Archive | March, 2013

Christos Anesti!

31 Mar

Growing up as a Catholic we would always note how full the church was on Christmas and Easter. Now, through the window of social media, it is amusing to see all my secular friends celebrate Christmas and Easter even though they usually loudly proclaim against Jesus and Christianity. Is it just trendy to celebrate a holiday no matter what it is? And among some of these young people, it saddens me to see the life of Jesus made fun of so ruthlessly on Facebook and Twitter. People can be so vulgar, and the strange thing is these are the same people I see fighting daily for their own right to be taken seriously. Why is it acceptable to make fun of and belittle other people’s beliefs while you lament your own discrimination?

Yes, most, if not all, Christian holidays have roots in ancient history. Many, many different religions have similar themes and stories they share. I wouldn’t say Christianity has taken over these holidays, but instead we have taken our narrative and spread it out over the year like anyone else would do. Jesus was born (Christmas), Jesus died (Good Friday), and Jesus rose from the dead (Easter). But there are also many other important days in the liturgy that we look to to carry us on throughout the year.

I don’t see Christmas and Easter as secular holidays. Yes, the 20th and 21st centuries have such increased consumerism that buying presents is linked to almost every major holiday. I think that makes non-Christians think that the holiday no longer has the spiritual meaning it once did or that it is only about family tradition. Is a holiday only important because you might get a day off work or a gift? I certainly don’t want to raise my son in a world where he thinks spirituality runs a lengthy third behind other secular concerns.

Pagans celebrated similar holidays. Instead of detracting or negating from the meanings Christians have infused into their biggest holidays, I think it only adds to the specialness of the day. Easter comes at springtime because Jesus rose from the dead. Just like the world does after every winter. We overcome our own hardships and obstacles, we renew our lives, and for some of us we look to the ultimate example in Jesus who represents nothing but love.

Whether or not you believe in Jesus, isn’t the idea that God, or anyone, loves you unconditionally the best thing in the world? That you can do wrong and ask for forgiveness and you’ll get it? That here in this world, you can be born again and again and again, as long as you have the breath and the willingness to do so? That every Spring, every Easter, every birth, every rebirth, is exactly what God sent his son into the world to do? To give us hope beyond what we can see with our narrow vision?

When you look through eyes brightened by whatever spirituality you possess, the world becomes a miraculous place. David, always excited about his garden every spring, is growing his plants from seeds this year and checks on his seedlings like a mother hen. And gets mad at Petra when she eats the budding leaves. It is amazing that those tiny little seeds will produce food that will nourish our family, as God does for all who let him in.

IMG_20130331_102104

Advertisements

Why sharing a grapefruit is like being married

29 Mar

IMG_20130329_103718

Me: I’m sorry I can’t cut grapefruit into two equal halves

Dave: Of all the things to not do well in the world, that’s not a bad one

Me: We’ll have to do that thing where we each eat half of the halves so we get the same amount

Dave: You should just take the bigger half

Me: I want to, but then I’d feel bad

Palm Sunday in the land of palm trees

27 Mar

This weekend was an incredibly successful travel adventure to Florida. Perfectly timed to avoid the snowy cold climate only 440 miles north in our hometown (well, what Atlantans pretend is snow).

Friday I prepped the house for departure. This included eating leftovers, getting some cleaning done, and wondering if we would be able to fit all the baby gear we would need into the car. One task that had been hovering on my to-do list for weeks finally was accomplished. The back deck had sticks and debris all over it from the squirrels Dave said sat up in the trees laughing and throwing down the clutter. I used our trusty garage broom to help in my efforts, but it ended up leaving more bristles than ever. Even though we’re wallet conscious, I’m pretty sure that we need to spring for a new one. At this point, what is left is probably the smaller half.

IMG_20130322_113259

The drive to Orlando was epic. With only three long stops, we made it in 8 1/2 hours. The baby was mostly happy but there were long bouts of crying, namely when a thunderstorm from Tifton to Ocala woke him up from his nap and kept his awake. Needless to say, he didn’t sleep much that day. We arrived and put him to bed immediately, beginning our weekend of delicious food with Asian chicken that Jenna and Jacob had prepared for us. We were very happy that our friends wanted to host us and a baby for the weekend. As I’ve said before, friendship dynamics certainly change after you have a baby, and it’s great when friends make the effort to keep up with you.

