Category Archives: General

April update

When last we spoke, Tom and I had just begun demo on the kitchen at the country house. More than a month later, there’s been a lot more demo but not much else–our contractor got held up on her prior project and started almost a month late, and Tom did yeoman’s work getting things ready for her but eventually had to go back to stripping wallpaper and spending 8 hours at Ikea with me.

A reminder: Here is the kitchen the morning we started demo:
Kitchen before

Here it is 5 weeks later:

Hurray, one layer of subfloor through the two rooms! I had a pretty panicky week or so after initial investigation made it look like removing the layers of old flooring (decrepit linoleum, glue, plywood subfloor, glue, older linoleum, repulsive black mastic/glue, awesome tongue-and-groove old growth fir from Tacoma, Washington (SOB)) would be cost-prohibitive, and that the height achieved by stacking up all those floors would mean laying more wood would make the kitchen a full 2 inches higher than the rest of the house….well. Misery.

I’d initially considered Marmoleum, which would be appropriate to the age of the house (1915, it turns out*), but you need an extremely smooth and costly subfloor under it, and I’d already ordered wood, so between buying the more-expensive flooring and the subfloor and eating the shipping costs on returning the floor I ordered…well. I said to go ahead and plunge forward with demo, and wouldn’t you know? With Tom’s help they knocked it out in three days and the subfloors were at one height after all. Of course I wish we could have saved the fir, but that would have taken many weeks. Tom saved enough to build a chest or something for the house, hopefully.

Now that the Ikea cabinets have been purchased and Tom has sanded all the doors in preparation for a trip through the spray booth, I’m focused on all the other moving pieces. I placed the appliance order (ouch), the floors–which of course I’m now doubting–should be delivered next week, I know which sink I want, and I’m visiting a stone yard to look at soapstone slabs for the perimeter counters on Friday.

I’d planned on Ikea butcher block for the island but they have discontinued the oak and are phasing out all their solid wood options, so then I turned to Lumber Liquidators. Has anyone tried their butcher block? It has mixed reviews (I’m looking at maple to get a light color), and we need an enormous expanse of it, so now I’m considering spending more (but saving on labor costs in the long run) to get edge-grain from Boos block, which I can buy in a sheet that is close to exactly what I need. I was aiming for 87″x48″; they sell a piece that is 84″x48″; I think I can lose the three inches in exchange for better structural integrity and a nice uniform look, right? I am just not quite 100% sure I’ll love the maple. Need to check them out in person next week.

Here’s the thing about doing a massive project like this all at once: The decisions. Everything costs an arm and a leg, there are a million things we stupidly didn’t include in our initial budget forecast (the plaster repair guy! the insulation guy!), and there are 8 million tiny details that need to be settled right. now.

For example! Let’s talk about kitchen hardware! And I don’t mean that rhetorically, I mean let’s actually talk about it, please. Here’s the plan: White/off-white/v. pale greyish blue shaker cabinets on the perimeter of the kitchen. A few high cabinets (holding wall oven, pantry, broom closet, and panels on fridge) but no upper cabinets. 2″x8″ white subway tile to the ceiling with dark grout. Dark soapstone on perimeter cabinets. Island cabinetry potentially painted a darker color (Charcoal? Darker grey-blue? Navy?) with butcher block counter. Awesome retro-ish Aga stove (impossible to find decent photos, for some reason)!

So. Un-lacquered brass hardware, which will either age up and darken on its own, or which I can get going using a bucket of ammonia, supposedly? Or oil rubbed bronze, which is in essence black? My only concern w brass (which is used throughout the house for doorknobs, hinges, etc., as you’d expect from a house of this age) is that I need to get handles for the fridge and dishwasher panels, and I think it’s cheesy to use cabinet hardware, so I want to get much longer obviously-for-appliances handles so it doesn’t seem like I’m hiding the fridge. Easy to do in the black finish, but I haven’t seen much in un-lacquered brass. Plus we all know how ludicrously expensive nice un-lacquered sink faucets are, not that I’ve seen any black ones that I like. There is a good amount of stainless trim/handle action on the stove and the wall oven, as well as the silly microwave, and I don’t want it to feel crazy.

Who wants to poke through my Pinterest boards and give me some thoughts?
Nitty gritty kitchen stuff.
Inspiration shots.

Meanwhile, how ’bout a few more pictures from this week?

Salvageable flooring in the butler’s pantry, hurrah!

