And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I Give Up

I gave up.
After a day and a half I filled that pot and brewed it.

Ugh, I have so much respect for people who quit real things like tobacco and cocaine.

Did I mention I gave up desserts too?
Did I mention I didn't really talk to God about any of this?  I just kind of decided.
So maybe I set up myself up for failure.

My thoughts the past few days have been pretty rough.  From an Eeyore-ish feeling sorry for myself; like when you're on a diet and everyone at the party is eating cake, and you don't eat the cake, and all you think is, 'because I'm chubby.'  Or mild desperation, 'how am I going to make it through the day without caffeine.'  To a gray pall in my thoughts, 'I can't do this for 40 days.'

Coffee, people, all I am trying to give up is coffee.  Not heroin.

I realized that so much of my habit is wrapped up in ritual.  My first cup in the morning.  With my Bible.  Just me and my husband, and coffee, and silence.
Some mornings I don't make it.  The pull of the snooze button is strong.  My husband tells me not to set an alarm so that we can 'sleep in.'
But if we sleep in, we wake with the children and I am launched into the day without a moment to think.

'Sleeping in,' isn't the same anymore.

In the afternoon that cup means that I take a minute for myself.  My afternoon break.  Let the kids have some quality time with PBS while I sit and think.  Check the email that I haven't checked yet today.  Make sure Facebook is still there.
I have noticed how much time I spend checking Facebook.  Reading articles from The Atlantic.  Trolling through asinine photos from Buzzfeed.  I would like to reclaim that time.  Take it back for myself.  Take that time back into the painting studio.  Take that time back in front of my computer, instead of passively staring at articles I will forget moments from now, typing words that will record my life.  Words that might help another person through their day.  Words that might make anyone of us pause and think a little deeper about what we are doing here.

Today was a fiasco.  Every moment I turned around something was upending my plans.  I spend most afternoons not really knowing what to do with myself.  This day was no different, and ramped up by the unexpected need to shovel snow of our roof and several potty accidents.
I started to feel that pinch in my forehead.  That desire for a moment.  That slight fog.  I waited until Scott got down from the roof and brewed a small pot.
I wish I had some awesome reason that I've given in.  Some realization that it's not the coffee and it's something else.  It's the coffee and the something else.  The moment alone.  The break.
I've decided to make each cup intentional.  Not just swilling it to stay awake.  Not microwaving it or gulping it cold.  Making each cup a moment.  Time to sit and 'be.'

In the morning I think I will take that time for the Lord.
In the afternoon I think I will take that time for myself.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

No Coffee for You

Ash Wednesday is today.  Th beginning of the Lenten season.  Catholics go to mass and get ash smeared on their foreheads.  Protestants don't even know what it is.
Some of us have started experimenting with Lent.

I did in college and now I am back to it as an adult.
I Lent we are called to fast from something; to give it up to focus on what Christ sacrificed for us.  Some of us add things, like writing notes to loved ones, or more time in prayer.
Last year I fasted from sugar.
This year I looked forward to this time of fasting.  This time of  pushing a reset button.  This winter of endless snow has taken it's toll on me.  Six feet piles of snow arresting my ability to properly care for my children and for myself.  My ability to say 'no' to anything unhealthy has dwindled like the numbers on the thermostat.  It's true that I am usually a bit cold, and when you are cold you need more food, but I should be able to say 'no' when I have a bellyache.  I can't right now, I just keep eating.

I hate that I am blogging about the battle of the bulge.  Again.  I seem to talk about this a lot.  Unfortunately we live sedentary lifestyles in a country with an abundance of food,  which will leave all of us, well, a bit bulgey.

I've been thinking of my New Year's Resolutions, to be nice to myself.  How do I deny myself of things to be nice to myself.  Because isn't being nice to myself putting on a pair of sweatpants and eating a huge bowl of ice cream?  Or just eating it out of the container.  Have you ever noticed it tastes better straight from the container?  Try it.  I speak the truth.
Indulging.  Doing what we want all the time.  Isn't that the pinnacle of being nice to ourselves?  I don't think it is.
Sometimes it is.  What message does it send to my daughters if Mommy never eats pizza?  On the flip side what message does it send my daugher's if Mommy only eats pizza?  Or if Mommy can't not eat pizza?  Like when I've eaten poorly all day and all I really want is some vegetables because my belly aches, but I eat pizza anyway because I cannot exercise self control.  That's bad too, right?
I just read this article.  I love her joie de vivre.  But there has to be a middle ground?  Right?

