Thursday, December 27, 2012

Preserving memories

I love taking pictures and I take lots of them.  Lilly has probably had millions of pictures taken of her over the years.  It is so easy to do what with digital cameras, smartphones, and cameras on the laptop.  What I am not good about doing is printing those pictures.  Really, I am rather terrible about it.

I did start making photobooks of each year, though.  Just in time for her 2nd birthday I finished the book of birth-1st birthday.  I had kind of completed her "Age 1" book by the time she reached her 4th  birthday but I didn't have the money to buy it.  So now that it is the holidays and Shutterfly has all sorts of deals going on, I finally finished it.  I think it looks great but check it out for yourself!


Now I just have to get started on Age 2 and Age 3....
Shutterfly photo books offer a variety of layouts and cover options to choose from.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

This year I have so much for which to be thankful.  Since last Thanksgiving so much has happened and a lot of it had me in a doubtful state.  It was a hard, hard year.  Someone once told me that hard was not bad, it was just hard.  I disagree.  Sometimes hard is bad.  The good may come of the bad, but the bad is still bad.  I knew I would come through it, but I was not sure where I would land.

In the past several weeks I have been really trying to welcome and be open for the blessings that were coming into my life.  It can be really hard to accept blessings and good things when life has been so challenging.  I was questioning, thinking I did not deserve these wonderful things to happen to me and mine.  But, of course I am deserving of blessings and good things.

Here are some things for which I am thankful, in no particular order.

#1. Lilly's seizure testing last December did not show epilepsy.  While we know that it does not mean it will not develop, I can breath a little deeper knowing my baby is okay.

#2. Vinnie's new job. Hallelujah!  After nearly two and half years without being able to find a job, countless interviews, and probably thousands of sent resumes, Vin has a job.  We are all so grateful.

#3.  My family and friends who have held me up and together over the past year.  There were more than a few moments when I had to lean on others.  Sometimes it was emotional support and sometimes it was a ride to and from work.  It was humbling for me, but in a good way.  I learned that being strong sometimes means asking for and accepting help.

#4.  Nanny is at peace.  Of course I do not mean that I am glad that Nanny is no longer with me here on this earth.  I miss her terribly.  But I know that she was in pain in her last several weeks/months/etc before her death.

#5.  My therapist.  Yeah, I said it.  I have a therapist.  I love her.  I know so many people who have had to try out a few before they found someone with whom they had a good connection.  I was lucky to find her on the first try.  She continues to help me handle my grief, my challenges, and my blessings.

#6.  My furbabies.  This year we gained one furbaby and I recently lost one of my boys.  Losing him has been so, so hard.  But I would not give up the past 12.5 years for anything.

#7.  My summer job at Camp Riverbend.  I loved working there this summer. I love the family who owns and runs it.  I loved watching Lilly thrive and grow over those 7 weeks.

#8.  My mom.  My mom very recently, as in my first day of school, had open heart surgery.  I know it is the hardest thing she has done and she is still recuperating from it.  It was lifesaving for her and without it she may not be here today.

Well, I think that about does it for now.  If I keep writing I will keep thinking of more things for which I am thankful.

Oh, and don't forget to check out my cooking blog for some yummy Thanksgiving recipes!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

RIP Mr. Hobbes March 2000-November 2012

We had to put my poor kitty, Mr. Hobbes, to sleep today.  It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as an adult.  He was a very sick kitty, most likely lymphoma.  Neurologically, he was not right.  He had been having some behavior changes over the past month or so, but I attributed them to the dog.  Hobbes was the alpha animal in my furry household of 3, including Blue, our american staffordshire terrier.  I thought that maybe Hobbes and Blue had gotten into a tiff when we were out one day and that was why Hobbes was hanging out in the basement.  Maybe his head honcho status was changing.  His litter box is there, along with food and water, so it is comfy down there.  He still came up when I called him and he was eating and drinking.  It's hard to gauge just how much an animal is eating and drinking when you have three of them, and any water bowl is fair game for any animal.

Right before the Hurricane was due to arrive he was not coming upstairs as much.  He ate and drank in front of me and the litter box had normal "stuff" so I figured he was sensing the storm arriving.  We went to my in-laws for a few days when we had no power.  When we came back Sunday, the changes in Mr. Hobbes were very apparent.  He was declining before my very eyes.  It was almost like he waited for us to come home.  He got himself onto the couch and did not move all night long.  I took him in 1st thing Monday morning.  We did blood tests which showed elevated levels that generally mean lymphoma.  To get a definitive diagnosis would have been a lot more money.  And truthfully, he was so far gone that any treatment would not give him, or us, much more.  He perked up when we went in to say good bye last night, so the vet said we could try mega doses of steroids.  He seemed to be responding to them but through today he declined even more than the day before.  His breathing was getting shallow.  

Vinnie went to sign the paperwork and then to be with him when he was euthanized.  I really wanted to be there for my baby boy, but I was beside myself.  I did not want to upset him, either, by my anxiety.  He has always been sensitive to my emotions.  He and Calvin were just like that with me...always in tune to me, sleeping next to me and comforting me during every major break-up or life event in my adult life.  So Vinnie went, so that he was not alone.  It was a kindness to him and to me, to know that my husband was there with him.  Hobbes responded a bit to him when he was speaking to him, but he was not the same kitty.  He died peacefully.  I wish I felt the same.  Lilly is just undone.  She was sobbing out loud tonight.  And then she stops and asks for a kitten in the next breath....to be 4 again.  His brother (they were litter mates) seems a little lost right now.  He slept with me last night.  I have not allowed that in about 8 years.  I felt like he needed it last night, and he curled right up with me.  Maybe he will start sleeping with Blue.

