Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mother or Zookeeper... Part 2

Feeding Norah some Gorilla Munch. I put a few down in front of her, she picks them up and eats them, I put more down, she eats them. Then, I offer her a few, in my hand, thinking she will pick them up and eat them too. Instead, she leans down and eats them right out of my hand with her little mouth, like a goat at a petting zoo.

Y'all are all jealous because I get this kind of entertainment for FREE...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grocery Wars

I am working on the new eating/cooking plans that I have been writing about for the past week or so, and I have some successes to report!

First, I have used up nearly all of our veggies for this week, with a few veggies left that can easily get used before the end of the week.

I have made a couple of really good, inexpensive meals. I want to pass on 2 points of wisdom that have really helped me do better with the meal planning, not wasting, etc. One of these I learned from my friend Amber, whose budgeting prowess never fails to amaze me.

Amber's tip #1: Have handy catchall dishes that you can put almost anything into. She suggested soup and fried rice, which are nearly always ready for a random vegetable, bit of leftover meat or fish, etc. In fact, it's hard to think of any vegetable or meat that wouldn't fit into one of those two dishes, with the possible exception of iceberg lettuce and hot dogs. Luckily I don't have those two around anyway.

My tip #2: Plan exactly what you will do with everything you buy, and process it immediately when you get home. For example, this week when I got our veggie shipment, I immediately made a huge salad with all of the salad-type ingredients. The result was that I ate a lot of salad and none of the ingredients went bad before I ate them. This might not sounds like a big deal but I was always finding vegetables all nasty in the produce drawer. So, yay for not wasting food!

Then, with regard to the crazy idea I had about not eating flour or added sugar, it has actually gone well. On the first day, I had to cheat and eat pizza, because I didn't plan ahead and that was all that was available. But I ate two pieces, the end. I have a lot of energy. I don't know if it is a coincidence, because a lot of people are talking about having a lot of energy because of daylight savings time. But I really do feel good. We'll see how it goes. It's actually less hard than I thought it would be to avoid flour. Strangely enough I feel like I don't want cake and cookies anymore because I feel so good now. This is probably temporary, though. I am sure that I will start craving it again. ;D I do have to eat more often because (maybe?) I am "using up" what I eat, so I have to refuel a little more often. Any nutritionists out there who want to contribute their insight?

Today I made a really good vegetable soup with beans. Maybe a sort of minestrone. Yum! :)

Now, I have a bunch of potatoes because Ben doesn't eat them right now. Any ideas for something interesting to do with a bunch of potatoes?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Party Pants

I put my party pants on this weekend, and had a great birthday celebration. Letchwurth and Electroplate serenaded the crowd with some fantastic musical stylings, and they played me a ZZ Top song in lieu of Happy Birthday ;D I loved it.

As I loudly told many people that night (no drinks were involved of COURSE... ahem...), I would have killed to have that party in high school, when I was desperate for coolness, which was always just out of my reach.

Reasons My Party Would Have Been the Ultimate Coolness Booster in High School:

1. Took place at a warehouse
2. Lots of older guys there... oh, wait, I'm that old now, too. Moving on:
3. Bands!
4. I am with the band(s)!
5. Red Solo cups filled with mixed drinks
6. Ice chest full of Bud cans
7. Band did a song dedicated to me
9. Biggest full moon in 20 years
10. I was wearing real cowboy boots

Superficial list? Yes. But when you were as un-cool as I was in your adolescent years, these kinds of things matter.

Also, it turns out that the secret to being cool is to stop worrying about being cool. Instantly you will become cool. If only I had known this earlier. ;D But being uncool built my character, I guess?

Aside from that, the healthy eating is going pretty well this week. No weight loss on the scale, but clothes are looser, a bit. The weather is LOVELY.

This and not much else, bumping around in my head these days. What about you?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Food Strategy

A practical post today. Over the past 6 months or so I have been slowly making over our eating -- trying to fit more organics in, natural/organic meats, less HFCS, more whole grains, etc.

This past week I noticed something interesting. I bought some Ezekiel 4:9 tortillas, which are made with all sprouted grains, no flour. I noticed that when I ate them for breakfast, I wasn't hungry all morning, and I lost a pound this week too.

I am also trying to consider how to simplify our eating so that we waste less food -- I still come across some spoiled food every week, and I want to cut that down to almost nothing. I also want to look at ways to eat well and inexpensively, and I know it is possible -- it will just take some more work and foresight.

