Friday, December 30, 2011

All Good Doggies go to Heaven

Dear North,

I took the week between Christmas and New Years off this year, which is a first. It's been a wonderful time, especially with you so little and so tuned into the magic of the season.

After we spent some time down by the creek today, we were walking our way back up the steep hill. Your little legs quickly tired out and you asked to be carried. I couldn't accommodate considering the mud caked onto your crocs and the items I was already carrying. But I gave you the same manta I often tell myself on the way back up the hill dragging a load of yard waste behind me when I feel like I can't take another step.

"Mommy can't pick you up right now, but let's just keep walking to the smiling tree right there." I told you.

You seemed content with that and kept on step by step until we made our way to the almost redwood sized tree that sprouts out of the forest bed and towers high above our house. A few years back, as your dad and I hacked our way back through the vines and weeds to gain access to the creek below, we took some odds and ends pieces of wood and nailed them to the huge tree trunk in the shape of a smiley face. It's been a halfway resting point between the house and creek ever since. When our dog, Jake, passed we decided the smiling tree was a fitting place to lay him for eternity.

I mentioned how I wanted to put a bench to mark the spot, since it always seemed we stopped right there to catch our breath and visit Jake's grave.

"Do you remember Jake, the big white doggy?" I asked.

"Yes," you confirmed in your high pitched voice I wish I could bottle up forever. "Where Jake go?" you asked looking around.

"He's under the ground now, but we can still say hi to him here whenever you want." I attempted to explain without getting into the morbid subject of death.

"Here mommy, hold stick," you ordered and I obliged taking your walking stick from you to free up both your hands.

"What are you doing?"

"I find Jake!" you squealed with determination as you kicked fallen leaves out of the way to reveal the puppy you thought was hiding beneath.

Oh North, I wish it was that easy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm not complaining that it's 65 degrees as I write this, but it makes dreaming of a white Christmas more of a reality this year. Let's hope it happens! And then let's hope it melts quickly the next day.

I want to point out the I do not always look quite so pink as I do in this photo. Truth be told, I had applied a Pepto Bismol mask to my face a few hours before this photo was taken. I had been making Christmas crafts and decided to watch Dr. Oz at the same time. I had never watched the show before, but got sucked in by the "Beauty Tips You Can Find in Your Pantry" theme for the day. The Pepto Bismol mask was his breakthrough fix for dull skin.

I said to myself, "My skin feels dull. I fell dull. I have pepto in the house. LET'S DO THIS!"

I gave it a whirl and thought it felt tingly. But it wasn't until this card was photochopped and I was able to compare my skin tone to that of a normal elf, when I realized to Dr. Oz, having nice skin means making it pink. So there you have it, do not apply Pepto Bismol to your face. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

Our Thanksgiving with family got cancelled this morning, when North woke up with a fever of 102. The first few hours, we spent on the couch, trying to get him to eat or drink something. The poor guy even let his special ice cream breakfast turn to soup. It was disturbing. I didn't know who he was anymore.

Eventually, the tylenol kicked in and he started acting like himself. By the time I got back from the grocery store, he was asking to make pumpkin muffins. So we did and I was happy to see him wolf down two big ones in a row. The kid is on the mend for sure.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup fresh or canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil*
2 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tin with oil.

In medium bowl, combine flours & baking powder.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups, then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2 Years 7 Months

Dear North,

Unfortunately, Halloween was a bit of a bust this year. I had high hopes of taking you to a few of the neighbors houses to trick or treat. But it was too cold and rainy, so you had to spin your spider webs inside. Plus, we had two pounds of Snickers and Twix to give out, so it seemed silly to go out in the cold wet night for the sake of candy that was less awesome than what we already had. Strategy North, that's what trick or treating is all about. So you spent the whole night dressed as a spider, with chocolate drool covering your face.

We've been taking advantage of the warm nights, even though it's been darker earlier. Lately, you wake up from your nap just as dusk sets in, which confuses you into thinking it's still morning. Once you regain your bearings, you immediately start demanding to take a walk and get the flashlight. Walking with you at night when we let you light the path is much like giving a squirrel a flashlight I suspect.

