Monday, October 29, 2012

Still waiting for the power to go off

Except for a flicker which knocked out the time on the oven clock, we are still live. I woke up and ran the vacuum. "The fleece blanket is picking up a lot of debris." My husband agreed.

The rain is really coming down now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where's my beer and when's the power going out?

Hollow Road
 Photos from the storm in March 2010. It was hard to get out of the Sourlands.

I am doing what I imagine many other residents of New Jersey are doing - wasting time until the power goes out. With all the warnings, I feel like I have been waiting for days.

On Saturday, we were at my in-laws' house joking about the lines and empty shelves at McCaffery's. After a couple minutes my mother-in-law started shifting food around in the freezer and noting what she might bring to the cube freezer in the basement. My step-father-in-law said he would adjust the temperature lower. No one can resist the urge to batten down the hatches. It is contagious.

On Sunday, Jared headed for work, and I knew after a terrible night's sleep, Beren and I needed to get out of the house. I weighed a hike against shopping, and chose shopping.

We were not successful in finding toddler shoes and rain boots at the Flemington outlets and Kohl's. I bought four pairs of Marc Anthony socks for my husband, on sale, buy 1 get one half off. I postponed buying clothes for Beren - birthday, Hanukah, and Christmas are looming in December.

Shoe shopping was fitful - numerous stops at the coin operated rides including Lowly Worm in his apple car, a school bus, a red race car, Jurrasc (sic) safari, and a Kermit mobile. Beren requested that I join him in each one. I fit in about half to the amusement of several male adults who passed us at intervals.

No stores had acceptable, sturdy women's rain boots. "I work outside, I'd tear those apart in a day," I told the clerk at Bass.

In Stride Rite, three sales clerks asked if we needed help. The last one found me trying to wrestle lame khaki sneakers with Velcro straps onto my feisty son. "So you can hear us up front, huh?" I asked the clerk. No reply. The clerk drifted away.

"Do you like these?" I asked Beren. He vigorously nodded no. I had to agree.

An unattended toddler ran by with Clifford slippers on. Beren hugged him three times.

The mother came by as I said, "Oh, you have nice red shoes on! Just like Beren." I wrestled to get his other red Converse sneaker back on.

The mother was friendly. "They're slippers," she said. Beren protested as I continued to work his sneaker.

The mother warbled, "Oh your mother has nice shoes on. Are you getting your shoes on?"

I looked down at my several year old hiking shoes, with cracking leather and a slash across one of the toes. The fittings at the end of the laces are long gone. The soles are worn.

It must be the impending weather.

I came home to two messages - my mother, "Do you know about this storm? You can come here."and my father-in-law, "Just checking to see what your are going to do in this storm and say hello."

I took Beren outside, he began hiccoughing, which signals my suspicion was incorrect. I am not a terrible mother, but instead my son was going through another growth spurt. Hence, we had a week-long houseful of a cranky toddler, a weary, annoyed, and depressed mother, and a weary and bewildered father.

I made a few calls on my cellphone as Beren clambered on stumps and a 2x4 balance beam we set up. "Mom, we're all set. Water? Yes. Food? Yes. Might barbecue with the neighbor. Call if you need anything." "Jared, your Dad called. Give him a buzz during a lull at work." "Hey, Adam (my brother) you have to evacuate?"

Adam and his girlfriend live about a mile and a half from the beach. "No, we can stay. You know, we were making fun of people at the market. There was this one lady who bought two cases of water and all these gallon jugs, too. Then we went home and looking the fridge. Beer and a moldy banana. We thought maybe we should go get some food. We'll go after I hang up with you."

We chatted for awhile. Beren climbed up into my lap, nursed and dozed off. "I was going to go to Mom and Dad's but then my girlfriend's training in Virginia was cancelled. Hey, you know, Rachel, I'm looking at this weather on the TV, and I think we better go get some food now. I'll see you later."

I plopped Beren on the floor and bustled around the house. I gathered kindling, removed the greenhouse skylight, did a couple loads of laundry, draw ten gallons of water, thanked my landlord for cleaning the gutters, brought the umbrella in from the car, did the dishes, made my first chuck roast. Later, I baked a pumpkin pie and cream biscuits, drew more water, and did more dishes.

