Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Lately, Charlie has become very affectionate. He loves hugging and kissing on the lips. I don’t mind the kissing part, really, except often times it comes immediately after a quick attempt at a make-out session with one of the dogs. “EEEWWWW!!!” [Note: the word “ew” drawn out for about 5 seconds and voiced very loudly is one of Charlie most favorite expressions as of late.]

In the past week, he has doled out more of his fair share of the loving. On Saturday, I saw him kiss and hug his cousin Drew on more than one occasion (it was Drew’s birthday after all!).

Saturday evening, he spent a great deal of time at my mother’s dinner party kissing the guests, particularly Becky, who received a full on hug and wet kiss smack on the lips when she picked him up to say hello. Did I mention that he hardly knows this woman? Also on Saturday night, he followed Caroline, Becky’s 7 year old daughter, around like a lost puppy. Every time she sat down, he put his head in her lap and hugged her around the knees. When she stood up to possibly get away from the creepy toddler, he held her hand and followed. When it was time for her to go, he flat out tackled her with his hugs and smooched her on the face.

Even last night while we named body parts (chin, nose, wrist, hands, toes, knees, etc.), he kissed each and every one of my named body parts. It was very sweet and sure beats the biting that he was beginning to make a habit of. This new fondness of kissing might explain Charlie’s sudden insistent need to continuously apply my lip balm each morning. He’s got to moisten up and make his lips luscious for a day of smooching!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Things Charlie Is Learning

Wow, this new school thing is really fun. I had no idea Charlie was capable of so much! All this time, I’ve just been holding him back, man. Many of these things can be done by most children of his age, but what’s impressive is that he can do it on command. And being able to tell my child what to do gives me a satisfying sense of pleasure.

1. He can take off the following clothing items: shoes, socks, jacket, hat, and pants (we’re still working on the shirt).
2. He can put on the following clothing items: shoes, hat and pants.
3. He can put his own toys away.
4. He can put items in the trash without taking other disgusting items out of the trash.
5. He runs to the bathroom like a bolt of lightening AFTER he relieves himself in the diaper or training pants. Hopefully, he will soon figure out how to get to the toilet (and get all those pants off) before he actually goes.
6. He can repeat almost any word that I say to him.
7. He has finally coaxed Roxy into letting him pet her from time to time.
8. He can wash his hands.
9. He can fake a sneeze.
10. He can spin around and around until he gets dizzy (and subsequently falls to the floor with a “whoooaa”).
11. He can blow his own nose and wipe his own mouth with a napkin.
12. He can cut a rug better than most.

Next on the list of things to learn:
1. Scratch Mama’s back
2. Massage Mama’s feet
3. Do the laundry
4. Wash the dogs

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New School

Charlie started at his new school on Monday. Since he began going to daycare last January, we pretty much knew that he would not be in that particular establishment long past toddler-hood. It’s not that we did not like the place; we just knew that there were better options out there once he became “of age.” We have had him on a list at the school where the Chockley children attend, but we lost our spot this summer because we decided to keep Charlie at home. In doing a little research at a party (with cocktails), I spoke to the husband of a professor at Memphis College of Art. He told me that his son goes to Evergreen Montessori. He emphatically stated (and this wasn’t the cocktails talking) that his son is always excited to go to school and always happy when he picks him up in the afternoon. I was almost sold on the place just by this conversation alone, but the Professor and I decided to take a tour of the place first.

A couple of weeks later in December, the Professor and I made an appointment at the school. We were given a tour of the facilities and I almost cried because it was such a nice environment. It was nothing like the pale, stale walls of his old daycare. And when we walked in the door, we heard the laughter and voices of children rather than the teachers yelling across the room. In the toddler area, they have a great layout. One room is devoted to a nap area and another is the “work” area. They have miniature everything for the kids to work with. They even have low to the ground toilets where THEY WILL WORK ON TOILET TRAINING. That right there is worth the small increase in tuition. On the grounds they have bunnies and chickens, and the kids raise the money to feed the animals. Charlie is not old enough for this part of the program yet, but just the fact that it’s a part of the program makes me smile. So, after the tour and a talk with one of the teachers, the Professor and I went home to discuss this new possibility. It took us about 10 seconds to decide, and we are so happy that we chose this school.

