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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Belalu's dream room

It's the Year of the House in the FIG residence, and I've got big plans for getting this place in shape. One room that needs a total overhaul is Belalu's room. We've had an improvement since last weekend when J took out the big double bed that was taking up most of the room (it used to be the guest room) and brought in our glider so I can nurse in comfort in the middle of the night. There's still a lot of elbow grease that needs to be done, however.

Now, during the semester and in the dead of winter, though, is a time for dreams. The arrival of the latest Land of Nod catalog yesterday reminded me of what I'd like her room to look like eventually. My inspiration for her room started with these prints by Blanca Gomez, that I saw on Etsy while still pregnant with Belalu. I love the illustrations and the colors, and knew immediately that's what I wanted for her room. (She got the prints for Christmas last year.)

So, the bed I want to get for her is this one:

I'd like to get her this lamp by her bed:

And in their newest catalog, I saw this chair, which I think she'd be able to get in and out of easily. I'm loving chevrons right now, but it is very trendy and the color selection is minimal- I'd love a teal option- but since we won't be buying it anytime soon, maybe there will be more options later.

 And in a dream world, she'd have this rug to go with it all:

This summer I'm going to paint the walls in her room white (they are green right now) and reupholster her window seat- two manageable, economical steps. I'd also like to find a nice rug- the one above is waaay beyond our budget, especially for a kids' room. But it's gorgeous, isn't it? I love, love, love Angela Adams rugs.

Thanks for dreaming with me today!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where we're at this week

Our little reading corner in the study
Everyone seems to be well on the road to recovery after last week's cold. It was a mean one, but I'd rather that than the flu.

The weather continues to be mid-winter-in-the-north: frigid (we're looking at a high of 3F in the coming days- gulp) or icy. Serious, take-no-prisoners icy. Our entire road is just a sheet of thick ice. I think the local schools actually cancelled today because of the ice conditions. To counteract the chill, I've taken to pouring over seed catalogs, pinning flowers and shrubs on Pinterest, and sketching out ambitious garden plans that may see full fruition when the kids go to college :)

At home, I'm thankful for my full pantry that allowed me to scavenge around and pull together a promising soup made from the rest of the beans I soaked this weekend for our Sunday supper of baked beans and brown bread. My bean pot didn't have room for them all, so they got thrown in with some tri-colored orzo, carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, garlic, some seasonings and chicken stock. I also made a huge batch of popcorn for snacking and more oatmeal- I'm ready to hibernate this weekend! (Well, I will be after a trip to the grocery tomorrow- our fridge is almost bare.)

The kids are doing well. Less sniffles and sneezes. Belalu is so happy and sweet these days. I love seeing her sense of humor develop and she is into dancing to music and showing everyone her belly button. She is just so precious. I want her to be this happy and confident forever.

So that's us these days. I'm knitting, reading, audio-booking and Downton Abbeying my way through winter. Tomorrow the exercising will begin again after a week of daily headaches and turning in early. What we all really need is a walk in the fresh air, so here's hoping for a thaw soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


The weekend was good. I didn't make any bread and kept forgetting to get the Earl Grey tea for the chai, but E, Belalu, and I made the blueberry cornmeal cake from The Smitten Kitchen and last night J and I had a delicious meal of chicken curry and mushrooms that tasted as yummy as anything we could get for takeout, if our town actually offered Indian takeout.

Unfortunately, I also saw it necessary to make a batch of the Influenza Rx sorbet from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, because the kids and I are sick. I'm hoping it's just a nasty cold and not the flu, but we just got the shot last week, so it could be either.

We had lovely weather Fri and Saturday, so even got out for a couple of walks. Now it's insanely frigid and I just want to hibernate until April. I'm really glad I got ahead on the meal planning this weekend. I hope weather where you are is warmer than here, and your week is going well. Stay healthy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Full Pantry

With all the traveling we did this past month, my pantry was starting to get a bit too bare for my liking. I prefer to have lots of things on hand to be able to whip up a batch of cookies or a yummy soup when the mood strikes and I'm blessed by the baby nap gods. So, this week I got to work re-stocking my pantry. Nigella Lawson, whose classic, How to Eat, has been my breakfast companion this past week or so, talks about her "domestic goddess" moments. You know, when you've spent the evening or weekend puttering around the kitchen filling the fridge with delicious, nutritious meals for your family.

