Nov 30 2008

Pictures by Nanita

Four great pics of Robin that my mom took while she was here:

Strollin’ with Daddy

Robin in Munchkinland

Ready to Roll

Now I’m Tall

Nov 28 2008

A Conversation

Well, before I tell you about the conversation, I want to tell you what a nice Thanksgiving we had with my mom and Mark. We have a lot to be thankful for, and thanks were given. It always pricks my heart a little to see Robin respond so strongly, so joyfully, to his extended family, because I know he’ll really miss them when they leave. I’ve become convinced that the modern American nuclear family is, well, a dumb way to raise kids. It makes my life so much harder. It makes Robin’s life so much worse.

And yet our own extended family is so scattered across the country, and I can’t see any way to knit them back together. Especially with this economy: I don’t know if we even have the option of leaving the Bay Area any more. We’re pretty safe here in terms of knowing that Sam can always find a job. We wouldn’t have that safety in most other places.

So, anyway, I’ve been watching with great gratitude Robin’s interactions with his loving grandparents, and thinking a lot about family, today as we saw Nanita and Marqueño off from the airport. Then in the late afternoon I nipped down to the little corner grocery on our block to buy a carrot for tonight’s turkey noodle soup. There’s a fellow there who often works the checkout that loves interacting with Robin. He’s a nice guy, one of the many Middle Eastern immigrants in our neighborhood, and that’s basically all I know about him.

So we’re chatting as he rings up my carrots; I asked him about his Thanksgiving and he asked me about mine; he asked me where my boy was (napping with Daddy) and—guessing, based on his warm and playful interactions with Robin—I asked him if he had kids of his own.

“I did,” he said, blinking back sudden tears. “I had a ten year old son. My wife, she was shopping in downtown Baghdad. They were both killed in a bomb.”

I couldn’t say anything except “my God. I’m so sorry.”  And he nodded and smiled and I stood, useless, and then repeated myself several times before I stumbled away.

Now you can tell I’m Southern in upbringing because I have the strongest urge to bake him a casserole. I don’t know any other way of responding to such terrible grief. I know this has happened to so, so many families, but it hadn’t ever before happened to someone I know.

It feels so strange that I’ve known him for so many months—I see him every week—but I know so little about him. I don’t know his name. I wish I knew more, but I don’t want to intrude. This is all I know of his story:

His family killed, he came from Baghdad to San Francisco, and he started over. He works long hours. He loves children.

Now I can’t stop crying. What justifies this? Who can answer for it? What can be done to atone?

Nov 26 2008

What’s for Dinner

Well, I delayed going to the store to pick up our turkey for as long as possible, because I wanted to incorporate some of this week’s veggies into tomorrow night’s Thanksgivng feast…but the vegetables didn’t get here till after 5. Which means I went shopping, and that our fridge is now BURSTING with food.

The box, when it came, held one huge leek, a bunch of chard, a bunch of kale, a bunch of collard greens, four smallish beets (and I BOUGHT beets too, goshdarnit), some broccoli, some bok choy, two lemons, nine kiwis (kiwis?! who knew THOSE were local!) and seven fuyu persimmons.

Well. Tonight we’re ordering in because I have to start on the cooking for *tomorrow*.

Tomorrow—Thanksgiving!—we have Nanita and Marqueño in the house, plus the three of us, and that’s it: a very small crowd as Thanksgivings go. So I’ve forced myself to be rational and pare things down to the essentials. We’ll have turkey, obviously: and I’ll admit that I’m excited about this year’s so-called “heirloom” turkey, even as I think the branding is ridiculous. What are we doing to do, wrap it up in tissue paper and pass it down to future generations? In fact the turkey is only called “heirloom” to distinguish it from the “heritage” label, which applies to really old breeds of turkey. Heritage turkeys are rarer and quite probably tastier but we can’t get them locally. There’s a shop in the Ferry Plaza that’s importing them from Kansas at astronomical prices per pound, but that seems absurd, so we’re sticking with our lower-tier (and lower-price) “heirloom” turkey. It was range-grown on a local family farm and that’s the most important thing to me.

