Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Favorite Quiet Time Activity

the only picture I have of us baking together, back in July 

One of the things I love the most about Zoe is that she’s always been easy to soothe into a nap, and she's a great napper. But, poor Jack, with four naps a day, we’re spending a lot more time at home than we used to.

My favorite quiet time activity is cooking together. One recipe can usually get us through 45 minutes because Jack is absolutely bonkers about pouring right now. When the cookie recipe asks for two cups of flour, I measure out two cups and hand Jack a tablespoon. He spends the next several minutes saying, “SCOOP?! POUR?! DUMP?!” We’ve had a ton of success with Friday pizza nights, scrambled eggs in the morning, and a few simple recipes (like banana bread) from my hilariously over-pinned dessert board.

If we use an actual recipe I have to have all the ingredients measured out in advance and know the recipe by heart or it’s just Jack sticking his hands into butter and raw eggs while I take one split second to grab a measuring cup. We checked out a few children’s cookbooks from the library, but they’re a little advanced for a two-year-old so we haven’t used them much for recipes. They have great pictures and illustrations though, so Jack actually likes to read them together and he’s learned a lot of new cooking words.

So far I am the least stressed when we use mixes: muffins, brownies, pancakes, cornbread, cake etc. I used to be the most condescending about mixes; I refused to even buy them. But I’m happy to eat humble pie if it tastes like funfetti.

Do you have a favorite mix? I was thinking about doing a taste test for the best brownie mix, but Melanie Blodgett already did it and I just believe everything she says.

I'll probably still conduct my own study. For research purposes.

b perry

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What if kittens are born in your backyard?

or: How I became a Cat Lady with six cats by accident in one night.

My friend Rachel and her husband took these pictures and they somehow 
managed to make my fluorescent-lit garage look amazing...

This summer, Chris and I looked into our backyard and saw a black cat and an orange cat sitting under our fig tree while five tiny kittens played in the flowers. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen, and we watched them most of the night. After about an hour, and then definitely by the next morning, we realized they lived in our backyard.

If it were up to me that would be the end of the story because I’m irresponsible and not a cat person. But Chris is very responsible. And even though he never had a single pet growing up, he cares a lot about showing compassion to animals.

He immediately started feeding mama kitty and Googling what to do next. The kittens were so small that we knew they were still nursing, and their mama was very skinny. We left her food and water two or three times a day, and gave them their space for a few weeks. After Chris talked to shelters and nonprofits and cat people, and we started working with -- I swear I am not making this up -- the homeless cat network.

They gave us food and litter and cages and a humane trap to capture the mama. In 48 very eventful hours, we captured her, got her spayed, and released her back into our yard. That same night, the volunteers brought the five kittens into our garage, administered the medicines they needed, and then it was our job to “socialize” them in preparation for being adopted.

We posted on a few social media outlets, and people started showing up. Like fifty people in the first week. That took my weekly visitor count up considerably (from roughly zero), and made me feel like it was me being “socialized.” Over time, the kittens started purring and wanted to be held and pet. I’ll never forget the first night they started purring while I pet them; what an extraordinarily rewarding experience.

The kittens have been an unexpected and delightful way to make new friends and get in touch with old friends. We had someone over for lunch most afternoons. We had a girls night where we sat together and passed kittens around. My book club held kittens for a couple hours of discussion. Dozens of friends texted to see if they could drop by for a quick visit. Our home was filled with people in way it never has been before, and it was really wonderful.

I think part of that is because the people who care about the welfare of small animals are generally decent people. As this whole kitten situation has wound down (all five are being fostered, having a tryout , or got adopted), I feel lucky not just to know these crazy cats, but also to have enjoyed the company of so many good people.

b perry

a few filter-free pictures of the cats below

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Celebrating Milestones

The American Pediatric Association writes, “entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age two.”

Jack turned two last week, and because we are The Perfect Parents, we abided by the guidelines laid out by the American Pediatric Association. He definitely doesn’t snapchat with me every morning. He totally doesn’t have all the songs in Frozen memorized. Until his second birthday, he didn’t even know about computers or phones or iPads. Nope nope nope.

But for his second birthday we thought it would be fun to have a movie night to celebrate his entertainment media milestone. We snuggled up on the couch, ate pizza, popped popcorn, watched Penguins of Madagascar, did the whole bit.

The American Pediatric Association advises avoiding entertainment media because “young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” The Brittney H Perry Pediatric Association also advises avoiding entertainment media but for different reasons. Specifically, when the entertainment media time ends, a child may “act like you're slaughtering a beloved family pet, like you've presented him with a saw with which to remove his own foot, like he's enduring the pain of a hundred lifetimes.” Under these conditions, the parent will likely have accompanying feelings of deepest regret.