Yesterday was my "domestic goddess" moment. Belalu took an hour and a half nap, and I took advantage of the freedom to cook up a few days' worth of oatmeal (I like the steel cut oats, but they have a long cooking time for a busy week day morning); roasted beets and made a shallot maple dressing for dinner's salad (from Tyler Florence's Family Meal); and made a cuban black bean soup (from Nigella's book). The house was full of warm, delicious smells, and even though I didn't get home for dinner until 6:30, I had a yummy home-cooked meal ready for me. Juan cooked up the pork for him and the kids earlier in the evening.

I have lots more domestic goddess moments planned for my kitchen over the weekend. Breads, an Indian meal from a new Christmas cookbook, a supply of chai tea, and breakfast/snack cake. We'll see if time and the kiddos cooperate. That last one is likely to involve their help, like we did last week.

And as a "Year of the House" update, I've posted my cookbook cabinet. I got a few new books for Christmas and my cabinet was already bursting at the seams. I moved a bunch of books I didn't use at all in the past year or so down to the basement and if I don't miss them this winter, I'll donate them during spring cleaning. I've already found myself "rediscovering" some books, like Nigella's, which I'm reading like a book- she has lots of great text in there beyond the recipes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Lives of Dwarfs

I read this book by Betty M. Adelson over the summer, starting it soon after we got Belalu's diagnosis. While J was online researching all the medical info he could find, the first thing I did was look for blogs, and the second was place an order on Amazon. This is her first book about people with dwarfism, and she recently came out with another one that is on my "to read" list.

As suggested by its secondary title, Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation, the book looks at the status of dwarfs in society from Ancient Egypt through the end of the 20th century. Its subjects include history, anthropology, medicine, art, literature, and theater and film. 

Adelson is a psychologist whose interest in the subject is personal: she has a daughter with achondroplasia. When I started the book, I found some of the writing awkward, to the point of being distracting, but I eventually got used to her style. She spent many years doing research, and it shows. This is the only book of its kind available; one that aims to encompass so many different aspects of dwarfism throughout history. Given my field of study, I found the history, art, and literature chapters the most interesting. I like that there are lots of potential role models mentioned for Belalu. The way the book is written, you don't have to read it all the way through in order, though I did. You could, rather, skip to which sections interest you most, as each one pretty much stands alone.

As I read this book, I found myself wanting to know more about the people, books, or movies mentioned. I think it is a great resource to have in our family library.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Good Reminder

A good reminder for those tough times
The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.
—Marilynne Robinson, The Art of Fiction No. 198

From the Paris Review Daily

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I was reading a favorite blog of mine yesterday, and she mentioned some cute baby gifts a friend recently received at a shower. This book Now I am Big! was one of the gifts. She liked it for the graphic design, but the title immediately struck a chord with me. [You may recall that when Belalu was diagnosed with hypo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not banished from our home immediately. I still haven't read it to them, but it's there on the shelf to be read, should one of them pick it out.]

If you click on the "Look Inside!" option, you'll see my suspicions were confirmed. The premise of the book is to celebrate toddlerhood; to celebrate no longer being a baby. The first marker of that difference? "I used to be short."(a baby in a stroller unable to reach an apple on a tree).... next page: "Now I am tall" (proud independent toddler grasping the fruit himself).

So, while it is a really cute book, I won't be buying this one for our library. His other book done in a similar style looks promising, though. I Can Do it Myself is also a celebration of getting older, but focuses on independence without putting so much emphasis on physical attributes.

These two books struck a chord in me because I've found myself saying to E a lot lately "You are a big boy now" and we'll even say "Belalu is a big girl, too" or for some things, "she's too little to do that". I just can't seem to get away from that little-big dichotomy where "big" equals older, more capable, and "little"is equated with inability, and being a baby. How do you express these ideas in your house? I would welcome any suggestions for ways to change the paradigm so that "little" does not become a negative in our family, as both kids celebrate moving away from babyhood and getting older and more independent.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Back to School

Tomorrow we start teaching again. It's going to be more of a shock for J since he's been on sabbatical all this semester and hasn't had to teach since last spring. I had a busy break, but I still feel fairly refreshed. I've just got language classes this semester, so I'm having fun thinking of new ways to make them interesting and more effective.

