Name That Tune, Felix Wunderkind

We popped into Kris’ office this morning to deliver an important message. She was listening to, at that moment, the Stereo MC’s “Step It Up.”

After delivering our message, Felix asked sweetly, “Mama, are you listening to the dinosaur song?”

Huh?

He continued, “I like this Dinosaur Train song.”

Mamas running to catch up in 3…2…1…

Oh. Wh–?

How?!

Holy shit.

I invite you to compare:

What’s the german word for “the first time this happened, it was interesting, but now that it’s happened a second time, it’s even more shocking”?

Because it happened last year, too.

Sometime last year (since March), Kris was listening to Beethoven’s Ninth (the Ode to Joy one), doing chores. Felix ran over to his keyboard and pushed the button to play one of the demo songs. This one:

“See, Mama!”

If it sounded identical, it would make more sense to me.

What is this talent of his called, and how on earth can I feed it?

Happy Anonymous Donor Day

My children don’t have a father. They have two moms, and an anonymous-for-now  sperm donor.

(They also have amazing aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors. And I hope one day they’ll have some donor-siblings, but today I’m thinking specifically of their donor.)

The information we know about the donor is a strange mix of intimately detailed and hopelessly limited.

Some of things we know: some basic physiological characteristics and measurements, some resume fluff like education and career, some self-reported interests, a few generations of family health history. One small picture of him as a toddler. Some impressive sperm counts and morphology from a thawed sample.

What we don’t know could fill many a book. We don’t know if he has dimples, or if he needed braces as a teenager, or how much he likes to sing in the shower or dance in the kitchen. We don’t know if he was ever afraid of thunderstorms, or when he got his first passport. We don’t know if he ever thinks of the children that he helped create.

I don’t know how much it matters. The boys are so much their own people — arrived on the scene as completely their own little people — that maybe it doesn’t matter one whit about the meatbags and middlemen that mixed some body fluids to get them started.

I can surmise the donor is pretty smart. I mean, he figured out how to get paid to masturbate, and if that’s not a sliver of the Manly American Dream come true, I don’t know what is.

But half-kidding aside, I can also surmise that the donor is major-league generous. His contribution — however anonymous, or pleasant, or lucrative, or not — made us mothers, the kind of gift that nobody can put a bow on. Not even one of those Lexus-sized Christmas bows.

I can thank KK for making the leap with me, for all the once-in-a-lifetime-ness and the relentless daily grinding of it all. For being brave enough to let her heart burst open, so there’d be room to hold us all.

I can thank our friends and family for the support and patience and love they show us every day, that they show the boys every day.

Sometimes I get a little sad that I can’t thank the donor for his role in the gift, too, for helping me finally find my life’s work.

What I saw of the donor on insemination day - the bag from the lab that held the thawed sample
What I saw of the donor on insemination day – the bag from the lab that held the thawed sample

Cool Find: Toddler Sand Tools



I’m planning for the boys’ easter baskets to simply be some sand/water toys and tools. And a little chocolate, but mostly just a couple of toys.

The weather will be warm enough to finally play outside with the water table. And if the enthusiasm with which they’ve been going after the dog bowl is any indication, they absolutely cannot WAIT to get their hands wet.

What I’ve already found, though, is that most of the readily-available sand toys are too big for a young toddler to easily play with. At the sand space at the park last weekend, Felix picked up a shovel with a head bigger than his own. Frustration followed. No good.

Some alternatives I’d considered:

  • Kitchen utensils. Sure, I have some they could use, such as spoons and measuring cups, but I’d prefer dedicated play stuff so I can keep my dedicated kitchen stuff.
  • Bath toys. While they have some cups and such in the bath, I think they’d prefer that those remain available for every bath time.

Enter these great “Sand Tools” that I spotted (ok, more like boughted, amirite?) at Michael’s today.

They get a demerit for being plastic.

But they get credits for being only about 6 inches long and having really good proportions for little hands just developing fine motor skills.

Give them another credit for being “just” $4. Sure, I had a flash of panic in the store because $4 felt like a lot compared to the thrift prices I prefer. But cooler heads prevailed, and i rationalized that $4 for a 4-pack still clocks in around dollar store territory, making them reasonable enough. It is a holiday, after all, said Scrooge McMom.

Let’s add one more credit for being colored, packaged, and sold in a gender-neutral style, just because so damn few things are, and especially at the cheapest end of the spectrum.

I only bought one set for them to split, but if they work as well as I expect, I’ll be back in a month to find another so everybody can have plenty to choose from.

