Wednesday, September 16, 2015

School Daze

School took off in a flurry and we're moving at mach speed in only the second week of September. First grade has been a much easier adjustment than Kindergarten (love our teacher!), so of course we had to put Izzy in a new school to keep it complicated. New schedules, new drop offs and pick ups - even dress codes we have to pay attention to (no jewelry or finger nail polish - so sad for Iz!). Her new school is Montessori and we love it. But every time I walk in the building I feel as if I shouldn't touch anything for fear of moving something out of place. Wow, what a system! Oh, and construction delayed the start of her school year, which is really not cool. But we have a part-time nanny who has continued from the summer and she is amazing! She saved us from the construction-schedule debacle. We are looking into adopting her very soon.

Today we had First Grade Lunch on the Lawn with Charlie. This is not a friendly event for working parents. Lunch starts at 10:50 (No wonder he is starving every day after school!!) and ends at 11:15, so the whole day is thrown by this 25 minute parent involvement activity. It was a lovely day and we parked ourselves on a blanket in the grass and watched Charlie eat his lunch and roll around with his classmates. Lunch with these goofballs made for a pleasant Wednesday, no doubt.

Of course, some of you might say this lawn event was one better skipped by said working parents. But judging by the attendance at this event, you would have to say all the first grade kids in Charlie's school must have two stay-at-home parents, or absolutely every parent comes no matter what. So there you have it. 

Now I'm off to the store to buy ingredients for the 2 dozen cookies I said I'd bring to Friday's Open House for Izzy's school (at a favorable time for working parents in the evening, hooray!). It is imperative that I impress the new parents with my dedication to my child by baking my best, from-scratch, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Some folks never learn...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to School!

How can it possibly be that time of year again?! Summer went way too fast. We have two half days of school and one full day this week, so I'm pretending this isn't really it, the end of Summer. We've had a good Summer and I want it to last and last. I also want time to slow down as C and Iz are growing up way too fast! First grade and Pre-K this year, doesn't seem possible!

Both Charlie and I were a bit nervous, but we put on our brave faces and only a hint of tears surfaced for both of us. Ryan and I walked him into the building and Charlie held our hands. One of these days he won't want to hold our hands, won't need us to walk him inside and to his classroom.

The teachers had written all over the sidewalks of the school with chalk, things like "It's a Great Day to be a Dragon!" and "New Friends" "Smile" "Learn." And my favorite, "Hug Your Mom!"

I know Charlie will be just fine. He will learn, thrive, grow and make new friends. But there is a part of me that doesn't want him to go, that wants him to stay right next to me, safe and sound and in my sight. I imagine I'll feel this way with every first day of school, even when he stands a head taller than me and my hand is the smaller of the two.

Adventure awaits!

Click here for pictures from our first day last year -  proof of how much they've grown up in one year!

Monday, June 8, 2015

How does your garden grow?

I've never had a green thumb and I've never met a house plant I couldn't kill off, but I am really enjoying my vegetable garden this year. Last year was our garden's rookie year and while we had some cucumbers and peppers and a few cherry tomatoes towards the end of the summer, that was about it. Squirrels got all our tomatoes, some things never grew, and I had no idea what I was doing.

In year 2 we've made significant improvements, including going with a Square Foot Garden approach. We also put a wire net around the bed to keep the rabbits and squirrels out, and so far it seems to be working. I did a little research into companion planting (which plants grow well next to each other and which don't) and focused on planting things we like to eat and that would be fun for the kids to watch grow. I did not start seeds indoors or anything like that, so some plants like carrots (Charlie's favorite!) are slow to grow and harvest. I planted many of the vegetables from seeds this year, something that really intimidated me last year, but saves a ton of money. Plant seeds are so inexpensive compared to buying starter plants. With the crazy amount of rain we've had over the last month, the garden is growing like mad!

In a square foot garden, each square (divided here by string) contains a different vegetable. It is amazing how much you can grow using this approach. The garden bed is 4' x 8'. 32 squares!

The swiss chard looks amazing, so pretty!

