Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Thanksgiving and Four Months

Hope you all have had a beautiful couple of weeks!

We spent Thanksgiving in Taos with my dad, stepmom, grandmother, 2 sisters, and brother-in-law. 'Twas a merry crew.

Luciana's adventures included meeting her great-grandmother (who doesn't want pics of herself online), seeing her first snow

wearing her first mittens (thanks, Karianne!)

and helping Mama catch up on sleep

The altitude affected my little hummingbird, and let's just say the sleeping that happened was not really happening at night. Luckily we were there to completely relax, so sleep or no sleep it was wonderful. And the most profound Thanksgiving ever: I've never been given a gift as marvelous as my girl.

Speaking of sleep, that is one of so many changes happening as Luciana turns FOUR MONTHS. She's following the pattern of her forbearers, and suddenly resisting napping, waking up more at night, and generally so thrilled with the world that she tries to see in all directions at once--she's never fit her Owl nickname more. I suppose she's taking the giant Cognitive Leap they take at this age. There's a wonderful quote by another mom: "every two weeks they give me a different baby". We're going through that. It's not easy, because suddenly I have nothing figured out, but I get to remind myself that she's not the first baby to go through this and I'm not the first mama to feel baffled, amazed, and proud all at once.

She rolled over a couple of weeks ago, but hasn't done it for about ten days. Her efforts, however, are astonishing and getting more and more animated. I think she spent a total of about 3 hours today trying to do it. Her attempts even included grasping a pillow and pulling on it for leverage. She's already an engineer. I have a feeling that when she does it next she'll have mastered it--those first times she couldn't quite figure out what happened.

Her narration has grown from what I interpreted as sentences and short paragraphs to full on novellas. Once she starts, the girl does not stop talking. And the tone she uses as she's telling me she doesn't want to nap is distinctly different from the one used to describe the colors in her favorite painting hanging in the living room which is totally different from the one she uses when I'm doing dishes and she wants me to play with her in the swing. I wish I used as much of my range as she does when she speaks--switching easily from guttural mutterings to operatic squeals. We spend a lot of time just looking at each other, and when she gets still and those big eyes stare back at me I'm speechless at the openness, the peace and the love I see in those pools of blue. She's becoming.....a person. Her person. It's astonishing. It's crazy. It's gorgeous. I say thank you every day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pear Bread

My first solid food was a Harry and David pear. It was Christmas, I was 5 months old, and apparently I just went for it. It was another month before my mom officially started me on rice cereal, et al, but it seems I've had a thing for pears since the get go. They always say Holidays to me, since growing up my great-aunt Jennie would send us a box of Harry and Davids. It was a special occasion just to eat one---my dad would watch them like a chicken watches her eggs for the moment they were perfectly ripe. When one was ready, we'd unwrap it from its gold foil or white tissue and there would be a moment of silence when we ate it. I can't eat a pear now without a flash of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a little girl flashing into my head. One could have worse associations.

This week I somehow found myself with several pears almost past the point of ripeness. Don't know how it happened--I guess I overbought. I needed a recipe that wasn't fussy, as I'd be making it on an afternoon it was just Luciana and me. I headed over to Punchfork, typed in Pears, and found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (whose pumpkin pudding that's up right now is heading to the top of my recipe queue). What I liked about it: I had all the ingredients on hand. It's easy. It gets better after a few days. Very important when one needs a reason not to eat a whole loaf on day 1. She wrote that day 1 was actually not the bread's best day. It was day 2, day 3, day 4 where it really shone. And I have to say she's right. I made it Sunday, it's now Wednesday, and today it's the best it's been. The top is moister, the crumb more dense, the flavors more integrated. If it makes it til tomorrow I can't wait to see what it does. I should also tell you that I made this with Luciana strapped into her carrier, facing out, and she loved it. Her first cake!

If a pear needs to be eaten in any form other than it's raw natural one, this isn't a bad place for it to go. 2 more things working in its favor: kids love it--at least my friends Kate and Kenny's 17-month-old son did, and you can make it gluten-free. I'm not, as I've said, strictly GF, but I go that direction when I can. I went there with this, and I will again. K, enough chatter. Here's what to do

Pear Bread, or Luciana Tries Baking and Likes It
from Smitten Kitchen

3 c all-purpose flour or gluten free flour mix (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 T ground cinnamon (it's very cinnamony--yum)
1 c chopped walnuts (optional--I didn't use them)
3/4 c butter, very soft, or 3/4 c vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c sugar
2-4 ripe pears
2 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour 2 9x5 loaf pans or a 10-in tube pan.

Combine flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon in large bowl; mix well with a fork. If using nuts, scoop out 1/4 c flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the nuts, coating nuts with flour.

Peel and core pears, and grate them. (if you, like me, end up with a few big bits of pear as you grate, use them too--they make for yummy extra pear-y bites). Should make about 2c grated.
*avoid grating the pears in advance so they don't turn brown!

In medium bowl, combine butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts if using, and vanilla; stir to mix everything well. (I actually melted the butter a little so it would mix better. You could use an electric mixer too). Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just til flour disappears and batter is evenly moistened.

(Pause while I have a bite of pear bread right now)

Quickly scrape the batter into prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or til bread is "handsomely browned" (love that), firm on top, and a wooden skewer comes out clean. (Good time to put baby down for a nap and clean up the kitchen)

Cool bread in pan on wire rack or folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto plate or wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve as is, sprinkled with confectioners sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made from whisking 3T buttermilk, dash of vanilla and 2 c confectioners sugar together (I bet that's good).

