut and pinned, but not sewn.  I just plain didn't get to the candy canes this year.  But on top of the list, I also threw a party for about 25 people, crafted Christmas stockings for the girls, and made dinner every night.  I even got my cards addressed and into the mail.  So what am I thinking about now?

New Year's.  Last year I decided that resolutions were meant to be broken, and I would set myself up for success rather than failure if I instead set myself a list of goals, not resolutions for 2010.  I've had some success, some bitter failure, and generally lived a richer life year because of those goals.  So, here is my 2010 list of goals, and a description of how I made it work, or how it all went down in flames.

1. Complete one painting each month all year
I came remarkably close on this one.  While I didn't actually complete one during each calendar month, there were a few months where I beat the goal.  I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be in finishing paintings, but I have to be realistic about how much a human being really can accomplish all at once.  Of course, most of the paintings are wedding portraits.  I love doing wedding portraits, but I would have preferred to have taken the time and actually make the art *I* wanted to make.  Which is to say, return to my quilting theme portrait series.  The one I still haven't made any progress on.  :::sigh:::

2. Complete one class each semester
Well, I failed at that one.  I completely spaced out on the summer semester.  However, I'm still on track to graduate, and that's something I feel fabulous about.  For the record, I aced every class I took in 2010.

3. Read 2 books each month, NOT counting graphic novels by anyone but Alan Moore
I cheated on this one.  I cheated hard.  I counted every trade paperback volume of "The Walking Dead" as a book.  I counted books that I read for class whether or not I enjoyed them, I and I counted such bits of tripe as "The Great Fables Crossover."  I did spend several days reading Anita Blake:Vampire Hunter novels to my girls while they nursed.  I have no regrets about that, and have to face the facts- I'm going to keep counting trade paperbacks of my comics as "books."  I'm so bad at staying cultured.  Two of the books I read were re-reads- "Ender's Game" and "Anna Karenina."  And of course, both were for classes.  See the left side of this entry for a few of my favorite reads of the year.

4. Cook 7 meals each week: acceptable meal=loaf of bread
This is another one I did a fair job with.  I did begin counting sandwiches as meals, and of course there were long stretches where there were no meals cooked at home, followed by a few days in a row of three squares.  This one gets easier all the time as the girls actually eat whatever I cook for them, meals the three of us can share.  I'll make a breakfast of eggs and toast, the three of us will eat happily, and et voila!  I cooked a meal!  Today I made breakfast, I didn't cook lunch, and I imagine I'll be cooking dinner as well.  Tomorrow I hope to take a break from breakfast, though.  We're running through eggs terrifyingly quickly, as the three of us will easily eat eight or nine for breakfast.  And I only get two of them.
Watching SuperMommy cook

5. Exercise three times a week
Again, fail.  During the spring semester I only took one class, so I parked in a garage a mile from the campus and walked two and from the car- that took care of twice a week.  During the summer I was VERY good at getting to the gym.  The fall and winter ruined me.  Thank heavens I can count sex as exercise, or I probably wouldn't be getting any.  In several manners of speaking.

6. Write daily, if only a haiku
Well, I didn't do that either.  However, I did start a new blog, forcing me to write longer, more involved pieces.  I've written plenty of haiku, but despite keeping a journal and a bunch of prompts next to my bed, I still go to bed thinking, "Too tired to write/haiku will wait 'til morning/if I don't shower."  And I do feel that much of the writing I've done as SuperMommy has turned out fairly well.

7. Spend at least 2 hours each day PLAYING with my children
This is another one that got easier as the girls grew.  I was wracked with guilt that I didn't exactly "play" with my kids.  But to be fair, three month old infants sleep and eat a lot.  That meant that most of my interaction with them was as the milk buffet, the diaper wizard, or a very warm cozy place.  When you get down to it, it was a silly goal.  I play with them almost every waking moment we're at home.  Even if I'm eating or writing, there's some sort of toddler game happening and I manage to be an integral part of it.

8. Celebrate every Sabbath spent at home
As my sister likes to remind me, Shabbat is the most important holiday.  It's the only one mandated by the ten commandments, and it's so easy!  Light some candles, break some bread, drink some wine, and recite some prayers I've known since I was too little to remember.  And I LIKE wine!  How hard is that?  Apparently, extremely hard.  50 out of 52 annual Shabbats have passed, and I can count the number that I lit the Sabbath candles on one hand.  I'm determined to be better at this.  My sister's right, it is a commandment, and in addition I do want my girls to grow up with an understanding of what it means to actually observe your religious traditions.  Whether or not they choose to when they're adults.  Or who knows, maybe they'll be like me and make excuses until they have to set an example.

