In the kitchen

Search This Blog

Friday, May 24, 2013

shoots of green

I have wanted to write an update post for a while, to report in on the progress I am making on my journey inward with food and with my life. But I wasn't sure I had come far enough to write about it.  Realizing that this is just another form of perfectionism, I am taking the risk to write it imperfectly. 
First let me tell you a silly little story.
When I drive, it is a habit of mine to look at the drivers of the oncoming cars.  I'm not saying this is a safe habit and I'm not saying I look at each and every driver, but I tend to remember what friends of mine drive what cars and I look out for them on the road.  Call it nosey, call it a symptom of extroversion, call it plain old reckless.  Either way, because of the schedule of my life, I tend to see the same people coming and going on the road between my house and the school and I like to wave to them as we pass. 
There is a woman I pass one to three times a week.  I do not know her, have never met her.  She used to drive a teel colored Rav 4 and she has chin-length, fluffy, blondish hair.  I would approximate her age somewhere between 50 and 80.  I started noticing her car because it is the same model and color my friend Ann drives.  But every time I would see the car, it wouldn't be Ann but this other woman - I imagine her name to be Estelle- behind the wheel.  The next week I would see it again and prepare to wave to Ann but, nope not Ann. It would be Estelle each and every time.
For three years I have seen this woman coming and going as I do on the same stretch of road to and from town.  She's become a familiar face, a reason to smile at life as this not-so-stranger passed me yet again. 
More recently, as I have been searching deeply for meaning, for context, for hope and transformation, I found that passing her on the road has somehow become a signal of the interconnectedness of life, the unseen web threaded from one of us to the other across the millions of souls dwelling here.  I realize this may seem like an overstatement, but honestly I have a hard time meeting up with the people I try to meet up with.  To consistently come across a stranger in the same two mile stretch of road, day in day out, week after week, year after year... it makes me feel as though there is something bigger than my insular life.  It is a lifting of the veil, a breath that takes me deeper.
And then last week I passed "Estelle" and smiled as I saw her and then laughed aloud when I realized she had a new car!  It wasn't even her car that was connecting me to this stranger anymore.  I saw her even in her new wheels.

I kind of pray I do and kind of pray I don't meet this woman someday.  She will likely think I'm crazy if I tell her this story.
There are some pretty major shifts happening inside me and in my life. Some of them manifest outside me but most are still gestating inside and I am, somehow, learning to allow change to happen infinitesimally slow, like the deepest water of the ocean, rather than the crashing surf to which I am accustomed.  The journey that began for me at the start of the year has blossomed and taken hold in my cells.  It is challenging, invigorating, exhausting and liberating. 

It is a process Elizabeth Lesser describes to well in her beautiful and amazing book Broken Open:

"Over and over, we are broken on the shore of life.  Our stubborn egos are knocked around, and our frightened hearts are broken open- not once, and not in predicatable patters, but in surprising ways and for as long as we live.  The promise of being broken and the possibility of being opened are written into the contract of human life....When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead.  May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding and leads you to freedom."

So many of my old ways of being are falling away.  In their ashes, I am finding the rudiments of a new a way of living, of loving, of breathing, of existing.  As it has been many times, again I find the image of the phoenix, a new life born from the ashes of the old one, present in my life. 

I am no longer interested in beating myself down, forcing myself to do things, rushing around, being in a perpetual state of overwhelmed tension and judging myself by some invisible measure - one that is more like a tightrope where any missed step receives harsh internal judgement. 

I am working to be on my own side, listen to my own needs, putting myself (sometimes) before others. 

These are not easy things to set down or easy ones to pick up. As a woman, as a mother, it seems as though it is written in my DNA to be selfless, tireless and capable.  Otherwise I would be one of those weak, vulnerable women and no proud, powerful woman wants that. 

How to be all these things at once?  How do I care for myself and set aside any familial, social or cultural notions about who or what I am supposed to be?  How do I get to know myself, and my deepest wants and needs without the overlay of what I have been taught, what I have told myself and what the world expects of me?

What do I want?  What do I need?  Who am I really when I am not pulling, pushing, striving, mandating of myself?

This, for me, is what being broken open has been at this point of my life.  (It has looked very different at other points in my life.)  I have cracked along my own fault lines and have to go deep inside myself to really see what I am all about. 

Evesdropping on my own thoughts, I am astounded by how much rehabilitation they need.  I can be so harsh and critical toward's myself.  I am using mindfulness to pay attention to the careless ways in which I think and act. I am meditating and writing.  I am paying attention to what I really need. 

