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Year Two: A Letter

May 18, 2014

Dear Norah,

Somehow you are two today, and my baby doesn’t feel like such a little one anymore. This year has been monumental for you in so many ways. You run steadily rather than toddle. You use words we are beginning to understand. You process the world around you faster than we’d like sometimes.  Your knowing eyes are firm, your gaze is insistent, and you have a mind of your own.  I find that this is such a weird age – so big yet so little at the same time.  But I guess I could say that about you every year from now on. As I grow older and as I watch you do the same, my perspective changes. It’s my favorite thing about being a mom – new eyes all the time.

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I have to laugh a little as I think back on what we were doing two years ago and how you came into this world. The days that followed your entrance were so quiet and peaceful. I had relatives ask in the early weeks if you had ever cried before because they were genuinely concerned that there could be a medical reason for your silence. And in hindsight, I don’t know when you crossed that line as you became more comfortable in your own skin, but quiet is not exactly the word I would use to describe you most of the time. Happy? Sad? Angry? Excited? You tell the world, loud and clear.

You’ve found your voice, and you aren’t afraid to use it. Much of it is minimally understood by the general public right now, of course. But those of us who live with you have learned Norah-speak. We have no choice but to listen. You’ll sit (or “disss”) on the couch and yell “babink!” louder and louder and LOUDER until someone brings you the blanket you want. Same with your morning demand for water in a very particular cup (never the easily reachable one at the front of the cabinet) or the million other requests and orders you shout at us all day. Persistence, my dear. I will never have to teach you that one. But it is a trait that will serve you well, and I love that you assert your ideas and wishes already.

Waffles.  6:05am on a Saturday.

When I think about you as my daughter and what that means, it makes me a little nervous. I worry about the same societal pressures that have been apparent for generations but just keep getting stronger with time, it seems.  But for every demand of yours to put on a fluffy dress, you request Jude’s Thor costume and have acquired a pretty convincing use of its hammer. For every time you say “princess,” you also yell “Batman!” and put on a superhero cape. You are feisty but gentle. Content but persistent. Shy but opinionated. Energetic but observant.  What is it Louisa May Alcott says? You can be “a great many things.” Hold onto that idea as you grow and change. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can only be one thing. You are way more than that, and we see it already.

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You have taught me so much in these months. You lead me to question my long-held assumptions about girlhood and independence and attachment and my expectations of what it means to be a mother. You have an independent streak I don’t recall seeing in your brother at this age, and though you love to be held, you wave goodbye when you want to without looking back.  I know one day you’ll do this on a much bigger scale when you cross highways and continents and all kinds of symbolic thresholds without me.  For now, this is hard enough. I welcome a little longer with you safely in my nest.

It’s hard for me to visualize what life will be like as you get older, especially knowing you are likely the last baby in our home.  You’ll tie your own shoes one day. Grab your own snacks from the fridge. Brush your own hair. These simple tasks that fill my moments will disappear. Your interests will move far beyond me and our life together, and your dreams will get bigger and bolder. When I consider all that waits, I don’t mind your insistent hands and grunting voice reaching for me when I’m making dinner. Having done this before with your brother ahead of you, I know we are looking at your last year as such a portable little sidekick. Let’s enjoy it.

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You want to be bigger, older, stronger, and I want to tell you to hold off and stay right here for a while, but I know it doesn’t do any good to wish time could pause – not now and not when you are ten or sixteen or twenty, or in my case thirty-three. So for the moment, I just take these mental photographs and try my hardest to remember every detail as you are now – still soft and squishy and compact for a little while longer. We have a lot to do together before you leave my grip.

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To my mischievous, spirited, perceptive, tenacious daughter: thank you for entertaining me, for keeping me on my toes, for reminding me to pay attention and see the joy in everyday life. I love you.

Happy Birthday, Norah.

Love,
Mama

 

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*Photos snapped on my iPhone or taken during our session with Atlanta photographer Andrew Thomas Lee.
 
*** I write letters to my kids on their birthdays. You can see Norah’s previous ones here and here.  And you can read Jude’s first, second, third, and fourth letters here.

