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wrapping it all up

July 30, 2014

It’s been about two weeks since I last posted here.  We have eleven days of summer break left.  (But who’s counting?) Next week will be a combination of trying to squeeze out the last little bits of it and tackling a few tasks and appointments that meandered their way on my schedule without asking me first.

 

I have very mixed feelings about waving goodbye to summer.  As I type this, I just got Norah down for a nap, Jude is happily stringing beads I got for $7 at Wal-Mart recently which predictably scattered all over my hardwood floors, and my house is embarrassingly cluttered and messy in every single corner.  Working outside the home has its challenges, and I will miss leisurely mornings and lazy time with my kids.  But I also see them (especially Jude as the older one) craving social time and focused activity, and I am ready for our schedule again.

You know summer has run its course when you somewhat look forward to packed lunches again.  (In two months I won’t believe I ever said that!)  I’m consuming far too much coffee because it’s here for the taking, and staring blankly at the fridge at lunch time seems like a luxury at first, but it never results in something good when you have two kids underfoot and 90 seconds to put something together. Planning and routine and consistency and all of that practical stuff does hold a little comfort.  And as much as I hate the shock of August, I love the months to come.  September’s change of seasons is always welcome.

 

We’ve had so much fun this summer though.  A few memories I’m sharing here from the month of July so that I don’t forget them…..

 

Making mud pies and lots of backyard play time.

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An infected bug bite that landed us in the ER because apparently cellulitis can escalate quickly! A ridiculously strong antibiotic for ten days, and all is fine now.  It made for an memorable, if exhausting, evening for Jude and me.

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Afternoon naps in the oasis of air conditioning. There’s nothing like July in the deep south.

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The science museum in a superhero cape.

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And far too many mornings spent at the donut shop!

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I have so many other things I want to share, and I hope to write more soon. Enjoy the last bits of summer, wherever it finds you!

Sunflowers. And growing pains.

July 14, 2014

We heard about a local sunflower farm that is only a few minutes from our house and decided to check it out last weekend.

 

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I am trying to be conscious about being more present with my kids, in the truest sense – meaning not taking photos of everything all the time. It’s so easy to get caught-up in social media and taking photos when we have these little devices in our pockets all day and such cute little subjects. Sunday was an exception though in that the entire reason we went was simply to take photos of the kids and explore a local find. Jude picked out his own clothes that morning, so I just went with it and told him I’d put sister in blue to match.

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So we get there, and there were gorgeous fields of tall sunflowers as far as you could see. And barns and fences and old shady trees and every perfect photo spot you could imagine.

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But after three whole minutes of trying to snap a photo or two, Jude decided he would refuse to participate. And no amount of bribing or threatening or asking nicely or encouraging could work to convince him otherwise. So it might look picturesque, but here is the other [whole] story.

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It’s such a hard balance as a parent – deciding what hill you choose to die on, so to speak. What battles to pick.  Like do I really care all that much that he refuses to take photos when I ask him lately?  Or that he tells me “no, I don’t feel like it” when I ask him to hug grandparents goodbye as they leave?   Or that he has suddenly decided that every command and request on my part is a signal for refusal and negotiation?   The answer is yes and no.  It depends on what trait we’re talking about and what day you ask me.  Sometimes it feels like an important battle worth fighting.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I read this great little essay last week, and number two really struck a chord with me.  I can see characteristics emerging in my two already.  Norah is incredibly shy in larger groups of people, and she has to warm up to new situations.  There is no amount of urging or expecting or being pushy that changes this, in fact those actions usually lead to worse behavior.  With Jude, I know that he doesn’t like taking photos, he has an abundance of physical energy and curiosity, he could not care less what other kids are doing, and he behaves best when his hands and brain are busy.  Is it a better idea for everyone involved to just accept these things and move on and focus on what he enjoys?  Or should I start trying, as he grows and emerges to school-age expectations of behavior, to slowly encourage a change in some of these things to adapt to social norms?  These are rhetorical questions that I don’t necessarily expect an answer to, but I’m just thinking out loud as I do so often in this space.

