Signing Time

In the past we haven’t had any TV on during the day. There’s very little TV that I would like to watch (most that I like is for nostalgia reasons), and given the limitations on my time currently, TV ranks even lower for me than usual. This means that Nathan hasn’t watched TV unless Dave is home watching it, which works for me.

But I found an exception recently when we found Signing Time DVDs at the library. Nathan, deep in a huge language-acqiuisition phase, is picking up sign language like crazy right now. And I find that learning sign language from a video rather than a book is much, much easier. We’ve been watching one of these programs almost every day, and I’ve acquired dozens of new signs. Nathan is still working on getting his fingers in order, but he clearly knows a lot of signs too.

What’s really funny to me, though, is how Ryan reacts to these videos. Where Nathan is more interested in the kids than in the adult host, Ryan ignores the kids but loves the host! Every time she comes on he smiles a huge baby smile at her, and sometimes lunges toward the TV from my arms! I think he’s responding to her smiling and interacting with him; there are a lot of elements to her behavior that are similar to how Dave and I interact with him. I’ve started referring to her as his “signing mother.”

I’d feel jealous but I know that, at the end of the day, Ryan still knows which side his bread is buttered on.

Another Mouth to Feed, addendum

The other night we were sitting at the dinner table. I was feeding Ryan bits of mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. Ryan was bouncing around in his high chair acting as though we were finally feeding him after a week-long starvation diet. (His preferred method of asking for more, if he can reach me, is to give me a good whack. We’re trying to encourage him to find other ways.) Nathan was trying to feed Ryan as well, because what’s more interesting than feeding a baby? I was monitoring Nathan’s feeding choices: “I think that carrot’s too big, sweetie.” There may have been adult conversation sprinkled in there; I forget.

But at some point I glanced down at the floor under the high chair and was surprised to find considerably fewer bits of food there than I had expected.

“I think Ryan might be swallowing things,” I told Dave.

Sure enough, careful observation allowed us to determine that food was going into the baby mouth and not coming back out.

I’ve yet to find a food that he truly doesn’t like. Nathan was the same way at this age. But so far the biggest response we’ve seen from him was when we pulled out some of the savory croissants that we made and froze way back when. This little one is an eater after my own heart — the buttery, flaky pastry was so exciting to him that he started complaining loudly if I was too slow getting him another tidbit. He would have been just as happy to grab the whole thing, but I drew the line there. He’s my child and I love him, but I’m not just handing over a whole homemade croissant, thank you.

Bread-Making

I’m going to have to give Kneadlessly Simple back to the library tomorrow, so I’ve been baking bread like mad. These lovely creations are fougasses – made from the same dough as a baguette, but baked differently, so that they’re chewier.

We of course had some with dinner. But it seemed a shame afterwards not to use up more of them while they were still fresh and warm. So I threw together an impromptu chocolate fondue with some dark chocolate, coconut milk, and a touch of vanilla. It was well-received.

Then there was the Double Chocolate Honey Bread. I’m not sure I can describe it better than the title. It isn’t as sweet as it sounds, though – it has a light crumb and a mild sweetness interrupted by dark chocolate morsels. This bread also seemed to be appreciated, perhaps mostly by me. I ate most of a loaf the first day. This one’s going on a recipe card.

But the crowning glory last week was the batards. These are basically short, stubby baguettes (since I don’t have a baguette pan). It’s a little more complex recipe than most of them, but when I broke into a warm loaf, and felt the thin, crisp crust shatter under my teeth…

And then dipped a fragment into a beef stew (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – that stew was poetry by itself!)… Well, that was a very good meal.

And then there’s been lots and lots of easier, everyday bread. Of course, there’s only so much bread that we (even I) can eat at a time. Much of these beauties will be sliced and frozen.

Decisions, Decisions

Yesterday the clear, sunny days ended, and the rains came back. Not to be deterred, the kids and I went for a short walk anyway. We’re native to the Northwest, and a little drizzle isn’t going to keep us inside. There were two major draws: first, I needed a spool of thread from the quilt shop, and second, the construction is currently exactly one block from our house.