Mr. Hobbes's vet, Dr. Knight of South Orange Animal Hospital, was kind and compassionate.  She told us that we were making the right decision and that she would have done the same.  I thank her from the bottom of my heart.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from over the years.  Their kitten pictures are not digital, yet, so they are not on here.
They almost always slept together like this.

Or like this, hugging...

He was not sure what to make of this kicking, squealing baby.


But they became fast friends.

He would stay by her side.


He let Lilly feed him.  



He let her cover him, and give him check-ups.


He wore royal necklaces and pretended to be Princess Hobbes. 


He kept my books and paperwork warm.

Mr. Hobbes, a piece of me is missing tonight.  Your paw print is forever in my heart, and of all those who knew you.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

****Sandy****

My Jersey Shore

I put off writing about this.  The truth is, I have not been emotionally able to do so.  I have been in a state of disbelief and sorrow.

How I wish that Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy was the flop that people were saying it would be.  How I wish that I never got to witness the greatest storm of my lifetime, maybe my daughter's lifetime.  I never, ever thought that I would be witness to such devastation in my home state.  There have been storms, sure, that have knocked down trees and power lines.  But nothing even rivals the destruction that Sandy brought with her.

Sandy has re-shaped the Jersey coastline.  The Jersey shore, as I know it, will never be the same.  My childhood memories were created in the sand and waves of  the Jersey Shore.  Ocean City, Avon-by-the-Sea, Ocean Grove, Seven Presidents, and Long Beach Island, to name a few, were all beaches I frequented.  My grandparents lived near Ocean City, NJ and so many a day I was covered head to toe in sand and spent hours at a time in the waves.  On hot summer days my mom would pack us up and we would drive down to spend the day on the beach, often meeting friends there.  I spent many, many wonderful times in Avalon with my aunts, uncles and cousins.  I vacationed on LBI, pretending I was Ariel, singing "Part of this world" as I floated on a boogie board.

Introducing Lilly to the shore has been one of the greatest pleasures of motherhood to me.  I have pictures of Lilly each summer down the shore and they are some of my favorites of her.  Seeing Lilly get as much pleasure from the sand and waves as I did makes my heart happy.  Here are some of posts about the Jersey Shore.  2012  2011  2011 #2 I am not sure this wil work, but this is a link to my facebook album from Lilly's trip to Aunt Cathy's house.  Let me know in the comments if it doesn't!

August 2012, Normandy Beach


Leading up to and through the storm I was able to follow what was going on through my local message board MaplewoodOnline.  Now it is a source of hope and resources as we were without power and for gas and food.  (I used my phone.)  I am immensely proud of my hometowns of Maplewood and South Orange.  Local businesses have been donating food, coffee, warmth, electricity to charge phones  and perhaps most importantly, community.  My salon was washing the hair of people who had no electricity (ergo, hot water) free of charge.  The owner of the local deli (my old neighbor) has stated that people who are hungry but have no money just need to ask for him and he would take care of them.  The local churches have opened their doors for warmth and food.

Janice and Lilly 
Jane's beautiful house
I have stayed many days with my friend Jane in Normandy Beach at her beach bungalow, which she then rebuilt into her full time residence.  I am not sure how Jane's house is.  Her area, in particular, was hit severely.   I also spent time with my friend Janice at her beautiful house, only a few blocks from Jane's, in Mantoloking.  She and her husband retired last year from my school district.  On Tuesday she posted on Facebook that the Hoboken Little League field house cafe was open and serving food.  And her beautiful shore house....gone.  It was one of the houses that exploded because the gas lines were not turned off right away.  In the midst of her own personal tragedy, she was helping others.  
The view from the bay, by Janice's house.
If you don't know, I am a teacher in Hoboken.  Hoboken was completely flooded during this storm due to the storm surge.  It is still drying out.  School is closed through Tuesday, hoping to open by Wednesday.  There are many residents, including  some students and co-workers who have lost everything.  Our school buildings have been turned into shelters.  The train station was under water.  I don't think I could get there if I tried, right now.  
The streets of Hoboken


As for me and my family, we got out of the storm with power outages, a fridge full of spoiled food, and trouble getting gas.  My father-in-law met us on the highway with a can of gas.  We coasted on fumes into a gas station in Pennsylvania.  We have been staying with my in-laws in the Poconos so that we can avoid the choas of my area.  Stores are without food; gas lines are 3-4 hours long; tempers are flaring.  We are going home today.  Vin starts his new job tomorrow.  I have to figure out how I will get to work on Wednesday.  But my power is back and I can buy new food.  We will be fine.  

As for the Jersey Shore, I am not sure what is going to happen.  My whole state is a mess right now...power still out in many places, gas rationing, curfews.  I am not going to post pictures of the destruction.  If you want to see them, go here or here.  I spoke (via text) to my Godfather who is a minister at a church down near Long Beach Island.  His church King of Kings has opened their doors as a shelter.  I asked him if I could bring him donations of clothes, etc.  He said right now the emotional giving is happening, but the real needs will show in the next few weeks.  Peoples' lives were forever changed by this event.  But I know that we are not only strong, we are Jersey Strong!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Swinging yourself, higher and higher


Lilly has loved being in the swing since she was a baby.  I could push her in her baby swing in the backyard for hours.  Going to the park could be torture because all she wanted was to be pushed in the swing...the entire time.  

For the past year or so I have been trying to teach Lilly to pump her legs so that she could swing herself.  It wasn't working.  Last summer I figured she was just too young and I would just teach her next summer.  Well, this summer came and all summer long I came up with all different ways to teach Lilly to pump her legs.  All summer long she refused to learn.  I knew she was able to at this point, but she just wanted me to push her.  Toward the end of August she was trying to pump her legs, at my insistence, sometimes.  We would compromise.  I would push her for 10 pushes and then she had to try and pump for a few minutes and I would push her again at the end.