So Mommy eats pizza some of the time.

Lara I thought this was a post about Lent?
It is, I'm coming around.
In the vein of 'being nice to myself,' I drink coffee like it's my job.  Two to four very large cups a day.
That's not that bad.
Very large cups.
Veeerrrry large.
I can't not have it.
That's kinda bad, right?
Last year I gave up sugar for Lent and I have to admit that it shook some of the stronghold that eating dessert had on me.
I keep thinking about coffee, and then I say, 'No, I can't do that.'  Or someone laughs at me.  Or someone insists it's a bad idea.
So I didn't drink any coffee today.  I replaced it with black tea.
Um, Lara, black tea has caffeine in it.
Not nearly as much, not nearly as much.
Some black teas have as much caffeine in them as coffee.
Hehehe.  Nope.  Black tea has about 35ml.  Coffee, depending on how you brew it has about 170-190ml.  A shot of espresso has about 90ml.  I memorized this when I was pregnant.  Do you see how far down the rabbit hole goes?
I have a problem.
I spent most of the day a bit foggy and tired.  When my brain started to become especially so, right before lunch I thought, 'and then we can have lunch, and then I can have a cup of coffee...wait...NO!"
That stung.
But wait, why Lent?
Because I have never been able to give anything up, ever, unless there was religious underpinnings to it.
So here I go, keeping my promises to God, to myself, and all the people I told.  So I can't cheat.
I am going to be nice to myself by pressing my re-set button.  By finding times where I can say 'no.'  Then times where I can say 'yes.'

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Snow More

When I was in high school I was raising money for a trip to Mexico.  We followed a common model and sent letters out asking for donations.  We got a response from one women that if we did her ironing for her she would donate a dollar an item of clothing.  I volunteered, being quite unsure of my ability to raise money by just asking, earning it seemed reasonable.

I received the pile of clothes and set to work.  After a bit I noticed that they were all t-shirts.  T-shirts that smelled of closet.  I had the sneaky thought that she had pulled a bunch of old clothes out of her closet and made up a job, to teach us kids a lesson.  I bit my lip as I ironed and felt more than a little bit insulted.
As a child of a single mom I was not unused to work.  Many of our Saturdays were spent cleaning the house, in fact it was the only time that my Mom would order pizza.  I remember pulling the chairs down off the kitchen table with shaky arms and tired legs, to get ready for that rare treat.
I suppose a teenager that is willing to iron a pile of clothes might also not be the teenager that needs to learn that lesson.  Mostly I felt patronized.
Who irons t-shirts anyway?

This winter has felt a bit like that pile of t-shirts.
Last winter was bitterly cold.
Not only has this winter been bitterly and unbreakingly cold, but it has been full of snow.
Last winter I learned that I wanted a heavier coat for New England's particular brand of cold.  So I got one for Christmas.
Last winter we learned that our house is full of cracks and needs insulation.  We're in the process of getting a grant to fill in those cracks and get that insulation.
Last winter we didn't get out at all because our youngest child would just cry in the cold.

This winter feels just a little bit insulting.  Not only is it cold, and we re-learn where the cracks in the house are, that small children can't quite handle the cold, and that a down coat is a true blessing.  But we've learned what it's like to be housebound for days on end.  That even when the blizzard goes away our sidewalks are gone and we can't walk anywhere.  (My husband and I share a car, I rely on walking every day, if I want to leave the house with the girls.  I live within walking distance of a lot, but currently there are no sidewalks and narrow roads covered in ice slush.)
I've learned what outfits that I can wear thermal underwear underneath without looking like an L.L.Bean model.
I've learned that to go grocery shopping without a pack of panicked New Englanders buying bottled water and batteries can feel like a luxury.  I've learned that my friends are kind and will offer to give me rides.  I've learned that children are a bit more resilient to being housebound for days on end than I would expect.