In any case, we can only do so much inside time at a stretch. Nathan had already decided that he was done playing with… well, everything, and Ryan, while I was on the phone with our insurance company, had scooted himself away from his toys, toppled over, and gotten his head stuck between the leg of Dave’s desk and the neighboring table.

Good times.

It was after the quilt shop, after watching the construction, after getting home and stripping off wet clothes, that I headed for the kitchen to make lunch and noticed something.

My engagement ring was gone.

The wedding ring was still there, but its partner had disappeared. Quickly I searched my pockets, my jacket, the path inside the house I had taken after getting home… but without any real expectation of finding it. Nathan had been holding onto exactly that finger as we walked home. I even remembered noticing the pressure of his small hand around the rings. In the chilly air, the rings are always a little loose — it must have slid off somewhere.

I grabbed Ryan and did a quick walk back the way we’d come, scanning the ground. Nothing. It could be in our lawn. It could have fallen when we were watching the construction; the noise would have masked any tell-tale sound of precious metal hitting concrete. I’d asked Nathan to let go of my hand when we reached the mailbox. Surely I would have noticed a loose ring then? I tried to remember at what point in the walk Nathan had asked to switch to my left hand. Before the quilt store? I wasn’t sure.

Well, we needed food in any case. Nathan is a trooper, but much less so when he’s hungry. I made us peanut butter sandwiches. While we ate I tried to remind myself that it was “just things,” as my mom’s mother had so memorably and generously assured my dad after he wrecked her brand new car in Great Britain. At least I hadn’t gotten home and realized that I’d lost one of the kids. Boy, would that be embarrassing.

As we finished up our lunch, Nathan announced — I swear I am not making this up — that he wanted to take a nap.

“You want a nap?” I said, certain that I’d misunderstood.

“See-seep,” he said, and headed determinedly toward his room.

Now, let me put this choice into context for you.

On the one hand, I wanted to look for my engagement ring, a symbol of my relationship with Dave, an object with many happy memories associated, from picking it out together to mating it with the wedding band on the day of our marriage. Sure, I still had the wedding band — arguably the more important of the two — and sure, it was “just things”… But it was a thing that I would really like to keep. And I knew that the sooner I got back out there looking, the more likely I was to find it. The longer I waited, the more likely that someone would pick it up, or a car would run over it and spin it off the road, and it would be gone forever.

On the other hand, my toddler was offering to take a nap. At one time this would not have been such a big deal, but about three weeks ago he stopped napping, and the adjustment has been a difficult one. Prior to that, I’d had about a month where Ryan and Nathan’s naps were likely to overlap, at least by a little. This meant that almost every day, I’d get between fifteen minutes and an hour (an hour and half, on one lovely day) of time to myself — time to work on the computer, or in the sewing room, or even (if it had been that kind of day) to sit down with a book and maybe a snack that I didn’t have to share with anyone. And so I wrote, and sewed, and my desk was kept fairly clear, and I finished library books before the due date. It was one of those Golden Ages of Motherhood that I fool myself into believing will last forever.

Nathan hadn’t been happy with naps during that time, but a combination of books and songs and drawing at nap time, coupled with (increasingly) time-outs if he came out of his room, had generally gotten him down. And then he hit on a new technique, a trump card in his anti-nap campaign: not sleeping. Cheerfully, loudly, vigorously not sleeping.

It might seem that whether he was asleep or not would hardly matter, as long as he was confined to quarters, as it were. But unfortunately Nathan has the attention span of a two-year-old. I tried to explain the concept of “quiet time”: that I didn’t mind if he was awake as long as he played quietly in his room. (Well, I do a little, because he’s a lot more frantic without a nap, but I’d be willing to take it.) No dice. Sometimes out of mischievousness, most often simply because he’d just forgotten, he would come out of his room every five minutes or so, and be increasingly reluctant to go back.

