I love giving books as presents and lately I've been really into older children's books (more on this in another post) so I figured someone had a list on Amazon of all the Caldecott Medal Winners, right? Easy ordering for all your gift-giving needs! But I only found a Caldecott Winners Gallery 2010 to 1971. So I created a list of the rest: Caldecott Medal Winners 1938-1970.
Looking back at the covers was especially fun, as I had many of the winners from the seventies and had forgotten all about them! And the illustration/design time-travel scrolling through the covers is fascinating too.
Awhile ago I read Tom Sawyer in large part because I wanted a window into how kids, and boys in particular, used to live. I know it's a work of fiction, but I figured it would still provide insight into what was expected of kids more then a century ago, and what they were capable of. I loved it, and now don't feel so badly about giving my kids a bath only once a week, if we're lucky. Now as Ollie and I read together, I'm struck by world children used to inhabit.
In 1962's The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Peter wakes up to a snowy morning and goes outside to explore, all by himself.
At the end he goes home and tells his mother about his adventures outside, but the key thing is that he's had them unaccompanied, all by himself. And he's pretty young, because he's not able to join the big boys in a snowball fight. Maybe the whole thing's supposed to be a fantasy. Maybe when it was written young boys didn't go outside alone for snowy adventures, but I don't think so.
In the 1972 book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day clearly things are different. There are obvious technology differences, like going to school in a car with no booster seats (and from the looks the mom's not wearing a seat belt and there's a child in the front seat, no air bags!!), but also Alexander and his brothers are left all alone, out on the street.
By the looks of the picture, they're even in in the street. I don't need to tell you the plot point is not that their mom is irresponsible and the children should be taken away. At school, Alexander's friends have sweets and candy ("a Hershey bar with almonds"!! NUTS!!) for dessert. Do you see what kids climb on during recess?
And have you read The Tale of Peter Rabbit? Their mother leaves all the children alone to go off to the baker, even though the very farmer who killed her husband and baked him in a pie is close by! While the daughters eat blackberries, Peter gets in all kinds of trouble by himself and is almost captured by the very same farmer.
I don't read many contemporary children's books, so I can't tell you if they're filled with helicopter parents shuttling kids to music lessons and soccer practice, or if they tell the story of kids trapped inside watching videos instead of dragging sticks through snow. But the more stories I hear of kids living without the opportunity to explore and play and be kids, the sadder I get. Every time I read one of these books to my kids, I want them to experience more than just a Very Bad Day, or a snow day, or a garden adventure. I want them to see what kids used to do and to know they still can.
Here's a video of Ollie skiing last weekend up at Mad River Glen. It's not very good because I was skiing behind him and it's hard to film and look through camera and follow him and try to ski all at once. I need to practice more!
Jason's got a nice little write-up about Ollie's digital camera use. Of course when he writes "we" gave him the camera, and "we" set-up the Flickr account, and "we" hooked up the Eye-Fi card, dear reader, you can insert "Meg", for accuracy's sake. It's been a great little present for him and I've also been enjoying another way to experience his world.
This is her "Whoa I'm standing up" face that she made every time she stood up from the stairs.
Recently Ollie's been talking about a time he lived "in England." Whenever he begins a sentence with "In England..." I know he'll follow with something that displays his independence and self-sufficiency. Often the stories are about cooking, and he'll tell me about things he baked in England. Sometimes there are adventures with his cousins, Strawberry and Pumpkin, with whom he lived, and he had some jobs and drove a lot as well. But mostly it's about cooking.
Lately I indulge his "In England" baking stories and we recreate his favorite recipes. He instructs me on the ingredients he used to create things like "Honeychrists", a kind of inedible biscuit like hardtack, and "Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins", which we baked on Sunday.
After the honeychrists episode, I've tried to direct a little more, so these muffin cookies were actually edible and quite tasty. Half-way through the measuring, I got a great idea. Ratio, a book and iPhone app by Michael Ruhlman gives you the ratios for ingredients for all kinds of recipe, would be perfect for this situation. (Though he doesn't have "cookie muffin" listed).
In the future I can guide Ollie knowing the ratios, so if he wants muffins, I can measure 5 ounces of flour and liquid, and 2.5 ounces eggs and butter. He can add the spices or food coloring or chocolate chips, whatever else he wants, and I can be assured that the resulting baked good will probably be edible. I'm looking forward to trying this out, as it's been so much fun to do this crazy baking with Ollie.
