Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review


I want to try to do this without looking at old posts so I'll focus on what really stood out. 2012 certainly gave me quite a bit to ponder and look back on. In a scant 365 days,


  • J turned one, began walking fully, learned to sign, and started to make a few noises that sound like "mama" and "dada"
  • He started speech and physical therapy, which have legitimately helped him
  • I'm also VERY proud to say that if you ask him what sound a duck makes, he will indeed respond with a recognizable "quack quack quack"! 
  • He knows where his tummy, hands, and head are and understands quite a lot.
  • He made a great transition into day care, going from crying for half the day to barely registering when I drop him off
  • After months of searching, networking, and resume variations, I got a job...in a field other than teaching. I learn something new every day, including the fact that I don't really miss the classroom. Had I not lost my previous job, I wouldn't have known that. Yet I still get to use my skills as a lover of English, grammar, and words. How lucky that I was able to wait it out and find something that suits me.
  • I learned that you can, indeed, function on one salary and unemployment and still go out to the occasional movie, with help from very generous parents
  • My niece and nephew each turned one, another set of twin nieces and nephews turned two, and my youngest sister married the love of her life in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony, perfect for them
  • My sister M started a new job 
  • My grandmother made it through one more year when we all doubted that she would due to illness and sheer age (she's 97 with a birthday in April) and got to see her great-grandson smile and wave at her
  • One cousin started college and another is a junior in high school, earning top grades
  • With the help of a new eating plan, T and I have lost over 60lbs and 25 lbs, respectively. We feel healthy and more energized than we have in years.
  • T and I grew as friends and in our marriage in so many good and healthy ways
  • We finally made it to Tadoussac after four years and introduced J to that gorgeous, special place
  • I made some new friends and reconnected with old ones
  • On that note, I began to do more for myself outside of my family and realized that that's not selfish; it's good and necessary for me
  • I read more books
  • I found a system to help me and my family become more organized, and I've discovered there might be something to this Type-A way of living
  • I got to spend time with J, teaching him and watching him grow in all ways
  • I learned to knit
  • I changed my hair
  • I learned a great deal about the ins and outs of health insurance, more than I'd ever want to know, yet not enough to truly understand it
  • I fell in love with cooking and finding recipes that work for us (thank you, Pinterest!)
  • I came into my own as a person, understanding more about who I am and what I can do to be the best, healthiest, strongest version of myself. It's still a work in progress, but that's the best way to be, I believe. And I thank you all for reading this blog and sharing some of your responses with me. It truly means a great deal to me.

I've always made resolutions, but I feel that that word leaves no room for error. If I "resolve" to do something and then it doesn't happen, I feel guilty (and boy, am I still learning that lesson--to stop beating myself up because it accomplishes nothing) for not doing it. So instead, I want to make some *goals* for 2013. Maybe I'm nitpicking with words, but hey, it's my job. So I have a few goals:


  1. Stay with my eating and exercise routine...but recognize that missing an occasional workout or eating a decadent dessert every so often does not make me a terrible person who fell off track.
  2. Continue reading books, either in paper or electronic form
  3. Stay with that organization--all it does is make my life less frantic in all aspects, particularly personal and work
  4. Continue to communicate well with my husband
  5. Reach out to friends I've lost touch with because they help enrich my life


I can come up with more, but let's stick to five for now. I think that makes it more manageable, and if I want to add more, I can. When I look back, yes, I had a tough year financially, but it made me truly focus on all the other riches in my life, and I am fortunate enough to have many.

So here's to 2013 and what it may bring. Happy New Year, folks. May it bring you much love and happiness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Brief Reflection, Useless(?) Information

First of all, to briefly address the recent terrible events in Newtown, CT, my heart aches for the 20 children and 6 adults who lost their lives. I suppose if this means actual, productive discussion about gun control and how we treat mental illness (although autism is not a mental illness, and it gets me fired up when it's treated as such), that's something good. Focus on "actual, productive": Tragedies like this produce way too many knee-jerk reactions and bring out a lot of bile and finger-pointing, which accomplishes nothing. I'd also like to see the names of the victims used a little more instead of the media un(?)intentionally glorifying the name of the shooter. In my little opinion, if we let the name of the person pulling the trigger fade into obscurity, perhaps others wouldn't try to imitate him later. The victims seem way more important to memorialize. I also like the idea of the 20 random acts of kindness that have sprung up--a positive coming from such an awful negative. For now, I hug J a little tighter and wonder where and when this kind of thinking will end or what we can do to lessen it a bit.
But on a different note (and I need to do this for myself, this blog, and anyone reading it), I got this idea from another blog and figured I needed a lighter post than my previous one and as a counterpoint to the great sadness that's weighed so many of us down recently. So here goes:

Five Facts You May Not Know About Me
  1. I still choke up a little every time the Christmas tree grows after Linus wraps it in his blue blanket and tells the rest of the gang the story of the nativity
  2. I can't stand for labels in a cabinet to face in/away from me.
  3. Goldfish crackers are my biggest food weakness. I'm taking that on one fish at a time.
  4. I've never read any novel by Ernest Hemingway.
  5. I sometimes talk to myself in the bathroom mirror, just vocalizing the thoughts in my head. I realized this when I caught myself doing it at work recently and wondered just how loudly I was talking and whether my co-workers could hear me.



Monday, December 10, 2012

300 more hours of school: THIS! IS! EDUCATION!


...or is it?

I read an article recently about how certain states, including New York, plan to add 300 more hours to the school year as of next year. As a former English teacher, I have a lot of strong feelings about this idea and several questions. This may come off as a bit disorganized; I wrote from my heart and less from my paragraph-organized, can't-bear-to-abbreviate-a-text-message head.

1. What exactly will this 300 hours be used for? Can we use some of it to get recess and gym back for elementary school kids? They desperately need that run-around time to get their energy out and stimulate their litte minds. Can we use some of it to get arts and music and the other "extras" back for middle and high school students? I see from the article that the intention actually is to use that time for those extras, including possible internships, so I suppose I could get on board with that. Look at the jobs of today and consider the ones that don't even exist yet--so many of them require some form of creativity that those "extras" help reinforce. If this 300 hours will consist of more time for testing and test prep, forget it. Our students are being tested to death; no wonder so many of them don't like school. And I can tell you, good teachers can't stand taking time away from learning to prep for these stupid tests.

2. With the teaching workforce getting steadily cut every year, how will adding on time benefit the students or the teachers? Already teachers for the past few years have been asked to "do more with less." The money isn't there is the cry. Somehow, these 300 hours need funding: More supplies, higher utility bills...all right, apparently government funds and grants will help support this. So if we can find money for it, why couldn't government find it to hire back some of that cut workforce? Teachers can only give so much of themselves and their time to the students when they have to deal with six classes of 30.

