Monday, December 12, 2011

Beavers Working Hard

Before you ask, this post is completely safe for work, except for the part about electric donkey bottoms.

Since June I've been doing most of my daily workouts in the wee hours before SNG and the kids get up for the day. In the summer, I'd start out after sunrise and get back as it started to get hot. In the fall, I'd leave right at or just before sunrise and get home in full morning light. Now that it's December, I leave in pitch darkness, run in pitch darkness, and usually get home in pitch darkness, or maybe just as the first light starts to show and I can sort-of be seen by passing cars. My hat has lights all over it and I carry a flashlight. It's kind of monotonous. Sometimes I slip on roadkill, which is exciting, but not fun. But the sounds of the woods at that time of day are spooky and intoxicating. Next month the days will get a little longer, and I look forward to it.

If I feel like staying on pavement (a good plan when it's pitch dark), I can take a route from my house down to a small lake surrounded by woods. On the way I always pass the same four neighbors (two with dogs, one running without dogs, one waiting for the high school bus) and one guy who rides a bike lit up like an electric donkey bottom.

In the lake live at least five beavers. I know there are at least five, because that is the most I've ever seen at one time. They are elusive -- you have to show up before sunrise and be very, very quiet. Usually I see them swim around in little circles, passing one another and SPLOOSHING a tail in the water on the way by (a beaver handshake, or a beaver prank?). Sometimes I see them just sitting on the shore listening to frogs. This morning I couldn't see them (it was really dark) but I could hear one slap-slap-slap-slap mud onto the dam with its tail, then splash-splash to gather more mud? dig? and then slap-slap-slap-slap. The sound really made me smile as I imagined the beaver making finishing touches on the winter hideaway.

e-baby has asked me to take a picture, but there's no way it would look like anything but a black screen. So I try to paint a vivid picture of the beaver lake before sunrise, chatting over breakfast every day. Some of the great joys of life are found in the tiniest corners.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Room of One's Own

This weekend, SNG and I are spending a weekend on our own, with Granny and Grampy taking care of the kids. We almost never get to do this – in fact, we’ve only had one other night away from the kids ever, so it’s a real treat. Since having kids, there’s always some kind of stress: whining, crying, poop on the floor, people to be fed, a mess to be cleaned, teeth to be brushed, laundry to wash, and on and on. We spend a lot of time putting out fires and by the time kids are in bed, we have very little energy left to just shoot the breeze. Conversation centers around the practical: did you remember to brush her hair? Did he potty one last time? What time do you need to get up tomorrow? Are you picking them up from school? I’ll switch the laundry if you’ll go fill the dishwasher.

Spending a day together, with no responsibilities, makes it easy to remember how much we just really like being together. Which is a lot.

We left this morning (Saturday) and drove to Morrow Mountain State Park, which is in the Uwharrie National Forest (alongside it? Anyway, on the map it looks like one green blob). On the way, we had lunch at a Thai place in Albemarle that was quite good (Thai Spice on Main St, in case you go – sushi’s good there, too). At the park, we hiked about 6 miles of beautiful wooded trail up to the top of Morrow Mtn and back. They have cabins to rent for a good price, all year round. The kids would love it.

After that we drove into Charlotte to go to Ikea. That was part 1. Tomorrow, the plan is to hike at Latta Planation Nature Preserve in the morning and then hit Ikea, part 2 around lunchtime. We’re getting Jambuca a new bed.

Speaking of Jambuca, I have a story that is disgusting and heart-warming and too funny not to share.

He has been potty training since August, with limited success. At first we had him sleep in a Pull-Up, but at some point, he got it into his head that Pull-Ups are for babies, and he’d take them off and now refuses to wear one. So, he sleeps in underwear. To make it easier for him, I put a kid potty in his room, with a towel underneath in case of “spills.” He rarely uses it, and he wets the bed at least a couple times a week. Usually, I hear him get up and run upstairs to usher him to the toilet before an accident occurs.

Today, I went upstairs to check on him and he was already up. As I opened the door I could smell that something was amiss. And there was Jambuca, in a t-shirt and no pants, standing in front of the little potty seat.

“I put some poop in da potty, mommy!”

"Good boy! Mommy is so proud of you"

(I noticed, then, that he had smears of poop on his shirt, arm, leg, foot, and hands. There was poop smeared on the side of the potty chair and I spotted a big, poopy handprint on the towel that is under the potty where it looked like he had carefully tried to wipe off his hands.)

“I pooped in my unnawear. I put it in da potty. I wipe my bottom!”

(Sure enough, lots of poop and Kleenex in the potty)

“Where did you get paper, honey?”

“I ‘tood on the chair to get the keenex from my dresser! I BiiiiiiG!”

“yes, you are big. Good job. Thank you for putting the poop in the potty. Let’s go clean up.”

(and there, on the towel, carefully folded up, is the offending pair of underpants. He put the poop in the potty. Not the pants.)

“Mommy, I wipe my hands riiiight HERE!” (indicating the poopy handprint mentioned above)

Repulsive as it was, I admit I was impressed that he had managed to solve such a problem on his own, using what he had at his disposal.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tarte Tatin and Thanksgiving

We had SNG's family here for Thanksgiving, and between the wonderful food, the wonderful company, and the wonderful weather, it was definitely a highlight of the season.

The day started with a running race, of course. E-baby and I participated in the Inside Out Sports Turkey Trot 8K and kids' 100 M dash. There was also a one-mile fun-run, which really we should have entered SNG in, but there was no one to chase him, so I doubt he'd have crossed the starting line. I was happy with my time -- 5 miles in 48 minutes -- and e-baby made lots of new friends at the kids' run.

Her race was exciting. There were probably 80 kids lined up at the start, and most of them were bigger than e-baby. They took off like a shot. She ran her tiny legs as hard as they'd go. Like her mommy, she isn't the fastest in the field. And I think she was surprised to find that, just short of the finish line, her legs were hurting. I held her hand and we crossed the finish line together, and she got a red ribbon for finishing. This mommy couldn't have been more proud if e-baby had finished a marathon.

