Monday, April 30, 2012

Veda's First Big Boo Boo

A couple of weeks ago Little Miss had a playground accident. The offending piece of equipment was one of those things with bars that two kids cans can stand on... It turns around... It was green.... Clear as mud? Anyway, I had thought that she could lose her grip and fall backwards, but I wasn't worried since it wasn't too far to fall and there's recycled rubber mulch at this plaground. It never occurred to me that she could fall straight down when the thing spins around (come on physics, really?). But that's what she did. As I saw it happening, I knew it was going to be bad, so I scooped her up, grabbed Linus (who very considerately left the playground with no crying, screaming, thrashing, or gnashing of teeth), and started carrying her/dragging Linus as fast as I could in the direction of home. Oh, did I say that we had walked to the park and I hadn't brought my cell phone? Well, of course. Every now and then I'd look at Veda's lip and feel my stomach flip over. It looked like there was a chunk of it missing. Oy.

In the time it took us to walk home, two cars passed us by. Passed us by while rubbernecking at a profusely bleeding/screaming small child. Sometimes I really hate people. Since I don't have a photo to document the occasion, here's a Crappy Pictures-inspired drawing, though I think mine is way Crappier.

After the slow-motion trek finally ended at our house, I deposited Linus with my sick day husband and put bloody little Veda in the car seat, bound for the ER at Children's. It was Friday the 13th, which is apparently a great time to have a head injury, so we had to wait a loooong time. In the meanwhile, the bleeding finally stopped. Here's a cell phone picture of the lip after it had been cleaned up. It's hard to tell from this photo, but that gash was like a little canyon. Oy.

In short, with the exception of the understandable wait, it was a good ER experience, as ER experiences go. For 30 minutes before she was stitched up, Veda and I engaged in a tango of me painting her lip with a numbing solution and her promptly licking it off. When it came time to do the actual stitching up, Veda couldn't have been a better patient. She lied on the table watching an episode of Dinosaur Train that played on an ipad held over her head. Three stitches later that she could totally see happening, she was still cool as a cucumber.


Two weeks out, you'd never know anything happened unless you know what to look for. Our regular pediatrician says that she may have a scar, but as I see how it's healing, I doubt it.

Lessons I learned:
  •  We're not going back to that playground until Veda has the gripping strength of Thor.
  • Always take the cell phone. Always.

Now a couple of gory memorabilia pictures for you, Veda:
Here's the shirt you were wearing.

Here's the cardigan I had on, specifically the shoulder of the side I was holding you on.

The day after

And Linus, who also wanted to do pictures. Love that boy. He's a good brother.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stir Fry Night

As a big fan of Asian food, I long dreamed of making the perfect at-home stir fry. You know... where the vegetables are still crisp and there's just the right amount of sauce - not a soupy salt lick experience. I screwed it up for a long time, and then a few years ago I did a little research and bought a proper wok. Here's what I've learned:

1. Buy an authentic wok - not the non-stick silliness that all of the major stores sell. It sounds like an expensive piece of equipment, but I actually bought my carbon steel wok from the Wok Shop online for between $20-30.

2. Cook in small batches, and group what goes in a batch according to like cooking times. For example, I wouldn't do mushrooms and broccoli in the same batch since the mushrooms will have turned to mush by the time the broccoli is ready to come out.

3. Don't be afraid turn the dial up to high heat. If you've done steps 1 and 2 and you're keeping an eye on it, it's not going to burn.

4. Take it out of the wok before it's finished cooking. This is the key to your vegetables maintaining some texture. Since they'll keep cooking after you remove them from the wok, get them out when they're about 3/4 of the way to where you want them.

4. Add less sauce than you think you need.

Now... ready to stir fry?

