Tag Archives: Family

New rain boots to muck through life.

So, I sheepishly return to my blog, two whole months since my last entry. I kept avoiding it,  waiting to see if I could at least come back with some more positive news.  I always wanted my blog to be an honest expression of my feelings and reflection of my life, no prettifying anything, but my long silence was beginning to feel dishonest. I needed a little help.

I regained my courage after buying these fabulous red rain boots.

There’s something magical that happens when you step into red footwear. Suddenly, you can muck through anything in life. Rainy days are no longer depressing. In fact, they become fun.

So here goes: things are bad in my marriage. I can’t say exactly what, some things should remain private, but just to quell any worries, I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not because of abuse, in any form, or physical disease, or addiction.

Suffice it to say, that one day I came to my tipping point. Luckily, my husband hit rock bottom pretty much at that very moment, with his depression and other issues of self-loathing and basic manly idiocy, and realized that if he didn’t do something right away he would lose his family. Finally, on his own, he is getting some helpful therapy and that’s about the only reason there is still hope.

What really pisses me off (and I’m sorry to bring in such vulgar language) is that he has it all. Really! He has a wonderful life, but he doesn’t see it. And I’m sick and tired of that being my problem. Fix it yourself.

The other infuriating point is that he was willfully blind. I didn’t realize that he could do that. There isn’t a moment that I don’t think about the consequences of my actions, but it seems like some people can shut that off when it gets too tough.

Yeah, it’s tough having a little kid that completely monopolizes your wife, but deal with it. Geez! What do you think I’ve been doing all this time? Skipping through the park with posies? Plus, seriously, it’s fun having a toddler. It’s the best thing ever. At least it is for me. We’ll see if he feels the same way soon enough.

A marriage should start solid as a rock to make it through these long bouts of breastfeeding and co-sleeping and tantrums and ear infections. I realize now that some people have weaker “constitutions” when it comes to the institution.

He has a longer road ahead on the journey to zen happiness… and I really thought he was right there next to me! Instead, he was lagging way behind and I was too busy to notice. Before having a baby, I would have waited for him. But I have a beautiful toddler now, and I can’t just stop dead on this road.

He’ll just have to catch up.

Are you ready, boots? Start walkin’.

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The Sugar Shack

Every year, close to springtime with snow still on the ground, my husband and I make a pilgrimage in the woods and head for a sugar shack. This is also known in our neck of the woods as “la cabane a sucre”, and it’s basically a chance to stuff your face. Bacon and eggs, beans in maple syrup, ham and cheese folded in a pancake, split-pea soup, and, if you have room, taffy on the snow.

What am I saying? Of course you have room! It’s the best part!

For the first time, my son got a taste. He loved it so much, he stole mine.

What do you get when you mix fresh cool air from walking through the forest and a jolt of sugar with the intense taste of maple syrup? A very sleepy baby!

 

 

I carried him out of the car seat like taffy slipping out of my arms and he barely fluttered his eyelashes. I plopped him down in my bed in full snow-gear and he had the longest nap in recorded history.

Sugaring off is such a short period of bliss. The very next day, the snow was gone.

Here’s a quick recipe I created to use up the maple syrup in a healthy way.

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Big Hug!

Sometimes… that’s all that can be said or done.

So, here’s a big hug to a friend.

Thanks for sharing your story Carolyn. I hope it helps to write down your feelings and sadness.

Your paper boat is not alone in the sea.

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Holiday Traditions or Have yourself a sane Christmas.

I love Christmas! For me, it’s all about a dusting of snow, clementines and eggnog, a big turkey dinner, and my annual ritual of watching three movies:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life.
  2. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
  3. A Christmas Carol. The 1951 version with Alastair Sims, of course.

Most importantly, I love Christmas because I get to cuddle up with my loved ones and tell them, in words or with gifts, how much they mean to me. This year is going to be special, because I get to share this with a little man, my son Alex.

Last year, he was too small to appreciate any of it. This time around, I hope I can instill in him the idea of family, love and gratitude for all the good things in our lives. He does not know, nor care, about Santa and he has not made him a list demanding toys and gadgets.  I hope it stays that way for a long time. Though I can’t control what other members of my family will give him, I hope they have heeded my wish to keep it simple.

Here are a few moments of a new holiday tradition: Trimming the Tree!

This angel goes here.

Mommy helping out a bit.

This is what a Christmas tree looks like when a toddler decorates it.

What really worries me is people “over-gifting” and Alex spending an hour on Christmas morning ripping through a mountain of presents. I’d hate to see him in that frenzy of “give-me-more”,  surrounded by crumpled up wrapping paper. That’s not what makes Christmas special.