Back at the house, SNG, Dianaverse, my mother-in-law and I contributed dishes to the Thanksgiving meal, which consisted of:
Two kinds of stuffing
Garlic mashed potatoes
Fresh cranberry sauce
Bacon-hazelnet brussels sprouts
Steamed broccoli
Sauteed shiitake mushrooms (from Dianaverse's mushroom farm)
Apple pie
Blueberry pie
Sweet potato pie
Key lime pie
Walnut pie (Oh.My.Gosh.)
Watermelon cream pie
Cranberry-orange bread
Chocolate-blueberry bread

And because six pies and two dessert breads weren't enough, I made something sweet on Friday. It started with a recipe for Pear, Apple, and Cranberry Tarte Tatin at, but I modified it substantially for healthier tastes (and, it was killing me to try to resist all the leftover pie). It's kind of interesting because you make it upside-down, and cook the fruit on the stovetop before putting the crumble crust on top and baking it. Then you turn it out onto a plate and it is all sweet and tart and the flavors have integrated but the top is still crispy and comforting.

It was tasty as a dessert, yet still good enough for you to be a high-fiber, low-glycemic breakfast.

Cumble crust:
  1/2 c wheat germ
  1/2 c Ezekiel cereal
  1/2 c old fashioned oats
  2 T granulated Truvia
  3 T butter, cubed into little tiny pieces
  3 T cold water

Fruity part:
  2 ripe, peeled pears, thinly sliced (double this if you prefer)
  1 large cooking apple (honeycrisp, jazz, fuji, granny smith), peeled and thinly sliced (double this if you prefer)
  4 T Truvia*
  1 T molasses*
  1 T agave nectar*
  2 T butter
  1 t cinnamon
  1/2 t ginger
  1 c fresh cranberries (double this if you prefer)

To make crumble crust:
Combine crust ingredients except for water in a bowl and mash with a fork until the butter and grains are close to the consistency of breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Cook fruit:
Put butter, sweeteners, cinnamon and ginger in a 10" skillet over medium-low heat. Thoroughly melt butter and stir until well combined, but not sizzling. Remove from heat.
Starting in center, arrange apple and pear slices in concentric rings, overlapping a little with each slice. Make as many layers as you need to (I had 2 layers with 2 pears and 1 apple). Sprinkle cranberries on top.
Return pan to stove at med-low heat and cook until the sauce simmers. Turn heat to low and cover. Simer for 5 minutes. Remove cover and swirl fruit around to mix with sauce a bit. Continue cooking, uncovered, 7-11 more minutes or until sauce has thickened to a runny caramel consistency. Remove from heat.

Add 3 T cold water to crust crumble mix and knead with hands. Mash dough in hands to make little "pancakes" and lay them on the tart, placing them so that they touch until the entire tart is completely covered.

Put in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Remove tart from the oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes. Put a plate over the pan and carefully turn it over. Jiggle the pan a little to be sure it all falls into place before lifting the pan. Serve warm. If you are of a sinful persuasion, serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

* this is to replace 1/2 c brown sugar. I have found this combination to be the best balance of taste and sugar content, but you could use whatever you want here.

Football played on the TV all day. The Cowboys won and the Longhorns won. We forgot all about war, economic downturns, political corruption, and petty concerns for the day. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of as many reasons to be thankful for this wonderful life as mine was.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A dozen lessons from a half-dozen triathlons

I received an email in May about the Ramblin Rose Women-only Triathlon. The tag line: YOU CAN DO THIS. I had not done a triathlon in six years. Two weeks later, as prophesied, I did it. My swimming was abonimable, but it was great fun. Afterwards, I resolved to do one triathlon a month until the season ended.
May: Ramblin Rose Raleigh
June: The Smile Train
July: Triangle Triathlon
August: Rex Wellness Triathlon
September: Dash for Divas
October: Sportsplex Triathlon
In the spirit of progress, here are things I learned throughout the season... some of which I learned the hard way.
1. WARM UP, YOU GOOF! It may be fine to workout without a warmup, but on race day, warming up puts your mind in the right place.
2. Make friends with neighbors in the transition area and in swim start. It reduces nerves, and gives you someone to look for along the course.
3. Check the bike for mechanicals before the race. Chains fall off and brakes get disconnected.
4. Transition times can cost you several places on overall rankings. If you aren’t going to win anyway, it probably doesn’t matter.
5. The only people who passed me on the bike this year were guys sporting $12K worth of triathlon gear and 30lb of extra gut. That stuff must really work.
6. There are a lot of men with $12K worth of gear and 30lb of extra gut.
7. There are a lot of women with department store bikes and 30lb of extra gut.
8. There of no women with $12K gear and a gut, and no men with department store bikes and a gut. Also, for the record I never saw a woman with a TT helmet. TT helmets are a little bit silly for a sprint triathlon.
9. For me, swimming is best treated as a slow, zen-like process. It will end. I will not drown. I will not beat anybody. In the meantime, I'm weightless. Enjoy the feeling.
10. Triathlon is a solitary sport. Open your eyes and enjoy the scenery. Open your ears and enjoy the rhythmic sound of your own breath.
11. The Music. Really. Really. Sucks. Really. A lot. At women-only races, it is even worse.
12. The best feeling in a race: when somebody cheers for you by name (even a stranger). If that somebody is your husband, or your parents, it’s extra motivating, If it’s your own kids, it’s a dose of heaven.
I hope to resume the one-tri-a-month schedule next Spring, and in the meantime I am planning for one running event a month. We will see how that goes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day 2011

Last night we celebrated our annual Guy Fawkes Day bonfire and effigy roast. I can't recall which years we have missed, but this year was different in two respects.

1. It was the first year that nearly everyone had kids.
2. We didn't have our effigies made in advance.

I can't help but think these facts are somehow related.

Like other years, it was a night to remember, and a reminder of how much I love having parties at my house. Yes, even with a dozen kids under 6 running around breaking stuff. Even with all that, I was in hog heaven.

