Monday, October 31, 2011

cooking again

I really like to cook.  I really LOVE to bake.  If you have read the last few posts then you may have realized that I am going through a tough time right now; one of the valleys in the hills and valleys of life.  One of the things I had lost as I was driving down that hill was my ability to cook.  Mentally, I just did not have it in me.  Yes, I could through some quick meals together, but I was not cooking.

Cooking is emotional.  It has to be, because food and eating food is emotional.  I think back to when I was a kid and conjure up an image of a chef.  He was quick-tempered and moody.  And he was a he.  Unless she was Julia Child.  Of course this was all before the food network.  But that was what I thought a chef was like.

Yesterday when the reality of the crazy Nor'easter was hitting me I decided to get some ingredients to cook, just in case I felt like I could.  I was not able to do so yesterday.  I wasn't ready.

But today I was.  Today I made meatballs and homemade tomato sauce.  Watching Lilly eat all her meatballs made my heart happy.  I also made butternut squash and apple soup.  Lilly won't eat that but my mom will.  It has a touch too much salt but otherwise it is divine.  It is just such a fall-ish dish and it was a cold day.  With snow on the ground.  In October!

I'm not baking yet, but I am cooking.  I'll take it!

recipes to follow...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inner Strength

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water.”
Eleanor RooseveltYou Learn by Living

Sometimes in our lives we need to have inner strength beyond what we believe possible.  I realized today just how strong I am.  I have an inner strength that will get me through this phase of my life, no matter what happens.  I know it.  I am owning it.

I cannot take credit for this all by myself.  I have a great support system of women helping me keep up that inner strength: the women with whom I work, my friends (my besties!), and the strongest of all, my mom.

My dad and brothers have also been an incredible source of strength for me.  My in-laws have been wonderful.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

my conundrum

I have a conundrum.  I want to have another child.  I want Lilly to have a sibling, one who is close-ish in age to her.  I would have liked that a year or two ago but it was not the right time.  Now is not the right time either.  Nor will it be for the foreseeable future.  There are very real and valid reasons why we should not have another baby right now.  I know some people say there are no good times, but this is really the opposite of a good time.

Somehow, someway, knowing this does not stop the yearning.  Why does this not stop?  Why can't my heart take a hint from my brain and stop wanting things it cannot have right now?  I think part of it is wanting that sibling for Lilly; knowing how important it was for me and other people I know to have the sibling relationship.  I think part of it is straight up biology.  I am 36.  That clock ticks loudly, and it is not always a pleasant, soothing tick tock.  More like a gong announcing,  TICK TOCK biatch...GET GOING HERE!    And really, I think a big part of it is that we cannot separate our hearts and minds in that way.  They are intricately entwined and that is what makes us human.

Sometimes I just wish I could flip a switch, even just for a little bit, to give my heart a rest.  That or stop that damn biological clock from ticking so damn loudly in my ear!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warning: Philosophy major ahead...

What is happiness, exactly?   How do we know we are happy?   Do people in other countries have happiness as a goal in life?  And what does their happiness look like?  Sometimes I wonder if we think too hard about being happy, attach too much importance to it. I don't mean that we can't be happy or even strive to have happiness in our life, whatever that means.  Nobody wants to be unhappy.  But maybe it should not be a goal in life.

I know that I have said at different times in my life that, "I just want want to be happy."  But let's look at that.  What that really means is that something in my life is not working for me at this point.  It could be a job, a family situation, a relationship, a money situation.   Say I change that situation.  Will I be happy then?  I don't believe so.  We have to be "happy" or at peace within ourselves or nothing else will seem good.  Everything will be problematic if we do not have inner peace.

Very recently I have been made aware of a few situations in which someone died suddenly.  I am reminded to live life and don't hold back.  Love fully and completely.  Have no regrets.  This to me is more meaningful than being happy.  One of my recent decisions is to live my life in spite of the crappy stuff that might be going on.  I am making another goal to strive for inner peace in the midst of life-chaos.

In the past I have started to learn the practice of meditation but failed to make the time for it after the first few weeks.  It is time to make the time.  Can I have inner peace without acceptance?  Can I have acceptance without self-awareness?  Meditation can lead to self-awareness.  Ergo, I need to make the time for meditation.

Plus, studies have shown that meditation can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress.  Win-win?  i think so...

Okay, enough rambling from me for one night.   Do you meditate?  Tell me about it...comment below!

*There are obvious situations like abusive relationships in which inner peace should not be attained just to stay with the abusive person.  I know that and do not include situations such as those in my contemplations.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Bachelorette Party!!

I have been really trying to be better about blogging daily but I was at a...wait for it...bachelorette party this weekend!  It was for my future sister-in-law Laurie and I am so happy I could be there for her.  It seemed for awhile that I was just not going to make it.  There were hurdles leading up to the weekend and then even on that day when I was trying to get out of the house.  That is really just the story of my life right now.  I think I can safely assume that most moms of young children have trouble leaving the house for a weekend.

