Thursday, December 31, 2009


Yesterday, I entered the consumer driven holiday world. Somehow, it seemed like the right day to head to the mall after naps to return a few things. Obviously, I am no longer the savvy shopper I once was, because this was a really really stupid idea.

Of course, the traffic going in and coming out of the mall was horrible - I should have taken my cue and come up with plan B. Once we got in (after parking in the underground scary muggers lot outside JC Penny) there were so many people sauntering around that someone like me with a mission to accomplish just seems like a bull. I kept feeling like I was waiting for someone to move. It used to be that folks would stop to shop or look at a cute guy or whatever, but mainly people were stopping to talk or text. I can't fully grasp how totally different my memories of teenage life are from this new reality.

I also neglected to consider that without receipts, I would get current value for my returns, which meant bubkis since everything is on crazy sale. Gift receipts are the bomb folks. given the opportunity, you should include them in every gift. It's not that I don't appreciate gifts (although I'd much rather have gifts of time than things), I just want to be able to exchange sizes or whatever without too much of a hassle. And sometimes, we need socks and get pants... And sometimes, I've said "no ___" (fill in the blank) and that's what we get. I'm more than happy to run around and return and exchange stuff, but the easier it is the better. So after one return, I figured that out and decided to take the opportunity to just walk around and get some exercise.

On my little excursion, I saw that the kids play area was being cleaned! I was astounded. I had to wonder if it is the regular cleaning schedule, the more frequent schedule for the throngs, or if someone had just puked. When I came back around, the play center was standing room only, so there was zero chance we were going in, even though it was spotless.

The sale signs, coupons, specials, two for one, double reward points, whatever gimmick you can think of to lure customers were flashing all over the place. The consuming is consuming. This is really not a sustainable way for our economy to grow folks. Reliance on individuals going into debt each December in order for businesses to stay solvent is bad. As a nation we are over consuming everything. We buy, use, toss, waste and eat way more than our fair share. My trip to the mall was shocking confirmation of all of that.

There's only so much I can take, so we ditch the mall and head home. Since I had no plan for dinner and no intention of making one, I ended up running over to the grocery store to grab a few things that evening. Tired, hungry, and feeling sad at the state of affairs in the world, I saw that the "seasonal" aisle had some Christmas items on sale, a whole section of Valentine candy and pointless gifts, and even a section for Easter candy. Not even the New Year, and already they are selling us through April. Oh boy.

Friday, December 25, 2009


It's been an eventful past few days. My little guy seems to have grown up before my eyes. I wish I had taken some pictures today - he looked like such a guy with his flannel shirt over a t-shirt and sweats!

Pumpkin has begun to creep on his hands and knees and he can sit up on his own now as well. He started getting into a w-sitting position (my pediatric physical therapist hat screamed "NOOOOOOO" when I saw this) but couldn't really balance well there, thus we have no pictures since I was always trying to catch him before his head hit the hardwood. In the past week, he has learned to get in and out of sitting on his own (the "right" way), and just yesterday he pulled up to standing. Oh man!

He's a huge fan of eating, and now pounds his tray and yells if he is in his high chair and he doesn't see food forthcoming. He has tried string beans, green beans, banana, apples, pears, carrots, peas, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, and celery. I actually think he would eat anything we gave him!

He's got one little tooth fully in and at least one more on the way. He is not a very happy camper when he is teething, but you'd never know it from his huge grins! The telltale sign is the runny nose - clearly he is teething in all of these photos. He's just a super guy and I can't believe he isn't my tiny baby anymore.

Merry Christmas!

As we got closer to *The Day* I began to realize how kids become consumers. It's all us people. Peanut would never know about Santa and presents and buying things if every. single. adult. who spoke with her didn't play it up so much. We didn't even bring the kids to see Santa because, well, we didn't really talk about him alot until we had to because we saw him in passing at the mall. I'm also completely OK with my very small children NOT sitting on some strange man's lap and smiling about it. Maybe someday we will make an event of it, but I really can't see it happening anytime soon. Also, it always strikes me as a little strange to say that some guy will creep into our house at night and leave stuff under a big tree in our living room. I'm actually more interested in figuring out how Santa came to be, and talking about the traditions in other countries and times with the kids and perhaps adding some to our own celebrations.

Until last night, Peanut really still had no clue about the gifting side of all of this. Even when she saw the tree at her cousins house with presents under it, I'm not sure she got it. When she was given a gift, she stepped back a bit, and upon further discussion with her we realized she didn't realize it was hers to keep. She then proceeded to put the toy under the tree and then go back and get it - kind of reliving the moment.

We kept it fairly low key - our kids are so little that after they open one thing they are ready to play with it for the rest of the day and could care less about the 98 million things under the tree. It worked out perfectly - there was maybe one or two gifts too many, but Peanut happily opened all of them, stopping to play with a few items along the way. Pumpkin stayed with the first thing we opened for him - sitting and banging his little rainbow bowls together while the festivities continued around him. We had been given a kid sized table and chairs set from Honey's aunt and uncle, and had that out in the living room which worked out well for Peanut to begin putting stickers and glue on her ballerina pig bank, and then making us all pizza with her new wooden pizza set. My mom's boyfriend had given us an old computer a few weeks ago and we put that next to the tree as well. Peanut went right over and sat down, telling me she was checking her email.

The kids got their first ball and glove - Santa is a big baseball fan (Dodger fan to be exact) - and Peanut wanted to try it out. Here she is in one of her many tutus (she calls them "tops") working on her arm.

I got a fantastic set of stainless steel cookware - Go Honey! - that has already been put to use making the tastiest bacon and eggs I've ever made. They have already been lovingly cleaned and put away, while the old ones are slowly making their way to freecycle. (Yes, I am disclosing that they are used and nonstick so use them at your own risk!)