Some highlights, starting with injuries, because they're the most fun to talk about:
* Right before the party, I sliced my thumb open. If not for the party, I would have gone for stitches. Let's hope double-wrapped bandage and triple antibiotic heal it up well enough.
* E-baby had her lip busted by a swat from a kid who was mad that she told him to quiet down. She probably didn't say it very quietly herself...
* Jambuca cut his chin falling in the yard.
* We burned effigies of Guy, Parliament, cancer, mosquitos, roaches, a pop star from the 80s, a wicked kitty cat, the Morrisville town council, a drumstick, and I can't remember what else. If any of this sounds offensive, then you weren't there.
* For the first time, someone got snippy with me about throwing junk onto the bonfire (like candy wrappers and messed-up marshmallows from s'mores). Good thing he wasn't around the year we almost blew up my coworker with a 2-liter bottle.
* We used all of my plastic plates. Not sure that has ever happened before. None of them ended up on the fire. Also a first.
* As the party wound down to the last 5 or 6 guests, we pulled out the digeridoos and the ukulele for a live performance by e-baby and jambuca around the campfire. They serenaded us with Frere Jacques, Mr Golden Sun, Twinkle Twinkle, some homespun stories, and a lengthy jam-session ode to nature. Quite a show.

Upon reflection, it is a lot harder to throw a big party when there are a dozen little tykes letting the good times roll, but it's still worth it to spend some no-manners-necessary time with good friends. I hope other people had a good time, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Call them chores, call them contributions, call them child labor, I call them little victories.

I want to document this for when Jambuca is older.
Now that my e-baby is 5, she is ready and able to take on some new responsibilities. SHe is also really keen on getting to fill out her responsibilities on a chart. I've been thinking that she is about old enough for an allowance, as well. What better way to introduce chores and an allowance than to have them tied together.
I let her decide what her daily chores would be. We settled on: scrape plate/put it in the dishwasher, pick up all the toys before bathtime, and brush teeth. Each day that she does these things, she puts a sticker on that day's square of the weekly sticker chart, and I write the date. As a bonus, she can draw a picture on the square. For each completed 7-day chart, she is entitled to $1 of her allowance. She also has weekly chores, which again she helped set: sweep up crumbs under the dinner chairs 3 times a week, and put away her own laundry. For this, she gets a bonus sticker on the weekly chart, and earns another $1 of her allowance. She has the option of spending her allowance right away, or of saving up sticker charts for a larger sum, for example if she wants a $5 toy (which, right now, she does).
As she gets older and the allowance goes up, so will the responsibilities. And when Jambuca turns 5, he will have the option of earning an allowance as well. Right now, though, he is doing pretty well with putting things away (one or two toys before he gets distracted by something else in the toybox), brushing his teeth, and scraping his plate. He still needs a lot of help, though, and money means nothing to him yet.
Toilets also mean nothing to him. We were all sick last week with strep, and ever since, he has reverted to never using the toilet. We had a good two-week run there, but now it's one backslide after another. Hopefully this will pass along with the illness.
And speaking of illness, I have got to get over this nonstop fever/headache I've been having. It finally got bad enough today that I went to the doctor. They have no idea, but it's probably viral, and I probably need rest. I agree.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Huck Finn's got NOTHIN' on me

I've had nutritionists tell me that kids eat the same variety of foods as grown-ups, but they just do it in jags: they eat all of one food at a time, then change to something else. I'm not really sure this is quite true, since Jambuca has eaten cornbread ("yellow bread") with nearly every meal since that fateful day he first tried it probably about a year ago and sometimes it's the only food he eats. But I continue to offer healthy things on the plates, with a fruit and a vegetable, some kind of protein, dairy, and starch. Breakfast we usually skip the veggies but there's always the fruit (which does usually get eaten). And I have to credit e-baby: she has grown into a great eater. She still doesn't eat much, but she will try anything and regularly eats raw vegetables. Jambuca, not so much.

This morning, e-baby was painfully constipated. I told her it was because she hasn't had enough fibrous vegetables or water recently, and she asked for some carrots. I told her I was out of carrots but that what she really needed was celery, bell pepper, sugar snap peas (the very things I had just finished cutting up to take for my own snack to work, as it happens). I made her a baggie of raw vegetables to eat in the car on the way to school. Her brother got jealous and started to screech, "MY WANT BAGGIE OF RAW VEGABLES TOO!!!!" So I told him that if he was a good boy and put on his shoes, I'd make him a baggie of raw vegetables as well. He was DELIGHTED.

In the car on the way to school, the only sound was the crunch-crunch-crunch of little teeth making short work of red bell peppers and celery.

Sometimes, you're the worst parent in the world. But sometimes, you get it right.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: A Half-Year Update

This is a diet-and-exercise posting, in case you find that kind of thing boring...just be on your way and I'll see you back here next week.

I only kind of half-mentioned it on my blog because I'm superstitious about these things, but in January, I made a New Year's Resolution. Since the year is halfway over, I'll spill the beans publicly here.

Before we had children, I had to fight a bit to keep my weight within about 10-pounds of where I wanted to be. It was a bit frustrating, but nothing too bad, since I also typically got 6-10 hours of exercise a week. I could put away a lot of calories before they'd catch up.

In 2006 I got pregnant with e-baby. I was already about 10 pounds over where I wanted to be, but I gained the recommended amount of weight during the pregnancy (about 25 pounds) so it was no big deal. It was easy enough to keep some exercise going, but I knew that the days of 2-hour workouts were shelved for at least a couple of years.

A year after she was born, I was 15-20 pounds above where I wanted to be. It was hard to drop any weight, but my priorities had changed, so I wasn't really concerned.

Then I got pregnant with Jambuca. And let me tell you, that pregnancy was miserable. I was so tired, all the time, and unable to ever take naps (between e-baby and work, who can nap????). I gained 30 pounds on that pregnancy, and started out heavier to begin with. A few months after he was born, I got down to within 5 pounds of my pre-Jambuca weight, but couldn't move it any lower.
Then life got away from me.