I don't know what the trigger was or what connection she made, but one day, she got it.  Right there, in front of my eyes I saw it click and she started pumping her legs.  And when I asked her if she wanted me to push her she said, "No thanks Mom."  Oh, did my heart almost break in half.  After all the times I complained about having to push her, now I was not needed to do so.

We have a swingset in the backyard and there is barely a day when Lilly does not go out, even just for a few minutes, to swing.  She soars higher and higher, it seems, each time.  When I watch her I am filled with pride in what she can do.

Learning how to swing is a metaphor for so many things in life.  How many times have I been afraid to do something.  Nervous, hesitant, not confident.  And then when I do the task, fully, not half-assed, I can really be successful.  I was so afraid to start graduate school.  I was not smart enough.  I did not know what I wanted to study.  What if I failed.  I was given many nudges along the way to get started.  I finally started back in 2006.  I didn't fail.  Not in the least.  I aced graduate school.  I soared.

the blur that is Lilly
Sometimes I have to remember the things I have accomplished so that I can have the confidence to move on in the next chapter in my life.  I am not sure what that entails yet, or when it will start.  But I hope I can remember Lilly pumping her little legs as hard as she can and soaring above the grass and laughing with pure joy.


Singing at the top of her lungs

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recreation

A wise relative recently reminded me that I needed to take time for myself, even for 5 minutes.  "The point of recreation (i.e., 'play' and playtime) is to literally "re-create" yourself--that is, re-energize and rebuild and reconstruct." (Thanks UP) And if you go to the link, you will see that Webster's agrees with him, naturally.  I have been ruminating about this since I read it.  I know that I need time for myself.  Like, I know it in my head.  I even give this advice to others.  I need to do this for myself.  But I usually think that I need a large chunk of time for myself, which frankly, is impossible.  So I started thinking about the things I do that help me re-energize.  How can I make more time for myself for the things I like to do?  

Walking has always beens my "me" time.  I need to and will make more time to do this, as my feet feel better.  That is not a quick 5 minutes but I have been making it more of a priority.  I would love to take a yoga class somewhere, but since that is not a feasible option right now, I can do a dvd.  Again, not a quick 5 minutes, but I don't have to leave the house.  I try to check in once a day on my Lose It forums so that I can keep myself motivated and accountable.  But what else can I do that would be considered recreation?  

I am slightly completely obsessed with Pinterest. I love cooking and baking and I totally love being crafty.  Homemade Pumpkin Creamer?  Yes please!  Pumpkin Crunch cake? Delicious! Cupcakes that look like witch hats?  I am so on that!  Do you detect the autumnal theme here?  My time on Pinterest is often spent looking at things that are knit, crocheted or quilted.  I have been practicing my knitting some.  My MIL taught me the basics but I have not graduated to a pattern yet.  I have a feeling I will turn back to crocheting.  Add the 2nd needle and I start getting so confused.   I have lots of wonderful Christmas gift ideas for my nieces and nephews now and I am itching to start sewing again.

What is my point?  I realized that sometimes I am doing activities that re-energize and re-charge me.   Maybe I just need to recognize them as such.  Spending time on Pinterest with my evening cup of tea could sometimes feel like a waste of time.  Perhaps  in labeling my Pinterest-ing and resultant baking as "me" time will help me actually do it without feeling guilty and not put it off for something that is NOT re-energizing.  Like scrubbing the bathroom.  Unless of course I have made homemade bathroom cleanser. (It works, by the way.)  Maybe I need to look at things I do in a different light.  After all, if I looked at walking the dog as a chore it certainly would be one.  But I look at it as more me-time, and so I enjoy it.

For this upcoming week I hope that we can all do this:  put at least 5 minutes aside each day, just for you.  Unplug.  Unwind.  Re-energize.  Re-create yourself.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Heading in the right direction...DOWN!

It has been more than a month since my last update on my weight loss journey.  I am still using the Lose It app and website, so that is where my updates occur more frequently.

Since mid-June:
I lost 22.8 pounds.
BMI went down 2.9 points which means I went down a class of obesity.

In my last post about this (see last update, above) I spoke about the stages of obesity.  Sadly, the previous link I had used to show this is no longer working.  Even sadder?  The CDC website has no information about the stages of obesity.  I am glad that I have been demoted, so to speak, to a lower stage.  I still have a long way to go.  My weight loss in September has been slower than I would have liked.  Considering I have gained in September, historically speaking, I am grateful for the losses I have seen.  I lost 3.4 pounds this month.  I could have gained; I could have stayed the same.  I lost!  Even with a plantar fasciitis/heel spur flare-up.  (ouch)  Oh, and I have had some very serious life events happening that also would have sent me to the bakery/fridge/you-name-it in the past.

I am changing my eating patterns.  I am changing how I view food.  I am changing my emotional response patterns.  I am showing myself respect and love by doing so.  See?  It all ties together!

Love Yourself

No, not in that way!  Well, maybe in that way.  ;-)

On a serious note, next week is the Week of Respect in NJ's schools.  We are taking the time to teach intentional, age-appropriate lessons to all students in grades K-12 about respect and preventing harassment and bullying.  We are teaching students to be assertive in appropriate ways.  My school's anti-bullying specialist also happens to be a good friend of mine.  She sent this to some of us today as a reminder that we need to love ourselves.  I loved it so much that I am sharing it here with you.  Really, we all know that we need to love and respect ourselves first  but that does not mean we all do it.

Enjoy!  And do something kind for yourself this weekend.

As we soon begin the WEEK OF RESPECT, here are some ideas to remind us
to love and show respect towards ourselves.....