Funny thing about the chocolate chip muffin cookies: they were edible! And because I added baking powder and baking soda, they were puffy cookies, soft and kind of doughy, wide-spread on the sheet and mounded in the middle. Just like you'd expect a "muffin cookie" to be!
Somewhat proven theory: Including kids in the food process creates good eaters. I often take Ollie to the supermarket with me and I let him pick out all kinds of things to buy. Last week he really wanted to get something from the fish counter, and he picked New Zealand cockles. I broke my "keep it local" rule because when your kid asks for cockles, how can you say no?
When dinner rolled around, I made a linguine with tomato sauce, olives, and capers and cooked the cockles in the sauce. Ollie had fun eating them out of the shell at the table, using one shell to pluck the meat out of another, just like when we eat mussels. He was pretty excited to eat them.
I also include him in the cooking as much as possible, so that he's part of the whole process. Does this make him a better eater? Hard to say with my limited data set (my daughter eats anything, like she'd eat a raw piece of liver off the floor if you let her). But I do know that including him in the shopping gets us eating things even I wouldn't think of buying (like cockles!) and broadens the palate of our entire family.
My freshman year in college, a former rower stopped by our boathouse following the birth of her first child. At that point in my life, and in the lives of all the women I rowed with, a 2000 meter race was the most intense pain any of us had experienced. We were quite certain nothing could top it, though some workouts and erg tests came close. So of course our first question as we huddled around her: "Was it as painful as a 2000 meter sprint?" I'll admit I was pretty sure she was going to say no.
She replied it was much worse.
Worse?! You could just see the fear on everyone's face, the quick dashing of plans for children in that very moment.
In the years that followed I carried that information with me, along with memories of rowing pain. There were times in some races where I was quite certain I would die, right there, on the spot, and fall out of the boat. I remember thinking, "I guess I'll keep rowing because everyone else is still going, and I don't want to let them down and if I die, I'll just die. And then I'll be done rowing." And that thought seemed pleasant.
Over the ensuing years I've done physically grueling things: hikes, weight training, intense spin classes, swims in a rough ocean, even a marathon. Nothing comes close to the pain of rowing. Nothing.
So when I got pregnant with Ollie I knew I wanted a natural childbirth with no epidural. After all these years, I'd be able to see how something could possibly be more painful that rowing! Because Ollie was overdue, I was induced and I managed 13 hours on Pitocin, all through the night, in agony, before I succumbed (in tears) to an epidural. Ollie was born two hours later.
With Minna I was determined to avoid that situation, and worked with a midwife throughout my pregnancy and planned for a home birth. I labored in my living room, watching the Giants vs Cowboys, then paced, breathing and counting. The counting's a holdover from rowing, when we'd do "10s" for power, or technique, and you'd just do ten strokes to focus on pulling ahead of another boat. I do 10s when I run, or whenever I face a physical challenge. I count through the pain.
Jason filled the birthing tub and after a few hours I decided to get in. Instantly the contractions slowed and the water felt fantastic. The midwife had arrived and the three of us actually just hung out and chatted, and I'd pause to do some deep breaths when a contraction arrived. Since Ollie's birth had taken so long, I assumed I had hours to go in the tub when suddenly I felt the baby and needed to push. I gave two excruciating pushes. My midwife checked the progress.
"Do you think it's five more pushes?" I asked her, hopefully.
"Oh I'd say two, maybe three." she replied.
My heart leapt!
"Well I can do five!" I said, in some kind of crazy counting birthing delirium.
I didn't need to. Minna popped out after two.
In my list of pain, it currently stands:
1. Minna crowning. Intense but very brief.
2. Ollie labor on Pitocin. Hours of long immobilizing agony.
3. Crew race of 2000 meters. Intense. Horrific. Still the worst concentrated seven-to-eight minutes of my life.
Way way down that list, everything else.
In rowing we used to always throw around the saying, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever." I get to look at my two great kids every day. In a box in the closet is my gold medal from the 1992 New England Rowing Championships. If it wouldn't be weird to wear it around, I probably would.
