I’m Too Young For A Retrospective!

Throw back Thursdays, Flashback Fridays. It’s nice to look back sometimes.

This guy.

This guy.

Recently I started throwing back to some old artwork. After 15 months of reading board books and making animal noises, it was good to be reminded that at one time, I was a creative person. Not even just a little creative, VERY creative. Involved in art making. Owned-a-potter’s-wheel, an-easel, hung-six-foot-drawings-from-the-ceiling, stayed-up-all-night-silk-screening-T-shirts, and-made-my-own-stationary, kind of creative.

And then two years went by and I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. How did this happen? My potter’s wheel became a table for old shoe boxes filled with photos, or tubes of paint that were also neglected. Really pathetic stuff. All of my paintings, drawings, and photographs from college were shuffled in and out of storage units, basements and attics so many times, I didn’t know where much of it was anymore. I was starting to feel a bit like I lost my security blanket. I needed my creative things around me. They reminded me.

I’m too damn young for a retrospective! I was thiiiiiiis close to reminiscing about my days as an artist, ready to gather all the painted, polished, carved things in a box and tuck them away in some dusty trunk packed in an attic to show my kids someday. My art skills peaked in college, and I was done, I told myself. Hubs is the artist, I’ll just manage his career.

Then one day I’m flipping through one of my many sketchbooks and looking through some old t-shirt designs I never had the chance to print. There’s a pen in my hand, and I start doodling in the margins and kind of playing on the sidelines of my sketches. Three piles of laundry sat next to me. This is a waste of precious time, I think, no direction, no plan, no purpose. The pen rolled smoothly over the page. Babies started throwing toys out of the playpen. Who do I think I am calling myself an artist? You’ve lost it. The pen kept moving. Almost time to make baby food. It can wait ten minutes. The pen didn’t stop. You have no idea what you’re doing, this doesn’t look like anything. But the ink started to fill the page.

A pen is the best way to jump back in, because once you put that sucker to paper, you can’t erase it. No going back, you’ve made a mark and should probably just keep going.

I’ve been asked: why spend so much time hand making party decorations, editing photos, even decorating a room that you won’t be staying in very long? It’s because these small acts are exercises in creativity-or maybe just a warm-up. They’re also the residual effects of an artistic existence. Creative emissions need grounding, even in the most mundane of activities.

And now, there’s me and this pen, moving forward.

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I am Groundhog’s Day. Bill Murray, Please Visit Me (if you are in good health.)

Little boxes in the sky to
Little boxes in the ground

Your hair left lifeless in the brush
Like a relic I would hold it up

Examine all these pieces of you
I never saw before

A few things. Reflecting this week on how lucky it is to have family still in my life, and nearby. The luck of being born into this time and place-to travel without greasing hands, or worry about clean health care facilities. To have quality food and water ready and available when needed. For health. For the joys of all the seasons, even the impassable conditions of winter.  So much to be thankful for.

Life has felt a bit like Groundhog’s Day this past year. Days are very similar around here-babies nursing, diapers, electronic devices, organic baby food, family, music, ABCs, and books. The same routines happen everyday. It can be quite nice, actually. The only variables are the occasional visitor, sickness, death, or hubs needing to work later than usual. It’s winter, so my self-imposed seclusion is, in my mind, completely practical, but renders entire weeks uneventful. Of course Bill Murray and the movie Groundhog’s Day had me thinking about this today. In the movie, Murray experiences the five stages of grief as he is forced to relive each day in the sleepy town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.

For me, there is a similar process that happens after having children and deciding to stay home, although I think the stages may happen in a different order, or sometimes simultaneously.

First, there was happiness, excitement, and love. There was some denial about being a parent.  Am I really a parent? Am I even a grownup? There was anger-in the form of frustration as I learned how to do this new job.   I was tired, sometimes delirious, and therefore, impatient. On a daily basis, there is bargaining with babies-trying to get them to stop crying, or eat a new food.  There has been some depression about the loneliness of being the stay at home parent, and the uncertainty of the whole situation. My confidence, talents,  and self-worth have been questioned. 

 This year has been my personal Groundhog’s Day. Those that know me, know that I am in love with my children.  I’ve deliberately avoided visits, certain outings, and social invitations to tend to a list of needs and wants for my family. My choices have been aimed at the best health and interests of my children. This was exactly what I wanted, and I’ve cherished this time with my daughters.  But, even getting what you want means making sacrifices. I guess I’ve mourned my social life a bit, and that sense of freedom of driving solo in the car to a friend’s house, or taking a shower at an unplanned time of day.  I’ve missed the excitement of things out-of-the-ordinary, and surprises.

