Thursday, 31 March 2016


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2016

Jimmy: Blowing dandelions.

I was really excited about this capture. Jimmy has a thing for dandelions and there're images like this from previous years - but this is the first one for Spring 2016. On a lovely Manhattan afternoon we took a journey to the park; only to never make it because we got sidetracked on the way by pipes and dandelions.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

A toothy subject too...

As a sequel to K'la's post about the biting incident I was making some light conversation with the resident 2-year-old over dinner, and I mentioned that one day... in the future... but not too soon... his teeth would fall out."Jimmy, do you know that one day all these teeth that you have now are going to fall out" 

Now, I tend to think I have my biases as daddy, and that those biases are usually to assume Jimjim to be the brightest, spunkiest, and savviest possible dude that could possibly be - to the point where I wonder if I tend to overestimate his comprehension. But on this occasion I think I underestimated, and so the news of his dental impermanence may have been delivered a little too bluntly.


As soon as I saw his reaction I knew I had a battle. I couldn't well back-pedal, so I had to qualify. In a moment between forkfulls of shell pasta the words left my lips, were processed in gory detail and extrapolated in the full-spectrum imagination of the soon-to-be-gummy-jim.

It was not that he was upset, but he was swept over with a small kind of terror that I've not seen in him before, as his eyes widened and his face paled at the prospect of being left without the tiny white pegs he was so attached to. He asked Mummy to tell him it wasn't true. She said it was. He said he didn't want it to happen. We said it would happen regardless.  

We assured him it would be years before it happened.

We assured him new, big teeth would grow to replace them. 

We assured him that M and D had been through this process too and that he could still eat his dinner without it happening tonight.

Losing and replacing teeth is something all human adults have been through, and it was so easy to take the normalcy of this process for granted. But in the mind of a 2 year old whose entire experience of their body is additive development this must have been a horrifying thought. 

Giving him these little insights into his future - watching as he conceptualises these words - is one of the most rewarding things about parenting. It's this lesson in delivering a message to a profoundly uninformed little person in such a way as to prevent horrifying misconceptions. Even if the thoughts are scary, it's pretty cool to see how he responds and know he's a bit more prepared for the messy business of growing up. 

Cheap thrills: curry leaf powder...

Ok, so no photos of curry leaves, but! the recipe did require curry leaves. It also required fenugreek seeds, which we hardly use, so it was a good recipe to try.

So, the recipe: the recipe comes from Dakshin: Vegetarian cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan, a firm family-favourite cookbook, my uncle A introduced us to many years ago. It made the cut 2 years ago and it came to Manhattan, KS, and as Jimmy's taste buds are being ruined by the balance-but-bland food at daycare, I figured it was high time to re-introduce Indian spices to our diet. (Plus, with only 3 months to get through our spices, we have our work cut out for us.)

Now, the powder, once made is mixed with rice and a little ghee, and can be served with yoghurt and other things, but the idea is that it's a quick and easy meal that satisfies the taste buds. My Dad mentioned making a powder or two and I've been itching to try them, only we didn't have a food processor... And then my boss gave me some coffee from a work trip to Ethiopia and we needed a coffee grinder, so we picked up a spice/coffee grinder at a local op shop thrift shop. The powders were going to happen...

After looking through the recipes, I found one I could make without having to buy anything and without much planning. There were a few omissions, but so what? I also had to grind everything in batches because of how small our grinder is, but that's ok.

What you'll need for the "we don't have four of the listed ingredients" version:

  • 30-35 dried curry leaves (or dry roasted)
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red lentils/split peas
  • 1 tablespoon green lentils/split peas
  • 1 tablespoon jaggery/brown sugar
  • a marble-sized piece of seedless tamarind pulp 
  • salt and pepper
Rinse the lentils, set aside. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and lentils and saute for a few minutes. If using cracked pepper, add it while the spices are sauteing. Once the spices are aromatic and before the cumin seeds get too coloured, move the mix to a food processor. Add the jaggery, tamarind pulp, curry leaves, and salt. Blend into a fine powder and enjoy with hot rice (and ghee or yoghurt).

It was pretty good.

The powder can be stored in an airtight container, but I'm not sure how long it can be left... We're storing ours in the fridge and I'm hoping we can get through it before the end of the week.

Jimmy did eat some, although he was reluctant at first. I found it satisfying, but lacking in balance, and have been mixing the powder with leftover rice as a snack at work. We'll be trying out another powder next weekend, as we have a big bag of rice to get through, not just the fenugreek seeds, before we leave/move.

