Saffron’s Stories: 2 Years

Saffy has her cake and eats it too

Just last weekend, you presided over your second birthday party at Wheeler Historic Farm. It was a warm, sunny fall day filled with kettle corn, apple cider, and wagon rides. You took the honor in stride, devouring your pumpkin dream cake and cinnamon maple frosting with your usual gusto and opening presents with typical feisty abandon, pausing to bestow kisses on stuffed animals and remark on each gift. Several days later on your actual birthday, I took you to the children’s museum in downtown Salt Lake, where you played busily in the vehicles and the supermarket, delighted with the real helicopter that you got to sit in on the roof. We met Daddy for lunch at a little eatery a few blocks away where we had waffles, crisp and caramelized, and you ate all of the spicy mayo for my Belgian fries with a spoon. The next day was Halloween and after some argument and bribery, you donned your little Yoda costume complete with light saber and went trick or treating with your brother Darth Vader, boldly shouldering your way up to each and every door and never forgetting to say thank you.

With these posts I usually detail the ways in which you have changed since I last wrote, but in this case the landscape of your life is so much altered, that’s nearly impossible. Your personality remains fiercely independent, always stubborn. But you continue to cling to your connection with me, troubled by my occasional absence and often needy when you are emotional, sick or tired. It’s as if you love the tempest of life, daring the waves to batter and beat you, laughing at the howl of the wind but only if you can still reach out your hand and touch the safe harbor of my anchorage, the safety of my reassurance. As you’ve become more assertive and aggressive in the last months, we’ve often locked horns in everyday battles. In the end, you relent but not without first pushing the limits as far as you can. You call my bluff daily, hourly and I have to always be prepared to prove myself to you. Over and over and over. I know you are questioning who is in charge here, and that whether or not you like to admit it, it’s reassuring to know that it’s still me. Not yet little one. There will be time enough for that.

I think the thing that most defines you is your swaggering confidence. Because you walked and talked early, you have always seemed capable and more mature than other children your age. This extends beyond that into a strength that you seem to exude, a toughness that is unshaken by challenges or dangers. You love roller coasters and speed, and never hesitate when faced with a difficult task. You thrive on challenge and crave involvement in chores and grown up tasks. In fact, you perform most of Owen’s chores so well that I’ve simply allowed you to take them over, feeding the dogs and loading the laundry. Watching you huffing and puffing joyously while hefting a bottle of laundry detergent up the stairs is a sight to behold. But I have to admit when it comes to potty training, you’re still holding out on me. Your response to any suggestion that using the potty might be appropriate is a resounding negative. And I know however we manage to accomplish potty training it will have to be with subtly and finesse because any attempts to manipulate you will be quickly exposed and refused. Your resolve and intelligence will not allow you to accept anything that doesn’t seem to be on your own terms.

When you began to speak quite well this past spring, I had no idea that by the end of the summer, you’d be speaking in complete sentences. You express a range of emotions and complex thoughts that are startling for your age. Just today, when Owen announced he was going downstairs to empty the recycling bin, you calmly turned to me from where you were sitting at the kitchen counter snacking and said, “I want to get down and go with Owen but I’ll be right back, mommy. Don’t put my crackers away, okay?” Because you recognized that as soon as you leave food unattended in this house, if it is not devoured by something with paws it is usually swept away by the mighty hand of mommy never to be seen again.

Your books continue to be your favorite toys and you insist on bringing them everywhere we go, often remembering long passages from your favorites and reading them to Miles. You have finally discovered TV however, specifically Curious George, Blues Clues and perhaps almost obsessively, Yo Gabba Gabba. You randomly sing songs from the shows and repeat phrases, giggling along with your brother, who usually understands the references more often than I do. You enjoy playing with toys, but not for long periods of time and much prefer to be in my company, helping with whatever I am working on or with your brother, wrestling and tickling.

Sometime in the last few months, Owen has decided that you are no longer a baby and he refuses to cut you slack as often as he used to. I feel like my main role these days, running a close second to cook, is referee. Suddenly, everything must be fair. And if Owen has it or does it, then certainly you will insist on exactly the same thing. Although I knew this would happened eventually, I’m not sure I was prepared for the intensity of the squabbles. I am encouraged though by how often I don’t have to remind you or Owen to be kind to each other. You share fairly often and Owen is always looking out for you without having to be told that you might need help getting down a steep stair, or tying a shoe. Your love and affection for each other is obvious and usually wins out, even in tense moments.

Running a close third to my company and that of your brother, your favorite person is Miles. When you are hurt and need comfort, or when you need to poop but want some privacy, you snuggle up to Miles and finger his soft, silky ears for as long as he’ll allow it. Miles, thank goodness, is ten years old now and extremely tolerant. I’d even hazard that he actually enjoys when you treat him like furniture. When he’s finally had enough and shakes you off and walks away, you wail and fuss at him, following him from room to room until he relents.

Your appetite continues to astound me. As is typical of most toddlers, you are a grazer, preferring to eat on the go throughout the day rather than sit down to larger meals. You never leave home without a snack and a drink and your tastes are varied. Any hour of the day might find you chowing down on carrots and pumpkin bread or downing large quantities of curry and rice. A new favorite is bacon, which is what I refer to any piece of meat in order to get you to try it. Because you agree with the general statement that if it’s bacon, it has to be good. Your father and I love that you’ll try anything and we can usually tell if it meets your approval by the low, humming, moaning noises you make when you’re enjoying something. (Your brother, strangely, made this exact same noise when he ate until he was four or five). You’ll also enthusiastically rate things with an emphatic nod of your head and an “It’s good!”. And in your opinion, soups were meant to be slurped. You’re as slim as ever despite your rabid consumption, always on the tall side.

