One of our less brilliantly successful forays into attachment parenting was The Family Bed. When Axa was born, we had a queen-sized mattress on box springs on the floor. Unfortunately, it was Tony’s old bed from when he was growing up, and he still had his old habit of sleeping diagonally on it. That technically still left half of the space on the bed open, but it was not very usable space, since it was bisected by him. I got my revenge when I was pregnant, because I slept on the wall side and rolled my very pregnant body right over him every time I needed to go to the bathroom (which at eight months pregnant was pretty often).
OK, I realize that this is going in a TMI direction. The point is, by the time we added in a baby who was a very active sleeper, that queen-sized bed was feeling pretty small. We toughed it out for nine sleep-deprived months before finally making her a little bed on the floor next to ours, and then kicking ourselves and our bed completely out of our apartment’s lone bedroom when she turned one. Yes, it was awkward seating our dinner guests on the edge of our bed and pulling the table up to them, but it was worth it for the sleep. (At least it was for us. I’m not sure about the dinner guests.)
When Raj came along two years later, we already knew that one queen-sized bed was far too small for three people. So we went overboard in the other direction. We bought a California king-sized sleigh bed and a matching crib. We adjusted the crib until the mattress was exactly the same height as the bed, carefully filled in the small gap between, and bungeed the two together. It looked a little strange, and it took up most of the room in our bedroom, but the sleeping space was vast. Of course, Raj turned out to be a much easier sleeper than Axa (and much less addicted to the all-night milk bar). But it was pretty fun to have such a gigantic bed.
When Raj was ready to sleep on his own, we converted the crib into a toddler bed, and that’s where he’s slept up till now.
He loved his little bed. But at the age of 5 and 11/12ths, he could barely even stretch out in it. So we began the search for a new one. Since there were no beds handy on the curb, we went for the next best thing: craigslist. $85 and 24 hours later, Raj could be found in his bedroom, busily erecting his new, twin-sized bed.
It took a good two hours of hard labor,
And assistance from Axa and Dad (not pictured),
But by bedtime, the new bed was fully assembled and functional. And possibly the most awesome bed on the planet. I give to you: Raj’s castle!
Yes, it’s pink, and I absolutely love that Raj didn’t even comment on the color. He just picked it out of all the available beds on cragslist and said he wanted it. So he’s dealt a heavy blow to the stifling monochromacity of gendered marketing and become king of the castle all in one day. Not bad at all.
April 30, 2013 4 Comments
Last Tuesday was Axa’s 8th birthday. We spent the morning at the Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences. They had quite an interesting mishmash of exhibits, including a room devoted entirely to art depicting space flight, and another of Spanish conquistador weapons.
But Axa’s favorite, and the reason we went to the museum on her birthday (other than the fact that it was the first Tuesday of the month, and free to Volusia County residents) was the beautifully preserved fossil skeleton of a giant ground sloth.
On the way home from the museum, we finally had the experience we’ve been waiting for since we moved to Florida: an encounter with wild alligators! Although I was vigorously urged on by Axa, this is the closest I was willing to get, even on her birthday, and even for the sake of photographic evidence of our exploit.
The alligators are the small lines on the incline toward the pond (you can tell they’re really alligators if you click on the photo and make it big). In the background is a flock of storks, which as you can see were braver than I.
When we got home, Axa opened her presents.
And then we had cake. Yes, I MADE this cake. I’m practically getting to be one of those awesome pinterest moms. Just kidding. I’m not. To tell the truth, I made the mistake of sitting down with Axa and doing a google image search when she said she wanted a dinosaur cake. This was the one and only dinosaur cake that I could imagine myself actually executing.
The recipe called for chocolate graham crackers to make the “dirt.” I was going to make it easy for myself and just buy them, but they didn’t have them at the grocery store, and going to another store didn’t really fit in with my idea of making things easy for myself. So instead I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe, with the addition of 1/4 cup or so of cocoa powder. Lots more work than store graham crackers, but lots yummier as compensation.
We made a white cake for the base, and then chocolate cream cheese frosting to glue on the dirt. The “bones” are sugar cookies. If you have a similarly dinosaur-obsessed child, here’s the dino bone template.