I know many of you are tackling similar issues as moms.  It’s such a tightrope we walk all the time, it seems.  A delicate balance as we try to encourage the best qualities in our kids and help them progress and understand social expectations, but also offer a message of unconditional acceptance.  There aren’t any easy answers.

This summer has been a little rough for him….An entire academic year of 8:30-3:30 friends and activities, and now we are home everyday. Plus he’s understanding so much more about the world around him and gaining emotional intelligence, so to speak. It leads to some growing pains, I think.  I ran across this quote on Pinterest recently.

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I’m trying my hardest to back off and let him bloom in his own way – with just a little gentle guidance. It’s harder some days than others.

 

Whole Wheat Blueberry Biscuits

July 10, 2014

I’ve been baking a little this summer, but not too much.  It’s hot outside, and the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen baking bread when there is so much great produce everywhere you look.  I got a huge crate of blueberries from Costco though, and this recipe was calling my name.

 

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My grandmother used to always make blueberry biscuits for my cousins and me when we were kids.  Hers are white and fluffy and more delicious than I can describe.  As I’ve become used to whole grain breads, my tastes have changed, and I don’t crave white flour anymore (with the exception of tomato sandwiches which are an excuseable sin on whole wheat bread).   If I’m being honest, my grandmother’s blueberry biscuits are better in that light and fluffy way, but my whole wheat remodel of this old recipe came out pretty good in a different fashion.  They are filling and delicious, and my favorite thing about milling my own wheat is that it has a real taste – not just fluff.  Store-bought whole wheat flour can’t quite match it, but they will still be good.

We’ve made these twice in the last week, so I’m writing the recipe here for me to come back to … and to share with you, too!

 

Whole Wheat Blueberry Biscuits

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly milled if you can)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter (half a stick)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon sugar

Sprinkle sugar over the blueberries, and let them sit.  Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Use a box grater to grate the butter into the flour, and then lightly stir so that it is crumbly.  Gradually add the milk, and then add the blueberries.  Stir lightly.

Roll out onto a clean, floured surface – trying not to squish the berries.  Cut biscuits with a glass and arrange in a pan.

Bake at 475 degrees for about 15 minutes if they are closely arranged like the photo above.  Cook for only 10 minutes if they are spread out on a cookie sheet.

 

**If you really want to top these with something even better, mix 1/4 cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk to create a glaze for the top.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth of July Fun

July 5, 2014

We had such a great holiday.

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There are many years when Georgia is simply too hot to get much enjoyment out of celebrating Independence Day. But this year the high hardly reached 80, and the evenings have been cool and comfortable. We celebrated at the local fairgrounds with A LOT of other people. Our town had food, fireworks, and live music on the evening of the third, and it was a great kick-off to a long weekend.

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The kids snacked on ice cream, and Jude was excited to get a plastic lightsaber from one of the vendors there. Norah was not so sure about fireworks, but there were no terrified tears which I call a success at the age of two.

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We followed up the next night with some backyard ribs. (We are LOVING our Big Green Egg this summer!) Add on a few sparklers, some good friends who joined us for dinner, and a neighborhood fireworks show, and it was a perfect holiday.

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Every holiday in this neighborhood turns into a block party, and I love it.  Parents had lawn chairs set up in front yards, plates of homemade cookies were passed around, and introductions were made while kids screamed and played.  This is the perfect holiday for celebrating freedom and a sense of real community, and we definitely felt that this year.  I am so happy to be in a place with loads of other young families, and shared holidays remind me what a gift it is for my kids to grow up here.  I feel so lucky we landed in this place.

 

Happy Independence Day!  I hope you are enjoying your long weekend with some summer fun.

life lately – a quick post

July 3, 2014

Excuse this scattered post as I update quickly…. How is it July?  Our first full month of summer is behind us, and we are more or less at the halfway point.  Lots of fun things and simple pleasures filling our time lately….