Well, we’ll see how it goes and I won’t stress out about it before it even happens. I’ll remind myself that I can’t impose my values on others. After all, people are just so happy to have Alex in their lives they can’t help themselves but to give the whole world to him.

It’s all part of my new philosophy to keep it Zen. Recently, I helped produce a news feature with my friend (and fantastic reporter), Caroline, about how to deal with holiday stress. The lessons shared are worth repeating here:

1. Have a holiday budget

Don’t let consumerism go out of control. One gift is enough. And you’ll feel a lot less stress if you had time to make it personal and thoughtful, and fits within your budget. Create lists and amounts you want to spend. Avoid last-minute shopping and impulse buying. It’s a little too late to be thinking about that today I think, but the man we interviewed had a beautiful tradition of writing a letter to his wife, expressing all this gratitude and love for her.

2. Avoid overbooking yourself

Saying yes to too many events can leave you burned out.

3. Limit your exposure to toxic people

Budget your time for those must-attend events. We can’t always avoid them, but you can limit them to one or two hours. Don’t make it a whole-day affair because it will get overwhelming if it’s with people you’re not comfortable with and make you more stressed. Just say you have another commitment and you must leave.

4. Stay healthy

Get enough sleep and don’t overdo the food and drink.

And if you overindulge, go for a walk and take some fresh air.

5. Avoid sad triggers

Try to stay away from things that can provoke sad or negative thoughts.

Commercials and movies exposing the perfect family and perfect holiday are only edited versions of reality. Wallowing in them will only increase your feeling of loneliness and disappointment. It’s normal that things don’t work out perfectly. Just do your best, and take time to enjoy the good things.

Be kind to yourself and those you care about.

So, Merry Christmas to all. And God bless us every one.

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Seven Confessions

Reading over my last post, I realize I painted an incomplete picture of my life. Anybody who doesn’t know me might think, well this mom has it all… good for her (with a thick layer of sarcasm).

Then, my friend Caroline over at Spoiled Fruits of Empire gave me the opportunity to be a little more honest about myself. She nominated me to play this little game where I reveal 7 things you didn’t know about me, and then share 15 newly discovered blogs for the same badge of honor. Plus, you make a link to the blogger who originally nominates you.

I’m so happy to plug SFE. If you haven’t yet, pop over for a visit. Caroline is a great writer, and her blog posts are the wittiest prose I’ve come across. One of my favorites, and the one that got me hooked, was about her daughter Poppy and her doting grandfather. If she printed out all her posts and bound them in a book, it would be a best-selling hit and soon after a based-on-a-true-story movie.

Now, it’s my turn to spill the beans about myself. In no particular order, here goes:

  • Lately, my husband and I have been fighting at least once a week. We bicker daily even, quick little outbursts of frustration, and mostly it’s about parenting issues. Usually it’s worse on days when my husband hears stories from other parents describing their perfect children. “How come ours doesn’t sleep well? Why does he throw his food and make a mess? Why doesn’t he listen? Why is he freaking out? We must be doing something wrong!” My answer is a variation of “Get a grip!” Then I tell him to read this book and that book and I give him the short version explanation. Clearly, he’s only read the pamphlet on parenting and had no idea it could get this tough. Yet, he’s really a loving husband and father who just worries a lot about doing a good job.
  • I’m an Austenite. No, I do not reside in Austin, Texas. I read, and re-read, all of Jane Austen’s novels. Yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it, but I usually crack it open once a year. There’s something that thrills me about how Austen turns a phrase, plus I’m a sucker for romance.
  • I’m a very stubborn person. The best (or worst) thing you can tell me is that it can’t be done. Watch me.
  • My house burned down when I was 10. On my birthday, no less. This sucked for a long time. My parents and brother took me to the mall to buy me a gift. When we returned, the firefighters had blocked the street and my house was in flames. Sometimes I wonder, was it a good thing that we were not home? Or would we have been able to save our house on time if we had stayed?  I’ll never forget the time I stepped back into our home, and found our beautiful Christmas tree tossed across the living room and holes hacked in the wall by axes to find the source of the fire. Half the house was gone. My father, equally as stubborn as myself, tried to fix the house himself and over 20 years later, he’s still fixing it. I’ve lived all my childhood in a dumpy house.
  • I’m a freak about a neat bed. The bed sheets must be crisp and taught. The blankets must be straight. I drive my husband bananas because he could sleep on a pile of dirty laundry and I’m always rearranging the covers. Of course, now that I co-sleep with my son, consequently sleep-deprived most of the time, I think I can now sleep standing in a messy closet if I had to.
  • I sneeze funny. I always try to hold it in and it comes out like a squeaky mouse, like this: Ha-Tchweeeee! One day, while I was driving, I tried to sneeze with my eyes open. Absolutely impossible.
  • I can’t stand a hungry person. I must feed them. I only have 1/8th Italian blood in me, but it seems enough to compulsively yell, “Mange! Mange!” and to load up their plate up with food. I’m the Nonna with a black cardigan and a white apron.