Attic bedroom wallpaper removal:

This stuff probably isn’t toxic at all:

Another attic bedroom before:

Third Floor: Bedroom 2

And after (I am so obsessed with this color; we can’t just stay with it because the walls need quite a bit of cleaning up, but I may match it. And the sheen of the old oil (lead**) paint makes me wonder about semi-gloss, is that crazy?):

Why we are spending all the furnishing budget on rewiring:

Tom teaches me to fell a tree:

Tom leaves for 10 days in Estonia this weekend. He’s going to live in a vodka-distillery-turned boutique hotel and built a timber-framed smoke sauna. Obviously. We are already weeping at the loss of our most valuable player. You should follow him on Instagram–he’s doing lots of cool stuff, including build spiffy greenwood furniture using lumber felled on the property.

*I did research on the house and found old local gossip-rag entries about the construction back in 1914-1915–we get to celebrate the house’s 100th birthday next year! It was built for the president of a big manufacturing company in central Mass, and I already bought a copy of his 1923 book on economics. So cool.

**I joke about toxicity and lead paint but don’t worry, we are having it all responsibly dealt with by licensed professionals at a cost of a kidney, a left leg, and Tuck’s indentured servitude from the age of 7.5 until adulthood. OMG.

Only yes means yes

The spate of highly publicized rape cases lately (and the disgusting victim-blaming that has proliferated) makes me so angry. I know our rape culture is hardly news, but I am sickened and disgusted that so many people still think a girl is “asking for it” if she gets drunk, etc. In every one of these situations I wish the blame-throwers could step back and look at the facts through a different lens: What if this girl were their sister or daughter? What if terrible things happened to the football players if they happened to get too drunk one night? Would the language be the same?

As the mother of a son I want to help raise a generation of men who understand that women can’t prevent rape. We can be scared, careful, and defensive. We can dress ourselves to hide, we can decide not to drink, we can censor ourselves in a million ways, but it’s the boys and men who have to stop it. Only men can prevent rape, and it’s very simple: JUST DON’T RAPE ANYONE.

There you go! Respect women. Internalize that sex is something that is shared, not done to someone. Understand that only “yes” means yes; that blacking out at a party does not constitute consent (or indicate that she “deserves” it). (That phrase, incidentally, points out that what is being discussed here is violence & punishment; not sex.)

I posted a handy cheat-sheet on twitter earlier. This is common sense stuff but somehow things have gone haywire. If she didn’t say yes, you can’t do it. End of story. Stop.

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One day soon…

…I will find my way back here. I am slowly coming to grips with the daily ups and downs of life with two, with the complete lack of time to get things done, and with the incredible emotional roller coaster of parenting a 2.5 year old. But I’m finding myself thinking more about what I will do with myself as things start to open up a bit, and looking forward to the end of this tunnel vision period. I know there are a million blogs that talk about how relentless and thankless being a parent is, but I still don’t think I truly got it. Day after day, no breaks, no exceptions, no sick days. I’ve been away 6 nights, I believe, since Tuck was born. I envy B’s business travel. But I wouldn’t trade it, and can’t see another path that would work for me right now. I treasure these amazing kids even when they are bafflingly difficult, and I know how incredibly lucky I am to have the choice to stay home with them.

Ellie is 6.5 months old already. She sent the world a Valentine last week:

Ellie loves everyone. #valentines #baby #sweetness

Currently, though, she is quite under the weather. Ear infection and wheezing; we picked up a loaner nebulizer today to try for a day or two. Sad sweet girl; she’s still been a total trooper, trying her best to smile through it.

Under the weather again. #lifewithkids #winter #cutmeabreak

Tuck, though he has learned new and exciting tantrum techniques in these last couple weeks before he’s officially 2.5, is also delightful. Verbal and hilarious, full of unbelievable statements. (“I’m going to the airport. I’ll be back shortly,” he says, as he carries a silverware caddy and a lunchbox out of his room, while wearing a hard hat. Or, “Hush, I’m on the phone. Hewwo, Onora?”)

Going to the grocery store. #lifewithkids #latergram
(This time he was going grocery shopping.)

Post-dinner cleanup w @archivalclothing. #uncles #lifewithkids

He enjoyed cooking with his uncle Tom this weekend:

Time to eat! @archivalclothing #lifewithkids #uncles #picnic

And we enjoyed a quiet Valentine’s Day picnic by the fire (B took a trip to the unbeatable Formaggio Kitchen for the second year: our favorite new tradition):

Skipped our usual thursday night out in favor of the annual Formaggio Kitchen picnic dinner by the fire. ? ( @mscelfo, you almost lured us in w those pics, despite a no v-day out rule!) #valentines #cheese #charcuterie

And of course, when Tom visits we always eat well:

Really need to find a way to convince @archivalclothing to live with us. Cooked dinner while we got the kids down.  #dinnerathome #latergram

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, Bridge said it best when she tweeted that crafting and cooking with toddlers is not how it looks on the internet. We managed to get through three valentines before Tuck got bored and refused to add any more paint. I completed the rest using art he’d made in his art class. But still: cute.

