Move Over Mary Poppins!

The real life adventures of one nanny, her husband, child, dogs, house, and whatever else crosses her path.

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Monday, March 30, 2009



Sunday, March 29, 2009


Yesterday, Felix & I went to Drumlin Farm, in Lincoln, for Woolapalooza. I'd never been before, so it was a treat. I didn't even know it was going on until I got an update in my feed reader from New England Fiber. I packed up the kiddo and departed. We were totally winging it. No plan, no provisions, no schedule. We just took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went. Such spontaneity!! Even the drive was lovely and low key, all along secondary roads north and east through Wayland and Lincoln.

It was especially nice to do something fun and out of the ordinary with just Felix. Usually, our major outings involve at least one of the Bosses' kids. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just a pleasant change. We went at a slow pace, didn't worry about seeing everything, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Felix got to pet a horse, he saw cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. He practiced his hand-holding and walking. We shared a bowl of lamb chili (made from lamb and veggies grown on the farm!) and a chocolate cookie. When Felix got tired, we left.

As an aside, I didn't buy a single skein of yarn, despite a "vintage" colorway of Fleece Artist sock yarn for a mere $19... I'm still a little wistful...

When we got home, Mark was home from work, and game to take the rest of the day off from the house, so we took Felix to the neighborhood playground for some swings and sliding, then after a family nap time, we went for early dinner at Legal Seafood.

Good day, all around!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Break Goes Out Like A Mouse

Friday was my last day with all four kids home for spring break. As the older ones had comported themselves well for four days previous, I agree to take the whole gang to Chuck E. Cheese (because even privileged children love video games and bad pizza!) for lunch and entertainment. It was insane kinda nutty of me to attempt, but actually pretty fun in the end. J & E have finally gotten old enough to be fairly self sufficient and even helpful, and O and Felix are little enough to manage, especially with support from the older kids.

I learned that Felix will happily eat the cheese off anyone's pizza, that he likes riding the car rides, and that he's going to be one heck of a skeeball player. Miss E can eat an entire free bag of cotton candy in about 2 minutes flat, and while Big Brother J can burn through tokens like nobody I know, he's also a great assistant to the nanny. He was happy to stay with the little boys while I used the restroom (peeing alone! quel luxury!) or to wrangle his little brother in for food and potty breaks. He's a good kid.

I barely saw the other three, as they busied themselves with games and the acquisition of tickets. They each had about 75 tokens to play with. I wrangled them in for pizza and ice cream, and again to tally the tickets and pick out prizes. In the end, everyone got to bring home a prize and I was rewarded with happy, tired children for a few hours following.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

0.6 Miles

Felix can walk, but he won't do it unless he's holding a hand or a stable object. What he lacks in confidence, however, he makes up for in stamina. Yesterday, on the way home from O's preschool, he walked the whole way home, doggedly clinging to the sides of the stroller. Over half a mile, excepting the cross streets, when I hauled him up and carried him, since his snail's pace is hardly fair to impatient Boston drivers.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

At Least He Doesn't Like the Taste of Bland

Picky eaters make me crazy. If you know me, or you've read this for long enough, you know that. I can't stand to hear children say, "I don't like that," when I know for a fact they've never before been presented with whatever it is. More offensive even is hearing those four evil words when they've eaten and enjoyed whatever is in front of them before.

And contrary to current parenting trends I've observed (in my ever-so-scientific way), I don't believe my child should run my life, and I do believe that within reason, children should eat what they're offered. I don't run a restaurant. I am the adult.

Imagine my frustration with my own darling son, who, despite my best efforts to present him with variety of good foods, and limit his exposure to junk, basically exists on dried fruit and milk, and refuses 90% of the protein I put in front of him, be it animal or vegetable.


Last week, in a moment of supreme weakness, I bought him one of those Gerber Graduates TV dinners meals. I thought, what the hell, it's designed for picky todders, right? So what if it smells like nothing and sodium. I dutifully microwaved it, got him set in his chair with his bib and spork, and watched him watch the microwave with anticipatory delight.