3. Why do we insist on the One Best Way for all students? On some level, the administration and bureaucracy understand that students learn differently; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and so teachers must (and do) try to differentiate education so all students are reached. Then they throw these standardized tests at them again, and some students simply don't do well on them because their brains don't work that way. So they get pigeonholed and held back, and the fact that that kid who scored poorly on his math and English is an amazing artist or a gifted engineer or incredibly intuitive with animals doesn't mean anything because there's no room for those talents to blossom. I hope this extra time will help with that.

4. If we add time to the school day, something has to be done about homework. As a teacher, I didn't give homework every night--I tried to give it only if it reinforced something we would cover the next day from the lesson learned that day. I did this partially for the kids and, frankly, partially for myself because the sheer volume of assignments to grade could get pretty overwhelming. If we're putting kids in school for longer each day, let's please give them a break once they get home instead of bombarding them with hours more work. There has to be time to do other activities, to play, to rest, to eat a relaxed meal, to spend time with the family.

The entire American educational system needs a major overhaul, and it's about time that the people making the decisions had some better knowledge of the classroom itself and the students in them. I don't pretend that I have the answers, but when decision are made from on high for a large number of people without consulting those who work with those people, a disconnect occurs. If New York and other states insist on adding these hours, I truly hope they do make those hours enjoyable and educational for the students. I want students (and parents and bureaucracy!) to understand that those two terms are not mutually exclusive. More time spent grinding kids into the ground with testing will not help them enjoy school or learning, nor will it make life-long learners.

What do all of you think? Feel free to disagree; this is, of course, my opinion, and I'm glad to read others' thoughts who give me a different point to consider or add to one of my own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Patience

I try. I try to have patience. Most of the time, I do. When I taught, my phrase was that I needed about eight oceans of patience to deal with the students and all that went with them. Now I have my own child, and he's the dearest darling of my heart. He is smiley and gives hugs and sturdy and climbs all over everything. He shrieks with laughter at the dog and when we tickle him.

I just wish he could tell us some of that.

I feel selfish and terrible for even writing this. He could have so many other problems that I don't even dare *think* about, and I know that every child progresses at his own rate. I *know* in my heart that with guidance and time, he will form words and one day T and I will look at each other in wonder and say, "God, remember when he didn't say anything? Now he won't stop talking!"

But I get scared. And frustrated. And impatient. He's learning sign language, so that's been HUGE. Currently he only knows the one, but "more" covers an awful lot of territory. It gets hard on some days to focus on what he *can* do rather than what he *can't* because the latter include things we've been waiting for and seeing other kids do. We don't always concentrate on the former enough.

I feel as though we should play with him more, that if we find the right combination of toys and gestures, maybe something will connect. That's it, though, really, keep trying different methods until he makes that leap (baby step?) in his little mind. And then the questions: *Are* we doing enough? Should we do something different? More? Should he have more therapy? Should we just relax, considering we've heard all sorts of stories about kids not talking for a while and then suddenly coming out with full sentences? How long will this lack of words go on? Is he OK????

We'll just keep doing a little, every day, and I will work my hardest at not letting the what-ifs and the uncertainty get to me. I, unfortunately, can be a champion worrier; combine that with my first-time motherhood and the overpowering love I have for this child and my feeling that I would do anything to help him, and...yikes.

So I will say the Serenity Prayer more often and do what I can from my end, and I'll wait for J to be ready. That's really all I can do. And I'll remind myself that it's enough.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Perspective

I now work in downtown Buffalo. If you have never toured that particular area, you truly should. Every
day I get to walk down Main Street right into the heart of downtown with its award-winning architecture
 all around me. Granted, it's an urban area, so it also has its share of ugliness and unsavory characters. I
don't have any illusions about staying aware of my surrounding when I leave every evening. But right outside my
window and just down the street, I get to marvel at some gorgeous buildings every day.

Immediately outside my window I see the the Electric Tower (formerly the Niagara Mohawk Building). Designed by James A. Johnson and completed in 1912, every holiday season the top tiers light up once the sun goes down in red, green, and white light on the top level. It brings me back to childhood: Every time I saw that tower lighting up in those colors, I knew it meant Christmas wasn't far behind.


Just beyond that is the Buffalo Savings Bank with its beautiful top, formerly (appropriately) the Gold Dome building. Look as well at
the clock tower and surrounding facade for the detail. Right now the
sun has lit up
that dome, making it seem warmer outside than it really is, thanks to the biting wind.



Directly in front of me, my window looks out on the old Olympic Tower, commissioned in 1901 as a 
new facility for the second oldest YMCA chapter in the United States and built in an English-
Flemish Renaissance style. I love looking at it after I've focused on small print for a while--quite a 
nice contrast for my eyes.
















Even the Hyatt Regency manages to keep some of the old-style architecture with its brick facade and pale

green roof, also a stone's throw from my building. 


If I walk just a little ways down, I get into the Theater District with Shea's Buffalo, one of the old
theaters. I've added the photo gallery for the inside because...just look. You'll understand. Shea's also
evokes Christmas memories of donning my prettiest velvet dress to go see The Nutcracker and
gaping in awe at the ceiling and other details. I still do.



 (detail of the arch on top of Shea's...you can just see it in the top-hand right corner of the picture above)

I love the old-style lights.

And just a few more random Theater District pictures for you:

Tent City! This is a place that sells tents and other Am Vet-type gear...talk about repurposing.


Cepa Gallery (photographic art center)

There's so much more that I could show you...and I haven't even done a walking tour, which they have

many of. I even love the old millinery factory behind me, although it's one of too many buildings
downtown that sits vacant, waiting to be repurposed or used in a different way. Too much of Buffalo is
that way, but that's an entirely different post. I just wanted to show off my city a bit and express my

gratitude that I get to see a little bit of it as I go through my day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baby Steps

Last week, J began speech therapy. I've mentioned things a bit before, but the long and short is that he's almost 17 months old and really doesn't say any real words. He sort of says "mama" and "dada", and he makes repetitive noises ("babababababa", etc.). He understands quite a bit, but those actual words have yet to really form. So we had him evaluated, and the conclusion came out that he has some delays and would benefit from some extra help. Last week he met with his two therapists (one every other week so he has someone working with him once a week), and he responded to them very well, even hugging the one at the end of the session. He just knows people come to play with him; he doesn't realize he's getting help with his speaking. My mom also sat in on the one session: He has to meet his ladies at day care, so we don't get to see what they do, unfortunately (we trade notebook entries back and forth), so it was terrific for mom to observe and take copious notes. We have a little "homework" to work on with him, mainly repetition of just a few words and signing.

Well, two days ago at dinner, I repeated the word "more" numerous times and did the sign for it before I would give him more mac & cheese (always helps to use a much-desired food!). I showed him what to do and put his own little hands together to make the "more" sign. Lo and behold, he did it himself and after a brief explosion of delight on my end, I passed out the desired mac. He seemed to begin to comprehend the connection, but I figured it would come slowly. Next morning, before he even came downstairs, he began signing "more" to T for his morning Cheerios! The kid has picked up the sign with a vengeance.