Peanut did get her chocolate ice cream this afternoon - it has been the one constant when people asked what she wanted for Christmas, so we couldn't let her down. She loved every bite!

As far as "being green" goes, we did think about our footprint in getting ready for the holiday. We didn't buy too much and got some things used and free. We did buy wood toys, stuff that diesn't require replacing batteries forever, some things that both kids would enjoy, and stuff they actually needed (snow suit, mittens...) as well. We used all the wrapping paper, boxes and bags that we already had to wrap our gifts (and Santa's stuff too). Of course, we did try to save the wrapping paper, bags and boxes, and did a pretty decent job considering we have a 2 year old who likes to rip the paper off as fast as possible. We had a bag of trash, but did have way more that we saved.

I have been able to cook and clean without interruption since Honey is holding our teething, running nose, very needy little dude while they watch a little TV, and Peanut is finally down for a nap. Doesn't sound very glamorous, but it is really all I asked for. Overall it's been a really lovely day!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Longest Shortest Day

It's officially the beginning of winter - can you tell? We got around a foot and a half of snow dumped on us this weekend, so yes, I can tell. Saturday morning, Peanut and I went out to play in the snow while it was still snowing because it was already so deep I knew she'd have a hard time walking if we waited any longer. I did end up carrying her for much of our playtime, and we made some snow angels by accident... but we both enjoyed the winter wonderland. Our whole neighborhood of conscientious citizens shoveled at least once on Saturday before the snow had even stopped falling. I did the walkway and had a new inch on it before I was through. It felt a little silly, but made the job way easier the next day.

By Sunday, the snow was so deep; our dog ran out the back door and turned right back around to come in when she realized it was up to her shoulders. Honey had to cut a path for her in the yard so she could stop standing around with her legs squeezed together. Needless to say, we did not take the kids out in it since they are both too short and we'd lose them. Honey did do a fabulous shoveling job - the cleanest driveway around. I'm so proud!

Sunday was a little dicey - somehow, every transition seemed like a nightmare. Peanut requested a nap very early in the day and then never actually slept. Pumpkin comfort nursed a whole lot, and I started to feel quite worn out from it all. We did have some fun cuddle time though.

Day three of "operation cooped up" included rolling up beeswax sheets to make candles and making playdough; two kinds - smelly gingerbread dough and a rosy pink one. The playdough came about since the previous batch (which has lasted quite a while) has dried up due to being used as "food" in the play kitchen for the past week. We made the candles for our Solstice celebration. I got a little kit with beeswax sheets and wicks so we could roll them up ourselves - easy and fun. Peanut has been reading about "The Shortest Day" and we've been talking about how people celebrate the Winter Solstice because they know the sun will come back and stay for a longer time each day after that. She gets into the idea of the sun being in the sky after dinner like it was in the summer.

Plenty of cooking took place today as well. Chicken soup, veggie fritters, baked coconut/curry tilapia, and bananas in coconut milk to name a few dishes. The bananas turned out excellently and the leftovers went into the freezer as popsicles. I had opened a can of coconut milk yesterday to make muffins and only needed a few tablespoonfuls. With almost a full can leftover, I had to come up with a way to use it all up - thus the Thai flair.

Crafts notwithstanding, today ended up being one of those days where I wanted to walk away. The combination of everyone being indoors and going a little stir crazy with a teething infant and needy two year old leaves a lot to be desired. Additionally, we woke every hour last night for someone. Fix the blanket, change the baby's diaper, feed him, find the lovey for her... it just went on and on. When you are a zombie and everyone needs you at the same time, it feels like you should just leave. The kids alternated naps today too, so there was always someone awake and requiring something from me.
Now that I think of it, I should have turned on the tube and let everyone veg, including me, but no - we had stuff to do and make and finish. These are the days when I realize the way we live and parent can be really draining at times. Keeping the TV off and really interacting with the kids all day is fun and what I want most, but it can be a lot of work. Cooking and eating well and healthy take an awful lot of time and energy. It would be so much faster and easier to pull out lunchables or run through the drive through, but that's just not how I roll. I guess I have to deal with a little fatigue if these are the things I prioritize.

I am pleased that we did a little Solstice centerpiece and ate dinner by candlelight. If my mood had been lighter, it would have been really super fun - but I was just glad to be close to bedtime, and happy to see everyone eating well, so it was merely enjoyable. A fitting short day - I am so looking forward to the sun coming up earlier and sticking around a bit later in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My turn to talk

If you know me, you know that I like to talk. I think one of the most difficult transitions for new moms or for moms who move from working to staying at home is the decrease in adult interactions. I have been lucky enough to have a slow transition period - I worked part time from the time Peanut was 4 months old until Pumpkin was born, and had a slow taper in my hours at the end of my pregnancy. I've also been able to make amazing friendships through the Holistic Moms Network, that keep me talking and thinking and learning all the time.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk about my passions. Although I am a holistic, green, natural parenting mama, I don't like to push my views on others - if you ask, I'll tell you. If you seem interested, I'll venture there, but the minute there is an inkling of discomfort or resistance, I'll back off. It is a lot of time and energy trying to read people and be PC about so many topics, so when I get the chance to talk, it feels great! That's why my mom's group is so wonderful - I don't spend all that energy trying to be gentle with my views. I can put them out there and people can agree or disagree without hurting or being hurt.

So while the kids were napping (hmmm, one was just "resting") I was interviewed by a columnist for Northern Virginia Magazine. She asked some really interesting questions that made me think about things more deeply than I had in a while. Not only did I have the opportunity to be passionate, no holds barred, but I have been thinking about her questions and having the most interesting dialogue with myself!