I had dinner with some close friends the other night. They are former colleagues of mine –  people I miss dearly and wish I could see more often. We had penciled this 7pm Tuesday dinner on the calendar weeks ago, and then the day before, my mother-in-law called wanting to spend time with the kids. So I dropped Jude and Norah off at her place at 4:00 in the afternoon and had three full hours to “waste” before dinner. They were not wasted at all as I ran an errand or two and sat at Starbucks for a full hour reading the novel I am slowly making my way through. It’s amazing how much a few hours of alone time can affect my sanity.

Following my introvert time, we met up at our favorite sushi spot and had a leisurely dinner. As we left with the usual hugs and promises to get together more often, we also realized the Persian grocery next door was still open. Since we had our resident expert and Farsi interpreter with us (Thanks, Samira!), we decided to meander a bit and take home some goodies.

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So Persian tea and cookies have been my afternoon snack break these past few days. So much joy in little pleasures.

….Norah’s little pleasure this week was flipping her carseat around now that we’ve passed her second birthday. She now has to loudly narrate all the scenery as we drive. “Cow!” “Grass!” “Store!” “Big truck!” It’s is a weird feeling for me to drive down the road with two passengers I can see in my rearview mirror, but I love it.

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Other than a few little outings here and there, we are mostly enjoying the lazy pace of summer and gearing up for some Fourth of July celebrations. I realized this morning that today marks one year in this house, and it feels like home for sure. Big changes are scary sometimes, but I am so glad we made the move. Our town is hosting a big celebration with fireworks tonight, and then tomorrow we are planning to have friends over, grill out, and celebrate with some sparklers. Happy Fourth! Summer is in full swing.

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on health

June 26, 2014

It was one of my birthday goals this year to begin exercising again on a somewhat regular basis.  I was fanatical about walking on a treadmill at least 3 times a week during my last pregnancy, but the second Norah came out, it was no longer a priority.  I manage to lose baby weight without effort (although it happens very slowly over the course of the first year), so this goal is not so much about the way I look as it is about the way I feel.

 

We have two different gyms less than two miles from our house.  It is so easy to get there and back that I’m wondering why I’ve waited so long on this.  There’s a childcare room that the kids LOVE, and they can play together and keep up with each other which makes it zero stress or guilt on my part.  They play with toys and work on art projects for 45 minutes while I put in some steps on an elliptical and complete a few light weights.  It’s so simple, but I know the school year will leave less time for things like this.  Still though, if I can even make it twice a week during the school year, it’s a vast improvement over nothing.  I’m amazed at how much better I am sleeping in these past couple of weeks with exercise a frequent part of my routine now.

 

Health is such a focus in our current society, and while I am grateful for that and the time I live in, I sometimes wonder if we obsess too much and worry over things we shouldn’t.  Scott and I completed a Whole 30 a few days before we left for Mexico.  I didn’t mention it here because I was honestly afraid I’d fail and not complete it, so I didn’t want to announce it.  It is INTENSE.  Scott was fully invested, so I did it in solidarity, but I am the first to admit that I loosened the rules a little a couple of times (mmmm, black beans), but on the whole, I was 95% compliant which felt like an accomplishment to me.  Many people do this program to discover food intolerances, but I really just wanted to reset my taste buds, so to speak, and be more mindful in my approach to food.  The rules are essentially no sugar in any form, no dairy, no alcohol, no white potatoes, no beans and legumes, no grains of any kind, no soy.  So we pretty much ate only meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruit for 30 days.

 

I discovered that I genuinely feel better when I have a few whole grains in my diet.  (Sorry, Paleo people. It’s true for me!)  But I also feel better when I limit store-bought grains, dairy, beer and sugar (weep!).  On top of that, I promise I lost 2 inches in my waist (I measured) in the first 5 days.  I wasn’t going hungry, and I logged my calories to see no change from my usual intake, so I know it was just bloating and inflammation that disappeared.  Still pretty amazing though, even though size was not a motivating factor.