9. Clean the house every other week
Ha!  Like THAT happened!  I have gotten better at keeping up with some housework.  And again, as the girls have gotten older they're better at "helping," or at least at watching and keeping themselves entertained while I do dishes or change sheets or sweep the floor.  Not that the dusting gets done, not that I've swept underneath my own bed once in 2010, not that there aren't always messes lurking SOMEWHERE... but I have stayed fairly on top of a lot of the grossness in my home.  Plus, I don't have small people puking on my stuff so often anymore.

10. Leave the house once a day- the back yard is an acceptable destination
I wish I could tell you that I succeeded here.  I with I could tell you that I stepped out into the fresh air and looked at the sky and took a deep breath and reminded myself that there was a world outside of my own head and home every day.  But I can't tell you that, because it would be a bold faced lie.  I got out of the house most days.  I went to class, last semester four days a week, I went to the grocery store, I went to the DMV, to the post office, to Sam's Club...  but not every day.  There were definitely a few times (especially during school breaks) that I realized I hadn't been outdoors in four or more days.  In the spring I even modified my goal- I decided that the balcony off the living room would suffice.  It didn't make any difference.  I only stepped onto the balcony in order to be outside a handful of times.  I'm optimistic about next year though.  Again, bigger children leave the house more readily than infants when you're outnumbered.  So we'll be enjoying the fresh air a bit more often.  Add the that the challenges of toilet training and having twin toddlers getting into EVERYTHNG... well, I think I'm going to have my hands full.  Again.

...and that was my 2010.  I'll be setting some new goals for 2011, returning to a few of the old, and hopefully some of those goals will eventually come off the list, being habits rather than semi-forced practices.  And at least one is coming off entirely, there's NO hope that I'm actually going to thoroughly clean my house every other week.  Sorry folks.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, and may your New Year be filled with joy, love, and success!

December 12, 2010

A To-Do to Die For

Peppermint Dusted Candy Canes and Ginger Underwear-Men, '08
I am genuinely looking forward to my week.  Through the magical powers of hiring my own personal Mary Poppins and the fresh baby-proofing of my kitchen, I have been able to construct a to-do list for my week that feels not only possible, but genuinely fun.

What sort of To-Do list incites SuperMommy to wax rhapsodic, you ask?
  1. Make/hang curtains over dining room window
  2. Make holiday cards (this involves both studio arts and fun crafts this year, so I'm particularly excited)
  3. Bake holiday cookies (this year's selection: date balls, chocolate crackle-tops, ginger underwear-men, cocoa amarettis, and peppermint dusted candy-canes)
  4. Make myself that skirt I've been so excited about since I saw one similar to it at Anthropologie in September and picked up fabric and buttons for immediately afterward
  5. Set up Christmas tree
  6. Wrap Christmas presents
 ...not necessarily in that order.

The girls have proven that they can be very cooperative while I cut and pin fabric, if not while I actually sew.  They've shown that they can be at the very least not COMPLETELY destructive and distracting while I cook, even if they are still too young to really understand the whole hot oven STAY AWAY concept.

Best of all?  M's semester has ended, and his work might be slowing down enough that I can actually imagine us sitting down to a family dinner every night this week.

Oh, it's a glorious time, all right.  It's a magical, wonderful, beautiful time.  And if my exciting and busy week keeps me completely away from you, I'm sure you will understand all too well that I'm just having too much fun to talk about it at the time.

And just for you, and the Multiples...and More! network, my signature cookie:

Cocoa Amarettis Recipe:

1c blanched whole almonds
1/2c sugar, divided
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
slivered almonds to decorate
Lots of Cocoa Amarettis, '08

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Bake almonds for 12 minutes, turning occasionally.  Set aside to cool, but leave the oven on for baking.
2. Once cooled, place in food processor with 1/4c sugar and process until finely ground but not oily.  Mix with cocoa powder and powdered sugar, and set aside.
3. In a copper mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  This CAN be done in another bowl by adding a pinch of tartar, but I highly recommend against it.  Sprinkle in remaining 1/4c sugar, 1tbsp at a time, beating until thoroughly aborbed.  Continue beating until the egg whiles are glossy and stiff.  Beat in almond extract, and then gently fold in processed almond mixture until JUST blended.
4. Transfer batter into piping bag, or gallon ziplock with a little hole in the corner.  Pipe 1"-2"rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets about an inch apart.  Press a slivered almond into the center of each cookie. 
5. Bake for 14 minutes.  Cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Poetry on Motherhood

I am mighty.
Turn food to food to food
A human philosopher's stone.
I am a juggernaut
of the transmutative power
of hunger.
One of the greatest forces
in all of creation.
I am mighty.