Axa helped with every stage of the cake, from beating the eggs to cutting out the cookies. And she was very pleased with the result.
Happy birthday to my sweet little girl!
February 16, 2013 1 Comment
I realized that not all of my faithful blog readers are also Facebook friends or email connections. So lest you miss the delight of receiving our family Christmas letter, here it is, reproduced in full (and for those of you who’ve already read it twice and are wondering when I’m going to stop posting it . . . um, sorry):
Dear Family, Friends, and Random People Whose Emails May Have Been Accidentally Added to our Mailing List and are Thus Subjected to the Annual Honor of a Summary of our Life,
It seems like 2012 was an unusually tranquil year. Maybe it’s because we only moved once, and it wasn’t even internationally, just cross-country. Last year at this time found us in California, temporarily staying with family after returning home from more adventures abroad. In February we moved to Deltona, Florida, which is more or less a suburb of Orlando. Hilariously enough, we were written up once again in the local newspaper, just for moving here and being odd.
A dubious honor, to be sure, but we’ll take fame where we can get it. We have not yet made our pilgrimage to Disney World (we’re going next month, courtesy of Grammy and Pampa), but we’ve spent plenty of time at the beautiful beaches nearby and hiking in the lovely and fascinating Florida scrub habitat.
We haven’t seen any alligators yet either, but we’ve encountered manatees, snakes, anole lizards, cardinals, blue jays, gopher tortoises, frogs, toads, ibises, foxes, cranes, eagles, raccoons, and various other wildlife, much of it right in our backyard.
In addition, there have been a few nastier run-ins with things like scorpions, poisonous brown widow spiders, and huge flying palmetto bugs (in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of their acquaintance, I’d describe them as cockroaches on steroids).
Despite the bugs, the heat, and the hurricanes, at eleven months we have now lived in this house longer than we’ve ever lived anywhere during our entire nine-year marriage. Hurrah for us (or hurrah for Florida, perhaps). Tony has a glamorous job working for The Nielsen Company’s Television Ratings Project. Highlights include getting bitten by a dog in the wilds of Ocala, going on an exotic trip to New Orleans, and meeting some of the more eccentric residents of Florida, like gun-toting survivalists and Star Wars geeks who make costumes for conventions. Sarah has fulfilled a long-cherished desire by acquiring an adorable pair of sugar gliders (yes, in Florida it’s legal to own just about any exotic pet you can think of).
Christened Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, they go everywhere with her, ensconced in a discreet purse designed especially to accommodate them.
Casteluzzo Academy (aka homeschool) is flourishing, built on a foundation of the ever-overflowing book collection (we just bought another bookshelf last month) and supplemented by weekly trips to the library and the goat farm.
Axa keeps busy catching lizards, snakes, and toads and reading everything she can get her hands on about dinosaurs.
Raj envisions a future world in which robots do all our work for us, and he can usually be found toiling to make his dream a reality through the mediums of K’nex, legos, tinkertoys, cardboard, scotch tape, and miscellaneous recycled household items.
Sarah, Tony, Axa & Raj
January 5, 2013 1 Comment
This year my parents planned a gala Bringhurst family reunion over New Year’s. Florida narrowly missed being the gathering place, but was eventually superseded by Utah. I’m pretty sure people didn’t take the weather into account when they decided to meet in Utah in the middle of the winter, but three out of five siblings living there ended up being critical mass. And since my kids adore a good plane flight, it worked out great for us too.
My parents rented a huge house near Salt Lake City, and the snowy scene was undeniably beautiful.
Raj, of course, thought that the best thing to do after two years of not seeing snow was to taste it.
Likewise, Axa found the snow no impediment to jumping on the trampoline.
We got to spend time with two adorable little nephews, who are getting a head start on the traditional Bringhurst musicality.
We cooked together,
played silly board games,
and went to see the lights at Temple Square.
Axa and Raj also had a chance to formally present all those tiny gifts that miraculously made it through the security line at the airport with nary a glance from TSA.
My mom is still clearing her house out of stuff from when I was a kid, and this time around she brought me my costume from when we used to go sing madrigals at Renaissance Faires. Ah, the memories.
We also inherited some more legos to add to our massive collection from Tony’s childhood. Here’s the space shuttle I won for guessing the number of legos in a huge lego display at the mall. Raj was properly impressed.