This makes me so incredibly happy--he's realizing he can communicate with us to get what he wants. The words will come (we still say "more" about a zillion times when we sign and talk to him) next and when he's ready, with a little help. J may not take the "usual" trajectory of talking that other kids do, but he's making progress a day at a time, going at his own pace, and, again during this holiday season, I am so utterly thankful.

Oh, and he knows where his tummy is: Just ask, and he'll yank up his shirt and slap his round little toddler gut. It's the best.

Monday, November 19, 2012

First Week


Made it through, and I truly like what I'm doing. I work with creative, dedicated, passionate people, and while I don't have 26 students whipping into my classroom every 42 minutes, it still has that same pace sometimes, which I realized I actually missed. I do much better with stricter deadlines, so even the fact that I missed out on birthday cake today (which I wouldn't have eaten anyway) because I had to get something proofed by 3pm didn't bother me; I appreciate the fact that my input is needed and valued. This weekend and morning I helped on a major project as well--it felt great. I feel so grateful that I found a job that fits me, and that I managed to hold out and not settle for a position just to have one. I'm also getting used to the different ages--I got used to working with people primarily my age and older, and in this field, I work with (and for) people young enough that I could have taught them. However, at this point that really doesn't matter, and they all know more about this business than I do, so I'm perfectly willing to have them teach me and have the shoe on the other foot. Really, it's a mix of age ranges when I look at it, and everyone here has that same combination of passion, dedication, and a fun spirit, a great fit for someone like me. Plus I feel like I just got out of college again, considering I'm in a new career and learning the ropes every day, which I find invigorating. It's pretty amazing to function as part of a team that helps determine just how the public receives certain businesses' messages...so much goes into this that I never even considered. I love learning about all of it. Plus I have business cards--I'm legit. 

It's taken some adjusting with the new schedule, but we've made it work so far. J has had a few late days at "school", as I call it with him (he learns so much; I'd call that education), but thanks to helpful grandparents, a compromising husband, and an understanding office/Internet capability (if I have to leave early and get work done), I think we'll manage. He finally has settled in and seems to enjoy playing with his friends and his care providers, so that makes T and me happy beyond what we can express. Plus he gets his speech therapy and OT (more on that later) there, so we have our bases covered.

So life has changed for the Frau family, for the better, I believe. Any change brings a little chaos, but I know we'll make it work for us, just as we always have. In the meantime, the boy is happy and learning every day, the husband and I continue to kick butt on our eating plan, and I've rediscovered the beauty of downtown--we have some amazing architecture here that I now get to view every day. Sixteen months after the initial wrench in the works, and we've come out stronger than before. What a long list of things I get to be thankful for on Thursday.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Relief

If you readers have followed this blog with any sort of regularity, you know that I haven't posted as much as I wanted in the past because every time I did, I felt as though I should be looking for work instead. Blogging seemed like way too much of a selfish luxury, and I didn't want to do it once T got home because then I wanted to focus on family time, or we were watching our shows together...I didn't want to shut myself off and blog because that seemed too...self-involved? (I'm working on the martyr bit.) And, honestly, I've felt as though I didn't have much to say. I could regale you with tales of J's cuteness and my improvements at housekeeping, but I wanted to have something more to share. So I stayed quiet. Maybe that was a mistake; maybe I should've made this more of a sounding board for myself, but for whatever reason, I chose not to.

However, that may well change. After sixteen months of unemployment, sixteen months of revised cover letters and resumes, of penny pinching and worrying, of figuring out just what the hell I could do for work and could accept as potential salary, of applying and not hearing or receiving generic e-mail brush-offs, of networking and reconfiguring my expectations...after all that time, I...got...a...job.

I HAVE A JOB. My official title is proofreader and copy editor.

I cannot begin to express the sweet flood of relief upon writing those words. In typical fashion, I had the interview, had a second interview, and then waited for about a week (which felt like ten years) for The Call with my phone attached to my person at all times. Tom Petty put it well: The waiting was the hardest part. I figured no news was good news, but that old chestnut had burned me before, so I tried very hard not to think about it. As a matter of fact, I ended up quite productive that week, so I got something positive out of it. Honestly, when I hung up the phone after receiving The Call, I screamed (J was playing in the other room, thankfully--how ironic to have a moment of happiness marred by scaring my child) and then burst into tears for a good ten minutes. As I said to T, I'd had this feeling of...worry? doubt? fear? a combination of all three (probably)? in my stomach for so long, I'd forgotten it was even there. It just sat there for months, sometimes driving me to do more, sometimes leading me to brief bouts of frustration with various sides of more worry, doubt, and fear. But we made it, we made it through and I plan to work my ever-lovin' butt off to prove my employer made the right decision.

I don't have illusions that this will solve all of my worries, but it sure as hell will help allay them. We still plan to live simply because that suits who we are, but at least we can start saving and look at various house improvements without the additional sigh and thoughts of "someday...". Interestingly, the fact that I've moved away from teaching doesn't make me sad. I'll miss the kids and the classroom. I always loved that, for the most part, reaching whoever I could and imparting some wisdom, humor, and kicks in the tush along the way. I'll miss the energy the students can bring and the questions they ask, whether serious or silly. But I can always tutor if I feel a need tug hard enough, and I have my own little man to teach every day. This place I'm going to work at seems to have that sort of intense energy as well; I have a feeling the pace will match some of what I'm used to. I work better under extremely defined deadlines, and having a colleague say, "I need this proofed for a meeting in two hours" fits well with the way I work. So I've managed to find a field where I can still use my skills but in a different venue. The agency, according to who I spoke with and what I gathered, seems dedicated, slightly frenetic, and passionate about what they do--a good fit for me.

More importantly, this year away has shown me that I truly value my time with my family. Time to cook and talk and spend a Sunday playing with my son or doing yoga with a friend. I have always struggled with time management, and having endless piles of grading did not play to my strengths at all. I've realized where my priorities lie; I never wanted to have to look at J and say, "Sorry, sweetie, Mama has to grade quizzes, but I'll play with you as soon as I'm done." I'll miss the vacations and the summers (and the snow days), but my day-to-day is more important to me. I'll have days where I have to stay late and only see J for an hour, and that will make me sad, but once I'm home, that time is  mine. I value that tremendously, and I have nothing but respect for the teachers I know who manage to have families and get everything else done, what with lesson planning and correcting and having a life outside of that.

Part of me wanted to give my former employer a bit of a kiss-off now that I have employment again, but had I not had this time, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to come to that conclusion. I also wouldn't have had the time with J, which I consider one of the greatest gifts possible. He would have gone into day care at eight weeks (and don't get me started on the backwards joke that constitutes the American maternity leave plan).  Instead, I got to stay with him, watch him grow, and take time getting to know him and myself as a parent. I'll never regret that. So maybe I should thank my old establishment instead, at least in my head. I'm a good person, but I'm not a saint.