I expected that your hair would darken this year and although it has a bit, it remains a very light brownish blonde that looks like spun gold in the sun. It grows so quickly that it is now past your shoulders and it’s soft, fine masses curl just enough on the ends to make it flip up. You refuse to keep barrettes or elastics in and we are constantly battling to keep it out of your eyes, which are large and a bright shade of brownish blue flecked with gold. When you are tired, it shows in your eyes, which grow puffy and red rimmed with exhaustion. Your skin is still very pale and creamy white but it’s certain you have rosacea, which turns your cheeks a glowing red when windy or cold. You often put yourself in charge of getting dressed, donning your own shoes and socks when you can and taking on and off your hat, mittens, and coat as you lounge in the stroller when we walk. I buy all your clothes second hand and we often are stopped by people in stores or on the street who remark about how cute you are or how adorably you are dressed. I find it strange because I don’t dress you like a little girl or like a doll. My rule of thumb is not to buy anything for you that I wouldn’t wear myself. And let me be frank- you will never catch me in a pink tutu. Never. And so when you get dressed, I have a drawer full of prefolded outfits organized by season and I let you choose what you want to wear. You seem to care more than Owen did, who is still perfectly content to let me dress him.

I wish I could say that you slept blissfully through the night. You don’t. You will sleep late into the morning, until 9 sometimes if allowed. And you go down fairly easily, usually reading yourself to sleep buried amongst your favorite books and piles of stuffed dogs. But you wake at least once or twice in the night, crying and imploring me to hold you. I rock you in the rocking chair for a few minutes and you usually drift back to sleep. You still say “hold you” instead of “hold me”, which is less adorable at 3 in the morning than it used to be.

Often, I feel as if it is difficult for others to see your feisty, intelligent independence because in public you become reserved, quieter and subdued. When I describe you to family and friends, it almost sounds as if I am depicting someone else because your public persona is so far removed from your private one. There have been times when I wished the world could experience you the way I do, full throttle and intense. But I’ve grown to love that you trust this to us, your uninhibited abandon, and that you keep it for us like a secret, a cherished belonging for the few who earn your approval. I hope we’ll always appreciate that about you, even if the world does not.

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 18

Saffy on the back porch

Is it really time to write one of these again? I’m astonished how quickly time has passed but also, how little you have changed in the last few months. I could take everything from my last post and simply include it here, expounded upon by three words- “And then some!”

Perhaps my observations in my last post that your communication skills had tempered your toddler tantrums might have been a bit hasty. I think I had no idea what I was in for, my naivete about the scope of your ability to descend into completely unreasonable demands and epic rages rather appalling in retrospect. I have gravely underestimated the strength of your will, your stubborn perseverance, and the stormy depths of your moodiness. Can I say this? Whatever. I’m going to say it because it needs saying. You can be a raving lunatic.

Although you continue to talk in full sentences and add words to your vocabulary daily, it’s your enunciation that has taken the greatest leap forward. When asked to say a word, no matter how difficult, you can usually be counted upon to repeat it with perfect clarity when the mood strikes you. Like a tiny, difficult parrot. In fact, we’ve probably gotten so adept at deciphering you that the opposite problem has reared it’s head- when I’m not able to discern what you’re asking for, you wail and strike out at me at the injustice of being misunderstood. And because you can ask for precisely what you want- a lollipop at 8am or all of the pencils from my desk so you can draw on whatever surface you so desire- it’s also resulted in you having to be told no, often and firmly. Several times. Until the sheer sadness of it causes you to throw your head back and howl. There was one exception to your amazing powers of pronunciation. For several weeks, no matter how many times we tried to say it slowly or break it down for you, you insisted your name was pronounced “Witchy.” The most puzzling thing about this was that you were capable of saying both “s” and “f” in other words. But when questioned, you seemed perfectly confident that your name was “Witchy” and you didn’t seem to be able to hear the difference between what we were saying and what was coming out of your mouth.

You talk yourself to sleep these days. I’m not kidding. Suddenly, you could no longer tolerate me reading books to you. You clearly believed that since these books belonged to you and were your favorite possessions that no one else should touch them. Ever. When I attempt to pick one up and begin reading, you shout “No” emphatically, rip the title from my hands and hurl it across the room. Instead you’ve decided to slide as many as ten books you’ve chosen between the slats of your crib, and after we sustain a short term wrestling match in the rocking chair, you ask for “bed.” I deposit you in your crib where some nights you are simply happy to lounge with your books and your drink, chattering happily away to yourself, until you collapse mid sentence into your pillow at 9:30. Other nights you protest when I set you down, insisting that I hold you but them squirming so much when I do that it becomes nearly impossible to do so. The days of you snuggling up and falling asleep in my arms seem long past.

I read somewhere recently that I shouldn’t worry if my toddler didn’t seem to eat much, that this group of notoriously picky eaters could sustain themselves better than you might think. I’m a little more concerned that you might have a hollow leg or that I’ll find a massive pile of finger foods tucked into a hole in the house somewhere. You eat constantly. I’m not sure I can really tell the difference between breakfast, lunch and dinner because for you, they sort of run together into one long food fest. Because you’re so active you stay as trim as ever, but I’m afraid one day I’ll have to break the news to you that you can’t always have something in your mouth. I try not to feel too guilty about this snacking habit of yours since you love apples and unshelled pistachios, bringing them to me one at a time with commands of “open, open.” Unfortunately, you’ve also developed a taste for lollipops. We had friends over for dinner recently and you feel asleep in your highchair during dinner with a two dumdums in your mouth, one tucked into each cheek. Parenting win or fail? It’s hard to decide but at least I have the picture.

My hopes that you might exhibit some sort of interest in potty training have died a slow death. I suspect you may be avoiding it altogether because I’ve inadvertently tipped my hand and given you the idea that I might like it. And you are firmly opposed to doing anything that I suggest, even if it’s something you’d enjoy. The fact that I’ve mentioned it means it ought to be avoided. At all costs. So the miniature potty sits in the bathroom, where you occasionally join Owen when he’s pooping and read books together, like old men at a coffee shop reading the newspaper.