Joint effort. #valentines #lifewithkids #watercolor

Finally, we are still getting the old CSA! It’s now year-round, though erratic in winter. Check out The Kitchen Garden if you’re in the area and want a CSA. We’ve been pleased with the quality since Stone Soup merged with them last year. And now Clover is adding a pickup on Saturdays in Harvard Sq.! B picked up the vegetables last week and brought home this ludicrous carrot:

Trying to adequately convey the scale of this ridiculous carrot from the CSA. #giantvegetables #csa #nofilter

…hee.

Mighty Life List

Not too shabby. #lakelove #nofilter

I remember when Maggie Mason first wrote about her “Mighty Life List,” lo those many years ago. Since then, especially as she started powering through the list, I’ve started my own version many times, but I never got around to finishing it. I finally did it, which means I get to start by crossing off item number one: Finish The List! One thing I love about Maggie’s approach is that it both encourages big thinking and a focus on the joys of day-to-day life. I tried to get a good mix of things in here–as she once said, these are the things I’d be bummed not to have done by the time I take my grand exit, as well as the things I’d be shocked not to have done. There’s a healthy dose of stuff I’m a little scared of, too, because I need to push myself. Do you have a List? If it’s online I’d love to see it. Maggie hosts an invitation-only event as well as a more public camp centered around “getting good at life,” and I hope I can get myself to one of them someday.

I’ll keep the list on a static page and cross things off (and post about them) as I go.

And so, without further ado, my list:

Finish the list
Learn to dive
Do cartwheels or backflips down a long carpeted hallway
Stay in an over-water bungalow
Have real family pictures taken (hopefully to be repeated every couple years!)
Read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe out loud to the kids
Have a swing hanging from a huge tree
Find a great pair of brown boots that are actually comfortable
Learn how to do something cute with my hair
Own a huge, worn Persian rug
Make a quilt out of B’s old dress shirts
Write a children’s book
Find some form of exercise that doesn’t make me miserable, and stick with it
Run a 5K
Start drawing again, and get better at it
Get portraits painted of each family member
Buy a country place and fix it up the way we want
Have a bunk room
Learn to apply liquid eyeliner
Pull a Miss Rumphius (make the world a more beautiful place; she planted Lupin seeds)
Own a big Paul Ferney painting
Frame the painting we bought in Paris that time
Get an invite to Mighty Summit (and go)
Hang chandeliers in the trees
Try something really scary (hang-gliding? zip-line?)
Find my signature style
Pitch and sell that DB profile I’ve had floating around for all those years
Get caught up on photo books for 2009-current, plus each year for each kid
Lie out on a clear night to watch the Perseid meteor showers
Overhaul my wardrobe to focus on fewer, better pieces
Blog weekly (for at least 3 months)
Take ballet classes
See the pyramids and cruise the Nile in a felucca
Find a way for Tuck to sit in a backhoe or excavator for a while and pretend to drive
Host a pop-up dinner party
Surprise B with a weekend trip
Found Flaimfest
Eat Bahn Mi in Vietnam
Knit a sweater
Crochet a hat
Learn to pitch
Develop visible abs
Find a cause, volunteer, make a difference
Eat at The French Laundry
Identify all the countries and their capitols on a map (per 9th grade geography)
Learn to make 10 great cocktails
Go on a trip with just Bridge, no kids or husbands!
Eat shave ice in Hawaii
Take my mom on a spa vacation
Go to a wedding in India (and wear a sari)
Write something for Lucky Peach
Throw 10 amazing parties
Get B, T & E all speaking French
Get the T&L chairs reupholstered
Manage a major renovation project
Go to a really fancy Fancy Dress ball in a fabulous period costume
Have a gallery show
Perfect the Julia Child wrist flip omelette technique
Start a cottage industry
Take a knife skills class
Bake and frost a cake
Take a painting class (oil or watercolor)
Own a house with perfect nooks and crannies
Go to Helsinki
Find a scale model staircase in an antique shop and buy it
Go to grad school (public health?)
Paint a room charcoal gray
Learn to play cello
Learn to play piano
Introduce Ellie to Betsy, Tacy & Tib
Go shopping in Istanbul
Wear more colors
Make cheese
Dance (competently) with Ben
Swim a solid number of laps (research how many that would be)
Go back to Argentina, and take a tango class
Charter a boat for a cruise in the Greek islands with our friends
Learn to sculpt
Know Paris, London, SF like I know NYC
Go to 10 art openings
Invent something brilliant
Live in France for at least a couple months
Start a business
Grow a beanpole teepee covered in vines
Further the cause of education around birth and pregnancy (midwives, etc.)
Figure out how to wear lipstick without looking crazy
Throw a huge party for our tenth anniversary (at the lake??)
Make a fort with the kids
Learn how to french braid (so that it actually looks ok)
Plant a garden and remember to water and weed
Grow lemons
Host 5 tasting parties (fruit, cheese, prosecco, chocolate, ??)
Take each kid on a solo trip (and have them do the same w B)
See the Mexican end of the monarch butterfly migration
Act in a play or sing in a choir again
Take the kids on volunteer trips to do community service (a la my Mexico trips in HS)
Speak conversational Italian
Throw an amazing birthday party
Spend summers in France or on the Lake
Figure out what I want to be when I grow up

