Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day "364" (again, not really)

Swipe on bright-red lipstick.
Paint my fingernails poppy.
Slip on a pair of scarlet cashmere socks (that one's Olin's).
Pour a glass of pinot. 

Apparently my most common strategies for embracing the day with a sense of empowerment—and powering down happily (er... the wine)—center around the color red

It's funny how little rituals (of all colors) can boost your confidence, instantly enhance your mood...

... like how drinking from my Danmade Ninja monkey mug makes me feel like I know how to pick out awesome things and truly appreciate them... Or how writing with an Ink Joy pen makes me feel organized. 

... like how continuously framing a potentially hive-inducing work project as a  fantastically exhilarating opportunity (and being lucky enough to be working with people who reinforce that idea) keeps excitement from dissolving into anxiety.

... and like how celebrating sparkly new snow with two wide-eyed little boys, I forget about slippery roads and scraping windows and really start to feel what I was trying so hard to sound enthusiastic saying...  "Isn't it beautiful?" 

Because, really, it is. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 364 (again... and still not really)

My little boys lately are seeming not so little. More and more, Jules is showing moments of maturity: some come in the form of Buddha-like insights, others in stern safety reminders shouted at Kai... Kai who of late has taken to wearing his Mets hat everywhere. And a Batman cape - often with nothing underneath. 

But they're still little boys - who snuggle, who squabble over the Christmas train, who want to be read to and rocked, who spontaneously reach for each others' hands, who find all sorts of "treasures" and sneak them into my pockets. Which I love. So much it makes me teary to think that this tender time will end - soon. And I worry that during so many of these sweet moments I've been too tired and distracted and too concerned about "bad" behavior to have savored them thoroughly.

And so I save these little pebbles and stash these tiny wood chips on shelves in my office. #importantreminders

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day "364" (but not really)

Tonight, when I was reading J books/tucking him into bed, he said to me, "Daddy always wants to run faster than me but I tell him all the time, 'it doesn't matter who wins, it's about having fun.'"


First, let the record show that Olin is not a freakishly competitive man who sprints past his four-and-a-half-old shouting over his shoulder that the kid can suck his dust. (Jules, in fact, was flipping the players in this conversation around.) But I loved this little PSA. And perhaps I needed it... 

I have this toxic tendency to focus on the goal and forget about the joy of the journey. I have this inclination to see the thing that isn't "perfect" among all that really is. I do this in all sorts of situations... and I aim my critiques at all sorts of people: family members, friends, colleagues and, not least of all, myself. I get annoyed with myself for being too loud, too frank, too self-absorbed, too messy, too work-focused, too lazy, too distractible. I can convince myself - usually temporarily - that I am a bad mom, a bad friend, a bad daughter, sister, dog owner, a bad writer/editor, etc. 

Here's the irony: I earned a master's degree in part teaching people how to feel good about themselves, how to transform negative thoughts into positive ones, how to squash catastrophic thinking, how to acknowledge their victories, big and small,  and to move on quickly when they weren't happy with how they were behaving. And, in fact, I was quite good at it.

Next week I'm on to a new year, with new resolutions. And right now, I'm resolving to notice what's  good, what's beautiful, what's right, what's true, what's inspiring and what's authentically awesome. About everything and everyone around me. And about myself. #37goals
So right.

PS: While we're embracing imperfection... I'm like a whole week off with my math. No clue where that happened. But I knew it would. And now my sloppy math is making me smile. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 359

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the official end date of my "Vegan Till Thanksgiving" experiment... which has been a totally enlightening and fun challenge.

Before I list what I learned in the process, a couple of confessions (my Catholic upbringing has raised me to reveal these sorts of transgressions): 