If you had told me that at 18 months, you’d still be clinging to me, tearful and petulant every time I leave the room, I’d have said you were exaggerating. But it’s true. Your mommy obsession has not eased. Not one iota. It’s as if you are convinced that breathing without me is impossible and you panic when I leave your line of sight as if you’ve begun slowly suffocating. Can’t breathe without Mom. Must stay attached. We try to ease this ironclad, fearful grip you have by making you run errands with Dad or take short excursions with him alone. But he reports that you seem anxious and ask about me every few minutes. And even when we are both in the house, you follow me around for hours at a time, begging to be held constantly. You have a charming way of asking, which is exactly what Owen used to say- “Hold you, hold you, hold you!” As if you are doing me a favor, asking to comfort me in my time of need. I find the strength of this continuing attachment so strange given your stubborn, independent personality, but the reality of it is undeniable and unwavering. You think life is best from within the safe circle of my arms. I guess it’s hard not to be flattered that you feel that way.

I have noticed though that you are becoming increasingly aware of others as separate from you in a physical and emotional sense. Although you don’t like to give hugs or kisses when prompted and most of the time, flatly refuse, you do reach out to me in moments where I can tell you are feeling affection. You rub your face into the crook of my neck, like a dog, and sniff me with great satisfaction and then sometimes pet my hair and look into my eyes, crooning “mama, mama, mama” the whole time. When Owen is sad, you’ll crawl into his lap, push your forehead against his, wrap your arms around him and rock him slowly, making sympathetic sniffling noises and asking him if he’s “okay?”. Despite your wild, aggressive mannerisms, you can be surprisingly gentle at times and certainly seem to believe it is your job to care for others. When your baby friend, Gavin, comes over you usually put a guiding arm around his shoulders and try to feed him cheerios one by one. Which is adorable considering he is older than you and outweighs you by a good 15 pounds.

My favorite memories of you over the past two months though have occurred outside. Now that spring and warm weather has truly descended on the valley, you’ve begun to explore the world outside. I often let you wander into our fenced backyard with the dogs and toddle around in the grass on your own for an hour or so at a time, watching you move toys about, attempt to blow bubbles and simply sit in the patio chairs, soaking up sunshine. On our walks, you instruct Owen and I to gather “flours” and deposit them in the tray on your stroller, where you love them into little wilted bunches of petals before discarding them in the wind. You’ve become enthralled with playgrounds but more specifically, slides, which you refer to as “wheeeee!” Accordingly to you, no slide is too tall to inspire hesitation. I’ve had some tense moments peering up at you from the ground, wondering if I should trust your pint size instincts. But this is the thing I have grown to understand and love about you- you are tough and confident but not foolish. What you can’t manage with careful ability, you don’t attempt to bluster through with false bravado. You reach out that small hand or foot and I hear the question in your voice- “Mama?” And when you need me, I am always there to help.

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 16

To start with, we could discuss how this post is late. Again. But obviously, we’re pressed for time and what would you rather do- detail the ways in which I’ve failed to live up to my own standards as a mother or hear all about how adorably insane you are? That’s what I thought.

If I haven’t made it clear in my previous posts, I’m going to do so now. You are a firecracker- an effervescent ball of girl that sparks and spits and might explode at any second. Your premature launch into toddlerhood several months ago might have ensured a future filled with temper tantrums and epic battles if it wasn’t for one thing. It began with a trickle of a few words that grew into a barrage of nouns and has solidified into a grasp of language that I don’t remember even Owen possessing at your tender age. You can speak remarkably well, occasionally in full sentences. And this ability to make yourself understood and to be able to interact with the world around you on your own terms has made all the difference. It used to be just two or three months ago that you refused to say “Owen”. Now you stomp from room to room, issuing commands “Lay down, dog!”, “Owen, come here” and “Mint please, Mommy.” Just in the past two weeks, you’ve not only mastered saying “I love you”, but you seem to understand it’s implications. Just yesterday, after I had changed your diaper and was letting you air out a bit naked, you ran into the master bedroom, regarded yourself for several moments in the full length mirror in the closet, then leaned forward charmingly and issued your reflection a smacking, resounding kiss. “I wuv you!” you shouted before running off, shrieking and giggling in the utter joy of being unleashed nude upon the entire house.

I don’t know for sure if your new found passion for books is related to your growing grasp of language, but it’s likely. You have a handful of favorites and can ask for them by title- “Little Owl Lost,” “I Lost My Hat,” “The New Baby”, “Miss Spider’s New Car” and “No, No David.” The latter title and its companion book “David in Trouble” are especial favorites of yours and elicit deep belly laughs at David’s mischievous antics, which I’m certain you identify with wholeheartedly. We read every day before both nap and bed time, usually 3 or 4 titles at a time but I’ve taken to putting baskets of books in various spots all over the house and you drag them out more often than your toys, sitting and reading the pages out loud in your bossy rendition of my voice, complete with emphatic head nods and serious, careful page turning. I find the way you ask for a book quite adorable- holding the title in your hands in front of you and backing up with your butt sticking out until you fall into someone’s lap. Someone who just happened to be there, waiting to catch you.

Now that your grasp of words is so advanced, I’m able to address your escapades of destruction a little differently than I used to. Just a week or two ago, you had fallen eerily silent for ten or more minutes and I realized with a growing sense of horror that I wasn’t sure exactly where in the house you were. I found you downstairs, where you had taken a piece of yellow chalk and tried to color the entire belt on the treadmill yellow. I removed the chalk from your hand and spoke to you very sternly. Your eyes filled with tears and your bottom lip started to quiver. Instead of comforting you, I got a wet paper towel and showed you how to wipe off the belt and then insisted you clean it up yourself. You did and then went upstairs and sat quietly as instructed in time out. I was flabbergasted and since then, I’ve realized you’re ready for logical consequences and I can handle most things in the way I would for a preschooler. I ask you to do something (or stop doing something) once, then stop you and ask again, being sure I have eye contact and acknowledgement from you. If you do it again I count to five or ten and then consequences descend, including being removed from the activity or object of desire. Given your stubborn and passionate nature, I had expected this would result in wars of teeth gnashing and hair pulling proportions. So far, happily, you’ve disappointed me on that front.