I put down the bowl. He sporked up some lunch and shoveled it in. He opened his mouth, and let it all fall out onto his bib. In the end, I fed him some leftover brown rice with peas and a couple handfuls of freeze dried strawberries, and felt much better about myself, even though most of the rice and peas ended up going to the dogs via the floor. He may not have a broad range yet, but at least he doesn't like the taste of bland.


Monday, March 23, 2009


Kitchen wall, no longer awful blue!

Kitchen wall from hall.

New bath, looking towards the toilet and shower.

New bath, looking towards the laundry.

Front parlor and old front door.

Office with window.

Parlor, stair view.

Mark, tiling the bathroom.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good Day

I had a great post in my head this morning while I was walking with the dog, but it was gone by the time I got to my computer.

Oh, well.

It's been a good day. Amelie & I walked 3 miles, had my teeth cleaned and my hair cut, then spent the afternoon with Felix at my parents house, and came home to find that the wall board is almost done. No more exposed studs!

Now the munchkin is sleeping, Mark's on his way home with Indian take out, and I'm still on track for the week in terms of my weight loss goals!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

There Was Something Pink In Her Eye

Apparently, on Monday, O told his Dad that his friend Ava had stayed home from school because there was something pink in her eye.

Why no one mentions these things to me is a mystery.

Yesterday, when I went to pick O up at preschool, his teacher let me in on the big secret; 4 kids were out with something pink in their eyes, and O had white goop oozing out of his tears ducts.

Le sigh.

I called Dad and the pediatrician, and went home to preach clean hands, and no eye touching.

This morning, we're all gunk-free for the moment, but O still needs to be seen by the Doctor before he can go back to school. Yay.

MoMP's lesson du jour: if your preschooler says someone had something pink her eye, don't dismiss it.

Of course, this whole thing makes me giggle a little, because, back when I was the CIT Director at camp, and pals with the camp director, when we were having a bad day, she would joke that we should hit the infirmary, find a kid with pink eye (because with 100 kids in camp, there was sure to be one), touch their eyes, touch our own eyes, and have to go home for a few days until the contagion passed.

Oh, that that were the case now. Now I have to wash my hands and hope that there's nothing pink in Felix's eyes. Or mine for that matter...


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thinking About Thinking About Eating

It's a funny thing... When I get serious about watching my food intake, I always turn back to Weight Watchers, because I was once so very successful there, and I understand and approve of their methods. One of the things I've always appreciated about Weight Watchers is that the program recognizes that for a lot of us, eating is just as strong an addiction as cigarettes or alcohol or pharmaceuticals. It can be just as physically damaging (though in very different, sneaky ways) if left unchecked, but food addiction has one characteristic all its own. You need the object of your addiction to survive. How do you draw the line between eating to fuel your body and eating to satisfy whatever demon is gnawing at you? I struggle with that all the time.

Mark, for instance, smoked for 12 years before he quit (a wheel set in motion largely by me), and for him, cold turkey was the way to go. He just stopped. He can even have a couple of smokes once or twice a year without falling off the wagon. I envy that restraint. I can't just stop eating. The results would be extreme illness or even death, right? So, I have to stay on top of the demons at all time. I have to constantly monitor whether I'm looking for a snack because I'm actually hungry, or because we're celebrating or I'm depressed and chocolate tastes good, or because I'm bored and something crunchy would occupy the time.

You would think, then, that the thing I need to do is stop thinking about food all the time, right? Here's where the funny thing comes in. I actually think about food more when I'm staying on plan. I plan out what I'm going to have for my meals. I mentally juggle points to make the most of a situation. I'm figuring out how many pretzels I can have to go with that midmorning banana and not blow my chance to add a little bite of brownie for dessert later in the day. I play head games with myself. Ok, your tummy is rumbling, so you're really hungry. Wait 20 minutes and then you can reevaluate. Or, knit three more rows and you can get some carrots and hummus to tide you over until dinner. And, drink more water, it'll fool your stomach for five more minutes.

