Friday, 30 January 2009

No, Maisy, noooooo!!!!

Lucas's favorite book right now is ¿Dónde se esconde Maisy? (We got the translation.. I know, we're lazy and horrible.) He lifts all the flaps and he gets super excited when he hears "toc toc" lifts the flap and (spoiler alert) "es Maisy!". 

We took ¿Dónde vive Maisy? out of the library, which we haven't read as much yet but I'm sure will be equally engrossing.

We read along, looking for Maisy, lifting flaps and finding that "No! Aquí no está Maisy". Every time it's "no she doesn't live here" or "no, she's not hiding here". I take issue with that. As as mother who is trying to impress the notion of "no" on her young'un I try not to overuse the word, to use it with precision and intent, not too often and not too sternly, hoping, with time, it will come to elicit specific behavior (other than mischievous smiles). I take offense that Maisy uses it willy-nilly. So we end up improvising and not reading the overused "no". Lucas gets a translated, edited Maisy- far from the original work. 

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The only book you need to read

I am not a punk. I like Disney movies. I dress my son in gender coding blue. And for a while I hoped that Diaper Genies were "someone you hire to change your kid's diaper". Needless to say, Jessica Mills and I are not exactly two peas in a pod. We probably disagree on most lifestyle choices. Except the ones about raising kids.

My Mother Wears Combat Boots: a Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us is the best parenting book out of the very many I have read. It is so wonderful because it encompasses everything I look for in these things: an inside look into her own parenting fiascos AND actual information. This book is well researched. There is information on fetal development, child psychology, birthing options, education and bigger political planet saving things as well.

Jessica's political activist punk mama stories are interesting, funny and relatable. I am not one to be scraping off a cloth diaper, but I agree that "having a parenting relationship with a brand-new person is unique and truly freakin' sweet, fun and amazing." This book was written for "the rest of us", which might just be all of us. Don't we all want children that are free and interested in the world? We try to raise them respectfully, lovingly and with patience. And we try real hard to understand and accept when they show their own personal colors, even if it is pink.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


Until recently, it was just a funny word. With a very active 9 month old and a mami in need of activities we set out to see what the world has to offer us. 

The world offered us Gymboree. Gymboree offered us a free trial. Everyone knew our names, it was bright and open, there was crazy good matts and an instructor with a magic bubble wand that blew out millions at once. Best of ALL, they have the most incrdible baby gym, with slides and tubes to crawl through, balls, things to climb. It was critter Shangri-La. Lucas was incredibly and adorably excited. He was crawling at the speed of light, interested in absolutelly everything, trying every single thing. Very sure of himself and very very excited. I loved it! 

The only downside is that it is rather pricey. It's a toss up between Gymboree and groceries. But the minute we feel a teeny bit richer it's Gymboree all the way. Forget college, this is a much better educational prospect for which to save money. Maybe we should take out a loan. We're still paying for our own college loans... will Lucas really care that we tacked on a few years of Gymboree to his?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

You and me at 8 months: oh the anxiety

Separation anxiety hits you unexpectedly. You thought you could walk over and turn the music on all by yourself. Well, you can't. The critter yelps, crawls over, and hugs your leg. (I know, it's insanely adorable. The leg hugging is why I had kids in the first place.) Now try leaving the house sans critterness. Haha, fooled ya.

Actually it's not so bad. Lucas is still happy with any of his familiar caregivers. Sometimes he is a bit clingy- but we all have our days. His reaction to strangers is changing though. A friend's dad, whom Lucas knows but hadn't seen in a while, picked him up and started playing him. Instead of laughing, Lucas was disconcerted and bordeline upset. Dad friend shouldn't have skipped the Hey, Lucas, remember me? Want to play? Let's see if you want to come over here... We're not so easy going whatever you like anymore. Well, good for you Critter McG!

We'll see if separation anxiety worsens later for Lucas. All I have to say is that my separation threshold is about an hour long. I can do longer than that, but not quite so happy. Separation anxiety is a two way street, and we can't all be as cool as the bonchibón.

Monday, 26 January 2009

The secret is...


It's where the cool kids hang. And where mamas touch base.

Playgroups, Mommy and Me, etc... in my mind, they had become a teasing urban legend. They don't abound here in Madrid. They don't exist. They don't have them. There's daycare and maids and an odd grandma here and there. There's you in the afternoon, at 6, after the 3/4 day of work at the office. And I suppose there's Baby Einstein. 

