Tuesday, January 31, 2012

after dinner

Tuesday, 8:35 p.m.:

If I just eat that last bit of mac and cheese, I won't have to find a Tupperware lid that fits.

You've been there too, haven't you?

Monday, January 30, 2012

today's confessions

I confess that...

Sometimes the baby gets chocolate bread for breakfast.

Emry, 14 months, January 2012

And he really likes it.


(Notice the gummy smile - Emry's first tooth has broken through so he's toothless no more!)

Both my children drink bottles. Occasionally while watching TV.

December 2011

In the hours between 5 and 7 a.m., I frequently want to curse. Sometimes I do. Early morning is not my finest hour.

I found more amazement, pleasure and simple joy in Elan's Magical Crystal Garden than he did. I felt 7 years old again.

Remember these? A magical garden that grows crystals...
Magic Garden, January 2012

Smiles make everything better. It's such a relief that Elan's back to himself again. I am so glad that those 12 days of parenting hell are over.

Post-bath with Grandma Karen, January 2012

I spend a lot of time in cafes, since I work best away from the distractions of children, laundry and dishes at my house. But I've never heard singing in a cafe like the nine women clustered around a table across from me are doing right now. It's gorgeous, and it feels soulfully appropriate today. Today is my dad's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad!). And it's also the day we learned about the passing of a beloved preschool teacher at Elan's school after a long illness. I led a yoga session for Elan's class this morning, breathing and stretching with the kids after a difficult morning dealing with Elan's 5:00 a.m. restless and overtired crankiness, and my own frustration and worry about this ongoing sleep struggle, even post-T&A. So I think it's a day to FEEL. To feel the sad, the joy, the frustration, the gratefulness, and the messy combinations of emotion that make up being alive.

Water and cousins in the driveway, January 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

my mom's banana bread

Can a boy live on banana bread alone?

Elan is testing this theory.

My mom (aka Nana) bravely volunteered for 10 days of post-tonsillectomy hell recovery without really knowing what she was getting into (along with my dad, who was here for the first few days and then had to go back to work). My mom left on Saturday and has since been replaced by my equally brave mother-in-law. Getting through Elan's tonsillectomy recovery is a family affair!

Nana and Emry, December 2011

My mom has made this banana bread all of my life. When Elan was refusing nearly all foods, my mom came up with the idea to try banana bread, which he does normally love. Thankfully it was a hit, and now he has consumed FOUR entire banana breads in the last week. Which is probably the only reason his pants are staying up at all, since my little guy has lost several pounds off his already-lean frame since the surgery.

I have modified my mom's original recipe in several different ways over the years, reducing the sugar and adding different flour options. What I like about this recipe is that it's quite flexible and I can vary the content of the flour depending on my mood, what I have in the house and who will be eating it. It's also very kid-friendly (though beware, the crumbs WILL get ground into your carpet mercilessly if said kid eats while wandering the house, as mine is inclined to do). You could probably even add in wild things like vegetable purees. Maybe I should try that for Loaf #5.

Tip: You want ripe bananas for this recipe, over-ripe is even better. Whenever I've got a banana in my fruit basket that's too over the hill to eat, I peel it and throw it in a plastic bag in my freezer. That way I always have a stock for banana bread. Just put your frozen bananas in a bowl and microwave briefly to unfreeze them enough that you can mash them. They will probably turn brown in color, but they taste just fine in banana bread.

Another tip: Spoon the batter into muffin cups (I love the silicone ones), reduce the baking time to 20-30 minutes, and you've got great banana muffins (which my son loves even more than banana bread).

My Mom's Banana Bread (modified version)

3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup flaxseed meal and/or oats (quick-cook or rolled) - optional

2 cups flour (You can use 2 cups of white flour or vary the flour content. I often use 1 cup of white flour plus 1 cup of a combination of whole-wheat flour, almond meal, quinoa flour, whatever interesting kinds of flour I have in the house. If you use more of the heartier flours, you might need to add more liquid (milk, or applesauce works well) to the dough at the end of mixing or reduce the baking time in order to not have a dry loaf.)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

3 T milk
1 t vanilla
2-3 T applesauce - optional

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a masher. Add vegetable oil and sugar and mix well. Beat eggs and add to wet mixture. Add flaxseed meal or oats. If you'd like to use both, you can substitute for an equal amount of flour or add a few tablespoons of applesauce to keep the mixture wet enough.