Complicating matters are (1) Fridays in Lent, which mean no meat. This is not a big deal, but it is an extra thing to think about. (2) Ben gave up potatoes for Lent, so trying to find enough starch to feed him when he dislikes pasta, squash, oatmeal, and hippie grains like quinoa and amaranth. Mmm, grits, anyone? (3) Norah eats all the time now so I have to figure out real-food solutions for her. This is not that complicated either, but it does take some planning.

So. I am cobbling together some principles to try out, and see how they affect our use of food. Here are my ideas so far. I might not incorporate all of these, and I might add to the list as well. I would love to hear any suggestions that anyone has!

1. For me, I am trying a flourless week. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I don't eat flour I lose weight a lot faster. I will still eat grains and carbohydrates in general, just not flour.

2. Use more beans. They are cheap and easy to fix, and they are healthy. Homemade refried beans are reeeeeeally good.

3. Keep the Ezekiel tortillas on hand. I have found a recipe for sprouted grain bread here, and in a few weeks I might try it. I am not jumping into that yet, but it might be worth it later.

4. Buy natural foods in bulk. New Leaf Market here has some great bulk options, for much cheaper than pre-packaged stuff.

5. Buy dry grocery items (tomato sauce, cereal, etc.) in bulk at discount prices.

6. Cook myself several meals on Sunday and freeze them in portions to eat during the week. This helps me avoid the I-don't-have-enough-time trap, which often leads to things like chicken fingers and tater tots. And half-packages of Oreos. Just for example.

7. Process veggies on the day I get them. I am thinking that on veggie day (the organic buying club provides a new shipment every week) I will make a salad out of the perishable salad stuff -- lettuce, tomatoes, etc. -- make a fruit salad, chop up the snacky veggies like celery and carrots, and wash, chop, and freeze the things that can be frozen. This way everything is on hand and ready to go.

8. Plan meals along with the veggie shipment. This would be easier if the buying club posted veggie lists ahead of time, but they don't always. So, mostly, shop on Wednesdays, the day after veggie day.

9. Clean out and inventory the stuff I already have before shopping, to avoid the seven-bottles-of-unopened-ketchup-but-no-mustard-anywhere syndrome, which I am sure you are all familiar with. ;D

That's about it for now. Just an experiment. Suggestions?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blessed Day

I have stumbled on a new way of celebrating my birthday, and it is so pleasing, I have to share it.

A few moths ago I came across this post, just as I was starting to sweat about turning the big 3-0 myself. The idea of spending the day doing random acts of kindness sounded like a great way to avoid wallowing or even just avoid being focused on myself, whether in a positive or negative way.

So first, I made a plan. I wanted to do something that was truly random, not just helping people that I picked to help, or something, and I thought it would be better (somehow, I don't really know why) if I did things where the person receiving it wouldn't have to say thank you. I think I tend to get a little attached to the gratitude aspect of doing nice things for people, which really works against the real purpose of being generous. So I wanted to do something that would not result in any thank-yous, at least not to me.

I dropped C off at school. Pulling out of the preschool parking lot, I still didn't know what exactly I would do. Something was pulling me to the bookstore, so there I went. I popped Norah into the sling and went in. I wanted to do something symbolic (I am a true English student -- I love a good dose of symbolism; I can't help it) so I bought six $5 gift cards -- $30 for 30 years. I sat in the cafe and filled out the cards, saying "Here is a random act of kindness, just for you -- have a blessed day!" I thought, $5 is not going to make or break anyone, but it would be enough to put a smile on my face, if I were receiving it.

I had some tea while I waited for the ink in the cards to dry (which took a surprisingly long time!) and Norah ate some shortbread sticks. Or, rather, she ate about 50% of the shortbread sticks and turned the rest into spitty shortbread paste. She had a great time and I have a giant shortbread paste smear on my red birthday shirt to prove it.

Then, I wandered around the store with my random gift cards, deciding where to put them. I ended up in the baby book section, where I stuck one in the Dr. Sears Breastfeeding book. This exact book put me in tears (it's the one that says if you really want to breastfeed, you will be able to, so failures in breastfeeding are therefore failures of your will as a mother -- great stuff to read while you are struggling to BF). I figured any woman reading that book could use a pick-me-up. Then, my eye caught the YA section. Here, I spent three of the cards, tucking one in Matilda, my favorite book of all time, and one in Secret Garden and My Side of the Mountain, two of my other favorites as a 8-12 year-old. I had two cards left. One I stuck in a chair in the sit-and-read section, remembering how many hours of studying I did in chairs like that, and then I was headed to the how-to section, when a gossipy teen novel caught my eye. I can't remember what it was called, but it looked ridiculous. I started to walk away, and I heard the monologue in my head: "I'm not putting a card in there. That kind of reader wouldn't appreciate it."

