Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From the mouths of (now) five year olds

Yesterday in the car I was bubbling on about Natty's birthday and she said thoughtfully, "I don't know if I'm ready to be 5."
Seems a big step when you've been 4 for a whole year, doesn't it?

Last week, half-asleep from a nap-gone-bad, she wailed, "Why does the Christmas pageant have to be about baby Jesus?! I mean, he's just a baby - nothing special. Why can't it be about something exciting, like Noah's ark or Jonah and the whale?"
(Picture this said in her hand-waving, expressive way - I was hard pressed not to laugh out loud.)
I didn't get into too much theology - she wasn't in an, ahem, receptive frame of mind. Not receptive to anything. We just had to wait the drama out.

Not to forget Sam:

Tired at a Christmas Eve party, Sam saw me, tilted precariously out of a friends arms and wailed, "Mamaaaa!"
That melts me.

He blows kisses, but doesn't actually "blow" the kiss -
he just puts his hand over his mouth, kisses it while looking at the recipient, and giggles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our little angel

Natty was an angel in our church's Christmas Pageant - too cute!
Here's an action shot. She's been practicing her songs at home and had a lot of fun. What's not to love about face glitter?!?

And our other little angel - he was so good and seemed to love watching it. I was post-work and quite punchy, but it was worth it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to get a new groove

I have an amazing life - 2 healthy, adorable kids, a great husband, nice house and the financial freedom to stay at home. So why do I feel frustrated and crazy? Part of it is just the frustrations of every life, part of it is "the grass is greener" syndrome, but huge chunk of it is that I don't know who I am anymore.
I'm sure there are many women out there who achieved all they wanted to professionally before they had children and are happily balancing work, family and personal needs, but not me.

I rarely watch movies, however awhile back I saw about 30 seconds of "Marley" while I was walking through the TV section of a department store. Jennifer Aniston's character is apologizing for getting mad and says something to the extent of, "I love being a mom, I chose it and I don't want to stop, but I didn't know that I would have to give up so many of the things that defined who I was."
I so relate - when you don't work how you used to work, play how you used to play, relax how you used to relax, eat, sleep, dress - all those defining things are changed. And building a new persona - as yourself within your new titles and habits, is a struggle.

Currently, I work as a nanny and housekeeper. These are not the professional goals I aimed to achieve. I was, professionally, a late bloomer and then I got pregnant a few years, an overseas adventure and a graduate degree sooner than I'd planned. Consequently, I'm not working overseas, saving the world one pregnant refugee at a time. I'm making cheese sandwiches, smoothing out kindergartener melodramas and cleaning the bathroom.
I want so badly to regain myself - I've railed against the changes and schemed to find ways to carve out my Own Life within my life. But there's no magic fix and all the writhing has only made it more clear that things have changed and I need to change with them. As I mentioned, I have a perfect life. But it's not the life I dreamed of and I've been slow to grieve my old life and set myself free to dig into this one.

I'm not going to get my old groove back. Clearly, I need to make a new one.

As an experimental measure, I took advantage of my mother's visit earlier this month to dash to a gym and run for 20 minutes most days. I felt great - tired, sweaty and sore, but great.

Everyone has something they need to keep their sanity. My younger sister needs to create - if she isn't making something amazing, she gets wacky (and not in a fun way - no offense, Teal). Others need to socialize, write, whatever. I need to exercise. When I move on a regular basis, I can handle the bumps in the road a bit better. Obviously, I'd love to climb a mountain, get a massage, have time to journal, create art with my kids, travel, read and eat a gourmet dinner, but all that is not happening.

So I've taken it back to the essentials: what achievable thing can I do for myself that will allow me to thrive in this new groove of domesticity? Get a sitter a couple days a week and run.
Not long and not far, but movement. I'm not holding my breath that this will be the year of my 15 year goal to run a marathon, but I'm aspiring to run a little bit most days of the week.

And from that small groove, hopefully I can better appreciate my many, many blessings.

Here's hoping all of my wonderful friends and family have a good groove going - or find a new one.

Caution: This post comes across as melodramatic, but writing it felt more pensive and grounding. There is no wrinkle-free time in anyone's life and I'm simply venting about the difficulties in this particular phase of mine. So don't be alarmed by it, just feel free to rant to me whenever you want to about your life! 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And a food blog too

because food always makes me feel better - even just reading, writing or talking about it.

I made my/our favorite salad, Frisee with Lardons (aka Salade Lyonnaise), for dinner. But my version is not quite the classic preparation. For one thing, I don't use frisee - I just use mixed spring greens. And because it is a dinner, I feel the need to bulk up the greens with another vegetable. I use a variety of different ones, depending on the season and what I have in the fridge.

Tonight it was asparagus (I know, not seasonal, but on sale and looking good). I cooked the bacon, then poured off some of the grease - but not all - and seared the asparagus in it. One thing this salad has taught me is that everything is even more delicious when cooked in a bit of bacon grease. Then I poached the eggs. While they were cooking I got the plates ready, mixed up a quick vinaigrette and drizzled it over the greens, bacon and asparagus. The hot poached egg went over the top of it all.  (Usually we have toast with it instead of the traditional croutons, but I forgot even that tonight - and didn't have any good bread anyway. No one minded). Yum!

I love this dinner. It's fast, easy, simple and delicious. It also feels healthy and good for you, even though it includes bacon. And, since I initially ate it (and made it the first time) in Paris, I feel exotic while I'm preparing and eating it. Always a good thing.