What You'll Need:
  • Oil - I keep it simple with vegetable oil.
  • Plenty of minced garlic
  • Minced ginger (though I usually omit it to accommodate family tastes)
  • Stir fry sauce - I like the Iron Chef and Panda Express brands at our grocery store
  • Rice OR soba noodles
  • A chopped dark, leafy green. My husband won't eat spinach or kale otherwise, so this is a good way to sneak some in. If you go with kale, be sure to remove the big ribs.
  • A protein souce. Edamame or tofu marinated in your stir fry sauce are great.
  • A variety of chopped vegetables in a rainbow of colors. The more diverse your rainbow, the better the variety of nutrients.
What You Do:

1. Prepare your rice or noodles. (Do you own a rice cooker? I love mine so very much. Use it a ton.) Also, marinate your protein if that suits what you're doing.
2. Get everything out on the counter and ready to go. Plan on what's going in with what as a small batch. Once you get started, you're going to be busy and things are going to move quickly.

3. Put some oil in your wok and turn it close to high. Toss your garlic and ginger in. As soon as it sizzles....

4. ... throw in your first small batch. When it's reached the 75% done-ness level, put it in a bowl off the heat.

5. Make sure that you have oil in your wok, and throw in your second batch. With leafy stuff, you really have to toss it around to get everything to wilt/cook down. Again take it out at the 75% point and set it in the bowl. (I went with Napa cabbage for this time. Not dark green, so I made sure to include the broccoli in the next batch to get some of the dark green nutrients in.)

6. Again check to be sure there's oil in there, and throw in another small vegetable batch. For this round I used broccoli and cauliflower. For these guys I turn my heat down just slightly and use the wok lid to help steam them a bit. Remove them to your bowl when they're 75% ready. 

7. Put your heat closer to medium and add a little more oil and another round of minced garlic. When it sizzles, add your tofu (or meat, if that's what you're doing) - do NOT dump all of the marinade in - and toss it around periodically just until it's either a little crispy (for tofu) or not pink anymore (for meat). Remove to another bowl.

8. The kids are quiet. Go check on them.

 9. With the heat still on medium, add all of the vegetables back in. If you're using noodles, add those as well. Now is the time to add the stir fry sauce - remember a little goes a long way. Toss to coat and turn heat off.

10. Add some tofu, and ta da!

A note about choosing vegetables for your stir fry. It can take a LOT of time to chop vegetables up when you're using so many, so I always choose at least a few shortcut vegetables for mine. You see a couple here: pre-sliced and washed mushrooms and pre-sliced carrots.

Happy stir frying!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Your Names

I'm pretty sure that as you grow older you'll want to know where your names came from, so here's the story.

First and foremost, I wanted both of you to have names that weren't on the top 100 list of baby names. Maybe it was just luck, but I was always the only Maggie in my school. It helped me feel unique, there was never any confusion over who was being called for, and it seemed like a name that allowed room for personality. I wanted that for you, too.

I'll start with your name, Baby B. (That's you, Linus.)

Several years before you even existed, your father and I were watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It was right around this moment in the show when your name was decided upon:

Charlie Brown and Linus contemplate the true meaning of Christmas in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (Photo: ABC)

In the Charlie Brown universe, Linus is by far the wisest person, understanding even as a child that the message of Peace on Earth that we should be enjoying at Christmas time gets buried underneath consumerism.

Here's how the conversation between your dad and I went:

Him: "I really like that name Linus."
Me: "Yeah, me too. If we have a boy, let's name him that."
Him: "Okay."

In the years it took to actually bring you home with us, the Maybe Baby was always referred to as Linus. I took "Linus Pills" (prenatal vitamins), saw the "Linus Doctor" (the fertility specialist), talked about "Linus's Room" (the room in our house that eventually became the nursery).

When I found out around 15 weeks that you were a boy, your name was a given. You had already been Linus for years.

I hate to tell you that you were named after a cartoon character, so instead let's say that the cartoon character was just the inspiration for your name. Ultimately, we loved your name because it sounds so smart, and if there's anything your dad and I agree on, it's the importance of being smart.

Which brings us to you, Baby A.

Veda, your name comes from Sanskrit and means knowledge or wisdom. Truly, though, I started loving your name a long time ago... around 1991, actually. Why? In 1991 this movie was released:

It's been many years since I've seen it, but when I first saw it in the theater circa the age of eleven, it really affected me. In case you haven't watched it yet, it's the coming-of-age story of Veda Sultenfuss. The film is a moving snapshot of the summer when a precious little girl becomes a young woman. Smart, precocious, intensely beautiful inside and out - Veda's character stayed with me.