What I know is that we made it, T and J and I. We had so much love and support and help from our family and friends, and it brings tears to my eyes to think of the many kindnesses, large and small, that others have bestowed upon us during this time. And we found strength within ourselves that we didn't know we possessed. We got angry and frustrated with each other, yet we came to understandings and talked and grew closer. This hasn't been easy, but our little family weathered the storm and persevered. I think I'm prouder of that than of my even getting the job.

p.s. I'm keeping this off Facebook until I get permission to bugle it to all and sundry, or at least those in my network. I read about people making that mistake, and I want to make the smarter play. I haven't even started it yet; no sense making silly mistakes before I walk in the door.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bringing Up Bebe-- my thoughts


Just finished the book Bringing Up Bebe on the recommendation of Scarlet Lily, and I must say, I found it pretty eye-opening. It's not that I think One Best Way exists to raise a child; it seems foolhardy to think that way. However, I do agree that we as Americans have adopted a rather stifling way of over-parenting, being there at every turn, cushioning every surface, holding the kid's hand literally and figuratively for way, way too long. As a former teacher I saw it all the time, and I hear more and more stories of parents calling up college professors and job interviewers demanding to know why certain decisions were made and defending their children's actions. As new parents, we know we make mistakes, but we try to present a united front and not get too caught up in developmental milestones and what J "should be" doing, although, as I wrote before, we're a bit concerned about the lack of speech at his age. But we're getting him checked out and we'll see where that goes, so we feel much more even-keeled.

This book made me focus more on a few points, particularly the idea of having a few hard-and-fast, core rules but freedom within those rules. I also like the idea of using a very firm tone of voice instead of yelling--if you say something with conviction and zero doubt, the kid will learn that you mean business. She points out that in France, the magic words include "hello" and "good-bye", not simply "thank you" and "please", because simply saying that to a person acknowledges that person's humanity. I truly like the idea of that, that we recognize each other no matter whether it's the waitress at the greasy spoon or an adult walking into the room for the first time. Those small gestures go a long way.

Most interesting for me was the chapter on food and eating. According to Druckerman, the French encourage their babies to eat vegetables first instead of bland rice cereal, and they keep feeding those veggies and mix them up with other food. I took from it that children are encouraged to develop their palates with fresh and varied food. Feed the child what you eat, as long as it's applicable. If a kid won't eat a vegetable, try it again later in a different form or add it to something else. Eventually, he'll learn to like it (or at least eat it). I've tried to start this even before I read the book; I realized I had begun to take on the role of short-order cook for J and, while I do give him the Kosher all-beef hot dogs, they're still hot dogs. That's part of what T and I want to accomplish with this Transitions eating plan--we want to create a house where J gets good, unprocessed food as often as possible with not a ton of sweets; eat the latter at a party or a special occasion. Sure, he's going to get his fair share of junk, but not at our house and not with us whenever possible. I don't know if I'll start turning out four-course meals that the French regularly do, but hey, if the first course is vegetables that I give him while I prep the rest, and then some fruit or cheese for dessert, doesn't that sound reasonable? It does to me (as does the idea of an afternoon snack of crusty bread with good, dark chocolate).

I think I enjoyed this book because it put a lot of my nebulous ideas of parenting in a form that made sense to me. None of us is perfect as a parent, nor is any system. And, really, as long as we stay consistent, let J explore and fall sometimes (in the literal and metaphorical sense), give him lots of love and reasonable boundaries, and don't overburden him with activities or expectations, I think we'll all turn out fine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

OK, round two. Last weekend we went to a pumpkin farm with my sister M, her husband C, and their darling daughter, C. We took them for the two main reasons you take toddlers to a pumpkin farm: 1) to buy pumpkins, and 2) to take tons of pictures because, really, who could resist?

                                                  Answer? Nobody. 
 
That's not distorted perspective: the place had gigantic pumpkins the size of small car tires. We loved seeing the kids examine them.
 
C adores J and won't stop hugging him. As you can see, he's not quite as enamored. Perhaps it has to do with her rather aggressive hugs, which still knock him over.
 
This picture may seem a bit unfair to J, but it's only because we know that one day he'll either hug back or finally get bigger and defend himself against her loving embrace.
 
The farm had white pumpkins called "ghost pumpkins"--I'd never seen that before. Very nice contrast to the bright orange of the others.
 
I just love the haphazard shapes and varied colors of little gourds. 
 

Happy fall family!

In other news, we're finally getting J tested for his speech, or lack thereof. He's a bit behind as compared to others his age, and he doesn't point very much, which I've found out also correlates to talking because it's a form of communication. After speaking to Feather Nester (she has expertise in this area) about it, we decided to get Early Intervention involved. Either they'll tell us to relax and see where he is at 18 months or they'll suggest something more to do, either one of which works for T and me. We just need some guidance. If it turns out we've made a First-Time Parenting Freak-out Move, that's fine, too. We just want to make sure J can communicate with us and others. He seems to understand quite a bit, so that makes us wonder if it's that he can talk but won't, for whatever reason. Mercifully, because we live in the school district, everything is free and they're very accommodating. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, he seems to be settling in to day care, slowly but surely, and he's getting molars and growing and just a happy guy, which is all we want.

Good food, good folks, good fun

This past weekend I had a few friends over for a Fabulous Females Night--specifically my busy mom friends. I asked that they each send me a copy of their favorite easy, go-to, weeknight meal and bring some to share. The result was five of us around my little kitchen table eating and talking about cooking, kids, and just about everything else under the sun. We all remarked how great it was to eat something we might never think of ourselves and how nice it was to get out of the house and chat, just the ladies. Truly, that's exactly why I did it: I don't give myself time with other female friends--sans kid--often enough. T actually encourages me to do so more frequently. I too often fall into the Teri Hatcher mode of metaphorically "eating the burnt piece of toast", taking the bad for myself so others can have the good. She wrote a book of a similar name...who knew a former Desperate Housewife could hit certain aspects of motherhood on the head so well? But I do--I take the scraps to make sure everyone else has what they need. That puts me in danger of the martyr role, and I do not want to go down that road. Fortunately I have T, who will never let me do that, and, as I wrote, he reminds me to get out of the house and have my own fun. And why wouldn't I want to have more nights like the one I just did? Do any of you do that? How do you avoid it (or do you)?

Additionally, feel free to pass along any of your own go-to, quick-and-easy meals. I've posted mine below, which I got right off of Pinterest. By the way, have you heard of AllRecipes' Dinner Spinner? It's an app for a smartphone that lets you find a recipe by using a few categories (Type of meal, main food, and length of time). For example, the other night I had tilapia and no recipes, so I chose "main meal", "fish", and "20 minutes and under", and the site came up with numerous choices. I also read the comments on my chosen recipe selection for additions and suggestions, several of which enhanced the meal. Having started this new diet/way of eating with T, we've chosen to get creative, and we value each bite, so I want to truly enjoy what I eat...while sometimes whipping it together quickly. You understand.