Oh, and not to neglect the sweets - I made a coffee cake this morning that was delicious despite some wild substitutions. I started a cranberry coffee cake, which had sounded good but I had no milk. What to do? The only substitutes in the cupboard were coconut milk or sweetened, condensed milk. I'd already added the sugar to the recipe so that meant the sweetened milk was out, but I was very unsure if coconut milk would act the same. With a mental shrug (nothing ventured, nothing gained) I went ahead with it. Then I was too lazy to dig through my cupboard and find a flat bottom to my springform pan, so just used the bundt-type bottom that was already attached. And for some, inspired, reason decided to put the streusel topping on the bottom with the batter on top. And it worked splendidly! I tend to shy away from coffee cake because it's too dry and the top just crumbles off, but this was moist, with a tangy kick from the cranberries and the streusel was almost crunchy and caramelized on the top. Thank goodness we had the Buttner clan to bring it to or I would have eaten the whole thing.

A parent trap

I'm feeling like a bad mother - by which I mean, a mother who's not teaching her children well - or modeling the wrong behaviors or doing something wrong, because boy, oh boy, has Natty been a piece of work lately.

There's been funny "piece of work" things, of course.

For instance, Sam has developed a fascination with toilets (if you recall, we have 6). When I set him down in a room that has a bathroom within crawling distance, his chubby little legs propel him there pronto. I think it started because he loves baths so much and would crawl into the bathroom I bathe them in, pull himself up on the tub, gaze longingly at the emptiness and bang on it. Then he noticed the toilet and it has been downhill from there. He even pinched his fingers in the lid hinges once and howled with pain but that hasn't stopped him. So the other day I was saying "No!" and snipping his fingers while prying him off of it, and of course he's screaming about being thwarted (and about being snipped, but I'm quite sure it was more about being removed from the toilet) and Natty self-righteously told me I was not being a good mommy to make Sam cry and I should go back to Mommy classes to learn how to treat him. Nice.

The darker side is when I tell her to clean up her room and she says she hates me. Oh. My. Heavens. She's 4 years old. What is it going to be like in 10 years?!? Where does this emotion come from? I do all the things parents need to do when it happens - don't let her get away with saying such nasty things, talk about anger and how to deal with it, etc. But, really, it just sucks to have her say that.

On the brighter side, she's an author and an illustrator. She draws pictures on paper, has us staple them in the correct order and dictates a story to us. They all revolve around princesses. Pretty funny.

Sam is the bees knees. He's the cutest little guy. He loves to eat, sleep, laugh, play games and, as we mentioned, explore - especially the toilet. I remember how Natalie just got cuter and cuter around this age and he's on that trajectory.

I know being a mom isn't all roses, but I wish I was wiser, tougher and more able to cope with my darling daughter.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Autumnal bliss

I worked part of last night and into the day with a lovely laboring couple. It was nice to do a lot of the procedure-type nursing duties that I seem to miss out on working per diem. Start an IV, do nursing care during an epidural placement, etc. I feel rusty if I haven't done those activities in awhile and I was due. Little did the patient know how nervous I was starting the IV! But it all went without a hitch. And I got a lovely note from a past patient which was a great way to start my day.

I made it home in time to catch Murray and the kids heading out to church. It was a beautiful day - blue bird and warm! I wanted to go too, so I raced inside to change and followed behind.

We have a nice walk to church - the only sidewalk in Pomfret begins outside our yard. It doesn't go all the way to our church, but it starts me out with the right feeling and by the time I'm to the "no sidewalk, cars rushing past" point, it's too late to turn back. I was late to church, but that's not so unusual.

The really fun part was when Sam saw me. Remember, I had been working so hadn't been there to cuddle him when he woke up (Murray is great, but he doesn't have warm milk readily available). He was sitting in Marmee's lap down the pew and when I arrived he caught my eye and did this whole body grin; wriggling, dancing, yowling and chirping, with happy eyes and wide mouth smile. There is nothing like a nine-month old's joy and when it's aimed at me it's the pinnacle of mom-dom.

He's the age when stranger anxiety is quite common but, while he's very attached to me, he isn't alarmed by others. Which is nice - Natty was like that too and went happily off to nursery/babysitters (for the most part - nothing's 100%! The times she wailed were so tough, I couldn't handle it if she had a hard time constantly) As long as Murray and I are still their favorites, we're happy.

In the afternoon Murray and I switched roles and he went in to the hospital to round on patients and I stayed with the kids. After Sam's nap, I brought both kids out to the front porch and started raking the front yard. Our yard has been looking shaggy and unkempt with all the fallen leaves so it was past due. Living, as we do, on a busy road, I often think "How public, like a frog." Unfortunately for the "admiring bog" I am not a tidy yard person, although (as with so many "civilized" aspects to my New England life) I'm trying. I grew up in a house that was under construction - that's what I blame my poor decorating skills on. I don't have a concept of what a finished/decorated house or yard is like. But, truly, Dad and Connie had inspired me by all their yard work - it looks so good! So I raked, then Murray got home and convinced me to clean the rain gutters, which meant I threw decomposing leaves down on the ground I'd just raked. So I raked again (quickly, but still, I hate doing a job backwards and having to re-do it). A good afternoon's work.