We talked about the things that are most important to attain and maintain health as a mom. Of course, if you don't take care of your own mind, body and spirit, how will you have the energy to care for your partner and children? Immediately, I thought of our difficult transition to a family of four, and the change in my attitude being the deciding factor in my own mental health. Once I let things go a little, prioritized and centered myself, the juggling became easier, the guilt lifted, and I was genuinely happy to be home with my kids. Long ago, I would have thought daily exercise, time for myself, meditation, eating well were at the top of the list. That's all definitely still on the list, but the mindset is tops. I may not have the neatest, cleanest house, and I may be wearing the same jeans as yesterday but we are all happy and healthy and having a good time together.

How do I get my information on the cutting edge "green" or "holistic" issues? I pondered that one too. There are some go to spots for news, but more often than not, another parent has been focusing on one aspect of health or parenting or environment, or something and they share what they have found with the group. Then I can go to the links they have posted or websites they site and read and determine for myself what I think or how I interpret the information. Sometimes, one parent will bring something up and another will refute it with other research. It is always interesting, and always new. To me, it just is. I'm honestly surprised when what I know is not common knowledge. I had a whole conversation at Peanut's dance class the other day about lead in artificial Christmas trees and lights and was surprised that this was news to most of the moms there. I think I had learned of this last year or the year before. I just know these things because that's the news I follow. If you are interested in baseball (like Honey) you know the stats, who's injured, what each teams chances are of getting to the world just know. There is filter that jolts your brain when something of importance is on the radio or in the paper. I can be listening to NPR and barely paying attention and Kojo will bring up an environmental study as an example and I'm zeroed in.

I was asked about policy. Gosh, I haven't thought about policy in a long time! In another life, it was all I thought about, but now the day to day is what I'm after. How interesting to consider though what policy should be in order to push the natural or "slow parenting" agenda forward. Again, my personal life took center stage - policies that acknowledge the tremendous importance of parenting and allow families to parent as they see fit, rather than force them to stay home or go back to work based on finances, transportation, day care options, etc. Families should be able to parent in the best way that works for their family and children and be supported in that endeavor. Birth options of course are high on the list too. The idea that we should regulate where and with whom someone gives birth is ludicrous. Birth policy should allow that birth is a natural process that can be peaceful, powerful, intense, and calm all at once. We should not have policies that continue to reinforce the idea that birth is a painful medical procedure. Now that I think about it, some of the regulations on toy production, food labeling, farming, and marketing of pharmaceuticals are probably high on my list of policy issues as well.

One of the most interesting questions was "what do [I] get out of volunteering as a chapter leader for the Holistic Moms Network?" When it began, I was seeking out like minded people with kids that could have a play date with us and not roll their eyes. Remember - we started when it was weird, not cool to be "green". All the moms groups I tried when Peanut was born might as well have met at McDonald's. The talk centered around foreign made plastic toys with batteries that thwart imaginative play, getting on the preschool list by 6 months of age, and the wonderful "deal" on sweatshop produced Walmart clothes that week (it's no deal - we pay for it somewhere). I didn't think I was asking for much - just a few mom's who questioned conventional wisdom. I have come to realize that this community is so much more than that. The information we share, experiences we can relate to, challenges we bring to each others thinking, and support in our varied choices are irreplaceable. For every questioned asked there are several answers. My involvement in this group helps clarify my own path, and validate my life and parenting choices. It feeds a need for me too in that it allows me to be a part of a larger community, to feel like I fit in somewhere in the world, that I have a role to play here. I enjoy the work I do to coordinate the community, and like being able to use my work world skills in my mom world. I feel like all of my degrees and training are being used for a good cause.

I sure hope the column turns out well, but either way, my thoughts have been stirred up by the experience. How enjoyable to think about the day to day in a new way. Thanks for sparking my brain a bit Renee!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No grout yet...

We've had quite a fast and furious run of work on the bathroom this week. The only thing left to do is grout the shower floor and install the shower door. We are so close, but the grouting was supposed to happen this afternoon and we have had no word from the contractor... Oh well. Here are the "so far" photos!

The old floor was removed in the shower and when the new tile arrived it was smaller and closer together, but I like it better so it's fine!
I don't think I have mentioned that we chose Kirei for the countertop. It was an inexpensive green option and turned out beautifully.
The only thing I think I would have done differently is make the sink cabinet shorter. I measured to end the cabinet where the original one had ended by the toilet, and never having used that old scary bathroom had no idea how snug it would be. We could have easily shaved 6 inches off the base cabinets and still had plenty of storage and allowed ourselves a little wiggle room on the commode. Live and learn!

Snowy Day Pictures

I realized that we forgot to throw these pics out there from our georgeous snow on 12/5! Here they are - it was a beautiful day!


Every year around as the Christmas lights began to shine in our neighborhood. I'd beg my mom and dad for lights at our house. We celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas, although neither one religiously, but for some reason lights were NOT going to be on the outside of our house or in our yard. As I got older and went through several periods of "finding myself" and my religion or lack thereof, I began to understand. The lights signified a level of celebration that did not fit our family. We had a tree (a whole other story about my thematically decorating the tree - a white tree we one year with only red decorations I think - I read too many Good Housekeeping magazines), and Santa came but I don't think I knew anything about Jesus until I was in junior high.

This weekend, my Honey had the sweetest conversation with Peanut while we were at my moms for Hanukkah. They were talking about how wonderful it was and how lucky she is to be in a family that celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. She is just beginning to understand the presents (she still says she wants chocolate ice cream for Christmas), and loves the lights of the candles in the Menorah and the lights in our neighbors yards. Every day, she asks to see "more Christmas!" and looks out the window to see the white and colored lights, the deer and polar bears, Santas and snowmen. Yesterday, we put up the Christmas tree and she entered the living room wide eyed after her nap and said "Christmas in OUR HOUSE!"