Greek Turkey Burgers
(linked to the source for copyright and picture purposes;
my comments in italics)



2 cups extra lean turkey (99 Percent Fat Free)
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (we can't do grain/bread right now, so I used ground flax seed)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (if you use a jarred kind, make sure to get the type that is in water, NOT oil)
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped (Again, water, not oil. I used canned.)
1/4 cup Feta cheese
pinch of salt and pepper
4 low calorie whole wheat muffins (100-110 calories) (We didn't use the English muffins--no grain--but we didn't feel at all deprived)
4 T fat free sour cream

In a bowl, add the turkey, Panko, garlic, oregano, basil, 1/2 tsp salt, and egg. Using your hands, mix until combined. Split into four equal portions and form into patties. 

You’ll need  a skillet that has a lid. Place it over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray. Allow to get hot but not smoking. Cook the patties for about 3 minutes, or until browned. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan, cover and allow to steam for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the patties reaches 165 degrees. Remove from pan and allow to drain on a stack of 3-4 paper towels. 
In a bowl, add the artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, feta, and a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Lightly toast the English muffins. Spread the English Muffins with 1/2 T fat-free sour cream on each side. Place the turkey patties on the English muffins, add the artichoke/red pepper mixture.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WHAT THE...

I just somehow lost an entire post. It had pictures, a little J update, that sort of stuff. I have no idea what random button I pushed to lose it, nor do I understand why it wasn't saving as I went along, which it USUALLY DOES.

So I'll re-post it soon. Now I'm just annoyed. Sorry for the delay. GRRRR.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The writing on the wall (or the paper)

I wrote about this to dear Yum, so I apologize for her having to read this twice. As I made a grocery list the other day, I had the funny thought pop into my head that I like the look of my handwriting. I like how I make my As and that my Ss have a slight upward line with the S at the end of a word, making that cursive loop. I thought about how handwriting marks a person almost as intimately as a fingerprint--one person's handwriting may look like another's, but it's individual to that person. Heck, people study handwriting to see others' tendencies and personality traits. Do your letters slant forward or backward? Do your Gs and Ys go straight down, or do they loop? Is the loop closed or open? Do you write in cursive, print, or a mixture of the two? How close together do you make your letters? You know what I mean. I had a third grade teacher who had the most perfect, round, exact hand-writing--Mrs. McGennis. T and I both had her as a teacher, and we attended her retirement party a few years ago. Within a week, a letter arrived in the mail; I didn't even have to look at the return address. She'd written us, thanking us for coming. We kept the letter, partially because of the sweet gesture, and partly because of that handwriting. Anyone who ever had her in 37 years of teaching would know it.

This is also why so many different fonts exist to try--we try to maintain that individuality somehow, hoping that we don't all have to conform to Times New Roman, Arial, or Verdana. Has anyone noticed the handwriting fonts out there, too? They have lots of cursive and ones that sort of look like similar, but it's still someone else's version of what's mine. And they don't always work with every site and every person, so the attempt at creativity in writing sometimes gets roadblocked, and we're forced to use what's available. I also wonder what will happen to our fine motor skills if we start typing everything. This veers dangerously into my rant on how we have too many screens in our lives--TV, laptop, smartphone, Kindle--but I just want to make sure that J learns how to write his name and wield a pen to make his mark, as it were. It goes to nostalgia, too--100 years from now, will my grandkids look at my e-mails? My blog posts? My writing says a lot about who I am and how I think, but I don't see it the same way as looking at actual writing--it seems far more personal. It just urges me to keep using that muscle at the bottom of my right index finger, nestled up next to my thumb joint. Keep my individuality a bit as the typeface tries to pigeonhole me.

P.S. Don't think I don't appreciate the irony that I typed this whole post. ;-) However, in its original form, I did hand-write it, so there.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New directions

Interesting...started a new job today and realized just how much I moved around as a teacher--always crowds of people, always on the go, moving, moving, moving. I feel so grateful to have employment again, but I also miss the pace a bit. I've done the office gig before, but it's been so long that I'd forgotten the solo-ness that can occur. Granted, I'm one of two proofreaders and they have to have enough work to go around. I also have an inkling that this job consists of feast or famine--even today I had a piece I had to look over within a certain time frame because someone else needed it by a certain time. I think I just expected something different, more steady. It probably sounds like I'm complaining, and I don't mean to. One's expectations don't always meet the reality. The people I've met so far seem nice and helpful, which certainly doesn't always happen. Plus this may well lead to something more, and it's always good to say to a future (full-time!) employer, "I'm currently working at X" instead of saying I'm unemployed. 

Our daily morning walk takes us past the high school where I used to work--it's convenient and safe, especially considering we take the walk right at a time of high traffic as teachers, students, and buses come to school. I ran into one of my old colleagues who asked me why in the world I would subject myself to this route at this time. But it's been over a year, and I kind of like running into people I know. Plus, the whole safety and convenience factor outweigh any residual feelings I might have harbored (although sometimes if Penny looks like she's going to make a drop, a tiny part of me wants to leave it there...but I DON'T, don't worry). J gets to see the big school buses and we sing "The Wheels on the Bus", he sees the kids, who often smile at him, and it's fine. However, I did like this morning that we had to hustle so I could get to my job. That was nice.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sorry for the delay

OK, sooooo. Yeah. Unexpected, unintentional hiatus. Sorry.

There's no real reason for it, other than those I've written before. Every time I think of posting, I feel I should use the computer for job searches instead. Or I worry I have nothing to write about because I lead a quiet little life, mostly just me and J and a night out or two. I could bore you to tears with the wonder that I think J is, what with him almost exclusively walking now and giving me hugs and slowly starting to add more gestures and words. He climbs up and down the stairs, can get up on the couch, and has discovered the thrill of pulling books off the shelves. Whoops, there I go again.... Because of the generosity of grandparents, J starts day care twice a week next week. It'll be good for him, hard and good for me. I bet Tuesday will find me slightly blubbery, but I've wanted to get him with other little folks for a while, and this is a good way to do it.

So, I'm going to try to post more, and if you're patient and stick with me, I'll give some good tidbits.

Monday, June 25, 2012

One

My darling boy,

One year ago, after a surprising ultrasound, a phone conference with the OB, and anesthesia and a little surgery for your mommy, you came into our lives. The memory of your birth, hazy yet somehow crystal clear, will remain with me always. How they held you up so I could see you, how I murmured how beautiful you were, how your grandparents came in right after and we all cried and marveled at your face and your funny little toes, crowded on top of each other. You were healthy and you were ours. The day before, we were expecting. That day, we earned new names, new roles, new lives.