This has all been on my mind since I jumped back onto the wagon on Monday. I got on the scale, and when I came to again, I started planning and journaling and exercising. I've been the eating equivalent of sober for three days. I feel great about it. I'm also exhausted by it. I know I'm capable of losing the extra weight, and even exorcising the demons for a while. I've done it before, but I feel into the classic trap. I thought I was "cured." Then, I met Mark, and got fat and happy. Happy's good, right? Complaceny? Not so good. Still happy in that sense, but a few years of complacency and baby weight are carving away at the core of me. It's hard to wholly happy when you feel a horrible sense of loathing towards an aspect of yourself.

So, I'm trying again. I'll likely fall off again. I'll have to climb back on. But the process gives me back a little of the self respect I've been missing. Hopefully, the little bit will snowball into the willpower and determination that got me through last go 'round.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Call of Vermont

There aren't many places I'd turn down traveling to, given the time and money, but I find myself most drawn back to Vermont. I only lived there for the four years I was at Middlebury, and I've only been back a handful of times since graduation (nearly ten years ago!), but I long for it all the time. The nostalgia is particularly powerful come the changing of the seasons, which are my favorite times of the year.

It's warm here in central Massachusetts today, and the air quality makes me miss the smell of mud and manured pastures. It'll probably snow a few more times before spring really takes hold, but that first stirring means the cool nights and clear days are coming, and I miss the valley between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains so badly it aches.

I was talking with someone a few weeks ago, and they asked about how I ended up at Middlebury, it came up that my connection with Vermont goes back to the fact that my father grew up in southern Vermont, my Grandma lived there her whole life, and my parents met at UVM. Even my brother headed north to Johnson State for a few years. I'm no Vermonter by any standards, but my father's people were for generations back, and the place draws me. I've studied his family and they homesteaded all over the state; I wonder if there isn't geographical memory in my genes.

I grew up some 20 miles from where I live now, and I lived before this outside of Boston in a commuter city. I spent summers 20 miles from home in a different direction, so Middlebury was the farthest I'd ever lived from where I was born, and it's always strikes me that, my parents' house aside, that was where I felt the most at home. The town where I grew up is fairly foreign to me, especially now, and the majority of my friends from those post-collegiate years outside of Boston, who really made that place home for me, have scattered or gone in different directions, which weakens my connection to that place. I don't know more than a handful of people in Addison County, VT, anymore, either, but that doesn't stop me from playing out elaborate scanarios in my head about moving back there.

When I'm feeling cynical, I attribute this yearning to the fact that my years at Middlebury were the idyllic college years, where my cares were few and trivial for the most part, and there was some much to take pleasure from. I was young and unencumbered, living selfishly and purely for the exploration of the world around me. From my vantage point here and now, dealing with a bad economy, a marriage and a toddler, a mortgage, a job, that seems like an Eden.

The truth is, though, that I loved to wake up in the morning at look at the light over the mountains, whether it fell on brown and green in spring, hazy green in summer, gold and red in autumn, or gray and silver in winter. I loved hoping for a fiery pink sunset over the distant Adirondacks, and even more so being rewarded when we had one. It was easier to bear a hard day with all that beauty washing over you. I wish that I could experience that as the person I am now, with my family beside me.

Where we are will have to do for now. It's our home, and I love it for that, but the geography doesn't call to me the same way. Perhaps someday the right opportunity will come and I'll find myself back there. If it does, and you catch me bitching about mud season or snow drifts the height of the first storey windows, remind me of this post.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Little Feet, Big Shoes


Friday, March 06, 2009

A Pug in His Natural Element: My Husband's Lap


Thursday, March 05, 2009


In our "blue" room (the long neglected third bedroom and staging/storing area and makeshift office) there are two big stacks of back issues of Cooking Light magazine. I used to like it for the recipes, and then it got stale and preachy and I canceled my subscription (about five years ago), but I've been slowly going through the issues and taking out pages with recipes I want to try on them. This one intrigued me, though I couldn't find masoor daal (which is, frankly, odd, since CL was deep into legumes in the early aughts) in it anywhere, and those pretty red lentils are part of what makes Indian take-out mulligatawny so yum! They cook up all soft and yellowy, and... I digress.

