Monthly Archives: January 2012

Healthy Snacks

We are big snackers here. I want to revamp the meals I fix as well, but I want to start with what is available to munch on because I think we usually have too much junk.

Guiding principles: homemade, low sugar content, whole grains, fresh whole foods when available/affordable, nutritious and delicious!

(Another secret goal that I will never admit to so “I’m just speaking hypothetically…” *nervous whistling*… is, if my child snacks too much or too close to mealtime and isn’t hungry for dinner, I won’t stress about it. Because heck, if my kid has just munched on an apple, some cashews and a homemade oatmeal cookie, I’m thinking that’ll get ’em where they need to be.)

So here’s my sketched up list of…

Snack Staples

  • cut veggies (usually carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper)
  • cheese (sliced by me or string cheese)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • muffins or cookies (loaded with whole grains, nuts, dried fruit, or other tasty nutritious ingredients)
  • homemade granola (again, whole grains, nuts, etc.)
  • soy milk
  • fruit (in season and as we can afford it, although we almost always have a bag of apples on hand)
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • homemade bread or roll (whole grains/nuts) with some kind of topping (peanut butter, nutella, cinnamon & sugar, etc.)

I’m hoping to come up with some new ideas of things my kids will love (and forget about how much they loved the pre-packaged stuff.) If you’ve come up with something fabulous that your kids love, please share it in a comment! We could come up with a huge wonderful list of awesome snacks!

Here’s a pic of my “Breakfast Cookies” which are as healthy as can be! For the recipe, read this post: New Project

Renewed Commitment to Health

There are lot of reasons I periodically feel the desperate urge to “start all over” and be healthy from here on out. I think we all do this from time to time, inspired by the new year, a recent bout of ill health, watching yet another documentary about how crappy we eat and how it’s killing us, or whatever shifts our consciousness to realize the imbalanced lifestyle we’ve been leading.

So what’s different this time?

For starters, this isn’t a “time.” Instead of seeing this as “from this day forward,” I see myself as simply moving forward in my lifetime quest for optimal health. I may spend another period of time being unhealthy in the future, but at least I will have taken care of myself pretty well for a while, and maybe I will learn some new things and pick up one or two good habits that will stick with me and make the unhealthy times a little less harmful.

I find it quite unhealthy to put lots of pressure on myself to “be perfect forever.”

Another thing that’s different is that everything will be phrased positively. I was going to make my motto “Don’t don’t work!” then realized I was being negative. Maybe it could be, “Do the do!” as in, “Do eat fruit every day!” and “Do take the stairs!” Keep it positive.

Yet a third thing that is different in my current approach is a deeper understanding of the balance between physical, mental and spiritual health. I think in the past I’ve tried to just change one thing or another, but I can see things as being interconnected now and I understand that all apparently separate aspects of my being need to be considered, and that caring for one can care for all in a pinch.

I’ll write more specific details in the future, but for now I just wanted to lay out the groundwork philosophy of this “continuation” project of living in health and happiness.

I will put all decisions through the 3 filters of : Humility, Compassion and Harmony. Am I in a humble state of mind, tapped into my compassionate nature, ready to harmonize? Did my choice come from humility, does it use compassion, will it lead to harmony?

These three states of being lead to three actions: Receive, Embrace and Transform.

Receiving input of all kinds from any available sources, including but not limited to: information, intuitive feelings, sensory perceptions, other people’s perspectives as well as my own assessment of “The Big Picture.” I believe health begins with an honest and humble look around.

Embracing what is, accepting reality, acknowledging the circumstances and other people’s participation. Using compassion to open my arms, heart and mind to Life, to meet fully the insight and power involved in every moment. Health is a beautiful relationship with the world, a loving, mutual embrace between my being and the All.

Transforming the situation by working in harmony with it. Not forcing, not struggling, but instead waiting for the wave and riding it. Health is not a moment of perfection frozen in time but a path, a journey, a string of an infinite number of moments each appreciated for what it is, each synchronized with to the best of our abilities.

This spot right now, as my fingers ticka-tack letters on a keyboard, is the moment I recommit to exploring healthy ways to walk in balance. If you’ll share the wisdom of your journey as well, we can have some fun and companionship along the way!

Dream of Drumming

Last night the little ones (2 and 4) were in super-hyper-bouncy mode, as opposed to their usual, overly energetic mode, and I thought, hey, fun, let’s drag out the drums. I have two djembes, one my husband brought back from Ghana in 2006, the other I bought in Santa Cruz almost 20 years ago.

Which reminded me, shortly after I pulled the drums out of their hiding spot beneath my desk and the kids were banging the living crap out of them — I always wanted to practice drums.

And after I tried to “have a turn,” I remembered why I’ve given up that dream, over and over. Here are the two things my kids will do if I’m playing on a drum, trying to get into the rhythm and lose my thinking self in the beat: 1. try to drum on it with me or hold their hand down on the drum head, or 2. lay on the floor kicking and screaming because their half hour turn wasn’t long enough and they want another one immediately. Neither of these behaviors contributes in any constructive way to practicing a drum.