Holy crap, the voice in my head is a huge snob!

I turned around and put the card right in that book, just to teach her a lesson. The kindness was supposed to be random, not discriminatory. ;D

It was fun. Pretty soon after that I left the store, packed a lunch, and picked up C. We headed to Wakulla Springs to spend the afternoon with Ben's cousin and her babes, and we had a wonderful, sunshiney day. One of those days that make me glad to live in Florida. The weather yesterday really was like a dream. Thanks to Mother Nature for such a great birthday gift!

I had a great seafood dinner and a nighttime trip to wander around Walmart and catch up with Heather, who I hadn't chatted with in a while.

So, even if my story stopped there, it would be a fantastic day. Sunny, fun, sparkly, and illuminated by the enjoyment of having the time for a few random acts of kindness.

But here's the thing, friends -- the universe got up a little earlier than me yesterday. Oddly enough, in spite of my 6 gift cards, I actually received more random acts of kindness -- in one day! -- than I gave out. In order:

1. After walking C to his classroom, one of the preschool teachers calls out my name. I turn and look, and she is holding up my wallet, which I had dropped from my pocket in the parking lot (!!!) She said she pulled in right next to me and saw it, so she figured it was mine. I thank her profusely, envisioning what my birthday would have consisted of if I had had to cancel and replace all the cards in my wallet. I shudder at the thought.

2. Upon arriving at the bookstore, a lady rushes to hold the door open for me.

3. While buying the gift cards, I tell the cashier that I am going to fill out the gift cards in the cafe, so I don't need a bag. He asks me if I have a pen, and offers to let me borrow one if I need it. No thanks, I say, I have one in my pocket.

4. In the cafe, the barista makes me a hot chai. I tell him I have been craving chai for days and am glad to find it there in the cafe. He makes the drink and tells me he put extra chai concentrate in it just so it would taste more like chai even with the steamed milk added.

5. Upon sitting down to fill out the cards, I discover that in fact I do not have my pen (maybe it fell out with the wallet in the preschool parking lot?). I go back to the cashier and tell him I do not have a pen, and he searches several register stations until he finds a really nice pen, which he hands over.

6. While I am sitting back in the cafe filling out the cards, an older lady comes over and tells me how beautiful and happy Norah looks.

7. Arriving back at preschool to pick up C, a whole crowd of moms and kids halt and move to the side so that I can come through the door first. "You first," they say. "You have a baby." At this point I am starting to feel like I am on candid camera...

8. While buying some food for our picnic at Chik Fil-A, someone from the kitchen area bags up all my food and comes through the side door with it. "I'll carry it out to the car for you," she says. "It looks like you have your hands full." That's right. Carryout service at a fast food restaurant (!).

9. At the Springs, Kellie and I get too ambitious and decide to take all of our gear and four tired children back to the cars in one trip. Halfway up the hill there is a terrible explosion of stuff, and an empty lemonade pitcher goes flying. A random passerby stops and helps me pick it up and get it situated again.

10. While checking out at the Costco liquor store (buying a couple of handles for the party on Saturday) I realize that (of course) my ID is somehow not in my wallet. I say it's all right, I'll come back tomorrow and buy this. The clerk squints and then asks me what year I was born. 1981, I say. It's my birthday! And then I find my ID in the outside pocket of my wallet, saving him from having the bend the law for me. But he was about to anyway, which would have saved me the trouble of going back the next day.

The last item on my list -- #11 -- is a little weird, eerie even. For some reason (the old Holy Spirit whisperings, perhaps) I wanted to cap off my day by buying gas for Heather. But I didn't know how to say it, because I thought she would probably refuse, or be embarrassed, and I don't want my desire to be generous to make someone else embarrassed, because that is not the point of sharing. So at the gas pump, she swipes her credit card and it asks her for a PIN number. Now, I have used those same pumps many times, and it has never asked me for a PIN for a credit card, ever. It asks a PIN for a debit card and a zip code for a credit card, every time. But she tried the transaction three times, and every time it asked for a PIN. She sighed. I guess I can't get gas, she said. So there I was, forced to buy her gas, without having to put her on the spot by offering to pay or anything like that. So I even got to give something to a friend without having to be thanked for random kindness.