31 Acts of Kindness for Ourselves


Smile at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful
Bubble bath with candles, music, etc.
Make an appointment for a professional haircut
Lock the bathroom door and take a private bathroom break
Get some real chocolate
Plan a special family activity that you know you’ll all enjoy
Do yoga or meditate
Visit someplace that you enjoy (aquarium, etc.)
Spend some quality time alone – read, drink tea, etc.
Buy yourself a special treat (magazine subscription, new shirt, etc.)
Get a manicure, pedicure, massage, etc.
Make a date with a friend
Rent or attend a movie by yourself
Eat healthier
Find some pictures that make you smile, frame them, and put them up on
the walls
Make a list of things you like about yourself
Start that new hobby you’ve been thinking about
Clean out that area of the house that’s been bothering you – and ask
your family to help
Look at the area of your home or work where you spend the most time.
Do something to that area to make you smile (clean, add a picture,
rearrange, etc.)
Start a journal
Finish a project you’ve been putting off
Sign up for a class that interests you
Pay someone to do a task you usually do (file taxes, clean the house, etc.)
Organize an area of life to make your days simpler (your calendar,
homeschooling room, bills, etc.)
Make your favorite meal with your child or partner
Connect with an old friend
Forgive yourself
Tour or visit a site that you’ve been curious about
Try a new food
Make something for yourself
Take time to get extra cuddles and kisses

Sunday, September 23, 2012

1st Day of the Last Year of Preschool

This is a belated post but I just uploaded my pictures.  I hate misplacing my camera wire!

Honestly, I know that every parent says this, but how on EARTH did my baby get to already be in her last year of preschool????  If I think about how fast it is going I might just throw up.  No...really.  I have loved every age so far, but I keenly feel the loss of each previous stage as well.  I remember sobbing as I had to put away the first clothes she grew out of those first couple months.  And now my baby girl wears a size 6!  Due to my background, I am acutely aware of what it means when your child is not moving forward in his or her development.  I appreciate every thing, even the chattiness and precociousness of my Lilly.  I know that she is a very special little girl, in more ways than one.  I am blessed and honored to be given the gift of raising her.  Have a great year in preschool Lilly Bernadette!





Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award

I apologize friends, for not posting recently.  Life has been a bit hectic, what with the beginning of school and some other life-happenings.  I miss writing, however, so I am going to try to be a bit more organized so that I can blog more often.  I follow a lot of blogs and I have continued to read them daily.

Imagine my very pleasant surprise when my friend from middle school, Jen mentioned me in her blog.  Jen writes a blog about her beading and art, life in the Adirondacks, and raising her gorgeous little boy.  I love reading it and adore her jewelry!  She was nominated by one of her bead artist peers for the One Lovely Blog Award.  She had to do a few things in return, including nominate other bloggers she admires.  I am not a bead blog, but she gave me a nomination anyway!  Thanks Jen!  This is what she said:

12. The Mommy Chronicles. Now, I know that this last one isn't a beading blog, but it's a blog by a friend of mine that I've known since middle school, and I love it. Melanie is a thoughtful parent trying to raise a thoughtful little girl. And that's it! Melanie lives her life with compassion, and I greatly admire her for this. It's a good blog.

This thrilled me because this is one of the ultimate goals in my life: to live my life with compassion and to teach my daughter to do the same.  Again, I am honored and humbled that my blog is even being read by others.


There are some rules behind this award.  In return for the award, I am asked to do the following:
1. Thank the nominator and link back to them in the post.
2. Share 7 random facts about myself.
3. Nominate 15 (or so) bloggers that I admire.
4. Contact them to let them know that they've been nominated.

Here we go!

7 Random Facts

1. I was 5'10" in 6th grade.  This was not a fun thing.  I was teased and bullied mercilessly.  My self-esteem is still recovering and I work very hard at it.

2. I was a philosophy major in college, with an interest in epistemology, the study of knowledge.  hmmm...  Is it really that surprising that I eventually became a teacher?

3.  I love to bake and cook.  Most people know this, but it really became an integral part of my life this past summer when I worked at a summer camp teaching cooking to the children.

4. I have a pit bull we adopted from our local no-kill shelter.  Her name is Blue and she is the newest love of my life.

5. I am good at home repairs.  My husband probably doesn't like to admit it, but I am really good at (not to mention enjoy) home repairs.  Replacing chains in the toilet, building IKEA book shelves, you name it.

6.  There is an artist inside me itching to get out.  I have dabbled in many forms of art, including water color.  Mostly I like crafty arts like quilting and cross stitch.

7.  I abhor mushrooms.  Seriously, I passionately hate mushrooms.  And DO NOT try to sneak one in.  I'll know.

My Nominees
1. Lisa Loves Life Lessons  I was in college with Lisa (taking philosophy classes together!) many moons ago.  Her blog is genuine and inspiring and she blogs daily.

2. Joy Yagid Photography  Joy photographed my wedding and has also done portraits of my daughter.  She has been participating in the 366 Days of Pix and I look forward to her pictures every evening.

3. Movin' Right Along  sigh...What do you say about a blog written by a mom of 2 daughters fighting cancer?  It is honest and funny and makes me cry.  Sometimes out loud.  Oh, and her mom taught me to quilt.  Happy coincidences abound.

4.  Baker's B.Y.O.D. --Bring your Device, Dog and Deconstruction of Literature  Kate is a high school teacher and a fellow MSU alum.  We were in the Honors program together, which will not surprise you when you read her blog.  She is full of great ideas that make me wish I worked in her district.  It is very education-specific, but I wanted to show her some blog love.

