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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

getting gritty

Maya is our dig down deep and get it done (by myself!) child.

Ella is our very discerning, I think I'd rather watch that looks too hard child.

Ella is only comfortable when she has mastered a skill entirely and would prefer to have no one see her until that status is achieved.  She is not a fan of learning curves or hard work.  She doesn't crave to be outdoors like most kids and generally prefers sitting quietly listening to music and drawing or making beaded jewelry and woven potholders.

This is why I love, love, love that she is a horse girl.

No weather is too uncomfortable, no fears stop her from mounting a horse every week and bossing it around.  She says it is her favorite half hour of the week.  Except now, because she has gotten the basics down, she can ride in a group.  Every Tuesday for one whole hour, and only an additional $5, she gets to ride.   With little hand warmers in her gloves and a fleece helmet cover to keep her warm, she is happy as can be up on a horse in the February chill.

For anyone who has ever ridden horses, you know that in order to make the horse go where you want, you must be certain and tell them firmly.  This has been my favorite aspect to watch Ella develop.  With a nudge of her heel and a determined mind, she can work the horse into figure 8s with the distraction of the other horses riding around her. 

I don't know that Ella, like me, will ever be the team sports kind of girl.  I figure the more we can expose her to horseback riding and maybe running or swimming, the more likely we are to not have her begging for a set of pom poms. 

Winter has just kind of taken its hold here in Maine with the snow now falling and sticking.  Still, February is nearly over and the days are getting longer and I can't help dreaming of spring. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

clean food day: a painful day 1 and 2

I will confess, the first two days of the cleanse have shown me just how badly I needed a detox.

I'm on day 2 having decided to start on Sunday instead of Monday.  Emilie was doing it for scheduling reasons and I was doing it out of desperation. I have been tired. like falling asleep tired, and have felt queasy on and off for the past two days. Sunday I fell asleep on the couch with the kids all around me and was in bed before 9 both nights.  A glaring awareness I have had is the degree to which I caffeinate myself in order to accomplish more.  Coffee (and lately diet coke) have helped me stay up an extra 2-3 hours. I realize my current feelings of exhaustion likely have as much to do with the pace of the past month, yet normally enough caffeine would have me overriding my body's cues for sleep.

This is what I love about the cfc- the mindfullness it brings.  I have every intention of being mindful day to day but my life sometimes gets in the way of any signals to slow up or calm down.  Let's face it, who likes to feel like they are going to fall asleep at the wheel as they shuffle kids from place to place?

The desire for mindfulness is has me incorporating meditation into my week, a practice I have long since abandoned and could very badly use.  Sandi has been hinting around to my need for a quiet pause by suggesting I mediate in the midst of the cyclone that is my life sometimes.  Akin to telling a recovering alcoholic they need a meeting, she says, "You seem a little on edge..."  While I don't greatly appreciate it, I know there is some truth there.

Today for breakfast I had a delicious bowl of oatmeal with amaranth, coconut and raw cashews.  Yum.




I also made a giant batch  of  Peanut Butter Soup that I made last year for the cleanse.  I doubled it so I would have plenty to share.  This soup is a bit labor intensive and totally worth it.  Plus how can you not like a soup that is made with peanut butter?





Peanut Butter Soup: (From Yoga Journal Jan/Feb 2006)



4 oz. tempeh, cubed
1/4 c. tamari, divided
2 tablespoons molasses, divided
3 cloves garlic, divided
2 c. chopped onion
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow pepper
2 tsp. minced ginger root
9 c. vegetable stock
1 dried ancho chili, softened in hot water (you can also increase the amount of pepper flakes as a substitution)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. tumeric
3 tablespoons raisins
1/3 c. uncooked basmati rice
1/3 c. organic peanut butter (I used crunchy instead of smooth and thought it was perfect)
1/4 c.scallions, minced (optional garnish)


1. Place the tempeh in a small mixing bowl and marinate it in 2 tablespoons tamari, 1 tablespoon molasses and 1 minced garlic clove. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion for 2 minutes. Add the peppers, ginger, remaining garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add stock. Cook about 10 minutes, until onion is very soft.

3. Drain the ancho pepper. Discard the stem end then slice the pepper open. Scoop out and discard seeds. Chop the ancho and add it to the soup. Stir in the cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, tumeric, raisins and rice. Cover and bring to a boil then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet. Add the tempeh and cook, tossing frequently, until lightly browned. Either on a cutting board or with a spatula in the pan, break the tempeh into small pieces. Add it to the soup.

5. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of tamari and molasses with the peanut butter. Whisk in enough of the soup to make a smooth paste. Stir this into the soup and serve. Garnish with scallions if desired.