We've chosen to focus on the lights and the seasonal aspects of the holidays, rather than the commercial or religious parts. On my path, I have come to learn that many of the Christmas traditions started with the celebration of solstice. As an aside, I quite enjoyed the primetime reference to this from Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory , although there was of couse the requisite subtle bashing of those who celebrate Solstice. Honey tivoed (I actually had to look this up to see if it was a word and how to spell it) it and saved it for me... Maybe it is my rationalization, but I love Christmas lights and so does Peanut, so if we are celebrating the Solstice and honoring the light, shouldn't we decorate the outside of our house? I felt a little guilty last year when we put lights up on the two trees on either side of our front door. This year I'd love to expand on that a bit more and feel no guilt about it at all. Even if the outside world assumes that it means we are religious, I know it means we just love the lights and are shining them bright while we wait for the sun to come back and make our days longer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

EMF - not the band

When we first moved into our house, the electrical system was totally insane. There were tons of live wires hanging in the utility room - the previous owners had been working on making a shop and it was not yet done. The electrical panel was rusted out and quite a few circuits were overloaded. In addition, the power lines run from the poles by the street past our bedroom windows to get to our panel. So we had the interior rewired and all seems to be well. The power lines always bothered me though and I had planned on looking into this at some point. Turns out that that point is right now...

I developed a healthy but not crazy concern about electronic devices and microwaves over the past few years. When we were remodeling our kitchen and living primarily off of microwaved food, I cringed every time I turned it on. Not just because of what it may be doing to the food, but because it was at waist level and worried about that being in line with reproductive organs and with Peanuts little head. Recently, I have been more conscious of the possibility of cell phones causing problems and have begun to hear more about fluorescent lighting as well. I have been interested in LED bulbs for a while, but they are so expensive that it has not been an option for us thus far.

Well, our moms group is having a speaker in January talk about wireless safety. I know that I will want to change some things about how we use our wireless network, cell phones, blackberry...etc but I had hoped to live in ignorant bliss for a while longer. Not so much. I got the new Prevention magazine this week and saw this article and had a little freak out. Now, LED light bulbs are at the top of my list, I'm happy that we have replaced our bedroom dimmer switches with regular on/off light switches a couple of months ago, and I am on a mission to deal with those power lines outside our windows. I have already arranged to borrow a Gauss meter since the local electric cooperative thinks I am a loon. I've called and spoken with several people, asking if they have someone who takes Gauss meter readings. Even though EMF's are addressed on their website, I have yet to speak with someone who has a clue.

My only solace is that most things that I have had concerns about and been deemed nuts by others have eventually proven to be real issues - plastic in the microwave, that horrid smell of new shower curtains... So I may be crazy, and I hope I am in this instance, but I fear there is more to the story and "dirty electricity" could have significant health repercussions. Better safe than sorry.

I really did like EMF when it was just an 80's party band...

Oh Honey

I know I don't tell him enough, so here it is -

I love my wonderful Honey because:
- he is the most even keeled person I know
- I can talk to him about everything and he listens to it all
- he brings our compost all the way out to the yard composter in the snow!
- although I do feed and care for Pumpkin at night, I never have to get out of bed to do so
- he does laundry and cleans without me asking - he is really a far better housekeeper than I
- he is a wonderful father
- I am balanced by his practicality and realistic views
- he is so patient with my "new ideas that we should try" like changing our diets, clearing our house of EMF's...
- he understands and values my work as a stay at home mom
- I can be just myself and know that I am loved for all of what "just myself" includes
- he is loyal and true - as a friend and family member, he is always there when he is needed
- he is thoughtful, and wants me to take better care of myself
- he tells me he loves me and that I'm a hot mama!

Honey, it took some time - thank goodness I at last got it right.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living in quadrant II

I've decided to take back my electronic life. I have been trying to carve out a little more time for me, and realized how much time I was spending sifting through my email accounts. I used to have a great system with folders that certain emails went to automatically, but somehow the inbox is completely overrun and the folders are of no help. As a big believer in Stephen Covey, I was thoroughly dismayed to see how much time I was spending on the "not important, not urgent" tasks in Quadrant IV rather than the "important, not urgent" tasks in Quadrant II.

Over the years, I have gotten on so many lists for daily, weekly, monthly newsletters and special offers that I now either skim or delete without reading. The past two days, all of my free time has gone towards getting off of all of these lists! It's been pretty easy (albeit time consuming) so far - most of them have an instant unsubscribe or a quick check box. Only one has been troublesome in that I had to log on and change my preferences - which meant I needed to remember the user id and password I used for something I probably signed up for 10 years ago... They all say it takes a few days to get cleared in their systems, but this morning I had less email than usual so I can already see a difference!

Since it is the holiday season, I am getting email from pretty much every place I have ever shopped at or in as well, so I am hoping to get rid of all of those in the coming weeks. The plan then will be to stay on top of it - if I get a new promo from a store I recently shopped online, I need to be sure to unsubscribe right away. Better yet - I'll look for the box I'm sure must be there when I place my order that says "please don't send me any stuff besides this order". Yeah right.

Now if I could do the same thing with all of this paper around here...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

THE most expensve paint job EVER

Apparently green is a tough color. I have had several green rooms over the years and have not had much trouble picking the color I liked.

This bathroom has been a nightmare - I realized about three shades of green in that it was likely due to the fact that there is not yet a light that works in the bathroom, so we are working off natural light from the solar tube and that just isn't cutting it. I have found a few colors I like, then I see them in the morning and hate them. The glass tiles are beautiful, but the iridescent finish is making it tough to find a complementary color. Here's the tile - OOOHHHHH so pretty!