We don't let Ollie watch any TV and his computer/iPad/iPhone screen time is regulated. But when he gets the iPad, one of his favorite things to do is watch YouTube videos, which he picks from ones I've favorited. At some point I favorited a video of a woman making a fire truck cake because it's similar to the one I made for Ollie's 2nd birthday. He's watched this one, and many related cake-making videos, more than anything else. Often he mentions "Laurie Gaylin" when we're in the kitchen, and I had to ask, "Who's that?" Turns out she's the woman making all the cakes in his videos. Here's the fire truck cake:
So Sunday morning I was running around the house, trying to get stuff done before friends came over to watch the Super Bowl. Talking half to myself and half to Ollie, I said, "I've got to find my pastry bag!" because I wanted to pipe the deviled egg filling into the whites. (This may seem like overkill but it's way easier and faster than trying to get that yolky glue off a spoon.)
Ollie casually says, "Or a freezer bag."
"What?" I ask him, not understanding what he's even talking about.
"Or a freezer bag," he repeats to me. "Laurie Gaylin says you can use a pastry bag or a frosting bag or just a freezer bag."
Fellow bakers, your mouth must have dropped when you read that sentence, as mine did when he said it. The kid is really learning something from all those videos.
(Turns out her name is Laurie Gelman, and she's the host, not the baker. But who quibbles with a three year old?)
A little back story: in the early nineties, when I was in college, I went on a ski trip to Colorado. We have relatives who live out there and at the time of our visit, a young cousin was training as a ski jumper. We went over to the practice hill to watch him. He wasn't doing anything like the 90 or 120 meter hills you see in the Olympics, just 20 meters.
It looked like fun, and I wanted to try. I built up from the 5 meter hill to the 10, then 15 and finished with one jump off the 20 meter hill. The measurement denotes the inrun, or how far you go straight before launching off the end into the air. 20 meters, more than 60 feet, was pretty scary and after I landed I decided I'd had enough ski jumping. Still it was great fun. When I got back to school and told my rowing teammates about it, they were very upset. I could have gotten hurt! I could have been out for the entire spring racing season! Etc. etc. None of that had occurred to me, of course. It just seemed really cool to go off the jumps and fly (a very little) in the air.
The present day, Ollie's getting pretty good at skiing, and he likes to find jumps. So this past weekend I'd find little lips and ridges on the trails and tell him to follow me. One had a backside of ice, which I only realized after I skidded across it. Ollie slid and fell. Another apparently was too big for him, because my mom saw him approach and then decide against it, even after I'd gone off. But there were plenty that were great for him, and he got a little air and the thrill of jumping.
Maybe I'm reckless and dumb. Maybe I should be more cautious. Maybe I could have gotten hurt going off the 20 meter ski jump at Winter Park and ruined the spring racing season for myself and my crew. But I guess I don't think that way. And more importantly, I don't want to think that way. I don't want to be the kind of Mom that's always worried, saying "don't do that!" The stereotype is the mom has the common sense and it's the dad that's pushing the kid to do the crazy stunts. Maybe it's some weird rebel/feminist thing I've got, but I want to be the bad influence mom. In the best way possible, of course.
Here's Ollie going off a jump at Mad River on Sunday:
I couldn't be prouder!
I keep a list of things I want to write about on this site because I've had lots of ideas lately but not always the time to write the whole post. I recently came across this note to myself: "Babies so hairy length of body hair programmed for adult scale human." I don't recall what prompted this thought, maybe I discovered a giant hair on Minna? I guess it makes sense but really it's not seeming like something I feel like writing a whole lot more about. So if you have a baby and find him or her covered in long hair, just think about how that hair follicle is designed to grow a grown-up sized hair, and that some day it will seem normal.
My Frenchman and butterfly.
I can't believe we're in the final stretch of Minna's first year already! Big progress this past month. She loves to read before bed, turning the page whenever you ask her to and "knocking" in Dr. Seuss's "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" at the appropriate page. Her favorite game right now is what I call the "Sharing Game". She'll be playing with things, like a bunch of wooden vegetables, and then hand you one. I always say, "Oh, for me? Thank you Minna!" and she smiles. You can try and give it back, but she'll give it right back to you again. And keep giving you the other ones. She really seems to understand a lot of what you say to her, even if she can't reply.
She's also crazy about Bodhi and whenever she hears him meow she whips her head around to find him and claps and smiles and makes happy sounds. She also does this when she sees him first thing in the morning. And of course when she sees Ollie she just lights up and claps and laughs. The two of them have a band I like to call "The Kottke 2". He bangs on all sorts of things, and she takes the xylophone and a stick and whacks away, and then she claps while he sings and bangs on "drums". It's quite a sight.