One more confession: while I am staying away from proccesed food, I have made some exceptions for canned food.  Last cleanse I made my own black beans and they were crunchy and left a lot to be desired. I used canned ones this time for salads and homemade veggie burgers.  I also made veggie stock for this soup with better than bullion.  I feel these are fair departures.

Anyone else with me?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

it's time....oh my, it's time

The month of February has been full of three things: fun, stress and cake.

A few birthday parties, a baby shower, a valentine's dance and throwing a surprise 30th birthday party for Trish has meant a ton of planning, a general revealing in all the love and blessings in our lives and way, WAY too much cake.

I go through periods of my life where cake is in its appropriate place of occasional dessert.  For these stretches of time I am incredibly thankful.  Then I go through months like this one where cake is on my mind more than it should be and I would give up any salad or tofu stir-fry to sink a fork into a stack of frosted layers.

I'm not saying it's healthy, people. I'm just telling you the situation.

Then there are people like Sandi who can take or leave it.  "I will just have a few bites," she says.  And then she does, which fortunately and unfortunately leaves more for me.

Besides being on opposite ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum and me being Type A and she being whatever type is so laid back it occasionally needs its pulse checked, we differ greatly on the dessert spectrum. 

Sandi brought this massive piece of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting home when we celebrated Valentine's Day. 

And can you see what she is eating instead?!

Can you get a sense of what I'm working with here?  Occasional cake addict meets goody two shoes clementines-for-dessert girl!

It's a good thing I love her so much or I might resent the hell out of her.

Aaaanyway, this brings me to my real point. 

It is time for the clean food challenge again!  Starting tomorrow and lasting a grueling, I mean AWESOME, seven days, I will be going it without sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, meat (easy) and caffeine (yikes!).  I will be subsiting on unprocessed, mostly raw foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and an obscene amount of water. 

Yes, after this month it is time for a reset, a clean house, a blank slate.  I'm shaking in my shoes about no coffee or tea and I'm contemplating a trip out for some cake tonight. 

If anyone has so much of an inkling to do this please email me at phoenix8@roadrunner.com.  I would love to have the power in numbers. Even if you don't think you can do seven days, try 3 or 4!  It is kind of amazing how wonderful eating clean makes you feel. 

I will be posting recipes, anecdotes about finding bathrooms to accomadate the gallon of water I will drink a day, annoying prosthelitizing that will make you and me both wonder why I would ever eat cake again and my usual outward processing of my life experience. 

Sound fun, huh?

+2

Remember Mindy and Charissa who are expecting twins??!



Well guess what?

Born last Monday at 34 weeks please welcome to the world baby girl Drew (3.9 pounds):


























and baby boy Baxter (5.1 pounds):


 The babies are doing well but will be spending some time in the NICU as they gain strength and some essential newborn skills.  I got to peek in on them in their little incubators, or isolettes, and I felt like I was peeking in on a secret. 

Ella is just about dead to get into the NICU to see them and thinks it is wholly unfair that siblings of NICU babies get behind the locked door and she does not. I assure her we will have all our lives to be with these twins but she sulks and pouts just the same.











I cannot imagine how difficult it was for Mindy and Charissa to leave the hospital Friday and leave their babies behind.

Welcome to the world Drew and Baxter, making a family of 3 a family of 5.  We love you all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Captain of the love ship

Ella asked me the other day if our town had a mayor. I told her we didn't have a mayor and I was pretty sure we had a town council.  She asked what that was. I explained it was a group of people who are in charge of the town.

"Are you in that group?" she asked.

I was taken aback and asked what would make her think I was in charge of the town.

"Well, you're in charge of the Valentine's dance so it seems like you're in charge of everything."

I like the way that girl thinks.

So last week was a big week for me.  I was sweating bullets about the Valentine's dance that I was fairly certain I was going to frig up and I was making mistakes all over the place.  I lost my gloves, forgot Maya's favorite water bottle at gymnastics, told my babysitter the wrong time to show up so I could go to work and locked myself out of my house because I accidentally gave the school secretary my house key when I was returning the PTO shed key. 

My big fear about the Valentine's dance was that I would totally suck at the decorating- the hanging of the lights and frigging with the extension cords.  I can organize, plan and hand out flyers till the cows come home, but the only agreement I have with electricity is then when I put the switch in the "on" position, the lights oblige.

I was further amped up by the fact that Sandi was going to be in Portland from Monday until Saturday at about the time the dance ended (stupid advanced life support class), and thus unable to offer any sort of engineering assistance, child care or (let's be honest) sanity procurement.