Our contractor painted one green one day, another green the next day, and I have painted the room twice now with two different greens and done several swatches to test a few others. We bought 7 cans of paint. Yes seven. I think we will most certainly have another green room in our home soon... Thank goodness they are all no VOC - can you imagine the stink of 7 cans of regular paint???? I told Honey that I may open a green boutique (pipe dream, but a good one!) and paint all the shades of green in a mural all over the walls.

So here is one shade - I think it is a little too beachy - like the weird seafoam green that you could get on a Ford Taurus...

And here is the winner - well I think it is the winner - it is still drying. But honestly, it's the winner because I am just not going to paint another color again. I need to do one more coat and then touch up the ceiling and trim where I got green all over them...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dancing Queen

Since we got sidetracked by renovations, I neglected to fill in the gaps on the dance classes!

Well, Peanut had her first class last week - she woke up on Tuesday talking about her dance clothes and shoes ("my shiny pink top, my tights and my ballet shoes!" and going to dance class. It was all I could do to keep her occupied for a few hours before we had to go! In the car, we listened to "ballet music" aka classical music to get in the proper mood for dancing. Oh who am I kidding - that is the only music she wants to listen to at all this past week!

I walked her to the door after we met her teachers and she went in all by herself. I could see her through the little window, and after about 10 minutes of just standing still and eyeing herself in the morror, she did actually begin to follow along. The girls were really cute practicing their stretches and tumbles and following the leader. They joined in with the younger class (that's right - there is a younger class - 18 months and up!) to do parachute games and some fun songs. She was beaming when she came out of class. I'm so happy that she enjoyed herself!

She has been talking about dance class all week. She tells me "you sit outside and only I go in". So I had thought it might be difficult, having her go in to her first class on her own, but she was a pro - I think she might even be upset with me if I dare enter the classroom. My little miss independence. Peanut has been dancing more this week too. She has even had her full dance outfit on a few times to twirl, but she makes sure to let me know that her ballet shoes are "only for the class mommy". Sorry these photos are not great - it's hard to take pictures through the little window!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Zen like spa bathroom...or not

I am a do it yourself kind of girl. I have a really hard time sitting back and letting someone else do something that I know is going to be screwy. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I can be controlling, but I try so hard not to be. Sometimes, I err so much on the side of caution that I could just kick myself for not being more controlling.

Once again, our tile is screwed up. This bathroom that seems like it will never be completed is causing me heartache and pain. We are still waiting for the rest of the tile mosaic to replace the mosaic that got trashed in the last debacle, but meanwhile the rest of the tile has gone up and looked good. So yesterday, the grout went down. I should have known something was amiss when the tile guy had to get a second bag of grout to finish the shower floor. A 25 lb bag of grout should have handily covered the shower walls, floor, and the rest of the bathroom floor. At 6pm, I discovered that he needed more grout because he had grouted the river rock shower floor so it was all level.

That is right - river rock covered in grout to the point that you couldn't really even see it. The point of having a rock floor is so you can have a zen spa like shower experience. You want to feel the rocks beneath your feet. We even had the rock in our house for a few weeks before deciding to use it to be sure we were OK with the bumpy feel. So he made us a grout shower floor like you see in a really old grubby locker room shower.

Well, he stayed and removed some grout. Then he removed some more. Then at around 8pm, he went home. This morning I looked and while you can see some rocks, there is still way too much grout and when you stand on it you can't feel any rocks. So what's the point? Why did I pick out this great rock floor if it is just like regular tile? Oh boy. There was a grout haze still on all the tiles too, which I know is a bad idea because I have made the mistake of letting it sit too long myself. We have a perm ant haze in our hall bath, and there was no way I was letting that happen again here - I washed the shower walls and bathroom floor this morning before honey left for work and they look much better. So this morning I called to talk to the "boss" and they will fix it....of course they will. But honestly that is not the point. The point is that I am paying for someone else to do this and do it right. There is NO REASON that I should have to be a fly buzzing and buzzing around to be sure things are done right. Nor is there any reason I should have to be reading grout and tile specs when others have not checked them out themselves... I should get a cut of the labor cost at this point as I am acting GC most of the time.

So now the shower floor has to come out. And we have to order more tile. And it needs to be reinstalled. And re-grouted. I think I won't do the math because it might make me ill, but I bet it would have been much less expensive for me to have them get to the point where the bath was tile ready, hire a nanny for two weeks and just do it myself. We still have no closet and our clothes are all in the guest room where we will have guests next week. We have no light fixtures or switches installed as of yet. We have no paint on the seems while we are dealing with all the tile headaches that we could have made some headway on the other parts of the work. I am so close to just doing the wiring myself. I think if I wasn't blogging right now that is what I would be doing.

How weird are we?

As we dive deeper into this new way of eating - or old way of eating depending on how you look at it - we have lots of ups and downs. When I make pork chops with a salad, steamed cauliflower and cucumber slaw, and Peanut eats her cauliflower first, and asks for more, I know we are on the right track. When she doesn't know what to do with a food that most kids her age have eaten before (lollipops for example) I am so pleased to see that we really are making a different way of food with her.