Naturally, in my teenage years, the names of future children seemed a bit of a scary topic, so your name was filed away somewhere in my brain. When it was mentioned in reference to sacred Hindu texts in the Buddhist philosophy class I took in college, though, I remembered how much I loved it.

When we knew that you were a girl, I brought up Veda immediately as a suggestion. But here's the thing... your dad didn't like it at first. As time passed and you remained nameless, though, he finally asked me what my absolute favorite of all the names we had discussed was. I answered, and that was the moment you became Veda. I guess that what with all the work of carrying a twin pregnancy, he figured I had earned some naming rights. Don't worry, now that you're here and your name is such a perfect fit, your dad loves it, too.  Also, in case you're wondering, my second choice was Josephine from Little Women. You would have been called Jo. It's a nice name, but it's not you.

Another thing that's kind of funny about your name - I think you look a bit like the Veda in the movie poster. Agree?

So that's the story. I hope that as adults you'll enjoy your names. They were certainly chosen with lots of love, and I can say that at the age of 27 months, you're growing into them perfectly.

I love you so very much, and I can't imagine you being anyone else. You are the children I waited for.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Practical Life

I've been researching Montessori education for a few weeks now. There's so much to learn, and I still have many questions that I need to find answers for, but I'm almost certain that our preschool homeschool experience will have a significant Montessori component.

I've been pleasantly surprised to find that many of the toys we've amassed could fit into a Montessori classroom, but I've also realized that I've not done the best job of helping Linus and Veda to develop what Maria Montessori called Practical Life Skills.

What are Practical Life Skills? They're the skills we all have to acquire in order to act as competent, independent individuals. Practical Life Activities encourage development of fine motor skills, which plays into the importance of the brain-hand connection (more about that here, if you're interested). Practical Life Skills encompass things like tying one's shoes, dressing one's self, slicing a carrot, sorting objects by color, and getting the washing machine started.

Forgive me for sounding like a cranky old man, but kids "these days" suffer from a lack of Practical Life Skills, and often even if they have been taught to do things for themselves, their parents unwittingly handicap them by continuing to do a great many of the things they should be doing for themselves. I saw it and the results of it all the time as a high school teacher - kids who called their parents to drive their homework to school when it was forgotten at home (Parents, PLEASE don't do this. Let kids learn from their mistakes when the consequences are so minor in the grand scheme of things.), kids who wanted the minutes of class change breaks counted down for them instead of referring to their own watches, kids who refused to keep up with a personal organizer because what's the point when their parents and teachers have always done the work of keeping up with their assignments and activities...

I don't want to raise my children to be needy and immature, so it's time to get cracking on Practical Life stuff. A couple of skills we've been working on are drinking from a cup - no sippy and no straw! - and putting dirty clothes in the hamper. It's been so fun to see them get so excited about "hamper time" before the bath, and I think I can almost literally see their confidence in themselves growing when I hand them real cups.

I've been compiling a list of Practical Life Skills for our immediate and near futures:

  • setting the table
  • sweeping
  • dusting
  • feeding dog
  • opening/closing a drawer
  • opening/closing a cabinet
  • opening jars
  • cleaning table with a sponge
  • carrying liquids without spilling
  • using a knife (ex. slicing a banana with a plastic knife)
  • putting books away
  • watering plants
  • washing vegetables
  • match socks in laundry
  • fold washcloths in laundry
  • fold socks in laundry
  • washing dishes
  • drying dishes
  • cleaning a mirror
  • pulling on pants
  • putting on shirt
  • combing hair
  • putting shoes on
  • washing, drying hands
  • zipping a jacket
For now we'll work on adding a couple of new skills every week. Trust me, the point here is not to make my life easier. It's not like one day you can just tell a two-year-old that he'll now be expected to set the table. I'll have to show Linus and Veda how to carefully carry the breakable plates, place cutlery around the plates, etc When the coming school year starts, we'll go into preschool mode, adding lots of fine motor, sensorial, language, and math activities to our daily repetoire that already includes lots of reading, music, and arts and crafts.