Okay, there you have it. Some of it is weird, some of it quirky. So now…

Tag, you’re it! (But only if you want to play along. Really, I’ve made this list to thank my favorite bloggers and to share some great blog resources for cooking and parenting.)

The fun stuff:

Just Wondering – Matt is a cool Seattle dad who loves to photograph gargoyles in his beautiful city. He uses some high vocabulary words, which I think makes reading his posts a lot of fun and get me thinking deep thoughts. Plus, his children are beautiful and sweet. Read this cute little post about their potatoes.

Momma Be Thy Name – Stephanie is the proud and exhausted mother of a toddler and baby twins. Consequently, she has great parenting insight and a life-saving sense of humor. Her latest post describes what her household is like when everything goes well.

On Becoming Mommy – Nikki is a healthy fitness mama who shares loads of ideas on healthy eating tips  for toddlers, on what’s worth buying for moms, and rounds up advice from other moms for great strategies on the first year. Her son is adorable, and I love reading the latest update on his new words.

Sapphire and Rain – I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman with more gumption. I say that with the highest respect I have for Jess, a single mom who has returned to university despite the heavy debt and stress load. She inspires me. Her little boy is a cutie and genius, just like her mom. And funny to boot.

The Monster in Your Closet – Another blogger who greatly inspires me. In the high seas of the Internet, Deborah challenges hundreds of readers to call-to-arms. Not only does she manage to read and respond to nearly everyone’s comments, she’s also a great mom and a published author, who loves  making silly stick figure cartoons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I really got to start watching those.

And now for the useful stuff:

Veggie Smugglers: It’s hard to think of nutritious meals for toddlers. This mom has a zillion ideas and all kitchen and kid-tested in her home in Australia.

Chasing Cheerios: This blog has me wistfully wishing to be a stay-at-home mom. Loads of ideas on fun crafts and activities for toddlers. A few kooky ideas too… who decides to dye bags and bags of rice for a Rainbow Rice Pit? She does!

Simple Kids: When you need tips on a more zen parenting style, fun craft ideas or interesting books, visit Simple Kids. Oodles of fun links!

Made By Joel : Crafty Daddy alert. This is the kind of dad who can make bits of wires into a fun toy.

Smitten Kitchen: Mouth-watering stuff, all made from scratch, which fuel my dreams for a future life when I don’t have a toddler hanging off my leg.

Inquiring Chef: More food porn and great recipes, particularly this one, No-Knead Pumpkin Rolls. It was much easier than expected and delicious too!

The Pioneer Woman: She has the Best Pizza Dough recipe I’ve ever tried. Don’t doubt me on this. I’ve made it often, and all my friends have begged me for the recipe. It’s easy, and can stay in the fridge for up to 4 days. But that’s not the only reason why I love this blog. Her husband wears chaps. Yup, he’s a real honest-to-goodness cowboy. Oh goodness, check it out.

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When mom is at work…

I’m really feeling good about the daycare I found for my little guy. The webcam, which I have opened all day while I’m at work, gives me a much-needed link to him. Yes, I do manage to get work done. Actually, a lot of work done. Without it, I would be a wreck and would not be able to concentrate on any tasks.

Here are a few things I have seen him do that squeeze my heart:

– He’s started a book club. Regularly, he will sit down and pull out a book from the shelves. Seconds later, two or three other toddlers join him. I imagine they discuss the incredible appetite of the Hungry Little Caterpillar, perhaps as a metaphor for his emotional desire for love, but then all agree that he must just love eating fruit.

– He puts a doll on the floor, covers it up with a tiny blanket and pats its back. Maybe it’s some type of cognitive therapy for his sleep issues?

– When he’s done with his lunch, he takes his plate and gives it to his caregiver. Sometimes, he empties out the leftovers in the trash himself. I’m so proud.

My colleagues love to peek inside the daycare bubble too. It’s a little world, safe and snug, of toddler fun, naps and snack time, which cheers up just about any curmudgeon.