It's contagious.

 Dutchtown Zion Road

Pin Oak Lane

Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting out of the house with a toddler, Princeton Public Library dance night

Dance night had stiff competition from the Halloween parade led by the Princeton University marching band. We spent only ten minutes there and left as our son was warming up. Staff provided danceable Sixties tunes, tambourines, shakers, and colorful scarves.

I would go again though most parents sat along the walls communicating with electronic devices or taking photos.

As a parent, I have realized that I can teach my child how to play. I am surprised at how good at pretending, imagining, climbing, and jumping my son is. Over and over I am surprised. Together our play is even better. I like to blur the lines better adulthood and childhood. He's a child and I am a parent. He like to imitate the 'big people' things I do - driving a car, fixing things. So, when Jared and I dance and play with him, I would like to think that he is imitating our play, too.

I'll be damned if he didn't bring me a screwdriver

My son unscrewed a 1/4" jack input from my husband's Sovtek amp. Again. Beren is usually good at listening, except when he is tired and when he is not good at listening. We have asked him a few times to not unscrew the input on the amp.

The first time this happened we thought we would have to dismantle the whole amp. My husband shook the amp and applied pliers, with our son's help, of course. Papa Bear was already frustrated and Little Bear was very "hands on." It was annoying to listen to them.

Being a woman, wife, mother, and a Mackow, I am not genetically, physically, or psychologically able to mind my own business. I am a bossy expert who hate to see others upset or angry. Did I mention that I know a better way to approach the situation?

"Here, let me try," I said. I turned the amp on its side and fumbled with the pliers. Beren dove in to help. Every time I pushed the nut into place, the jack slid back into the amp.

After a few hopeless minutes during which I considered tossing the amp out the closed window, I became very determined to fix this piece f**king junk. With my son's help.

I got a box cutter. I pushed the blade out. Beren was riveted. I grabbed the input jack with the pliers and used the blade to hold the jack by the threading. The bolt went on.

I was very proud to be boss of this piece f**king junk.

I turned to Beren, "We fixed it. Beren, we fixed the amp with tools. Please never touch this again."

Beren nodded gravely.

So, last night Beren unscrewed the input jack, again, and Jared said, "No no, Beren, I asked you not to touch this."

I walked into the room and my husband disappeared. I sighed and looked for the pliers.

In my college days, I found my car had a flat in my Rutgers dorm parking lot. I did what most girls would do. I called my Dad. My Mom answered, and said, "Call your boyfriend." So, I did. Then I became the bossy expert - I am on Douglass, the woman's campus, after all. Get your sh*t together and change this tire, Rachel. And so, I changed a tire for the first time. My boyfriend rode up on his bike as I was putting away the jack.

"Leave that out," he said.

"It's done. I changed it."

I later called my parents, very proud. My mother said, "Never tell your boyfriend. He will never change a tire for you once he knows you can."

"He already knows, Mom. He came as I was finishing."

She sighed, "He'll never change a tire for you."

Jared will never fix the amp jack again, I thought. As I fiddled with the input jack and pliers, my son stepped closer to help.

"Beren, go get Momma a screwdriver, please," I said to my son.

I heard him open the tool drawer and rummage. He is just tall enough to stand on the very tips of his toes and reach inside. It is a drawer he likes very much.

He padded back into the room, smiling, and holding, I'll be damned, a screwdriver.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Woodland Sunflower

Insects are one thing I like about native plants. Missing rays (petals), pocked foliage. I will take a ragged woodland sunflower over a perfect lump of a chrysanthemum. The goldfinches will too. I just hope they left some seeds for us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

No matter how much you mow, no matter how droughty, English plantain will flower. 

I was recently asked, now that my son is older (22 months), if I have more time to do things for myself. I gave a long-winded answer that intertwines my communication style, featuring my father's loquacious, story telling lineage, my Elvish way of perceiving the world, and my worry that what I am saying is confusing, non-linear, and boring. 