I have to admit that leading up to the weekend I was really worried about it.  I have never really done anything like this and I felt like I was going to be totally out of my comfort zone.  And I was a little bit at times.  In the beginning I felt a little odd that I was not drinking a lot (of alcohol) but I am so beyond drinking to feel like I fit in.  So I just kind of stuck out the uncomfortableness (Is that a word?) and the feeling passed.*  I just really don't drink anymore but I still have fun!  I wasn't dancing a lot, but that was due more to the comfort of my poor feet than anything else.  I promise you, Laurie & Jeremiah that I will be dancing at your wedding!!

We were in Philadelphia, which is a place with which I am not that familiar but was easy enough to navigate and lots of fun.  Vin & I spent a few days there for our little honeymoon so it was nice to remember that while I was there.  I think that if I lived a little closer I would spend more time there.  There are so many interesting historical sites if you are into that kind of thing.  Which I am.  I'm nerdy...can't help myself!

The activities we did were fun and included: wine class/tastingkaraoke & sushi, bar and then back to the hotel for late night pizza shenanigans and passing out.  Today we had brunch at a really cool,  eclectic diner before all heading home.  (Umm, bacon pancakes?, awesome!)  And I must not forget the fun-shaped straws and confetti and flashing rings!

Back to the party...I was really happy to be part of the group for the night.  More importantly, I am just thrilled that Laurie has such a great group of women who she counts as friends and family.  They love her so much!

I cannot WAIT for November 12, 2011!!!

*Just want to clarify that NOBODY made me feel uncomfortable for not drinking a lot.  That was totally just me.  :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

international babywearing week

ring sling, age 3 months
I kind of missed the boat on this because International babywearing week is October 10-16.  I was a babywearer and franly, I remember not being able to wait to do so.  I ended up having 3 carriers:  the ring sling, a baby bjorn type and my favorite...the kangaroo korner pouch.  Sadly, the kangaroo korner company is no longer around.

Lilly was like a poster child for attachment parenting because she always wanted to be near me.  And by near me I mean on me.  Preferably on the boob.  I was recovering from a c-section and severe anemia and babywearing was the natural answer.  It was really hard to get the hang of the ring sling and once I bought the pouch I stuck with that. I had not planned on purchasing a front carrier.  One day I was in Babies R Us returning some stuff and I was checking out their carriers.  They were just beginning to sell slings and pouches.  I was trying some one with Lilly but she was being a fussbudget.  I tried on the Chicco deluxe something or other.  It has great back support which is key with a delightfully pudgy baby.    Within, oh, 5 minutes Lilly was ASLEEP.  And realizing that it is more open to the chest than other front carriers to make nursing-on-the-go easier had me sold.  It never went back into the box.
chicco front carrier, age 7 months

I remember asking the pediatrician about the possibility of hip issues when using the front carrier too soon (because their legs are splayed) and he told me that if it made my life more manageable (YES) then to not worry too much.  

I loved wearing Lilly and I was a little sad when she truly outweighed the limit of the pouch.  It was a wonderful way to feel close to her and also to get stuff done when I could not put her down.  Vacuum?  check!  Grocery shop?  check!  Type graduate school papers and nurse at the same time?  check!  Do anything else and nurse at the same time?  check!  Of course there is a learning curve to babywearing but there are a lot of resources, including videos on youtube, to help you out.  

I completely borrowed some rules of babywearing:

1. Make sure your baby can breathe. Baby carriers allow parents to be hands-free to do other things … but you must always remain active in caring for your child. No baby carrier can ensure that your baby always has an open airway; that’s your job.
a. Never allow a baby to be carried, held, or placed in such a way that his chin is curled against his chest. This rule applies to babies being held in arms, in baby carriers, in infant car seats, or in any other kind of seat or situation. This position can restrict the baby’s ability to breathe. Newborns lack the muscle control to open their airways. They need good back support in carriers so that they don’t slump into the chin-to-chest position.
b. Never allow a baby’s head and face to be covered with fabric. Covering a baby’s head and face can cause her to “rebreathe” the same air, which is a dangerous situation. Also, covering her head and face keeps you from being able to check on her. Always make sure your baby has plenty of airflow. Check on her frequently.
2. Never jog, run, jump on a trampoline, or do any other activity that subjects your baby to similar shaking or bouncing motion. “This motion can do damage to the baby’s neck, spine and/or brain,” explains the American Chiropractic Association.
kangaroo korner fleece pouch, 10 months
3. Never use a baby carrier when riding in a car. Soft baby carriers provide none of the protection that car seats provide.
4. Use only carriers that are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight. For example, frame backpacks can be useful for hiking with older babies and toddlers but aren’t appropriate for babies who can’t sit unassisted for extended periods. Front packs usually have a weight range of 8 to 20 pounds; smaller babies may slip out of the carrier, and larger babies will almost certainly cause back discomfort for the person using the carrier.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Courage or Other Moms

Here's the thing.  I generally do not feel very courageous or brave.  I live my life rather conservatively, I think.  In fact, blogging is probably the most courageous thing I do.