For others interested in tracking these down, I found them hanging on a lonely strip of impulse buys just before the checkouts, not part of any larger seasonal or thematic display.

As for you: seen any good buys lately? Bonus points for links and/or samples. 🙂

Recipe: Toddler Muffins

All the whole-grain, none of the gluten OR the mess. Easy to make, easy to eat. We all need more easy in our lives!

Toddler Muffins

adapted from Oatmeal Banana Muffins at Eat Drink Pretty)muffins_edited
yields 48 mini muffins, which freeze and reheat beautifully

Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray or use liners.

In the bowl of a large food processor, grind 2.5 cups old-fashioned oats until fine.

Add the following dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse a few times:

  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 0.5 cup sugar

Finally, add the following wet ingredients into the food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 cup plain Greek yogurt (regular yogurt works too, but I like the protein in Greek)
  • 0.25 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Use a small ladle or big spoon to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full.
Bake 10-20* minutes, or until the tops turn a bit golden and spring back when touched.

*Point of contention: Original recipe recommended cooking them for “8-10 minutes.” But mine always take 20-22 minutes. I cook two 24-cup mini muffin pans at the same time. So if you’re baking in smaller or fewer pans, maybe it will take less time?

In any case, when your muffins are done, cool them for a few minutes in the pans, then remove and cool completely before freezing.. Store in airtight container on counter or in fridge.

Variations:

  • Use 0.5 cup less oatmeal (so only 2 cups) and add 0.5 cup fruit or vegetables (fresh, defrosted-frozen, or rehydrated-dried) such as blueberries, dates, raisins, or carrots.
  • You can substitute applesauce for the oil, but (1) kids need fat and (2) the bit of oil gives the muffins a better texture and easier release from the pan.
  • You can probably substitute most sweeteners for the sugar.

Backstory

About the time the boys turned a year old, they got really into self-feeding. Which is a nice way of saying that pretty much overnight, they began flatly, and loudly, refusing everything I offered them on a spoon.

And pretty much overnight, I got really REALLY sick of the mess created by their attempts to self-spoon their morning oatmeal.

Then, from somewhere in the foggy depths of my memory, I remembered the baked oatmeal that KK used to eat almost every day.

I could make something like that for the boys! No more oatmeal hairdos before 8am!

HALLELUJAH.

2014.09.15 Felix try muffins first time (1)

This is the recipe that has evolved over the last few mess-free months. We make a batch of muffins (48 minis) every week or so. They’ll each eat 3 or 4 muffins most mornings. The hardest part of making these is timing the ripening of the bananas, because the grocery stores seem to specialize in stocking only the greenest they can find.

I use two Kitchenaid 24-cup silicone mini muffin pans (thrifted), I can’t find the exact ones, but they look like this. The silicone makes it really easy to pop the muffins out, and there’s no need for paper liners. They’re also easy to clean, either by hand or in the dishwasher.

emerson eating muffins

 

Turn up the fun with BALZAC!

I came home after my infusion and cheer-me-up quick thrift session with a Balzac.

“What’s that?” KK asked. Another one of our odd-couple moments — her phd in comparative literature versus my wasted youth held dramatically different notions of what constituted a “Balzac” and what made it so great.

Put on your Hammer pants, tease those bangs, and go back in time with me to

The early 1990s!

The world just looked different then.

Balzac Earth balloon ball

Unwilling to wait a moment longer, I managed to blow it up — without passing out — and tossed it into the playroom.

Now, all I’ve heard for the last 30 minutes is galloping toddler feet and squeaks of joy.

As a kid, I thought a Balzac would be fun. But now, from a mom perspective, I think a Balzac is AMAZING.

For starters, for wearing toddlers out, it’s even better than the playground at the mall, with all its associated contagion.

It’s lighter than a beach ball, washable, and refillable.

It’s safer than a naked latex balloon, which at 15 months, the boys would bite, burst, and probably choke on.

And of course, it’s extra fun because I always wanted one of these and my parents wouldn’t get me one. “You have all kinds of balls already,” my mom would sneer. “Here’s some wrinkly leftover balloons from your sister’s birthday party.”

I never could make her understand that Balzac wasn’t a ball, or a ballon. It was a patented “magic action balloon ball — the newest, wildest, funniest, craziest ball on earth!” See?

Balzac user guide cover

I did a thing! Toddler art gallery

For months and months, I’ve been looking for a way to display artwork at the boys’ eye-level.

Unfortunately, “eye-level” means it would also be within their arms’ reach. Which means anything left unattended would very shortly end up in their mouths and on the floor. Likely in many sharp little pieces.

No deal. The Van Goghs and Rembrandts and Monets would have to wait.

