Seven Quick Takes: Life Notes

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One of life’s little pleasures: having a son who loves the old 1950’s Chordette’s song “Lollipop” but can’t pronounce his L’s.”Yoyipop yoyipop oh yoyi yoyi yoyi yoyipop yoyipop…..”

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The littlest baby turned four months old last week. As Josie develops predictable sleep we’re back to enjoying the occasional grown-ups’ movie date in the evenings. We can only watch something once or twice a month so we select our movies carefully, make hot drinks, and savor our distraction-free relaxation. We appreciate the intentional time so much more now compared to the half-hearted attention we sometimes wasted on mediocre viewing before small kids. It’s a big treat and we milk it for all the pleasure it’s worth. Over the last two months we’ve enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, the new Far from the Madding Crowd, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Pixar’s Inside Out. Cinderella was excellent. Madding Crowd and Avengers were both decent. We really enjoyed Inside Out, especially the first and last third. While not perfect, we felt like it was a step back toward’s Pixar’s old pre-Brave creativity, humor, and warmth.

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I’ll be lazy and pull this one straight from facebook except for the switch to blog names: “We just got back from a week in the mountains. During that time Jenny (17.5 months) started crawling, pulled herself to a stand for the first time, said her first word (“Mama”), and cut five new teeth. Jenny left the NICU a year ago unwilling to even turn her head to the left due to an unknown combination of crib placement, skull malformation, a possible undetected brain bleed, or some other side effect of being born 3.5 months premature. She’s been in physical therapy for the last year working through her strong right side preference, reflux, helmeting, inability to roll, bracing and arching instincts, inability to tolerate pressure on her hands and knees and numerous other issues. The obvious conclusion is that we need to go on vacation more often. Sure, it COULD be a correlation/causation confusion, but I’m willing to repeatedly test the hypothesis for better data.”

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Since I posted that Jenny’s added “Dada” as well as nanana and bababa sounds. She’s also doing a little furniture cruising. It’s tough for a kid who doesn’t like pressure on her extremities to crawl. At first she looked more like a prancing horse than a baby; every time a limb touched the ground she’d jerk it comically high in the air. Things have smoothed out now. Her new nickname is “Apex” as in “Apex Predator”. Hold still for a moment and she pounces, pulling up on our pant legs and pinning us in place. She usually times this for when our hands are covered in raw chicken or loaded with laundry so we can’t pry her loose. Now that she’s on the move Jenny is at the top of Josie’s food chain. Those bright little baby eyes and wiggly fingers and toes are so tempting! Jenny understands what we mean when we tell her “No” or “don’t touch” or “gentle”, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. Jenny has a “tell” when she’s about to be naughty. If she looks at us and thoughtfully smacks her lips a disobedient little finger reaching for the electrical outlet is sure to follow.

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It’s been a year since our last trip. The twins were really excited to head to the mountains. A little too excited. After we’d packed the car, loaded up the kids, and locked the house we made it exactly four blocks before Jack looked out the van window and asked “Where are the mountains?”

As we got closer to our destination and entered the foothills the kids were happy to finally see mountains ahead of us…except that every time Annie lost sight of the mountains she’d collapse into hysterical tears wailing “Mountains? Mountains? MOUNTAINS?!?!?!” The fact that it was three hours past her naptime and she still hadn’t fallen asleep in the car might have had something to do with it. The road was very curvy. There were many valleys. She lost sight of the mountains a lot. We were very grateful when she finally fell asleep.

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I usually plan our meals out a week at a time. The system works well but occasionally my weekly restock trip is delayed. I know it’s a luxury for “we need groceries” to simply mean we’re out of a lot of fresh veggies, milk, or bread but still have a full pantry, sale meat stocked in the freezer, and maybe some longer-lasting produce like apples or carrots. Sometimes the most fulfilling cooking happens when I’m cooking from scarcity and forced into creativity. It’s fun to scan our ingredients and cobble together an unplanned meal that’s nourishing and flavorful. This week we opted for a backyard bonfire on Veterans’ Day instead of a grocery run. During naptime I chopped up and fried our last two strips of bacon, half of the last onion, and a few stalks of celery. A few peeled and diced potatoes and some chicken stock, plus half a bag of leftover corn from the freezer and a splash of milk with seasonings made a big pot of savory corn chowder for a chilly fall evening. I also threw together a quick cornbread from pantry ingredients. What kinds of things do you stock for backup meals?

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Annie’s language skills are inching forward with speech therapy. She still has a hard time stringing words together into two or three word sentences. She’s also prone to echolalia, which means she typically repeats the last word anyone says to her rather than answering questions or coming up with spontaneous speech. However, her vocabulary of individual words grows every day. As you’d expect from a three year old, she’s not always perfectly accurate. We were out on a walk the other day and passed one of those decorated mailboxes covered with a fall scene of deer. She examined it closely, turned to me with a delighted smile, and bellowed “CAMELS!”

Her twin Jack, meanwhile, is a chatterbox with fairly advanced speech. He’s still quite literal, though:

The Man: “What color are your eyes?”

Jack: “I can’t see my eyes”

Later the Man was helping Jack with his shoes:

The Man: “Okay bud, have a seat”

Jack, confused: “I don’t have a seat…”

One of his favorite games is running to hide when we’re getting the kids ready for naps and we leave the room to put Annie down in her pack n’ play (if they nap in the same room during the day they keep each other awake). We come back in and make an exaggerated search of the room looking under the beds, behind the dresser, or in the closet while he giggles from his hiding place. Last week I put Annie down and came back to collect Jack:

Me, loudly to the “empty” room: “Wheeeeere’s Jack?”

Jack, from behind the curtains: “….I don’t know! I’m hiding!”

Jack also hasn’t quite caught on to being sneaky. I’d just settled in to read for a few minutes downstairs after putting the kids down for naps when I heard a soft voice from upstairs. I walked over to the foot of the stairs and heard “…yellow duck, yellow duck, what do you see?………………black sheep, black sheep, what do you see?….” He was shocked when I came in and took away his book. How did I know that he was reading in bed? Parents are psychic, I tell ya’, kid.

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I’ve been on a bit of a memoir kick since running across Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post about her favorite memoirs. I made my selections based on the elaborate decision-making algorithm of a) what’s free at the library and b) which books are cheapest on Amazon. The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris was not really my style. For a book in a similar genre that I really loved I’d suggest Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson instead. I never read Blue Like Jazz despite its raging popularity during my late teens so I didn’t know what to expect from Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The author works very hard to convince you of how boring his life is for the first 40% of the book. It works. The first 40% of the book is very boring. That said, while the writing style isn’t exactly my preference he made great points about choosing a better story for your life and doing hard things rather than settling for the easy and mundane. I enjoyed Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin. The memoir follows touchpoints of love and coziness despite a rough childhood involving abandonment, dysfuntion, foster care, and death in Martin’s family. After a childhood adrift the author begins to construct an adult life of warmth, challenge, and community. I enjoyed the book and can’t wait to try some of the recipes. After seeing another recommendation I’m currently reading A Spoonful of Sugar by Brenda Ashford, the story of a British woman who worked as a nanny for over sixty years. It’s enjoyable so far.

For more Seven Quick Takes please visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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