Has your family managed to dodge the flu epidemic? We've had two bouts of a stomach virus with the kids over break, and I've been getting to bed really early to make sure I don't get run down and make myself more susceptible to illness, but I kind of see it as inevitable since we deal with so many people on a daily basis who don't take care of themselves as they should (ie college kids ;) and daycare is basically just a germ factory this time of year. Oh well, we'll do what we can to minimize the chances: wash hands like crazy, get lots of sleep, eat well, stay warm, consume plenty of chocolate... oh wait, that last one might be more to just get through winter :)

Belalu's hearing test went really well. One ear was within normal range and the other was still showing signs of fluid but significantly less than six weeks ago, so he's not concerned. Her vocab continues to grow, so we feel good about that analysis.

"The Year of the House," as I've dubbed 2013, has been slow to get going since we've barely been in it lately, but the biggest thing I've done, and really I started doing it when we got back from Spain at the end of the summer, but I've continued to keep up, is working on getting rid of so much stuff. I'm sentimental, so it can be hard for me to get rid of things, but I've realized that if I don't have so many things around, it's less to clean, organize, pick up, maintain, etc. So, when I'm home with the kids and they are playing in a room, I'll tackle a space there and see what I can get rid of. It's amazing how good it feels to throw out/donate/recycle things that we don't need and aren't using.

Ok, off to bed. I've got some book reviews coming up for you and also more thoughts on "difference" and dwarfism, so stay tuned :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Update on Belalu

I don't have anything big to share, but since this blog started because of her, I wanted to bring it around back to Belalu for a minute. She is now 16 1/2 months old. In the past week she has started nodding her head "yes" and shaking her head "no," and generally they appear to coincide with her actual feelings, so I am able to have these very clear, simple conversations with her. "Are you hungry, Belalu?" ...(nods her head)... "Do you want some cereal?"... (shakes her head and points to the fruit bowl: "dat") "Oh, you want a banana?" (nods her head "nana").

Just this little thing is so huge to me. It makes her seem even more like a person than before, when she was a baby. We are having conversations. Actual conversations where meaning is being exchanged, as opposed to those conversations where she will babble something and I mimic her babble back and people give me strange looks because I sound ridiculous. She makes it very easy to understand what she wants; her communication skills amaze me. We have another hearing test on Thursday, and I will be shocked if they tell us that she cannot hear well; she doesn't seem to miss a thing.

My sister asked me today if Belalu gets comments from people about her size. She had taken the kids to the library the other day and there were two girls around her age- one was also 16 months and the other was a bit older. The moms had asked my sis how old Belalu was, but she said it was in the context of how much she was doing and how strong she was. Neither of the other girls could pull out a chair from a kiddie table and climb into it on their own. She said neither mother seemed interested in a competitive way, they just seemed curious. There was a comment about her being a "little peanut," but it was again in reference to her strength and dexterity.

So, I thought about my sis's question and told her that yes, people often comment about her size, but almost always they just seemed amazed by her. And that's a feeling I share. Maybe I am being naive, but when people marvel at her, it seems to me that it's not just because Belalu is small or "looks like a little doll." They are also responding to that amazing ability to communicate- the eye contact, the "hi"s and "bye-bye"s and little waves she gives as she continues on with her explorations, that amazingly winning smile; her dogged determination to go where she wants to, whether it's into somewhere she shouldn't or up on top of a chair or table to reach something mama thought she put out of reach; her habit of patting her belly and squealing with joy; her pointing at something interesting and exclaiming "uh-oh!"... this girl gets attention everywhere she goes, and why shouldn't she? She is amazing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm currently at my sis's place in Boston with the kids. I've been attending the MLA conference during the day while they visit. It's great they all get to see each other while I get to hear some interesting talks, and I know J is enjoying the quiet time at home.

What resolutions have you made for the new year? E started his year off well- he just up and threw out his pacifier the other day. Whew- we're really hoping that's the end of that. As for me, I've designated 2013 The Year of the House. This is the year I'm going to tackle a big chunk of all those projects that have been driving me crazy since we moved in three and a half years ago. I know I'll never really be done with it, and that's fine, because it should evolve as our family does, but there are a lot of things that I've been wanting to do and just haven't had the time/energy to do them. This will be the year.

I won't subject you to too many more trip photos. Here are my some of my favorite moments/scenes from our trip to Puerto Rico last month.