How to Prepare for Snowmageddon

  1. Buy 4 pints of ice-cream. Nope, better make it 5.
  2. Stock the cabinets with cookies-mostly chocolate chip, but throw a pumpkin spice in there because it’s cold and snowy outside, jeez!
  3. Call at least three people to discuss impending doom.
  4. Rearrange the cars in the driveway so you can all get stuck anyway.
  5. Cancel all plans for the next several days. Absolutely nothing can get done. Laundry-no. Dishes-no. Work commitments two weeks from now will probably be iffy. In fact, this is pure survival mode.
  6. Research how to build an igloo.
  7. Gather all shovels near the front door so you can dig them out after it snows.
  8. Sweatpants.
  9. Ask the neighbor with the snow blower how their family is doing.
  10. Locate all sci-fi trilogies and romantic comedies on DVD. Watch Sesame Street instead.

….and get yourself an awesome sibling that can make this!

Eating for Three: Making Food Choices while Nursing a Baby with a Dairy Allergy

Bubble Tea at Ten Ren Tea House in Chinatown, NY

It can be frustrating till you get the hang of it, but there are foods you can still enjoy! Bubble Tea at Ten Ren Tea House in Chinatown, NY

Before I had my girls I ate a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, dairy, and sweets. As a creature of habit, I would thrive on eating certain foods every day around the same time. After work I’d rush home to devour a greek yogurt with crushed walnuts as an afternoon snack. During a two month span of time I ate a chicken and apple sandwich with mixed greens and balsamic on whole wheat bread everyday for lunch. For breakfast, I ate two eggs with fresh fruit and a green smoothie. This lasted an entire spring. While typing this, I’ve dropped some oatmeal and fresh blueberries on my daughter’s head as I’m nursing her (the oatmeal is my latest breakfast kick.)

Hubs likes to point out my ability to intensely focus on things for months at a time, and then wake up one day and sit at the table, crinkle my nose, and push a favorite food away from me in disgust. The level of saturation has been reached.I guess I can understand how this unnerves him.

There’s a word for what I have, and we hear people use it all the time. It’s called: efficiency. Oh, is that not the word you were thinking of? What were you thinking?

Look up the definition of efficiency, and you’ll see that this makes perfect sense. Eating efficiently means that by consuming the same foods everyday I am able to plan and organize in a certain way, provide the right amount of fuel for a body that is working full-time or teaching classes at the gym, and create a smoother meal flow without having to think much about it.  Figure out the formula, keep the house stocked with those foods, and pack the same thing every night in the refrigerator. I knew exactly how long it would take me to eat my sandwich, and didn’t waste time buying drinks from vending machines or hunting down utensils. When my needs and my schedule changed, my meals adapted. Totally efficient.
I don’t mean to suck the fun out of food and variety. I love dining out, trying new restaurants, and taking impromptu trips to China Town for bubble teas and Italian cookies. These things were reserved for dinners or weekends though. The rest of the week’s meals happened like clock work.  That’s not a rule or anything, that’s just the way it worked out.

Dining out is a bit trickier now, but it can be done! Call ahead to find out about allergy friendly options.

Dining out is a bit trickier now, but it can be done! Call ahead to find out about allergy friendly options.

I think my eating habits prepared me for the day I was changing one of my daughters’ diapers and saw blood.

There’s something about your own child’s blood that creates that flush of prickly panic. The twins had their blood drawn from them in the NICU for testing, but those were very controlled and planned instances. Nothing had prepared me for this. There weren’t any cuts or scratches, and at 4 weeks old, surely it was too late for a mini period ( see #3 http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/newborn-worries-not-to-worry-about/ .) I immediately called the pediatrician, and was informed that this could be the sign of a dairy allergy triggered by dairy in my breast milk.

After the call I went on the internet (that was a great idea,) and scared the hell out of myself. Fortunately, I did come across some excellent resources for moms of babies with dairy and soy allergies and intolerances. I throw soy in there as well, because soy can elicit similar reactions from babies with dairy issues, so many times the alternative recipes out there exclude both of these ingredients. Sites such as MSPI Mama provide recipes you can check out here http://www.mspimama.com/p/recipe-index.html . MSPI stands for milk soy protein intolerance.
In the months following, I took more photos of poop than should ever be taken.  I will spare you the graphic images-you can be responsible for your own nightmares by googling them yourself. I went on an insane elimination diet. I call it insane because it seemed to drive everyone else around me crazy-especially my mother and husband who were trying their best to be helpful by providing home cooked or store-bought meals for me while I nursed around the clock. First, I cut out dairy, then soy, and still saw blood so I had to look for “hidden dairy” and really start to read the labels of all the foods I was consuming. It wasn’t enough to not eat cheese or yogurt. I had to make sure there wasn’t any butter, lactose, or casein in my meals too. I stopped eating all nuts. I gave up citrus and also avoided broccoli, cauliflower, beans, onions, peppers, and spices because I suspected these were causing gas or reflux.