The dogs are still your favorite people and you lavish them with attention, which Miles, ever patient, endures and even seems to enjoy occasionally. Burying your head in fur and rubbing your face into their necks as if you’d like to crawl inside their skin. Timber keeps his distance whenever possible and only submits to caressing and snuggling when forced. You often refer to someone named “Cocoa” and speak quite seriously about this person, nodding and talking a whole slew of almost understandable nonsense when asked about him or her. I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ve renamed Miles “Cocoa” since you often seem to be referring to him. I find this absolutely hilarious and it’s more evidence of how very important animals seem to be in your life. You adore dogs and fish right now, but I’m sure if introduced to farm animals or cats, you’d exhibit the same enthusiastic, obsessive affection. We took you to the aquarium just this past weekend you went ballistic over a tank of colorful clown fish, pressing your little body and face against the glass and chanting “Fishies! Fishies! Fishies!”. You’d turn your head upside down and at odd, cockeyed angles to try to look them in the eyes and get them to acknowledge you and respond to your breathless, excited greetings. Did you know a toddler can say penguin perfectly when properly motivated?

Your hair has grown quite long and is getting thick in spots, despite its silky fineness. It’s constantly falling in a curtain over your eyes and though I try to constrain it with barrettes, headbands and elastics, nothing is successful. You seem to view it as some sort of challenge to yank them out and throw them to the ground. You have, however, changed your mind about hats. Previously, like your shoes, I could not get you to wear one for more than a few minutes. I’d dress you and deposit you in the car and before we’d arrived at our destination, you’d be barefoot and half naked. The past few weeks though you ask me to get your hats down and enjoy putting them on yourself, one by one, and parading around the house in them. Same with your shoes. Except if we’re going somewhere. Then all bets are off.

One of your new favorite activities is dancing. It may be because your brother has started to take a tap and ballet class and you often accompany me while we wait for him, watching through the glass as he pirouettes and two steps. It’s impossibly cute to watch you trying to do the same, holding your arms above your head and turning slowly in circles with an expression of angelic concentration on your face. At home we often have music of all sorts playing and you can’t seem to help dancing, head banging, swinging your hips and recently, skip hopping around the room. You watch Owen carefully and mimic his moves well, picking up the rhythm effortlessly. You also love to sing and often hum and croon along in the car, mostly to slower songs that seem to demand your assistance.

In the past month or so, you’ve begun to put yourself to sleep. The first signs that you were ready to do this happened by accident when Daddy was watching you and couldn’t get you to settle down for bed. So he put you down, walked out the door, and waited for the screaming to begin. It never happened. I was skeptical that you’d treat me to the same performance, but it worked like a charm. I read you 3 or 4 books, darken the room and turn on the music, dance with you for two songs and rock you for two more, then pop you into bed whether you are asleep or not. After an exchange of “night night” and perhaps 15-20 minutes of babble and rustling around on your part, you usually drift off on your own.

Last week, as I was dancing slowly with you in your room before bed, you began touching various parts of my face and then your own, naming them aloud- nose, eyes, cheeks, ears, chin, mouth, teeth, tongue. Apparently tongues are hilarious and although it was bedtime and you were supposed to be winding down, I couldn’t help but laugh along at the way you nearly threw yourself out of my arms in mirthful abandon. I’m surprised in moments like this how much easier it is to enjoy myself with you. Perhaps it’s because I feel like I know what I’m doing this time, that I’m not so worried about screwing up. Maybe it’s that your exuberant nature throws off sparks that catches everything around you a lite. Whatever it is, I find myself remembering what it is to be a kid when I’m with you and realizing how much I miss it.

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 14

You may have noticed that last month, I neglect to write a post. This was intentional. I made the decision that writing every other month moving forward makes more sense since between cleaning the house, trying to prevent you from injuring yourself and prodding and pushing Owen through his schoolwork everyday sucks up all my time and energy, there is very little motivation left to commemorate the passing of time. Whether we mark it or not, it passes just the same and though each day seems like a hard won battle, I look up from the trenches sometimes and marvel at how the hell we ended up here, in 2013.

I guess I should begin with your developments on several fronts, which have included lots more of the same- walking and talking. Your little body seems to have changed so much, grown sturdy and capable and tall as you toddle about the house, pulling the contents of drawers, closets and pantries out and strewing them all over the floor. I can’t remember the last time I saw you crawl to get to anything except to sneak under the table to catch a dog snacking on scraps. These days you are all speed- running is much more your style. When I change you, we play this game to see if I can wrestle you to the floor and put your diaper on or if you will succeed and escape, sprinting down the hall giggling, your little naked butt disappearing around the corner of the hall. You delight in being a terror and it’s hard to deny the sheer joy it seems to bring you to dissect, mount and conquer every piece of your world. You have always been advanced physically it seems and you delight in the challenge of managing new tasks, demonstrating over and over that you have incredible balance, good judgement and a dazzling talent for stubborn determination. You stand on chairs, dancing, or climb to the top of the plastic slide and hang off the edge, swatting at things below. As much as you leave a path of destruction in your wake, you also seem to crave order and repetition. Currently, your favorite game is to take a large container of something, empty it piece by piece and then refill it again. Over and over and over. Never missing a beat, delighting in the task and the work of bending, stacking and carrying. You even mimic grunts, as if to ensure we understand how very hard, how very important and taxing this work of being a toddler in fact is.

I joke that you are so independent that you won’t even allow me to read books to you, ripping them from my hands and pretending to read them to yourself, turning the pages importantly and pausing to ensure I’m listening. And yet, when it comes to talking, right now it’s like having a parrot in the house instead of a baby. You will repeat anything and everything. And it’s alarming how much you understand of what you are asked to do. It makes me wonder if you’ve understood us all along and have been silently laughing at our naivety. You not only say fifty or more words including bizarre things like “toothbrush,” “trash”, and your favorite command- “sit down” but you can also be told to put something in the trash, to go brush your teeth or to sit down in the chair and you will toddle off and perform the task as specified. I know I only have a few years until every request for assistance or command is greeted with a whining cadence and feet dragging, so I’m currently milking this for all it’s worth.