So I’m thinking, to liven things up around here, Bill Murray should visit me.  Given Bill Murray’s kind, and spontaneous nature lately, I’m thinking this is not as crazy an idea as one might think. He’s been spotted at bachelor parties and engagement photo shoots, so why not add feeding some avocado to twins in high chairs to the list? It would certainly brighten my day. We don’t have to talk about anything special, we can just hang out. Just one thing though, Bill, (if you’re reading this,) I just ask that if you accept my invitation, please be in good health.  I’m a bit of a germaphobe, and we just narrowly avoided the flu, so I can’t handle any sick visitors right now.  Personally, it would make a great story to catch the flu from you, but I can’t take that chance with the babes. Friends of Bill, agents, colleagues-please pass this along. 🙂

Groundhog-Day

Another thought about Groundhog’s Day the movie: Murray’s character gets to work this day out until he’s nearly perfected it.  There is something so Zen about that.  I’ve looked at my time home in a similar way. Every day I’m trying to master parenthood, but I’m also finding comfort in accepting the repetition. There has been beauty in the simplicity of our days, and real quality time spent with my girls. At first, the day was just a series of daily tasks played out while snuggling and carrying my toddlers.  But now, I’m drawing again, and reading, and starting to see friends more often. Hopefully these positive karmic seeds will help to grow healthy, loved, creative, and balanced individuals, myself included.

So I’m adding another stage to my stay at home parenting. Something more than acceptance, between joy and appreciation, next to love. I don’t have a name for it yet.  It will help me welcome these next few weeks of winter though, all snowed in with my girls. That’s where I’ll be tomorrow when my little alarm clocks start chirping to start the day. Happy Groundhog’s Day! And Happy Winter!  Bill, we’ll be waiting for you. 🙂

Below are some photos I took while visiting the town of Punxsutawney, PA.  It’s a beautiful, small town of Victorian homes and painted statues dedicated to the city’s most well-known icon-the weather predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Hubs and I passed through on one of our road trips on the way back from Canada and Chicago.

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This is My Brain on Packing

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Leave the flat-iron, take the local honey.

Snow day over? If the novelty of drinking tea and shoveling snow has grown stale, you’ll probably be setting your sights on a relaxing getaway, a change of scenery, or maybe even a staycation where you can temporarily suspend the demands of reality.

If you’re planning a trip for two or the whole family, a little forethought could save you time packing and loads of stress before your trip starts.

Here are some quick and useful tips to help you get out the door faster, and happier.

And here is my brain on Venn Diagrams:

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Who doesn’t love a good old Venn Diagram?

1. Spend a little time on your computer.
Sit down for ten minutes and open a text document. Visualize your day, start to finish, and imagine all the items and foods you use throughout the course of a day. Write down everything that needs to make its way to vacationland with you. If you’re like me, you may want to turn these items into a check list that can be printed and used each time you travel. It’s always a good idea to leave some blank check boxes too, in case items change for different times of the year or certain foods or medications need to be included. You can check out my version here:

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It looks a little over the top, but I spent a little time making it once, and now just slightly edit it and reference it whenever I travel!

2. Cover all the major categories: CATVEGI. Yup, CATVEGI. It’s so ridiculous, you’ll remember it.

Clothing
Accessories (hats, shoes, sunglasses, etc.,)
Toiletries
Vitamins/medications/special foods
Electronics and chargers
Gear (camping chairs, pool floats, etc.,)
IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS. This includes, but is not limited to:
-Drivers license
-Passport
-Plane tickets or any physical documents that provide proof of reservations or travel

3. Think Small. Either invest in travel size bottles or reuse existing toiletry bottles for new products. I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps and take them everywhere with me, so I purchased a small bottle of their soap once, and constantly refill it from my gallon containers to travel with. I’ve also saved small face wash pump bottles and cleaned them out to use for lotions.

4. Seal it up.  Secure all toiletries in ziplock bags before packing. This prevents them from leaking on other items in your luggage. Save your bags to reuse for future packing. I keep a wad of zip locks in the closet that are strictly for holding small items, not food, and use them over and over again. You can also try the plastic wrap trick (see links below.)

5. If possible, get double.
Many people have several of the same items already laying around the house. Hair ties, travel size deodorants, bath sponges, hair products, and makeup can be put together as your travel set. If you can get duplicates of certain items, it will make packing and UNPACKING easier.

6. Grab and Go Ready. Keep your toiletry bag prepacked and ready to go. Fill it with your travel set of items, in their ziplock bags, and tuck it into a closet or under the bed so you’re ready to go when you head out of town. All you’ll need to do is throw in the bigger items like blow driers, if you need them.

8. Aim for Arm’s Reach. If you’re packing for babies (like me,) make sure all of the items you will need right away during travel are reachable in your car, and in your diaper bag. Items needed first should be stored at the top of your bag, and outside areas of your car. When we’re taking long car rides and stop mid-way for an overnight rest, we pack a smaller piece of luggage with just the pajamas and outfits for the following day so we don’t have to unpack the whole car.

9. Imagine the Kid Zone. Consider how you will entertain your little one and provide a safe space wherever you are going. You may need to pack toys for the car, outlet covers for your hotel room, or a playpen, depending on where you’re headed, and the age of your child. A playpen may be bulky, but provide the most safe and secure space for your child wherever you go.

10. The Staples of Travel.
Keep a gallon of water and some water bottles in you car along with a roll of paper towels, some tissues, and empty trash and laundry bags. These little extras will come in handy, trust me! Pack disinfecting wipes with you. These can be used on everything from gas pumps to the hotel room remote.

Check out these creative packing tips here from Buzzfeed:

And I love that the folks over at Howdini reuse their old toiletry bottles and seem to use ziplock bags as much as I do.

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H & G sincerely hope you enjoy your vacation and get to kick back and relax! 🙂 🙂

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.

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.