5. Momastery Glennon is an amazing blogger who really is not a small fish in the blogging pond anymore.  She is the real deal but I had to nominate her anyway.  Her blog is real and raw and lovely.  She does not hide.  She helps others.  I wish she was a friend who lived down the street, so that I could have a cup of coffee with her.

I only have 5 nominees for now.  I may have more later, but it is encroaching upon the midnight hour.  I have been averaging 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night.  I need more.

Thank you to whomever created this award.  It has made me really think and consider why I read other blogs and what they bring to my life.  They all bring something different and I appreciate all of it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I will never forget.

I wrote this last year, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Today, I did not watch tv, did not listen to the reading of the names.  I went to work.  I wish that I was able to take the time to reflect like I have been able to in years past.  I think it is time for 9/11 to be a day off so that we have that time for reflection.  I remember only a few years ago that I was still crying non-stop on this terrible anniversary.

I was feeling disappointed in myself for not making the time to go see the towers of light or visit a memorial.  I was thinking this as I sat waiting in Lilly's dance class.  I realized in that moment, watching Lilly "learn her 3s" that I was honoring those who are no longer here to do this with their little ones, or who maybe were never able to be a parent because they were taken too soon.   In the days following 9/11, I attended several benefits sponsored by Irish American Societies, e.g. The Emerald Society.  I saw lots of Irish step dancing, heard many bagpipes.  It seemed fitting that Lilly started Irish step dance class today.

So today I worked; I brought Lilly to her 1st Irish step dance class.  I hugged my family.  Please hug yours.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Curveballs and Compassion


Just when I think my life is coming along and maybe getting to the point where I am feeling good about  what is going on, life throws me a curveball.  I was going to use another phrase that has profanity in it, and it's not that I don't mind a good curse; I just changed my mind.  But click on the link to see the urban dictionary definitions of that other.  It made me smile, maybe even chuckle.

It is not a story that I can tell at this time, or maybe ever.  It is not mine to tell, yet it has affected me deeply.  If I don't write anything funny or witty or anything even for a little while, this is why.

I will keep plugging along and do what I need to do.  Now, maybe more than ever, that means taking care of myself first so that I can take care of the others in my life.

On another totally different note, a blog I follow, Momastery, had a recent back-to-school post.  As a teacher and a mother, I loved this post and this letter.  I totally plan on using it myself, both appropriately abbreviated now for my preschooler, and as is, with name changes, as Lilly gets older.  It is about compassion.  Please read it.  Use it with your children.  Use it as a reminder to yourself.

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that We Belong to Each Other.” 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy New Year! (kind of)

I bet if you ask every teacher you know, most would say that they consider September to be their New Year.  If you are not a teacher, do me a favor and close your eyes and think back to when you were a student.  Do you remember that feeling of excitement and new revitalized energy?  The knowledge that this was your year?  That is how I feel every September.  How lucky am I?  I love the feeling of a fresh start.


I always think of the movie You've Got Mail at the point when Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that he would send her a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.  I have a fond memory of getting brand new pencils and the pencil case.  And the Trapper Keeper!  My favorite had kittens on it.

But there is also a nervousness, a bit of anxiety even, about how everything is going to work out in the upcoming year.  There are always changes and part of being a good teacher is going with the flow.  This year I will not be working with my friend Julie anymore and that makes me so sad.  She is an amazing school social worker and friend and I was honored to work with her for 2 years.  Her new district is lucky to have her.  Also one of my team members is expecting her 2nd baby and I am so excited for her!  But I also know that means we have to ramp up our work to get it all done and get into those classrooms.

If you follow my blog you probably realized that I had a tough year last year.  If you know me IRL you know just how tough that year was.  I really wanted my home life to not interfere with my work life but is that realistic?  I was out for 3 days when Lilly had her EEG testing.  I was out for a few sporadic days when Nanny was getting sicker.  I was out for a week when she died.  You can see why the teachers saw less of me than I or they wanted.  I still think that I did a good job.  I just want to do even better this year!

Getting back to my New Year theme, I decided this year to really make some resolutions this September.  I actually don't like the word resolutions, because it always sounds like something that will be broken.  Maybe I should say that I made some decisions about how I am going to conduct and live my life during the school year.  Being that I am entering my 3rd year in my position at work I now know some things I need to do to be successful.  I have also been living a healthier lifestyle, so that necessitates change to my daily work routine as well.

Make and bring lunch every day
You might think this is a no-brainer and it often was.  But it needs to become an everyday routine, not a  "Wow I have enough leftovers" kind of thing.  I really believe that bringing my lunch every day to camp helped me lose weight and I want/need that trend to continue!

Prepare (wash and iron) outfits on the weekend
Again, you might think nothing of this.  I did well in the beginning of last school year but that went out the window by the end of October.  Nothing stresses me out more than trying to pick out an outfit at 6:00am.  Well, maybe trying to get Lilly to pick out an outfit at 6am is more stressful, but you know what I mean.

Get enough sleep
I have to be at work earlier this year due to contract changes.  I cannot be late.  I must go to bed on time so that I can get up on time and get my butt out the door.  Besides, I just need more sleep!  This leads me to...

I need to walk in the mornings before work
I always have wonderful intentions to exercise when I get home from work.  Or after Lilly is asleep.  This year I am trying to get more early intervention clients, which would get me home later.  After Lilly is asleep I tend to just sit on the couch.  And play silly facebook games.  I don't exercise.  Plus my dog needs a lot of regular exercise.  This is in line with the getting enough sleep issue.  I need to go to bed earlier so that I can get up early enough to walk in the mornings.  I would love to get some yoga in, too.  Maybe I can alternate mornings....yoga or walking.