Yesterday when the Army was digging out my street (I'm not kidding), it was bitterly cold, so I walked out to ask the soldiers if I could bring them a cup of coffee.  The soldier pulled the bandana down from his mouth and smiled,
"Thanks, but people have been bringing us coffee all day long!  We've got two Boxes o' Joe back there!"  He used his thumb to point to the front end loader that was shoveling snow off of our sidewalk at the end of my street.
I've learned that I live on a street full of nice people.  New Englanders are known for their road rage, I expected a full Army crew of trucks and machinery would incite some kind of gesturing.  I found that they brought them coffee instead.  That makes me relax a little.
I've also learned that all my neighbors have snowblowers, and every single one of them has blown out our driveway and sidewalks.

I suppose that while this winter has patronized me.  I've learned that overall we will hunker down and continue on.  We will find a place to put the snow.  We will offer each other coffee.

But I do declare if one more person, tells me to 'stay warm,' I will send the blizzard their way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Soup Tales

"I love soup," a roommate of mine said a few years ago.  I had just moved to the Chicago area from Southern California and it had yet to get cold. I thought it was kind of a weird thing to say.  I mean, soup, right?  That food we feed to the elderly and the sick?
Then it got cold.  I got it a little more.
Then I had a family to feed.  I got it a little more.
Then I had to start to watching my weight a little closer, because I turned 30.  I got it a little more.

I love soup.
Especially when it's cold.  Here in New England it's cold for a good six to eight months of the year.  I give soup a break in the warmer months, but about October that hot brothy food starts to sound good again.  Then I stop again in April when I am a bit tired of eating dinner from a bowl.  Probably my family is as well.

Soup is also a great 'dump' meal.  You just take what you have in the kitchen, throw it in the pot, and throw broth over it.
There is a basic recipe for soup starting with a mirepoix; chopped up carrots, onions, and celery.  If you are cooking a creole, latin, or southwestern soup swap out the celery for red or green peppers; onions, carrots, and peppers are referred to as the 'holy trinity' of creole cooking.  Celery gives the soup a more French or European base.  I always keep carrots, celery, and onions around in the winter.  They're a good staple to have on hand in general.
How big should I chop them?
That is a whole sweet onion, four stalks of celery,
and about four carrots.
Keep in mind when chopping that you will be eating
with a spoon, so whatever size looks
 good in a spoon.  So, fairly small.

After you've assembled your mirepoix which you can throw in the bottom of a crock pot or saute in the bottom of a stock pot, you can consider what you want the rest of the soup to be, including a carbohydrate, a protein, and more vegetables.  You can add those to the pot keeping in mind how long they need to cook.  A trick I have learned recently is that you can throw meat raw and whole into the crock pot or stock pot and then just 'pull' it before serving.  That way you save the step of sauteing or chopping it separately.  Who likes to chop raw chicken?  I am not enamored of it.
The plastic containers with green lids are frozen
homemade chicken broth.
These are the ingredients for a basic lentil soup.  After I threw my mirepoix in the crock pot, I added a couple of chopped potatoes, two cans of broth, some garlic, and two cans of diced tomatoes.
Turn on high, stir a few times throughout the day, come back about 6-8 hours later, there is supper.

I did have to add a bit more water, which if you throw in a bouillon cube that water essentially turns into broth.  Bouillon is not as good as homemade broth, but watery soup is terrible.

And dinner.

I choose to use homemade broth whenever I can, because there are health benefits to real broth.  I try to avoid processed foods whenever I can, and canned broth is a processed food.  As is bouillon.  You will never add as much sodium as is contained in these foods, because you are concerned about your heart health.  Manufacturers are not concerned about your heart health, they are concerned that you will buy their product again, so they add lots more salt than you would.  (This same principle works with sugar.)

At the end of the cooking time I added a link of kielbasa.
But Lara that's processed!
I know, it's also tasty.  And one link added to a doubled recipe of lentil soup probably isn't going to kill me.  Or maybe it is.
I have started to double soup whenever I make it, and then freezing the leftovers.  I love it for lunch.  Soup feels like a nutritional magic bullet.  Especially in winter.  Broth based soups can be low in calories,  high in nutrition, and hot.  Hot is important when you have just had three feet of snow land on your house.
I would love to hear your favorite soup recipes!  After six to eight months of soups I find myself repeating my recipes a lot.  I'd love some new ideas!

Basic Lentil Soup
Feeds 4-6
Half sweet onion (chopped small)
2 carrots (chopped small)
2 stalks celery (chopped small)
1 cup lentils
2 potatoes (chopped into one inch chunks)
2 cups chicken, veggie, or beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 - whole kielbasa link (optional)
Layer onions, carrots, and celery in the bottom of a crock pot.  Add potatoes, and lentils.  Add your broth and tomatoes.  Turn the crock pot on high.  Come back in 4-5 hours and add kielbasa.  Come back in 1-2 hours and eat it.