October

Ellie is two months old today! I can’t believe it. I thought the second pregnancy flew, and it turns out that the baby days are flying, too (though as someone said to me the other day, it’s a marathon, but each day is a sprint).

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It hasn’t been easy, adjusting to two kids. I feel like I’m dropping all the balls most of the time, but each time we have a good sleep night (which last night was, after a hideous, horrid miserable weekend including one 11-1:30 a.m. period where E woke up every 3 to 15 minutes) I feel like I might just make it through to the other side. One thing that is making it go faster is keeping up with Tuck, who has classes to go to and friends to play with and doesn’t let me just sit around staring at the baby.

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I found this ominous, especially since T just said “I fix baby Ellie” while brandishing his screwdriver

And now I know what we’re working towards, having done it before. As Ellie starts smiling, I turn and see Tuck making jokes. He is so very, very funny these days, all silly faces and perfect mimicry. “Gee whiz,” he says to himself when something is hard, and “oh, Tuck, silly Tuck” when he’s amusing himself. He’s been pretending to be a doctor and heal his little orange doll’s stomachache (“Make Neddy feel better”), or he puts on his hard hat and gets out tools to work on his “cherry picker” (step stool) with the “jackhammer” (grabber claws).

This sums things up pretty well.

We had a bad scare a week ago–through a variety of misunderstandings Tuck was alone in the room with Ellie on the window ledge/changing station, and he pulled her off, three feet, onto her face. She’s too young for any “is the child acting normally” observations to apply, so we ended up in the pediatric ER until 1:30 a.m. getting Baby’s First Head CT. I was so furious at Tuck; he’d been being pretty aggressive towards Ellie and ignoring anything we said about being gentle or nice to her. But my friends Ann and Greta encouraged me to turn on hardcore positive reinforcement techniques, and a week later they finally seem to be working. Yesterday he played gently with her, tickling her feet while she smiled for a couple minutes.

And honestly, how could I stay mad at this face?

Baby James Dean?

Besides, he’s just two. He’s so big that even I sometimes treat him like he’s older, which isn’t fair at all. I had a sad week or two recently when I realized most of his friends have started school this fall, so we’re on our own during times when we used to have consistent playmates. But suddenly I met a bunch of new people–mostly through the awesome block party our neighborhood threw the weekend before last–and it turns out there are lots of new babies and families with kids Tuck’s age within a block or two. It’s nice to expand the circle.

Meanwhile, Ellie, as I said, has started smiling and is suddenly much more interested in the world. She loves to lie on that ledge (now ALWAYS with an adult right next to her, sigh) and stare at our faces or at the windows. And she appears to be deeply in love with the dangling monkey rattle on her bouncy chair. I don’t have nearly as many photos of her because much of the time we look like this:

I could basically pretend I'm still pregnant (w an enormous 12.5 lb baby). #theresababyinthere

She’s so snug, she snoozes through all our morning activities, and I don’t think Tuck even realizes she is there.

It’s fun to see her starting to emerge from that newborn haze, all unfocused eyes and eat-sleep-poop. I think we’re going to like her.

I minute in the life of a baby.

And I can’t wait until both kids are sitting on a blanket with me at the farmer’s market, enjoying a grilled cheese and soaking up the early-fall sun.

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Ellie is up, after a record-breaking 40 minute nap not on me WHILE TUCK IS ASLEEP, miracle of miracles. Off i go!

Next time (which will be sooner): Apartment stuff!