Happy start to the Holidays!

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Age

Quickly, my friends:

Today, 11.11.11 marks the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Moving away from a self-centered age (Piscean) and into one focussed on community and elevating the experience of being human. Much more about coming from the heart. It's been a long time coming.

I'm actually going to take time this morning to meditate, which means GET OFF MY COMPUTER NOW, but it really is a magical day, and if you want more exposure to some of the thinking around it, Golden Bridge is broadcasting one of their workshops today from 10:30-1:30 PST. I'll be tuning in to the parts that I can, Luciana's naps determining.

Love to you all, and hope you have your Hair soundtrack out today. If you've never listened to Hair you have no idea what I mean, but there's a thematically appropriate song in there. If you want something to rock to in the car:)


Thursday, November 3, 2011

3 Months

Luciana turned 3 months last Saturday. I'm more smitten than ever.

And it's true what They say about the transition that happens at 3 months. She's been an incredibly alert baby since she came out, and she's only becoming more so. The transitions they talked about, though, didn't include the challenge that happened last night, which is that in her attempts to roll over, her fixation on rolling over--she tries to practice even when sitting in her swing---kept her, and therefore me, up all night.

I've felt so lucky to have a baby that sleeps well. Last night she was a different creature: at first up every hour and a half, and then by 3am it was every 45 minutes. Nothing was wrong, she'd fall right back asleep after cuddling or eating for a few minutes, but finally at about 4:30 I saw what was happening: she was trying to roll and getting frustrated and stuck in her swaddle blanket. Then she'd bust out of the swaddle and freak herself out with all her limbs going everywhere. I brought her into bed then (she sleeps in a co-sleeper which I love and totally recommend), kept her pretty much unswaddled next to me, she rolled onto her side and we both slept til 645. I actually woke up a couple times in there because I was so shocked she was actually sleeping in this new way. Like a big girl.

I wasn't the best sport about the waking up in the night. Yesterday was one of those can't-see-6-inches-in-front-of-my-face-I'm-so-tired days. I went to bed at 9 and was so counting on those hours til 1230 or 1 when she would wake up for the first time. There was, according to Sky, some stomping around the house (I had to get water), and dramatic throwing of the light switch when I went to the bathroom. I can be a real brat when tired. Then this morning, though, when Luciana was all smiles and so happy to play by herself for the 20 minutes I needed to help Sky get out of the house, make tea, wipe off the counter, what They say is also true: the babies are worth every second of discomfort we feel as parents.

As she wakes up more, responds to more stimuli (she loves flying on our knees, she loves singing, she loves grabbing everything but mostly things attached to a human like fingers and hair), a whole new set of feelings come up around Being Enough. Am I fun enough? interesting enough? smart enough? creative enough? for this burgeoning brain? Will she associate me with housecleaning rather than playtime? Does she think I come and go because sometimes I play with her and sometimes I let her be? Does she love her grandma more? Am I modeling ungraceful eating habits because lunch happens when I'm on the floor with her if it happens at all? All of this is totally heightened on the tired days, which even if you have the best sleeper in the universe, as a new parent, they're going to happen.

So what I say to myself this morning, and to any new parents or parents to be if you want to hear, is YES we're enough and none of that stuff above matters when it happens now and then. Not in the long term. I have to remember to think big-picture. "It's not what they eat in a day, it's what they eat in a week" one of my best friends said to me before I had Luciana. And that goes for everything. If I have a day or two or three where I don't feel inspired at playtime; if I have to eat all my meals on the floor for 2 weeks; if I have a morning where I actually do have to work and it's a little less focussed on her, it's really OK. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir, but I find that even if I know something I sometimes have to hear it over and over and over again on the days my mind wants to attack me. Not a day goes by that Luciana doesn't get cuddled, kissed, sung to, introduced to something new, even if it's a leaf on a different plant on our block. Not a day goes by that she doesn't hear that I love her, daddy loves her, her grandma loves her, and God (because we do talk about that) loves her. The woman who leads my mom group (I told you I'd keep referencing it) reminded me that it's not our job to give our babies a stress-free life; it's our job to help them deal with and respond to stress in a healthy way. So that little fussy cry when I've been working 5 minutes too much for her is OK. She's going to get a huge hug and see that she's OK when I stop working to be with her, and the next day I don't have to work at all.

Just now, before I wrote this, I put her down for a nap. Based on last night I didn't completely swaddle her: left one arm out as I've read this is the way to start transitioning them out of a swaddle. At first it failed. I left the room, she started to cry; I went back in and she was flailing about. So I pulled the exercise ball (I don't know how parents survived without these) up to the co-sleeper and I held her hand. Put my other hand on her chest and rocked her a little. She startled herself a couple of times when the free arm moved in space, but I found if I let her keep hold of my finger with her fingers and held her hand with my palm, she didn't wake herself up. I've been trying to get back into my meditation practice which I find incredibly challenging to make the time for, so I took advantage of being still and silent with her. I rested my head on the bar of the co-sleeper, closed my eyes, and let my mind open and rest for a few minutes. Then I gently released her hand, rested her arm up in an angle by her ear like you see babies do in pictures (grown-ups learn from pictures too!) and she's still out.

Progress. One day at a time.