Browse and Seek

"It's not Christmas yet."

Argh, Squarespace ate my post. Let’s try this again.

We got three holiday seasons in which Santa did not come with a glut of presents. We had Christmas, yes, and presents, but the myth of The Man in the Red Suit did not color our choice of gifts and Seamus’ enjoyment of them. Then we sent Seamus to preschool with older kids, and by the second week of November “I want X for Christmas” pealed through our house. And our outings. And on our Thanksgiving trip to Portland.

“Seamus, put it on your list,” we started to say,  “and we’ll write to Santa asking for everything you want AFTER Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time please.” Once we came home I brought out our copy of “It’s Christmas, David!” and introduced the concept of the letter and the list and being good/naughty, etc.

His school covers several December holidays (Chanukah, Christmas, presumably Kwanzaa), and organizes both a food drive and a toy drive. They’ll organize a walking field trip to the local firehouse to deliver all of the toys they gather at the end of next week (This is all done through Alameda FD’s version of Toys for Tots).

Seamus and I talked a bit about how we needed to be Santa’s helpers and bring in some toys for kids whom might not get any for Christmas, and food for families who may not have enough. Since Tuesday is our “chores and errands” day, we set off in the late morning to find some presents. I wanted to find two big kid gifts and two little kid gifts, none of which should require batteries. We hit paydirt at Toy Safari, where we found a detective kit, a pinhole camera kit, a small Duplo set before Seamus got too into the I-want groove. I made a mental note to pick up a picture book as Seamus pointed to things he was interested in, all of which I photographed for his letter to Santa. Then we went home and had lunch and quiet time.

In the afternoon, I pulled out my notepad and had Seamus pick out a marker to use as a pen. I asked him questions to encourage him to dictate the letter. When we got to his requests, he was…brief. 

“I want a Beetle. No Lego train, no motorcycle. Just a Beetle.”

”(????) Are you sure? It’s okay to ask for other things. Santa may not get you everything on the list, but he’ll get you some of it.”

“No, only a Beetle.”



His letter read:

Dear Santa,

My name is Seamus, and I am three years old. My mama is helping me write this letter. I am a good boy who tries to listen.

Please bring me:

- A Beetle car (it was at this point he told me that was it)

I used to want a Duplo train and a motorcycle, but I changed my mind.

Thank You,


 He signed it with a scrawl, and I sealed it in an envelope addressed to the North Pole. We’ll mail it tomorrow. But right now this Santa’s Helper needs to get some dishes done before heading back to the toy store.





We spent the holiday weekend in Portland, OR, a town gracing our short list of places to which we may relocate if Patrick’s job exploded. We stayed downtown and had a lovely time (pictures to come soon). Despite not cleaning before we left and having piles of laundry everywhere, I was remarkably unproductive yesterday. And today, come to think of it. This is… Not Good.

The culprit? Reading online, and more to the point, reading online ineffectively. too many bookmarks, not enough RSS feeds. Too many hours whiled away browsing archives. Too much time on FaceBook. I need to take charge of my minutes as we storm into the holidays. And launch a small writing project that is still struggling to come to print.

If you don’t see me about some of my usual haunts, fret not, I’ll be checking in here.


Seamus and the Saturday mussel hunt

So we bought this food wheel a couple of weeks ago, and Seamus has been fascinated by all of the things we can eat throughout the year here in paradise Oz the Bay Area. The part that spins shows all the year-round foods, so he asks about those the most. One day he got fixated on the the mussel.

“I want to eat mussels, Mama.”

“Are you sure?” He nods. “Okay, let’s tell Dada about it tonight, and maybe next Saturday we’ll get some mussels.”


Patrick and I collaborate really well for Family Day (what you all know as “Saturday”), and once I mentioned the mollusks, we both knew what we were doing.* Some quick research revealed that mussel harvesting in our area was permitted beginning November 1, so armed with a bucket and some one-day fishing licenses, we hit the tidepools near Half Moon Bay.

We got there too late, alas. The tide was coming in, and you do not tempt fate with Seamus and the Ocean. So we picked up some shells, let the dog run around with other dogs, and since it was warm around the point on the bay side, we stripped Seamus down to wade and splash. Then we cleaned up and bought two pounds of mussels from the fishmonger at Pillar Point marina before having lunch at the local airport.

When we came home, I prepped a garlicky sauce from my batch of roasted tomatoes from the farmers market. I know a lot of folks steam their mussels in wine, but I was worried about them tasting too much like alcohol, which would keep Patrick from eating them. So after Seamus and I checked them for cracks and made sure everything was closed up, I steamed them in a little water and doused them in red sauce once they were in bowls. I added some of the steaming liquid to each serving, which mixed with the red sauce and was delicious.

So here’s how it went: Oh hell. I need to upload the video elsewhere before I can put it here. And I can’t remember my password. Back in a few with that.


Seamus Tries a Mussel from Sarah Holm Norton on Vimeo.


*Patrick and I have this sixth sense. We’re able to immediately suss out the hardest, dirtiest, best headcold-inducing way of experiencing something, and plan it, all without discussion. I think it’s why we’re together after nine years- we’re too busy recovering and cleaning up after each adventure to fight.



Moving from reading and thinking to doing

One of the benefits of half-assing my way through NaBloPoMo is that I’ve need to stretch my writing muscles for a while. I love to write. There’s a light that goes off in the back of my head when I see my thoughts transposed to words and the words not only sound right when I read the aloud, but form a block of text that has the right rippling of the left margin, height on the paragraphs, and how those paragraphs stack. Blogging software and templates impact that cohesion of sound and sight for me just slightly, and sometimes I lack motivation to spill the words that form in my head because I know that they will not parse well visually. Reading a variety of electronic formats has helped ease the dissonance, but there’s nothing left to do but just get through it. I’ve let a lot of good writing projects slip away from me over the years, and I may have tripped on something that’s MLIS-friendly, family friendly, and possibly income earning, down the road. It’s been on my mind for about a month, and it’s time to get it out of my head and quit feeling scared that it won’t be perfect to me, in addition to my regular fear that it won’t be palatable to anyone else.

So I’m stretching and with luck, toning my writing over here. I need to play with my blocks and show you all whatever I build.


Three thus far

Three is a fantastic age. Seamus has a ton of language and uses it to express his delight in everything that interests him and his inquiry into everything that puzzles him. He’s capable of small jobs and can do them routinely, and he is developing thoughtfulness. I watch him engage with his peers, animals, and adults, and I see the beginnings of empathy, I see friendliness and curiosity about others.

Three is kicking our ass. Seamus has a loud voice and screams and whines to express his displeasure in everything that thwarts and is denied him. He’s capable of attempting to manipulate situations by crying that he’s hurting when put in a stroller or carrier as part of a time-out and does this whenever he thinks it will work. When it doesn’t (and it never does) he pitches tantrums for over an hour. If given a time-out in his room, he deliberately pees on the floor. He wantonly causes messes when asked not to, and does not see the connection between the time it takes to clean up his destruction and the resulting loss of time in fun stuff. Days go by in which he fights us on every aspect of his day, and those fights make up our entire day.

Right now he’s in the carrier on my back in a prolonged time-out, because I don’t want to clean yet another puddle off of the floor, or stand next to his room holding the door closed. The three minute time-out isn’t working these days, so he’ll stay up here until he’s calmed down. He’s flailing a lot, but if I stay clear of the furniture he’ll be safe enough.

And he’s done. Took twenty minutes. And suddenly I’m busting out the techniques from when he was eighteen months. Beats losing my shit and smacking him, I hope.