IMG_20130326_230836
Pit stop on the way there.

And Walter couldn’t have acted like a better baby in reward for their bravery. We almost left him there since Orlando Walter rarely cried and always took his naps and slept well at night. I don’t know if it was the pack ‘n play or the salt water fish tank Jacob had in his office, the humidity or the heat, but I’m pretty sure we convinced them that we’re the perfect parents with the perfect baby.

IMG_20130325_202729

It was glorious to feel the oncoming summer heat when you stepped outside even though it rained a lot on Sunday. At one point it was storming so hard you couldn’t see the tree in their front yard ten feet away, the cable went out, and our phones were alerting us to take shelter in the path of the oncoming tornado. I was ready to pull Walter up from his nap and hide in the inner bathroom, but nothing came of the storm, thank goodness.

After a night of wine and the Walking Dead board game, which Jacob won even though he was the only one of us to get eaten by zombies, we went to our yearly Spring Training game. I love spring training games. The Disney stadium is small, decorated like it’s at the beach, and close enough to make you think you’re at a little league game when really you’re watching grown men lazily play ball, warming up for the season. The weather was a breezy and sunny 73 degrees; perfection. And the best part was it was Walter’s first baseball game out of my uterus. He was of course outfitted in his Braves onesie.

Walter's first game
Mama, why am I wearing your hat?

DSCN8215
Jenna and I have been friends since 7th grade.

At one point Dave and I are standing above the bleachers, Walter napping on Dave’s shoulder, no cloud in sight, watching America’s past-time, drinking a beer, anticipating all summer will offer, and thinking to ourselves it can’t get better than this.

DSCN8218

We drove home that night, leaving at Walt’s bedtime, hoping that he would sleep the entire car ride, saving us from the emotional trauma of listening to our son cry all day and not be able to do anything about it. It worked and we got home in record time. Definitely a parenting travel tip to keep in our back pocket. I really appreciated Dave’s willingness to drive into the night to make this happen!

I really need to stop locking the cat in the nursery when the baby is sleeping

21 Mar

The whole reason we shut the door is to keep the cat out. Yet twice now I’ve left her in there. First time, several months ago, the baby woke up shockingly early from a nap as I hear this “meow” through the monitor. Yep, she was in there. Then a few nights ago I told Dave to go check on the baby when he got home from work and when he opened the door, Petra was sitting at the door saying, “Oh thank goodness you opened that.” In my defense, she purposefully hides in the toys so I don’t notice her.

IMG_20130320_231951

Today we were playing with a continually deflating beach ball (thank you Petra) when the doorbell rang. It’s kind of like when our house phone rings, I always expect it to be solicitors. Well it was worse, Democrats asking for money! I told them upfront I was a Libertarian and wouldn’t contribute, and the guy kept talking like our brief conversation on the porch would change my political mind that has taken years to get where it is. There are some things that Democrats and I agree on, namely social freedom. But even that is stretching it with their ideas of gun control, public education, and welfare, to name a few. The Georgia Democrats apparently want to lower the GPA required for the Hope Scholarship. Hope is going broke, just like Social Security. That’s like saying, let’s lower the  Social Security age and give them lots of checks. Hell, let’s just give everybody money all the time. We don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s free money!

Picking From The Money Tree

I was at my BFF’s 30th birthday party last weekend, where we put a 2012 Christmas tree in the bonfire (and boy was that frightening), and much to my surprise there were several other parents there. Some kids were asleep in the upstairs bedrooms and others were at home with babysitters so the parents had a free night like us. I was talking to this one dad about how when he was anteliber, he always thought people were crazy who didn’t want to have kids, at least eventually. And now that he has a child, he understands what a responsibility it is and doesn’t judge them anymore. I thought that was surprising, because I can’t imagine why a person wouldn’t want the joy in their life that I get from my son (of course I’m talking about non-abusive parents).

This girl overheard us talking and interjected with, “Yeah, it’s hard being a parent. You never stop being a parent. My mother still has to bail me out when I’m in trouble and I’m 29.”

Of course I can’t stop thinking about the unconditional love I experience for my own child, a feeling I never knew before I had a child and one that grows every day he is alive, and I say something like,

“But she’s probably happy to do it. She wants to save you when you need it!”

Girl: “But it’s not easy for her. She has to move things around and go without to give me money.”

Me: “OK, sure, but I bet she’s glad you come to her instead of do something bad like steal.”