Anyway, I tweaked the recipe a little based on what I had in the house, and we liked it! So much that there are no pictures. It's all gone...

It's not like the stuff on the Indian take-out menu, and it's got heat. I also made it on Sunday, and we ate it last night, so there was time to marry the flavors and develop the heat. It's not sear-your-mouth hot, but it's got a nice, slow building, back of the mouth burn.

Spicy Mulligatawny
adapted from Cooking Light, January '02
original recipe can be found here, which is also where the pic is yanked from

Yield: 4 servings

  • vegetable oil, a little for the chicken, a little more for the veg
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup chopped peeled Braeburn apple
  • 1 meduim onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout*
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock**
  • 1/3 cup Major Grey's chutney
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat about a teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken, brown on all sides. Remove from pan, add a little more oil.

Add apple, onion, carrot, celery and pepper; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour, then add the spices and salt; cook another minute or so. Stir in broth, chutney, and tomato paste; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes. Return chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

I made the soup sans cilantro garnish, then refrigerated it for three days. I warmed it up in the micro last night and chopped the fresh cilantro for serving.

*A Moroccan spice blend I used because I was out of prepared curry powder, and didn't feel like getting out the mortar and pestle and grinding up more.
**I think this makes the texture better than what you get with the canned stuff. Collagen is your friend.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Three Times Betrayed

Felix and I had a tough 24 hour period over the weekend. Oh, it began innocently enough. His hair had gotten too long in the front, and his "bangs" were getting in his eyes and his food, so after his bath on Sunday night, I gave them a trim. They came out.. shall we just say, "Less than professionally?" Betrayal number one. Fairly low on the scale of offenses.

Monday afternoon. Snowed in. Doing laundry. Felix is watching me from the safe side of the gate. He's chatting away. We're playing peekaboo around the corner. I switch the laundry, and go back to the gate. He reaches up for me, smiling, letting go of the gate to stand on his own (which he can not only do, but can sit down from when he loses his balance. As I'm coming through and reaching down to pick him up, his smile falters and he starts to fall. He doesn't bend, and before I can catch him, he falls, straight as a board to the floor, arms still outstretched. Head to the ceramic tile. Betrayal number two. Not my fault, technically, but he was very sad. The smile, the reaching arms. It shouldn't have ended in tears.

Monday evening, his sheets were looking dingey, so I threw the whole lot of bedclothes into the laundry. Including his blanket. His blue plush blanket with the satin edges. His lovey. I washed it, and I washed the smell right out of it. When I gave it back to him before bedtime, he put his face to it three times in three places, looked up at me, shook his head no, and threw it on the ground. I killed his lovey. Betrayal number three. A doozy.

I was swamped by guilt. Later, getting ready for bed myself, I considered sneaking into his room, borrowing the blanket, and sleeping with it myself, like I did when he was tiny, to reimprint some of the smell. Mark thought I was maybe crazy. He was maybe right. Felix has since renewed his bond with the blanket, and it currently sucking on it in his sleep, imparting that nasty stale saliva smell that so many children find comforting when faced with the world.

Rationally, I know I should wash the blanket periodically. The next time I consider it, however, I may have to cold water wash it with no soap, and air dry it, to preserve the stank. I am maybe crazy, but even a hard-hearted, battle-worn nanny still has a squashy maternal heart about things like loveys.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

If Felix was a highway patrolman

Ma'am, do you know why I pulled you over?

No, Officer. I don't...

To show you how freaking cute I am!

Hoo-whee! Do I have posts in my head for this week! We're testing a bunch of recipes chez MoMP this week, and if any of them end up shareworthy, I promise to share forthwith. I also have to explain why I'm the world's worst mother and maybe crazy. There are pugs, and snow. (Sadly, no pugs in the snow; that would be quality stuff, though.)

If the diptych above wasn't enough to brighten your day, here's a teaser for why I'm the world's worst mother and maybe crazy.
Mommy gave me a trim. Now my hair is silly.