I love to read other blogs.  In fact, I read other blogs long before I started blogging.  I read about moms who are creative, successful, honest, dealing/handling/living  with children with special needs, cancer, moves across the country, moves across the ocean(yikes) and devastating losses.  I also read a few blogs who are not written by women, but the majority I read are.

Recently I have needed to have some mega doses of courage, and not the liquid variety.  Though maybe that would have helped a few times.  I am going through life issues.  I cannot share what they are specifically, but suffice it to say that life is hard right now.  Reading other blogs helps me put my life into perspective.  It reminds me that everyone has stuff.  Life can be really, really hard.  Husbands get jobs in other countries.  Children pass away at unthinkably young ages.  Moms get diagnosed with stage IV cancer.  And survive!

So every day I go to work and do the best job I can.  I come home and take care of my family.  And I live with courage.  One day at a time.

God grant me the serenity 
To accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
And the wisdom to know the difference.  

Turtle Back Zoo - amazing local resource!

I live about 6 miles from the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ.  It is centrally located to several highways and only about 15 miles from NYC.  I always say I want to get a family membership so that I can go all the time, but I never do.  But I do like to take Lilly when I can.

I remember going there as a little girl and loving it.  And it was a good zoo.  Not fabulous, but there were plenty of things for kids to do, including feed and pet the goats and sheep.  As I grew older I realized that the "zoo climate" so to speak, was changing.  There were less concrete and steel enclosures and more natural-looking habitats.  Well, TBZ started to join in this movement.

It seems that they (the zoo) have been gradually improving and modernizing the exhibits.  There is a new large cat exhibit slated to open soon and the new monkey exhibit is AMAZING!  One of the great things about TBZ is that it is perfect for little ones like Lilly (age 3) because you can see the whole zoo in one day.  We actually did not see everything on our last visit.  We saw a lot but she was getting tired and it was not worth pushing the envelope.  And because it is so close and relatively inexpensive, I don't mind not seeing everything all at once.

You do have to watch costs if you do not have a family membership.  The little things can add up:
1 adult $10.00
1 child $7.00
Pony ride $2.00
Carousel $2.00
Train ride FREE
1 hot dog $3.75
Tokens for animal feed $0.50
Bird stick $2.00 (I think.  We did not feed the birds.  And now I am singing the song from Mary Poppins.)

So as you can see, it could add up.  But it doesn't have to.  I meant to bring a sandwich but then forgot.
I did bring water and snacks with me.  I did not give in to the ice cream, picture by the train and countless other stands along the way.  That is a new feature since I have last been to the zoo.  My mom skills had to quickly adjust to the ice cream/hot pretzel/lemonade temptations.  :)  Distraction is such a key mom skill to have mastered!

I have no connection to the zoo other then wanting to see it succeed.  I personally love the zoo, any zoo, in the fall and in the spring.  Now is a great time to go because it is not roasting hot and there is often a nice cool breeze.  TBZ is tucked into the side of South Mountain Reservation and the foliage can be quite impressive.  I hope that we have less snow this winter because I think it would be fun to check it out then!  As another aside, the time before last we went to the zoo it was late afternoon and ALL the animals were out and about.  We also saw them being fed the time before last.  The docents and zoo keepers are all very willing to share information with anyone who wants it.
Red panda <3

Pony ride fun

the impressive white wolf

riding the wild animal carousel

gibbons swinging around

and the leaf changing has begun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

cultural awareness

Today I attended a workshop for master teachers on cultural awareness.  The point is for me to take the information and turnkey and also present professional development for the teachers in my district.  My now-retired co-worker who attended this training last year had very positive things to say about it and whatever she brought back always made me think.

To really think about cultural awareness we must first address our own prejudices and ideas about different cultures, stereotypes, etc.  I hear people say all the time that they do not have any prejudices.  I am sure I have said that at one time or another.  The reality is that it is just not true.  It is impossible for anyone to not have some kind of prejudice about a culture, religion, ethnicity, something.  It may even be something like thinking that Asian kids are so smart  which may seem positive.

Once we are aware of our own prejudices, then what?  I am not sure!  What would (will) I do?  Educate myself.  Talk to people who are of that culture.  Challenge myself to be open minded.  It might be a little uncomfortable.  And that is okay.  Growth and change is uncomfortable.