But of course, here I am a few weeks later, and I am not following those rules anymore.  It was an interesting exercise, but I feel like I eat healthy enough regardless and decided to try and hold onto a couple of “rules” a little and ditch the rest.  I recently heard the term orthorexia used to describe modern eating, and I think there is a valid argument there.  I spent 30 days obsessing over most everything I put in my mouth or prepared in my kitchen.  I could never live that way – nor do I think it is healthy.

 

Food documentaries opened my eyes about 4 years ago, and I did a complete overhaul of how we eat. I’m grateful for such a focus on clean eating everywhere you look.  But now I feel like we are good enough.  Eat real food, pile on the veggies, limit sugar, and enjoy your meals.  Those are pretty much my personal rules right now.  And if I supplement that plan with an occasional doughnut stop, that’s okay too.
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I want my kids to see me making an effort in diet and exercise, but I don’t want them to obsess about it – the same way I intend to teach my daughter to wear sunscreen and take care of her skin in order to avoid wrinkles, but also know that they are going to happen anyway.  Time changes our faces and our bodies.  My decisions to make steps toward better health are motivated by my desire to feel good and look decent as I age.  But age happens anyway.  So does birthday cake, warm queso, cold beer, and all kinds of other things that aren’t the healthiest.  So here’s to doing the best we can and not obsessing about the rest, to priorities and enjoying our food, to being our best selves by balancing all the advice with the desire to loosen our pants and live a little.

 

Do you have “food rules” of any kind? How do you approach balance with diet and exercise, especially if you have a little one to feed as well?  I am always interested to hear what others have to say about this.

nostlagia

June 21, 2014

I’ve been listening a lot lately to the Frederico Aubele station on Pandora.  When I’m in the car alone, or cleaning the kitchen during the nap time scrub-down, or on the elliptical at the gym.  I don’t understand a word of what it says, but it is soothing and inspiring in just the right ways.

 

I sent a text to my friend to tell her about this latest obsession, and I explained that it led me to feel like I was in Vicki Cristina Barcelona which we were obsessed with about 5 years ago when it first came out.  I still love it really, just without the newness of when you first discover something.  Anyway, she immediately responded that the particular film would always remind her of our little group of (at the time) work colleagues  and our many moments and conversations at a particular happy hour spot.  On the whole, I love my life now – of course.  But sometimes you just get a whiff, so to speak, or a particular memory trigger that throws you right into the depths of nostalgia so hard it grips your stomach. A song, a scene in a film, a certain restaurant or smell.  It can be the smallest detail, but it’s a domino that has you suddenly longing for a certain time in an almost tangible way.

 

Certain periods and moments are so pivotal that you expect to recollect them years later – graduation ceremonies, big vacations, your wedding, the birth of a baby.  But what continues to surprise me are the moments that seemed so mundane at the time, but you still long for them later.  I mean this particular time that we were talking about with the discovery of my new Pandora station doesn’t seem like something I’d ever necessarily long for again – 26 years old and working my butt off on grading and lesson plans, married and living in the suburbs, enduring the annoyance of 32 ninth graders everyday.  And I wouldn’t want to repeat that again for longer than a few hours, but somehow the message shines through.  That time is over, gone.  It will never be again.

 

It’s such a reminder to wring dry the everyday moments I have now as well.  The mundane of today will feel so special in a few years when those days are over and not to return again.  Today is the summer solstice.  The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  June 21, 2014 will never happen again.  We had zucchini noodles and shrimp for dinner.  The kids played happily with a puzzle while I sipped a margarita and stirred at the stove.  They splashed at bath time.  It remained light outside well past 9:00, and now I am covered in a fuzzy blanket on my couch, writing and thinking and looking forward to sleep.  I am 33.  This won’t happen again.

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Through all the mundane – the poured coffee, the laundry piles, the tiny toys and clothes scattered everywhere – I’m trying to remember that the extraordinary is never felt in the moment itself, but nostalgia tugs so strongly later.

 

There’s a Linda Pastan poem I hold on to and re-read from time to time that relates to this.  If only we can recognize the happy as it happens and not years later.

 

The Happiest Day - By: Linda Pastan (from Heroes in Disguise)

It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day—
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere—
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

 

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