The biggest change in your life has been that we’ve stopped nursing. It took nearly a month after you turned one to finally break it off and I was actually sorrier to end it than I thought I would be. But it’s had the intended effect in that you now sleep through the night, with only the occasional disturbance that requires midnight cuddling and rocking. I did think however that you would lose your almost neurotic mommy attachment. Sadly, this has not been the case and in the last two months, although you’ve been more congenial and accepting of Daddy, often even seeking him out and engaging in play, you refuse to be held by anyone else for any length of time and you will not allow me to be out of direct line of sight without immediate distress. Since you refuse to be engaged by the TV, I’m looking forward to the day when I can take a shower by myself. Perhaps sometime in the next ten years? No rush.

We took a road trip to Vegas again to visit the grandparents for Christmas and you at least had a much more amicable visit than your last. You were in better spirits, although still clingy, and spent some time bonding with Grandma. The six hour car trip, which we did during the day this time, was not too terrible and you were surprisingly well behaved. And when you weren’t I could often bribe you with food. This is not as bad as it sounds since you’ll eat just about anything and everything I put in front of you, including vegetables and fruit. You are definitely food obsessed, snacking throughout the day and often devouring your meal and then half of mine or Owen’s. I have no idea where on earth it all goes- perhaps you have a hollow leg. But one thing is for certain- given an unlimited supply of food, I’m not sure you would stop eating without intervention. This will likely have it’s own repercussions later in life when that miracle toddler metabolism thing wears off.

I think one of my favorite moments from this past month was when we had friends over and were chatting in the kitchen. You wandered over to the pantry and begin to pull things out from the shelves. I don’t pay too much attention to this usually because you do it often and I keep most dangerous or important things on the higher shelves that you can’t reach. After a few minutes, I heard a horrified gasp from our friend and looked down to find you covered in what appeared to blood. My breath caught in my throat and I scooped you up, frantic to discover what you had cut yourself on. It took me a few seconds before I realized that you were clutching a bottle of red food coloring in your hand. I started chuckling and then we ran to get the camera, while our panicked reaction and reduced you to tears. I threw you in the bath and scrubbed as hard as I dared, but you were pink for a good 24 hours afterwards. This was a classic parenting moment that, although inconvenient and messy at the time, is something I’ll always look back at with fond laughter. It’s the stuff the best of memories are made of.

x

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Homemade Giving and Gifting, Part 2: A Bounty of Baking

Everyone who knows me at last a little bit understands that when Christmas rolls around, I’m kind of a lunatic about baking. I inherited it, along with many other odd things, from my mother. I begin baking right after Thanksgiving, freezing as I go. There are always a few recipes that are standard and make it into every year’s baking, but I try to add a few new varieties every year to keep things interesting. 2012 Christmas baking including the following:

1: Chocolate Logs: A white shortbread dipped on both ends in chocolate.
2: Vanilla Maple Chip Cookies: a traditional soft and chewy cookie loaded with maple flavor and chunks of white chocolate chips.
3: Chocolate Peppermint Cookies: These mimic the taste of thin mints, with a crisp, chocolate peppermint cookie dipped entirely in white chocolate and then sprinkled with crushed candy canes.
4: Chocolate Caramel Vanilla Shortbread bars: A traditional bar cookie layered with vanilla shortbread, homemade caramel and topped with chocolate sprinkled with sea salt.
5: Gingerbread Cookies: The soft, molasses based cookie are rolled in sugar and then several white chocolate chips are placed in the center of the cookie after baking, similar to a Hershey kiss cookie.
6: Nutmeg Logs: Loaded with nutmeg flavor both inside and out, these cookies are frosted with white butter cream and sprinkled with fresh nutmeg.
7: White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread: A family favorite, these cookie have large chunks of maraschino cherries and white chocolate, then are dipped in white chocolate and rolled in sprinkles.
8: Candy Cane Cookies: Shaped like candy canes, these cookies have ropes of white and red colored almond dough, twisted together to form canes.
9:Lime Meltaways: A lime based, buttery shortbread cookie frosted with key lime glaze.
10: Russian Teacakes: A spin on a traditional favorite, these cookies were made this year with honey instead of sugar.

In addition to making up boxes and trays of the cookies above for friends, family and colleagues, I also do several homemade candies that I package in mason jars. This year, thanks to Pinterest, I was able to craft some cute labels and affix them to the jars with Modge Podge. This year’s candy sampling included:

1: Buckeyes: A peanut butter candy rolled in chocolate.
2: Peppermint Marshmallows: Homemade peppermint marshmallows, swirled with food coloring and cut into squares.
3: Bourbon Balls: A family favorite, these are a candy stuffed with bourbon soaked pecans and then rolled in a mix of bittersweet and semisweet chocolates.
4: Cookie Dough Fudge: A buttery, white fudge topped with chocolate chips that mimics the taste of raw cookie dough.

We couldn’t let our furry friends go unappreciated, so I also whipped up a batch of homemade cheddar and chicken dog treats, cut out in Christmas shapes, and packaged them in berry crates to distribute to our fellow canine owners.

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Homemade Giving and Gifting: A season of crafted cheer

I’ve been admittedly obsessed with Pinterest these past few months, so it’s not necessarily a shock that I’ve turned to crafting gifts this holiday season. But in college, if you had happened to mention me and the word craft in the same sentence, I might have broken into hives and gone running for the nearest pain reliever. Crafting conjured up images of my mother sewing me plaid school dresses when I was in sixth grade and desperately hungry for tacky, store bought stirrup pants. Or homeschooling and a rabid disbelief in evolution. Thankfully, these dreadful stereotypes have fled my life like the ghosts of Christmas past and I unabashedly enjoy making and gifting something unique. Here’s a sampling of what I experimented with this year.

1: Scrabble coasters and necklaces. These were so easy to do yourself, it’s a shame to even waste time on Etsy looking for them. A little cork, a hot glue gun and some Modge Podge and you’re off. Five minutes or less per coaster. I purchased sterling silver clasps for the necklaces and antiqued them with egg yolks, then strung them on twine.

