Monday, May 8, 2017

So... How's That Appreciation Going?

Night Kitchen Bakery - ham and cheese croissant. Eat it and die of happiness. Then rise from the dead to eat again.

If you were paying attention during my fitful attempts to get this blog back up and running, you probably read the post I wrote abut choosing my Word of the Year for 2017.

I picked Appreciation for this year. In a time where the larger national and global community is increasingly divided and hostile and in a nation that embraces the concept of there is never enough, taking time to appreciate what I did have - what we all have - seemed increasingly important.

So... how's that appreciation going?

Well... about that...

Family: My goal to appreciate my husband and children more, to take more time to simply bask in how lucky I am to have them, is actually going pretty well... sort of. 

Jason and I were able to take a weekend getaway to Raleigh, North Carolina, thanks to the immense generosity and kindness of my in-laws, who not only helped us with the trip but willingly kept our children while we were gone - which says something, when that involves listening to Audra sing a song about a family of fingers that live on her hand over and over and over and over and over and over and over...

I've made an effort to be involved in more family-related things, and we're working on more plans to see my family and to get over to my in-laws' side of town more, too. 

Friends: My goal to do more with friends hasn't been as successful as I had hoped, largely due to A. the abject unwillingness to leave my house that comes alongside the exhaustion of parenting and work and, um, being awake, and B. social anxiety with events that involve too many people I don't know. Which, it turns out, tends to be "more than two people I don't know".

Thankfully, my friend Liz sometimes just refuses to take 'no' for an answer and seems to know exactly when I really do want to do a thing and when I really do just want to stay home on the couch and moan about how tired I am. So that helps.

Mind: This I've definitely been successful on. I've made time to pick up a book at night a priority again. I've read a few books start-to-finish this year, and my to-read pile, while still growing, is growing slightly less quickly than it was before.

I just finished All Over the Place by Geraldine DeRuiter, and I'm in the midst of The Sixth Extinction and It's Okay About It, because I like my reading material to involve absurd subject changes and emotional whiplash.

He was a very nice greeter

Body: Oh Lord. Right, so my goal was to appreciate my body more by actively seeking to be more fit and healthy. I've subscribed to three health-focused magazines (and dropped three that weren't doing me any good), Prevention, Women's Health, and Cooking Light. I've started cooking with health and taste in mind. I've even got these grand visions of eating less takeout/restaurant food that have yet to come to pass.

Then I had this brilliant idea to appreciate my body by starting up an exercise program... where my attempts to take up running promptly blew my knees to smithereens (which I followed up by going on a vacation in which I walked approximately two to three miles per day, all the while putting weight on said blown-up knee) and now I hobble around like an old lady.

So much for that.

At least I have a gym pass coming up this week so I can test out the low-impact stuff.

That's right - I not only basically made my knees explode from thinking I could run, I also signed up for a free gym pass even though I can barely walk.

So that one's not going so well... Or it's going magnificently, depending on your point of view.

Style: While pregnant with Ellie and during the first few months of her life, I lived in raggedy old T-shirts and jeans, and it took me a bit to get back into my usual sense of style (bold colors that have nothing to do with one another smashed together, add a cardigan, call it good). I've been trying to appreciate my style, such as it is, by working a little harder to look less raggedy at work.

Then, as I mentioned, I blew my knees to smithereens and then proceeded to walk three miles a day for a whole weekend in Raleigh and now I have to wear things that accomodate hobbling. I basically wore pajamas to work today.

My shirts are nice, though!

Home: My goal to appreciate my home more was to start working a little harder on our garden, which I totally did, then a chipmunk ate all our strawberries and outsmarted our trap. So... now I'm trying to appreciate my home by winning the Epic Chipmunk War. And also gardening.

We have little tomatoes and pattypan squashes and itty bitty little strawberries that might make it if I can kill that chipmunk... I mean, trap him harmlessly and let him run free in a nearby field...

We also have little radishes that are ready to come up, and lettuce that's about halfway there, plus corn that is defiantly sprouting. And beans and peas that are still growing. Plus I have some seeds for cucumbers, okra, and random other vegetables to get into the ground.

Now I just have to convince myself to hobble outside to check on them.

I'll also be focusing on making the kitchen a bit more ours. I mean, it is ours, and Jason has brought home a couple of pieces of furniture that let us own it a bit more fully, but I'm starting the planning for an eventual kitchen update that I think will make it feel more like ours.

In short, I'd say my Appreciating Things goal is about 70%, which seems pretty good for five months in. Now I suppose I need to focus on appreciating my knees so I don't make a terrible mistake and run again.

Oh, and one more thing:

Naaaaaaaaaaants ingonyama bagithi baba


I got a tattoo, too.

