Friday, October 3, 2014

Food Friday: Food Everyday

I've been posting a lot about food on Facebook. I admit it. Though I try to keep the majority of the pictures to Instagram, as I scroll through my feed, it's a lot of what I've noticed.

But to be honest, it's one of the things I'm learning to adjust to in my transition to being a stay-at-home-mom. Back in Maryland, Jake was the cook in the house. I cooked once a week (sometimes), but he really wore the apron in the family. He had the subscription to Cook's Illustrated, he could make up recipes off the top of his head, he had it together enough in the morning to do more than just pour cereal into a bowl and drip milk over it for breakfast. I could do none of those things.

I wanted to, I really did, though I never felt like I had time to. (And I really like eating Jake's food. He's very good.) And I made steps by learning to bake along with The Kid. It became one of the Things We Did Together. We have a few spare minutes on a weekend? Let's make cookies! A few more minutes? Marshmallows! But it wasn't a priority for me unless we were working together, or I was DIY-ing something. (Although I had an awesome time doing it.)

Fast forward to now.

With me in the apartment full-time and Jake going to work five mornings a week, I've been taking the reins in the kitchen. I'm pretty damned proud of it. As comes with the territory of, you know, being me, I've been doing research into recipes, reading about food, talking about food, learning about cooking techniques. I'm not, like, great at it yet, but I'm learning and I'm trying. The Kid and cooking are kind of my jobs now, and though I am picking up some awesome freelance work, I know where my full-time gig is.

And so where I used to post about funny things that happen in classes I'm teaching, right now, I'm posting about funny things The Kid has said, or some recipe I've made. It's my job right now. And while that was a pretty jarring thing to realize, I'm having more fun doing it than I would have thought. Though it is occasionally, as all things parenting, kind of frustrating.

We like things Mini around here. (This is a tiny raspberry cheesecake.)
I do try to include The Kid in as much of the cooking as I can, so now we're not only making cookies and marshmallows, we're making savory things too. (Thank goodness from my waistline!) In addition to sweets, we've now made quesadillas, pesto, fresh pasta, and cauliflower "rice."

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what cookbooks I like to use with The Kid. I put off answering her (sorry, Lauren!), because I was trying to think of an answer besides, "If the recipe uses the KitchenAid, the food processor, or a whisk, The Kid is all over it."

I still haven't thought of a much more satisfying answer (honestly, those are his favorite things to do in the kitchen, and so that's how I gauge what recipes we can do together, and what he can do to contribute to those recipes), and someday soon I'll write a post about how we cook together without making a huge mess of things. 'Cause while cooking naturally makes a big mess of things, it doesn't have to be huge. And we're working on figuring that out.

The Kid makes pesto, using a recipe from Pretend Soup.
The one cookbook we've really used a lot, which we've renewed from the library three times now, is Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen. The recipes are written out for adults, and also pictorially for pre-reader kids. So, The Kid can tell me what to do when we're making, say, blueberry pancakes. There have been other cookbooks--and we're really looking forward to using a vegetarian one a friend sent us recently--but this one has treated us incredibly well.

To be honest, there's a lot of time in the day when one is getting used to making her own schedule, let alone her own schedule when she also needs to come up with activities with a three-year-old. And cooking helps fill our day, along with art projects, building train sets, and pretending to be the trucks from Mighty Machines. It's something comforting, that we know will take time and help us work together. And, like any convert, it's something about which I have become fervent and evangelical. It's something sequential with a qualitative outcome: either the hard work pays off or it doesn't, and often it's tasty.

I like tasty: I like reading about it, talking about it, and eating it. And while I still LOVE eating when Jake cooks (man, he's so good), I'm really proud of what I've been learning, and of being able to spend this time with The Kid making tasty things.

In conclusion: frittata. (I suck at ending blog posts.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Creativity Now!

The Kid has dropped his nap. Like, completely. An afternoon nap means he chooses not to can't fall asleep until 11pm. No amount of reasoning ("oh my god, kid, when you're a grownup, you'll wish you got to take a nap!") is changing this fact.

We've implemented "rest time" most days, which means we still get a story or two or three and a snuggle, and then he plays alone in his room for a varying amount of time so that we all get a break. Depending on what he chooses to play, this can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, so if I want to get anything done, I have to prioritize tasks like a madwoman. Or just go on the internet for 20 minutes. That's good, too. (Of course, my learning how to prioritize tasks is a topic for a whole 'nother post! The transition to stay-at-home-mom is a delightful yet weird one.)