I have to tell you that it isn't exactly convienient to be a semi-single mother of two trying to put myself back into the center of my life.

I am realizing how often I do things I don't want to do, force myself to accomplish things, take on too much, or simply don't allow myself to rest.  I am trying to ask myself what I want in any given moment, what I need.  Why am I reaching for food when I am not hungry?  What need am I trying to fill?  Most often it is a need for rest, play, indulgence, unproductivity, connection.  It is hard work to do more than just acknowledge these needs and instead to actively fulfill them.

The truth is sometimes I do say no. Other times I don't and then I watch myself rushing around, unable to breath, losing my ability to be mindful and present, eating on the fly and not caring for my body or my soul and thinking: damn, I've done it again.

It is such a relief to have Sandi and other people who love me that remind me often that it is okay to not do it all.   Other times it isn't a relief and I want to yell back, "If I don't do it who will?"  Sometimes the prompts are gentle and subtle, sometimes more obvious. Like when Emilie sent me this list of badass ways to say no.  It is a must read.

The funny thing about asking myself some of these tougher questions is that I would have told you a year ago that I didn't have trouble setting boundaries and limits for myself. I would have told you that I did all that I did because I loved it, wanted it, because it fed me.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I am the sort of person that thrives on projects, activity, living right in the messy middle of life.  But I am also so driven that I don't know when to say no to myself until I have gotten too far in over my head.

I read this by Geneen Roth the other day:

"Rejection (of the self) takes many forms: shame, an intense focus on self-improvement.  Rejection can feel like determination, will power, restlessness to change.  I observe that I am pulled between a basic trust of myself and a basic fear.  Between letting myself alone and believing that if I don't shove myself, I will never move."


Specific to food, I have been working for about 3 1/2 months on the Roth's eating guidelines (which I wrote about here).  It has been a bumpy, imperfect road.  I have realized the profound difficulty in eating what I want when I am not at my ideal weight and working through the guilt and mind games therein.  I have observed the startling difference between eating to the point of satisfaction instead of fullness and the difficulty I have stopping before I am actually full.  I have witnessed nearly every day how hard it is for me to not eat standing up, checking my email, watching TV or while driving.  I struggle to take the time to sit mindfully with food and enjoy it.  I think I partly struggle with feeling that it is a worthwhile use of my time.

 I feel like a toddler learning to walk. I am on my bottom more than on my feet.  But when I stand...let me tell you there are miracles happening.   I am eating without reproach and finding pockets of tenderness for my body exactly as it is.  I am finding the joy of listening to my body in what it wants and how much it needs.  It is like establishing a long-lost line of communication.  It feels like from this mindful center of me dwelling in me, anything is possible. 

I am learning to trust myself and how I feel and what I want.   I am learning that there is no yard stick for my journey and that if it ever were to be measurable it would be the lightness of my heart.

Today Maya "graduates" from preschool.  This breaks me open in ways that I find hard to articulate.  I am a petri dish of emotions and the tears I shed are a cockatil of pride, longing for moments that will never be again, sadness at losing my baby, gratitude to have my child meet her milestones and fear as she moves out into the world of public school, larger classes, standarized testing, rubrics and report cards. 

All I really know is that this life.  This is real living.  Pain, joy, loss, excitement, ending, beginnings, saying goodbye, saying hello.  If I'm going to live bare, my heart open and unguarded by food, or distraction, busyness or an attempt to control every last thing, then I will be broken open endlessly.  And each time I break, more light, more love, more life will flood into the cracks and make me whole.

And each time I can extend or receive love, make a meaningful connection with another human being, or see some random woman driving her car along my same road, these are like shooting stars across my galaxy to help me remember that I am not alone, that it worthwhile to look beneath the superficial parts of living and ask the difficult questions.  But that most of all, my big heart, with its messy love and unknown depths, is connected to all others.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

quinoa- the new t-bone?

Is it just me or does it seem that even the things that are good for you, really and truly good for you, eventually end up being bad in some way?
Take water for example.  Drink plenty of it, more than you even want.  But make sure it isn't polluted.  Or you could just buy spring water and add to the global climate crisis by increasing the demand on fossil fuels to make the plastic and ship it all over creation.
Eat soy.  Soy is good for you.  The Japanese eat lots of soy and they have a very low rate of cancer.  So eat tofu and be the butt of every Thanksgiving meal because you are eating Toferky.  But wait! Don't eat too much tofu because it is highly processed and there is concern about the estrogen-like effects which might actually put women at greater risk for certain types of  breast cancer.  (In actuality, there isn't too much a debate here.  It is not soy itself, or even tofu, that might be nutritionally risky.  It is the very processed from of soy, soy isolate, that people might want to watch out for.  I found a great article that shed some light on the soy debate.)
It seems that anytime we actually have the opportunity for some light back-patting over a healthy, globally responsible choice as a citizen of the Earth, someone comes and rains on the parade.
Take quinoa for example.  Check out how much a 3 pound bag cost at the health food store.