Friday morning before school I set the girls to decorate cupcakes. Yes, you heard me right. I'm telling you, I wasn't working with a full deck.




Then, immediately after school Friday, my group of steadfast volunteers and I began the arduous task of transforming the cafeteria/gym into a love shack, baby.  I stopped at the store on the way there to get a giant coffee and a diet coke. I told the cashier, "I am not leaving my caffeination to chance today." He didn't even crack a smile.
There was a lot of balloon blowing.  My handheld air inflator failed to inflate so there was a lot of hot air going around.
And some general silliness.
Then it was to the cafeteria to hang my nemesis, the disco ball.  Thank goodness one of the dad's offered to help (gave in to my begging) and took on this 2 + hour ordeal of hanging a ball for the sole purpose of  putting spinning dots of light on the dance floor.

Lucky for him he has Jessica as his assistant.  I tell you, that girl is scrappy.
She ended up driving home to get her extra long Christmas extension cords and proceeded to pull it through the suspended ceiling, tile by painful tile.

I made these paper flowers and, because the only 12 foot ladder was in disco ball demand, a lot of brain power went into figuring out how to hang them from something other than the ceiling.  
Good 'ol tulle and fishing line.
We were back the next day for 2 more hours of decorating before the main event.  By now, my breathing was no longer only in my upper register, I was well caffeinated and getting excited.


Kohl's department store has a volunteer program called the A-Team.  Their slogan is "Kohl's cares."  Well let me tell you, they care a lot.  I put in a request for volunteers and we had 4 people come for 3 hours to help before and during the dance.  And as if that wasn't enough, Kohl's gives a $500 grant to the school!  Win win!
Here they are in purple manning the food table:

And this man has been doing this dance for 5 years and clearly knew more than I did it about it.  He fixed the lights for better disco ball effects.

Sandi made it home a couple of hours before the dance, Ella had a major wardrobe crisis that only resolved itself with a drive back home, Maya was a little angel and I didn't lose my mind.

But here are some things I learned from this experience:


-There is no kind of trap like a fishing line trap. It's like being caught in Spider Man's web.

-Whenever you are going anywhere to do anything, you should have a packet of zip ties in your back pocket.

-If you have a need for a 12 foot ladder, you are likely going to need 3.

-The people who volunteer at a school are almost always the same core group of people. They come both days, email you to see if you need any more help, come to the event, congratulate you and help you clean up. All with a smile and without asking you to help with their event next month.

-When people care about something as much as you do, you should keep them very, very close.

-The longer something goes on the less you care. I went from "I would prefer to have this hung this way" to "put it up where ever you want."























So... BEFORE:
 

And AFTER!
San and our godson Reed who is, amazingly going to be going to Kindergarten at this school next year. How did that happen?




















Ella with her final outfit and Emerson, looking dashing.

Okay, I admit it. I was terrified at failing at this event. I only helped blow up some ballons last year and didn't help with any of the decorating. I has some information, but so much was up to me and so much was unknown. But the kids were awesome, my volunteers outstanding and in the end we pulled it off. 
 
I got an email from a mom whose first grader said, "It was probably the best day of my life!"  I got feeback that the music and decorating were great and the only real hitch was that we ran out of cupcakes too soon.  Oh, weren't the girls pleased.
 
And once the dance started, time took a deep breath and slowed right down. I kept glancing at the clock thinking it must be over and yet that two hours stretched itself out.  I danced with the kids, started a conga line, learned the "Cotton Eyed Joe" and laughed myself silly. 
 
Me and Susan, Madam President of the PTO.






Six and half hours to set it up.  Thirty five minutes to take it down.  Wonderful and demoralizing. I came home utterly exhausted, brimming with pride and satisfaction and with full-fledged cold.  I woke up the next morning full of relief. That is until I flipped the laundry and found my ipod, which had been in the back pocket of my jeans, in the washer. 

All in days work as a mom.

Monday, February 13, 2012

help a girl get to mexico

My dear friend  Emilie is a gutsy woman who sometimes lives a quiet life of adventure as an English teacher, marathoner, blogger, magazine editor and mom of two.  On other days, however, she chases down adventure, snags it with a lasso and rides off on it for the day, or even the weekend, always returning by Sunday night.

This time, though, she has her sights set on Mexico.  Not for a measly afternoon or overnighter, but for an entire week.  To a Las Olas Surf Safari for women! 

Not only is that probably the coolest thing any of my mom friends have done, but she is on the verge of getting if for free!

I mean, c'mon!

The thing is, she needs your help.  She wrote an essay- you know the usual "this is why I deserve to go to surf camp"- and was chosen to be the one of ten finalists.  The finalists and their essays are up on the Las Olas website and now it's up to you America! (or at least the 10 American's that read this blog!)