And so I'm absolutely thrilled that The Kid's exploratory creative play phase is intersecting with this need to stay awake all day. The fact that he can play by himself in his room is wonderful, and he has fun in his garage with his creatively named trucks, Garbage-y, Cement-y, Excy (the excavator), and Bully (the bulldozer--we'll save the "bully" talk for a later time). He's also converted his closet into a tow truck, which essentially means that he drags a bunch of toys into his closet and hangs out for a while.

The emerging desire to create is also coming out in a newfound attention to art projects and storytelling. And this is where we're both starting to learn how to accept each others' creative ideas and run with them.
I'm apparently so much better at this with my students than I am with my kid. A few years ago, I realized that if I was going to effectively teach K-1-ers, I had to learn how to do art projects myself, so I figured out how to do, assign, and teach elementary visual art projects. I was expert at using emerging creativity language: flexibility, fluency, originality, and elaboration. Of course, even though the projects my students were doing were about the process of creating, there was still an outcome--a character design, a cultural exploration, a review of the day's lesson, an original scene or play--and so I find myself struggling a little bit with providing open-ended projects for The Kid. I recognize that he needs time to explore materials and create abstractly, but it's hard for me to live in the moment and not focus on what it's going to be.

I'm working on it by cutting out shapes for a project and letting him glue them wherever he wants, and letting him choose colors and materials for whatever he wants to do. So, we'll "make a face," and he'll direct me on what papers he wants to use, and what shapes I should cut. I am working on the confidence to have him cut his own shapes! (He does use the scissors frequently, but of course he doesn't have the fine motor skills to cut actual shapes yet.) Painting and drawing abstractly are much more comfortable worlds to live in, though I'm also working on the impulse to ask "What's that?" I find myself asking much more frequently, "Can you tell me about what you're making?"*

The Kid is perfectly comfortable with being "The Foreman," as he is sometimes in his construction sites. (Hey, he's aiming for a management position!) But where I'm learning how to be accepting of his visual creativity, he's doing the same with my verbal creativity.
He's also exploring the world of storytelling, and wants us to make up our own stories, usually about construction trucks. As if he doesn't have a million books about construction trucks. But anyway. We're more than happy to--his favorite right now is one I made up about a team of trucks who build a road up and down a mountain--but he gets really upset if we don't tell a story exactly the way he wants. So, a story I tell about a dump truck with a head cold (yep) might lead to a tantrum if I don't include a mechanic helping the dump truck feel better. (I was really proud of the excavator who brought chicken soup, personally.)

I've tried telling him that if he wants a story told exactly the way he wants, he should try telling the story himself, but he's not into telling his own stories yet. Yesterday, we had to have a long talk about how different people are creative in different ways, and the only one who can tell a story the way he wants it is him.

And then I realized the same is true for my acceptance of his art projects. If he doesn't make things exactly the way I think he should, it's okay. And desirable. And necessary.

*NOTE: The Artful Parent has been a great resource recently for directing my creative language, as well as helping me find projects to do with The Kid.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exploring A2: The Fairy Doors

On the hunt for a fairy door at the District Library.
I was immediately enchanted when I came across mentions of the fairy doors in my initial research about things to do in Ann Arbor. I made it a mission to visit all of them during our two years here, and was so excited to hunt for them with The Kid. But I wondered, is this actually just for me, or is it something he'd be into, too? I'm a fairy tale person (my Master's thesis was on Peter Pan for god's sake), but he's super-into trucks, and we haven't read him traditional fairy tales yet.

We found two of the fairy doors during our initial visit in March and one more during our fist week here, and I kept my fingers firmly crossed that The Kid would be as excited as I was.

Turns out I didn't need to worry.

The moment I mentioned the fairy doors, The Kid was on it. OK, he was confused at first (who can blame him?) but when I suggested we go to The Ark after ice cream across the street, to see where the fairies go for fun, he was just about as excited as I hoped! He bought imaginary tickets for a penny at the fairy will-call window:

and left another offering at the fairy Ark door:

We bought the fairies coffee at Sweetwater:

We've been back a couple of times since, to see if we can catch them reading their newspaper and sipping their coffee. (Fairies tend to fly away when they hear people coming.)

We visit the fairies' house every time we go to the library, which is now at least once a week for story hour:

And we happened upon the fairies' workshop at Found completely by accident while shopping there. It's my new favorite store for antiques and ephemera, so I'm sure we'll be back soon.

The Urban Fairies website hasn't been updated in a while so I'm not sure exactly how many doors are currently "active," but there are at least five out there we haven't found yet. It's a charming way to explore the city. I just have to remember to keep pennies and little knick-knacks in my purse; The Kid loves to give them offerings.