Next year I'll probably be persuaded to get a leaf blower or hire it out, but this year it was fun to do it by hand. And it's not done yet. I hope the weather stays nice - it's a joy to work outside when the day is as beautiful as today was.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Halloween

Halloween was a hoot! Guess what Natalie was?
No huge surprise there, aye?

She was also a cowgirl for a birthday party the week before:

Sam was a cowboy, but I don't have any pictures - classic second child syndrome. (I'll be getting some from Grandma Mimi and will post them then). Murray took them trick or treating in Putnam Friday night, then more trick or treating on the actual night of Halloween. We also got quite a few little trick or treaters here at the house which was fun. All the Pomfret School faculty kids that wait at our bus stop came by.

My step-sister and her husband came for the weekend, to join my dad and stepmom who have been here a little over a week. We had a fun Halloween dinner with friends and family - and I found out that I really can't comfortably seat more than 8 (but we did anyway). I indulged in some kitchen kitsch Halloween food and figured out how to make an Apple-tini (Quite delicious in spite of (or because of?) the lurid green color).

We've had a great visit with Dad and Connie. Here's one picture of Sam and Grandpa, watching the work on the barn.
And just some fun, crazy, round the house kind of shots.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sam's back, faster than ever

Saturday while Murray went to work, I put Natty in front of a movie and took Sam upstairs to hang out while I took a shower. My bathroom still doesn't have shelving so I tucked the box of toiletries, etc out of the way, but left a few things I didn't think he could damage/could damage him unsecured. Then I placed him (freshly dressed in a cute, clean outfit) on his bum with some toys and popped into the shower. I heard innocuous clicks and rattles, as he knocked his toys around and then, just as I was shampooing my hair I heard something that tipped my "mommy alert" antennae. I still don't know what I heard - just a new click, but that's enough to warrant a check. I poked my head out the curtain and.....

There was Sam, smiling up at me from a pool of Scope. The half full bottle had been on my list of "undamagables" because it has a locking lid but, unfortunately, it hadn't been tightened with the last use. Oh my! I hop out, throw a towel down and strip Sammy and hop back into the shower with him. Oops, forgot to take off the diaper. Pull that off and "Oh my! Poop!" Thankfully the garbage is right outside the shower so it was easy to toss. And, with access to running water and soap, mess gets cleaned up quickly.

Back out to wrap Sam up in the remaining dry towel, reach across the hall to get one for me, and start really cleaning up the Scope. At this point my nose started bleeding (leaning down, after a hot shower - for me that's a guaranteed way to start one). Scope, poop and now blood - I'm just laughing at this point. And wondering," what's next!?!" I mentally run through potential catastrophes, hoping to at least get dressed before the next one hits.

Natalie, the angel, was still contentedly watching her movie when we both made it back downstairs.

Honestly, no matter what craziness happens, any day I get a shower is a Good Day in my book so I'm not complaining. And boy, does my bathroom smell minty fresh!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Natalie Rides and Sam Speaks

.....kind of. Last Thursday we decided that his, "Ma, ma, ma, ma" really was directed at me, so I get to claim his first word as "Mama," especially since Natty's first word was definitely "Da-da."

But the really fun "word" came Friday morning as Murray was making pancakes and Sam started yelling for, "Bwea(d)." I don't know how to write it like he says it, but it seems pretty clear that he was calling the pancakes "bread" and wanting more.

OK, so I realize that we're the usual over-enthusuastic parents, but that's one of the perks of having a baby.

A down-side is having a sick, fussy and snotty little guy. He's pretty miserable. Theoretically, I'm a firm advocate that a fever isn't something you treat (below dangerous levels, of course), but he's so unhappy we've been hitting the medicine cabinet pretty regularly. I can only handle so much of his unhappiness. I think it's a combination of teething and the cold we've all had. Not fun. He's getting through it, but he's definitely not back to himself yet.

With all the FB pictures of snow, I just have to mention that Autumn is still thriving in NE CT. Yesterday was crisp and sunny - the perfect day for Natalie's first ride on her bike, by herself!

We were all going nuts in the house (I was trying to get stuff done - what a mistake that is), Sam was fussing and Natty was harassing us both, so when my friend called that they were going bike riding at Pomfret School (the boarding school across the street with beautiful grounds) I jumped at the chance to join her. I bundled Sam up like a snow bunny and put him on Murray's bike and walked along, making Natty figure it out. It was quite a challenge to my patience, but she got better and better. The boys we were joining are good bikers - no training wheels or anything, so it was good for her to see them.

She now can ride semi-competently (with training wheels). I feel like she's been slow about learning to bike, which is our fault mostly. But she didn't/couldn't do the peddling motion for the longest time and still really struggles with steering. We're going again today, even if we have to ride in the rain, so she gets more practice in. She was so proud of herself and had a good time. "Today is the best day of my life!" was her comment. Hurrah for Natalie!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our little man

Sam smiling

Sam sleeping

He loves to sleep and this is how he always looks. There's no nursing/rocking/soothing to sleep; he doesn't need it. Instead I lay him down, he grabs his soft lamb tiny blanket and pulls it over his face with his left thumb in his mouth. Then I put his blue monkey quilt over him and it's "lights out."

Not only is putting him down easy but, on quiet mornings as I'm pottering around the house, I hear him cooing, gurgling and chattering to himself when he wakes up. And when I get there, I'm greeted by a glorious, joyful grin (and usually a poopy diaper).