In truth, you don't have to be from America to vote.  I was simply going for the American Idol pep talk.

Pretty please vote for Emilie (one vote per email address) at  http://surflasolas.com/NOMINEES2012/. Just scroll down and click on her name to generate an email.  If this doesn't work you can send an email to scholarship@surflasolas.com with "I vote for Emilie" as the subject line.

Thank you for your help!  Voting ends in a week and then she will find out!

(I'm not sure there are enough exclamation points in this post!)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2 moms, 2 babies

When Ella was about 15 months old, we got a call from the women who taught our hypnobirthing class. "I've got two moms coming to class now. Okay if I put them in touch with you?"

A week later, Mindy and Charissa came over for dinner. Charissa was wearing a fire-engine red Tulane sweatshirt on a belly so full of baby it looked as though he might fall right out from under her sweatshirt any second.  It being Mardi Gras time and Charissa being from New Orleans she brought a King Cake that her mom had mailed to her from the south.  For the uninitiated, as I was at the time, King Cake is a danish-like cake with a hidden baby figurine cooked into it.  Whoever "gets" the baby is said to have good luck, or a fantastic upcoming year, or maybe is bound to win the lottery.  I guess I don't remember. 

I just remember Charissa with her fake looking baby belly, the soft southern cadence of her words and Mindy's wide smile and genuine heart.

When we were having Ella we knew zero gay parents.  We were happy to meet them and thrilled that we hit it off so well.  The rest, the trips, the annual New Year's Ever parties, the dinners, the emergency assistance given, the sharing of kids and the endless hours of laughter, is history.  Mindy and Charissa are the friends who help you when you garage floods or branches fall in your front yard over you power line.  They are the people to talk you of the ledge and even help you take your Christmas decorations down every damn year. 

Today was their baby shower to welcome their twins in a few short weeks!

I can't get enough of seeing a pregnant mom with her hand resting lovingly (protectively) over her belly. And Mindy makes a glowing baby maker.

In my ongoing attempt to live my life just south of utterly overwhelmed, I did not make a cake for the shower or paint my bathroom.  Instead I got a delicious cake from Frank's bakery and washed the smudges off the in-need-of-a-facelift bathroom walls.  Moderation here I come.

I even asked Mindy's mom and step-mom to bring some food and I bought the rest.  I'm telling you.  New leaf.  Turned over.

(In the corner is my new shelving unit where I keep all my pantry stuff in jars so I can get to it easier and because I think there is something surprisingly beautiful about dried beans and grains.  Emilie's husband, Sam, calls it my legume display.)
When I went to Frank's to pick up the cake yesterday,  a man got to talking to our girls when he saw their faces pressed up against the bakery case glass.  He told them they should get one of the mini football cakes for their dad.  I was silent for a moment as the girls stared at him, mouths slightly agape, and then I decided my silence would send the wrong message to the girls.  I informed him that they didn't have a dad.  Then I determined that, while I didn't feel the need to disclose our family structure to this stranger pushing baked goods on my children, my lack of elaboration might be misconstrued by the girls.

"They have 2 moms," I told him.

"Wow.  Two moms.  I think it would pretty great to have two moms.  Two moms is better than a dad, really.  Moms are more loving than dads."

While I do still hold a fondness for the standard nuclear family, I couldn't help but think of his words while I watched Mindy and Charissa.

Two moms, two babies.  One set of loving, gentle arms for each baby.  The perfect ratio of infant to mom.

I've never been to a baby shower for twins before. It is so cute.  They get two of everything!

Laurie, who helped me enormously with the shower, came up with this cool "money" tree.

We outfitted our breast pump with all new stuff for Mindy and got each of the babies felt booties.  I could hardly stand it they are so cute.
There were 8 kids and 3 babies at the party.  Our beloved babysitter, Olivia, came and supervised the kids upstairs.  I'm pretty sure this makes her a saint.  The energy of 8 kids felt a bit like Emerson's hair:




















 Mindy's step-dad, a fellow lover of cake and frosting, was looking forward to cake.  He was even happy that it was a rectangular cake rather than a circular one so that there would be a corner piece for him.   He was a man prepared.  Check out the fork:














We have spent so much time telling Ella, and now Maya, how lucky she is to have two moms.  How special it is.  I knew we had perhaps gone too far one day when she said, "Oh, that's sad for her.  She just has a mom and a dad."  Time to dial it back a bit.

But check it out?  I mean, seriously, how lucky are these babies going to be?

We, for sure, can't wait to meet them.