Girl: “Yeah, she’s proud of me for making the right choices. I mean, I work, I go to school, but I still need saving sometimes.”

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the current culture of raising children that started with my generation, coined “The Cult of Self Esteem” by The Atlantic, where parents are afraid to let their children get hurt or take risks or feel any pain, therefore we grow up wandering and a bit lost and thinking that if we follow the path then good things will happen to us. Pretty much the opposite of real life. I know I’ve fallen into that trap a bit. I’m trying to voice this when I say,

“It’s difficult for their generation. They were raised to work hard, but then they raised us to get what we wanted…”

When she interjects

“Oh I didn’t get what I wanted growing up. I had to work growing up.”

And I’m thinking this girl is about to give me her sob story.

“I had horses and I had to slave away at the McDonald’s down the street to pay for them.”

Um, horses?

“That’s why I’m going to buy my mom the vacuum she wants.”

I didn’t open my mouth again until she walked away from me.

IMG_20130320_120654
He loved the ball! I’m going to shower him with balls of all shapes, colors, and sizes now!

Mama’s words of advice

17 Mar

Nine things I wish people had told me before I became pregnant/a mother. Not that I would have necessarily listened.
(NB: some graphic details included)

1. Pregnancy is a physical endurance test. And it takes your body a long time to get over being pregnant, especially if you are breastfeeding. I would say 3-4 months after Walt’s birth I felt really good again. Luckily heartburn goes away immediately, thank goodness.

2. Birth is a challenge of body & mind. (I definitely already knew this one but it was still a surprise given I had never experienced it before). I felt uplifted when I knew I had accomplished my goal of natural childbirth.

3. Pushing sucks. But it doesn’t last forever. A good midwife/doctor can make all the difference in the world.

4. The first 6 weeks of having a newborn are overwhelming. Even if you had tons of childcare practice; even with a fantastic partner by your side. It is lovely beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before, and scary too. Don’t be ashamed if you cry. A lot. Or never leave your house. Or see your friends anymore.

5. Breastfeeding does not come naturally/easy to everybody at first. It does get a lot easier after 12 weeks. The book The Nursing Mother’s Companion was a lifesaver. Also, buy a giant sized bra. You’ll need it.

6. Even if you nurse around the clock you can still get your period back very quickly. And that’s after you bleed forever after birth.

7. Pumping output is not necessarily the same as nursing output. Don’t stress out if you can’t pump as much as that mythological mother who pumps 25 ounces first thing in the morning. I can imagine that comparison would be similar to guys in a locker room.

8. You don’t have to stuff your baby full of food/milk to get them to sleep better. Walt actually slept better once I was nursing full-time again and not giving him lots of pumped milk. Go figure.

9. Your life will never be the same!

walter's february 2013 visit 001 (7)
My love for this boy is more than I ever imagined.

Food Food Food

14 Mar

Whole Foods is the heaven of grocery stores. Literally all the good little fruits and vegetables go there when they die. I hate it there because everything looks so delicious and wonderful that I just want to buy it all. Things I don’t even like or wouldn’t know what type of dish to put it in, I want to buy them so I can have that much more beautiful food in my house. The employees there seem to have college degrees and are friendly and happy, which is the complete opposite of my neighborhood Kroger. There is a wine and cheese section. Only my two favorite foods. The only thing I despise are the posh prices.  Which is why I can only step foot inside those doors (flanked with beautiful flowers no less) on special occasions.

Whole Foods
I can’t tell if I like it better than the Farmer’s Market. They both have delicious food. The Farmer’s Market is cheaper but Whole Foods is just prettier, and I do like beautiful things.

The little boy, as it turns out, likes kale! I think it has less of a strong flavor as a puree than it does as whole leaves. Though illogical, it could be true.

I’m not sure the food muses have entirely forsaken me, but a couple of meals have turned out less than stellar lately. They must not have liked my bragging, though I could swear I tried to sound more grateful than narcissistic. I attempted an easy spicy creamed corn dish involving cream cheese and I blame my wanting to go the easy route (it was pretty disgusting). I should always remember that the easy route isn’t always the best route, especially in the kitchen. And then I attempted veal cutlets a couple nights ago, which were actually fine except I wanted them to taste like my mother used to make them when I was little and when I asked her what she did she said she used flour to coat them, but when I told her they didn’t taste the same at all she said she must have meant bread crumbs.