                                  

Right after that, quite unexpectedly, I lost my job. Here we were, brand-new parents, not knowing which end was up, and we got thrown a curveball of massive proportions. Your daddy acted as a tower of strength, taking care of absolutely everything as I recovered and we figured out how to live with this tiny person. Sure, we had all the diapers, the clothes, the bottles...but we had no real idea, as all novice parents feel. It reminds me of the movie Juno when, as adoptive mama Jennifer Garner held the newborn baby in her arms, she asked Allison Janney awkwardly, "How do I look?" and she replied, "Like a new mom: Scared shitless." Sounds right.

Thank goodness we had such wonderful family and friends to help...Mimi came over every day to vacuum, do laundry, help bathe and change you, let me take naps, and show me how to be a mom as we bonded in a new way as mother and daughter. CiCi brought food and hand-knit sweaters for her first little "ownty-own" grandson, and she stayed over for the first two nights so we could get some sleep, singing and walking the floor with you in the middle of the night.



Our friend M came over and even spent the night as well the third night you were home, also letting us get some much-needed sleep...and taught me to pedal your wee legs to relieve your tummy bubbles. I felt so terrible that I didn't know and she simply replied, "Well, why would you?", reminding me that I would simply learn as I went, asking many, many questions. Aunt M, five months ahead of the game with your cousin C, was invaluably helpful with those myriad questions. I felt so relieved that she'd gone through it first so she could blaze the trail! At six weeks my Colgate girls descended and pampered us all weekend, holding you so I could sleep, making me laugh, feeding us, and wrapping me in their love and friendship like a cozy, warm quilt. 





I'm sure I've forgotten to mention people...how lucky I feel to have so many supporters that I can't remember them all.















As you grew, your eyes turned from indigo to their beautiful bright blue, we made it through cradle cap and acid reflux, and you slept through the night earlier than Daddy and I will ever tell anyone. You went from rolling over to crawling to cruising the furniture--we know you'll walk any day now, and it's both thrilling and terrifying. From the first time you got an arm out of your swaddle, earning the nickname "Teeny Houdini", we knew you'd be a busy boy! You sing to yourself and us, and nothing delights you more than Penny, your protector and playmate. A simple sneeze from her puts you in hysterical laughter, breaking us up as well. You know Papa now on Skype, trying your hardest to crawl into the laptop to get to him. Even though you don't talk yet, we know you understand a lot. You're still a little shy and have just begun to receive cousin C's rather exuberant hugs without crying, but you just need to go at your own pace.



You immediately charmed all of your relatives, from stoic Uncle R and Grandpa R to Great-Grandma M, from the East to West Coast. You bring out the gentle side in everyone, sweetie.





I think one of my favorite parts of this past year has been watching you with Daddy. His combination of gentleness and strength make me love him even more than I did before you were born, sweet baby J. You squeal with happiness when he flips you upside-down (to the horror of all grand and great-grandparents), and you love to take weekend naps with your little body flung across his chest. I understand the feeling--he's great at making us feel safe and warm and protected.


So, dearest man, happy first birthday. I never realized how boundless love was until I had you...because just when I think I can't love you any more, you do something to make that feeling grow. Watching you grow has been one of the greatest gifts I will ever receive.



love,
Mama


Saturday, June 2, 2012

344 and Counting

In three short weeks, J will turn one. ONE. When I look back on these last 344 days, I can't believe how much we've gone through and how much kindness has come our way. I admit when I lost my job a scant five days after giving birth, I felt absolutely terrified. The raging hormones didn't help, nor did my feeling like a complete novice as a new mother (no, nobody ever told me about pedaling/pumping poor baby J's legs to help with gas. WHY NOT?!?). T and my parents took care of absolutely everything, including T getting our health insurance taken care of in two days so we didn't lose coverage. Our parents came by daily, offering food, support, and another pair of arms. I couldn't do anything strenuous, post- surgery, so my mom did laundry, vacuumed, and cleaned when T was at work (he did quite a lot of the housework as well). My sister M and various other friends called with mommy advice and just kept me sane. I cannot begin to express my gratitude during those first few weeks, challenging with a new baby anyway, on top of the extra wrinkle added to our lives.

Since then we've made a lot of mistakes but a lot of progress as well. We've learned what we can do with and without; again, our parents have been generous with their time and support. We got creative in terms of gifts and stayed on a budget, one I suspect we'll keep to a great extent once I finally have a job. Looking for work has made me examine my other interests, as I've written before, and consider a career outside of teaching. I have definitely had (too many) "Why me?" and "It's not fair!" moments where I wondered how in God's name I could distinguish myself from the 100 applicants for the same position. If only they'd let me get to the interview portion, I could just show them. No, I don't have the exact requisite skills you want, but see how my skills I do have can transfer over? Total strangers I've met or e-mailed  through mutual connections have helped me with resumes and job suggestions; again, I feel so grateful for their help. They didn't need to help an unknown, yet they did.

I've looked at jobs I wouldn't have even considered before because personal pride simply has no place in my life right now: I need a job for financial and, frankly, social reasons. I want to start building our nest egg back up, and I've loved spending time with J. It's a gift that I'm so lucky to have had. I just need to interact with adults in a job setting again, too. I know full well that I'll look back on this time wistfully one day, but both J and I need a little socialization!

So we'll see what comes next. Immediately, my sister's wedding next weekend. I'll focus on J when his birthday comes around. This post is about me. It's been a hard year, but I honestly wouldn't trade it because it's been a wonderful year in myriad ways as well. I have my sweet boys, a wonderful family, good friends, and a lot that others don't. It's all about perspective.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Choose Your Own Title!

I don't know what to call this post. Besides, it has to be quick because I've installed LeechBlock to bar me from this site until 4pm every weekday so I don't screw around on the computer. Yes, I have to self-ban myself. It starts at 9, so I have seven minutes. And yes, I should probably start it at 8:30.

Not much to report, just lots of J updates in terms of him starting swimming (I'll post pics) and loving it almost as much as we love watching him love it. He's also begun standing by himself, so I better put that baby gate up at the top of the stairs, pronto. He's begun babbling quite a bit, too: lots of "da-da-da" and "ma-ma-ma" on repeat, and general chirping. We find it adorable. Of course.

Job search is...ongoing. If you have any leads, please let me know. I've got a few nibbles, but June 25 is fast approaching, and that's our self-imposed deadline for me to get something because that's when J begins day care. We have a back-up plan if I don't find something, so don't worry. The frustrating part is distinguishing myself from the 100+ others who apply for the same (ONE) position--if I could get in front of the interview folks, I could dazzle the hell out of them with my skills and charm. It's just getting to that point that's the real job (haha).

I have two minutes, so I'll wrap up. More later on a website I found that teaches one how to run a home like a business for sanity and streamlining purposes!

Friday, April 27, 2012

odd and ends

Whoa, so it's been longer than I thought. Every time I go to update, I feel I should do something else, so I don't, but here I am, rectifying my wrongs, I tell you.