I asked you what time it was, not how to make a watch.
Excuse Seventeen


Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.
J.R.R. Tolkein


Quit your yammering. 
Grandpa Mackow to Grandma Mackow

So, I could go on and on, yes and no, and ...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ssss ssss. OOO OOO. Zzzz zzz.

Local meets international. The white tailed fawn eats cereal with Gumby, a Korean doll, and a tiger. I bet more American children have tiger stuffed animals than whatever animal is the most common animal to their area.

Despite several books and toys with farm themes and visits to 4H fairs and petting zoos, our son does not imitate farm animals. My husband and I moo and bray, oink and cluck. We neigh and rear up like wild horses. Beren can attribute most of the sounds to the correct animal. He knows what we're talking about, but he does not join in the barnyard chorus.

Bumblebees on showy goldenrod, Hunterdon County, NJ

Milk snake, Sourlands - a garden buddy 

Great horned owl carcass, Catskills

Garter snake, Sourlands

The commonness of farm themed toys and books makes sense, many of these animals are familiar to many children, even across the world. These toys can be sold widely, where local fauna is too local. Roadrunner and armadillo, lion and elephant. Well, many American children know more about lions and elephants than grey squirrels, so my argument may be falling apart here.

I will stop pontificating. Beren imitates snakes, owls, and bees.

Ssss ssss. OOO OOO. Zzzz zzz.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanks for taking one for the team, Dear Husband

Papa Bear rocks Baby Bear to sleep along the Black River, Hacklebarney State Park
April 16, 2012

"I love you," I say as I watch my son play. We set up the dollhouse table and chairs that my we trash picked on the way to Route 29. We build additional chairs from blocks for the zebra, dalmatian, monkeys, and the vintage (my childhood) Playschool figures that I call Baby and Ned.

Last night's sleep was rocky.


It begins for me at 11PM but for my son at 6PM. He wakes several times before 11:00. "Eh eh, eh eh," he calls at 7:00. My husband and I peer at our son. He's rubbing his eyes and rocking back and forth. His legs are drawn up.

Nursing is the only way to soothe him. He goes back to sleep easily.

My husband and I shower at 8:30. "I shut off all the lights, so Beren will know we're in the bathroom," my husband says. I relax and let the hot water rinse my hair.

I think I hear something, so I step out of the shower. As I dry off, I hear the floor creaking and whimpering. "Momma's here, Momma's here," I say. My son stands at the door, his cries escalating to a wail. I toss on a robe and feel the flannel stick to my wet skin and become cold. We nurse again.

I begin typing and my husband prepares up a root beer soda of spikenard, spicebush, and sassafras. He stands in the kitchen doorway, shaking the Mason jars. "This is good. This is really good," he says smiling. He has interrupted my typing about a half dozen times to inquire, I know you are working, but what vessels do we have for storing the soda?, Would I like a taste?, How about another?, Would I help pour off the roots?
Build me a pallet on your floor, May 16, 2012
Asleep next to one of my childhood dolls, covered with a blanket his great grandmother made for his aunties long ago.

Beren wakes once more. We peer at our son. This time, he is smiling. "Uh, oh."

With a 6:00 bedtime, so much is possible, but in our home early bedtimes mean several wake ups before parents' bedtime. And then, through the night, we play musical beds. My son up from the floor into our bed until his kicking legs wake and irritate me. I move to the floor. My son comes down to the floor to find me. He kicks and nurses.

Back when my son was more garbanzo bean than string bean-shaped
June 2, 2011

At 4:00AM my husband checks the time. "It's not even close to morning," he says.

I try rocking, nursing, singing, talking softly. Beren chatters quietly and stays somewhat still.

"I need you to take a turn with Beren, so I can sleep," I say. My husband is silent for only a moment. "OK," he says.

They turn on a light and open the toy box. I drag three sleeping bags, two nylon and one tattered cotton one, our son's humble bed, onto the other side of house. I lie back down. I sleep until my husband steps over me. "I have to get my work clothes. Sorry." My eyes close.