But there’s another reason for my “spying”, as one friend called it. I want to know what he’s up to, so I can share his day though we are apart. When I pick him up, we “talk” about his day and how great it was. If the lesson plan was about apples, that’s what we talk about when I put him in the car seat. My daycare ladies also provide me with notes in their Toddler Daily Report.

The best part of my day is picking him up after a long shift at work, learning about the fun and games, the number of diaper changes, his nap times (was it a good one?) and tasty meals.

These read like the finest literature for me:

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Cute Little Song

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of cute little babies playing in high speed to a cute little song.

Credit: Francis Vachon‘s 9-month-old son

Song: Ensemble, from Coeur de Pirate (beautiful chanteuse from my town)

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Baby Muffins

We’ve just survived a bout of eye infections, ear infection, runny nose, cough and last, but not least, gastro. In other words, he had the plague.

It’s been a long road back to health, and it’s also been difficult to find ways to tempt his appetite. I’m usually quite lucky on that front. Though he has a rough time sleeping, he is not a picky eater and most of the time even loves broccoli. There are days he eats so well, it looks like I’m shoveling coal into his mouth.

This time, it’s taken a while to regain his usual feeding frenzy. When he’s getting over an illness, I always make chicken broth from scratch. When he’s willing to slurp that up, I also bake him some healthy muffins. He devours them, and most of his baby friends do too when they come to visit. The parents love them too. So I thought I’d share our favorite muffin recipe with you:

Zippy Muffins are made with raspberries.

Banana Flax Muffins (makes about 12)

Dry ingredients:

1 2/3 cups unbleached flour

1/3 cup flaxmeal

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

Wet ingredients:

4 mashed bananas

1/2 cup of applesauce, or more if you need to add moistness to the batter.

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

A dash of whole milk, just enough to make it a little more wet when mixing into dry ingredients.

Simple instructions: Mix wet into dry ingredients. Don’t overmix. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. You can add raspberries or other fruit into the wet ingredients, but keep at least 2 mashed bananas.

For the vegan version, my Zippy muffins, see this post on my food blog. I assure you that unlike most vegan muffins, these are light and airy.

For simple chicken soup, here’s my remedy for the flu.

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My very first guest post!
After many, many months of sleep deprivation, I summarize here my basic philosophy on how to cope with frequent night wakings.

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The Proud Mama

I take a lot of pride in doing things myself without anyone’s help.

“I can do it myself!”

Mostly it’s because I’m fiercely independent. I want to prove to myself that I really can do it on my own. I want to give it a shot first before calling in for reinforcements. When it works, I feel great about myself and maybe I’ve learned a new thing or two. I am proud, in a good way I think.

Other times, pride goes before the fall. There are occasions when I should gratefully accept help and not see it as weakness on my part. I can’t help it sometimes. When someone offers to make supper, to give me a hand, I get all riled up. In my head, I sound like a 2-year old: “Me do it!”

Case in point: Halloween costumes. I can’t stand buying a pre-made one. The really nice ones are much too expensive for a one-night outfit. And I hate the cheap ones. Remember those plastic bags shaped as tunics with the logo of the superhero on the front? Not for my child’s first Halloween! Me do it!

So after going way over budget at the fabric store, I made a horrible-looking costume of Thor, the God of Thunder. (Yeah, I’m trying to instil humility in my son too.) I had basically a couple of hours during naptime to whip it together. The pressure of making it on time gave me a headache, like Thor’s hammer on my hippocampus.

The Littlest Viking

Even though the costume was amateur at best, I’m proud I did it myself. It’s ugly, I know it. But I’d rather see him in a silly home-made one than something without heart or without a funny story. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me for the blond braids.

Raiding the neighborhood for candy.

If you’re wondering, the helmet barely fits him because my husband overstuffed it. He thought it would otherwise be too big for him. Little does he know, my son has a big head. I know this because I gave birth to him. Moving along…

 

Arrg, matey! This is the last time this hat stays on my head.

Thor was his outdoorsy outfit. It gets really cold here on Halloween and I made it to slip right over his winter jacket. For his daycare party, I fixed a quick costume by making a pirate hat and dressing him in his skull bones pajamas.

 

He looked like a lost wild boy in Peter Pan’s island. Pretty cute!

So I’m working on my self-sufficiency issues. It can often be a good thing to take on challenges, but I also realize that it’s OK to ask for help, or to just buy a ready-made costume, and swallow my pride.

Unlike the hoard of candy my son pillaged from the neighbors, pride doesn’t have too many calories.

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