Two

Tuck is two! It’s nearly impossible to remember life before he came along; and as I look at little Ellie it’s even harder to remember that my big boy started off looking like this:

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Two days old

Here he is during Ellie’s newborn shoot (more on that later), just before turning two:
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Anelise Tubinis Photography

Where to start talking about Tuck at Two? He is ridiculously verbal. Everything we say gets repeated, from the mundane (hubcap!) to the hilarious (he now says “silly goose!” when he decides he’s being funny or when one of us makes a mess). He remembers everything we tell him, and refers back to things that happened weeks or even months before (after spending one day with my friend Stephanie‘s son at a beach in SF in May, he said “[Son’s name] trucks beach” nearly every time we mentioned a beach or lake all summer). He knows full well if he’s been or is being bad, and tells us exactly why we’re mad when we ask. (“Daddy angry. Spitting.”) (On that note, his newest trick is to fill his mouth with water and then spit it on the floor OH MY GOD WHY?) He has the sweetest voice.

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At Squam last month

He’s so, so two. Combined with bringing Ellie home, he’s definitely pushing back much more than even a month ago. Lots of sudden melt-downs and seemingly nonsensical resistance. We’re working through it–I’ve been trying to spend as much one-on-one time with him as I can, leaving Ellie with my Due-for-Sainthood Mother-in-Law, and that’s helped a bit. He spends an hour or more in his crib chatting with his stuffed animals before giving in to his naps. He sings. He thinks I know a song for every tool and machine, because I made up front loader and backhoe songs.

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Meeting Ellie in the hospital

His favorite toys are his tools, and he spends hours “fixing” things around the house.

Important work with new tools on new truck! #birthdayboy

He’s very active and strong, and seems pretty agile. At his gym class he keeps up with all the odler kids (he’s as big as they are, for one), and he excels at climbing ladders and balancing on the beam. He’s never happier than when Ben gets to take him to a playground.

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This all seems so…surface-only. I can’t adequately explain who he is except to say that he’s a very special, sweet boy. Every night when we tuck him in before we go to bed, my heart swells when I watch him sleep; that peaceful cherubic face under the golden curls.

"Climb crib!"
Not cherubic.

In the car the other day Ellie was fussing and Tuck was bored, so we asked him to tell her a story. We could just barely hear him “One-upon-a-time there was boy named TUCK.”

I can’t wait to find out what happens to him.

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Anelise Tubinis Photography

Welcome to the world!

We are thrilled to introduce our new addition, Ellie (Elizabeth Christy, named for both grandmothers), who joined us 11 days early at 1:01 a.m. on August 2 (missing my birthday by 1 hour!).

Only prop allowed during newborn pics: My new-antique trencher, a fabulous b-day gift from Christy!
Baby salad

Ben was in NC for a business meeting last Wednesday, and his mom was headed up from Long Island to join us for Tuck’s early birthday party (planned so we could do it before his sister arrived!) and then stay on through Ellie’s birth to help out. She was originally coming on Friday but she had a dream about the baby coming early and made her ferry reservations for Wednesday instead (though she didn’t explain why). Ben and Christy were both due in around 6 p.m. At 4 I started feeling what I was fairly certain were contractions–spaced well apart but enough to make me throw some final items in my half-packed hospital bag. Tuck had gone down very late from his nap, and by the time I woke him up at 5:15 (thinking I really needed to get to Whole Foods and pick up the CSA by 6!) my contractions were about 4 minutes apart. He woke up miserable and then freaked out about the heavy rain that was falling, and I realized driving around and grocery shopping probably weren’t on my agenda, so I called Ben in his taxi and asked him to get the CSA.

He showed up right when his mom did, at 6:15 or so, with vegetables in hand, to be greeted by me saying “Hi, I’m in labor.” (I did notice that the kale looked lovely, though.

Long story short, we headed to the hospital not long after, and after an intense (I’ve gone drug-free with both births) but mercifully fairly short labor, Ellie joined us early the next morning. Seven pounds, 5.8 oz., 21 inches long, with dark hair just like Tuck had.

Day 1 in hospital (uploading to Flickr, sorry for bunch of photos.)
The next morning

She is already a week old! A few scenes of our sweet, mellow snoozer (knocking wood all over the place):

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All dressed and ready to head home

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New baby in travel bassinet

Not the intended occupant.
Old baby hamming it up in travel bassinet

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Relax, already!

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My little watermelon girl

Tuck is fascinated by “Baby Ellie” but a little off-kilter, as you can imagine. I’m trying to spend one-on-one time with him whenever I can. Any tips from those of you who had toddlers/preschoolers when you brought home #2?