So what did I eat you ask? Well, it was a fortunate coincidence that my family was trying out a Paleo diet at the time. Paleo excludes dairy, grains, processed foods and added sugars. Many of the foods available to me at the time were perfectly safe for me to eat.

Now remember, I am a creature of habit and efficiency, so once I found the magic formula for creating a dairy/soy/nut/citrus free meal, I ate it frequently and in large quantities.

My mother, who is a complete ROCK STAR, and cooked for me EVERY SINGLE DAY, could barely keep me fed and satisfied, bless her heart. I ate like two large men. She would cook for me and hubs, and I would eat both portions and be famished an hour and a half later. Twin breastfeeding burns a ton of calories! Hubs joked that keeping me fed required an extra income and was a part-time job for my mother.

Apple pie a la mode? Not so much, anymore.

Apple pie a la mode? Not so much, anymore.

These are my go-to foods.  With the exception of some of the meats, all the other items are almost always stocked in the kitchen.
Meat:

Bison
Chicken
Beef
Pork
Venison
Duck                                                                                                                                                Lamb

Vegetables:

Sweet potatoes
Turnips
Kale
Spinach
Romaine lettuce
Carrots
Beets
Plantains
Artichoke hearts

Fruits:

Apples
Pears
Bananas
Blueberries
Dates
Avocados
Grapes
Watermelon

Grains:

Rice
Oatmeal (gluten-free)

Oils:

Coconut oil
Olive oil
Avocado oil

I also researched companies that made dairy and soy free treats and compiled a list of them to save you the trouble! 🙂 Ooh, I’m so excited to tell you about them! Sweets! 🙂

So Delicious brand coconut milk ice-cream http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/product_groups/dairy-free-desserts
Luna and Larry’s organic coconut bliss ice-cream http://coconutbliss.com
Alternative Baking Company cookies http://www.alternativebaking.com
Nana’s cookies-oatmeal raisin was the one I loved http://www.nanascookiecompany.com
Enjoy Life products http://enjoylifefoods.com/?gclid=CK7tkJTwq8MCFUpp7AoddGgAtA
Select Udi’s cookies http://udisglutenfree.com
Cybele’s cookies http://cybelepascal.com

I can’t lie to you, friends.  Some of these alternative, allergy friendly treats are pricey! In fact, paleo eating can be very pricey because of all the organic, grass-fed meats that are used, and the amount of fresh produce purchased weekly. There is definitely a discussion in here for another time about accessibility to quality foods for all. But I would say this: if you can stretch your budget, isn’t good, quality food a great investment? Food is definitely a huge monthly expense for us now that we have two babies to feed and we feed them organic meats and produce.

Chocolate truffles? Nope.

Chocolate truffles? Nope.

And for those of you out there doubting that a coconut milk ice-cream can taste like regular ice-cream, I’d say don’t compare them.  Appreciate the new, allergy friendly version as its own wonderful treat. Cheese and milk replacements? Ehhh, I’m not personally interested in those.  It was easier to say goodbye to pizza and bagels entirely than eat poor imitations of them. I live in New York after all, I can’t be eating fake pizza and bagels. As for the Alternative Baking Company cookies though-I rave about them all over my website.  They are amazing cookies, allergy friendly or not.

It has now been 14 months of an altered diet, since I’m still nursing.  I have reintroduced all except dairy and soy back into my meals, but have decided that pastas and most breads don’t need to make a comeback, at least not yet. For now, this new food routine is working and has been totally efficient. I hope if you find yourself in a similar situation, you figure out what works for you and your babe, and find some foods you love!

This post made me realize just how many photos exist of me stuffing my face. Please enjoy them.

Fancy food truck cupcakes in Chicago.

Fancy food truck cupcakes in Chicago.

Lobsta rolls in New Hampshire.

Lobsta rolls in New Hampshire.

Paninis in Rome.

Paninis in Vatican City.

Falling in love with artichokes all over again in Rome.

Falling in love with artichokes all over again in Rome.

Cross Country Remembered: Part 1

Since 2003 I have driven across the United States about a dozen times.