But the idyllic baby-proofed room, with soft baby music (windchimes, maybe), blankets on the floor and other chatty and equally relaxed mothers in their socks... it exists! Thanks to Kids in Madrid and Mum Abroad I am infiltrating my way into a community of playgroups and activities for little kiddies. I knew I wan't the only one.             

Friday, 23 January 2009

Friday funnies

This is funny, very argentine late 90's... darn cute if you understand Spanish.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

A new princess

Disney is coming out with a new princess movie, hand drawn, classic. I miss these so much. The Princess and the Frog is from the creators of The Little Mermaid - my favorite.

There seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding the movie. But I ignore the naysayers... there's some in every group, but nothing will dampen my giddy anticipation of a new real Disney movie!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Playing with others and fearful parents

Lucas doesn't go to day care yet (and most likely won't until he's two or eight, depending on when I can handle it, ok?) He spends most of his time with us and his aunts, ie, people who adore the crap out of him and think he is the dog's kahunas.

We hang out regularly with our friend J and his mami. Lucas is older than J by a month. They stare and reach out to touch each other - most of the co-mothering that is required is keeping them from sticking fingers into eyes. When they occasionally reach for the same toy, whoever gets it does and the other doesn't seem to care much.

Yesterday we went over to my friend L's, or, I should say, to 3 year old M's house. Lucas was in awe. He is mesmerized by older kids. Plus, there were trucks! With plastic silver stuff! Plastic balls! Puzzles! Cars! Big trucks! And M jumping around. The little critter was taking it all in, amazed, easy, happy. M got a bit jealous, as was to be expected. He acted on this by taking everything away from Lucas, squishing his hands, pushing him down when he was crawling... None of this bothered Critter McG. Take the cube away? No worries, there's another one here, don't have a cow. Squish my hand? Pf! My mom is sitting right here, I'm ok. That was his attitude, so I didn't make a bigger deal than he did. Man, it was hard. I wanted to push M myself, and I could have, I'm bigger. It's going to be tough letting the bonchibón grow up and deal with things and navigate relationships. Is it really bad if I go with him everywhere? Forever? Or until he starts dating? We can go anywhere he wants.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

White House kiddies

The latest issue of Cookie magazine has a slideshow of First Children growing up in the White House.

The information they have on some of the Presidents' kids is very interesting. I am now on the look out for a biography on Tad Lincoln and Alice Roosevelt, who seemed to be the ones who raised hell the most. I like mischievous little rascals - mostly other people's.

Monday, 19 January 2009

One hand recipes: Rosemary Crouton Salad

Easy, delish... lifesaver for when there is nothing for lunch!

Ingredients (serves two)

half a baguette
one or two sprigs of rosemary, leaves torn off and chopped
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
head of lettuce/bag of ready made salad greens
a handful of sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
fresh mozzarella, torn to bite size pieces
leftover chicken, bite size / can of best quality tuna
2 hard boiled eggs
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp low fat mayonnaise

Tear the bread by hand into bite size pieces and place in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with coarse sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Mix well with hand, so that everything is nicely coated. Toast in the oven at 180ºC until golden. Let cool.
In a salad bowl, combine lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, chicken or tuna, and eggs. Add the croutons. Season with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. Toss and serve.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Sleepy time stories: Cry it out babies

The ever popular CIO sleeping method for babies was created by Dr. Richard Ferber. Essentially, it consists of "teaching" your baby (of normal weight, aprox 6 months old, no health problems or pains) how to sleep on his own. The magic consists on putting your awake baby in the crib and walking out of the room. He will cry. You let him cry it out for a few minutes, go in to reassure him (without picking him up). You leave. He cries. You wait for another set interval of time. Go in. Non cuddly reassurance. And so on until he passes out from crying. This means he has learned how to sleep on his own.

One of the ideas behind this is that if you comfort your child by picking him up and helping him calm down in the safety of your embrace you are actually rewarding his crying. Manipulative beasts that they are, babies will then fake distress and cry on purpose to get you to pick them up.