Of course, sometimes there are bloodcurdling shrieks or heart-wrenching sobs too - and then I race upstairs to rescue him (although I am one of those practical moms who knows that "if he's crying, he's breathing" which takes a certain edge off the panicky urge to run to him).

Otherwise....he loves being outside - he watches the trees go by instead of sleeping in the stroller. He makes this funny "grustly bear" growl/grunt noise that cracks us all up. (Natty named it - not sure where she got "grustly" but it stuck). He's not quite crawling, but commando crawls at a good clip. And tolerates Natty's maulings well - it's good training for life I guess. He's growing like a weed and is a kick in the pants - Lucky us, to have such a star!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The true sign of a school kid is.....

the fundraiser! For better or worse, that's where we find ourselves.

So, if you need giftwrap (and other random goodies), go ahead and buy it from and enter Pomfret Community School's account #367550 when prompted.

50% of your purchase supports Natalie's wonderful school. The deadline might be Oct 5 (that's the deadline for the hardcopy orders) so start shopping.

She, as well as the PCS PTO, thanks you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A day in the life (and it's not over yet!)

The little man, coming at'cha!.
A photographer/nurse that I work with was over and got this shot (thanks Danielle!) - he's such a star! He's quite mobile now - not quite crawling, but commando crawling well. He loves to eat anything and everything. He has 5 teeth now and wants to use them. Oh, the howls when he's out of food!

Natty is doing well in school and the "I hate school" drama has decreased (thank goodness).

It's interesting the connections she makes. For instance, today we had a wild and angry morning (for the dumbest reason....we couldn't find her library book and today was Library. For all we knew she didn't come home with one last week but she wouldn't hear any of that and kept up a loud, petulant tirade about how awful I was that I wouldn't help her find it - and this is after I've looked in and organized all her bookcases. I nearly lost my mind. At one point in the morning Sam, who has a cold and therefore snot streaming down his face, is screaming because I can't get food into him fast enough and Natty is railing in high pitched whine mode about her lost (but more likely non-existent) library book and what a terrible mother I am. It was one of those out-of-body experiences where you take your soul/mind up to the ceiling and float around watching the chaos while your body is mechanically trying to fix what can be fixed (feeding Sam) and ignore or shout down what can't be (Natty). Ahhh, motherhood.)

Anyway, the point is, there were some angry words between the Buttner women this morning. So she brings home "Llama, Llama, Mad at Mama" from the library today. We read it through two times immediately after her arrival. Then she read it to herself while I made her lunch. Very cathartic I guess but she refused to comment on it. (The Llama, Llama books are great - cute, funny and apropos to life with children).

After such a stressful start to the day, I brought Sam into a steamy shower with me this morning to try to clear out his sinuses and that was the cutest thing. He loves water in any form (even just hearing it run) and we could have stood in the warm shower for hours. Normally he's not a snuggler like Natty was (He loves to be held, but he doesn't cuddle down in my arms like she did - too much energy) but he cuddled into my shoulder so sweetly under the water. And then he took a nap and I finished staining the stairs (matching the old stain fairly well, finally), took two beds apart, did some major touch ups to the dining room paint job and checked email. It's nice to check stuff off the list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holy Haircuts Batman!

Here's a before and after for you.....

This is the house, viewed from across the street, before we bought it (ignore the motorcycle driving by).

Yesterday the tree guys came and here's the house today....

Yikes! We like it a lot. The tree guys were amazing. We had actually just planned on a trim job of the big tree (some limbs were overhanging the house) with a Full Monty in the spring, but we all got caught up in the frenzy of the thing and let them cut it all now. I had consistently felt those trees should go, but a old photo of the house convinced us. The huge evergreens used to be pruned back as a hedge which looked quite nice - framed the house, etc. But they were obviously let go.

Interestingly, the house feels less close to the road than it did when all the trees were there. Some spatial-perception thing. And it doesn't change the noise level that much. We will do somethings to make it private - the first thing will be curtains! And the biggest bonus: the light is 100% improved in the front rooms. They were a bit murky before, now they're full of light.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The front porch

Here's the problem with the pictures: I don't have many. I think about taking them, then I forget and then I don't have them. Ooops. But here's what I have from "before." I took these to fill some holes from the listing photos on one of our walk-throughs, so they're not sweeping, but they are a little something (until you come to visit!)

This is the library - Murray is sitting there as I write this. We'll probably keep the red for the forseeable future.

The formal living room. This photo is towards the library. Doesn't do the room justice. Did I mention the previous owners were artists and the walls were packed with art when they lived here? They had some lovely stuff - which is all gone now.

A length-wise shot of the kitchen. The far end is the "family room" (added on in 2003) where we spend a lot of time. I'd like Craig to work his magic with an idea I have to renovate the kitchen and, among other goals, make it more family friendly.

I want to contact the real estate people and get the listing photos (including one of the Yellow dining room) so if that happens I'll post them.

Tomorrow (or the next day....) I'll go through and take some present day photos and post them. That will be fun. You'll get to see my little models too!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life lessons

Poison Ivy sucks - it ate up my arms! I'm on the mend, but was quite freaked out a week ago. It was like a voracious skin-eating monster. And it itched! Badly. I still itch, but I'm slathering myself in moisturizer (I have bottles and tubes all over the house) whenever I can. Murray says it's a rite of passage here. Yuck. I don't do rites. I didn't do it in college and I sure don't want to do it now that I'm 37, mother of 2 and trying to move into a home. But everyone seems to get/have gotten it - and has sympathy and good advice for me. Which is nice.