CF071063_2048

Photograph of Art Bell by Ian Allen. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

Well, I drove about 200 miles in total.  Hubs did almost all of the driving, and I was co-captain, ready with a Red Bull for my pilot or a jab to the ribs at 3AM through a star speckled stretch of Arizona. We chased Coast to Coast AM as it faded in and out of radio stations while we propelled through the long black stretches of interstate, pondering our place in the vastness, listening to the intriguing discussions of George Noory and Art Bell.

Ian Allen's photograph of Art Bell for Time. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

Photograph of Art Bell by Ian Allen. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

I imagined Bell broadcasting from somewhere in the middle of Nevada from a steel base resembling the UFO from Flight of the Navigator.  Callers would connect with the radio hosts  and describe their latest alien abduction stories or delve into government conspiracy theories.  Occasionally we would tune in to Unshackled, the Christian radio drama, or begin a grand rotation of CDs, many of which were mixes scrawled with my handwriting and hearts all over them.

The Explorer hummed with gentle thuds of thousands of insects being collected like snow through the darkness. We smelled worn-in and earthy and our fingers were sticky with jerky and trail mix. When I absolutely couldn’t keep my eyelids from drooping I’d drift to sleep and wake up, “still in Tennessee,” or “still in Texas.” When I saw hubs’ eyes glaze over, we’d pull off the highway and slink past wide loads and semis, pulling in to well-lit parking spaces, armed with a hunting knife tucked in the driver side door. The doors would lock and the heat blasted, but then I’d pull coats and blankets around my knees and over my head after the last bits of warmth evaporated. Hubs could sleep straight up, no pillow, head back, mouth open and snoring. I’d wake, groggy from the biting cold, or snoring, or because the parking lot lamp lights were blaring down on me for all to see.

When my bladder was ready to burst, I’d clutch my bag and look menacingly into the still dark, too quiet of dawn, trying to imagine looking crazier than anything or anyone that might try to approach me as I made my way to the rest room. Once inside, I kicked open every stall door and checked around every corner. Using rest stop facilities were careful balancing acts of not letting anything touch the counters, walls, or floor of the bathrooms. I used elbows and feet and bottles of hand sanitizer, managing to brush my teeth, wash my face, and wipe down my armpits with some paper towels and soap. All of my toiletries were safely tucked in bags or pockets, away from communal surfaces. During the day I’d be interrupted by women entering the restrooms, clearly on shorter trips,  who usually looked much more embarrassed than I did at the sight of my road-grooming routine.

In the mornings, the windshield would heat up and warm the whole car, and soon we’d be driving, windows down, searching for a pancake and eggs kind of breakfast. There were waffle houses and local diners, IHOPs, Cracker Barrels, and rest stop gas stations that sold spotted bananas and granola bars.

The most southern West/East running Interstate.

I-10 is the most southern West/East                   running Interstate.

Just north of the I-10 is Interstate 40.  It passes through the panhandle of Texas

Just north of the I-10 is Interstate 40. It passes through the panhandle of Texas

Interstate 70 passes through the middle of the U.S

Interstate 70 passes through the middle of the U.S

Just north of I-70 is Interstate 80.

Just north of I-70 is Interstate 80.

Mornings meant so many possibilities. It also meant looking like a hobo in broad daylight. Greasy hair was accepted on the road though. On one particular trip we detoured to see the Grand Canyon. The drive off our main course was much longer than I had expected. We had been two days in the car already, I had my period and was crampy and grumpy. I wanted nothing more than a shower and a warm bed. When we finally arrived at the rim of the huge expanse of the Grand Canyon, I lumbered out of the car, threw a hat on top of my head and covered my face with sunglasses. Although we had arrived, it felt like we hadn’t. It was too big to take in. There was an impossible amount of space in front of us.

This is amazing! Ok, lets leave.

This is amazing! Ok, lets leave.

The striped walls of rocks stacked infinitely until they faded to a washed out pink and gray as far as the eye could see. People were specks all along the landscape and some took clever photos pretending to stand on the cliff’s edge. We stayed for maybe an hour and a half, walking around and taking pictures. Then, I decided, it was time to go.  At that moment, that breathtaking view could not replace the pure joy of a warm shower.

We visited New Orleans during one of our journeys. Our hotel room was cheap because we had agreed to take the handicapped accessible room, complete with guard rails around the bed and a shower-distinguishable only by a shower curtain, but otherwise completely open to the rest of the tiled bathroom. We indulged in great food and watched a parade march through town, weaved in and out of artists booths in the park, and admired paintings and street artists. We watched crowds extend their hands to balconies and shout excitedly as beads were tossed to them.  A year later, hurricane Katrina would devastate the entire area.