Be organized in general
There is a lot of paperwork involved with my position.  There is a lot I need to do to remain accountable to my boss, the superintendent, and the state.  I also need to stay organized at home so that I can follow through with all the above resolutions.  I am creating a schedule for myself and my family for cleaning, grocery shopping and even cooking.  I want to cook or prepare meals on the weekends so that I always have food ready to go for dinner.  I want to live in a clean, organized home.  We can do this!

I know that it may seem like a lot, but the truth is that I have been doing a lot of this already.  I just need  to be consistent and follow through once the school year begins.  Sometimes that can seem so overwhelming that I lose my routines.   But I know that routines in the face of transitions and change are when they are most important.

I feel blessed to get this fresh start every September!  What are your New (School) Year resolutions?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jersey girls have sand between their toes

I used to have a sweatshirt that said that but it got a terrible stain.  I think I need a new one.  I feel so at home down the shore, to the point that I would consider moving down there.  Last week Lilly and I had lots of girl time with friends and 2 of those days were down the shore.  I think it is safe to say that Lily is as Jersey girl as they come.

First we went to see my friend Janice.  We also saw my friend Giselle and her baby Matty.  We stayed to see the sunset on the bay.  There is probably nothing more magical and centering to me than watching a beautiful sunset over the water.



















 Two days later we went back down (to only a few blocks away from Janice) to see my friend Jane and her daughter and grandchildren.  There was hardly a minute that the children were still.  Lilly slept so well that night!








If you are my facebook friend then you have seen these pictures already.  There is just no better way for me to express how much I love the shore.  I hope everyone had some relaxing days this summer!










Friday, August 17, 2012

More on weight loss...

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on weight loss.  Later that afternoon I happened to catch 15 minutes of Dr. Oz.  It was the episode about kicking your carb addiction.  He had on the stage three women who had all struggled with weight loss and carb addiction.  He showed them the fat that surrounds our organs and what a healthy and and an unhealthy pancreas looks like.  Dr. Oz then told them about a 28 day plan to kick the carb habit.  Seeing the organs and actual fat motivated me that much more to continue losing this weight.  It also helped me appreciate what I have done so far.

On another part of the weight loss spectrum I saw an article (of sorts) on iVillage entitled Why I Quit Dieting!  I say another part of the spectrum and not the opposite end because these women were not against losing weight, just against dieting.  I totally get that.  I need to make life changes, not quick fixes.

Reading about the journeys of the featured women led me to the website Health At Every Size.  I do agree with the movement's standpoint.  If you take their pledge, this is what you agree to:  Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.  Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.  Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.

I agree with all of that, for sure.  I also believe that I need to see cold, hard facts sometimes.  I was reading another article linked from the Dr. Oz show page about Treating Morbid Obesity through gastric bypass.  I am not going into that whole issue, but it did have some interesting information about the stages of obesity linked to BMI.  I copied the pertinent paragraphs below:


At this point, you have to ask what do the numbers mean? You are underweight if your BMI is less than 18.5. You are normal weight if your BMI is 18.5-24.9. You are overweight if your BMI is 25-29.9. You are obese if your BMI is over 30. Now, it does not end there.

All obesity is not created equal. There are different levels or stages of obesity. Stage I is 30-34.9, Stage II is 35-39.9 and Stage III is 40-49.9, and a BMI of 50 or greater is considered to be super obese. To put this in context, there is an obesity elevator and each stage is a new floor. An alarm bell should ring as you go up each floor to warn you that you are in danger. The higher the floor, the higher the stage, and the more your life is in danger.


I don't know about you, but I had never heard of those stages of obesity.  It was actually very helpful for me to see this.  Even when I was thinner I was considered overweight, BMI-wise.  I have been considered obese medically-speaking for ages.  It was rather easy for me to just see the obese label and not think about how obese.  I went to a website to calculate both my BMI before I lost the 15 pounds and now.  I have reduced my BMI by 2.1in 8 weeks.  That is awesome news!   I need to see those numbers.  I need that dose of reality.

Using the Lose It! app is necessary for me right now.  I know how to eat healthily.  I know what to eat and what a portion is.  But I was not doing it.  It is like any habit...once you get out of a good habit, it is hard to get back into it.  Bad habits are easy to stick to!  :)  I was not choosing the correct foods to fuel my body.  I was eating a lot of food but I had no energy.

What is my point after all this?  We all do what we need to do.  I am doing what I need to do.  I am so appreciative of the support I receive from everyone.  I am remembering to not judge foods.  Chocolate cake is not bad and salads are not good.  They are foods with different nutritional values.  I know that there will be days when I am in the mood for grilled chicken over salad and there will be days when I want chocolate chip cookies.  All of it is okay.  Only I can decide what is okay for me.

p.s  There is a an option to be "friends" on Lose it.  I don't really know what that entails but let me know if you are interested!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just Lose It!!!

I entered the summer with a expectations that were just a tad unrealistic.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could lose 30 pounds.  Give or take.  Yes, I know, you are all shaking your head right about now.  I am smh at myself.   I just found out that smh = shaking my head.  Had to use it.  :)   The thing is, I had never really voiced those expectations.  I am sure if I had someone would have laughed corrected me.  I was not really saying anything to anyone because, well, I did not want to fail.  I hate failing, maybe more than anything.  How silly of me...I don't want to fail but I set expectations that would have been impossible to meet.  But I had mentioned to a few people that I wanted to take the opportunity of working in a structured, busy environment to start anew on my weight loss journey.

So the results are in...I lost 15 pounds from the beginning of camp.  Yay!!!  I ate healthier than I had been, was working outside and on my feet in the heat for 8 hours a day and walked a good bit.  So now here is where the real work is going to begin for me.  I am home for the next 3 weeks before the school year begins again.  I have lots of time to snack.  I am not sweating on my feet for 8 hours a day.  If I am hungry, there is food in my house, unlike camp where I brought my lunch and any snacks.  Even though I was cooking all day and even tasting small bites many times through the day, I did not eat what I was cooking all that much.