Monday, 21 March 2016


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2016

Jimmy: Goofball.

A pair of goofballs, eating cookies and chilling on the stairs after a day at school/work. Photo taken by Michael, butterfly by Granny.


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2016

Jimmy: Walking on the wall.

I saw smoke one evening and we went to investigate, only the smoke dissipated and was probably too far away anyway, but we enjoyed the walk. On the way back, Jimmy insisted on walking on a retaining wall, holding my hand. It was lovely. Naturally Michael took this photo. And that red stuff on Jimmy's top is icing, from a cupcake he ate at school. It washed out.


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2016

Jimmy: Looking at Daddy, jumping in puddles after school.

There was a rainy day, a lovely early spring rain and I picked Jimmy up from school and we went jumping in puddles. Daddy showed up and took some photos. Pure joy.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Early spring!

Apparently it's not quite spring yet, but don't tell the plants that because I'm loving the flowers, blossoms, new leaves, greening grass, and the combination of warm and cool air. Also, bye-bye winter funk.

Speaking of the air, as soon as the night time temperatures stopped dropping below zero, there were all these smells in the air - it came as a bit of a shock after nearly 3 months of cold and woodfire smoke. I can't describe it, because it's not quite earthy and it's not yeasty but it's green leafy and wet old leaves decomposing and sweet all at the same time. It's mostly pleasant, but it's not a familiar smell to this Australia, even after two years in Manhattan, KS.

The light is changing, we're back on daylight savings, we're waking up to birds chirping away in the trees outside our bedroom window, the turkey vultures are back, and we only have a few more months in the apartment and Manhattan (we're only 100% sure about the apartment, but it looks like we're coming home in June/July). In light of our situation (coming home!), we're going to make the most of this spring because it really is quite different from spring in Australia.

Beautiful blossoms aside, I am looking forward to being in a home among the gum trees.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A toothy subject...

Nope. It's not 2-year-old molars. It's actual biting.

Jimmy being bitten to be specific.

Yeah. Not. Cool.

After work yesterday, Michael and I went to pick Jimmy up from daycare school*. He was happily playing in a different room with a few of his classmates** and he was happy to see Daddy. I was chatting with one of the teachers, picking up Jimmy's things.

I looked over the wall that separates the two class rooms*** and Jimmy saw me. His face light up and he was excited to see me. I asked if he was ready to go home. He said "YES!" and stood up.

Now, while this was happening, the only other child in the room was trying to close the door, but it's tricky. It's a little bolt (there are bolts on each side - because toddlers), so he was fiddling with it.

Jimmy rushed to the door because he was ready to go home. He stood next to this child and I heard him say:

"No, don't..."

Now, it was either "don't go out there" or "don't! I'm going out there"...

Jimmy brushed the child's hand away and then Jimmy screamed.

He bellowed! He clutched the inside of his right elbow and cried.

The teachers quickly asked if Jimmy had been bitten. I told them that I hadn't seen any biting, that I'd seen the other child's face the whole time. It was probably a nasty pinch.

Michael scooped Jimmy up into his arms and we all saw the teeth marks. Totally not cool. The appropriate fuss was made over Jimmy and he was given an "ice pack", a small, wet square of sponge in a ziplock bag that had been frozen.

Everyone made a suitable fuss over Jimmy and I expressed understanding because these things happen. They shouldn't, but they do. The biter was taken out of that room and set down in front of the playground door****.

It took Jimmy about 30 mins to really get over it and then he was back to his usual self.

But this is the second time this has happened in the last week and Jimmy has been a little clingy at drop off since that event. And he was clingy at this morning's drop off. The teachers have been really good about this, but it's sad that a place Jimmy has felt safe at is now somewhere where he has felt unsafe.

And it's not his fault! Ok, so he can be bossy assertive and he is bigger and older than the biter, so the biter may have felt threatened, may have been tired, but violence is not acceptable and is never the solution.

The biter has recently started at the school and is not coping. There are any number of reasons the biter did what they did. I'm not trying to excuse the behaviour, I'm trying to understand it. These are children and they are learning so much, it can be tough and when they are overwhelmed they act out.

It might help Jimmy if he understands why the biter acts out the way they do, not so that Jimmy can tip-toe around them but so that Jimmy might help the biter feel safe at school and be less likely to bite other students. If Jimmy and the biter were a few years older, it would be possible to explain to Jimmy that making friends with the biter would help the biter settle into their new normal.

