Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Mom School

In the beginning you kinda know what to do with your child. You hold him as much as you can, feed him breast milk or formula on a regular schedule and just pretty much pay him kisses in exchange for deep whiffs of baby scalp. Knowledge gaps, what there are, are quickly and easily filled in by the pediatrician and Google.

Then, if you've done your job right up to now, he starts to grow up and develop. Things become a little more complex. You'll need to start adding foods slowly into a rotation. You'll need to develop a nap schedule and maybe add a few toys to the baby gym. Tummy time seems pretty important. Everyone's always talking about tummy time.

OK, so you've paid close attention, you've hit all the right markers and suddenly your child is a year old. He is standing, maybe walking. He has several teeth that he will not let you see well enough to count because you are no longer the boss of him. He is the boss of him and keep your goddamn fingers outta his mouth, thanks. And the food thing. Whatev. I'm done talking about the food thing except to say that he WILL NOT FUCKING EAT FOOD. Ahem.

So. As each day passes, and Smallsie Bigs becomes a more autonomous person, it dawns on me gradually that I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. Rather than feeling like I'm improving with experience, it feels like the job is becoming more complex at an exponential rate--a rate with which I can't keep up. I feel exactly like I did in the days before his birth: like I was approaching the drop on a very big roller coaster and realizing that I have no seat belt or lap bar. I could hold on very tight and maybe survive, but it wasn't likely.

But my question is this: how come other moms seem to know what they're doing? There's this amazing woman--a woman whose altruism and generosity of time and spirit boggle my mind--who will answer your parenting questions. She's not a doctor or child psychologist. She's just a well-informed, well-reasoned, thoughtful and measured mom of two who knows the answers. I wrote her my food plea and she responded the next day with exactly the advice that I needed to hear and that, after just one day, seems to be working (knock wood). Then 19 other smart and charitable women chimed in to share their knowledge and ideas and experience.

That's a total of 20 women on one website in one day who know what the hell they're doing. What is the difference between them and me? I know it's not time spent mulling, because I am the Time-Spent-Mulling Champeen. Is it just a matter of experience? Will the game eventually stop changing long enough for me to figure out the rules? Will I, in due course, catch up?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Year in Pictures

Yes, I'm still talking about his birthday. This is the video Josh made of his first year. We showed it at the party to make people cry.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Because I am his mother, Dash's first birthday party was completely out of proportion. I read somewhere that the guest count for a child's birthday should be age + 1. We had about 30. It was a farm theme, so we served fried chicken and mini cornbread muffins. My mother made a delicious potato salad and I tried my hand at coleslaw. Aunty J made her famous corn dip (two batches!) and a lemon bundt cake covered in Meyer lemons (which, thank God, because my attempt at from-scratch cupcakes was adorable but inedible). Also, buckets and buckets of booze (and juice boxes for the littles).

The party was exactly the thing I had hoped it would be. Dash was merry and the guests were congenial and there was a lot of laughing. Along with the adults we had a 5-year-old, two three-year-olds, a one-year-old (two, actually, counting Dash) and a teensy little Erin, all of six weeks old. It felt absolutely like flying to have so many children in the house.

As anyone who's ever laid eyes on him could guess, Dash took to birthday cake the way that Billie Holiday took to being sad. Now that he knows there is such a thing as cake I am completely certain he will never eat another vegetable as long as he lives.

Happy Birthday, Dash!

"Well now, what the hell is this thing?"

"Is she gonna let me touch it? Really? OK..."

"Oh. My. God"

"Why did it take me a YEAR to get cake?!"

Friday, January 19, 2007


I wanted to send Dash to school this morning with birthday treats for his teachers and classmates. The teachers got double chocolate brownies--one batch with pecans, one without--but I had a little trouble finding something appropriate for babies. This is what I came up with:

Blueberry Banana Cupcakes
(adapted from Sweet and Sugarfree by Karen E. Barkie)

2/3 c. or 1 lg. mashed banana (I would use two next time to make the cupcakes a little sweeter)
1 lg. egg
2 c. milk (Barkie asks for 1/2 c., but it wasn't nearly enough)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 c. organic unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. whole blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat together mashed banana and egg until creamy. Add 1/2 c. milk and oil; beat well. Measure in flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat well, adding milk as needed until you reach a consistency like thick pancake batter. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into lined muffin tins. Bake 20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
3-4 tbsp. apple juice concentrate
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix room temperature cream cheese with apple juice concentrate and vanilla. Frost cooled cupcakes.

It won't taste like a real cupcake to you, but I'm hoping the babies will be fooled.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Dear Little,

One year ago today I was strapped to an operating room table, your Daddy by my side. We were singing the Monkees theme song which seemed funny but not at all unreasonable at the time. It was truly the only thing that separated me from a complete terror-based mental break.

You see, the doctors? They were planning on cutting a human being out of my body. While I was awake. Then, then, they were going to hand that human being over to us to raise into a fine and decent person. Us. US.

You, however, were not the only person born into the Engel family that winter morning. Your father and I were born, too. The minute they showed us your face, mad and swollen and yellow and covered in some sort of film, we were born again. (Not in a Jesus way). We ceased at that moment to be the center of our own worlds. We no longer came first in anything. The only thing that mattered from the instant you took your first breath was that we were up to the task of raising you.

We could probably do better. Maybe you stay up too late some nights. Maybe you need a firmer nap schedule. Perhaps we shouldn’t get up with you every single time you wake up surly at 3am. Probably we should stop calling you an asshole to your face (but honestly darling, stop trying to hurl yourself out of the high chair because you will quite possibly succeed one day and then you will be pissed.) But please know that we truly and honestly do the very best that we can.

Happy birthday, Smalls. 100 more.

We love you,

Mommy & Daddy

Monday, January 08, 2007


Is it abundantly clear yet that I am obsessed with what Dash eats? And I don't mean obsessed in the funny way that people say they are obsessed with cars they like or cashmere. I mean I think about what Dash is eating about 87% of the time.

We are fast approaching the end of formula. Which, hooray! Because I hate preparing bottles the way most people hate spiders. Realizing that it's my turn to mix a batch right before bed makes me physically angry. For real. But, bottles do serve to reassure me that Dash is getting everything he needs in terms of vitamins and minerals. Once they're gone it's all up to me. I will have to figure out a way to get something besides macaroni and cheese down his gullet.

Yes, macaroni and cheese. And Greek yogurt with tahini mixed in. Occasionally I'll sneak a bit of pureed vegetable into the mix, but pretty much we've gone from a vast array of colorful, wholesome and organic veggies to two white foods. The only reason I haven't turned myself in to child protective services is that I can still get him to eat fruit. Mangoes and watermelon and apples and pears. And blueberries! Oh blueberries! Which he used to each one at a time by painstakingly placing them as far back in his mouth as possible, where his molars would be if he had molars, and gumming them down. Oh my God it was cute. But now he crushes them carefully between thumb and forefinger and eats about every third one.

(Have you ever seen the inside of a blueberry? It's not blue. Only the skin is blue. The innards look like something very bad that I won't say but it rhymes with infected pustule. And yet, the blueness of them infects every surface in my home. I just don't understand how something which is essentially not blue can make everything around it blue. But I digress.)

After his first birthday I will introduce some meats and fish into his diet, and I'll be a little more flexible about sugars and the like. Hopefully we'll gear up fast to getting everyone at the dinner table eating the same meal. Because, seriously, I have to shave down food-obsessing time to like, 75% max.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007