08 August 2009

apricots, huckleberries, and failing my child

I suck as a parent. I feel like every decision I have made in the last, oh let's just say week, has been the wrong one.

Right now I am simmering a pot of apricot preserves on the stove (thank you, Amanda, for donating your apricots to what I hope is NOT yet another worthless endeavor in jam-making) while listening to my child cry his heart out while we "experiment" with letting him fall asleep on his own. It's waaaaay past his bedtime and he has been impossible all day, mostly because (a well-informed hunch) he's overtired. Sorry to those of you who can't relate to me right now as I regale you with the saga of my sobbing insomniac. I find it hard to believe myself just how much my universe revolves around when, where, and how long my kids sleep. I have been a sleep hostage for almost four years now. And I hate it. We've tried the Dr. Sears method (just sleep with your kid, when your kid sleeps, even when he's FIVE), dabbled in Ferber (cry baby, cry), danced with the Sleep Lady (go on and wail, baby, but know I'm here for ya), and spit on what we wish was Elizabeth Pantley's grave (there is NO "No Cry Sleep Solution,"at least for our kids, believe me).

Did I mention I'm also baking what smells like a delicious huckleberry-apricot breakfast crisp? And I'm drinking really good pinot noir? Tomorrow is bound to be a better day, right?

I just tasted the preserves, half-way through cooking, and they were SOUR, so I added what was left of a bag of sugar to the pot. I have no idea how much it was. Maybe 2 to 3 cups? Oh, and right after that, I turned on the back burner to get a pot of boiling water started to sterilize the lids to for my no-doubt sour preserves, and I set the cord to our rice cooker on fire. Did I mention that during our kitchen remodel last year we splurged on a gas range that cooks with real blue shooting flames? I guess I'll add "new rice cooker" to the list of "must-have" kitchen gadgets that I need to write this blog.

Back to the crying child, who is quiet now (except for the hiccup/shudder from the trauma he's just experienced of being left alone in his bed to fall asleep) because Johan is now lying next to him. Jules has never, not ever, fallen asleep on his own at night since the day he was born. Is that a bad thing? Most days I am quite certain, and quite willing to defend the position that that it is not a bad thing. It is just simply human to want to have someone you love lying next to you, feeling their warm body breathe in and out, in and out, as you drift off to sleep in the comfort of their embrace. Who would not fight until their last waking moment to fall asleep that way, every night of their life, if they could? Tonight, however, is not a night where I find myself willing to defend that position. I just need a break.

Preserves are done. A sweet-sour concoction that I pray will set up just right. It's much more gelled than the batch of strawberry jam I tried to make a few weeks back. So I'm hopeful.

Breakfast crisp is out, too, and now covered and chilling in the fridge. I have no idea how this will turn out, but I am, again, really hopeful. I made it with huckleberries picked by my Dad (some of which were plucked under imminent threat of black bear attack--Dad REALLY loves me, or he really loves huckleberries, or both). I've discovered that so far everything I've ever made with huckleberries has turned out just fine. I made a huckleberry apple pie last week and, while the pie was soupy (too shy with the flour in the fruit, according to Dad), the flavor was just right. Maybe I think so because huckleberries are, for me, the magic fruit. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that my Dad dragged me out to the woods to pick huckleberries as a kid, then stuffed me with pies and pancakes made with our berry loot for weeks after. I can't wait until Jules and Kasper are old enough to come picking with me. I hope they love it (and the huckleberries) as much as I did as a kid.

Right now, OK almost all the time, I feel like my life is much like my cooking. It's an experiment, one which ends with almost as many happy surprises as it does with heart-wrenching disappointments (did you note my "glass half full" speak here? Do I get any credit whatsoever for that?) . It's sometimes hard to believe that Jules has been earth-side for more than 3 1/2 years and I still have days where I feel like my parenting choices are based more on "hunches" about my kid, why he's behaving the way he is, what I could be doing to make his behavior conform to my wishes, than "hard facts."

Be that as it may, here's hoping this latest series of experiments (in cooking and in "life") end in happy surprises. Wouldn't life be grand if my "huckleberries" were the culinary equivalent to my parenting "hunches?" If that were so, then I could rest easy knowing that no matter what I might do to botch things up, as long as I relied on my "hunches," on what I knew to be true about my kids, then everything would turn out just fine. For some reason, though, I'm less confident in the "hunches" than I am in the "huckleberries" that populate my life right now.

Oh, and did I mention that we started potty training again last week for the umpteenth time? I've been warned against mixing poop stories with recipes, so I will spare you the harrowing details of the last four days. You should thank me for this. And you should also be grateful that our camera died from sand-poisoning on the Belgian coast. Fun, mouthwatering photos (I promise, no poo) will resume shortly. As will the recipes. And child-rearing advice. If, that is, my experiments turn out.


  1. I like this post a lot. Every parent is experimenting. We can give each other advice, but ultimately we each have to find our own way.

    We are a Ferber family ourselves, although we turned to it at 3 months which may have made it easier. My wife also interpreted it as "cry, baby, cry" but I didn't. There is more to it that. In any event, she put a pillow over her head and turned the task over to me. Josephine slept through the night that very first night and has been a heavy, solid sleeper ever since. I got through it by thinking that I was helping her learn to self-comfort, a skill that still serves her . . . Of course, now that she's almost a teenager, her hormones are making oversleep a problem. =)

  2. Just know that you are not the only one.... Parenting is HARD!!! and Yummy on the jam and crisp!

  3. ah... an oversleeping child. That's music to my ears, Teacher Tom! Maybe that will be in the cards for me, too (one can only hope).

    And you're right. We do have to find our own way, as parents. And with 2 kids now, I've found, what works for one child is not at all guaranteed to work for the other. Kasper is a much mellower kid than Jules in many respects, and while sleep has not been easy with him, either, getting him there has taken us down a very different path. It'll be interesting to see where they're both at at 12. Hopefully I'll still be sane by then. :)

  4. thanks ksjjpalmer! and the food WAS yummy, so score one for mama. I'm typing up the recipes now...


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