(Update: I found the fairy door at the Michigan Theater this afternoon while killing time downtown. Don't tell The Kid...)

(Update 2: The Kid found a new fairy door on Friday while we were wandering around downtown A2! This one was at Peaceable Kingdom on Main. Here he is, saying hi to the fairies:

And here he is looking through the windows to the fairy kitsch-shop on the inside of the real-life kitsch-shop:

Here's a closeup through the windows. This one was super-cute.)

(Update 3: What we didn't know about the door at the Michigan Theatre is that inside are tiny black and white movies for the fairies to watch!
We sat and watched Max Fleischer and Betty Boop shorts for a couple of minutes last week. Perfect fairy entertainment!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Room of His Own

The Kid's garage, complete with trucks, books, and costumes.
Back when we were preparing for the move, I asked The Kid, "If you could have anything decorating your room, what would it be?" His answer was immediate:

"A garage!"

"You mean, like the parking spaces we have on the floor in the living room?"

"No, like, a shelf where I can park my trucks."

And so the wheels set to turning. I wasn't going to go out and buy a garage for The Kid's room; we had plenty of shelves that could be repurposed. But, of course, me being the Type-A wanna-be crafter I am, I didn't want to just put a shelf in The Kid's room and tell him that's where he had to put his trucks every night. It had to be something special. I set to planning.

The Kid stayed with my folks while we moved so he didn't get underfoot, and so he had a place to sleep while our furniture was in transit. We wanted to make it a priority to unpack his room first thing, so that when he got to Ann Arbor, he had a place of his own, even if the rest of the apartment was an absolute mess. Which it kind of still is.
The decals went up first thing! Even if The Kid had no furniture, he'd have some trucks in his room.
But as his arrival day approached and we still didn't have any furniture, we were getting anxious. Would we have time to set up his furniture? And would I have time for the craftiness I wanted to do on his garage? (I didn't want to tell him "Well, this is your room, but this shelf is going to look totally different once I have the time to do it..." and then procrastinate my way to not fixing it. I know myself pretty well.)

So, thank goodness the furniture arrived a couple of days before my parents and The Kid. Jake got the call that the movers were two hours away while we were sitting in a theatre watching The Edge of Tomorrow; we were supposed to get 48 hours notice, and so assuming the furniture wouldn't come for days, we went on a movie date and made plans with local friends. Surprise! We canceled all of our plans, and the next day, I ran out to Michael's to get my supplies.

I spent the majority of the next day out on our deck crafting. (I can not express how excited I am to have an outdoor space!) It was a beautiful day for garage-making, and I'm absolutely thrilled with the way this turned out, especially since I had no plans or directions, no Pinterest inspiration, just what I was seeing in my head.

Since I had no directions, after the jump is the step-by-step for what I did, in case anyone else wants to do something similar. Or, if you're just curious.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Unexpected Discoveries

The weird things you discover after moving to a new town.
  1. My hair looks better in Michigan. The lower humidity in Ann Arbor is much better for my curls. This means I've had to experiment with products, since I've lived in the world of crazy frizz since my hair decided to be curly 22 years ago. (It was stick straight until I was 12. I got a perm--it was 1992, shut up--and it stuck. Forever.)
  2. Lower humidity means we're thirsty all. The. Time.
  3. The thing that's been taking the most getting used to in the apartment: I have to turn the other way to get to the light switch in my bathroom. 
I'm sure there will be more unexpected discoveries coming up...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons Learned (...and learning...)

My favorite box label. Only in our apartment.
We're deep into the unpacking process, and I've been learning a lot about long-distance moves. I' storing some notions for the move in two years. Things I experimented with, like:
  1. Making a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag, threading hangers through the hole with clothes still on the hangers, and tying the bag up. I had too many clothes in my closet for one wardrobe box (even after all of the donations and swaps! How did that happen??) and this helped keep them organized.
  2. Organizing my jewelry by wrapping my necklaces individually in tissue paper (okay, I used Kleenex) so they didn't get tangled, and bagging pairs of earrings in tiny ziplocks so nothing got lost.