We've have many sweet memories with you from this fall. Often, you want to look out the window with us and whisper all of the different colors on the trees. Sometimes, while we sit there looking at all the colors and listening to the birds, you sigh the most wonderful, tiny sigh in the world. It's a such a quiet peaceful moment. All the meditation in the world couldn't bring me to a more mindful and present place than your simple sigh can.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sausage squash soup with rosemary

My in-laws brought us a hefty haul of apples, squashes and cabbage back from New York yesterday, which translated to lots of delicious smells in the kitchen today. I've made squash soups before that were good, but became boring or too sweet after a few bites. So I thought it might be interesting to process the squash and broth into a nice creamy texture, but then add some sausage, onion and potato for a more chunky texture. The results were a success, even if a bit labor intensive and left behind a sink full of dirty dishes.

4 lbs. squash (butternut or acorn)
1 lb. bass farm hot sausage (or similar ground sausage)
3 small-medium yukon gold potatoes, cubed bite-size
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
32 oz. chicken broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary (3-4 inches?)
1/2 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Half squash & seed. Place squash flesh side up in shallow baking dish with 1 inch of water in bottom. Rub 1 tablespoon of butter over squash and sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake 30-40 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Cook sausage and drain fat. Add onion, garlic, rosemary, potatoes and saute 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Set aside.

In large pot, add chicken broth, thyme and softened squash, heat through. Process in blender, in batches and pour pureed squash back into pot. Add sausage mixture to pot and allow to reheat 10-15 minutes. Serves 5-7

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2 Years 6 Months

Dear North,

You are still making music out of trash. At this rate, I might start to paint you blue and market you as a Baby Blue Man. But I love hearing you make music out of thin air. If you're not banging on something, you're singing into a makeshift microphone. I'm not sure where you learned the microphone part from. So I'll just say you were born to rock. It will be interesting to see your musical inclination, especially considering how many instruments we have in the house.

Another example of your vocal ability. Kid, you can wail.

Then there are moments when you are just a lovely weirdo. You delight in making someone laugh, often at the expense of your own eye balls. You may notice in this video that you pronounce your name "Dorothy". Maybe this is your stage name? But the only time I can get you to pronounce the "N" is if you use a deep southern drawl to say it, "Noa-thy". It is equally hilarious.

It strikes me in all of the videos from this summer, that you are never wearing pants. Some days, it even took too much effort to put a shirt on you and so we let you run around like a hammer-wielding diaper-clad savage. Maybe I should be more embarrassed about this.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 Years 5 Months

Dear North,

For the sake of elmo stickers, you spontaneously started yourself potty training recently. The M&Ms came later to keep you motivated. My favorite part of potty training is seeing you run around the house in your underpants. I can't help but stare at your cute little butt as it scurries past, even though I kind of feel like a pervert in the process.

This past weekend some friends came over with their eleven month old. While he took a nap, the rest of us sat in the living room to visit and watch you play. After presenting the majority of your toys to our visitors, you decided it was time to rock out. With great care, you handed each of us a homemade drum, an egg maraca, a "microphone" kitty toy and a watering can respectively. I admit the watering can was a bit of a stretch as far as musical instruments go. I figured you wanted a jug band kind of sound. You chose to wail on the recorder, like a tiny Jethro Tull in diapers. We all played along, jamming to a rough cut of "Pee Pee in the Potty". It was the best way I've spent a Saturday afternoon in some time.

The video below is not the actual event, it was the rehearsal practice the night before.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2 Years 4 Months

Dear North,

Our big family vacation has come and gone. We spent a week in the Outer Banks at a house in Salvo, NC. And when I say big, I'm not joking. Twenty-seven people slept in one house, with ages from two to seventy-six years...unless you are the company that leased to us, in which case, I'm lying.

You were a near perfect child and everyone was in love with your giggles. One night, while your dad and I took an after dinner walk along the beach, the family kept you entertained. You spent most of that time shining a flashlight into various willing victims eyes until they reacted in some theatrical fashion. By far, the act that received the most North giggles was my Uncle Randy flailing his body on the living room floor. At one point, you were so exhausted with laughter that you got a very stern look and yelled, "stop it!"

There were a ton of kids at the house, all vying for your attention and acting as little helpers to me all week. The younger boys, in particular, came on many of our daily walks. They would spend the walk bartering out agreements dictating when it was the other boys turn to push your stroller. Then you got up out of your stroller and wanted to push it yourself. That put the power struggle between them entirely out of whack because they already understood that the baby in the family trumps all.