So that's it. I did 7 nice things, and I got 11 of them back. So I start out today, at 30 years and one day old, with a debt of four nice things waiting on me as I walk out into the world.

God is so good! Here's to this next decade of my life... so far, so good! :)

Friday, March 11, 2011


My 30th birthday is coming up in just a few days, and of course, because it's me, I am mooning around and reflecting on it. But hey, it wouldn't be me if I weren't introspecting all over the place.

(On a related side note, I am trying to write a novel, but the main character, instead of doing very much, keeps ending up cooking meals and getting lost in thought while she stirs the stew, considering one side of the dilemma, then the other, then the first side again... I guess every novel really is an autobiography in one way or the other ;D)

Really, though, there is something about 30 that catches my attention, because to me it means something more than the other birthdays leading up to this one. I think it is a combination of factors, but really what it comes down to is a feeling that my "practice run" is over. I had a realization when I was in my mid 20s, furiously finishing my schooling, getting married, starting out in all of these life endeavors, that my life was sort of like a big bowl full of Jell-O that has been in the fridge for about half an hour. It was starting to set, and it was time to start sticking in all the banana slices and marshmallows or whatever random things you like to imagine in your theoretical Jell-O mold. I had a certain number of years to keep poking things into the Jell-O mold of my life, but at a certain point, the mold sets, and there you have your Jell-O, too late for any additions. I feel like at 30, the Jell-O has finally set. I am not likely to stuff any more book-learning in my brain at this point, and who I am and what I want is a lot more steady than it used to be. This I see as a very good thing. I am pretty happy with the Jell-O these days.

I have my minor issues with the upcoming milestone, most prominent being my total failure to reach my weight loss goal for my birthday, by about a 25-pound margin. So that stinks. I wanted to be non-overweight so that when I look back at pictures of my 30th birthday party, I will not cringe and wish I had passed up the cake and pasta a few more times before then. I tried, guys, but when we had Constant Sickness in the house from the middle of January until about three days ago, my exercise schedule just completely died, and I don't have time to resurrect it before next Saturday. I eat very carefully for 5 days, then get exhausted and stay up all night grading essays and eating Oreos, then it takes me a few days to get back on track... and so on for about the past 12 weeks. I have lost some weight, but instead of 30 pounds, it's more like 6 pounds. And I have gained and lost the same 5 pounds twice now, and desperately trying not to gain it back yet again. Fridays in Lent are hard because the only things I can eat are carbs and cheese and boiled eggs, and that isn't very healthy. I still have another 15 pounds before I start feeling comfortable in my own skin and not trying to hide from cameras. But I am closer than I have been for a couple of years, so that's good. From now until the party I will meditate on the beauty that is still there in spite of the chunkiness. Maybe watch some more Adele videos (she's gorgeous in spite of or maybe because of being a bit thick) or take some virtual tours through museums of Baroque art. Anything, really, to feel better about the thighs. (sighs)

Other than that, though, it has been a sobering but not really unpleasant journey, mentally psyching myself to walk over this threshold. To me it boils down to the idea that at 30, life is really underway. It isn't the practice round, I don't get a free pass for being a dumbass just because I am in my 20s and don't know any better, I have gray hair and the fine lines start, and the currency I have been hoarding in my metaphorical Hello Kitty wallet from the second grade is outgrowing its usefulness. All the compliments from people that I have painstakingly memorized to tell myself on a rainy day, the days of being so prodigiously young that I was remarkable when I did anything at all, just because other people my age were still delivering pizza for a living, all of that assurance of being somehow remarkable is over. That sounds so terribly conceited when I write it out that way, but hopefully my friends will understand what I mean. It is embarrassing to me to look back on the way I used to see the world, but at the same time I can't deny it. Now, I am a suburban mom who drives an SUV and does laundry without ceasing; I made my first school lunch just this morning. I bought life insurance. I blend into the landscape a little bit more. When I was newly minted as a mom, this blending into the background really bothered me, and I admit that it is still not my favorite thing in the world, but it matters less, because to the people who really matter in my life, I still have distinguishing qualities. Norah says my name with her fat little lips, and her growling baby voice. Chris curls up next to me on the couch and says "I love you so much," totally unprompted. Ben says that I really know him, and it matters to him that I do.