Tonight we’re going to Piedmont Driving Club Park Room for dinner and out to the Atlanta Symphony with Dave’s parents. I haven’t had sushi since before I was pregnant, and they have some of the best sushi in all of Atlanta, so I’m looking forward to the night out, thanks to my mother last-minute babysitting for us. I really like having so many wonderful grandparents in town with us. They must like having us here too!

ASO
Bring on the Beethoven!

Domesticity

9 Mar

The house is pungent with kale this morning. I cooked a bunch and Dave pureed it into little cubes to torture feed to Walt. I am hoping that because I like kale so much my little boy will too. He’s young I know but I have memories of only wanting to eat chicken fingers and spaghetti growing up so I don’t want that to happen to him. We’ve tried sweet potato, peas, avocado, carrots, pears, rice cereal, applesauce… in addition to kale some acorn squash is next on the list. Then some kind of bean, probably black eyed peas. I can’t imagine not cooking it in bacon or ham but maybe that’s too much for his tiny, sweet little heart. He was eating like a champ for a couple weeks but recently he’s started choking on his lunch and dinner. His daily breakfast of cereal, applesauce, pears and cinnamon goes down easy still.

A couple nights ago I finally overcame my fear of my sewing machine’s instruction manual and had Dave help me thread the needle. It’s about 20 pages of incoherent pictures matched with sparse wording. Luckily Dave loves those challenges, and it was pretty adorable watching him practice sewing some scraps together before he even let me try. I keep buying these onesies from Value Village that fit weirdly on his legs. So on a particularly cute one I cut the legs off and needed to hem the “shirt” so the bottom wouldn’t curl up in the wash. Besides the fact that I’ve had the sewing machine for two years and out on my craft table for a year, beckoning me to start my quilt, and a good friend gave me a sewing book as a baby present (patterns and instructions for sewing baby stuff), so I needed to get on that. I feel the craft urge in my fingertips, waiting for some sewing proficiency to happen so I can wow myself with my accomplishments.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about reading some travel blogs and getting wanderlust as a result. My in-laws are in Thailand right now playing with tigers, and I also see these awesome pictures from around the world, and I just want to throw off the shackles of our mortgage and our growing possessions and travel forever. I would love to just take off on foot (well, ground travel by car, boat, and train) and go everywhere.

Thai Tiger

But then I also want to move out to the country and cook and sew and read and put together puzzles by the fire and home school… kind of like Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne of Green Gables.

My friend suggested I do both. What an idea! Could I really have it all?

Spring is coming

I already have it all!

Eating raw almonds reminds me of when I was a child eating raw almonds

6 Mar

I never used to like nuts. My memory of eating nuts as a child is limited to the few times I would use the nutcracker to open an almond from a bowl that always sat out in our den and fish out the few pieces of nuts and eat them. I think my main purpose was to use the nutcracker. It wasn’t the soldier doll with the giant mouth but a silver pronged cracker that sat on the edge of the almond bowl.

A few months ago my mother brought a roasted, salted nut array over and I ended up devouring them. Which was weird because of my hatred of nuts. Solo, in dishes, in desserts and baked goods… you name it, I didn’t like it. Except pecan pie. I love pecan pie. But every other nut I could do without.

It just goes to show that if you eat anything long enough you will probably develop a taste for it. The same thing happened with beans when I was a vegetarian for 7 months and onions when I was friends with someone who really liked onions. Now I put onions in everything. I used to pick my onions out of a Philly Cheese steak from Mad Italian. When asked why I didn’t order it without the onions, my reasoning was I liked the flavor but not the consistency.

I recently bought an unroasted, unsalted bag of nuts from the farmer’s market, and apparently I like those too. And the almonds remind me of what childhood tasted like. When I was a child I used to “cook” which meant I boiled some pasta and opened a can of hot Rotel tomatoes and mixed them together — inedible. Sad thing was I know I tried that dish more than once with the same disappointing results. Since then I’ve been working on my repertoire and consider myself an above average cook. But recently the cooking muses have really befriended me. Dave and I have made several dishes in the last week that I’ve never made before. Maybe the muses decided to shine all their cooking glory on me since my pot roast triumph two weeks ago.

Last week: flank steak that was cooked perfectly pink on the inside and marinated with a delicious flavor. Dave almost ate the whole thing in one sitting.

