23 September 2011

Crossing Over

First day of Autumn. The day when the sun crosses over the equator to the other side. Crossing over is happening in my house a lot lately. The baby is crossing over thresholds of growth each day. And this week it is the threshold of being a crawler to a walker. He hasn't yet taken a real independent step, though we expect it at any moment as he's "walking" with a hand held, and standing any chance he gets. Proud smile while standing as if he's about to take off running.
I can see it all calculating and making sense to him day-by-day.

All this physical and seasonal change brings to mind what I was doing this time last year. I was hugely pregnant and nesting for the babe to arrive. I was cooking large batches of soup and apple sauce. I was a day-dreamer and about to be flung into a new life, another side of the world.

Cooking is my passion. Cooking with ease and clarity, organized and neat, this is how I like to exist in my kitchen. My body felt highjacked last September, but I was able to cook at my pace, to imagine this little person soon to come, and take my time. These days, my kitchen feels highjacked.

Cooking, that which is usually and now rarely, my escape, comes in spurts with a babe at my ankles, clawing at my pant leg, squealing from a high chair he hates to be confined in, or in my arm while I try to do anything I can with the other arm. Anyone who looked on would experience a mix of disturbed awe, and impressed anxiety, just how it feels to cook these days.

Faced with a few bananas that went far too long on the counter, I decided to make banana bread last night. Oh, but let's experiment and make banana gingerbread instead. Now how to execute this with a cranky eleven month old who wants his little paws in everything I do.

Let's just say, it's a bit of a mad scrambling of mixing, dashing from the pantry to the kitchen (which are divided by a baby gate one must hop over) for ingredients with baby at my heels, picking him up because he's cried too long while I've cracked in the eggs and melted butter on the stove, because adding dry to wet can be done one handed and all the while singing everything I do, in real time, so he learns the words, so he is distracted by this crazy mother he's been assigned to and so he might just be entertained by the sing-song of my voice long enough for me to get the damn batter into the pan and into the oven before he scrambles over to it as the hot hot door opens and closes before him! Whew! And that's the short short version. Never mind skipping over the boat in the middle of the floor, then actually tripping over the potato masher I thought was a good "toy" during this experiment.

None of this will sound unfamiliar or strange to any mom out there who cooks. Yet it's times like these that remind me, every day I am a new mom, to appreciate my time and value those moments I am able to engage in the passions of life without chaos at my feet. Because they are seldom. And one day, the baby will not be eagerly awaiting my every move, wanting in, wanting part of, wanting inclusion. One day, soon, he will be walking, and from that moment on he will continue to step over thresholds as life gets ever larger for him. And I will, on the inside, beg for the days when he is this wrapped around my life.

Here's the adapted recipe. And a picture to show how my kitchen life has changed from neat and orderly to a confused mess of life on the counter top, locked cupboards, and whirring past us at break-neck speed.

Banana Gingerbread (adapted from the Cook's Illustrated "The New Best Recipe")

In a mixer on medium speed, combine:
3/4 cup molasses, one stick melted butter, 3/4 cup sugar, one egg. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup milk.

In a separate bowl, combine:

2 cups flour, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon salt, two teaspoons ground ginger, one teaspoon cinnamon, one teaspoon ground cloves, one teaspoon nutmeg, one teaspoon allspice.

Mash two over-ripe bananas and add to the wet mix in mixer.

Gradually add dry to wet while mixing. Scrape the bowl if necessary, don't over mix.

Pour batter in a greased 7"x10"pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 min. or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Enjoy warm with whipped cream.

Happy Autumn to all! May you cook in peace and enjoy every moment and every bite even more!
With love ~AD.

16 September 2011

Polar Bear Momma

It is 9:21pm on a Friday night and I have managed to take all of my vitamins, brush my teeth, wash my face, with soap! apply toner!! and still have some juice in me before the baby stirs and realizes I am not next to him at which point I will head to bed, catch up on Facebook via an iPhone app, and maybe add a play to my Words with Friends game I've had running for a couple days now, all while nursing the sleepy child back to dreaming, before drifting to sleep myself. This blog post is my last attempt at something "productive" today in a moment of quiet and stillness that feels stolen and fleeting these days.

I am thinking tonight about the type of mother I have chosen to become. Specifically about sleep and choosing to co-sleep with my baby. It's a damn lazy choice, though not without its costs and challenges. I say lazy, because the nature of co-sleeping allows for a baby's needs to be met immediately and with as little movement on the mother's part. He is eleven months old this week and he and I have somehow evolved together into a bundled mass where he is able to find the nipple in his sleep and I am able to sleep through his rooting and feeding, barely noticing the shifting and prodding.

This is how most nights of the week drift blissfully by.

Then there are the nights that look like this: Momma waking with baby's leg flung across her abdomen,  his torso stretched up over her breast, his little neck and head deadweight from sleep and across her face, cheek to neck! He's pushed his way so close there is no space for breathing.

I slowly attempt to remove the body from my body without waking him and his reaction is to flail and squirm in such a way that it flings his body back up over and on top of mine in an equally contorted and inconceivable position before I have time to shift my own limbs or protest. And he does all this without waking.

I am reminded of the mother polar bear I saw on a nature show. Her cubs are rolling, tumbling, grabbing, biting, and clambering over her and she is a stoic lump, only moving once in a while to casually slough them off her, or catch one as he rolls a little too far over the ice. I can only dream to be so nonchalant at 3am and wanting only to sleep, uninterrupted and without a human growth glued to my face. But then again, I am as that polar momma. I let the baby be the baby. I let him sleep the way he sleeps best, even if it's curled into my neck, or face stretched up into my armpit and hands clasping my thumb and hair, so entwined and locked together.

This was my choice. I chose the path of least resistance in parenting. And I've read all the books. I am a very well-informed decision-maker when it comes to parenting thus far. There isn't one choice I've made without consulting every expert, mother, grandmother, and website out there for the best possible option for my child. I am sound in my co-sleeping arrangement. I do not always sleep soundly, however. But then, what mother truly does. Sacrifice is the name of this game.

On this rare night where the baby has fallen asleep before I am ready and willing to crash with him, I am savoring the opportunity to wash my face like I once did, when I cared what my face looked like the next day. I care more now for the magical moment when dreaming begins after a day of chasing my almost-walker from one "no" to the next "no!" (the decision to use "no" is another joy of parenting, if one can call it a decision of parenting. Again, I chose the lazy route here, knowing I am incapable of the dedication it takes to conduct a household where "no" is used sparingly and all other avenues of communicating are utilized first. I bow to any mother who takes that on.)

To sleep to dream. To sleep to sleep to sleep. To sleep in...

Goodnight all, that's all I have in me to say, on that. ~AD.