The only time I’m able to do anything by myself, uninterrupted, is when the kids are asleep. And have you ever tried to drum while someone is asleep? It’s not going to end the way you’d hoped, I’ll just tell you that much.

So I’ve managed to pursue, in small increments of fits and starts, some other, quieter interests such as reading and sewing. But the drumming? Just something I tease myself with on occasion when I think, won’t it be amusing all around if we pull out the drums?

Good luck with that.

Good Deed Day

It never ceases to amaze me how everything happens at once.

Yesterday unfolded as a good deed day. I had four different neighbors come to me and ask for my help.

I enjoyed the day immensely. I love knowing that I’m part of a community where people can count on each other for different things big or small that might come up in their lives.

Each small favor I did yesterday was pretty insignificant in the scheme of things, but in the big picture, I think helping out neighbors helps the whole neighborhood, because when you alleviate the sense of isolation that people tend to feel, you draw them out into the community and get them to be a part of it.

If I can do a little thing here or there, it not only shows the person (and most importantly their children) that they can count on others, but it also invokes a sense of obligation to pay it back, not to the specific person who did the favor, but just to whoever might need help. They can’t say, “Well screw everyone, I’m not doing anything cuz I have to handle my own business all by myself.” I have definitely felt this kind of angry isolation before, and it is fairly toxic to everyone.

So when good deed day rolls around for you, remember what an important thing you are doing to build community, and enjoy the opportunity to be part of it all!

Playing in the Woods

There are maybe a couple acres of trees next to our home, with a fenced-in cell tower in the middle.

The little kids like to pretend it is “The Forest,” even though at this time of year, with everything dead and just some bare tree trunks visible, one can see clear through the entire thing to mobile homes on the other side.

Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun taking my little ones out there and making trails. It reminds me of being a kid and playing in the woods.

I try to imagine how the trees will fill out so as to plot trails that will be fun, intersecting at certain points, veering off, leading to adventure.

How pathetic is it that I resent the kids when they whine that it’s cold and they wanna go inside?

I certainly am not allowed to do anything inside: write, think, cook, clean, sew. I figure, at least outside we can do something together that everyone will enjoy.

I want my kids to be outdoors. I want them to take advantage of the “Forest” right next to us and let the trees house fairies, let them chase squirrels and bunnies, allow their eyes to soak in the natural shapes and colors.

When they think back on their childhood, I want them to remember something that wasn’t on a screen.

Maybe when they’re old enough to go out there on their own (the littlest ones are 2 and 4) it will be different. There won’t be some crochety adult cramping their style. They can be in charge of the jungle, in tune with the wild, absorbed in their own imaginations.

Meanwhile, step aside, young’uns. I got a trail to blaze.

I Quit!

I want to quit caring if my kids are happy.

Can a person do this?

I will always care if they are genuinely suffering. I will always respond to that.

But the whining because they don’t want beans for dinner?

The whining because they feel too lazy to find something to play?

The whining because it’s too cold for a trip to the park?

The whining! The whining! THE GOD-AWFUL WHINING!!!

I can’t be held responsible for it anymore. I don’t believe it’s genuine suffering. It might FEEL like genuine suffering. But it’s a choice. An unfortunate, soul-crushing, peaceful-home-atmosphere-destroying choice.

I can’t care anymore. I’ve cared for almost 20 years. I’ve tried to respect their feelings, understand where they’re coming from, be responsive and supportive.

But I have to take responsibility for my own happiness. No one gives a thought to what I’m feeling.

So guess what? I will continue to do my very best as a homemaker and parent, providing what my family needs and some of what they want, making good meals, keeping the house a place for creativity, fun, relaxation and joy, but whether a child takes advantage of any of the good stuff I’ve done or not is THEIR problem. Starting NOW.

I am committed to sitting at the table and enjoying every bite of whatever I’ve cooked, even if there are people wailing in agony because they don’t FEEL like having rice for dinner.

Tough! Yesterday I cared, but then I quit. Good luck!

Patience

Patience has three stages. First, the servant ceases to complain: this is the stage of repentance. Second, the Sufi becomes satisfied with what is decreed; this is the rank of the ascetic. Third, the servant comes to love whatever the Lord does with him; this is the stage of the true friends of God. — Abu Talib al-Makki, from Essential Sufism

According to this outline, I am firmly entrenched in stage one.

If I read these kinds of things as a regular human, I can get in the groove. So wise!

But if I try to see it through the lens of a parent, it begins to make no sense. Asinine, even.

How can a person be expected to be satisfied with what is decreed when that person is given the ability to think up creative projects and the will to accomplish them, but they are surrounded by small creatures interrupting their work with alarming regularity?

How can a person be asked to love that the Lord requires the person to feed 7 people, when each of those 7 people has their own specific taste buds and hankerings and isn’t shy about declaring their intense displeasure at the food being served?

Etc.

Hence — I’m stuck at complaining.