Apparently, the touted superfood status of quinoa has had some damaging effects on the grain's place in the global market and has had some major ramifications for those who grow it.  Ange, always one to keep me informed since I basically live under a rock with no newspaper, news and a thin diet of social media, sent me  this article  about why the Bolivians who grow quinoa can no longer afford to eat it themselves. This one discusses the massive ecological strain of the vegetarian market, including threatening water resources, increasing deforestation and the fact that many of the countries that fulfill the demands of vegetable-based food now themselves subsist on cheaper, nutritionally devoid processed food. 

Sigh and double sigh.

Now, I share these things with great caution for there is no way that vegetarianism is as damaging to earth as the ecological demands of commercial meat production.  The acres and acres of earth devoted to raising cows (both for them to live on and the acres needed to grow the corn to feed them) opposed to vegetables is out of sight.   Cow flatulence (you heard me right) is a major contributor to greenhouse gases.  Seriously.

What these articles really highlight is the fact that wealthy, developed countries such as ours generally say what we want from the world and the world responds.  We have the money to pay for the superfoods grown in rural Bolivia and suddenly there is a market, a demand and a massive price climb. 

I have no idea how to fix such a thing and I don't even really grasp economics well.  But I do know that I just don't feel right creating my own nutritional bubble while other people, those who produce it, suffer. 

The whole thing leaves me wanting to whine to the sky, "Why can't we all just get along?"  and then go eat my quinoa in peace.

In an act of great irony, I am going to now share one of my favorite quinoa recipes with you because it also doesn't feel right to me to post a bumper sticker to my car with the word quinoa with a circle and an X through it.   My friend Heather shared it with me from Eating Well (November/December 2011).

Pear-Quinoa Salad

- 14 oz. vegetable broth (or water)
-1 cup quinoa
- 2 TBSP walnut or canola oil (I used only 1)
-1-2 TBSP fruity vinegar, such as pear, raspberry or pomegranate
-1/4 cup snipped fresh chives (can substitute scallions)
-1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
-1/4 tsp salt
-2 ripe but firm pears, peeled and diced (I prefer bosc)
-1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted

1. Boil the broth in a large saucepan.  Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to maintain a simmer.  Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the outer shell of the quinoa has opened, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl and cool.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, vinegar, chives, salt and pepper.  Add the pears to coat.  Add to the cooled quinoa.  Toss to combine.  Top with toasted nuts. May be served chilled or at room temperature.

 Say a prayer for the people of Bolivia and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

17 days to go...

Sandi is in the middle of nurse anesthesia school hell.  You can imagine where that puts the rest of us.

There have been many crunch periods in the past 21 months since the program began.  I can remember a couple of stretches where Sandi appeared to all but be squeezed in a vice.  She didn't sleep well, had dark circles under her eyes from burning the candle at both ends and looked physically burdened.  Her workload and geographical circumstance made it so that she was deprived of the nourishing love (and, let's be honest, maddening frustrations) of our little family.  Either sleeping in Portland or being holed up at her sister's house studying, she was often isolated and walking her difficult path alone.

But I think this month, May, takes the cake as far as stress goes.  And when I say cake I don't mean dense chocolate sponge with smooth, velvety buttercream.  I mean dry, hard cake that was left uncovered on the counter for two nights.  Better yet, I mean two day old cake on the bottom of the trash can with coffee grounds and rotton vegetables on it.  But I digress.  I'm sure you get the idea.

Sandi is in her second month at a clinical site nearly an hour's drive each way.  She has been staying overnight on call one night a week to allow for the variance in training to go from asleep to responsible for someone's airway in mere minutes.  On the weekends she has been working feverishly on her senior project, a complex and lengthy production that requires endless hours of research, synthesizing of concepts and data and page upon page of writing.    She is profoundly exhausted and dipping into long dried-out stores for the energy to perservere.

Her project is due on June 1.  To add a little extra drama she is has a 5 day trip to the midwest coming up for a review course for her boards which means 5 days lost for project completetion. I can't remember the exact reason these events- the trip and the home stretch of the project- collided in a horrible calendar clash, but they did. 

So the past few weeks have been difficult to say the least. 

Whenever something comes up for discussion about a future event, Sandi responds with, "Just give me 17 days okay?"  Translation:  I can't deal with any more than I have right now.  Whatever it is, table it.