Ferber, though, in 2006 loosened up a little and amended his theory. Reading between the lines it seems, at least to me, that he isn't willing to backtrack on what he said and the eminence that he has become, but he is leaving parents a lot of wiggle room. His new bottom line is: you know your baby, what is right for him, what you need and what he needs. Figure it out, suckers. I know, he leaves us back at square one and the baby is still awake.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Best Food Blogs

These are my favorite food blogs, in no particular order:

1. Lucullian Delights. This blog is by a lady living in Tuscany, in some remote little house surrounded by a forest... she is a very good and generous photographer. Her recipes are elaborate and warm. The only negative thing is that she has too many posts per page and it gets hard to scroll down at your selected pace.

2. Smitten Kitchen. The pictures are clean and crisp; there is usually one main photo followed by the photographed steps to the recipes, so it is very didactic and pretty as hell. They update pretty much daily.

3. White on Rice Couple. They are this cooky couple who love to travel, cook, eat and take photographs. They developed a whole little community around their blog. Good recipes with an Asian twist a lot of the times.

4. Delicious Days. It's been said that this is "a blog so pretty you could eat it". It is lovely. These crazy Germans just came out with a book that I can't wait to get my little hands on. The down side is that they do not update regularly at all.

5. Blue Kitchen. Simple, doable recipes. Great for ideas and inspiration.

6. Evil Chef Mom. It's a mom AND food blog! Imagine that... Total family effort, her kids help her with the technical side of it, etc. Cute, and heavy on the baking.

7. Chaos in the Kitchen. Created by a mom who wanted to get back to things SHE liked. Again, the mere thought! Her recipes are nicely photographed, good inspiration. She is sensitive to these here economic times, and comes up with good food on a budget. Lovely.

8. Gluten Free Girl. This is a beautiful blog and, obviously, a wonderful treat for those who need to eat gluten free. The gluten free girl's husband is a chef and they have a daughter whom they called "little bean" when she was regnant with her! The GF girl also has a book. Since I'm a happy glutenful woman I can't say that I've perused this blog too much, but her recipes seem to appeal to everyone, so even if there is just one celiac family member, the whole household could be happy with these recipes (which is sort of her point.)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I keep loving Obama

Parade magazine published a letter from Barack Obama addressed to his daughters. It moved me.

In it he tells his girls that he ran for president because of what he wanted for them and for every kid in the country:

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I hope he tries real hard.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

About critter dining....

We have a portable high chair that straps on to the table. We love it because it lets the critter be at the table with us, it doesn't take up a lot of room and it comes with us when eating out or at a friend's house.

We have the model with the rubberized arms strapping system from Prenatal. It is designed so that the arms fold flat for storage, which makes them tilt sideways when it's clasped onto the table. It is still safe and secure, and attached for dear life, but it makes me crazy. There are many of these out there: they either have the same problem (Chicco) or they look odd and metalicy (metoo). Which is why I am thrilled about the new lobster travel high chair (left) from phil & teds.

This chair holds kids up to 15 kg (same as the other ones), folds up compactly, has a machine washable seat, and best of all, because of the new clamping system does not have rubberized arms that will go annoyingly sideways at times. Looks like whenever critter two comes along he will be getting an upgrade...

Monday, 12 January 2009

Feeding the critter

I make Lucas his food. We buy all organic, lovely produce and meats. It's important that he eat well; that is, until he discovers Cheetos and we start wondering why we ever shelled out billions for organic free range chicken in the first place.

Like every parenting book and website out there suggests I would make a bunch of food, store it in mini containers and pop it in the freezer to use in the oncoming days. No more! Critter McG does not like previously frozen food. He only eats freshly made food, which makes food shopping and cooking just that more time consuming.

Like a fool I used to throw everything in a pot of water and let it boil up together, then purée it with an immersion blender. No more! I started reading online that a lot of the essential vitamins and nutrients of food are lost in prolonged boiling. (Which makes sense.) So now I only boil the meat. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc, go in the oven with the skin on, other veg gets steamed... God, how much time do I spend on critter food?!? Well, a lot. At least he eats it happily. It would be another story if most of it ended up on the floor or something.

These are two good websites for baby food ideas, tips, recipes, etc:

Friday, 9 January 2009

Thursday, 8 January 2009

You and me at 8 months

When the critter was about 2 months old he loved to look up at trees. We thought it was so sweet -poetic even. His friend J, who is a month younger, got into the tree thing exactly one month after Lucas. His mom and I were both quietly disappointed. It's a phase, after all, not the whimsical predilection of our tree-hugging babies. Oh well.