Oh, also we’ll have a roasted beet salad, a slab of herb bread, cranberry sauce, and a sweet potato pie in pecan crust (Leah Chase’s recipe) for dessert. I’ve already made the cranberry sauce and roasted the sweet potatoes; I want to get the whole pie done tonight, so that all I have to do tomorrow is roast the beets, make the bread, cook the turkey, and throw the salad together at the last minute. That seems sane. This year I’m trying Alton Brown’s method of turkey-roasting: I’ve already got the brine sitting in the fridge.

For the rest of the week?  Oh, gosh, I don’t know. I’m thinking turkey noodle soup with kale for Friday. The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market Cookbook has a good recipe for persimmon and radicchio salad with feta and pomegranate seeds, so we might have that a couple times given the number of persimmons we got. It’s a good thing Robin actually likes kiwis, because I don’t. But we all love collard greens cooked with onion and bacon. Everything else, I’ll deal with at dinner time when it’s staring me in the face.

Nov 21 2008

Super Cute

Brought to my attention via my friend Zach: “Review of My Toddler’s Pretend Restaurant”

Here’s an example of a typical ordering experience:

Lily: Order something, please.
Mom: OK, do you have coffee?
Lily: No. No coffee at the Cafe Restaurant. Only water and tea.
Mom: OK, tea please.
Lily: No tea. Only water.
Mom: OK, water.
Lily: Do you want coffee?
Mom: Well … actually, yes.
Lily (Handing me a toy tomato) Here.

Really the best part is the “Cleanliness” section of the review, but I’m not going to spoil it for you. Go read! It’s funny and very sweet.

Nov 19 2008

What’s for Dinner

This week’s veggie haul: chard, kale, a huge bulb of fennel, one large leek, some broccoli, two lemons, five oranges, and a pound and a half of potatoes.

Meal plan:

Tonight: braised chicken with swiss chard, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar
Thursday: Frittata with leek and potatoes; salad with raw broccoli and maybe radishes or something, I don’t know
Friday: Goulash (Cook’s Country version—and thanks for the recipe, Friend Who Shall Remain Nameless To Protect Her from Christopher Kimball’s Army of Bow-Tied Lawyers!)
Saturday and Sunday I have plans until fairly late, so dinner will probably be leftovers or delivery
Monday: Pasta with fresh tomato sauce (featuring fennel and orange!)
Tuesday: kale (we like ours cooked with bacon) and some kind of meat, either pork chops or inexpensive steaks

The remaining oranges will be eaten as snacks and the lemons will get used up sooner or later I’m sure.

Nov 19 2008

Obese Children Underfed?

Speaking of childhood nutrition, this study is just fascinating:

A study finds that obese children from poor families often don’t eat enough.

A 9-year-old should consume 1,400 to 2,200 calories daily to sustain growth, said Dr. Roberto Trevino, director of the nonprofit Social and Health Research Center. But in the study of 1,400 inner-city children, 44 percent were consuming less than 1,400 calories, and 33 percent were obese.

“They were not overeating,” Trevino said. “This study shows these kids were not eating enough, and when they did eat it was all the wrong things.”

Missing from the children’s diets were four key nutrients: calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.

This doesn’t actually surprise me as someone who has spent a lot of time trying to diet. There’s plenty of evidence out there that caloric restriction can actually contribute to obesity. As best I can tell, the relationships among weight, nutrition, exercise and metabolism are far from being completely understood. The link between vitamin deficiency and obesity seems really interesting. I’ve been bad about taking my vitamins lately; maybe I should get more rigorous about it.

As for Robin, at least I know he gets plenty of potassium. The little monkey ate three bananas this morning for breakfast. I actually had to go look up whether it’s possible to get too much potassium (not under normal circumstances, no). Bananas are actually like the perfect food: if you’re constipated they’ll make you go, and if you’re going too much they’ll make you stop. If you get more potassium than you need your body just filters it harmlessly out. Hooray for bananas!

Nov 17 2008

The Charts

So my friend Madeline just commented on my last post (fretting about Robin’s recent lack of growth) to tell me something really important:

Isabel’s growth stalled out at around this same age. She was around the same percentiles for height and weight as Robin, and at around a year, she stopped gaining weight for months. Our pediatrician told us that the growth curves are based on both breast-fed and formula-fed babies, but that breast-fed babies have a different growth pattern (faster for the first 6 months or so, slower later) than formula-fed babies (steadier and more consistent). Our pediatrician told us it was nothing to worry about, and that we shouldn’t make a big effort to get her to eat more.