Two more teeth on the bottom, for a total of 6 teeth! And I think two more on the top are about to cut through. She's also getting better at standing, but still no crawling and no pulling herself up. She's an eating champ and pretty much can feed herself now if it's not a liquid. And on her monthiversary she had her very first Shake Shack burger. I got some nice pictures of her eating it. But I like this photo better, of her sitting in our backyard, enjoying some O's, and saving that special one for later.
Ollie's currently in the "Little Helper" phase. I haven't seen that on the list of milestones, but it's a big one. This morning he helped make coffee, carried all the breakfast plates (with their food) to the table, brought the forks, and gave Minna her drink. He would have cracked the eggs as well but I was rushing and didn't let him. After breakfast he watered the garden and was very excited to see this rainbow in the spray. By this time next week I'm hoping he'll be preparing all the meals, washing the dishes, and doing all the yard work so I can enjoy our Nantucket vacation.
Our pediatrician's advice about feeding kids is pretty simple: give them whatever you're having, puree it if necessary. If they eat it, great, if they don't, that's it until the next meal. So this is what we've done with Ollie and it's worked fairly well. It means I don't cook anything special for him, or feed him a second meal if he doesn't eat the first, or alter what we give him based on what we think he likes. When Ollie was younger, he loved broccoli. Then he pretty much stopped eating it whenever it was on his plate. These days he consistently eats avocado and sweet potato.
So the other night I made short ribs for dinner with sides of baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. I threw some avocado on his plate because we had a bit leftover. I expected Ollie to eat his two favorites, ignore the broccoli, and try a bit of short rib. Instead Ollie ate all his broccoli and didn't touch anything else!
Now I see how important it is to not develop any ideas about a kid's "favorite" food, and to continue to expose them to everything. This was so eye-opening for me, even if he doesn't touch broccoli for another six months!
It's kind of insane how well he can ski, I'm totally amazed. A little over 2.5 years and less than 20 days total on skis. I can't wait for next year when he'll be all over the mountain!
Ollie and I have been making cookies a lot lately, ever since I got the awesome Williams-Sonoma Message-In-A-Cookie Cutters. The other day at the supermarket we got a small rolling pin, just the right size for him. So while I rolled out the dough to make "Happy Bday Phoebe" cookies for a birthday party we're headed to, Ollie rolled out his own dough and used his little crab cookie cutter to make his very own orange crabs! I couldn't believe he did it, even going so far as using the spatula to lift the cookies off the counter and place them on the cookie sheet.
Pretty soon look for us to open "Kottke's Kitchen" in the Village, a fancy cookie store where you can get decorated bright-colored cookies for $5 a pop!
Though I posted this to Flickr, I can't resist adding it here because to me this is the MOST AMAZING THING Ollie's ever eaten. In general he's a really good eater, and he's always liked fish from about when he was weaned. But mussels? The past two times I've had moules frites while we've been out, he's asked to try the mussels and I've given him one or two. He seemed to like them. So last night I bought 2 lbs and steamed them for us and he went to town!
He plucked each meaty mussel from its shell and jammed it in his mouth. No kidding, he must have had twenty, if not more! Funniest part was that they weren't even that good. I was pretty so-so about them. Imagine when he gets a good batch?!
I'm so proud of him.
One of the most unanticipated effects of having Ollie's been the change in my relationship with our neighborhood and the city's streets. Ollie's big enough that he walks around holding my hand, so we spend a lot of time just strolling around, looking at things. Today on the way home from our swim class, we stopped to investigate some Con Ed workers around an open manhole. One day we walked along slowly as the garbage truck collected trash on the block, making just the right time so we'd catch it at each stop, it would speed ahead, and we'd meet again at the next collection point. Ollie loves watching all this activity and narrating it.
After we saw the Con Ed men, we stopped to watch a guy getting his car battery replaced on Fifth Avenue. Then we swung by our local fire house, a huge favorite. Alas the doors were down and the truck was out, so we peered in the window identifying coats and boots and spare hoses. What's really neat is how friendly all the guys are. The firemen invite Ollie inside to sit in the truck. The Con Ed man showed Ollie the frayed and burned section of electrical cable they were replacing. The car guy narrated as he installed the new battery.
It's making me feel so connected to the city in an entirely new way. I just worry that it all seems so male, so stereotypically boyish to see and visit these things. I've realized that there aren't a lot of female jobs on the street that we come across, aside from the rare policewoman or mail carrier. We do stop and look at babies in strollers, and chat with nice grandmotherly women who say hello. But somehow it's not the same. I'm beginning to realize a lot of "nurture" happens outside the house, beyond my control.