As an additional mood booster, I finished painting the dining room today. The previous owners had it painted a rather aggressive, intense yellow. I wanted to tone it down but Murray wanted to keep it yellow. So I first painted it a "breakfast nook yellow" but that did not work for us. Now it's a "warm oatmeal" (these are my own descriptors - the paint names are so nonsensical) which we both like quite a bit. My new hero is the paint guy at the local paint store. He's a freaking genius. I will bake him cookies.

The dining room was my side in the (unofficial) "Jen versus the professional painter" throw down. Vito, the Italian painter, didn't come today and our bedroom and hall are still uninhabitable so I think I win. However, it wasn't a true contest because I assigned him the wallpapered bit which I had no intention of tackling and he's obviously doing the right things to it. By "obviously" I mean the wall paper is off, and the walls are ready to paint. Vito is great, and I'm sure he's very good at what he does, but I can't understand what he's saying. So I just smile and nod. And it's all good.

The house is s-l-o-w-l-y coming along. I closed the doors to the formal living room to give myself some peace of mind. That room doesn't exist for me until I get the rest of the house more livable. Well, it exists on my graph paper. Due to my total inability to visualize scale or how things will look in a room, I've drawn all my rooms out on graph paper so I can sketch out whatever I'm contemplating and see how it fits. It seems obsessive, but it's really just common sense - I'm compensating for a weakness. Those of you who can visualize scale and designs in your heads, lucky you.

Now I'm going to bed, to dream of lighting issues and color schemes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Return to cyberspace

We got our internet back today! Woohoo! I'm up late on an internet binge. It's been somewhat good to have it out of the house, but I do have a long list of things to look up (how to strip wallpaper, products to relieve poison ivy, etc). Tonight, however, like a drunken sailor on shore leave, I'm not doing anything productive - just reading my favorite blogs, checking out facebook and shopping on ebay! I need to go to bed before I buy something. 

Our new house continues to rule my life. Thankfully we're past the panic level of chaos and into the simply messy and annoying chaos. Every day we chip away at it. Someday we'll have it put together, but no one should hold their breath for that day.

On a more important note, the NYT Magazine on Sunday was amazing. It was dedicated to women around the world - an issue that's very dear to my heart - and the headline story was written by Nicholas Kristoff (journalist who has consistently brought attention to the tragedy in Darfur and other painful, "I'd like to ignore it" issues) and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn (who I don't know much about but plan to find out about - hurrah for the internet!). It puts niggling issues like "should I get a neutral or red rug for the living room?" into perspective.

Now, for humor, here's a classic Natalie story: Friday morning, I come home from work 10 minutes before she goes to the bus stop to find Murray cracking up at a stormy looking little kindergartener. I guess I just missed her wailing, "School gets more and more boring every day! It is so boring I am not going to wear my colorful dresses to school any more. I am only going to wear black." 
That is the ultimate insult in Natalie's world. You can't get worse than black. I hope we don't have 13 years of mornings like this ahead of us!

That's all for tonight. If anyone still reads this blog I'll have more for you later.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"There is no time.....let me sum up"

That's from Princess Bride. (one of the most quotable movies ever, in my humble opinion)
So, AK trip - awesome! We had a great family reunion in Cordova with Mom and Greg. We were all there for a weekend, Teal had a booth at the Salmon Jam and we all ran in the Salmon Runs. Teal did the 10k, Lelia and I did the 5k and Murray and Scott took the kids around the 1 miler. Conner placed 4th and Teal (that speedster) got 2nd (or 3rd? I forget exactly, but she rocks). 

Then I came back to Anchorage solo to meet Sharyl and Bill's new daughter, Svea, and help them as much as I could as they settled in. That was the funniest homecoming I've ever seen. The road in front of their house was TOTALLY ripped up and when we informed the road crew the family was on their way home from the hospital, they got the front loader and bulldozer out and built them a quickie ramp so they could drive into the driveway then took it away immediately for the crane that arrived moments after Svea, Sharly and Bill did. Crazy.

Murray and the kiddos joined me Wednesday and we moved up to Rick, Tanya and Suresh's house where Murray "studied" for his Board Exam which he took on Thurs (all day). I'm quite confident he'll pass, simply because he's, well, Murray. And Murray is amazing. 

He went home on Fri and we moved up to Teal and Scott's. For those of you who don't know, my sister is re-creating our childhood and, while I've wondered at the wisdom of that, I'm so grateful to her and Scott because now I get to visit them - back the valley and up the mountain. It's amazing. Just beautiful, with access to fabo hikes out their driveway. We went Geo-caching with the kids one day which was fun for adults and kids alike (and we got herded by a moose!  No joke). I went for a lovely hike with Sam that recharged my soul. It wasn't long or intense (I did have Sam on my back after all), but it was perfect. I need the mountains in order to be whole. 

We had some great visits with Grandma Mimi and Grandpa Frank - Natty didn't think it was nearly enough time though. And they gave us some yummy Bristol Bay sockeye to bring back - ahhh, soul food.

There was much more fun had by all that I don't have the time or space to go into. I'd really like to make an AK trip happen every year but want to fine-tune the living situation. Couch-surfing is still couch-surfing, even though the guest quarters have improved over those of the college years! Anyone know of a little cabin to rent/housesit for a month, preferably in the Anchorage area? Let me know!