2010 was also a very tough year at work. We lost a few team members to other departments, some high profile projects came our way, and everyone was doing the work of 2-3 people each. I did no exercise, no diet management. Just worked, slept, ate, and managed my home life as best I could. Every few months I'd realize that nothing in the closet fit anymore, and go buy new stuff. I tried starting diets over and over again, but they never stuck.

Then in August, my dad had a massive heart attack (and a miracluous recovery)and well, who gives a crap about diet and exercise when you're worried about your dad staying alive? I gained about 10 pounds in the next 2 months after that.

By the end of the year, my bank account was feeling thin and I was feeling fat. I was 35 pounds overweight. I had trouble going up the stairs. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. My back hurt. I had developed sleep apnea, reflux, and carpal tunnel syndrome all related to being overweight. I was seeing a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a physical therapist, and and ENT on a regular basis. Every office visit with every specialist was a $20 co-pay. In 2011, it would be going up to $30 co-pay. My boss probably wondered why I was always at some appointment. And none of my clothes fit (again).

On New Year's Day I made a resolution: No New Clothes in 2011. I wasn't sure how I'd make good on this resolution, so mom and I talked at length about what works, what doesn't, what I can live with and what I can't, how much I'm willing to suffer, etc.

By Jan 4, the revised goal was to lose 30 pounds in 30 weeks (and hopefully another 5 pounds by the end of the year). That 30 week goal roughly corresponds to when I'd have to be in a swimsuit next -- vacation in Marquette the first 2 weeks of August.

The diet is a 4/3 hybrid of 2 different diets. Four days a week, (M-Th) it's lean protein, low fat cheese, a little nuts, fruits, and vegetables but no starches, breads, sugars, potatoes, rice, fried foods, cream, butter. Then three days a week (F-Su) it's lean protein and vegetables only (no fruit) except for one meal a day, which is a "Reward Meal" in which I can have some sort of starchy/sweet/fried treat, about 200-300 calories. This makes it easy to go to a party or dinner with friends and not feel like "the freak who won't eat anything normal." It also means that if I am DYING for a buttermilk biscuit, I just plan accordingly. Every day, everything that I eat is written in a journal, along with my morning weight and any exercise. Notice no mention of calorie counting or restrictions-- anything I'd have to really keep track of like that would be destined for failure.

Part two of this plan had to include exercise because, well, I'm grumpy without good exercise. Every day the plan was to shoot for at least 20 minutes of SOMETHING, but never let 48 hours pass between workouts. Twenty minutes is really a bare minimum, with a goal of about 4-6 hours a week of real exercise activity.

At first, everything was difficult. Stepping for 20 minutes was hard. Running 2 miles was hard. Avoiding sweets and breads was hard. But I started losing weight, so I kept it up. As I lost weight, the exercise because easier. As I got used to the diet, the eating part got easier. Then the exercise got a lot easier, and my aches and pains dropped away one by one. By Easter I had lost 20 pounds, I no longer needed the chiropractor or the physical therapist. Around that time, my weight loss slowed way down, which you can expect.

But the universe had a plan for me... in May, I got an email from a triathlon series I had participated in back in 2005 that there were only 60 spaces left in their upcoming women-only triathlon, the Ramblin' Rose. It's a super-sprint, which means really, really short-- 250M swim, 9 mi bike, 2 mi run. Their tagline: "YOU CAN DO THIS." Holly carp, there it was, right in front of me. You can do this. Like they were speaking directly TO ME. Backstory: In 2005 I quit my part-time job teaching aerobics to devote more time to triathlon training, did 3 races, and the next winter got pregnant. It was 6 years since my first and last triathlon season. I had loved it. I have wanted to get back into it ever since. I could do this. Two weeks from the date of the race, I registered. Not enough time to lose my nerve.

Now, um, up to this point, my exercise was still pretty basic stuff. I wasn't even sure I could still swim 250 m. So those two weeks I spent a lot of time at the pool making sure I could swim 250 without stopping. I could. Do this.

Race day was gorgeous. My parents were in town, the sky was blue, it was a cool morning. Waiting around for my start time, my BFF sent me a text message that she was going to register for a triathlon in Raleigh in August, and that I should, too. I was STOKED at the idea. Then I hit the cold water and it took my breath away. After a panicked dog-paddle the first 2 laps, I was able to finally do a poor excuse for breast stroke to finish out the distance. The bike was better - I passed every single person I could see until the finish line. The run was good - I was pacing a 10 minute mile, which is fine. I CAN DO THIS! It was a good enough way to start the season. I'd have to work on getting rid of those race-day jitters, though, if I didn't want to drown.
I decided the next day that I wanted to try to do one triathlon a month until October.

In June, a friend and I participated in a longer (sprint) triathlon, the Smile Train. It was AWESOME! I was smarter about the water and warmed up before the start, which was a great idea because the swim was super smooth. I'm super slow in the water, but I can actually swim pretty well, as long as I don't get myself freaked out. This race, by the way, had really, really great officiating. But that's a story for another day.

Fast-forward to today. It's only three weeks until the Marquette trip and the 30-week goal date. I've lost 29 pounds. And tomorrow is the Triangle Triathlon, which will be my first open-water triathlon since 2005, and 3rd race this year. I'm excited, feeling great, and just hopeful that this is something I can do for my whole life, not just this year.