It turns out that even for on a Special Occasion Movie Night, it is still THE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN when the Penguins go away. Those darn, wonderful penguins.

b perry

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You’re Only Two Once

My son turned two on Monday. Instead of having one big celebration on his actual birthday, we spread it out over the weekend:

  • Friday was his very first movie night. Mistake. More on that later.
  • Saturday he opened his birthday toys
  • Sunday we had cake and lit and blew out the same candle a hundred times
  • After naps on Monday we picked up Chris from work and went to the SF Zoo
The last year was a rough one for our family. Bringing Zoe into the world was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Even though it wasn’t great on (literal medical bill) paper, Jack and I had the sweetest routines and interactions. We went to to story time and music class and spent a thousand afternoons at the park and ate our dinners on blankets in the backyard.

Sometimes he was cranky, but he was mostly silly and kind and woke up from his naps singing, “Ohhhhh a pirate’s life is a wonderful life!” Because of him I can already see that miserable time through rose tinted glasses.

He is the most beautiful boy, inside and out. I’m so glad he’s ours.

b perry

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vacation Happiness

All the research says that money actually does buy happiness if you use your money to buy experiences rather than physical possessions. One of the ways that this works best for me is in the anticipation of the experience. In July I was afraid of Chris going back to work, so I booked a room at the Madonna Inn for a week in October.

I got so excited that I actually used my kids' naps to research and pin instead of take a nap myself. Like a crazy person. Over the last few weeks, the anticipation of that trip has made me happy even when Jack is obstinate about sitting in his high chair to eat. I put Zoe on a blanket that looks like it will be right at home at the Madonna Inn, and even if she is going through a growth spurt, we’ll be in San Luis Obispo as a family in a couple months. nbd. We haven't planned anything fancy, but I like the feeling of something bright pink on the horizon.

I’m surprised at how happy I’ve felt lately, and I think one of the reasons (aside from a ludicrously supportive husband) is all the planning for this trip makes me soul-bursting happy. And we haven’t even gone yet.

b perry

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Taking Jules to Pacifica
Jack is very cautious on the river, but Sam helps everyone feel a little safer
Pretty sure Bek held Zoe at every possible opportunity
This has been a summer jam-packed with family; We’ve spent less than two weeks away from our family since Zoe was born in May. All four grandparents visited, my sister stayed here two weeks, we stayed in Idaho two weeks, and Chris’ sister and her kids left last night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jack so happy. Seeing him interact with his cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents made me so so happy… and a little sad.

It is a painful reality of the modern world that you can’t always work where your family lives. Sometimes your dad can’t be there if your daughter is born one week early. Entire years can pass by and you don’t get to hug your giant brother. You can’t have a regular girls night with your sister and mom and grandma. Your nieces and nephews aren’t around for weekend hikes. We FaceTime, we snap, we spend as much time together as we can, but it’s still hard.

It’s hard that you can’t always be with the people you love.

b perry

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Before we even got pregnant we called our next baby Claire Bear, but after I was pregnant I knew she wasn’t Claire. We started calling her Busy Izzy, but after a few weeks Izzy didn’t feel quite right. We spent the first twelve hours of labor talking about calling her Jane or Amy or a dozen other names.

My dad wanted to name all three of his sons Philip, but it never happened. As they got closer to the due date, my brothers felt less like Phillips and more like Steve, Sam, and Spencer. When I was pregnant with Jack people asked if we had any names picked out, and I responded that we would call him Jack, unless he came out and wasn’t a Jack. You know how people say, “Oh he was born, and we just knew he was a Michael!”

“He’s a Michael,” or “He’s not a Jack.” What does that even mean? Before I had kids, all babies were the same. They all had the same newborn/old man look. All their cries sounded the same. They all acted with the same bewildering babyness. Phrases like, “He looks so much like his dad,” or “That’s my kid crying in the hall,” made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine a world where someone could discern a baby’s name by sight.

Naming your child, to me, was just imaging the person they might eventually become. There’s a poem I love that concludes,
Naming the baby is a way
of dreaming about a creature who is
almost but not quite. It is a way of
imagining the soul of a person you
are making but have not made.
The name is the first way you see
the baby: their title, the syllables
that conjure a shape from the lantern.
I’m not saying the process is without romance or magic, but for me, it certainly wasn’t a mystical insight into who that child would actually be.

But for all my disbelief, our daughter is Zoe. I knew it when she was born.

I can’t explain it, but when we met her, there was only one name. It wasn’t anywhere near our list of possible names. And it wasn’t just the person I hoped she would be one day. It wasn’t just a name I could bare to repeat interminably. She is Zoe. I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how it’s possible for a mother to know. But I know it still.

b perry