On Monday, Charlie began his first day. The teachers asked that one of us go with him on the first day and spend only a couple of hours there. While there, we read books, worked on a puzzle, mopped the floor, washed our face, and Charlie spent about an hour washing his hands in the lowered sink. I think he might be spending a lot of time there over the next weeks. I was really impressed at how the teachers communicate and work with the students. Not once did I hear the word “no.” Instead, they remind the child what he/she is supposed to be doing. They look the children directly in the eyes and talk to them in adult voices. At first I was a little concerned that it might be too serious, but after observing the class for a little while, I realized that the teachers are pulling out what these kids are capable of rather than what is expected as the norm in our society. Before we left, the teachers got the kids ready to go for a walk – their daily walk. The one where the kids actually go outside and get some exercise! At his old daycare, I think they may have gone outside about 10 times over the course of a year.

Yesterday and today, he went for short days on his own. When I picked him up yesterday, they were outside playing. It was great to see Charlie running around with kids his age and older. That’s another thing I like about the school. They don’t keep the kids so isolated by age like they did at the old place. He was having a great time trying to do what the big kids were doing, but he was also content to run around like a goofball on his own.

So far, he is doing beautifully, and I am extremely pleased.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post-holiday post (part II)

The day after Christmas, the Professor, Charlie and I were restless. After spending several days visiting with friends and family, driving back and forth from Germantown and Mississippi, eating, and filling our days with joy and laughter, we found ourselves a little bored with just ourselves. Our holiday hoopla had come to a screeching halt and we didn’t know what to do. So, we headed to the beach!

We had toyed with the idea of going down south sometime over our holiday break but never made official plans. We knew we wanted sand and waves, but other than that, we were open. On Wednesday morning after a mad-dash packing session, we found ourselves in the car, armed with a map and a cooler full of leftovers. We knew we were headed toward the beach but we weren’t sure exactly which beach. Rather than ruin the spontaneity with making set plans, we headed toward I-55 and decided to decide exactly where were going later. We had at least 6 hours at that point.

Somewhere between Memphis and Jackson, MS, we decided on Dauphin Island. I had been there once before for a friend’s wedding and really enjoyed it. It is a sparse little island just south of Mobile, AL. I like it because there are very few hotels on it; its accommodations are mostly houses on the beach or right across the narrow street from the beach. There are few stores and no gaudy souvenir shops, go-cart joints, water parks, or really anything for that matter. Just houses, a few restaurants, a grocery/bait store, and a smattering of hotels. Fortunately, we got a room at one of these hotels because affording a whole house at Christmas was not possible. The downside to all of this isolation is that in winter, only half of the establishments are actually open, and if it rains, there is not much to do.

On Thursday, we woke in our hotel to a chilly morning, but were happy to enjoy warmer weather as the day went on. We spent our day walking on the beach, enjoying a lovely bakery for a late breakfast, napping, reading, and more walking on the beach. Charlie wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. The sensation of sand between his toes was something that took him a while to get used to. He eventually came around and enjoyed digging in the sand, squishing his toes in the sand, and the following day, he even ventured out and let us put his feet in the chilly gulf water. It only took a few rounds of waves tickling his toes to get him hooked.

Having planned to stay another day, we changed plans and headed home one day early because of predicted storms. Although it was short-lived, we had a wonderful beach trip and definitely have plans to make it back this summer. I can’t wait to see Charlie’s reaction when we dip him up to his belly in the warm ocean water. Leaving early also made it possible to make it to the annual adult Christmas festivities at the Chockley’s. And to those who care, I promise to have it at my house next year (as long as we’re not at the beach!).

Friday, January 4, 2008

Post-holiday post (part I)

The Professor, Charlie and I spent a week and a half in holiday bliss. Fortunately, I work at a college that graciously closes its doors for a week at Christmas. And it’s paid time off! I remember working in my corporate hell and having to return to work on December 26. It totally deflates the holiday spirit for me. But enough of that. Onto the holiday post (part I)!

Robyn, Seb and unborn yet-to-be-named baby girl came to Memphis for Christmas. We had a marvelous time visiting, talking about babies, and gearing up for Charlie’s 2nd Christmas morning. Last year, we did not expect him to have a clue about what was going on, but he tore into his presents like an old pro.

This year, he had even more fun. We started off the holiday celebrations at the Professor’s aunt and uncle’s house. There, we visited with cousins and their adorable families and enjoyed the first round of holiday food. Part I of Christmas Eve was spent with the Professor’s family. We went to his brother’s home, visited with more cousins, nieces and nephews and opened gifts. Charlie and Drew were enamored with Charlie’s new “car.” They had a blast rolling around the house in it.