During another trip we stopped at an ostrich farm to feed the birds and purchased enormous, thick shelled ostrich eggs to paint on. We stopped at landmarks, and took detours. We pulled up to three mammoth crosses erected on the side of the road in Texas and watched people pray and cry. There were “Four Corners” and “Twin Arrows,” and long sections of highway punctuated by green signs that promised food and gas. Hardees suddenly becoming Carl’s Junior, burgers with mustard, to Subway sandwiches with avocados on them.  200 miles till the next gas station.  Riding with the gas light on in the middle of nowhere. Pretty electric.

We’ve been to ghost towns and closed towns. Many of these were open on the second-Tuesday-of-every-month-except-in-a-leap-year- kind of deals for limited amounts of time, so they were hard to catch. But we had no set schedules.

now open

One day we pulled into a mysterious trailer town set against a barren desert landscape. It was the only visible community from the road for hundreds of miles. The campers were arranged in rows to form streets on the dirt. The local hairdresser’s trailer was marked with an old painted wooden sign that hung from a retractable awning over the front door. A few doors down another wooden sign read “Auto Repair,” another “Food.” Each trailer blended into the next, except for pots of faded fake flowers, dream catchers, or rusted hanging chimes. In the center of town, edged with a homemade wooden fence were about three dozen long hills of earth and gravel. It wasn’t until we drove closer that we realized each pile was a grave, marked with a small wooden cross. We crept around the tiny town in our truck, kicking up dirt, waiting to see a single inhabitant, spinning stories in our heads.


Check back for more on Cross Country Remembered…

Local. Home. Hand

I am a consumer. Stuff fills up my life and I enjoy shopping. I can’t deny it.

Living in a cargo crate or a 500 square foot “Tiny House” intrigues me though. There is a part of me that believes I could rid my life of clutter and live simply, 10926380_10152688026982099_3354934545081389695_nand then I remember I have two toddlers and shirts from the eighth grade. Perhaps we could attach multiple cargo crates together and one could be designated entirely for baby stuff, and another could be a walk in closet. Gut feeling tells me that misses the point though.

Local. Home. Hand. These are the three words I have decided to consciously incorporate into my life this year. Please don’t mistake this for a New Year’s resolution. New Year’s resolutions are not really for me, although I’ve definitely thrown that phrase around. They seem weak and easily forgotten. If they were effective, then gym memberships wouldn’t surge in January and drop off by March. A new year isn’t a good enough reason for me to decide to do something better. Health, efficiency, and enjoyment are good reasons. I enjoy feeling healthy, therefore I will do whatever needs to be done to feel healthy. That doesn’t mean I have to join a gym. Maybe I’ll juice, or take a yoga class. Maybe I’ll add taking walks with my girls more. Maybe I will do 25 kegels every time someone talks about starting a new diet. That should keep everything in place, till March at least.

It seems that if I want to de-clutter my life, and be more thoughtful about what I use, wear, and eat, I may spend more money on objects, clothing, and food. Sometimes.

Shopping locally, making homemade, or buying handmade connects me to people, not objects. I realize that I am much more invested in an article of clothing that was created by hand than I am in one that cost me $9 shipped from China. I am not only more likely to hand wash that handmade item and probably handle it more delicately (there are multiple setting on a washing machine?!) but I will tell others about it, take an interest in how it was made and who created it. The people selling these items tend to be more concerned about quality and customer satisfaction too, since their business absolutely depends on it. This creates closer relationships with not just the materials or food being exchanged, but the people making them. That is important to me.

There was a great thought from the post On the Kindness of Things, by John Tuite over on Kindness Blog. Tuite writes:

“Things speak to us of their own history. Particularly if they are made by us, they speak of the quality of care that went into their own making. The faulty and imperfect asymmetry of a hand-made pendant, or a repaired pot, can breath more balance into our system than the perfect symmetry of a factory product. The smoothest pebble weighted in the hand can be more interesting to the touch than the curves and sophisticated ridges of mass produced plastic. When we surround ourselves with such ill-made products we create a muted environment, that leaves us numb and seeking satisfaction somewhere else. Always somewhere else.”