It was then that I discovered that, while time to focus on the computer without interruption was wonderful, and time to play in my sewing room without small hands there even more so, what I really loved about that Golden Age was being off-duty. Shared naptime was the only time of the day that I could sit for a while and, with the exception of the small process in the back of my mind listening for sounds of waking, not think about kids. I didn’t have to hurry with what I was doing, or figure out which of my tasks was most amenable to being done with a baby in my arms, or try to sneak in a moment of reading or sewing before anyone figured out where I was. Now, I realize that there are far worse ways to live, and I’m not trying to bellyache here — just pointing out that I’d been used to getting a break most days. A few days after Nathan stopped taking naps, I began to sink into a real depression, and it took me a while to figure out that it was because I wasn’t getting my break.

So when Nathan climbed into bed of his own volition, looked up at me from the pillow, and said “Good-night,” I had a moment of agonizing indecision. What was being dangled before me was better than Godiva chocolate, better than a gift certificate to eQuilter, better than… to be honest, I’m having trouble thinking of comparisons. But my indecision was quickly resolved, and I made the only reasonable choice.

“Good-night, sweetie,” I said, and left the room to get Ryan to sleep as quickly as humanly possible.

As it turned out, Nathan was not actually ready to sleep. After ten quiet minutes in his room, and just as I was laying Ryan down, he came out with all the energy that a frantic two-year-old can muster.

Oh well. Time for plan B.

“Ok, let’s go back outside,” I said. “We can go for another walk.”

“No,” said Nathan.

Now, I can count on one hand the number of times that Nathan has not wanted to go outside when offered. Hmmm. Maybe I had lost of the kids, and come back with a Doppelganger.

But if I wasn’t getting my sewing time, there was no way I was abandoning the ring too. I showed him the remaining ring, carefully explained the situation, then coaxed, wrestled, and sternly reprimanded him into his clothes, put Ryan back in the Moby wrap (which woke him up), and out we went.

Let’s see, I got the mail just before coming in… So we would have come across the lawn something like this…

“Wi-wing!” Nathan said.

“Are you saying it’s raining?” I asked him absently, and looked up from the lawn just in time to see him remove his right hand from his jacket pocket with something golden.

Ah, what an exquisite moment of relief.

Ever since then I’ve been making allusions to The Hobbit. “What have I got in my pocket?” I ask him. And “It mussst give us three guessessss!”

He has no idea what I’m talking about.

Technically Mobile

Ryan can turn himself on his bottom with remarkable control now. When on his belly he can also scoot backwards. (The scooting backwards is not really intentional; he is trying to go forwards, and simply failing rather spectacularly.)

With these two abilities, he does technically posess sufficient mobility that he could theoretically get himself anywhere he wanted to go. The problem now is with the software, not the hardware. As his target gets farther and farther away from him, no matter how hard he tries to get to it, he gets louder and louder, angrier and angrier. I try not to laugh too much. I do sing the Angry Baby Song pretty often: “Angry baby, angry angry baby… real MAD.”

He can now get his knees entirely under him, though. It won’t be too long before the brain catches up with the body…

February Park Day

It’s been too lovely to stay inside. We’ve gone to our nearby park several times, but we also packed up and went over to the much larger park across town once last week. It was windy, reasonably warm in the sun, and intensely clear.

Sand on our bare feet.

Nathan is now proficient enough on the slide to experiment a little.

I'm not sure if Ryan liked the slide or not, but he didn't complain.

Nathan had put on his pants himself. I didn't notice until long after we arrived at the park that they were backwards. Oh well.

First Planting

I can’t help myself – it’s too warm, too sunny, too spring-like for me to restrain my planting fingers.

If it freezes again, I have more seeds. If not, perhaps I’ll get some early snap peas. The kids were not amenable to hanging out long, so I didn’t get much except the snap peas into the ground. But they were the perfect thing to plant with Nathan – big and satisfying and easy to poke into the ground. What a difference from last year, when I had to restrain him from eating them!