I figured I'd been planning this tattoo for thirteen straight years, so it was probably time. My mind-meld partner in crime back in childhood lives up in Raleigh, and her husband is an incredibly talented and hardworking tattoo artist. I'd been watching his work and dreaming about this tattoo basically since they got married, and I couldn't imagine trusting anyone else enough to get it right.

Patrick Goodwin did it perfectly.

After I got that tattoo, Jason and I went literally right next door from the tattooing place and ate the best Indian food I've ever had in my life and that was our first night in Raleigh. Oh, and I ate a ginormous cookie, because there's no such thing as a diet on vacation.

I appreciated that cookie.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Magic of Motherhood (Book Review)

Magic of Motherhood Ashlee Gadd Melanie Dale coffee + crumbs

So there's this blogger I started reading a few years ago, Melanie Dale. I've bought both her books and at this point it's really only a matter of time until I can power through my introversion long enough to go get them signed next time she's anywhere near where I live.

She's written with a ton of honesty and courage about infertility and adoption and the reality of building siblings out of a trio of distinct individuals, none of whom are related to each other by blood, only by those deeper - but harder to create - things that we build our families on.

At some point, she became part of a collaborative blog on motherhood called coffee + crumbs, and I've been reading that basically since its inception, too. It's a blog that is all about the space between the idealistic visions of being a mom and the reality of the day-in, day-out.

It's one of about three blogs I actually check for updates every single day, alongside Wardrobe Oxygen and Franish.

There's a lot of writing on coffee + crumbs about infertility, pregnancy, marriage, managing siblings... just about anything you can think of.

And the ladies over at coffee + crumbs just released a book.

I saw it pop up on Melanie's social media before it even came out and basically high-tailed it over to Amazon to pre-order so I could make sure I had it before we left for our family vacation to see my family in Illinois.

Of course, then they did a big ol' Target card giveaway where you had to take a photo for Instagram of the book in your Target cart to qualify and I was like, I already bought it and read it and it's already actually got a coffee stain on it...

Guess I'll pass on that contest, unless there's a runner-up prize for "fastest amount of time it took for one of your kids to physically damage your copy of the book" (for the record, it was approximately six hours after it arrived at our house), in which case I feel like my prize is probably in the mail.

Right.

This is a book review, isn't it.

I really liked the book, so I thought I'd write a little bit about it. I know I owe all of you a bit more actual blogging-blogging, my usual kind, where I tell you what adorable thing my children do now or regale you with tales of my faltering attempts at acting like a real grown-up, but you know what, I wanna talk about a book so I'm gonna talk about a book.

The Magic of Motherhood is big. I don't mean that it's a particularly long book, but rather than it is just big in size.

It has a built-in ribbon bookmark, which is one trend in books lately that I am ONE HUNDRED PERCENT BEHIND, as I've never owned a bookmark for longer than 3.6 days before losing it.

It's a series of essays by the coffee + crumbs writers, sometimes the same writer popping up multiple times on different topics or relating topics. The essays flow really well, jumping from subject to subject but in a pretty organic way.

Interspersed is the occasional quote from whichever essay you're reading, superimposed over some beautiful landscape or still-life photography.

It's a good book, and at its heart it is immensely sweet. I read it when we were on the road and at my mom's house and a bit just before bed. The essays stick with you, but they're mostly short and sweet and so you can grab a quick chapter or two before bed without a lot of trouble.

Some of them are sad, some are sweeter, and some are funny - Melanie Dale's are the ones with the humor that most resonates with me, but you may find Ashlee Gadd or another one of the writers speaks most to you.

Basically the perfect Mom Book (and trust me, I'm damn near an expert on Mom Books these days I think I might actually own them all now and I have like three ideas in my head for Mom Books I want to write, too). The only thing that I didn't like was that sometimes things seem a bit too wrapped in a bow of the Great Grand Meaning of It All by the end, but that wasn't true for them all and it wasn't enough to really bother me.

Would I buy it again? If I accidentally dropped it into an active volcano or it was stolen by someone who just really really wanted it, yes, I totally would go buy it again.

Would I buy it as a gift? Oh Lord yes. It's kind of a specific audience I'd buy it for, but I think it's a really great book and it'd be a perfect gift for that mom, mom-to-be, or wish-they-were-a-mom-so-badly you know who is just about ready to claw her eyes out from sleep deprivation or hormone injections or spit-up or early labor and could use a bit of time to read a chapter and say, "Me too me too me too" out loud.

(Melanie's included essay about finding "the label" for one of her children, who receives a specific diagnosis, and the way there is the mixed relief/sorrow there, is my personal favorite of the book - as is her other included essay about the ways in which our children take over our bodies from the second we become their mothers and just flat refuse to give them back to us)

Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars, super highly recommended, and to be honest I totally recommend the coffee + crumbs blog, too.