I'm not really sure why I decided to write about this today except that it really reminded me to examine my own thoughts and beliefs about other cultures.  During the summer I wrote a lot about SAHM stuff since that I was doing.  But during the school year I am a working momma and so work stuff is going to sneak in here sometimes.

I want to challenge you all to think about this.  Be honest with yourself.   Be uncomfortable.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mommy confession #578

Confession:  My daughter colored on the wall after her nap one day and I left it there.  I was quite adamant that it was not to happen again.  But I could not bring myself to wash off her mural.  I walked in and she said, "Mommy, I made a rainbow and my name."  This was about 6 months ago.  Maybe 3 months later she did add to it.  And I left that, too.  She loves sleeping under her pictures.  I love seeing them.

So what prompted this confession?  A friend of mine posted pictures of toddler destruction today that included powder covering the entire room.  It reminded me of all the little moments, that seemed like big moments at the time, when I would walk into: ointment on the stuffed piggy, tissues torn into little pieces, an entire box of wipes emptied, powder sprinkled everywhere and yes, murals on the wall.  And truthfully, those moments are some of my most favorite memories of Lilly.  I hope that I can continue to find the joy in those moments.  I mean, who can really resist a diaper ointment covered piggy bum?

Mural #2

Original mural

and the winner is...

I am so sorry I was absent from blogland this week.  So the winner of the My memories suite from the giveaway on my blog is....Coach Kate!  (I used

I want to thank everyone who read and especially those who commented on this post.  You are the best!

Don't forget, everyone really is a winner...For ALL my readers, My Memories is giving you a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!   Go to the My Memories website  and copy and paste this code: STMMMS81049

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Random and not-so-random acts of kindness

Today I found out that a person I know only virtually through our local message board, MOL, passed away.  She fought a long battle stemming from, of all things, a cat bite, then MRSA and then other (I think) issues that stemmed from all that.  She never spoke about her pain too much, but my understanding was also that she was in constant pain from a car accident years earlier.

On MOL she was always putting herself out there...lending a hand, an ear, money, dog toys and cat food.  She was a lover of animals and always helped out with stray cats, lost pets and dogs that needed rescuing when possible.  How fitting that she passed away on the day before the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which is a day often used for the blessing of animals.

I never had the opportunity to meet "Just the Aunt" or JTA, as she was known, mostly because I do not attend face-to-face events.  But she did (put herself out there) and almost always it was because she was doing something kind for someone else.

I have been having a very difficult few weeks.  I have not wanted to be kind to people and have in fact probably been on the bitchy side.  This week, in her honor, I will be making a concerted effort to be kinder.  I will look to perform random and not-so-random acts of kindness.  Thank you JTA for reminding me to be kind and thoughtful.  You will always be remembered for what you did in and for our little community.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

rainy day = homemade playdough

Today promised to be a rainy day so our plans to meet our friends at the park had to be modified.  My friend Colleen and I decided to bring the kids to the diner for an early lunch.  You might be thinking that we are crazy, and when I saw the line at the diner door I truly believed we were.  Luckily I was able to get in rather quickly and the owner of the Parkwood Diner sat us in the very back.  Smart man.

One of my tried and true techniques for keeping Lilly occupied when we are at a restaurant is to bring playdoh for us to use.  I realized about an hour before our meeting time that we were fresh out of playdoh.    This is when being a preschool teacher has its advantages.  I pulled up my recipe for playdough and in about 15 minutes from start to finish we had enough playdough for three kids.

Here is the recipe I used.  I will put my notes in italics.

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water (I used pretty hot water.)
1 cup salt (I think I used a little too much salt because it was a bit more gritty than usual.  Lilly was helping measure so it was not exact.)
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP cream of tartar
food coloring  (I only had gel food coloring and it was hard to work into the dough.  The liquid is best.)
flavor extracts (I didn't have any so I didn't use any!) 

Mix all the ingredients in a medium pot and stir over low heat.  (I had mine a bit high because I forgot and didn't have the instructions in front of me.  It still came out okay.)  Keep cooking and stirring until it pulls away from the pot and starts to look and feel like playdough.  Put it onto a clean surface (I used my silpat.) and when it is cool enough knead the dough until it is smooth.  I divided the dough into four and made a little divet in each pile before adding food coloring.  If you are worried about staining your hands then use gloves or even wrap it in plastic wrap and knead it in there.  (With my students I used to put it in a ziplock, take the air out and let them squish away.)  

Store in airtight containers or ziplock bags.

This is a very forgiving recipe.  If it is too sticky, cook it longer.  If it starts to dry out, add a few drops of water and work it in.  If it's too wet, cook it a little bit.  I let Lilly help me and she was as thrilled to help me make the playdough as she was to play with it.  And just think of all the math and science your little ones will be learning without even realizing it!