And no family gathering would be complete without a formal family portrait.
Oh, I meant this family portrait (one of a dozen taken by the traditional method of balancing the camera on a stack of books on the couch on a timer). During this photo session the impossibility of getting two babies to look at the camera simultaneously was formally proved. And oops, our stocking feet were showing.
After 33 years, they’ve still got it. In fact, they snuck out and waltzed in the hot tub on New Year’s Eve while everybody else was occupied.
Speaking of the hot tub, 11:59 on December 31st, 2012 found us reveling there with my siblings and our Martinelli’s. Nobody had brought swimsuits, so the reveling was preceded by a D.I. run in which we each snagged some pretty awesome second hand vaguely swimsuitish sportswear.
Happy New Year, and here’s to many more Bringhurst family gatherings!
January 3, 2013 1 Comment
So, will the airline count an over-sized shopping bag stuffed with tiny Christmas presents as a “personal item”? I’m going to say yes, because this stuff is not going to fit in our carry-on bags, at least if we want to bring clothes too.
Yes, I know that wrapped gifts are on the soft list of “Things to Not Bring on an Airplane.” As in, they are technically allowed but likely to cause delays, headaches, and tearing-of-hair in the security line. But what can I say? The children have been busily working away at them since Thanksgiving.
Every day I could count on having a few mysterious hours of silence, as they emerged from their rooms only in search of more scotch tape, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and other sundries. I haven’t recycled a cardboard box in weeks, because any box that comes in the mail or is emptied of pasta is immediately requisitioned for reuse in one of the ever-multiplying packages. We’ve gone through who knows how many rolls of wrapping paper and tiny bows this Christmas.
More than once in the weeks leading up to Christmas I gently suggested mailing the dozens of presents to the various parties, but since we are flying out to Utah to meet up with my side of the family tomorrow, Axa and Raj had their hearts set on hand delivering everything. Tony’s side of the family is coming out for Axa’s baptism in a month, so they’ll be presented with their gifts then.
Quite a few of the presents, though, were intended for internal Familia family distribution. It was so fun to see what they had been working so hard on for all these days. I, for example, received this lovely collage from Axa:
Tony got this snazzy construction paper spider and web, conceived and created by Raj:
In case you can’t tell, the spider is cleverly “waterproofed” in several layers of scotch tape.
And for Raj, Axa created this classic duo out of pipe cleaners:
I’m thinking it’s pretty obvious who they are, but if you’re having trouble, those are light sabers they’re holding. Do you love the cape? It just melts my heart to actually see the stuff they spent so much time making over the past several weeks.
I’m sure there are some equally delightful treasures in all those presents we’re taking on the plane to Utah. So even if worst comes to worst and TSA makes me painstakingly unwrap all forty-seven of them to prove that they don’t contain meat cleavers, lacrosse sticks, BB guns, saws, nunchucks, fireworks, bleach, or (gasp!) unidentified gels and liquids, it will be worth it to do it for my sweet little elves. Merry Christmas!
December 27, 2012 2 Comments
Raj got sick right after Thanksgiving, and the rest of us soon followed. I was the last to succumb, and last Tuesday I spent the entire day in bed. It’s the first time I’ve been that sick in quite a while, and I was amazed at how much my kids had grown up. They got themselves lunch. They brought me water and soda crackers. They got themselves dinner, and brought me some dinner in bed too. They fed my pets. And they mediated their own disputes. Somewhere along the line it’s happened: I am no longer parenting toddlers! They’re not quite adults yet, but they’re competent little people with real skillz. Hurrah for them, and hurrah for me!
I’m still kind of dragging around the house coughing and in need of naps, but fortunately I live in Florida and can go outside, and even lie out on the lawn in the sun. Despite the weather, which remains stubbornly nice, I was pleasantly surprised the other day to notice that maybe fall really will play out here after all. Our trees are definitely losing their leaves. The leaves are only an inch long, so I’m not sure about the feasibility of raking, let alone making huge piles to jump in, but they do crunch a little when you walk on them in the driveway.