On the way home we stopped in Seattle to hang out with Kris and Janet and their tots which was fun and a necessary break for me since I'd booked us on red-eyes. The kids travelled great, but I was pretty tired since I don't sleep well on a plane.... with a baby in my arms. Natty decided she was old enough for her own rolling bag and we found the perfect one: pink with all The Princesses and rainbow sparkles. It's awful and she loves it so much. 

It is great to be home. Except the day after we got here, someone broke into our house and stole our new iMac and Nattie's DVD player. Grrrr. We've spent a lot of time on damage control (changing passwords, etc) and now we don't have internet at the house. But we are well aware that in the big picture it's not a huge tragedy and life goes on.

Including... our house purchase! Looks like it's a Go. I've got my panties in such knots about it! In good and bad ways, of course. We went to a barn sale the soon-to-be-former owners were holding this morning (I was supposed to be working but got put on call, which was nice).

So, let's see....AK trip, break-in, house purchase - I think that's the biggies. I could ramble on about things like my garden, picking blueberries and eating fresh sweet corn, but I'll save it for another time. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Half-birthday cake

The newest chapter of Jen's cake insanity....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sam found his feet

He loves them! He tries to get both of them in his mouth at the same time but hasn't quite succeeded yet. It's good entertainment for him and me.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Photo essay of Teal and Sophia's visit

Sam chillin' with the girls

Alice in Wonderland

SUV (sidewalk urban Vehicle)

Don't try this at home (feeding 4 year olds Tiaramisu at 9:30 p.m.

Two lovely ballerinas

By the Women at Yale Sculpture by Maya Lin 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just a few more stops....

Since the London sojourn it's been nonstop around here - in all the best ways. 

For Murray's birthday (May 15) we went to his med school reunion in NYC. We left both kids at Carole and Murray's (bless them!), zipped down, and stayed the night. Very fun.

A few days later, my cousin Sharyl stopped in (from AK) and her husband Bill came up on his turn-around (he's a pilot based out of NYC so a trip to NE CT is shorter than a trip home to AK). We had a great time and Sharyl has the cutest baby belly! Due in July, she's in the "fertility goddess" stage - all curves, still feeling good and the baby is jumping around happily.

The day after we said goodbye to Sharyl and Bill, Teal and Sophia arrived! We'd been looking forward to this  visit for awhile.  The girls were soooo excited to see each other. They were here for almost 2 weeks and we had a blast.

Intermingled with their visit were other events, namely a visit from Murray's college roommate, his wife, their 4 yr old daughter and 18 month twins! I've always thought Kevin and Mary are exceptionally great people, and Jackie (the 4 yr old) is a star too. But now, after watching them with the twins, I'm in AWE. The twins are cute like you read about..... and non-stop action adventure heros. Kevin and Mary live on Code Red these days - even when they're talking to you, they are ready to dive after one or the other of the twins (Harper and Patrick) in a flash. Jackie is a super grounded, fun kid and all three girls got along swimmingly (to our great joy).

Kevin and Mary had ventured on the trek north (from Raleigh) for Kevin and Murray's 20 yr college reunion. So we left Teal and Sophia to their fiber adventures (Teal stocked up on cool fibers for spinning - you'll have to read her blog to find out more) and headed to New Haven for a weekend of funny encounters with old friends, Camp Bulldog for Natty and a open bar. Even as a spouse, it was fun. It's such a beautiful campus and one afternoon Murray and I dropped Natty off at C.B. and just wandered, going into the colleges, libraries and the Center for British Art. Our favorite kind of date. 

I've fed my babies in some interesting places (for example, perched on a ice berg during one of our x-country ice skating adventures on a frozen glacier lake) but perhaps my favorite place is in an art museum. I choose a seat in front of a picture I want to enjoy and have some enforced quiet time with my baby and art. Sublime.

Our trip to NYC with Teal and Sophia will have to wait for another blog, but here's a teaser: you haven't lived until you've taken 2 little princesses to a "Little Mermaid" broadway musical. Hilariously cute. (the trip back to the hotel with the 2 overstimulated girls - not so cute. But let's remember the good times, shall we)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

London calling

Yes, we went to London. Murray got a wild hair to visit London and started fare-watching. He found some good tickets, we called our friends Alexa and Rupert and away we went for 4 days. It was incredible fun! I was skeptical, but it far exceeded my best expectations. As usual, my brilliant husband is the master of fun.

We contacted our old church, St Paul's Ealing, and they agreed to do Sam's christening. Alexa and Rupert Broad, along with Stuart Carlisle, agreed to be his godparents. What a lucky little guy! Stuart couldn't make it to London, but two out of three isn't bad.

Alexa and Rupert graciously hosted us - they're a wonderful family. They have three boys - Max, almost 5, Zach, 3 1/2 and Sebastian, 6 months. Here we all are.

Natalie is ooooh la la in love with Max (and Zach is in love with her!). She's a princess, Max is her prince, Zach's a knight and Sebastian and Sam are the courtiers.  From time to time, she would shriek "I need some space!" and run upstairs but they had a great time overall. 