In another bowl, combine the flour(s), baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir well. I like to use a wire whisk to stir my dry ingredients; it distributes the baking soda and baking powder nice and evenly.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients (this keeps you from having 2 very dirty bowls).

Add the milk and vanilla and stir. The batter will be bumpy because of banana lumps - this is fine. It should be thick enough to spoon out of the bowl, but liquid enough to pour fairly well. If it seems too thick, add a little more milk. Or you could add applesauce or veggie purees at this point for extra nutrition and/or to add more liquid to the batter.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups or pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (muffins) 40-60 minutes (bread loaf). Check by inserting toothpick. Toothpick should come out clean. Cool before cutting (unless you just can't resist).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

not for the faint of heart

Botanical garden, Berkeley, January 2012

Let me tell you, having your kid get their tonsils out really sucks.

I'm really hoping this is worth it, because last night, when I was awake with a screaming, thrashing, kicking child who refuses to take his medicine in the night, from roughly midnight to 4 a.m., with breaks when he'd fall asleep, then wake up twenty minutes later, hysterical once more, and I felt so helpless and bad for him, and also so frustrated that he wouldn't just swallow the medicine, this simple thing to help himself, I had that thought I knew I would have at least once in the recovery process: This was a really bad idea.

A friend of mine recently posted this quote:

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
-Buddhist proverb

I am hoping that we are facing in the right direction.

Monday, January 16, 2012

mil gracias

Botanical gardens, Berkeley, January 2012

I want to say thank you for the text messages, emails, phone calls, voicemails, old-fashioned cards, and telepathic messages that have been sent our way over the past week. It's been so nice to feel the support of our community as we deal with this, our first real medical situation with one of our children. (And how lucky we felt, at Children's Hospital, where there are some very sick children, that this was our first -- and still an elective procedure.) (Though don't tell Elan we elected it. Poor guy would be quite peeved at us if he realized that.)

He made a break for it when we got into the pre-op receiving area, and who can blame him? Most anyone would feel the same urge, even if adults wouldn't act on it. They gave him an oral sedative and an iPad with Uzu, a sort of hypnotic fireworks game, on it. Mikhail carried him down the hall to an antechamber to the operating room, where he got the anaesthesia via a mask. Once he was unconscious, we stepped out into the hallway and I burst into tears. "90 percent of parents cry," the very nice Child Life Specialist told us, as I tried to pull myself together, away from the image of my little boy lying on a gurney.

But I digress. What I want to say is that we have an arbor of holiday cards adorning our big front picture window. It's nice to look up and see friends and family looking down at me. I think I'll leave them up there till spring.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

post-op: days 1-2

Elan doing his impression of a giant-eyed wood elf, January 2012

First off, Elan's T&A surgery went fine. The surgeon told us afterwards that his adenoids were big, and that she thinks the surgery will correct the sleep apnea. So that's the good news, and it was a big relief to hear after what was, for me, the worst part - the time during the actual surgery. I have an overactive imagination, and I've watched a lot of Grey's Anatomy episodes.

The bad news is that the recovery is rough. We knew this would be the case. Every parent who had been through it told us that it's awful while you're going through it, even as they celebrated the results. At the end of Day 1, Elan was doing better than we expected. He tucked into several bowls of pasta with an enthusiasm we rarely see him show for any food.

Night 1 was a parenting comedy of errors, one of those nights we'll look back at some day when our kids are grown, while we're sipping pina coladas on some tropical beach and reminiscing about the diaper days, and laugh. Mikhail put Elan to sleep in our bed while I was out at a kindergarten information night. That was our plan, so one of us could keep an eye (albeit closed) on him while we slept and to keep him further from Emry so that hopefully we wouldn't have them both up screaming at us at the same time.

Getting into bed, I knocked over the humidifier next to the bed and spilled water all over the floor. After cleaning that up, I got into bed, careful to not wake Elan, and pulled the sheet up. The sopping wet sheet. In my exhausted state, I couldn't figure out how I had managed to spill humidifier water into the middle of the bed. Then I realized my son had wet the bed. FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. Really. Mr. Iron Bladder was laid low by a combination of IV fluid, the anaesthesia still in his system, and the morphine the hospital gave him before we left that afternoon.