Later that evening, we went to my parents’ house, ate a huge holiday dinner, and opened even more presents. It’s official. My kid understands what this holiday is all about – presents. In fact, a few days before Christmas, he walked up to the Christmas tree, pointed to the wrapped gifts resting underneath it and said “presents!”

After Charlie finally went to bed on Christmas Eve, Robyn, Seb, Gammy, the Professor and I set out to playing Santa. And boy, there was a lot to do. Earlier this month, determined to complete my holiday shopping in a timely manner, I bought presents to Charlie from Santa – 4 books, a mini-stuffed giraffe, shoes, a winter coat, and a couple of other little goodies. I felt that that was MORE than enough, especially considering that I had already heard about the 10 plus gifts my mom had gotten him and the fact that Gammy, Aunt Robyn, Uncle Steve, Aunt D, et. al. had all gotten him gifts. But, being the adorable father that he is, the Professor was determined to take a part in the selection of gifts. So, he also went shopping and purchased 2 bath toys, another book, another pair of shoes, and something else, I’m sure. This boy had a BIG Christmas. In addition to getting the toys set out, we also assembled Aunt D’s gift, a mini-playground equipped with a slide, swing, lookout telescope, and steering wheel. It was a busy night.

On Christmas morning, Charlie woke without a clue about what the day was to bring. I gave him his milk in bed so that when he entered the den, he could fully focus on his Santa lot with a full belly. He was a little apprehensive at first – probably because the five of us were staring at him and giggling. But once he realized that the big pile of goodies in the middle of the room was all for him, he loosened up and went to town playing with all of his stash. We enjoyed a leisurely morning of Bailey’s and coffee, homemade quiche and chocolates for breakfast, and of course, presents. I am so looking forward to all of the reading I have before me such as this, this, and this.

Because Robyn had to be back at work the next day, we prepared for their early afternoon departure. We wished them and Gammy farewell and spent the rest of the day, gluttonous, on the sofa. Charlie took an unusually long nap, I am sure dreaming of all of the love, gifts, and excitement of the previous days.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Cup of Good Cheer (or a cookie!)

One of the things I love most about the holiday season is cooking. After the Thanksgiving spread has been consumed, leftovers and all, I begin to lay out my plans for making holiday cookies. Typically, I am not a baker. I usually do not have the time or patience for the preciseness called for when baking. I am more the type who likes to create on the spot, throwing various things into a recipe and making it my own. Holiday cookies, on the other hand, are the exception.

I began making holiday cookies each year with the onset of my subscription to Gourmet Magazine. Each December, they devote a huge portion of their issue to holiday cookies. The cookies are often elaborate and time-consuming, but over the past 3-5 years, I have willed myself to go through the process. Each year I add one more batch or try out a new recipe. And each year, I get better at it.

First and foremost, I love making these cookies. I never feel that I absolutely MUST do it. I tend to avoid those that require any fancy decoration, icing, or special cut-outs. The cookies I make usually fall under these guidelines: 1) I don’t have to buy any special equipment, 2) they are pretty, 3) they are so rich and decadent that I would not be able to sit and eat them all at once, and 4) they are unlike anything I could buy at the store.

I present to you, the holiday cookies of 2007.

Fig Swirls
I love these cookies. They are easy to make and are a wonderful alternative to store-bought fig bars. When making these cookies, we have a hard time keeping our fingers out of the fig mixture (dried figs, honey, cinnamon and cloves). The gooey and sweet filling pairs perfectly with the sugarless shortbread.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies I made these for the first time about 3 years ago, and they make it on my list every year. They are made with a standard sugar cookie recipe. Just add cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, and hazelnuts and you have a scrumptious cookie that melts in your mouth.

Cardamom Butter Squares I made these for the first time this year. I was bit apprehensive about what the outcome may be, but they are absolutely delicious. The are crisp, light, and buttery; the cardamom is almost an afterthought complemented with espresso and chocolate drizzles.

Caramel Pecan Shortbread Cookies
These are some of my favorites. I made them for the first time last year, and we made ourselves sick because we ate them so fast. The roasted pecans paired with the homemade caramel makes the cookies worth the elbow grease that goes into making them.