  • I splashed real milk into my coffee on three occasions.
  • I ate many, many bittersweet chocolate chips (which I assumed were vegan and then learned that the brand I bought were not). 
Now... what I learned: 
  • I can live without ice cream and cheese pretty easily. This came as a major shock to me.
  • I'm not a huge fan of non-dairy "milk" products, particularly in my coffee. The coconut milk creamer was acceptable; soy lattes (purchased only out - I only bought almond milk and coconut milk creamer at home) were good. 
Last day for coconut milk creamer in this Danmade cup
  • I drink less coffee and more green tea when I'm not doing dairy.
  • I eat more and less healthfully when I'm following a vegan diet: more vegetables and beans and far fewer saturated fats (and fatty "junk") but probably more carb-y snacks, like tortilla chips and Triscuits. Also... 
  • For me a vegan diet is not a way to shed pounds. I didn't weigh in (weight loss wasn't a goal) but suspect I stayed the same or gained, as I ate loads of avocados and nuts - which are staples in my diet typically anyway - and extra servings of higher-cal carbs (wild rice, say) in place of fish.
  • Speaking of fish, I missed it a lot - particularly when we went out for sushi to celebrate Lauren's new job. (I ordered a sweet potato tempura roll - again, not as healthy as my typical yellowtail scallion... but perhaps comparable to a spicy tuna).
  • Eating out wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be. At the Bluebird Tavern (not really a "vegetarian" place) I had the most amazing meal... just requested that my roasted beet salad come without the cheese and the dressing and that they leave the smoked bacon butter off the Pickled Tomatoes on Toast. Which were AMAZING.
  • I should have been better about taking a multivitamin. (I did OK with the calcium supplement and somewhat OK with the omega-3s but didn't pick up a multi till last week). And when my arm broke out in hives the other night after prolonged content with a wet sweatshirt sleeve (incurred during bath-time duty) I was convinced I had a vitamin B12 deficiency and would soon start seeing signs of irreversible nerve damage. Ridiculous given that I'd had my fair share of fortified veggie products.
  • I have such respect for the commitment it takes to follow a 100% vegan diet (looking at you, Shannon and Mindy!)
  • I thought even more about where my food comes than I normally do. The other night, when the boys didn't want to finish their milk at dinner, I found myself saying, "it's fine if you don't want to finish but next time let's not take so much. The cows work really hard to make that milk." 
Upshot of the entire experiment: Tomorrow, I will feast on turkey and everything else on Mike B's table. Yum! After that, I will live on a little more vegan than I was in October - "veganish,"  a la Mark Bittman, as a friend pointed out. (Here's what's definitely coming back: milk in my coffee, fish, non-vegan foods served by friends, probably yogurt, definitely "good" cheeses.) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 356

People are always doing insanely nice things for me: Kate sends me random packages, Ri constantly helps with the boys, my mom spends weeks researching and sewing Halloween costumes for the boys, Jon picks up lengths and lengths of my slack. 

But lately, it seems, I'm being showered with kindness. The other day Megan showed up at school with a gift bag full of Yogi tea. For me! (I'd been admiring the images of their messages on Instagram.) A few days later Liz sent me the packing lists (below) she'd seen and picked up because they made her think of me.

And today  - biting off more than I could chew - I took both boys  and Dempsey to the playground. The boys were clamoring all over the new equipment (thank you Kelli, Sarah and April!) and I was trying to make sure no one broke a leg -  or worse. Demps (who was on a leash that wasn't in my hand) was running up to everyone, greeting them excitedly. I was keeping an eye to make sure he wasn't bothering anyone, still trying to watch the boys. Which was pretty unsuccessful. Just as I was starting to feel like this was a bad idea (with good intentions), Digs ran up to the man leaning against a rock. The man who kicked him.

In response, I asked the man to please not kick my dog, which lead to a very unpleasant conversation altercation. I was shocked. I was in Burlington where people just don't kick dogs—even if I was in the wrong, which was I was, as Dempsey was off leash. But I apologized... expecting to get an apology back. And I didn't. 

But what I did get - when my friends saw that I was upset - was the kindest show of social support: my peeps made me laugh, helped me feel less guilty for my bad judgement and held Demps when Kai seemed stuck in a compromising position that required me to have both hands free. 

Good people. So many good, thoughtful people in my world. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 352

I used to think that if you worked hard enough, you could do whatever you want to do, be whomever you want to be. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for infusing such (helpful) confidence and to all of my great mentors who reinforced it.

Now I know that my simple theory about hard work isn't that simple. There's that issue of DNA, that which defines you. That which you can't outsmart absolutely. 

So I guess the lesson to pass along is to embrace your blessings and laugh off the rest. And how easy that is...  well, I guess it depends on your DNA. Dammit.

This morning, I walked into this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 345

This week has been busy. I had a date with my favorite 36-year-old. We went to the Bluebird Tavern. There, the Pickled Tomatoes on Toast are incredible, even without the smoked bacon butter. 

We took Kai, who'd been crying for an hour, to the doctor - on a Sunday - to have his ears checked. They were all clear. We went for a family walk through the woods. Which was mostly miserable. Until we got to the top of the trail and I pulled out the thermos of cocoa. 