But them there are the downs. Today at her farm school class, we had a snack that I was totally shocked with. I have come to expect that I won't be pleased with the snacks we have there, but since it is not the end of the world and we only have one more class to go, I haven't said anything. The snacks aren't horrid - there is always juice (which we rarely have at home), and crackers or pudding or chex mix, or whatever. Today, snack was an ice cream sandwich. That's right. At 11:30 in the morning for a bunch of 2 and 3 year olds. Ice cream, sugar, cookie, and processed trash galore. What makes a preschool teacher decide that this is OK? When we saw them, one of the teachers made a comment about how Peanut would like snack, and all I could do was say that I wasn't sure she would know what it was as she had never had one before. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of the overall program, (that is a whole other story) but my expectation could never get so low as to assume we'd have ice cream in the morning at school. I think the worst part was that not one of us said anything about the snack. No one called them on it. We all sat there and let our kids eat it (and some parents ate most of it themselves). I'd like to think that we were all in the same boat - too shocked to do more than tightly smile. I'm not sure that is true.

I think that it might be common to give your 2 year old an ice cream sandwich before lunch. Peanut and I had a whole conversation about the snack once she figured out it was ice cream. We talked about what was on the outsides (the cookie) and how that makes it a sandwich. So at least she learned something new, oy. I don't know - I feel like we are so weird sometimes that I can't tell what is really crazy and what is just me.

Last week, I told my grandmother (who has always eaten well - no processed foods) that we were focusing on boosting our immunity to prepare for the flu season in lots of ways, including decreasing/eliminating sugar. Even she was surprised and admonished me, telling me how I would cause my kids to gorge on sweets the first minute they got if I controlled them too much at home. Why is it expected that kids will eat crap and crap alone? I grew up eating pretty well, and yeah, I liked to sneak cookies and all when I was in school, and I certainly saw the freshman 15 consequences of eating junk when I started college, but the pendulum swings and look at me now.

I want my kids to learn how food makes you feel and how when you eat things that are real foods with good nutritional value, you have energy and focus and when you eat things that are processed and have too much sugar and chemicals you feel fuzzy and tired. They can choose, but I want them to think about what their choices mean. Why on earth would I sabotage that by giving them ice cream in the morning at school of all places? I could go on and on about school lunches and vending machines in public schools and fast food commercials and toys in the meals... but I know I will need that energy for elementary school, and this is not ever really preschool yet and I am already wound up about how people who should be setting good examples just don't.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So sweet

He's Crawling!

He's 5 months old and he began to pull himself forward this week. I am a little taken aback and unprepared. I left Pumpkin in the living room for a minute the other day and came back to see him under the coffee table. I wondered how he did it - maybe he just rolled over and back and did his little pivot turn - but this seemed further than usual. So I watch for a few minutes and there he goes - tush up, arms out and pull with his arms. Oh gosh.

Soundtrack of my life

As we are driving home from the farmer's market today, "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel was on the radio. Like lots of songs from the late 80's and early 90's, the minute I hear the first few notes tons of memories and emotions come up. Somehow, this is the way my brain is wired. Music elicits all kinds of stuff. I can happily listen to old songs and think about when I first heard them, who loved the song with me, who sang at the top of their lungs with me into a hairbrush. I'm quietly reminiscing when Honey says, "Hey, you know it's the 20th anniversary of 'Say Anything'." I am instantly horrified. The memories I was having of seeing that movie in college - who I was with, how I was so elated and rosy cheeked in the cold Boston November night afterward, and anything was possible - now just made me feel so very old.

How did 20 years go by so fast?! It was just a short time ago that I was a freshman, who was petrified with the idea of being somewhere that I knew no one - well I had met a few people at freshman orientation, two of whom would end up to be some of my closest friends in college and one who is one of my closest to this day.

I had always been shy - hard to imagine that now. I remember clearly having my heart beat so hard and loud that it felt like it would jump out of my chest as a teacher would get closer to my name during attendance. God forbid I should have to say "Here" in front of the whole class. I remember shaking like a leaf during one of the first presentations I had to make in college. It was absolutely uncontrollable.

I had decided before starting freshman year that folks at school didn't yet know me, and I could create a new way of being with people, at least socially - I didn't deal with the performance anxiety until Junior year or so. Now don't get me wrong - I was never a wallflower. I just always waited for other people to talk to me. The first week at school, I methodically knocked on every door in our dorm and introduced myself. It was the greatest and most freeing thing. I met all the girls on our floor, the hockey players on the floor below, and the science geeks on the floor above. I met folks that loaned me blenders when we had parties. I met so many people that I knew that if I was bored or lonely or whatever, I'd always be able to find someone around to talk with.

It seems insane, that I can remember this all so clearly 20 years later. I could probably go through tons of stories leading up to that night in November, that movie, and that song. I always find it amazing and wonderful that all of these thoughts can come flooding back with a few random notes. It is such a great way to remember my life - as if it is a soundtrack. I hope that never fades away.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When I was little, I took dance lessons. I remember an early class with jazz, ballet and tap all combined where I had to do a recital that I think terrified me (but I could be making that up - most public displays terrified me until college) and was on a truck bed in the hot sun. I remember a later ballet class where I am sure I wanted to be a prima ballerina and dance the Nutcracker.

As much as I dislike ballet now, I know I loved it as a child. As I grew, ballet became evil for me for a multitude of reasons. First was the teacher who told me I'd never be a ballerina because I didn't have the body of a dancer. I can't recall if she actually said my but was too big or if I assumed that was her meaning, but clearly since it was 30 some years ago it has impacted me greatly. Then, physical therapy school brought to my attention the unbelievable injuries ballerinas deal with and are basically expected to endure. And finally, as a Pilates instructor, I met many dancers who had all kinds of issues and injuries and continued to dance through the pain. It just made for an awful taste in my mouth.