I have a long list of things to discuss with her, small requests for her time to fix this or help me brainstorm that.  But I am waiting, sometimes patiently, sometimes not, for her to have any energy to devote toward what is happening here.

If anyone out there is considering nurse anethesia school, I implore you to do it before you reproduce.   

The kids been having an increasingly difficult time with Sandi's absence.  It is as though they have hit their tolerance threshold for the whole thing and we still have six months to go until graduation.  I'm hoping for an improvement when June 1 rolls around, when this most intense stress is reduced, but I'm also not an idiot.  There has been no part of this journey that has been a breeze so I wouldn't begin to expect that in 17 days from now, with still 6 months of farther away clinical sites for her to travel to and boards to study for, that life will somehow return to normal.

The improvement I can see on the horizon is the one Sandi continues to reiterate to me in the "17 days left" mantra: when the project is over, she will have very little, if no, course work left and so she can at least have the weekends back with us.  Considering it will be summer that is merciful. 

I plan to fill the summer with all sorts of fun day trips and time with friends and family.  Perhaps this way the kids won't notice Sandi's absence as much during the week.  One can hope. 

I have to confess, though, in planning to go here for a few days or there for a few more, it is hard to avoid the hard knot of pain that it will be just three of us and not the four of us.  It is true that I am psyched for Sandi's program to be done- to have someone help me mow the lawn, carry the wood, help tackle the mountain of laundry, wrangle the kids when they are dirty and supper needs making, shovel the snow and take care of the ant infestation. And of course, I am so looking forward to a paycheck. 

But honestly, I most look forward to moving again as a single family organism, instead of in this stilted manner in which we have become accustomed, with one leg perpetually missing.  

A few mornings ago the girls lay on a heap on my lap on the kitchen floor, pouring their hearts out about how much they miss Mommy.  It was heartbreaking and all I could do was cry alongside them.  We all miss her and she misses us.  And we have to keep going because we haven't come this far to give up now.  We are all tired and can't help but asking, "Are we there yet?"

Allow me to also say how incredibly proud of am of Sandi for her ability to do this.  To manage the demands of such an intense program with the demands of a family is not an easy position to be in.  She has certainly gotten the short end of the stick most often while she struggles to balance these worlds.  I don't envy the position she is and I marvel at her ability to excel at such a challenging endeavor.   We miss her but we get to spend our time missing her at the beach and romping in the sunshine.  She has to miss us from a sleep-deprived state with her head in a book or existing in a sterile, windowless environment where people's lives often hang in the balance.

Our mailbox got hit last fall and still hasn't been fixed.  The mailman put a friendly note in our box that we need to raise it 10 inches.  Then a few weeks later he came to the door with a package and mentioned it to Sandi.  I wanted to call over her shoulder:  "Could you just wait 17 more days please?" 

Oh, and P.S...

If anyone needs anything from Sandi, get in line behind me and the girls.  I will elbow you and possibly flatten you if you try to cut.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

growing up

Ella is growing up in ways that astound, amaze and undo me. 
Like a physical growth spurt that seems to happen overnight and leaves you wondering why all your child's pants make her look like a clam digger, the changes in Ella seemingly have occured in a span of mere days. 
crazy hair day at school in March
Suddenly Ella understands concepts I didn't know if she would ever grasp.  She gets how to use reverse psychology on her sister.  She knows how to keep a secret.  She is willing to work hard for something she wants.  Over the past month she has perfected the cart wheel, learned some gymnastics tricks on the the bar on her school playground, taught herself how to do a backbend and, as of this weekend, can do a back walk over (kicking over and back to standing from a backbend).  She has really come into her body, with long, strong legs and core muscles that can take her where she wants to go.

And she also doesn't fit into any of her pants.   Thank goodness it is time for capris.

Ella has always been the sort of child that doesn't like new things, especially social situations where people are unfamiliar.  Second grade has been a transformative year in this regard.  She has found her place, a sense of confidence and assurance, and I marvel that she is finally comfortable being a few steps away from me.  She is with many "big" kids in softball and relishes her time in their presence.  I see her making new friends at the playground, at swimming lessons and at social gatherings when in the past she always preferred to be a couple steps back from the unknown.

It is hard to describe what her transformation means to me.  On the one hand, it is painful to feel her pull away from us and move out into the world (even if it is only on the playground), to know that once kids begin to leave the nest that it is a gradual progression of the same.  I'm not suggesting that we are apartment hunting or anything, but it is true that growing up is a shift of moving away from the parents and not toward them. 