December 10, 2010


DD and SI
This week marked the anniversary of John Lennon's assassination.  I've long considered John Lennon a personal hero, but as I listened to my favorites of his songs I came to realize that he was not my only dead hero.  In fact, as I thought on the matter, I discovered that not only were the bulk of my heroes dead (on in many cases, fictional), but they had never in fact lived during my lifetime.  I had no overlap at all.

I thought more and more on this.  The sixties and seventies were FULL of heroes- people that the vast majority of American children could look up to, to aspire to be like.  John Lennon, Neil Armstrong, President Kennedy, Dr. King, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Marylin Monroe...

I wracked my brain for hours, and although I came up with several people alive I might call heroes, or who sub-sections of my generation might revere, the only universal hero figure I could come up with for my lost generation was Michael Jordan.

Our sports figures were largely despicable, if not outright criminal.  Our pop and rock icons were constantly on drugs.  Our music began not only to glorify violence and crime, but in some genres to attempt nothing but simple shock.  Our politicians were more and more disgusting.  Our movie and television stars completely detached.  Of course we had no universal heroes, none of our celebrities was worth emulating.

SI is finally walking!  DD is unimpressed.
So, how on earth does this have anything to do with parenting, right?

I imagine explaining who John Lennon was to my children.  And then I imagine who might be their heroes when they're at the critical age when children crave adult figures that inspire.  I remember finding those people in textbooks, or in my parents' CD library, or in made up stories.  I remember how many children in my school had Michael Jordan all over them- their shoes and their backpacks and their trapper keepers...

Who will my children look up to?  And will there be anyone to look up to at all?

More and more, I fear the answer is 'no.'  I think that one of the most important problems is that our society has become so focused on the negative.  We don't hear stories about the inspiring things our celebrities do, we hear about Michael Vick's dog fighting, Ben Rothlisberger's sexual assaults, Brittany Spear's nth rehab visit, Tiger Woods and John Edwards' infidelities... and this is the trend my generation learned to expect.  We grew up in a society that constantly shreds our idea of a hero.  We grew up to be cynical, and cynics can't maintain a hero.  I remember a line I found hilarious on 30 Rock last season, when a airline pilot made a comment about Sully Sullenburger, who successfully landed his full jet on the Hudson losing an engine: "You know what I would have done?  NOT flown into the birds.  That's what I do every day, NOT hit birds.  Where's MY ticket to the Grammy's?"

But a dead person- or a fictional person- they can't be torn down.  They're whoever you want them to be, and it lasts forever.  And that's the most important element of a hero- they are in some way perfect, in some way exactly what you want to be.

We need heroes.  I'm not saying heroes are dead, but I am saying it's too late for my generation.  And if it's our job to provide heroes for our own kids, they might be out of luck.

I have no idea who my children will admire.  I fear they will be the same despicable celebrities of the present.  And I don't know where to look for heroes, having never really found any of my own.

Nothing is better than a book
I can pass along my own heroes, the dead and the unreal.  I can share my Mars comics and their super-smart female scientist lead, I can share my John Lennon music and their message of love and understanding, I can share my Tolkien novels, and the healthy morals within their pages.  But I know that as much as I loved those people during my own youth, they couldn't replace a true hero.  A real person I could look to.

I know that most people consider their parents their heroes, but that is a different sort of hero.  It's the constant role model and assistant, not the distant ideal.  And that distant ideal, I believe, is critical.  And the loss of those heroes is why I believe the only heroes most of us have ARE our parents.  Parents shouldn't be lone heroes.

Parents are fallible.  Parents make mistakes.  Parents make you do your homework and go to bed, and in hindsight that makes them wonderful, but at the time it makes you WISH SO HARD that... your hero was your dad, or your mom.  If Gandalf was my dad, he'd let me get another kitten.  If Mommy was Morgana, she'd let you make experimental beverage concoctions for lunch.  If Pippi was my sister, we'd NEVER fight.

Kids need heroes to write letters to, to collect autographs from, to hold onto as beacons of an alternate universe that was perfect once they're adults in a flawed world.

I have no hero to connect me to a perfect childhood.  And every hero I do have is somehow tragic, tainted by my own cynicism.    I don't want that for my girls, I want them to have heroes.

I just can't imagine what it's like.

December 5, 2010

Many Holidays in our Household

Multiples... and More! Question of the Week - What are your families' holiday traditions?