So today I signed Peanut up for dance class. How could I not? She loves anything ballet, princess, tutu related. She twirls around the house dancing. When we saw the class she would be age appropriate for, her eyes got huge. She starts next Tuesday. Oh I hope she loves it - and never has to have the emotions I have about this. Or I hope she decides it isn't her thing early, and we are done. I think it might be harder to let my kids follow their dreams that I had and crashed, than it is to let them do something completely unknown. I always want to keep her options open and let her try out everything to discover her passions. So next week I get to sit in the lobby while she goes into class by herself. This is tough on so many levels. Here it begins!

Lots of Leaves!

All last week, I was feeling like a slacker. I watched as our neighbors had cleared their yards, neatly piling leaves into bags and lining them up on the curb. Every day I head a leaf blower or shredder or vacuum or mower running, guilting me. Every time I drove in and out of the neighborhood - green lawn, green lawn, green lawn, huge leaf pile, green lawn, green lawn.

I did go out in the front yard with the kids one day and Peanut and I raked a bit. We made some progress and got some play-worthy piles going, but within a few hours the wind and the leaves still on the trees had conspired to make it look like we had done nothing. It just looked like some spots had drifted to create huge piles under the regular leaf cover. Oh well - she was tired from raking and playing and took a great nap, and I got a little workout so all was not lost.

We all went out to attack the leaves this weekend - rakes and blowers in hand. It was a beautiful day and Peanut and I did our best to rake (well - she raked for a few minutes and then wallowed in piles of leaves) while Pumpkin napped in the Moby and Honey wielded the leaf blower. We created quite an amazing pile which Honey then manhandled around to the back of the house and dumped into the garden and the mulch beds. I got a few wheelbarrows full into the composter along with the remains of our garden. The leaves should do a nice job of keeping the good garden soil from losing too many nutrients over the winter and they should add a little bit of goodness too. Why bag leaves when you can use them? Seems silly work to me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tastebuds reset!

Our family has been eating either GAPS or Primal most (75%? maybe) of the time now. We still have some no no's in our pantry (pasta, rice, etc), but I for one don't really want them so we haven't cooked them just yet. We have had lots of veggies, but it feels like I'm the only one who really enjoys them.

Last Sunday and Monday we made an attempt to do the GAPS diet intro program. Essentially, you eat fresh broths (meat and/or bone) for a few days along with boiled meats and vegetables and probiotic foods. As you feel ready, you add in eggs, avocado, and a bench of other "healing" foods. This has been hard for Honey as he really only likes veggies raw, and those are off limits. Cooked veggies are his nemesis I think. Anyway, by Sunday at 7pm, I was so hungry I could have eaten anything, and Pumpkin was screaming because I think I wasn't giving him enough through my milk. So I bailed.

I don't mean to imply that I started eating crap, I just bailed on soup for days. We are all still doing well with out meat, veggies and fruits, and I know I feel pretty good. I've definitely lost my desperate need for carbs and sugar. Someone left ice cream in our freezer on Halloween and it has not been touched. By this time if we were not on this eating plan, that ice cream would have easily been history. I think Honey feels better too - less reflux as far as I can tell.

Peanut is still eating some grains and yogurt, but we have noticed that if she has a grain of any kind, she will eat very little of anything else. We've also noticed that she tends to get full fast on grains, even gluten free, and the rest of the day is a lot of me bugging her to eat. When she only does meat and veggies, she eats way more. I'm not completely sure, but I think she is also happier and less labile without grains. The decrease in her dairy (she could have survived on cheese alone before) has absolutely made a difference in her tummy and - not to be gross- bowel habits.

It has been fascinating to see how our tastes are changing. We had roasted squash this week which would have made me gag before, but I loved it! I'm finding carrots to be very sweet, and food to need little additional spice. Honey and I compared notes yesterday, and we had both tried a little milk chocolate after Halloween and found that it tasted a bit chemical and nasty. Dark chocolate is still wonderful as far as I am concerned!

At the end of this week, I was tired of cooking (we already do a lot of cooking, but the soup and stew and broth thing is really time consuming), so we ordered in. We decided to experiment a bit, and we had Five Guys burgers and fries one night and Chinese food last night. The burgers were good and pretty close to GAPS legal aside from the buns. Fries are of course out, but the strange thing for both of us was that our ketchup was way too sweet! We haven't had ketchup in a long time as we cut out tomatoes a while ago, so this was pretty shocking. We both felt fine though after eating whereas our Chinese food made us both a little queasy. That was surprising because I ordered steamed chicken and vegetables with brown sauce on the side and only had a tiny bit of sauce. You would think that wasn't hugely different, but I did have some soup and part of a spring roll, so who knows. There could have been soy and sugar and whatnot in there.

The most interesting thing this week though was Honey's lunch at Thai Basil. He always orders the spiciest food he can, and Thai has actually been spicy enough for him in the past. More often than not, what other people find to be really hot doesn't even phase him. Well, he couldn't really eat his Thai dish as it was far too spicy for him. So the readjusting of the taste buds is definitely happening here.

This morning we went to the farmers market to do our shopping, and for the first time we got everything we will need for the week for under $90 from the market. This may be the most exciting development. I'm thinking less about how to put meals together - it's easy because there are not a million choices - veggies and meat is really it. We are using every part of what we buy, either for a meal, stew, soups, or for compost when all is said and done, so I feel like we are living even more lightly. There is lots of cabinet space being freed up as we use up our flours and grains too - I'll soon be able to have space for jarred and canned vegetables in the pantry! Now, I'll have to learn to can...

So close, yet so far

I should have new bathroom pictures to share. We were so close to having a tiled shower this week. So close I could feel the hot water of my very own shower just steps from my bed...but alas, it was not yet to be. Something always goes wrong in remodeling. Clearly, we know that by now. The key is to have people you are working with who will see it, own it, and solve it fast. Thank goodness, we have those people!