I notified Mikhail, who was just getting into bed in Elan's room, that the plan had to change. Screaming commenced, as we woke Elan by taking off his wet PJ bottoms and moved him into his room. Then, while Mikhail tried to soothe Elan back down, and Emry, woken by his brother's yelling, cried in his crib, I quickly stripped the bed, mopped up the pee from our expensive latex mattress topper with cloth diapers, sprayed BioKleen (love that stuff), laid down every beach towel in the house, remade the bed, nursed Emry back to sleep, and then collapsed on the half-size camping pad next to Elan's bed. For a half hour. Until Elan woke up again, pee-soaked in his bed (also with no mattress cover - when will I learn?). We did the whole thing again, with Elan back to sleep in our bed (after insisting on a bathroom stop - I do learn some things).

Then during Day 2, he really stopped eating or drinking pretty much anything except his medicine. It's painful to swallow, that's clear, but we also saw him click into a war of wills mode, where he just seemed determined to stick to his guns, even as he felt worse and worse from a combo of hunger, dehydration, and worsening of his throat from not drinking. We made it very clear that, come Day 3, if he wasn't drinking, he'd have to go to the hospital and get an IV. You know that big needle that was in your hand when you woke up from your operation? That, for four hours! But still he refused.

Parenting (and grandparenting, from my very brave parents) skills worn out, we put him to bed. He came around in the middle of the night, after quite a long time of screaming and carrying on, and finally we got him eating and drinking.

Jello and Odwalla party - our bed - 3 a.m.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

being brave

Elan, Botanical Gardens, January 2012

I have to say, my little guy has really been handling the lead-up to his tonsillectomy tomorrow better than I expected.

When we first told him, he railed against it. ("No, no, no, I am NOT going to get my tonsils out! You know when I'm going to do it? NEVER!")

But within a few hours, he was making peace with the news.

This morning, as soon as he was verbal (after the usual morning groaning/fussing session), he told me he was excited about his Goodbye Tonsils cake at school. This afternoon, we had back-to-back prep errands: going to visit the Child Life Specialist at the hospital outpatient facility, and a trip to the store (shopping list: popsicles, ice cream, pudding, jello).

By the end, my emotional state was as mushy as the food. Emry had been fussing (probably something related to the giant load in his diaper deposited at the beginning of our shopping expedition that I didn't realize was in there until the end). Elan was seriously hyped up, but I was trying to cut him a lot of slack and be ultra-patient. I was negotiating the 5 p.m. rush at Berkeley Bowl, a notoriously crowded market. People were kind - the woman behind me in the check-out line helped me put my groceries on the conveyor belt - but I was exhausted and just trying to get through it. We got to the car and I realized Emry had taken off and dropped one of his socks. There was no way I was going back for that. I reached into the diaper bag for my keys. Elan was asking for a popsicle, Emry was crying, and I couldn't find the car keys. Standing there in the dark parking lot, I nearly burst into tears. The rush of emotion surprised me, but it shouldn't have. The same thing happened yesterday, while I was nursing Emry after he woke up early from his nap and interrupted the yoga I was doing to try to center myself. Sudden onset crying - it seems to be way my anticipation anxiety is showing through. This time, though, I swallowed it down. Didn't want to freak Elan out.

He's really being very BRAVE. He's saying that he's scared, and of course he is. ("Mama, I'm scared because how can they take something out of my body?"). I keep telling him it's okay to be a scared, and I'm so proud of how brave he's being. Because in order to show courage, you have to feel fear, a definition that I have always found inspiring, not being the fearless sort myself.

Watching him trying to figure this new thing that's been thrown at him, taking very seriously the list of yes and no foods I typed up for him, I'm so touched by how he's growing into a little kid. A pretty awesome one at that.

Monday, January 9, 2012

countdown to T&A

Serenity on the Washington coast, September 2011

This Thursday is Elan's tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy (T&A).

Just writing that gives me butterflies in the stomach.

What a strange start to the new year it's been so far. Coming home from a wonderful two weeks away has been jarring. I'm actually happy to be home, I love our little house and the amazing community around us, and the weather has been eerily sunny for January. But everyone's had an edge of cranky and tired since we got home, which wasn't helped by a sudden all-night stomach pain and vomiting attack that Mikhail suffered Saturday night after we celebrated my birthday with a movie out and a late-night Indian food feast at home after we got the kids to bed. At least it happened after the celebrations were over, and he's feeling okay now.