And some things I learned from having guys load our stuff on a truck and drive for several days:
  1. If using recycled boxes, make sure to label your boxes clearly! We used boxes from my mom's best friend's recent move, and even though we tried our best to scratch out her writing, and even labeled ours in a different color, the movers were still confused about which rooms to put the boxes in. ("Follow the black writing, not the green!") Plus, sometimes we just plumb forgot to label the boxes with our own directions, so we've been finding things in the wrong rooms sometimes.
  2. The "miscellaneous" box is not only a necessity, it's expected. One of our movers told me, "If you don't have at least one miscellaneous box, you're not moving right." That said, we have a lot of miscellaneous boxes. And they're not easy to unpack.
  3. The best box we had: our MISCELLANEOUS BOX OF DEATH. We had a huge box in the middle of The Kid's room that random big stuff went into. It was huge, it was messy, and it was awesome.
  4. Movers expect you to not be fully packed when they get to your place. So, if you've made a pact to trash/donate/leave behind anything that hasn't made it into a box by the time the movers arrive, unless you tell them that at the get-go, they might thrown your random junk into a box and move it halfway across the country. We've found a few boxes of old mail and things we meant to throw away or donate. Oops!
  5. Even with the best of intentions and super-nice and -efficient movers, things will be stressful and non-time-sensitive. It's tough to not know when your stuff is going to get to your new home, even though a couple-of-day delay gives you time to figure out where your furniture is going to go when it gets there. We thought we were going to get a two-day heads-up; what we got was a two-hour heads-up. While we were in a movie theatre seeing The Edge of Tomorrow. Because we thought there was no way our stuff was going to arrive that day.
  6. It all worked out fine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The First Great Move

Well, cats and kittens, Phase One of The Great Move is officially done. Jake and I are living in our new apartment in Ann Arbor, waiting for our stuff and our son to come join us.

The movers loaded up their truck on Monday--three and a half hours later than expected, but they moved very efficiently after they did show up--leaving Jake and I with a mostly-bare apartment, an indifferent turtle, and a very confused cat. (He was more than content with the boxes, though.)
Box Cat
We were busy the rest of Monday with errands: returning the modem and cable boxes, buying necessary toiletries, packing up stuff to take in our car, cleaning, and hanging out with friends at our favorite soon-to-not-be-local-any-more place.

We woke up bright and early on Tuesday morning, set to packing the car and cleaning out the kitchen (seven bags of garbage from our tiny little kitchen! How???), and turned in our keys. I suppose it always feels this way during a move, but I felt like I was in a sitcom, say the last episode of Friends, or The Cosby Show, where there's a poignancy to turning off the lights and closing the door for the last time.

I guess that's why it's a trope, right? That feeling of closure, of not being able to look behind yourself any more, and the necessity in moving forward? (Sorry to get morose on you; it still hasn't 100% hit me yet, but I did spend a good five minutes sitting on the floor in The Kid's room on Tuesday, thinking about how he'd never see that view again. The feelings are starting to creep in.)

Iggy was super good on the 8.5-hour drive to Ann Arbor. Jake and I had been worried; on every drive he's taken in the past, he's yowled so much that we've had to let him out of his carrier and hold him in a vise grip on our laps. This time, though, he hardly made a peep, even when his water spilled on him during a rest stop and he had to air dry. What a trooper! I think the change this time might have been putting his bed in the carrier with him, rather than the towel we usually put in.

Side note: Iggy got into catnip for the very first time on Monday. Apparently, he's one of the cats who just blisses out rather than getting hyper. Who knew? Good to store for future reference.

The drive wasn't too bad at all, and it was great to get the keys and walk around our new place.

Due to administrative silliness, we actually had no idea what floor plan we'd be walking into. I think we had built one up in our heads, and of course, that wasn't the one we ended up getting. The luxury of a long-distance move where your furniture doesn't arrive for days and days, though, is that you get to take the time to really figure out where everything is going to go.

We're getting used to the floor plan, and so while for the last two days, we've been living like this:
Living Room (with a new area rug!)
Breakfast Bar, with a peek into the kitchen. 
Dining Room
...we have a good sense of where things are going to go when we get them. (When we're going to get them is another story! We're crossing our fingers for tomorrow.) Yesterday, we went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to pick up a new dining room table and comfy chair to replace the ones we left behind--that place is amazing, by the way, and I think there will be many visits in the future, for furniture and knick-knacks.

We've also, of course, been exploring local food. Yesterday, we visited the Zingerman's empire in a weird industrial park, and spent way too much time sampling cheeses and desserts.
Zingerman's Creamery
Our apartment is within a five-minute walk of a grocery store, pet supply store, and a couple of restaurants, which was really key when we were looking for places to live. We're really excited about the Halal restaurant we walked to for dinner last night and the Great Harvest Bakery in the same plaza, and we know The Kid will flip his lid for the frozen yogurt place that's all tricked out in his favorite color.

It's a lot of getting used to, and the learning curve is going to be steep. But I've been enjoying coffee on our balcony and the luxury of having laundry in-unit. Updates as they come!