 

life lately

May 9, 2014

We are winding down and so ready for summer.  The weather is warm here; we have a week left of school, and there are 26 days between me and the Yucatan peninsula. Not much to complain about.

 

Jude has been helping me often in the yard lately. We’ve worked on a few flowers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and lots of herbs. He’s so interested in it, and it’s fun to watch this hobby grow for him.  He was very vocal and opinionated when the two of us went shopping for flowers.  “I want this one, mom!  This one will look the prettiest – don’t you think?”

 

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We also went to a neighborhood block party a couple weeks ago with 60 kids and met so many other families! It’s great to be in a place that’s starting to feel like community. …Plus Jude won the sack race which was a crowning accomplishment he felt pretty good about. Ha.  Sister loved trying to steal his candy winnings.

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I hope your summer is getting off to a good start as we head toward Memorial Day. Happy weekend!

Easter Weekend

April 21, 2014
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We had a cancelled neighborhood party on Saturday which was a little disappointing.  But the weather improved on Sunday, and our little neighborhood shindig was rescheduled for next weekend, so in the end, I guess we just get to stretch it out over two weeks.  It was a fun holiday, and I love this time of year.

 

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haha.  Norah's face! SMILE.

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I hope the holiday brought great things for you and your family!

Egg Hunting

April 17, 2014

I feel so lucky my kids’ school is my own place of work.

 

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I’ve been able to stop by for a birthday celebration, reading to a class, or within seconds if someone is sick.  Never for a second do I take this set-up for granted.  It has made this year a pretty easy transition, all things considered.

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Yesterday was their annual Easter Egg Hunt, and it was such a treat to watch.  Georgia weather has been weirdly cold this week, but the sun showed up for Wednesday afternoon. (Plus I got to dress Norah in a hand-knit!)

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This weekend is busy with another egg hunt and spring block party in the neighborhood and two family celebrations. So much happening this time of year.  We seem to race from one event to another – reunions, Easter, end of the school year, Norah’s birthday.  All with summer around the bend.

Terriyaki Salmon with Zoodles

April 2, 2014

We are really enjoying the spiralizer I posted about earlier.  I am not completely on board with Paleo diets considering my whole grain obsession, but I do love that this little gadget gets some extra vegetables in our diet.  The kids love slurping the “noodles,” and Jude especially loves when I leave the pieces super long after running the zucchini through the spiralizer.

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This recipe is loosely inspired by one I found here.  I just changed it a bit to suit our preferences, and I simplified the prep a little.

 

Before you begin, mix the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

 

Now get out your other ingredients:

  • 2-3 smallish salmon fillets (Our kids usually split one.)
  • 1 cup broccoli (fresh or frozen is fine, just cook longer if frozen)
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 spiralized zucchini

 

 

Next I added a little oil to a large skillet and threw in my frozen broccoli.  Cook until the broccoli is warm (5-8 minutes or so) and add your sliced red onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Continue stirring and cook until the onion is soft (another 5 minutes or so).

While all of that is getting started, place your salmon fillets in a separate lightly oiled skillet.  Spoon out about a tablespoon of your sauce on each salmon fillet.  Cook a few minutes, flip, and repeat the spoonful of sauce on the second side.  I do about 4 minutes per side to get mine pretty fully cooked.  But you could do 2-3 minutes for something a little closer to rare or seared salmon.

Once the salmon is cooked, I turn off the stove and let it sit in the pan.  Next add your zucchini “noodles” to the other veggies and stir it all up to mix it together and get the zucchini warm.  Pour what is left of the sauce onto the veggies and noodles.  It only takes about 3-4 minutes to cook the zucchini because it is so thin.

That’s it! Plate it up and you’re done. I snapped the photo above very quickly with my iPhone because it was a Monday and I had tired and hungry kids at the table.  The whole meal is done in 20 minutes or so – perfect for a weeknight!

 

 

only Wednesday?

March 26, 2014

What a week.  I am not sure how it is only Wednesday or how everything seems to go wrong at the same time and create a perfect storm of inconvenience.  But seriously, how does that always seem to happen?