You might want to check on your simmering stew more if it's your first time using a crock pot.  Crock pots vary.  A general rule is High for 4-6 hours or Low for 8-10 hours.  My lentils have a hard time cooking in time, I think I am starting them too late in the morning.  Like at 10am rather than 8am or 7am.  Earlier the better.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Don't Say That

"And what do you do?" She asked me.
"I'm at home with my kids," I replied.  She had just told me about the job she had.  The job she got right out of college.
"Well, that's hard work too," she said in a 'kind' tone.  Unfortunately, I almost burst into tears.  That's just so insulting.
I had this exchange with a young woman during a Super Bowl party at my house.  I've had this exchange before.  Someone you've just met tells you what job they have, and then in turn asks you you what you do.  When you say that you're a stay at home Mom, there's a fumbling silence and then they say something conciliatory.  Something like, 'that's important,'or 'that's hard work,' or 'well, that's the most important job.'

I am sure that this exchange never happens to doctors, nurses, lawyers, or teachers.  Or really a host of other occupations.  Just to mine.

If what I do for a living was really viewed as that important or that difficult, no one would feel like they have to tell me that what I do is important.
Is it because I don't make any money?
Is it because children aren't valued?
Because children don't make any money?
Is it because the traditional roles that women take aren't valued?
Is it because our highest cultural value is individual autonomy?
And children take that autonomy away from people and Moms give that up over and over again?

Think about it, though.  What images do these phrases bring to mind?
Mom jeans.
Mom haircut.
A woman that has given up.  Someone that no longer takes care of herself.   Someone that has subsumed her needs for others.  Both are derogatory as well.  They insinuate that looking like a mom is a bad thing.

The phrase MILF exists because it's a given that if a woman has become a mother she is no longer attractive.

Just as soon as I get comfortable with the choice that I made to stay at home to raise my children, something like this conversation comes along.  Or medical forms.  Have you ever been at doctor's office filling out the form and had to check 'Unemployed.'  Then when it gives you all the reasons to be employed there is nothing for you?  You can be retired, disabled, or a veteran, but a stay at home mom is not one of the honorable choices.
As a culture we highly value individual autonomy and earning power.  If you are someone who does not earn money you are of questionable value.  If you are someone who greatly interferes with someone else's individual autonomy you also are of questionable value.

Children interfere with individual autonomy.  The constant needs of an infant make you give up so many of your own needs.  Sleeping.  Eating.  Anyone that needs a lot of care.  We treat the elderly the same way.  Caring for children and the elderly are some of the lowest paid jobs.  People who major in Early Childhood Education have one of the lowest returns on their degree.  In fact people who care for the elderly or small children are often not expected to have much training or a degree.

What about a person that has chosen to care for those people with no payment in return?
I know that there are lot of assumptions that get pinned on me the second that I say I am a Stay at Home Mom.  That I am uneducated.  That I didn't know any better.  That my husband made that choice for me.    None of these are true.  Unfortunately when you have that little baby, when you fulfill the need to reproduce, that is inherent in all of us, you realize that someone needs to take care of that little human being.  Some women decide that they want to do it themselves. Some women decide that they don't want to or can't, so they go back to work.  A lot of women do the math and realize that day care costs as much as they would make.

I don't usually write posts like this, the 'stop saying this or that' kind of posts.  Most people are just trying to make conversation and are trying their hardest.  Rarely do people want to hurt others.  If someone offends you take a check with yourself, is it them or my anger?
This post does come from my anger.  I have been uncomfortable with my choice to stay home, I have spent a lot of time and money earning a Bachelors degree and a Master's degree that I am currently not using.  Except that maybe I am.  Maternal educational level is the main predictor of a child's success.  That's why so many development projects are focused on educating women.  If women are educated babies live longer and better.
I keep thinking,  'I should go back to work.'  But at the end of the day, I want to spend my days with my kids.

And I am really tired of complete strangers talking down to me.
So stop telling me that it's 'hard' or 'important.'  I know that.  I don't want my kids raised by someone else, I want them with me.  Don't degrade me by assuring me that my choice is all right.
I know it is.
I made it.