On the other hand, I am filled with relief and pride for Ella.  I have wanted her to find her own feet, to believe in herself, to feel competent and confident, to find her own place.  I love watching her self-esteem build block by block as she masters a challenging math problem, hits the ball in softball or works for hours on a gymnastics move and finds success.  Inside I am cheering each time I see her navigate a tricky interaction with Maya when she needs quiet and Maya is singing songs to beat the band. I see her care for herself, apologize when she hurts someone and take accountability for herself.  She shows spontaneous gratitude and compassion, two traits we have tried to nuture like a gardner in a greenhouse, but until recently without much luck.

Ella also eats almost any kind of soup and simple tossed salad now.  Her palate is expanding and each time she finds a new food she likes I want to sing and dance.  Sometimes I do, earning me a, "Okay, Momma, take it easy" from her.

Ella and I are reading Harry Potter together.  I had read the whole series long ago and loved it.  A few weeks ago she was home sick and I suggested it as something we could do together.  She was reluctant as she has often been with new things.  Three pages in she was hooked.   Some of the concepts need explanation but the way in which is identifies with and adores, or equally despises, some of the chararacters makes my momma and literary heart sing. 

We are only reading the first three books (Ange's suggestion since she has read them all recently) due to the more mature content of the later books.  Ella is outraged by this restriction.  She asked me how long until we can read book four (mind you we are only half-way through book two).  I said, "How about when you're eleven." 

"Ten," she countered and I had to look in the back seat to see if that was really Ella back there taking such an assertive stance.

Part of growing up is that you also see things in perpective. 
The other day she said under her breath about Maya's Barbies, "Barbies are for babies."
But it turns out stuffed animals and dolls aren't for babies because she still really loves those and we all know eight-year-olds aren't babies.

on a hike we took on an early dismissal day from school in early spring
Ella's self-portrait from art class.  I love everything about it.
Such is the way of growing, as if shape shifting into a new person right before my very eyes.  On a beach hike with Ange and the kids, Ella found and picked up this baby snake.  I wanted to check her for ID.
Ella has also been saying the most poignant and hilarious things lately.

We were with my mom, my sister and my niece and nephew feeding the ducks in Camden Harbor.  My mom, in an attempt to distract Maya from a onslaught of naughtiness, told her she could hold the bread bag for the ducks.  Maya translated that into I will feed the ducks and prevent others from the opportunity.  She did just that, dumping the bag of bread to the delight of the ducks and the dismay of her sister and cousins.

 I apologized and said, "Maya is in kind of a rare mood."  I then corrected myself, "I don't mean rare as in uncommon but raring to go."

Ella, without hearing my tag on, rolled her eyes and said, "Mom, it isn't rare at all.  She is like this every single day."

We were eating pizza together as a family when Ella got very pensive and said, "I have a question that no one will ever know the answer to."

Sandi and I, sensing a teaching moment, began to respond seriously.  "Yes, those are called unanswerable questions."  "There are probably more things we don't know than those that we do know."

Ella, enjoying her pizza and working hard to abide by our request that she pretty please chew with her mouth closed, replied: "We will never know the answer to the question did the first person who lived eat with his mouth open or closed?"

I love the new, more collaborative relationship I get to have with Ella these days.  I don't have to limit set and interfere so much and we can just be together.  Watching her stretch so she could practice gymnastics the other day I asked her if she would like to go to yoga class with me sometime.  She gave a resounding YES! 

I guess I felt like I might have babies forever, little ones who couldn't be trusted in public and who I needed to secure care for so I could leave the house for 5 minutes. The thought of being able to take my polite and able-bodied daughter to yoga class is a concept that is foreign and delightful.

I look forward to all these new ways of being with Ella and pray that I can keep myself out of the way.  I want to leave her space to blossom and expand and not to put restrictions or too many of my own expectations on her.  I want to love and support her from behind, rather than trying to steer her ship from the front.

Because for the first time in her young life, Ella seems to understand that she is in fact at the helm.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

my happy place

Last weekend I got to do something I've always wanted to do: ride the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park.  But I got to do one even better.  I got to ride it while it was still closed to traffic. 
Thanks to the pesky sequester, the Parks Service is opening the park late.  A nuisance for cars and a haven for cyclists.
(I am writing this post very late- a week late in fact, when our glorious stretch of sun, sun and more sun was met with this past weekend of rain.  Even looking at these pictures from a week ago makes me crave the sun although I am trying to be as grateful as the tulips in my garden for the rain.)
My friend Chris was the brain child behind this expedition.  My mom watched the girls and I took off for Bar Harbor feeling giddy as though someone had sprung me free.  Sandi was hoping to go but had to spend the day working on her senior project (ugh) and I missed her a lot.  She would have flipping loved it. 
One of the benefits to riding with an accomplished cyclist is that she can take photos of you while you pedal.  Thanks Chris!