As summer sweeps by…

Shelling peas! (One of those this-is-what-I-thought-it-would-be-like moments.)
Shelling peas

Here we are, almost at the end of July, and I don’t think I’ve posted one summer meal! We’ve been enjoying the CSA, as always, of course. Tuck has finally gotten on board with corn on the cob, though I haven’t been able to budge his bias against tomatoes yet. We’ve been sticking with the Family Dinner program, though vacations threw things off a bit and my increasing level of exhaustion means that we’ve fallen back on pasta with pesto one too many times already. (Tuck can out-eat us in the tortellini-with-pesto championships.)

Watermelon-lime-mint agua fresca (that color!!) #nofilter #natureispretty
Recommended: Watermelon agua fresca w lime juice and mint. (Blend watermelon in blender. Strain. Add lime juice to taste, squeeze some mint and throw it in the pitcher.)

Another all-local (except feta, olive oil, vinegar) dinner. Summer!
All local!

All-local leftover dinner=panzanella!
All-local leftovers became killer panzanella.

We were lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Maine with some very dear friends earlier in the month, and then a week at our favorite lake in NH with more great friends, and it’s a bit of a let-down to be back in Cambridge and still facing lots of summer. The lakes, though… Oh, summer on lakes:

Sheer joy. #lakelove (I'll try to stop now.)

Not too shabby. #lakelove #nofilter
Maine.

Quiet time. #lakelove
NH

Walking through the woods before dinner.
Happy family walking to dinner through the woods.

Glass. #lakelove #nofilter
Glass.

Tuck is such a *boy* all of a sudden. He had a great time at the lakes, digging in the sand and wading in up to his swimmies. He’s 23 months old, and never stops talking–repeating everything we say with extreme relish and care. As fun as it is, I’m a little heartbroken as he starts saying things correctly instead of using his made up words. He has always called his little orange doll (the beloved Ned; we’re on #4) “Neigh,” but about a month ago moved to “Net,” and now “Netty.” My friend Suzi was “Sitty” and is now…Suzi. I wish I’d shot more video of him talking over the last six months! I need to capture “Itchu” (thank you) before it’s gone. My very favorite thing at the moment is the way he appends “time,” pronounced “Taaahme!” to things. So…”Eating taaaahme!” “Measure taaaahme!” “Screwdriver taaaahme!” Cracks me up every….well, you know.

His current obsession is with our step-stool, which he has decided is a cherry picker (“Chitty Picker Taaaaahme!”). He plays on it every day while I finish my breakfast, and has started concocting complicated schemes where he parks all his trucks on top of it, climbs on with them, and then gestures at them wildly. I’d love to know what he is thinking but he just says “tow truck, dump truck, backhoe, picker.” Sometimes he wears his hardhat for this exercise.

Extremely important pre-nap work.

I’ve also noticed a real shift in his sense of humor over the last month or two. Ages ago he started laughing (or fake laughing) when we said “funny” or “silly,” but now he’ll say “silly,” crack up, and make a funny face or do something goofy. He also runs up to me and makes a crazy face and then starts dying laughing. He has a “silly face,” which he pulls on command or when he’s trying to get out of trouble, and has recently developed some hilarious dance moves (with sound effects) for truly hysterical moods. What a crazy thing, to watch a baby turn into a toddler turn into a boy.

Kind of a terrible idea. #chaos
Thanks for this totally terrible idea, Whole Foods.

He’s also far moodier and more easily heartbroken lately. I know some of it is age, but I wonder if there’s also an element of understanding that things are about to change? We’ve been talking a lot about his baby sister and what it will be like when she arrives. Two weeks till my due date!

In which I go on for ages about a completely new topic

This is totally off-topic from what I normally talk about here, but what the heck. Have you read the (very lengthy) Anne-Marie Slaughter piece in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All? Really interesting stuff. I chose the opposite track from Dr. Slaughter, I’m more than a decade behind her in parenting and life, and I’ve made choices that all but guarantee that I’ll never be in any seriously powerful career position. But I made those choices in a really informed way, and I’ve been very grateful for the thought I put into it many, many years ago, in addition to the luck/flexibility I’ve ended up having now. (That is to say, my choices do not reflect on yours! Everyone goes about this differently and I respect whatever arrangement you’ve made. Also I know I’m lucky to be able to choose to stay home rather than have a choice made for me for whatever reason.)

From the article:
In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.