2: Anthropolgie inspired Snowglobes. A few years back, these were the rage at Christmas time and they are super easy to do yourself. It involves a little fake snow and glitter and some miniature fir trees and mason jars. Again, a glue gun is a must for this project but since they are waterless globes, you can do all sorts of experimentation with them. I saw ones with lampposts and other little diorama scenes. I spray painted the lids of the mason jars and then scuffed them up to give them a different look.

3: Candy Cane Scrub. Another five minute idea that involves sugar, almond oil, peppermint extract and a little juice. I did labels with scrap booking letters, paper, spray adhesive, Modge Podge and some fake snow. Again, there are all sorts of variations you can make to this recipe depending on the season and the occasion.

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Why I suck at female friendships: A top ten list

I’ve been pondering this question for some time- the sheer weight of evidence that I totally blow at forming bonds with other women. I’ve had three close women friends in the course of my adult and teenage years. All these relationships, although they each lasted two or three years, have ended not in a gradual parting of ways but in spectacular, fiery disasters. There are several reasons behind this phenomena, which I’ll attempt to explore in brutal sarcasm and backhanded honesty below.

Reason 1: I do not do CHIT CHAT. I do not CHIT. Nor do I CHAT. It’s just a fact. I loath talking on the phone, and when forced to for social reasons, I do it so awkwardly that I’m rarely obligated for a repeat performance. Some of you may be surprised considering I used to talk on the phone for a living a few years back, and I’ll admit that I can do so for professional reasons quite ably. But I treat a conversation like a navy seals mission- I have a target or goal to secure. I get in, I get out as gracefully as possible and with minimal causalities. Apparently though, the chit chat gene is necessary equipage for female bonding. Who knew?

Reason 2: Honesty. I’ve told my share of lies, large and small but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it harder and harder to fake it. I just can’t pull off the small lies that make the niceties of polite public conversation. If I’m uninterested, bored or just think you’re being an ass, I’ll have to twist my hands behind my back and screw up my face to avoid spitting out the truth at the first opening in the conversation. I think being nice is not just over rated but over valued. I prefer honesty and I have a hard time imagining a world where everyone else doesn’t feel the same way.

Reason 3: Pink is not my style. I’m the least girly girl I know. Okay, I wear my share of skirts, but I’m just as likely to accessorize them with combat boots and army jackets. I wear makeup once a year. Not an exaggeration. Once a year- to my husband’s company Christmas party. I have no idea what the latest celebrity gossip is or the most popular nail color or haircut. And even more, appalling, I’m proud of it. It’s not just that I don’t care. I actually find those things annoyingly demeaning and unworthy of attention. And I don’t like to waste time with people who don’t agree.

Reason 4: I’m a little on the nerdy side. Okay. A LOT on the nerdy side. I’ve never seen an episode of American Idol, The View or Oprah. Not a single episode. I can tell you the major themes of classic Russian and French literature and can serve up tasty quotes from Thomas Wolf novels for party conversation. Men have been told time and again that nerdy doesn’t win you points with the ladies. I’m happy to confirm this is also true in friendships. If you can’t dish with the girls or shop til you drop, then you often end up the wallflower.

Reason 5: Seriously. I’m a little too serious. I can’t help it. My idea of foreplay is to spend an hour arguing the finer points of journalistic bias. When you get me drunk, I do the exact same thing except at the end of the argument, I might cry a little, throw up and find my way to the closest pillow before I start some hysterical scene that usually ends with me walking around the neighborhood seething mad at 3 am. I don’t do casual or calm. I’m either 300% or off.

Reason 6: I never learned how to have serious, sustained relationships with anyone. Like the rest of the world, this one I can blame on my parents. We moved almost every two years when I was a kid and into my teenage years. Every time I had invested in a bond with a girlfriend, I had to abandon it, usually to move not just a few miles away but to another state entirely. In my adult years, it’s made me restless. I’m accustomed to change, to learning how to be the anchor in a sea of chaos, to making home out of pieced together artifacts from boxes. And I kind of thrive on that- the lonely drama of it.

Reason 7: Open mouth, insert foot. I don’t have a lot of boundaries and I often go out of my way to disregard social conventions. My favorite bar game is to say the most outrageous thing, you know the one thing no one thinks is appropriate and that will make everyone in the group recede into uncomfortable silence. I’m exceptionally good at that game. If there was an Oscar for that game, I’d be fucking Meryl Streep.

Reason 8: I try too hard. At this point, I know I’m bad at connecting with women and so I go out of my way to change that and end up looking nervously, socially awkward like some teenage boy with a crush. I’m over do the compliments, the gifts, the staged interactions. And it all ends up feeling falsely saccharine and unsatisfying. I see meaning where there is none, intent where nothing was intended. The relationship takes on a significance that makes us both feel weird and we end up backing away slowly before it gets too strange, too fast.

Reason 9: Madonna syndrome. I admit it. I expect more of women than men. It’s rather sexist of me, but I expect women to be more loyal, more loving, more trustworthy and more capable of intimacy than men. And inevitably, they disappoint me and exhibit strangely human tendencies towards failure, betrayal and petty unkindness. I’m not saying I don’t contribute to this- I’m sure I do. But it never fails to remind me why relationships with men are easier.

Reason 10: Investment. I think in order to have real relationships, you have to invest in starting them and maintaining them. I’m old now and busy with family, home and a million other little things that crowd my to do list and take big items off the table. Most women my age have friends from their college or high school years and they can carry those relationships through with minimal investment because they have already laid a foundation. Other sources of relationships like work aren’t options for me as a stay at home Mom who rarely emerges from her hovel and can’t remember the last time she shaved her legs or painted her toenails. I’ve sunk my investment into these two tiny beings who demand all of my waking and sleeping hours.

I’m sure someday I’ll be 40 and then 50 and I’ll have at least another disastrous friendship or two, but I’m hoping by sixty I get the hang of this bonding with females thing. It’s one of the mysteries of life I’d like to have figured out before I kick the bucket. Right up there with why it’s 2012 and we haven’t yet figured how to make pantyhose that don’t snag. And nail polish that doesn’t smudge and dries instantly. Come on, humanity. Let’s get on the ball here.