I started this lettuce from seeds and I'm pretty excited about how well it is growing.

The snap peas (above) have overgrown their trellis and I need to brace them up again. I had no idea they would grow taller than I am! These are really fun for the kids to just pick off the vine and eat.

Izzy helped me pull up a radish to see if they are ready to pick. Not yet!

Our first tiny tomato!

This weekend's harvest of swiss chard, lettuce and kale. I love growing my own greens. 

I'm learning more every week (last week I had to go after some bugs on my tomato plants with some soapy water) and am really enjoying the process. I'm still trying to figure out which vegetables need additional feeding and how often. I am using this really cool app called Plant It! to help me figure it all out. 

Now if June will just usher in more sunshine and less rain, my garden and I will be very happy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Another season in the books

Another season of playing and coaching soccer has come and gone. We had a lot of fun with this group of boys. They are really learning to play!

And guess who has a new pink soccer ball? After 3 years of tagging along to all of Charlie's practices, next fall Iz will get a team of her own! Watch out.

Note: Photo credits to Corie English.

Monday, March 16, 2015


We had a fabulous trip to California! How I wish we were still on the beach...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

To be six!!

In true Charlie style, we celebrated his birthday with much jumping, running and playing this year. He invited some school friends to Pump It Up, and that we did.

Who doesn't want to be King for a day??

Little sister had fun at this party too!

We had another celebration with family and one of Janelle's amazing cakes...legos this time! She had to make each of the legos using a small mold - it turned out great!

This year Charlie's birthday was on Super Bowl Sunday - just as it was the day he was born. Seems like so very long ago!

 Papa gave all the kids harmonicas to finish off the festivities. Happy Birthday sweet Charlie!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why I write

I've kept a journal for as long as I can remember. I started writing down my thoughts from the time I was in grade school and kept journals through my mid-thirties. My writing changed when I started this blog. No one, not even me, would want to read the sort of drivel I wrote in my journal on a daily basis. Nonsense, ramblings, internal drama that I needed to work out. It was cathartic at the time, but as a general rule I don't like reading back over my journal entries. The exception to this is when I wrote while traveling or living abroad - my journal entries take me right back to a camel ride in Cairo, a trail run in Vienna, a bottle of wine sipped underneath the Eiffel Tower...

I purchased these beautiful journals while living in Florence. They make me want to return to pen and paper. 

For me, writing blog posts is very different than writing in a journal. There are pros and cons and I waver back and forth as to which forum I like best. I am careful about what I write in this space, while I had zero filter when I wrote with paper and pen. I edit, rewrite, and sometimes censor my own thoughts and words on this blog. I stay true to myself always, but I think twice about revealing certain things or about how a particular story might sound to others. And unlike my journals, I enjoy going back through my blog posts and re-reading them now and then.

I came across this article the other day that considers whether the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
There are times when I am just itching to write about something that happened - knowing the process will bring clarity and resolution. I write about my struggles with balancing career and family on this blog often because the process of telling my story, even if no one reads or responds, helps me find perspective. Writing about a challenge or an unexpected triumph helps me learn and continue to grow. Writing ensures the experience doesn't leave me but continues to exist, stamped in time. 

These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself......Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.

If you've never written your way through something that is troubling you, I highly encourage you to try. It can be for your eyes only, or you could find your brave and send your thoughts out into vast cyberspace. You might be surprised by how it feels to write and rewrite your story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Finding the perfect food plan

Photo courtesy of Outside Magazine. 

I stumbled across this article that appeared in Outside magazine a few years ago. This man tried 6 different diet plans over the course of a year, two months on each plan. He chose popular diet plans like the paleo diet, the Mediterranean diet, and one based on the USDA food pyramid. He had his cholesterol, body fat and weight measured during and at the end of each diet.  His health improved on some diets, declined on others. He was more hungry and tired on one diet compared to the others. It was a very interesting experiment in food, and I like the final analysis. There is no one ideal eating plan for anyone.Our bodies and our goals (fitness, weight loss, over all health) are all different and our food plans should be too. Do you know what works for you?