Before my senior year of college I was very seriously considering law school. I come from a family packed with lawyers of every stripe–judges, ADAs, corporate types–and I’d always really enjoyed talking through their cases, pulling the facts apart, understanding how they argued one side or the other, etc. I’m a logical thinker and in general really felt like the law was the flip side of the coin for me, if I didn’t pursue my by-then-almost-a-decade-old journalism dreams. (What can I say, I latched onto this career very young!) I spent some time that summer shadowing my uncle, then a corporate defense litigator and partner at a big firm in Portland. I spoke with as many of the women in the office as I could, especially the ones who had come from the white-shoe firms in NYC, where I assumed I’d end up, and asked them about work-life balance. I will never forget one of them looking at 20-year-old me and saying “Honestly? There were two female litigating partners in my office. One never had kids, and the other would send out memos when her nanny was on vacation asking things like where to buy kids’ shoes or easter candy.”

The same summer, a friend loaned me Flux, by Peggy Orenstein, and I read it in about two days. The book says a lot of what Dr. Slaughter does, that very few women can actually “have it all,” and no matter which path we choose we tend to end up questioning ourselves.

I went back to school determined to stick with journalism, and I never bothered to take the LSAT. I didn’t want to choose a path where if I eventually wanted to stay home with kids (and if I’m honest, I always assumed I would) it would be at a crucial point in my career where, as one of my uncle’s colleagues said, stepping a toe off the conveyor belt would mean giving up any chance of getting where I wanted to go. I graduated, interned, temped, and eventually worked my way onto the staff at Fortune, and then just when I’d gotten the promotion that meant I could really begin pursuing my own bigger stories, I quit to get married and move to New Hampshire for a year. A year in consulting after we moved to Boston, followed by a couple years of full-time freelance work, and then Tuck came along and here I am. I do a couple freelance pieces for Fortune each year, and I have other projects here and there, but 90% of the time I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be doing something else.

That said, I still have moments of real doubt, where I question where I’ve ended up. Did I squander my potential? Where would I be if I’d stayed in NYC (the answer for an awful lot of my colleagues is “laid off,” so…), or even if I’d been more ambitious once I actually got the job? Am I lazy? What will I do for a Second Act when my kids are in school? It’s not like full-time magazine work is thick on the ground in New York these days, much less Boston, and is that what I’d want, and where would I be going back into the hierarchy? One of the things that was hard to take when I was in consulting was starting at the New-College-Grad level despite seven years of work experience, since I was jumping industries. Will I look back when I’m in my late 30s and wish I’d stayed on *some* conveyor belt, or will continuing to write and blog and freelance be enough to keep a toe on?

When I was at Fortune I got into a pitched battle with a very senior (female) writer about CEOs in the Fortune 500. She is of the generation that has fought for every step up the ladder in male-dominated fields, and her career is her life, from what I saw. I was probably about 25 at the time, and I remember she asked me when I thought my generation would get to the 50-50 split in terms of CEO slots. I thought she was joking, but when I realized she was serious I said “That will never happen.” She was FURIOUS, but I stuck to my guns–as I told her, I think my generation is less willing to make the sacrifices her generation did, and in any group of 100 equally-qualified men and women there will never be as many women willing to give up what they would have to give up to be a CEO. I was amused to see Slaughter mention the generation gap in her article:

Only recently have I begun to appreciate the extent to which many young professional women feel under assault by women my age and older. After I gave a recent speech in New York, several women in their late 60s or early 70s came up to tell me how glad and proud they were to see me speaking as a foreign-policy expert. A couple of them went on, however, to contrast my career with the path being traveled by “younger women today.” One expressed dismay that many younger women “are just not willing to get out there and do it.” Said another, unaware of the circumstances of my recent job change: “They think they have to choose between having a career and having a family.”

And yet she closes her intro by saying the best hope for changing our current situation is to have 50-50 representation everywhere from the Senate to the C-Suite. That, I’m afraid, is putting the cart before the horse. People like me won’t choose a path that leads to a position of power when we look to those positions and see nothing but sacrifice. (Side note: The year I argued about women CEOs the Most Powerful Women cover story was about stay-at-home husbands. And when Dr. Slaughter addresses the husband issue, she rightly points out that assuming marriage to a man willing to pull more weight with the kids solves the problem doesn’t address how women vs. men feel about being away from their kids. The section talking about this very sensitive topic is *fascinating.*)

One last thing. I loved this from a Q&A about the story on the NY Times parenting blog:
We need to have managers who will look at someone who’s still in the office at midnight and say, look, you’re not managing your time as well as the person who can do the same amount of work and be out of here by 6:30. Then, things change.