Oh, for the record, although I tried Olympic distance triathlon in 2005, there will be no such shenanigans this year. Sprints are long enough to be challenging, but short enough to be a lot of fun. Super-sprints are even more fun because it's over before your body really realizes what you're trying to make it do. And it better be fun if I'm waking up at 5am to do it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Just Need a New Computer...and About 2 More Hours a Day

I haven't blogged in an elephant's age because my computer is crap. I'm so sick of waiting for every mouse click, and rebooting every now and then when the whole thing freezes up. I seem to have a bad graphics device, and it's a netbook, so it costs more to repair it than it would to replace the whole thing. I'm in the market for a new computer.
The other reason I haven't blooged much (or read anyone else's blogs, or kept up with twitter feeds, or much of anything else) is because of my New Year's resolution. I found myself 35 pounds overweight at Christmas, and resolved to lose at least 30 of it by the end of July. So far, I've lost 29, so that's on track. I also resolved to get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day, but preferably 5-6 hours a week, with no more than 48 hours between workouts. And there's the pinch: all it takes is 45 minutes once a week to keep up a weekly blog post. And about 15 minutes a day to keep up with twitter feeds and a few friends' blogs. And those minutes have now been earmarked to get exercise. I get home from work, make dinner for the kids, make myself dinner, SNG gets home and eats while I keep the kids entertained until they go into the bathtub, then I put one into bed and while SNG puts the other into bed, I go for a workout, get back in time to shower and put myself into bed. Mornings aren't any easier, but recently I've started setting a 5:45 alarm to go running before anyone gets up. I've got to go to bed before 10 to make this work, and there's always cleaning up, laundry, last-minute work stuff, etc. This is how it is when I'm in town, which lately, hasn't been very much.
I have no idea how anyone has kids, a full time job, an exercise regimen, and stays connected. The easiest one to give up is the computer time. I'm having lots of fun without it.
Eh, we'll see what happens.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Driveway Bike Ride

I love that he knocks at the neighbor's yard.
My Jambuca is so much fun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Let the Lunch Begin!

I took Jambuca to lunch with me at work today for the first time. I've been waiting for this forever.

We talked about it this morning, before school.
"Sweetheart, I'm going to take you to school, and then at lunchtime, I'll come get you and take you to the cafe for lunch. Is that OK?"
"After that, I'll take you back to school for nap. OK?"
"Say, OK, mommy"
"OK mommy"

His teachers also talked to him about the plan, that mommy would be bringing him back for nap.

When I arrived to pick him up, he started to cry that panicked cry that unmistakeably means "You'd better be here to take me with you because if I see you and you leave again I just won't be able to liiiiiiiiiive!" I told him that he needed to calm down before we could go to lunch, and so, he did. Poof. Back to happy.

We walked to the cafe, and he loved the piano player. The pianist played him a round of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and for the rest of lunch, Jambuca would occasionally point to the piano and sing the song, as if to remind me how cool that was.  He had a chicken finger, steamed carrots (and discovered the salt shaker, yum), and some pineapples and strawberres. He had perfect manners, and afterwards, we walked back having a great time. When we passed the preschool, he said "There goes Lelly! Bye-bye Lelly!"

He was perfect, until we walked into the daycare building. He cried. I felt bad.

As I walked into my office 3 minutes later, the phoe was ringing. Jambuca's teacher, calling to tell me that he was perfectly happy once again, playing out in the playground.

Well be doing that again! Lunch with your kids at the cafeteria at work is possibly the best, and least-publicized, benefit of my job.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Breaking a Sweat on the Weekend

This is a long update, with some fun stories closer to the bottom. Impatient readers can scoll to the string of ***** below.
We had such a good weekend, on the heels of a not-so-great week. Last Tuesday morning, e-baby threw up at breakfast time, but it was pretty much just a gag reflex from coughing very hard. Still, rules are rules so she stayed home from preschool. It was probably good to have a day to let her cold recover anyway.
Wednesday at lunchtime, e-baby's teacher called -- she had pink eye. Persona non grata until Friday. Well, a kid with pink eye (that's being treated) can actually be a lot of fun to stay home with, and we went on a bike ride (she rode, I ran), wewent to a museum, we went to lunch with SNG, and we even went to my office for several hours so I could try to catch up on at least a little of that work.
Friday was normal.
Saturday morning was Peace and Fuzzy's daughter's 2nd birthday pary, so we celebrated and had a blast catching up with friends. It wore Jambuca out again, and as he tried to take a nap on their living room floor while other kids climbed over him, I remembered the last time we wore him out and decided it was time to go. He got a good nap at home.
While Jambuca slept, e-baby and I picked up the NEW COUNTERTOP for our kitchen island! YAY!
Backstory-- we have a big kitchen island, 3'x6', with overhang for seating along one edge. It comfortably seats 2. We also have a little counterspace for seating near the sink. It also seats 2. But all 4 of the chairs usually surround the island. Clearly, it's everyone's favorite place to sit. We have 4 stools, but aren't really happy with them because they're hard to clean, easy to smoosh a finger with, and not really our style. So we decided to get a new countertop that's a foot longer, and new stools to match. The newer, longer countertop holds 3 seats comfortably along the long edge plus a 4th seat on one short edge. BONUS-- you can actually fit one more stool on the long end if you want, making it seating for 5 (nice when one of those is a clip-on highchair).
We looked online for new stools, but the ones we liked best were available for internet order only from Target.
SNG installed the new countertop just in time for Jambuca to wake up so we could all go to Target to look at other stools in stock. It must be all that clean living, but There They Were!! Four new chairs, the ones we liked, in the store on clearance! Someone must have bought and returned them. We grabbed all four and headed for home. They are PERFECT! Best of all, they adjust in height so that kids can be up higher. They also go low enough to double as child seating at my dining room table. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, that'll be so nice.
Sunday morning, I made some broccoli cheese soup and SNG puttered in the yard with the kids. It was gorgeous weather. He took a mountain bike ride in the morning, and after lunch, I took e-baby for a bike ride. She likes to ride her bike to the state park and down to the lake, about 5 miles round trip in some hilly terrain. I run alongside her, and help her negotiate traffic, joggers, dogs, potholes, whatever. I also usually give her a push most of the way up the mile-long climb out of the park. She's such a good sport, though, and never whines or complains. She just loves to ride.
And she gets faster every time we do that ride.
And my push becomes shorter and shorter.
And I seriously need to become a faster runner! :-)


This evening SNG had the idea to see whether e-baby could read Hop On Pop. If you've never read it, each page has 2 or 3 words that rhyme, a short sentence or phrase using the words, and a picture. Like,

Mouse on house.


Pat sat on a cat.

She was so excited to try. We agreed that she could do the uppercase words a the top, and SNG and I would read the sentences at the bottom.