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 12

Birthday Cake

This particular month has been fraught with the stress and excitement of moving and in the midst of it all, you’ve kept growing and babbling as if nothing had changed. We’ve relocated to a smaller house that we are renting in Cottonwood Heights, on the lower east side of Salt Lake City, tucked up against the mountains. It has wood floors, tiny bedrooms and a nice little backyard with a beautiful, big tree that is currently exploding into golden halos of leaves. Not that we’ve had time to explore much since we’ve been buried in boxes inside and coping with the first cold of the season. Today is my birthday and you’ve already thrown up on me once. Just how I’d envisioned spending the day.

You’ve continued to make great strides this month in mobility, walking four or five steps at a time unprompted between objects but it’s still a mode of transportation that takes a backseat to your frantic attempts to break land speed records crawling. And without any instruction, you’ve decided you can manage going both up and down the stairs in our new house independently, opting for a belly slide down the wood steps that resembles a penguin on the ice but seems to get the job done nicely. At this point, you are fairly accomplished with a ball and can throw, catch and roll short distances. I’ve seriously considered teaching you fetch just so someone can play with the poor dogs, who are sadly neglected these days, although certainly not by you.

The dogs are without a doubt your favorite people. It was one of the first words you learned and you greet them with their label “dog, dog, dog!!!” enthusiastically when we arrive home to a parade of tail wagging and a chorus of yelps. Miles is the most tolerant of your violent affections and will lay calmly while you climb all over him, trying to nibble on his ears and hug the life out of him. Timber seems only slightly more open to your advances than Owen’s and eyes you warily across the room, ready to bolt at the first sign of your attention. This rejection does not faze you and you follow him, giggling maniacally at his panic as you advance. When you are in your highchair, however, you reign queen of the dogs as they sit patiently at your feet, waiting for scraps to fall from the heavens. You’ve been feeding them outright for some time now, slipping them tasty bites from your chair with an extended hand whenever you are bored or displeased with your meal. This has been a behavior I’ve had very little success in curbing.

You’ve also begun to share with people, trying to feed Owen, Dad or I bits of your snack or allowing us to hold a treasured possession before quickly reclaiming it. Your ability to empathize seems to be developing on a few levels. You’ll give small hugs when I pick you up and you are happy to see me, patting me sweetly on the back and lowering your head to nuzzle into the curve of my neck. Occasionally, you’ll give a kiss when prompted or wave goodbye. Most dramatic has been your reactions to Owen’s tears. You’ll grow very serious, often whimpering yourself and reach out for him, insisting on hugging him and attacking him with small pats and head butts until he stops crying. This is the way you typically demonstrate your affection- by banging or rubbing your head against someone else’s, laughing at their exclamations of surprise or pain. You are occasionally jealous of Owen, especially when he is affectionate with me, and you’ll push him aside roughly, screaming and grabbing at me furiously to defend your territory.

Two new things that you’ve begun to do more often that are quite adorable are dancing and sticking your tongue out. You stick your tongue out when you laugh or sometimes for no reason at all, but you’ve become increasingly aware of it. Perhaps this new found discovery has helped you with your language acquisition, which seems to be exploding right now. You have only added a few more words to your repertoire- “drink,” “thank you,” and “Miles,” but your babbling has very specific intonations and sounds exactly like speech, so we can almost infer what you are saying and carry on conversations. I’ve noticed when I’ve been nagging or raising my voice with Owen, you’ll often speak to him directly afterwards, mimicking my tone, pointing your little finger and shaking your head at him. Yes, I’m aware you make me look ridiculous. The second thing you’ve done more often lately that is pretty adorable is dancing and singing. When you hear a song you like, you’ll use your two pointer fingers and move them back and forth or in circles and hum and groan in cadence with the song. Totally cute when viewed in the backseat mirror- John Travolta couldn’t use that pointed finger any more effectively than you.

Just this past weekend, we held your first birthday party at the house with a few family friends and your baby friend, Gavin. It was a rainbow themed party with rainbow cake, clouds hanging from the ceiling, and all sorts of Pinterest worthy decor. You behaved quite well considering the circumstances, made the expected mess with your birthday cake for pictures and ripped open presents like a pro. I shouldn’t have been surprised on that front, given that your new nickname is Ms. Chaos and you leave a trail of disaster in your wake throughout the house on a daily basis. I know sometimes Moms get nostalgic at first birthday parties, sadly marking the passage of time and that their child is no longer a baby. I have to say, I’m pretty darn excited because I know at this point next year you’ll be talking and walking and doing things that currently, you just cry and fuss about. You seem to want so badly just to go, go, go and I want to give that to you. To hold your hand on this journey, to know you better for the person you are becoming and to try to honor that irrepressible spirit by letting you loose on the world. I know whatever happens, you’ll be okay. Better than okay. But the rest of the world? Watch out. It’ll never be the same.

Birthday Cake

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Saffron’s Stories: Month 11

This month, poised on the brink of a year old, your impatience and stubborn intensity has reached new heights. You can almost walk and have teetered several steps unknowingly trying to reach objects just out of grasp. But suddenly, instead of endlessly exploring your world, you’ve begun to clinging to me again, reduced to tears and wailing when I am not in your line of sight and refusing to play independently. You obviously resent my attention focused elsewhere and will often resort to tantrums, especially when I’m trying to help your brother with school, clean or cook. You know- just the important stuff that comes up all the time.

You are finally cutting those terrible top teeth but we’re still waiting through the drool and irritability for them to drop. One day earlier this week you were awoken earlier than usual and for some reason, couldn’t nap. This created a situation I would prefer never to have to survive again in which you became a raving, violent, lunatic. I might have compounded it by forgetting to give you a snack and so when I couldn’t take it anymore, I packed us all into the car with a bunch of blueberries and oatmeal squares and hoped it would blow over into exhausted sleep. And while you did calm down and munch happily, you never slept until that night. Like some sort of silent protest. I woke you up early and now, I’d have to pay for it. Dearly.