I know I have to move.  That is always a big part of weight loss for me.  I also know that I need to pack and bring my lunch to work.  I found a few lunches that worked for me this summer.  it can be a little boring, but I think that's actually a good thing for weight loss.

The big change I have made since I am home now is that I am diligently tracking all my food and exercise.  I had used this app before but then this summer it was more difficult because we were not allowed to use our cell phones during camp.  Plus I was taking lots of "tastes" but not full servings, so it was challenging.  The app I am using is Lose It.  I find that it is easy to use and I love that I can scan foods.  I have also put in some of my "usuals" in the recipe section so that instead of adding my coffee, cream and sugar separately I can just add my coffee for which I already measured and calculated everything.  Additionally, when I scan in, say 2 chocolate chip cookies, and I see that I just ate 160 calories, I am less inclined to grab a few more.  A cup of grapes for 62 calories versus 2 cookies for 160.  There is a reason why the author of the "Eat This Not That" cookbooks is doing so well.  I just needed to see it for myself.

Along with using the app I am measuring most things again.  Years and years ago I lost a lot of weight by measuring and writing it all down.  That is how I will do it again.  I know it might take me a long time and I might even have setbacks here and there.  That is just being realistic, and I really don't want to trick my mind into thinking I can lose all the weight by Christmas.  It's just not going to happen!

I know beyond a doubt, that this is a journey.  And I also know I have to be patient with myself and have realistic expectations.  And also, like a journey, there are twists and turns, valleys and mountains but I just have to continue along.

One more note... Whenever I am tempted to think that 15 pounds is nothing compared to what I need to lose, I remember what my BFF Michelle told me another time I was on WW.  I think of a 5 lb bag of sugar, even pick one up next time I am in the grocery store.  It's heavy!  That is a lot of weight that is no longer surrounding my organs!




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Camp is over for the season

Lilly the mermaid


 The last day of camp was a stormy one.  There had been a few rainy days over the 7 weeks, but none as crazy as this one.  There were rivers of mud passing by my cabin.  The annual last day cookout was smack in the middle of the heaviest rain, so the campers ate in their cabins or other rainy day locations.  It was a bit hectic, to say the least!  But in true camp fashion, everyone made the best of it.
My view outside one part of my cabin.



It stopped storming in time for the closing bonfire, which I missed because I was cleaning up my kitchen for the winter.  There is a bittersweetness to the last day of camp.  We were all, counselors and campers alike I think, ready for a break, because it is hard work and tiring.  But then I was thinking of how much fun I had, the people I met, the campers I got to know and how much I learned this summer and it did make me a bit sad that camp is now over.  I am planning on going back next summer, though, so I will have a chance to do it all over again!

See you next summer!

Lilly, too, was sad when she realized that she would not be going to camp this week.  She cried for a few minutes after we got home.  But I think she is physically and mentally ready for the few weeks of a break that we have.  If only she would start sleeping past 6am!  
Last ride home on the bus - Queen Lilly!


I was able to visit Lilly's free swim on the day before camp ended because it was Carnival Day and I had no groups that day.  She was having a great time in the pool and you can see that she puts her head completely under water.  I had hoped she would really be swimming by the end of the 7 weeks, but for a multitude of reasons she was just not ready for that.
She had been completely submerged!



Happy camper!




Sunday, July 29, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup - redux

I posted this to my food blog yesterday but I don't get as much traffic there yet.  Enjoy!


A little bit of everything on the spoon: mini meatball, tomato, carrot, orzo and spinach in a savory broth.


Don't ask me why, because I don't know the answer, but I have always been just the littlest bit nervous about Italian Wedding soup.  Maybe it is the fear of OPM or other people's meatballs.  I am super picky about my meatballs, and meatballs play an integral part of this soup.  Whatever the reason, I had never really been a fan.  My talented mother-in-law makes a soup with a beef-based broth and meatballs (and her meatballs are delicious) that is similar but not really Italian Wedding.

While planning for this past week of camp I knew I wanted to do food from Italy.  For the main recipe we made lemony white bean bruschetta.  It was a hit with most campers and gave an idea of the different tastes of Italian food other than pasta and tomato sauce.  As usual, for my oldest campers who chose to come 3 times a week I had to pick 2 additional recipes.  We made cauliflower and broccoli fritters, which I thought were more than a little blah.  And as you may have guessed by now, for the last day we made soup.

The recipe itself is rather simple, the meatballs being the most involved part about it.  Most of the recipes I found called for cooking the meatballs, and the orzo for that matter, within the broth.  Because I was doing this at camp during a 30-40 minute time frame I opted to cook the meatballs and orzo separately and add them into the hot broth as we dished it out.  I also used my own meatball recipe, mostly because I think they are delicious.  Why mess with a good thing? 

The campers loved the soup.  They were asking for seconds, then thirds and some to take home.  When that happens, my heart swells a bit.  I am so thrilled that these children are learning about how to prepare food that is healthy and delicious and at the same time, expanding their food boundaries.  I unfortunately forgot my camera this week so I have no pictures of the wonderfulness of this soup in the making.

The broth did not have that much time to fully develop before they had to eat it, but it was still very tasty.  I took the leftover soup home since I did not want to waste it.  (Most of the time I bring the leftovers to the office for the staff directors to enjoy but soup is a little awkward to share around an office!)  I immediately put it in my stock pot and let it simmer with the meatballs and the little bit of orzo that remained.  The flavors came together so nicely that I was almost a little surprised.  I dare say it was one of the best soups I have tasted.  Vinnie and I had it for dinner tonight topped with grated parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.  I think we both agree that this soup is going to be made again and again!