It is hard for me to explain the sheer joy I feel when I'm on my bike.  And put me along the ocean on an empty road normally teeming with out of state SUVs and Winnebegos...I am in heaven.

The highlight of our ride was the climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  With no cars to contend with it was just me, with my legs rotating around and around as if through dense matter propelling me up an incline and around a hairpin corner to...another incline.  I climbed and climbed with burning lungs and a smile.  I was immensely grateful. 

I have been to the top of Cadillac many times- by foot on a hiking path mostly, but also by car to watch the sunrise (the summit of Cadillac is the first place the sun rises on the east coast) with Chris back when I was a teenager and to be a witness at Matt and Ange's sunrise wedding a few years ago. 

I have never been so lucky to be there when it is a stunning ghost town, the summit speckled with three of four other cyclists.

Talk about a reward.

Leann, Me and Chris - our cycling team for the day

A twenty five minute climb up and an 8 minute exhilarating ride down.  Thirty three miles of gorgeous completed the park loop road. I was the kind of happy that can't be contained and I smiled all day long.  I'm pretty sure when I layed my head on the pillow that night I was still smiling.

Monday, May 6, 2013

lobster, school-style

A few years ago when Ella was finishing up at Highland Preschool, her grandfather came in to do a presentation of being a lobster fisherman. 
Now, as Maya finishes up in the same class (sniff, sniff)  he came back to do it again. 
It is the cutest thing ever.  Dwight could be on his own PBS show without a doubt. His downeast accent, engaging manner, and gentle yet rugged means he has the whole package.
Dwight brought a trap, his gear, his fishing tools and coolers full of sea life.  He told the kids about how his day starts, about his boat and how it got its name, what he loves about fishing and how one of Maine's most prominent industries works.
First, you must put on your oil pants.
 Then you have to find your unique buoy floating on the water among the countless others.
 You gaff it (grab it with a long pole), pull it in and put the rope in the hydraulic hauler until your trap surfaces.
 Then you find the treasures within.
 Dwight brought all sorts of crabs, starfish (Maya's request) and lobster for the kids to see and handle.  There were some great screeches of fear and delight.  He let the kids band the lobsters with the cool tool.
 After his presentation at Highland, we grabbed some lunch before heading to Ella's second grade class to do it all over again.

Maya was in rare form.

She was so excited to be Grampie's helper for the second presentation.  (That is until it was nearly done and she came to me and put her head down dramatically on my lap and said, "When is the boring thing going to be over?!")
 Second graders have a lot more questions and grasp the whole thing in a bigger way.  It was an intense hour with excited questions and anxious pleas to get a turn holding a crab or banding a lobster.
 Dwight, showing how to bait a pocket and hang it on the trap to entice the lobster.  The kids were saying, "ewwwwww!" at the baity smell.
 Ella, holding a hermit crab.
I am immensely grateful to my amazing parents-in-love for coming up to spend the day doing this for their grandchildren and for the children in their classes.  It is a such a wonderful, hands-on learning experience for kids. 

The director of Highland Preschool, Tami Campbell, had the TV station come for the presentation and they did a clip for the evening news so you can see for yourself!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The story of Maya and her hearing aids continued.

Getting hearing aids is a multi-step process.  First the referral, then the testing and the retesting.  Then the ENT appointment for medical clearance, the removal of some ear wax and you are on your way to...yet more appointments.
My sarcasm isn't really warranted here.  We have had really good care and have worked with some truly lovely people.  The problem is that there are aren't appointments for Sandi or myself, but for our spirited, occasionally wild child, who has had to endure many steps to meet an eventual goal she isn't all that psyched about:  having to wear hearing aids. 
We never really know what to expect from Maya.  Often she is easy going, content, along for the ride.  Other times she sets her feet down firmly, as though in quick-dry cement, and her iron will is unmovable. 
As parents, we often hope for the former and plan for the latter.
Once we obtained medical clearance, it was on to see Michelle at the Hearing Center at EMMC (we LOVE Michelle - partly because she is awesome and partly because she adores Maya).  We also really appreciated Dawn, the audiologist who did all her hearing tests.  She is the one that worked with the Maya in the reliable B.F. Skinner operant conditioning model:  M&Ms at the push of a button each time she heard a sound.  Brilliant.
The first of the two-step process to getting hearing aids is to have ear molds made.  This means squirting a silicone-like substance into the ear, letting is harden (in mere minutes) and then pulling it out.  Luckily, Maya thought this was pretty fun.  What kid wouldn't like having what looks like toothpaste squirted in her ear?
She kept running around the office, yelling, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!" getting louder and louder as the adults chuckled at her.
 Once dry, the ear mold is gently pulled from the ear by the string on the inside (reminicent of a tampon if you can parden the analogy)  and then sent away to have molds made to fit Maya's ears exactly.  She got to pink the color of her molds.  Can you guess what she picked? 
A few weeks ago when the girls and I were hiking on Mackworth Island, Maya was commenting to me about how good a "see-er" she is.  "Ella told me my eyes are so good because my hearing is not so good.  But soon I will have hearing aids to help me hear better.  Too bad they don't have seeing aids for people who can't see so well."  When I stopped laughing and marveling at the world through a child's eyes, I informed her that they have such things and they are called glasses.