Hanging out with them took me back to my own childhood and caring for the younger kids. That's such a valuable aspect of families that still live in the same town. We grew up with our cousins, aunts and uncles as if they were siblings and care givers. In my hometown, the adage "it takes a village" to this day, still applies. Seeing those same babies I used to lug around with my ten year old body, now as adults is proof of how important those connections are. Watching the hilarious disputes over who can do stuff for the baby between the current batch of the kids confirms it. The circle continues and no matter what, the family is always there to support you.

Your great grandmother came along for the ride, whom you took to calling Gigi, for short. One morning, she emerged from the elevator and you exclaimed, "hi Gigi" with a wave. That was the cherry on top of her vacation sundae. Another of my favorite moments was getting her to the beach for a view of the ocean in her metal rickshaw. Her grandkids and older great grand kids had already brought her halfway and were taking a break when I crossed on top of the dune to take pictures. I expected a more joking scene, but when I came upon them, her trust in them and their devotion to getting her to the shore was quite moving. She made it to the beach on three very memorable occasions

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2 Years 3 Months

Dear North,

I'm writing this over one month in the future because the internet allows me to time travel with the click of a button. Also, I've been lazy and when I have a free second to myself, spending it on the computer does not often come to mind. Especially when I could be outside sweating my body weight in the 100+ degree temperatures.

I don't remember heat like this from my childhood. I don't recall sweating like this. Maybe that's because it sticks to me like one more reminder of how unstable the world seems to be. The sweat is one more layer of yuck. I try to stay optimistic; but sometimes thinking about what the future holds, I get scared for you. Maybe I shouldn't tell you that. But it's been on my mind a lot even when I consider something as simple as what the weather patterns will be when you are my age.

But on to lighter fare from weeks past.

We took a beach trip to Carolina Beach State Park and camped in the pop-up. It was our first beach trip with the camper. There's not much in the way of accessible beach there, but it is a nice tree-filled park to bike around and use for sleeping.

During the day, we drove south to Fort Fisher and played at the beach across the street. There are large rocks there that meet the waves. Some people were climbing them and collecting live starfish from between the rocks where tiny pools had formed.

This trip to the ocean, you were intimated by the waves. You opted to build sand castles and collect shells, rather than go near the water.

I'm glad that you enjoy the little quiet pleasures in life like collecting sea shells and rocks. I hope your fascination with the world around you never dissipates. Although to be honest, between your collection and mine, we may need to add on to the house.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2 Years 2 Months

Dear North,

As I'm late writing this, the longest day of the year has passed and now is the time each year when I try harder to savor these remaining summer months. Not that we haven't already been relishing in our summer that's been packed with four camping trips and a trip to NY/PA over Memorial Day. The work week has turned into a frenzy of activity with the weekend destination as the main objective. It's kind of like living in the future through the week and then slamming on the brakes to enjoy the here and now of those precious weekend moments.

You loved the NC AgFest again this year, preferring a tour of the tractors to the carnival rides. We watched a tractor pull, "baaed" at the sheep, ate banana pudding ice cream and enjoyed some bluegrass music while eating barbecue. It doesn't get any more NC than that.

We were lucky enough to visit some family camping at Parker Dam while we were in DuBois during our visit. You became best friends with your cousin, Garrett, and held his hand the whole ride up to the park. Here you are making sure that he's staying hydrated.

The weather finally held so that we could go to a First Friday in downtown Raleigh. It's the perfect mix of adult and kid friendly free entertainment. That night, we happened upon some hula hoops, a small art festival, fire dancers, live music and beer that could be enjoyed as we walked along.

I never thought there could be a more perfect summer than the one when you were first born. But so far, this one is shaping up to be my favorite. Nothing quite compares to hearing your tiny voice added to the conversation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2 Years 1 Month

Dear North,

I'm afraid you have reached the dreaded age that people affectionately refer to as the terrible twos. Anything and everything can transform our adorable you into a mess of tears and screaming. Still, we continue to take you out in public. Such gluttons for punishment we are.