We also got out our Christmas decorations today. I am not one of those people who has special Christmas towels, sheets, curtains, dishes and soap dispensers. It’s hard to lug around too much stuff you’re only going to use once a year when you move as often as we do. We got out the Advent Calendar (and opened the first three days. I can never manage to get it out on the right day), hung our stockings in the window, since in this house we don’t have a fireplace, and moved the furniture around to accommodate the tree we will be getting tomorrow:
Nothing quite brings our habitual nomadism to my mind quite like the holidays. In almost nine years of marriage, we’ve never spent two Christmases in the same house. So we have lots of memories, but relatively few traditions. We make Christmas treats for our neighbors. We have pineapple bacon wraps on Christmas Eve. I put gigantic gingerbread cookies in the children’s stockings. And my kids love to make presents. Lots and lots of presents. Axa already has twelve presents wrapped and ready to go under the tree that we haven’t gotten yet.
December 3, 2012 3 Comments
It’s that time of year when I have an excuse to get the kitchen really messy. We have a family tradition of spending the whole of Thanksgiving Day cooking together. For normal everyday cooking I tend to make the same 20-or-so recipes over and over, although every time we move I change things up to reflect which ingredients are cheap and easy to find where we live. But for Thanksgiving, I like to try new recipes every year.
I’ve come a long way from our first Thanksgiving as a little family, in which my freshman sister Hannah arrived just in time to prevent me from sticking the turkey in the oven completely unseasoned and with the giblets still inside their plastic bag in one of the mysterious cavities.
Our most adventurous Thanksgiving was the year we had gone all-raw. It was weird how even in the unchangeable climate of San Diego I started to crave hot food. Especially the smell of food cooking. By the time Thanksgiving came around, we had compromised with ourselves and switched to being just vegetarian. We stuffed a pretty impressive pumpkin, and had some yummy mushroom gravy, but I can’t say it was the best Thanksgiving ever.
Now we’re back to being regular old omnivores, so our Thanksgiving choices are a little more extensive. For recipes, I turned, as usual, to my normal go-to source for recipes, Epicurious. Like any self-respecting foodie site (well at least any American one), they have an extensive section devoted to Thanksgiving. I had quite an enjoyable time clicking on their menus from different parts of the U.S. I’ve only lived in California, the Northwest, and now the South (although I’m told that Florida is not really The South), so it was interesting to see what is normal to eat in other places (rice stuffing anyone? oysters? what about Maple Gingerbread Layer Cake with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce?) The coolest idea I found was stuffing the Turkey with Tamales. I would totally consider it if we were living back in California and awesome tamales were easy to find.
After an afternoon of serious deliberation (and before the list is pared down by Tony and his unerring sense of the [im]practicality of cooking a dozen different dishes on one day to feed a grand total of four people), I give you our Thanksgiving menu!
Pickled Okra . Yes, this might sound like kind of a weird recipe, but it was the only one off the “Southern” menu that sounded good to me. Plus, it’s supposed to be made beforehand, so it won’t be competing for oven space on the Big Day.
Pigs in a Blanket. I found a recipe for this in the Afternoon Tea Recipe Book I’ve been drooling over lately, and told my kids about eating it when I was a kid. Back then, we used vienna sausages for the pigs, and we thought it was so cool that they came in a package of seven. They were obviously a food tailor-made for our family. I don’t know if I could eat vienna sausages now without gagging, so I think we’ll just use regular sausage.
Heirloom Squash Farrotto. This one just sounded delicious, especially with the cumin yoghurt sauce. I don’t know what my odds are of finding reasonably-priced farro anywhere around here, but there’s always pearl barley.
So, I saw this picture on Facebook a few days ago, and thought it looked pretty impressive:
I looked over a couple of recipes though, and found them unconvincing. Enter Pancetta-Sage Turkey with Pancetta-Sage Gravy. Instead of wrapping the whole thing in bacon, you make a delectable sounding pancetta butter to slather all over it.
Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing and Apple, Sausage and Parsnip Stuffing. Actually, I’m going to combine these two recipes, since the first one sounded more flavorful, but I loved the idea of adding apples and parsnips, and I think it will go swimmingly with the pancetta-sage turkey.