This is true!  And it’s something that might cause me to change pediatricians, as now I’m really angry that the doctor scared me about something he should have known was perfectly normal for a breastfed baby.

Coincidentally, one of the parenting blogs I read is having a big discussion about how unreliable those growth charts are today.

Nov 13 2008

Fifteen Month Vitals

We’re back from the pediatrician’s office—Robin now tips the scale at 21 and a half pounds, and he’s thirty inches tall. This is slower-than-expected growth and prompted the doctor to quiz me about his calcium intake. The truth is I haven’t been paying much attention to his calcium because we’re still nursing, albeit less often now. The doctor said it was probably nothing to worry about but that I should offer him cow’s milk throughout the day in addition to nursing (I did do this for a while but he consistently refused the cow’s milk, so I stopped), and hopefully by his eighteen month visit he’ll be back on one of the normal growth curves. So as soon as we got back home I offered him a cup of milk, which he refused, and then I gave him some cheese, which he is right this instant tearing up into little bits and throwing on the floor.

Also, Dr. Simons said that if Robin isn’t talking at all by eighteen months, we should check his hearing. But I know he can hear because he turns his head when I call his name. I know some kids are already talking by this stage but I don’t think it’s so unusual that Robin isn’t. He’s very vocal and “conversational”; I can tell that he’s making progress with language and he understands a lot of what is said to him. I really feel certain that he’ll talk when he’s ready.

I also feel certain that Robin gets all the food he wants, and that if he were hungry he would not be shy about making that fact known; but all the rational certainty in the world doesn’t stop the crazy part of my brain from freaking out: oh no, am I starving my baby??? Probably for the next few days a lot of food will get thrown on the floor, as I persist in trying to feed Robin every twenty minutes.

Nov 12 2008

What’s For Dinner

This week in our veggie box: chard, kale, rapini, three heads of broccoli, two leeks, a bag of bok choy, a head of Napa cabbage, three bell peppers and three oranges.  Also I never did get around to cooking that pumpkin that I had planned to make into soup, and we still have a lot of roast pork left over.  Soooo…this week’s meal plan:

Tonight: Stuffed bell peppers with spiced lamb, currants, and feta cheese (Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I substitute quinoa for the white rice. I picture Nanita reading this and wiping a tear of pride from the corner of her eye.)
Thursday: Philly-style hot roast pork sandwiches topped with provolone and garlicky rapini. Robin has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so it’s a good night for a leftovers-based dinner that’ll be quick to make and won’t require any shopping.
Friday: we’re taking our friends Ken and Todd out for dinner, as thanks for babysitting on our anniversary
Saturday: a big salad with broccoli, boiled eggs, whatever else looks good in the produce aisle, and storebought blue cheese dressing, maybe supplemented with some deli meat (or the pork if we have any more left)
Sunday: polenta baked with chard (the recipe turned out so well we’re eager to have it again)
Monday: pumpkin soup with leeks and gruyere cheese (recipe from this cookbook)
Tuesday: some kind of stirfry with bok choy, I guess. Anybody got any creative bok choy recipes?

Robin and I are both highly enthusiastic about boiled cabbage with butter and salt, so we’ll have that for lunch at some point, and we’ll eat the oranges too. The kale is destined for another lunch (whole wheat penne with kale and lentils, it’s quick and easy to prepare). Otherwise lunches will be scrounged from leftovers and pantry staples.

Nov 6 2008

There’s Something About Elmo

Sometimes when we’re nursing (which now we only do a few times a day) I’ll turn on the TV. If Sesame Street is on, we’ll watch that. Well, Robin responded instantly and strongly to Elmo. I don’t know what it is about that particular muppet—the red color, the squeaky voice—but Robin points to the screen and coos whenever Elmo happens to appear. It’s kind of freaky how immediate and how strong his response is.

So we bought him a couple of Elmo videos. And yes, he is mesmerized by them. He doesn’t pay attention to much else on TV, but Elmo is like baby crack. I don’t let him watch the videos every day (I want him to get plenty of active play), but today because he’s sick I put one on. And as always, he’s enthralled. What is it about Elmo?