Last night T and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We did so by going to an engagement party for my sister, E (nicknamed C, so I'll refer to her as such) and her fiance, J, and a delicious dinner with my family and family friends. At first I admit I felt a little wary of spending our anniversary focusing on someone else, but then I got out of my own head and realized how special it was to celebrate five years of our marriage by watching my dear sister and future BIL embark on their own, remembering where we were and how we felt, as well as what we've done in such a short span of time. Plus I (just) managed to fit into the dress I wore at our engagement party, so that gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. What made the evening even more notable was that the hosts held the event at the same place T and I had our wedding reception, so we had a lovely time reminiscing, and many of the guests last night also attended our wedding, so the whole night had a real full-circle feel to it.

Recently I listened to Jason Segel talk about his new movie, The Five-Year Engagement, and he made a surprisingly thoughtful point: When people say "I do", too many say it to a moment, not a life. They don't think of all the difficult times they'll go through, the vicissitudes that make up a marriage. I suppose I knew, to some extent, that marriage wouldn't be all rainbows and happy times, but any relationship between two people that is meant to last, legally bound or not, means volumes of work. Anyone who claims a good relationship means you don't have to work at it, I must disagree. But the couple has to work together toward the same end. We do that, and some days, we find it extremely difficult. Yet we know we want a life together, so we plug away, and we talk, and we argue, and we compromise, and here we are, five years later, looking to see what the next fifty-five will bring.

What do you all find has helped you the most in your relationship with your significant other? What's made it work so far?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

9 and 35

Yesterday was my birthday. Halfway through my 30s, 34 seems so different than 35. I had that weird feeling for a while, and I'm mostly over it, but a few nagging thoughts lingered. In some ways, I'm not where I thought I'd be. I certainly didn't see myself unemployed, but that's a finite situation. When I put that up against the amazing husband and son, caring family, and fantastic friends I have, it doesn't seem important at all. Honestly, if I allowed my job to solely define me, I'd have serious problems. Right now the job of full-time motherhood is a gift, one I recognize as such every day, partially because that, too, is finite. So yesterday I got to spend time with J, feel like a celebrity with all of the birthday wishes on Facebook, go to dinner and a movie, and get a secret gift from T even though I told him neither he nor J could get me a present. He told me Penny had done it. Oh, Penny.

Yesterday also marked J's nine-month birthday. To borrow from Amalah, as of now, darling boy, you have been in the world as long as you were in my tummy. You have grown and changed so much, more than I ever even had a concept of. My mom asked me, "Did you ever know you could love something so much?", and I replied that I had a vague idea, of course, but I didn't know. How could I? You look like a perfect combination of Daddy and me, we think, even though in certain pictures you look more like one of us than the other. You have Daddy's height, hands and feet, and long eyelashes. You have my multiple sneezes, the tons-of-hair gene, and chin. We can't decide whose eyes you have, but, kiddo, they are gorgeous.


You don't say anything yet, but we know you can express yourself, and we suspect that once you start talking, you won't stop. Nobody can resist your ready smile, especially when you combine it with immediately hiding your face on my shoulder, little flirt. You delight Papa now that you recognize him on Skype, and you seem to find your older cousin Charlotte not quite as intimidating as of late, although her louder squawks still make you cry. Lots of loud noises do, but before you know it, you'll be the one making those loud noises yourself!


 Crawling like a little speed demon, you charge Penny, chasing her and shrieking with delight as she scampers away, only to return and give you kisses. With growing skill you pull yourself up on any surface you can, and the doctor says you may well walk before your first birthday. We find this both thrilling and terrifying. You love Cheerios, seem to like cheese, and aren't quite sure about pears. If you could sit and make things spin while playing music all day, you'd be perfectly content.



My dearest little man, I can't wait to see what you will do next. I love you more than mere words can begin to express, and I'm so proud and lucky to be your mommy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This and That

First of all, if anyone knows someone at the University of Buffalo who can help me get this job I just applied for, I'd really love the help. It's a job as a student advisor, and it basically entails me prodding students to make sure they do what they need to do for graduation, get organized, and talk to parents. And some paperwork. Oh, I've had plenty of experience with all of that. I can do that 'til the cows come home. I wish there were some way I could call and just talk to someone about how kick-butt perfect I'd fit this position. But I will keep my fingers crossed and keep looking for other stuff in the meantime.

In other news, we've tried lately to get J more interaction with people and places outside our house. He still startles easily and cries, scared by a loud crow from his cousin C, a sharp bark from a dog, or loud crying from another kid. Last week I took J to a music class held in a smallish, echoey room and he did fine, probably because I had him in my lap and a bottle in his mouth the whole time. I know it just takes time and exposure, and I dislike seeing him cry, but I have to remind myself that it's all a part of him getting used to the world. Watching him figure it all out fascinates me. A few friends have told me he'll outgrow it, and I just have to keep giving him experiences. It's not as though he'll cry when he's in middle school and hears a dog bark. It's just that now he cries actual tears (they hadn't quite formed yet), so he just looks so sad, it tugs at my heart a bit. But then he'll see that same dog run after its bone and start laughing, so I know it's one more phase to go through. Pretty amazing, actually.

Today I went over to a friend's house so she could give me a bunch of her boys' old summer clothes. I love the fact that J may well wear them starting tomorrow...and we may even [wait for it] take off the storm windows. Ye gods! Could spring actually stick around? We've got a record-breaking temperature week coming up, so I want to get outside as much as possible before we get hit with at least one more arctic blast. I wouldn't be surprised if we got one more round of wet snow before spring and summer truly hit, but in the meantime, I'll just try to enjoy outside and the time I get to spend in it.

Happy weekend, everyone, and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Say what?

Just recently while watching a commercial on TV, I thought to myself, How cheesy that is!, and immediately followed with, How on earth would I explain "cheesy" to a non-native English speaker? It doesn't translate directly. I can't tell the person it's akin to "sappy", because then I'd have to explain that. Besides, "cheesy" doesn't really equate with "sappy". They're more like distant cousins. Let's see...when something makes you roll your eyes when it tries to be too sweet and heart-warming. How's that? Feel free to help me come up with something better.

Language is such a powerful tool...this is why, when I taught, I urged my students to use as many different words as they could in their writing. They (we) too often limit themselves to the handful they hear all the time. This is why English teachers have handouts such as "50 Alternatives to 'A lot'". That phrase gets overused by students a lot. Too often. Many times. To the point of absurdity. Tons. Quite a bit.

As I teach J to speak, I have to repeat myself to get him to say basics, of course. I repeat the words "hi", "Dada", and "Mama" myriad times (a lot). "Penny" also gets a lot of play. As he begins to listen, learn, and parrot, I want to remain conscious of words and phrases I use around him. What will he pick up? What will he pick up that I don't want him to? What do T and I repeat without even realizing it? It all just makes me think about language and why I love it and all its levels and nuances.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Guilt

Hey! Been a while. Sorry. This has become a bit of refrain: Every time I think about beginning a post, I feel guilty that I should be doing something else like looking for work, playing with J, or cleaning the house. It's so foolish, I know. One of my mom's sayings I've always remembered is, "Guilt is a wasted emotion. You can almost always do something about it." She's right: I can do something to alleviate it about 90% of the time. Not to mention a decent portion of that guilt is self-imposed by something I feel I haven't done or should do or could have done.... And where does it get me? Nowhere, with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, mentally beating myself up and not helping myself in any way. I have always been far too hard on myself, but I also know I'm a person with excellent intentions and poor follow-through, so the cycle continues.