The smell was so enticing that we started eating it before I remembered to  take a picture.





Italian Wedding Soup (recipe from the Whole Foods website with my added notes)
There are endless variations on this soup, but the main elements are meatballs and greens. While the name indicates that the soup might be served at an Italian wedding, it is actually a mistranslation of minestra maritata, which refers to the "marriage" of greens and meat in the soup.

Ingredients
Meatballs
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
As I mentioned above, I made my own meatball recipe, but this one looks good, too.  I omitted pork because many people do not eat pork.  I will probably cook them in the broth next time I make this.
Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter I used olive oil
3/4 cup chopped white onions
3/4 cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and halved
1 cup uncooked orzo 
2 cups shredded kale (I used fresh baby spinach)

Method
For the meatballs, put beef, pork, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, egg, nutmeg, and paprika into a large bowl and use your hands to mix well. Use a teaspoon to measure out meat for even sized meatballs. With damp hands, shape them into 1-inch balls and transfer them to a large plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.  Due to time constraints and food safety concerns for a camp, I baked them in the oven an hour before I needed them.  They had cooled to just about room temperature by the time we needed them and we added them to the cooked broth.

For the soup, melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and 2 cups water. Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat or until soup comes to a boil.

Add meatballs and orzo to the boiling soup and stir to make sure they are fully submerged. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in kale. Test a meatball and a piece of orzo to ensure that they are fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.  


**********UPDATE***********
August 17, 2012
I made this soup last night, cooking both the meatballs and the orzo in the broth, as called for.  Epic Failure.  The orzo kept expanding and soaking up all the broth.  Plus I realized that I really like browned meatballs.  Next time I will cook both separately, as I did at camp, and then add it to the cooked broth.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Yoga and My Judgmental Mind

I used to practice yoga on a regular basis.  I had a regular teacher with whom I practiced and I followed her to wherever she taught, until she moved to California, that is.  After that I had a difficult time finding a yoga instructor with whom I had such a great connection.  Yoga was just coming back in fashion, so to speak.  There were yoga classes at gyms but I found them to be irritating and not at all satisfying.  I ended up doing my yoga in the comfort of my home with tapes (am I dating myself yet?) and then DVDs.


Fast forward several years, I completely loved prenatal yoga and kind of liked the Mommy & Me yoga.  I did yoga after I had Lilly to help get those poor, post-cesarean abs back into action.  I would do downward facing dog with Lilly laying between my hands.  I could stay in that pose for hours if it meant looking into those deep brown eyes.  Life got a little busy, what with grad school and then back to working full time out of the home.  Yoga was pushed to the side.


When my hands were starting to get really bad about 2 years ago, yoga became nearly impossible because my hands hurt and were numb.  I had pain radiating up to my shoulder and I could not hold myself up in a pose like downward facing dog any longer.  I would sometimes try to do a DVD and work around poses that I could not do, but I felt defeated.  I had the surgeries (bilateral carpal tunnel release) a little over 1 year ago.  I am just now able to put some pressure on those hands in that way.  In the past year I have also had some foot issues.  And, to top it all off, I have gained weight.  


Where am I going with this?  Back to yoga.  Truthfully, I probably could have been doing some yoga in the past 6-8 months, which is when my hand stopped hurting that much.  I have a fabulous yoga studio around the corner from me, literally within walking distance, and I don't make the time or the money to go.  I think I was afraid.  A few times I had started to do a DVD or an on demand yoga workout and I could barely get through the first few minutes, let alone a 40 minute workout.  I wanted to be doing the kind of yoga I did 15 years ago.


I have been chatting with the yoga instructor at camp and I happened to mention my back pain.  (old car accident)  She has gently suggested yoga and I said that I know I should and that I love yoga.  My mom has even suggested I get back to yoga many times.  So tonight I did it.  I asked Vin if I could take over the living room for  a bit so that I could do some yoga.  I found a Gentle Yoga workout on demand.  I was tempted to try another work out....power yoga or strengthening yoga.  But I thought that maybe I needed to start with baby steps.  


Within seconds of starting it, I was judging myself.   I used to be able to do this and more.  I used to be able to do shoulder stands.  You're too fat to do this.  If only I had continued.  If only I had started again sooner.  And then I heard the instructor remind the viewer (me) to release any judgement of where you are from your mind.  Wherever you are is where you are.  It is not how far you are stretching up/down/to the side, but are you aligned?  Are you lengthening your spine?  A few times she asked us to lay there and think about how we feel without judging it.  My mind is a freaking chatterbox when given the opportunity.  I was this close to yelling at myself out loud.   I really had to constantly remind myself that it is okay that I am not doing shoulder stands or hanging out in downward dog for 5 minutes at a stretch.  It is okay that I cannot do what I could do 4 years ago or 6 years ago or 10 years ago.  


It is okay that I am overweight. Why?  Because I should not be judging myself on how much I weigh. Should I be taking better care of myself and my body?  You bet.  And I have been moving in that direction.  Slowly but surely I will get to a place where I am happy AND the weight that I want to be.  But until then, I need to be happy with me.  


When I was able to let go of the negative thoughts and actually FEEL my body, I could feel positive things going on inside.  Things that lead me to believe that I can get to a point of wellness.  When I was gentle with myself, my body responded more to my requests.  When I was not berating myself and when I was open, my body opened.  It was almost as if it remembered, too, what regular yoga could do for it.  But my body remembered in a nice way, not the judgmental way of my mind.  It was telling me, and my muscles and joints, to take it slowly, but surely and most importantly...to do it.