This is a question M and I have discussed quite a bit over the past few years.  With M being Lutheran, and with me a Conservative Jew, the question of which of our own childhood's traditions will be passed along has a lot of nuances to take into consideration.  For example, the Jewish holidays run on a lunar calendar, while the secular (and Christian) world use a solar calendar.  This means that Channukah doesn't fall on the same secular calendar days each year.  This year it's early, Channukah started on December 1st.  Next year, it will start on December 20th, and run through Christmas.
SuperMommy and her super sisters light Channukah candles

This means that if we were to try to maintain the sort of holiday traditions that I had as a kid, sometimes Christmas would get trampled on a bit.  But if we ignore the Channukah traditions just because it's Christmas, it sends a clear message about which holiday is more important.  And we don't want ANY messages about some holidays being more important than others.

So far, we've established a few basics.  We will have at least as many menorahs as there are ladies in the house.  This means that we're short a few just yet, but as it's a lady's duty to light the candles I want my girls to have menorah's to think of as their own.  Each night of Channukah we'll light candles.  I would like to delineate the gift giving a little, give each child a specific night on which it is their turn to give gifts.  It is important to both me and to M to make sure that our kids understand that it's not about GETTING presents, it's about GIVING presents.  About showing the people you love how much you care, not about who gets the best stuff.

My extended in-laws... on one side
Another tradition I'll be passing on to my children is trivia for gelt.  In my family, nobody just gives you gelt for playing dreidle.  You have to answer questions about Channukah and Jewish history to get your chocolate coins.  Year after year, my mother asked my little sister the same question until she got it right- what does Channukah mean?  The answer is rededication.  I want my children to understand why we celebrate- not just that we're eating delicious latke and sufganiyot and opening presents.

As far as Christmas is concerned, we have a tree (although it's not up yet- we haven't found a baby-proof location!), but mostly it's the purview of Grandma.  We go to Minnesota to visit M's family every year for Christmas, so the actual experience of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning are very much what M experienced as a child- there are extended family gatherings and gift exchanges, then a small family dinner with M's parents and sister and BIL on Christmas Eve, followed by opening the presents from each other.  Then we all go to bed, and in the morning open presents from "Santa," who only fills up stockings.  Then Christmas Day is a lazy adventure of watching new movies, eating junk food, and stuffing ourselves with my MIL's amazing Christmas cookies.  My first year of Christmas with my in-laws involved making a fool of myself for eating an apple that came in my stocking.  I was very happy to eat my apple, but apparently it had never been done.  After all, who eats apples when they have peanut M&M's and cookies in such abundance?
DD, my MIL, and a little cousin at last year's Christmas

We try to make it to my family's Channukah celebration, but it's trickier.  We decided when we got married that Christmas travel trumps Channukah travel, and that Passover travel trumps Easter travel.  So sometimes my family's Channukah celebration is very early, this year we had it Thanksgiving weekend.  Sometimes it's very late- a few years ago we had it well after New Year's.  And some years we don't make it at all.  It's sad for me, because I have such fond memories of my childhood Channukah's with my grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles... but we all have to make sacrifices.  I'm confident that on years that Channukah and Christmas overlap, my in-laws will be happy to have my daughters lighting their menorahs by the Christmas tree.

December 2, 2010

Gigantic Screwups

Day one with the grublings
I understand that we all make mistakes.  That I will continue to accidentally walk into my kids, trip them while I try to pull up their pants, get soap in their eyes...

Today I screwed up.  I was closing the bathroom door, and had my eyes on SI.  She was trying to get into the bathroom, and I was trying to keep her out.  Unbeknown to me, DD was behind me, grabbing hold of the door jam.  Which is to say that I closed her fingers in the door- HARD.

DD and SI waking up SuperMommy
I absolutely panicked.  She was screaming, her finger was rapidly turning purple, and it was sort of flattened with a giant dent it in.  I was sure it was broken.  She wouldn't let me ice it, and she screamed and screamed.

I learned a few things.  One- baby digits are squishy.  It is completely undamaged, despite its horrific appearance at the time.

Two, DD might be the most thoughtful and affection person I'd ever known.  What did she do after I desperately tried to make her first really nasty boo-boo better?

She stopped crying, and she gave me lots and lots of watery, boogery kisses.  She's usually pretty reticent about giving kisses, it's SI who kisses like crazy.  DD made ME feel better, even while she was still obviously hurting and scared.

 I would be hard pressed to say that I'd do it again, because I still feel AWFUL.  But I do feel like I must be doing something right, because these kids are just wonderful.

Napping with two of my favorite people


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