Your dad and I love this age though (aside from those previously mentioned moments when you are a raging a-s-s-h-o-l-e). For example, we went out to dinner at a mildly fancy bistro last week. I had packed a big bag of food and two drinks for you, plus a pacifier to use as a last resort. We would never let you continuously scream and cry in a restaurant; rather we try to stuff food and drink into your scream hole and if it comes to it, take you outside. But all my preparation was for naught. You were the cutest guy in the place and so social. Every time someone walked by the table, you greeted them with a boisterous "hiiiiii," accompanied by a friendly wave. And when I say every time, I mean every time. It was really cute the first ten times, but it did get slightly stale around the twentieth. Still, when I thanked the manager for everything, he thanked me for bringing you in and gave us a free dessert. It gives me the idea to take you everywhere I go and demand free things because you are with me.

We've been camping two weekends in a row so far this season and it is already so much easier than last year. Finally, you are at the age, where we can sit back on our lazy haunches and keep an eye on you, rather than having to chase you around constantly. Now you can somewhat understand the perimeter you must stay within. But every now and then, I'll watch you when you think my back is turned. You'll start inching your way into the no-go zone, turning back to smirk at whoever might be watching. It's hard to reprimand you when you're such a little devil, but we manage.

You have developed somewhat of a curiosity for bugs and worms, although often these moments end up in bug fatalities. Last weekend, during our camping trip, the cicada nymphs emerged from the soil and began zombie climbing up all the trees surrounding our site. Your dad noticed them first and drew our attention to it. You were curious, but needed someone else to touch it first before you would. I appreciate your wary curiosity and hope that you maintain it until you learn some more about this world. Those particular cicadas won't be returning for another 13 years, which means you will be fifteen by the time you can poke one again. I hope you still ask me to do it first though.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

2 Years

Dear North,

I guess I'm supposed to do a recap of your last year since this letter is representing your milestone birthday of two years. To be honest, I can't remember much beyond what has happened in the last month. Anything beyond that is snapshots in my head of a very different person than the little guy you currently are. I can barely remember a time when you couldn't walk. Now that you're talking more, the months you spent whimpering and pointing to communicate are foggy. To take it back to the very beginning when the nurse plopped a tiny six pound you on my belly is almost inconceivable.

I remember those early days were exhausting, blissful, hilarious, frustrating and the best of my life. I wouldn't call them hard exactly, but this motherhood gig has made me dig deeper than any other challenge I've faced to date. I hear other moms say they are the best mom they can be. But I have to be honest and admit that there are times when I know I could be better. I could be more patient. I could be more selfless. I could try harder. I know that you will push me to be better. I just want you to know that as you are growing and learning, so am I.

None of this is to say that I'm not proud of the job we are doing with you. I am quite proud and hope that a tiny bit of your awesomeness is a result of our efforts. Mostly though, you were simply born that way. You are a fantastic weirdo, which is all we could have ever hoped for. I hope that you never lose those qualities that make you so special, especially if it's to appease other people. Having you around gives me permission to be silly again and stop taking myself so seriously. You make me take a step back and appreciate the wonderful life we are all blessed to share, even if some days are better than others. So thanks to you little man for giving me a daily dose of perspective on how to make my time left on this great Earth of ours a pleasure.

Now on to you, my silly bean.

Monday, March 7, 2011

1 year 11 months

Dear North,

You have become a biter, a friendly biter, but a biter nonetheless. What seems like an innocent snuggle quickly turns into, "oww, you bit me!" That's followed by a lot of thinking about what to do about these love bites. Should we bite you back to show you that it hurts? Or should we lead by example and explain to you that people do not bite, even if they are adorable puppies. One thing is for certain, your first girlfriend is going to hear all about the multiple times you have now bitten me on my buttocks. But then I will show her this video and she will forget all about what grossed her out a second ago.

Speaking of your future partners, that person will find a great mate in you. Your dad has already started your all purpose handyman education, which seems to be a rare talent these days. While your ma, on the other hand, has started your domestic training. When you're not busy drilling and hammering, you help me bake bread, vacuum, pick up and wipe every surface in the house. Sweet Jesus, you love to wipe. Some toddlers steal cookies, but you steal wipes out of the diaper bag so you can clean. I don't know where you learned this odd behavior...

But I do know that you gotta start them young.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ikea did not pay me to say this (call me Ikea!)

This is what it looks like after you get home from Ikea. Normally, there are more disposable Allen Wrenches involved (speaking of which, does anyone have a use for them after the fact?)

North and Mr. Foot try out his new craft table. Mr. Foot liked Ikea a lot and his favorite part was the Swedish meatballs, hence the diaper.