Friday, March 24, 2017

That Time I Accidentally Kind of Bought Drugs


This is a piece of chocolate I bought at a local hippie-ish store yesterday.

It's also drugs, sort of.

Let me explain.

Yesterday I ran to grab a salad for lunch. There's a particular place right near where I work that makes an amazing Greek salad, so I popped over to grab one. I didn't really like their tea selection, though, and I was searching for a hot tea that didn't have caffeine that sort of tasted like it did have caffeine as part of my current attempt to stop drinking like nine cups of coffee a day.

I went next door to the aforementioned local hippie-ish store. I looked over the different tea options, eventually found what I wanted, and went to leave.

Next to the cash register were tiny bars of chocolate for impulse buying.

I'm impulsive.

I bought the chocolate.

"This is a good thing to toss in," The cashier told me, throwing some random sample vitamins in there as well, including something called a "vegi-cap" which I am deeply intrigued by but those are not the drugs in this story. Those are different drugs and I didn't buy them, they were given to me, which is totally different.

Also vitamins aren't drugs.

Well, the other sample that gives you eight thousand percent of your daily required B12 (or is it B6?) might be considered a drug. Or turn you briefly into Bugs Bunny.

ANYWAY.

Back to my story.

So I grabbed the chocolate, reading only "dark chocolate" on the label at the time and having no ability to control myself when presented with new and different forms of sugar.

I took it back to my desk, ate my salad, and broke off a chunk of the chocolate to eat for dessert. After a couple of seconds I realized the roof of my mouth and my tongue had gone numb.

Well, that doesn't normally happen when I eat things, I thought to myself.

I checked the label.

(identity of the company protected because it's not their fault I didn't know it was drugs)
"Vegan Dark Chocolate with Kava Root," it read. I tried to read it out loud but since my tongue had, as I mentioned, gone numb, what I actually said was "Bee-gah Dahh Chah-laht wit Ah-va Oot," which looks really cool but I promise did not sound cool at all.

Now I have definitely had vegan chocolate before, and while it was always missing some particular something-or-other that I assumed was due to a lack of animal involvement in the chocolate's creation, I had never had my tongue and my whole mouth go numb.

Unless "vegan" now meant "laced with cocaine", the vegan thing probably wasn't the issue.

"Promotes natural relaxation," the label continued. That seemed reasonable - I know I'm definitely more relaxed after a snack. Still... what sort of dark chocolate advertises relaxation? The only thing I'd ever heard of that made a point of advertising natural relaxation after ingesting it was...

"Oooooh no."

No.

Not possible.

This wasn't Colorado, after all.

The kava root was probably the problem, I reckoned, as it was literally the only ingredient I didn't recognize. I'd never heard of it, though, and couldn't begin to understand why a simple plant root would make your tongue go numb.

So I checked the back of the label. Here is what it said:

CAUTION: KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.

I began to feel slightly alarmed at the idea of buying a bar of chocolate children not only shouldn't eat, but that I was explicitly being warned against giving to them.

Avoid using with alcohol.

"Um," I said out loud.

I was alone in the upstairs part of the office at the time, so I was the only one who heard me.

Not for use by persons under the age of 18.

"Did... did I accidentally buy a drug?" I asked no one in particular. "Or cigarettes? Or a lottery ticket? Or a beer back in 1970 before they changed the laws?"

If pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs (especially sedatives or MAO inhibitors), consult a health care practitioner prior to use.

Prior to use? What does that mean exactly? I don't have to call my family care practitioner every time I eat a Snickers (although I probably should, so she'll tell me to stop eating Snickers bars). Also, why is it referring to eating chocolate as using chocolate?

THAT SEEMED OMINOUS.

"There's no way this is drugs. They don't just put drugs in chocolate. Do they put drugs in chocolate now?"

Do not exceed recommended dose.

"See, now, I definitely don't like that phrase."

It was... unsettling.

Excessive consumption may impair ability to drive or operate heavy equipment.

I sat there in silence, studying that final sentence. After a very long time of staring out a window, I sat back and spoke one final sentence aloud to the empty office attic:

"Yep. I totally bought a drug today."

dark chocolate with kava root

For the record, kava root isn't really a drug.

It's a homeopathic remedy of some sort that claims it will "increase mental alertness and clarity" and "induce relaxation and stress-relief". Since those two things are almost certainly in direct opposition to one another (and the suggestion to not drive if you eat more than the recommended dose suggest "mental alertness" probably isn't something you'll receive from it), I'm doubtful as to whether or not it would have had much an affect at all.

Took about half an hour for the feeling in my tongue to come back, though.

That's the last time I buy impulse chocolate from a store while I'm checking out.

Oh, who am I kidding. No it isn't.