Finally, Monday it was time for the real deal.  That morning took her doll Kaylee, the one with her very own hearing aids, to preschool that day to introduce the idea to her classmates.    Then I picked her up early and Sandi met us for the hour and half appointment to fit and test the hearing aids.  As soon as we put them in, she began to yell accusingly at us, "IT IS TOO LOUD!!" which was hard to decipher if it actually was too loud or if enough people had said this to her ("When she gets her hearing aids I bet everything will seem really loud to her!"). 

Regardless of the reason, Michelle turned them down and we took her in the hearing booth to test their efficacy.  There were too many sounds she couldn't hear and they needed to be turned up.  If they were at the level Maya preferred (the hearing level she is accustomed to) there was really no amplification at all.  After lots of tweaking of low sounds and high sounds and then the program was set for her hearing aids.  At this age, they disable the function that allows her to turn them up and down herself.  (Mercy.)

Maya is really comfortable with the people at the hearing center.  In a really sweet and sort of unruly way.  She sits in their laps, tells them she wants to go home with them, gives them hugs, but then pushes their limits and tests them the way she does with us.  Part of the double edged sword here is that they think she is hilarious and laugh at her silliness which is so cute but then she amps it up and we have a hard time reigning her in. 
I suppose it is hard not to laugh when a five-year-old spontaneously breaks into song, singing:
"That's the way...uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.  That's the way...uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh." 

Maya is using the Phonak Dalia Pink which sits behind the ear.  She loves her pink and purple swirled ear molds with light pink hearing aids.  AND they come with stickers to decorate them.
By the end of the appointment, Sandi had to leave and I was trying to sign paperwork and Maya had had enough.  She was being obstinate and mouthy and saying to me, "I want these out!!!  All I can hear is shhh, shhh, shhh!" She was hearing the pages of the book as the turned them. I felt a sad sympathy for all that she had been unable to hear until now, especially knowing how hard it was going to be now that she could hear everything.

Michelle told me to call if Maya continued to complain that things were too loud and we go back in two weeks to follow-up. 

Here is what is surprising:  although she craves attention, Maya does not like the attention her hearing aids bring her.  She likes to show them off in the snazzy case but not in her ears.  We left the hearing center and headed for the park to meet Emilie who had Ella with her kids for me.  Maya refused to keep them in her ears and only wanted to show them in the case. She didn't want to show Tia or any of the Carvers when we headed for Beals the next day.  Ella's been telling all her friends about Maya's hearing aids at school.  They all want to see them and Maya doesn't want to show them.  I've tried to help set boundaries with the curious kids and to save Maya the (surprisingly) unwanted attention, but curious kids are rather relentless it turns out.

We are aware that this is a major adjustment and we want to give Maya lots of leeway.  But we have to be careful, too.  Maya has said things like, "Maybe I'll wear them and maybe I won't."  We don't want to give this self-directed child a sense that these hearing aids are optional.  We gave her a reward for wearing them during the morning session of preschool Wednesday.  Three and a half hours in a room full of kids.  That is a big deal.  Her teachers are amazing and I was so comforted to leave her in their care as she makes this big transition.

Then yesterday we established the hours for her to wear them.  Part way through the morning as we ran errands she said, "Wow! I forgot I was wearing my hearing aids!"  On the drive home after the errands, gymnastics and volunteering at Ella's school (when it was time that she could take them off), she said, "I'm going to take these off now."  Then she forgot.  And she forgot a few hours later too.  Straight through Ella's softball game until she climbed into the shower at nearly 8 pm, she forgot.  She wore them for 12 hours!!!!