Not Your Mother’s Green Beans. From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and one of my favorite recipes ever. Just-tender green beans tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, scallions, and herbs. I’ve made this recipe in dozens of variations: orange juice or other flavored vinegars instead of the balsamic, walnuts, pecans or almonds, garlic or thinly-sliced red onion, butter instead of the olive oil, etc. It’s easy to whip up in a few minutes, but dressy enough for company (or Thanksgiving dinner).
Roasted Winter Vegetables. This is our only real traditional recipe. We make it every year because it’s just so delicious, and it feels so much like fall.
Bubble-Top Brioches. These look yummy, and my grandma used to make rolls in triplicate like this. Actually, she also made some delicious cheesy rolls that were rolled up like little cones. I’ll have to ask my mom if she has the recipe.
Berry Streusel Pie. Tony wanted either berry or apple, and I’m not fond of apple. Also, I’m not very good at pie crusts, so it’s better to just have a single rather heavy pie crust than a double one. Plus, streusel!
Key Lime Pie. O.K. I have never even tasted key lime pie. But we are living in Florida, and I saw real key limes at the grocery store last week. So I thought it would be a terrible opportunity to waste. For those of you who are key lime pie purists, which topping is more authentic? My recipe has whipped cream, but I’ve also seen meringue (I’m assuming whipped topping is out?). Also, fifteen minutes in the oven? That’s not really long enough to cook a custard. I’m pretty sure it’s not a mistake, since I saw some recipes where the filling wasn’t cooked at all. Maybe this is just my cultural ignorance showing (and I’m no one to judge, since I can put away as much unpasteurized cookie dough as the next baker), but is this dessert actually composed of raw egg yolk mixed with lime juice? Please enlighten me.
What are you having for Thanksgiving, dear readers? Do you make the same recipes every year, or do you like to try new ones? And have you ever cooked a turkey with the plastic giblet bag intact?
November 19, 2012 6 Comments
Yes, I’m in love. It’s hard to imagine a time when Merry and Pippin didn’t belong to our family. I carry them nearly everywhere with me, snuggled and sleeping in what looks to the uninitiated like an innocent little purse. In the evenings, Tony and I (and sometimes Axa) go out on the back porch and watch them climbing up and down the screens.
When we first got them, I would spend a couple of hours every night in a tent with them. They are so inquisitive and hyperactive that in the enclosed space they couldn’t help running all over me, and taking little flying leaps into my hair. Once they seemed fairly comfortable, I took them out to the screened in porch. They love it, and act like they’re in a jungle gym. They can even walk upside down, hanging by their claws from the ceiling. Every few minutes, they either leap or scurry down to check in with me, running up my leg and then over my shoulder to my back, and then back over the other shoulder and down the other leg.
And I’m slowly learning how to take photos of them. For example, here’s sweet Pippin, sitting on my knee.
I tried a lot of different camera settings, including the close-up, dusk, and museum options. The only one I really got to work was the “sport continuous” setting. Although without a flash, it has to make do with the available light in the room, it leaves the shutter open only briefly, and so sometimes manages to catch my little energy bursts. Although I still get a lot of photos that turn out as sugar ghosts.
And yes, Photoshop
is still my friend.
But I’ve also gotten some photos that are in focus enough to actually recognize. That’s progress.
My babies obviously take after me in the appreciation of fine music
They still feel most comfortable on me or on their cage, both of which feel like safe places, as well as being convenient for climbing.
But they like exploring the rest of the house too, and especially hiding under the couch cushions, where they would happily curl up and sleep all day if I weren’t afraid someone would sit on them.
I can’t possibly get enough of them. Just call me the sugar mamma.
September 6, 2012 2 Comments
Because I’m such a successful fashion blogger (not!), it doesn’t surprise me a bit that my daughter likes fashion too. Actually, I admit that she’s already way more fashionable than I’ve ever been. At least I can take credit for her first full year of fashion, though. Here she is ready to party on her first birthday:
That was more or less my last hurrah, since at about 18 months, her favorite phrase suddenly became “do it myself!” As in, “do it myself put on panties” (even though she could never figure out which way was up, and the panties invariably ended up being worn with both legs through one side, resulting in a lot of very stretched-out panties). Other favored “do it myselfs” included “do it myself pick my clothes,” or “do it myself cut up that apple with the very sharp knife.” You get the picture.