Friday: we stayed up late making chicken pot pie (recipe from Cooking for Engineers), but only because it took a lot longer to make chicken pot pie than we had thought it would and we started after the baby went to bed kinda late. But I’m glad we did it because it was delicious. Not difficult to do, but time consuming. Perfect food for the chilly weekend we spent sitting in front of the fire.

Sunday: Okra stew (fast gumbo) that I tweaked heavily. When I asked Dave what he thought about my changes before I did them, the only thing he would tell me is, “If you’re not going to do what the recipe says, I don’t know if it will taste the same.” Luckily for both of us it was good. The guy who writes Cooking for Engineers is very cool. Everything we’ve ever made from his website has been worth it.

Monday: my parents came home from visiting my brother and his family in Miami, and my mom’s dog stayed with us over the weekend. Our house is on the way home from the airport and they stopped by just at dinnertime. I asked them earlier in the day if they wanted to have dinner with us, and proceeded to make my first lasagna. I did the most basic recipe I could find and it was pretty good. And strangely enough I had it heated up right on time too, which as everyone who came to Christmas dinner knows I’m not known for my timely meals. I’m looking forward to trying Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Her recipes look yummy and I like that she’s a famous housewife that lives on a ranch. If I had more time I would go through her website/blog.

I’m glad I’m slowly becoming more and more of a better cook. My mother is an inspirational and amazing chef, but she always makes up recipes as she goes so you can never ask her “how did you do that?” Actually, you can, and she’ll say “I don’t know” so it doesn’t help. Or she’ll tell you something and when you cook it it turns out nothing like what you wanted. I like playing with my recipes too, which of course doesn’t always work out for the young chef, but as I age I’m apparently getting better at it. And I like following new recipes. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that you get to eat when you’re done. I collect my recipes in a notebook I call “The Mixed Up Recipes from Kat’s Kitchen and Dave’s Diner” which always reminds me of a book I read when I was younger.

I don’t know what’s changed in my kitchen lately, but I like it. I hope the muses keep smiling down upon me and my wooden spoon.

The Muses. They look like they’ve just eaten a good meal, don’t they?

Now time for a glass of wine, bed, and continuing to worry about the incredible wind that keeps shaking the house.

Life is not just a collection of weekends

1 Mar

I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Last weekend was a beautifully busy weekend. Dave and I made breakfast for dinner Friday night. Saturday we headed to Anniston, Alabama to spend time with his aunt and uncle and cousins and their children. I absolutely love his Alabama family. It’s like a great big bear hug of love every time we go. We have fun. We all have little boys that will eventually do devilish things together as they grow up.

Cousins
Look at all those bright, mischievous eyes!
Walt (6 months), Ridge (14 months), Buddy (2 1/2 years)

We got home in time to put Walt to bed and get to bed ourselves. I had to host Fellowship Hour at church the next morning (part of my deacon duties; next time everyone is getting donuts and orange juice a la my Catholic upbringing). I then went out to grab a beer with the Young Adults before I headed home to my boys.  For dinner Dave and I met up with my friend Anais (we met working in a psych lab together at Georgia State; she’s now getting her PhD at Emory and I think we both marvel at each others’ busy schedules!) at this awesome pizza restaurant in Decatur called Sapori di Napoli. I want to go there again and again and again. It appears Dave and I have become pros at taking Walter out to eat with us. I’m glad he’s such a good sport.

This weekend? I wanted to take a walk with a friend in Piedmont Park tomorrow, but it’s cold and dreary here in Atlanta. I think this constant, cloudy twilight is making my eyesight worse. I am excited for the summer sun and heat! I never used to really like the hot, muggy Atlanta summers. But year after year I am getting more used to them and am actually enjoying them. I have visions of swimming with Walt in various family and friends’ pools, going out for walks without blankets bundled around little boy, and him learning to crawl and walk outside in the grass. We’ll visit a park or something to find that grass! The only thing I’ll miss are nights by the fire.

I love every Friday, anticipating Dave’s return home from work even more than usual (except maybe this week when I was sick and wished he was home hours before he could actually leave his office), and the knowledge that we’ll get to hang out as a family all weekend long. But then all too quickly it’s Sunday night again and Monday brings a week of wishing for Friday… and I don’t want to wish away that much of our lives. Even though I truly do love every minute of every day, it’s just better when we’re all together.