She certainly needed some help (NIGHT and FIGHT don't work phonetically), but really did very well, getting most words in the book. Still, it was hard work, and by the end she was flagging. She's pronouce N's as T's, confuse W and M, and other mix-ups. I could tell she get frustrated a few times. But she didn't want to give up and finished it.
Then she climbed into bed, and I sang her a song. As I ran my fingers in her hair and on her forehead (a magical sleepy-touch that makes children and some adults drift instantly to sleep), I realized that her forehead was sweaty. Now that is some effort.
It gave me new respect for the task of learning to read.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Mommy Has to Keep Track of These Things

Jambuca has finally started calling e-baby by a name!! Well, it isn't her name, but it's definitely her favorite girl's name (or almost so). He calls her Lily. Well, almost. He calls her LELLLLY! As in:

When he tried to say "I love you, e-baby" it came out:
I Luh Lelly! I Luh Lelly!

So, OK, for the record he clearly got none of that early vocabulary and clear diction that his sister had in spades, but he gets his point across. And now that he's in the two-year-old class at daycare, he is growing and learning so fast that when I left town for 3 days and came back, I could really tell a substanital difference in him.

Jambuca loves having his teeth brushed. He always remembers it before I do, and after his bath he reaches up to the sink and goes "TSH-TSH-TSH!" I can't remember, but this might have been the age when e-baby started tolerating tooth brushing as well. I only had to force him against his will for a few weeks, and then it was like a switch went on, and he decided it was fun. And, he likes to brush his teeth cradled in a parent's arms like a baby. I'll tell you, his morning breath is much nicer now that he brushes nightly. :-)

That's all, just a Jambuca update. E-baby has been home from school for 2 days with pink eye. She goes back tomorrow. It's been terrific fun to stay home with her, but I'm glad I have work to go back to eventually. I can only do empty pickle jar crafts for so long before I want to eat my own hand. If I stayed home full time, my kids would probably watch a lot more TV.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

But Really, Does *Anyone* Eat Normal Food?

Taste is a funny thing. My own taste, for example, has shifted so that things like waffles and Jelly Bellies are not nearly as tasty as they used to be, and things like garlic-roated kale and diet soda are much better. When I was a waitress at The Kettle in San Marcos, we used kale to decorate the edges of the salad bar, and that was the only way I had ever seen kale used in my whole life. A few years later, I also saw it used as a garden ornament, and even grew some ornamental kale of my own. But to eat it? Uuuuuuh, no, and I won't eat parsley sprigs either.

But tastes change, and now I like nothing so much as fresh baby kale leaves roasted in the oven tossed with olive oil, salt, and fresh garlic.

Some things never change, though. When I was a kid, I loved liverwurst. You can never eat more than a small piece at a time before your mouth goes from "YUM GIVE ME MORE" to your stomach saying "OK, that was tasty, but if you give me any more I'll stop talking to you." Some favorites never change. Except when they do. Rewind to February (or was it March?), 2006. Me, a little-bit-pregnant. In the midst of a world tour of puking performances across Spain and France, I'd managed to puke my way into Germany. The land of liverwurst. They even serve it for breakfast. And being in the same room with any liver-related product (even the really expensive foie gras in France) could turn me green. It was so unfair. I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to eat liverwurst again.

With my 2nd pregnancy, I had the same reaction to onions-- even to shallots, which you'd think I could never hate. I'm still not too hot on onions but I got over the shallot thing.

Well, I'm over the liverwurst thing as well, and I bought a tube of it today. I doubt it's the best thing for my diet, but when the liverwurst calls, I am powerless to resist. Dinner tonight was roasted garlic kale, liverwurst, turkey lil smokies in BBQ sauce and Cholula, and a bit of e-baby's latest recipe creation:

1/2 chopped apple
handful of strawberries, hulled
splop-spoonful of strawberry preserves
about 2 T Cheerios
Mix well and microwave for 15 seconds. Mix again. Serve warm.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weird Brownies and a Yogurt Blast From the Past

Yesterday I made two recipes that I'm posting here for posteriority.

The first is based on a recipe for fudgy brownie bars from Women's Running magazine. When I first saw the ingredients list, I thought "EEW!" but I had seen something kind of similar on my cousin's blog awhile back, so I decided to give it a try. (I'd link to the recipe, but I can't find it online)

First time, I made it exactly as directed. It wasn't sweet enough. I also didn't drain the beans well enough.
Second time, I made it with stevia instead of agave. It was the wrong texture-- too dry, and perhaps overcooked as well.
Third time, I changed the sweeteners and added pecans, and it was perfect.
I can't emphasize too much the importance of rinsing the back beans several times. Insufficiently rinsed beans make a chocolatey bean-blob. Eew.

Here's the third version of the recipe, slightly modified from the original, attributable to Women's Running magazine, 2011:
Spray an 8" square pan with nonstick cooking spray, and preheat the oven to 350F

With an immersion blender, puree until smooth:
15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
3/4 c liquid egg substitute
3 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c agave nectar
3/4 c Splenda granular measure
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

then, fold in 1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts and pour the batter into the baking pan.

Cook at 350 for 20 minutes, turning once half-way through
Reduce temperature to 300 and cook 5 more minutes.

An inserted toothpick should come out slightly batter-coated. If it comes out clean, you've overcooked it.
Let it cool completely. (I like them still slightly warm, but the author likes them better chilled). My kids like them no matter what.

And, if you've never read Women's Running, it's a really nice magazine. I like Runner's World a lot, but their audience are more than half men, so their articles aren't always relevant. Women's Running has articles featuring some great women. I don't get any kickbacks from WR for telling you this. :-)

The 2nd recipe I wanted to write about is a response to something that has haunted me since I was 6 years old. Long, long ago, Dannon used to have a strawberry-walnut (or was it strawberry-pecan) yogurt. The fruit-on-the-bottom kind. It was my hands-down favorite as a kid. I don't know why it was discontinued, but like Brick cheese, I have never forgotten it. Unlike brick cheese, I can't even find it in Wisconsin.