Our pantry storage was lacking when we moved in and Dave has made it his mission to find creative ways to add more storage space not just in the pantry, but everywhere in the house. Ikea's floating shelves work well to take advantage of our high ceilings, while still keeping items within easy reach. (Seriously, Ikea, are you dialing my number yet?)

I've never understood the modern fixation with huge kitchens, that is, unless your last name is Duggar. But I suppose counter top space is a nice thing to have. We (Dave) installed this little rack under our magnetic knife storage on the side of our oven to house vitamins and medications that previously dominated sacred counter space. Vitamins never looked so delicious.

Our back splash is a work in progress until we figure out the counter top situation (probably concrete). But we needed a little something there to tide us over in the meantime. Now when I stand at the sink washing dishes and gazing upon my sweet little succulent plants, a smile stretches across my face.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

1 year 10 months

Dear North,

There were some big achievements in the last month. You're demanding various food stuff like cookies, crackers and juice throughout the day using those words, which is exciting and frightening. I admit to previously knowing what you wanted when I heard you making your puppy noise, but I attempted to distract you until you forgot about whatever carbohydrate you were begging for in that moment. But now you know the word for those things and we can't pretend to not understand you. Or you might just take matters into your own hands...

So now that you can open the pantry door, you have very little need for your parents. If it weren't for our ability to locate hidden cookies and open the refrigerator, you might just leave home with a sack tied to a stick thinking you are ready for the world.

You currently hang out in the pantry, squatting on top of carton of mason jars and spend your time relocating the condiments to different shelves. Half of our pantry storage is now crammed into the upper shelves you haven't figured out how to access yet. Eventually, you spot the cracker box, grab it and hunt down the parental unit while repeating over and over "CA-CKU? CA-CKU?..." You can easily open the box, but when you bring it to me, I give you one. I like to think that at least you brought it to me to ask for one rather than tearing into it and creating cracker mayhem in the process. But I don't think it's about the food, I think you're just damn impressed with yourself for being able to say what you want in that particular minute. Nonetheless, our house is still covered in cracker crumbs all the time.

Sometimes, I hear you over the baby monitor right before you fall asleep going through your repertoire of words. I think you know that someone can hear you. Maybe you are looking for rescue from your crib. Daddy? Mommy? Puppy?

I love to call home from work and be able to talk to you. Since your vocabulary is still limited, I say words and you repeat them back to me or I ask you what something says and you make that sound. No matter how my day is going, hearing your tiny voice makes my heart leap out of my chest. But nothing is like seeing you say words in person, with your chest swelled up with pride and a twinkle in your eye.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1 Year 9 Months

Dear North,

The excitement of the holiday season is behind us and we are left with a house brimming with toys. Although you didn't seem to understand Christmas per say, you sure enjoyed ripping into presents.

In the winter, most animals slow down and hunker down for the chilly months. But you are not one of those mammals. Being stuck indoors has been a challenge. We have removed the gates, excepting the one accessing the stairs and you now have free range to roam and explore. It is rare to see you sit still, especially when you could be rooting for carbs in the pantry or flushing the toilet, two of your most recent obsessions.

Hide and seek is one of your favorite pastimes, except you have a hilarious twist to the rules. When you are the hider, which is most of the time, the seeker is expected to ignore you staring straight at them smiling like a mad man. No, instead they must look for you in ridiculous places while repeating "where are you North?" until you emerge from your hiding spot and get closer and closer. Eventually, you put your face right in front of their face. That's when the seeker is allowed to say "there you are!" and everyone falls into a pile of giggles.

You're finally over a bad cough that lasted a week or so. I've never seen such an unhappy puppy. Of course, during those sick days we gave you whatever you wanted. By day three you were surviving on graham crackers, juice and honey. Entire days were spent watching youtube videos on the computer because that's what you wanted. I'd say you enjoyed calling the shots for a few days. Then you started to feel better and your parents turned on you.

We are still dealing with the fallout, of course. Your dad told me that you followed him around the house throwing mobile tantrums the other day. You threw yourself down and let out a cry. Your dad left the room. You looked up, realized no one was watching your awesome display of dismay, you pressed the pause button on your tantrum setting and picked yourself up to go in search of an audience. Once you found him, you immediately resumed the gruesome production for his viewing pleasure. I hope to get it on video one day. Here are a couple of moments we have been able to capture on video.