I think a lot of media taps into that. It's great for marketing:

You shouldn't eat that/you should lose weight! Why aren't you making yourself healthy for those who love you?!?!? Buy our product/join this gym, and it will all change!

If you feed your baby crummy food, he'll develop ADHD! If you don't breastfeed for X months, he'll likely develop allergies! Why do you feed your baby bad food and formula?!?!?

Post "I want breast cancer to end" as your status and then what color underwear you're wearing. Obviously, if you don't do this, you don't care about ending breast cancer. This is the most obvious way to support this cause! Why aren't you doing it?!?!

And so on. So much of guilt simply has to do with our intentions and the way we view it: If, at the end of the day, you can look back and say, "OK, I did most of the things on my to-do list and those I didn't, I'll tackle tomorrow," that's fine. Or my friend M, as a mother, tells herself, "I'm not being the best mom right now and there it is. In 20 minutes/tomorrow, I'll do better," and then doesn't beat herself up about it because she's a human being and therefore, fallible.

Recently I went away to the Hudson Valley for my sister's bachelorette (16 women renting a house: Lots of great meals, fascinating conversation, a bit of debauchery, and lots of love for my sister). Her one friend K is working on helping people 1) become aware of their present surroundings, in terms of not focusing so much on the past or future. As she put it, we too often focus on our unhappiness because of something in the past or something we're striving for in the future that we don't have. Focus on what can be done in the present instead. 2) make intentions realistic. She gave the example of her mentor in this project asking her a goal she wanted to accomplish and K said she wanted to work out four times that week. The mentor replied, "OK, what's the percentage of likelihood for that?" When K thought about it, she realized it was about 75%, if that. The mentor said, "What about three times?" 85%. K then figured it was 100% likely that she'd work out two times, and then she'd reach her goal and likely surpass it. We too often have goals that are too lofty, then we beat ourselves up for not achieving them, and the cycle of negativity continues.

I read another article recently that talked about goals being SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. All of this helps narrow down what I want to accomplish and helps alleviate that stupid guilt. No matter how often I use it, it's not a terrific motivator. If I break things down, it's more likely things I will cause things to occur rather than waiting for them to somehow manifest with no help.

So now that I've rambled for a while, I hope some of this makes sense. Any of you ever deal with this? How do you manage to get rid of your own guilt and treat yourselves gently? If you don't do so, please try. And don't beat yourself up if it takes a while.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Who's got it right?

Last year The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother came out, talking about how Asian mothers are superior and turn out superior children. All about discipline and no TV and threatening to withhold food until piano pieces are learned, no playdates, calling children names and the like to get them to perform and do their best. I don't personally agree with this method, but I see some of the merits, pushing children to do their best and not let them give up easily...within reason.  Recently The Today Show had a woman on who's written a new book: Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. This woman talks about the fact that French parents give their children quite a bit of freedom with a few strict rules that must be obeyed but don't cater to their children or insist they have a million and one lessons to do after school, that sort of thing. According to the author, French children are better behaved than the average American children.

Couple this with an article I read asking if we need an end-all, be-all book on parenting. Is there such a thing? I seriously doubt it. Why do we need to copy other countries' parenting methods? I see that each has its merits, but there's no magic bullet. You just have to do your best, use common sense, and, in my opinion, raise your children to be respectful, self-sufficient, and eager to learn and do all they can, to be the best versions of themselves possible. However, hopefully I can teach my own son that along the way he'll make lots of mistakes, and that's all right as well. I want him to be happy and kind, to try his best at what he attempts and see when persistence changes to sheer stubbornness. So I guess a dash of Tiger Mother, a pinch of French parenting, a tablespoon or two of John Rosemond for common sense, and my own instincts will have to do. I think that'll work out, don't you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Yummy yummy burgers

This is how good these burgers were: I'm taking time on a Friday night to blog about them.  Yes, because it cuts into my ca-ray-zay Friday night scheme of...going to bed in 20 minutes. Anyway.

Got these in my latest Natural Health: The article has healthy alternatives to fast food favorites.  Some of them looked a bit intense, but I figured I'd go for the burgers. We did not add avocado, but I bet it would add good flavor.

 

They tasted DELICIOUS. T raved about them as one of his new all-time favorites, beating out the decadent macaroni and cheese makeover from Cooking Light.  

 

I can't believe I didn't post that one--sure, Martha Stewart makes good mac and cheese, but I felt this one blew all others out of the water.  Definitely time-intensive and requires some slightly expensive cheese, but so worth it. By the way, don't substitute regular macaroni.  The cavatappi works much better.  It's also not super creamy/cheesy, so if you prefer that, you might have to adjust.

The cheeseburgers also take about 20-25 minutes to put together, and you need a food processor.  I used our giant George Forman to cook them, but I think you could cook the burgers perfectly well in a frying pan or however you choose.  I also warn you: the recipe calls for chilis in adobo and even seeded, they packed a bit of a heat wallop for anyone who has trouble with spice.  However, I felt they didn't stretch the budget and had so much flavor packed in--definitely a new Frau Family Favorite.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just a few things

First of all, J is 30 weeks old today.  WHAT?  He'll be seven months before I know it!

I know I haven't blogged a lot...every time I mean to, I feel I should be doing something else, like cleaning, laundry, or job hunting.  But I think a few minutes will be ok.  Still hunting, although we've got our routines down now, and it'll be hard to give that up, I admit, but having another full paycheck will certainly make things easier.

I think I'll just share a few sites I've gotten wind of to help you folks out:


Get Human is one of those lovely little sites that lets you actually speak to a human faster instead of dealing with endless menus and automated voices.  You input the company and it'll give you directions to get you to a human faster.  I used this morning to get to a person at the NY Department of Labor.  It took a wee bit of time, but certainly not as long as last time I tried...and got cut off.


Food Gawker has many recipes and beautiful pictures to boot.  If I had my way, I would have an endless food budget and plenty of time to cook all of these recipes. 


www.canyoustayfordinner.com (another food blog)

This one just has terrific recipes as well, all created by someone who lost tons of weight and is a foodie to boot.  I like the way she writes about food.

 
Lots and lots of bargains for kids and mom.  Check it regularly to get good deals.
 
That's about all I've got right now.  J gets closer to crawling every day...fortunately we have a large, six-panel baby gate we got for Penny that we can use to corral him.  I know we'll need it, because this kid wants to cruise.