Here is my no-sugar-added variation on the old Dannon favorite, even better than the original.
1 QT fat-free plain Greek Yogurt
3 cups good strawberries (thawed from frozen OK, if they're good frozen berries)
6 Tbsp granular-measure Truvia
1/2 c pecans

Puree everything with an immersion blender. The nuts will pulverize to tiny bits. That's a good thing.
Mmmmmmm now I'm hungry.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Think My Heart Seized a Bit as Well...

I can write about the last few weeks and how I've had a few nice trips and how last weekend Jambuca was sick with a stomach bug and how SNG had it Monday night right before I left for New York and what a nice anniversary dinner we had last night, but today was a little more newsworthy than those things.
This morning, e-baby went to church with her Granny and Grampy, so SNG and I took Jambuca to the grocery store. He was sleepy, but cheerful enough. After that, we went to Durham for a birthday party for a friend of e's. When we got there, I noticed that Jambuca felt a little warm, but SNG thought he felt fine. A few hours later, he stil hadn't had a nap, and it was showing. He had a thousand-yard stare, but being as he is, he doesn't sleep in a stroller, so he just gazed around until time to leave. He just looked dazed and tired, and not real interested in anything.
In the car, we were certain he'd fall asleep right away, so I looked back to see if he had even made it the few blocks from the parking lot of the life and science museum.
His eyes were rolling around and his body was tremoring, drool coming from the side of his mouth.
"OH-SHIT he's having a seizure PULL OVER I'm calling 911" (yes, I hollered the s-word with e-baby in the car. I just hope she didn't add it to her vocabulary.)
SNG ran a red light to turn, pulled over, put on the blinkers, and took Jambuca out of the car. He held him up, put his face up to Jambuca's, talking and trying like mad to get him to respond. Jambuca's body was stiff, back arched, facing up to the sky, totally unresponsive. 911 dispacher telling me it looks worse than it is. Eight minutes later EMS arrived. By this time, Jambuca was catatonic, flopped against SNG's chest, staring at nothing. His temp was 103, skin was cold and clammy. EMS said it was for sure a seizure, probably brought on my a sudden onset of fever.
They put him on a gurney and I rode in the ambulance. They stuck his finger to test his blood sugar, and he didn't even register that it had happened. His O2 sat wasn't great, so he had an oxygen mask. He was shaking like crazy from chills. I could see SNG following behind us like his car was on a bungee cord.
It wasn't until we were in the ER at Duke for about 10 minutes that Jambuca fussed or cried or made any noise (when he threw up all over the place).
Jambuca slept in the car going home from Durham, and drank apple juice when we got home. He was in bed asleep by 6:30, and didn't even want a book. His eyes were closed before I finished th 2nd verse of his lullaby.

Bottom line is that he's fine. One in 25 kids under 5 get febral seizures, and it doesn't really mean anything. If he had a lot more, they'd start doing additional testing. But I'll tell you, watching your 2-year-old have a seizure and not knowing what to do is terrifying.
E-baby stayed calm, patient, and charming the whole time. She made friends with the staff but didn't get in the way of the work being done. She tried so hard to make her baby brother smile (it didn't work). But I'm sure that after he's had a good rest, he'll have a good laugh with her over some goldfish crackers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A True Future Fairy Tale

Scene: My car, on the way to daycare drop-off

e-baby: Mommy, I am going to tell you a true story. It's a true story, about a real girl. OK?
me: OK, babylamb. Let's hear it.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named (e-baby) . She had a beautiful medal, and it had her name on it. She loved her medal and wore it every day. One day, she was playing outside and dropped it on the ground. She left it outside when she finished playing. That night, there was a GREAT STOOOOORM. The wind BLEEEEEW and BLEEEEW and lifted the medal off the ground, and threw it in the river.
So she grew up without the medal. And when she became a teenager, she cried, "Noooooo Faaaaaair! Nooooooo Faaaaaair!"
When she grew up, she became an animal rescuer. All her friends who worked at the rescue center had soooo muuuuuch fuuuuun, and one day someone said, "We have to rescue an animal in the river!" So (e-baby) put on her scuba gear and went in the river to rescue the animal. When she was there, she found her medal. She was so HAPPY!

I enjoyed that story so much I had to write it down for posterity.

In other news, Jambuca can count to 2, and makes us more aware of all paired things in his world (2 cars! 2 birds! 2 books!). I love this life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


My tiny baby boy is two. Never was there a sweeter, more endearing boy. You know, except when he hasn't had his beauty sleep.

We had a birthday party while my parents were in town, which was fantastic fun, and just like my thank-you notes, this blog is running very late. Things haven't slowed down enough to be able to sit and write for more than a minute or two before I have to sleep, exercise, shower, feed someone, switch a laundry, get to work, put someone else back in bed, or pick up the exponentially growing pile of clutter in the house.

Oh sure, all those things are looming now, but I want to get this down before the next month officially begins.

Jambuca is still average weight (50%), and is slightly taller (65%) for his age. On his 2nd birthday he was half of 5'10", which means he'll be roughly SNG's height when he grows up. E-baby was roughly half my height, so it's only fair. He is able to do all the things on the 2-year-old questionnaire that his doctor has us fill out (fine and gross motor skills, communication, basic problem solving, etc) but he is very hard to understand when he speaks. I know he can make all the sounds, like 's' because he goes 'SSSSSSS' when he sees a picture of a snake, but he pronounces 'Star' as 'Lar' so he doesn't seem to know when to put the right sounds together. He can say 'Yay' but also pronounces the color 'Lellow.' If I still can't understand him in 6 months, I'll ask for the daycare's speech therapist to have a listen. It might be just an unfair comparison after e-baby and her poetry and songwriting at this age.

His favorite things:
Pajamas (his own)
Shoes (anyone's)
M&Ms (at my office)
Little toy mice (from the Hideaway Hollow series)
Cars, trains, helicopters, boats, and any other Things That Go.
The dollhouses
Play structures
e-baby, the coolest big sister in the world (I catch him striking a pose next to or behind her so that he looks like her stunt double)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Did This Become a Recipe Blog????