Now at eight months Lucas is doing a myriad of things which I'm sure many babies have done before to the utter wonderment of their first time parents. He just started babbling (ok, so he's behind... lay off me!), he takes steps with assistance, he can pick up small tiny objects and many other fantastic things.

These are some of the things M. le Bonchibón enjoys doing - this is where he's at:

1. He's a champion all-star peek-a-booer. He even initiates the game.

2. Books with flaps. They will probably not last forever because Hercules here goes wild once in a while, but he can get his little fingers to poke those flaps open every time.

3. Critter McG loves loves loves (almost as much as I like saying things in triplicate, you know, for emphasis) games where he does something to us, such as touching Wynn's toes and making him laugh and giggle, or pulling on my hair, making my head drop forcefully (which seemed like a good idea at the time.)

4. The Bonchibón experiments with every cup, bowl and pot that crosses his way: he talks (fine, grunts) into them. The small echo is wonderful. (We do it too - it is pretty exciting).

5. He very recently started touching himself, exploring. Every chance he gets. (How long till we stop thinking this is adorable?)

6. Zippers rock. Anyone wearing something with zippers is a friend.

7. Putting things over his head (or as far as his little arms will allow) makes him very, very proud.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

One hand recipes: avocado and bell pepper tosta

These tostas are quick and interestingly delicious. For those days when it's too complicated to come up with anything that involves ovens or burners, we have them as a quick lunch with a side salad.

extra virgin olive oil
1 ripe avocado
1 roasted red bell pepper, cut in strips
1/2 ciabatta bread, cut in half and cut lengthwise

Lightly toast the bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Spoon half of the avocado onto each piece of bread and spread with a fork. Lay the roasted red bell pepper strips over each one. Serve with a side of green salad.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Beautiful. Sad.

Shaun Tan's The Red Tree is amazingly beautiful and painfully sad. It is sad in a deep, lonely, adolescent way that I can still relate to, because I remember being misunderstood and blue.

Tan is an award winning artist and author, which leaves me in complete awe that one person can write so poignantly and create such interesting, powerful pictures.

This book is probably not targeted to my eight month old little monster (it says Grade 3 and up, but they have no idea how advanced Lucas is). Wynn prefers not to read it to him because he thinks it's too sad. Lucas likes the pictures - they have an intense depth of color that is very attractive. And I like to read it with him, in the hope that when he reaches his own adolescence I will remember that sometimes "the world is a deaf machine," but if you give it a little time, there might just be "right in front of you/ bright and vivid" something good.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Wooden toys and more

German toy company Haba creates sustainable wooden toys using primarily indigenous maple and beech wood combined with ecological adhesives and non-toxic, water-based lacquers.

Not that Lucas isn't an environmentally conscious young man, committed to playing with non-toxic and stimulating toys, but mostly he likes the bright colors and funny shapes - and that we will let him suck on them to his little heart's content.

These toys are great, reminiscent of old school wooden toy making. When they move the wood clicks so nicely, solid, nostalgically.

Haba also makes fabric toys, books, room decorations, crazy cool building blocks, etc. Really they make everything!

Friday, 2 January 2009

It's no sippy cup

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor's book on life with a toddler is fun but not hilarious. Her sippy cup book was fresh and new, and now the same view is older, less humorous - probably because we're expecting it. Naptime might be a more fun read for those new to Stefanie's sense of humor and lovingly unapologetic "decidedly lazier parenting style".

We still have things in common:

"It just seems like so many toys that are attractive to youngsters have a lot of little parts. I don't know what you can possibly do about it, short of putting orange cones all over the place to indicate a danger zone, or... vaccuming. But that seems a bit extreme."

I agree! Really, I do - just come to over my house and see for yourself. Or ask my son, who picks up lint with his refined little fingers. I choose to ignore the diss on my housekeeping prowess and be proud of his excellent fine motility.

All in all the book is an acceptable read but lacking enough new material or insight to make it seem like a rehash of the first book. If you're a die hard fan it's worth a read, but I definitelly recomend the first one to anyone unfamiliar with her work.

The book ends with Stafanie annoucing that she is having twin girls. Her blog takes up from there.