Seriously. I remember one of my editors used to be out of the office by 6:30 or so almost every night, and yet her section was always the first one finished. She managed her writers and her own time exceptionally well; why should she stay until 11? This is why I prefer to bill my freelance work by the project, not by the hour: I work fast and I write fast, and I don’t think I should be penalized for it.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about this. Maybe because I think almost everyone I know is struggling with some aspect of it, or has in the past, and we need to be honest about our fears. It’s sensitive stuff, made harder to discuss by the fact that I think everyone tends to get a little defensive and assume they’re being judged, no matter which decision they made. Ugh. If you get a chance to read the article, do. I’m interested to discuss with anyone who is in the mood!

Status report: 3 weeks of Family Dinner

So here we are, a few weeks in to our new system. Overall, I’d say I’m about 1000% less stressed by feeding Tuck than I was before. I’m much less concerned about buying special foods or worrying what he’ll eat if we go out, and I’ve enjoyed the new rhythm of our evenings, with Tuck’s bedtime meaning we’re done for the night, not just starting our own dinner, cleanup, etc. Ben makes it home most nights, though we’re still working on the timing and order of operations. Tonight I’m going to try bath first and dinner at 7ish, instead of dinner earlier and bath after.

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First night of Family Dinner! Very focused.

The first meal I cooked was one of the most successful. I made simple chicken cutlets (pounded chicken breast, dunked in beaten egg, dredged in Italian-style bread crumbs, pan-fried) and served pasta with pesto and a salad. After refusing to touch any kind of meat, including chicken strips, for months, Tuck ate the chicken up and demolished the pasta.

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Frittata, yum!

The most fun we’ve had has been with fruit, since he is obsessed with it and will eat as much as we’ll give him. We even played with chopsticks last week, inspired by a current favorite book, the adorable Spoon. (Little Spoon is jealous of his friends knife, fork and chopsticks until his mom points out that he gets to do fun things like dive into ice cream and stir hot cups of tea. So cute.)

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Ok, so his technique isn’t 100%, but he got them to work!

I’m grateful that we’re heading into summer and berry season, since I don’t love buying a bunch of stuff trucked in from who-knows-where. Still, his joy over a bowl of blackberries is hard to deny!

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We were traveling this weekend, for a wedding, and I was thrilled by how he ate. Breakfast was best, just because there were a lot of non-kid’s-menu options. (Other meals ended up involving a lot of chicken fingers and pasta.) One morning he ate pancakes, eggs, bacon, some of Ben’s cereal, several bowls of strawberries, and some pineapple! At home he’s now routinely eating his big bowl of yogurt and an english muffin or piece of toast with peanut butter.

I know there haven’t been any good photos or recipes lately–that’s up next! I’ve been relying heavily on my phone, and Instagram, but pictures I take of dinners end up being pretty unappealing. Here’s my peace offering: Since June is acting like March (and it was 90 degrees in March, so….who knows), I made a slow cooker stew for dinner last night. Tuck rejected it and ate a bit of bread for dinner, but Ben and I were deeeeelighted. I hate sweet potatoes but didn’t mind them here. If you’re the person who sent me this recipe, which I had pasted into a note page on my phone for the last 6 months, please speak up so I can give you credit!

Below is a direct quote from whoever sent me this. I did brown the beef, but thanks to a genius-time-saver-brainwave, I just browned the 2 big sides of the hunk of chuck instead of chopping it up before browning. Then I cut it into pieces, each with two browned sides, and added it to the slow cooker. The addition of tomatoes totally makes this. My usual Guinness stew uses only the beer and last batch it turned out bitter (burned flour, I think, actually). This had great flavor and was, of course, even better today. Super-quick prep, too.

“Also — in other news — easiest beef stew crockpot recipe ever:

1 can of Guinness
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, pressed (or less, if you don’t love garlic as much as I do)
2 bay leaves
1 pound (+) of stew beef (not too lean, or it’ll be tough) [Note from Kate: I used 1.5 lbs of chuck and I wouldn’t have wanted much less meat in the mix]

Sizes and amounts can change, depending on your tastes. Throw it all in the crockpot and cook it for 2 or 3 hours on high, or 5 or 6 on low. Technically, you’re supposed to brown the meat before you stew it, but I didn’t bother with this recipe, and it was delicious anyway.”

First real summer CSA pick-up this week! I signed up for a fruit share and they’re promising strawberries AND rhubarb; such riches. I plan to make this ridiculously appealing cake from Smitten Kitchen, but let’s be honest, I’m awfully lazy about baking. We’ll see.