Elan doesn't know about his surgery yet. We're telling him tomorrow morning, before his pre-op doctor appointment. Then on Wednesday, we're going to the hospital outpatient center to meet with a "Child Life Specialist" who will supposedly make us all feel more comfortable with the surgery to come. That would be good. I need to feel more comfortable. Elan is such a barometer of my emotional state - I'm worried that he's going to see straight through any nonchalant front I manage to muster and see my own anxiety about the surgery, the recovery, and whether it's going to work and we might all once again know what it is to sleep through the night.

The problem is that I have no idea how to explain this surgery to him. I don't want to make it sound like it's his fault: you're a bad sleeper, so you have to have surgery. (Even though that's kind of the truth.) I don't want to sugar-coat it: you're going to go to the doctor, go to sleep, and when you wake up, eat lots of popsicles. But I don't want to make it sound too scary either: you might be out of school for 10 days or two weeks because your throat will hurt so much. Clearly there's a balance of how much information he needs to have in order to feel that he's been prepared for something, and not scaring the dickens out of him.

I feel like this is a complicated undertaking at this age. At 5, he's become very aware of his own will. (Favorite new phrase: "I decide for me.") How do we prepare him for this surgery so that he won't feel terrified or like we lied to him, without him feeling totally out of control and like he has no say in what happens to his own body, even though this is a decision Mikhail and I have made on his behalf and he doesn't have a say in it? I guess if I knew the answer to that one, I could make a lot of money as a child-whisperer.

Which, given the fit my child threw this morning in the car when I told him he was going to get to play with his friends at the after-school program for an hour and a half after preschool, I am clearly not.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Elan actually wrote a wish list for Hanukkah/Christmas this year.


In translation:
angry birds
snow hat
soccer shirt

This list is hilarious because a) it showcases his obsession with angry birds which seems to be a fairly universal obsession for any 5-6 year olds who have been exposed to it, b) my child hates wearing hats, proven by the fact that he doesn't want to wear his "snow hat" even though it's a yellow angry bird hat, and c) he asked for "money" so that he could lend money to people on kiva.org (we received a gift certificate for kiva from our neighbors when Emry was born). This last one made my heart sing. It made me feel like I must be doing something right as a parent, despite the angry birds obsession.

Between his birthday at the end of November, Hanukkah, and Christmas gifts that we were waiting for him upon our arrival home, that child has received a gift more days than not over the past month plus.

So it makes sense that the subject of my birthday gift might come up.

When Elan asked what present I wanted for my birthday, I said, "This is what I got for my birthday." I held up my new hot pink-clad iPhone, my first-ever smart phone and Number One Drool-worthy Item Currently Coveted by the Baby in the House. You should see how Emry's crawling picks up steam if he spots my phone in an accessible location.

Elan looked concerned.

"You can still get me a present, though," I said. "Talk to Dada about it."

"Okay," he said. Then my football-obsessed son brightened. "We'll put our heads together and make a huddle, just like in football!"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

message in the sand

I love coming across other peoples' art on the beach.


We are having holiday hangover after two weeks in San Diego with my family. After two weeks of fabulous sunshine, football with the guys, and rolling around in a big kid/dog pile on the ground with my sister's two-year-old, her two Bernese mountain dogs, and my parents' dog, Elan is waking up in the dark, trying to get back to sleep and failing, and telling me he misses his cousin Judah.

Here's what holiday hangover looks like in my house:

My house was clean when we arrived home, at 10:30 p.m. Monday night. My kids took care of that by 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Still-packed bags litter the living room floor. I am slowly tackling them. I wish a genie would come and put everything away. The genie could clean out my closet while she's at it. And cook dinner.

I think the toys were procreating while we were gone.

I'm glad to be home, and I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine, I just don't remember exactly how to do it.

I have a head cold and I'm turning 36 tomorrow. Tomorrow! This year, my birthday feels like it's coming at the tail end of celebration. Like, do we really have to celebrate one more thing? What an awful way to feel about your birthday! Can you tell I am not feeling particularly inspired about turning 36?

And Elan's tonsillectomy is in one week and one day. I'm just a wee bit anxious about that.

At least we have the memory of sand castles.


And sand in the pockets of every pair of little-boy pants, to prove we were there, not too long ago.