 

Scott had only about 32 hours of travel time this week when he’d be gone.  One night.  It happened to coincide with a big reception event I was coordinating at work and a million student appointments for research papers.  And then I get phone call Tuesday at 1:30 that poor Jude started crying at school with an aching ear.  I rush across campus (which means I walked one block at my tiny university) to get him and brought him back to hang in my office while I finished up some tasks and student meetings.  Then I dragged him back to get Norah and hauled them both in the grocery store to get a large sheet cake and a million other items for this work shindig.  It was less than ideal, and I feel certain the cashiers at Publix felt so sorry for me as it was obvious I needed more hands and arms than I had.  The bagging lady offered to help me and we ended up forming a caravan to the car with two carts and two exhausted children in the fiercest March wind I can remember.  (Where is spring, by the way?)

 

So this morning was that should I take my kid to school or should I not? dance that every parent knows.  Made all the more difficult by the fact that I truly had to be present for this reception and Scott was out-of-town.  So not bringing him would have been a difficult feat to orchestrate.  And did I mention I slept from 10-1 last night and then Jude’s cough woke up Norah and it was 4am when I got her back to sleep?  And then Jude busted in my room at 5am.  So I got 4 very broken-up hours of sleep and put on a happy face for a work event today.

 

And I survived.

 

The event went well with a large crowd.  Jude feels alright and his teacher reports a good day.  I came home to this delicious dish on the table because Sunday Me had the forethought to plan for Wednesday-Late-Work-Event Me and prep it to wait on us in the fridge.  Scott made it home safely and baked it for us, and Norah was asleep by 7:45, Jude soon thereafter.  It’s a fact of life that when it rains it pours.  But it’s also a fact of life that the vast majority of the time, that thing I stress about and wonder how it will get done gets done after all.  We survive and move on, and I fully intend to turn in early with my latest reading in just a few minutes.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Sweet moments shine through a bit if I look for them.

 

I found Norah helping Margo this morning. Her arthritis flares in the morning, and when Norah saw her having trouble, she decided to bring the food bowl straight to her.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with working mom guilt and question every decision you make, wondering if you’re doing it right.  But sometimes you see your kids make small choices that tell you something must be going well after all.  The more experience I get in this motherhood job, the more I cling to those moments as comfort.  And the less I beat myself up.  Tomorrow is a new day.

 

weekend notes and new seasons

March 17, 2014

It was such a good weekend, one that balanced productive and relaxing which is a rarity.  Saturday’s forecast was pretty bleak, but she surprised us with some good weather anyway.  Georgia is doing that typical March pattern where we will enjoy 70 degrees and sunshine for days at a time, and then we are caught off guard with rain and temperatures back in the 50s again.  We just take it for what it is though and enjoy it for the little while it lasts.

playing outside in this perfect weather

We got some odds and ends done around the house and did some boring tasks that you avoid but feel good when you complete them – dogs to the vet, taxes retrieved from the accountant, fridge cleaned out.  Then Scott’s parents wanted to watch the kids for a while because they haven’t in a long time.  So we enjoyed a dinner out without kids for two (!!) weekends in a row.  I am pretty sure 2009 was the last time that happened.  There are so many things I will miss about having a baby in the house, but as they grow a little older, there are definitely a number of things that get easier.  Leaving them with someone else is one of those things. For both kids lately, I see so much new independence.  It is amazing to watch.  And to be honest, it is very welcome for me.  I’ve loved having babies, but I love the kid years that lie ahead, too.

Yesterday’s weather was awful with constant rain and cooler temps outside.  We did head over to the new library near our house though, and we followed up with frozen yogurt.  Dinner was SkinnyTaste’s Spinach Rolls, and I managed to freeze two more for later this spring.

It was hard to get up this morning.  It’s chilly, and I could hear rain outside.  I also had a sleeping Norah cuddled up on me because she woke up for a midnight diaper change and requested a bed move.  Lately, we begin the night with only two in the bed, but usually by morning, all four of us are piled in – or at least three.  I don’t mind it all that much knowing seasons change and kids grow up.  For now, I can deal with the occasional elbow in my face and wayward knee in my back.  For now, we  are watching the yard slowly change from brown to green and looking forward to the weeks ahead.

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