But wait!

Serendipitously, I got lost in Target, one day scanning aisle after aisle for trash cans. (How can you hide a bunch of trash cans? They’re as big as…well.)

In my search, I found this nifty little undermarketed artwork holder that showed promise.

I forgot to take a picture of the package and Target's own website doesn't who it. Found this one on ebay.
I forgot to take a picture of the package. Found this one on ebay.

No glass, no hard plastic even, and it’d be easy to switch out images every so often, without having to take it off the wall. And only $10!

Did I mention “undermarketed”? Check out Target’s own web presence:

Targetscreengrab
Nothing says “celebrating the colorful creativity of childhood” like this paen to bleakest minimalism.

I promptly bought it, brought it home, and lost it for 2 months.

Getting warmer

The recent playroom expansion gave us more wall space and the perfect excuse to find and install the artwork holder.

For the first fill, I found a cat calendar at Goodwill for $1, and a puppy one at Target’s dollar spot for $3ish. Cut some of the cutest down to fit the pockets and hung the whole thing up with some Command poster strips. Et voila!

playroomartFramers
Hoity, meet toity.

 

But what did the critics think?

playroomartFJrx
Felix approved of the way the display validated photography’s long-acknowledged power to mirror both the face of the world and of the most important things in the world: dogs.

 

playroomartEJrs
Emerson noted that the gallery was by turns euphoric and despairing, prey to utopian optimism or deep spiritual disarray, depending on whether you were a dog person or a cat person.

And finally, here’s an overly-long video of them worshiping at the quadruped shrine.

Verdict: I did a thing!

Have you done anything lately? Tell us about it!

It’s no wonder mothers are tired

“That which is to give light must endure burning.” — Viktor Frankl

“That which is to give life must endure burning out.” — me

As I’ve repeatedly tried to explain to my wife, I’m tired — but not the kind that a good night’s sleep would fix right up.

For starters, I’ve had MS for 8 years now. I’m no stranger to fatigue. 136_image

There’s the muscle fatigue, where repeated movements make me weaker, not stronger. There’s also the overall sense of waking up drained of all energy, of living on a planet with 10x the gravity of earth, best described as lassitude.

And of course there’s the fatigue of “managing” a chronic illness — which really means running herd on your medical team, your insurance company, emerging science, pharmaceutical advances, public policy, fundraising, and the shreds of your family and social and sex lives — day after day after goddamn day, forever and ever, amen.

So me and tired go way back, and I work hard every day to fight it back and haul my aching ass off the couch, to keep participating in life.

But a couple of years ago, I participated in MAKING LIFE, and discovered a whole slew of new ways to be tired.Twin ultrasound at six weeks gestation

We live in a society that loooves to tell women how to live; indeed, entire fetishistic industries and economies depend on it [and should die quick and painful deaths, but that’s another post for another day].

So when a woman becomes pregnant? Those omnipresent, authoritative, prescriptive voices double down, coming out of the woodwork to tell her the best, or at least the newest, ways to “manage” a pregnancy.

Do this, don’t do that! Eat this, don’t eat that! This is how you should sleep, dress, shop, and clean and work and screw. Or not – maybe it’s this other way! Nobody’s ever tested this advice! Do as we say!

A week after our first positive pregnancy test, Jezebel ran “How to Have the Best Pregnancy Ever,” a masterpiece that neatly sums up the conflicting cacophony. Dare anyone to read it and not feel like you need a nap afterward. Or a stiff drink, but that would kill your baby, unless it’s actually totally fine…

Now, read it again, with the sober understanding that not 1, not 2, but 3 lives hang in the balance of your every decision. The clock is ticking. Cells are dividing. Tiny organs are forming (or not! dear god). You’ve never done this before. You won’t get any do-overs. It’s all on you. I bet now you feel like you need a nap yet can never sleep again, lest you fall down on this all-important job that everybody but you seems to know how to do.

If you’re newly pregnant, this is the time to curl into the fetal position — while you still can.

In fields like medicine, the defense against this din is called alert fatigue. When providers receive too many computerized alerts (about drug interactions, say), or conflicting alerts that don’t take into account the specific nuances and contexts of individualized patient care, the providers start tuning out the alerts. They become indifferent, override it, close the window, click the X.

And they are likely to start ignoring all alerts, even ones that might be helpful or lifesaving.

Wheat and chaff. Signal and noise. Baby and bathwater.

Day after day after day.

It’s no wonder mothers are tired.

Tune in next week eventually for a look at the types of fatigue that show up once the babies are actually born! That’s right — there’s more!