I had peeked in at the tile as it was going up, but hadn't gone into the shower until just after the glass border went in. So the whole shower was tiled from the floor to about 4 feet high. At first I just looked at the tile and thought - "yep - these are beautiful!". Then I noticed the grout lines. Or maybe I should say the lack of grout lines. There were spots where I couldn't fit my fingernail between tiles. Now, the manufacturer of the glass tile, Oceanside, recommends sanded grout. Clearly, sanded grout was not ever going to fit in these spaces.

So, I called our folks and since our contractor was out of town at a meeting, his wife Beth came by to check it out. She and the tile guy and I all agree that the glass needs to be moved up. Sounds like a done deal. Except that when I went in to look at that after he had moved it, he had left the trowel lines in the thinset under the tiles. That's fine with regular tile, but with glass the lines need to be flattened or the tiles need to be back buttered so the lines don't show through. So I call Beth again, and she says she is coming over to help me pull tiles off the wall and try to save the glass before it is stuck. This is great news, as I have two little ones begging for attention and dinner needs to be cooked and I just can't imagine washing tiles while I am roasting squash.

So, I go into the shower to get started with the work, and as I am standing there, the recycled subway tiles catch my eye. I look up, and a whole section of tile is obviously crooked. OY! Then I start to inspect further, and lots of individual tiles are akimbo. Now these tiles are not totally uniform, which is fine, but they are seriously not level or plumb. When Beth got there, I showed her what I had saved so far and pointed out the new issue - she saw it too and we agreed that it all needed to come down.

OK. So I buy all recycled tile and now there is a risk that we won't be able to get it off the wall in good enough shape to reuse it?! Why not just go to Lowe's and get some random tile made in China and shipped around the world three times before it gets to me? So now I am hoping we can save at least some of the tile. The glass liners were fine (Thank goodness - they were also the most expensive of the lot!), the mosaics washed off fine, but came off the paper backing when we washed them of course, so now they are a pile of little puzzle pieces. Beth likes them, so she took them for a project at her house, and they will buy some more sheets of them for our bath. SO the glass is not a total loss - as long as it will be used for something I am happy.

The next day, the subway tiles come down. Unbelievably, only four tiles were broken. The rest came off and washed well enough to reuse! Thank goodness the guy who is doing our tiling has a sense of humor since he has spent like a week in a 4x3 space. On Monday, the subway tile will go back up with several sized spacers to keep the tiles level and the grout lines large enough for the appropriate grout. WHEW.

So the thing about all of this, is that this is the first project that we have completely handed over to someone else in this house. Last time we had tiling done at our old house, we had an issue with the border as well, and I didn't say anything until it was done - I kept thinking they knew what they were doing and "never show a fool half finished work". This time, I have tried hard not to meddle and to remain out of the details, and to not be controlling. Of course, this is the time that I should have meddled - I had emailed the installation and specs information before we started, and had the manual from the tile company there for them to see, but did not point out the things that I thought may be issues as I didn't want to seem condescending. If I had pointed out the grout specifications and the flattening of the thinset lines, we would have never had these issues. So you live and learn. Thank goodness I said something right away instead of waiting. Sometimes being a bossy chick may be a good thing!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Holistic Halloween

We had such a fantastic time on Saturday! Our moms group, the Holistic Moms Network, hosted a Holistic Halloween party here at the house. The kids ran around the yard and jumped in piles of leaves - really is there anything better? We had a wagon and some hay bales ans we (well, one of the dads) pulled the kids around for a "hay ride" while the kids not riding ran after the wagon. We opened up a pumpkin, and then our children got squirmy about sticking their hands in to take out the seeds. Every one of them wanted to use a spoon to scoop them out! The plan was to take the seeds and toast them, but somehow the pumpkin and seeds ended up in the sandbox...maybe we will have a volunteer pumpkin vine or two next year. There was a little crafts table set up outside with all kinds of materials to explore and create with.

When it began to drizzle, we dragged our stuff inside and ate! We had quite a spread - it was potluck, and with folks with lots of cooking talent and varied dietary needs, it was interesting and delicious. A few of the dads brought fall and pumpkin beers for tasting, we had soup, stew, casseroles, liver, veggies, pies, cakes, and I'm sure things I have missed. The children decorated mini pumpkins, made popcorn hands, and ran around in the playroom all afternoon. When the weather cleared, we went back out to bob for apples. Now in this era of swine flu we couldn't throw caution to the wind and stick our heads in a big trash can like we did when I was a kid, so each child had their own bowl! It was a riot watching them all - some trying to eat the apple in the water, some dunking the apple after each bite like the water was a dip. Of course a few got very wet, but it was warm and we were outside so all was well.

Honey and I were talking afterwards and we both agreed that it was great to have active parents with us. What I mean by that is people who take an active role in parenting their kids wherever they are. You can see them keeping their kids in sight out of the corner of their eyes while they carry on a conversation. At the first hint of trouble, their posture shows they are tuned in to what may happen next, and they can make suggestions or requests of the kids in order to help them negotiate play, get to the potty on time, or keep their dinner from spilling off the plate. The kids learn to deal with social rules and the parents assist but don't take over, rescue, or coddle. Many of the families in our group follow (loosely or otherwise) attachment parenting. The most amazing thing about this is that attachment parenting usually gets a bad rap for just allowing children to run amok. Honestly, I have thought that myself, and I can see how the ideas and principles can be misinterpreted to mean "let your child run wild". To me at least, the tuned in parent can respond in a loving way and help children understand what is expected of them in a loving and connected way.

So a good time was had by all and our house remained intact in the face of 10+ kids from birth to 3 or so and their parents. We successfully celebrated the holiday without a serious sugar overdose, and everyone went home happy. Happy Halloween!