Grandpa and grandson nap. April 20, 2012

A half a day later, my husband, who usually goes to sleep at 11PM, even when absolutely exhausted, is asleep on the couch at 7:30. I can recall only two early bedtimes for my husband - when we brought our son home from the hospital, we went to bed at 5:00PM. The other after a particularly long work day at a You Pick orchard, he sat in an upholstered armchair and I straddled him, still in bedraggled work clothes - this is a family blog! We fell asleep for an hour. We woke, my limbs numb, I rolled off my husband and hit the floor. We both fell asleep again.

Details, details. Tangents, tangents. I have my husband to thank for this morning's pleasant play with our son. Without the extra couple hours of sleep, I would have been grumpy. I'd be asleep on the couch and my husband here at the computer. Thanks, Bubbaloo.

June 28, 2012
 My fellows, asleep on the humble bed we make for our son nightly. I also spend a lot of timing sleeping here. Top sleeping bag: Rachel grammar school vintage, used it on my bed in high school also. Middle sleeping bag: Rachel forgot to bring her sleeping bag on a camping trip in college, purchased at a Walmart on the way to Vermont. Bottom sleeping bag: Rachel purchased at Herman's Sporting Goods in the Phillipsburg Mall for a trip to Michigan after dropping out of University of Hartford. These riches, this legacy. Nothing but the best for the first born son.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My son returns the stool to its proper place after using it to reach the sink. Oma and Grandpa's house.

My son likes things to be orderly. I do too, but I cut corners. For snack, I'll give him a bowl of rice with some broccoli on top. He removes the broccoli and places it on the table in a pile. He is satisfied. One pile of green vegetables. One pile of white rice. He might even pick a single floret that remains on a kernel of rice. 

I have realized that a lump of mixed food does not appeal to him. Tonight, I apportioned slices chicken, rice, corn, a Brussels sprout, and broccoli spears in separate sections of his monkey plate, as best I could, anyway.

When I was I child, I imagine I was the same way. There is lore of my requests to change clothes multiple times per day. "Mommy, there's a spot." While I loved to play dolls inside, I liked to make mud pies in the yard, collect black ants, and dig in the sand box. I must have made my mother crazy.

April broccoli served on a cutting board. Nothing but the finest presentation in our home. My son is 17 months old here.

Back in April, when my son had become very interested in solid foods, I might chop up some  chunks of broccoli and display it as above. He ate it readily, proudly sitting in Papa's seat. No babyish purees for this one. Dipping sauces were fine and so was drinking broth or pickle brine directly from the bowl. 

Food must be recognizable, preferably in the same format as his parents' food.  Chicken on the bone. Whole apples. Whole grapes and tomatoes. We cringed, monitored his food intake, probed his mouth for chunks we felt were too large. I worried we would give him a food-related complex. 

Another meal on the go - Beren chugs from an Activa single serving of yogurt in a Tecso parking lot Hungary. Tesco is a major box store chain.

We are fine however. He still ingests big globs of food sometimes. We still cringe when when packs his mouth with almond slices. He still ends many meals sitting on one of our laps. My pants often end the meal sloppier than my son's shirt somehow. We gasp when soup pours down his chin from the bowl but have also relaxed a lot.

Bread making with a 17 month old, also in April. 

My son really dislikes messy hands, so we make bread together. Our first bread making experience was fraught - a frazzled mother and a baby deeply concerned about the muck enveloping his hands. "Put you hands back in the bowl, back in the dough." Kneading makes him forget about the muck. Kneading keeps the flour from flying. It's good for both of us. Milk splashes on the floor. Flour is on our clothes. 

Jared walked in this evening as we kneaded. He turned to show him. "Dough in the bowl!" Beren began to cry. "Dough in the bowl!" He shrieked. He just wanted to show Papa. I still have some relaxing to do.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I made fresh applesauce and gave my hungry son a spoonful. He scowled and retreated to the loaner coffee table that holds his toys, snacks and water. He found the dill I have chopped for him in the morning and took a large pinchful. He quickly chewed it. Relief, horrible fresh applesauce taste gone.