A year or so later, she went through a hilarious stage where she would put on as many layers of clothing on top of each other as possible, and then walk into our bedroom in the morning laughing and barely able to move.
At four, she decided that layers were once again a la mode, but kept it to one short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt (and sometimes shorts over pants too). Interestingly enough, Raj is now doing the same layering thing, although I sometimes have to send him in to take off a layer to avoid heatstroke in the Florida summer.
Now, at the age of seven, the thing that fascinates me about Axa’s fashion sense is her clever and sophisticated use of available materials. Case in point:
Dress: polarfleece blankie given to her as a baby, draped up her back lengthwise and then strategically knotted in the front.
Crown: aluminium foil over cardboard, present from Raj.
Belt: Out of a big box of clothes from the cousins.
And here’s that same outfit, dressed up with satin fabric out of my sewing box and a necklace from Tunisia.
Most of her outfits have utility as part of her games. For example, here she is with Raj, and she’s dressed them both as spies, ready for some alpine winter (ready minus the ubiquitous bare feet, that is):
Hats, scarves and gloves: courtesy of Grammy
Coat: The cousins’ box
Goggles: Swiped from the beach bag
Thing hanging down at the bottom of Axa’s coat: her beloved blanket, made for her as a baby by Grandma Betty
Here she is wearing just the baby blanket:
And look! It’s reversible, for a more casual hippie look.
Axa’s latest fashion success was precipitated by a really awesome hat she made at nature camp. Behold!
Hat: Recycled Newspaper
Pinwheel Flower: Recycled 1/2 liter bottle
Shirt: Gift from Grammy
Skirt: Made by Grandma Betty
Bandanna: from a recently attended pirate birthday party
Necklace and bracelets: hand-strung by Axa
My little girl is growing up!
August 6, 2012 2 Comments
For the past several months since we found out about it, Axa has been looking forward with great anticipation to Nature Camp at our local Environmental Center. And yesterday, the big day finally arrived. She’d had her backpack all packed up for days, and set out her clothes the night before. She even asked me what time she should turn off her light and go to sleep, which is a first for my little girl who (like her mother before her) often stays up reading until all hours of the night. Ah, the luxuries of homeschooling.
Yesterday as I drove her to the Lyonia Environmental Center, I reflected that perhaps this is a little bit how parents must feel when they take their child to school for the first time. I hoped that it would be as amazing as she was expecting. I hoped that all the other children would be nice to her, and that she would be nice to them. I hoped that she would make a connection with a kind and responsible adult, who would be a good role model.
I signed the paperwork, looked around at the room and the other children, and then turned to go. Even though my cell phone number is all over the forms I signed, I felt compelled to turn to the program leader and assure her that she could call me if there was any problem.
As I drove home in an empty car that felt suddenly very empty indeed, I wondered what I was going to do for the next six hours without her. All day I felt like a mother duck with one duckling missing. I found that reducing the number of children in our house by 50% reduces the noise level by 95% (at least when the missing child is Axa).
I did enjoy doing math and reading with Raj without having to run back and forth between the two of them answering questions. And I didn’t have to break up any sibling tiffs. But mostly I just missed the feeling of our whole family being together. Even though we like traveling and living around the world, in a way we’re quite the homebodies. Tony works from home. We homeschool. On any given day, we’re more likely than not to spend at least the majority of the day at home.
It’s been this way for at least the past few years, and I don’t usually think about it, because it’s just normal for us. Honestly, I have as difficult of a time imagining the whole family going their separate ways for most of every day as my friends who send their kids to school have imagining what it would be like to have them home all day.
Axa came home bubbling over with excitement and talking a mile a minute. She even learned a few things, although she already knew quite a bit about the animals to be found at the Lyonia Preserve. So obviously, at least so far, Camp has been a great thing for her. It’s also been a good thing for me, because it’s given me the chance to really appreciate the wonderful gift we have of so much time together.
Seasons change, and children grow up. I imagine that as our family’s needs evolve, we will probably spend more time outside our home, both together and separately. But for now, I feel lucky that we get to live mostly in our own little love-,book-, and wonder-filled world.
July 17, 2012 3 Comments