I had a date with my favorite four-year-old. We picked out books at the library and swung by the bookstore to hear Christina read (have you gotten your copy of A Field Guide to Now yet? No? Do it. Now.) We stopped for a cupcake

I suffered through round two of the stomach flu. I drank mint tea. I got better. 

I danced to Tom Waits. Had some very productive days at work. 

I voted. With a 2-year-old. Who said "there's an eye!" every time I colored in an oval. I watched the results roll in. I held my breath. I exhaled.   

I watched Jules teach Kai how to play "cut the pickle." I smiled wide when Kai told me, "Jules is my friend." 

These are good days. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 341

Happy #36 Olin!!! This one is a milestone: 36 was JO's football number. He was a cornerback. He was a Carmel Ram. I'm a numbers person. So I recognize stuff like this. And let's not forget that this is a 36 celebration... and this is 366days of... 36. 

Last year, for JO's, we celebrated with a crazy cake made by a (then three-and-a-half-year-old) Jules. Funfetti (Jon's fave. No comment). Topped more candy than you could possibly imagine. So this year, I decided to take a half-day to repeat the situation/establish tradition and prep the lasagna for dinner with Chris and Ri. I picked up both boys at lunchtime. Julian announced that we had all of the candy we needed, at home in his loot bag. I was proud. And psyched. This might mean an easier way of navigating around rationing him out a piece of candy every day until Christmas.

Happy 36, Olin! Today. The now-traditional cake-by-Julian (and sort of Kai, who mostly subtracted icing and toppings) celebration was last night. 

At home, things got crazy. Kai wanted in on the action and I wanted to include him but supervising a a 4- and a 2-year-old cracking eggs (with salmonella potential) is beyond my scope of parenting skills. So I put on a video for Kai. And then Jules wanted to watch it. I let him. They wanted to watch another one. I felt annoyance creeping up my throat, started feeling itchy. Why did I leave work early? I had tons of stuff to finish. I tersely reminded them that I didn't pick up anyone early to watch videos. Then I realized that I sounded like a tightly-wound cliche and reminded myself that Kai is already a "big and strong big kid" who gets out of bed and walks downstairs in the morning. I went back to the kitchen to crack and mix myself. A few moments later, Julian joined me. Lesson learned. Chill out.

The real fun came with the decorating. Jules was a rockstar: unwrapping snack-size packs of licorice and Swedish fish and M&Ms, cutting fun-sized Nestle bars into small chunks with his safety scissors (not the most hygienic of cakes). I wrote a message in icing: "Happy Cake Day, Olin." (Jules wanted it to say Olin.) Kai did his part by swiping off the message with his shirt sleeve and then proceeding to "drink" a small container of orange Halloween sprinkles "all gone." Which I let happen. Because this was a special day. In the end, the cake was perfect. And the boys were overflowing with excitement - which make for much wrestling and climbing and running, eventually in superhero capes. 

I am grateful for this tradition. And grateful for Olin, who appreciates these small gestures and whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it's all about family and friends and gratitude. November is a great time to focus on gratitude. And this year, November is also my vegan test run. I'm doing it: aiming to be vegan through Thanksgiving (just me, not the boys - but we eat a largely plant-based diet so it's easy to blend). Several peeps have asked me why, and I don't have a really awesome answer. The short one is this: I've aspired to eat "more vegan" for awhile. 

Maybe it's because Dempsey's eyes are human. Maybe I know that there are benefits to following healthful  plant-based diet, having written/edited a lot on this topic, including this book (which I edited) and this article (which I wrote). Maybe it's just because I love vegan cookbooks, especially this one. Or because I have several friends who follow vegan diets and keep bringing the most amazing dishes to girls' nights and book club gatherings. Whatever the reason, I'm trying a vegan diet till Thanksgiving. And I'd be grateful for any suggestions and favorite recipes. 

Last night was also the annual lasagna JO birthday dinner. I also served pasta with marinara, topped this vegan cheese alternative (nutritional yeast, mixed with ground toasted walnuts and salt). YUM. Thanks, Mindy!
Kai "likes juice." And I love oats. Katie sent me an amazing pumpkin steel-cut oat slowcooker recipe and I adapted slightly. To this:  5 1/2 cups of water + 1 1/2 water + 1 can of pumpkin + 3 TBSP maple syrup + cinnamon + nutmeg. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add raisins and toasted walnuts. 
New Moon latte. With soy. Sweeter than milk. More than acceptable substitute.