I want Jimmy to understand that the biter might have felt threatened but I don't know how to do this without it coming over as victim blaming. I want Jimmy to understand that if the biter did feel threatened there might be better ways to interact with them (without tip-toeing). And I want Jimmy to understand that we all deal with stress and perceived confrontation in different ways - and that some methods are more acceptable than others.

As the biter is younger than Jimmy, making both of them 2 years old, I think the situation requires understanding and compassion towards both parties. As parents though, we are fairly removed from what happens at the school, we have to leave the majority of the conflict-resolution to the teachers. The current status is "keep them apart" and Michael and I told Jimmy that he can avoid the biter.

I would be mortified if Jimmy bit another child and I don't know how we would address it, especially after the fact, which is usually how it happens with school. It's easy enough to explain things in the moment (yes, Jimmy has bitten me, but I'm his mum, it's not cool but it's different), but at 2 years old, talking about things that happened a few hours ago can be tricky.

Fingers crossed this situation blows over and the biter settles in (and loses that title). In the meantime, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

*They call everything from daycare to university "school". It creates a little confusion. Oh well.
**We roll with this "school" theme.
***There are three classrooms in the one room, separated by chest-height barriers, i.e. storage, shelving, and change tables. There are little, hip-height doors between the different classrooms (and a security door as the main entrance) and Jimmy's classroom has a door to the playground.
****A "sit down" is what they call it. It works best when the classroom is full and the naughty child has to sit out on the fun activities until they show an understanding that they have shown something to upset one of their classmates. It's good because the naughty child is missing out because of something they did, it's very gentle yet still makes the naughty child upset. In an empty classroom the biter was not put out.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Dealing with the winter funk...

Spring might be on its way in Kansas, but winter might be heading your way so I thought I'd divulge how we've dealing (or not dealing) with the winter funk...

1) What's the word? Escapism! Thanks to Netflix we've made our way through Breaking Bad, tried to watch Jessica Jones, we enjoyed all 7 seasons of Star Trek Deep Space 9 interrupted by the latest Doctor Who season... and are now making our way through Star Trek Voyager. We might be nerds, but we're distracted nerds.

2) Tea! But not just any tea: my parents sent us some T2 tea and we've been enjoying the chai in the evenings. There's something about a cup of spicy tea when the north wind is howling and it's too cold to even think about going outside (even if the bin is overflowing...).

3) Wearing all of our clothes. Ok, so we don't actually wear togs swimwear over underwear followed by thermals, two pairs of pants, five pairs of socks, five tops, three jumpers sweaters, and two hats, but it sometimes feels that way... Especially when doing the laundry... But! we're warm and have managed to go the whole winter with the thermostat set at something close to 17 degrees C (it reads "65" and is in Fahrenheit.).*

4) Go outside and soak up some rays... Well... We do, even if the sun is rather weak and we're still pasty after a sunny week... It helps, it really does, even if it's -6 C and only our noses are exposed (if you can believe it).

5) Doing things we enjoy. Be it running around the living room trying to wrangle Jimmy into PJ's, learning a new skill (using a pipet, in Jimmy's case) or reading the very last of the late Terry Pratchett's works, or knitting (what? Did you think I'd leave that out?), we're trying to keep things fun and light.

It's been a tough winter, even though it was milder than last years - because why is it so cold when there's no snow? Seriously, what's with the daytime highs of sub-zero without snow? What's the point?

The cold here is either fresh and brisk or it seeps into the bones and there is no remedy other than a warm drink or shower. I brought some greenery into the place, but it's not the same... And the lack of snow has made for a dull, cold few months. I'm glad to see the end of them. Unless there's snow, then it can be cold.

Other ways of dealing with winter funk:
- Red lipstick anyone?
- A small wardrobe addition and change from wool base layers.
- Knitting with coloured wool (only!)

Here's to the coming spring :)

*The last week or two have turned warm, warm enough to wear sandals and leave a window open until 10pm.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


a portrait of my son, once a week, every week in 2016

Jimmy: Playing outside, enjoying the lovely weather.

So, yes, I knitted the vest and yes he didn't want to put it on ("too 'pikey"), but he wore it all day. I swear it's a few inches too short, but then he does like to wear his pants very low. And yes, Michael took these lovely photos of our boy looking very dapper, pausing in his independent and completely unstructured play to pose for a few photos.