You can read the full post here: http://kindnessblog.com/2014/12/11/on-the-kindness-of-things-by-john-tuite/

FullSizeRenderSimilarly, buying locally grown produce, or growing or making my own food or other items creates that same connection for me. When a friend hand delivered eggs from their own chickens, each omelet we made that week felt like a gift. I contemplated the work that goes into transforming a yard into a happy chicken home and thought for a second hubs and I might try it. It never happened, but I became more thoughtful about where my food comes from. My mother frequently (ok, almost always) purchases produce for my family on her daily runs to the supermarket. When H & G started eating solids I was insistent on our produce being organic. My mother couldn’t understand how we were willing to spend so much money on organic groceries, when she could round-up the same list of non-organic items for half the cost. I pointed out that although I recognize the issues this poses for many people on a budget trying to eat organically, in my mind, it is one of the most worthwhile expenses. What is more important than the quality of nourishment that I feed to my family?

Just last week I put together a care package for my brother and his girlfriend. For about two hours I went through photographs, clothing, my pantry… collecting items thoughtfully, and writing notes and creating labels. What a thrill! Can that be a job? Professional care-package creator? If so, I want that job. Nothing excites me more than giving gifts or surprising people. (Hubs almost always knows his birthday present before his actual birthday because I can’t contain MY excitement at the thought of watching him open it.) Anyway, I shared my project with a family member, to which they snarked, “Oh, are you cleaning out your stuff?” I replied with a deflated, “no.” This was a thoughtful collection of objects! “Well did you buy the things you put in there?” At one time I did-but you’re missing the point! I spent my TIME on this gift, I tried to be creative, witty, and thoughtful. I can’t wait for them to get it. Maybe I’m making a bigger deal of it in my head than it is. They might open the box and chuckle and move on to drinking coffee and eating tacos and never mention it to anyone else. But I hope they know there is a lot of love in that box. It is purely coincidental and convenient that I now have a little extra room in my closet for those hand-dyed, matching crocheted sweaters for the family from a local knitter. 😉

Daily Meditations

I start every day with daily meditations.  My mother would call them prayers.  Hubs would probably call them wishes.  I like to call them meditations.  securedownload

Every morning I step into the shower and look at this beautiful window.  It has the perfect light pouring through it at about 10am.  I stretch my arms up to the ceiling and open my hands and say,

“Thank you for this day, thank you for this life.  May I always appreciate everything and everyone around me and never take them for granted. Please let me be open to all the great things this day has to offer.”

and then I begin my meditations.  They are the same every day. I add people to my list that I’d like the universe to watch over, that I want to focus some positive energy on.  I say them while I adjust the temperature of the water, while I wash my hair.  My thoughts wander sometimes and I have to bring myself back to my ‘bullet points,’ the big areas I like to concentrate on.  Then I move on to the ‘dashes’ the sub headings of my big meditations where I mull over things in more detail. Some days when I’m in a rush and know I only have a short time before my head is inevitably filled with other things, I just hit the big three:

I want them to be safe.

I want them to be healthy.

I want them to be happy.

I say these to myself a second time when I mentally pass into the section of meditations about my kids.  And I try to remember this: Everyone’s versions of these things may look completely different. And how wonderful that is. One day our children will bump up against other people’s versions of these three goals, and how they deal with understanding, accepting, or rejecting them will probably have a lot to do with how we raise our kids.

That brings me to the dashes:

I want them to be rational

I want them to be thoughtful

I want them to be creative

I want them to be balanced

And I have no idea what any of that looks like yet.  This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.  Well, that and my kids.  My kids keep me up all night.

I am an expert-ish.

Having a child is making a schedule, and then improvising daily. It’s the constant tension between those two things-being organized and letting shit hit the fan sometimes. At least that’s how it is for me.

When you are a parent, you ARE an expert! You are an expert on YOUR kid!

I use the word ‘parent’ to describe any person taking on the caregiver role-someone who consistently is loving and caring for a child and making decisions and sacrifices that will affect themselves and the life of another tiny individual. You don’t know everything, I don’t either, but that tiny voice inside you that’s telling you maybe you should skip the afternoon nap instead of putting the babe down at 5 o’clock when your mother tells you the poor dear needs rest, well, that’s the voice you need to listen to. It’s the one that has patiently and impatiently observed for months on end, day in and day out, guiding you through the ironing out of your daily routines and weighed and measured all possible outcomes and results. There is no replicating its authority or unique experience. It’s like a scientist conducting experiments sometimes. Try not to make eye contact when she’s drinking from the sippy cup, maybe she’ll realize that without your interest, it’s not funny to dribble water down her chin and soak her onesie down to her diaper. Oh, that worked?! Great, trial complete, successful outcome logged. Put the mini denim armchair in the play yard-it will keep them busy so you can make some phone calls. Kid stepped on the arm, then top of the chair and climbed over the baby gate and is now standing on the coffee table? Recalibrating the keep baby busy approach. Logging trial results for future reference. This situation could have gone either way, in my opinion.