My parents are in town, and we've been having a terrific time. In fact, we've had so much fun, that when I cooked up a big 10-Qt pot FULL of broccoli and zucchini, I completely forgot about it and cooked it till it was grey. We ate it that night, and no one said anything. The next morning, I put some in my omelette, and didn't say anything. For lunch, I had some more and had to say something- it was just awful. My mom asked if I had put fish sauce in it (I have to hand it to her, she is so diplomatic, "What an interesting taste, did you do a thai version with fish sauce or something?") -- I had not. It was just awful.

I wanted to salvage it. It was a ton of vegetables. I wanted to make a cheese soup.

Here is what I did:
1 stick butter
3 shallots, sliced thin
3 ribs celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
Cook these in the soup pot until nice and soft. Gradually add
1/4 c flour
6 cups chicken stock
Simmer for 45 minutes.
1 c low-fat buttermilk
12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 t dry mustard
1/2 tsp hot paprika (like El Rey de la Vera's)
Stir well until cheese melts (do not boil or the dairy will be ruined).
Add all the leftover overcooked broccoli and zucchini (in my case, it was about 10-11 cups)
Process with the immersion blender until smooth.

It was OUTSTANDING. Mmmmmmmm.

So it seems that I am now running not just a recipe blog, but a recipe blog for salvaging doomed foods. I would have been popular in the 1930s, no?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thai Peanut Sauce and Whatnot

I made up a peanut sauce this evening that I will forget the recipe for if I don't put it down somewhere.

1.5c natural peanut butter (the kind that's just peanuts and salt)
1 can light coconut milk
3T fish sauce
3T soy sauce
2T lime juice
2t kaffir lime leaves
2t minced garlic
2t minced galangal (thai ginger)
2T "man ketchup" (Sriracha hot chili sauce-comes in a squeeze bottle) (blame SNG for the nickname)
2T "man salsa" (Sriracha chili-garlic sauce-comes in a jar)

Mix everything in a bowl. You can leave out the Sriracha or double the Sriracha, or only use one kind, depending on how hot you like it, or use fresh finely chopped serrano peppers instead.
I had to use a mixture of kinds of Sriracha because I ran out of man ketchup before it was hot enough for my taste.This was crazy-good over Shiratake noodles and broccoli. 

I took a half day off today to go see the Normal Rockwell exhibit at the NCMA. I've never been a Rockwell fan; he stopped doing Saturday Eve Post covers long before I was born, and his art always seemed corny to me. But seeing all the covers of the SEP in sequence, and having the chance to really look at the details was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. I also really appreciated some of his art commissioned for Look in the 1960s. The exhibit ends Monday, and even on a rainy Wednesday, it was pretty busy in there.

The kids-- I haven't had an update on them in a long time. Next week is Jambuca's birthday, so I should save some news for a birthday blog post, but I'll tell you he's making us laugh all the time. He talks about everything (and we understand about 1/4 of it) and he is getting a little easier to redirect verbally.

E-baby has really taken off with reading and writing. Something just clicked finally, and she's getting it more and more. The other day she wrote her first name from memory without any help from me. And that's a lot of letters to remember! :-) She's reading 2- and 3-letter and some 4- letter words, but what's funny is that half the time she can guess what the bigger words are because of the rhythm and rhyme of the story. She also memorizes most books after the first or 2nd time they're read to her, so it's hard to always know whether she's reading or reciting. She's got a storytelling streak a mile wide.

I'm starting to suspect that Jambuca has as well. He loves playing out little narratives with the doll house residents, making little parties and dinners, driving the little mice to and from different doll houses, and I wish so badly that I could understand what he's saying when he's there for an hour at a time making the little village come to life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recipe!

For the past couple of months, Sunday mornings have mostly been a time for cooking. Since I've been on my New Year's Resolution diet*, we've mostly been cooking healthier things like veggies and meats for the next week's meals. Having quick meals ready to heat and eat keeps me from snacking like a fiend when I get home from work while trying to make something for dinner.

This morning, I also cleared out the fridge (which I do every 2 weeks or so-- it's shameful how much I throw out each time-- I'm looking at you, 2 week old slice of leftover meatloaf). There in the back were 6 Del Monte Fruit Naturals blackberry and blueberry fruit cups. I bought these because I had a BJ's coupon. Which means, of course, that I bought a case of them. They're fruit in juice with no added sugar and my kids LOVE fruit cups, and they LOVE berries, so I thought, what a perfect match!

Not so much. After repeated attempts, neither of the kids would eat these blackberries and blueberries in a fruit cup. I think that to preserve shape, they have to do something weird to the texture. The flavor is great! But the texture is just... not quite right. I've given up on trying to get anyone to eat them, and I pulled them out of the fridge and thought, "What can I do with these?" So I present to you:

Two Recipes from One Surplus of DMFN Fruit Cups!!!

Gelatin blocks:
Juice from 6 DelMonte Fruit Naturals fruit cups (not the berries)
Enough of any other juice to make a total of 4 cups liquid
2 Stevia packets
4 Knox gelatin packets
Put 1 c juice in a bowl and sprinkle the Knox on top. Boil the rest of the juice. Add to the gelatin mixture and stir in the stevia. Stir well, and pour into a rectangular or square dish (I used a 2Qt Corning Ware). Fridge until set. Cut into squares.

Berry Sorbet (based on this recipe)
berries from 6 Del Monte Fruit Naturals cups (not the juice) (should make about 4c)
20 Splenda packets
2 c buttermilk
Freeze the bowl of your ie cream maker at least 8 hours
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, and puree with an immersion blender until super-super smooth.
Fridge until ready to eat.
Put in ice cream maker according to your instructions (mine went 15 minutes)
(The kids wanted a little extra sugar, SNG and I thought it was perffect as-is.)

Both of these were so good we all 4 ate until our bellies hurt. And there were hardly any calories in there. So New Year's Resolution is still holding strong.

* the New Year's Resolution: NO NEW CLOTHES in 2011! Shoes, hats, scarves, gloves, and socks do not count. Just no new clothes to fit a bigger posterior.