It feels good to not shout so much. It feels good not to be so frustrated when Maya doesn't respond to me, especially in the school parking lot with cars moving every which way.  It feels good to know that Maya has the perfect hair to hide her hearing aids so she can choose to show them or not.  It feels good that in the past two days we saw two strangers wearing hearing aids (one adult, one child). It feels good that Maya is old enough to understand that she can now hear like we can and that it will take time to get used to. 

I told her that I wear an insulin pump and she wears hearing aids and that is pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Much to our surprise and delight, our eldest daughter- the one who spent two entire years in petticoat dresses- played in her very first softball game Sunday.

Ella was delighted to wear her too-big uniform and create her own hair style which she explained to me in painstaking detail so I could replicate it.  I'm not sure she knew the tendency for elaborate braiding among softball players but if she had she would have been even happier in her selection of sports to play.

So basically what I'm saying is that it is all about the clothes, the hair and the friends. 

Ella, Kaylee and Kendall
Sandi's family came up early for some bright sunshine for a loooooong game of softball. For whatever reason in this league, the girls pitch to each other with the coach only stepping in to pitch if the 5 people have been walked. This starts over each inning and there are 6 innings which makes for a 3 hour ball game.

It was such a treat for Ella to feel so much love and support.  She was literally grinning from ear to ear.

The day before her game, after having had just two practices, she says to me, "There is only one problem, Mom.  I don't actually know how to play softball."  I realized they had practiced batting, catching, throwing and running the bases but the ingredients hadn't actually been put together in her head to form an actual game. 

I told her Sandi was the one to help her and, a few hours and a diagram later, Ella had all she wanted.  She said, "Okay, that's enough. I get it," before Sandi was halfway through. 

Some things you just have to get by doing it.

The twins step-dad, Billy, is the coach which is so comforting to Ella.  He has the girls rotating around postitions.  Much to our surprise, Ella came out of the dugout in the second inning as the catcher!

 What we learned as we watched is that there are several different degrees of readiness when you are eight years old, playing your first softball game that happens to be 3 hours long.

 Arms crossed in right field waiting for some action.
 There are also varying degrees of spectating...
 Kaylee had a turn as the catcher as well.
 And Kendall looks impossibly tiny and adorable up to bat.
I thought I might need to be medicated when Ella got up to bat. I was so nervous for her. She doesn't like to be the center of attention and she doesn't like to not be good at something. I didn't want her to strike out and feel badly.  She was being pitched to by a player, not a coach, and all she knows is to try to hit the ball.  So we are all yelling to her, "Wait for a good one!" and I'm thinking she has no idea what a good one looks like.  I told Sandi I wanted to yell to her not to swing because I knew her chances would be better at getting on base, but Sandi told me we couldn't teach her that so I kept my mouth shut.

 I focused instead on my desire to learn how to be an umpire and carry one of those nifty brushes in my back pocket to clean off the illustrious home plate.

But alas, her discerning eye served her well and, 4 balls later, she walked to base.  She was very comforted by the parents at first and third helping her along. 
Six innings and three hours later, we lost 14-16 and the girls had a blast.  Ella walked twice and both times made it around to home, the first time running from third straight to the dugout with us all yelling, "Touch home plate!!"  It was so much fun and I was beaming with pride for her.
When we headed to the car she said, "I got two home runs!!!"  Well......
Sandi asked her that afternoon to practice with her. Ella said, "It's okay. I know everything I need to know."  Sandi said, "But El, don't you want to understand the game a little so you know where to throw the ball and when to go where?" 
Ella replied:  "No, that's okay.  The coaches are out there and they can tell me where to go."
We're working on it.
The true hilarity of the situation is that Ella isn't convinced Sandi, depite her very successful softball career, is giving her the right advice.  She tends to discount what Sandi says.  So Sandi told her sister, Kristi, to comment to Ella about her batting stance (the one Sandi has taught her) because Ella wasn't sure is was right.  When Kristi complimented Ella on her stance, she said Ella smiled the biggest smile she'd ever seen.  Apparently her aunt knows what she is talking about, even if her mother does not.
Ella has a game scheduled for Thursday.  But she also has a book fair and literacy night at her school at the same time.  I told her we need to do the school stuff and skip the game.  She came to us at dinner the next night with a whole case about why she wanted to go to the game and how her school work could be sent home for us to see at home instead of in her classroom.  She said things like, "I really want to be at that game. I want to be with my team, especially if they win." 
This well thought out argument, the planning and consideration, the wanting to be with her team is really what it is all about.  This is what we want her to get: hard work, practice, determination, teamwork. 
And of course, the fun of being with your friends.
Good job Ella!!!  We are so proud of you!
Site Meter