Our eating plan of choice is mostly the Mediterranean diet (they had me at the red wine!) with juice or smoothies for breakfast and copious cheating on the weekends. We try to eat with the seasons and use local produce whenever possible. We love to cook and we enjoy all things in moderation. It's pretty simple, really.

We eat the way we do because we enjoy the food and we want to be healthy. And I also want to pass on healthy food habits to my children. I try not to present foods to the kids as healthy or good for them (I learned that trick from this article). I simply give them the same foods Ryan and I are eating and ask them to try a 'polite bite.' We leave it at that. They either like it and eat it, or they don't like it and leave it on their plates. If I keep serving that item regularly and giving it to the kids without comment, I've noticed that they eventually eat it. Without trying too hard, we've managed to get to a point where we have one meal at family dinners and the kids like what we're having. It feels like a success and I'm calling it such!

We struggled with family dinners for a long time (I wrote about it here and here). Perhaps the kids are finally at an age where it works - they can occupy themselves while I make dinner and they are old enough to appreciate the family time together. We are in that happy space where school activities are not crowding out dinner time, so I plan to enjoy it while I can.

A big issue impacting our waist lines today is portion size. This article and the accompanying photos of what 2000 calories look like are mind boggling.

The photo above shows what 2000 calories look like at the sandwich chain Potbelly.

And this pasta dinner adds up to 2000 calories at Olive Garden. The Cheesecake Factory has one single dish on its menu totaling 2000 calories!

In contrast, if you cook at home, this is what 2000 calories could look like, food for an entire day!

The take home message - if you cook it yourself, you know exactly what you are eating and you are likely to consume fewer total calories at each sitting. Something to think about.

Food photos courtesy of The New York Times.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January Sugar Cure

Like everyone else this time of year, I am thinking about how to improve my health. I like to keep my health resolutions pretty simple. Move more, cook it yourself. Drink H2O.

But every January I feel the need to kick sugar to the curb. I have learned over the years that I am very sensitive to sugar's seduction and it doesn't take much to get me hooked. The holidays present endless opportunities to over indulge and it is tough to limit sugar - it is in everything. When I resort to a Starbuck's cinnamon dolce latte sometime in December (it just fits with the season) I know I am in a sugar rut. I feel sluggish and unhealthy and out of sorts.

Every New Year's Eve we have a blow out dinner party with friends - amazing and excellent food courses, all paired with wine and spirits. It is fantastic! And it puts me over the edge of the holiday food cliff. I can't wait until January when I can get back to consistent, healthy eating.

There is no need to diet or do anything drastic really, we just need to get back to our normal eating habits. We aim to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein every day (I wrote about one of my favorite cookbooks for family meals here). We have pizza almost once a week, but we make a whole wheat crust from scratch and pile on the veggies. I don't buy sodas or processed foods like crackers, chips and cookies. If I crave a cookie, I have to make it myself. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

A typical weeknight dinner for us is grilled salmon, roasted vegetables (Brussel Sprouts, radishes, parsnips and onion) and brown rice. Iz will trade her parsnips for Charlie's Brussel sprouts but they otherwise clean their plates. Banana ice cream is a favorite guilt-free dessert - frozen bananas whipped up with a little almond milk in a blender - so good and so easy!

My surefire way of kicking the sugar habit and getting back on track in January is to juice. (I've written about my love of juicing previously). Call it a modified juice cleanse or my January Sugar Cure, either way, it does the trick. For 5 days I have juice for both breakfast and lunch and then a healthy dinner of lean protein, veggies and whole grains. The juices taste amazing, I feel less full and my digestive system gets a break. After only a day or two I feel energized rather than sluggish, and I crave healthy foods again - not sugar.

This strategy works for me throughout the year. If I slide back down the sugar hole, I juice for just a day or two and all is right with the world again. I couldn't juice all the time, nor would I recommend it. It is a temporary fix. It makes me feel light and energized, and the after effect is that I really appreciate and crave healthy, whole foods. It is a win-win.

Monday, January 5, 2015