You are, in short, insatiable and difficult. I think most of this stems from the fact that you are not able to make yourself understood and you have wants firmly confused with needs. The frustration of this dilemma seems to overpower you often and reduces your little body into epic temper tantrums. You’ll strike out at the closet person, usually me, with flying fists and piercing, indigent cries. And even when you are given what you initially wanted, you refuse to be pacified and continue to scream and thrash, beyond all reasoning. I can tell this is going to be a useful teenage talent. The only way you are effectively able to communicate is by pointing your index finger towards the direction or object of your desire and making little questioning noises. We try to reward this behavior as often as possible and encouraged you to ask for “more”, “drink”, etc. You make reasonable attempts and we satisfy you as quickly as possible to reinforce. But sometimes, that bottle of hand sanitizer that you want to play with and squirt into your mouth- well,it’s just off limits. As far as I can tell, you think limits are bullshit and that we’re just holding back stuff as some kind of cosmic joke.

I have seen you do some things I never recall your brother able to do as a baby, though and mostly it’s fine motor skills. Banging with both drumsticks on a drum, catching a ball, coloring with crayons. These things, which are normally things I would expect a two year old to do, come almost naturally to you and you do them without encouragement or instruction. You are fiercely independent, often refusing to eat something unless you are allowed to feed it to yourself and always opting for what everyone else is eating rather than what is on your plate. Your use of toys mirrors this- you’ll drop everything to climb into the laundry basket or play with the TV remote. So often I am struck by how very different you are from your brother as baby, in both positive and negative ways.

Often your father says to me that we need to encourage your independence and strong will and I’ve often laughed in response. You’re the kind of girl that won’t wait for opportunity, you’ll take it from someone else and eat it whole before they have time to blink.?

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Saffron’s Stories: Months 9 and 10

Yeah, okay. I confess to cheating on this one. I can’t even pawn it off as merely late. I skipped an entire month. I could say in my defense that you are a demanding baby and that your brother just started school online. And also I was furiously busy cleaning the house. Ever try to clean 5,000 square feet by yourself? Or how about we were trying to milk every last drop of fun out of the summer before it passed us by? That sounds like a legitimate excuse. In truth, I think I forgot about your post until it was so late I convinced myself I might as well wait for the next month to culminate. And here we are.

You’ve mastered crawling to the point of lackadaisical laziness. When you get bored with it, you hitch your butt up and straighten one leg and crab along with your hands at super speed. You are currently a serious danger to yourself but I’ve simply had to stop worrying about it. You can climb up all fifteen stairs independently, but I position myself directly behind you and try to pretend I’m preventing you from injury. You love to play chase and will follow me around the house, peeking around the corners until you catch my eye, and then heading at full speed towards the stairs, giggling maniacally. Navigating from place to place seems to pose no problems and you happily cruise along, drifting from hand hold to hand hold or dropping to your knees to cover longer distances in the blink of an eye. I think you’ve decided walking is stupid and when I attempt to force you to stand, you crumple your knees and huff in frustration. When caught unaware, you can free stand for several seconds, surprisingly steady, but I don’t think the usefulness of this skill has occurred to you just yet.

It has become difficult to snap pictures of you anymore because you are a constant blur of girl, passing by on your way elsewhere, shaking your head emphatically or waving your hands in protest. Your curiosity and bravery border on stupidity, but I let you have lots of freedom to fall and fail because you seem to thrive on it. You are seriously tough and although you’ve had some serious tumbles and near accidents, you’ve always escaped with just a bump or a bruise. You seem to have good judgement and impeccable balance. Tears and crying, at least over physical pain, are fairly short lived. Just last week when I took you in for your checkup and the nurse administered your Hepatitis B shot, quickly stabbing the needle into those chubby masses of fat we’ve started to refer to as “thunder thighs”, you gave a fierce scowl, took a quick intake of breath, and then decided not to bother crying and climbed up into my arms. Your brother, who was practically in tears at the thought of you in pain and had offered to take the shot for you himself, was equally amazed.

You have two little bottom teeth that have broken through the gums and look adorably cute, but they don’t seem to be much help in chewing. Not that it would stop you anyway. You continue to eat mind boggling amounts of food for such a tiny stomach and you don’t seem to have a “full” switch. You insist on feeding yourself as much as possible and if you like it, you’ll insist we keep shoveling it in until it’s gone. There is nothing you won’t try and very little you won’t devour. We call you the “trash compactor.” Tomatoes, cottage cheese, pea pods, raspberries, and more. Despite this, you continue to be tall and lean, with a long torso and big feet. Your hair has grown much thicker and continues to curl in little wisps of auburn. Your eyes are big and blue, with patches of gold and brown and your adorable smile still transforms your little face.

Just last month we took a family vacation to San Francisco and I was forced to fly alone with you and Owen. It was a half hour car ride, shuttle ride, two and a half hour plane ride followed by another half hour shuttle ride. I had flown with Owen when he was even younger than you, but I was frightened because you are a completely different baby. You refused to sleep on the plane, despite the fact that I nursed you, and decided it was much more fun to squirm endlessly and play empty the seat pocket in front of us. Over and over and over again. We survived and the weekend went fairly well, although being cooped up with you in a hotel room was nearly a sanity breaker.

I’ve come to the realization that although you are not quite one yet, you are no longer a baby. Your development has placed you squarely in the toddler stage, whether or not I am prepared for it. You’ve begun to imitate language and become frustrated when your needs are not met, raising your voice, slapping and throwing tantrums. You continue to prefer to be in my arms at all times, but you’ve also begun to crave new settings and challenges, growing bored with playing at home and dancing and laughing when deposited in your car seat. Just this morning, when I was trying to give Owen some instruction for his science lesson and you had been playing happily on the floor at my feet, you crawled over and began to cry at me, tugging at my legs and batting your fists. When I returned my attention to you, you stopped, then continued louder when I tried to talk to Owen again until no one could hear a thing besides your enraged cries. You’ve grown used to being the center of attention in any room and aren’t about to give it up without a fight. Boy, do I admire that tenacity even as it makes me cringe at the thought of the next two years of toddlerhood.

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