Turning 30 means that I stop collecting life credits in my wallet, and instead, I start to spend them. I lavish my energy on my kids, I literally spend myself serving them, giving things up to be a better mom. I get older, I look older, and my posterity depends on what I do today. So I'm getting out that little girl wallet and I am telling my 20 year-old self, that shadow I see in the mirror sometimes, to calm down and quit worrying. Everything turns out fine. You find a husband, and he's a good one. You have beautiful children. You finish school. You live in a house with a yard. You don't stay young or beautiful or thin, but you stay good, and in fact, you get even better.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Steam Heat

So to continue my nerdy housewifely-type posts, the Happy Nashes just invested in an upright steam cleaner for the carpet (built-in heater!). It has changed my life. I cleaned some of the carpet already, and I don't know if it's just coincidence but everyone's allergies have calmed down considerably after a full week of sniffly, snotty torture. I always like developments that justify me spending money on new toys ;D

But now, a serious note. This thing threatens to advance me into full-fledged OCD (unless you are from my insurance company, in which case, I have no previous nor current diagnosis of any OCD or OCD-related mental illness, nor any symptoms thereof, nor do I know anyone with such symptoms nor have I ever read a work of fiction or nonfiction glorifying or otherwise justifying the presence of such an illness in one or more individuals). It is just so pleasing to clean carpet stains that have bothered me every time I saw them, it's like defeating an enemy. I talk to them as they disappear under the wide, heated, steaming path of the Bissell ProHeat Pet... "Take that! Ha HA! You thought you were invincible but you are DYING A QUICK AND SILENT DEATH haHAAAAA!" Let's say I get a little bit too involved in housecleaning sometimes. So, I want to put all my furniture in the front yard and painstakingly steam clean every inch of my house, while singing They Might Be Giants songs in my head, ignoring everything around me -- people, events, nighttime, daytime, mealtime....

But of course I don't. I keep it under control. But man, having the power to clean instead of quietly seethe at the unmoveable stains under my feet... it's fantastic. Thank you, Bissell. Thank you. :')

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mother? or Zookeeper? You Decide.

7:45pm. Chris is in the bath. Norah, who has been in the jumparoo for 10 minutes, is now suffering the neglect and moaning and laying her head so far back that she can see the room upside down. She hangs her arms out dramatically to the side. Howl, howl, howl. I am soooooo alone, she says.

So I pick her up and put her in the Bumbo chair right outside the bathroom door, so I can wash Chris's hair and watch her at the same time, and she can see us, so she will stop howling. I put some toys in her reach and scrub Chris's hair with some soap.

It is time to rinse, and I can't find the usual rinse cup, a nifty little device with rubber on one side so that you can rinse the kids' hair without pouring water in their faces. So I improvise, cupping my hand to stop the water and pouring a bucketful over his head to rinse out the shampoo. The first bucketful works, but the second time, of course, some water gets in his eyes, and with it, some shampoo.

Drama ensues. Shrieks, moans, declarations of being in dire straits, My eyes! My eyes! he says. I look around for the towel and find nothing.

Just then, I hear a clunking sound. Norah, who has been quiet (only I couldn't hear the quietness because of the dramatic soap-in-eyes incident) got a little too ambitious and was reaching for a toy all the way across the hall. As I was pouring soap into Chris's innocent eyes, she threw off her balance, and *plunk*, over she went, Bumbo chair and all.

Meanwhile, Chris continues screaming; he is sure his eyes are melting out of his head from the Sweet Apple baby wash that trickled in due to my negligence. He gets on the phone to contact the attorney who advertises for Wrongful Injury cases during Judge Judy. He is surprisingly good at doing paperwork in the bath. I don't have much time to make things right.

Meanwhile, in the hallway, Norah has not let her setback slow down her ambition. The Bumbo chair is still stuck to her butt and she is whimpering from bumping her head, but unbowed, she continues toward the toy, crawling like an army recruit but with the Bumbo chair riding along like a turtle shell on her back. Must... get... toy...

At this point I am standing in the bathroom doorway, laughing my head off, trying to decide whether to move Norah, Bumbo shell and all, from in front of the closet door where she is crawling, so that I can get a towel to get the water out of Chris's eyes before he files suit, or to bend down and check Norah out for bumps and scratches sustained during the great Bumbo Tip-Over-Clunk of 2011.

I don't really remember what happened next. I think I nudged the Norah-turtle out of the way with my foot and got a towel to dry Chris's eyes, and then removed Norah to a safer location while I got Chris dressed for bed.

Sometimes I feel more like a zookeeper or a lion tamer than a mom. But hey, those are exciting careers too! ;D