I have my good moments. If I feel like I’m teaching a child something new, I am patient as all get-out. I can accept that they haven’t learned it yet, and I love that I have been put in the position to impart the knowledge and skill to survive.

But when I’ve freakin’ told you 400 times just in the last hour, and you do the opposite of what I taught you while looking at me out of the corner of your eye with a devilish grin?

NOT PATIENT.

When I just want to finish this sentence without being interrupted for the 38th time and then I forget my thought again and in fact I forget where the whole post was going and I end up rambling like a fool…

Thank you, dear reader, for your patience. We have experienced technical, two-legged giant-mouthed difficulties and will have to suspend our transmission until next time.

In the meantime, good luck being patient, and wish me the same. I need all the help I can get.

Sleeping In

I  remember sleeping in as a kid. Every time I did it my mother would greet me with “So you’re finally up. The day’s half gone.”  Regardless of what time it actually was.

So this morning was pretty typical of me “sleeping in” anymore: I got out of bed at a luxurious 7 a.m. (I normally get up at 6:30 a.m.) and immediately the 2 year old is up. Then the 9 year old. I’m sitting here trying to think of an interesting post, but I’ve gotten up four different times just in the time it’s taken me to write this (and I type fast) to shush them.

Don’t wake up the bear.

I think this is a fairly common dilemma in two-parent households – Mama has to get up, take the dog out, tend to the young children, maybe do a couple chores. Especially if she is SAHM who doesn’t “work.” Often when the husband is “the only one who works” he is entitled to sleep in.

I get if he works late. I’m not completely heartless. But if he gets home before 9 p.m.? Any staying-up-lateness is voluntary and thus not subject to the “golly-I-need-my-sleep” clause.

The 4 year old isn’t even awake yet, but when he is, the noise level will rise to construction-site-epic and it will surely be game over.

And so on these days, several hours of my life are devoted to nothing else but shushing.  The stress level is through the roof for me, and half the time the bear will wake up grumpy because he’s been woken up “prematurely,” so all the worrying and stress was for nothing anyway.

I wish I could express how much I hate it, but there aren’t words.

Grandpa’s Fruit Tree

My teenagers hate it when I try to share a story from my past. Yesterday I was trying to tell my 19 year old about how as a kid I had records with story books so I could listen to Heidi and Mary Poppins and such. She could barely be bothered to look at me and as soon as I paused she left the room.

I was immediately reminded of my Grandma’s face that day when I was maybe thirteen years old and she tried to get me to try a peach ( I think it was a peach – it’s extra-damning that I can’t even remember that detail) from a tree that my deceased Grandpa had planted years before. As a kid I despised almost every kind of fruit, and for her to be practically begging me to take one bite of some stupid gross fruit just seemed mean. Hooray, the man I barely remember grew some nasty stuff I hate, why are you torturing me with it?

I can still see the desperation turning to pain in her eyes as she realized I wasn’t going to even pretend to nibble the peach.

Now I know how long it takes to cultivate fruit trees. Now I know how profound it is that a person can reach across time and space with the literal or figurative fruits of their labor, extending their love even beyond the grave by the thoughtful and loving things they did with their lives. She was trying to teach me this, wanting me to participate in this miracle, wanting to see that their years of hard work for posterity was truly going to nourish the generations to come.

Not that this compares with my stupid stories about listening to 45’s. I just remember my own disgust when I see it mirrored in my child’s face, in her refusal to even humor me for a couple minutes. In her self-centered ignorance about what it means for the past and the future to be connected in a meaningful embrace.

That I can only completely understand what her eyes were saying from this distance, when the peach and she and my Grandpa are all long gone, makes me feel like the biggest fool ever.

The Start of Something Big?

In my ripe old age, I try to avoid getting overly excited about possibilities. I’ve learned that I have a pretty good imagination, and I can use it to create vivid scenarios based on fears and hopes, neither of which ends up being very useful.

Now brainstorming ideas, that’s fine, but weaving a fictional future in which all things turn out amazing with flowers and violin music… that’s just going to end in heartbreak.

So as I go off this morning in pursuit of a new opportunity, I’m trying to be chill.

It’s just a small gig, teaching budgeting classes at a local DSS office to folks applying for cash assistance. I’m meeting with the lady at a local community college who is setting the whole thing up. I’ve already developed the powerpoint presentation and handouts, in English and Spanish.

If it does happen, it will be extremely part-time, a few hours a week. But I am already plotting how I can secure more gigs with more offices for more classes. What if my name gets out there as someone who you can just call up and say, “I need a class about XYZ for my clients,” and I can develop the curriculum, translate it, and teach the class in both languages?

I feel like the meeting this morning is a pivotal moment along that path.

And the path feels like something perfect for me. I love to translate and speak Spanish. I love to teach, and how much better to not have to worry about grades and all that red tape but simply convey information and engage students in useful, relevant material. And I’d love to be able to help people by inspiring and/or informing them.

I am excited to see how this plays out.

No wait! I’m not excited!

Dude, I’m totally mellow…