Picnicing in the back garden

Max and Natalie at Brighton Pier
All three big kids at Brighton

The adorable babies

Originally, the one hitch in our git'along was Sam's passport (the lack thereof), but nothing a trip to the Passport agency in Boston couldn't fix. That was Tuesday. Thursday Sam and I went to pick it up (it would be there after 4 pm but the office closes at 4:30 - I had to get the timing right), we spent the night in Boston and flew out early Friday morning to arrive in London that night. We were greeted at the airport by Alexa's smiling face - what a welcome sight. We were prepared to travel on the Tube but so appreciated her ride. 

The boys were asleep when we arrived so the next morning we met Sebastian and got reacquainted with Max and Zach. We all went to our neighborhood park for a pick-up game of soccer (football to them) then did a walk along the Thames. Lots of energy with 5 little ones! And when they melt (and they all melted at some point) it's a circus. We ended up catching a bus home and we sat in Natty's favorite seats: top floor, front window.

Sunday was Sam's christening, a pub lunch and baseball in the park. We'd brought the boys Red Sox baseball bat and ball and had a great time knocking it around. And Peking Duck take-out from our favorite place for dinner. I had been craving it since we left and it was as good as I remembered. Yum.

Monday was a blast - a trip to Brighton Beach! Rupert took the day off from work and Max took the day off from school. We rode the Tube to Victoria Station and took a train to Brighton. We ate fish and chips on the beach and Murray went swimming (!!!).  The Pier was fun even though most the rides were closed due the high winds that day. 
The best part for me was the hot, fresh doughnuts we got. Light, hot, sugar coated: amazing. 

Then home again! The flights weren't bad - after biannual AK-CT trips, a hop across the Atlantic is totally doable. Natty was stellar - she takes it all in stride. Sam slept most of the way over in his bulkhead bassinet, but was awake and partying on the way home. 

It's been non-stop since we got back - Murray's medical school reunion in NYC, Sharyl and Bill were just here visiting, Teal and Sophia arrive tonight and Kevin, Mary, their 4 yr old and 18 month twins arrive Monday. Oh, and I volunteered for Coffee Hour at church today. As usual, I hopelessly over-catered for it, but now we have lots of snacks for guests! As Murray would say, "Just another stop on the good life express"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

We received a lovely gift from friends the other day; a trio of Italian cheeses, some flatbread crackers and a Mustard Pear Jam. This is a great gift idea for new parents and I intend to copy them. But the point of this blog is the eating of it, not the receiving. 

Last night I was hungry, not interested in Natty's mac'n'cheese and Murray was working late so I didn't have to think about a real meal. Great time to break out the Pear Jam and Grana Padano cheese. Open goes the little jar, the jam spread on a flatbread and a thin slice of the Grana placed on top. 


It was disturbingly delicious. I ate and ate. Finished off the flatbread and resisted opening other crackers so I would stop (in my defense, the flatbread had already been opened, so I didn't eat an entire carton of it.... just about half). What a nice dinner. 

This afternoon I came home from a long morning, again hungry, and thought I'd reprise my dinner - was it really that good? 

Yes, and again Yes. 

As disturbing as how delicious the combination tastes is how much of it I can eat. But cheese, fruit and bread have been diet staples for thousands of years. Sustaining stuff. 

My other food focus is the perfect chocolate chip cookie, according to the NY Times. There is that spot in me, as in many of us, that only a chocolate chip cookie can fill. And, honestly, the perfect one is probably any one that I'm actually eating. When I was younger, my friend Janet made the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I was constantly trying and failing to achieve her perfection - mostly because I was much too creative. Janet's response to my wonder at her cookies was a laughing, "I just follow the recipe on the back of the bag." And the Toll House recipe is really, very good (when it's actually followed). But after reading about these cookies in the food blogs I follow (Orangette and Chez Pim)and then the article, I thought I'd give it a try. 

Yup, perfect cookies. 

I even cooked them in the toaster oven when our propane was out and they were great. So as to refrain from gorging myself, I shape them into cookies (but not the gargantuan size the recipe calls for - huge cookies repel rather than attract me. Don't get me started on a "portion size" rant) and freeze them. Then I can cook 3 for dessert and we won't make ourselves ill. That system was going great until Murray discovered my stash and polished them off. So there's another batch in the refrigerator as I type. I'll hide them better this time.

I won't subject you to pictures of the cookies - save that for the real food blogs. But they are good and I'm looking forward to eating one... tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gimme heat!

I love being warm so the past weekend's heat wave was OK with me. It was like a surreal, warm vacation. I was working, which makes me feel disconnected from the world anyway; like being at sea, in my own little boat. Then the sunshine added a cruise flair to it - heat wilts Murray so there was much more lounging about the house than is usual for us.
I would come home in the morning and nap with Sam while Murray took Natty on an adventure (walking to Marmee and Papa's, swimming in the creek, etc). About 1, I'd stagger downstairs, water my garden and hang out in the sunshine. 
On Saturday we all fell asleep again at about 4 pm. I slept until the pizza delivery guy came - what total indulgence. (Natty was SO excited that she and Daddy had devised this great surprise for me she didn't want to let me come downstairs when I awoke. And when I came down anyway, she tried to restrict me to one room - no rhyme or reason to it, just in the spirit of The Surprise. Quirky little girl).
On Sunday Lucy Green (friend from Murray's youth who's also become mine - lucky me!)and her daughter Tazie serendipitously connected with us and we all went wading/swimming in our creek. I didn't have a camera for the actual swim, but here's the girls after the hose-off on the lawn. 

