Monday, July 12, 2010

Baby Whispering

My husband and daughter call me "The Baby Whisperer," because my superpower is the ability to make all babies love me.  Really that's not true.  My real talent is the ability to love all babies.  Babies just recognize this and respond in kind.

I am always respectful -- I'm not a grabber, toucher, or kisser of babies I don't know.  But I am irresistibly drawn to make eye contact, smile, and play a game of peek-a-boo.  Since I have the great good fortune to work with young children (0 to 3 years) who have special needs and their families, my baby whispering skills are a great asset to me on the job.

Baby whispering isn't enough, though.  Parent whispering is often the skill I need even more.  Lucky for me, I have a heart to love parents too.  I am in a very privileged and delicate position, entering (intruding into?) a home, a family.  I often wonder how they can bear it; sometimes emotions are so raw and close to the surface.

One gorgeous little boy (M) has so many physical, cognitive, and medical needs that no less than 6 different therapists/care providers come into his home each week.  By the time I arrive on Friday mornings, I can tell Mommy and Daddy are exhausted.  

Last Friday it was obvious that they were distraught over their latest bad news.  They've already been through so much.  I fought my instinct to smooth it all over with optimistic cheer and just listened with all my heart.  I didn't agree or disagree as they talked for a couple of hours.  I tried to keep my expression neutral and not insult them with pity. 

Not for the first time, I tried to imagine what it is like to expect and plan for a new baby, only to relinquish cherished dreams over and over again as first one, then another and another obstacle is placed in your sweet boy's path.  And still find a way to hope; talk about grace under pressure.

I'm not saying that these (or any) parents are paragons or any such saccharine sentimentality.  But I do believe that it takes a special talent to find dignity, humor, and hope in the face of such continued opposition.

That is a real superpower.  M's parents have such gallant optimism about the future because they have a talent for love.  I am grateful to witness and be part of their love for sweet M.  The trick is that we see and value all of M -- not just focus on the disability.

M has worth all on his own whether or not he does the same things the same way other children his age do.  Not everybody gets that -- but I am lucky to see it.  M's parents and I made a list of all the things we love about him:
  • liquid brown eyes with long, long lashes
  • all boy!  He loves motorcycles and will turn his head whenever he hears one on the street
  • dimples when he smiles
  • the way he totally relaxes against my chest when we're reading Good Night Moon
  • a fighter!  He does not like to roll from tummy to back and lets me know.
  • the way he gurgles and smiles when his brother's new puppy licks his hand
  • He spits out his sweet potatoes just like my daughter used to.
  • Until Daddy says, "All right now, M.  Is that manners?" with that stern daddy voice.
  • He's a football fan.  M shows real pleasure watching the big game with daddy, brother, and cousins.
  • No one else will do but Mommy when he wakes in the night.  (a blessing and a curse!)
  • If he is fussy anytime, he will instantly calm when Mommy sings "Sleep Baby."  Just her voice across the room ("I'm coming, Honey!") is often enough to make him content.
  • Big brother plays too rough with M...and M loves it!  Like that time he took him outside to play in the sprinkler...

Well, the real list is way longer than this, but I am already more in love with M than ever just looking at these few things.  What more could any little boy be than M already is?

Happy birthday, Special Boy!  Today you make two, a real milestone.   I'm wearing black and gold for your favorite team.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday

This picture describes our quintessential Sunday morning breakfast.  Black coffee (for me, everyone else takes cream and sugar) and the crosswords for my sweetie.  He is some cocksure of himself doing this puzzle in pen!

I love the way the shadows bring out the elegant pattern of my china.  I get a surprising amount of pleasure from sitting down to a meal with these unassuming, cream-colored dishes.  They are to me much more beautiful than other, more expensive, patterns I might have gotten.

Thank you to Harriet for giving me the "Shadow Shot Sunday" idea and opportunity.

This morning I made one of my favorite breakfasts:  pain perdu (aka French toast).  I love sweet potatoes and when I cook them, I always bake extra, then puree them and freeze them in 1/4 cup portions.  The night before I make pain perdu, I leave a couple portions out on the counter to defrost.  Here's my recipe:

Pain Perdu

5 slices of whole wheat bread
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato (butternut squash works too)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cinnamon (I love cinnamon and really don't measure.  I probably put lots more.)
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg (ditto what I said about cinnamon)

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast-iron skillet to medium-high.
While that is heating, mix sweet potato, egg, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Liquid will be thick.
Dip a slice of bread (both sides) into the mixture until it's saturated.
Put the bread in the skillet and brown on both sides (about 2 or 3 minutes per side).
While one slice is cooking, be soaking the next.

I like to eat mine with powdered sugar, Gem and Sweetie (dear husband) like maple syrup.  It goes great with fresh berries or any seasonal fruit.  Yum!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thoughts to Ponder

Every so often I come across a quote that inspires or touches me in some way.  I write it down, fold it up, and put it in a jar in my kitchen.  Once a day or so, I just pull out a thought, ponder it, and move it to the next jar (for thoughts I've already pondered).

I never know what thoughts will come out of the jar.  Sometimes, they are words of comfort:

"To everything there is a season" (Ecclesiastes) or "Housework done imperfectly still blesses your family" (Fly Lady).

Sometimes they are words of advice that I dearly need:  "Leave evil and it will leave you"  (Arab proverb), or "Between stimulus and response, one has the freedom to choose" (Stephen Covey).

Sometimes I get inspiration:  "To unpathed waters, undreamed shores" (William Shakespeare) or "Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling"  (Margaret B. Runbeck).

Often visitors find my kitchen stash of quotes.  After they read a few, they sometimes want to take one away with them.  There is one quote that I continuously have to replace.  It's from the incomparable poet and penseur Maya Angelou, "My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return."

I think I can see why; it's inspiration, advice, hope, and assurance all in one.

Today I worked a little more on my niece's butterfly.  I used a very long stem stitch around the wings and for the smile.

Tiny, colorful seed beads line the inside of wings.

I did some lopsided French knots for the eyes and nose.  For the antennae, I used an outline stitch in blue, then couched it in green.

To capture the sweet exuberance of this butterfly, I'm thinking of the bright colors that a child might use in her art work.  Now I have to figure out which stitches to use for the segment lines along the body.