Looking forward to it!
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Next Year, Easter

Linus and Veda have been sick for more than two weeks now. Nothing big, just one of those things that happens when you're a kid. First their dad had a virus, then Linus came down with it, and then Veda started running a fever a couple of Wednesdays ago. There have been five trips to the pediatrician since this all started. Ugh.

Linus is better. Tomorrow finishes up the antibiotic he was on for a resulting ear infection.

Veda... not so much, and consequently our Easter was sort of a bust this year.

It seems like there's a very fine line between being overly cautious and not being cautious enough when it comes to sick kids. After taking Veda in last weekend because she was telling me that her ears hurt only to have her ears look completely fine (pretty sure she wanted to get some tasty medicine like Brother), I had resolved to just be patient and wait this bug out. Eight days with a fever came and went... ten days... On the eleventh day I decided to take her back in.

We were fortunate to see our regular pediatrician even on a Saturday, and after diagnosing Veda with a sinus infection, he left the room to write a script for an antibiotic. He was gone for a minute when he poked his head back in and said that he thought we should do some bloodwork to determine what antibiotic she should be taking. Finger stick. Crying. Crying.

The results? Positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae. That would be the bacteria that causes bacterial pneumonia. AAAAAH! The pediatrician had mentioned that her lungs sounded clear, though there was some fluid near them, so I was surprised. Mostly I was glad that I hadn't waited one more day, when we might not have been lucky enough to be doing a course of antibiotics at home.

Her fever spiked yesterday afternoon and last night was pretty rough. She spent most of the night cuddled up with me, but this morning I found a mucous-vomit combo in her bed. My poor baby. If she's still running a fever tomorrow afternoon, I'll be taking her back in for a chest x-ray. Keep your fingers crossed that that doesn't happen.

So no egg hunts for us. We'll get you next year, Easter.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

My New Favorite Mommy Lunch

Remember when I told you that naps are getting shorter around here and that I was reducing the amount of cooking I do? Well, my lunch was getting a little tricky. I mean, what's tasty, fast, doesn't make a huge mess I don't have time to clean up anyway, and is vegan? It came to me one day in the grocery store - a noodle bowl.

If I was doing it from scratch, it wouldn't work for me. Instead, I start with this as a base:

So, admittedly, I'm eating glorified ramen noodles - though I think it's only fair to point out that the ingredients list for the Thai Kitchen brand is about half as long as the dorm room variety. Whatever. In this season of my life, it works.

It couldn't be easier, and I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner.

I dump out the noodles, seasoning, and oil from the package in a microwavable bowl, add the cup of water, and then add in whatever freezer vegetables I'm feeling that day. In the noodle bowl above I used carrots, mushrooms, edamame, and green onion. I microwave it for three minutes, take it out, stir it, and put it back in the microwave for another minute and a half. Done. Add a piece of fruit, and I'm ready to get on with it.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Our Easter Baskets

We're still going candy-free with our baskets this year, and Easter baskets seemed like a good opportunity to enrich our arts and crafts collection. In our baskets this year:

What You're Looking At:
  • Dr. Seuss books I found for $5 each at Target (Thanks, Lorax movie!)
  • Stackable crayons from the $ bins at Target
  • Animal crackers
  • Pictures I cut out of magazines. The kids LOVE pasting stuff. And best of all - the cost? FREE!
  • A new container of glue for the magazine pictures
Not pictured is stuff that's on its way from Amazon. I wanted to get some small toys that could be used in the Montessori curriculum I'm boning up on for our preschool homeschooling. These toys are PERFECT for to use as practical life skills activities.

Alex Little Hands Alphabet Stringing Beads

Alex Little Hands String My ABC's
Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Pet Cards

Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Pets
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Max Is Crying


Tonight one of the books we read before bed was Where the Wild Things Are. When we got to the page where Max is sailing back to his house, you said, "Max crying."

I said, "Why do you think Max is crying?"

You were silent for a few moments before you replied, "Sad."

I asked why Max is sad, and you told me, "Time out."

I gave you an extra cuddle and told you that I love you even when you're in time out.

After getting time out for biting your sister this morning, it seemed to be just the thing you needed to hear.

You're just about the sweetest little fella ever. Always be my guy, promise?
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