I mentioned my garden - well, here we are, planting some seeds! I call myself an "aspiring gardener." One problem with moving every 2 yrs is that it's difficult to put in and reap the benefits of a garden. Especially since we've lived in some challenging places to garden (a sailboat, Cordova - you get the picture). But things grow here like wildfire - I saw amazing gardens when we arrived last summer. I figure even though we're renting, I might as well do a garden for the practice. And it gives Natty and me a fun project to do together outside. 
Murray doesn't have quite the fondness for hot weather I do, and perhaps Sam is more like his dad than I. He spends the sunny days in the shade, covering up. He's gotten so big! He's rolling over and grabbing at things. He thinks that handsome baby in the mirror is the best thing since fresh milk. He's just a joy to hang out with.

Tuesdays are Murray's day off and this Tuesday it was over 90! That was hot, even for me. We tried to go on a walk I thought would be shady - and in the summer it will be - but it's too early for the foliage to be filled in yet. So we roasted. Natty, in the background, has taken off the bodice of her dress (she has a camisole underneath) because she was too hot. And finally as we were trying to cajole her along she just turned around and said, "You guys can keep walking. I'm too hot and I'm going home." and home she marched.

Home is good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bare Feet

The flowers are popping out! The trees are budding! Natty can run around in bare feet!

Note: Bare feet in this picnic with the pansies. 
Last weekend was lovely; warm and mostly sunny. We walked to Carole and Murray's through the Audoubon land both days.

They are on a trip and we used their kitchen because our propane went out on Friday. (And I called the wrong number for the propane company all day. I figured out my mistake at 4:30 pm and then the correct number was busy. I finally got through to an answering machine at 5:30 pm - No stove for the weekend). Thankfully I had roasted 2 chickens the night before so didn't actually have to cook much. And it's amazing what one can do with a electric griddle and toaster oven. But I digress. The point was that we had some fun outdoor time. 

 Sam snuggles down happily in the Baby Bjorn for our walks.

Natty started out strong. She's a good walker, but we have to get in shape if she's going to keep up with her Alaska cousins! They're amazing.

This is the final field heading up to the Buttners and we had pity on our wilting rose. It's overcast in this picture, but was warm enough that she was comfortable in her little sun dress.
This is the flowering tree in the secret garden. I can't capture the gorgeous perfume, but it is Spring!
Since then we've had a few chilly, rainy days. But every day there are more flowers - tiny violets carpeting the grass, violently yellow forsythia bushes. Gorgeous pink trees, white trees, hyacinths, acres of daffodils and the early tulip or 2. Natty is in heaven and I'm pretty close. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Odds and ends

Life is settling down. I'm not frantically busy - as you can tell by the fiddling that's gone on with the blog layout. When you have time to mess around with that, you've got time.
Here's some fun things from the last week...

The Saturday before Easter we had the aforementioned "Eggstravaganza" at church then drove to Woodbury to hang out with Jon and Abbie. We always love spending time with them - besides being great company, there are many shared passions; Abbie and I share a love of cheese, Jon, Murray and I share a love of single malt scotch (in fact, I think Jon and I can share the blame for turning Murray on to whiskey. Now we're going to work on Abbie) and Jon and Murray share a love of early spring swims. Truthfully, Murray has the passion for the frigid swims but Jon is cool and went along with him. Jon and Abbie have an awesome swimming hole so the afternoon included a walk through the woods to the swimming hole and a dip by the guys. Abbie, I and the kiddos just watched in mingled awe and horror. There was the lure of a crackling fire and delicious dinner back at the house and then home again.

And the week has flown by. Sam Slishman, a friend of Murray's from NM days stopped by for the night - a lot of fun. He's been doing some impressive stuff in Albuquerque - check out Endorphin Power Company

Oh, and Murray and I missed our anniversary again! It's tradition. Even when we do remember it, we remember it wrong. We both thought it was the 14th. But the morning of, I checked the towels my Aunt Kathy made with the date embroidered on them and it was actually the 12th. Sheesh. It's been 6 years, you'd think we could remember. Thankfully, we forget together so there's no hurt feelings, just laughter.

Yesterday I dropped Natty off at school and ran errands in Putnam. But it was one of those days when half the places I needed to stop weren't open so I had empty time. Do I drive 20 min to do more errands or get a coffee at Victoria's Station until it's time to pick Natty up? It wasn't even a choice. An excellent coffee and a chocolate croissant - by myself, in silence - is a form of heaven for me. I had Sam in the Baby Bjorn but a) he didn't wake up and b) I didn't spill anything on him so that was a resounding success. I don't need or want to do solo coffee every day, but as an unexpected, occasional treat, it satisfies some deep craving in my introverted self. One of the things I find tiring about motherhood is that I'm rarely alone. Even though Natty is great company, it's still company. But I'll be alone enough when they're grown, so I'll snatch a minute or 2 now, call it good and enjoy our constant chatting while she enjoys it too.

Actual Easter pictures

Happy Easter from our Easter Bunny!

We had an Easter Egg hunt on Sat at our church

There was also a craft time that involved silk flowers - Natty was enthralled and collected some for Sam. He's very appreciative.

Here's her princess hat. I remember making these as a little girl. Judging by the "Beautiful Princess" look on her face, I have a feeling we'll be making more of them. 

Here's my goofy kids, hanging out. Sam is wearing a sweater Beth knitted for Alex and handed down to him - lucky Sam!